The Hong Kong Upheaval and the Future of Cross-Straits Relations
The 2019 Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue Report
Former Chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei
The Society of Security and Diplomatic Policy Studies (SSDP) and The Prospect Foundation jointly held a Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue in Taipei on September 20, 2019 --- a sequel to the similarly named conference held last year. The SSDP delegates took this occasion to meet with Taiwanese key personnel.
At the beginning of this year, Xi Jinping, in his speech delivered at a gathering to commemorate the 40th anniversary of issuing the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan," clarified once again his intention to reunify Taiwan with the mainland. In response to this move, Tsai Ing-wen continues to maintain her non-compromising attitude toward China. In Hong Kong, on the other hand, protests that began in opposition to an "extradition bill" have further aggravated the situation, showing signs of continuing. These two new variables added to cross-strait relations clearly provide a boost to Tsai Ing-wen whose likelihood of reelection was in jeopardy. With the intensifying US-China confrontation as background, the diplomatic environment surrounding Taiwan is becoming increasingly serious --- the Solomon Islands and Kiribati decided to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan, precisely during the "Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue."
Based on various opinions and views raised by the Taiwanese side, this paper is intended to consider what impact the Hong Kong upheaval will have on the future of cross-strait relations.
1. The Taiwan Issue for the Communist Party of China (CPC), Specifically for Xi Jinping
(1) The Taiwan issue for the CPC
The definition given by the CPC administration to the Taiwan issue is that of an "unresolved issue of the Civil War in the 1940s in China." Under the "one-China principle," the CPC declares to abide by the policy of "peaceful reunification; one country, two systems."
Regarding the "1992 consensus" related to the interpretation of "one-China principle," the CPC and the Kuomintang (KMT) are in the state of dreaming different dreams in the same bed. The CPC's position is that "both mainland China and Taiwan confirmed adherence to one-China principle," whereas the KMT's is that "both mainland China and Taiwan belong to the same China, but both sides agree to interpret the meaning of that one China according to their own definition (一中各表). ‘China' means the Republic of China." Both sides have chosen to pursue political dialogues while intentionally keeping the contents of the consensus unclear. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), on the other hand, denied the existence of the 1992 consensus itself. At the presidential inauguration ceremony, Tsai Ing-wen stated that she "respects some common understandings and recognized historic facts." She made the utmost possible concessions to maintain the status quo of cross-straits relations.
The policy of "peaceful reunification; one country, two systems" is predicated on the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan" published by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in January 1979. With this message, China shifted its Taiwan reunification policy from "armed liberation" to "peaceful reunification." The "one country, two systems" applied in Hong Kong today is a by-product that was originally invented in the process of adjusting China's Taiwan policies, and its application to Hong Kong will serve as a test of its validity for Taiwan. However, not only the DPP but the KMT refuses to accept the "one country, two systems," and according to a public opinion survey conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council in May this year, some 84% of Taiwanese people oppose it. It is a Taiwanese consensus not to accept the "one country, two systems."
(2) Xi Jinping's strong wish to resolve the Taiwan issue
Seventy years from the separation of mainland China and Taiwan, and forty years from the issuance of "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan," on January 2 this year, Xi Jinping announced a new comprehensive policy toward Taiwan (Xi's Five Points). Especially notable are the following three points. First, Xi linked the Taiwan unification issue with the "Chinese Dream" and showed a strong will to solve it during his tenure. Second, he proposed a new concept named "the Taiwan version of one country, two systems," but avoided specifying what the Taiwan version would signify. Third, Xi unilaterally redefined the "1992 consensus" as confirming that "both sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to one China and will work together toward national reunification." The KMT's "One China Consensus, with different interpretations" was completely negated. Following the PRC's "one-China principle," there would be no room for the existence of the Republic of China. Taiwanese experts construe "Xi's Five Points" as a declaration that China would, regardless of Taiwanese people's opinions and wishes, complete the "reunification of the motherland" by 2049 by virtue of the "one country, two systems" method and realize the "Chinese Dream." According to the Mainland Affairs Council of Taiwan, what embarrasses the Taiwanese government most in formulating its policy toward China is the obscurity of "the Taiwan version" Xi Jinping advocated.
