It remains to be seen whether the advertisement placed by the US State Department in the classifieds section of this newspaper over the weekend will prompt a reaction from Beijing, but some academics in Taiwan have already interpreted it as a presage of a shift in diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the US.
The ad requested solicitations for contractors to build, among other things, a Marine Security Guard Quarters (MSGQ) at the future American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) building.
Let’s for the moment put aside the fact that US foreign policy has become so militarized that “better” diplomatic relations is now being equated with the presence of armed US Marines on foreign ground, or the surreal prospect of having Marines posted to a relatively safe city like Taipei at a time when the US military, with its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and commitments elsewhere, is already stretched to the limit.
What matters here is the symbolism of an MSGQ as well as the conspicuous timing of the request for a proposal.
Whether the presence of US Marines at a diplomatic compound is a sign of more official relations is debatable. But given the sensitive situation in the Taiwan Strait, it wouldn’t be surprising if in the coming weeks Washington played down the significance of the change, as it will not have gone unnoticed by a Beijing that is hypersensitive when it comes to Taipei’s foreign relations. Surely the State Department knew this, just as it knew that the ad would end up, one way or another, in the hands of officials in China.
So why now, following the election of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), when relations between Taipei and Beijing show a chance of improving? Why not last year, when polls showed “anti-US” sentiment in Taiwan at an historic high following Washington’s humiliation of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and, by extension Taiwanese, as the nation sought to gain membership in the UN and the WHO? Or at times, such as in 1996, when tensions were high enough that a clash in the Taiwan Strait could have put the security of US diplomats in Taiwan at risk?
Surely, security concerns stoked by local animosity toward US officials and the symbol of their presence in the country would be the main reason behind the need to post Marines.
The answer, perhaps, lies in the very chance of a rapprochement between Taipei and Beijing, an outcome that some in Washington now fear could sideline the US and undermine its strategic presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Could it be, then, that the simple placing of an ad that suggests (at least from Beijing’s perspective) the normalization of diplomatic relations with Taipei serves a purpose that is far beyond soliciting contractors? Could it be that it is a means to maintain tensions in the Taiwan Strait at a level that the US has grown accustomed to and one that justifies its presence in the region?
Let’s give Washington the benefit of the doubt; maybe it’s just bad timing. But hidden motives or not, whatever happens next is contingent on how Beijing interprets and reacts to the news.
An outrageous dismissal of the exemplary Taiwanese fight against COVID-19 has been perpetrated by the EU. There is no excuse. I presume that everyone who reads the Taipei Times knows that the EU has excluded Taiwan from its so-called “safe list,” which permits citizens unhindered travel to and from the countries of the EU. As the EU does not feel that it needs to explain the character of this exclusive list, perhaps we should examine it ourselves in some detail. There are 14 nations on the list that have been chosen as safe countries of origin and safe countries of destination for
Filmmakers in Taiwan used to struggle when it came to telling a story that could resonate internationally. Things started to change when the 2017 drama series The Teenage Psychic (通靈少女), a collaboration between HBO Asia and Taiwanese Public Television Service (PTS), became a huge hit not just locally, but also internationally. The coming-of-age story was adapted from the 2013 PTS-produced short film The Busy Young Psychic (神算). Entirely filmed in Taiwan, the Mandarin-language series even made it on HBO’s streaming platforms in the US. It is proof that a well-told Taiwanese story can absolutely win the hearts and minds of hard-to-please
Drugged with sedatives, handcuffed and wearing a bright orange prison tunic, British fraud investigator and former journalist Peter Humphrey was escorted by warders into an interrogation room filled with reporters, locked inside a steel cage and fastened to a metal “tiger chair.” Humphrey recalls: “I was completely surrounded by officers, dazed, manacled and with cameras pointing at me through the bars. I was fighting for my life like a caged animal. It was horrifying.” Footage from the interrogation was later artfully edited to give the appearance of a confession and broadcast on Chinese state media. While this might sound like an
The US House of Representatives on July 1 passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill that would penalize Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s new national security legislation in Hong Kong, as well as banks that do business with them. The following day, the US Senate unanimously passed the bill, which was later sent to the White House, where it awaits US President Donald Trump’s signature. The bill does not spell out what the sanctions would look like and Trump has yet to sign it into law, but Reuters on Thursday last week reported that five major Chinese state lenders are considering