Sunday, May 29, 2005

Holy Ties

The Vatican is currently one of only 26 countries that recognize the Republic of China as an independent country (Nauru recently returned into Taipei's fold, bringing the number up to 26). Some are predicting that the Vatican will cut ties to Taiwan in order to open relations with China. Supposedly, this would serve to facilitate cooperation with the PRC in order to turn China into a more Christian-friendly environment. Taiwan's ambassador to the Holy See has said
The Holy See's relationship with China was unlikely to undergo major changes in the near future because their views on religious matters are still very different.
Apparently there is also talk of changing the name of the embassy to "Embassy of Taiwan" instead of "Embassy of China" as it is currently known.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Deadline on US-Taiwan Arms Deal

According to this article from the Taipei Times, the US government is indicating that their offer to sell Taiwan 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft has a deadline. These sub hunters are vital to Taiwan's ability to conduct anti-submarine warfare (ASW), a field of growing importance in a possible China-Taiwan conflict.
Also included in the arms package that Taiwan's KMT has prevented from passing are 8 diesel submarines, which are also vital to Taiwan's defense. A good history of Taiwan's submarine fleet and attempts to expand and modernize it can be found here.
More important than the arms themselves is the message that Taiwan is sending to the United States as to its willingness to prepare itself for a possible conflict and its commitment to defend itself should the need arise. America's "Vietnam Syndrome" causes it to constantly examine each country it promises to defend for signs that the country is not willing to defend itself. If this arms deal doesn't go through, America may find itself questioning its defense commitment to Taiwan.
More than thirty members of Congress have already expressed to Lien Chan their opinion on the matter.

Update: This article however, claims there is no such deadline.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

PACOM as the Asian NATO

Robert Kaplan, whose Soldiers of God and Balkan Ghosts earned him a spot among my favorite authors, wrote the cover story (subscription required) for June's Atlantic Monthly. Entitled "How We Would Fight China," his nine-page article discusses the increasing potency of the PLA Navy (PLAN) relative to the US Navy.
His article has been dissected elsewhere, but one point I found interesting was:
The functional substitute for a NATO of the Pacific already exists, and is indeed up and running. It is the U.S. Pacific Command.
Kaplan argues, and I would agree, that PACOM is more capable of coalition warfare than NATO in this, the era of the "coalition of the willing." One caveat, however, is that given all the interoperability problems in Western Europe, Asian coalitions could expect greater problems. Linguistically, English is widely spoken (if not as a first language, certainly as a second or third) by most Western European servicemen; this is not true to the same degree in many Asian countries. Additionally, pundits often complain about America's European allies are half a generation behind in military technology. The militaries of many of our Asian allies are not even that advanced.
America is working to address the linguistic friction through officer exchanges and an increased emphasis on foreign language capabilities in its own officers. Perhaps America should shorten the waiting period on sales of state-of-the-art military technology to our Asian allies.

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Great Firewall of China

As I mentioned in my last post, I enjoyed Sharanksy's The Case for Democracy. In today's New York Times is an article that kind of ties in with Sharanky's discussion of how the free flow of information helped to undermine the dictatorial nature of the Soviet Union.
Will blogs topple the CCP?

On the other end of the spectrum of hope, it is a little known fact that Google-often cited as a champion of the free flow of information-is helping the Chinese government censor the internet as accessed by the Chinese people.
Accusations against Google
Admission by Google

I seem to remember seeing a news story about a year back about some iniative, in which Bill Clinton was a participant, that would allow the Chinese government to more efficiently block websites. It wasn't being sold to the public that way, but that was the net result. I can't find the story at the moment though.

Update: According to Yahoo, China has ordered all websites in China to register as a means of better restricting access to those they don't like.

Update2: Microsoft is now
also facilitating the enforcement of the Great Firewall of China. (See article and commentary)

Update 3: Global Voice is putting the censorship to the test.

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Starting Point

My hope is that this blog will help me to develop my thoughts on the subject by forcing me to make concise statements reinforced by links to supporting evidence. I hope that others will post their comments and thoughts on this blog as well (which of course would raise the level of discourse) if I am ever able to lure any readers here. So without any further ado, let me start with my first blog post...
It seems to me that the conclusions drawn by China-watchers are often largely affected by their ideological bias. As I won't claim to be the one true, unbiased researcher in the field, I feel it is appropriate to reveal my ideology as it relates to these issues.

AMERICA - I lean toward the right in American domestic and international politics. More relevantly, my Weltanschauung borders between Realism and Neo-Conservatism. Economically, I am a strong supporter of free trade.

TAIWAN - I am green. For those of you not familiar with the Taiwanese political spectrum, this graphic may help:

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) is headed by Former President Lee Teng-hui and supports independence ASAP.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is the party currently in power and is headed by President Chen Shui-bian. The DPP supports independence but is more pragmatic in terms of the means of achieving that eventual aim. President Chen has repeatedly stated that there is no need to declare independence because Taiwan already is independent.
These two parties combined form the Pan Green Alliance. It is relevant to note that greens refer to the country as Taiwan, while the blues use the official name of Republic of China. This is in large part due to the ethic and historical identification of its supporters.
The Kuomintang (KMT, also romanized as Guomindang or GMD) is the oldest of the political parties and dates back to the founding of the Republic of China (ROC) on the mainland under the leadership of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The KMT ruled Taiwan under martial law for many years before allowing opposition parties in the last two decades.
The People First Party (PFP) is nearly identical to the KMT in ideology. The PFP broke off from the KMT because in the 2000 presidential election, James Soong (who later founded the PFP) and Lien Chan (the chosen KMT candidate) both wanted to run for president. They split the vote and brought the DPP to power, ending nearly nine decades of continuous KMT rule. Both parties are still run by their candidates in 2000, although they have been better about collaborating in recent years.
The New Party is the smallest noteworthy party but is unlikely to be noteworthy much longer. The number of legislators in the Legislative Yuan is currently being halved and this pro-Independence party is being marginalized.
The latter three parties form the Pan Blue Coalition. All three support eventual reunification with the mainland. Keep in mind this does not mean they want Taiwan to be a province of the People's Republic of China (PRC). These parties, all of which draw their lineage from the KMT, favor reunification on terms that Chiang Kai-shek would have favored (eg: conquering the mainland or some kind of merger under the democratic principles of the ROC Constitution).
I find the idea of reconquista (to use a Spanish term to describe Chinese politics) or such a democratic unification unrealistic and thus I believe Taiwan must base its foreign policy on gaining de jure international recognition of its de facto independence. This belief puts me firmly in the green camp.

CHINA - There is only one political party in China, so I guess I would identify myself as a non-Party member. I do not support undermining the regime, so I wouldn't classify myself as opposition, but I also do not support the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). I believe that stability of China is very important for the peoples on both sides of the Taiwan Straits as China is unlikely to attempt to "reunify" the country by force as long as it remains prosperous and the CCP's rule is not challenged. I support an American foreign policy toward China similar to the one outlined by Natan Sharansky in The Case for Democracy for "fear societies," which is to say the linkage of foreign policy carrots to their domestic policies (specifically the liberalization of policies toward dissent).

I hope this helps understand who I am and where I am coming from.

For those seeking a more historical look at Taiwan's political parties, see this post by Jerome Keating.
Jujuflop does a better job than I explaining the DPP's position on Taiwan independence here.

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