Spratly Islands: The Islands Nation That Isn’t A Nation, So Says China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Spratly Islands

Introduction The Spratly Islands consist of more than 100 small islands or reefs. They are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potentially by gas and oil deposits. They are claimed in their entirety by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, while portions are claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines. About 45 islands are occupied by relatively small numbers of military forces from China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Brunei has established a fishing zone that overlaps a southern reef but has not made any formal claim.
History The first possible recorded human interaction with the Spratly Islands dates back as far as 3 B.C. This is based on the discovery that the people of Nanyue (southern China and northern Vietnam) and Old Champa kingdom fishermen (modern-day central Vietnam) had been visiting the Spratly Islands and other South China Sea Islands for fishing.

Ancient Chinese maps record the Qianli Changsha (千里長沙) and Wanli Shitang (萬里石塘), which China today claims refer to these islands. These islands were labeled as Chinese territory since the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century, followed by the Ming Dynasty. When the Ming Dynasty collapsed, the Qing Dynasty continued to include the territory in maps complied in 1724, 1755, 1767, 1810, 1817 by the Qing Dynasty of China.

Ancient Vietnamese maps record Bãi Cát Vàng (Golden Sandbanks, as claimed today by Vietnam referring to both Paracel and Spratly Islands) which lies near the Coast of the central Vietnam as early as the 17th century. In Phủ Biên Tạp Lục (Frontier Chronicles) by the scholar Le Quy Don, Hoàng Sa and Trường Sa were defined as belonging to Quảng Ngãi District. He described it as where sea products and shipwrecked cargoes were available to be collected. Vietnamese text written in the 17th century referenced government-sponsored economic activities during the Le Dynasty, 200 years earlier. The Vietnamese government conducted several geographical surveys of the islands in the 18th century.

The islands were sporadically visited throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by mariners from different European powers (including either Richard Spratly or William Spratly, after whom the island group derives its most recognizable English name). However, these nations showed little interest in the islands. In 1883, German boats surveyed the Spratly and Paracel Islands but withdrew the survey eventually after receiving protests from the Nguyen Dynasty.

In 1933, France claimed the Spratly and Paracel Islands on behalf of its then-colony Vietnam. It occupied a number of the Spratly Islands, including Itu Aba, built weather stations on two, and administered them as part of French Indochina. This occupation was protested by the Republic of China government because France admitted finding Chinese fishermen there when French war ships visited the nine islands. In 1935, the Chinese government also announced a sovereignty claim on the Spratly Islands. Japan occupied some of the islands in 1939 during World War II, and used the islands as a submarine base for the occupation of Southeast Asia. During the occupation, these islands were called Shinnan Shoto (新南諸島), literally the New Southern Islands, and put under the governance of Taiwan together with the Paracel Islands (西沙群岛). Today, Itu Aba Island is still administrated by the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Following the defeat of Japan at the end of World War II, the Republic of China government (Nationalist) re-claimed the entirety of the Spratly Islands (including Itu Aba), accepting the Japanese surrender on the islands based on the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations. Several years later, the Nationalist Chinese government withdrew from most of the Spratly and Paracel Islands after they were defeated by the forces of the opposing Communist Party of China in 1949.

Japan renounced all claims to the islands in 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, together with the Paracels, Pratas & other islands captured from China, upon which China reasserted its claim to the islands.

The naval units of the Vietnamese government took over in Trường Sa after the defeat of the French at the end of the First Indochina War. In 1958, the People’s Republic of China issued a declaration defining its territorial waters, which encompassed the Spratly Islands. North Vietnam’s prime minister, Pham Van Dong, sent a formal note to Zhou Enlai, stating that “The Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam respects this decision.”. However, the Spratly Islands were under the jurisdiction of South Vietnam, not North Vietnam.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, group of reefs and islands in the South China Sea, about two-thirds of the way from southern Vietnam to the southern Philippines
Geographic coordinates: 8 38 N, 111 55 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: less than 5 sq km
land: less than 5 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes 100 or so islets, coral reefs, and sea mounts scattered over an area of nearly 410,000 sq km of the central South China Sea
Area – comparative: NA
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 926 km
Maritime claims: NA
Climate: tropical
Terrain: flat
Elevation extremes: lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Southwest Cay 4 m
Natural resources: fish, guano, undetermined oil and natural gas potential
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2005)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km
Natural hazards: typhoons; numerous reefs and shoals pose a serious maritime hazard
Environment – current issues: NA
Geography – note: strategically located near several primary shipping lanes in the central South China Sea; includes numerous small islands, atolls, shoals, and coral reefs
Politics There are multiple reasons why the neighboring nations would be interested in the Spratly Islands. In 1968 oil was discovered in the region. The Geology and Mineral Resources Ministry of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has estimated that the Spratly area holds oil and natural gas reserves of 17.7 billion tons (1.60 × 1010 kg), as compared to the 13 billion tons (1.17 × 1010 kg) held by Kuwait, placing it as the fourth largest reserve bed in the world. Naturally, these large reserves assisted in intensifying the situation and propelled the territorial claims of the neighboring countries. On 11 March 1976, the first major Philippine oil discovery occurred off the coast of Palawan, within the Spratly Islands territory, and these oil fields now account for fifteen percent of all petroleum consumed in the Philippines. In 1992, the PRC and Vietnam granted oil exploration contracts to U.S. oil companies that covered overlapping areas in the Spratlys. In May 1992, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Crestone Energy (a U.S. company based in Denver, Colorado) signed a cooperation contract for the joint exploration of the Wan’an Bei-21 block, a 25,155 km² section of the southwestern South China Sea that includes Spratly Island areas. Part of the Crestone’s contract covered Vietnam’s blocks 133 and 134, where PetroVietnam and ConocoPhillips Vietnam Exploration & Production, a unit of ConocoPhillips, agreed to evaluate prospects in April 1992. This led to a confrontation between China and Vietnam, with each demanding that the other cancel its contract.

