Vol. 1 Issue 3
Global Taiwan Brief – Vol. 1, Issue 3
Taiwan Bolsters Cybersecurity with Draft Bill from New Cyber Department
By: Russell Hsiao
Taiwan’s Submarines Offer Asymmetrical Benefit but Limited Deterrence
By: David An
The Politics of Chinese Taipei
By: Joseph Bosco
Reforming the Kuomintang: Adapting to Taiwan’s Dynamic Democracy (Part II)
By: Lauren Dickey
Britain-Taiwan Relations After Brexit
By: Michael Reilly
Taiwan Bolsters Cybersecurity with Draft Bill from New Cyber Department
Russell Hsiao is the Executive Director of the Global Taiwan Institute and Chief Editor of the Global Taiwan Brief.
The “Department of Cybersecurity” (資通安全處) under the Executive Yuan—the executive branch of Taiwan’s central government—recently issued a notice for public comments on a draft of the Information Communication Security Management Act (資通安全管理法; hereafter “Act”). The Act includes 24 articles divided among three chapters fleshing out the Tsai Ing-wen administration’s legal framework for information communication security, the development of cyber defense technology, and international cooperation on cyber defense. After public comments, the bill will be submitted to the legislative body for reviews and could be passed as early as the end of 2016.
The Department of Cybersecurity was established on August 1 and in the span of one month held three public workshops with participation from members of Taiwan’s private sector and other government agencies to draft the bill. The Act notably lays out four priorities under the new government:
1) Training information communication professionals;
2) Promoting information communication technology research and development, integration, application, and industry-academic and international cooperation;
3) Developing and promoting the information and communication security industry; and
4) Developing and promoting information communication security software, technical equipment standards and related services, and monitoring mechanisms.
The cyber department’s primary purpose is to strengthen the nation’s information communication security. According to the Executive Yuan’s website, the department has nine areas of responsibility: 1) national information communication security guidelines, policy, and major projects; 2) national information communication security related legislations and standards; 3) national information communication security incident detection and reporting mechanism; 4) national critical infrastructure security management mechanism; 5) national information communication security taskforce resolutions ; 6) information communication security related training and audits; 7) information communication security education, training, and guidance; 8) information communication security international exchange and cooperation; and 9) other matters related to information communication security programs. ( An organizational chart of the cyber department and its relationship with other entities may be found here.)
Jian Hong-wei (簡宏偉) is the first chief of the Department of Cybersecurity. Jian has a long career in information communication security. Prior to this appointment, he was a Commissioner at the National Development Council Information Management Office. Early in his career, Jian served as the division chief of the Overseas Community Affairs Council’s Information Communication Division and Central Weather Bureau’s Meteorological Information Center; he also served on the Executive Yuan’s Research, Development and Evaluation Commission. Jian holds a Master’s Degree from National Chung Cheng University’s Information Engineering Institute.
The Act tracks with efforts underway in other countries throughout the region such as Korea and Japan in terms of national-level standards for cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection. Countries sharing similar standards should theoretically make it less complicated for governments and companies facing similar threats to cooperate with one another. In a report published by the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, Bonnie Glaser and Jacqueline Vitello recommended that Taiwan be included in the Department of Homeland Security’s annual exercise Cyber Storm. According to the authors, Taiwan has twice applied to observe the biennial exercise, but has not yet been invited.
While still in draft form, the Act represents a step in the right direction for improving both the technical and legal framework of Taiwan’s cybersecurity. At most, it indicates that Taiwan intends to raise its information security management standards and practices to a level on par—if not ahead of—other countries in the digital age. At the very least, the Act raises the profile of cybersecurity in the island’s national security discourse and could help to leverage Taiwan’s “unique place and well-developed skill set” in this new domain.
The main point: While still a draft, the Act represents a step in the right direction. At most, it indicates Taiwan’s intention to raise its information communication security management standards and practices to on par with, if not ahead of other countries.
Taiwan’s Submarines Offer Asymmetrical Benefit but Limited Deterrence
David An is a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Taiwan Institute. David formerly served as a political-military affairs officer at the U.S. State Department.
The United States and Allied forces countered enemy forces with their own submarine and anti-submarine capabilities in an intense undersea battle. The administration of President Tsai Ing-wen intends to spend a large sum of money and years of effort to revamp this same stealthy undersea capability for the present day as Taiwan builds its new fleet of indigenous defense submarines (IDS).
