Week of May 30-June 5, 2015

DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai meets top U.S. officials and politicians and unveils her China policy; China says Tsai needs to pass the test with 1.3 billion Chinese; President Ma touts his peace initiative as the only solution to escalating South China Sea disputes. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



TSAI MEETS TOP US OFFICIALS, POLITICIANS: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) held a series of “very successful” discussions on Tuesday with top U.S. officials and political heavyweights, including U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain and the committee’s ranking Democratic member, Jack Reed, as well as Republican Senator Dan Sullivan. Tsai also made her visit to the Office of the United States Trade Representative the same day.

Issues raised in Tsai’s meeting with the three senators included the DPP’s commitment to adhering to international law and safeguarding Taiwan’s sovereignty when addressing South China Sea issues, the promotion of bilateral military cooperation with U.S., as well as Taiwan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Watch Tsai’s speech at U.S. Congress here.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Evan Medeiros, a China specialist at the U.S. NSC, is stepping down as the Agency’s Asia director. Daniel Kritenbrink, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, is to replace Medeiros.

MAINTAINING THE ‘STATUS QUO’: Addressing the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Wednesday afternoon, Tsai pledged to “craft consistent, predictable and sustainable cross-strait relations,” adding that a DPP administration would continue to promote peaceful and stable development of cross-strait relations with reference to public support for maintaining the “status quo.”

Tsai also vowed to engage China if elected, under Taiwan’s current existing Constitutional order. Asked by AIT board member David Brown to clarify the definition during a question-and-answer session, Tsai said that the constitutional order “covers the provisions of the Constitution itself, subsequent amendments, interpretations and court decisions based on these provisions and practices by different divisions within the government and different sections of the population here.”

Watch Tsai’s speech and discussion at CSIS here.

Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉), former Straits Exchange Foundation vice chairman and consultant to KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), raised the question last Friday whether Tsai “dares to” openly reject Taiwanese independence. In a paper titled “Taiwan’s Eternal Dilemma,” foreign policy experts at the American Enterprise Institute described Tsai’s task to strike a balance between convincing Washington that she would not pursue de jure independence and avoiding straying too far from her party’s pro-independence leanings as “particularly tricky.”

TSAI ON CROSS-STRAIT, FOREIGN POLICY: In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Tsai said that her “core goal” for Taiwan was “a more consistent and sustainable relationship with China.” The article, which laid out the platform she has been presenting in Washington during her 12-day U.S. tour, also called for “open channels of communication, both with China’s leadership and the Taiwanese people.”

Tsai further articulated four pillars of her foreign policy — multifaceted cooperation with the U.S., identifying and participating in international projects, protecting Taiwan’s economic autonomy through trade diversification and enhancing principled cooperation with China. The Presidential Office, however, criticized Tsai’s article as “failing” to explicitly state how she would bolster ties with China.

CHINA BELITTLES TSAI’S U.S. TOUR: Noting that some people have said DPP Chairperson Tsai’s visit to the U.S. is aimed at soliciting Washington’s support ahead of January’s presidential election, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai (崔天凱) on Wednesday called her U.S. trip a “job interview,” adding that he “wondered why she would talk to foreigners, but not directly to her compatriots on the other side of the Taiwan Strait as she needs to pass the test by China’s 1.3 billion populations.”

The DPP condemned Cui’s comment as rude, arrogant and unable to help to improve cross-strait relations, while calling for Beijing’s engagement in direct dialogue with Taiwan rather than dismissing DPP’s goodwill for communication. The Mainland Affairs Council also described Cui’s remark as “inappropriate,” because “any decision on Tsai as Taiwan’s presidential candidate should be only made by Taiwan’s 23 million population.”



ACCUSATION AGAINST DPP MANIPULATION IN POLL: A poll released on Tuesday by the Chinese-language Apple Daily about presidential election prospects, which showed that Deputy Legislative Speaker and KMT presidential primary candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) enjoyed much higher support than DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen, prompted a KMT lawmaker to accuse the DPP of “rigging the polls.”

Hung is required to go through a public opinion poll by the KMT, of which her party has yet to decide the approach, and must garner the support of at least 30 percent of respondents before winning KMT nomination. Some KMT politicians have criticized her as a weak contender against Tsai, with particular concerns that the poll could be rigged by Tsai’s supporters for a matchup with a less competitive KMT rival.

HUNG OPPOSES KMT POLLING PROPOSAL: Hung Hsiu-chu rejected Sunday a new KMT proposal requiring a poll for the party’s presidential primary be conducted with Hung pitted against the DPP’s Tsai. The KMT rules for presidential candidate nomination only stipulated that the presidential primary candidate need to suffice a 30% support rate in a poll before winning the party’s nomination, argued Hung, a weak contender against Tsai regarded by some KMT politicians.

SMALL PARTY MAY SUPPORT DPP: The New Power Party (NPP) revealed on Sunday that it was “leaning toward” supporting DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen, as her policies are more closely aligned with the NPP’s ideals than Hung Hsiu-chu, the sole contender in the KMT presidential primary.



PHOTO SHOWS TAIWAN-U.S. MILITARY TIES: In the wake of rising tensions between China and the U.S. in the South China Sea and Tsai Ing-wen’s ongoing U.S. visit, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on Thursday released a photo on its Facebook page suggesting close Taiwan-U.S. military ties. The photo shows General Yen De-fa (嚴德發), Chief of the General Staff, and Admiral Lee Hsi-min (李喜明) both attending the change of command ceremony of PACOM commander Admiral Harry Harris Jr. and PACFLT commander Admiral Scott Swift.

MA TOUTS “STATUS QUO”, RELATIONS WITH US: In a videoconference with U.S. academics and former U.S. officials on Tuesday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) ran though his administration’s achievements in enhancing cross-strait relations and as a U.S. ally.

In the conference organized by Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, Ma described DPP Chairperson’s intention to uphold the “status quo” in cross-strait relations as “interesting” and said it was an “unexpected” move by an opposition leader. He also called the Taiwan-U.S. relationship as “at its best in 36 years.”

The DPP said Ma’s speech presented nothing new, and that it was delivered to counter Tsai’s diplomatic efforts during her 12-day U.S. visit. “He obviously feels good about himself and lives in the past,” it said.

TAIWAN, US COOPERATION EXTENDED: Taiwan and the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday on the Global Cooperation Training Framework to enhance bilateral cooperation in responding to global challenges. The deal is expected to “take Taiwan-U.S. partnership to new areas and a new level,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin, who witnessed the signing as the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan since 2012.

CHINA’S SOUTH CHINA SEA RECLAMATION: China rejected U.S. demands to halt its land reclamation work on disputed islets in the South China Sea on Sunday, claiming that the construction was carried out to exercise China’s sovereignty, and that the artificial islands would be used to fulfill its international responsibilities. Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims with China over parts of the disputed South China Sea. President Ma said on Wednesday that his South China Sea Peace Initiative, proposed last Tuesday, was “probably the only way to downsize the problem” in the region.

CHINA ON TAIWAN’S ‘OBOR’ PARTICIPATION: China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative is a strategic concept that makes use of the country’s resource advantages to facilitate regional development, from which Taiwan “should not be absent,” a Chinese official said on Wednesday, adding that it is a very crucial moment for the two sides to enhance their industrial cooperation.

DPP CANDIDATE OUT OF RACE: Taipei City Councilor Liang Wen-chieh (梁文傑) of the DPP on Thursday announced he would give up a legislative bid after veteran political campaigner Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) accused Liang of breaking a promise to voters by campaigning just months after being re-elected. Lin renewed his call to DPP Chairperson Tsai to refrain from nominating newly elected city councilors for next year’s legislative elections, saying it would break promises to voters.

DEATH PENALTY IN DISPUTE: Calls against the abolition of the death penalty have increased after a deadly attack on an eight-year-old girl in a school restroom last Friday, prompting Ma to clarify his stance Tuesday by saying that the government cannot yet end capital punishment because “society needs time to reach a consensus on the issue.”

KMT Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) lambasted DPP Chairperson Tsai’s remarks three years ago that abolishing the death penalty reflected a universal value. The vocal KMT legislator described the wish to end capital punishment as “worshipping white people’s values.” KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) on Wednesday warned the public that the DPP administration would “certainly reject executions” demanded by the public.

Tsai Ing-wen said on Monday that abolition would require social consensus and comprehensive supporting measures.

