Monday, June 27, 2016

Radio Silence in the Taiwan Strait? Think Again

News that Beijing has suspended communication mechanisms with Taipei need to be taken in their proper context. It’s much less alarming than you think 

The Taiwan Affairs Office on Saturday confirmed that Beijing had suspended cross-strait communication mechanisms due to failure by the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration to endorse the so-called 1992 consensus and “one China” principle. 

The news, though it quickened the pulse of many a news editor worldwide, was not exactly a surprise. After all, Beijing has been telegraphing its intentions for months, and various officers at the TAO since well before May 20, when the hotline set up in 2014 between the TAO and the Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei is said to have gone silent, had been threatening such an outcome if President Tsai refused to utter the wording dictated by the Chinese side. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Cambodia Deports 25 Taiwanese Fraud Suspects to PRC

In an echo of incidents involving Kenya and Malaysia, earlier today 25 Taiwanese nationals were deported from Cambodia to China 

After days of speculation and failed attempts by Taiwanese officials to convince Phnom Penh to send 25 Taiwanese nationals suspected of telecom fraud to Taiwan rather than to China, as previously announced, the 25 Taiwanese — along with 14 Chinese — were put on a plane bound for China on Friday. This was the third such incident this year following the deportations by Kenya and Malaysia in April. Each suspect was escorted by two Chinese police officers, Agence France-Presse reports, adding that a total of 90 Chinese officers had arrived in Cambodia to oversee the matter. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Timing of ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung’s Arrest Raises Questions

‘Even the blind can see what’s going on’ 

The arrest and charging today of “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung (梁國雄), a lawmaker with Hong Kong’s League of Social Democrats, on one count of misconduct in public office relating to an alleged HK$250,000 (US$32,000) payment received in 2012 has raised suspicions of political interference less than a month before the registration period for the Legislative Council elections in September. 

Leung, a thorn in the side of pro-Beijing interests in Hong Kong, is accused of failing to declare the payment, allegedly made by Next Media founder Jimmy Lai (黎智英), another Beijing critic, on May 22, 2012. According to the territory’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, Mark Simon, Lai’s assistant, handled the alleged payment. The 60-year-old lawmaker is set to appear at the Eastern Court at 9.30 am tomorrow. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Like It or Not, the KMT Is No Monolith

For all its faults, today’s KMT cannot be accused of being a ‘stooge’ of Beijing, as an opinion maker in Hong Kong argued recently 

In an otherwise well intentioned June 20 editorial in the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Joseph Lian Yizheng (練乙錚), a former editor in chief at the journal, likens Beijing’s “stooges” in Hong Kong to Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT). 

The author argues that KMT “bigwigs” have many things in common with pro-establishment parties in Hong Kong. “The city’s government and business sector,” he writes, “have come to bear all the hallmarks of today’s Kuomintang in Taiwan when dealing with cross-border affairs.” 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Hong Kong-Based Legal Organization Challenges S China Sea Arbitration

The hitherto unknown Asia Pacific Institute of International Law is headed by a seasoned Hong Kong barrister with interesting ties to the Chinese Communist Party 

Weeks ahead of an expected decision by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on a legal challenge by the Philippines against China’s claims to the South China Sea, a Hong Kong-based institute has produced a 41-page legal document making the case that the dispute lies outside the court’s jurisdiction. 

The amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief was submitted on June 6 by the Hong Kong-based Asia Pacific Institute of International Law (APIIL). 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cambodia to Deport Taiwanese Fraud Suspects to … China

The move occurs weeks after Taiwanese suspects in Kenya and Malaysia were sent back to China 

Cambodian authorities on Monday announced the imminent deporting of 13 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China despite efforts by the Taiwanese government to have them repatriated to Taiwan. 

According to Cambodian immigration officials, 13 Taiwanese and 14 Chinese nationals were arrested for alleged Internet fraud on June 13 in a raid at their villa in Phnom Penh. Soon thereafter, Taiwanese representatives contacted their Cambodian counterparts to ensure its nationals were sent back to Taiwan. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that the Taiwanese officials were unable to meet with the suspects. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Citing ‘One China,’ Kyrgyzstan Bans All Contact With Taiwan

Economic dependence on China once again seems to be behind a country’s decision to avoid interactions with Taiwan 

A discombobulated Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps on Friday revealed that Kyrgyz authorities had rejected the group’s application to provide medical services to communities in remote parts of the Central Asian country this summer due to political interference by Beijing. 

