Friday, June 17, 2011

Congressional Hearing

Defense News reports that US lawmakers on both sides of the US aisle are united in support of F-16 sales to The Beautiful Isle, putting more Congressional pressure on the Obama Administration to sell F-16s to Taiwan:
U.S. lawmakers across party lines have stepped up pressure on President Barack Obama to sell F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan, with some accusing the administration of showing deference to China.

"With over 1,600 missiles pointed directly across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan needs the means to defend itself from the threats and intimidation," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Taiwan needs the next generation of F-16 fighter jets now in order to protect its skies," she said at a June 16 committee hearing.
These statements came at a hearing on Thursday on Why Taiwan Matters. Chairman Ross-Lehtinen's opening statement is online here. Randall Schriver, head of the Project 2049 Institute and longtime Taiwan supporter, testified at the Committee meeting (Testimony). Schriver makes two excellent points (1) arms sales have coincided with key moments in Taiwan-China relations and have not upset relations and (2) arguments for abandoning Taiwan are unsound but should be treated with respect because the people making them have gravitas. (I'm going to ask Schriver if he is willing to make an exception for bloggers on (2)).... anyway, he observes:
However, there have been few repercussions of arms sales for cross-Strait relations. We can document that cross-Strait breakthroughs often occur after U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are announced. Notably, the so-called ‘1992 Consensus’ occurred shortly after the largest U.S.-Taiwan arms deal up to that point in time was announced. More recently, the Congressional notification of $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan in January 2010 preceded the conclusion of ECFA by a mere few months. Furthermore, ECFA negotiations were not interrupted by the notification. These breakthroughs demonstrate that arms sales give Taiwan the confidence it needs to get to the negotiating table and engage in constructive talks with China. They demonstrate that the United States’ military partnership with Taiwan is paying dividends. Why then should policy change? The increasing economic and political cooperation between
China and Taiwan is a sign that the United States should remain committed to Taiwan’s military needs.

Nonetheless, some prominent former officials, former high ranking military officers, and scholars are now arguing in favor of revising the TRA and reducing (or eliminating) our arms sales to Taiwan. While these views do not represent the mainstream, the arguments are being made by serious, credible people – and we should therefore treat their views with equal seriousness, owing to their stature in the policy or academic community rather than the soundness of their arguments.
June Teufel Dreyer, an expert in things PRC and also a staunch supporter of Taiwan, also testified (testimony). She noted, apparently referring to Foreign Affairs:
To add to Taiwan’s anxiety over official waffling and misstatements, a U.S. journal typically described as influential has run articles advocating that the United States, by various means, abandon the island. The journal has published no articles articulating a different point of view, leaving Taiwanese to wonder if its parent organization, widely regarded as reflecting official thinking, is heralding a change of government policy or whether that organization is simply biased in favor of the PRC.
Testimony of Mr. Rupert J. Hammond-Chambers, head of the US-Taiwan Business Council, and Ms. Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, an academic specialist in East Asia, is also available online.

This week former AIT Chairman Nat Bellocchi's piece in the Taipei Times reviewed the influence of Congress on US-Taiwan relations over the years:
This closer scrutiny is good. At pivotal moments in history, Congress has played a key role in shaping US policy toward Taiwan and its people. In early 1979, after the administration of then-US president Jimmy Carter had severed diplomatic relations with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Congress stepped in and drafted the TRA, which stipulates that peace and security in the Taiwan Strait and a peaceful resolution to Taiwan’s future are key elements of US policy.

A few years later, in the early and mid-1980s, Congress again played a key role: This time in Taiwan’s transition to democracy. Then-senators Ted Kennedy and Claiborne Pell, together with representatives Steven Solarz and Jim Leach, held frequent hearings and made statements urging the KMT to lift martial law and establish a multiparty political system.

This happened in 1986 and 1987, after which Taiwan made its momentous transition to a fully democratic political system. The first elections for all seats of the Legislative Yuan took place in 1992 and the first presidential elections by popular vote in 1996.