The new government has earmarked $95 million on the design phase alone for up to eight submarines. Then, there are the research, development and manufacturing costs that will expand the budget into the billions of dollars, all of which call for a cost-benefit analysis. In the indigenous submarine (IDS) fleet, Taiwan is investing in a valuable asymmetrical military capability; however, these vessels will only be able to offer limited conventional deterrence.
Taiwan currently possesses four old and tired submarines. Two of them are inoperable World War II Guppy class submarines provided by the United States; the only operable ones are two Dutch-built Zwaardvis Mk2 Sea Dragon class submarines from the 1980s. Needless to say, these older submarines are long past their operational timelines. If Taiwan does not buy or build more submarines, it will run the old models into ground and face the reality of having none left.
Submarines are a key part of Taiwan’s order of battle since submarines are difficult to detect while submerged underwater, and an adversary cannot easily attack what it cannot see. During World War II, U Boat submarines dominated the Atlantic theatre with its deadly “wolf pack” (Rudeltaktik) strategy, where they grouped together and ascended on a target by day, and hid away and dispersed each night. In the Pacific theatre, Imperial Japan’s submarines attacked Allied warships with its naval combat doctrine focused on fleet warfare. Taiwan needs such capabilities. The technical term that military strategists use in land warfare for protection against enemy observation or gunfire is “defilade.” The submarine’s advantage is that being underwater is the ultimate defilade; the best sniper perch, a kind of invisible wolf pack.
Due to its geographical size and limited military resources, it is especially important for Taiwan to pursue asymmetrical advantages by building these new submarines. Taipei cannot monetarily afford to fight symmetrically by trading 1,000 interceptor missiles for 1,000 of a potential adversary’s ballistic missiles, or 100 naval destroyers to fight against 100 of an adversary’s naval vessels. Submarines are an asymmetrical capability because one submarine can successfully engage dozens of surface vessels without being detected—a classic example of David versus Goliath. It would trade one loss for many wins, or possibly zero losses if it escapes undetected.
For Taiwan’s purposes, submarines would serve a range of valuable and traditionally risky functions such as breaking a trade blockade against the island, laying mines, targeting an adversary’s naval vessels, protecting its own surface naval vessels, like its Lafayette class frigates, covertly inserting its special forces, and more. That said, breaking trade blockages and targeting an adversary’s surface naval vessels are the most likely scenarios for Taiwan, and submarines could do it with more survivability than any other military platform. Other air or land-based platforms will reveal their position after their first shot and be quickly eliminated in a counter attack. Worse, other platforms might struggle to even take a first shot, since an adversary could more easily launch a preemptive attack against air, land and naval surface vessels.
Yet, one important limitation is that Taiwan’s submarines would have little or no deterrence capabilities—at least not in the same way that major powers equip their submarines with nuclear weapons to deter other countries from attacking. Preeminent military strategist Herman Kahn has stated that, nuclear “credibility depends on being willing to accept the other side’s retaliatory blow. It depends on the harm he can do, not the harm we can do.” Even armed with powerful conventional missiles, Taiwanese submarines would barely offer a small deterrent against an adversary. A conventional missile strike against a city is minor compared to a nuclear strike and is less effective in deterring a potential adversary’s attack. Since Taiwan does not possess nuclear weapons, its submarines would not be able to serve as one leg of an air, land, and sea nuclear defense triad like U.S. Ohio-class submarines.
The history of submarine combat operations demonstrates that submarines are an especially powerful platform because they are invisible, survivable, and serve unique asymmetrical functions within naval forces. It is understandable why Taiwan actively pursues this asymmetrical capability, though its IDS program will be a costly endeavor. The sizeable investment of $95 million for the design phase is just the beginning, and it will likely grow into the billions of dollars. In light of Taiwan’s defense requirements, submarines will play a major role in counter-trade blockades and targeting an adversary’s naval vessels. However, armed with only conventional missiles, Taiwan’s submarines will play a limited role in deterrence against unrestricted warfare. In addition to its own indigenous efforts, Taiwan should seek assistance from advanced countries with defense industries that are capable of manufacturing submarines, which will be explored in the next article of this series.
