Breaking the China-Taiwan Impasse

By Donald S. Zagoria; Chris Fugarino | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12

The Cross-Strait Balance and Its Implications for U.S. Policy

David A. Shlapak


INTRODUCTION

Though the political situation across the Taiwan Strait seems driven by a recurring cycle of tension and relaxation, the military forces on both sides consistently regard one other with a wary eye. The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) stands as Beijing's ultimate deterrent to Taiwanese independence, whereas the armed forces of the Republic of China (ROC) prepare to defend their island against any assault from the mainland.

Both China and Taiwan are engaged in ongoing programs of military modernization. On China's side, these efforts are aimed at increasing Beijing's freedom of action vis-à-vis Taiwan by both augmenting the PLA's capabilities to take successful offensive action against the island and making it more difficult and costly for any external power—especially the United States—to intervene in a cross-strait clash. For Taiwan's part, its military is focused on countering this evolving threat.

This chapter attempts to briefly address three topics. First, it assesses the state of each side's military modernization program. Second, it discusses the cross-strait military balance and presents some thoughts on the kinds of threats China might realistically pose to Taiwan in the near term. The chapter concludes with suggestions for how U.S. policy can help promote a stable military balance between Beijing and Taipei.


MILITARY MODERNIZATION IN CHINA AND TAIWAN

Although upgrading China's defense capabilities was proclaimed as one of the Four Modernizations promulgated in 1973, Chinese real defense spending did

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