Strategic Vision, Issue 20

Page 1

STRATEGIC VISION Volume 4, Issue 20


April, 2015

Nuclear Proliferation Yuan Jingdong

Cross-Strait Transparency Jonas Greher

PRC Military Budget Nkosinathi S. Dlamini

Losing Myanmar Bradley Wu

Arming Taiwan:

Should US Rethink Offensive Weapons? Martin Wagener

for Taiwan Security w

ISSN 2227-3646


for Taiwan Security

Volume 4, Issue 20


April, 2015

Contents Nuclear proliferation threatens global security.............................4

Yuan Jingdong

PRC military budget demands regional response..........................8

Nkosinathi S. Dlamini

ROC citizens demand cross-strait transparency.......................... 14

Jonas Greher

Rethinking offensive weapons sales to Taiwan............................. 19

Martin Wagener

Chinese policies lead to loss of Myanmar.....................................26

Bradley Wu

Submissions: Essays submitted for publication are not to exceed 2,000 words in length, and should conform to the following basic format for each 1200-1600 word essay: 1. Synopsis, 100-200 words; 2. Background description, 100-200 words; 3. Analysis, 800-1,000 words; 4. Policy Recommendations, 200-300 words. Book reviews should not exceed 1,200 words in length. Notes should be formatted as endnotes and should be kept to a minimum. Authors are encouraged to submit essays and reviews as attachments to emails; Microsoft Word documents are preferred. For questions of style and usage, writers should consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged to consult with the executive editor at before formal submission via email. The views expressed in the articles are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their affiliate institutions or of Strategic Vision. Manuscripts are subject to copyediting, both mechanical and substantive, as required and according to editorial guidelines. No major alterations may be made by an author once the type has been set. Arrangements for reprints should be made with the editor. On the cover, the altered photograph of an ROC honor guard is courtesy of Tai Gray.

Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Aaron Jensen Associate Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Raviprasad Narayanan Richard Hu James Yuan Laurence Lin STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 4, Number 20, April, 2015, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Center for Security Studies in Taiwan. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons licence. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: Or by telephone at: +866 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: © Copyright 2015 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the MCSS, NDU, or the editors.

From The Editor


he editors and staff of Strategic Vision would like to wish our readers well as the spring season blooms upon us. This year has seen a continuation in major developments in the Asia-Pacific Region. We hope that students and scholars in the academic community have the chance to keep up with these events. In support of that effort, we offer our latest edition of Strategic Vision. We open our second issue of the year with an analysis of recent developments in global nuclear arsenals and the prospects for nuclear reduction by Dr. Jingdong Yuan of the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney. Dr. Yuan argues that the prospects for meaningful reductions in nuclear stockpiles are slim due to increased friction between Russia and the United States. Nkosinathi S. Dlamini, currently a master’s student from Swaziland studying at the ROC National Defense University, provides an overview of PRC defense budget increases and how the region is responding to these developments. Jonas Greher, a research intern at the Center for Security Studies at the Institute of International Relations in Taipei, Taiwan, looks at the impact of Taiwan’s recent Sunflower Movement, and how the government could improve communication with the younger generation. Dr. Martin Wagener of the Federal University of Applied Administrative Sciences in Bruehl and Munich, Germany, argues that the distinction between offensive and defensive weapons is no longer meaningful and that Taiwan defense planners should take a broader view of weapon systems which can potentially contribute to Taiwan’s defense. Finally, Bradley Wu, an independent commentator and researcher on foreign affairs, and a former research consultant for the China program at the World Security Institute in the United States, offers an insightful analysis of why relations between the PRC and Myanmar have deteriorated. We hope you enjoy this issue, and look forward to bringing you the finest analysis and reporting on the issues of importance to security in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region. Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision

4  b

Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 20 (April, 2015)

A Global Concern Nuclear proliferation remains serious challenge to international security Yuan Jingdong


lobal nuclear arsenals have witnessed substantive reductions over the past two decades since the end of the Cold War. Some states have stopped pursuit of nuclear weapons programs; others have repatriated nuclear arsenals on their soil to become non-nuclear-weapon states of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT); and still others have given up their nuclear arsenals voluntarily. Despite the defiance of North Korea, with three nuclear tests since 2006, and ongoing negotiations and implementation of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, the world continues its crawl—if not march—toward nuclear disarmament while efforts in preventing nuclear proliferation and safeguarding nuclear materials have not relented, at least according to the rhetoric. Granted, further progress in nuclear disarmament will require major breakthroughs in other key pillars of the nuclear disarmament project—ratification and entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and, most critically, conditions for multilateral participation and negotiation leading to reduction of existing nuclear arsenals and a successful 2015 NPT Review Conference.

the Arms Trade Treaty. The 2014 Nuclear Security Summit held in The Hague in late March recommits states to strengthening nuclear security and preventing terrorists, criminals, and unauthorized actors from gaining access to nuclear facilities and materials. The Hague Summit also reaffirms the essential responsibility and central role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in nuclear security, including inspections and verification, coordination with other international organizations and states to improve the security of all nuclear material and radioactive sources. On November 24, 2013, the six powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany, collectively known as the P5+1) that had been in negotiation with Iran about its nuclear program since 2006 reached an interim agreement, called the Joint Plan of Action, which required Iran to freeze certain aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some international sanctions. The period of the interim deal was to be six months, during which time the parties would seek to conclude a comprehensive accord on the long-term status of Iran’s nuclear program. The interim agreement has subsequently been extended twice, with the new tar-

The year 2014 witnessed important milestones in the international community’s efforts to regulate global armaments, including nuclear safety and security, nuclear nonproliferation, and entry into effect of

get set for June 2015. While some progress has been made, especially where the freeze on the production and size of Iran’s enriched uranium up to 5 percent uranium-235 and key elements of its heavy-water

Dr. Yuan Jingdong is an associate professor at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney. He can be reached for comment at

Nuclear Proliferation  b  5

reactor are concerned, differences remain over the critical issue of whether Tehran should be allowed to keep an enrichment capacity at all. The duration of the comprehensive accord, and the extent and sequencing of the lifting of sanctions, also remain issues on which the parties disagree.

the 1,550 to a lower number will likely face major obstacles, both in Russia and the United States. Without any further reduction between the two nuclear superpowers, it is unlikely that second-tier nuclear powers such as Britain, France, and China would be willing to participate in any multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.

