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STRATEGIC VISION Volume 7, Issue 37

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April, 2018

for Taiwan Security w

ISSN 2227-3646

Tokyo Reaches Out

Military Engagement Sought With Japan’s Regional Allies David Scott

Development of PLA’s Marine Corps Pei-sung Ho

Bolton Appointment Augurs Well Dean Karalekas

Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific Strategy Charles Yang

Xi Jinping’s Growing Power Tobias Burgers


STRATEGIC VISION

for Taiwan Security

Volume 7, Issue 37

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April, 2018

Contents Japan woos allies in Indo-Pacific region.........................................4

David Scott

Development of China’s Marine Corps.........................................10

Pei-sung Ho

Xi Jinping tightens control over the military............................... 16

Tobias Burgers

Bolton appointment augurs well for Taiwan................................22

Dean Karalekas

Indo-Pacific Strategy a good fit for Taiwan..................................28

Charles Yang

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 xiongmu@gmail.com 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. Cover photograph of a member of the Japan Self Defense Force offloading equipment from a C-130 Hercules is courtesy of Kevin Gruenwald.


Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Aaron Jensen Associate Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Yi-hua Kan Richard Hu Guang-chang Bian Chung-kun Ma Lipin Tien STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 7, Number 37, April, 2018, 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: xiongmu@gmail.com Or by telephone at: +886 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: www.csstw.org. © Copyright 2018 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the TCSS, NDU, or the editors.

From The Editor

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he editors and staff of Strategic Vision would like to wish our readers well this spring season. The AsiaPacific continues to undergo important developments. We hope that students and scholars in the academic and policymaking communities have the chance to keep up with these events. In support of that effort, we offer our latest issue of Strategic Vision. We open this issue with Dr. David Scott, a frequent lecturer at the NATO Defense College in Rome, who looks at Japan’s developing hedging strategies in response to China’s rise. Next, Colonel Pei-sung Ho of the ROC Marine Corps, a lecturer at Taiwan’s National Defense University, examines new developments in China’s Marine Corps. This is followed by an analysis of Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power over the PLA and its potential implications by Tobias Burgers, currently a visiting researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Taipei. Strategic Vision’s own Dean Karalekas takes a look at how China has shifted the focus of its salami-slicing efforts from the South China Sea to Taiwan, and asks whether the appointment of a hawk like John Bolton to the Trump White House might turn out to be a boon for Taipei. Finally, Charles Yang, from the Graduate Institute of National Development at National Taiwan University argues that Taiwan should participate in the emerging Indo-Pacific Strategy. 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


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Strategic Vision vol. 7, no. 37 (April, 2018)

Banging the Drum Japan begins gathering allies in Indo-Pacific region to balance China’s rise David Scott

photo: Danielle Prentice

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A man performs the traditional Eisa dance at the Tedako Matsuri Festival in Okinawa paying respect to King Eiso of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

hina’s recent military growth and aggressive expansionism have proven to be Japan’s biggest challenge, prompting Tokyo’s signature foreign policy initiative of promoting a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. Enunciated in the autumn of 2016 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the initiative was a geopolitical and economic response to China’s increasingly assertive presence from the Western Pacific through the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. Beijing was of course highly critical of such strategic positioning by Japan, with Chinese state media accusing Japan’s Indo-Pacific concept of

being an effort to contain China. Given Tokyo’s wariness about Beijing’s economic and geopolitical push into the Indo-Pacific, Japan has followed the two-fold approach of building up its own military power and presence (internal balancing), and of strengthening and extending security partnerships with other countries that share Tokyo’s concern about China’s rise (external balancing). It has also carefully calibrated its economic responses. One plank of Japan’s Indo-Pacific response has been to get around Article 9 of Japan’s so-called peace constitution, whereby Japan formally pledged to for-

Dr. David Scott is a regular presenter on Indo-Pacific geopolitics at the NATO Defense College in Rome and a prolific writer. He can be reached at davidscott366@outlook.com


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ever renounce war, ensuring that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.” This led to ongoing restrictions on military spending and on the overseas deployment of Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF). In July 2014, the Japanese government approved a reinterpretation of Article-9, which gave more powers to the JSDF, allowing them to defend allies in cases where war has been declared against those allies. This opens the way for military action outside Japan, and cooperation with other countries such as the United States, India, and Australia. This adjustment was first issued as Cabinet reinterpretation in July 2014, and was then passed into law in September 2015. Abe continues to push for further direct amendments of Article 9. Not surprisingly, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) officially denounced this development. Since 2015, Abe has been redeploying Japan’s military forces away from northern Hokkaido facing Russia, down to the southern zone of the Ryukyu chain facing China. The focus is two-fold: Firstly,

anti-ship missile batteries can target Chinese naval units as they pass through the various Ryukyu straits into the Western Pacific; and secondly, radar stations such as the one on Yonaguni island can monitor the disputed waters of the East China Sea.

Increased deployments Given the increasingly sharp dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and the increase in Chinese naval and air deployments around them, Japan has also been increasing its own naval and air presence in those disputed waters and airspace. Japanese deployments in the Western Pacific include long-established bilateral training drills with the US military, exemplified by the joint anti-submarine warfare exercise MultiSail 2018 carried out near Guam in March of this year. These have been supplemented by trilateral exercises with the US and Indian navies first seen in 2007, and then again in 2013, 2015 and 2017. China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea is likewise a concern to Japan. Especially worry-

photo: Christopher Veloicaza Ships sail in formation during MultiSail17, a bilateral training exercise designed to improve interoperability between the US and Japanese forces.


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photo: Yamada Taro Japan’s newest helicopter destroyer, the JS Izumo, greatly enhances Japan’s ability to project power and conduct anti-submarine warfare.

ing is the continued construction there of artificial islands—the so-called Great Sandwall of China—that have become heavily militarized. This is in part because further energy security imperatives are in play for a post-Fukushima Japan that is ever-more dependent on oil and gas from the Middle East and Indian Ocean shipped to Japan through the South China Sea. Japan continues to join in denunciations of PRC activities in the South China Sea. It also deploys its own forces into these waters, the most powerful deployment being that of the helicopter carrier JS Izumo that spent three months in the South China Sea making friendly port calls to the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia in mid-2017. Japanese naval units have also been dispatched to the South China Sea in order to take part in exercises with the Philippines in May 2015, with the US navy in October 2015, July 2017 and March 2018, and with the US and Australian navies in July 2011. Japan has also been deploying its forces into the Indian Ocean, initially to support US/NATO operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, then for energy security imperatives to safeguard oil shipments from the Middle East, and finally because of China’s growing presence across the Indian Ocean. Japan’s in-

volvement in the trilateral Malabar exercises with India and the US is particularly China-related and has taken place in the Western Pacific and in the Bay of Bengal. “Joint exercises and defense exchange are increasing in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea in order to promote ‘the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,’ which Japan is advocating,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said in December 2017.

