Timothy Kwai, member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, in China Times (September 10, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: @張鈞甯 on Weibo)
According to a report, actress Janine Chang referred to Taiwan as "my country" in her master's thesis, which she wrote 11 years ago. As a result, she was accused by mainland Chinese netizens of being pro-Taiwan independence. She later clarified on Weibo that she was not and “had always regarded herself as Chinese”. President Tsai Ing-wen stated Chang’s situation was not only an infringement of personal rights but also highlighted the differences in the values of democracy and authoritarianism between the two sides of the Strait.
In Hong Kong few celebrities have actively supported the recent political demonstrations. The Hong Kong star Nicholas Tse recently announced he was planning to renounce his Canadian citizenship. Yet, if a Taiwan artist is slightly well known in the mainland, the chance of being misconstrued as “pro-independence” is notably higher.
The reason for this is that mainland China generally believes that, since Chen Shui-bian was elected president in 2000 (he served until 2008), Taiwan's shift towards "cultural independence" has intensified. This shift occupies many cultural fields, including education, language, literature, art, film and television. As a result, the influence of "cultural independence" is intensifying conflict in public opinion on both sides of the strait.
After Tsai Ing-wen took office as Taiwan’s leader, official cross-strait dialogue was severed, and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) continued to promote the concept of "cultural independence". This has resulted in a distorted subconsciousness of the new generation of Taiwan people and created a dangerous barrier between the two sides of the strait. This is the main underlying reason why Taiwan artists such as Janine Chang are criticized on the mainland.
Watanabe Masahito, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of International Media, Communication, and Tourism Studies at Hokkaido University, in Liberty Times (September 19, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: @DeptofDefense on Twitter)
The US has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan and American public opinion is now shifting on the necessity of future military deployments. Decisions on where troops should be deployed depends on foreign policy priorities. Taiwan should consider just how much of a priority it is to the US. There are three points to consider:
First, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan represented the end of the 20-year war that began under the presidency of George W Bush. Many people in the US believe that the war in Afghanistan was unnecessary. After then president Barack Obama ordered the execution of Osama Bin Laden, public concern for Afghanistan continually diminished. Withdrawing troops was one of the key priorities of President Joe Biden.
Second, public opinion in the US still favours strict policies against China with a 2020 survey showing that 73 percent of American citizens had a negative attitude towards Beijing, the lowest level since the Cold War. As this attitude spans both Democrats and Republicans, the tough stance of the US against China is not expected to change in the short term.
Finally, there has been a steady deepening of Taiwan’s relations with both the US and Japan. This is largely related to the impact brought about by the loss of freedom in Hong Kong. Protecting the security and stability of Taiwan is seen by the US and Japan in the broader perspective of protecting freedom and democracy in Asia.
Taiwan’s context is clearly very different from Afghanistan. Nevertheless, if the recent US withdrawal of troops can revitalize discussions on the development of Taiwan-US relations, this would be a positive thing.
Ann Hsieh Ching-fan, adjunct instructor of journalism and mass communications at International College of Ming Chuan University, in The Storm Media (July 25, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Executive Yuan)
Vaccines are the best weapon against Covid-19. Despite their availability in many countries, there are still some who are reluctant or refuse to get vaccinated. In Taiwan, where the pandemic has claimed over 700 lives, there are many lessons to learn from "vaccine hesitancy”.
While there are vocal groups who are reluctant to take the vaccine all over the world, the polling company YouGov found that vaccine hesitancy has dropped in recent months. According to The Economist, there are two reasons for the decline: the speed of the vaccination rollout and the severity of the outbreak. First, when the pace of immunization picks up, many sceptics are more likely to change their attitude. Second, when the number of deaths from Covid-19 increases sharply, people’s fear of the virus is likely to outweigh their concern about vaccines. The latter is the situation Taiwan is in.
At the start of the outbreak in mid-May 2021, there were just 12 Covid-19-linked deaths in Taiwan. At this time, society’s willingness to vaccinate was not high: the vaccination rate was still less than 1 percent with around 66 percent of respondents in a survey stating that they did not want to be vaccinated. Yet, by early June, this percentage had fallen to 27 percent. The extent of hesitation has therefore fallen much faster than in France, Singapore, Hong Kong or the United States. As of late July, the death toll had climbed to nearly 800.
