Saturday, February 26, 2011

RFA on edge as VOA heads for the block

While all the attention has focused on the likely cuts at the VOA Chinese service, Radio Free Asia, which is expected to fill the vacuum left by its sister service, faces cuts of its own, albeit hidden ones

Proposed budget cuts at Voice of America (VOA), which could spell the end of all its Mandarin shortwave broadcasts and cost dozens of jobs, are leaving Radio Free Asia (RFA), the US’ other main broadcaster to China, hoping for the best.

Earlier this month, the US’ Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) — which is responsible for all US government or government-sponsored, non-military international broadcasting — announced a US$8 million restructuring plan for VOA, a move that, if approved by Congress, would see the elimination on Oct. 1 of traditional radio and TV broadcasting in Mandarin — and an end to all Cantonese operations — by the almost seven-decades-old broadcaster.

As VOA employees reel at the news, the Taipei Times asked RFA, another US broadcaster with a long history of supporting freedom and human rights in China, to share its views on those -developments and what they mean for the future of broadcasting into China.

“The proposed cuts send the message that VOA is changing its strategic approach to Chinese distribution in a challenging economic environment,” RFA president Libby Liu said in an interview from Washington on Wednesday. “If there was an unlimited budget, I’m sure VOA and RFA would be increasing rather than reducing the resources we dedicate to bringing accurate news and information to those who seek it in all of our markets — including China.”

Asked about the vacuum that would be created if the cuts at VOA were approved by Congress, Liu said RFA would be in a position to pick up some of the responsibilities.

“The cuts of VOA, if approved, will create an opportunity for RFA to move our shortwave broadcast hours to higher listening hours, which is what is proposed in the FY [fiscal year] 2012 president’s budget submission” by the BBG, she said.

However, the budget proposal does not altogether spare RFA, which would face constraints of its own.

“Even as RFA could benefit by moving to better listening hours, the RFA Mandarin effort would sustain significant reductions in both broadcast hours and frequencies,” Liu said.

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Megaports Initiative installations completed at Kaohsiung Harbor

More than 90 percent of global commerce is transported through the maritime shipping network via cargo containers, with about 500 million twenty-foot-equivalent units transiting the globe annually

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) yesterday announced that the installation of equipment to detect radiation at Kaohsiung Harbor had been completed, bringing Taiwan online as part of global efforts to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Under the auspices of the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA), the Second Line of Defense Megaports Initiative provides radiation detection equipment and training at major ports worldwide to strengthen the capability of the international community to detect and interdict trafficking in nuclear material through maritime shipping.

Better known by its shorter name, the Megaports Initiative equips ports with radiation portal monitors for the detection of radiation, handheld devices to identify radioactive isotope, optical character recognition technology to identify containers, communications equipment to send data to a central alarm station, as well as training and technical support.

The Megaports Initiative, which brings in customs, law enforcement, port authorities, terminal operators and other government agencies, is now operational in 34 ports worldwide, with work under way at 18 other ports in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The Megaports Initiative seeks to equip 100 seaports with radiation detection systems by 2016, scanning about 50 percent of global maritime containerized cargo and more than 80 percent of US-bound container traffic.

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

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Taiwan shakes hands with the devil

Whatever approach is taken, helping democratize China cannot be accomplished by ignoring the transgressions of the Chinese Communist Party

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has often said that rapprochement with Beijing would, over time, have a salutary effect on the political situation in China, a theory predicated on the assumption that democracy can be transferred by osmosis.

Although this strategy is worth considering, it also imposes responsibilities on the actor seeking to change the other party. Among them is the need to use carrots and sticks in equal measure.

It is one thing for countries to look the other way when all they seek are lucrative deals with China. Reprehensible as this may be, a narrow, self--interest-first approach to China dovetails perfectly with Beijing’s loathing for foreign meddling in its domestic affairs. In most cases, both parties are perfectly happy to operate under this arrangement.

For some years now, academics and government officials have claimed that market capitalism would force China to democratize, even if this only occurred over time.

However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Chinese Communist Party has managed to embrace capitalism while keeping its hand firmly on the levers of power. What this means, therefore, is that democratizing requires a more sustained and multifaceted approach.

The Ma administration’s strategy could be just that, as it presumes to be in a position to “improve” China. In other words, while other governments can easily separate business from politics, Ma’s strategy of engagement calls, in theory, for a more refined approach.

