Asia in Review Archive (2019-2020)

Taiwan (Republic of China)

Date of AiR edition

News summary

29 December 2020

Taiwan-Indonesia relations: Discussion on migrant worker fees to be continued

(nm) After a meeting last week between representatives from the Taiwan Ministry of Labor and Indonesian officials left several issues unresolved, officials are to convene again in two weeks over recruitment costs for Indonesian migrant workers. 

The main issues of last week’s meeting were Taiwan’s ban on Indonesian migrant workers due to COVID-19 concerns and a policy supposedly unilaterally introduced by Indonesia to take effect next month that transfers all preparatory costs of migrant workers, such as airfares and passport and work visa costs, to Taiwanese employers. During the first meeting, only eleven types of fees were covered.

According to Workforce Management Division Director Hsueh Chien-chung, the Indonesian side on the other hand criticized Taiwan’s requirement that applicants provide their criminal record and that Taiwan is the only country importing Indonesian labor to do so. 

As of the end of November, 265,439 Indonesians were employed in Taiwan, with 194,022 of them working as caregivers and domestic workers. [Taipei Times 1] [Taipei Times 2]

29 December 2020

US Presidents signs Taiwan Assurance Act to strengthen support for Taiwan 

(nm) As part of a 2.3 trillion USD government spending package, US President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2020 into law which bolsters support for Taiwan’s defence capacity and its participation in international organizations. 

The Act calls Taiwan a vital part of the US Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy, and expresses support for Taiwan’s asymmetric warfare strategy and calls for regular arms sales to Taiwan: “The U.S. should conduct regular sales and transfers of defense articles to Taiwan in order to enhance its self-defense capabilities, particularly its efforts to develop and integrate asymmetric capabilities, including undersea warfare and air defense capabilities, into its military forces.”

Furthermore, the act highlights the US’ support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in several international organizations, including in the United Nations and the World Health Assembly, as well as other international groups that do not require statehood for participation, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 

It also allocates 3 million USD to support the activities of the US-Taiwan Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF), an initiative which seeks to develop human resources and exchange knowledge between the Taiwan and the US, and which recently announced its 2021 priority areas of cooperation. Japan joined the platform in 2019. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Focus Taiwan 2] [AiR No. 51, December/2020, 4]

In a similar development, more than 30 members of the US Congress, including 26 senators, last week introduced resolutions calling on US president-elect Joe Biden to enter into a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan. [Taipei Times

Further support came from Japan as a top Japanese defence official last week urged Joe Biden to “be strong” in supporting Taiwan in light of an aggressive China, calling Taiwan’s safety a “red line.” Although Tokyo largely maintains a “one China” policy, its engagement with Taiwan has grown in recent years, mostly on a non-governmental basis. Japan also shares strategic interests with Taiwan, as Japan’s energy supplies and trade flow through lanes which Taiwan sits in. [Reuters]

29 December 2020

Cross-strait relations: Taipei and Beijing cooperate in battling illegal Chinese sand dredgers

(nm) Taiwan and China have worked out cooperation with regard to over 100 Chinese ships illegally dredging sand near Taiwan’s outlying island of Matsu. Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration (CGA) has called the dredging an illegal form of profit-seeking which, however, was not politically motivated. According to the CGA, China and Taiwan have developed a standard operating procedure, pursuant to which Taiwan can call the Chinese side to act if the problem occurs again.  [Taiwan News]

29 December 2020

Cross-strait: Taiwan seeking to strengthen enforcement of regulating China-affiliated publications

(nm) Taiwan’sMinistry of Culture (MOC) announced plans to revise the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area to stricter regulated publications by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as well as by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) before they can enter the Taiwanese market. Publications by private individuals or associations in China, however, would not be subject to the planned amendment.

In response to concerns of censorship, Taiwanese Culture Minister Lee Yung-te labelled CCP and PLA publications “propaganda materials, not books,” adding that “[i]f a country, faced with the invasion of an unfriendly country, does not build fortifications to defend itself, I doubt what its government is doing.” The MOC will consult with members of Taiwan’s publishing associations and industry players as soon as possible to discuss the proposed revision. 

The debate over the amendment comes after the children’s book Waiting for Dad to Come Home, which was originally published in China and is said to glorify China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was barred from distribution earlier this month after it was revealed that its publisher failed to apply for approval by the MOC. [Focus Taiwan] [The News Lens]

29 December 2020

Taiwan: Legislative Yuan approves government’s decision to lift its restrictions on import of ractopamine pork

(nm) Last week, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with its majority of 61 out 113 seats in the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s legislature, pushed through multiple administrative directives that pave the way for thus far banned imports of US pork containing the controversial feed additive ractopamine and US beef from cattle older than 30 months, despite fierce resistance of the main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), over food safety and health concerns. The change is scheduled to come into effect on January 1. [Focus Taiwan 1]

The government’s contentious move to lift the import ban, against which the KMT has launched motions for a national referendum last week to “thwart President Tsai Ing-wen’s dictatorship,” is widely considered by its critics as an appeasement pf the DPP towards the US in a bid to facilitate negotiations on a long-desired bilateral trade deal between Taipei and Washington. [Reuters] [Taipei Times 1] [Taipei Times 2]

Further spurring uncertainty this week, several ordinances by local governments required zero tolerance for ractopamine in pork, putting them in conflict with the Cabinet-level directive. A KMT politician argued that local governments could seek constitutional interpretation should the central government decide to nullify the local regulations. In response, the DPP pointed at the central government’s responsibility to enforce food safety regulations which calls for unified regulations, adding that Cabinet would address the issue once it has gathered more opinions from local governments. [Taipei Times 3]


29 December 2020

Taiwan: Reform of children protection law demanded

(nm) The non-profit organization Child Welfare League Foundation last week proposed amendments to the Protection of Children and Youth Welfare and Rights Act, in an attempt to better cope with parental abduction of children and missing children.

mong others, the foundation called for creating a legal basis for the Missing Children Data Resource Center that would allow it to receive funding to better run its programs, including handling reports of missing children, as well as follow-ups and counseling in cases of missing children. The foundation highlighted the failure of the NPA’s missing-child alert system as it has never issued an alert since it was introduced four years ago and urged the NPA to relax alert issuing criteria.

With regards to preventing parental child abduction, the foundation also proposed that divorced couples should be required to undergo consultation and plan for the care of their children in order to mitigate the effects of divorce on children.

The foundation’s move comes on the heels of latest data of the National Police Agency (NPA), according to which more than 2,600 children were abducted from their homes by a parent and over 5100 children under 18 reported missing this year. [Taipei Times

29 December 2020

Taiwan: Control Yuan member calls for better protection of undocumented migrant children 

(nm) Taiwan’s Control Yuan, the country’s monitoring body, urged related government agencies to take concrete steps to guarantee better care and protection for undocumented children born to migrant workers. 

The call follows findings of the agency revealing that many migrant workers do not officially register their children as they fear being laid off by their employers if found to be pregnant, despite current labor laws prohibiting employers from unilaterally terminating contracts due to pregnancy. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as Taiwan’s Protection of Children and Youth Welfare and Rights Act stipulate that children should be registered immediately after birth – irrespective of the parents’ legal status –. 

Since children of migrant workers must be registered in order to obtain residency and thereby access to government services, migrant parents often cannot apply for government subsidies and support such as healthcare and education for their children. [Focus Taiwan]

22 December 2020

Taiwan announces intent to join CPTPP

(nm) Last week, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced that Taiwan had notified member states of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) of its intent to join the regional trade deal. 

The agreement, which was originally composed of twelve member states and known as the Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP), was thrown into limbo when US President Donald Trump withdrew in early 2017. It was then renamed and now links Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam – Malaysia, Peru, Chile, and Brunei, however, have yet to complete their domestic legal processes for joining the pact. The pact’s member states account for approximately 13% of global GDP, making it the third largest free-trade area by GDP worldwide. 

Potentially significant hurdles to the island’s accession to the pact stem from Taiwan’s ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s expressed bid to “actively consider” joining CPTPP last month. 

As Taiwan is excluded from most regional trade agreements – including the world’s largest free-trade bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which was signed last month – it is deemed crucial for the island’s economic growth to join CPTPP. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times] [Reuters]

22 December 2020

Taiwan-US relations: Deepening cooperation  

(nm/dql) Taiwan and the United States last week announced the signing of a bilateral Scientific and Technological Cooperation Agreement that provides a legal structure for deepening collaboration to advance scientific research, unleash technological innovation and ensure research integrity and intellectual property protection between both sides. [Focus Taiwan 1]

The announcement came shortly after Washington had approved an export license for a digital sonar system to be installed on Taiwan’s first indigenous state-of-art submarine, one of eight new submarines, whose production kicked off in November and of which analysts say it could complicate any potential Chinese military plans to invade the island or install a naval blockade. [Taiwan News] [Naval News] [CNN]

Meanwhile, US Congress members called on the US government commence negotiations on a bilateral free trade deal with Taiwan and to revise guidelines for US-Taiwan relations, arguing that the current guidelines, unchanged since 1994, have been imposing more restrictions on bilateral relations than required by the absence of diplomatic relations. [Focus Taiwan 2]

Under President Trump Taiwan has experienced increased support from the United States, a move that is widely viewed as an effort to counter China’s rising influence in the region. For a possible reading of Taiwan’s opportunities and risks for the incoming Biden administration, see Eric Yu-Chua Huang at [Brookings].

22 December 2020

Taiwan: Referendum proposal on food safety approved 

(nm) The Central Election Commission (CEC) determined last week that a referendum proposal, submitted by the main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), and aimed to overturn the government’s decision to allow imports of ractopamine-fed pork, met legal requirements. The certification by the CEC is the first of two hurdles a petition has to pass prior to being made subject to a national referendum. 

The proposed referendum question reads: “Do you agree that the government should comprehensively prohibit the imports of pork, offal or other related products that contain the β-agonist, ractopamine?”

The KMT’s move follows its criticism of the government’s decision to lift an import ban on US pork containing ractopamine, a controversial veterinary drug currently prohibited by 160 nations, to take effect early next year. The KMT also announced to stage two rallies this week as lawmakers of the Legislative Yuan vote on nine executive orders associated with the lift. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Taipei Times]

The lift of the import ban is generally viewed as a step by the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to remove what the US considers a barrier to trade and open talks, possibly paving the way for a bilateral free trade deal. Members of the US Congress last week called for the commencement of negotiations on such a free trade agreement with Taiwan in a gesture of goodwill following the lift. [Focus Taiwan 2]

22 December 2020

Taiwan, US, and Japan agree on 2021 priority cooperation areas 

(nm) Last week, Taiwanese, Japanese, and US officials announced their countries’ priority areas of cooperation for the upcoming year as part of the 6th Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF). According to a joint statement, the platform “[plans] to host GCTF workshops in the areas of public health, law enforcement, disaster prevention and mitigation, renewable energy, and workforce and artificial intelligence.”

The initiative was launched by Taiwan and the US in 2015 for the development of human resources and exchange of knowledge and hosts workshops on areas of common interest for the region. Japan joined as full partner in 2019. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News]

15 December 2020

Cross-strait relations: Three alleged Chinese cyberagents held in national cyber security case 

(nm) Last week, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau (MJIB) arrested three Taiwanese for allegedly working as agents of the Chinese government. The arrested are accused of disseminating misinformation online that Taiwan and the US were planning to intervene in the domestic politics in Thailand by supporting pro-democracy protests to destabilize the government. They are also suspected of creating social media accounts to promote claims of voting fraud in Taiwan’s presidential election and misinformation on the COVID-19 pandemic.

MJIB stated that the arrests are the first documented case of China successfully recruiting Taiwanese as paid online agents of its “cyberarmy” that works to undermine Taiwanese national security and its international relations. [Taipei Times] [Focus Taiwan]

15 December 2020

Taiwan-Saudi Arabia relations: Double taxation agreement concluded

(nm) Taiwan and Saudi Arabia have signed an accord to avoid double taxation and income tax invasion, according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The agreement is set to take effect on January 1, 2021. 

To date, Taiwan has signed tax agreements with 34 countries, Saudi Arabia being the first nation in the Middle East to sign such an agreement with Taiwan. Saudi Arabia is Taiwan’s 13th-largest trading partner and seeks to diversify its economy as it gradually shifts away from dependence on oil exports. Part of this strategy is encouraging foreign investment. [Focus Taiwan]


15 December 2020

Taiwan: Court overrules appeal of pro-China news channel against its closure

(nm) Chung Tien Television (CTiTV) ultimately had to shut down its news channel last week as the channel’s six-year broadcast license expired after the Supreme Administrative Court had overruled an appeal by the company that was directed against the rejection of a request for an injunction by the Taipei High Administrative Court. With the injunction request, CTiTV sought to continue operation after the channel’s application for the renewal of its broadcast licence was rejected by the National Communications Commission (NCC) in November. 

The legal battle of CTiTV, widely known for its harsh critics of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and for being friendly towards China, has been accompanied by a heated debate between the DPP and the main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT). 

While the KMT called the decision of the NCC politically motivated, accusing the NCC of “subverting freedom of speech and freedom of press”, the DPP described it as effective move to deter abuse of freedom of press. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Taipei Times]

Meanwhile, the NCC announced that it is drafting the Digital Communications Act to better regulate “inappropriate” online content. A similar act had been introduced by the NCC in 2018 but did not pass the Legislative Yuan due to concerns over internet censorship. [Focus Taiwan 2]


15 December 2020

Taiwan: Bill on the way to remove need for husband’s consent for abortion

(nm) Taiwan’s Health Promotion Administration (HPA) announced that it is working on revising the Genetic Health Act to remove the requirement for married women to obtain permission from their partner before having an abortion. Article 9 of the current Act provides that abortion by a married woman “shall be subject to her husband’s consent unless her husband is missing, unconscious or deranged.”

The amendment being drafted follows an enforcement act promulgated by the Executive Yuan in 2012 for the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, instructing the HPA to change the provision as it contravened the UN convention. After further consolidating recommendations, the HPA hopes to complete the draft by March. [Taipei Times]

15 December 2020

Taiwan: Government announces human rights protection action plan amid criticism on migrant workers’ rights

(nm) Last week, Taiwan’s government introduced a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, making Taiwan is the second country in Asia – after Thailand – to adopt such a plan. It focusses on three key aspects: the government’s responsibility to protect human rights, companies’ responsibility to respect human rights, and channels for compensation.

The government also announced that it would introduce a draft act to adopt the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Furthermore, it said that it is considering establishing a human rights division which would oversee cross-department discussion and policy in human rights issues. [Taipei Times 1]

Meanwhile, about 200 migrant workers and migrant workers’ rights advocates protested in front of the Legislative Yuan this week, calling for the introduction of a “household service act” that would ensure legal protection of foreign domestic workers. About 33% of more than 700,000 migrant workers in Taiwan are domestic workers currently not covered by the Labor Standards Act which provides minimum standards for working conditions. [Taipei Times 2]

Taiwan’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), meanwhile, called on the government to protect the rights of new immigrants and migrant workers last week, as part of the commission’s independent opinion report which focusses on human rights issues that the government should continue to address. Regarding immigrants, the commission expressed concerns over the rate of domestic violence in cross-national marriages and current legislation which effectively forces victims to stay in abusive marriages: divorced immigrants who are neither naturalized nor possess an Alien Permanent Resident Certificate are only allowed to remain in Taiwan if their children are underage. Concerning migrant workers, the report criticized both the lack of legal protection for domestic caregivers as well as poor working conditions of migrant fishermen on Taiwanese distant water fishing boats. [Focus Taiwan 1

The NHRC also called on the government to correct numerous procedural problems in the enforcement of the death penalty, including not allowing sufficient time for inmates to file appeals and the lack of clear rules on the respective responsibilities of prison staff and court bailiffs. The Commission cited cases of executions in which innates were waiting for response to their application for a presidential pardon, violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  [Focus Taiwan 2]

In a separate development, two lawmakers of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also urged the Ministry of Labor last week to revise the Gender Equality in Employment Act to better protect workers against sexual harassment. The existing act does not stipulate a process for investigating cases in which an employer is the perpetrator, discouraging victims from filing complaints “through the system.” Among others, the amendment would tackle this issue by allowing victims to appeal to local authorities. [Taipei Times 3


15 December 2020

Taiwan is the only open society in Asia, report says

(dql) For the third consecutive year, Taiwan is the only country in Asia having an open civic space, according to the “People Power Under Attack 2020” report of Civicus Monitor, a South Africa-based international non-profit organization. 

The report assesses the civic space of various countries with regards to freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and expression, with country ratings covering five categories: “open”, “narrowed,” “obstructed,” “repressed,” and “closed.”

Among countries listed in the Asia Pacific region, four countries — China, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam — are rated as closed, while nine are listed as repressed and nine as obstructed. Japan and South Korea are rated as narrowed, and only Taiwan is deemed to be open. [Civicus Monitor]

8 December 2020

Taiwan-Japan: Annual economic meeting to be held in Q1 2021 

(nm) Taiwan and Japan are set to hold their annual bilateral economic and trade meeting in the first quarter of 2021, an official of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (TJRA) – an organization representing Taiwanese interests in Japan – stated last week. Since the 2020 meeting – which regularly would have been held in October or November – was delayed by the global pandemic, the meeting will still be considered the 2020 edition as Japan’s fiscal year ends in March. 

Japan is Taiwan’s third-largest trading partner after China and the United States, while Taiwan was Japan’s fourth-largest trading partner in 2019. [ITA]

Meanwhile, the Japanese side has voiced “deep concerns” on a nearly decade-long Taiwanese ban on Japanese food imports from areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The ban stems from concerns over the threat posed to food safety by possible nuclear radiation contamination. It was introduced by the then-ruling Kuomintang (KMT) government, while the currently ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has considered lifting the ban since it took office in May 2016. 

On Sunday, Taiwan’s representative to Japan said Taiwan should prohibit imports of Japanese food products with radiation but allow imports of food free of radiation. Analysts and Taiwanese government officials suggest that the ban could hinder Taiwan’s efforts to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a Japan-led Pacific trade pact. Due to Taiwan’s exclusion from the Regional Comprehensive Partnership – the biggest regional trade deal ever which was established by China and 14 other countries in November – the participation in the CPTPP is of increasing importance to Taiwan, Hsieh added. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Focus Taiwan 2]

8 December 2020

Taiwan-Norway relations: National identity case to be taken to European Court of Human Rights

(nm) A group of Taiwanese in Norway plan to bring a case on the designation of their national identity to the European Court of Human Rights after Norway’s Supreme Court rejected their appeal to change their nationality from “China” to “Taiwan” on their residency permits. 

The group argues that listing Taiwanese nationals as Chinese violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, protecting the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence, and did not confirm to the facts. He also hopes to raise public awareness in Europe of Taiwan’s predicament in the international community and the threat to democracy posed by authoritarian regimes.

Norway changed the nationality shown on the permits from “Taiwan” to “China” in 2010, presumably in a move to appease China after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]


8 December 2020

Taiwan: Boosting military capabilities with US technology and help

(dql) Taiwan is reportedly likely to acquire from the US two key components – an integrated combat system and a digital sonar system – next month as part of its ongoing construction of the nation’s first indigenous submarine, which begun last month. The indigenous submarine project was initiated by the government in 2016 in a bid to strengthen the country’s aging fleet of four submarines with eight new diesel-electric models, the first of which could enter service by 2025. [Focus Taiwan 1]

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s military announced that the upgrade of eighteen F 16A/B jet fighters belonging to Taiwan’s Air Force has been completed in the first 11 months of the year, under a joint Taiwan-US program aimed to help Taiwan boost its air defense capabilities. The 18 upgraded warplanes are part of the 141 16A/B jet fighters Taiwan had asked the US to help modernize in 2011 under a 3.8 billion USD joint venture between Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) and Lockheed Martin Corporation. [Focus Taiwan 2]

In a latest development, the Trump administration on Monday notified Congress of its planned sale of a new 280 million USD Field Information Communications System (FICS) to Taiwan, in a bid to assist the modernization of the island’s military communications. The suggested sale marks the 11th arms deal to Taiwan under Trump. [Taiwan News]

8 December 2020

Taiwan-US relations: US Congress commission recommends enhanced relations with Taiwan 

(nm) The United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), a commission created by the US Congress to monitor security and trade issues, has recommended that the director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) be nominated by the president, subject to Senate advice and consent. This procedure would effectively treat the AIT director – the unofficial US representative to Taiwan and currently an internal State Department appointment – as an ambassadorial nomination.  

The recommendation is part of the commission’s annual report in which it examines key aspects of the US-China relationship, including competition; economic and trade relations; security, politics, and foreign affairs; Taiwan; and Hong Kong. The commission called 2020 a “pivotal” year for cross-strait relations, citing China’s nationality security law in Hong Kong as well as its “intensifying military activities around Taiwan”. It further calls for urgency in discussing “whether the United States should alter its longstanding policy toward Taiwan”.  It also warned that the actions taken by the US government in the next few years will have “far-reaching consequences” for Taiwan, the region, and the United States’ standing in the world. 

