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Taiwan: The Security Policy of the Chen Government Since 2000

Mathieu Duchâtel


The passing of the Anti-Secession Law, on March 14th 2005, was a reminder that the People's Republic of China has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan. Following the election of Chen Shui-bian in March 2000, the positions of the governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have hardened. Beijing demands from Taipei a recognition of the “one China” principle in order to resume dialogue, while Taipei considers the Republic of China in Taiwan to be a sovereign and independent state. This article describes the range of means—including modernisation of the military, reinforced military co-operation with the United States, and increasingly with Japan, as well as restrictions on various forms of exchanges between the two sides— which are used by the Chen Shui-bian government to resist Chinese irredentism. It emphasises the continuity with Lee Teng-hui's security policy, and the new constraints which affect the Taiwanese executive, in particular the refusal by the opposition parties, which control the majority of seats in the Legislative Yuan, to approve the government's plans for arms acquisitions.

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1Important new factors have appeared in the strategic equation in the Taiwan Strait since Chen Shui-bian became President of the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan in 2000. The accelerated modernisation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the passing of the Anti-Secession Law have increased Chinese irredentist pressure on the island. After the election of George W. Bush, the United States increased its military co-operation with Taiwan, but American support remains ambiguous, especially as some of Chen Shui-bian's political initiatives, his inability to impose his arms acquisition policy on the legislative Yuan (Parliament), and a defence budget which is shrinking in relative terms have provoked irritation in Washington. In addition, Japan has now become an important but discreet player in the security triangle. In this changing environment, Chen Shui-bian has followed the broad lines of Lee Teng-hui's security policy. Where defence is concerned, in the six years of his presidency, the major innovation has been the Taiwanese army's efforts to take on board some of the technologies of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)1, along with greater attention being focused on dissuasive retaliation capacity. In order to implement his security policy, Chen Shui-bian, as the first President not to command a Parliamentary majority in the Yuan, and in a context of highly polarised political debate, has to face a sizeable constraint: a domestic opposition that has the power to block part of his arms acquisition policy.

Taiwan, a « defensive » power

2The Taiwanese Minister for Defence has given the following definition of Taiwan's security: “With the progress of globalisation and information technology, national security has evolved from focusing narrowly on military security to looking at broader pluralistic security issues, which include national defence, diplomacy, cross-Strait affairs, the economy, technology, psychology, the environment, and crisis management”2. This definition is part of a worldwide trend towards the widening of the concept of security since the 1980s3. Security policies cannot be conceived as merely a maximisation of military power through strategies of armament or of alliance. This wider approach leads to conceiving security as a state to be achieved by the security policy, and which can be defined as “the lack of military and non-military threats which could call into question the core values which a person or a community wishes to preserve or promote, and which lead to the risk of the use of force”4. Taipei has made this approach its own. The means of its security policy are various. Nevertheless, as the ministry indicates in its 2002 White Paper, its security policy, while it cannot be reduced to military means, relies on them above all5. Like that of Lee Teng-hui, but with slightly different means and in a context which has evolved, the Taiwanese security policy of the Chen administration towards the People's Republic also means an analysis from a security perspective of all the aspects of cross-Strait relations. The episode of the giant pandas offered as a gift to Taiwan by China on the occasion of Lien Chan's visit to the mainland, and which were criticised by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) as being part of “United Front” (tongzhan) strategy, is a good example6. The claim laid by the Republic of China (ROC) to the status of sovereign state makes this choice necessary and rational, for reasons we will explain below.

3In the 2004 White Paper the ROC's Minister of Defence defined three main security objectives: safeguarding the integrity of national sovereignty, securing the sustainable development of the nation, and preventing any military conflict in the Taiwan Strait7. Moreover, the island's security policy serves the national interests of Taiwan, which are the protection of the survival and development of the Nation, the safeguarding of the security and well-being of the population, and the defence of liberty, democracy and human rights on the island8. As with any other sovereign state, safeguarding the integrity of national sovereignty is at the top of the hierarchy of security objectives. Nevertheless, in the specific context of the Taiwan Strait, this hierarchy is a reminder that the status of Taiwan—the question of whether it is a state or a rebellious province—lies at the heart of the political conflict and the danger of war between the two sides. In Taiwan, under Chen Shui-bian as under Lee Teng-hui, and even under Chiang Kai-shek, the irredentist claim of Beijing has always been perceived as the core of the Chinese threat. But to the Chen administration, the slogan “one country, two systems”, the idea of an indivisible sovereignty of Chinese territory which makes it possible to define secessionist activity9 is a direct challenge to the perception by Taipei of the ROC in Taiwan as a state which is already sovereign and independent (zhuquan duli)10.

4Taiwanese security policy is thus built on three pillars: the defence of the ROC's sovereignty, the prevention of war and of Chinese coercive strategies, and the maintenance of the island's political, social and economic system. Among these mainsprings, sovereignty appears as the matrix, in the sense that its defence is undertaken on all fronts. The People's Republic is far more powerful than Taiwan if one refers to the two criteria generally used by the realist school to measure the power of a state in the international system, which is to say the size of its economy and the resources it allocates to the military sphere11. Nevertheless Chen Shui-bian's administration has not yielded to Beijing's political demands. It has not accepted either the One China principle, or the 1992 consensus 12; nor has it accepted the “one country, two systems” slogan. It has therefore continued to declare that the ROC in Taiwan is a sovereign and independent state, in accordance with the strategy adopted by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the “Resolution for the future of Taiwan” (Taiwan qiantu jueyiwen) in 199913. It must be recognised that up to now, Taiwan has still been able not to yield to the Chinese irredentist claim, and that the difference in power between the two shores cannot be reduced to their size, their population, or to the number of men in their armed forces. Thus Taiwan today has real “defensive power”, in the meaning used by Raymond Aron, that of the “ability of a political unit to resist the imposition of the will of others”14. But how much longer can this last?

