January 21, 2009
China Sees Separatist Threats
By EDWARD WONG
BEIJING — China said Tuesday that it faces important threats from independence movements related to Taiwan, Tibet and the western desert region of Xinjiang, and that American arms sales to Taiwan jeopardize stability in Asia.
The announcement came in a white paper on national defense released by the State Council, China’s cabinet. The paper said that “China’s security situation has improved steadily,” but that “being in a stage of economic and social transition, China is encountering many new circumstances and new issues in maintaining social stability.”
The 105-page paper sought to portray China as a power that would use military force only defensively and sees territorial integrity as the top defense priority.
According to goals implied in the paper, China also seeks to counterbalance the American military presence in Asia. In several instances, the authors pointed out what they called worrisome aspects of American intervention.
“The U.S. has increased its strategic attention to and input in the Asia-Pacific region, further consolidating its military alliances, adjusting its military deployment and enhancing its military capabilities,” the paper said.
Certain destabilizing factors outside China are growing, the paper added, singling out American arms sales to Taiwan, which it said could lead to “serious harm to Sino-U.S. relations as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.” China considers Taiwan a breakaway province.
Last October, the Pentagon announced it was selling $6.5 billion of weaponry to Taiwan despite protests from Beijing. The package included 30 Apache attack helicopters, 330 Patriot missiles and 32 Harpoon missiles that can be launched from submarines. The Taiwan Relations Act, passed in 1979 when the United States normalized relations with China, says the United States must provide arms of a defensive nature to Taiwan and act to protect Taiwan from any hostilities.
In presenting the white paper on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said he hoped the incoming Obama administration would build stronger military relations between the United States and China.
“At present, when China-U.S. military-to-military relations are faced with difficulties, we call on the U.S. Department of Defense to remove obstacles,” the spokesman, Sr. Col. Hu Changming, said at a news conference.
Although Taiwan enjoys de facto independence and is a thriving democracy, the Chinese government has long maintained that it will reunite Taiwan with the mainland, by force if necessary. Under Taiwan’s previous president, Chen Shui-bian, relations with the mainland grew extremely tense because Mr. Chen’s policies moved Taiwan closer to formal independence, prompting bellicose reactions from Beijing.
But following the election in Taiwan last year of Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, which fled the Communist takeover of China in 1949, the Taiwanese government has taken a more conciliatory approach toward the mainland.
The white paper grouped separatist forces in Taiwan — meaning supporters of Mr. Chen and his policies — with groups that China says are seeking independence for Tibet and Xinjiang. “Separatist forces working for ‘Taiwan independence,’ ‘East Turkestan independence’ and ‘Tibet independence’ pose threats to China’s unity and security,” the paper said.
Last year, violence erupted in Tibet and Xinjiang that challenged the country’s security forces.
Since 2001, when the Bush administration announced its “war on terror,” the Chinese government has said it faces an organized terrorist independence movement in Xinjiang, an oil-rich area that is home to the Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic-speaking ethnic group. Many Uighurs are resentful of rule by the ethnic Han Chinese, and some openly advocate an independent country called East Turkestan.
Last March, riots and protests erupted across Tibetan areas of China, prompting a harsh crackdown. The Chinese government has accused the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, of organizing the uprising, which the Dalai Lama has denied. The Chinese government is watching closely for disruptions that might unfold this March, which will be the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet to India, where he lives in exile.
The white paper did specify how much will be spent on the 2009 defense budget. The government had said it expected to spend $61 billion on the military in 2008, a nearly 18 percent increase over the 2007 total. Some foreign analysts say the actual figure is much higher.
The white paper also made no mention of construction of an aircraft carrier, which Chinese military officials have said is a project under consideration. It did say that “efforts are being made to build new types of submarines, destroyers, frigates and aircraft.”
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
China Sees Separatist Threats
This article has just been published in the NY Times. My stance is that Taiwan will never be a part of the P.R.C. currently ruled by the C.C.P., but rather an integral part of the R.O.C. currently ruled by the K.M.T., and whether you call that a separatist movement is up to your interpretation. On the other hand, all of my colleagues (most of whom are from China) have the strong yet peculiar argument that Taiwan is a part of China, yet it has been ruled and experienced in two different regime and culture ever since 1949.