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MAC promises to loosen rules on Chinese students

DEFUSING TENSION: The council said it would allow Chinese students to stay longer than four months and would also recognize Chinese school credentials

By Ko Shu-Ling

Friday, Aug 15, 2008, Page 3

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday promised to further loosen cross-strait regulations relating to education, including extending the time Chinese students remain in the country for study and recognizing educational credentials from China.

Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Secretary-General Kao Kong-lian (高孔廉) said that educational exchanges between both sides of the Taiwan Strait were bound to improve cultural understanding and defuse tensions. And with that in mind, Kao said they would consider the proposals.

Kao made the remarks in Taipei yesterday morning while attending a workshop for Taiwanese students studying in China.

The two-day event was organized by the council, the SEF, the Ministry of Education, Chinese Youth International and Taiwan Students Union.


While Chinese students are allowed to stay in Taiwan for four months, Kao said it would make sense to extend that time to a year for the convenience of the students. Under this scenario, students could study for a whole academic year, he said.

As recognition of Chinese educational credentials did not require negotiations with China, Kao said it was the goal of the administration to recognize Chinese educational credentials as China does.

Kao pointed out, however, that the government will do so in a “selective” manner, emphasizing that recognizing Chinese educational credentials is different from allowing Chinese-education graduates to take national examinations to obtain certain professional licenses, such as practicing Chinese medicine.


Kao said it was also the goal of the government to allow students to obtain double degrees in Taiwan and China.

Kao said many people agreed that cross-strait relations over the past few months have improved compared with those during the former administration. Improved ties were attributed to improved communication, Kao said, especially in terms of business and culture.

With the negotiation channel in place, Kao said, both sides of the Strait could resolve many problems through the conduit.

In the future, Kao said the administration would like to see a liaison office set up to “directly” resolve problems.

“Many people hope to see peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he said. “Because that’s how Taiwan can continue to survive and develop and China can continue to strengthen its economy and improve its livelihood.”

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Taiwan, the UN, what’s in a name?

By Jerome Keating
Friday, Aug 15, 2008, Page 8

We have all witnessed how quickly the People’s Republic of China (PRC) broke its most recent promise to refer to Taiwan as Zhonghua Taibei (中華台北, Chinese Taipei) and not Zhongguo Taibei (中國台北, Taipei, China) at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

This broken promise followed on the heels of an earlier failed pledge to use this term. But another issue now faces Taiwan, that of UN membership. Not to worry, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Cub Scouts are again hard at work, flying by the seat of their pants.

Since 1993, Taiwan has made an annual application to regain membership in the UN. What name to use is an issue. This is the name game and charade that Taiwan plays with the hypocrites of the world who trade and make money with Taiwan as an equal, who have cultural exchanges with Taiwan as equals, who do everything else with Taiwan as equals but who cannot bring themselves to officially recognize Taiwan as a diplomatic equal because that would jeopardize their ability to make money from China.

Traditionally Taiwan had used the name “Republic of China” for entry. As this had always been shot down by China, the Taiwanese government switched to the name “Taiwan” last year — with no greater success. This year, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said the Ma government would not follow the strategy of the previous administration under Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Fair enough, each administration has it own call, so what brainstorm will they come up with for this annual issue?

Ma, of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), was elected president in March and he and his Cabinet took office in May. It is now August and Taiwan’s application to the UN, a standard annual priority in Taiwan’s affairs regardless of administration, is due. Media reports said Ma picked his Cabinet based on their capability and seasoned experience: So why are they stalling?

Unfortunately the foreign ministry is stuck and seems to be taking its lead from “ostrich” Ma. The government has yet to decide on a name as it does not want to risk offending China. It has also falsely claimed that it cannot use the same name employed in previous UN applications after two local referendums on UN accession this year failed to pass. That logic tests the mind and reveals the typical fudge factor Ma uses to skirt responsibility for his actions.

A little background is in order on this. Taiwan conducted the two referendums on UN membership in March. For a referendum to pass it must first have the participation of 50 percent of the nation’s eligible voters (not votes cast at the time). After meeting that requirement, the referendum must also be approved by 50 percent of those who voted plus one.

This places a high burden on any referendum since, as in many countries, getting a 50 percent turnout for a referendum is difficult. If a referendum fails to pass that bar, then that topic cannot be brought up again as a referendum for three years. This says nothing about the nation or national policy; it only says the topic cannot be raised again for three years.

Taiwan has never had any referendum that passed that bar. One of the two UN referendums this year was initiated by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) asking whether Taiwan should apply for entry to the international organization under the name Taiwan. The KMT, faking a show of Taiwanese consciousness, countered this with a referendum on entering under any suitable name. For them the name Taiwan is anathema.

