Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Strait spying: China’s intelligence strategy towards Taiwan

Since President Ma Ying-jeou launched his policy of détente with China, the assumption has been that Beijing would reduce its military and intelligence stance towards Taiwan. That view is a dangerous misreading of China’s strategy

If any evidence were needed to prove that the conflict in the Taiwan Strait is far from resolved, it came with the arrest in late January of General Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲) by Taiwanese authorities on charges of spying for China.

In what has been called by local media the island’s worst espionage case in nearly half a century, Lo’s arrest has sparked fears over his activities’ impact on Taiwan’s command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) capabilities. Moreover, given the close military relationship between Taiwan and the United States, any suggestion that Taiwan’s C4I capabilities have been compromised could impact negatively on the potential for future US arms sales to the island.

My article, published on March 28 in Jane’s Intelligence Review (China Watch), can be accessed here (subscription required).

Experts question NSB’s missile scoop

Whether the DF-16 is the real deal, a variant of an existing missile or a medium-range ballistic missile known to US intelligence is more than semantics

The lack of US intelligence on a new type of short-range ballistic missile allegedly deployed by China has led some defense specialists to conclude that the projectile could be a medium-range missile already known to US authorities.

Debate over the existence of the Dong Feng-16 (DF-16, 東風16) emerged soon after National Security Bureau (NSB) Director Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝) informed the legislature on March 16 that his agency had intelligence proving that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had finished testing and had deployed a new type of missile. In his testimony, Tsai said that some of the missiles, with a range of between 800km and 1,000km, were targeting Taiwan.

The faster re-entry of a longer-range ballistic missile, experts said, would make it more difficult for interceptors, such as Taiwan’s PAC-3, to defend against them.

With scant specific references in the literature and no confirmation from other intelligence agencies, some experts have wondered whether Tsai’s DF-16 might not be a variant of an existing short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), such as the DF-11 or DF-15, of which more than 1,000 are targeted at Taiwan.

However, some defense specialists approached by the Taipei Times said that as older SRBMs had been developed in the 1980s and fielded in the 1990s, it would not be surprising, as per industrial cycles, for an altogether new type of missile to be developed.

While variants of a missile are indicative of minor design improvements — for example, the DF-15C, which some reports say could serve as a longer-range upgrade at the Second Artillery’s Leping SRBM Brigade in Jiangxi Province — new designations, such as the DF-16, imply fundamental design changes, such as advances in solid rocket fuel, guidance systems and warhead design.

However, the lack of specifics provided by Tsai, who claimed Taiwan had sources unavailable to its allies, has led some analysts to conclude that rather than a brand new type of SRBM, the DF-16 could in fact be a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) already known to US intelligence, the CSS-X-11.

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

A thankless job for spy chiefs

The Canadian experience of engaging China should serve as a warning to intelligence officers in Taiwan: The closer you get to China, the less room to maneuver will your political masters give you

Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Richard Fadden could very soon find himself out of a job, after a parliamentary committee last week said he was responsible for fostering “a climate of suspicion.”

Fadden’s troubles began when he alleged during an interview in June last year that federal and municipal politics were the object of foreign interference and that Chinese embassy and consulate officials had helped fund protests against the Canadian government.

No sooner had the words left his mouth than Chinese officials and the parliamentary opposition accused Fadden of lying. Not only had Fadden created suspicion, the committee concluded, he had also “plant[ed] doubt about the integrity” of elected officials and Chinese-Canadians.

If opposition lawmakers have their way, Fadden will be fired for doing his job, which is to alert government officials and the public about threats to national security.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The irrational fear of invisible agents

The anti-nuclear movement should take a step back and look at the destructiveness of traditional energy sources before they call for a categorical end to what is a surprisingly safe and efficient alternative

For all the high-mindedness of the thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets in the past week opposing nuclear energy following nearly catastrophic mishaps at a nuclear power plant in Japan, their argument has tapped more into irrational fears than instructive debate on future global energy needs.

Despite the serious threat posed by leaks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan following a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, the fact remains that when we take into account the magnitude of the natural catastrophe that led to the malfunctions at the plant in the first place, Japan’s nuclear industry on that “Black Friday” showed incredible resilience.