According to Liu Chi-chun (劉啟群), head of the medical NGO, this was the first time in 21 years that a country had turned it down due to ostensible pressure from Beijing. The team was scheduled to be on the ground in the republic between July 23 and Aug. 1. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

China vs. Philippines in South China Sea: The Only Thing You Need to Know

Manila can sue Beijing all it wants, but in the end it seems Chinese leaders already know how they will respond 

In just a few weeks the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will render its verdict in a case filed by the Philippines to challenge China’s longstanding maritime claims in the South China Sea. While the result of that arbitration remains unknown, Beijing has already telegraphed how it will react should the court rule in Manila’s favor. 

For months now, Chinese officials have made Beijing’s case for rejecting the tribunal’s legal authority in the matter while characterizing Manila’s gambit as “irresponsibly frivolous.” The Chinese foreign ministry has already questioned the court’s authority and is boycotting the entire process, which it has derided as an “orchestrated performance.” As legal scholar Jerome Cohen noted in a recent article, both the Chinese Society of International Law and the All China Lawyers Association have issued “dutiful supporting arguments” in favor of snubbing the process. 

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

TAO Says Chinese Anger Not Aimed at Taiwan but ‘Taiwan Independence’

An Fengshan blames everything on those in Taiwan who seek to ‘secede’ from China. Unfortunately for him, the problem is a much more formidable one 

Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman An Fengshan (安峰山) on June 15 denied during a press conference in Beijing that an “anti Taiwan” sentiment had developed among Chinese citizens and argued that the negative thoughts were instead aimed at those who support “Taiwan independence.” 

An did not mince his words. “Any attempt to seek secession will be unsuccessful,” he said, while rejecting recent comments by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council that relations across the Taiwan Strait are between “neighbors.” 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Ma Ying-jeou’s Great SOPA Whitewash

The former Taiwanese president had a golden opportunity to give hope to embattled journalists in Hong Kong. He blew it 

Barred by the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration from traveling to Hong Kong to attend the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) 2016 Awards gala dinner on June 15, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) delivered his scheduled address via videoconference, during which he emphasized the many values that are shared by the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan. However, Ma’s version of history papered over many of the problems that have haunted the Special Administrative Region in recent years. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Monkey Intrusion Causes Outage at Air Force Base in Taiwan

Despite the security breach, military officials maintain that national security was never compromised 

Never mind Chinese spies or saboteurs. All it took was a monkey with enough audacity to climb over several wire fences around Chiashan Air Force Base on the eastern coast of Hualien County on June 14. The adventure cost the agile simian his life — he got zapped after deciding that toying with a transformer box was a good idea. And then the power at the airbase went out for a full seven minutes. The lights also flickered at more than 9,600 households in the area. 

My article, published yesterday in The News Lens International, continues here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sports Event Rules and the Double Standards of the Taiwan Strait

FIFA and other sports organizations have strict rules against the display of political, religious, or abusive slogans during international matches. Those rules are also flagrantly biased 

The Asian Football Confederation recently fined Taiwan’s football association over an incident that occurred during an Asia Cup qualifier in Kaohsiung on June 2. During the match between Taiwan and Cambodia, spectators displayed what has been described as a pro-Taiwan independence flag. 

Citing FIFA rules, which ban any political, religious or “abusive slogans” at international football competitions, the Confederation slapped a fine of US$5,000 on the association. The flag featured the island of Taiwan and used the green color. Taken to its extreme, anything green could be construed as a political (or religions, given the color’s association with Islam) statement. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

They Did Not Reap What They Sowed — We All Did

‘In silence we are just as guilty as those who use the alphabet of bigotry to create an environment in which it is permissible for some to repress minority groups’ 

As the world tries to make sense of the massacre of 49 innocent individuals at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, earlier this week, the global outpouring of support for the community, the victims and their families has been heartwarming. Sadly, in a time that calls for us to transcend our differences, there are still voices — a minority no doubt, but they are nonetheless heard — that seek to divide, to blame, and to hurt. 

