Tuesday, July 31, 2012

China’s Navy in the Mediterranean as tensions rise over Syria

The Type 052 Qingdao destroyer at sea
As the PLAN expands, China will increasingly rely on it to back up its strategic interests abroad. Deterring Western intervention in Syria is one such instance 

For the first time since China’s re-emergence as a power to be reckoned with, Western powers are being confronted with scenarios involving the risk of clashes with Chinese military forces outside the Asian giant’s backyard. 

Key to China’s expansion is a shift in recent years from Mao Zedong’s Army-centric military to one where other branches of the armed service — the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the Second Artillery Corps — are given greater freedom of action. 

One branch in particular, the PLAN, has developed alongside Beijing’s ambitions as a global power, allowing it not only to show the flag, such as in multilateral anti-piracy missions off the Gulf of Aden, but also to back up its evolving strategic imperatives. 

This became especially clear during the weekend when reportedly a PLAN escort fleet, which included the Type 052 “Qingdao” (hull 113) destroyer, Type 054A “Yantai” (hull 538) missile frigate, and the “Weishanhu” (hull 887) auxiliary oil replenishment ship, crossed the Suez Canal, with Cairo’s permission, on their way to the Mediterranean Sea. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

CPC board chief calls for joint exploration, defense of Taiping

Former KMT legislator Chiu Yi speaks at Jiaotong U.
Firebrand former legislator Chiu Yi said China and Taiwan should join forces to defend Taiping Island against other claimants 

Taiwan and China should jointly exploit the sea environment around Taiping Island (太平島) and cooperate in defending the area against aggression, a former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator and CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC) board director said in Shanghai last week, adding fuel to an already tense situation in the South China Sea.

Chiu Yi (邱毅), the firebrand former legislator who was appointed to the board of the state-owned oil company earlier this month, made the remarks on the sidelines of the “cross-strait economic interaction and new opportunities” conference at Jiaotong University in Shanghai last week. “The seabed around Taiping Island has abundant reserves of oil and natural gas,” Chiu said. “There would be great merit in a cross-strait joint development project,” he said, adding that so far the proposal has not been adopted by the government. 

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

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Note on Olympics Web site raises censoring fears

The Olympic flag flows in London. But does the spirit?
The LOCOG claims loading time was the issue, but the decision to use a Chinese content delivery nertwork raises questions about censorship

Netizens recently noticed a cryptic line of information appearing at the bottom of the official Web site of the London Summer Olympics (www.london2012.com), sparking speculation about possible complicity by the Games’ organizers in Chinese Internet censorship during the event. 

At first glance, the last line of information on the site, which appeared in light gray characters, seemed mysterious enough: ICP filing number (京ICP備12028602號). The acronym stands for Internet content provider, a permit issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) allowing China-based Web sites to operate in China. 

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

China developing navalised version of DH-10 cruise missile

A DH-10 launcher is pictures on a PLAN test ship
A sea-launched based cruise missile capability is a logical, albeit worrying, development in Chinese LACM capabilities

The People’s Liberation Army Navy appears to be developing a ship-borne variant of the land-based Dong Hai-10 (DH-10) land attack cruise missile. 

Images of the launcher mounted on PLAN test vessel hull 892 could be the first concrete evidence that a naval variant of the DH-10 LACM is being evaluated or certified by the Chinese navy, which would provide the service with its first strategic land attack capability.

My article, published today in Jane's Defence Weekly, continues here (subscription required).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Let a thousand flags bloom

Taiwanese show the flag on Regent St in London
As one flag is ignominiously taken down, hundreds, thousands more should bloom all over London 

For a few days it proudly flew, nudged between Syria and Tajikistan, amid rows of national flags festooning London’s Regent Street as the city prepares for the Olympics. Suddenly, for reasons unknown, but easily guessed at, it was pulled down, leaving a sad gap in the otherwise festive display of global fraternity. 

Granted, the Republic of China (ROC) flag is for many people not a national flag but rather a symbol of a regime that imposed itself on Taiwan after World War II, one that, furthermore, unleashed decades of repression on its people. And yet, despite all the hardships, it now stands as the most readily recognizable symbol of nationhood for all Taiwanese.

Yes, it was first woven as the symbol of a political party in China; and yes, it officially stands for the ROC, but over the years, through the long process of democratization and national consolidation, both the ROC and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have become part of the fabric that makes Taiwan what it is today. For people outside Asia who know little about this region’s convoluted history, nothing more immediately distinguishes Taiwan from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) than the ROC flag. 

