Vol. 1, Issue 13
Global Taiwan Brief – Volume 1, Issue 13
Assessing Beijing’s Response to the Trump-Tsai Call
By: Russell Hsiao
The Supply Side of Taiwan’s Defense Industry
By: David An
“Comfort Women” Museum Opens in Taipei, Reunites Korean Victim with Former Taiwan President
By: Dennis Halpin
The Unsung Success of Womenomics in Taiwan
By: Melissa Newcomb
How the Global Media Frames Taiwan and Gets it Wrong
By: Jonathan Sullivan
Assessing Beijing’s Response to the Trump-Tsai Call
Russell Hsiao is the Executive Director of the Global Taiwan Institute and Chief Editor of the Global Taiwan Brief.
Speaking before reporters only hours after the phone call between President-elect Donald Trump and President Tsai Ing-wen, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅)—who previously served as director of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) from 2008 to 2013—blamed the Tsai government for orchestrating the 10-minute exchange between the two leaders: “This is just the Taiwan side engaging in a petty action [小動作 ], and cannot change the ‘one China’ structure already formed by the international community.” Acknowledging that the phone call did little to change US policy, the Foreign Minister concluded: “I believe that it won’t change the longstanding ‘one China’ policy of the United States government.”
On December 3, a day after the Foreign Minister Wang’s statement, Beijing lodged a formal diplomatic protest and “solemn representation” with Washington that reiterated the importance of the “One-China” policy, urging the United States to, “cautiously, properly handle Taiwan issue to avoid unnecessary disturbance to Sino-US relations.” The People’s Daily—the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece—was less diplomatic and printed a front-page commentary admonishing readers that: “Trump and his transition team ought to recognize that creating trouble for China-US relations is just creating trouble for the US itself.” The Party outlet criticized the president-elect for portraying the phone call as, “not a big deal” and warned about allowing such “petty tricks” to go unanswered. China Daily, an English publication directed by the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department (中共中央宣傳部), took a calmer tone, saying there was no need to “over-interpret” the phone call, which it called a sign of President-elect Trump’s team’s “inexperience” and “lack of proper understanding” of Sino-US and cross-Strait relations.
The calibrated responses from the PRC are better understood in the context of Beijing’s longstanding efforts to shape and define the US “One-China” policy through political warfare. The objective is to align US “One-China” policy more closely with Beijing’s “One-China” principle. Towards that end, Beijing utilizes diplomatic, economic, and military tools of statecraft to influence Washington, and also Taipei, from taking policy positions that Beijing sees as detracting from its “One-China” principle. An example of this false equivalency is found in the TAO’s response to the phone call, which stated: “We [China] have firm will, full confidence and sufficient ability to curb any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ and will continue to advance the progress of national reunification.” In this case, Beijing appears to be attempting to characterize the phone call as a “trick” by Taiwanese leaders to get Washington to recognize Taiwan independence. Yet, any reasonable inference would never suggest that accepting a phone call could be considered an indicator of such a radical political signal. In this raw political environment still reeling from a divisive presidential election, however, there seems to be more receptivity to Beijing’s interpretation of the US “One-China” policy.
In a probable sign of escalation, on December 10, Chinese military aircraft took off at 9:00 am from the PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command for an exercise around Taiwan. At least four aircraft were involved in a long-range military exercise that covered Taiwan’s eastern shore, flew around Taiwan’s southern airspace spanning the Bashi Channel off the southern tip of Taiwan in the Luzon Strait, and paired up with advanced fighter aircraft from the PLA’s Southern Theatre Command. Although similar training exercises were held back in September, the latest sortie follows quickly on the heels of another exercise that took place November 25, just a week before the Trump-Tsai call, that involved six aircraft, including two H-6K long-range bombers. The Japanese Self Defense Force revealed that the six aircraft that entered Japanese airspace included two Sukhoi SU-30MK2, two H-6 bombers, one TU-154MD electronic intelligence aircraft, and one Y8 maritime patrol aircraft. The flight path reportedly spanned the strategic airspace along the Miyako Strait, which lies south of the Japanese island of Okinawa.
