President-elect Tsai names former finance minister Lin Chuan as premier; Chinese Premier Li promises closer trade and economic ties with Taiwan IF Taiwan adheres to ‘one China’ and the ‘1992 consensus’; a Chinese academic proposes punishing ‘pro-independence’ Taiwanese businesspeople in China; a U.S. delegation denies ‘instructing’ Tsai on what to say during her May 20 inauguration speech; support for ‘one China’ at record-low. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider as we mark the 2nd anniversary of the Sunflower Movement’s occupation of the legislature on March 18.
PRECONDITIONS FOR BETTER TIES: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) on Wednesday raised the possibility of more trade and economic cooperation with Taiwan under the precondition that Taiwan adhere to the “one China” principle and the so-called “1992 Consensus.” Li made the remarks when answering questions about the potential impact of Taiwan’s power transfer on cross-strait relations. China will continue to introduce measures conducive for cooperation as long as the political stability across the Taiwan Strait remains, Li told the press conference following the conclusion of Chinese national legislature’s annual session.
Meanwhile, a proposal initiated by influential academic Li Yihu (李義虎), head of Peking University’s Institute of Taiwan Studies, to penalize Taiwanese businesspeople in China for supporting Taiwan independence or the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has raised alarm in cross-strait circles. Li said a “reward-and-punishment mechanism” should be set up to track people’s statements and actions. Our loyal readers should bear in mind that Chinese academics do not necessarily speak on behalf of the Chinese government.
CHINA’S TOP SECURITY CONCERNS: Sovereignty vis-à-vis Taiwan is now perceived by leaders in Beijing as the most salient challenge to China’s security interests, followed by the situation in the East and South China seas, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in a study released Tuesday.
PRESSURE ON TAIPEI MAYOR VISIT: Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) confirmed that a demand by Beijing that official contact between Taipei and Los Angeles maintain a low profile was the reason why no media were allowed to observe his meeting with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday. Ko embarked on his U.S. visit on Tuesday, his first since taking office in 2014.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
TSAI NAMES PREMIER: President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Tuesday announced that former finance minister Lin Chuan (林全) would be appointed premier of her incoming administration. Tsai said Lin was the best candidate to implement reforms with his problem-solving and communication skills, and described his understanding of her political visions as “impeccable.” Lin, who played a key role in Tsai’s presidential campaign, is the chief executive officer of the New Frontier Foundation, the DPP think tank.
Pan-blue legislators criticized the appointment as another example of Tsai bringing aides of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) into her administration. Lin called the criticism overgeneralization, and asked his detractors not to “pain everyone from the Chen administration with the same brush.”
US DELEGATION CONTROVERSY: A delegation of Washington-based think-tank scholars that spoke with president-elect Tsai in Taipei earlier this week did not make any suggestions on her inauguration speech while meeting Taiwanese academics at the Prospect Foundation, DPP spokesman Ruan Jhao-syong (阮昭雄) said on Wednesday.
The controversy arose after reports quoted the delegation saying that Tsai should tune her inauguration speech to Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s (王毅) recent statement that “Taiwan’s own Constitution stipulates the mainland and Taiwan belong to one and the same China” as “Beijing would find this acceptable.” Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and one of the delegates, expressed regret over what she called a “distortion” remarks by participants at the meeting.
Other members of the delegation included Richard Bush, director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies of the Brookings Institution, Alan Romberg, director of the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center, Phillip Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs of the National Defense University, and Susan Lawrence, a specialist in Asian Affairs at the Congressional Research Service.
‘ONE CHINA’ LOSES APPEAL: A survey release by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research (TISR) on Monday showed that the majority of Taiwanese find the “one China” construct plainly unappealing. An overwhelming 81.6 percent of respondents opposed the concept if “one China” referred to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), while 60 percent disliked the idea even if “one China” meant the Republic of China (ROC).
TAIWANESE IDENTITY: The ratio of people who identify as Taiwanese has risen to 73 percent, the highest in two decades, from 44 per cent in a similar survey conducted in 1996 when Taiwan held its first popular presidential election, according to the poll published by the Chinese-language United Daily News on Monday. The trend is particularly evident among those in the 20–29 age group, where 85 percent of respondents regard themselves as Taiwanese.