Xi Jinping is said to "have an especially strong wish for the national reunification." It is pointed out that as background to this, is Xi Jinping's personal and family experiences from the days of the Chinese Civil War. Xi Zhongxun, the late father of Xi Jinping and one of the eight CPC elders, experienced a life-long love-hate relationship with his wife's relatives, KMT members, with whom the elder Xi fought and helped at other times. Among relatives of Xi Jinping's spouse, Peng Liyuan, many KMT members can be found. An uncle in law through Peng Liyuan was a KMT soldier and fled to Taiwan and died there. The Civil War left a deeper wound in the heart of the majority of Chinese people than the war-time Japanese invasion did. It is a battle in which a huge number of Chinese people were directly involved, and many families were torn apart and talented Chinese people emigrated due to the China-Taiwan division. Xi Jinping argues, "cross-strait compatriots are one family whose blood is thicker than water." Xi believes that in order to restore the severed historical bonds among the Chinese, it is imperative to address the "unresolved issue of the Civil War," which he firmly recognizes to be a historic mission assigned to him.
The resolution of the Taiwan issue is, for the CPC administration, a problem related to the legitimacy of their rule and to the PRC's core interests. Therefore, as far as this issue is concerned, the only option for the CPC is to move forward, never to step back. Xi Jinping has already gained political authority comparable to the PRC founding father Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of the reform and the opening-up and repatriation of Macau and Hong Kong. To bequeath to posterity a historic legacy, Xi Jinping has to fulfill his "historic mission" of the "complete unification of the Chinese motherland" through the reunification of China and Taiwan.
2. The Interaction of the Hong Kong Upheaval and Taiwan Politics
(1) Solidarity and resonance between Hong Kong and Taiwan
Taiwanese people are now attentive to the future of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong; that is, what China pledged to maintain for another 50 years --- "advanced autonomy," "Hong Kong ruled by Hong Kongers," "freedom of speech," etc. Taiwanese people, on whom "Xi's Five Points" have imposed a new unification process based on "one country, two systems," cannot overlook the current situation in Hong Kong as "fire on the other side of the river." A sense of crisis, "Hong Kong today, Taiwan tomorrow" has permeated every corner of Taiwan society. Along with empathy for Hong Kong protesters, anti-China sentiment is also spreading.
The exchanges between the young people of Taiwan and Hong Kong have deepened gradually since the era of the Chen Shui-bian administration. The number of Hong Kong students studying in Taiwan was initially around 2,000, but since 2012, it has increased by 1,000 every year. In 2016, more than 130 universities in Taiwan accepted Hong Kong students, and their number exceeded 8,600. This is due to the fact that Ma Ying-jeou, a native Hong Konger, became the President and widely opened the door to students from mainland China including Hong Kong and Macau. In addition, a DPP-affiliated think tank, "Taiwan Think Tank," founded a scholarship system to invite qualified university students from Hong Kong to top Taiwanese universities such as National Taiwan University. Enjoying the democratic, independent atmosphere of Taiwan society, Hong Kong students are reportedly studying not only academic subjects but also about participation in politics and self-government. Traditionally Hong Kong people speak Cantonese in their daily life, but since Hong Kong's repatriation to China, they are now educated in Putonghua, which helps to facilitate communication between Hong Kong and Taiwanese people.
In the spring of 2014, a "the Sunflower Student Movement" broke out in Taiwan. Students opposing service trade agreements with China occupied the Legislative Yuan. Five months later, the "Umbrella Movement" took place in Hong Kong, triggered by debates on the reform of the election of the Chief Executive. Although the reasons that caused each of the movements are different, it is said that both movements "resonated" with each other over the sense of crisis of being "swallowed" by a monstrous China. The result was a victory in Taiwan and a defeat in Hong Kong, but this experience elevated the "sense of solidarity" between the young people. Incidentally, on the occasion of the 2016 presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan, many young people from Hong Kong came to Taipei to learn first-hand about universal suffrage. On the bulletin boards at the DPP headquarters a large number of pieces of paper were posted, with illustrations of umbrellas, which read "Hang in there! Tsai Ing-wen." It was impressive that Hong Kong and Taiwanese youths broke into a laud cheer as the counting of ballots revealed the land-slide victory of Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP.