Hours after the Sunday morning shooting, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in his great wisdom explained to all of us why 49 people had been slaughtered and dozens injured: “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows,” he wrote on his personal Twitter account. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Support Unification? Ride This Cab

A major taxi company in Taiwan has affiliations that may make you think twice before you open the door and jump in. Or not, depending on your views about Taiwan’s future 

One incredible thing about Taipei (and many cities across Taiwan) is how short the wait is before a taxi will spot you on the sidewalk and drive you to your destination for a fraction of the price one would pay in capitals of similar size worldwide. Another fascinating aspect about the business is the dazzling number of taxi companies that vie for customers. 

While one can expect a relatively uniform service regardless of the company, one cab service, the Taiwan Grand Chinese Taxi Association (台灣大中華出租車司機聯誼會, or 大中華 for short), stands out for its rather transparent political affiliations and ideology. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Politics Behind Athens’ Denial of License to China Airlines

The eleventh-hour cancellation of 18 scheduled flights between Taoyuan and Athens occurs amid closer economic ties between China and the cash-strapped country 

The Taiwan-based China Airlines (CAL) in late May was forced to cancel 18 direct flights to Athens scheduled from June 3 to Oct. 7 after Greek authorities refused to grant it a license. New information suggests that politics may have been behind Athens’ decision. 

On Jan. 26 the carrier announced its operational schedule for a planned seasonal charter service of one direct flight per week between Taoyuan and Athens. The first flight was scheduled for June 3. Since March, CAL had been cooperating with six travel agencies in Taiwan (Lion Travel, Cola Tour, Artisan Tour, South East Travel Service, Phoenix Tours and MITravel) to promote its flights to Athens during that period. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Reading the Tea Leaves in the Taiwan Strait

Is the relationship coming to an end? Has Beijing embarked on a policy of disciplining Taiwan for making the ‘wrong’ choices? It’s simply too soon to tell 

The million-dollar question that has been asked in recent months is whether Beijing would “punish” Taiwan for having made what it considers the “wrong” decision in the January 16 elections by electing Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party. Since then, there have been many hints suggesting that this might be the case, and media, always on the lookout for drama, have feasted on those. But is Beijing truly embarking on a course of action that could only succeed in alienating the Taiwanese? 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Racist ‘Citizen Journalist’ Videos Spark Outrage in Taiwan

The almost universal reaction to a recent harassment case targeting elderly ‘Mainlanders’ in Kaohsiung shows that Taiwan has transcended archaic definitions of citizenship. But China may still use this to its advantage 

A controversy over a video targeting an elderly Mainlander in Kaohsiung put a damper on the Dragon Boat Festival on Friday and reopened the always touchy debate on race and citizenship in Taiwan. 

The clip, posted on Facebook on Thursday by Hung Su-chu (洪素珠), a contributor to the People Post (PeoPo) citizen journalist platform operated by Public Television Service (PTS), shows Hung chasing an elderly Mainlander man at the 228 Memorial Park in the southern port city. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

For Beijing, Student Exchanges May Simply Be a Means to an End

If the reports are true, Beijing may have decided to ‘punish’ Taiwan and the DPP by barring young Chinese nationals from studying in Taiwan 

According to recent reports, Chinese authorities may have decided to bar Chinese nationals from enrolling in universities in Taiwan until President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) “revises” her cross-strait policies to better align them with Beijing’s. Although the move has yet to be confirmed, if true this would be further evidence that Beijing intends to “punish” the 23 million of Taiwan for the choices they make by democratic means. However, rather than punish Taiwan, Beijing’s retaliation could end up hurting young Chinese even more. 

Rumors of a possible reversal of a policy implemented under the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration emerged on Monday when the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported it had received a tip via a student based in China. According to the story, the Chinese student had been informed by his school in Jilin Province to “be prepared not to go to Taiwan this semester.” 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Change Doesn’t Come Out of Thin Air

President Tsai has vowed to transform the way government operates by empowering young people and bringing new voices into her administration. For this to happen, the conservatives will have to be willing to bow out gracefully 

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her Democratic Progressive Party ran a highly successful campaign leading into the January elections. Unlike their opponents from the Kuomintang (KMT), the DPP much better understood — and reflected in its rhetoric — the public mood that had developed in the wake of the transformative Sunflower Movement in 2014. With Tsai’s election, people expected change, and the incoming president herself promised she would transform the way things are done. 