An additional motive is the region’s role as one of the world’s most productive areas for commercial fishing. In 1988, for example, the South China Sea accounted for eight percent of the total world catch, a figure which has certainly risen. The PRC has predicted that the South China Sea holds combined fishing and oil and gas resources worth one trillion dollars. There have already been numerous clashes between the Philippines and other nations — particularly the PRC — over foreign fishing vessels in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the media regularly report the arrest of Chinese fishermen. In 1984, Brunei established an exclusive fishing zone encompassing Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands, but has not publicly claimed the island.

The region is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. During the 1980s, at least two hundred and seventy ships passed through the Spratly Islands region each day, and currently more than half of the world’s supertanker traffic, by tonnage, passes through the region’s waters every year. Tanker traffic through the South China Sea is over three times greater than through the Suez Canal and five times more than through the Panama Canal; twenty five percent of the world’s crude oil passes through the South China Sea.

There have been occasional naval clashes over the Spratly Islands. In 1988, China and Vietnam clashed at sea over possession of Johnson Reef in the Spratlys. Chinese gunboats sank Vietnamese transport ships supporting a landing party of Vietnamese soldiers.

In response to growing concerns by coastal states regarding encroachments by foreign vessels on their natural resources, the United Nations convened the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982 to determine the issue of international sea boundaries. In response to these concerns, it was resolved that a coastal state could claim two hundred nautical miles of jurisdiction beyond its land boundaries. However UNCLOS failed to address the issue of how to adjudicate on overlapping claims and so the future of the islands remains clouded.

Following a 1995 dispute between China and the Philippines an ASEAN-brokered agreement was reached between the PRC and ASEAN member nations whereby a nation would inform the others of any military movement within the disputed territory and that there would be no further construction. The agreement was promptly violated by China and Malaysia. Claiming storm damage, seven Chinese naval vessels entered the area to repair “fishing shelters” in Panganiban Reef. Malaysia erected a structure on Investigator Shoal and landed at Rizal Reef. In response the Philippines lodged formal protests, demanded the removal of the structures, increased naval patrols in Kalayaan and issued invitations to American politicians to inspect the PRC bases by plane.

In the early 21st century, the situation is improving. China recently held talks with ASEAN countries aimed at realizing a proposal for a free trade area between the ten countries involved. China and ASEAN also have been engaged in talks to create a code of conduct aimed at easing tensions in the disputed islands. On 5 March 2002, an agreement was reached, setting forth the desire of the claimant nations to resolve the problem of sovereignty “without further use of force”. In November 2002, a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea was signed, easing tensions but falling short of a legally-binding code of conduct.

People Population: no indigenous inhabitants
note: there are scattered garrisons occupied by personnel of several claimant states
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Spratly Islands
Economy Economy – overview: Economic activity is limited to commercial fishing. The proximity to nearby oil- and gas-producing sedimentary basins suggests the potential for oil and gas deposits, but the region is largely unexplored. There are no reliable estimates of potential reserves. Commercial exploitation has yet to be developed.
Transportation Airports: 3 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)
Heliports: 3 (2007)
Ports and terminals: none; offshore anchorage only
Military Military – note: Spratly Islands consist of more than 100 small islands or reefs of which about 45 are claimed and occupied by China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: all of the Spratly Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam; parts of them are claimed by Malaysia and the Philippines; in 1984, Brunei established an exclusive fishing zone that encompasses Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands but has not publicly claimed the reef; claimants in November 2002 signed the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” which has eased tensions but falls short of a legally binding “code of conduct”; in March 2005, the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam signed a joint accord to conduct marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands

Taiwan’s law on language show China what it means to be a modern, inclusive country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF QUARTZ INDIA)

 

Taiwan’s laws on language are showing China what it means to be a modern, inclusive country

OBSESSION

Language

May 09, 2018

Taiwan was once considered an economic miracle. Now economic progress there has slowed to a halt as China, Taiwan’s imposing neighbor, grows bigger by the day.

But in terms of social progress, Taiwan is decades ahead—showing people in China that a modern, multicultural, and tolerant Chinese society is possible.

Consider the difference between Taiwan and China’s language policies. Legislators in Taiwan are preparing to redefine what constitutes a “national language.” If the new definition is enacted, which is likely, Taiwanese—the local variant of the Minnan language of southern China—will receive equal treatment with Mandarin. That would be unthinkable in China, where Mandarin’s status as the sole standard language is absolute.

The Taiwanese language is everywhere in Taiwan. It is spoken at home by over 80% of the population. Would-be politicians feel the need to campaign in Taiwanese in order to win elections. Yet it has not been given the status of a national language. That is in part because the language has endured long periods of inequity relative to Mandarin, even in Taiwan. When the Kuomintang party arrived on the island in the 1940s, fleeing its losing battle with the Chinese communists, it banned the use of Taiwanese in schools and in the media, declaring that Mandarin should be the language of the island.

The new rule would change that, expanding on a separate act passed last year that gave several indigenous languages “national” status. Areas with large populations that speak Taiwanese will be allowed to use them in official documents and legal affairs. And the government will have an obligation to teach Taiwanese and the indigenous languages as part of the standard, 12-year curriculum, as well as to develop writing systems and dictionaries in those languages.

That level of commitment to minority languages would be impressive even for a Western country. In the United States, for example, it is hard to find national efforts to support any language other than English. But more than anything, the new rule reveals the growing cultural distance between Taiwan and China, and how much Taiwan has developed socially.

China doesn’t like the Minnan that can be heard in shops and food stalls across Taiwan. It considers Minnan, or Taiwanese, the language of the Taiwan independence movement. The prospect of possible retaliation from Beijing has long delayed Taiwan from giving the language a more official status.

