Public Debate on US China Policy

University of Pittsburgh

April 12, 2001

Should the United States Sell Arms to Taiwan?

Cynthia Kinnan (Affirmative)


Andrew Stangl (Negative)


Expert commentary from

Professor Davis Bobrow


Transcription and editing

Cynthia Kinnan

Moderator’s Introduction

GORDON MITCHELL: Greetings, thanks for coming. My name is Gordon Mitchell, and I’m an assistant professor of communication and director of debate. I want to thank all the students for coming out today, and taking time off from finals, Frisbee, and frolicking, not necessarily in that order. It’s quite a commitment to come out to a public debate in the context of beautiful weather outside, so I appreciate it; it’s great to see you. Before I start, I want to give out some other thanks to members of the administration who’ve been very helpful in supporting the debate team this year: Dean John Cooper, of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; the chair of the Communication Department, John Lyne; and also Associate Dean Beverly Harris-Schenz. There have also been some folks who have been real helpful in terms of getting the publicity out for the debate events and helping us to promote our public debates: Patricia Lomando White, at the Office of Communications in particular. I also want to thank our invited guest advocate for today, Professor Davis Bobrow, from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. You’ll learn more about him when I introduce the advocates, but I understand he has a very busy schedule, so we’re especially fortunate to have him share some of his thoughts about a topic that is very salient given recent events that have gone on between the United States and China. Some upcoming events, first of all, that are sponsored by the William Pitt Debating Union: Saturday, this coming Saturday, April 14th, in this building, right across the hall in the Assembly Room, we’ll be sponsoring a public forum on the question "The HIV-AIDS Connection: How Certain Are We?" and there are two advocates coming in from out of town: Brian Foley, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Christine Maggiore, from Alive and Well AIDS Alternatives. They’ll be debating in a format that’s got one of our own student debaters as a moderator, Laura Hutchings, and a student questioner, Briana Mezuk, will also be participating. That’s 2 p.m., in the Assembly Room, right across the way. And then April 25th is another interesting event, up in Carnegie Mellon involving Ballistic Missile Defense; the question for that is "Ballistic Missile Defense: Reliable shield or Maginot line?" I’ll be stepping up from the sidelines from my moderator duties and jumping into the fray as an advocate, debating on the negative, along with partner Lisbeth Gronlund, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. On the other side will be Jack Kelly, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Benoit Morel, a senior lecturer in engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. That’s in Hammerschlagg Hall, April 25th, up at Carnegie Mellon University.

Now, before I discuss the format and introduce the participants in today’s debate, I want to say a few words about the question for today’s debate, which is "Should the United States Sell Arms to Taiwan?". Now, the United States, as we sit here today, is breathing a collective sigh of relief with the return of the 24 crewmembers who were aboard the EP-3 Aries spy plane that was forced to land over Hainan Island in China recently. But, the crewmembers are now on their way back home, and the period of relaxation we might be enjoying could be short-lived, because the spy plane episode is just one of the issues that have been swirling around the US-China relationship, which has increasingly become more and more turbulent, and some of these prominent other issues include ballistic missile defense, and the one we’re talking about tonight, the proposal for US arms sales to Taiwan. Public discussion about these issues is increasingly occurring in a climate that has been heated by strident Cold War rhetoric: if you remember, it wasn’t long ago that the Cox Commission Report was completed by the US Congress, that essentially blamed China for stealing nuclear weapons designs, and that led to the Wen Ho Lee case, the Los Alamos scientist who was accused of spying for China. We’re seeing a lot of the tensions that are linked from those episodes now playing out in the discussion of ballistic missile defense and also US arms sales to Taiwan. Returning to the spy plane incident for a second, one thing that I thought was very interesting about the way that the whole issue was resolved in the end was that rhetoric and discourse really played an important role in the endgame to the settlement of the episode. If you think of kind of a spectrum of apology: there was first of all an expression of regret on the part of the United States, then there was a straightforward apology on the part of the United States, then finally on the other end of the spectrum, the Chinese were asking for an admission of responsibility, an acknowledgment of guilt on the part of the United States. What we saw in the last 48 hours was a struggle between the United States and China, over where the United States’ position was actually going to fall along that spectrum. One thing that I’m actually kind of interested in, looking in the newspapers today, is that there’s been a dispute over the translation of the phrase "very sorry" which really was the fulcrum, the critical phrase in the resolution letter. This phrase has been translated two different ways in Chinese. The US Embassy is translating the phrase in a way that is much lighter that the Chinese translation, which is actually interpreting it as an admission of responsibility on the part of the United States. So the slippage in meaning across languages and as words play out in the context of international diplomacy played a prominent role in the spy plane incident, and I think that tonight, we’ll see that the same kind of dynamic also plays out in the discussion of US arms sales to Taiwan. We’ll hear the advocates, who’ll start off the program in debating this issue, talking about weapons as symbols: are they signaling something that’s fundamentally defensive, or are they more threatening, in terms of signaling possible offensive capabilities that Taiwan might use against China?

Now, we’re lucky to have with us as part of this program three advocates who are very well capable and well equipped to sort through a lot of the core dimensions of this issue, because, first of all, on my left, we have two students who are studying Chinese, and have actually been to China recently, to engage in study in that country. First of all, on the far left we have Cynthia Kinnan, who is a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in math and economics. She is an experienced intercollegiate debater; she just returned from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she participated in the Cross-Examination Debate Association championship. She hails originally from Golden, Colorado, and in 2000 she studied at the Nanjing University of Chemical Technology in China. So please give a warm welcome to Cynthia Kinnan. [Applause.] Seated next to Cynthia, on her right and my immediate left, is Andrew Stangl. He is a senior pursuing majors in history, political science and economics. He’s also seasoned as an intercollegiate policy debater, and also a public debater: his last appearance was in 1999 when he participated in the Roddey-Wecht student debate. His hometown is West Des Moines, Iowa, and he spent the summer of 1999 studying at the Beijing University in China. Please give a warm welcome to Andrew Stangl. [Applause.] And, to my right we have Davis Bobrow, who is a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and he also has a dual appointment in the Department of Political Science. He’s a leading expert in international security and East Asian affairs. His recent work has been published in Pacific Focus, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, and International Studies Quarterly. He has a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he brings a wealth of practical policy-making experience to the conversation, because from he served 1972 to 1995 on the Defense Science Board for the US Office of the Secretary of Defense. Now, I also understand that he has several publications that deal with disease metaphors in international relations, so I hope that his brilliance tonight is infectious. [Laughter.]

