Thursday, October 17, 2013

Warning Shot: Why the time May be Right for another U.S. Arms Sale Package to Taiwan

During last week's APEC Summit in Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated to the Taiwanese envoy that Beijing and Taipei must begin taking steps to close the political divide between them.  While such statements could have been taken in an attempt to garner and maintain support from the leadership of the People's Liberation Army, it is equally as likely that the absence of American President Barack Obama emboldened Xi to take an increasingly assertive tone towards Taipei.  If the Obama Administration is serious about  security commitments to its Asian allies,  the time may be optimal for it to fire a "diplomatic  warning shot" across the bow of the PRC in the form publicly declaring its willingness to be open to new military platform requests from its longtime ally Taiwan.

Sorry President Ma, you're not winning the Nobel Peace Prize 

Taiwan's President Ma has been doing everything but taking out space in the People's Daily , in an attempt to angle himself to be in a position to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in next year's APEC summit in China. Now that China has smacked down that idea, the President with the 9.5% approval rating in Taiwan does not have to take Beijing's feelings into as much consideration if he wished to ponder the possibility of reengaging with the United States regarding long-stalled military platform purchases.  The President could also look to regain some credibility within his country among those who feel that he has given China far too many concessions in the economic arena, which has placed Taiwan's already fragile sovereignty at great risk. New platform purchases could also boost the morale of Taiwan's military, which has suffered greatly due to the scandal that plagued the army earlier this year.

Mr. President, show us something

There are also a number of reasons why arms sales to Taiwan could be of interest to the United States as well.  One of the great fears among American allies in the region is that the United States could elect to reduce its military presence in the region, forcing them to take more accommodating positions with China that would rather not take. Earlier this year, the United States looked to show the new leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un (as well as the DPRK's powerful generals) that the United States stood strong with South Korea, and would stand with them and fight if necessary.  This message was delivered loud and clear.  While joint military operation exercises between the United States and Taiwan would be far too politically sensitive at this time, the resumption of talks regarding arms sales to Taiwan would not.  The administration could state its willingness to discuss the sale of platforms long desired by Taiwan's forces, such as the F-16 C/D, AEGIS capable naval vessels, and missiles for Taiwan's air force fleet. Additionally, Randy Schriver of Project 2049 has stated on multiple occasions that there is data that supports the notion that whenever major arms sales have taken place between the United States and Taiwan, diplomatic breakthroughs between Taiwan and China have soon followed.  The administration would also be showing its support for Taiwan by showing that it will not allow China to pressure or coerce Taiwan into political talks that it does not want to enter at this time, something that China in the past has promised not to do. Such a sale, or at least the willingness to talk about one, could be effective at countering China's attempt to back Taiwan into a corner, and showing its citizens that they still have a reliable ally who does not plan on leaving the Pacific anytime soon.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Truths (and Myths) of Air/Sea Battle

 On Thursday, the House Armed Service Subcommittee on Sea Power and Projection Forces conducted a hearing on the lengthy topic of "USAF, USN and USMC Development and Integration of Air/Sea Battle Strategy, Governance and Policy into the Services' Annual Program, Planning, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) Process."   The hearings allowed leadership from the branches of the armed forces that are most involved in the Air-Sea Battle Concept (ASB) to express their respective objectives in the process, as well as clarify realities and dispel myths that accompany the concept.

The focus of this article is not to explain the basic tenets that make up the foundation of ASB, ( click here for a more thorough introduction of the Air-Sea Battle Concept) but rather to highlight the primary talking points from the military leadership that was present at the subcommittee meeting (the major points that were said by the military during the meeting will be bold and in italics, and the opinions of this author will precede them-but  these are not direct quotations from the witnesses, but rather a summary of their comments during the meeting).

It IS NOT an Overhaul of Current American Military Doctrine 
Air-Sea Battle is not a strategy but an approach or framework 
Not a strategy but a concept--a method to obtain specific capabilities 

There seems to be some misconception among those who follow the Air-Sea Battle concept, as many believe that it is to eventually be the guiding principle of a new unified American military doctrine.  This does not appear to be the case.  Specific geographic areas were repeated among the witnesses as likely areas in which the ASB concept could be utilized: Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Pacific Rim, and the Eastern Mediterranean.  This hardly encompasses the entire globe. While ASB does have a potentially wide range in which it could be used by American forces, it is not without limitations.

It IS in the Early Stages of Development
Air-Sea Battle is still developing and we are unsure what is needed 
Air-Sea Battle mission focus areas are still being developed 

Perhaps  the most surprising response that came from the military witnesses was in an answer to Chairman Randy Forbes (R-VA) question, in which he asked quite simply: "What more do you need from us?" Forbes is known to be one of ASB's core Congressional supporters, and his potential voice of support for military platforms that would be requested by military brass would hold some serious weight.  Yet ASB is still such a new concept that there is a great deal of uncertainty of what is needed, as well as what a definitive concept will entail. It should be of no surprise that the answers to Congressman Forbes questions were answered with a high level of uncertainty. The phrase Air-Sea Battle exercises allow all the branches to look through a prism to see what future needs may be was uttered more than once.

The Army DOES Have a Role to Play in ASB 

While the primary focus of ASB is to integrate the capabilities  of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines into a layered network that will allow for enhanced cohesion during military operations, the army will likely a niche role in the concept.  Witnesses from the army spoke about exercises that have taken place  with the navy in which army apache  helicopters were positioned on navy carriers and used naval radar capabilities to track down small fast moving maritime targets in exercises.  While it seems likely that the marine corps is being counted on to bear the majority of "boots on the ground" responsibilities under the current ASB framework, the army will likely have an increased role to play as the concept develops further.

The Air-Sea Battle Concept IS NOT Based on Platform Procurement (...Yet) 
Strategy is not based on procurement 

Military witnesses stressed that platform procurement was not a requirement for ASB to be developed and integrated into the military lexicon.  There was, however, an emphasis by the branches on the need to maintain the F-35 joint fighter, the development of a new long-range strike bomber (LRSB), and the KC-46 refueling air tanker.  The first two platforms, especially, are of high importance.  One of the primary tenets of ASB is the need to counter potential threats by means of enhanced stealth capabilities.  If such capabilities are slow to come online, it could prevent ASB from reaching its full potential.

Air-Sea Battle COULD Involve Varying Levels of Preemptive Maneuvering and Strikes
The Primary Focus of Phase 0 in Air-Sea Battle is the attempt to shape the battle space

One witness stated that there could be scenarios in which the US military would need to rely on stealth capabilities in order to place assets inside a potential area of conflict in order to shape a potential battle space.  From the American perspective, this mindset is encouraging in that it shows a proactive mindset that may be favored  in circumstances in lieu of a reactive approach that the US military has had the luxury of undertaking in recent decades following the Cold War.

"Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted"
-Sun Tzu 
(More on Mr. Sun's country of origin later)

Air-Sea Battle WILL Rely Increasingly on the Dispersion of US Military Assets 
Air-Sea Battle requires rapid and tight coordination 
A2AD Ranges have expanded 
There is a need to build sustained operations 
One of the primary ASB was deemed necessary by the US military was that new military capabilities by potential enemies: cruise and ballistic missiles with enhanced range, quiet diesel submarines and stealth aircraft, and the uncertainty within the realms of cyber and space, could leave assets that were concentrated into limited areas vulnerable to attack.  Since the ASB concept requires not only "breakthrough" ability in terms of pushing through an enemies defense; but also a need to sustain control over choke points and vital areas within the conflict, the US has looked to diversify its military real estate  portfolio in recent years--in particular the Eastern and South Pacific. The following has taken place within the past 2 years.
* Hardening of bases in Guam
* Increased rotations or Marines and Air Force assets into Australia
*Refurbishing of World War II airfields in Tinian and Saipan
* Negotiations with the Maldives about a large scale naval presence on multiple locations within the country
* Negotiations with the Philippines regarding a resumption of an American presence
* Invitation from Palau to resume a US military presence

In addition, the US Air Force is currently splitting its 40 F-22 fighters into a highly elusive, four plane "Rapid Raptor Packages".  It also should be noted that the Marine Corps is planning to do the same with its F-35B joint fighters. With military assets spread among such a wide array of locations,  ASB development will be critical in order for join force communication and actions to maintain optimum levels.

