That Eurotrain should take the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) to court to try and prevent the supposed-to-be builders of Taiwan's Taipei-Kaohsiung high-speed rail link negotiating with Japanese rivals Shinkansen -- builders of the famous bullet train -- is the latest development in a story that has long beggared understanding.
For reasons which have far more to do with making certain people rich through land development along the route than any pressing need for 300,000 Taiwanese a day -- the projected passenger volume of the line -- to travel between these two cities in 90 minutes, the government wanted to build a high-speed rail line. Realizing that it couldn't afford to do it itself, it decided to put it out to tender as a build-operate-transfer project. Two local groups eyed the project hungrily the Taiwan High Speed Rail Consortium, now a corporation, and the Chung Hwa High Speed Rail Consortium. Both organizations had to come up with a plan for building the railway and the government would decide who got the project. An essential part of the government's judgement of the proposals for the two groups was to evaluate the rail systems they intended to use -- Eurotrain for THSRC and Shinkansen for Chunghwa. Price alone was not to be the deciding factor.
THSRC beat Chunghwa to the post by offering to build the line with no government funding whatsoever. Shortly after the project was awarded in 1997, THSRC said that it might use the Shinkansen system instead of Eurotrain. The story ceases to make sense right at this point. Having won the tender with a plan based on Eurotrain, how could THSRC have the freedom to choose Shinkansen instead? Basically THSRC was awarded the project under false pretenses. Why was bidding not reopened?
Because evaluation of the train system to be used was part of the criteria on which the project was awarded, each consortium had to have an agreement with a rail systems provider to fulfill the tenders' technical requirement. THSRC, when it was a consortium bidding for the project rather than a legally constituted corporation developing the line, signed an agreement with Eurotrain. As we understand the issue now, THSRC's case is that an agreement with the principle members of the THSR consortium is not legally binding on the THSR corporation founded by those members later.
It is quite possible that the court will throw out Eurotrain's request for an injunction on THSRC and Shinkansen and have solid legal grounds to do so. But we cannot but help think that THSRC's use of Eurotrain to win the contract for the line and then switching to Shinkansen seems underhand. It might be found to be legal to the satisfaction of many in Taiwan, but outside Taiwan this will be taken as proof that Taiwan's legal system and justice are only tangentially related to each other.
But, someone might want to argue, this is Asia. Eurotrain lost out to Shinkansen because the personality-driven Japanese knew how to negotiate here and the contract-driven Europeans didn't. Not to mention the political dimensions of a US$3 billion contract. Do you give it to your friends, or to those who seem to want to be friends with your enemy?
All these factors have certainly played a part in the high-speed train issue, now so hopelessly politicized. But it is difficult not to think that once again Taiwan has sullied its good reputation for playing by the rules and will appear internationally in a less than wholesome light. And in a world where Taiwan's main weapon against China is the decency of its society contrasted with its totalitarian foe, that is not clever at all.
French firm DCI-DESCO in April won a bid to upgrade Taiwan’s Lafayette frigates, which has strained ties between China and France. In 1991, France sold Taiwan six Lafayette frigates and in 1992 sold it 60 Mirage 2000 fighter jets. To prevent arms sales between the nations, China negotiated an agreement with France and in 1994 in a joint statement, France promised that there would be no future arms sales to Taiwan. From China’s point of view, the DCI-DESCO deal constitutes a breach of the agreement, but the French stance is that it is not selling Taiwan new weapons, but instead providing a
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in her inaugural address on May 20 firmly said: “We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo.” The Chinese government was not too happy, and later that day, an opinion piece on the Web site of China’s state broadcaster China Central Television said: “While Tsai’s first inaugural address four years ago was read by Beijing as an ‘unfinished answer sheet,’ the one she presented this time was even more below-par.” Speaking to the China Review News Agency, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies vice president
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc worldwide. Despite countries being under pressure economically and from the novel coronavirus, China’s National People’s Congress last month passed national security legislation for Hong Kong, a decision that has shocked the world. Let there be no doubt: This move is the beginning of the end of China’s plans for “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Proposed amendments to extradition laws last year ignited massive protests in Hong Kong, with millions of participants, shocking the world and making confrontation between government forces and those who opposed the change a permanent part of Hong
Protecting domestic workers Ms Heidi Chang’s (張姮燕) article (“Employers need protections too,” May 24, page 6) made the case that “migrant workers’” rights had improved in Taiwan, but employers’ rights had not, going so far as to complain that all employers are treated equally under the law — as though this was not how the law was supposed to work. The truth is that the rights of foreign blue-collar workers have still not caught up with the rights their employers have always enjoyed. This segment of the foreign community in Taiwan is more likely than other groups to encounter abuse. Recently, a care