Friday, December 28, 2012

Taiwan to start oil exploration in South China Sea

Taiwan-administered Itu Aba, or Taiping Island
The move, which will no be welcome by the Philippines and Vietnam, is well beyond the paperwork stage and could begin as early as next month 

Taiwan will launch oil exploration efforts in waters off Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) next year, in a move that is likely to raise tensions with other claimants to a series of islets in the South China Sea. 

During a meeting at the legislature in Taipei yesterday, Bureau of Energy officials confirmed that the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Bureau of Mines, in cooperation with CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油), would send ships to waters near Itu Aba to conduct exploration for potential oil resources next year. 

Bureau of Energy Director-General Jerry Ou (歐嘉瑞) told the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee that a monthly budget of NT$17 million (US$583,670) would be allocated to fund the efforts. 

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

Taipei tells China to note indignation over passport

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi
Taipei’s efforts to explain its indignation with the passports were dismissed as invalid by Beijing, which said pro-independence activist were just making a fuss 

In unusually direct language, Taipei yesterday called on Beijing to pay more attention to Taiwan’s position on China’s controversial new passport, saying that China’s refusal to acknowledge its indignation had “hurt the feelings” of Taiwanese. 

At the heart of the controversy is a new passport that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) began issuing in May, which features watermarks that include famous tourist attractions in Taiwan, such as Nantou’s Sun Moon Lake and Hualien’s Chingshui Cliffs; Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin — areas whose sovereignty Beijing disputes with India; and 90 percent of the South China Sea. Countries in the region, including Vietnam, India and the Philippines, reacted with indignation when the contents of the new passport were reported in news articles last month, making demarches to Beijing and issuing visas to Chinese visitors bearing imprints of their own rectified maps. 

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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

CM-32 ‘Clouded Leopard’ delivery delayed until 2019

A CM-32 during a drill in Taichung last year
The ministry denies problems with cracking metal plates is the cause, but confirmed that delivery would be delayed by five years 

Taiwan’s problem-plagued CM-32 “Clouded Leopard” armored infantry fighting vehicle ran into more difficulties this week with the announcement that delivery would be delayed by another five years, but the military denied that this was linked to steel-plate cracking and other design issues. 

First unveiled in January 2005, the domestically produced eight-wheel-drive vehicle has encountered various problems from its inception and came close to being abandoned altogether in 2009 over design flaws and budgetary irregularities at the Ministry of National Defense, which resulted in the legislature’s decision to freeze two-thirds of the production budget. 

Earlier this week, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported that cracking in the vehicle’s steel plating — which first surfaced three years ago — as well as disagreements over what type of cannon to use on the mounted turret, had prompted a decision to delay delivery of the vehicle by five years to 2019. 

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

China to invest US$1.6bn in disputed South China Sea islands

Yongxing, where Sansha City was established
Through investments in infrastructure, China is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to its sovereignty claims 

In a move that risks increasing regional tensions, China yesterday announced it will invest more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion) to build infrastructure on disputed islands in the South China Sea and to strengthen marine law enforcement in the region. 

Citing Hainan Province Governor Jiang Dingzhi (蔣定之), the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Herald reported that China would build an airport, piers and other important infrastructure on islands administered by Sansha (三沙), a prefecture-level city under Hainan’s jurisdiction that was created in July following approval by the State Council in June. 

Located on Woody Island (Yongxing Island, 永興島), the largest island in the Paracels (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) and 350km southeast of Hainan, Sansha “administers” more than 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs and their surrounding waters in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands, 中沙群島) and the Paracel chains. 

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

Opportunities and responsibilities

Two generations meet at a protest in late November
The DPP needs to be led not by extraordinary individuals who did extraordinary things 30 years ago, but by young people 

With survey after survey showing abysmal numbers, it is by now pretty clear that the general sentiment regarding the performance of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his Cabinet is overwhelmingly negative. While the opposition sees such dissatisfaction as a tremendous opportunity to regain power, it would be a grave mistake to assume that the current situation will automatically translate into votes for them. 