Seeking security partners The Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy now being pursued by Japan is explicitly a strategy to seek similarly concerned security partners. This invitation to balance is indicated by earlier Indo-Pacific language used by Shinzo Abe. The “Confluence of the Two Seas” phrasing used by Abe in 2007 was a reference to bilateral Japan-India cooperation. Subsequently, the “Security Diamond” coined by Abe in 2012 described the quadrilateral security cooperation between Japan, India, Australia, and the United States. The current balancing strategy employed by Japan involves bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral initiatives. Abe’s explicit Indo-Pacific platform has found


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ready welcome in Washington, Canberra, and New Delhi thanks to his personal relationships with US President Donald Trump, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Japan’s security has long been wrapped up in the 1950 Security Treaty with the United States, which set up permanent US military bases in Japan. The two countries’ mutual concerns about the Soviet Union have long since been replaced by rising concerns over China, with whom Japan has growing disputes over territory and waters in the East China Sea. These rising concerns have led to stronger security links between the United States and Japan, whose Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation have expanded to include indeterminate wider settings surrounding Japan, reading; “the concept, situations in areas surrounding Japan, is not geographic but situational.” An update to the Guidelines promulgated in April 2015 emphasized maritime security, and talked of US-Japan cooperation and response

in specifically trilateral terms in the “Asia-Pacific and beyond.” Japan’s strengthening security links with Australia are China-linked, and attract criticism in Chinese media. Japan’s partnership with India is particularly China-related as Japan and India are immediate

“Unofficial strengthening of links with Taiwan has also been pursued by Japan.” neighbors of China, both have territorial disputes with China, and both are threatened by China’s maritime push through the Indo-Pacific. It was no coincidence that the joint statement drawn up between Abe and Modi in September 2017 was titled “Toward a Free, Open and Prosperous Indo-Pacific.” Given these strengthening bilateral links with the United States, Australia, and India, it is not surprising to find Japan joining in associated three-way strategic

photo: Vernon Young Jr. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit.


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dialogues, such as the Japan-Australia-US trilateral running since 2002, the Japan-India-US trilateral running since 2011, and the Japan-Australia-India trilateral running since 2015. Japan’s trilateral with Australia and the United States also involves military exercises in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea; while Japan’s trilateral with India and the United States now involves Malabar naval exercises in the Western Pacific and in the Bay of Bengal.

Quadrilateral cooperation Japan has enthusiastically embraced quadrilateral cooperation between Japan, India, Australia, and the United States. The initiative included official-level meetings in May 2007 and quadrilateral naval exercises in September that same year, but was halted by Australia and India after severe criticisms from the PRC. Japan continued to advocate this quadrilateral logic, and so welcomed its return in November 2017 rebranded as “the Quad,” complete with quadrilateral naval exercises in the works for 2018.

The response from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was predictably perturbed. “We hope that such relations would not target a third party,” PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a November 13, 2017, press conference. But defending against China is precisely the strategic intent of the Quad. These China concerns were on show at the Raisina Dialogue in January 2018, where Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, the highest-ranking officer in the Japan Self-Defense Forces, spoke to his quadrilateral naval counterparts of China’s “aggressive policies.” Given Japan’s rising concerns over Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, Tokyo has also pursued stronger defense relationships with Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia—including defense sales and exercises. All three states have maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea. Unofficial strengthening of links with Taiwan has also been pursued by Japan. Finally, Japan has sought closer defense links with the UK and France. Discussions with each in 2017

photo: Indian Navy Indian Navy personnnel and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force members at Port Sasebo, Japan, during Exercise Malabar 2014.


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photo: Courtney Richardson A soldier performs a sunset ceremony at an air base in Southwest Asia, deployed as part of the JASDF’s Iraq Reconstruction Support Airlift Wing Mission.

made explicit reference to a Free and Open IndoPacific, followed by bilateral naval exercises with each in the Pacific in 2018. Japan’s strengthened links with France also led to its participation in trilateral naval exercises in May 2017 with French and US naval units in the Western Pacific. Initially reluctant to engage with China’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative across the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, Japan instead has supported India in pushing the Africa-Asia Growth Corridor (AAGC) as an alternative. Chinese media has accused Japan and India of using AAGC plan to counter PRC ambitions. Japan has more recently signaled a conditional readiness to participate in the MSR initiative with China, if assurances of a level playing field are provided, but it is also moving to further infrastructure counterpoising through the quadrilateral framework with India, Australia, and the United States. On the economic front, Japan has also taken the initiative in salvaging the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which appeared doomed when the Trump

administration pulled out in January 2017. However, the TPP was reset and resigned in March 2018, thanks in large part to efforts by Tokyo. The advantage of the TPP is that it brings Japan together with a range of Pacific Rim countries like Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. This gives Japan an alternative to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership being negotiated which would establish a bloc to knit together East Asia, South-East Asia, Australasia, and South Asia—and including Japan—but in which China would play a leadership role. Japan’s strategy to cope with an ever-rising China—a China with opaque long-term goals—is essentially one of hedging: what used to be called “congagement,” or containment plus engagement. On 16 April, some Indo-Pacific economic engagement was on show in the talks held in Tokyo between Japan and China’s foreign ministers, while overt Indo-Pacific security balancing was on show in the talks in the US between Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump. n


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Strategic Vision vol. 7, no. 37 (April, 2018)

Amphibious Ambitions Development of Chinese Marine Corps has strategic implications for Taiwan Pei-sung Ho

photo: Donny Osmond

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A Royal Marine performs a beach assault from an LCAC Hovercraft in Harstad, Norway as part of the NATO COLD RESPONSE 16 Exercise.

