Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Tsai-Trump Call: The Dynamics in Taiwan

Most analysis of the call overlooks a crucial component: Tsai’s own calculations and the domestic reaction on Taiwan 

The 10-minute telephone conversation between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. president-elect Donald J. Trump on December 2 — the first such conversation between a sitting president in Taiwan and a U.S. president or president-elect since Washington broke official diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 — has sparked reactions worldwide, ranging from consternation at Trump’s breaking with longstanding policy to hopes for deeper relations between the United States and the democratic island nation. 

With much of Western media taking the lead in presuming to interpret Beijing’s ire at news of the unprecedented congratulatory call from Tsai, the incident and its significance were quickly blown out of proportion, so much so, in fact, that Beijing, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting unification — by force if necessary — may have felt compelled to turn up the rhetoric a notch after a rather mild initial response. Taking a cue from the hyperbole in many Western media, ultra-nationalistic Chinese media soon followed suit, with the Global Times going as far as to call Trump’s team “pigs,” and suggest the need for a rapid buildup of China’s strategic nuclear stockpile to counter any “provocation” by President Trump on issues such as Taiwan. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Taiwan, Not the US, Will Likely Pay the Price for the Trump-Tsai Call

Weighing the pros and cons of THE CALL 

The recent 10-minute telephone conversation between US President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has sparked much speculation about a possible shift in US policy vis-à-vis the self-ruled democratic island nation, and the consequences of such a move on the all-important Sino-American relationship. 

At this juncture it is difficult to determine to what extent the phone conversation (and subsequent tweets by Trump) portend a change in the direction of Washington’s relationship with Taiwan, with which it has had close (albeit unofficial) diplomatic relations since 1979. It's clear the call was a boost for President Tsai’s image domestically and provided some reassurance (premature, perhaps) that President Trump will not include Taiwan in a 'grand bargain' with China. We can also be certain Trump did not take the call on a whim or due to ignorance of international relations: the potential repercussions are simply too serious. 

Continues here.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Should Washington Recalibrate Relations with Taipei?

President Trump could do a few things to normalize ties with Taiwan, but the options remain limited 

The recent storm over Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s 10-minute congratulatory call to U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump has engendered much speculation about the possibility that an anti-China iteration of President Trump could seek to establish closer ties with Taiwan. 

Whether this is what Mr. Trump has in mind is anyone’s guess and will be largely contingent on whom he appoints to key positions in his administration. In an ideal world, where morals rather than national power determines the course of history, it would be perfectly sensible for the U.S. president to more closely align his or her government with a successful, peaceful, and democratic nation-state living in the shadow of a giant authoritarian—and expansionist—neighbor. 

Continues here.

Trump's Taiwan Call: Cross-Strait Politics by Other Means

What was behind the Tsai-Trump call? What does it mean about US-Taiwan-China relations?

President-elect Donald J. Trump last week seemed to give credence to the claim that the U.S. presidency under him will not be “business as unusual” when he took a call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, breaking nearly four decades of protocol and risking Beijing’s ire. 

No sooner had the ten-minute telephone conversation been made public than analysis worldwide began speculating about whether it presaged a shift in U.S. policy vis-à-vis Taiwan, the democratic, self-ruled island nation of twenty-three million people, and willingness on the future president’s part to stick it to China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan. Not only the call itself, but a subsequent tweet by Trump stating that he had received a congratulatory call from the president of Taiwan rather than using the nation’s official designation, the Republic of China, led many pundits, along with a frenzied international media, to conclude that Trump was signaling a policy shift or, worse, that he did not know what he had gotten himself into and had perhaps been used by President Tsai, who needed to score points domestically. 

Continues here.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

My Marriage Equality Testimony (of Sorts)

As I write these words, the aircraft that is taking me to London, where I am scheduled to give three lectures this week, is flying over Kabul, and a few hours from now it will cross into the airspace of another region beset by misery and violence — the Middle East. I think of the millions of people below me and wonder how and why religious organizations back in Taiwan, my point of departure, and elsewhere can spend so much energy hating others for who they are when there is so much suffering around the world.

