Posts Tagged ‘One China’

US-China: Why Taiwan is back on the agenda

June 10, 2018

For decades seen as the most likely spark for a Sino-US conflict the island of 23m people is again at the centre of growing tension

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Tom Mitchell in Beijing, Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington and Edward White in Taipei 

A US Senate delegation visiting Beijing in March expected its conversations with Chinese officials to be dominated by talk of a trade war between the two countries and President Donald Trump’s plans to meet North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. Instead the five-member delegation — visiting on the same day that Mr Kim was in the Chinese capital — received an earbashing from Chinese officials seething over Taiwan.

The meetings came just weeks after the Senate had passed, and Mr Trump had signed, the Taiwan Travel Act, which formally encouraged more exchanges between US officials and their counterparts on the free, democratic and self-governed island. For Chinese officials, Taiwan is an inalienable part of their sovereign territory that they believe they will one day recover.

For Washington the “One China policy” is the “bedrock” of Sino-US relations. Under a diplomatic fudge that has lasted four decades, the US formally recognises Beijing but also maintains unofficial ties with the island of 23m people.

In an effort to calm his angry hosts at the National People’s Congress on March 28, Steve Daines, the Montana Republican who led the US delegation, focused his closing remarks on their concerns about US-Taiwan relations. According to three people who attended the meeting, the senator concluded by saying that “we only have one embassy in China, here in Beijing, and one ambassador who is sitting right next to me” as he gestured towards Terry Branstad who took up the ambassadorship last year.

The senator’s deft diplomatic response is a reminder that, for Beijing, Taiwan and other “core interests” related to territorial sovereignty could be the real tripwires in the world’s most consequential bilateral relationship, rather than more visible friction over trade and North Korea. Indeed, for decades it was Taiwan — rather than China’s more recent militarisation of outposts in the South China Sea — that was viewed as the most likely trigger for any clash between Chinese and US forces.

Taiwan is also a key link in the “first-island chain” — stretching from South Korea in the north to the Philippines in the south — that restricts China’s ability to project power into the western Pacific. US support for Taiwan through arms sales is a critical component of the regional balance of power.

Chinese officials are therefore extremely sensitive about the opening this week of a $250m headquarters building in Taipei, for the American Institute in Taiwan. The AIT building, situated in an affluent area of the Taiwanese capital is an embassy in all but name, staffed by US diplomats and tasked with normal consular functions.

The opening ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday, the same day as Mr Trump’s Singapore summit with Mr Kim, guaranteeing that it will be eclipsed by the historic meeting in the south-east Asian city state.

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Since the 2016 election of Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s president relations with China have deteriorated © Reuters

Chinese officials are obsessed with who will represent the US president in Taipei. Attendance by a cabinet-level official would likely jeopardise Mr Xi’s willingness to co-operate on everything from pressuring Mr Kim to abandon his nuclear weapons programme to reducing China’s trade surplus with the US.

“If [a high-level US official] goes to Taiwan, Trump should not expect China to offer help on big international issues,” says Shi Yinhong, a foreign affairs expert at Beijing’s Renmin University. “China will also increase pressure on Taiwan in all respects.”

As of Sunday, the Trump administration had not said which officials, if any, would attend. “The Chinese are pressuring us every day about who will represent the administration in Taipei,” says one US diplomat.

Chinese officials are wary of the Trump administration’s commitment to the One China policy, and with good reason.

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US national security adviser John Bolton who has called for the US to ‘revisit’ its One China policy © Getty

Five days after the Taiwan Travel Act became law — and one day after Mr Xi warned the world that “ all acts and tricks to split China are doomed to failure” — a US deputy assistant secretary of state, Alex Wong, gave a speech in Taipei that seemed calculated to enrage the Chinese president further.

“We’ve done much to deepen US-Taiwan relations but my message is ‘let’s do more’,” Mr Wong told an audience that included Tsai Ing-wen, the island’s president and leader of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive party. “Taiwan’s democracy and resulting development are an example for the entire Indo-Pacific region . . . The US commitment to the Taiwan people, to their security, to their democracy, has never been stronger.”

Mr Trump tested Beijing’s sensitivities over Taiwan before he even became president. In December 2016, the then president-elect shattered almost 40 years of diplomatic precedent by accepting a phone call from Ms Tsai.

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The American Institute in Taiwan © Reuters

Unlike Taiwan’s Nationalist party, whose leaders fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist party, Ms Tsai and the DPP do not accept the “1992 consensus” under which the Communist and Nationalist parties agreed that there is only one China, albeit with different interpretations of what that means.

Alarmed by what they saw as Mr Trump’s provocative gesture — and his subsequent comments that US commitment to the One China policy was a chip that could be withheld for concessions during trade and other disputes — Chinese officials delayed for three weeks the first telephone call between Mr Xi and Mr Trump as presidents. When the two leaders finally spoke in February 2017, Mr Trump confirmed his commitment to the One China policy, setting the stage for a year of stable relations.

