Is China’s shaping of Taiwan’s domestic political space an opportunity for the U.S.?

Image for post
Image for post

The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin…

The increasingly well-defined space the PRC is imposing on Taiwan’s domestic political order with respect to China policy implies an opportunity for the U.S. not merely to woo Taiwan’s leadership but to upgrade its relationship with Taiwan’s people.

In the run-up to the by-election this month for the Chair of the Kuomintang (KMT) Party in Taiwan, there was much media speculation that Johnny Chiang 江啟臣, at 48 the younger of the two candidates, would make some changes to the 1992 Consensus. Both before and immediately after the election, Chiang was portrayed as a…


China’s strategy of using local governments to evade central government policy is coming soon to your state

Image for post
Image for post
California Governor Jerry Brown meets Xi Jinping

In March of 2019 Han Kuo-yu, the Kuomintang (KMT) Mayor of Kaohsiung, visited China and returned with a series of trade deals for his city. They were the fruit of Beijing’s efforts to split local governments in Taiwan from the Taiwan government’s China policy:

A slew of trade deals negotiated by Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) to sell NT$5.2 billion (US$168.5 million) worth of Taiwanese agricultural products to cities in southern China is under Beijing’s direct control, a Hong Kong newspaper reported on Tuesday.


A pro-China administration would be bad news for the US and its regional allies

Image for post
Image for post

Taiwan’s 2020 Presidential election is going to be a brawl, at least within the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT). Billionaire businessman Terry Gou of Foxconn (Hon Hai) announced his candidacy this month, sending the media into a frenzy. Meanwhile, the meteoric rise of the current KMT mayor of Kaohsiung, Han Kuo-yu, has made him a favorite. In light of his newfound status, he has visited both China and the US and sketched the outline of a foreign policy for his likely presidential run in 2020. …


Is it time for the US to make a public declaration of military support for Taiwan in case of invasion?

Image for post
Image for post
United States Seventh Fleet

Is the TRA now DOA? This 40th year since the Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in response to then-President Jimmy Carter’s unilateral abrogation of the security treaty between the United States and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. The TRA, which the US treats as a compact with the people of Taiwan, helps define the framework for US relations with Taiwan. As China rises, calls to help Taiwan by openly committing the US to its defense have become an annual rite, with another from Joseph Bosco in The Hill earlier this month.

Although it is commonly claimed…


Symbolic moves sure feel good, but substantive policy changes are what is needed

Image for post
Image for post
Jianguo Holiday Flower Market in Taipei

When I first got married, my new wife informed me that I was never to buy her flowers. Flowers die, she explained, and the money spent on them is wasted. The recent letter from five Republican Senators (Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Cornyn, Cory Gardner, and Tom Cotton) asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to invite President Tsai of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan to address Congress is that kind of gift. It feels good, but it is essentially an empty gesture.

Sober commentators are sounding the warning on this idea. Pro-Taiwan commentator J Michael Cole observed:

For one…


Entangling Taiwan in the ROC’s problematic claims hurts Taiwan

Image for post
Image for post
Island Claims

Does the Republic of China (ROC) still exist? Imagine for a moment that the ROC government, which administers Taiwan, simply disappeared. Taiwan would chug right along, 23 million people still churning out products, drinking tea, and swapping memes on Facebook. There would still be some independent government, issuing passports and coining money. But what would happen to the ROC’s island claims, its resolute defense of a Chinese claim to the South China Sea, the Senkaku Islands of Japan, and its death grip on Matsu and Kinmen off China?

This question highlights the historical fact that none of these islands was…


A military, strategic, and diplomatic disaster for the US and its allies

“Once China establishes military bases on the island, then the Taiwan Strait could be closed to commercial traffic at Beijing’s whim for either political, economic or military agendas”

Image for post
Image for post
Potential Chinese claim / control post Taiwan capture

“Once China establishes military bases on the island, then the Taiwan Strait could be closed to commercial traffic at Beijing’s whim for either political, economic or military agendas,” longtime Defense News correspondent in Taiwan Wendell Minnick wrote on January 21st in The National Interest. Minnick’s piece is an overview of the military and geostrategic consequences of permitting China to occupy Taiwan. …


It’s part of a campaign aimed primarily at his domestic audience

Image for post
Image for post
The CCP’s Liaoning Aircraft Carrier

Another speech from the dictator of China, Xi Jin-ping, another torrent of commentary washing through the well-worn gullies of China Explaining. Some provide detailed analyses of Xi’s speech, while others note that Xi and China have no real plan. Many commentators noted its lofty perspective and lack of clear goals and concrete ideas.

All of this commentary misses the point because it is always offered without any real context. The speech had a purpose. It was not the pro forma regurgitation of boilerplate that such speeches often appear to be to outsiders. Treating Xi’s speeches in this way is useful…


The KMT is resurgent, the DPP is split

Image for post
Image for post
Photo: Robert Schrader

This month the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the pro-Taiwan, pro-democracy party in Taiwan, elected a new pro-Tsai chair, spurning You Ying-lung (游盈隆), an insurgent candidate from the nativist wing of the party. For the last couple of years You had been running the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, which has forwarded poll after poll which he has framed as criticisms of the DPP’s leadership, including his most recent, which he positioned to support his Chairmanship campaign.


Does Washington really want a pro-China government in Taipei in 2020?

Image for post
Image for post
Shine to the Chinese Communist Party, Taiwan — now demolished. (Photo & Story: Taiwan News)

Imagine the faux-populist mayor of Kaohsiung, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) politician Han Guo-yu, promising as President to double Taiwan’s population by flooding it with Chinese. Imagine KMT President Wu Den-yi roiling relations with Japan by constantly raising the Senkakus issue and trolling Japan on the nuclear food issue. Imagine the headaches a pro-China president could create for Washington in the South China Sea. Imagine a pro-China President criticizing US gestures such as freedom of navigation operations in the Taiwan Strait, or opposing US Navy ships docking in Taiwan. …

Michael Turton

Michael Turton is a longtime expat in Taiwan, who operates the well known blog The View from Taiwan on Taiwan politics, history, and culture.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store