Erenlai - China, the Region and the World 中國與國際舞台
China, the Region and the World 中國與國際舞台

China, the Region and the World 中國與國際舞台

China has become a major international player, and is initiating new partnerships. Here we discuss how it can better participate in world governance and multilateralism, and what it rise means for other countries in Asia.






Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Say Goodbye to Taiwan?

I recently had a conversation with a Taiwanese-American friend of mine visiting Taipei from California about the future of Taiwan in relation to the rise of China. He was of the opinion that Taiwan had already lost the long term battle for sovereignty, and that it was only a matter of time before it would be absorbed into China in a manner similar to Hong Kong, the "one country, two systems" model. As a business man, however, he viewed this eventual unification as likely to take place in the manner of a corporate merger, with the possibility of a military conflict between China and Taiwan completely forgone.

John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, a renowned theorist on US-Chinese relations, weighed in on the debate last month with his much talked-about piece "Say Goodbye to Taiwan", published in the National Interest. Mearsheimer is an academic known for his solid support of the realist theory of international relations, namely that all states exist in a state of anarchy and are constantly seeking to maximize their power vis-a-vis competitor states. In Mearsheimer's estimation, every country would relish the chance to rule the entire world given the opportunity. It is this course of the accumulation of regional hegemony that will eventually bring the United States and China into conflict over the issue of Taiwan.

While it is true that successive leaders of the People's Republic of China have made it clear that China's stated intention is eventual unification with Taiwan, Mearsheimer's quite pessimistic view of the future of Taiwan is based upon the assumption that the current status quo is unsustainable. The 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and the subsequent Trade Services Agreement signed between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, however, demonstrate some of the headway that the countries have made in mutual recognition of the other. Critics of the agreements would argue that the agreements actually bring the two sides closer to unification, but the much feared Chinese takeover of the Taiwanese economy following the signing has yet to occur. If anything, the recent conclusion of the first government to government meeting since the end of the Chinese Civil War gives credence to the idea that, at least for the time being, China is willing to at least partially acknowledge the authority of the government in Taipei.

Taiwanese national identity has undergone a rejuvenation in the past two decades, particularly since the lifting of martial law in 1987 and the emergence of a multi-party democracy. Should pro-de jure independence advocates have their way, China will almost certainly respond with military force, despite the doubts of those who believe Beijing would never resort to such an extreme solution. However, the issue of Taiwanese independence is something to which the Chinese government would almost assuredly respond to with a fervently nationalistic knee jerk; there is little room for a rational, measured response where issues of high sentiment are concerned.

Mearsheimer argues that the best way for Taiwan to solidify its current status would have been the bomb, though he concedes that neither Beijing nor Washington would be comfortable with a nuclear-armed Taipei. Mearsheimer, however, reveals his tendency to view all these developments through the lens of great power competition. There are other ways Taiwan can preserve its current status into the the long term, namely by coalition building with other Asian states anxious about the rise of China in the region. By remaining relevant in the continuing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Taiwan asserts its position as an agent in the Asia Pacific region rather than merely a bystander. Though few states recognize Taiwanese sovereignty, building closer economic and cultural relations with states like Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia would give Taiwan valuable Asian allies in its struggle for self-determination.

In the estimation of realists like Mearsheimer, a strong offense is the best defense, and Taiwan, with its limited military might, cannot stand against the Chinese for very long. While this is true, it is not necessarily true that Taiwan would be completely abandoned by the United States were it to be threatened by mainland China. While China sees the issue of Taiwan as an internal challenge, and an attempted takeover of Taiwan would most likely not be a prelude to Chinese expansionism throughout Asia, in terms of strategy a Chinese Taiwan would not bode well for the United States. By shifting much of its naval might to the Pacific, the United States has made a strong statement that the region is of great value to its interests, interests that include containing the growing might of China.

Mearsheimer, though an accomplished academic, has a penchant for a viewing events in a way that feels more like a Netflix series than a balanced interpretation of facts. In the long term, China is facing an environmental crisis far more devastating than is being talked about and an economy burdened by an aging population and growing inequality. Their military, though rapidly modernizing, is still at least a decade away from catching up to other world powers. The political consciousness of young Chinese is growing at a fast pace thanks to new exposures to media and communication, and an invasion of Taiwan may do more harm than good to China's face. None of this is to say that China will forgot about the issue of unification with Taiwan anytime in the near future, but if Taiwan is careful about the way they approach the issue, their doomsday may not be as imminent as Mearsheimer believes.


Originally published on the blog: One Student's Thoughts on the Way the World Works

Image source: WebProNews

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Beyond the "Taiwan Paradox": Expanding Taiwan’s International Participation

Taiwan is one of the world's most dynamic economies and a consolidated democracy. Even though Taipei has economic and cultural offices in 60 countries, memberships in 32 IGOs (including the WTO, APEC and ADB) and another 22 quasi-memberships, the Republic of China (ROC) has diplomatic relations with only twenty-three states and is often prevented from accessing international bodies. This situation of diplomatic marginalization of a success story can be described as "Taiwan paradox", and is due to the People's Republic of China's (PRC) curtailing of Taiwan's possibilities of becoming a normal member of the international community. International participation is vital for Taiwan's security and economic competitiveness. Ranging from realism to constructivism, there are diverse ways in which Taipei can overcome the "Taiwan paradox".