The format for tonight’s debate is rather straightforward and simple: the second part of the debate, after we finish these brief opening parts, will be a student debate. That’s where Andrew and Cynthia will kick things off by laying out some of the arguments on both sides of the question "Should the United States sell arms to Taiwan?". You can see the exact details of that format printed in the back of the program if you want to follow along. After that part of the debate then we’ll shift into some expert commentary from Professor Bobrow for about 15 or 20 minutes, and then we’ll open up the floor for audience questions in stage 4. One thing you’ll notice in your program is an audience shift ballot. And this is actually something new that we’re trying; it’s a little bit of a throwback, because this is the kind of ballot that was used in the early days of public debate. It’s a little bit unfair, when you ask the audience to declare a winner in a public debate, to simply, at the end of the debate, say "What do you think of the question ‘Should the United States sell arms to Taiwan?’", because one advocate who is trying to persuade an audience who might be skeptical of his position is obviously at a disadvantage, and one more accurate way to measure audience sentiment in a forum like this is to measure the shift in audience opinion. So, what we’re asking for you to do right now is take the audience shift ballot, and go ahead and look at the question, and circle what your opinion is at this moment: yes, no or undecided, on the question "Should the United States sell arms to Taiwan?". After we complete the stage two of the debate, which is the student part, then we’ll ask you to return to this ballot, and revisit the question, and see if you’ve changed your opinion, and then once again you can circle there on the bottom part of the ballot yes, no or undecided on the same question, and then we have an expert public opinion analyst with us tonight, who will collect the ballots, and use a very systematic formula to arrive at an objective and reliable conclusion [Laughter.] regarding the winner of this debate in terms of audience shift. So, without further ado, let’s move into the second stage of this debate, which is the student debate. And to start us off we have a 7-minute speech from the affirmative side: Cynthia Kinnan will be giving an affirmative answer to the question "Should the United States sell arms to Taiwan?". Cynthia?

Opening speeches and cross-examination

CYNTHIA KINNAN: In the post-Cold War era, we’d all like to believe that the time when political power and international influence were measured in weaponry is past. After all, isn’t this the Information Age? Aren’t technological strength and human capital–not military might–supposed to be key to peace, prosperity, and stability?

Well, it is certainly true that the role that military readiness plays in global, regional and national stability–or lack thereof–has changed. However, the need for a nation or aspiring nation to possess a credible ability to defend itself is, unfortunately, not a thing of the past. It is for this reason that I believe the United States should continue its policy of defensive arms sales Taiwan.

The basic justification for US arms sales to Taiwan is a simple one: purchases from the US are absolutely crucial to Taiwanese security. Taiwan’s request to purchase Aegis or Kidd-class guided missile destroyers and submarines comes in light of China’s recent acquisition of two Russian-built destroyers, and numerous missiles and fighter aircraft, in addition to which they are believed to be considering the purchase of an airborne command and control plane with an advanced early-warning radar system. The direct intent of this arms procurement program, according Craig Smith, foreign affairs writer for the New York Times, is "to enable China to threaten Taiwan across the 100-mile-wide strait." And they may well succeed. The Pentagon warned in a report last year that if Washington did not help Taiwan upgrade its weapon systems, that China’s procurement program could tip the balance of power in Beijing’s favor after 2005.

But we must not wait until then to act. Even now, Taiwan is vulnerable to air attacks, a blockade, or a full-scale military operation, according to a Department of Defense report. Furthermore, in a report released just last month, the US Navy concluded that Taiwan was in dire need of weapons transfers: for instance, Taiwan has only four submarines, two of which are of World War II vintage and cannot descend more than 150 feet. Therefore, clearly, if Taiwan is to maintain military parity with the Peoples’ Republic, it needs additional weapons transfers.

So, what are the consequences if the US chooses not to assist Taiwan? The potential consequences of a shift in the China-Taiwan security equilibrium are grim. First, the mainland could use a blockade as a way of forcing Taiwan to reunify. A naval or air blockade would devastate Taiwan’s export-oriented economy, and therefore severely compromise Taiwan’s ability to negotiate with the PRC on anything like an equal level. And of course, the result of air attacks or invasion would be far more catastrophic, with a full-scale air attack costing as many as 20 million Taiwanese lives. Now, this is not to say that Taiwan would only need military strength if it opted to press for independence. Even in the case that Taiwan considered reunification, it would still require credible defensive capability. Without such capability, Taiwan would be without recourse should the mainland demand unreasonable concessions, and any reunification on such terms would likely exact a much greater loss of autonomy from the Taiwanese than would an equitable agreement. Ironically, then, the knowledge that they lack the ability to defend themselves could well make Taiwan more reluctant to enter into unification talks with the mainland, because of the expectation of humiliatingly harsh terms. This reluctance in turn would increase the risk that the Chinese government would lose patience, and take military action to force the issue–with a tragic outcome.

There is also another way in which failure by the US government to provide Taiwan with the defensive arms it needs to maintain a credible self-defense increases the likelihood of a violent outcome to "the Taiwan question." Repeated refusals to allow Taiwan to maintain a credible self-defense capacity could be seen by China as a sign that the US is backing away from its commitment to defend Taiwan from Chinese aggression. This in turn would be interpreted by China as a green light to escalate political and military pressure on Taiwan to reunify. Should Taiwan resist militarily or declare independence, the result could be full-scale military conflict, which would cost countless lives and horribly destabilize the East Asian region. Furthermore, there is the possibility that the US might be drawn into a PRC-Taiwan conflict. The possible outcomes of a military confrontation between two nuclear powers are starkly and tragically evident. Therefore, if Taiwan is to maintain military parity with China and in so doing avoid tragedy, additional weapons purchases are crucial. Furthermore, it is squarely within the ambit of the US government’s current policy to do provide such weapons. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act states that "the US will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability." Therefore, the US is not only justified, but also obligated, to provide Taiwan with additional defensive capability. Now, my opponent tonight will no doubt argue that weapons sales to Taiwan will be destabilizing to US-Sino relations. However, there is no reason to expect that this would be the case, so long as the US does not alter its current approach of selling only such weapons as are necessary for self-defense. According to Lee Wei-chin, an expert in the history of US arms transfers to Taiwan, "Weapons with any potential for offensive purposes are screened and denied. Moreover, in order to maintain its technological lead, the US has no intention of transferring state-of-the-art weapons to Taiwan." This has been US policy since 1979, and during that time US-Sino relations have, for the most part, improved, rather than deteriorated. Now, given that 42% of Chinese exports end up in American markets, the Chinese government has too much at stake to risk damaging trade ties over what would be nothing more than a continuation of current US policy. No matter how bombastic the rhetoric may be now, its response to the sale of reasonable, defensive weapons will be no different than it has been in the past: protest, perhaps, but certainly not increased aggression toward Taiwan or the United States.

Now, my opponent may try to convince you that the weapons Taiwan is seeking are in fact offensive, rather than defensive, weapons. For instance, he may argue that the sale of an Aegis or Kidd-class missile destroyer system would be a step in the direction of a ballistic missile defense system based in Taiwan. However, this is simply not the case. According to the New York Times, the missile destroyers being considered for sale to Taiwan would not be equipped with the interceptor necessary to counter Chinese ballistic missiles. Furthermore, many critics of arms sales argue that the missile destroyers would be offensive weapons because they would be equipped with Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles. But in fact, the variant that the Pentagon is considering for sale to Taiwan would not be equipped with those weapons. So, the arguments that arms transfers to Taiwan would threaten China collapse under their own weight when the evidence is considered more carefully. In fact, the sale of modified versions of these arms would send exactly the right message: that the US has no intent to sell offensive arms to Taiwan, but that it is deeply committed to assisting Taiwan in maintaining a strong defensive capability.

