Thursday, May 21, 2015

Black Island Book Launch at Café Philo in Taipei

Mark your calendars! The first book event for Black Island: Two years of activism in Taiwan will be held at Café Philo in Taipei on Thursday May 28, 2015, from 7-9pm. The author will give a brief talk, followed by a Q&A. Autographed copies will be available for NT$500. Limited quantities available.

Where: Café Philo (台北市紹興北街三號一樓, Taipei, Taiwan 10049) MRT Shandao Temple, Exit 6
When: Thursday, May 28, 2015, 7-9pm.

Sign up for the event here (recommended to evaluate number of attendants)
Official Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The US Position on the ‘1992 Consensus’: Why it Matters

Despite what President Ma has said, the U.S. does not recognize the so-called 1992 Consensus. Here's why it makes a difference 

As Taiwan’s 2016 presidential election approaches, the issue of the “1992 Consensus”—whether it exists, who signed it, who recognizes it, and how indispensible it is to cross-strait relations—has once again become the subject of heated debate. President Ma Ying-jeou, who has made the alleged consensus a cornerstone of his administration, has contended on a number of occasions, and did so again last week, that Beijing, Taipei, and the U.S. recognize its existence. Whether the construct actually exists or not is debatable. However, one thing that is certain is that Ma is being disingenuous when it comes to U.S. views on the matter: Washington does not recognize the 1992 Consensus—its official position is that it has “no position.” This may seem like a small thing, but it makes a big difference. 

With the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) unwilling to embrace it, the “consensus” has become a handy tool for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which has long positioned itself as the party that is best able to handle relations across the Taiwan Strait in a peaceful and constructive manner. According to the KMT’s logic, the DPP’s refusal to recognize the consensus (in large part due to its presumption of “one China”) signifies that the latter is insincere in its desire to cultivate ties with Beijing (the KMT’s official line on the consensus is “one China” with different interpretations of what “one China” means, a precision that is evidently left out by Beijing). Also implied is that a DPP victory in January 2016 would mean a return to an atmosphere of contention and instability in the Taiwan Strait. 

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

What Would Taiwan Actually Gain from Unification with China?

Can we name one thing that the Taiwanese do not enjoy at present that China could offer to them? 

With a third transition of power in Taiwan in 2016 looking increasingly likely and attendant fears that a return of the Democratic Progressive Party into office could “jeopardize” relations with an intransigent regime in Beijing, the “Taiwan Question”—and more pointedly the matter of its official status—is once again a topic of interest among Asia experts and political analysts. 

Some, apprehending the high risks of maintaining security guarantees to Taiwan, have recently counseled a shift in U.S. policy aimed at striking a “grand bargain” with Beijing, ceding Taiwan in return for concessions by China on other longstanding territorial conflicts. At the heart of those lies a key question: Under which terms would Taiwan’s 23 million souls consider a political union with China as an acceptable outcome? 

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

What’s Going On with President Ma?

With a year left before he must step down, Ma Ying-jeou is starting to sound a bit erratic. This could cause serious headaches for the KMT 

It’s been a constant over the years that as presidential elections approach, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) tone has tended to become more “Taiwan-centric” and, if only to secure the necessary votes, more attuned to the views held by the majority of Taiwanese. While we still don’t know who the KMT candidate for 2016 will be, there is every reason to believe that the party will once again use that strategy in the lead-up to January 16. Strangely, this time around there’s an outlier, someone who has been doing the exact opposite — President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). 

Why the president, who normally emphasizes his “no unification, no independence” stance on cross-strait relations, has decided to do this now remains a mystery. It could very well be that as he is unable to run for a third consecutive term, and since he is no longer KMT chairman, Ma no longer feels constrained by the electoral forces that compel politicians to adopt a centrist line in public. 

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015




最近幾周以來,懷特(Hugh White)和 Charles Glaser 等學者的言論,表面看來是預期台北和北京的關係將會重蹈升高對抗的覆轍,實際上要表達的卻是:不值得冒著經濟大規模崩壞、甚至與中國發生核戰的風險幫助台灣,調和兩岸才是唯一的出路。同時,美國海軍戰爭學院戰略研究系副教授金來爾(Lyle Goldstein)又在最新著作《與中國各退一步:緩和美中緊張對峙的方法》中,專門用一章篇幅擬定出一套計畫,按部就班斷絕美國對台灣的軍售,以換取中國放棄對台灣使用武力,最終透過「和平協議」與台灣實現政治統一。從金來爾過度樂觀的論點看來,台灣實在沒甚麼好怕的,因為中國「對待前英國殖民地(即香港)所謂的高壓手段,長久以來都是被西方給誇大了的」,台灣的民主政治「在大陸與台灣的一中邦聯架構下」還是能夠存續。就算金來爾承認2016年的大選結果可能讓事態變得更複雜,他還是能夠做出這樣的規劃,因為在他看來,從2008年到現在,和平已經在台海兩岸「迸發出來」;但這個看法完全沒有把幾個關鍵因素納入考量,下文還會進一步說明。