Then came her Cabinet appointments, which very quickly cast doubt on the likelihood that change was upon us. With an average age of 61, the ministerial lineup was technocratic, male dominated, and to be frank, it was oddly reminiscent of previous Cabinet compositions. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Taiwan’s Compulsory Military Service: Fix it or Drop it

If Taiwan is to retain a basic military training program, it should make sure the nation gets a proper return on the investment 

For years now the Taiwanese armed forces have sought to phase out conscription, an increasingly unpopular citizen’s duty among young Taiwanese, and replace it with an all-volunteer military system. Blaming an inability to attract sufficient numbers of qualified soldiers, the government has repeatedly delayed full implementation and ended up adopting a “dual track” mix of conscripts and volunteers. By doing so it has ensured there are enough “boots on the ground,” but the current conscripts’ training program is an enormous waste of time and money. What’s even worse is that it does nothing to prepare young men and women for combat. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Fight for Freedom Knows No Borders

The Tiananmen Square Massacre anniversary is a reminder that defending freedom and human rights against tyranny is a common responsibility—and in our best interest 

Once again this year, the Hong Kong Federation of Students has announced it will not participate in the June 4 candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, the annual event organized by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre, in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed protesters were brutally murdered by the Chinese military in 1989. 

A deepening pro-localization sentiment combined with rising Beijing-skepticism among Hong Kong’s youth appear to be the main reasons behind the federation’s decision to not involve itself in the vigil, which every year has attracted tens of thousands of residents in Hong Kong. For the young people who fall in that category and who do not see a common future with China, the human rights situation in China proper may be worrying, but ultimately it is not their problem, and certainly not their responsibility to fix. For some of them, the June 4 commemorations are “meaningless.” 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Who Is Pushing Away from Whom in the Taiwan Strait?

President Tsai is being accused of trying to move Taiwan away from China. Rather than accuse Taipei of breaking an unwritten rule, we should instead ask why China has become less and less attractive to the people of Taiwan 

No matter what President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) says or does nowadays, we can be sure there will be observers who are eager to regard her every move as evidence that she intends to pull Taiwan away from China. Oftentimes the wording used by editorial writers seems to imply that proximity to China is a Law of Nature, with the implication that “pushing away” is a violation of the rules. 

Much of that stems from the notion that “one China” is a principle, a much-used and misused term that suggests a natural state when, in reality, it is very much a political construct used by Beijing to justify its unchanging policy vis-à-vis Taiwan. If the Taiwan-as-part-of-China trope is indeed a principle, then it follows that any position that argues otherwise involves a contradiction of some law.  

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

China’s Great Fear of the Looking Glass

An increasingly assertive Chinese Communist Party doesn’t want us too look too closely into China’s eroding human rights situation and activities abroad. We must keep at it, or we’ll all lose. 

It is very difficult to find anyone today who will not acknowledge the tremendous accomplishments that the People’s Republic of China has made over the past two-and-a-half decades. From stunning economic growth, rapid (albeit uneven) modernization and the lifting of millions of ordinary Chinese from abject poverty to having a finger in nearly every aspect of global affairs, today’s China is, by several yardsticks, a success story worthy of recognition. 

Underneath these achievements, however, are troubling developments that not only should be criticized but that, left unchecked, could have truly nefarious global repercussions. But given their growing assertiveness, Chinese officials won’t brook such criticism and are increasingly belligerent in their response to it. By bristling with anger, China has repeatedly succeeded in scaring off its critics, which includes foreign governments, activists, journalists and academics. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Taipei in a Tight Spot on South China Sea Claims

President Tsai’s ability to change Taiwan’s policy on the territorial dispute is constrained by the need to keep cross-strait relations on an even keel 

One question that was repeatedly asked as Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) prepared to take office in Taiwan was the position that her administration would adopt on the South China Sea territorial dispute, a flashpoint that now threatens to drag the region into war. Will President Tsai impose major changes on Taiwan’s claims, or will she uphold the Kuomintang’s 60-year-old claims to almost the entire sea area? 