5Defensive power is a political science concept, but in the case of Taiwan, it is based on the island's military capability, and on its defence co-operation with the United States. The concept of the asymmetry of power, developed for case of Taiwan by Wu Yu-shan, sheds interesting light on Taiwan's strategic behaviour. The concept applies to situations where a conflict over sovereignty brings together two political units of widely differing size15. In this situation, the smaller political unit is faced with a strategic alternative; it can choose between “balancing” (kangheng), or else “bandwagoning” (fucong) with the more powerful entity16. Under Chen Shui-bian, the Taiwanese authorities clearly favour the first of these strategies. The Minister of Defence, Lee Jye explains that “without solid capacity and without real determination (…), peace in the Strait cannot be assured, despite all our good will”17. In Taiwanese security policy today, there co-exist the two forms of balancing which structural realism distinguishes on the theoretical level: internal balancing, which concentrates on developing military resources and the overall wealth of the state, and external balancing, which favours alliances. Neorealist texts could have foreseen such strategic behaviour on the part of Taiwan, in the context of the increasing power of what is both its largest and closest neighbour. Kenneth Walzer's theory of the balance of power states that the political units in a system will systematically seek to counterbalance the increase in power of other units18. Stephen Walt's theory of the balance of threats posits that the political units in one system counterbalance as a priority not the states which are perceived as potential hegemons, but the states whose foreign policy most threatens their interests19.

The relative evolution of Taiwanese defence strategy

6Under Chen Shui-bian, the theatre of operations of a possible conflict with China has been subjected to a relatively new perception compared to the era of Lee Teng-hui. Geographically, Taiwan is in an advantageous position; its insularity protects it from invasion by the PLA20. Nevertheless, the consolidation of the protection of the nerve centres of political and military decision-making—as well as of certain economic activities—against Chinese missile attacks, and the reinforcement of the island's defences against attack from the air, for example by the recent deployment of batteries of Avenger missiles in the Taipei region, have been one of the new administration's priorities21. This is justified by the increasing pressure brought to bear on the island by the modernisation of the PLA's long range capability and the ever-increasing deployment of Chinese ballistic missiles pointing at Taiwan22.

7Above all, we have witnessed a determining evolution in the strategic doctrine of the island's armed forces. In over a decade, the Taiwanese army has moved from a conception focused on the defence of Taiwanese territory, to seeking control over the air and maritime space in the Strait, combined with a possible extension of the conflict to the Chinese mainland. This development is subtle, insofar as Taipei has always sought to prevent combat taking place on the island's soil. Since Taiwan renounced the reconquest of the Chinese mainland by force in 1991, there have been two competing military strategies to block any PLA offensive. The first emphasises anti-landing capacity (WWW, fan denglu) and the army. The second aims at spreading the conflict to the Chinese mainland, and on the contrary favours offensive equipment. Since 2000, some elements of the second approach have been applied. The reconstruction of the ROC's armed forces shows this evolution.

8In 2000, after the election of Chen Shui-bian, Taiwanese defence doctrine changed from “effective deterrence, resolute defence” to “resolute defence, effective deterrence” (youxiao hezu, fangwei gushou). Behind this inversion is to be seen a new perception of space in the Strait. The first concept, which was applied under Lee Teng-hui, suggested that if the PLA crossed the Strait of Taiwan in order to launch an amphibious attack, it would suffer very high casualties. Thus the deterrence was focused on invasion. Behind the second concept, in contrast, lies the idea that all the forms of Beijing's coercive strategy (whether a blockade, missile strikes, or attacks on Jinmen, Mazu or the Pescadores) must be deterred. As it has been emphasised by the ex-Deputy Minister of Defence, Michael Tsai Ming-hsien, Taiwanese doctrine now consists of introducing an element of doubt among Chinese military decision-makers. It also rests on the basic principle of dissuasion of the strong by the weak: what Taiwanese response could be triggered by these coercive options23? Under Chen Shui-bian, the administration has undertaken consideration of active defence, putting forward the doctrine of “decisive war beyond the borders” (juezhan jingwai). As early as during his speech on June 16th 2000 at the Military Academy, the President declared that Taiwan must develop its military capability in the sense of “high precision strikes, early warning capability, and intelligence superiority, basing itself on the objective of winning a decisive battle outside our territory”24. With the same aim, the Minister of Defence has elaborated several tactical concepts: pre-emptively maintaining superiority on the levels of electronic technology and intelligence, pushing back unlimited hostile engagements far from the coast, carrying out joint air and sea operations, ensuring the security of ground operations, preventing enemy intrusion, preserving the lifespan of armaments and slowing enemy offensives with effective counter-measures25. While it is now clear that Taiwan's main objective consists of keeping any conflict away from the island's coasts, a new ambiguity now surrounds the question of whether Taiwan is moving towards active defence properly speaking, which is to say preventive strikes against Chinese ballistic sites, for example. Offensive defence, in the form of a dissuasive counter-attack on the mainland, has received political support at the highest level, but it remains highly controversial and something in the nature of a calculated strategic ambiguity26. The Chen administration is clearly seeking to acquire certain weapons which are central to its application, such as submarines or intermediate range cruise missiles. The Taiwanese armed forces are presently entrenched behind the concept of “no first strike”. But it cannot be ruled out that they will carry out counter-offensives on the Chinese mainland if a military conflict breaks out, even though, in the case of American intervention, Washington could demand that the conflict not be extended to the Chinese coast.

Defence programmes currently under way

9An ambitious programme to modernise the military is currently under way. It gives greater importance to anti-submarine warfare, anti-missile and second strike capabilities, as well as the integration of information technology in weapons systems and their links, and to the reduction and professionalisation of the armed forces. Reacting to the accelerated modernisation of the PLA, the Taiwanese army is undertaking a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). Entitled “renovation of military affairs” (junshi shiwu gexin), it is due to be completed by 2012, with the application of two programmes: bosheng’an , and jingjin’an.

10Bosheng’an consists of creating operational C41SR27 systems in Taiwan, with a view to acquiring the capability to carry out joint operations between the three services. It is a response to American assessments which placed the construction of C41SR systems capable of rapidly detecting, reacting to and surviving a Chinese offensive, as the top priority in the modernisation of the island's defence. The plan aims, with American assistance, to build a joint command and control centre for the three Taiwanese armed services (sanjun lianhe zuozhan xitong). Its communications systems would be integrated with those of the American Pacific Command. According to a report by the US-China Relations Committee of Congress, Taiwan's progress in this domain has been “appreciable”28. In September 2003, an initial $27 million contract was signed with Lockheed Martin. However, the total cost of the C41SR system will reach $2.1 billion by 2011, and total investment in the programme NT$46.1 billion29.

