Taiwan is a Nation of Mature, Consolidated Democracy

(FOLKS THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TAIWAN’S ‘THE LIBERTY.COM’ NEWS AGENCY)

 

Taiwan is a Nation of Mature, Consolidated Democracy

An Interview with Dr. Lo Chih-cheng, the Democratic Progressive Party Legislator in Taiwan

 

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Lo Chih-cheng

Taiwanese politician, Legislator, Director for the Department of International Affairs, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Associate professor of Political Science at Soochow University.

Last year Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was elected as the president of Taiwan. This made big changes from the previous government. The former president Ma Ing-jong (馬英九) and his Chinese Nationalist Party government was relatively close to the Chinese Communist Party in China. Regarding the “One China” policy, there remains some controversy among the U.S., China and Taiwan. The following interview with Dr. Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) will benefit us for a better understanding of these issues. He is in charge of international affairs for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

 

The Meaning of Peaceful Transition of Power

Interviewer: How did you see the change of government in Taiwan last year? It was a transition from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT or Kuomintang) to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Lo: This is the third time we had a peaceful transition of power from one party to another. In 2000, we had a transition from the KMT to the DPP. In 2008, we had the DPP to the KMT. Now we are coming back to power. So, this is further evidence of consolidation of democracy in Taiwan. In other words, democracy is the rule of the game. That is, whoever is in power has to respect the will of the people. That’s very important. That makes a big difference between Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Hong Kong as well. Democracy is a very important mechanism for making policies in Taiwan, such as the Cross Strait policy, foreign policies or even defence policies. When it comes to the future of Taiwan, everybody including the leaders in parties will have to respect the will of the people. Taiwan now has a mature, consolidated democracy.

Secondly, we are in absolute control of the government. Last time, the DPP administration did not control the majority in the legislature. This time, we control the Executive Branch and also the Legislative Branch. So in general, we can get things done all by ourselves.

Thirdly, there is a difference between the first time in power and the second time. For the past eight years from 2008 to 2016, the KMT was in power and created a situation that was quite unique from the previous DPP administration. Taiwan had become very dependent on China, economically, politically and even militarily. That’s a new situation.

When Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was in power, the interaction between Taiwan and China was very limited in general. We didn’t have that kind of dependency. As a matter of fact, when the Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) administration was in power, their policy was “no haste, be patient, go slow”. But when Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was in power, they very much depended on China. That puts our DPP administration in a much more difficult situation, because we hadn’t reversed this kind of dependency on China. That’s quite a different situation. We should not depend too much on China.

 

Mr. Lee, a NGO Activist Caught in China

Interviewer: Regarding China, there was an incident in March where Mr. Lee Ming-cheh (李哲明), a human rights activist, disappeared in China. He was also known as a former DPP worker.

Lo: Unfortunately Mr. Lee, a NGO activist, has been caught in China. So far, we have very limited information about his whereabouts and situation. This is further evidence that China is not a democratic country and not under the rule of law. More importantly, that will damage the mutual trust between Taiwan and China. Some Western media – the U.S. media and the European media – covered the story. I don’t know how much coverage you have in Japan.

Interviewer: I think there are very few.

Lo: I don’t think that kind of thing just happened to Taiwan. It happened to Hong Kong. That could also happen to other countries. I don’t think it’s an isolated case only for the Taiwanese people to pay attention to. It’s an incident that everybody living in free democratic countries should pay close attention to. In the past, when the DPP was in power, there was a direct hot line between our government and the counterparts in China. But when this was took place, the hot line was cut off. So, there was no direct contact. The very purpose of having the hot line is that when there was an incident, we could connect ourselves to solve the problem. But the opposite is happening. That’s an unfortunate development.

 

The U.S-Taiwan Relation in the Trump Administration

Interviewer: What is your view on U.S-Taiwan relations? Last December, the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had a phone call with Trump. That was a surprising move.

Lo: First of all, the direct phone call that happened last December was between President Tsai and President-elect Trump. That was a very unique development. After President Trump was sworn in, that kind of phone call with a direct hot line did not happen again. We know the situation is quite tough and Trump needs cooperation from China, so they want to play down the importance of this kind of direct hot line between our president and her counterpart in the United States. Having said that, our direct contacts between our representatives and his counterparts in the United States are very direct and personal. We do have a very solid, robust relationship between Taiwan and the United States.

Interviewer: In June, the Trump Administration approved a 1 billion dollar arms sale to Taiwan.

Lo: The arms sale package is a very good case in point. We welcome the arms sale to Taiwan. That’s a very important decision. The timing of the decision was very important, because there were rumours about the U.S. Navy postponing it. According to the reports, the U.S. had concerns about a possible reaction from China. I think obviously, the U.S. cared too much about any possible negative response from China. As a matter of fact, after the announcement of the arms sale package, China did not react too strongly about it. So, we hope this deal can be implemented very smoothly. More importantly, we hope that our defence cooperation can be further enhanced.

The U.S. Congress has passed several resolutions. For instance, the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), encouraged the interaction between our high-level defence officials and their counterparts in the United States. So, that’s a good development. That’s also up to the administration to decide how to implement the NDAA. Let’s just wait and see. When it comes to the relationship with the United States, it takes two to tango. Our goal is to increase interactions between the two countries – to enhance our ties. But it is also up to the United States to respond to our requests.

There are two general questions about the future of the U.S. policy towards Taiwan in particular and to Asia in general. We don’t know who’s in charge and what Trump’s doctrine is. The people in charge change very quickly. They just changed the Chief of Staff. Who’s in charge of the East Asian policy? We don’t know. When it comes to daily operations, we need someone in charge in that particular position.

 

The Differences of the “One China” Policy Between the U.S and China

Interviewer: After conversation between Tsai and Trump, the “One China” policy became controversial again. There are different views between the U.S and China.

Lo: There’s a big difference between the “One China” policy and the “One China” principle. China insists on the so-called “One China” principle. According to that principle, Taiwan’s a part of the PRC. That’s something we can’t accept. The U.S. “One China” policy has some ambiguities. There’s some room for developing the idea that Taiwan is an independent country. The very reason that the U.S. can maintain military ties with Taiwan is because of this One China policy. It is somewhat ambiguous.

At some point in time, according to President Trump, the so-called One China policy isn’t negotiable. If that’s the case, we do have concerns about that. So, Taiwan doesn’t want to be bound by the One China policy. Taiwan wants to be separated from these interactions between the two big powers. We hope to develop a very solid, robust relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. regardless of what happened between the U.S. and China. But obviously China always wants to bring Taiwan into the dialogues between the U.S. and China.

Interviewer: On a January article for The Wall Street Journal, John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., advocated that the U.S. army should station in Taiwan.

Lo: When John Bolton said that, he was not in the government. He said that because he was a scholar who had freedom of speech. He’s a very good friend of Taiwan. He has been very supportive of Taiwan. So, we appreciate those kinds of comments. But when it comes to actual policies, I don’t think that kind of policy is feasible in the near future. Of course, there were rumours last year that he may be joining the government. At the end of the day, we haven’t seen that yet.

 

Rising China’s Strategy Against Taiwan

Interviewer: Last year there was another incident. Chinese fighter jets circled Taiwan.

Lo: China is becoming stronger economically and militarily. China would definitely show their muscles to their neighbouring countries that they are stronger. Sending their aircraft carriers and their fighter jets to circle Taiwan is evidence to show that they can kick Taiwan into orbit. They don’t want Taiwan to lead the way from their sphere of influence.