China’s policies on minority languages, meanwhile, are stuck in the 20th century. Linguistically, China is extremely diverse. It is home to at least 100 distinct languages. Yet the Chinese government’s policy is based on the Stalinist assertion that a nation must have a single shared language, and that everyone in the nation must speak it. “A national community is inconceivable without a common language,” Stalin wrotein 1913. In 2000, China enacted a law to that effect, establishing putonghua—or “common speech,” as Mandarin is called in China—as the sole national language for the “unification of the country.” That means that Mandarin should come before all other languages.

The official rules in China don’t ban minority languages. And the same law that established Mandarin as the national language states that citizens “shall have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages.”

But in many cases, the Communist Party perceives minority languages as being in conflict with higher-priority concerns, such as the nationwide promotion of Mandarin, national sovereignty, and cultural unification of the kind that Stalin advocated.

“If you promote the use of those [minority] languages in public domains, then the government might have a different view,” says Minglang Zhou, a professor at the University of Maryland who studies minority language policy in China. “They think that threatens the use of putonghua, and citizens’ identification with the Chinese nation.”

The Tibetan language is a good example of how these priorities shake out in practice.

“If you look at Tibetan, you can see this gradual shift from using Tibetan for instruction in classrooms to using Chinese,” Zhou adds. This is mostly the result of the 2000 language law. China might allow minority groups to develop their own languages, but the national effort is focused on getting 80% of citizens speaking Mandarin.

The two goals can be mutually exclusive. Mandarin-speaking teachers are sent to areas where Chinese is not spoken as well, and where they might not be able to speak the local language. The result is that in Tibet, the local language is, at best, relegated to a language class, and not used as the medium of instruction.

In addition to challenging the primacy of Mandarin, the party views the Tibetan language as a threat to Chinese sovereignty and identification with the nation of China. It doesn’t want citizens seeing themselves as Tibetans first. A strong Tibetan language movement might bring that about. China may claim that minorities have the right to develop their languages, but it also put on trial an activist who wanted more Tibetan in schools, accusing him of “inciting separatism.”

Essentially, China is not concerned with making minority languages more frequently spoken. It wants them to be preserved as interesting bits of Chinese history, like artifacts in a museum.

Therein lies the difference with Taiwan. Giving Taiwanese equal status will allow the language to thrive in everyday life, whether in schools, official documents, or popular media. It is not meant to be a historical artifact. If Mandarin is preferred in some setting, it will be because it is a common language, not because it has been deemed so from on high.

Taiwan has had enough time being governed independently from China to develop its own identity. The renewed emphasis on the Taiwanese language is one symptom of that. At the same time, its language policies show how Taiwan has developed into a pluralistic democracy, even as China moves in the opposite direction, toward greater unification. Taiwan’s renewed promotion of indigenous languages tries to reckon with historical injustices, even as China arrests Tibetan language activists. Last year, Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage as China shut down a popular lesbian dating app.

In addition to being an act of pluralism, Taiwan’s proposed language law probably has political motivations. It sends a message to China that Taiwan does not need, or want, to abide by Beijing’s rules. But it also shows people in China that top-down unification is not the only way to govern an ethnically and linguistically diverse country where Mandarin is the lingua franca.

Israeli chutzpah, Taiwan’s Confucian culture can be a ‘great match’ in business

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli chutzpah, Taiwan’s Confucian culture can be a ‘great match’ in business

Delegation of Taiwan government officials, VC and tech executives visits Israel to work on closer cooperation

A group of Taiwanese visitors march in the 'Tabernacles' parade held by Christian groups each year on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, September 24, 2013. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A group of Taiwanese visitors march in the ‘Tabernacles’ parade held by Christian groups each year on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, September 24, 2013. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

There are “great prospects” for business cooperation between Israel and Taiwan in the high-tech field, a senior official of a Taiwanese trade organization said last week as he led a delegation of senior executives to the Startup Nation to pursue business opportunities.

“Israel and Taiwan are a great match,” declared James Huang, the chairman of Taiwan External Trade Development Council, or TAITRA, a nonprofit trade promotion organization that operates within the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Taiwan. Huang spoke to The Times of Israel in Tel Aviv.

“Culturally we are very different on the surface,” Huang said. “Taiwan is a Confucian society, with emphasis on respect of order, seniority. In Israel everyone challenges everyone,” he said with a laugh. And that is why, he said, the two countries “can complement each other perfectly” to introduce innovation in R&D and in paving the way for future technologies.

In Taiwan, which today manufactures 80 percent of the world’s PCs and 25 percent of the world’s semiconductors, the Confucian discipline is applied to manufacturing. “We probably have the most efficient manufacturing industries in the world, second probably only to Germany,” Huang said.

James Huang, the chairman of Taiwan External Trade Development Council, or TAITRA (Courtesy)

Israel’s penchant for out-of-the-box thinking and innovation could complement Taiwan’s manufacturing prowess, he said. “Israel is a hub and a gateway to global innovation and Taiwan is a hub of global ICT manufacturing. I am sure a lot of new technology can be applied to our manufacturing processes. I urge Israeli companies to pay more attention to Taiwan.”

Traditionally, Israeli tech firms have looked at the US and Europe as natural markets for their products and for joint ventures. But relations with Asian nations are growing, with China, India and Japan looking to Israel for new technologies and Israeli firms viewing the huge Asian markets as a lucrative new avenue for sales and growth.

Taiwan (Republic of China), originally known as Formosa, was created in 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek fled the mainland after Mao Zedong’s Communist Party took the reins of government in Beijing.

For years, mainland China insisted that it was the “real China” and often required governments with which it had relations to cut off ties with Taiwan. While the People’s Republic still insists that it represents the one, unified China, it no longer insists on exclusivity in business relationships. The sensitive relations between the two nations continue to be an issue, however.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has prospered, through a dynamic capitalist economy that, like Israel, is heavily dependent on exports. The country is home to some 25 million people, compared to the almost 9 million in Israel. It suffers from a low birth rate that raises the prospect of a future shortfall of workers, falling domestic demand and receding tax revenues.

