Friday, March 30, 2012

Inching toward breaking point

As the threat becomes more distinct, there will be a point where abstract fears become reality. Let us hope for Taiwan’s sake that this moment of reckoning occurs early enough to avoid a point of no return

As the day approaches when the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) enters its second term, it is becoming increasingly evident that Ma has been very lucky that Taiwanese have been both very patient and apathetic about his dangerous flirting with Beijing.

This might be about to change, as the disconnect between public expectations on relations with China and the policy direction in which the Ma administration appears to be engaging grows wider.

How out of sync Ma’s China policy is with public opinion became starker last week when, ostensibly with the president’s blessing, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) — an unelected non-official, we must not forget — on a visit to Beijing delivered to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) what can only be described as a blueprint for the future of cross-strait relations. That plan reflects far better Beijing’s position on Taiwan and on “one China” than it does the views of the public that voted for Ma and the KMT on Jan. 14.

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

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The wolves are closing in

Thoughts on wealth inequality, forced evictions, human rights, Taiwanese technocrats and the future of Taiwan

When Taiwanese voters elected Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in 2008 with such an overwhelming margin, they did so under the perception that the previous Democratic Progressive Party administration, which ruled from 2000 until 2008, was corrupt. When Taiwanese voters re-elected Ma in January 2012, they voted for technocrats, and this is what they got.

Under their watch, wealth inequality has increased, salaries for ordinary workers have stagnated, the CPI has gone up, as has the bourse, the cost of real estate, and unsurprisingly, the number of violations — of human rights or environmental laws — committed for urban renewal or industrial projects. The main victims have been people from the low to middle class: young graduates seeking their first job, modest home owners, small businesses, villagers, farmers.

The technocrats who gradually filled the ranks of Ma’s first term, and who now populate what can only be described as a Cabinet of uninspiring and utterly uncharismatic policy implementers, will only do more of that. And this is only going to get worse as the impact of Chinese investment, which is now being allowed in a variety of hitherto off-limit sectors, begins to be felt. Already, studies have shown that whatever positive economic impact the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China in June 2010 has been felt predominantly by large businesses, while more fragile sectors, such as SMEs and farmers, apprehend signs of a bleak future. The same applies to the purchasing delegations sent by China, party to help Ma get re-elected.

But can Taiwanese really expect the KMT, the party of the rich and powerful, to protect the rights of the less wealthy? Asset disclosures from the Control Yuan earlier this year showed that Premier Sean Chen (陳冲), Judicial Yuan President Rai Hau-min (賴浩敏) and Examination Yuan President John Kuan (關中), to name just three, have total assets exceeding NT$100 million (US$3.4 million) each. Chen and his wife own seven buildings and one plot of land in Taipei’s Xinyi District (信義). For his part, Rai owns no less than seventeen plots of land in Da-an District (大安). 

Not only do such assets place those officials in the ranks of the wealthy, they are also the cause of  potential conflicts of interest. Why would officials adopt policies to rectify soaring real estate costs to help ordinary citizens when doing so would negatively affect the value of their properties? A similar conflict arises when we consider expanding Chinese investment in Taiwan. Can officials who stand to gain from such investments be trusted to act with the interests of ordinary Taiwanese in mind? What of the negotiators who strike agreements with their Chinese counterparts, who often have business interests in China, or have family members who do? Or the owners of large corporations who openly support the KMT in election time, knowing they will reap the benefits of closer engagement with, or access to, the huge market across the Taiwan Strait? Who looks after the needs and rights of ordinary citizens when politics become the means for the rich and powerful to further enrich themselves?

It’s hard to imagine any of the above-mentioned government officials, or owners of large corporations, suffering the same fate as that of the Wang (王) family yesterday, who saw their two houses in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林) torn down by city officials to make way for an urban renewal project. The Wangs, who had lived there for more than a decade, were the sole voice of opposition to the project; 38 other households were in favor. Under the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例), the construction firm in charge of the project was entitled to ask the city government flatten the Wangs’ homes even if they refused to move out, as more than 75 percent of the landowners on the site of the future project agreed to the plan.

And flatten them they did, while about 300 supporters of the Wangs gathered to express their anger. In a scene more at home in China than Taiwan, the city government deployed more than 1,000 police officers to ensure stability while the houses were being razed, an unusually high 3:1 police-to-protester ratio.