Secondly, if there’s a military crisis in the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan is always hoping that we can sustain our survivability until other countries, especially the United States, come to our assistance. The China’s strategy is the Anti-Access Area-Denial (A2/AD). Circling Taiwan is the way to show that they have the A2/AD capabilities. That’s reasonable.

Thirdly, the Taiwan Strait is an international waters for freedom of navigation for all the ships. But to send aircraft carriers and fighter jets to circle Taiwan is the way the Chinese are hoping to show the world that the Taiwan Strait is in their sea and that it’s not international waters. It is a symbolic and political gesture.

Finally, it’s one way to substantiate their One China policy or One China principle. Taiwan will never accept the so-called One China principle. But China wants to show the world that there’s de facto One China principle, “Taiwan is a part of China” and “It is under our control”. Although it is very symbolic, it’s quite important for China.

 

The Disputed Island in the South China Sea

Interviewer: Last year, the Taiping Island in the South China Sea was disputed at the International Tribunal court of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. After its ruling denied Taiwan’s claim, you paid a visit. Could you give us tips on how to defend territorial rights?

Lo: It’s quite easy because we already control the island. We have controlled it for decades. We sent our marine guards. We continuously occupy and control it. There’s no way that other countries can ignore our actual occupation and control of it. There’s no way that we need to prove further that we have the territorial rights on the Taiping Island.

But when it comes to other islands, we claim that issues should be settled in a very peaceful way. We don’t want to use force to solve the problem. So, we are urging all the neighbouring claimant countries that we should put aside our differences. But unfortunately, when China and other claimant countries talk about the Code of Conduct in South China Sea, Taiwan has not been invited although we occupy the biggest island in the area. Taiwan is not even consulted about the issue. That’s a very unfortunate development, because Taiwan is a very important claimant of those disputed islands.

 

Disappearing Freedom in Hong Kong

Interviewer: What do you think of the situation in Hong Kong on the human rights issue? In July, the memorial event was held there.

Lo: When Beijing introduced the “One Country, Two Systems”, the goal was to make it appeal to the people in Taiwan. It’s the very reason that China used Hong Kong as a model for Taiwan. When China began to realize there was no use of using the Hong Kong model, then the importance of Hong Kong started disappearing. That’s why Beijing is tightening their control there for freedom of the press, freedom of association and so on. That’s why they began to wage some of the demonstrations on the streets.

A lot of people learned what happened in Taiwan for the past few decades. You start with the opposition movement and the opposition party. Then, you have this kind of democratic transition of power. Hong Kong is quite different. It is already controlled by China. It is a part of China. There’s not much room that can be negotiated about the future of Hong Kong. That’s why there are more and more Hong Kong people immigrating to Taiwan. They can enjoy much more freedom and democracy in Taiwan.

 

Japan and Taiwan Share Common Interests

Interviewer: What do you think the Japan-Taiwan relation should be like? The Japanese government has not recognized Taiwan as a nation.

Lo: On the bilateral relation between Taiwan and Japan, we have to start with the discussion about the nature of our relationship. I have to say that Taiwan and Japan are natural partners. We are facing many similar challenges. We have many common interests. For instance, Taiwan and Japan are both democracies. We share some of the philosophies behind our democracies, human rights, freedom, free market economy, etc. So, the two nations share some universal values. That’s a very important foundation for our bilateral relationship.

Secondly, there is a historical connection between Taiwan and Japan. We were under the colonial rule of Japan for fifty years, but there are some legacies of this kind of historical connection, for better or for worse. Especially for the older generations, people feel connected to Japan when something happens. For instance, when the tsunami and the earthquake happened in Japan, Taiwanese mobilized themselves to give some support to their Japanese friends. When asked which is the most friendly country to the Taiwanese, Japan is the number one country. The same thing can be said about the Japanese. So, we have this kind of strong people to people connection.

Both Japan and Taiwan are facing a rising China. I’m not saying that China is a threat already, but China’s increase in power in the region has put pressures on both of them. Japan and Taiwan cannot fight against the rising China by themselves. We need cooperation and coordination between the two countries in the face of the rising China. That’s very important. We have come up with a strategic interest. Having said that, we know there are some political obstacles, difficulties that we need to overcome to fully enhance our relationship.

Japan doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country in all the difficulties, in all the impossibilities. Short of this formal diplomatic recognition, there are so many things that can be done. In other words, why don’t we try our best to enhance our de facto ties between the two countries? For instance, military cooperation between the two sides. We probably can’t come to the point of a direct, joint military exercise. There is no way for now. Some sort of dialogue between our two militaries should be feasible. Probably not in public, but at least in private. As you know, Taiwan and the United States have all levels of dialogue. Starting from strategic dialogue, defence dialogue, arms sale dialogue or people to people, and military to military on a daily basis.

We don’t have that kind of thing between Taiwan and Japan. For us, we have no reservation about having this kind of dialogue. It is Japan that is more reluctant or more reserved about having this kind of dialogue. Of course, you would be under a lot of pressure from China. However, it’s about common national interests. We have overlapped national interests. So, if that is the right thing to do, we should do it. We can start with the engagement of dialogues between the two governments and the two militaries. It will require a very strong political will to do it. We do have the political will to do it. We know there’s subtlety of doing these kinds of things. We need substantial cooperation between the two countries. We should get the things done in a more substantial way.

 

How to Deal with North Korea

Interviewer: My last question is on North Korea. Kim Jong-un is continuously launching ICBMs especially in recent months.

Lo: First of all, we welcome Japan to play a more proactive role in the regional security issues. Secondly, we welcome the enhancement of the relationship between the U.S. and Japan. We welcome Japan being proactive in many regional issues. As you know, China has always been very proactive in setting some agendas in the region. In the past, you had several Six-Party Talks to solve the North Korea nuclear issue. But now they have gone.

I think the Trump administration has a very naive expectation from China to help them to solve the North Korean issue. Personally, I don’t think China is sincere in helping other countries such as Japan, South Korea and the U.S., because North Korea is China’s bargaining chip. What China really wants is to contain the situation. They don’t want the escalation of crisis, but I don’t think they will help us to solve the problem. North Korea is a troublemaker. However, once the problem is solved, China will not have this bargaining chip.

Interviewer: What do you think our next move should be?

Lo: Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and Taiwan should intensify their dialogues to come up with a coordinated strategy towards North Korea. North Korea’s and China’s policy is always the “divide and defeat” strategy – “divide and conquer” strategy. They want to divide the alliance countries, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. That will give them room for manoeuvring. If they can come up with an orchestrated, coordinated policy and work together with a unified position, then I don’t think North Korea can have anything to play with.

But that’s not happening now. Trump is talking to China directly, bypassing Japan and South Korea. Trump did not consult its allies before then. They think China is the only country that can help the U.S. solve the problem. I don’t think that’s the case. The U.S., Japan and South Korea should come up with a coordinated policy in a unified position. That is the only way you can counter them.

Emboldened China Wields Its Laws to Silence Critics From Abroad

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND ANDY TAI’S GOOGLE PLUS WEB SITE)

 

Asia Pacific

Emboldened China Wields Its Laws to Silence Critics From Abroad

By STEVEN LEE MYERS and CHRIS HORTON

BEIJING — On the morning he disappeared, the activist Lee Ming-cheh crossed from Macau into mainland China to meet with democracy advocates.

It was 177 days later when he reappeared in public, standing in the dock of a courtroom in central China last week, confessing to a conspiracy to subvert the Communist Party by circulating criticism on social media.

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Lee’s detainment remain murky, but what has made the case stand out from the many that the Chinese government brings against its critics is that Mr. Lee is not a citizen of China, but rather of Taiwan, the self-governing island over which Beijing claims sovereignty.

The proceedings against Mr. Lee, who is expected to be sentenced as soon as this week, punctuated what critics have warned are China’s brazen efforts to extend the reach of its security forces to stifle what it perceives as threats to its power emanating from overseas.

In recent months alone, China has sought the extradition of ethnic Uighur studentsstudying overseas in Egypt and carried out the cinematic seizure of a billionaire from a Hong Kong hotel in violation of an agreement that allows the former British colony to run its own affairs. The billionaire, Xiao Jianhua, now appears to be a material witness in another politically tinged investigation against the Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda.

China abruptly surfaced charges of rape against yet another billionaire, Guo Wengui, after he sought political asylum in the United States, where he has been making sensational accusations about the Communist Party’s leadership. Mr. Guo’s case could become a major test for the Trump administration’s relations with Beijing at a time of tensions over North Korea and trade.

The Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui has sought political asylum in the United States.

JAMES ESTRIN / THE NEW YORK TIMES

“China has been extending its clampdown — its choking of civil society — throughout the world, and often it is attempting this through official channels such as the U.N. or Interpol,” said Michael Caster, a rights campaigner who was a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group. “Unfortunately, they’re very adept at doing it.”

The Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, which provided seminars for lawyers and legal aid for defendants in China, folded last year after the country’s powerful Ministry of State Security arrested and held Mr. Caster’s colleague, Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen, for 23 days.

Mr. Caster noted that Interpol’s president, Meng Hongwei, is a veteran of China’s state security apparatus. Human Rights Watch recently reported that China was blocking the work of United Nations agencies investigating rights issues and preventing critics from testifying at hearings, including in one case the leader of the World Uyghur Congress, Dolkun Isa.

China’s economic and diplomatic clout has meant that few countries are willing or able to do much to challenge its extraterritorial legal maneuvers. Some have even gone along.

And countries as varied as Armenia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kenya, Spain and Vietnam have all extradited to China scores of people accused in a spate of telephone swindles targeting Chinese citizens, even though the suspects are, like Mr. Lee, citizens of Taiwan.

“Treating Lee Ming-cheh as a mainland Chinese marks a major watershed,” said Hsiao I-Min, a lawyer at the Judicial Reform Foundation in Taiwan, who accompanied Mr. Lee’s wife from Taiwan to attend the trial.

Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen, was arrested in China and held for 23 days last year.

ADAM DEAN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Mr. Lee’s case has added new strain in relations with Taiwan, which have soured since the election last year of a new president, Tsai Ing-wen. China has cut off official communications with Ms. Tsai’s government over her refusal to voice support for what Beijing calls the “1992 consensus,” which holds that the mainland and Taiwan are both part of the same China but leaves each side to interpret what that means.

In response to Mr. Lee’s legal odyssey, Ms. Tsai’s government has been relatively muted. “Our consistent position on this case is that we will do everything in our power to ensure his safe return while protecting the dignity of the nation,” said a spokesman for the presidential administration, Alex Huang.

China and Taiwan had in recent years cooperated on criminal investigations under a protocol that required each to notify the other in cases involving the arrests of its citizens. The Chinese government has recently abandoned such diplomatic niceties, officials in Taiwan say.

Taiwan’s government was notified of Mr. Lee’s arrest only when the public was — 10 days after his detainment in March near Macau, the former Portuguese colony that, like Hong Kong, is a special administrative region of China with its own legal system.

Whatever the veracity of his courtroom confession, Mr. Lee, 42, assumed enormous risk to make contact with rights campaigners inside China. A manager at Wenshan Community College in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, Mr. Lee volunteered for a rights organization called Covenants Watch and often traveled to the mainland.

Mr. Lee’s wife, Lee Ching-yu, learned his case had come to a head when a state-appointed lawyer contacted her this month. She only found out about his court appearance last week in Yueyang, in the southern province of Hunan, from news reports that circulated two days later, according to Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International.

According to excerpts released by the Yueyang Intermediate People’s Court, Mr. Lee entered a guilty plea. He appeared with a Chinese co-defendant, Peng Yuhua, and together they were accused of trying to organize protests using the social media platforms WeChat and QQ, as well as Facebook, which is banned here.

Mr. Lee told the court that watching Chinese state television during his prolonged detention convinced him that he had been deceived by Taiwan’s free news media and was wrong about China’s political system. “These incorrect thoughts led me to criminal behavior,” he said.

Mr. Hsiao, the lawyer from Taiwan, said none of Mr. Lee’s acquaintances had heard of the co-defendant. Mr. Peng testified that together they had established chat groups online and formed a front organization, the Plum Blossom Company, with the aim of fomenting change. Mr. Hsiao said that no such company existed.

“He was a fake,” Mr. Hsiao said of Mr. Peng. “This guy does not really exist. He was playing a role.”

Ms. Lee, too, denounced her husband’s trial as a farce. “Today the world and I together witnessed political theater, as well as the differences between the core beliefs of Taiwan and China,” she said at her hotel in Yueyang, adding that the “norms of expression in Taiwan are tantamount to armed rebellion in China.”

Mr. Lee’s case has echoes of the fate of five booksellers in Hong Kong, four of whom who were spirited out of the semiautonomous city in the fall of 2015 after publishing gossipy material about Chinese political intrigues, which, while legal in Hong Kong, is not in China.

One bookseller, Lee Bo, is a British citizen. Another, Gui Minhai, is a naturalized Swedish citizen; he vanished from his seaside apartment in Pattaya, Thailand, in October 2015 and returned to China in a manner that has not been fully explained. He appeared on state television in January 2016 and said he had voluntarily returned to face punishment for a fatal car accident in 2003. He remains in prison.

“What happened to my father is a much larger issue,” Mr. Gui’s daughter, Angela Gui, who has been campaigning for his release, wrote in an email. “It shows that foreign citizens aren’t safe from Chinese state security, even when they are outside China’s borders. I find it strange that governments aren’t more worried about China’s new self-proclaimed role as world police.”

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Two criminal cases — one in China, one in Taiwan Show Huge Differences In Legal Systems

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

Two criminal cases — one in China, one in Taiwan — show a deeper rift between the political systems

Ralph Jennings

Courts in China and Taiwan, rivals for 70 years, each took a criminal state-security case this week involving a suspect from the other side, and outcomes so far are baring schisms between the political systems that will complicate already strained relations.

A court in China’s Hunan province heard the case Monday against Lee Ming-che, a Taiwanese activist charged with subversion of state power. He faces 10 years in a Chinese prison if convicted of using social media since 2012 to advocate multiparty democracy for the Communist country.

On Friday, the district court in Taipei sentenced Chinese national Zhou Hongxu to 14 months in prison for endangering state security. The 29-year-old MBA holder tried to bribe a government worker to pass information to China, a court statement says.

These cases are reminders of the festering divide between Taiwan — with its 30-year democracy — and China’s Communist rule. In Taiwan, it raises support for its autonomy from Beijing and frustrates China’s goal of uniting the two lands. China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan.

“These cases will remind people China’s not a free country ruled by law — maybe politically motivated — and people will ask the government here how to handle that,” said Gratiana Jung, senior political researcher with the Taipei think tank Yuanta-Polaris Research Institute.

