Monday, April 27, 2015

Nepal Puts Politics Ahead of Lives, Says No Thank You to Taiwan SAR

Taiwan is ready to send rescue teams to quake-hit Nepal, but Beijing-friendly Kathmandu says no thanks 

Given China’s significant presence in Nepal, the news today that Kathmandu has turned down Taiwan’s offer to help with search-and-rescue efforts following the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck at the weekend, killing more than 3,200 people and displacing thousands more, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Along China’s periphery, politics tend to get in the way of people’s welfare. 

Hours after Saturday’s deadly temblor, several SAR teams in Taiwan readied to depart for Nepal to help look for survivors under collapsed buildings. This included a 20-member team with rescue dogs. Taipei, which routinely tops donors’ lists in post-disaster assistance to foreign countries, has also pledged US$300,000 in financial assistance so far, and the Taiwanese Red Cross has started a fundraising drive to collect US$1 million 

However, Kathmandu said “thanks, but no thanks,” citing lack of diplomatic ties, the “great distance” and the absence of direct flights as the reasons why it turned down Taipei’s offer to send rescue workers. 

My article, published today on Thinking Taiwan, continues here.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Taiwan’s All-Volunteer Force Pains: There’s a Way Out

Taiwan’s politics are proving ruinous for the country’s national defense. Here’s what needs to be done 

If there is one subject that should never get sucked into the morass of Taiwan’s electoral campaigns, it is national defense. Irrespective of ideology or political preferences, politicians should always seek to transcend party politics and work together to ensure that the island-nation’s armed forces are fully prepared to meet the security challenges that confront Taiwan. However, Taiwan being Taiwan, even national security is politicized, and now a row has emerged over the nation’s shift to an all-volunteer force (AVF), with one side accusing the other of trying to reinstate conscription. 

The sad thing is that as politicians try to score political points ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Taiwan’s AVF program continues to face many challenges. Despite improvements in salaries, service-extension stipends, and slick publicity drives, lower-than-expected enlistment has forced the Ministry of National Defense (MND) to proceeded with a streamlining of the basic force that some critics say may have gone too far. Facing sluggish recruitment in the initial phase of the AVF program, the military was forced to postpone the shift to AVF, first planned for 2015, to 2017, and to reduce the expected active force from the planned 215,000 soldiers to between 170,000 and 180,000, or about 0.8 percent of the population. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here (photo by the author).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Don't Let China Swallow Taiwan

Allowing China to conquer Taiwan would almost certainly fan the flames of Chinese expansionism rather than extinguish them 

With the prospects of a transition of power next year, the punditry is once again shifting into high gear with alarmist messages about the risk of renewed tensions in the Taiwan Strait. As always, it is the Taiwanese side—not only the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) but also the millions of Taiwanese who want to maintain their way of life—that is being blamed for the potential risks, not the bully on the other side who is aiming his canons at the island. 

What is even more extraordinary about this lopsided logic is that its adherents do recognize the extraordinary accomplishments that have been made by Taiwan over the decades. And yet they still find it within themselves to propose policies that are as defeatist as they are bereft of human decency—or logic, for that matter, as we shall see. 

My article, published today in The National Interest, continues here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Alarm Over China’s S-400 Acquisition Is Premature

The S-400 is an impressive system, but China’s acquisition of the system shouldn’t spark alarm just yet. Physics is part of the reason why  

The confirmation last week that China has purchased between four and six battalions of the Russian-made S-400 air defense system has sparked alarmism in many circles, with experts stating that the new missile will allow China to strike aerial targets over major Indian cities, all over Taiwan, as well as within disputed areas in the East and South China Sea. But before we start calling the S-400 a “game changer,” a few comments are in order. 

Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-run agency in charge of export of defense articles, announced on April 13 that Moscow had agreed to sell China four to six S-400 battalions for the sum of approximately $3 billion. The confirmation ended years of speculation as to whether Russia would agree to sell the advanced air defense system to China, a “strategic partner” that on some occasions has bitten the hand that feeds it, advanced weaponry by reverse-engineering Russian products and producing copies—some intended for export—for a fraction of the price. 

