月曜日, 4月 12, 2004

Long time, no update....

Jaquandor has linked to the Asia Times article on "2006: the Dangerous Year for Taiwan." I left some comments on that thread, which I'm reposting here, before posting some thoughts from the recent Taiwan election panels at Harvard. Here they are:

The 2006 date doesn't really make sense to me. ( *cough* Didn't the Nazis invade Poland after the Olmpics*cough*) The only good reason for picking 2006 would be becaue that's the year President Chen plans to push for a new constitution. The old one is an outdated mess, but a new one that's been ratified by popular referendum MAY be considered a declaration of independence in Beijing. I went to a recent panel on the March 20 election--and Americans seem more worried by this than the Taiwanese. The truth is that this is that President Chen and the DPP, as much as I prefer them, always have idealistic goals and clumsy execution--we've already seen this with their failed attempts to stop construction of the 4th nuclear power plant (that is ridiculously overpriced), legalize gay marriage (though I'm optimistic about that), etc. Chen and the DPP do much better on the cultural front (the rise of the Taiwanese identity) than on the actual political front.

Would a quick invasion work out? Maybe. Taiwan's military is quite flawed, but, then again, so is China's. The PLA, after all, is now a business entity as well as a military institution--I'd expect corruption to be as bad, if not much worse. I think the PRC is kidding itself if it thinks there will be little resistance. No, I don't expect the populace of Taiwan to rise up as one--most people just want to do business and live their lives quietly. But Taiwan, back when it was first conquered by the Ching dynasty, was known for its rebellions: "A small one every three years, a big one every five years." The businessmen and intelligentsia, though less likely to fight, are also more likely to already hold American passports. The ones who can't flee, the farmers and factory workers (esp. in the South), are already more pro-Taiwan, anti-China as it is. The fact that they'll be the ones hardest hit will only polarize them more.

What is seriously flawed with the PRC plan, though, is that they don't realize they'd be invading a democracy. I don't have much faith in the Taiwanese government or military, but the strength of the country was never in such institutions. Taiwan is not Hong Kong--every time the PRC has threatened the island during its elections, the anti-China candidate has won. So I'd predict an apparently quick collapse, followed by a long, perhaps bloody resistance.

The U.S. reaction is harder to predict. Ironically, I think that a President Kerry would be more likely to act on Taiwan's behalf. After all, Kerry would have a Republican Congress looking for any opportunity to howl for his blood. Bush, on the other hand, would get away with pandering to China in the name of cooperation over the War on Terror. And we shouldn't forget that it was Nixon who went to China.

Then again, I don't think we'd ever reach that stage. Prof. Rubenstein (who's edited Taiwan: A New History and has quite a few govt. ties) actually said, in a panel, that he suspects any cross-strait war would go nuclear really quickly. Taiwan had a nuclear program until the 70s, when the U.S. insisted that it end. But the Taiwanese have never been concerned with legalities. If Pakistan can assemble its own bomb, then wealthy Taiwan, which produces most of the world's computer motherboards, should have no problem. I'm not saying this triumphantly--just the idea of it scares the heck out of me. Still, there's consolation in knowing that if the end's coming, it'll be over fast.

A random thought: everyone assumes that the Taiwanese have no stomach for a fight. (Which is probably true of many people--except, once again, many of those people will be in San Francisco once war breaks out.) But no one really asks if the Chinese people have the guts for a war. Sure, they're nationalistic--but nationalism doesn't always translate into fortitude. A lot of the college students who always hold protests in front of the U.S. Embassy, etc., would get out of military service if they could.