Major obstacles Signs of a slow-down, if not setback, can be observed in US-Russian implementation of strategic nuclear arms reduction. The New START Treaty, signed between the United States and Russian Federation in 2010, sets an overall limit of 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads for each country. This represents a further 74-percent reduction of nuclear weapons set by the 1991 START Treaty. Both Russia and the United States have ratified the treaty. Enforcement and verification measures have been in effect, notwithstanding the recent deterioration of relations between the two over the crisis in Ukraine. However, moving beyond

“The Indo-Pacific Region has experienced nuclear expansion rather than contraction since the end of the Cold War.” The Indo-Pacific, a region where divided nations, territorial disputes, emerging rivalries, and greatpower competition exists, remains without fully developed security institutions and the risks of incidents escalating to military conflicts are clear and present. These characteristics further highlight the challenges the region and key powers face: the role of nuclear

photo: Wikmedia Commons A Russian Topal-M intercontinental ballistic missile on parade in Moscow. World leaders have done little to reduce the threat from these weapons.


weapons, extended deterrence, WMD proliferation, and crisis management in the absence of confidencebuilding measures. It is important to note that the Indo-Pacific Region has experienced nuclear expansion rather than contraction since the end of the Cold War. India and Pakistan, for instance, continue to develop new systems for delivering nuclear weapons and expanding fissile material production capacities for military purposes. China, meanwhile, is on the cusp of deploying an operational sea-based second-strike capability with the deployment of the Jin-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines. These developments, and projected trends toward continuing nuclear modernization in the region, warrant serious discussion on two critical questions. One is whether secured nuclear second-strike capabilities, as the ongoing programs in China, India, and Pakistan presumably aim at achieving, will be conducive to crisis stability and arms-race stability, or on the contrary, will undermine strategic stability in both regional and sub-regional contexts. Second, would such developments enable and embolden these states to undertake risky actions, or pursue more aggressive foreign policy adventures, with the perhaps misplaced confidence that they can get away with such actions as their assured secondstrike capabilities provide a degree of security. In other words, what impact will these developments have on the stability-instability paradox and extended deterrence, in particular for US allies? Nuclear proliferation remains a serious challenge in the Indo-Pacific. One issue is how to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program two decades after the first attempt by the international community (the 1994 Agreed Framework). The past two decades of dealing with Pyongyang have demonstrated how differences in priorities and approaches, and the failure to address deep security concerns, have resulted in a lack of coordination of policy among

the key players involved, and more seriously, how the current impasse poses serious security threats to the region in two critical ways. One is the risk of further proliferation as the Kim Jong Un regime seeks to transfer sensitive nuclear technologies and even materials, along with other illicit activities and

“2015 will be a critical year for global and regional nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.” missile exports, to earn desperately needed hard currency. The Iran-North Korea-Syria nuclear network of the past is a case in point, and there is no guarantee that Pyongyang will not try again if and when it has found suitable customers. Secondly, North Korea continues work on growing its nuclear arsenal and improving delivery systems, according to Chinese and South Korean sources, and has made significant progress on a miniaturized nuclear warhead. These developments will have a long-term impact on the regional nuclear dynamic, including reconsideration of the nuclear options among US allies.

Policy implications 2015 will be a critical year for global and regional nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, crisis management and conflict prevention, and the development of mechanisms for major-power relations. While differences and disputes are inevitable and indeed could even widen, it is not a foregone conclusion that the world will be left in a helpless and dangerous state of rising geopolitics and rivalry. There remain significant degrees of common interests among key players in pursing shared goals and, at a minimum, in preventing what analysts fear as a tragic “race to 1914.” A critical task for the international community is the successful conclusion of a comprehensive ac-

Nuclear Proliferation  b  7

photo: US DOD A US Air Force B-52 takes off from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. These bombers constitute an important part of the US nuclear triad.

cord on the Iranian nuclear issue. This would require great-power cooperation, especially between Washington and Moscow within the P-5+1 arrangement in its negotiations with Tehran. With the 2015 NPT Review Conference coming up soon, it is also critical that the nuclear weapons states, the United States and Russia in particular, continue with goodfaith efforts in nuclear disarmament in order to meet the Action Plan set by the 2010 Review Conference. Closer to home, the Indo-Pacific Region must grapple with the challenges of managing disputes and preventing conflicts on a number of fronts, from the South Asian sub-continent to the East and South China seas, the North Korean nuclear issue, and Sino-US relations. The last is the most consequential: Washington and Beijing must make greater efforts in managing their relationship during a period of geopolitical transformation in the region. The two powers need to recognize the major differences between them and develop mechanisms to manage their unique relationship. This would involve better understanding (if not acceptance) of each other’s in-

terests, objectives, and priorities through dialogue, minimizing the negative impact of disputes, and promoting and coordinating in areas where they do share common interests. In this context, the critical Strategic and Economic Dialogue, along with the other 90-plus channels of bilateral official consultation, remains an important framework in communication. Improving militaryto-military contacts, which has always been the most vulnerable to any vicissitude in bilateral political relations, has never been as important as it is now, not least to avoid direct military confrontation given the dearth of clear and reliable communication and crisis management arrangements. The two recent memoranda of understanding between the Chinese and US militaries on rules of engagement and advance notice on military activities are an essential, albeit still modest, step toward crisis management and prevention. In the same vein, Beijing and Tokyo must also consider similar approaches to managing their disputes, especially near the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and elsewhere in the East China Sea. n

8  b

Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 20 (April, 2015)

Rising Ambitions China’s increasing military expenditures demand regional response Nkosinathi S. Dlamini


he unveiling of the 2015 military budget by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and China’s rise as a major regional player if not a world player, raise important questions for regional countries. All eyes are on the PRC now that it has transformed itself from a developing country to the second largest economy in the world. In addition to its growing economic strength, the PRC has the largest military in the world in terms of manpower. In March of 2015, the PRC released its annual military budget, which revealed an increase of more than 10 percent. China has steadily increased its military budget over the last 10 years. This spending increase reflects China’s growing power and desire to assert itself in the region and globally. According to Premier

Li Keqiang, in his report to the National People’s Congress, the principal effort will be the modernization and informatization of the armed forces. “We will comprehensively strengthen modern logistics, step up national defense research and development of new- and high-technology weapons and equipment, and develop defense-related science and technology industries. Governments at all levels must always take an active interest in and support the strengthening of our national defense and armed forces,” Li said. According to Reuters, Lieutenant General Zhong Zhiming, a delegate to the congress, noted, “We must develop our weaponry and raise the standards of treatment for military personnel; only then will we

photo: US DOD A pilot prepares his F-22 Raptor to participate in Red Flag Alaska. Such exercises are vital in sustaining the skill of front-line forces.