During the years of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Congress yet again played a key role, this time in convincing the administration of former US president Bill Clinton to allow Lee to visit his alma mater, Cornell University. As chairman of the board of the American Institute in Taiwan it was my honor to welcome Lee to Cornell.
Whether Congress can get the Administration to move is highly problematic. Much of the posturing is theatre (but a hearty round of applause for Steve Chabot's condemnation of the treatment of Chen Shui-bian) but it does send a symbolic message. Paul Mozur at WSJ reviews the hearing here, noting that nobody from the State Department showed up. Sad.

Disheartening, alas, is the reality that the two Administrations, Obama and Ma, appear to be coordinating policy so that the Ma Administration can keep asking for F-16s it really doesn't want, the Obama Administration can keep stalling, and the US Congress can keep posturing. Because the Ministry of National Defense slashed the 2012 acquisition budget for the F-16s from hundreds of millions of dollars to just $10 million, AP reported this week....
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Luo said his ministry can adjust the budget once Washington approves the deal without offering an exact number on the size of the budget reduction.

"As the U.S. still has not reached a decision on the sale, we will lower the budget next year so our limited defense budget can be used somewhere else," Luo said. "Our firm commitment to procure the weapons remains unaffected."

Taiwan's mass circulation Liberty Times reported Monday the budget for F-16s will shrink from hundreds of millions of dollars to $10 million in 2012.
Those F-16s are a public policy Zeno's Paradox: with each step we move half the previous step closer to obtaining the aircraft, but never actually reach them.

Of course, you could read this as Taiwan pushing the US: make the damn sale or we'll use the money elsewhere. But history suggests not.... gone down the memory hole: KMT prevents arms purchase, including F-16s, from reaching the floor of the Legislative Yuan over 60 times.

And remember these grand old days from 2006, when the Chairman of the KMT and the Speaker of the Legislature assured the US that the proposal would go forward?
They have assured the US several times going back almost a year, dating back to Richard Bush's meeting with Wang Jin-pyng back in December, that they have taken US demands into account. KMT Chair Ma Ying-jeou and Wang promised again back in May to move the arms proposal forward. Visits to Washington by both men brought promises. Over the summer and fall there were other apparent indications of Blue softening. Each time, however, Pharoh's heart was hardened, and the arms purchase was kept in bondage in the procedural committee.
It's Goundhog Day, with F-16s.
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Anonymous said...

What's the problem with Lady Gaga? Usually stars only come to Taiwan 20 years after they have passed the height of their popularity...

Michael Turton said...

Haha. Nothing wrong with Lady Gaga.

Readin said...

"Confucian Classics to be force-fed in high schools..."

This could be a good thing.
"Know your enemy."

Readin said...

What's wrong with Lady Gaga? Some of her lyrics are questionable. Her performances tend toward burlesque.

But at least she's got a lot of talent. She's may be the pop music performer active right now (that is meant as a compliment).

Okami said...

I don't see the Obama admin selling them. They are getting quite the reputation as ideologues. Chief of staff Daley got whipped by a large business council recently and basically had nothing good to say to them.

阿牛 said...

There were some typos in the concluding paragraph you copied from my blog, if you wouldn't mind updating it with the corrected version... :X

Robert R. said...

Considering that China primarily got it's rare earth monopoly by undercutting prices of the rest of the world (including by having minimal environmental controls), this simply means that the prices will return to price levels that are more appropriate.

As noted in the article, other companies are starting to mine the materials outside China, so all in all, I see it as a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Confucian teaching is a culturalization program. It would be like teaching Christian doctrine or Islamic law in any other secular country. In the ROC Confucianism is the state religion and it oppresses non-Confucian culturalists. This policy infringes on the rights of families that are non-Confucian believers.

Michael Turton said...

Good point anon

Readin said...

" It would be like teaching Christian doctrine or Islamic law in any other secular country."

So you're saying that the biggest problem with the government teaching Confucianism is that they would teach it wrong and create tensions between different groups of Confucians as they struggle over whose understanding of Confucianism should be taught?

Michael Turton said...

There are lots of non-Confucians in Taiwan. All the aborigines, for example.

Anonymous said...

Lots of Christians (Catholics and Presbyterians). Many Christians believe their moral guidance comes from the Bible, now they are being taught Confucian morality. Even CKS was a nominal Christian. This creates an ethical conflict, no? How can the government respect all people, yet promote one moral code?

