Developments show how dramatically Taiwan’s political ground has shifted–Taiwan News Brief transcript

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Coronavirus updates

Taiwan confirmed no new cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus for the third consecutive day on Sunday.
It was also the 28th straight day with no domestically transmitted infections.
The government will begin supplying face masks for children under the age of four, starting next week, via its online ordering system and at convenience stores, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Sunday.
The big six municipalities on Saturday decided not to allow hostess clubs and ballrooms to reopen, although the CECC has lifted the order conditionally as Taiwan’s COVID-19 coronavirus cases continue to slow.
The CECC has also announced hospital healthcare staff involved in the treatment of COVID-19 coronavirus patients will receive a pay increase in recognition of their hard work and commitment.

Still no medical marijuana

Regardless of whether the government permits medical cannabis, the drug’s status as a category 2 drug would not be changed, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) said on Saturday after a petition collected more than 5,000 signatures, exceeding the threshold needed for the proposal to be considered by the government.
In meetings with representatives from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Taipei Medical University, the pharmaceutical industry and medical experts, the attendees have been unanimously against the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, the justice ministry said.

Sales down, but R&D up for manufacturers in 2019

Taiwanese manufacturers saw a sales drop of almost 3 percent in 2019, amid a trade war between the United States and China, but their spending on research and development (R&D) rose to a five-year high, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA).

TSMC to build chips in the US?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Trump administration is in talks with semiconductor companies about building chip factories in the US.
The Trump administration has held talks with Intel Corp and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the newspaper reported.
TSMC has been talking with the US departments of commerce and defense and with Apple Inc, one of its largest customers, about building a chip factory in the US, the report added.
South Korea’s Samsung has reportedly also been consulted.
The US has been growing increasingly concerned about supply chain security, and this may be part of those considerations.

Military ties growing with mysterious Middle Eastern country

According to a high-ranking military official, Taiwan is stepping up military cooperation with long-standing partners and forging new ties as it bolsters training exercises with the US Army Special Forces and trains officers and soldiers from an undisclosed Middle Eastern country.
The Republic of China Military Police Special Services Company, commonly called the Night Hawks, has standing collaborations with the US Army Special Forces, commonly known as the Green Berets, for regular joint exercises, said the official, who spoke to the Taipei Times on condition of anonymity.
Taiwan and the US have increased the frequency of training and adapted course materials to meet the needs of the security situation in East Asia, the official added.
The source also said that Taiwan has reached an agreement with a Middle Eastern country to provide counterterrorism training to that nation’s officers and soldiers in Taiwan, without disclosing the country’s name.
The first group of trainees has completed their training and returned to their home country, but the second group’s arrival has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the source said.
Visits by high-ranking officers to Taiwan and the Middle Eastern country would likely be normalized in the future, the source added.
Any thoughts on which Middle Eastern country this may be?
My best guesses are Yemen and Israel, but those are just guesses.
If you have any thoughts on which country it might be, let us know in the comments below.

More international support for Taiwan in WHO

Leaders of the United States congressional foreign affairs committees sent a letter to 55 countries Thursday, urging them to support Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization (WHO).
As the world seeks to combat the spread of COVID-19, “it has never been more important to ensure all countries prioritize global health and safety over politics,” the letter read.
It also highlighted Taiwan’s strengths in the field of public health.
Meanwhile, An Australian newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, first mentioned Canada as a country involved in the pro-Taiwan coalition, and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne confirmed that when asked.
“Canada continues to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international multilateral fora where its presence provides important contributions to the public good,” Champagne said in an email to The Canadian Press.
“We believe that Taiwan’s role as a non-state observer in the World Health Assembly meetings is in the interest of the international health community and is important to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is heartening that Minister Champagne has finally learned how to pronounce “Taiwan”.

If Han loses recall, who will run?

If Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu loses the recall vote to be held on June 6, who will run?
The Taipei Times had some interesting speculation.
They reported “Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members are calling for KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) to “lead the charge” by joining a possible mayoral by-election amid a bleak outlook for Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) in a recall vote scheduled for June 6, party sources said.”
A KMT legislator said on condition of anonymity, “if Han of the KMT is recalled — which would trigger a mayoral by-election — it would deal a serious blow to the party, in which case a strong mayoral candidate would be needed to shield the party from further damage.”
If Chiang throws his hat in the ring, he would be helping the party through its darkest hour a second time, which would resolve the Han issue and boost morale within the party, as well as his own popularity, they said.
If Chiang joins the race, he would be KMT members’ No. 1 candidate for next year’s KMT chairperson election, they added.
Calls for ex-KMT chairman and former New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) to run in a possible mayoral by-election are also intensifying at the grassroots level, another party source said.
Chiang and Chu are the top choice of many party members, because either of them could run for KMT chairman next year, while analysts have said that Han could also vie for the position, the source said.
Another anonymous lawmaker said “Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor Lee Ssu-chuang (李四川) would be a “safer bet.”
Lee is from southern Taiwan and familiar with the city’s municipal affairs, the lawmaker said.
Kaohsiung residents do not have too big of an issue with Lee, as they “just dislike Han,” the lawmaker said, adding that Lee is deemed “less political.”
There is a lot to unpack here.
It is interesting that party insiders still think Han might run for party chair in May next year, even if he loses the recall vote, and following his disastrous presidential run.
He has, however, reportedly gotten tens of thousands of his followers to join the party–and he has run for the post in the past, so we know he wants it.
Johnny Chiang making a run at it would be surprising–at least to me.
He’s the current KMT chair, and is also a popular Taichung legislator, having won his seat by a big margin.
Running for mayor of Kaohsiung would be distracting, there would be pressure on him to give up his legislative seat and frankly, the KMT is going to be facing a serious uphill battle in Kaohsiung, no matter who runs–especially for an outsider.
So, for him, there is much to lose.
Eric Chu has less to lose, he was term limited out of office in New Taipei–where he was fairly popular–and so has time on his hands.
The question is, does he have the drive or the interest to make a tough run in Kaohsiung as a northerner?
It would also be a step down, Kaohsiung is a much smaller city than New Taipei.
I don’t know much about Deputy Mayor Lee, though that his given name is a province in China probably doesn’t help his cause in traditionally pan-green Kaohsiung.