1) Leveraging on Taiwan's strategic relevance: Taiwan's continued geopolitical separation from the Chinese mainland represents a vital strategic value for U.S. interests in the western Pacific. In addition, all states that rely upon either Asian sea-lanes or continued U.S. presence in support of strategic order (thus avoiding Chinese regional hegemony) have important interests at stake in the future of Taiwan, even if some do not admit it. If Taiwan were to become part of the PRC, Beijing's navy would no longer be hemmed in. As a matter of fact, it would be able to extend its reach to the "second island chain" - Guam, the Marianas and some other small islands in the central Pacific - not exactly a "Great Wall". Thus, Taiwan's economic integration with / dependence from the Mainland is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the absorption of the island by the PRC. The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with the Mainland is not a geopolitical event horizon, provided that Taiwan shows commitment to national defense and willingness to reaffirm its statehood. The ROC government should constantly remind its interlocutors of the critical strategic importance of Taiwan in order to garner diplomatic support and sympathy.

2) Improving Taiwan's political status through economic engagement: There is a synergic relationship between Taiwan's global economic significance and international stand. Taiwan is ideally positioned to become a regional center and a global node for trade, commerce and finance. Especially after the inking of ECFA. Thus, it would make a positive difference if the Taiwanese government could attract more international businesses to the island. Notably, that requires further economic liberalization and reform. According to Paul Wolfowitz, convincing one major international corporation to make Taiwan the base for its regional operations would perhaps be worth more than attaining new membership and participation in international organizations. Also, economic contacts with other countries strengthen Taipei's international visibility and political status. Therefore, Taipei should pursue closer economic relations / integration with the United States, Japan, the European Union, Singapore and other ASEAN countries, and Pacific countries. Economy put Taiwan on the map. Being wired to the global economy is the best way to keep Taiwan there.

3) Avoiding "deal with the devil" shortcuts: With the consolidation of the cross-Strait "diplomatic truce" the PRC is showing some willingness to accord Taiwan specks of international space. Therefore, as in Taipei's quest for observer status in the WHO's World Health Assembly (WHA), Taiwan can talk directly to the Mainland in bilateral consultations behind closed doors and work a solution out. However, this modus operandi sets dangerous precedents for Taiwan's participation in international organizations, especially for organizations anchored in the UN framework. Given that China's goodwill is contingent on the quality of cross-Strait relations, the issue of Taiwan's accession to international organizations should not be confined into an internal cross-Strait framework. On the contrary, Taiwan should always try to internationalize its bids for participation and solicit the involvement (and support) of the international community, particularly of major powers. This option, of course, does not exclude negotiations with Beijing. In essence, for Taipei is more beneficial to present Taiwan's inclusion in international organizations as a highly sensitive international issue rather than relegating it to the cross-Strait dimension.

4) "As-if participation": There is a further strategy available to Taiwan to seek greater engagement with international organizations, including especially those of the impervious U.N. system. Taipei should not necessarily pursue membership or participation, but what Jacques deLisle labels "as-if participation." Taiwan should commit "unilaterally but publicly and solemnly to acting as if it is (or as if it were) a member of an international organization or regime, pledging to live up to all relevant standards." A high level of compliance with the obligations entailed in membership can strengthen Taiwan's case for inclusion in institutions and regimes from which it has been kept out. Borrowing the words of Jacques deLisle again: "The more Taiwan can walk and talk and act like a member of a regime that is open primarily or exclusively to states, the more hope it has of securing the benefits of state (or nearly state-like) status in the international system."

5) "Letting Taiwan go to the world, letting the world see Taiwan": Continuing and diversifying Taiwan's assistance projects in developing countries shows Taipei's commitment to the global community. Through its development aid, Taiwan reaches out to the world, enhances its international visibility and prestige, and legitimizes its aspirations to be a full-fledged international actor. However, Taipei should also intelligently play the cultural card in order to "let Taiwan go to the world, and let the world see Taiwan." Taiwan needs to pool its resources to create a joint strike capability in soft power. To such aim, the government should institute a Ministry of Soft Power that would combine and multiply the national initiatives in cultural relations, public diplomacy, and other forms of attractive power. Furthering Taiwan's image as an "island of creativity and pluralism" is a very effective way to heed Benoit Vermander's exhortation that while Taiwan strives to become a "normal (ordinary) member", it can transform itself into an "outstanding (extraordinary) member" of the international community.

Paolo Sarpi, the greatest Venetian political thinker, argued that sovereignty (and statehood) should not be claimed, but professed as a creed. Taiwan can successfully participate in the international community only if it believes in itself. To believe in itself, Taiwan should first of all see itself as a pluralistic society rather than a politically divided community. Finally, Taiwan should realize that time is not working against its international participation. In the Asia-Pacific Century, the possibilities are not "to the strong alone;" they are "to the vigilant, the active, the brave."