Above all, the public feels it has been let down by Ma and his less-than-stellar group of Cabinet officials, and the willingness of Taiwanese to continue buying Ma’s promises about a brighter future is wearing thin. One can only wait so long for Godot.

As Ma’s popularity rating approaches the single-digit zone, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is naturally feeling elated, seeing this as a sign of possible major gains in the seven-in-one elections in 2014 and the more distant presidential election in 2016. However, while this indeed creates an opportunity for the DPP, it also adds new responsibilities, including the need for the pan-green camp to give Taiwanese hope about the future of their nation. 

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Russia, India sign air-launched BrahMos co-development plan

CGI of a Su-30MKI firing a BrahMos cruise missile
The BrahMos will give the IAF a long-range strike capability and the means to launch air attacks beyond the envelope of Pakistani air defenses 

Months of speculation about the possible development of an air-launched version of the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile finally came to a head, with India and Russia announcing they had signed a co-development deal, with plans for a test-fire within six months.

The deal was made public a day before Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi to attend a one-day summit on Monday, where he held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Prior to his departure, Putin pledged to strengthen defense ties with India. In an op-ed published in The Hindu, Putin emphasized that joint development of advanced weapons, rather than the traditional purchase by India of Russian technology, would be “key to future relations.” 

India is the world’s largest arms importer, with Russian technology accounting for between 60 and 70 percent of total acquisitions. New Delhi intends to spend upwards of U.S.$100 billion over the next decade to upgrade its predominantly Soviet-era military. 

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

Monday, December 24, 2012

China ‘seriously concerned’ by US arms provisions for Taiwan

The US Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Beijing said it was strongly against provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that would push for the sale of F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan 

The Chinese government yesterday said it was “seriously concerned” about a US congressional resolution adopted on Friday that would encourage Washington to sell F-16 aircraft to Taiwan and acknowledges that Japan administers the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台). 

In comments posted on the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Web site, spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said Beijing had expressed “serious concern” over and “strong opposition” to provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 that would pressure US President Barack Obama to sell F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan and reaffirm Washington’s support for Japan’s position on the Diaoyutais. The islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

The bill, which will allocate a US$640.7 billion budget for, and authorize spending and programs for the Pentagon and other defense-related agencies, is pending Obama’s approval. 

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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

MND remains vague on medium-range missile report

A cruise missile soars during an exercise
Despite US opposition and technological bottlenecks, Taiwan has been seeking to extend the range of its missiles 

Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) yesterday gave only vague answers when asked to comment on reports that the military’s top research institute had developed a 1,200km medium-range surface-to-surface missile capable of hitting central China. 

“The military normally does not comment on programs that are still in development,” Kao said of a report in the Chinese-language Next Magazine, adding that some of the article’s content was not factual. However, he added that “many things” were still in development and that there was much room for improvement, adding that the ministry would explain the matter to the public “when the time becomes opportune.” 

The article said that following a number of breakthroughs in engine technology and miniaturization, the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST), the nation’s top military research institute, had developed — and tested twice this year — a new surface-to-surface missile with a range of 1,200km that is capable of hitting Shanghai, about 700km from Taiwan, and parts of the South China Sea. 

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

Taiwan eyes blimps for maritime surveillance

An aerostat is deployed in Afghanistan
The Navy is said to be interested in the Small Aerostat Surveillance System, which comes equipped with an APG-66SR radar 

Poor communication and surveillance capabilities have awakened interest in the military in blimps equipped with powerful sensors to conduct surveillance over disputed territory, possibly including the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) and Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), reports are saying. 

According to a recent report in Defense News, interest in acquiring such devices — known as aerostats — to increase the nation’s intelligence, surveillance and intelligence (ISR) capabilities increased in the wake of a Sept. 25 incident near the Diaoyutais, during which Japanese Coast Guard vessels engaged in primarily symbolic water cannon exchanges with the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and about 40 Taiwanese fishing vessels. 

Citing an unnamed military officer, the report said that the CGA and the navy had struggled to monitor developments during the clashes due largely to limited surveillance capabilities. 

