The United States government always perceives itself as a global policing force. This role was handed down to them after the Allied victory in the Second World War. The role was manifested in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It seems that the United States believes that it is the responsibility of the American government to do the right thing. When it comes to the political rift between China and Taiwan, the United States finds itself between a rock and a hard place. The United States needed the economic benefits that resulted from its trade partnership with China. On the other hand, it has a moral responsibility to side with weak nations, especially if one will consider the political and military history of China. As a result, U.S. intervention in security matters in the China-Taiwan conflict has created a negative backlash on U.S.-China relations.
Before going any further, it is important to specify the relationship between the three countries. The specific aspect addressed by this paper deals with security concerns within the Asia-Pacific region. Security issues are the reason why the United States fears the surging power of China. This is the same concern that it shares with Taiwan. However, Taiwan needs strong China in order to bolster its trade relations with the Chinese.
The 21st century saw the emergence of China as an economic and military superpower. This was made clear in different instances. The world began to notice it when China made a dominant showing in the Summer Olympics when the Chinese hosted the event in Beijing in the year 2008. In later years, China flexed its muscle to enforce its territorial sovereignty in the region that has affected diplomatic relationships with countries like Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The resurgence of China did not come as a surprise for many observers. China has always been considered a sleeping giant on account of its landmass and human population. No matter from what angle one wants to examine the political and military might of the Chinese, the fact that the country has more than 1 billion people ready to serve and protect their motherland is something that cannot be regarded as negligible.
The economic power of China was made clear as early as in the latter part of the 20th century. U.S. companies became dependent on China when it comes to the ability to produce products in the most cost-efficient manner. Factories that used to be located in the United States and Europe were relocated to China. The economic boom enabled China to become an economic superpower, and soon thereafter, a military juggernaut.
It appears that the United States carried the burden of a moral obligation to protect Taiwan from a neighboring bully. However, it must be made clear that the decision to support Taiwan stems not only from the moral duty but from the need to create a balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States was compelled to join the Second World War when Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The need to sustain a favorable balance of power in the region was very clear to U.S. policymakers (Sutter 188). The decades after the Second World War and the yeas that were affected by the Cold War was the time that the United States spent wisely to develop a dominant presence “along the maritime rim of East Asia and the western Pacific” (Sutter 188). On the other hand, China dominated continental Asia (Sutter 188). However, the 21st century revealed a major shift in military power. It has never been a secret that China was dissatisfied with the way Western military juggernauts had been able to flex their strength in the Asia-Pacific region, and in so many instances they do so without the ability of Asian nations to enforce their will. As a result, China’s military modernization was geared towards upgrading its ability to project power by air and by sea.
Although China considers it a top priority to project military and economic power in the Asia Pacific region, its political and military leaders are prudent enough to realize that it is in their best interest to pursue a closer partnership with the United States. The Chinese government must do everything in its power so that it will not be perceived as a dangerous threat to America and its allies. Nevertheless, China has always displayed its displeasure when it comes to key issues that threaten U.S.- China relations. For example, China voiced its criticism regarding U.S. defense programs, NATO expansion, and growing relations with Japan (Sutter 191). Aside from these issues, a major thorn in the path towards the forging of greater friendship between the two superpowers is the United State’s decision to support Taiwan.
The United States government understands the importance of maintaining a delicate balance in its bid to develop stronger ties with the two bitter rivals. In the gravity model of trade, economists were able to illustrate the negative consequences that will arise from the inability to settle disputes between the U.S. and China. Tensions arising from U.S.- Taiwan relations can also affect the trade partnerships of the U.S. and China (Kastner 672). Thus, economists developed the hypothesis that the impact of conflicting political relations between Taiwan and China affects the international commerce relationship of the two countries with the United States (Kastner 671).
America is compelled to sustain pressure towards China on one hand, while on the other hand, it opens greater avenues for collaboration and business ventures. Economists assert that the balance of power must be maintained, and a great deal is dependent on U.S. foreign policy to create stability in the region. The positive impact is greater efficiency and profitability within the Asia – Pacific region (Kastner 675). The disruptive effects of militarization on commerce limit the trade balance among trading partners. In this situation, the American interests in China and Taiwan force the superpower to compromise its resolution to support one state over the other, since the favorable bargaining outcome would increase the costs of commerce. For instance, the Chinese state reacted negatively to the imprudence of the way Washington handled the reconnaissance policy of the United States.
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It has to be made clear that China has a great deal of bargaining power. For example, China hinted that they would purchase more Airbus planes and stop using the Boeing planes to punish the U.S. for interfering in issues that concern China and neighboring countries. This type of business disruptions create restrictions that result in negative economic gain for the United States. However, China and Taiwan would also suffer if the United States is unable to sustain its trade partnerships with China. For example, trade between China and Taiwan hit the $1 billion mark in 1986 and increased to about $76 billion in 2005. Taiwan remains the second-largest Chinese trading partner. Similarly, in 2006 Taiwan approved over $50 billion in investments that was earmarked for the Chinese Mainland. This was translated to an accumulated $100 billion of Taiwanese investment that was funneled towards China. Therefore, the cross-Strait economic flow is connecting the two nations, but domestic politics pulls the states apart.
Friedberg identifies there schools that define how Taiwan affects the U.S.- Chinese relationship. The author states that liberals expect an escalation of the conflict between America and China with regard to the Taiwan dilemma (Friedberg 10). On the other hand, there are those who believed that the relationship between the U.S. and China will be stable and peaceful because Taiwan is willing to make compromises. Lastly, constructivists that the relationship between China and the U.S. depends on the political behavior of the Taiwan domestic politics that would either cause conflicts or create peace (Friedberg 10).
The author defines the concepts of liberalism, realism, and constructivism and how each influences the relationship between China and the U.S. on Taiwan. Liberals are optimistic about positive cooperation and assert that the U.S. acts as an overseer to reinforce economic interdependence and democratization. In contrast, realist pessimists assert that a higher authority is always needed to arbitrate the China -Taiwan conflict, which requires military strength. Thus, the United States’ military has kept a permanent presence in the Far East to shape the conflict. Moreover, Chinese power is expanding to counter the presence of the U.S. in the region.
It is imperative to seek reliable answers to the question regarding the impact of America’s stance concerning the security tension in the Asia-Pacific region. It is important to find the answer so that policymakers can help develop appropriate measures that will help these three countries to perform a delicate balancing act, in order to maintain a balance of power within the region, at the same time sustaining robust economic growth. The U.S. and Taiwan do not want China’s rapid militarization to remain unchecked; at the same time, both countries want China to remain an economic superpower. Moreover, the U.S. and Taiwan want to bolster greater economic relations with China; nevertheless, they need to make a tough stand concerning security issues in the area, so that U.S. military presence remains unimpeded in the near future.
The United States has to maintain a critical balancing act when it comes to its relationship with China and Taiwan. The United States cannot afford to alienate itself from either China or Taiwan. The Americans needed the Chinese in order to sustain economic growth. However, the U.S. cannot afford to allow Chinese expansion to remain unopposed. This is the reason why the U.S. government is compelled to support Taiwan. The U.S., China, and Taiwan cannot afford to start a war or to escalate the tension between them. They should work together to maintain the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. Based on the insights gleaned from the study of different economic models, it can be argued that it is in their best interests to maintain peace and economic prosperity in the region.