Tag Archives: Taiwan

Taiwan’s democracy needs US arms

If there was any doubt that Taiwan is the first democratic state in the long history of the Chinese, it came this week in the buildup to January presidential election. The current ruling Kuomintang, descendant of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists who fled the Mainland Communists in 1949, suddenly switched nominees.
At an extraordinary party congress they voted overwhelmingly for party Chairman Eric Chu..Chu, mayor of suburban New Taipei City and a former accounting professor. The former candidate Hung Hsiu-chu had been running about 20 percentage points behind Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen, another female candidate. Tsai advocates greater caution in relations with Beijing, her radical wing proposing formal independence instead of the current ambiguous de facto autonomy.

The KMT was trying to recoup after disastrous parliamentary elections last November, when they paid a price for several deals with a Chinese Communist Party Mainland partner. The KMT, the business community and academic economists, had all argued for them because of the Island’s economic integration with the Mainland and its lackluster economy.
Taiwan-based firms moving to, or collaborating in joint ventures in Mainland China, have fed trade between the two to $198.31 billion, with exports from Taiwan to the Mainland at $152 billion. Cheap Mainland labor assemble high-end components from Taiwan for reexport. But as the Mainland economy has rapidly dived into a slump from record-breaking two decades of rapid growth, the Taiwanese are again turning to Southeast Asia and the U.S. for thrust for their export-led economy
After taking a hard line against the last DPP president, Chen Shui-bian [2000- 2008], Beijing softened toward the current Nationalist President Ma Ying-jeou, but now constitutionally barred from a third four-year term. Ma’s government signed 23 agreements with China to promote investment, tourism and trade, with tensions reduced to their lowest level in more than six decades.
But the growing subversion of Hong Kong despite its autonomy enshrined in the 1997 British agreement to turn it back to Beijing has had its effect. In spring 2014, the Sun Flower Movement, a coalition of students and political activists, occupied the Taiwanese parliament and ministries, demanding detailed parliamentary scrutiny of the 2013 Cross-Trade Service Agreement Ma signed with Beijing.
It’s not at all clear what comes next. China President Xi Jinping in the midst of the most stringent crackdown on political and media activity in several decades, struggling to concentrate power in his hands rather than the recent collegiate Communist Party leadership. Xi reputedly knows as much as any senior Chinese official about the Taiwan issue, having served as governor of a Mainland province facing it. Bringing Taiwan and the Singkiang Uighur and Tibetan dissidents under Beijing control has been one of Xi’s main goals.
The People’s Liberation Army [PLA] has moved ballistic missiles and modern warplanes to bases overlooking the Taiwan Strait. By the end of 2010, the PLA had more than 2,000 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, 50 percent more than just two years earlier, and ten times more than in 2000. A 2007 Rand Corporation report questioned whether the U.S. could fulfill its obligation to defend Taiwan in the event of an all-out Mainland attack. “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is well aware of its own shortcomings and the United States’ military superiority,” the Rand Air Force study said. “Instead of engaging U.S. forces head-on, they would attempt to take advantage of what they perceive to be American weaknesses, including the need to deploy and operate forces thousands of miles from home.”
That is why the current transfer of weaponry to Taiwan waiting approval in the Senate, as well as its reexamination given the new Mainland buildup, is an absolute priority the Obama Administration and Congress should get on with.

Taiwan: Guns, Beef — and Politics

Pres. Obama’s Chinese New Year’s gift, an arms purchase offer even with a $6.4 billion price tag, couldn’t be more welcome to Taiwan’s Pres. Ma Ying-jeou.

Last March his Kuomintang swept back into office with anti-corruption slogans, promising better relations with the Gigantest Panda across the Strait. That peaceful transition reconfirmed China’s first representative government in its vaunted 5,000-years for 23-million Taiwanese. But now the Mandarin-accented, Hong Kong-born, sleek politician’s polls droop.

Suffering from the world recession, constituents now want to know what Ma’s done for them lately

Welcome to democracy!

Furthermore, Pandas appearance is deceptive. They are notoriously uncuddly. [You wouldn’t be either if you only ate bamboo!]

Ma’s aggressive pragmatic courtship hasn’t stopped Beijing’s missile buildup [now at 1600], threatening the Island.

