Washington Should Highlight US-Taiwan Engagement Efforts

Posted on Friday, April 18, 2014 by Sabrina Tsai



The first Cabinet-level visit by a US official in 14 years: Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou met US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Monday, April 14, 2014. Photo: EPA 

By Sabrina Tsai

Quiet Engagement

In Washington, government-to-government, military-to-military, and people-to-people interactions with the Republic of China (ROC; or Taiwan) have been relatively quiet due to long-standing policy practice and growing attention being focused on the People’s Republic of China (PRC; or China). However, as a friend of the government and people of Taiwan, the US should do a better job at publicizing its engagement efforts with Taiwan, such as the separate visits made by three deputy assistant secretaries from the Departments of State and Commerce during the last week of March and this week’s Cabinet-level visit by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Indeed, Washington should reconsider its past and current approach of keeping engagements with Taiwan quiet and low-key. US interlocutors should be open and transparent in their dealings with Taiwan in order to highlight meetings as routine and normal interactions. This would contribute to a better understanding of US-Taiwan relations among the general public as well as the policy community and help avoid the risk of the security and trade partnership being undermined by the strengthening of US-China ties.

Why Publicize US-Taiwan Engagement Efforts?

US-Taiwan cooperation is an important part of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. People-to-people, government-to-government, and military-to-military exchanges have the power to shape and color public perceptions not only in the US and Taiwan, but also in the PRC. Knowledge and perceptions of US-Taiwan engagement have influence over how policymakers think in Washington, Taipei, and Beijing, and could create misperceptions if the basic facts of US-Taiwan engagements are unknown due to the information being under-publicized or not readily available to the general public. While some may argue that US-Taiwan cooperation should be kept quiet and under-the-radar due to both Beijing’s sensitivities toward Taiwan and Washington’s aversion to political pressure from China (such as that experienced by US administrations when congressional notifications of Taiwan arms sales are delivered), the near silence that characterizes US-Taiwan efforts of cooperation has born several negative effects.

First, ROC officials and leaders are left to wonder about the strength and vitality of the US commitment to assist Taiwan’s defense needs vis-à-vis China’s growing military strength and capabilities across the Strait. The reluctance of US leaders to publicly announce engagements with Taiwan make the impression that the US could waver from its commitments outlined in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and Reagan’s “Six Assurances” to assist in meeting Taiwan’s defensive capability needs.

Second, the general public as well as more seasoned observers in both the US and in the region are likely to have the perception that US ties with Taiwan are negligible in comparison to US ties with the PRC. The quietness of US-Taiwan cooperation amidst of growing publicity for US-China engagements create the misperception that the US may abandon Taiwan in future conflict scenarios across the Taiwan Strait in favor of closer ties with mainland China. US security commitment to Taiwan under the TRA should be reaffirmed to public observers by steps to boldly publicize US-Taiwan efforts of cooperation.

Third, the quietness of US-Taiwan engagements has a negative effect on US-China relations by creating the misperception that US support for Taiwan is weak. The importance for Washington to signal its support for Taiwan to Beijing by publicizing regular engagements with Taipei cannot be overstated. Increased publicity of regular interactions helps to counter the object of Chinese political warfare aiming to shape public perceptions about US-Taiwan relations favorable to Chinese dispositions. As a vibrant democracy with 23 million people and an important trade partner, Taiwan matters to the US, a fact that cannot be undermined as Washington works on closer cooperation with leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The quietness of US-Taiwan interactions gives Beijing the impression that Washington is willing to compromise its security partnership with Taiwan, hence emboldening Chinese activities in the region. With territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea ongoing, Washington cannot afford to edge China on to more aggressive behavior through the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that would jeopardize regional stability.