hina has made great strides in developing its amphibious ships and vehicles in recent years, and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has greatly expanded the size of its marine corps as part of its military reform efforts. The PLA Marine Corps (PLAMC) has also become more involved in overseas operations, including activities such as the PLA Navy’s escort missions in the Gulf of Aden, joint island-seizing exercises in South China Sea, the evacuation of Chinese civilians from Yemen in 2015, and the establishment of China’s first overseas military logistic support base in Djibouti in 2017. An examination of the PLAMC shows that the PLA is developing a marine corps patterned on the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in an attempt to enhance China’s sharp power and to protect China’s overseas interests. With such aspirations, it raises

concerns regarding future PLAMC missions and deployment. As China’s overseas interests and security concerns increase, it appears that the PLA is seeking to develop power projection capabilities similar to the US Marine Corps. The key component of US Marine Corps rapid power projection capability is the Navy/ Marine Corps Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). A typical ESG is composed of a Landing Helicopter Dock/Assault (LHD/LHA), a Landing Platform Dock (LPD), a Landing Ship Dock (LSD), and surface warships and attack submarines, plus a Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is a reinforced battalionlevel Marine Air Ground Task Force (with both rotary-wing and STOVL fixed-wing aircraft) embarked on board the above three amphibious ships. The ESG is one of the most valuable crisis-management assets

Pei-sung Ho is a colonel in the ROC Marine Corps and an instructor at the ROC National Defense University. He can be reached for comment at owpho123@gmail.com


Amphibious Ambitions  b  11

for the United States; it serves as a maritime rapid response force with considerable firepower and mission flexibility. It is a successful operational concept for a sea power like the United States. In an effort to create its own strike groups, the PLA has begun producing a number of amphibious assault ships. The 071-class LPD (NATO reporting name: Yuzhao), is basically the PLA Navy (PLAN) equivalent of the US Navy’s San Antonio-class LPD. They both have a low radar cross-section design, a displacement of roughly 25,000 tons, and the ability to operate two or more helicopters at the same time, and both can carry a landing force of 600 to 800 personnel, plus more than a dozen armored vehicles.

Overseas deployments Currently there are four 071-class LPDs in service; three in the Southern Theater and one in the Eastern Theater. The fifth and the sixth have already been launched and are being fitted out. The 071-class LPDs

with different-sized PLAMC detachments have been included in many overseas missions, such as joint landing exercises, humanitarian assistance operations and Gulf of Aden escort missions. Reports also suggest that a 40,000-ton 075-class LHD is being built in China. According to various analysts, the 075-class is a bit smaller than the US Navy America-class LHA, which has a 45,000 ton displacement, 20 to 30 helicopters/tiltrotors or Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft such as the F35B, and about 1000 troops. So the 075-class LHD could probably carry upwards of 20 helicopters, 800 to 900 troops, and a dozen or so amphibious vehicles if there is a well deck. Furthermore, the 075-class could also carry STOVL fighters when they become available. The US Navy received its first Expeditionary Transfer Dock, the USNS Montford Point (T-ESD-1, displacement 34,500 tons) in May 2013. The T-ESD-1 is not just a semi-submersible heavy-lift (SSHL) ship, it is equipped with a side port ramp and a vehicle

photo: Jeremy Harper American Marines and People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Marines shake hands at the start of Marine Day in Zhanjiang, China.


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staging area, which can be used together to offload heavy equipment or vehicles from Roll-On Roll-Off (RO-RO) ships and then load them into Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) or Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs) for subsequent landing operations in the absence of any dock facilities or harbor support. China must have noticed the above developments, because the PLAN acquired its first SSHL ship (displacement 20,000 tons), the Dong-Hai-Dau, in July 2015. Though it is not as large, advanced, or well-designed as the T-ESD-1, the Dong-Hai-Dau has been included in various landing operations to augment the PLA’s transport capacity. According to media reports, China’s first civilian-owned military-standard 50,000-ton SSHL ship, the Tseng-Hwa 33, was launched in March 2017, and China’s largest such ship (and the world’s second-largest), the 98,000-ton Hsin-Gwang-Hwa, was delivered in early December 2016. China currently owns and operates about 10 such ships of various sizes. In November 2017, China’s Ministry of Defense announced the completion of acceptance tests for the first civilian small-sized, 2,200-ton commercial RO-

RO ship. It was built to match several military requirements regarding structural strength and design, communication and navigation equipment, etc., and could therefore be readily used in military operations. Since the PLA is free to mobilize civilian vessels for military purposes, with China’s existing SSHL ships

“The Republic of China (ROC) must use its limited defense resources creatively and asymmetrically.” and dozens of RO-RO ships, the PLA’s overall sealift and amphibious transport capability could be dramatically increased in a very short time. China has so far purchased eight Zubr-class LCACs (NATO reporting name: Pomornik). Four new ones were purchased from Ukraine in 2009 and four used ones from Greece in 2016. The Zubr-class is the world’s largest LCAC, it could carry up to three main battle tanks, or 10 armored vehicles, or 500 troops, with a top speed of 63 knots and a maximum range of 300 nautical miles. The Zubr-class could therefore ef-

photo: Mark Kettenhoffen A Sailor stands on the bow of a Soviet Pomornik-class air cushion landing craft after a demonstration for visiting Americans.


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photo: Jacob Farbo A US Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle lands at the beach at Camp Pendelton in California.

fectively enhance the PLAMC’s medium-range shoreto-shore assault landing capability, and hence the element of surprise. There are at least three already in service, and China is also building more of them.

Amphibious infantry The PLAN has also recently begun production of its own 726-class LCAC (NATO reporting name: Yuyiclass). Though a bit smaller, it is very similar to US Navy LCACs in size, capability, as well as capacity. It can carry one main battle tank, or two amphibious tanks, or around 80 troops. The 071-class LPD could carry up to four 726-class LCACs in its well deck, and such a combination has been seen many times in various operations. There are about ten 726-class vessels in service as of January 2018. China has equipped various Army and Marine Corp units with the ZBD-05 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles and ZTD-05 amphibious assault vehicles. The design of the ZBD-05 is very similar to the US Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. The ZBD-05 is the world’s fastest amphibious armored

vehicle right now, and it greatly increases PLAMC’s operation tempo. The PLAMC has just acquired the ZBL-08 8X8 wheeled infantry fighting vehicle (equipped with a 30mm cannon) and its 105mm assault gun variant, the ZTL-11, in early 2017. Both are capable of operating at about 8 km/hr in water, with a top speed of 100 km/hr on land. A PLAMC detachment with newlyacquired ZBL-08s was sent to Djibouti to protect the PLA’s first overseas logistic support base in July 2017. Since wheeled armored vehicles have much better fuel economy, mobility, and agility than tracked armored vehicles, they are perfectly suited for inland and urban operations, which are definitely something new for the PLA Marine Corps, whose traditional mission is to secure landing beachheads for follow-up forces. By equipping marine units with such wheeled vehicles, the PLAMC’s expeditionary and ground combat capabilities are greatly enhanced. The PLA Marine Corps only had two brigades (of about 4000 marines each) by the end of 2016. On February 17, 2017, Chinese media reported that the former PLA 77th Brigade of the 26th Group Army


