Taiwan And The Outcome Nobody Really Wants.

The good news: nobody wants a war over Taiwan. Yet the Taiwan question sits at the head of a list of international situations that threaten the world order in the first quarter of the 21st century. These situations include the Iran nuclear question, Russian intentions in Ukraine, the ongoing war in Syria, and the widespread insurgency in the part of the world that is the vast African Sahel region.

There was not much hope of a radically different approach to US-China relations when the stormy transition from the Trump to the Biden administration was complete. And except for tone there has not been much change. Certainly the tone has changed, the insults, racial prejudice, and right-wing rhetoric are gone, but what the US sees as its fundamental interests in the East China Sea and South China Sea and in the Indo-Pacific has not changed.

President Biden’s approach is to get all of the US allies on the same page and working toward common goals, especially towards China. The recent summit meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Suga and President Biden underline this policy. Social media posts from Biden and Secretary of State Blinken remind followers that the US is “back.” 

If you examine US policy now and in the recent past, not much has changed regarding Taiwan. The US sells arms to Taiwan and intends to continue to do so. The US states that it has an “interest” in a free Taiwan, but has no mutual defense treaties, and has not committed to coming to Taiwan’s defense should an invasion from the mainland take place.

For the foreseeable future the US will do what it has done in looking after its interests in the Pacific for half a century: keep its military presence strong and ready and its alliances intact.

As for China, it will continue to move forward following Xi Jinping’s China Dream. Socialism with Chinese characteristics will continue to be the economic system, China’s military power will continue to expand and become even more sophisticated, and the Belt and Road initiative will continue to expand China’s economic and soft power around the world.

This brings us back to the initial assertion: nobody wants a war over Taiwan. But could one “happen”? One answer might be to look back at the US-Soviet cold war that lasted for several decades without a major incident. Yet for China, border wars have occurred with other large states and have not led to wider wars.

In 1962, China and India had a short border war which saw India be soundly defeated by China which after a short time withdrew its troops. China and Russia had a “shooting” war in 1969 along the Ussuri River that lasted some seven months and resulted in the loss of life on both sides before it was resolved. Ten years later, in 1979, the PRC invaded neighboring Viet Nam for a short but bloody conflict before retreating. Here we see three instances where China was not averse to using military force along its borders to achieve its long-range aims. 

China has had short, violent conflicts where it thought it could “win” by taking decisive, aggressive action. The question remains: Is such reliance on short violent conflict “baked in” to Chinese military thinking and strategy? And could China “assume” that it was getting into a short, violent conflict (say the invasion of Taiwan) when in fact the United States was prepared for a long, protracted multi-front confrontation?

In conclusion, there seem to be only two courses of action available right now:

1) The status quo. A new “cold war” where China and the US face off for decades but do not engage in a shooting war.

2) An incident that convinces China that its national interests are being violated (say by Taiwan Independence) that it is forced to take military action and invade.

For the present and the immediate future there seem to be no real solutions to the Taiwan question. Nobody wants a war, but is war inevitable?

Let us know what you think about this important issue.









Photo: ROC (Taipei) Government via flickr

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo–America’s Point Man on China Policy.

“President Reagan said that he dealt with the Soviet Union on the basis of ‘trust but verify.’When it comes to the CCP, I say we must distrust and verify.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo July 23, 2020 .

It has become abundantly clear that Donald Trump’s point man on China is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In his July 23, 2020 speech at the Nixon Library in Simi Valley California he left no doubt about that.

In the speech Mr. Pompeo outlined the Chinese threat (as seen by the US)  and called for a new alliance against China. He spoke of the United Nations and the G20 and others G7 and NATO standing with the US to deal with China.

The whole speech set out the treats from the Communist Party of China and from the Chinese nation itself. Such cold war rhetoric has not been heard for a long time, and the speech really did lay down the gauntlet.

Observers suggest that the rhetoric will continue and even intensify right up until the 2020 presidential election. One reason for the Trump administration’s belligerence toward China is to ensure the re-election of Donald Trump.

So who is Mike Pompeo anyway?  Mr. Pompeo was born in Orange County California. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point graduating first in his class. After his military duty finished, he entered Harvard University Law School and graduated with a JD degree. After Harvard he entered private business where he teamed up with former classmates to form an aircraft parts business. In 2011 he was elected to the US congress as a Republican Representative for Kansas and where he served from 2011 to 2017. In 2017 he was appointed as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency held that job for a year before being nominated as Secretary of State under President Donald Trump.

Mr. Pompeo, in the Reagan Library speech on July 23, didn’t echo President Ronald Reagan’s words in 1983 calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire” by calling China an “evil empire”, but Pompeo’s meaning, was clear enough about what he considered the Chinese threat.