11Next comes the improvement of Taiwan's electronic and information warfare capabilities, in particular to prevent a Chinese strategy of “decapitation” (WWWW, qunlong wushou), which would consist of paralysing Taiwanese decision-making and command centres by attacking them electronically30. Today, electronic and information warfare equipment takes up a sizeable part of the investment expenditure of the Ministry of National Defence: 25.06% in 2001, 32.09% in 2002, 25.46% in 2003, 31.53% in 2004 (or NT$21.1 billion)31. Counting on its technological lead over China, Taiwan is fully integrating its high technology industries into the project. Thus, before the project was taken over by the National Security Council, co-operation between the industries and the Ministry of National Defence was already a defined task which had been entrusted to an ad hoc committee under the authority of the Presidential Palace (a move which had provoked moreover negative reactions in the army)32.

12Jingjin’an consists of planning a reduction of manpower and the introduction of new weapons systems. The aim of this restructuring is to build a compact high-tech army. Thus Taiwan is evolving towards greater professionalisation of its armed forces, without for the moment giving up conscription. Since January 2004, the army has entered the first stage of jingjin’an. Up to 2006, there will be reductions of 40,000 men, from 380,000 to 340,000. By 2012, after the implementation of the second stage of the plan, the army should only have 300,000 men. During the same period, the professional/conscript ratio will increase, from 3.6/6.4 to 6/4. This policy has two objectives: the professionalisation of forces in the context of contemporary warfare, which demands in-depth technical training for many jobs, and the reduction of manpower costs in order to make possible more investment spending. According to a DPP Parliamentary report, the plan should make it possible to reallocate 6% of the present defence budget to acquisitions. If numbers were reduced to 250,000 troops, as the DPP suggests, 14% of the present budget could be reallocated to productive investment33.

13Lastly, between 2000 and 2005, new equipment was acquired by the Taiwanese army, and new contracts signed. Some of these come under the seal of defence secrecy. In 2004, 18.94% of the defence budget remained secret, and mainly concerned acquisitions. Other acquisitions are public knowledge. Among the most significant are four Kidd class destroyers, worth 875 million dollars (two of which have already been delivered) and an early warning radar surveillance system produced by Raytheon, worth 752 million dollars, which is scheduled for delivery in 200934. There are also numerous missiles which enhance the combat capability of the island's navy and air force: Harpoon anti-ship missiles, AIM 120, Sidewinder and Sparrow air-to-air missiles, as well as Hellfire and Maverick air-to-ground missiles. In weapons production, new developments since 2000 stem from strategic choices made under Lee Teng-hui. The most significant new development is the decision to build a military observation satellite, which is essential in order to improve Taiwanese anti-missile defences, as well as light armoured vehicles to intervene on the coast in case of a Chinese landing35. Most of the missiles developed by the Chungshan Technology Institute have already been deployed on their various carriers, Lafayette and Perry class frigates, IDF fighters, and Ching-chiang patrol ships, as well as on the ground for the island's anti-air and anti-missile defences36. The Institute is also working on an improved version of its sea-to-sea missile (the Hsiung-Feng III), with the objective of exceeding the capabilities of the Russian-built Sunburn missiles which China possesses, and which are considered to be one of the most dangerous weapons in case of a naval confrontation between the two sides37. Since Chen's election, it seems that the previous administration's efforts to develop a medium-range ground-to-ground missile, able to strike military, political or civilian infrastructure on the Chinese mainland, are receiving renewed attention. Such a missile would give the Taiwanese forces dissuasive retaliation capability. In August 2005, the Taiwanese press revealed that Hsiung Feng missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometres would be deployed on mobile launchers by the Taiwanese army's new Missile Command38. This report has not been confirmed by the Ministry of National Defence39. However, in a hearing before the Defence Commission of the legislative Yuan, the Minister of Defence Lee Jye stated that in future Missile Command would be made up of only medium-range strategic missiles40. Similarly, under Chen's presidency, Taiwan has installed, on the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, what were originally anti-vessel missiles, but which could be fired at the Chinese mainland41.

The limits of the balancing strategy

14Despite these efforts to modernise both its defence strategy and its armed forces, the question remains as to whether Taiwan is really acquiring the means to defend itself. On several occasions, the United States has made no secret of its doubts on that score, it being understood that Taiwan was counting too much on American protection, and not enough on its own forces. This American perception stems from the reductions in the defence budget. It is also a consequence of the confrontation between the administration and the majority in Parliament on the subject of the purchase of weapons from the United States. It may well seem an exaggeration to talk about internal balancing when the Taiwanese defence budget has not been the object of any significant increase since Chen's election. On the contrary, the budget has remained stable at a level lower than that of the previous decade (see Table 1). The slowdown in the island's economic growth and the considerable increase in social spending are the main causes of this. The Ministry of National Defence hopes that the budget will increase to the level of 3% of GDP, a view which is shared in American defence circles. The authorisation given by the Bush administration in April 2001, to sell Taiwan a number of expensive weapons systems should have had the effect of producing an increase in the island's defence budget. However this has not been the case.

1.Evolution in Taiwan’s Military Spending under the Presidency of Chen Shui-bian

1.Evolution in Taiwan’s Military Spending under the Presidency of Chen Shui-bian

15The Chen administration has chosen a means of financing which is outside the boundaries of the regular defence budget for three weapons systems which it considers essential to Taiwan's defence, and in the promotion of which it has invested considerable energy. Eight diesel-propelled submarines and twelve P3-C Orion anti-submarine fighter planes have been chosen in order to remedy Taiwan's vulnerability to a Chinese blockade. Six batteries of anti-ballistic PAC-III missiles are said to reinforce Taiwan's defence against Chinese missiles. The constant improvements and the particular attention paid by the PLA to submarines and missiles are said to oblige Taiwan to reinforce its defences against these two weapons systems. A special budget, which now stands at US$11 billion, higher than the 2005 defence budget, has been proposed to the legislative Yuan42. This budget was originally US$18 billion when the Yuan approved it on June 2nd 2004, and then US$15 billion when the administration decided to include the purchases of PAC-IIIs in the regular defence budget43. No financial deal has yet been accepted by the parliamentary majority. In March 2006, the project had already been turned down fifty times in the legislative Yuan. Behind the political confrontation between the Chen administration and the opposition, beyond the internal political factors, one can see in these developments an alternative defence project by the parliamentary majority, which centres on “defensive defence”44. It is said to be for this reason that the opposition does not seek to block the acquisition of the P3C Orions, equipment which is defensive in nature and which the American army already operates in the Taiwan Strait.

