South China Sea getting active
Taiwanese marines have been temporarily deployed to the Pratas Islands (東沙島) in the South China Sea amid reports the Chinese military plans to conduct drills in the area in August, a Ministry of National Defense (MND) official confirmed Monday.
The official said a number of Marines are on the Pratas Islands, also known as the Dongsha Islands, for what the official described as a training mission.
He said the mission will only last a short amount of time.
Taiwan is considering plans to deploy military dirigibles to offshore islands.
The blimps could be used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes on the Pengjia Islet (彭佳嶼) in the East China Sea and the Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands, 東沙群島) in the South China Sea.
The Ministry of National Defense is studying those currently in service in the U.S., Singapore, and the Philippines.
The U.S. Navy is now operating three aircraft carriers in the Pacific in what appears to be a strong show of force following Chinese movements and comments regarding Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Finally, in other military news, a Taiwanese defense research institute has agreed to work with Microsoft Taiwan on seeking technological applications in national defense.
New jet trainer has first official flight in Taichung
After nearly a year of dynamic and static testing, the Brave Eagle Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) has made its first official flight at a special ceremony Monday morning at Ching Chuan-kang Air Force Base here in Taichung.
President Tsai Ing-wen, who presided over the event, said it was a validation of the government’s policy of strengthening indigenous defense.
The Brave Eagle was built by Taichung-based and government-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) over three years, at a cost of NT$66.8 billion, and is expected to go into mass production by March 2022.
They plan to build 66 of them by 2026.
Pilots who train on the Brave Eagle, which has a fully digitized cockpit, will be able to switch seamlessly to training on the F-16V, which Taiwan has also ordered 66 of from the United States.
The Brave Eagle is also capable of providing air support against hostile targets, as it can carry missiles and bombs.
Administration’s Control Yuan picks criticized
All three of the major opposition parties have all attacked the Tsai administration’s picks for Control Yuan.
“The entire Control Yuan has been painted green,” KMT Culture and Communications Committee chairwoman Alicia Wang (王育敏) said at a news conference.
They questioned whether the agency would be able to remain impartial given that many of the nominees have ties to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The New Power Party (NPP) caucus yesterday said that it would “strictly review” President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) Control Yuan nominees.
They also reiterated their call to propose a draft constitutional amendment to abolish the Control Yuan and Examination Yuan.
Local media NOW News reported the Taiwan Power Party (TPP) criticized the appointees as being political patronage awards.
Incoming head of the Control Yuan Chen Chu has resigned from the DPP and will conduct no political activities while in the role in a nod to impartiality.
The TPP’s Tsai Pi-ju (蔡壁如) criticized Chen’s move, saying Chen had pulled down her pants to fart–a phrase meaning to do something totally unnecessary.
She added “everyone knows she is a DPP bigshot.”
Taiwanese identity and independence views shifting fast
According to some recent polls, Taiwanese identity and independence views are shifting fast.
Over on the blog Frozen Garlic is an excellent piece entitled “Recent changes in national identity”, which is linked to on our site Report.tw.
In it he analyses the latest Taiwan Election and Democratization Study (TEDS), conducted in March.
In it the percentage identifying themselves as Taiwanese only has risen to 70.3%, with the combined number of people choosing both Taiwanese and Chinese, or Chinese only at 26.4%.
Here is what The Froze had to say about this:
“From 2016 to 2019, with the exception of the two late 2018 surveys as President Tsai’s nadir, the exclusive Taiwanese line is consistently between 55-60%.
In December 2019 – right before President Tsai won re-election in a landslide – 60.9% of respondents identified as exclusively Taiwanese.
Three months later in March 2020, that number skyrocketed to 70.3%.
We have seen some large shifts before, but those were all changes within the historical range of outcomes.
70% is completely unprecedented.
This is a big deal.
We don’t know if this number will stay so high, go even higher, or drift down to more familiar territory.
If it does turn out to be a lasting change, it will affect Taiwan’s political environment in profound ways.
We will have to wait to see about that.
I completely agree, and I highly recommend you read the whole article.
Up next is the latest Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation poll.
In it 54 percent said they support Taiwanese independence, 23.4 percent favored maintaining the “status quo,” 12.5 percent supported unification with China and about 10 percent gave no response or were unsure.
Of those who favored the “status quo,” 44.1 percent said they would back independence if pushed, 33.6 percent said they would continue to support the “status quo” and 22.3 percent said they would back unification.
Recalibrating the results using the breakdown of the “status quo” supporters showed that 64.4 percent of respondents ultimately supported Taiwanese independence, 7.9 percent backed the “status quo” and 17.8 percent favored unification with China.