In recent weeks I have again written about certain religious organizations in Taiwan that have viciously targeted a group that asks nothing more than to be treated as an equal and to be allowed to love equally. What prompts me to write at 34,000 feet is the appearance at a hearing at the Legislative Yuan on Monday of Katy Faust, an American citizen who became known recently for her short video spelling the supposed nefarious effects of allowing same-sex marriage on young children. Faust, who could not have a more unfortunate surname given her conservative religious beliefs, reinforced her message at the hearing while tens of thousands of LGBTQ supporters were rallying outside.

To sum up her claims: the rights of children should trump (no pun intended) the desires of adults. Children, she says, have the “natural right” to know who their biological parents are, which presumably would be denied them by parents of the same sex. Furthermore, children reared by homosexual parents would allegedly be denied something — an undefined something whose delivery is, again according to her, gender contingent. In other words, a child raised by two women would lack half of an upbringing that is essentially and fundamentally male (and vice versa in the case of a child raised by two men). This lack, she tells us, will result in stunted individuals cognitively and emotionally.

My intention here isn’t to psychoanalyze Ms. Faust or to question the legality of a foreign citizen and non-resident of Taiwan injecting herself into domestic politics using nothing but fear and pseudoscience (this is no Jane Goodall encouraging people to be kinder to little animals; her claims are part of a campaign that aims to deny the right to form a family to a category of people based on their sexual preferences and/or identity).

The reason I write is that days before Ms. Faust made her unexpected appearance at the legislature, the LGBTQ camp approached me and also asked me if I would be willing to testify. While every fiber in my body wanted to do it, and although it would have been perfectly legal for me, a permanent resident in Taiwan, to do so, I turned down the offer because I thought it would be improper for a foreign national to play such a role. (This is also why, while I document activism and unashamedly take sides, I will never hold a placard or chant slogans.) It truly was an honor to be asked, though.

But with Ms. Faust’s scent still lingering around the lectern, I now choose to put in writing what I probably would have said had I agreed to testify for those eight minutes given me. I do it in the name of love and for all our friends out there who only ask one thing — to be treated as equals.

I was born on April 29, 1975, to wonderful, loving, heterosexual parents. I had a catholic upbringing, received first communion, confirmation, and was even an altar boy for several years. Growing up in Quebec City, a city whose mores and values are deeply affected by its long, and sometimes troubled, relationship with the Catholic Church, I chose “catechism” over the other choice given us, “morals,” in primary school. As children, we all thought there was something a little untoward with our peers who didn’t choose bible study. That’s how steeped we were in Catholicism as a culture and system of peer pressure. In my early teenage years I turned agnostic, and after reading lots of books about evolutionary science, I became an atheist. My mother’s initial reaction to my refusal to go to church spoke volumes about the conditioning that religion does on families and children, something that has crossed my mind as I monitor gatherings by groups opposed to same-sex marriage.

We had sex-ed in school. For a while, our sex-ed teacher was replaced (I forget the reason for her leave) by her brother, a man who was unmistakably effeminate and probably gay. Children being children, we made fun of him, though I don’t remember it being in any way mean. We just knew he was different. But he taught us, and nobody became or chose to become gay as a result of our exposure to this man teaching us about condoms, reproduction, and the various erogenous zones we are blessed with.

My mother was into sports: almost every day, at lunchtime, we’d throw ball (I played baseball for 11 years, all the way up to Junior AA). We skated, and we biked — you know, all that man stuff. Tennis and skiing I did on my own, however. Both my parents attended every one of my baseball games. Both were hands on and built their house together which my mother was pregnant with me. My father, an avid jogger later in life, was more the philosopher type, and from him I received a passion for history, politics, and television. We also did lots of electronics together, putting together circuits, fixing TVs and so on. Love for books — that I got from both of them. The same with long walks.

Around that same time my parents separated and eventually divorced. I stayed with my mother, and my father, who moved 250km west to Montreal, drove back to Quebec City almost every week to have dinner with me. I lacked for nothing, and I understood the circumstances. Never did I think that I was not receiving the love that I needed. As a matter of fact, I’d seen it coming. Don’t ask me why. All I can say is that children aren’t stupid, and they feel things.

