Taipei-Washington Arms Sales: Disarmament Will Not Win Over the Public on Taiwan
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
August 24, 2013
Summary: Beijing is promoting the "China Dream" and "the great rejuvenation of
the Chinese nation." Cross-Strait relations are gradually entering deep
water. The ultimate solution for cross-Strait relations cannot be to
force Taipei to disarm. One can force people to relinquish their guns,
but not their hearts. Do so, and the Taiwan Strait tragedy will make
"China Dream" and "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation"
impossible. Therefore instead of urging Washington to halt arms sales to
Taipei, why not win people over by means of democracy and civilization?
Full text below:
When Mainland Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan visited the US, he made a proposal to U.S. Defense Secretary Charles Hagel. If Washington would halt arms sales to Taipei, Beijing would consider changing its military deployment. Chang Wanquan proposed also setting up a "special task force" to facilitate communications and resolve obstacles.
According to Beijing, Hagel said the establishment of a working group was a good idea. But Pentagon officials deny that he made any such statement.
So-called "changing its military deployment" refers mainly to missiles pointed at Taiwan. In fact "withdrawing missiles in exchange for halting arms sales" is not a new idea. Jiang Zemin made just such a proposal to President Bush, but Bush did not respond. In June this year, Xi Jinping mentioned this to Obama, but Obama also failed to respond. This however, was the first time Beijing ever proposed setting up a "special task force" to address the matter of arms sales. That caught everyones' attention.
Let us summarize the situation. One. Chang Wanquan confirmed that the Mainland has in fact deployed missiles against Taiwan. At times Beijing has claimed its missiles were not aimed at Taiwan, that they were purely defensive deployments. Other times Beijing has claimed that they were not directed at the public on Taiwan, but at Taiwan independence. Two. Chang Wanquan said Beijing is willing to change its military deployment provided it receives concessions from Washington. This contradicts what Beijing said about military sovereignty and independence in the past. Three. Talk of establishing a "special task force" with Washington could be interpreted as Beijing acquiescing to Washington's intervention in the cross-Strait military situation.
Therefore, if Washington and Beijing actually establish a "special task force," Beijing could use it to pressure Washington into halting arms sales to Taipei. But Washington could use it to demand "co-management" of the cross-Strait military situation. Therefore, if the two sides actually do establish a "special task force," it could be more than merely a "Yes you will halt arms sales" vs. "No I won't" debating forum. It could become a platform for bilateral discussions on the big picture. When that happens, the direction the "Task Force" takes may be difficult to predict. Washington says it is unaware of the "special task force" proposal. Its behavior suggests that any such "special task force" would not be able to discuss sovereignty issues.
Actually, Beijing's perception of Washington's arms sales to Taipei as a major issue is misguided, at least from the perspective of cross-Strait relations. One. The Taipei Washinton arms sales relationship is non-aggressive. If one advocates the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and the absence of conflict, it does not even having any defensive role. Taipei Washington arms sales are mainly political symbolism. They show that cross-Strait issues involve issues of human civilization and world peace. They necessarily involve the United States and the rest of the world. Two. Beijing continues to demand that Washington halt arms sales to Taipei. It is now is proposing a "special task force." This shows that Beijing understands the value of linking cross-Strait relations to international values as well as to American values and interests. Such links are rooted in democracy and civilization. They cannot be readily divorced from each other.
The way out for Taipei and Beijing is not military conflict. The obstacle in the way of reconciliation between Taipei and Beijing is not Washington's arms sales to Taipei. Taipei and Beijing must work together towards the universal values of democracy and civilization. They must establish good relations that are in the interest of both sides. If they can do this, one day even symbolic arms sales can be discontinued.
The 1981 "Yeh Nine Articles" and the 1983 "Deng Six Points" stated that even after reunification "Taiwan can still have its own military." Deng added a condition, "As long as it does not constitute a threat to the Mainland." As we can see, thirty years ago, Beijing already knew what a military meant for Taipei. It involves both Taipei's self-confidence and cross-Strait trust. But if Taipei can still have its own military after reunification, why can't it purchase arms before reunification? How can that build Taipei's self-confidence and cross-Strait trust? Washington is selling arms to Taipei in today's cross-Strait atmosphere. Under the current diplomatic truce Taipei has retained 23 allies. For the two sides, this has become an important symbol of good will. Beijing has yet to offer a better cross-Strait policy framework. Until it does, it is unnecessary to change this beneficial status quo.
The key to cross-Strait issues is surely not arms sales. Even many on Taiwan oppose arms purchases and advocate replacing the military with an SDF. We must find a peaceful solution that does not require resort to war. That solution must be consistent with the universal values of democracy and civilization. That is not something that military deployment can fulfill. Nor is it something that Washington's arms sales to Taipei can fulfill. Therefore changing military deployment in order to halt arms sales to Taipei is irrelevant. It is the wrong prescription for the ailment.
Beijing is promoting the "China Dream" and "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation." Cross-Strait relations are gradually entering deep water. The ultimate solution for cross-Strait relations cannot be to force Taipei to disarm. One can force people to relinquish their guns, but not their hearts. Do so, and the Taiwan Strait tragedy will make "China Dream" and "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" impossible. Therefore instead of urging Washington to halt arms sales to Taipei, why not win people over by means of democracy and civilization?
2013.08.24 02:57 am