It also recommends amending the TAIPEI Act to encourage the US to use its membership in international organizations to “oppose any attempts by China to resolve Taiwan’s status by distorting the language, policies, or procedures of the organization”. Furthermore, Congress should evaluate strengthening “economic relations with Taiwan in key sectors where there are unique reciprocal opportunities”, starting with the tech sector. Furthermore, Congress should encourage the President “to include Taiwan in multilateral efforts to coordinate and strengthen supply chain cooperation and security”. 

The USCC is a bipartisan commission established by Congress in 2012. Its recommendations are non-binding, but have come to be increasingly influential with US lawmakers. The full report and parts of it are accessible [here]. [USCC] [Reuters 1][Focus Taiwan 1]

Further US support for Taiwan was expressed in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Bill, unveiled last week. A summary released by the House Armed Services Republicans states that the bill “supports U.S. efforts to help Taiwan develop capable, ready, and modern defense forces necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability and requires annual reports on the progress DoD (Department of Defense) is making to deny the strategic goals of a competitor against a defense partner”. The bill also includes provisions to push for a medical partnership between the US and Taiwan. [Reuters 2] [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan 2]

For a policy report and recommendations on US-Taiwan relations, see [CSIS]. 

8 December 2020

Cross-strait relations: Taiwan to implement special visa for Hong Kongers amid prison sentences for pro-democracy activists

(nm) Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) – the Taiwanese agency responsible for policy towards China – announced that will introduce a special set of immigration rules for people from Hong Kong to ease the visa rules for professionals and outstanding graduates from Hong Kong who wish to work or further their studies in Taiwan. Additionally, a proposal to establish a “green lane” between Hong Kong and Taiwan aims to expedite the process for Hong Kong businesspersons who seek to invest in Taiwan. However, details are still being discussed and the proposals will only be implemented once the relevant agencies work out the specifics.

Concerning the question of whether entry restrictions for Hong Kong pro-democracy activists will be relaxed, too, the MAC said that it will revise the relevant procedures if the existing ones prove inadequate. 

The announcement of the proposals comes after three prominent Hong Kong activists received prison sentences on last Thursday for their involvement in mass protests last year. While Taiwan’s government has called the prison sentences regrettable, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) accused  China and the Hong Kong government of creating political terror.  

In an earlier move, the Taiwanese government had opened in July an office to help Hong Kongers who seek legal residency. According to the MAC, most of those reaching the office inquired about how to emigrate to Taiwan through investment and how to apply for schools. In 2019, almost 6,000 Hong Kongers had relocated to Taiwan, in a sharp increase compared to 2018. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Focus Taiwan 2] [DW]


8 December 2020

Taiwan: Cabinet releases plans to control property speculation

(dql) Taiwan’s Cabinet has made public a five-point plan to rein in real estate market speculation. It contains proposals to curb the so-called flipping of pre-sold houses: the practice of buying a property, holding on to it for a short time and then selling it for a profit. It also aims to crack down on the buying and selling of properties under a company’s name in an attempt reduce tax liability. [Focus Taiwan]

The plan comes at a time when the government is concerned about housing prices in the capital Taipei, where mortgage burdens make up more than 50% of household expenses. [Taipei Times]

8 December 2020

Taiwan: Court rejects news channel’s efforts to prevent closure 

(nm) The Taipei High Administrative Court on Monday rejected a request for an injunction by Chung T’ien Television (CTiTV) to prevent the closure of its CTi News channel. The channel’s six-year licence is set to expire on 11 December after CTiTV’s application for its renewal had been rejected by the National Communications Commission (NCC) in November.

In its ruling, the court stated CTiTV could not prove it had a high chance of winning the lawsuit against the NCC adding that it could not see how the rejection would lead to “unrecoverable damage or urgent harm” to the company – both conditions for granting an injunction under Taiwanese law.

The news channel voiced disappointment over the court’s failure to take into consideration the “significant and immediate danger” of its decision to freedom of the press, the “weak legal basis” of the NCC’s decision, as well as the “political interference that might have occurred.” It announced that it would appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]

CTi News is among the harshest critics of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and known for being friendly toward China. The NCC had cited for its rejection of the license renewal the news channel’s repeated violations of broadcasting regulations as well as direct and indirect interference in the station’s news production by its major shareholder, Taiwanese tycoon Tsai Eng-meng who openly shows support for the Chinese Communist Party. [AiR No. 47, November/2020, 4]


8 December 2020

Vietnam condemns both China and Taiwan’s ‘illegal’ acts in South China Sea

(lm) Vietnam has condemned Taiwan for holding live fire drills in what Hanoi considers its rightful waters in the South China Sea, saying the military exercises conducted on November 24 off the disputed Spratly Islands archipelago constituted a ‘grave violation of Vietnamese territory.’ [Hanoi Times] [VN Express]

Hanoi also protested Chinese authorities’ decision to grant permission for two domestic cruise ships to depart on an itinerary to the disputed Paracel Islands, further condemning the deployment of a newly commissioned hospital ship to the South China Sea. [The Maritime Execute] [Janes] [The Star]

1 December 2020

Taiwan: Age of majority to be lowered to 18 

(nm) A committee of the Legislative Yuan last week passed preliminary reviews of proposed amendments to the Taiwanese Civil Code to lower the legal age of majority from 20 to 18. It also set the marriage age for both men and women at 18, which before had been set at 18 and 16, respectively.

The proposal which would enter into effect in 2023 and still needs to pass second and third readings by the full Legislature garnered cross-party support in the committee. 

The legal voting age of 20 will not be affected by these changes, although the Legislature instituted an ad hoc Constitutional Amendment Committee in September that is expected to review a proposal to set the voting age at 18, as well. [Focus Taiwan]


1 December 2020

Taiwan: Turmoil in parliament over US pork imports  

(nm) Last week, legislators from Taiwan’s main opposition party, Kuomintang (KMT), threw pig skin and guts and exchanged punches with other lawmakers in a heated debate in parliament, in which  Premier Su Tseng-chang tried to defend the government’s controversial plan to ease restrictions on imports of US pork fed with ractopamine – a leanness-enhancing additive.

President Tsai Ing-wen had announced in August that the government would allow imports of US pork containing ractopamine from January 1, 2021, on. The lift of the current import ban is widely viewed as an attempt of the Taiwanese government to pave the way for a trade deal with the US. The KTM and other critics have been maintaining that these imports would pose a food security threat.  [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times] [AiR No. 47, November/2020, 4]


1 December 2020

Cross-strait relations: Taiwanese professor sentenced to jail sentence on national security charges 

(nm) A Taiwanese retired university professor has been sentenced to four years in prison on national security charges, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO).  

He was one of several Taiwanese who made public “confessions” on Chinese state television in October, stating he was recruited by Taiwan’s National Security Bureau in 2005 and collected confidential government information from 2005 to 2018 by attending cross-strait academic conferences in China. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council criticized the sentence, calling it “fabricated charges” and claiming the basic human rights of the convicted had been completely ignored. [Focus Taiwan]

1 December 2020

EU passes resolutions showing support for Taiwan

(nm) The European Parliament (EP) last week passed two resolutions containing support of Taiwan’s bid to participate in the World Health Organization (WHO) and its intention to negotiate a trade deal with the European Union, respectively. 

The first resolution called on the EU member states “to advocate Taiwan’s membership as an observer in the WHO/WHA and other international organisations,” while condemning China’s increasing threats against Taiwan as well as against pro-democracy movements in the region.  

Taiwan has been excluded from the WHO and the WHA, its annual decision-making gathering, since 1972 after having lost its seat in the United Nations in 1971. Due to objections by the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan was subsequently unable to re-enter, except for eight years from 2009-2016 when Taiwan was able to attend the WHA under the then pro-China Kuomintang government. 

In a second resolution, the EP urged the European Commission “to start the scoping exercise and impact assessment in order to formally commence the negotiations with Taiwan as soon as possible”. Although it does not further specify what these negotiations entail, Taiwan’s government linked them to a Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA) between Taiwan and the EU. 

However, during an EP hearing in October, European Commission Executive Vice President Vladis Dombrovskis said that although the EU has engaged in close dialogue on investment with Taiwan, “in terms of negotiations, the immediate priority is to finalize the investment agreement with China”. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]

A visit from a top American environmental official of the current administration, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler, which had been scheduled for the week of December 5, however, was cancelled “due to pressing domestic priorities at home”. [Focus Taiwan 3 2]


1 December 2020

Taiwan-US: Alternative to China’s Belt and Road plan pushed 

(nm) In a latest sign of increasing economic cooperation between the US and Taiwan, Taiwanese Minister Su Jain-rong last week announced that both sides are moving ahead with a plan to finance infrastructure and energy projects in Asia and Latin America, with projects hoped to commence within the next year or two. Using capital raised from the private sector, the investment initiative is viewed among observers as a counter-project to China’s Belt and Road Initiative which heavily relies on loans from Beijing to governments and usually involves state-owned enterprises. The plan was initiated with the signing of the “Framework to Strengthen Infrastructure Finance and Market Building Cooperation” between the US and Taiwan in September, under which companies from third countries work with the US International Development and Finance Corporation to fund infrastructure projects in developing countries – granting insurers greater yields than typically available at home while being backed up by political support form the US.

Taiwan is the latest country to join an expanding array of US partnerships under this framework, following sixteen other countries which have concluded similar agreements with the US, including Japan, South Korea, and Australia. [Al Jazeera]

24 November 2020

Taiwan-US relations: Deepening economic ties amid Taiwanese fishery products being put on US list of forced labor produced goods

(dql/nm) In a latest sign of efforts to increase bilateral economic cooperation, Taiwan and the US in a meeting in Washington last week signed a five-year agreement to establish an annual U.S.-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership (EPP) Dialogue. The delegations were led by the Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach, and Taiwanese Minister without portfolio John Deng respectively. Issues addressed at the meeting covered the State Department’s new Clean Network project and 5G security, semiconductors, as well as investment screening and science and technology.

Pointing to the political dimension of the agreement, the US Department of State reassured that the institutionalization of the EPP Dialogue “will help strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan economic relationship,” and at the same time “further magnify the two societies’ respect for democracy, and strengthen our shared commitment to free markets, entrepreneurship, and freedom.” [VoA] [AP]

The memorandum comes at a time of strengthened ties between the US and Taiwan. On Thursday, Taiwan’s top envoy to the US confirmed that Andrew Wheeler, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will visit Taiwan during the week of December 5. The visit raised criticism in the US as the trip will be taxpayer-funded, although Mr. Wheeler will no longer represent the incoming administration’s EPA policy. [Focus Taiwan] [New York Times, $]

Further fostering bilateral relations, several US senators also urged the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday to allow Taiwan meaningful participation in its activities, including in the annual World Health Assembly. The bipartisan letter stressed Taiwan’s successful handling of its local COVID-19 outbreak and pointed out that Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO “places the political agenda of a single member over the health of the global community”. [Taipei Times]

Meanwhile, the US Department of Labor has put Taiwanese fishery products on its ‘List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor’, with import restrictions on Taiwan-caught seafood and a substantial impact on the future of the Taiwan’s seafood industry looming. Taiwan seafood exports account for over 1.3 billion USD annually. However, the island’s fishing fleet has long been accused of abuse and nonpayment of migrant fishermen. [Nikkei Asian Review]

In a related development, Greenpeace along with more than 30 other human rights, environmental and labor organizations across the world urged the Taiwanese government to launch reforms to tackle what they called “persistent and systemic issues of forced labor” on Taiwan’s distant water fishing (DWF) fleets. The core demands for reform included the entitlement of migrant fishermen to the same rights and protection as Taiwanese fishermen by including them in the Taiwan’s Labor Standards Act as well as the ratification of the Work in Fishing Convention. The Convention was adopted at the 96th International Labour Conference (ILC) of the International Labour Organization ILO in 2007 and consists of a set of standards aimed to ensure that fishermen work under decent conditions on board fishing vessels covering minimum requirements for work on board; conditions of service; accommodation and food; occupational safety and health protection; medical care and social security. [Focus Taiwan]

Widely unknown, Taiwan has one of the world’s largest fishing industries. With more than 1.000 Taiwanese-flagged and over 200 Taiwanese-owned, foreign-flagged DWF vessels, it is the second-largest fishing entity on the high seas behind China.  It is the largest longline tuna exporter in the world and the second largest supplier of frozen tuna to Thailand. [IHRB

For Greenpeace’s findings on forced labour in Taiwan’s distant water fisheries, see [Greenpeace]. 


24 November 2020

Taiwan: KTM joins “Autumn Struggle” march to protest government’s plan to lift ban US pork import policy 

(nm) Tens of thousands of people took part in the “Autumn Struggle” protest march, an annual rally organized by labor groups.  Traditionally focused on labour issues, this year’s protesters expressed particular discontent over the government’s plan to lift the ban on imports of US pork containing ractopamine, an animal feed additive which enhances leanness but is banned in the European Union and China, as well as in the US for beef more than 30 months old.  

Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), joined the rally for the first time, as part of a campaign against the pork policy of the Tsai administration which it believes threatens food safety. [Focus Taiwan] [Reuters] [AiR No. 46, November/2020, 3


24 November 2020

Taiwan: License of pro-Beijing news channel not renewed 

(nm) Last week, Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) announced it will not renew the broadcasting license of cable news station Chung T’ien News (CTi News), effectively closing it down from December 11 when its current licence expires. According to the NCC, the unanimous decision is based on CTi’s repeated violations of broadcast regulations and failures of the channel’s internal discipline and control mechanisms, in particular the failure to fact check news as well as the channel’s largest shareholder’s involvement in the editorial process. 

CTi News is owned by pro-China Want Want China Times Media Group, which belongs to Taiwanese tycoon Tsai Eng-meng, who openly shows support for the Chinese Communist Party. The channel is among the harshest critics of President Tsai Ing-wen and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). As one of the most-watched cable news networks, it is widely considered as a vocal supporter of unification with China. 

Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), criticized the rejection accusing the NCC of using political power to interfere with freedom of the press. The DPP, meanwhile, endorsed the NCC’s decision, citing the protection of Taiwan’s freedom and democracy in the wake of fake news produced and circulated CTi News. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) echoed this claim arguing that Taiwan has become a “victim of growing media interference” from China. It called the rejection regrettable but insisted that it does not violate press freedom. [BloombergReporters Without Borders] [Taipei Times 1] [Taipei Times 2]

The NCC’s decision marks the first time Taiwan has shut a television news station since the regulatory body had been set up in 2006. 

17 November 2020

Taiwan: Main opposition accused of spreading fake news

(dql) Taiwan’s government has accused the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) of spreading fake news to denigrate its push to allow pork imports with specified levels of ractopamine, a the leanness-enhancing drug.  

The accusation comes after the KMT posted a video, showing pigs at an American slaughterhouse convulsing after being given ractopamine, to reinforce its claim that the government disregards possible health risks and to mobilize the public for a rally scheduled for November 22.

President Tsai Ing-wen announced in August that Taiwan would lift its import ban on US pork containing acceptable levels of ractopamine. The policy is widely viewed as an effort to satisfy U.S. conditions for beginning negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement. The government has been insisting that no health risk is posed by those imports. [Focus Taiwan]

17 November 2020

Taiwanese to file case with ECtHR over being labelled “Chinese” by Norway

(ef) Taiwanese citizens living in Norway announced that they would file a case with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) over Norway designate their nationality as Chinese on their residency permits.

Since 2010, Norwegian authorities have listed Taiwanese citizens as “Chinese”. In May, a district court ruled that the Norwegian government does not recognize Taiwan as it adheres to the “One-China”-policy, thus the residency permits have to label the Taiwanese citizens as “Chinese”. Last week, the Norwegian Supreme Court upheld that decision.   

The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) stated that Taiwan’s representative to Sweden has been instructed to file a complaint with the Norwegian government immediately. [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan]

17 November 2020

WHO admits censoring the words “Taiwan” and “China” on social media

(ef) The World Health Organization (WHO) admitted to using content filters on its social media accounts that block comments mentioning “Taiwan” or “China”. Denying accusations of political motivations behind the move, the WHO argued that the filters were used to avoid “internet trolling, spamming and fake accounts producing malicious content”. [Focus Taiwan]

Expelled from WHO in 1972 and excluded from the body’s World Health Assembly meetings after the China gained UN recognition and took its seat, Taiwan was able to participate in those meeting as an observer from 2009-2016. However, since Tsai Ing-wen of the independence leaning ruling Democratic Progressive Party assumed presidency, China has been successful in obstructing Taiwan being invited to the WHA meetings. 

17 November 2020

Cross-strait relations: Beijing to compile a blacklist of “diehard Taiwan separatists”

(dql/ef) According to Chinese officials specialized in cross-strait affairs, China is preparing a blacklist of “diehard Taiwan separatists” targeting anybody who openly advocates Taiwan’s independence, pushes aggressively for Taiwan independence or funds separatists generously. The list aims to send out a warning to Taiwan not to get too close to the US. The list is expected to be made public after the inauguration of the next US President. [South China Morning Post]

The revelation comes shortly after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a public interview said that “Taiwan has not been a part of China,” adding that “that was recognized with the work that the Reagan administration did to lay out the policies that the United States has adhered to now for three-and-a-half decades.” [Taipei Times]

10 November 2020

Taiwan-US relations: US marines arrive in Taiwan of first army training in four decades

(dql) Amid frosty cross-strait relations and China-US relations over Taiwan, Taipei confirmed that US marines arrived in Taiwan to train Taiwanese soldiers, marking the first public acknowledgment of a US Marines training in Taiwan since the US and Taiwan ceased bilateral ties in 1979. The four-week training covers exercises in assault boat and speedboat infiltration operations at a naval base in Southern Taiwan. [Taiwan News]

The arrival of the US marines comes after the US Department of State has approved several arms sales to Taiwan in recent weeks, worth five billion USD. [AA] [AiR No. 44, November/2020, 1]

10 November 2020

Cross-strait relations: Taiwan not invited to WHA

(dql/ef) Taiwan has blamed China for obstructing its participation as an observer in the meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the World Health Organization’s decision-making body, which started on Monday and is expected to sign a draft resolution on tackling health emergencies. It also criticized the WHO for “continuing to neglect the health and human rights of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people.” [Aljazeera]

Along with the US, hundreds of parliamentarians from European and Latin American countries as members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) had called for Taiwan to be included in the virtual meeting, citing Taiwan’s exemplary performance during the pandemic. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Focus Taiwan 2] [Focus Taiwan 3]

3 November 2020

Cross-strait relations: Tsai Ing-wen posture of strength amid concerns over lacking patriotism among Taiwan’s youth

(ef/dql) At a meeting of senior national security officials past weekend, President Tsai Ing-wen reiterated that Taiwan was willing to hold a “substantive dialogue” with China as long as it is on equal terms. At the same time, however, she warned that cross-strait peace could not be achieved by showing weakness, only by strength and the resolve to defend one’s homeland. [Focus Taiwan 1]

Meanwhile, for the 29th time since mid-September, Chinese military planes entered the Taiwanese air defense identification zone (ADIZ) last week. This time, three models from the medium size, medium range Shaanxi Y-8 family, including an electronic signals intelligence variant, an electronic warfare variant and an electronic reconnaissance variant, were intercepted by the Taiwanese military. [Focus Taiwan 2]

Commenting, Taiwanese military experts cautioned that Beijing might currently be evaluating a good approach to invade Taiwan while drafting related war plans. Military aircraft, by repeatedly flying into Taiwan’s ADIZ, could obtain experience to deal with occurrences in a potential conflict zone in advance. They further warned of a potential “elastic fatigue” among people in Taiwan – the idea that people will become blasé and no longer concerned over China’s threat to Taiwan. [Focus Taiwan 3]

For related concerns over “fatalism and indifference” towards Taiwan’s fate vis-à-vis Chinese threats among young people who “only like to criticize China with their keyboards, but won’t join the army to show their determination,” see David Pierson and Ralph Jennings in [Los Angeles Times].

3 November 2020

US-Taiwan arms sales 

(dql/ef) Already high running tensions between China and the US have been further strained after two potential US arms sales to Taiwan last and this week.

Last week, the US State Department approved the potential 2.4 billion USD sale of 400 anti-ship cruise missiles along 100 Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems to Taiwan, shortly after its approval of the potential sale of three other weapons systems worth 1.8 billion USD, including sensors, missiles and artillery, a week earlier.

