Asia in Review Archive 2021

Taiwan (Republic of China)

Date of AiR edition

News summary

20 July 2021

Taiwan to open de facto embassy in Lithuania

(dql) Taiwan announced that it will open a de-facto embassy in Lithuania, with Vilnius agreeing to name it “Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania,” the first time the island’s name has been used for one of its offices in Europe, as normally only “Taipei” is used.

The announcement is the latest in growing signs that some Baltic and central European countries are seeking closer relations with Taiwan, with Lithuania announcing in May that it was withdrawing China’s 17+1 cooperation forum with central and eastern European states. It has since pledged to donate some 20,000 coronavirus vaccines to Taiwan and open its own representative office on the island. [Euro News]


20 July 2021

Taiwan-Germany relations:  Air services agreement signed

(nds) On 15 July, Germany and Taiwan signed an agreement on air services allowing to increase the maximum number of passenger flights between Taiwan and Germany from seven to 11 per week. 

Germany is Taiwan’s largest trading partner in Europe, and since 2016, both sides have reached agreements in various fields, such as energy, science, and transitional justice. The air agreement, which replaces an earlier one concluded in 2001, shows Germany’s willingness to get closer to Taiwan while seeking to maintain a balance between its relations to Taiwan and the economic ties with China. [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan]

20 July 2021

Taiwan-US relations: House Committee passes EAGLE Act

(nds) On 16 July, a U.S. Congressional committee passed the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act. This legislative package includes several bills aimed at strengthening US ties with Taiwan. Among the pro-Taiwan bills are the Taiwan Diplomatic Review Act, the Taiwan Peace and Stability Act, the Taiwan International Solidarity Act, and the Taiwan Fellowship Act.

Under the Taiwan Diplomatic Review Act the US Secretary of State is required to consult with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the US about changing its name to the Taiwan Representative Office, reflecting an elevation of US-Taiwan relations. The Taiwan Peace and Stability Act seeks to support Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and forums, expand bilateral economic and trade relations, and strengthen Taiwan’s military deterrence, while the Taiwan Fellowship deepens exchanges between Taiwanese and American officials. [Taiwan News ]

13 July 2021

Taiwan-Australia relations: Strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries

(nds) Taiwan’s and Australia’s trade ministers Wang Mei-Hua and Dan Tehan held an online meeting, during which they reached a consensus on potential cooperation in multiple areas such as liquefied natural gas, biotechnology, finance, and education.

Taiwan is an important trade and investment partner for Australia. However, Australia does not formally recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state, although it supports its participation in international organizations. 

The meeting comes amidst trade tensions and frosty diplomatic relations between China and Australia as well as between China and Taiwan. [Taiwan News]

13 July 2021

Taiwan-Japan relations: Tokyo takes up Taiwan Strait stability in defense report for first time

(nds) In its 2021 defense report, released this Tuesday, Japan for the first time has taken up the issue of stability around Taiwan, concluding that in the light of China’s military activities around Taiwan ‘[s]tabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community.” This, in turn, would require to closer observe the military trends of both the US and China in the South China Sea and Taiwan. [Ministry of Defense, Japan)

Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, meanwhile, went a step further by warning: “If a major problem took place in Taiwan, it would not be too much to say that it could relate to a survival-threatening situation [for Japan],” adding that in the case of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, Japan and the United States would have to defend Taiwan together. [Kyodo News]

Aso’s remark refers to Japan’s security legislation of 2014/2015 which allows the use of force “to the minimum extent necessary” as measures for self-defense “when there is no other appropriate means available to repel the attack and ensure Japan’s survival and protect its people.” [Government, Japan]

It signals a new high in security ties between Japan and Taiwan, backed by Washington’s and Tokyo’s shared interest in securing peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.  [Observer Research Foundation] [The Diplomat]

13 July 2021

Cross-strait relations: Taiwan tightens regulations on China exchanges

(nds) Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior has amended the “Measures for Permitting People from the Mainland Area to Enter the Taiwan Area.” Under the amendment, Taiwanese companies or organizations will now have to be registered in the country for at least three years before inviting Chinese professionals, compared with one year previously. In addition, Chinese nationals and Taiwanese companies will have to provide documents, including budget and expense reports for the past three years. To prevent fraudulent applications the documents will be reviewed by an interagency to be convened by the Ministry. 

The amendment applies to Chinese corporations, non-governmental organizations, temples, and churches taking part in science and technology research, art and literature activities, or providing training assistance to Taiwanese national sports teams. [Taiwan News] [Taipei Times]

13 July 2021

US supports strong, unofficial relations with Taiwan, but not independence

(nds/dql) Speaking at an Asia Society Policy Institute conference, US White House coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Kurt Campbell reiterated and made clear the US position towards Taiwan, saying that the US has strong but unofficial ties with Taiwan and that it does not support Taiwan’s independence. Referring the Chinese government’s actions, he warned that a similar move in Taiwan would be “catastrophic.” 

The remarks express strong support for Taiwan without crossing Beijing’s red lines, trying to what Campbell called “a very delicate, […] a dangerous balance,” one that “presents China with both opportunities but also very clear challenges for taking steps that are antithetical to the maintenance of peace and stability.” He added that while coexistence between the US and China was possible, “the challenge is going to be enormously difficult for this generation and the next.” [Kyodo News] [South China Morning Post] [Taiwan News]

Echoing this position towards Taiwan, the White House deleted a twitter post about America’s COVID vaccine donations to the world that included an image of the Taiwanese flag and apologized for its “honest mistake.” [New York Post]


6 July 2021

Taiwan in the top tier of states fighting anti-human trafficking 

(nds) On 1 July, the U.S. State Department released the 2021 Human Trafficking Report. 

According to the report, Taiwan’s authorities fully comply with the most basic standards for suppressing human trafficking and have continued to be serious about combating human trafficking despite the health crisis, reflected by investigations and the sentencing of more traffickers to significant prison terms, in addition to improving victim identification protocols and labor inspection resources in vulnerable sectors related to maritime activities. 

The report, however, also highlighted persistent problems with forced labor in the deep-sea fishing sector and the recruitment of migrant workers, with understaffing and inadequate inspection protocols continuing to hamper efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute forced labor on fishing vessels in the highly vulnerable “Distant Water Fleet” sector. 

The report also identified a lack of special labor legislation guaranteeing the rights of migrant domestic workers in Taiwan. [Focus Taiwan]  [Taipei Times[ JDM journaldemontreal, in French]

6 July 2021

Taiwan-US relations to deepen:  Pro-Taiwan bills added to American Global Leadership and Engagement Act amid resumption of trade talks

(nds) A number of pro-Taiwan bills have been incorporated into the US Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act, a legislative package that calls on the US government to “revitalize and reassert U.S. leadership, investment, and engagement in the Indo-Pacific region and globally,” in a bid to counter China’s growing global influence. The Act was introduced in the House of Representatives in May and reviewed by the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee last week. The bills – all of them aimed at bolstering Taiwan-US ties – include the Taiwan Diplomatic Review Act, the Taiwan Peace and Stability Act, and the Taiwan International Solidarity Act. [Focus Taiwan]

The legislative move comes as the US and Taiwan resumed trade and investment talks, the first in five years. During the virtual meeting, both sides agreed on holding a series of meetings this year to resolve differences pertaining to trade practices and discuss cooperation in a range of areas, including the chip supply chain and custom manufacture of American vaccines. [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, the US Department of State reiterated its support for a “peaceful resolution” of cross-strait issues, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on Taiwan,”. The statement come in response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s address delivered of on the occasion of the celebration of the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in which he insisted that re-unification with Taiwan is the party’s “historic mission and an unshakable commitment,” based on the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus. He, furthermore, pledged the crush any Taiwan independence attempts as well as forces meddling with its unification goal. [Focus Taiwan] [Nikkei Asia]


6 July 2021

Taiwan: National referendums postponed to December

(nds) The Central Elections Commission (CEC) has decided to postpone the organization of the four referendums initially scheduled for 28 August. They will finally take place on 18 December. The counting of votes will occur on the same day, and the official announcement of the results will be published before 24 December.

The four referendums approved are related to the commissioning of the fourth nuclear power plant, the import of pork containing ractopamine residue, the construction of a receiving terminal for natural gas energy production on an algal reef, and the holding of popular referendums and general elections at the same time. [Focus Taiwan[Taiwan News]

29 June 2021

Taiwan buys French locators beacons, takes delivery of new corvette 

(nds) The Air Force has ordered 96 Sarbe 6-406G personal locator beacons from France to help rescue pilots more quickly after a crash.  The beacons can assist rescue teams in locating the site of a plane after a crash or disappearance and find survivors. The Air Force has allocated a budget of 1.44 million USD to buy the new military equipment. Delivery is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

The Air Force began purchasing its first Sarbe 6-406G beacons after a sputter in 2015. At that time, Taiwanese lawmakers criticized the military for using outdated PRC-90 survival radios, dating back to the Vietnam War. Although the army has denied those allegations, it has begun the process of renewing its military equipment.[Taiwan News]

Taiwan,s Coast Guard Administration (CGA), meanwhile, took delivery of a new corvette, the Chenggong which will be deployed in eastern Taiwan to protect Taiwan’s maritime rights and the interests of local fishermen. It can be equipped with anti-ship missiles and converted into fast attack crafts in wartime. [Focus Taiwan]


29 June 2021

Cross-strait relations: Taiwan must prepare for war, Taiwanese Foreign Minister says 

(nds) Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu warned that the island “needs to prepare” for a possible military conflict, citing China’s ongoing military intimidation.

Wu’s warning comes after 28 Chinese warplanes recently flew near Taiwan and the Arleigh Burk-class guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur transited the Taiwan Strait, marking the sixth transit of a US warship in the region since President Joe Biden took office

It comes also as Taiwan and the US are set to resume trade talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in this week, signaling deepening cooperation between the US and Taiwan. [Taipei Times[ Taiwan News]

In another statement, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council condemned the closure of Kong Kong’s government critical newspaper as political oppression, adding that the move has “not only sounded the death knell for freedom of press, publication, and speech in Hong Kong, but has also allowed the international community to see for themselves the Communist Party regime’s totalitarianism and autocracy.” [Reuters]


29 June 2021

Japan stresses importance of Taiwan’s security 

(nds) In line with Japan’s recent diplomatic efforts to position itself against China’s threats towards Taiwan, Japan’s Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi assured in an interview that the security of Taiwan is directly tied with that of Japan, adding that Japan is “closely monitoring ties between China and Taiwan, as well as Chinese military activity.” 

His remark comes as recently 28 Chinese warplanes flew near Taiwan. At the closest point, they were 110 km from Japan. [Taipei Times[Eurasia Review]

In a latest development, Japan’s Deputy Defense Minister Yasuhide Nakayama this week warned of a growing threat posed by Chinese and Russian collaboration and urged allies to “wake up” to Beijing’s pressure on Taiwan and protect the island “as a democratic country.” He also raised the question whether the decision of Japan and United States and many other nations to follow a “one-China” policy would stand the test of time. [Reuters]

22 June 2021

8th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus

(pr/lm) China’s Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe last week reiterated that his country will not bend when it comes to Taiwan, the South China Sea and other “core interests.” Commenting on the growth of China’s military power, Wei suggested it should be considered “part of the growth of the world’s peace forces”.

Speaking at the 8th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), held online and hosted by Brunei, Wei acknowledged other countries’ “legitimate concerns” on unspecified matters but said China’s national interests must be fully respected and safeguarded. He listed not only Taiwan and the South China Sea – where China has overlapping claims with several Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members – but also Xinjiang and Hong Kong. [Nikkei Asia 1]

The meeting brought together defense ministers from the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their counterparts from the six so-called “plus countries” outside the group: the United States, South Korea, India, Russia, Australia and New Zealand. These gatherings have been held since 2010, but the latest session marked the first since US President Joe Biden took office.

The remarks assume added significance coming as they did a day after Taiwan reported the largest-ever air incursion by Chinese forces. The also came just a week after advanced economies, at the Group of Seven summit, had also urged Taiwan Strait stability and encouraged “the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues”.

Significantly, ADMM-Plus members also welcomed the expansion of the ASEAN Direct Communications Infrastructure (ADI) in the ADMM Process to the Plus Countries. The ADI aims to enable a dialogue to promote de-escalation of potential conflicts and to defuse misunderstandings and misinterpretations during crisis or emergency situations. In 2019, the ASEAN’s defense ministers adopted a concept paper to expand the ADI to the eight so-called “plus countries” outside the group. [South China Morning Post] [The Straits Times 1]

The day before the ADMM-Plus meeting, Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto told an ASEAN-only meeting that the bloc needs to solidify its own Indo-Pacific strategy to preserve its “unity and centrality.” During the virtual gathering, defense ministers from ASEAN also called for an early conclusion of a code of conduct for the South China Sea. [Nikkei Asia 2]

The ASEAN-only meeting also approved the establishment of a new Cybersecurity and Information Centre of Excellence in Singapore to better facilitate exchanges among ASEAN defense establishments and protect against the threats of cyber-attacks, disinformation, and misinformation. This center will complement the ASEAN Cyber Defence Network in promoting regional exchanges, interactions, and cooperation on cyber-security matters. [The Straits Times 2]

22 June 2021

House of Commons’s bill to strengthen Canada-Taiwan relations

(nds) On 17 June, a bill to create a legal framework for strengthening Canada-Taiwan relations passed the first reading in the Canadian House of Commons. Since 1970, there has been no formal relationship between the two countries, even if they have strong economic and cultural ties. The Canada-Taiwan Relations Framework Act will establish an “orderly mechanism” to conduct relations between the two countries.

Beijing rejects Taiwan as a sovereign state independent of China and urges other countries to do the same. The Canada-Taiwan Relations Framework Act was drafted in a way that is consistent with the “One-China” policy. The joint Canada-China communiqué that defines this policy states that the Canadian government “merely takes not” of Beijing’s assertion of “one China.” 

The terms “merely” and “take note” mean that Canada does not expressly support the one-China claim but does not contest it either. This deliberate choice of language allows Canada greater flexibility in its dealings with China and Taiwan.    []  [ Focus Taiwan[ Taiwan News ]


22 June 2021

Taiwan withdraws staff from its representation in Hong Kong

(nds) Taiwan announced that it has pulled back all but one staff member from its Hong Kong trade office – Taiwan’s de facto embassy – following their refusal to sign a letter expressing commitment to the one-China principle which the Hong Kong government has made a requirement for visa renewals since 2018.