The same can be said if we look at the history of nuclear power on a global scale. Given that commercial nuclear energy has been around for more than half a century, the fact that only three names have been burned into our collective psyche — Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima Dai-ichi — as a result of serious failure is more evocative of an energy source that is safe than something that should be opposed at all costs — unless you’re from the oil cabal, which since 1973 has spent considerable energy and money seeking to “take the bloom off the nuclear rose.”

In fact, other sources of energy that have become so enmeshed into our ordinary lives, but whose destructiveness is far greater, such as coal and oil, have failed to capture the imagination of protesters. From high pollutant condensates blanketing the skies across China to numerous spills from the Exxon Valdez to BP, coal and oil have killed many more people over the years and their extraction has been far more damaging to the environment (just ask Nigerians or Brazilians) than has peaceful nuclear power. Not to mention the political implications of our intoxication with oil, which has led to countless wars and often encouraged the West to prop up despots, such as in Equatorial Guinea, or China to shield genocidal regimes such as Sudan’s from international action.

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

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Taiwan forced to square the circle on national defense

Defense cuts. Procurement sources drying up. A modernizing Chinese military. Can Taiwan meet its defense needs under the prevailing system?

Earlier this month, the Ministry of National Defense announced plans to cut troop levels by 9,200 in light of “warmer” ties with China, saying the measure would not jeopardize national defense because Taiwan was seeking “more advanced” and “high-tech” weapons.

However, with five consecutive years of shrinking defense budgets, more than US$13 billion in arms purchases still in the pipeline, a modernizing Chinese military and a US administration that appears increasingly reluctant to provide Taiwan with the weapons it needs, is the ministry’s optimism realistic or merely a smokescreen?

When asked to comment on the state of Taiwan’s defenses and how the nation could do more with a limited budget, in several instances, several defense experts made the case against high-profile expensive platforms in favor of smaller, relatively inexpensive and in many cases domestically produced asymmetrical options.

“Taiwan is on a peacetime footing budget-wise, even as its strategic plight worsens,” said James Holmes, associate professor of strategy at the US Naval War College and co-author of Red Star Over the Pacific.

“Three percent of GDP is not a serious budget for a nation facing mortal peril,” Holmes said of the goal set by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), which has not been reached as the level of spending has dropped since Ma came into office in 2008, settling at about 2.2 percent of GDP for the current financial year.

In Holmes’ view, the Ma administration is allowing numbers to drive strategy and determined structure.

“The notion of substituting technology for large numbers of bodies is a seductive one, but is Taipei just trying to justify predetermined budget cuts or has it developed a strategy of island defense that can be executed with far fewer troops?” he asked.

My analysis piece, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here with more comments by Minnick, Holmes, Cliff, Fisher and Murray.

Friday, March 18, 2011

PRC missile could render PAC-3s obsolete

A new type of ballistic missile, added to intelligence on short-range missiles with submunitions, does not bode well for Taiwan’s even most advanced missile interceptor

A new longer-range ballistic missile allegedly deployed by China and the introduction of multiple warhead capabilities could render obsolete Taiwan’s most advanced missile interceptors, analysts said yesterday.

National Security Bureau (NSB) Director Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝) told the legislature on Wednesday that China had recently begun deploying Dong Feng-16 (DF-16, 東風16) ballistic missiles with a range of between 800km and 1,000km, and that some were targeting Taiwan.

One US expert with years of experience monitoring developments in China’s missile arsenal told the Taipei Times that while literature on the DF-16 was scarce, the fact that a different designation had been referenced implied that the system was sufficiently different from existing missiles.

Another, Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, said chances the DF-16 is the “real deal” were high, adding that the new system would likely incorporate advances in solid rocket fuel, guidance and warhead design. He admitted this was the first time he had seen references to the DF-16 designation.

Alarmingly, the faster re-entry of a longer-range ballistic missile such as the DF-16 would greatly reduce the effectiveness of Taiwan’s PAC-3 missile interceptors that were acquired at great cost from the US and which are still in the process of being deployed.

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

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Experts question Wu’s nuclear facts

AEC and Taipower said Wu Den-yih’s assurances about the safety of Taiwan’s nuclear power plants were mistaken. However, few officials dared to go on the record contradicting him

Officials yesterday were at a loss to explain a mix-up by Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who told the legislature on Tuesday that the nation’s three operational nuclear plants were “much safer” than those in Japan because they were “fourth generation” — something both Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) and the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) have said is wrong.

“The Fukushima Dai-ichi [-nuclear power] plant was equipped with a third-generation [reactor], while Taiwan’s nuclear power plants operate fourth-generation ones,” Wu told the legislature, claiming that this alone made Taiwan’s plants safer.

However, as the Taipei Times reported yesterday, fourth-generation reactors are not expected to be commercially viable for another two decades and an investigation has shown that the types of -reactors used at the Japanese plant are very similar to those in Taiwan.

Asked for comment on the discrepancy, a senior Government Information Office official who was not authorized to speak to the media said: “Wu could have made a mistake,” referring further inquiries to the AEC.

For its part, the council said Wu was either misinformed or that information was “lost in translation.”

“Perhaps it is just a misunderstanding. Perhaps the premier was referring to the boiling water reactor types and mistook them for the generation variants,” said Chang Shin (張欣), an official at the council’s Department of Nuclear Regulation.

My article with Vincent Y. Chao, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here, with lots more information on why the premier was wrong.

Interestingly, though I made sure the details of where Wu was wrong were passed on to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators, they have yet to corner Wu and force him to explain why he provided the misleading information to the legislature, and ultimately to the public. As the main opposition party, the DPP should be relentless when government officials mislead the public on issues of fundamental importance.

Based on the AEC’s “official” explanation, Wu could have mistaken BWR-3 (at Fukushima) and BWR-4 (at Taiwan’s No. 1 plant) as meaning “third” and “fourth” generation, but this makes no sense, as the reactor at the No. 2 (Kuosheng) plant is a BWR-6, which by that logic would have led Wu to claim that Taiwan had “sixth-generation” reactors. Furthermore, what would he have made of the PWR and ABWR reactors at the No. 3 and No. 4 plants, which have no number after the acronym. Again, by that logic, the latter two plants would be “no-generation,” which makes no sense at all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Premier Wu wrong/lies about nuclear reactors [UPDATED]

The premier told the legislature that nuclear power plants in Taiwan were safer than the one that risks blowing up in Japan, but there’s a problem with one key aspect of his argument — it’s based on wrong information

My investigation in May and June last for a story on how management at the No. 2 nuclear power plant (Kuosheng) in Wanli (萬里), New Taipei City, was treating its suppression pool forced me to do a lot of reading about nuclear safety, types of reactors and the state of affairs in Taiwan all matters of nuclear energy.

Little wonder, then, that as I was going through a story filed by one of my reporters earlier today on comments by Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) in the legislature, I immediately sensed something was wrong with his words of comfort and optimistic views of how Taiwan would fare following a calamity of the type that hit Japan last Friday.

As deputy news chief, it was therefore my responsibility to get back to my reporter and make sure she had all her facts right. After she assured me that she did, I asked her to contact nuclear authorities to determine whether the premier was misinformed or lying to us. I still don’t know which one it was, but one thing is certain: Wu’s assurances were based on the wrong information, information that, furthermore, has already found its way into Chinese-language media.

Today’s Taipei Times has full coverage of Wu’s comments in the legislature, as well as my part on where he was wrong and therefore risked misleading the public. What follows is a more detailed take on the part of the article that I wrote:

Asked in the legislature to comment on the safety of the three nuclear power plants in operation — the No. 1 (Chinshan) and No. 2 (Kuosheng) plants in New Taipei City and No. 3 (Maanshan) in Pingtung County — Wu said all three were “much safer” than Fukushima Dai-ichi, which has been the object of international concern following a series of explosions and a possible meltdown.

Asked by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) whether the three nuclear plants were earthquake-resistant, Wu said: “I can not be so sure, as a country like Japan, which is more advanced than us, failed to avert this disaster.”

“However, the Fukushima plant was equipped with a third-generation [reactor] while Taiwan’s nuclear power plants operate fourth-generation [sic] ones,” Wu said. Chinese-language media have already made references to the presence of “fourth-generation” reactors in Taiwan, and that’s what made me sit up. According to the literature on nuclear energy, fourth-generation reactors are still in the research phase and will not be commercially operational for another two decades or so (2030, by some estimates). Only the Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR), also known as the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP), will be launched prior to 2030, and still, it is not expected to be completed before 2021. There are reactors known as Gen-III+ and Gen-III++, but those are not used in Taiwan either.