Taiwanese officials believe that the deal marks an important step to being able to destroy half of any Chinese invasion force within five years. The sale is awaiting approval by Congress. [Defense News] [South China Morning Post]

In a latest development, the Pentagon is expected to formally notify Congress on the sale of four sophisticated U.S.-made aerial drones to Taiwan. If not objected by Congress, the sale would mark the first sale of the sophisticated drone technology after the Trump administration loosened export control on military unmanned vehicles in July. [Reuters] [US Department of State]

Meanwhile, a piece in the September/October issue of the US Army journal Military Review calls on the USA to consider basing US troops in Taiwan to effectively deter Chinese fait accompli attacks on Taiwan arguing that “failed conventional deterrence could entail China starting a war to seek the rapid political capitulation of Taiwan.”

Observers caution against such a move as it would “trigger a crisis in U.S.-China relations,” and could, contrary to its intention, provoke the attack on Taiwan.” [Military review] [Japan Times]

The U.S. withdrew its troops from Taiwan in 1979, the year in which Washington formalized diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic in China. Ever since then, the U.S. has carried out a policy known as “strategic ambiguity”, meaning that the U.S. has never formally admitted nor denied whether it would help Taiwan in case of a cross-strait military escalation.

27 October 2020

China-US relations: Xi Jinping signals strength in Korean War address amid Pentagon’s approval of arms sales to Taiwan

(dql) Chinese president Xi Jinping used his address on occasion of the 70th anniversary of China’s entry into the Korean war against American forces to send a signal of strength towards the US. Speaking from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing last Friday, Xi hailed the “War to resist US aggression and aid Korea” – as the Korean War is called in China – as a demonstration of China’s military might against American imperialists. Drawing a lesson for the present day, Xi claimed that the “Chinese people understood that you must use the language that invaders can understand – to fight war with war and to stop an invasion with force, earning peace and respect through victory.” Without explicitly mentioning the US, he added: “In today’s world, any unilateralism, protectionism, or extreme egoism will never work. Any form of blackmail, blockade, or extreme pressure will never work. Any act of pursuing one’s own course or seeking hegemony, tyranny, or bullying will never work.” Quoting Mao Zedong, he reassured the world “that ‘the people of China are now organized and are not to be trifled with’.” [Xinhua, in Chinese] [The Diplomat]

The assertive speech comes amid news about latest US arms sales to Taiwan, with the US Defense Department approving a potential sale of advanced weapons systems to Taiwan worth 1.8 billion USD earlier last week. The sales include sensors, missiles and artillery, as well as drones and land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles that are supposed to serve as coastal defense cruise missiles. The offensive weapons included in this package are capable of hitting mainland Chinese coastal areas, marking the first such sales in more than four decades. China threatened to “make a legitimate and necessary response” to Washington’s approval. [Reuters] [South China Morning Post]

In response, China announced that it will impose sanctions on several US companies that are associated with the arms sales. The sanctions will be aimed, inter alia, at Boeing Co.’s defense unit and Lockheed Martin Corp. – two contractors of the US military. [Associated Press] [CNN]

For the demand of “break[ing] Taiwan’s military out of 40 years of isolation” as a substantial increase of US military support for Taiwan “that would make the difference, way beyond an official statement clarifying American support for Taiwan,” see Grant Newsham in [AND Magazine].

27 October 2020

Taiwan-Vatican relations: Taiwan urges Vatican to focus on religious freedom in China

(ef) After the extension of the agreement on bishop appointments between the Vatican and Beijing (see above), Taiwan urged the Vatican to uphold the importance of religious freedom with regards to China, adding that the Chinese right to propose bishops for appointment raises problems regarding the non-interference from government clause of the Code of Canon Law. [New York Times ($)]

The Vatican is one of the fifteen diplomatic allies Taiwan has and its only European ally; thus the potential establishment diplomatic ties between the Vatican and China probably would mean the end of diplomatic ties between Taiwan and the Vatican. [Focus Taiwan]

27 October 2020

Taiwan:  Strengthening parliamentary diplomacy with Switzerland and France

(ef) Last week, members of the Taiwanese parliament formed friendship groups to strengthen exchange with their counterparts in Switzerland and France. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]

The move comes shortly after Taiwan-India Parliamentary Friendship Association vowed to promote bilateral parliamentary exchanges between the two countries. [AiR No. 42, October/2020, 3]

27 October 2020

Taiwan-UK relations: Dialogue on health, education and offshore wind energy 

(ef) As part of an annual trade dialogue, Taiwan and the United Kingdom vowed to improve bilateral trade and investment ties as well as easing access to each other’s markets for, inter alia, medical care and financial services. [Focus Taiwan 1]

During the same week, a Taiwan-UK agreement on advancing cooperation in English learning and education was signed. Pursuant to the agreement, the UK will assist Taiwan in reaching its goal to become a bilingual country by 2030 by offering education assistance. The agreement is part of increasing relations between London and Taipei that entail 209 academic exchange agreements thus far. [Focus Taiwan 2]

27 October 2020

Taiwan: Military exercise kicked off

(dql) Taiwan military on Monday kicked off a five-day, four-night drills at military bases across the country, aimed to test the Armed Forces’ combat preparedness, including the troops’ mobility, ammunition resupply abilities, nighttime maneuvers and field kitchen efficiency, among others. [Focus Taiwan]

27 October 2020

China-Germany relations: Beijing’s rebuke over asylum for wanted Hong Kong protestor and remarks on Taiwan’s independence

(dql) The Hong Kong government strongly criticized Germany for granting refugee status to a fugitive student who is wanted over rioting charges over last year’s anti-government protests. The case is the first instance of a protester connected to last year’s social unrest receiving asylum in Germany. [The Guardian]

In a related development, Beijing strongly criticized German parliamentarians for making “irresponsible remarks” about Taiwan’s independent status, made after a meeting between members of the Bundestag’s human rights committee and the Taiwanese representative in Berlin and the Taiwanese Digital Minister. The committee’s chairman stated that Taiwan expects a clear signal from Germany on its independent status and that “Germany not only admonishes China as a distant onlooker with regards to the actions in Hong Kong and Taiwan,” but “clearly demand that international law be observed.” [Deutsche Welle]


20 October 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: White House pushes arms sales to Taipei

(dql) In a latest sign of growing support of the USA in building up Taiwan defense, the White House has informed the Congress that it will seek approval for three more sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan, including track-based rocket launchers and long-range missiles. [Reuters

Meanwhile, the USS Barry, a guided missile destroyer, passed through the Taiwan Strait last Wednesday, while a Chinese Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft entered the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone last Friday. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News]

In a latest development, reflecting high running cross-strait tensions, China has reportedly deployed its most advanced hypersonic missile to its coastal areas near Taiwan to ‘prepare for a possible invasion’ of the island. [South China Morning Post 2

20 October 2020

Cross-strait relations: Tensions between Beijing and Taipei further rise

(dql/ef) Amid high-running cross-strait tensions, Chinese state television reported early last week that China has foiled hundreds of espionage activities of Taiwan’s intelligence forces. [Global News

Taiwan rejected the accusations calling televised confessions of Taiwanese citizens before mainland courts fake news, while a Taiwanese court found a Taiwanese retired colonel guilty of attempting to establish a spy network for Beijing and sentenced him to four years in jail. [Reuters 1] [South China Morning Post 1]

The wrangle over espionage activities adds to already heightened tensions between China and Taiwan in which Beijing’s military maneuvering behavior in the Taiwan Strait has undergone a major shift towards gray zone activities over the past two years. For a long time, the status quo in the Taiwan Strait was defined by the Taiwan Strait median line, an unofficial demarcation line in the middle of the waters between China and Taiwan proposed by the USA just over 60 years ago and so far widely respected by both sides.

In March 2019, China violated that line for the first time in 20 years, signaling a new aggressive posture towards Taiwan. Since then, the Chinese Air Force has flown over the line at least five more times, with the latest conducted in September when China sent 19 aircraft across the median line. In early 2020, Chinese forces held a night exercise right on the line. [National Interest] [Livemint] [AiR No. 11, March/2020, 3] [AiR No. 38, September/2020, 4]

Further fueling the escalating cross-strait tensions, Chinese President Xi Jinping during his inspection of a military base in Guangdong on the north shore of the South China Sea called on troops to “put all their minds and energy on preparing for war,” as well as to be “absolutely loyal, absolutely pure, and absolutely reliable.” In a related statement, made during his visit of an exhibition dedicated to the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the China’s entry into the Korean War, he called on the nation to inherit the “great spirit of the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea … in the new era to fight for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” [Xinhua] [Global Times]

Meanwhile, Hong Kong air traffic controllers told Taiwan there was danger until further notice on a flight path to the Taiwanese-controlled Pratas Islands in the northern part of the contested South China Sea, effectively blocking Taiwan’s only air route to the disputed islands. [Reuters 2

Despite these developments US officials and analysts do not see a Chinese invasion of Taiwan imminent.

Speaking at last week’s Aspen Security Forum US national security advisor Robert O’Brien urged Taiwan to build up asymmetric and anti-access area denial strategies in order to avoid being exposed to  Chinese gray zone-type operations, while at the same time expressing his doubts that Beijing was going to attack Taiwan at this point in time. 

Similarly, US think tank Rand stated that recent Chinese military activities were more about intimidation than pointing to provoking a war. Thus, an actual invasion was more unlikely than ever as China faces its own domestic economic and political issues that are only masked by the repeated military threats. [Japan Times] [Focus Taiwan] [South China Morning Post 2]

For an analysis of China’s harsh rhetoric and military muscle-flexing against Taiwan, see John Dotson in [The Jamestown Foundation] who suggests that “PLA saber rattling is likely to continue,” as Beijing has no other policy alternatives than military pressure given that public sentiment in Taiwan is increasingly hostile towards unification on Beijing’s terms.

As far as the American strategy is concerned, it has long been marked by a strategic ambiguity which contained sufficient pressure on China to take action against Taiwan, but also sufficient uncertainty for the Taiwanese side whether the USA would rush to Taiwan’s aid if Taiwan, in turn, provoked an escalation. This ambiguity seems to no longer work, as China and Taiwan both are stepping up their rhetoric and military against each other, while the USA under President Donald Trump has also become more assertive in its defense of Taiwan.

For insights into an increasingly broad consensus among US foreign policy strategists on a necessary shift from strategic ambiguity to strategic clarity over Taiwan, see Gerrit van der Wees [National Interest] who argues that ending strategic ambiguity needs to be coupled with a vision that focuses on “Taiwan’s place as a full and equal member in the international family of nations.”


20 October 2020

Taiwan: KMT referendum proposals to be heard before the Election Commission

(ef/dql) Two recent referendum proposals by the Kuomintang (KMT), the opposition party, will be heard before the Central Election Commission (CEC). The proposals are, inter alia, aimed at overturning the government’s easing of restrictions on imports of US pork containing the leanness-enhancing additive ractopamine which the KMT views as a means of the government to satisfy US demands for commencing negotiations on a free trade agreement with Taiwan. By doing so, the government disregards health risks posed by the additive.

Under the Taiwanese Referendum Act, referendums can take place every two years and require a three-stage process. However, as the CEC decided to hold hearings the second stage of this process, in which a petition must receive the signatures of 1.5 percent of voters – or 214,514 people – in the most recent presidential election, is skipped.

The KMT condemned the CEC’s decision arguing that it disregards the people’s will, adding that the CEC’s move “shows how the government of President Tsai Ing-wen complicates and impedes the direct exercise of people’s civil rights.” [Focus Taiwan]

In a related move, the CEC rejected two referendum proposals on drafting a new constitution proposed by an independence advocate on the grounds that their wording lacked clarity and did not meet procedural regulations.

The proposals asked: “Do you support the president in pushing for the establishment of a new constitution reflecting the reality of Taiwan?” and: “Do you support the president in initiating a constitutional reform process for the country?” [Taipei Times]

20 October 2020

Indonesia: Plans to strengthen economic ties with Taiwan

(nd) In a letter to the Central News Agency, Indonesian envoy to Taiwan, emphasized his country’s goal to further trade with Taiwan, which follows a directive from Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Indonesia plans to promote the export of Indonesian goods, referring to the high number of Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan, and to form partnerships for  technology transfers According to the envoy, Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy was also directed at strengthening economic and cultural ties with Southeast Asian countries, covering  ASEAN members,  Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. [Taipei Times]

20 October 2020

Taiwan-India relations: Growing relations 

(ef) Speaking at an event to mark the handover of the leadership of the Taiwan-India Parliamentary Friendship Association, the group’s new chairwoman vowed to promote bilateral parliamentary exchanges between the two countries. 

She also thanked India’s media for their support, referring to China’s attempts weeks earlier to order Indian journalists to not refer to Taiwan as a country or a nation when reporting on Taiwan’s National Day (Oct. 10). Beijing’s attempts backfired. Not only did the Indian Foreign Ministry tell the Chinese Embassy to keep its hands out of Indian media, but the #TaiwanNationalDay subsequently trended on Indian Twitter. Furthermore, President Tsai Ing-wen retweeted several photos from her trip to India in 2012 to thank her new Indian followers.

Whilst India does not officially recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state, its government has also not openly endorsed the One-China-principle since 2010.[Focus Taiwan] [The Diplomat] [Hindustan Times]

20 October 2020

Taiwan, Japan, and USA discuss intellectual property rights protection 

(ef) Taiwan, the US, and Japan held a two-day workshop on the protection of trade secrets and intellectual property rights under the Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF). The US representative stressed the importance of interaction, IPR protection, investment, and innovation in order to stay competitive in a modern global economy.

The GCTF is a Taiwanese-US initiative that was launched in 2015 to expose Taiwan’s expertise and leadership to the global stage. In 2019, Japan joined as a full partner. [Focus Taiwan]

13 October 2020

Taiwan reopens Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Guam

(ef) On October 10, Taiwan reopened its Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Guam. As part of the celebration, Taiwan donated four body-temperature scanners to Guam’s government, parliamentary and medical facilities in order to support the territory in the fight against the coronavirus. Before the pandemic, around 30,000 Taiwanese citizens travelled to Guam each year. [Taiwan Today]

13 October 2020

Taiwan-India relations: Taiwan thanks India for support amid cross-strait tensions

(ef) As the Chinese embassy in New Delhi tried to influence Indian media coverage of Taiwan’s National Day, India’s Ministry of External Affairs reiterated that India’s media was free and will report on the news as it sees fit. The Chinese embassy asked around 250 Indian journalists to not refer to Taiwan as a “country” or a “nation” when covering Taiwan’s National Day.

As India’s foreign minister prompted journalists to adhere to the standards of free and impartial journalism, Taiwan’s Joseph Wu, the foreign minister, and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center thanked India for its support. According to the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, the harsh remarks from India’s foreign minister stem from the fact that the attempted concealment of the coronavirus outbreak as well as the China-India border dispute in Ladakh have harnessed anti-China sentiments in India. [Focus Taiwan]

13 October 2020

Cross-strait relations: Taiwanese citizen confesses spying on China 

(ef) China accused Taiwanese citizen, Lee Meng-chu, of spying on Chinese military activity and stated that he thereby seriously damaged China’s national security. On Sunday, Lee confessed and apologized for spying on China. He claimed to regret his actions that “were detrimental to the motherland or the country”.

Allegedly, Lee travelled to Shenzhen (the mainland city bordering Hong Kong) to film the Chinese armored vehicles amassed there. The information collected by him could potentially be used to analyze the number of Chinese troops as well as their intention and scale of their training. He was subsequently arrested last year as part of a crackdown on suspected spies during which, according to Chinese intelligence services, China “broke hundreds of information leakage cases, arrested multiple Taiwanese spies and smashed spy networks established by Taiwanese intelligence agents.”

Taipei harshly condemned the “framing” of Lee as his public confession did not follow legal procedural rules and was rather sensationalist. The Mainland Affairs Council urged Beijing to not hurt cross-strait relations any further. [Washington Post ($)] [Anadolu Agency] [Focus Taiwan] [The Guardian] [South China Morning Post]

13 October 2020

Cross-strait relations: China gears up rhetoric of war 

(ef/dql) After the tensions between China and Taiwan have increased significantly in the last months, the China Central Television (CCTV) released a video of a large-scale military exercise simulating an invasion on the same weekend at which President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her willingness to enter into dialogue with Beijing in her address delivered on the occasion of the Taiwanese National Day on October 10. [Focus Taiwan]

Prospects for such a dialogue are bleak, given that Tsai reiterated that Taiwan will not Beijing’s “One country, two systems” while Beijing insist on arguing that the cause for the increased cross-strait tensions was the refusal of the current Taiwanese leadership to recognize the One-China principle, thereby undermining any possibility to hold talks in the near future. [Washington Post ($)] 

Furthermore, as Taiwan and the USA getting closer, Chinese propaganda is revamping the rhetoric of war by referencing a potential war with the USA over Taiwan to the Korean War – known in China as the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea – the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of which will be commemorated next week. The narrative depicts China being drawn into the war, but ultimately and triumphantly driving the American-led United Nations forces back to the 38th parallel. Recently, a “Resist America Aid  the Korea” memorial museum reopened in Dandong, a Chinese city across the Yalu River from North Korea, while a series of movies dealing with the war is also rolling out — “to carry forward the great spirit of resisting U.S. aggression,” according to the description of one documentary. [The New York Times]

For a scenario of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, see [Project 2049] and [Bloomberg].

13 October 2020

Taiwan: KMT will not change party name

(ef) Amid increased cross-strait tensions and pro-independency tendencies within Taiwan, the chairman of the KMT has stated that the official party name would not be changed to omit the word “Chinese”. Currently, the KMT is in a process of self-reform in which the relationship to China plays a crucial role (see above). Immediately after the KMT’s defeat in the presidential and legislative elections in January, younger members of the party proposed to remove the word “Chinese” from the party’s name. [Taiwan News 1] [Taiwan News 2]

13 October 2020

Taiwan: Legislature passes proposal to resume diplomatic ties with Washington unanimously

(dql) Taiwan’s legislature last week unanimously passed two resolutions submitted by the opposition Kuomingtang (Kuomingtang, Chinese Nationalist Party) which calls for US military aid to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s aggression as well as a resumption of diplomatic relations between the USA and Taiwan. [Taipei Times]

Both proposals came at a surprise as the KMT has been so far upholding a much more China-friendly stance, compared with the confrontational stance of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which insists on Taiwan being a sovereign nation. At the recent party congress, the KMT – albeit after heavy internal dispute – had confirmed the ‘1992 consensus’ which the DPP categorically rejects. [AiR No. 36, September/2020, 2]

The sudden change triggered questions about its ulterior motives, with some observers suggesting “political theater” aimed to maneuver the DPP into a difficult situation. Last month, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister publicly declared that his government would currently not push for full diplomatic relations with the USA. [Taiwan News] [The Diplomat 1]

Chinese state-run Global Times, meanwhile, condemned the KMT for its move harshly calling the party “losers,” and demanding that – given this “loser mentality” – China “must not count on them for future cross-Straits peace and national reunification,” but “fully prepare itself for war and to give Taiwan secessionist forces a decisive punishment at any time.” [Global Times]

For an account on the KMT’s internal discussions on its policy towards China – a core issue in the frame of the party’s reform process after the devastating defeat in the presidential and legislative elections in January –, see David G. Brown in [The Diplomat 2] who argues that the KMT is in need of a more Taiwan-centered cross-strait relations policy to remain relevant in Taiwan’s political system.

6 October 2020

Taiwan-Belize relations: Agreement on economic cooperation signed

(dql) Concluding talks which started last year, Taiwan and Belize last week signed an economic cooperation agreement (ECA) which aims to reduce tariffs, expedite bilateral trade, promote mutual investment, and foster technical cooperation.

Bilateral trade between both sides stood at 7.51 million USD last year, with Taiwan having 70.51 million USD in investments in Belize, predominantly in the sectors finance, manufacturing and retail. [Taipei Times]

6 October 2020

Taiwan-USA economic relations: US Senators push for trade deal with Taipei

(dql) US Senators from both parties have called on the Trump administration to begin negotiations with Taipei  on a trade deal in order to reduce US “reliance” on China, diversify the country’s supply chains and protect American national security. [Yahoo News]

The move is the latest sign of a growing consensus among US legislators on deepening cooperation with Taiwan. It comes after Washington in August announced to institutionalize a new annual senior-level economic dialogue with Taiwan to be held annually. [AiR No. 35, September/2020, 1]

The Taiwanese government on its side in September announced to liberalize standards for pork imports to allow imports of American pork containing residues of ractopamine to pave the way for talks on a trade agreement with the USA. Washington has long criticized Taipei for its zero-tolerance policy against Ractomone, an animal feed additive used to promote leanness and increase food conversion efficiency in livestock. [AiR No. 37, September/2020, 3]

6 October 2020

Taiwan-USA security relations: Defense Industry Conference kicked off

(dql) On Monday Taiwan and the USA have kicked off this year’s Defense Industry Conference, an annual two-day semi-official military exchange. Speaking on this occasion, Taiwan’s Deputy Defense Minister called on the USA to help strengthen the island’s defense against China, adding that this should not be limited to “tangible weapons and equipment,” but also include joint efforts “in training, operational concepts, capability assessment, intelligence sharing, and armament cooperation.”

