Category Archives: Politics

Taiwan renders disaster relief to Philippines

The Taiwanese people and government continued donating funds and relief supplies to the Philippines following the disaster caused by super Typhoon Haiyan. The storm devastated the central Philippines on November 8, causing more than 6,000 deaths and wreaking havoc among 10 million people.

As of December 5, money and material donations made by Taiwan’s government, civic groups and individual citizens have reached NT$358.5 million (US$11.09 million). In addition, within days of the disaster, a 35-person team organized by the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps arrived in the affected areas to provide free medical assistance.

In accordance with President Ma Ying-jeou’s vision of Taiwan as a humanitarian aid provider, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has worked closely with non-governmental organizations to provide prompt relief and assistance in rebuilding the hardest hit areas.

Late November, Sun Wen-hsien, president of the Chiu Chang Mathematics Education Foundation, took a group of 27 schoolchildren to the Philippines to participate in the International Mathematics and Science Olympiad for Primary School Students. Through the organizing committee, the participating students also carried 10 kilograms of rice, noodles, biscuits or canned food to be donated to storm victims.

These efforts follow the airlifting of more than 150 metric tons of aid in 18 flights by Taiwan’s Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo planes, as well as the transport of 530 metric tons of relief goods to Cebu Port aboard its naval vessel.

Supplies included prefabricated homes, solar generators, tents, rice, clothing, ready-to-eat food and potable water, donated by private citizens and a wide range of civic organizations and charity groups, including Taiwan’s Red Cross Society, Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Bliss and Wisdom Foundation, Namchou Chemical Industrial Co. Ltd., I-mei Foods Co. Ltd., I-Kuan Tao Association, and National Fishermen’s Association.

The goods were distributed with the assistance of volunteers working for Taiwan’s charity groups in the Philippines, joined by over 16,000 Filipinos affected by the typhoon who were employed by the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation.

Early December, while leading a trade delegation to the Philippines, Wang Chih-kang, chairman of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), donated US$120,000 collected by the organization.

Taiwan’s government agencies, coordinated by Minister without Portfolio Lin Junq-tzer, have worked closely with the  Ministry of Health and Welfare which promptly established a special bank account for monetary donations, while MOFA and the Ministry of National Defense (MND) designated two aid supply collection centers, one in northern Taiwan and one in the south. As mentioned before, the MND also dispatched aircraft and a ship to transport relief supplies, as well as mobilizing soldiers to help collect, sort, pack, load and ship the goods.

The Gambia severs diplomatic ties with Taiwan

A senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official has announced that China was not involved in Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, according to the Central News Agency. On November 18, David Wang, director-general of the MOFA’s Department of West Asian and African Affairs, made the comment after local media reported on Jammeh’s November 15 Facebook posting declaring that the People’s Republic of China will be recognized diplomatically by The Gambia in the future.

According to Wang, the Facebook post was dated a day after Jammeh informed President Ma Ying-jeou in a personal letter of his decision to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan, effective immediately. “The post did not mean Jammeh would immediately establish diplomatic ties with Beijing,” he noted, adding that he believes the Facebook message was mainly aimed at justifying Jammeh’s choice to sever diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan).

The MOFA said in a statement that the ROC Embassy in the West African state will be shut down, its technical mission will be withdrawn and all cooperative programs will be terminated.

Jammeh on November 15 unilaterally announced the decision to terminate the 18-year-long diplomatic relations between his country, officially known as the Republic of the Gambia, and Taiwan. Given that the West African nation did not have ties with the People’s Republic of China at the same time, reported the United Daily News, the decision may be based on Jammeh’s personal choice, who is known to be unpredictable. Last month, Jammeh withdrew his country from the British Commonwealth and three years ago, he unexpectedly severed relations with Iran.

Whatever the reason, The Gambia’s move has posed a huge challenge to the “diplomatic truce” or “flexible diplomacy” policy of President Ma. The policy is aimed at putting an end to the “checkbook diplomacy” competition between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Over the past five years, both sides have refrained from luring away each other’s diplomatic allies with monetary incentives, noted the United Daily News.