Others should learn from Taiwan’s mistake. The prerequisite for minimizing vaccine hesitation is to prepare adequate vaccines and distribute them early. Compared with Europe and the US, vaccine delivery in Taiwan has been both slow and delayed. Even if the society’s willingness to receive vaccines has risen sharply, the painful price has already been paid.
Hu Jwu-sheng, Vice President and General Director, Mechanical and Mechatronics Systems Research Laboratories, Industrial Technology Research Institute, in Liberty Times (May 30, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
With the intensification of climate change, many European countries have committed to creating low-carbon transportation and formulating strict automobile carbon dioxide emission standards. Some such as Norway, the UK and the Netherlands have already laid out plans for banning the sale of petrol vehicles. As a result, many traditional car manufacturers are now producing electric vehicles to meet future demand.
Charging has always been a topic of high concern in the development of electric vehicles. In terms of electricity, large-scale centralized super-charging points will need to be built to meet future demand. There are four mainstream electric vehicle charging standards in the world. Taiwan has industry players who have invested in the development of these, yet there is still no unified charging standard interface. To solve the problem, the Industrial Technology Research Institute has partnered with nearly 50 manufacturers within industry, government and research to establish the Taiwan Electric Vehicle (EV) Power Charging Technology Promotion Alliance.
The charging interface for electric vehicles at charging stations should largely adopt the international standard "CCS1", which is most used in Europe and the United States. It is hoped that public charging stations with a unified interface will create a friendlier domestic charging environment. Furthermore, as the demand for electric vehicle charging increases, some areas will face the challenge of whether supply can meet demand. Big data could be used to overcome this.
As the electric vehicle market expands, so will the development of charging equipment. In addition to grasping the demand for hardware, Taiwan should also invest in charging software, charging stations and other renewable energy channels. This will ensure that Taiwan makes the most out of business opportunities in the electric vehicle industry.
Chiang Huang-chih, Professor in the College of Law of National Taiwan University, in Liberty Times (February 22, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Wang Yu-ching/Taiwan Presidential Office)
Chinese military ships and planes are entering Taiwan’s sea and airspace. In response, President Tsai Ing-wen has stated that “TAIWAN’ should be painted on patrol vessels to increase international visibility at sea. Some have opposed this decision, viewing it as propaganda that will not only be unhelpful but may even provoke Beijing and increase the risk of conflict. But there are a number of reasons why this may be a good move.
First, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that the exercise of maritime law enforcement powers must be duly authorized and clearly marked. This helps ensure that any ship that violates the law can be held responsible.
Second, there is no denying that the situation in the waters surrounding Taiwan is becoming more tense, and there are many countries involved such as China, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and even the United States and South Korea. Taiwan’s missions in these waters would benefit from clearer labels so as to increase recognition of our maritime patrol work, avoid misunderstandings or disputes and improve the safety of maritime personnel.
Third, China’s Coastguard Law was formally passed in February 2021. Japan and the Philippines have protested, claiming that the legislation violates international law. To counter these threats and express Taipei’s commitment to complying with international law and maintaining regional peace, Taiwan should distinguish itself from the Chinese side through a clear external label.
Finally, regardless of whether this label is displayed, China’s intimidation towards Taiwan is unlikely to disappear. Taiwan should therefore choose to display positive images and strengths as determined by those in power and the intentions of citizens.
Making the label “TAIWAN” visible should lead to increased security and international recognition. The more steps Taiwan can take to highlight its own characteristics the better.
主筆室 (pen name meaning “Chief Writer’s Room”), commentator, in The Storm Media (February 8, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: bryan…)
In 2020, Taiwan's economic growth rate was 2.98 percent, marking the first time that it surpassed China in 30 years. While this achievement may appear worthy of celebration, it is important to not get too excited.
The key reasons why Taiwan’s growth rate surpassed China’s in 2020 was Taiwan’s successful control of Covid-19 combined with the impact of the Sino-US trade war. In addition, China suffered in the first quarter of 2020 as it struggled to control the epidemic. Obviously, Taiwan’s growth will not exceed China’s after normality returns.
While a higher growth rate is of course a good thing, Taiwan actually no longer requires a rapid growth. There are more important concerns such as the living environment. In addition, attention must be paid to future risks such as the worryingly high degree of unbalanced development. For example, while private investment is growing, semiconductors have an oversized role.