Looking Forward

Despite concerns of over-publicizing US-Taiwan engagement, the US should work to be more open and transparent in its dealings with Taiwan, highlighting regular meetings as normal interactions for two legitimate governments. Due to the heavy emphasis on US-China engagement efforts reflected by the media and the policymaking community, scarce public attention given to US-Taiwan engagement coupled by a low-key disposition of US policymakers on Taiwan have contributed to little attention being cast on one of the most important security partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region. 

5 Faulty Assumptions About Taiwan

Posted on Monday, March 10, 2014 by Admin

By Dan Blumenthal

Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
The government-to-government talks between Wang Yu-chi, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, and Zhang Zhijun, head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, are significant, but not for reasons many think. Indeed, the talks are most noteworthy because they happened at all. A key element of China's Taiwan policy has been to isolate the island and get all countries to accept the Chinese position that Taiwan is not a country, but a province of China.

Now Taiwan and China have had government-to-government talks. China has moved a step closer to accepting Taiwan's de facto independent status as a country with its own national government. The substance of the talks will be far less noteworthy as Taiwan does not want to make any concessions or agreements on political issues such as its international status.

U.S. policymakers should insist that this is now the precedent: China has to work out its differences with Taiwan on a government-to-government basis. The talks also provide us a chance to reflect on five faultyassumptions about Taiwan, many developed during and since the normalization process with China in the 1970s. Here they are:

 1. Taiwan and China would reunify after a "decent interval." This belief goes back to then-National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger in his meetings with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai during the early stages of U.S. President Richard Nixon's opening to China (It was Nixon's opening: Kissinger thought Nixon odd for even suggesting an opening to China.) Kissinger told Zhou that the "political evolution" of Taiwan would proceed "in the direction" that Zhou wanted, meaning toward unification with the "motherland." He also said that the United Stated would not stand in the way of that "evolution."

Oops. Today Taiwan is standing tall as a de facto independent democracy with an elected president, a national legislature, and a national military. Kissinger and many of his successors were just wrong. The Taiwan example is a damning case of how misguided "realism" can be. A cacophony of supporters -- a bipartisan group of congressmen, anti-communist groups, democracy supporters, and, foremost, the Taiwanese people themselves -- banded together to make sure that the "political evolution" of Taiwan proceeded in a direction opposite of what Kissinger assumed. (There are still books to be written about how wrong Kissinger was about Asia and about how the sloppy normalization process created many of the problems in Asia that we live with today.)

Kissinger is a self-described realist. But his realism ignores important factors that drive international politics such as individual acts of leadership, beliefs in freedom and justice, and the importance of emotion and public desires.

2. Taiwan: Homo economicus. Related to No. 1, the unstated assumption in U.S. cross-strait policy after normalization has been that the Taiwanese are driven mostly by rational, material self-interest. The opening of China-Taiwan economic ties, a process that began two decades ago, was supposed to lead to some sort of political solution as Taiwan acted in its economic self-interest.

Well, Taiwan did invest heavily in China and in the process grew both the Chinese and Taiwanese economies. But as economic ties have expanded, the Taiwanese feel an ever stronger sense of uniqueness. Close contact did not make the heart grow fonder. The more contact the Taiwanese have with China, the more they feel different from the Chinese, including when it comes to the openness of their society and how modern and advanced Taiwan is compared with China. The other issue is a generational shift as fewer Taiwanese feel a historical emotional attachment to China. "Reunification" is now only possible for Beijing if it chooses to start a war.

3. Taiwan is dependent on China's economy; it must eventually accept unification. This is a cousin of point 2 above. The truth is that Taiwan and China are dependent on each other (and on the United States, Japan, and South Korea) to design and produce high-tech products. They are both highly dependent on other countries to buy those products. Yes, Taiwan developed a very sophisticated China strategy that made the mainland a key link on its high-tech supply chain. But Taiwanese businessmen are arguably the most agile in Asia.

If China becomes too risky or costly, Taiwanese business will move production elsewhere. To some extent this is already happening as Taiwanese business is making large investments in Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia. Taiwan has many options.