The Gambia was the first country to sever official relations with Taiwan since President Ma began implementing his diplomatic truce policy five years ago. Without The Gambia, Taiwan still maintains diplomatic relations with 22 countries.

Taiwanese singer waves national flag, sets off heated debate

During a November 2 concert at the University of Manchester, UK, Taiwanese singer-songwriter Deserts Chang (aka Zhang Xuan) held a Republic of China (Taiwan) flag given to her by a fan among an audience of 500. While holding the flag, she said “This is the national flag of my home country,” adding “I am very proud to introduce my country!” while a mainland Chinese student countered by shouting, “No politics today.” This short incident caused a heated debate between Taiwanese and Chinese netizens. And now, Chang’s year-end performances schedule on the mainland has been postponed, reported the Liberty Times.

Although it might be natural for singers to show their country’s flag during a performance, this incident has caused a backlash against Chang from the mainland Chinese, many accusing her of supporting Taiwan independence.

On November 5, Chang returned to Taiwan and responded to the accusation that she supports Taiwanese independence on Facebook. She said, “The current political situation in Taiwan is indeed different from those in other ethnic Chinese communities,” and “I have no intention to stress the differences, but I do mind my intention being deliberately distorted… Without a sincere and truthful dialogue, even same cultural background would not bring us closer to each other.”

Deserts Chang was born Chiao An-pu in 1981. Her father, Chiao Jen-he, is a former vice chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), a semi-official organization set up by the Taiwan government to handle matters regarding cross-strait negotiations with the mainland. Due to her family background, her comments drew special attention, according to the United Daily News.

Chiao, who worked for the SEF in the 1990s now runs his own law firm, said he does not know the whole situation, nor did he see his daughter’s Facebook post. But he said Taiwan and the mainland really need reconciliation and understanding, especially in a foreign country. The people on both sides should relax their minds and have mutual respect. “Otherwise, foreigners will only see us as a joke,” he said.

Due to a difference in education, such incidents highlight the frequent problems as more young people from both sides interact with each other, said Wang Yu-chi, chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), in the United Daily News. To resolve this problem, the two sides should be more tolerant of the other’s position.

Apple Daily reported that with regard to the decision of “postponing” Chang’s performance in Beijing at the year’s end, Wu Mei-hong, MAC’s spokeswoman, responded on November 14 by saying, “We regret the result of the case,” “We respect the decision which was made by the performer and the sponsoring organization.”

The United Daily News commented that Taiwanese consciousness and Taiwan independence are two different things. Taiwanese consciousness is identifying with the island’s culture and way of life, whereas Taiwan independence aims to cut off cultural ties with the Chinese culture and discard the goal of Chinese unification. Those who label Chang as an advocator of Taiwan independence have done her an injustice.

It is indeed a difficult situation when Taiwan’s emotional identification runs into China’s nationalism and patriotism. Hopefully this incident can pave the way for more tolerant dialogue. People on both sides of the strait should be more open-minded of each other’s differing values and identities, thus promoting mutual understanding, stressed the United Daily News.

Taiwan finally wins ‘guest’ status at ICAO assembly

For the first time since starting to apply to participate in discussions at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2009, Taiwan has finally been granted “guest” status at the triennial ICAO Assembly to be held in Montreal, Canada from September 24 to October 4. The island will join the talks as a special guest of the Council President Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez.

Participating under the name “Chinese Taipei,” Taiwan’s delegation will be led by Shen Chi, director-general of the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA). Vice Foreign Minister Vanessa Shih said that Taiwan lost its eligibility to attend meetings of United Nations bodies when it was expelled from the UN in 1971. After securing observer status of the World Health Organization in 2009, Taiwan has actively sought to participate in the ICAO – a UN-affiliated organization.

There are currently 191 member states in the ICAO. Taipei Flight Information Region (Taipei FIR), covering an area of 180,000 square kilometers and annually operating more than 1.3 million flights and serving more than 40 million passengers, is a major aviation hub in Asia. It is linked by air to 117 cities across the world through 181 passenger routes and 86 freight routes, with 400 scheduled flights to and from the US, and more than 1,200 with mainland China every week. Nevertheless, Taiwan has been excluded from the international civil aviation system.

