Friday, October 29, 2010

Film looks at US news coverage of China

For many, it was almost like being sent to the moon, tasked as they were with reporting on an unknown giant that was part rival, part ally, a new documentary about US reporters working in China shows.

In Taipei to present a segment of his Assignment: China — a multi-part series on US news coverage of China from the 1940s up to the present — Mike Chinoy, former senior Asia correspondent for CNN, said that despite China’s growing importance in global affairs, the world’s second-largest economy still doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

The series, reported by Chinoy and produced by the US-China Institute at the University of Southern California, is part of an ongoing effort to address that knowledge gap by giving voice to the pioneering US reporters who ventured into uncharted territory and, through their articles, broadcasts and photographs, shaped how the US came to see this enigmatic country.

Segment four of six, shown at a special dinner organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, the European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei and the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents’ Club held at the American Club on Tuesday night, looks at the first generation of US reporters dispatched to Beijing following the normalization of relations between the US and China in 1979.

This article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

FAPA blasts Ma over AP interview, drift toward China

The Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) on Tuesday accused President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration of forcing Taiwan in the direction of political union with China and making deliberate attempts to prevent Taiwanese to choose their future.

Responding to Ma’s comments in an Associated Press interview published on Oct. 19, FAPA president Bob Yang (楊英育) said the interview “clearly reflect[ed] the prevailing view in the Ma administration that it wants to move in the direction of political union with China.”

“Yet polls consistently show that the great majority of the people of Taiwan do not desire absorption by China,” Yang said in a press release. “Ma is paying lip service to democracy in Taiwan, but in the meantime moving Taiwan in China’s direction at the expense of human rights and democracy in Taiwan.”

This article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Taiwanese identity in the spotlight

The head of the Taiwanese delegation at the Tokyo International Film Festival said in no uncertain terms that Taiwanese would refuse to go by the name 'Taiwan, China' or 'Chinese Taipei,' but according to the head of the Chinese delegation, the ensuing spat was all Tokyo's fault

Maybe it’s something in the water, but Chinese officials have developed the bad habit of airing their extreme nationalistic tendencies with a little more boldness when they find themselves in Japan, resulting in situations that often undermine Beijing’s objectives.

The latest such incident occurred on Saturday at the 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival, when the head of the Chinese delegation, Jiang Ping (江平), accompanied by a robotic-looking Chinese actress, attempted to drill into the heads of the Taiwanese delegation that they were all Chinese. Faced with the refusal of Government Information Office Department of Motion Pictures director Chen Chih-kuan (陳志寬), who headed the Taiwanese delegation, and the organizers of the film festival to change Taiwan’s name to “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei,” an outraged Jiang announced that China was partially pulling out of the festival.

The Chinese delegation decided to pull out of festival-related events because the organizers “covertly violated the ‘One China’ policy Jiang was quoted as saying by the Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party-run publication.

Interestingly, Jiang was also quoted as saying that the spat, and the decision to pull out of the film festival, had “nothing to do with our Taiwan compatriots” and was rather “the fault of the Tokyo organizers.”

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Chinese subs raise questions

After years of little activity in the Chinese navy with regards to submarines, an increasing incidence of pictures of and reports about new types of subs could be a sign of China’s growing assertiveness

Recent media interest about new types of submarines being developed by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) could provide important clues about China’s naval capabilities and intentions, a specialist on China said in a recent article.

“Whereas the development and deployment of the Chinese navy’s surface fleet have been prominently displayed in unprecedented scale in recent naval exercises both in the South and East China Sea, the expansion of China’s subsurface fleet appears to have been slowed in recent years,” Russell Hsiao, editor of the China Brief, a publication of the US-based Jamestown Foundation, wrote in the publication’s latest edition.

From 2007 until this year, he said, the total number of submarines deployed in the PLAN was steady, rising by a single vessel, to 63, Hsiao wrote.

While the scope of the PLAN’s development remained to be seen and would depend on tested capabilities rather than media photos and speculation, the increased incidence of reports on new submarines could nevertheless provided important clues about Beijing’s strategic outlook, he said.

This story, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Who’s behind Bill Clinton’s Nov. 14 visit to Taiwan? [updated]

As we reported in the Taipei Times today, former US president Bill Clinton will be in Taipei on Nov. 14, his first visit to Taiwan since 2005. Asked by someone in Washington if I thought the timing of the visit, coming as it does a mere two weeks ahead of the special municipality elections, was conspicuous, I did some digging into who’s behind the event. Here are my preliminary findings.

The Singapore-based firm sponsoring the event is called Universal Network Intelligence (UNI, 精新創作有限公司). It should be noted that UNI has a branch office in Taiwan, located at Taipei 101.

The media sponsor, meanwhile, is the Economic Daily News (經濟日報). EDN belongs to the United Daily News Group, which is very pro business across the Taiwan Strait and has overt pan-blue tendencies.

According to the press statement, Clinton will be here to talk about business, economics, and Taiwan's economic prospects. The event Web site also has a “submit your questions” section, where the top 10 questions, gathered via online submission, will be asked during a Q&A session at the event. One question has been filed to date, asking Clinton whether he thinks the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed between Taipei and Beijing in June is a positive or negative development.

I haven’t seen signs of direct Ministry of Foreign Affairs/National Security Council/Presidential Office involvement in this, though given the nature of Clinton’s talk, it wouldn't be surprising if it were intended as a means to emphasize the benefits of the ECFA.

Interestingly, I have just learned from another source in Washington that recent attempts to bring former US president George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich to Taiwan (on separate visits) were nixed by US/Taiwanese handlers, the organizers on the US side told that it would be better if the tours occurred after the Nov. 27 elections. H’m. Double standards here, if not inconsistencies...


A source just informed me that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been working on bringing Clinton to Taiwan “for quite some time,” adding that the timing of the visit was contingent on Clinton’s “busy” schedule rather than to coincide with the Nov. 27 elections. Clinton will be in Manila, the Philippines, on Nov. 10 delivering a speech titled “Embracing our Common Humanity.”

Taiwan moves up press freedom index

The nation's ranking may have improved over last year, but serious questions remain, and its position today is still 12 spots below its showing during Chen Shui-bian's last year in office

Taiwan and South Korea made solid bounds in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2010 World Press Freedom Index released yesterday, rising 11 and 27 places respectively, while China languished in 171st place.

“Taiwan and South Korea rose … after noteworthy falls in the 2009 Index,” Paris-based RSF wrote, placing Taiwan in 48th place and South Korea 42nd.

“Although some problems persist, such as the issue of the state-owned media’s editorial independence, arrests and violence have ceased,” RSF said.

In a press release on Oct. 1, the media watchdog called on Taipei to respect the independence of public media and said it was “disturbed” by Sylvia Feng’s (馮賢賢) ouster as president of Public Television Service (PTS).

It reminded the government “of its undertakings to respect the state-owned media’s independence.”

Explaining its decision to rank Taiwan 59th last year, RSF had said: “The new ruling party [Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)] in Taiwan tried to interfere in state and privately owned media while violence by certain activists further undermined press freedom.”

In its latest report on Taiwan released earlier this year, US-based Freedom House also raised questions over the independence of state-owned media and the impact of media conglomerates on freedom of expression.

During the last two years of the administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Taiwan ranked 36th (2008) and 32nd (2007).

This article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Selling out to the ‘almighty dollar’

China does not make concessions on human rights; the rest of the world does. The latest victim is Canada, whose prime minister in 2006 had vowed never to sacrifice human rights to the 'almighty dollar'

It didn’t take long for the Canadian government to show its displeasure with Beijing’s knee-jerk reaction to dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month.

No sooner had Liu’s wife in turn been placed under house arrest by the Chinese security apparatus than Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was telling an audience: “The friendship between Canada and China has ... grown in recent years in the context of a frank and respectful dialogue on the universal principles of human rights and the rule of law.”

Right. Harper also told the conference celebrating 40 years of official Sino-Canadian relations that Canada could now talk to Beijing about human rights in a “respectful” manner that (hold your breath) would not harm trade relations.

It should be mentioned at the outset that Harper’s remarks came as he was hailing the “strategic partnership” (here Ottawa is plagiarizing Beijing’s favorite terminology) that has developed between the two countries — and by this he means Canada starting to look more and more like a source of energy for the Asian superpower.

Not so long ago, Harper was getting heat from the Canadian business community for taking too firm a stance on human rights in China, for vowing, less than four years ago, not to sell out Canadian values to the “almighty dollar.”

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

‘Peace’ with China has ugly caveats

Any military confidence-building mechanism between Taiwan and China will be asymmetrical, because only one side threatens the other militarily

Taipei may have turned down Beijing’s offer this time around, claiming the time was not propitious, but it is becoming increasingly evident that at some point between now and the 2012 presidential election, the two sides will sit down and discuss military matters in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi (楊毅) on Wednesday made headlines with his proposal that, when the conditions are right, Taipei and Beijing should sit down and discuss military confidence-building mechanisms and the possible dismantlement of the more than 1,500 ballistic missiles that continue to threaten Taiwan, despite allegedly warming ties.

Although the Mainland Affairs Council and, somewhat surprisingly, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said the same day that mutual trust had yet to reach a point where such talks would be feasible, pressure is likely to mount in the coming months on President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to come to the table and discuss “peace.” In that respect, Yang’s announcement was again proof of how cannily Beijing can play the political game. After all, which peace-loving nation — including the US, Taiwan’s main ally — could, in its right mind oppose “peace” talks in what remains one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints? (Never mind that confidence building creates a moral equivalence in the Taiwan Strait that simply does not exist, as only one side, China, is the aggressor.)

As the expected pressure mounts, the ball will be in Taipei’s court, with Beijing’s peace overture once again portraying the latter as the “rational” actor in the equation and Taiwan as the reluctant partner. Deferral on Taipei’s part, meanwhile, will likely be blamed on the “anti China” elements in Taiwan — in other words, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and anyone who supports Taiwanese independence. That deferral will mostly stem from electoral considerations by Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which is cognizant of the fact that rushing into political negotiations with China will open a Pandora’s box of controversies that can only cost it votes.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taiwanese Air Force turns to indigenous UAVs

With Taiwan unlikely to request drones from the US, the logical alternative is to turn to the Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, which has been working on unmanned aerial vehicles for more than a decade

A Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman yesterday confirmed that Taiwan was developing an unmanned surveillance aircraft, a move that provides further confirmation of a continuing arms race despite closer political and economic ties with China.

Ministry spokesman Major General Yu Sy-tue (虞思祖) said the Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST, 中山科學研究院), which falls under the ministry’s Armaments Bureau, had initiated research on drones.

According to defense analysts, research on indigenous reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) has been going on for at least a decade. The institute unveiled a number of UAVs in August last year — including an operational version of the Chung Shyang (中翔) — during the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition and Conference in Taipei.

A CSIST representative told Defense News at the time that the first Chung Shyang was built in 2007, with five prototypes already operational.

Asked by the Taipei Times whether the air force was seeking to obtain the Chung Shyang, which appears to be the institute’s most advanced prototype, a ministry spokesman said that “new models” were still in the research and development phase, without elaborating.

This story, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

‘Children’ of Yan and Huang: So what?

President Ma Ying-jeou, the chairman of the party that time and again accused the Democratic Progressive Party of playing the ethnic game uses ... ethnicity to justify closer ties across the Taiwan Strait during his national address on the 99th anniversary of the Republic of China

During the portion of his Double Ten National Day address that focused on cross-strait relations, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) turned to ethnicity to play down the differences between the two countries.

“The people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are ethnic Chinese — descendants of the legendary emperors Yan and Huang,” Ma said.

While many would dispute this contention, emphasizing ethnicity and ancestry as a means to encourage reconciliation or, conversely, foster alienation misses the point completely. The reason is simple: The longstanding conflict across the Taiwan Strait has nothing to do with ethnicity and lies instead in the political, ideological and imaginary spheres.

History is replete with examples of leaders who used ethnicity to stoke nationalistic fervor, often with devastating consequences. When it comes to Taiwan, this device has two fundamental flaws that make it unsuited as an element of political discourse.

The first is the exclusionary nature of nations built on race or ethnicity. In an increasingly mobile world, genetics have lost relevance in terms of buttressing one’s nationality. Consequently, nationality is no longer predicated on ethnicity, but rather on one’s association to a land or people. That is why the concept of “foreign,” a term often used in Taiwan, has an entirely different, and in many cases irrelevant, connotation in multi-ethnic countries such as the US, Canada or the UK. That is why immigrant societies — and Taiwan is such a society — embrace peoples of all backgrounds as participants in the national experiment. That is why a person of Haitian background, for example, could serve as the representative of Queen Elizabeth in Canada, or why a man with Kenyan ancestry can sit in the White House.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Analysis: PRC belligerence brings Taiwan in from the cold

Beijing has been surefooted in its diplomacy and Washington appears to be considering conceding Taiwan, but now our neighbors feel threatened

As tensions in the Asia-Pacific region heat up amid disputes involving China and a number of countries over contested islands and sovereignty over the South China Sea, there have been signs in recent months that the US may be on the brink of reassessing its strategy for the region in ways that raise questions about Taiwan’s place in it.

For almost eight years under former US president George W. Bush and the first year-and-a-half or so of the administration of US President Barack Obama, the US, preoccupied with counterinsurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq and severe economic downturn, adopted a hands-off approach to Asia, for the most part limiting itself to assuaging Beijing’s fears that Washington was seeking to contain it.

Recognizing an opportunity when it saw one, Beijing played along and, for most of that period, crafted a policy that managed to reassure the neighborhood of its “peaceful intentions” even as it continued to modernize its military. In doing so, it also successfully isolated Taipei during the eight years of former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) time in office, capitalizing on Washington’s wariness regarding an administration it saw as a potential “troublemaker.”

Beijing’s policy remained quite skillful after the election of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2008, unveiling a series of carrots to an administration in Taipei that was all-too-willing to please China and foster rapprochement. Not only had Taiwan been neutralized during the Chen era, but since 2008, it was pulled ever closer into its embrace, so much so that doubts emerged as to Taipei’s willingness to remain part of the unofficial US-Japan security alliance.

Then, just as Taiwan was signing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China in late June, Tokyo announced it was extending its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) so that it now overlapped with sections of a zone controlled by Taiwan.

My analysis of the changing dynamics in the Asia Pacific. published today in the Taipei Times, continues here, with comments from Richard Bush III, Arthur Waldron, David Arase and Hisahiko Okazaki.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

PRC official targeted Tibetans: reports [updated]

Shortly before his secret meeting with Taiwanese security agencies, Chen Zhimin was in Nepal ordering stronger action against Tibetans

Chinese Vice Minister of Public Security Chen Zhimin (陳智敏), who led a delegation on a secret visit to Taiwan in the middle of last month for meetings with officials from various security-related agencies, was in Kathmandu weeks before, where he sought to strengthen Sino-Nepalese cooperation against Tibetan activists, reports showed.

During a visit on July 26, Chen, who headed a delegation of 11 officials, announced new financial assistance to Nepalese security agencies to better monitor and prevent Tibetan refugees from engaging in “anti-China activities” on its soil, Nepalese media reported.

Chen called the “anti-China activities taking in Nepal in the name of religion and human rights unacceptable to China,” adding that they posed “grave threats to the sovereignty and integrity of China.”

The meeting, held at Beijing’s behest, covered issues including border security, Tibetan refugees and collaboration on security matters, Nepalese media said.

During the visit, Chen announced an extra annual contribution by Beijing of US$1.47 million to the Nepalese Ministry of Home Affairs to strengthen its security apparatus to curb Tibetan activities.

Earlier this week, the Taipei Times asked Taiwanese officials whether the topic of “anti-China activities” was raised during Chen’s Sept. 13 to Sept. 18 visit to Taiwan.

“We didn’t discuss politics and we didn’t discuss religion. Our understanding was that we would stay on the topic at hand as outlined under our agreement to combat crime,” said Hsu Jui-shan (許瑞山), the chief administrator of the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB), which organized the trip’s itinerary.