So far neither the administration nor the Democratic Progressive Party has said much. In a short press release on Jan. 27, the DPP said it would continue to insist on the sovereignty claims in the South China Sea under UNCLOS and international law, and “will not waver” in its position, a formulation that seems to have been vague by design. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

PLA 'Stride' Military Exercises: Is Taiwan in the Crosshairs?

While it may be tempting to see connections between large-scale drills and Tsai Ing-wen’s election in January, 2016, Zhurihe is not evidence of escalation 

As the People’s Liberation Army prepares to hold large-scale annual exercises at a training base in Inner Mongolia this week, speculation has been mounting as to whether the drills are aimed at “separatist forces” in Taiwan following the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) victory in the January elections. 

Fueling the speculation are media reports that suggest a connection between the media attention 'Stride' 2016 Zhurihe (跨越-2015·朱日和) has been receiving in China and a visit by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to an Air Force Base in Hualien on May 29, her first as Taiwan’s commander in chief. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

The 'Chinese Taipei' WHA Controversy: Time to Think Strategically

President Tsai has been heavily criticized by the green camp for ‘failing’ to uphold the nation’s ‘dignity’ at this year’s WHA meeting in Switzerland. In reality, Taiwan’s participation was a small victory. 

The political storm that continues to rage over Minister of Health and Welfare Lin Tzou-yien’s (林奏延) “Chinese Taipei” remarks during his address at the World Health Assembly in Geneva last week highlights a longstanding difficulty among many members of the green camp to differentiate between tactical and strategic approaches to defending Taiwan’s sovereignty. 

Anger over Lin’s use of a formulation that is self-abasing is certainly justified. After all, the notion that “Chinese Taipei” could have 23 million citizens, or that it stands for an entire nation, is indeed preposterous. Moreover, the fact that he did not once mention the word “Taiwan” in his five-minute speech has drawn accusations that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who was just a few days on the job, had failed to uphold Taiwan’s sovereignty and denigrated the nation by playing into Beijing’s hands. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Looking for the Real ‘Troublemaker’ in the Taiwan Strait

Global headlines have a tendency to portray Taiwan and the DPP as the cause of instability in the Taiwan Strait. But things are a little more complex than that 

It has not even been two weeks since Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was sworn in as president of Taiwan, and already the old global editorial practices and inherent biases are once again rearing their ugly heads. Tensions in the Taiwan Strait, we are told, are “rising,” all implicitly because President Tsai has refused to acknowledge the so-called 1992 consensus and “one China” framework in her inaugural speech, or because she heads a “pro-independence” party. For those of us who have been following the politics of the Taiwan Strait over the years, that language is oddly familiar. And the worst part is, it’s also misleading. 

Much of this comes from the framing that editors worldwide rely upon to help make sense of the complex Sino-Taiwanese relationship to their audiences. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Plan Taiwan Needs to Defend against China

A few recommendations to increase Taiwan’s deterrent capabilities 

After eight years of relative calm in the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan turned a page in its history on May 20, when Tsai Ing-wen of the Taiwan-centric Democratic Progressive Party was sworn in as president. While it may be premature to argue that the cross-Strait relationship has now entered a new, and possibly more conflict-prone, era under Tsai, we must nevertheless keep in mind that the military option to impose unification was never obviated by Beijing, and that as its power grows that option may look increasingly inevitable. Therefore, as the Tsai administration performs the onerous act of balancing between stability in the Taiwan Strait and meeting the expectations of its China-wary citizens, it must continue to prepare against the eventuality that China could resort to force of arms to break the status quo. 

Although not exhaustive, the following discussion looks at a number of areas that will be key to Taiwan’s ability to defend itself against external aggression in the coming years. 