According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense, the December 10 exercise was a deliberate act. While Beijing’s motive to intimidate Taiwan’s leaders seems plausible given past practices, why and how it expects to achieve its objectives are less clear. The PRC has a history of trying to use military tactics to achieve political results. An obvious demonstration can be found in the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1995-1996, in which Beijing fired three sets of missiles over the Taiwan Strait in an effort to intimidate and coerce voters within Taiwan in the lead up to the country’s first direct presidential election. However, the tests had the opposite intended effect of rallying Taiwan’s electorate behind Lee Teng-hui; and, in the greatest show of force since the Vietnam War, the United States deployed two carrier strike groups towards the Taiwan Strait.
What further actions Beijing will take to retaliate for the Trump-Tsai call remains to be seen, but it appears from the statements and tangential actions taken thus far that the PRC’s response will likely be directed against Taiwan. Beginning even before her inauguration in May, Beijing has been trying to pin the cooling down of cross-Strait relations on the incoming Tsai administration. If Beijing continues to escalate its pressure tactics on Taiwan in light of the call with President-elect Trump, it will probably elicit more support for President Tsai since the phone call enjoys overwhelming support within Taiwan. If the PRC tries to further punish Taiwan through coercive means, it will expose that their objective is to not only discredit Tsai Ing-wen or the ruling DPP, but further alienate the people of Taiwan. Beijing seems to have forgotten its lesson from 1996.
The main point: The calibrated responses from the PRC should be understood in the context of Beijing’s longstanding efforts to shape and define the US “One-China” policy. In this raw political environment, still reeling from a divisive presidential election, there seems to be more receptivity to Beijing’s interpretation of the US “One-China” policy.
The Supply Side of Taiwan’s Defense Industry
David An is a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Taiwan Institute. He was previously a political military officer at the US State Department.
In my previous articles on Taiwan’s defense industry, I proposed a model that fits Taiwan’s unique economy and outlined exactly which countries would buy weapons from Taiwan. In this article, I will take the next step, discussing what Taiwan could sell based on its repertoire of indigenously-developed weapons systems and its broad electronics technology industries.
In the aerospace industry, Taiwan famously developed its indigenous F-Ching-kuo (經國) fighter aircraft in collaboration with other foreign defense companies. The technology and capabilities are decades old, so it is unlikely that advanced countries, such as those in NATO would be interested. Yet, many countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, South America and Africa would see this aircraft as an upgrade to their current military order of battle. These countries are also sensitive to cost, so there are opportunities for Taiwan to provide a capable but affordable solution. As I mentioned in my previous article, arms exports would be more promising and Taiwan would face fewer political barriers if Taiwan started with its diplomatic allies in the South Pacific, Latin America, and Africa.
In addition to aircraft, Taiwan also produces a range of missiles such as the Hsiung Feng II (雄風) anti-ship missile, the Hsiung Feng III long-range missile, Sky Bow (天弓) surface-to-air missiles, and more. Although Taiwan’s Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology unveiled a number of missiles and missile defense systems at the 2015 Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition, it has not officially announced whether it would consider exporting these items. In addition to the aerospace industry, Taiwan also produces naval and army equipment to include the indigenous AOE-530 Wu-yi (武夷) naval vessel, land equipment such as the Clouded Leopard (雲豹) Armored Vehicle, the CM-12 tank and more. Taiwan could consider exporting these items too.
However, exporting arms that could be used in an attack raises question of accountability. If a buyer of Taiwan’s missiles uses it to attack another country, would Taiwan be held at least partially or indirectly responsible? Export of such surface-to-air missiles and surface-to-surface missiles are especially politically sensitive and blame can be indirect, as we have seen with the missile that brought down the passenger Malaysian Airlines flight 17 as it flew over Ukraine in 2014. That passenger airline was shot over an area in Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists, using Russia-manufactured missiles, so many felt that Russia was at least indirectly to blame (though Russia blamed the Ukraine government in Kiev). In addition to intentional use, accidents can occur, such as during the military exercise in July 2016, when one of Taiwan’s corvette naval vessels launched an anti-ship missile in China’s direction by mistake, hitting a Taiwanese fishing boat and accidentally killing the boat’s captain. What if that missile had hit a PRC naval vessel, or a PRC land target by accident? Would China have retaliated? For Taiwan there are multiple risks associated with increasing arms production and export. Therefore, Taiwanese officials should consider China’s views, the opinions of its neighbors, and thoroughly consult with the United States government, as it carefully moves forward in this direction.
