Courtesy Reuters

Facing Reality in China Policy


The campaign is over and, although the rhetorical smoke about whether China is a strategic partner or competitor still lingers, the new U.S. administration must now craft and implement its policies toward China and Taiwan. The president's foreign policy and security team has to adjust itself to a number of pressing realities, so the White House should move with dispatch to process senior China and Asia appointments and begin systematic policy reviews. This group should focus on both the current U.S.-China agenda -- which includes some important issues that require immediate attention -- and the broader context of the U.S.-China relationship. First, the administration must handle some pressing issues.


The fragility and inherent dangers of the Taiwan situation command immediate attention. In April, the United States will have to make the next round of decisions on conventional arms sales to Taiwan. The decision, deferred last year, on whether to sell Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with sophisticated aegis battle-management systems and antimissile defenses will be particularly sensitive and has the potential to precipitate a diplomatic crisis with Beijing. The administration needs to be prepared for the fallout if it decides to proceed. U.S. policymakers will also face ongoing choices about helping Taiwan upgrade its military command-and-control infrastructure and potentially providing theater missile defenses (TMD) for the island.

Second, the need to jump-start a dialogue and build a sustainable framework of interaction between Beijing and Taipei is pressing. The current impasse between the two sides is fraught with danger -- it threatens U.S. interests (and potentially soldiers' lives), as well as broader peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

While not trying to mediate the intractable problem, the new administration should actively seek to bring the two sides to the bargaining table. This is not a problem amenable to easy solutions, and any resolution must be agreed on by both sides rather than imposed by either one. But Washington's

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