1.31.2010

Taiwan Arms - A Pretext?

Just after Robert Kaplan tells us "Don't Panic About China," China announced it is cutting off various military exchange programs with the U.S. and imposing "unusually broad" sanctions on the private U.S. companies that supply Taiwan with defense technology.

It's certainly possible to view the moves as rational responses to the U.S. decision to permit the transfer of military technology to Taiwan, if you step into the nationalist shoes of China, which continues to view Taiwan as a breakaway province.

But I wonder if the unusual breadth of the response shows the weapons sales to be a pretext - an excuse to erect barriers around China's military development, something already notoriously opaque.  It's difficult to read the Pentagon's precise take, but I think it's a possible interpretation from the military's public comment on the development:

“We regret that the Chinese side has curtailed military-to-military and other exchanges” Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said, according to Reuters. “We also regret Chinese action against U.S. firms transferring defensive articles to Taiwan.”

Part of the value of the military-to-military exchanges is, at least in theory, an ability of each side to keep tabs on the military developments of the other, to keep fuses from being lit.

Finally, what does Taiwan think of a one-China policy these days?  Here's a look at some numbers from fall 2009.