‘Cross Strait’ Relations Changing


Despite recent at-sea incidents off the coast of China — such as Chinese harassment of the U.S. research ships Impeccable (T-AGOS 23) and Victorious (T-AGOS 19), and alarmist press coverage of the Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile effort — the probability of conflict involving China is decreasing rapidly. The threat of a Chinese assault against the island of Taiwan, some 100 miles offshore, has long been considered a threat that could ignite a major conflict in the Western Pacific.

With little fanfare, a passenger-cargo ship departed the Chinese mainland from the port of Mawei in Fujian Province on 13 July bound directly for Taiwan. The voyage — of approximately ten hours — marked the inauguration of regular merchant ship service between the “two Chinas.” On board the New Golden Bridge II were 630 passengers plus cargo bound for “Nationalist China.”

The voyage follows the mutual approval last December of direct air transport and postal services between China and Taiwan. These exchanges come as Taiwanese businessmen are investing large amounts in various mainland businesses and corporations. 

The government in Beijing has claimed Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s communist forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime fled to Taiwan. China has long vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary, with the island being considered a province of the mainland.  In the 1950s there were threats by the Nationalist regime to invade the mainland to defeat the communists, and by Beijing to assault and conquer Taiwan. Conflict, however, was limited to islands off the mainland coast, and some air engagements between Taiwanese and Chinese aircraft.

Today there are rumors that “cross strait” political and possibly even military talks will occur soon. However, earlier in July, Taiwan’s senior China policy coordinator, Ms. Lai Shin-yuan, chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), said while in New York that “Taiwan has no timetable” for starting political talks with China.   The MAC coordinates Taiwan’s policy toward China.

Ms. Lai continued, “Conditions for the leaderships of the two sides to talk about political issues have not yet matured and we are in no hurry for that.”  Meanwhile, officials from Taiwan and China have engaged in talks during the past year through the auspices of the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits. 

Ms. Lai also explained, “Our strategic goal is to safeguard Taiwan’s security and distinctive identity, and to accelerate the country’s economic prosperity, as well as secure the status quo of peace and stability across the strait.”

Beyond the dramatically increased civil relations between China and Taiwan, the most significant evidence of their new relationship is the Taiwan government’s action in removing anti-ship barricades on its offshore island of Kinmen, also known as Quemoy. The semi-official Taiwanese Central News Agency said that the local government of Kinmen has started extracting the barricades in a sign of easing political tensions between Taiwan and China. Taiwanese military officials agreed in June to remove the barricades in preparation for a mass swim planned across the Taiwan Strait in mid-August between the southeast Chinese city of Xiamen and Kinmen.

The anti-assault barricades are rows of steel spikes rooted on cement bases, slanted at an angle to stop landing craft from putting assault troops ashore.

Some political observers have compared the rapidly changing relationship between China and Taiwan with the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The situation in the Far East, however, is considerably different than it was between East and West Germany. Both China and Taiwan are economically viable and there are no “super powers” influencing either of their political decisions in the way that the Soviet Union “abandoned” East Germany.

The future of the China-Taiwan relationship is far from clear. Still, the situation is considerably less dangerous than it was a few years ago.

— Norman Polmar

  • flying fart prodly joyned

    1: there is no taiwan here. what you described is a relationship between comunist party chinese and chinese ocupants who took Taiwan by force. you even dont came close to the realtionsip between farmosians and chinese nazis who want to take this former japanese owned island into chinese empire by economical(KMT shit) or millitary(chink commy shit) force.
    2:dont bring Germany here. it sucks and does not fit into the topic. neither are farmosians a chinese who want to be back into PRC by all means even by diging the tunels or jumping from the houses near the wall nor do they want to be the “second China”.

  • Edward Liu

    @flying fart: it would probably help your eloquently phrased plea for clarity if you would 1) spell “Formosa” correctly and 2) avoid the ethnic slurs.
    Just saying.

  • John Moore

    I don’t trust china, the sleaping beast waiting to take over.

  • conlad

    Hmm, interesting. I wonder how the Air Force will now try to promote their super expensive weapons, because conflict in the strait was one of their biggest aces when clamouring for more Raptors, no?