The reaction among Taiwanese worldwide to the removal of the flag on Regent Street testifies to the strength of that symbol. 

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Handle Chinese investment with care

An oil refinery in western Canada
Chinas politics and economy make it a dangerous investor, not the savior of an economy that has grown complacent 

The announcement on Monday that Calgary-based Nexen Inc., Canada’s 12th-largest energy company, had agreed to a $15.1-billion takeover by the state owned China National Offshore Oil Co. Ltd. has added fuel to an ongoing debate among Canadians as to how much Chinese investment in our country is too much. 

It doesn’t help that the deal, which will be subject to a vote by shareholders on Sept. 12, is the largest-ever acquisition of a Canadian firm by China. This is just the latest in a long list: Earlier this year, PetroChina Co., China’s largest oil producer (also state-owned) obtained full ownership of the MacKay River oilsands project — another first — by taking up Athabasca Oil Sands Corp.’s remaining 40 per cent stake in two projects (it had acquired the first 60 per cent in 2011); in fall of 2011, China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec) acquired Daylight Energy Ltd. for $2.2 billion; in summer the same year, CNOOC acquired oilsands operator Opti Canada for $2.1 billion. 

China’s multibillion-dollar investments in Canada’s oil, mineral, and energy sectors is not unusual, given the amounts of energy and raw materials it needs to sustain its growing economy. Nor, for that matter, is it unique. Other capital-rich Asian investors, including Malaysia’s state-owned oil company Petronas, have invested heavily in that sector of our economy. However, the idiosyncrasies in China’s economy and political system make it essential that we fully assess the potential implications of allowing China to gradually take over a major segment of our resources.

My op-ed, published today in the Ottawa Citizen, continues here.

The great flag robbery on Regent Street

Composite images,  before and after
Now you see it, now you don't

For four days, the Nationalist flag, which by custom serves as Taiwan's flag, flew in the streets of London for the Olympic Games ... that is, until someone presumably protested and asked London it be removed. So much for "goodwill" and "peace" in the Taiwan Strait. Don't be fooled: China remains a bully and will continue to prevent the 23 million Taiwanese from exercising their rights as citizens of the world.

Hundreds of missiles placed ‘on hold’ as Taiwan awaits US investigation

A RIM-7 Sparrow SAM fires at Jiupeng in January 2011
To fill the gap, the Air Force will reportedly provide two additional battalions with Antelope systems, which are equipped with the Tien Chien I missile 

Several hundred AIM/RIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles (SAM) used by the air force have been categorized as “for emergency use only” after three of the US-made missiles encountered technical failures during an exercise in January last year that left the military embarrassed. 

Following the exercise, in which one RIM-7 climbed about 200m into the air before plummeting into the South China Sea, while another RIM-7 and one AIM-7 missed their targets, the military requested that US military personnel and Raytheon Corp, maker of the missile, investigate the reasons for the failures. 

The Sparrow is a medium-range, all-weather and semi-active guided missile. Six hundred AIM-7Ms were part of a 1992 deal in which Taiwan procured 150 F-16A/Bs. For its part, the RIM-7 SAM is used on towed launchers as part of the Skyguard Air Defense System. Five hundred entered service in 1991. 

As Taiwan awaits a response, the air force has suspended the test-firing of Sparrow missiles, citing safety concerns. 

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

China Deploying Military Garrison to South China Sea

The airstrip and naval facilities on Yongxing Island
The deployment to Sansha City could be an attempt to provide the PLA with forward deployment or refueling capability

According to an update on the PRC's Ministry of National Defense website (which cites a Chinese news source), China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) has apparently approved the formation and deployment of a military garrison in the recently created city of Sansha.

If this is accurate, tensions in the South China Sea could rise yet again. This latest move occurs after the State Council on June 21 turned Sansha into a prefecture-level city to administer more than 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs in the Spratly (Nansha), Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha), and the Xisha (Paracel) islands, sparking protests from the Philippines, which has overlapping claims with China in the area. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

Taiwan mulls buying used M1 tanks from the US

A M1 Abrams main battle tank fires its cannon
Taiwan has been trying to procure the Abrams battle tank since the early 2000s, but critics say that it is unsuited to the nation’s mountainous terrain 

As the US military pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon is reportedly seeking to sell some of the weapons used in those conflicts to its allies — and Taiwan is studying the possibility of acquiring M1 Abrams main battle tanks.

Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) told local media yesterday that efforts to acquire used battle tanks from the US were currently under evaluation. 

Taiwan will be joining a number of US allies who will try to grab what is available and it remains to be seen whether it will be able to make the cut. 

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Taiwan’s South China Sea Plan

A ROCAF Hercules C-130 on the airstrip at Taiping
Whether Taiwan intends to militarize Taiping Island remains to be seen, but the signs seem to point in that direction 

Strategically located in the middle of the Spratly island chain in the hotly contested South China Sea, Taiping Island (太平島) ispreciousreal estate. Besides being the largest feature in the Spratlys, the Taiwan-controlled island is home to one of the only two airstrips in the area that is long enough to accommodate large aircraft such as the Hercules C-130. 

Situated a mere 800km from the Scarborough Shoal, less than 600km from Vietnam’s coast and 500km from the Philippines island of Palawan, Taiping can be instrumental for projecting power and securing sea lanes in an area that is home to overlapping sovereignty claims between China, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Taiwan. As a bonus, Taiping has abundant fisheries and is the only island in the Spratlys to feature an indigenous supply of fresh water. 

Taiwan is now reportedly assessing the possibility of adding 300-500m to the 1,150m runway, which it completed in 2008 amid protests by regional countries. And there is talk that it could deploy P-3C ASW aircraft there once they enter service next year.

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

Houbei-class catamarans, mystery landing ship take part in PLAN drills

A Type 022 Houbei catamaran fires an anti-ship missile
Although China said the drill was routine and did not target any country, the emphasis on amphibious assault operations sent a strong message to Japan 

Eight Type 022 Houbei fast-attack missile catamarans and a “new” type of landing ship were the main features of a five-day live-ammunition naval exercise held by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in waters off Zhoushan and Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, from 10 July through July 15, amid rising tensions in the East China Sea. 

My article, published today in Jane’s Defence Weekly, can be accessed here (subscription required).

NOTE: I, along with my sources, have been unable to identify the purported “new” type of landing ship, and so far Chinese authorities have been mum on the subject. One source told me that for China, anything fielded in the past decade is “new,” while another source said the current tensions in the East China Sea over the Diaoyutai/Senkaku islands may have led Chinese media to play things up a little. About a dozen combat aircraft, and as many destroyers, also took part in the exercise.

Meanwhile, a fifth (11th in the entire PLAN) Type 054A FFG (hull 572 Hengshui) was commissioned into the South Sea Fleet on July 9.

Diaoyutais poll silly, but sinister

The Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea
A recent cross-strait poll purportedly shows majority support for cooperation between Taiwan and China on the Diaoyutais. It’s bull 

A recent survey jointly conducted by the Chinese-language China Times and the Global Times claims that a majority of Taiwanese and Chinese support cooperation between Taiwan and China to resolve the dispute with Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — which Tokyo calls the Senkaku Islands. 

Before Taiwan sets sail for the contested islets and claims its rightful property, let’s take a closer look at the numbers and what they really say. And prior to that, it would be useful to pause for a second and restate a few caveats: The China Times is owned by the Want Want China Times Group, whose chairman — Taiwan’s wealthiest person — Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), made his fortune in China and is a known supporter of Beijing.  For its part, the Global Times is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party and has a long tradition of publishing highly nationalistic, and oftentimes militaristic, propaganda. It cannot be trusted to honestly handle an opinion poll.

So here it goes: According to the poll, 85.3 percent of the 1,502 people interviewed in China are in favor of cooperation with Taiwan on the Diaoyutais, while 8.8 percent are against it. In Taiwan, 51.1 percent of the 1,500 people polled said they approved of cooperating with China, while 27.5 percent opposed it. 

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Taiwanese military launches five-day computer exercise

A Taiwanese soldier takes part in a drill earlier this year
P-3Cs and AH-64Ds are some of the weapons systems included in the drill, which simulates an attack by China 

The armed forces yesterday launched a five-day series of computer-simulated exercises incorporating maritime patrol aircraft and attack helicopters that are scheduled to enter service over the next year. 

The computer scenario, which simulates an attack from China and is part of the Han Kuang 28 series of military exercises, included P-3C “Orion” maritime patrol aircraft and AH-64D Longbow attack helicopters, among other platforms, to see how they would fare in a combat environment. 