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Russia and America’s New (Conventional) ICBM Race

A radar monitors Russian territory during a drill
Adding conventionally armed ICBMs could, under certain scenarios, increase, rather than diminish, the risks of nuclear escalation 

If reports in Russian state media last Friday are accurate, the world may be on the brink of seeing a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) race, though of a conventional type rather than the nuclear arms race of the Cold War. 

According to a report by RIA Novosti, Moscow may be developing a heavy-liquid-fuel, non-nuclear, precision-guided payload capability for a new class of ICBMs, which would give Russia near-global coverage similar to that sought by the U.S. under the controversial “Prompt Global Strike” program. 

Using rhetoric that harkened back to the dark days of the Cold War, Russian Strategic Missile Forces Commander Colonel General Sergei Karakayev warned that Russia could develop its own strategic conventional ICBM force if the U.S. did not pull back from its efforts to create such a system, which gives the U.S. the ability to strike targets anywhere in the world within a matter of minutes. 

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

Stop pretending that Taiwan is normal

The Taipei skyline on a muggy day
The sooner experts and officials abandon the illusion that cross-strait relations are normal, the faster Taiwan can fix its economy 

A great deal of talk that goes on about Taiwan involves a degree of self-deception, which, while being convenient, prevents decisionmakers from seeing reality and fleshing out policies to secure the nation’s future.

This was made all too clear at a conference in Taipei yesterday, where academics and officials from Taiwan, the US and Japan discussed the trilateral dialogue, with a strong emphasis on regional trade and integration. From the presentations given by several panelists, one would conclude that Taiwan’s participation in East Asian economic integration is almost a fait accompli, thanks in part to the more stable relations across the Taiwan Strait and the signing in June 2010 of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). 

National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General John Deng (鄧振中) conceded during a keynote speech that there had been political “bumps in the road” between Taipei and Beijing and he also vaunted the virtues of the ECFA and other agreements signed between the two sides under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), adding that economic relations remained strong. 

Clearly, under Deng’s interpretation of the relationship with China, economics and politics are two distinct phenomena, with the latter having no influence on the former. 

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Renowned China watcher Richard Baum dies at 72

Rick Baum
Baum was the driving force behing a global listserv that over the years has become an indispensable tool for China watchers

Noted China watcher Richard Baum, who inspired generations of China experts and harnessed the power of the Internet to bring them together, passed away on Friday after a four-and-a-half year battle with cancer. He was 72. 

Born in Los Angeles in 1940, Baum was an icon in the field of China watching. Over a period stemming more than four decades, he advised US officials, delivered important public lectures and inspired thousands of academics and journalists, budding and established alike, through his unflagging passion for the subject. 

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

Monday, December 17, 2012

Want Want plans new publication with Fujian Daily Group

Lanterns at a temple near Taipei Int'l Airport (Songshan)
No one in the Taiwanese government seems to know which agency is in charge of monitoring Chinese investment in print media  

Amid growing fears of monopolization and Chinese influence on local media, the Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團) plans to launch a new magazine next month in cooperation with the Fujian Daily Group, which is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

The first issue of Media Plus (兩岸傳媒), a magazine focusing on cross-strait media and cultural affairs, will be launched in Taiwan next month, with reporters and financing coming from both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The magazine is to be published in traditional characters in Taiwan and simplified characters in China. 

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Taiwan's Youth Fights for Democracy, Again

Student leader Chen Wei-ting addresses protesters on Nov. 29
Students concerned about the erosion of free speech take to the streets to halt a mogul's media buying spree

Don't call it a "Taiwanese Spring"—yet. But student protests against a major media merger contain echoes of an earlier era in Taiwan, when the nation struggled to bring down authoritarian rule and take its first steps as a young democracy. 

Those battles of the 1980s saw young lawyers, academics and students face off against the repressive Kuomintang (KMT) regime. Today, the targets of the youth movement are tycoons who, through a string of acquisitions, threaten to undermine free speech in Taiwan. 