The main point: Submarines would play an important part in Taiwan’s military posture, and serve valuable anti-blockade functions, but Taiwan should also recognize the limitations of such a program, and be aware that its submarines will not be a robust deterrent against attack.
 Bud Cole, Taiwan’s Security: History and Prospects (New York: Routledge, 2006), 127.
 Gordon Williamson, U Boat Tactics in World War II (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012), 29.
 Ronald Spector, Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan (New York: Simon and Schuster Publisher, 2012), 48.
 Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959), 32.
 Graham Spinardi, From Polaris to Trident: The Development of United States Fleet Ballistic Missile Technology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 170.
The Politics of Chinese Taipei
Joseph A. Bosco is a Nonresident Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Joe retired in 2010 from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).
When Hsu Shu-ching (許淑淨) won the gold medal in women’s weightlifting at the 2016 Summer Olympics, the people of Taiwan were justifiably proud, as they were for the bronze medals won by Taiwanese women in weightlifting and archery. Yet the feelings of national joy were understandably dampened by the absence of Taiwan’s name, flag, and anthem at the ceremony.
In 1979, the Republic of China under the Kuomintang (KMT) government, the People’s Republic of China, and the International Olympic Committee agreed to allow Taiwan’s participation in the Olympic Games—on one condition: It would not be allowed to compete under the name or flag of Formosa, Taiwan or the Republic of China. In effect denying the Taiwanese people any sense of national identity separate from China, athletes from the island could enter only as representatives of an entity called Chinese Taipei.
Subsequently, the politically expedient and fictitious name was also adopted for competitors from Taiwan in the Paralympics, Asian Games, Asian ParaGames, Universiade, FIFA World Cup, and Miss Earth and Miss Universe contests.
It is also how Taiwan’s observer status is described in the World Health Assembly (WHA), the annual meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO). Yet, in the International Health Regulations component of the WHO, and in all United Nations documents and official speeches, the name used is Taiwan, Province of China.
In the World Trade Organization, Taiwan became the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu. Fisheries management organizations refer to Taiwan only as a “fishing entity.”
These formulations may have sufficed for the earlier period when Taiwan was seen only as an appendage of Dynastic China. Yet, despite the best efforts of Beijing and other capitals—as well as of some within Taiwan itself when leaders harbored dreams of “retaking” China—the Taiwanese people steadily developed their own distinct, democratic national identity.
The Taiwanese people are no longer satisfied to be known officially by artificial names that do not reflect the reality of the de facto political entity they are or have become—whether it be a green (Democratic Progressive Party) or blue (KMT) party in power. So it is time for the international community to scrap the obsolete formulations such as Chinese Taipei; Taiwan, Province of China; Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu, and fishing entity, among others.
Washington can do better and could use any of the following alternative characterizations to capture the essence of the Taiwanese identity—but, in deference to China, they continue to avoid calling Taiwan by Taiwan or the Republic of China.
- The qualification match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup was played at the municipal stadium in the capital city of the state whose name we dare not utter.
- One of the more active members in the World Trade Organization has been the dynamic Asian Tiger whose free market economy qualified it for accession long before China but was delayed until its large neighbor’s rigid state-controlled system could catch up.
- In the World Health Organization, observer status has finally been given to the political entity that has distinguished itself in medical and scientific research, advancement in information technology and telecommunications, public health, and transparency and cooperation in pandemic disease prevention (unlike China, whose secrecy and obstructionism hampered international efforts to combat the spread of SARS, HIV/AIDS, Bird flu, and H1N1).
- Since the Little League World Series started in 1947, the record for most championship—17—is held by the island country adjoining the Taiwan Strait, which has shown itself to be a model international citizen in counter-proliferation, environmental protection, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, but is denied the respect it deserves from the global community.
- In the 2016 summer Olympics, a gold medal in weightlifting and bronze medals in weightlifting and archery went to that thriving Asian democracy that strikes terror in the hearts of Chinese Communist leaders who fear it will infect their population with the subversive idea that Chinese people are capable of choosing their own rulers.
While those descriptive references do not necessarily come trippingly off the tongue, all scrupulously avoid mention of Taiwan or the Republic of China.
Even worse than the offense the name game gives to the people of Taiwan, is the fact that its participation in WHA and WHO is circumscribed and sporadic, at the PRC’s insistence.
