Posts tagged ‘Tsai Ing-wen’

16/12/2016

Taiwan fears becoming Donald Trump’s bargaining chip | The Economist

BY THE end of this month, say Chinese officials, work will be completed on a big upgrade of facilities at a monument to one of the scariest moments in the recent history of relations between China and the United States: an upsurge of tensions in the Taiwan Strait in the mid-1990s that saw the two nuclear powers inching towards the brink of war.

The structure is a concrete tower on an island in the strait, just off the Chinese coast. Atop it more than 100 generals watched a mock invasion of Taiwan by China’s army on a beach below. “Unite the motherland, invigorate China”, says a slogan in gold characters down the side of the building. The meaning of these words at a place where tanks and troops once stormed ashore with warplanes streaking overhead is: we want Taiwan back, by force if necessary.

The building work involves an expansion of the tower’s car park, improvements to the road up to it and other changes to make the place on Pingtan Island in Fujian province more tourist-friendly. The timing may be fortuitous. On December 11th America’s president-elect, Donald Trump, in an interview with Fox News, questioned what China regards as a sacred underpinning of its relationship with America: the principle that there is but “one China” (which, decoded, means that the government of Taiwan is illegitimate). China, bristling with rage, may well seek to remind its citizens, as well as America, of what happened when that principle was last challenged by the United States with a decision in 1995 by its then president, Bill Clinton, to allow his Taiwanese counterpart, Lee Teng-hui, to pay a private visit to America. Handy, then, that Pingtan will be able to handle extra busloads of visitors to that hilltop where China’s brass surveyed the pretend assault.

Relations between China and America are far less precarious than they were during those tense months, when China fired dummy missiles near Taiwan and America sent two aircraft-carrier battle groups close to the island to warn China not to attack it. China, though enraged by Mr Trump’s remarks (and a congratulatory call he took from Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, on December 2nd), is unlikely to take retaliatory action unless Mr Trump continues to challenge the notion of one China after his inauguration on January 20th.

The chip is down

Taiwan has been in the doghouse anyway since Ms Tsai took office in May. China has cut off channels of communication with the island to show its displeasure with her own refusal to embrace the one-China idea. But Ms Tsai may have reservations herself about the way Mr Trump phrased his one-China scepticism. “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” he said. Mr Trump listed ways in which America was being “badly hurt” by China, such as by the fall in the value of its currency and its island-building in the South China Sea. He accused China of “not helping us at all with North Korea”.

Many Taiwanese worry that this could mean their island will be treated by Mr Trump as a bargaining-chip. Memories are still fresh in Taiwan of secretive dealings between America and China during the cold war, which resulted in America severing diplomatic ties with the island in 1979. Ms Tsai’s government has avoided direct comment on Mr Trump’s remarks. Apparently to avoid raising tensions with China, she has also avoided public crowing over her phone call with Mr Trump.

Mr Trump’s remarks would have riled the Chinese leadership at any time. But they are particularly unwelcome at this juncture for China’s leader, Xi Jinping. He is absorbed by preparations for crucial meetings due to be held late in 2017 at which sweeping reshuffles of the Politburo and other Communist Party bodies will be announced. Those trying to block his appointments would be quick to seize on any sign that he is being soft on America over such a sensitive matter as Taiwan. Should Mr Trump persist in challenging the one-China idea, the risk of escalation will be even greater than usual in the build-up to the conclaves—all the more so, perhaps, given Mr Xi’s insistence that differences between China and Taiwan “cannot be passed on from generation to generation”. Hawkish colleagues may say that it is time to settle the issue by force.

Street protests in China against America or Taiwan would also make it more difficult for Mr Xi to compromise: he would fear becoming a target himself of Chinese nationalists’ wrath. But the risk of this may be low. Since Mr Xi took over in 2012 there have been no major outbreaks of nationalist unrest, partly thanks to his tightening of social and political controls (including locking up ever more dissidents).

Sun Zhe of Tsinghua University says people are unlikely to demonstrate over Taiwan “because they understand the new rules, the new emphasis on political discipline in the last few years.” He says a lot of people in China still admire Mr Trump for his wealth and his unexpected political success. They think that “he wants to make a deal with China.”

In Taiwan, some take comfort in the difficulty Mr Trump would face in changing the terms of America’s relations with Taiwan, such as by announcing a permanent end to arms sales. These are guaranteed by the Taiwan Relations Act, which was passed by Congress in 1979 to reassure Taiwan that America still had an interest in the island’s defence, despite the severance of official ties. Many Republicans sympathise with Taiwan and would be reluctant to support any change to that law (itself a challenge to the one-China idea with which China has—very grudgingly—learned to live).

They might also take solace in what appears to be a change in the Chinese government’s tone since the war games 20 years ago. In April Global Times, a newspaper in Beijing, published a poll showing that 85% of respondents supported unifying China with Taiwan by force, and that 58% agreed the best time would be within the next five years. It was reportedly chastised by China’s internet regulator for “hyping sensitive events” by running such a survey.

Source: Taiwan fears becoming Donald Trump’s bargaining chip | The Economist

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06/12/2016

Tsai says call with Trump does not reflect US policy change | South China Morning Post

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday her phone call with US president-elect Donald Trump should not be interpreted a significant shift in American policy, and stressed that both sides saw the value of maintaining regional stability.

“Of course I have to stress that one phone call does not mean a policy shift,” she told a small group of American reporters in Taipei. “The phone call was a way for us to express our respect for the US election as well as congratulate president-elect Trump on his win.”

Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen initiated phone call with Donald Trump, says island’s presidential spokesmanTrump’s phone call with Tsai broke four decades of diplomatic protocol, alarming some commentators who feared it could spark a dangerous confrontation with Beijing.

Others though, especially US Republicans, have welcomed it as a sign Trump will not be bullied by Beijing, and believe the United States should offer more support to Taiwan’s democracy.

Sources in Trump’s team said the call was planned weeks in advance to establish the incoming president as a break from the past, although vice-president-elect Mike Pence described it as a “courtesy” call, not intended to show a shift in US policy on cross-strait ties.

Tsai echoed that line. “I do not foresee major policy shifts in the near future because we all see the value of stability in the region,” she said.Beijing has reacted with relative calm to the call, lodging what it called a “solemn protest” with the US government, but also underlining that its economic and diplomatic relationship with Washington depended on the US acceptance of the one-China principle, which recognises Beijing as the sole representative of the Chinese nation.

Beijing blocks Taiwan from taking part in almost all international bodies. Tsai’s office said she had told Trump during the phone call that she hoped the United States “would continue to support more opportunities for Taiwan to participate in international issues”.

Reacting to criticism of the call, Trump himself pointed out that the United States sold billions of dollars of arms to Taiwan.

Beijing has already increased the pressure on Taiwan since Tsai’s election, upset that she has not publicly endorsed the “one China” principle – although she consistently expresses the need for dialogue.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi appeared to blame Taiwan for the phone call, calling it a “petty” move, and the nationalist Global Times tabloid initially recommended that Beijing should continue to talk to Trump but punish Taiwan.

Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior non resident fellow at the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham, wrote that this could include renewed efforts to deny Taiwan access at various multilateral organisations, the stealing of diplomatic allies, punitive economic measures and more intense or frequent military exercises aimed at Taiwan.

If that happens, the domestic support Tsai had received for her call could be countered by greater tensions with Beijing, he said, “What remains to be seen is what kind of ally Taiwan will have in Washington if and when such a shift occurs in the Taiwan Strait,” he wrote in The National Interest.

On Tuesday, there were also signs of growing concern in Beijing that Trump’s constant criticism of Beijing in his speeches and on Twitter might actually mean something. His latest salvo – complaining about China’s currency and trade policy, and its actions in the South China Sea – sparked a frustrated response in the Global Times.What does Donald Trump’s phone call with President Tsai mean for future US arms sales to Taiwan?

“Trump’s China-bashing tweet is just a cover for his real intent, which is to treat China as a fat lamb and cut a piece of meat off it,” it wrote. “China should brace itself for the possible fluctuations of the Sino-US relationship after Trump is sworn in. We must confront Trump’s provocations head-on, and make sure he won’t take advantage of China at the beginning of his tenure.

”The Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily took a more measured line, arguing that dialogue was vital to maintaining friendly relations and correct some of Trump’s “inaccurate” criticisms of Beijing.

“Trump’s recent demeanour has proved people’s doubts on his inexperience in diplomatic relations. In fact, Trump is not that ignorant on China and China-US relations, he has some sensible understandings and his own take on matters. But the problem is that Trump’s rhetoric shows that he only knows one side of China and China-US relations,” it wrote in a front-page editorial on its overseas edition.

“At the present, the peaceful transition of China-US relations is the key task that both countries face. It depends on joint efforts, not just good wishes from one side.”

Source: Tsai says call with Trump does not reflect US policy change | South China Morning Post

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