Saturday, January 30, 2010

Much ado about nothing something

The American press, along with the BBC, are making a big deal about the recent sales of US arms to Taiwan. Granted it's newsworthy, however, this sale has been in the pipeline since the Bush administration and Chen Shui-bian was president (who is now in jail). Bush delayed doing anything about it because of Chen's push for Taiwan independence and local Taiwanese opposition (read the KMT or Nationalist Party) withheld approval to the purchase. China's response is par for the course and will result in the same old freeze on military-to-military exchanges. Now would be a good time to yawn.

Update (5:22PM)

Looks like China is putting a new spin on the arms sales. Apparently they're going to punish the American companies who are producing the arms being sold to Taiwan. No further details are being provided on the new punishment, but contracts could be modified or canceled. It seems the company that has the most to lose is United Technologies, as they have quite a bit of commercial (read non-military) business in China and are building the Black Hawk helicopters. Boeing probably won't be impacted too much, as they're only delivering a few Harpoon missiles. Should be interesting to see what happens.

Part of me wonders how much of this is for show and how much is real. Beijing has to realize that Taiwan being within the orbit of the U.S. is not the worst scenario (it could declare independence). Granted American involvement in the Taiwan issue has some overtones of imperial intervention, but it's far less than what the British, Russians, or Japanese did to China in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Moreover, American involvement restrains Taiwan from doing anything that would force China's hand in attacking the island (independence or developing nuclear weapons). Not saying American intervention is right or wrong, but things could be far worse.


  1. The brunt of the Chinese concern, i'm sure, has to do with the advanced Patriot batteries going to Taiwan. The Chinese summoned the US embassador to dress him down this week -- specifically on that point.

  2. Excellent point Jeff - the missiles are a big deal. As far as I can tell though Raytheon and Lockheed Martin (who manufacture and integrate the missiles) don't have much business in China. As such I'm unclear how China's sanctions on those two will amount to much. With the Chinese stationing over 1,000 missiles across from Taiwan, I can't help but think that such a dressing down was more for show. Regardless of what the US sold Taiwan, he would have gotten it. But the missiles are something to keep an eye on for future sales.