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

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Things heating up in the East China Sea

A Japanese surveillance aircraft flies by the Senkakus
While the world focuses on the possibility of conflict in the South China Sea, tensions continue to rise up north 

Although the sovereignty dispute between China, Japan and Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea has always had its military component, from the 1970s onwards the three sides generally refrained from engaging in behavior that risked exacerbating tensions to the point where armed clashes could occur. 

Recent developments, however, indicate that this self-restraint might be over, and that the conflict may be about to enter a new — and possibly far more perilous — phase. 

Without any of the underlying causes of the conflict having been resolved, the two principal claimants, Japan and China, seem to have concluded that the time has come to move beyond political rhetoric and to take action, something hardliners on both sides have been requesting for years. (Although a claimant, Taiwan’s role remains marginal and relatively non-threatening to Japan and China; Taipei has also made it clear, despite claims in Chinese media, that it will not side with China in the dispute. One reason is that military-to-military relations between Taipei and Tokyo, though not publicized, remain stable, and both sides have no interest in seeing that changed.)

Negotiations and half-hearted attempts to set aside political disputes and jointly develop the area, with its large, albeit unproven, oil and natural gas reserves, having stalled, we are now witnessing a rapid militarization of the conflict, which could have serious implications for regional security. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

‘Abandon Taiwan’ is a thing of the past

President Obama walks by PLAN officers
What was an appealing, if misguided, idea two years ago has even less currency now that Obama has tried, and failed, to be nice to China 

In the past year or so, Taiwanese officials have on occasion been forced to reassure their audiences that the US would not “abandon” Taiwan for the sake of better relations with Beijing, an idea that has gained some traction among a limited number of US academics. Make the same suggestion in Washington today and chances are you will be laughed out of town. 

The reason is simple: The idea was the product of a time that has come and gone. It only managed to insinuate itself into the pages of otherwise “serious” publications, such as Foreign Affairs, because the context in Washington was — for a brief period of time at least — open to such scenarios. That window, now closed, was during the first two years of US President Barack Obama’s administration, which was determined not only to improve China-US diplomatic relations damaged by his predecessor, but also to start softly on China where others had chosen a harder position.

A key aspect of this set of priorities was to downplay human rights and calls for democracy as Obama attempted to dissociate his administration from that of former US president George W. Bush, whose exporting of democracy through force had severely undermined the US’ reputation abroad. Therefore, the implication for Obama’s policy on Taiwan and China was to play down China’s atrocious human rights record while accommodating Beijing’s wishes on several issues. It was in that context that academics, along with a handful of retired government officials (the latter often running lucrative business deals with China), proposed the idea of abandoning Taiwan. 

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

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Not everything is a conspiracy

Members of the Baodiao movement approach JCG vessels
A number of factors make it unlikely that Ma tried to exploit the dispute to distract the public from a growing corrpution scandal at home 

While it would be tempting, given the timing, to see a conspiracy in last week’s flare-up involving Taiwanese fishermen, Coast Guard Administration (CGA) vessels and Japanese patrol ships near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as Senkaku in Japan — there probably was less to the incident than meets the eye, and it is unlikely the embattled government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) could have used it to divert attention from a mounting corruption scandal. 

The skirmish, during which People’s Republic of China (PRC) flag-carrying members of the Baodiao (Defend the Diaoyutais) movement, escorted by five coast guard ships, came within 740m of the islets — well within the 12 nautical miles (22.22km) exclusion zone set by the Japanese Coast Guard — happened at an opportune moment for Ma, whose administration is struggling with a snowballing corruption scandal surrounding former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世). 

For a short while, media turned their attention to the standoff and it looked like Ma and his Cabinet would get a bit of a break. However, no sooner had the god-sent hiatus begun than new revelations were made in the Lin case; soon enough corruption, not disputed islets, was again the talk of the town. 

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

EC225 Super Puma helicopters enter service

A Super Puma performs at Songshan AFB
The search-and-rescue helos are the first-ever European-built choppers to enter service in the Taiwanese Air Force 

Three European-built EC225 Super Puma helicopters were officially commissioned into the air force at a ceremony yesterday, providing a welcome boost to the nation’s search-and-rescue (SAR) capabilities. 

During the ceremony, held at Songshan Air Force Base in Taipei, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) told a large gathering of military personnel and foreign dignitaries that the armed forces’ disaster response work in recent years had earned them the trust of the public. 

