$6.4 Billion Arms Sale to Taiwan



I’m wondering about everybody’s thoughts on the continued US support for Taiwan (ROC). When I tried to explain why the US continues to sell arms to Taiwan to a Chinese classmate, the best that I could do is tell him that we do so for ideological reasons - Americans feel guilty that they “lost” China and want to support the non-communists, nevermind that Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) was also a tyrant.

This actually is perfect timing for a research paper that I’m trying to write, coincidentally.

(For those who can’t read Chinese, the below is added just to illustrate the PRC’s response of indignation. It basically just says that the PRC strongly objects to the arms sale to Taiwanese military.)

This is stark pragmatism on both sides. We sell arms to Taiwan to make money. But, IMHO, Taiwan will eventually end up reconnected to the mainland because China holds enough U.S. dollars to enable them to call the shots. If push comes to shove, they will yell “sell” and we will be a third-world nation heading back to the Stone Age overnight. When they tell us to dance, trust me, we will start spreadin’ the sawdust for the ole soft shoe…

(For those who can’t read Chinese, the below is added just to illustrate the PRC’s response of indignation. It basically just says that the PRC strongly objects to the arms sale to Taiwanese military.)

China is mad that the ROC, a (current) liberal democracy has not capitulated to it’s demands that it simply surrender itself and accept PRC government (and by government I mean Party) control.

In other breaking news, water is still wet :wink:

The reasons why are that the KMT (GMD) government was a longstanding ally of the US, and especially during the cold war we were not going to abandon such an ally to communism, even if for very practical reasons we were willing to recognize the PRC as the legitimate government instead of the ROC. To underline that stance, Congress passed a law mandating that we continue military support to Taiwan. The law also explicitly suggested that such sales decrease over time - it was implicit that the threat from the mainland would similarly decrease over time, which while true for awhile, doesn’t seem to be the case today. Fast forward to 2010, and the law is still on the books, so Obama is obligated to do something along these lines.

Support for such a move comes not just from military contractors, but also from large chunks of the Chinese diaspora in the US. This was once predominantly families who in one way or another escaped from communist China, and are strongly opposed to the PRC. More recent immigrants have stronger current ties to the PRC and may be more likely to be pro-Beijing, and on this issue anti-Taipei - but they are still in a minority where it counts - among voters, influential businessmen, and lobbyists. Ideologically, Taiwan is a useful counter to Chinese rhetoric that democracy and human rights are not suited for Asia or China - this appeals to idealists on the left, like Obama, and the right, like Bush/Cheney. But I don’t think the ideology is driving policy.

The only downside to Obama’s action comes from angering China. Beijing doesn’t get too worked up about it because the sale was known to be coming, trade ties are more important, and it’s a useful jingoistic issue to rally popular support behind the party. The price we may pay for the moment is that Beijing won’t play ball on sanctions against Iran - but who knows what the response would have been otherwise.

“Ideological reasons?” That’s the best you could do?

My college roommate freshman year was an undergrad from Hong Kong (this is late 1980’s. mind you). He was the oldest of the three kids in his family and the family mortgaged nearly everything they had to send him on this special mission. What was that? To get a specialized technical education in the USA that would make him needed by US based companies so that he could get on that track to citizenship and bring his family over before the communists took over Hong Kong (year 2000). That guy spent almost EVERY waking moment studying so that he would be sure to get into the Chemical Engineering program. I lost track of him after that year and don’t know how it panned out, but I assure you that his family wasn’t simply worried about PRC “ideology.”

Same goes for Taiwan. That one brave guy at Tiananman Square aside (and who knows what happened to him after the camera turned off), the PRC doesn’t bother itself much with killing people who want freedom from Communist rule. The Chinese communists wouldn’t hesitate a moment to invade and subjugate the free and self governing people of Taiwan if they thought they could do so without suffering too much loss in the process. Right now, doing so would cost them more than it is worth. The only reason for that equation is the ability of Taiwan to inflict serious harm on the air and naval forces of any PRC invasion fleet. (Armies don’t swim well.) The only reason Taiwan has that ability is that they use much of the profits from all the stuff they sell here to buy defense equipment (arms).

China has so many weapons systems aimed at Taiwan, they could smother the island.

You explained why Taiwan would buy weapons from the US. But I think the OP was asking why the US would sell weapons to Taiwan.

Quite simply because the people of Taiwan are our friends. We have a mutually beneficial economic relationship (admittedly it is mutually beneficial largely because of how much arms they buy from us), they have a reasonably free and elected political system and they are in clear and present danger from an outside oppressive enemy (the PRC). Are they perfect? Heck no, and neither are we. Is their political system VASTLY superior to the PRC in terms of personal freedom, civil rights and the rule of just law? You betcha.

I thought all that was implicit in my response.

And for the record, I’m not all that much an enthusiastic supporter of USA arms exports policy. IMO, we have no business selling weapons to unstable and repressive regimes and no business sellig ANYBODY small, easily portable weapons like M16s, M60’s, Stingers, TOWs, LAWs and such. There are already too many of that kind of weapon on the world market and they are too easy for corrupt officers to steal and sell on black markets. We should stick to the bigger stuff that requires a stable and sophisticated government to maintain and use: fighter planes, tanks, destroyers/frigates, and vehicle mounted SAM systems. That stuff turns to junk quickly in the hands of the poorly trained, which means it is less likely to get pointed in OUR direction some day.

Fair enough.

When you’re justifying something that can be interpreted as an act of war against China, it’s good to be more than implicit!

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