In summary, the ironic nature of PRC-Taiwan relations is this: the weapons we sell to Taiwan will only possibly be used if we do not sell enough. As long as China perceives that Taiwan is able to defend itself and that the US is committed to assisting Taiwan in maintaining that defensive strength, the perceived costs of aggression toward Taiwan will far outweigh any benefits. It is only if China perceives a weak Taiwan, bereft of US support, that increased aggression begins to seem like a winning proposition. In short, the symbolic nature of further arms sales, indicating Taiwanese strength and American backing, is crucial to maintaining regional and global peace.

GORDON MITCHELL: Thank you, Cynthia. Now the format calls for [applause] four minutes of questions from Andrew Stangl.

ANDREW STANGL: Thank you. My first question has to deal with the nature of the destroyers that we are considering here. The most likely of arms sales to Taiwan would be the Aegis or Kidd-class destroyers, probably stripped down from their highest-tech incarnation, correct?

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Correct. One of the two is under consideration by the US Senate right now, as part of the arms package, that’s correct.

ANDREW STANGL: Okay, if we do sell destroyers to Taiwan, can you describe to me exactly what would be the difference between the arms that we would sell, and you describe as a defensive weapon, and the weapons that China has purchased, including two destroyers from Russia, the former Soviet Union, that you describe as offensive weapons? What exactly determines what is an offensive destroyer and what is a defensive destroyer?

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Okay, well, I think that’s a very good question, and it’s important to realize that when we’re talking what is an offensive weapon and what’s a defensive weapon, it’s not so important to consider what exactly the weapons consist of and what the armaments consist of but rather things like time considerations. For instance, it’s a lot like–there’s a difference between if you were to walk toward me in a threatening manner with a bat in your hand, and if I were to pick up a bat in response to your approaching me in what I perceive to be a threatening way. In a similar way, if China decides to purchase missile destroyers in the absence of any previous aggression by Taiwan, that would be a very offensive action, whereas the Taiwanese response of requesting weapons to allow them to maintain parity with that, would be a defensive action, that’s clearly taken in response to the Chinese offense.

ANDREW STANGL: All right, so your feeling is that timing is of relative importance. If that’s the case, why would now be a good time, considering the current EP-3 disagreement, wouldn’t it seem that, given that the Chinese government had a clear reason to be concerned about the surveillance practices of the American military, itself would make selling advanced destroyers to Taiwan appear as an increasingly offensive tactic?

CYNTHIA KINNAN: No, I don’t see that the EP-3 incident gives us any reason to think that not taking a firm stance with China would be a good idea. In fact, what I think we can gather from the EP-3 incident is that the US maintenance of a firm stance, even if it’s not necessarily the stance that China would like us to take, can still lead to a diplomatic conclusion. Just like the US would have liked a full, sincere apology, or a full admission of guilt in the EP-3 incident, but accepted not getting one, I think the historical record indicates that China may not like arms sales to Taiwan, but they will accept it, if it’s in their economic interest to do so.

ANDREW STANGL: All right, if that’s the case, and your argument is that the Chinese government has important trade ties to the US, isn’t it possible that the Chinese government could be stopped from extracting exorbitant considerations from Taiwan by economic means, for instance economic sanctions? If half of Chinese exports come to the US, wouldn’t it be fairly easy to regulate Chinese behavior through economic means, rather than by selling weapons?

CYNTHIA KINNAN: That might be possible, however I don’t think that it follows that because that would be possible, that it would necessarily be the best idea. We have an established policy of providing Taiwan with defensive weapons technology, and that’s a policy that we’ve seen historically to be acceptable to the Chinese. On the other hand, economic sanctions, which would cripple the Chinese economy, given that this is where over 40% of their exports go, might not be acceptable [inaudible], so yes, while it might be technically possible, I don’t think it’s a good idea to use economic sanctions.

ANDREW STANGL: All right, that’s certainly true. Now, you preface these arguments by saying that we shouldn’t decrease American arms sales that we have with Taiwan. Can you tell me what the cost of these destroyers would be, compared with, say, last year’s arms sales to Taiwan? I’m fairly certain that it would be a very large increase in the arms sales that we have with Taiwan, instead of a decrease in arms sales.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: I’m not comparing the arms argument in terms of an increase or a decrease, but rather that the US’s historical position has been to allow Taiwan to maintain parity with China, and by providing these destroyers and submarines, that’s exactly what the US would be continuing to do.


GORDON MITCHELL: Okay; now we’ll hear from Andrew for a seven-minute opening speech.

ANDREW STANGL: Thank you Gordon, and thank all of you for coming here today. It’s good to see so many colleagues: people that I had in classes, former teachers, current teachers. It’s great to see a good audience. I stand here tonight to say that the risks of arms sales are severe. I don’t think that we should risk our collective fate for the profits of a few corporations. In fact, there are three reasons why I stand here today in opposition to arms sales to Taiwan. The first is that China poses no threat to Taiwan and is a responsible international actor. Second, the risk of arms sales is that they lead to arms races, and finally, by selling arms we undermine our current strategic policy in the Taiwan Strait. First, China is not a threat to Taiwan. While they may have purchased weapons in the past, my opponent certainly won’t claim that governments purchasing weapons is a universally bad idea. In fact, the Chinese government may have totally reasonable reasons for purchasing these weapons. While the New York Times may feel that destroyers are threatening to Taiwan, it’s also possible that the Chinese government chose to purchase destroyers to defend a very large and currently relatively under-defended coastline. That’s very much possible. My opponent also cites additional arms purchases by the Chinese government of Russian arms. These are said to be very significant purchases. They’re also a fiction. The Russian economy has been in shambles for nearly a decade. They no longer have the capacity to produce the vast majority of articles they have promised to sell to other nations. In fact, according to one former Russian defense official: "These are just desperate marketing ploys. Most of our pitches these days are no more than confidence tricks, because Russia lacks the capacity to produce many of the armaments it is promising. Our military as well as well as our arms headquarters have been living for ten years on stockpiles amassed for World War III. These are now exhausted."

China is also a responsible international actor. While not ideally cooperative, the Chinese government has proved to be at least somewhat cooperative with the United States government, and certainly is a useful ally and cooperator in American interests. First, as the culmination of a visit by Mary Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Chinese government ratified the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in March. Also, the Chinese government has voluntarily ceased the production of fissile material, in accordance with the aims of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, in an attempt to further the goals of preventing international proliferation of nuclear weapons. Also significant is that the Chinese government made their most serious commitment to date to stop the sale of missiles and the parts and backup material for missiles to other nations. Now, these are very serious commitments to international peace and stability. But, there are also commitments that the Chinese government has made in the area of the Taiwan Straits, to increasing relations with Taiwan. The only evidence that my opponent cites that appear that the Chinese government is very belligerent towards Taiwan is that the Chinese government has purchased weapons, something that every nation on Earth does. Unfortunately, there are also very positive signs in the US—China relations; in the past few months there have been very significant signs. The Taiwanese government has allowed direct visits between offshore islands that they have that are off the coast of China and the Mainland, and also allowed journalists from the Mainland to visit Taiwan for the first time. In fact, relations between China and Taiwan are at the highest point that they’ve been, possibly since the creation of the People’s Republic of China. The current EP-3 incident illustrates the next point, that is that belligerent or seemingly hostile American actions can only have negative consequences with the People’s Republic of China.