The KMT was clearly faking because soon after the party proposed a referendum and obtained the necessary signatures to support the holding of such a referendum, it urged voters to boycott it as well as the DPP referendum. Why? Boycotts lower the possibility of passing the first bar — that of getting 50 percent of the eligible voters.

The KMT did not want to risk voter confusion as to which was the more appropriate referendum, and it certainly did not want a referendum with the name Taiwan passing. It was better to burn all bridges and lower the eligible voters for both. In this way, Ma could use the KMT to block Taiwan’s wish for entry to the UN although technically he could not be accused of voting against it.

Not surprisingly, both referendums failed to pass the required threshold. More than 6.2 million people voted in the referendums, which received 87 and 94 percent voter approval, but they did not meet the first requirement that more than 50 percent (8.6 million voters) of the 17.3 eligible voters should participate in the vote.

This is the hypocritical obfuscation and fudge factor that Ma always hides behind. With this background, the foreign ministry recently floated the idea of using “Chinese Taipei” — the non-entity name given the Olympic team — for the nation’s application to join the UN.

The deadline for application is tomorrow.

Non-plussed, Henry Chen has been quoted as saying: “We will have a strategy by then, I cannot say what it will be, but there is still time.”

Whipping up a strategy in a short time might not be a problem, especially as much of the ministry has been in place through both administrations.

But to think that the ministry can come up with a name that China will approve other than that of a PRC satellite is ludicrous. To think that it can placate China is ludicrous. To think that the issue will go away if the ministry hides its head in the sand is ludicrous.

The problem in this matter is China and has always been China; it is not the previous Taiwanese administration that Ma keeps trying to paint as the bad guy, nor is it the name.

Ma’s team should be man enough and continue to expose the hypocrisy of the UN, whose charter says that people have the right to self determination. It should not false-heartedly try to find a denigrating name that China would accept. Simply tell the Chinese Emperor that he has no clothes. If the question of name is still a problem, then what name should they use? A friend suggested a different name for the ministry, one that reflects the attitude of Ma and his pie-in-the-sky

NITWITS, yes that name has a ring to it; it certainly captures the spirit and character of Ma’s Cub Scouts and “new” flexible kowtowing strategy in diplomacy.

Jerome Keating is a Taiwan-based writer.



A performer dressed as legendary character Zhong Kui fights off the “demons” of pollution outside the Control Yuan in Taipei yesterday. The campaigners were protesting plans to build a fossil fuel power plant in Lukang Township, Changhua County.

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Weak Western diplomacy has failed to prevent an avoidable war

By Richard Holbrooke and Ronald Asmus
Friday, Aug 15, 2008, Page 9

In weeks and years past, each of us argued that Russia was pursuing a policy of regime change toward Georgia and its pro-Western, democratically elected president, Mikheil Saakashvili. We predicted that, absent strong and unified Western diplomatic involvement, war was coming.

Now, tragically, a full-scale Russian invasion of Georgia has happened. The West, especially the US, could have prevented this war. Instead, regardless of whether it actually pulls back its troops to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia has crossed the Rubicon, making this a watershed moment in the West’s post-Cold War relations with Russia.

Exactly what triggered the fighting is unclear. Each side will argue its own version. But we know, without a doubt, that Georgia was responding to repeated provocative attacks by South Ossetian separatists controlled and funded by the Kremlin.

This was a not a war Georgia wanted; it had believed that it was slowly gaining ground in South Ossetia through a strategy of soft power.

Whatever mistakes Georgia’s government made cannot justify Russia’s actions. The Kremlin invaded a neighbor, an illegal act of aggression that violates the UN Charter and fundamental principles of cooperation and security in Europe.

Beginning a well-planned war (including cyber-warfare) as the Olympics were opening also violates the ancient tradition of a truce to conflict during the Games. Russia’s willingness to create a war zone 40km from the Black Sea city of Sochi, where it is to host the Winter Games in 2014, hardly demonstrates its commitment to Olympic ideals.

In contrast, Russia’s timing suggests that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin seeks to accomplish its aggressive aims ahead of the US elections, thus avoid beginning relations with the next president on an overtly confrontational note.

Russia’s goal was not simply, as it claimed, to restore the status quo in South Ossetia. It was and remains regime change in Georgia. This is why it quickly opened a second front in the other disputed Georgian territory, Abkhazia, just south of Sochi. Its great goal is to replace Saakashvili — a man Putin despises — with a president more subject to Kremlin influence. The current promised withdrawal does not mean it has abandoned that aim.

As Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt pointed out, the Kremlin’s rationale for invading has parallels to the darkest chapters of Europe’s history. Having issued passports to tens of thousands of Abkhazians and South Ossetians, the Kremlin claims it intervened to protect them — a tactic reminiscent of one used by Nazi Germany at the start of World War II.

Russia wants to roll back democratic breakthroughs on its borders, to destroy any chance of further NATO or EU enlargement and to reestablish a sphere of hegemony over its neighbors. By trying to destroy a democratic, pro-Western Georgia, the Kremlin is sending a message that, in its part of the world, being close to the US and the West does not pay.

This moment could well mark the end of an era in Europe during which Realpolitik and spheres of influence were supposed to be replaced by cooperative norms and a country’s right to choose its own path.

Hopes for a more liberal Russia under President Dmitry Medvedev will need to be reexamined. His justification for the invasion reads more like Leonid Brezhnev than Mikhail Gorbachev. Of course, no one wants a return to Cold War-style confrontation, but Russia’s behavior poses a direct challenge to European and international order.

What should the West do now?

First, Georgia deserves the West’s solidarity and support. The West must insure that fighting does not resume, that Russia does indeed withdraw fully, and that Georgia’s territorial integrity within its current international border is preserved. There must also be a major, coordinated transatlantic effort to help Georgia rebuild and recover.

Second, we should not pretend that Russia is a neutral peacekeeper in conflicts on its borders. Russia is part of the problem, not the solution. For too long, the Kremlin has used existing international mandates to pursue neo-imperial policies. The West must disavow these mandates and insist on truly neutral international forces, under the UN, to monitor a future cease-fire and to mediate.

Third, the West needs to counter Russian pressure on its neighbors, especially Ukraine — most likely the next target in the Kremlin’s efforts to create a new sphere of hegemony. The US and the EU must be clear that Ukraine and Georgia will not be condemned to some kind of gray zone.

Finally, the US and the EU must make clear that this kind of aggression will affect relations and Russia’s standing in the West. While Western military intervention in Georgia is out of the question — and no one wants a 21st-century version of the Cold War — Russia’s actions cannot be ignored. There is a vast array of political, economic and other areas in which Russia’s role and standing will have to be reexamined. The Kremlin must also be put on notice that its own prestige project — the Sochi Olympics — will be affected by its behavior.

Weak Western diplomacy and lack of trans-Atlantic unity failed to prevent an avoidable war. Only strong trans-Atlantic unity can stop this war and begin to repair the immense damage done. Otherwise, we can add one more issue to the growing list of foreign policy failures by the administration of US President George W. Bush.

Richard Holbrooke served as US ambassador to the UN in the Clinton administration. Ronald Asmus, a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, is executive director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Center of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.


Listen to the voice

Reform in China

Friday, Aug 15, 2008, Page 8

It wasn’t a surprise to see US President George W. Bush attend the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing last Friday. After all, the US State Department removed China from its top 10 list of human rights violators in its annual report early this year, although China has never eased up on human rights abuse.

As an example, to show off the good side of Beijing during the Olympic Games, the Chinese government has evicted many of its citizens and destroyed many houses around Beijing. Moreover, many dissidents have either been detained or silenced before the Games.

China continues to block news Web sites such as the BBC’s Mandarin site and the Chinese-language Apple Daily in Hong Kong. Media censorship is rampant.

Beijing was given the right to host the Olympics because it had promised the International Olympic Committee that it would respect human rights, or at least loosen the grip on its nationals.

Then came the Tibet incident in April. We also saw Chinese students in South Korea hounding and hitting South Koreans who demonstrated against the torch relay in South Korea.

What is the best way to encourage reform in China? I do not see any measurable improvement in human rights in China. China has become a rising economic power after opening its door to foreign investment, but we have not seen any improvement in human rights situation.

To say that more contact with the outside world would pressure the Chinese government to ease its hold on basic freedoms and promote democracy is a dream.

For instance, Internet access to worldwide search engines such as Google and Yahoo has not forced China to improve its treatment of its citizens. On the contrary, Yahoo even enabled the Chinese government to hunt down one dissident, who was subsequently captured and jailed.

Bush had said that he would speak about respect for human rights and democracy when he met Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) during his visit. But did an international boycott change China after the Tiananmen Square incident? No, it appears that China is only willing to pay lip service to change. Its usual practice is to release one dissident from prison to pacify international criticism. The global outcry has not motivated China to make any constructive improvement.

By holding dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s representatives, China gives the outside world an impression that they are talking. We are wasting our time because we are too civilized and naive.

Libertyville, Illinois




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