Taiwan has 2 defense options
- Plan on declaring independence, and prepare for a war. In this case perhaps $15bn of weapon will not be enough, not even $150bn
- Quietly maintain the status quo, do whatever it like of self rule, even preach democracy to the mainland, just don't declare independence. There will not be a war, and hence no need to get into an arms race. From CCP's perspective, their focus is on economic development. The last thing they want to see is a war, or even an arms race.
The choice is easy. As discussed in my earlier post, Sun Zi said, "supreme excellence is winning the war without fighting" , better still, without even the need to arm. Whatever objective Taiwan's leaders want to pursue, be it Ma's unification, or Chen Shuibian's independence, all they need to do is to bide its time. Some years into the future, maybe as long as 20-30 years, or as short as 5-10 years, China will be more open or even become a democracy, by then no one can stop Taiwanese people making their own decision. In between, let's make peace and make money.
In addition, while there is no reason for James Soong (or the Taiwanese people) to take Hu Jintao's words at their face value, one should recognize that there is absolutely no reason for CCP to wage a war if Taiwan did not declare independence. It would not only be stupid, they would also be lacking internal support (or that from overseas Chinese, for fighting their own people without a justifiable cause)
- In reality, the arms procurement represents, as Lee Tenghui honestly pointed out, a "bus fare", to compensate for the "free ride" of getting US protection. Ma probably is pressured by US into supporting this, but he cleverly used PFP to help him neutralize the pressure, his top priority is his voter's interests
- If Taiwan really wants to buy the "bus ticket", the best way to do it is to create a budget explicitly, to either pay US directly or donate to US causes (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, TMD). When a government (or a corporation) spends on something under the name of something else, the logic will be muddled, the objective will not be achieved in an efficient way and it opens up the opportunity for corruption (The same amount of money will be much more efficiently used if outsourced to US military, rather than paying the defense contractors)
Taiwan's politics continue be perplexing and logic defying. Something entirely straightforward to any outsider can always, in some strange way, become unneccesarily convoluted and non-sensical. I can blame the myopic politicians in Taiwan, I also blame CCP for providing the excuses.
(update: Taiwan's Other Side has good analysis on detente and true independence. He also pointed out that "DPP needs these divisive issues and cannot give them up". While this was true a few years ago, today, already into Chen SB's second term, it is time for DPP to graduate from feeding on divisive and extremist issue. Many of my Taiwanese friends support DPP, what i see from them is youth and hope, vs the aged and corrupted image of KMT/PFP faction. DPP can certainly make the transition into a real political party, Chen needs the vision and the will to do so, his historic burden is much lighter than what his counterpart Ma shoulders)