Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Mandatory Disclaimer-- Why do so many Western media articles about Taiwan have to sound the same?

(photo: wiki commons)


Disclaimer: I am a news junkie when it comes to Taiwan.  I enjoy its political scene (and unique international status), the David vs. Goliath narrative involving China, the security-military dynamic, and of course  the eclectic makeup  of Taiwanese culture that makes Taiwan, well, Taiwan.  I rarely skip an article posted on thinking-taiwanthe diplomat , Taiwan in Perspective , and of course we can't forget my  good friend Michael Turton .  Much of the reading on these sites, however, could be a bit confusing (or even intimidating based on the day) for someone who doesn't have at least a basic understanding of Taiwanese history and/or current events that have transpired throughout Taiwanese society in recent years (or even months).  Normally  however, I make it a point to simply bypass Taiwan-related news stories from  major Western media outlets.


 When it comes to reading Taiwan related pieces or stories in major Western media outlets, I often bypass them (when there are even any to read) for two reasons.  The first is time constraints--there only so many hours in a day, and thanks to the internet there are seemingly infinite quality options to choose from that often go into much deeper into a story than you will find from the said outlets. And the second reason should be more troubling to Taiwan supporters, which is the 'cookie cutter' mentality that seems to be increasingly making its way into mainstream media Taiwan related articles. Call it quite simply-lazy journalism.  To prove my point try a quick experiment: Google "Taiwan" and pull an article from any major media publication over the past few years that involves Taiwan and its international status, Taiwan and China relations, or a similar topic of your choice. I can safely assume that the following phrase will show up in your chosen article in some form or another:

"China considers Taiwan a renegade province and considers it to be a part of its territory, and vows to reclaim the island by force if necessary." 

While any regular observer of Taiwan will all likelihood glance right over this statement (after you've read it 724 times you hardly realize its there), the troubling part is that for many people who are not regular observers of Taiwan--this sentence could essentially create a false narrative in their way of thinking about Taiwan--and what it is or is not.  And seemingly every  major news story about Taiwan that is covered by Western media has to throw this line in their reporting. Every. Single. Time.   So for the casual reader who was savvy enough to sift through all of the articles covering Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in March (and into April) to discover that in Taiwan  a student led protest movement had swelled to the point of occupying its countries'  legislative chamber to protest a shadowy trade deal during the same time, they likely would have read some basics of the event, along with the obligatory 'China considers Taiwan.....' disclaimer.  Well that's just peachy that the journalist felt the need to disclose the official position of the Chinese government, but isn't the article supposed to be about Taiwan?

The Chinese position is by no means unimportant; it does affect Taiwan in a variety of ways. But isn't there another side to the story that should be told? After all, wouldn't a reader who is new to the Taiwan dynamic  be left wondering, "Well, why is Taiwan not a part of China now? Why does China have to take it by force? Did Taiwan leave China?"---All perfectly fair questions.  So instead of potentially creating a false perception of Taiwan being a "renegade province" (renegade (adj.)-having treacherously changed allegiance); which could in itself foster negative connotations of Taiwan "breaking away" from its country for reasons unknown, other options are available. Maybe something like this:

"Although China considers Taiwan part of its territory, since its creation in 1949 The People's Republic of China has never governed Taiwan, nor had any jurisdiction over its citizens."

Different eh? Perhaps even such a phrase could leave a reader new to Taiwan with a different initial impression about what China says and what reality actually is.















Wednesday, July 16, 2014

U.S. Policy and International Law: Taiwan's Friend










Fellow Ohio native (and suffering Browns fan) Michael Turton and myself teamed up to pen an article  in  the Diplomat to refute Julian Ku's claim that an American-Japanese defense of Taiwan in the case of a Chinese military attack would be against international law.  Mr. Turton and myself decided to use controversial tactics--reason, facts, precedent, and yes international law to make our case. 

Julian Ku’s two recent pieces in The Diplomat contending that a PRC invasion of Taiwan would be legal and that the U.S. and Japan both recognize that Taiwan is part of China betray a shocking lack of understanding of U.S. policy on Taiwan and its international status. Ku asserts:
“I get that this is a complicated issue, but I don’t think I am ‘misreading’ historical documents when I write that 1) the U.S. recognizes the PRC as the government of China and that the U.S. accepts that Taiwan is part of China, and 2) Japan recognizes the PRC as the government of China (see the 1972 Joint Communique), and Japan accepts that Taiwan is a part of China. Sure, neither country recognizes that Taiwan is a part of the PRC, but both the U.S. and Japan have made clear that China is a single legal entity that includes Taiwan, and that the PRC is the sole government in charge of this entity.”
Actually, this is not a complex issue; it is a simple issue: the U.S. does not recognize that Taiwan is part of China. Any version of China. Rather, the U.S. position is that the status of Taiwan has yet to be determined. It has been that way for more than six decades. 
 The initial post that began  the debate is available here, and follow-ups in the debate can be found herehere and here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Greatest Arms Sale Never Sold- How Taiwan could enhance its security by moving closer to its long time friend

(Photo-china-screen-news.com)


Imagine for a moment a scenario in which Taiwan was presented a security alliance that was so politically sensitive that it was never to be mentioned by the governments of either country. Any questions regarding such an agreement would be neither confirmed nor denied by the states involved. In the event Taiwan was the victim of an unprovoked attack, it would conditionally receive the support of a modernized and capable navy—frigates and destroyers kitted with AEGIS combat systems, helicopters and aircraft that would provide the latest in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and diesel submarines widely recognized as being among the best in service. Taiwan could also be the recipient of support from this ally’s air force—highly trained pilots flying fourth and fifth generation aircraft that would provide support under such dire conditions. All that is asked of Taiwan in return is that it continues its trajectory of maintaining a long-standing friendship with this country.
This agreement however, comes with a major caveat: This ally gives no actual guarantee that it would commit to Taiwan’s defense, and would only reveal its intentions shortly before or immediately following the commencement of hostilities. The United States, you say? That’s so Cold War. Taiwan’s potential ‘silent partner’ lies much closer to its shores—the state of Japan.  
The full article can be accessed here at Ketagalan Media.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Vietnam's 'Silent Service' Challenge




My recent piece for the University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute: 

     On May 28th at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg, Russia, the last of six Kilo-class diesel electric submarines (SSK) purchased by the government of Vietnam, was laid to complete construction.  The vessels, for the People’s Army of Vietnam Navy (VPN) in 2009, are expected to become the capital ships of the PAVN upon their completion and delivery (the third vessel is expected to be delivered to Vietnam in November, with the remaining three expected to be delivered in 2015 and 2016).
Decision makers in Hanoi are certainly not calculating that this platform purchase will give the VPN some level of parity with the China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). It could, however, force China’s hand in showing how far it is willing to escalate its territorial disputes with Vietnam if the territorial disputes are not resolved by the time the vessels enter into active service. 
The full article can be accessed at The University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute site here.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

More U.S. Resolve Needed to Counter China's Growing Aggression in East Asia




(Photo-Wiki Commons)


My recent article in The University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute Blog countering ideas proposed by Harry White's recent piece in the National Interest that the United States would be better served by abandoning Taiwan for the sake of better relations with China is available here.  Thanks for reading! 




Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Legislation Introduced in US Congress would greatly enhance American Security Interests in Asia




Rep. Forbes 
On Monday, it was announced that Chairman of the House Armed Services Sea power and Projection Forces Subcommittee and Chairman of the Congressional China Caucus Randy Forbes (R-VA) and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) co-authored legislation titled the "Asia-Pacific Region Priority Act"--which they plan introduce this week. If enacted into law, this bill would add a series of Congressional mandates into America's Asian security posture intended to strengthen current relationships with allies in the region.

While portions of the bill seek to strengthen ties by economic means ("requesting a a direct report on future U.S.-Republic of Korea Security and Trade cooperation)--much of the bill focuses on military posture and analysis.



Some of the bill's proposals include:

Rep. Hanabusa 

  • Requiring an Independent Assessment of Anti-Access/Area-Denial Challenges 
  • Requiring Net Assessment of Chinese Naval Modernization to conduct a study of the maritime balance of forces in the Asia-Pacific
-This provision will be interesting to those who have heard of The Office of Net Assessment; a secretive Pentagon-based think tank that was created under President Nixon (and whose director, 91 year old Andrew Marshall still reigns as the director).  The ONA has been thought of (often negatively by its critics) as being "obsessed" with China in military terms for the better part of the last 20 years, and such a report would likely paint a menacing picture of Chinese naval capabilities.


  • Requiring the Department of Defense to submit a report on cross-Strait balance of maritime forces between China and Taiwan
-This report would also likely show the ever-growing gap between Chinese and Taiwanese naval capabilities--and be used by China hawks and supporters of Taiwan in Congress to place additional pressure on the current Administration to make available modern naval platforms for sale to Taiwan, as well as possible American assistance in aiding Taiwan's desire to develop it's own domestic submarine program.


  • Requiring Development of a Pacific Command Munitions Strategy 
  • Directing improvements in missile defense cooperation and capabilities
--The bill specifically mentions missile defense cooperation with Japan and the Republic of Korea

It will be interesting to see if the bill gains traction on the Hill in the form of additional co-sponsors, which will be the tell-tale sign of this bill moving forward in the House. Rep. Forbes does hold substantial sway with his Committee assignments and tenure in Washington, so the bill would appear to have a chance of gaining momentum in the coming weeks.









Are the "Six Assurances" still a Cornerstone in US-Taiwan Relations?


There are a number of questions following the recent Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee Hearing on U.S. policy towards Taiwan that took place two weeks ago that were left unanswered. Perhaps the most prevalent of these questions is if current U.S. policy towards Taiwan still includes the Six Assurances doctrine as one its primary components.  My full letter to the Taipei Times that was printed today can be viewed here.