Summary: Taiwanese are split on allowing Chinese students to return. AIT joins President Tsai in commemorating the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis. Ma Ying-jeou’s remarks cause fury in the government, and are a sneaky attack against KMT reformers. But up first, headlines.
Taiwan’s Directorate General of Highways (DGH) was again criticized on Saturday by gay rights groups for banning several letter combinations on vehicle license plates which it deemed to be sensitive or obscene, in particularly the word “GAY.”
They blacklisted 24 letter combinations which could not be used due to their perceived controversial nature.
These included “MAD”, “NUN”, “SEX”, “SLY”, “BAD”, “GAY”, “ASS”, “BUM”, “BRA”, “CRY”, “CAT”, “PUP,” “ANT”, and “APE.”
Clearly nuns, cats, pups, ants and apes have had their complaints heard.
Chinese yuan deposits held by banks in Taiwan fell to the lowest in six and a half years at the end of July, due to a drop in interest rates, according to the central bank.
Mass testing for COVID-19 on all travelers arriving in Taiwan could overwhelm the nation’s healthcare system, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that in the past few days the public has been widely debating the Changhua County Public Health Bureau’s testing policy, so he used a simulated scenario to explain why mass testing is not the best policy at this moment.
College and university dormitories on campuses are no longer to be used as quarantine facilities for students arriving from other countries, starting on Sept. 1, the Ministry of Education said yesterday.
Foreign students and students returning from other countries must undergo a 14-day quarantine after entering Taiwan.
Taiwanese split on allowing Chinese students to return
Taiwanese appear divided over whether the government should allow more Chinese students to return to their studies at local universities amid the pandemic, a poll released by the Grassroots Influence Foundation showed.
The Ministry of Education on Aug. 5 announced that all foreign students could return to their studies in Taiwan, but later that day said that the policy did not include all Chinese students.
Asked if they support the government allowing Chinese students to return to their studies in Taiwan, 43 percent of respondents expressed support, while another 43 percent expressed disapproval, the poll showed.
Asked whether they think that restricting Chinese and other foreign students from returning would endanger the survival of many local universities, 46 percent disagreed, while 32 percent agreed.
Asked whether the government’s policy on Chinese students hinges on political considerations, 48 percent agreed, while 38 percent disagreed.
Asked whether Taiwan should maintain a confrontational or friendly posture toward China, 64 percent opted for friendly ties, while only 15 percent chose confrontational relations, the poll showed.
Respondents aged 18 to 29, more than other age groups, showed more support for confrontational relations with China, it found.
AIT joins President Tsai in commemorating battle
The de facto U.S. ambassador in Taiwan took part on Sunday for the first time in commemorations of a key military clash and the last time Taiwanese forces joined battle with China on a large scale.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen laid a wreath and bowed her head in respect at a memorial park on Kinmen, to mark the 62nd anniversary of the start of the second Taiwan Strait crisis.
In August 1958, Chinese forces began more than a month of bombarding Kinmen, along with the Taiwan-controlled Matsu archipelago further up the coast, including naval and air battles, seeking to force them into submission.
Brent Christensen, head of the American Institute in Taiwan and Washington’s de facto representative, offered his respects too, standing behind Tsai, in a symbolic show of U.S. support.
Christensen also laid wreaths at a monument honouring two U.S. military officers who died in a 1954 Chinese attack on Kinmen, the institute said.
“Commemorations such as these remind us that today’s U.S.-Taiwan security cooperation builds on a long and proud history that exemplifies the phrase ‘Real Friends, Real Progress,” it said in a statement.
I’m curious whether the idea to include AIT came from the Taiwan or the US side.
Either way, it is a symbolic reminder that the US and Taiwan have collaborated militarily for a long time, and the US once had bases in Taiwan.
KMT lawmakers to continue to try to visit Pratas Islands
The KMT legislative caucus yesterday said that it would continue to push for its plan to inspect the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) after the Ministry of National Defense canceled a planned visit citing insufficient review time.
The KMT said that the cancelation was politically motivated.
KMT Legislator Chen Yu-jen (陳玉珍), convener of the Internal Administration Committee, on Saturday last week announced that the committee planned to inspect the islands yesterday to boost the morale of Coast Guard Administration personnel stationed there.
I would have thought sending them some video game consoles would have been better for boosting morale, but I guess some old politicians is what really gets the coast guard excited.
The islands are theoretically administered by Kaohsiung.
Marines were sent there a few weeks ago in response to Chinese military drills and rumours that those drills were a prelude to a military takeover of the islands.
Ma Ying-jeou’s remarks cause fury
Former President Ma Ying-jeou, at a forum in Taipei titled “A Nation Unsafe,” said Taiwan is leading itself into a perilous situation with the Tsai administration’s pursuit of a foreign policy that slants heavily toward the US and antagonizes China.
Tsai was re-elected this year on a platform to “counter China and protect Taiwan,” but “has Taiwan really become a safer place?”