Worth noting is the fact that Mr. Pompeo in his July 23 speech did not offer any way forward regarding better relations between the US and China. No, China is a menace to world peace and to American democracy, and we must  (all) stand up to China. No more ” Mr. Nice Guy” American hoping for a liberal China to emerge. Time to stand firm.

So the face of the “new Cold War” and the pushback on China is US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. One could argue that he is the right man for the job. A Democratic win in November would tone down a lot of the rhetoric toward China, but American actions under a Democratic president might not be so far different regarding China in many areas.

What do you think? Contact us and let us know your opinion.

Secretary Pompeo’s July 23rd Speech at the Nixon Library.

Photo: US Dept. of State via flickr

World’s Toughest Job? Johnny Chiang Takes Helm at Taiwan KMT.

On March 9, 2020 Johnny Chiang took office as the new president of Taiwan’s KMT party. (Some might say “China’s KMT”…) Many observers feel that the relatively youthful Chiang, 48, has a rough road ahead. Chiang won a decisive victory over his rival Hua Ling-pin by collecting 68.8% of the vote in a low-turnout KMT election. Chiang immediately promised to reform and revitalize the venerable KMT. He promised to do this in terms of party culture as well structure. There was also talk of a more de-centralized or localized KMT.

What makes his job difficult is not just the stodgy image of the KMT and its membership, but also the fact that over 50% of the population consider themselves “Taiwanese” and not Chinese. Despite Beijing’s slow but steady chipping away at Taiwan’s diplomatic alliances, many young people see Taiwan as already an independent country. Polls show that just about 4% of Taiwanese consider their island part of China.

 All of this makes the KMT’s historically pro-Beijing KMT party line a difficult sell to both to younger people as well as to a majority of the Taiwanese. Chiang’s promises of reform and restructuring may indeed succeed, and the KMT may re-invent itself as a leaner, more modern and robust opposition party.

 However, the “panda in the room” is the 1992 Consensus and the One-China policy. From the beginning Mr. Chiang has said that in the short term there will be no announcement on the 1992 Consensus and that a committee will decide. His deft dodging of the question harks back to that master politician himself, Deng Xio-ping, who essentially did the same thing decades before when discussing the fate of Taiwan.

With local elections coming in 2022 and presidential elections again in 2024, the KMT will really have to answer the “one China/ 1992 Consensus” question if it is to have any chance of gaining legislative seats or indeed the presidency itself. What might happen is that the KMT drops its historically pro-Beijing posture and gets closer to the DPP’s position on China. This will get them more votes domestically, but then both parties will have to face the displeasure of the CCP.

Just as Mr. Chiang had won decisively this time, incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party had captured the presidency in the January 2020 elections. After a recent election defeat, Tsai Ing-wen had to step down as DPP party head, and it appeared that the KMT would be resurgent in 2020 and that she would be out. But thanks to the unrest and demonstrations in Hong Kong in 2019, Tsai’s fortunes were reversed and she kept a decisive hold on the presidency. 

Here we are in 2020 and now it is being said that Johnnie Chiang and the KMT have little chance to gain power. At this point it might seem true, but if Mr. Chiang sets to work with a purpose, all things may very well change in the coming elections. Fate and the Taiwan voters have a way of making things like that happen.

photo: wikimedia commons

China at 70 – Where From Here?

October 1, 2019 marked exactly 70 years since the late Mao Zedong stood atop the gate at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and declared that the Chinese people had stood up, and henceforth China would be the People’s Republic of China.

The 70 year period was not without its challenges including armed clashed with three other world powers, the US, India and Russia and the growing, flowering, decline and growing again of one of the world’s biggest economies. Add to this the tumult brought about by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which was aimed at revitalizing the revolution and keeping ideology pure, but which resulted in the death of countless citizens and the doling out of large doses of misery to millions of others.

With Reform and Opening up in the early 1980s the pent up energy of the Chinese people was released and the world saw a real miracle as so many in the new China were lifted out of poverty as the economy showed almost unstoppable growth. China rose to be the #2 economy in the world defying all odds.

While economic growth has slowed, China is now set on a course to become a “moderately prosperous society” by the middle of this century. This vision, combined with the establishment of the Belt and Road initiative to revitalize the Silk Road are both visions of China’s future set forth by its president, Xi Jinping.

China is not without its problems going forward however. The ongoing trade war with the United States is one major headache. The Uighur minority in Xinjiang is another matter that must be addressed with wisdom and fairness. And now Hong Kong seems a problem with no easy solution that must be addressed in a creative way to ensure democracy and guarantee the rule of law. China’s claim to the South China Sea and its relations with Taiwan are also thorny issues going forward.

So what will the future be for China? A “moderately prosperous” society for the majority of its people as President Xi Jinping suggests, Or a rethinking of the China Dream in light of 21st century realities?

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The Elders Stand Watch Over a Volatile World.

“The Elders are an independent group of global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights.”