That period of relative calm has been overturned by the passage of the Taiwan Travel Act, the appointment of John Bolton— a noted China hawk — as national security adviser, and Mr Trump’s threat, made in early April, to impose punitive tariffs on as much as $150bn worth of Chinese exports in retaliation for alleged theft of US companies’ proprietary technologies. In January 2017 Mr Bolton wrote “it is high time to revisit” Washington’s commitment to the One China policy.

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, says that as a result it was once again “very difficult if not impossible” for Beijing and even his own officials to work out where Mr Trump stood on Taiwan. In response to passage of the act, Lu Kang, chief spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said it “sends out wrong signals to ‘pro-independence’ separatist forces in Taiwan”.

Several people familiar with the situation say Mr Trump later worried that Mr Wong’s speech could damage his efforts to cut a trade deal with China. Indeed, many Chinese analysts and officials think the US president views Taiwan primarily as a useful pressure point in his dealings with Mr Xi. “Trump sees Taiwan as a small chip in a bigger negotiation with China,” says Sima Nan, a prominent Beijing-based commentator.

In the speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, Mr Wong doubled down on his praise for Taiwan with thinly disguised criticism of China.

“Dynamic, broad-based and sustainable economic growth can never hinge on the whim of a dictator,” he said. “Unfortunately there are actors who fail to give due respect to the obligations they voluntarily signed up for. When economies, large or small, are able to flout the rules, cheat their trading partners, force intellectual property transfer, protect national champions, steal trade secrets and use market-distorting subsidies, it undermines the integrity of the entire rules-based system and . . . the prosperity of the entire region.”

Not surprisingly, Ms Glaser says: “The Chinese [have] started raising Taiwan in every conversation they have at any level with a US official. This was not true during the Obama administration.”

Just as Chinese officials were lulled into a false sense of complacency about their seemingly stable relationship with the US for most of last year, current and former US diplomats say they forgot how big an irritant Taiwan could be during Ma Ying-jeou’s eight years as president of the island, from 2008 to 2016.

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The then Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping, China’s president, at a November 2015 Summit seen as a milestone in thawing relations between the two neighbours © AFP

Under his leadership, the Nationalist party steered Taiwan towards an ever closer economic relationship with China, culminating in a historic cross-straits summit between Mr Ma and Mr Xi in November 2015.

“During the Obama administration, cross-straits relations were very positive and very stable, which provided lots of room [for the US] to grow political, economic and security ties with Taiwan,” says Evan Medeiros, a former Asia adviser to the Obama White House.

When Mr Ma was elected in 2008, there were no daily flights between Taiwan and China. By 2015 there were 120 and the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan annually also peaked at 4.2m. But the Nationalists pushed the rapprochement too far, sparking mass protests and paving the way for Ms Tsai’s landslide election victory just two months after the Ma-Xi summit. Taiwan’s new president came into power with a clear mandate for a radically different approach to relations with China.

“We got a bit complacent about Taiwan after eight years of Ma Ying-jeou,” says one US diplomat. “Tsai Ing-wen’s election changed the equation.”

Ryan Hass, a former adviser to the Obama White House on China now with the Brookings Institution, agrees. “We experienced an anomalous period when Ma, Obama and Xi were in office where relations between Taipei, Washington and Beijing were largely constructive,” he says. “Some of the muscle memory in Washington atrophied a bit. With the elections of Tsai and Trump, things have reverted back to the historical mean of increased sensitivity around Taiwan.”

The shift in cross-strait relations under Ms Tsai was taken as an affront by China and has sparked what Taiwanese officials call a “hybrid warfare” campaign by Beijing. In addition to freezing all official communications with Taiwan, the Chinese government is pressing the dwindling number of countries that still recognise Taipei to move their embassies to Beijing and using overt displays of military power.

Chinese regulators have even started a campaign to reprimand foreign companies that inadvertently list Taiwan as a country on website drop-down menus — a development last month condemned by the White House as “Orwellian nonsense”.

Andrew Yang, a former Taiwan defence minister, estimates that the number of Chinese naval and air training exercises close to Taiwan-controlled territory this year is “double or nearly triple” those over the same period a year ago. Other Taiwan officials warn that such pressure is counterproductive.

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Chinese warships launch missiles to clear a beach head during a mock attack on an island in the Taiwan Strait in 1996, at the height of the tensions between the two countries © AP

James Moriarty, AIT chairman, argued in a speech last month that “every military exercise seemingly threatening Taiwan reminds Congress that China seems to have aggressive intentions against a democratic entity that only wants to be allowed to survive . . . [and] reinforces this feeling that China is an aggressive power”.