However, Taipei has so far failed to comment on Beijing’s poor human rights record, with engagement continuing apace even when China broke the tacit rules that underpin Ma’s strategy.

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

Saturday, February 19, 2011

VOA Chinese service employees furious as end looms

The atmosphere at the VOA Chinese service was not altogether positive prior to the announcement earlier this month of the likely cessation of shortwave broadcasts on Oct. 1. Sources told the Taipei Times that management would on occasion put pressure on show hosts to be more 'neutral' vis-a-vis China

“There’s a lot of anger,” said an employee at the Voice of America (VOA) Chinese service who, like dozens of others, could find herself out of a job if plans by the US government to drastically cut its funding proceed as planned.

Under a proposed restructuring plan, the US Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) budget submission for the VOA Mandarin service for the next fiscal year would include a US$8 million cut, which would be achieved in large part by eliminating traditional radio and TV broadcasting and shifting to a Web-only platform utilizing new media technologies. In addition, VOA’s Cantonese service would be eliminated altogether, with Radio Free Asia continuing broadcasts in the language.

The budget, which has been submitted to US Congress, has yet to be approved. If the cost-saving measures are approved, the VOA Chinese service would go off the air on Oct. 1 — which would coincide with National Day in the People’s Republic of China.

As the US Congress debates the matter, angered employees at the VOA Chinese service have launched a petition drive and plan to send letters to Congress, as part of efforts that are being replicated by a number of individuals and groups — including a prominent US-based human rights organization — that oppose the service’s likely fate.

However, even prior to the announcement morale at the service had long been suffering, sources at VOA told the Taipei Times in an interview on Thursday night, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of their positions.

My feature article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

AIT confirms US role in major spy investigation

While Taiwan, with Washington’s help, conducts a probe in the nation’s worst spying scandal in 50 years, a source said the damage to the Taiwan-US alliance would be marginal

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) yesterday confirmed to the Taipei Times that US authorities are assisting Taiwan with an investigation into the activities of General Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲, left), who was arrested last month on suspicion of spying for China.

Lo’s espionage activity, described as possibly the worst spy case to hit Taiwan in the past half century, is believed to have begun in 2004 when he was recruited by Chinese intelligence while he was posted in Thailand. News of the arrest sparked fears that Taiwan’s military might have been severely compromised, especially its command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems, to which Lo is believed to have had access.

As the great majority of defense platforms used by Taiwan’s military are acquired from the US, there has also been speculation that the developments could have negative repercussions on US-Taiwan military relations at a time when US President Barack Obama’s administration already appears reluctant to release additional arms packages to Taipei.

One possible casualty, some analysts claim, could be the politically sensitive sale of F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan.

Following announcements by the military that a probe into Lo’s actions has been launched, AIT spokesperson Sheila Paskman told the Taipei Times by telephone that US authorities were assisting with the investigation, without specifying the level of assistance or which agency was involved.

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

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New alliance targeting CCP ‘villains’

Among the more than 11,000 Chinese Communist Party officials appearing on a blacklist for their human right violations is Liaoning Governor Chen Zhenggao, who arrived in Taiwan for a visit on Tuesday

A new alliance launched in Taipei on Tuesday last week has reportedly compiled a list of more than 11,000 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials it says should be barred from visiting Taiwan for the role they have played in human rights abuses in China.

The “No CCP Villain International Alliance,” which comprises groups such as the Victims of Investment in China Association (VICA), the Taiwan Friends of Tibet and the Falun Gong Human Rights Lawyers Working Group, as well as human rights activists and individuals who were persecuted by Chinese authorities, has handed its list to Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃), who is expected to pass it on to the National Immigration Agency (NIA) and the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the Epoch Times reported on Monday.

The legislature passed a resolution in early December barring known CCP human rights abusers entry into Taiwan. The resolution, co-introduced by Chen and adopted by parties on both sides of the aisle, requires government authorities — including the MAC and the NIA — to deny Chinese officials who are known to have been involved in human rights abuses entry into Taiwan.

Greater Kaohsiung and Chiayi, as well as Changhua, Hualien, Miaoli and Yunlin counties, have adopted similar, albeit separate, resolutions.

Despite the measures, later that month Beijing Deputy Mayor Ji Lin (吉林) was allowed to visit the country despite claims by rights organizations that he had played a key role in the repression of Falun Gong practitioners since 1998.