16The question of the special arms budget highlights a major feature of Chen Shui-bian's security policy, which is being implemented in a totally new internal political context: “The parliamentary opposition outnumbers the Presidential majority” (WWWW, chaoxiao yeda), at the very moment when, for the first time in the history of the ROC's institutions, Parliament has the power to control the defence budget, in accordance with legislation passed in 2000. Since the approval of the budget by the executive, the positions of the parliamentary majority and of the government have remained irreconcilable, despite numerous attempts at compromise which have given the matter the dimensions of a soap opera. The opposition refuses to buy the PAC-IIIs, since it considers that the results of the defence referendum on March 20th 2004 make their acquisition illegal45. On the question of the acquisition of submarines, opinion among the parliamentary majority is divided. Some deputies in the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT), such as Shuai Hua-min, envisage accepting the purchase of submarines if their price is reduced46. Others emphasise the fact that the Americans no longer produce diesel-propelled submarines and refuse to let the Taiwanese develop a production facility, as had been demanded by Lin Yu-fang (KMT) and Kao Chung-yuan (People First Party, PFP)47, which would oblige Taiwan to wait for fifteen years for the submarines to be operational, in spite of the risk of a conflict breaking out sooner. In any case, there is a consensus among the parliamentary majority that the present conditions of sale are not acceptable. However, another dimension has to be taken into account. Submarines, which are a strategic weapon par excellence, would give the Taiwanese navy new offensive capability. It could for example attack the port of Shanghai. Their acquisition could have unpredictable effects on cross-Strait relations and on US-China relations. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, Taiwan is alleged to have complained to the Americans that the US Navy was seeking to sabotage Taiwanese acquisition of submarines. A sign that the security environment of Taiwan has evolved is that even the American desire to sell submarines to Taiwan should be doubted48.

External balancing: reinforced co-operation with the United States and Japan

17Chen Shui-bian has met with less opposition in his efforts towards external balancing. His administration has been able to seize a real strategic opportunity: the security dilemma49, which is perceived by Koizumi Junichiro's Japan and George W. Bush's United States in the face of the lack of transparency in the modernisation of the PLA and in the PRC's strategic intentions. Co-operation in defence matters between America and Taiwan has been increased, but it operates within a restrictive framework for Taipei, which is linked to Washington's China policy. Since the end of 2003, and Chen's “defensive referendum”, several voices, including that of President Bush, have expressed anxiety over certain actions by Taipei, whose effect could be to alter the status quo between the two shores. American protection comes with conditions, and the atmosphere of “strategic clarity” initiated by the decision on arms sales in 2001 has dissipated, and there has been a return to an ambiguous position. In practice, Washington is currently following a strategy of twofold dissuasion, against moves towards independence and against the use of force by Beijing. The logical connection between these two dissuasions remains unclear. If Taiwan declares independence, will the United States oppose the use of force by China? If China chooses a military option, would a declaration of independence be approved?

18In July 2004, in Tokyo, Condoleeza Rice, then National Security Advisor, stated publicly that the United States and Japan should work together on the question of Taiwan. This was the first time that strategic co-operation between Japan and America was encouraged in an official statement. In Washington in February 2005, during a 2+2 meeting between their Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Defence, the two states published a joint declaration. For the first time since the signing of the Security Treaty in 1966, Tokyo was willing to sign a document which explicitly stated that “encouraging the peaceful resolution, through dialogue, of questions concerning the Taiwan Strait” is part of “a common strategic interest”, which is shared with Washington50. During the crisis in 1996, the United States did not even consult Japan before sending two aircraft carriers to the Strait. One can therefore measure the progress which has been made. Taiwan's security is now envisaged on a trilateral level. Lai I I-chung accurately emphasises that the regenerated alliance between Japan and America has become a key element in security in the Strait over the last few years51.

19For the government of Taiwan, as is the case with its partners, this trilateral co-operation is based on shared values, those of democracy and human rights52. The Chen administration has clearly expressed its desire to forge a permanent link between the island's armed forces and the workings of the alliance between Japan and America, in particular by developing along with the United States and Japan the anti-missile defences around Formosa53. If Taiwan were incorporated into a defence system which was managed trilaterally, any attack on the island would be equivalent to an attack on the United States and Japan. While this is not yet the case, certain measures have been taken in the direction of increasing military co-operation. In the United States, certain elements of the planned Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA) have in fact been put into practice by the Bush administration, even though the law has not been passed54. Examples include the necessity for the United States to clarify its commitment to defend Taiwan, exchanges of military personnel between Washington and Taipei, the installation of direct communications between the two High Commands, the participation by American advisers in the annual Hanguang military exercises, and the end of the ban on visits by high-ranking military officials, exemplified by the visit paid to the United States in 2002 by Tang Yao-ming, who was Minister of Defence at the time. According to Michael Swaine, it is with Taiwan that the American armed forces have the most co-operation programmes under way55. In Japan, Tokyo has engaged in active support of Taiwan's participation as an observer in certain international organisations which do not require state status (such as the World Health Organisation), in Track II trilateral security discussions with the United States and Taiwan, in increasing parliamentary exchanges with Taiwan, and in inter-military contacts with the Taiwanese56. At the beginning of 2003, for the first time since the diplomatic rift in 1972, a Japanese military man was posted to Taipei: Nagano Yoichi, a retired general in the land-based component of the Self-Defence Forces, holds the post of director of the Japanese delegation to Taiwan, the Japanese Exchange Association (riben jiaoliu xiehui)57. Another strong signal, according to the Taiwanese media, was the participation of a delegation of officers from the Taiwanese self-defence forces in the annual Hanguang military exercises in March 200558.

