Friday, August 31, 2012

‘The great scare’ — one year later

Chao Li-yun, third from left, leads the press conference
Journalists do what they do not for the money, for it isn’t there. We do it because we can’t imagine ourselves doing anything else 

How time flies! It’s been a year already since some people within the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration threatened to have me investigates, kicked out of the country, and PNG’d over an article I’d published the previous day in the Wall Street Journal on Chinese penetration of Taiwan’s national security apparatus. 

I have already touched on certain aspects of my tale in a previous post and do not intend to revisit them here. Suffice it to say that 24 hours after my piece appeared in the WSJ, a spokesperson at the Ministry of National Defense (MND) was informing me that I had been “de-invited” from the annual banquet with reporters, and then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Chao Li-yun (趙麗雲) was heading a press conference in which I was threatened with expulsion if I didn’t apologize and reveal my sources. 

It’s true that I hadn’t pulled any punches in my piece, naming names (including those of senior officers in the armed forces) and even raising the possibility that the US might be reluctant to sell advanced military technology to Taiwan if the latter didn’t address the Chinese espionage problem adequately. While Chao and some others in the pan-blue camp implied that I had been “directed” by the very green Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), none of this was true. In fact, neither the Taipei Times (my employer) or the Liberty Times knew of my article until Chao threatened to have me expelled, a story that made the front pages and was the object of several reports on TV and on talk shows. 

The reason I had turned to the WSJ was simple. After publishing a series of articles and op-eds on the subject in the Taipei Times and getting little, if any, response, I felt I had to turn to a publication that had more gravitas, and one which the Taiwanese government could not ignore. I knew, for one, that Taiwan’s office in Hong Kong had immediately reacted to the first op-ed I’d published in the Journal the previous year. Part of my frustration also stemmed from the Liberty Times’ failure to follow through on my series of articles on Chinese espionage. This time it worked: one day after my piece appeared in the Journal, the Liberty Times had a front-page news article about it. And the rest is history. The Ma government could no longer ignore it and had to come out and explain the situation. Whether its initial reaction — threatening to expel a foreign journalist for the first time in about 20 years — was the right one is not for me to decide, but all I can say is that I had finally forced the accounting that, after months of investigating the subject and interviewing Taiwanese and Americans involved in arms sales, was long overdue. 

Another false assumption on the pan-blue side was the idea that I had written the article to hurt Ma’s image at a time when Taipei was awaiting Washington’s answer on the long-sought F-16s. Chao and others could not have been more wrong on that issue. Had it been Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) or Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) or anyone else in office, and had the same situation prevailed, I would have written the exact same piece. Rather than write that Ma should “clean house,” I’d have counseled that Chen or Tsai should do so. Having spent a fair amount of time with the armed forces over the years, I wrote what I wrote not out of enmity towards the military, but for very opposite reasons. I have seen the commitment to defending Taiwan’s way of life, and I have made friends in the Taiwanese military, people for whom I have great respect (the constant ridicule of the armed forces by the public and the media is not only wrong, but does great harm to morale in the ranks). Above all, what I was seeking, hearing the worrying signals that I was hearing from Washington, was to sound a wake-up call so that (a) Taipei would reaffirm its commitment to countering Chinese espionage and (b) hearing the right signals, Washington would continue to sell advanced weaponry to its Asian ally. 

In the end I was not expelled and I was eventually re-invited to the MND lunch, where, rather to my chagrin, I became the center of attention the moment I walked in the banquet hall. I honestly did not know what to expect. Would the admirals and generals express resentment? Ignore me? Most, as it turns out, were friendly and some even expressed encouragement, as did many of the reporters who attended the event. Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖), who I am told played no small role in having me put back on the invitation list, went out of his way to chat with me and exchange business cards as he did the round of toasts, exchanges that were captured on film and video and that resulted in a rather unflattering picture by CNA of me laughing and looking awkward. “You’re having an interesting week, aren’t you?” Yang told me as we shook hands. “Let’s make sure we keep in touch.” By that point, I knew that I was probably in the safe zone again. The crisis had boiled over, and I suspect that some rather senior people in the Ma administration or at MND let Chao know that her overreaction, the press conference, the threats and so on, risked damaging Ma’s image more than anything, even more so had the authorities acted on her threat. 

