Sunday, January 31, 2010

Annual China-Taiwan-US Rituals

Sorry for the few updates recently. Have been busy at work with assignment changes.

I saw this protest from China over the proposed Taiwan foreign military sales currently pending in Congress. This happens everytime that it is practically a ritual of form.

Perhaps, to keep face, China needs to make some noise. And perhaps it is a slow news day for the news media, who have to report this kind of stuff. However, it struck me that China should be happy about all sales to Taiwan. In fact, it is in China's strategic interest to encourage Taiwan to buy as much stuff from the US as possible.

To understand this logic, you need to accept the premise that re-unification is the inevitable conclusion. 70 years is a blink in the eye of the Chinese culture. The people across the strait shares too much to keep up the separation. The independence movement has support from some parts of Taiwan, but Taiwan is too enmeshed in the Chinese economic system to make that a political reality. It may be in the strategic interests of some countries to keep Taiwan separate, but do not confuse strategic interest with reality.

Anyway, if Taiwan will eventually re-unify with China, [and a peaceful reunification looks more hopeful everyday], then any Taiwanese technology will eventually become Chinese technology. If Taiwan buys or builds submarines, they will become Chinese subs down the road. If Taiwan gets some F-16 technology from the US, that will end up in Chinese hands anyway. So whatever Taiwan can get from the US, is a net-plus to China.

The US needs to consider this possibility in its FMS process. But it does not materially change the FMS calculus. The US is officially for a peaceful reunification, and the FMS package supports that end. The US and China are not adversaries yet, just competitors and symbiots. Some parts of the US national security apparatus are arguing for an adversarial interpretation of the Sino-American relationship, but that remains a non-official view. Above all, the US strives for stability in the global economic system to foster economic growth. An ascendant China, in itself, is agnostic to that strategic goal.

So here is another way to interpret the on-going China-Taiwan-US soap opera.