US waking up to threat of Chinese military

By Liu Kuan-teh
Thursday, Mar 23, 2006,Page 8

Last week the US National Security Council released a 49-page document entitled The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, outlining US President George W. Bush's strategy for defense and foreign policy for the remainder of his second term. At the same time, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also expressed Washington's growing concerns about China's military build-up.

Washington's statements regarding its dissatisfaction with Beijing's military expansion were conceivably a response to recent comments made by Guo Boxiong (³¢§B¶¯), vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China.

Stressing Beijing's objections to the efforts of "Taiwanese independence secessionist forces," Guo announced that China's military budget would increase by 14.7 percent this year to 283.8 billion yuan (US$35.3 billion).

The budget increase could be interpreted as a strong reaction to President Chen Shui-bian's (³¯¤ô«ó) recent moves to cease the function of the National Unification Council and to cease the application of the unification guidelines. However, it is widely recognized that Beijing has used the "threat" of Taiwanese independence as an excuse for expanding its military capability through double-digit increases to its military budget for the past decade.

Washington's grave concerns are caused not only by the military budget increases themselves, but also by the lack of transparency behind them.

Washington faces something of a dilemma: While the Taiwanese government continues to pursue democratization, the US is often hamstrung by its own policy of calling on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to maintain the "status quo."

Bush has repeated his call for a peaceful resolution to cross-strait tensions, warning China that it should not use coercive measures against Taiwan, and cautioning both sides against unilateral actions that change the "status quo."

Nevertheless, when it comes to the question of which side is actively seeking to change the "status quo," we need look only at the military imbalance across the Taiwan Strait for the answer.

Could it be more clear who is rocking the boat and altering the "status quo" through military means? Should the Taiwanese people be considered troublemakers for embracing democracy?

Since the US report called on China to "follow the path of East Asia's many modern democracies, including Taiwan," the current US policy of "encouraging both sides of the Taiwan Strait to engage in dialogue and solve mutual disputes in a peaceful manner" should further incorporate the idea of promoting democratic principles. This would fit with Bush's grand strategy of spreading democracy throughout the world and maintaining regional and international security.

Politicians of all parties in Taiwan should read the US report carefully -- its findings are a timely wake-up call for those who have painted a fanciful picture of unification between Taiwan and China.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (°¨­^¤E) should also use his trip to the US to explain to the international community the rationale behind the pan-blue camp's unreasonable opposition to the arms procurement bill. As the would-be presidential candidate of the pan-blue camp, Ma must elaborate on his idea of how to deal with China's military aggrandizement.

Most importantly, China must recognize the fact that any attempts to intimidate or belittle Taiwan will only have a negative effect.