So what have I learned from all this? How did this affect me as a journalist? For one, it gave me hope in the resiliency of Taiwan’s democratic system. Had I been in, say, China, I’d have been long gone, and possibly taking a few bruises with me. After an initial knee-jerk reaction, things took their course as they should in any democratic society and the situation boiled over. James Soong (宋楚瑜) announced his intention to run in the presidential election. The news cycle moved on. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t lie low and avoided writing about controversial subjects for a while (though soon afterwards I was leading the charge in Canada over a MP’s flirtations with the Xinhua News Agency bureau chief). But once I knew I’d gone over that bump and survived, and once MND resumed inviting me to exercises and events, I went back to what journalists are supposed to do — and that means abiding by the No. 1 rule that anybody, friend and foe, is fair game. Journalists are not in the business of being nice to people. In fact, as one reporter in Taiwan and a close friend told me recently, the moment we don’t make some people angry with our articles, it means we’re not doing our jobs and it’s time to look for a different line of work. How true. 

What the incident also did was boost my career and reputation (generating envy among some reporters), which in turn helped me, I think, mature as a reporter. I became more aware of the impact our work can have on policy. And with that comes responsibility. Sometimes — rarely, but sometimes — what we write has consequences for other people. It can also lead to alienation when egos are hurt because of what we report or express in editorials. And on some occasions, especially when one writes, as I do, about sensitive issues like national defense and intelligence, it gets people into trouble. My writing and radio interviews about the Bob Dechert scandal in Canada, for example, could have cost him his job. It didn’t, but I think I nevertheless managed to draw attention to the threat of Chinese espionage in Canada. On another occasion, what I wrote resulted in a series of people, including friends, facing tough questioning and the polygraph. 

I have since been accused of being “drunk with fame” and of ignoring the consequences of my work. I don’t think that’s the case, and every time I write something on a sensitive subject, I weigh the pros and cons of publishing. Some stories I have killed, knowing the repercussions would be too damaging. In other situations, I’ve avoided mentioning certain things, or made vague, rather than direct, references to certain aspects of what I was looking at. Reporters therefore walk a fine line, and even though our articles must go through a series of approvals and edits before going to print, in the end the ultimate arbitrator is the journalist himself. As long as we know we are honest in what we do, and that what we write is for the greater good and in the interest of the public, I don’t think one should self-censor or stop doing his job. Life is filled with consequences. I have written articles that ruffle feathers, even those of people I consider friends. But a reporter, even as a friend, must tell truth to power and call it like it is. That becomes even more important when we see good-intentioned friends go down a road that can only lead to disaster or hurt their cause. It’s not easy, and sometimes friendships are ended as a result of what we write. But that’s the calling, and I think this is the only way to go. Anything less than that is fraudulent. 

One last, and probably related, consequence of last year’s incident is that it exacerbated my need not to feel ignored. Reporters’ worst fear is to not be read, or for their work to be glanced at and quickly forgotten. This trait is probably even more pronounced in lone children, of which I am a specimen. There’s no hiding the fact that the crisis, while giving me a good scare, was also exhilarating and made me feel more alive than I had in years. Although I liked to joke that I’d rather write the news than be the news, part of me thoroughly enjoyed the attention. Getting that high, to use a drug analogy, makes it difficult — frustrating, indeed — to be satisfied with the more moderate rushes, or the ordinariness that characterizes most days in a reporter’s life. As I told someone recently, it’s very hard to go from being the center of attention in a high-stakes, billion-dollar-arm-sale situation to editing an article about rising prices of dried noodles in 2012. To me, this has been very frustrating, and I constantly feel like I am wasting my time, or not living to my full potential, when I go for an extended period of time without getting that hit again. The danger in this, in constantly seeking that rush, is that it can lead to recklessness, and there are times when I do wonder if I’m not going too far with some articles to get there again. 

We don’t do it for the money, for it isn’t there. And the field is struggling. We do it because we can’t imagine ourselves doing anything else. And we hope for those highs every once in a while. Would I willingly go through it all again, the threats, anxiety, alienation? Yes. For the thrills, and for the knowledge that we did something right.

The China threat is no invention

Chinese protest over the Diaoyutais last month
Try as they might to convince us that China is only reacting to a hostile environment rather than creating it, pundits miss the mark 

As the world anxiously waits to see which direction the Chinese Communist Party will take amid rising tensions pitting China against its neighbors and the US, some commentators appear to be bending over backward to try to explain away Beijing’s behavior, which, for those of us in Asia, has all the appearance of belligerence. 

