Scholar calls for better China deterrents

The China Post news staff

A scholar who has studied mainland China’s military budgets said yesterday Taiwan should try to deter and avoid the possibility of war both by military and non-military means.

Investment in national defense must be well calculated and well calibrated, Lin Chong-pin (林中斌), a professor at the Tamkang University Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said yesterday.

The former deputy minister of National Defense’s recommendations are based on his informed belief that Taiwan cannot afford defense budget hikes as exorbitant as the almost invariably double-digit increases from mainland China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The balance is further tipped in favor of the PLA by mainland China’s significant breakthroughs in its development of key military technologies in recent years, Lin said, without spelling out what these technologies are. Without the wherewithal to compete with mainland China in an arms race, Taiwan should aim to achieve maximum deterrent effects by putting together the most economical weapons set-up that comprises high-, medium- and low-tech hardware, Lin suggested, adding a yearly show of deterrent force would make the shot callers across the Taiwan Strait think twice before they mount an offensive against the island.

Once China is made aware that they might get bogged down and have nothing to show for their efforts when they are over here, they will be more cautious when they contemplate the use of force.

Arguing that the PLA is trying to emulate the United States armed forces in its development strategy, Lin suggested that Taiwan also closely examine U.S. operations in the Afghanistan and Iraqi Wars, which he argued were the only two recent global wars in which U.S. forces were taught a lesson.

“How guerilla forces with the most rudimentary arms defeated a military superpower is the kind of experience Taiwan should learn from,”Lin said.

It’s about time Taiwan’s long-standing defense doctrine — the principle of “steadfast defense based on effective deterrents”— was replaced by a new defense doctrine that calls for “a strategic defense with multiple deterrents, he said.

According to Lin, the latter could provide the country’s armed forces with clearer strategic guidelines.

Armed conflicts also can be forestalled by non-military means, such as a continuation of President Ma Ying-jeou’s mainland policy, Lin contended. By continuing to engage with mainland China, the two sides will find themselves so intertwined that they might hesitate to fight each other, according to the Tamkang University professor. Taiwan also should try to turn its superior social structure, living standards, and culture into a “catalyzer” that would hopefully expedite mainland China’s reform, he said, adding “we also should help mainland China develop because in so doing we can make the people of mainland China friendlier to us and reduce antagonism.”

“To help them is to help ourselves, “ he concluded.