President Ma says ‘Chinese Taipei’ is the bottom line for Taiwan’s participation in the China-led AIIB; DPP’s China affairs director visits China; KMT presidential nomination procedure and schedule announced; DPP stance on Taiwan’s status challenged by senior party members; Apache tour incident raises concerns about military discipline and security lapses. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► CROSS-STRAIT AFFAIRS
DPP’S BASIC PRINCIPLE ON CROSS-STRAIT TIES: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said after a meeting of the China Affairs Committee on Thursday that “maintaining the status quo” would be the party’s basic principle in handling cross-strait relations and its engagement with Beijing. Cross-strait relations should not be merely seen and treated as “Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT]-Chinese Communist Party [CCP] relations,” Tsai said. The chairperson stressed that Taiwan should be taken as an “equal partner” regardless of which party is in power so that peaceful development and negotiation-based engagement can be maintained. The DPP is also aware of its responsibilities toward the international community and the U.S.’ role in the Taiwan Strait, she said, adding that communication with Washington would be conducted consistently whether the DPP wins the presidential election next year or not.
CHU-XI MEETING IN MAY: Various media outlets reported on Friday that KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) will attend the 10th Cross-Strait Economic, Trade and Culture Forum, also known as the KMT-CCP Forum, in Shanghai between May 2 and 3. Chu will reportedly meet Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Beijing on May 4. Should Chu decide to run in the presidential election, the meeting with Xi could be an important part of his presidential campaign.
DPP OFFICIALS’ VISITS TO CHINA, US: DPP China Affairs Committee (CAC) Director Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) visited China on Wednesday along with the board of directors of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF, 海基會). This was the first to China by the party’s China affairs head. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) declared on the same day that Chao’s visit was not an exchange between the DPP and the CCP, and that no party-to-party exchanges with the former would be possible unless it relinquishes its “separatist stance of promoting ‘one country on each side of the strait’ and ‘Taiwanese independence.’”
Meanwhile, DPP Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) returned to Taiwan on Sunday from a visit to the U.S. Wu described his meetings with administration officials, congressional personnel and think tank analysts involved in formulating U.S. policy toward Taiwan as “positive and in-depth.”
SENIOR DPP MEMBERS SPEAK OUT ON TAIWAN’S STATUS: Hung Chi-chang (洪奇昌), a senior member of the DPP who once served as Taiwan’s top negotiator with China, urged the party to end its pursuit of Taiwan’s de jure independence if it returns to power in 2016. Former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) sparked controversy on Wednesday when he claimed that the party would not reject “unification” with China as an option and that Taiwanese independence is not one of its mainstream values. In response, DPP Chairperson Tsai and party spokesperson Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) said that Taiwan’s future is to be decided by all of its citizens. Facing next year’s presidential and legislative elections, the DPP is likely to adhere to its “1999 resolution,” in which Taiwan is defined as a sovereign country separate from China, while the Republic of China (ROC) is acknowledged as the country’s formal title, the Chinese-language Liberty Times reported on Sunday.
CAPITAL OUTFLOW TO CHINA: A total of NT$188.1 billion (US$6.03 billion) was sent from Taiwan to China last year — a 17 percent increase compared with 2013 and the second-highest of all time, indicating that capital flow to China is accelerating. A total of NT$1.08 trillion has been wired to China since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May 2008, with less than 10 percent of the investments repatriated.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
TAIWAN’S AIIB BID: Discussing the “name and title issue” for Taiwan’s possible participation in the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said on Tuesday that “Chinese Taipei” would be the bottom line. President Ma also said on Thursday that Chinese Taipei was “likely to be a name accepted by all parties” in Taiwan’s AIIB bid. The Ministry of Finance admitted in a report that Taiwan’s bid to join the institution could have an impact on trade talks with the U.S. as well as Taiwan-Japan relations. Local steel and cement sectors last Friday expressed optimism towards business opportunities that could be created by joining the organization.
REFERENDUM REFORM: Members of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee have reached a consensus on lowering the legal voting age for referendums to 18 through an amendment to the Referendum Act (公民投票法) on Wednesday, but remained gridlocked over more divisive reforms to the act, including the abolishment of the 50 percent turnout threshold.
KMT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The KMT announced its presidential nomination procedure and schedule on Wednesday, including plans to make public its candidate in mid-June. The party’s lawmakers initiated a signature campaign Tuesday, demanding that the nominee be determined by public opinion polls. Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) last Friday declared her intention to join the race. Neither New Taipei City Mayor and KMT Chairman Eric Chu and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) have disclosed their intentions. Wang arrived in Tokyo on Monday for a four-day tour aimed at strengthening Taiwan-Japan relations, prompting speculation that he would inform Japanese political heavyweights of his intention to run for the presidency. A younger brother of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received Wang’s delegation on Wednesday.
CHINESE SPOUSES IN ELECTIONS: With an estimated 220,000 Chinese spouses in Taiwan expected to obtain the right to vote, some academics have expressed concerns over China’s influence in next year’s presidential and legislative elections, warning that the government should be cautious when espousing shortening the term for Chinese spouses to become naturalized ROC citizens. The China Production Party (中華生產黨), founded in 2010 and mainly made up of Chinese spouses, announced on Monday that it would nominate 12 legislative candidates and pledged its support for KMT in the presidential election. Chinese immigrants’ rights advocates said the difference in the time that Chinese spouses are made to wait before being granted the ROC identification card was “disproportionate” compared with that for spouses from other nations, adding that not all Chinese spouses have the same political views.
