Thursday, January 5, 2017

The United States, Taiwan and China - Stirring the Pot of Discontent Part II

In Part One of this two part posting, I examined the history of Taiwan and its relationship with the United States, particularly after the end of China's civil war in 1949.  In Part Two, I will take a closer look at one key issue that is causing significant diplomatic discontentment among the leadership of the world's most populous nation, China.

As I noted in Part One, the United States has had a very long and close military relationship with Taiwan which was governed under the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty aka the Mutual Defense Treaty Between the United States and the Republic of China which was signed on December 2, 1954 as shown here:

The key phrase in this treaty reads like this:

"In order more effectively to achieve the objective of this Treaty, the Parties separately and jointly by self-help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack and communist subversive activities directed from without against their territorial integrity and political stability." (my bold)

Obviously, the treaty is referring to the People's Republic of China which was formed under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung and his communist cohort in 1949 as outlined in Part One of this posting.  This treaty has led to the selling of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment to Taiwan over the past six decades.  

Moving to the present, let's look at the most contentious issues in the 2017 edition of the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act, keeping in mind that this is unprecented since the termination of the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty in 1979:


(a) IN GENERAL - It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of Defense should conduct a program of senior military exchanges between the United States and Tai- wan that have the objective of improving military-to-military relations and defense cooperation between the United States and Taiwan.

(b) ADMINISTRATION OF PROGRAM.—It is the sense of Congress that the program described in subsection (a)—

(1) should be conducted at least once each calendar year; and

(2) should be conducted in both the United States and Taiwan                   


(a) Findings - Congress finds the following:

(1) For more than 50 years, the United States and Taiwan have had a unique and close relationship, which has supported the economic, cultural, and strategic advantage to both countries.

(2) The United States has vital security and strategic interests in the Taiwan Strait.

(3) The Taiwan Relations Act has been instrumental in maintaining peace, security, and stability in the Taiwan Strait since its enactment in 1979.

(4) The Taiwan Relations Act states that it is the policy of the United States to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character and to maintain the capacity of the United States to defend against any forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.

(b) Statement Of Policy.—The Taiwan Relations Act forms the cornerstone of United States policy and relations with Taiwan.

(c) Report.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than February 15, 2017, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State shall jointly submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report that contains a description of the steps the United States has taken, plans to take, and will take to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character in accordance with the Taiwan Relations .


(a) IN GENERAL - The Secretary of Defense is authorized to grant observer status to the military forces of Taiwan in any maritime exercise known as the Rim of the Pacific Exercise.” 

Given the extremely complex history of the China-Taiwan connection and the fact that the PRC regards the "Taiwan Issue" as a domestic issue and one that is key to its "One China Policy", one might correctly suspect that the People's Republic of China would regard these moves as interfering in their domestic affairs.  Here's what the PRC's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, had to say about President Obama’s signing of these contentious portions of the National Defense Authorization Act during a recent press conference:

Q: US President Barack Obama signed into law the US National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which included a section on senior military exchanges between the United States and Taiwan. Do you have any comment on this? 

A: We are firmly against the Taiwan-related contents in the US act and have lodged solemn representations with the US. We are strongly discontent with the US for signing this act. 

The Taiwan question bears on China's sovereignty and territory integrity and falls entirely within China's domestic affairs. Although the Taiwan-related content in the US Act has no legal binding force, it still severely violates the three joint communiqu├ęs and interferes in China's domestic affairs. China will by no means accept this. We urge the US side to honor its commitment on the Taiwan question, put an end to military exchanges with and arms sales to Taiwan and avoid undermining China-US relations or cross-Straits peace and stability.“ (my bold)

Obviously, the United States is taking significant steps to "stir the pot" in its relationships with both the People's Republic of China and Russia.  One has to wonder how many fronts that Washington thinks it can successfully win should actual hostilities break out.  It certainly looks like the outgoing Obama Administration is doing what it can to hamstring the incoming Trump Administration. 

In closing, let's look at a recent op-ed piece by Zhang Tengjun in China's Global Times (a daily newspaper that is aligned with the Communist Party of China) that pretty much says it all:

"Unlike other issues, any negotiation over the Taiwan question will not be accepted. It is the most sensitive among all problems between China and the US. To challenge China over this matter will definitely rock the foundation of the Sino-US relationship.

Beijing has issued warnings to Trump, who should realize that messing with the one-China policy will pose severe risks to the US. If he insists, his government will not only fail to acquire what is expected, but also enhance China's determination to unite the country by force." (my bold)

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