Nkosinathi S. Dlamini is a student from Swaziland studying at the National Defense University of the ROC. He can be reached for comment at

PRC Military Spending  b  9

photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Hurt US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter tours Pyeongtaek Naval Base during a vist to South Korea.

be able to really strengthen our strategic combat effectiveness. Then no enemy will dare to bully us.” Deducing China’s military expenditures has been a complicated issue with important regional implications. Although China publishes its official defense budget and provides justifications for increases in its military spending, most observers remain skeptical about the accuracy of the official figures and cautious of its military modernization efforts. This uncertainty has shaped the responses of other Asia-Pacific nations toward China’s military modernization. Ultimately, even if the Chinese leadership views the military buildup as a natural part of the country’s ascension to great-power status, the uncertainties surrounding its military expenditures actually undermine the contention that China’s rise will be peaceful. The rapid growth of China’s economy and its increasingly vigorous diplomatic engagement with regional and international institutions has given rise to much discussion of China’s “peaceful rise” to greatpower status. At the same time, the Pentagon has identified China as the only potential hegemon on the horizon that stands a chance of challenging the unipolar power of the United States. These two views

of China—as a largely gentle global partner or as a military superpower-to-be—rely on different interpretations of one critical factor: the Chinese military budget.

Differing viewpoints According to the Chinese government, the country’s rising military budget reflects general economic growth, is devoted to non-threatening expenditures such as better pay for soldiers, and remains only a small percentage of what the United States spends every year on the military. Critics, however, argue that China vastly underreports its military expenditures and that the country is acquiring new powerprojection capabilities that change the regional balance of power. Determining which of these pictures of China’s military spending is correct is not an easy task. In recent years, the Chinese government has published its official annual defense budget figures and provided justification for the announced increases in military spending as part of its efforts to alleviate the fears outsiders might have about its rapid


photo: US Pacific Command Constant training, such as the test firing of this 40mm saluting battery, maintains the skill of US Navy sailors as they operate in the Pacific.

rise. But these published figures, since they don’t match the estimates of outside observers, raise more questions than they answer. What are China’s ultimate geopolitical goals and rationales behind its military planning? How have other nations in the Asia-Pacific region responded to the more robust Chinese military spending? Finally, what implications do the uncertainties in China’s military have for its own national goals? The rationale behind China’s increased military spending seems to be consistent with the goals of the Chinese leadership of building “inclusive national power.” This involves creating both internal and external power. Internally, communist policymakers want to focus on maintaining economic prosperity, domestic cohesion, and the social influence of the party. Separatist struggles in Tibet and Xinjiang provinces pose significant challenges to the central government, and some of China’s military budget goes toward policing these regions. Externally, Beijing is also concerned with territorial integrity as it relates to Taiwan, but it has greater ambitions in terms of power projection, diplomatic influence, and international prestige.

The Chinese leadership believes that in order to achieve its ultimate objective of engineering its country’s rise to great-power status, China must first secure an international environment advantageous to its continual economic development. To do this, the decisionmakers in China have fabricated the peaceful-rise doctrine. China wants to reassure the rest of the world, through its rhetoric and substantive policies, that its rise would be a source of stability rather than threaten the international order. Only if other countries do not try to constrain its rise will China have the necessary space for its rapid development.

Protecting sovereignty Yet the peaceful rise policy does not necessarily mean that China will discontinue its military buildup, as it sees no fundamental contradiction between the two policies. Chinese leaders repeatedly contend that the expansion of the military budget only serves its goals of protecting its own territorial integrity and sovereignty because its increased military budget enables it to contribute more to peacekeeping missions. Finally, Chinese leaders argue that the coun-

PRC Military Spending  b  11

try does not spend significantly more on its military than other major powers, and still spends only a small portion of the US military budget. Despite the Chinese protestations, many other countries and observers perceive the appreciation of China’s military spending differently. Almost all analysis of China refers to the Taiwan issue as a major driving force behind its military planning. Indeed, over the past decade, Beijing has focused on shifting the military balance in the Taiwan Strait in its favor. The central goal for China is to prevent Taiwan from declaring formal independence, even if it does not seek a near-term resolution. China has indicated in the Anti-Secession Law of March 2005 that it would resort to “non-peaceful means” if “secessionist forces . . . cause the fact of Taiwan’s secession from China”; if “major incidents entailing Taiwan’s secession” occur; or if “possibilities for peaceful reunification” are exhausted. This willingness to use force to deter a declaration of Taiwan independence has dictated much of the military planning in China. Chinese leaders want to be able to quickly overcome Taiwan’s will to resist an attack while also countering any possible intervention

by third parties, particularly the United States. To this end, China has built up a massive arsenal of shortrange missiles, cruise missiles, and submarines in case of conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Moreover, China’s

“The United States, with its military alliances and considerable firepower, remains the region’s most powerful player.” deployment of advanced fighter aircraft starting in the late 1990s also overturned the previous dominance Taiwan enjoyed in the airspace over the strait. Chinese leadership argues that its military modernization against Taiwan is simply for the purpose of protecting its own territorial sovereignty. Another significant reason for China to continue its military modernization efforts is its sense of urgency regarding access to markets and natural resources that feed its economic growth. This need is becoming an important factor in shaping China’s strategic behavior. China is extremely reliant on imports from abroad, particularly metals and fossil fuels. To secure these resources, China feels the need to defend the

US Marines and Philippine forces conduct training exercises on Palawan Island during exercise Phiblex-15.

photo: US DOD


photo: US Pacific Command The USS Essex fires a RIM-116 surface -to-air missile during an exercise. Such training is vital to counter the growing air threats to surface vessels.

sea lanes vital to its imports. Moreover, China has had a number of territorial disputes on its borders and may want to supplement its military spending and modernization efforts to strengthen its claims. China has disputes over the Spratly and Paracel Island groups in the South China Sea with Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. In the East China Sea, China and Japan have disputes over ownership of potentially rich offshore oil and gas deposits. Lastly, China and India still have lingering tensions along their 4,057-kilometer shared border, especially over Arunachal Pradesh. In all of these cases, a demonstration of force may be strategically important for China to show its resolve. Just as with the Taiwan issue, and interests in acquiring markets and resources, China’s territorial disputes play a key part in its geopolitical thinking to

of China’s military has led to internal debates in other countries on how best to respond. These debates have dominated security thinking in the United States, Japan, Taiwan, and among ASEAN members.

increase its military spending. These specific strategic interests remain consistent with China’s overarching goal of building inclusive national power. China’s increased military spending and modernization have significant implications for the Asia-Pacific region. First of all, the uncertainty regarding the rise

The region’s other major player, Japan, faces a similar debate on how best to respond to China’s growing military. Two schools of thought dominate discussions in Japan: those seeking cooperative engagement with a soft hedging approach, and those supporting competitive engagement with a hard hedge.

