By Octavio Ramos
In looking for the perfect counter to the ever-growing and regionally menacing emergence of the Democratic People’s Republic of China (DPRC) military power, the United States and its western allies need to look no further than the Republic of China (ROC) aka Taiwan. It is no mystery to American military planners that Communist China is gradually and systematically building up its military power, in a not so subtle manner, with immediate goals of dominating the Asian continent.
The establishment of strategic man-made air and naval bases in the South China Sea is a classic example. A far cry from their previous (1980s) philosophy of maintaining a modest defense budget, and purchasing somewhat substandard hardware from the Russians, modern-day China has embarked on an unprecedented and self-supporting build up. Take the J-XX and XXJ programs, (names applied by Western intelligence agencies to describe programs by the People’s Republic of China to develop one or more fifth-generation fighter aircraft) for example. These state-of-the-art air superiority fighters were specifically created to counteract the US advantage in the air via the F-22 and F-35 platforms.
Moreover, Washington’s recent overtures to assist in the military modernization of traditional Chinese rivals like Japan has prompted Beijing to further ramp up its own efforts. Western powers are thus left with mounting concerns about China’s hegemonic goals both regionally and globally. More importantly, the west is left with a major decision to make, who do you trust as the regional stalwart to counter the aforementioned Chinese ambitions of domination?
A serious exploration of this quandary leaves little choice actually, only two real candidates emerge: the Japanese and Taiwan. I would also have included South Korea in this equation except for the fact that the Republic of Korea (ROK) currently has its hands full dealing with the imminent threat posed by the North, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Both Japan and Taiwan offer a reliable alliance of many years to build on as well as geographic proximity. Each offer fledgling economies modeled after traditional US capitalistic successes. Each offers modern technological abilities considered pretty much state-of-the-art. More importantly, each offers rapidly developing military capabilities that will soon rival the capabilities of the PRC, although not in numerical terms.
Regardless of their respective valuable attributes, to me, Taiwan is the clear choice. Historically speaking, the post-World War II development of the ROC has been remarkable by any standard. As initially evident in the early 1960s, Taiwan entered an unprecedented period of speedy economic growth and industrialization referred to as the “Taiwan Miracle.”
Currently, Taiwan’s export-oriented industrial economy is the 21st-largest in the world, with major contributions from steel, machinery, electronics, and chemicals manufacturing. Taiwan is no longer considered a developing nation but rather a developed country boasting a ranking of 15th in GDP per capita. It is ranked highly in terms of political and civil liberties as well, education, health care and human development. Taiwan is currently a member of the World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Asian Development Bank under various names. It trades freely, albeit unofficially with numerous nations including the United States.
Unofficially because most trade partners are fearful of Chinese trade retaliation. Regardless, nearby countries and countries with large economies maintain unsanctioned ties with Taiwan through representative offices and institutions that function as de facto embassies and consulates.
Politically speaking, Taiwan subscribes to a representative Semi-presidential system. This system of government features a popularly elected head of state (president), a prime minister and a Cabinet that responds to the legislature. Built into this system are a number of very American forms of checks and balances that serve to prevent authoritative takeover of any kind and offers undiminished political stability. Critical factors when considering a well-defined defense partnership with aims of opposing Chinese strategic ambitions. The Taiwanese political apparatus also affords the US freedom from international criticism for supporting a dictatorial and/or oppressive regime.
Militarily, the modern-day ROC Armed Forces are styled after western military systems, mostly the US military. First and foremost, it is a civilian lead force that directly answers to the President. Its stated goal is to provide viable deterrent against hostile action by establishing effective defense and counter-strike capabilities. Its primary threat being a hostile takeover by the PRC. To that end, Taiwan has committed to strengthening its defense posture by increasing its military capabilities including the deployment of Patriot anti-missile, anti-aircraft defense systems and deployment of sub-chasing Kidd Class destroyers previously part of the US fleet.
Based on the information herein provided, geographically, politically, economically, and militarily, the United States could not ask for a better strategic partner to face the Communist Chinese than Taiwan.