President Chen calls for arms and vows reform

Today is the “Double-Tenth” – National Day of the Republic of China. The ROC, established by Sun Yat Sen in 1912, ended 2,000 years of imperial rule in China.

Today, the ROC is in historical limbo, the Mainland threatens and pressurizes Taiwan’s democratically elected government not to change its anachronistic constitution – or any formal acknowledgment of the ROC – while many Taiwanese residents reject the ROC constitution as one of the last remaining vestiges of the Chinese Nationalist colonial government.

The military parades and calls to take back the Mainland of the past are no more. Instead, President Chen Shuibian, speaking today, called for a massive military build-up to thwart the growing threat from China and vowed to continue the Democratic Progressive Party’s radical reform agenda.

For the last several years, funding for a large U.S. arms deal has been consistently blocked in the KMT-led Taiwanese legislature. Earlier this week, the KMT kept the bill off the legislative agenda for the 31st time. The U.S. – pledged to defend Taiwan – is running out of patience. Last month, Edward Ross, a senior Pentagon official, provided the most public evidence of Washington’s growing frustration:

“As the lone superpower, our interests are plentiful and our attention short,” Ross told a U.S.-Taiwan Business Council meeting. “We cannot help defend you if you cannot defend yourself.” No one expects Taiwan to match China’s much higher military spending, Ross added. What Washington does expect is a willingness by Taiwan to face head-on the growing Chinese security threat that is allowing Beijing to negotiate the future of cross-strait relations from a position of strength, he said.

Speaking today, President Chen echoed these worries:

“Taiwan must not rely on some other countries to defend itself. The severest worry in Taiwan’s national security lies in the fact that Taiwan has yet to demonstrate confidence in our own defense capability. We cannot expect to rely on others for Taiwan’s own self-defense. Instead, we must shoulder the responsibilities to build up sufficient national defense, psychological defense and civil defense.

President Chen faces a mountain of problems. Despite trying every which way to pass the arms bill, including slashing the total budget to almost half of the original US$19 billion, the Pan-Blue alliance continue to oppose it and enjoy majority support in the Taiwan legislature. The radical reform agenda divides the Taiwanese electorate along green and blue lines and is also opposed by the U.S. as it provokes China and threatens the status quo. After all, Taiwan already enjoys de facto ind3pendence from the PRC.

The Discussion: 37 Comments

one reason that many taiwanese are reluctant to buy the US weaponery is that they are not advanced enough and not worth the money.

the pentagang is reluctant to sell those advanced weapons for fear that when china is reunited these weapons could be part of PLA weaponry warehouse.

it seems that pentagang doesn’t fellow the “high return high risk” principle this time

October 10, 2005 @ 12:58 am | Comment

I’ve never heard that one one before bingfeng. You’re saying that the US would never sell ultra-advanced weapons to Taiwan in case they fell into the hands of the PLA following unification (either voluntary or forced)?

You make it sound like unification is just around the corner. If that was the case then you may be right but I don’t think it is. After all, Taiwan remains the ROC and it enjoys de facto independence – that’s the status quo.

Re the weapons, Taiwanese generals aren’t fools. They might be critcised by the US for not taking the China threat seriously but they wouldn’t agree to purchase junk.

Anyway, I predict that if Chinese threats became more urgent or if PLA divisions began moving into Fujian Province, the US could move Taiwan under its anti-missile sheild same as Japan. It could also move its Aegis anti-missile warships and Pacific Fleet into the area for very effective protection.

Therefore, Taiwan arms purchases are just one part of the overall equation.

October 10, 2005 @ 1:19 am | Comment

Did Taiwan ever purchase the 4 Kidd Class destroyers? I think that was supposed to be separate from the current arms deal.

I don’t think what the US has on offer now would be considered junk overpriced maybe, I don’t know.

The part of the deal that has me confused is the offer of 6 diesel subs, the US doesn’t manufacture diesel subs…

October 10, 2005 @ 1:35 am | Comment

Taiwan has changed totally over the last 10-15 years. “Taiwaneseness” has been allowed to take root and thrivein democratic Taiwan.

