Week of Sept. 19-25, 2015

With Taiwan likely to be on the agenda during talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama, an American official assures us that the U.S. “respects the right of the people on Taiwan to exercise their democratic rights”; DPP presidential candidate Tsai to visit Japan next month; PFP presidential hopeful Soong still waiting for a pan-blue alliance; Tsai expands her lead over her opponents; China unilaterally launches a “smart card” serving as an entry permit for Taiwanese. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.



TAIWAN ELECTION ON XI-OBAMA AGENDA: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Russel affirmed on Tuesday that the U.S. “respects the right of the people on Taiwan to exercise their democratic rights and will continue to counsel restraint on the part of Beijing in order to maintain trust and stability.” Russell made the remarks ahead of a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who is currently on a state visit to the U.S., and President Barack Obama, during which the Jan. 16 elections in Taiwan will likely be discussed. Xi is likely to make Taiwan a “major issue” during his meeting with Obama, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush said on Monday, adding that Obama should urge his counterpart to be “cautious” and avoid making a “sensitive issue worse” in China’s response to a possible Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) victory in the presidential and legislative elections.

FORMER AIT HEAD ON US INTERVENTION, SUPPORT: A leak by a White House official to the Financial Times in 2011 of negative remarks about DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) ability to maintain stable cross-strait relations, ostensibly to torpedo her 2012 presidential bid, was a “wrong” and “gross” U.S. intervention in Taiwan’s democracy, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director William Stanton said in a speech on Saturday. Stanton said there was growing recognition in Washington that the political landscape in Taiwan was changing. Citing the lack of any references to Taiwan in describing the U.S. “rebalance” to Asia as an example, Stanton also described “ignoring Taiwan’s interests and underestimating Taiwan’s potential” as the biggest failure of the Obama administration’s policy toward China, and urged Washington to step up its defense and trade cooperation to support Taiwan’s security for mutual benefit.

RICE ADDRESSES TAIWAN ‘ISSUE’: In a speech delivered at George Washington University about the U.S.-China relationship on Monday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice emphasized that Washington remains committed to its “one China” policy based on the three Joint Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act, and opposes “unilateral changes to the status quo by either side.”

TIFA TALKS TO RESUME IN OCTOBER: A new round of talks between Taiwan and the U.S. on the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) will start on Oct. 1 in Taipei, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) announced on Wednesday.



TSAI ANNOUNCES JAPAN VISIT, VISION: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen will embark on a five-day visit to Japan on Oct. 6 to meet with Taiwanese expatriates, representatives from Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Democratic Party, as well as a parliamentarian group friendly to Taiwan, the DPP announced on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, Tsai announced her “new southbound policy” to step up overall relations with Southeast Asian countries and India to help Taiwan diversify its partnership in trade, civilian exchanges, as well as cultural and educational affairs. Tsai also said that a domestic legal mechanism facilitating Taiwan’s participation in international efforts to provide assistance to refugees should be established.

HUNG ‘TIRED OF RUMORS’: Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) wrote on her Facebook post on Thursday that she is “tired” of answering the same question — whether she would be replaced by someone else because of her low support — over and over again. The latest rumor had it that Hung could be replaced around Double Ten (Oct. 10).

JOINT KMT-PFP BID UNSETTLED: People First Party (PFP) presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜), whose poll numbers have sagged in recent weeks, says he has been “waiting for the word” regarding a possible pan-blue alliance. Soong added that the issue solely “depends on the KMT” and is unrelated to his constant criticism of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Ma’s close aide, Presidential Office senior adviser and former National Security Council secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰). On a proposed KMT-PFP alliance, which has been hinted at over the months, KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) said on Tuesday that he remains open to such cooperation in next year’s presidential election, adding that he would “not give up until the end.”

‘1992 CONSENSUS’ CONCERNS: Amid speculation that he was recently installed as a Presidential Office senior adviser to mastermind the ruling party’s campaign tactics, King Pu-tsung told a radio interview on Tuesday that DPP presidential Tsai has been “shooting herself in the foot” with her denial of the “1992 consensus.”

In related news, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) expressed concern that Chinese President Xi Jinping could “push” President Barack Obama to pressure the next Taiwanese president to adopt the consensus, and warned that President Ma could rush to sign a “peace deal” with Beijing — a move that would have little support in Taiwan — before the newly elected president is sworn in on May 20.

KMT ATTACKS TSAI: The KMT on Tuesday accused the DPP of “venality” with its use of “meal vouchers” at DPP presidential candidate Tsai’s fundraisers. Following the KMT lead, the Ministry of Justice swiftly committed to “step up efforts” to investigate the matter. In response, the DPP said the ministry “appeared to be colluding with the KMT despite the lack of any evidence” on the matter. It added that the DPP’s operations were in line with the Political Donations Act (政治獻金法).