Now, remember that the logic of an arms race is something that seems very simple and very reasonable at every step along the way, but in the end leads to very insane and very bizarre results. I can tell a very simple story here: the Chinese government feels that it needs to have some more defensive capability; they need some weapons in order to defend their borders. So they purchase some weapons from, say, the Russian government. In response, Taiwan is convinced that those weapons are meant to attack them, and they need to at least defend themselves, and purchase more weapons to defend themselves against China, these are the weapons that my opponent cites. The Chinese government, then, feels that these weapons are an independent threat to themselves, and they therefore look for more weapons to defend themselves against these new destroyers, and prevent things. In the EP-3 incident, one life was lost, and 24 people were held away from their families for a period of time. In a situation with more arms, where all of those arms were more deadly, the results could only be more drastically negative, and there would also the possibility of a much deadlier international incident, perhaps a global one. But it is also dangerous towards Chinese cooperation internationally. It has taken a long time, and a lot of effort, for the United States government to ensure that China would cooperate on things like the fissile material cutoff, and to stop selling missiles internationally, which is something that could be undone very easily, and something that we need not risk. Now remember that the last of the Three Communiqués issued by the American and Chinese governments, as part of normalization of relations in the late 70s and early 80s, committed the US to reduce their arms sales to Taiwan, in exchange for Chinese commitments to be responsible internationally. By selling them arms we convince the Chinese government that we are unwilling to cooperate with our own agreements, that our word means nothing, and that China would not be considered to have a lot that we need. Now, the impact of confrontation between the US and China would also be significant, independent of those international impacts. While there may more proliferation, while there may be more nuclear weapons floating around, the risks to trade have already been noted by my opponent; if the US were to confront China, there is the risk that there would be a decrease in trade between the US and China, which is also significant to the American economy, and certainly the number of jobs that would be lost in trade because of China would be greater than the number of jobs provided in a few additional arms sales.

Now, finally, we should not endanger our current policy towards Taiwan and China. Strategic ambiguity is the name of this policy, and it involves making it unclear whether the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan in the case where there was a war between China and Taiwan. This is important because it convinces the Taiwanese government not to be belligerent and not to declare independence irrespective of the outcome and not to spark war because they think that the US will come to their aid, it also convinces the Chinese government that the US may in fact come to Taiwan’s aid. So it’s in the best interest of both parties to come to the negotiating table and to be involved in that forum, and discuss what’s going on. When the US sells arms to Taiwan, particularly a large increase in arms, that sends an entirely different signal. First, it illustrates that the United States government is more interested in taking advantage of the Taiwanese situation than the Chinese government had been. My opponent says that if China had weapons, that they would be able to threaten Taiwan to get favorable terms for a peace agreement. Likewise, American corporations would be seen as taking advantage of Taiwan’s weakness in order to make corporate profits for themselves. This is a dangerous situation. But also, by selling these weapons, the Chinese government may see that the United States is willing to sell weapons, but not to back up the government. It may be that instead of having American defense officials prepared for a military response to the Taiwanese situation, we prefer to replace those with military sales, with weapons that we will maybe assign them. The United States government is more willing to risk a few more profits than it is to risk American lives. And that would be dangerous than my opponent tries to say. For these reasons I oppose American arms sales to Taiwan. Thank you. [Applause.]

GORDON MITCHELL: I’m sorry, we accidentally shaved one minute off the first question period, so there will now be a four-minute cross-examination period, where Cynthia will ask questions to Andrew.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Okay, I’d just like to ask a quick clarification question first. Is it your claim that China did not purchase the arms that the New York Times article talks about; they didn’t in fact purchase the Soveremenny destroyers, and the submarines, and the missiles?

ANDREW STANGL: No, there are some purchases. The Chinese government did purchase the destroyers at the very least. They purchased a number of planes and ballistic missiles.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Okay, that’s fine.

ANDREW STANGL: All of these are fairly reasonable purchases.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: All right, that’s fine. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t saying that maybe we’d all just been deluded, and through some sort of magic trick we though we saw arms transfers that never occurred.

ANDREW STANGL: No, there is a very serious issue involved there, too. The Chinese government does purchase weapons, as does the American government, and high-level purchases are exaggerated to a great extent.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Wait, how are they exaggerated? Did they purchase two Soveremenny-class destroyers, or didn’t they?

ANDREW STANGL: No, the future purchases of things like . . .

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Did they purchase two Soveremenny-class destroyers?

ANDREW STANGL: Yes, and the missiles and things…, I’m sorry.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: I just wanted to make sure we were talking about the same thing. Now, you say that these weapons are for defensive purposes, right?

ANDREW STANGL: No, my argument is that we shouldn’t sell arms, because when we sell arms its unclear whether they’re offensive of defensive weapons. The Chinese probably intended to purchase the destroyers in a defensive fashion, and they’ve been misunderstood, and misrepresented, as offensive weapons. The point is who are we to say what are defensive weapons, and then those defensive weapons are seen as offensive weapons.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: All right, I understand. What I’d like to know, though, who the Chinese might need defense from; who they might need to protect their coastline against? From the Philippines, maybe? From Japan?

ANDREW STANGL: All right, so the Chinese government should assume that they have no risks?

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Well, I can point to a very clear actor whom from whom the Taiwanese might need defense. Can you point to a clear actor whom the Chinese might need defense against, in their neighborhood, 100 miles away from them?

ANDREW STANGL: There are a number of reasons why the Chinese government would like to have some level of defense. First of all, were the current purchases looked at, they would reveal that the Chinese government doesn’t have a huge level of defense.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Who do they need the defense from? Why is that relevant? Who are they defending themselves against?

ANDREW STANGL: All right, the Chinese government is involved in a number of territorial disputes. The South China Sea . . .

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Okay, so they need these destroyers to defend the Spratly Islands, is that your claim?

ANDREW STANGL: No, my claim isn’t that they need to defend the islands that they want to take over. The point is that they are involved in international disputes and those disputes could potentially lead to conflicts, and that they might like to have the means to defend themselves in.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: All right, like what dispute, for instance?

ANDREW STANGL: I’m sorry, I don’t think that the US government names particular disputes in order to defend the purchases of weapons.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Okay, you don’t have to answer the question, that’s fine. Now, you also make the argument that arms sales by the US would send the signal that we’re not really going to defend Taiwan militarily, that we’re not willing to put US troops on the ground, correct?


CYNTHIA KINNAN: Now, if that’s true, then why does China oppose arms sales? Don’t you think China would rather to face Taiwan plus an Aegis destroyer than Taiwan plus the US defense establishment? Why aren’t they out there lobbying for the sale, if that’s true?

ANDREW STANGL: I think that what the Chinese government would say is "Look, you may be able to sell as many arms as you like, if you promise never to intervene in any conflict." In the case where the US government commits never to enter into any Chinese conflict, I don’t think the Chinese government would be upset.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: So you think that they do want arms sales?

ANDREW STANGL: They wouldn’t be as upset.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: All right, that’s fine then. Thanks.