The “ securitisation” of exchanges between the two shores

20Taiwan's security agenda in relation to China goes beyond the military sphere. It demonstrates an “all security” approach, to the extent that any interaction with the Chinese mainland poses for Taiwan a security problem which is societal, economic, technological and even political. On the level of exchanges with China, the Chen administration has in substance changed the approach followed under Lee Teng-hui, whose political line towards China was “no haste, be patient” (jieji yongren). Since 2000, two new economic policies have been implemented: “positive opening, efficient management” (jiji kaifang, youxiao guanli) and “strengthening the base, opening to the West” (qiangben xijin). These two slogans emphasise the necessary pendulum movement between prudent opening towards the mainland and management of the security risks for Taiwan. While exchanges have been made easier and continue to increase, a number of restrictions have been maintained. The example of direct air and sea links is illuminating in this regard. In the present circumstances of political confrontation, Taipei does not believe in peace through exchanges with the People's Republic. In August 2003, the Mainland Affairs Commission (MAC) published a report assessing the consequences for Taiwan of opening direct links59. This document still represents the official position of the island's government. An entire section of the report is devoted to assessing the security risks for Taiwan. It highlights the negative effects on Taiwan's economy, on the island's status, its international image, its social balance, its military security, its technological lead over China, as well as the denial of Taiwan's sovereignty which it perceives in the conditions offered by Beijing. The Commission expounds a protectionist argument, according to which the weakest sectors of the Taiwanese economy would not survive the competition from the mainland in a situation of liberalisation of exchanges across the Strait. It expresses alarm over the accelerating delocalisation of industry to the mainland60. The Commission also raises the question of “political security”, which is not confined to a perception of direct links as harmful to the defence of the sovereignty of the ROC in Taiwan. It also includes the idea that democracy and the rule of law would be indirectly threatened by the opening up towards China, and is based on the perception of the conflict between the two shores as being not a conflict of sovereignty but rather an ideological struggle between a democracy and an authoritarian regime61. Before opening direct links, the administration must set up a security net which will allow Taiwan to minimise the security risks. This term must be understood as the application of strategies of diversification, of increasing Taiwan's competitivity in order to better turn to its own advantage the division of labour between the two shores, improved legislation on technology transfer between the two shores which will allow Taiwan to maintain its lead, but also costly modifications in the deployment of the Taiwanese armed forces and border police. Taipei insists that China accept the involvement of Taiwanese government agencies in the process of negotiation, both for technical reasons and in order not to sacrifice the island's sovereignty62.

21This approach distances itself from the middle way which brought Chen Shui-bian to the presidency in 2000. This is especially so as, in January 2006, Chen set out a new slogan “positive opening, efficient management”, which suggests that more restrictive policies will be applied in order to manage exchanges between the two shores63. As is shown by the former President of the Mainland Affairs Commission (MAC), Su Chi, the DPP, once in power, has shifted from a position which consisted of all-out encouragement of exchanges with mainland China to an approach which seeks to slow them down and restrict them64. In reality Taipei's policy takes up the arguments of the most independence-minded fringes of the political class. The example of the international conference on “cross–Strait exchanges and national security” organised in Taipei in November 2003 by Lee Teng-hui's “Taiwan Advocates” association, in the presence of Vice-President Annette Lü Xiu-lian, is significant65. The contributors, a very large majority of whom were researchers or politicians close to the DPP or to the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), set out arguments which sought to demonstrate that the cost/benefit ratio is unfavourable to the opening of direct air links, on all the levels of the island's security, including its psychological defences, its public health security and its social security. The Taiwanese daily with the highest circulation, the Ziyou Shibao (Liberty Times), also states its opposition to the opening of direct links, for reasons of national security. On the contrary, the KMY KMT and the PFP call for their being opened, as do the two other major dailies, the Lianhebao (United Daily News) and the Zhongguo Shibao (China Times).

22As Denny Roy's expression “the enemy within” reminds us, Taiwan has not succeeded in achieving an internal consensus on the perception of China as either a threat or an opportunity for the pursuit of its development66. This is one of the fundamental divisions between the presidential majority and the opposition. According to the DPP the blocking of the arms budget by the parliamentary majority, and the journeys by Lien Chan and James Soong to the mainland have a negative effect on the “defensive spirit” (guofang yizhi)67. To the presidential majority, Taiwan has to face a “protean war of attrition”, as is emphasised by the President of the TSU, Su Chin-qiang68. With this formulation, he offers a reminder that China applies against Taiwan the strategy of the “Three Wars”, using the law, public opinion and psychology. In the face of this offensive, the Chen administration has engaged in a policy which aims to work on the “defensive spirit” of the Taiwanese population. The White Paper formulates in this respect the concept of “all-out defence”, which is understood as the Taiwanese population's capacity to withstand a conflict with the PRC in time of war, but also as the population's determination to resist political strong arm tactics in peacetime69. The DPP's emphasis on the “consciousness of being Taiwanese” (Taiwan zhutixing), and its rhetoric, which presents the opposition's mainland policy as an abdication in the face of Beijing's irredentism, have to be understood in this context.

The failure of the implementation of a framework for peaceful interaction

23Internal and external balancing, prudence in interactions with China, and working on the psychological defences of the population seem to be a rational approach to defending the sovereignty of the ROC. This is all the more so since a whole aspect of the security policy planned by the DPP before it came to power has proved to be a failure: functionalist peace and collective security, which could have led, as the DPP saw it, to a relaxing of security in relations between the two sides.

24The desire to apply bilateral security arrangements with Beijing, and to incorporate Taiwan into regional security arrangements, dates back to the presidency of Lee Teng-hui. In August 1991, he was one of the first Asian heads of state to propose regional security arrangements in the Asia Pacific, including the United States and Japan. However, when the Council for Co-operation and Security in the Asia Pacific and above all the ASEAN regional forum (ARF) were founded, in 1993 and 1994, Taiwan was unable to take part. Because of Beijing's refusal to allow Taiwan to participate in international organisations which require state status, the island is cut off from multilateral security mechanisms. Thus the security of the Strait is never on the agenda of major international conferences. Still today, every year, a Taiwanese delegation attempts to bring pressure to bear in order to impose Taiwan's participation in the ARF, which is perceived as the regional forum most likely to reduce the insecurity of the island's position. Even in the absence of the Taiwanese, Beijing refuses to have the question of stability in the Strait of Taiwan put on the agenda of this annual conference70.

