Barely five months have elapsed since the Japanese government reached a settlement with the Taiwanese owner of a fishing vessel that sank in an incident near the disputed Diaoyutai islands (釣魚台) last June.
At the time of the incident, a mere 20 days after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) entered office, the KMT and pan-blue media blew the matter out of proportion, sparking nationalistic fervor and spewing venom at Taiwan’s former colonial master.
Through this outburst, with KMT legislators waxing self-righteously about the need to defend Taiwanese fishermen and uphold the government’s claim to the Diaoyutai, damage was done to relations with one of Taiwan’s staunchest allies. Despite Ma’s claim that he would seek to improve relations with the US and Japan after years of “trouble-rousing” diplomacy under the administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the row sent a signal of strategic realignment in the Taiwan Strait, with Taipei leaning ever closer to Beijing.
As cross-strait talks continue and Taiwan jumps on the caravan to economic — if not political — integration with China, the KMT is once again fueling anti-Japanese sentiment, this time by attacking Masaki Saito, the head of the Japanese Interchange Association, over comments he made during a forum at National Chung Cheng University on Friday to the effect that Taiwan’s status is “still unresolved.”
Despite Saito’s subsequent apology, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrew Hsia (夏立言) and KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) — the same John Chiang whose campaign headquarters printed a calendar in simplified Chinese that marked the People’s Republic of China National Day as a holiday — maintain that not enough was done to repair the envoy’s “serious gaffe.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs picked up the rhetoric yesterday, saying that Saito’s comment was “inaccurate” and “damaging to our government,” views that, according to Ma’s spokesman, the president shared.
Once again, the Ma administration is trying to pick a fight with Tokyo over a small incident. This time, the irritant is trivial. But just as with the Diaoyutai incident, when it comes to Japan, apologies are never enough when the KMT casts itself as the epitome of patriotism. Regardless of whether Saito’s remarks were his opinion — which he said they were — or that of the Japanese government (which it isn’t), there was nothing “damaging” in what was said.
The US government’s “acknowledgement” of Beijing’s “one China” policy is just as much an admission of Taiwan’s unresolved status as Saito’s comments, as is the position of the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and many multilateral institutions that Taiwan cannot officially join, or must join under a different name.
It’s fine for the WHO and other bodies to insult Taiwan and refer to it as “Chinese Taipei,” but when it comes to Japan, one faux pas leads to a diplomatic row. It’s fine for Beijing to deny Taiwan’s existence or threaten it with an “Anti-Secession” Law (where was Chiang when millions of Taiwanese protested this “law” in 2005?), but when a Japanese uses the wrong words, we castigate him and poison our relations with Tokyo.
It’s getting clearer by the day: Despite Ma’s rhetoric, the deeds of his government are betraying a clear shift in Beijing’s favor and, in the process, the calculated alienation of Tokyo.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
Determined to keep a permanent grip on power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has abandoned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dogma of “hiding our capacities and biding our time” along with the “peaceful development” line that prevailed under former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Instead, he is treading a “wolf warrior” path of diplomacy that resorts to coercion, debt entrapment and hostage-taking. Externally, Xi’s China has claimed that it would never seek hegemony, yet it challenges the free, rules-based international order wherever it can. While insisting that it will not export its ideology, it has