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, the government has somehow established that someone's reading of Confucianism is subjectively better and more moral than the other doctrines. With the power of the state behind Confucian teachings this puts undue pressure on non-Confucians to adopt the state preferred belief system. Also, this moves is contradictory to the Article 7 of the ROC constitution.

"All citizens of the Republic of China, irrespective of sex, religion, ethnic origin, class, or party affiliation, shall be equal before the law."

D said...

It would be better if they came up with a creative class like "ethical thinking" or "moral perspectives", which included the four books (even as a central component) but put them in a world and historical perspective.

ALX said...

Anon I think you are reading too much into this. I don't think Confucian philosophy is meant to be in direct competition (ie. an alternative to) with religious teachings (which have no place in schools). I suppose the real question here is whether morality and ethics education should be part of the school curriculum, and if so which system should be taught? And since the country in question is Taiwan then Confucianism is the obvious choice. This is not a state approved religion or anything like that, and the only goal here moral education (not that I think it'll work that well.)

"How can the government respect all people, yet promote one moral code?" Exactly as you've stated it here, and you've answered your own question by quoting the ROC constitution: "All citizens of the Republic of China, irrespective of sex, religion, ethnic origin, class, or party affiliation, shall be equal before the law." Isn't the rule of law but a representation of the accepted moral standards?

Dixteel said...

ALX, moral education is of course debatable, but Confucian philosophy should not be the "default" teaching of Taiwan. A lot of the stuff in Confucian philosophy concept belongs to the feudal ages. And there are people who argue that Confucian philosophy is one that helps dictatorial government suppressing the masses. It does not function well in democratic society.

Furthermore, what we are talking about here are classes that focus on study of ancient text itself, not an intelligent discussion of morality and philosophy.

However, if some students want to study it for whatever reasons (historical or understanding of ancient Chinese culture), let them. But make it an elective, do not make them mandatory.

Anonymous said...

The Congressional Hearing was quite a disappointment. Calls for sales of fighters and other advanced military equipment by members of Congress are not going to solve the essential problem, which is: Since the Ma administration is close to China, the US Dept. of Defense (DOD) knows that any advanced technology contained in military equipment sold to Taiwan will immediately be transferred to China a few hours after arrival in Taiwan. Hence the DOD is not anxious to sell anything to the Ma administration. That is the essential problem which the members of Congress have failed to consider.

Anonymous said...


Christian groups often use the same argument in the USA. They will say that, "America is a Christian nation" an therefore the 10 Commandments should naturally be the taught in school.

Han culturalism should not be the official culture in a constitutional republic. Taiwan is a multi-ethnic plurality and the rights of all people need to be protected. Not all Taiwanese are Han. This plan leaves no room for my non-Confucian/Han child. If education is compulsory, then how can my non-Han child be treated equally under the law if the morals of some people are regarded as paramount over others?

ALX said...

I'm not saying it's the "default" choice for me personally. But it's certainly the default choice by the education department, and for good reason.

It's a cultural thing, in a "Western" country you are more likely to encounter morality and ethics from a judeo-christian viewpoint, and in Taiwan the prevalent philosophy is confucian. And it disseminates not only through school programs but also through family and societal life. I'm sure most primary aged kids in Taiwan will have heard about filial piety and respecting your elders from their parents, for example.

"Furthermore, what we are talking about here are classes that focus on study of ancient text itself, not an intelligent discussion of morality and philosophy." I completely agree, and that is why I also said that it won't work very well. Ideally we'd want classes on modern, relevant ethics and morality, with a teacher-lead discussion based structure. Fat chance of that happening in high school in Taiwan. I can see them rote-learning the texts and the "pre-approved" answers to regurgitate during exams already :(

"But make it an elective, do not make them mandatory." It was an elective before, but I think they are bowing to public/media pressure about the perceived decline in moral standards, and this is just a "LOOK-we-are-doing-something-about it" move.

"A lot of the stuff in Confucian philosophy concept belongs to the feudal ages. And there are people who argue that Confucian philosophy is one that helps dictatorial government suppressing the masses. It does not function well in democratic society." Perhaps. But it is still such an integral part of society and the culture in Taiwan, I don't see how you can get rid of it completely, nor do I think you should.

ALX said...


I see where you are coming from. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the first amendment stopped them doing that in public schools.

