Monday, December 31, 2007

What's bad for the Goose is bad for the Gander

There's a little old saying that goes, "What's good for the goose, is good for the gander," meaning that two things almost exactly alike will generally experience the same effects if the same thing happens to them. Conversely, if the proverbial goose is, say, Hong Kong, and the gander is Taiwan, then we could say that 'whats bad for the goose is bad for the gander.'

Indeed, China laid a big goose egg on Hong Kong when officials in Beijing pushed back by five years the planned date for direct elections in the special administrative region, saying the earliest possible year for such a vote is now 2017. There is no reason to believe that when the year 2013 rolls around, the vote will not be pushed back to 2022, and so on, and so forth, ad nauseam.

What does this mean for Taiwan? Well, what's bad for the goose. . .

After the unhappy decree was handed down from Beijing, Hong Kong's democratic leader Martin Lee came out to say that, "I do not see Hong Kong with genuine democracy in 10 years more or 20 years more. It is just a mirage," according to an AFP news story. At this point, it is indeed reasonable to expect that Hong Kong will not enjoy open democracy until, by dint of a miracle, all of China becomes democratic.

With the head of Hong Kong's democratic goose cleanly lopped off, for all to see and just in time for New Year's dinner (t-1:30 in Taipei ; t-14:30 in Washington), the brain in the head of Taiwan's democratic gander is wondering why anyone would expect Taiwan to willingly put its neck to the chopping block (hint: chopping block = unification). From the same AFP story:

A senior Taiwanese official said Beijing's move underlined why the island could not accept reunification [sic] with mainland China.

Tung Chen-yuan, a deputy chief of Taiwan's China policy-making body, known as the Mainland Affairs Council, said the decision sent a clear signal "that the Chinese Communist Party does not allow genuine democracy.
Even the Foreign Ministry of Great Britain—which, as the port city's former colonial ruler, usually remains mute on all things Hong Kong—made a statement describing Beijing's latest anti-democratic antics "a disappointment."

Having flogged the 'goose and gander' analogy sufficiently for the entire year of 2007, we would simply like to wish all who read this a very happy New Year. See you in 2008!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Taiwan-U.S. Free Trade

When Peru-U.S. Free Trade was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives by a wide margin in early November, the outlook appeared grim for the remaining agreements in the wings--Columbia, Panama and Korea--to find approval soon, as the political climate quickly began to cool towards trade. The Nelson Report in November relayed the news that, "Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton late yesterday let it be known that if and when KORUS, Colombia and Panama FTA's come up for a vote, hers will be 'no'. Whether she ever gets to that point depends, of course, on the House, and today, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that there will be no votes on these three at all this year."

Without Taiwan even on the docket, the prospects for a Taiwan-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in the immediately future are admittedly unlikely. Yet Taiwan is still on Congress' trade radar, as was demonstrated earlier this month when Senator Max Baucus of Montana introduced S. Con. Res. 60, a concurrent resolution which, if passed, would nudge the office of the U.S. Trade Representative towards opening extensive trade negotiations with America's eighth-largest export market.

We've listed in the past many of the prime reasons why it is in both countries' interest that a Taiwan-U.S. free trade agreement (TUFTA) become reality sooner rather than later. The economies of Taiwan and the United States are heavily symbiotic, with little overlap in their respective key industries. Although free trade is seen by many as conributing to the percieved evils of globalization, classic talking points against free trade do not apply to the situation of trade between Taiwan and the United States.

S. Con. Res. 60 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, which is incedentally chaired by Senator Baucus. If you have a Senator on the committee, drop his/her office a line and voice your support for the resolution.

Friday, December 21, 2007

More Food for Thought

Exerpt from 12/20 article, "Blind in Beijing" by Dan Blumenthal
published in The American, an AEI publication

If economic growth and “peace and development” are China’s main goals—as the Communist Party states, and as many Chinese surely desire—then why is China engaged in the most significant military buildup in the world? The PRC enjoys a secure external environment: East Asia is more stable today than it has been in decades. Chinese protestations that the military buildup is “all about Taiwan” are less than reassuring. For one thing, the very idea that China would prepare for war with a de facto sovereign nation over which it has had no official control since the late 1800s is totally inconsistent with modern notions of sovereignty. There are many English-speaking countries that are no longer part of the British Empire; nor are all German-speaking countries part of Germany. Both England and Germany are doing just fine without their former colonies. And should China’s intentions change as its strength increases, the same military capabilities that could be used against Taiwan could also be deployed against American forces in a range of scenarios.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

UN for Taiwan 101

Experts assess national referendum at Heritage

We were at the Heritage Foundation Tuesday, where Taiwan's Representative to the United States, Dr. Jaushieh Joseph Wu, addressed policy experts, media and conference attendees during an event entitled, "Taiwan's UN Bid: Domestic Democracy or International Crisis?"

