Another week, another national day
Though whether 'Double Ten' – celebrated today – is really Taiwan's national day is subject to somewhat fierce debate
Taiwan’s President Tsai at last year’s national day celebrations. Photo: Makoto Lin. Office of the President.
Happy Double Tenth, or “Taiwan National Day,” which “deep blue” Kuomintang (KMT) supporters maintain should be “Republic of China Day” and “deep green” pro-Taiwan advocates maintain should not be Taiwan National Day at all because it’s associated with events leading to the fall of the Qing Dynasty in China.
The CNN Taipei bureau – an unthinkable media unit as recently as five to 10 years ago, and a sign of Taiwan’s markedly increased regional significance – reported on the events, with a focus on the dark days of Chiang Kai-shek’s martial law.
This year’s slogan (ChinaDiction translation) is “United in defense of land and country” (“Shǒutǔ wèi guó, nǐ wǒ tóngxíng,”「守土衛國、你我同行」), which is obviously a defiant dig at Beijing.
In her speech, President Tsai Ing-wen spoke of “no room for compromise” on democracy and freedom, comparing Russia’s attempted annexation of Ukraine to Beijing’s designs on Taiwan.
In her own words:
‘The broadest consensus among the Taiwanese people and our various political parties is that we must defend our national sovereignty and our free and democratic way of life. On this point, we have no room for compromise’
Thanks for reading ChinaDiction! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Xi presides over last big bash before Party congress
Bloomberg reports that the CPC’s last big meeting before the 20th Party Congress was held yesterday (Sunday), as media outlets globally warned not to expect any great changes when Xi Jinping officially wins his third term as party secretary.
After all, why would Xi make an about turn on somewhat unpopular policies that he’s got away with in the lead up to the Party Congress?
Xi politically looks as strong as ever. While Beijing’s simultaneous edicts for local governments to both maintain growth and lock down over every virus outbreak have prompted complaints about mixed messages, there’s little indication these have translated into internal opposition. Sporadic protests that have erupted over lockdowns and undelivered homes haven’t evolved into broader political dissent.
It may all appear bizarre – perhaps even somewhat distasteful from a Western, liberal perspective when you step back and look at it – but it’s China’s lot for the moment.
Reports Bloomberg elsewhere:
‘Today, citizens of the world’s No. 2 economy are increasingly encouraged—through a relentless barrage of policies—to fit the party’s mold of an ideal citizen: a CCP-loving, heterosexual, ethnic Han Chinese parent, employed in a core industry helping China reduce its economic dependence on the US and its allies.’
Add to that, committed to the Party’s zero-covid policies – and to reigning in all private enterprise that gets too big for its boots and presents a threat to unparalleled CPC authority.
Back to the last meeting. Bloomberg adds helpfully:
Like most things in elite Chinese politics, the meeting will take place behind closed doors, likely concluding with a communique announcing that Xi’s speech and the constitutional amendments have been submitted to the party congress.
China faces more lockdowns
Parts of Shanghai were reportedly going back into lockdown mode over the weekend as covid case counts steadily climb China-wide. Photo: StandNews, public domain.
According to media reports, China recorded nearly 1,900 covid cases yesterday (Sunday) – the highest number since August 20 – as holiday-makers returned from domestic National Day week vacations.
In Shanghai – still bruised from widely reported lockdowns that went on for two months earlier in the year – neighborhoods were being “locked down and buildings barricaded with the green fences that were a feature of the financial hub’s extended shutdown,” reports Bloomberg.
The Financial Times notes that China’s coronavirus cases have tripled in the past week. They may still be low by international standards, but at 1,878 on Sunday, they’re high by zero standards – in fact, a lot more than zero.
The growth in cases is being fuelled by BF. 7, a spin-off of the Omicron sub-variant BA.5. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that BF. 7 ‘appears to be more infectious’ than previous Omicron strains and predicted it would cause a surge in infections this winter.
As Beijing prepares to host the Communist party congress, the capital has tightened interprovincial travel to prevent residents from returning from their holidays.
As “green fences” started to go up around Shanghai over the weekend, What’s on Weibo carried posts by citizens unable to sleep out of fear of the reintroduction of “hard quarantine.”
Numbers of symptomatic versus asymptomatic cases across China varied from report to report over the weekend and news from locations outside the major cities was spotty, but it appears that China is once again scrambling to prevent a wave of infections sweeping across the country before the wave can cause mass infections.
US steps up pressure on chips
US President Joe Biden announced expanded restrictions on China’s access to semiconductor technology on Friday, reported Bloomberg.
The measures seek to stop China’s drive to develop its own chip industry and advance its military capabilities. They include restrictions on the export of some types of chips used in artificial intelligence and supercomputing and tighten rules on the sale of semiconductor manufacturing equipment to any Chinese company.
