Vol. 1 Issue 8
Global Taiwan Brief – Volume 1, Issue 8
Taiwan’s Role in the Global Non-Proliferation Architecture
By Russell Hsiao
Beijing’s Gambit on Taiwan: Divide and Conquer (Part 1)
By: Parris H. Chang
The Implications of the Three Warfares for Taiwan (Part 1)
By: Elsa B. Kania
A Japanese Perspective on How Japan and Taiwan Should Deal with Okinotori-shima
By: Tetsuo Kotani
Taiwan and the European Union after Brexit
By: Michael Reilly
Taiwan’s Role in the Global Non-Proliferation Architecture
Russell Hsiao is the Executive Director of the Global Taiwan Institute and Editor in Chief of the Global Taiwan Brief.
On October 5, the US State Department issued the Joint Declaration for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Fifty-one countries signed the joint declaration, including Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Notably absent on the list were the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and France, two of the largest manufacturers of UAVs on the global market. Although not invited as a signatory, Taiwan, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), officially issued a release (No. 220) on October 6 affirming the government’s adherence to the principles outlined in the joint declaration.
On the same day, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT)—the United States’ de facto embassy in Taiwan—issued a reciprocal statement applauding Taipei’s unilateral move to adhere to the joint declaration. The AIT statement underscored that “Taiwan’s support demonstrates its important role as a responsible actor on export control and non-proliferation matters of global concern. As a central hub for shipments and transshipments in the Asia Pacific region, Taiwan’s efforts on export controls are a critical bulwark of the global non-proliferation architecture.”
Like the voluntary Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)—which limits the spread of ballistic missiles and other delivery systems that could be used for chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks—Taiwan is not a formal adherent because it is not permitted to join for political reasons, but nevertheless complies by developing export control systems that encompass the rules within the voluntary agreement. In no small part, Taipei’s unilateral adherences to such rules are attempts to demonstrate its commitment to international standards and a rules-based order—although it may not be in its own economic interest to do so.
The global market and Taiwan’s industry for UAVs are growing rapidly. According to some industry estimates cited in a recent Forbes article, global sales of UAVs are expected to top $82 billion over the next decade, and military UAV spending will make up 72 percent of the world market. Currently, “Taiwan makes up less than 10 percent of the world UAV market,” but one estimate wagers that “[f]rom this year  through 2025, Taiwan’s UAV market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10 percent to $500 million.” With such projected growth in the global market on the horizon, there may be concerns within the industry that compliance with the declaration “could slow approval of UAV exports [from Taiwan].” While such concerns are understandable, the impact on Taiwan’s capacity to export its UAVs is marginal, because the overall restrictions would likely affect military “drones that are capable of flying a distance of 300 kilometers and carrying a payload of 500 kilograms”—which is a MTCR consideration—and prescribe that exports are conducted responsibly and under appropriate transparency measures.
Taiwan’s military has a fleet of UAVs that reportedly includes small-sized “Cardinal” (紅雀) hand-launched micro UAVs, medium-sized “Sharp Kite” (銳鳶) military surveillance UAVs, and a larger “Tengyun” (騰雲) MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAVs currently still in the testing phase, which analysts have compared to the US MQ-9 Reaper. Taiwan is also reported to have developed an Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), which is designed to intercept small drones.
Pertinently, Taiwan’s unilateral statement of adherence to global export control standards stands in stark contrast to the PRC’s muted response and contrary actions. Indeed, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) rapid development of UAVs has accelerated at a rapid rate over the last decade. As far back as 2011, the PLA was already known to field one of the world’s most expansive UAV fleets, at over 280 UAVs in service as of mid-2011. According to another report, “Washington has strict limits on which countries can buy US-made armed drones. China is willing to sell them to anyone with cash to spend.” Countries known to have purchased variants of the PLA’s “Rainbow” (彩虹) UAVs include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Nigeria, Iraq, and Pakistan. Moreover, North Korea acquired its first UAV from China in the late 1980s.