Lee, a 42-year-old philosophy major who went missing on a trip to China in March, would not face prosecution in Taiwan for advocating a different type of government. China, however, regards vocal democracy advocates as threats to Communist rule.

“This is an issue about which the [Communist] Party is hyper-sensitive and maximally heavy-handed,” said Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West Center think tank in Honolulu. “Mr. Lee unfortunately walked into a merciless buzz saw.”

The hearing, which produced video footage shown outside court, could worry Taiwanese tourists in China as well as the 1 million to 3 million people who live there long term, usually for business, said Shane Lee, political scientist with Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan. “I think it’s getting harder and harder to see why these things happen,” he said.

The Chinese spy case, though hardly a first for the two sides, could stir concern that Beijing is trying to undermine Taiwan further during a low point in overall relations.

China resents Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen for rejecting Beijing’s condition for dialogue. That condition holds that both sides belong to a single country called China. China sees dialogue, which happened regularly from 2008 to 2015, as a conduit to eventual unification.

The two sides have been ruled separately since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists rebased in Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war in the 1940s.

“The biggest thing people will take away this week is awareness of the legal process,” Taiwan lawmaker Lee Chun-yi said. The Taiwanese activist’s hearing will be regarded as a “show” rather than a legal process, he said, and “they’ll trust China less.”

The bribery case, he said, raises questions about how many more people like the man sentenced Friday are still operating in Taiwan.

Most Taiwanese have said in government surveys over the past two years they oppose unification with China. Many prefer their democratic freedoms, which China cannot offer.

Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House gave China a score of 15 and Taiwan a 91 in this year’s rankings of the strongest political rights and civil liberties.

Since Tsai took office in May 2016, Beijing has sent an aircraft carrier near the island about 100 miles away, persuaded two allies to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and scaled back Taiwan-bound tourism.

The Taiwan government’s Mainland Affairs Council, a China policymaking body, anticipated the Lee case would affect relations with China.

“The Mainland Affairs Council appeals to mainland China after today’s court hearing to respond appropriately to the common hope from all circles and carefully act in accordance with universal values as well as trends in the just handling of human rights,” it said in a statement Monday.

The Chinese national’s sentence, about a quarter of the maximum for his crime, will show that Taiwan is not using the case to punish China, analysts say. The Tsai government has avoided directly offending Beijing even as talks have ended in a stalemate.

“It’s a very funny period of time to watch cross-Strait relations,” Shane Lee said, referring to China-Taiwan ties. “We’ve been trying to show goodwill toward China.”

Taiwan Is Suffering From A Massive Brain Drain And The Main Beneficiary Is China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM AND ANDY TAI’S WEBSITE)

 

Taiwan Is Suffering From a Massive Brain Drain and the Main Beneficiary is China

Aug 20, 2017

Money talks. At least it did for Eddie Chen and, presumably, for many of the 420,000 of his Taiwanese compatriots who opted to earn a higher salary by working in mainland China.

Chen, 26, moved from the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, to Beijing in 2014, first to study a Masters on a full scholarship, and then to work in PR for a major international company.

He earns double what he would in his native Taiwan, where starting salaries for graduates have barely risen since the late 1990s. “China has a bigger market and there is more globalization here,” he explains. “Taiwan does not offer many opportunities for young people.”

Official government statistics reveal that by 2015 over 720,000 out of Taiwan’s roughly 10-million strong workforce, 72.5% of them with an undergraduate degree or higher, had moved overseas for better job opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, neighboring China, with its common language, has absorbed the majority.

But it is also actively luring Taiwan’s best talent, contributing to an acute brain drain that not only threatens the Taiwanese economy, but has prompted fears that Beijing, which claims the island as its own territory, is using its economic clout to try to buy political influence.

A recent flow of mainland initiatives to recruit Taiwanese students and entrepreneurs has jangled nerves in the self-ruled democracy that China is expanding efforts to win the loyalty of the younger generation with financial sweeteners, taking advantage of Taiwan’s sluggish economy.

China has targeted Taiwan’s educated elite for years, but a recent uptick in job and education incentives suggests a shift in tactics since cross-strait relations soured over Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s refusal to accept Beijing’s policy that the island of 24 million is part of ‘One China’.

Read more: See Photos From Taiwan’s Famous Rainbow Village

Its attempts to punish Taiwan through international isolation, blocking it from United Nations meetings and poaching from its small remaining pool of diplomatic allies, appears only to have fortified Taiwanese resolve to forge their own identity.

The young in particular identify more acutely with Taiwan as their home country and China as a giant neighboring state. But the long term impact of offering millennials a higher standard of living is hard to predict.

China has made no secret of its belief that financial benefits can, over time, dilute, and eventually displace national identity and advance its unification agenda.

Reports emerged in April that Beijing would appeal to business grass-roots through the All China Federation of Taiwanese Compatriots, led by Wang Yifu, a former advisor to President Xi Jinping on Taiwan.

The plan to offer attractive study and work opportunities was followed this summer by invitations to Taiwanese local leaders and youth groups to mainland camps and cultural activities.

Last month, China’s education ministry announced it would halve the quota of Chinese students in Taiwan while relaxing entrance rules for Taiwanese at mainland universities, fueling suspicion of attempted social engineering.

Taiwan ChinaA tourism-related business worker holds a slogan reading “No Job, No Life.” during a march in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, Sept. 13, 2016.  Chiang Ying-ying—AP

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which oversees cross-strait relations, urged China to “cherish and maintain” educational exchanges, warning against “interference or restrictions.”

It reminded Taiwanese students of “major differences” between the two countries’ education systems.

But politics is the last thing on Ling Kuang-hsuan’s mind as the postgraduate student, 22, excitedly prepares to start a two year Masters course in human resources at Peking university this September.

She believes Peking’s top reputation will improve her job prospects and, like Eddie Chen, she sees her future in China.

“I hope I can stay in China and find a job…Most of my friends also hope that they can work there after they graduate,” Ling adds. “There are many international companies that don’t have a franchise in Taiwan but they do have one in China.”

Her chances are good. China’s major cities offer a thriving scene of multinational companies and lucrative incentives for start-ups.

Read more: Taiwan’s Vice President Talks to TIME About the Global Health Risks Arising From the Island’s Isolation

In 2015, Chinese e-commerce magnate, Jack Ma, announced a $330 million fund for Taiwanese entrepreneurs.

Just last month, the Taipei-based China Times reported an award of almost $400,000 for a business start-up contest for Taiwanese youth in Shanghai.

Chen admits that China’s vibrant business climate lured him back after his studies when he struggled to start a PR company in Taiwan.

“It was easy to start, but not to survive,” he says. “In Taiwan they play more a short term game. They want their investment back soon.”

The Chinese, however, treated him like a “star”, offering an office and financial incentives. “The Chinese government want people to start-up. They want this trend,” he says.

Chen sold his stake in his company to advance his career in a large international firm.

In China, ambitious Taiwanese professionals also find they can progress quicker than they would at home. “Our company is willing to give younger people more of a chance,” says Chen.

China may feel like a foreign country where “we still understand that we are different culturally and politically”, but for now it is Chen’s home. “Taiwan is much more a place for retirement,” he adds.

The roots of Taiwan’s talent deficit lie in its slow export-reliant economy and the failure to make tough reforms to attract foreign investment and to shift from previously successful labor-intensive industries towards high technology and services.

Meanwhile, neighboring China enjoys high growth. In July it reported an annual pace of 6.9% while Taiwan hovers at around 2%.

