Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Taiwan contingency: Speculation running ahead of reality
KAWATO Akio / Former Ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Newsweek Japan Columnist

June 30, 2022
These days in Japan, one often hears such rousing phrases as "protect Taiwan's democracy from China's armed advance" and "prepare for a Taiwan contingency," etc. During U.S. President Biden's visit to Japan in May, the Quad summit meeting was held and the IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework) was inaugurated. These are also designed to contain China. Although I am all for deterring China, I would like to point out that the danger of a Chinese armed intervention in Taiwan has subsided for the moment.

The thinking of the Taiwan crisis theorists would go something like this:
--Taiwan has a strategically important geographic position for Japan and the United States. If China were to control it, the U.S. naval fleet would need to make a great detour around Taiwan on its way from its bases in Japan to a contingency in the South Pacific. This would drastically reduce the significance of having naval bases in Japan. If the U.S. military withdrew from Japan, Japan would be forced to confront China alone. Besides, the Taiwanese people truly love their free and democratic society and want to protect it. Therefore, the U.S., Japan and Australia should even pull in NATO countries to better protect Taiwan---

Of late, Japan and Australia have suddenly been strengthening their ties with NATO, and I support their endeavor. It is absolutely necessary to develop sufficient deterrent to prevent China from taking armed action against Taiwan.

However, we should avoid unnecessarily provoking China. This is because China seems to be putting off for the time being its attempt to militarily invade Taiwan, because of the situation below.

First, President Xi Jinping is eager to assume the life-time position of "Chairman of the Communist Party" (a position abolished in 1982) at the Communist Party Congress this fall. Ahead of that party congress, he cannot make any risky move like the armed invasion of Taiwan. China could ill afford such sanctions as imposed on Russia, which would shut it out of international trade, the source of its wealth. Should China fail in its armed invasion, as has been initially the case with Russia in Ukraine, Xi Jinping's promotion would be doomed. Therefore, it is said, China has turned to a strategy of political maneuvering; to ensure that a pro-Chinese Kuomintang candidate be elected as Taiwan's next president.

Next, when I visited Taiwan recently, I noticed that the standards of living both in big cities and suburbs is no longer much different from those in the coastal area of China. The southern part of Taiwan, the stronghold of the Democratic Progressive Party (which advocates maintaining Taiwan's independence), is even suffering from an economic downturn, because China snubbed this region by reducing the extent of its economic engagement. In other words, in terms of living standards, a situation is emerging in which Taiwanese people feel less resistant to integration with China.

In addition, Taiwan's electronics and semiconductor industries have gained a strong position not only toward China but also toward the U.S. As Japan stepped back from semiconductor manufacturing after the 1986 Japan-U.S. Semiconductor Agreement, U.S. companies began to outsource low-margin downstream manufacturing of micro-chips (where labor conditions are tough) to Taiwanese and Korean companies. As a result of this, Taiwan's largest micro-chips maker TSCM (Taiwan Semiconductor Circuit Manufacturing) now enjoys more than 50% share of the global market in contracted semiconductor production. Even Intel Corporation of the U.S., which has manufactured semiconductors for themselves, has finally begun to consider outsourcing its cutting-edge 2-nanometer products to TSCM.

In other words, Taiwan's semiconductor industry has a strong position in the U.S.. Since more than half of TSCM's customers are in the U.S., TSCM is pretending to comply with U.S. demands, such as cutting ties with China's Huawei and building factories in the U.S. But if the Taiwanese company one day declares that it will do business with both the U.S. and China on an equal basis, the U.S. will have no choice but to go along.

The real estate market in China is cooling down, implying that the engine that has supported its phenomenal growth may finally break down. If the Chinese economy sinks and China's position weakens, Taiwan may even be able to strengthen its partnership with China on its own terms. This was exactly how Sino-Taiwanese relations were in the late 1990s. If things so develop, it would become irrelevant for the U.S. and Japan to cry "protect Taiwan's freedom”.

Therefore, using the "Taiwan contingency" as a reason to bolster the defense budget may end up producing some distortions such as money spent on unnecessary equipment.
It is crucially important to build up Japan's defense capability, but the budget should be used to strengthen Japan’s resistance and technological capacity such as development of space-based missile defense, AI weapons, and cyber warfare technology.

(Akio Kawato is former Ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and a Newsweek Japan columnist. This article appeared in the June 7, 2022 edition of Newsweek Japan.)
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

河東 哲夫 / 元駐ウズベキスタン・タジキスタン大使、ニューズウィーク日本版コラムニスト

2022年 6月 30日




中国は台湾進攻を棚上げしたと、どうして言えるのか? まず習近平国家主席が今年秋の共産党大会で、終身の「党主席」(1982年に廃止された役職)の地位を得ようとしていることがある。その党大会を前にして、台湾武力侵攻のような危ない橋は渡れない。ロシアのように国際貿易から締め出される制裁を食らったらたまらないし、ロシアのように武力侵攻でしくじれば習近平の昇任はあり得なくなる。だから中国は、次期の台湾総裁選挙で中国寄りの国民党候補が当選するよう、工作を重ねよう、という戦略に転じた――これが、この頃指摘されているところなのだ。


加えて、台湾の電子・半導体産業は世界で大きな地歩を築き、西側とだけでなく中国企業とも協力関係を築いてきた。1986年の日米半導体協定以後、日本が半導体製造から後退し、米国企業は利益率の低い製造下流部分(労働条件がきつい)を台湾・韓国企業に外注するようになる。これがきっかけで、現在台湾の最大手TSCM(台湾積体電路製造)は半導体の受託生産で世界市場の50%以上のシェアを持ち 、これまでは自分が使う半導体を自分で製造してきた米国インテル社も、最先端の2ナノものでは遂にTSCMへの委託を検討し始めたようだ。




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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Taiwan contingency: Speculation running ahead of reality