Throw Taiwan under the bus? That would be the result if a trial balloon recently floated were to become a reality.
Paul V. Kane, a former international security fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, last fall published an op-ed in the New York Times in which he made this breathtaking proposal: The U.S. government should enter in secret negotiations with the Beijing regime for it to write off the $1.4 trillion in debt America owes to China. That's the "quid." The "pro quo" would be U.S. agreement to end arms sales and its "current defense arrangements" with Taiwan by 2015.
That would lead to further decline in the ability of the Republic of China on Taiwan to deter the mainland's threats to take over the island by force. For years, Beijing has been adding thousands of rockets on its shores aimed at Taiwan, 100 miles away. It has long wanted to bring Taiwan under its control. The quid pro quo proposed by Mr. Kane, if it became a reality, could result in the ultimate threat: join us quietly, or we'll force you to do so. Taiwan would have no choice.
It is unclear whether the Kane idea was floated entirely on his own or with the support of the Obama Administration to see if it might have "legs." Either way, it is a bad idea.
Given the Obama Administration's continued spending well above the nation's monthly income, elimination of the U.S. debt to China would do nothing to curb its habit. On the contrary, with debt erased, it could continue its reckless course for quite some time without having to ask Congress to again raise the debt ceiling. In addition, the deal would do nothing to curb American consumers' purchasing of electronics and household gadgets made on the China mainland.
As for ending our defense relationship with Taiwan, that is not easy. Mr. Kane seems to have forgotten that in 1979 Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which calls for periodic sales of military equipment to Taiwan. Although Barack Obama seems to find the Constitution an awkward nuisance, he cannot ignore it in this case. The Taiwan Relations Act -- a bipartisan creation -- could only be repealed by an Act of Congress.
The Obama Administration seems to be gradually reducing arms sales to the ROC on Taiwan. Last year, after much dallying, it denied Taiwan's request for new F-16C/D jet fighters.
Instead it offered, among other things, upgrade packages for its present fighters. This, after Beijing engaged in its usual gong-banging over any military sales to Taiwan. Mr. Obama, well-versed in the art of the kowtow, did a partial kowtow in this case.
If the Obama Administration were to take up the Kane proposal in earnest and if it were to become a reality, one result would be to turn the Western Pacific into a Chinese lake. That is a fond dream of the Chinese military and China has been cultivating the image of itself as a great naval power in recent times (the purchase of an aged Soviet aircraft carrier, for example, got much media attention).
There is a better solution than the abandonment of a friend as Mr. Kane proposes. Let the current arrangements proceed at their own pace. On Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou was just reelected for another four years. During his first term, economic and commercial relations between Taiwan and the mainland have improved significantly. Both sides benefit. Also, both sides have long agreed that there is only one "China," but they disagree about which system is best.
Legendary Chinese patience should be allowed to work in this case.
Meanwhile, we can reduce our debt by reducing our spending. China has plenty of other things to worry about than an attack on Taiwan: inflation, restive citizens, severe air pollution -- to name a few. As for the restless generals and admirals in Beijing. let them learn a lesson in patience, too.