Tsai-Trump Telephone Call: Reading Trump and the Chinese Response

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called up US President-elect Donald Trump on 3 December to congratulate him on his victory. A statement from the Taiwan Presidential Office stated that the call lasted just over 10 minutes and that Tsai and Trump ‘shared views and ideals on governance, especially on promoting domestic economic development and strengthening national defense’ and ‘also exchanged views briefly on the situation in Asia’. Tsai ‘expressed the wish of strengthening [Taiwan-US] bilateral exchanges and contacts and establishing closer cooperation relations.[1]

Trump Testing the Waters?

Taiwan has in the past congratulated the US president-elect in private or in writing[2] but this is possibly the first time since 1979, the two sides have actually spoken over the phone. Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex Huang said, ‘Of course both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact.’[3]

Trump also tweeted about the occasion saying, ‘The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!’.[4] Read More »

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India-Taiwan Relations: Promise Unfulfilled

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘India-Taiwan Relations: Constrained or Self-Constraining?’, in Jagannath P. Panda (ed.), India-Taiwan Relations in Asia and Beyond: The Future (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2016), 37-47.

The big problem in India-Taiwan relations is the lack of ambition. Given the depth of economic relations and often enough, of political ties too, that many countries including in East Asia itself have with Taiwan, one wonders if there is not also a lack of creativity in the case of India-Taiwan ties. The economic dimension in the relationship is often highlighted – the most recent case being the announcement in August 2015 of Foxconn investing (US)$5 billion in India[1] – but it also seems unlikely that the Government of India went out of its way to court Foxconn because it was a Taiwanese company or indeed, that it is going out of its way for any Taiwanese company.

If the Act East policy is an opportunity to recast and revitalise India’s ties with East Asia across dimensions, then this recasting and revitalisation must also cover Taiwan.

One-China Policy

If the development of China-Taiwan relations in the decades following China’s economic opening up and reforms is any indication, the story of India-Taiwan relations is one of missed opportunities. This is understandable in some respects, given that India-China relations themselves were only slowly recovering from the 1962 conflict. The 1980s were still early days as negotiations on the boundary dispute were taking off. Still, India took note of Taiwan under the Look East policy fairly early, as indicated by the 1995 establishment of representative offices in Taipei and in New Delhi.Read More »

Parsing Tsai Ing-wen’s Inaugural Presidential Speech

Originally published on 27 May 2016 on ICS Delhi Blog.

Tsai Ing-wen and Chen Chien-jen were sworn in on 20 May as the 14th President and Vice-President of the Republic of China on Taiwan, marking the third successful peaceful transition of power on the island through democratic elections. Tsai, the first female president of the island, is expected to take a more moderate position on Taiwan’s relations with China, even if her Democratic Progress Party is not likely to give up its pro-independence stance. It is this latter reality that is likely to keep the Chinese on tenterhooks about Taiwan’s direction under Tsai.

 

Focus on Domestic IssuesRead More »

Interpreting Ma Ying-jeou’s Visit to Taiping Island

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s visit to Taiping/Itu Aba Island in the Spratly Islands on 28 January 2016 was justified among other things on the grounds that he visited men and women in uniform before every Lunar New Year and that he was seeking to clarify the legal status of the island.[1]

 

Omissions

There are however, some issues that need to be considered.

For one, Ma did not mention the visit to Taiping of his predecessor Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in February 2008. Standing before military personnel this omission perhaps weakened Taiwan’s/Republic of China’ (ROC) image and position, which is to say that there is an element of dissonance between the Kuomintang’s (KMT) position and that of its political rival.Read More »

Taiwan’s 9-in-1 Election Results: Warning for the KMT-CPC Relationship

The major losses suffered by Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) in the nine-in-one local elections – called so because there were elections held to nine levels of local government – at the end of November are the result of both internal and external reasons. With elections to the Taiwanese presidency and to the Legislative Yuan due in 2016, China will have to both rethink the scope and recalibrate the pace of its embrace of the island that has held out against it since 1949.

 

Background

Over the years, the Communist Party of China (CPC)-ruled mainland has adopted a variety of approaches to bring Taiwan – dubbed a ‘renegade province’ – around. While for most of the Maoist and Dengist eras, there were really no serious attempts at coercion, rapprochement with the US in 1971 did bring about the ‘one China’ policy that put the Republic of China on Taiwan on very shaky footing as far as its international standing was concerned.Read More »

India-Taiwan Relations: Slow and Steady Does It

Published by the World Politics Review’s Global Insider as “Taiwanese President’s Stopover in India Sign of a Warming Trend,” on 20 April 2012. These questions were answered together with Dr. Fang Tien-sze, Assistant Professor, National Tsing-hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.

 

WPR: How have India-Taiwan relations evolved over the past 10 years?

Fang Tien-sze and Jabin T. Jacob: India-Taiwan relations have improved gradually in many areas over the past few years. Bilateral trade has expanded from $1.1 billion in 2001 to $7.6 billion in 2011. The two sides signed a bilateral investment and protection agreement in 2002 and agreements on double taxation and customs assistance in July 2011. India and Taiwan have also commissioned think tanks to jointly study the feasibility and likely results of a free trade agreement. In the field of education, in March 2010 the two sides decided to recognize each other’s academic degrees and certificates in higher education, facilitating student mobility for advanced studies and job purposes. Earlier, in 2007, the two signed an agreement on scientific and technological cooperation, creating a joint committee that meets every year to formulate cooperation programs and activities.

At the political level, New Delhi appears to be showing increasing flexibility. Read More »

Chinese National Security and International Relations

Original Lecture: “Chinese National Security and International Relations,” Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 29 October 2010.

 

Summary: An essential first step to understanding Chinese national security imperatives from the outside is to shed stereotypes and preconceived notions of China as a monolithic, monochromatic or well-ordered unitary entity. As a country of over a billion people, politics and implementation issues are incredibly complex in China and Indians should if anything, be able to better grasp this complexity.

 

Chinese national security policy is influenced by a number of internal issues, of which history and strategic culture are important variables, together with the overwhelming priority that Chinese leaders accord to maintaining political and social stability and thereby, their legitimacy and grip on power. Maintaining economic growth is a key national security consideration in this respect which then has implications for the way China looks at its external relations. Thus, traditional security issues such as its relations with Taiwan or non-traditional security issues such as energy security can both be affected by internal considerations. Meanwhile, China’s security policymaking process displays great complexity in terms of actors and interest groups ranging from the Communist Party, the PLA, and the MoFA to the state-owned enterprises and provincial governments. What is more, there are frequent conflicts of interest among the various players.

 

China has certain key concepts that it uses frequently in its external discourse that have specific meanings and need to be understood carefully. These include among others such concepts as ‘core interests’ – interests that China will go to war over – and the three ‘evils’ – extremism, terrorism and separatism. There is also a changing terminology used to describe China’s intentions such as ‘peaceful rise’ / ‘peaceful development’ / ‘harmonious world,’ each of which has different emphases. Finally, how China implements these concepts in practice is a different issue altogether.