Thursday, May 19, 2016

Commentary and comments on Tomorrow

A few years ago, I passed Tsai Ing-wen in the street, mobbed. In a few hours she will be President.
Yoda: It is the future you see.
Luke: The future? ... Will they die?
Yoda: Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.
In a few hours Tsai Ing-wen will be President of the Republic of China on Taiwan. I hardly know how to think about this. Mostly I just have a powerful feeling of relief that eight years of selling out Taiwan to a few big businessmen and China will finally end.

Meanwhile, the neverending flow of commentary is neverending. Enjoy a few links....

Perhaps the greatest joy of the long slog on this blog has been the many wonderful people it has brought into my life. Michal Thim, the security analyst, one of the sharpest observers of Taiwan affairs, a soft-spoken and quietly funny person whom it has been a great privilege to call friend, is cited several times in this very solid report from CNAS...
As Taiwan prepares to inaugurate President-Elect Tsai Ing-wen, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Asia-Pacific Security Program Research Associate Harry Krejsa has written a new report, “Seeing Strait: The Future of the U.S.-Taiwan Strategic Relationship.” The report makes the case that U.S. policy should emphasize Taiwan’s human capital, defensive capabilities, and integration into the international marketplace.
CSIS asked Could China Seize and Occupy Taiwan Militarily. Lots of people too focused on "seized" and not enough focused on "occupy."

Speaking of things military, China staged military exercises which everyone reported on as being aimed at Taiwan, like IBT here, even though they were actually aimed at the international media. Yes, the first female president of a major manufacturing powerhouse is being sworn in amid great changes in cross-strait and East and Southeast Asian relations, and huge domestic political changes, all of which could have been documented but -- SQUIRREL!!! -- China is having exercises OMIGOD SQUIRREL!!!

Another very sharp observer of Taiwan I have had the good fortune to share beers and opinions with is Gwenyth Wang, who has a piece at the CPI blog on the transition:
It is nearly a quarter of a century since 1992. Neither China nor Taiwan is the same as they were 25 years ago. China’s rising economic power has repositioned it on the centre of world stage, whereas Taiwan’s economy is in dire need of reform. Under such critical economic conditions, if closer cross-Strait economic ties under outgoing President Ma’s eight years governance could not bring unification any closer, nor will suspending economic and other cross-Strait interactions. It is time for Beijing and Taipei to find a new common ground for sustainable cross-Strait stability. The international community should also re-think the narrative of cross-Strait relations, instead of ignoring China’s provocations while pressing Taiwan to make concessions in the name of “stability”.
WSJ reiterates a very common theme: a sagging economy (over a year of falling exports) awaits Tsai Ing-wen, also found in this AP piece. The latter offers the ZOMG TENSIONS convention that is governing reporting on the ceremony tomorrow. Similarly, Bloomberg....

Reuters really made my day... it "reports" on the DPP's new law to put cross-strait negotiations under the supervision of the legislature. The horrors of democracy unleashed! Reuters then forwards us a cascade of OH NOES along with a farrago of pro-China commentary and pro-China framing. My favorite, though, is this:
Incoming president Tsai Ing-wen has made the bill, spurred by anti-China student protests in 2014, a priority for her government, which will be sworn in on Friday.The bill requires government officials to get legislative consent before, during and after any talks with Beijing. They cannot sign any agreements with China before all three stages of legislative approval are completed.

"We are very worried," said Liao Wan-lung, head of Taiwan's Council for Industrial and Commercial Development. "It will be a major blow to the growth of Taiwan's fragile economy."
Of course, I am sure your spidey-sense started tingling when you said to yourself "What? I've never heard of this organization!" Sure enough, if you search his name you will find out that Liao Wan-lung is a former KMT Central Standing Committee member (he once recommended discouraging intermarriage between Han and aborigines to preserve aboriginal culture, a LOL on so many levels. The comment was so obnoxious the KMT had to ban him for a bit).

Yes, that's right, Reuters sourced an anti-Tsai quote from a high ranking member of the KMT without identifying him as such. Indeed, further down it refers to "Liao and other business leaders..." (he is Chairman of a major metals firm). ROFL. I know I am really going to enjoy the next few years with Reuters...

In direct contrast to Reuters is Anna Beth Keim, who was here during the election and writes in Foreign Policy on the possibility of discontent towards Tsai from the youth movement. A sturdy and informed piece, highly recommended....
Tsai has already managed to disappoint young supporters even before assuming office. In April, the DPP she leads released a draft of a cross-strait agreement supervision bill — intended to ensure rigorous oversight and public participation in decisions about agreements with China — that was one of the Sunflower Movement’s main demands. It received blistering criticism from the movement’s participants for failing to clarify how civic groups could participate in the evaluation process, and for failing to guarantee that final decisions on cross-strait agreements would be made transparently and collectively. This may be a preview for what Tsai can expect after she takes power. Former participants in the Sunflower Movement and those who have become politically active in its wake feel they have a responsibility to exert pressure on the new government; they see themselves, not Tsai or the DPP, as the vanguard of change.
Gary Schmitt from AEI says "Hey! Let's ditch that one China fiction!" in WaPo, no less. Well done, sir. Ian Easton, always solid, argues that Taiwan is a strategic asset/opportunity. I've been arguing this for years. Good to see lots of informed people backing me up.

Ketagalan Media is going to have a series of pieces on Tsai, the election, and the future.

Finally, from the The Nelson Report, the Washington insider report:
US-CHINA/TAIWAN...with Tsai Ing-wen's inauguration coming Friday, "signals" are being sent fast and furious. Her speech will arrive sometime Thursday evening, DC time. Seems safe to predict she will not accommodate Xi Jin-ping's insistent demand to say something nice about the so-called "1992 consensus" negotiated by the then-ruling KMT.

Problem is, Beijing's drumroll on this has been going on for a couple of years, and Xi has basically set himself up to "fail" when she won't do it. And then what?

Always a potential tension raiser is the US Congress and Taiwan's friends here, real and self-appointed. The problem is, rarely do the House Foreign Affairs Committee rhetorical efforts meld with the existing White House policy on maintaining a peaceful balance in the Taiwan Straits.

Understatement, of course. All too often, and this goes back to the Carter Administration and the TRA, the House especially is way out in front of what the Administration of the moment either plans or wants to do. Recently and into the next Administration, the White House calculation may be shifting under the pressure of Xi's aggressive maritime stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Loyal Reader Bob Manning, Atlantic Council, passes on this Taipei Times coverage of US House hortatory legislation passed late Monday, with the comment:

"House resolution worth flagging. PLA exercises suggest Xi will play hardball w/DPP."
Actually, what the PLA exercises suggest is that China has no idea what to do about Tsai and is falling back on its old moves. Is there anything that China has done that wasn't in its previous stock of anti-Taiwan measures:
  • Dangle participation in international organizations? Check
  • Military exercises? Check
  • Rhetorical pressure on one China? Check
  • Take a "diplomatic ally?" Check
  • Threaten to break off relations? Check
  • Have its allies in the foreign media and safely based in democracies abroad advocate that Tsai should knuckle under to authoritarian China? Check
Well, tomorrow, whatever happens, will be historical.
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!

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