Air-Sea Battle IS Directed Towards the People's Liberation Army 
Air-Sea Battle is not focused on a particular adversary or region but towards accessing area challenges 

China. The elephant (or perhaps more geographically accurate, the obese panda) in the room.  While the country was only mentioned once by name (and not at all by members of the military), the primary focus of ASB is undoubtedly focused on the capabilities of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).  While there can be some focus on regional actors such as Iran and North Korea, an entire military concept is not being developed simply because these countries have some enhanced range on new ballistic missiles.  When speaking about ASB,   nearly all academics and analysts look to its potential strengths and pitfalls by measuring it against the capabilities of China.

There is virtually no conflict scenario in which the ideas of a developed Air-Sea Battle concept would not be of use against a conflict vs. the PLA in the East Asian region.  Although there are undoubtedly regions and maritime choke points in which ASB could be utilized, the necessity of such a complex and expensive undertaking of creating Air-Sea Battle  would not be necessary if the military did not believe that a clear threat existed, or would in relatively short time--As was the primary reason AirLand Battle was developed by the United States, which was to counter the Soviet military threat in Europe.

American Allies WILL BE a Major Part of the Air-Sea Battle Concept 
A US Marine General who was a witness to the hearing stated that "One of the most asymmetric advantages that the United States has is our allies". Although in very early stages, the United States has begun to reach out to its allies to inform them of how ASB is developing, and the respective role that they could choose to have.  One example of this is the sale of the F-35 to allied countries.  Once brought online, these countries will be implemented into the United States joint communication network.  There will likely be further moves made to implement allies into ASB in the areas of naval vessels, satellite communication, cyber security, and infantry.

While there is still a great deal of speculation of what ASB will become, there at least can be some understanding of what it is not--which is small thinking.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Northeast Project: What China's "Study" of Ancient History Says about Beijing's Strategy of Pursuing Territorial Claims

     Since  taking control of the country in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party has sought to solidify its claims on disputed territories (i.e. the "autonomous regions" of Xinjiang and Tibet) by claiming that such regions have been a part of China "since ancient times".  Additionally, regions that are not currently under the jurisdiction of the PRC (Taiwan, wide swaths of maritime areas in the East and South China Sea, and Okinawa) have been claimed by Chinese  government officials and scholars alike-- pointing to historical "knick-knacks" such as tribute payments, parched maps drawn over a thousand years ago by Chinese Imperial officials, and poems written by sailors as justification for Chinese claims over territory.

     Even though Chinese territorial claims that are based on  historical merit  have little or no value under the pretext of international law, such claims warrant attention due to the fact that these claims are being made by a state that has the world's second largest economy, as well as an increasingly assertive military.  The continuing "research" that is being done by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) with its   Northeast Project, is a look inside the mindset of Beijing's territorial strategy towards Korea, as well as its method of contorting history in order to help achieve multiple foreign and domestic policy objectives.

What is the Northeast Project? 
  According to Yoon Hwy-tak, a Professor of Chinese History in South Korea, the project was begun by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in 2002. Coined  the Northeast Project, the endeavor  was an extension of the Ancient Civilization Research Center, created to conduct studies in the Chinese provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang, with the premise that such studies were to "research and organize the culture, society, and social system of the Chinese mythic era of the Five Mythical Emperors, and the origin and formation of the Chinese nation and its relation to ancient civilization." The primary purpose of the study, however, was to show that the ancient Korean Kingdom of Koguryo was in fact part of "China".  The most recent research that has been conducted by the project (as late as July of this year)  has been deemed "closed" by Beijing and the findings not released to the public.

What is the Korean Kingdom of Koguryo? 
     The Kingdom of Koguryo was the largest of the three kingdoms that divided Korea until 668 AD. The Kingdom was said to have been founded around 37 BCE in the Tongge River Basin of present day North Korea.  As shown by the image below, the Koguro Kingdom extended well into Manchuria, which is situated in modern day China.


In 2003, The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported that on June 24th, the CCP journal Guangming Ribao stated that "Koguryo was an ancient nation established by a Chinese minority tribe",  a notion that was repeated by the PLA Foreign Minister on multiple occasions following the publication.  Later "findings" of the Northeast Project stated that the Korean Kingdoms that later followed the Koguryo: The Gija Chosun, Puyo, and Barhae--were also part of Chinese history and even stated that China's realm extended as far as Korea's Han River.

As noted by the image, the Han River lies deep within South Korea's borders, passing through Seoul.

Why does Beijing Rely so Heavily on "Historical Claims"? 

 The heavy reliance of  history for contemporary Chinese territorial claims serves a number of purposes for Beijing.  First, China's attempt to increasingly incorporate the Xia and Shang Dynasties into historical territorial claims is a savvy one due to the fact that neither has a clear beginning and end date, so therefore China's history is without a clear starting point,  so it is able to expand deeper into history without constraints .  Secondly, China uses its historical claims to serve a political purpose, which is to defend itself against a separate ethnic history developing within China among its multitude of minority ethnic groups.  The PRC considers China to be a multi-ethnic state, and therefore all ethnic groups that are or have been part of the current territory that comprises the PRC are "Chinese" and therefore all people of the ancient Korean empires should be considered "Chinese".  This rationale also extends to the ethnic groups within Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, Yunnan, and other provinces throughout China, as well as territories outside its current jurisdiction--allowing for  historical "discoveries" from Chinese historians to be used in justifying future PRC territorial claims.

What are China's Concern's Regarding North Korean Territory? Isn't North Korea China's Most Reliable Ally? 

Of the myriad territorial disputes that China is currently involved in, the PRC-DPRK border is an area that is most likely to directly involve China either politically, militarily, or both in the near future.  The 880 mile (1,416 KM) border that China shares with the DPRK is important to China for a number of reasons.

 Carla Freeman of John Hopkins University points out, "as a result of territorial losses in the 19th century, Chinese territory falls about 11 miles (17km) short of the sea, leaving China's Tuman Delta region landlocked."  Freeman also points out that a railway bridge between Russia and North Korea at the mouth of the river acts as an effective block to any shipping at all on the river.  As a result, China signed a thirty year lease with the DPRK for use of its port facilities in Chongjin.

China also has legitimate concerns about the stability of the current regime in the DPRK, and the fallout that could result in its collapse.  A Recent RAND Corporation study regarding potential scenarios following a DPRK collapse theorized that most outcomes would involve the PRC on at least some level.  In recent years the PLA has conducted exercises in which it has simulated the crossing of the Yalu river with the objective of rapidly securing territory inside the DPRK in the event of its collapse.  If China were to have its military cross over into North Korea, it is likely to justify the action by citing the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed by China and North Korea in 1961.   It is entirely plausible that Beijing is looking to use the "findings" of the Northeast Project in order to justify any future occupation or annexation of Korean territory, by claiming that such territory has been an "inseparable part of China since ancient times".  Sound familiar?