From claims that the West is “inventing the China threat” to the argument that Chinese leaders have displayed “more self-control when it comes to sovereignty issues than their counterparts in Japan, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan,” some pundits are proposing that China’s recent patterns of behavior have been solely in reaction to an increasingly hostile environment. 

As usual, it is the US, with its neoconservatives, military industrial complex and fear-mongering media, that shares the largest part of the blame for China’s anxiety. 

Or so we are told. Having “defeated” the Soviet Union, Washington had to “invent” a new enemy (global terrorism apparently was not enough) and embarked on a program to surround and contain it by “pivoting” to Asia, “re-opening” air force bases and coming up with esoteric concepts like Air-Sea Battle. 

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Militarization of China’s Civilian Leaders?

Vice President Xi Jinping, Hu Jintao's likely successor, reviews military troops
Is the PLA having more influence on civilian leaders in the CCP, or are civilians themselves becoming more inclined to use the forces at their disposal? 

The Diplomat last month published a penetrating article by Peter Mattis that asked how much influence the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was having on foreign and national security policymaking, and whether that influence was growing as China’s armed forces expand. That article, which didn’t receive the attention it deserved, however, only asked — and perhaps answered — half the question. 

What Mattis, and several others, haven’t asked is whether the civilian members within the Politburo are becoming more enamored with the PLA as an instrument to achieve their political objectives. In other words, the question that needs to be asked is whether recent Chinese assertiveness in the East and South China Sea is the result of greater “push” by an increasingly vocal PLA, or more “pull” by the civilian leadership. The answer to that question is more important than it might appear, as it could reveal the pressure points that are key to understanding, and in turn dealing with, the future behavior of the Chinese military. 

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

China building new Type 052D missile destroyer

A CGI rendition of the Type 052D DDG
The dock launch for the first one took place yesterday. The CIWS looks taller than known models, and the radars take up much more space than usual  

The Chinese Navy appears to be developing a brand new type of guided-missile destroyer (DDG) and could be producing several hulls simultaneously, a development that could further tip the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait.
Images have emerged on Chinese military Web sites in recent weeks that seem to confirm the long-rumored development of the Type 052D destroyer, which some analysts are comparing to Aegis-equipped destroyers in the US Navy. More recently, two hulls were pictured at China State Shipbuilding Corp’s Jiangnan Changxing shipyard near Shanghai earlier this month. 

The first “dock launch” occurred yesterday. According to China military watchers, as many as 10 Type 052D DDGs could be under construction. If true, this would be a departure from past practice for Chinese shipbuilders, which usually develop one or two hulls and launch a series of tests before entering mass production.

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Work to begin next month at PAC-3 missile sites

A PAC-3 unit is displayed
In the first phase, four of the six PAC-3 units that Taiwan has purchased from the US will be deployed in areas around Taichung and Kaohsiung 

After years of planning, work will officially begin early next month at sites around Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung in preparation for the deployment of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) air defense units purchased from the US, senior officials said yesterday. 

In all, NT$61.4 million (US$2 million) has been set aside from next year’s budget to prepare the sites for four PAC-3 units in the two special municipalities. A private contractor will oversee work at the sites, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman said, declined to provide further information on the engineering contract, citing Government Procurement Act (政府採購法) regulations. 

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

Desperate acts won’t help A-bian

Ramsey Clark, third from left, with the green camp
Taiwanese activists are struggling to get help from abroad. But this doesn’t mean they should not be discerning when they call out 

The campaign to see former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) released from jail on medical parole received a shot in the arm earlier this week with the arrival in Taiwan of former US attorney-general Ramsey Clark, who warned President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration that it risked being regarded as a “murderer” if it allowed Chen’s health to continue to deteriorate while in prison. 

For months now, a small number of people within the pan-green camp have argued that Chen’s jail conditions are detrimental to his health, while others maintain that his incarceration for corruption is purely the result of political repression by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Here is not the place to debate the merits of those arguments. Suffice it to say that the complexity of the case, not to mention its future implications, requires minds both sober and fair. 