Meanwhile, Macau’s government announced that it will shut down its representative office in Taiwan, following the example Hong Kong which had closed it Taiwan office in May made the same move last month, citing Taipei’s ‘gross interference’ in Hong Kong affairs. [Taiwan News] [The Guardian]

22 June 2021

Taiwan strengthens defense capabilities amid Chinese military activities 

(nds/dql) Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has signed two contracts with the US to purchase multiple M142 high mobility artillery rocket systems and Harpoon coastal defense systems, worth nearly three billion USD. Delivery of the systems is expected for 2027 and 2028 respectively. In addition, the Ministry announced that the Taiwanese Army has installed a new variant of its Thunderbolt-2000 multiple launch rocket systems with a range of 100 kilometers, more than double of its previous maximum range. [Taiwan News 1] [Apple Daily]

The deals come as Taiwan’s military confirmed that three Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) vessels, including one destroyer, one corvette and one replenishment oiler, sailed through the Pacific Ocean off the coast of eastern Taiwan’s outlying Green Island on last Friday, only a few days after 28 Chinese military aircraft, entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Tuesday. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Focus Taiwan 2]

Meanwhile, the Penghu Defense Command last week conducted live-fire exercises aimed at maintaining combat readiness and involving firing procedures, tactical maneuvers, and gun placement procedures. In an earlier development, the Ministry of National Defense had decided to postpone the Han Kuang exercise, Taiwan’s largest military drills involving all military branches, to September due to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases on the island. [Taiwan News 2] [Focus Taiwan]

22 June 2021

Taiwan-US relations: Legislative actions in Congress in support of Taiwan 

(dql) Lawmakers of the US House of Representatives from both political parties have announced to introduce the Taiwan Peace and Stability Act which seeks to boost US support for Taiwan. The latest in a string of recent legislative moves in Congress reflecting a hard line towards China [see AiR No. 22, June/2021, 1] [see AiR No. 24, June/2021, 3], the bill presents a measure “to support the diplomatic, economic and physical space” of Taiwan, calling on the Biden administration to submit within 90 days a report on a whole-of-government strategy to enhance deterrence against a cross-Strait conflict, while emphasizing cooperation with allies. The bill, however, does not call for abandoning the long-standing stance of “strategic ambiguity” despite demands from some of the most hawkish Congress members that the US speaks out a clear commitment to defending Taiwan in the case of a Chinese attack. [Reuters]

Furthermore, Congress members reintroduced a bill known as the Taiwan Defense Act in both the Senate and House of Representatives which stipulates that it should be the US government’s policy to maintain its military’s ability to launch combined joint operations against Chinese forces to deter potential attacks on Taiwan. The proposed legislation was first introduced to Congress in 2020, but was eventually left off the agenda. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanwhile, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said in a Congressional hearing that there was a low probability that China would try to take over Taiwan militarily in the near-term, arguing that Beijing is lacking the necessary capabilities to do so.

Milley’s assessment stands in contrast to those earlier this year of Admiral Philip Davidson, then commander of US forces in the Pacific, who warned that China might launch an attack on Taiwan in the next six years, and his successor Adm. John Aquilino who said that such an attack “is much closer to us than most think.” [The Hill]

15 June 2021

Taiwan expresses appreciation for G7 support

(nds) Taiwanese authorities have extended their appreciation to the leaders of the Group of Seven, following their communique in which they underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues. It is the first time that G7 leaders have expressed such Taiwan-friendly content, reflecting a shift towards a more muscular stance against China with regards to cross-strait relations.

Although most countries, including G7 members, do not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, they have recently deepened their support for the island. [Taiwan News] 

15 June 2021

Cross-strait relations: Chinese warplanes in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone 

(nds) Tawain’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed that a Chinese Shaanxi Y-8 anti-submarine warfare plane flew into the southwest corner of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on 12 June. In response, Taiwan’s government issued radio warnings, sent aircraft, and deployed air defense missile systems to track the plane.

It is the third time this month that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has violated Taiwan’s ADIZ. [Taiwan News]

In a latest development, China sent 28 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Tuesday. The move comes a day after the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carried out maritime security operations, strike exercises and coordinated tactical training in the South China Sea. [South China Morning Post 1]

Meanwhile, the Chinese military has reportedly deployed additional surveillance forces in the air and waters near a disputed South China Sea archipelago, including a Type-815G spy ship, a navy Y-8Q maritime patrol aircraft and a KJ-500 airborne early warning and control plane. [South China Morning Post 2]

15 June 2021

Taiwan, US to resume talks on Trade and Investment Framework Agreement

(nd) On 10 June, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai had a virtual meeting with Taiwanese Minister-Without-Portfolio John Deng to discuss US-Taiwan trade relations. The two officials committed to convening the 11th Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting, which has been dormant since 2016. The meeting will take place in the coming weeks. [Focus Taiwan]

For political, economic and strategic reasons why the time is ripe for a US-Taiwan free trade agreement, see David Sacks and Jennifer Hillman in [Council on Foreign Relations]. 

15 June 2021

Japan-Taiwan relations are “non-governmental”, Tokyo confirms 

(nd) Following Beijing’s protest over a recent reference to the Taiwan as a country, the Japanese government has backtracked and re-affirmed that the country’s relations with Taiwan are non-governmental, practical and based on Tokyo’s recognition of China’s “one country, two systems” and of China as the sole legitimate government. 

China’s protest came after Prime Minister Yohishide Suga in a parliamentary debate had called Taiwan a country during a press conference. [The China Post

Meanwhile, a motion calling for Taiwan’s attendance at the World Health Assembly (WHA) was unanimously approved by Japan’s Upper House on 11 June, marking first time that Japan’s House of Councillors has supported Taiwan’s participation in international organizations through a resolution. [Taiwan News]

8 June 2021

Taiwan-US relations deepening: Trade talks and vaccine donation 

(dql) In a latest sign of deepening US-Taiwan relations, Washington is set to hold trade and investment talks with Taipei, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirming that the US is “engaged in conversations with Taiwan, or soon will be – on some kind of framework agreement [with Taiwan].” [Reuters]

US Senators, meanwhile, have announced that the US will give Taiwan 750,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, as part of the country’s plan to share millions of jabs globally. Interestingly, the delegation arrived in Taipei on a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III freighter, rather than a private jet as is generally the case for senior US visitors. [Aljazeera]

The announcement comes as Taiwan, so far hailed for its success in curbing the pandemic, sees itself in a worrisome situation, with over 11,000 cases and 260 deaths, more than 90% of them since mid-May, and less than 3% of its 23.5 million people vaccinated. [The Guardian]

1 June 2021

Japan, EU share concerns over Taiwan

(dql) Japan and the European Union have agreed on a joint position with regards to Taiwan. In the joint statement following the virtually held 27th EU-Japan Summit last week both sides reaffirmed “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” and their commitment to “the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.” [European Council]

The reference to Taiwan was the first in a statement from the leaders of Japan and EU. It follows similar wording in a joint statement issued after Suga’s meeting with US President Joe Biden in April.


1 June 2021

US to help Taiwan prepare for irregular war?

(dql) Christopher Maier, the nominee for United States assistant secretary of defence for special operations and low-intensity conflict, has floated the idea of the US assisting Taiwan in strengthening its ability to fight an irregular war against China. In a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee, Maier argued that special operators could help Taiwanese troops increase their skills in order to, for example, counteract potential enemy amphibious landings, stressing that information operations were a core area in which special operators could help conventional forces deter an aggression from China. []

1 June 2021

Taiwan-US relations: Congressmen introduce “Taiwan Diplomatic Review Act

(dql) In a move aimed to strengthen relations between the US and Taiwan, US lawmakers of both parties have introduced the “Taiwan Diplomatic Review Act” to rename the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Taiwan’s representative office in the US, to “Taiwan Representative Office.” It also calls for creating diplomatic visas for Taiwanese diplomats serving in the US. So far, Taiwan’s officials and diplomatic representatives reside on investor visas. [Taiwan English News]

Meanwhile, Joseph Young, chargé d’affaires ad interim at the US Embassy in Tokyo, on Monday visited the official residence of his Taiwanese counterpart. It was the first such visit since formal ties between the US and Taiwan were severed in 1979 and internal restrictions on interactions by US diplomats with their Taiwanese counterparts were put in place. However, these restrictions were lifted in January by then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. [Focus Taiwan]

1 June 2021

Cross-strait relations: Taiwan accuses China of obstructing purchase of German vaccine 

(dql) Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has accused China of being instrumental in preventing Taiwan signing a deal to purchase Covid-19 vaccines from German firm BioNTech. Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group signed a deal with BioNTech last year to supply its vaccines to mainland China, and in March offered to supply some of those doses to Taiwan. Under the deal, Fosun was given the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize the vaccines in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. [The Guardian]

1 June 2021

China-Australia relations: Chinese Defense Ministry accuses Canberra of fomenting confrontation over Taiwan

(dql) Already strained Sino-Australian relations have been further complicated after China’s Defense Ministry has labelled the Australian government’s warnings on the threat of war over Taiwan as irresponsible and accused it of inciting confrontation over the island.

The comment comes in response to a flurry of warnings from Australian leaders in April and May, including Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo whose remark that “the drums of war” are beating have been widely interpreted as referring to the situation in the Taiwan Strait. They were followed by Defense Minister Peter Dutton who warned not to discount the possibility of conflict. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, meanwhile, called on countries to unite against China’s growing economic and geopolitical coercion. Otherwise, they could risk being singled out and punished by Beijing. [BBC]

1 June 2021

Taiwan: Date of four national referendums announced

(dql) The Central Election Commission (CEC) has officially confirmed August 28 as the date of four national referendums which will ask Taiwan’s citizens to decide the following issues: the relocation of a liquefied natural gas receiving station to protect a coastal algal reef, the lifting of a ban on pork imports containing traces of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, the scheduling of referendums to allow them to be held in conjunction with national elections, and the re-activation of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei. [Focus Taiwan] [Nippon]


1 June 2021

Taiwan: Amendment to Criminal Code removes adultery as criminal offense

(dql) Taiwan’s parliament has passed a law to amend Taiwan’s Criminal Code, officially removing adultery as a criminal offense. The legislative move comes one year after the Constitutional Court had declared the related article unconstitutional and voided, citing changed perceptions of marriage and family in society and similar actions by other countries. [Taiwan News]

25 May 2021

Cross-strait relations: Possibility of China-Taiwan war at “all-time-high”, Chinese research institute says

(dql) According to a report of the Hong Kong-based China Cross-Strait Academy, the possibility of a full-scale war between China and Taiwan has reached an ‘all-time high’, identifying the risk level at 7.21 for 2021 on a scale of 10, compared with 6.7 in the early 1950s, when the Nationalist forces escaped from the mainland to Taiwan, above 6.5 for much of the 1970s, 4.55 in 1978 when the US established diplomatic ties with Beijing, and again over 6 during the Trump administration. The report cites for its assessment of the two sides being “on the brink of war” two “destructive factors”: a shifting political dynamic across the Taiwan Strait and closer ties between the US and Taiwan.

The academy’s head Lei Xiying, who is also a committee member of the Communist Party-backed All-China Youth Federation, added that ‘[i]f the current trend continues … China’s unification of Taiwan by force will only be a matter of time.” [Express] [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) the Taiwan Strait last week. It was the fifth time a US warship has navigated the waterway since US President Joe Biden assumed office in January. [Taipei Times]

In another move, equally angering Beijing, the US mission in Taipei together with the Australian and the Japanese mission issued a joint statement in support for the participation of Taiwan as an observer in the World Health Assembly (WHA). The statement came a day after the opening of the virtually held annual meeting of the WHA, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO). Taiwan, excluded for the fifth consecutive year, criticized the WHO for its “continued indifference to the health rights of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people,” and urged it to “maintain a professional and neutral stance,” and to “reject China’s political interference.” [Focus Taiwan] [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan]

18 May 2021

Taiwan-US relations: Missile maintenance deal signed, TSMC joining US-led semiconductor lobby group

(dql) Taiwan’s Air Force signed a deal worth 291 million USD with the US in order to continue the maintenance of armaments that can be loaded onto Taiwan’s F-16 fighter jets, manufactured by US based Lockheed Martin Co. [Focus Taiwan]

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Co (TSMC), the world’s biggest chip foundry, meanwhile, has joined the Semiconductors in America Coalition (SIAC), a new lobbying group 65 major players along the semiconductor value chain dominated by top American chip developers and users, such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Intel. Asian and European members include MediaTek from Taiwan, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix as well as Dutch ASML, the only supplier of the advanced photolithography equipment used to make high-end chips. [South China Morning Post]

18 May 2021

Taiwan: National referendums to be held in August

(dql) Taiwan’s Central Election Commission (CEC) on Friday approved proposals to hold three referendums on August 28, in addition to the nuclear power plant referendum already planned. Each of the proposals gathered the required number of  289,667 signatures needed before a referendum will be held.

The three referendum proposals include one about the protection of a coastal algal reef and one about pork imports containing traces of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine. The third is about referendum scheduling.

In order to pass, each referendum will have to gain a majority of votes in favor from at least 25% of the Taiwanese population. [Focus Taiwan]

18 May 2021

Taiwan: Constitutional amendment committee begins its work

(dql) Taiwan’s legislative constitutional amendment committee this Tuesday met for the first time to select five conveners tasked with overseeing the review of currently over 50 amendment proposals, including those suggesting to lower the voting age to 18, to abolish both the Examination Yuan and Control Yuan, and lower the high bar for constitutional amendments.

The committee was set up in September last year and consists of 22 lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), 14 from the Kuomintang (KMT), two from the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), and one from the New Power Party (NPP), according to proportion of seats each party holds in the parliament. [Focus Taiwan]

11 May 2021

G7 pull no punches on China at latest meeting

(dql) The Group of Seven (G7) has expressed a hardened stance towards China on multiple fronts at their first face-to-face meeting in two years in London last week. In their joint statement after the meeting, the foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, along with the High Representative of the European Union, called on China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” in accordance with the country’s obligations under international and national law, adding continued deep concerns over human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang and in Tibet.

Furthermore, the group criticized the erosion of democratic elements in Hong Kong’s recently adopted electoral reform as well as over “practices that undermine […] free and fair economic systems, including on trade, investment and development finance.”

With regards to Taiwan, the group expressed its support for “Taiwan’s meaningful participation in World Health Organisation forums and the World Health Assembly,” as well as its “serious concerns about reports of militarisation, coercion, and intimidation,” in the South China Sea, stressing “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.” [EEAS]

It was the first time that the EU and its leading member states aligned with the US over the highly sensitive issue of Taiwan, and comes amid warnings of high-ranking US military officials of a takeover of the island by China by force by 2027 or sooner. [Politico] [The Guardian]

Grant Newsham in [Center for Security Policy], raises the question whether China – in an assault on Taiwan – could follow Russian President Vladimir Putin’s example of the seizure of “large swaths of Ukraine with a hybrid technique utilizing both local insurgents and military forces,” in 2014.

Taiwan, meanwhile, has not been invited to participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA) later this month May 24 to June 1. It is the fifth straight year in which the country has been excluded from the forum. [Focus Taiwan]

The decision over an invitation lies with 194 member states of the World Health Organization.

11 May 2021

Taiwan: Government urged to improve human rights in fishing industry

(dql) Taiwan’s Control Yuan, the top government watchdog body, released a list of demands over the government’s failure to address the issue of forced labor on the country’s distant water fishing (DWF) fleets. Citing grievances such as “confiscation of documents, long days with little rest, physical and verbal abuse, and lack of payment,” the agency called on involved government entities to assign more personnel to conduct inspections, to step up human rights education among those working in the fisheries industry to ensure a clearer understanding of what constitutes forced labor. 

Taiwan’s has the world’s second largest fishing fleet (behind China). In October last year the US Department of Labor added fish caught by Taiwan-flagged vessels to its 2020 “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.” [Taipei Times] [Department of Labor, US] [Seafoodsource]

11 May 2021

Taiwan: KMT referendum proposals take second stage

(dql) Taiwan’s Central Election Commission (CEC) confirmed that two referendum proposals initiated by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) have passed the second stage in the three-stage procedure after reviewed the signatures submitted by the KMT in March. The CEC will convene a meeting this 14 to determine whether the two proposals will be put to the vote on August 28. 

