China's Regional Ambitions Threaten U.S. Allies

It is a mistake to see Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington as an arc that will transcend the complexities of U.S.-Chinese relations, rather than one which should avow the prudent grounds for U.S policy in Asia on which the U.S. can sensibly and honorably stand. This means a policy that maintains beneficent American interest and presence in the western Pacific and effective concern for Taiwan -- exchanging the strategic for the immediate is an exercise in foolishness not statecraft.

The U.S. has a great stake in Taiwan because of its strategic location, which becomes increasingly important as China’s regional ambitions become more open and assertive.

Just recently, Major General and Director of the Navy Information Expert Committee Yin Zhuo stated that

it will take the United States a fairly long period of time to return to Asia. Anti-terrorist wars still constrain U.S. power. ... China needs to grasp this strategic opportunity firmly.

This statement is not unique. Indeed the entire knowing world has a very good idea of China’s expansionist aims in the South China Sea. There have been naval provocations with Japan, Indonesia, and the U.S., and Chinese statements that claim “core interests” in extra-territorial waters. In addition, there is unrepentant assistance to North Korea’s nuclear programs, and development of the Chinese military’s anti-ship ballistic missile to threaten American aircraft carriers in the western Pacific. These are but a few signs that Beijing hews to a very different role than the peaceful one it publicly claims.

Who can doubt the centrality of Taiwan on the chessboard into which Chinese diplomatic and military ambition is transforming the western Pacific? To deny China’s aims in the face of mounting evidence is to assume that our own vision of a bilateral relationship based exclusively on economic competition is shared by China. This is a fantasy. China sees both economic and strategic competition as the basis of relations with the United States. Taiwan, Australia, and Japan’s growing concern for their own security all concede the shifting strategic climate in Asia, and their recent military -- especially naval -- acquisitions prove it.

Taiwan is a democracy increasingly threatened by China’s enormous military buildup on the opposite end of the Taiwan Strait. The 2010 U.S. Department of Defense report “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” confirms that China’s military buildup across the Taiwan Strait is unmistakable and formidable. As the report notes, “China continues to deploy many of its most advanced systems to the military regions opposite Taiwan.”

Equally clear is Taiwan’s position as an enormous trading partner and financial stake holder in U.S. business and currency. This should remind every U.S. administration of America’s deep ties to Taiwan. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act is also a powerful demonstration of the same. It requires us to maintain the capacity “to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan.”