Tue, Sep 22, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Cyberwarfare complicates relations

By Liu Ching-yi 劉靜怡

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is scheduled to begin his visit to the US today. While Taiwanese media in general have failed to take notice of the visit, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) has voiced concerns both about what may happen between Jan. 16 next year, when the presidential and legislative elections are held, and May 20, when the next president is sworn in, and the possibility that China will capitalize on Xi’s US visit to make the US put pressure on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to acquiesce to the so-called “1992 consensus,” thus issuing a belated warning to Taiwan’s presidential candidates.

However, these warnings might be just a preamble to what is to come. After Xi’s meeting with US President Barack Obama, more complicated and urgent matters would follow, challenging the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and opposition parties, especially the DPP, which mainstream US political and academic opinion believe will return to power next year.

Does the DPP have comprehensive strategies to address such matters? Is the party capable of meeting the challenges, or is it going to continue to do as others do and remain ambiguous? Perhaps the nation should pay more attention to this issue than to Xi’s trip to the US.

An important issue is cyberwarfare, which will be the focus of the meeting between Xi and Obama.

Obama has adopted an unprecedented harsh stance on cyberwarfare by saying: “I guarantee you we will win if we have to.”

He even used phrases such as “destructive attacks” and “commercial espionage” to describe Chinese cyberattacks, and threatened to use sanctions as retaliation.

When US officials met with Chinese Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission Meng Jianzhu (孟建柱), who was sent by China to prepare for Xi’s US visit, US officials reportedly also took a tough stance.

Although sanctions have been postponed, apparently for the sake of Xi’s upcoming meeting with Obama, the US and China are both key Internet players and therefore the whole world is waiting to see what their next moves in cyberwarfare would be.

What kind of dialogue would they have and what sort of rules would they establish? Also, what are their red lines, how would the US retaliate if their red line is crossed, and how would the Chinese react to a US retaliation? These are all pressing matters that Taiwan must under no condition consider itself an outsider to.

It is not hard to realize that the government has spent a considerable amount of money on cybersecurity over the past decades. Yet why are the ruling and opposition parties so indifferent to the unavoidable US-China cyberwarfare strategies?

The question is whether the DPP, which is rejoicing over its likely return to power, would realize that a possible cyberwar — even though it might look like a conflict between the US and China — would affect Taiwan at both domestic and international levels — including Taiwanese industry, commerce and even human rights.

Is the nation ready to deal with these difficult problem from policymaking and legislative perspectives?

Taiwan and the US have maintained open communication channels within the international Internet governance framework as it matured over the past 20 years, but Taiwan and its role in global Internet management has indisputably been marginalized. If this situation continues to deteriorate, a grat deal of problems will crop up.

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