Friday, July 22, 2005

Misrepresenting Taiwan

The New York Times ran a story about China's military buildup that had this misleading paragraph:

Administration officials said parts of the report were intended as a subtle reminder to Taiwan. Many administration officials are concerned that the Taiwanese are increasingly using their relationship with Washington as a shield against the Chinese military buildup. New weapons programs - many using technology sold by American firms - have been languishing in Taiwan's parliament. The report strongly suggests that Taiwan must take a greater role in building up its own defenses, an argument that the Taiwanese often say is a cover for American efforts to increase military sales.

The problem is the verbal slide with 'the Taiwanese' as if Taiwan, a nation divided, is speaking with one voice. Washington has protected Taiwan from China since Truman decided to save Taiwan from China at the beginning of the Korean war. The real issue is reforming Taiwan's military so that it can defend Taiwan until the US can come to Taiwan's aid. Unfortunately, the Chen administration simply does not have enough political capital to make kinds of qualitative reforms--like abolishing the draft--that Taiwan needs to make.

Washington cannot be held responsible for that lack of political capital, although the Washington establishment's unrelenting hostility to the Chen administration certainly hasn't helped.

The reality is that the 'Taiwanese' who are adamantly against building up Taiwan's defenses are the quislings in the blue camp who welcome China's rise and hope that the US will leave East Asia immediately.

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