Being excluded from the ICAO system, Taiwan is often unaware of any changes occurring in relation to international flight rules, thus is unable to cope with the situation, or unable to access complete information. This situation also makes some aspects of Taiwan’s operations incompatible with ICAO Flight Standards. All of these factors have an adverse effect on Taiwan’s civil aviation development.

The United Daily News reported, according to Yi Xin-chuang, CAA deputy director of the Airport Operation and Management Unit, in 2000 the CAA drew a flight route from Manila to Shanghai via Hengchun, on the southern tip of Taiwan. The flight crossed Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range, which is the airspace designated for military exercises. ICAO made this decision without considering Taiwan’s air defense operations. And, as a non-member, Taiwan had to use Hong Kong to pass on the message requesting the ICAO to change the route for safety reasons.

Shen said Taiwan has been working hard to attain “observer” status to participate in the ICAO, but according to ICAO Articles, an observer must be a “non-party member” or an “international organization.” The ICAO members finally agreed to allow Taiwan to attend as a special guest of the Council president.

As the convention of the ICAO Assembly drew near, Taiwan’s CAA officials had held little hope of participating this year. Then, the ICAO Council president faxed a letter to invite Taiwan on September 11, less than two weeks from the start of ICAO Assembly, the paper reported

According to a press release from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the reasons for Taiwan invitation is due to Taiwan’s long-term commitment to international aviation standards and safety, improvement in relations with mainland China over the past few years, and the support given by members of the international community. Among the island’s supporters – US President Barack Obama signed a bill supporting Taiwan’s participation in the ICAO on July 12.

The special guest status, however, still falls short of Taiwan’s expectations. Vice Foreign Minister Shih said even though both the invited guest and the observer can not speak at the Assembly, Taiwan is still striving for “substantive, professional and meaningful” participation.

Hong Kong visitors’ affinity with Taiwan society

Last year, 35 million mainland Chinese people visited Hong Kong, with roughly half a million moving there to live over the past decade. The four-fold increase in the number of Chinese visitors to Hong Kong in just ten years – where local registered residents number seven million – has led some of its residents to seek the relatively spacious shores of Taiwan. Almost one million people from Hong Kong and Macao visited Taiwan last year and this number is expected to exceed one million this year, according to the Taipei-based Commonwealth monthly’s cover story, “Why the Hong Kong people are crazy about Taiwan?”

Distrust of China, love of Taiwan

The magazine reported that Mandy from Hong Kong has visited Taiwan twice. She still vividly recalls the owner of the bed and breakfast riding a motorcycle to deliver her breakfast when she toured Kenting National Park and Tainan a couple of years ago. Talking about the difference between the Taiwanese and the Hong Kong people, Mandy said, “I personally have the feeling that Taiwanese really serve their guests happily, and not just to make money.”

An anonymous visitor from Hong Kong said there are not enough resources in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s entry policy is not sound, but the problem is that the policies are decided by Beijing. Even though Beijing promised Hong Kong the implementation of “One country, two systems,” in the eyes of the Chinese, one country is more important than two systems. The idea of Hong Kong people running Hong Kong no longer exists, he said.

Ding Xueliang, a professor of the Social Science Division at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, worries that Hong Kong has become a headache for China’s leadership. He observed that the Hong Kong people are becoming more impatient and politically polarized.

Triangular relationship between China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Commonwealth reported that Hong Kong people have been increasingly infatuated  with Taiwan since 2008. Their identification with Taiwan has risen, while their identification with China has dwindled. Last year, the ratio of Hong Kong people who showed distrust in the Chinese government surpassed those who still have trust – a reversal for the first time in 12 years.

Hong Kong is in a perplexing situation, with the performance of its economy getting better and better, and the unemployment rate falling, yet conflicts are increasingly occurring. At the same time, the Hong Kong people are becoming more impressed by Taiwan. As a matter of fact, Taiwan is now the second favorite foreign country for Hong Kong visitors, after Singapore, but ahead of Canada, the United Kingdom and the US.