I then asked my reporter to contact Taipower Corp, which operates nuclear plants in Taiwan. Their chief of public relations confirmed that the premier was wrong and that there was no fourth-generation nuclear reactor in Taiwan. In fact, there isn’t even a third-generation reactor in operation.

In fact, the Atomic Energy Council Web site tells us that the No. 1 power plant uses a BWR-4 (boiling water, second-generation) reactor; the No. 2 plant a BWR-6 (second-generation) reactor; the No. 3 a PWR (pressurized water, second-generation) reactor; and the No. 4 (Lungmen) will use an ABWR (advanced boiling water, third-generation) reactor. [This article initially referred to the BWR-6 and and PWR as third-generation, but subsequent information obtained from the AEC confirms that they are still second-generation variants, as are the reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi.]

Units 2, 3, 4, and 5 at Fukushima Dai-ichi all have BWR-4 reactors similar to that at the No. 1 plant in Taiwan, though their manufacturers differ (GE, Toshiba, Hitachi and Toshiba respectively in Japan, and Westinghouse in Taiwan). The partial core metldown at Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Station in Pennsylvania on March 28, 1979, involved a PWR. Chernobyl used a different type of reactor known as RMBK (the Russian acronym for high-power channel-type reactor).

In other words, none of Taiwan’s reactors are “much safer” and Wu is either lying through his teeth to downplay public anxieties, or someone’s feeding him the wrong information. This, my friends, is what investigative journalism is all about: questioning assumptions and not simply regurgitating whatever the authorities tell us — especially when the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration is concerned.

Time to end silly internal divisions

Even in times of crisis, Japanese political parties can barely summon the kind of bipartisan unity needed to address the situation. There are lessons for Taiwan in this

No sooner had Japan’s opposition parties proffered their unity in the midst of the national emergency following last week’s powerful earthquake than the same players were resuming the finger pointing and sniping of old, nipping cheers over bipartisan cooperation in the bud and showing why Japan and other regional democracies have been at a standstill.

Initially there was reason for optimism that the political landscape could have been fundamentally altered after the magnitude of the catastrophe became more obvious to all. Amid what Tokyo has called the worst calamity to hit the nation since World War II, the Democratic Party of Japan and its main rival, the Liberal Democratic Party, decided to put differences aside and agreed to discuss an emergency tax increase to fund disaster relief.

As related bills must be passed by April 1 to ensure the swift implementation of the massive relief package that will be required for reconstruction, such unity was essential, and on Sunday Japan’s second-largest opposition party, the New Komeito, said it was also willing to cooperate.

This contrasted sharply with the situation on Friday, where hours before the magnitude 8.9 earthquake hit off the east coast of Japan, sparking a major tsunami, both opposition parties were calling for the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, seen as deeply unpopular and accused of illegally receiving campaign funds.

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


Sadly, it looks like Democratic Progressive Party legislators couldn’t help it and now have accused President Ma Ying-jeou of going to a hot spring on the night of the catastrophic earthquake in Japan. Echoes of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators berating Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu over her afternoon nap in the midst of Typhoon Fanapi last year.

Of course, this silly finger-pointing — the very target of my editorial above — pales in comparison to comments by Chao Chih-hsun (趙志勳), office director to KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), at the weekend, who wrote on Facebook that he would “even like to attack Tokyo and kill tens of millions of people” and that Japan should “return the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), then we will consider giving aid … Let the bastards Hui [former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝)] and Ling [Japan-based Taiwan independence advocate Alice King (金美齡)] pay; it’s [Japan] their motherland.”

Politics, politics … whether the poison finds its source in short-term gain or the nefarious wells of hatred, they all too often smother humanity and compassion.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A post-US Pacific?

Australian magazine The Diplomat asked me earlier this week to comment on a recent special commentary by Rupert Hammond-Chambers, President of the US-Taiwan Business Trade Council, on the future of US security guarantees to Taiwan and the North American giant’s involvement in East Asia. Jason Miks’ account of our exchange is available here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

US academic draws heavy fire for article

Two assistant professors  at the US Naval War College and the president of the US-Taiwan Business Council added their voices to the chorus of criticism leveled at a US academic who argues the US should abandon Taiwan

Criticism of an article by George Washington University professor Charles Glaser in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine was evident yesterday, as rebuttals to his article were published in two influential publications.