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photo: Mil.ru A Zubr-Class LCAC similar to those operated by the PLA Marine Corps.

was to be transferred to the PLA Navy. Later in March, various reports claimed that the PLAMC would likely be expanded to form an independent corps-level force with about 100,000 marines. In late May, 2017, the new Commander and Political Commissar of the PLA Marine Corps appeared in public for the first time; both were Major Generals, providing evidence that the PLAMC was becoming a corps-level force. In early December, 2017, Chinese media reported that there were already six marine brigades with about 30,000 marines in total, with two in each of the three PLAN fleets. Among the six brigades, two were “original” PLAMC brigades, one was from the Army, and three were from coastal defense forces. In addition to its size, the PLA Marine Corps has enhanced its capabilities in such areas as overall capacity in transport/sealift, assault landing, inter-island/cross-strait maneuvers, as well as land operations. However, rapid growth and expansion could cause many problems. For example, new equipment fielded hastily might have unresolved technical issues; insufficient tactical experimentation could also lead to battlefield disasters, and so on. In addition, for those “new” PLAMC units who used to be do-

ing completely different jobs like coastal defense, troops must meet a tougher standard for physical fitness, complete mission-essential amphibious/combat training, familiarize and master new amphibious equipment/vehicles, learn new chains of command, etc. It might take a full year or longer to get them ready for marine-style expeditionary missions, provided all of the necessary personnel, equipment, and facilities are available when training starts. Moreover, since four of the new brigades were not “real” marines, the politics and infighting among senior leadership would further hamper the overall efficiency and progress of the transformation, as well as the amphibious development to a certain degree.

Expeditionary fighting force When all the above difficulties are eventually ironed out, the new PLA Marine Corps will become a more powerful, capable, flexible, versatile expeditionary fighting force. It will be able to handle a variety of different tasks such as ground combat operations, maritime rapid response/power projection operations, protecting overseas facilities, in addition to all its current missions. The future PLA Marine Corps


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will be more like the US Marine Corps in many ways, and it will likely eventually get its own aviation assets to make it truly independent, just like the USMC. With a much stronger and more capable Marine Corps, China will definitely have more options and influence in regional and international affairs, and the PLAMC will certainly be a significant part of Beijing’s foreign policy as it develops its Belt and Road strategic plan. Since engaging in an arms race with China is not a viable option, the Republic of China (ROC) must use its limited defense resources creatively and asymmetrically. First, the ROC Marine Corps (ROCMC) should acquire more cheap, small, and fast vessels like Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) and Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRCs). To develop effective deterrence, the ROCMC must be able to send out all its well-trained and amphibious-capable forces on wide-area distributed raiding operations against PLA coastal targets and wreak havoc using hundreds of RHIBs/CRRCs launched from motherships sailing the Taiwan Strait. Such a potential threat would force

the PLA to deploy more coastal defense troops and thus have a less-powerful cross-strait punch. Secondly, since PLA landing forces will be transported primarily by ship, the ROC should procure more high-performance anti-ship missiles such as the Hsiung-Feng II and III missiles, as well as more launching vehicles and vessels. Mobile platforms are small and have better survivability, and could therefore be used to effectively take out a significant number of approaching PLA amphibious ships from anywhere ashore or in the surrounding waters. Finally, the ROC military must purchase more weapons that are effective, simple, and relatively cheap, such as sea mines that could be used to block or impede a PLA amphibious landing; as well as shoulder-launched rockets that could knock out landing craft, light-armored vehicles, and low-flying helicopters. These asymmetrically cheap and low-tech weapons could cause heavy casualties in the littoral and urban environment, and could therefore be another serious problem for the PLA should it attempt an amphibious operation against the ROC. n

photo: Chad McNeeley Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division stand at attention.


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Strategic Vision vol. 7, no. 37 (April, 2018)

Power Play

PRC President Xi Jin-ping’s heightened control over the military raises concerns Tobias Burgers

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uch has been written about the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CCP), held last October in Beijing. Generally, in the run-up to a CCP congress, the usual questions relating to the four-year cycle of leadership transition on the standing committee are posed and discussed: Who will retain his seat, who will be promoted to the top body, and who will lose power.

However, this year, questions about the National Congress seemed instead primarily focused on the position of Xi Jinping. The question was not whether he would hold on to power, but rather how much more he would acquire. There was even speculation that Xi would set a framework in order to ensure a third term, which could provoke a legal and constitutional crisis. In retrospect, this has proven to be correct, as the way has now been paved for Xi to re-

photo: Carsten ten Brink PRC President Xi Jin-ping is taking his place among the Communist Chinese paramount leaders of years past who wielded unlimited power.

Tobias Burgers is a visiting scholar at the Institute of International Relations in Taipei, Taiwan, where he researches the rise and increasing use of cyber and robotic systems in security affairs. He can be reached for comment at burgers@zedat.fu-berlin.de


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photo: Bryan Nygaard A PLA officer accompanying Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie on a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune shoulders an M4 carbine.

main president for life. Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, doubling as an effective anti-dissident campaign competing for internal power, has been well documented. During the party congress, the constitution was amended—by unanimous vote, no less—to include Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. This inclusion illustrates the importance of his leadership and the power he has managed to acquire during his first term. Of his predecessors, only Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping had their philosophy and names inscribed in the party’s constitution. The inclusion of Xi Jinping Thought in the party’s official

the degree of political power Xi achieved and the political elements of his political theory, the military angle received considerably less attention. Despite this, the party congress had a significant impact on civil-military matters and the relationship between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Xi, and the CCP.

line of thinking illustrates the degree of power he managed to achieve in the last five years. It is not surprising that, in the wake of the congress, commentators have stated that Xi’s political power has reached new heights and his position and power within the party are undisputed. While much of the post-congress reporting and research focused on

Changes were made to such an extent that Xi could be on the way to establishing a grip over the military unseen since the days of Mao. As such, it seems ironic that the changes in military leadership remain somewhat under-reported, especially since the PLA is subordinate to the Communist Party and not to the state. As such, the degree to which party leaders

“Parallel to his anti-corruption campaign in the civilian sector, Xi embarked on an extensive anti-corruption campaign against top military brass.”


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photo: Richard Ebensberger US and Indonesian air force F-16s taxi after landing during exercise Cope West 18 (CW18) at Sam Ratulangi International Airport, Indonesia.

hold control over the military matters as much or more; In times of crisis it is the PLA that must continue to support party leadership. The PLA could still potentially be required to forcefully quell any large-scale protests, as they did in 1989. As such, the PLA constitutes the backbone of the CCP’s power.

