China Power

No Logic on Taiwan

The Shangri-la Dialogue was a reminder of US inconsistency on Taiwan’s status.

The Shangri-la Dialogue has now wrapped up (and everything is rather distractingly being wrapped up around me).

North Korea was the dominant issue for the first couple of days, although what was perhaps most interesting for me was the way the intractable nature of the Taiwan issue was brought home again in Robert Gates' speech. Because listening to what both sides had to say, it's clear that there's no way of happily resolving this (happily meaning keeping everyone at least a little happy anyway).

Ultimately, the US position isn't logical. I personally have no problem with the inconsistency of the US (and Gates again here in Singapore) claiming it doesn't back Taiwanese independence, yet selling it arms. But that owes more to my personal view of Taiwan's situation than it does to any logic on the side of the United States.

If China sees Taiwan as part of the People's Republic (which it does) and if the US doesn't want Taiwan to declare independence (which it says it doesn't) then on what basis does it sell arms? I'll probably end up with some disgruntled readers for using this analogy, but would the US welcome Chinese arms being shipped in to the Puerto Rican independence movement? There are, of course, a host of historic differences and I'm aware of that. But I believe the basic principle stands.

As I say, I support the US policy of selling arms to Taiwan because of my views on Taiwan's quite independent identity. But if my reasoning were based on official US logic, I'd be on shaky ground. And so it's really no wonder the Chinese are frustrated with the situation.

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That said, cutting off military ties with the US as it has done, even if only temporarily, is like cutting its nose off to spite its face…