Asia in Review Archive (2019)

Taiwan (Republic of China)

Date of AiR edition

News summary

5 November 2019

PRC: Beijing extends benefits for Taiwanese weeks before Taipei election

(jk) The PRC government has announced “26 measures” that will grant Taiwanese people and businesses more equal treatment with mainlanders. The measures are designed to attract more people and business from Taiwan to the mainland but are being dismissed by the government in Taipei’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) as a mere attempt to buy political support ahead of the elections in January. A similar package, containing 31 measures, was decided upon back in March, but according to the MAC, the measures had not been executed properly.

Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, responded with a tweet, written in simplified Chinese:  “China’s Taiwan Affairs Office came out with 26 measures and last year there were 31 – it looks like there are so many measures. But we in Taiwan do not need one country, two systems, so there is really no need to be so polite. Giving your people more freedom is also good!” [Focus Taiwan, South China Morning Post]

5 November 2019

U.S.-Taiwan cyber exercises open in Taipei

(jk) Taiwan and the US are hosting a multinational security exercise in Taiwan, focussing on cyber-attacks, in particular from mainland China. In 2018, Taiwan’s public sector faced “an average of 30 million cross-border cyberattacks per month […] with about half of all the attacks [coming] from China“. The US and Taiwan have also invited other nations to join the exercise, including teams from Australia, Japan, Malaysia and the Czech Republic [Focus Taiwan].

5 November 2019

Human rights groups criticise East Asia Summit for not including human rights issues

(jk) Rights groups criticised the state of human rights protection in Southeast Asia in particular over the weekend as they pointed out that the big summits, such as the East Asia Summit, do not include official discussions or statements on the deteriorating human rights situation in the region.

Human rights watch and other organisation expressed grave concern over the fact the Rohingya crisis, the war on drugs in the Philippines, the punishment of the LGBT community or enforced disappearances of activists were largely ignored throughout the summit. [Bangkok Post]

The Rohingya refugee crisis, although not in these terms, was mentioned at length in the final statement of the 35th ASEAN Summit however. ASEAN leaders noted their desire to

facilitate the safe, secure and dignified return displaced persons currently in Bangladesh to

Rakhine State from which they fled. [Chairman’s Statement Of The 35th ASEAN Summit] At the same time, they commended the work of AICHR, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights [for background on AICHR, see this article in CPG’s COM Online Magazine 4/2019]

22 October 2019

Taiwan builds Kamikaze drones against China

(dql) Taiwan is reportedly building suicide drones aimed at striking targets in China in the case of an attack by the People’s Liberation Army. The Chien Hsiang drone targets in particular the S-400 missile system China is acquiring from Russia. [Taiwan News]

China’s defence minister, meanwhile, declared on Monday at the Xiangshan Forum that resolving the “Taiwan question” was China’s greatest national interest, adding that no force could prevent the country’s “reunification”, while separatist activities will go nowhere. [Voice of America China, in Chinese]

15 October 2019

Taiwan: President’s message of defiance to Beijing on National Day

(dql) Hardening her anti-China stance, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in her speech on the National Day last week accused China of “challeng[ing] free, democratic values and the global order through a combination of authoritarianism, nationalism, and economic might,” adding that under these conditions “Taiwan has become the first line of defense for democratic values.”

Tsai’s remarks come ahead of the presidential elections in January. Benefitting from the developments in Hong Kong, she is far ahead of her Kuomingtang contender Han Kuo-yu with approval rating at 41% in latest polls. [Nikkei Asian Review]

15 October 2019

Taiwan: KMT presidential Han recall petition hits first of three legal thresholds

(dql) Main opposition Kuomingtang (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu is facing political pressure after a petition to recall him as Kaohsiung Mayor reached 300.000 signatures, surpassing the estimated legal threshold in the first of three stages of the recall process. [Focus Taiwan]

The petition was launched in July by the local NGOS accusing Han of neglecting his duties as the city’s mayor while pursuing his ambition to become Taiwan’s president in the upcoming elections next January.

8 October 2019

On the successes of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy

(jk) At the East-West Center, several authors discuss Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy from domestic, foreign policy, and strategic perspectives. It has had success improving trade, investment, tourism and educational engagement with ASEAN countries. In his piece on Vietnam, one of the authors sums up that “after Tsai’s inauguration, Taiwan’s exports to ASEAN increased by 14.2% in 2017, and investment rose by 73.3% in 2016 from the previous years. In addition, the number of ASEAN students studying in Taiwan ranks second after China while the number of tourists from Southeast Asia rose by 29% in 2017 from the previous year as a result of the relaxation on visa policy for ASEAN nationals”. [East West Center] [A Vietnam Perspective on Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy]

8 October 2019

Taiwan set to sharpen anti-espionage law

(dql) An amendment bill to the National Intelligence Service Law containing provisions to increase the maximum penalty for espionage to a life sentence last week passed the committee stage in Taiwan’s parliament. According to the bill, penalties for intelligence officers and other government officers convicted of leaking state secrets, ranging from 10 years imprisonment to life sentence, while the statute of limitations on espionage crimes will be removed.