Taiwan’s role in the regional as well as global non-proliferation architecture extends well beyond military UAVs and the MTCR. The government’s unilateral statement of adherence to the joint declaration serves as a further example of Taipei’s commitment to an international rules-based order despite not being able to serve as a formal signatory to these agreements.
The main point: Taipei’s unilateral statements of adherence to the joint declaration on export controls of UAVs and other international voluntary agreements underscore its commitment to international standards and a rules-based order.
Beijing’s Gambit on Taiwan: Divide and Conquer (Part 1)
Dr. Parris Chang is Professor Emeritus of political science, Penn State University and President of the Taiwan Institute for Political, Economic and Strategic Studies. He was a member of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, Deputy Secretary-General of the National Security Council and Taiwan’s Representative to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
While meeting with a delegation led by Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), Chairwoman of Taiwan’s Nationalist Party (KMT) in Beijing on November 1st, President Xi Jinping (習近平), General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), underscored the importance of adhering to the so-called “1992 consensus,” which affirms the “one-China” principle, and reiterated China’s resolute opposition to forces supporting Taiwan independence. Speaking after Xi, Hung stated the KMT’s objection to Taiwan independence and proposed ending the decades-long hostility across the Taiwan Strait through a peace accord. She also asserted that, as the official cross-Strait communication channel has been suspended, it is the KMT’s “unshakable responsibility” to help address relevant problems through the KMT-CCP communication mechanisms.
Chairwoman Hung was in Beijing during November 1-3 for the annual KMT-CCP dialogue, which was renamed the “Cross-Strait Peaceful Development Forum.” In contrast with other former KMT chairs, such as President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), and Vice President Lien Chan (連戰), Chairwoman Hung’s base of support in the party is rather weak, and her audacious pro-China stance is highly unpopular and has been severely criticized. Although Hung advertised her trip to China as a journey of peace, many in Taiwan, as well as in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), see her as a supplicant, seeking China’s support in order to strengthen her position in the Nationalist Party, which has faced flagging support at home, and thus be re-elected as chairwoman next year.
In the wake of Taiwan’s national election, the KMT lost the Presidential Palace and retained only 35 out of 113 seats in Legislative Yuan (LY). The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) controls both the office of president and the legislature. What is the calculation behind Xi’s decision to invite Hung and engage closely with a KMT that has been much weakened and is seemingly unable to deliver what Beijing desires?
It is the CCP’s classic divide-and-conquer strategy, part of a united front operation, aimed at co-opting Hung and the KMT. Beijing has good reasons to cultivate and befriend Hung. After all, she is the incumbent KMT leader, advocates full acceptance of Beijing’s “one-China principle,” and has openly supported Taiwan’s unification with China. Under her stewardship, the KMT adopted a new peace-centered policy platform in September, much to Beijing’s liking.
In early February 2016, two weeks after the KMT’s devastating defeat, the CCP convened a Taiwan work conference to review its policy toward Taiwan. Yu Zhengsheng (俞正聲), a member of the powerful CCP Politburo Standing Committee, Deputy Director of the CCP’s Taiwan Work Leading Small Group, and Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (中國人民政治協商會議) delivered “important remarks” on behalf of Xi, instructing the party to place great emphasis on “strengthening contacts and exchanges with all the political parties and groups that recognize both Taiwan and the Mainland belonging to China.” In plain language, Beijing seeks to divide Taiwan by colluding with the KMT and other pro-China groups to weaken and undermine the new DPP government.
Likewise, when the DPP was in power during 2000-2008, Beijing also skillfully exploited fault lines in Taiwan’s internal politics during a volatile time in its democratization—the bitter split between the ruling DPP and the opposition KMT. In April 2005, then President and CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) invited Lien Chan, then-Chairman of the KMT and its unsuccessful presidential candidate in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, to visit China to ostensibly forge a united front operation. There, Lien and Hu established the First KMT-CCP forum and issued a joint communiqué to oppose Taiwan’s independence and promote China’s eventual unification with Taiwan.
