Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What Lee Ming-che’s Show Trial Tells Us

More than anything, Beijing is using the Lee case to send a warning to Taiwan and the rest of the world that proposing political alternatives for China, or even criticizing the CCP, can be costly. Whoever or wherever you are 

The “trial” of Taiwanese democracy activist Lee Ming-che, who went missing in China on March 19, opened yesterday at the Yueyang City Intermediate People’s Court, with Lee admitting to various purported crimes against China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

Lee, 42, pleaded guilty to “subverting the state” by “spreading articles that maliciously attacked the Communist Party of China, China’s existing system and China’s government” by calling for a multiparty political system. After admitting his “wrongs,” the rights activist said he had been mislead by vicious Taiwanese (and Western) media about China and that his eyes had been opened. Now seeing the real virtues of China, Lee said that after he is released from prison (at this writing no sentence has been given) and allowed to return to Taiwan he would work towards promoting unification. 

Continues here.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

The U.S.-Taiwan Security Relationship in a Time of Transition

New challenges, opportunities and uncertainty in an extremely complex environment 

The 2016 elections of Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan, and of Donald J. Trump in the United States have injected new uncertainty in the security environment across the Taiwan Strait. Meanwhile, an increasingly self-assured Beijing, aided by political developments in China encouraging assertiveness, is creating new tensions in the region, which will create new challenges for Washington and Taipei. 

My analysis, published today on the Brookings Institution's Taiwan-U.S. Quarterly Analysis, continues here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Taiwan’s Greatest Victory is Not the Medal Count

More than a celebration of sports, the games were a rare opportunity for Taiwan to shine on the world stage. And it did that brilliantly 

The 29th Summer Universiade will conclude this evening with what promises to be an eye-catching ceremony in Taipei, wrapping up 12 days of sports excellence and many high moments for Taiwan, which made the best of this rare occasion to shine on the international stage. 

The host country, Taiwan finished third in the medal count, with 26 gold, 34 silver and 30 bronze, behind Japan and South Korea. The captivating performances by the Taiwanese athletes who competed in the games, with Cheng Chao-tsun setting a new record for Asia in javelin throw, among other feats, brought excitement to levels seldomly seen in Taiwan’s sports sector. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Liberals’ Great Failure on Taiwan: A Response to Edward Luce

It is grand time that liberals recognized that the defense of Taiwan is a worthy liberal enterprise, not a relic of the Cold War that is kept on life support by conservatives 

Since the election of Donald J. Trump in November 2016, a number of books decrying the supposed decline of the West and the retreat from liberal-democratic values have scaled the bestseller lists. One in particular, described by Lawrence Summers as a “penetrating analysis,” makes it clear that the would-be defenders of Western liberal values have got it absolutely wrong when it comes to Taiwan. 

The book in question, The Retreat of Western Liberalism, was written by Edward Luce, the chief U.S. columnist for the Financial Times. Like many purported voices of liberal reason, Luce writes about the existential threat that faces Taiwan in a way that suggests its defense is the remit and consequence of misguided, conservative — and ultimately dangerous — illiberal forces. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Interpol Puts China Ahead of Public Safety as Taipei Readies to Host 2017 Universiade

Once again an international institution is allowing China to create a major blind spot in the global surveillance system 

As national boundaries become increasingly meaningless to criminals, effective and timely police communication across borders is more important than ever before. At INTERPOL, one of our priorities is to enable the world’s police to exchange information securely and rapidly.” 

Thus states the Interpol “I-24/7” global police communications system web page. The key passage — As national boundaries become increasingly meaningless to criminals — deserves repeating, as it is absolutely true that international terrorists, human, arms and drug traffickers, triad members, serial killers and other threats to society do not care about, let alone respect, national boundaries. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Thinking Strategically About Taiwan’s Survival

As it faces off against an increasingly assertive China, Taiwan must do everything it can to present a united front that is committed to the maintenance of its democratic institutions 

It is often said about Taiwan that its best asset is its democracy, which acts both as a firewall against authoritarian China’s encroachment and an instrument of soft power to appeal to an oftentimes inattentive international community. More than ever, as Beijing intensifies its efforts to undermine the island-nation’s democratic institutions and public support for them, Taiwanese and their allies must determine the best responses to this challenge and avoid short-sighted policies that can have the inadvertent effect of assisting Beijing. 

Continues here.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Will China's Disinformation War Destabilize Taiwan?

