Taiwan has reportedly upgraded its indigenous defense with a newly developed cruise missile tailor-made for strikes on coastal targets on the mainland. It is also reportedly anxious to develop its own attack submarines.
The island’s leader Tsai Ing-wen has also proposed hiking the 2019 defense budget by 5.6 percent, raising the island’s annual military spending from 1.9 percent to 2.16 percent of local GDP.
Yet knowing the limitations of her attempts at boosting the island’s “defense self-sufficiency”, Tsai is working on multiple fronts to bolster her resistance against the mainland.
She has tried to solicit international sympathy, exaggerating the “threat” from across the Taiwan Straits, portraying the mainland as a common menace to global well-being.
And under her auspices, authorities on the island are reportedly deliberating on a retaliatory scheme to punish international air carriers that have complied with the request by the Civil Aviation Administration of China that they stop referring to Taiwan as an entity separate from China.
These might boost Tsai’s image in the eyes of those who seek confrontation with the mainland. But they have fittingly been ridiculed as “downright stupid” on the internet.
Even if Tsai bets substantially more on “defense self-sufficiency”, it will not be sufficient for the degree of security she envisions in the event of a cross-Straits showdown.
It is simply beyond her reach to bridge the continuously widening cross-Straits military capability gap. Let alone erase the international jurisprudential truth that Taiwan is not an independent sovereign entity but part of China. Not to mention that, as many have pointed out, its idea to create trouble for international airlines operating in Taiwan will only end up hurting local passengers.
Since assuming the island’s leadership, the headstrong Tsai has found herself mired deeper and deeper in a vicious circle over relations with Beijing. While inviting escalating pressure from across the Straits, she has witnessed her anti-mainland policies backfire at home.
The island of Kinmen, for instance, has begun to receive water supplies from the mainland’s Fujian province in defiance of her intimidation. The local magistrate is even talking about the possibility of building a bridge connecting his island to the mainland.
Her inability to deliver tangible benefits to local communities, together with the mainland’s generous offers of lucrative new opportunities, will continue to bring such embarrassments to Tsai, until she repents and changes course.