Emigration to Taiwan

Commonwealth reported China and Taiwan are promoting two very different core values: a rich country with a powerful military, versus a country that emphasizes a good life and humanity.

When Beijing was busy with propagandizing the success of Shenzhou 5 – the first human spaceflight mission in the Chinese space program, Taiwan was promoting the simple joy of daily living. Simon Lau, co-founder of the House News, the most promising internet news media in Hong Kong, indicated that Taiwan’s popularity is at a 30-year high.

Many Hong Kong people now revalidate their Republic of China (Taiwan) passports obtained while studying in Taiwan long ago. They plan to move to the island after selling their houses in Hong Kong post retirement, Commonwealth reported.

“Emigration to Taiwan” was a topic Lau talked about on a radio show. In response to a message left at the radio station, saying “Hong Kong is no longer the place we belonged to. Many things have changed and there is no way to tell what will happen in the future.” Lau responded, “Actually, we do see the direction of our future, but we just don’t want to accept or identify with the way we have melted into China.”

Escaping China’s influence

Wong Miu-yin has been to Taiwan seven times, serving internships at the New Homeland Foundation of the Taomi Eco village, Nantou County in central Taiwan. Part of her love for the island can be attributed to her devotion to a Taiwanese band member, but she is also politically consciousness of Taiwan’s democratic process. She does not forgo a chance to observe Taiwan’s presidential elections and the metropolitan elections.

Commonwealth commented that as more and more Chinese mainlanders flood into Hong Kong, there are increasingly cultural clashes, with more Hong Kongers feeling the intrusion.

The Hong Kong people are increasingly concerned that Beijing intends to merge Hong Kong with China. One observer said that theoretically, Hong Kong decolonized after the 1997 British handover to China, but now Beijing is sending people to Hong Kong, making decisions about Hong Kong’s affairs, and creating new colony. The feelings of the Hong Kong people for the Taiwan factor are not simple ones. Yet it is apparent that the story of Hong Kong means something to Taiwan, noted Commonwealth.

President Obama supports Taiwan’s ICAO bid

On July 12, President Barack Obama signed Bill HR 1151 expressing American support for Taiwan’s bid to join the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency promoting air safety. According to the Central News Agency, Taiwan’s Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih greeted the news with excitement, saying that “US support is critical to our appeal to join the ICAO as an observer to boost air travel safety.”

Taiwan’s presence is necessary for ICAO to realize its goal of achieving seamless global airspace, Yeh said. Noting that Taiwan maintains air links with 117 countries around the world, Yeh said Taiwan’s exclusion from the ICAO is in conflict with the organization’s efforts to promote flight safety.

With 50 airlines worldwide flying to and from Taiwan, and with more than 30 million international passengers a year, Taiwan needs to be included in the ICAO. Just between the US and Taiwan, there are over 400 flights a week. After reciprocating visa-free status in the last few years, more visitors from the EU, the United States and other major countries are visiting Taiwan as well. With increased visitor numbers, the governments of these countries have more at stake in ensuring flight safety in Taiwan.

The United Daily News reported that Shen Chi, director-general of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, stressed that if Taiwan is allowed to join the ICAO as an observer, it would help the island keep pace with the international civil aviation system, further increasing aviation safety, air traffic control communications and pilot management. Taiwan could then take part in the Conference of Directors General of Civil Aviation, Asia and Pacific Regions to exchange information on traffic flow and flight route management.

Shen said Taiwan has been rejected by the ICAO outright, probably due to political pressure from China. But with more cross-strait interaction in recent years and 616 weekly flights between the two sides, China should face the necessity of Taiwan’s participation in ICAO. Shen said Taiwan’s chances are optimistic with the support of a big aviation country like the US, adding that she hopes the process would start, “The sooner the better.”

Taiwan was an ICAO founding member, but was barred from access to the organization when it lost its UN seat in 1971. As a result of improved relations with Beijing in recent years, Taiwan has managed to take part in the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) – the decision-making arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) – since 2009. Taiwan has also been lobbying to gain greater international support for its participation in the ICAO as an observer in recent years.