Furthermore, the Taiwan Relations Act – the Congressional initiative forced on Pres. Nixon and Henry Kissinger, a pledge the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s aid if and when – looks anemic. America’s extended engagements elsewhere, Mr. Obama’s attempted seduction of former foes including Beijing, his postponement of the next aircraft carrier, his lack of support during his Mainland visit last year, all look ominous. And despite a flip-flop by Panda-hugging Pearl Harbor U.S. Navy commanders – continued intel underestimation of growing Chinese naval strength seems to have produced that – Taiwanese are concerned their ambiguous de facto independence is at risk.

Despite Ma’s continued expressions of confidence in Mr. Obama, could the Americans get there quickly enough as in past crises?

The package – excluding F16s along with submarines which were at the heart of an original program almost twice that size, dawdling at both ends of the de facto alliance for almost a decade – is particularly fortuitous just now.

Ma has just come off his first Mainland trade negotiations. It’s the culmination of longtime pressure, particularly from American and Japanese multinationals, for more integration. Without closer Mainland ties, they argue, Taiwan would lose out among East Asia’s export-led economies. [Don’t hold your breath for promised swaps of expanded domestic markets for “export-led” strategies.] More than a half-million Taiwanese managing 7,000 Mainland firms with $150 billion investment doesn’t hack it, they argue; Taiwan industry is being hollowed out by the Island’s Number One trading partner.

And there’s little doubt that Ma’s “Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement” has been oversold.

He added the notion that without it, Taiwan would lose out in Southeast Asia after Beijing last year signed a free trade agreement with ASEAN [Association of South Asian Nations]. Closer examination, however, shows there is more sound and light than substance. After all these years the 10 ASEANs haven’t got their act together. Now one by one, to protect local industry, each country has caveated the agreement. [Vietnam had already seen its Tonkinese economy devastated through smuggled Chinese dumping.]

Meanwhile, many small Taiwan businessmen – where Ma’s Democratic Progressive Party opposition is strong – say they would be swamped by cheap Mainland imports. Ma already severely limited the opening to financial investment. Always cognizant inflation as much as Communist military prowess sank Chiang Kai-shek’s Mainland Kuomintang, Taipei has always clutched banking tightly.

Though former Pres. Chen Shui-bian and family were convicted on corruption charges, his DPP is making a comeback, capturing three January by-elections. Its southern agricultural heartland – after earlier seduction by Beijing’s special agricultural import deals – is worried. They blew Ma’s attempt at expanded U.S. trade, maybe eventually a free trade agreement, when the legislature forced a partial hold on beef imports. Enhanced communications including direct flights has increased Mainland tourism — but there are too many rumors of “tourists” disappearing into the woodwork.

It may take a while. But even in the new digital age, Taiwan’s role as “the unsinkable aircraft carrier” is bound to reassert its strategic importance as Beijing’s armaments drive turns hysterical in the face of a nonexistent enemy. Little boys given toys like to play with them. Example: the 2001 Hainan Incident when a hotshot fighterpilot crashed into an American spyplane over international waters. [Difficulties posed by Japan’s new government for the U.S.’ East Asia strategic redeployment don’t help.]

Beijing’s bombast over the long simmering deal is testing Mr. Obama. But cancellation of the two militaries’ contacts has been vastly overblown; they were never really reciprocal [During the Hainan crisis, the retired admiral ambassador, revealed his Chinese military “friends” wouldn’t return his calls.] And with American persistence, after a decent interval, the exchanges would probably be reinitiated as in past temporary cancellations.

But desperately grasping for some ideological footing for a regime long since abandoning Marx, Engels — and Mao, in all but iconography – Beijing has turned to traditional Chinese xenophobia/nationalism to keep out foreign “ideas”. That plus cyber warfare practice — and sheer Google hypocrisy — is the root of that current schemozzle.

The “Communists” have even resurrected once despised Confucianism as a cover for overseas propaganda. [George Mason University: shame on you selling out to this ploy!]

All this despite continued hot pursuit of foreign investment [and technological transfer] to keep the export-led jerry-built economy booming.

In all this muddle, “Taiwan” could again become a front burner issue.

Welcome to the real world, Pres. Obama!