One of the proposals aims to reverse the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s decision to ease restrictions on pork imports, allowing products with residue of the livestock drug ractopamine. The other seeks the electorate’s approval to have future referendums held in conjunction with major local elections. 

In Taiwan, a referendum proposal has to clear two hurdles before being put to the vote. The first requires the signatures of 0.01% of eligible voters in the most recent presidential election, while in the second a proposal must gather the signatures of 1.5% of eligible voters in the most recent presidential election. [Focus Taiwan]

11 May 2021

EU and India to boost trade, Indo-Pacific partnership

(lm) The European Union and India have agreed to resume long-stalled talks on a free trade deal, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on May 8. Brussel and New Delhi will also launch negotiations on reciprocal investments and on the protection of so-called geographical indications. [South China Morning Post]

Earlier on May 8, the first EU-Indian Leaders’ Meeting brought together all 27 heads of the EU member states and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Considering that previous EU-India summits have involved only the Indian prime minister and the heads of the European Commission and the European Council, the recent summit signals the bloc’s renewed interest in the Indo-Pacific region. [Reuters]

Last month, the EU Council asked the European Commission and high representatives to draw up the bloc’s Indo-Pacific strategy by September this year. In doing so, the Council unveiled the strategy’s main thrust, which included exploring closer economic ties with India and pledging to foster a rules-based order with “free and open maritime supply routes in full compliance with international law”, without naming China.

Earlier last week, the EU also said that efforts to ratify the proposed EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China had been suspended after Beijing imposed sanctions on several high-profile members of the European Parliament, three members of national parliaments, two EU committees, and several China-focused European academics.

For a comprehensive examination of the decision, please consider Chris Devonshire-Ellis’ comment for [China Briefing].

4 May 2021

Cross-strait relations: Taiwan to toughen punishments for army servicemen leaking confidential information to China

(dql) Taiwan’s Cabinet approved a draft amendment to the island’s Criminal Code of the Armed Forces that provides punishments for serving members of the armed forces who pass on confidential information to a newly defined category of people, to include now “foreign governments and nationals, citizens of Mainland China, residents of Hong Kong and Macau and or any middlemen sent on their behalf.” The current law identifies the country’s enemies as “any country or organization that engages in or whose forces confront the Republic of China.” 

Under current law, leaking confidential information is punishable with a jail term of 3-10 years in peacetime and 7 years to life during war. Furthermore, anyone who discloses or delivers materials of a secret nature related to Taiwan’s defense to anyone in the new category faces 5-12 years in prison during peacetime and 10 years to life during war. However, individuals who disclose more confidential information can be sentenced to a maximum of 18 years. 

The draft amendment also expands the definition of enemies from “any country or organization that engages in or whose forces confront the Republic of China,” to any country, organization, or “political entity,” that does so. [Focus Taiwan]

The draft bill comes after China’s Ministry of State Security, the country’s civilian intelligence, security and secret police agency, in April issued new anti-espionage regulations, the first counter-espionage working regulations at a national level and across different sectors, including government departments, social groups and companies. They allow the agency to draw up lists of companies and organizations suspected of foreign infiltration and to require them to adopt security measures to prevent foreign infiltration. [AiR No. 17, April/2021, 4]

The legislative move comes also at a time of heightened cross-strait relations amid Chinese military activities of unprecedented frequency close to Taiwan on the one side and US warnings of a Chinese takeover of Taiwan by force in the near future on the other. [AiR No. 17, April/2021, 4] [AiR No. 11, March/2021, 3] [The Guardian]

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s High Court upheld a guilty ruling against two former guards of President Tsai Ing-wen charged with breaching the National Security Act and spying for China, trying to obtain the itinerary of President Tsai, as well as US and Japanese politicians who visited and met with her in 2018. [Taipei Times]


4 May 2021

Taiwan: Advancing naval military capabilities

(dql) Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration (CGA) took delivery of the “Chayi,” a homegrown 4,000-ton vessel and CGA’s largest patrol boat to date. Designed to carry out maritime patrols, crack down on illicit activities on the open seas, and conduct search and rescue missions, the vessel is expected to significantly enhance the CGA’s capability to protect Taiwan’s waters. 

The “Chiayi” is one of four CGA patrol ships of that size, commissioned by the government and being built by CSBC at a total cost of 392 million USD. [Focus Taiwan]

The delivery of the vessels comes as China’s second aircraft carrier and the first one domestically produced aircraft carrier, the Shandong, and its naval support group have concluded exercises in the South China Sea, that, according to the Chinese Navy, were “legitimate,” and served to “enhance Chinese capabilities to protect national sovereignty, security, and development interests. The drill was the first in the disputed water this year and the latest in a string of many military muscle flexing activities of China there. [Aljazeera]


4 May 2021

Taiwan-Canada relations: President Tsai receives John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service

(dql) Taiwanese President was awarded the 2020 John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service of the Halifax International Security Forum (HFX). Now an independent, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., HFX was founded by the Canadian government and receives considerable funding from Ottawa.

The conferment of the prize upon Tsai is expected to further worsen already fraught relations between Canada and China over the 2018 arrest in Vancouver of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the US. Meng is currently fighting extradition to the US, where she is wanted over charges of breaching sanctions against Iran. Shortly after Meng’s arrest, China detained Canadian national Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and later charged them with espionage. Both sides have accused each other of arbitrary and politically motivated detentions. [CNN]

4 May 2021

Taiwan-US relations: Change from ‘ambiguity’ to ‘clarity’ to have destabilizing effect, US spy chief says

(dql) Speaking at the Senate Armed Services Committee, US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has voiced caution over a shift from the long-standing ‘strategic ambiguity’ to ‘strategic clarity’ regarding Taiwan, arguing that China would find such a change “deeply destabilizing.” She added that this would cement Chinese perceptions of the US aiming at “constraining China’s rise, including through military force, and would probably cause Beijing to aggressively undermine U.S. interests worldwide.” [Focus Taiwan]

Haines’s remarks come amid recent warnings of high-ranking US military officials of a Chinese takeover of Taiwan by force in the near future, including former US Asia-Pacific commander Philip Davidson testifying in the same committee in March that China could invade Taiwan within a timeframe of six-years. [The Guardian]

For insights into positions in the debate in the US on a potential end of the decades-long approach of ‘strategic ambiguity’ see [The Diplomat] and [New York Times]. Dean P. Chen in [The National Interest], meanwhile, argues that “[u]nless the United States can decisively make up its mind on doing away with the “One China” policy irrespective of Beijing’s reactions, strategic ambiguity inevitably remains.” 

4 May 2021

Cross-strait relations: Taiwan accuses China of stealing technology

(dql) Taiwan’s government has made allegations against China of waging economic warfare against Taiwan’s tech sector by stealing technology and poaching away engineers, adding that the theft was not only about economic interests, but also aimed to “make Taiwan poorer and weaker.”

At the same time, lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are stepping up efforts to revise Taiwan’s commercial secrets law to widen the scope of what is considered a secret and to sharpen penalties.

The allegations of technology theft refers especially to the semiconductor industry, in which Taiwan is world-leading, with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) controlling 84% of the market for chips with the smallest, most efficient circuits on which the world’s biggest technology brands rely for their products and services. [South China Morning Post][Aljazeera] [The Economist]

In a related development, Taiwan’s Labor Ministry has urged local recruiters to remove all listings for jobs in China, in particular those in critical industries such as semiconductors. The Ministry defended the drastic measure as a necessary protective move against China: “Due to geopolitical tension between the U.S. and China, China’s semiconductor development has suffered some setbacks, and as a result China has become more aggressive in poaching and targeting top Taiwanese chip talent to help build a self-sufficient supply chain.” [Newsweek]

On the transformation of the semiconductor industry into a high-stakes geopolitical issue and a source of tension between the US and China and the specific role of Taiwan therein, see the report “Geopolitics of Semiconductors” in [Eurasia Group].

For the impact of Taiwan’s worst draught in more than 50 years on the Taiwanese semiconductor industry and the global electronics sector, see [BBC].

4 May 2021

Taiwan: Cabinet proposes relocating planned LNG terminal 

(dql) Taiwan’s Cabinet proposed to relocate a contentious liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal from its planned site further away from the coast in northern Taiwan.  The proposal comes in response to strong opposition of environmental groups to the original location of the terminal and will delay completion of the project by two and a half years to 2025 while increasing the costs by NT$15 billion to NT$75 billion. 

To observers, the government’s move aims to satisfy critics of the project and prevent a defeat in the upcoming related national referendum in August. [Focus Taiwan]


27 April 2021

Cross-strait relations: Taiwan kicks off week-long 24/7 simulation of Chinese invasion 

(dql) Taiwan’s military has begun the computerized component of this year’s Han Kuang military exercises last Friday to test Taiwan’s defense strategies and tactics against a possible military attack by China.

The Han Kuang exercises are Taiwan’s largest annual war games and involve all branches of its armed forces, conducted in two stages: the tabletop drills and live-fire drills. The week-long simulation of a full-scale PLA invasion, done using the Joint Theater Level Simulation system, is the longest in the history of Han Kuang exercises since they were held for the first time in 1984.

The drills come amid military intimidation from China, with PLA planes flying into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone for 18 days within the first 23 days in April and the largest show of force recorded on April 12, involving 25 war planes. [Taipei Times]

27 April 2021

Taiwan: Government to increase child raising funding to tackle record low birth rate

(dql) In an attempt to reverse historically low birth rates which have persistently dropped since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office in 2016, Taiwan’s government has announced to increase funding to help couples raise children, from this year’s NT$55 billion to NT$85 billion (US$3.05 billion) by 2023. Starting in August 2022, the monthly child-raising subsidy to be increased from currently NT$3,500 to NT$5,000. 

Taiwan’s birth rate has fallen from 8.86 per 1,000 in 2016, to 8.23 in 2017, 7.70 in 2018, 7.53 in 2019, and 7.01 in 2020, marking a record low. The number of newborns in 2020 stood at 165,249 babies, a record low, too. [Focus Taiwan]

27 April 2021

Taiwan to sharpen penalties for negligence leading to deaths

(dql) Taiwan’s Cabinet approved a draft amendment bill that provides harsher penalties on people found guilty of negligence leading to death. 

Currently, the maximum penalty for conviction on that charge is five years in prison or a fine of NT$500,000 (US$17,615).

The bill now allows for a prison sentence of one to seven years in cases of serious offenses on the charge of negligence causing death. In addition, a serious offense results in the death of three or more people, can be sentenced with jail terms from three to 10 years. 

In case of an intentional offense results in death, the punishment will be 10 years to life in prison. If it results in injury, the sentence will be seven years to life.

Under current law, those convicted of intentionally committing a crime of this nature are sentenced to five years to life, while in cases of negligence the maximum sentence is three years and a fine of up to NT$300,000. 

The legislative move comes in response to train crash on April 2, in which 49 people died and at least 200 were injured, marking Taiwan’s deadliest in seven decades. [Focus Taiwan] [New York Times]

In an earlier development, prosecutors indicted seven individuals for offenses related to the crash, while the transportation minister resigned. [Taiwan News] [Kyodo News]

20 April 2021

Canadian lawmakers support presenting award to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen

(zh) Further worsening already strained Canada-China relations, the Canadian House of Commons has unanimously passed a motion in support of the Halifax International Security Forum’s (HFX) decision to give the 2020 John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.

The motion also calls on the Canadian government to maintain its funding to HFX even if the award is presented to Tsai, after the Trudeau administration had reportedly threatened to withdraw funding for the award if HFX honored President Tsai, out of concerns of provoking China.  Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan denied the report as “absolutely false.” [Politico]

The Halifax International Security Forum is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. It is a forum and network for international government and military officials, academic experts, authors and entrepreneurs. Addressing global security issues, the forum is best known for its annual security summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada which brings together over 300 delegates from more than 70 countries and has been dubbed by media as “The Davos of international security.” The Canadian government is among the funding partners of the forum. 


20 April 2021

Cross-strait relations: Concurrent military drills on both sides of the Taiwan Strait

(zh) Taiwan has conducted intensive drills in southern Taiwan to assess the coordination and effectiveness of the military command as well as the joint operational capabilities of the armed forces. During the drills, China begun six-day live-fire drills in waters near the disputed Pratas Islands. I  [Focus Taiwan] [South China Morning Post]

20 April 2021

Taiwan-US relations: US delegation visits Taiwan to deepen bilateral ties

(zh) In another sign of deepening Taiwan-US ties, an American delegation, including former US senator Chris Dodd, former US deputy secretaries of state James Steinberg and Richard Armitage, and director of the State Department’s Office of Taiwan Coordination Dan Biers visited Taiwan last week to reaffirm the US commitment to its partnership with Taiwan and to discuss with President Tsai Ing-wen and other government officials climate change, bilateral economic cooperation, and Taiwan’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and transition to green energy. The selection of Dodd, Steinberg and Armitage – all personally close with President Biden – signals the weight of the visit and the US commitment to Taiwan.  [Focus Taiwan][Reuters]

Prior to the delegation’s visit, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council declared the recent largest warplane incursion to the island’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), involving 25 warplanes on one day [see AiR No.15, April/2021, 2], was to warn Taiwan not to seek independence by moving closer to the USl, stressing Beijing does not “abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures.” [South China Morning Post]

In the meantime, US lawmakers from both parties introduced a bill – the Taiwan International Solidarity Act – to counter Beijing’s mounting pressure to isolate Taiwan from international organizations. [Taiwan News]


20 April 2021

China-Spain relations: Trade and economic relations strengthened in phone call

(zh) China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has spoken by phone with Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Arancha González Laya. The two sides addressed the bilateral economic and trade relations.

González highlighted the frank dialogue Spain has maintained with China, adding that Spain considers the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as an opportunity for athletes. The comment comes amid the discussion for a possible boycott of the Beijing Games in protest of China’s crackdown in Xinjiang.

On the Chinese side, Wang noted China and Europe are partners, not rivals, and China’s development is not a threat but an opportunity for Europe, marking Beijing’s latest attempt to push Europe away from the US amid a looming closer EU-US relation under the Biden administration. [Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation][Xinhua]

Meanwhile, 46 Taiwanese nationals were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison after a Beijing court found them guilty of involvement in telecom fraud and swindling 678,000 USD from 66 Chinese people from Spain. The 46 were part of the 237 telecom fraud suspects (218 of them being Taiwanese) arrested by police authorities in Madrid and Barcelona in 2016. Defying opposition from Taiwan, Spain deported them all to China, including the Taiwanese. [Focus Taiwan]


20 April 2021

China, Taiwan lodge solemn representations over Japan’s decision to discharge nuclear wastewater

(zh) China has summoned Japan’s ambassador and lodged solemn representations over Tokyo’s “wrong decision” to discharge around 1.25 million tons of treated water that was used to cool melted fuel from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean. China’s foreign ministry accused Tokyo of “violation of international law”, criticizing Tokyo’s action as “extremely irresponsible”.