One wonders if, under the Act, government officials or wealthy entrepreneurs facing a similar situation (say, the entire neighborhood is in favor of an urban renewal project, but the official/entrepreneur refuses) would, like the Wangs, suddenly find themselves homeless. Chances are they wouldn’t.

Sadly, we’re bound to see more of what befell the Wangs, as land owners, expecting future liberalization of rules on Chinese investment, engage in speculation and await the day when wealthy Chinese are allowed to buy land and property here. How else can we explain the dozens, if not hundreds, of brand new, entirely empty, apartment buildings that have sprung up around the city in recent years, pushing ordinary residents ever further on the peripheries? This says nothing about the young entrants on the job market who do not make enough money to be able to buy a house, let alone start a family.

Such a scenario hit very close to, well, home last year when a city government official, accompanied by a developer, knocked at my door and said they were asking around the neighbourhood whether owners would agree to the entire area being razed to make room for … large, expensive, shiny apartment buildings that not a single one of us could ever hope of being able to afford? While I made no secret of my resentment for such an outcome, I had to tell the pair that I had no say on the matter, as I do not own the house where I live. I can’t afford to buy in Taipei.

The treatment of the Wangs by the city government appears to have angered a lot of people. Already I am told that Internet chat rooms and Facebook are mobilizing against what, despite legal backing, can only be described as a human rights violation. Ultimately, those who feel powerless against the wealthy will find common cause with those who oppose the government on matters of Taiwanese identity in the face of ongoing efforts by the authoritarian regime in Beijing to swallow Taiwan. The closer ties between the KMT and wealthy Chinese investors, which China is relying upon to accomplish its political aims, will only exacerbate social injustice, and the ordinary Taiwanese who resent the idea of being ruled by the Chinese Communist Party will realize that they have a lot in common with the Wangs and others who, even for those who show little interest in issues of national politics, or independence versus unification, stand to lose just as much if the technocrats on either side of the Taiwan Strait have their way.

Only when those two forces are joined for the cause of rights will opposition to this government have enough momentum that it cannot continue to be ignored. Taiwanese will have to be creative, use their imagination, and be far more vocal than they have been in the past four years, even at the risk (heaven forbid!) of being uncivil. They’ve been sheep for far too long; the wolves are circling and getting ever closer. 

A slightly different version of this article appeared in the Taipei Times on April 5 and can be accessed here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

As loaded as a Chinese AK-47

An article by the state-owned CNA blames Taiwan’s open society for ‘xenophobia’ and ‘ignorance’ toward Chinese students

It’s easy to lose track of the number of occasions in the media where one encounters language that seeks to create a moral equivalence in the Taiwan Strait. The conflict, as anyone who bothers to learn the facts will quickly realize, is not symmetrical and does not involve two belligerents. Only one side, China, threatens the other, Taiwan, through economic or political absorption — or, in the extreme, war.

Still, even in the supposedly apolitical realms of, say, education and culture, one often comes upon language that not only politicizes the matter, but also portrays Taiwan as the aggressor or unjust, irresponsible party.

Our exhibit today is an article by the government-owned Central News Agency (CNA) published on Saturday — and later carried in this newspaper (“Policy on China students needs change: experts,” March 26, page 3) that discusses the prevailing divisions among Taiwanese on how to treat Chinese students, who were last year for the first time allowed to enroll full-time in local schools.

Following a series of uncontroversial and self-evident remarks about the need to make the Taiwanese education system more global and competitive, the article turns to Yu Zelin (余澤霖), a Chinese student at the Chinese Culture University, who voices a number of complaints about the system.

After bemoaning the fact that students like him were afraid to see a doctor when they got sick or did not dare get sick, as they could end up paying expensive medical bills because of their exclusion from the national health insurance plan, Yu then complains that Chinese students’ hard work at school is not rewarded, as they are not allowed to receive scholarships from the Taiwanese government.

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

China changes us, one censorship at a time

Unless we push back, even our cherished institutions that defend freedom of speech risk becoming the victims of the CCP’s propaganda machine

One recurring theme in my writing about the “China threat” over the years is that of self-censorship and the complicity of others in Beijing’s suppression of human rights and free speech. We’ve seen this at movie festivals, in the media, in governments’ refusal to grant landing visas to dissidents — all for the sake of not “angering” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or securing the next profitable business deal.

Even the most jaded Realist cannot avoid realizing that communist China is the closest thing we have today to Big Brother and the propagandistic and revisionist Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s prescient and stunningly durable novel Nineteen Eighty Four. Only the North Korea regime has taken newspeak to even greater heights, but Pyongyang’s ability to affect and transform the international community is so minimal (nuclear war aside) that it doesn’t qualify for our purposes here.