In terms of foreign international economic and trade relations, Taiwan’s marginalization has continued to worsen. In November 2020, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement was signed but Taiwan was blocked from participating. Taiwan has also made no progress in joining regional economic and trade organizations such as Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). In addition, the shifts in Sino-US relations since US President Joe Biden took office remain unknown, and it is not clear whether they will benefit Taiwan.
There is no point, therefore, in celebrating surpassing China in economic performance under these extraordinary circumstances. Instead, more attention should be paid to how to address the risks and challenges ahead.
Song Cheng-en, doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, in The Storm Media (January 28, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: stingrayschuller)
Not long after the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, Beijing dispatched military jets into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. This provocation was seen as not only a military exercise but as a political test for the new administration. The US State Department responded by condemning China for threatening regional peace and stability.
The statement noted Chinese attempts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan, and called on Beijing to “cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives”. The US reaffirmed that it would stand with its friends and allies in the Indo-Pacific to promote mutual prosperity, security and values, including deepening relations with democratic Taiwan.
This statement was both soft and tough, maintaining the Trump administration's strong tone, while demonstrating the continuity of US foreign policy. The wording, however, suggested that Washington intends to bring its Taiwan policy back to the framework of the past:
First, the use the "People's Republic of China" (PRC) to refer to China is in line with the position established in “Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations” between the United States and China in 1979. Second, the use of "Taiwan" throughout the text complies with the unofficial policies under the "Taiwan Relations Act". Third, the use of the phrase "Taiwan's democratically elected representatives" deliberately avoids mentioning the Taiwan government, president or officials.
It is impossible to judge the direction of the Biden administration’s Taiwan policy with a single statement and whether the US government returns to the One-China framework will ultimately depend on the government’s own interpretation. Nevertheless, close attention must be paid to how Taiwan’s status is supported or hindered by US policy.
Lin Jin-chia, psychiatrist, in The Storm Media (December 25, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: 國禎 吳)
A New Zealander pilot who broke Taiwan’s long streak with zero confirmed Covid-19 cases has become a public enemy and the focus of intense media criticism. The stock market even plummeted.
This pilot, who works for Taiwan carrier EVA Air, reportedly did not comply with the Covid-19 regulations of the flight crew by not wearing a mask or reporting respiratory symptoms at the end of his flight. As a result, he only had to undergo a short three-day home quarantine. Following this, he reportedly went out without wearing a mask. This negligence and violations of health-management protocols are a major breach in Taiwan’s epidemic-prevention efforts.
There has been limited evidence that EVA intends to act to ensure that such incidents do not occur again. Meanwhile, the Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) has stated that the airline’s Covid-10 measures are a matter for the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA). Yet, epidemic control is clearly not within their expertise. Since the CECC exists for this purpose, they should take greater responsibility.
The CAA has stipulated that the airlines are responsible for managing themselves and crews are supposed to follow regulations without supervision. Arguably, cabin crew face high levels of risk, perhaps even higher than medical staff. After being questioned by legislators, the CAA revealed that since the pandemic began, airline crews had committed 24 violations of regulations and only after this breach did the CAA meet with the airline industry to request that they develop a penalty mechanism.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Taiwan government has always adopted a tough public stance. They have, however, shamelessly refused to take responsibility for this incident and continue to avoid answering questions. This attitude is detrimental to Taiwan's overall epidemic prevention.
Lin Yu-fang, a convenor of the National Policy Foundation, in China Times (February 27, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Rutger van der Maar)
In the minds of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders, the cross-strait confrontation is an unending civil war. As Macau and Hong Kong have successively been "returned", Taiwan has become the next "territory" that must be reclaimed. Over the years, the CCP has continued to dedicate huge defense budgets in pursuit of military modernization, bolstering its influence on the regional and international political arena while preparing for an invasion of Taiwan.
Beijing does not believe that the US military will rush into a war in the Taiwan Strait. The United States and Taiwan have no diplomatic relations, let alone a formal alliance. From the CCP’s point of view, the "Taiwan Relations Act" only guarantees that the US will continue to provide defensive weapons to Taiwan and does not promise any assistance in combat. Beijing also does not seem to believe that the United States dares to break the tacit understanding of power politics – that two nuclear-armed nations would not fight each other so as to avoid a nuclear war.