China reacted by arguing the restrictions would further damage supply chains and the world economy, which is probably true but will not deter the US from trying to hold China back in its dash to catch up in crucial technology.
The Financial Times reports:
Under new export controls announced on Friday, semiconductors made with US technology for use in artificial intelligence, high-performance computing and supercomputers can only be sold to China with an export licence — which will be very difficult to obtain.
Moreover, Washington is barring US citizens or entities from working with Chinese chip producers except with specific approval. The package also strictly limits exports to China of chip manufacturing tools and technology that Chinese companies could use to develop their own equipment.
‘To put it mildly, [Chinese companies] are basically going back to the Stone Age,’ said Szeho Ng, Managing Director at China Renaissance.
According to analysts at the Bank of America, the equipment restrictions will affect logic chips designed in the past four to five years and Dram chips designed after 2017.
‘It’s their sweet spot right now — they’re a laggard in technology and are relying on older tools and technology,” said Wayne Lam, an analyst at CCS Insight.
Chinese chip companies are even more concerned about Washington’s attempts to bar US citizens from supporting them.
“That is a bigger bombshell than stopping us from buying equipment,” said a human resources executive at a state-backed semiconductor plant.
The Greater Sinosphere
Chinese ‘service centers’ may facilitate ‘involuntary return’
In the wake of a report by human rights group Safeguard Defenders that China is operating police stations in Canada, the National Post reports that according to federal police, if true, such police stations would be entirely illegal.
A report by the human rights group Safeguard Defenders detailed the existence of more than 50 ‘service stations’ operated around the world by Chinese security services.
Three of them were in Canada, in Toronto neighbourhoods heavily populated by Chinese-Canadians.
Meanwhile, Safeguard Defenders alleges the stations are hubs that facilitate the Chinese program of “involuntary return” — a clandestine operation that whisks Chinese citizens (or former citizens) back to China to face charges of having violated Chinese law while abroad.
Oligarchs in the bay
The US has warned Hong Kong about the risks of sheltering Russian oligarchs after the Chinese territory basically said it was not falling into line with Western sanctions against Russia over a “superyacht” docked in its waters, reports the Financial Times.
The US state department said that ‘the former British colony’s “reputation as a financial centre depends on adherence to international laws and standards.”
‘The Hong Kong [government] does not implement, nor do we have the legal authority to take action on, unilateral sanctions imposed by other jurisdictions.’
Anyway, the US$500-million vessel moored west of the city’s Victoria Harbor is owned by owned by billionaire Alexei Mordashov and has been “described by the studio that designed it as ‘a warship wearing a tuxedo’ as it boasts two helipads, a pool and a fleet of tenders,” according to FT.
Teens nabbed for mouthing Maoisms
Use them with care these days – especially in Hong Kong. Scan: Public Domain.
Hong Kong’s not a tea party these days, according to AFP, which reports that “a 16-year-old girl and three 17-year-olds” were charged with "conspiracy to incite subversion" under the city’s controversial national security law imposed by Beijing.
The teens are reportedly members of a pro-independence group – Returning Valiant – and were caught handing out flyers that called for the “overthrow China's government” and included the famous quote by Mao Zedong, “The revolution is not a tea party.”
The four teens, which AFP has chosen not to name because of their age, all pleaded guilty last month alongside fellow defendant Kwok Man-hei, 19.
All five were sentenced to up to three years at a training centre, a rehabilitation-focused detention facility which can be a sentencing option for teens aged 14 to 20.
Big-hitters clash over Double Ten, China identity
(Warning, utterly confusing Taiwan politics ahead)
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (Mǎ Yīngjiǔ, 馬英九) recently objected to President Tsai’s characterization of relations with China in her address at last year’s Double Tenth National Day and the English name of the three-day holiday.
Last year, President Tsai told the nation that “neither the Republic of China [Taiwan] nor the People’s Republic belong to one another” (中華民國與中華人民共和國互不隸屬).
According to Ma, this unconstitutionally characterizes the relationship between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the PRC as a relationship between two sovereign states. He also said it was improper to call Double Tenth National Day “Taiwan National Day” in English because the day marks the National Day of the Republic of China.
Former United Microelectronics Chairman Robert Tsao (Cāo Xīngchéng 曹興誠), who has recently returned from Singapore as an enthusiastic and outspoken Taiwanese patriot, reacted sharply by calling Ma “Chinese” (中國人, or a citizen of the PRC).
Tsao’s critique was notable because he’s a “mainlander” – or “49er” – who was born in Beijing. Like Ma, Tsao came to Taiwan as a child refugee. Typically, older mainlanders like Tsao identify with the ROC and hold views similar to Ma’s.
While Tsao is an outlier in his generation, his remarks illustrate the degree to which even mainlander identity in Taiwan is evolving quickly as China’s threatening stance makes old beliefs increasingly untenable.