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said on Thursday that Hung Hsiu-chu did not violate any election law by visiting a primary school to join students for lunch last week as the roster for next year’s presidential candidates has yet to be confirmed. DPP lawmakers said Hung’s presence on campus was ostensibly for campaign purposes and thus breached the principle of neutrality in schools. Minister of Education Wu Se-hua (吳思華) also downplayed the issue, saying that Hung “probably visited the school to attend to education issues as a deputy legislative speaker.”

SMALL PARTIES: Formed in January and joined by Academia Sinica researcher Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), a Sunflower Movement leader, the New Power Party (NPP) is likely to pass the 5 percentage point vote threshold necessary to be awarded at-large legislative seats. A poll by Taiwan Thinktank released on Tuesday gauging voter intentions for at-large seats showed the party was ahead of the PFP. Meanwhile, the alliance of the center-left Green Party and Social Democratic Party (SDP) announced on Monday a joint list of six at-large legislative candidates comprised of human rights and social welfare activists.

TSAI’S NUMBERS STILL RISING: DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen continues to enjoy a significant lead in polls, with her support reaching 45 percent or higher. Her KMT rival Hung Hsiu-chu came second in two polls, while PFP presidential candidate James Soong remained in the third spot. Soong had to issue an official apology on Tuesday for a blunder by his social media campaign team, which issued an ad implying that as “two unmarried women,” Tsai and Hung “cannot possibly have insights into the needs of voters with a family.” Soong insisted that the widely criticized discriminatory content was “merely a repost of the campaign material made by a random supporter.”

Meanwhile, the KMT was reportedly “highly concerned” about Hung’s low popularity, which appeared to be worse than that of former vice president Lien Chan’s (連戰), who lost the presidential battle in 2000 to the DPP with only 23.1% of the vote. Doubts about whether Hung can continue to run on the KMT ticket have persisted. Media reported that 10 KMT lawmakers have threatened to withdraw from next year’s legislative race if the party failed to meet their request that an alternative presidential candidate be found. According to one rumor, the KMT was considering replacing Hung with central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南).

Meanwhile, a supporters’ club for Tsai, formed by representatives from the agriculture, forestry, fishing and husbandry sectors who were traditionally staunch KMT supporters, was launched Monday.

Recent poll results:

Polling organization

Dates conducted

Tsai Hung Soong
Taiwan Brain Trust

Sept. 12-14

46.8% 17.2 % 16.7%
Taiwan Thinktank

Sept. 16-17

47.6% 16.3% 13.9%
The Liberty Times

Sept. 21-23

44.75% 12.13%



GLOOMY ELECTION PROSPECTS FOR KMT: The KMT refuted a report by the Chinese-language China Times on Monday alleging that the party’s internal research predicted the KMT would secure only 40 seats in the legislature in next year’s elections, a 25-seat drop from the 65 seats out of 113 the party won in the elections four years ago. Party chairman Eric Chu stiffly refused to comment on the matter on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, KMT legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) announced on Tuesday that she was withdrawing from the race for personal health reasons, prompting speculation that her decision stemmed from fears of the impact of the KMT’s dismal election prospects on its legislative candidates, or to prepare for leaving the party. Prior to Huang’s announcement, nine incumbent KMT lawmakers had announced they would not run for re-election. Former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) deputy director Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) will run in Huang’s stead. Chang ran into trouble last year over allegations that he had leaked confidential information to China, prompting President Ma to refer to him as a “pest.” Political observers said Chang’s political resurrection could be a conscious effort by KMT chairman Eric Chu to disregard Ma’s preferences in a bid to regain his control of the party.

In related news, KMT legislator Cheng Ru-fen (鄭汝芬), who pulled out of the legislative race in July, has agreed to run for the party, allegedly following lobbying by Legislative Speaker Wang Jyn-ping in a bid to save the party from its receding election prospects. Chairman Chu said the party was also making efforts to persuade Chang Chia-chun (張嘉郡), another KMT legislator who withdrew from the race last month.



