Taiwan is one of very few countries about which it can be said that it faces a threat to its survival. Given this, decisionmakers should ensure that resources and energy are properly channeled to meet any challenge head-on. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Israel’s situation is analogous to Taiwan’s: Both are threatened by an external enemy bent on denying them the right to exist and which have shown determination to use force to achieve that end. Granted, the analogy only goes this far, as the dynamics of power in the two conflicts differ markedly. In Taiwan’s case, it is the weaker party in the struggle, while Israel in its struggle has the upper hand militarily and is an occupying force, which generates a whole new set of grievances.
That being said, the threat facing Israel is no less serious and its gravity has served as a rallying force for its people. There are undeniably serious differences of opinion inside Israel about how to deal with the challenges created by the Palestinians’ right to self-determination or attacks against Israelis by groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Israel’s democratic way of life has helped bring those differences into contrast. However, all Israelis, from those who support the use of force to resolve the conflict to those who regard the occupation as the main cause of the conflict, agree on the need to do what is necessary to ensure the survival of their nation.
This is an example that Taiwanese appear unwilling to follow. This can perhaps be explained by the fact that violence against Taiwan, apart from the 1995-1996 Missile Crisis, remains abstract, despite its formidable military foe across the Taiwan Strait. Consequently, the green-blue political schism continues to fracture the nation, a situation that bears great dangers when facing an external enemy. Aside from fostering disunity, the endless domestic battles over electricity price increases and imports of US beef, for example, take the government’s and political parties’ focus and resources away from productive issues.
Fueling this is the view, held by a number of people in the pan-green camp, that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) are trying to “sell” Taiwan to China, a contention that holds little water once one has made the effort to actually talk with KMT members, their supporters and civil servants.
Despite all his flaws, Ma is not a dictator and could not be one even if he wanted to. He is part of a government, and Taiwan’s democratic system, flaws notwithstanding, imposes checks and balances on what he and his administration can do. The KMT has flouted democratic rules on a number of issues in the past four years, but it is hard to imagine it could get away with using “authoritarian” means to alter the fundamentals of Taiwan. Not even those who gave Ma a second mandate in January would allow him to do so.
Rather than launch attacks on what is regarded as the “proximate” enemy, the pan-green camp would be far more effective if it sought to establish constructive relationships with officials in the pan-blue camp who have the same democratic values and pride in Taiwan as they do, in an effort to focus on the one external force that can truly dissolve the nation: China.
There are potentially large, untapped resources in the pan-blue camp where the pan-green camp could make inroads if it tried. Such efforts would have far better chances of protecting the nation by presenting China with a united front, instead of spending nights in the legislature playing with furniture to prevent a vote on amendments on what are, in the end, mundane — and some would say inevitable — issues.
For Israelis, the threat is clear enough that they have little patience for clownish behavior in their parliament. Taiwanese are playing with fire if they think that their situation is any different.
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.
Last month, the Philippine National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea reported that more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels were anchored at the disputed Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea, known as Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines. The task force released astonishing photographs, which showed clusters of enormous fishing trawlers at anchor and tied together in neat rows. Needless to say, the ships were not engaging in commercial fishing activity; they belong to China’s “maritime militia.” Beijing’s flimsy official explanation is that the vessels are temporarily seeking shelter from inclement weather. This is patently ridiculous, given the time that