Under current law, the penalties cover sentences of three to 10 years for handing information over to a foreign power, and one to 12 years for working clandestinely for a foreign power. [Focus Taiwan]

1 October 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s ruling party reassures rejection of Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula

(dql) Ahead of the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan in January, in which the relationship to Taiwan is expected to play a decisive role, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) passed a resolution during its annual national congress Saturday, reaffirming its rejection of China’s “one country, two systems” formula which Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated in his speech on the occasion of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC on Tuesday. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanhwile, China and Kiribati have established diplomatic relations, days after the Pacific island nation cut its links with Taiwan. [South China Morning Post] [AiR No. 39, September/2019, 4]

24 September 2019

Taiwan: Down to 15 allies

(dql) After the island nation of Kiribati decided to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing, the number of Taiwan’s allies has been reduced to 15. Kiribati’s move comes shortly after the Solomon Islands cut diplomatic ties with Taipei. [Aljazeera] [AiR No. 38, September/2019, 3]

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Defense Minister confirmed on Monday Taiwan’s request to buy M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers from the USA, in a move to strengthen its defense capabilities. [Focus Taiwan]

17 September 2019

Taiwan: Taiwan’s richest person won’t run for presidency

(dql) Against widespread expectations, Terry Gou, founder of Apple supplier Foxconn and according to Forbes Taiwan’s richest person with a net worth of 7.6 billion USD announced on Monday that he will not run for presidency in 2020. [Focus Taiwan]

Following his defeat in the July primaries of the opposition Kuomintang party (KMT) it was widely believed that he would join the presidential race contending with the KMT’s candidate Han Kuo-yu and President Tsai Ing-wen from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

In an earlier move last week, Gou withdrew from the KTM, according to one of his aides, because the KMT’s “conservative, hidebound party leadership is putting their own interests ahead of their party’s, and the party’s interests ahead of the nation’s.” This move was widely seen as paving the way for his presidential bid. [Straits Times]

3 September 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan to lose another ally this week? 

(dql) The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies, has formed a team of ministers to talk to Beijing ahead of a possible switch in ties believed to be announced this week. The move would reduce the number of Taiwan’s allies to 16. The Pacific island nation, which has recognized Taiwan since 1983, would be a prized chip for China in its bid to win the allies of Taiwan over. [Taiwan News]

Meanwhile, a US Navy research vessel sailed into Taiwan waters last week, further signaling a strengthening of defense cooperation between the two unofficial allies amidst deteriorating Cross-Strait relations. [Asia Times]

The move comes after the Trump administration in August approved sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, against which Beijing announced retaliation in form of sanctions against US companies manufacturing jets. [VoA] [AiR No. 34, August/2019]

Date of AiR edition

News summary

Web links

16 July 2019

Taiwan: KMT presidential candidate elected

(dql) Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu is the opposition Kuomintang’s candidate in the 2020 presidential election in Taiwan after winning the party’s primary against four other contenders.

Han, who last November unexpectedly won the mayoral race in Kaohsiung – a traditional stronghold of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) where the party had been ruling for the past 20 years – is known for being in favor of closer relations with mainland China.

With this  outcome of the KMT primary, the issue “China” will define the presidential campaign as his contender, President Tsai Ing-wen (DPP), will run a resolute independence-leaning campaign. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News]

For background information on Han’s career from a political nobody a few years ago to KMT’s presidential candidate see [South China Morning Post].

9 July 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan bars retired top officials from ‘political events’ backed by Beijing

(dql) Last week, Taiwan’s parliament approved an amendment to the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan and the Mainland Area which bans retired high ranking officials – those above the deputy minister or major-general level – for life from attending political events organized by Beijing either on or outside the mainland.  

The amendment is the latest in a string of legislative efforts [AiR 4/6/2019] [AiR 1/6/2019] countering Beijing’s influence to protect Taiwan’s security. Critics slam it as a violation of the freedom of movement of the affected. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanwhile, the US State Department has approved a potential arms sales to Taiwan, with an estimated worth of 2.2 billion USD. The deal includes 108 Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles and related equipment. [Axios]

For policy recommendations on strengthening Taiwan’s political warfare against China, see Kerry Gershaneck in [Global Taiwan] arguing that “Taiwan must invest in counter-political warfare education now to safeguard its freedom and sovereignty, along with the freedom and sovereignty of like-minded Southeast Asian nations.”