In November, Hong Kong mogul Jimmy Lai surprised Taiwan by announcing that he planned to sell the Taiwanese branch of his Next Media empire, famed for its fearless criticism of Beijing. More shocking was the subsequent announcement that the coalition of buyers included a man whom Mr. Lai had vowed never to sell to: Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng. 

My op-ed, published today in the Wall Street Journal, continues here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

PRC steps up pressure on Taiwan for ‘peace agreement’

One of the 1,600 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan
Recent language by China seems to confirm predictions by Taiwanese officials that Beijing intends to push harder for the signing of a peace agreement 

With the completion of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 18th National Congress last month, Beijing is stepping up pressure on Taiwan to begin political talks and sign a cross-strait “peace agreement.” 

During a routine press conference in Beijing yesterday, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Fan Liqing (范麗青) said that China remained committed to safeguarding peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, adding that concerns on Taiwan’s side over the deployment by China of about 1,600 ballistic missiles would be best addressed through timely meetings on military issues. 

The best way to reduce military concerns would be for the two sides to discuss the establishment of a cross-strait mutual-trust security mechanism, during which issues of military deployments could be addressed, Fan said. 

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

Taiwan’s new early-warning radar tracks North Korea rocket

South Koreans watch the trajectory of the rocket
The Ministry of National Defense said the powerful EWR in Hsinchu came online on Tuesday, the first confirmation that the billion-dollar system is active 

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday for the first time publicly confirmed that its US$1.3 billion long-range early-warning radar (EWR) system in Hsinchu was operational and said it had tracked a highly controversial rocket launch shortly after it blasted off in North Korea.

In a statement, the ministry said it closely monitored the launch and that the rocket’s flight did not pose any threat to national security. 

The EWR at Leshan
“Our long-range early-warning radar system detected the North Korean rocket flying over waters about 200km east of Taiwan, and that the first and second stages of the rocket crashed into waters off South Korea and the Philippines respectively,” the ministry said in a statement.

Ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said Chief of General Staff General Lin Chen-yi (林鎮夷) was charged with monitoring the situation at Hengshan Headquarters during the launch, adding that US-made Patriot missiles, domestically built Tien Kung air defense systems and Kidd-class destroyers equipped with surface-to-air missiles monitored the launch and were ready to respond. 

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. More of my coverage, with critics of the EWR’s vulnerabilities, in Jane’s Defence Weekly (subscription required).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Odd moves on media freedoms

Protests on Ketagalan Blvd on Human Rights Day
With a media monopoly and PRC influence looming, more than ever Taipei must reaffirm its dedication to a free press. The signs are not encouraging 

While everybody’s attention is focused on the emergence of a “media monster” and the threat to the nation’s democracy, other developments behind the scenes are raising equally troubling questions about the government’s commitment to freedom of information. 

The dangers of media monopolization and undue influence by China in local media are well-known, and need not be repeated. Rather, the focus should also be on recent moves by the government and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) that reveal the role President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration sees itself playing is that of a regulator of information. 

Free-market advocates can say what they want about the virtues of an unchecked economy, but history shows that information — its uses and accessibility — is not a normal commodity, and therefore deserves special protections that can only be ensured through government supervision. It goes without saying that governments will on occasion be tempted to abuse that prerogative by censoring information or erecting barriers to critical information. What is needed is a healthy equilibrium between government regulators, the courts and the media to ensure that information is accessible and used responsibly. 

Based on recent moves, there is reason to believe that the government sees things differently. 

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A new game plan for China’s nuclear arsenal?

Xi is quickly consolidating his grip on the military
Xi Jinping seems more interested than his predecessors in the Second Artillery Corps. What are the implications for China’s future defense posture?  

In a system where order and sequences have a highly symbolic value, Xi Jinping’s first promotion of a military officer to generalship, added to a high-profile visit last week, can tells us a few things about his priorities for the military and what to look out for in the future. More than any other branch of the People’s Liberation Army, the Second Artillery Corps — which controls the country’s conventional and nuclear ballistic missile arsenal — appears to be where Xi’s interest lies. 