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

Friday, April 17, 2015

Taiwanese Military Reform and the Challenge of PLA Political Warfare

Military transformation cannot ignore the human element 

Transforming Taiwan’s military to ensure that it can meet the many external challenges that lie ahead is an absolute necessity. However, platforms and reorganization alone — the issues that usually receive the greatest attention when terms like “reform” and “transformation” are involved — are insufficient. Without enough motivated men and women to fill the ranks, and without proper political and civilian support, all the “nuts and bolts” transformation in the world will amount to little. Consequently, as Taiwan’s military establishment ponders future capabilities and organizational requirements, just as importantly it must bolster the image of the armed forces and seek to counter the sustained propaganda/political warfare campaigns unleashed by Beijing to undermine morale in the troops, destroy the reputation of the military at home and abroad, and convince the Taiwanese population, as well as Taiwan’s allies, that resistance is futile. In other words, the people, not the Chinese military, might be Taiwan’s worst enemy. 

My article, published today on Thinking Taiwan, continues here. (Photo by the author)

As Tsai Ing-wen Enters Taiwan’s Presidential Race, the China Challenge Looms Large

As Tsai Ing-wen gears up to run for Taiwan’s presidency, she will have to wrangle with a tough problem: China 

As expected, Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on April 15 confirmed that chairperson Tsai Ing-wen would be the party’s candidate in next year’s presidential election. And just as expected, no sooner had the eight-minute press conference at the party’s headquarters in Taipei concluded than Beijing was issuing a stern reminder that relations in the Taiwan Strait could quickly sour should Tsai flirt with “splittism.” Yes, whether we like it or not, the China issue will once again be a major factor in the elections. 

Tsai ran unopposed within her party and is widely seen as the strongest contender in the elections scheduled for January 16, 2016, for which the ruling—and somewhat disorganized—Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has yet to announce a candidate. President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT, who has staked his entire presidency on improving ties with China, will step down next year after serving his maximum two terms. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here (Photo by Jessie Chen)

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Rise of Civic Nationalism in Taiwan: A Conversation with J. Michael Cole

The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda and Shannon Tiezzi speak to J. Michael Cole about Taiwanese politics, society, and his new book, Black Island: Two Years of Activism in Taiwan

The 30-minute podcast, which primarily focuses on Taiwanese politics heading into the January 2016 elections, the rise of civic activism on the island, and the evolving relations between Beijing and Taipei, can be accessed here. The book is available on Amazon.

Sunday, April 12, 2015



作為一個以中間偏左的自由派立場而自豪,堅決反對2003年美國出兵伊拉克,甚至一度和古巴領導人卡斯楚(Fidel Castro)一同出現在《反擊》(Counterpunch)雜誌同一頁上的加拿大人,我在這些年來是多麼頻繁地因為主張國際社會有切身利害、更有責任支援台灣抵抗中國侵略的自衛努力,而被說成「右翼分子」、「戰爭販子」或是西方情報機構的工具,實在是很耐人尋味的。這些指控被按步就班地運用,以詆毀在國際社會上支持台灣的人,足以說明中國的宣傳機器取得了多大的成功。





台灣人最想要的,不過就是不受外力脅迫決定自己未來的權利,我們應當指出,這份權利是受到聯合國憲章明文規定,並被世界各國領袖一致宣告為「普世」權利的。美國前總統小布希(George W. Bush)在連任就職演說中道出了這份高貴的情操:「我們在世世代代中宣揚住民自治(self-government)的誡命,因為沒有誰生來就該做主人,也沒有誰生來就只能當奴隸。」


因為我主張台灣有權自衛而貼在我身上的標籤,可真是長長一串,其中包括:「中情局特務」、「西方情報員」(我坦白招供:我在加拿大安全情報局當過情報分析員)、「好戰分子」、「戰爭販子」、「新帝國主義者」,還有「軍火販子」。我還一天到晚被說成「仇中人士」,有一次甚至還花了漫長的幾分鐘,被一個從上海打電話來的人咆哮著要我說清楚為何這麼「痛恨」他的祖國。說實話,我對於中國本身一點都不反對,我認為中國是一個歷史悠久、地大物博的國家,但我堅決反對一個日益顯露其法西斯傾向的政權。這不是零和的問題:「愛」台灣並不意味著「恨」中國。那些指控我們仇恨中國的人,是為了實施「中國受害」(China as victim)戰略,抹黑我們主張台灣有權自衛的動機而這麼做的(在這一點上,中國和猶太復國主義者其實有些共通之處)。






中譯:William Tsai

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Great Chinese Lie About Taiwan

Condone Chinese militarism and you are being a realist. Support the defense of democratic Taiwan against authoritarian expansionism, and you are dubbed a militarist, a warmonger 

As a left-of-center and proud liberal Canadian who vehemently opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and once shared a page with Fidel Castro in CounterPunch magazine, it is fascinating how often I have been accused over the years of being a “right-winger,” a “warmonger,” or an instrument of Western intelligence for arguing that the international community has an interest in and the responsibility to help Taiwan defend itself against Chinese aggression. The systematic use of such allegations, which have been used to discredit supporters of Taiwan, demonstrates the extent of the Chinese propaganda apparatus’ success. 