Lai I-chung, a foreign policy expert at Taiwan Think-tank, says the issue is not “whether Taiwan will give in” to Beijing but whether the US and the rest of the international community will take notice. “China won’t stop until it is stopped,” he adds.

Additional reporting by Xinning Liu


Military manoeuvres: US arm sales and PLA tactics stir Strait tensions

When Hong Kong was still a British colony, there was a joke about how Mao Zedong’s Communist forces might one day reclaim it — “by telephone” ran the punchline.

Tiny Hong Kong was never militarily defensible. But for China’s president Xi Jinping and the People’s Liberation Army, Taiwan is a very different proposition. Standing between Mr Xi and reunification with what Beijing regards as a “renegade province” is the 81-mile wide Taiwan Strait.

For decades Mao and his successors would occasionally lob missiles across the Strait at the Communist party’s old civil war adversary Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist party. By the 1990s the PLA was conducting missile tests in the straits to intimidate the then Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui, who Beijing suspected of trying to stoke independence.

There was little more China could do, especially with the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet stationed out of Japan. But the cross-strait balance of power is shifting.

The PLA has recently conducted exercises during which its air and naval forces circled Taiwan, suggesting that they are capable of drawing a noose around the island and then tightening it.

“Xi speaks of ‘being able to fight and win wars’,” says one Chinese government adviser who asked to remain anonymous. “No Chinese leader has spoken like that since Mao.”

US law provides for weapon sales to Taiwan aimed at ensuring “a sufficient self-defence capability”. But during the latter years of the George W Bush administration annual arms sales were bundled together in larger but less frequent transactions.

Critics condemn the change as an unwarranted sop to China. The Trump administration is now rethinking how the US sells weapons to Taiwan with Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, among those critical of bundled sales.


Australia criticises China pressure for Qantas to change website on Taiwan

June 5, 2018

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday criticised China for pressuring Qantas Airways Ltd to change its website to refer to Taiwan as a Chinese territory, in comments likely to ramp up tensions between the two countries.

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Qantas said on Monday it had decided to comply with a request from Beijing to remove references on their websites or in other material that suggest Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are part of countries independent from China.

Australia’s government already adheres to the one-China policy, which means it does not recognise Taiwan as a country.

However, Bishop said in an emailed statement that how Qantas structured its website was a matter for the company.

“Private companies should be free to conduct their usual business operations free from political pressure of governments,” she said.

Her comments were later echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Defence Minister Marise Payne, who said businesses should make their own decisions.

China’s embassy in Australia did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Self-ruled Taiwan is claimed by Beijing as a Chinese territory, and has become one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint. Hong Kong and Macau are former European colonies that are now part of China but run largely autonomously.

Sino-Australian relations have soured in recent months, just two years into a free trade pact after Canberra accused Beijing of interfering in its domestic affairs.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull referenced “disturbing reports of Chinese meddling” when he announced plans in late 2017 to introduce tough new legislation to limit foreign influence, including a ban on offshore political donations.

China denied the allegations, and lodged a formal diplomatic protest.

Despite sustained Australian lobbying, the row intensified last month when Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates Ltd, the world’s biggest listed winemaker, said it faced delays at Chinese customs and Canberra said “four or five” other wine exporters had since experienced similar problems.

Before the latest comments, analysts had suggested Australia may be forced into offering a concession to Beijing, such as allowing Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] to bid to build the country’s 5G telecommunications network.

Such a move would mark a significant about-turn after Canberra banned the Chinese company from bidding to build Australia’s broadband network in 2012, citing concerns over Huawei’s rumoured close ties to China’s government.

Australia has yet to rule Huawei out of the running, and the Chinese firm has ramped up public lobbying.

“Companies like Huawei are privately owned, not owned by any committee or any government, and should be looked at and put into a competitive tendering,” John Lord, chairman of Huawei’s Australia unit, told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio on Monday.

Reporting by Colin Packham. Editing by Sam Holmes and Richard Pullin


If You Want to Do Business in China, Mind Your T’s: Taiwan and Tibet

June 2, 2018

Consultants suggest firms mind local laws, customs on disputed territories; concerns over censorship and Beijing’s retaliation

A Gap store in Beijing. The apparel company recently apologized for selling a T-shirt depicting a map of China that omitted Taiwan and other China-claimed territories.
A Gap store in Beijing. The apparel company recently apologized for selling a T-shirt depicting a map of China that omitted Taiwan and other China-claimed territories. PHOTO: GILLES SABRIE/BLOOMBERG NEWS


American companies have lately been quick to apologize for offending China’s geopolitical sensibilities, from listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries on their websites to inaccurately reflecting the status of Chinese-controlled Hong Kong and Macau.

