Was Selling Weapons to Taiwan the Right Decision?
You may have read about the latest U.S. weapon sales to Taiwan, which, as always, angered China, a country that continues to claim Taiwan as its own. A logical question is why are we going out of our way to annoy an emerging world power that owns a significant amount of our debt?
Leaving aside China's party line position, analysts on this side of the Pacific are almost unanimous that selling weapons to Taiwan was the right decision. Here was Michael Chase writing on the subject for World Politics Review:
U.S. support for Taiwan's security, including arms sales like those announced on Friday, remains vital for three reasons. First, it provides Taiwan with the confidence it needs to pursue a more pragmatic policy toward China without fear of being bullied into compromising its core interests by an increasingly powerful neighbor. Second, it discourages China from attempting to coerce Taiwan with the threat of force, not only by strengthening Taiwan's defense, but also by underscoring the continued relevance of America's longstanding commitment to Taiwan's security. Third, it strengthens the credibility of Washington's commitments to its other regional friends and allies, especially Japan and South Korea.
And then here is the POV from The Economist:
Two dangers arise from this loss of Western self-confidence. One is of trying to placate China. The delay in Mr Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in order to smooth his visit to China in November gave too much ground, as well as turning an issue of principle into a bargaining chip. America needs to stand firmer. Beefing up the deterrent capacity of Taiwan, which China continues to threaten with hundreds of missiles, is in the interests of peace. Mr Obama should therefore proceed with the arms sales and European governments should back him. If American companies, such as Boeing, lose Chinese custom for political reasons, European firms should not be allowed to supplant them.
On the other hand the West should not be panicked into unnecessary confrontation. Rather than ganging up on China in an effort to “contain” it, the West would do better to get China to take up its share of the burden of global governance. Too often China wants the power due a global giant while shrugging off the responsibilities, saying that it is still a poor country. It must be encouraged to play its part.
China is an immature power, and I agree the U.S. needs to stand up to it because it is not yet a tier 1 global power. That said, it's certainly on its path to getting there, so it will be important going forward to maintain open lines of communication and foster good relations. For one, that means that candidates standing for election should not try to make China an enemy in their rhetoric, which I hear all too often -- whether its stealing jobs or whatever.