A leader of the "Umbrella Movement," Agnes Chow, who speaks fluent Japanese and plays an active part in the current protests by publicizing abroad about the present situation in Hong Kong. In a media interview, Ms. Chow said, "This is the ‘last opportunity' to protect the ‘one country, two systems,' and there will be no next one unless we raise our voice now." On the other hand, the focus of Taiwan's presidential election is "distance from China." The DPP members share a sense of crisis that if it lost in the forthcoming elections to the KMT, Xi Jinping would at a stroke accelerate the process of reunification, and the free and democratic Taiwan would come to an end. They recognize that the presidential election will be "the last opportunity" to protect Taiwan's democracy and independence. The heightened feelings "Today Hong Kong, tomorrow Taiwan" that Hong Kongers and Taiwanese people share is based on a sense of crisis that unless they fight now, there will be no next opportunity --- now is the last time. Taiwanese participants in the "Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue" pointed out that either the Hong Kong protests or the Taiwan presidential election constitute a battle field where the people must fight a decisive battle, the results of which are to "protect freedom and democracy or succumb to dictatorship." There prevails an anxiety among the KMT members that if the KMT failed to win the presidential election, it would be pushed further to the background, and would be unable to return to power for good. The presidential election is considered by them also the "last opportunity" but in a different sense from that for the DPP.
(2) The rising Hong Kong identity
In today's Taiwan, everybody is aware of Taiwan's growing identity. In a public opinion poll conducted by National Chengchi University, the percentage of those who consider themselves Taiwanese has reached about 60% in recent years. A stable low 4% of respondents recognize themselves as Chinese. Taiwanese participants in the "Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue" pointed out that Hong Kong people's identity is becoming similar to that of Taiwanese people through involvement in various protest movements. According to a public opinion poll conducted by the University of Hong Kong, the percentage of those who consider themselves Hong Kongers had been around 40% in the past, but rapidly increased to about 53% at the end of 2018. Meanwhile, the percentage of those who think that they are Chinese dropped to a record low of some 10%. In Taiwan, the Naturally Pro-Independence（天然独）have increased in number, who belong to the generations born after the democratization of Taiwan and who think that Taiwan is substantially independent. They are also expanding their political influence. A similar trend is now observable in Hong Kong. Hong Kongers belonging to the generations called the Pro-Independence Hong Kongers（港独）increase in number, who think that "Hong Kong is Hong Kong; different from China." Their political influence is also increasing. Since the Umbrella Movement, the "Hong Kong identity" has been rising rapidly, especially among young people, and this trend is endorsing Hong Kong protests. Incidentally, in the past, the Taiwanese demanding the independence of Taiwan accounted for approximately 44% of total respondents. As for young people, those demanding independence made up some 50% of young respondents. However, the former has this year risen to some 48% and the latter to about 61%. Explicit demands for Taiwan independence have risen under the probable influence of the Hong Kong upheaval.
(3) Beijing's response
Looking at this trend, the Beijing authorities have become more alerted about "the confluence of independent movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan." Beijing is vigilant about the possibility that the Hong Kong upheaval will attract international attention, and that the United States and other western powers will interfere in the situation. Beijing is facing a dilemma that if it resorted to such an outright action as the mobilization of the PLA for a quick suppression of the protests movement, it would be as if Beijing killed with its own hands the "one country, two systems". Another concern of Beijing is that Taiwan might enhance its presence as a focal point of the turmoil by stimulating the confluence of independent movements or by attracting international concerns. China is now busy disseminating a story of conspiracy where the "dirty hands" of the United States is maneuvering behind the scenes. The real intention of China is deemed to distract world attention from the Hong Kong problem at the expense of confrontation with the United States, Japan, and Taiwan.
