Cashing in Taiwan

From the NYT To Save Our Economy, Ditch Taiwan By PAUL V. KANE
There are dozens of initiatives President Obama could undertake to strengthen our economic security. Here is one: He should enter into closed-door negotiations with Chinese leaders to write off the $1.14 trillion of American debt currently held by China in exchange for a deal to end American military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan and terminate the current United States-Taiwan defense arrangement by 2015.

This would be a most precious prize to the cautious men in Beijing, one they would give dearly to achieve. After all, our relationship with Taiwan, as revised in 1979, is a vestige of the cold war.

Today, America has little strategic interest in Taiwan, which is gradually integrating with China economically by investing in and forming joint ventures with mainland Chinese firms. The island’s absorption into mainland China is inevitable.

But the status quo is dangerous; if Taiwanese nationalist politicians decided to declare independence or if Beijing’s hawks tired of waiting for integration and moved to take Taiwan by force, America could suddenly be drawn into a multitrillion-dollar war.
Any deficit hawks out there biting?

I reckon Taiwan could be good for a couple of trillion, what's the hurry? Besides a war over the straits is a great way of justify big ticket Pentagon projects and that needs milking a bit longer. With Taiwan as a piggy bank and given the very favorable terms the US can now borrowing on why not just double down on further elite tax cuts and spread juicy pork spread around the States?

Now as for Israel well the Saudis hold a lot of US debt as well and the Russians like the look of Alaska.
I read this when it came out and found it an astonishingly mixed work. Some of it hits the nub but other parts are confused, badly-reasoned and even naive. It just goes to show that the Kennedy School ain't what it used to be.

In series:

“America has little strategic interest in Taiwan”. Of course they do. Apart from strategic position, holding up the Taipei government gives an alternative to Communist rule on the mainland gives them a considerable propaganda advantage. Even former and serving senior officials of the CCP hold up the ROC as a model for the eventual development of the PRCs political scene. Upholding the ROC offers the mainland population a glimpse of what they're missing and encourages them to press Beijing for reform along the sort of lines Washington wants, or at least says they want. The Taiwan issue is also a convenient bargaining chip in dealings with the PRC.

"If Taiwanese nationalist politicians decided to declare independence" is about as likely as Martians invading. Polls in Taiwan consistently show whopping majorities in favour of the existing 'Three Nos' principle - no unification, no independence, no use of force. Even assuming the opposition DPP win, they'd need to overturn the KMTs whopping majority in the Legislative Yuan to be able to do anything like declare independence. Their candidate, Tsai Ing-Wen has been pretty unforthcoming on policy substance but hasn't announced anything so radical as independence and would find it extremely hard to claim an electoral mandate for it.

"The island’s absorption into mainland China is inevitable." See above. Not according to current majorities of the ROCs electorate, it isn't. The status quo is the forseeable future.

"It would undermine hard-line militarists who use the Taiwan issue to stoke nationalist flames, sideline pro-Western technocrats and extract larger military budgets". Well, it would take a lot more than just abandoning the ROC to silence that sort. They still have any number of real issues they can use domestically, from continual interference in Tibetan affairs, lending tacit support to provocative Japanese moves and - just recently - moving additional troops into the Pacific theatre. It's not as if they're struggling to find something to use for that.

"A Taiwan deal could pressure Beijing to end its political and economic support for pariah states like Iran, North Korea and Syria and to exert a moderating influence over an unstable Pakistan. It would be a game changer." I'm not sure how it would or how it would be. At best, it would remove from the Chinese deck one of the cards available to them to play.

"Congress should see a deal with China as an opportunity to make itself credible again." Again, I'm not sure how this would work and he hasn't explained his reasoning. I think in terms of US politics it would leave Congress open to accusations of everything from 'kow-towing' to undermining the US position as champion of democracy. In terms of global politics it would make other allies wonder exactly how committed to their defence the US actually was.

On the other hand, he hits spot on in certain respects:

"Portraying the United States as a democratic Athens threatened by China’s autocratic Sparta makes for sensational imagery, but nothing could be further from reality." The constant monstering of the PRC in the US media and political circuses are about as unhelpful to a peaceful settlement as anything that could realistically come out of Beijing.

"China’s greatest military asset is actually the United States Navy, which keeps the sea lanes safe for China’s resources and products to flow freely." Ironically, he's right in this. Policing international waters is extremely important to both countries and China at the moment can conveniently point to the regional hysteria each of its new ship launches produces as evidence that the burden of a vast navy isn't something they should be shouldering right now.

On a personal basis, I think the PRC as it's currently constituted bears more resemblance to the ROC of the 'Nanjing Decade' than any other point in China's history. Keeping Taiwan as an object lesson on how Chinese political systems can stabilise into representative forms has too many geopolitical benefits for the ROC to be abandoned. It's also a Hell of a nice place.
Now the author's claiming he was tongue-in-cheek. Brain-in-gear might have been better.
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