To demonstrate China’s assertiveness towards Taiwan, he cited more than 4.000 responses of Taiwanese fighter jets to incursions by People’s Liberation Army warplanes so far this year, compared with 1.798 times in 2019, while vessels were sent out more than 7.500 times vessels to monitor PLA war and surveillance ships sailing in the Taiwan Strait or crossing the median line. In 2019 the number was close to 6.000. [South China Morning Post 1]

In a separate announcement, the Defense Ministry revealed plans to increase the frequency of calling up reservists, in an attempt to boost the combat readiness of its reserve forces. According to the plans, reservist call-ups would occur every year for two weeks. Compared with currently bi-annual call-ups for five to seven days training. [Focus Taiwan]

The Defense Industry Conference and the announcement on the reserve force come at a when Beijing’s military is muscle-flexing on an unprecedented scale, with record numbers of warplanes entering Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), with the latest being Chinese military surveillance aircraft spotted flying over the southwest sector of its ADIZ on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. [South China Morning Post 2] [Asia Times] [AiR September/2020, 4]

6 October 2020

Cross-strait relations: China blocks Wikipedia at the World Intellectual Property Organization 

(dql) In a latest move to force multilateral bodies to comply with its stance on Taiwan, China – with backing from Russia, Iran, and Pakistan and against the USA, the UK, and Canada – has effectively blocked Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia’s parent, from gaining observer status at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) by deferring Wikimedia’s application for such a status at last week’s WIPO assembly in Geneva. Beijing cited “a large amount of content and disinformation in violation of one-China principle” on Wikimedia websites, accusing Wikimedia of “carrying out political activities through its member organizations which could undermine the state sovereignty and territorial integrity [of China].”

Taiwan accused China of trying to censor Wikimedia Foundation, warning of WIPO becoming “an agent of Chinese expansionism in global organizations.” [Yahoo News] [CNS News]

For insights into the geopolitics of bidding for leadership positions in UN specialized agencies and China’s efforts and successes therein, see Yaroslav Trofimov, Drew Hinshaw, and Kate O’Keeffe in [Wall Street Journal].

Chinese representatives are currently heading four of the 15 UN specialized agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Telecommunication Union, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the U.N. Industrial Development Organization. No other country – including the United States, the UN’s biggest funder – has a citizen heading more than one of the UN specialized agencies.

6 October 2020

China-Canada relations: Canadian warship sails through Taiwan Strait

(dql) A Canadian warship has sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, in a latest sign of deteriorating Sino-Canadian relations. Relations between Beijing and Canada begun to sour with the arrest of the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies, Meng Wanzhou, in late 2018 based on a warrant from the US, which accuses her of bank fraud for misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran and causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions law. Soon after Meng’s detention, China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, charging them with espionage. [Reuters]

6 October 2020

Taiwan: Constitutional revisions on the island’s political status? 

(dql) In a bold move, legislators of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) proposed constitutional changes concerning Taiwan’s political and territorial status of Taiwan to bring the constitution in accordance with what they claim political realities. Taiwan’s constitution has been promulgated in 1947 before the Chinese Kuomintang Party settled to Taiwan in the wake of its defeat against the Chinese Communist Party in 1949. The Kuomintang sponsored Constitution refers to ‘One China’ which Beijing claims to represent. 

Among the proposed changes is the removal of the term ‘national unification’ from the preface to the ‘Additional Articles’ of the constitution, which are the revisions and amendments to the original constitution. Furthermore, the proposal seeks to change the wording from “To meet the requisites of the nation prior to national unification,” to “To meet the requisites of national development,”. Another critical proposal refers to a contested phrase which occurs both in the main text of the Constitution and the Additional Articles, stating “the territory of the Republic of China, defined by its existing national boundaries.” The proposed revision would refer Taiwan’s national territory as “regions in which the Constitution has validity.” [Focus Taiwan 1]

The proposed constitutional amendment would represent a significantly sincere rejection of Beijing’s One China policy possible and comes amid highly strained cross-strait relations between Taipei and Beijing, with official communication channels shut down since independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) assumed power in 2016. 

In a related development, Taiwan’s parliament has actually set up an ad hoc committee to review revisions to the constitution. The committee consists of 39 members 22 of them belonging the DPP, 14 to main opposition Kuomintang and the remain three to two minor parties. As a last step to really change the Constitution, the people would have to vote for the change in a referendum. [Focus Taiwan 2]

29 September 2020

China continues military muscle flexing

(dql/ef) China on Monday kicked off five simultaneous drills along different parts of its coast, including the Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea as well as in the East China Sea, the Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea. It is the second time within two months after concurrent exercises were conducted in August. [Reuters] [AiR No. 35, September/2020, 1]

In a related move, Chinese war planes have entered the Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone for a forty-six time within nine days. On two consecutive days on Friday, 18 September, and Saturday, 19 September, Taiwan’s air force intercepted nearly 40 jets of the People’s Liberation Army. [Aljazeera] [CNBC] [AiR No. 38, September/2020, 4]

29 September 2020

Taiwan: Air force drill and missile tests conducted

(dql) Last week, Taiwan’s military conducted a joint air defense drill simulating a response to an enemy air attack, involving all of Taiwan’s air bases, as well as naval and surface-to-air missile units, and tested supersonic anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles, simulating an interception operation. [Focus Taiwan]

The drill an tests comes at a time when Chinese warplanes have been conducting flights entering the Taiwan’s air defense identification zone in high frequency over the past month. [AiR No. 38, September/2020, 4]

Chinese state-run media outlet Global Times cited experts to confirm that tests revealed that Taiwan does not stand any chance in a military clash with China. [Global Times]


29 September 2020

Taiwan: Diplomatic allies speak up on Taiwan’s behalf at the 75th UN General Assembly

(ef) During the 75th U.N. General Assembly, multiple diplomatic allies voiced their support for Taiwan. The President of Nauru reiterated that the U.N. Charter was based on the principles of universality and equality, thus he concluded that the U.N. must fulfill their commitment to the human family and ensure that Taiwan enjoys the same rights as the peoples of other nations. Especially the COVID-19 pandemic came to show that the world community needed inclusivity and solidarity in order to come up with adequate responses to global challenges. Similarly, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis stressed that the Taiwanese management of the pandemic proved that Taiwan should be included in the U.N. system, especially the WHO. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Focus Taiwan 2] [Focus Taiwan 3]


29 September 2020

Taiwan-Paraguay relations: Letter of intent signed to promote technical cooperation

(ef) Taiwan and Paraguay have signed a letter of intent aimed at the promotion of technical cooperation. The signing is a result of increasing bilateral ties with their economic relationship steadily and astoundingly improving. For instance, Paraguay’s beef export to Taiwan has increased 55-fold between 2006 and 2019. Paraguay is Taiwan’s only South American ally. [Focus Taiwan]


29 September 2020

Taiwan: Taiwanese municipalities no longer referred to as “Chinese” on GCoM-website

(ef) The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM) has concluded that six Taiwanese municipalities that are members of the international group may keep their Taiwanese names on the website of the GCoM. Recently, the cities of Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung were classified as “China” on the website. It is a long-standing practice that international groups and companies must refer to Taiwan as being part of China, with China recently ramping up efforts to decrease the referral to Taiwan within international groups. However, the six cities jointly demanded that the GCoM change the registered names of their cities back to the original registered nationality, otherwise they would withdraw from the international group. According to the Taiwanese Foreign Minister, the EU helped the Taiwanese municipalities, although the EU traditionally keeps a low profile toward Taiwan. On Monday, the GCoM announced that the cities would be classified as Chinese-Taipei. [South China Morning Post] [Reuters]

22 September 2020

China-USA military relations: US navy to be expanded?

(dql) On the heels of the US Department of Defense’s China military power report, according to which China possesses the world’s largest navy with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines [AiR No. 36, September/2020, 2], US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, has announced plans  to expand the US Navy to more than 350 ships from currently 293, with a range of unmanned and autonomous ships, submarines and aircraft. Commenting on the plans, Esper said that the aim was to equip the future fleet with “increased lethality, survivability, capability and capacity to conduct distributed warfare.” [The Guardian]

Meanwhile, the head of the US Indo-Pacific Command strongly warned of China’s “profound advantage” in ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles leaving large US bases in the Pacific  “outgunned, and underprepared, to defend” against China’s massive stockpile of ballistic and cruise missiles, specifying that Guam was a pressing concerning with “billions of dollars in defense capability” on this island and urging to swiftly replace the currently deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense by a Aegis Ashore missile defense system. [Breaking Defense]

The warning comes at a time when Sino-US tension over the South China Sea and Taiwan are high running. A fleet of 19 military aircraft from China flew into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone on Saturday, the second consecutive day of such an incursion, in an apparent signal of opposition to the visit of U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach to Taiwan to attend past Saturday’s memorial service for the late Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui. [Taiwan News]

Beijing, furthermore, accused Washington of disguising surveillance aircraft as civilian planes of other countries operating alongside China’s coastlines, referring to an incident early this month in which a US Air Force spy plane disguised as a Malaysian civilian plane entered the South China Sea and patrolled over the disputed Paracel Islands as well as the Taiwan Strait and the Yellow Sea near the Chinese coast. [The EurAsian Times]

For an account on dangers of misperceptions of Chinese military concepts, power and capabilities see David Logan in [War on the Rocks], who refers to three widespread myths about China’s military – China maintaining a vast hidden arsenal of potentially thousands of nuclear warheads; Beijing’s no-first-use policy being a fraud; and China having developed and deployed an array of nuclear war-fighting capabilities – and argues that a believe in these myths risks to exacerbate dangerous Sino-US nuclear dynamics.

22 September 2020

Somaliland endorses US Taiwan Relations Act 

(dql) Somaliland’s parliament has endorsed the US Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979 which provides the legal basis for substantive relations between the USA and Taiwan and enshrines Washington’s commitment to supporting Taipei in maintaining its self-defense capability. [Focus Taiwan]

The move comes shortly after Somaliland, which declared itself a state in 1991 after a civil war in Somalia, but remains until today internationally un-recognized, opened a representative office earlier this month, in response to the opening of the Taiwanese representative office in August. [France 24]


22 September 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: China displaying air power amid deepening Washington-Taipei relations

(ef) China sent nearly forty fighter jets and bombers into the Taiwan Strait on Friday and Saturday, with the Chinese Ministry of National Defense commenting on the move that “those who play with fire are bound to get burned”, thereby warning the US and Taiwan to not escalate the tension between China and the US as well as between Taiwan and China any further.

Beijing’s move came during the visit of US Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, Keith Krach on the occasion the memorial service for late President Lee, which continues accelerated efforts of the Trump administration in the recent weeks and months to strengthen ties with Taiwan amid high running tension with China on multiple fronts. Just last month, Taiwan and the USA announced tighter economic relations in the areas of health care, technology, and energy, with Taipei hoping to develop these relations into a free-trade agreement with the US.

Last week, the US Ambassador to the United Nations in a historic first met with the director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, Taiwan’s de-facto embassy, on Wednesday. Never before has a US Ambassador to the UN held a meeting with a top Taiwan official. According to the Ambassador, she aimed to fulfill the wishes of President Trump who seeks to strengthen and deepen bilateral relations with Taiwan. [The Diplomat (€)]

In a latest development, Washington is reportedly pushing for the sale of seven large packages of weapons to Taiwan that would include long-rang missiles able to reach distant Chinese targets. Those missiles could be used with F-16 fighter jets which will increase in numbers in Taiwan as another arms deal including sixty-six F-16’s was approved in 2019. The proposal of seven arms sales at once is unprecedented as Washington usually calibrates arms sales carefully in order to minimize tensions with Beijing. [New York Times (€) 1]  [New York Times (€) 2] [Reuters]

China’s aerial drills in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea have increased in frequency within the last couple of months as China feels noticeably more provoked by Taiwan’s actions perceived as moves to reinstate Taiwan’s independence from China. Especially, the Taiwanese support for Hong Kong after the enactment of the National Security Act on Hong Kong has been a sore spot for Beijing. However, the frequency of flights during the past week is unprecedented and marks a significant escalation in cross-strait tensions. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the entries were legal as “Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory, and there is no so-called median line”. [New York Times 3] [Focus Taiwan 1] [CNN]

The Chinese nationalist tabloid Global Times, meanwhile, cited mainland analysts calling the flights are not a warning, but rather “a rehearsal for a Taiwan takeover”. Even though, neither China nor Taiwan has stated that they would fire the first shot, the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced that it reserves the right to act in self-defense if the situation escalates further. Hence, Taiwanese forces on the line would be enabled to fire if China showed clear signs of hostility. Furthermore, the MND stated that the Taiwanese military had a sufficient number of precision missiles to defend Taiwan against an attack at the present moment.

The Pentagon harshly condemned the aerial intrusion and stated that Beijing was the reason for ramped up tensions in the strait. [Global Times CN] [Taiwan News] [South China Morning Post] [Focus Taiwan 2]

15 September 2020

Taiwan-USA: Upcoming visit of US Undersecretary angers China 

(ef) A visit of the US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, to visit to Taiwan for economic talks scheduled for later this week, has prompted fierce opposition by China, warning that the planned meeting would cause “serious damage” to Sino-US relations as well as to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and calling on Washington to halt official exchanges with Taipei. [Associated Press]

Signaling improving and strengthening US-Taiwan relations, the visit will come shortly after the one by US Health Secretary Alex Azar last month, marking so far the highest-level U.S. Cabinet official to visit Taiwan since the USA ended formal ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with China in 1979. [AiR No. 32, August/2020, 2]

In a related development, Taiwan’s 2021 Defense budget proposal submitted to the parliament reveals that visits of Taiwan defense officials to the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office are scheduled for next year, with the aim to discuss closer military and strategic cooperation to develop innovative ways to counter emerging threats. Originally, the visit was scheduled for 2020, but cancelled due to the pandemic. [Focus Taiwan]


15 September 2020

Cross-strait relations: China’s large-scale exercises in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone

(ef) Last week, China conducted large-scale joint air and naval exercises in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, as two dozen Chinese military aircraft and naval ships operated in an area between Pratas and Taiwan’s south-western coast, prompting Taiwan to denounce the move as a “severe provocation,” and to warn that China “should not overlook the Taiwanese people’s will to preserve their freedom and democracy.”  

The move has been called the most serious threat to Taiwan’s security since the 1996 crisis in the wake of a series of missile tests conducted by China in the waters surrounding Taiwan and believed to be an attempt to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate in ahead of the 1996 presidential election. 

Analysts view the exercises as an attempt to broaden the Chinese operating space, thus squeezing the Taiwanese buffer zone. Such air defense buffer zone is unilaterally declared and their standing under international law is unclear. Entry into such zones is not illegal under international law, however it is politically condemned.

The operation confirms concerns that the People’s Liberation Army would increase military pressure, once the pandemic was under control in China. Unlike other recent Chinese provocations, this one was not a response to any US military activity, therefore potentially indicating a more serious threat as China becomes more aggressive. [Financial Times] [The Diplomat ($)] [Focus Taiwan 1]

In addition to the exercises, a reconnaissance vessel of the People’s Liberation Army was spotted off the Taiwanese east coast for the second day in a row. The occurrence takes place just as Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology is testing missiles. [Focus Taiwan 2]

15 September 2020

Taiwan: KMT cancels visit to China 

(ef) After Chinese state media announced that the opposition Kuomintang’s visit to China to attend this year’s Straits Forum was aimed at “suing for peace”, the party announced that it would cancel the visit of the event scheduled to open this week, citing what it called “inappropriate comments”, damaging mutual trust.

The Straits Forum is an annual forum between Mainland China and Taiwan and the largest non-political platform aimed at fostering grassroots interaction in the areas economy, trade and culture across the Taiwan Strait. 

After uninterrupted attendance of the forum since its inception in 2009, this year’s boycott reflects the KTM’s current struggle to walk a thin line between upholding ties with China and coping with an increasingly China-skeptical public in Taiwan in the midst of a reform process of the party following the heavy defeat in the January presidential election. [Taipei Times] [Macau Business]

15 September 2020

Taiwan: Backlash against government’s decision to lower pork import standards 

(ef) In response to the decision of the Taiwanese government to liberalize standards for pork imports to allow imports of American pork containing residues of ractopamine, an animal feed additive used to promote leanness and increase food conversion efficiency in livestock, to push for a trade agreement with the USA, the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) announced  that it would propose legislation against lowering such standards. [Focus Taiwan] [AiR No. 35, September/2020, 1]

In an earlier related move, Taiwanese civic groups also announced plans to form an alliance against the government’s move and urged the Tsai administration to stop the policy, citing concerns over public health and undemocratic decision making. [Taipei Times]

15 September 2020

Taiwan: Constitutional amendment committee to be set up

(dql) Taiwan’s Legislature decided to establish an ad hoc committee in charge of revising the constitution, based on a consensus between ruling and opposition parties and comprising 22 ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers, 14 main opposition Kuomintang legislators, as well as two of the Taiwan People’s Party, and one of the New Power Party.

In the most recent parliamentary session (February to May), 11 drafts for constitutional amendments passed the first of three thresholds after receiving approval by least one quarter of the 113 lawmakers. These drafts could be reviewed by the new committee. 

There are high requirements for amending the constitution in Taiwan. Following the first threshold constitutional revisions require in a second step the approval of at least three-quarters of the lawmakers present at a meeting of the Legislature attended by a minimum of three-quarters of all lawmakers. In a third step approval by the half of the electorate in a public referendum is needed. [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan]


8 September 2020

Taiwan and USA to reshape supply chains away from China

(ef) In the middle of the strengthening of Taiwan-USA relations, the American Institute in Taiwan, the de-facto US embassy in Taiwan, said that the reorganizing of supply chains will be ‘on top of the list’ for a new economic dialogue between the US and Taiwan. The risks of relying on China became increasingly obvious amid the US-China trade war and the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, the American Institute in Taiwan urged like-minded democracies to build secure and resilient global supply chains. Taiwan’s foreign minister stated that the Taiwanese government already planned on the diversification of supply chains in the semiconductor, medical, and energy industries. He also suggested that medical or IT goods could be “politicized or weaponized in the hands of a country that does not honour the rule of law and democracy,” called on cooperation between like-minded democracies and decrease global reliance on China. [Financial Times] [Focus Taiwan] [South China Morning Post]

8 September 2020

China-Czech Republic relations: Czech president criticizes country’s senate president for visit to Taiwan

(ef) In a move to soften the tensions between China and the Czech Republic over the recent visit of a delegation to Taiwan led by the President of the Czech Senate Milos Vystrcil, the Czech President Milos Zeman called the trip a ‘boyish provocation’ and announced that he will stop sending invitations to Vystrcil to attend meetings with the country’s top foreign policy officials. 

The visit prompted China to state that the Czech senate leader would ‘pay a heavy price’, which in turn led to the Chinese ambassador being summoned to Prague. [Reuters] [AiR No. 35, September/2020, 1]

8 September 2020

Taiwan: New passport design released

(ef) Amid increased cross-strait tensions, Taiwan’s government has released a new passport design which highlights the word ‘Taiwan’ and minimizes the words ‘Republic of China’, Taiwan’s official name. Beforehand, the words ‘Republic of China’ and ‘Taiwan were of equal size and font. Officially, the design change is made to reduce confusions between travelers from Taiwan and those from China, as Taiwanese citizens are allowed to visit 146 countries visa-free, whilst Chinese citizens are only permitted visa-free entry to 74 countries. However, the new passport design is widely seen as a highly symbolic way to emphasize Taiwan’s independence. When the word ‘Taiwan’ was added to the passport cover a decade ago, China responded angrily, thus a negative reaction from China is to be expected. [Focus Taiwan] [New York Times ($)] [Forbes]

8 September 2020

Taiwan: KMT to uphold ‘One China’-policy

(ef) At its National Congress held at past wekend, the main opposition Kuomintang (LMT) announced that it will adhere to the 1992 consensus as the fundament of its policy towards China. After the landslide defeat of the KMT in January’s presidential election, especially younger party members had called on the party to abandon the consensus as part of a wider process of reforming the KMT.

The “1992 consensus,” a tacit understanding reached between the then-KMT government and the Chinese government in 1992, is interpreted by the KMT as both sides of the strait acknowledging that there is only “one China,” with each side free to interpret what “China” means. Beijing, however, has never publicly recognized or rejected the second part of the KMT interpretation.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) under President Tsai Ing-wen has criticized that the consensus is “a mere illusion” arguing that China refuses to acknowledge the idea of each side being free to interpret “one China” as it sees fit, resulting in China’s hardline stance against Taiwan and Beijing cutting off diplomatic channels since Tsai assumed office in May 2016. [South China Morning Post] [Focus Taiwan]

1 September 2020

Taiwan: Constitutional Court rules KMT asset investigation law constitutional

(dql) Responding to a constitutional interpretation request by the Taipei High Administrative Court, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court last week ruled that the Act on Governing the Settlement of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations are constitutional on the grounds of a “need to adequately limit a political party’s finances for the sake of equal opportunities for different political parties.”

