Taiwan's defense options

Ma Ying-jeou proved he is capable of making a good decision. He vowed to make a decision that will makes the best sense for the people of Taiwan, by not endorsing the unnecessary arms procurement at an inflated price. Instead, he proposed for a rational debate on the procurement issue, to ensure the more appropriate decision is made.

Taiwan has 2 defense options
  1. Plan on declaring independence, and prepare for a war. In this case perhaps $15bn of weapon will not be enough, not even $150bn
  2. 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)


Dave and Stefan said...

Sun Bin, first let me say I enjoy your blog, as well as your comments on my guest blogging on Simonworld. Also, I quite agree that Ma Ying-Jeou and Soong are doing the right thing and are vetoing an expensive arms bill for materiel they do not really need. I also agree with your other arguments up to a point - the only bit I don't quite agree with is that the country faces two options (independence or status quo) when in a multi-party system, there is likely going to be a muddle created by a combination of these two approaches.

Removing the intricacies and complexities of the situation across the Strait for a moment, let us put the situation in abstract terms: If a smaller country recognizes that it will have to come to terms with a rising superpower in the next decade or two, will they do so by giving up on defense spending, or will they continue to build on their military assets to be able to continue to negotiate from a stronger position to secure a better lasting agreement from that superpower?

Please note I am not saying that you are wrong, only that even if Taiwan ultimately will come to some accommodation and resolution with China, there may be some logic to continued spending on defence to make their bargaining position a more tenable one, if and when some accord is hashed out.

Sun Bin said...

Stefan and Dave,

Thanks for your comments. I think you have brought up a great point. Laying out the main options is an attempt to simply a complex situation, one can think of sub-options, and as you pointed out, one needs to consider the muddled combination. However, I should also note that the combination, i.e. without formal declaration of independence, is very unlikely to trigger a war from mainland. Therefore, they are, in my definition, sort of a "status quo". So a better definition for the two options are: trigger vs non-trigger.

Removing the intricacies, one could probably look at the Singapore situation in the 1970s, when it was threatened by Indonesia (and also Malaysia). Singapore chose to strengthen its defense and ask for protection from UK and US. However, this is a very different situation than what Taiwan faces, in that Indonesia's threat was a generic threat, whereas when CCP promised no arms if no independence, CCP's promise is also to its own people in mainland and they have put themselves into such a situation (to use LKY's word) of "if and only if". In addition, Singapore does not have a "Singapore Relations Act" with the US.

Then the debate is whether the $15bn could be spent more wisely, (vs the outright outsourcing option, or other ways to strengthen the more conventional defense).

But before that, it is useful to decide on their defense goal: a general deterrance vs an inevitable invasion; i.e. spending 2%- vs 3%+ GDP on defense. Once that goal is set, there is a more logical process to decide on which piece within that $15bn list is needed and which is not.

Michael Turton said...

Lee Teng-hui put it another way -- gotta pay the fare if you want to ride the bus. The billions for defense is for more than just hardware; it helps create positive support for Taiwan among US policymakers.

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.

This is a popular piece of horseshit from the KMT side of things. The party that has grown powerful feeding on ethnic divisiveness is the KMT. The "mainlander" identity is entirely a political identity created by the KMT to split locals who otherwise had common interests, and divide and rule them. It presides over a coalition of Hakkas and aborigines, which it whips up with the fear of Taiwanese supremacy. The Other Side's analysis stands history on its head.


Sun Bin said...

I think we do not disagree on what Lee TH said.

But I do disagree with you about DPP and KMT's agenda. In public they both claim to promote 'group' harmony. But the "independence" issue itself is aligned with groups and divisive enough. What I tried to say is, even if DPP is neutral on the 'independence issue', it can gather enough support (or even better support) politically. To be fair to DDP and Chen SB, it did gravitate to the middle a little, leaving Lee TH's party to take care of ther extreme end.

the new migrant group (wai-shen) only represents less than 15% of the votes, and is decreasing due to cross-marriage. KMT would be idiotic to initiate the divisive issues. While I think they are not smart and even stupid, I do not think they are idiotic yet.

Any party who could (intuitively) benefit from divisive issue is the one that can appeal to the larger group. But DPP has to realize that much of its 40% vote comes from viewing it as a reform force, not as an independence force.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the mention Sun Bin, you're on my blogroll.

Michael...play nice now... :) How about something to back that up?

Sun Bin said...

right click to download this report from Nixon Center (via Michael Thurton). Its recommendation for TW/Mainland/US worth serious consideration, esp the mainland, if it does not want to push the middle to DPP's side.

Sun Bin said...

The PAC-3 really makes no economic sense, see this old report from Taipei Time and carnegie endowment :

PLA has 700 missiles, costing about $1M each. it takes 4 PAC-3 missiles to intercept one. so a total of 2800 is needed. (each cost $3M)
so this is a $12M vs $1M arms race. for every 12M Taiwan invests, PLA needs to put in $1M to counter.

now taiwan already has 200 pac-2, and is going to get 12x128 pac-3 (each set has 128 missiles) in 10 years, total=1536+200=1736, capable to intercepting 434
so PLA will still have 266 more missiles after all the PAC-3 and PAC-2 are fired (assuming 100% interception!, reality is 70-95%), assuming PLA does not add any in the next 10 years!

so what is the point?

Anonymous said...

That's because old Han farts are useless and homo (another word for weak).

'Status Quo' this and that!? There are only 'winners' and 'losers' in this world and really no such thing as in-between.

Losing is the way of all homo on Taiwan. Either they run like a loser fags that they are to Taiwan or being a good for nothing bent-over colonized homo by every other countries.

If we, youth (Tai Wan Ren), ran the country, we'll have enough nuke to cover every corner of China into land of radioactive waste that they asked for and deserved.

'Taiwan Relations Act' is not security. It's just a way to dumb down the homo to the homoer in Taiwan. Warriors are made in heat of battles (in every facets of life) not waiting for others to do their fair shares.


Anonymous said...

"Ma Ying-jeou proved he is capable of making a good decision. He vowed to make a decision that will makes the best sense for the people of Taiwan, by not endorsing the unnecessary arms procurement at an inflated price. Instead, he proposed for a rational debate on the procurement issue, to ensure the more appropriate decision is made."

Ma Ying-jeou does not served the interest of Taiwanese people. He served only the interest of Greater China (CCP+KMT) to reclaim what his parents have lost at the expense of Taiwan.

Hua Ren (KMT) were kicked out because of their corruption and their oppressive rule to the Chinese and non-Chinese people in China. In fact, they are still getting in way of our reforms that'll make Taiwan a better place even as we speak.

ROC is a dead. No one in Taiwan support it except those Hua Ren and those Taiwan Ren afraid of China's threat. If not, let these cowards (only 10% of our population) fight and die for their dead ROC. I would rather kill every goddamn backstabbing Hua Ren then let these motherfuckers run my country to the ground.

Anyhow, let's see if China would attack a country with nuclear weapons and enough firepowers to turn China's new economic back to stone age.