Taiwan’s bid for observer status in the ICAO received unanimous legislative backing from the US Senate and House of Representatives in June. After completing Congress administrative procedures, HR 1151 was sent to President Obama to sign into effect, according to Taiwan Today.

The European Parliament’s Taiwan Friendship Group chaired by Charles Tannock sent a letter signed by parliamentarians to ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin petitioning them to admit Taiwan as an observer. As of July 7, the petition campaign has collected 79 signatures, representing members from 20 countries. More EP members are expected to add their signatures to the petition after the parliament’s summer break, reported Taiwan Today.

The ICAO assembly is an UN-affiliated organization’s governing body. Its 38th session will be held from September 24 to October 4 in Montreal, Canada. According to the Taipei-based China Times, either the US or the EU would likely take the lead to present the proposal to the General Assembly for a vote on Taiwan’s observer status.

Taiwan and China discuss establishing bilateral offices

After the June 13 meeting with China’s new leader Xi Jinping, Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Honorary Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung said that he was confident Taiwan and China will establish official representative offices so as to facilitate the handling of bilateral affairs, according to the Central News Agency. The Wu-Xi meeting is the first high-level meeting between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since Xi became the general secretary of the party last November.

In the meeting with Xi, Wu sent regards to Xi on behalf of Taiwan’s president and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and has reiterated Taiwan’s stance on developing its relations with China. Apart from discussing mutual representative offices, Wu underscored the Taiwan government’s adherence to the “1992 consensus” and its stance against independence as the basis of political mutual trust.

The “1992 consensus” refers to the understanding reached by both sides’ representatives at the 1992 talks in Hong Kong discussing the definition of “one China.” The core content of the consensus is “one China, respective interpretations.” In simple terms, “one China” is recognized by Beijing to mean the People’s Republic of China (PRC), whereas Taiwan interprets it to mean the Republic of China (ROC). The two sides recognize each other as a political entity and are willing to shelve the sovereignty dispute in order to promote mutual exchanges.

Wu said that Taiwan hopes to take part in more international affairs and become further integrated in the regional economy. He made a case for greater and meaningful participation for Taiwan internationally. He also called for deeper economic cooperation and conveyed Taiwan’s hopes for admission into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade body led by China, Japan, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) member states, the Central News Agency reported.

Since President Ma took office in 2008, Taiwan and China have institutionalized cross-strait consultations, signed 18 agreements, and held eight meetings so as to lay a solid foundation for cross-strait exchanges. At present, the relations between the two sides are in the best shape in 60 years.

The United Evening News reported that during President Ma’s re-election campaign in October, 2011, he promised to promote the setting up of mutual offices. At the consultation meeting this January, the two sides decided to limit offices to public service level so as to circumvent the sovereignty dispute. Both sides have agreed that the major functions should be economic and trade, culture and education, and emergency relief. Taiwan expects to set up offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and to be able to engage in business of consular affairs such as issuing travel documents.

President Ma said that the opening of official offices is a major part of building healthy relations between Taiwan and the mainland, managing both sides’ yearly interaction of 8 million people and trade worth of US$160 billion. According to the Central News Agency, he noted that it is unimaginable that the two political entities have no official offices at this level to help facilitate this.

Discussions on the establishment of mutrual offices will be conducted through Taiwan’s semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). Established in 1991, it is responsible for cross-strait affairs, and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS).

At the same time of the Wu-Xi meeting, Taiwan’s Legislature was reviewing the regulations of cross-strait mutual establishment of offices.

The KMT stressed that cross-strait relations are a “special relationship of equal footing,” but not a state-to-state relationship, and the two sides set up offices, not consulates, while the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party argued that the cross-strait relationship is one between countries, and that cross-strait mutual establishment of offices must follow “the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” and shall be in accordance with the norms of international law and international practices, including national flags being hoisted at these offices and the national emblem revealed. The lawmakers of both parties insisted that offices of the two sides should have the function of judicial visitation rights. The two parties have not been able to reach a consensus on the contents of the regulations, reported the Central News Agency.