Similarly, Taiwan’s foreign ministry has also made a “solemn representation” to Japan after the island’s main opposition party Kuomingtang (KMT) urged the government to lodge a “solemn protest” instead of just expressing being “highly concerned.” [Reuters][Taiwan News]

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga defended his decision saying the release of the water was an “inevitable task” since the plant’s capacity to store the wastewater is expected to run out as early as the fall of 2022. He reassured that Japan would “take every measure to absolutely guarantee the safety of the treated water and address misinformation.” [New York Times]

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has endorsed Japan’s decision, saying it is “technically feasible and in line with international practice”. However, three United Nations human rights experts have expressed disappointment over Tokyo’s release of the water, criticizing it “imposes considerable risks” to human health and the environment. [CNBC][South China Morning Post] [UN News]

20 April 2021

Australia warns China of “disastrous” conflict with Taiwan

(zh) Speaking at this year’s Raisina Dialogue, the Indian government-sponsored annual multilateral conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, Australia’s defense chief Angus Campbell warned that a military scenario over Taiwan would be “disastrous” for the region and urged countries to “all work to avoid” the potential conflict on the island, stressing the importance of a peaceful resolution across the Taiwan Strait. [Guardian]

Campbell’s remark comes after in March US Asia Pacific Commander Philip Davidson publicly voiced concerns over Taiwan (along with Guam) being potential next targets of China’s external aggression and over a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan within the next six years. Earlier this month, Michael Goldman, the charge d’affaires ad interim at the US embassy in Canberra, revealed that the US and Australia are discussing strategic planning, of which a Taiwan contingency was identified as an important component.  [AiR No. 11, March/2021, 3] [Republic World] [AiR No.14, April/2021, 1].

Meanwhile, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the same event warned of the world moving toward “a great polarization” between authoritarian regimes and liberal democracies, adding in a very thinly veiled critic of China that “economic coercion is being employed as a tool of statecraft” and “liberal rules and norms are under assault.” [Bloomberg]

The relations between Beijing and Canberra have strained over trade restrictions, Australia’s call for an independent investigation of Covid-19 origins, and human rights concerns. In a latest development, import licenses for hay from 25 Australian business that expired two months ago have not been renewed China’s General Administration of Customs. Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye earlier last week warned Beijing would respond “in kind” if Canberra imposes sanctions over Xinjiang human rights concerns. [South China Morning Post] [AiR No.15, April/2021, 2]. 


20 April 2021

Taiwan: KMT starts campaign to mobilize voters for its anti-government referendum proposals

(dql) Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) kicked off a series of dozens of events to be held in all of 73 electoral districts this month and in May to promote its two referendum proposals that have been submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC) for review after the necessary numbers of signatures in the first two steps had been received. If approved by the CEC, the referendum would be held in August.

One of the two proposals opposes the decision of ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government to lift a ban on pork imports containing the controversial leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, while the second proposal would allow referendums to be held in conjunction with major local elections. The latter proposal aims at reversing an amendment to the Referendum Act passed by the DPP-controlled Legislative Yuan in June 2019 that limits the frequency with which referendums. Critics argued, however, that the amendment was a maneuver of the DPP to prevent referendum questions from threatening its support at the ballot box, especially in the 2020 presidential election. [Focus Taiwan]


13 April 2021

US-Taiwan relations: New guidelines to enhance engagement between government officials 

(zh) The US State Department has announced new guidelines which liberalizes existing guidance on contact with Taiwan to “encourage” engagement between government officials of both sides, regular working-level meetings with their Taiwanese counterparts in the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in New York, Taiwan’s de-facto embassy in the US. [US Department of State] [South China Morning Post

In response, China’s Foreign Ministry warned the US “not to play with fire” on Taiwan issues and urged the US to “immediately stop any form of US-Taiwan official contacts, cautiously and appropriately handle the matter, and not send wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces so as not to subversively influence and damage Sino-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” [Aljazeera]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, warned Beijing that “it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change that status quo by force,” while reaffirming the US’ “serious commitment to Taiwan being able to defend itself,” and to “peace and security in the western Pacific.” [The Guardian]

For reasons why China is unlikely to seize Taiwan by force, see Kris Osborn in [The National Interest] who argues that even if China would be successful in taking over Taiwan, “given the sustained U.S. presence in the region and forward positioning of strike assets nearby,” it would be impossible for China “to manage to secure the island before a large counterattack was possible.”

13 April 2021

Cross-Strait relations: Tensions flare up at multiple fronts 

(zh) Taiwan’s Executive Yuan is considering amendments to the National Security Act and the Trade Secret Act to prevent China’s commercial espionage and the poaching of core technologies, particularly the semiconductor and information technology. Taiwan prohibits Chinese companies from doing business or recruiting locally without prior approval, but some firms conceal their Chinese ownership to illegally recruit workers. [Taipei Times 1]

The plan to amend those law comes at a time when Taiwan’s government has become increasingly wary of the risk of the “red supply chain”, especially amid the ongoing trade war between Beijing and Washington, worrying the island’s chip workers become targets for China’s poaching in the semiconductor industry. [AiR No.14, April/2021, 1]

China, meanwhile, continues its military muscle flexing, with 25 PLA planes flying through Taiwan’s air defense zone (ADIZ), including 14 J-16 fighter jets, four J-10 fighter jets, four H-6K bombers, two anti-submarine warfare planes and an airborne early warning and control plane on Monday. In an earlier move last week, 15 of China’s military aircraft, including 12 fighter jets, had flown into the southwestern part of the island’s ADIZ. The flights were linked to maneuvers of China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning and its escorts in the west and east of Taiwan on Monday last week, an exercise of which China said that it will be conducted regularly [CNN] [Taiwan News 1] [CNN] [Taipei Times 2]

Referring to the increased number of incursions into Taiwan’s ADIZ and to US warnings of a Chinese military attack on Taiwan in the near future, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu reassured that Taiwan is willing to fight the war if needed and the island would “defend ourselves to the very last day,” adding that Taiwan ready to build up its military might and allocate more funds for defense. [Guardian 1] [Taiwan News 2]

China’s military, on its side, confirmed it has tracked the US Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain sailing through the Taiwan Strait. The US has claimed the move as a routine exercise of freedom of navigation, whereas China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theatre Command called it a tactic to “manipulate” the cross-Strait situation and China is “firmly opposed to that”. [South China Morning Post]

Finally, Taiwan has accused China of malign “vaccine diplomacy” in Paraguay – one of 15 countries which have formal relations with Taiwan – after the Paraguayan government declined China’s offer of millions of vaccine doses in exchange for cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan. China has denied the efforts to entice Paraguay with vaccines. To counter China’s mounting pressure in Central and South America where Taiwan has five allies, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Taiwan is working with like-minded countries including the Quad countries Japan, the US, and India to provide vaccine to Paraguay, adding that India has already shipped 100,000 doses to Paraguay and there would be another 100,000. [BBC][Bloomberg][South China Morning Post]

However, India denied Taiwan’s reported role in the shipment of Indian-made vaccines to Paraguay, saying the delivery was made in response to Paraguay’s request. [Hindustan Times]

In a separate move, India’s foreign ministry last week posted a message on Twitter to express condolences over more than 50 deaths in Taiwan’s most serious train crash in decades. It is probably the first time the Ministry posted online about Taiwan, indicating New Delhi’s subtle foreign policy shift amid its ongoing boundary dispute with Beijing and engagement in the Quad to counter China. As Taiwan’s foreign policy shifts from US-centric to South Asia-focused, an opinion piece in  [Taipei Times] suggests that New Delhi cooperate with countries such as the US, Japan, and Singapore to devise a consistent Taiwan policy and “take a lead in facilitating Taiwan’s inclusion,” into the evolving regional order of the Indo-Pacific. 

13 April 2021

Taiwan: Ruling party and cabinet not to initiate any referendum

(dql) Taiwan’s government and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus decided not initiate any referendum proposals to counter a referendum on key policy issues which will be held in August and at  which Taiwan’s citizens will be asked whether they support: “one, the government’s decision to lift a ban on pork imports containing ractopamine; two, construction of a receiving terminal for natural gas, which could threaten Taoyuan’s Datan Algal Reef; three, activation of the mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant; and four, holding referendums on the same day as national elections.” The referendum questions all basically oppose DPP policies. 

The decision was made at a DPP meeting convened by President Tsai Ing-wen, who doubles also a DPP chairperson, attended by officials from the Presidential Office, the Cabinet, the DPP, legislators and mayors, with most of them arguing that the government should focus its efforts on dealing with the aftermath of the nation’s worst rail disaster in decades and reforming the Taiwan Railways Administration. [Taipei Times]

6 April 2021

Cross-strait relations: Taiwan wary of China stealing semiconductor technology

(zh) Taiwan has accused China of stepping up its efforts to steal technology and poach talent from the island’s world-leading semiconductor industry to boost its own industry’s self-sufficiency. The risks of the ‘red supply chain’ – a reference to the color of China’s Communist Party – have increased by the escalating trade war between the US and China as well as Washington’s sanctions on the Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei Technologies, said Taiwanese Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua, adding that Taiwan’s chip workers are a “natural target for poaching China has latched onto since they have rich experience and speak the same language.” [South China Morning Post]

Despite attempts from the US and China to boost its chipmaker industry, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics remain the dominating giants in the industry. [Nikkei Asia] reports at least $30 billion per year for a minimum of five years are needed for the US, China, and the EU to have a reasonable chance of succeed in being comparable to Samsung and TSMC, making the goal to competing with TSMC and Samsung “economically unrealistic.”

6 April 2021

Taiwan to purchase upgraded missiles from US 

(zh) Taiwan has decided to order an upgraded version of missiles – the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor – from the US to “boost defense capacity.” The missiles are to be delivered in 2025 or 2026 and be deployed by the end of 2026. Taiwan had received its first PAC-2 systems in 1997, with upgrades to PAC-3 being implemented since 2007. [South China Morning Post][Taipei Times]

The US Department of State, meanwhile, reiterated its commitment to deepening ties with Taiwan, adding that it will consider opportunities for mutual visits of senior officials to advance bilateral relations. The statement comes shortly after US ambassador to Palau John Hennesey-Niland joined a visiting delegation from the Pacific Island nation of Palau, including Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr., that traveled to Taiwan March 28 to launch a Taiwan-Palau travel bubble. [Taipei Times]

The visit made Hennessey-Niland the first US ambassador to visit Taiwan in an official capacity since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979. [The Diplomat]

In response, Beijing dispatched om Monday 10 warplanes, including four J-10 and four J-16 jet fighters, along with a surveillance plane and an anti-submarine plane, through Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) to the southwest of the island while a carrier group, led by the Liaoning, the country’s first aircraft carrier put into active service, was carrying out “routine” drills in the waters near Taiwan. [RT] [Aljazeera]

6 April 2021

US, Australia discuss Taiwan defense

(zh) The US and Australia are discussing potential joint responses to a war over Taiwan, according to Michael Goldman, the charge d’affaires ad interim at the US embassy in Canberra, who spoke about a potential role for Australia in a Taiwan contingency in an Australian National University podcast. He made clear that both sides would cooperate “not only in making our militaries interoperable and functioning well together, but also in strategic planning,” adding that strategic planning “covers the range of contingencies that you’ve mentioned, of which Taiwan is obviously an important component.” [Guardian] [Taipei Times]

Goldman remark comes at a time when high-ranking US military officials are warning of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in the near future, with Commander of the US Pacific Fleet Admiral John Aquilino, nominated to become commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, saying that China’s threat to invade Taiwan is serious and more imminent than widely understood, possibly as soon as within the next six years. [AiR No. 12, March/2021, 4]

The statement comes also amid highly strained Sino-Australian relations over trade restrictions China has imposed in response to Australia’s criticism of human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and to Canberra’s call for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a latest development of the trade dispute between Beijing and Canberra, nearly 9000 liters of Australian red wines has been seized by Chinese authorities in Shenzhen and new duties of between 116.2% and 218.4%t have been imposed on wines in containers of up to two litres. [South China Morning Post] [AiR No.13, March/2021, 5].

6 April 2021

BBC China correspondent flees China to Taiwan

(zh) Senior BBC China correspondent John Sudworth has fled China and relocated to Taiwan citing legal threats and intense pressure from Chinese authorities over the coverage of sensitive subjects including Covid-19 origins and Xinjiang human rights abuses.  

Commenting on the relocation, BBC said in [twitter] that “John’s work has exposed truths the Chinese authorities did not want the world to know”. The European Union (EU) has condemned Chinese authorities’ “harassment” to foreign journalists. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said Sudworth will “feel that Taiwan is a free and democratic nation”, while China’s Foreign Ministry identified a “guilty conscience” over producing “immoral fake news and disinformation” about China as the “only rational explanation” for leaving China so abruptly. [New York Times] [South China Morning Post] [CGTN]

In February, China banned banned BBC World News from broadcasting in the country, a move widely seen as retaliation against British media regulator Ofcom revocation of Chinese state broadcaster China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) licence to broadcast in the UK. [AiR No. 7, February/2021, 3]

Sudworth’s departure is part of a larger exodus of foreign journalists from China, with Taiwan becoming a preferred a destination for these journalists. Since last year, at least 18 foreign correspondents were expelled by China, some of which were framed as retaliation for the Trump administration’s restriction on the number of Chinese journalists working in the US. 39 correspondents and 21 outlets have moved to Taiwan, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and BBC. [Taipei Times]

30 March 2021

Taiwan: 100 convicted in political trials exonerated  

(dql) Taiwan’s Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) announced the latest round of exonerations for 100 individuals convicted in political trials during the authoritarian era from 1945-1992. The guilty verdicts, involving 105 cases, were declared unjust overturned during a ceremony presided over by President Tsai Ing-wen. The cases include crimes of rebellion, espionage and subversion. [Focus Taiwan]


30 March 2021

Taiwan-Palau travel bubble strengthens relations

(zh) Palau’s leader Surangel Whipps and his delegation have flown to Taiwan to kick off Asia’s first travel bubble between two ‘Covid-safe’ destinations. Whipps earlier had revealed he rejected China’s offer to switch from diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China after he was elected last November. “I believe that we should be free to choose who our friends are, and nobody should say ‘I cannot be somebody’s friend,” said Whipps. [Taiwan News 1]

The trip to Taipei, however, has prompted a “red line” warning from Beijing as US ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland arrived on the island as part of a delegation from Palau. “The Chinese side resolutely opposes any form of official contacts between US and Taiwanese officials,” said China’s foreign ministry. Hennessey-Niland is the first US ambassador to visit Taiwan in an official capacity since the US cut its ties with Taiwan in favor of China in 1979. [South China Morning Post][Taipei Times][Taiwan News 2]

30 March 2021

Taiwan, US sign MoU on maritime cooperation

(zh) Taiwan and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish a Coast Guard Group (CGWG), the first agreement signed by two sides since Joe Biden took office. The agreement provides a platform for the two sides to communicate through Taiwan Coast Guard and the United States Coast Guard. The MoU signals Taiwan’s move to counter China’s new coast guard law, which permits the coast guard to use weapons in the waters China claims. [Focus Taiwan][Radio Taiwan International, in Chinese]

Both Taiwan and the US have been increasingly wary of China’s threat to the island. “[T]he problem is much closer us than most think,” said Admiral John Aquilino, the nominee of the US Indo-Pacific Command, in his hearing with the Senate Armed Service Committee, adding China considers establishing full control over the island to be its “number one priority” [CNN].