The "one country, two systems" guaranteed by the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will end in 2047, while China will celebrate its 100th anniversary of founding of the PRC two years later. Xi Jinping's grand design aims at achieving "complete unification of the motherland," and realizing the "Chinese Dream" by that time. What measures will Xi Jinping take next to cope with Hong Kong and Taiwan, both of which are against integration with China by the "one country, two systems?" Could any conciliatory offer be expected from Xi's overbearing political style that ignores public opinion? Nobody can deny that Xi Jinping has already decided on "the demise of Hong Kong," and started the necessary process to that end.
3. The Presidential and Legislative Elections in Taiwan
(1) Prospects for the presidential election
On January 11, 2020, the presidential and legislative elections will take place at the same time in Taiwan. In the unified local elections (the nine local elections) in November 2018, Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP suffered a fatal defeat, and Tsai resigned as party leader. Then, Han Kuo-yu of the KMT was elected mayor of Kaohsiung that used to be a DPP stronghold. The "Han wave" swept Taiwan. In a prelude to the presidential election, the ruling party was defeated and the party leader resigned --- this is exactly the same situation with that of the downfall of Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT administration in 2014. Dark clouds loomed over the probability of Tsai's reelection.
Early in this year, Tsai benefitted from favorable developments. Taiwan experts consider that Xi Jinping committed two miscalculations. One is Taiwan's reaction to "Xi's Five Points" speech on January 2. Taiwanese people showed an extremely strong revulsion to it. Tsai lost no time in declaring that "Taiwan will not accept the ‘one country, two systems' and will protect Taiwan's sovereignty." This declaration triggered the recovery of Tsai's approval rating. The other miscalculation of Xi is that Taiwanese people supported the Hong Kong protests against the extradition bill. It is not certain why the Hong Kong authorities rushed the revision of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance at that time, but they seem to be complacent that the resistance of democratization forces in Hong Kong was eradicated by the suppression of the "Umbrella Movement." While Tsai immediately declared the "refusal of accepting the one country, two systems" and offered her "support for Hong Kongers," Han Kuo-yu answered "I don't know well" to a reporter's question. His remark invited the disappointment of the Taiwanese people. The opposite attitudes of the two on the defense of democracy worked in favor of Tsai Ing-wen and served to boost her approval rating. Han Kuo-yu, on the other hand, has been experiencing increasing adversity since the beginning of this year. First, there occurred a division within the KMT, which therefore has failed to create an all-out support system for Han. Second, when Han visited Hong Kong in March this year, he met high-rank officials of the PRC there and, for this reason, was labeled as a "Chinese agent." Third, many Taiwanese people question Han's suitability due to his political attitude and improper remarks.
During the "Japan-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue," Kiribati declared that it would sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan following the example of the Solomon Islands. China seems to have had an intention to influence the result of the presidential election by further narrowing the diplomatic environment surrounding Taiwan before the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC. Taiwanese experts said at the Dialogue that the increasing pressure by China at this time would only add to the anti-Chinese sentiment among Taiwanese people, and help raise Tsai Ing-wen's approval rating.
According to the DPP-affiliated Formosa Electronic News, recent fluctuations in the approval ratings of Tsai Ing-wen and Han Kuo-yu are as follows. As of February 2019, Tsai reached 27.3%, and Han 51.8%. At the time the same-sex marriage bill was enacted in May, Tsai reached 40.8%, surpassing Han's 37.2% by a narrow margin. After the one- million demonstration took place in Hong Kong in June, Tsai scored 45.3%, while Han 35.9%. As of September, Tsai scored 47.7%, while Han 31.6%. According to the conservative United Daily News's opinion poll as of September, Tsai reached 44%, while Han 33%. Although electoral prospects are still uncertain, the predominant view is that Tsai will continue her electoral campaign with an advantage, unless some grave scandal takes place in the DPP.