Rebuttal speeches

GORDON MITCHELL: Okay, the final two speeches in this student debate are closing remarks. We’ll start off with four minutes to Cynthia Kinnan.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Good evening again. My opponent has just painted for you what is indeed a very unpleasant picture of the potential effects of arms transfers to Taiwan, a picture drawn in the grim, ugly tones of unchecked arms races and global conflict. However, as alarming as this might sound, this picture is not a representation of reality. It is rather a caricature of the actual context in which arms sales must be considered. While my opponent would like you to view arms sales a in a vacuum and therefore as an unjustified act of bellicosity towards China, in light of China’s own recent arms acquisitions, whatever their motivation, additional sales to Taiwan are eminently justified, both from the perspective of US law and from the perspective of anyone who understands that imbalances of power can only breed instability. Therefore, I maintain that the US should sell necessary, defensive arms to Taiwan. Now I’d like to address some of the specific comments that were just made in my opponent’s speech. First, my opponent argues that China is currently acting as a responsible member of the international community. While in many ways this is certainly true, his conclusion, that as a reward for its good behavior China should be allowed to strong-arm Taiwan into reunification, is ridiculous. China’s efforts to stop production of fissile material, support peace in North Korea, etc. are laudable, but absolutely they do not justify our turning a blind eye to an arms procurement program that is intended to leave Taiwan with no option but meek submission. My opponent’s next argument is that arms transfers to Taiwan would spark an arms race. However, I’d first like you to consider that this argument is empirically denied. We have been selling defensive arms to Taiwan since 1979, and if those arms sales had sparked an arms race, you would expect that China would have purchased a lot of arms in the 80s and 90s. But my opponent himself states that China’s arsenal of weapons had not grown very much until its recent rash of purchases, which came after President Clinton denied Taiwan’s request for arms purchases last year. So, this arms race scenario holds no water. Furthermore, even if there is a small risk of increased purchases of arms, ask yourself this: which is worse: a risk of more missiles sitting in warehouses, or a risk of a nuclear showdown between China and the United States? Now, there is a critical distinction that needs to be made in this debate. I think–and I think that Andrew would agree with me–that China does not want poor relations with the US. It needs access to US markets, it needs access to US investment, and it needs US goodwill to secure a renewal of normal trading relations this summer. The recent Hainan island incident is actually an excellent illustration of this. While there was heated rhetoric on both sides, a firm stance by the US did not prompt Chinese aggression. Rather, there was a diplomatic resolution, which, although it did not have the exact the outcome China desired, namely an apology, it was still acceptable. Similarly, as long as China perceives that the US is committed to a defense of Taiwan, signaled by a willingness to sell them the weapons they need, China will not risk increasing pressure or aggression toward Taiwan. However, if the US refuses to sell arms to Taiwan for the second year in a row, what message would this send to China? It would indicate that the US is no longer interested in Taiwan’s defense, and that China can therefore act without risk of upsetting relations with the US. Indicating to China that we’re no longer interested in defending Taiwan is a dangerous game to play. If we mean it, than we are turning our backs on the legally binding commitment to Taiwan set up in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. If we do not mean it, then there is the very real risk that China, not anticipating reprisal, will increase pressure on Taiwan, only to have the US then decide to enter the resulting conflict on Taiwan’s behalf, with a tragic outcome. So, in conclusion, I ask you to keep in mind what it is that these arms would do, and what these arms that we might sell to Taiwan would not do. These weapons would never be used, because their very sale would remove the incentive for a battle between China and Taiwan to occur at all. That is what they would not do. What they would do is send a clear, unequivocal message to China: the US will not stand idly by as you acquire arms to threaten Taiwan. Instead we will do everything in our power to assure that negotiations between China and Taiwan, whatever the outcome, take place as a dialogue between equals, not as a dictation of terms from the strong to the weak. By sending this signal we can act, not as the brokers of war that Andrew would like you to see, but as guarantors of peace. Thank you. [Applause.]

GORDON MITCHELL: Okay; now the final speech in this student debate is closing remarks for four minutes by Andrew Stangl.

ANDREW STANGL: Again, I’d like to thank all of you for coming this evening; it’s great to have a big turnout. We do enjoy debating for you, it’s a lot of fun for us. My opponent describes me as painting pictures for you, drawing some sort of picture of China, and we need to get of it to respond to and to react to.. But I think we also need to examine the picture that’s being painted by the affirmative: this is a picture of a menacing, belligerent China, a China that’s bent on attacking Taiwan, using all of the nation’s resources to acquire weapons which it will turn towards subjecting Taiwan’s population to slavery or some other negative outcome. And then, the simple sale of two destroyers–which are ironically not very destructive in their capacity because they’ve been stripped down to be non-offensive weapons–that that will somehow deter this menacing and belligerent giant away from attacking Taiwan. I think that if we look further at this picture we can see some of the issues that are involved here, and some of the ways in which this is a false representation of the conflict. I’d like to ask you to entertain me in painting yet another picture, a mental experiment, some of the issues involved. Imagine first that it’s China deciding that it’s a good idea to sell weapons, say, to Cuba, a nation that the United States has a conflict with, that lies right on the American coast. The Chinese government, citing a massive American military buildup, claims that Cuba needs these weapons in order to defend themselves, to protect themselves. The American government, perceiving these new offensive Cuban weapons, decides that it needs to purchase its own new weapons, in order to defend themselves from a Cuban attack. And from there we find ourselves in a spiraling arms race. Remember when I tell you in my first speech that arms races seem very logical at each step along the way. It seems like a good idea, because we can convince them that they won’t need any more weapons, that they’ll be cowed by this one additional sale. Remember that every single arms sale represents a new risk to the opposing nation, that it’s a new warrant for purchasing more weapons. Never does the risk stop, it only speeds up this process. When we send new weapons to some place, it’s not that they’ll ever be used, it’s that they sit in warehouses, where they’re a warehouse threat, waiting to be responded to with new warehouse threats. Except that they have to actually come out of the warehouses sometimes. Recognizance planes fly their missions. Fighter planes have to patrol areas in the sky. Destroyers have to go on patrol missions. These weapons don’t stay in warehouses: they have to be active to be credible, in order to become active, they risk offense in international war. But I also ask you to also consider what would happen if there were larger incidents. Remember, in the first speech I told you, not only has China been a responsible international actor, but they’ve also been cooperating with Taiwan. The picture of a China who menaces Taiwan, and coerces them into some decision, is entirely false. The Chinese government and the Taiwanese government have never had better relations in 50 years. In fact, the Taiwanese government has made significant concessions in the last 5 months that are entirely voluntary, that have nothing to do with Chinese pressure. There are new meetings between China and Taiwan that happened, and journalists from the mainland were able to visit Taiwan for the first time. These are significant improvements that seem to belie my opponent’s claim that China is strong-arming Taiwan right now. But also remember that China has made significant agreements. They’ve stopped producing fissile material; they’ve stopped proliferating missiles internationally in order to aid the United States in our attempts to further peace and stability throughout the world. Now if we sell weapons to Taiwan, it would be a message that we care nothing about China’s aid or cooperation internationally, and we should turn a cold shoulder to them and send them away to seek their own fate. This would lead to a situation where it would be in China’s best interest to sell arms internationally: not only has the US showed that it is willing to sponsor proliferation, but also that it cares nothing about the results of that action: that it would be acceptable for the Chinese government not only to sell weapons to American enemies, rogue regimes, who we’re currently very fearful of, but also to not cooperate in these instances. The risks of economic downturn, and economic well-being are not one sided. The United States can control China’s economy, but the level of trade between the two nations means that we have to consider the economic impacts of both sides. When we risk a confrontation with China, then we hurt our own economy as well. For these reasons I ask you to reject arms sales to Taiwan, and make a stand for peace and stability. Thank you. [Applause.]