Military purge It is therefore important to better understand the relationship between Xi and the PLA. Parallel to his anti-corruption campaign in the civilian sector, Xi embarked on an extensive anti-corruption campaign against top military brass. Prominent members of the military’s leadership are under investigation and have been arrested. Among them is the recently retired former vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC), Fan Changlong. This follows the purge of other generals such as Guo Boxiong, Zhang Yang, Fan Feng-hui and most famously Xu Caihou. The anti-corruption effort logically seeks to eliminate the corruption that was rampant within the

Chinese armed forces and can be seen as a piece of a larger puzzle and effort to modernize the PLA. Xi’s effort to limit or even eliminate corruption and turn the PLA into a 21st-century military force have been enthusiastically met by the younger, lower echelons of the officer corps. The younger officer corps, fed up with years of corruption and limited chances for promotion have become something of a power base for Xi within the armed forces.

“His decision to change the chain of command so that it is directly subordinate to the CMC means that provincial leaders lose a source of local power and are now more dependent on Xi.” Furthermore, and as additional effort to limit the power of the top military brass, Xi has increased the rotation schedules of military officers. In the past, senior leaders remained in the same position, enabling them to build power structures and mini-fiefdoms. This contributed to corrupt and merit-based systems.


Power Play  b  19

In order to prevent such tendencies, Xi has opted to limit assignment duration, effectively limiting this behavior. These reforms suggest that such corrupt power structures are less likely to arise again, and that top leaders now have to compete for loyalty to Xi, as it is Xi himself that awards the top positions.

CMC means that provincial leaders lose a source of local power and are now more dependent on Xi, and that he gains an important tool to exercise control and power at the provincial level. Second, whereas under his predecessor the CMC had two civilians in its leadership structure, Xi Jinping is now the lone civilian. Military restructuring As the lone civilian in the CMC, Xi can prevent others from chalIn addition to the leadership lenging his control and influence changes that Xi has instituted at over the military. the top echelons of power, he has Xi has also sought to win over sought to restructure the military the loyalty of the PLA by initiatFormer PLA General Xu Caihou itself. First, Xi opted to change the ing a series of changes. His future command structure of the People’s Armed Police— military vision, as outlined in his speech at the 19th the force that would have a primary role in quelling Party Congress—to achieve mechanization of the any social unrest. His decision to change the chain military by 2020, to modernize the armed forces by of command so that it is directly subordinate to the 2035, and achieve a world-class military by 2050—is

photo: Kremlin.ru PRC President Xi Jinping is believed to have consolidated his power over the Chinese Military during the 19th Party Congress.


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photo: Alvin Reeves US Army personnel team up with soldiers in China’s People’s Liberation Army for disaster management training in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China.

something that would be well received among young officers keen to modernize their military and build national power. The outreach efforts that Xi has made to the military can be seen in this light, too. During these visits, he lectured the armed forces on the importance of the decisions made at the 19th Party Congress and how it should adapt the new line of political thinking. These visits went hand in hand with a new guideline published by the CMC, and which was added to the constitution. The document demands absolute loyalty: That is, loyalty to Xi. Language such as “The whole military must be absolutely loyal, pure, and reliable to Xi and must follow Chairman Xi’s command, answer to his order, and never let him worry” leave little doubt about to whom the PLA should be loyal. This is a notable departure from his predecessor. Formerly, the PLA was loyal to the party, and references were made to the top political leadership, but always in tandem with the party itself. Under the new guideline, supported by Xi’s visits, the focus of PLA

loyalty is to Xi himself. One wonders, given this insistence on discipline, loyalty, and non-corruption, to what extent the PLA was ever fully under control of the CCP prior to Xi’s campaign. In any case given the new direction, bolstered by the anti-corruption campaign against military officers, it is clear that Xi will continue to emphasize PLA development. With the old leadership cohort retiring, under investigation, or in jail, a new generation of military leaders will rise through the ranks: A generation that will be primarily loyal to Xi Jinping.

Future ambitions At the same time, the increasing dominance of Xi raises a multitude of questions about his future ambitions. Now, with his leadership position secured indefinitely, the new military guidelines can be seen as an effort by Xi to remain firmly in control of the military and establish a power base. It seems pertinent to question whether the PLA


Power Play  b  21

won’t become something of a private military force, loyal foremost to Xi, and not to the party. Such a change could considerably alter the military and even political dynamics within the party, and raises questions about the future stability of the political system

in the wake of the 19th Party Congress, has managed to increase his power over the PLA. Indeed, the military could become the de-facto backbone of his enduring presidency. The PLA will be the powerbase on which Xi can rely. However, it can be expected that during a possiwithin China. At the ble indefinite presisame time, there is Pang Ka dency, a crisis may still considerable reA poster promoting Mao Thought. Today, Xi Thought is equally venerated. erupt, and his power sentment among the will be contested. This raises questions and concerns older military leadership, who are not necessarily about how the PLA might respond. If Xi is over-realigned with the Xi faction, and who see their power liant on the PLA for support, it could increase the base under attack. If this faction seeks to hinder or influence and clout of the PLA in domestic affairs block the new guidelines under Xi, it could restrain and foreign policymaking. With so few checks and Xi’s modernization efforts and limit his power over balances in the higher leadership circles, the risk of the PLA. conflict could increase. n At least for the time being, it seems as though Xi,

photo: GovernmentZA General Secretary of the Communist Party of China President Xi Jinping waves to the crow at the military parade during the Victory Day celebrations.


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Strategic Vision vol. 7, no. 37 (April, 2018)

Window of Opportunity John Bolton’s appointment to Trump team holds promise for Taiwan-US ties Dean Karalekas

photo: Gage Skidmore Former UN Ambassador John Bolton speaks at the 2017 CPAC. As national security advisor, Bolton is expected to take a harder line against China.