A few years later, my mother came out of the closet at lunchtime, trembling like a leaf and terrified that I would stop loving her. Growing up in a small town south of Quebec City, she’d known since she was a child — didn’t choose, certainly didn’t “catch” it — that she preferred women. But her religion and environment told her that she should marry a man and “heal” herself, at a minimum forget who she was. By then (1992), her partner, recently divorced from her husband, was living with us. Did I stop loving my mother? Of course not. I told her I wanted her to be happy. Was I shocked? Disturbed? No. Granted I was 16 by then, but I’d been taught to respect others and to embrace difference, and have no doubt that my reaction wouldn’t have been any different if I’d been younger when my mother told me she was homosexual. Again, I suspected it. Children and young adults are not stupid; they feel things. My father’s reaction — acceptance — also helped a lot in how I dealt with the matter, something that cannot be said of several other coming outs.

Now, being a teenager, I did give them “the attitude” for a while, which in hindsight I do regret. But this was a normal teenager reacting to a new person in his parent’s life. That person’s gender had nothing to do with it.

All three of us lived together for a while, and eventually both of them moved to a different house while I completed college and prepared to move to Montreal for university. Overall, I would live six years in the city’s gay village, which was quite conveniently located close to my workplace and a subway station. It was a nice, affluent neighborhood; I was never harassed, threatened, let alone “brainwashed” into becoming homosexual (my typical response when asked was that both my biological parents like women, so of course I like women, too!) My girlfriend at the time, a tall blonde, would occasionally complain that nobody (at least the men in the village) was checking her out.

The first time I took the subway there (Beaudry Station) I ran into two men kissing. Ok, so what? I’d also had Pakistanis as neighbors and went to university surrounded by people of all colors, religions, and beliefs. That was why I found Montreal so fascinating, and why that city continues to have a special place in my heart.

My mother’s partner never was my second mother: she had a name, and that’s how I referred to her. And when they got married after Canada became the fourth country to legalize same-sex marriage, she became my mother’s partner, or spouse. That same year, my father also remarried. Both now live fulfilled lives with wonderful, loving women.

Using a survey, the two of them wrote a book about their experiences and society’s attitudes toward lesbians. They wrote it under pseudonyms. When my mother’s partner’s employer, a Catholic-run hospital, found out, she was expelled, sparking a legal case that dragged for years. She also left her church and went to a different branch that accepts homosexuals.

So yes, I was raised by a homosexual mother — as a child. One doesn’t become a homosexual only after he or she comes out: my mother was a homosexual mother from the day that I was born, even though it would be years before she would reveal this to me. And yes, I did live under the same roof with two lesbians for a few years. I wasn’t tainted. I am not unable, as the anti-same-sex marriage groups aver, to love or to form a family of my own because of some trauma caused by the presence of a homosexual parent.

And yet, this brings me back to Ms. Faust’s point about men and women providing different things to children. I have no doubt that they do, but not for the reasons that she mentioned. Any two individuals, unless they are clones, will offer something different to their children: thus, when a child is reared by two women or two men, that child receives stability and input from two different individuals with different paths and pasts. If I’d been raised by my mother and her female partner, I’d still have learned to throw a mean fast ball, and to skate, from her (the man stuff), while from her partner I’d probably have picked up painting or something artistic. I don’t think there is anything essentially male or female in what a parent brings to a child (of course that is different in conservative societies where women stay at home, don’t have access to high education or can’t drive a car, while the man is out providing financially for the family, but that’s certainly not the case in modern Taiwan, and furthermore those are social constructs rather than natural attributes). What matters is that tons of love, support and stability are provided, and that solid values are passed down by the parent figures. The children — they’re not stupid! — will take care of the rest. Yes, a mother and a father bring different things to a child, but that’s because they are two different individuals, and not because one has XX and the other XY chromosomes.

I have absolutely no doubt that my many gay friends who hope to create families of their own have everything they need to raise successful, open-minded, and loving children who can contribute to society. What I fear most are those parents who choose to hide the facts from their children and teach them to hate, fear, and denigrate others — that, in my opinion, is the real threat to society and, to use their own rhetoric, a threat to children.