This transition is what is causing all the problems today. Today’s Taiwan govt, with a democratic mandate from the people, sees China as a foreign power. China is fighting back, its current tactic is to try and divide Taiwan by uniting with the KMT and PFP to oppose “independence forces” i.e. the majority of Taiwan’s people.

I think that China cannot stop the forces of Taiwaneseness. The stronger China becomes, the more Asia, and Taiwan, will dominate the global, and US, agenda. Taiwan will become pivitol in struggle for mastery in Asia between the US and China.

Assuming that China can never risk everything in an invasion and Taiwan would never agree to unification, th eworld’s sympathy will swing more and more towards Taiwan and away from big bully China who only want to annex Taiwan.

October 10, 2005 @ 2:20 am | Comment

Sympathy goes toward Taiwan, yes.

But economic interests?

I fear the world may be all-too-willing to sell out Taiwan and willingly look the other way and tie itself up in futile ‘proper’ multilateral circle-jerk.

Case-in-point: Sudan. Apparently the genocide is coming to a close because, um, ‘mission accomplished.’

October 10, 2005 @ 2:31 am | Comment

binfeng- renaming the u.s. defense head qtr…, you made it sounds so chinese mafia like….

October 10, 2005 @ 2:52 am | Comment

binfeng- renaming the u.s. defense head qtr…, you made it sounds so chinese mafia like….

Posted by chester at October 10, 2005 02:52 AM


sometimes it IS a mafia

October 10, 2005 @ 3:10 am | Comment

As in the cases of CCP? Oops, sorry, bandits to be exact, so they say….

October 10, 2005 @ 3:29 am | Comment

“After all, Taiwan remains the ROC and it enjoys de facto independence – that’s the status quo.”

The status quo is explained differently by different people.

October 10, 2005 @ 4:56 am | Comment

Without foreign (read: US meddling) influences, this issue would have been solved decades ago.

October 10, 2005 @ 5:06 am | Comment

Without all the Chinese domestic unrests this issue would also have been a non-issue, yes?

October 10, 2005 @ 5:21 am | Comment

This entire issue is a Chinese domestic unrest.

October 10, 2005 @ 5:36 am | Comment

Exactly the point. China does not and will not need more social unrest ON THIS ENTIRE ISSUE.

October 10, 2005 @ 6:07 am | Comment


I wasn’t implying anything describing the status quo. It is essentially:

Taiwan retains the ROC constitution i.e. it is “China” though by a different definition than PRC China, however, China it is – formally.

Also, Taiwan ROC enjoys full and total de facto independence from PRC China.

That is the status quo.

The PRC wants no constitutional changes (i.e. the radical reform agenda of President Chen) and the U.S. doesn’t want Taiwan to ‘rock the boat’. In this regard, China and the U.S. are of one mind.

October 10, 2005 @ 6:46 am | Comment

Re U.S. “meddling” – it’s not as simple as that. However, you’re partly correct.

After 1949, Mao made many requests of the CCP paymasters – the Soviet Union. Two requests were for Soviet jets, one for the invasion of Xinj1ang and the second for the invasion of Taiwan.

The Soviets granted the first request. In fact, they went and did the job themselves. Soviet jets slaughtered the anti-communist XJ cavalry divisions.

The second request was denied because the Soviets feared U.S. involvement, and any invasion of Taiwan to escalate into a broader conflict. The Soviet Union was still on its knees after WWII and was weak.

Also, several wars between the Mainland and Taiwan (which the Mainland lost) in the 50s have been conveniently glossed-over in Mainland history books.

U.S. involvement has pretty much guaranteed Taiwan’s status since 1949. China sees this as meddling, the U.S. and Taiwan see it as protecting the freedom of a people who did not want to be incorporated into the PRC.

October 10, 2005 @ 6:54 am | Comment

“one reason that many taiwanese are reluctant to buy the US weaponery is that they are not advanced enough and not worth the money.”

That is the reason the pan-blues are propagating to try to earn support for their position. If you do your research, you will find that the weapons the US plans to sell to Taiwan are just as good as anything the Chinese have in their arsenal. It is true that the subs cost more than they should, but then again, since diesel subs are not widely made anymore, this set of subs would need to be specially fabricated FOR Taiwan…causing the price to go up.