The sad irony is that the only country that can marginalize the Taiwanese economy is the United States. How? By not allowing it into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). If Taiwan is excluded, other countries benefiting from lower tariffs will develop competitive advantages that could squeeze out high-end Taiwanese design and manufactures. Unfortunately, excluding Taiwan from the TPP appears to be the U.S. policy. Taiwan is not overly dependent on the Chinese economy. It is overly dependent on the political whims of Washington.

These three assumptions all have to do with how Taiwan got to where it is despite the exertions of our realists. The next faulty assumptions have to do with how to have a more realistic defense and deterrence policy in the Taiwan Strait that solidifies Taiwan's progress:

4. Taiwan will have the defense policy we want. Actually Taiwan will have the defense policy it wants. The United States currently insists that Taiwan abandon its previous strategy of engaging its enemy away from its shores and instead focus on defense of its homeland. The former strategy made a great deal of sense given that Taiwan suffers from a lack of strategic depth and is a maritime island, dependent on trade.

Now the United States insists that Taiwan withstand a potentially blistering missile and air campaign, not hit back, and focus only on preparing for a possible invasion of the island. This is both unwise and unrealistic. No democratic president can simply ask his people to hunker down and take a missile salvo. There would be enormous public pressure to hit back, in order to bolster national morale if nothing else. But the ability to hit back even in a limited fashion can work strategically as well.

Consider a fairly recent example: After a devastating air campaign by Israel in 2006, the fact that Hezbollah was still able to fire even crude rockets into Israel was a source of great frustration among the Israeli military and of terror among Israel's population. The belief among most observers is that Israel lost that war despite its superior military capabilities. Hezbollah was still able to reach out and touch Israel.

Taiwan's military wants to retain some ability to show its population that it can hit back, even if such a capability would not be decisive. A show of force of this kind would also signal to China that it has to pay a higher price in blood and treasure to achieve its political goals. Remember, a failure in national security policy can be very threatening to the Chinese Communist Party. While it could mean a Chinese escalation after an initial tactical failure, it could also mean that China would cut its losses after "making its point" and call it quits.

But Taiwan's military does not just want some strike capability to deter and embarrass China; it also needs the means to defend its airspace and break blockades. Here is how our faulty assumptions translate into policy: The United States insists that Taiwan does not need or cannot have an air force. But Taiwan's main procurement goal is new F-16s. The Taiwanese know that they need some ability to engage Chinese fighters and provide some protection over Taiwan. Taiwan's other big procurement goal is submarines. But after approving the sale of submarines to Taiwan, the United States has been sitting on Taiwan's request for submarines for 13 years. Taiwan has an open request for submarines that has been collecting dust in the interagency decision-making process. This is a moral and strategic outrage. Taiwan needs a very robust undersea warfare capability that could cause China big headaches in trying to track that capability.

If the United States not provide Taiwan with the defense capabilities it needs, it will likely develop more dangerous options (as it did in the 1980s). The point is that Taiwan's president will need to protect his people with any means he has, no matter what the Washington bureaucracy thinks.

5. We won't act to help Taiwan. This may be the most dangerous assumption of all. There is a sense of fatalism and defeatism combined with a notion that "unification is inevitable" setting in among foreign-and defense-policy observers in Washington and around the world.

The argument is that Taiwan is indefensible and that the United States won't risk its relations with China over Taiwan. But there is a credible argument that Washington gets into conflicts because potential adversaries underestimate U.S. willingness to abide by its commitments. It is worth remembering that the United States was not supposed to "die for Danzig," that Berlin did not seem worth it either in the Cold War, and that South Korea was outside the U.S. defense perimeter before the Korean War.