Ms. Faust goes back to the United States. I remain in Taiwan, hoping to do my part, to the best of my abilities, in helping build this extraordinary — and extraordinarily diverse — nation. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

More than Marriage Equality, it’s a Battle Between Reason and Obscurantism

The current mess isn’t a gentlemen’s debate on policy, where one side’s facts are weighed against those of their opponents; it is, instead, a battle between the forces of reason and obscurantism

What a dispiriting state of affairs. As the two camps involved in the battle on whether to legalize same-sex marriage in Taiwan confront each other in yet another round of public hearings today, the opposing camp has continued to escalate its assault, not only against the LGBT community, but against reason itself.

The sad part about all this is that the anti camp, despite calling itself the “silent majority,” constitutes but a small fraction of the Taiwanese public and is primarily a Christian one in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country. Despite this, its members have succeeded in hijacking a process that isn’t only beneficial to Taiwan, but that shouldn’t even have been a controversial one, given public attitudes. 

Continues here.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thousands protest as Taiwan inches closer to legalising same-sex marriage

Opponents of same-sex marriage rallied outside the legislature as lawmakers discussed proposed amendments to the civil code

Several thousand people on Thursday gathered outside the legislature in Taipei as legislators met inside the chambers to debate the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. Amid changing attitudes, the country is poised to become the first in Asia to do so.

Brought by the busload from all over the nation, the white-clad protesters — the majority of them from Christian churches — assembled on a main road outside the barricaded parliament, chanting slogans and seeking to pressure legislators to delay, or cancel altogether, the passage of amendments to the civil code that would permit homosexual unions.

Continues here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Christians fighting same-sex marriage in Taiwan are now utterly desperate

Gay marriage would help gangsters and other criminals, apparently

Conservative Christians have been taking to the streets to stop same-sex marriage in Taiwan – and they are getting desperate. Taiwan is inching ever closer to becoming the first country in Asia to legalize equal marriage despite Christian groups warning it will destroy society as we know it.

The groups, such as the Protect the Family Alliance and the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance, have good reasons to be desperate.

Continues here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

A Taiwan Defense Blueprint for the Trump Era

Three things Taiwan can and should do now to mitigate the potentially negative repercussions of a Trump presidency 

The election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States on November 9 is expected to bring change — how drastic remains to be seen — to different aspects of U.S. policy, both domestically and internationally. Largely the result of mounting discontent with the U.S. political establishment, Trump’s successful campaign also tapped into a growing segment of American voters who want a U.S. global disengagement. 

For U.S. allies worldwide, a possible winding down of the U.S. security umbrella, which has ensured stability in Europe and the Asia Pacific over the past 70 years, will be a source of apprehension. Vulnerable frontier states like Taiwan, whose continued existence as a free, liberal-democratic country next to authoritarian, expansionist and revisionist China is largely predicated on continued U.S. political support and military assistance. 

Continues here.

'One Country, Two Systems' Is as Good as Dead

Interest in unification with Beijing has been dwindling. Developments in Hong Kong are the nail in the coffin 

The latest round of protests in Hong Kong following Beijing’s disqualification of two pro-independence lawmakers isn’t only a symptom of the territory’s growing volatility: it once and for all closes any possibility of the “one country, two systems” formula ever being applied to Taiwan. 

As police hit protesters with truncheons and attempt to disperse them with pepper spray, across the Taiwan Strait in democratic Taiwan, twenty-three million people are taking note, aware more than ever since retrocession in 1997 that “one country, two systems” is not a viable option for them, if indeed it ever was. 

Continues here.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Can Taiwan Hold Out Against China’s New Strategy?

China ius busy trying to dismantle the U.S. security alliance in Asia. Can Taiwan weather the storm? 