Having failed to rally a sufficiently large segment of Taiwanese society to the cause, which until recently had allowed the administration to downplay the matter, some Chen supporters have turned to the US for help, a gambit that resulted in a visit by medical experts (who unsurprisingly determined that Chen’s condition was deteriorating) and a handful of impassioned — and sometimes hyperbolic — op-eds that went largely ignored. 

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

Monday, August 20, 2012

The hypersonic cruise vehicle race is on

The X-51A Waverider under a B-52 last week
We’re probably years from seeing the deployment of hypersonic cruise missiles, but when it occurs, their impact will be big 

At first everything went as planned: the vehicle separated from a B-52 Stratofortress high above a naval air warfare center sea range in California and decoupled from the rocket booster. But 31 seconds into the test, a problem developed with a cruiser control fin and the X-51A Waverider hypersonic vehicle plummeted into the Pacific Ocean, missing its target of cruising at Mach 6 for five minutes.

Despite the August 14 failure, the race for hypersonic cruise vehicle (HCV) capability between the US, China, and Russia is still on.

The Waverider under the wing
While the commercial applications for HCV technology are self-evident, they have also caught the imagination of military scientists. One objective is to push beyond ramjet-powered cruise missiles, whose speed and range are limited by the need to keep the gas flow in the combustion unit at subsonic velocity. Being able to burn fuel when airflow within the engine is at supersonic speed would greatly enhance both the speed and range of a missile.

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

Friday, August 17, 2012

Taiwan augments defenses on Taiping, announces live-fire exercise

A pair of 40mm anti-aircraft guns 
An expert on the problem argues that the drills are a means for Taipei to signal it no longer wants to be ignored by other claimants 

Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration (CGA) will hold a live-fire exercise on a small island in the South China Sea from Sept. 1-5, a move that could exacerbate tensions in an area that is now regarded as a dangerous flashpoint in Asia.

My article in Jane’s International Defence Review on recent reinforcements to Taiping Island (太平島) and the upcoming live-fire exercises, continues here, with comments from Song Yann-huei (宋燕辉), an expert on the South China Sea at Academia Sinica (subscription required).

Ma is navigating tricky territory

Chinese activists visit the Diaoyutais
Taiwan will not endanger its longstanding alliance for the sake of a few extremists or a sovereignty claim that has little appeal with the public 

As the region commemorates the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, tensions are flaring anew over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), with the arrest by Japan on Wednesday of 14 Chinese, Macanese and Hong Kong activists after five of them swam ashore to one of the disputed islets to reaffirm China’s sovereignty. 

The symbolic feat, accompanied by protests by activists in front of Japan’s representative office in Taipei, has fueled speculation that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, which upholds the Republic of China’s (ROC) sovereignty over the islets, could work with Beijing to corner Tokyo on the issue. 

Among others, the Apple Daily yesterday editorialized that Taipei’s stance could be part of a plan to irritate Japan and the US, and thereby “force” Taiwan to cooperate with China, thus undermining Taipei’s alliance with the US, its sole security guarantor, and Japan, which, despite the absence of official diplomatic relations, remains a friendly regional power. However, such theories collapse on the shores of political reality. 

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

MND denies Taiwan is only seeking 24 new F-16s

A Taiwan Air Force F-16 takes off in Hualien
In a new twist in Taiwan’s F-16 saga, reports claim that Taipei could seek to acquire far fewer than the 66 aircraft it has long requested from the US 

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday denied that senior officials had indicated during bilateral security talks in the US earlier this month that Taiwan could substantially lower the number of F-16C/D aircraft it seeks to procure from the US. 

Citing unnamed military sources, the Chinese-language China Times and Liberty Times reported that Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) and National Security Council (NSC) Deputy Secretary-General Lu Hsiao-jung (陸小榮) had proposed during the annual US-Taiwan strategic dialogue meetings that Taiwan only acquire a squadron of 24 F-16C/Ds — far fewer than the 66 aircraft Taiwan has been seeking to procure since 2006. 

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

China’s Growing Long-Range Strike Capability

A likely DH-10 launcher on a PLAN test ship
Current trends in Chinese military development point to an interest by the PLA in multidirectional attack capabilities against land targets beyond its historical area of operations 

While the jury is still out on whether China’s J-20 stealth aircraft will serve as a long-range bomber, there is mounting evidence that the Chinese military is developing the means to launch combat operations well beyond its shores and against targets that hitherto were beyond the reach of its conventional military forces.