This speech was first presented at the "Taiwan 3.0 Symposium" (TAIWAN 3.0:我心目中總統候選人的條件) on March 8th, 2013 in Taipei
Image source: WebProNews


Friday, 26 October 2012

This little boat that belongs to you and us

This issue of Renlai includes the second focus of a series of three dedicated to Taiwan and the Pacific. The October issue gave a voice to young Taiwanese scholars working on different islands, while the December issue will gather the best contributions from the Pacific conference that the Taipei Ricci Institute and Renlai organized this month in association with the Taiwan Association of Pacific Studies.

Monday, 03 September 2012

Just how Chinese is "Chinese Taipei"?

In this Olympic year, submerged as we are in an economic crisis, much has been said about whether the Olympics are viable and responsible economically, whether they have merely been a distraction for the country, even whether the opening Ceremony was better than the Beijing one four years ago. Today I want to look a little deeper and analyse certain political issues creating tension and the way that the Olympics can unfortunately, often be used to exert political pressure.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

CEFC Files: Neighbour of China, Taiwan's Liminality

Stéphane Corcuff is a political scientist trained in Sinology and Geopolitics. When he is not on sabbatical research in Taipei, he is also a professor at Lyon Institute of Political Studies and lecturer at Paris’ National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations. When we visited the CEFC, Taipei branch, Stéphane explained some conclusions from his past research leading up to his current program of study based around identity politics in Taiwan and the geopolitics of Taiwan since the 17th century. He draws a parralel between Zheng Keshuang (鄭克塽) - the grandson of Koxinga (鄭成功) - who was briefly the leader of Taiwan (1681-83), and the incumbent President of the ROC, Ma Ying-jeou. He then uses this historical context to analyse the policies and consequences of the current Kuomintang regime.

Furthermore, for the past 15 years, Stéphane has been conducting research focused on the Mainlander population in Taiwan. His research leads him to consider the Mainlanders not as an ethnic group but a population of distinct collective identifications. Here Stéphane rounds up a tumultuous 20 years for Mainlanders  in Taiwan, since Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) split from the Kuomintang and so called process of 'desinicisation' began, before showing the identity consequences this has had for the 'Mainlanders'.

Stéphane Corcuff's latest book has been published this month "Zhonghua linguo / Neighbor of China. Taiwan's liminality" Taipei, Yunchen, 2011, 250 p. (Chi: Zhonghua linguo. Taiwan yujingxing / Fr: Zhonghua linguo / Pays riverain de la Chine. La liminalité de Taiwan). If you were interested in this content, Stéphane's latest book provides his most comprehensive compiling yet of his research on Taiwan's 'liminality'. Stéphane's publications can be found and downloaded at "Web de la doc" de Sciences-po Lyon or Association Francophone d'Etudes Taiwanaises. Stéphane is committed to bringing a higher level of sensory interactivity into his academia. Below is an interactive multimedia image of his current research program.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

An all-new flavour? Australia’s Asian Century

Their knowledge of China is thin. They relate to the world outside through a limited range of material symbols rather than through deep cultural engagement.[1]

To those of us following media commentary immediately after Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard pronounced “we are truly already a decade into an Asian century”[2], the above statement would be familiar.

Routine sentiment appeared on the airwaves: Australian students show no interest in studying Asian languages; government funding is misdirected; there is an entrenched failure of Australians to grasp even the most basic cultural aspects of our northern neighbours. Not just China, but India, Indonesia, South Korea and the rest. Even Japan, our old mate, remains as misunderstood as ever.

Sure, Australians love a good curry and are happy to chill out on an island in southern Thailand. Aussies might even feign worldliness so far as to tattoo exotic scripts down their sunburnt and rippling biceps, but they just don’t really comprehend the place. "Asia? I’ll get back to ya on that one, mate".

But the quotation leading this article was not about Australia, it was about Hong Kong, about the professional elite in Hong Kong. A place that is as close to China as you can get—physically and politically—and a demographic whose wealth is arguably much closer tied to the palpitations of the Chinese economy than that of the average Australian is. It would appear that Australia is not alone in puzzling over a "deep cultural engagement" with the emerging Asian powers.

Now it is true that Australia, as a nation, struggles to articulate how it fits into Asia. This is nothing new. The White Australia Policy restricted immigration to Europeans and was in place for over 70 years. Politicians, both maverick (independent representative Pauline Hanson) and mainstream (former Prime Minister John Howard)[3] have expressed concern about Australia’s place in Asia. During my first year as an economic history student in 1997, I was required to read an article in The Economist that reminded us “The idea that Australia’s future belongs in Asia has been around a long time”[4]

As a former British colony, Australia’s links to England have remained, albeit less strong than in the past. While the Queen managed to generate decent crowds and cloying press coverage during her recent tour, Oprah Winfrey might well have been even more popular when she came ‘down under[5]’ last year.

Historically, or so it goes, as the British Empire waned, Australia’s alliance with the USA grew. Gillard recently gushed to a joint sitting of the US Congress, “you have a true friend down under”[6]. Hokey, yes, but an accurate reflection of Australia’s diplomatic, military and political connections. And for many of us, cultural connections too. America still exerts a strong push and pull through electronic and other media.