Huang was at the head of a 14-person delegation including prominent Taiwanese heads of VC funds and executives of high tech firms, looking to expand the strategic cooperation between Taiwanese and Israeli startups and to study opportunities to expand bring Israeli technologies to the Asian market.

Walter Yeh, the president and CEO of Taiwan External Trade Development Council, or TAITRA, left, and Gadi Arieli, director general of the Israel Export Institute at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for increased cooperation between the countries; Tel Aviv, May

During his visit, Israel’s Export Institute and TAITRA signed a memorandum of understanding to help promote trade and delegations and inform businesses on both sides about investment and joint venture opportunities in the two countries.

“Israel and Taiwan are already connected in a small way,” Huang said. He hopes the MOU will be a first step toward even closer cooperation, including between Israeli and Taiwanese VC funds, Huang said.

During its time in Israel the delegation met with local firms and VC executives and held a seminar in Tel Aviv, attended by representatives from the Israeli startup industry, venture capital funds, the Israel Innovation Authority, the Israel Export Institute and the ICT Industry Association Israel.

Trade between Israel and Taiwan is more or less balanced and recorded double digit growth last year. In 2017, Taiwan exported to Israel some $700 million worth of goods – up 14 percent from a year earlier, including machinery, optical precision tools, car parts and medicinal equipment. Taiwan imported some $1 billion worth of goods from Israel, including chemicals, medicines, diamonds and electronic and machinery parts, up 11 percent from a year earlier, according to TAITRA data.

Huang was also in Israel to promote Computex, the largest ICT and startups trade show in Asia, which will take place on June 5 to 9.

READ MORE:

US AND CHINA HEADED FOR WAR OVER TAIWAN?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST AND FROM ANDY TAI’s GOOGLE+ ACCOUNT)

 

ARE THE US AND CHINA HEADED FOR WAR OVER TAIWAN?

As Beijing and Washington position themselves for a trade war, Trump should beware playing the Taiwan card – or he may find his actions lead to a real war

BY WANG XIANGWEI

Are the Chinese mainland and Taiwan headed down an inevitable path to war – one that is likely to see the United States join the fray?

This slow-burning question came to the fore again last week when the mainland launched live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday amid fiery rhetoric from Chinese state media. On Thursday morning, Chinese state media started to post online videos of helicopters and warships firing at targets at sea but Taiwandismissed the exercises as “routine”.

This came after President Xi Jinping had presided over a massive naval parade off Hainan island a week earlier, one that involved 48 warships including China’s sole operating aircraft carrier and more than 10,000 servicemen – the largest such exercise since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

PLA submarines, naval vessels and fighter jets accompany China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning on exercises in the South China Sea. Photo: Xinhua

The state media said Beijing was sending a loud and clear warning to Taipei and Washington amid heightened tensions caused by Taiwanese leaders’ open advocacy for independence and increased American support for the Taiwanese government.

Over the past few weeks, Chinese officials and state media have ratcheted up the rhetoric against Taipei and Washington, the largest supplier of arms to the island.

Trump’s trade war with China is just his opening gambit

Referring to Thursday’s live-fire drills, Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to US, warned in a lecture at Harvard University that China would try every possible means to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks on the telephone to Donald Trump. Photo: EPA

Earlier this month, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, said any outside forces that attempted to “play the Taiwan card” would find their efforts “futile” and would hurt themselves if they went “over the line”, according to the official China Daily.

The remark was clearly aimed at US President Donald Trump and his administration which in recent months has taken a number of significant steps to warm ties with Taipei. As Beijing and Washington are currently positioning themselves for a possible trade war, Trump’s intention to play the Taiwan card again is even more dangerous because this would further destabilise bilateral ties or even worse, could lead to a real war.

A nasty US-China fight is inevitable. But it needn’t be terminal

True to Trump’s unconventional and unpredictable presidency, he first started to play the Taiwan card in the transition to the White House when he took a congratulatory call from the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, breaking a nearly 40-year-old diplomatic protocol governing China-US ties.

At that time, Trump made it clear his intention was to use Taiwan as a play to force more concessions on trade from China. His suggestion then was overwhelmingly met with criticism and cynicism almost everywhere, even in Taiwan where it raised concerns that the island could be used as a pawn and discarded easily.

China sees Taiwan as a province and usually reacts strongly to any foreign country having official contacts with the Taiwanese government or sale of arms to the island, particularly from the United States.

Now one year later, Trump’s intention to play the Taiwan card again signals a much broader agenda targeting China. Almost all the moderating voices in his administration have been forced out and replaced by more hawkish officials including the soon-to-be secretary of state Mike Pompeo and the National Security Adviser John Bolton – both of whom are known for tough stances against China and pro-Taiwan views.

Tough on China: US national security adviser John Bolton. Photo: Reuters

In recent months, his administration has approved licences for American firms to sell Taiwan technology to build submarines and signed the Taiwan Travel Act to encourage visits between American and Taiwanese officials. All these have invited protests from China.

A major test will come in June when the American Institute in Taiwan, the US de facto embassy, is slated to move into a new building. There has been growing speculation that Bolton or some other senior US official will attend the ceremony. If that happens, Beijing will regard it as a major provocation.

It is interesting to note that amid the war of words with Washington over trade, some elements in Beijing’s propaganda machine have been using warlike language to give the impression that China will not back down from the trade spat and will fight the US to the very end. That could well be a negotiation tactic, as trade issues are negotiable after all. But from the Chinese perspective, the Taiwan issue is absolutely non-negotiable. It is a clearly marked red line.

The Taiwanese leaders, encouraged by the latest warming signs from Washington, have started to openly advocate independence, which is a major taboo for Beijing and seen as breaking the status quo.