O

n 22 March, 2018, US President Donald Trump appointed john Bolton to the position of national security adviser, prompting much speculation about how the addition of a known hard-liner to the Trump team will affect how the White House tackles such challenges as Iran, Russia, Syria, and China. Bolton, a former ambassador to the

words as “warmonger,” for example—of having a well-known hawk whispering in Trump’s ear, the appointment has the potential to be a positive development for Taipei, especially given the recent turn in Beijing’s attention toward finally addressing the so-called Taiwan Problem. If it wasn’t obvious prior, the fracas surrounding

United Nations, will be the third national security adviser since Trump took office on January 20, 2017. While media reports on the appointment have been breathless about the potential dangers—using such

the establishment of the M503 flight route along the centreline between Chinese and Taiwanese airspace is indicative that Beijing is beginning to apply the same strategy in the Taiwan Strait that it success-

Dr. Dean Karalekas is a Canadian researcher specializing in civil-military relations, emergency management, and Asia-Pacific security. He can be reached for comment at dkaralekas@hotmail.com


Taiwan-US Relations  b  23

fully used to wrest de facto control over the disputed islands in the South China Sea (SCS). The Trump Administration would do well to familiarize itself with that strategy, and make some hard decisions about whether or not it is willing to lose control over much of the Pacific Ocean the way Washington has, over the past decade, lost its influence in the South China Sea.

Salami slicing strategy Washington policymakers and bureaucrats who are dovish on China will no doubt counter that the M503 situation—as well as incidents in which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force dispatched H-6K bombers and Su-30 and J-11 fighters to circle Taiwan, ostensibly as part of a drill—is far too small an incident to risk souring relations with the country that makes our fidget spinners. But of course this timid reaction is the very mechanism by which the strategy, termed “salami slicing,” operates. In essence, salami

slicing refers to a number of actions, each of which is too small to raise a fuss over, but that cumulatively and over time accomplish a goal that, if attempted in one fell swoop, would be illegal or a cause for war. Over the past few years, Beijing has been allowed to act with impunity in its gradual takeover of the disputed South China Sea: from land reclamation of miniscule islets, to deploying an oil rig in Vietnamese waters; from the militarization of SCS islands, to bullying Cambodia into silencing ASEAN on the issue; from militarizing its fishing fleet, to refusing to abide by the ruling from The Hague. In all cases, the global commentariat meekly tut-tutted Beijing at every step, but not even the smallest action was taken to halt any of it. Now that Chinese control over the South China Sea is essentially complete, Beijing has turned its attention to Taiwan. And while Taiwan is essential to maintaining American and US allies’ control over the Western Pacific, it is not an issue that is likely to raise grassroots concern in Western countries. To the

photo: Elesia Patten An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter lifts off the USS McCampbell during an exercise in the South China Sea, which has become more militarized in recent years.


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photo: Kokuyo ROC President Tsai Ing-wen tours the Taiwan Police Academy. Taiwan is a values-based democracy, but has difficulty having its voice heard globally.

layman, it may seem reasonable that the South China Sea should belong exclusively to China, just by virtue of its name. Likewise on the issue of Taiwan: many average Americans are under the misapprehension that Taiwan is a province of China. This speaks more to the success of Beijing’s control over the narrative and its influence over Western media outlets (as well as Taipei’s dismal failure in making its voice heard in the global community) than it does of the education system in the States.

De facto independent To be clear: Taiwan is not, nor has it ever been, a province of the People’s Republic of China. If it were, it would not be the thriving democracy it is today: it would not have its own military, its own currency, its own government, or control over its own borders as it does today: it would not have a thriving civil society; it would not have elected a progressive female president; it would not have become the first (and only) country in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage. These things simply do not happen under a

communist one-party state. Moreover, it would not be the staunch—yet silent—US ally it is today. It is silent because neither side wishes to risk raising Beijing’s ire over the many, yet unacknowledged, political, military, and Track II exchanges that are constantly taking place between Taipei and Washington. Unfortunately, neither Washington nor Taipei can afford to maintain this silence any longer—not so long as Beijing has set its sights on salami-slicing its way into Taiwan’s heart. For decades, “maintaining the status quo” has been a convenient fiction: a mantra that allowed the illusion of peace to continue in the Taiwan Strait. But over the years, the status quo has been anything but static: it has shifted significantly in China’s favour. Bit by bit, slice by slice. Only now, those slices are becoming more overt: more militaristic. Not just with the PLA warplanes encircling Taiwan, but by unilaterally establishing the M503 and other commercial flight routes through the gauntlet of two heavily armed militaries, Beijing is deliberately risking an incident that it could use as a pretext for war over Taiwan. Indeed: it is not unreasonable to speculate that China is deliberately creat-


Taiwan-US Relations  b  25

ing the conditions for just such an incident. Taipei’s response has been less than vigorous. In an effort to counter the threat posed by the aforementioned encirclement of Taiwan by PLA vessels and aircraft during military drills, the government has ordered the deployment of American-made MIM23 Hawk surface-to-air missiles in key positions on the outlying Orchid Island and Green Island. While the announcement of the deployment was a positive public-relations move, highlighting to the international community the threat posed by Chinese actions, much of the reporting focused on the age of the MIM-23 Hawk missile system, which was first fielded by the United States back in 1959. It is frightening to contemplate that these archaic missiles will be the frontline defence entrusted with protecting the islands from low-flying fighters and bombers operated by an increasingly modernizing PLA. Although perhaps that, too, was an ingenious PR move on Taipei’s part.

Taiwan’s vulnerability to Chinese attack and coercion has never been more starkly obvious. Thus it may be fortunate that a hawk such as Bolton has now taken over as a senior advisor in the only foreign government with a demonstrated commitment to Taiwan’s security.

“For decades, policymakers and corporations have been justifying their economic engagement with China based on faith in Modernization Theory.” The US approach to China—that of most governments in the West, in fact—has been too soft for too long. Much of this has to do with the Sunk Cost fallacy. For decades, policymakers and corporations have been justifying their economic engagement with China based on faith in Modernization Theory, which basically states that political democratization will inevitably follow economic liberalization. Clearly,

A file photo from 1973 depicting an improved Hawk missile launch. Taiwan is deploying the system on the outlying Orchid Island and Green Island.


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China has managed to buck that trend. Today, the economies of the Western world are so intertwined with the Chinese economy that everyone is invested in Beijing’s success, and yet they are no closer to democratization that they were 30 years ago. In fact, it’s quite the opposite—China is clearly moving from mere authoritarianism towards an old-school style of totalitarianism under Xi Jinping.

Projecting strength Bolton or no, there is nothing Taipei or Washington can realistically do about the M503 flight route—that salami has already been sliced. However, Bolton’s appointment may buy Washington some time: The Chinese are afraid of Trump. They are afraid of his unpredictability, of his seeming capriciousness, and his departure from traditional styles of conducting statecraft and governance. Moreover, the Chinese respect strength, and money. For all his faults, Trump projects toughness, and his wealth speaks for itself. Beijing will have to figure out how to deal with him. In the meantime, it is likely that Beijing will tread lightly in the South China Sea for a few months.