To maintain popularity abroad, Taiwan should abide by international standards in weapons dealing. For example, the informal and voluntary Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) restricts proliferation of missile and UAV technology capable of carrying above 500 kg for more than 300 km. Will Taiwan’s missiles fall into this weight and range category, and if they do not, would international opinion turn against Taiwan for making such exports? Though Taiwan is not technically a signatory of MTCR, it should acknowledge and strive to adhere to this international regime that has been signed by countries such as the United States, Australia, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea and many others. Taiwan already voluntarily abides by several nuclear and biological weapons treaties to demonstrate that it is a responsible stakeholder in the international system, so keeping with the MTCR would be continuing the same admirable practice.
As a general rule, Taiwan should offer platforms and components that contain its own intellectual property (IP). Some of Taiwan’s military air, land, and naval equipment is imported from abroad or produced in Taiwan under licensed manufacturing agreements, for which Taiwan does not own the IP rights. Therefore, it should not export these technologies without the requisite licenses.
In addition to dedicated military technologies, Taiwan could use its broad technological base to develop products that cross over into civilian use. This would fit well with the government’s new plans to establish its own version of the U.S.’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that would build up innovative and groundbreaking technologies for national defense and broader economic development. Taiwan has a “first mover” advantage and the potential to profit in certain new technologies, such as augmented reality that can be suitable for both military and civilian markets. For instance, Taiwan’s HTC company manufactures virtual reality (VR) 3D goggles and holds a major share of this market. One promising use for this technology is to develop maintenance VR training programs for military aircraft, as well as naval and land platforms. Virtual reality can significantly lower maintenance training costs by having students use headsets to peer under virtual aircraft or other platforms to learn to inspect, change components, change fluids, etc. Instead of having actual aircraft and live instructors at every step, now the military can save time and costs by using real aircraft and live instructors only during the final testing phase of instruction. The VR training programs can also be sold to other countries. In addition to military applications, Taiwan’s augmented reality companies can work with auto manufacturers to provide VR training for car mechanics and even extend this to other civilian technical fields.
What would an arms industry mean for Taiwan’s domestic manufacturing base? Many of Taiwan’s electronics companies have set up manufacturing facilities in the PRC in recent decades, but arms production would bring the manufacturing process back to Taiwan for security and political reasons. If a Taiwanese company uses a facility in the PRC to manufacture arms and then sells it to a third country, it is unclear whether it would be considered a transfer from Taiwan to that country or from China to that country. The PRC could even prohibit Taiwan from establishing arms manufacturing facilities, or block this type of transfer through PRC customs on the back end. Not to mention that China would learn the intimate details of Taiwan’s weapons systems. Producing weapons in Taiwan will fulfill one of President’s Tsai’s goals of using defense as an innovative industry and creating jobs in Taiwan. Indeed, the Democratic People’s Party has mentioned that it expects its defense industry plan to generate $7 to $12 billion dollars along with 8,000 new jobs.
My next article will address the policy and geopolitical considerations if Taiwan decides to export its indigenously produced missiles, naval vessels and other platforms to foreign countries. As mentioned in previous articles, the alternative decision to integrate Taiwan’s electronics and other hardware components into NATO+4 platforms built by foreign companies such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, or others would be a less sensitive decision since it would defer the geopolitical calculations to NATO+4 governments instead.
The main point: Taiwan could develop its indigenous arms export industry by selling its F-Ching-kuo fighter aircraft, Hsiung Feng II and III missiles, naval vessels, military land vehicles, high tech VR training equipment, small arms and ammunition, but it will need to be mindful of geopolitical considerations.