國民黨立法委員在政論節目上也一再說出和民進黨對手們莫名相似的言論,最近在國民黨主席朱立倫訪問中國之後,他們呼籲大眾關注政府問責(governmental accountability)的必要,以及不遵守民主政治規範對他們競選連任所帶來的傷害。朱立倫對於「一個中國」的言論所引發的喧擾,應當被解讀成台灣政治領袖在中國境內不得不打的太極拳。(幾年前中日兩國對於尖閣列島/釣魚台群島的領土糾紛升高之際,我請教一位國民黨資深官員,為什麼沒有一個國民黨人參與當天台北市區一場要求和中國合作保衛釣魚台的小型示威。他的回答是「我們才不跟那些急統的瘋子一起丟人現眼。」)更加耐人尋味,也更能說明問題的,則是某些來自「支持統一」的親民黨「深藍」立委,與強烈促統的「白狼」張安樂,或是在朱立倫訪問中國時當面建議為了經濟發展,不要把台灣一般人民意見看在眼裡的台商董淑貞之流的爭吵對罵。國民黨甚至親民黨人士和中國共產黨對手們的思想斷裂是很巨大的,就算經歷了過去八年的「兩岸和睦」也不曾縮小,聽來很矛盾,但事實的確如此。不願和中國統一的台灣社會群體,遠遠不只有「主張獨立」的民進黨,就現況而言,無論台灣人的文化或語言認同為何,他們幾乎是一致反對統一的。



中譯:William Tsai
Original article:

The Question that is Never Asked: What do the Taiwanese Want?

Experts often talk about grand bargains and strategies to resolve the Taiwan issue once and for all. But rarely, if ever, do they bother to ask the Taiwanese what they think 

With about eight months left before the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan, in which the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is widely regarded as the favorite, political watchers are once again, after an eight-year interregnum, forecasting possible trouble in the Taiwan Strait. Fearing a return to old tensions, some analysts have been proposing creative ways to resolve the “Taiwan question” once and for all, and by so doing prevent the island-nation from dragging the U.S. into a catastrophic conflict with China. Call it appeasement or a “grand bargain,” the theory is that Taiwan is neither defensible nor worth defending, and that longstanding security guarantees should therefore be retracted and Taiwan left to fend for itself. 

In recent weeks, and ostensibly expecting a return to more contentious relations between Taipei and Beijing, academics such as Hugh White and Charles Glaser have articulated the view that helping Taiwan isn’t worth major economic disruptions or the risk of nuclear war with China, and that accommodation is the only solution. Meanwhile Lyle Goldstein, an associate professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College, dedicates an entire chapter in his book Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry to a step-by-step program to gradually wean Taiwan off U.S. arms sales in return for Beijing abandoning the possibility of using force against the island, with a “peace agreement” and political union as the climax. In Goldstein’s somewhat rosy view, Taiwanese have nothing to worry about because China’s “allegedly heavy-handed approach to the former British colony has long been overhyped in the West,” and Taiwan’s democracy could continue to exist “within a confederation between the Mainland and Taiwan.” While admitting that 2016 could complicate matters a little, Goldstein is able to make his projection because of his view that since 2008, “peace is breaking out” across the Taiwan Strait, a view that fails to take several key factors into consideration, to which we shall return later. 

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

Thursday, May 07, 2015

If the Unthinkable Occurred: America Should Stand Up to China over Taiwan

Nothing would be more dangerous than for Beijing to conclude that aggression would go unpunished and that the United States and a coterie of key allies do not have the will or the capacity to intervene 

In back-to-back articles published in recent weeks, Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, posited that China has become too powerful, and too critical a player in the global economy, for the continuation of tacit U.S. security guarantees to Taiwan, the island-nation that Beijing regards as an inalienable part of China. In White’s bleak worldview, the risks of major conflict—perhaps even nuclear war—are too enormous, and consequently, Taiwan should simply be abandoned to its “inevitable” fate. Not only is this wrong, it’s a very dangerous proposition. 

I would first like to thank Professor White for his response to my article “Don’t Let China Swallow Taiwan,” which gives me an opportunity to expand upon and to refine my earlier observations on the subject. Although I have strong disagreements with his argument, his is a position that has enjoyed a modicum of traction in some circles, and as such, it is essential that it be properly countered. 

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

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

A Rather Lackluster Performance by Xi During Meeting with Chu

The KMT chairman’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart on Monday spoke volumes about the gap that continues to exist between the two sides 

Given that it had been nearly six years since a chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had journeyed to Beijing to meet the secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) performance on May 4 was rather odd. If only for the propagandistic value of the meeting, one would have expected Xi to do his best to be charming (admittedly no small challenge) when meeting Eric Chu (朱立倫). Instead, a dour-looking Xi gave the impression that he would rather have been somewhere else. 

The scene of the meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing was worth a thousand words and epitomized the gap that continues to exist between the two societies. On the KMT side of the table, the Chu delegation included men and women. On the other side, the Chinese delegation was entirely made up of middle-aged men. Even more telling was the body language. During his speech, KMT Chairman Chu spoke eloquently, without referring to his notes, and looked straight at Xi and other members of the Chinese group, smiling occasionally. Xi, meanwhile, sounded sometimes bored, sometimes condescending, making little eye contact and constantly referring to his written notes, stumbling on a few occasions and sounding very much as if this was the first time he’d seen them. Chu exuded confidence; Xi, disengagement. From that scene, one could have been forgiven for thinking that Chu, not Xi, was in charge. 

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

Monday, May 04, 2015

Chu-Xi Meeting: Neither Historic Nor Groundbreaking

Forget the hype. The meeting was bereft of substance and in no way a new departure in cross-strait relations

Following weeks of anticipation, the chairman of Taiwan Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) met the secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing on May 4—and despite all the hype, there was very little of substance to write home about.

Part of the excitement about the meeting between KMT Chairman Eric Chu, who took over the party in January 2015, and CCP Secretary-General Xi Jinping stemmed from misconception and short-term memory. Unlike what has been reported, the meeting was neither “historic,” nor was it “only the second time since 1949 [that] the leaders of the KMT and Communist Party will meet each other in Beijing.” In fact, it was the fourth since 2005.

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