After the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) returned to power in 2016, Beijing has become more dissatisfied with Taiwan. It has not only blocked Taiwan diplomatically, but continues to oppress it militarily. At the end of 2016, Chinese military aircraft began frequently entering Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Chinese warships have also crossed the center line of the Taiwan Strait.
To counter these incursions, the defense ministry announced on October 5, 2020, that a total of 4,132 "air combat patrols" had been dispatched during the year, and the Air Force had spent NT$4.1 billion (US$144.2 million) in associated costs. These actions not only deepen mutual hostility but also increase the possibility of conflict. Perhaps it is time to face the possibility of armed conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
Cheng Ying-yao, President, National Sun Yat-sen University, in Liberty Times (December 11, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: See-ming Lee)
Chinese military aircraft have threatened Taiwan in recent months. President Tsai Ing-wen said in a speech that Taiwan's future will depend on regional peace and stability. Only by improving Taiwan’s defence capabilities can the threat of war be reduced and its security guaranteed.
Amid this tense situation, universities have not only a social function. They should contribute to Taiwan’s security by injecting their academic resources to enhance the research capacity for defense technology innovation and support the cultivation of defense strategy.
In the past, the majority of Taiwan’s defense technology and military talent have relied on the military academies. Considering the current global geopolitical situation, research universities should cooperate with the military academies to nurture high-quality talent. In the US, for example, leading universities such as Harvard and Yale have produced many top military officers.
National Sun Yat-sen University signed a contract with the defense ministry to establish a program to support the sharing and integration of teaching resources between the military and the University’s academies. Top universities should bear the responsibility of safeguarding Taiwan’s security, while good men and women should serve as soldiers.
James Wang, senior journalist, in Liberty Times (December 1, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Jason Goh/Pixabay)
The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party, which ruled Taiwan under martial law for nearly four decades, continues to produce the most absurd political performances at the most inappropriate of occasions. Instead of behaving maturely under a democracy, they chose to humiliate themselves by throwing pig guts in the parliament to raise the issue of food safety and to protest the government’s decision to allow meat imports from the US. The KMT continue to prove themselves completely incapable of adapting to Taiwan's democracy. Their political judgment remains inferior.
Taiwan is small, and its economic development depends on foreign trade which must comply with international rules. While the government has the responsibility to ensure the safety of food and meet global standards, in a free market, the consumer should ultimately have the freedom to choose what food they wish to consume. In a free market, nobody can force you to consume anything.
American meat will be imported in compliance with international food safety standards. The KMT consistently exaggerates and more and more behaves inappropriately in depriving Taiwan consumers of the right to choose. The KMT want to dictate whether Taiwan people can consume American produce or not.
Chen Fu, professor and Director of the General Education Center at National Dong Hwa University, in China Times (December 30, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Solomon203)
Yazhou Zhoukan (“Asia Weekly”) is a Hong Kong-based magazine read by Chinese intellectuals all over the world. While mainland authorities have banned subscriptions, it has always taken a middle path approach, respecting the “one country, two systems” principle, even with the challenging political situation in Hong Kong. It has tried to present both points of view on cross-strait issues.
The latest issue has generated controversy as it depicts Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in royal garb from the Qin Dynasty, smiling on a throne, with her administration characterized as a “dictatorship”. This has prompted a ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokeswoman to claim that the publication is a mouthpiece for the Beijing government. Is this claim true?
Yazhou Zhoukan uses the words "Republic of China" in news reports without quotation marks. This alone shows that the mainland authorities respect Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and press. The DPP, however, continues to claim that the media is actively suppressing Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy. Ironically, in the latest issue, Yazhou Zhoukan interviews DPP politicians to discuss Tsai’s governance. Yet it is considered pro-Communist.
Under the more-and-more restricted political environment in Taiwan, criticizing the government has become dangerous. As a result, most intellectuals have been silenced. Not only has the Chung T’ien Television News channel been shut down, but from February 1 this year, the publishing of books authorized by mainland publishers will first need to be approved by the Taiwan Ministry of Culture. The DPP cannot allow people in Taiwan the freedom to criticize only the Communist Party of China. They must also guarantee the freedom to criticize the DPP.
