Tag Archives: Taiwan

Yongxing And Submarine Protection

Yongxing, Sansha prefecture, or Woody Island, in the Paracels archipelago in the South China Sea

CHINA HAS BEEN on Yongxing, known as Woody Island to most of the rest of the world, since Mao’s troops landed on the then unoccupied island in 1956. Woody is part of the Parcels, the closest of the South China Sea archipelagos to the Chinese mainland, and had previously been occupied by French Indochina, Japan and Nationalist China.

As the image above shows, Woody Island today has been extensively built up for a speck of land in the middle of the South China Sea. It has a hospital, library, school and sports fields as well as a military garrison and airport. ICBC and China Telecom both have branches there. The permanent civilian population numbers more than 1,000.

Beijing administers all its claimed land and waters in the region from the Sansha City prefectural government office that was set up on Woody in 2012. The city office is the building with the silvery dome on the right-hand side of the picture.

Vietnam, which calls Woody Island Phi Lam Island, and Taiwan also have territorial claims derived from previous occupants. Reports that the PLA has deployed two HQ-9 surface-to-air missile batteries on the island lend credence to the notion that Beijing is gradually stepping up its militarization of the contested waters of the South China Sea.

Last year, it flew J-11 military jets onto the island, whose airstrip is capable of landing China’s fourth-generation military aircraft. At the same time, it is believed that the newest nuclear submarines that China is building will be based at the PLA-Navy’s Yulin base on Hainan Island only 400 kilometers away and where there are underground pens for some 20 submarines as well as space to dock an aircraft carrier.

Woody could serve as a forward defense base for Yulin should it come to an air attack on the base. Yulin is of increasing strategic important as it offers a quicker route to the deep water passages to the Pacific than the PLA-Navy’s northern Xiaopingdao base. The PLA-N needs that rapid blue-water access if its subs are to be a credible second-strike nuclear deterrent.

The HQ-9 is a medium-to-long-range anti-aircraft missile that can be launched from the back of a heavy-duty military truck on land as well as from a destroyer at sea. An HQ-9 land-based battery would have accompanying power generation and radar trucks, the radar being capable of detecting both low altitude and stealth targets.

The arrays seen in the satellite images taken last weekend that have caused the latest stir are positioned to defend the approaches to Yulin.

The initial reports came from the Taiwanese defense minister, with the commander of the US Pacific Fleet subsequently confirming them to the Reuters news agency, saying it represents “a militarisation of the South China Sea” in ways China’s President Xi Jinping had pledged not to make.

China, for its part, says it has every right to deploy limited defences on its own territory and that that has nothing to do with militarisation of the South China Seas.

HQ-9s, though, are highly mobile weapons systems; they could be taken on or off the island by ferry at any time, or just driven into a storage shed.

Their presence on Woody doesn’t likely have great significance in itself. They are not as provocative there as they would be if rolled out on any of the artificial islands being built in the Spratlys. China vacillates in the South China Sea between asserting its claims and ensuring a belligerent stance does not trip over into live hostilities.


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Beijing Happier Than It Says About U.S. Arms Sale To Taiwan

Beijing does not come away badly from Washington’s sale of $5.3 billion-worth of arms to Taipei. Washington backed off including in the deal 66 new F16 C/D fighter jets that Taipei wanted. Taiwan will only get upgrades to its aging F16 A/B fleet, but not the 66 new F16 C/Ds it had requested. That was the price the Obama administration had to pay for keeping relations with Beijing on an even keel. Given the PLA’s modernization, Beijing will be just fine with that. Nor will it be too concerned about the rest of the deal, which includes air-to-air missiles, guided bombs, radar and training.

For all its bluster, Beijing never really thought it could scupper the whole deal. Keeping the military technology gap between the PLA and Taiwan’s armed forces as wide as possible was always its realistic goal in this case. Tick the achieved box. Similarly, possible retaliation, such as suspending military exchanges, as happened in January 2010 after Washington authorized the sale of $6.4 billion-worth of arms to Taiwan, will be hollow threats as doing so would remove the incentive for Washington to show restraint in future sales.

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Taiwan’s 2012 Presidential Election May Test Beijing’s New Leaders

A timely reminder from Jacques de Lisle, the University of Pennsylvania law professor who directs the Asia program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Pennsylvania, that not only does China start the transition of its top leadership next year, but that Taiwan, too, will be holding a presidential election, as will the U.S. for that matter.

This three-legged electoral stool may, he suggests in a newly published interview with Knowledge@Wharton, provide an early test for Beijing’s new leaders.