1x EC225, 3x S-70C at Songshan AFB
The EC225, built by the France-based Eurocopter, an EADS subsidiary, has a maximum takeoff weight of about 11 tonnes and can accommodate two pilots, four crew and as many as 20 passengers or three stretchers, according to the builder’s Web site. The twin-engine, five-rotor-blade helicopter has a maximum endurance of five hours and 38 minutes, a maximum speed of 324kph and a maximum range of 838km. 

The Super Pumas are the first European-built helicopters to serve in the Air Force’s rescue squadron, joining the Sikorsky S-70Cs, the nation’s main workhorse for search and rescue operations, which were acquired in the 1980s and 1990s. The total price tag for the three helicopters was NT$3.6 billon (US$120 million). 

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

Fixing the economy, one bold step at a time

Cargo ships arrive at Kaohsiung Harbor
There could not be a better time for Ma to take bold steps in the right direction. The support is there — and the clock is ticking 

Two developments are making it clear that the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration and the technocrats who fill its ranks must not only shift gear on the economy, but shift into high gear before it’s too late. 

First is the adoption earlier this week of maximum residue levels for the leanness-enhancement drug ractopamine by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which is likely to result in a decision by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to end its ongoing legislative boycott of a vote on the import of US beef products containing the agent. 

The US side, which has made resolving the dispute over ractopamine a sine qua non for the resumption of long-stalled Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) negotiations, is now hoping that the Ma administration will be able to pass the bill allowing the imports. Once this is out of the way, there would be no reason why TIFA talks could not resume, US officials have told this newspaper in private. 

The other development is the continued deterioration of the nation’s economic indicators, epitomized by a revised GDP growth forecast for this year by Citibank, which trimmed its prediction to 2.8 percent, from 3.3 percent in May, saying the figure could be revised downwards again should the situation fail to improve. 

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tri-service missile exercise at Jiupeng

A Lafayette-class frigate fires a Hsiung Feng II missile
The hit ratio was much better than last year, but problems with target drones, and an intrusion by a foreign fishing boat, caused headaches 

The armed forces yesterday held a missile exercise in the south, substantially increasing the hit ratio from a similar drill in January last year with a 96 percent success rate. In all, 26 missiles were fired from 12 platforms in the Joint Live Fire Exercise of the Armed Forces at the Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) missile test base in Jioupeng (九鵬), Pingtung County. Three services — the army, air force and navy — participated, with more than 2,300 soldiers mobilized for the exercise.

A Tien Chien missile hits its target
Things got off to a rather dispiriting start when the first two items on the agenda, the CSIST-developed Tien Kung II (TK-2) surface-to-air missile and a US-made ship-launched Standard Missile I (SM-1) surface-to-air missile, were canceled seconds before they were to be fired. Just over 15 minutes after successful intercepts by ground-launched Hawk and air-launched Tien Chien II (TC-2) and MICA missiles, a Hsiung Feng II (HF-2) anti-ship missile launch from a Lafayette-class frigate had to be canceled after a fishing vessel reportedly ventured into the naval exclusion zone. Minutes later, a short-range HF-1, launched off a Jin Chiang-class missile corvette, hit its target, a decommissioned transport ship located 9 nautical miles (16.6km) into the Taiwan Strait.

A surface-to-air Tien Chien I
From then on, the rest of the exercise went smoothly, with F-16-launched AGM-65 “Maverick” and AIM-9 “Sidewinder” missiles, and a “Ching Kuo” Indigenous Defense Force-launched TC-1, all hitting their targets in mid-flight. A ground-to-air version of the TC-1 also intercepted its target, while two AIM-9s launched by AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters hit their objectives. 

Journalists cheered when the military announced that the HF-2 and SM-1 launches would now proceed, as the fishing vessel had cleared the area. While the SM-1, launched off a Perry-class vessel, intercepted its target, the HF-2 failed to hit home, missing another decommissioned transport ship 33 nautical miles at sea — the only miss that day. 

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

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Navy investigates disappearance of classified chart

Hai Ou missile boats at anchor in Tsuoying, Kaohsiung
A top-secret CSIST computer went missing in May. Now a classified naval chart. Someone needs to plug those holes 

Two classified naval charts were reported missing when an inventory was carried out amid the decommissioning of aging Hai Ou (“Seagull”) missile boats last month, and the information they contained could put navy vessels at risk during wartime, reports said yesterday. 