Unable to directly stop US arms sales to Taiwan, Beijing opted for a subtler approach engaging other pro-China parties—which then commanded a majority in the LY—and blocked the arms procurement budget submitted by the DPP administration under President Chen Shui-bian. The PRC’s manipulation of Taiwan’s political dynamics effectively misled officials of the George H.W. Bush administration and members of Congress who blamed Chen’s government for not paying enough attention to Taiwan’s defense.
Ma Ying-jeou’s election as Taiwan’s president and the KMT’s return to power in 2008 ushered in a significant change in cross-Strait dynamics and opened the door for Beijing to work closely with Ma and the KMT. Thus, Hu Jintao announced a six-point proposal to promote “the normalization of overall cross-Strait ties” in a major policy speech in December 2008. Hu called for close cross-Strait economic cooperation, cultural and educational exchanges, Taiwan’s international participation, and peace and security in the Taiwan Strait—which Ma also supported.
In his message to Taiwan, Xi has used many stale clichés that do not appeal to young Taiwanese at all. His “China Dream” and calls for ethnic solidarity, national unity, and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation during his meeting with President Ma last November do not present a vision that the Taiwanese people would cherish.
In her first National Day speech on October 10, President Tsai called upon Chinese leaders “to face up the reality that the Republic of China exists, and that the people of Taiwan have an unshakable faith in the Democratic system.” President Xi ought to take her statement seriously. It is an undeniable fact that Beijing’s policy toward Taiwan has failed and time for a reset in China’s approach to relations with Taiwan.
The main point: Xi’s decision to invite KMT Chairwoman Hung and engage closely with the KMT reflects the CCP’s classic divide-and-conquer strategy and united front operation. There needs to be a reset in China’s relations with Taiwan.
 It was previously called the Cross-Strait Forum for Economy, Trade and Culture.
 In 2015, Hung advocated “one China, same interpretation” and claimed China referred to the People’s Republic of China, a position quite different from “One China, different interpretations” the formula used by then KMT Chair Eric Chu and President Ma. Hung’s position was widely seen as overtly pro-China and deeply alienated Taiwan’s grassroots; the KMT removed her as it presidential candidate and picked Eric Chu at the last moment.
 Conclusions reached by the author, based on conversations with American counterparts during his time working for Taiwan’s National Security Council during 2004-06.
The Implications of the Three Warfares for Taiwan (Part 1)
Elsa Kania is a recent graduate of Harvard College and currently works as an analyst at the Long Term Strategy Group.
Taiwan has traditionally been the primary target of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) employment of the “Three Warfares” (三戰), which consist of public opinion warfare (輿論戰), psychological warfare (心理戰), and legal warfare (法律戰). The approaches associated with the Three Warfares—underpinned by the aim of “disintegrating enemy forces” (瓦解敵軍) through non-kinetic measures—date back to the earliest days of the Red Army and draw upon traditional aspects of Marxist-Leninist ideology. Over time, the PLA has progressively developed a more systematic framework for the Three Warfares, under the aegis of wartime political work (戰時政治工作), which it has applied to Taiwan, the United States, and other countries.
This article—the first in a series of three—will review the PLA’s development of a systematic approach to the Three Warfares; the subsequent article will examine the PLA’s high-level strategic thinking on the Three Warfares, based on the publications of key research institutes; and the final article will consider more closely the PLA’s efforts to target Taiwan and suggest potential countermeasures.
The PLA’s Systematization of the Three Warfares
Beyond the PLA’s traditions of political warfare, the Chinese military has sought to formalize and systematize its approach to public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare over time. The 2003 Political Work Regulations (政治工作條例) incorporated public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare, which were the responsibility of the former General Political Department (總政治部). These Three Warfares were described as including carrying out “disintegration of enemy forces work” (瓦解敵軍工作), anti-psychological warfare (反心戰), anti-instigation work (反策反工作), and also military justice and legal services work (軍事司法和法律服務工作). Subsequently, the PLA sought to engage in more systematic research and training on the Three Warfares, including the development of curricula for educating officers in public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare. This process resulted in the publication of numerous articles in the PLA Daily and military region newspapers, as well as multiple books and textbooks on the topic.
