The revelation this week that Jacqueline Liu (劉姍姍), the former head of the nation’s representative office in Kansas City, Missouri, hired a Chinese national as a housekeeper late last year after her second Philippine maid had fled is as sad as it is worrying. What it is not, though, is surprising, given how lax this administration has become on national security.
As if the alleged mistreatment of two housemaids, which sullied the nation’s image abroad, were not enough, Liu also broke Ministry of Foreign Affairs regulations by hiring Xie Dengfeng (謝登鳳), a Chinese national, and concealing Xie’s identity from the ministry. Such actions could have endangered national security.
In her defense, the embattled Liu says she was unaware of the ministry regulations on hiring Chinese nationals. It is hard to imagine which possibility is worse — that she is lying, or that she was indeed unaware of the rules, which raises serious questions about internal security and counterintelligence at the ministry.
As any Taiwanese official should know, the Chinese intelligence apparatus is monitoring Taiwanese diplomatic missions abroad, and there is no reason to believe that the office in Kansas was any different. It can be assumed that Chinese agents were aware of the crisis that was developing at Liu’s residence, which would have provided a perfect opportunity to direct a source like Xie at her and task her with collecting intelligence.
An investigation is needed to determine whether this was the case, but in the past decades, there have been dozens of instances of Chinese espionage in the US involving defense officials, government agencies, high-tech firms and universities.
The mere possibility that Liu could be the target of such an operation should have been enough for her to avoid doing what she did. Heads must roll over this lapse, and possibly not just Liu’s.
For let us not kid ourselves: However much the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) likes to say that cross-strait relations have improved, and despite the “love and peace” theme and the cuddly panda used as a backdrop at a recent cross-strait conference in Greater Kaohsiung, Beijing remains very much on a war footing. Beyond missiles, destroyers and aircraft, this also means aggressive intelligence collection.
Unless the Ma administration starts taking counterintelligence seriously by acknowledging the nature of the threat, allocates sufficient resources to meet the challenge and provides appropriate training on international security to all government employees, China will continue to penetrate Taiwanese security wherever it wants. Opportunities for China to conduct espionage against Taiwan have increased dramatically amid growing exchanges between the two sides.
Failing to make the appropriate changes signals that Taiwan has all but given up on resisting aggression.
The analogies between Austria on the eve of World War II and Taiwan today, with Ma playing the role of former Austrian chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg, are disturbing. While Ma and Schuschnigg were undoubtedly well-intentioned, Nazi Germany then, like Beijing now, used a “policy of peaceful penetration” that heightened pressure on independence movements while isolating their targets internationally.
The first point of the Nazi program, we must remember, demanded “the merger of all Germans ... in a Greater Germany,” with Adolf Hitler adding in his hate-filled Mein Kampf: “One blood demands one Reich” — language ominously familiar to Taiwanese.
We all know what an ugly fate befell Austria. Now that “one blood demands ‘one China,’” should not this administration, if it indeed intends to ensure its survival, take the problem of continued Chinese aggression as seriously as it warrants, starting with the security of its missions abroad?
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.
There is no ambiguity when it comes to war. Ambiguity begs for certainty and a lack thereof has historically led to war. History is full of examples: Europe’s and the US’ ambiguity as to how they would respond to Hitler’s growing territorial expansion in Europe was certainly a contributing factor to World War II. In the same vein, US ambiguity toward Japan’s expansionist militarism in the 1930s clearly led to the Pearl Harbor attacks that started the war in Asia in 1941. Ambiguity in a world with leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will inevitably