Asia in Review Archive (2017)

Taiwan (Republic of China)

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29 December 2017

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan calls Chinese drills a major threat

(ls) Taiwan raised alarms over China’s growing military presence in a biennial defense white paper published for the first time under President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday, with a particular focus on Beijing’s stepped-up military drills in the West Pacific. Moreover, due to Taiwan’s location facing the South China Sea, East China Sea and the West Pacific, the report also said that the island could monitor the Chinese forces and provide an early warning to others about their activities [Nikkei Asian Review].

Last week, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took to Facebook to point out that China’s increasingly frequent military drills near Taiwan have affected regional stability, while motivating the military to stay vigilant in safeguarding the country against security threats. Her comments came a couple of days after China’s Air Force conducted its 10th drill near Taiwan since the conclusion of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October [Focus Taiwan].

However, when asked about the continuing drills and the footage released by the air force, China’s policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office said it and the defense ministry had repeatedly described the exercises as routine. “Everyone will slowly get used it,” a spokesman told a routine news briefing, without elaborating [Reuters].

22 December 2017

Cross-Straits relations: China and Taiwan on the brink to war?

The usually high number of 10 PLA air force drills around Taiwan since the Party Congress in October have led to speculations whether those exercises could be a precursor for an invasion of Taiwan [South China Morning Post]. David Spencer, however, argues that the latest military exercises are a show of force to intimidate the Tsai government and an appeasement to saber-rattling hawks on the mainland [Taiwan News]. Meanwhile, the Taiwan’s Defense Minister has announced that his Ministry will stop issuing reports on China’s naval and air craft drills in order to demonstrate that Taiwan “will not dance to China’s tune as it tries to use psychological warfare against Taiwan” [Focus Taiwan].

15 December 2017

Lowering referendum thresholds

In a move to enhance public participation in the legislation process, Taiwan’s legislature has approved a law to amend the 2003 Referendum Act reducing the threshold for a referendum to be valid from a turnout of 50% of the electorate to 25%. However, excluded from referendums are constitutional changes, including changes to sovereign symbols governed by the Constitution such as the name of the nation, its anthem, flag, or territorial boundaries [Focus Taiwan].

15 December 2017

China-US-Taiwan relations: Tensions over possible port calls of US Navy vessels in Taiwan

Congress’ passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2018 fiscal year authorizing US Navy vessels visits to Taiwan and vice versa has met vehement outrage on the Chinese side. While the no. 2 of the Chinese embassy in Washington warned that such a visit at a port of the island could activate the Anti-Secession law which stipulates the use of military force against Taiwan in cases of developments interpreted by Beijing as possibly leading to the island’s independence, the Chinese Foreign Ministry criticized the law as a violation of the One-China policy and an interference in China’s internal affairs [The Maritime Executive] [Reuters]. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed gratitude to the US Congress for approving the the NDAA and dismissed the threats of violence made by the Washington embassy official as comments unconducive to Cross-Straits relations [Taipei Times].  J. Michael Cole in his assessment of the NDAA and the Chinese reactions argues that an invasion of Taiwan by the PLA is unlikely to follow a port call. However, Beijing will definitely requite such a move in some way with Taiwan as target [China Policy Institute: Analysis]. In a related move to warn Taiwan, Chinese warplanes on Monday conducted a series of exercises in the Western Pacific, including flying over the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines and island encirclement patrols over Taiwan [South China Morning Post].

8 December 2017

Bill on lay judges’ participation in criminal trials completed

In the frame of the government’s large-scale judicial reform the Judicial Yuan, Taiwan’s highest judicial organ, has finalised a bill allowing lay judges to participate in criminal trials and decide with professional judges cases ranging from cases carrying sentences for at least seven years imprisonment to homicide [Taipei Times].