Over the past 40 years, Beijing and Taipei have tried to maintain the status quo in which both sides recognise the island as part of China, even while neither government recognises the legitimacy of the other. Taiwan agrees not to broach independence, in return mainland China does not use force to take over the island. Washington recognises this one-China principle but maintains close unofficial ties with Taiwan and provides the island with arms under the Taiwan Relations Act – a constant source of friction with Beijing.

Taiwanese Premier William Lai. Photo: EPA

This month, the Taiwanese premier William Lai publicly described himself as “a political worker for Taiwanese independence”. Although this was not the first time he has said this, Lai’s latest declaration caused serious worries in Beijing in the context of Washington’s warming ties with Taipei.

The heightened tensions over the Taiwan Strait have come as Xi embarks on his second term as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. Last month the national legislature repealed the term limits on the presidency, enabling Xi to rule as long as he likes.

With Xi trying to assert China’s power on the international stage, flexing China’s military muscle in the Taiwan Strait in the name of pushing back against the independence movement is likely to bolster Xi’s support on the mainland.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has been trying to assert China’s power on the international stage. Photo: AFP

China’s official line has always been that it will seek peaceful reunification with Taiwan but not rule out using force to take it over. In the past, officials and state media have tended to emphasise the peaceful reunification part – more recently they have highlighted the bit about using force. Moreover, China has never publicly stated a timetable for reunification with Taiwan but some mainland analysts have started to preach the idea that reunification could take place by 2035 or 2050.

As China beats its war drum, who should hear its call?

These assumptions stemmed from Xi’s landmark report at the Communist Party’s 19th congress in October when he outlined a clearly defined timetable to realise what he called the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation – China would basically become a modern country by 2035 and a world power by 2050.

For an ambitious leader like Xi, reunification with Taiwan has to be an integral part of the dream.

So will the US join the fray if push comes to shove? Many people have mistakenly assumed the Taiwan Relations Act requires the US to come to Taiwan’s defence. In fact, the law contains no explicit guarantee.

Besides, there is a big question over whether the US would risk waging a full-blown war with China over Taiwan. In the short term, if the current trend continues with the US determined to play the Taiwan card – which in turn helps embolden the pro-independence movement in Taiwan – China will probably feel compelled to accelerate its military preparations and increase the frequency of military shows of strength like the one last week. All this means that tensions over the Taiwan Strait will get much worse unless Trump rethinks his plan to play the Taiwan card.

Wang Xiangwei is the former editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post. He is now based in Beijing as editorial adviser to the paper

Syria: The Perfect Storm To Ignite A Huge Chapter In This Current WW-3

Syria: The Perfect Storm To Ignite A Huge Chapter In This Current WW-3 

(THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST WRITTEN ON FEBRUARY 14th, OF 2016 BUT I HAVE ADDED 2 EXTRA PARAGRAPHS AT THE END)

Today Syria is primed to be the location where the pot boils over and this World War that we are currently all living in gets a new very nasty twist in pure violence. The Syrian civil war has turned into a continuance of the 1,400 year old Islamic civil war between the Sunni and the Shiite. The president of Syria is a Shiite so he is an ally of the government of Iran who is the biggest Shiite player in the world. Also there is the fact that the country of Iraq is now led by a Shiite government and its geographical location is as the bumper between the two. First ISIS joins the fight as the major Sunni group against the Syrian government and now Russian president Putin has joined the fight on the side of Iran and Syria. Soon we see if our Nations Leaders are actual leaders, or idiots and fools.

 

Today I picked up off of CNN a story within an interview being done by reporter Ms. Amanpour with the Saudi Foreign Minister while he was in Munich Germany  yesterday. I am going to type out a couple of the Saudi Foreign Ministers quotes and then I am going to ask you a couple of questions to see the level of understanding we each have. Quotes—“The Syrian President must go. If the political process fails then force must be used”. Yet he says that the Saudi’s will only send troops into Syria if…”we are part of a multi-national force lead by the U.S.”.  There is another important quote of his on this matter, “Syria’s President will leave–have no doubt about it. He will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force”.

 

I am looking at this from an American persons view, those of you reading this from other parts of the world may have different view points than I do or what most Americans may have as a view, if so, please leave comments.  The Saudi Foreign Minister says that the Syrian President will leave “have no doubt about it”. Yet he say that the Saudi’s will only put boots on the ground in Syria if they are “part of a U.S. led force”. So, does he have some secret knowledge of an undercover deal with our President? Reality is that the only way the Syrian President gets removed is if he is assassinated or if the U.S. puts thousands of troops on the ground to fight against the Shiite side and for the Sunni side of this 1,400 year civil war. This Syrian conflict is indeed a Civil War but it is mostly a civil war between the Shiite and the Sunni. Russian President Putin has stuck his foot in up to his rear-end on the side of Iran and Syria if the U.S. puts boots on the ground they will be fighting on the side of the Sunni nations. There is this other absolute fact, all these people hate us and our military, they will applaud every time an American or Russian blood is spilled on Syrian sand. The Saudi Foreign Minister did say one accurate quote when he said that “you can not take, then hold ground from the air alone”. The question now is whose boots will it be, whose blood will it be?

 

(TODAY’S DATE IS APRIL 17th OF 2018)

 

Okay, it is now two years and two months since the Saudi Foreign Minister said that Syria’s President Assad would be removed one way of another, to me, it looks like he was wrong.  About the only way now that I can see President Assad being removed is if someone assassinates him. Will the Saudi’s go that far as to send an assassin into Syria to kill him? Personally I doubt it, it would be to risky for them to do that. It looks to me that because of the help of Russia’s President Putin and the help Mr. Assad is getting from Iran and Hezbollah that he will remain the president of this destroyed hunk of ground. Even if all fighting were to stop inside the borders of Syria today, it would take many trillions of dollars and several decades to rebuild the infrastructure that was in place there seven years ago.