The United States is hard to read because of the diffusion and openness of its policymaking. And it may seem and even be unpredictable. But a defensible reading of history is that when the global balance of power is at stake, the United States reacts forcefully. If China started a war over Taiwan, all previous assumptions would be quickly dispatched, and fear, anxiety, emotion, a president's calculation over vital interests, and allied concern would all set in. It would be a mistake for China in particular to read too much into seeming U.S. complacency now. If Taiwan is under coercive threat, all calculations change. The United States wants to avoid a conflict; to do so, it cannot allow its benign negligence of Taiwan to be interpreted as a lessening of U.S. commitment to Taiwan's security.

The talks between the Mainland Affairs Council and the Taiwan Affairs Office prove that the supposedly master grand strategists, such as Kissinger and some his successors, were wrong about a major international issue. They simply did not factor in all the elements that drive international politics. When they assumed Taiwan away, they ignored Taiwan's will to exist and thrive, as well as broad U.S. public support for Taiwan. Now, whether by design or not, China has taken a step toward recognizing Taiwan's status in international politics. (It is sad and ironic that high-level Taiwanese officials can go to China but not the United States for high-level summitry). The talks will not lead to any substantive breakthrough, but they are a symbolic breakthrough. To avoid miscalculation and conflict, the United States would do well to fortify this gain and insist that the precedent has been set. Continued government-to-government talks between China and Taiwan should continue often and at all levels.

This is the road to a peaceful resolution of disputes between Beijing and Taipei. Meanwhile, the United States must keep its powder dry, read its own strategic history, and not self-deter by assuming the worst about the credibility of its own commitments. The United States must also realize that Taiwan will also continue to hedge by improving its defense capacity in its own way. The United States must be realistic about what a democracy must do to demonstrate its ability to defend itself and must stop the flights of fancy that have led to a current de facto arms-sales freeze. This sort of policy would serve U.S. interests and may even be realistic.

Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. This article was originally published in Foreign Policy on February 12, 2014. 

Taiwan’s China Policy: Struggles and Opportunities in Cross-party Cooperation

Posted on Thursday, March 6, 2014 by Lauren Duffy

By Lauren Duffy

Last month we witnessed unprecedented government-to-government talks between leaders of the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) and the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) in Nanjing. More recently, the head of Beijing’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), Chen Deming, recognized Taiwan’s same MAC Minister Wang, as ‘Minister,’ an indication of the Republic of China’s (ROC; Taiwan) political legitimacy.  Concurrently, speculation continues to circulate around the possibility of a summit between Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou and People’s Republic of China (PRC; China) leader Xi Jinping.

As cross-Strait relations begin to accelerate, a commonly supported China policy is paramount to ensuring constructive ROC-PRC negotiations. Taiwan’s top political parties, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT) are steadily working to achieve this objective. But while some progress has been made to encourage dialogue, internal divisions and policy ambiguities remain, further delaying consensus on how the nation should move forward.

Within the DPP, prospects for internal agreement are muddled by persistent divisions as policymakers continue to define and redefine Taiwan’s identity in terms of the ROC’s governing authority and how that relates to evolving relations with the mainland. In particular, Former Party Chair Tsai Ing-wen and Former Party Premier Frank Hsieh differ substantially on what Taiwan’s identity should look like. Tsai promotes a “The ROC is Taiwan, Taiwan is the ROC” strategy, an attempt to argue that Taiwan is not ruled by a non-native power. Hsieh however, a primary critic of the DPP’s recent China Policy Review, promotes a “two constitutions, different interpretations approach, in which the respective constitutions of the PRC and ROC govern different territories and share a unique relationship. According to recent polling, Hsieh’s position is gaining momentum and has been viewed by Washington and Beijing as tolerable and acceptable; however it failed to make it into the DPP’s China Policy Review consequent of its close similarities to the KMT’s 1992 Consensus.

