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[ 25 ] roundtable • defining a healthy balance Thinking About a Healthy Military Balance in the Taiwan Strait Alan M. Wachman Referring to an array of appliances and vehicles devised to deliver death and decimation as “healthy” seems a bit perverse. However, humanity being what it is, people will continue to build and acquire these devices. One is thus obliged to reflect on the possibility that these weapons may be used, and, therefore, one will want to ensure that their use results in what one perceives to be a desired outcome. It is widely accepted that a certain distribution of devices and conveyances may actually discourage disputants from using what they have. Consequently, how one evaluates what constitutes a healthy balance of forces depends on whether one’s aim is to employ fierce modes of destruction to kill and demolish or whether one is thinking of armaments principally in terms of what might be called a destructive derivative: deterrence. Views of what constitutes a healthy military balance across the Taiwan Straitwilldifferdependingontheobjectivesoneemphasizesasparamountand on the strategy one adopts as most efficacious in service to those objectives. Naturally, the governments of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Republic of China (ROC), and the United States—the three states most enmeshed in the military dimension of the cross–Taiwan Strait controversy—act in what they each perceive to be their own national interest. Therefore, it is unsurprising that each state emphasizes different objectives and espouses competing views about an appropriate distribution of military forces while trying to affect the balance across the strait. Beyond that, one discerns within each of those three governments—to say nothing of what emerges from the broader gaggle of pundits in each of the three places—contending visions of what the paramount objective ought to be and, therefore, distinct visions of what constitutes a healthy military balance. Thus, what one prescribes as a healthy balance of military forces affecting the Taiwan Strait will reveal what one’s political objectives are and what role one imagines for the use of military power. At present, the PRC appears to have reached a juncture where it hopes the firepower it has developed will deter people on Taiwan from pursuing the amorphous objective known as “de jure” independence—even though there is no standard definition of what constitutes de jure independence or alan m. wachman is Associate Professor of International Politics in the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He can be reached at . [ 26 ] asia policy consensus about how it differs from the state of affairs that already exists. In other words, Beijing apparently believes that military power can intimidate Taiwan’s voters and elected officials from acting in too brazen a manner with regard to the assertion of Taiwan’s independent status, even though Taiwan is clearly not dependent on the PRC and shows little sign of hoping to become so. What, precisely, Beijing aims to deter seems to vary. Yet, China continues to expand its capacity to menace Taiwan, leaving some observers to conclude that Beijing’s long-range goal may be to acquire the capacity to alter Taiwan’s status by force. There is also reason to believe that the PRC views the expansion of its military capabilities as having a deterrent effect on the United States or on other states—principally Japan—that might be tempted to engage in hostilities, should combat arise between the PRC and the ROC. For its part, the ROC is at a juncture where it hopes very much that the firepower it has and still hopes to acquire will give Beijing sufficient pause that it will refrain from attacking the island, or that if the PRC decides to use force for something other than deterrence, Taiwan could blunt an assault for a period of sufficient duration that U.S. military power may be brought to bear on the conflict. Although the ROC once had the intention of using military capabilities to alter the political status of the PRC, those aims were shelved long ago and formally extinguished in 1991. Chen Shui-bian’s administration adopted a strategy of developing long-range missiles capable of striking targets well within the mainland, but...