  • kaltes

    What a stupid waste of a post. Norman Polmar, your post is little more than propaganda, far worse than the “alarmist” China watchers you reference.
    Let’s look at the SUBSTANCE of your post: the first passenger ship trip directly between the two. From this scrap of news, you claim (1) the probability of conflict involving China is decreasing rapidly, (2) dramatically increased civil relations, and (3) considerably less dangerous than it was a few years ago.
    Those ridiculously exaggerated conclusions don’t follow. You neglect to mention that (1) China is MASSIVELY expanding its military forces in ways that make an invasion of Taiwan more likely, (2) China passed a law authorizing an attack on Taiwan, (3) it is well-known that the Chinese timetable for an attack on Taiwan is at least 5-10 years away, and IT IS IN CHINAS INTEREST TO PLAY DOWN THE THREAT THEY POSE UNTIL THEY ARE READY.
    So you are just another useful fool claiming that China would never attack while the Chinese are busy sharpening their blades. Oh Please.
    Taiwan is THE target of the massive Chinese military expansion. Sure, it won’t be the last, as China will likely bully other neighbors if it can, in order to establish naval dominance, but for the foreseeable future, Taiwan is the driving force behind China’s military expansion.
    Whether China will pull the trigger and actually invade is something reasonable people can disagree on, but reasonable people can’t disagree on the fact that MILITARY INTIMIDATION is one of the biggest tools China uses in relations with Taiwan. So spare us all the empty-headed pap about how the Chinese and Taiwanese are moments away from holding hands and singing kum-bah-ya. In the past year, China has behaved more, not less, aggressively.

  • DC2 Jennings

    we should always be prepared to defeat or at a minium deter our largest potential enemy. Today that would be China.
    I agree with kaltes, we shouldn’t be discussing whether they want Taiwan re-integrated back into mainland China. We should be discussing when and how it will happen.
    When are now developing a QDR that will be built around an armed force that can no longer fight two major wars simultaneously. We can no longer fight 1 plus some other smaller event.
    How is it that we are more and more indebted to China, our armed forces are preparing for COIN operations, and PLAN forces are building up?

  • flying fart prodly joyned

    @Edward Liu
    @1) neither did i wrote the word “Farmosa” in my post @2)nor did i ethnic slurs.
    @DC2 Jennings
    In the actualy momment the defense of Taiwan is not about the weapons or about chinese jumping up and down on their economy, millitary and state identity.. it is a simple officialy declaration of being an “indepedent and self-determination nation with own state and goverment” by the population of Formosa and other islands wich are part of todays “Republic of China”.
    Until then NONE goverment in this world will even try to help them against China.
    How can you help someone who even dont want to change the situation inside of the own home?
    The chinese nazi party KMT is a richies party in the world. chinese nationalists are corrupt and non-democratical to the bone. none forign friends of them do ask about the all money wich they got to pay own and political position inside of Taiwan. neither do anyone ask what kind of justification has a chinese nationalist party(wich whole agenda is based on chinese nationalism and “reuninfication”) to rule forign Islands?
    my tip; the international comunity should give up taiwanese until the finaly decide about own position in this world and start to instal the defense organisation with Phillipiness, South Korea and Japan under the comprehension of russians, mongols, indonesians and ASEAN.
    until then we will enjoy a very huge expansion of chinese imperialism the next 10 years in the East Asia. so will we enjoy “the world* was is and always will be a part of China!” chinese propaganda shit flying at us from Canada. wich means millitary invasions and war about international routes and ressources around the world.
    (*you are free to place a name of any forign country)

  • bdwilcox

    The secret no one ever discusses is that Taiwan is, in fact, a US territory:

  • STemplar

    I simply do not see China invading Taiwan nor going to war with us. Given the level of financial investment and their desire to integrate into the world economy, it would be national suicide for them to do so. I would let them personally. I see no reason to waste a drop of American blood or coin in defense of Taiwan when they can’t even work up the political will to declare themselves a nation, perhaps at our urging, but regardless, I see nothing in it for the US. We are also heavily invested in China. All this fear mongering in regards to China is drummed up by the defense lobby, retired bought off military officers, and sitting bought off politicians. All to continue to sell weapon systems we do not need, or we don’t need as many of as claimed.

  • flying fart prodly joyned

    lol. yo think chinese will stop after taiwan? everyone in this world who knows chinese will tell you tht they did taiwan into a keypoint wich shows the world how far they can do before they can take a fight with other countries in this area and when not. after taiwan chinese will at first start to kick americans back from the west-pacific ocean and to play hard games with indians and russians. and chinese were always insane enought to pus the nucke-button for the show how hard their dicks are.

  • pleuris

    In my opinion china is following two strategies. One strategy is building military strength and playing it hard.
    The second is winning hearts end minds, playing the Tiwanese ans so putting pressure on parlement to engage in political dialogue.
    By playing both games China is playing safe. One advantage is that China is a patient country. They can wait for years until one of the options has the best change of succes. So maybe in the next decade or so china will play his cards….or not.

