Currently I'm Stateside, not in Taiwan but may be headed back there soon (G).
The big threat I see are the massively destabilizing efforts by the PLA Missile forces aiming M-9 and M-11 MRBM missiles at Taiwan.
News reports from Bill Gertz at the Washington Times in recent days suggests a -third- missile brigade is about to be activated along Fujian Provence's coast opposite Taiwan. The PRC Navy also has just commissioned a new ballistic missile submarine. I believe they have acquired or are about to acquire at least one "Oscar" class Russian ballistic missile submarine which is widely regarded as a "convoy buster" submarine, capable of wreaking all kinds of havoc. In addition to "Sovyremny" class guided missile destroyers being sold to the PRC Navy, armed with "Sunburn" surface to surface missiles, the PRC also desires to have an aircraft carrier online soon as well.
The (unbelievably ridiculous) comparisons of Cuba and Taiwan to each other are indicators of how little the public understands the Taiwan-China issue en toto. Taiwan DOES NOT posess offensive nuclear capable missile of any marque in it's inventory. It posesses purely -defensive- weapons. The People's Republic of China on the otherhand posesses a growing strategic nuclear armed ICBM and medium range ballistic missiles capable of hauling tactical and biological/chemical weapons. The PRC now posesses the capability to missile bombard Taiwanese cities with impunity if they wanted to.
Source on Chinese nuclear forces: (this is somehwat dated, no current tally on the Fujian Provence missile buildup, but serves as a modest baseline to understand their capability.)
Little is understood why the US supports Taiwan. It is a vibrant, multi-party democracy, over 90% of the people vote there. I have personally met current President Chen Shui Bian, I have also spoken out online via various websites on Taiwan's behalf as well as corresponding with US Senator's Jesse Helms (The Taiwan Defense Enhancement Act sponsor) and Rick Santorum. I'll say it again, Taiwan is a true friend of the United States, they love their capability to have a democratic process and are not an aggressor, pariah state; unlike their massive neighbor to the West. Taiwan has NEVER been governed by the Communist Regieme established in 1949 on the mainland, and therefore cannot make any legal claim to it.
The Republic of China on Taiwan is the continuing, rightful and -legal- government established by Doctor Sun Yat Sen in 1911.
The only reason people got chicken livered with the PRC was after 1964, when they detonated their first nuclear weapon. Nixon went to "open up China" during the 1970s only to help establish closer spying bases -inside the PRC- to monitor the Soviet Union's eastern frontier, and to hasten an end to the Vietnam War, to whom which the PRC was a major arms supplier to the NVA side. Those missions are now finished. The question now is, what is the purpose of US-China policy?
Taiwan has long had a free market economy. What I find amazing is the level of ignorance of Taiwan's plight versus the bully tactics of the PRC opposed to it.
PRC President Jiang Zemin made three promises to his people:
1.) Reunify with Hong Kong
2.) Reunify with Macau
3.) Reunify with Taiwan (by force if need be)
The first two have been scratched off the list. Taiwan is the next objective, and given the change of administration in Washington, and what I believe is a panicked attitude by the PRC, may now be willing to risk a conflict sooner rather than later to force their way.
The PRC government has essentially two governments within a government, the civilian side lead by Jiang Zemin and Zu Rong-ji, and the People's Liberation Army lead still by many Maoist believers and hardliners on the top General staff.
This I believe this is a far more volatile situation than we would like to admit.
The 8 years of coddling the brutalitarian regieme in Beijing is now bearing fruit: The Rise of PRC Hegemonism in Asia. They are now showing their "opening acts" on how they are willing to do anything it can to force the US out of Asia, to include war and threats of it. They are rapidly approaching the level of "playing with nuclear fire" I might add. This is a massively risky and destabilizing "show" they are attempting to create internally to whip up Chinese nationalism and increase regional uncertainty against the US. These are classic, cold war era types of scenarios being played out.
We went down this road with a threatening bully during the 1930s in Europe. We ignored him too and look what he did. The attempts to use trade and overlooking exploding trade deficits as a backdoor means to somehow "buy liberty" or a "nicer government" from them have not played according to the plans some have had within the US and international community.
The business community has had -far- too much influence, while little to nothing in terms of American ideals in our dealings (freedom, human rights, etc) with them. This in turn has helped create a monster that now posesses the economic and military industrial machine to build a truly aggressive war machine and pariah state that can threaten it's neighbors either directly or through sales of military armaments to rogue states that accomplish same aim. (to wit: PRC assistance to Iraqi air defense systems using fiber optic cabling) This is almost straight out of the planning and coordination Hitler's Armaments minister, Albert Speer detailed in his book "Inside the Third Reich". It's truly chilling.
A new book by Bill Gertz, "The China Threat" is available from Amazon.com, it details all the schemes the PRC have used to get what they want in their quest for regional military and economic supremacy and of course their direct challenge to the US. I have long felt that our next major war -will- be versus the PRC, it's not a question of if, but when.