Taiwan’s future security hinges on developing a new maritime strategy of active diplomacy and asymmetric defense. Although President Ma Ying-jeou has initiated creative peace proposals amid rising maritime tensions in Asia, Taiwan’s voice has largely been ignored. Meanwhile, China’s increasing military modernization and assertiveness in the East and South China Seas is widening an already unfavorable military balance of power across the Taiwan Strait.
President Ma deserves greater recognition for easing cross-Strait tensions. The normalization of ties with the Mainland has been pursued through more than a score of agreements as well as implementation of the so-called “three links” of direct air, sea and postal services. But normalization has produced unintended effects for the region. In particular, the relatively low profile of the cross-Strait issue in recent years has enabled China to focus on consolidating power in its near seas.
Common sense calls for effective confidence-building measures to dampen nationalist zeal and reduce the escalatory potential of incidents at sea. Unfortunately, China has been singularly reluctant to adopt mutually agreeable and enforceable rules for good order at sea. Instead, it has deployed risky tactics to incrementally enhance its influence over its near seas.