Powerful player The United States, with its military alliances and considerable firepower, remains the region’s most powerful player. Americans also have a strategic interest in the region, both economically and in terms of national security. Within the US policymaking community, a growing debate has emerged regarding how best to interpret and respond to China’s rise. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, for instance, pointed out that traditionalists believe that the strongest threat to American security comes from other, competing nations, such as a rising China.

PRC Military Spending  b  13

Advocates of the first strategy believe that China genuinely wants a peaceful international environment for its own growth but are still cautious of its military modernization efforts and the lack of transparency in its military planning. Given the uncertainties regarding China’s intentions, these strategists want to engage China but still keep the US-Japan security alliance as the main focus of regional security. On the other hand, those in support of a hard hedge against China remain worried that it will be less cooperative as its relative power increases. They point to China’s military modernization as evidence of the growing threat it poses and want to ensure that Japanese and American forces in the region can still out-muscle the Chinese military. China’s demonstration of force is particularly alarming when placed in the context of territorial disputes between China and Southeast Asian countries. While ASEAN members continue to engage China economically, their security policies suggest that they are still suspicious of the growth of the Chinese military threat. A number of Southeast Asian nations have consequently pursued policies designed to main-

tain American military dominance in the region. The Philippines and Thailand have formal alliances with the United States while Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore provide military facilities and access to American forces. Some ASEAN countries— Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand—also continue to modernize their military forces, acquiring new fighter aircraft and submarines. Taiwan’s reaction to China’s increased military spending is particularly alarming given the island’s position at the forefront of Chinese strategic military planning. In conclusion, China’s continued military budget increases, in combination with its territorial disputes with its neighbors, will exacerbate regional tensions and compel other countries to strengthen their own military forces. The presence of the United States in this region is very important to counter the threat which China poses to its neighbors. The United States should include the ROC in its regional alliance structure to help counterbalance the threat which China poses to the island. Taiwan’s security interests and desire for international engagement should not be held hostage to the dictates of the PRC. n

photo: US Pacific Command US and Korean fighter pilots congratulate each other after as successful mission. Such cooperation is key to the defense of South Korea.

14  b

Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 20 (April, 2015)

Presenting Demands Citizens of Taiwan push for greater transparency in cross-strait dealings Jonas Greher


he announcement of the so-called CrossStrait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) in March 2014 set events into motion that were expected by no one. A hastily rushed push for ratification in the Legislative Yuan by Kuomintang (KMT) officials, without a prior detailed review of the agreement, led to the eruption of student-organized protests, later dubbed the “Sunflower Movement.” Their demands centered around the need for a more in-depth review of the CSSTA and the involvement of the public, as well as a monitoring mechanism for deliberations concerning China-Taiwan economic

relations. The demonstrations culminated in the occupation of the Legislative Yuan. The movement agreed to stand down from further protest after the administration promised to implement an oversight mechanism. Researchers from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Chinese State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office responded by establishing dialog with scholars from the United States, as well as with Taiwan-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs), while the Chinese media presented the occurrence as the typical chaos that comes with democracy. The Sunflower Movement confronted

photo: Wikmedia Commons The Presidential Office Building in downtown Taipei, seat of executive power for the Republic of China’s democratic government.

Jonas Greher is a visiting researcher at the Center for Security Studies at the Institute of International Relations in Taipei, Taiwan. He can be reached for comment at

Cross-Strait Relations  b  15

photo: Wikmedia Commons Taiwan citizens gather in downtown Taipei to express dissent towards the government’s cross-strait policies in April of 2014.

Taiwan’s political decisionmakers and Chinese politicians with the challenge of a mature public demanding more say in their political system, which in turn puts additional pressure on cross-strait relations. To further clarify the overall situation, one must first take a look at the circumstances leading up to the controversial agreement. The CSSTA is a follow-up to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between China and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. This document, signed in 2010, seeks to enhance economic cooperation by supporting trade and promoting market liberalization of services and goods alike. If one looks at Taiwan’s trading partners, China is of utmost importance for its economy. It absorbed 27.1 percent of Taiwan’s total exports in the year 2012 and is ranked as Taiwan’s

the Taiwan economy stems from the assumption that smaller businesses would be disadvantaged and that the agreement would allow China to exert immense control over Taiwan by economic means, forcing it into a state of dependency. The launch of a series of diplomatic measures by the PRC government clearly shows China’s awareness of the growing discontent in Taiwan society toward unwelcome influence from the mainland. The PRC waited till the end of the uproar to take a stand regarding the matter.

No. 1 trading partner. The CSSTA further specifies the opening of a large number of business sectors for foreign investments. In addition to the already criticized method used by the government to ratify the agreement, the content was likewise alarming for those who participated in the protests. The fear of giving China more access to

(PFP) of Taiwan, that the course of peaceful interaction would not be altered. The Chinese government, it seems, was keen to reach out to all sectors of Taiwan, ensuring the population of the mutual benefit of cross-strait economic cooperation. This attempt at reaching Taiwan society at large was focused on the announcement that the postponed visit of the

Reaching out General Secretary Xi Jinping stated in May 2014 at a meeting with James Soong, the founder and honorary chairman of the pan-blue People First Party


photo: US Pacific Command US and South Korean forces conduct operations together during a recent exercise. Such cooperation is crucial in reassuring US allies of continued commitment.

minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), Zhang Zhijun, would take place in June 2014. The visit was emphasized as being a passive act of listening to the Taiwan public and expert opinions alike, stressing the importance of not addressing China’s stance toward Taiwan independence. Planned stops for the TAO minister included visits with the mayors of New Taipei City, Taichung, and Kaohsiung. The meeting with Kaohsiung’s Mayor Chen Chu was presented in Taiwan’s media as a particularly big success toward mutual understanding. According to reporting by the Taipei Times, Chen Chu said that the democratic values in Taiwan are its foundation, to which Zhang replied that China respects the choice of Taiwan’s political system. This comment was notably absent from the Chinese media coverage of the meeting. Also noteworthy were the multiple meetings with local officials, scholars, farmers, and selected groups of students. During Zhang’s stay, each day was marked by protest of a wide array of opposition groups, including those affiliated with the Sunflower Movement. The deliberate choice to visit citizens and

make positive statements, such as those made toward Chen Chu, were clearly meant to calm the brewing heat in Taiwan’s civil society. Making compromises in Taiwan without the fear of leaking too much information through Beijing’s state-controlled media in order to keep up the appearance of a strong, unified China. This event marked the first visit of a Chinese politician in the official role as a state representative in Taiwan, further showing the importance Beijing gives to the disaster of the CSSTA. Comments made by Zhang regarding his stay in Taiwan were clearly meant to suggest that he believes the vast majority of Taiwan’s citizens support a peaceful deepening of cross-strait economic cooperation, while only a small minority opposes. The government of the PRC sought to focus on this “hidden majority” and not on the media-hungry minority. Whether this minority is truly irrelevant for China’s Taiwan strategy remains to be seen. According to a public-opinion survey by the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University, the majority of ROC citizens surveyed in the year 2014 identify themselves as “Taiwanese only” (60.6 per-

Cross-Strait Relations  b  17

cent) in contrast “Taiwanese and Chinese,” which only 32.5 percent accept as their nationality. The identification with the term “Chinese” has dropped to 3.5 percent. This clearly indicates a trend among Taiwan’s population for a growing identity of self-awareness as Taiwanese. This could have an important impact on the level of acceptance for increasing the Chinese influence on Taiwan’s domestic affairs, which might lead to further resistance in the future.

Growing concerns Another alarming development, which was brought up by participants in the Sunflower Movement, is the PRC’s growing influence over Taiwan’s political system through the use of donations. Local politicians have frequently been the target of such endeavors, especially in Hualien County. Many of these instances have been reported, which has given the public a picture of a corrupt leading party. A poll from the TVBS Poll Center showed that about 70 percent of all people questioned believe that the KMT is not trustworthy and constitutes the main cause of corruption in the political sphere, while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is seen as less responsible, with 37 percent of the blame for corruption in government. The CSSTA could take advantage of these problems by opening up business sectors for easy access through Chinese investments. Distressing developments are also taking place regarding local law enforcement: Not only have Internet monitoring capabilities been increased in the wake of the protest movement, but police officers have been reported to have used excessive force to beat down protesters on multiple occasions. Further profiling seemed to be taking place by the illegal collection of medical information from hospitals visited by participants in the protest. The rushed attempt to pass the CSSTA without a good-faith effort to conduct the previously agreed-

upon step-by-step review left members of civil society with a feeling of having been overlooked, and therefore victims of the strategizing of the nation’s political elites. This huge gap between the political decisionmakers and society is also visible in a survey conducted by the TVBS Poll Center, which showed that only 10 percent of all those questioned were sat-

“The United States, with its military alliances and considerable firepower, remains the region’s most powerful player.” isfied with the recent performance of the governing political party. The disapproval rate for the KMT’s actions lies at 75 percent in this survey. The DPP is conceived in a much more positive light in comparison, with a disapproval rate of 32 percent, with 43 percent approving of the opposition party’s performance.

Seeking solutions Instead of battling the will of the people every step of the way, a solution has to be found in order to build trust in the political system once again. A committee consisting of representatives of the political parties, economic NGOs, and grassroots organizations charged with monitoring cross-strait agreements could strengthen the bond between the two camps. Such a committee could have an observational and information-dissemination role, staying in close contact with the media and making political proceedings more feasible for the public to follow. Due to its composition, such a working group would be able to offer a variety of perspectives on sensitive subject matter. It would also give political decisionmakers the chance to come into contact with civil society and, at the same time, enable them to present their point of view to civic organizations. Secondly,


people have to be assured that corruption will be fought. A political donation monitoring system must be established to make sure that especially lucrative donations are made more transparent for the press and the citizens of Taiwan. In so doing, public trust could be regained and suspicions regarding corruption can be faced. One easy way to accomplish this would be for each of the nation’s political parties to establish a section on its respective website showing a breakdown of its assets. In addition, a register regarding donations should be available online to keep track of the origin of large donations. The amount of these donations would have to be defined in the Political Party Act. One example of this would be Germany’s Act on Political Parties, which mandates that political parties publish through their media channels the origin of any donation which exceeds the amount of 50,000 Euros. Another pressing issue is the current public-rela-

tions strategies of the political parties in Taiwan. The Sunflower Movement, and younger voters in general, communicate primarily through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, bypassing traditional media communication. This behavior challenges the current perception of public interaction between citizens and politicians. While the KMT has established a Facebook page, its social media strategy seems to be focused on a top-down communication approach, informing instead of interacting, and thereby ignoring the potential of social media. Therefore, an overhaul of existing public-relations efforts is needed. Engaging the public through social media and discussing issues relevant to party platforms is a key trust-building measure regarding the nation’s young voters. Taiwan’s decisionmakers must understand that citizens fear for the security of Taiwan, and take these concerns into account during the democratic decisionmaking process. n

photo: US Pacific Command The USS Curtis Wilbur operates in heavy seas as it patrols the Pacific. Such patrols are vital in securing common access to sea lanes of control.

b  19

Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 20 (April, 2015)

Outdated Distinction Rethinking deployment of offensive and defensive weapons in Taiwan Strait Martin Wagener

photo: See-ming Lee The Aqua Luna Junk passes by Victoria Harbour near one of six AV-8B Harrier Attack Planes on the USS Peleliu during a recent port call in Hong Kong.


or many years, China has been trying to weaken the security relationship between the United States and Taiwan. The government in Beijing claims that American arms sales to the “renegade province” are an illegal interference in its domestic affairs and are not allowed under the US-

with arms of a defensive character.” Accordingly, US President Barack Obama in 2010 and 2011 pledged the delivery of weapons worth a combined US$12.3 billion. However, out of consideration for China, the United States has refused to sell Taiwan arms that could be categorized as offensive weapons.