In this context, many eyebrows were raised in late September 2011 when Gillard announced the impending publication of a discussion paper called Australia in the Asian Century. This weighty tome is designed to uncover the risks and opportunities in a world where Europe and North America do not dominate as they have in the past. Australian government policy needs to be guided in this reoriented world and this paper will help set the bearings.

Of course, Gillard’s enthusiasm for the 'Asian Century' must be put into context. Domestically her popularity has been dire and the political conversation here is constantly bogged down by the opportunistic and oppugnant opposition leader. Insular matters such as regulating poker machines and dealing with boat people have dominated headlines. When it comes to Asia, Gillard has been hidden by the shadows of Australia’s Mandarin-speaking former PM and current foreign minister, Kevin Rudd (aka Kevin07 aka 陸克文). The ‘Asian Century’ discussion paper is a chance for her to shape Australia’s future engagement with the region and kick some domestic political goals at the same time. Tellingly, the leader of the task force, his three colleagues in the committee of cabinet, and the further three members of the external advisory panel are all economists[7]. Eminent and successful economists, of course, but economist nonetheless, and therefore likely to emphasize the broadening financial dimensions of the Australia/Asia relationship(s).

As the impact of Gillard’s announcement has settled, a range of considered opinions beyond the economic aspects have emerged. Some optimistic for the future, some mournful for missed opportunities. Australia’s national broadsheet newspaper, The Australian, has praised Sydney University’s attempt to create academic linkages with China[8]. The leading security strategist, Hugh White, has floated the sensible idea that in order to truly boost the Asian language capacity of young Australians, the government should fund 1-2 year exchanges in the region[9]. In an online (and utterly unscientific) poll, 56% of respondents supported his idea. Bloggers at the Lowy Institute (an international policy think tank) have canvassed various issues inherent in Australia’s Asian connections. From reading these exchanges, it emerges that, among other things, there is resistance among Australian students to learning Asian languages. Many high school students studying foreign languages have an ethnic connection to the particular language, either through their parents or having grown up overseas. Students without this ‘advantage’ do not wish to take these classes for fear of bleeding grades to the better-equipped students. Reflecting a sense of intimidation masquerading as ambivalence, Australians tend to think “Why bother trying in a cosmopolitan world where English is the lingua franca? Learning a language is just too bloody hard, and besides, just because you know the language doesn’t mean you know the place… right? ”.

Not necessarily. Drawing on the long-standing debate about Australia’s ‘China literacy’, Geremie Barmé affirmed at the 2011 Australian Centre on China in the World Inaugural Lecture that

Those who rely for their literacy of China on the translated, whose interests are confined to that which is relevant or useful but in the short term, whether it be in the sphere of business or diplomacy, need to appreciate the fact that whatever their Chinese contacts might say to their face about their ability to 'understand China', perhaps even calling them a 中国通, in the end they'll be considered at best a simple-minded, even malleable, friend. So long as things go well, everyone muddles through. But when they don't, there's no substitute for the ability to think about, engage within and contend with a China that is itself a world of complexity[10].

Pro-China and pro-Tibet supporters mingle with locals at the Beijing Olympic Torch relay - Canberra, April 2008 (P. Farrelly)

I doubt that any Australian (or anyone not versed in the vernacular, for that matter) could claim that they truly understood a country if the didn’t understand the ‘local lingo’. No matter how many topical books and subtitled shows the monoglot devours, he or she will always be scrambling for the full story. Fluency, or even just proficiency, in the native tongue opens a whole different dimension of experience. Walking down the street becomes a new realm of opportunity, with advertisements to interpret and chatter to overhear, goods to buy and transport systems to navigate. With language skills, business meetings, conferences and banquets become even greater opportunities to forge connections. Many businessmen/women would no doubt attest that deals are generally not made on a country-to-country or even company-to-company level, but between individuals.

In conceptualising the ‘Asian century’, a considerable dose of nuance must be applied. The linguistic, cultural and developmental differences within places such as India and China can be almost as glaring as those that separate them. How does one simultaneously understand authoritarian pariah states such as Burma and North Korea and robust democracies such as Japan and Taiwan? Lapsing into monolithic generalisations about Asia presents a genuine risk. Subtlety will be required in ‘Australia’s Asian Century’.

Australia is not alone in trying to adjust to the recalibrated world order, and this in itself is something to consider. The countries mentioned above, along with every other nation under the sun, are trying to make sense of the new global landscape. Politically, economically, militarily, linguistically and culturally, nations around the world are seeking to determine the trade-offs required to best hitch their prosperity on to the Asian high-speed train of development.

The extent to which Australia is connected with Asia is something Australians can no longer stick their heads in the sand about. Our football team, the Socceroos, are preparing to battle Thailand in a waterlogged Bangkok to inch closer to the 2014 World Cup Finals. This weekend the Korea pop juggernaut blasts into town for an arena show in Sydney[11]. These events might well have been inconceivable even just a decade ago, having been shaped by recent (but long-gestating) diplomatic and cultural evolutions. Along with curry and discount flights to tropical islands, they are but two examples of what Helen F. Siu might refer as the “limited range of material symbols” that Australians use to understand Asia. Limited, perhaps, but still signs of some sort of ongoing integration and awareness.

