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April 11, 2005




How important is Taiwan to us these days? Our growing economic ties to China give us more influence there than Taiwan ever did. Thomas PM Barnett said we should trade Taiwan in exchange for China solving the North Korean problem. We have other allies in Asia who are bigger, stronger and more influential. While it'd of course be a shame to let Taiwan become "Chinese" it's unlikely they would do too much to it. Hong Kong, as far as I know, has been left mainly untouched. They aren't stupid enough to ruin a good thing.

Plus it'd do wonders for our relations. We should be courting China as they become a power, not immediately making them an enemy.

Bill Rice


As a believer in American Exceptionalism, I find your solution above to cave in on our democratic ideals for economic gain and bow down before China repugnant.

I very much support better ties between the US and China and desire a peaceful path for both nations, but not at all at the expense of our principles.

I am glad that John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address said:

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do -- for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder."

Trading Taiwan for Chinese favor would destroy the cornerstone of trust we have with many nations, including Japan, South Korea, Australia, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, the U.A.E and many others.

Your proposal is Machiavellian at best, a betrayal of our democratic ideals and national morals at worst.

Wouldn't encouraging China to embrace a democratic government be a better long term foreign policy for the US? Wouldn't one billion Chinese being able to express themselves freely not only economically but religiously and individually be a better solution?

Wouldn't a China more like Taiwan, rather than a China that swallowed Taiwan be more in long term US interests?

The Greater War on Terror, if it has shown us anything is that realism for its own pursuit is a failed policy. Realism, supporting an Idealistic goal is the sound future of US foreign policy, otherwise we are on the road to another 9/11 but in a completely different forum.

Kind regards,

Bill Rice
Dawn's Early Light


Barnett's views on Taiwan are his most significant weakness as a strategist.

Taiwan is a liberal democracy. China is not. Taiwan has open and contested elections. China does not. Taiwan seeks long-term security through alliance with America's friend, Japan. China will not.

North Korea is a threat to all of its neighbors, including Beijing. Barnett has correctly written that the PRC would like the DPRK gone too. There is no reason that the cost of such self-interest should be a peace-loving island nation.

Abandoning Taiwan will not increase American security or friendship with China. It will empower the wrong Chinese -- those who feel that force works. It weaksn the right Chinese -- those who focus on diplomacy on engagement. It would be a disaster.

There are three significant differences between Hong Kong and Taiwan

1. Hong Kong is ethnically Chinese. Taiwan is ethncially Malay.
2. Hong Kong never had a seperatist majority. Taiwan does.

If you want to see what happens to captive nations in China, ask the Tibetans or Uighers/Xinxiangese/East Turkmen. Or for a "lighter" touch, the Manchurians (once China's factory, now China's rustbelt).

Barnett is right on the need to engage China. But abandoning Taiwan is not the right appraoch.


I appreciate the lengthy response. While I appreciate your criticism and your raising good points, especially about pure realism vs realism with idealistic goals.

However, idealism doesn't always transfer easily into real world politics. Where exactly do you want to draw the line? North Korea and Taiwan are the biggest security problems in Asia. My suggestion, would theoretically kill two birds with one stone, leaving a much better security situation for the US and China.

We need to contructively work towards a democratic China and constantly antagonizing them isn't helping. Our presence there also forced them to continue to built up their naval forces which in the long rung will have negative consequences for us. We're creating our competitor so to say. I don't deny China would expand it's military otherwise, but we are speeding up the process.

I recommend working together to seriously solve both problems. If we get the message out that they are linked, Asian security would not only be won, but China could also prove itself to be a reputable broker of peace and an international negotiator.

In the past, the US has often forsaken allies, switched sides, supported both sides and so forth. Is it always the best policy? Definitely not, but sometimes it's a necessary one. We need to pick our battles but never rule such things out. Is trading Taiwan a good idea? Perhaps, I was merely making a suggestion. Allies such as Israel and Taiwan are always seen as permanent, as if questioning them isn't allowed (as one never hears it in reasonable dialogue, just from the extreme left).

Besides, democracy isn't always the end all be all form of government. There are numerous dictatorships far ahead of other democratic countries. Coming Anarchy has a good discussion about this between Curzon and myself.

In order to accomplish a greater good, we often need to engage in activities which are less than good. As they say no plan ever survives its first contact with reality and the same can be said for idealism.


How do you accomplish the greater good by supporting the elimination of liberty in Taiwan for the sake of a non-nuclear DPRK. What you end up with is a stronger China, and the false assurance that the DPRK will not have nuclear weapons (as if they'd need them with China behind them). Jarrod, it seems to me that you are quick to favor a solution that is worth little more than the repugnance that Bill had for it in his response. We'd be better served by standing firm by liberty and forcing China to either support it or prepare to defend their flawed system, just as we did with the Soviets.



We need to contructively work towards a democratic China and constantly antagonizing them isn't helping. Our presence there also forced them to continue to built up their naval forces which in the long rung will have negative consequences for us. We're creating our competitor so to say. I don't deny China would expand it's military otherwise, but we are speeding up the process.

Our forces in Asia generally service one of two rules

1. Protect international shipping lanes from piracy
2. Preempt competitors

Both work to reduce foreign military presense. As long as the American Navy keeps a lid on piracy, other nations will not feel that need. And as long as the American Navy has an unrecoverable lead against other states, no other state will choose to compete.

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