“Can Taiwan pull China toward democracy?” asks Pulitzer Prize winner

On May 12, the San Francisco Chronicle posted a commentary by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joel Brinkley asking, “Can Taiwan pull China toward democracy?” in an article reviewing the current balance of power between Taiwan and mainland China.

Brinkley, the Hearst Visiting Professional in Residence at Stanford University and a former correspondent for the New York Times, attended a recent teleconference at Stanford University in which President Ma Ying-jeou noted that “when he first took office, ‘there were no scheduled flights between Taiwan and the mainland. Now there are 616 scheduled flights per week.’ What’s more, 17,000 mainland Chinese students study at Taiwanese universities each year.”

Although China’s economic clout in Taiwan is tremendous, President Ma is hopeful that every year over 2 million Chinese tourists, students and businessmen visiting Taiwan can see the island as “a shining ray of hope to the 1.3 billion Chinese people on the mainland,” particularly as Beijing continues to face a host of challenges to its authority, including mass protests and complaints from its people.

As a thriving, prosperous, liberal democracy, Taiwan represents what most mainland Chinese actually want. However, “projecting a positive image with the hope of turning China into a democracy is at best a mammoth task,” noted Brinkley. Quoting from a Taiwan official, “It feels like we’re a tugboat trying to pull a big ship.”

“The struggle (between China and Taiwan) has entered an interesting new phase, and it’s not entirely certain who will prevail,” said Brinkley.

To read Brinkley’s entire commentary, please visit the San Francisco Chronicle at: .

President Ma gives video address to Stanford University

During a video conference chaired by former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on April 16, President Ma Ying-jeou said his administration plans to bolster exchanges with the US based on its closer cross-strait ties with mainland China and Taiwan’s growing role as an international peacemaker.

“We are deeply appreciative of Taiwan-US relations and ongoing arms sales from Washington,” President Ma said. “The mutual trust that has been restored between the two sides is giving Taiwan confidence and allowing us to engage with mainland China from a position of strength.” The president made the remarks at an academic event hosted by Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL).

The event’s other panelists at the Stanford University Bechtel Conference Center included Larry Diamond, director of the CDDRL; Francis Fukuyama, senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; and Gary Roughead, a former chief of operations with the US Navy.

President Ma said his administration’s commitment to further liberalizing Taiwan-US trade is evidenced by the resolution of problems surrounding US beef imports last July. In March, the two sides also concluded talks under the Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in Taipei, President Ma added that this development is in line with his building blocks approach to expanding bilateral economic exchanges. This undertaking also lays the foundation for Taiwan to join trade pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

“We have been left behind, very much left behind,” he said. “We need to catch up, and catch up fast. Becoming a free trade island is the only way to survive.” The TPP is a proposed trade agreement comprising negotiating partners Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the US. Other nations such as Japan and South Korea are also joining in discussions on this emerging pact.

Driven by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the RCEP comprises 16 economies, including Australia, India, Japan and mainland China. If realized, the trading bloc will permit a greater flow of goods and services and encompass a combined economic output of US$20 trillion, or almost one-third of the global economy.

Speaking on Taipei-Beijing exchanges, President Ma said both sides enjoy “special relations” as set out under the Republic of China (Taiwan) Constitution, which does not acknowledge each other’s sovereignty but recognizes the respective governing authority. “Most people in Taiwan want to maintain the cross-strait status quo based on the principle of ‘no unification, no independence and no use of force,’ as well as the Constitution and 1992 Consensus. This is the will of the people and the best way of furthering cross-strait relations.”

The 1992 Consensus is an informal understanding that there exists only one China, inclusive of Taiwan and mainland China, with both sides agreeing to differ on the precise political definition of “China.” It has served as the basis for Taipei’s dialogue with Beijing since President Ma took office in May 2008.

