Update: McCain injects Presidential Politics into U.S. – China row over Taiwan Weapons Sale

McCain seems to be getting a little desperate.  He seems to be pulling all stops (including going negative and aggressive against Obama) and most recently also trying to inject some foreign politiking into his campaign.

According to a piece in the Washington Post today, McCain has upped the ante in the Taiwan Weapon Sales by “urging the administration to add submarines and F-16s aircraft to a $6 billion package of military equipment for Taiwan that the White House unveiled last week.”

According to McCain,

We should understand that the possibility of productive ties between Taiwan and China are enhanced, not diminished, when Taipei speaks from a position of strength. … [The United States must] stand by this remarkable free and democratic people.

According to the Washington post, the “McCain campaign did not respond to a request for comment on whether Randy Scheunemann, his foreign policy coordinator, had a role in drafting the statement or if he had recused himself.”

This is interesting because:

As it happens, the lobbying firm helmed as recently as May by McCain’s chief foreign policy coordinator had a $200,000 contract with Taiwan to provide “advocacy … with the U.S. Congress and executive branch,” which it renewed in June, according to documents filed with the Justice Department.

In 2005, Scheunemann signed the contract between his firm, Orion Strategies LLC, and Taiwan’s Washington office. On June 4 of this year, his partner, Mike Mitchell, signed a renewal of the contract, which calls for quarterly payments of $50,000.

Scheunemann’s lobbying has attracted attention in the past. For months while McCain’s presidential campaign was gearing up, Scheunemann held dual roles, advising the candidate on foreign policy while working as Georgia’s lobbyist. Between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, the campaign paid Scheunemann nearly $70,000 to provide foreign policy advice. During the same period, the government of Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees.

Scheunemann, who was president of Orion, remained with the firm until May 15, when the McCain campaign imposed a tough new anti-lobbyist policy and he was required to separate himself from the company. A McCain campaign official said Scheunemann took a formal leave from Orion and receives no compensation for any Orion activities from that date for the duration of the campaign.

It isn’t clear if Scheunemann retains an equity stake in the firm. Mitchell did not return a call for comment.

The Post contacted the Obama campaign on whether Obama would agree with McCain in calling for increasing weapon’s sale to Taiwan.  “The Obama campaign said it welcomed Bush’s decision to notify Congress of the arms package for Taiwan, but did not call for adding military equipment to it,” according to the report.

According to a recent poll in Taiwan, Obama is favored by Taiwanese by as high as 81%.

What do people think about this latest injection of Presidential Politics into the row between U.S. and China over Taiwan’s weapons sale?

Is this call for increased sales just a desperate move by McCain for domestic consumption – or does it signal something more substantive in U.S. foreign policy?

According to this recent analysis [translated] from Huanqui, there may be some cause for concern.

A notable point is that both the Clinton and Bush administrations once mentioned respecting the wishes of “people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.” However, both Obama and McCain emphasized only the wishes of “Taiwan people.”

[N]either platform has mentioned “the three U.S.-China Joint Communiques”; instead both emphasized the adherence to “the Taiwan Relation Act”. This shows the United States has some concerns on the warming relationship cross the Taiwan Strait after Ma Ying-jeou took office.

“This actually reflects the United States’ conflicts of interest. Facing a rising mainland China, the U.S. on the one hand stands alert, and tries to gain mutual benefits by developing friendship. However, Taiwan has always been an important chip in Sina-U.S. relationship and in order to restrict mainland China, it must help and even control Taiwan. This will not change,” said Wang Jiaying.

Of course, this could all be political posturing also. According to the same article,

America has thought highly about the prosperity of China. The Taiwan issue is one of China’s core interests. Sino-U.S. relations will not develop without appropriate solutions. And there will not be conflict between China and the U.S., as long as Taiwan’s problems receive appropriate treatment. … By now, China and the United States have reached clear agreement on the Taiwan issue….

Any thoughts about McCain’s injection of presidential politics into U.S.-China relationships over Taiwan?

Any insights into the next U.S. President’s policy regarding Taiwan in light of a rising China?

27 thoughts on “Update: McCain injects Presidential Politics into U.S. – China row over Taiwan Weapons Sale

  1. Posturing, pure and simple. Don’t make too much of anything yet. But do expect Washington to be a little disoriented and unable to discern the direction Taiwan will want to take itself.

  2. “We should understand that the possibility of productive ties between Taiwan and China are enhanced, not diminished, when Taipei speaks from a position of strength.”

    We should understand that the possibility of productive negociations between Iran and US are enhanced, not diminished, when Iran speaks from a position of strength……

  3. McCain and Obama have both supported the arms sales, so this isn’t anything new. It’s like when politicians make repeated announcements about the same policy commitment they’ve made in the past.