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Next Step

I would be lying if I said that the past couple of months haven’t been a difficult period for me. It all began with an irony, when, on the day that Commonwealth Magazine (天下雜誌) published its feature story about me and my journalistic vision for Taiwan, my employer, the Thinking Taiwan Foundation, informed me that Thinking Taiwan, the commentary and analysis website I had launched in June 2014, was to close shop. I was also told that my contract with the Foundation would be terminated prematurely. All of a sudden the long-term project that I had spearheaded was no longer long-term; I fought for the site’s survival and argued for its continuation, but sadly the powers that be had, well, all the power. As of May 20 — inauguration day — Thinking Taiwan was no more…

Luckily for me, the stars were once again aligned in my favor. After a period of grieving (and a pair of academic events in the U.K. that could not have occurred at a better time), a new opportunity came my way. This was proof (if proof was needed) that there is life after 小英, the person who convinced us to remain in Taiwan days before my spouse and I were set to leave the country to seek our fortunes elsewhere. With hindsight, it is now clear that this unexpected development at the Foundation and the severing of my association with Tsai Ing-wen “brand” was a blessing in disguise: after all, the principal role of a journalist is to speak the truth to power and to hold government to account. Tsai, my former employer, has become president. She and her administration are now fair game.

So here’s what’s happening. Starting on June 1 I will be assuming a new position as chief editor of The News Lens International, the English-language sister of The News Lens, an independent media launched in 2013. And here’s where things get even better. Unlike my situation at Thinking Taiwan, where I handled everything pretty much on my own, this time around I will finally have a team of writers and editors to work with. Not only will this allow me to build on the successes of Thinking Taiwan, it will also give me a chance to expand the scope of our endeavors by focusing on the entire Asia Pacific region. With help from our contributors across the region and all over the world, I intend to turn TNLI into the platform for the exchange of ideas within this extremely important and exciting corner of the world, from Taiwan to Malaysia, Hong Kong (where we also have an office) to Singapore.

Out of the ashes of misfortune arose opportunity. Needless to say, I am very excited to be joining this young and dynamic team!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tsai and the Southbound Policy: Window Dressing or the Real Deal?

The strategy should be multifaceted and not solely aimed at the enrichment of the few. Can they make it happen? 

Much has been said in recent months about President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “southbound policy,” part of her administration’s goal of reducing the nation’s reliance on China. Sometimes referred to as the “southbound policy 3.0” because of previous — and largely failed — attempts since the 1990s, the plan, or at least the little that we know about it, seems to be primarily focused on trade and economics, which suggests that this could be a mere continuation of past efforts to redirect capital and manufacturing toward ASEAN members. However, focusing on trade alone would be both a mistake and a missed opportunity. 

In order to make meaningful contributions, the policy will have to be more than a slogan. It must be part of a strategy. Consequently, the new Southbound Policy Coordination Office that has been created at the Presidential Office will have to adopt a multifaceted approach to engagement with this vibrant part of the world. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Taiwan's first female president walks tightrope as she takes office

Tsai Ing-wen is inaugurated in a ceremony high in color as the world looks on 

Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's first female president, was sworn into office Friday, facing two very different sets of expectations -- from those who voted for her and a Chinese leadership that wants the island on a tight leash. 

Although she was given a strong mandate in the January elections, with her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) gaining control of the executive and legislative branches of government, a souring relationship with Beijing could undermine her ability to accomplish what she has set out to do at home. 

My article, published today on CNN, continues here.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

520 Inauguration: Out With the Old and In With the…?

Incoming president Tsai Ing-wen must avoid the temptations and mistakes of the past 

Eight years ago today I opened an unsigned editorial about outgoing president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) with the following lines from former Czech president Vaclav Havel: “As you know, the president must carry out his responsibilities to the best of his abilities and conscience, but it must be done with taste and skill, otherwise one might become an object of ridicule, or provoke general hostility.” Those words are no less true today than they were when Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who will be stepping down on May 20, was about to take office in 2008. 

Whether Ma succeeded in meeting Havel’s benchmarks is debatable; many would argue that he didn’t, and that this is why his party, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), suffered such a setback in the January elections. One unquestionable accomplishment of his, though—and this may very well be an unintended outcome—is that after eight years in office, Ma leaves Taiwan much more unified than it was before, much more so, in fact, than when Chen stepped down. However, this unity should not be taken for granted and could be ephemeral; it must be cultivated lest this unique moment be overshadowed by a return to divisions of old. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pro-Unification Groups Pressure Tsai to Recognize ‘1992 Consensus’

Unable to summon more than 500 followers at every event he has organized since his return to Taiwan in 2013, Chang An-le's antics are more show than substance 

Pro-unification groups gathered outside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei on Wednesday afternoon to pressure president-elect Tsai Ing-wen, who will be inaugurated on May 20, to recognize the “1992 consensus,” which authorities in Beijing have touted as a non-negotiable precondition for continued stability in the Taiwan Strait. 

Led by Chang An-le (張安樂), chairman of the China Unification Promotion Party (中華統一促進黨), about 500 protesters, part of the “518 Action Coalition,” called on Tsai to adhere to the “1992 consensus” to ensure “cross-strait peace.” A large number of participants were visibly associated with criminal organizations; several dozen police blocked the entrance to the building. Police estimates of a crowd of 1,000 seem inflated. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here (photo my the author).

Saturday, May 14, 2016

After British Queen’s ‘Rude Xi’ Remarks, New Tape of Ma-Xi Conversation Emerges

The following is a leaked excerpt from a dinner conversation held between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore on 7 November 2015. The authenticity of the information obtained has yet to be ascertained. (Warning: this is satire.)

Ma:     I apologize in advance for the giggling. Alcohol does that to me.
Xi:       My sources tell me you giggle less when you’ve had a few.
Ma:     Your intelligence is very accurate, Chairman.
Xi:       I got this from Facebook. In fact it was a post from your wife, last week I believe.
Ma:     You have Facebook? I thought…
Xi:       Who do you think’s been teaching that Suckerman Chinese?
Ma:     I believe it’s Zuckerman, Mr. Xi.
Xi:       Never heard of him. Anyway, let’s make that our little secret, shall we? My wife cannot know, or she will most assuredly kill me in my sleep.
Ma:     Smother you with a pillow? That’s always been my greatest fear.
Xi:       Impossible. We sleep in different rooms.
Ma:     Why is that?
Xi:       We’ve been watching House of Cards. Seems to be the cool thing to do.
Ma:     H’mmm. House of Cards. Sounds like a good title for my presidency…
Xi:       [Sneezes violently].
Ma:     Mr. Xi, let us move on to pithier matters, shall we? I am getting a lot of pressure regarding the missiles. I was wondering if…
Xi:       What missiles?
Ma:     The missiles you’re aiming at us.
Xi:       They’re not aimed at you. They’re solely for cloud-seeding purposes.
Ma:     I understand, Mr. pres—
Xi:       Watch it Mr. Ma!
Ma:     My apologies, Mr. Xi. Still, can’t something be done about them?
Xi:       How many of those are there again?
Ma:     Sixteen-hundred’s the number, I am told.
Xi:       Ah yes, such a large number. I am always amused by all those 
           Western “experts” who seem to think that we could fire all those 
           missiles at once. My dinner is delivered late half the time, Mr. Ma. 
           Do they really think we can pull off something like this? Still, it’s 
           useful. The notion scares people, I guess.
Ma:     Very much so indeed.
Xi:       I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll remove ten of them, but you must promise me you won’t tell anyone.
Ma:     Thank you. That’s 1,590, I feel much safer now.
Xi:       Now, in return for that favor, Mr. Ma…
Ma:     Yes?
Xi:       Let’s talk about those scammers.
Ma:     Ah yes, such a great movie that was!
Xi:       Movie? I didn’t say anything about a movie.
Ma:     Is this not the movie produced by that American film company that sold its soul to the mighty Renminbi?
Xi:       I’m not talking about movies, Mr. Ma. The real thing. Scammers.
Ma:     Scanners? Surely you’re mistaken. We stopped making those a long time ago. In fact, I’m pretty sure your side makes them now.
Xi:       Scammers, Mr. Ma. Scammers.
Ma:     So what about those souls?
Xi:       Beg your pardon?
Ma:     Did they sell theirs—the Americans?
Xi:       Oh I have no doubt, Mr. Ma.
Ma:     All right. As long as the planes they’re put on have some cartoon on the fuselage, you know. You can’t use Hello Kitty—we’ve got those already.
Xi:       What about Disney characters? Mickey Mouse would work?
Ma:     You got copyright for those?
Xi:       [Chuckles]
Ma:     Perfect. Well, that’s all taken care of, then.
Xi:       Indeed. Of course you’re aware we’ll have to put hoods on their heads, you know, for dramatic purposes…
Ma:     The Americans?
Xi:       No, the scammers.
Ma:     Oh?
Xi:       But I promise you that Mickey Mouse will prove most comforting to our police officers. After all, it’s not every day that we kidnap nationals from other countries.
Ma:     [Giggles]. Sorry, it must be the wine. Where is this delicious wine from, anyway?
Xi:       France, I am told.
Ma:     You must mean China.
Xi:       Well, the label says France…
Ma:     Yes, the label [winks].
Xi:       Cheers.
Ma:     I wish they would make songs about me too.
Xi:       Oh please. They’re they very reason I’m cracking down on free expression across China. If it doesn’t stop I’ll have to imprison every opera singer and everyone with a Casio under his bed. It’s abominable.
Ma:     It’s better than having shoes thrown at you.
Xi:       I’ll take a shoe any day. At least the pain goes away pretty quickly.
Ma:     You tell that to Commissioner Liu. He’s been complaining of headaches ever since that little devil Wei-ting scored a direct hit.
Xi:       Who?
Ma:     Never mind. You’d never have heard of them anyway.
Xi:       Oh I’ve heard of Liu. A delightful critter. But Wei-ting?
Ma:     A devil, truly. He’s given me heartburn.
Xi:       I’ll have the MSS look into it.
Ma:     You’re telling me you’ve no idea who the young man is?
Xi:       I have no idea what’s going on in that countr—
Ma:     Careful, Mr. Xi.
Xi:       Right, right. In that province of yours.
Ma:     I feel we’ve made such progress, Mr. Xi. Such statesmanship [raises glass]. To everlasting friendship! [Xi sneezes loudly again].

