Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Monday Horror Renews Debate on (and Thirst for) Capital Punishment

The satisfaction of bloody retribution notwithstanding, capital punishment is the lazy way out, as it doesn’t require us to address the real issues 

Once again the crowds were calling for blood on Monday after an individual decapitated a four-year-old girl with a meat cleaver in Neihu, Taipei. The random act of incomprehensible violence has re-energized those — a majority here — who support capital punishment and could turn into a challenge for the incoming Tsai administration that is far less amenable to maintaining the death penalty. Although anger is perfectly understandable under such circumstances, Taiwanese society cannot afford to let hot emotions dictate how it deals with such matters; cool, analytical minds must prevail in such trying times. 

The truth of the matter is that capital punishment doesn’t work, at least not if it is regarded as a means to deter heinous crimes. Individuals who butcher toddlers in cold blood in front of their mothers do not operate under the rational, cost-versus-benefit analysis that governs the rest of us. The morals (variations of “thou shalt not kill” that exist across civilizations) and instinct for self-preservation that make killing another human being so abhorrent to ordinary people do not register with psychopaths who either do not comprehend the consequences of their acts or simply do not care. With them, fear of retribution doesn’t act as a check on their actions. 

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

Monday, March 28, 2016

With Party Chair Election, KMT Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Backwards

Hung’s election is the worst possible outcome for Taiwan, as it puts the KMT’s formidable assets at the disposal of politicians who should have bowed out a long time ago 

As expected, Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) was elected chairperson of the struggling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) by a comfortable margin on Saturday night, ending more than 100 years of male dominance at the helm of a party that suffered a major setback in the presidential and legislative elections in January. While the rise of a female politician within the KMT is in step with prevailing attitudes in Taiwan today (she also ran against Wu Poh-hsiung in 2007), Hung’s ascension represents a shift toward a more conservative stance at the party at a time when social forces are calling for rejuvenation. We take a quick look at the implications for the KMT and the nation’s politics. 

Although polls had long indicated that she was likely to prevail against her three opponents (including another woman), Hung’s victory on Saturday was an impressive comeback by a politician who, back in October last year, had been ignominiously dropped as the KMT’s presidential candidate. In the months prior to her demise, Hung’s out-of-step policies and pro-Beijing stance had fueled widespread discontent within the KMT, leading to expulsions and walkouts by party stalwarts and the threat of collapse months before the Jan. 16 elections. 

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

China Faces Not One But Two Forces for Independence in Taiwan

Beijing does not only have to contend with traditional 'taidu,' but 'huadu' as well, two forces that, when joined, play a key role in ensuring Taiwan's resilience 

With the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) set to assume office in Taiwan less than two months from now, the Chinese commentariat has shifted into high gear with warnings about Beijing’s “red lines” and the sundry ills that could befall Taiwan should incoming president Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) cross any of them. One recurrent red line takes aim at “Taiwan independence,” a concept that is anathema to Beijing. But China has a much bigger problem on its hands, as there is not one but rather two independence movements in Taiwan. 

Sometimes overlapping and sometimes clashing, these two movements are united in their opposition to Taiwan or the Republic of China (ROC), as it is officially known, becoming part of the People’s Republic of China. And taken together, these two groups account of the majority of the people in Taiwan regardless of their voting preferences. 

My article, published today in the China Policy Institute blog, continues here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Yes, China Has Re-established Ties With The Gambia. Now Calm Down

As a post-modern state, Taiwan should not worry too much about its official diplomatic allies, many of which are micro-states. It must instead focus on substance with countries of influence 

The rumors, which had been circulating for a while, were confirmed early in the evening of March 17. China was resuming diplomatic ties with The Gambia. The African country had been in political limbo since November 2013, when it had severed ties with Taipei only to be spurned by Beijing, ostensibly because the Chinese government did not want to shatter the “diplomatic truce” it had struck with President Ma Ying-jeou. Now the question on everybody’s lips is whether Beijing’s apparent change of heart constitutes a “warning” to Tsai Ing-wen, who will assume the presidency on May 20, and signals an end to the informal arrangement whereby the two sides of the Taiwan Strait wouldn’t “steal” diplomatic allies from each other. The short answer is maybe, but even if that were the case, there is no reason for Taiwan to panic. 

My op-ed, published today in The News Lens International, continues here (photo: Xinhua).

