Summary: Could vaccines be on the way for Taiwan? Prosecutors say a poo attack was a Chinese conspiracy. Lithuania pledges support for ‘those who fight for freedom’ in Taiwan. US marines are in Taiwan participating in training. Talk of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
Bubble tea emojis have been approved and added to Unicode 13.0 and Emoji 13.0 this year.
Clearly this shows Taiwan is now big time on the world stage, and it should help identify Taiwanese in the Milk Tea Alliance.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC)’s board has approved funding to establish a fully-owned subsidiary in Arizona with paid-in capital of US$3.5 billion.
The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) announced that the number of employees in the nation held steady in September from one month earlier at 7.95 million, while the average monthly take-home pay rose 2.11 percent year-on-year to NT$42,757.
That is, however, 67,000 lower than pre-pandemic levels.
The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has revealed that the number of Hong Kong and Macau students studying in Taiwan has increased by 50 percent since the Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office opened in July.
The office will next year receive an additional NT$30 million (US$1.04 million) to boost services.
With Taiwan’s labour force shrinking, and the population set to begin shrinking, Taiwan could potentially benefit from people leaving Hong Kong due to the new national security law imposed by Beijing.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Taiwan will be donating US$100,000 to the Caribbean nation of Belize to help repair damage caused by the calamitous storm Eta.
Belize diplomatically recognizes Taiwan.
President Tsai has appointed retired TSMC founder Morris Chang (張忠謀) to represent Taiwan at the leaders’ meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum scheduled to open on Nov. 20.
This year the meeting will be held virtually.
This is the third time she has appointed Chang as representative.
Unlike other APEC members, Taiwan’s president isn’t allowed to attend due to, you guessed it, opposition from China.
Could vaccines be on the way for Taiwan?
There is “a possibility” that Taiwan will be able to purchase Pfizer and BioNTech SE’s (BNT’s) promising COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX allocation plan, according to a Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) official.
COVAX is a global vaccine allocation plan, through which countries can sign up to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.
The vaccine is currently in third stage human trials is likely to become the first COVID-19 vaccine to be authorized for use, and early data shows it to be 90% effective.
They hope to get the vaccine starting in the first quarter of next year.
There are also ongoing trials of locally developed vaccines.
Prosecutors say a poo attack was a Chinese conspiracy
Back on Oct. 16, a man reportedly entered Aegis restaurant—which provides employment to Hong Kong political refugees—and splashed the kitchen and a female employee with chicken poo, feathers and bones.
Another man stayed outside to act as a lookout, and he recorded the incident.
The restaurant has been closed since then, but is scheduled to reopen on Nov. 11.
The restaurant was opened in April by a Hong Kong lawyer and politician who provided free legal services to demonstrators arrested during pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year.
Prosecutors have now indicted four on charges of intimidation, property damage, public insult and physical injury, and said their actions had caused significant harm and fear among Hong Kongers who have fled to Taiwan for fear of political persecution.
According to prosecutors, the four men, all Taiwanese, were hired via a Taiwanese man living in China by an unidentified Chinese person to carry out the attack.
In short, it is a Chinese conspiracy, though doesn’t likely involve the Chinese government.
The Taiwanese man got in touch with one of the four, who recruited the others.
They received NT$60,000 in total.
Lithuania pledges support for ‘those who fight for freedom’ in Taiwan
Lithuania’s new ruling coalition has agreed to commit the incoming government to support “those fighting for freedom” in Taiwan.
The Lithuanian coalition agreement, signed by leaders of the Homeland Union, Liberal Movement and Freedom parties, binds the new government to carry out a “values-based foreign policy”.
“We will actively oppose any violation of human rights and democratic freedoms, and will defend those fighting for freedom around the world, from Belarus to Taiwan,” they said.
The newly elected Lithuanian lawmakers are scheduled to assume their posts later this month.
The clause in the agreement that supports Taiwan was added at the request of the Freedom Party.
The Freedom Party proposed including a paragraph “to actively support Taiwan’s independence recognition and statehood aspirations,” but the final version was modified to supporting all freedom fighters, according to the Baltic Times.
It’s a shame it was watered down, but it is still positive.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) thanked the Lithuanian ruling coalition for its support, saying that the phrases “values-based foreign policy” and “defend those fighting for freedom” “roar like thunder.”
The Chinese Embassy in Lithuania has previously expressed its disapproval of the Freedom Party’s support of Taiwan’s independence.
“The embassy expresses strong indignation and firm opposition.
There is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory,” the embassy said in a statement.
Like Taiwan, Lithuania is a small nation under threat from a powerful authoritarian neighbour, in their case Russia, with which it shares a southern border.
It was also subjugated and forced into the Soviet Union, and achieved freedom on a similar timeline to Taiwan.
If any of our listeners are Lithuanian, let me be the first to express gratitude for your nation’s support.
US marines are in Taiwan participating in training
Members of the United States Marines have begun a training operation in Taiwan to help boost combat readiness, the navy confirmed Monday.
Amphibious training exercises led by a group of visiting Marine Raiders were described as “routine” by Naval Command.
Aside from the revelation that a handful of marines are stationed at AIT, this is the first public acknowledgment of American troops in Taiwan by the Taiwan side since Washington and Taipei ended formal diplomatic ties in 1979 and the US ended the two countries military treaty.