Part of transition justice legislations under President Tsai Ing-wen who assumed office in 2016 and was re-elected this January, the Act was passed by the Taiwanese parliament in 2016 with the majority votes of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and established the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee, tasked with investigating and returning illegally obtained assets of political parties and their affiliated organizations during the martial law period in Taiwan (1949-1987). As the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) was the dominant party in that period and once the world’s wealthiest political party with assets worth over 3.4 billion USD, it was the main target of the Act under which almost 50 law suits have been filed. The KMT challenged the constitutionality of the Act before lower courts and hoped for a favorable ruling of the Constitutional Court. 

In response the ruling last week, the party denounced the law as illegitimate and unconstitutional, arguing that the issue had already been settled by courts during the presidency of Chen Shui-bian of the DPP from 2000 to 2008 when KMT assets had already been thoroughly investigated and prosecuted. [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan][Taipei Times]

1 September 2020

China: Hongkongers fleeing for Taiwan on boat captured by Chinese coastguard

(dql) China’s coastguard last week arrested a dozen people fleeing on a speedboat Hong Kong for Taiwan. Among them was an activist arrested earlier this month over suspicion of collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security, a crime under the contentious National Security Law for Hong Kong imposed by Beijing on 30 June. [Channel News Asia

1 September 2020

Taiwan-Australia relations: President Tsai calls for free trade agreement

(ef) After proposing a free trade agreement with the US last week [AiR No. 34, August/2020, 4], President Tsai Ing-wen called on Australia to back the inclusion of Taiwan in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to start negotiations on a Taiwanese-Australian free trade agreement. Although Australian exports amount to AUS$ 10 billion annually, Australia has – thus far – consistently declined negotiations on a free trade agreement. [The Sydney Morning Herald]

1 September 2020

Taiwan-USA relations deepen

(dql/ef) Several moves made by the USA and Taiwan in this and last week signal a continuation of warming of relations between the two countries. 

On Monday this week, Washington announced a new annual senior-level economic dialogue with Taiwan to be held annually on a range of issues covering “reorienting technology and medical product supply chains; enhancing investment screening and intellectual property rights protection; and expanding infrastructure and energy sector collaboration.” [The Standard]

Washington’s move comes shortly after President Tsai Ing-wen last week declared that Taiwan will ease its zero-tolerance policy toward a feed additive which is banned in Taiwan due to concerns over its safety to both animals and humans, but found in pork and beef imported from the USA. [Focus Taiwan 1]

In another move of symbolic nature and weight, the USA released two declassified cables from nearly 40 years ago with both stating US security assurances to Taiwan. [Focus Taiwan 2] The release of the cables comes shortly after Taiwan finalized a 10-year, 62 billion USD deal with US aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin last Friday to purchase 66 new-generation F-16 fighter jets last month. [AiR No. 33, August/2020, 3]

Earlier last week, the USA and Taiwan vowed in a joint declaration to promote awareness about the risks and opportunities of 5G networks. Both nations promised to ensure that relevant networks and services are free from “unauthorized access and interference”. The pledge comes amid Washington’s global campaign against Chinese technology companies with banning Huawei from accessing national 5G networks as one of its core elements. [Taiwan News] [Nikkei Asian Review]

As consequence of the Trump administration’s blacklisting of Huawei [AiR No. 33, August/2020, 3], the company’s domestic rival Xiaomi has overtaken it in its core business segment of smartphones in sales in Europe for the first time in the second quarter this year. Xiaomi’s revenues increased 65% year-over-year as Huawei shrunk 17%, making Xiaomi move up to third place behind Samsung and Apple, while Huawei dropped to fourth. Analysts see prospects for Huawei’s smartphones under Washington’s sanctions as “hopeless”, forcing the company to diversity its product offers and take efforts to strengthen its nascent cloud business. [Forbes] [Financial Times]

For insights into why China has yet not retaliated with its own blacklist despite an announcement of such a list more than a year ago, but is “engaged in an aggressive campaign to sweet-talk big American firms to stay in China,” see Kenneth Rapoza at [Forbes].

1 September 2020

Cross-strait tensions intensify as Chinese war game commences

(ef) With the Chinese navy mobilizing for its war games in the South China Sea, the Taiwanese marine corps were sent to strategic spots in the South China Sea and the Taiwanese air force began to load Harpoon anti-ship missiles on some of its F-16 fighters. The war games are supposed to take place between the Chinese mainland on the north and the Taiwanese island groups, Pratas and Penghu, in the south and northeast. Taiwanese preparations are perceived as a protective measure against the possibility of the war game turning into an actual invasion. In that event, the F-16 fighters would be the first line of defense. Especially Pratas is perceived as a weak spot; thus, Taiwan sent 200 of its toughest marines to permanently strengthen Pratas’ force. [Forbes]

Meanwhile, a maintenance hub for F-16 fighters was unveiled last week, which enables Taiwan to self-reliantly maintain its air force. The Taiwanese air force currently holds the largest F-16 fleet in Asia, with more than 200 jets. [Reuters] [New York Times ($)]

The Beijing’s war games take place in times of high cross-strait tensions underlined also by the recent launching of two Chinese missiles in the South China Sea following the entry of a US spy plane in a no-fly-zone over Chinese live-fire military drills. In addition to the spy plane entering a no-fly-zone, a picture of a US Air Force tanker refueling a Taiwanese F-16 fighter jet was posted on Thursday, showcasing the strengthened military cooperation between the US and Taiwan. [CNN] [CNBC][Focus Taiwan]

1 September 2020

China-Czech Republic relations strained over Taiwan

(dql) A Czech delegation of 90 business leaders, university presidents, representatives of civic organizations and news media led by the president of the Senate Milos Vystrcil visited Taiwan last week. In a highly provocative move towards China, Vystrcil in his speech at Taiwan’s parliament said: “I am a Taiwanese.”

China responded fiercely, calling the visit “an unendurable provocation for which there will be retribution.” [Deutsche Welle] [Reuters]  

The visit of the Czech delegation comes shortly after the White House sent US Health Secretary Alex Azhar to Taipei in August for the highest level meetings between the two administrations in more than four decades. [AiR No. 32, August/2020, 2]

25 August 2020

Cross-strait relations: Beijing’s military muscle flexing in the South China Sea 

(dql/ef) China is concurrently conducting four military exercises in various coastal regions in this week amid high tensions with the US and Asian countries over territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Among them are drills in the Taiwan Strait which – according to statements of the Chinese military – are held in the South China Sea in express response to recent US military activities in the Taiwan Strait and aimed to deter separatist forces in Taiwan and the USA. [Global Times][Radio Free Asia]

The drills are the latest in an almost consecutive series of military activities of the People’s Liberation Army in the South China over the past months accompanied by aggressive rhetoric, further pushing speculations about Beijing preparing for re-unification by force. The speculations have been reinforced by the former vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the former acting CIA director under President Obama who argued that China’s invasion of Taiwan could happen as soon as next year and warned that China would be capable of seizing Taiwan in three days and that the USA would be too paralyzed by political turmoil to stop it. [Forbes]

In this light Robert Kagan at [Brookings] assumes that China – seeing that economic and diplomatic pressure have not yielded the goal of re-unification – might opt for a military takeover of Taiwan, and raises the question whether in such a case the USA would respond, adding that “American policies in the two decades before World War II were shaped by what in retrospect looks like a stunning naïveté about other nations’ willingness to resort to force. One wonders if we are any less naive today”. 

The drills come after the de facto U.S. ambassador in Taiwan attended on Sunday for the first time a ceremony commemorating a key military clash between Chinese and Taiwanese forces back in 1958, a highly symbolic move reflecting currently deepening US-Taiwan relations while worsening already frosty US-China/cross-strait relations. [Focus Taiwan]

25 August 2020

Taiwan: Victims of White Terror era exonerated

(dql) Taiwan’s Transitional Justice Commission exonerated two victims of political persecution during the White Terror era who were sentenced in 1954 to 17 and 10 years in jail. [Focus Taiwan]

The term White Terror the period of suppression of political dissidents from 1947 to 1987 during which saw around 140,000 Taiwanese imprisoned and about 3,000 to 4,000 of them.  

25 August 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: Deepening economic ties

(dql/ef) Following the conclusion of the first-ever memorandum of understanding between Taiwan and the USA on health cooperation earlier this month [AiR No. 32, August/2020, 2], Taiwanese President Tsai last week reiterated her call on the USA to engage in talks for a bilateral trade agreement to further deepen economic ties, adding that Taiwan would liberalize conditions for foreign investment. The move is an attempt of export-dependent Taiwan to reduce its reliance on trade with China. [Focus Taiwan] [Reuters 1]

Such a trade deal has been debated for at least two decades, but the discussion has recently been revived due to Washington’s new aggressive take on US-China relations. Picking that new trend up, the Kurt Tong at [CSIS] argues that three aspects make such a trade deal desirable: Taiwan’s role in strategic trade, being an alternative to China to secure supply chains in the area of technology; the possible rebuild of the importance of the US in the Indo-Pacific’s political economy; and the establishment of precedents for new trade policies, such as incorporating data privacy principles or cross-border data flows. 

In a related move, Taiwan has announced that it plans to stop local sales of Chinese internet television streaming services by preventing Chinese companies from using indirect methods to bypass rules and regulations to operate in the island’s market, including operating on the island indirectly, via middlemen or overseas investment vehicles.

Earlier last week, Taipei also announced that it is preparing to ban the Chinese firms iQiyi, one of the world’s largest online video sites, and Tencent from operating streaming video services on the island arguing that both have been “operating illegally” in Taiwan by partnering with local broadcasters and distributors to provide their video content through streaming services. [Reuters 2][CNN]

25 August 2020

Cross-strait relations: Mutual accusations over infiltration and payed critics

(dql) Taiwan last week accused China of “omnipresent infiltration” specifying that since 2018 at least ten government agencies and thousands of email accounts of government officials have been hacked by groups related to the Chinese government to steal important data. [Reuters]

Meanwhile, images of a welcoming ceremony showing China’s Ambassador to Kiribati walking over a row young men laying face-down on the ground has prompted international criticism over alleged Chinese colonialism.  

Beijing rejected this accusation stating the Chinese ambassador was acting on request on the local government and people and “out of respect for Kiribati’s culture and customs,” while accusing Taiwan of paying social media critics to boil up the ceremony to damage China-Kiribati relations. [The Guardian] [Taiwan News

Last year, Kiribati – a country of 115,000 people spread across 32 low-lying atolls and one high island in the South Pacific – severed ties with Taiwan and established formal relations with China. [AiR No. 39, September/2019, 4

18 August 2020

Taiwan: Prevention of settling of Chinese spies

(ef) Upon increasing numbers of Hong Kong residents settling in Taiwan amid an increasingly tense relationship with China, Taiwan announced that it will practice stricter scrutiny of mainland Chinese citizens who are residents of Hong Kong and seek to settle in Taiwan following the imposition of the security law. The move aims at preventing infiltration and espionage and targets those Hong Kong and Macau residents who are originally from mainland China or are current or former party, government, or military officials who will be subject to a cross-department vetting procedure. The move comes just over a month after Taiwan opened an office for Hong Kong residents who attempt to move to Taiwan. China stated that Taiwan was trying to stir up enmity towards China. [Reuters]

18 August 2020

Cross-strait relations: Taiwan concludes huge fighter jets deal with Lockheed Martin 

(dql/ef) Amid frosty cross-strait relations, Taiwan finalized a 10-year, 62 billion USD deal with US aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin last Friday to purchase 66 new-generation F-16 fighter jets. The deal was formally approved by Washington in August last year. [Asia Times] [AiR No. 34, August/2019, 3]

The move comes a day after Taiwan’s cabinet announced a 1.4 billion USD or 10% increase for next year’s planned defense spending totaling 15.42 billion USD in its budget plan for 2021 with overall government spending set at a record of over 73 billion USD. [Focus Taiwan]

The announcement was made as China revealed that is was conducting military exercises near Taiwan to “fight against provocations and protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” adding that the drills were a response to “certain major countries” that have recently “sent out wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces, severely endangering peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” [Taiwan News] [Sohu, in Chinese]

Meanwhile, a US Navy aircraft carrier conducted exercises in the contested South China Sea on Friday. A strike group, led by the USS Ronald Reagan, conducted flight operations and high-end maritime stability operations and exercises. [Aljazeera]

18 August 2020

Taiwan: Kaohsiung mayoral by-election

(ef) Former Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured a landslide victory in the mayoral by-election past Saturday by landslide, garnering over 70% of the votes, compared to only 26% for his main contender from the opposition Kuomintang. The election was held following the recall of Chen’s predecessor Han Kuo-yu, defeated presidential candidate of the KMT, in a referendum in June after he had surprisingly won against Chen the mayoral election in 2018 in Kaohsiung, hitherto a stronghold of the DPP for decades. [Focus Taiwan] [AiR No. 23, June/2020, 2].

11 August 2020

US Secretary of Health visits Taiwan

(ef) US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar visited Taiwan on Monday to commend Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus as well as its democracy. The visit marks the highest-level visit by an American official since 1979 – the year the US cut off official ties with Taiwan – reflecting a first peak in soaring relations between Washington and Taipei over the past year.

Both sides hailed the meeting. While President Tsai Ing-wen remarked that the visit came to show that the US-Taiwanese relationship had never been better and that it will progressively improve, Azar stated that his visit was to reaffirm “Taiwan as long partner and friend of the US.” Against the background of President Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Word Health Organization, Azar reassured that Washington would include Taiwan in its efforts to find “appropriate vehicles for continuing to support on a multilateral and bilateral basis global public health on the order that the U.S. has done in the past.”

The visit is deemed to worsen already frosty relations between the US and China which sent two fighter jets towards the island shortly before the talks, a move that has been sharply criticized by the Taiwanese Presidential Office. Furthermore, China lodged a formal complaint with the Oval Office vowing to take countermeasures. [New York Times ($)] [BBC] [South China Morning Post] [Focus Taiwan 1] [Focus Taiwan 3]

During the visit, the first memorandum of understanding on health cooperation between the US and Taiwan was signed. The memorandum formalizes the existing decades-long cooperation between the US and the Taiwanese health ministry and focuses on deepening collaboration in a number of areas ranging from “global health security, investigation and control of infectious disease, research, prevention and treatment of chronic disease, and the development of drugs and vaccines.” It also involves programs for personnel exchanges, training and bilateral visits, workshops and conferences. [Focus Taiwan 3]

11 August 2020

China-Mongolia relations: Ulaanbaatar reassures Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang are Chinese domestic affairs

(dql) At the Fifth China-Mongolia Strategic Dialogue Between Foreign Ministries held last week, both sides agreed to deepen cooperation in a number of areas including political and diplomatic affairs, economy and trade as well as cultural and people-to-people exchange. The Mongolian Deputy Foreign Minister reassured that “Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xizang [sic] affairs are purely China’s internal affairs.” [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China]

4 August 2020

Taiwan: National Human Rights Commission established

(ef) On past Saturday, Taiwan’s National Human Rights Commission was established, tasked with reviewing complaints of abuses and discrimination, drafting and proposing a national human rights report and providing advice to government agencies on related policymaking. The setup of the Commission aims to bring national laws in line with global standards and promote human rights in Taiwan. In particular, the Paris Principles – key evaluation criteria for national human rights institutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Commission and the UN General Assembly – are supposed to be met and monitored. [Focus Taiwan]


4 August 2020

Taiwan: Former President Lee Teng-hui dies

(ef) Last week, former President Lee Teng-hui died aged 97. He was the first Taiwanese President elected by the popular vote and held the office from 1988 to 2000. Under his presidency decades of martial law rule ended and the groundwork for the Taiwan’s transformation from dictatorship to a full-fledged multi-party democracy was laid. Furthermore, he introduced the concept of “New Taiwanese” – meaning all islanders, no matter whether mainland born Chinese or native Taiwanese – in an attempt to forge a common sense of identity that could support the democratic political system.

Lee, who joined the Kuomintang (KMT) in 1971 and served as its chairman from 1988-2000, was mayor of Taipei and governor of Taiwan Province before becoming Vice-President in 1984.  [New York Times] [Focus Taiwan]

28 July 2020

Taiwan: Ordinary citizens to participate in criminal trials

(ef) Last week, the Legislative Yuan passed the Citizen Judges Act that mandates the participation of ordinary citizens in those criminal trials that involve offenses with a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. The panel will be made up of three professional judges and six citizen judges. At least two-thirds of the nine judges will need to find the defendant guilty. The act requires the citizen judge to participate in the proceedings, unless they have a sufficient reason to not show up. Approximately 500 criminal cases will involve citizen judges each year. Despite the disagreement of the opposition, the DPP, the ruling party, pushed through this act that was proposed by President Tsai Ing-wen in her inaugural address. A survey showed that more than 70% of the citizens favored the act. [Focus Taiwan] [Focus Taiwan 2]

28 July 2020

Taiwan: National airline to be rebranded

(ef) The Taiwanese Legislature has voted to rebrand the Taiwanese airline “China Airlines” in order to strengthen national identity. In a first step, Taiwanese symbols will be monitored on the airplanes. In a second step, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications will be asked to come up with new name ideas that do not offend China but also represent the Taiwanese origin of China Airlines.

Additionally, the Legislature unanimously passed a resolution that the country’s passports should emphasize the reference to “Taiwan” in order to clearly distinguish Taiwanese citizens from Chinese citizens. The DPP, the ruling party, contended that the move should ensure the travel convenience and safety of Taiwanese citizens after the Chinese handling of COVID-19 raised a global uproar. To pursue this goal, the size or position of the word “Taiwan” should be changed on passports. [Focus Taiwan]

The legislative moves came after pro-Taiwan independence activists urged legislators to take action to ensure a clearer differentiation between Taiwan and China. [AiR No. 29, July/2020, 3]

28 July 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: Defense Secretary Esper reassures US support 

(dql) US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a public speech last week reassured that the US will remain steadfast in its support of Taiwan, continue to sell weapons to Taiwan and conduct exercises in the region as Taiwan is facing an increasingly assertive China and “hundreds, if not over a thousand, missiles aimed at Taiwan.” At the same time, he confirmed that Washington would uphold its commitment to “a constructive and results-oriented relationship with China and within our defense relationship to open lines of communication and risk reduction.” [Focus Taiwan] [Military Times]

21 July 2020

Taiwan: Independence group calls for “Taiwan” passport

(dql) Pro-Taiwan independence activists urged legislators to change the country name on the Taiwanese passport and that of the nation’s flagship carrier, from “Republic of China” to “Taiwan” and from “China Airlines” to “Taiwan Airlines” respectively. The activists further argued that according to a survey 70% of the population would support theses changes. [Focus Taiwan]

21 July 2020

Taiwan: Ruling party pushes through controversial Control Yuan nominees 

(dql) For the third time in the past two weeks, Taiwanese legislators last week scuffled in parliament. This time it was over the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) approval of the controversial appointments of all 27 nominees to Control Yuan, Taiwan’s government watchdog body. 

All nominees were confirmed with the votes from the DPP, which commands 63 seats in the 113-member legislature. The main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers boycotted the voting to express their continued rejection especially of the nomination of an aide of President Tsai Ing-wen as president of the Control Yuan. [Focus Taiwan]

21 July 2020

Taiwan-EU relations: Brussels urges Taipei to push for death penalty abolition

(dql) During the annual human rights talks with Taiwan, the European Union last week reiterated its strong opposition to the death penalty and “called on Taiwan to reinstate a de facto moratorium and pursue a policy towards the abolition of the death penalty.”

Further topics discussed included protections for migrant workers, the protection of rights of Taiwanese detainees in the EU, as well as LGBT rights. 

14 July 2020

Cross-strait-relations: Taiwan annual military drill 

(ef) Taiwan has started its annual military drill to test combat readiness of the Taiwanese military forces. The exercise includes a simulation of an attack by China’s People’s Liberation Army. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanwhile, in response  to the Covid-19 caused halt of cross-strait travels, China has intensified its efforts to take its reunification campaign to the virtual world and make use of live broadcasts, online conferences and video-making competitions to strengthen a sense of ancestry and ‘knowing your roots’ in order to reignite Chinese patriotism in Taiwanese hearts and minds.