If you can’t control the message, take that control away from your opponent by making sure the message gets lost 

While analysts continue to pay close attention to the increasingly frequent passages by People’s Liberation Army vessels and aircraft near Taiwan, an equally important development is the ongoing saturation of Taiwan with information to overwhelm the population and create a sense of permanent crisis. 

With every sign suggesting that President Xi Jinping will tighten the screws on Taiwan prior to—and possibly after—the 19th National Congress later this year, we can expect an uptick in PLA operations, including intrusions into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone and other forms of signalling meant to intimidate Taiwan. These exercises reinforce notions of powerlessness and inevitability, as well as serve to incrementally “normalize” such passages by the PLA by making them routine. 

Continues here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

China Threatens the Very Essence of Taiwan’s Statehood

China isn’t ready to take Taiwan by force, and its efforts to win over the Taiwanese with economic incentives have failed. Beijing’s next option is to slowly destroy the polity that stands in the way of the real estate it seeks to acquire 

Faced with a obstinate population that refuses to be annexed, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appears to have run out of options in its quest to unify Taiwan with China. Beijing’s approach to date, an alternating mix of coercion and sweeteners, has not yielded the dividends it was hoping for. In fact, both approaches seem to have had the opposite effect and, along with other factors, have contributed to a deepening identification with Taiwan among the island-nation’s 23.5 million people. Therefore, barring an unlikely break with longstanding trends in Taiwanese society, “peaceful unification” — which is contingent on both sides agreeing on the benefits of such an arrangement — doesn’t seem feasible for the foreseeable future. 

Continues here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fake News at Work: President Tsai ‘Persecutes Religion’ in Taiwan

Temple operators in Taiwan appear to have become the latest targets in a disinformation campaign intended to discredit the administration

A suspected disinformation campaign targeting the Tsai Ing-wen administration appears to have intensified in recent weeks with false reports circulating that the central government is preparing to issue directives to strictly regulate local buddhist and taoist temples across Taiwan and ban the burning of incense. 

According to information that began circulating three weeks ago, which several people in southern parts of Taiwan have received via text messages, the Tsai administration is mulling new regulations which would force temple operators nationwide to obtain permission from a “Department of Religious Affairs” to hold religious gatherings and perform chants at funeral services. Temples would also be ordered to declare their income tax, and the burning of incense would henceforth be banned. Failure to abide by the new rules, it said, would result in prosecution. 

Continues here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Brawls in Taiwan’s Legislature: A Blemish, Yes, but Hardly a Way of Life

The unfortunate scenes we have witnessed in recent days are not what parliament is all about, nor are they representative of a cherished institution that ultimately belongs to the people 

Anyone who follows domestic politics in Taiwan will have seen in recent days a series of brawls pitting opposition Kuomintang lawmakers against those from the majority Democratic Progressive Party. Faces have been slapped; necks choked; water sprayed; and pieces of furniture — chairs, desks — sent flying. 

The ferocious behaviour has attracted the attention of international media, which are ever on the lookout for a bit of drama. On 18 July, for example, the BBC ran a piece by its Taiwan correspondent titled “Taiwan’s brawling in parliament is a political way of life,” accompanied by a video clip with text reading “This is the Taiwanese parliament. This is the second fight within a week. The opposition party is known for getting physical to get what they want. If they oppose a piece of legislation, they fight to block it. Literally.” 

Continues here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Taiwan Confirms China’s ‘Black Hand’ Behind Anti-Reform Protests

Using ‘content farms’ and other means, Chinese elements are suspected of generating much of the disinformation that has been circulating concerning the Tsai administrations’ pension reform plans. They have also helped mobilize protesters 

Taiwan’s national security apparatus on Monday confirmed that a recent wave of increasingly virulent protests against President Tsai Ing-wen’s pension reform efforts have been influenced by China. 

According to government information, Chinese elements (presumably agencies involved in political warfare) have played a role in mobilizing protesters and spreading disinformation about pension reform via electronic media. Various web sites, as well as the LINE instant communication tool, have been used to disseminate “fake news” about the government’s plans. The national security apparatus has confirmed that the information originated in China. 

Continues here.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Assertive Great Power or Victim — China Can’t be Both

Hubristic and expansionist China shouldn’t cry foul when its nationals don’t receive a warm reception in countries it has been bullying for years 

Contemporary China has a serious case of split personality. As she flexes her muscles and claims what is “rightfully” hers, China also continues to exhibit a deeply ingrained sense of victimization at the hands of foreign forces and never hesitates to use this trauma whenever she encounters opposition to her ambitions. But at some point China will have to choose: she cannot be both bully and victim at the same time. 

The victim’s reflex is understandable, given the emphasis that Chinese school curricula have placed on the “century of humiliation.” But it also signals a national immaturity and an inability to understand what it may feel like for those who find themselves on the receiving end of China’s newfound assertiveness. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

President Tsai’s Safety at Risk as Anti-Pension Reform Groups Plot Escalatory Action

Groups with a track record of violence are threatening President Tsai and her entourage with actions that could pose a major health hazard, including the use of pesticide 

The personal safety of President Tsai Ing-wen could be at risk as groups protesting her pension reform program — among them retired police and military personnel and — threaten violence and appear to have infiltrated her security detail.

Twice in recent weeks, protesters knew ahead of time the exact route that President Tsai and her entourage were to take when heading to a public event, raising the possibility of an inside job. 

Continues here.

Friday, July 07, 2017

The Trump Administration’s First Arms Package for Taiwan: What’s in it?

The latest U.S. arms sale to Taiwan is no game changer, but some of the items approved for transfer suggest greater willingness on Washington’s part to provide counterforce weapons to its Asian ally 

The Donald J. Trump administration last week released its first arms package for Taiwan, ending months of speculation that longstanding military assistance to the democratic island-nation may have been overshadowed by Washington’s attempt to secure Beijing’s assistance on the North Korea issue. 

Although we can’t be certain whether rapprochement with Beijing — an ephemeral affair, it now seems — or institutional drag due to the absence of appointments to key positions in U.S. government was responsible for the delays in announcing an arms package to Taiwan, last week’s notification sends a welcome signal of continuity to Taipei at a time of mounting pressure from China and diplomatic isolation for Taiwan. 

Continues here.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Death of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong Sends Warning to the International Community

Most people already knew that ‘one country, two systems’ was a sham, at best a temporary smokescreen meant to facilitate the recuperation of Hong Kong. Now the illusion has been lifted 

The most shocking thing about Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang’s remarks on Friday, to the effect that the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong of 1984 is no longer relevant, isn’t so much Beijing’s dismissing of a binding UN treaty but rather the outrage from around the world by individuals who should have known that China never committed to abiding by the treaty to begin with. 

“Now that Hong Kong has returned to the motherland for 20 years, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, as a historical document, no longer has any realistic meaning,” Lu told a press conference on Friday. 

Continues here.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The World is Not Abandoning Taiwan

Despite the challenges and diplomatic reversals, Taiwan is in many ways more connected to the international community today than it was during the ‘diplomatic truce’ with China, and its existence as a sovereign state remains secure 

Given the highly publicized loss of two of Taiwan’s official diplomatic allies in December last year and June this year, and the possibility that a few more countries could jump ship in the coming months, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Beijing’s renewed pressure on the international community following Tsai Ing-wen’s election has sparked an irreversible domino-effect of abandonment of the democratic nation-state. But as official allies switch recognition, Taiwan is actively but quietly strengthening unofficial ties with a number of key states. 

Continues here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The World Is Deserting Taiwan. How Should the U.S. Respond?

A ChinaFile Conversation between Richard Bernstein, Margaret Lewis and J. Michael Cole 

There are plenty of things the United States could do, and ought to do, to prevent further isolation of Taiwan. Although Washington has no right to tell other sovereign states how to act on what they believe to be in their national (often economic) interest—such as, in Panama’s case, establishing diplomatic relations with China—it could certainly do more to counterbalance Beijing’s efforts to narrow democratic Taiwan’s international space. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Taiwan Just Lost Panama to China—But It Doesn't (Really) Matter

Absent a working Taiwan strategy, Beijing has ramped up the pressure to isolate Taipei internationally 

Panama on Tuesday severed diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan) and established official ties with the People’s Republic of China, in a move that is as much part of Beijing’s efforts to isolate the democratic island-nation as a logical extension of its global economic policy. 

Not long after President Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez made the announcement, Panamanian foreign minister Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado, on a visit to Beijing, signed a communiqué establishing Panama’s diplomatic ties with China. “The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that only one China exists in the world, the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all China, and Taiwan forms an inalienable part of Chinese territory,” the statement said. 

My article, published today in The National Interest, continues here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Panama Severs Diplomatic Relations with Taiwan, Embraces PRC

After more than a billion dollars in infrastructure investment, port acquisitions and the promise of riches, Panama has decided to sever ties with Taiwan and to embrace the PRC 

Panama last night announced it was establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, the latest in countries that have decided to sever ties with Taiwan and recognize the PRC. 

President Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez made the announcement on national networks at 8:00p.m. Panama time. 

According to La Estrella de Panama, in recent years China has become one of the three largest users of the Panama Canal. In May 2016 Landbridge Group (China) purchased Margarita Island Port, Panama’s largest port. As part of the US$900 million deal to control Panama’s Margarita Island Port, Chinese interests have vowed heavy investments to upgrade port facilities and build a deepwater port capable of docking larger ships. Landbridge is also the firm that acquired the Port of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory. 

Continues here.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

China and the ‘Cold War Mentality’

Beijing has repeatedly accused its critics of having a ‘Cold War mentality.’ But is being a Cold Warrior really something to be ashamed of? Not if we’re fighting for the cause of freedom against expansionist authoritarianism 

It has been a constant refrain among Chinese officials and party-controlled media over the years to accuse whomever opposes China’s expansionist and militaristic ambitions of having a “Cold War mentality.” Rather than shed light on the actual motivations of Beijing’s critics, however, the sobriquet serves little more than as a blanket term to silence and discredit. 

Underlying the accusations is the notion, unrelentingly encouraged by Beijing despite ample evidence to the contrary, that China’s “rise” and emergence as a regional superpower is benevolent, natural, and inevitable. Following that logic, which according to Beijing should not be questioned, any criticism or policy that does not yield to this narrative is invariably proof of containment — the U.S. policy against its Cold War opponent, the Soviet Union — and therefore a Western-led (racist) conspiracy to keep China in a state of subjugation. 

Continues here.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Taiwan, Tell Thyself

It is nearly impossible to find foreign-language books about Taiwan in Taiwanese bookstores. This needs to be fixed, perhaps with incentives from the government 

It’s a complaint that anyone who pays attention to Taiwan has heard time and again over the years: We Taiwanese are isolated, repressed by China, and unfairly ignored by the international community. Although there is absolutely nothing false in that statement, Taiwan’s response to this predicament (the public and the government) has often been far too passive — and this starts here at home. 

From the outset, it is important to establish the fact that isolation is the offspring of ignorance, of the audience not knowing of that which is being isolated in the first place. Through a sustained and globe-spanning propaganda campaign, China has been hard at work broadcasting a narrative that, little by little, has succeeded in casting Taiwan into the shadows. By dint of an unrelenting assault on the very symbols of Taiwanese statehood (flags, diplomatic presence, participation at multilateral events, presence at academic settings and in the media, and so on), China has sought to isolate Taiwan by rendering it nonexistent in the global imagination. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Emirates Orders Cabin Crew Not to Wear ROC Pin on Uniform, to Respect ‘One China’ Policy

Complaints by Taiwanese crew to the new directive appear to have forced the airline company to reverse part of its order 

A directive to all Taiwanese cabin crew on Emirates has caused a backlash among employees after it requested they refrain from wearing the Republic of China (ROC) pin on their service waistcoat and replace it with that of China. The order, issued on Tuesday by the Uniform Standards And Development Manager at Emirates, states that the order followed instructions by the Chinese government and had immediate effect. 

Continues here.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tsai passes first-year test, but challenges loom

An analysis of President Tsai's foreign and domestic policies during her first year in office 

One year has elapsed since Tsai Ing-wen was inaugurated on 20 May. This article assesses her administration’s performance in three specific foreign policy areas - cross-Strait relations, relations with the US, and relations with the broader international community - and briefly touches on her domestic policy and its possible impact on foreign relations. 

This article, published today in the Lowy Interpreter, continues here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

After months of waiting, Taiwan’s Council of Grand Justices rules that it is against the constitution to bar same-sex individuals from getting married

In a landmark case that has attracted worldwide attraction, 14 judges from Taiwan’s Council of Grand Justices on Wednesday ruled that it is unconstitutional for the country to deny same-sex individuals the right to get married, 

As it currently stands, the Civil Code stipulates that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman. Gay advocates argue that this stipulation violates constitutional guarantees of equal rights. Wednesday’s decision comes after several years of campaigning by LGBT activists in Taiwan, whose efforts gained momentum in the past year following the election of Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who campaigned on a platform of marriage equality. 

Continues here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Next U.S. Arms Package for Taiwan: What Taipei Should Ask For

U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have both defensive and political value. While President Trump’s current infatuation with China makes it unlikely that Washington will allow a major arms transfer in the short term, Taipei should already be preparing for the day when the American president realizes that Beijing isn’t the ally he was hoping for 

With U.S. President Donald J. Trump currently fixated on North Korea and convinced that China’s help in the matter is indispensable, the prospects of an early arms sale to Taiwan — always an irritant in relations between Washington and Beijing — have gotten dim. 