Prime Minister Gillard’s speech from the launch of the ‘Asian Century’ is riddled with use of the ‘new’. New powers. New investment. New strengths. New Asian middle class. New relationships. New century.

And yes, much of ‘Australia’s Asian Century’ is new, some of it strikingly so. But what if you were to ask an old Australian Digger[12] about the ‘Asian century’? Someone who fought the Japanese in Malaya in WWII, who spent time rotting away in the Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore. Someone who then went on to do business with the Japanese, helping hitch his homeland’s economy to that of the booming one of his former, bitter enemy. The old Digger might have a different perspective. His century, the 20th, was very much an Asian one. Not just for him, but for Australia too.

How Australia deals with the ‘Asian century’ will be interesting. How Asia deals with the ‘Asian century’ will be interesting too! The team writing the government report will no doubt adroitly address the important economic issues. However, complex cultural and linguistic elements should not be deemphasised. A ‘deep cultural engagement’ with our Asian neighbours will surely benefit all.


[1] Helen F. Siu, “A Provincialized Middle Class in Hong Kong” in Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global, edited by Ananya Roy and Aihwa Ong. Blackwell 2011. Page 136.



[4] ‘A national identity crisis’, The Economist, 14 December 1996.

[5] ‘Down under’ refers to Australia. See this old tourism advertisement featuring Paul ‘Crocodile Dundee’ - The Wonders Down Under







[12] A ‘digger’ is slang for an Australian soldier

Monday, 07 February 2011

Taiwan's publishing industry needs South East Asia

The future of the Taiwanese cultural creative industry lies not in the East or the North, nor does it lie in the West. It lies in South East Asia.


South East Asia as Taiwan’s economic and trade partner

Since the beginning of 2010 the Taiwanese government has been busy trying to sign the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China and therefore hoping to enter the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) market via this agreement. This shows the close connections between South East Asia and Taiwan as economic and trade partners and how important the market is to Taiwan’s economic development.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

France’s policy towards the lifting of the EU arms embargo on China (2003-2010)

The EU arms embargo on China and France’s policy

After the tragic events in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989, the European Union member states convened on June 27 in Madrid to announce several diplomatic and economic sanctions, such as an embargo on trade in arms with China. France was one of the first nations to show its disapproval of China’s actions, but was also one of the first European countries to restore diplomatic ties with China at the beginning of the 1990s. During this period sanctions to isolate China were gradually abandoned. However, the arms embargo has remained in force. At the start of the 21st century, as China’s economic power grows rapidly, the embargo has become a major point of concern and contention among Western countries. European countries have a great economic interest in China’s growing market, especially in supplying Beijing’s rapid military modernization. The EU arms embargo is in fact a hindrance to commercial exchanges between Europe and China, and to the improvement of their diplomatic relations.

France has searched to improve its relations with China for economic and political interests. Sino-French relations were particularly important during Chirac’s two terms in office, whereas during Sarkozy’s current term in office relations with China have been through both times of trouble and of reconciliation. Chirac and Sarkozy follow the “Gaullism tradition” (a French political movement based on Charles de Gaulle’s thought and action during World War II), and both support lifting the arms embargo on China. They believe that the embargo is not legally binding, and since the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports was adopted in June 1998, it should only be considered as a “symbol”. However, the details of Chirac and Sarkozy's policies toward this issue vary slightly.

Chirac’s foreign policy (2003-2007)

The French Government under Jacques Chirac sought to balance the American hegemonic power and to restore France’s status in Europe and the world by establishing closer relations with China and European countries, such as Germany.

Because of Chirac’s keen interest in China, Sino-French relations were at their highest status from 1995 to 2007. Chirac’s administration strongly supported lifting the arms embargo. According to him, the embargo on China is an “anachronism”. In 2003, Chirac used his right of veto in the United Nations against the invasion of Iraq when France was considered the leading nation to rise against the American power. However, the United States did not comply with the decision of the international community and pursued its goal to attack Iraq with British support. Consequently, as Chirac was against the Bush administration’s policy of “unilateralism and preemptive war”, he became even more assertive to achieving his goal of forming a multipolar world with the support of China.

France and Germany were the two most important proponents of lifting the arms embargo and had a significant role in influencing the decisions of other European countries. However, despite France’s efforts to influence its European counterparts, mainly because of American pressure and the implementation of the “Anti-Secession Law” by China in March 2005 (to avoid any declaration of independence in Taiwan), the intention of other European countries to lift the arms embargo was abandoned in June 2005.

Sarkozy’s foreign policy (2007-2010)

In May 2007 Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president of France and France’s foreign policy toward China and the United States began to gradually shift. Indeed, at the end of 2007, American’s relative power was weakened by the war in Iraq and the world financial crisis. Moreover, China’s rapid economic and military growth was shifting the balance of power both in East Asia and throughout the world. In order to adapt to this new balance of power, Sarkozy decided to improve transatlantic relations in order to pursue France’s economic interests as Paris coped with the economic crisis (such as accelerating France’s full-reintegration into NATO’s military command structure in 2009). Furthermore, like Chirac, Sarkozy emphasizes a multilateral framework to deal with international issues, which is closer to the view of the present American president, Barack Obama.

