When Ma won election in 2008, Barack Obama — then a presidential candidate — sent a note to Ma, according to Richard Bush, a Taiwan expert and adviser who delivered it. “The letter said, ‘I like your cross-strait policy. As you pursue that, US-Taiwan relations will improve,’ ” Bush said.
May Marine Madness Addendum
If Taiwanese politicians and media were hoping that the US would sail to their defence by condemning the Philippines they are apparently mistaken. Instead, for their efforts, and to the current administration’s deep embarrassment, the US is taking a decidedly neutral approach to the whole conflagration whilst calling for all parties to refrain from provocative actions:
However, US Department of State spokesperson Jennifer Psaki has confirmed that Washington is now trying to play a role in calming the growing crisis.
“We regret the tragic death of a Taiwan fishing boat master during the May 9 confrontation at sea with a Philippine patrol vessel,” Psaki said on Monday.
“The United States has been in touch with both the Philippine government and the Taiwan authorities regarding the incident,” she said.
Psaki said that the US welcomed the Philippine government’s pledge to conduct a “full and transparent” investigation.
Asked if the US was worried about a possible escalation, Psaki said: “We continue to urge all parties, in any scenario, to ensure maritime safety and to refrain from provocative actions.”
“The Philippine government is going to be conducting an investigation and they will be working with the Taiwan authorities to establish what happened in this case,” she said.
Between 2000 and 2008, the US often pleased Beijing and the KMT by tarring President Chen and the DPP administration with the ‘label’ provocative, thereby displacing Beijing aggression onto a Taiwan that threatened no-one’s territory and did little more, at least in the way of island malarky, than fly the President to the Spratley’s once in a campaign stunt designed to distract attention from poor domestic economic news. No matter what Chen did, State would intone its warning against provocative actions. Poor old State was getting a phone call from its puppet master in Beijing once every 24 hours and this was the only way they could cope.
In 2008, President Ma ran and won on a campaign that stressed that Taiwan would no longer be ‘a thorn in the side’ of either Beijing or the US. It would be a responsible partner - making no declarations of independence or unification or anything provocative in the slightest. The US welcomed this explicitly and tacitly supported Ma in both elections.
Gone were the days when giant Taiwan would spit out threatening and insulting rhetoric that hurt the feelings of little neighbouring China. Well, that’s the impression an alien might have formed had it set up base in the Taiwan Strait and got its news from AP and Xinhua.
Under Ma, Taiwan would be the quiet little brother in the room, dutifully and carefully observing the wishes and feelings of big brothers China and USA, which would allow them to observe their games but not join them directly. Chen outright joined the game as an equal. Outraged, Beijing pressured the US to evict Taiwan from the court. Ma’s Taiwan would instead officially decline to join the game since only one China could register as a player, but it would seek to build relations with the referee’s association in respect to achieving unofficial participation later as a non-brother observer. Ma’s Taiwan would take no action to provoke Big Brother China or distract him whilst he was playing the game because at the end of the day a win for Big Brother China would be a win for Taiwan, being as their kinship was shared in blood and history and shared emperors and the like.
Except that, with a swift sentence, Ma’s Taiwan too has been tarred as a provocateur - proving that trying to please either the US or China is a fool’s errand and one that more readily serves only to abdicate Taiwan’s foreign policy than achieve a sense of regional peace.
This point of course was immediately lost of Taiwanese media, who were rather more occupied with feeling hurt and anger and making sure it was universally established who were the dastardly cold hearted perpetrators and who were the innocent, humble and honest victims:
She was asked to explain what actions Taiwan had taken that the US was concerned about when only one side — the Philippines — had actually done any shooting.
“When you’re warning both sides, you’re giving an equivalency. What is the Taiwanese action that you’re concerned about?” Psaki was asked.
“The Philippine government is looking into this case — I don’t want to get ahead of their process of investigating what happened,” she said.
At a regular daily press briefing, Psaki was again pressured to be more specific.
“The Taiwanese fisherman was unarmed. It’s a fishing boat — small compared to the government vessel that the Filipinos had. When you say confrontation, only one side was shooting the other, using a machine gun. Fifty-nine bullet holes were found in that small boat. I want you to comment on the fact that someone opened fire in the South China Sea,” a reporter said.
Psaki said that she was just making a broad point that both sides should refrain from provocative actions.
“I’m not going to speculate on this specific case,” she said.
“When you see people doing things that run directly counter to behavior that would lead to stability, are you going to stand up and point that out, and hold these governments to account? You’re holding the victimizer and the victim to equal account, so it doesn’t seem to match,” the reporter said.