  4. Moneyball….. Please….

    I’m ambivalent as to Taiwan’s or Chinese Taipei’s or whatever you wanna call its sovereignty, but the analogy that you’re trying to draw is tenuous…. At best. I’m also pretty ambivalent as to Middle East politics, but as far as I can recall the Executive of Taiwan has yet to threaten to wipe another nation off the face of the earth. Arms for Taiwan are for defensive strength, not offensive strength. Iran has stated offensive objectives. Two completely different stories.

  5. I thought the reason US can not sell non-nuclear submarines to Taiwan is US can not produce them any more; and any other country (Germany, etc) who can provide it does not want to sell to US, fearing a worsen relation with China. Wasn’t this already evaluated many many times before? Do you think McCain can make this work?

  6. @Will Lewis,

    For the record, Ahmadinejad did not say to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. His words were more appropriately translated into he wants Israel to collapse. He is not suggesting Holocaust after all.

    Also, from Taiwan, there were many times (as far as I can remember) military head claim to attack Shanghai, Beijing, etc in a show of force and later had to revert the statement. It is not a wise thing to say, however, you can not say that never happened before.

  7. @Will Lewis,

    Well you never know, quite a few Taiwan lawmakers have publicly stated launching missiles to Three Gorge Dams should be an option, fyi if that happens more Chinese will die than the population of 10 Israels .

    And Taiwan was the bully of the 2 sides in the 50s and 60s, when they had the upper hands, continued to send small troops, spy planes, even bombers to mainland. They had only become a peace loving dove conviniently since the table was turned…

    You actually buy that offsensive/defensive weapons craps? US didnt even allow PS2 to be exported to many countries due to the “dual use technology” law, because the chips in PS2 can be that dangerous…

    So…Please…many many pleases……

  8. saimenor and MoneyBalI

    I stand corrected…

    But, I do buy the offensive/defensive weapons rationale.

    In regards export controls. That is an outdated concept based on Cold War ideology and keeping high tech out of the hands of the Soviets. It is foolish in the current global climate.

  9. @saimenor – Please, go and get the actual quote rather than just tell us that you remember it. It’s like all those people who quote ‘a Chinese general’ as saying that China is prepared to lose all cities east of Xian (or was it Chengdu?) in a war with the US over Taiwan, when the guy in question may well have not been speaking with his superior’s permission, and may not be as high ranking as people make out. Here’s a Armscontrolwonk.com piece for the real story on the guy who made that quote:

    http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/908/reuters-zhu-chenghu-disciplined

    The only reference I have been able to find was a comment by the premier that if the PLA attacked Taipei and Kaosiung, then the ROC would attack Shanghai – i.e., that such attacks would be retaliatory only. Here’s the daily agitprop on it:

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-09/29/content_378790.htm

  10. @Moneyball – “Taiwan was the bully of the 2 sides in the 50s and 60s, when they had the upper hands, continued to send small troops, spy planes, even bombers to mainland.”

    It’s all water under the bridge, I know, but what about the attacks of Kinmen and Matsu in 1949 and 1954? What about Mao’s ‘noose strategy’? What about the aerial combat in 1958? What about the invasion that, had it not been for the Korean war, would have almost certainly been launched against the island? Sure, Chiang Kaishek did also launch raids against the mainland, and did try to get the Americans to give him nuclear weapons so he could invade the mainland during the Cultural Revolution, but he didn’t have the power to do more than this. Had Mao had his way, Taiwanese children would now be studying the three represents and using proxy servers to read the evil western press – thank god he didn’t succeed!

  11. @FORAP,

    If you really want to change the subject to talk about China-US, here is a piece for you to enjoy:

    US planned to drop 10 nukes on China.

    The report on the crisis by Bernard Nalty, a then historian with the Air Force, included significant detail on nuclear planning, including an initial plan to drop 10-15 kiloton bombs on airfields in Amoy (now called Xiamen) in the event of a Chinese blockade against Taiwan’s so-called Offshore Islands.

    http://www.darkgovernment.com/news/1958-plan-to-nuke-china/

    http://www.spacewar.com/reports/US_Air_Force_planned_nuclear_strike_on_China_over_Taiwan_report_999.html

  12. Weapons sales aren’t just weapons sales. It may be a $6 billion weapons package, but what that means is that the US gave $6 billion to Taiwan with the condition that they use that $6 billion to buy the specified list of armament from private weapons companies. It is a sophisticated form of pork.

    US in coordination with the Soviets rewrote the rules in the aftermath of WWII. When two enemies have weapons with the capability of literally destroying the world and prudent leaders such as Kennedy and Khruschev are in power, then war becomes a defensive operation because the alternative is the end of civilization. These two held spheres of influence which caused almost every nation to side with one or the other, unprecedented in all of history. If you turn to the time before WWII, every nation’s military, except for the avowed neutrals which had a tendency to just get steamrolled, were there primarily for offensive purposes and secondarily for defensive purposes. US was a major exception due to distrust of standing military. UK may have been an exception as its military was designed to fight its own colonials for much of the 19th century.