Meanwhile, in US parliament, the Taiwan Relations Reinforcement Act was reintroduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley, chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. If passed, the act would change the status of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a de facto US embassy under the name of a government-sponsored non-profit organization, to be “representative”, making their appointment subject to Senate approval. It would also require the US president to establish an “inter-agency Taiwan task force”, comprised of senior government officials who submit an annual report to Congress detailing actions that should be taken to enhance the relations. A nonprofit Taiwan-US cultural exchange foundation would also be set up. The bill was previously introduced in the Senate last October but was not included in the congressional schedule. Besides, the group of seven Republicans and two Democrats has asked Biden administration to set up a preclearance facility at Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan’s main international airport, saying it would “improve the ease of travel between the United States and Taiwan and reinforce the importance of our relationship with Taiwan”. [Bloomberg] [Taipei Times] 


30 March 2021

Taiwan, US sign MoU on maritime cooperation

(zh) Taiwan and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish a Coast Guard Group (CGWG), the first agreement signed by two sides since Joe Biden took office. The agreement provides a platform for the two sides to communicate through Taiwan Coast Guard and the United States Coast Guard. The MoU signals Taiwan’s move to counter China’s new coast guard law, which permits the coast guard to use weapons in the waters China claims. [Focus Taiwan][Radio Taiwan International, in Chinese]

Both Taiwan and the US have been increasingly wary of China’s threat to the island. “[T]he problem is much closer us than most think,” said Admiral John Aquilino, the nominee of the US Indo-Pacific Command, in his hearing with the Senate Armed Service Committee, adding China considers establishing full control over the island to be its “number one priority” [CNN].

Meanwhile, in US parliament, the Taiwan Relations Reinforcement Act was reintroduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley, chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. If passed, the act would change the status of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a de facto US embassy under the name of a government-sponsored non-profit organization, to be “representative”, making their appointment subject to Senate approval. It would also require the US president to establish an “inter-agency Taiwan task force”, comprised of senior government officials who submit an annual report to Congress detailing actions that should be taken to enhance the relations. A nonprofit Taiwan-US cultural exchange foundation would also be set up. The bill was previously introduced in the Senate last October but was not included in the congressional schedule. Besides, the group of seven Republicans and two Democrats has asked Biden administration to set up a preclearance facility at Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan’s main international airport, saying it would “improve the ease of travel between the United States and Taiwan and reinforce the importance of our relationship with Taiwan”. [Bloomberg] [Taipei Times]

30 March 2021

Cross-strait relations: Twenty Chinese military aircraft enter Taiwan air defence identification zone

(dql) Last Friday, twenty Chinese military aircraft – including four nuclear-capable H-6K bombers and 10 J-16 fighter jets, among others – entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, marking the largest incursion since Taiwan’s defence ministry began disclosing almost daily Chinese military flights over the waters between the southern part of Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea last year. [The Guardian]


23 March 2021

Palau to maintain ties with Taiwan

(dql) In a diplomatic win for Taiwan, Palau’s President Surangel Whipps Jr., confirmed in an interview that he has notified Beijing that his country will maintain its relations with Taiwan, adding that “nobody should tell us that relationship should be severed.” Whipps is scheduled to visit Taiwan this week.

Palau is among the four diplomatic allies of Taiwan in the Asia-Pacific region, next to the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu. The total number of United Nations member states having full diplomatic relations with Taiwan stands 14, plus the Holy See. Since 2001, Beijing has lured 17 diplomatic allies away from Taiwan, including seven since President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office 2016. [Focus Taiwan]

In a related development, both sides are discussing a travel bubble, with a first group of Taiwanese passengers expected to fly to Palau in April. [Taiwan News]

23 March 2021

Taiwan: Military report prioritizes advancing far-strike capabilities against China

(dql) Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has released its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), revealing that it will focus on building Taiwan’s far-strike capabilities of its armed forces in the coming years, aiming at effectively extend its defense in depth to delay the advance of a potential Chinese invasion.

To strengthen far-strike capabilities, the report suggests continue ongoing efforts to build more long-distance air-launched missiles and remote-controlled precision weapon systems. It also announces to adopt a “resolute defense and multi-domain deterrence” tactic focusing on defending its forces and annihilating the enemy near the coastline preventing a landfall on the island, while recognizing the need for a high number of small, mobile, and stealthy asymmetric systems for strategic dispersion, taking advantage of the deployment of anti-ship missiles in coastal areas, rapid reaction forces and mine-laying at sea. [Focus Taiwan]

Meanwhile, Taiwanese troops from various units have been mobilized on this Monday to kick off field training exercises as part of the “Combat Preparedness Month,” which started on March 1 and is conducted in four stages, including battlefield scouting, tabletop exercises, field strategy and tactics, and field exercises.

The Combat Preparedness Month was suspended in the 1990s but resumed in 2019 in response to the increased nearby maneuvers of China’s military. [Taipei Times]

In the [Diplomat], Denny Roy warns that while “[p]rospects for an imminent Chinese invasion are overblown,” Taiwan must not be complacent and tackle the problem of limited military effectiveness caused by “unmet recruiting targets, insufficient training of both conscripts and reserves, and ammunition and spare parts shortages.”

Commander of the US Pacific Fleet Admiral John Aquilino, nominated to become commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, however, warned in his testimony before members of the Senate armed services committee that China’s threat to invade Taiwan is serious and more imminent than widely understood, disagreeing with outgoing Indo-Pacom commander Adm Philip Davidson who recently said that China’s attempt to attack and take over Taiwan could come as soon as within the next six years. [The Guardian]


23 March 2021

France rebuffs China’s criticism over lawmaker’s Taiwan trip

(zh) China’s ambassador in Paris Shaye Lu has angered Paris for issuing a statement expressing “serious concerns” about the plan of Alain Richard, France’s head of the Senate’s Taiwan Friendship Group, to visit Taiwan in summer, warning the trip would “cause unnecessary interference” in Franco-Chinese relation and send the wrong signal to Taiwan’s pro-independence forces. Richard was reported to be “very displeased” about Lu’s letter. “French parliamentarians freely decide their travel and their contacts,” said France’s foreign ministry.

In defense, China’s embassy in Paris said Lu was “calm and firm”, urging France to abide by the one-China principle. “French senators, as members of a French state institution, should, of course, observe this principle and refrain from any form of official contact with the Taiwanese authorities”. In the latest development, France’s foreign ministry summoned Lu over his “inadmissible” words against French officials and researchers and Beijing’s sanction over EU officials.

Richard has previously traveled to Taiwan in his existing role. This year’s trip aims at studying the island’s successful response to Covid-19. Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang criticized Beijing’s attempt to block exchange between France and Taiwan on Covid-19 only created a bad international impression of China and harm global efforts to fight against the pandemic. Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu on the other hand said China’s “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy is not acceptable to any civilized country. [Focus Taiwan][Reuters][South China Morning Post 1][South China Morning Post 2]

23 March 2021

Taiwan: More than 700.000 signatures for a referendum to move national gas terminal site 

(dql) The Rescue Datan Algal Reefs Alliance, a coalition of environmental activists, has submitted more than 700,000 signatures in support of a referendum to relocate the site of a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal. The group cited threats to the ecosystem of an algae reef in northern Taiwan as grounds for its legislative move. 

The government, however, made clear that it has no plans to move the terminal’ site. It insisted that the construction of the terminal would not harm the algae reef but added that it is willing to invest more in the protection of the ref, but as of right now is not considering any alternative locations. [Focus Taiwan

The terminal construction is also fiercely disputed between the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT), which called plans of the ruling to hold nationwide more than 300 public forums on government policies “propaganda,” aimed at mobilizing DPP supporters against the referendum. [Taipei Times]

Taiwan is boosting its LNG imports as part of its massive energy transition strategy, which aims to phase out nuclear power by 2025 and increase the share of natural gas to 50% of the country’s power mix. In 2020, gas made up almost 36% of the mix. [Bloomberg]

16 March 2021

Taiwan-US relations: Strengthening relations

(zh) The past week saw several moves reflecting continued efforts to strengthen US-Taiwan relations.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that he will invite Taiwan to the ‘Summit for Democracy’ which President Biden pledged to host during his election campaign. Calling Taiwan “a strong democracy,” and “a very strong technological power,” he added that Taiwan was “a country that can contribute to the world, not just to its own people.” By referring to Taiwan as ‘country’, Blinken broke with an unwritten rule to avoid using the term ‘country’ for the self-ruled island as part of the US commitment to Beijing’s so-called “One China Policy,” raising the question whether it marks a new stage in US-Taiwan relations or just a slip of the tongue.  [Taiwan News 1][Taiwan News 2]

Meanwhile, Washington and Taipei launched a partnership on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), while the US Navy sent its Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn to conduct a routine Taiwan Strait transit. It was the third transit conducted by the Seventh Fleet since the Biden administration took office and amid warnings of Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, that Taiwan could be the first potential target of China’s military aggression in the next five to 10 years. [Focus Taiwan 1][South China Morning Post] [Focus Taiwan 2]

Furthermore, US Congress members reintroduced the Taiwan Fellowship Act, which calls for the creation of a program allowing US federal government employees to study and work in Taiwan for up to two years. [Taipei Times]

James Lee in [East Asia Forum] points out that supply chain plays a key role in US strategy toward the Taiwan Strait, arguing that the US dependence on the island’s supply chain – for example in the semiconductor industry –, can be seen as enhancing US deterrence in the Strait without the risks associated with strategic clarity. The US would maintain its strategic ambiguity – declining to clearly state its stance on Taiwan – and let the market increase economic leverage without breaching the One-China principle.


16 March 2021

Cross-Strait relations: Kuomintang heavyweights abandon ‘one country, two systems’

(dql/zh) Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou of the Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), has critically commented on China’s push for an electoral reform in Hong Kong, arguing that with the reform the ‘one country, two systems’ formular which China’s upholds for a future re-unification with Taiwan has “officially passed into history”. His remark reflects growing development over the past years within the traditionally Beijing-friendly KMT to distance itself from Beijing. [Hong Kong Free Press]

Similarly, KMT chairman Johnny Chiang made clear in an interview earlier this month that “one country, two systems” has no market in Taiwan citing Taiwanese citizens’ appreciation of their freedoms. [Reuters]

Speaking at the National People’s Congress plenary session, China’s Premier Li Keqiang, however, insisted that only on the basis of the one-China principle and the ‘1992 Consensus’, Beijing welcomed dialogue with “any political party or group from Taiwan.”

Official exchanges between Taipei and Beijing have been suspended since pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen came to office and since then consistently refused to embrace ‘1992 consensus,’ to eventually to declare in 2019: “As president of the Republic of China, I must solemnly emphasize that we have never accepted the ‘1992 Consensus.’ The fundamental reason is because the Beijing authorities’ definition of the ‘1992 Consensus’ is ‘one China’ and ‘one country, two systems.’ […] Here, I want to reiterate that Taiwan absolutely will not accept ‘one country, two systems.’

For an interpretation of Tsai’s recent reshuffle in leadership positions in Taiwan’s defence and security team, see Corey Lee Bell who argues in the [Strategist] that the decision to appoint Chiu Kuo-cheng, a former director of the National Security Bureau, as new defense minister is a response to China’s “unrestricted warfare,” which has “confounded the conventional dichotomy between kinetic and information warfare.”


16 March 2021

SIPRI international arms transfers report 2020

(dql) According to the 2020 international arms transfers report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), released last week, the US remains the world’s largest arms supplier in 2016-2020 accounting for 37% of the global arms exports, followed by Russia (20%), France (8.2), Germany (5.5%) and China (5.2%). Together, these five countries accounted for 76% of all exports of major arms. Besides China, Asian countries listed among the top 25 countries which accounted for 99% of global arms exports include South Korea (2.7%, ranking at 7), the United Arab Emirates (0.5%, 18), and India (0.2%, 24)

Against the backdrop of the US-China rivalry, the US allies Australia (accounting for 9.4% of US arms exports), South Korea (6.7%) and Japan (5.7%) were among the five largest importers of US arms.

23 Asian countries were among the 40 largest importers including Saudi-Arabia, India, China, South Korea, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Iraq, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Oman, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Jordan, the Philippines, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Taiwan, and Malaysia. [Reliefweb]

16 March 2021

Taiwan: KMT demands halt of government natural gas terminal project

(dql) Taiwan’s main opposition party, Kuomintang (KMT), called on the government to stop all construction on a controversial liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal project, after a petition supporting a nationwide referendum on the project gathered enough signatures to go ahead in August. The KMT also demanded that the government actively prepare alternative solutions and to publicly declare to respect the referendum’s outcome. 

The LNG terminal project, located off the coast of Taoyuan, is operated by state-run utility CPC Corp., Taiwan and has been criticized by environmental groups who argue that it would harm the algal reef and endangered species in the area. [Focus Taiwan]

9 March 2021

Lithuania to set enterprise office in Taiwan

(zh) Lithuania has announced it would open an “enterprise office” in Taiwan this year, aiming to “strengthening and diversifying of economic diplomacy in the Asian region.” Few countries set up formal embassies in Taiwan, but several, including the European Union and some of its members, have representation and trade offices operating as de-facto embassies.

The move signals Lithuania’s discontent toward Beijing as the country’s engagement in the “17+1” summit and in China’s Belt and Road Initiative have not yielded the expected tangible results, with Chinese investment in 2020 standing at only some 10.5 million USD. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis remarked in this regard: “I am not saying that we are leaving and it’s the end, but we should really consider what is the useful way of building a relationship with China.”

Last month, Lithuania was one of six countries refused to send government leaders attend the 17+1 summit and only sent lower-level ministers instead. Earlier it had also banned a Chinese tech company on national security grounds. [Reuters][South China Morning Post 1][AiR No.8, February/2021, 4].

In response to the announcement, Beijing has called on Vilnius to “refuse to be taken advantage of by Taiwan separatist forces, and avoid doing anything detrimental to bilateral political mutual trust”. [South China Morning Post 2]


9 March 2021

Taiwan-Guam relations: New Marketing Committee set up

(zh) The Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) has decided to remove Taiwan from the Greater China Marketing Committee to set up a new separate Taiwan Marketing Committee to improve the Taiwan market. The GVB has thus far overseen Guam’s business with China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Guam described the move as a sign of respect towards Taiwan. The number of Taiwanese tourists ranked third after Japanese and South Koreans. [Taipei Times] [Taiwan News]

9 March 2021

Malaysia, Saudia Arabia sign MoU ambush

China is the biggest consumer of Taiwan’s pineapples with 91% of Taiwan’s total exports of fruit valuing at 1.5 billion NTD. Observers believe that Beijing’s suspension aims to hit the high public approval ratings Tsai currently enjoys due to her world-class effective pandemic response. [Focus Taiwan][Reuters][SupChina][Taiwan News]

Since Taiwan’s pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen has assumed office in 2016, Beijing has cut off diplomatic channels and has been ramping up its pressure on the island, including regularly sending fighter jets and bombers near Taiwan or into its air defense identification zone. In January, China staged military exercises near Taiwan on almost daily basis. [Daily Mail

9 March 2021

Cross-Strait relations: Taiwan ridicules China’s Beijing-Taipei railway connection plans and condemns pineapple ban

(zh) China has announced plans to construct a high-speed railway and expressway linking Beijing and Taipei by 2035 in the annual session of the National People’s Congress. The envisioned connection is part of a “National Comprehensive Transportation Network Plan,” released by the China’s State Council, the country’s central government. It lays out construction goals for transportation links from 2021 to 2035 covering 700,000 kilometers.