Although certain aspects of the Three Warfares draw upon traditional practices of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that date back to the time of the civil war between the Red Army and Nationalist Army (國軍), the PLA’s efforts to develop the expertise and techniques required for employment of the Three Warfares in the information age has entailed efforts to advance the sophistication and systematization of its strategy for their employment against perceived enemy forces. Certainly, psychological warfare draws upon the principles (e.g., “disintegrating enemy forces”) and practices of the Red Army under Mao Zedong, including the General Political Department’s establishment of an “Enemy Work Branch” (敵工科) in 1937. However, the PLA reportedly had no specialized (專門) psychological warfare troops until the dawn of the 21st century. Only as of 1999, and particularly after the 2003 political work regulations, did the PLA start to establish “experimental psychological warfare forces” (心理戰試驗部隊) in each military region, to create the psychological warfare major or specialty (專業) in military educational institutions (院校), and to found psychological warfare research institutes. At that point, the PLA also recognized that future public opinion warfare, while informed by traditional “battlefield propaganda” with posters and leaflets, also required further innovation to be effective in the information age. Indeed, the PLA has since formulated a much more modern approach to public opinion warfare that exploits a variety of media outlets, especially those in cyberspace. Similarly, the PLA’s efforts to engage in legal warfare has required the development of education and expertise in the relevant aspects of international law and the laws of war.
In 2005, the Central Military Commission ratified and the former General Staff Department, General Political Department, General Logistics Department, and General Armaments Department jointly promulgated official guidelines (gangyao, 綱要, literally “outline” or “essentials”) for public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare. Through these gangyao, the concepts thus were officially incorporated into the PLA’s education and training and its “preparation for military struggle.” While the gangyao are not publically available, their release at that point indicated the PLA’s continued progression towards ensuring that the Three Warfares were not merely a rhetorical device, but corresponded with a concrete set of techniques and expertise that could be taught in the classroom and utilized on the battlefield.
In subsequent years, the PLA implemented institutional mechanisms that entailed a series of supporting documents and regulations, efforts to deepen Three Warfares education and training, the construction of specialized forces, the guarantee of equipment and materials, and also research and drills on operational art theories and actual combat. Reportedly, there was also progress in the construction (建设) of “Three Warfares forces” (“三戰”力量), while seeking to ensure that the concepts were conveyed and practiced throughout the PLA.
In some cases, the progress towards the establishment of Three Warfares forces or psychological warfare forces, which also are often situated within the PLA’s information operations forces, may have remained inconsistent. For instance, by one account, PLA’s “experimental psychological warfare forces” were still in an “exploratory” (探索) stage as of 2010. Further commentary on the topic of “specialized Three Warfares forces” emphasizes the importance of enhancing their education and training. While their full text is not publically available, the revised 2010 Political Work Regulations reportedly incorporated the experiences of education and training in the Three Warfares.
Since 2010, the General Political Department has also released “Instructions for Political Work in Military Training” (軍事訓練中政治工作指示) on an annual basis. Although the available reports about these instructions do not explicitly discuss the Three Warfares, these instructions reflect a consistent focus on incorporating various forms of political work into operational training.
For the PLA, the Three Warfares is not merely an abstract concept but rather has corresponded with a comprehensive agenda for advancing the capabilities required to engage in political warfare. Throughout its history, from the early operations of the Red Army through the present, the PLA has sought to utilize techniques of political warfare against its perceived adversaries. In particular, the Red Army sought to engage in “enemy work” against Nationalist Forces during the Chinese Civil War. The contemporary PLA has prioritized targeting Taiwan, particularly through the efforts of the former GPD’s Base 311 (61716 部隊), its “Public Opinion Warfare, Psychological Warfare, and Legal Warfare Base,” which might now be under the aegis of the PLA’s new Strategic Support Force, based on personnel transfers.