25Similarly, Taipei has up to now been unsuccessful in its project to establish with Beijing a “code of behaviour on both sides of the Strait” and “confidence-building measures between the two sides”. Both these projects, based on a long-term vision of a “structure of stability and peace for exchanges between the two shores sides”, aim to reduce the danger of a military incident between the two sides. They are the continuation of a policy proposed by Lee Teng-hui, fairly late on, in April 1999; the “mechanism for peace and stability in the Strait”, which is based on European experience. In the White Paper put forward by the DPP in 1999 during the election campaign, confidence-building measures already occupied a prominent place71. Chen Shui-bian seems to grant them particular attention. Since his re-election in March 2004, he has regularly reiterated and elaborated on these proposals in several speeches72. The confidence-building measures (CBMs, or in Chinese xinxin jianli cuoshi) have been the subject of detailed thinking in Taiwan. The 2004 White Paper describes the stages envisaged by Taiwan: demonstrations of good will leading to the signing of an agreement to end hostilities73. While there is no mechanism between the two sides for security dialogue or crisis management, whether bilateral, or even more unthinkable, incorporated into a multilateral framework, confidence-building measures are sorely lacking in the maintenance of stability in the Strait74. What would happen in case of an air or sea incident on the tacitly accepted frontier between the two shores, which runs along the middle of the Strait75? How could such crises be managed quickly and effectively without appropriate channels of communication? To Beijing, the signing of CBMs can only be envisaged between sovereign states. On May 17th 2004, the Bureau of Taiwan Affairs made public a declaration in which it proposed establishing CBMs with Taiwan on the single condition that the island recognise the One China principle as defined by Beijing, a condition which is unacceptable to Taipei76. On this point also, agreement is impossible unless one of the two sides makes a major concession on the question of the status of Taiwan.

26The Chen administration has sought to build peace with China without renouncing the independent sovereignty of Taiwan, and by trying to impose on Beijing the “normalisation of cross-Strait relations” (zhengchanghua), which is to say the recognition of that status. At the beginning of his first mandate, Chen proposed a policy of integration between the two sides, which was presented as a functionalist peace policy. At the heart of this approach is the ambition to build a dynamic peace based on horizontal exchanges: a working peace, in the search for a definitive peace, through a build-up of common benefits77. As noted by Byron Weng, this is not a unification policy, for integration aims at uniting two sovereign entities in a process without constraint, free and voluntary, but which does not blend them into a centralised unit, and respects the aspects of separation between these two entities78. In his New Year speech in 2001, Chen stated that “the integration of our economies, of our trade and of our culture can be a starting point to gradually building belief and confidence in each other. This, in turn, can be the basis of a new structure for permanent peace and political integration”79. This policy has come up against the choice made by China not to respond to the olive branches held out by Taipei as long as the island has not yielded on the principle of One China. Without any inter-governmental dialogue, the policy simply cannot be implemented, and has been abandoned by the Taiwanese administration. Nevertheless, one can wonder about the motivations behind a political project unacceptable to China, since it assumed the recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign political entity.

27This security policy is an interesting illustration of the concept of securitisation put forward by Ole Waever, which designates a language act consisting of including in the spectrum of a state's security policy a problem which is not necessarily part of it. Ole Waever notes that the whole redefinition of the concept of security in the 1980s was carried out by a series of additions: security is not only the military security of a state, “but also…”. Thus, in theory, any security policy is contained between two extremes: maximum securitisation and maximum desecuritisation80. While Beijing and Taipei maintain irreconcilable positions on the island's status and on the definition of the status quo between the two sides, the Chen administration favours maximum securitisation, and only strong internal policy constraints, the attraction to Taiwanese private players of the mainland economy, and the reservations sometimes shown by the United States prevent him from applying maximum securitisation to cross-Strait relations. These are important reservations, but from there to the desecuritisation of his China policy is an enormous step, which cannot be taken without agreement on the question of the status of Taiwan. For as long as Taipei seeks to “normalise” relations between the two sides, without any concession on China's part, security policies based on collective security, CBMs, positive-sum games, and a liberal peace will all be doomed to failure. For the same reason, Chinese advances, whether conditional or not on the acceptance of the One China principle, will logically be perceived as forming part of a united front strategy against the island. On the other hand, the effort to maximise its military power and the prudent management of relations between the two sides from a security viewpoint will be the only two levers left to Taiwan in order to defend its position as a sovereign state.