Plus, it is worthy to note that the pan-blues have given more than one excuse for not approving the package. The first was cost….then…when the cost was slashed, succenly, they bring up last year’s failed referendum. They cite the referendum as a reason not to buy the weapons. “The Taiwanese people said they didn’t want any.” They dont enter into the fact that the only reason why the referendum failed was a boycott by the pan blue alliance. Almost all of the people who voted in the referendum voted to buy more weapons.

So we have two different excuses.

But none of this matters since the PFP is about to push a bill through with the support of the KMT that allows the legislature to set cross strait policy…and not the executive. This will put cross strait matters into the hands of the pan-blues…despite the desire of people here to leave things as they are. For example, the new bill will accept. the 1992 consnsus. Isn’t it fitting that a bill put forward by the most reactionary and tiny party (with the exception of the new party) will become law? How disgusting. And I really doubt most people on the island support such a bill.

October 10, 2005 @ 7:10 am | Comment

Thanks Thomas for clarifying that point so clearly.

It was something that crossed my mind earlier. The Pan-Blues have thought up every single excuse that they could think of to criticise this weapons deal. From, as you say, the weapons are:

old and useless,
the delivery times too slow,
the deal is illegal because referendums voted against increased spending on arms,

…and this is just off the top of my head.

People who believe this rubbish are falling for Pan-Blue politic-ing hook, line and sinker and should know better. Thanks again.

October 10, 2005 @ 7:20 am | Comment

I fully support Pan-Blue. They are right that buying “arms” of the US is nothing more than paying protection money. If the US really cares about securing Taiwan, then it should give all weapons for free. But the entire issue is not about Taiwan “defending itself”. In fact, the best defense is keeping the status quo, which both sides agreed to disagree: that they are one country and that Taiwan is part of their country, although which political state, is an issue unresolved.

I get on my nerves of those who are advocating Taiwan independence, and I hope that I am clear that I am resolutely opposed to this.

October 10, 2005 @ 11:22 am | Comment

>If you do your research, you will find that the weapons the US plans to sell to Taiwan are just as good as anything the Chinese have in their arsenal.

Chinese weapons are second-rated compared with those of the US. It is well-known that the US dumps many out-dated weapons on Taiwan. But that’s not the issue. Who can blame the US if Taiwan is willing to pay for the weapons.

Selling weapons to Taiwan (or any country for that matter) is good for the US as it makes lots of money from it and can annoy China. But let’s face it. The US is not going to let Taiwan become independent; an independent Taiwan will lose half its value to the US in dealing with China. China is determined to flight if Taiwan becomes independent and Americans won’t want to see bodybags come back home for Taiwan.

Again, selling weapons to Taiwan serves two purposes: (1) make money, (2) annoy China. But not protect Taiwan.

October 10, 2005 @ 11:29 am | Comment


Your One-China view is crystal clear.

I’m not seeing anyone on this thread advocating Taiwanese ind3pendence. That’s not up to Westerners to decide. Simple as that.

However, the reality is that both sides DO NOT agree to disagree on the China defintion. If it were as simple as that, then we wouldn’t have a problem. You know as well as I do that the CCP and the Pan-Blue alliance agree to disagree but the Pan-Green alliance certainly does NOT.

If it were not for U.S and Chinese pressure, Taiwan would (after two DPP-winning elections) be far down the road towards formal ind3pendence already.

October 10, 2005 @ 11:34 am | Comment

By the way, many people feel Taiwan has somewhat been maginalized in the triangle relationship of US, China and Taiwan. The US has much bigger interests with China than with Taiwan. As long as China does not upset the status quo first (and it has not), the US feels fine. And as China has been develop so rapidly, time is on the mainland side. Sorry, bad news for those adovating Taiwan independence.

