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One China One System? The Geopolitics of Forcing Taiwan’s Hand

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On New Year’s Day1979, The Standing Committee of the Fifth National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China abruptly stopped shelling Taiwan’s offshore islands, changed their rhetoric from one of ‘liberation’ to ‘unification’(Laurus 2019) and sent a message of greetings and wishes for a hopeful reuniting of the Chinese people (Fifth National People’s Congress 1979).On the fortieth anniversary of this message, Communist Party Secretary-General Xi Jinping of China in perhaps his strongest messaging to date, warned the breakaway republic of Taiwan that it “must and will be reunited” with mainland China despite interference from foreigners, a not so subtle hint at the United States (BBC News 2019). This strong language was evidence that China was willing to move towards a forceful reunification with Taiwan if efforts for a peaceful reintegration remained stagnant.This paper focuses on what the probable leading indicators are that Japanese and Taiwanese intelligence agencies would focus on to discern signals of Chinese intent to move forward with a forcible reunification of Taiwan. 

The Chinese Perspective

China sees the Taiwan issue as one similar to that of Hong Kong or Macau.  Both islands have been administered under the “One China-Two Systems” approach after returning to Chinese control following agreements with their former colonizing powers.  Macau was released from Portugal in 1987 and Hong Kong from Britain in 1997.  Under “One China-Two Systems,” each territory would be autonomous in all matters except foreign affairs and defense-related activities for a period of fifty years.  China has proposed a similar reunification plan with Taiwan, which has been routinely rejected.  China has always considered the integrity of the nation as a “core interest” which includes “the sovereignty of Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang (Nie 2016).”

China has always maintained that it has the right to use military force to compel Taiwan to rejoin China (Chaudhury 2019). However, it has used many other tactics to undermine Taiwan’s resistance.  China has moved to sever ties with any country that seeks to establish relations with Taiwan and to exclude Taiwan from participating in international organizations that could confer a semblance of national recognition (Brown and Scott 2014, 64).  Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, his language and actions have ratcheted up the calls for reunification with Taiwan and perhaps signaled a stronger possibility for military action.

Xi has made several moves to consolidate his power within the PRC.  Most notably his removal of term limits from the constitution, which will allow him to serve indefinitely (Womack 2017, 402). His ‘anti-corruption’ efforts, which he undertook shortly after taking power (Nie 2016, 426), while billed as an effort to root out corruption within the government.  Xi’s efforts to remove those seen as disloyal in the higher ranks has created a Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) that is both loyal and firmly in the control of Xi with many calling him “the New Emperor(Brown and Scott 2018, 62).”  The PRC has also increased pressure on many fronts following Taiwan’s election of Tsai Ing-Wen: the staging of military exercises including China’s aircraft carrier the Liaoning; live fire exercises near Taiwanese waters; the establishment of a new commercial flight path that encroaches upon Taiwanese airspace; interfering in various non-government and international forums to force the removal of references to Taiwan as being anything other than a part of China (Brown and Scott 2018, 63-65).Under Xi, China appears to be making a full court press to drive Taiwan to what it considers a ‘peaceful unification.’

The View from Taiwan

Taiwan has effectively ruled itself independently of the mainland and has never seen itself as being under PRC control.    Polls in Taiwan have consistently shown very high support for independence, normally in the 70% range (Keum and Campbell 2001, 71)&(Jennings and Lai 2019).  Support for independence among younger demographics is typically higher as they feel less bonding with the mainland than their parent’s generation (Jennings and Lai 2019).   Per capita income for Taiwanese citizens is much higher than that on the mainland(Chiu 1983, 1092).  China’s abandonment of promises made to the Tibetan people after it invaded and the continuing erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong and Macau under the “One China-Two Systems” since reunification has also not gone unnoticed (Keum and Campbell 2001, 73). 