(2) Prospects for legislative elections
The upcoming elections will be the third of the simultaneous elections that started in 2012. Since the legislative elections employ an electoral system combining single-seat constituencies with proportional representation, there is a tendency for dominant political parties to get a massive number of seats. In 2012, Ma Ying-jeou-led KMT won the victory, and in 2016, Tsai Ing-wen-led DPP came out victorious. The current number of seats is 113, and the bare majority is 57. The current seat composition is DPP 68; KMT 35; New Power Party 5; People First Party 3, and others 2.
The focal point of the presidential election will be "distance from China," whereas that of the legislative elections is said to be "local economy, especially economic condition and employment." For this reason, many Taiwanese experts predict that the DPP will suffer the aftermath of the unified local elections and will considerably reduce its number of seats, while the KMT would dominate the majority. By the end of March this year, there took place two legislative by-elections, and a total of six seats were contested, and the DPP succeeded in securing three reelected seats. The DPP sources report that the party finally succeeded in stopping the loss of its supporters, but the overall prospect is that the KMT still maintains an advantage. As a result, the following three possibilities are pointed out. First, the KMT will greatly increase the number of its seats and gain the majority, while the DPP will suffer a great defeat and lose the majority. As in the Chen Shui-bian administration era, there will be an unusual situation where "the KMT dominates in the Legislative Yuan" under "the DPP President." Consequently, the DPP administration will face great difficulties in the legislature. Second, neither the DPP nor the KMT can gain the majority. In this case, the "Taiwanese People's Party" launched by Mayor of Taipei Ko Wen-je and the "New Power Party" representing the Naturally Pro-Independence generations will secure a considerable number of seats (probably around 10). Since both parties are ready to cooperate with the ruling or opposition party on specific policies, a casting boat is held by those minority parties, and the Taiwanese politics will become fairly unstable. Third, although the DPP will reduce its number of seats, it will, however, secure the majority, whereas the KMT will not reach the majority. The incumbent DPP administration will eventually maintain a complete control of the Legislative Yuan and the administration will be stable.
Factors favoring Tsai Ing-wen in the coming presidential election have recently also been evident in favor of DPP candidates for the legislative elections. The present author heard at the time of his recent visit to Taipei that the DPP's majority would be likely materialize. At present, the number of seats actually secured at this moment by the DPP is said to be some 50, and how many seats can be added further is a major concern. Whether the tailwind favoring the DPP continues to blow until the legislative elections, or whether the KMT's local organizations that contributed to the victory in the unified local elections can secure more votes --- candidates for the legislative elections will have to fight tough campaigns until the last minute.
(3) China's election interference and US leverage
In June this year, Tsai Ing-wen answered questions of reporters, saying, "China's influence operations included attempts to interfere with elections and fake news campaigns." Randall G. Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, US Department of Defense, also said, "There is no question, at least in our minds, that China will try to meddle --- they've done it in every previous election," adding, "this time it is expected to use social media and cyberintrusions to interfere in Taiwan's election." Schreiber also pledged, "Washington will provide Taiwan with expertise and techniques needed to address relevant threats."
China's meddling with Taiwan's national elections is now regarded as a truism. On the occasion of the 2008 presidential election, China temporarily repatriated Taiwanese businessmen working in mainland China by using regular and charter flights so that they could vote for the KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou. Reportedly, the number of such businessmen sent back for voting reached 150,000 in 2008, 200,000 in 2012, and some 150,000 at the time of the unified local elections in 2018. When in September 2018, the Kansai International Airport was closed due to Typhoon No. 21, a Taiwanese diplomat was criticized for not helping Taiwanese tourists stranded at the airport and was driven to commit suicide. Later, fake news intentionally emitted by China proved to be responsible for throwing the diplomat into this situation. The fake news in question was found to be spread through social media, and not only the Taiwanese media but also the Taiwanese government was left at the mercy of the fake news.
