News Brief: A Tale of Two Taiwans, Supply Chain Warfare, Fight for a New World Order, Tiger Hunt Continues
News Brief (2 APR 2023)
News Brief (2 APR 2023)
A Tale of Two Taiwans
VERMILION: On Wednesday the incumbent President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, touched down in New York while en route to Guatemala and Belize. At the same time, former President Ma Ying-jeou was on tour in the People’s Republic of China. The two leaders are from the main rival political parties in Taiwan and their respective visits are indicative of where they see the future of Taiwan. There is an unusual number of articles praising Ma for trying to avoid war while at the same time chastising Tsai saying that her domestic support is eroding. It is unclear whether this is the ground truth or just a disinformation campaign. We will know once the votes are in for the Taiwan 2024 presidential election (neither Ma nor Tsai will be eligible to run in 2024).
VERMILION: This language is meaningful because it implies that all Chinese people have a common history and therefore have a common future. Of course, there are many non-Han Chinese minority groups in both mainland China and Taiwan. The KMT and the CCP seem happy to sideline these groups.
Ethnically Han Chinese people (or anyone for that matter) can choose to identify as something based on shared values and beliefs. Identifying as “Taiwanese,” is not a rejection of ethnicity, it is the embrace of a value system that is different from that of the People’s Republic of China and the CCP. The CCP views this as being a “race traitor” because in their eyes, they are trying to re-establish Han Chinese dominance in Asia (at least). Race plays a huge role in CCP information operations and this is something that Western observers struggle to understand and talk about.
NANJING, China, March 28 (Reuters) - People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are ethnically Chinese and share the same ancestor, former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said on Tuesday at the start of a historic visit to China that Taiwan's ruling party has criticised.
Ma, in office from 2008-2016, is the first former or current Taiwanese president to visit China since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of a civil war with the Communists.
He is visiting amid heightened tension as Beijing uses political and military means to try and pressure democratically governed Taiwan into accepting Chinese sovereignty.
Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party has questioned why he is visiting just after China took away another Taiwanese diplomatic ally, Honduras, on Sunday, leaving the island with official diplomatic ties with only 13 countries.
In comments in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing at the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, where the man celebrated for overthrowing the last Chinese emperor in 1911 and ushering a republic is buried, Ma praised Sun's contributions.
"People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are Chinese people, and are both descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors," Ma said, in comments provided by his office.
Ma used wording in Chinese meaning people of Chinese ethnicity, rather than referring to their nationality. Descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors is an expression referring to a common ancestor for Chinese people.
VERMILION: The “1992 Consensus” is a major political divide in Taiwan. Note that Ma and a portion of the KMT party were major orchestrators behind the “Consensus.” Tsai’s DPP party and a portion of the KMT party do not recognize the 1992 consensus.
According to the KMT, the "1992 consensus," reached at a 1992 meeting between the two sides during a KMT administration headed by former ROC President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), refers to a tacit understanding that both sides recognize there is only "one China," with each having its own interpretation of what China means.
However, the term "1992 consensus" was only coined by former Mainland Affairs Council minister Su Chi (蘇起) in 2000 before the KMT government handed over power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Taiwan's current ruling DPP refuses to accept the "1992 consensus."
The DPP has argued that Beijing has never acknowledged the existence of the ROC and that agreeing to the "1992 consensus" implies acceptance of China's claim over Taiwan.
In his remarks, Song spoke highly of Ma as making a vital contribution to the development of cross-strait relations by adhering to the "1992 consensus" and opposing Taiwan independence to further the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.
Ma's visit has drawn criticism from DPP politicians and lawmakers and pro-Taiwan independence groups, who said Ma has humiliated the nation and forfeited its sovereignty.
Earlier Thursday, Ma lamented that cross-strait relations drastically reversed after the transition of power from the KMT to the DPP in 2016, in an address at an event attended by Wuhan University students and Taiwanese students who are visiting China with Ma.
NEW YORK/TAIPEI (Reuters) -- The U.S. and Taiwan are closer than ever, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told supporters during a stopover in New York that so far, according to Taipei, has not triggered unusual military actions by China.
Tsai arrived in New York on Wednesday on her way to Central America, and on her way back to Taipei next week will stop in Los Angeles where she is expected to meet U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, an interaction China has warned could lead to a "serious confrontation" in U.S.-China relations.
The visit comes when U.S. relations with China are at what some analysts see as their worst level since Washington normalized ties with Beijing in 1979 and switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei.
Beijing says Taiwan belongs to "one China" and, as a Chinese province, has no right to state-to-state ties. Taiwan disputes this.
On what is her first U.S. stopover since 2019, Tsai touted Taiwan's economic, security and diplomatic achievements in a closed-door speech on Wednesday night to overseas Taiwanese in New York, her office said in a statement on Thursday, calling the island a "beacon of democracy in Asia."
"In particular, the relationship between Taiwan and the United States is closer than ever," she said, noting "significant progress" in economic and security cooperation.