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Taiwan 'Erased’ From UN Tourism Map

A top three destination for Chinese tourists in 2014 did not make the cut on a UN map 

Something’s wrong with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) map of the top 10 destinations for Chinese tourists in 2014, which was recently reproduced on the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) new China Power Project website. Despite being the third-largest recipient of Chinese tourists that year, with 3.98 million arrivals, Taiwan is not mentioned. 

My article, publishes today in The News Lens International, continues here (photo: J. Michael Cole).

Monday, May 02, 2016

Convergence or Conflict in the Taiwan Strait: The Illusion of Peace? to be released in September 2016

The English-language version of my book 《島嶼無戰事:不願面對的和平假象》will be published by Routledge in September 2016!

Years of rapprochement between Taiwan and China had convinced many that the Taiwan issue had been resolved, and that it was only a matter of time before the two former opponents would reunite under One China. But a re-energized civil society, motivated by civic nationalism and a desire to defend Taiwan’s liberal-democratic way of life, has dashed such hopes and contributed to the defeat of the China-friendly Kuomintang in the 2016 presidential elections. 

This book draws on years of on-the-ground research and reporting to shed light on the consolidation of identity in Taiwan that will make peaceful unification with China a near impossibility. It traces the causes and evolution of Taiwan’s new form of nationalism, which exploded in the form of the Sunflower Movement in 2014, and analyses how recent developments in China and Hong Kong under "one country, two systems" have reinforced a desire among the Taiwanese to maintain their distinct identity and the sovereignty of their nation. It also explores the instruments at China’s disposal, from soft power to coercion, as well as the limits of its influence, as it attempts to prevent a permanent break-up between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Finally, the book argues against abandonment and suggests that international support for Taiwan as it negotiates its complex relationship with China is not only morally right but also conducive to regional and global stability. 

Acting as both a sequel and a rebuttal to earlier publications on Taiwan-China relations, this book takes an intimate and anthropological look at Taiwan’s youth and civil society, and applies this to traditional analyses of cross-strait politics. It will appeal to students and scholars of Taiwanese Politics, Chinese Politics, International Relations and Sociology. 

Paperback: 9781138696242 pub: 2016-09-14 
Hardback: 9781138696235 pub: 2016-09-14