The Year of the Ox

The Chinese new year of the Ox began on January 26th, and it portends to be a year of change for China-Taiwan relations.

    The Ox is thought to be the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. The Ox is a power sign, like the Rat, Snake, Dragon, Tiger, and Monkey. They’re quite dependable and possess an innate ability to achieve great things. As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm, and modest. Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.
    Ox people, according to tradition, need peace and quiet to work through their ideas, and when they have set their mind on something it is hard for them to be convinced otherwise. An Ox person has a very logical mind and is extremely systematic in whatever they do, though they have a tremendous imagination and an unparalleled appreciation for beauty. These people speak little but are extremely intelligent. When necessary, they are articulate and eloquent.

China’s premier and Taiwan’s president seem ready to make substantial changes in their longstnding bellicose relationship.

    March 5 (Bloomberg) — China will push for a comprehensive economic accord with Taiwan and wants to broaden discussions to involve military issues, Premier Wen Jiabao said.
    “We will accelerate normalization of cross-straits economic relations and promote the signing of a comprehensive agreement on economic cooperation,” Wen said in his annual report to the National People’s Congress in Beijing today. “We are also ready to hold talks on cross-straits political and military issues and create conditions for ending the state of hostility.”
    Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has stepped up economic exchanges with China since taking office in May, and direct daily flights, shipping and postal links started in December. China signed a comprehensive economic agreement with Hong Kong in June 2003, waiving tariffs for its imports and preferential market access for the city’s banks, brokerages and insurers.

This political movement, if it continues, portends huge changes for the the US in Asia. The Heritage Foundation reports that the consequences for the uS would be negative for the US.

    A political union of Taiwan with China would be contrary to U.S. interests. Taiwan is a crucial ele­ment in the geostrategic structure of the Asia- Pacific region as the magnitude of China’s military might catches up with its economic and trade power. Taiwan is democratic Asia’s third largest trading power. Its population is slightly larger than Australia’s. If Taiwan were a member of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, it would be ASEAN’s biggest economy and largest military spender.
    In other words, Taiwan is a significant Asia- Pacific power in its own right. This means that America’s stake in Taiwan has far-reaching eco­nomic, political, military, and strategic dimensions.
    Taiwan is America’s second largest supplier of semiconductors and fifth largest supplier of advanced technology products (ATP), which include optoelectronics, computer systems, and information systems) after China, Mexico, Japan, and South Korea.
    Because of America’s peculiar relationship with Taiwan, embodied in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, Taiwan is seen throughout East Asia– including Beijing–as the measure of America’s commitment to democratic Asia against the pressures of undemocratic China.

But Taiwan’s President Ma seems to be all for a new arrangement.

    President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that the recent launch of direct shipping and air links between Taiwan and China has helped bring the level of cross-Taiwan Strait tension to a record low, as his administration continues to seek to improve ties between the two sides.
    Ma said Taiwan hopes the atmosphere of reconciliation will extend to Taiwan’s interaction with China in the international community, and has proposed that the two sides stop their vicious competition for diplomatic allies.
    Under such a policy, the government will continue and even expand its cooperation projects with the country’s existing diplomatic allies, so as to strengthen bilateral relations, Ma said.
    “The government’s goal is to turn Taiwan into a creator of peace, facilitating Taiwan’s survival and development and providing assistance to its diplomatic allies,” he added.

The big US ally in Asia is, of course, Japan. Would a China-Taiwan marriage cause Japan to recalibrate its alliances? How about the Philippines?
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket.