The United States has proposed to sell US$6.4 billion in weapons to Taiwan. China took exception to the sale stating that they would impose trade sanctions on the U.S.. The U.S. could use the money to help rebound from the economic recession, while Taiwan could use the weapons for protection. In order to remain competitive on an international scale, Taiwan — the renegade province — needs the weapons, mainly to get out of the dominating shadow of China.
Taiwan and China have had a rocky relationship since the beginning of the 20th century and the potential sale of weapons could jeopardize relations between the two countries, with the U.S. stuck in the middle.
The weapons sale is the second half of a two-part sale that was promised by former president George W. Bush in early 2000 after he stated that he would protect Taiwan in the case of an attack by the Chinese. This weapons deal came shortly after U.S. president Obama made a trip to Beijing, in order to patch up relations with China.
China considers Taiwan a territory, while Taiwan is fighting for formal independence and recognition in the UN. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Taiwan’s latest effort to regain a seat through a national referendum in March 2008 was publicly opposed by the United States, Russia and others, and was rejected by Taiwan’s voters.”
China has had many experiences with territories seeking independence, most notably Mongolia, Tibet and Taiwan. Since the civil war in 1949, Taiwan and China have been under separate governments. In the past, China has made precautions and aimed ballistic missiles at Taiwan in case they tried to make a bid for formal independence. Many states already consider Taiwan as a fully independent country. Buying weapons from the U.S. would act as a security blanket against China and create a balance of power between the nations.
China fears the acquisition of weapons would lead to further transactions between the U.S. and Taiwan, which could harm China’s efforts to patch up their relationship with Taiwan. In 1979, the U.S. changed the focus of their diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China — for Taiwan, this sale could recapture the attention of the U.S. government.
This is not the first time the U.S. has sold weapons to Taiwan. Between 2000 and 2007, Taiwan has received $8.4 billion in arms and weapons, $4.1 billion of that from the U.S. The U.S. is put in a precarious position — sell weapons to Taiwan and strengthen their relationship while suffering sanctions imposed by China, or choose door number two — choosing not selling weapons to Taiwan, which could potentially create conflict with one of their biggest recipients of weapons.
As a result, China has stated that they will refuse to buy weapons from the U.S. They can, however, impose other sanctions and refuse cooperation with the U.S.. China feels that this transaction could compromise further relations with the U.S., especially in a time when the U.S. needs support for their campaign against Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs.
While trying to lessen nuclear power in one area of the world, the U.S. is creating controversy and conflict in another area. While the sales of the weapons to Taiwan would benefit Taiwan and their influence in the international community, too many issues would arise between China and the U.S.. The U.S. has not sold the weapons to Taiwan yet and the deal is still in the works, but already China has voiced its opposition and displeasure.
Matt Benger is a fourth-year arts student at the U of M.