Ma said that thanks to the peace that he maintained in the Strait during his presidency from 2008 to 2016, China had even delayed the launch of the M503 northbound flight route, just 7.8km west of the Taiwan Strait median line, which Beijing arbitrarily launched in January 2018.
The shift in China’s attitude toward his and Tsai’s administrations was prompted by Tsai’s refusal to acknowledge the “1992 consensus,” which eliminated the basis of mutual trust between Taipei and Beijing, he said.
The Tsai administration has conspired with the US against China, which has effectively placed Taiwan in the center of an international power struggle, propelling it toward a perilous situation.
When two military and economic superpowers battle, the best policy for Taiwan is to “keep its distance.”
However, the Tsai administration has submitted to Washington’s every whim, readily agreeing to join its side of a new “cold war,” and has even concurred with the US in the South China Sea arbitration, which has hurt Taiwan’s sovereignty over Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島).
He said that Tsai, in response to concerns that the nation would be used by the US as a “chess piece” in disputes with China, has said her administration is a “chess player” that goes with the tide.
However, Ma said that international observers have warned that US President Donald Trump could cross Beijing’s red line over the Taiwan issue, which would likely prompt more military activities from both sides.
If Beijing were to use force against Taiwan as a way to push Washington to make concessions, Taiwan would turn from a chess piece to an “abandoned son” and ultimately a sacrifice, he said.
Although Tsai in January said in a BBC interview that invading Taiwan would be “very costly” for China, Ma said that the Ministry of National Defense’s think tank in 2018 published an analysis asserting that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army would win a hypothetical conflict swiftly before the US could send reinforcements, making the “first battle the last.”
Although Washington in the past few years has passed a string of Taiwan-friendly legislation, including the Taiwan Travel Act, the National Defense Authorization Act and the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act, they are largely perceived as “lip service,” and are no guarantee that the US would come to the nation’s aid in the event of a Chinese invasion, Ma said.
The bottom line is that the Tsai administration should not take sides in affairs between the US and China, but work to achieve a balance in its international relations to serve the nation’s best interest, he said.
The Presidential Office responded it was regrettable that former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had attributed China’s recent military activities near Taiwan to President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) refusal to acknowledge the so-called “1992 consensus,” saying that narrative ignored the real situation in the Taiwan Strait.
China’s military activities extend beyond the Taiwan Strait to the Pacific, and anyone with a grasp of the international situation understands that China’s disturbance of regional peace is unprovoked, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said.
Separately, Executive Yuan spokesman Ting Yi-ming (丁怡銘) said it was perplexing that a former president would collude with China to terrorize the public with war and tout a trumped-up “1992 consensus.”
The Mainland Affairs Council yesterday said that the KMT is clinging to the “1992 consensus” because of its failure to recognize the CCP’s scheme to invade the nation and expand its hegemony, and its inability to see that acknowledging the “1992 consensus” would surrender the nation’s sovereignty is dangerous.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expressed regret that Ma, as well as Su Chi, who made similar comments at the forum, invalidated the nation’s defense and diplomatic efforts.
Ma and Su are trying to isolate Taiwan from wider global relations and push the nation closer to China, but their “defeatist” arguments have deviated from the mainstream opinions of the public, the ministry said.
So what are Ma and Su up to?
Up until the 1990s the KMT was fiercely anti-Chinese Communist and pro-US.
However, in the last two decades, a combination of their pro-unification ideology and Chinese identity, the rise of China to great power status and pull of China’s massive market caused the party to grow closer and closer to the Chinese Communist Party.
This is especially true of the older so-called mainlanders, or descendants of those who fled China in 1949, who have dominated the party.
This has moved them in the exact opposite direction of public opinion, which has become increasingly pro-Taiwan.
That led to the Sunflower protest movement during Ma’s second term, which saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets–including many of the children and grandchildren of those older so-called mainlanders.
So why are Ma and Su being so vocal about these things now?
Most likely to cause trouble for current KMT chair Johnny Chiang ahead of the KMT party congress, which starts on September 6.
Chiang is trying to get reforms passed at the party congress, including removing the 92 consensus.
He also, when he ran for chair, made it clear he wanted to move the party closer to the US.
In short, Chiang wants to make the party electable again.
Ma and Su’s comments are almost certainly meant to undermine Chiang’s reform efforts, and to sway party delegates to their side.
Chiang has his work cut out for him, even if he gets the reforms passed.
Comments by people like Ma and Su, plus the elderly cohort that his predecessor packed the legislature with via the party list, will continue to colour people’s view of the KMT.
Every time they make pro-China statements, Chiang is going to have to go into full fire-fighting mode to convince people they no longer speak for the party.
The problem is, they do speak for a fair number of members of the party.
That will make it hard to convince the public the party can be trusted.
If that wasn’t enough of a challenge for Chiang, there has been a lot of talk recently that Ma may run for party chair next May.
Chiang’s predecessor, Wu Den-yih, was quoted the other day in the press as supporting the idea, and praising Ma to high heaven.
The power struggle going on in the KMT right now is the stuff of high drama.
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Image courtesy of Ma Ying-jeou’s Facebook page