At a moment of formal transition on the Mainland, which–for all the continuity–is a period of high tension when nobody wins points by being soft, and given what are pretty entrenched Chinese suspicions rooted in the pro-independence Chen Shui-bian era of what the [Democratic Progressive Party] in power means, there’s a real risk that China would react very badly to a DPP victory. That risk is particularly significant if it comes in the wake of Mainland-bashing or pro-independence electioneering in Taiwan, which is a real possibility.

Beyond Taiwan, deLisle also has thoughts on Hu Jintao’s legacy and the policy implications of what a princeling dominated new leadership might look like, and how the Youth League faction might balance its. All well worth the read.

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What Damage Does Taipei Spy Case Do To U.S.-Taiwan Military Cooperation?

The arrest of Taiwan’s Major-General Lo Hsien-che on charges of spying for Beijing pours cold water on the warming cross-Straits ties of the past couple of years. Lo was detained on January 27th on suspicion of passing on intelligence about U.S. arms sales and tactical military communications, according to the Ministry of National Defence in Taipei. Local media reports say that during raids on Lo’s home and office, investigators seized documents on the Po Sheng military communications system Taiwan is buying from U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, a proposed purchase of Apache helicopters from Boeing and and maps of the army’s underground fiber-optic cables.

China and Taiwan have long spied on each other but the 51-year-old Lo is the highest-ranking Taiwanese officer to be allegedly involved in espionage on Beijing’s behalf since the 1960s. He was reportedly recruited by China in 2004 while stationed in Thailand as a military attache and has been under suspicion of being a spy since last year. He was most recently head of the military command’s communications and information office. The question now is less what damage this will do to Beijing-Taipei relations than what damage it has done to U.S.-Taiwanese military intelligence cooperation, given the access Lo had to classified information about command, control and communications systems development.


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Double Agent Arrests in Taipei May Sour Cross-Strait Relations

In contrast to the current frosty state of relations between Beijing and Tokyo, those between Beijing and Taipei have been good, arguably their best ever. The arrests of a senior Taiwanese military intelligence officer and a Taiwanese businessman on charges of being double agents for China threatens to undermine that. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry says the arrest of the officer occurred on Monday after a four-year investigation. Colonel Lo Chi-cheng who was in charge at the bureau of building Taiwan’s spy network in China, is accused of having passed names of members of the network to Chinese authorities, according to local press reports. The businessman was named as Lo Pin, a Taiwanese spy run by Lo Chi-cheng and who was said to have been turned by China after being uncovered and arrested in Fujian in 2004. Lo Pin is reported to have in turn turned Lo Chi-cheng in 2007. One factor in the effect on cross-strait relations will be the extent of the damage done to Taipei’s espionage network.

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Little Change In How Corrupt Official China Is Seen

China ranks 78th in the latest index of the perception of corruption in the public sector published by Transparency International, with a score of 3.5. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore top the list with scores of 9.3 out of a maximum of 10. Hong Kong ranks 13th with a score of 8.4, Taiwan 33rd with 5.8 and Macau 46th with 5.0.

Hong Kong’s score puts it in the company of countries like Canada, Switzerland and Australia; China’s puts it in the same band as Italy, Brazil, Thailand and India. TI’s regional ranking puts Hong Kong at 4th and China at 14th among 33 Asia Pacific countries.

TI, which advocates for the stricter implementation of the U.N. Convention against Corruption, says that nearly three quarters of the 178 countries in its list score below a 5, indicating a serious corruption problem around the globe.

With governments committing huge sums to tackle the world’s most pressing problems, from the instability of financial markets to climate change and poverty, corruption remains an obstacle to achieving much needed progress.

Last year, China ranked 79th out of 180 countries with a score of 3.6. The anti-corruption drive has kept China’s score stable but progress on reducing corruption remains slow at best and as we have noted before the country has an ambiguous relationship to corruption in business.

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China-Taiwan Trade Pact Stirs More Protests

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have been on the streets of Taipei to protest again against a trade deal between China and Taiwan agreed late last week that will cut export tariffs and ease cross-Strait investment restrictions. The agreement is in line with Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s policy of pursuing closer ties with China and comes after several rounds of talks started last year.

Objectors say it will bind Taiwan and China too closely economically creating a relationship that would be like that between China and pre-reunification Hong Kong. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party wants a referendum held on the deal, formally known as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement.

Taiwan gets more out the agreement as it stands than China. Chinese tariffs on more than 500 Taiwanese products, including car parts, petrochemicals and fruit, will be cut immediately and abolished within three years, roughly double the number of Chinese products that will get similar treatment from Taiwan. But the test for Beijing’s motives would be whether it will now let Taiwan pursue free-trade agreements with other countries.

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