Taiwan experts analyze that China believes that "economic measures" may be most effective to influence the upcoming elections. On August 1 this year, China announced a regulatory measure to suspend Chinese citizens' private trips to Taiwan. From this date, as the voting date draws near, China will, using timing that is favorable to China, impose severe restrictions on cross-straits economic activity and trade; restrictions on cross-straits travel and study and on Chinese corporations' investment in Taiwan; coercion of Taiwanese corporations' overt support for the Chinese government, etc. Along with these measures, China will likely wield a systematic information warfare through the use of joint military-civilian cyber warfare units; maneuvers to control the internet public opinion using SNS, and the emission of fake news.
The most important purpose of China's election meddling is to defeat by any means Tsai Ing-wen's DPP administration. Taiwanese experts point out that China still seems to be uncertain as to whether Han Kuo-yu is a really a trustworthy person. China will make a careful judgment about his suitability as a partner capable of advancing the reunification process designed by Xi Jinping, and about what policy Han would adopt if he were to win Taiwan's presidency.
The United States will not engage in outright election meddling like China, but the Trump administration has already made it clear that it will support the Tsai Ing-wen administration. By many accounts, Taiwan is now an object of goodwill in Washington. This is a bipartisan feeling expected to last long. The political atmosphere of the Obama administration is completely different from that of the Trump administration. The Obama administration pursued engagement policies and tended to avoid conflicts with China, and personnel with different ideas were found across ministries and agencies including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the NSC. Since the Trump administration does not contain such differences of views on security policy, but share the same ideas, it can therefore easily make any necessary adjustments. The Trump administration has strengthened its commitment to Taiwan's security by means of the "Taiwan Travel Act" and "Taiwan Guarantee Act." In addition, the "Taipei Act" to ban support for countries hostile to Taiwan is currently under deliberation in the US Congress. The sale of weapons to Taiwan is quite important for the United States. The Trump administration approved the sale to Taiwan of 108 A1M2 tanks in July this year, which was followed in August by the sale of 66 F-16 fighters that Taiwan had long wished to acquire. This series of actions forge a strong message that the United States will support the continuation of the Tsai Ing-wen administration that China does not want. The US sale of weapons is the tailwind pushing Tsai.
4. An Assessment of Taiwan's Loss of the Solomon Islands and Kiribati
In September this year, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati declared in succession that they would break diplomatic relations with Taiwan. There used to be 22 countries recognizing Taiwan as a "state" at the time of the inauguration of the Tsai Ing-wen administration, but this number has now decreased to 15. The countries that Taiwan has traditionally regarded as important diplomatic allies are: first, the Vatican (the head of Catholic Christianity); second, Panama (a friendly nation since the founding of the Republic of China and the link between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans), and third, Pacific island countries (important allies having strategic access to Hawaii and Guam). Panama severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in June 2017. This time two of the six pro-Taiwan Pacific Island countries have first distanced themselves from Taiwan.
China's South Pacific strategy has been strengthened rapidly over the past few years, adopting a three part strategy of combining economy, diplomacy and military power. China has become a major foreign donor in the region, advancing economic development in Pacific island countries focusing on mining, timber logging and fisheries. In the diplomatic domain, China staged the "China-South Pacific Summit" prior to the Papua New Guinea APEC meeting in November 2018. From a military point of view, China is at present concentrating its efforts to ensure its fleet the freedom of navigation to pass through the first island chain and head for the second island chain. In the future China will plan to construct a military port in the Solomon Islands.
Taiwan's loss of diplomatic ties with the Solomon Islands and Kiribati is perceived as a diplomatic reversal and, at the same time, will have an adverse effect on the Indo-Pacific strategy that Taiwan is encouraging. It is a common understanding that the latter will have more significant implications.