Following months of campaigning on a stridently anti-China agenda, Trump, now that he is in the Oval Office, has not only softened his stance but appears to have been charmed by President Xi Jinping, as have several officials in his administration who have lucrative relationships with China. Many fear that the Trump administration has now embarked on a strategy to appease the Chinese. For example, soon after Trump’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart at Mar-a-Lago last month, the U.S. Navy was denied permission to continue freedom of navigation patrols in the disputed South China Sea, a move seen by many observers as a yet another of many concessions to China. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We Can Slay the Dragons of Homophobia

Phobia is at the heart of the campaign against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. Science and education can cast a light in the dark 

Today, May 17, marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). Celebrated in more than 130 countries around the world, IDAHOT is a reminder that while much progress has been made in protecting the rights of members of the LGBTQI community, much work still needs to be done as revisionist forces join hands globally to overturn some of the accomplishments that have been made in recent years. 

Twenty seven years ago, on May 17, 1990, the WHO finally declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, a decision, based on scientific evidence, that helped dispel some of the myths surrounding homosexuality and that no doubt made it possible for some countries in subsequent years to legalize same-sex unions and adoption of children by homosexual couples. 

Continues here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Yes, Taiwan Can and Will Survive Donald Trump

The Trump administration will eventually awaken to the fact that Beijing cannot, and has no desire to, deliver on North Korea 

Supporters of Taiwan have experienced both elation and dejection in recent months as President Donald Trump first seemed prepared to embrace the democratic island-nation only to turn around and instead engage in a romance with Chinese president Xi Jinping. 

The initial optimism resulted in large part from Trump’s campaign rhetoric, which promised a much more rigid line on China and an end to President Obama’s supposedly “weak” way of dealing with the authoritarians in Beijing on issues from currency manipulation to territorial expansion, human rights to cyber espionage. For those who regard geopolitics as a zero-sum game between states, this stance held the promise of creating more space and opportunities for Taiwan. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Old Wine in an Old Bottle

Beijing is reportedly planning to implement a ‘new strategy’ to win the hearts and minds of young Taiwanese. Like everything else that has come before it, it’s bound to fail 

With every effort to push its unification agenda meeting abject failure in recent years, the Chinese government is reportedly planning a “new approach” to Taiwan affairs, one that it is said will focus on social contact by prioritizing young people and small businesses. 

Beijing’s review of its approach to Taiwan, along with an ongoing shakeup of the people in charge of implementing cross-Strait policies, comes after a very frustrating eight years of rapprochement between the two sides under former president Ma Ying-jeou. To Beijing’s dismay, rather than win hearts and minds deepening investment and closer contact achieved the opposite effect and contributed to the consolidation of Taiwan’s idiosyncratic identity — an amalgamation of localist consciousness, historical and geographical factors, liberalism, democracy, as well as Japanese and Western influences — distinct from that which prevails in China. 

Continues here.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

How to Wage the Battle for Taiwan’s International Space

The moral case, however justified, has little chance of success in the current environment. Rather than continue with such a strategy, Taiwan needs to approach the matter asymmetrically by appealing to the self-interest of other nations

As Beijing ramps up its campaign to limit Taiwan’s international space in retaliation for Taipei’s refusal to embrace a “one China” formula that has little appeal in Taiwan, the Tsai Ing-wen administration has been struggling to come up with a strategy to make its case for participation in international organizations. In the current global environment, however, more of the same old public diplomacy won’t work. 

If Taipei needed any reminder of this, it occurred in Perth, Australia, on Monday, when pressure by Chinese and allied African envoys at a Kimberley Process meeting resulted in the expulsion of the delegation from Taiwan, which has been participating in the KP meetings as an observer since 2007. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Taiwan Kicked Out of Kimberley Process Meeting in Australia

The Australian government had a chance to show leadership. Instead, it was a coward and gave in to Chinese pressure 

The Taiwanese delegation at a Kimberley Process meeting in Perth, Australia, was forced to leave on Monday after the Chinese delegation and a number of African delegations aligned with China created a ruckus and asked for the Taiwanese to be expelled. 

The four-day Kimberley Process intersessional meeting is chaired by Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop. This is the first time Australia hosts the intergovernmental meeting. Taiwan joined the Kimberley Process, which seeks to end the global trade in “blood,” or conflict, diamonds, as an observer in 2007. 

Continues here.