In contrast to Paris’s strong stance in 2004 in favor of lifting the embargo, Sarkozy has been less active on this issue with China than his predecessor. He supports the EU position on the arms embargo, which encourages improvements of China’s human rights policy and environmental issues as a condition for lifting the embargo. In fact, Sarkozy is more attracted and fascinated by the United States. He is not as interested and knowledgeable on China as Chirac was.

Nowadays the embargo still creates diplomatic discord between the European countries and Washington. In January 2010 the issue was raised again by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as soon as he assumed the EU’s rotating presidency. However, so far Spain’s request has not altered the EU’s position. According to the European Union, China’s human rights performance is still too weak.

Conclusion: Comparison between Sarkozy and Chirac

The political decisions taken by Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy to emphasize France’s position in the world are purely driven by political and economic considerations for the sake of promoting French national interests. The French presidents are both in favor of a “multipolar world”. They have promoted closer relations with great powers such as China, the US and Germany.

Sarkozy and Chirac have different characters and interests in the world which has hugely influenced their objectives and decisions in France’s foreign policy. Chirac was closer to China, for example, he had promoted numerous cultural exchanges (such as the “cross-years” from 2003 to 2005), whereas Sarkozy is currently closer to the United States and the European Union. Consequently, their support for lifting the arms embargo differs. In following their convictions, they have both tried to adapt to the situations of the world and the power shift, which gradually occurred since the start of the 21st century: from a strong US unilateralism to China’s impressive growing economic power.

Painting by B.V.


Monday, 28 June 2010

China gets global

There is good news on the global front: China is more and more living up to its international responsibilities. The gradual reevaluation of the Renminbi, voting at the UN to sanction Iran and even moving cautiously on North Korea, all of this shows that China is increasingly calibrating its policies by taking into account their global impact.

China’s prompt recovery after the financial crisis had made some observers fear that China’s new assertiveness would translate into unilateral policies. The Copenhagen psychodrama heightened such concerns. Fortunately, these concerns currently prove to be exaggerated: China’s recovery is fragile, and the country knows that its sustainability depends on the health of the global economy. Friction with the US and France has been put aside. Chinese diplomats and policymakers are conscious of the danger that would represent an isolation of China, and are making their own the old American wish of seeing China behaving like a “responsible stakeholder.”

The recent move towards salary rises for Chinese workers also goes in this direction. Joined with the (still very gradual) reevaluation of the Renminbi it provides for a leveled international economic playground and the emergence of new economic players. Besides, as the World Bank has recently noted, Chinese enterprises still have huge margins of productivity to realise, which can more than compensate for the expense created by rises in labor cost. A fairer social system should go along with a more efficient economy – and a country linked to its partners through common interests that are progressively better defined and assessed.

As is the case with other countries, China’s policies depend very much on circumstances and conjuncture. Unwelcome shifts in style and orientation are still possible, especially in what looks like a new period of economic uncertainty. Still, recent developments prove that the gradual insertion of China into global governance called for during the last decade by Chinese and foreign scholars is bearing some fruits. These fruits might not be yet ripe, but signs of hope must be noted and valued: the new international order is not all about competition. Reason and cooperation can still help us to break though rivalries, misunderstandings and irrational behaviors.

Painting by B.V.



Wednesday, 28 April 2010



Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Beyond the Beijing and Washington Consensus

The "Beijing consensus" is an expression that has often been used during the last ten years to characterize the Chinese way of dealing with Africa and other areas: The "Beijing consensus" is seen by many as a way to counter U.S. supremacy by not imposing on developing countries constraints usually set up by the U.S. policy (transparency, greater respect for human rights, gradual democratization..), while other analysts see it as a pragmatic alternative to the now defunct "Washington consensus", rejected by developing countries after the experiments imposed by international financial organizations and the impasses of "forced democratization". The term "Beijing consensus " should not dissimulate the fact that the countries to which the Chinese strategy apply do not correspond to a "coalition", but rather to a loose alliance of partners intent on defending "national sovereignty" against the infringement of international law.

Mercantilism or Tributarism?

The United States often summarize their criticisms against the Chinese strategy by using the term "mercantilism". A passage of the revised National Security Strategy in April 2006, says:
"(Chinese leaders) are expanding trade but acting as if they can somehow "lock up" energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up - as if they can follow a Mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era ... "

The word mercantilism is highly controversial and for a long time, well expressed the frustration of American leaders in front the accumulation of trade surpluses by China. However, the American Treasury itself always stopped short of accusing the Chinese authorities of "manipulation" of their currency but spoke simply of the "misalignment" of the Renminbi (RMB). The expression was to implicitly assign international financial organizations the heavy task to convince the Chinese authorities in accepting a regime of flexible change.

An entirely different way of looking at China’s international policy towards developing countries has been one provided by the "Tributarism" paradigm. China sometimes knows how to use the political asset that a trade deficit can constitute: with most neighboring countries and African countries that China wants to attract into its sphere of influence, China develops favorable commercial trends in exchange for political allegiance. Already, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Chinese emperor would give more favors to tributary states or kingdoms than he received from them; for this generosity, the emperor obtained their respect and goodwill. Indeed, it is clear that China carefully differentiates its commercial strategy according to the political areas it deals with, following strategic considerations.