1 December 2017

Cross-Strait relations, travel destinations and non-interference

AiR reported recently on some difficulties in cross-strait relations, including the case of Human rights advocate Lee Ming-Che [AiR], who has now been jailed in China on “subversion of state” charges [BBC] [Taipei Times 1]. In another spat, Beijing has taken both the Vatican and Palau in the Pacific off a list of possible destinations for Chinese tourists in an effort to increase pressure on them as they are two of the few remaining countries that entertain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan [Taiwan News]. The move has been criticised in Taiwanese newspapers, for example pointing out that this kind of influence-seeking behaviour does not at all correspond with China’s cherished principle of non-interference into the matters of other countries [Taipei Times 2]. Banning destinations for Chinese tour groups is something Beijing also continues to do with South Korea, where it strongly condemns the THAAD deployment [Global Times]. In another incident of Beijing not approving of local circumstances, it has voiced concerns regarding an anti-Chinese Tibet protest at a football match in Germany last week. It argues Germany should not allow separatist, anti-China or terrorist activities, to which the president of the German Football Association responded: “It has been made clear to the Chinese federation that when you play in Germany you also have to deal with the fact that anyone can express their opinion.”  [The Guardian]

17 November 2017

Cabinet’s proposed changes to labor law criticized

The Tsai administration’s recent proposal to change provisions of the labor law pertaining to the regulation of work hours of employees has been criticized by labor rights groups as an act of bowing to demands of the business sector at the expense of the workers’ interests. Among other disputed issues, the protest is directed in particular against an amendment which would provide employers the opportunity to circumvent the ban on working more than six consecutive days in exceptional circumstances and increase the number of consecutive working days up to twelve [Focus Taiwan].

17 November 2017

Cross-Straits Relations and Taiwanese Southbound Policy

Since the election of Tsai Ing-wen of the rather independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party in early 2016, cross-straits relations have been strained and arguably deteriorated from where they had been under her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou. Amongst many examples, the People’s Republic of China is said to have used coercion and threats in order to block even “non-governmental” Taiwanese participation in recent UN climate talks [Reuters]. At the same time, Beijing and Taipei have agreed to cooperate on a very interesting, potentially even militarily relevant project, relating to surveillance satellite data sharing on earthquake tracking [South China Morning Post]. Besides, Taiwan is aiming to bolster exchanges with Malaysia. While bilateral trade, educational exchanges as well as tourism have already increased, the Taiwanese government aims at more. Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, initiated by President Tsai Ing-wen, is aimed at strengthening relationships through economic cooperation, talent development and resource-sharing with 16 countries in Southeast and South Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand [Focus Taiwan].

10 November 2017

Hunger strike to push for direct democracy

Members of the People Rule Foundation have started a hunger strike in an attempt to demand from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party a swift passing of draft amendments to the Referendum Act of 2003. The amendments are directed especially towards lowering the threshold of 50% voters turnout currently required to validate a referendum [Taipei Times].

3 November 2017

Taiwan: President calls for breakthrough with China, faces cool response

Days after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) revealed its new generation of top leaders, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen made a public speech on cross-strait relations, calling for a breakthrough with China. In a rare direct message from Tsai to the Chinese authorities, Tsai’s message was a clearer definition of how she views the 1992 Cross-Straits talks commonly termed the “1992 consensus” [The Diplomat]. Meanwhile, Tsai landed in Hawaii on Saturday en route to a visit to Taipei’s diplomatic allies in the Pacific, despite strong objections from China. Tsai is on a week-long trip to three Pacific allies – Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands – via Honolulu and the US territory of Guam.  U.S. President Trump is scheduled to visit Beijing in less than two weeks [South China Morning Post].

28 October 2017

India´s Dangerous Taiwan Gambit

Following the redefinition of its previous “Look East” policy to an “Act East” policy after the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) takes shape as a major geopolitical move that is accompanied by the impressive Chinese advancement in the Indian Ocean region India continues its daring rapprochement with Taiwan. Under Modi who has always been ‘Taiwan friendly’, the bilateral economic relations are thriving with some Indian voices recommending to send an Indian defense attaché to Taipei. The development is in line with a policy to use China’s ‘core issues’ like Taiwan, the Dalai Lama, and the South China Sea as a strategic card that gains weight in context of the emerging quadrilateral and triangular coalitions with the United States, Australia, and Japan [The Diplomat]

20 October 2017

China-Taiwan relations: The role of the US

With Donald Trump’s first trip to China coming up, a Taiwanese official has raised the issue not to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip in US-China relations [China Post]. From the congress in Beijing, strong words on Taiwan by Xi signal continuity in the PRC’s approach to the matter [Asia Times].


6 October 2017

Could there be theaters of war in Asia?