The “Beijing Consensus,” as one reporter recently titled a book on the subject, is changing our lives, one censorship at a time. This isn’t only about reporters who aren’t allowed to accompany foreign delegations on a visit to Beijing, as was recently the case with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s call at Zhongnanhai. This is also about institutions whose original intent was exactly the opposite of what the CPP is trying to accomplish on freedom of speech.

One such institution is the London Book Fair, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year and runs April 16-18. The main theme of this year’s fair is China, with the aim of showcasing “the very best of Chinese literature today.”

At first glance, the line-up is an impressive one: 180 publishers from China and 21 Chinese authors, all brought to London in partnership with the British Council.

But there’s a problem. Not a single author is independent — all have been vetted and approved by Chinese censors, which means that their work is as much art as it is propaganda for the CCP, or at least isn’t regarded as “spiritual pollution” by the regime. This also means that not a single exiled Chinese author has been invited.

Still doubt the organizers’ complicity? The London Book Fair is cooperating with the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP), the agency that “regulates” all print media in China. Furthermore, another organization involved is The Chunqiu Equinox Institute, which was founded by Eric X Li, who argued in an op-ed in the New York Times last year that the US should roll back its democracy to become more like China.

“[The delegation] doesn’t include any independent voice, they are cleaning us away,” exiled writer Bei Ling (貝嶺), the head of the Independent Chinese Pen club, who now lives in California, told the BBC last week. Because of this, Pen has decided to downgrade its ties with this year’s book fair. One could very well argue that when dealing with China, inviting writers as part of a delegation, rather than as individuals, can only but invite such censorship on the part of Chinese authorities.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2009, which also had a special focus on China, the same Bei Ling, as well as the investigative journalist Dai Qing (戴晴), were removed from the list of participants at the request of Chinese authorities. The pair were re-invited after the decision caused a stir, leading the official Chinese delegation to walk out of the event.

The Germans didn’t yield, principles of free speech were upheld, and the Chinese walked out. Their loss. There’s a lesson to be learned from this: Engagement and the promotion of one’s culture is a two-way street. We don’t have to declare defeat on elements of our culture and beliefs that are essential to who we are.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Soldiers are not waste dumps

Using soldiers as garbage dumps for agricultural products will only succeed in alienating an important segment of society that is already doing more than its share of sacrifices for the nation

The nation’s armed forces, which count hundreds of thousands of people in their ranks, represent a sizable constituency in Taiwan, and as such should be called upon to help the nation in whatever way they can in times of need.

Already, many of the men and women who serve in the military put their lives at risk, whether it is during training, in the wake of natural catastrophes, or — and let us hope it never comes to this — in time of war. Far too often their efforts and dedication are taken for granted or made the object of ridicule.

Facing such odds, soldiers’ morale understandably suffers. What’s more, bad press makes the goal of creating a fully professional military even less attainable, as young people would rather turn to the private sector than join an organization that is constantly under fire. A country need not be martial or fascistic to accord its armed forces the respect they deserve. Just like politicians, business owners, nurses, academics or farmers, soldiers and military officers are an integral part of society.

Which brings us to the habit of using soldiers whenever large quantities of agricultural products need to be disposed of or their prices stabilized. In recent years, hundreds of tonnes of oranges and bananas have been purchased by the military and “force-fed” to soldiers amid efforts to help farmers. More recently, it was proposed that the Ministry of National Defense purchase large quantities of pork to serve a similar objective.

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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fear not the cross-strait culture war

Those who argue that Chinese culture poses a fundamental threat to Taiwan’s sense of self fail to fully appreciate the resilience and adaptivity of Taiwanese identity

Much has been made in recent years of an apparent campaign by elements on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to convince Taiwanese that they share a common culture, ethnicity and history with Chinese. This emphasis is without doubt part of the multifaceted effort by Beijing — an effort that also has political, military and economic angles — to unify Taiwan with China. However, culture is the weapon in Beijing’s arsenal that is the least likely to succeed.

A good number of Taiwanese and their supporters recoiled when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), once he was safely ensconced in office, began waxing lyrical about the “shared ancestry” of Taiwanese and Chinese, or hurt sensitivities when he harped on about a so-called “Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics.” Similar apprehensions arose when his administration, and its counterparts in China, began encouraging cooperation in all matters cultural, from the movie industry to linguistics.