However, the campaign may not have the desired, if any, effect with 27% of citizens of Taiwan currently supporting its formal independence and only 0.7 per cent wanting to reunify with the PRC. [Reuters] [New York Times]

14 July 2020

Taiwan: Opposition party calls for impeachment of Control Yuan nominee

(ef) Two weeks after the Legislative Yuan was occupied over the nomination of Chen Chu, [AiR, No. 26, June/2020, 5] the opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT) called for her impeachment over donation abuses. Previously, the KMT brought forth that she would lack impartiality as a member of the Control Yuan. Now, they presented the Control Yuan with a petition to investigate and impeach Chen Chu as there was new evidence of her illegal handling of funds. The vote on the nominees for the Control Yuan – one of the five branches of the government monitoring the other branches and consisting of 29 members are appointed by the president and approved by the Legislature Yuan every six years – is expected to take place this week. [Focus Taiwan]

In a latest development, members of the KMT on Tuesday blocked Chen from entering the parliament to attend a hearing resulting in a brawl between lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the KMT. [France 24]

7 July 2020

China joins Arms Trade Treaty amid continued tensions with the USA over South China Sea and Taiwan

(dql/ef) China on Monday formally joined the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty, becoming the 107th country to enter into the multilateral treaty which regulates the international trade in conventional weapons and which the USA spurned last year. Referencing this move, China’s permanent representative at the UN criticized in a statement at the UN that a “[c]ertain country has quit multilateral arms control agreements and international treaties and organizations in succession, walked away from international commitments, and launched acts of unilateralism and bullying.” [AA]

The USA, meanwhile, were flexing military muscles amid high running tensions between China and the USA over the South China Sea, when two US aircraft carriers – the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz –, joined by a B 52 bomber, carried out military exercises in the South China Sea over the weekend. The exercises were conducted at the same time when China was completing its own naval exercises in the disputed region. While Washington reassured that the drills were “an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we [the US] are committed to regional security and stability”, Beijing denounced the move as “totally out of ulterior motives” and criticized it for its destabilizing effect for the region. [The Dipomat] [Stars and Stripes][Time]

Meanwhile, a draft of the Taiwan Defense Act was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives, a month after the same bill was introduced to the U.S. Senate. The bill reassures that Taiwan is “a steadfast partner of the United States in the common pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific region […]” and aims at ensuring the U.S. to meets its obligations towards Taiwan according to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979 by requiring the US Department of Defense to take measure to guarantee that Taiwan will be able to thwart a Chinese invasion, in particular a “fait accompli” against Taiwan.

The TRA itself aims at making sure that the USA and Taiwan continue substantial de-facto diplomatic and economic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan. It contains also a pledge to provide Taiwan with sufficient defense weapons and services to enable self-defense. [Focus Taiwan] [Senator Hawley, who introduced the bill to the Senate for the text of the bill]

7 July 2020

Cross-strait relations: Chinese war planes fly again over Taiwan

(ef) After the People’s Liberation Army of China announced last week that it would conduct a five-day military exercise in the South China Sea, a Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s southwest air defence identification zone. The aircraft was chased off by Taiwanese patrol planes. This incident marks the 10th time since July 9 that Chinese military planes entered Taiwan’s airspace. [Focus Taiwan]


7 July 2020

Taiwan prepared to post-Covid economic challenges

(dql) Taiwan has been worldwide hailed for its successful curbing of the Covid-19 pandemic. Liu Shih-chung at [Brookings] demonstrates how Taiwan not only overcame the coronavirus crisis, but also how due the government’s prudent policy of diversifying its businesses, industries and markets Taiwan is well prepared to remain economically strong in the post-Covid period and to “team up with the international community for a better future.”


30 June 2020

China-USA relations: Tensions high over Hong Kong and Taiwan

(dql/ef) In the latest sign of escalating tensions between China and the USA over Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong, US State Secretary Pompeo on Monday announced that the USA will stop exports of defense equipment to Hong Kong, originating from the USA, and impose new restrictions on the export of dual use items to the city, a move by which Washington signals that Hong Kong no longer enjoys the special trade status with the USA. [Politico]

In an earlier Hong Kong-related move last week, Washington announced visa restrictions on Chinese officials over Hong Kong, a move Beijing was quick to condemn and to announce to retaliate with similar visa restrictions targeting certain US individuals. [CNN] [BCC]

Meanwhile, several moves in the last week on US side further worsened already sour Sino-US relations over Taiwan. The US Army took a rare action and posted a promotional video of a joint training session of Taiwanese and US-American special forces  soldiers, showing – among others – how a mock casualty is carried by Green Berets to what appears to be Taiwanese Army helicopter as well as  a soldier carrying a Type 91 assault rifle, the Taiwanese military’s standard individual arm. [Taiwan News] [The Drive]

In response to the video footage, Chinese state-run news outlet Global Times cited Chinese experts who see the joint military exercise as proof that “it was the US and the separatist authorities on the island that first changed the status quo and provoked the mainland.” Washington and Taipei would have to “bear full responsibility” for a possible reunification by force in the future. [Global Times]

Further complicating the situation over Taiwan, three American military planes were spotted over a strategic waterway that is used by Chinese submarines while US. lawmakers have introduced the Taiwan Fellowship Act to both chamber of the US Congress. The Act aims to help US government officials obtain deepened understanding about Taiwan by offering federal government employees fellowships for taking part in an exchange program which provides opportunities to learn, live and work in Taiwan. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Taipei Times]

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen President announced that she will take measures to provide the regular military force with a stronger military reserve force. Measures under consideration include ensuring the reserve force having similar combat capabilities like to regular Armed Forces as well as synchronizing human and strategic resources mobilization and establishing closer cooperation between the reserve force and government bodies. [Focus Taiwan 2


30 June 2020

Taiwan: Opposition party occupies parliament

(ef) To protest against the nomination of a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as the new head of the Control Yuan – one of the five branches of the government in Taiwan which functions as an investigative agency monitoring the other branches of government – members of the opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT) occupied the Legislative Yuan for one day by locking doors with chains and chairs before being overwhelmed by energetic interbvention of members of the DPP. The Deputy Secretary-General of the KMT stated that the occupation was staged in order to show the disapproval of the nomination of the candidate to her policy mismanagement during her time as Taiwan’s labour minister and mayor of Kaohsiung. [Taiwan News] [Reuters]


23 June 2020

Cross-strait relations: PRC warns Taiwan against offering protection to Hong Kongers

(ef) After Taiwan announced that it would set up an office dedicated to handle humanitarian relief and care for Hong Kongers, the PRC denounced that plan of action by stating that providing humanitarian relief would “only continue to bring harm to Taiwan’s people”. The new office will begin operations on July 1, the day Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago. [Aljazeera]

The office is part of the Taiwanese relief plan for those citizens of Hong Kong who will be affected by the new national security law. The Taiwanese government will cover necessary expenses for those Hong Kongers whose freedom and safety are under threat. The office will handle applications of those seeking to stay in Taiwan for political reasons. [Straits Times]


23 June 2020

Cross-strait relations: Chinese Air Force enters Taiwanese air zone

(ef) Marking the seventh encounter in two weeks, Chinese Air Force jets entered the Taiwanese air defense identification zone on Monday. One of the involved jets was the H-6 bomber which is a nuclear-capable bomber. After the Chinese Air Force received warning via radio, they left the air space. [Japan Times] A legislator has stated that the spike in such encounters could be a sign that the PRC deployed jets at a base in the South China Sea or that they are engaged in extensive combat training. [Taiwan News]

The sighting took place on the same day as President Tsai Ing-wen’s overseeing of the first public test flight of an advanced home-grown jet trainer. The new AT-5 Brave Eagle is the first domestically made jet in more than three decades and was developed as part of an increase in domestic military designing. [New York Times]


16 June 2020

Taiwan: Preparations for refugee influx from Hong Kong

(ef) With the enactment of Beijing’s Hong Kong national security law expected to come soon, Taiwan has started to prepare for an influx of refugees from Hong Kong. Measures under consideration by the Tsai administration include providing a monthly allowance for living and shelter opportunities as well as the establishment of a government panel to vet applications and issue visas for studying or working in Taiwan. A particular challenge will be to detect Chinese spies pretending to be activists from Hong Kong. 

Since the protest began June last year close to 200 Hong Kong people have fled to Taiwan with around 10% of them having been granted visas. [Reuters]

16 June 2020

Taiwan-Japan relations: Fishermen protection vowed amid Japanese renaming effort

(ef) Amid the Japanese effort to rename the disputed Diaoyutai Islands [AiR No. 23, June/2020, 2] and in response to the ensuing concerns of Taiwanese fishermen over their fishing rights in the surrounding waters the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has vowed to protect those rights and reaffirmed that it expressed serious concerns to Japan over the renaming plans. [Focus Taiwan]

9 June 2020

Taiwan: Kaohsiung mayor recalled 

(ef/dql) The citizen of Kaohsiung overwhelmingly voted to recall their mayor Han Kuo-yu, the former presidential candidate of the opposition Kuomintang. Accused of dereliction of duty as mayor in the wake his presidential campaign for which he took three months leave, 97.4% of the voters decided to remove him from office.

The recall – the first ever recall of a mayor in Taiwan – reflects Han’s dramatic rise and fall as politician who managed to win for the KMT in November 2018 the mayoral election in Kaohsiung – hitherto two decades long a stronghold of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – and to become the celebrated hopeful for the presidential election which he eventually lost against President Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP. [Focus Taiwan]

For a take on the recall as a major blow for the KMT which is struggling to reform itself after the dire results in the presidential and legislative elections in January see [Taiwan News], [Aljazeera].

9 June 2020

Taiwan-Japan relations: Taiwan reiterates sovereignty over Diaoyutai Islands

(ef) Following a Japanese municipality’s announcement to hold votes on changing the name of the Diaoyutai Islands, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated that the Diaoyutai Islands were “undoubtedly inherent parts of the Republic of China,” adding that any Japanese unilateral action could harm regional security and stability; thus, restraint should be exercised. [Focus Taiwan]

The Diaoyutai Islands are also known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands. They are uninhabited islands in the East China Sea and claimed by China, Taiwan, and Japan, respectively.

9 June 2020

Cross-strait relations: Chinese fighter jets enter Taiwan’s airspace

(dql) Chinese Su-30 fighter jets this Tuesday briefly entered Taiwan’s airspace, prompting the island’s air force to issue verbal warnings and “active responses” to drive away the intruders. [Reuters]

Beijing’s move came as Taiwan announced that its largest annual live-fire drills, the Han Kuang exercises, will be conducted in July and September with a focus on testing the country’s asymmetric capabilities to ward off hostile forces at sea and along its beaches involving all three branches of Taiwan’s military. [Focus Taiwan]

In an earlier development last week, the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s only entirely home-built aircraft carrier Shandong was performing sea trials testing weapons and equipment as well as enhancing training of the crew after it had left her home port of Dalian in late May on her maiden voyage for training since being commissioned five months ago.

While military experts consider the Shandong inferior to US Navy counterparts, she nevertheless reflects China’s rise to a regional naval power amid tensions with the USA and others over trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea. [Defense News] [Asia Times]

2 June 2020

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s legislature condemns Beijing’s Hong Kong national security law resolution

(ef) Taiwan’s legislature denounced Beijing’s decision on imposing a national security law on Hong Kong with all major parties stating that the security law negates the PRC’s promise of ‘a high degree of autonomy’ in Hong Kong. [Focus Taiwan 1]

Meanwhile, civic groups have called for the establishment of an asylum system for political refugees from Hong Kong. Currently, there is no law governing the refugee policy, albeit Article 18 of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macau Affairs states that ‘necessary assistance’ shall be given to Hong Kong and Macau residents whose safety and liberty are immediately threatened for political reasons. President Tsai Ing-wen has announced that a ‘humanitarian assistance action plan’ covering residency rights and social assistance for Hong Kongers shall be drafted. [Focus Taiwan 2 ] Article 18 has never been publicly utilized to avoid antagonizing the PRC. Whilst Taiwan has quietly extended temporary visas of many Hong Kongers, the government has not provided them with financial or other direct assistance. [The Diplomat 1]

Meanwhile, a leading PRC-official reiterated that the PRC will use its armed forces to ‘resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions’ of the Taiwanese government. The 2005 secession law [for an English version see China Embassy] allows the use of force if peaceful reunification efforts fail. However, the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office assured that the preferred modus operandi remained ‘one country, two systems’ and ‘peaceful reunification’. [Aljazeera

A recent study on the Taiwanese public opinion toward Taiwan, China and Taiwan’s future can be assessed at [The Diplomat 2].

2 June 2020

Taiwan: Criminalization of adultery unconstitutional

(ef) Reversing an earlier decision of its own, the Taiwanese Constitutional Court ruled in a landmark decision that the criminalization of adultery is unconstitutional arguing that the relevant Article 239 of the Taiwanese Criminal Code which sets out that those who commit adultery shall be sentenced to prison for less than one year if the alleged victim files a complaint infringes on people’s privacy rights. [Focus Taiwan 1]

The ruling triggered mixed reactions within Taiwan’s society. While it was criticized by conservative groups for favoring sexual freedoms over loyalty on the on hand, it was celebrated by activists as a crucial step in Taiwan’s constitutional history and the promotion of marriage equality. 

According to the International Commission of Jurists, women were 20% more likely to be convicted of the charge. [Focus Taiwan 2] [New York Times]

26 May 2020

Deterrence in the Pacific: US Navy Sends Submarines to Sea 

(jk) The US Pacific Fleet Submarine Force announced that “all of its forward-deployed subs were simultaneously conducting “contingency response operations” at sea in the Western Pacific”. []

The openly announced deployment of the submarines, as well as the uptick in activities in and around the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait [e.g. The Drive] are clear signals of tensions that are continuing to increase and another sign that the US is slowly refocusing its deterrence strategy amid Chinese naval activity. 


26 May 2020

Japan calls Taiwan “extreme important partner”

(dql) Amid thawing Sino-Japanese relations, Japan in its annual foreign policy report designated Taiwan as “extreme important partner”, elevating the status as “crucial partner and an important friend” in the previous year. The report also stresses Japan’s support of Taiwan participation in the World Health Organization against resistance from China. 

Taiwan’s rise in status reflects a continued improvement of the relations between Tokyo and Taipei over the past years. Besides close economic ties, Taiwan plays an important strategic role for Japan as a bulwark against Chinese maritime ambitions. [Nikkei Asian Review]


26 May 2020

Taiwan: ‘Necessary assistance’ promised to Hong Kong citizens

(ef) In light of China’s proposal to enact security legislation that is widely seen as posing a serious threat to Hong Kong’s freedom and judicial independence, President Tsai Ing-wen promised to provide Hong Kong with ‘necessary assistance’. However, for security reasons, she said that the administration would consider invoking Article 60 of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs (LRRHM). Article 60 LRRHM sets out that the LRRHM – which stipulates special rights for Hong Kong and Macao citizens – can be suspended, in whole or in part, if there is a change in the situation of Hong Kong or Macao that would endanger the Taiwan Area. [Focus Taiwan 1]

Hong Kong citizen living in Taiwan are concerned that the suspension pursuant to Article 60 LRRHM could affect their residency status. [Focus Taiwan 2] All three opposition parties proposed an amendment to the LRRHM instead. The proposed amendments would make it easier for Hong Kong’s citizens to seek political asylum, should the situation in Hong Kong get worse. Especially Article 18 LRRHM should be amended in order to provide clearer guidelines for prospective immigrants. [Focus Taiwan 1]

Currently, Article 18 LRRHM stipulates that those citizens of Hong Kong and Macao whose safety and liberty are immediately threatened for political reasons shall receive necessary assistance from Taiwan. In the first four months of 2020, the number of immigrants from Hong Kong to Taiwan has increased by 150%. This is viewed as correlated to the increase of violent protests in Hong Kong. [Deutsche Welle] [Japan Times]


26 May 2020

Taiwan: President Tsai is sworn in for second term

(dql/ef) On May 20, President Tsai Ing-wen was sworn in for a second term after winning a landslide in the presidential election in January. In her inaugural address, she focused on domestic issues including sustaining economic growth in the face of the fallout of the pandemic, the establishment of a constitutional amendment committee to enhance consensus-building on constitutional reforms pertaining to state institutions and democracy as well as the creation of a National Human Rights Commission scheduled for August.

With regards to China, Tsai reiterated her readiness for dialogue with China but reasserted her ‘Taiwan independent and equal’ stance by saying that she “will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo,” adding that she hope that “the leader on the other side of the Strait will […] work with us to jointly stabilize the long-term development of cross-strait relations.” [Focus Taiwan 1: full text of inaugural speech]

Meanwhile, Tsai was criticized for her composition of the Cabinet in which only two out of 42 members of the new cabinet are women, marking the largest relative gender disparity in 30 years. At the same time women make up 41.59% of the member of the Legislative Yuan. [Focus Taiwan 2]

19 May 2020

Taiwan: Cabinet resigns en masse

(dql) Ahead of the inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen for her second term this Wednesday, Taiwan’s Cabinet last week resigned en masse to pave the way for Tsai’s reshuffle. 

It is widely believed that most of the Ministers will be re-appointed to ensure stability during the pandemic period. [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan]

12 May 2020

Taiwan: Final confirmation of recall vote against Han

(dql) An appeal by Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu to halt a planned recall vote against him has been rejected by Taiwan’s Supreme Administrative Court confirming an earlier decision of a lower court. [Focus Taiwan] [AiR No. 16, April/2020, 3]

With the recall vote now set  to take place in early June, recall campaign organizers and supporters of the recall among the pan-Green politicians have alleged that the Han administration is trying to manipulate the vote in various ways, including using the Kaohsiung police to take down campaign advertising calling for his recall while leaving up ads supportive of him and pressuring advertising firms to only allow pro-Han advertisements and to reject advertisements critical of him. [New Bloom]

12 May 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: US Senate approves pro-Taiwan bill

(dql) In a move signaling US support for Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts to boost its international standing, the US Senate unanimously passed a bill which calls for US Secretary of State to develop a strategy to enable Taiwan to regain its observer status in the World Health Organization. [Bloomberg

While US President Trump is upholding his accusations against China of covering up the origin of the coronavirus, the bill hails Taiwan as “a model contributor to global health, having provided financial and technical assistance to respond to numerous global health challenges.” [Congress, USA for the text of the bill]

In a related move New Zealand expressed its support for Taiwan obtaining the observer status, defying warnings from Beijing. [The Guardian]

Taiwan had observer status from 2009 to 2016 under then President Ma Ying-jeou and lost it in 2016 when independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party became president and refused to accept the one-China principle. Since then, Beijing has been blocking Taipei from the WHO as part of efforts isolate the island.

In an earlier move, Taiwan’s Vice President in an interview did not rule out that the coronavirus might have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, despite warning that one has “to be cautious with this finding,” but also adding his conviction that China did not provide correct numbers of victims of the pandemic. [France 24]

5 May 2020

Taiwan: Proposals for referendums on constitutional revisions/new constitution submitted

(dql) The Taiwan New Constitution Foundation (TNCF), a hard-line pro-independence group last week submitted two petitions to the Central Election Commission (CEC) proposing referendums on revising the constitution and drafting a new constitution for Taiwan, along with more than 3,000 signatures for each of the proposals which surpass the required number of signatures for the first in a three-stage process for holding a referendum. 

The two questions contained in the petitions are first, “Do you support the president in initiating a constitution reform process for the country?” and second, “Do you support the president in pushing for the establishment of a new constitution reflecting the reality of Taiwan?” [Focus Taiwan]

The proposals for the constitutional referendums and their wordings put President Tsai Ing-wen under pressure as the TNCF refers to her 2015 presidential campaign pledge to revise the constitution in accordance with Taiwan’s political reality, while at the same time Beijing was quick to warn that such referendums “will only push Taiwan towards an extremely dangerous abyss and bring an extremely serious catastrophe to Taiwanese compatriots.” [South China Morning Post] [Xingdao Global Times, in Chinese]

28 April 2020

Taiwan: Constitutional Court favors Japan’s lay judge model over Western jury system

(dql) Since 2017 legislative efforts have been underway to introduce citizens’ participation in the judiciary. 

Last week Taiwan’s Constitutional Court has presented in a document submitted to the parliament for further hearing its stance and reasons against the introduction of a jury system while expressing its preference for adopting Japan’s lay judge model under which lay judges and court judges jointly decide both the verdict and the sentencing. [Taipei Times]

28 April 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: Rare inter-ministerial phone talk

(dql) In a rare move, signaling further deepening relations between Taiwan and the USA, the US health minister and his Taiwanese counterpart held a teleconference at which both sides expressed mutual gratitude for support in the context of the pandemic. While Taiwan thanked the United States for its support in pushing for the island’s participation in the World Health Organization despite China’s objections, Washington in turn thanked Taipei for sharing its Covid-19 best practices. [Reuters]

Meanwhile, the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52) transited the Taiwan Strait last Friday for the second time this month. The transits come at a time when China is increasing its drills in the region in both numbers and substance. [USNI News] [Aljazeera]

In response, China scrambled air and sea patrols to track, monitor, verify, identify and expel the warship while denouncing the transits as “provocative acts” that “seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security interests, deliberately increased regional security risks and could easily trigger an unexpected incident.” [South China Morning Post]

21 April 2020

Taiwan: Kaohsiung mayor to face recall vote 

(dql) In a historic first, Kaohsiung’s citizens will be able to decide on the fate of their Kuomintang (KMT) mayor, Han Kuo-yu, in a recall vote scheduled for June 6. The Central Election Commission (CEC) announce its decision last Friday after a last-minute legal challenge by Han to the recall motion  [AiR No. 15, April/2020, 2] was dismissed. 