After years of assertiveness that only succeeded in tightening a United States-led regional alliance meant to contain its ambitions, China appears to have changed tack recently and is now intensifying its efforts to woo what it sees as the weak links in this chain. With two apparent successes in the past month—first, the Philippines, which hitherto had been a staunch US ally, followed by Malaysia—China has put the viability of the US “pivot” to Asia into doubt and likely caused other US allies to question Washington’s commitment to remaining in the region and its ability to ensure their security. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Riddle of Hung’s ‘Peace Platform’ with China

Can the KMT chairwoman create new facts on the ground with Beijing? 

Kuomintang Chairperson Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) arrived in China this week for a series of meetings and a cross-party forum, causing divisions within her party and apprehensions across Taiwan that the Beijing-friendly politician may seek to sign a “peace treaty” with China. 

Hung, whom the KMT leadership pushed aside as the party’s presidential candidate at the eleventh hour in late 2015 due in large part to the unpopularity of her cross-strait policies, has been accused of manipulating the KMT’s new policy platform, adopted on Sept. 4, which while reinforcing the so-called “1992 consensus” failed to incorporate longstanding references to each side interpreting differently what “one China” means. 

Continues here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

China No Longer Has a Taiwan Strategy

Money, persuasion and coercion have all failed 

For all the talk about the inevitability of the eventual “reunification” of Taiwan and China and bluster about China’s determination to accomplish the “China dream,” ongoing trends in the Taiwan Strait have made it clear that Beijing’s approach to Taiwan is failing. Short of military conquest, there is very little in the current set of options available to Beijing suggesting that “peaceful unification” is even remotely possible.  

For a while, Beijing seemed to have a strategy, and if one did not look too closely it even seemed to be succeeding. Occurring at a time of shifting balance of economic and military power in the Taiwan Strait, the election of Ma Ying-jeou of the “Beijing-friendly” Kuomintang (KMT) in the 2008 elections, followed by the signing of a series of agreements and indications of political rapprochement, led many analysts to conclude that the Taiwan “question” was, at long last, on its way to peaceful resolution. Moreover, the seeming passivity of the Taiwanese public in the early years of the Ma administration seemed to indicate general support for his efforts. 

Continues here.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

President Tsai: Proceed With Marriage Equality. Now

The electoral costs to the government of proceeding with legalizing same-sex unions in Taiwan are so low it makes no sense to delay the matter any further. And from a moral standpoint, it's the right thing to do 

As Taipei prepares to host the largest LGBT Pride parade in Asia on Saturday, the question of legalizing same-sex marriage in Taiwan is once again making headlines, this time with a reinvigorated drive by legislators to pass the necessary amendments to make this possible. 

After months — years, in fact — of foot-dragging, the stars appear to be aligned for Taiwan to become the first country in Asia to embrace marriage equality. A larger-than-ever number of legislators now support legalization, with former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) of the Kuomintang (KMT) becoming the latest to do so. And in the judicial branch, likely appointees have also been sending all the right signals. 

Continues here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

China’s Negative Impact on Freedom of the Press Expands Outwards

We all know how China treats its own journalists. But what about the CCP's critics outside China? More and more, it's going after them, too 

A total of 38 civil society organizations signed a petition earlier this month urging Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — whose father established relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China in 1970 — to prioritize protections for freedom of expression as Ottawa moves to deepen its relationship with the authoritarian country. 

“We, the undersigned organizations and supporters, call on the Canadian government to put human rights, especially free expression and press freedom, at the heart of the ‘renewed’ Canada-China relationship,” the petition says, referring to the rapid pace of developments between the two governments following the somewhat cooler relationship under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

WEF Corrects 'Error' in Annual Report, Reinstates ‘Taiwan, China’

Beijing imposes a fiction about Taiwan and often gets its way in global institutions. But in the end, nomenclature will never change the facts on the ground 

“In an initial version of the Global Competitiveness Report 2016, Taiwan, China, was incorrectly listed as Chinese Taipei. The change in nomenclature happened as a technical matter — guided by designations used by other international organizations — and in no way signifies a lack of support by the World Economic Forum of the People’s Republic of China’s ‘One China policy.’” 

Thus a press release by the WEF on Sept. 29, one day after the release of the report. Due to a “technical matter,” the WEF used the reviled misnomer “Chinese Taipei” adopted by many international institutions to refer to Taiwan or the Republic of China. 

