Thursday, October 14, 2010

WSJ blog says Taiwan Bowing out of Senkaku Island "dispute"

From the Department of Huh? comes this strange blog post from WSJ, which says "When Japan and China revived their long-running spat over a set of disputed islands in the East China Sea last month, one player stayed conspicuously low-key: Taiwan":
This time, however, the response from Taiwanese authorities was restrained, leading many observers to wonder whether warming ties to China have to led to a new conciliatory tone on the subject between the mainland and the island it considers a breakaway province.

Although it’s unclear just how much improving relations with China have affected Taiwan’s stance, Taiwan’s response has been less forceful than in years past. After the dispute, President Ma Ying-jeou waited until Oct. 5 to issue a formal statement, while current Premier Wu Den-yih stressed not only Taiwan’s sovereignty over the islands and the safety of its fisherman, but also restraint to avoid inciting any controversy. On Sept. 24, John Chiang, vice chairman of the ruling Kuomintang party, claimed while attending a trade fair on the mainland that the Diaoyutais belonged to all Chinese people — to much fanfare there, and great scandal in Taiwan.

In the official statement released by the island’s president last week, the government stated its continued claim to the islands and clarified it has no quarrel with China over the islands, since by Taiwan’s constitution the two continue to be part of a united China, and that both Taiwan’s and China’s disputes are with Japan, not with each other. But it goes on to clearly set Taiwan off from China as separate entities that will not join together to oppose Japan.
Clearly an off-base post -- the response wasn't muted compared to the past -- it was exactly the same or arguably, increased. Taiwan isn't "bowing out". In this case the international media was more interested in Beijing's whining and growling and peeing on the floor over the arrested fishing boat captain -- when Beijing was similarly holding Vietnamese fishermen and boats in disputes in the South China Sea (!) -- hence the Taiwan response was lost in the media glare that focused on the Tokyo-Beijing ruckus.

What was the Taiwan response? Let's see.... in the 2009 incident Taiwan sent 5 Coast Guard vessels to confront an equal number of Japanese vessels when a Taiwanese fishing boat captain was arrested. Similarly, in 2008, when a Taiwanese fishing vessel "collided" with a Japanese fishing boat, the Coast Guard sent 5 ships to confront Japanese vessels. In this year's incident, however, there was escalation -- 12 vessels were sent. That's right -- how did the The China Post, the KMT's English-language cheerleader, describe the situation: "unprecedented"...
When Huang and Yin's “Kan En No.99” fishing boat was blocked by seven ships from Japan, which claims the islets as its exclusive economic zone, an unprecedented number of 12 CGA ships provided protection and shielded the protest boat from being attacked.
That exact word was also used by Premier Wu in describing Taiwan's response: unprecedented.
Wu yesterday said the government had taken an “unprecedented” hard-line stance to deal with the matter by dispatching 12 coast guard vessels to protect the fishing boat.

Wu said the government’s resolution to protect Taiwanese fishermen and the nation’s territory would remain unchanged, adding that the government will continue to take a “hard-line” stance on the issue.(Taipei Times)
As I said, I could not find a single piece in the international media that mentioned this provocation, as The Foreigner rightly identified it. I think the WSJ blog has seriously misread the situation. Taiwan is not 'bowing' out. Rather, the governing party declared solidarity with China in a situation that puts it at odds with Japan, not bowing out but re-aligning. This is, at best, a new kind of status quo, but putting Taiwan ships in harm's way for the ultimate benefit of Beijing sure looks a lot like escalation to me. Taiwan News said it the last time around, but it is still true....
We have difficulty in understanding why Ma is so eager to "set aside the sovereignty dispute" with a PRC regime that threatens Taiwan's existence but is unwilling to "set aside" a dispute over the Tiaoyutai islets with a friendly northern neighbor.
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10 comments:

STOP Ma said...

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We have difficulty in understanding why Ma is so eager to "set aside the sovereignty dispute" with a PRC regime that threatens Taiwan's existence but is unwilling to "set aside" a dispute over the Tiaoyutai islets with a friendly northern neighbor.

Great response!!!

And, of course, you again put big media to shame Michael.
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David said...

Michael, your blogging is consistently filled with great analysis and insights. I really appreciate your efforts.

Peter Martin, who is based in Taipei, recently had a couple of posts on Taiwan-China relations published on the blog of an Australian think tank. The use of the word "mainland" aside, they do a quite good job of explaining that closer relations doesn't necessarily mean more friendliness.