Supply Chain Warfare
VERMILION: The CCP cannot allow US & European supply chains to leave China. If this happened, it would likely result in increased unemployment (one of the largest threats to the CCP) and financially inhibit the People’s Liberation Army’s modernization and preparation efforts.
China should build high-value-added industrial clusters to strengthen its position in the global supply chain and counter the US-led decoupling, former top officials said on the weekend, as they downplayed concerns over factory relocations to Asian neighbours.
Much of the factory exodus was driven by China’s own private companies, former Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan told a high-level annual forum in Beijing, citing the need to readjust strategies to avoid tariff barriers amid the US-China trade war.
Around 60 per cent of foreign companies newly registered in either Thailand or Vietnam in recent years were Chinese-owned and mostly engaged in labour-intensive industries, Huang told business leaders and policymakers at the China Development Forum on Saturday.
These firms mainly produce low-value-added products such as apparel that were sensitive to tariffs, and it was “understandable” that they would make “some adjustments”, Huang – now a distinguished professor of economics at Fudan University – told the audience, according to a transcript released on the Sohu news portal.
Yi Xiaozhun, a former vice commerce minister and ex-deputy director general of the World Trade Organization, warned that no country could set up a completely independent supply chain and decoupling would not ensure a secure or competitive supply chain for any nation.
The world should drop “zero-sum thinking” and protect an “interdependent, highly efficient and steady” global supply chain, Yi told the forum – the first time the annual event was held in person since the Covid-19 pandemic.
No country, not even superpowers like the United States and China, could build a completely self-dependent supply chain, Yi noted.
“Building high walls around one’s own small yard” would not help to guarantee national security, he said.
“Security is always an issue of relativity. China’s experience in growth has told us that there won’t be development without opening up, and the biggest insecurity comes from being economically backward.”
VERMILION: The mental gymnastics from Yi Xiaozhun are impressive.
However, Friday's statement from Japan's trade and industry ministry did not make any reference to China or the US.
"We are fulfilling our responsibility as a technological nation to contribute to international peace and stability," the ministry said.
The policy will be subject to public comment, with plans to implement it in July.
Japanese trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters that the move was not coordinated with US restrictions.
"If our exports are not being reappropriated for military use, we will continue exporting. We believe the impact on companies will be limited," Mr Nishimura added.
The announcement came as Japanese foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi was due to visit Beijing at the weekend.
Mr Hayashi said he will meet his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang for "an honest and frank discussion to create a constructive and stable relationship".
Seven months after President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law, the magnitude of the challenge it will be for the US to loosen China’s grip on the electric vehicle supply chain — a key objective of the legislation — is coming into sharper relief.
Ford, the top US car producer, confirmed last month that it will tap technology from China’s battery-making behemoth CATL for a $3.5 billion plant it’s building in Michigan. Tesla is expecting the base version of its cheapest car, the Model 3, to lose the entirety of the $7,500 tax credit it’s been eligible for because its cells come from China. And barring big surprises later this week, many other EVs currently qualifying for credits will be eligible for $3,750 incentives, at most, after the Treasury Department finalizes content requirements that have been the subject of heated debate and frantic lobbying.
Days before those rules are released, a Washington think tank whose mission is aligned with the IRA’s goals is releasing a detailed report delving into China’s command of the supply chain, and the corners it says the country cut on the way to dominance.
The group — which goes by SAFE, standing for Securing America’s Future Energy — argues that China has been winning out in part because of failures to account for the toll that the extraction and processing of critical minerals including lithium, nickel and cobalt are taking on workers and the environment, often in lower-income countries.
Fight for a New World Order
VERMILION: Xi has been advocating for China’s “rightful place” in a new world order for quite some time, but it seems like major publications only recently caught on. It is crucial that China observers listen to what Xi and the CCP say publicly rather than dismissing such statements as formulaic and meaningless Communist slogans. When Xi says that the PLA needs to prepare for war (in 2018), the US and allies should listen.
On Friday, Gen. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made some interesting statements regarding China. It is clear that he does not understand that the People’s Liberation Army is an organ of the Chinese Communist Party. If PLA officials believe that war with the US is inevitable, it is because CCP leadership has instructed them to believe so.
In this case, negotiating with authoritarians in order to avoid war may be the best way to start one.
With China’s political class arrayed before him this month, Xi Jinping summed up his robust foreign policy to delegates with one vivid refrain: “dare to fight”.
The declaration at the National People’s Congress captured a new ethos for Beijing, spurred by the Chinese leader’s conclusion that the US-led world order is now in decline and ready to be replaced with a system that better suits China’s interests.
A flurry of diplomacy has already begun. Emerging from the self-isolation of China’s zero-Covid policy, the president conducted a state visit to Russia this month, published a paper on peace in Ukraine and prepared to receive visits from European leaders eager for his help to end the war. Also this month China convinced Iran and Saudi Arabia to resume diplomatic relations, its first such success as a mediator in the Middle East.
More subtly, China has put flesh on the bones of a series of foreign policy “initiatives” to create alternative structures for international co-operation, particularly with the developing world.
“China is now ready to gradually erode American leadership and promote Chinese governance,” said Zhao Tong, a senior fellow at the Carnegie think-tank and a visiting scholar at Princeton University.