Continues here.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Is Double Ten a Deadline for President Tsai?

Don’t hold your breath for a breakthrough in President Tsai’s cross-Strait policy on National Day 

As Oct. 10 approaches, a growing chorus of voices has argued that Taiwan's National Day will be some sort of “deadline” for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to deliver something palatable to Beijing. 

The notion that Double Ten marks a point in cross-Strait relations, beyond which President Tsai’s refusal to acknowledge the so-called 1992 consensus and “one China” would prompt further punitive measures by China, has been around for a while. Chinese participants at various conferences and other settings have mentioned it, followed, often quietly in small circles, by a number of Western academics with “insider” knowledge. 

Continues here.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Is the West Losing the Influence War to China?

Like-minded coalitions of major states are increasingly unable to counter Beijing’s efforts to isolate Taiwan at international institutions 

As Taiwan’s dignity and regional air safety are compromised due to silly political games at the ICAO assembly in Montreal, news emerged yesterday that Taiwan’s attempt to participate as an observer at another international organization, Interpol, is also “not going well.” 

Once again, it is expected that Taiwan’s ability to join multilateral organizations are being frustrated by Beijing, which appears to be delivering on its threat to punish Taiwan for the new government’s refusal to acknowledge the so-called 1992 consensus and “one China.” 

Continues here.

Monday, September 26, 2016

For Taiwan, the Sun Doesn’t Rise and Set with China

Only when the international community stops looking at Taiwan through the China lens will those motivations be fully understood 

Taiwan isn’t just an orphan: it is a misunderstood orphan. Due to its international isolation, a dwindling presence by foreign media personnel and a self-inflicted inability by successive governments (including the current one) to make the proper investments in public diplomacy, it is often ignored. And when it is not, what is said or written about it is quite often downright wrong. 

One of the most oft-repeated fallacies in international media coverage and analysis of Taiwan is the notion that everything the Taiwanese do is in relation to China, that changing weather patterns in Taiwan, if you will, occur because a butterfly batted its wings somewhere in Guangdong. 

Continues here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

ICAO Refuses to Invite Taiwan to Assembly

The decision yet again demonstrates China's ability to coerce international institutions into making decision that go against their very mandate, putting politics before public health and safety 

The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has refused to invite Taiwan to attend its upcoming triennial assembly, sparking a strong protest by Taipei on Friday, which called the decision "extremely unfair to Taiwan and a major loss to global aviation safety." 

Continues here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

SCMP the Good Little Mouthpiece

More and more, the South China Morning Post’s editorials read as if they were drafted in Beijing. Here’s an example 

Following Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s (馬雲) acquisition of the 113-year-old Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post last year, many questions were raised as to whether the move would have an impact on the paper’s editorial line. 

The paper had been bleeding independent minds for years and editorial pressure existed well before Mr. Ma took over. Still, the pro-Beijing line became more apparent, and earlier this year the SCMP was one of the few news organizations that were given access to the ostensibly staged “confessions” of Chinese activists. Under Mr. Ma’s watch, the online version of the paper also became free. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

To Terminate or Not? Taiwan’s ‘Cloud Peak’ Medium-Range Missile Program

A recent report by the ‘China Times’ claims Taiwan has decided to abandon efforts to develop a medium-range missile that could hit Beijing or Shanghai. While aborting the program would make sense, Taipei won’t be doing so for the reasons stated in the article 

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Tuesday denied claims by the Chinese-language China Times that Taiwan has decided to scrap efforts to develop a medium-range surface-to-surface missile capable of hitting Beijing and Shanghai as a “goodwill gesture to China.” 

Continues here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

China the Twelve Year Old

For far too long we have allowed the tyrant child to determine our actions. This must stop. We must stop fearing it 

Here we go again, the old tired accusations of “broken promises” and damage done to China’s “core interests” after European Union parliamentarians met with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on European soil on Sept. 15. 