Although the adverse impact of such political operations can be difficult to counter, especially for democracies, progression towards a clearer understanding of the PLA’s strategy for and operational approach to these forms of political warfare can provide additional transparency on the topic and perhaps enable more effective countermeasures. The following articles in this series will address these topics in further detail.
The main point: The PLA’s Three Warfares is not merely an abstract concept but rather reflects a systematic approach to “disintegrating enemy forces” that has deep historical antecedents and continued relevance.
 Wu Jieming [吴杰明] and Liu Zhifu [刘志富], An Introduction to Public Opinion Warfare, Psychological Warfare, [and] Legal Warfare [舆论战心理战法律战概论], National Defense University Press [国防大学出版社], 2014, p. 1.  According to articles available through CNKI, Mu Shan (牟珊) was formerly affiliated with Base 311 (61716部隊) but, as of mid-2016, was affiliated with the Strategic Support Force.
A Japanese Perspective on How Japan and Taiwan Should Deal with Okinotori-shima
Tetsuo Kotani is a Senior Fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs.
Japan and Taiwan held their first bilateral maritime cooperation dialogue under the new Tsai Ing-wen administration in Tokyo on October 31, 2016. The delegations from Taipei and Tokyo were represented by Taiwan’s Association of East Asian Relations and the Japan Interchange Association, along with other relevant government officials. They discussed issues of mutual concern, including fishing rights near Okinotori-shima (沖之鳥礁), an atoll located 950 nautical miles south of Tokyo and 850 nautical miles east of Taiwan.
In April 2016, the Ma Ying-jeou administration harshly protested against the detainment of a Taiwanese fishing boat by the Japanese coast guard near Okinotori-shima. The fishing boat was released after the ship paid a security deposit of $6 million yen (which is equal to around $58,164). Until that point, Taipei had not taken a clear position on whether Okinotori-shima is legally an “island,” which can serve as a basis for an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and a continental shelf, or a “rock,” which entails only 12 nautical miles of territorial sea. But, following the April incident, the Ma administration made its position clear that Okinotori-shima is a “rock” and dispatched Taiwan’s coast guard boats to patrol the vicinity of Okinotori-shima.
After taking office in May 2016, however, President Tsai Ing-wen stated her administration would not take a position about the legal status of Okinotori-shima and announced the establishment of the maritime cooperation dialogue with Japan. This maritime dialogue was scheduled for July but postponed at the request of Taipei, perhaps because of the Philippines-China South China Sea Arbitral Award on July 12, which set a strict legal standard for what constitutes an island, and even designated the Taiwan-occupied Taiping Island (Itu Aba), the largest feature in the Spratly Islands, as a “rock.”
The maritime dialogue is an important step to deepen ties between Japan and Taiwan. In her interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun—the most circulated Japanese newspaper—President Tsai expressed her will to increase cooperation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to strengthen relations and promote regional stability.
Reportedly, the two sides could not reach an agreement on fishing rights around Okinotori-shima. The Taiwan delegation insisted that Taiwanese fishermen have the right to operate freely in the waters near Okinotori-shima. Taipei also demanded the return of the security deposit paid for the release of the detained Taiwanese fishing boat in April. In response, the Japanese delegation repeated Tokyo’s claim that Okinotori-shima is an “island” and thus entitled to a 200-nautical-mile EEZ.
The two sides agreed to have the next round of dialogue next year in Taiwan, while continuing working-level talks on fishing rights around Okinotori-shima. They also agreed to discuss other issues such as fishery resource conservation, search and rescue at sea, and marine scientific research.
Fisheries have always been a difficult issue for Japan and Taiwan. The two sides concluded a civil fishery agreement in the East China Sea, dividing fishing and law enforcement areas between the two. It was a strategic success and served as a symbol of deeper bilateral cooperation. But the agreement caused dissatisfaction among Okinawan fishermen due to aggressive Taiwanese fishing culture.
