Chinese President Xi emphasizes the ‘1992 consensus’ and Beijing’s firm position on Taiwanese independence; the KMT’s internal battle over Wang Jin-pyng’s membership continues; who will enter KMT’s presidential primary remains a question; the nation marks the anniversary of the 228 Massacre with various events. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
XI WARNS TAIWAN: In response to remarks on Wednesday by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) that “volatility and instability” in cross-strait relations could reoccur if the so-called 1992 consensus is not adhered to, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to promoting the consensus, which he said “allows the two sides to interpret the concept of ‘one China’ in their own way.” The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the key for cross-strait peace lies with both sides. Experts said Xi’s remark could be an early warning against the DPP, which could return to power in 2016.
KMT INFIGHTING CONTINUES: The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) withdrew its lawsuit against Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) over allegations that he had lobbied for an opposition lawmaker involved in a court case. The Supreme Court, however, said that New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), who doubles as KMT chairman, must take up the party’s legal action against Wang. KMT legislators have urged Ma to drop his feud with Wang for the sake of party unity after he issued a personal statement expressing his “deep regret and strong disapproval” over Chu’s decision. Ma has been pushing for Wang’s ouster from the party since September 2013.
CHINA FLIGHT ROUTE CONTROVERSY: Amid rigorous objections by the ruling and opposition parties, and protests by civic groups, Taiwan and China reached a consensus to postpone the implementation of a new flight route unilaterally established by China along the Taiwan Strait median line. In response to strong reactions in Taiwan, China agreed to move the new flight path 6 nm to the west. Taipei said the new route was acceptable. Both sides agreed to use M503, the route in dispute, on a trial basis and to maintain communication about progress.
Nevertheless, the opposition continues to have serious reservations about the implications for national security, with concerns that it could compromise the ability of Taiwan’s Air Force to protect the nation, as People’s Liberation Army fighter aircraft could cover the distance in a few minutes.
CONTROVERSY, TEARS MARK 228 CEREMONY: As the first Taipei mayor whose family suffered directly in the 228 Massacre of 1947 (his paternal grandfather was a victim), Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) was invited to represent victims’ families at the government’s memorial ceremony at the weekend. During his speech, the visibly emotional mayor Ko denounced the KMT regime’s brutal suppression and twice refused to shake hands with President Ma. Meanwhile, the Tainan City Government said it was considering removing all statues of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) from local school campuses. However, Ko has called for restraint in removing Chiang’s statues.
MA WILLING TO TESTIFY: President Ma said has said he is willing to testify before court if he is summoned for questioning over allegations — which have been haunting him for several weeks — that he received illicit political donations.
CONTROVERSIAL KMT LAWMAKER REAPPOINTED: KMT Legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠), who skipped over a joint legislative committee review of the controversial Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA) in March 2014, sparking the Sunflower Movement occupation of parliament, has been re-elected as one of the two conveners of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee amid objections. In the elections for conveners of the legislature’s eight committees (two for each), the KMT had the upper hand over the DPP, securing nine seats against the DPP’s seven.
CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM COMMITTEE: A legislative committee on constitutional reform is scheduled to be convened next month with 39 members — 22 for the KMT and 14 for the DPP — distributed proportionally according to each party’s number of legislative seats. The major parties have reached consensus on the less sensitive issues, such as a two-phase constitutional amendment, lowering the voting age to 18 and redrawing the current constituency map, but remain miles apart on the issue of the government system (parliamentary or semi-presidential) and whether the nomination of the premier should be approved by the legislature.
EX-DPP CHAIR UPBEAT ON TSAI PRESIDENTIAL BID: Former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) praised DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) as a well-established politician and a very suitable candidate for the presidency.
LEGISLATOR SPEAKER NOT VISITING CHINA: Wang has reiterated that no visit to China would be possible for him unless four conditions are met after. The speaker was responding to comments by political pundit Hu Chung-hsin (胡忠信), who had told a political talk show earlier that China had invited Wang to visit Beijing.