 

As far as Syria being the location of a huge proxy war involving the militaries that are still operating inside their borders the risks are still very high. I personally believe that the U.S. should get out of Syria as quick as is humanly possible. We said we went in there to destroy ISIS, this mission is at least 95% finished. The government of Syria has made it very plain that they do not want any U.S. military inside their borders so we should leave and let Russian, Syrian, Iranian, and Hezbollah troops finish the mop up work on ISIS. The longer we are there the greater chances that we will get directly involved with the killing of Russian, Iranian and Syrian troops thus dragging us into a much wider and bloodier war with them directly.  There is also the reality that Syria will be the location of a direct shooting war between Iran and Israel, and Hezbollah. If Iran attacks Israel will the U.S. stand idly by? If we back Israel will Russia jump in to help Iran? You can bet your last nickel that if Iran attacks Israel that Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah will also attack Israel, so what is the U.S. going to do? What is Russia going to do, come to think of it, what is Saudi Arabia going to do? This article is all just fodder for your thoughts, what do you think is about to happen, full-out WW-3, or maybe nothing? China would probably love the U.S. to get tied up in an all out war in the Middle-East as this would give them free rein to totally dominate all of the Asian Countries. Also it would give China the green light to enforce their will over all of the South China Sea and to invade Taiwan. As I said, just trying to get you to think.

At Least 6 Dead and 76 Still Missing in Taiwan After Earthquake

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

By TAIJING WU / AP

12:30 PM EST

(HUALIEN, Taiwan) — Rescuers worked Wednesday to free people trapped after a strong earthquake near Taiwan’s east coast caused several buildings to cave in and tilt dangerously. At least six people were killed and 76 could not be contacted following the quake.

At least four midsized buildings in worst-hit Hualien county leaned at sharp angles, their lowest floors crushed into mangled heaps of concrete, glass, iron and other debris. Firefighters climbed ladders hoisted against windows to reach residents inside apartments.

The shifting of the buildings after the magnitude 6.4 quake late Tuesday night was likely caused by soil liquefaction, when the ground beneath a building loses its solidity under stress such as that caused by an earthquake.

A maintenance worker who was rescued after being trapped in the basement of the Marshal Hotel said the force of the earthquake was unusual even for a region used to temblors.

“At first it wasn’t that big … we get this sort of thing all the time and it’s really nothing. But then it got really terrifying,” the worker, Chen Ming-hui, told Taiwan’s official Central News Agency after he was reunited with his son and grandson following the quake. “It was really scary.”

Two employees of the hotel were killed in the disaster, CNA said. Taiwan’s National Fire Agency said rescuers freed another employee from the rubble.

Other buildings slanted at alarming degrees and rescuers used ladders, ropes and cranes to move residents to safety.

Six people were killed in the quake, while 256 others were injured and 76 unaccounted for, according to the fire agency. CNA reported that seven had been killed.

The force of the tremor buckled roads and disrupted electricity and water supplies to thousands of households, the fire agency said.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said nine Japanese were among the injured. Six mainland Chinese were also injured, the Chinese Communist Party-run People’s Daily reported.

Rescuers focused on the Yunmen Tsuiti residential building that was tilted at a nearly 45-degree angle, erecting long steel beams to prevent it from collapsing.

Concrete blocks were laid on the steel rods to anchor them. Half a dozen excavator trucks surrounded the site, where rescue efforts were temporarily suspended because the building was “sliding,” according to Taiwan’s Central Emergency Operation Center.

More than a hundred rescue workers were around the building, including military personnel and volunteers who were distributing food and hot drinks. Away from the disaster area, the atmosphere in the city was calm as rain beat down on largely deserted streets.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen moved to reassure the Taiwanese public that every effort would be made to rescue survivors. In a post on her official Facebook page, Tsai said she arrived in Hualien on Wednesday to review rescue efforts.

Tsai said she “ordered search and rescue workers not to give up on any opportunity to save people, while keeping their own safety in mind.”

“This is when the Taiwanese people show their calm, resilience and love,” she wrote. “The government will work with everyone to guard their homeland.”

Bridges and some highways along Taiwan’s east coast were closed pending inspections.

With aftershocks continuing to hit after the quake, residents were directed to shelters, including a newly built baseball stadium, where beds and hot food were provided.

Speaking from a crisis center in Taipei, Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung said rail links appeared to be unaffected and the runway at Hualien airport was intact.

“We’re putting a priority on Hualien people being able to return home to check on their loved ones,” Hsu said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck just before midnight Tuesday about 21 kilometers (13 miles) northeast of Hualien at a relatively shallow depth of about 10.6 kilometers (6.6 miles).

Taiwan has frequent earthquakes due to its position along the “Ring of Fire,” the seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

Exactly two years earlier, a magnitude 6.4 quake collapsed an apartment complex in southern Taiwan, killing 115 people. Five people involved in the construction of the complex were later found guilty of negligence and given prison sentences.

A magnitude 7.6 quake in central Taiwan killed more than 2,300 people in 1999.

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A 6.4-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Off Taiwan’s East Coast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN, AND GOOGLE MAPS)

 

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake strikes off Taiwan’s coast

Magnitude 6.4 earthquake hits Taiwan 01:38

(CNN)A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck off the east coast of Taiwan just before midnight Tuesday local time, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The quake was centered in East China Sea about 21 kilometers north-northeast of Hualien City. Light shaking was felt in the capital of Taipei, about 120 kilometers north of Hualien City, according to reports sent to the USGS.
The USGS estimates a low likelihood of causalities and damage. There is no tsunami warning at this time.
A 5.1 aftershock also hit Hualien City shortly after the larger earthquake, according to USGS. There have been several other strong quakes in the area in the last few days.
Cellphone video from Hualien City shows a large building leaning at a dangerously sharp angle as sirens are heard in the background. The video shows people gathering near the building and shining flashlights on windows.
Laura Lo, a worker at the 7-Eleven convenience store across the street from the Marshal Hotel, told CNN that the first and second floors of the hotel appeared to be severely damaged.
Her store also suffered broken glass from the quake, she said. Lo said she can see police officers conducting rescue operations at the Marshal Hotel and that the roads in the area are closed.
An employee at the Park City Hotel down the street told CNN that he felt the quake but there is no damage at his location.
Epicenter of quake
Map data ©2018 Google, ZENRIN
Margaret K. Lewis, a Seton Hall University Law School professor currently living in Taipei, said she felt prolonged swaying at her modern high-rise apartment building in Beitou District, in the northern part of the city.
“Nothing broken, and two children slept peacefully through the event. We have since felt a few mild aftershocks,” Lewis said in an email. “Nerves are jangled, but otherwise all appears well. I have not been outside to look for damage, but my expectation is that my area is generally fine.”