“Comfort Women” Museum Opens in Taipei, Reunites Korean Victim with Former Taiwan President
Dennis Halpin is a visiting scholar at the US-Korea Institute at SAIS (Johns Hopkins University). He previously served as an analyst in the INR Bureau at the State Department and on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives as an adviser on Asian issues, from 2000 to 2013.
The highlight of the December 10th opening day of the Ama (阿嬤) (ama is a Taiwanese term of endearment for grandmother; halmuni is used in Korean) Museum was the reuniting of Korean “Comfort Woman” survivor Lee Yong-soo with former President of Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou. Halmuni Lee, 89, who was kidnapped at the age of sixteen and brought to Taiwan to service kamikaze pilots at the Hsinchu air base, had last met with Mr. Ma during his tenure as Taiwan’s President. The two embraced each other as old friends. Lee stated that, despite the horrific experience of being repeatedly raped on a daily basis as a young girl, she considers Hsinchu, located in Taiwan, her “second hometown after Daegu, Korea.” Halmuni Lee spoke of the bittersweet irony of the fact that many of the Japanese pilots she was forced to service spent their last night with her before flying off to their suicidal deaths.
Former President Ma stated that the words “Comfort Women” (慰安婦) were a misnomer and should only be used with quotation marks. Ma said that the correct words for what Halmuni Lee and other victims endured would be “military sex slaves” (軍事性奴隸). He said that the “Comfort Women” issue represents an international human rights and women’s rights issue and should be recognized as such, not only by the international community, but by the government of Japan as well. President Ma noted the especially harsh taboo in conservative Asian societies for women to discuss anything of a sexual nature, especially when it involves abuse. He pointed out that that was the reason that victims in Taiwan and other countries failed to come forward for almost half a century after the conclusion of the Second World War. He specifically praised the Korean “Comfort Women” victims who had the courage to come forward and publicly discuss their victimization in 1992.
Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation (TWRF, 婦女救援基金會) Executive Director Kang Shu-hua (康淑華) noted that the December 10th date for the museum opening, the first such museum in Taiwan, was deliberately chosen as it is UN Human Rights Day. Ms. Kang described the years of effort expended by TWRF in order to locate both an appropriate site for the museum, a 90-year-old building near downtown Taipei, and to raise the necessary funds for its construction. TWRF Chairperson Shu-Ling Hwang emphasized the universality of the issue raised by the opening of the museum: violence against women in armed conflict. She noted that this is an issue that continues to be relevant in today’s world.
The “Comfort Women” victims from Taiwan, estimated by TWRF to include “about 2,000, possibly more, Taiwanese women aged 14 to 30,” included both indigenous aboriginal women from the island as well as ethnic Han Chinese. TWRF established a hotline in 1992 for survivors to call and identified 58 victims in Taiwan. Only three victims survive today. One of them, Ama Chen Lien-hua (陳蓮花), 92, attended the museum’s official opening ceremony. The other two Taiwanese victims reportedly choose to maintain their anonymity. Taiwan’s Culture Minister, Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君), who also attended the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, noted that, “as a woman, I admire the courage of the Amas.” The museum includes both biographical information on a number of the Taiwanese victims, as well as artwork prepared by them. TWRF conducted wellness workshops on a regular basis for the identified victims between 1996 and 2012. The workshop participants made use of artistic expression as a form of therapy in dealing with the post-traumatic stress disorder from which they suffered as a result of extensive physical and emotional abuse.
Despite repeated denials by both official and unofficial circles in Japan, TWRF has chronicled extensive documentation verifying the “Comfort Women” military-established brothel system. A copy of a declassified official US government document titled, “Amenities in the Japanese Armed Forces,” published on November 15, 1945, “by command of General MacArthur,” was presented to TWRF as a part of the opening ceremonies. This report, widely referred to as the “MacArthur Report,” lists its sources as “‘captured documents and statements of Prisoners of War.’” It contains specific information about the organized trafficking of both Taiwanese and Korean women to Southeast Asia:
[They] embarked at FUSAN on 10 July 1942 in a group of 703 girls, all Korean, and some 90 Japanese men and women … They sailed on a 4000 ton passenger ship in a convoy of seven ships. Free passage tickets were provided by Army headquarters … They called at Formosa, where 22 girls bound for Singapore were taken on board, and at Singapore they transferred to another ship, arriving at Rangoon on 20 August 1942.