Expert commentary

GORDON MITCHELL: Okay, that concludes the student debate. Now, while Professor Bobrow is organizing his notes, if you would take out the audience shift ballot, please, that you marked at the beginning of the debate. And now, move down to the bottom column, and circle your new opinion. Maybe it’s the same old opinion as the first time, or perhaps you’ve shifted in one direction or another. Maybe you were undecided, now leaning in one way or another, it’s hard to say.

Bri, would you stand up please? Okay, this is a representative from the National Opinion Research Center, [laughter] Bri, Mezuk. She’ll be coming around and collecting your ballots and subjecting them to highly rigorous sampling procedures. And we’ll hear her report after Professor Bobrow gives his comments.

Now, this is a rare treat to have such a renowned area studies and international affairs expert talking to us in his area of expertise about a particular subject that is currently in flux, where it’s unclear exactly what direction US-China relations will take, with so many different issues on the horizon, and possible points of friction upcoming in the near future.

So, how’re we looking on the ballots?

BRIANA MEZUK: [Whispering.] I think I’ve got them.

GORDON MITCHELL: OK, we have some remaining ballots. No recounts here. Okay, without further ado, let’s welcome to the podium Professor Davis Bobrow, for a fifteen or twenty minute response. [Applause.]

DAVIS BOBROW: Well, it was a pleasure listening to Cynthia and Andrew. They both did a great job. [Inaudible.] And the arguments that they pursued are ones which are being made, although not particularly more expertly, by the political players and by some of the corporate players who are on both sides of the issue. I thought I’d use just a few minutes to try to suggest a little bit more context, context for several things. The first is context of how the three major political systems here–the Mainland, Taiwan, and the US–what their view is of their own nature and also of the others’ nature, which they then use to interpret and of course to spin specifics such as arms sales. And what you must remember is that in the US there has been increasingly a bit of a polarization between the people whose view of China is a large, poor, reforming, striving, sensitive, slighted nation whose leaders are walking an extraordinary domestic tightrope, and that all the US needs to do, or the primary thing the US needs to do, is exercise patience, and let these processes of reform and change work, and then the Chinese will not become extraordinarily assertive, in East Asia or elsewhere. Sure, there’s some loudmouths and hawks, but they won’t carry the day, if we’re patient. The second view, which has become extremely prevalent in national security circles, is China as the emerging competitor to the United States, and that it’s not in the US interest or in the world interest to allow that. And if you read all kinds of statements and publications from government officials and officially sponsored think tanks, that were in the Clinton Administration and in the Bush Administration, and people who thought those things before they went into the Bush Administration, the view is very clear, the American decision is, according to this stance: that we should have military supremacy everywhere in the world, at times and places of our own choosing. Period. That’s it. And that it’s good for the world, for everybody, not just ourselves. And that that applies, not just to competition at the global level, but competition at the regional level. And East Asia is an important region, and the only possible competitor is China, and in these forecasts the time-periodization is that China is a regional competitor by 2015, and possibly a global one by 2050.

Now, the Chinese view of us: The US is somewhat schizophrenic about China. China is schizophrenic about the US: On the one hand, as an enormous source of offshore markets, technology, capital, and so forth and so on, and also for sitting on Japan, which is kind of nice, and generally allowing China to get on with indigenous development and economic reform. On the other hand, the US as imperialist power, with the intent of treating China as second class, and as a subordinate. It may be a benign authoritarianism, but it is predominance, and it is essentially heavy-handed. Now, from that Chinese point of view, or the US point of view, those imperialist views, Taiwan looks different. So if you’re a US seducer of China, Taiwan isn’t terribly important, except as an aid in the economic transformation of the Mainland, and there Taiwan is very important, and you’re just delighted by the more they exchange, economic and cultural, which has been going on. If you’re an American who wishes to contain China, then the interest is that Taiwan not develop a Chinese economy, and that Taiwan be part of an alliance military containment system in East Asia. Period. That’s your interest in Taiwan.

Now, there are a few Americans who say "Oh, we like Taiwan because it’s such a nice place–market, democracy, and so forth," but I assure you that is not what’s guiding American policy, in any direction. Now, from the Mainland point of view, Taiwan can on one hand be a great asset. They can provide this boost, in terms of modernization, facilitation in international competitiveness, and Taiwan can keep giving the Chinese a way of saying to others "Look how patient we’re being. You wouldn’t put up with this, would you?" Now, the Taiwanese understand all this, and play in a very sophisticated way, I believe, on all four of the views. They sort of have designated teams to appeal to each of the views. So that’s the context. So, each, then, within their domestic politics, have to manage a diverse set of opinions and preferences, and all politicians care more about domestic politics than international politics, in all situations. So that’s one part of the politics. Second part of the politics, an incredibly challenging question, which both speakers addressed: What would make a credible deterrent? Well, if I sell you a gun, as opposed to sending a group of armed policemen to defend you, which way would provide better deterrence? I would argue that it’s the second that provides credible deterrence. Protection of small countries by a great power involves the great power putting itself in harm’s way, making it impossible for the small country to be attacked without killing someone from the great power. That’s how Cold War deterrence has tended to work within Asia. So if we’re really worried about deterrence, that’s what we do. Now the arms sales strategy can improve deterrence, but then the question is, does it improve it substantially, in the context of what the other parties are doing? The more you believe in a high acceleration of Chinese military buildup, then the more you’d say the US has to transfer, the more capable they’d have to be, and the faster they’d have to get there. An Aegis doesn’t arrive until 2010 in operational terms. This is an old Aegis too. This is from the Gulf War. The Kidds could arrive much sooner. So why don’t the Chinese object to the Kidds? They’ve objected to the Aegis much more loudly, in a more than ritual way. I find that puzzling. I would suggest that in fact the Chinese are not terribly worried about the level of arms sales to Taiwan, which would avoid providing serious steps toward an integrated missile defense system in East Asia, consisting of Taiwan, Japan, in agreement with the US. So you have to analyze what we’re really talking about by deterrence, and then look at the package. If you’re really worried about an attack on Taiwan by those Chinese ground-based missiles, which is ostensibly the most dramatic threat on the Southern coast of China, then, since the Chinese as yet cannot fire very many of them at once, arms sales would provide some level of defense, and would provide the Taiwanese with the capability to attack the missile batteries, on Chinese ground. Is that defensive, is it offensive? Arguably both.