Perhaps the issue of most concern to the leadership in Beijing is one of a domestic nature.  Chinese thinking about security has always linked the management of frontier affairs to its domestic security, and within the past 5 years, the PRC has placed the Yanbian autonomous prefecture on its watch list of regional security concerns as a "sensitive area".  The prefecture borders North Korea, and for centuries has been home for a sizable ethnically Korean population.  Much in the same way that  similar methods that have been used in provinces that have traditionally had the han Chinese ethnic group (the group that comprises 95% of the population of the PRC) in the minority, Yanbian has seen an influx of han migrants in recent years. The percentage of ethnic Koreans living in Yanbian has fallen from 60% in 1953 to 36% in 2000, and is expected to drop to 25% by 2015 in an effort to weaken Korean territorial claims.  In the event of a unified Korea, the issue of Yanbian belonging to Korea  would be one issue in which all Korean citizens could rally around---potentially a political nightmare for China to deal with. A number of nationalistic Koreans have called for the invalidation of the 1909 Gando Convention between Imperial Japan and the Qing Dynasty, in which Japan recognized China's claims to Jiandao, and Japan received railroad concessions in Northeast China.

The Gando Convention could also be a geo-political landmine for the PRC to negotiate, as the PRC has stated that other treaties signed during  the Qing Dynasty period are invalid (including the treaty of Shimonoseki, which granted Japan sovereignty over Taiwan), due to such treaties being signed by the Qing while under duress.

In conclusion, China's constant practice of revisionist history needs to be understood in its proper context by international actors if Beijing's actions are to be understood and countered.  Otherwise, Mongolia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Thailand could someday be considered a vital part of China.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

When is Enough Enough? China's Increasingly Assertive Demands to the U.S. Warrant Attention

"Thus the enemy is established by deceit, moves for advantage, and changes through segmenting and reuniting" 
---Sun Tzu 

     In recent months, the leadership of the People's Republic of China has quietly  attempted to test the limits of the Obama Administration in terms of how far it is willing to go in aiding  President Xi Jinping's vision of a "New Type of Great Power Relationship".  While dialogue between global heavyweights such as China and the United States can beneficial if a mutual respect is given, actions speak louder than words.  Thus far in this modern chapter of the relationship, China has taken a pattern of increasing its military assertiveness in the East-Southeast Asian region as its military capabilities have modernized and expanded--thus challenging the long established status-quo of stability and economic prosperity  in the region, largely a result of the established (and for the most part welcomed) U.S. military presence in the region.  China has also used its rapid economic rise to pressure countries, including to a great extent the United States, to various economic and geo-political concessions that gives China a unique advantage when pursuing its strategic objectives.

     Some within the halls of Capitol Hill and academia subscribe to the notion that by embracing China now will result in a future China that can be "molded and crafted" into a benevolent state that adheres to Western values and democracy in the future.  While the future cannot be judged, the present actions of the PRC can. China has been of little or no help to American interests in either Asian or global affairs, or in the areas of a fair economic relationship between the two states. There has been no help by the PRC in the American interests of stopping Iran's or North Korea's nuclear programs.  In fact, it is widely accepted that the PRC has sold substantial quantities of arms to both countries.  China has also threatened to disrupt the stability of the East Asian region, with claims of territorial sovereignty of the Japanese controlled Senkaku Islands, as well as the Philippine-administered Mischief Reef.  The idea of the Western perception of human rights penetrating the PRC has also been an abject failure.  The PRC continues to rule the Xinjiang and Tibet Autonomous Regions with an iron fist: Destroying thousand-year old towns, forced relocation of families, and even monetary bonuses given to newly-married couples who are of the  Han-minority mixed race status.  As King Edward "the Longshanks" stated in the movie Braveheart, "If we can't get them out, we'll breed them out."

Warning sign placed by CCP government in Tibet 

Now China wants more.

     According to multiple reports, China feels assertive enough under its new leadership, led by President Xi Jinping, to make some rather bold requests to the U.S. regarding current trade restrictions that are currently in place.  Among the alleged requests:

---The lifting of all sanctions imposed by Congress after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre

---The removal of limits of commercial satellite cooperation and exports, unfettered access of integrated circuit technology, and greater access to U.S. aerospace and electronics technology.

--Requests that the State Department's arms export control list, be downgraded and administered by the trade-oriented Commerce Department.  This change would allow the export of sensitive defense technology to China.

The last request is perhaps the most troubling.  The PRC has long had a standing policy of non-interference of other countries internal affairs. Beijing often points to this policy when asked about it's lack of action taken towards well-documented human right abuses in areas such as the Sudan and Syria.  Yet, Chinese leadership feels confident enough to breach this protocol and "request" that the United States make major changes in its federal government's weapons-proliferation regulation system.

There's more

Beijing has also asked the Obama administration to allow for China's Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) to be named a "validated end-user", which would permit easier exports of sensitive defense-related aircraft technology. This controversy has previously arisen within the halls of Congress, as in 2011 Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) stated the concerns of many within the U.S. lawmaking body about the joint venture between the American company General Electric and Chinese state owned aircraft company AVIC, in which the technology that was being used to help AVIC develop avionics for its aspiring domestically produced jumbo airliner could easily be converted for military use.   If restrictions were lifted, such future joint ventures would be less likely to come under the jurisdiction of Congress, and therefore be permitted unfettered.  It is not a secret that most (if not all) major Chinese corporations have a strong but often silent hands in the form of Communist Party officials who have access to the latest technological advancements that these companies acquire and produce.  Increased access to American companies will allow for such officials to gain easier access to sensitive technology that the People's Liberation Army so greatly covets.

Will this...........................

Lead to this?

It is not yet known which, if any of the demands made by the PRC will be accepted by the current administration.  One hopes, however, that with the current threat of a government shutdown and debt ceiling issues taking most of the attention and headlines out of Washington, that the PRC requests will set off alarm bells before such an arrangement can be quietly agreed upon.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Link: Why a Free Taiwan is Vital to Japanese National Security (Revised Edition)

     All too often when policymakers in Washington think about the importance of Taiwan in regards to American interests in the East Asian region, it is done with a relatively narrow point of view.  What this means is that  often when policy is discussed regarding Taiwan, there is a  tendency to focus only on areas  which have direct  tangible for American interests: The American  trade and military  relationship with Taiwan and how these relationships effect the American-China relationship are usually the  primary focal points within Washington.  Yet the argument could be made that Taiwan's importance to other American allies is nearly as important as the US-Taiwan relationship itself. Which brings us to the state of Japan: America's closest ally in the Asian Pacific.  To understand why Taiwan's status should be of paramount importance to American interests, this article will show why a free Taiwan is so vital for not only Japan's national security interests, but for East Asian regional stability, and American interests as well.

It's All About Location 
Taiwan is located in a strategically important location within the Pacific Ocean.  In any direction from Taiwan, there are vital sea lanes that a resource-poor Japan relies upon for its trade and energy resources.  Two of these primary trade arteries, The Taiwan Strait, and the Luzon Strait, are shown below.

   Both the Taiwan and Luzon Straits are shipping lanes in which most Japanese imports that originate from the Persian Gulf and Central Asia are shipped through en route to ports in Japan. If Taiwan were to lose its sovereignty and fall under PRC jurisdiction, China could use its naval power to cut-off these sea lines of communication that are vital to Japan's means of acquiring goods and energy.  The mere threat of doing so could force Japanese concessions in areas that China currently does not have the leverage to enforce to the degree that it would like (ie. Senkaku/Diaoyu territorial disputes).  There would also be security concerns for Japan and the United States, which will be covered later.


      A Chinese-controlled Taiwan would also allow the Chinese Navy (PLAN)   greater access to the South China Sea, an area in which nearly 60 percent of Japan's energy supplies are shipped.  Additionally, nearly one third of all global trade passes through the South China Sea maritime shipping lanes.  Any disruption of these trade routes by either blockade or conflict could not only cripple the Japanese economy, but send  shock waves through the global economic system that would leave no country untouched in its wake. China's territorial ambitions in the South China Sea makes the scenario of a Chinese-controlled Taiwan even more precarious for Japan's security interests. Former Japanese diplomat Hisahiko Okazaki stated in 2003 that
"Occupation of Taiwan means control of the northern entrance of the South China Sea.  Then, the large part of the South China Sea would become a kind of China's inner water. If China claims exclusive jurisdictions there, in case of emergency, the only safe seaplane for Japan in Asia will be the passage through the Lomboc Strait in Indonesia through the east coast of the Philippines."