The spate of incidents has business and trade consultants suggesting ways companies can avoid getting into the situation in the first place—among them, hiring China experts, understanding domestic regulations about maps and being mindful of Chinese advertising and cyberspace laws.

This week, Costco Wholesale Corp. COST -0.56% became the latest U.S. company to be pilloried on Chinese social media after images surfaced online of a 2016 letter from one of the retailer’s executives to a Washington group supporting Taiwan’s independence. The letter said the company viewed Taiwan as a “country.” Costco, which has long operated in Taiwan and is preparing to open its first store in mainland China, hasn’t responded publicly and didn’t respond to a request for comment.

American companies such as  Delta Air Lines Inc., Marriott International Inc. and Gap Inc.and some European firms have apologized and changed or removed content that China has deemed offensive. China’s recent policing of American companies, followed by those companies’ swift capitulation in most cases, adds another dimension to the intensifying trade tensions between Beijing and Washington. China’s actions also reflect a new reality in which companies seeking to tap the world’s second-largest economy must increasingly contend with officials monitoring the internet for perceived slights and political missteps.

“Because of the political system here, there is no real leeway to lobby or argue,” said Linda Du, founder of a Shanghai-based startup that connects brand-management consultants with global companies.

China has controlled Tibet for decades despite some advocating its independence or greater autonomy. Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory even though the two sides separated in a civil war 70 years ago and the island is now a democracy. Hong Kong and Macau are both part of China, but are governed under the “one country, two systems” formula, which allows them to maintain their own legal, political and economic systems.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry in early May said that foreign companies operating in the country should “respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China’s law and respect the national feeling of the Chinese people.” The ministry didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

The Shanghai Disney Resort. Disney in 2005 received angry emails from Chinese citizens for mislabeling Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries in an online form.
The Shanghai Disney Resort. Disney in 2005 received angry emails from Chinese citizens for mislabeling Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries in an online form. PHOTO: DING TING/ZUMA PRESS

To respect these distinctions, U.S. firms could study how the State Department, as well as the United Nations and others, refers to China’s territories, said Erin Ennis, senior vice president at the U.S.-China Business Council, a nonprofit representing American companies doing business with China. The pitfalls come about because companies often label these places “countries,” a term that suggests independent entities, Ms. Ennis said, adding that some international organizations call them economies or regions.

For Delta, the largest U.S. airline by market capitalization, its website’s listing of Tibet and Taiwan as countries was what drew the ire of Chinese aviation regulators in January. Delta apologized to Beijing and tweaked a drop-down menu on its online destinations form to read “country/region” instead of “country,” a person familiar with the matter said.

In their rush to tap China’s 1.4 billion consumers, multinational corporations sometimes forget to tune in to cultural differences, said Ted Bililies, a managing director at consulting firm AlixPartners who advises CEOs. “If you want to win at cultural globalization it’s still a game of prevention, prevention, prevention,” he said.

The rise of social media in China has enabled controversies to go viral. Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz of Germany in February pulled an Instagram post quoting the Dalai Lama after Chinese state media and social-media users in the country denounced the auto maker. China also ordered Marriott to temporarily suspend its online services in China after the hotelier circulated an online guest survey that listed Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Macau as countries. And Gap Inc. recently apologized for selling a T-shirt depicting a map of China that omitted Taiwan and other China-claimed territories after an online backlash emerged. It also destroyed the offending merchandise.

Such perceived missteps attracted less scrutiny before social-media use exploded in China. In 2005, Walt Disney Co. drew angry emails from Chinese citizens for mislabeling Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries in an online form that users were asked to fill out for updates about Hong Kong Disneyland, a person familiar with the matter said. Disney quickly fixed the problem and sidestepped scrutiny from Chinese authorities, the person added.

Since coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has tightened his grip over the internet, establishing China’s Cyberspace Administration and introducing laws to combat messages that undermine national sovereignty. China added a clause prohibiting advertisements from “damaging the dignity or interest of the state” when updating laws in 2015.

Some business consultants suggest hiring staff who understand local rules and conventions and can review communications before they are made public. That is especially important when companies use third-party vendors to provide some online services, said Washington-based crisis consultant Eric Dezenhall. “Even big companies have some media vendor tweeting stuff…without levels of approval.”

The responses of American companies have raised concerns among lawmakers of censorship and improper retaliation.

“As we have seen with Marriott, Delta, and now Gap, the Chinese government is increasingly extending its ‘long arm’ and economic leverage to interfere in the internal business practices of American companies,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, in a statement.

Write to Mike Spector at and Wayne Ma at

China-Taiwan Dispute: ‘Consensus’ not the solution after Burkina Faso became the fourth diplomatic ally to quit Taiwan

May 26, 2018

Beijing’s diplomatic oppression of Taiwan continues and members of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Committee are saying concensus with China is impossible.