Suddenly, Taiwanese culture and identity seemed to be under assault, dwarfed by the weight of 1.3 billion Chinese who, we can only deduce from Beijing’s propagandistic line on such matters, all share a homogenous “Han” culture. Some of the deformities that have arisen from such a stubborn adherence to a cultural “one China” include “Chinese Taipei” and, as one often encounters in the opening paragraph of reporting by (state-controlled) Chinese media, “China’s Taiwan,” as if repeating a lie often enough would somehow transmute that into truth.

[...] But greater cultural contact need not necessarily translate, and oftentimes will not, into the uncritical and total assimilation of foreign ideas — let alone serve as an instrument by which to change a people’s identity.

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

MND denies armor on CM-32 Clouded Leopard vehicles is defective

With the armored personnel carrier having entered mass production, the army was quick to deny reports that the armor plating was substandard

The Ministry of National Defense on Monday denied reports that the armoring on the domestically produced CM-32 Clouded Leopard personnel carrier, which entered mass production in late 2010, was below standard.

The Chinese-language Apple Daily said ballistic resistance live-fire tests in March 2010 showed that the armor plating on the Clouded Leopard does not comply with the bulletproof specifications set by the military. Puncture holes were observed on an armored panel at the rear of one of the vehicles, it said, adding that this raised questions about the armor’s ability to protect personnel on board.

The eight-wheeled, 25-tonne Clouded Leopard armored vehicle is a joint project between the Ordnance Readiness Development Center and the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (中山科學研究院).

In a press release on Monday, the ministry denied that the armor plating, which is also domestically produced, was not up to standards and said the armoring, which had been tested several times, complied with specifications. The front plating of the vehicle is designed to withstand 12.7mm machine gun and armor-piercing incendiary (API) ammunition, while the side and rear sections provide protection against 7.62mm ammunition and small arms fire.

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

AIM-120 problems blamed on humidity

An investigation blamed moisture for the cracking in the radomes of some US-made AIM-120s, but French and Taiwan-made missiles do not seem to be affected

An investigation has concluded that cracking occurring in the radome on some of the US-made AIM-120C air-to-air missiles carried by Taiwan’s F-16s was caused by long-term exposure to humidity and stress, the Air Force General Headquarters said yesterday.

The air force made the comments after local media reported earlier the same day that the problem with the missile — the most advanced in the Taiwanese air force — had been observed for three consecutive years.

The air force currently has 120 AIM-120C-5 and 218 AIM-120C-7 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM) in its inventory. The “fire-and-forget” missiles are used on its 146 F-16 aircraft. The first order of AIM-120s was delivered to the air force in 2004.

Radomes, one of the eight main sections of a missile, are a pyroceramic cone at the nose that serve as a window for radar or heat-seeking electromagnetic devices inside the missile.

In a statement, the air force said it had followed US suggestions to improve rotation cycles and store the missiles in conditions that would reduce the impact of moisture on the radomes.

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

Friday, March 16, 2012

Beef must not poison other issues

The problem stems from politicians who are serving domestic constituencies. The danger is that the dispute could spill over and affect other aspects of the relationship

While officials now tell us that the feed additive ractopamine contained in some US beef does not pose a health risk, the longstanding controversy over its import into Taiwan could, if mishandled, poison relations between Taipei and Washington.

Fundamentally, the problem lies with special interest groups in Taiwan and the US. In Taiwan, those who oppose lifting the ban on US beef containing ractopamine residue have adopted a policy that seeks to protect the domestic meat industry. Protectionism is every bit as important as health considerations in this dispute — witness the legislators and activists who have made this issue their own, but have nothing to say about the proven nefarious effects of cigarettes, or motor vehicle pollution.

As for the US, its policy on the matter is alimented by a lobby that seeks to maximize the export of meat products. It is also an election year, which tends to make policymakers more receptive to such pressures.

Although the beef controversy should be treated as an isolated trade spat between two countries, there has been a tendency on both sides to politicize the matter by tying it to other elements of the relationship. As a result, if the situation is not handled with political deftness, it could damage relations between Taipei and its most important ally.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

'Varyag' could be launched this year; tensions rise between China, South Korea

A South Korean news outlet claims the aircraft carrier could patrol waters off a disputed islet that lies between overlapping EEZs claimed by China and South Korea

South Korea joined the ranks of Asian countries that are looking on with alarm as China flexes its muscles in the region after a Chinese military official reportedly hinted at a possible role for its first aircraft carrier near an islet claimed by both South Korea and China.