President Ma said Taiwan’s robust democracy is impacting mainland Chinese visitors by allowing them to see the difference between the two sides and clearing up misunderstandings stemming from the cross-strait political divide. “Our democracy and increased people-to-people exchanges will sow the seeds for a consensus on the future direction of cross-strait relations. This represents the virtuous cycle of improving Taipei-Beijing ties.”

On issues of regional security, President Ma said recent headway made between Taiwan and Japan over the Diaoyutai Islets speaks well for a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the East and South China seas. An uninhabited archipelago located roughly 102 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan proper, the Diaoyutais are historically attached to the ROC and include Diaoyutai Island and four other islets.

“The fisheries pact inked by Taipei and Tokyo in the last six days is a milestone development in bilateral ties. It safeguards the security of fishermen from both sides in the zone, and further enhances regional peace.” President Ma added that the agreement illustrates the viability of his East China Sea Peace Initiative and the willingness of both sides to set aside differences without undermining maritime and sovereignty claims.

Proposed by the president last August, the five-point initiative urges all parties to refrain from antagonistic actions; not abandon dialogue; observe international law; resolve disputes through peaceful means; and form a mechanism for exploring and developing resources on a cooperative basis.

The initiative also features a two-phase implementation: dialogue and talks, then cooperation on exploring and sharing natural resources. Under this framework, Taipei, Tokyo and Beijing can conduct bilateral discussions before progressing to trilateral negotiation, essential steps in realizing peace and cooperation in the region, President Ma said.

New premier confronts challenges, draws inspiration from JFK

In the early morning hours of February 1, Jiang Yi-huah woke up from a restless night of sleep. As the newly appointed premier of Taiwan, he felt the heavy responsibility of overseeing the welfare of the country’s 23 million people. In a recent Commonwealth profile, the monthly noted his rapid political rise, from professor to premier, in five short years.

After graduating from Yale University in 1993, Jiang returned to Taiwan to become a professor of politics at National Taiwan University (NTU). Jiang entered public service in May 2008, when he joined the cabinet as the minister of the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission. In September 2009, he became the youngest Minister of the Interior at the age of 49. As an academic, he had not worked in government administration before, but he quickly received four promotions in the space of just five years. Now at 53, he is Taiwan’s youngest premier in 50 years.

Born in the countryside of Keelung (northern Taiwan), Jiang studied the political thoughts of German-American political theorist Hannah Arendt and is considered a liberal scholar. In 2012, he gave up his NTU professorship to become Taiwan’s vice premier. Although he entered the political arena late in life, he did have some political aspirations earlier on. According to Commonwealth, he wrote a high school essay saying his dream career was “to become the president of Taiwan.”

Jiang’s rapid rise to power is attributed to his communication style, his willingness to listen, and the fact that he is not a bureaucrat. He understands strategy and applies numbers to clearly illustrate his point. As an avid practitioner of Tai Chi, he presents a gentle demeanor, but is a tough negotiator.

Critics of Jiang have pointed to his lack of experience with grassroot political operations, and his lack of familiarity with legislators, despite previously being the Interior Minister. He needs to overcome these weaknesses since his new role will require him to have a national perspective and not just to be an advocate for Taipei City.

Upon returning from the Lunar New Year break, Jiang met with his new cabinet and talked to each one of them. He told them, “You have to treat every day as the last day of your appointment, regardless of how long you are going to serve.” Jiang even rewrote a quote from former US President John  F. Kennedy, urging them to “ask not how long the term you will serve, but ask what meaningful things you will do during your tenure.” He urged them to make the right policy in order to leave a lasting behind.

For this coming session beginning March, the cabinet has assigned the top priority to 50 bills in the Legislative Yuan. They include pension reform, nuclear power, and free trade zones. Foremost for the new administration is restarting negotiations on the US-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which will resume in March. Among one of the topics that will surely be contentious is the rising pressure to allow American pork to be imported into Taiwan. There are strong differences between the ruling and opposition parties regarding these issues, and there are also diverse voices reflecting the different special interests in Taiwan’s society.

Jiang says he will try to build consensus by visiting the parties concerned with a sincere attitude. He sees this as one of the most important steps to democracy, reported the Economic Daily News.