FALSE CLAIM?  Chen Ming-tong said former president Ma Ying-jeou did not mention ‘different interpretations’ during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter
Taipei Times

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong talks to reporters at a news conference in Taipei yesterday. Photo: CNA

Acceptance of the so-called “1992 consensus” is not the answer to Taiwan’s diplomatic setbacks, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said yesterday, adding that the government plans to introduce new policies in addition to tightening its screening of applications by Chinese officials to visit Taiwan.

Chen made the remarks at an afternoon news conference in Taipei, hours after a number of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-friendly experts attributed Burkina Faso’s decision to cut ties with Taiwan to President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) refusal to acknowledge the “1992 consensus” — a line usually adopted by the pan-blue camp when it comes to the Tsai administration’s diplomatic predicament.

Burkina Faso on Thursday became the fourth diplomatic ally the nation has lost since Tsai’s inauguration in May 2016, after Sao Tome and Principe in December 2016, Panama in June last year and the Dominican Republic on April 30.

“Will accepting the ‘1992 consensus’ solve the problem? Some blamed the losses of diplomatic allies on [the government’s] failure to accept the ‘1992 consensus,’ but what is the ‘1992 consensus’? Does it really allow for different interpretations of what ‘China’ means?” Chen said.

The “1992 consensus,” a term former MAC chairman Su Chi (蘇起) in 2006 admitted making up in 2000, refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

However, Beijing has not acknowledged the “different interpretations” part and has only mentioned the “one China” element in its references to the “1992 consensus.”

While the KMT has repeatedly pressured Tsai to embrace the “1992 consensus,” not even its own members have dared to do so publicly in front of Beijing, Chen said.

He said that according to his understanding, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) did not mention the “different interpretations” part as he had claimed during his historic closed-door meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore in 2015.

“Ma’s omission surprised then-MAC minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) and other participants at the meeting,” Chen said.

The “1992 consensus” was not what prompted Beijing’s diplomatic oppression of Taiwan, but rather its ultimate goal of unification, which Chen said the KMT is helping China achieve by humming to its tune.

“The opposition party has said whatever Beijing wants it to say, be it the ‘1992 consensus’ or ‘unification.’ What can Taiwan get out of all this?” Chen said, referring to KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) remarks at a party meeting on Tuesday that the nation’s ultimate goal is unification, citing the Constitution.

The remarks marked a departure from Wu’s previous stance on the issue, as he used to cite the “1992 consensus” as the cornerstone of his cross-strait policy.

Chen said that due to the current situation across the Taiwan Strait, in addition to rigorously screening applications by Chinese officials to visit Taiwan, the council would soon release a series of new policies.

However, he stopped short of providing any details.



Taiwan scrambles fighter jets to monitor Chinese bombers

May 25, 2018

The Taiwanese Defense Ministry has taken “efficient responsive measures” to ensure the island’s security, it said in a statement. China’s military provocation comes as Taipei loses yet another diplomatic ally.

Taiwanese fighter jet

Taiwan’s armed forces on Friday scrambled fighter jets in response to a Chinese military drill involving H-9 [sic] bombers. [H-6K bombers]

Two Chinese H-9 bombers flew over the Bashi Channel south of Taiwan and then through the Miyako Strait, bringing them near northeastern Taiwan.

“We are fully monitoring the situation and taking efficient responsive measures to ensure defense security,” said Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.

The ministry said the Chinese aircraft appeared to be engaged in a long-range training exercise, adding that people in Taiwan should not be alarmed by the operation.

Taiwanese fighter jet shadows Chinese bomber Earlier this month, Taiwan had to deploy fighter aircraft to accompany a Chinese H-6K bomber that flew over the Luzon Strait, just south of Taiwan

‘Crude behavior’

Since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office in 2016, relations between Beijing and Taipei have steadily deteriorated.

Beijing fears Tsai may push for an independence referendum, although she has said she wants to uphold the status quo.

China’s deployment of two bombers to circle Taiwan on Friday comes as Taipei lost a diplomatic ally this week. Burkina Faso announced on Thursday that it had severed ties with Taiwan, with analysts suggesting it had caved under Chinese pressure.

Tsai said on Thursday that Taiwan would not bow to Beijing’s “crude behavior to undermine our sovereignty.”

‘Unification of the motherland’

China has increasingly sought to isolate Taiwan internationally, as it sees the island nation as a breakaway province.

Taiwan now has formal diplomatic ties with only 18 countries, down from 22 in 2016.

In March, Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a warning against “any actions and tricks to split China”in what observers believe was a veiled threat directed at Taiwan.

“Maintaining national sovereignty, territorial integrity and complete unification of the motherland is the common aspiration of all Chinese,” Xi said.

ls/sms (AFP, Reuters)


Taiwan air force scrambles as Chinese bombers fly round island

May 25, 2018

Taiwan’s air force scrambled aircraft on Friday as Chinese bombers flew around the self-ruled island, just a few hours after Taiwan vowed not to be cowed having lost another diplomatic ally amid growing Chinese pressure.

Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial issue and a potential dangerous military flashpoint. China claims the island as its sacred territory and has vowed not to allow any attempts at what it views as Taiwan separatism.

Tension between democratic Taiwan and its big neighbor has increased in recent months, with China suspicious the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen wants to push for the island’s formal independence.

Tsai, who took offer in 2016, says she wants to maintain the status quo, but will protect Taiwan’s security and not be bullied by Beijing.

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FILE Photo

In the latest flight by Chinese aircraft around Taiwan, two H-6 bombers passed through the Bashi Channel which separates Taiwan from the Philippines in the early hours of Friday and then rounded Taiwan via Japan’s Miyako Strait, to Taiwan’s northeast, the island’s defense ministry said.

Taiwan aircraft accompanied and monitored the Chinese bombers throughout, the ministry said, describing the Chinese aircraft as being on a long-range training mission.

The people of Taiwan should not be alarmed as the air force was well able to monitor the Chinese aircraft as they approach and during their missions and can ensure Taiwan’s security, the ministry added.

There was no immediate word from China. It has said these missions, which have become increasingly frequent, are to send a warning to Taiwan not to engage in separatist activity.

On Thursday, Taiwan lost its second diplomatic ally in less than a month when Burkina Faso said it had cut ties with the island, following intense Chinese pressure on African countries to break with what it regards as a wayward province.

Tsai said Taiwan would not engage in “dollar diplomacy” and denounced Beijing’s methods, saying Taiwan and its partners in the international community would not cower to China’s pressure.

Taiwan has only one diplomatic ally left in Africa – the tiny kingdom of Swaziland – and formal relations with just 18 countries worldwide, many of them poor countries in Central America and the Pacific like Belize and Nauru.

Reporting by Jess Macy Yu; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel



How the west should judge a rising China

May 16, 2018
Advanced countries are hobbled by their inability to manage their own affairs

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Today’s advanced countries, dominated by the US and Europe, have a preponderant share of the global economy. The 14 per cent of humanity that lives in advanced countries generates 60 per cent of world output at market prices and 41 per cent at purchasing power parity.

This will not last: as recently as 1990, advanced countries generated 78 per cent of world output at market prices and 64 per cent at purchasing power parity. The west must accept its relative decline or engage in a grossly immoral and probably ruinous struggle to prevent it. That is the most important truth of our era.

For this reason, above all, westerners need to consider how those in the rising powers view the world. It is likely that China, in particular, will emerge as by far the world’s biggest economy. We need to evaluate and assess the views of those who lead it. Two weeks ago, I presented what I heard in high-level meetings in Beijing. Now, I will assess what I heard, under the same headings.

China needs strong central rule 

A noteworthy fact was the belief of our interlocutors that Chinese political stability is fragile. History suggests that they are right. The past two centuries have seen many man-made disasters, from the Taiping Rebellion of the 19th century to the Great Leap Forward and cultural revolution.

It is quite easy therefore to understand why members of the elite seem convinced that renewal of the Communist party, under the control of Xi Jinping, is essential. We must recall that the upheaval of modernisation and urbanisation through which China is now going, destabilised Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Yet this tightening of control could derail the economy or generate a political explosion in a country containing an ever more literate, interconnected and prosperous people. China wishes to be a huge Singapore. Can it?

Western models are discredited

The Chinese elite is right: they are, alas. The dominant view among the rest used to be that the west was interventionist, selfish and hypocritical, but competent. After the financial crisis and the rise of populism, the ability of the west to run its economic and political systems well has come into doubt. For those who believe in democracy and the market economy as expressions of individual freedom, these failures are distressing. They can only be dealt with by reforms. Unfortunately, what the west is getting instead is unproductive rage.

China does not want to run the world 

On this point, we can express doubts. For the first time, China will become a great power within a global civilisation. Like all great powers before it, China will surely wish to arrange the global order and the behaviour of other states (and private organisations, too) to its liking. China also has many neighbours, many of them historically allied to the US. It is already trying to expand its influence, notably in the South China Sea. It is also trying to influence behaviour, not least of all Chinese students, abroad. All this represents the inevitable extension of Chinese power abroad.

China is under attack by the US 

The Chinese elite is right that Americans increasingly regard their country as a rival, indeed a threat. Americans, in turn, argue that China is attacking them, by extending its military power and undermining allies, notably Japan.

The truth is that power is inevitably a zero-sum game. The rise of Chinese power will be seen as a threat by the US, whatever China’s intentions may be.

Moreover, many Americans, indeed many westerners, do not really accept Chinese positions on Tibet and Taiwan, are suspicious of China’s intentions and resent its success. Such mutual mistrust opens the so-called Thucydides trap of suspicion between incumbent and rising powers.