For a country that constantly reminds us of its glorious 5,000 years of history, its leadership behaves very much like a 12-year-old: pouting and bullying when it doesn’t get what it wants. To be perfectly honest, it’s rather embarrassing and hardly warrants the space and scare quotes it gets in the world’s media. (I see what you’re thinking: I’m also guilty of giving it space here, but bear with me for a second and I will get to the point.) 

Continues here.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Spurned, Beijing Bypasses Taiwan’s Central Government

Beijing is seeking to undermine the authority of Taiwan’s central government by creating bilateral dependencies and sowing division within society. It has been going on for quite a while 

Top representatives from eight municipalities in Taiwan controlled by the pan-blue camp visited China at the weekend for talks with Chinese officials and to promote tourism and agricultural produce as Beijing shows Taipei the cold shoulder for its refusal to acknowledge the so-called 1992 consensus. 

Besides belonging to the same camp — six of the eight city and county government heads belong to the Kuomintang (KMT) and two others are blue-leaning independents — all eight representatives have stated they recognize the “1992 consensus,” which an inflexible Beijing has set as a precondition for cross-Strait exchanges. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Japanese Politician's Taiwan Connection Causes Storm as Party Vote Looms

Attacked for her dual nationality, Democratic Party deputy head Renho is in a race to abandon her ROC citizenship. And did she or did she not say that Taiwan is not a country? 

Democratic Party deputy head Murata Renho (村田蓮舫), a half-Japanese and half-Taiwanese politician who is locked in a three-way race to assume leadership of the DP in Sept. 15 elections, revealed on Tuesday that she has yet to renounce her Republic of China citizenship. 

Under attack for her dual citizenship, the politician, who goes by Renho, admitted on Tuesday that she had not, as previously stated, relinquished her ROC citizenship at the age of 17. 

Continues here.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Official Blames ‘Rude’ Taiwanese for Drop in Chinese Tourism

'We need to stop using smearing language about Chinese people, especially on the Internet’ 

As tour operators prepare to protest next Monday to call on the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration to help the sagging tourism industry, a spokesman for the Travel Agent Association of the R.O.C. Taiwan attributes a drop in Chinese tourists to online rudeness by the Taiwanese. 

Ringo Lee (李奇嶽), spokesman for the Association, said on Wednesday that dwindling numbers in Chinese arrivals to Taiwan were not the result of a decision by Chinese authorities to punish the Tsai administration for refusing to acknowledge the so-called “1992 consensus,” but rather “smearing language” used by Taiwanese netizens to refer to Chinese people. 

Continues here.

Friday, September 02, 2016

China’s Censorship Rules Reach New Level of Absurdity

The CCP’s gradual descent into regulatory madness suggests that it is losing its grip on reality and on the people whom it seeks to control 

For all its many accomplishments over the years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) still has serious self-confidence issues. Like any other autocrat before it, this has led the CCP to impose a wide set of restrictions on what ordinary people and the media are allowed to say. 

China under President Xi Jinping (習近平) is going through a period of tightening rules and an intensifying clampdown on civil society, lawyers, journalists, and the entertainment industry, in a campaign that has primarily targeted the “pollution” of Western ideals. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Taiwan Plan for the Next U.S. President

How to shore up U.S. interests without sparking war 

Like the rest of the world, Taiwan’s twenty-three million people will look on with expectation—and perhaps some trepidation—on November 8 when Americans elect a new president. Whether Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton or Republican Donald J. Trump prevails in the race will, to some extent, determine how Taiwan’s principal security guarantor will deal with its democratic East Asian ally and the authoritarian giant that claims sovereignty over it. 

Notwithstanding the fundamental differences that have been highlighted during the long and bitter presidential campaign, it is unlikely that a President Clinton or Trump would be able to implement a drastic shift in the United States’ Asia policy. As with every incoming administration, the nature of the U.S. government system and the sprawling civil service militate against sudden shifts in direction and ensure continuity, regardless of the promises made by a presidential candidate. 

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

Should Mao Enter the Building?