And here lies the difference. I'd be happy if they taught about Jesus' moral philosophy (the sound and relevant bits anyway) in moral education class, but will be quite miffed if they started teaching that Jesus died on the cross for your sins. Again, I'll be happy if they taught Confucius' analects about morals, but a line is crossed if they venture into the proper etiquette for praying at a Confucian temple. This is my view of the line between religion and culture.

Han culturalism, officially endorsed or not, IS the predominant culture in Taiwan. Therefore I'm tempted to just go by the old "When in Rome..." adage. If you children do grow up in Taiwan, I don't see how you can keep them isolated from the predominant cultural influences that make up so much of day-to-day interactions and keeps society functioning here. However just because they are exposed to it does not mean that they will take it on-board and live by it.

And this dilemma remains no matter which country you move to. For example, I cannot reasonably argue that the US education system leaves no room for my non-American child, as they don't offer programs taught in my child's mother-tongue and culturally relevant to his/her ethnicity (regardless of which one). If I were to bring up my children in the US, then they would possibly adhere to the "American way of life" which is IN the constitution of a constitutional republic.

Han or non-Han, morals today gravitate towards "the Golden Rule" and the law reflects this. I cannot see a situation where your child will be treated unequally if the law is equal for everyone.

Dixteel said...


"Perhaps. But it is still such an integral part of society and the culture in Taiwan, I don't see how you can get rid of it completely, nor do I think you should."

I did not mention anything about getting rid of anything in Taiwanese society. Taiwanese society will progress on its own course over the generations as Taiwanese see fit.

The main issue here is not of moral education but the tyranny of making studying ancient Chinese text mandatory high school curriculum. Those people that pass this new curriculum only made this claim of moral education as a disguise. Once again, it is absolutely alright to make it a elective, but it is wrong to make it mandatory.

ALX said...

Well education in Taiwan is pretty tyrannical in general, and most things are mandatory. It's not as if students in Taiwan don't study ancient Chinese texts if not for this particular change in curriculum.

Anonymous said...

Talk about making mountains out of molehills. When you have a country where greater than 95% of the citizens have Han heritage, in a society that is based upon that prevailing culture, studying Confucian classics should be a no-brainer. It's not a big deal at all.

Anonymous said...

I think you are engaging in retroactively constructing Han where there had previously been lack of that identity based on Chinese Nationalist ideology. Furthermore, if it were true, whatever Han means, it is still tantamount to mob rule.

Anonymous said...

The founding of a republic was supposed to replace the Confucian theocracy of dynastic rule.

vin said...

Taiwan-brand Neo-Confucianism as it has been taught in public schools and disseminated through government-funded publications (with the spiking of the outpouring of publications beginning in the sixties [circa Cultural Revolution], if I recall correctly, and lasting into the nineties) has been foremost what NC inculcation has always been -- a tool for political control or manipulation.

Is NC (I'm ignoring here the entire, somewhat separate matter of folk Confucianism) a philosophy or a is it a religion? Hah! He who chooses an answer to this loaded, falsely-framed question is lost -- or so it appears to me. It appears to be ideology masquerading as philosophy -- philosophy whose problematic "humanistic"-but-actually-supernatural premises receive an exemption from critical examination that is usually only accorded to the premises of overtly supernatural religion.

To say that an ideology so transparently, so overtly instilled in the population for authority's self-interested purposes counts as as some kind of ontological "simply the way things are in Taiwan" is ahistorical and, given undercurrents of change in Taiwan, shortsighted if not blind.

Unfortunately, I've no time to further elaborate this argument here. Perhaps others more capable than me will do so if there are objections to it.

Anonymous said...

vin got it.

Dixteel said...


Thousands wrongs do not make it right. Taiwanese education system has problems of course, but what the Taiwanese educators should strive for is improving the education system, not going backward 20 years. By doing this, they are only making it worse.

ALX said... <--here's a link to author 侯文詠's thoughts on the education system in TW. Says it much better than I ever could. BTW the analects were make an elective at 2004. So, not quite 20 years, and my point is the rest of the education system is in the same vein anyway.

Anonymous said...

Education in the ROC was designed to be an ideological tool for the purpose of "nation building".

The goal was to make the citizens into "Chinese".

ALX said...

hmm weird link didn't copy properly...