Now, from a Chinese point of view, if you look at military developments in East Asia over the last decade, China has probably not kept up, China has not maintained its margin of strength vis-à-vis other Asians. It has vis-à-vis the US, but not vis-à-vis Taiwan, or India, or Korea, and so forth. So if you just extrapolate about a robust arms sales package, unless the Chinese were to do truly extraordinary things, which would be hard for them to do economically, the chances are what the Chinese are looking at, in the context of a US defense buildup, is strategic inferiority; growing regional inferiority in East Asia, and globally. And that’s a very hard situation for the Chinese leaders who would rather be seeing Chinese military buildup to be in. It’s very tough for anyone in China who believes they can afford to keep military modernization. The notion that these weapons should be sold because they’re never going to be used–I can’t resist taking up this one–well, we surely should never admit that, should we? If we’re going to admit that they’re never going to be used, if they’re not very credible, and if they’re not very credible they’re not very good.

So I’ve talked about context, I’ve talked about deterrence, I want to come back to military realities. If the Taiwanese are really concerned with preserving their capacity to prevent an invasion or an air attack or a large-scale missile attack on Taiwan, the first thing they would do is to improve immediately their capabilities to withhold such an attack, and that would involve dispersing your aircraft to many more airfields on Taiwan, and it would involve putting them in harder shelters. The Taiwanese have not moved very fast about doing either of those. And that’s a matter largely of concrete, not of fancy weapons. So then you have to say, why? And my argument would be that the Asian parties, China and Taiwan, have developed very skillful policies of constructive ambiguity, and part of strategic ambiguity is, at the same time you’re saying, "You know, I can hurt you," at the same time saying, "But I’m not going to surprise you. I want you to know, but I’m not going to surprise you; I’m going to give you some reassurance about surprise attack."

Now, the final argument, and maybe the most persuasive one, for a major arms sale at this point–I think there’s no argument for a sale that doesn’t deliver arms until the end of the decade. That’s purely rhetorical. But the major argument for a major current arms sale is to strengthen the current president of Taiwan. If you believe that the current president of Taiwan is indeed a real step forward in terms of the law of democracy, in terms of the emergence of Taiwan as an attractive model for modernization in East Asia, this guy’s got a lot of problems at home. He needs an international win. He needs something he can show off. And the irony of this is that the current administration finds him much less attractive than the Clinton administration. It’s another real motive for some of the democrats to support the sale, and for some of the people who don’t demonize China to support the sale. Thanks. [Applause.]

Audience question period

GORDON MITCHELL: Okay. I’m going to hold the suspense a little longer on the audience shift ballot, and open it up to twenty to twenty-five minutes of audience questions. So if you have questions, please step up to the floor mike, and keep your questions brief and brilliant, and in the interest of improving the discussion a little bit, please direct you question to one of the advocates, or if you want everyone to answer, specify that. Okay.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question is for Cynthia: Did you say that it was possible that, if we don’t sell arms to Taiwan, for there to be a war between the US and China?

CYNTHIA KINNAN: I did say that that was a possibility, because when the US refuses to sell arms to Taiwan, they’re eroding strategic ambiguity. To deny the request for arms for the second time in a row sends the message that we’re not really very interested in defending Taiwan, and that could lead China to think that they could step up pressure on Taiwan without the US getting involved. But if that’s not really our intent, and the result were that the US were to go in and defend Taiwan, then the result could be a military conflict between China and the US.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: But, I don’t really see how that could cause a conflict between China and the US. I can see conflict between Taiwan and China, but not between China and the US.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: Well, at the point that it makes sense that it could cause war between China and Taiwan, then there is the risk that domestic pressure to support poor, democratic Taiwan against big, communist China–we talked about how that gets spun domestically–would force the United States to go in on Taiwan’s side, and to get involved in the conflict between China and Taiwan. And at that point, Taiwan would essentially bow out, and now we’re looking at a conflict between China and the US. That’s how I foresee that happening.


GORDON MITCHELL: Okay, next question please.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have a question for Mr. Stangl. You talk about spiraling arms races being bad and how they might lead to war. Now, in the last decade or so, most of the major conflicts in the world have not been between countries, they’ve been civil conflicts within countries. Isn’t that evidence that in fact large arms stockpiles do indeed deter international conflicts?

ANDREW STANGL: I think that’s a mistake of perspective, but it does illustrate the situation that Professor Bobrow described; the typical Cold War strategy to deal with the Soviet Union was to put American lives or allied lives in places at risk so that if strife broke out it would spark war. But, in other situations where our allies and enemies weren’t as clear, it was very useful to provide large quantities of weapons to support one side or the other in the conflict, and many of those weapons then ended up in the hands of current insurgent groups or militarized populations. Afghanistan is a fine example of where US weapons are now being used in civil conflict; Iraq is a another example, where they have a large number of American weapons floating around, I believe in Tehran [?] there’s a significant amount of American money and arms involved in the conflict. And the list goes on and on. The same is true of weapons provided by the Soviet Union; they go on to be part of other conflicts.

GORDON MITCHELL: Just a second. I’m going to take a moderator’s privilege here and ask a question to Professor Bobrow. I thought it was very interesting when you posited that the most effective form of deterrence [Omri Ceren drops audience microphone; laughter], the most effective form of deterrence, if it is the tripwire, how do you deal with the argument advanced by Mr. Stangl, that arms sales would actually lessen the tripwire signal or undermine the resolve being expressed by the United States?

DAVIS BOBROW: Suppose you’re presented with three possibilities, not two, where one is American presence tripwire–high level of deterrence–the middle one is the arms sales, because the arms sales do usually come with some people, to do training and so on, and then the third one is neither, and the extreme bottom is you tell other nations not to sell or assist either. I would say that the arms sale is an intermediate degree of deterrence, if it strengthens military capability rather than wastes resources of the recipient. So since Taiwan is paying–we’re not giving this stuff to them, this is hard cash, very hard cash–the question is whether the Taiwanese could buy as much security with another expenditure. They don’t think so. And the reason they don’t think so isn’t the weapons per se. It’s the implicit American bonding, and the friendship with the major American supplying firms, who have been lobbying both sides of the Pacific to sell the equipment in question, with a great deal of vigor. So that would be my answer. I would agree that if you said no American backing, that would be very significant, and clearly would be undermining even ambiguous deterrence. Now, if you look at American public opinion, it’s very split on coming to the defense of Taiwan. If people are asked, "If China attacks Taiwan, what should the US do?" It’s very split. Now what that says is that the American government never wants to have to answer that question. So, if they think arms transfers will prevent them having to answer that question, that’s probably what they’re going to do.

GORDON MITCHELL: And now let’s go back to the floor for a questioner who’s never deterred from asking questions.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: This question is for Mr. Stangl. In light of the fact that so much of China’s interest and economy is tied to good relations with the United States, what do you think the harm is in selling weapons to Taiwan? Do you really think that there’s a risk that China would go to war with the United States over weapons sales to Taiwan?