Taiwanese politician and netizens called the plan “daydreaming” and called on Taiwanese citizens to regard it as a “science fiction novel,” while urging Beijing not to be a “frog at the bottom of a well”. [Nikkei Asia][Taiwan News] [Republic World]

Earlier this month, China announced to ban the import of Taiwan’s pineapples from March 1 on, citing bugs found in batches of imported pineapples and denying claims that the ban was politically motivated. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen decried the unilateral action, calling it an “

to IUU fishing activities, detecting some Chinese coast guard ships and fishing vessels near Natuna waters last year. A number of such incidents have attracted international attention to Chinese violation in Indonesian sovereign waters. Besides Chinese vessels, in August 2020 two Vietnamese vessels were found fishing illegally in Northern Natuna. [Antara News]

9 March 2021

Taiwan: KMT submits signatures backing referendum against government’s pork policy

(dql) Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) has submitted more than 1 million signatures supporting its two referendum proposals to the Central Election Commission (CEC) for review.

The referendums are aimed at striking down the government’s decision to lift a ban on pork imports containing ractopamine, a leanness-enhancing additive ractopamine, and at allowing to hold referendums to be held in conjunction with major local elections. The second referendum seeks to reverse an amendment to the Referendum Act passed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party-controlled parliament in June 2019 that limits the frequency with which referendums can be held. Critics view the amendment a way for the ruling DPP to prevent referendum questions from threatening its support at the ballot box. [Focus Taiwan]


2 March 2021

Cross-strait relations: PLA and Taiwanese concurrently hold military exercises in the South China Sea

(dql) Amid high running cross-strait tensions, China and Taiwan are holding military drills at the same time in the South China Sea. According to a notice of Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration (CGA), the Tawainese military conducted a round of live-fire exercise on Monday on the Taiwan-held Pratas Islands. Similar drills are scheduled to be staged next week. China, meanwhile, kicked off on the same day a month-long military exercise west of the Leizhou Peninsula in Guangdong province. [Focus Taiwan1] [South China Morning Post]

In an earlier show of force, at least 10 Chinese bombers belonging to the Southern Theatre Command conducted maritime strike exercises in the South China Sea, immediately after the Lunar New Year Holiday which ended on February 17. The drills involved China’s most advanced H-6J bomber. [Global Times 1]

Further fueling the tensions, last week the US was also present in the disputed region. While various reconnaissance aircraft as well as the ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable carried out surveillance missions in the South China Sea, a US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer transited through the Taiwan Strait. [Global Times 2] [Focus Taiwan 2]

Meanwhile, two US lawmakers have introduced a resolution calling for the US government to resume formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan and end the “one China policy.” It also urged he government to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement with Taiwan, and support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations. [Taiwan News]

2 March 2021

Taiwan: Database on political prosecution cases launched

(dql) On the occasion of the launch of a database of politically motivated cases during the during the authoritarian regimes between 1949 and 1991 in Taiwan, the Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) presented preliminary data which reveal so far a total of 13,268 cases have compiled, adding that three former presidents Chiang Kai-shek, Yen Chia-k, and Chiang’s son Chiang Ching-kuo were among the major decision makers in those cases, with the former participating in court procedures more than 4.100 times, the most of all major decision makers.

The data also shows that 1,153 of the accused were handed down death sentences, 169 life imprisonment, 1,628 jail terms of more than 10 years but less than 15 years and 1,498 imprisonment of more than five years but less than 10 years. [Focus Taiwan]

The launch of the database, part of a broader government policy on transitional justice, comes shortly ahead of the commencement of the 74th anniversary of the 228 Incident which refers to an anti-government uprising in Taiwan on February 28 1947 which was violently suppressed by the then Kuomintang-led Republic of China government. The number of Taiwanese deaths from the incident is estimated to be between 5.000 and 28.000. The 228 Incident has become a key element in the narrative on Taiwanese identity. 


2 March 2021

India donates $20.4 to Taiwanese medical institution

(lm) To consolidate cooperation under Taiwan’s New Southbound Initiative, India has donated $20,4 million to Taipei’s National Research Institute of Chinese Medicine (NRCIM), marking the first time the Indian government has donated to a Taiwanese government institution. [Hindustan Times]

Launched in 2016 under Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the New Southbound Initiative is a people-centered policy that aims to enhance cooperation and exchange with eighteen primary target countries: 10 in the ASEAN region, six states in South Asia, and Australia and New Zealand.

While relations between New Delhi and Taipei in the past have mostly walked in the shadows of India’s strict adherence to the ‘One China Policy’, since 2014, bilateral engagements have gradually strengthened. At the time, Indian Prime Minister Modi initiated a shift from his country’s ‘Look East Policy’ to the ‘Act East Policy’ placing greater emphasis on regional cooperation. Since then, New Delhi has initiated several initiatives to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), most notably through its ‘Make in India’ initiative, which aim to encourage companies to manufacture in India [see e.g. AiR No. 8, February/2021, 4].


23 February 2021

Taiwan-Germany relations: BNT promises its vaccines after the deal called off

(zh) Germanybiotech firm, BioNTech SE(BNT), promises to provide 5 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccines to Taiwan after Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare, Chen Shih-chung, announced the deal was called off at the last minute by potential Chinese interference. While details on what happened were not provided, Chen implied there was a political dimension to the decision, saying “someone did not want Taiwan to be too happy.” 

BNT signed a deal with the Chinese firm Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd to exclusively develop and commercialize Covid-19 vaccine products with BNT’s technology in China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, which gives China the power to intervene in the deal. Hearing the island’s complaint, BNT later said that the discussion continues and it plans to provide vaccines to Taiwan. [Focus Taiwan][Reuters 1][Reuters 2]


23 February 2021

Cross-Strait relations: Appointment of new Mainland Affairs Council chairman to signal Taiwan’s less confrontational China policy

(dql/zh) In a move widely seen among analysts as signaling an adjustment of Taiwan’s confrontational China policy towards more pragmatism, President Tsai Ing-wen has appointed former Taiwanese Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san as new head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

During the swearing-in ceremony, Chiu, who had been the Council’s vice chairman from 2004 to 2005, expressed hope that both sides overcome the current diplomatic impasse and move towards “exchanges based on pragmatism”, adding that if “political exchanges are too sensitive … and there is not enough mutual trust, we can always start with non-political, economic, social and cultural exchanges to build up mutual trust before taking on higher-level issues.”

Analysts also believe that Tsai’s decision to shift to a more pragmatic approach in cross-strait relations follows concerns of the Biden administration that Taiwan as a potential flashpoint of Sino-US tensions will disrupt its foreign policy. In a statement in December US Indo-Pacific coordinator chief Kurt Campbell stated that a degree of “productive and quiet dialogue” between Beijing and Taipei was “in everyone’s best strategic interests”. [South China Morning Post] [Focus Taiwan]

In another – more provocative – move towards China, Tsai ordered all of Taiwan’s coast guard vessels to be emblazoned the word ‘Taiwan’ above the original designation “ROC Coast guard.” According to the Presidential Office, the move – coming shortly after China’s new launched coast guard law, which permits coast guard vessels to use military weapons in the waters China claims – aims at better distinguishing Taiwan’s law enforcement vessels from China’s. [Focus Taiwan] [AiR No. 4, January/2021, 4]

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s air force scrambled after nine Chinese air force aircraft on Friday and another 11 aircraft on Saturday, including eight fighter jets, two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers and an anti-submarine aircraft, flew near the Pratas Islands in the top part of the South China Sea, also claimed by Beijing. At the same time, four retired Taiwanese military intelligence officers have been indicted for developing a spying network and collecting confidential information for Beijing. [VoA] [Channel News Asia]


23 February 2021

Taiwan: KMT gathers enough signatures for referendum on government’s ractopamine pork policy

(dql) Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang (KMT) announced collected around 600.000 signatures for each of its proposed referendum on the government’s lift of the ban of imports of ractopamine-fed pork, meeting the thresholds to continue the referendum motion, with the review of the signatures by the Central Election Commission as next step. The next possible date for the referendum is August 28 this year.  [Taiwan News]


16 February 2021

Taiwan-US relations: High-level contacts continue under Biden administration

(dql) Signaling continuation of contacts between US and Taiwanese high-level officials which begun under the Trump administration, Taiwan’s top envoy to the US Hsiao Bi-khim met with Sung Kim, acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department. [Focus Taiwan]


16 February 2021

Taiwan: KMT collects over half a million signatures for a national referendum against government’s new pork import policy

(dql) Pressure on President Tsai Ing-wen over her lift of imports of US pork containing ractopamine residue is increasing after the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) collected over 500.000 signatures in support of the party’s proposals to hold national referendums which would ask voters whether they agree that the government should impose a complete ban on imports of meat, offal and related products from pigs fed with ractopamine. The next possible date for such a referendum would be August 28 this year. 

To pave the way for a long desired free trade agreement with the US, Tsai agreed in August last year to lift the ban on pork with ractopamine which took effect January 1. [Taipei Times]

9 February 2021

Cross-Strait relations: Guyana scraps plan for Taiwan embassy over China’s pressure

(zh) Bowing to pressure from China, Guyana called off an agreement with Taiwan on opening a representative office in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, just hours after Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced signing of the agreement. [Focus Taiwan] [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan 1]

Rich in oil and located next to Venezuela, a major Chinese ally against the United State in South America, Guyana has become an important country for China. Both countries established diplomatic relations in 1972 and has been maintaining close ties. Following the signing of the agreement, China’s Foreign Ministry was quick to urge Guyana to stick to “One China” policy and to “earnestly take steps to correct their mistakes”. Within hours, Guyana’s Foreign Ministry said it adheres to “One China” principle and terminated the agreement with Taiwan, citing “miscommunication” about the agreement.

Taiwan strongly condemned the Chinese government’s interference, accusing it of bullying Taiwan in the international society. [CNN] [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China] [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan, 2 in Chinese] [PTS, in Chinese] [Reuters]

The US is worried about China’s deepening influence in the Caribbean and Latin America, with both regions traditionally hosted the biggest bloc of Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies. However, facing Chinese fierce isolation, three Latin American countries, El Salvador, the Dominican Republican, and Panama, had cut the diplomatic ties with Taiwan within two years. Currently, Taiwan only has formal diplomatic relations with 14 countries, including four of the Caribbean and five Latin American countries. [NPR]

Meanwhile, two Chinese J-16 jet fighters entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) for a fifth consecutive day on Monday, marking the 34th day so far this year that Chinese aircraft intruded Taiwan’s ADIZ. [Taiwan News]

9 February 2021

Taiwan: New reservist call-up system to be introduced

(dql) Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense announced that, beginning in 2022, new rules governing the call-up of reservists will be introduced to improve the combat readiness of the nation’s reserve forces, with call-ups would be for two weeks training compared to five to seven days. Furthermore, the call-ups would occur annually rather than biannually every two years. 

Already in this year, the military will extend the period for call-ups from a maximum of four times in eight years to four times in 12 years after being discharged. [Focus Taiwan]


2 February 2021

Taiwan: DPP lawmaker released on bail in bribery case, Judicial Yuan moving forward in high-profile corruption case 

(nm) Legislator Su Cheng-ching of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was released on a bail in a major national bribery case which includes several lawmakers, judges, and police officials. He had been detained since August 2020 and is now subject to resident restrictions as well as barred from leaving Taiwan. 

The allegations under the Anti-Corruption Act stem from a case related to the ownership of the Pacific SOGO department store chain, in which Su allegedly accepted bribes to illegally lend support in the company’s former chairman’s Lee Heng-lung’s legal battle. Several other lawmakers of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and the smaller New Power Party are also involved in the case but have been released on bail before. [Focus Taiwan]

In a different case, the Judicial Yuan forwarded allegations against six high-ranking judges to the Control Yuan for further investigation of an alleged involvement in a corruption scandal. According to the Judicial Evaluation Committee, the six judges had committed serious transgressions in their alleged involvement with Chia Her Industrial Co president Weng Mao-chung while Weng was facing nine litigation cases in the 1990s. The accusations include abuse of authority, conflict of interest, insider trading, and bribe-taking. The move comes as the Control Yuan celebrates its 90th anniversary with an exhibition on the agency’s digital transformation plan. [Taipei Times]

2 February 2021

Taiwan: Ministry of Interior to evaluate change of Taiwan’s emblem 

(nm) Last week, Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passed a motion to instruct the Ministry of the Interior to evaluate the possibility of changing Taiwan’s emblem as it currently shows great similarities with the emblem of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party. The Interior Ministry is now required to submit a report on the topic to the Legislative Yuan’s Internal Administration Committee within two months.

The resolution was proposed by the small New Power Party (NPP) and passed along party lines, with the NPP and the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) voting in favour and the KMT against. The five members of the Taiwan People’s Party abstained. 

The NPP suggested that the emblem should “incorporate elements of […] national characteristics or culture to express the national spirit”, while many DPP members associate the current emblem with Taiwan’s decades of the KMT’s one-party rule prior to the island’s democratic transition in the 1990s. One Interior Ministry official has pointed out that previous attempts at changing the emblem have failed. Since the design of the flag is specifically set out in the Constitution, KMT chairman Johnny Chiang supported the legally untested view that a change would require a constitutional amendment which for its part requires a two third majority in the Legislative Yuan as well as ratification by a majority of eligible voters. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News]

2 February 2021

Taiwan: Judicial Yuan planning to facilitate transnational same-sex marriage

(nm) Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) is considering options to allow for same-sex marriage between Chinese and Taiwanese. Previously, the Judicial Yuan had announced that it aims to amend regulations on transnational same-sex marriages and to open them for Taiwanese and their partners from countries that currently do not recognize same-sex marriage. According to the Executive Yuan, this would include spouses from Hong Kong and Macau, but not from China. 

Taiwan had legalized same-sex marriage in 2019 as the first place in Asia after its Constitutional Court ruled that the existing law – mandating that marriage was between a man and a woman – was unconstitutional. However, Taiwanese still are unable to marry same-sex partners from a country which has not legalized such unions, creating significant hurdles to gay couples. The Judicial Yuan now approved draft revisions to the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements, which would grant recognition to all same-sex marriages, stating “Nobody can put limits on love.” 

However, Taiwanese-Chinese marriages are governed by different laws which do not technically prohibit same-sex marriage, but require couples to register in China, which does not recognize same-sex marriage, making such unions practically impossible. According to the MAC Deputy Minister Chiu Chui-cheng, Taiwan’s legal basis for same-sex marriage, the Court’s ruling Interpretation No. 748, does not allow for the exclusion of Chinese spouses, adding that a “slew of legal issues,” including border and resident regulations as well as the verification of certificates, however, will have to be taken into account. The MAC is now collecting further information on legal and practical implications possibly arising from changing regulations. [Taipei Times 1] [Taipei Times 2] [CNN]

2 February 2021

Taiwan-Germany relations: Taiwan urged to step up automotive chip production amid global shortage 

(nm) Amid a global shortage of semiconductor chips which are used in the auto sector, Germany has urged Taiwan to persuade Taiwanese manufacturers to increase production output. Automakers around the globe are forced to shut down assembly lines due to delivery problems, impeding economic recovery from the global pandemic. 

In a letter, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier had reached out to his Taiwanese counterpart Wang Mei-hua, asking to address the issue in talks with Taiwan’s chipmakers, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC), the global market leader. Japan and the United States are also said to have reached out to Taiwan. According to reports, Taiwan’s four biggest chipmakers pledged to further optimize production in order to meet global demands and to support the automobile industry in particular. 

Semiconductors are vital parts of almost all electronic systems. After the Covid-19 pandemic had led to an initial reduction in demand for automobiles but increased demand for consumer electronics and medical technology, chip producers were unable to adjust their costly production as fast as the auto industry recovered. The problem is further exacerbated by former US-President Trump’s trade dispute with China, which led car manufacturers to consider alternative suppliers, including Taiwan.  