Never before has such a high official been targeted with a recall vote in Taiwan. Han, who claims that the recall motion is politically motivated, unexpectedly won the mayoral election in Kaohsiung in November 2018, but he rapidly lost public support in the course of his presidential campaign due to grandiose promises and careless statements made there. In January he eventually lost the presidential election against Tsai Ing-wen by a wide margin. [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan]

21 April 2020

“Milk tea alliance” unites young Thai, HK and Taiwanese internet users against China

(ls) In unprecedented show of “online solidarity”, mostly young internet users from Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan have jointly rebutted what most observers considered concerted Chinese troll attacks on a Thai celebrity who had mistakenly referred to Taiwan as a country. The Diplomat recounts the events that led to the creation of the self-styled “milk tea alliance”, describing the internet’s unifying potential as opposed to bots, misinformation and media manipulation. [The Diplomat]

“This is the first transnational geopolitical Twitter war Thais have engaged in,” Prajak Kongkirati of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Political Science said. Meanwhile, also users in the Philippines took on the respective hashtag to attack Chinese action in the disputed South China Sea. Twitter is blocked in China and only accessible for those using virtual private networks or with official approval. [Reuters]

21 April 2020

U.S. military plane spotted near Taiwan’s airspace 

(dql) A United States military reconnaissance plane was flying near Taiwan’s southern airspace last Friday. It was the ninth time U.S. military aircraft have been observed operating near Taiwan in April. [Taiwan News]


14 April 2020

Taiwan: Defeated Kuomintang presidential hope to lose in Kaohsiung mayor recall motion, too?

(dql) Only a few months after losing the presidential race against Tsai Ing-wen, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu is facing another bitter political defeat. The Kaohsiung City Election Commission announced that the petition to recall him has passed the second of three stages after a total of 377.662 signatures out of 406.880 submitted were confirmed as valid. The required minimum stands at 228.134. If the Central Election Commission approves this result, a recall vote will be held within 60 days. [Taiwan News]

Han stands accused of dereliction of duty as city mayor during his presidential campaign. In January, the petitioners took the first stage. [AiR No. 3, January/2020, 3]

Meanwhile, Han’s lawyers filed an administrative litigation, requesting the court to review whether a recall vote against him should be allowed to proceed, arguing that the groups which launched the recall petition violated the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act by collection signatures long before Han had been in office for one year. [Focus Taiwan]


14 April 2020

Six US military aircraft appearances in South Taiwan in one week

(dql) Last week, AiR reported about intensified US military activities in recent months in the South China Sea. [AiR No. 14, April/2020, 1] This trend continues with six appearances of U.S. military aircraft in the same area of South Taiwan in the past week while China sent its aircraft carrier Liaoning along with five accompanying warships near Japan and Taiwan at the past weekend. [Focus Taiwan] [Stars and Stripes]

The heightened frequency of military aircraft passages in the region comes at a time when Washington is even further deepening its ties with Taipei both through legislation such as the recent TAIPEI Act and diplomatic efforts to help Taiwan to access international organizations such as the WHO. [AiR No. 14, April/2020, 1


7 April 2020

China angered by Taiwan’s mask diplomacy and US support for Taiwan

(dql) In response to Taiwan’s pledge to donate as many as 10 million surgical face masks to the USA and 11 European countries as well as 15 diplomatic allies [Focus Taiwan], Beijing warned Taipei to stay away from “political tricks” to buy support for accession to the World Health Organization from which Taiwan is excluded as China has been blocking any accession attempts. Beijing further warned that the “US and Taiwan should be reminded that if there is anyone trying to use this pandemic to play political games and hurt China’s core interests, they should be very careful.”  [South China Morning Post]

China’s warnings come amid efforts taken by the US administration and lawmakers in the USA to push for support for Taiwan’s standing in international organizations in the wake of Taipei’s widely recognized response to the pandemic such as the World Health Organization or the International Civil Aviation Organization. [The Diplomat] [East Asia Forum 1].

In an earlier move, President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019 into law which provides the US Secretary of State with the power to expand, reduce, or terminate U.S. aid to countries depending on whether they improve, worsen, or sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan and also calls for increased American support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations either as a member or observer. [AiR No. 13, March/2020, 5]

For an assessment of China-USA relations in the light of Covid-19 see Ryan Hass and Kevin Dong in [East Asia Forum 2] who argue that there will be more, not less, tensions between China and the USA over the pandemic while suggesting that the USA would fare better if they would “prioritise the development of an Asia strategy for dealing with China, rather than concentrating on bilateral confrontation with Beijing” as reflected by the US narrative of “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” on the causes of the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under Bill Clinton and one of the grand and most influential scholars in international relations and US foreign policy, criticizes both Beijing and Washington for “short-term, zero-sum approaches” to their  respective pandemic response which pays to “too little attention to international institutions and cooperation” and calls on both sides to “plan for future waves of the coronavirus and establish bilateral and multilateral frameworks to enhance collaboration.” [Project Syndicate]

7 April 2020

U.S. military aircraft fly near Taiwan

(dql) For the fourth time in March, a United States military aircraft, a submarine-hunting aircraft  was reported flying near Taiwan’s southern airspace last Tuesday, signaling intensified US military activity in the South China Sea as well as continued monitoring of the region, despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. [Focus Taiwan]

For an overview of military activities of China in the Taiwan Strait China Sea in the first quarter of 2020 and the corresponding political signaling towards Taiwan and the USA see John Dotson at [The Jamestown Foundation: China Brief]. 


31 March 2020

Taiwan: Lowering voting age

(dql) The main opposition Kuomintang has submitted to the parliament a proposal to amend the Constitution to lower the voting age from currently 20 to 18 and the age of candidacy to 20 from 23. The party hopes that the reform will be completed before the 2022 local government elections.

In response, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party announced that it will come forward with an own proposal for such a constitutional amendment and set up a constitutional reform committee to deal with the matter. [Taipei Times] [Focus Taiwan]

31 March 2020

Transitional justice in Taiwan: Files on white terror political cases to be disclosed to public

(dql) Taiwan’s National Archives Administration (NAA) has received from the National Security Bureau (NSB) a total of more than 400 declassified files on 118 political cases that occurred during the white terror era in Taiwan from 1947-1987. The NAA is instructed to make the files available to the public as part of furthering the process of transitional justice in Taiwan.  

Among others, the declassification is expected to shed light on the deaths of former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung’s family members and democracy activist Chen Wen-chen. Both cases are believed to be politically motivated killings. [Taiwan News]

31 March 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: Trump since TAIPEI Act into law

(dql) As widely expected, President Donald Trump last week signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019 into law. The legislation aims to discourage Taiwan’s diplomatic allies from cutting ties with the island country due to pressure from Beijing. It provides the Secretary of State with the power to expand, reduce, or terminate U.S. aid to countries depending on whether they improve, worsen, or sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The law also calls for increased American support for Taiwan’s participation in international organizations either as a member or observer. [Congress.Gov] [Focus Taiwan]

Beijing expressed strong objection against the move and called it an act hegemony. [South China Morning Post 1]

A day earlier, a US military vessel sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the latest sign of intensified military activity in the South China Sea in the recent years. [Aljazeera] [South China Morning Post 2]

24 March 2020

Taiwan-USA relations: Trump presented TAIPEI ACT for signing into law

(dql) The U.S. Congress presented the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019 to President Donald Trump for signing into law after its unanimous passage in both chambers of Congress earlier this month. The Act authorizes the U.S. State Department to consider “reducing its economic, security and diplomatic engagements with nations that take serious or significant actions to undermine Taiwan” and call on the U.S. government to provide Taiwan with support to gain participation in international organizations, either as a member or an observer, and to express support for Taiwan’s international participation whenever it has discussions with China. [Focus Taiwan]

24 March 2020

Taiwan: Large-scale military exercises

(dql) Taiwan’s Armed Forces held large-scale military exercises throughout the country on Tuesday, involving eight F-16 fighter jets from Hualien Air Base conducting simulated long-range intercept missions above Taiwan. According to the Ministry of National Defense, the exercises were primarily held to test the military’s combat readiness against an all-out Chinese aerial invasion. [Taiwan News]

17 March 2020

Taiwanese jets warning off Chinese air force again 

(hg) Taiwan’s air force has again scrambled to warn off approaching Chinese jets in context of a military exercise. 

The “island encirclement” drills come amid even worsening relations due to the global corona virus threat, with both countries accusing each other of spreading fake news, and Taiwan being embittered by China blocking its access to the World Health Organization repeating experiences of the SARS outbreak 2003. [Straits Times]

10 March 2020

Transitional justice in Taiwan: New report on 228 incident released

(dql) Serving as reference for Taiwan’s government push to transitional justice, a new report on the 228 Incident, a civil uprising back in 1947 which led to a bloody government crackdown, was officially published past weekend.

The report incorporates latest historical materials including government documents that have been declassified over the past two years and touches on several issues which have been not or rarely explored so far, including role of the government intelligence agencies and the deployment of government troops in  quelling the uprising and the casualties. [Focus Taiwan]

10 March 2020

Taiwan: New KMT chairman 

(dql) In the latest development of its re-organization [AiR No. 4, January/2020, 4] following the crushing defeat in the presidential elections in January [AiR No. 2, January/2020, 2], Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) has elected and sworn in Johnny Chiang, a US-educated politician and three- term lawmaker, as its new Chairman. [Focus Taiwan]

3 March 2020

Taiwan: Bill on disclosure of personal information of quarantine offenders passed

(dql) Taiwan’s parliament last week passed a bill containing a provision which allows disclosing personal information of violators of coronavirus quarantine rules.

Other provisions of the law increase the penalties to a substantial extent for breaking quarantine regulations on home quarantine or home isolation terms. Driving up the prices of supplies related to disease prevention or hoarding such supplies could be punished with prison terms of up to five years while the sentence for spreading false information regarding the virus could be imprisonment up to three years. [Focus Taiwan]

3 March 2020

Taiwan: Declassification of political archives of 228 and ‘White Terror’  

(dql) In her speech commemorating the 228 Incident, an anti-government uprising in Taiwan which was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang-led Republic of China government in 1947 [AiR No. 8, February/2020, 4], President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to further push for transitional justice and ordered the National Security Bureau to declassify political files related to 228 and the subsequent authoritarian  period of the ‘White Terror’ by end of March and to make them accessible to an investigation committee. Exempted are only a few files defined by the law as being security sensitive. [Taiwan News]

In an earlier move last week, Taiwan’s Transitional Justice Commission launched an online database containing curated court files of almost 10,000 victims of political persecution during the martial law period as well as names of military officers involved in the victims’ court trials. [Focus Taiwan]

25 February 2020

Taiwan: Remembering 228

(dql) Civic groups staged a march in Taipei past Saturday to mark the 73rd anniversary of the so-called 228 Incident which refers to an anti-government uprising in Taiwan on February 28, 1947 that the Kuomintang-led Republic of China government violently suppressed killing thousands of civilians. [Focus Taiwan]

Taiwan’s independence movement invokes the 228 Incident as a source of its identity. For insights into the historical background and the Kuomingtang’s memory of the incident in Taiwan see [The Diplomat].

25 February 2020

Cross-strait relations: Czech companies threatened over Taiwan visit

(dql) In a latest example demonstrating China’s attempts to cut off Taiwan’s partners and international relations, Beijing has threatened to retaliate against Czech companies over a planned visit of the Czech Senate speaker Jaroslav Kubera to Taiwan. A letter by China’s embassy in Prague to the Czech president’s office contains the warning that Czech companies operating in China “will have to pay” for breaking the ‘One China Policy’. [The Diplomat]

18 February 2020

Philippines lifts travel ban on visitors from Taiwan

(jk) The Philippines has lifted a travel ban on visitors from Taiwan over fears of spreading of the Coronavirus. It had initially banned travelers from Taiwan as part of the ban of travelers from the PRC, but Taiwan had objected to this view, also in light of the fact that it has significantly less cases than the mainland. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the World Health Organization’s “mistaken designation of Taiwan and listing it as part of China’s virus area had misled the international community, causing huge problems for Taiwan’s government and people.”   [Straits Times]


11 February 2020

Cross-strait relations: Chinese warplanes cross median line in Taiwan Strait

(dql) Taiwan’s air force scrambled after Chinese warplanes on Monday crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait on their way to the western Pacific. While Taiwan denounced the move as threat to regional peace, reassuring that it will not bow to China’s threats, the People’s Liberation Army announced that its forces carried out the drills “to further refine and test their multi-service joint combat capabilities.”

The incident came as Taiwan’s vice-president-designate William Lai Ching-te concluded his week-long ‘private’ visit to the US. He has been considered the highest-level Taiwanese official to meet with National Security Council officials since the US switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979. [The Diplomat][Aljazeera][South China Morning Post]

28 January 2020

Taiwan: KMT reform on the way

(dql) The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) last week decided to set a committee to carry out reforms of the party in four main areas, including the party’s organization, cross-Taiwan Strait narrative, finances, and youth involvement, with preliminary reform recommendations expected to be presented to the party’s Central Standing Committee by end of March. [Focus Taiwan]

The move comes two weeks after the KMT lost the presidential election and failed to meet expectations in the legislative election winning only 38 of the 113 parliamentary seats. In an earlier move, KMT’s leadership resigned en masse to take responsibility for the disappointing election results. [AiR No. 3, January/2020, 3]


21 January 2020

Taiwan: Leadership of defeated KMT resigns en masse

(dql) Taking responsibility for the main opposition Kuomintang’s defeat in the presidential election and results in the legislative election, which  failed to meet the party’s own expectations, the party’s leadership last week resigned en masse, including the party’s Chairman, Vice Chairmen, Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General. [Focus Taiwan 1]

In a related development, Acting Secretary-General Tseng Ming-chung announced that the KMT will undergo reform “and will come out as soon as possible with new approaches and strategies for reform.” He also said that the party will be open for views on scrapping the “1992 consensus” formula which the KMT has long advocated as a basis for interaction with China, but has now come under pressure after President Tsai Ing-wen has won the presidential election with a robust anti-1992 consensus campaign. [Focus Taiwan 2]

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission (CEC) has confirmed that the campaign to recall defeated KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu from his post as Kaohsiung City Mayor has cleared its first of three hurdles, securing more than the required number of signatures from eligible voters in the southern city, or 1 percent of the eligible voters in the previous mayoral election. [Taiwan News]


21 January 2020

Cross-strait relations: Tsai deepens anti-Beijing stance after reelection

(dql) Frosty cross-strait relations aren’t likely to see any improvement in the foreseeable future, following President Tsai Ing-wen’s latest statements on relations between Taiwan and China. 

In her first post-reelection interview, she reiterated her rejection of Beijing’s ‘one country, two systems’ frame for re-unification and said: “We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China, Taiwan, adding: “We have a separate identity and we’re a country of our own. We deserve respect from China.” [Taipei Times]

In prior move last week, Beijing responded to Tsai’s reelection and insisted on adherence to the “1992 consensus” as the pre-condition for cross-strait relations, adding that peaceful reunification and ‘one country, two systems’ were “the fundamental guideline for seeking a solution to the Taiwan question.” []

The “1992 consensus” refers to a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then Kuomintang (KMT) government and the Chinese government, which the KMT has consistently interpreted as both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledging that there is only “one China” while each side is free to interpret what “China” means. However, Beijing has never publicly recognized the second part of the KMT interpretation. 

14 January 2020

Taiwan: President Tsai reelected

(dql) Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured a second term in office after a landslide victory in Saturday’s presidential election. She garnered 57.13% of the votes, compared with 38.61% for her main contender Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang. [Focus Taiwan 1]

In the simultaneously held legislative election, the DPP was able to win 61 out of the total of 113 seats, securing the party the majority in the parliament. [Taiwan News]

While Tsai, who campaigned with a strong anti-unification stance, hailed in her acceptance speech the election results for demonstrating “that when our sovereignty and democracy are threatened, the Taiwanese people will shout our determination even more loudly back,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that “[s]plitting the country is doomed to leave a name that will stink for eternity,” adding that the “one-China principle” will “not be affected in the slightest by a local election in Taiwan.” [Foucs Taiwan 2] [Aljazeera]

7 January 2020

Taiwan: President Tsai set to be reelected 

(dql) Final polls for the presidential election on coming Saturday indicate that President Tsai Ing-wen of will secure a second term in office as she enjoys a 45% to 29% lead over her main contender, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT). [Focus Taiwan 1]

Less probable is that Tsai’s party, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will be able to win again the majority of seats in parliament in the legislative election to take place on the same day.  Currently the DPP holds 68 out of 113 seats. [Focus Taiwan 2]

Last week, election campaigning was put on hold for a few days after eight armed forces members, including the Chief of the General Staff, were killed in a helicopter crash. Results of the investigation into the causes of the crash are expected for this week. [Reuters]

31 December 2019

Taiwan: Anti-infiltration law against China passed

(dql) Less than two weeks ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections in which the relations to China play a decisive role, Taiwan’s legislature passed an anti-infiltration law to counter perceived threats from China.

The move concludes years-long efforts to combat what many in Taiwan view as Beijing’s efforts to influence politics and the democratic process by means of illicit funding of politicians and media and other underhand methods. [Reuters 1]

In November, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had initiated a renewed push for the legislation which proposes a maximum penalty of seven years in prison for requesting and engaging with external “infiltration sources” to endanger Taiwan’s political system and its democratic procedures. The main opposition party, the Kuomintang, has slammed the legislation as a politically motivated move of President Tsai Ing-wen and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to gain votes in the presidential and legislative elections. [AiR No. 48, November/2019, 4] [Reuters 2]

31 December 2019

Charting Convergence – Exploring the Intersection of the U.S. Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy and Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy

(jk) “The United States has advanced its vision for the region through the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy, which is founded on – and aims to protect – common principles that have benefitted all countries in the region. Taiwan upholds the same principles and has a similar vision for the Indo-Pacific. To this end, Taipei is implementing the New Southbound Policy (NSP), which seeks to leverage its cultural, educational, technological, agricultural, and economic assets to strengthen Taiwan’s relations across the Indo-Pacific.”[CSIS]

24 December 2019

Taiwan: Pro- and anti-KMT presidential candidate rallies

(dql) Three weeks ahead of the presidential election in Taiwan, parallel rallies for and against Han Kuo-yu, the opposition Kuomintang’s candidate, were staged at the past weekend in the southern city of Kaohsiung where Han has been elected mayor in November 2018.

While hundreds of thousands anti-Han protestors took to the streets to demand that he withdraws his candidacy or to step down as the city’s mayor, an equally high number of demonstrators joined a parallel march to support him. [Deutsche Welle]

In a related development, leaders of ‘Wecare Kaohsiung’, the movement pushing for a recall of Han as city mayor, announced that their recall petition has passed the threshold of the necessary 22.800 signatures in the first phase and announced to quickly follow up with the second stage in which estimated 228,000 signatures would be needed before the Central Election Commission could hold a vote on recalling the Kaohsiung mayor. Han is accused of dereliction of duty towards the Kaohsiung local government as he is allegedly is preoccupied with his bid for presidency. [Focus Taiwan]

17 December 2019

Taiwan: Ruling and main opposition clash over cross-strait policy TV election debate

(dql) Less than four weeks before the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan on January 11, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) expectedly clashed over cross-strait policy in the first of a series of televised debate on Sunday in which representatives from eight political parties participated.

While both parties stressed their opposition to the ‘one country, two systems’ reunification framework proposed by China, the DPP assertively insisted on Taiwan to be recognized by China as sovereign state before dialogue with China will be possible. The KTM, meanwhile, claimed that only “1992 consensus” is the only basis for cross-strait interaction, highlighting that the KTM interprets the 1992 understanding between the then-KMT government and the Chinese government as both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledging there is only “one China” with each free to interpret what “China” means. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]

According to the latest opinion poll released by the Taipei-based Cross-Strait Policy Association this Tuesday President Tsai Ing-wen is very likely to be re-elected as she received 56.5% support, giving her a comfortable margin of 38 percatage points against her main contender, opposition Kuomintang (KMT) presidential hopeful Han Kuo-yu who garnered 18.1% support. [Taiwan News]

For an account of internal and external factors responsible for Tsai’s strong position shortly before the election, including Xi Jinping’s reunification posture and rhetoric, the Hong Kong protests as well as the “difficulties and dilemmas besetting the KMT” see Yoshiyuki Ogasawara in [The Diplomat].