ANDREW STANGL: I think in that situation the risk would be somewhat different. The Chinese government depends on trade with the US, but that’s an argument about why there’s not really a risk of war with Taiwan in the first place. Even if the US didn’t care enough to provide troops or go to war to protect Taiwan, it would probably care enough to at least indicate in some way, probably economic, that offensive warfare is a bad idea, and economically that’s a very strong deterrent to war. Effectively, that proves why the need for arms sales doesn’t exist, and with arms sales comes increased risk of conflict, and the risk of Chinese disruption to American trade, and while the risk to the American economy is perhaps not as great, and not as large a portion of our exports, I’m fairly certain that a large number of American jobs depend on trade with China.

GORDON MITCHELL: Anyone else on the panel want to jump in here?

DAVIS BOBROW: An important point to note: when you’re debating issues, whether in an open forum or a political forum, they tend to get structured in ways that might not quite catch up with reality. So, there’s no argument that the US will sell arms to Taiwan. The argument is about what kinds of arms to sell to Taiwan. That’s the only argument. That’s all that’s going to be under discussion about arms transfers. It’s not about cease and desist–no one’s even talking cease and desist. It’s a question of particular types of arms.

GORDON MITCHELL: Next question, please.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: First of all, let me thank everyone for coming out. This evening has certainly challenged my views, and that’s the point of public debate. My question is for Professor Bobrow. Watching the analysis of the recent controversy–I know the word is important: "incident," controversy," whatever it was–with the surveillance plane, I heard that the was a disagreement within China between the political hierarchy and the military hierarchy about what to do with this: political hierarchies favored appeasement, military hierarchies favored a hard-line approach. If that split does exist, what impact do you think that would have on the US decision to sell arms to Taiwan?

DAVIS BOBROW: Okay, I believe that we want to split up members of political systems into neat, exclusive categories: there are moderates, there are radicals, there are conservatives, liberals, et cetera, et cetera. And to do this with China, my own view is that there are major divisions within the quote civilian politicians and within the military group, quite major divisions. Now, there is a reason for us to talk about it on these terms: it not only justified patience on our part–they’re on the right road; the moderates already have a lot of problems to deal with, let’s not make it any harder, and so on–but it also allows justification for the surveillance, and continuing the flights, and for the solution–I don’t know if you want to call it a solution, but a Band-Aid, the current Band-Aid–really called for limited military-to-military negotiations, in the forum that we set up a few years ago but never used, which is a military-to-military forum. And the model for the forum, to the extent that there was one, was the US navy to Soviet Navy forum during the Cold War. This was when ships were already in proximity, and commanders on both sides knew that it would be pretty easy for things to get out of hand. So they set up arrangements so that both sides could communicate. So, I think that there are splits within China; I don’t think it’s a neat civil-military split, and I think that by talking both ways, the US can justify this policy that some Americans are now calling "congagement," which is an awful term: containment and engagement–having our cake and eating it to. So, lots of business for Boeing and Motorola, but at the same time, China is in military-to-military negotiations. The final point: It’s ironic, we’re talking about military influence in China’s policy. Admiral Pruher is the ambassador, General Powell is the Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld has spent a lot of his career in the Pentagon. Paul Wilkins is premier of the Pentagon, without even getting into Congress. So, I just think that perhaps the systems are a little more similar than we sometimes think.

GORDON MITCHELL: All right, next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: It seems to me that both student advocates have dodged what’s probably the fundamental question, much as US policy has, which concerns the legitimacy of the Taiwanese government, vis-à-vis the territorial claims of the Mainland government. And it seems to me also that the affirmative would justify arms sales based on some sort of Taiwanese right to sovereignty or at least self-determination, while the negative would be based on legitimacy of Mainland claims to Taiwan. My question is: how does, for example, advanced arms sales to Taiwan, send a signal about the US views of the legitimacy of the core Taiwanese government. And, if such a message were to be sent, is it legitimate for the US to intervene in what is, at least in the Chinese view, an internal dispute between the Mainland government and a renegade province? And this is directed to both student advocates.

CYNTHIA KINNAN: My personal view is that the Taiwanese government should certainly have an opportunity to negotiate with the Mainland about increased sovereignty, and while I don’t think it’s the United States’ decision about whether Taiwan has a legitimate claim to sovereignty, I do think that either way, arms sales can only support a good outcome. I really think it’s true that if Taiwan feels they’re inferior militarily, or that they can’t engage in a fair dialogue, on a level playing field, then that decreases the incentive for negotiations to go on at all. And then there’s less of a likelihood for the question to be settled either way. Taiwan will keep dragging their feet, because they expect humiliating terms, and China will get more and more impatient, which just increases the chance of a military outcome. On the other hand, if we provide arms to Taiwan, that will allow there to be equal dialog, and the outcome is likely to be more agreeable to both parties.

ANDREW STANGL: I’m not sure that the question of Taiwanese independence or their relationship to the Mainland is really that central to the issue. I think we’d both agree that some sort of peaceful outcome to the dispute, or a less tense situation, is probably ideal, whether that means reunification or independence or some sort of continuation of the status quo with less hostility. As far as the signal goes, I think that the relationship between China and Taiwan and the US is fairly stable as far as what the signals are. In the past, there have been some pretty heated disputes between China and the US over the US recognizing Taiwanese pseudo-independence. But I don’t think that arms sales would be a unique precedent or symbol. They may have been in the past, but as Professor Bobrow says, they do signify a sort of integration between the two militaries, and also it would signal a sort of political interest to keep purchasing weapons. But the political background is fairly stable.

GORDON MITCHELL: It looks like we have just enough time for one more question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: This may be somewhat repetitive, but I just have two quick questions for Andrew and Cynthia. If you were to sum up what your main arguments are for or against arms sales, what would they be?

CYNTHIA KINNAN: My main argument would be that both real and perceived imbalances of power can only be destabilizing. It can only encourage the party that perceives itself to be stronger to be more aggressive that it would be otherwise, and encourage the party that perceives itself to be weaker to be more fearful, and less willing to engage in negotiations. So, basically, the justification for arms sales is to level the playing field, and allow for negotiations between equals.

ANDREW STANGL: My main argument would be that arms sales are bad because they cause arms races, that what seems like a defensive weapon to the purchasing nation seems like an offensive weapon to the other side. So arms sales can never create a true balance, but to only a situation where each side feels more and more fearful, and wants more and more weapons, and that makes conflict more of a reality.


GORDON MITCHELL: And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Briana Mezuk will be coming up to the podium to share with us the results of her systematic analysis of the audience opinion shift.

BRIANA MEZUK: Okay, well it’s not very systematic, mostly what I have are lots of approximations. I’ll talk first about who didn’t change their minds: about 30% of the audience stayed no, that the US should not sell arms to Taiwan; approximately 5% stayed yes, we should; and approximately 3% stayed undecided. Now, what you’re interested in, of course, is who changed: approximately 30% of the audience changed from undecided to yes, we should sell arms to Taiwan; approximately 25% changed from no to undecided, one person changed from undecided to no, and one brave person changed from no, we should not sell arms to yes, we should.

GORDON MITCHELL: Okay, thanks for that analysis, and that concludes our debate. Thanks for coming, and remember, Saturday the 14th, at 2 pm in the Assembly room, "The HIV-AIDS connection: How certain are we?" That’s the next debate coming up. So, thanks for coming everyone and good luck with finals.