9 July 2019

Taiwan: Rally against referendum law revision

(dql) Tens of thousands took to the streets in Taipei on Sunday to protest against an amendment of the Referendum Act passed last week on behalf of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). [AiR 4/6/2019]

The rally was organized by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) which accuses the DPP of eroding voters’ rights with the amendment and to misuse the revision as a strategy to win the 2020 presidential and general elections. [Focus Taiwan]

The amendment allows for national referendums to be held only every two years on the fourth Saturday of August, starting from 2021. As a consequence, future referendums will be separate from national elections which are held in even-numbered years. The rally was staged ahead of the KMT’s primaries to select the party’s candidate for the presidential race next year.

2 July 2019

Taiwan-USA relations: President Tsai transits on US soil and enhanced security cooperation

(dql) Taiwan’s government has announced that President Tsai Ing-wen will stay for four nights in the USA during her visit to Caribbean allies. In response, China has lodged a protest against Tsai’s transit plans as violation of the “One-China Principle” and urged the US government not to authorize these transits. [Nikkei Asian Review] [Taiwan News]

The US State Department defended Tsai’s transits as in line with the “One-China Principle” arguing that “[s]uch transits are undertaken out of consideration for the safety, comfort, convenience and dignity of the passenger.” [Focus Taiwan]

In an earlier move, the US Senate last week adopted provisions for enhancing defense and security cooperation between Washington and Taipei, particularly on arms sales. The provisions are part of the National Defense Authorization Act for next fiscal year, approved by the Senate last week and authorizing 750 billion USD in spending for defense programs at the Pentagon and other agencies. [The Hill]

2 July 2019

Taiwan: Amendment to Jugdes Act toughens punishments for corrupt judges

(dql) In a move aimed to toughen disciplinary action against judges committing wrongdoings, Taiwan’s legislature last week passed an amendment to the Judges Act. Under the revised act judges or grand justices of the Judicial Yuan found guilty of corruption charges or dismissed from office in a disciplinary action, must now return to the state coffer the salary they have received during the period of time they are suspended from duties pending an investigation. In addition, the pension and retirement allowance of retired judges or grand justices convicted of corruption will be revoked. [Focus Taiwan]

18 June 2019

Taiwan: President Tsai wins DPP primary poll, KMT hopeful Han rejects “one country, two system” unification formula

(dql) President Tsai Ing-wen is the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate for the presidential race next year, defeating her contender former Premier William Lai Ching-te in the party’s in a fiercely fought primary last week. [Taiwan News]

Meanwhile, the main opposition Kuomintang’s Kao-hsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu, likely to win the KMT’s primary in July to become Tsai’s contender for presidency, is trying to disperse claims made by the DPP and other political opponents that he is too Beijing-friendly citing his visits to Beijing’s liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macau in March where he signed trade deals. In a latest rally last Saturday, allegedly attended by more than 120.000 supporters, he asserted his resolute rejection of Beijing’s “one country, two system” unification formula vowing that this formula “will never be carried out” if he was given the opportunity to lead Taiwan as president.” [Focus Taiwan]

11 June 2019

Taiwan: Freedom of press best in East Asia, Freedom House says

(dql) According to the Freedom House report “Freedom and the Media: A Downward Spiral” released last week, Taiwan has the highest level of press freedom in East Asia receiving the best score of four, along with only 35 other countries among 195 assessed in the report. [Taipei Times]

The report acknowledges in its key findings that “[f]reedom of the media has been deteriorating around the world over the past decade” and that “[i]n some of the most influential democracies in the world, populist leaders have overseen concerted attempts to throttle the independence of the media sector.” [Freedom House]

11 June 2019

Taiwan: Ruling DPP’s primary kicked off, KMT contenders announced

(dql) On Monday, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s nomination for the presidential election 2020 kicked off. Until Friday, public opinion polls will be conducted to select the party’s candidate for the presidential election in January 2020. 

On Saturday, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and her contender former Premier Lai Ching-te presented policies and visions for Taiwan under their respective potential presidency at the sole televised debate prior to the primary. Key issues debated included the country’s economy, social welfare, national sovereignty and cross-strait relations on which both contenders’ proposals resembled each other. In particular, with regards to the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty both fiercely rejected the “one country, two systems” model, that Beijing is adhering to as unification formula, and stressed that Taiwan’s future should be decided by its people. [Focus Taiwan 1] [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) last week announced five contenders for the party’s presidential nominee, including former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu, former Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei, National Taiwan University political science professor Chang Ya-chung, billionaire Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu.

With the latter’s campaign rally on Saturday attended by more than 150.000 supporters, observers believe the KMT’s race for the presidential candidate to be a heated one, in particular between the outspoken Beijing-friendly Han and Gou, Taiwan’s wealthiest man, who has pledged to balance Taiwan’s relationship with both the United States and China.