Other international organizations that would benefit from Taiwan’s participation are the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Again, Beijing’s recalcitrance is the obstacle, and it has persuaded many in the United States that it is not worth taking up Taiwan’s cause more vigorously.
As Sigrid Winkler stated in her 2012 quarterly analysis for the Brookings Institution:
If the organizations’ member states were to push hard for Taiwan’s participation . . . they would only alienate China. In both organizations this would imply a substantial loss for the effective establishment of international rules and undermine the organizations’ goals. China is too important to be provoked. (author’s emphasis)
Why is it that on issues like China’s aggressive behavior in the South and East China Seas, or Beijing’s enabling of North Korea’s even more reckless actions, we do not hear Chinese (and American) experts warn that America is too important to be provoked?
A campaign is already underway in Japan and Taiwan to allow Taiwanese athletes to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo under their own name and flag. Americans should support that effort as part of a broader push to remove the remaining barriers to Taiwan’s full participation in international affairs.
The main point: The Taiwanese people are no longer satisfied to be known officially by artificial names, such as Chinese Taipei, which do not reflect the reality of the de facto political entity they are or have become.
Reforming the Kuomintang: Adapting to Taiwan’s Dynamic Democracy (Part II)
Lauren Dickey is a PhD candidate in War Studies at King’s College London and the National University of Singapore, where her research focuses on Chinese strategy and cross-Strait relations. She is also a member of the Pacific Forum Young Leaders program at CSIS.
Following Part I on Kuomintang (KMT) reforms, the largest obstacle ahead for the opposition party is how it will redefine its engagement with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Toward the end of Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency, popular discontent with KMT cross-Strait policies became increasingly vocal In public opinion polls conducted in November 2015, nearly 60 percent of Taiwanese did not see China and Taiwan as part of “One China,” and nearly 50 percent of those polled saw the Xi-Ma meeting to be to China’s advantage. In 2014, the Sunflower Movement linked the island’s economic problems to its increasingly close relationship with China. Accompanying cultural identities shifted overwhelmingly to self-identification as “Taiwanese” rather than Chinese. Even as an awareness of interdependence between Taiwan and China has grown, so too has a uniquely Taiwanese identity shaped how both voters and policymakers perceive Taiwan’s national interests.
The debate over how cross-Strait relations should be managed is heavily nuanced within Taiwanese society, ranging from staunch advocates of Taiwanese independence (the deep green [深錄] Democratic Progressive Party or DPP) to firm believers in the importance of unification (the deep blue [深藍] KMT). For the KMT, it has claimed that it is possible to be both Taiwanese and Chinese, consistently recognizing the so-called “1992 Consensus” as a basis for relations with Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But the extent of public opposition to the KMT’s basis of engagement with Beijing and stance that “the Republic of China is the nation’s core value and Taiwan its identity” may mean that these positions will need to be rethought for the KMT to remain politically viable. KMT leadership has criticized the Tsai administration for what it perceives as empty cross-Strait policy. Yet, the now-opposition party does not appear to have a clear alternative for how to manage ties with Beijing.
The KMT has several options for reforming its cross-Strait policy: first, they have the option of re-branding the party’s links and formal dialogue with the CCP. Chairwoman Hung has already hinted at this possibility, to include renaming the KMT-CCP forums as “cross-Strait forums” and using the discussions to engage in diplomacy as well as trade and cultural issues. Second, the KMT could tone down its pro-unification agenda, becoming less “deep blue” and more “aquamarine” on the Taiwanese political spectrum. This would likely entail moderating the pace of economic interactions with China and ensuring legislative transparency in any future agreements—but such efforts would likely encounter opposition from deep blue supporters. Third, the KMT could continue to maintain its channels of communication with Beijing, a gambit for the opposition party that could be seen by the Taiwanese electorate as intentionally evasive or opaque.
Since the cross-Strait relationship has largely focused on socioeconomic initiatives to date, the more difficult task of navigating political and security issues lies ahead. Yet, beyond the ranks of deep blue members, few Taiwanese are willing to see political talks with China over the island’s future. More feasible instead is a wait-and-see approach that Chairwoman Hung has already applied to internal party reform. She could set the expectation that the KMT will wait until other appropriate conditions are in place to further deepen cross-Strait ties. The risk with this approach, however, is that Chinese President Xi Jinping may not be willing to wait indefinitely to resolve the Taiwan issue.