The National Security Policy of Taiwan states in its opening paragraph on cross-strait negotiations that: “mutual non-recognition and mutual non-denial” means “the two sides do not recognize each other’s sovereignty, nor do they deny each other’s authority to govern (ROC).”Like the PRC, Taiwan sees itself as the only legitimate “true” China and will be unwilling to concede its independence and sovereignty to the PRC as it has long seen mainland China as the one that should come under Taiwanese control (Chang 2014, 303). 

Japan Caught in the Middle

Japan has the most complicated position of the three nations, which it must carefully navigate as it has significant military, economic, and diplomatic ties with China, Taiwan, and the United States.  Despite having been a former colonial occupier of Taiwan, its relations by and large have been increasingly beneficial between the two countries.  While Japan has spoken up at international venues on behalf of Taiwan without establishing formal relations and has supported the development of a high-speed rail system on Taiwan, Japan has been careful not to draw too much ire from the PRC (Bartlett 2018).  China views Japan as having fully accepted its One Belt-One Road (OBOR) initiative, despite Prime Minister Abe being somewhat cagy in his meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in May 2018. Abe admitted that “the possibility of cooperation will be explored on a case-by-case basis, under the proviso that openness, transparency, economic efficiency and financial soundness all accord to international standards (Kawashima 2018).”Abe is seen as a strong leader in Japan and despite his attempts to improve Sino-Japanese relations he has moved to strengthen Japan’s position in the region to counter China’s rise. 

While China’s ascendency and the current pre-eminence of the United States as the global power has led many scholars to discuss the impending Thucydides Trap (TT) with the United States (see for example Er 2016), China’s rise also presents a similar TT with Japan.  Until recently, Japan and China have not held positions of strength as regional powers at the same time.  China surpassing a stagnant Japanese economy in 2010 to become the second largest economy poses economic and security concerns for Japan (Yuan 2018, 4).  Additionally, China has announced the planned development of a four-ship aircraft carrier fleet.  In response, Japan has sought to increase its submarine fleet from 16 to 22 and has sought to remove constitutional limitations on the Japanese military to increase its flexibility and allow for the development of increased military capability, all designed to counter the Chinese PLA. This could extend to Japan pursuing its own nuclear weapons program if it sees the United States as becoming an unreliable partner in sharing its nuclear deterrence (Er 2016, 43).  Japansees a reunification of China with Taiwan as not “a good thing for Japan”with respect to its national security and will move to counter such an event.

Taiwanese/Japanese Intelligence Services and the Search for Leading Indicators

In such a complicated region where global and regional powers are intertwined, what indicators should the Taiwanese and Japanese intelligence services be monitoring to provide warning that China may be moving towards forceful reunification?  What capabilities and technologies are these organizations employing in such monitoring?   

National Security Bureau (NSB) – The NSB is the official intelligence agency of Taiwan.  The NSB’s history was shrouded in a dark past of covert arrests and assassinations until 1994 when legislative changes created the National Security Bureau Organization Act.  This act formalized the organization and published the names of its leadership.  The first responsibility assigned to the NSB is the “Security for the Taiwan area, intelligence work for the Mainland area and international intelligence work (ROC 2011).” This is an admission that the ROC intends to conduct intelligence activities inside the PRC but the act does not discuss in detail any capabilities, technologies, personnel strength or other related information. Not much is known publicly about the NSB other than its organizational hierarchy and what is published on its website as the NSB has rarely published documents for public consumption.  However, due to its advanced economy and technological access, the NSB likely maintains comparable capabilities to most western intelligence agencies. It is known that Taiwan has successfully launched several satellites under Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSO). However, any relation between the NSB and the NSO is not public. The NSB also is likely not adverse to using classical techniques as demonstrated by the PRC accusing Taiwan of using “honey pots” to lure Chinese students into espionage, a charge that Taiwan has publicly denied (NDTV).

Japanese Intelligence Services – Japan maintains a complex organization of several intelligence services including the Naicho – Cabinet Research Office, a small central intelligence agency and coordinating office under the Prime Minister that focuses on foreign intelligence concerns (see figure 1). Japan also has a Defense Intelligence Office and subordinate intelligence agencies in its Ground, Maritime and Air defense forces (fas.org). 