The fishery agreement between Taiwan and Japan in the East China Sea is not a suitable model for Okinotori-shima. For there to be an agreement on Okinotori-shima, Tokyo will insist that Taipei at least implicitly acknowledge Japan’s sovereign right to the 200-nautical-mile waters around the atoll. Taiwanese fishermen may be permitted to operate there only after paying for a license. Moreover, Tokyo is unlikely to adopt flagship control and permit the Taiwanese coast guard to operate there, as it claims that Taiwan has no legal ground to claim a sovereign right to those waters.
On the other hand, such an agreement is difficult for Taipei to accept due to political sensitivity. Taiwanese opposition parties demand the protection of the rights of Taiwanese fishing boats by Taiwanese coast guard near Okinotori-shima. While an agreement is necessary before the next fishing season comes in spring of next year, even an implicit acknowledgement of Japan’s sovereign right near Okinotori-shima might put President Tsai in a difficult position.
Indeed, Okinotori-shima is a test for the strategic partnership between Prime Minister Abe and President Tsai. There is a need to change the narrative. The issue at stake is not just about fishing but also about regional security. Located between Guam and Taiwan, Okinotori-shima has played an important role for the security of Taiwan. As long as Japan’s jurisdiction over the waters around Okinotori-shima is acknowledged, China is not allowed to conduct scientific surveys necessary for submarine operations without Tokyo’s permission. Prevention of Chinese survey operations in the western Pacific is in the interests of both Japan and Taiwan. This fact should be the foundation for Japan-Taiwan maritime cooperation.
Denying that Okinotori-shima is an island will not help Taiwan claim “island” status for Taiping Island, either. If the South China Sea Arbitral Award is read literally, most of world’s remote islands without a civilian population are designated rocks. To strengthen their respective claims over Okinotori-Shima and Taiping Islands, Tokyo and Taipei should cooperate in providing a model of effective use of remote islands.
Cooperation in other areas should also be promoted. For example, Japan and Taiwan can discuss how they can cooperate in promoting Taipei’s accession to more international fishery treaties. Tokyo can also assist Taipei in approaching ASEAN about South China Sea issues. Additionally, Japan and Taiwan can discuss regional maritime security issues such as piracy and marine environmental protection. Finally, exchange between the two coast guards should be promoted under the maritime cooperation dialogue.
The main point: There is a need to change the narrative over Okinotori-shima. For Taiwan and Japan, not only fishing rights but regional security is at stake in this dispute.
Taiwan and the European Union 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.
Global reaction to Brexit has generally focused on its impact on the United Kingdom (UK) rather than the European Union (EU) more generally. Taiwan is no exception. From a purely commercial perspective, the days of the 1990s, when European ministers queued up to visit Taipei, to secure lucrative business deals, including major defense contracts, for their companies are long gone. Two-way trade has stagnated since 2000; in 2015 the 28 members of the EU together only formed Taiwan’s fifth largest trading partner.
But, historically, the EU has been important to Taiwan for political as much as commercial reasons, as a group of countries sharing the same commitment to democracy, universal values and the market economy. As the second largest economy within the EU, the United Kingdom’s departure cannot but have an impact. Traditionally a liberal, outward-looking free-trading nation, its views are generally close to those of its fellow northern European members of the Union including Germany, Sweden and Denmark.
Antipathy within it towards the EU often obscures the extent to which it has been successful in achieving its objectives. Enlargement of the Union to incorporate former communist countries was very much a vision of Margaret Thatcher, for example. With the UK’s departure, the influence of “Mediterranean thinking”’ in the EU, more inclined to regulation and control of trade, will grow.
In the short-term, quite apart from the need to negotiate and agree on the details of “Brexit,” which will almost certainly be fraught and time-consuming, the EU still has to grapple with internal problems of sclerotic growth, high unemployment, and an ongoing refugee crisis. Until these issues are resolved, or at least better managed and controlled, areas of broader foreign policy concern—East Asia included—are unlikely to feature high on the agendas of EU leaders, beyond opportunities for commercial business and investment.
