Taiwan and China engaged in a bit of martial showmanship Wednesday. As China’s very first aircraft carrier set sail for the first time, Taiwan brandished its newest, most advanced missile against the backdrop of a billboard that read “Aircraft carrier killer.”
Taiwan, a U.S. ally, has been politically separate from mainland China since 1949, despite the Chinese government’s assertion that the island is an inalienable part of One China.
Taiwan currently ranks fourth among worldwide recipients of U.S. arms (behind Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt), with the value of deliveries of U.S. defense articles and services to Taiwan totaling $7.5 billion from 2002-2009. The U.S. is set to decide in October whether it will allow the sale of 66 Lockheed Martin Corp. F-16 jets to Taiwan, despite the fact that it would be much more a result of the influence of the defense industry and military posturing than any actual need for more defensive capabilities.
U.S. policy towards Taiwan is fundamentally about the military industrial complex and displaying military power towards China to maintain hegemony in Asia Pacific. Taiwan’s client state status is merely a projection of the American Empire, which takes precedence for Washington over potentially inflaming tensions between China and Taiwan, as has happened before and as was on display Wednesday.
Much of this martial frivolity and expansionism is justified on the grounds that China is actively expanding its defense spending and capabilities. But the notion that this presents a security concern for the U.S. is not grounded in reality. Foreign policy towards Asia Pacific reflects the large disconnect between defending America and maintaining global military dominance.