28Translated from the French original by Michael Black

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1 The Revolution in Military Affairs (RAM) is a concept used when new technologies exert a radical influence on military strategy. Stemming initially from an observation of the technologies used by the United States during the first Gulf War (for example satellite observation, furtive capability, electronic information and logistics management), the revolution under way in the United States, which has been taken as a model by both China and Taiwan, is said to be the eleventh technological revolution to have had a structural impact on military operations. It especially concerns systems known as C4ISR (Command, Control, Communication, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) and rapid strike capability (projection power and ballistic power). Charles-Philippe David, La Guerre et la Paix : Approches contemporaines de la sécurité et de la stratégie, [War and Peace: Contemporary Approaches to Security and Strategy] Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po, 2000. pp. 217-218.
2 2004 National Defense Report, Ministry of National Defense, Republic of China, Taiwan, p. 59.
3 The most representative work on this renewal is probably Barry Buzan, People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era, Boulder, CO, Lynne Rienner, 1991.
4 Charles-Philippe David, op. cit., p. 31.
5 2002 National Defence Report, Ministry of National Defence, Republic of China, Taiwan, p. 76.
6 “China’s Panda Ploy Irritates Officials”, Taipei Times, January 7th 2006.
7 2004 National Defence Report, op. cit., p. 59.
8 Ibid.
9 Cf. Articles 1, 2 and 8 of the anti-secession law, passed during the third session of the Tenth National People's Congress on March 14th 2005.
10 It should nevertheless be noted that in 1999, when Lee Teng-hui stated that the relations between the two shores were special relations between states, all the political parties accepted this position. The sovereignty of the ROC is thus the object of a consensus among all the Taiwanese political parties.
11 Without going into the complex detail of the exact figures of the Chinese military budget, according to the lowest estimates Chinese military spending is $40 billion (the official figure is 29.9 billion for the fiscal year 2005), as against 8 billion for Taiwan. The Pentagon's highest estimate is that the Chinese defence sector could be receiving as much as 90 billion a year. Source: Department of Defence, Annual Report to Congress, The Military Power of People’s Republic of China, 2005.
12 In 1992, the Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF, Taiwan) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS, mainland China) met in Singapore. In their preliminary exchanges, ARATS found acceptable the position of the SEF according to which each of the two parties has its own interpretation of “a single China”. On this basis, the two parties managed to avoid a confrontation on the question of sovereignty. After 1999, although the term had never been used before, there was talk of the consensus of 1992. Acceptance of the consensus by Taipei could allow the reopening of dialogue with Beijing. The present position of the Chen administration is that there was never any consensus in 1992.
13 The resolution of May 9th 1999 states that Taiwan is already a sovereign and independent state which does not belong to the PRC, and is opposed to the slogan “One country, two systems” and to the One China principle. Cf. the Chinese version of the text on
14 Raymond Aron, Paix et guerre entre les nations [Peace and War Between Nations], Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 8th edition, 1962. p. 58.
15 Wu Yu-shan, “Theorizing on relations across the Taiwan Strait: Nine contending approaches”, Journal of Contemporary China, Vol. 9, No. 25, November 2000, pp. 407-428.
16 Ibid., pp. 413-415.
17 Lee Jye, “Minister’s Remarks”, 2004 National Defense Report, p. XV.
18 Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics, Reading, MA., Addison-Wesley, 1978.
19 Stephen Walt, The Origin of Alliances, Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press, 1987.
20 On this idea, cf. Jean-Pierre Cabestan, who emphasises the climatic constraints of the Taiwan Strait on a Chinese invasion: Chine-Taiwan, la guerre est-elle concevable ? [China and Taiwan, Is War Conceivable ?], Paris, Economica, 2003, pp. 54-55. John Mearsheimer in his theorisation of offensive realism, puts forward the notion of the “stopping power of water”: the fact that the oceans have always constituted a major constraint on the expansion of great powers. The Tragedy of Great Powers Politics, W.W Norton & Company, 2001, pp. 114-128. Moreover the morphology of the Taiwanese coast would make an amphibious landing on the island very difficult.
21 “Avenger Surface to Air Missiles Deployed in Taipei”, MND, CNA, March 16th 2004.
22 In his speech on January 1st 2006, Chen gave as 784 the number of Chinese missiles pointed at Taiwan. They had been estimated at about 400 in 2000.
23 Michael Tsai, “Introduction”, in Martin Edmonds, Michael Tsai, Defending Taiwan: The Future Vision of Taiwan’s Defence Policy and Military Strategy, London, Routledge Curzon, 2003, pp. 6-7.
24 Chen Shui-bian, “Decisive Battle Outside the Territory”, a speech given at the Military Academy on June 16th 2000, reprinted in Taiwan Defence Affairs, No. 1, October 2000, pp. 129-132.
25 Cf. the White Papers in 2002 and 2004.
26 See the remarks by former Prime Minister Yu Shyi-kun on a “balance of terror” between the two shores, arguing in favour of Taiwan's acquisition of counter-attack capability. “Yu Heralds a Balance of Terror”, Taipei Times, September 26th 2004.
27 See footnote 1.
28 Michael Pillsbury, “The US Role in Taiwan’s Defence Reform”, report from February 29th 2004, available on
29 “Taijun tou juzi gao bosheng xiang mu” (The Taiwanese Army invests considerable amounts in order to implement the Bosheng programme), Huaxia, October 15th 2003. “Bosheng’an: queding you luoma gongsi chengbao”, (Bosheng Programme: Confirmation of the choice of Lockeed Martin), Liberty Times, September 22nd 2003.
30 “Beijing Has E-Blockade Strategy”, Associated Press, November 17th 2004.
31 2004 National Defence Report, pp. 150-153.
32 “Keweihui yu chashou bosheng’an: Bian zuzhi” (Chen Shui-bian prevents the Committee for Technology from taking care of the Bosheng programme), Epoch Times, June 4th 2005.
33 Taiwan bingli guimo yanjiu baogao (Report on the size of the Taiwanese armed forces) August 2003, Political Committee of the DPP, available online at
34 This is a multifunction radar system capable of detecting cruise missiles and ballistic missiles as well enemy warplanes and vessels, and is essential to the modernisation of Taiwanese anti-missile defences. “Taiwan to Get US Early Warning Radar”, Reuters, June 24th 2005.
35 “Nation May Launch Spy Satellite by 2007”, Taipei Times, October 11th 2005.
36 For further information on Taiwanese missile production cf. Cabestan, op. cit., pp. 85-89. See also
37 “MND to Spend NT$20 billion on Supersonic Missiles”, AFP, October 7th 2002.
38 Operational since January 1st 2004, this structure centralises decisions and operations for offensive capabilities, anti-aircraft defence and anti-missile defence.