US SUPPORT FOR INTERPOL BID: The Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times described the unanimous approval by the U.S. House of Representatives to a bill supporting Taiwan’s participation in the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) on Monday as “a US attempt to put pressure on China” and “interference in China’s internal affairs.” Citing Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies deputy director Ni Yongjie (倪永傑), the state-run media called for Beijing’s official opposition to U.S. support for Taiwan’s Interpol bid.
MA ON ‘US TREATMENT’: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Monday denied that Washington had downgraded his treatment during a transit because of his recent visit to Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島), part of the disputed Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea, which U.S. officials criticized as “unhelpful” to attempts to resolve the dispute. The treatment accorded to him by the U.S. during his transit stop in Texas was “the best ever,” Ma said. Ma was on his way to Central America for his last overseas trip as president before he steps down in May. Fending off criticism that an outgoing president should not make such a trip, Ma said before embarking on his seven-day visit to Guatemala and Belize on Sunday that “there is no caretaker period for diplomacy.”
KMT ASSETS: The National Women’s League of the Republic of China (NWL, 中華民國婦女聯合會) has become the latest body to come under scrutiny amid renewed focus on the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) ill-gotten party assets. Leading the charge, DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) questioned the legitimacy of the NWL, saying that although it allegedly received nearly NT$100 billion (US$3 billion) through mandatory military donations, it never presented its financial reports as required by law. The NWL is reportedly a KMT affiliate launched by former president Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) wife Soong Mei-ling (宋美齡) in 1950.
DPP legislators also lambasted the KMT on Wednesday for listing some artwork at the National Palace Museum as its property in the party’s recently published report on its assets. KMT Administration and Management Committee director Lin Yu-hsien (林祐賢) said the report was simply addressing the “history” of the national treasures that are already under management by the government.
RECALL CAMPAIGN RULING: Central Election Commission Chairman Liu I-chou (劉義周) said he would recommend the commission overturn fines against the Appendectomy Project after DPP lawmakers expressed concerns that the legal basis for imposing the fines violates freedom of speech. Liu added that a final decision on the matter would “depend on the consensus of the commission as a whole.” The Appendectomy Project was an effort by civil society to recall several KMT lawmakers. The Taipei City Election Commission fined the organizers on Tuesday for its publications during a recall campaign targeting former KMT legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) last year. The commission said the activities were in breach of Article 86 of the Civil Servants Election And Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) that prohibits the promotion of ongoing recall campaigns. Members of the project announced on Wednesday that they would seek administrative remedy and a constitutional interpretation.
INDICTMENT FOR ELECTION OFFENSES: KMT Legislator Chien Tung-ming (簡東明) and 57 other people were indicted on Wednesday for alleged election law violations and vote-buying in the Jan. 16 presidential and legislative elections. Chien’s seat in the legislature has been precarious following another court application which prosecutors filed last month to nullify his election as part of a vote-buying probe.
FISHERY AGENCY’S TRANSPARENCY: With questions surrounding the transparency of its operations, legislators on Wednesday criticized the Fisheries Agency for a four-month delay in the submission of a draft bill raising the fine for illegal fishing, failing to organize any public hearings on the proposed amendment, and giving merely one month for lawmakers to complete the legislative process in a bid to have the EU withdraw a “yellow card” it issued to Taiwan over illegal fishing last October. A DPP lawmaker said he was even denied access to relevant documents despite repeated requests to the agency.
► ECONOMY AND FINANCE
SPIL TAKEOVER BID: Advanced Semiconductor Engineering’s (ASE, 日月光) latest bid to acquire Siliconware Precision Industries Co. (SPIL, 矽品) was effectively terminated as the Fair Trade Commission failed to reach its conclusion on five specific issues in its meeting to review the case on Wednesday, the deadline for the deal.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
Recently published on Thinking Taiwan:
“Is the Truce Over?” by Timothy Rich
“Explaining the Rise in Taiwanese Identification,” by J. Michael Cole