Wednesday, August 6, 2014

From the Vault.....

(Photo from Politico)

(I came across this piece that I forgot to publish a few months back, so here you are...) 

 Professor J.M. Norton of China's Foreign Affairs University (CFAU), penned an article for The Diplomat in which he gave his theories as to the sources of US-China strategic mistrust   Within the piece Norton lays out not only what he perceives to be Beijing's perspective on the distrust within the relationship (as well appearing to espouse his own views on the issue as well).  While Norton makes the argument that the dynamics of  American relationships with both Taiwan and Japan are the primary causes of distrust, he does so while misinterpreting American positions on a number of issues, as well as  ignoring actions taken by Beijing that  play a large role in forging distrust between the two nations. 

     Norton states that while "The 1972, 1979 and 1982 joint communiques serve as the cornerstone of U.S.-China relations", they also "paradoxically undermine bilateral ties in two vital areas:  Taiwan and Japan."   Norton, like the PRC, appear to grant documents such as joint communiques and declarations a much higher status than is warranted. As far back as 1982 Assistant Secretary of State John H. Holdridge in his testimony
 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that:

"We should keep in mind that what we have here is not a treaty or agreement but a statement of future U.S. policy.  We fully intend to implement this policy, in accordance with our understanding of it." 

     The State Department has also clearly stated that "...non-binding documents exist in many forms, including declarations of intent, joint communique and joint statements (including final acts of conferences), and informal arrangements."  This is important to note because Norton also states that "At the conclusion of the war, the U.S. along with other powers in the Cairo, Potsdam and Yalta agreements returned Taiwan to China".  I would counter this by making two points.  First, these declarations did not state a transfer of sovereignty of Taiwan--they merely called for Japan to cease its sovereignty over the island that it held since the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895--and did not specify what the status of Taiwan was to become.  Secondly, these declarations only signaled intent, and were not treaties of legally binding character.

     Norton later goes into the 1982 joint communique stating that "The Chinese leadership has been and continues to be confused by some sales and discussions of proposed sales of weapons with offensive capabilities, which reach as far back as 1992 when the U.S. sold F-16 A/B fighters to Taiwan.  While it is true that a number of weapon platforms sold by the US to Taiwan could be used for offensive purposes, it is often in the eyes of the beholder of what constitutes an "offensive" weapon, as well as taking common sense into account of what a military would realistically use a weapon for.  The leadership is well aware of why Taiwan purchases such hardware, and know that they need not fear the day where ROCAF F-16's are flying off the coast of Fujian Province attempting to establish air superiority in a prelude to a Taiwanese military offensive.  While Norton emphasizes Beijing's stance that Washington has not fully adhered to the principles of the joint communiques, he only in passing mentions Beijing's continued build up of its missile arsenal along its coast---nearly all of which are directed at Taiwan--and attempts to portray the PRC as an innocent peacemaker who wishes merely to have a dance with the United States, only to see itself alone on the dance floor without any rational reason why. 

     Norton then moves on to the next bone of contention---the U.S.-Japan relationship, where he looks to frame Beijing's perception of the United States enabling Japan's ambition of reawakening it's dreams of a Pacific Empire:

"Right now the Chinese leadership sees the U.S. as the main driver of Japan's resurgence and as lacking the political will to restrain an increasingly assertive Japan.  Further, the current Japanese leadership's growing assertiveness takes place in the context of growing nationalism with an imperial twist." 

     Norton states that these "American motives" violate the spirit of the previous communiques, while not specifying what exactly constitutes Japanese assertiveness.  Japan, for its part, has not made any new territorial claims in recent years that could be construed as "growing assertiveness", only it has made clear to other potential claimants that its long claimed territories of the Senkaku islands, as well as the Exclusive Economic Zone that falls within in it, are under the jurisdiction of Japan, an area in which the United States recently clearly clarified
.  Norton would do well to look towards Chinese actions in the East Asian region to find the source of many areas of contention in the region. One area that concerns China,  ironically, is Japan's renewed commitment towards modernizing its military capabilities, is due primarily  to Chinese actions and aggressive behavior--not from American prodding.

 Chinese military action in the Scarborough Shoal
The Second Thomas Shoal , increased rhetoric towards Vietnam regarding territorial disputes, and of course the ongoing Senkaku island disputes have alarmed not only Japan, but other nations in the region as well who are now looking  to modernizing their respective military capabilities  Finally, Norton says that the Chinese leadership believes that "American leadership has ambitious regional designs that include a major role for Japan.  And for obvious reasons this undercuts commitments made in the 1972 and 1978 communiques."   Once again China (and Norton?) make the mistake of placing American joint communiques with China on the same level as an American security treaty with Japan, which they are not.  Yet China is correct in assuming that the United States has ambitious regional designs in regards to Eastern Asia---as the United States has played the role of primary peacekeeper in the region since the end of the Second World War, and under such an arrangement has created an atmosphere of stability in the region in which many countries have seen their economies flourish.  The United States maintains core interests in the areas of trade and security in the region, and it would be illogical to not include a long time security partner in Japan from such interests--China fails to see that their policies are the root cause of many issues in the region--not American relationships with Taiwan and Japan, and J.M. Norton does Beijing no favors in glossing over what could be deemed fairly obvious.

1 comment:

  1. hi brian, what made you get so interested in taiwan and asian issues and politics?