But the potential impact of the UK’s departure from the EU goes beyond the short-term. Particularly from Taiwan’s perspective, the UK has a longer and deeper history of engagement in Northeast Asia than other European countries, with the possible exception of France. This extends to its position on the status of Taiwan. Although the UK was the very first western European country to recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC), on January 6, 1950, and although it goes to great lengths to avoid any public statement on the subject, its position on the status of Taiwan has not changed since 1955 when the then Foreign Secretary stated that “Formosa and the Pescadores are therefore in the view of Her Majesty’s Government, territory the de jure sovereignty over which is uncertain or undetermined” (emphasis added). The United Kingdom is one of a small minority of current EU members to hold to this position, even if it does so discreetly. France, which had initially adopted a not dissimilar position, agreed to an explicit ”One-China policy” as part of the price of repairing relations with the PRC after its sale of Mirage fighters and Lafayette frigates to Taiwan in the 1990s. Some newer members of the EU, most notably Cyprus, are quite explicit in their support of the PRC’s version of a “One China policy” and the EU collectively follows a “One China policy.”
Without a moderating British influence, one might therefore assume that the EU would become more explicit in its support for China, at Taiwan’s expense. Yet perhaps ironically, given history, the reverse might be the case. China’s Global Times pulled no punches in its analysis, describing the outcome of the referendum as “a lose-lose situation” (for the UK and the EU), seeing it as reflecting the general decline of Europe and crucially, from China’s perspective, making it easier for the US to influence Europe.
The UK is currently China’s 3rd largest export market and its relations with it increasingly form the cornerstone of its relations with the EU generally, helped by the UK government’s own hard-nosed pragmatism. The European Council on Foreign Relations has been critical of member states generally in their scrabble for Chinese trade and investment but in its most recent Foreign Policy Scorecard was particularly scathing about the UK, which it described as a “slacker” in its approach to both economic relations with and human rights in China.
So while the UK’s departure from the EU may reduce the latter’s attention to East Asia generally, it does not automatically mean that the EU will be any less sympathetic to Taiwan than at present. Indeed, there are good reasons for the Taiwanese to feel optimistic about the future of relations with an EU shorn of the UK. While the EU’s own guidelines on its Foreign and Security Policy in East Asia make little mention of Taiwan in terms of its engagement with the region, they are explicit in recognizing the United States’ security commitment to Taiwan and the need for the EU to be sensitive to this. Furthermore, in its first major statement on China since the UK voted to leave, the European Council adopted a noticeably harder tone, stating that human rights and the rule of law remain a core part of the EU’s engagement with China, at the same time striking a supportive note for Taiwan by saying, “The EU confirms its commitment to continuing to develop its relations with Taiwan and to supporting the shared values underpinning its system of governance” (emphasis added).
A specific and potentially very significant example of this commitment to developing relations was the European Commission’s announcement in autumn 2015 of its readiness to enter discussions with Taiwan on a Bilateral Investment Agreement. Coming after several years in which Taiwan had pressed unsuccessfully to open negotiations on a free trade agreement, and while the Taiwanese presidential election campaign was already underway, the full significance of the investment agreement does not appear to have been fully grasped by Taiwanese policymakers who continue to be more concerned with accession to the TPP. This is understandable. But for a bloc the size of the EU to offer negotiations to Taiwan is unprecedented. While described as an “investment agreement” there is nothing in international trade rules or doctrine that states what such an agreement may or may not cover. In short, this is a rare opportunity for Taiwan to negotiate exactly the sort of comprehensive trade enhancement agreements it claims to seek. But faced with its own internal issues and other international distractions, it is not an opportunity that the EU is likely to leave on the table for long. Taiwan should grab it.
The main point: Despite the uncertainty generated by Brexit, Taiwan has a rare opportunity to develop its relations with the EU through talks on a Bilateral Investment Agreement. It should grasp it.
 Francoise Mengin, “A Functional Relationship: Political Extensions to Europe-Taiwan Economic Ties,” The China Quarterly 1692002).  Mengin, “A Functional Relationship.”