An organization of distinguished former world leaders, The Elders is dedicated to multilateralism and conflict resolution. Major areas of interest for The Elders are governance and leadership, the causes of conflict, inequality, exclusion and injustice.

The organization was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 and today has a list of leaders-emeritus including:

  • Mary Robinson–First woman president of Ireland
  • Ban Ki-moon–Former UN Secretary General
  • Graca Machel–First Education Minister of Mozambique
  • Lakhdar Brahimi–Former Algerian Foreign Minister
  • Grol Harlem Bruntland–First woman PM of Norway
  • Zeid Raad Al Hussein–Former UN High Commissionar For Human Rights
  • Hina Jilani–Lawyer and human rights champion
  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf–Former president of Liberia
  • Ricardo Lagos–Former president of Chile
  • Juan Manuel Santos-Former president of Columbia
  • Ernesto Zedillo–Former president of Mexico

 The Elders sees a better world coming about through attention and action and real focus on the following areas:

  • Ethical leadership and multilateral cooperation
  • Climate change
  • Refugees and migration
  • Universal health coverage
  • Access to justice
  • Conflict countries and regions

The organization is composed of peace makers and peace builders, social revolutionaries and leading women. They see their function being to open doors to decision makers, bring people together, and work for peace. In her introduction to The Elders 2018 annual report, Chair Mary Robinson said that for 2019 and beyond they must focus on climate change and nuclear proliferation while encouraging ethical leadership and multilateral cooperation.

In April 2019 an Elders delegation consisting of Mary Robinson, Ban Ki-moon, Kakhdar Brahimi, Ricardo Lagos and Ernesto Zedillo met with China’s President Xi Jinping and a group of Chinese leaders to discuss nuclear concerns, and climate. The Elders were also able to meet with students from China’s Foreign Affairs University to discuss a variety of topics including global citizenship and China’s role in the UN.

Certainly the ideas put forth by The Elders are squarely in contrast to nationalism and the attitude of “my country first” as expressed by the Donald Trump administration in Washington. And while the Trump administration does what it can to de-emphasize multinationals, it is good to know that an organization like The Elders is ready to call governments and organizations to account for abuses and misguided and harmful policies. We can all sleep a little more soundly knowing that such an organization exists and has our back.

Photo: The Elders




Abe to Lead G20 Summit in Osaka.

                      by David Parmer / Tokyo

On June 28 the leaders of 19 countries and the EU plus assorted invited organizations will converge on Osaka Japan for the 2019 Summit of Financial Markets and the World Economy, more commonly know as “The G20.”

Preceded and followed by a number of “satellite” ministerial meetings around the country, these leaders and guests at the Osaka venue will discuss global issues and issues related to the world economy. Topics will include:

  • Global economy
  • Trade
  • Innovation
  • Environment and Energy
  • Employment
  • Women’s empowerment
  • Development
  • Health

Host for this 14th meeting will be Japan, and point man will be her prime minister, Shinzo Abe. In his January 2019 speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Abe laid out his hopes for the June 2019 Osaka summit.

His biggest priority was data governance:

“I would like Osaka G20 to be long remembered as he summit that started world-wide data governance.”

Mr. Abe’s second point was his desire for disruptive technology to address climate change:

“In Osaka, here comes my second point, ladies and gentlemen, I would very much like to highlight what innovation does and how much innovation counts in tackling climate change, because, and this is an important “because,” we NEED disruptions.”

And finally, in the Davos speech Mr. Abe said:

“My third and last point is about Japan’s commitment. Japan is determined to preserve and committed to enhancing the free, open, and rules-based international order.”

On the official Japanese G20 website, Mr. Abe defined Japan’s further aims at the G20:

“At the Osaka Summit, Japan is determined to lead global economic growth by promoting free trade and innovation, achieving both economic growth and reduction of disparities, and contributing to the development agenda and other global issues with the SDGs at its core. Through these efforts, Japan seeks to realize and promote a free and open, inclusive and sustainable, “human-centered future society.”

In addition, we will lead discussions on the supply of global commons for realizing global growth such as quality infrastructure and global health. As the presidency, we will exert strong leadership in discussions aimed towards resolving global issues such as climate change and ocean plastic waste.

Furthermore, we will discuss how to address the digital economy from an institutional perspective and issues that arise from an aging society. We will introduce Japan’s efforts, including the productivity revolution amid a “Society 5.0” era, towards achieving a society where all individuals are actively engaged.”

Mr. Abe ended his welcome with pledge:

“With great support from you all, I am determined to lead the Osaka Summit towards great success.”

 News reports leading up to the G20 summit have been focusing on a possible Trump-Xi meeting on the sidelines to discuss the US-China trade war. This is indeed of great importance to all concerned; to the parties involved, to the region and to the world.