TIFA TALKS BY YEAR END: The annual Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) council meeting is likely to take place before the end of the year, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin revealed on Tuesday while in Taipei, saying that both sides are “trying hard to make that happen.” Taiwan’s ban on U.S. pork containing residues of ractopamine and restrictions on certain U.S. beef products are “high-profile and important issues and are on the agenda,” Rivkin said.

TAIWAN’S TPP BID: During a videoconference with Stanford University on Wednesday, President Ma said the U.S. has suggested that Taiwan adopt the U.S.-South Korea free-trade agreement as a model for its preparations to join the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc.

MA URGES REVIEW OF BILLS: President Ma on Tuesday urged the review of the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA) and bills on an oversight mechanism for cross-strait negotiations as a necessary precaution against the impact of the China-South Korea free-trade agreement signed on Monday. Participants of the Sunflower Movement, which led to an unprecedented occupation of Taiwan’s legislature in March and April 2014 against the “opaque” and controversial handlings of the service trade agreement with China, had demanded that the legislature hold off reviewing the CSSTA until an oversight law had been enacted.



CHINESE SURVEILLANCE: The Ministry of National Defense confirmed Tuesday that China had sent surveillance vessels and spy aircraft to gather intelligence during the test-firing of a U.S.-made Patriot missiles last Wednesday and Thursday at a highly restricted military base in southern Taiwan. Senior Ministry of National Defense officials and other experts said enhanced cooperation arising from the formation of military “sister units” between Taiwan and the U.S. could help counter a possible marine blockade and attack by China’s People’s Liberation Army.

TAIWAN-US MILITARY SISTER UNIT: Taiwan’s Aviation Special Forces 601st Brigade has formed a sister-unit relationship with the Hawaii-based U.S. Army 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, according to the Chinese-language Liberty Times.

NEW PRC DRONE A POTENTIAL THREAT: China has developed a large new drone, which could be a threat to Taiwan. The drone, known as the Shen Diao (“Divine Eagle”), is a large twin-fuselage turbofan-powered unmanned aerial vehicle that could serve as a new high-altitude, long-endurance multi-mission platform. It was first flown in February.

COAST GUARD STANDOFF: Patrol vessel from Taiwan moved in “at full speed” in waters where its exclusive economic zones overlaps with the Philippines to protect a Taiwanese fishing boat that was being challenged by a Philippine coast guard vessel last Thursday. The incident occurred as the two sides work to finalize a pact to resolve maritime disputes to mend soured relations following a shooting incident that killed a Taiwanese fisherman in 2013. Taiwan and the Philippines might start follow-up discussions next week on the cooperation of law enforcement in the aforesaid areas, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said on Tuesday.



TAIWAN’S MERS RESPONSE: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Tuesday raised its epidemic travel advisory for South Korea’s capital, cautioning travellers to take protective measures against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), especially when visiting certain high-risk places. The CDC added that Taiwan is equipped with sufficient disease prevention supplies. Approximately 1,500 local Taiwanese tourists canceled their trips to South Korea in fear of MERS.

NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL: Considering shipping nuclear waste overseas for reprocessing or any interim waste management options is essentially wrong, as any nuclear waste management plan should be viewed from a long-term perspective, instead of seeking expedient, short-term solutions, commented French nuclear safety expert Yves Marignac Tuesday in Taipei, on Taiwan’s proposed “contingency plan” to resolve storage problems. He added that, AREVA, the sole foreign company to bid for and win a contract with the state-run Taiwan Power Co. to process Taiwan’s nuclear waste, is on the brink of bankruptcy.

WAGE REGRESSION: A government survey indicates that the value of college degrees has declined over the past two decades, with a regression of college-graduate-level pay by nearly 17 years. Starting wages for college graduates new to the workforce in last July stood at NT$25,634, while those 17 years ago received starting salaries of NT$27,209.

STUDENT PETITION OVER REVISED CURRICULUM: Students from at least 154 high schools and vocational schools across the country jointly signed a petition to protest against the Ministry of Education’s new guidelines for high-school curriculum, of which the revision based on the ministry’s allegedly “conservative ideology and opaque design process” sparked controversy. The revisions include the removal of sections on human rights and the White Terror era, as well as the strengthened emphasis on Chinese culture.


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 editor@thinking-taiwan.com. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.


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