John Pomfret in the China blog faces an unenviable task. Writing on China-Taiwan issues is not easy, because they are so controversial. But that is no excuse for the completely erroneous screed that appeared on WaPo this week in Pomfret’s China, the Post blog feature. I answered a couple of main points and repost below, in case they get removed, as I have noticed the Post is wont to do when I point out how far from the facts some of their blog writing strays…. leave a comment yourself, there’s plenty’o'badness to choose from….

Pomfret: The reason that bigwigs like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley have put the brakes on the sale is this: With the election of Ma Ying-jeou as Taiwan’s president, Taiwan and China have their first real chance in eight years to improve ties. The United States is worried that a big arms sales package is going to throw a spanner in the works and give China an excuse to sulk – something the mandarins in Beijing so love to do.

This interpretation is completely wrong. The Bush Administration is using this as an excuse.

The “arms freeze” long predates Ma’s election, dating back to 2006 when the F-16s were first requested and probably even earlier, given the way the US was helping to exacerbate the weapons purchase problems Taiwan was having domestically. The US Navy set the purchase price for the submarines at 4 times the going world rate, making them unpalatably expensive, and refused to give Taiwan and co-manufacturing on the projects, resulting in a bipartisan missive signed by over 130 Taiwan legislators asking for local co-production. The US also refused to sell Taiwan the license for the plans for the subs it was paying for! The result was that the KMT-controlled legislature had plenty of ammo to sound reasonable in preventing Taiwan from acquiring the arms package via special budget.

The Bush administration has conveniently seized upon the election as a cover story for what is actually a de facto freeze dating back several years.

Pomfret: Under the previous president, Chen Shui-bian, the Pentagon was confronted with the worst of both worlds: a Taiwanese president determined to irritate Beijing who at the same time did nothing to improve Taiwan’s military. Everyone hopes that Ma will do exactly the opposite: improve ties with China while building Taiwan’s military. Peace with strength.

This comment is even more ridiculous. There is not a whit of support for the claim that “Chen did nothing to improve Taiwan’s military.” The exact opposite is the case.

Let’s see:

administratively, the DPP re-organized the military, made it politically nuetral (it had been a state-within-a-state and the procurement system was enormously corrupt). A civilian was put in charge of the ministry of defense, and the military was put under a civilian chain of command.

weapons-wise, the DPP acquired billions in military hardware. As a CRS report noted:

“From worldwide sources, including the United States, Taiwan received $13.9 billion in arms deliveries in the eight-year period from 1998 to 2005. Taiwan ranked 3rd (behind Saudi Arabia and China) among leading recipients that are developing countries. Of that total, Taiwan received $9.8 billion in arms in 1998-2001 and $4.1 billion in 2002-2005. In 2005 alone, Taiwan ranked 6th and received $1.3 billion in arms deliveries, while the PRC ranked 5th and received arms valued at $1.4 billion. As an indication of future arms acquisitions, Taiwan’s arms agreements in 2002- 2005 totaled $4.9 billion. The value of Taiwan’s arms agreements in 2005 alone did not place it among the top ten recipients that are developing countries.”

So in the three years between 2002 and 2005 Taiwan did nothing to improve its military although it received 4.1 billion dollars in arms deliveries! Despite the hoopla over the special arms purchases, the regular budget continues to be spent and the military continues to modernize. The highly publicized weapons purchases are in a separate budget and thus deliberately controversial, as I expect the Defense Minister intended when he packaged them this way.

In research, the DPP initiated a number of new weapons programs, and further enriched its intel links with Japan (that’s all I am saying about that). The Hsiung Feng cruise missile came into development and the legislature has finally restored the budget for it. A number of other programs also were brought to fruition or continued.

Speaking for myself, it is absolutely infuriating that people who are supposed to know things can’t take the time to Google before writing. Again and again I find people spouting this nonsense that a five minute internet search could dispel. Anyone could have found extensive material on the DPP’s reform and modernization programs, as well as on its military purchases from abroad.

Finally, it should be noted that Chen “irritated” China for the same reason Benes irritated Hitler — because he wanted to live in a free and independent state. “Being provoked” is a policy choice for China, not a visceral reaction, one it uses to paint the former corporate lawyer Chen Shui-bian as a “radical” while manipulating the international media. The true irritants and radicals are the Chinese who constantly threaten to plunge the region into war to annex an island that no ethnic Chinese emperor ever controlled, and which the PRC has never owned.


Also on tap there are the Quakers in the comments, who seem to have confused capitulation with peace, and still view Taiwan through Cold War lenses — while buying KMT propaganda on many different aspects. Someday progressives will get a clue about Taiwan…..someday…..

UPDATE: Nope. They just can’t get it. Check out this load of crap from Robert Scheer at SFGATE. The Only Redhead talks about it here, in an informed and insightful way. You know, it is not difficult to avoid writing crap about China and Taiwan. So why is the flow of crap so unending? Scheer’s post is up in several places, including Huffington Post and his own Truthdig. I tried to leave a long comment there, but the limit is a ridiculous 250 words. One reason bad stuff can’t get corrected is because of those limits.

UPDATE II: I decided to blog on the Scheer mess at DailyKos, the big progressive site.

UPDATE III: I have left three different comments at HufPost in the last 12 hours. None accepted. IIIa: finally one got accepted.

UPDATE IV: The Nation now has the Scheer piece. Gresham’s Law of Commentary: Bad commentary drives out good commentary.