During October and November 2001, two significant economic conferences took place: the APEC meeting in Shanghai and the WTO meeting in Doha, Qatar. Both meetings had an impact on Taiwan. A brief report.
In the third week of October 2001, the annual APEC summit was held in Shanghai. In past meetings in other countries, the host country would send an invitation to Taiwan's president, who would then politely decline and send someone as his personal representative.
This year, in an intended affront to Taiwan, China did not send the invitation, and when President Chen Shui-bian announced his intended representative, former vice-President Li Yuan-zu, it rejected this choice.
Then, at a Shanghai press conference in the run-up to the summit, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan rudely prevented Taiwan's Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Hsin-yi from speaking.
President Chen then decided not to send a representative at all and withdrew the Taiwan delegation, expressing his regret and dismay over China's departure from established APEC practices. He stated: "While recognizing the importance of taking part in such activities, we should not allow our national dignity to be disparaged."
On 20 October 2001, President Chen sent a letter to Pacific Rim leaders urging them to condemn China's moves. He wrote: "It is with deepest regret that Taiwan is not able to join you to participate in this year's APEC informal economic leaders' meeting. I ... call on the other members of APEC to jointly condemn China's behavior and prevent such an occurrence from happening again."
The United States called Taiwan's absence a loss for all participants, and in the US Congress, more than 60 members signed a letter to President George W. Bush criticizing China for rejecting Taiwan's representative to the APEC leaders' summit and urging Bush to speak up for Taiwan in the future.
On 11 November 2001, the WTO voted to allow Taiwan to become of member of the international trading body at the WTO's meeting in Doha, Qatar. The decision marks the end of a 12-year quest for entry.
The approval ceremony came a day after China's entry and only an hour before China was to sign its WTO protocol of accession. This procedure was followed since there were concerns that China would try to block Taiwan's accession right after it got into the WTO itself. By not permitting China to sign its accession documents until Taiwan's bid had been approved by the ministerial conference, the WTO circumvented this problem.
Taiwan's Economic Affairs Minister Lin Hsin-yi -- who had been humiliated by China at the APEC meeting in Shanghai a few weeks earlier -- was congratulated by Taiwan's diplomatic allies and by both the US and Europe.
Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative said he was pleased at seeing Taiwan finally get a fair place on the world trade stage: "The US is delighted by this historic achievement. Taiwan has a major contribution to make to this organ as its delegation takes its place on an equal footing with others in the WTO." He added: "Over the last two decades the people of Taiwan have transformed their market from a developing economy to a trade and economic powerhouse ... Taiwan is a striking model for others to follow."
Also praising Taiwan's approval, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said, "Taiwan's administration deserves credit for a solid package of commitments that reflects its status as a mature market economy."
By Li Thian-hok. Mr. Li is a prominent member of the Taiwanese-American community living in Pennsylvania. This article first appeared in the Taipei Times on 4 November 2001. Reprinted with permission.
Kurt Campbell, Senior Vice President at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently co-authored an article recently with Derek Mitchell, Senior Fellow for Asia at CSIS ("Crisis in the Taiwan Strait?," Foreign Affairs, July/August 2001). The authors argue that unless the U.S. takes concrete steps to "dissuade the PRC from continuing its coercive course toward Taiwan," a conflict in the Taiwan Strait is close at hand. They recommend that "the U.S. maintain an active military presence in the region to sustain deterrence."
Richard L. Russell, a professor at the U.S. National Defense University, published an intriguing thesis titled "What if ... China Attacks Taiwan" (Parameters, Autumn 2001). This paper was introduced to the readers of the Taipei Times by Washington staff reporter Charles Snyder ("U.S. expert warns of early Taiwan Strait war," September 1, 2001). Subsequently, columnist George Will also wrote a summary of Russell's ideas in the Washington Post ("Another Unthinkable Scenario," October 7, 2001). Russell describes a blitzkrieg in which the People's Liberation Army (PLA) will use deception (smiling face diplomacy and large scale joint-force exercise to cover up mobilization) and brutal tactics (missiles armed with nuclear warheads and chemical agents followed by airborne assault) to consolidate control of the island before the U.S. can even react. Russell concludes that "war over the Taiwan Strait could come sooner rather than later." Since most academic studies of a Taiwan war have used 2005 as a benchmark ever since the February 1999 U.S. Department of Defense report on the security situation in the Taiwan Strait, Russell presumably means that the PLA will invade Taiwan before 2005.
Effect of the 2008 Olympic games
Some observers, in Taiwan and abroad, believe that China will not launch an assault on Taiwan until after the Olympic games are concluded in 2008, in order to avoid a boycott of the Beijing games. However, the Olympics may actually prompt China to invade Taiwan well before 2005 so it can have a sufficient cooling period for international denunciation to subside. Despite its atrocious behavior at Tiananmen Square, China was able to win the honor to run the 2008 Olympic games. China can count on commercial interests of the major powers to eventually prevail over the disapproval of its military aggression.
Even if adverse global reaction were to result in a massive boycott of the Beijing games, China will still come out ahead. While the Olympics may generate at most a few billion dollars of financial profit for Beijing, the acquisition of Taiwan will be worth well over several trillion dollars. With the control of the sea lanes and airspace around Taiwan, China can also compel Japan and South Korea to sever their defense ties to the U.S. China will be well on its way to becoming the hegemon of Asia.
The Quadrennial Defense Review
The U.S. is worried about the looming conflict in the Taiwan Strait. That is why the EP-3 planes are regularly flying surveillance duty near China's coast. That is also why in the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) issued on 30 September 2001, Secretary Rumsfeld recommends specific measures to enhance U.S. military presence in the region. For the Navy, he wants to increase aircraft carrier battlegroup presence in the Western Pacific; will homeport an additional 3 to 4 surface combatants and guided missile submarines; and try to conduct training for littoral warfare for the Marine Corps. For the Air Force, Rumsfeld plans to increase contingency basing in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and ensure infrastructure for refueling and logistics to support operations in the Western Pacific area.
However, after the hideous attacks of September 11, 2001 the U.S. government must concentrate its energy on the war on terrorism. Implementation of the QDR recommendations may be delayed. In its preoccupation with the campaign in Afghanistan, the U.S. could leave Taiwan and the U.S. forces deployed in East Asia vulnerable to Chinese attack. This is the time for Taipei to urge greater U.S. military presence in the Western Pacific, as well as closer cooperation between the militaries of the U.S. and Taiwan in the areas of joint defense planning, training, bolstering of Taiwan's air defenses and information warfare capabilities.
What the DPP government must do
The DPP government also needs to educate the populace about the growing prospect of military conflict, install civil defense systems, mobilize the citizenry to identify and incarcerate Chinese's fifth column agents, take precautionary measures against terrorist attacks, and lift the morale of both the military and civilians to defend Taiwan's hard-won freedom. All these tasks must be initiated without delay. If the Taiwanese people are properly prepared psychologically for the coming war, they can successfully repel a PLA invasion. Without such preparation, Taiwan's democracy will be in mortal danger.
One thing favors Taiwan, namely Beijing's fear of a failed attempt to subdue Taiwan. Such a debacle could well lead to the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party, especially if there are heavy casualties and the U.S. and other nations close their markets to Chinese exports.
If the Taipei government can inspire a great majority of its people to unify and fight for the island's survival as a democracy and as a de facto independent nation and quietly builds up Taiwan's state of readiness, Taiwan could deter a Chinese invasion long enough for the U.S. to build up its air and naval power in the vicinity of Taiwan, after America's war on terrorism becomes an integral part of its national defense framework.
For Taiwan, the best way to avoid war is to get ready for one.
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