39 “Taiwan begins Development of Cruise Missiles”, AFP, August 12th 2005.
40 “Military Talks About Missile Programme”, Taipei Times, May 3rd 2005.
41 “The Dragon Next Door”, The Economist, January 13th 2005.
42 The same kind of financial arrangement had been made for the purchase of 150 F-16s and 60 Mirage 2000s. Cf. Cabestan, op. cit., p. 70.
43 “Taiwan Trims Arm Budget in Bid to Get Bill Passed”, Reuters, August 30th 2005. By the beginning of March 2006, the budget had already been turned down 50 times in the Legislative Yuan.
44 On this point, see the articles by the KMT deputy Su Chi, a member of the Defence Commission of the Legislative Yuan and former director of the Mainland Affairs Committee under Lee Teng-hui. Su Chi, “New Thinking on Arms Purchasing”, China Post, January 3rd 2006. “Soft Power + Defensive Defence = National Security”, Lianhebao, January 24th 2006. English version is available on
45 The first question in the referendum, a referendum which was invalidated by the fact that participation was lower than the threshold level of 50%, asked the Taiwanese population whether they approved of the acquisition of anti-missile defence systems to strengthen Taiwan's self-defence capabilities in the face of the positioning by China of ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. The law on referenda stipulates that a question can only be put before the electorate again after three years have elapsed since the initial vote; this is interpreted to mean that a referendum result is valid for three years. The administration is said to have accepted this position. Cf. “MND to Resubmit Bid to Buy Anti-Missiles in 2007”, eTaiwan News, February 23rd 2006.
46 “KMT May Back Purchase of Submarines: Lawmaker”, Taipei Times, February 18th 2006.
47 The US Department of Defence vetoed the construction of submarines in Taiwan. Initially, the executive Yuan had hoped that Taiwanese enterprises would be involved in their construction, and even that the submarines would be entirely constructed in Kaohsiung.
48 “Taiwan Says US Navy Is Sabotaging SSK Plans”, Jane’s Defence Weekly, February 10th 2006.
49 The theory of the security dilemma posits that a state's military modernisation policy, even if it is defensive, will have the effect of causing other states to wonder about its strategic intentions and to take countermeasures aimed at protecting themselves from its increased power.
50 Joint U.S.-Japan Security Committee Statement, Central News Agency, February 19th 2005.
51 Lai I-chung, “Meiri tongmeng zhudao taihai shidai mailing” (The era of domination of the Taiwan Strait by the US-Japan alliance is coming), Taiwan Think-tank, February 20th 2005.
52 See for example Chen's inauguration address on May 20th 2004. “Taiwan's long-term friendship with the United States, Japan and our allies in the world has been founded on the safeguarding of our common interests. More importantly, it is an alliance of core values that we share: freedom, democracy, human rights and peace”.
53 Interview given to the Washington Times, July 17th 2001.
54 Passed by a landslide majority in the House of Representatives on February 1st 2000 (341 votes in favour, 70 against), the Act has never been passed by the Senate, in order not to hinder the policy of engagement of the United States. For a history of the TSEA (House Resolution 1838), see Steve Goldstein and Randall Schriver, “An Uncertain Relationship: the United States, Taiwan and the Taiwan Relations Act”, Taiwan in the 20th Century, The China Quarterly, special edition, March 2001, 165, pp. 147-172 .
55 “The Dragon Next Door”, The Economist, January 13th 2005.
56 See for example David Fouse, “Japan-Taiwan Relations, a Case for Tempered Optimism”, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, October 2004.
57 “Huxiang paixun jiangjun changzhu, Riben hai zai zuo Taiwan meng” (Mutual and permanent despatch of high ranking delegates, Japan pursues its Taiwan dream), Huanqiu Shibao, January 24th 2003.
58 Zhongguo Shibao, March 16th 2005.
59 “Liang’an zhiheng yingxiang pinggu zhi zhongdian shuoming” (Some points of explanation on the assessment of the influence of establishing direct air links between the two shores), Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), November 12th 2003.
60 Ibid.
61 Interviews, Taipei, 2005.
62 Interviews, Taipei, January 2006.
63 “Chen To Tighten Cross-Strait Policies”, Taipei Times, January 2nd  2006.
64 Su Chi, Weixian Bianyuan: Cong Liangguolun dao yibian yiguo (Brinkmanship: From Two-States Theory to One-Country on Each Side), Taipei, Tianxia Yuanjian, 2003. pp. 144-147.
65 Liang’an jiaoliu yu guojia anquan, guoji yantaohui lunwenji (Cross-Strait exchanges and national security, articles from the international conference), Taipei, Caituan faren quncehui, January 2004.
66 Denny Roy, “Taiwan’s Threat Perceptions: The Enemy Within”, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, July 2002.
67 Interviews, Taipei, 2005.
68 “Taiwan Has to Bolster Its Defence and Resolve”, Taipei Times, August 11th 2005.
69 Cf. Yang Chih-heng, “The evolution and adaptation of Taiwan’s military strategy” in Martin Edmonds, Michael Tsai, Defending Taiwan, the Future Vision of Taiwan’s Defence Policy and Military Strategy, London, Routledge Curzon, 2003, pp. 61-64.
70 Interviews, Taipei, 2005.
71 National Defense White Paper, Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party, November 1999. Extracts available on
72 Chen Shui-bian, inaugural address, on May 20th 2004. Chen Shui-bian, National Day speech on October 10th 2004.
73 2004 National Defense Report, p. 75.
74 Guo Lin-wu, “Xinxin jianli cuoshi yu liang’an guanxi” (Confidence-building measures and relations between the two shores) in Xinxin jianli cuoshi de lilun yu shiji (Theory and Practice of Confidence-Building Measures), Taipei, Taiwan Zonghe Yanjiuyuan, 2001.
75 According to Chao Chien-min, Chinese fighter planes have regularly crossed the median line for several years. In such a situation, there is an urgent need for CBMs between the two shores, in order to avoid another military crisis. Cf. “Military Confidence Building Measurements and the Security in the Taiwan Strait”, October 2005, at
76 Xinhua, May 16th 2005.
77 According to the model of Mitrany's functionalism. Cf. David Mitrany, A Working Peace System, 1943. pp. 61-77.
78 Byron Weng, “Modes of national integration”, paper presented at the symposium on the comparison between national sovereignty and models of integration, Chen Lungchi Foundation, Puli, February 24th 2001.
79 President Chen's Cross-Century Remarks, Taipei, December 31st 2000, available on
80 Ole Waever, « Securitization and Desecuritization », in Ronnie Lipschutz (ed.), On Security, New York, Columbia University Press, 1995, pp. 46-86.
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Title 1.Evolution in Taiwan’s Military Spending under the Presidency of Chen Shui-bian
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Electronic reference

Mathieu Duchâtel, “Taiwan: The Security Policy of the Chen Government Since 2000”China Perspectives [Online], 64 | march - april 2006, Online since 21 December 2006, connection on 21 July 2024. URL:; DOI:

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