Psaki replied: “There will be an investigation run by the Philippine government into what happened here. I don’t think that is holding both sides to the same account.”
Here’s my speculation - the US has been notified that there is video and it knows the location is well within Filipino waters and EEZ. The only reason it is not saying this outright is that it is waiting for the media and politicians in Taiwan to get bored and turn their attention elsewhere. It is exercising some diplomatic tact and timing. I think it highly unlikely that the US does not have some record somewhere (be it satellite data or images) of where the incident took place. Hence Psaki’s fudge about the exact location and waiting for the Filipino investigation is a stall tactic. The US may also want to see how Manila handles this and whether actual proof (e.g. video of the Taiwanese boat ramming the PCG) changes people’s opinons and deflates the hot air (as well as mean an end to side skirmishes such as the ongoing cyber-war).
In summary, a tragedy at sea has occurred. it is likely that at the root of this incident lie disputes over fishing rights, issues of poaching and also fish scarcity. Unfortunately, the Taiwanese Government is not able in this instance to sit down formally with the Filipino Government because of pressure from Beijing. There is then one less way (an agreement on fishing) such an incident can be prevented from happening again. Not only is Beijing not a peaceful regional stakeholder on a path of peaceful development, it’s One China policy is actively preventing Taiwan from addressing areas of economic conflict with its neighbours.
A report by the US Department of State to Congress describes Taiwan’s participation in the WHO as “sporadic” and “intermittent.”The situation “inherently limits Taiwan’s ability” to deal with future public health emergencies due to “a lack of timely information and accessible resources,” according to the report, a copy of which the Taipei Times obtained yesterday.
Taiwan began to participate in the WHA as an observer under the name “Chinese Taipei” in 2009, an arrangement subject to annual renewal with China’s consent.
The US again voiced its opposition to the “non-transparent” manner in which the WHO issued an internal memorandum in 2010 to limit Taiwan’s participation in the International Health Regulations (IHR), the WHO’s regulatory framework to prevent epidemics, and in which it refers to the nation as “Taiwan, Province of China.”
As of last year, all Taiwanese ports on the IHR Authorized Ports list were identified as belonging to China, the US said.
“The nomenclature issue likely is one factor causing delayed communications with experts with Taiwan. Some WHO communications continue to be incorrectly routed through Beijing or through China’s Mission in Geneva,” the US said.
Now maybe this is just US trolling of China, given related news in which a Pentagon report accused China of being aggressive, but those of us who have followed this issue have long noted how Taiwan’s hailed participation in the WHO came with huge caveats that the Ma administration first tried to dismiss and ignore and then made only weak hearted protests about. The WHO issue illustrates perfectly how Ma’s ‘mutual non-denial’ and ‘diplomatic truce’ policy is nothing more than words - in substance China’s policy has not changed. China throws Ma cookies like limited WHO participation so that he can distinguish himself from his predecessor and have something to work with on the campaign trail but China has conceded nothing substantial and has made no major change in policy or approach to squeezing out Taiwan’s international space. Now that Ma can not be elected again, expect the ‘favours’ from China to replaced with demand for ‘favours’ in response.
China’s Forbearance Has Limits: Chinese Threat and Retaliation Signaling and Its Implications for a SinoAmerican Military Confrontation PDF
From China Strategic Perspectives 6 - Published by Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University.
Taiwan / China watchers will find Appendix 3 (Appendix 3. PRC Signaling Over Taiwan: 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003–2004) very interesting.
Note how China has managed to bully the US, Japan and most of the world into accepting the shifting red lines that it unilaterally positions as a demarcation of what are ‘acceptable’ and ‘intolerable’ developments in Taiwanese politics and diplomacy. Note also how many times it has issued not so thinly veiled outright threats of war should Taiwan not comply with its wishes and note how the US has caved in on every wish since 1996. I shouldn’t need to say this as it should be obvious but not only is the US not impartial when it comes to Taiwanese politics it is also very much not hands off when it comes to signalling who it wishes to see in power at each Presidential election. The US is interventionist in Taiwan perhaps thinking that it is making its own strategic decisions when in fact most interventions since 1996 have been prompted by, and on behalf of, China. The PRC owns US policy on Taiwan.
FAPA Applauds Unanimous Passage of Taiwan Policy Act (TPA) in House Subcommittee
(Washington, D.C. April 25th 2013) — Today the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed HR419, aka the Taiwan Policy Act (TPA).
The TPA was introduced on January 25, 2013 by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and co-chairs of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Gerald Connolly (D-VA), John Carter (R-TX) and Albio Sires (D-NJ) “to strengthen and clarify the commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people of Taiwan.”