In exchange for the support, the Taiwanese government has asked German representative to Taiwan Thomas Prinz for assistance in buying Covid-19 vaccines, an exchange first raised by the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research. Prinz had said he would pass the proposal on to the German government. Although Taiwan’s success in containing its local Covid-19 outbreak was lauded globally, the island is currently struggling to secure vaccines. The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party supported the idea, pointing at a local cluster infection at Taoyuan General Hospital with 15 reported cases. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News] [Reuters] [Zeit, German] 

For more background information on the global supply shortage, see [Bloomberg]. For insights into Taiwan’s political communication on the pandemic, see [Taiwan News].


2 February 2021

Taiwan-Poland relations: Legal cooperation agreement approved by Polish President

(nm) The Taiwan-Poland Criminal Justice Cooperation which was signed by Taiwanese and Polish representatives in June 2019 was approved by Polish President Andrzej Duda last week, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). It will take effect as soon as Taiwan receives formal notice. 

The agreement, which is the first of its kind between Taiwan and a European country, will cover five major areas: mutual assistance with criminals, extradition, transfer of criminals, sharing of legal and practical insights, and criminal prosecution and crime prevention information sharing. According to the ministry, it will help strengthen transnational anti-crime efforts and judicial cooperation, while fully protecting individuals on the basis of human rights and the rule of law.  

Taiwan currently holds similar agreements with the United States, China, the Philippines, South African, Nauru, and Belize. In 2016, Taiwan had also entered into a double taxation avoidance agreement with Poland, followed by an agreement on science and higher education in 2018. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News]

Poland currently faces intense criticism and an infringement procedure by the European Union due to a national judicial reform which threatens to undermine judicial independence and thus a centerpiece of the rule of law principle. [EU Press corner]


2 February 2021

Taiwan: United States pledges unchanged support 

(nm) In several statements, the US has reassured its continued support for Taiwan. While the US Department of Defense announced that it will continue to fulfill its commitments to Taiwan’s self-defence needs and to the security of the Indo-Pacific, President Biden’s nominee for US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, stated in her confirmation hearing that Taiwan was “one of the strongest democracies in the region”, adding that the US needs to “support” and “stand by them” as a fellow democracy. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan 2

Meanwhile, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned that the US must be ready to “impose costs” on China for Beijing’s threats toward Taiwan and its actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang as part of a four-point plan he suggested the US needs to take to deal with the challenges posed by China, including fostering its own domestic democracy to combat Beijing’s claim that its governance model is superior than the US one, cooperating with democratic allies, and investing in emerging technologies, as the competition with China will be decided in this strategic resources. [Focus Taiwan 3]

The remarks came after recently thirteen Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and PLA Navy (PLAN) aircraft intruded Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), followed by Beijing’s warning that “independence means war.” [AiR No. 4, January/2021, 4] [BBC]

Trade-wise, the US and Taiwan have planned to hold a meeting this week on current global supply shortages of automotive chips, joining Germany and Japan in asking Taiwan for support in alleviating the shortage. [Focus Taiwan 4]

26 January 2021

It’s structural, stupid – Sino-US tensions to remain definitional under Biden

(dql) In a tit-for-tat response to recent US sanctions on Chinese officials and entities over Chinese policies and actions in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, China announced similar sanctions against 28 high-ranking US officials of the Trump administration, described by the Chinese Foreign Ministry as “anti-China politicians,” who have “designed, pushed forward, and carried out a set of insane actions, which have severely interfered in China’s domestic affairs, harmed China’s interest, hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, and severely harmed Chinese-US relations.” Among those sanctioned are outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former White House advisor Peter Navarro, former national security advisors John Bolton and Robert O’Brien, China strategist Matthew Pottinger, and former White House advisor Steve Bannon. [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China 1, in Chinese] [CNN]

The announcement was made only a few minutes after Joe Biden was sworn in as US President and shortly after Pompeo officially declared China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang as “genocide,” and a “systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state” on his last full day in office. [U.S. News]

At the same time, China’s Foreign Ministry expressed its hope that the new Biden administration would “view China and China-U.S. relations in an objective and rational manner,” and “bring back China-U.S. relations back onto the track of sound and stable development.” [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China 2] The remarks echo Beijing’s efforts to find common ground with Washington in the areas of climate change and the anti-pandemic fight as starting points of a reset of bi-lateral relations. [Aljazeera] [Wall Street Journal]

In one of his first moves as President, Biden signed executive orders to return to the Paris climate agreement and to hold the US exit from the World Health Organization. [The Guardian] [Deutsche Welle]

Meanwhile, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken notably said that – while he did not agree with all of Trump’s methods –, he still believed that the former President was right in taking a tougher approach to China. He also confirmed Pompeo’s assessment of the Chinese Communist Party’s genocide in Xinjiang, indicating a thorny path towards Beijing’s hope for a return to “sound and stable” relations between the two countries. [Reuters]

Furthermore, the US Department of State issued a statement on Saturday expressing concern over China’s ongoing attempts to intimidate Taiwan and urging China to “engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives.” It reassured “rock-solid” commitment to Taiwan, which “contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region.” [Focus Taiwan]

The statement was made on the same day a US aircraft carrier group entered the South China Sea while an incursion of People’s Liberation Army bombers and fighter jets into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone was reported by the Taiwanese government. [Reuters]

The take-away is: While foreign policy Trumpism is over with a last jab from Beijing, US-China tensions are thus revealed once more to be inherently structural, this time by the just inaugurated Biden administration.

In a latest development, Chinese President Xi Jinping – speaking at the virtually held World Economic Forum in Davos – warned global leaders against starting a “new Cold War” and called for unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. [Aljazeera] More analysis on the World Economic Forum in the next AiR issue.

26 January 2021

Taiwan: Nuclear power plant referendum date set 

(nm) A national referendum on activating the long-inactive Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District is set for August 28, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC). 

The referendum initiative launched by nuclear power advocate Huang Shih-hsiu will ask: “Do you agree that the 4th Nuclear Power Plant be activated for commercial operations?” It is currently the only referendum initiative that has met the endorsement threshold required to be put to a vote, although several other initiatives are still pending, including one to eliminate the restriction as to when a referendum can be held. The CEC will announce the referendums to be held on May 27 and hold presentations on the proposed questions until August 27. Official results will be announced on September 3, although unofficial results should be known the night of the vote.

The power plant was close to completion before being put off in 2014 and has become a focal point in the national debate over nuclear power. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]

26 January 2021

Taiwan: Parliament passes infrastructure budget

(dql) Taiwan’s parliaments last week approved a special budget of more than 8 billion USD for spending related to the third stage of the central government’s so-called Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program (FIDP). It shall be completed by 2025 and is supposed to accelerate Taiwan’s digital development and improve the urban-rural allocation of resources to also boost rural infrastructure development. [Focus Taiwan]

Launched in 2017, the FIDP aims to meet Taiwan’s development needs for the next 30 years, covering eight categories: aquatic environments, child care facilities, digital infrastructure, food safety, green energy, human resources, railways and urban-rural renewal projects. [Executive Yuan, Taiwan]

26 January 2021

US-Taiwan relations: Taiwan’s representative to the United States attends Biden’s inauguration

(nm) Taiwan’s representative to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, attended the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, making her the first person in that position to receive an official invitation to a presidential inauguration since the US and Taiwan have severed formal diplomatic ties in 1979. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Taiwan News 1]

Hours before the inauguration, China had flown a military plane into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), which was met by Taiwan’s military with dispatching jet fighters, issuing radio warnings, and tracking the aircraft with air defense missile systems. [Taiwan News 2]

In light of the inauguration, chairman of Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party, Johnny Chiang, in contrast, vowed to commit to greater engagement with the US, based on the KMT’s “pro-US while friendly to China” principle. At the same time, he pointed out that Taiwan will not be so easily used as a tool of “offensive diplomacy” against China, should US-Sino relations further deteriorate under President Biden. [Focus Taiwan 2]

As – in defiance of Beijing’s opposition – the former Trump administration had greatly stepped up support for Taiwan in its last weeks in office – planning official visits, pledging economic cooperation, lifting restrictions on interaction guidelines – a shift in US administration has been carefully observed in Taiwan. According to a number of Taiwanese scholars and political figures, President Biden is expected to take a more measured approach to Beijing, likely focussed on preventing escalating tensions, and more focussed on domestic issues. At his confirmation hearing, Biden’s pick to head the US Department of State, Anthony Blinken, confirmed that there has been “a strong and long bipartisan commitment to Taiwan” in the US, adding that part of this commitment “is making sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself against aggression.” [Focus Taiwan 3] [Focus Taiwan 4] [The New York Times, $]

In a similar move, the director of the U.S. Health Department’s Office of Global Affairs, Garret Grigsby, also supported Taiwan at a World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting last week, highlighting “the important contributions Taiwan could make to these discussions [pandemic emergency responses] as well as other aspects of COVID-19 response if they were allowed to participate fully as an observer to WHO’s technical work.” [Taiwan News 3]

26 January 2021

Cross-Strait relations: Record numbers of Chinese military aircraft enter Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone

(nm) China sent a record number of warplanes into the Taiwan Strait over the weekend, with a total of 13 warplanes entering Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Saturday, followed by 15 military planes on Sunday, making it the 20th day in January that China’s military has sent aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ. According to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND), the planes involved in Saturday’s maneuver were one anti-submarine aircraft, eight bombers, and four Chinese fighter jets, while 12 fighters, two anti-submarine aircraft, and a reconnaissance plane entered the ADIZ on Sunday.

Although such drills have been common in recent years, China has lately stepped up its military maneuvers, in a show of force to the incoming US Biden administration, signalling Beijing’s plans to maintain pressure on Taiwan.

Echoing this, Wang Yang, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top leadership body, demanded in his speech before officials of the Taiwan Affairs Office that China must “use the increasing strengths and significant advantages in our system effectively when handling Taiwan affairs,” and “resolutely curb” any forces calling for Taiwan’s independence. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Focus Taiwan 2] [South China Morning Post]

Sunday’s intrusion came after the Theodore Roosevelt, a US aircraft carrier, entered the South China Sea on Saturday, an undertaking described by the US Navy as “routine operations” to “ensure freedom of the seas.” Also on Saturday, the US Department of State issued a statement calling on China to “cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives,” adding “We will stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Indo-Pacific region – and that includes deepening our ties with democratic Taiwan.”

In response to the intrusion, Taiwan’s military tasked airborne alert sorties, issued radio warnings and deployed air defence missiles to monitor the activity, according to the MND. [The New York Times, $] [DW]

26 January 2021

Taiwan-EU: European Union passes resolutions comprising pro-Taiwan clauses

(nm) The European Parliament (EP) passed two resolutions calling on its member states to “re-examine their engagement policies with Taiwan” and to continue supporting Taiwan’s participation in international organizations.

Both the resolution on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy and the resolution on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy expressed serious concerns about recent tensions in the Taiwan Strait as well as about “China’s increasingly provocative military maneuvers aimed at Taiwan,” urging both sides to resort to peaceful means in resolving their differences. [Focus Taiwan] [Taiwan News 1]

Meanwhile, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her administration’s interest in negotiating a trade deal with the United Kingdom which has left the European Union’s single market and customs union. Newly appointed British Representative to Taiwan, John Dennis, who assumed office early in January, has pledged to develop ties with Taiwan by “building on our already powerful links in trade and investment, science and innovation, climate change, education and on shared values.” [Taiwan News 2]

19 January 2021

China in the “U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific” 

(dql) Shortly before Joe Biden will be sworn in as US President in this week, the Trump administration declassified and published the “U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific”, approved by President Trump in 2018 and stamped secret and not for release to foreign nationals until 2043. 

The 10-page national security strategy paper identifies maintaining “U.S. strategic primacy over the Indo-Pacific region,” and promoting “a liberal economic order, while preventing China from establishing new, illiberal spheres of influence and cultivating areas of cooperation to promote regional peace and prosperity” one of three national security challenges, along with North Korea’s threat to the US and its allies as well as the advancement of US global economic leadership. 

Furthermore, the document assumes that the “[s]trategic competition between the United States and China will persists,” with China “circumvent[ing] international norms and rules to gain advantage,” and seeking to “dissolve U.S. alliances and partnerships,” in order to “exploit vacuums and opportunities created by these diminished bonds.”

As an desired outcome with regards to China, the “United States and its partners on every continent” shall become “resistant to Chinese activities aimed at undermining their sovereignty, including through covert or coercive influence.” [White House, USA]

For a concise assessment of what has been achieved under this strategic framework, see Grant Newsham in [Asia Times] who argues that “Trump and his staff are handing off to Joseph Biden an Indo-Pacific that is better off than it was in 2017. 

19 January 2021

Taiwan: DPP municipality councilor recalled 

(nm) Taoyuan City Councilor Wang Hao-yu of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was recalled in a popular vote last week, marking first recall of a councilor in a special municipality. More than 92% of votes were cast in favor of the recall while nearly 8% were cast against, with a voter turnout at 28%. 

Wang had become target of public discontent in the city after issuing a controversial statement about a Kaohsiung politician of the main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), who committed suicide. 

Taoyuan belongs to the six special municipalities in Taiwan, large metropolitan areas which account for over 60% of Taiwan’s population. The other five special municipalities include Taipei, New Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]

The DPP expressed regrets over the recall and criticized the KMT’s removal campaigns against DPP officials as another DPP Kaohsiung independent city councilor is facing a recall in a vote on February 6, supported by the KMT, which, in contrast, has voiced hope to use the momentum of the successful recall to also drive its referendum pork containing ractopamine. [Taiwan News 1] [Taiwan News 2

19 January 2021

Taiwan: High-profile corruption cases moving forward

(nm) A report of the Judicial Yuan investigation revealed that 20 Supreme Court and High Court judges and senior officials as well as 20 prosecutors and judicial investigators were found to have engaged in illegal activities, including bribe-taking, abuse of authority, and conflict of interest.

The report was issued after the Control Yuan’s earlier findings implicated more than 200 judicial personnel in a corruption scandal around former Supreme Court judge Shih Mu-chin and businessman Weng Mao-chung. Last year, the Control Yuan – the government’s oversight body – had begun impeachment proceedings against Shih over alleged breaches of the Judges Act as well as over failure to avoid conflicts of interest. 

Judicial Reform chairman Lin Yung-sung, meanwhile, voiced sharp criticism, stating that the case had severely eroded faith in Taiwan’s justice system and has shown that the “justice system is rotten to the core.” Together with other judicial reform proponents, Lin also called on the Control Yuan to conduct a more thorough investigation of the case. Control Yuan members also told Premier Su Tseng-chang that the case had seriously affected Taiwan’s international image of good governance and would harm its evaluation in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. [Taipei Times 1] [Taipei Times 2]

19 January 2021

Taiwan: Supreme Court orders retrial in Sunflower Movement case

(nm) The Taiwanese Supreme Court this week ordered the retrial of eight Sunflower Movement activists who had been sentenced by the High Court to two to four years in prison over their occupation of the Executive Yuan complex in 2014. The guilty verdicts have been revoked and the case is remanded to the High Court. 