Writing in The Diplomat, James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara, both associate professors of strategy at the US Naval War College, said that ceding territory to land-hungry powers was a “morally bankrupt enterprise” that can only represent a temporary fix.

In an article titled “Will China’s Rise Lead to War? Why Realism Does Not Mean Pessimism,” Glaser said that to avoid a costly arms race between the US and China and to ensure Beijing’s cooperation on a number of disputes in Asia, Washington should accommodate Beijing by backing away from its security commitment to Taiwan.

Glaser further said that when a power has “limited territorial goals,” meeting those demands might not lead to further demands, but rather reduced tensions.

“But buying peace with land has been tried many times before — with ephemeral results at best,” Holmes and Yoshihara wrote of Glaser’s grand bargain in their article “Getting Real About Taiwan.”

Glaser’s position is based on the view that “structural forces” in the Asia-Pacific region are limiting friction between major powers — in this case, the US, China, Japan and India. As such, Washington and Beijing should be in a position to reach arrangements through mutual concessions, a position the authors appear to agree on.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here, with more by Holmes and Yoshihara (who grew up in Taipei) and Rupert Hammond-Chambers in the Wall Street Journal.

Tar and feathers on Ma for killings

The Ma administration claims it cannot abolish the death penalty because of public calls to address criminality. However, study after study has shown that no correlation exists between capital punishment and the incidence of violent crime. Why retain it?

For an administration that has bought into the concept of “soft power,” President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Cabinet shot itself in the foot on Friday by executing five death-row inmates, bringing the number of state executions in the past year to nine.

The government defended its action by repeating its claim that while it hopes to eventually abolish the death penalty, public sentiment favors retaining it. In other words, the administration is not guilty. Its hands were tied and, champion of democracy that it is, it had no choice but to listen to the public, even if it meant joining the ranks of the few “rogue” states that continue to defy the global trend toward abolition of capital punishment.

This rationalization contrasts sharply with other instances where, despite substantial public opposition, the Ma administration forged ahead with controversial policies, saying it knew what was in the best interest of the public. Therefore, what we are dealing with is not so much a democratic government, but one that uses democratic tools very selectively and only when it is convenient to do so.

Fully aware of opposition at home and of the sensitive timing of the executions — coming little more than a month after an investigation showed that an airman had been wrongfully convicted and put to death in 1997 — the administration also proceeded with the executions knowing that it would spark angry reactions among its allies.

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

Friday, March 04, 2011

Realism does not mean inhumanity

An article that proposes ceding Taiwan to China for the purpose of securing Beijing’s acquiescence on other contentious matters highlights the author’s deeply flawed understanding of Taiwan, China and East Asia — and in the process dehumanizes the 23 million people who inhabit democratic Taiwan

As the world adjusts to the rise of China, a growing number of political commentators have proposed that to avoid an arms race with Beijing and to secure its cooperation on various challenges, the US should “cede” Taiwan by revising its long--standing security commitment.

Most recently, Charles Glaser, writing in the establishment Foreign Affairs, made such a case, approaching the matter from what he described as a realist, albeit not pessimistic, perspective.

The gist of his argument stems from two assumptions. First is the belief that ongoing improvements in China’s military capabilities could make it likelier to escalate in a conflict scenario, which, if it were to get out of hand, could turn nuclear. Added to this is the belief that any attempt by the US to ensure a balance of power over Taiwan would spark an arms race.

The second assumption is that the neutralization of Taiwan (to which we will turn later) would open the door for Chinese cooperation on other difficult matters, such as the South and East China seas and other territorial disputes.

At the intersection of those assumptions lies the conclusion that it would be in the US’ best interest — both in terms of avoiding armed conflict with China and ensuring its cooperation on regional and global matters — to negate the point of contention that, according to Glaser’s view, creates -distortions in the relationship. In other words, Taiwan.

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

Thursday, March 03, 2011

US commitment deteriorating: report

The Obama administration so far has only notified weapons systems that addressed the threat Taiwan was facing back in April 2001, with little sign that greater commitment is coming

US policy on Taiwan under US President Barack Obama has taken a “hazardous” turn that appears to be moving toward support for Beijing’s interpretation of its core interests, the US-Taiwan Business Council said in a special commentary released on Monday.

