by Zheng Jian

January 5, 2013 (TSR) – Taiwan should consider modifying its defensive strategy whereby China is viewed as the main adversary considering the peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait coupled with the growing tensions with other countries over regional territorial disputes.

A major change in Taiwan’s defense strategy took place after the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2000, following which the administration under then president Chen Shui-bian prioritized counteraction and deterrence over defending Taiwan proper.

Meanwhile, as the threat from the former Soviet Union decreased during the 1980s and 1990s, the developments in Taiwan under former president Lee Teng-hui before 2000 resulted in China repositioning its military resources to target Taiwan.

However, relations across the Taiwan Strait have improved after President Ma Ying-jeou assumed office in 2008 because of his friendlier policies towards Beijing, which have led to the Taiwanese public now holding a more positive view of the mainland.

Given the current situation, it would hurt mutual trust and the peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait if Taipei continued to view Beijing as the main enemy in its defense strategy.

In addition, recent developments in the East China Sea and South China Sea relating to regional territorial disputes have indicated that Taiwan is facing foreign threats on several fronts.

Japan could easily threaten Taiwan’s security by stationing military forces on the Diaoyutai islands, or Senkaku islands as Japan calls the disputed territory, which is only 170 kilometers from the island of Taiwan.

Several Southeast Asian countries that claim sovereignty of parts of the South China Sea, where Taiwan has stationed armed forces on the Pratas and Taiping islands, are also a good reason for Taiwan to join forces with China and change the passive stance held by both sides on the Taiwan Strait.

Geopolitically, the US strategic rebalancing in Asia will also force Taiwan to reposition itself between China and America.

Since Taiwan and China share the same cultural background and blood ties, Taiwan could benefit more from sharing cordial relations with China, as maintaining a neutral or vague stance could hurt the country in the long term.

Taiwan should also face the reality that it does not have enough forces to fight China in a military confrontations and that its continuous reliance on US support might lead to disastrous consequences.

There seem to be signs of Taiwan beginning to rethink its military strategy, with the country conducting a drill on Taiping island in early September that listed Vietnam and the Philippines as potential threats in the scenario, and the country reportedly including possible conflicts involving the Diaoyutai in its joint military action plan.

It is time for Taiwan to move away from its Cold War era thinking and come up with a new strategy for its survival and development, while jointly exploring with China a way to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait.


Zheng Jian is secretary-general of the mainland-based Chinese Culture Promotion Association.

First published in Want China Times


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