The South China Sea peace initiative advocated by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), which calls for joint exploration of resources in the region, stands out among the attempts by the Philippines, Vietnam and especially China to enforce their claims.
However, the approach does not suffice for Taiwan to stake out a position as a constructive player to defuse rising tensions.
The key to changing Taiwan’s marginal role lies in whether it can clarify its stance on the much-disputed “11-dot line,” which later became the “nine-dash line,” employed to demarcate its maritime border since it was first drawn in 1947.
Despite repeated assurances Ma has on various occasions given to critics of the nine-dash line that the nation’s maritime claim is compatible with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which requires that the claims be based on land features, how the claim conforms with international law has never been elucidated. What is more, that Ma always argues that the claim has a historical basis only makes his pledge to adhere to international law preposterous.
Taiwan moved to clarify its maritime claims during the previous Democratic Progressive Party administration, when then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in 2005 suspended the 1993 Policy Guidelines for the South China Sea.
However, in Ma’s most recent statement, made when he put forward the peace initiative, he still maintains that, from the perspective of history, geography and international law, the Republic of China (ROC) indisputably maintains that the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島), the Paracel Islands (Xisha Inlands, 西沙群島), Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands, 中沙群島) and the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), as well as their surrounding waters, are inherent parts of the ROC’s territory.
Making a historically based claim virtually identical to China’s has raised doubts over Taiwan’s compliance with international law. It has also been suggested that Taiwan supports and even coordinates its South China Sea policy with China, which has caused misgivings among other claimants and involved parties over Taiwan’s participation in mechanisms for dialogue on South China Sea issues.
Ma, in response to those concerns, said that it is the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that inherited the historically based claim from the ROC after the former took over China in 1949, not the other away around, but that does not change the fact that possible cooperation between Taiwan and China in asserting sovereignty over the South China Sea is just not in the interests of other claimants and involved parties.
It would only be in Taiwan’s interests to abandon claims not based on land features that it can justifiably lay claim to, in line with international law. Doing so might encourage the concerned parties to either open bilateral dialogue with Taiwan about the demarcation of their overlapping waters or to have Taiwan included in multilateral discussions of South China Sea issues, but of course that would put China in an extremely difficult position to justify its claim.
Although Taiwan effectively administers Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), the biggest island in the Spratly Islands, it has long been an overlooked player in the South China Sea disputes. The marginalization of Taiwan in this arena can be attributed to China’s growing prominence in the region and the “one China” principle that has obstructed Taiwan’s diplomatic activities, but to some extent it is up to Taiwan to be more proactive in its South China Sea policy.
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s “century of humiliation” is the gift that keeps on giving. Beijing returns again and again to the theme of Western imperialism, oppression and exploitation to keep stoking the embers of grievance and resentment against the West, and especially the US. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in 1949 announced it had “stood up” soon made clear what that would mean for Chinese and the world — and it was not an agenda that would engender pride among ordinary Chinese, or peace of mind in the international community. At home, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) launched
The restructuring of supply chains, particularly in the semiconductor industry, was an essential part of discussions last week between Taiwan and a US delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach. It took precedent over the highly anticipated subject of bilateral trade partnerships, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) appearance on Friday at a dinner hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for Krach was a subtle indicator of this. Chang was in photographs posted by Tsai on Facebook after the dinner, but no details about their discussions were disclosed. With
Astride an ascended economy and military, with global influence nearing biblical proportions, Xi Jinping (習近平) — general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), chairman of the Central Military Commission and president of the People’s Republic of China — is faithfully heralded, in deeds and imagery, as a benevolent lord, determined to “build a community of common destiny for all mankind.” Rather than leading humanity to this Shangri-La through inspirational virtue a la Mahatma Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln, the CCP prefers a micromanagement doctrine of socialism with Chinese characteristics as the guiding light. A doctrine of Marxist orthodoxy transplanted under a canvas
On Sept. 8, at the high-profile Ketagalan security forum, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged countries to deal with the China challenge. She said: “It is time for like-minded countries, and democratic friends in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, to discuss a framework to generate sustained and concerted efforts to maintain a strategic order that deters unilateral aggressive actions.” The “Taiwan model” to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic provides an alternative to China’s authoritarian way of handling it. Taiwan’s response to the health crisis has made it evident that countries across the world have much to learn from Taiwan’s best practices and if