DPP, SMALL PARTIES COLLABORATION: In electoral constituencies where the DPP has failed to obtain more than 42.5 percent of votes, the party will finalize its decision on the candidate nominations for next year’s legislative elections after negotiating with third-party political groups by the end of May, Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), convener of the party’s election committee, said on Monday.
NEW POLITICAL PARTIES: The newly formed center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Monday accused major political parties of being “irresponsible” about constitutional reform and highlighted human rights protection and parliamentary reform as the party’s main areas of concern for the reform. Former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) endorsed the newly founded New Power Party (NPP) by appearing in one of their campaign ads released on Monday.
VOTE-BUYING INSTRUMENT: Lawmakers cast doubts on the purpose of a significant increase in government rewards and subsidies funds for infrastructure promised by former premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), saying the expenditure was a form of vote-buying that could be used as a KMT bargaining chip in the campaign for next year’s legislative and presidential elections.
KMT’S POST-MA POSITIONING: The Chinese-language Liberty Times reported on Sunday that the KMT policy guidelines passed during President Ma’s term as party chairman were removed from the its website after a redesign. The main difference between the two versions of the party’s platform lies in the party’s stance on nuclear power, which could be a topic of contention in next year’s elections. Lin Yi-hua (林奕華), director of the KMT’s Culture and Communications, insisted on Sunday that the “removal” was “a misunderstanding.”
DISPUTED ISLANDS: Taiwan protested Tuesday Japan’s inclusion in new school textbooks of a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea as belonging to Japan. Taipei reiterated the ROC’s sovereignty over the island chain.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
AIR FORCE OFFICIALS ARRESTED IN CHINESE SPY RING: Investigation Bureau agents on Thursday arrested two officials — one active and one retired — at the Air Force’s Air Defense Missiles Command who are alleged to have been recruited by a Chinese intelligence officer. The case, which has been developing for months, has been described as the largest Chinese spy ring to operate in Taiwan in recent years. The two suspects, a retired official surnamed Ko (葛) and a lieutenant colonel surnamed Lou (樓), were allegedly recruited by Chinese intelligence officer Zhen Xiaojiang (鎮小江) to spy for China, the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office. Zhen was arrested in September last year. Five active or former military officers involved in the spy ring had been previously indicted and it is believed that Zhen had recruited more than 10 active or retired military officials.
US F/A-18 JETS: Two U.S. McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets left Taiwan last Friday after undergoing maintenance at Tainan Air Force Base. The emergency landing of the two aircraft following a mechanical problem prompted speculation that the Pentagon may have intended to send a signal to Beijing in the wake of a recent Chinese bomber drill near Taiwan. U.S. military and Taiwanese air force personnel exchanged gifts symbolizing the friendship between the two sides before the F-18s headed back to Japan.
APACHE TOUR INCIDENT: A March 29 incident in which a lieutenant colonel arranged a private tour for relatives and friends of a restricted military base has sparked public outcry, forcing President Ma to demand a review of discipline within the military, and resulting in the issuance of demerits to the military chief of staff and commander over the security lapse. The case, in which visitors were allowed to board and take photos from the pilot’s seat of an AH-64E Apache attack helicopter, is part of a string of recent scandals highlighting disciplinary problems in the armed forces. Prosecutors on Sunday found evidence of the presence of six foreign nationals in the group, and that the colonel’s superior had allowed his relatives to tour the site as well. The group allegedly gained access by using their connections as members of Taiwan’s wealthy elite. Taiwan acquired 30 Apache helicopters from the U.S. and was the first international client for the “Guardian” version — the most advanced at present. The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said Tuesday that there has been no significant change in ties between Taiwan and the U.S. as a result of the security breach. Despite the public outcry and media frenzy, a number of military experts in Taiwan have lamented the tendency to use the incident to discredit the entire military, warning that doing so could undermine morale and affect the military’s ability to attract recruits.
► MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS
TAINAN MAYOR’S BOYCOTT: Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) insisted on Wednesday that he would continue to boycott city council meetings until corruption cases involving Tainan Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) of KMT are settled. However, more than half of Tainan city councilors disagreed with his position.
PROTESTERS FACE LIMITS: Management at Taipei 101 is considering restricting activities that are “harmful to social order and public morality” at its plaza, causing concerns about freedom of assembly and expression. Pro-unification groups — which have occasionally physically assaulted passers-by — Falun Gong practitioners and Taiwan independence advocates have regularly demonstrated at the site.
NUCLEAR ENERGY: The decision on whether to extend the operations of the First Nuclear Power Plant is to be finalized by the end of next year, Premier Mao said on Tuesday. A proposal by the DPP seeking the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants in Taiwan by 2025 was approved during the committee review of the draft bill for the promotion of a nuclear-free homeland.
FDA PROMISE ON JAPANESE FOOD IMPORTS: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday broke its pledge to publish draft regulations — requiring importers of Japanese food products to obtain an official country-of-origin certificate and a radiation assessment report — within two weeks.
WATER RATIONING: Stricter water rationing measures planned for northern Taiwan took effect on Wednesday in response to the nation’s worst drought in decades and the low probability of precipitations this month. Tighter water rationing could also be imposed in Kaohsiung well ahead of schedule.
LGBT RIGHTS: A lesbian couple on Wednesday announced their plan to seek a constitutional interpretation on same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, a high-school teacher earned wide support from students and school administrators for his decision on his sex change — an unexpected and rare response in Taiwan.
The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
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