    Any weapon has both offensive and defensive capabilities, but some more than others. Half of the list is Patriot missiles which have the primary purpose anti-ballistics. The general purpose of helicopters carrying heavy weapons platforms is to support ground troops and attack enemy tanks. These are operations that can be taken in either defensive or offensive operations. An F-16 is pretty defensive with the fleet defense purpose, but it also serves an offensive capability when it escorts bombers or is itself bombing. More squarely on the offensive side are long range bombers and submarines. A submarine is designed to strike (either against a ship with torpedoes or against ground targets with short-range nuclear missiles) from the shadows without warning, and a long range bomber is designed to blow up targets in the opponent’s territory. Both about as offensive as you can get. However, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is referred to as a 60-mile swim in the US Navy because any attack would be thwarted by submarines sinking ships thus making submarines and their weapons system deployed in the Taiwan straits defensive.

  13. saimneor,

    US also has plans on how to attack Canada. Prudent planning requires a response to every situation. Just because there’s a plan, doesn’t mean you’re planning that action. Would you want to be held liable for your thoughts? I hope not. That’s why you’re typically only liable for your acts.

  14. @Will Lewis,

    I know. I am not saying the military plans are always realized or even publicized. That is one example to counter what FOARP said. There are claims like that from all sides, from US, from PRC, from ROC. That does not mean any of these plans can become reality. But we will be too naive to assume ROC never planned to attack PRC.

    As a side note, however, this 1958 plan is pretty close to be realized. It took the US president to finally veto it, which showed me it was a real option ready to be executed.

  15. @Saimenor – And there’s plenty of other cool plans out there – like the bluff that nukes would be used to stop an invasion of Hong Kong, the plan to use nukes to annihilate the Viet Minh surrounding Dien Bien Phu (the fact that this would have killed most of the French also seemed a bit of a flaw in this one), MacArthur’s crazy-assed plans to create a radioactive barrier across the Korean peninsula, and a whole host of other ones. If you want to hear some totalled unverifiable information, I guy I knew (a former Vietnam veteran who did work on WMD for the US DoD) claimed to have read a document saying that tactical nuclear weapons were used in the Sino-Russian border war – something I have never heard anywhere else and have never seen any proof of, and therefore discount. All these things are basically only of interest to history nuts like myself, they have no bearing on the modern day, when (hopefully) people have realised that throwing nuclear weapons around like toys is not exactly a great way of securing world peace.

  16. I don’t remember hearing either candidate mention China during the recent debate. Maybe McCain is upping the ante because the debate didn’t change anything?

    Did McCain say what kind of F-16 will be sold? The kind that crashes in high humidity, or the kind that doesn’t? With or without night vision display? 🙂

  17. At this point, people are more interested in McCain’s gaffe such as ‘my fellow prisoners‘ than attacking PRC gov on Taiwan. When your 401k lost 30% in 3 months, you have a lot to worry about than the well-being of Taiwanese, for now.

    Actually even in the past two presidential elections, China is no longer the topic any more, unlike in the 1980’s.

    Let’s cut the old man some slacks! Let both candidate figure out a strategy to win fair and square.

  18. At this point, people are more interested in McCain’s gaffe such as ‘my fellow prisoners‘ than attacking PRC gov on Taiwan. When your 401k lost 30% in 3 months, you have a lot to worry about than the well-being of Taiwanese, for now.

    Actually even in the past two presidential elections, China is no longer the topic any more, unlike in the 1980’s.

    Let’s cut the old man some slacks! Let him figure out a strategy to win.

  19. It is probably prudent not to take presidential politics too seriously, especially coming from McCain who has been cranky, even erratic lately. His ties to the paid consultant of ROC may have contributed to his position – so much for a guy who claims that he wants to clean up Washington.

    There are bigger issues in this election that are at stake, the US-China relation is not one of them. A McCain presidency will continue the trend of US decline over the last 8 years in international standings.

  20. Maybe McCain can have his ‘October surprise’ he jsut needs to go to Bush and wisper in his ear.. “you want the republicans to win right? repeat after me.. ‘we provide an absolute guarantee of Taiwan’s political independence, forever’ dont let those Chinese bully us… “

  21. China warns U.S. presidential rivals on Taiwan arms

    “(Reuters) – China said on Thursday that the next U.S. president should not allow a repeat of a recent arms sale to Taiwan which it said had damaged ties between Beijing and Washington.

    Beijing said the deal threatened years of building military trust with Washington, and postponed military exchanges between the two countries.