Lastly, the KMT could resuscitate efforts to negotiate a peace accord with Beijing, an option first floated by Ma Ying-jeou in his 2012 campaign. Chairwoman Hung recently said that KMT leadership had drafted amendments to the party’s policy platform that would strengthen its interpretation of the so-called “1992 Consensus” and create a foundation for a peace agreement. While these amendments did not ultimately come to fruition, the KMT’s national congress passed a new policy platform in September that reflects a commitment to improve cross-Strait relations and present a China policy that can overcome the current stall in communications between Beijing and the ruling DPP. Despite differing opinions within the KMT, the new party platform has purportedly retained the phrasing “one China with each side having its own interpretation.” This is a step intended by the KMT to preserve cross-Strait stability through the prevention of any significant movement beyond the status quo.
The Kuomintang’s Path Ahead
The elasticity in PRC’s demand that its “1992 Consensus” serve as the political foundation for cross-Strait ties may be observed in Beijing’s willingness to hold dialogue with KMT politicians while employing various degrees of pressure aimed at convincing the DPP to also accept the unwritten consensus. It is in the interests of the KMT to be more active in setting the terms of its conversation with Beijing—but the opposition party first requires a sound strategy to guide its ability to do so.
The lessons of the Ma era, while clear to KMT leadership, are at risk of not being utilized as a catalyst to reform—at risk, as one op-ed put it, of losing Taiwan. Infighting and partisan politics suggest a political party clambering to stay relevant through a hold on political power—as opposed to a relevance won electorally through the support of its constituents.
Aside from structural reform to the party itself, other efforts currently in motion are targeting lower hanging fruit. They focus on areas where the Tsai administration has already set forth its own agenda and initiatives, including indigenous peoples, economic policy, and cross-Strait relations. Absent meaningful reforms that differentiate the KMT as committed to revitalizing the economy and easing the pace of cross-Strait interactions, the Kuomintang’s political viability will remain contested. President Ma’s decisions yielded dual reactions of disillusionment with cross-Strait engagement and disappointment in the island’s economic performance; a KMT failure to realign with the priorities of the Taiwanese people will contribute to the party’s further decline.
Main point: The KMT must redefine its cross-Strait policy in such a way that balances the concerns of the Taiwanese electorate over the pace of engagement with its own political identity and platform.
 Syaru Shirley Lin makes a similar point, but confines her discussion to Taiwan’s shifting economic policy and engagement with China. See Taiwan’s China Dilemma: Contested Identities and Multiple Interests in Taiwan’s Cross-Strait Economic Policy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016).
 This term emerged from a 1992 meeting in then-British Hong Kong between China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). It allows both sides to recognize that there is only “one China,” but to interpret the meaning of “one China” differently.
 Chin-Hao Huang and Patrick James, “Blue, Green or Aquamarine? Taiwan and the Status Quo Preference in Cross-Strait Relations,” The China Quarterly 219 (2014): 670-692.
Britain-Taiwan Relations After Brexit
Michael Reilly is currently a Visiting Fellow in the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica in Taipei under the auspices of the Taiwan Fellowship program. From 2005 – 2009 he was Director of the British Office in Taiwan.
The United Kingdom’s (UK) vote on June 23 to leave the European Union (EU) sent shock waves through the global financial and stock markets. The sterling pound fell to a 31 year low against the dollar and the Bank of England subsequently cut interest rates to a record low of just 0.25% in a bid to head off a recession. In Korea, the government immediately considered plans for a U.S. $17 billion stimulus amidst fears about the impact on the country’s exports.
While political leaders around the world, including the United States, weigh the impact of Brexit on its relations with the United Kingdom, reaction in Taiwan was much milder. Most of the nation’s vernacular press gave more prominence to the end of a strike by the Taiwanese-owned China Airlines’ staff. Only the China Times (中國時報) led with a story on Brexit in its June 25 edition, titled “Black Friday.” The official government reaction foresaw only a limited impact.
