On Oct. 25 and 26, seven Chinese dredging vessels trespassed into Taiwan’s territorial waters around Matsu’s Nangan Island (南竿) to illegally mine sand. This is by no means an isolated incident. From January to September, the coast guard expelled no fewer than 3,000 Chinese dredging vessels from Taiwanese waters.
For the past three years, Chinese vessels have repeatedly intruded into the shallow coastal waters off Matsu, Penghu and Kinmen to extract sand from the sea bed. The sand is being used for a variety of projects, including island-building in the South China Sea, construction of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport and a land reclamation project at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport.
Illegal sand dredging has serious consequences. It alters the topography of the sea bed, which can lead to the subsidence and collapse of the seafloor. Dredging also seriously damages the delicate ecological environment of the sea bed, devastating the habitat of bottom-dwelling organisms and other marine life.
Foreign ships intruding into Taiwanese territorial waters are also violating the nation’s sovereignty. It could be that Beijing is simply turning a blind eye to the questionable activities of Chinese companies, as it has often done in the past.
On the other hand, it might be a deliberate ploy as part of China’s wider “gray zone” tactics to stealthily advance its strategic goals below the threshold of kinetic warfare. By normalizing such incursions, Beijing can gradually chip away at Taiwan’s sovereignty.
In the skies above the Taiwan Strait, Chinese air force pilots are constantly probing the nation’s sovereign airspace.
On the sea’s surface, Beijing uses its massive fishing boat fleet to deplete Taiwan’s fish stocks, harass Taiwanese fishing boats, overwhelm the coast guard and test the nation’s ability to defend its sea borders.
Dredging ships are scooping up and towing away Taiwan’s sovereign land to build infrastructure projects that further China’s economic development and construct militarized island fortresses that might be used as static aircraft carriers in an invasion of this nation.
One would have thought that dredging would be relatively easy to police. After all, the navy and the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) operate a sophisticated network of powerful radars and underwater sonar stations that are constantly monitoring the activities of Chinese vessels in the area.
However, the captains of dredging vessels know that the CGA is restricted to operating within 6km from Taiwan’s coast and play a cat-and-mouse game, encroaching into the 6km zone to hoover up sand, then quickly moving into the safety of deeper waters when a coast guard vessel appears on the horizon.
Another problem is that sand dredging is a lucrative business, but the punishment for intercepted vessels is too lenient. Dredging companies can sell between NT$4 million to NT$5 million (US$138,533 to US$173,166) of sand per day of operation, yet they face a maximum fine of about NT$200,000 per case if caught.
The Legislative Yuan should facilitate approval of the Executive Yuan’s proposal to increase the penalties for illegal dredging to a maximum of seven years in prison or a fine of up to NT$80 million.
The government should also upgrade navy and CGA equipment and increase the number of offshore patrol vessels, so that Taiwan has the ability to rapidly dispatch vessels to drive out Chinese dredging ships and ensure that they do not return.
Bolstering Taiwan’s coastal patrols would also have the added benefit of improving the nation’s capacity to intercept smuggling operations and clamp down on the illegal narcotics trade.
I think it is fair to say there is a widespread sigh of relief among many Americans — particularly those of us focused on foreign policy — that the chaotic and unpredictable Trump years will soon be over. Mr. Trump brought little real knowledge or experience to his foreign policy, and it showed. He also — in my humble opinion — did not err on the side of expertise in his choice of top foreign policy officials. Nor was he particularly open to listening to advice. All in all a poor set of traits for overseeing the complex foreign policy
After more than eight years of talks, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed on Nov. 15, combining the individual free-trade agreements signed between ASEAN member states on the one hand, and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand on the other. Under the leadership of ASEAN and China, most observers did not expect the RCEP to provide a high degree of openness, and the announced agreement lives up to these expectations, containing few surprises. All products covered by the RCEP tariff reductions are agricultural and industrial products, but reductions of agricultural product tariffs are very limited, for example covering
While the nation grapples with its falling birthrate, it is also imperative to address how parents are raising their children. The phenomenon of “dinosaur parents” — who lash out at teachers, store staff or people on the street when confronted about their children misbehaving — has been an issue for a while, but there seems to be an uncomfortably high number of incidents making the news lately. On Saturday, a preschool teacher on an online forum wrote about a mother who often visited the school and screamed at the staff for various reasons — including her child being late to school
On Nov. 14, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) commented on the nation’s low birthrate, claiming that young people would surely have children if only they married first, and that the low marriage rate among young people is the cause of the rapid aging of Taiwan’s society. The Taipei City Government therefore proposed to offer subsidies to couples willing to marry. Ko’s comment stirred up a great deal of protest. As a sociology student, I would like to remind the mayor that his remarks not only decontextualized the population aging issue, but also oversimplified the low birthrate problem. First, a look at systemic