The latest indication, which again comes courtesy of pictures on military websites, is that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) may be testing a navalized version of the 4,000km-range Dong Hai-10 (DH-10, 東海10) land-attack cruise missile (LACM), which relies integrated inertial navigation, GPS guidance, terrain contour mapping, and scene-matching terminal-homing to reach its target.

At present, only the Second Artillery Corps and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) have a LACM capability (the air force’s variant is known as the CJ-10A). Although the PLAN has anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), its vessels do not currently have the means to attack ground targets — a surprising weakness for a power with growing ambitions.

 My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here. My initial article for JDW can be accessed here (subscription required).

Are Chinese ‘professional students’ monitoring Taiwan’s campuses?

Students from NTU celebrate their graduation
Young Chinese students seem to like their experience in Taiwan. But there are signs that the CCP is spying on them to make sure they don’t learn ‘too much’ 

When the government announced a few years ago that it would open Taiwan’s universities to Chinese students, it had more than dropping university enrolment and the world’s lowest birth rate in mind — it also hoped to enhance sympathy for Taiwan among the future political leaders of China. 

With about 1,000 Chinese undergraduate and graduate students having just completed their first academic year in Taiwan, the signs are for the most part encouraging. A report in the New York Times last month was replete with quotes of Chinese students’ laudatory comments about the kindness of Taiwanese, the less rigid educational system and political openness. A number of them candidly admitted they had paid close attention to the Jan. 14 presidential election, or had looked up information about the Tiananmen Massacre and the Cultural Revolution on the Web that is unavailable to them on China’s heavily censored Internet. 

Some, who did not even request anonymity, went further, saying they felt it was their responsibility to bring back what they had learned in Taiwan to help change their country. 

This is all promising, were it not for one thing: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does not want political change to occur in China, as its leaders firmly believe that the party alone has the legitimacy and ability to guide China’s development toward a bright future. To keep tabs on potentially troublesome returnees, China appears to be relying on what are known as ‘professional students.’ 

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

Friday, August 10, 2012

China launches largest amphibious augmentation platform yet

The Bohai Green Sea Pearl at Yantai Port
A Chinese official described the vessel as ‘a new leap forward for Chinese military/civilian vessels strategic projection’ 

A ceremony was held on 8 August at Yantai Port in Shandong Province for the launch of the 36,000-tonne ‘Bohai Sea Green Pearl’ (渤海翠珠) ferry vessel, whose dual design allows it to serve as a civilian transport ship and as an ‘amphibious augmentation platform’ performing troop and heavy equipment transport for the Chinese military.

Reported by Chinese media as Asia’s largest, most advanced and most luxurious commercial cruise ship, the ‘Bohai Sea Green Pearl’ was developed as part of a civilian-military integration strategic development project intended to enhance the ability of passenger transport in the Bohai Bay while reinforcing strategic maritime delivery capabilities for continental Chinese military forces.

APCs perform boarding
The ship is 178.8 m long, 28 m wide, with total displacement of 36,000 tonnes. Its dual-use design means the vessel can accommodate more than 2,000 people or more than 300 vehicles, and has a helicopter landing platform.

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

As Media Monster emerges, some jump ship

Taiwanese protest against the Want Want-CNS deal
Acts of selflessness by people who chose principles over complicity in unethical journalistic practices will not go unnoticed

Once again this week, Taiwanese demonstrated they will not remain silent in the face of injustice or when the values they hold dear, and for which their forebears fought with blood and sweat, are threatened. 

Only a week after hundreds of young Taiwanese demonstrated in the streets of London following the removal, at Beijing’s request, of the Republic of China flag on Regent Street, a handful of reporters and editors at the Chinese-language China Times risked sacrificing their careers in journalism to protest against the unethical practices of their employer. 

At the heart of the issue is the bid by the Want Want China Times Group, the parent company of the China Times, to acquire 11 cable TV services operated by China Network Systems (CNS). After months of deliberation, the National Communications Commission (NCC) announced its approval of the deal last month, albeit under strict conditions. In the lead-up to the decision, a number of organizations and media experts raised issues with the merger, saying it would not only create a “media giant,” but one whose owner, Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), has often put on moral blinders to protect his corporate interests in China. Critics have said that since 2008, when Tsai acquired the China Times Group, the newspaper has repeatedly engaged in self-censorship to ensure its reporting did not “offend” Beijing — a deplorable tradition that has several precedents in Hong Kong since retrocession in 1997.

