Presentation at the International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines
Quezon City, Philippines
19 July 2013
PANEL 2. US geopolitical and military strategies in the Asia-Pacific and the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan
By KAO, WEI-KAI
Member, Standing Committee of the Labor Party
Councilor of Hsinchu County, Taiwan, China
The Taiwan Strait standoff is a continuation of a Chinese civil war. Since the cold war, Taiwan has become part of a US West Pacific strategy, so it was “natural” for it to side with the US and confront with mainland China. The United States and its military have been playing a certain role in the Chinese civil war, starting from the end of World War II up until now.
The period between 1945 and 1949
In the anti-Japanese warfare, the KMT and the Chinese communists formed a united front to fight against the Japanese, but they also confronted each other and even fought vehemently with each other. They fought for the occupancy of territory, as well as the takeover of arms or land surrendered by Japanese military. They held peace talks; peace talks failed; and war erupted. The civil war at that time was characterized by a conflict between the power of peasants and workers against the power of landlords and tycoons. It was also in that time that the Chinese communists achieved an initial result in land reform, which eliminated the landlord-tenant system, and the KMT, waning gradually, deepened its dependence on imperialist support. The United Stated played the role of a mediator; militarily supported the KMT; and gave up the KMT at last as the KMT was too corrupt to be saved. (What is also worth noticing is that the Japanese military, based on its rich experiences of fighting with the Chinese communist army, also began to shift its support to the KMT at that time). The KMT began to retreat from mainland China to Taiwan (the Hainan Island and several small islets off the southeast coast of mainland China still belonged to mainland China.) Since the conclusion of the World War II, the US strategy of “enhancing Taiwan independence, fostering a weak and pro-US regime” has thus begun.
In the period between 1950 and 1953
The Chinese communist troops occupied the Hainan Island and the Zhoushan Islets – the second largest islands of China, only next to Taiwan. The Korean War ensued, and the US military began to help defend Taiwan. The United States and China plunged themselves into the Korean War. The Chinese civil war consequently “froze.” While the mainland China began to handle issues such as KMT captives, KMT’s remaining troops, and the Korean War, the KMT began to put into force a martial law and unfolded white terror, including the cleansing of the people connecting with, or suspected of connecting with, Chinese communists-related organizations in the Japanese occupancy period. Taiwan began to receive ammunitions, warships, and warplanes from the United States since 1951, in addition to the reception of strategic or living necessities, worth $100 million per year, until the year 1965.
In the period from 1954 to 1971
In the period, the battles between the KMT and the Chinese communists, instead of being a comprehensive warfare, were regional armed conflicts. A maritime warfare happened between 1954 and 1955, which made the KMT retreat from the Dachen Island as well as two Kinmen artillery wars, in 1954 and 1957 respectively, were examples to explain the situation. The KMT began to implement a land reform in 1949, and successfully tackled the landlord-tenant issue. The landlord-tenant issue had been the greatest contradiction in a 2000-year-old Chinese history, as well as in the civil war between the KMT and Chinese communists. It was the major reason for almost all of the rising of peasant rebellions in the Chinese history.
In the year 1955, the KMT regime and the United States signed a common defense pact, but the pact did not include Mazu and Kinmen, islets southeast of China, though the two islets are under the KMT rule. Besides the purpose of containing the Soviet Union and China, the Unites also wielded its military intervention in the Taiwan Strait in an effort to maintain a “peaceful but divided” status heading toward the direction of “two countries.” Reportedly, in order to maintain the “one China” principle, Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek maintained the form of a civil war through launching the 1957 artillery warfare.
Under a US planning, Taiwan began to develop towards an export-oriented economy. It received industrial technology, capital, and market support from the United States, and developed into one of the four Asian Little Dragons at the cost of high energy consumption, high pollution, and low wage level. The KMT regime suppressed dissidents, but the soaring industrialization and service trade, whose pays were relatively high if compared with traditional agricultural income, lowered people’s dissatisfaction. Taiwan has thus become an anti-communist and pro-US area in the absence of a left wing. Moreover, in the Vietnam War, Taiwan served as a US military base as well as a rest and recreational place for US troops. The Chinese communists, supported by many of the third world countries, gained an upper hand over Taiwan diplomatically and replaced the KMT regime’s seat in the UN.
In the period from 1972 to 2000
The United Stated began talks with mainland China, and during 1972 to 1982, expressed the stances of “recognizing, not to challenge, and acknowledging” the “one China” principle. In 1979, the United States shifted diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to mainland China, and ceased the common defense pact. However, in the meantime, the United States also announced a Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). Three years following the announcement of the TRA, the United States promised it would gradually decrease armament supply to Taiwan. The promise was not realized.
Before achieving reunification, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait still have to tackle differences in terms of the economy, culture, or transportation, and world countries have to treat the Taiwan authorities as a valid government. However, the TRA as well as the real US intention mean far beyond that. The TRA is a US law (it is not a pact signed by the US and another country). It allows the United States to recognize one China, and admits Beijing the only regime that represents China. However, in the meantime, the United States sells arms to Taiwan – a civil war-bounded area. The act is certainly not novel for the United States though.
In the last 15 years of the previous century, the families in the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, who had been separated because of a civil war for 30 years, began to be allowed to contact each other, and accompanied by mainland China’s bid of reform and opening up, the economic and tourism exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait also thrived. Being advantaged with a low-wage condition, mainland China, like many Southeast Asian and Latin American countries, became the best destination for Taiwan and many other multinational companies’ capital immigration. The situation created a certain impact on Taiwan’s economy and Taiwan people’s feelings.
With a widened gap between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in terms of military and composite national strength, as well as the development of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” the KMT’s stance in a civil war has shifted from “reclaiming the mainland” to “unifying China with the Three Principles of the People (a political philosophy developed by Sun Yat-sent to make China a free, prosperous, and powerful nation),” and then to “refusing to be unified through military force.” In this century, it has formally being rephrased into “refusing unification.” The KMT-Chinese communist civil war, which had been characterized by a class confrontation, has thus being superficially turned to a contradiction between unification and refusing unification or opposing splittism and maintaining split.
After 2000, and NOW
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had run presidential office for 8 years from 2000 to 2008, and the KMT has taken office since then. The DPP administration, by means of trying PROC’s patience, stirs up people’s emotion for the purpose of winning elections, while The KMT administration tends to take a peaceful and open-to-communication way in cross-strait affairs. The two administrations also take different policies on national defense budget. In order to abate cross-Strait confrontation, the Ma Ying-jeou regime slashed the national defense budget. In the year 2008, the national defense budget accounted for 19.8 percent of the central government’s overall yearly budgeting. After Ma Ying-jeou took office, the defense budget was cut in a planned manner, and in the year 2013, the national defense budget has been slashed to 15.8 percent, a 20-percent cut as compared with the budgeting in the year 2008. In contrast, when the DPP was in power, the defense budget was adjusted upward from 14.9 percent in the year 2001 to 19.8 percent in the year 2008, a 32-percent hike.
Despite their differences, when it comes to politics, both parties agree that Taiwan has no relation to mainland China. Taiwanese administration’s anti-communism propaganda has changed from “against class struggle,” “communist is loss of humanity,” ”Democracy and freedom triumph” to “people from mainland are tasteless,” “Taiwanese capitals are moved to mainland,” “laborers from mainland will steal away our jobs,” and, of course, the so-called Tienanmen Massacre. From the aspect of culture, education and ideology, desinicization and showing approval of Japanese colonization become official and social mainstream.
Despite the fact that the deficit is getting bigger and bigger, it never hinders Taiwanese officials’ will to make large purchase of arms from America. In 2004, the DPP even proposed historic arms budgets, planning to spend 200 hundred million US dollars to buy arms from America (including diesel-powered submarines, maritime patrol aircraft and Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile batteries.) Nevertheless, the Ma Ying-jeou regime, being unable to resist US pressuring, has also said yes to two batches of US arms acquisition plans in its five-year administration, which involved 183 million US dollars. The arms acquisition plans included offensive weapons such as the Apache helicopters and the Patriot III missiles. The DPP’s 200-hundred-million arms procurement budget was strongly opposed by Taiwanese people. Even though the KMT is not against arms procurement, it seized the chance to go against the DPP and block the arms budgets. Due to the budgets was kept being blocked, AIT director Stephen M. Young even warned that “The US is watching closely and judging who takes responsible positions as well as those who play politics on this critical issue.”
By the end of last century, the US initiated two military conflicts against China – the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, and the mid-air collision between US spy plane and Chinese fighter jet in 2001. Besides, under the US-Japan Security Treaty, the US is able to cooperate with Japan to respond “situations in areas surrounding Japan.” In the recent 2 years, The Diayou island dispute between China (Taiwan) and Japan makes the East China Sea area become a flashpoint, which even temporarily distracts world’s attention from Korea peninsula. Without a doubt, the US will also have influence on the sovereignty disputes between China (Taiwan) and the Philippines through PR-US Visiting Forces Agreement.
Because the US broke the Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and ROC in 1979, there has been no US-ROC joint war games since then. However, in 2006, the US, for the first time, acknowledged that US generals will inspect and instruct Taiwan war games as the after-sales service of its arms sales to Taiwan. The Joint Theater Level Simulation (JTLS) is one of the products that the US sold to Taiwan. Just before our conference, Taiwan held a JLTS simulated war games, “Han Kuang 29,” with the assistance of US, targeting the mainland’s aircraft carrier Liaoning as a potential enemy. The JTLS will enable Taiwan’s military to link with the US Pacific Command and Japanese and South Korean forces, and, together with the militaries of Japan, Okinawa, South Korea, the Philippines, and even Oceania, Taiwan will be a part of the US forces. Without a doubt, the most crucial imagery enemies of the joint forces are China and the North Korea ruled by the Communist Party.
Even though the anti-communist propagandas are different from what they were, what makes it sad is that the anti-communist position has remained the same. Therefore, it appears that people in Taiwan “willingly” join the US forces, and “willingly” want to be protected by the Big Brother. In order to legitimate its ambition to strengthen its military powers and joint forces in Asia-Pacific area, the US needs demonized imagery enemies. Consequently, China and the North Korea are regarded as the potential destroyers of the safety in this area. And, the civil war and separation happened in both countries are the consequences of America’s military strategies. On the contrary, if the two separated parties in both countries can promote peaceful communication and mutual development with each other, lower the antagonism to the minimum, and, in the end, achieve reunification, it will be a huge setback for America’s Asia-Pacific strategies.