First, and most important, Beijing needs to freeze its deployment of missiles aimed at Taiwan. It has already deployed more than 1,000 missiles and continues to add more than a dozen per month. Even Taiwanese who are not independence firebrands regard those deployments as profoundly threatening.
With such a large number of missiles already in place, Beijing gains little further military clout by boosting the total. Ideally, it should begin to withdraw some but, at the very least, President Hu Jintao should announce a freeze as a goodwill gesture.
Such a freeze might advance another policy objective — getting the US to halt further arms sales to Taiwan. Mainland officials are fond of quoting the communiqué signed by president Ronald Reagan in 1982 in which the US pledged to reduce and eventually eliminate those sales. They conveniently ignore the context of that pledge — namely, that Beijing was committed to settling the Taiwan issue by peaceful means. An ongoing, massive build‐up of missiles is clearly inconsistent with that commitment.
A second conciliatory step Beijing should take is to stop its strategy of diplomatic strangulation against Taiwan. Over the decades, the Republic of China (Taiwan’s formal name) has seen the number of countries that maintain diplomatic relations with it steadily dwindle. The huge blow came in 1979, when the US switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Nevertheless, as recently as the mid‐1990s, some 30 mostly small and poor countries in Africa and the Caribbean retained relations with Taipei. Beijing has steadily bought off such governments; Taiwan’s diplomatic partners are now down to 23, after Malawi broke ties this month.