Premier Su Tseng-chang’s (Sū Zhēnchāng, 蘇貞昌) response was equally pointed. He accused Ma of “having no feelings for Taiwan despite having eaten Taiwan’s rice and drunk its water all his life.” According to Su, it is simply common sense to call National Day “Taiwan National Day” in English because referring to Taiwan as China confuses people outside of Taiwan.
While Ma’s views reflect the KMT’s traditional position, his views are increasingly non-mainstream as Tsai captures the ROC and annexes it to her vision of Taiwan as a sovereign and independent state.
Michael Fahey in Taipei
Just say no
A 2013 demonstration against the 4th nuclear power plant, which has never gone into operation. Photo: 黃正光; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0.
In Friday’s ChinaDiction entry on the launch of Taiwan’s first 24-hour English-news programmer, TaiwanPlus we sat on the fence as to whether the state-funded media outlet could uncritically report on the polices of the current Taiwanese government.
That was not the case in its recent report on the Tsai administration’s policy of phasing out nuclear power, despite a referendum in 2018 that rejected the closure of all nuclear power generation by 2025 and another referendum in 2021 that favored starting the mothballed fourth nuclear plant.
The referendums were held. The people voted. The DPP is acting on its anti-nuclear policies anyway.
The TaiwanPlus report rehearsed the 2018 – winning – arguments in favor of nuclear power, including fears that Taiwan is not expanding its power generation quickly enough to meet growing need and air pollution caused by over-reliance on coal.
It also adds a powerful new one: national security. Currently, just over 80% of Taiwan’s electricity production depends on imported coal and oil. China’s recent military exercises in response to Nancy Pelosi’s visit showed that China has the capacity to blockade Taiwan.
If China were to interdict the flow of coal and natural gas to Taiwan, Taiwan’s vaunted semiconductor industry, reliant on vast inputs of cheap power, might have to stop production while Taiwan’s people would be shocked to go back to a life without air conditioning in Taiwan’s often-sweltering climate.
It would be incorrect to say, as the report strongly suggests, that opposition to nuclear power in Taiwan began with the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.
The anti-nuclear power movement is one of Taiwan’s oldest social justice movements and one that almost uniquely is not affected by identity issues.
The report also glosses over one of the most important reason for opposition to nuclear power–the grave environmental injustice done to Yami people of Orchid Island by storing nuclear waste there, as well as the lack of other sites for safe storage.
Michael Fahey in Taipei
Sinologist visits Taiwan for the first time in 6 decades
… Finds it much much changed.
The Wire is host to an at-times lyrical ode on the “tragedy of modern Taiwan” by one of the grand old men of China watching, Orville Schell.
It’s worth reading, but with eyes wide open: among our questions were, Wait, Taiwan is Han Chinese? Orville had a “Chinese girlfriend” in Taiwan in the 1960s? The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) once flirted with independence? (It’s in the Party charter, actually.)
Michael Fahey, ChinaDiction’s man in Taipei says – sorry, spoiler alert – “I don't see how he could have seen and identified 'his' beach near Keelung from his plane 60 years later. The most likely 'warehouse' he saw near a beach was the fourth nuclear power plant, which is housed in huge buildings that look like warehouses.”
Nevertheless, our caveats are based on views Schell obviously shaped decades ago, and the piece is sharp and pointed on the political “ossification” of Taiwan’s vast rival across the strait and enormity of the transition Taiwan has made.
Chris Taylor in Bangkok, Michael Fahey in Taipei
The politics of reincarnation (continued …)
The Dalai Lama with devotees. Photo: Tibet International Network.
In ChinaDiction’s continuing coverage of a sadly neglected issue, Tibet International Network has released a new report, “Tibet, the Dalai Lama and the Geopolitics of Reincarnation” giving broad consideration to an issue of huge importance to Tibetans.
Beijing’s struggle to appropriate and control the reincarnation system strikes at the heart of Tibetan religious identity. Reincarnation is central to Tibetan Buddhist belief and practice rooted in the concept of the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
In Tibet, the Buddhist principle of rebirth evolved into a distinctive form of practice recognising a chain of rebirths of a particular spiritual master. The Dalai Lama is one such reincarnation that originate in the 14th century
The 30-page report is heavily footnoted and touches on other issues of importance to Tibetans such as the disappeared Panchen Lama.
If you Musk …
Picture: DonkeyHotey; Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.
Can’t Elon’s hare-brained global diplomacy stuff be done via Zoom from Mars using Starlink? At least having him permanently there would serve to emphasize his irrelevance to geopolitics here.
Anyway, we present you the Taiwanese de-facto US ambassador’s subtweet to the multi-billionaire about making Taiwan a “special administrative region” of China.
Thanks for reading ChinaDiction! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.