Similarly, the KMT faces its own inconsistencies in policy and rhetoric. More specifically, last year Honorary KMT Chairman Lien Chan, who regularly visits the mainland, sparked debate in both the pan-blue and pan-green camps due to his comments on cross-Strait relations. Lien expressed, in a meeting with PRC leader Xi Jinping, his ambitions for "one China, cross-strait peace, mutually beneficial integration and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” While he also urged Beijing to recognize the ROC’s existence, many pro-independence DPP members were outraged and President Ma quickly pointed out that the comments that were made solely reflected Lien’s personal perspective. Likewise, prior to and following MAC Minister Wang Yu-chi’s meeting in Nanjing in early 2014, politicians expressed wariness over the terminology Wang might use and requested a briefing upon his return. Subsequently, while varying opinions on how relations should progress help to fuel healthy debate, in practice, their potential in sending mixed messages to Beijing could pose a serious dilemma in maintaining consistency and clarity in negotiations. Thus, in cases especially like Lien’s, a foundational understanding and agreement on Taiwan’s China objectives would help to enhance relations without exasperating them. 

Possibilities for compromise still exist. In January, the DPP published its China Policy Review, which outlined areas for enhancing and restraining relations to encourage engagement with China while stressing the need to protect Taiwan’s autonomy and technological edge. In particular, the DPP emphasized the degree and variety of debate that took place over the course of 9 meetings and public forums, and included 629 participants across the political spectrum. The party concluded that the meetings were best characterized as “the most comprehensive and thorough discussion of cross-Strait relations in Taiwan’s history.” Although the policy was plagued by many of the aforementioned discrepancies in the DPP’s cross-Strait policy, the policy review serves as a valuable benchmark for the party in facilitating dialogue to eventually reach a consensus on Taiwan’s China policy.

Thus, in an effort to bridge gaps and to establish a clear and coherent policy, serious consideration of the DPP’s recent efforts to produce a China policy, as well as looking to the agreements made at the 1996 National Development Conference, a multiparty convention that addressed Taiwan’s democratization and the future of cross-Strait relations, might serve as a healthy foundation for further discussion. Together, these two strategies would assist in bringing new ideas to the table, generating debate, and would cover a diverse and well-represented demographic of professionals, policy makers, and academics. The efforts that contributed to Taiwan’s present democratic system are a not so distant memory. Therefore, utilizing a similar model, one culminating a more contemporary structure of forums, would revitalize the conversation across party lines at a more informal level. Understandably, Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan is the nation’s primary policy body. However, successful creation of a truly unified China Policy demands that deliberations be expanded to an even wider audience.

Ultimately, as the ROC continues down this road of engagement with the PRC, many hurdles will be met, characterized by fierce debates about the country’s economy, security, and in particular, its international legitimacy. As such, it is crucial that the nation’s key political parties establish common ground for discussing these issues, and attain solidarity in their policies toward Beijing. Doing so will not only help the Taiwanese people, but also those in China and the United States, to understand Taiwan’s core objectives and how to best engage one another for the foreseeable future. 

Opportunities Outweigh the Obstacles: A U.S. Perspective of Japan-ROK Naval Cooperation

Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 by Samuel J. Mun


(Japanese Defense Minister, Itsuni Onodera, shakes hands with Republic of Korea Defense Minister, Kim Kwan-jin in Singapore in 2013. Photo credit: The Asahi Shimbun)


By Samuel J. Mun

The Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces (JMSDF) are “destined to cooperate”[1] in an increasingly fluid and competitive security environment in Northeast Asia. The ROK and Japan share bilateral security treaties with the United States, prioritize protection of shared sea lines of communication, and face the challenge of addressing the threat of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program. But these overlapping strategic interests have not materialized into substantial security cooperation. The benefits of robust JMSDF-ROKN ties are widely agreed upon among defense officials in Tokyo and Seoul, but lingering historical disputes over Japan’s colonial legacy in Korea, along with a territorial dispute over a set of islets (called “Dokdo” in Korea and “Takeshima” in Japan) impede the development of a close naval partnership that would further anchor peace and stability in Northeast Asia. 