Having said that, Mr. Abe’s strong commitment to get things done, and important things at that, would deserve a bit more coverage and focus than say Japan’s world-renowned ometenashi hospitality and the Trump-Xi meeting.

Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Davos 2019

Message by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe G20 Website

Photo: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe official photo via wikipedia

DPRK–No News Is Good News.

                          by David Parmer / Tokyo

Well, it’s not like there isn’t any news from the DPRK in 2019, because there is, in fact, some news. There is just not the same kind of “end of the world nuclear holocaust” news that there was just a short time ago. 

But “normal” is relative, and like the weather in East Asia itself, subject to change without notice. Nevertheless, at mid-year we can look back to February 2019 and a failed US-DPRK summit meeting in Hanoi with two of the world’s biggest summiteers; Donald Trump, President of the United States, and Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Reports indicated that the deal breaker for this meeting was the lifting of US sanctions against the DPRK and the United States’ refusal to do so. Post summit there were no recriminations or finger pointing; everyone just packed up and went home after offering their side of the story.

Things with the DPRK were pretty quiet until May 9, when they fired off two short-range ballistic missiles. Launched from around Wonson, they flew into the Japan Sea, and not over “hostile” territory like South Korea or Japan. It may be that testing was on the schedule for this year regardless, or it might have been a thinly-veiled threat to remind the US and the world that the DPRK has a nuclear arsenal and the vehicles to deliver nuclear payloads.

Things remained quiet until June 12 when Donald Trump announced that on June 11 that he got a “beautiful letter” from Kim Jong-un. Trump expressed his ongoing confidence in the negotiations with the DPRK.

Sources also say that in his letter Kim proposed a third summit with the US. About the same time media reports suggested that Kim’s late brother, Kim Jong-nam was a CIA source. Trump explained that such a thing would not happen during his watch.

And finally to round-out the slow-news cycle, President Xi Jinping will make a trip to the DPRK on June 20 and 21 for discussions with Chairman Kim. This is the first visit of a Chinese leader to the country in 14 years. Clearly both men will have a lot on their minds including how to deal with the United States and its mercurial leader, Donald Trump.

So, looking back, we can see that there has not been much news of a sensational nature from North Korea in the first half of 2019. Maybe the old adage is right: no news is good news.



Photo: Rodong Sinmun


Indian PM Narendra Modi To Head To China Again

                  by David Parmer / Tokyo

This week India’s PM, Narendra Modi heads to China for a fourth times since 2014. On April 27-28 Mr. Modi will meet with China’s President Xi Jinping in the cities of Wuhan, Hubei Province for an “informal summit.” While improved relations with one’s neighbors is a good thing, generally speaking, expectations seem to be fairly modest for this Modi-Xi meeting.

Items on the agenda include re-opening a route to Tibet’s sacred Mt. Kalish and information sharing on hydrological data relating to the Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers. The other stated aim of the meeting is to reduce any lingering tensions from last year’s 73-day Doklan/Donglang standoff along their border.

The real purpose for the “summit” seems to be obscure. What exactly does each side expect to gain, or what message do they want to send to the world? Maybe Mr. Xi, who seems to view things in the long term as well as the short term, sees it in China’s long-term interest to have better relations with India.

China has always been stronger in its border confrontations with India, that is obvious. On the other side of the coin, China is weak in the Indian Ocean where it has to bring its assets thousands of miles south and west to project power. So China might have the upper hand on land, but it is apparent that the sea, particularly the Indian Ocean will go to India.

For Mr. Modi, maybe going to China, dealing with a troubling situation, and perhaps getting some concessions from the Chinese, may make him look good in the eyes of Indian voters. So going to “the Chinese court” every year may just gain Mr. Modi some real benefits for his country and for his own re-election in 2019.

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Photo: Narendra Modi 2016 flickr

Ma-Xi Meeting, What’s Up?

                              by David Parmer

Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou will meet PRC President Xi Jinping on November 7, 2015 in Singapore. The schedule includes a short meeting followed by dinner. “Historic” is certainly appropriate to describe this meeting, as heads of the two governments have not met since the Nationalists (KMT) fled to Taiwan in 1949.

But what is the purpose of the sudden meeting? Reuters reported that President Ma said that the meeting is about normalizing future relations and helping reduce hostilities in the short term, but it is not about the January 2016 Taiwan elections.


All things being equal, the KMT will chalk up a loss to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party in the 2016 elections. It looks like it will not be a question of a loss, but rather how big a loss. The KMT apparently realized this and dumped its candidate Hung Hsiu-chu so that it did not suffer a humiliating defeat. Party chair and New Taiwan Mayor Eric Chu has stepped up as the KMT’s presidential candidate.

One reason the KMT is so unpopular is that many see it getting too cozy with the PRC to the detriment of Taiwan’s political and economic interests. So why the meeting? How can the meeting possibly help the KMT in the short run?

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