It is a comprehensive bill that addresses over a dozen different aspects of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, and updates the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to reflect the new realities in this U.S.-Taiwan relationship. The TPA builds on the TRA (which has functioned effectively as the cornerstone of US-Taiwan relations over the past three decades). It does not amend or supersede the TRA.
As a famous US professor once told an up-and-coming Taiwanese academic, there is something about Taiwan that makes even the best and the brightest of minds stop thinking.
Time and again, otherwise intelligent academics, journalists, writers and government officials have managed to get it all wrong when it comes to Taiwan. The fact that a country whose 23 million people would make it the ninth-largest country in Europe by population size, and whose economy is among the 20 largest economies globally, is so regularly misunderstood is predominantly the result of Chinese propaganda and the willingness of other countries to allow Beijing to get away with its lies.
Not only is Taiwan misrepresented, but the biases that are stacked against it prevent its 23 million people from deciding their own future. So entrenched has this handicap become that Taiwan, not China, is often regarded as the troublemaker, even though it is Beijing, not Taipei, that threatens war — against Taiwan, Japan and the US — over the question of its sovereignty. It is as if Czechoslovakia or Poland, not Nazi Germany, were the true instigators of World War II in Europe.
Abridged version: "Taiwanese have a lot going for them and are doing a great job in many ways and can hold their heads with pride in the international community but at the same time they have their heads in the sand and need to wake up and smell the coffee - it’s past time to start addressing some very key long term security issues"
The Diaoyutai Presidency
That is the name historians may later come to refer to the Ma Administration as. They will also no doubt trace his obsession with the islands back to his tenure as Chiang Ching-Kuo’s private secretary and his Thesis on sea rights and sovereignty of the islands. Ma will be cited as one of the main actors who served to raise tensions over the islands, in turn facilitating the Sino-Japan East China Sea War.
I pray that I am hopelessly wrong and that cooler heads prevail but I am at this point severely pessimistic. Ma has three years left as President and thus far he has been a very useful tool for China in driving a wedge between Taiwan and Japan and Taiwan and Washington. I wonder when Washington is going to wake up and realise that the man they supported for office to reduce cross-strait tensions actually helped transfer those tensions to Beijing and Washington via Japan.
As my good friend MT said yesterday, it is Washington’s bipolar Taiwan policy that has not only undermined and subverted Taiwanese democracy but has now encouraged Beijing to expand its territorial claims and be bolder and more belligerent in expressing itself on the international stage. It is American foreign policy that, once again, is an engine of conflict whilst it trumpets itself as an agent of peace. The duplicity and hypocrisy is not just heart breaking, it is destructive in all possible senses.
The Oregonian newspaper reports that a Damascus, Oregon family opened a year old box of Halloween decorations they bought from Kmart and found a note tucked inside. As can be seen in the picture above the note read:
"If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever."
The graveyard kit, the letter read, was made in unit 8, department 2 of the Masanjia Labor Camp in Shenyang, China.
Chinese characters broke up choppy English sentences.
"People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise, they will suffer torturement, beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan/1 month)."
Ten yuan is equivalent to $1.61.
"People who work here, suffer punishment 1-3 years averagely, but without Court Sentence (unlaw punishment). Many of them are Falun Gong practitioners, who are totally innocent people only because they have different believe to CCPG. They often suffer more punishment than others."
Some doubt the veracity of the letter. Others simply say it would be difficult to verify:
"We’re in no position to confirm the veracity or origin of this," said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. "I think it is fair to say the conditions described in the letter certainly conform to what we know about conditions in re-education through labor camps."
The article goes on to note:
Title 19, section 1307 of U.S. Code generally prohibits the importation of all items “mined, produced or manufactured” in any foreign country by convict labor, forced labor and/or indentured labor.
After the Oregonian informed the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the letter, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations began looking into the case, public affairs officer Andrew Munoz confirmed.
Sears Holdings Corporation, which operates Kmart, released a statement on the matter:
"Sears Holdings has a Global Compliance Program which helps to ensure that vendors and factories producing merchandise for our company adhere to specific Program Requirements, and all local laws pertaining to employment standards and workplace practices. Failure to comply with any of the Program Requirements, including the use of forced labor, may result in a loss of business or factory termination. We understand the seriousness of this allegation, and will continue to investigate."
I bet they will. Most strenuously. Until the matter has blown over. Of course another question to ask is to what degree is forced or indentured and prison laboured common in the US and how large is its role in the economy of those States that use it?