Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Shape of Things to Come: Two indicators

This week gave us two glimpses of the future. The first is financial, reported by Reuters:
Two private investors will take an around 20 percent stake in Taiwan's Chinatrust Financial (2891.TW), buying into the bank's T$42 billion ($1.3 billion) private share placement, banking sources said.

The investors are Peter Kwok, former chairman of China's Citic Resources Holdings (1205.HK), and Ed Rogers, chairman of U.S. political lobbying firm BGR Holdings and a one-time aide to former President George H. Bush.
Why is this deal between PRC financial elites and well-connected US lobbyists happening?
Chinatrust is Taiwan's top credit card issuer. Part of the money from the placement would be used to fund its plan to buy a 30 percent stake of AIG's Taiwan Nan Shan Life unit from China Strategic (0235.HK).
If you Google around, you'll dig up some fascinating information on Peter Kwok, his father Robert, Li Ka-shing, CITIC, arms trafficking, and a whole lot of other stuff, most of it on right-wing websites. I won't repeat it here.

The second item is a report from Kyodo News on the inevitable confluence of interests between PRC expansionists and activists in Taiwan over the Senkaku Islands, known in these parts as the Diaoyutai.
With political and financial patronage drying up at home, Taiwan-based activists are working on an international alliance to claim the Senkaku Islands for China.

The uninhabited islands, which lie between Taiwan and Japan's Okinawa Prefecture and are known in Taiwan and China as the Diaoyutai, are the focus of a territorial dispute between Beijing, Taipei and Tokyo.

For governments, the larger issues have been territorial control and exploiting purported oil and natural gas reserves.

For Taiwanese fishermen, however, the dispute has led to exclusion from what they claim to be ancestral fishing grounds and ongoing confrontations with Japanese patrols.

A Taiwanese activist group, the Chinese Diaoyutai Defense Association, has responded to the impasse by merging a claim of Chinese sovereignty over the islands with advocacy for the fishing industry.

Drawn from the membership of a loose, decades-old coalition known as the Alliance for the Defense of Diaoyutai, the group was registered in 2008 after its application was rejected by the government of then President Chen Shui-bian the year before.
The report is long. Kyodo notes:
More seriously for the association, ennui among the general public and the disappearance of local sources of funding have forced activists to turn to businesspeople in China to fund their activism.

Huang declined to name companies, locations or businesses for fear they would suffer retribution from the Chinese authorities, but he allowed his group had approached them "reluctantly."

Skeptical observers who sense more ideology than pragmatism in this agenda may feel vindicated by deepening ties between this group and Diaoyutai activists in China, Hong Kong and Macao, as well as overseas Chinese groups in the Americas and Europe.
The activists themselves are non-mainstream, but the news report notes that they are connected to more mainstream groups. The group claims that they have been sacrificed by the Ma Administration for good relations with Japan. Kyodo also says:
On March 27, in a statement released by the pro-unification Chinatide Association, the Chinese Diaoyutai Defense Association was named as a member of the ''Cross-Strait Peaceful Development Forum,'' a new gathering of organizations including leftist groups, Greater China nationalists, Chinese immigrant advocates and publishing companies that support unification.

Award-winning Taiwanese film director Hou Hsiao-hsien was one of the keynote speakers at the founding ceremony for the forum, whose goals include abolition of the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. law that authorizes military assistance for Taiwan, and ending U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
The Senkakus had belonged to Japan since 1895 with nary a peep from any Chinese government, and were handed back to Japan in 1971 by the US, along with Okinawa. Neither the ROC nor the PRC made any claim to them until the announcement by Japanese scientists in 1968 that the continental shelf around them may contain oil. Then suddenly Beijing announced they were Chinese territory. The US considers them part of Japanese territory and a few years ago conducted joint exercises with the Japanese military in the area. The US is bound to defend Japan by treaty. And people think that they can settle tensions in this area by quietly handing over Taiwan to China....

Although the links between the CCP and the KMT are well known, the future could well see more pragmatic moves by pro-China activists in Taiwan to secure funding and political cover from Beijing.
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