    Now it has warned John McCain and Barack Obama, the two men competing to succeed U.S. President George W. Bush, that it does not want a repeat of the sale.

    McCain and Obama have said they support the sale.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE4982RD20081009

  22. @ 22

    Good grief, that’s dumb. Making demands of a newly-elected president like that isn’t going to work. In fact it might make it more difficult for them to refuse requests, because the other party will say “it’s because you’re China’s bitch – you’ve sold our foreign policy, you traitor!” McCain might not seek a second term, but he’s a rather stubborn bloke. Obama will want a second term, and I’d be surprised if he threatens that by pandering to China.

    I still don’t think Beijing gets how to successfully conduct diplomacy with the US when it comes to Taiwan.

    —-

    @ 5

    Saimneor, the US could probably build submarines for Taiwan if a construction budget is agreed upon. US companies who want to bid for the contract say they’ve lined up European companies to help, though they won’t say which ones for obvious reasons. European countries still supply Taiwan with some technology/parts, such as engines for the new KH-6 missile boats, so they could easily send parts to the US such as submarine engines. There could also be technical help which China couldn’t easily trace. Countries like Germany might not overtly authorise license production in the US for Taiwan, but they may well “help” the US to the extent where they can build a modern submarine.

    The US can also draw upon previous designs like the Barbel class and the technical plans Taiwan has from the Hai Lung submarines. The hull can be modified appropriately and newer systems installed.

    Plus China has already shown that it will not necessarily break off diplomatic relations over arms sales per its reponse to the US. If China did, then it would be saying that it views European countries as being less important than the US – in which case they’d be annoyed with China for treating them like second-class countries.

    The real questions are:

    1. Will Bush let the submarine design phase move forward before he leaves office?
    2. If he doesn’t, will the next president do so?

    If either of them passes, doubtless we’ll see some interesting developments. If they both fail then discussion of whether the US can build a modern diesel-electric sub are academic.

  23. Cheap-ass politiking by both McCain and Obaman. That’s all this is. Favoring Taiwan plays better because the storyline is simpler.

  24. @23,

    Ok, let’s consider the reality that US rebuild the plant that can build the newly designed submarine, let’s say 2,000 workers were hired, and they are building how many, 2, 3? submarines altogether. How many years do you expect them to deliver these submarines and then forever close the plant, let go every one? I am not saying US “could” not do this, “could” not do that, but money is a problem here, don’t you agree?

    You could say TW is paying for all these. US could milk this thing for 50 years by supplying parts and services at an extrordinary high price. That is true. But you have to ask if the Taiwan people dumb enough to not knowing what they are getting?

    Ok, now an European country wants to sell something to Taiwan. All PRC needs to do is to exclude this country from bidding the billion-dollar projects in China. Germany, Japan, French all learned their lessons this way.

  25. Have to agree with Raj, China is making me doubt their political intelligence by threatening incoming democratic presidents. that strategy never worked very well for the US and it won’t work well for China, unless its just designed to make some nationalist Chinese feel a bit better (if so, more fool them).

  26. saimneor

    How many years do you expect them to deliver these submarines and then forever close the plant, let go every one?

    These companies already exist and already build vessels. They have workers, though they may employ more. Once construction starts you’re looking at a production line, with the first taking 3-4 years to be commissioned, and then another one every year after. Total class of 8.

    But you don’t understand. The US companies aren’t intending to close anything. After they start it going with Taiwan, they plan to compete with other countries for the conventional submarine business.

    US could milk this thing for 50 years by supplying parts and services at an extrordinary high price. That is true.

    Then why don’t they do that with spare parts of the F-16s, etc?

    But you have to ask if the Taiwan people dumb enough to not knowing what they are getting?

    If the arms notification goes through, you will see that it is a for a maximum of a few hundred millions dollars. That’s because it’s the first stage, to get the designs, etc and work out what it is that the US will provide. The billions of dollars will only be spent on construction later if Taiwan is satisfied that it is getting a good deal.

    Ok, now an European country wants to sell something to Taiwan. All PRC needs to do is to exclude this country from bidding the billion-dollar projects in China.

    Then why hasn’t it done so when spare parts and military equipment have been sold and are still being sold? Besides, what if they bid on the projects and it goes to someone else? China can’t guarantee multi-billion dollar projects to everyone.

    And how is China going to know if it’s a technological exchange under the table? Answer is that it can only guess, which isn’t enough to go around pointing the finger and making threats. If you accuse the wrong country they’ll get pissed off and then really might help out.

    Germany, Japan, French all learned their lessons this way.

    They haven’t learnt anything that way. Japan hasn’t sold weapons to Taiwan because it can’t sell them to ANYONE. France sold weapons and then promised not to anymore. Germany sold minesweepers.

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