International delegations attended the museum’s opening ceremony, the largest being from Japan. This delegation included Mina Watanabe, General Secretary of the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) in Tokyo and Eriko Ikeda, WAM’s Chair of the Board. The delegation from South Korea included Professor Heisoo Shin, Director of the “Voice of the Comfort Women project for UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register;” Shin-Kwon Ahn, Chairman of the House of Sharing (residency for “Comfort Women” victims), Jeung Seun Anyi, Representative from the Daegu Citizen Forum for Halmuni; and Kuk-Yom Han, Co-Representative of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. The American delegation consisted of Phyllis Kim, Executive Director, Korean American Forum of California and her husband, Roy Hong; Tomomi Kinukawa, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of California, Berkeley; and Dennis Halpin [the author], Visiting Scholar, U.S.-Korea Institute, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. The American delegation brought a congratulatory letter on the museum opening from US Representative Mike Honda of California, the chief sponsor in 2007 of House Resolution 121 calling upon the government of Japan to “formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as ‘comfort women.’”
There was also a delegation present from the People’s Republic of China, demonstrating that despite political tensions there can still be cross-Strait solidarity on the “Comfort Women” issue and other issues related to WWII history.
The main point: The opening of the Ama Museum, the first “Comfort Women” museum in Taiwan, is a continuation of over two decades of efforts by the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation to achieve justice for the 58 identified victims on Taiwan, three of whom survive today. The opening of the AMA Museum also demonstrates that the “Comfort Women” issue is international in nature, not a bilateral Korean-Japanese issue.
The Unsung Success of Womenomics in Taiwan
Melissa Newcomb is the Research Manager at Global Taiwan Institute and Associate Editor of the Global Taiwan Brief.
President Tsai Ing-wen committed to raising the female labor force participation rate in Taiwan, among other gender parity initiatives, at the International Council of Women’s Executive Committee meeting held in Taipei for the first time on November 14. The term “womenomics”—first coined by Goldman Sachs strategist Kathy Matsui in 1999—was revitalized by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2013, and is exclusively applied to Japan. Broadly speaking, womenomics is a holistic approach to increasing female participation in the workforce and encompasses policy reforms at the governmental, private, and social levels concerning issues such as equal wages, parental leave, promotions, and child care support, among others. While Japan’s use of these policies is well known, Taiwan has been implementing its own womenomic policies for the past two decades, with great success.
In the 2014 Gender Inequality Index (GII), Taiwan was ranked 5th after Denmark, meaning it had the 5th lowest rate of inequality out of 155 countries; South Korea was 24, Japan was 27, and the United States was 56th. Taiwan ranked 43rd place in the 2015 Gender Gap Index (GGI), calculated by the World Economic Forum (WEF); the United States ranked 28th, China was 91, and Japan was 101 out of 145 countries. It should be noted that Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations or the WEF, so the rankings were calculated by Taiwan’s government. That being said, the fact that Taiwan is committed to independently tracking and measuring its progress towards gender parity is admirable.
Taiwan’s female labor force participation rose from 45.3 percent in 1995 to 50.7 percent in 2015. In 2015, female to male estimated income levels show that Taiwanese women earned 83 percent of what their male colleagues earned, meaning that the wage gap was 17 percent, much lower than the United States and Japan. Japanese women earned 66 percent of their male counterparts’ wages for equal work, while in the United States women earned 65 percent. In 2015, average monthly salaries for women in Taiwan grew by 2.9 percent, a faster rate than their male counterparts at 2.3 percent.