From the US side, the US military did post a picture of troops conducting joint training in Taiwan some months back on social media.
UDN is reporting that other training exercises have been taking place.
According to the paper, the Green Berets are involved in Operation Balance Tamper, which takes place in the mountainous regions of central Taiwan.
Also present every year are the U.S. Navy SEALs, who train Taiwanese frogmen off the coast of Taiwan’s Penghu Islands in Operation Flash Tamper.
The current exercises are reportedly to begin training Taiwanese Marines and amphibious special force units in assault boat and speedboat infiltration operations for four weeks at the Tsoying Naval Base in Kaohsiung.
The US marines had to undergo two weeks of quarantine before they could begin.
The Taiwanese Navy said in a statement on its website “In order to maintain regional peace and stability, routine security cooperation and exchanges between the militaries of Taiwan and the United States are proceeding as usual.”
What is unclear from the reporting is how many US military personnel are involved in these exercises, or in the others.
Regardless, it is big news that they are going public with this, and sends a strong message to China.
It is also very good news, this means the US and Taiwanese are working together as a team, which could be a big deal if both militaries have to fight side-by-side.
Surprisingly, the reaction from China has been fairly muted.
The strongest language in the normally borderline hysterical mouthpiece Global Times was quoting a so-called expert as saying “the US military’s training of the island’s troops will not change the cross-Straits military balance, as the island’s military is limited and would collapse at the first blow”.
That may be because, as they described it, it was an “open secret”.
They seemed more incensed by NGOs recently setting up offices in Taiwan.
Talk of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan
There has been a lot of talk, and a lot written recently, on the possibility of a Chinese invasion.
That isn’t surprising.
The Chinese side has been breaching Taiwan’s air identification zone nearly daily recently, costing Taiwan over US$1 billion so far this year as it scrambles jets each time.
They’ve been conducting more military exercises, though mostly small ones.
They also denied the Davis Line down the centre of the Taiwan Strait, which has since the 1950s been an unofficial “do not cross” line for both sides exists.
Everyone’s favourite CCP mouthpiece has been running articles with titles like “Secessionist DPP, colluding with the US, pushes cross-Straits to brink of war: observer” and every few days comes out with another article bringing up the topic of war.
The spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office of State Council, when recently asked if they were in a state of preparing for war at a press conference, spent 42 seconds silently shuffling through her notes, and then said “let’s move on to the next question”.
Part of the spike is also concern that the PRC will use this messy period between the election and the inauguration in January in the United States as an opportunity to strike.
Even Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) warned China could take advantage of uncertainties caused by the U.S. presidential election to increase military pressure on Taiwan.
Speculation of invasion comes in three variants, a total invasion of all of Taiwan’s territory, an invasion of the islands close to China like Kinmen, Matsu or Penghu or to pick off Taiwan-held islands in the South China Sea.
The first is basically impossible to pull off before the US inauguration.
Military experts say the Taiwan Strait is simply too choppy and unpredictable in the October to March–some say November to February–period to pull off an invasion.
That probably would include Penghu
Plus, it would take months to prepare logistically for such a huge invasion, and there is no sign they are doing that.
The other scenarios are probably doable, though.
Taking Kinmen or Matsu, which are just off China’s coast, would still be a very costly move and logistically tricky, but no one today thinks the islands would be defensible for very long.
Taking Taiwan’s islands in the South China Sea would probably be easy for China to do.
Indeed recent exercises held by the People’s Liberation Army Navy in the region sparked fears they were planning to do just that, using the exercises as cover.
But the question is, will they?
They’ve already done so, most recently taking Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012.
The Philippines protested, and had hoped to invoke their defence treaty with the United States, but the US declined to get involved.
The PRC flat out told then President Obama that they would not militarize their islands in the South China Sea.
The giant variable here is that since Xi Jinping has consolidated so much power, it really comes down to what is in his head, and we can’t peer into it.
So we don’t know.
However, it still seems not terribly likely.
The situation is tense, and it could lead to a wider war with the United States, which could be catastrophic.
That, at least, would be the logical way of looking at it.
But again, Xi may calculate they won’t get involved, and the increased pressure on Taiwan would be worth it.
Longer term, things look less reassuring.
Ian Easton, who literally wrote the book on the subject–the excellent The Chinese Invasion Threat–recently wrote a piece in the Taipei Times entitled “Ian Easton On Taiwan: Think China’s aggression is alarming now? Just wait” that was quite alarming.
His previous assessment was that it would be very tough for China to invade Taiwan, but things are changing.
In the article, he states:
If nothing major changes in favor of the democracies, from 2020 onwards the PLA will likely see its calculated probability of wartime success increase with each passing year.
Invading Taiwan will get easier and easier for the Chinese Communist Party to seriously contemplate.
War is the ultimate strategic gamble, and the odds are increasingly for it.
He also says:
There is no question that Taiwan alone could make the CCP pay a terrible price.
Any invasion and occupation of Taiwan in the 2020s would almost certainly cost Beijing at least hundreds of thousands of young Chinese lives and trillions of dollars.
The problem of course is that CCP elites could decide those costs are relatively small compared to the tremendous value they place on the prize.
Chairman Xi has made conquering Taiwan the one and only goal of his “China Dream” strategy that can be objectively measured.
Image courtesy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Facebook page