Foundation chairman Michael You (游盈隆) said “In my research on public surveys on these issues over the past 30 years, this is the highest rate of support among Taiwanese for independence,” and “It is also the lowest figure for people supporting unification with China.”
Respondents were asked about Beijing having reiterated its resolve to invade Taiwan to deter movement toward independence and other threats, including Chinese aircraft intruding into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
Forty-three percent of respondents said they were afraid that China would attack Taiwan, while 55 percent said they are not concerned.
There are some things about this poll that don’t jibe with results of other polls, which mostly show “status quo” as supported by a significant majority.
There was another poll that showed over 80% support keeping the name “Republic of China” and that most people were afraid of China.
I don’t know how accurate any of these polls are, though the TEDS poll I started this segment with is highly respected, but there are still takeaways to be had.
A sharp uptick in identifying as Taiwanese in one poll, and a sharp uptick in support for independence compared to past polls seem to confirm the ground has shifted.
The big question it raises is this another peak that will recede a bit over the next few years, or will both continue to rise.
The long term trend has been consistent, support for both has been rising.
However, there are peaks–like around the Sunflower movement–and then a minor decline for a while, then support starts rising again.
That both have seen such a sharp spike is very interesting, but such large jumps are often fickle.
However, the situation has also changed dramatically, warranting larger shifts in opinion.
Johnny Chiang taking a lot of flak over 92c proposal
And that brings me to KMT chair Johnny Chiang’s quest to rid the KMT of the widely unpopular 1992 consensus.
He paid a visit to ex-President and former chair Ma Ying-jeou, but Ma remains opposed to the plan.
A whole who’s who of party bigshots have come out against him on this publicly, but with some notable exceptions.
Eric Chu equivocated, saying “The KMT is working hard on reform, and during this period Johnny Chiang is enduring hardship. Everyone can put forth different opinions to come to a consensus, and we should give more encouragement to the reform committee.”
Chu is being practical here, leaving his options open.
He is widely tipped as a potential candidate for chair in May 2021, and has already started a reform platform.
The other big name I haven’t seen mentioned in the news on this issue is the KMT’s most popular politician by far: New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih.
Johnny Chiang has announced he is going on a two month grassroots tour to explain the reform committee’s proposals, including the cross-strait part, and try to get more people on board.
On September 6 the reform proposals will be voted on.
KMT, TPP candidates for Kaohsiung Mayor announced
Both the KMT and the TPP have announced their candidates in the upcoming Kaohsiung mayoral by-election.
The KMT, in spite reports saying they wouldn’t pick a city councillor, did just that, picking Jane Lee (李眉蓁).
By KMT standards, at age 41 she is barely out of diapers.
According to KMT Secretary-General Lee Chien-lung (李乾龍) Li was selected from about 10 potential candidates because of her ability to attract independent and young voters, as well as her support in various districts and from people with different educational backgrounds.
NEXT News suggested she was backed by former KMT mayor Dan Han Kuo-yu’s wife Lee Chia-fen (李佳芬).
She holds a master’s degree from the Institute of Mainland Chinese Studies at National Sun Yat-sen University.
Her campaign has gotten off to a rough start, though.
Her father, the current chairman of the Kaohsiung Fruit and Vegetable Marketing Company and former city councillor, came out on the TV and said he wouldn’t be stumping for her on stage, and said DPP candidate Chen Chi-mai is “not a bad guy.”
That is very curious, as both father and daughter are both known to be close to former KMT mayor Dan Han Kuo-yu.
Meanwhile the TPP will be represented by Kaohsiung City Councilor Gene Wu Yi-cheng (吳益政).
This is interesting because he is currently representing the People’s First Party in the city council.
It is also interesting because previously the TPP had floated the idea of cooperating with the KMT in the by-election, and had suggested they probably wouldn’t be able to find a suitable candidate of their own for the by-election in time.
This defection is the latest in a recent string of pan-blue defections to the TPP camp.
The party seems to be positioning itself more and more as a more pro-Taiwan, light-blue alternative to the KMT.
I expect if Johnny Chiang fails in his quest to reform the KMT, we’ll start to see a lot more similar defections.
However, I digress.
The entrance of a TPP candidate is a bit of a wild card.
I’ll be very curious to see how it impacts the race.
With no polling yet, it’s unclear if he has a shot at winning.
It’s also possible he could play the spoiler, which happened in legislative races in the last election–for example tipping my district back to the KMT away from independent Hung Tzu-yung in a very close race.
I’ll be watching this race with considerable interest!
Image courtesy of Jane Lee’s Facebook page