Name rectification is in the air

Twenty-two international airlines have corrected the way they refer to Taiwan on their booking Web sites, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said in response to a written inquiry by a Democratic Progressive Party Legislator.
Beijing in 2018 began requiring airlines that fly to Chinese airports to refer to Taiwan in their booking systems as “Taiwan, China” or “Taiwan Area.” Although there are still 39 airlines that refer to Taiwan in one of these two ways, 22 companies have corrected their systems to refer to the nation as “Taiwan,” the lawmaker said on Saturday, citing the ministry.
However, it would not reveal the carriers’ names out of concern that China might again pressure them into reversing course, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, local papers are reporting that Transport Minister Lin Chia-lung has stated that he intends to “continue to strive for name rectification” for China Airlines.
That suggests he is fully on board for this, after earlier being a bit vague.
However, it makes sense he would support it–his faction in the DPP is formally named the Taiwan Normal Country Promotion Association.

In related news, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) yesterday joined calls for renaming the nation’s baseball league — the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) — a day after league officials said that American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Brent Christensen recommended adding “Taiwan” to the league’s name in international materials so that foreigners know it is not from China.
The issue came to the forefront after the media reported that Christensen separately talked with league commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) and Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) about the possibility of changing the league’s name.
The CPBL issued a statement, saying “The AIT respects the league’s name, which has been in use for 31 years, but said that some foreign fans are confused and have identified the league as coming from China.
The AIT suggested adding ‘Taiwan’ to promotional material used internationally to ensure that people know it is Taiwan’s professional baseball league,” the statement said.
Now this is very interesting.
Only a few years ago that the AIT Director would get involved in something like this was inconceivable.
Such a move would have been considered pro-DPP, and would have been strongly opposed by the KMT–which obviously would have been a serious diplomatic faux pas.
This demonstrates how far the center of Taiwan politics has shifted, and how much the KMT has been humbled.

The proposed removal of “unification” as the goal gets interesting

On the last show I went into some depth as to why the proposal in the legislature to remove the mention of unification with China as the country’s sole national aim from the text of the “Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area” is very interesting, and why it is worth paying close attention to the responses of various parties.
As if on cue, the PRC met my prediction, and came out against it in the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party paper of record.
They quoted Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, as saying: A handful of “Taiwan independence” secessionists have misjudged the situation, attempting to “go at full speed” towards “Taiwan independence” and constantly trying to challenge the mainland’s bottom line, which is extremely dangerous.
Two other parties I noted it is key to watch, the Taiwan People’s Party and the DPP, haven’t made any public statements yet one way or another–though that the lawmaker proposing the change is said to be close to the president.
The KMT response so far has been very interesting.
According to the CNA, the KMT caucus has responded that on this issue, they will “maintain an open attitude in this debate, but we will not apply the brakes, this is entirely the responsibility of the ruling party.”
The KMT caucus convener went on to say (roughly translated) “in the runup to the inauguration, with US-China tensions high, with the coronavirus ongoing, I don’t understand the intent of raising such a controversial topic.”
However, they also said the KMT caucus will not try to “obstruct” it.
This is very, very interesting indeed.
Note that they haven’t come out against it directly, merely questioned the timing.
Clearly the KMT gets that if they oppose it too vigorously, that would run counter to public opinion.
But their party ideology suggests they should be vigorously opposed.
However, their party ideology on the subject going forward is a question mark, new chairman Johnny Chiang is working on coming up with a new set of policies and a new vision going forward–so the process of change is ongoing.
How much it will change, we don’t know.
History and the party makeup suggests it won’t change much.
On the other hand, two sobering disastrous national electoral defeats may push them to change more than they’d previously would have been comfortable with.
This issue hits right at the core of the party’s China dilemma, right when they are rudderless.
Be sure to keep tuning in to find out how this plays out.

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