Two scheduled concerts in Australia honoring Chairman Mao have sparked calls for boycotts. Let them sing and dance and spin all they want in his honor. Our job isn’t to silence them, as this would make us no better than the CCP 

Two concerts at the Melbourne and Sydney town halls honoring Mao Zedong (毛澤東) have sparked controversy among China watchers who argue that the event, scheduled for early next month, trivializes the deaths of tens of millions of people during Mao’s reign. The concerts, which have been widely promoted in the increasingly pro-Beijing Chinese-language media in Australia, will be held in Sydney on Sept. 6 and Melbourne on Sept. 9. 

Continues here, with response by Australian critics and some interesting information about one of the Chinese organizers...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Tsai Administration Needs to Stop Stalling on Marriage Equality

For years the DPP blamed the KMT for stalled efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Taiwan. Now in control of both the executive and legislative branches of government, the DPP has no valid argument for further delays 

Following Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) victory in the Jan. 16 general elections, many human rights observers in Taiwan and abroad cherished the possibility that Taiwan could become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. To distinguish itself from the more conservative Kuomintang (KMT) in the lead-up to the elections, Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) made this subject a component of its platform, and a large contingent of party members were instructed to take part in last year’s LGBT Pride Parade in Taipei. 

Continues here.

Hong Kong No Longer Has Autonomy on Immigration

In the current environment of uncertainty in Hong Kong, controls over who comes in and who goes out will be used more frequently as an instrument by which to deny individuals contact with Hong Kong’s society 

Beijing never fully intended the “one country, two systems” formula to be a permanent fixture in its relationship with Hong Kong, and as tensions rise between the central government and the former British colony, control over who is allowed to enter the territory has become a hot issue. 

Although Beijing never had a completely hands-off approach to immigration controls in Hong Kong, which had a certain degree of freedom to decide who could come in or not, its meddling in such decisions deepened markedly following Occupy Central and the Umbrella Movement. Since then, several individuals have been denied entry into the territory. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rebuild the Dapu Pharmacy

As the Tsai administration mulls updating Taiwan’s antiquated laws on land expropriation, one demolished building serves as a powerful symbol 

Premier Lin Chuan (林全) on Monday said that a pharmacy and residence in Miaoli County’s Dapu Township, demolished to great controversy in 2013, could eventually be rebuilt if the law permits. 

Such a move would be welcomed, not only because it would be the just thing to do, but also because of the symbolic value of the act. Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) did very well in the November 2014 local elections and January 2016 general elections in large part due to a widespread loss of confidence in the Kuomintang’s (KMT) ability to find a proper equilibrium between development and respect of society’s most vulnerable groups. 

Continues here.

Patience, Patience on UN Bid

Taiwan’s inability to join the U.N. under a proper name and as a full member is preposterous. But those are that cards that history has dealt it, and it must use them wisely. Impetuousness will gain it nothing 

Someone spoke out of turn this week and once again the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration found itself on the defensive, this time having to deny it intends to apply to re-enter the U.N. under the name “Taiwan.” 

No sooner had the denials been voiced on Wednesday than members from the deep-green camp began accusing Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of being “no better” than, or simply a new iteration of, the Kuomintang (KMT). Both the KMT and Tsai’s administration have chosen to seek constructive and meaningful participation at U.N. agencies, usually under a less-than-ideal designation, rather than aim for full membership under the name Taiwan. President Tsai’s reason for doing so is to avoid rocking the boat of the always tenuous cross-Strait relations and causing surprise, if not consternation, in Washington, D.C., and other capitals. 

Continues here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Conversation With National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman

‘Accountability means elections, an independent media that can watch over, a judiciary, and an active, mobilized civil society, which is what you had with the Sunflower Movement. That’s the price of democracy. That’s what makes democracy work’ 

The subject of various conspiracy theories among authoritarian regimes, the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is one of the most active agents promoting freedom around the world. 

Carl Gershman has been president of the NED since its founding in 1984 and was in Taiwan this week to take part in the third Asia Young Leaders Democracy Program organized by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), which this year brought together 19 international participants from 17 countries in Asia and Eastern Europe, as well as three Taiwanese. 

The News Lens International’s chief editor J. Michael Cole sat down with Gershman at TFD’s headquarters on Thursday to talk about the state of democracy. 

Q&A continues here.