China’s SCS militarization is essentially complete, anyway. While America still has allies with interests in the region, Beijing will not want to risk a dust-up over a conflict that they have essentially already won, especially at a time when Xi is busy elsewhere, such as trying to grab land from India, and of course indimidating Taiwan, such as with the recent live-fire drills the PLA conducted in the Taiwan Strait. Taipei should prepare for future such actions , now that Beijing seems to have turned its sights from the SCS to the Taiwan Strait. China will use the same strategy that worked so well in the SCS, except that it will expand the strategy’s application into the diplomatic sphere as well as the military. They will do all they can to make moves against Taiwan that will fall far short of a casus belli to ensure that the United States won’t intercede. Indeed, they are already doing this through the “sharp power” initiative, for example. Fortunately, in the long run, this sharp power is unlikely to work out as Beijing intends—enticing Taiwanese graduates to earn lots of money working in China will not turn them into pro-unification stooges. The Taiwanese are too smart for that. Moreover, the government in Taipei must leverage

photo: White House Chinese President Xi Jinping, US President Donald Trump, and their wives pose for a photograph at the entrance of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.


Taiwan-US Relations  b  27

photo: Dengrier Baez The USS Oak Hill arrives in Batumi, Georgia. In addition to contributing to the local economy, the US Navy’s port visits serve to boost bilateral relations.

Bolton’s appointment, and move quickly on certain initiatives during his tenure as national security advisor in a White House famous for the short livelihood of its appointees. Already, the Taiwan Travel Act, signed by Trump after unanimous approval by both the House and Senate, has been a meaningful step forward in US-Taiwan relations. During this window of opportunity, Washington may be disposed to look more favorably on conducting port visits, for example, or starting talks on the sale of F35s. Bolton’s appointment does not mean these options are a slam dunk, but at the very least, the White House will not be scared off by empty threats to go to war if a US ship docks at a Taiwan port. For one thing, Bolton understands Washington’s One China policy—what it is, and more importantly, what it isn’t. This isn’t nothing: the media is full of quotes from officials and interpretations by journalists who get it wrong, and who should know better. Taiwan is in the unenviable geostrategic position of being a link in the First Island Chain, and therefore China’s key to controlling the Western Pacific. While there are doubtless many who experience a

frisson of excitement at the prospect of a declining America—for so long the world’s sole superpower— and of China’s rise to presumptive hegemon in East Asia, President Trump is clearly not one of these. For all his faults, it seems unlikely he wants to be the leader who presides over the loss (to a communist state, no less) of American allies and friends in an economically vital and growing region. Washington not only has the geopolitical imperative to take concrete actions to deter Beijing from incremental military adventurism in the Taiwan Strait, it has the moral imperative to do so. The aforementioned Taiwan Travel Act is a step in the right direction, especially if this is leveraged as the beginnings of Washington’s own salami slice strategy. Beijing will kick up a fuss, as it always does, but that will die down, and at the end of the day, China wants to avert war as much as the nations of the West do. It is time that policymakers stopped ascribing upon the Beijing regime their own naïve hopes for China’s role in the world, and adopted a realistic understanding of Beijing’s goals and the methods by which it seeks to achieve them. n


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Strategic Vision vol. 7, no. 37 (April, 2018)

Strategic Shifts

Taipei must embrace Indo-Pacific Strategy to strengthen regional security Charles Yang

T

he Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy has been brought to the fore in Taiwan by the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen. In December, Tsai indicated Taiwan’s willingness to support the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy, which was articulated by US President Donald Trump during his tour of Asia. This concept has inspired a great deal of discussion and interest in Taiwan. While the strategy has been criticized as being too ambiguous, it would be in Taipei’s interest to participate in this developing alignment. Taipei should use this development as an opportunity to build more momentum towards engaging in security dialogue with Japan, fostering deeper relations with the United States, and investing more in its own defense as a way to demonstrate its commitment to its allies. The origin of the term Indo-Pacific appears to have first emerged in 2007 when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke about the importance of a Strategic Diamond consisting of Japan, India, Australia, and the United States. Ten years later, his concept found new relevance in the words of US president Donald Trump and others. In August of 2007, Japanese Prime Minster Abe addressed the Indian Parliament and articulated a vision for the Indo-Pacific region. He spoke of a “confluence of the two seas,” seeking to draw a strategic link between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Abe posited that Japan and India had a shared responsibility, as maritime nations located at the opposite edges of the “two seas,” to ensure the

maintenance of peace and prosperity anchored by democratic principles. When Abe returned to power in 2012, he expressed his renewed commitment in an article entitled “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond.” The piece reiterated Abe’s viewpoints that peace, stability, and freedom of navigation in the Pacific and Indian Oceans are “inseparable,” and reaffirmed Tokyo’s commitment to preserving freedom of the commons in both regions. “Australia, India, Japan, and the US state of Hawaii form a diamond,” he argued, “to safeguard the maritime commons stretching from the Indian Ocean region to the western Pacific.”

Enhanced engagement Abe declared his intention to “invest, to the greatest possible extent, Japan’s capabilities in this security diamond.” Since then, Japan has been taking measures to do precisely that. In April 2014, Abe revised Japan’s long-standing policy of prohibiting arms exports. Japanese firms can now engage with foreign partners to develop and export defense equipment more easily. This was particularly important for relations with India and Australia. Japan signed an agreement on defense technology transfer with Australia in July 2014, and with India in December 2015. Momentum for the Indo-Pacific strategy was bolstered when US President Donald Trump voiced his support for the idea during his November 2017 visit

Dr. Charles Yang received his PhD from National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development and is an assistant professor now. He can be reached at yyc0606@yahoo.com.tw


Strategic Shifts  b  29

photo: ROC Presidential Office President Tsai Ing-wen’s increased emphasis on ROC defense issues is reflected in her frequent support and interaction with military personnel.

to Asia. In a speech at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Vietnam, Trump repeatedly used the phrase “free and open Indo-Pacific,” and told delegates that independent nations could “thrive in freedom and peace” and all states “play by the rules.” This phrase was used repeatedly on his Asia trip, except in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It is reasonable for Trump to pursue this strategy. Washington is increasingly losing its position as the world’s leading power, while the PRC is gaining ground. The PRC is growing faster than the United States, and it seems inevitable that the PRC will surpass America eventually. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), China is on track to rank as the world’s largest economy. India is not far behind, and will also likely surpass the United States to take the second spot.