US goals in trade talks are incomprehensible 

China is right: they are ridiculous. But within them are genuinely important issues, notably intellectual property.

China will survive these attacks 

This is almost certainly true. Unless the US breaks all its commitments and seeks to impose an economic embargo on China, the current friction will not halt Chinese progress, although it may slow it. A greater threat to China would lie in the domestic reaction to a far more hostile external environment. The likely response would be yet tighter political and economic control, rather than the needed shift towards a more market-oriented, more private-sector-led and more consumption-driven economy.

This will be a testing year 

It will. In fact, it will be a testing century. The right view for the west to take is that China is indeed a significant competitor. Its rise will create many dilemmas for the west and especially for the US. But China is also an essential partner in ensuring a reasonably co-operative, stable, prosperous and peaceful world.

The west needs to think much harder about how such a world should work. The US administration’s view — that the unilateral exercise of US power is all that is needed — will fail. It will not manage the global commons that way, not that the Trump administration cares about that, at all. It will also not achieve stability: if it doubts that, it should look at the cauldron that the Middle East has become after endless interventions.

It is essential for westerners to realise that our biggest enemy has become our inability to run our own countries well. Meanwhile, the only future for an interdependent world has to be based on mutual respect and multilateral co-operation. This does not mean accepting every Chinese demand as legitimate. Far from it. Principled resistance is essential. But we are moving from a western-dominated past to a post-western future. We have to make the best of it.

China admits military exercises intended to threaten Taiwan — “It is a strong warning to Taiwan independence separatist forces”

May 16, 2018

A Chinese government spokesman said Wednesday that the country’s military exercises around Taiwan are intended as a direct threat to the self-governing island’s government over moves Beijing sees as cementing its independence from the mainland.

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Two Chinese Air Force Su-35 fighter jets and a H-6K bomber fly in formation during a patrol near Taiwan on Friday. | AP

The message conveyed by the recent drills is “very clear,” spokesman for the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office An Fengshan said at a biweekly news conference.

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An Fengshan

“It is a strong warning to Taiwan independence separatist forces and their activities. It demonstrates our determination and capabilities to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” An said.

China has the “firm will, full confidence and sufficient capabilities” to block moves toward Taiwan’s formal independence, An said.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under control by force if necessary. A Japanese colony for 50 years, Taiwan was handed to China at the end of World War II but separated from the mainland in 1949 amid civil war.

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Chinese H-6 Bomber

Since her election in 2016, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has refused China’s demand that she recognize Taiwan as a part of China. That prompted Beijing to cut off contact with her government, step up military exercises and work to increase Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation.

Chinese state media have given heavy publicity to frequent missions by air force fighters, bombers and surveillance planes to circle Taiwan. China last month held drills on its side of the Taiwan Strait and has repeatedly sailed its sole operating aircraft carrier through the 160-km (100-mile)-wide waterway.

Despite Beijing’s threats and strong economic ties between the sides, surveys show few Taiwanese favor political unification with authoritarian, Communist Party-ruled China.

Associated Press

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US takes to Chinese social media over ‘Orwellian’ demand

May 7, 2018

The United States took to a popular Chinese social media platform Monday to ramp up its criticism of Beijing’s demand that airlines list Taiwan as part of China, but the message earned little sympathy on the tightly monitored website.

© AFP/File | The US embassy posted on its official Weibo account the Mandarin translation of a White House statement that dismissed China’s request to foreign air carriers as “Orwellian nonsense”.


The US embassy posted on its official Weibo account the Mandarin translation of a White House statement that dismissed China’s request to foreign air carriers as “Orwellian nonsense”.

The post inspired tens of thousands of comments, but instead of supportive messages it triggered patriotic posts on a platform that is closely watched and censored by the authorities.

Several commentators called for “an independent Hawaii” and an “independent Alaska”.

One angry commenter said “(if you) don’t want to do business, get out of here. Follow our laws if you want stay!”

Another said: “This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It’s Chinese law.”

While the post has not been taken down, users who try to share it on their own accounts receive a message saying: “Sorry, this content is temporarily unavailable.”

The White House statement came after Chinese Civil Aviation Administration sent a notice to 36 foreign airlines on April 25, asking them to comply with Beijing’s standards of referring to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as Chinese territories.

Hong Kong, a British colony until 1997, and Macau, a Portuguese colony until 1999, are now “special administrative regions” of China.

But Taiwan has been self-ruled since splitting from the mainland after a 1949 civil war.

China views the democratic island as a renegade part of its territory and has not ruled out the use of force to bring it back into the fold if necessary.

The White House called Beijing’s demand to the airlines an attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to “export its censorship and political correctness to Americans.”

