Taiwan and the growing Chinese threat

The New York Times reports that China has been ratcheting up pressure on Taiwan, the nation whose independent existence China aspires to end.

In recent months, Chinese strategic bombers have been conducting “island encirclement” flights, escorted by fighter jets. The Chinese government has discouraged tourism to Taiwan and imports of goods like fish over the past year and a half, hurting its economy. And China persuaded the island’s most important remaining diplomatic ally, Panama, to switch diplomatic recognition last summer from Taipei to Beijing.

President Trump had hoped for Chinese cooperation in dealing with North Korea and in reducing America’s trade deficit with China. It was probably worth a try. From all that appears, however, China has not cooperated. North Korea has, if anything, ramped up its nuclear weapons program and the trade deficit has increased.

Accordingly, the administration has recently moved to reinforce its ties to Taiwan, which the Times accurately describes as “a vigorous democracy facing an increasingly authoritarian government in Beijing.” For example, Trump signed legislation in December, bitterly opposed by Beijing, that included a provision encouraging mutual port calls by naval vessels from Taiwan and the United States.

Trump is on the right track. China is our adversary. It isn’t going to help us deal with North Korea and isn’t going to play “fair” on trade and currency issues. Taiwan is an ally and a counterweight to China.

We need all the counterweights we can find. Reihan Salam cites a Military Balance report released by the Institute of Strategic Studies that should make our defense planners very nervous.

Here’s why. China’s military budget has been growing at 6 to 7 percent a year. In no more than two years, China will have its own stealth combat aircraft, which will end the United States’ monopoly on the technology.

China is also upgrading its air-to-air missiles, to the point that it will soon be comparable to the best missiles in the West. And firms in China are working to develop quantum computing to better crunch big data and secure its communications. China launched its first quantum satellite in 2016.

What does this mean? The Military Balance report explains:

Since the end of the Cold War, the air domain has been one of assured superiority for the United States and its allies. This dominance, however, rests on weapons and technologies that China and Russia are increasingly attaining as part of a broader effort to counter U.S. capabilities, and to deny US and allied forces unimpeded control of the air.

For the U.S.-led alliance to regain air dominance, it will have to commit funding on a level “not required since the end of the Cold War.” And it will have to maintain that level of funding and investment over the long haul.

Salam points out an additional problem.

When Chinese Premier Xi Jinping asks the Chinese public and private sectors to work on advanced military projects, it’s an offer that can’t be refused. In the U.S., however, Silicon Valley can simply say no.

Thus, the only way the U.S. can keep up is to spend, which means increasing the deficit, raising taxes, or both.

The nation’s attention is focused now on Russia, and not without reason. We should be concerned about Putin’s authoritarian state, though not primarily for the reasons being touted by the anti-Trump resistance.

I see China as a bigger threat than Russia, though. Steven Mosher makes that case here, in an address to the Heritage Foundation, and in his book, Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order.

In response, we need, among other things, to back Taiwan and to increase our military spending.