While it has been less than two decades since Japan and ROK established formal navy-to-navy ties, Japan’s indispensable role in supporting U.S. operations on the Korean peninsula has been evident for over half-a-century. During the Korean War, then-Rear Admiral Arleigh Burke called upon Japanese minesweepers from the Maritime Safety Agency (MSA) to clear Soviet mines in waters off of Wonsan, which ultimately provided the U.S. Navy access to launch a decisive amphibious assault at Wonsan in October 1950. Japan’s timely provision of minesweeping capabilities was integral for a short-handed U.S. Navy that relied on a handful of wooden auxiliary minesweepers after disbanding Commander Mine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMINPAC) in 1947. [2]

More than 60 years later, the importance of Japanese support for U.S. operations around the Korean peninsula remains unchanged. DPRK development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology further raises the potential for a destabilizing contingency on the Korean peninsula, in which case, trilateral U.S.-Japan-ROK naval cooperation in areas such as ballistic missile defense (BMD), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and mine-warfare (MIW) will be critical against asymmetric North Korean capabilities. As retired-JMSDF Vice Admiral Yoji Koda argues, seamless interoperability between the JMSDF and ROKN in ASW and MIW will be necessary for securing the Korea/Tsushima Strait, which in turn, will be “indispensable to the ability of both ROK and American forces to fight and maintain themselves, and to the U.S. alliances with both South Korea and Japan.” Although ROKN modernization over the past 15 years has transformed it into an advanced, ocean-going navy, current ROKN shortfalls in ASW and mine-countermeasure (MCM) training and capabilities provide a powerful incentive for ROK to cooperate with Japan, which offers the extensive ASW/MCM experience necessary for protecting U.S. carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups deployed to the Korean peninsula during heightened tensions or wartime.

Strategic implications of JMSDF-ROKN cooperation, however, are not limited to the aforementioned tactical and operational benefits; the political utility of naval cooperation on regional security dynamics, especially as it relates to shaping China’s rise, is an increasingly compelling reason for Japan and ROK to place historical and territorial disputes on the back-burner and prioritize addressing imminent threats to the regional status quo. For example, in response to China’s demarcation of its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in November, the decision by Seoul and Tokyo to conduct a search-and-rescue naval exercise with destroyers and helicopters without submitting flight plans to Beijing reinforced the South Korean and Japanese joint-political maneuver rejecting China’s ADIZ.

U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral naval cooperation and exercises would also place greater pressure on China to condemn, rather than defend, DPRK provocations such as the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. This view was articulated in a statement released after a series of trilateral track two dialogues among representatives from the U.S., Japan, and ROK, where participants agreed that China’s military modernization and reluctance to censure DPRK for these two incidents required U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral collaboration to “prevent China from engaging in such [assertive] behavior.”

The U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral relationship will be ever-more salient as the U.S. addresses regional strategic challenges such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and China’s anti-access/area-denial capabilities in the East China Sea. Bolstering naval cooperation beyond joint-BMD and humanitarian aid exercises will ultimately require Seoul and Tokyo to move past historical and territorial disputes that have plagued their relationship in the past year, but North Korea will not wait for Japan and ROK to mend ties before staging its next provocation. The strategic imperatives, opportunities, and benefits of Japan-ROK naval cooperation are significant and the time to expand this relationship is now.



[1] This phrase was used by (retired) Vice Admiral Yoji Koda, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces in a 2010 U.S. Naval War College Review piece entitled "The Emerging ROK Navy: A Japanese Perspective." For the full article, go to http://www.usnwc.edu/getattachment/c54ee0a4-987f-4a66-800e-ef88de9381d1/The-Emerging-Republic-of-Korea-Navy--A-Japanese-Pe.

[2] For a detailed account of the MSA’s role in the Korean War, see James E. Auer, The Postwar Rearmament of Japanese Maritime Forces, 1945-71 (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973), 63-66.