Too Close for Comfort 
From the Japanese perspective, Chinese control of Taiwan would cause  immediate concern, as the Senkaku Islands would see the  already small geographic buffer between the two countries all but erased. Currently the islands are located 200 nautical miles from China, but if China were to control Taiwan, that distance would be nearly halved to 120 nautical miles.  Richard Fisher, Senior Fellow of Asian Military Affairs for the International Assessment and Strategy Center, states that "with forces on Taiwan the PLA can better take control of the Senkakus and Sakashima islands, which then give defensive depth to their forces on Taiwan."  Fisher also states that in the long term, the island of Okinawa could be a future target of Chinese territorial ambition, stating "Chinese possession of any of the Ryukyu chain will strengthen its claim to Okinawa.  We can be sure that China is helping to stoke Okinawan independence sentiment.  You can be assured that the PLA would like to control Okinawa as well." Fisher also says of Taiwan's importance to Japan: "Taiwan bisects Japan's southern strategic horizon.  If Taiwan is under PRC control then Japan's sea lines of communication are effectively cut.  Aircraft and missiles on Taiwan can reach thousands of kilometers into the Pacific to interdict Japanese commerce."

The Ryukyu island chain is part of the "First Island Chain" that the PLAN must negotiate through in order to move into the open waters of the Pacific.

Taiwan's Importance to the PLAN's Maneuvering & the Aftermath of PRC- Controlled Taiwan 

China's navy currently has a number of constraints it must overcome in order to move its vessels into the open water of the Pacific (This author previously  compared these restraints to a Pacific version of the Maginot Line).  A Chinese annexation of Taiwan would greatly relieve these constraints on a number of levels. Currently, the lack of deep waters on its coast remains an achilles heel of the PLAN, as described by Okazaki:
 "Chinese submarines have to sail on the surface for a considerable distance and dive near the Ryukyu Archipelagoes in order to operate in the Pacific. As a result, Chinese submarines are presently not a serious threat. In contrast, Taiwan's east coast is directly faced with the deepest sea in the Pacific. If China controlled Taiwan, China could utilize Taiwanese ports for submarines to operate freely throughout the Western Pacific."  

PLAN submarine ports in Eastern Taiwan could critically hinder the advanced submarine surveillance capabilities of the Japanese Defense Forces (JDF) if it lost the capability to track PLAN submarines once they left port, as they would not have to traverse through JDF-monitored maritime space near the Ryukyu Island Chain.

If Taiwan were to fall under Chinese control, China could then move on to redirecting its military capabilities towards territorial claims in the Pacific region.  Its increasingly advanced aircraft, naval vessels could be turned towards pressing its claims in the East and South China Sea.  China has been in negotiations with Russia for over 5 years in an attempt to secure a sizable order of Sukhoi-35 fighter jets. If a sale is completed, these aircraft have extended fuel tanks which would allow for increased periods of time that the PLAAF would have in patrolling the skies over the Senkaku islands.  The ability for the PLAAF to take off from airfields in Taiwan (in lieu of bases in Southeast China)  would greatly increase the patrol times of the aircraft as well.  Such a move would force Japan and/or the United States to increase their respective patrols of the skies, thus increasing the possibility of conflict, or allowing the PLAAF to patrol over the area unimpeded.  Additionally, the PLA 2nd Artillery Corps could focus its nearly 1,600 ballistic missiles based in Eastern China towards new adversaries, with Japan being a likely target. The PLAN would also have the ability to extend its reach directly towards the American military hubs in the region: Guam and Hawaii--unimpeded. The "boxing in" of the PLAN would be no more.

Reason for Optimism? 
There are experts, however, who believe that such a scenario is highly unlikely, if not impossible under current conditions for both military and political reasons.  Ian Easton, a Research Fellow at Project 2049 Institute, believes that "for a number of reasons, the PLAN will not be able to compete with us and our allies for at least 20 years." He also states that Japan has a tremendous ASW, mine sweeping, and air defense capability--and the 7th Fleet relies on the JMSDF to a great degree in these areas.  For its part, Taiwan is rapidly developing and fielding the means to destroy any PLAN surface operation within some 100-200 nm of her coastline with land, air, and sea launched anti-ship missiles.  (The) PLAN is extremely vulnerable to Taiwan's missiles---and USN submarines and F-18s.  The more aircraft carriers China builds, the more vulnerable it will be."

Regarding the much-publicized 1,600 missiles that China's 2nd Artillery Corps has aimed in the direction of Taiwan, Easton states that Taiwan appears to be developing and implementing the capabilities to counter what is thought by many to be Taiwan's most serious military threat. "These are a real threat," he states, "but one that Taiwan is well positioned to counter through a combination of passive air base hardening and resiliency measures, active BMD interceptors (PAC-3 and TK-3), and conventional strike (and cyber) attacks on PLA launch units and command nodes. Japan and the U.S. are less well prepared to defend against Chinese missiles, and have much to learn from Taiwan."   

Easton is also confident that the United States and Japan have little to fear of such a scenario because "that scenario is absolutely impossible." He goes on to say that  Taiwan, as a democracy, will not surrender on its territorial sovereignty, no matter how much money it is able to make through sweet-heart trade deals with the PRC. Even President Ma, Taiwan's most "China-friendly" leader in history, is rock-solid on this issue. He doesn't even acknowledge the legitimacy of the CCP and doesn't recognize the PRC as a "real" country. In that sense, he's a lot tougher diplomatically than we are." 

The Big Picture 
Finally, what would the long-term ramifications be for Japan and the region if such a scenario were to unfold? First, it would likely mean a regional arms race, a diminished role for the United States in the region, states increasingly accommodating an assertive PRC, and a new order in the Pacific region.  Mr. Fisher offers two points on this scenario.

On an imminent regional arms race:A free Taiwan plus the continued engagement of the Americans allow Japan the luxury of not having to rearm completely.  Japan has the luxury of stressing those forces most needed to assist US military operations only for the defense of Japan.  A loss of Taiwan will mean that such an era is over for Japan, it will have to build a full nuclear deterrent, which will spur ROK, Australia and Vietnam to follow suit."

On the aftermath of a Chinese-controlled Taiwan:  "At this point an unfree Taiwan becomes not just a liability for Japan but also for the US as well.  An Asia in which most states have daggers and nuclear daggers drawn on most of their neighbors is a recipe for incalculable instability, and a grand loss of the benefits of our vast commercial relationship with Asia.  In a post free Taiwan era, the US security network in Asia will be based not on an extended US nuclear deterrent, but upon our willingness to proliferate, give nuke weapon tech to our closest friends, which would make inevitable the very instabilities for our children that our predecessors prevented from befalling our generation."

For Japan and the United States alike, a Chinese-controlled Taiwan could aid China in its goal of reshaping the regional maritime order that has been a bedrock of stability for not only the economic development of the region, but for the overall stability of it as well.  Oftentimes, the interests of a state and one or more of its allies  will directly intersect, creating an scenario  in which a mutual interest can be found.  In the case of a Taiwan free from PRC control, Japan and the United States should not find it hard to see that there is a mutual interest in maintaining the current order in the Pacific.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Document Number 9": The Secret Chinese Government Memo and why it matters

     For decades there has been a strong voice among some Washington policymakers that are of the school of thought that believes if the United States approaches its relationship with China in a way that does not intend  to shake the current political and social status quo within that country, that China would inevitably find itself embracing the  lure of Western democracy, and the capitalist economic system and basic tenets of social freedoms that come with it.  While the notion is admirable in its intentions, the reality is that the leadership of  Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees these same ideals as threats to its grip on power, and has given the notion of interacting with China with "kid gloves" perhaps a mortal blow in the form of Document Number 9  .

