Wednesday, July 11, 2007

East Asian Security Environment in Transition: Part II (excerpt)

Regarding Taiwan’s strategic transformation, Taiwan’s strategic orientation appears as one of confusion to many outsiders. On the external front, there exist serious debates about the issue of dealing with China’s growing power. The traditional strategic thinking suggests that balance of power by beefing up Taiwan’s own national defense and welcoming extended deterrence from the U.S.-Japan alliance is critical to maintain peace and security in the Taiwan Straits. Accordingly, some people argue that Taiwan on its own part should at least maintain sufficient defense in the face of China’s threat.

However, another school of thought claims that the best way to enhance Taiwan’s security is to come to terms with China, namely, the relaxation of tension through political and economic cooperation may be a more effective way to improve relations between both sides of the Taiwan Straits. Yet China’s two-handed approach has already created Taiwanese people’s mixed perceptions about the China threat. With Beijing’s ever-growing diplomatic offensives, Taiwan is facing the crisis of being diplomatically and economically marginalized, which will limit Taiwan’s strategic options. In any case, China’s mixed strategy towards Taiwan has led to the emergence of different strategic views with Taiwan’s society. Moreover, Washington’s complex relationship with China also adds force to the strategic debate in Taiwan.

On the domestic front, as a minority government failing to control majority seats in the Legislature, Taiwan’s ruling party DPP has been encountering difficulties in planning and implementing its security strategy. For example, with the lack of enough support in the Legislature, the government has failed continuously in getting the special budget for arms procurement passed. To a great degree, Taiwan’s strategic discussion in recent years has been “partisanized,” which means that political parties and politicians have failed to engage in rational debates over this country’s grand strategy. Consequently, “strategic ambiguity and confusion” has become an unfortunate factor in the planning of Taiwan’s security strategy.

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