Figure 1: Japanese Self Defense Force Organization (source Fas.org)

Japan’s intelligence capabilities and techniques are similar to its western peers but is smaller in size.  It also does not maintain an organization specializing in foreign human intelligence (HUMINT) akin to the CIA and no internal security organization like Britain’s MI5 (Yoshiki 2015, 721).  China’s increasing regional hegemony has driven Japan to pursue its own military and space intelligence capabilities and to seek closer cooperation with the United States on intelligence matters to fill these gaps (Yuan 2018, 5).

Japan and Taiwan should direct its national technical means towards monitoring the following indicators.  First, since Xi’s anti-corruption campaign resulted in him solidifying control of the military by placing loyalists in leadership roles, any rhetoric from senior military leaders could be perceived as being reflective of Xi’s policies.  Should senior military leaders start calling for increased military action against Taiwan, this would be a worrisome sign.  Secondly, China’s current amphibious capability needed to transport troops and expertise in deployment has been insufficient for a Taiwanese invasion. A sharp increase in amphibious related exercises or calls for an abnormal increase in the acquisition of amphibious ships and landing craft would also be key preparations for an assault on Taiwan.   Third, the PRC has been attempting to isolate the ROC from involvement in international engagements, devaluing Taiwan’s name and image globally (Brown and Scott 2017, 64).  A significant increase in these activities could be a policy shift by Xi’s government away from peaceful unification.

A military venture by China to force Taiwan into reunification could result in swift military action by the United States and subsequently would draw Japan into the conflict through treaty entanglements.  Such a conflict would undoubtedly be devastating for the region.  An uneasy stalemate has existed between China and Taiwan for nearly three decades. Rapprochement between the two respective leaders seems a decreasing possibility and the probability of conflict correspondingly rising.  President Xi’s strongman approach to leadership, a desire for the emergence of a powerful China through the One Belt-One Road initiative, and a willingness to absorb short-term suffering for long-term gain may in fact signal the coming end of China’s patience on the Taiwan issue. We live in interesting times, indeed.

Kjell Tengesdal is a Health Physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and has over 35 years of service in the United States Navy and Navy Reserve. He is currently a student in the Doctorate of Strategic Intelligence Program at American Public University. He holds a Master’s in Engineering-Applied Science from the University of California Davis and a Master’s in Physics and Bachelors in Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Arkansas.

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East Asia

High time for India to Reconsider the One-China Policy

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Sino-Indian bilateral relations have seen major challenges in the recent years, beginning with the Doklam crisis to the current pandemic situation. The sugar-coated rhetoric of Beijing proved to be mere duplicity after tensions erupted along the Line of Actual Control where soldiers of both the states clashed in mid-2020, resulting in the martyrdom of several Indian jawans including a commanding officer. The other side also saw several casualties, though Beijing has kept the actual count under wraps. More recently, China suspended the state-run Sichuan Airlines cargo planes carrying medical supplies to India for 15 days citing the deteriorating situation in India due to COVID-19. This was after the Chinese government promised all the necessary help for India to battle the pandemic. 

The People’s Republic of China under the leadership of Xi Jinping has been maintaining an aggressive posture with India even while making calls for ‘maintaining peace’. Its support for all-weather friend Pakistan has attained new peaks when it proclaimed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor under the Belt and Road Initiative passing through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, a territory claimed by India, despite New Delhi’s staunch opposition. It is in the light of all these events that the calls of the strategic community in India to review the recognition of One China policy has gained some attention. 

India’s Sensitivity versus China’s Duplicity  

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) under the Communist Party of China (CPC) claims itself as the only representative of the Chinese nation including the territories of Tibet and Taiwan among others. Any country having formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, also known as Republic of China shall be seen by China as challenging its sovereignty. The same parameter applies to any country recognizing Tibet or similar ‘autonomous regions’ under the Chinese control. This is known as the ‘One China Principle’ or ‘One China Policy’. India was one of the first countries to recognize the PRC in 1949 after the civil war as well as to accord recognition to its occupation of Tibet. However, China claims the whole of India’s Arunachal Pradesh as ‘South Tibet’, a claim that India has always rebuffed. Moreover, it occupies Aksai Chin which it captured during the 1962 war as well as the Shaksgam valley, ceded illegally to it by Pakistan in 1963.