China’s Leadership Will Never Tolerate Anyone Being Truthful

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWSPAPER ‘SHINE’)

(CHINA’S COMMUNIST PARTY LEADERSHIP WILL NEVER TOLERATE ANYONE WHO DARES SPEAK ‘THE TRUTH’)(trs) 

China probes foreign companies labeling China’s territories as independent countries

Reuters

China’s aviation authority on Friday demanded an apology from Delta Air Lines for listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website, while another government agency took aim at Inditex-owned fashion brand Zara and medical device maker Medtronic Plc for similar issues.

The moves follow a regulator’s decision on Thursday to suspend Marriott International Inc’s Chinese website for a week to punish the world’s biggest hotel chain for listing Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries in a customer questionnaire.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China asked Delta to investigate the listing of Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website, and called for an “immediate and public” apology.

The aviation authority also said it would require all foreign airlines operating routes to China to conduct comprehensive investigations of their websites, apps and customer-related information and “strictly comply with China’s laws and regulations to prevent a similar thing from happening.”

In a statement, Delta apologized for making “an inadvertent error with no business or political intention,” saying it recognized the seriousness of the issue and had taken steps to resolve it.

Separately, the same regulator that penalized Marriott – the Shanghai branch of the state cyberspace administration – accused Zara of placing Taiwan in a pull-down list of countries on its Chinese website.

Medtronic had also put “Republic of China (Taiwan)” on one of its websites, the office said in a WeChat post.

Medtronic issued an apology via social media, saying it had updated the website. An executive who answered the phone at Zara’s Shanghai office was not able to immediately comment.

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing on Friday that Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet were all part of China.

“The companies that come to China should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China’s laws, and respect the feelings of the Chinese people. This is the minimum requirement of any company going to another country to carry out business and investment,” he said.

Taiwanese Say Taiwan Representation at China’s National Congress Was Simply Beijing Propaganda

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Many Taiwanese Say Taiwan Representation at China’s National Congress Was Simply Beijing Propaganda

Taiwan-born delegate of 19th CCP Congress, Lu Li’an. Chinese state-owned Xinhua photo.

Mainland China and Taiwan have a rocky relationship. Taiwan is a de facto political entity that has operated independently from mainland China since 1949, when the Kuomintang forces were defeated by the Communists in the civil war and retreated to Taiwan. Beijing has never recognized Taiwan’s independent status and vows to one day “reunite” China and reclaim the territory.

So at first glance, it might seem unusual that Beijing arranges for Taiwan representatives to attend the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) every five years.

However, the presence of Taiwan delegates at the event is intended as a political demonstration of Beijing’s “one China” principle. In the past, these so-called Taiwan representatives were born in mainland China.

In a break with tradition, the chosen Taiwan delegate at the 19th National Congress held in October 2017, Lu Li’an, was actually born and educated in Taiwan — before she went to China to work as a professor.

Nevertheless, many Taiwanese saw her participation as inane, given that Taiwan is not ruled by China, and a political move meant to pressure Taiwan into accepting Beijing’s understanding of the “one China” principle and suppressing the pro-independence movements in Taiwan.

Since Taiwan has been colonized by different countries throughout its history, Taiwanese defectors are not unheard of. Lu is not the first person (and will not be the last one) leveraged like this. Yifu Lin, for example, who served as the chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank from 2008 to 2012, swam to mainland China in 1979 when he was a military officer in Taiwan.

While Lu’s presence at the CCP’s National Congress was largely considered a joke in Taiwan, it did touch on the the serious issue of nationality for Taiwanese working in China. Taiwanese law prohibits  Taiwanese from establishing a residence or holding a Chinese passport, or taking positions in the CCP, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, or the Chinese civil service. Given that Lu holds a Chinese passport and became a delegate at the CCP’s National Congress, the Taiwan government decided to revoke her citizenship.

At the same time, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau also announced that they will examine the status of another 19 Taiwanese who have taken positions in the CCP or the People’s Liberation Army.

‘If you upset Taiwanese before you join the [CCP], what use are you’?

To further fire up the discussions in Taiwan, two Taiwanese graduate students from Beijing University publicly declared that they wanted to join the CCP not long after the National Congress.

One of them did so in a letter published on Guancha, an online news and comments aggregator. In it, he claimed that he wants to join the CCP because speech freedom is limited, thought is monopolized, and democracy is controlled by a few people in Taiwan.

The student’s letter was widely condemned in Taiwan, given that Taiwan is ranked 45 and China is ranked 176 in 2017 World Press Freedom Index and Taiwanese voted to choose their president and legislators directly.

Given that Beijing’s goal is to eventually regain control over Taiwan, Joyce Yen, the founder of publishing house Ars Longa Press, explained on Facebook that these two students won’t benefit the CCP like Lu does:

Please notice that [Lu Li’an] did not apply to be a delegate. It is Sha Hailin, the director of the United Front Work Department in Shanghai, who introduced her for this position.
To be chosen as an example for this position, her outlook and communication skills are seriously evaluated.
Regarding those two Taiwanese students who claimed to join the Chinese Communist Party, aside from their background, their outlook and communication skills are too far below the standard. Do they think that the Communist Party would like you only because you say good things about it?
Wrong answer! […] If you upset Taiwanese before you join the Chinese Communist Party, what use are you to their United Front?