Shaping a New Consensus

Recent political and economic developments have weakened both the Washington and Beijing consensus. The Washington consensus has been broken by the excesses of extreme liberalism. The Beijing consensus now suffers from the international outcry on some aspects of China’s African policy (Darfur), backlash against Chinese interests in some African countries, and the weakening of China’s position along with the worsening global crisis.

The Time of a "Global Consensus" Partnership between China, Europe, India, the United States and Africa should help this continent to achieve the right balance between economic development and political reform. This cannot be done in the same way in all countries. Africa, on the long run, does not gain anything in being the battlefield where the great Powers confront their strategies. Rather than making Americans, Europeans and Chinese compete among themselves for a slice of African’s resources, leaders of this continent should call for a "Global Consensus for Africa" in which all partners would cooperate in making Africa a showcase of sustainable and peaceful development. Will the current crisis teach us at last some common sense, in showing the global community that cooperation serves everyone’s interests much better than strategic competition?
Photo: B.V.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Global Warming, EU-Taiwan Relationships and Public-Private Partnership.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am most honored to participate in the workshop you are holding today on the eve of the international conference on “Taiwan culture vs. global warming.” I am fully conscious of the importance of our meeting: it shows that, as elected officials and public servants, you do not want to remain at the level of general declarations and public relations events; you really wish to translate environmental awareness into public policies and well-conceived, innovative projects. In order to do so, you are indeed encouraging cross-cultural initiatives and international cooperation, especially with Europe. As chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, your invitation is for me an encouragement, and it acts also as a reminder: International companies tend to work primarily with ministries and other national agencies. They may sometimes forget that Taiwan is also home to a vibrant local democracy, and that the counties, cities and townships are the primary movers when it comes to infrastructures, to citizens’ education and, to designing the face of Taiwan for the decades to come. This is especially true for Taipei County, home to more than 3,700,000 inhabitants, the most populated area in Taiwan, and certainly one of the most engaged into sustainable development and innovative planning.

My talk will be divided into two parts: First, a word about Taiwan and EU relationships in the light of the challenge created by global warming and, more generally, by the shift towards a more sustainable model of development. Then, I will concentrate on the implications of this cultural shift when it comes to partnership between the public and the private sector.

Global Warming, the EU and Taiwan

A solid body of evidences shows that climate changes are somehow related to human activities, that some of these changes may have dangerous implications in not too distant a future, and that we are able indeed to mitigate part of this trend of its undesirable effects. This pleads for a renewed model of global governance, in which Taiwan, rich of its technological and cultural traditions, is called and entitled to play an active role.

The Copenhagen Convention on Climate Change that will take place in November 2009 will gather the international community to agree on a new blueprint that will enlarge the agreements already reached at Kyoto and through various international treaties and conventions. The European Union and its member states will take leading positions at the Conference to produce an international commitment which hopefully will also include the commitments from the USA and China for drastic reductions in greenhouse gases that are indeed necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.

However, the European Union has not been waiting for a new conference to take place in Copenhagen or anywhere else to play a leading role in fostering a more pro-active policy against global warming. Europe is today the world leader in renewable energy. The development of renewable energy - particularly energy from wind, water, solar power and biomass - is a central aim of the European Commission’s energy policy. As part of Kyoto-protocol efforts to curb carbon emissions, the European Commission has pledged that renewable sources will make up 22% of Europe’s energy supply by the end of this decade, up from 14% in 1997.

In the area of greenhouse gas emissions, the EU has set the most ambitious targets in the world. The EU will reduce its energy consumption by 20% before 2020. Furthermore, the EU is offering to take even bolder steps and cut its emission by 30% if other countries join in this ambition. The policies designed for reaching these goals go through a mix of regulatory caps on emissions, caps that are progressively toughened, research for alternative and renewable sources of energy, and the implementation of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, a market-based instrument aimed at curbing carbon dioxide emissions.
As examples of successful implementation of the European Commission energy policy, Denmark is flanked by some 5400 wind turbines, supplying 28% of its electricity. Renewable sources of energy installed throughout Germany now produce nearly 14% of German electricity consumption up from 6.3 percent in 2000. It is worth mentioning that another major country in Europe, France, which is the world second largest producer of nuclear energy, is also the European Union’s leading producer of renewable energies.

Taiwan is not yet at the forefront of this battle against global warming and for a cleaner and greener world. Many statistical data’s remain preoccupying, in particular those that underline the fact that Taiwan has been the world champion when it comes to the growth of carbon dioxide emissions per capita during the last decade. However, we also have noticed that Taiwan, thanks to the vitality of its democratic debate, is not deceiving itself and is now conscious that it still has a long road to go in order not to waste energy, not to further abuse its natural resources and wants now to mobilize its whole society towards the global endeavor of sustainability. Taiwan is not yet considered as a model sustainable country, there are good reasons for it, but the most important thing is that it does intend to follow that road of redemption, and to make its commitment a landmark of its international strategy.