Even after the war and the re-establishment of cordial bilateral relations, China has continued to repeat its illegitimate claims and nibble into India’s territory.  India’s protests fell on deaf ears and this is despite India recognizing the One China Policy. India stopped mentioning the policy since 2010 in its public announcements and publications, however, without repealing it. Taking undue advantage of this China pays little concern to Indian sentiments. This view in India, to challenge China’s One China Policy, has been strengthened by aggressive diplomatic postures of China as well as its regular incursions along the disputed border while continuing to support Islamabad on all fronts – overtly and covertly, encircling India. 

The government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to give in to the bullying attempts by China by allowing the Army to go ahead with offensive countermeasures against Chinese incursions in 2017 as well as in 2020, in addition to taking measures including banning dozens of Chinese mobile applications. It has also started actively taking part in initiatives like Quadrilateral Dialogue as well as strengthening relations with ASEAN states. However, a dominant section within the strategic community in India feel that these measures are not enough to knock China into its senses. 

Challenging the One China Policy 

The most significant among the measures suggested in this regard has been to review India’s adherence to the One China policy. In an atmosphere where China does not recognize the One India policy comprising of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territories, experts argue the need of reciprocity. Initiatives such as providing greater global visibility and access for Tibetans including the 14th Dalai Lama, using Buddhist history and traditions as a trump card since New Delhi has the advantage of having the Dalai Lama on its side, provides legitimacy for India unlike China. India can facilitate the appointment of the next Dalai Lama and extend protection for the existing and the next Dalai Lama. The repeal of the recognition for Chinese occupation of Tibet can also send major tremors in Beijing but that seems to be a distant dream. The new democratic Tibetan government under President Penpa Tsering should be given greater official acknowledgment and publicity. India has already taken small steps in this regard by acknowledging the involvement of the elite Special Frontier Force (SFF), majorly comprising of exiled Tibetans, in a game changing operation to shift the balance against China during the recent border crisis. The funeral of an SFF commando attended by a Member of Parliament and leader from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Ram Madhav was an overt signaling to China that Indians are not refraining from openly recognizing Tibetan contributions to the state of India. Another sensitive issue for China is the Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslims being allegedly tortured and deprived of their basic human rights in the ‘re-education camps’ by the CPC and a state sponsored genocide being carried out against them. India can take up the issue vigorously at international forums with like-minded countries, increasing the pressure on China. Similarly, the pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong, pro-Mongol movements such as the protest against Mandarin imposition in the school curriculum of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, can also be encouraged or given moral support. India, a country which upholds its virtue of unity in diversity must take a strong stand against the ‘cultural assimilation’ or ‘liberation’ as the Chinese say. This is nothing but cultural destruction imposed by China using the rhetoric of ‘not being civilised’ and branding the non-Han population as barbaric in China and the regions it illegally occupies.

India can also stir the hornet’s nest by engaging more formally with the Taiwanese leadership. Taipei has always been approached by New Delhi keeping in mind the sensitivities of China in mind. However, it does not have to do so for a power that bullies both the nations with constant threats and provocations by its action. It is a well-known fact that Taiwan is a center of excellence in terms of the semi-conductor industry and high-end technology. Engaging more with Taiwan will not only hurt Beijing, but also will help India counter the strategic advantage possessed by China in terms of being the major exporters of electronic goods and telecommunication hardware to India. India can also attain more self-sufficiency by boosting its own electronics industry using the Taiwanese semiconductor bases. India can use this leverage to shed its overdependence on China in critical sectors, balance the trade deficit to some extent, while also securing its networks from Chinese intelligence. India must also focus on working with the states having stake in the South China Sea such as Philippines and Malaysia who regularly face aggression in their airspace and Exclusive Economic Zones from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces and China’s maritime militia, questioning their territorial sovereignty, imposing the One China Policy. New Delhi must pressurize China by working with the western nations, whose legislators have openly declared support for the Tibetan President in exile, to question China’s occupation of Tibet and attempts at homogenizing the population. Long term measures and strategies will have to be sought to end the dependence on China while seeking alternatives and becoming self-reliant over time. 