The KMT’s public opinion polls to select the presidential candidate will be conducted nationwide from July 5-15, with the results to be released July 16 and candidate announced on the following day. [Focus Taiwan 2][Taiwan News] [Straits Times]

4 June 2019

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan’s military exercises prepare for invasion from China, bill on national referendum on future agreements between Taiwan and China passed

(dql) Last week Taiwan’s military conducted major military exercises simulating an invading Chinese force and involving air, sea and land forces. The drills included fighter jets launching strikes and warships opening fire to destroy an enemy landing on the beachhead as well as jets practicing landing on the country’s main highways while air-raid drills brought its major cities to a standstill. Over 3,000 soldiers took part in the live-fire drill in the southern county of Pingtung. [DW]

Meanwhile, earlier last week, Taiwan’s legislature passed a bill to amend the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, according to which any potential political agreement  with China will require not only the approval of lawmakers, but will also need to pass a national referendum before it can be signed and can be signed and put into effect. [Focus Taiwan] 

4 June 2019

Taiwan: Polling method at presidential primary of ruling DPP decided

(dql) After a weeks-long internal dispute within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over a change of the polling process to select the presidential candidate at the party’s primary [AiR 3/5/2019], the DPP’s Central Executive Committee last week finally reached a decision, according to which landline and cell phone samples will each make up 50-percent in the party’s presidential primary poll, scheduled for the period between June 10-14. Earlier in March the DPP had decided that only landline phone calls would be used to count the nationwide poll for its presidential primary. [Focus Taiwan]

William Lai, challenger of President Tsai Ing-wen, who had been rejecting a change of the polling method, expressed strong dissatisfaction with the decision, saying that changing the rule in the middle of the game has not only damage the primary, but also the entire reputation of the party, alluding to foul play in favor of President Tsai. [Taiwan News]

28 May 2019

Taiwan-USA relations: Taiwan and U.S. National Security chiefs meet for first time since 1979

(dql) Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday confirmed that Taiwan’s national security chief David Lee met White House national security adviser John Bolton earlier this month during the former’s visit to the US from 13-21 May to deepen cooperation. It was the first meeting between senior Taiwanese and US security officials since 1979 when both sides ended formal diplomatic relations. [Reuters]

Beijing expressed strong objections against this move and urged Washington to stop “having official exchanges or upgrading substantive relations with Taiwan.” [CNN]

Meanwhile, President Tsai Ing-wen announced last Friday that Taiwan has begun to construct three stealthy missile corvettes and four minelayers in an attempt to improve its asymmetric warfare capabilities amid a surge in tensions in Cross-Strait relations. [The Drive]

28 May 2019

Taiwan: First Same-Sex couples marry 

(dql) In a historic first for Asia, last week on Friday a total of 526 same-sex couples registered for marriage, a week after Taiwan’s parliament legalized same-sex marriage on 17 May.

Gender equality advocacy groups, however, cautioned that much work still lies ahead arguing that the new law doesn’t permit the adoption of non-biological children by same-sex couples, and also doesn’t allow same-sex couples from marrying in Taiwan in cases where one party is from a country in which gay marriage is illegal. [Taiwan News] [Quartz]

28 May 2019

Taiwan: DPP race for presidential candidate getting nasty

(dql) The race within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the presidential candidate 2020 between President Tsai Ing-wen and her contender, former Premier Lai Ching-te, is heating up with both sides accusing each other of lying. While Lai accused the Tsai election campaign team of spreading lies by claiming he had told Tsai that he would not run for presidency, Tsai’s campaign manager accused Lai of not telling the truth in this matter as well as of disrespecting the party’s internal democratic mechanisms after Lai demanded a clean primary and sticking to the party’s established procedures and rules of primary polling. Alluding to efforts on the side of the Tsai camp to change election rules at the primary, which the Lai camp views as foul play to favor Tsai, Lai said: “Anyone who wants to win must do so cleanly. If that does not happen, I’m afraid there will be no way to unite the party, or heal the divisions in society.” Lai, however, also insisted that he would not quit the DPP to run as an independent. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News] [Taipei Times]

19 March 2019

Taiwan: Former Premier registers for DPP presidential primary

(dql) Former Premier Lai Ching-te, who resigned from his post in the wake of the major defeat of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) in the local elections in November last year, registered Monday to seek the nomination of the DDP as its candidate in the 2020 presidential election, running against President Tsai Ing-wen who recently announced to run for president next year. Lai, former mayor of the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan, is believed to receive strong support in southern Taiwan, a traditional DPP stronghold.

Countering questions whether his move would may cause intra-party divisions, Lai argued that the DPP has a democratic primary process that will not be divisive. He also stressed that his decision to compete in the primary was not based personal reasons, but on support from the party members at grass-root level. [Focus Taiwan][Bloomberg]