Written by Chieh-Ting Yeh. “Wave Makers” (2023; 人選之人-造浪者) is a new drama on Netflix about political staffers trying to win a presidential election in the last few months of the campaign. This may sound like the premise of many television shows in the political intrigue genre, but it is the first of its kind from Taiwan to be available to a worldwide audience. The drama addresses various political issues relevant to contemporary Taiwan, including environmental concerns, energy policies, and workplace sexual harassment, reflecting the ongoing public debates on these topics. But it is glaring in what it is missing: Taiwan-China relations.
Graduation Trip: From Bland Bureaucrat to Madame Liberty
Written by Chieh-Ting Yeh. In 2011, a relatively unknown politician in Taiwan named Tsai Ing-wen became the presidential candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party, which was at the time the opposition. She was a capable bureaucrat that was most notable for her blandness; she had close to zero personal charisma to speak of.
Ironically, this was also her strength. The last DPP president, Chen Shui-bian, was seen by American policymakers as an unpredictable populist. He used his charisma to play to his base’s anti-China stance. As a result, when the US was trying to engage China, Chen and the DPP were seen as “troublemakers”, raising “tensions.”
Chinese Military Drills After Tsai-McCarthy Meeting Will Be Used for Political Ammo by Both Camps
Written by Brian Hioe. One of the striking effects of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last August was to what extent it highlighted the perception gap within Taiwan as compared to outside Taiwan.
At the time, much international discourse acted as though the Pelosi visit could be a prelude to World War III. Drama ensued from the visit’s onset, with the flight that Pelosi took to Taiwan followed by over 700,000 users on flight tracking website FlightRadar24–setting new records. Op-eds in international media outlets such as the New York Times framed Pelosi’s visit as unnecessarily provoking China.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s successful travels, in spite of a Chinese headwind: Solidifying Central American and US relations
Written by Gerrit van der Wees. From late March through early April 2023, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen made her seventh foreign trip since becoming President in May 2016. The destinations were the Central American countries Guatemala and Belize, with stopovers in New York (on the way out) and Los Angeles (on the way back). The 10-day trip was her first foreign travel after Covid-19 made it sheer impossible to make such trips during the period 2020 – 2022. This trip became headline news because the CCP government in Beijing voiced major objections, particularly against a planned meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles. The objections are a continuation of the protests by Beijing against the August 2022 visit to Taiwan by McCarthy’s Democratic predecessor, Nancy Pelosi.
What A 2nd Trump Term Would Mean to Taiwan (and the US)
Written by Daniel Jia. Taiwan does not need and must avoid having a Taiwanese version of Donald Trump. However, Taiwan must be ready for a second Trump term unfavourable to Taiwan’s security. The new Trump administration would resume the economic-centred relationship with China as it did in the first term, likely at the cost of Taiwan’s international status and sovereignty. Taiwan cannot change Trump. But Taiwan can and must show the free world its resolve to defend itself like what Ukraine has been doing. With this unwavering resolution, Taiwan would have the chance to rally international support in the event of a China invasion. Then, and only with this determination, could Taiwan bring the US public and Congress to its side and mandate the lukewarm Trump to act as Biden in the current Ukraine-Russia war.
Addressing the Elephant in the Room: The California Shooting and the “Political Problem”
Written by His-Yao Lin and Yi-Lan Lin; translated by Yi-Yu Lai. It has been a while since the mass shooting at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Southern California, United States, occurred last year. Many pieces of evidence are still ambiguous and cannot be determined. This shooting was not a unique case that sparked political tensions between the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Americans. In January 2023, a series of mass shootings also occurred in California, and two of them were emphasised since the suspects and victims seemed to be Asian. If we focus on the moment when the shooting happened, the “political” reaction in Taiwanese public opinion demonstrates the complexity and difficulties of Taiwan’s ethnic politics since 1949.
US-Taiwan Relations in 2022 and 2023: The Good, the Bad, and It Could Get Ugly
Written by Jacques deLisle. Signals of US support for Taiwan were strikingly strong in 2022. Yet, despite the crucial role the US plays in Taiwan’s security, 2022 was also a year of jarring insecurity for Taiwan. Developments in 2023 are likely to be portentous for US-Taiwan relations and, in turn, Taiwan’s prospects more generally.
Semiconductor industry: a shield to Taiwan or the source of insecurity?
Written by Guo-Huei Chen and Ming-En Hsiao. That is why Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is a key element in the strategic competition between the United States and China in science and technology. Losing Taiwan is equivalent to losing the power to speak in future innovative technology. Neither the United States nor China can afford the consequences of losing Taiwan’s semiconductors.
How not to avoid a war over Taiwan: Misconceptions in the policy brief by a task force on US-China Policy
Written by Gerrit van der Wees. On October 12th, 2022, a task force on US-China relations of the Asia Society published a policy brief titled “Avoiding war over Taiwan.” While it is laudable that some academics want to avoid a war over Taiwan, the analysis of this policy brief is fundamentally flawed on a number of key points.
Biden Speaks Again: The End of Strategic Ambiguity?
Written by Gerrit van der Wees. The press and think tanks, on their part, need to reassess their understanding of “strategic ambiguity”: they need to come to a clearer understanding of its origins – as reiterated in the quotes from former NSC Director Robert Suettinger’s book – and arrive at the unavoidable conclusion that it does not equate policy. Rather, it is, at best, a mode of operation determining how to calibrate a response. As described above, the policy itself on how to (help) defend Taiwan is laid down clearly in the Taiwan Relations Act.
Is a Major War Over Taiwan Inevitable?
Written by Alessio Patalano. On 04 August, Chinese military authorities launched an impressive set of military manoeuvres across the Strait of Taiwan. Compared to prior exercises with a similar operational design in mind held during cross-strait tensions in 1995-96, this iteration lasted longer, pushed the operational envelope in a more aggressive direction, and was significantly larger in scale and commitment of capabilities. Crucially, when the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command announced the end of the second phase of manoeuvres two weeks later, the Chinese military had shown how two decades of unmatched military build-up allowed Beijing to use steel to project statecraft.
Tension Across the Taiwan Strait: Perspectives, Concerns & Dynamics from South Asia
Written by Raian Hossain. This article looks into the reactions and concerns from Asian countries due to the complex triangular relationship of the US-China-Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait. While analysing the dynamics, it also unpacks whether this ongoing crisis would further shrink Taiwan’s space for engagements in the international space like trade, commerce, and people-to-people connectivity (not focused on diplomatic recognition). Therefore, this article takes the South Asian region as a case study to answer these two queries.