Premier Lin Chuan (林全) went further, portraying the outcome as an opportunity, possibly leading to both Britain and the EU expanding their economic and trade relations with Asia. This view was shared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), which confidently expected Brexit to lead to a further deepening of ties with the UK. All of these responses are a far cry from the nervous reaction in Seoul and stances that must have been reassuring to the UK’s Minister for International Trade Greg Hands, who made a rare visit to Taiwan in September in an effort to reassure Taiwanese exporters and investors that, despite Brexit, it was ‘business as usual.’ In an op-ed in the Taipei Times on September 26, he portrayed the UK as a ‘reliable ally and trusted partner’ and bilateral trade as being ‘as strong today as it has ever been.’ It fell to a foreigner, Jakub Piasecki, writing in a foreign publication, to suggest that “Brexit is bad news for Taiwan.” Have Taiwanese officials missed something? Or are foreigners misreading the impact of Brexit?
To some extent, the differing views reflect different perspectives. Examination of the respective bilateral trade figures quickly helps explain why Taiwanese officials are more relaxed than their Korean counterparts. Korea’s bilateral trade with the UK is at record levels, its imports alone having trebled in value since 2000. But UK-Taiwan trade over the same period has stagnated. Greg Hands wrote bravely of trade volumes having grown 50% in the past five years, but as IMF figures show, Taiwan’s exports to the UK peaked in 2000, while its imports from the United Kingdom have grown just 14% in the last 20 years. The underlying reasons are complex and have much to do with the changing nature of Taiwan’s economy. But the reality is that the United Kingdom is no longer as important a market for Taiwan as before. Even if the United Kingdom leaves the European Single Market or Customs Union and seeks to negotiate its own standalone Free Trade Agreements, membership in the TPP (subject, inevitably, to the future of the TPP itself) and a Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA) with the EU will be much higher priorities for Taiwan. So Taiwan’s policymakers can afford to be relaxed.
In presenting a gloomy prognosis, Piasecki was not considering the impact on Taiwan’s relations with the United Kingdom so much as its relations with the European Union more generally and the European Parliament in particular, where British MEPs have been the most ardent and influential in their support for Taiwan. But need this affect bilateral relations or could it indeed mean a deepening of them as Taiwan’s MOFA seems to think?
Those taking the optimistic view can point to recent experience in which the United Kingdom has often been in the vanguard among European countries in deepening its ties with Taiwan. The United Kingdom led the way in removing short-term visa requirements and is the only EU member to have an Open Skies Air Service Agreement; it was one of the first to sign a Double Taxation Agreement, agree to a Working Holiday-maker scheme, a Prisoner Transfer Agreement, and more. But optimism that a United Kingdom apart from the European Union will be freer to pursue more agreements along these lines may be misplaced. None of these agreements were in areas within the scope of EU policy at the time they were signed, so the idea that the United Kingdom will be suddenly free to sign still more on leaving the EU does not apply.
For the next few years at least, U.K. diplomatic efforts will be concentrated on its immediate neighbourhood and the need to build a post-Brexit relationship. Despite Prime Minister May’s brave rhetoric that “Britain will be bold and outward looking,” it is unlikely to have either the resources or inclination to devote much effort to the Asia-Pacific region or countries, at least until its relations with its neighbours are clarified.
But perhaps most importantly, the British government’s attitude towards China has been transformed since then Prime Minister David Cameron incurred Beijing’s wrath by meeting the Dalai Lama in 2012. Since then, the UK government has gone to considerable efforts to engage with China, culminating in a high profile visit by President Xi Jinping to the United Kingdom in the autumn of 2015. It is possible that new British Prime Minister Theresa May will adopt a more cautious attitude toward China than her predecessor but the United Kingdom is likely to remain wary of doing anything that might incur Beijing’s displeasure once it can no longer hide behind its EU partners.
But at least one section of Taiwanese society is likely to be more welcome than ever in post-Brexit Britain. According to the British Office in Taipei, some 4-5,000 Taiwanese students currently enrolled for long term courses at UK universities each year, paying high fees to do so. Britain’s universities have been disproportionate beneficiaries of EU research funding, receiving considerably more than their counterparts in other EU states. The UK government is unlikely to be able to replace this in full, so universities will work harder than ever to attract overseas students in order to help offset the loss of EU funds.
Indeed, the opportunity for Taiwanese students could well prove to apply more broadly: outside the European Union, the United Kingdom will have to work much harder for its place in the world. For Taiwan, long forced to do so by its diplomatic isolation, Brexit is at worst an inconvenience.
Main point: Brexit will be no more than an inconvenience to Taiwan’s bilateral ties with the UK; don’t expect any major change.