China pledged a $500 million infrastructure investment to the Solomon Islands, and allegedly bribed some Solomon politicians with large sums of money worth millions of dollars. Kiribati broke diplomatic relations with China in November 2003 and established diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Once China was allowed to build a satellite tracking center in Kiribati to monitor US ballistic missile tests. This time, China has promised to provide Kiribati with generous financial assistance, such as financing the procurement of B737 passenger aircraft and ferries. China is attempting to manipulate Taiwan's public opinion through such diplomatic measures as mentioned above; meddling in the coming presidential election, and ultimately weakening Taiwan's democracy. In any case, the loss of the two South Pacific allies is a diplomatic reverse for Taiwan.
In the context of the Indo-Pacific strategy, the above mentioned development is a challenge posed by China to the security system that the United States, Japan and Australia jointly maintain. China's military expansionism has already enabled its fleet to pass through the first island chain and to gain constant free passage across the waters between the first and second island chains. Their range of action will expand to Guam in due course. Furthermore, with Pacific island countries including the Solomon Islands as footholds, China is planning to operate its fleet as far as the third island chain, aiming to advance toward Hawaii. The United States, Japan, and Australia should promptly work on countermeasures. Taiwan is ready to deepen cooperation with countries with which it shares the same values and strategies.
Taiwan has made clear its commitment to actively engage in the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy," and has decided on a three-pronged guideline.
The first of the three pillars is "values." Taiwan shares values such as freedom, democracy and human rights with Japan, the United States, India, and Australia. Taiwan became a member state of the Religious Freedom Conference initiated by the United States, and invited the conference to Taipei in March of this year. Religious freedom is one major point that distinguishes Taiwan from China; and Taiwan will do whatever it can to make itself stand out as a symbol of freedom and democracy. Also in March, Taiwan agreed to launch the Indo-Pacific Democratic Governance Consultations in collaboration with the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). The forum was held in Taiwan in September 12. These activities are highly appreciated by participating countries.
The second pillar is "economic prosperity." Taiwan is currently pursuing its New Southbound Policy, in which trade and investment are foremost topics. Taiwan has just started discussion with Japan on investment cooperation in third countries in Southeast Asia. Taiwan is also discussing overseas investment projects with the Overseas Private Investment Corporations of the United States. Taiwan expects that it can cooperate with Japan and the United States in making investments in Pacific island countries such as Palau.
The third pillar is "security." In the traditional security sphere, Taiwan maintains an extensive security cooperation with the United States. They are pursuing cooperation on the quick response system based on specific battle scenarios. In the non-traditional security domain, on the other hand, Taiwan and the United States signed the "Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF)" in 2015, and the bilateral cooperation based on this framework is progressing smoothly. Taiwan invites US experts and government officials to hold training and meetings in Taiwan. Since the beginning of this year, Japan has also participated in this framework. As a result, a cooperation system between Taiwan, the United States and Japan has been realized.
The SSDP has continued its Japan-Taiwan dialogue since 2016, when the Tsai Ing-wen administration was inaugurated. This year's dialogue is the third in the series. In 2017, one year after its inauguration, the administration did not work well and pressure from China increased. In 2018, the approval rating of the administration was sluggish and cross-strait relations continued to deteriorate. Yet, the Tsai administration is now evidently regaining momentum and is full of "confidence and solidarity." The largest reason seems to be that the approval rating of Tsai Ing-wen has recovered and the likelihood of her reelection is becoming more promising. In addition to such factors as Xi's Five Points speech, the Hong Kong upheaval, Han Kuo-yu's unpopularity, and support from the Trump administration, the Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP have revived from the moribund state.
The "complete unification of the motherland" and "economic development" are, for the CPC administration, issues concerned with the legitimacy of its rule. Today China is facing a dilemma that it is tackling, the difficult problem of the "complete unification of the motherland" by integrating Hong Kong and Taiwan, with no conspicuous result. In the economic disputes with the United States, China is bearing with patience the successive attacks of the United States to safeguard its domestic economy from slowdown and weakening. Xi Jinping encouraged the Chinese people with the "Chinese Dream," and gained dictatorial authority comparable to Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. He cannot make concessions over the issues of Hong Kong and Taiwan, or betray weaknesses in the battle with the United States. A dictatorial administration must always intensify the authority of leader(s) and continue to give guidance to the people with authoritarian measures. Failures would lead to the "collapse of a one-party dictatorship." Conversely, all measures taken by the CPC administration converge on the "maintenance of a one-party dictatorship." Toward the 100th anniversary of the founding of the PRC in 2049, the Xi Jinping administration will be exposed to many hardships both at home and from abroad. Is it possible for him to survive, maintaining "a one-party dictatorship?" Or will he face a regime crisis and clear the way for his survival by using force, as was the case in the Tiananmen incident?