For China, the diplomatic push is a natural extension of its growing economic power, and one that aims to restore its historic role at the centre of global politics. It also plans to counter Washington’s bid to “contain” China’s rise by curbing its technological and military prowess.
For the US-led world order, meanwhile, Xi’s campaign represents its biggest challenge since the cold war.
VERMILION: This is likely a relationship of convenience. Russia and China do not get along.
“The Chinese military is willing to work together with the Russian military to fully implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of state, further strengthening strategic communication and coordination,” Tan said, referring to the recent meeting in Moscow between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Earlier this month China, Russia and Iran held a five-day exercise in the Gulf of Oman, which Tan described as “enhancing the capabilities of the three countries to jointly carry out diversified maritime military missions, further deepening traditional friendship and practical cooperation, and contributing positively to maintaining maritime security”.
Tan said China and Russia’s relationship was not like the alliances of the Cold War, because it was based on the principles of non-confrontation and did not target third parties.
A joint statement signed by Xi and Putin last week called for a resolution to the war in Ukraine and included a commitment by Russia to restart peace talks.
‘Lower the Rhetoric’ on China, Says Milley - Defense One
VERMILION: General Milley’s comments are not helpful. Hopefully the next CJCS will have a better understanding of the Department’s pacing threat. Gen Berger, Adm Gilday, or Adm Aquilino could be good choices. Gen Saltzman or Gen Brown would be poor choices.
“I think there's a lot of rhetoric in China, and a lot of rhetoric elsewhere, to include the United States, that could create the perception that war is right around the corner or we’re on the brink of war with China,” Milley said in an interview with Defense One.
“And that could happen. I mean, it is possible that you could have an incident or some other trigger event that could lead to uncontrolled escalation. So, it's not impossible. But I don't think at this point I would put it in the likely category,” said Milley. “And I think that the rhetoric itself can overheat the environment.”
Xi has said he wants the People’s Liberation Army armed and ready to take Taiwan by force, if necessary, by 2027. “So if you think about it, that's only four years away,” Milley said. “So, one of the elements of deterrence is to make sure that your opponent knows that the cost exceeds the benefit. So, for Taiwan, we've—my guess is we've got three or four years to get Taiwan in a position where they will create the perception in the minds of the Chinese decision makers that the cost exceeds that.”
Milley said Taiwan needs air defense, anti-ship cruise missiles, and anti-ship mines. But he said the island itself, its population of 23 million—including 170,000 active duty military and 1-to-2 million reserves,—and China’s lack of experience make a takeover unlikely. “It favors the defense. It would be a very difficult island to capture,” he said.
“For the Chinese to conduct an amphibious and airborne operation to seize that island—to actually seize it?—That's a really difficult operation. But Xi put the challenge out there, and we'll see where it goes.”
Milley likes to cite history, and on China he argues that Marxism and determinism points to a foreboding future. “My understanding and my analysis of China is that at least their military, and perhaps others, have come to some sort of conclusion that war with the United States is inevitable. I think that's a very dangerous thing.”
Tiger Hunt Continues
VERMILION: The CCP is sending agents from the Central Commission for Discipline & Inspection to Chinese embassies and consulates around the world. Will these CCP enforcers conduct “anti-corruption” operations on foreign soil or will they pressure individuals to turn themselves in? Will they be focused on ensuring the loyalty of a far flung diplomatic workforce?
China is dispatching anticorruption enforcers abroad to chase down fugitives and recover stolen assets, a new extension of Beijing’s international reach aimed at strengthening Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s crackdown on graft.
The Communist Party’s top antigraft body and other government offices tasked with tackling corruption have begun stationing officials in some Chinese embassies, where they would coordinate with foreign authorities on law-enforcement matters, among other duties, according to people familiar with the plan.
These anticorruption inspectors will be based mainly in countries where corrupt Chinese officials are likely to have stashed large amounts of illicit funds, such as members of the Group of 20 nations, said one of the people. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the antigraft body, has pledged this year to ramp up cross-border efforts in fighting corruption, particularly across countries that participate in Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative to build global trade infrastructure—a group that includes G-20 members.
The presence of anticorruption officials in Chinese embassies risks raising alarm in host countries. In Western capitals, concerns have grown over Chinese security forces trying to conduct law-enforcement duties beyond China’s borders. U.S. officials, for instance, have repeatedly complained about covert Chinese agents chasing fugitives on American soil without authorization.
It couldn’t be determined what specific activities the anticorruption inspectors would engage in abroad. Some are likely to be dispatched as legal attachés, the same title Chinese police officials typically adopt when they are sent abroad as liaison officers to foreign governments, according to one of the people.
Stationing CCDI officials in embassies as law-enforcement liaisons seems to be an attempt to legitimize this agency abroad and its alleged use of extralegal techniques to force fugitives to return to China, according to Laura Harth, campaign director at human-rights group Safeguard Defenders.
Such deployments could have “severe effects on the enjoyment of rights and freedoms” of people who are potential targets of the CCDI, Ms. Harth said.