The Obama administration appears to be “telegraphing its willingness to moderate legacy Taiwan support and cede more control to China in the dynamics and direction of cross-strait affairs,” said the report, titled The American Defense Commitment to Taiwan Continues to Deteriorate.

For the first time in about a decade, the US has the opportunity to reassess Taiwan’s defense requirements and future US security support for its longtime ally, the commentary said.

Although last year “started off strong on Taiwan defense issues,” with the Jan. 29 notification to Congress of five separate arms sales programs worth US$6.4 billion, the programs “were not intrinsically controversial,” since the great bulk of the money involved UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters and PAC-III missile defense batteries. Those items were leftovers from former US president George W. Bush’s April 2001 arms package, it said.

Another notification in August involved a small US$250 million package to upgrade radars on Taiwan’s Indigenous Defense Fighter — again a non-controversial program.

“On both occasions the arms sales notified were originally intended to address the military threat posed by China dating back before April 2001,” the report said.

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

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

TFCC appalled by treatment of foreign journalists in China

As China continues its crackdown on foreign reporters who are trying to do their job, the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents Club called Beijing to account

The Taiwan Foreign Correspondents Club (TFCC) yesterday said it was “concerned” and “appalled” by the violent measures used by the Chinese security apparatus against foreign journalists reporting planned anti-government protests in Beijing at the weekend.

Amid sporadic calls for political reform throughout China inspired by the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia and public revolts across northern Africa and parts of the Middle East, Beijing in the past week launched a major security clampdown on a number of cities.

“At least one video journalist who was trying to do his job on Sunday was beaten by plainclothes policemen who confiscated his camera and videotape,” the TFCC wrote. “More than a dozen journalists in the area had problems, including being manhandled, pushed, detained and delayed by uniformed police and others.”

Among them were several Taiwanese and Hong Kong journalists, who were also detained, it said. The Liberty Times reported on Monday that two Taiwanese reporters with SET TV were taken away by police for questioning, one of whom, a photographer, had to by dragged by policemen.

“The TFCC, on behalf of its members, condemns such violence and calls on the Beijing government to ensure the safety of all reporters and their staff in China,” the release said. “We call on the Taiwan government and ... [P]resident [Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)] to denounce such attacks.”

“We note with relief that journalists in Taiwan are now generally not subject to government interference when covering protests, such as the most recent ones on February 28 [the 64th anniversary of the 228 Incident],” it said.

Abandon Taiwan: US academic

Sounding very much like Henry Kissinger back in the 1970s, Charles Glaser argues that the US should be willing to sacrifice Taiwan for the sake of better relations with China

An article in the current issue of the influential Foreign Affairs magazine argues that to avoid military competition between the US and a rising China, Washington should consider making concessions to Beijing, including the possibility of backing away from its commitment to Taiwan.

In the article, titled “Will China’s Rise Lead to War? Why Realism Does Not Mean Pessimism,” Charles Glaser, a professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, argues that the rise of China will be “the most important international relations story of the twenty-first century.”

Glaser’s article makes the case for a “nuanced version of realism” that would avoid unnecessary competition — and perhaps armed conflict — between the US and China.

While the prospects of avoiding “intense military competition and war” between the US and China may be od, China’s rise will nevertheless require some changes in US policy, he argues. Such adjustments, he claims, should include backing away from security commitments to Taiwan.

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

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Great cross-strait misconceptions

The longer Taiwanese and Chinese who support cross-strait economic liberalization continue to talk past each other, the more painful it will be when both realize that their expectations cannot be met

For all its vaunted benefits, the growing economic relationship across the Taiwan Strait seems to be premised on false assumptions that could eventually derail dialogue and engender dangerous frustrations.

On one side is China, which has made no secret of its belief that increasing the flow of economic interaction and investment across the Strait would, according to some law of economic determinism, win the hearts and minds of Taiwanese and reconcile them to the idea of unification.

Despite claims by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration that cross-strait economic integration does not undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty, Beijing has consistently reminded the world that the process itself is a means to bring about unification.

Whether Ma and his officials believe their own claims or are too naive to see through Zhongnanhai’s strategy is beside the point, as in Beijing’s eyes the coveted end goal remains the same, regardless of Taipei’s complicity.

In Taiwan, many supporters of greater economic activity across the Strait, from farmers to leaders of large corporations, have also approached the process from the wrong angle.

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