The diplomatic row comes as the Chinese Communist Party-owned People’s Daily reported yesterday that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Deputy Commander Xu Hongmeng (徐洪猛) had told media that the PLA “has a plan” to make its first aircraft carrier, the ex-Varyag, enter service this year.

It was the first time a PLA officer has officially mentioned a specific timing for the launch of the refurbished aircraft carrier. Defense analysts believe the carrier could be launched on Aug. 1 to coincide with the anniversary of the establishment of the PLA. Xu made the remarks on the sidelines of a second plenary meeting of the fifth session of the 11th National People’s Congress (NPC) on Thursday.

The yet-to-be-renamed carrier is expected to carry Shenyang J-15 fighter aircraft, as well as Z-8 transport helicopters. It will be based on Hainan Island and cover the East China Sea and South China Sea, where China has territorial disputes with a number of claimants, including Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Xu said trial runs for the J-15 were in the pipeline and that takeoff and landing tests were expected to be carried out this month, along with further test runs of the aircraft carrier. Recent online images of the former Varyag show far less clutter on the deck than usual, which could be signs of an imminent sea trial.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported yesterday that the aircraft carrier could be used to patrol the waters off South Korea’s Ieo Island, a submerged rock 149km off the southern coast of Jeju Province, which Beijing claims is an extension of the continental shelf that falls under Chinese jurisdiction.

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

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In sudden move, Montana governor shuts down Taiwan trade office

The governor denies any connection exists, but the timing of the announcement invites speculation that Chinese appetite for pork may have something to do with it

A sudden and unilateral decision by Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to close the Montana trade office in Taiwan has sparked a furor in Taiwan and the US state, with legislators and the Montana Chamber of Commerce scrambling to come up with a solution.

In an abrupt announcement on Wednesday, Schweitzer said that as part of a cost-cutting program, the trade office would be closed and that in lieu virtual offices in three locations — Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong — would be launched. Schweitzer said it cost US$90,000 annually to employ a full-time representative in the office, which was opened in 1988. Local phone numbers would still be answered by a receptionist working on contract, he said, who would then transmit requests and messages to state officials.

Critics were quick to pounce on the governor, who has spoken proudly of his accomplishments in slimming down government.

Montana Senate President Jim Peterson said Schweitzer had made the decision alone, without consulting legislators, the business community or the Taiwanese government. “This is a longstanding relationship that deserves greater discussion than a spur-of-the-moment decision by the governor,” CBS News quoted Peterson as saying.

The announcement comes as Schweitzer has been courting Chinese investors to fund a US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-certified facility in Shelby, along the Canadian border, which would process 1.2 million hogs annually and employ 500 people.

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

Friday, March 09, 2012

For Beijing, mutual trust is one-way

Even old hands like Zbigniew Brzezinski seem to be taken in by Beijing’s rhetoric on mutual trust and understanding. Or they know they’re being lied to, but choose to play along

While calling on the international community to respect China’s “right” to peaceful development, Beijing has yet to abandon its tendency to make requests that are diametrically opposed to that goal.

Again this week, Beijing called on Washington to facilitate mutual understanding and respect its core interests, which include its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan. The problem with such assertions is that Beijing’s definition of mutual understanding is often irreconcilable with reality, or at least morality.

It is very difficult, for one, to increase mutual understanding when one side’s position is underscored by the deployment of 1,600 ballistic missiles. Surely, mutual understanding cannot include the other party’s acknowledgement that the Chinese military has a right to threaten Taiwan’s 23 million peace-loving people, let alone ignore their own preferences regarding their identity and the destiny of their nation.

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

Monday, March 05, 2012

China requests Su-35 fighters, S-400 SAM from Russia [UPDATED]

With its defense budget continuing to grow, China is once again turning to Russia for advanced aircraft and missile defense technology

According to Flight Global, Beijing has requested to purchase an unspecified number Sukhoi Su-35 4++ generation multirole air superiority fighters and Almaz-Antei S-400 long-range air defense systems from Moscow.

Alexander Fomin, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said Moscow was considering the applications, which were made last year.

A Russian Federation Ministry of Defense source subsequently told the Kommersant business newspaper that China was seeking to acquire 48 Su-35s in a deal valued at an estimated US$4 billion, one of the largest in recent years.