Job seekers look at job information at an employment fair in Taipei, TaiwanJob seekers look at job information at an employment fair in Taipei, Taiwan on May 28, 2016.  Tyrone Siu—REUTERS 

To add to Taiwan’s woes, graduate salaries have stagnated. In 1999, a university graduate could expect an average monthly salary of around $900. By 2016, this had risen to just $925.

“If China is growing at 6 percent a year and Taiwan is growing at 2 percent a year, which is going to be the most attractive place to go to stake out your career?” asks Michael Zielenziger, Asia expert and a managing editor at Oxford Economics, a U.K.-based economics and research consultancy.

“It’s very difficult for a young, bright Taiwanese student to ignore the bright lights, big city appeal of either China or the States. It’s a challenge to the government to make the country more attractive, to keep people at home and bring them back,” he says.

In 2012, Oxford Economics produced a survey that made the dire prediction that by 2021, Taiwan would have the biggest talent deficit in the world.

“Taiwan comes in poorly for a number of obvious factors. The population is not increasing…It’s getting older,” says Zielenziger.

Read more: ‘If We Patented General Tso’s Chicken, We’d Be Extremely Rich’: Remembering Peng Chang-kuei

Caught in a vicious cycle, low wages have left young people less inclined to start a family, contributing to declining birthrates.

Youth are resentful that Taiwan’s generous state pension system leaves, for example, retired high school teachers on a monthly stipend of around $2,250, while they struggle to make ends meet.

The resulting exodus leaves less workers to support the swelling ranks of the old, pushing the pensions system towards the brink of bankruptcy.

Gordon Sun, director of the forecasting center at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, says the nature of the brain drain is exacerbating Taiwan’s economic troubles.

“They are high level managers, engineers, they are rich, their income is high,” he says.

“Most of their spending or consumption is in China. So in Taiwan our consumption cannot grow,” he argues. “We need them to come back and live here and spend here.”

Shanghai records best month for air quality in five yearsTourists visiting the promenade on the Shanghai Bund take pictures of the Lujiazui Financial District skyline in Pudong, Shanghai, China, on Sept. 26 2016.  Wang Gang—Imaginechina 

But the notion of China presenting itself as the land of opportunity in exchange for Taiwanese loyalty is misguided, believes Taipei-based analyst Michael Cole, a senior fellow at Nottingham University’s China Policy Institute.

Firstly, China has no clear strategy to win over Taiwan. “Right now, they don’t know what to do,” he argues.

“They’ve long been infatuated with notions of economic determinism. They tried that with Tibet and they tried that with Hong Kong to an extent,” Cole says.

“They still don’t seem to realize the pragmatism with which people are dealing with China, in which they recognize the opportunities for their career or for investment, but very rarely does that translate into a shift in self-identification or support for unification.”

Lo Chih-cheng, a legislator with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), agrees that young people will see through attempts to politically manipulate them.

“They want to show especially to young people, that China is their future, and Taiwan has nowhere to go to but to turn to China. That’s their strategy: Taiwan has to depend on China for economic development,” he says.

“I don’t know whether it works or not but I don’t think it will change their identity,” Lo adds. “There is a huge difference between the way of life in Taiwan and China that will reinforce their views about themselves being Taiwanese not Chinese.”

Others are more concerned that the long term impact of offering financial security to an entire generation, could slowly erode resistance to China’s political ambitions.

Unlike Hong Kong, freedom of speech and democracy is not directly under threat for now in Taiwan, giving the young fewer reasons to push back. Taiwanese identity is strong, but willingness to advocate independence less so.

Rex, 36, a Taiwanese banker, moved to Guangzhou, southern China, two years ago as he did not want to lose his job in Taiwan in middle age. “I don’t see a future for my work in Taiwan,” he says.

Read more: Many Young Taiwanese Want to Go to the Olympics With a New Flag and Anthem

He now prefers the dynamism of China compared to the more regulatory business culture at home.

Politics plays little role in Rex’s personal life, but he believes that “Taiwan and the Chinese are going to merge some day in the future, 50 or 100 years from now” for more practical reasons.

“China is just too big and in Taiwan you cannot live without China being involved in your business,” he explains.

For many who opted to stay home, the steady drip of China’s economic influence over those who left has become a touchy subject.

Earlier this year, a Taiwanese man, Jeremy, 25, who works in Shanghai was denounced online as a “communist bandit” after he urged young people to leave and seek a better life overseas.

“I have friends in Taiwan who work inconceivably hard every day. They’re up at 5am and don’t finish up with work until 9 or 10pm at night. And what for? They have no future and no hopes,” he said in a video that went viral.

A tourist from Shanghai, China goes through a health checkup organised by the hospital to promote medical tourism in TaipeiA tourist from Shanghai, China goes through a health checkup organized by a hospital to promote medical tourism in Taipei June 28, 2011.  Pichi Chuang—REUTERS 

Dr Yang Tzu-ting, a research fellow at the Institute of Economics at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, believes that a large Taiwanese labor force in China could “threaten our national security” and encourage some to become advocates for unification.

The best way for the Taiwanese government to counter this is to create better jobs and to boost the services industry, he argues.

An example would be to remove stifling annual quotas on medical training to create a health tourism sector, he says. Another would be to make universities more competitive to prevent academics escaping centralized, and low, wages.

Ross Feingold, a Taipei-based lawyer and public policy analyst, agrees that the Taiwanese government is not doing enough to stem the brain drain.

“One way to look at it is if China succeeds in getting young people to remain there during election time and not return home to vote for the DPP, that that would also work to China’s advantage,” he says.

“I think it’s just a transactional relationship where people want to have jobs that pay better and offer opportunities for promotion. Whether it builds personal affinity remains to be seen.”

The Three Way Relationship Between Mainland China, The Nation Of Taiwan And The U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS ONE I FOUND ON GOOGLE PLUS FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS THE INDEPENDENT JOURNAL REVIEW AND FROM ANDY TAI’S BLOGSITE)

Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan)/Wikimedia Commons

The narrow Taiwan Strait separates the socialist mainland China and the democratic island of Taiwan, both physically and politically.

But the cross-strait relations have never been simply about these two actors. The U.S. has been an intrinsic part of this unresolved diplomatic dilemma since 1949.

However, all three players in this triangular relationship are going through leadership adjustments, which started last year when Taiwan elected Tsai Ing-wen as its president, followed by Donald Trump becoming president of the U.S. in January.

But what about China? The ruling Communist Party will hold its 19th National Congress later this year, possibly in September or October. The Communist Party is expected to elect new central committee members, which forms the country’s top leadership. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is expected to remain president.

In light of these leadership changes, it is time to examine what they might mean for cross-strait relations.

The National Chengchi University in Taiwan and the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies — an American think tank — recently held a daylong event called “Cross-Strait Relations Re-examined: Toward a New Normal?” to discuss the new situations affecting the triangular relations. Participants included officials who represent the U.S. in Taiwan, Taiwan’s representatives in the U.S., and Taiwan government officials, as well as scholars and researchers.

The History of the China-Taiwan Conflict

Taiwan has been virtually independent since 1949, when the Nationalist government of China was defeated by Chinese Communist forces led by Mao Zedong in the Chinese civil war, which was fought between 1945 to 1949.

At the conclusion of the civil war, the Nationalist forces, led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled to the island of Taiwan and established its Republic of China government there, still claiming to be the legitimate government of all of China, including the mainland.

The Communist forces, in control of mainland China, established the People’s Republic of China, which also claimed to be the legitimate government of China, including the island of Taiwan.