PREMIER UNDER FIRE FOR BEIJING’S INITIATIVE: Sparking grave concerns over risks of personal data breach and Chinese surveillance against Taiwanese visitors, China unilaterally launched an electronic card serving as an entry permit for Taiwanese visiting China. Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), who said he had “learned about the matter through a local newspaper,” came under heavy fire over the incident, which was described as resulting from the Cabinet’s “poor follow-up” and “incompetent negotiations” on the politically sensitive matter. Mao said Taiwan was “extremely dissatisfied” with the lack of bilateral discussions. Beijing’s scheme was regarded by some as downgrading Taiwan’s status to that of Hong Kong and Macau, whose residents hold a “home visit permit” to enter China. While saying that he might consider a KMT lawmaker’s proposal to call-off a top-level cross-strait meeting scheduled for next month to protest Beijing’s “lack of respect” for Taiwan on the card initiative, Mao argued that Taiwan had persistently demanded prior consultations for the smart card and that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office had “responded positively” to Taipei’s complaints.

JAPAN’S SECURITY BILLS: In response to Japan’s passage of two controversial security bills on Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Taiwan hopes that Japan will fulfill its international responsibility and contribute to international peace and stability. KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu, however, strongly criticized the two bills as “lacking legitimacy and prompting concerns of neighboring countries,” while her DPP contender Tsai Ing-wen said the overall impact of the bills on the region requires further observation.



TOUGH FIGHT AGAINST CHINA: In a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, U.S. commanders would probably be unable to find the basing required for U.S. forces “to prevail in a seven-day campaign”, while helping Taiwan defend itself from a Chinese military attack is likely to become increasingly challenging, according to a report by RAND Corp released just one week before Chinese President Xi meets with U.S. President Obama.

TAIWAN SEEKS MILITARY TIE-UP: Taiwan’s defense policy plans include expanding the number of units sharing sister relations with U.S. military units and consolidating the “virtual alliance” between the Taiwanese and U.S. militaries, as well as seeking to establish “actual alliance” relationships with its neighbors, the Taipei Times reported Monday.

OFFICER ADMONISHED FOR ‘UPGRADING’ PERSONAL EQUIPMENT: A Marine Corps commander who voiced concerns online over the poor quality of military-issued equipment and weaponry — prompting him to acquire his own combat equipment from the U.S. — was berated for using personalized combat equipment during training exercises. Top defense officials subsequently requested all soldiers and officers not to discuss any “internal military matters” on the social media. As the officer’s criticism attracted wide attention, the Ministry of National Defense on Monday assured the public of the quality of military-issued gear and stressed that its soldiers were prohibited from using personal equipment purchased elsewhere.

BOOT ORDER THREATENS INFORMATION LEAK: A new procurement order for army combat boots has prompted concerns that proprietary technology could be obtained by China and thus put the lives of military personnel at risk, following a change to allow production in Vietnam and Malaysia.

CHINESE ESPIONAGE: The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office filed an appeal on Tuesday against a ruling in a Chinese espionage case by the Taipei District Court earlier this month. The prosecutors’ office said the punishment imposed on the defendants, including a convicted Chinese spy ring leader and seven Taiwanese, was “too lenient” and insufficient to serve as a deterrent following “a crime that has seriously damaged national security to offer any deterrent effect.”

SEARCH FOR MISSING PLANE: The Air Force launched a search mission after an AT-3 aircraft went missing during a routine flight on Tuesday with two pilots on board. Prior to that incident, a total of 13 crashes or accidents involving the AT-3 trainer, commissioned into the air force in 1984, had occurred since 1990.

ISLET TO OPEN TO TOURISTS: The Kinmen County Government has started hosting a series of activities with the goal of attracting more tourists to Dadan (大膽) islet, a former frontline fortified outpost, slated to open to tourists in 2017.



CAP ON CHINESE TOURISTS RAISED: In a bid to boost the country’s economy, Taiwan has once again raised the cap on the number of Chinese tourists arriving Taiwan under the Free Independent Travel (FIT) program from 4,000 to 5,000 per day. Civic group representatives staged a protest on Tuesday over the potential environmental impact and accused the government of opening doors to Chinese tourists’ stock market speculation by allowing them to set up accounts with only an entry permit and increasing access to bank branches at airports and harbors.

DENGUE FEVER OUTBREAK: The total number of reported dengue fever cases across Taiwan since May has reached 14,590, with 42 deaths.


The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang, Serena Chuang, 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.


Recently published on Thinking Taiwan:

“U.S. Policy Toward Xi Jinping’s China,” by former AIT director William A. Stanton
“Will the Diplomatic Truce Endure Beyond 2016?” by Timothy Rich
“Taiwan and Democratic Chickens Coming Home to Roost,” by Peter Enav
“Hung Hsiu-chu’s Crusade Against ‘Populism,’” by J. Michael Cole

Comments are welcome, but will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive language, personal attacks or self-promotion will not be published. We encourage healthy discussion and, above all, tolerance of other's views.