China Communiqués of 1972, 1978, and 1982. The US position, in contrast, follows the provisions of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. It states: “It is the policy of the United States ... to provide Taiwan

This approach is outdated. Given the dramatic changes in the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, the United States should reconsider its position. The distinction between offensive and defensive weapons

Martin Wagener is a professor at Germany’s Federal University of Applied Administrative Sciences in Bruehl and Munich. He can be reached for comment at


systems is no longer useful in this part of East Asia— except for China, which adeptly uses this argument to weaken Taiwan’s defenses. Historically, the distinction between offensive and defensive weapons systems in the Taiwan Strait was justified. During the 1950s and 1960s, Republic of China (ROC) President Chiang Kai-shek and the leadership around him seriously considered retaking the mainland, which would have required offensive weapons. Furthermore, the Chinese position through to the

clearly been settled in China’s favor. Today, the distinction between offensive and defensive weapons systems is outdated for three reasons. First, Taiwan has no intention to attack China; retaking the mainland is impossible. China could respond to any provocation with massive force. Second, Taiwan’s armed forces are exclusively geared toward defensive scenarios. Every weapons system in their inventory serves to extend the island’s survival in case of a Chinese invasion. The goal is to hold out for as long as possible in a purely defensive position

photo: TC Lin ROC army tanks make advances during the Han Kuang military exercises simulating an invasion by China on an island in the Taiwan Strait.

1990s is understandable. Then, the balance of power was more even. Frequently, it was even advantageous to the ROC, especially in terms of military technology. In 1990, Taiwan’s defense budget of US$8.55 billion considerably exceeded that of China, at US$6.13 billion.

An arms race lost After the 1990s, China’s advantage began to quickly increase as its dynamic economic development allowed it to invest more in its military. In 2014, China officially reported a defense budget amounting to US$129 billion. Taiwan, in contrast, could only earmark US$10.1 billion for military spending. Over the past years, Beijing has also modernized its armed forces considerably. Consequently, the arms race has

and to hope for US assistance. While Taiwan today does have weapons of an offensive character, the ROC Armed Forces’ mission is simply to defend Taiwan. Third and last, Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz’s argument that, in war, offense and defense are closely linked should be remembered. As he notes in his principal work On War, first published in 1832: “We can ... in a defensive campaign fight offensively, in a defensive battle we may use some divisions for offensive purposes.” In other words, defensive weapons systems can be used for offense, and vice versa. This continues to be the case today. For Taiwan’s military, the offensive or defensive nature of a weapons system is of secondary importance. Rather, a weapons system’s conceivable use matters: does the weapon contribute to the deterrence of China and thus the defense of Taiwan?

Arms Sales to Taiwan  b  21

In the coming years, the ROC Armed Forces will have an ever harder time meeting their defensive task. According to Pentagon figures, more than 1,100 Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM) of the Chinese Second Artillery were aimed at targets on Taiwan in 2012. The ROC Ministry of National Defense puts this number at 1,400 in 2013. Moreover, according to numbers available for 2014, of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force’s 2,100 operational combat aircraft, 330 are within range of Taiwan and could conduct combat operations without refueling. Furthermore, China’s naval forces have enough submarines to blockade Taiwan. It is with good reasons then, that the military leadership in Taipei strikes a gloomy tone in the National Defense Report 2013: “The PRC plans to build comprehensive capabilities for using military force against Taiwan by 2020.” To expand the PLA’s capabilities further, Beijing is eying weapons systems that are considered game changers. According to press reports, China and Russia signed in 2014 an agreement for the delivery of advanced S-400 surface-to-air missiles. Although the

S-400 is conceived as a defensive system, China can be expected to deploy the S-400 in Fujian province, in close proximity to Taiwan. There, the long-range missile defense system would serve both defensive and offensive purposes. Reportedly, the S-400’s range is up to 400 kilometers. If war breaks out, China could directly target aircraft in flight throughout Taiwan and potentially secure immediate air superiority

“The Ministry of National Defense addressed innovative and asymmetric ways to strengthen major warfighting capabilities.” without deploying fighter aircraft. Against this backdrop, John J. Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, paints a bleak picture of the future in a 2014 article in The National Interest: “Not only will China be much more powerful than it is today, but it will also remain deeply committed to making Taiwan part of

photo: UMNICK A transporter erector launcher, or TEL, of an S-400 Triumf makes an appearance during the 2009 Victory Day Anniversary Parade rehearsal in Moscow.


graphic: Political Geography Now

China. Moreover, China will try to dominate Asia the way the United States dominates the Western Hemisphere, which means it will seek to reduce, if not eliminate, the American military presence in Asia.”

China’s military buildup has caused Taiwan to consider new ways in defense policy. In the 2013 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the Ministry of National Defense addressed “innovative and asymmetric” ways “to strengthen major warfighting capa-

2007/2008. The Hsiung Feng III’s speed exceeds Mach 2 and has a range of about 150 km. Experts assume that it is superior to the Russian ASCM SS-N-22 Sunburn, which China’s naval forces use. The Hsiung Feng III is deployed on frigates and patrol boats. At the end of the day, however, fighting asymmetrically entails much more. Taipei must become entirely unpredictable for Beijing in case of war, thus deterring it further. The 2009 QDR suggests that the government in Taipei is working on putting together an elite force “to strike at the enemy’s weaknesses or critical vulnerabilities, limit the enemy’s warfight-

bilities.” The military strategy of “asymmetric warfare” has also been mentioned in the 2009 QDR. This form of warfare could be realized with weapons systems such as the Hsiung Feng (Brave Wind) III, an Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM). It was developed by the Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) and entered service in

ing capabilities or movements, and allow us to attain greater freedom of movement and secure military victory.” The overarching goal here would be raising the political costs of a war for China. To this end, the ROC Armed Forces would require weapons systems that could also target the mainland. The CSIST has already succeeded in this: The Hsiung

Asymmetric warfare

Arms Sales to Taiwan  b  23

Feng IIE, a Land-Attack Cruise Missile (LACM), could, for example, be launched against missile defense positions in Fujian, should the S-400 be deployed there. This subsonic cruise missile has a reported range of 600 km, with some claiming as much as 1,000 km. It is unclear whether the Hsiung Feng IIE has already entered service. ROC President Ma Ying-jeou is said to have ordered the production of 300 LACMs in 2008. In 2015, the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London assessed that 12 Hsiung Feng IIE had been deployed.

Asymmetric tools Media reports also mention ongoing work on the surface-to-surface missile Yun Feng (Cloud Peak). It is said to have a speed of Mach 3 and a reach of up to 1,200 km, which would allow it to strike the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei province. Upgraded variants of the Yun Feng are expected to reach up to 2,000 km. In 2004, the Pentagon speculated about such a scenario should Taiwan acquire a long-range surface-

to-surface missile. The government in Taipei has not officially confirmed the missile’s existence. Either way, it would precisely meet the requirements dictated by the logic of asymmetric warfare.