Over the latter half of the 20th century, Taiwan’s economy and democracy saw tremendous development. Robust exports of electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery have contributed to Taiwan’s dynamic economy.

In the “Freedom in the World 2017 Report” by Freedom House, Taiwan scored 91 (even higher than U.S., which rated an 89) for being one of the areas with the most political rights and civil liberties.

But the island has been facing growing isolation from the international community, especially since the United Nations expelled Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China, and gave its seat in the U.N. to mainland China in 1971. Currently, only 20 countries still retain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

The U.S. has official diplomatic relations with mainland China, but it keeps robust unofficial ties with the government in Taiwan. Such triangular relations were made possible because of a series of agreements and communiqués U.S. has made with both sides since 1979.

The U.S. acknowledged the People’s Republic of China as the “sole legal government of China,” instead of the Republic of China government in Taiwan, in order to establish official diplomatic relations with the mainland.

But at the same time, the U.S. also ensured the “continuation of commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people on Taiwan” through the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

For China, “there’s only one China” is a precondition for the U.S.-China diplomatic relationship. But there are significant differences between China version and the U.S. version of its relationship.

It is because of this deliberate ambiguity, the two largest economies in the world were able to move forward from this historical, unsettled dilemma concerning Taiwan.

For the island, the U.S. is its most important protector as well as a vital trade partner. The U.S. has been selling arms to Taiwan so it can modernize and upgrade its defensive power.

Also, the U.S. and Taiwan have become each other’s 10th- and second-largest trading partners, according to James Moriarty, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan. The institute serves as the U.S.’s de facto embassy in Taiwan.

“The United States and Taiwan have built a comprehensive, durable, and mutually beneficial partnership, grounded in our shared interests and values. We maintain close economic, security, and people-to-people ties, and share a mutual respect for democracy and human rights. It should be no surprise, then, that the United States considers Taiwan a vital and reliable partner in Asia,” ambassador Moriarty said.

What Is Happening Now

The Trump administration seems to be taking a more-positive approach to its island partner.

Last December, then President-elect Trump placed a phone call to the president of Taiwan. This marked the first known direct contact between the presidents of U.S. and Taiwan since 1979 when the U.S. cut official ties to Taiwan and established relations with China.

Last month, at the risk of damage to the U.S.-China relationship, Trump green-lighted the sale of a $1.4 billion arms package to Taiwan, which was the first U.S. arms sale to the island under the new administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also reaffirmed that the U.S. is “completely committed” to the Taiwan Relations Act and to “fulfilling all of our commitments to Taiwan” under the act.

“I think the most recent decision by the U.S. government for the major arms sale package is necessary and on merit, not some kind of leverages or bargaining chips,” said Stanley Kao, Taiwan’s representative in the U.S. “That’s another powerful testimony to this long-lasting friendship and partnership between the U.S. and Taiwan.”

“Over the decades, we were able to negotiate because U.S. provides oxygen. The oxygen is giving Taiwan a sense of confidence and security,” said Joanne Chang, a research fellow at Academia Sinica — the national academy of Taiwan, and a panelist at the recent CSIS event. “So we continue and appreciate that U.S. provides oxygen — the Taiwan Relations Act and also continuing to support Taiwan diplomatically and its participation in important international organizations.”

But on the Taiwan side, the past year has been a difficult time for the newly elected President Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party, which defeated the long-ruling Nationalist party, the Kuomintang, in the island’s 2016 elections.

Tsai and her party have taken a strong position against Beijing. And although Tsai has repeatedly voiced her intention to keep the status quo of the cross-strait relations after she swore into office, China has been accused of using its international power to punish Taiwan and limit its international participation.

Lin Cheng-yi, deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said in his remark at CSIS:

“With the zero-sum thinking of a world power and an approach of marginalizing and belittling Taiwan, mainland China has viewed the functioning of democracy and pluralistic lifestyles, systems, and values in Taiwan with negative thinking and politicized interpretations. This displays a superficial understanding of pluralism and democracy in Taiwan.

Representative Kao also responded to these obstructions in his remark:

“I think our government will continue to run a steady, a steadfast non-proactive cause and our commitment. And our goodwill remains unchanged. But making no mistake, Taiwan is a full-phase democracy with strong public opinion. We will not bow to pressure and, of course, to be taken for granted.

“At the same time, we are so very proud to see this robust U.S.-Taiwan relation continue to move strong and onward.”

Looking Ahead

Although much remains unknown about what will happen with China’s leadership later this year, many experts attending the CSIS conference recommend Taiwan and U.S. remain mutual partners and find ways to strengthen the partnership.

“The U.S. obviously has a responsibility, in my view, to maintain a robust trade dialogue with Taiwan,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, which is a nonprofit organization that fosters trade and business relations between the two countries.

Hammond-Chambers also urges the Trump administration to consider Taiwan as an important partner when tailoring his so-called “fair trade agreements.”

“Taiwan should be on top of the list,” he said.

While Trump’s trade representative has reportedly voiced the intention to forge stronger ties with Taiwan, Trump has also been quite outspoken himself about making the future U.S. trade agreements balanced, fair as well as free, as the Los Angeles Times reported.

Taiwan’s restrictions on the importation of U.S. beef and pork are long-standing issues on the bargaining table.

For the Taiwan government, Hammond-Chambers also provided suggestions, one of which is to buy more U.S. energy:

“Taiwan purchases oil from Qatar, a leading sponsor of global terror. It purchases its coal from China. This to me is a mistake. I would suggest President Tsai and her government to consider switching those vendors to the United States, a reliable strategic partner, a reliable strategic source of energy and more importantly, it would address the political issues they are wrestling with the Trump’s administration, which is the trade imbalance.”

Echoing Hammond-Chambers, Scott Kennedy, the deputy director of the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS, suggested that Taiwan itself should be more proactive in controlling its own economic fate, with or without furthering trade deals with the U.S.

“Don’t wait for Washington to be ready. Washington has a lot on its plate,” Kennedy said.

Taiwan Quietly Winning Diplomatic Competition with China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOANEWS.COM)

 

Taiwan Quietly Winning Diplomatic Competition with China

July 22, 2017

FILE - A Taiwanese visitor poses with uniformed employees of Tokyo Metro Co. for a souvenir photo at the booth of the Tokyo subway company at the Taipei International Travel Fair in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

FILE – A Taiwanese visitor poses with uniformed employees of Tokyo Metro Co. for a souvenir photo at the booth of the Tokyo subway company at the Taipei International Travel Fair in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

Some countries are choosing to increase diplomatic ties with China as they limit contacts with the government in Taiwan.

But Taiwan is doing better than China at a level of diplomacy that common people can feel: the number of countries that let the island’s citizens enter without requiring a visa.

Taiwan has persuaded 166 countries to let its 23 million citizens enter without a visa or with simple visa requirements. Taiwan’s foreign ministry says some of these countries have done so, knowing that China might take action against them.

Only 21 countries offer visa-free entry to people from China.

The rise of visa-free countries from 10 years ago shows that Taiwan can expand diplomatically, even when facing Chinese opposition. It is something for Taiwan’s government to show citizens who want more foreign policy successes.

Joanna Lei leads the Chunghua 21st Century research group in Taiwan.

She said, “For most of the people foreign relations is a very distant thing, but the ability to travel free around the world is a direct and personal experience…If Taiwan continues to enjoy visa-free travel, that means a lot of countries recognize the administration and allow the people from Taiwan to their lands, and that will be a major, major foreign affairs achievement.”