   Before focusing on the mentioned document, a quick reflection back into recent Chinese history.   Former Chinese President Deng Xiaoping stated that it was wise to "hide your strength and bide your time".  During his time as leader of the PRC (which lasted in various forms from 1976 to 1989), China was just waking up from a Mao-induced economic coma that lasted nearly thirty years.  Additionally,  Chinese society was in tatters from the Cultural Revolution that wasted a decade of potential economic growth, as well as sorely needed economic and society building that was essential for stabilizing the country.  Deng realized this and toned town China's hostile tone towards Western states in general, as well as laying the foundation that was soon to become an economic boom within China.  The idea seemed to be for China to be patient, adopt specific aspects from the West that were needed in order to revitalize China, and to lie dormant until China had the strength politically, economically, and militarily to pursue its goals of once again placing China atop the global pecking order of the international system.  Success was to be measured in decades; not in election cycles.  China could afford to be patient, as there was no electorate to answer to, and no opposition party to fear.

Many countries, including the United States, saw the potential for a consumer market of one billion people, and  a cheap labor force in which to manufacture their goods.  For many countries, the opportunity was too good to pass up. It was naively believed by many in the West that if China were to "become exposed" to Western capitalism, as well as its liberal social values that coincide with it, it would eventually itself liberalize and happily join hands and walk into the sunset with the rest of the liberal international order.  This mindset was fraught with problems with the outset.  It did not take into account that a liberalization would likely spell the end of one party rule in China, that China was not one of the states who helped form the new international order following World War II and did not want to be subject to its restraints, and that many within Chinese society feel that their country was shamed by Western encroachment in the past century, and there are scores that have yet to be settled properly.

Yet Beijing was content to play the Western game as long as it needed to.  During this patient phase, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 was of grave concern to the CCP leadership, as it saw its future if it did not take steps to ensure its own security within China.  Even today, mandatory classes are given to CCP members about the lessons from the downfall of the Soviet Union--and how they can be avoided. From the portions of Document Number 9 that were released, it appears that Xi Jinping has taken these lessons to heart, and the West should take note, as perhaps Beijing feels that its long period of slumber is now over.

Portions of the document, obtained by the New York Times, appears to run counter to Xi Jinping's statements about a desire to come to an agreement with the United States on a new "Great Power" Consensus, and instead views many aspects of Western society as threats to the Communist Party in China.

"Communist Party cadres have filled meeting halls around China to hear a somber, secretive warning issued by senior leaders. Power could escape their grip, they have been told, unless the party eradicates seven subversive currents coursing through Chinese society.
These seven perils were enumerated in a memo, referred to as Document No. 9, that bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping, China’s new top leader. The first was “Western constitutional democracy”; others included promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past."

     While Xi has used Maoist themes in a number of his speeches and decrees since coming to power, it has been widely assumed that it was done in order to placate the leftist factions within the CCP in order to consolidate his power base, as well as an attempt to appease supporters of the ousted Bo Xilai, the once popular Central politburo member now on trial for corruption.  Document Number 9 seemingly shows that the hope of liberalizing China through means of engagement and liberal economics will not work, and that the CCP  will continue to play by their own rules.  Potential American concessions to China in the areas of human rights, economics, Taiwan, and other issues should not be given simply because there has been little or no reciprocation from China regarding American interests elsewhere in the world.  Memo Number 9 makes clear that Western values and norms are not welcome in the eyes of the CCP in China.  The era of American concessions to China in the hope that liberalization would occur should cease.  The ruling party appears to feel confident enough in its abilities to rise from its slumber. It will take an equally strong resolve from the United States to maintain its place of supremacy globally, and no amount of goodwill shipped from Washington to Beijing will alter the CCP's stance of feeling threatened by Western liberal values. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Taiwan and China take yet another step towards economic integration

A short snippet taken from April's edition of Monocle magazine.

"China and Taiwan might be diplomatic adversaries but their economies have never been more tightly intertwined.  Businesses and investors on both sides of the strait can now exchange Chinese renminbi and Taiwanese dollars without having to convert to US dollars first. It's part of a gradual warming of economic ties with China that Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, has pursued since taking office in 2008.  Taipei's hope is that it will become a regional financial centre; the more likely scenario is that Taiwan adds to renminbi trading, raising the Chinese currency's profile overseas (emph. added), says Frances Cheung, senior markets analyst at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong."

Unfortunately, Mr. Cheung is probably right with his analysis.  Until Taiwan makes the difficult decision to deregulate its banking and energy sectors, moves such as the one described above will simply enhance the international perception that  Taiwan is moving ever closer towards near-total  economic dependency on China.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Yasukuni Complex

         The Yasukuni Shrine in Japan reopens old wounds on a near-annual basis for many nationalities in Asia.  

     On August 9th, The People's Daily Online, an officially sanctioned media outlet of the Chinese Communist Party, published an editorial entitled "Time to put an end to Japanese 'ghost worship', in which it stated that "every year on August 15th, a historical scar is reopened by the refusal of Japanese politicians to face up to their history of aggression-- a refusal that is encapsulated in their "ghost worship".  It is a unique event in the fact that for at least one day out of the year, China shares a common historical bond with North and South Korea, as well as Taiwan in their opposition of Japanese leaders visiting the shrine to pay their respects to who they see as those who have defended Japan throughout history.  It's not difficult to see the sensitivity surrounding the issue. A number of  convicted war criminals have been enshrined into the complex, including Hideki Tojo and Kenji Doihara, which is the primary source of anger among many who  feel that these individuals are unjustly  honored, which also results in a collective  revision of historical events within Japanese society.  While these bones of contentment are understandable, Japan is not alone in having a difficult time facing their historical wartime demons. 

     Whenever a state is involved in conflict in  either an external or domestic nature,  there are individuals and events that the opposition will undoubtedly see in a negative light.  In the United States, the sensitive nature of the Civil War that took place over 150 years ago still rears its ugly head via flag controversiesmemorials, and burials among Americans in a way that oftentimes would give the impression that the conflict took place much more recently.  It is often difficult for a society to admit that over the course of a particular conflict,  some within their tribe committed acts that went beyond the scope of a defense of their respective nation and its ideals,  and more into the realm of unacceptable human behavior--The acts of a few can shame the collective conscience of a nation.  Shame is not a feeling that any society would enjoy having for any period of time, but it can be a necessary cross that needs to be carried for a time in order for a  society to  move on from a particular conflict, and to  regain a pride that has been damaged.  Some countries have been able to bear this burden well and come to grips with violent episodes in their recent history (post-Nazi Germany, Cambodia,  Peru), while some are still struggling ( South Africa, Turkey).  

Japan is a unique case in that it has shown  a willingness to accept responsibility for its role in the Second World War by adopting and maintaining a Constitution that is a drastically different governmental framework that it had prior to 1945, and is based on democratic values and a pacifist--defense oriented military (although the military aspect within the constitution  could change in the near future).  It also has sectors within its society that has shown a steadfast reluctance to accept the documented episodes of Japanese brutality that took place throughout many of its conquered territories over the course of the Second World War, either by glossing over history in its school textbooks, and for many, the annual visits by members of the Japanese government to the Yasukuni Shrine. 

Ironically, three of the countries who often are most vocally opposed to the Yasukuni Shrine visits still have a "Yasukuni Complex" themselves in varying degrees.  The People's Daily editorial also stated that "Every time this date approaches, right-wing Japanese politicians parade their distorted view of war and history" and that the words from some Japanese officials "are shameless and aggressive" that "disdain the impact they have on the sensitivities of other peoples".  While there is not an official date that members of the Chinese Communist Party Standing Committee collectively get together to mark an official day of respect for those who they see as "heroes", the PRC does have what some could consider a building that is insensitive in its own right. 

Mao Zedong: The Chinese leader whose economic and political policies are  responsible for an estimated 20-70 million deaths. While the CCP criticizes Japanese "Ghost Worship", it practices its own version of honoring a controversial leader--in the flesh.  

While in recent decades, following Mao's death in 1976, the government has admitted "mistakes" were made over the course of Mao's rule, China has yet to come to terms with its own dark periods in contemporary history.  In the case of North Korea, it is not even worth exploring its own version of the "Yasukuni Complex", as it is a necessary component for the legitimization of the Korean Workers Party within the DPRK, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. 

In Taiwan, there has been considerable progress towards recognizing and coming to grips with  the brutal period of Chaing Kai-Shek's Kuomintang one-party rule for nearly 40 years on Taiwan, although there are still many people who have never been unaccounted for, and some within the KMT apparatus have attempted to gloss over the atrocities that took place within Taiwanese society  during this time as "necessary evils" in order to combat the communist threat from China proper.  

It is undoubtedly difficult to say "I'm sorry" as an individual. To do so on a collective level is perhaps even more difficult in that there are varying levels of emotion that must be grouped and packaged into a consensus that can be accepted by a society: guilt, responsibility, acceptance, pride, forgiveness, and surely many more.  The process can only begin by a willingness to take on these emotions, and in many cases certain societies do not yet have the collective will that is necessary to carry out this difficult task. In the case of Japan, perhaps it is time for it to do so, and in this modern age of mass media and social networking, the citizens of China, Taiwan,and even eventually North Korea could take note, and begin the process of  reflection themselves---and shedding their own "Yasukuni Complex" in the process. 


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

China Proposes Cross-Strait Highways to link China and Taiwan...Doesn't Ask for Taiwan's Approval

While Taiwan remains engulfed in its own domestic problems regarding the musical chairs being played over finding a new Defense Minister, the powers that be in Beijing continue to draw up lofty projects that are intended to draw Taiwan further into the PRC orbit.

On Monday,  the South China Morning Post reported that the Chinese government approved a national road project that includes the construction of two cross-Strait highways that would link the Chinese cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen with the Taiwanese cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung respectively. While members of the Chinese political elite have long been known to clamor over grand infrastructure projects, there was a small problem with this one in particular in that Beijing didn't ask Taiwan about its interest in such a project. A member of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council stated that "Based on national security concerns and cross-Strait interactions, we have not planned anything with such high political sensitivity and complexity,".

Looking at the official Chinese State media illustrations regarding such a project, it is not difficult to see why there would be a high level of opposition from those in Taiwan who are leery of the island being drawn uncomfortably closer under such a plan.

Looking to place  the shackles on Taiwan via tunnels and highways? 

While such a project remains merely a dream for China for the foreseeable future, it is not without supporters on at least a smaller scale from some within Taiwan.  The SCMP also stated in its report that The government of Quemoy "first proposed building the bridge in 2006, in a bid to increase tourism and economic exchanges with the mainland", and also stated that President Ma "voiced support for the bridge three months after becoming President in 2008..." but he later backtracked from supporting the project due to criticism from the "pro-independence camp".

China has also looked to increase joint development projects with Taiwan in other areas within the Taiwan Strait in recent years. In 2012, the PRC proposed a joint development project  with Taiwan on the Chinese-controlled island of Pingtan, in which Taiwanese citizens would essentially share posts with Chinese on the management committee in the management of the island.  (President Ma, however, was not receptive of the idea).  

While only a little over  five years have passed since Ma Ying-jeou began his term as President of Taiwan, which resulted in the warming of ties between Taiwan and China, it appears that the PRC will look to continue in its attempt to reach for higher hanging fruit in the relationship, even if some gestures, such as a massive highway link are currently out of the realms of possibility.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dipping the Toe in the Water: President Ma of Taiwan Ponders the Preconditions of a Meeting with PRC President Xi Jinping

  On July 26th in an interview with Bloomberg News , the President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou stated that in regards to any potential meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping would be determined by three major conditions.  "The most important factors are whether the country needs it, whether the people support it, that we can meet with dignity--those are the things that would make it possible", Ma said regarding as what he sees as preconditions of any sort of meeting.  Looking as these conditions in a bit more depth will show that there is perhaps a diplomatic  rationale behind Ma's answer to the question posed by Bloomberg, and it could perhaps damage Taiwan's interests in the long term.

I. "Whether the country needs it"  vs "The Greater Good"  
Leaders of countries tend to choose their words carefully, as most realize that what they say will be heard, analyzed, and digested by interested parties--constituents, the media, political allies and opponents alike, as well as parties who have a vested interest in the mind set of a head of state.  While perhaps it is of no importance that President Ma stated the needs of the country before weather the people support it in his statement, it is worth commenting on.  "Whether the country needs it" could be applied in very broad and abstract terms.  For example, the President could determine that the needs of "the state" could super cede the desires of its population, a "you'll thank me later" type mindset.  President Ma has shown in both words and actions that he does hold a traditional Kuomintang mindset of Taiwan being a part of a "Greater China".  As a result, the opportunity for him to promote a "Greater China" that consists of over 1.2 billion people could perhaps be of higher importance than a high level of support among the mere 23 million people who reside in Taiwan, many of who do not support his views of a Greater China, could play a role in the thought process of how far Ma is willing to go to in order to promote the idea of a meeting with the Chinese leader. Furthermore, there appears to be no real incentive for Taiwan to enter the realm of political discussions with China at this time considering the PRC's position that such talks would not be of a state-to-state nature. Any talks that would be held between Taiwan and China under this premise would likely encode Taiwan as part of "China", a notion that could have a detrimental impact on Taiwan's ability to negotiate with the PRC in any future potential talks. (More on this aspect later)

II. "Whether the people support it"  vs. Math and Time 

In 2011, President Ma floated the idea of a potential peace agreement with the PRC that was largely met with opposition from the Taiwanese population.   The reason for a potential peace agreement being dangerous for Taiwan is a simple one: It would likely encode wording that states Taiwan is a part of "China".  Considering that nearly 98% of the world's governments recognize the People's Republic of China as being the sole legitimate government of a Chinese state, Taiwan would likely be dealt a diplomatic death blow in its ability to claim that it is a separate sovereign state apart from the People's Republic of China.  While President Ma was quick to place the idea back into his pocket, the reality is that any such summit between leaders of Taiwan and China would likely include at least some conversation about an official peace agreement.  With nearly 70% of  Taiwan against a change in the status quo, the ability for President Ma to have such a meeting with President Xi before his second term concludes at the end of 2016 is nearly impossible if the Taiwanese public's opinions are taken into consideration.   President Ma has repeatedly stated that according to The Republic of China's Constitution, China proper is not considered a separate country from Taiwan, therefore not considering the PRC as separate from Taiwan.  If peace negotiations were to begin under such pretext, the gap between China and Taiwan would be considerably smaller than if Taiwan were to insist that it was a sovereign nation separate from China.

"I'm Waiting" 

III. "Meeting with Dignity" vs. Current State of Affairs 

For over forty years the People's Republic of China has done a masterful job of diplomatically isolating Taiwan from the international community to the point of absurdity.  From large scale objectives (making states who recognize China sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan) to the smallest (in 2008, the  small African country of Malawi, upon switching recognition from Taiwan to China, was "asked" by the PRC to pull thirty students studying Mandarin Chinese in Taipei, and relocate these students to Beijing for their Chinese studies).  Under current Chinese foreign policy, it would seem improbable that China would agree to Taiwan's precondition that President Ma be referred to as "President", rather than simply the chairman of the KMT.....right? If President Ma is in fact looking to ask China to dance before his term ended, perhaps it was because China was showing a little leg from across the room.  Consider the following:

"Xi last week sent a message of congratulations to Ma on the latter's re-election as KMT chairman.  The English-language report carried by the official Xinhua News Agency described Xi as top leader of the Communist Party of China, not as the country's president. (emp added). 

By China shrewdly playing with titles,  it appears that Beijing  is attempting to placate Taipei by  placing  Ma and Xi on equal ground by basis  of their political titles, simply by removing the title of President.  While this act alone is not enough to give Ma the "dignity" that he sees as a necessary precondition for political talks, it could be the precursor of more subtle actions from Beijing to Taipei in order to superficially raise Taiwan's status in such talks, as well as lower Beijing's (if only for appearance sake) to make such talks a reality.

Xi has kicked the idea of a peace summit with Taiwan back across the Strait--a politically savvy move indeed  


While the possibility of a summit between Presidents Ma and Xi is unlikely at the present juncture, it cannot be dismissed.  President Ma has shown over his tenure to be someone who holds traditional Kuomintang doctrine of a greater China in high regard, as well as a desire to cement his legacy as the ROC President who brought Taiwan and China closer than any time since 1949.  The fact that Ma also stated that the more than 1,100 Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan would be less of an impediment to a meeting with President XI than weather talks would be supported by the Taiwanese shows that he would be willing to enter into talks with not a gun pointed to his head, but rather 1,100 missiles, does not bode well for his claim in which he desires to meet with dignity with the PRC.  Ma should be careful when dipping his toes in the water---as there appear to be sharks circling within, and they smell blood.

Friday, July 26, 2013

What if? The Kuomintang's Plans for a Highway System in 1931 China

Interesting Article for the Day: 

 Another insane economic-social experiment thought up by Mao Zedong? Nope. Apparently in 1931, the Kuomintang government has its eyes on the Great Wall of China to become a national highway system .  I'm all for modernization, but seriously?  One could speculate how much of the central government's treasury funds would have been squandered on such a grand project before it was abandoned. Enough to limit the KMT's ability to wage war against the Communists? Probably not, but Chinese citizens and history buffs should be grateful that this project was never actually begun.

"...for besides its unquestioned military value, enabling the government to stamp out the incessant banditry in the interior provinces...."  -----Niiiiiice

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Discovery Channel 3-Part Documentary on Taiwan's Special Forces Units

Great look into the rigorous training these elite soldiers must endure to become frogmen in the Taiwanese Armed Forces 

Part 1 is about Taiwan's Army Frogmen training 

Part 2 covers Taiwan's Underwater Operations Unit training 

Part 3 shows Taiwan's Army Ranger Training 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Hong Kong Model: What would "One Country Two Systems" look like if it were applied to Taiwan?

If the Chinese government expects the Hong Kong Model to eventually be acceptable to the people of Taiwan, it will be sorely disappointed. 

Two American Secretaries of State, one from the past (Henry Kissinger) and one currently serving (John Kerry), have at different times in recent history stated their support for a "One China Two Systems" model that would in their view solve the long standing sovereignty dispute between Taiwan and China, which would allow for the primary impediment of improved relations between the United States and China to at long last be washed away.  If believing in this point of view, both Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Kerry would also have to accept the premise that the people of Taiwan would be accepting of such a grand bargain.  Both could be forgiven for failing to understand the complexities of  contemporary Taiwanese society: where it is currently, and the road in which it has traveled to arrive at its current point. For arguments sake, however, this article will attempt to take a speculative look at a scenario in which Taiwan were to enter into a "One China Two Systems" system that is similar to the system currently in place in Hong Kong; while taking the results of the  past 16 years of Hong Kong's experience under the system as a guide, as well as current trends in Taiwanese society.


Since the 1997 handover, Hong Kong has experienced seismic shifts both in its economic importance to Mainland China, as well as a number of troubling economic trends that have troubling signs for Hong Kong society.  In 1997, Hong Kong's contribution to the combined GDP of China plus Hong Kong stood at nearly fifteen percent, a figure that dropped to nearly three percent in 2012.  As China gets richer, Hong Kong will likely continue its downward slide of economic importance to China proper. As China's economy has been growing at well over 7.0% annually, Taiwan's GDP infusion would have an estimated  smaller impact mathematically in 2013 than that of Hong Kong in 1997, at 5.35%.

   It is not a well kept secret  that some of the strongest advocates of increasing Taiwan's relationship with China to even the point of  eventual unification are Taiwanese high level business executives who see China proper as a massive market with nearly limitless potential to turn profit, as well as having considerable political clout under such a system.  It is also likely that the stated executives wield substantially more power within Taiwanese society today than they would under a OCTS framework.  Taiwanese executives would be wise to look to the similar scenario that took place in Hong Kong in 1997--and where the  level of executive-political influence presently lies in Hong Kong.

Be careful what you wish for Terry Guo...

In 1997, officials in Beijing depended heavily on the tycoons of Hong Kong to lead the way in ensuring a stable transition from British colonial rule to Chinese control.  These business leaders did their part in placating fears among the citizenry of Hong Kong (and international investors), that an economic status-quo would be in place, and it would be business as usual within the city.  As time has passed, however, Beijing has had ample time to maneuver  its preferred leaders into prominent political and economic positions  (more on this aspect later).  Combining this fact with Hong Kong's decline in economic relevance, the tycoons who were once vital to Hong Kong's transition are now viewed by Beijing as actors who provide diminishing returns to their objectives within  the city.  In a Taiwan scenario, these tycoon types who currently hold a great deal of sway both politically and economically in Taiwan, would likely be counted on to have a similar role as their Hong Kong counterparts did.  However, these officials would quickly see their influence diminished as a result of being just a few fish within a much larger pond, and seeing their political relevance likely diminish with each year that passes by.

Socially, the economic ramifications of a One Country Two Systems (OCTS) approach would leave no aspect of Taiwanese society untouched.  With trade and investment barriers being removed on a wide scale following the handover, consider the following:

*In 2011, investors from Mainland China accounted for 25% percent of Hong Kong prime property purchases, which has resulted in pushing home prices out of reach for many aspiring middle class citizens

*Hong Kong's wealth gap, long being the highest in Asia, has reached its highest level in decades

It is more likely than not that Taiwan would experience similar results within a OCTS model.  With the housing market within Taipei already experiencing what many economists perceive as a housing bubble waiting to burst, a large influx of Chinese capital into the housing market would likely send the median home price in the city through the roof, causing even more discontent with aspiring homeowners than what currently exists.  Other major cities in Taiwan, such as Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan, and Hsinchu would likely see a considerable spike in real estate prices as well.

In the agricultural sector, Taiwanese farmers  would also face a bleak future, as China's agricultural industry attempts to emulate the quality of Taiwanese products, larger Chinese firms would likely have the ability to eventually produce similar products at a lower cost without the current trade barriers as a restriction to Taiwan's domestic market, forcing many producers in Taiwan to leave the industry.

In the tourism sector, Taiwan would also likely experience many of the similar effects that have been felt by Hong Kong since Mainlanders were permitted to enter the city on individual visas, rather than on the group visa program.  As Hong Kong based companies shifted much of their manufacturing base to China proper, tourism has grown as a vital economic aspect of the cities economy.  As a result, retail rental properties have skyrocketed in the city, rising as much as 32% in some prime locations, erasing the traditional landscape of some areas, such as Causeway Bay in the process.  In 2011, the retail chain Forever 21 opened its first store in Hong Kong in 2011, paying $1.4 million dollars in rent per month--the highest in the world in both total terms and square feet.
Forever 21 in Hong Kong

  While many areas in Taiwan would likely follow suit in developing areas that would cater to the influx of Chinese tourists, some would likely be in areas that are considered mainstays of Taiwanese society, such as night market areas.  It is likely that many areas within Taiwanese cities would become unrecognizable as they currently stand.


The cultural impact within Taiwan as a result of a OCTS implementation would be massive, and the results of which are far too large to be explored in depth here, but a brief (albeit simplistic) overview is needed. Ironically, studies and polls have shown that since the 1997 handover,  residents of Hong Kong have latched on tighter to the notion of being a citizen of Hong Kong that has an identity separate from Mainland Chinese, instead of forming an identity that is one of simply being "Chinese".  In 2011, a University of Hong Kong poll asked residents to rate how strongly they felt as being a "Hong Kong citizen", with the average rating being 8.23, the highest result in 10 years.  The same participants in the poll rated their feelings about being a "Chinese citizen" at an average of 7.01--a 12-year low.  With many residents increasing their  daily contact with the population from China proper, there was likely a feeling that while ethnically bonds are indeed shared, culturally wide differences have developed over time, resulting in some level of a nationality difference.

In the case of a similar poll taking place in Taiwan 15 years after a hypothetical unification scenario, the numbers would likely be much further apart in those identifying themselves proudly as "Taiwanese" and at the same time "Chinese citizens".  For over a half-century, the citizens of Taiwan have combined (often times with considerable friction) aspects of Chinese culture from a large influx of Chinese immigrants--refugees that occurred in the mid to late 1940s with an existing Taiwanese culture that was already firmly developed prior to their arrival, sprinkled with aspects of Japanese colonial rule that lasted sixty years--without the interference of the guiding hand of the People's Republic of China.  The result could in fact be compared to the formation of a separate American cultural identity that occurred prior to the American revolution, as distance between England and its colonies allowed for such a development to occur.  For many colonists, the bloodlines did not change, but their mindset and self-identity evolved. One example in which China shows its inability to understand the complexities of the evolution of Taiwanese self-identity is the way in which it classifies the aboriginal population of Taiwan.  While Taiwan recognizes 14 distinct and separate native Taiwanese aboriginal groups within its borders-- the PRC sees one.

They're all "Gaoshan" in the eyes of Beijing

 From the perspective of Beijing, this aspect of a OCTS approach  with Taiwan would be perhaps its most daunting challenge in making such an arrangement a success.  Thus far, China's appeals to Chinese brotherhood and bloodlines (which could have been more effective in centuries past) has only appealed to a small fraction of Taiwan's population.  China would have to take a long term approach in its attempt to successfully integrate Taiwan's population into a greater China model, a task that would almost certainly fail due to Taiwan's strongly entrenched sense of self-identity that grows stronger with each day it is not under the flag of the PRC.

Political Structure and Social Freedoms --The Firewall to Annexation 

Despite the bleak economic and cultural scenarios that have been proposed in this article, the political and social freedom aspect is one that is perhaps the strongest barrier to China's objective to implement the OCTS approach with Taiwan.  If proponents of the OCTS approach towards Taiwan hope to look to Hong Kong for a viable model--upon closer inspection their hopes would likely be dashed. The following is the reality of the OCTS approach that has taken place in Hong Kong presented in bullet point form:

* Prior to the 1997 handover, the 1984 Basic Law was devised for the governance of Hong Kong. Within the framework it stated that universal suffrage was the "ultimate aim" for Hong Kong--an objective that has not yet been met.  Most observers do not believe expect the universal suffrage to occur before 2017 ( the targeted year stated by Beijing), as the provision was not included in the 2010 electoral reforms.  The Law also restricts law making powers, prohibits legislators from introducing bills that would affect Hong Kong public spending, government operations, or political structure.

* The selection of the Hong Kong's chief executive is done by a system in which special interests controlled by a small circle of wealth tycoons select the person who will take the position.  In 2012 the committee chose Leung Chun-ying, a member of the Mainland government advisory body--and the preferred candidate of Beijing.  Officials from China's Liaison Office reportedly lobbied members of the election committee to vote for Leung, and castigated media officials from critical coverage of him (source 2013 Freedom House Report on Hong Kong)

*   In 2002 Pro-Beijing lawmakers in the city attempted to pass Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23, which included the following:

  • Any branch of an organization that is part of an organization banned by the central government of the PRC under state security reasons can be banned in Hong Kong at any time, and the Hong Kong government does not have to conduct any independent investigation.
  • The concepts of government and country are confused and exchangeable in the proposed document. In a democratic country, citizens are empowered with the right to monitor and check the government. The proposed enactment of Article 23 makes opposing the government the same as opposing the country.
  • In the proposed enactment, police are allowed to enter residential buildings and arrest people at any time without court warrants or evidence.
  • Any speech deemed as instigative can be regarded as illegal, including oral, written and electronic forms; it is a crime both to express, and to hear such speech and fail to report it.
  • Permanent residents of Hong Kong are under the power of this law, no matter where they reside. People who are in Hong Kong are also under the power of Article 23, regardless of nationality, including people who visit or transit through Hong Kong. Violations of Article 23 can result in a life term in prison. 

-Mass protests by the citizens of Hong Kong forced the legislature to suspend the vote and implementation of Article 23
-However in 2009, the territory of Macau (which was transferred from Portugal to China in 1999 ) passed the Macau Basic Law, which has exactly the same wording as Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law.

Media Suppression  in Hong Kong since 1997 

Exerpts taken from the 2013 Freedom House Report

"A 2012 poll conducted by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) found that for the first time, journalists’ concerns about tighter government control over access to information surpassed self-censorship as the most commonly cited threat to media freedom. Over the past two years, officials have increasingly used off-the-record briefings to announce policies and released official footage for news events rather than opening them to the press, while the police and fire departments have released less detailed and timely information about newsworthy incidents."

"In January, Wang Xiangwei, a mainlander who had once worked for the state-run China Daily, became the editor in chief of the popular local English-language paper South China Morning Post. He was accused of censoring the Post’s coverage of the suspicious death of Chinese dissident Li Wangyang in June, and of refusing to renew a contract with an award-winning reporter known for his articles about Beijing’s poor human rights record."

" Hong Kong journalists aiming to report from the mainland must obtain press cards from Beijing’s Liaison Office, though even with accreditation, they are often subject to surveillance, threats, beatings, and occasional detention by mainland authorities."

"At least three mainlanders were beaten or sentenced to labor camps after returning home from the July 1 protest in Hong Kong, the first such known cases of mainlanders punished for attending Hong Kong demonstrations."

As frustrated as Hong Kong residents are with their current political situation, it is vastly different from a potential Taiwan OCTS scenario for one primary reason.  The people of Taiwan have spilled considerable blood in their quest to establish a democratic form of representative government, and for this reason the vast majority of its citizens would be unequivocally opposed to any change that could effect their current democratic abilities.  While China has promised to maintain Taiwan's current governmental structure (with the exception of managing foreign policy), it would be impossible for it to do so.  The people of Taiwan would have the ability to elect representatives who could not only push back Chinese interests within Taiwan, the potential for speaking of Taiwanese independence would certainly be a possibility, something that Beijing does not have to deal with regarding the mindset of any large group in Hong Kong (....yet).  Such a scenario would force Beijing to allocate large resources towards maintaining public order inside Taiwan, and confronting millions of people who have become well-versed in the tactics of self-expression and have had prior exposure to living in a free and democratic society-- a potentially potent combination that could give Beijing headaches for years...or decades.  

In conclusion, there is no objective observer who could state that Taiwan and the majority of her population would beneficially gain from any sort of OCTS approach that is currently in place between Mainland China and Hong Kong.  Economic gains would be reaped by the top of Taiwanese society, while the rest of the population would likely see the gradual, if not subtle erosion of basic liberties that have become pillars of a modern Taiwanese society.  The government in Beijing likely sees a similar picture, as it continues to espouse an annexation of Taiwan by speaking of vague ancient territorial claims and a shared bloodline. Yet the people of Taiwan do not live in the past or seem willing to trade their hard-earned freedoms for something as tribal  as a shared ethnicity.  All the while citizens of Hong Kong look enviously across the Taiwan Strait to see what it is that they themselves desire most.  A society that still has the option to make a choice about its own future.