Chao Chun-shan, Honorary Professor at the Graduate Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University, in My Formosa (November 9, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Victoria Pickering)
While US President-elect Joe Biden's first priority on taking office will be to address the divisions in American society, he will also need to make changes in foreign policy.
It is unrealistic to expect Biden to return to Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with China. Biden’s key diplomatic strategist and nominee to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has openly acknowledged that China presents new challenges and that the status quo is unsustainable. Nevertheless, Biden's China advisers generally oppose the so-called "new Cold War" and "decoupling" from China. While Biden’s team will need to focus immediately on Covid-19 and emerging economic problems, both tasks will require contact and potentially cooperation with China.
Biden's past statements offer some clues on what his cross-strait policy could look like. After the severance of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the United States in 1979, the then-senator was one of the initiators of the Taiwan Relations Act. But in 1999, he strongly opposed the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act on the grounds that formal military communications would risk provoking China. As such, Biden’s policy may not differ significantly from Trump’s. Furthermore, while Sino-US relations are likely to become more predictable after Biden takes office, the Chinese Communist Party’s objective of achieving reunification is unlikely to change.
Some people in Taiwan had been choosing sides in the US election. This is futile and the government should refrain from doing this. Diplomacy is about forging good relations so it is natural to focus diplomatic work on the ruling party. The existence of opposition parties, however, should be considered in relations with other democracies. Both the ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan must put Taiwan’s interests first rather than using elections elsewhere as a reason to argue.
Ko Yu-chih, Associate Professor, Department of Diplomacy, National Chengchi University, in China Times (September 24, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Wang Yu-ching/Office of the President, Taiwan)
On August 9, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar led a delegation to Taiwan. On September 17, a delegation led by Keith Krach, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, arrived in Taipei. The results of the two visits were mixed. Azar and Krach are the highest-ranking US officials to visit Taiwan since 1979. While Azar’s visit was open and formal, Krach’s was low-key and informal. This raises questions over the true intentions of the US.
The Azar delegation not only met President Tsai Ing-wen, but they also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC). Meanwhile, the Krach delegation’s itinerary was not confirmed publicly beforehand and the format minimized intergovernmental meetings.
Azar’s delegation visited to discuss Covid-19 and public health cooperation, while Krach’s delegation was engaged in “funeral diplomacy”, attending the memorial service of former president Lee Teng-hui. The subsequent exchanges with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on US-Taiwan economic cooperation took place on the sidelines.
The two delegations will provide a boost to the current government, given that Taiwan’s international recognition has been gradually reduced. The excessively low-key nature of the Krach delegation, however, highlights the caution of US diplomats in deepening economic relations and suggests that the Washington has no desire in provoking Beijing.
While Azar’s delegation signed a MoU, it did not cover vaccine cooperation, an area to which Taiwan is eager to contribute. Meanwhile, Krach’s delegation was particularly interested in Taiwan's screening of foreign investments. This could end up dragging Taiwan into the Sino-US trade war or giving the US the right to intervene in Taiwan’s investment review processes. The government must be cautious as this could ultimately make Taiwan more dependent on the US.
Lee Min-yung, poet and social critic, in Liberty Times (September 16, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
The stated goal and mission of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT) no longer exists. The KMT wants to fight on behalf of the People's Republic of China and give them the authority to rule Taiwan. On the other hand, the goal of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and some other Taiwanese parties is to establish Taiwan as a separate entity from the People’s Republic of China. While the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) used to be enemies who wanted to destroy each other, now they are allies. Today, the main enemy of the KMT is not the CCP but the ruling party in Taiwan, the DPP.
In the 1950s, the KMT was centered on Chiang Kai-shek who used martial law and white terror to deal with dissidents. Not only those involved in communism, but also those who reformed and defended Taiwan were persecuted. In 1971, due to the self-serving nature of the KMT, the Republic of China was officially expelled from the United Nations and replaced by People's Republic of China. As a result, any protection over Taiwan's national status was immediately lost.
The KMT now views Taiwan as a bargaining chip and supports its absorption by the CCP. However, after the lifting of the martial law and democratization, the Taiwan people who have left the KMT, including the descendants of post-war immigrants, have spurned the KMT’s desire to sell off Taiwan. The peaceful revolutions carried out through elections has gradually shaped a new distinct Taiwan. Considering these developments, does Taiwan still need the KMT?