According to a national security report of the Russian Defense Ministry, geopolitical tensions have risen to an extent that a military conflict between Russia and NATO countries appears possible (Asia Times). Against the background of a looming military clash in Asia, it is interesting to imagine possible scenarios (and the actors and their strategies) of such a clash by looking into the global war games the US Naval War College had developed in the 1970s and 1980s for that time (The National Interest). Currently, the two conflict spots in East Asia for which a military clash is thinkable are North Korea and Taiwan. The risk of a war is to be considered much more acute for the latter than for the former. One the one hand, Beijing views Taiwan much more decisive for her pursuit of regional hegemony than North Korea (Slate) and has already made concrete plans for an invasion of the island by 2020 (The Washington Free Beacon). One other hand, North Korea is believed to be rational enough to see that an attack on the USA is tantamount to suicide. In this light it is for the USA to consider abandoning the defence treaty with South Korea to fully free herself from the risk of war with North Korea, Doug Bandow writes.

6 October 2017

Asia’s Maritime Order

The Philippines will begin important upgrades to its primary outpost in the disputed Spratly group in the South China Sea. The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Modernization Program will finance the paving of an airstrip on the largest Philippine holding in the Spratly group, where China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have claims (The Diplomat). Regarding the exploration of oil and gas resources within disputed areas, China reemphasized its commitment to a lifting of a moratorium and a joint commercial development of the petroleum blocks (Manila Bulletin). At the same time, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte voiced rare praise for the United States, calling it an important security ally, and dismissing historic grievances and his slew of past tirades against Washington as “water under the bridge” (South China Morning Post). Australia, in the meanwhile, needs to shift the focus of military presence from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, if it wants to succeed in coping with emerging security challenges in Asia-Pacific and protect its direct strategic interests (The Australian).

22 September 2017

The United Nations is creating a security dilemma for Taiwan

Despite its commitment to democracy and rule of law, its robust economy, and its eagerness to be a responsible stakeholder, Taiwan is systematically shunned by the UN and its agencies out of fear of antagonizing China. To better fight terrorists, criminals, disease, it is time to bring Taiwan back into forums such as World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and INTERPOL.

22 September 2017

Geopolitics, democracy and India-Japan security cooperation

Arguing against the trend of an autocratic redux in Asia, the author paints a more complex picture and describes dynamics strengthening democracy in the region citing for instance Hong Kong’s and Taiwan’s reactions to a more assertive China and referring a deepening India-Japan security cooperation.

22 September 2017

China-Taiwan relations: China’s ‘United Front’ seeks to undermine U.S. support for Taiwan

China employs a vast, shadowy web of “United Front” organizations for its propaganda and influence operations abroad. This article examines this web that China has created to undermine U.S. support for Taiwan, how this web evades or ignores U.S. law, and steps that can be taken to expose the web and force its compliance with U.S. law.

7 September 2017

New Premier

Pressured by controversies over several policies, including pension and labor benefit reforms and a generally lackluster economic performance, Premier Li Chuan submitted his resignation [The China Post]. As his successor, President Tsai, who faces dramatically dropping approval rates, appointed William Lai, hitherto mayor of Tainan [Taipei Times].

7 September 2017

Taiwan: Cyber attacks on rise since China critical presidency

Taiwan’s National Security Bureau has disclosed high numbers of cyber attacks in Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office in May 2016.

31 August 2017

Cross-Straits relations and the resurgence of “Martial Reunification”

Because of constraining factors on international level, national level and leadership level, cross-straits unification by military means is not a strategic choice for Beijing, Derek Ye Xiao Di writes. However, China might be compelled to enforce martial reunification if pro-independence forces within the green camp in Taiwan would prevail over president Tsai Ing-wen.

18 August 2017

President Tsai Ing-wen’s approval rating sinks to new low

A little bit more than one year after her inauguration as President of the Republic of China in May 2016, when she had an approval rating of almost 70%, Tsai Ing-wen is currently facing nationwide dissatisfaction with her performance and an approval rating below 30%.

27 July 2017

Zuoying naval base to get upgrade

The ability of Taiwan’s Navy to defend against a PRC attack is greatly restricted by the limited support facilities at its premier Zouying naval base. That’s about to change [Taipei Times].

7 July 2017

The World is Not Abandoning Taiwan

Panama’s recent decision to no longer recognize the Republic of China and to recognize only the People’s Republic of China has led to serious concern regarding Taiwan’s increasing international isolation. The Sentinel argues that Taiwan’s international status is, in fact, stronger in recent years despite loss of formal diplomatic ties [Taiwan Sentinel].