The Chinese government lashed out at the US statement, saying Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau “are all indivisible parts of China”.

“Regardless of what the US side may say or do, it will not change the fact that there is only one China in the world,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing Monday.

He urged foreign companies to “respect China’s territorial integrity… Chinese laws and feelings of the Chinese people,” if they wished to do business in China.

The website of American Airlines changed its listing as of Monday to show Hong Kong and Macau as special administrative regions of China, and only classified Taiwan separately.

United Airlines and Delta have adopted a similar approach.

Washington has maintained a delicate diplomatic balance since 1979, recognising Beijing’s sovereignty as part of its “One China” policy, while remaining Taiwan’s most powerful unofficial ally and main weapons supplier.


United States ‘ups the trade ante’ with attack on China’s ‘Orwellian’ demands on airlines, analysts say

May 6, 2018

Chinese tabloid Global Times says criticism of requests reflects the views of a few stubborn American elites

South China Morning Post

Sunday, 06 May, 2018, 7:05pm

The United States is putting another bargaining chip in play in its trade fight with China by hitting back at Beijing’s “Orwellian” semantic demands on foreign airlines, analysts said.

The White House on Saturday condemned China’s Civil Aviation Administration for ordering 36 foreign carriers, including US airlines, to remove references on their websites or in other material that suggested Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau were part of countries independent from China.

The White House said the demands were “Orwellian nonsense” and US President Donald Trump “will stand up for Americans resisting efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to impose Chinese political correctness on American companies and citizens”.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement on Sunday that Washington’s rhetoric would not change the fact “there’s only one China, and Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are inseparable parts of China”.

Geng said all foreign enterprises operating in China must respect China’s sovereignty and the “Chinese people’s national feeling”.

In an editorial on Sunday, government-backed tabloid Global Times said the comments reflected the stubborn view of a few American elites who saw China as a “Soviet-style totalitarian country and ignored China’s vibrant socialist market economy”.

It said the aviation administration’s request to foreign airlines followed an appeal from the Chinese public.

“The White House criticised China with fierce rhetoric and it is clearly intended to create and escalate US-China disputes,” the editorial said.

The US moves showed that relations between the two countries were entering a period “full of war flames”, it added.

The editorial said China’s position was almost universal “political correctness” because the United Nations, other international organisations and most governments did not recognise Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Tibet as countries. As such, airlines should “respect this fact and not do the opposite”.

It was not clear what penalties foreign carriers could face for failing to comply with the aviation administration’s demands but the public has been mobilised in the past to boycott foreign firms that refused to toe the line.

The sparring came just days after trade talks between US and Chinese officials ended in Beijing without a breakthrough.

Tensions have escalated between the world’s two biggest economies in recent months, with billions in tariffs – and retaliatory tariffs – threatened by both sides over Washington’s complaints about China’s trade surplus with the US, reciprocal market access, and intellectual property rights.

Analysts said the latest criticism from the White House followed complaints about Chinese political interference overseas and was another potential concession in the trade clash.

Wei Zongyou, a Sino-US relations specialist at Fudan University in Shanghai, said US authorities had been “very concerned about the Chinese government’s use of forceful or non-forceful measures” to induce “self-censorship” at foreign businesses, schools, and media.

“Amid the intense trade confrontation between China and the US, the Trump administration is clearly willing to seize every opportunity to exert pressure on China,” Wei said.

He said the Chinese government was unlikely to give ground on the issue but “it probably did not expect the Trump administration to respond so strongly”.

University of Melbourne international relations professor Sow Keat Tok said the White House statement was “another bargaining chip thrown into the negotiating process”.

“It is a clear message to China that’s following up what Trump has said vis-à-vis China, that they’re not willing to tolerate any sort of economic blackmail from China in any way,” Tok said.

“I think eventually China might get its way because corporations would not want to lose the Chinese market … they might adjust their behaviour accordingly. No one is going to fight against money, especially airlines.”

Taiwan’s foreign ministry thanked Washington for taking a stand on Beijing’s attempts to put pressure on the island.

“We’ll continue making contributions to the international community despite the actions of China,” the ministry said.

China’s aviation administration did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Various international companies have felt the heat from Beijing over similar controversies.

In January, the Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the US Marriott Hotel chain to temporarily suspend operations after its website listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as separate countries.

A month later, German car company Mercedes-Benz apologised for an Instagram post featuring a quote from Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a separatist.

Tok said that much of the patriotic fervour had been stirred up by online users in China who actively patrolled nationalist lines.

“The state is trying to react to the situation on the ground; otherwise [Chinese President] Xi Jinping will be accused of selling away the Chinese nation,” he said.

“China never … thought about it until the end of last year, when netizens began to start becoming very active towards South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, and the Chinese state suddenly realised that they have an economic weapon that they can use.”

Additional reporting by Reuters