KMT TOUTS HIGHER LABOR WAGES, BONUSES: The KMT caucus has vowed to push amendments on four labor-related laws in the current legislative plenary session to secure better salaries and bonuses for workers. This followed a call by KMT Legislator Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) for a 3 percent salary raise for civil servants next year.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
TAIWAN NO. 15 IN MILITARY STRENGTH: A survey by military website Global Firepower ranks Taiwan’s military strength 15th in the world and ninth in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of conventional war-making capabilities across land, sea and air. The nation’s ranking peaked in 2011 and 2012 (14th) while dropping to 17th last year, according to the website.
CHINA DEFENSE BUDGET: The continued double-digit growth of China’s defense budget creates a serious challenge for Taiwan, Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General David Lo (羅紹和) said after it was announced that China’s official military budget would grow by about 10 percent in the coming year, despite lower GDP growth expectations.
CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF ON US VISIT: The Ministry of National Defense declined to comment on a report in the Chinese-language Liberty Time that Chief of the General Staff General Yen De-fa (嚴德發) had arrived in Washington, D.C. last weekend to meet with senior U.S. defense officials to promote bilateral military exchanges.
FORMER OFFICERS ACCUSED OF SPYING: Two former Military Intelligence Bureau officers suspected of disclosing classified information to China were questioned and released on bail. One of them was deployed in China for a period of about four years during his military career and retired in 2013 with the rank of colonel. After switching sides, the officer reportedly recruited his junior at the military academy to join the espionage network.
UNIVERSITIES SLAPPED ON THE WRIST OVER PRC NATIONALS: Six universities have been barred from inviting Chinese academics and students on national security concerns due to violations of regulations. An estimated 60,000 citizens from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) come to Taiwan on academic visas annually.
ALIBABA LURES YOUNG TAIWANESE: The founder of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴) Jack Ma (馬雲) has announced a NT$10 billion (US$316 million) funding scheme to help young Taiwanese entrepreneurs set up businesses and sell products in China. Ma emphasized the benefits of the scheme during a speech to students in Taipei, urging them to “follow your dreams.”
Alibaba was subsequently ordered to withdraw or transfer its holdings from its Taiwanese branch, as Taiwan’s Investment Commission confirmed that it was registered as a Singaporean company when it was in fact a Chinese company. Furthermore, the National Development Council said China “should not be given top priority by young people … given its opaque legal system and implicit rules that could enhance the risks of starting up businesses.”
Meanwhile, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), the world’s largest contract electronics maker based in Taiwan, said it was planning further partnerships with Alibaba to create a new business platform.
INFECTIOUS DIARRHEA CASES SPIKE: Around 270,000 people in Taiwan were treated last week for symptoms associated with infectious diarrhea, the highest number of cases within a week in six years.
HIGH AIR POLLUTION LEVELS: Taiwan has continued to experience fine particle pollution resulting from pollutants carried on a cold air mass from China. The conditions in southern and central parts of Taiwan could prevail until March 8.
WATER RATIONING: Stricter water supply measures for the industrial sector will be implemented be implemented next Friday (March 13) as a drought persists. The new measures will result in a 7.5% reduction in water supplies.
JAIL BREAK CASE INVESTIGATED: Amid speculation of collusion by prison officials in the biggest jailbreak attempt in Taiwan’s history, during which six inmates took their own lives, the bank accounts and financial transactions of Kaohsiung Prison Warden Chen Shih-chih (陳世志) and other officials at the facility are being investigated. Top officials, supervisors and guards at the prison will be summoned for questioning in the coming weeks.
FIRST TV PROGRAM BY SOUTHEAST ASIAN IMMIGRANTS: A pioneering project featuring TV programs produced by and exclusively made for Southeast Asian immigrants in Taiwan is in the works and is expected to be launched in June.
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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