Cultural Diplomacy: Taiwan

Posted on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 by Laura Conigliaro


Cultural Diplomacy: Taiwan
By: Laura Conigliaro

Cultural diplomacy has emerged as a key method for Taiwan’s leaders working to increase the island’s international recognition and prominence on the world stage. Defined as a combination of public diplomacy and soft power encompassing a wide range of activities including the, “exchange of ideas, values, traditional and other aspects of cultural identity”, the purpose of cultural diplomacy can be to strengthen relations, enhance socio-cultural cooperation, promote national interests or, perhaps in the unique case of Taiwan, to counter negative propaganda sponsored by certain states concerned about its nation status.[1]
 
While public diplomacy has been heavily emphasized since the Republic of China’s (ROC’s) foundation in 1911, the power of cultural diplomacy has received more recognition recently under the leadership of President Ma Ying-jeou. The Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Foreign Policy Report released on March 18 this year calls for promoting democracy, freedom and equitable prosperity as a mode of enriching Taiwan’s “viable diplomacy” by way of soft power and cultural diplomacy.[2] By linking its’ existence to norms-based values of democracy, Taiwan has maintained the United States and other democratic allies’ support, with arms sales being a prime example, that it could not have been sustained otherwise given diplomatic pressures from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
 
Other common attributes of a country’s cultural diplomacy commonly include tourism, educational exchanges, and popular culture. These measures demonstrate good prospects for Taiwan moving forward on the international stage with regards to diplomatic, economic and cultural spaces even as political space remains constricted.

Tourism: Taiwan is as a popular tourist destination with increasing numbers of visits in recent years. Over 5 million visited the country in 2010, with that number rising to over 7 million in 2012.[3] Of those numbers, about half are characterized as ‘foreigners’ and half ‘overseas Chinese’, illustrating Taiwan’s allure not only as a leisure destination for non-Chinese but also perhaps as a comparatively intact representation of traditional Chinese Culture relative to the PRC. Representations of traditional Chinese culture that can be seen in Taiwan but are virtually non-existent in the Mainland include some traditional festivals no longer celebrated in the PRC due to their prohibition by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.[4] These include ceremonies celebrating the birth of Confucius and the Burning of Wang Yeh’s Boat Festival. Other Chinese cultural signatures lost in the Mainland that still exist in Taiwan include Yayue (ancient Chinese court music) and the common use of traditional Chinese characters.

Educational Exchanges: The number of U.S. students studying abroad in Taiwan has increased over the years from 367 in 2005 to 814 in 2010, with a similar trend for total foreign students studying in Taiwan.[5] Foreign exchanges alter global perception of Taiwan in the international space by giving the opportunity for students to have first-hand experience in the country. First-hand experience gives foreign students the chance observe Taiwanese culture and values, which are likely to highlight its distinctness from the Mainland, and provide inspiration for them to later become advocates for Taiwan in the international community. In addition, educational exchanges increase the use of traditional characters among the Chinese-learning community, promoting Taiwanese Mandarin.

Another related development under the Ma administration has been the establishment of Taiwan Academies (台灣書院) in response to China’s Confucius Institutes (孔子學院) in New York, Los Angeles, and Houston. [6] The administration’s goal is for Taiwan Academies to act as a “platform of cultural exchanges” for Taiwan and Mandarin Chinese in order to raise awareness among the global community of Chinese culture with “Taiwanese characteristics.”[7]
  
Music: Throughout Mainland China, the majority of popular music artists are of Taiwanese origin, including artists such as Jolin Tsai, A-Mei, Jay Chou, S.H.E. and the band Wu Yue Tian. The influence and popularity of these stars in Taiwan and in Asia bring double rewards. Not only are Mainlanders exposed to the Taiwanese Mandarin accent and culture from their songs or television program appearances, such as A-Mei’s role as one of the judges in China’s version of the popular talent competition television show, “The Voice”, they also commonly see traditional characters in song lyrics. Even if an individual has never met a person from Taiwan, by listening to music by Taiwanese artists or watching television programs that feature Taiwanese actors or storylines, they can become familiar and identify with Taiwanese culture. 