According to the Chinese-language United Daily News, navy officers who had custody over the documents accidentally burned one of the two missing charts while destroying other documents, but the other, which contained classified information about naval deployments in the Taiwan Strait, remains unaccounted for. 

The missing chart reportedly contained hydrographic data, ship information, waterways depth, sea salt fluctuation and the locations of navy vessels and submarines in wartime. The information could leave navy vessels exposed if it were to fall in enemy hands, reports said. 

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

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Time To End U.S. ‘Ambiguity’ on Taiwan

President Obama speaks at the Pentagon
With China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse, and its concurrent military buildup, ambiguity has  lost its effectiveness and is now an invitation for adventurism 

For the more than three decades since the United States’ recognition of the People’s Republic of China, Washington has relied on strategic ambiguity to deter China from using force against Taiwan. Although the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, passed by Congress after U.S. President Jimmy Carter established diplomatic relations with Beijing, calls for the U.S. to help Taiwan defend itself, in application the U.S. has often kept the two sides guessing at its willingness to intervene in a conflict, and if so, in what capacity. 

Such ambiguity worked for three decades, but it won’t last for much longer. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

The Chinese art of inflexible diplomacy

PLA Navy sailors walk in step
The Chinese stick to alleged historical claims to justify their inability to compromise on the South China Sea disputes. Expect the same about their claims over Taiwan 

If the position of Chinese officials and academics on China’s claims in the South China Sea is any indication of how a resurgent Beijing intends to handle diplomacy, Taiwanese should be happy that political talks with Taipei have not begun — at least not in official settings. 

A packed conference organized last week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on the intensifying disputes in the South China Sea showed, in no uncertain terms, that vague historical claims, rather than international law, are Beijing’s tool of choice on what it regards as its core interests. 

Judging by the number of Chinese academics and journalists who showed up at the two-day event, there’s no doubt that the Chinese have every intention of hammering the message home wherever they can. On the first day of the conference, this writer shared a table with Chinese correspondents from every major Chinese media outlet, including the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-run People’s Daily and China News Service. Nearly half of the people in attendance were Chinese and almost every panel had a Chinese academic presenting Beijing’s claim. This was in sharp contrast to the not-distant past and a sign of China’s emergence as a political force to be reckoned with; politicos in Washington told me that a few years ago, one was hard pressed to find any Chinese at such conferences. 

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

Friday, July 06, 2012

Fear not the great ‘brainwashing’

A child rides his own 'dragonboat'
The claim that young Taiwanese can somehow be 'brainwashed' not only goes counter to the evidence, it is also insulting and condescending 

Recent efforts by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government to emphasize Chinese studies in school curricula have led some people to warn of a possible “brainwashing” of the nation’s youth and the eventual dissolution of national identity. While the government’s measures are a cause for concern, their effectiveness in undermining Taiwanese identity is questionable. 

For decades following its relocation to Taiwan in 1949, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) imposed strict controls on education and the media to re-sinicize Taiwanese after half a decade of Japanese colonial rule. However, even in an authoritarian and pre-Internet society, those efforts failed to transform Taiwanese into something they were not (for another example of the failure of government propaganda to turn people into mindless automatons, even in closed societies, just ask any cab driver in Cuba for his views on Fidel Castro and communism). However, despite the KMT’s repressive tactics, Taiwanese identity flourished, first as an underground movement and, after the lifting of Martial Law in 1987, as part of national politics with the emergence of the Democratic Progressive Party.

Gone are the days where state control of education can fundamentally shape young people, if it ever did. 

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

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Back in Taiwan

Dear readers: I came back to Taiwan last night after spending two weeks in Washington, D.C., for a series of meetings with various officials, members of congress, and academics on Taiwan-related issues. Regular posts will now resume.

Analysis: Stormy weather predicted over South China Sea dispute

Philippine protesters call on China to back off
Ten years after ASEAN and China agreed to a declaration of conduct, parties are now rushing to sign a code of conduct by the annniversary deadline 

A multilateral code of conduct to deal with South China Sea (SCS) territorial disputes, scheduled to be signed later in 2012, could create false expectations if it fails to include concrete steps to resolve disputes in the area, analysts told a conference in Washington last week. 

My analysis, published on July 2 in Jane's Defence Weekly, continues here (subscription required).