17 December 2019

Taiwan: Law amendment passed to boost counter-espionage 

(dql) In a move to strengthen the country’s security against espionage and infiltration activities, Taiwan’s legislature last week passed an amendment to the National Intelligence Service Act which increases jail terms for Taiwanese guilty of spying, removes the statute of limitations on the prosecution of espionage and expands the scope of counterintelligence provisions now allowing intelligence agencies to operate not only in national security and military areas but also foreign and cross-Taiwan Strait affairs, business, technology and public security. [Focus Taiwan]

The passage came a few days after a scam was uncovered involving the smuggling of over 5,000 Chinese nationals into Taiwan through fake invitation documents. Among those Chinese nationals were high-ranking Chinese government officials of the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. [Taiwan News]

10 December 2019

Taiwan: Tsai likely to win presidential election

(dql) Four weeks ahead of the presidential election in Taiwan, incumbent Tsai Ing-wen is likely to win a second term according to latest polls which see her enjoying a comfortable margin of 46% of the vote for her and 31% for main contender KaoHsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu from the opposition Kuomintang. 

Tsai, who around this time a year ago was heavily criticized and even faced calls for withdrawing from running for presidency within her own Democratic Progressive Party after the crushing defeat in the local elections in 2018, was able to gain ground over the course of this year as she managed to present herself as defender of Taiwan’s democracy in the wake of China’s assertive rhetoric on unification and the ongoing Hong Kong protests. [South China Morning Post

26 November 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s ruling party proposes “Anti-Infiltration Act”

(dql) Less than two months ahead of the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party has revealed its draft Anti-Infiltration Act. According to the party the bill aims to prevent foreign hostile forces from interfering in Taiwan’s political system and elections.

It proposes a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a fine of over 160,000 USD for requesting “infiltration sources” defined as “organizations or institutions affiliated with the government, political parties or other political groups of a foreign hostile force, and individuals dispatched by such entities” while “hostile force” is described as  “a country or group at war with or in a military standoff with Taiwan that upholds the idea of jeopardizing the nation’s sovereignty by non-peaceful means.” [Taipei Times]

In a related development, Taiwan has detained two executives of a Hong Kong-based company accused of spying for China while at the same time probing allegations made by a Chinese asylum seeker in Australia who claims to be Chinese spy and admitted to infiltrating Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election as well as the 2018 municipal elections. [Aljazeera] [New York Times]

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s legislature last week approved a special budget for the purchase of a new fleet of advanced F-16 fighter jets from the United States, allocating 8.1 billion USD over seven years from 2020 to 2026 for the purchase of 66 F-16 C/D Block 70 fighter planes. [Focus Taiwan]

5 November 2019

PRC: Beijing extends benefits for Taiwanese weeks before Taipei election

(jk) The PRC government has announced “26 measures” that will grant Taiwanese people and businesses more equal treatment with mainlanders. The measures are designed to attract more people and business from Taiwan to the mainland but are being dismissed by the government in Taipei’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) as a mere attempt to buy political support ahead of the elections in January. A similar package, containing 31 measures, was decided upon back in March, but according to the MAC, the measures had not been executed properly.

Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, responded with a tweet, written in simplified Chinese:  “China’s Taiwan Affairs Office came out with 26 measures and last year there were 31 – it looks like there are so many measures. But we in Taiwan do not need one country, two systems, so there is really no need to be so polite. Giving your people more freedom is also good!” [Focus Taiwan, South China Morning Post]

5 November 2019

U.S.-Taiwan cyber exercises open in Taipei

(jk) Taiwan and the US are hosting a multinational security exercise in Taiwan, focussing on cyber-attacks, in particular from mainland China. In 2018, Taiwan’s public sector faced “an average of 30 million cross-border cyberattacks per month […] with about half of all the attacks [coming] from China“. The US and Taiwan have also invited other nations to join the exercise, including teams from Australia, Japan, Malaysia and the Czech Republic [Focus Taiwan].

5 November 2019

Human rights groups criticise East Asia Summit for not including human rights issues

(jk) Rights groups criticised the state of human rights protection in Southeast Asia in particular over the weekend as they pointed out that the big summits, such as the East Asia Summit, do not include official discussions or statements on the deteriorating human rights situation in the region.

Human rights watch and other organisation expressed grave concern over the fact the Rohingya crisis, the war on drugs in the Philippines, the punishment of the LGBT community or enforced disappearances of activists were largely ignored throughout the summit. [Bangkok Post]

The Rohingya refugee crisis, although not in these terms, was mentioned at length in the final statement of the 35th ASEAN Summit however. ASEAN leaders noted their desire to

facilitate the safe, secure and dignified return displaced persons currently in Bangladesh to

Rakhine State from which they fled. [Chairman’s Statement Of The 35th ASEAN Summit] At the same time, they commended the work of AICHR, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights [for background on AICHR, see this article in CPG’s COM Online Magazine 4/2019]

22 October 2019

Taiwan builds Kamikaze drones against China

(dql) Taiwan is reportedly building suicide drones aimed at striking targets in China in the case of an attack by the People’s Liberation Army. The Chien Hsiang drone targets in particular the S-400 missile system China is acquiring from Russia. [Taiwan News]

China’s defence minister, meanwhile, declared on Monday at the Xiangshan Forum that resolving the “Taiwan question” was China’s greatest national interest, adding that no force could prevent the country’s “reunification”, while separatist activities will go nowhere. [Voice of America China, in Chinese]

15 October 2019

Taiwan: President’s message of defiance to Beijing on National Day

(dql) Hardening her anti-China stance, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in her speech on the National Day last week accused China of “challeng[ing] free, democratic values and the global order through a combination of authoritarianism, nationalism, and economic might,” adding that under these conditions “Taiwan has become the first line of defense for democratic values.”

Tsai’s remarks come ahead of the presidential elections in January. Benefitting from the developments in Hong Kong, she is far ahead of her Kuomingtang contender Han Kuo-yu with approval rating at 41% in latest polls. [Nikkei Asian Review]

15 October 2019

Taiwan: KMT presidential Han recall petition hits first of three legal thresholds

(dql) Main opposition Kuomingtang (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu is facing political pressure after a petition to recall him as Kaohsiung Mayor reached 300.000 signatures, surpassing the estimated legal threshold in the first of three stages of the recall process. [Focus Taiwan]

The petition was launched in July by the local NGOS accusing Han of neglecting his duties as the city’s mayor while pursuing his ambition to become Taiwan’s president in the upcoming elections next January.

8 October 2019

On the successes of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy

(jk) At the East-West Center, several authors discuss Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy from domestic, foreign policy, and strategic perspectives. It has had success improving trade, investment, tourism and educational engagement with ASEAN countries. In his piece on Vietnam, one of the authors sums up that “after Tsai’s inauguration, Taiwan’s exports to ASEAN increased by 14.2% in 2017, and investment rose by 73.3% in 2016 from the previous years. In addition, the number of ASEAN students studying in Taiwan ranks second after China while the number of tourists from Southeast Asia rose by 29% in 2017 from the previous year as a result of the relaxation on visa policy for ASEAN nationals”. [East West Center] [A Vietnam Perspective on Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy]

8 October 2019

Taiwan set to sharpen anti-espionage law

(dql) An amendment bill to the National Intelligence Service Law containing provisions to increase the maximum penalty for espionage to a life sentence last week passed the committee stage in Taiwan’s parliament. According to the bill, penalties for intelligence officers and other government officers convicted of leaking state secrets, ranging from 10 years imprisonment to life sentence, while the statute of limitations on espionage crimes will be removed.

Under current law, the penalties cover sentences of three to 10 years for handing information over to a foreign power, and one to 12 years for working clandestinely for a foreign power. [Focus Taiwan]

1 October 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s ruling party reassures rejection of Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula

(dql) Ahead of the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan in January, in which the relationship to Taiwan is expected to play a decisive role, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) passed a resolution during its annual national congress Saturday, reaffirming its rejection of China’s “one country, two systems” formula which Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated in his speech on the occasion of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC on Tuesday. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanhwile, China and Kiribati have established diplomatic relations, days after the Pacific island nation cut its links with Taiwan. [South China Morning Post] [AiR No. 39, September/2019, 4]

24 September 2019

Taiwan: Down to 15 allies

(dql) After the island nation of Kiribati decided to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing, the number of Taiwan’s allies has been reduced to 15. Kiribati’s move comes shortly after the Solomon Islands cut diplomatic ties with Taipei. [Aljazeera] [AiR No. 38, September/2019, 3]

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Defense Minister confirmed on Monday Taiwan’s request to buy M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers from the USA, in a move to strengthen its defense capabilities. [Focus Taiwan]

17 September 2019

Taiwan: Taiwan’s richest person won’t run for presidency

(dql) Against widespread expectations, Terry Gou, founder of Apple supplier Foxconn and according to Forbes Taiwan’s richest person with a net worth of 7.6 billion USD announced on Monday that he will not run for presidency in 2020. [Focus Taiwan]

Following his defeat in the July primaries of the opposition Kuomintang party (KMT) it was widely believed that he would join the presidential race contending with the KMT’s candidate Han Kuo-yu and President Tsai Ing-wen from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

In an earlier move last week, Gou withdrew from the KTM, according to one of his aides, because the KMT’s “conservative, hidebound party leadership is putting their own interests ahead of their party’s, and the party’s interests ahead of the nation’s.” This move was widely seen as paving the way for his presidential bid. [Straits Times]

3 September 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan to lose another ally this week? 

(dql) The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies, has formed a team of ministers to talk to Beijing ahead of a possible switch in ties believed to be announced this week. The move would reduce the number of Taiwan’s allies to 16. The Pacific island nation, which has recognized Taiwan since 1983, would be a prized chip for China in its bid to win the allies of Taiwan over. [Taiwan News]

Meanwhile, a US Navy research vessel sailed into Taiwan waters last week, further signaling a strengthening of defense cooperation between the two unofficial allies amidst deteriorating Cross-Strait relations. [Asia Times]

The move comes after the Trump administration in August approved sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, against which Beijing announced retaliation in form of sanctions against US companies manufacturing jets. [VoA] [AiR No. 34, August/2019]

Date of AiR edition

News summary

Web links

16 July 2019

Taiwan: KMT presidential candidate elected

(dql) Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu is the opposition Kuomintang’s candidate in the 2020 presidential election in Taiwan after winning the party’s primary against four other contenders.

Han, who last November unexpectedly won the mayoral race in Kaohsiung – a traditional stronghold of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) where the party had been ruling for the past 20 years – is known for being in favor of closer relations with mainland China.

With this  outcome of the KMT primary, the issue “China” will define the presidential campaign as his contender, President Tsai Ing-wen (DPP), will run a resolute independence-leaning campaign. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News]

For background information on Han’s career from a political nobody a few years ago to KMT’s presidential candidate see [South China Morning Post].

9 July 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan bars retired top officials from ‘political events’ backed by Beijing

(dql) Last week, Taiwan’s parliament approved an amendment to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan and the Mainland Area which bans retired high ranking officials – those above the deputy minister or major-general level – for life from attending political events organized by Beijing either on or outside the mainland.  

The amendment is the latest in a string of legislative efforts [AiR 4/6/2019] [AiR 1/6/2019] countering Beijing’s influence to protect Taiwan’s security. Critics slam it as a violation of the freedom of movement of the affected. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanwhile, the US State Department has approved a potential arms sales to Taiwan, with an estimated worth of 2.2 billion USD. The deal includes 108 Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles and related equipment. [Axios]

For policy recommendations on strengthening Taiwan’s political warfare against China, see Kerry Gershaneck in [Global Taiwan] arguing that “Taiwan must invest in counter-political warfare education now to safeguard its freedom and sovereignty, along with the freedom and sovereignty of like-minded Southeast Asian nations.”

9 July 2019

Taiwan: Rally against referendum law revision

(dql) Tens of thousands took to the streets in Taipei on Sunday to protest against an amendment of the Referendum Act passed last week on behalf of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). [AiR 4/6/2019]

The rally was organized by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) which accuses the DPP of eroding voters’ rights with the amendment and to misuse the revision as a strategy to win the 2020 presidential and general elections. [Focus Taiwan]

The amendment allows for national referendums to be held only every two years on the fourth Saturday of August, starting from 2021. As a consequence, future referendums will be separate from national elections which are held in even-numbered years. The rally was staged ahead of the KMT’s primaries to select the party’s candidate for the presidential race next year.

2 July 2019

Taiwan-USA relations: President Tsai transits on US soil and enhanced security cooperation

(dql) Taiwan’s government has announced that President Tsai Ing-wen will stay for four nights in the USA during her visit to Caribbean allies. In response, China has lodged a protest against Tsai’s transit plans as violation of the “One-China Principle” and urged the US government not to authorize these transits. [Nikkei Asian Review] [Taiwan News]

The US State Department defended Tsai’s transits as in line with the “One-China Principle” arguing that “[s]uch transits are undertaken out of consideration for the safety, comfort, convenience and dignity of the passenger.” [Focus Taiwan]

In an earlier move, the US Senate last week adopted provisions for enhancing defense and security cooperation between Washington and Taipei, particularly on arms sales. The provisions are part of the National Defense Authorization Act for next fiscal year, approved by the Senate last week and authorizing 750 billion USD in spending for defense programs at the Pentagon and other agencies. [The Hill]

2 July 2019

Taiwan: Amendment to Jugdes Act toughens punishments for corrupt judges

(dql) In a move aimed to toughen disciplinary action against judges committing wrongdoings, Taiwan’s legislature last week passed an amendment to the Judges Act. Under the revised act judges or grand justices of the Judicial Yuan found guilty of corruption charges or dismissed from office in a disciplinary action, must now return to the state coffer the salary they have received during the period of time they are suspended from duties pending an investigation. In addition, the pension and retirement allowance of retired judges or grand justices convicted of corruption will be revoked. [Focus Taiwan]

18 June 2019

Taiwan: President Tsai wins DPP primary poll, KMT hopeful Han rejects “one country, two system” unification formula

(dql) President Tsai Ing-wen is the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate for the presidential race next year, defeating her contender former Premier William Lai Ching-te in the party’s in a fiercely fought primary last week. [Taiwan News]

Meanwhile, the main opposition Kuomintang’s Kao-hsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu, likely to win the KMT’s primary in July to become Tsai’s contender for presidency, is trying to disperse claims made by the DPP and other political opponents that he is too Beijing-friendly citing his visits to Beijing’s liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macau in March where he signed trade deals. In a latest rally last Saturday, allegedly attended by more than 120.000 supporters, he asserted his resolute rejection of Beijing’s “one country, two system” unification formula vowing that this formula “will never be carried out” if he was given the opportunity to lead Taiwan as president.” [Focus Taiwan]

11 June 2019

Taiwan: Freedom of press best in East Asia, Freedom House says

(dql) According to the Freedom House report “Freedom and the Media: A Downward Spiral” released last week, Taiwan has the highest level of press freedom in East Asia receiving the best score of four, along with only 35 other countries among 195 assessed in the report. [Taipei Times]

The report acknowledges in its key findings that “[f]reedom of the media has been deteriorating around the world over the past decade” and that “[i]n some of the most influential democracies in the world, populist leaders have overseen concerted attempts to throttle the independence of the media sector.” [Freedom House]

11 June 2019

Taiwan: Ruling DPP’s primary kicked off, KMT contenders announced

(dql) On Monday, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s nomination for the presidential election 2020 kicked off. Until Friday, public opinion polls will be conducted to select the party’s candidate for the presidential election in January 2020. 

On Saturday, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and her contender former Premier Lai Ching-te presented policies and visions for Taiwan under their respective potential presidency at the sole televised debate prior to the primary. Key issues debated included the country’s economy, social welfare, national sovereignty and cross-strait relations on which both contenders’ proposals resembled each other. In particular, with regards to the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty both fiercely rejected the “one country, two systems” model, that Beijing is adhering to as unification formula, and stressed that Taiwan’s future should be decided by its people. [Focus Taiwan 1] [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) last week announced five contenders for the party’s presidential nominee, including former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu, former Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei, National Taiwan University political science professor Chang Ya-chung, billionaire Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu.

With the latter’s campaign rally on Saturday attended by more than 150.000 supporters, observers believe the KMT’s race for the presidential candidate to be a heated one, in particular between the outspoken Beijing-friendly Han and Gou, Taiwan’s wealthiest man, who has pledged to balance Taiwan’s relationship with both the United States and China.

The KMT’s public opinion polls to select the presidential candidate will be conducted nationwide from July 5-15, with the results to be released July 16 and candidate announced on the following day. [Focus Taiwan 2][Taiwan News] [Straits Times]

4 June 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s military exercises prepare for invasion from China, bill on national referendum on future agreements between Taiwan and China passed

(dql) Last week Taiwan’s military conducted major military exercises simulating an invading Chinese force and involving air, sea and land forces. The drills included fighter jets launching strikes and warships opening fire to destroy an enemy landing on the beachhead as well as jets practicing landing on the country’s main highways while air-raid drills brought its major cities to a standstill. Over 3,000 soldiers took part in the live-fire drill in the southern county of Pingtung. [DW]

Meanwhile, earlier last week, Taiwan’s legislature passed a bill to amend the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, according to which any potential political agreement  with China will require not only the approval of lawmakers, but will also need to pass a national referendum before it can be signed and can be signed and put into effect. [Focus Taiwan] 

4 June 2019

Taiwan: Polling method at presidential primary of ruling DPP decided

(dql) After a weeks-long internal dispute within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over a change of the polling process to select the presidential candidate at the party’s primary [AiR 3/5/2019], the DPP’s Central Executive Committee last week finally reached a decision, according to which landline and cell phone samples will each make up 50-percent in the party’s presidential primary poll, scheduled for the period between June 10-14. Earlier in March the DPP had decided that only landline phone calls would be used to count the nationwide poll for its presidential primary. [Focus Taiwan]

William Lai, challenger of President Tsai Ing-wen, who had been rejecting a change of the polling method, expressed strong dissatisfaction with the decision, saying that changing the rule in the middle of the game has not only damage the primary, but also the entire reputation of the party, alluding to foul play in favor of President Tsai. [Taiwan News]

28 May 2019

Taiwan-USA relations: Taiwan and U.S. National Security chiefs meet for first time since 1979

(dql) Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday confirmed that Taiwan’s national security chief David Lee met White House national security adviser John Bolton earlier this month during the former’s visit to the US from 13-21 May to deepen cooperation. It was the first meeting between senior Taiwanese and US security officials since 1979 when both sides ended formal diplomatic relations. [Reuters]

Beijing expressed strong objections against this move and urged Washington to stop “having official exchanges or upgrading substantive relations with Taiwan.” [CNN]

Meanwhile, President Tsai Ing-wen announced last Friday that Taiwan has begun to construct three stealthy missile corvettes and four minelayers in an attempt to improve its asymmetric warfare capabilities amid a surge in tensions in Cross-Strait relations. [The Drive]

28 May 2019

Taiwan: First Same-Sex couples marry 

(dql) In a historic first for Asia, last week on Friday a total of 526 same-sex couples registered for marriage, a week after Taiwan’s parliament legalized same-sex marriage on 17 May.

Gender equality advocacy groups, however, cautioned that much work still lies ahead arguing that the new law doesn’t permit the adoption of non-biological children by same-sex couples, and also doesn’t allow same-sex couples from marrying in Taiwan in cases where one party is from a country in which gay marriage is illegal. [Taiwan News] [Quartz]

28 May 2019

Taiwan: DPP race for presidential candidate getting nasty

(dql) The race within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the presidential candidate 2020 between President Tsai Ing-wen and her contender, former Premier Lai Ching-te, is heating up with both sides accusing each other of lying. While Lai accused the Tsai election campaign team of spreading lies by claiming he had told Tsai that he would not run for presidency, Tsai’s campaign manager accused Lai of not telling the truth in this matter as well as of disrespecting the party’s internal democratic mechanisms after Lai demanded a clean primary and sticking to the party’s established procedures and rules of primary polling. Alluding to efforts on the side of the Tsai camp to change election rules at the primary, which the Lai camp views as foul play to favor Tsai, Lai said: “Anyone who wants to win must do so cleanly. If that does not happen, I’m afraid there will be no way to unite the party, or heal the divisions in society.” Lai, however, also insisted that he would not quit the DPP to run as an independent. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News] [Taipei Times]

19 March 2019

Taiwan: Former Premier registers for DPP presidential primary

(dql) Former Premier Lai Ching-te, who resigned from his post in the wake of the major defeat of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) in the local elections in November last year, registered Monday to seek the nomination of the DDP as its candidate in the 2020 presidential election, running against President Tsai Ing-wen who recently announced to run for president next year. Lai, former mayor of the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan, is believed to receive strong support in southern Taiwan, a traditional DPP stronghold.

Countering questions whether his move would may cause intra-party divisions, Lai argued that the DPP has a democratic primary process that will not be divisive. He also stressed that his decision to compete in the primary was not based personal reasons, but on support from the party members at grass-root level. [Focus Taiwan][Bloomberg]