Taiwan-PRC relations: Closer, in theory
Taiwan-PRC relations: Familiarity, meet contempt

Also Richard Bush has a new book out on China-Japan relations. The launch is at Brookings on 10/18. It might contain some interesting insights into Taiwan's current position.

Michael Turton said...

Peter's great, he's in Taipei, and I was planning to highlight those posts tomorrow. We met at Yuma last night and had margaritas with Jeff Miller. I tried to be insightful, but after the "special" margaritas made by the lovely waitress named Joy who took a shine to me, well, we were feeling pretty good......

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Mozur, who wrote that WSJ piece and is a fresh college graduate who just arrived in Taipei from Hong Kong and knows little about this island nation:

Although you are a newbie reporter in Taiwan for the WSJ, having done earlier work in Hong Kong and having just graduated from university, you be a young grasshopper and musta learn some of the ways in Asia. As Professor Turton above said, you’ve gravely misread the Taiwanese response. The ROC government’s response was unprecedented in a couple of ways (1) it escalated its normal quota of five Coast Guard vessels to 12 in confronting Japanese patrol boats in the Senkakus (2) it declared that it is in solidarity with Beijing in opposition to Tokyo — that is not a downgrading but an escalation. Both the China Post, the pro-KMT English paper, and Premier Wu in Taipei described Taiwan’s response as “unprecedented.”
So even though the big boss at WSJ is married to his much younger Chinese lover, still, it's time to reconsider where you went with that article. Way off base.

@STOP Ma, Paul Mozur is a newbie WSJ reporter, just learning the ropes, we'll learn him yet, but he is hardly Big Media. He's just a freshman journo climbing the big ladder of his career. Good writer, but he needs to learn history better and understand Taiwan better. He will. Give him time. He's just a kid. Like 25 or something.

@webmaster Grand Teutons, your sexism is shining through again, and until you learn to treat women on this blog, even scantily clad waitresses serving Margaritas up the kazoo until you lose your power cf concentration to the nth degree, your otherwise very good blog suffers. Great men do not treat women like tramps. Well, some do. But it's wrong and it has no place on a blog trying to set the world straight about Taiwan. You do it one more time, and you''ll be a monkey's uncle.

-- Dr S., Yilan County

Michael Turton said...

Um. You're spot on about Mozur, but I'm curious about my alleged sexism. Where did that come in?

SoCalExpat said...

The KMT takes a hardline position regarding Japan because that is what a large portion of the KMT's key constituency (Taiwan's military, for example ) wants to see. While the KMT does want to maintain good relations with Beijing, the fact that the KMT's position on the disuted islands parallels the PRC position is more coincidence than coordination.

The Taiwanese are divided on their view of Japan. Some view Japan as a protector (likely "green" voters), others see Japan as a competitor (likely "blue" voters). The government viewed as standing up to Japan may not sit well with all Taiwanese, but it does plays well to a large segment of Taiwanese.

SoCalExpat said...

"Peter Martin . . . do a quite good job of explaining that closer relations doesn't necessarily mean more friendliness."


If you think that some of the KMT elite take a dim view of folks in southern Taiwan, etc., that is nothing compared to the utter contempt they have towards mainland Chinese. You won’t see this in any news article or press release but ask any KMT supporter privately whether he wants his daughter to marry a mainlander. The KMT seeks good relations with the PRC to keep itself in power in Taiwan, not to reunify with the mainland. The KMT believes that if they cooperate with the PRC, the PRC will offer commercial opportunities to Taiwan and decrease military tensions with Taiwan that the KMT can take credit for while at the same time painting the DPP as petty tribalists.

Michael Turton said...

While the KMT does want to maintain good relations with Beijing, the fact that the KMT's position on the disuted islands parallels the PRC position is more coincidence than coordination.

That is nonsense. There would be no claim from Taipei if the KMT did not think of itself as Chinese.

Eric Pickett said...

Michael, I could be very wrong. But the tone and content of Dr. S's comments (Anonymous 7:33PM) makes me think that they may have been written, in fact, by our very own Johnny Neihu, using yet another nom de plume. If that's the case, his charges against you of sexism would be very tongue-in-cheek, indeed...

Marc said...

I have little confidence in the content of any media owned by Rupert Murdoch