Gastrodiplomacy, or winning hearts and minds through food, has been adopted by ROC leaders in efforts to help global audiences better differentiate Taiwan from the Mainland by increasing awareness of its unique cuisine.[8] Throughout 2013, the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs will invest the equivalent of US$4.2 million in the promotion of Taiwanese cuisine globally, including plans for the organization of international Taiwanese food festivals and arrangements for Taiwanese chefs to attend international cooking competitions.[9] Examples of Taiwanese foods include bubble tea, stinky tofu, beef noodle soup and iced sea-salt lattes.[10] Like other forms of Track Two diplomacy, such as sports diplomacy made famous by Ping-Pong competitions between China and the U.S. in the 1970s, food diplomacy is an effective way to simultaneously build people-to-people cross-cultural ties. Taiwan leaders can engage in food diplomacy by utilizing popular dishes to promote a positive image of Taiwan to the world without the need to continuously touch on or explain current political issues to a diverse audience.                                                                               
Foreign Students Participate in Confucian Coming-of-age Ceremony in Taipei

Notes: 
[1]  For more on the definition and purpose of cultural diplomacy, please visit, “What is Cultural Diplomacy?,” Institute for Cultural Diplomacy at http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/index.php?en_culturaldiplomacy  
[2] Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Foreign Policy Report, 8th Congress of the Legislative Yuan, 3th Session,” on March 18, 2013 at http://www.mofa.gov.tw/EnOfficial/ArticleDetail/DetailDefault/d6121d7b-ffa4-4f40-820c-0d15004810f1?arfid=850653df-8ded-42f7-b824-06e8b1a3fc1f&opno=2f74fdfc-2b5e-4683-b051-3608957e43b6  
[3] Visitor Arrivals by Year  (1956~) http://admin.taiwan.net.tw/statistics/year_en.aspx?no=15  
[4] Cindy Sui, “Keeping traditional Chinese culture alive,” BBC News, October 13, 2011 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-radio-and-tv-15153707
[5] See Open Doors Fact Sheet: Taiwan Institute of International Education https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCkQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iie.org%2F~%2Fmedia%2FFiles%2FCorporate%2FOpen-Doors%2FFact-Sheets-2012%2FCountry%2FTaiwan-Open-Doors-2012.ashx&ei=hARXUsnTDLas4APc4YHwDg&usg=AFQjCNGSlp--mrMr7D1nau1Lo_9pcrjWXw&sig2=EJ8ePhZj3A8KRtViX6OHoQ&bvm=bv.53760139,d.dmg ;Taiwan Ministry of Education, “Statistical Summaries: The Number of Foreign Students Studying in Taiwan Exceeds 17,500 in 2007,” at  http://english.moe.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=14481&ctNode=11429&mp=1  
[6] Aries Poon, “Soft Power Smackdown! Confucius Institute vs. Taiwan Academy,” The Wall Street Journal Blog, August 12, 2011 at http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2011/08/12/soft-power-smackdown-confucius-institute-vs-taiwan-academy/
[7] “Taiwan Academies open in 3 US cities,” The China Post, October 16, 2011 at http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/foreign-affairs/2011/10/16/319974/Taiwan-Academies.htm
[8] Paul S. Rockower, “Projecting Taiwan: Taiwan’s Public Diplomacy Outreach,” Issues & Studies 47,no.1 March 2011 at http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/media/Projecting_Taiwan.pdf  
[9]Paul S. Rockower, “Projecting Taiwan: Taiwan’s Public Diplomacy Outreach,” Issues & Studies 47,no.1 March 2011 at http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/media/Projecting_Taiwan.pdf
[10]Robert booth, “Taiwan launches ‘gastro-diplomacy’ drive,” The Guardian, August 8, 2010 at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/aug/08/taiwan-launches-gasto-diplomacy-drive

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