Representative Wu’s address covered the legal and practical arguments in support of Taiwan’s bid to become a UN member. He asserted that both Taiwan and the international community have a substantial interest in Taiwan’s full participation in the UN, reminding the audience of Taiwan’s status as the world’s eighteenth largest economy and its role as a regional “beacon of freedom,” due to its national journey from authoritarian rule under the old Chiang regime to today’s “active, vibrant democracy.” Wu noted that “despite its legal and substantive standing, Taiwan has been stifled by the People’s Republic of China in its attempts to join the United Nations and other international organizations.”

The ensuing panel discussions came together as a tour-de-force of the many factors enmeshed in the issue of Taiwan's proposed UN referendum. Thankfully, the dialogue seemed to be relatively balanced, although each speaker seemed more intent on listing what they saw as the key issues and possible consequences surrounding the controversy rather than explicitly weighing in on whether or not Taiwan should go ahead with the planned votes in March. One thing the panelists did agree on, is that at this point in time, the referendum seems likely to take place.

China expert Randy Shriver, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, listed the many facets of the political climate in Taiwan which have lead to the general need to hold a referendum, including a “genuine desire on the part of the people of Taiwan to be a part of the United Nations,” as well as a “desire to deepen and strengthen Taiwan’s democracy” and to “provide evidence to the world of differentiation between the PRC and Taiwan.” Mr. Shriver also listed “continuing efforts to define and express [Taiwan’s] national identity” and “political motivations” as contributing factors to Taiwan’s referendum drive.

David Brown, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, struck a more precautionary tone. He stated that the planned referendum was part of a “vicious circle between Taiwan and the mainland,” in which military buildup and increased pressure from the mainland causes Taiwan to become increasingly assertive on behalf of its separate national entity, in response to which the government in Beijing becomes increasingly more belligerent. Unfortunately, Brown seemed to believe that the onus is on Taiwan to cease its efforts to gain international representation rather than on Beijing to halt and reduce its military buildup opposite Taiwan on China's southeastern coast.

Overall, the conference may be best described as a 'hung jury,' which in our view isn't necessarily a bad thing. Although it may be difficult separate the various contributing factors that make international and domestic politics on Taiwan such a perplexing milieu, it seemed clear to most or all present at Tuesday's event that the referenda are not solely the products of crass political maneuvering by political parties on Taiwan. If that were the case, the DPP and KMT would have never gained enough signatures to go ahead with the vote.

Note: You can see video of Tuesday's event on Heritage's website by clicking here.

Crashing the Corruption Party

Chinese officials launched a website ( this week where concerned citizens can report incidences of corruption in an effort to clean up China's notoriously crooked economic and political structure. The result? Multiple website crashes, as the URL was flooded with angry reports of ill-doing as well as critiques of the website's appearance and messages of encouragement for this latest effort to fight corruption.

Some posters departed from reports of specific incidents to comment on larger problems, such as the posh lifestyles led by officials and their families. As the Washington Post reported, one poster, "condemned what he described as the soft life led by officials' offspring. With no visible source of income, he said, the young princelings drive new cars, live in new houses and spend money like there is no tomorrow. 'This is not normal,' he added. 'You should look into it.'"

We hope that, once the government has fixed the website so that it is nice and stable, some of the reports will actually be read and addressed (in the case of princelings, not very likely). Otherwise, the site represents nothing more than a digital Potemkin village.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Quick Jot: New PINR report on U.S.-PRC relations

Power and Interest News Report (PINR) released a rather detailed and insightful brief on Sino-U.S. relations and how they have been effected by the recent Kitty Hawk spat. Overall, the sense seems to be that, wheras in the short term there obviously seems to be no cataclysmic rupture in the U.S.-China relationship or the strategic landscape of the West Pacific Rim, several highly nuanced shifts in international power politics can be gleaned from this episode. Many of these shifts have an effect on Taiwan, and these relevancies are enumerated in the report.

Many thanks to the China Digital Times news update service for drawing our attention to this valuable report.