  • Truth

    I don’t know if anyone is into Biblical Prophesy, but in Revelations, it clearly states that in the future, Russia, China and a Arab coalition will attack the US, and Israel.
    What else is interesting is George Washington, who was known for his relationship with God was also shown this in a vision:
    “… Again I heard a mysterious voice saying,
    “Son of the Republic, look and learn.”
    At this the dark, shadowy angel placed a trumpet to his mouth, and blew three distinct blasts; and taking water from the ocean, he sprinkled it upon Europe, Asia, and Africa.
    Then my eyes beheld a fearful scene. From each of these continents arose thick black clouds that were soon joined into one. And throughout this mass there gleamed a dark red light by which I saw hordes of armed men. These men, moving with the cloud marched by land and sailed by sea to America, which country was enveloped in the volume of the cloud. And I dimly saw these vast armies devastate the whole country and burn the villages, towns and cities, which I had seen spring up.
    As my ears listened to the thundering of the cannon, clashing of swords, and the shouts and cries of millions in mortal combat, I again heard the mysterious voice saying,
    “Son of the Republic, look and learn.”
    When the voice had ceased, the dark shadowy angel placed his trumpet once more to his mouth, and blew a long and fearful blast. Instantly a light, as of a thousand suns shone down from above me, and pierced and broke into fragments of the dark cloud, which enveloped America. At the same moment the angel upon whose head still shown the word ‘Union,’ and who bore our national flag in one hand and a sword in the other, descended from the heavens attended by legions of white spirits. These immediately joined the inhabitants of America, who I perceived were well-nigh over come, but who immediately taking courage again, closed up their broken ranks, and renewed battle.
    Again amid the fearful voice of the conflict I heard the mysterious voice say,
    “Son of the Republic, look and learn.”
    As the voice ceased, the shadowy angel for the last time dipped the water from the ocean and sprinkled it upon America. Instantly the dark clouds rolled back, together with the armies it had brought, leaving the inhabitants of the land victorious…”

  • Dennis

    Well, it is a big mess.
    But, I see the Chinese leadership as very insular. They believe their own bullshit. Not that I am an expert. But then I do not think anyone here is…
    Leaders who believe their own bullshit start wars. From Hitler to Bush JR (note: I am a Republican) they rush in…
    Now that China has aircraft and ships going into Taiwan, they have the ability to stage a quick first strike against key targets.
    Out of all of the world situations, China makes me the most nervous. They have the power, motivation and ideology to start WW3.
    And if we fight for Taiwan, who will help us? And when our people start coming back in body bags by the shipload, and the press wets their pants, will we stay in the fight?

  • STemplar

    The only doomsday scenarios I see as remotely likely, would be a collapse in Pakistan and jihadists seizing the existing real weapons and delivery options. The other would be Iran starting some regional war in the Persian Gulf and the possibility of an exchange with Israel.
    China is all about making money now, not about pushing any ideology, and honestly what one would they be pushing? You can’t honestly say they’re communist, because they aren’t even close anymore. They’re more like a governmental corporate oligarchy, and anyone interested in making money isn’t generally in a hurry to blow up their customers.
    You want a real issue for America, let things keep spiraling downward in Mexico, that will be a real headache and a real security issue. The latest, 10 local cops arrested for the execution of the 12 fed agents in the home state of the sitting President. Is the local governor happy with the President beefing the state up? Nope, he called it an invasion, of course his brother would be the latest narco king pin arrested. There is a real scenario we would have to deal with and we won’t need a single F22.

  • SMSgt Mac

    Yammering to apease the curent political currents.~Yawn~
    When I want to know how many ASM missiles and what type are on a particular PLAN vessel I might read something by Mr. Polmar to get the information. When I want to know what might the PLAN be planning to do with said weapons I read….just about ANYONE else.

  • joe

    “Biblical Prophesy”
    Ignore them and perhaps they’ll go away. Or possibly someone who’s read the actual bible, or at least knows the vaguest bit of history and is aware that the word ‘America’ post-dates writing revalations by….ooohh….lets say half a millenium…..who knows them personally will hunt them down and hurt them.
    Ultimately, China is probably the hardest country to get a reliable impression on what the leadership is thinking (with a possible exception of North Korea, who’s leadership usually isn’t thinking). Which is why, simply because someone is speaking softly, you don’t automatically ignore the big stick (or get rid of yours). That said, a situation where you actually *get* the speak softly bit is certainly preferable.

  • eric

    Hong Kong!

  • Jack

    Just because China and Formosa are improving their relationship, it is a dangerous assumption that the US is somehow out of the woods.
    The US and China are currently in an outright economic conflict. Moreover, their expansionist philosophy is spilling onto the Indian sub-continent.
    Not only are the authors assertions spurious, they are dangerous.

  • David Hyde Pierce, ganador del Emmy por su memorable papel
    de Niles en el programa de televisión “Frasier”, ha estado en una relación de más de veinticinco años con el directivo y productor Brian Hargrove