China mad about US arm sales to Taiwan

This article is about a new announced sale of arms by the US to Taiwan. But this thread isn’t about Chinese or Taiwanese relations, or the even the wisdom of arm sales.

Instead, one thing puzzled me. The article said that “…Washington announced $6.4 billion in planned arms sales to Taiwan.”

Given that we know how China would react, why announce it? Its our weapons, and we consider Taiwan to be pretty much an independent country, though we don’t say it out loud to piss off China, but China knows that since everyone knows about our deal to protect Taiwan in case of an invasion. So with those variables already known, why announce to the world that we’re going to sell weapons to Taiwan? If we’re going to do it, just do it, do it in secret if that’s what it takes.

I can only think of a couple reasons why we announced it, none of which is convincing to me since we value our relationship with China a great deal.

  1. It’s for the benefit of the American/Taiwanese people.

The public likes to know that their government is doing something good, and most of us here and over in Taiwan would think this is good. So this announcement is sort of their way to buy a little bit of political capital

  1. It’s always been done this way.

Momentum is hard to change. If we’ve always announced these things, changing it would be hard

  1. We don’t want China to find out before we tell them because they would flip out even more.

I don’t really think China’s cooperatives on a lot of issues already. And given their threatened response to this announcement, I hardly think they could or would reasonably do anything worse if they found out on their own.

  1. Members of Congress who has to approve of these sales can’t keep a secret, so why not just announce it?

Doesn’t make sense, people have closed door meetings all the time. Yes, a lot of stuff seems to leak out of Washington, but national security stuff seems less likely. Plus, couldn’t we just get the arms committee or whoever’s in charge of this stuff to be in the know and leave the rest?

This thing is just strange to me and it seems like all this hassle with China could easily be avoided if we stopped announcing stuff like this. We already spy on each other, so I’m sure they know and we know that the other side does a lot of things to them that they’re trying to keep secret. This could be just one more secret.

  1. Sending a message – to China and others that baseline support for Taiwan is still there. China has been very active in taking digs at Taiwan (buying alliances by using trade as a tool to get more and more countries to de-recognize Taiwan diplomatically; forcing the Taiwanese to attend the Olympics under the name “Chinese Taipei;” etc.). At the same time, the U.S., which once treated Taiwan as the sole legitimate government of China, has sold it out bit by bit for trade and diplomatic reasons. China would be happy to see the U.S. just sort of forget any ties with Taiwan. For a number of reasons, U.S. policy is that the current detente is very important to maintain.

  2. One of these is domestic policy in the U.S. There’s a largeish and fairly vocal Taiwanese diaspora, some of whom, under the last Taiwanese administration, were anti-China/pro-independence. The U.S. can’t back independence per se, but a lot of people in America have strong feelings about Taiwan (not just Chinese; Taiwan was through the Cold War a poster child for anti-communist resistance).

  3. Another is Taiwanese politics. To maintain stability, the U.S. has to have some influence with the DPP and KMT, to keep anyone from going off the reservation, lobbing a few missles, etc. Influence tends to corellate with “what have you done for me lately?” It’s not as though Taiwan has a lot of options other than friendship with the U.S., but you still have to show some love from time to time.

  4. Domestic politics. The economy sucks and American industry can’t seem to make or export anything right. This is not just a military deal – it’s a pretty major trade deal, and it amounts to major bringing home the pork for any number of Senators and Congressmen whose districts contain the defense contractors. Obama’s going to want it publicized as a big win for an otherwise-faltering economy. In short, there’s a lot of credit to be taken for such a major sale.

  1. WAG, but it might simply be that it has to be announced. Our government is by-and-large open. There’s microphones in all the meeting rooms, people are supposed to use official government email accounts that are saved for public use, etc. It’s very possibly just the rules that we can’t do a big arms trade without announcing it.