Taiwan's Defense Option (iii): A-bien's paradox or brilliant coup?

In the previous post a few paradoxes have emerged

  • If Chen Shui Bien already knows that the best defense strategy is to maintain status quo and slowly pushing for his agenda, why is he so eager to push for an Arm Procurement deal that damages Taiwan's defense ability rather than strengthens it?
  • As he is supposedly a responsible politician who repetitively renounced KMT's lavish spending in military and diplomacy, why is he willing to commit such a huge amount in a single deal? Yahoo.com.tw's poll shows that 70% people are against this deal. Even though internet poll is often misleading due to its small sample size and multiple registration, Ah-Bien would not ignore such signal (Update: see the chart, bottom 3 colors are those who favors status quo or objects to indepedence, total=65%. source: Taiwan Govt Info Office)
  • Contrary to the pan-Blue allegation, it is unlikely anyone related to DPP can profit from this deal, because of the high profile and attention it attracts. There is unlikely to be any financial incentive for his own party or related business interests. In addition, it is not about US lobbying either, as that could have been achieved with 1% of that amount.
  • Defense budget as % of GDP has decreased from 2.78% in 2001 to 2.50% in 2004 while CSB was in office (source: 行政院主計處/DPP). It seems CSB's priority is not in military spending. Isn't this contradicting this special deal?
  • Why did it took him almost 3 full years before he proposed the Special Budget to the Legislative Yuan in 2003? CSB blamed paperwork, internal research and bureaucracy. But it does not explain such a long time gap
  • When the deal was finally proposed in 2003, why was the proposal so brief and unprofessionally prepared (total length=299 character, for a budget amount of NT$610.8bn)
  • Why the two revisions of the Special Budget all seem to be half hearted effort, with no real change in the actual budget amount? I would have make a comprise and submit the purchase list item by item.
  • Why TSU became the die-hard supporter of the deal, while Ah-Bien has been at ease all the time, commenting that pan-Blue would have to yield (to US pressure?) sooner or later? Consider the 9-25 anti-anti-arms-deal protest gathered only 20k people, which is tiny comapred to any DPP organized carnivals.

My hypothesis: Ah-bien is much smarter than what the pan-Blue would like to believe. This arms deals has never been his baby, instead, it is a KMT legacy handed over to him. However, the US has been pressuring him and he need to sell it to the Taiwanese people. So he cleverly used pan-Blue to play against the greedy arms dealers across the Pacific.

  • The arms deal was first proposed by Lee Tenghui's KMT in 1999, before CSB took office. At the moment CSB was an underdog. So LTH might have been planting the arms deals as a time bomb to sabotage his KMT sucessor Lien Chan, or he was using it to bargain with the US on something else, thinking it is extremely unlikely the Clinton Admin would approve the deal. (The PAC-3 proposal could just be a random idea when some politician/general decided after watching CNN's report on Yugoslavia or the 1st Gulf War, without professional analysis)
    • two surprises emerged subsequently, CSB won the election and W Bush won in US and approved the deal
  • CSB's original plan was probably to push this off beyond 2004, and pass the ball back to KMT. (He was sure pan-Blue would block it between 2003 and the election) He did not expect to win the second term back in 2003. In fact, he planned to stand on the anti-arms-deal side if he lost the election.
  • It was reported that the first estimate was NT$280bn. But it inflated into 610.8bn when the Special Budget was proposed. I am not sure CSB could control that or was happy about that himself.

One may even speculate that the secret meeting between CSB and James Soong earlier this year led to a secret agreement of fighting on the arms deal. If this hypothesis stands, Ah-Bien clearly knows that Taiwan has been put into a terrible bargaining position because no one wants to sell these weapons to it (due to PRC pressure). So he used the domestic controversy to

  • Reduce the package (eliminate PAC-3 and focus in the aircrafts)
  • Bargain for a better price
  • Delay into the next admin as much as possible

Bravo, Ah-Bien, What a brilliant coup! This demonstrates the merit of democracy.

How to prove this? We should find out soon. If major concession was made in the procurement list (delay PAC-3 and/or submarines), or more problems and delays arise even after KMT switched side, we would know that Ah-Bien is a genuine "Taiwan's Son", who looks after the interests of his people. If, instead, CSB would push for the procurement and payment as soon as KMT bent, I would be wrong and Taiwan would be sorry.

Having said that, let me repeat, the best defense option is to bide your time, and do not give any excuse for armed conflict. It is not that difficult to do, and you do not have to give up anything substantial.

As for PRC, if pressure mounts on CSB, it is time for it to show some nice gesture. How about about relocating some of the missile to point somewhere else? or not pointing anywhere. Even lip service regarding the missiles would mean a lot to the Taiwanese people, and it would only be helping its cause. PRC needs to realize that intimidation would only alienate the Taiwanese people further and push them to become supporters for independence. On the contrary, as Mencius said, "If you govern by treating your people like you treat yourself, [and treating other people the same way], you will be invincible where you move, there is no doubt about that. 王如施仁政于民...王往而征之,夫谁与王敌!故曰:仁者无敌。王请勿疑"


Taiwan's Other Side said...

Excellent post, and I do agree that CSB is smarter than many people think he is. Unfortunately he also seems to be more vain than people think...

Michael Turton said...

Why did it took him almost 3 full years before he proposed the Special Budget to the Legislative Yuan in 2003? CSB blamed paperwork, internal research and bureaucracy. But it does not explain such a long time gap

Because the US didn't get him the cost estimates for the submarines until Dec 2002. Then he had to get the Ministry of National Defense to move on it -- takes 18-24 months for them to process a request. Reality, is the delay is normal.

Your analysis of A-bian's strategy is interesting.

Sun Bin said...

I was trying to put myself into his position. i.e., How to make the best out of this mess (for Taiwan people's interests).
A-bian has many priorities when he does his budget, that is why defense spending continues to drop. The amount of this special budget seems contradictory to his restraint in spending.

But I might be wrong. We will see.