Thursday, March 17, 2016




回顧 1990 年代中期,當時在台灣還只有 44% 的人自認為台灣人,還有超過 30% 的人認為自己是中國人。到了今天,根據《聯合報》的一項民意調查(註1),認定自己就是台灣人而不是其他人的比率達到了 73% ,創下這家親藍營媒體調查以來的新高。自認為就是中國人而不是其他人的比率則下降到 11% 。其他為時多年的調查(註2)也追蹤到類似的進展。


有一項或許最為人所知的因素,是世代與人口結構的轉變。隨著時光流逝,由於出生在中國大陸或身為中國移民直系後裔而對中國懷有特殊情感的人數逐漸減少,取而代之的則是生長在台灣的幾代人。因此,一個人的自我認同是從他認定什麼是「家園」形塑而成的,與族群身分並不相干。這可以部分解釋在同一份《聯合報》民調之中,為何 20 到 29 歲這一年齡層的人自認為台灣人的比例高達 85% 。

同樣重要的則是人們成長於其中的社會型態,以及這一社會型態如何與界定另一群他者的行為準則形成對比,特別在後者宣稱前者是自身一部分的情況下。在此尤須指出,20 到 29 歲年齡層的作答者們所知的唯一一種政治體制即是自由民主制度,這與身為台灣人的意義何在是不可分割的。對這些青年而言,如今仍存續在中國的那種專制獨裁只能被看作是外在生成的,但在過去幾代親身體驗戒嚴專制的台灣人來說就並非如此。而對於前幾個世代的台灣人,專制獨裁則是與中國直接相關的,因為那樣一種體制是從中國發源,而後以中國國民黨的形貌強加於台灣社會。因此,那種至今仍在中國運行,在許多方面都延續著長年慣習的政治體制,在他們看來同樣是「異己的」,充斥著各種負面意涵的。只有極少數人對台灣的戒嚴威權時代還戀戀不捨。實際上,就連一度成為國民黨總統候選人,卻在選前最後一刻被撤換的親北京人士洪秀柱,她的死忠支持者們也堅決認定「我們」中華民國和「他們」中華人民共和國不同(註3)。我問他們差別在哪裡,而他們幾乎每一個人都指出價值觀的差異,以及各自政治體制本質的不同。

還有一個更晚近的因素進一步加深了兩個社會的對比,而自我認同多半是將自我與「他者」對比之下產生的:那是中國共產黨說明自己在 1989 年天安門屠殺,以及蘇聯解體之後至今仍能屹立不搖的新說法。中共越來越訴諸於民族主義,訴諸於昔日創傷恥辱與今後榮光的敘事,同時把自己抬舉成了中華民族復興不可或缺的衛道士。根據西東大學(Seton Hall University)汪錚教授的研究,前國家主席江澤民是這一轉向的設計師(註4),他用愛國主義和民族主義替代了共產主義與社會主義,成為中國的新一套意識型態。






中譯:William Tsai
Original article: Home, values and democracy: Explaining the rise in Taiwanese identification, China Policy Institute blog, March 16, 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Home, values and democracy: Explaining the rise in Taiwanese identification

By making the contrast between the two societies increasingly sharp, Chinese nationalism inadvertently helps consolidate Taiwanese self-identification 

The trend began several years ago, and no matter how hard the current government in Taipei and the one in Beijing try to convince them otherwise, with propaganda and sweeteners, there was no stopping it: more and more Taiwanese people identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. Several demographic factors have contributed to this steady rise in Taiwanese self-identification, but one in particular seems to be accelerating the process: China itself. 

Back in the mid-1990s, only 44 percent of people in Taiwan identified as Taiwanese and more than 30 percent thought of themselves as Chinese. Today, according to a recent poll conducted by the United Daily News, the number of people who regard themselves as Taiwanese-only is 73 percent, a new high for the pan-blue-leaning UDN poll. Those who identify as Chinese-only are down to 11 percent. Other multiyear surveys have tracked a similar progression over time. 

My article, published today in the China Policy Institute blog, continues here (photo by the author).

Why Beijing has no desire to turn the screw on Tsai Ing-wen and threaten stability across the Taiwan Strait

Warnings by the international media and marginal players do not reflect the reality among top leaders 

If we believed many of the article headlines that have appeared in international media since the January 16 election of Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, we would think the roof was about to come crashing down on the Taiwan Strait. Time and again, articles and editorials have warned that if Tsai refuses to recognise “one China” or the 1992 consensus, Beijing could – or should – punish Taiwan by, among other things, severing all official and unofficial contact. Such alarmism, however, doesn’t pass the reality check. 

While ascertaining the future behaviour of any authoritarian regime will always be a challenge, so far, the Chinese leadership has reacted to Tsai’s landslide victory in a predictable fashion, with every indication that it wants a stable relationship across the strait. Therefore, while senior officials have reiterated the predictable lines on, say, Taiwan independence, their language in no way suggests plans for retributive action against Taiwan or escalatory policies that would threaten stability. There are several reasons why. 

My op-ed, published today in the South China Morning Post, continues here.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Taiwan, the White Terror and the Power of Literature

A Review of Shawna Yang Ryan’s ‘Green Island’ 

It wasn’t the dreaded knock on the door in the middle of the night. Instead, the undercover military police officers posed as clients wanting to buy tea from Mr. Wei. Their main objective was something of an entirely different nature, however: to recover incriminating documents from the White Terror era that Mr. Wei had in his possession and which he had advertised for sale on the Internet. In all, after luring him out of his residence, eight men accompanied Mr. Wei back to his home, where they made it clear that “bad things” could happen if he refused to let them search his house without a warrant and did not hand over the documents (which he kept hidden in a dehumidifier unit). To keep the matter quiet, the officers later allegedly offered Mr. Wei NT$15,000 (about US$500) in return for his silence. 

Mr. Wei did not take the money, nor did he remain silent. 

My book review, published today in Thinking Taiwan, continues here.

Monday, March 07, 2016

McCafé Ad Promoting Acceptance of Gays Draws Fire from Conservative Groups

The latest reaction by a conservative religious alliance in Taiwan occurs just as Beijing passes new controversial regulations banning the depiction of homosexual acts on television 

All eyes within the LGBTQI community were turned on China in the past week after Beijing unveiled its new General Rule on TV Productions (電視劇製作通則), which characterizes homosexuality as “unusual sexuality” and bans it along with “other perversions,” sexual abuse, and incest from TV content. While China was taking one major step backwards on the issue, a restaurant chain in Taiwan did the exact opposite with a TV commercial that promotes acceptance — and yet here too, backward forces mobilized to arrest progress and limit our freedom of expression. 

In its new McCafé ad campaign, McDonald’s Taiwan introduced a TV spot in which a young man at a McCafé “comes out” to his father by scribbling “I like boys” (我喜歡男生) on a paper cup. After reading the message, the ill-at-ease father walks away, leaving his anxious son alone at table. A few seconds later the father comes back, grabs his son’s cup, and draws an insert symbol with the words, “I accept you” (接受你). 

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

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Country Risk: Taiwanese election tests Chinese strategy

Key Points 

China remains committed to eventual unification with Taiwan despite its moderate response to the election of an anti-unification Taiwanese president in January.

The acquisition and development of more advanced weapons capabilities by China has shifted the military balance across the Taiwan Strait, but military conflict remains unlikely.

Instead, Beijing is likely to use economic influence, non-state actors, and intelligence operations to manipulate Taiwan's democratic institutions and build support for unification among the population. The election of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwanese president on 16 January 2016 has ushered in a new era in relations across the Taiwan Strait.

My analysis, published today in IHS Jane's Intelligence Review, is available here (paywalled).

Friday, March 04, 2016

The Great Cross-Strait Doublethink Act

As long as the governments in Taipei and Beijing remain pragmatic and flexible, the sky won’t fall over the Taiwan Strait 

With the May 20 inauguration approaching, it’s increasingly safe to say that the analysts who were predicting a rapid souring of cross-strait relations or punitive action by Beijing following Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) landslide victory in the Jan. 16 elections were too alarmist. Both sides have demonstrated an ability to act pragmatically, and even though the fundamentals remain unresolved, a new modus vivendi is in the making that will conceivably ensure stability and continuity in the Taiwan Strait for years to come. 

The sticking point, of course, is “one China” and the so-called “1992 consensus” that Beijing has repeatedly insisted on as a prerequisite for continued dialogue. During the election campaign, a struggling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) repeatedly sought to exploit the consensus—which it has adhered to wholeheartedly—by warning that the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) refusal to recognize it would seriously harm relations with Beijing. 

My article, published today on Thinking Taiwan, continues here (Photo: Rick Bajornas).