China claims control of Taiwan. It says the island must be reunited with the mainland someday. Taiwan has been self-ruled since the 1940s. But Chinese officials try to limit its influence around the world.

China’s government has stopped Taiwan from joining United Nations agencies since the 1970s. The government also offers aid to countries that cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan and open ties to China. Panama cuts ties with the island and recognized the government in Beijing last month.

Just 20 countries now recognize the government in Taiwan. More than 170 countries recognize China.

The effort to expand visa-free treatment for Taiwanese people began during the presidency of Ma Ying-jeou, who held office from 2008 to 2016. During that time, China and Taiwan decided to set aside political differences so the two countries could build trust through economic deals. This made it more difficult for China to stop Taiwan’s efforts to increase people-to-people contacts overseas.

Huang Kwei-bo led the foreign ministry research and planning committee from 2009 to 2011.

“(Diplomatic) cables regarding that were sent to all the offices and missions abroad, and we kept reminding officials of the importance and urgency of getting visa waivers or visas upon arrival,” he said.

“We tried to tell those potential targeted countries not to feel worried about punishment from the Beijing authorities,” he said, because improved ties under Ma “would make the visa waiver issue less sensitive.”

The Henley & Partners 2015 Visa Restrictions Index rated Taiwan passports number 28 in the world in terms of visa-free restrictions. China was ranked 93rd.

The Chinese government has shown little willingness to trust Taiwan’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen. But she has yet to call for legal independence from China.

Liu Yih-jiun teaches at Fo Guang University in Taiwan. Liu says the worsening relations between the two sides could make it more difficult for Taiwan to add countries to its visa-free list.

Last week, Taiwan and Paraguay agreed to let each other’s citizens enter without visas. The foreign ministry is also preparing to let Filipinos enter without a visa. The Philippines still requires Taiwanese to get a visa before entering the country.

Taiwan foreign ministry official Eleanor Wang says countries let Taiwanese enter without a visa for economic reasons and for better ties with Taiwan.

It is difficult for China to persuade other countries to let its citizens enter without a visa. The reason: some Chinese move to other countries illegally for economic reasons.

Lin Chong-pin is a former strategic studies professor in Taipei. He says Taiwan “has achieved a certain level of economic sufficiency, therefore its citizens are not that eager to flee from the country and get settled in other countries.”

“Most of them want to come back,” he adds. “They find Taiwan more comfortable. Countries that give Taiwan visa waivers are not threatened.”

I’m Anna Matteo.

And I’m Pete Musto.

Ralph Jennings reported this story from Taipei for VOANews.com. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page.

U.S. announces sanctions on Chinese bank, arms-sales package for Taiwan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. announces sanctions on Chinese bank, arms-sales package for Taiwan

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on June 29 announced sanctions against a Chinese bank in relation to the North Korean regime. (Reuters)
 June 29 at 6:08 PM
The Trump administration on Thursday announced new sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of laundering money for North Korean companies and approved a $1.4 billion arms sales package for Taiwan, a pair of measures that is certain to ruffle feathers in Beijing.Officials said the actions were unrelated and emphasized that the administration was not targeting China. But the moves are likely to raise concerns among Chinese leaders who had sought to get off to a good start with President Trump.

Trump has shown signs of losing patience with China after personally lobbying President Xi Jinping to put more pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic-missile weapons programs. Trump wrote on Twitter last week that China’s efforts have “not worked out,” a declaration that came after the death of American college student Otto Warmbier a few days after returning to the United States following 17 months of detention in North Korea.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration was moving to cut off the Bank of Dandong from U.S. financial markets in an effort to block millions of dollars of transactions that funnel money into North Korea for use in its weapons programs.

Under the sanctions, U.S. citizens also will be generally prohibited from doing business with Sun Wei and Ri Song Hyok, who are accused of establishing and running front companies on behalf of North Korea, and Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co., which is accused of transporting 700,000 tons of freight annually, including coal and steel products, between China and North Korea.

The administration announced the sanctions just hours before South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, arrived at the White House for a two-day summit with Trump. Moon campaigned on a platform of greater engagement with Pyongyang, and he has questioned the need for the U.S.-backed THAAD missile defense system that is being installed on the peninsula, which Beijing and Pyongyang have opposed.

Mnuchin said that the United States is “in no way targeting China with these actions” and that U.S. officials “look forward to continuing to work closely with the government of China to stop the illicit financing in North Korea.”

Mnuchin added that this “very significant action” sends the message that the United States will follow the money trail leading to North Korea and continue to crack down on those assisting the country.

“North Korea’s provocative, destabilizing and inhumane behavior will not be tolerated,” Mnuchin said. “We are committed to targeting North Korea’s external enablers and maximizing economic pressure on the regime until it ceases its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.”

China has repeatedly made clear it opposes “unilateral” sanctions in addition to those agreed to by the United Nations Security Council. Only last week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said his country opposed the “long-arm jurisdiction” of the United States in this matter.

“We have repeatedly stressed this stance in our communication with the United States, and the U.S. side is also clear about it,” he said during a regular news conference.

In a separate announcement, administration officials said they had approved an arms package for Taiwan that includes advanced rocket and anti-ship missile systems — another measure China has repeatedly said that it firmly opposes.

The package is slightly larger than one that was put on hold at the end of the Obama administration, the officials said, but includes largely the same weapons capabilities.

The sale is considered relatively modest compared with past arms packages. Still, China views the self-ruled island as part of the country and is likely to oppose any such arms transfers.

As president-elect, Trump broke with protocol and accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in December, angering Xi.

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Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, said Thursday that China had significant economic leverage over North Korea and suggested that it could put more pressure on Pyongyang.

The Trump administration had long signaled that it wanted to move forward with an arms sale to Taiwan but held off because officials worried the sale would make it harder to secure China’s cooperation on North Korea.

“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense policy,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday of the arms deal. “There’s no change, I should point out, to our one-China policy.”

Trump is scheduled to meet with China’s Xi on the sidelines of an economic summit in Hamburg next week, White House officials said.

Simon Denyer contributed reporting from Beijing.

Taiwan reacts defiantly as Panama switches diplomatic ties to China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Taiwan reacts defiantly as Panama switches diplomatic ties to China

 (PANAMA’S GOVERNMENT STABS OLD FRIEND IN THE BACK TO GAIN AN EXTRA DOLLAR?)
June 13 at 12:31 PM
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen reacted angrily Tuesday to Panama’s decision to shift diplomatic ties to China, insisting that Taipei will never bow down to threats and intimidation from Beijing and is determined to uphold its sovereignty.Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced on television Monday evening that he was establishing diplomatic ties with China and breaking with Taiwan, saying he was “convinced this is the correct path for our country.” He added that China constituted 20 percent of the world’s population, has the second-biggest economy and is the second-biggest user of the Panama Canal.

The move comes as Beijing steps up efforts to isolate Taipei internationally since last year’s election of Tsai.

“The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that only one China exists in the world, the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all China, and Taiwan forms an inalienable part of Chinese territory,” a joint statement from China and Panama read.

Panama is the second country to break with Taiwan since Tsai’s election last year, following the small African islands of Sao Tome and Principe.

For the first time in eight years, Taiwan was not invited to the annual assembly of the World Health Organization last month. It was also excluded from a global forum of the International Civil Aviation Organization last year. Both moves reportedly came at the insistence of Beijing, which has made clear its displeasure with Tsai’s reluctance to explicitly endorse the idea that there is only one China, encompassing the mainland and the island of Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and insists that any country that establishes diplomatic relations with Beijing must cut them with Taipei. It says its relationship with Taipei is founded on the “1992 consensus” between the two sides that effectively rules out the idea of Taiwan ever gaining independence.