The Supreme Court held that the defendants were merely exercising “civil disobedience” or their “right of resistance” and should thus receive more lenient sentences. Last year, the High Court had sentenced the activists for inciting others to commit crimes related to the occupation of the Executive Yuan during a 23-day student-led protest against 

Protesting against the then-Kuomintang (KMT) government’s handling of a trade in services agreement with China, in March and April 2014 several hundred students broke into the Legislative Yuan with thousands more gathering outside the complex. The eight defendants were part of a group of students that broke into the Executive Yuan and were forcibly removed by the police. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]

19 January 2021

Taiwan-Denmark relations: Danish parliament considers supporting Taiwan’s WHA bid 

(nm) Denmark’s parliament is considering passing a resolution supporting Taiwan’s efforts to rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO), despite opposition from China. According to a Facebook post by Taiwan’s office in Denmark, six out of ten political parties represented in the Danish parliament are supporting the resolution which asks the WHO to invite Taiwan to the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer. The WHA is the WHO’s decision-making body. 

The resolution has now passed a first reading and is currently being reviewed by the Foreign Affairs Committee. 

Taiwan has been expelled from the WHO since the People’s Republic of China took its seat in 1972, and has not been able to participate in the WHA, except from a period between 2009-2016, when the Kuomintang party (KMT) was ruling. Taiwan has been praised internationally for its successful handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. The European Parliament also recently passed two resolutions supporting Taiwan’s bid to participate in the WHO.  [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]

19 January 2021

Taiwan-US relations: Declassified strategy document shows support for Taiwan

(nm) The recently declassified and published “US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific” – a 10-page report approved for implementation by President Trump in 2018, that had been stamped secret and not for release to foreign nationals until 2043 – contains US affirmations towards Taiwan. 

Under the assumption that “China will take increasingly assertive steps to compel unification with Taiwan,” the framework stipulates “defending the first-island-chain nations, including Taiwan,” as part of a defense strategy against China, while seeking to “[e]nable Taiwan to develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, freedom from coercion, resilience, and ability to engage China on its own terms.” [White House, USA]

In response, China’s Foreign Ministry s urged the US “to turn away from an erroneous and dangerous path that could jeopardize peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and harm China-US relations.” 

The Taiwanese government, meanwhile, confirmed that the reference to asymmetrical warfare in the framework is in line with Taiwanese military’s focus in crafting an innovative and asymmetric fighting force in the next few years. [Bloomberg] [Taipei Times 1] [Taipei Times 2][]

Meanwhile, the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a US think tank, has recently released its Preventive Priorities Survey in which it has listed a possible conflict between the US and China over Taiwan as a tier-1 concern, which might lead “to a severe crisis with the United States.”. An armed confrontation in the South China Sea involving US and Chinese forces – in 2020 a top-tier concern – is judged as tier-2 concern for this year. 

The annual report identifies potential violent overseas conflicts where US troops might be deployed in the year ahead, and ranks them in a three-tiered system according to their possibility. [CFR][Focus Taiwan 1

The release also comes after a week of dynamic US-Taiwan relations. On Tuesday of last week, a highly anticipated visit to Taiwan by US ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft was cancelled as the US State Department had cancelled all visits ahead of the inauguration of incoming President Joe Biden in order to carry out transition duties. Instead of an in-person meeting, Craft and President Tsai Ing-wen held a video conference during which Craft affirmed the close relation between the US and Taiwan, stating the US “stands shoulder to shoulder with Taiwan as pillars of democracy.” They also discussed Taiwan’s international participation, bilateral cooperation, and shared democratic values. [Taiwan News] [Focus Taiwan 2]

Furthermore, US and Taiwan representatives to Switzerland and the Netherlands met after the US unilaterally ended its restrictions on official contacts between Taiwan and the US on January 9. [Focus Taiwan 3]

12 January 2021

Cross-strait relations: China displays weapons targeting Taiwan

(dql) Images of the year-opening training session of an artillery brigade of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) revealed a new variant of the powerful the PCL-191 long-range multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), capable of hitting strategic targets with precision fire anywhere on the Taiwan’s west coast. 

It was the first public display of the updated weapon, viewed by experts as one of the world’s most powerful of its kind, since its appearance at China’s National Day parade in 2019. [South China Morning Post]

In a related development, the PLA Rocket Force showcased ten types of active short and intermediate-range missiles targeting “Taiwan independence-leaning forces”, in a documentary of state broadcaster China Central Television released on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the founding organization. [ABS-CBN]

Formerly the Second Artillery Corps, the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) is the strategic and tactical missile forces of China. Established in 2016, the PLARF controls the country’s arsenal of land-based ballistic missiles – both nuclear and conventional.

12 January 2021

China-US tensions over Taiwan: Beijing warns of US UN ambassador’s and Pompeo’s planned visits to Taipei

(dql/nm) Taiwan’s government and the US mission to the UN announced, that US ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft will visit Taiwan from January 13-15 to meet with senior Taiwanese leaders. The visit is of highly symbolic nature as Taiwan is not member of the UN. Craft is set to give a statement on Taiwan’s contributions to the global community, along with a call for the expansion of Taiwan’s participation in international organizations.

Following Undersecretary of State Keith Krach in September and Health and Human Rights Secretary Alex Azar in August last year, Craft will be third senior US official to visit Taiwan within half a year, reflecting US heightened efforts to support Taipei amid high running tensions between Washington and Beijing. In response, China’s UN mission warned that “whoever plays with fire will burn himself. The United States will pay a heavy price for its wrong action,” and called on Washington “to stop its crazy provocation.” [Reuters] [MENA FN]

The announcement of Craft’s Taiwan visit was followed by a statement of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo past weekend in which he revealed that the State Department would move to ease restrictions on contacts and interactions between US and Taiwan officials which had been put in place after the adoption of the “One China policy” in 1979. A planned visit of Pompeo to Taiwan – which would have been his final overseas trip as state secretary – however, was cancelled after China threatened to send warplanes over Taiwan in case of the visit. [Department of State, USA] [The Guardian] [Taiwan News]

12 January 2021

Taiwan: New passports with bigger ‘Taiwan’ to be launched

(nm) On Monday, Taiwan introduced a newly designed passport in which the word “Taiwan” will be printed in larger lettering and placed in a more prominent position, while the size of the words “Republic of China”, Taiwan’s formal designation, will be reduced and re-positioned inside a thin outer circle that surrounds the national emblem.

Unveiled in September last year, the Taiwanese government called the new design an attempt to disassociate Taiwanese from mainland Chinese as Taiwanese have faced travel restrictions amid the pandemic due to confusion over the country’s designation. China had responded to a first draft in September by stating that “no matter what tricks” Taiwanese authorities pulled, Taiwan would remain an “inalienable part of the Chinese territory.” [Reuters] [Focus Taiwan] [The New York Times, $]

12 January 2021

Taiwan: KMT continues anti-ractopamine campaign 

(nm) Last week, the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) started to collect signatures in the second stage of its efforts to initiate a referendum against the government’s decision to lift an import ban on pork containing the feed additive ractopamine which became effective at the beginning of the new year. 

After clearing the first hurdle in December, 1.5 percent of eligible voters in the most recent presidential election, or nearly 290,000 people, must sign for the referendum to be held in this second hurdle. The KMT hopes to collect more than 500,000 signatures by the March 21 deadline.

The new policy on imports of ractopamine-fed pork has been heatedly debated in Taiwan ever since it was first announced by President Tsai Ing-wen in August 2020. While the government sees the lift as an opportunity to clear the way for a trade deal with the United States, it is considered a food and health risk by the KMT. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times

12 January 2021

Taiwan-India relations: New Delhi identifies priority areas of cooperation 

(nm) India and Taiwan are set to focus on bilateral investments, people-to-people exchanges, and technical cooperation in their bilateral relations, according to director-general of the India Taipei Association Gourangalal Das, India’s representative office in Taiwan. 

Stressing mutual disadvantages, Das pointed at “great opportunities for sustained growth to Taiwanese investors” and India’s “world-renowned manufacturing skills and know-how.” Regarding human exchange, he said his office will start out with higher education and tourism, two areas with great room for improvement. He further sees good prospects for cooperation amid restructuring of global supply chains and welcomed Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy which he said compliments India’s Act East policy. When asked about the possibility of a bilateral trade agreement, he however responded his office is currently focused on expanding trade and investments with Taiwan as current numbers are rather modest. [Focus Taiwan]

5 January 2021

China-US military relations: US destroyers transit Taiwan Strait

(dql) In a rare move, two Japan-based US Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS John S. McCain and USS Curtis Wilbur, last week conducted a Taiwan Strait transit, the 13th mission through the sensitive strait in 2020 but the first time in the year that the US had sent double destroyers there. [USNI News] [South China Morning Post]

5 January 2021

Taiwan: Criticism over Tsai’s head of court pick 

(nm) The Taiwan Jury Association has criticized President Tsai Ing-wen’s recent appointment of a cousin-in-law to head of the Supreme Administrative Court – which arbitrates disputes between the public and the government. It called the move an overreach of her powers and a breach of the principle of separation of powers which could lead to further distrust of the judiciary. The Association’s founder Jerry Cheng went further, stating that the appointment signals Tsai’s attempt to “openly reintroduc[e] a dynasty-based system of leadership.” 

Echoing this criticism, the main opposition party, the Kuomingtang, voiced concerns over the appointment with regards to judicial independence and the increased possibility of presidential intervention in the judiciary. [Taipei Times]


5 January 2021

Taiwan: Local governments push back against over new ractopamine policy of Tsai administration 

(nm) On past Friday, a contentious new government-sponsored policy lifting restrictions on imports of US pork containing the livestock drug ractopamine went into effect. 

In response, 17 out of 22 city and local governments across the country have drawn up rules to keep US pork products containing the additive out of their jurisdictions, despite an announcement of the Cabinet that local bans on imported pork will become invalid as they contradict central government’s authority. ‘Rebellious’ city governments include the capital Taipei and the two larges cities New Taipei and Taichung, who announced different measures to control pork containing ractopamine, with Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen going furthest reassuring that her city will continue carrying out random testing of pork products and will impose penalties if any are found to contain ractopamine, citing a “zero tolerance” policy on the drug. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Focus Taiwan 2]

The lifting of the import ban on US pork containing ractopamine has been a contentious issue in Taiwan and has drawn sharp criticism especially from the major opposition party, the Kuomintang (KTM), which accuses the government and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of accepting risks to food safety and public health over its bid to court the US government to enter into talks on a bilateral trade deal.

But it has also led to disagreement within the DPP, reflected in the recent suspension of three of its legislators who abstained on a series of votes, mainly regarding the import ban, from running for committee membership or party leadership positions for a period of three years. [Taiwan News 1]

Meanwhile, in response to concerns over price gauging among vendors suspected of raising prices following the lift of the import ban, the Executive Yuan asked the Consumer Protection Committee to monitor and crack down on artificial hikes of pork prices, while the Council of Agriculture released its “Pork Dashboard”, an online overview indicating the daily quantity and country of origin of Taiwan’s pork. [Focus Taiwan 3] [Taiwan News 2]

5 January 2021

Taiwan-New Zealand relations: Customs standard agreement signed 

(nm) Last week, Taiwan’s the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that Taiwan and New Zealand have signed in December an agreement to mutually recognize their authorized economic operators (AEO). The agreement is expected to deepen customs cooperation and supply chain safety between the two countries

The World Customs Organization (WCO) defines an AEO as “a party involved in the international movement of goods that has been approved by a national Customs administration as complying with the WCO or equivalent supply chain security standards.” [WCO]

Taiwan currently holds similar agreements with eight other countries: Australia, Israel, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States. Its Custom Administration introduced its AEO program in December 2009 and has to date certified 789 AEOs, with countries accounting for 48% of Taiwan’s trade. 

In a separate statement, Taiwan’s Ministry of Finance estimated the trade volume between Taiwan and New Zealand in 2019 at 1.3 billion USD. [Focus Taiwan] [Taipei Times]

5 January 2021

Taiwan-US relations: Senate overrides Trump’s veto against US defence bill, securing sections supporting Taiwan

(nm) The US Senate overrode a veto of President Trump against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a defence bill which also comprises two sections that specifically deal with Taiwan and signal further support of Washington for Taipei. 

The first Section 1260 calls for an annual briefing to Congress on US arms sales to Taiwan, a brief by the defence secretary on the feasibility of establishing a medical security partnership and reaffirms that the Taiwan Relations Act and the “six assurances” provided by the US to Taiwan in 1982 are “the foundations for United States-Taiwan relations.” Section 9724 further urges the US to ensure that Taiwanese do not face discrimination when seeking employment at international financial institutions. [Focus Taiwan

In a related development, the US National Security Council welcomed Taiwan’s lift of the import ban on ractopamine-fed US pork as “a great step … for American farmers,” adding that the US “look forward to further strengthening US-Taiwan economic ties in 2021.” [Taiwan News 

5 January 2021

Cross-strait relations: Taipei and Beijing issue convictions against Taiwanese nationals 

(nm) Last week, a Taiwanese businessman was found guilty of working with Chinese intelligence in contravention of the National Security Act and handed a three-month jail sentence or payment of a fine by the Taipei District Court. The man had been charged in August for attempting to “develop an organization” for the official use of a foreign government. The case is still open for appeal. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Taipei Times 1]

Meanwhile, 29 Taiwanese nationals were sentenced to four-and-a-half years to 14 years in prison by a Beijing court for telecoms fraud committed in Spain in 2016. The defendants were allegedly members of a fraud ring that operated from Spain but defrauded 14 Chinese nationals residing in China and Hong Kong by pretending to be Chinese law enforcement officials and swindling money. [Focus Taiwan 2] [Taipei Times 2]


5 January 2021

Cross-strait relations: Tsai Ing-wen reiterates conditions for meaningful dialogue with China

(nm) In her New Year’s speech on past Friday, President Tsai Ing-wen reassured China of Taiwan’s readiness for having “meaningful” cross-strait talks, but also reiterated her demand that such talks will be held among “equals” and based on “principles of reciprocity and dignity.” 

China’s Foreign Minister, however, harshly rejected Tsai’s remarks, accusing the Taiwanese government of engaging in “cheap talk,” and Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of continuing “to provoke by seeking independence, confronting the mainland at every turn, deliberately creating confrontation across the Taiwan Strait.” [Reuters 1] [Aljazeera]

Tsai’s remarks come amid an exchange between officials from both the People’s Republic of China (China) and the Republic of China (Taiwan), that depicts their divergent views on Taiwan’ status as a country and the prospect of cross-strait relations. On Thursday last week, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) rejected a statement from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) that 2021 would see further efforts to bring about the “unification of the motherland.” The MAC emphasized Taiwan’s status as a sovereign country that has never been part of the People’s Republic of China and that it will never accept any unilateral legislation by Beijing that tries to destroy its sovereignty. It also pointed at the crucial role played by Taiwanese investors in China’s rise as “the world’s factory” and its high-tech sector. The TAO, in contrast, referred to an increase in bilateral trade and identified the refusal of Taiwan’s government to accept that it is part of China as the root cause of present tensions. [Taiwan News] [Reuters 2]

Meanwhile, according to a year-end report released by the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), a Taiwanese government-funded think tank, Beijing’s policy toward Taiwan is unlikely to change in 2021, citing the deterioration of US-China relations, warming US-Taiwan ties, and the cessation of cross-strait talks due to political differences, including on the “1992 consensus,” and adding that 2020 saw most intrusions of the People’s Liberation Army into Taiwan’s ADIZ (91 days) since the “Taiwan Strait missile crisis” in 1996. [Focus Taiwan 1] [Focus Taiwan 2]