However, India will face several serious challenges to implement the above-mentioned measures. There is a deep lack of mutual trust among major powers like USA, UK, France and Russia through whom India can build a coalition. The American President Joe Biden is seemingly interested in partly co-operating with China and has a softer stance unlike the former President Trump. Nevertheless, the QUAD is a welcome step in this regard and India must undertake a greater role in pressurizing China through such forums, albeit not openly. India also has a serious issue of possibly having to incur heavy economic losses on having to limit Chinese goods and investments and finding similarly cheap and easy alternatives. These fault lines are exactly what is being exploited by China to its advantage. Thus, the Indian state and its diplomacy has the heavy task of working between all these hurdles and taking China to task. However, since China seems remotely interested in settling the border disputes like it did with its post-Soviet neighbours in the previous decades and instead gauge pressure against India. So, New Delhi will have to pull up its sleeves to pay back China in the same coin.  

The views expressed are solely of the author.

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East Asia

Who would bell the China cat?

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If the G-7 and NATO china-bashing statements are any guide, the world is in for another long interregnum of the Cold War (since demise of the Soviet Union). The G-7 leaders called upon China to “respect human rights in its Xinjiang region” and “allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy” and “refrain from any unilateral action that could destabilize the East and South China Seas”, besides maintaining “peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits”.

China’s tit-for-tat response

The Chinese mission to the European Union called upon the NATO not to exaggerate the “China threat theory”

Bitter truths

Amid the pandemic, still raging, the world is weary of resuscitating Cold War era entente. Even the G-7 members, Canada and the UK appear to be lukewarm in supporting the US wish to plunge the world into another Cold War. Even the American mothers themselves are in no mood to welcome more coffins in future wars. Importance of the G-7 has been whittled down by G-20. 

Presumptions about the China’s cataclysmic rise are unfounded. Still, China is nowhere the US gross National Product. China’s military budget is still the second largest after the US. It is still less than a third of Washington’s budget to be increased by 6.8 per cent in 2021.

India’s role

India claims to be a natural ally of the G-7 in terms of democratic “values”. But the US based Freedom House has rated India “partly free because of its dismal record in persecution of minorities. Weakened by electoral setbacks in West Bengal, the Modi government has given a free hand to religious extremists. For instance, two bigots, Suraj Pal Amu and Narsinghanand Saraswati have been making blasphemous statements against Islam at press conferences and public gatherings.

India’s main problem

Modi government’s mismanagement resulted in shortage of vaccine and retroviral drugs. The healthcare system collapsed under the mounting burden of fatalities.  

Media and research institutions are skeptical of the accuracy of the death toll reported by Indian government.

The New York Times dated June 13, 2021 reported (Tracking Corona virus in India: Latest Map and case Count) “The official COVID-19 figures in India grossly under-estimate the true scale of the pandemic in the country”. The Frontline dated June 4, 2021 reported “What is clear in all these desperate attempts is the reality that the official numbers have utterly lost their credibility in the face of the biggest human disaster in independent India (V. Sridhar, India’s gigantic death toll due to COVID-19 is  thrice  the official numbers”, The frontline, June 4, 2021). It adds “More than 6.5 lakh Indians, not the 2.25 lakh reported officially are estimated to have died so far and at best a million more are expected to die by September 2021. The Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that actual Indian casualties may be 0.654 million (6.54 lakh), not the official count of 0.221 million (2.21 lakh as on May 6 when the report was released. That is a whopping three times the official numbers, an indicator of the extent of under-reporting”.