While a deal is almost closed, Moscow has reportedly made it conditional on Beijing guaranteeing it would respect copyrights to prevent copycat production. Last year, China cancelled an order for 95 Su-27s for local assembly after local manufacturer Shenyang launched serial production of the Jian-11 (J-11), which is of comparable (read: probably stolen) design.

China, which already deploys the Russian-made S-300PMU2 “Favorit” (NATO: SA-10) air defense system (with a range of 195km), hopes to field the S-400 (NATO: SA-20 “Triumf”) starting in 2015. The S-400 has a 400km range, or about twice that of the US-made Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3).

A different version of this article appeared in the Taipei Times on March 9 and can be accessed here.

Friday, March 02, 2012

The faulty logic behind US arms sales

Pressure from Beijing, fears of technological transfer and bureaucratic friction cannot fully explain why it is so difficult for Taiwan to obtain what it needs to defend itself

The US is Taiwan’s principal source of advanced military technology, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the US government is reluctant to share with its ally systems that have offensive potential. While such limits reflect the spirit of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act, they also undermine Taiwan’s ability to present an increasingly powerful China with a credible military deterrent.

Over the years, Taiwan’s failure to acquire certain weapons, such as the F-16C/Ds it has been requesting since 2006, or diesel-electric submarines, has often been blamed on pressure from Beijing and its so-called “red lines,” which if crossed would presumably endanger US-China military relations.

However, pressure from Beijing alone cannot account for recent decisions on arms sales. Moves by Washington to sell Taiwan the Patriot air defense missile system, for example, sparked early threats by Beijing of dire consequences to bilateral relations, but nothing happened when PAC-3 (an upgraded version of the Patriot) fire units and missiles were finally released to Taiwan.

While Chinese pressure should not be discounted altogether, something else appears to be governing Washington’s decisions on arms sales to Taiwan: ensuring that Taipei does not acquire or develop offensive weapons.

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

Spying cases are lose-lose for Taiwan

... but they are win-win for China, which in recent years has not suffered any political backlash for continuing its intelligence war against Taiwan

For the optimists who believed that China would wind down its aggressive behavior as relations between Taipei and Beijing improved under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), a series of spy scandals in recent years might have brought them back to sobriety.

Relations in the Taiwan Strait show signs of improvement under Ma, but China has not abandoned the military option, continuing its impressive arms build-up and modernization program. So, while Taipei has instructed the Ministry of National Defense to focus more on natural catastrophes, the People’s Liberation Army has continued to develop strategies and tactics directly relevant to an invasion of Taiwan.

The same has occurred on the espionage front, with key defense systems becoming the target of intelligence collection by Chinese handlers and their agents. Two areas of crucial importance to Taiwan — the Po Sheng and the Anyu command-and-control modernization programs — have repeatedly been attacked by Chinese agents. Given that air defense would play a major role in any armed conflict between the two countries, it is unsurprising that China would try to compromise those systems by recruiting sources within the military.

Among the most famous espionage cases involving Taiwan’s command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities in recent years are those of Gregg Bergersen and Kuo Tai-shen (郭台生); army general Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲); and an air force captain surnamed Chiang (蔣), who was arrested earlier this week.

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

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Taiwan hit by another espionage case [UPDATED]

A military spokesman said reinforced counterintelligence practices in the wake of a high-profile case last year had helped detect the suspicious behavior

The Taiwanese military yesterday was once again rocked by reports that one of its own had engaged in espionage for China, a little more than a year after a high-profile spy, who is now serving a life sentence, was arrested.

The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported that an air force captain surnamed Chiang (蔣), who worked at a “regional operations control center” in northern Taiwan, was believed to have passed on intelligence to China.

The report also claimed that Chiang’s uncle, who operates a business in China, had helped pass on the information obtained by Chiang, which reportedly included classified material on Taiwan’s early warning radar system, as well as E-2T/E-2K Hawkeye surveillance aircraft. It said Chiang had provided China with information about the 10-1E “Strong Net” — the nation’s air-defense command and control system.

Four regional operations control centers (ROCC), scattered across the nation, have been built in recent years to supplement the command-and-control functions of the Joint Air Operations Center on Toad Mountain (蟾蜍山) in southern Taipei, which is the principal operations body directing, controlling and executing air warning and air combat operations.

UPDATE: I have since been informed that Chiang did not work at one of the ROCCs, but rather at a site on the northern site of Yangmingshan (陽明山) that serves similar functions. I have also been told that the incident could be far more serious than MND spokesman David Lo let on in his comments to media yesterday.

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