The relatively small income gap between men and women in Taiwan may be partially attributed to the relative low level of income disparity overall in Taiwan and the fact that Taiwan’s economy predominantly features small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that are more accommodating than the large chaebols and zaibatsu of South Korea and Japan, respectively. Nearly 98 percent of Taiwan’s businesses were SMEs in 2014, a huge proportion, and 491,000 women were owners. However, the gender wage gap in Taiwan seems to be due to actual discrimination, a conclusion drawn from the fact that women and men in Taiwan are more equally qualified in terms of education and experience than in other countries.
According to the Gender Equality in Employment Act (性別工作平等法), Taiwanese mothers are granted up to eight weeks of maternity leave and if they have been employed for six months or more, they will receive full pay. In addition, the law has provisions for employers of more than 100 people to provide nursing rooms and childcare facilities, or help with off-site care. Japan guarantees about 14 weeks of maternity leave at a rate of about 60 percent pay. In the United States, zero days of maternity leave are guaranteed by law.
President Tsai’s election in 2015 was a historic moment for Taiwan, as she is the country’s first female president. Even more striking is the fact that she did not inherit a political dynasty as many other female leaders have, such as Indira Ghandi, Maria Corazon Aquino, Park Gyen-hye, or Aung San Suu Kyi, to name a few. Perhaps President Tsai’s success is partly attributable to Taiwan’s policies that promote female political participation in the workforce and society.
Since 1946, Taiwan’s constitution guaranteed 10 percent representation for women in the legislative bodies at all levels of government. After 1999, the number of reserved seats in the Legislative Yuan (LY) for women increased to 25 percent, and quotas will be phased out after 50 percent representation is achieved. Due to the quota system, female representation in Taiwan’s legislature rose from 12 percent in 1995 to 38 percent in 2016. Women in Taiwan represent 34 percent of legislators, senior officials, and managers compared to men. Japan has no quota system for female representation in parliament, and the percent of women in the Diet was 9.5 in 2016. The US also has no quota system in place for gender parity in Congress, and women held 19 percent of seats in 2016.
Why has Taiwan become so successful in promoting gender parity? Following the democratization movement in Taiwan in the late 1980s, many feminist groups sprang into action and fought for reforms such as the larger quotas in the LY, which led to more egalitarian attitudes toward gender today. Taiwan’s history of a vibrant civil society allowed feminists groups to form and become more involved in politics, unlike Japan which suffers from a relatively underdeveloped civil society.
Despite Taiwan’s successes thus far, there is more work still to be done. The level of female labor force participation can grow in general, especially in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as science and technology. Taiwan should also focus on cultivating female talent to become leaders at the senior level—a look at President Tsai’s Cabinet with only four women out of 40 positions confirms that the glass ceiling still exists. Enforcement mechanisms for gender quotas and maternity leave laws should be strengthened, and Taiwan should work on punishing gender discrimination in wages. Taiwan passed the Gender Equality in Employment Act in 2002 and the Gender Equality in Education Act (性別平等教育法) in 2004, but there is no blanket gender equality law. Although the Department of Gender Equity (行政院性別平等會) was finalized in 2012, it narrowly interprets “gender” to focus solely on women. Members of the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people, lack protection under Taiwan’s current framework.
Taiwan is also committed to empowering women abroad. On November 18 at the Asia Pacific Economies Cooperation (APEC) Leader’s Summit, the US and Taiwan announced a joint initiative, “APEC Women and the Economy Sub-Fund”. Taiwan is already active in APEC’s Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE) to build women’s economic empowerment in APEC economies. In 2007, Taiwan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and in 2011 formally adopted a law to implement the UN treaty despite not being a member of the UN.
It was inspiring to hear President Tsai bring the issue of gender to the forefront of Taiwan’s national consciousness, but even more inspiring is how Taiwan’s government has already prioritized gender parity for decades. Prime Minister Abe revitalized the term “womenomics” out of necessity—Japan is facing a major crisis and needs to increase its labor force. Taiwan, on the other hand, has implemented policies to promote gender parity as a priority in its own right; its economic problems stem from the need to reform its industries and reduce its reliance on China as a trading partner, not because women have been shut-out of the economy for decades. Without any outside pressure, Taiwan promotes women in the workforce and in its government, and for that its people should be proud, and its government upheld as a global role model in striving for gender parity.