“A state which sees itself as too weak because of limited defensive capability could feel compelled to put everything on one card. In Taiwan’s case, this could mean acquiring nuclear weapons.” What does this mean for the administration in Washington? Of course the United States has to adhere to its one-China policy and maintain its neutral position of non-support for Taiwan independence. At the same time, however, it cannot be denied that the balance of power in this part of East Asia continues to shift dramatically. This is also partly because Taiwan has been unwilling or unable to increase its defense budget. The United States must thus consider new ways of strengthening Taiwan’s defensive capabilities. This should include no longer making

photo: ROC MND A Hsiung Feng III missile on display at an aeronautics show in Taipei, with a background illustration of several such missiles assaulting an aircraft carrier.


photo: Tommy Lamkin A US Marine Corps variant of the F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter after a vertical landing aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.

strict distinctions between “offensive” and “defensive” weapons systems. Given the shifting balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, it would be appropriate to supply the ROC with additional weapons systems to help offset this imbalance. Submarines (or submarine-related technology) would be ideal to counter a blockade or amphibious operations. The Joint Strike Fighter F-35Bs would also bolster Taiwan’s defensive capabilities. The F-35B’s short take-off and vertical-landing capability would allow it to be used after the destruction of runways by SRBMs. The United States—and also other states in Asia and Europe supporting the ROC’s efforts— would not jeopardize peace in the Taiwan Strait, but would strengthen it. Washington should also think about new ways to integrate Taipei in its policy of rebalancing to Asia. Should the United States continue its wait-and-see position in the Taiwan Strait, Mearsheimer might end up being right. As structural realists claim, imbalances of power are dangerous. This is supported

by offense-defense theory, according to which wars become more likely as attacks become easier, and vice versa. As MIT professor Stephen Van Evera argued in International Security in 1998: “When conquest is hard, states are dissuaded from aggression by the fear that victory will prove costly or unattainable.”

The perils of imbalances In practice, however, another development is conceivable: A state which sees itself as too weak because of limited defensive capability could feel compelled to put everything on one card. In Taiwan’s case, this could mean acquiring nuclear weapons. To date, the leadership in Taipei has, for good reason, decided to forgo such a move. In 1995, ROC President Lee Tenghui last raised the possibility of acquiring nuclear weapons in the future to credibly deter China. Shortly thereafter, however, he backtracked and stated that Taiwan would not build nuclear weapons. If Beijing were to take over the “renegade province”

Arms Sales to Taiwan  b  25

it would have enormous strategic consequences for the rest of Asia. By occupying Taiwan, China could not only directly threaten Japanese sea lanes of communication. It would also have the long-sought direct access to the western Pacific. This could put limits on US naval forces’ freedom to maneuver in East Asia, exacerbating the regional arms race. Such a scenario would be relevant for Europe, too. Governments in London, Paris, and Berlin would have to react if a militarily weak Taiwan were to be invaded by the PRC. Would they be prepared to respond? If they showed solidarity with Taiwan and the United States, China could sever ties with them. That would have tremendous economic consequences. In the worst case scenario, should the United States support Taiwan militarily in case of war, Beijing could launch a retaliatory strike against US territory. Washington could then invoke NATO and would presumably ask London, Paris, and Berlin for military assistance. This may seem like a far-fetched scenario, but Europeans also considered the possibility

of Russian annexation of Crimea to be a thing of the past. The outcome of a war between Beijing and Taipei would be a foregone conclusion: Taiwan does not stand a chance. Depending on the scenario, analysts assume that the island could withstand the PLA’s assault only several weeks. Therefore, two things are decisive to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait: On the one hand, China must expect that Washington will help Taiwan defend itself. The ROC Armed Forces, on the other hand, must have the capabilities to make an invasion of the island as costly as possible. If the Chinese leadership expected a war of attrition, and even military strikes against the mainland, the price of a blockade or invasion attempt might seem too high. This concept should factor in to all arms deliveries to Taiwan. In the end, they are not meant for fighting. Rather, they serve to influence the political costbenefit-analysis of the Chinese leadership. As Sun Tzu advised, it is best to win without fighting. n

photo: Tai Gray Analysts predict that Taiwan could withstand a PLA assault for only several weeks, necessitating a rethink of sales of offensive weapons for defensive use.

26  b

Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 20 (April, 2015)

Losing Allies

Shortsighted Chinese policies leads to weakened relationship with Myanmar Bradley Wu


he Reasons for China’s loss of Myanmar present an important case study in Chinese foreign policy. While Chinese leaders are no doubt debating the reasons behind the walls of Zhongnanhai, the rest of the region, as well as the West, should pay close attention to this development. The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) failure in Myanmar offers important clues to the level of Chinese influence in other countries, and how it seeks to exercise its influence. Chinese strategists are interested in Myanmar primarily because of its key geostrategic position. China recently finished construction of an oil pipeline which stretches from the city of Kyaukpyu, on

the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal, to the Chinese border. This important pipeline helps enable China to bypass the Strait of Malacca, a vulnerable chokepoint in maritime shipping. Secondly, Myanmar could potentially host Chinese naval vessels, should China seek to develop a blue-water navy and increase its presence in the Indian Ocean. The PRC relationship with Myanmar includes a mix of foreign-policy victories, as well as a number of failures. Myanmar was eager to cooperate with China in strengthening the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. The failure of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), which was sheltered, trained, advised and supported by the PRC from 1962 to 1979,

photo: Sgt. Alcaraz Burmese soldiers unload aid supplies from a US Air Force C-130 following Cyclone Nargis. Such efforts signal an improvement in relations with the US.