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

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ex-NSC official warns on ‘overreaction’ to spy case

As Beijing continues its zero-sum game with Taiwan, a former adviser to President Ma had one prescription for Taipei: do nothing

A former National Security Council (NSC) official yesterday said Taipei needs to be very careful about how it responds to a major espionage case involving China lest it impact other issues.

Philip Yang (楊永明), a senior adviser at the NSC from 2008 until last year and now a professor of political science at National Taiwan University, told the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents’ Club that the arrest last month of Major General Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲) on espionage charges served as a reminder that despite warming relations across the Taiwan Strait, in the military and intelligence spheres, “Taiwan and China remain locked in a Cold War mindset.”

However, despite the seriousness of the charges against Lo — whose actions since he began spying for China in 2004 could have severely compromised Taiwan’s national security and its ties with the US military — Yang said President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration should choose its response carefully to avoid “overspill.”

Asked by the Taipei Times if Taipei could perhaps retaliate by canceling a visit to Taiwan next week by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), Yang said the controversy should not be linked to other areas of engagement with China, adding that escalation could have “domestic implications.”

So far, the Ma administration has yet to officially complain to Beijing over the Lo incident and China’s refusal to draw down its military posture. This silence is in stark contrast to the way in which Taipei reacted to a decision by the Philippines earlier this month to deport, at Beijing’s request, 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China despite opposition by Taiwanese officials.

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

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Egypt is a false analogy for Taiwan

Not only do the conditions for an uprising as experienced by Egypt in recent weeks do not obtain in Taiwan, but going down that road would endanger Taiwan sovereignty, not protect it

Following weeks of demonstrations in Egypt that ultimately forced former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down on Friday, some commentators have suggested that events in North Africa could serve as a catalyst for discontent with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

There are, however, a number of reasons why this analogy is wrongheaded and Taiwanese not only cannot — but should not — go down that road.

For one, the situations in Egypt and Taiwan are very different. Taiwan does not have a radicalized and easily mobilized political opposition such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has a long tradition of opposing despotic rule.

The closest Taiwan ever came to having a “radical” underground was in the 1970s, and even then its tactics were largely pacifistic, unlike the violence used by extremist wings of the Brotherhood, one of whose most prominent former members is al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Even at its worst, the repression imposed on Taiwanese during the Martial Law era pales in comparison to that Egyptians have faced for decades. This is not to delve into moral relativism, but merely to shed light on different histories that, in one case, gave rise to radicalism, while in the other led to peaceful opposition. This is also why Taiwan today is a mostly successful democracy, while Egypt remains an unstable society.

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

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ball in Taiwan’s camp on missile defense, analyst says

All the pieces for the air defense puzzle are there. Will the Ma administration take the final step to ensure success by 2015?

Despite the ability of the radar systems deployed by Taiwan’s military to track and engage large numbers of targets simultaneously, Patriot PAC-2 and PAC-3 missile batteries alone would be insufficient to deter China from launching a missile attack, a US specialist wrote.

“Patriot batteries are only one element of a complete missile-defense system,” Ed Ross, a former principal director for security cooperation operations at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and senior director for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mongolia at the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, wrote in the latest issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief.

“The radars have a range of approximately 170 kilometers, insufficient to detect the majority of PRC [People’s Republic of China] missiles in the boost phase [over Chinese territory],” Ross wrote.

Although PAC-3 missiles were specifically designed for missile defense, he wrote, “unless they are tied into an integrated command, control, communications, computers (C4) system that provides for early warning missile detection, tracking and the prioritization of incoming threats, the number of ballistic missiles they are likely to intercept in a large-scale attack would be greatly reduced.”

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

Canadian Society looks to new era in Taiwan

Amid efforts by the Canadian government to encourage closer business relations with Taiwan, the Canadian Society in Taiwan is reinventing itself with a new name, new board directors and a series of activities

Taiwan-based companies, big and small, with ties to Canada will soon see their social calendar fill up as the Canadian Society in Taiwan prepares to reinvent itself as a Canadian chamber of commerce in Taiwan, with a greater focus on business and a more dynamic list of activities.