The plot is actually rather simple: A nation of 23 million people that bloodlessly transitioned from authoritarian rule to democracy in the 1980s faces the prospect of being taken over — perhaps by military force — by an authoritarian country of 1.4 billion people with an atrocious human rights record and increasingly expansionist tendencies. Unlike Israel, with which it is sometimes (wrongly) compared, Taiwan does not occupy another people’s land, nor does it have any intention to threaten its neighbors. In fact, its people are often accused of lacking martial spirit. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here (photo by the author)

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Taiwan’s ‘Apache-gate’ and a call for restraint

Security violations are a serious matter. But Taiwanese media and the opposition should not blow things out of proportion 

The optics could hardly have been worse: Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng, a pilot manning the Taiwanese Army’s AH-64E “Guardian” helicopter—one of the most advanced helicopters of its kind in the world—is caught after surreptitiously taking a group of civilians, including a few foreign nationals, on a tour of the base, during which an entertainer had her photo taken while sitting in the cockpit. 

As the details of the March 29 visit to the Army base in Longtan, Taoyuan, became public, it was soon evident that the Taiwanese military had yet another controversy on its hands. Besides failing to register the visit with security officials at the base, it emerged that Lao, a pilot with Army’s 601st Aviation Brigade, had also taken the Apache helmet—a controlled item—off base for a Halloween costume party at his home in 2014. 

My article, published today on the China Policy Institute blog, University of Nottingham, continues here. (Photo by the author)

Thursday, April 02, 2015

US Marine F-18s Land at Taiwan Air Base, Beijing Protests

Exactly 14 years after the EP-3 incident near Hainan, and as the PLAAF conducts exercises in the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, two U.S. F-18s make a precautionary landing in Taiwan

Two U.S. Marine F/A-18C Hornet aircraft did a precautionary landing at an air force base in southern Taiwan on April 1 after one of the aircraft reportedly flashed a persistent engine oil pressure light warning. Unusual in itself, the incident, which has been widely covered in Taiwanese media, could be more significant than initially thought.

The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed on April 2 that the two aircraft were from the U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323). The squadron is under the Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11). Mark Zimmer, the spokesman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the United States’ de facto embassy in the absence of official diplomatic ties, said the two aircraft took off from an airbase in Japan on Wednesday. Major Paul L. Greenberg, a spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps,added that the F-18s were on a routine mission in support of a training exercise. According to the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Public Affairs Office, the pair of F-18s was en route to Singapore to participate in the COMMANDO SLING air-to-air joint exercises with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here. (Photo: Liberty Times)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Politics Behind Taiwan’s AIIB Bid

Expect the controversy over Taiwan’s application to join the Beijing-led financial body to spill into the 2016 elections 

The sudden announcement on the evening of March 30 that Taiwan had applied to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) — Beijing’s answer to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank — caused some consternation after it was discovered that Taiwanese authorities agreed to join despite Beijing’s precondition that it do so under the “one China” principle. Lack of transparency, the absence of consultations or review within the legislature, as well as uncertainty over which channels were used to submit the application have raised serious questions about what happened. Alarming though this may all be, expect more trouble ahead as the AIIB question will likely become an item of contention in the lead-up to the 2016 elections and a challenge for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). 

My article, published today on Thinking Taiwan, continues here.

Taiwan Applies to Join AIIB Under ‘One China,’ Sparking Protests

Echoes of the Sunflowers? Taiwan applies to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, provoking protests in Taipei 

Dozens of young protesters clashed with police and security guards outside the Presidential Office in Taipei on the evening of March 31 after the government unilaterally announced that Taiwan would join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), an international financial institution initiated by China. 

After Taipei expressed its interest in joining the AIIB, Beijing said it would welcome Taiwan as long as it joined under the “one China” principle. Beijing’s terms also stipulated that Taiwan must apply through the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), the agency under the State Council that handles relations with Taiwan. Beijing does not recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty and regards Taiwan as a province, to be “re-united” by force if necessary. At this writing, the name under which Taiwan applied to join the AIIB remains unknown. 

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the government agency in charge of relations with China, faxed the Letter of Intent to the TAO at 7 pm on March 31. The TAO will then transmit Taiwan’s application to the Interim Secretariat of the AIIB. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here. (Photo: Black Island Youth Front)