China’s membership in the World Trade Organization in 2001 on terms that have failed to force Beijing to open its economy. Susan Schwab, the current US Trade Representative, announced that the United States would impose stiff tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines from China. Some observers point to this comment as a sign that a trade war is emerging between the United States and China. More precisely, it is seen as a sign that the United States is preparing to strengthen its hard power to mitigate its decline relative to the PRC. Sensing a strategic shift in regional developments, President Tsai quickly expressed support for the IndoPacific strategy. On 11 December, 2017, President Tsai said that, as a free and democratic country, Taiwan is committed to strengthening its contributions to the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy and safeguarding the rules-based international order. On the same

Trump’s support for the Indo-Pacific Strategy comes at a time when divisions between China and the United States are widening. The new US National Security Strategy specifically identifies China and Russia as strategic competitors. The Office of the United States Trade Representative recently stated that it had been a mistake for Washington to support

day, Chiou I-jen, head of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association, stated that if Taiwan was able to participate in the strategy and accede to the “Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership” led by Japan, it would be conducive to regional peace and prosperity. Two days later, Vice President Chen Chien-jen also said that Taiwan would support the US-initiated


30  b  STRATEGIC VISION

Indo-Pacific Strategy, and looks forward to working with the two countries to realize these new initiatives. There are two opposing views on the Indo-Pacific Strategy in Taiwan. Pro-DPP media and think tanks generally support Tsai’s policy. Other observers such as the KMT’s National Policy Foundation, however, argue that this strategy is unclear. Scholars such as Fuh-Sheng Tzeng raised concerns even before Tsai announced her support for the Indo-Pacific Strategy. Tzeng, member of the Atlantic Council and a professor at Tamkang University and National Defense University, raised the question of whether the United States and Japan had really solidified their policy towards the PRC. If Tokyo and Washington have not articulated a clear strategy towards Beijing, then other countries might be hesitant to support the Indo-Pacific Strategy. After Tsai’s December announcement, critics disparaged her for revealing her position too early. Taiwan may achieve nothing, they fear, and simply provoke China. Professor Chen Yi-hsin of Chinese Culture University and columnist Sun Yang-Ming both argued that the Indo-Pacific Strategy would fail to include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in its plan. How would India and Australia respond if a large international crisis arose in the Pacific, they queried. It is doubtful that a majority of Taiwanese people would agree with the arguments put forth by blueleaning scholars. People will not be convinced that Taiwan should refrain from joining this strategy simply because it is unclear. In fact, the situation has become increasingly tough for governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait after President Tsai took

Despite the concerns noted above, Taiwan should demonstrate its willingness to take part in the IndoPacific Strategy. From the perspective of offensive realism, the United States and the PRC will naturally compete with each other. American strength is decreasing relative to the PRC, and it needs help from middle powers. The fact that this strategy is unclear actually provides Taiwan with an excellent opportunity to help forge new rules. President Trump has also laid out his new US national security strategy based on his America First policy. The PRC has been identified as a competitor to the United States. With the goal of signaling itself a trusted partner of Washington and Tokyo, Taipei articulated its position even before the US announcement of the new national security strategy—a calculated risk by the Tsai administration that proved to be the right move.

the stage. Since the Indo-Pacific Strategy is intended to counter the PRC, pan-blue scholars are asking whether Taiwan should really stand on the front line to balance against the PRC. Indeed, can Taiwan afford to pay the price of balancing against the PRC in the long term?

Cooperation FY 2017” which was published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. This statement affirms Japan’s commitment to ASEAN countries, South Asia, and even East Africa and the Northern Corridor. Taipei should take advantage of Japan’s increasing

Long-term concerns Japan has been hedging against China and would certainly welcome Taiwan’s participation in the IndoPacific strategy. Given Taiwan’s proximity to Japan, and the fact that Japan’s Sea Lines of Communication pass near Taiwan, it is natural that Japan would be concerned about Taiwan’s long-term security. The US embrace of the Indo-Pacific Strategy has several implications for Asian countries seeking to participate. First, the United States is asking its allies to take more responsibility to protect themselves. It is clear that Japan will play a more important role in East Asian security, and Tokyo is already moving in this direction. Last year, Japan released a document titled, “Priority Policy for Development


Strategic Shifts  b  31

regional commitment to push for deeper ties with Tokyo. Taiwan should push for more technical assistance from Japan as it moves to develop its own fleet of submarines. Taiwan could also seek to develop closer unofficial military ties with Japan, much as the United States and Taiwan did when they established “sister unit” ties between several army units in 2015. The aim of establishing sister unit relations is to facilitate direct interaction between officers in similar military units in order to exchange ideas on tactics and operations. As the United States reorients itself in the Indo-Pacific, it is important for Taipei to remind Washington that Taiwan’s security is vital to regional security and broader US interests. If Taiwan were to be drawn into China’s orbit, Beijing would have free reign to the Second Island Chain, and countries throughout the Asian region would lose confidence in America’s ability to maintain regional security. Thus, Taiwan has a central role to play in this new strategy. Finally, as it joins the Indo-Pacific Strategy, Taiwan should strengthen its own national defense. The new strategy appeared because the United States wants its allies to take greater responsibility for their own defense. At the same time, it also recognizes the challenge from increasing air and maritime opera-

tions beyond the First Island Chain by the People’s Liberation Army. Taipei must demonstrate that it is a reliable partner in East Asia, and take more responsibility to defend itself. The Indo-Pacific Strategy presents Taiwan with a unique opportunity to establish a closer relationship with Japan and encourage Japan to take a larger role in the region’s security affairs. Taiwan has always been burdened with an important geostrategic position in the First Island Chain. As such, Taipei and Tokyo both played a similar role in the US-led containment strategy during the Cold War. Despite this shared history, Taiwan and Japan do not have a close security relationship at the present time. The Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy provides an opportunity to work towards such a relationship. It is obvious that the balance of regional power is changing between the United States and PRC. The Indo-Pacific Strategy is intended to counter the PRC’s “one belt one road” strategy, but the United States cannot effectively hedge against the PRC’s growing development and influence on its own. America still relies on middle powers to share this responsibility. Taiwan has to show that it can shoulder greater defense responsibility in order to earn its seat at the table in a future Indo-Pacific order. n

photo: ROC Presidential Office Two ROC Navy Cheng-kung Class frigates operate east of Taiwan during a recent exercise.


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Strategic Vision, Issue 37  

Strategic Vision is a journal jointly published by the Taiwan Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provi...

Strategic Vision, Issue 37  

Strategic Vision is a journal jointly published by the Taiwan Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provi...