Friday, September 17, 2010

Pair 'a Dicey Islands

The Foreigner opines:
Story at the Taipei Times. The press in Taiwan is still mum though, on how much the irredentist president's gunboat diplomacy has cost the nation -- not only in precious taxpayer NT dollars, but in squandered international credibility as well.

One need not speculate what world reaction would have been had Ma instead dispatched 12 Taiwanese coast guard vessels into CHINESE waters. So that a "civilian" fishing boat could attempt to raise the Republic of China flag on P.R.C. soil Because the answer is clear: the world would have regarded it as an outrageously dangerous provocation.

A very REAL provocation, quite unlike any of the phony "provocations" the previous Chen administration was accused of.
The CNA had a timely article on the Dongsha islands on the other side of Taiwan in the South China Sea. In that case Taiwan is following the Chen Shui-bian policy of environmentally-defined peaceful development. Note that the ROC insanely claims the entire South China Sea:

Ger said that he doesn't expect major conflict in the region in the near future and that Taiwan hopes all claimants will set aside disputes and collaborate on management and conservation.

"Our appeals remain the same, " he said. "We claim full sovereignty over the South China Sea and hope to resolve the issue through peaceful dialogue. The Taiwan government maintains channels for dialogues with all parties involved in the issue -- although they're mostly unofficial.
But these claims are not "provocative". No, "provocative" is when Chen Shui-bian has a referendum or a campaign to enter the UN.

It's so difficult not to descend into about six paragraphs worth of snark at this point....

I'd like to explore The Foreigner's point, though. Remember this incident, mentioned in the article above?
In 2008, former President Chen Shui-bian visited the Spratlys to inaugurate an airstrip, sparking protest from the Philippines and Vietnam.
How was Chen's airstrip visit covered? Consider Wapo's piece on Chen's visit:
Andrew Yang, secretary general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taipei, said Chen's trip to the islands was designed as a "political message." He said Chen was asserting leadership after his Democratic Progressive Party suffered a humiliating loss in legislative elections three weeks ago, a defeat many observers said was encouraged by his confrontational style.

"He is trying to emphasize that he is fully in control," Yang said.
The Reuters piece also cites Andrew Yang, whose political allegiance should have been made clear to readers, and -- of all people -- Su Chi, Ma's former NSC head and a KMT heavyweight. As with the WaPo piece the tone is of course entirely negative and little attempt is made to explore Chen's and/or Taiwan's policy. The Asia Sentinel piece on the event is similarly judgmental: Chen is up to "mischief-making". For a more Taiwan-centered view on the event, try the Taiwan News piece. For a review of Taiwan's Spratly policy in the Chen Administration try this old Asia Times piece. The airfield was actually announced in 2005. What's striking about so much of this "reporting" is how normalized a kind of tone of knowing negativity about Chen became in the media. If you can find the AP piece, compare its dry and relatively non-judgmental tone to the other reports.

Note that while the Chen visit to the Spratlys is portrayed in most of the pieces as pure political posturing prior to the election -- merely motivated by cynical domestic political calculation -- I can't find any media source that has written that way about sending 12 coast guard vessels to confront Japanese vessels in "disputed waters." Apparently only Chen Shui-bian has cynical political calculation related to domestic politics -- even when Ma's popularity is at Chen-like levels and even when we are two months away from key elections.

Of course, the coast guard vessels were not there to confront the Japanese so much as to make sure the "activists" didn't do anything stupid, right? The China Post, the KMT's English-language cheerleader, described the situation as:
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.
The pro-Green media says the same thing: the coast guard was "protecting" the fishing boat. Here's the story about what happened from the Taipei Times:
Taiwan lodged a protest against Japan on Tuesday after a Taiwanese fishing boat heading to the islands to declare Taiwanese fishermen’s fishing rights was turned back by seven Japanese patrol vessels despite the protection of 12 Coast Guard Administration vessels.

Japan’s move prompted about 100 people, led by the Chung Hwa ­Baodiao Alliance, to burn the Rising Sun Flag — a symbol of Imperial Japan that is used by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the Maritime Self-­Defense Force in modified forms — and to throw dead fish at Japan’s Interchange Association in Taipei in protest.

The Taiwanese government expressed “deep dissatisfaction” with Japan following an hours-long standoff between the Taiwanese fishing boat, coast guard vessels and the Japanese patrol boats.

Huang Hsi-lin (黃錫麟), chief executive officer of the alliance and one of the activists on the fishing boat, criticized the Taiwanese government as being “weak” about protecting Taiwanese fishing boats.

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.
I'd love to know where that language of "protecting" comes from. The media's nationalistic interpretation, or a government spokesman? The China Post story appears to imply that it comes from coast guard spokespersons, implying that the idea of "protecting" which inevitably meant confrontation with Japanese ships was in fact government policy. Hopefully I've misinterpreted that....


The Taipei Times also reported that the Mainland Affairs Council appears to be strangely reluctant to complain to China about Chinese vessels encroaching on the Senkakus...almost as if they were cooperating with China or somethin'. Nah. Wu even says that the government will take a "hard line" on the issue. At the same time, the media reported that the activists said the government made it difficult for them to rent a boat, threatening to revoke the licenses of any owners who rented the group a boat. Clearly the "hard line" appears to be for domestic media consumption -- but that's impossible because we know that only Chen Shui-bian "provokes" for cynical domestic political reasons.


Of course, the miniature confrontation in the Senkakus was overshadowed by China/Taiwan cooperation in rescue mission drills for the first time:
Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA) conducted a joint maritime rescue drill with its Chinese counterpart Thursday, marking the first time Taiwanese and Chinese coastal patrol agencies have held joint marine exercises.
Let's see that timing again: on Monday President Ma's government has coast guard vessels confront(?) Japanese ships in Japanese waters. On Thursday China and Taiwan have coast guard drills together. Surely on monday the government knew that on thursday it would be having coast guard drills with Beijing.....
Daily Links
  • A commenter gave me this link to a fascinating blog post full of interesting maps and texts that show that the Senkakus don't belong to Taiwan (Chinese).
  • That post led me to this way cool set of maps that show how the administrative districts of Taiwan evolved through the centuries.
  • A Dean from Taiwan at St John's U, Cecilia Chang, is busted for embezzling donations from, among others, a Saudi prince. Said embezzlement being hilariously transparent. Honorary degree recipients from St John's include Mrs. Lien Chan, fugitive legislator Liu Sung-pan, and John Chiang. There is also a Chiang Ching-kuo memorial hall on campus. Hmm.....
  • Hsu decides not to split DPP by running in Tainan mayoral election.
  • On the China-Japan fishing boat dispute. Interesting: article claims a US attack sub designed for shallow water operations has been re-assigned to Yokusaka in Japan.
  • Diamondbacks could still open MLB 2011 here in Taiwan.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


les said...

How sad. Here is Japan offering to extend it's defense shield to Taiwan and keep the Chinese off the Ryukyus to defend it's Eastern shore, and meanwhile Matong sends coastguard cutters out to confront them. The irony...

Taiwan Echo said...

"A commenter gave me this link to a fascinating blog post full of interesting maps and texts that show that the Senkakus don't belong to Taiwan (Chinese)."

The credit should be given to the original author, a netter named "tsai68", here:

[討論歷史] 為什麼釣魚台是日本的

His/her profile lists some other historical interests.

Here is the other side of the argument, also full of maps:


All are in Chinese.

According to tsai68, those who used maps to argue "Senkakus belongs to China" often use "partial maps" (only cut a small part of the map) for evidence, with which the fact could be easily distorted.