If all this is translated into concrete initiatives, Taiwan is sure to win the mind and hearts of the European countries, especially at a time when the EU, citizens and governments alike, are particularly anxious to know whether China will or will not take its share of the global struggle against global warming. Furthermore, collaborating with Europe on this issue is “good business” for Taiwan: first, it is clear that Europe will progressively edict a stringent set of “environmental norms” that will gravely affect the exports of the nations that would not comply with it; the recent failure of the Doha cycle testifies to the fact that the present structures of the WTO will be unable to stop this trend towards greater environmental accountability; second, global governance on climatic issues allows for a flexible frameworks of international instruments, a framework into which Taiwan might find a renewed international status and mission.

Public and Private Partnership

The international conference that will be held tomorrow establishes a strong link between cultural resources and the struggle against global warming, and it is right to emphasize such a link. From the perspective which is mine - the one of a European entrepreneur - nothing testifies more to this link than the development of a culture of “corporate social responsibility.” European companies have progressively learnt to consider themselves as “responsible corporate citizens”, understanding that such a status does not infringe on their economic mission and the laws of the market but rather ensures that the long-term interests of the collectivity, including theirs, are accounted for and play a regulatory role for discouraging reckless business conducts.
In this perspective, sustainability as a whole, including the imperatives created by the consciousness of the risks linked to global warming, are now incorporated into the strategy of a vast number of European companies. For sure, this also comes from the fact that many of them enjoy a comparative advantage in the domain of “green business” – water sanitation and urban sewage, organic food, ethical investment portfolios, ecotourism, green building materials and design, as well as indeed renewable energy production. Many companies that did not have a “sustainable” or “green’ business per se are now reformatting themselves in order to make their products and practices congruent with the common good.
What is true of Europe could be true as well of Taiwan. After all, the comparative advantage of Taiwan in IT can easily make it the world leader of “green IT technologies”, a paramount sector for the struggle against global warming as it is linked to energy, water and rare resources consumption.
Once it is clearly established that private companies in Taiwan are able and indeed want to play the role of positive and innovative actors in the struggle for a sustainable world, a world that tackles the climate challenge and other related questions, then the cooperation between the public and the private sector becomes much easier, for the benefit of all parties concerned.

However, this cooperative model still needs to be nurtured and enlarged in Taiwan – as an example, the position papers of ECCT frequently emphasize the fact that the management of public contracts in Taiwan still raises serious problems, many of them impeding Taiwan’s imperative of sustainability. Let me quote here a few issues and proposals raised by the Chamber in our recent position papers:

- Laws and regulations often hinder European companies from getting full market access; long outstanding WTO compliance issues remain unresolved such as Taiwan’s accession to the Government Procurement Agreement; the upgrading of key service sectors – in particular logistics and tourism – lacks the bold moves necessary to attract foreign participation. (On a personal note, I think that foreign expertise is absolutely necessary for transforming Taiwan’s tourism market, making it eco-friendly, efficient, attractive for tourists from China and elsewhere, and managed at a scale congruent with good business practices.)

- The national and local governments should also develop and implement a global marketing campaign to highlight Taiwan’s advantages and development potential (e.g. talent pool, education, healthcare, tourism, protection of the environment).

- Outsourcing government services to the private sector, including such services as administration, inspections, and maintenance, would greatly improve energy efficiency, environmental expertise and economies of scale.

- Even more important, the national and local governments should introduce a financially feasible tariff system to create a sizable local market for solar panels. Similarly, geothermal resources in Taiwan are plentiful; hence, the government should actively support the development of geothermal power generation through pilot projects and the mapping of Taiwan’s geothermal resources (through cooperation between local and European universities). The authorities should also re-evaluate plans for the future development of a local wind energy technology sector after unsuccessful projects in recent years. Also (even if I recognize that this issue is controversial), biofuel and biodiesel development would support local farmers and utilize contaminated farm land for the cultivation of energy crops.

- Stricter building codes and energy saving regulations would create more opportunities for the application of renewable energy in building design.

- A market based system for pricing electricity would encourage its efficient use and stimulate investment in renewable and, possibly, nuclear energy.

- Speaking on a broader scale, the government as well as the counties authorities should significantly increase the participation of the private sector in the planning and execution of infrastructure projects which, if successful, will greatly improve the creativity, quality, and cost efficiency of public infrastructure projects.

I hope to have shown that a Europe - Taiwan partnership between public and private sectors fosters indeed the cultural, technical and social inventiveness that will help Taiwan to become a leading country in the ongoing struggle against global warming and for rooting a long-term, sustainable economic model. Let me emphasize once again that local governments are key actors on this endeavor. Making its experience internationally known and continuing to learn from European experiences will help Taipei County to become a beacon of environmental planning and an innovative cultural haven. Rest assure that European companies present in Taiwan have a strong commitment to this market and intend to collaborate with Taiwan’s private and public sector so as to make the best of the cultural and ecological resources of this beautiful island and of its metropolis.
I am assured that these two days of encounters and debates will help all of us to understand better and imagine the common future that we are called to build together.

Philippe Pellegrin
CEO of CALYON Taipei Branch
Banchiao, October 3, 2008

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