Xi’s first act as the newly appointed chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) was to promote Lieutenant General Wei Fenghe, the 58-year-old commander-in-chief of the Second Artillery and a CMC member, to full general on November 23. Aside from increasing defense spending, the promotion of senior officers is regarded as the best way for Chinese leaders to consolidate their power over the armed forces. 

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tibetan hunger strike, Ma dodges a shoe and other sundries on human rights day

Ten Tibetans in Taiwan launched a hunger strike on Saturday to honor those who self-immolated to oppose Chinese occupation 

The tent stands a mere 100 meters from busloads of tourists — most of them Chinese — who are actively taking pictures of themselves amid dozens of fluttering pigeons. Right behind them stands the ornate gate leading to Liberty Square, and behind it, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

Grim reading about Tibetans' final, desperate act
Inside the tent, the atmosphere is much more sober as a handful of Tibetans exiled in Taiwan near the completion of a 49-hour hunger strike launched on Saturday night to honor the 94 Tibetans who, since 2009, have committed self-immolation to oppose Chinese occupation of their land (a 95th Tibetan, a 16-year-old, died after setting herself on fire in Qinghai today). Outside the tent hang large banners with images of some of the individuals who self-immolated, along with their age, social position, and the circumstances under which they committed their unimaginable act. Some of the pictures are not for the faint-hearted, such as that showing a man fully ablaze and yet keeps walking on a city street as passers-by look on. 

Today is International Human Rights Day, and various groups in Taiwan are holding events and press conferences to argue their position. The Democratic Progressive Party, as expected, held an “international” press conference to unveil the results of a poll showing dissatisfaction with President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) record on human rights. Almost simultaneously, Ma was addressing a rather angry crowd at another press conference in the morning, droning on about his commitment to human rights (he, along with former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao [溫家寶] and former US president George W. Bush, now have something in common, as all three have had a shoe thrown at them in anger). Meanwhile, in front of the Presidential Office, a group of 150 to 200 elderly Taiwanese gathered to protest against the government and Chinese encroachment on Taiwan, as a few dozen policemen look on, evidently bored. Behind them on a stage stood what presumably serves as a replica of former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) cell. His son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), was among the speakers, his strident voice echoing all the way to the Presidential Office. Earlier, a dozen protesters unfurled small banners in front of the Control Yuan, while a young policeman looked on. As I walked by the Presidential Office, a guard told me it was forbidden to aim my camera at the main entrance of the building; as I came upon a side exit, a police van zipped by, carrying a handful of protesters with yellow lanyards tied round their foreheads.

One of the participants in the 49-hour hunger strike
But the main reason for my visit were the Tibetans. As the buffeting wind quieted down momentarily, I talked with one of the organizers, a soft-spoken man who explained why they were there. I asked him if many Chinese tourists had come over to the tent, as we were right at the heart of a favorite spot with Chinese tourists. A handful of people milled around as we chatted, some of them Chinese. Yes, he told me, a few did come over to look at the pictures of the Dalai Lama, or the 94 individuals who committed the ultimate sacrifice. They’re curious. We can’t blame them for not knowing what’s going on in Tibet, he continued. A few would reluctantly take pamphlets, he said, only to be berated by others once they rejoined their group, something I have observed before with Chinese tourists interacting with Falun Gong members distributing information about repression of their group by the Chinese government. I do wonder, however, whether this ignorance stems from the fact that Chinese control of information within China is really that successful, or if this might not be the result of self-censorship, from the fear of getting into trouble if one looks too closely into the subject. 

The hunger strike ends at 7 tonight, but Tibetans’ fight for their people’s freedom continues.

Taiwanese F-16 pilots came close to participating in multinational Red Flag exercise

F-16s from the 421st Fighter Squadron at Red Flag 12-4
While fears of Beijing’s reaction scuttled the plan, insiders believe that Taiwanese pilots will be able to eventually participate in the large-scale military exercise 

Taiwanese air force pilots came very close this year to participating for the first time in a highly realistic and high-intensity combat training exercise in the US, but a last-minute decision by Washington prevented them from doing so over fears of Beijing’s reaction, a defense magazine reports in its current issue. 

