Just like Hong Kong, soon enough Taiwan — the so-called Republic of China — will be absorbed into China proper. It’s a goner. The sheer force of China’s gravitational pull will draw the island to the mainland. So what, exactly, is the Obama administration thinking?
In what can only be seen as a calculated insult to Beijing, the Pentagon is selling a huge arsenal to Taiwan — according to The Australian, more than $8 billion worth — following upon a $6 billion sale by the Bush administration in 2008. According to the New York Times, the sales include "60 Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot interceptor missiles, advanced Harpoon missiles that can be used against land or ship targets and two refurbished minesweepers." The Obama administration is praising its own retraint for having held off on selling advanced F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan as well, though it hasn’t ruled out that in the near future, either.
Not surprisingly, China is furious. The Chinese government has officially protested the sale, freezing military cooperation with the United States and announcing retaliatory measures that apparently will include sanctions against US arms makers involved in the deal, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Action against Boeing could potentially be devastating to the company, which relies on enormous sales of civilian aircraft to Chinese airlines, but it isn’t clear how far China would go, say, in shifting its purchases to European-made Airbus aircraft, for instance.
Writing in the Times, Helene Cooper quotes a US official who says, stupidly:
"This was a case of making sure that there was no misunderstanding that we will act in our own national security interests. Unlike the previous administration, we did not wait until the end of our administration to go ahead with the arms sales to Taiwan. We did it early."
Leaving aside the issue of why Obama and Co. take pride in "doing it early," what conceivable US national security interest involves selling a weapons package to an island which belongs to China, and whose increasingly less nationalistic and less independence-minded leaders know will eventually revert to Chinese control? The dwindling number of fierce anti-communist relics and ultra-nationalists on the island isn’t able to stop the process of detente between China and Taiwan, and the successful integration of Hong Kong into China in the 1990s provides a model for the eventual resolution of the China-Taiwan talks.