This year the present author has attended two meetings to exchange views with Chinese experts --- one was with the people of a PLA-government-affiliated institute, and the other with a group of scholars comprised of professors from universities located in the suburban area of Shanghai. At both meetings, Chinese experts were eloquent on the ongoing process of the reunification with Taiwan based on "Xi's Five Points." They emphasized that if the Taiwan authorities moved toward independence or would not agree to peaceful unification, China would achieve reunification with Taiwan by force as already suggested on various occasions. The Japanese side retorted as follows: "Taiwan is satisfied with the current state of substantial independence and will never declare independence. If China unilaterally judged that the possibility of peaceful reunification had been lost for good and resorted to military force, Taiwan would lose no time to ‘declare independence.' Then the United States would recognize Taiwan as a state. Other democracies in Europe as well as Australia and Japan would follow. The Taiwan issue would be transformed from an ‘unresolved issue of the Civil War' to an ‘international issue,' and China would be condemned by the international community as an authoritarian state that had invaded a democracy." China asserts that "if Taiwan declared independence, then it would use force," whereas Taiwan insists that "if China used force, it would declare independence." The present author hopes that the Chinese are listening and that our exchange efforts may help them to refrain from any rush judgments.
Lastly, the Japan-Taiwan relationship should be briefly touched upon. In the Ma Ying-jeou administration era, a number of agreements on, among others, fishery arrangements were concluded between Japan and Taiwan, and practical exchanges made great progress. Meanwhile, the Japan-China relationship during this period was rated to be the worst since the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The development of the Japan-Taiwan relationship was helped by the fact that China did not interfere with Ma Ying-jeou's foreign policy, with a stable cross-strait relation in the background. Today, the relationship between the United States, China, Japan and Taiwan has changed dramatically. The US-China confrontation betrays its structural difficulties and is a symptom of procrastination, whereas cross-strait relations deteriorate with no sign of improvement. Although the Japan-China relationship has showed an improving trend, the bilateral relationship's basic structure of the "political-security competition and economic cooperation" has hardly changed. China has moved toward an improvement in bilateral relations, because the Trump administration's hardline China policy has obliged China to change the way it deals with Japan. If Japan capitalizes on the current situation and takes action to strengthen its relations with Taiwan in new areas, China will be unable to make overt complaints.
In March this year, President Tsai Ing-wen expressed her strong wish in an interview with the Sankei Shimbun to promote security cooperation with Japan to address the common threat from China. The Japan's Legislation for Peace and Security (2015) has made possible Japan's limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. If US naval vessels or aircraft were attacked in or above the high seas, and the Japanese government identified the situation as "an armed attack against foreign country resulting in threatening Japan's survival," the Self-Defense Force would be allowed to attack the opponent who attacked the US army. The legislation's potential implications for Taiwan's security are significant. The present author was exposed to inquisitive inquiries of Chinese experts at the exchange of views meetings mentioned earlier. Japan's emergency response is now in order. What is needed now for Japan is to endeavor to establish security cooperation systems in peacetime. It may be time for Japan to take a major step toward developing the Japan-Taiwan relationship into one that may include security cooperation in the scope of non-government-based exchanges.
(This paper was translated into English by Tsutomu Inuzuka, SSDP Associate)
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Hideshi Tokuchi, Senior Fellow, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)
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- Jun 2022, Research Jounal "Security Studies (vol 4 no 2)" -The Russia-Ukraine War and Its Global Impact- was published.
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