Tuesday, November 29, 2016

China Seizes Singapore Military Equipment on the way home from Taiwan

This image shows a growing yet largely unrecognized problem in Taiwan. Where newer buildings are built, they control all the space around them in an attempt to look clean and modern -- a telling signal of the way power and control underlie our conception of what is modern -- the sidewalks are blocked for scooter parking and street vendors, and the streets are redlined so there is no legal parking. If you attempt to park a scooter there, a security guard will soon appear to tell you to move it, perhaps to the sidewalks across the street, under the eaves of the traditional three story buildings. The old anarchy of Taiwan, which had a profoundly human and humane chaos, is slowly being eroded by cold, sterile, inhuman expressions of power over space like this.

Taiwan has long maintained military relations with Singapore (if you've been on vacation in Kenting you've been within a stone's throw of where Singapore troops stay in Taiwan). This week China struck at this relationship, seizing nine vehicles in transit through Hong Kong... (SCMP)
An armed forces team from Singapore was due in Hong Kong last night on a mission to establish why nine of their brand new military vehicles were seized and impounded by customs during their return from Taiwan.

Singapore’s top diplomat in Hong Kong has also become involved in what one military expert said could be a “strategic calculation’’ by Beijing which yesterday reaffirmed its opposition to any sovereign state having official or military ties what it regards as a renegade province.
Indeed, the intertubes are rife with speculation that this is aimed at SE Asia states that might be thinking of upgrading their bilateral or multilateral relations with Taipei. Recall that under the Ma Administration little was done about SE Asia, while the Tsai Administration has made the new Southbound Policy a cornerstone of the Administration's foreign policy. China is also said to be unhappy with Singapore over recent political disagreements.

A posting to a discussion group I am added something further (reposted with permission of author):


There is the angle of Taiwan-Singapore relations too, which China seems eager to further limit. Then there is the matter of whether this incident will restrict the Tsai administration’s efforts to reach out to Southeast Asia.

A little bit more background from what [the writer] have heard but am unable to independently verify at this point:

The shipper, APL, bought over the commercial shipping business of Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) earlier this year. NOL was a commercial shipping firm owned by the Singapore government via Temasek Holdings. Underperformance and a tough market forced the sell. NOL also previously handled the shipping of equipment for the Singapore Armed Forces to places like Taiwan and also Australia. APL currently runs the following route--Kaohsiung - Xiamen- HK - Shenzhen- Port Klang- Singapore- Kaohsiung. It appears that APL cut the Kaohsiung-Singapore route to streamline its business. However, the Singapore Armed Forces or Singapore Ministry of Defence may not have updated its shipping contract to ensure direct shipping.

Then there is the issue of the APCs themselves. The vehicle involves proprietary technologies from the US and Europe, in particular the armor, which may be subject to export control regulations. These vehicles being in Chinese ports including Hong Kong, may be in violation of these regulations. Then there is the battlefield management system. It is unclear if the battlefield management system was shipped with the vehicles in the accompanying containers. There is a good chance this is the case. The battlefield management system enables the Terrex to coordinate fires and exchange tactical information with other platforms like the AH-64D Apaches, F-15s, F-16s, and naval vessels. There is a good chance that this means it is compatible with the US/NATO LINK digital datalink system. A system that not only US forces and NATO use, but also Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. An upgraded version of the Terrex is under consideration as a finalist for the US Marine Corps ACV program.

Information on the Terrex below (all open source).

China sure killed a lot of birds with this one stone....
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Anonymous said...

Re: the picture, putting aside space for walking isn't a problem, it's essential for cutting CO2, reducing sprawl, and letting disabled people get around more easily. Fewer scooters also means less noise and better traffic safety.

Michael Turton said...

we need more scooters, not fewer, so we use less gas. Eventually all those spaces will have to be used by electric scooters. That would cut CO2.

Yeah, I agree about the walking issue. But I've come to see it as part of the experience, and necssary for all the things that must occupy a street in Taiwan...

Anonymous said...

If you replace scooter parking with sidewalks, walking will replace scooters, not cars. That is because there will not be any parking spaces for the cars to use, rendering it impossible to increase the amount of driving to that area. You don't need personal motorized transit on that scale in cities with densities like those in Taiwan (European cities manage well with lower densities), and Taiwan's geography is well-suited to mass transit (lots of valleys). Moreover, electric scooters still require electricity to be produced, which almost always involves some sort of environmental damage or consumes a lot of space. Of course mass transit uses electricity too, but less per person since mass transit users walk for short trips while scooter owners drive almost everywhere. Besides, there seems to be little chance of electric scooters taking over any time soon.
Finally, scooters still require parking, which takes up quite a bit of space, leading to sprawl that eats up precious land.
I think you can get that chaos without scooters. I don't like new development much either, but it's more the lack of stands and small shops, the dead open spaces, and the oversized plot sizes that get me.
Sorry for being anon, for some reason I can't post with my account =P

Tommy said...

One thing you have neglected to mention is that the Chinese knew about the shipment when the vessel was in Xiamen. My thought about this is that it was not the smartest of responses on the part of China. Sure, it sends a message, but seizing military equipment of Singapore cannot make the Singapore government think they can trust China any more. To me, it looks like yet another characteristic action of Xi Jinping inc. Make a brash statement at the potential cost of a long-term relationship. It is a reversal of the post-Deng period that cannot help China apart from anything they can glean from the tanks themselves.

Anonymous said...

APL is a subsidiary of NOL. NOL was bought by CMA CGM earlier this year.

Anonymous said...

Well, we can all rest easy at night knowing Donald Trump and a cabal of insane war mongering zealots, creationists, and crackpots will be guiding our nations foreign policy for 4 years.

Carlos said...

20 years ago, city life in Spain was almost as scooter-based as in Taiwan. But between efforts to cut down on the noise, insurance increases due to all the injuries, and a temporary increase in wealth, people ride a lot less now. Are people walking more? No, they're driving. Instead of walking around parked scooters, you now walk around cars parked halfway onto the sidewalk. So I agree with Michael - scooters, especially electric ones, should be encouraged.

Anonymous said...

I'm all in favor of more "rationalization" of public spaces, even if it is somewhat dehumanizing. The current arrangements are incredibly self-centered and radically 自由 that people literally walk and ride into each other, or simply stop and cut off a sidewalk. It reveals a shortcoming in democratic development here that people do not acknowledge the other. That said, I am not in favor of unilateral organization and management by private entities. The government, by will of the people, ought to get serious about zoning and organizing public space so that truly beneficial urban development plans can be drawn up and implemented; the ad-hoc patchwork of ugly modern buildings is just a different kind of blight.

Anonymous said...

Mr Turton,

You are obviously a normally-abled man who can ride his bicycle around the entire country and blog about it. I on the other hand rely on a wheelchair. I find it awfully patronizing that you are telling me scooters blocking the sidewalk should be a part of my experience. You cannot even imagine how many years of advocacy it took for municipal governments to make this a priority. Maybe you should reflect your privilege and incredible ignorance before denying me my right to an accessible inner-city experience.


Peter Hwang

channing said...

Regarding scooters:
Taiwanese think they are a nuisance and an eyesore, and "not modern." This is only a response to the demands of the landlords and their tenants.

Regarding military hardware impounded in Hong Kong:
Why doesn't the Singapore military charter their own boats to shuttle hardware around? I'm all for cooperative military relations, but if I saw boatloads of military equipment stopping by MY container port, I would be suspicious as well. I would be fairly certain that SG and TW were both aware of this risk.