With a new board of directors, including the chiefs of major business players, such as Ford and Lion Travel, the chamber of commerce will hold its first social event on Thursday at the Brass Monkey between 7pm and 9pm, providing a chance for members old and new to learn more about the organization’s plans for the future and to widen their social network.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Canadian Society in Taiwan president Leo Seewald told the Taipei Times the newly revamped organization would set up networking meetings for its members every second month and lunch meetings with speakers from the business community or visiting Canadian diplomats every month in between.

Representatives from big multinationals to small businesses are all welcome to join, Seewald said, as long as their operations have a “Canada slant” — a connection to Canada in terms of the products or services they offer or who they cater to.

For the first year, the membership fee would be NT$500, a bargain compared with that asked of members joining other chambers of commerce in Taiwan, he said. Barring concerns from regulatory authorities, the official name of the new organization is expected to be the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan.

Although the organization is in the process of redesigning its Web site, information on how to join and contact information is available on the Canadian Society in Taiwan Web site.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Treason in high office

I had promised myself that this week — my first time off since October 2009 — I would stay away from the computer as much as possible and try, however unfeasible this was, to avoid Taiwanese politics. Knowing myself, I was aware that it would be impossible for me to be completely insulated, and admittedly I have taken an occasional peek at the news and some of the online Taiwan forums of which I am a member.

Six days into my vacation, however, I find it impossible to stay away from the keyboard — especially in light of recent developments in cross-strait affairs that, try as I might to ignore them, came to my attention. Somehow I think this urge to break radio silence, if you will, stems in part from the fact that I am currently reading Robert D. Kaplan’s Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American military in the air, at sea, and on the ground. The reason I say this is that, reading of Kaplan’s time in the company of members of the armed forces made me realize that I, too, have come to know such people in the Taiwanese military during my visits to military bases across the country. I have dined with and been briefed by officer from all the ranks, from young Taiwanese doing their compulsory service all the way to generals, at bases from Tsuoying to Penghu, and from all the services. I have been flown several times on Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft, been treated with respect and friendliness by press officers, young soldiers and veteran officers alike (in fact, I have enjoyed far greater access to the military here than I did as a graduate student at the Royal Military College of Canada or as an intelligence officer in Canada). In other words, just like Kaplan, I have come to know some of them fairly intimately and to appreciate the sacrifices they have made by choosing a career path that is far less rewarding financially than ordinary jobs in the private sector, and is obviously more dangerous. For many career officers, defending the nation, is a way of life, a calling, and we should all be thankful for that.

Now, let me get to my point. As the military struggles to keep the widening military gap in the Taiwan Strait as narrow as possible despite low morale and five years of cuts in defense spending growth (with three consecutive years of contraction since Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] came into office),* the Ma administration has chosen a path of conciliation with Beijing that it seems unable to depart from. Despite claims of warming ties across the Taiwan Strait, there is ample evidence that China has retained an overly aggressive policy vis-à-vis Taiwan, in both the political and military spheres. There have been, for example, countless instances of Chinese “goodwill” translating into attempts to erase Taiwanese identity at international bodies as well as movie festivals.

The past week alone points to an accelerating program to undermine Taiwanese sovereignty rather than give it the international space that, we are told, would result from closer ties between Taipei and Beijing. Last week, amid pressure from Beijing, the Philippines ignored pleas from Taiwanese authorities and illegally deported 14 Taiwanese to China for their alleged involvement in a scam ring. In other words, greater international space for Taiwan now means that second-rate third world countries like the Philippines can treat Taiwan with disrespect.

Earlier this week, Taiwan announced it would not oppose the Asian Medical Students Association (AMSA) — an organization of which Taiwan is a co-founder — allowing China in as a member. Not happy with likely membership, Beijing is now seeking to change Taiwan’s title from “AMSA-Taiwan” to “AMSA-Taiwan, China.” So much for reciprocity and “win-win.” 

And now it has emerged that Major General Lo Hsien-che, head of the Communication, Electronics and Information Division at Army Command Headquarters, has allegedly been working as a Chinese spy since 2004, in what some media are already calling the greatest national security breach since the lifting of Martial Law in 1987, if not in the past half-century. Given Lo’s access, critical defense components such as the Po Sheng (“Broad Victory”) system that integrates military communications and facilitates operational jointness, the Army’s land communications system, Apache helicopters and a subterranean fiber-optic communications network may have been compromised. (The Ministry of National Defense on Tuesday said that despite “détente” with Taiwan, China has increased its intelligence-gathering activities relating to its military.)

Lo’s case is only the most recent in a series of military scandals to emerge since Ma launched his policy of engagement. What this means, to get back to my initial point, is that the young men and women who every day put their lives on the line to defend Taiwan are doing so amid the increasing likelihood that their entire system may have been compromised, so much so that in the event of war in the Taiwan Strait, their ability to counter Chinese aggression would be severely handicapped. Countless Taiwanese could be killed not because of lack of training or equipment, but because the Ma government looked the other way when, under the guise of “goodwill,” China stole national security secrets and dug holes in our system as termites would to a log. To allow the armed services to be thus undermined and to do nothing to remedy the situation — which is exactly what the Ma administration has been doing, in the name of warm relations — comes very close to treason.

One could then ask: What can be done? At the very least, a responsible government that is truly committed to defending Taiwan and the way of life its people sacrificed so much to achieve would take all these incidents into consideration and temporarily suspend cross-strait negotiations. Given the recent incidents, a strong president would look at the visit by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) scheduled for later this month and cancel it as a means to signal discontent and perhaps bring about a change in behavior on Beijing’s part. Failure to do so (the likeliest scenario) invites more such behavior and crosses the line from rapprochement into capitulation. 

I now count some members of the armed forces as friends; I would not want any of them to be needlessly killed just because their commander in chief either lied to us or deluded himself into thinking that, despite ample evidence to the contrary, Beijing had honorable intentions toward Taiwan and its people.

* A US-based official involved in arms sales to Taiwan recently asked me to provide data on the Taiwanese military budget. Based on my calculations, defense budgets from 2006-2011 were as follows:

NTD(bn) USD(bn) %GDP change (year on year)
297.2 9.27 (a)  -0.33%
297.4 9.3 2.17 -6.9%
318.6 10.17 2.2 -4.22%
334 11.5 2.94 +9.86%
304 10.51 2.69 +20.63%
252 8.7 2.21 --

My data comes from media reports (which tend to vary slightly) as well as Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) statistics for the Central Government General Budget (legal budget rather than proposed budget). My USD figures are at the current exchange rate and thus were slightly lower from 2009 downwards, given that the greenback was stronger against the NT.

(a) As GDP for 2011 cannot be calculated at present, it is impossible to determine the percentage of the defense budget to GDP. It is nevertheless expected to be below 2.5%.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A dangerous precedent

With the deportation to China of 14 Taiwanese suspects by the Philippine government, we are seeing the emergence of extraordinary rendition with Chinese characteristics, for which there are precedents

The Philippine government’s decision last week to abide by a request from Beijing and extradite 14 Taiwanese to China — despite a request by Taipei not to do so — is a situation that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration will have to handle with care.

The precedent set by Manila is a clear example of the difficult environment Taiwan continues to navigate despite improving relations across the Taiwan Strait. It highlights yet again the willingness of regional states beholden to Chinese money to toe the line on Beijing’s “one China” policy.

Prior to last week, pressure by Beijing — even when cross-strait relations were more strained — tended to be limited to symbolic matters, such as the name under which Taiwanese delegations attend artistic events. In more extreme cases it has resulted in the blocking of a Taiwanese trade office in Phnom Penh or the prevention of Taiwan from participating in regional organizations or UN agencies.

As the Chinese economy continues to grow and the region becomes increasingly attached to China, such behavior by third countries will likely become more frequent.

The forced deportation to China of the 14 Taiwanese takes us into completely new territory, where an increasingly confident China now believes it has extrajudicial rights over Taiwan.

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

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Taiwan condemns ‘totalitarian’ China over ‘spy’ detention

Chinese prosecutors allege that James Sun was recruited by the Military Intelligence Bureau to steal secrets from China. By the time Chinese interrogators were done with Yang Delong, a key witness, Yang was said to have no teeth left

Taiwan’s representative office in Australia on Tuesday accused the “repressive totalitarian security apparatus” in China of attempting to “smear” Taiwan by claiming that an Australian citizen arrested in Beijing five years ago was spying for Taipei.

Australian newspapers on Tuesday reported that James Sun, an Australian citizen of Chinese origin who worked for an agency recruiting foreign students to Australia, was detained by Chinese security officials in January 2006 on suspicion of spying for Taiwan.

During his trial, Sun was alleged to have confessed to “seducing” Yang Delong, an acquaintance in the Chinese air force, into copying more than 1,000 classified documents and smuggling them out to be passed on to Taiwanese intelligence.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Australia denied Taiwan had anything to do with Sun and rejected claims that it may have been recruiting agents from within the Chinese-Australian community.

The “allegation is a sheer fabrication concocted by the repressive totalitarian security apparatus to smear Taiwan,” TECO said in a statement on Tuesday. “The operations of the TECO in Australia have always been transparent, law abiding and conducive to the righteous cause of safeguarding rule of law, freedom of expression and human rights.”

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

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Australian ‘spy’ in harsh detention

A new case involving a man accused of spying in China for Taiwanese intelligence is sparking fury among Australian lawmakers and at the Taiwanese representative office under

Australian newspapers yesterday revealed that James Sun, an Australian citizen, has been in jail in China for five years after being arrested by Chinese authorities on suspicion of spying for Taiwan.

After serving two years on death row, Sun is now serving a life sentence at Beijing Prison No. 2 in what the Sydney Morning Herald described as “harsh conditions.”

Sun’s wife, who contacted the media this week, said the Australian government had known of her husband’s detention since 2006, but had never made the case public. She was four months pregnant when her husband was convicted of spying for Taiwan, she says.

Reports say that in January 2006, Sun, who worked for an agency recruiting foreign students to Australia, went to China to visit his mother. He was apprehended by state security officials as he was heading out to dinner with friends from his days in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

Six days after Sun’s family reported him missing, officials at the Australian embassy in Beijing located Sun at a detention facility operated by the Chinese Ministry of State Security. Chinese authorities accused Sun of “seducing” Yang Delong, a former colleague who was still serving in the air force, into copying more than 1,000 classified documents and passing them on to Taiwanese intelligence, the Herald reported.

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

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A tale of greed and bad governance

In terms of wealth per capita, Taiwan remains far ahead of China and certainly does not need help from across the Taiwan Strait to deal with poverty, especially when that help comes with unificationist propaganda

It’s hard to tell which is more embarrassing — that hundreds of Taiwanese would prostrate themselves before a wealthy Chinese tycoon so they could receive a “red envelope” from his hand, or the fact that after two-and-a-half years in office, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has failed to look after the economic well-being of its own people.

A visit to Taiwan this week by Chinese recycling magnate Chen Guangbiao (陳光標, pictured above), ostensibly on a “thanksgiving” tour to hand out an estimated NT$500 million (US$17.2 million) to Taiwan’s poor, initially sparked controversy when it was revealed that said envelopes were embossed with the inscription “the Chinese race is one family (中華民族一家親).”

Whether this was intentional or not, this gratuitous inscription raised the twin specters of “Han” chauvinism and the Chinese Communist Party’s united-front tactics, this time not by throwing money at Taiwanese corporations, but rather at its underprivileged.

To be fair, once we look past his proclivity for ostentation, Chen has already donated millions of dollars to China’s destitute, which is a testament to his generosity. That said, despite a relative shift in wealth across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s GDP per capita is still five times higher than that of China and the latter has hundreds of millions of people who have yet to be lifted out of poverty.

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

China is a ‘big brother’ indeed

For the Chinese Communist Party, even unrest in places as far away as Egypt is seen as a threat to its hold on Zhongnanhai

Critics of Chinese philanthropist Chen Guangbiao (陳光標) might have recoiled in horror over the weekend after the tycoon said China was like a “big brother” to Taiwan. The fact of the matter is, China is indeed a “big brother” — but in the Orwellian sense.

In their tumultuous history of interaction with Chinese, which has intensified amid efforts by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to foster closer ties across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwanese often complain about China’s lack of knowledge about Taiwan. In the same vein, survivors of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 point to continued efforts by Chinese authorities to filter information on the mass demonstrations that led to the crackdown, with the result that ordinary Chinese now suffer from collective amnesia.

So much for the observation by Chinese intellectual Wang Hui (汪暉) that “history, experience and knowledge are resources we must use to overcome ourselves in our present state.” Or, for that matter, the “one country, two systems” formula often touted for Taiwan, which risks sucking Hong Kong — the first experiment — into China’s cognitive limbo: More than two decades after the Tiananmen Square protests, former student leaders like Wang Dan (王丹) and Wuer Kaixi (吾爾開希) now find themselves unable to enter the territory.

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