The United Front Work Department is one of five departments directly under the CCP’s Central Committee which orchestrates soft power policies at home and abroad. It has a bureau that works on the “one country, two systems” political relationship between China and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao, and recruits the pro-China Taiwanese.

Yi-Luo People, a mainland Chinese exchange student in Taiwan, argued on Facebookthat the Taiwan-born Beijing University students were motivated by material interest to denounce Taiwan:

When they say they are selling Taiwan, it is actually Taiwan’s independence movement on sale. When the pro-independence movement in Taiwan becomes stronger, Beijing will pay more and more to build up a united front in Taiwan.

[Quote from the writer’s letter to local media outlet] “As a Henan-born Chinese, it is obvious that I cannot get what they get from the Chinese Communist Party even if I shamelessly sell out my homeland. It is the same for anyone born in Beijing, Shanghai, Sichuan, or Guangdong. What Taiwanese differ from us is that Taiwan is a de facto independent country and has its own government, military, and diplomatic interactions with those Euro-American countries no matter how Beijing claims it to be part of China.’

‘I love Taiwan, and I love China as my home country, too.’

Putting border politics aside, the controversy surrounding Lu has put many Taiwanese in a difficult situation. While neither Taiwan nor China allows dual citizenship, quite a number of Taiwanese working in mainland China or couples married across the Taiwan Strait have attained citizenship in China. If they are forced to choose between the two, they must either give up their work in mainland China or conform to Chinese patriotic sentiment, which expects a person to love the country more than their homeland.

Even CCP delegate Lu Li’an faced criticism from mainland Chinese patriots when she told a Taiwanese reporter during the CCP Congress that “I love Taiwan, and I love China as my home country, too.” Her answer was viewed by some mainland Chinese as “politically incorrect”. A Weibo user called “Lazy-fish-play-in-Weibo” explained the logic of Lu’s critics:

People who [criticized Lu’s answer], Lu’s response “I love Taiwan, and I love China too” does not sound right. They don’t like the word “too” because they interpreted “too” as the second place. Which means she had not put China in the first place. Secondly, she seems to separate Taiwan from China. […] This author even prepared a model answer for her. S/he suggested Lu say, “I love China, and I love Taiwan as part (or a province) of China, [or] I also love Taiwan because it belongs to China.”

After Tsai Ing-Wen, who is the leader of Taiwan’s pro-independence party, won the presidential election in 2016, Beijing cut off diplomatic dialogue with the Taiwanese government and pressured other countries to end their relations. On the other hand, China’s United Front Work Department has tried very hard to win support from elites in Taiwan. Recently, China’s Fujian Province claimed to open 1,000 positions in universities for Taiwanese academics to apply. To apply or not to apply for the positions — the choice will be both personal and political.

Taiwan should model itself on western welfare states?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘FOCUS TAIWAN’ AND THE BLOG OF ANDY TAI)

 

BACK TO LIST

Taiwan should model itself on western welfare states: democracy pioneer

2017/11/19 22:44:33

Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), the key figure that triggered the “Zhongli Incident” against ballot-rigging in 1977, hopes Taiwan can be a western Europe-style welfare state.

He expressed his sincere hope as he recently marked the 40 anniversary of Taiwan’s first mass demonstration since martial law was imposed in 1949.

Then a rising star in the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), Hsu broke ranks to run for magistrate of then Taoyuan County amid burgeoning opposition to one-party rule.

On the election day on Nov. 19, a large-scale riot broke out in Zhongli of Taoyuan after a voter reported witnessing the KMT rigging the ballot, culminating in the protesters setting fire on the Zhongli police station.

The KMT authorities responded to the protest with brutal force, resulting in two civilian deaths. The incident that eventually forced the KMT to accept the victory of Hsu was often seen as a “watershed” in Taiwan’s democratic development.

In a recent interview with the CNA, Hsu said that after three decades of efforts, Taiwan is now a democracy that enjoys freedom and openness and what it should pursue next is “economic democracy” because “the essence of democracy is equality.”

Taiwan should set its sights on establishing a social welfare system like those adopted in Western Europe countries to develop a humane and just society based on the principles of equal opportunity and progressive value, Hsu said.

To achieve the goals, the Democratic Progressive Party administration and whoever is in power in the future should provide adequate care for people through social welfare programs based on the respect for human rights, he added.

Turning to cross-strait relations, Hsu, who serves as chairman of Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies, a government-affiliated think tank, said that making Taiwan better in terms of the wellbeing of the people and the value it embraces, would “exert a positive influence on the development of China.”

Sponsored by the KMT to pursue a master degree in the U.K., Hsu said he was deeply influenced by the student movements around the world in the 1960s when he studied political philosophy at the University of Edinburgh from 1967 to 1969.

Being able to witness firsthand the civil rights movements and the fight for democracy, freedom and human rights made him feel ashamed of himself and forced him to do things for Taiwan and his generation, Hsu said.

“I was lucky to see that the hard work so many people had done has eventually come to fruition 40 years later,” Hsu added.

Hsu said that he was drawn into the study of the European common market, the predecessor of the European Union set up in 1957 by France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, when he studied in the U.K. — when whether the U.K. should join the market was heatedly debated.

Hsu said that his views on cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China can also be traced back to what he had learned from the history of Europe.

“Is the problem between Taiwan and China more difficult to solve than the feud between France and Germany? No, it’s not. Then why can’t Taiwan and China collaborate with each other to make the world more equitable and humane?” Hsu said.

(By Wu Jui-chi, Fan Cheng-hsiang and Shih Hsiu-chuan)
Enditem/sc

 

 

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