But that was a deal reached by a government run by the Kuomintang party in Taiwan, not Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party, and while Tsai has indicated she respects the agreement and says she wants dialogue and friendly ties with Beijing, she has been reluctant to spell out an explicit endorsement.

In the past, China and Taiwan had competed to win diplomatic allies, wooing poorer countries with promises of aid and investment. But they established an unofficial truce under the Kuomintang government, with neither trying aggressively to upset the status quo, experts say.

Panama’s move decreases to 20 the number of countries formally recognizing Taiwan, most of them in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A former ambassador to China for Mexico, Jorge Guajardo, tweeted that he expected the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua to follow suit soon. “Big question is, will Vatican ditch Taiwan for Beijing?” he added.

Tsai addressed the Taiwanese people on Tuesday afternoon, vowing that Taipei will not engage in a “diplomatic bidding war,” nor succumb to Beijing’s threats.

“We are a sovereign country. This sovereignty cannot be challenged or traded,” she said, insisting that her people want peace but that Beijing is pushing relations toward confrontation.

“Coercion and threats will not bring the two sides together. Instead they will drive our two peoples apart,” she said. “On behalf of the 23 million people of Taiwan, I declare that we will never surrender to such intimidation.”

Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Taiwan’s international isolation is not in the interest of the United States or the rest of the world.

“Taiwan has a great deal to offer the international community, ranging from top-quality medical services to strong IT talent and active international NGOs that provide disaster relief to countries in need,” she said, adding that the United States and other countries should find “creative ways” to engage with Taiwan.

Nor are China’s pressure tactics doing anything to help it win hearts and minds in Taiwan, experts say.

“So far the tactic has only succeeded in alienating the Taiwanese public and reinforced notions of separateness,” said J. Michael Cole, a senior fellow at the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute and chief editor of the Taiwan Sentinel website.

“As long as such efforts do not substantially undermine Taiwan’s ability to function as a sovereign state — and no theft of a smallish diplomatic ally will ever achieve this — then I don’t see how or why the Taiwanese would give in to such pressure by deciding to accommodate Beijing,” he said.

A poll released by the Taiwanese government over the weekend showed nearly three-quarters of respondents rejected Beijing’s insistence on the one-China principle as a precondition to political ties. More than 80 percent said China’s efforts to limit Taiwan’s international space hurt their interests, and a similar proportion said China should recognize the existence of the “Republic of China,” as Taiwan officially calls itself.

Cole said Taiwan needs to focus more on developing healthy relations with unofficial allies that are democracies and important economies and not worry about maintaining official ties with small states that want infrastructure investment Taiwan cannot afford.

China commends Panama for establishing ties with China: Dropping All Ties With Taiwan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

China commends Panama for establishing ties with China: Chinese state TV

China commended Panama for its decision to establish formal relations with Beijing, Chinese state television said on Tuesday.

Panama’s government said earlier that it pledged to end all relations or official contact with Taiwan, making it the latest country to break with the self-ruled island that Beijing says is a breakaway province.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry)

Philippines: Gunman Murders At Least 36 In Marriott In Manila

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

By Manolo Serapio Jr and Neil Jerome Morales | MANILA

A gunman burst into a casino in the Philippine capital Manila on Friday, firing shots, setting gaming tables alight and killing at least 36 people, all suffocating in thick smoke, in what officials believe was a botched robbery.

There was no evidence linking the attack at the Resorts World Manila entertainment complex to fighting between government troops and Islamist militants in the country’s south, said Ernesto Abella, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte.

“All indications point to a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual,” Abella told a news conference. “Although the perpetrator gave warning shots, there apparently was no indication that he wanted to do harm or shoot anyone.”

The gunman killed himself in his hotel room after being shot and wounded by resort security, police and Resorts World management said. A second “person of interest” who was in the casino at the time was cooperating with the investigation, police said.

Most of the dead suffocated in the chaos. Fire bureau spokesman Ian Manalo said many guests and staff had tried to hide from the gunfire rather than get out of the building when attack began shortly after midnight (1600 GMT) and fell victim to the choking smoke.

Oscar Albayalde, chief of the capital’s police office, said those who died were in the casino’s main gaming area.

“What caused their deaths is the thick smoke,” he told reporters. “The room was carpeted and of course the tables, highly combustible.”

A Resorts World Manila official said the dead included 22 guests.

DEATH IN ROOM 510

At dawn, the body of the suspected gunman was found in a hotel room in the smoldering complex, which is close to Ninoy Aquino International Airport and an air force base, police said.

A injured policeman is seen at the entrance of a hotel after a shooting incident inside Resorts World Manila in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

“He burned himself inside the hotel room 510,” national police chief Ronald dela Rosa told a news conference. “He lay down on the bed, covered himself in a thick blanket and apparently doused himself in gasoline.”

Resorts World Manila Chief Operating Officer Stephen Reilly said casino security guards had shot and wounded the gunman – armed with what authorities described as a “baby armalite” – during the attack.

“Severe loss of blood from the gunshot wound significantly slowed down the assailant and resulted to his holing up in the room where he took his own life,” Reilly said.

Officials said at least 54 people were hurt, some seriously, as they rushed to escape what was at first was believed to have been a militant attack.

Survivor Magdalena Ramos, who was a guest at the hotel, said people began shouting “ISIS! ISIS!” when the gunfire began. The 57-year-old said she hid in a kitchen and then fled when the smoke became too thick.

But police quickly said they did not believe the attacker had any militant connections.

“We cannot attribute this to terrorism,” national police chief dela Rosa told DZMM radio.

“We are looking into a robbery angle because he did not hurt any people and went straight to the casino chips storage room. He parked at the second floor and barged into the casino, shooting large TV screens and poured gasoline on a table setting it on fire,” he said.

Earlier reports said the gunman may have been white, but police later said he appeared to be Filipino, although they were still establishing his nationality.

Kimberly Molitas, a spokeswoman for the capital’s police office, said 113 million pesos ($2.27 million) worth of casino chips stolen during the raid had been recovered.

GUNSHOTS, PANIC

Videos posted on social media showed people fleeing as several loud bangs went off.

“Even the security personnel panicked,” casino guest Jeff Santos told a radio station. “Definitely us patrons we did not expect that, everyone ran away.”

Jeri Ann Santiago, who works in the emergency room at the San Juan de Dios hospital, said patients were suffering from smoke inhalation and some had fractures. None had gunshot wounds, she said.

The Philippines has been on heightened alert amid a crisis in the south of the country, where troops have been battling Islamist rebels since May 23.

Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao last week and has warned it could become a haven for Islamic State supporters fleeing Iraq and Syria.

Security was tightened around the presidential palace on Friday, with armored personal carriers stationed on approach roads and river ferries barred from passing close by.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said four Taiwan nationals were among those killed and a South Korean foreign ministry official said one South Korean had died, apparently after a heart attack.

Shares in resort owner Travellers International Hotel Group Inc, a joint venture of the Philippines’ Alliance Global Group Inc and Genting Hong Kong Ltd, fell 7 percent.

(Additional reporting by Peter Blaza, Clare Baldwin, Karen Lema, Manuel Mogato, Enrico Dela Cruz and Martin Petty in MANILA and Ju-min Park in SEOUL; Writing by Alex Richardson and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)

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