Epidemiologist Dr. Feigl-ding told India Today TV on April, 16, 2021 that “actual number of COVID-19 cases in India can be five or six times higher than the tally right now” (“Actual COVID-19 cases in India may be 5 to 10 times higher, says epidemiologist. India Today TV April 16, 2021).

Concluding remarks

India’s animosity against China is actuated by expediency. There is no chance of a full-blown war between China and India as the two countries have agreed not to use firepower in border skirmishes, if any. Modi himself told the All-party conference that not an inch of Indian territory has been ceded to China. In May this year, the Army Chief General M M. Naravane noted in an interview: “There has been no transgression of any kind and the process of talks is continuing.”

It is not China but the Quad that is disturbing unrest in China’s waters.

History tells the USA can sacrifice interests of its allies at the altar of self interest. India sank billions of dollars in developing the Chabahar Port. But, India had to abandon it as the US has imposed sanctions on Iran.

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East Asia

Xinjiang? A Minority Haven Or Hell

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While the G7 meets under the shadow of Covid 19 and the leaders of the most prosperous nations on earth are focused on rebuilding their economies, a bloodless pogrom is being inflicted on a group of people on the other side of the world.

In this new era, killing people is wasteful and could bring the economic wrath of the rest of the world.  No, it is better to brainwash them, to re-educate them, to destroy their culture, to force them to mold themselves into the alien beings who have invaded their land in the name of progress, and who take the best new jobs that sprout with economic development.  Any protest at these injustices are treated severely.

Amnesty International has published a new 160-page report this week on Xinjiang detailing the horrors being perpetrated on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.  Amnesty has simultaneously announced a campaign on their behalf.

Persecution, mass imprisonment in what can best be described as concentration camps, intensive interrogation and torture are actions that come under the definition of ‘crimes against humanity’.  More than 50 people who spent time in these camps contributed first-hand accounts that form the substance of the report.  It is not easy reading for these people have themselves suffered maltreatment even torture in many instances.

The UN has claimed that 1.5 million Muslims (Uighurs, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Tajiks) are in these internment camps and China’s claims of re-education camps made to sound as benign as college campuses are patently false.

People report being interviewed in police stations and then transferred to the camps.  Their interrogation was frequently conducted on ‘tiger chairs’:   The interviewee is strapped to a metal chair with leg irons and hands cuffed in such a manner that the seating position soon becomes exceedingly painful.  Some victims were hooded; some left that way for 24 hours or more, and thus were forced to relieve themselves, even defecate, where they sat.  Beatings and sleep deprivation were also common.

Activities were closely monitored and they were mostly forbidden to speak to other internees including cell mates.  Trivial errors such as responding to guards or other officials in their native language instead of Mandarin Chinese resulted in punishment.

Amnesty’s sources reported the routine was relentless.  Wake up at 5am.  Make bed — it had to be perfect.  A flag-raising and oath-taking ceremony before breakfast at 7 am.  Then to the classroom.  Back to the canteen for lunch.  More classes after.  Then dinner.  Then more classes before bed.  At night two people had to be on duty for two hours monitoring the others leaving people exhausted.  You never see sunlight while you are there, they said.  That was because they were never taken outside as is done in most prisons.

The re-education requires them to disavow Islam, stop using their native language, give up cultural practices, and become Mandarin-speaking ‘Chinese’.

Such are the freedoms in Xi Jinping’s China.  If China’s other leaders prior to Mr. Xi effected moderate policies in concert with advisers, it is no longer the case.  Mr. Xi works with a small group of like minds.  He has also removed the two-term or eight-year limit on being president.  President for life as some leaders like to call themselves, then why not Mr. Xi.  His anti-democratic values make him eminently qualified. 

An enlightened leader might have used the colorful culture of these minorities to attract tourists and show them the diversity of China.  Not Mr. Xi, who would rather have everyone march in lockstep to a colorless utopia reminiscent of the grey clothing and closed-collar jackets of the Maoist era. 

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