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

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

US to deploy RQ-4 Global Hawk drones over Diaoyutais

The RQ-4 Global Hawk drone
A Japanese defense expert said this was an important step for the alliance’s cooperation and signaled to Beijing that the US stands firmly with Tokyo 

The US will use its most advanced unmanned reconnaissance aircraft to monitor Chinese activity in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), the object of an acrimonious dispute between Beijing and Tokyo, Japanese media are reporting.

The decision was made during a meeting between Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto and US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the Pentagon on Sunday, NHK and the Yomiuri Shimbun said, adding that the drones would also conduct surveillance around Okinawa. 

At least three unarmed Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk drones have been deployed at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam since September 2010, bolstering the operational intelligence capabilities of US forces in the Asia-Pacific. 

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

Monday, August 06, 2012

Is China Developing a 2nd Stealth Fighter?

A Chengdu J-20 on the tarmac 
China may be developing a second stealth aircraft. This is not implausible, as the two platforms could perform different tasks 

Video and screen shots of an aircraft fuselage covered in camouflage tarp seen in late June have fueled rumors that China may be developing a second fifth-generation aircraft, known as the J-21 “Snowy Owl.” Whether a new stealth aircraft is being developed, at a time when Chinese engineers are still struggling with the Chengdu J-20, remains to be seen, but military analysts are of the view that this is not impossible, especially if the aircraft are to play different roles.

The alleged J-21
Much speculation has surrounded Chengdu Aircraft Co.’s (CAC) J-20 stealth aircraft since it made its debut in January 2011, coinciding with then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ visit to Beijing. So far, the existence of two J-20 prototypes — the 2001 and 2002 — has been confirmed, and several test flights appear to have been held. China’s reliance on Russia for advanced engines, meanwhile, added to reports that Moscow has refused to export them to China, probably means we are unlikely to see a J-20 deployment with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) before 2017-2019.

What is known so far, though, is that given its size (an overall length of about 70 feet), the twin-engine J-20 will likely serve as a strike fighter, like the F-111 Aardvark, rather than as an air superiority fighter.

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

Friday, August 03, 2012

No country for old men

Young Taiwanese protest over the Want Want/CNS deal
The point where youth say enough is enough, when they realize that cynical old figures are compromising their future, could be at hand 

For those who have long complained about the seemingly apathetic Taiwanese youth on matters of politics, the past two weeks must have had elements of both surprise and relief, with two large student mobilizations taking place in two cities on two different continents: London and Taipei. 

The catalyst in both instances was injustice — the removal, following official complaints by China, of the Republic of China (ROC) national flag at a non-Olympic venue in London, and the creation of a pro-China media monster through the acquisition by the Want Want China Times Group of China Network Systems’ (CNS) cable TV services, and the subsequent threat of lawsuits by a Want Want employee against a student. 

Hundreds gathered on Regent Street in London, proudly showing the ROC flag, while about 700 protested in front of the CtiTV building in Taipei, calling for freedom of speech to be respected. In stark contrast to the protests organized by the pan-green camp, where the majority of participants are usually above the age of 50, those two events involved students and young professionals who were educated, connected and angry. They were, in essence, the same type of people who took to the streets earlier this year when two houses were flattened in a suburb of Taipei to make way for an urban renewal project; or those who turned up in large numbers to confront police and contractors when farmland was seized to accommodate large-scale industrial projects. 

Issues of justice, rather than abstracts of ethnicity or nationality, are what lights the fire in the belly of Taiwanese youth today. For them, the past is in the past and the issue of who they are has already been settled; what they look to is the future and the uncertainties created by injustice. 

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

Thursday, August 02, 2012

UPDATE: Chinese vessels make breakthrough visit to the Black Sea

The Yantai missile frigate in Turkish waters
Two Chinese warships are on a ‘goodwill tour’ in the Black Sea, with port calls in Sevastopol and Constanta 

The destroyer Qingdao and missile frigate Yantai are accounted for, but the whereabouts of the Weishanhu replenishment ship are unknown, with no signs yet that the latter has crossed the Bosphorus. 

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