Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Commentary Galore

Nets at Shiti Fishing Port

Elizabeth Economy writes on Taiwan and China for the CFR....
Beijing began the year by reversing its eight-year tacit understanding to not establish diplomatic relations with countries that recognize Taiwan (thereby giving the island nation a semblance of sovereign international status) and resuming ties with Gambia. Next, it successfully pressured Kenya to deport as many as forty-five Taiwanese (the number is in dispute) to the mainland as part of a larger set of arrests of suspects in a telecom fraud ring.
Economy has this history all wrong. The Chinese police were asking for the (alleged) Kenya scammers in December of 2014, long before Gambia switched sides. China has been waiting a year to collect the Taiwanese men. Obviously it is not about sovereignty or putting pressure on Tsai Ing-wen, yet that has become the dominant story in the international media and punditocracy. Beijing is signaling Taiwan on its lazy approach to crime, not because it elected Tsai Ing-wen.

Nevertheless, this is a Council on Foreign Relations piece, and the ending is wonderful: she rebuts the idiot brigade that wants to sell out Taiwan:
Finally, after falling off the American radar screen over the past eight years, Taiwan is quickly edging its way back on. The next administration needs to keep its eye on the final objective—“that cross-Strait differences be resolved peacefully and according to the wishes of the people on both sides of the Strait.” This means we don’t help stir the pot on Taiwan and we don’t sell-out Taiwan for some ephemeral grand bargain with Beijing. Taiwan may be small but it is not a small matter. At stake is not only our relationship with Beijing but also American values and principles, which are exemplified by Taiwan’s vibrant and determined democracy.
Excellent ending, another signal of the shift in the discourse over the last year or so toward a position which acknowledges that Beijing is a problem, and Taiwan, its victim. Hopefully Washington will come to view Tsai as an opportunity.

Interestingly, Bonnie Glaser wrote on what might happen between Taiwan and China for CSIS. Here are her recommendations:
*U.S. officials should make clear that while both sides have responsibility for avoiding disruption of the prevailing cross-Strait stability, in current circumstances Beijing needs to exhibit greater creativity and flexibility toward Taiwan, specifically to demand less clarity from Tsai and tolerate more ambiguity.

*Washington should encourage China to pay attention not only to Tsai Ing-wen's words but also to her actions.

*The United States should warn Beijing against taking actions that are harmful to Taiwan's economy and its participation in the international community. U.S. officials should emphasize that such actions would be counterproductive to China's goals of winning the hearts and minds of the people of Taiwan and its ultimate goal of reunification.

*U.S. officials should encourage Tsai Ing-wen to continue to exercise restraint, to avoid taking actions that could further incite Beijing's suspicions of her intentions, and to seek ways to provide additional reassurances that she does not plan to seek independence during her term in office.
The last one is boilerplate, but the first three are quite interesting. They all ask the US to ensure that Beijing gives Taiwan some space, and as sharp observer Aaron Wytze (@aaronwytze on Twitter) noted, none calls for Tsai Ing-wen to kow-tow to the fake 1992 Consensus.

John Bolton, neocon and Taiwan supporter (recall that many neocons began life as Asianists), wrote in FoxNews that ZOMG TENSIONS ARE RISING, which they are not (the impression I get is that Beijing does not know what to do and is searching for a policy) so THANKS OBAMA:
In January 2017, America’s new president will face Beijing’s ongoing efforts to run its own extortion campaign against Taiwan. If the Obama administration fails to support Taiwan in responding appropriately to China’s assertive, nearly belligerent actions on deportations and many other issues, the new president will have even graver problems to solve. This is not a case where America should simply tote up its investments in Taiwan and on the mainland and go with the bigger number. This is a matter of resisting Chinese efforts at establishing hegemony in East and Southeast Asia not only at the expense of its near neighbors, but of the United States as well
Bolton also accepts the Kenya case as a shot at Tsai Ing-wen, though it wasn't. *sigh*

Finally, no deluge of commentary is complete without Shelly Rigger checking in on surviving the long transition between the two presidents. It's her usual mix of solid observations and KMT propaganda. This part is quite solid and interesting:
Two statements made by PRC officials during the lame duck period are especially intriguing. PRC President Xi Jinping recently told delegates to China’s National People’s Congress, “If the historical fact of the ’92 consensus is recognized and if its core connotation is acknowledged, then the two sides of the Strait will have a common political basis and positive interaction can be preserved.” At a speech in Washington, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi mentioned the “current constitution of Taiwan” as the basis of both the one-China claim and Tsai’s presidency.