October 10, 2005 @ 11:43 am | Comment

Also don’t underestimate the Pan-Blue opposition. Weren’t for the shooting incident (fake or not), the DPP would have not won the last elections and there would have been more stability. The current policy of Cross Straits affairs is based on Taiwan with the KMT, and with the decade of Lee Teng-hui and years of Chen Shui-bian, tensions have increased because of the frictions. The approval rating of Chen Shui-bian is low, and the support for the DPP is also not like what it used to be. More people support Pan-Blue, and the recent visits of Pan-Blue leaders to the mainland have created more goodwill. As the mainland is reforming, and hopefully also becoming more liberal, I believe the support for Taiwan independence will decrease. Nothing is static. This is my hope.

October 10, 2005 @ 11:47 am | Comment


Again, I must ask the question: who is advocating Taiwanese ind3pendence on this thread?

It’s not happening mate. Please don’t assume the worst all the time. It’s a problem for the 23 million people living in Taiwan.

If, for example, a majority of people in Taiwan voted for unification with China, who I am to say that they are wrong?

October 10, 2005 @ 11:51 am | Comment


I agree with some of your points. It is not that people openly advocate Taiwan independence, it is that their actions lead to … Precident Chen often say he does not advocate independence when he does.

I think what we agree is that China must not take over Taiwan by force without the provocation from Taiwan first. But if you look at it, in the last 10 years, it is often the Taiwan independent force played the brinkmanship first, trying to upset the status qo, don’t you agree?

October 10, 2005 @ 12:03 pm | Comment


Thank you for that sensible and fair comment.

I agree, the last election was on a knife edge. I was there on March 20 2004. I went to the DPP election headquarters and then went to the KMT headquarters opposite the Presidential Palace. It was a memorable evening as the strength of feelings on both the Blue and Green sides were very strong indeed that night. I remember receiving a lot of kisses from Green ladies.

I also agree that Mainland-Taiwan tensions have increased since March 2004. Things would have been smoother with a KMT/PFP govt. However, Taiwan domestic tensions might well have risen as a result of Lian Zhan/Song Chuyu’s Mainland visits if they visited as representatives of the official Taiwanese govt rather than the opposition.

I’m not as confident as you that DPP support has dropped significantly.

Chen’s speech today was interesting because he vowed to continue with radical reforms. Remember, although the DPP won the election last year, the Blues won a majority in the Taiwanese legislature. Part of the reason was that some people favoured a more moderate and cautious approach to reform.

It will be interesting to see how much public support Chen Shuibian receives for his radical reform agdenda.

October 10, 2005 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

Oh My God! Can all you bellicose angry gun- tottling foreigners shut the hell up and let us Taiwanese people have the say of what we want to do with Taiwan’s future, again our democracy works in our own way and we have said it again and again that we don’t need the third rated crappola American weapons, we are proud of this decision. Don’t blame the KMT, democracy is a two edged sword, if you don’t like the result, you mean-spirited people should move back to your countries and whine about your Bush and Bliar instead.

October 10, 2005 @ 12:14 pm | Comment

Interesting, even in the worst time, there is some coordination between the US and China on Taiwan. I read a book by a former report of New York Times in China. Even at the height of the Taiwan strait crisis in 1995, US defense chief William Perry hosted a steak dinner for Chinese national security advisor in the Pentagon (of course, their conversation was not very friendly).

October 10, 2005 @ 12:24 pm | Comment


President Chen doesn’t so much say that he DOESN’T advocate ind3pendence, he says that he supports and abides by the status quo. I think his view about eventual ind3pendence is hardly a secret.

Of course, no one wants to use force – least of all China. That wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest.

Yes, I agree that Taiwanese forces have upset the staus quo most of all these last 10 years. However, you have to put that in the context of a major polictical revival/change in Taiwan over that same period.

Previously, any talk of ind3pendnece was outlawed. The system then changed to a dem0cracy and long-suppressed Taiwan nationalists were able to organise and form parties like the DPP and TSU.

A lot of what you say about ‘Taiwanese ind3pendence forces causing trouble’ simply reflects some very real changes that have taken place within Taiwan society since the 90s.

October 10, 2005 @ 12:34 pm | Comment

It is also interesting to see the coordination between the defence contractors and news media. Before the weapons are online pipeline to Taiwan, there will always be some article analysis on the news media from some think tank, saying that Chinese military is becoming so threating that the power balance is about to tip to China’s favour, etc.

October 10, 2005 @ 12:39 pm | Comment


That was an amazingly useless comment. If you’re for real (which I doubt) next time please do everyone the simple courtesy of reading the thread before sharing your views.

Nobody here is telling Taiwanese people that they should do anything other than decide things for them selves.

In additon, I’m not American but “crappola” U.S. weapons have allowed Taiwan ROC to exist for the last 57 years. Your ignorance is quite embarrassing.

October 10, 2005 @ 12:40 pm | Comment


I basically aggree with you on your last post.

In the last 10 years, the mainland government has actively promoted the people-to-people interation between the two sides; and I think the Chen government has somewhat resisted this exchange. Maybe both sides do it in the way for their own advantages. But the longer the Taiwan drag, the less advantages it will have at the end. Taiwan is becoming more and more on China and Americans is not going to die for Taiwan.

October 10, 2005 @ 12:47 pm | Comment

You go Martyn.
And on a different thread, Viviend said she was “Taiwanese American.” She seems to forget that when she cires out “Can all you bellicose angry gun- tottling foreigners shut the hell up and let us Taiwanese people have the say…” She is not even clear who she is….

October 10, 2005 @ 4:54 pm | Comment

There is another angle in this, MONEY

The Bush admiistration (or at least its lakies) is trying to boost its exports by putting presure on Taiwan to buy arms to help reduce Ameirca’s budget deficit, and to do to China what it did to Russia in Afganistan and the cold war.

By arming Taiwan, America not only gets money comming in, but it puts China in the position where it has to respond by spending money on weapons or risk falling behind Taiwan in military capacity. This is draining China’s budget and pushing it further from becoming a ‘normal’ state by keeping the military in the forefront.

The same is true with Japan, America is pushing Japna to breach article 9 every other day, and even to scrap it for two reasons. 1) If Japan rearms it will buy US weapons and push China into responding by increasing its armed forces and 2) by re arming, it will free up US soldeirs in the reagion which are costing the US a lot of money but which are sitting idle.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is about MONEY.

October 11, 2005 @ 1:18 am | Comment


You’re very wrong about this. America has long complained that

(a) Taiwan’s armed forces and politicians do not take the threat from China seriously.

(b) While both the blue and greens squabble over anything and everything they both sit back and expect full and total American protection a the cheap.

Why would any government pay big bucks when they can better spend the money on public spending and the local economy and help their chances of re-election.

It has got little to do with money like you say and more to do with the Americans expecting any diplomatic and military support given to Taiwan to be met half way by the Taiwanese themselves.

You should be careful. You are starting to sound like CCP stooge ESWN.

October 11, 2005 @ 4:30 am | Comment

The US is the greatest arms maker and seller in the world bar none. In 2004, global arms sales was around $37 billion. The US signed deals for $12.4 billion, number one in the world. In the 2003, they had deals for $15.1 billion. Russia was second with $6.1 billion in 2004.

There an Indian blogger called Atanu Dey who writes regularly about the India Pakistan conflict and how the US keeps on interfering. The US cheerfully sells weapons to both sides. Just recently, the US gave a billion dollar weapons package to Pakistan on very good terms. India has no choice but to buy $1.5 billion arms from the US to counter Pakistan. A few months, Donald Rumsfeld caused a ruckus in Singapore by accusing China of becoming a menace by buying weapons. What the mainstream press didn’t report was on the same trip Rumsfeld was making contact with the Thailand leaders trying to sell F-16 fighters. Who’s really the war monger here?

October 11, 2005 @ 5:14 am | Comment

You should be careful. You are starting to sound like CCP stooge ESWN.

Posted by Brian at October 11, 2005 04:30 AM


brian, you sound like a chinese red guard of the cultural revolution. a typical red guard will talk in exactly the same way “You should be careful. You are starting to sound like anti-revolutionary member”

October 11, 2005 @ 6:04 am | Comment


It is all about MONEY. “Right on!” 🙂

interesting that people continue to deny the MONEY element of the arms deal.

But this MONEY game is like playing with fire, and it could backfire to the other side of the pacific in longer run.

October 13, 2005 @ 4:58 pm | Comment

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