Asia in Review Archive 2021

Taiwan (Republic of China)

Date of AiR edition

News summary

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]