When National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Su Chi (蘇起) stepped down last month, he did so because he had become a disgrace. Despite his claim that family and health reasons were behind his decision, we all know that he made it, or was told to do so, because the chorus clamoring for his resignation was getting too loud to ignore.
True, his ham-fisted handling of the US beef issue was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but the reasons he had to go were far more numerous. He had lost the trust of US officials and alienated Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members. His murky involvement in the delaying of foreign humanitarian assistance during Typhoon Morakot — ostensibly over cross-strait political considerations — also left a wound that Taiwanese would not forget anytime soon. Many, from ministry officials to specialists on Taiwan used one word to describe Su at the NSC: incompetent.
This, of course, wasn’t enough to dissuade an equally amateurish Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration from conferring upon Su the Order of Propitious Clouds, First Class earlier this month for his “meritorious” service.
So “meritorious” was Su’s service to this nation that he was part of the very same KMT-led legislature that, during eight “sick” — so Su claims — years of Democratic Progressive Party rule under then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), blocked hundreds of resolutions and brought national development to a standstill. So “meritorious” was legislator Su that he made unsubstantiated claims that the Chen administration was seeking to develop nuclear weapons. If lies and incompetence are signs of merit, then Su truly deserved Ma’s medal.
That said, there is no doubt that Su, with his extensive experience in government has had access to large amounts of state secrets. Equally problematic is intelligence that placed him in Beijing, sometime in March 2005, getting really friendly with senior Chinese Communist Party officials.
A little more than a month after he stepped down, the now unemployed Su has confirmed that he will “resurface” by attending the Boao Forum in China next month. Beijing has already confirmed that Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) likely successor, will be attending.
While Su has said that he will not be delivering speeches at the meeting, this will be an occasion for him to meet people and possibly engage in the type of backdoor, quasi-official diplomacy that has characterized the Ma administration’s approach to cross-strait affairs. Given the lack of transparency that has accompanied such talks in the past 20 months, Su could now find himself in a position where he can cause even more harm to Taiwan’s interests than he did when he was in government.
At a time when the Ma administration is portraying a controversial economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) as an inevitability — contradicting officials’ comments that it would only sign the deal if it was widely supported by the public, which it isn’t — and amid fears that Taiwan’s sovereignty is hanging in the balance, the government should put the brakes on Su’s desire to “make new friends” by preventing him from attending the forum. Laws exist that regulate the ability of former officials who, in the exercise of their functions had access to classified material, from going to China.
If ever such laws applied, they should in Su’s case, both because of what he had access to and his track record as an official and academic who seems to put China’s interests first and Taiwan’s second.
Su fell from grace. He should keep a low profile a little longer.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday last week met with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at an APEC summit in Thailand. The meeting made front-page news in Japan the following day. Three years ago, when then-Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited Beijing to meet with Xi, no one questioned Abe’s attitude toward China, as the conservative parties in Japan had been spearheaded by Abe. However, Kishida could easily be labeled as pro-China, as he hails from Hiroshima — a place known for its anti-war, anti-nuclear movements — and was once the director of the Japan-China Friendship Association of Hiroshima.
It is quite the irony when former British prime minister Boris Johnson — a buffoon who for far too long was taken seriously — is branded a buffoon for saying something deadly serious. Following Johnson’s withering criticism of China at a business forum in Singapore on Wednesday last week, the event’s organizer, Michael Bloomberg, apologized to attendees, saying that Johnson was “trying to be amusing rather than informative and serious.” However, Johnson’s characterization of China as a “coercive autocracy” that had showed “a candid disregard for the rule of international law” was spot-on. His comments evoked the wisdom of the Austrian-British philosopher
Although internal Chinese politics are largely defined by meticulously concocted mysteries, it is an open secret that the battle for who will ascend to the highest echelons of Zhongnanhai is decided at the Beidaihe resort. It is where factions within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) engage in horse-trading over leadership selection and delegate appointments long before the party’s national congress. What unfolded at last month’s 20th National Congress was predetermined at the Beidaihe gathering in August. In this context, the CCP, and particularly Chinese President and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平), used the event to project power and party unity.
There has been a surge of global interest in Taiwan’s security in recent years. Amidst the noise, it can be easy to lose sight of broader trends that are shaping the environment within which Taiwan operates. Taking a broader view can bring into focus what tasks are most important for Taiwan to protect its democratic way of life. At the global level, several trends are unfolding in parallel. First, great power competition is intensifying. Russia is employing violence to seek to redraw boundaries. China is advancing its ambitions by operating below the threshold of conflict. China-Russia relations are unnaturally close by