The main point: Although “womenomics” is a term that has been exclusively applied to Japan, Taiwan has quietly implemented progressive policies to promote female participation in both the workforce and the government, and enjoys some of the highest rates of female education, income, and political representation in East Asia as well as the world.
 Berik, Günseli. “Growth with gender inequality: Another look at East Asian development.” In Social Justice and Gender Equality: Rethinking Development Strategies and Macroeconomic Policies, ed. Günseli Berik, Yana van der Meulen Rodgers and Ann Zammit (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), 22.
 See Doris Chang, presentation given at “What Women Want, What Women Need: Challenges and Opportunities for Female Leaders and Executives in East Asia (panel discussion, Woodrow Wilson Center, Asia Program, Washington, D.C., December 15, 2015). Recording available: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/what-women-want-what-women-need-challenges-and-opportunities-for-female-leaders-and-executives
How the Global Media Frames Taiwan and Gets it Wrong
Dr. Jonathan Sullivan is Director of the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham. He tweets @jonlsullivan.
When news broke about US President-elect Donald Trump’s call with Tsai Ing-wen, the subjects that most interested the international media were: first, the United States—in the guise of the news-cycle-dominant Trump—and, second, China, and its likely reaction to Trump’s diplomatic faux pas. Pro-Trump analysts viewed the story through the lens of a newly robust US foreign policy towards China. Anti-Trump analysts fretted about the dire consequences of the neophyte leader’s ignorant approach to US-China relations. Taiwan, its government and its people, were at best a footnote; even when it transpired that the call was initiated by Taiwan, the focus remained on the wisdom of Trump accepting the call, his motivations, and how China would react. This treatment is consistent with long term Western media narratives on Taiwan.
In general terms, Taiwan’s efforts to present its own narrative have come up against entrenched framing strategies that privilege Beijing’s rhetorical position. Within a dominant focus on developments in Taiwan through the lens of cross-Strait relations and the broader regional political environment structured by Sino-US relations, these framings frequently connect Taiwan to “tensions” in the Strait. Despite enjoying functional autonomy, reports about Taiwan invariably position it within an implicit ”One- China” framework, where China’s claims to control Taiwan are juxtaposed with subtly “destabilizing” forces within and emanating out of Taiwanese domestic politics. This is evident in frequent depictions of the pursuit of “independence,” notwithstanding the almost complete marginalisation of this position in Taiwan itself.
To check these impressions based on 20 years of studying and reading media reports about Taiwan, I used the Nexis database to locate articles in “major world newspapers” publishing in English that contained “Taiwan” in the headline. I collected all articles between January 1st 1996 and June 30th 2016, the 20-year period that covers what is generally known as “democratic Taiwan.” Preliminary analysis of the document set shows that western media coverage of Taiwan during the past 20 years is substantial. Headline stories on Taiwan generated in excess of 18 thousand articles. By comparison, using the same search parameters, South Korea garnered one third less attention than Taiwan. On average over two decades Taiwan has generated around 900 articles per year.
Measuring select terms that appear in headline articles on Taiwan across the entire 20-year document set confirms the media’s major preoccupations in regard to Taiwan. First and foremost, China is integral to Western media coverage of Taiwan, to the extent that China is referenced in nearly 80 percent of headline articles about Taiwan. To a lesser extent, the United States is also central to coverage of Taiwan, being present in nearly half of headline stories. The pre-eminence of the China lens (including Sino-US relations) in coverage of Taiwan is an obstacle to the dissemination of a distinctly Taiwanese narrative. The frame most often used to deliver news on Taiwan is as a site of “tension, crisis and conflict”—which appears in nearly one third of articles. Furthermore, because China has been so effective in setting the global media understanding of cross-Strait relations, it is often implied that Taiwan is the source of this conflict and tension; an unfortunate irony, given that it is Beijing that reserves the “right” to use force against Taiwan under the anti-secession law and has over 1,500 missiles aimed at the island.