Bradley Wu is a an independent researcher and former consultant to the China Program at the World Security Institute. He can be reached for comment at

Losing Allies  b  27

photo: Mikhail Esteves Mae La Refugee Camp is the largest such camp for Burmese refugees in Thailand, over 90 percent of whom are ethnic Karen that have fled the junta.

was a failure for Beijing. The collapse of the CPB in northern Myanmar produced lingering problems in the form of insurgent groups and drug-smuggling rings. These developments, negative as they would seem, enabled China to maintain a bargaining chip with Myanmar. However, this tactic is outdated and reflects negatively on past Chinese foreign policy. What happened in Myanmar after World War II could be summarized into five themes: the enduring bane of civil war buried from the forming of this federation, opportunities for the rise of military juntas caused by the unrest of repeated insurgencies, total failure of the so-called socialism of General Ne Win, support from neighboring powers to different insurgent groups including the CPB, and preliminary success in the country’s tentative steps toward

unification are all not easy for Myanmar. However, generally speaking, Myanmar, as well as the world, should move forward to better governance. China chose to support Myanmar’s military regime, which was sanctioned by the world, in exchange for geopolitical benefit. This policy ignored the power of internal developments such as the democratic student movement. But China never expected that one day the military junta would be inclined to move towards democracy and enjoy economic and military support from the West.

democratization and the endeavor to restore peace and unification supported by the West. In addition to its sponsorship of the CPB for the purpose of expanding the sphere of communist influence, China maintains a very realistic perspective on other issues. This is reasonable, for national reconciliation, enduring democratization and re-

tive track, and China has no influence in the matter. In conflicts between the Myanmar government and armed groups of ethnic minorities, China could play the role of mediator, but could not offer a real solution. Though Naypyidaw faces difficulties in defeating the armed groups completely, and must consider Beijing’s interests, it has become more and more

Growing friction Currently, the relationship between Myanmar’s government and the opposition parties is on a produc-


photo: Caleb Cole As Myanmar continues to reform, greater numbers of people will visit this once isolated country, and discover is natural beauty and cultural wonders.

unproductive for China to control the direction in which Myanmar moves by keeping these conflicts alive. Even enormous investments in infrastructure in Myanmar could not buy this initiative back. For Myanmar’s government, it is much more attractive to move towards the democratic order than to simply rely on China and face wide-ranging economic sanctions. This change also presents a more problematic development for China. American diplomatic and economic power has shown that it can exert a powerful influence on China’s key allies, and undermine PRC foreign-policy objectives.

Strategic drivers While China will likely be able to achieve its goal of constructing an oil pipeline through Myanmar, the value of this project will be somewhat diminished. A key factor in China’s desire to construct a pipeline in Myanmar is the desire to avoid having its oil imports blocked during a conflict or crisis. Bypassing

the Strait of Malacca would have greatly reduced this threat. However, a Myanmar government with closer relations to the West might be a less reliable partner during a crisis.

“It is clear that the PRC’s core values can impede its foreign policy objectives.” Due to the preference for democratic governance being a key factor in China’s loss of Myanmar, it is clear that the PRC’s core values can impede its foreign policy objectives. Though China is promoting a colorful system of socialist core values at home, it regards these values as totally different from the socalled universal values espoused by the West. In addition to defending itself when criticized by the West, China will continue to evade comments on similar affairs abroad. Thus, China has to rely on maintaining instability in northern Myanmar to maintain its influence over this country. However, this position

Losing Allies  b  29

is becoming harder and harder to articulate, both at home and abroad. Improved relations between Washington and Naypyidaw, and the increasing influence of the United States, caused a great deal of anxiety for Chinese leadership. Some Chinese ministries hope to attract sympathy among Chinese audiences by emphasizing the barbarity of Myanmar’s military and the misery of ethnic minorities. The most powerful propaganda machine, led by the Global Times, which thrives on instigating nationalist sentiment and serves the rapidly growing extreme left wing inside the ruling party, choose to recklessly hype this development as a fatal geopolitical disaster for China. photo: Wimedia Commons Ironically, this hype is absolutely Burmese Defense Service personnel greet a military delegation from Thailand. necessary, considering the fact that Chinese society would be indifferent to overseas relation with Buddhists in Myanmar is very tense.” humanitarian crises if there are no Chinese lives On issues related to northern Myanmar, Chinese involved. It has been a long-held position by the officials have a different concern; strident nationalChinese government that humanitarian crises behind istic sentiment in China might force them to take a foreign insurgencies are often means used by America hard line. This in turn would likely cause Myanmar’s to interfere in the affairs of developing countries. The government to move closer to America and further experience of the Rohingya people in Myanmar is ruin years of Chinese strategic investment. a case in point; since the Rakhine State where they live is far from the Chinese border, and it involves Rising nationalism the sensitive topic of human rights, the standard attitude of Chinese society is general disinterest. This Nationalist sentiment among the Chinese population is in contrast to the attitude they hold on similar is a challenge for the PRC. The government just recases in northern Myanmar. As explained by the cently soothed domestic rage over the 2011 Mekong most popular source of knowledge about the world River massacre, in which some Chinese sailors were for Chinese citizens, the Encyclopedia of Baidu; killed. This was brought about largely because of the “Rohingya people immigrated into Myanmar as acdeath sentence given to Myanmar drug lord Naw complices for British colonists, they attempted to Kham. A plot was raised by some Chinese media break up Myanmar via insurgencies on several ocofficials which claimed that there must have been casions, their crime rate is extremely high, and their some anti-Chinese conspiracy hidden behind this


murder. Without creating controversy with Southeast Asian neighbors, how could these media spin masters provide justification to root out the specious antiChinese movements and portray themselves as the defenders of the people? This is why the Chinese embassy in Myanmar quickly denied the fact that there are Chinese citizens trapped in northern Myanmar. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also played down this fact even after it acknowledged that some lumbermen were detained by Myanmar authorities. With regard to the detained Chinese lumbermen, the Chinese government is fully aware of the situation and permits them to buy timber from local insurgent groups in northern Myanmar and import the logs into China. However, the PRC does not support these smugglers when they are pursued by and hunted by Myanmar’s military. If the first half of this process could be explained

by respecting de facto situations in Myanmar and unspeakable interests of China, how could the second half be explained rationally to Chinese nationalists? Considering the complexity and grimness of the domestic political situation in China in recent years, profiting from chaos in Myanmar by powerful interests in the Chinese central and local governments has been a big problem for China. Different branches of the Chinese government are following different approaches in their dealings with Myanmar. With its flawed system of values, China cannot influence the direction of Myanmar, let alone control it. So much Chinese manpower and capital is poured into developing countries where the power of the West is weak, but inner conflicts are abundant. Without a clear policy which promotes stability and true cooperation, these places will continue to be troubled waters. n

photo: US Pacific Command The USS O’Kane prepares to get underway for operations in the Asia-Pacific. In time, US Navy ships could be making goodwill visits to Myanmar.


for Taiwan Security

Center for Security Studies National Chengchi University No. 64, Wan Shou Road Taipei City 11666 Taiwan, ROC

Visit our website: