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.”