The prevalence of references to “independence” (in one quarter of articles) indicate the major source of potential conflict, a frame that implicitly supports Beijing’s argument that the real status quo is “One China” and that “independence” is illegitimate and dangerous. The fact of Taiwan’s self-governing, functional autonomy is rarely noted, appearing in just over one percent of articles. The democratic achievements that Taiwanese are rightly proud of, and Taipei would like to emphasize as a defining part of its narrative, are mentioned in 11 percent of articles. Elections are mentioned in nearly one quarter of articles, but domestic political competition is again frequently perceived through the lens of generating conflict with China.
In the stories that the international media produce on Taiwan, there is a high degree of consonance with real world events. For instance, presidential election years in Taiwan are associated with greater international media attention and a greater proportion of stories about the election. International media coverage is also sensitive to the changing salience of discourse and policy in Taiwan (and indeed in China). For example, the salience of identity politics and rhetoric that could be interpreted as denoting “independence” did increase during Chen Shui-bian’s tenure, while an increasing emphasis on cooperation and trade were features of Ma Ying-jeou’s administration. These macro-level developments were both reflected in media coverage. In general terms, the media does not create or distort developments in Taiwan, and I do not imply any wrongdoing on the part of media outlets, editors or journalists. However, a preoccupation with certain types of story, and entrenched ways of reporting on Taiwan have resulted in an unbalanced narrative being delivered to Western audiences, with concomitant implications for Taiwan’s national image and the success of its soft power and public diplomacy programs.
One explanation for understanding how the media covers Taiwan lies in the way the media itself works. The process of international news production relies on popular geopolitical frameworks that simplify complex issues for domestic consumption, often through the lens of power politics. Popular geopolitical discourses employ straightforward, explanatory frameworks, providing links between issues in “exotic” locales, where people are often seen as the “other,” and a local audience’s concerns. In the hands of international media concerned with “the big picture,” popular geopolitical framings deal in black and white simplicity, with a focus on crisis and conflict. Preoccupation with these frames is compounded by the fact that many journalists writing about Taiwan are not Taiwan specialists, and financial cuts mean that correspondents often parachute into Taiwan from China or Hong Kong to cover salient events in Taiwan, such as elections, on an ad hoc basis. The lack of permanent, specialized, Taiwan-based correspondents, combined with editorial conventions, shorthand cues, and a general lack of space for stories on Taiwan, do not bode well for challenging established conventions for reporting on Taiwan. Setting aside the issue of increasing Chinese influence, in terms of media ownership and efforts to steer the global narrative, there is little space, capacity, or audience demand, for detailed explanations of the complexities of Taiwan’s situation, making it difficult to challenge the normalization of digestible cues like “independence seeking,” “renegade province,” or “tensions.”
Through the promotion of Taiwan as a stable, open democracy committed to universal liberal values, there is the potential for generating soft power gains as a bulwark against Chinese pressures and support for appropriate participation in international society. To this end, Taiwan has strengthened its state-led public diplomacy and soft power initiatives, but faces an uphill struggle to establish its distinct “national brand,” due to entrenched global media narratives that privilege popular geopolitical frames. Culture—in the sense of exhibitions and exchanges—is rarely “newsworthy,” and Taiwan’s culture-based public diplomacy has failed to gain traction in the foreign media. In order to have more forceful public diplomatic engagement, and to address the issue of geopolitical framing that inadvertently tends to burnish Beijing’s preferred understanding of the status quo, Taipei needs to consider ways of telling its story that are more multidimensional, moving beyond culture. In short, Taipei should acknowledge that Taiwan is viewed through a geopolitical lens and adopt communication strategies that address it.
The main point: Taiwan faces an uphill struggle to establish its distinct “national brand” due to entrenched global media narratives that privilege popular geopolitical frames. By portraying Taiwan through the lens of cross-Strait relations, international media inadvertently propagate PRC claims about the “status quo.”