Hsu was referring to the Joint Cross-Strait Crime Fighting Agreement signed in the third round of discussions between Taiwanese and Chinese negotiators in April.

However, it is now clear that Chen, who is also a committee member of the Chinese Communist Party, has become Taiwan’s point man on police matters with the Chinese government. Information from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security shows that Chen is also responsible for maintaining senior-level contacts with police officials in Hong Kong and Macau.

This article (continues here) was published today in the Taipei Times and is a follow-up to our initial reporting on Chen Zhimin's visit to Taiwan. The rest of the article reveals troubling information about certain clauses of the cross-strait agreement on crime-fighting, as well as comments by representatives of the Tibetan community in Taiwan.


I have since received the following information about Chen Zhimin from a source in Hong Kong:

On Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 in Lhasa, the largest meeting in recent memory was convened to discuss security issues as they relate to Tibet. Almost every province of China and every large city in the country was represented including — for the first time — Hong Kong. Chen Zhimin delivered the initial situation report at this meeting. The meeting however was chaired by Yang Huanning (杨焕宁), China’s foremost expert on counter-terrorism and Chen’s superior in the Public Security Ministry. The trip to Nepal by Chen could therefore be seen as only a prelude to the big meeting in Lhasa.

Also, Chen Zhimin is ranked 11th in the Public Security Ministry, making him its lowest-ranking vice minister. He quite naturally is a member of the Ministry’s Party Committee (all senior officials will be Party members and thus members) but he certainly is not a member of the Communist Party Central Committee (Minister Meng Jianzhu (孟建柱) and Vice Minister Yang mentioned above are however members of the Central Committee).

Friday, October 08, 2010

Liu Xiaobo wins 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

Imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today for his defense of fundamental human rights in China. As expected, the announcement in Norway sparked a furious response from Beijing, which accused the Nobel committee of honoring a “criminal.” Chinese state media reportedly immediately blacked out the news and the authorities blocked Nobel Prize reports from Web sites. In a statement on Friday evening, the Presidential Office in Taipei congratulated Liu for the honor, calling it a “historic” Nobel win that not only honored the 54-year-old, but also all other human rights activists in China.

In 2008, Liu helped organize the “Charter 08” petition, a manifesto signed by hundreds of Chinese intellectuals that called for sweeping political reforms. He was sentenced in December to 11 years in prison for “subversion.”

Beguiled by Wen’s missile promise

Speculation has been rife in recent months that Washington might reconsider its policy on arms sales to Taiwan if Beijing agreed to dismantle, or at a minimum redeploy, the about 1,500 ballistic missiles pointing in Taiwan’s direction.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), in New York to attend the UN General Assembly meeting late last month, added grist to the mill when, asked by reporters for his thoughts on withdrawing the missiles, he said: “I believe the issue you mention will be realized one day.”

Coincidentally, little more than a week later experts on Taiwanese and Chinese security gathered at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington to discuss the feasibility of such a scenario. Though unconventional in itself, what is particularly worrisome about the meeting is the fact that the fine points raised by participants could easily be missed, misconstrued, or conveniently ignored, as appears to be the case.

On paper, the idea of disarmament in the Taiwan Strait is worthy of serious consideration. However, if not handled carefully, talks on the matter could very well play into Beijing’s hands and end up hurting Taiwan.

Here are some of the problems associated with the recent enthusiasm surrounding the idea of demilitarizing the Taiwan Strait:

For one, there is less to Wen’s Sept. 22 remarks than meet the eye and nothing that he said justifies the positive reception they received in the media and from President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration. By not providing a timeline or context to his answer, “realized one day” could mean just about anything. In fact, Wen would not be lying if his “one day” meant the day when Taiwan is annexed by China, at which point deploying the missiles would be nonsensical.

Other Chinese officials and academics who have discussed the matter have also done so in general terms, an age-old tactic by Chinese officials that leaves too much room for interpretation for a problem of this magnitude.

Although a full redeployment — including the “entire infrastructure” of five missile brigades belonging to the Second Artillery’s 52 Base, as the Project 2049 Institute’s Mark Stokes, a speaker at the talks and a longtime advocate of arms sales to Taiwan, proposed at the conference, would represent a measure of “goodwill” and diminish the immediate threat to Taiwan, such a move would come with its own set of challenges.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Security experts warn on China threat

In the morning session of the International Symposium on 50 Years of US-Japan Security Alliance and the Security of Taiwan organized by the Taiwan National Security Institute and the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy on Tuesday, former Japanese minister of defense Gen Nakatani, now a member of the House of Representatives, said that with a rising China at loggerheads with Japan, the best way to resolve disputes in East Asia would be to establish a regional security system.

Beijing’s recent stance on the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) has raised apprehensions in Japan about the growing military imbalance with China, Nakatani said, adding that if the issue was allowed to fester, it could deteriorate.

Nakatani called for the creation of an Asian equivalent of NATO, which he said would provide regional powers with a platform for conflict resolution.

In the meantime, a relatively weakened US would have to rely more on Japan and Taiwan to ensure security in the Asia Pacific, he said.

Dan Blumenthal, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said the US-Japanese security alliance in the 21st century would likely be as important as, if not more, than the US-UK alliance was for Europe during the Cold War.

“China poses problems for the US-Japan alliance probably not seen since 1945,” Blumenthal said.

Full coverage of the conference was published today in the Taipei Times, with me covering the morining session and my colleague Ko Shu-ling taking over in the afternoon (where Arthur Waldron was the main speaker).

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Intelligence treason in the making

The systematic efforts by our government, uncovered by this newspaper last week, to keep secret a visit by a top Chinese security official last month raise questions that go far beyond secrecy and involve matters pertaining to the very nature of our society.

Though alarming in itself, it is not unusual for senior security officials from different countries to meet behind closed doors. In some cases, such meetings even involve cooperation with countries that have poor human rights records. In the “war” against terrorism launched after Sept. 11, for example, Western intelligence agencies began working closely — and secretly — with their counterparts in pariah states like Pakistan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Controversial — and at times disastrous — though this cooperation may have been, there are fundamental differences between that type of cooperation and what is developing between Taipei and Beijing. For one, it involves countries that recognize each other. Also, there are independent, institutionalized oversight mechanisms in democratic systems that ensure a certain degree of transparency, which plays a crucial role when operations involve intelligence sharing with repressive regimes.

In the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was deported from the US and tortured by Syrian security officials, oversight and a subsequent inquiry helped expose the controversy, shamed Canadian authorities and made it more difficult for similar mistakes to be repeated.

Cooperation with China on cross-strait crime fighting, ostensibly the purpose of the visit by Chinese Vice Minister of Public Security Chen Zhimin (陳智敏), is not overly worrying. What makes the visit so problematic, rather, is the context in which it happened, at a time when the credibility of oversight mechanisms under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), beginning with the judiciary, are now under question. It is also occurring at a time when Beijing is intensifying its campaign against Taiwan, seemingly with the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) acquiescence.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Is Wen Jiabao playing with fire?

In what has been called his “boldest-ever call for liberalization,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) in late August created a bit of a stir among Chinese liberals and conservatives when he raised the issue of political reform in his country’s modernization program.

That he would raise such a topic on what pundits have described as his “southern tour” — a veiled reference, if at all, to Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) visit to Southern China in 1992, ushering in a new era of economic development — on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, was probably no accident. The sheer symbolism of the anniversary, combined with the fact that Wen, a Deng protege, will be stepping down two years from now, must be weighing on the premier’s mind as he ponders his legacy.

Wen again raised the issue of political liberalization on a visit to the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 22, this time while answering questions from overseas Chinese media.

“I’ve previously said economic reform without the protection of political reform will not achieve complete success, and might even lose what’s been gained,” he said, adding, if perhaps vaguely: “Of course, we are trying to build a China with democracy and rule of law.”

What he had previously said, in his August speech, was that without the “guarantee” of political reform, “the fruits of the reform of the economic structure may be lost and it will be impossible to realize the goal of modernization.”

This op-ed, published in the Taipei Times on Saturday, continues here.