According to the Chinese-language Asia-Pacific Defense Magazine, Taiwanese F-16 pilots were invited to participate in the RED FLAG 12-4 combat exercise held in July, but after a “careful assessment” by senior White House officials, the US side canceled the invitation over fears of China’s reaction and a potential impact on bilateral ties. 

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

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Vietnam to deploy 'specialised force' in South China Sea

Vietnamese fishing boats in the South China Sea
Vietnam responds to new rules announced by Hainan by launching its own efforts to safeguard its disputed waters 

Vietnam has announced that from 25 January 2013 a 'specialised force' under its new Fishery Bureau will be activated to conduct patrol and surveillance duties in the hotly contested waters of the South China Sea. 

Under a decree signed by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on 29 November, the new bureau will fall under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Aquatic Products Department and is to be equipped with civilian patrol ships, supported by marine police and border forces. 

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

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

After Palestine, could it be Taiwan?

Palestinians in Hebron await news of the UN bid
While the Palestine issue is not a perfect analogy for Taiwan, the recent success of Palestinians at the UN can serve as an inspiration 

Last week’s vote at the UN General Assembly to make Palestine a “non-member observer state” was a rare bit of good news from a region that often provides more than its share of misery. Besides breathing new life into the possibility of a two-state solution, the decision could also create a precedent for another seemingly intractable conflict of equal duration, that of Taiwan’s status vis-a-vis China. 

Palestine’s journey from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state” was not easy, nor was it uncontroversial. Furthermore, this new status, which is now equal to that of the Vatican, does not resolve a number of substantive issues, such as Israeli settlements or Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. 

Nevertheless, the development shows that even with staunch opposition within the UN system — including from the US, a permanent Security Council member, and Israel — weaker polities can make progress toward having their voices heard at the international level. 

The question, then, is if Palestine can score such a victory, why can’t Taiwan? 

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

New leadership in China: New attitude?

The Chinese Music Charts Awards shows its true colors
Analysts had long assumed that Xi Jinping wouldn’t initially venture far from the cautious policies of his predecessor. Maybe we were wrong 

In the lead-up to the once-in-a-decade Chinese leadership transition in November, most experts on China agreed that new party chairman Xi Jinping was unlikely to institute any drastic changes in Beijing’s foreign policy — at least initially — as the dust settled and Beijing ensured a smooth transition. However, contrary to predictions of continuity, the past three weeks have instead shown signs of a rapid hardening of China’s positions on a number of issues, a worrying development for stability in the Asia Pacific. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here, with the strange case of the announcement last week that the 20th edition of the Chinese Music Charts Award will be held at the Taipei Arena ... without the prior approval of the Taipei City Government or the Taiwanese authorities.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

China in Iraq: After the Carter Doctrine, the Xi Doctrine?

Expect more of this in the coming years
While Chinas oil dealings with countries like Iran and Sudan receive global attention, its budding relationship with Iraq may turn out to be the most important 

A lot of attention has been paid in recent years to energy-hungry China’s billion-dollar bids on oil fields in Canada and the Asian giant’s reliance on oil from countries like Iran and Sudan to fuel its growing economy. But its growing interest in another major oil producer has gone largely unnoticed, and if current trends continue, that Middle Eastern country could become the world’s next “oil superpower,” with China, not the West, acting as both Iraq’s main partner and top beneficiary of its rich resources in what some now call the B&B trade axis (Beijing and Baghdad). 

In the past decade or so, China waited patiently on the sidelines while the U.S. and its allies coped with Iraq’s new, and often times messy internal dynamics that followed the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein by a U.S.-led coalition. China reemerged in 2008, however, to sign post-Saddam Iraq’s first major oil deal with a foreign country. While the majority of Iraqi oil deals in the post-Saddam era were awarded to Western firms, the Western shift to a more amenable and independent oil-rich Kurdish region in the north amid disenchantment with southern Iraq is creating a vacuum that China has found hard to resist. 

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