The CSS Blog Network

Forget the Subs: What Taipei Can Learn from Tehran about Asymmetric Defense

Courtesy of sagesolar/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 6 April 2017.

Ahead of the Donald Trump-Xi Jinping summit this week at Mar-a-Lago, Taiwan is understandably anxious. Trump’s ascendance to the American presidency has injected uncertainty into the U.S. approach to China and Taiwan — an element of foreign policy that is traditionally carefully calibrated to avoid upsetting the precarious cross-strait arrangement. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s unprecedented phone call with then-President -elect Trump in early December seemed to herald a new, more muscularly pro-Taiwan approach. This impression was subsequently belied by Trump’s suggestion that Taiwan could be traded away as part of a grand bargain with China. Speculation about Trump’s interest in upending this long-standing U.S. policy died down after the president affirmed his support for the “one China policy” in his first conversation with Xi. The next month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson adopted China’s verbiage regarding a “new model of great power relations” during his trip to Beijing.

Whether and how Trump and Xi will address the one China policy remains to be seen. “We are preparing for every scenario,” one unnamed Taiwanese official told The Washington Post. Yet the underlying problem is clear. As Taiwan’s recently released Quadrennial Defense Review argues, Chinese military power is increasing at the same time as the new administration’s plans for “the United States’ Asia-Pacific strategic direction and troop deployment” remain uncertain. These shifting geopolitical currents come at the same time as growing strain between Taiwan and China. Beijing regards Tsai’s traditionally pro-independence political party as antagonistic to its interests and, since her inauguration last May, has undertaken a campaign of increased economic, political, and military pressure.

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President Tsai: Respect the Will of the People and Accept the ‘1992 Consensus’

Dragon fight

Courtesy of mykaul/Flickr. CC BY-ND 2.0

This article was originally published by Pacific Forum CSIS on 19 January 2017.

Roughly one year has passed since Tsai Ing-wen, presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a party supporting Taiwan’s de jure independence from China, was elected president of the Republic of China (ROC or Taiwan).  Throughout Taiwan’s 2015-16 election cycle, Tsai refused to endorse the “1992 Consensus,” an understanding whereby both sides agree that there is one China, but hold different interpretations as to what this means.  The arrangement enabled Taipei and Beijing to move relations forward and reduce cross-strait tensions to an unprecedented level from 2008 to 2016.  Rather than employ this approach, Tsai sidestepped the issue by claiming she supported the “status quo” and would handle relations with Beijing in accordance with “the will of the Taiwan people” and Taiwan’s constitution.

Following Tsai’s election, Beijing has slowly applied different measures to convince her administration to return to the “1992 Consensus.”  In June, Beijing suspended all official contact with Taiwan.  The Chinese government then cut the number of mainland tourists allowed to visit Taiwan, a move igniting protests by those dependent on the tourism industry.  The island was also locked out of the 39th assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization.  And Beijing began to accede to requests by Taipei’s few remaining diplomatic allies to switch recognition to Beijing (São Tomé and Príncipe dropped Taiwan in December).  Perhaps most worrisome, however, are recent threats by China’s state-run media outlets and the military exercises in the waters surrounding Taiwan. How should Taiwan respond to these developments?

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Taiwan, Thorn in China’s Side, Gets New Attention

Taiwan Flag

Courtesy Nicolas Raymond/Flickr. CC BY 2.0

This article was originally published by YaleGlobal Online on 6 December 2016.

Taiwan issue underscores limits of power for the US and China – and the calcification of international policymaking

Since the 1940s, after Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the defeated Kuomintang retreated to Taipei, the Taiwan Strait has remained among the most intractable issues in international relations and a potential site for conflict in Asia. A brief phone call between the US President- elect Donald Trump and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was a startling intervention in what’s become a warily balanced array of power relations sustained by arcane diplomatic formalisms.

The response from China, which maintains territorial claim to the island as sovereign territory, was relatively muted with more annoyance directed toward Taiwan. Immediate reaction elsewhere to the phone call included concerns about an escalation of the conflict for the entire region and the United States.

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Taiwan’s Ten Thousand Double-Edged Swords

IDF F-CK-1A front view. Image: Chang-Song Wang/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 24 October, 2014.

Procuring the Ten Thousand Swords missile system is a blunder for Taiwan; it aggravates the security dilemma between it and the PRC. For its own security, Taiwan should deter threats from the PRC by manufacturing weapons with exclusively defensive capabilities.

The Ten Thousand Swords missile, or the ‘Wan Chien’ missile, is an aircraft-launched standoff missile that creates a barrage to destroy enemy facilities such as air bases, runways and missile launching sites. Its accuracy is enhanced by radars and GPS, with a striking range of 300 kilometres. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has installed the missile in 40 Indigenous Defence Fighter (IDF) aircrafts to date and intends to complete installation on all 127 IDF aircraft by the end of 2016. » More

Comparative Connections September 2013

East Asia

East Asia. Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/flickr.

Editor’s note: Our partners at the Pacific Forum have just released the latest edition of Comparative Connections. This triannual publication provides expert commentary on the current status of a selection of bilateral relationships across the Asia-Pacific region. Alongside a chronology of key events, a regional overview places recent developments into a broader and multilateral context. We publish a summary of the September 2013 issue below. The full issue is available for download here

Regional Overview: Rebalance Continues Despite Distractions by Ralph A. Cossa and Brad Glosserman

It was a rough four months for the US as Washington struggled to convince Asian audiences that the “rebalance” is sustainable given renewed attention to the Middle East, even before the Syrian crises. US engagement in Asia was multidimensional with participation at several ministerial-level meetings, a visit by Vice President Biden, continued pursuit of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a show of military capability in Korea. But, it isn’t clear North Korea got the message. Kim Jong Un seems to have adopted his father’s play book: first create a crisis, make lots of threats, and follow up with a “smile diplomacy” campaign. So far, Washington has stuck to its game plan, insisting on a sign of genuine sincerity before opening a dialogue with Pyongyang. Finally, the US image in the region was damaged by revelations about classified NSA intelligence collection efforts. » More