Of course, when Xi mentions the “core connotation” of the ’92 consensus, he is referring to the part of the formula that states there is only one China, and Taiwan is part of it. This “core connotation” is far from Tsai’s position. Indeed, even Ma Ying-jeou has kept his distance from that connotation, preferring to emphasize the second element of the ’92 consensus, the two sides’ differing interpretations of “one China.” Nonetheless, Xi’s demand that Tsai must recognize the historical fact of the ’92 consensus (as opposed to endorsing it by name) may give Tsai more to work with.
But then she inverts reality:
[1] The ’92 Consensus was coined as a label for a tacit agreement made by Taipei and Beijing’s semi-official representatives at a meeting in Hong Kong in 1992. The representatives acknowledged that both sides believed Taiwan to be part of China, but they left unspecified exactly what they meant by “China.” This allowed the PRC to move forward with negotiations on the grounds that the Taiwanese were in line with Beijing’s one-China principle, and it allowed Taiwan to continue to define “China” as the Republic of China (the state on Taiwan). Beijing typically stresses the “one China” component of the consensus, while Taipei emphasizes the unspecified nature of “China,” by articulating the consensus as “One China, with each side having its own interpretation.” For the DPP, this whole concept is problematic, both because many in the DPP reject the idea that Taiwan is part of China in any sense, and because they believe the label “’92 Consensus” is a post hoc exaggeration of what actually happened at the ’92 meeting. For this reason, Tsai Ing-wen has avoided endorsing the phrase itself, although she has acknowledged the value and utility of the ’92 meeting.
In Riggerverse, unelected reps from the PRC met with unelected reps from the ROC and they reached a consensus. In this universe, they did not reach a consensus -- nothing was agreed on at the meeting except to be nice to each other. That ought to be obvious by now. The 1992 Consensus was invented in the run-up to the 2000 election as a cage to imprison a non-KMT president. Even the Wiki page has Su Chi's 2006 admission that the 1992 Consensus was made up. Why don't scholars?

The 1992 Consensus didn't "allow the PRC to move forward". LOL. As always, the basis for KMT-CCP cooperation isn't the 1992C but the desire of China to annex Taiwan. That is why Beijing has never accepted the 1992 Consensus, but insists that Taiwan politicians do.

It's the DPP position, not the KMT position, that corresponds to reality.

Rigger correctly observes that Ma's South China Sea gambit is his last vicious little gift to Beijing, creating new headaches for the incoming Tsai Administration. I thought it was wonderful that the Kenya mess blew up during the week he brought three foreign scholars to validate his position on Taiping Island. It totally vaporized their visit in the media.

Finally: tourism. Rigger takes the (absurdly wrong) conventional position that reduction of tourists = punishment, like Elizabeth Economy and many other commentators:
According to Taiwan’s Minister of Transportation and Communications, Beijing has cut the number of travel permits it is issuing to Taiwan-bound tourists, which may lead to a double-digit decline in the number of visitors. Taiwan has invested heavily in infrastructure for mainland tourists, so closing the spigot will be costly.
No, "closing the spigot" will be a net winner for Taiwan because tourism is a net money-loser (see my detailed discussion based on a recent paper). Chinese tourism is widely detested in Taiwan and most of us will be happy to see the tourists go so we can return to many wonderful tourist sites. Tourism also does not drive the development of human capital to increase living standards. Nope, we are better off without the endless lines of Chinese tourist buses crawling over the east coast like beetles on a rotting log.

If Beijing cuts tourism, it will only hurt Beijing. The tourism drive has resulted in the construction of new patronage and influence networks in local areas that are oriented on China and on the KMT. These will suffer. Moreover -- track this -- the new tourist infrastructure is often quietly financed by Chinese money brought in through offshore tax havens, which are key sources of FDI in Taiwan. China suffers again! Please, please cut tourism -- it is an important territorial strategy of Beijing, and Beijing will suffer the most.

Meanwhile, tourists from other countries are flowing in to replace these losses. They spend more too.

Many observers still have not caught on to this point: Beijing's expressed goal of annexing Taiwan peacefully requires that China interact with Taiwan. Beijing also seeks to plunder Taiwan's tech base so it can destroy the basis of Taiwan independence, our robust economy. Reduction in interactions between the Chinese empire and Taiwan correspondingly reduces Beijing's chances of accomplishing these goals.

Me? I'm looking forward to biking in areas free of obnoxious, stingy, Chinese tourist groups. Reclaiming Taiwan, as it were, from the invaders.
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!


Anonymous said...

Alan Romberg, Richard Bush etc. consistently and deliberately ignore real accounts told by TW gov (Lee TengHui) as well as journalists' reporting during 1989-2000. When they start talking like revisionists then it's almost guaranteed that they will sooner or later confuse even themselves
- Fuankio.

taretz said...

The persistence of the 1992 Consensus is baffling. It cannot be pointed out often enough that the 1992 SEF-ARATS meeting in Hong Kong was a complete failure and no consensus was achieved then. In this context contemporary articles in the Free China Journal (at that time a printed newspaper published by the government in Taipei, predecessor of the Taiwan Today website) covering the 1992 meeting are illuminating. Link to these articles: