Vol. 2, Issue 43
The Global Taiwan Brief Volume 2, Issue 43
By: Russell Hsiao
Taiwan Needs to Pay Attention to Investment Reform in the US
By: Eric Lebson
In Memoriam: Ed Ross, a Vietnam War Veteran, Distinguished Officer, and Advocate of Taiwan
By: David An
Southeast Asian Immigrant Integration Under the New Southbound Policy
By: Stephanie Adams
Russell Hsiao is the executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute and the editor-in-chief of the Global Taiwan Brief.
Taiwan Navy Reportedly Planning Eight Port Calls in 2018
Among the line items included in the 2018 budget for Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense being reviewed in the Legislative Yuan (LY) is for the Dunmu Fleet (敦睦艦隊). The Fleet’s mission is to engage in long-range exercises, provide humanitarian assistance, and conduct port calls. Like many navies across the world, the Taiwan (ROC) Navy began conducting port visits as early as 1953 and on an annual basis since 1965. According to the Taiwan Navy’s chief of staff, Li Tsung-hsiao (李宗孝), next year’s exercise will reportedly include visiting six countries and eight ports. This is more than the four countries and ports visited by the Fleet this year.
Over the past decade, the number of ports visited in the Fleet’s exercise varied between as few as three to as many as 10. Destinations included ports of allied countries such as the Marshall Islands, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Palau, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu, as well as non-allied ports such as Panama (which broke diplomatic relations in 2016), Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, among others. The exercise normally takes place between March and June.
Navies conduct port visits for numerous reasons but they generally serve five requirements. According to the recently confirmed-nominee for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia Pacific Security Affairs, the reasons why the US Navy conducts ship visit to foreign ports include 1) morale and welfare of the sailors and marines afloat and to help the Navy with recruitment and retention, 2) replenishment and minor maintenance and repair for ships, 3) contribute to political and diplomatic goals, 4) contribute to specific military and security goals, and 5) because foreign ports can provide safe harbor when ships are in distress. These reasons are just as valid, if not more applicable, in justifying the need of the Taiwan Navy to conduct foreign port visits in part due to the country’s isolation and the critical importance of recruitment and maintaining military morale.
In a meeting with the visiting prime minister of the Soloman Islands in September, President Tsai Ing-wen made a point to highlight how “the very first port call made by the ROC Navy’s Dunmu Fleet this past April was in the Solomon Islands.” After the port visit, the two sides established sister port relationship between the Port of Kaohsiung and the Port of Honiara by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to conduct exchanges of information and personnel related to port development, administration and operations in order to enhance mutual understanding.
Over the years, the Fleet has rotated its exercises between shorter and longer-range exercises. It has reportedly followed a routine of conducting one long-range exercise followed by two shorter-range exercises. In 2016, the Dunmu Fleet visited allied ports in Central and South America, whereas in 2017 it visited allies in the South Pacific: Marshall Islands, Palau, Solomon Islands, and Kiribati. If the Fleet was to follow past practice, the 2018 route should be one of the shorter distance.
Against the backdrop of Panama abruptly breaking diplomatic ties with Taiwan in June 2017, however, local reports suggest that the Fleet’s ports of call in 2018 will likely be those of its Central and South American allies. Indeed, a quarter of Taiwan’s 20 remaining diplomatic allies are in the region. Taiwan’s defense minister travelled to Central America that included stops in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Dominica, Honduras and El Salvador—with transit stops through New York and Los Angeles—to shore up mil-to-mil relations in late August-early September. Afterwards, Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) reportedly recommended to President Tsai that in addition to enhancing high-level mil-to-mil relations with allied militaries, the Tsai administration should increase mil-to-mil exchanges through the Dunmu Fleet.
According to a media report, the Taiwan Navy is considering the feasibility of conducting underway replenishment off the coast of Guam during next year’s exercise. Such an operation would necessarily require the approval of the United States. This will be broadly consistent with provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018—which the US president signed into law on December 12—expressing the sense of Congress that the Department of Defense shall consider “the advisability and feasibility of the United States to receiving ports of call by the Republic of China navy in Hawaii, Guam and other appropriate locations.” According to a statement from the US Navy in 2015 regarding naval ship visits by the People’s Liberation Army: “Goodwill visits by ships from foreign navies help build trust and foster shared understanding.”
The main point: In light of Panama’s break of diplomatic ties with Taipei in June 2017, some media reports indicate that the Dunmu Fleet will likely conduct ship visits to Central and South American allies for its annual oversea exercise in 2018. Consistent with provisions in the NDAA, the Taiwan Navy may also be considering the feasibility of conducting underway replenishment procedures off the coast of Guam during next year’s exercise.
Desinification and the Culture War across the Taiwan Strait
During a recent visit to the island, the chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT)—the US agency responsible for conducting relations with Taiwan—Ambassador James Moriarty met with lawmakers at the Legislative Yuan (LY). The issue of “desinification” (去中國化) was raised in the chairman’s discussion with the lawmakers that led to a faux pas causing a stir in the local media, so much so that AIT issued a statement from the chairman clarifying “… that I [James Moriarty] have heard from Chinese academics, officials and others about something they call ‘desinification’.” The obvious point for the clarification was to underscore the fact that the concern expressed was not Washington’s but from the Chinese-side. While the statement did not make any explicit link to specific issues that any party considers “desinification,” the fact that the issue was raised shines a spotlight on the ongoing culture war in the Taiwan Strait.
Desinification (or desinicization) is not a new term of art. It has been used both within the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan in association with cultural policies or activities within the island that are labeled—by mostly supporters of cross-Strait unification—as promoting a distinct Taiwanese identity and accordingly, in their view, independence. While the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) has traditionally been viewed as embracing a more Chinese-centered party identification, both major political parties in Taiwan have pursued a general policy of “indigenization” (本土化) with respect to their cultural policies as Taiwan’s political system democratized from the 1980s onward. Former President Ma Ying-jeou (KMT) even embraced the concept of being a “New Taiwanese” (新台灣人).
Beijing opposes desinification on Taiwan as a matter of national policy. Indeed, at a press conference following the passage of the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice (促進轉型正義條例) in Taiwan, which is directed at removing authoritarian-era symbols and rectifying grievances, the PRC State Council Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesperson, An Fengshan (安峰山), stated: “We resolutely oppose any form of Taiwan secessionist activities, including ‘desinification’ activities of any kind and by any name.” The spokesman’s remarks closely followed sharper comments made earlier by TAO Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) stating:
Recently, the Taiwan independence forces on the island have been frequently and constantly changing their tricks to carry out “desinification” in various fields such as culture, education and society in an attempt to cut off the historical link between Taiwan and the mainland [sic], wipe out the national consciousness of Taiwan compatriots and the influence of traditional Chinese culture. In particular, some forces are promoting the so-called revision of law and even advocating for the amendment of Taiwan’s constitution.
By associating desinification with secession activities, Beijing is defining culture in starkly political terms. This is consistent with the Chinese view that culture is inherently political and should be determinative of national identity. By extension, this linkage raises a troubling legal, if not military, implication: Due to the PRC’s vaguely worded Anti-Secession Law (反分裂国家法), it could plausibly provide legal justification for Beijing’s leaders to utilize non-peaceful means to prevent desinification on Taiwan. In a sense, there could literally be a culture war in the Taiwan Strait.
That Beijing could justify going to war to prevent desinification also underscores the political-military nature of Beijing’s stratagem towards Taiwan. To be sure, a competition over culture across the Taiwan Strait has been going for decades. Indeed, Beijing’s effort to suppress desinification on Taiwan may be seen as part of a larger political warfare and influence operation campaign for the explicit purpose of unifying Taiwan with the PRC under the latter’s terms.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, the competition centered on which side of the Strait was the champion of Chinese culture to now becoming a unilateral effort to suppress the emergence of a distinct Taiwanese identity on the island. Towards that latter goal, China has been waging a comprehensive United Front operation that includes the cultivation of political (cultural) allies while dividing Taiwanese society, most importantly, by utilizing elements of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) political warfare apparatuses and the broader United Front system.
According to a 2013 study by the Project 2049 Institute:
Chinese political warfare … has attempted to engineer the final political resolution of the Chinese civil war on CCP terms. The Republic of China (ROC; Taiwan) remains the primary target of PLA political warfare. Taiwan’s democratic system of government – an alternative to mainland China’s authoritarian model – presents an existential challenge to CCP political authority.
As noted by TAO Director Zhang, Beijing’s concerns about desinification also extends to education and the academic curriculum on Taiwan. For over two decades, there has been an ongoing debate on the island about the need to update and reform the academic curriculum to more accurately reflect the island’s history and its diversity. The former curriculum was perceived by many Taiwanese people as being too “China-centric.” This debate flared up again 2015 when students across the country protested the former administration’s effort to revise the curriculum to make it more China-focused. More recently, a researcher from a PRC government-run research institute published an analysis criticizing a draft recommendation that is being circulated by the National Academy for Educational Research under Taiwan’s Ministry of Education that will update the curriculum and further delineate Taiwan history (台灣史) from China history (中國史).
While some experts observed that the influence of the PLA’s political work portfolio has diminished in recent years, its function as an agency for PRC’s Taiwan policy remains intact albeit somewhat obscure. Indeed, a well-known Taiwan-hand, PLA Major General Xi Qi (辛旗; b. 1961), revealed that he had recommended through high-level intermediaries back in 2008 that the former Ma administration revise the academic curriculum in order to neutralize the tide of “natural independence” (天然獨) sentiments among the youths. It is worth noting that Xin Qi has served as deputy director of what was formerly known as the General Political Department Liaison Department. In addition, he is a senior director of the PLA’s principle platform for unofficial cross-Strait exchanges, the China Association for Promotion of Chinese Culture (CAPCC) and the deputy director of China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC).
The main point: Beijing associates desinification with secession activities and sees culture as inherently political. China has been waging a comprehensive united front operation that includes the cultivation of political (cultural) allies while dividing Taiwanese society, most importantly, by utilizing elements of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) political warfare apparatuses and the broader United Front system.
Taiwan Needs to Pay Attention to Investment Reform in the US
Eric Lebson is a former Pentagon and National Security Council official and presently works on CFIUS matters at the Crumpton Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Foreign companies—including Taiwanese companies—seeking to invest in the United States have a new hurdle to face as legislation moves forward to enhance government oversight. This will pose a problem for those who embrace the same methods they have used to navigate Washington for years. Understanding and especially overcoming the hurdles will be important, even more so for companies domiciled in certain countries. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Robert Pittenger (R-NC) have led the reform effort with their respective introductions of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2017 (FIRRMA) in early November. All indications are that the legislation’s prospects are enhanced by consultations between Congress and the Administration that occurred as it was being drafted.
Indeed, Congress and the Trump Administration appear to be in alignment about the need to reform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the inter-agency panel run by the Treasury Department, which assesses potential foreign investments in the United States for their national security implications. Ostensibly a voluntary review, companies that fail to seek approval from CFIUS and are later found to have risks in their transactions can be sanctioned, hit with expensive mitigation costs, or even forced to unwind the investment post-transaction. Washington fears that aggressive state-sponsored efforts by companies in certain “countries of special concern” are harming US national security interests in ways that current legislation does not enable CFIUS to address. The two countries of most concern are China and Russia—with Taiwan viewed as an extension of China’s threat. Efforts to reform CFIUS—the first since 2008—are moving forward with bipartisan support.
With President Trump’s roll-out of the National Security Strategy, there should be no confusion that China is viewed as a competitor by this White House. There should also not be anyone who does not understand that America’s view of national security is heavily focused on economic strength—both at home and abroad.
So what implication does this have for Taiwan? First, the context is crucial: there are mixed sentiments about China in Washington. Some are focused on China as a broad market and potential strategic partner. Others view intellectual property infringement, state-sponsored hacking, denial of market access, and regional maritime expansion as indicators that China is more a competitor than a friend. While there are of course substantive differences between China and Taiwan that earn Taiwan favorable consideration by pro-democracy advocates in Congress, there is also a belief that Taiwan’s economic dependency with China—with many of its major companies with significant exposure in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—could mean that Taiwanese investment in the United States may be considered a presumed proxy for the Chinese government.
Part of what is driving CFIUS reform is the increase in cases that have transacted in recent years. In 2009, CFIUS reviewed only 65 cases. In 2015, that number had risen to 143. Attorneys who handle CFIUS matters expect the 2017 tally to exceed 200 cases and perhaps crest higher than 240. At the same time, there is no statutory definition of “national security” so recent cases have focused far beyond the simple acquisition of a semiconductor manufacturer that also sells to the US military.
There are heightened concerns now regarding transactions that expose to foreign parties the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of American citizens—which might include healthcare companies, social media, financial clearinghouses, especially if those foreign companies have inadequate cybersecurity safeguards—and others that might give a foreign entity proximate access to sensitive US government facilities. Transactions related to key technology sectors—including robotics and artificial intelligence—are also routinely cited by CFIUS staff as areas of concern.
If passed as it is currently written, FIRRMA will have important implications for Taiwanese investments. The legislation establishes that unnamed “countries of special concern” can be scrutinized more aggressively in CFIUS reviews while “identified countries” meeting certain criteria would earn exemptions or more expedited reviews. It extends the review and investigation time that CFIUS can require before rendering a judgment. Among other things, it also broadens the Committee’s jurisdiction to include real estate lease transactions, minority investments, licensing deals, technology sharing arrangements, and outbound investments that have implications for US equities. It also establishes a mandatory review for any foreign acquisition of 25 percent or more in equity of a US company by a company that is 25 percent or more owned by a foreign government—which could mean state investment entities and parastatals.
While not explicitly stated in the legislation, Taiwanese companies that have joint ventures with mainland Chinese firms will be an area of concern. Joint ventures are of concern because of the risk of technology leakage they pose. The same applies to licensing deals and transactions that will expose US intellectual property via the supply chain of the foreign acquirer.
With all of this in motion, there is good news for companies that are serious about their investment strategy in the United States: CFIUS is not in place to stop foreign investments, only to defray the negative effects for US national security. That means that a foreign company can work with the new system by understanding the legitimate concerns of CFIUS and taking proactive measures to mitigate the risk. These measures include everything from utilizing the established legal proxy structures that many attorneys favor to instituting robust auditing regimes by reputable and non-conflicted firms. However, this approach also includes innovative and aggressive counterintelligence risk management, involving everything from network surveillance and segmentation, to physical separation of employees and facilities, to the employment of cutting-edge sensors and rapid reaction capabilities. The most important factor for CFIUS approval is whether the proposed transaction adequately addresses the risk concerns of CFIUS staff. If the risks are not mitigated, CFIUS has no basis for approving the transaction.
The reform legislation will make CFIUS a more robust means of protecting US national security interests. Importantly, the negotiated legislation remains focused on national security despite the interest of some in including US trade equities and reciprocal market access. While this legislation resolves some open questions about the role of CFIUS, this is still a relatively opaque regulatory process. Efforts to circumvent, game, or politicize the process are unlikely to be successful or to be received well by those charged with making judgments. CFIUS, which already has all the tools it needs to decline most types of transactions, is now being given more enhanced tools. Regardless, the strongest tool CFIUS has remains the private conversation that a specific transaction is “not going to happen” between CFIUS and the attorneys representing the transaction parties.
The main point: Because of perceptions about the relationship between Chinese and Taiwanese businesses, CFIUS reform could make it harder for Taiwanese companies to engage in a broad range of transactions involving American firms and technology, but there are numerous proven risk mitigation approaches that can be used to meet CFIUS requirements. The biggest mistake a company can make is to ignore the staff concerns or try to politicize the process.
In Memoriam: Ed Ross, a Vietnam War Veteran, Distinguished Officer, and Advocate of Taiwan
David An is a senior research fellow at the Global Taiwan Institute and was previously a political military officer at the US Department of State.
The memorial service for Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Ed Ross was recently held on November 20 at Arlington National Cemetery. Such a final resting place is appropriate for this decorated US Army officer whose 42 years of military and federal service included two tours in the Vietnam War and higher appointments at the Pentagon after the war. Both the Washington DC policy community of Asia hands and the people of Taiwan have lost a friend in Ed Ross this past year. In addition to being a US military officer and public servant, Ed Ross’s life work was to encourage Taiwan to “improve its military capabilities and negotiate from a position of strength to deter Chinese aggression and coercion,” and to urge the United States to actively assist Taiwan in this endeavor.
Ed knew Taiwan from personal experience, having lived in Taichung while attending the American Embassy School for Chinese Language and Area Studies. Chinese language training would prove indispensable as he was later assigned to be the assistant US Army attache at the US Embassy in Beijing starting June 1983. I first met Ed at a private roundtable event held at the Project 2049 Institute around 2012, when I was a political military officer at the US State Department. My lasting impression of Ed was that he cared deeply about the safety and future of the Taiwanese people, and he was proud of the democracy that Taiwan had become.
Urging US support for Taiwan’s overall defense
After his active duty military service in Vietnam, and at the US Embassy in Beijing, he became a director for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mongolia at the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon, serving in that policymaking position for eight years, from 1984 to 1992. He then briefly served as the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for prisoners of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) Affairs at the Pentagon, and then as principal director for operations at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). DSCA administers all foreign military sales (FMS) from the United States to its security partners, including Taiwan.
Since most government officials in the executive branch are barred from making public statements while they are in office, his writings after retiring from government service, beginning in 2007 revealed his thinking about how the United States should improve its security cooperation with Taiwan. Ed once stated: “The US must continue to push the envelope on arms sales to Taiwan, providing Taiwan what it truly needs to maintain a sufficient defense capability, not what it believes Beijing will tolerate.”
He was adamant that “Taiwan’s needs should govern US arms sales” and not some other rationale or timeline convenient for US domestic politics or the US-China relationship. On July 18, 2008, at the tail end of the second George W Bush term, Ed wrote in the Wall Street Journal, Asia edition, that US arms sales to Taiwan “deserved President Bush’s immediate attention.” At the time, Taiwan was in need of 60 additional F-16 aircraft, Patriot PAC III missiles and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. Two years later, the Obama administration approved the sale of those Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters, and F-16 upgrades to Taiwan. As this process shows, Ed provided a constant reminder to the Executive branch to continue to strive to meet the requirements of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA): to provide Taiwan the defense articles and services it requires to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.
Taiwan’s submarine program
Ed constantly recommended US assistance for Taiwan’s submarine program, and wished the United States could have done more to help, but recognized the practical limits on US assistance. He believed that submarines “are desperately needed for Taiwan’s defense and deterrence to maintain the relative military balance in the Taiwan Strait.” Submarines are essential to Taiwan’s order of battle, since they are difficult to detect while submerged underwater, and an adversary cannot easily attack what it cannot see. Throughout the past decade, Ed urged the US government to help Taiwan in this regard.
Taiwan initially looked to the United States for assistance on submarines, but has recently started design work on its own. In a 2009 interview with Reuters, Ross noted that for a US company to do the design work for diesel electric submarines, it would have cost $360 million US dollars—as mentioned in the original letter of request from Taiwan to the United States. He noted that the cost of building eight diesel electric submarines was estimated at $10.2 billion dollars and would take 10 to 15 years to complete. Another hurdle is that it would have required a US company to show that it had the ability to build diesel-electric submarines, which is not a guarantee since the US submarine force transitioned to an all-nuclear powered force decades ago; or a US company would have to find a foreign partner that could fulfill this requirement. After years of waiting for US assistance, Taiwan took the initiative to open a new submarine development center at China Shipbuilding Corporation in August 2016 to begin the design phase on its own.
Integrating command and control of Taiwan’s missile systems
Ed applauded the United States for providing Patriot missiles to Taiwan, but recognized that interceptor missiles only solved part of the problem of deterring against missile attack, and that additional steps are required to assist Taiwan with command and control of the missiles and radars. Ed explained that Taiwan’s Patriot missiles are only one element of a missile defense system, and that the Patriot’s radar range is around 170 kilometers and therefore unable to detect the majority of China’s missiles in the boost phase over Chinese territory. Therefore, these Patriot missiles should be tied to an integrated command and control system that provides for early warning missile detection and tracking to improve the chances of intercept at the terminal phase of missile flight. He asserted that Taipei requires continued US assistance with Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) to bolster its military capabilities across the board and to achieve an effective missile defense.
Essentially, Ed believed it was in the US national interest to assist Taiwan’s defensive capabilities. “At a time when the US is still engaged in two wars and finding it difficult not to become engaged in other regional conflicts and crises, it makes eminent sense to do whatever it can to build the ability of friends and allies, our partners in regional security, to defend themselves better,” Ed wrote, referring to US assistance toward Taiwan in a Taipei Times article.
However, Ed was also clear eyed about the importance of the United States and Taiwan in working with China as cooperative partners as much as possible. He cited and agreed with former US State Department Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell’s point: the challenge for both the United States and Taiwan is to find the optimal environment that is conducive to Taiwan’s continuing peaceful engagement with China while providing Taiwan with suitable defensive weapons that afford it the confidence of US support in its interactions with China; and responsibility for success rests with both Washington and Taipei (U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, Defense and Security Report, Second Quarter 2009, p. 15).
As we look back on Ed Ross’ life, his tremendous work stands out along with the significant accolades that accompanied his work.
His civilian awards included:
- Meritorious Senior Executive, conferred by President George W. Bush
- Three Secretary of Defense Medals for Meritorious Civilian Service, conferred by Secretaries Dick Cheney, William Perry, and Robert Gates
- The Order of Resplendent Banner with Yellow Grand Cordon, presented by Republic of China Minister of Defense Lee Tien-yu
- Outstanding Achievement Medal, presented by Philippine Secretary of National Defense, Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr.
His military awards included:
- Silver Star
- Bronze Star
- Defense Superior Service Medal
- Defense Meritorious Service Medal
- Air Medal with “V” Device with Oak Leaf Cluster
- Army Commendation Medal
- Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star
- Aircraft Crewman’s Badge
- Inducted into the Artillery Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame in May 1997
Ed’s life was a life well lived in service to country and family. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, his son, daughter and son-in-law, and two grandsons. Throughout his career, he performed superbly from the fields and jungles of Vietnam, to the corridors of the Pentagon, and afterwards. He never forgot who his friends were, whether it was those who fought by his side during the war, those in his neighborhood and community, or a partner such as Taiwan across the Pacific. Likewise, he continually exhorted the United States to be loyal to its partners and friends.
The main point: Ed Ross passed away on May 16, 2017, and on that day we lost a great mind within the East Asia policy community as well as a patriot. Ross’s post-military career demonstrated his steadfast support of Taiwan and his burial in Arlington Cemetery is befitting of a veteran, decorated officer, and loving husband, father, and grandfather.
Southeast Asian Immigrant Integration Under the New Southbound Policy
Stephanie Adams is a second year Masters candidate in the Asian Studies Program at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service where she focuses on politics and security as well as immigrant integration and humanitarian emergencies as they pertain to East and Southeast Asia. She was a Fall 2017 intern at the Global Taiwan Institute.
There are currently around 75 million international migrants living in Asia. Since its earliest days as a Dutch colony, Taiwan has served as a migrant-receiving society. Despite this enriched history, Taiwan’s government has been criticized for demonstrating little political will, until recently, for instituting immigration reform or supporting the integration of new migrants into Taiwanese society. Changing demographics such as increasingly large numbers of first and second generation Southeast Asian migrants and their children settling in Taiwan, however, have accelerated the need for timely comprehensive policy reforms as well as government-led integration efforts. Under President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) launch of the New Southbound Policy (新南向政策), the government has introduced various initiatives aimed at broadening traditionally restrictive immigration laws to attract greater numbers of migrants to settle in Taiwan, in addition to creating opportunities for further integration between the Taiwanese and migrant communities.
As part of the people-centered prong of the Tsai administration’s New Southbound Policy, Taiwan’s government has laid out a strategy for how it wishes to modify its public institutions via the education system and adjustments to the labor market to better integrate new migrants. For the integration process to be successful, it requires the cooperation of two parties: the immigrant group and the receiving society. The receiving society, in this case Taiwan, ultimately holds more power in determining the outcome of the integration process and how its institutions will adjust to the newcomers needs. These efforts include “provid[ing] high-quality educational opportunities in Taiwan and facilit[ing] two way cooperation to cultivate professional talent.” Also included are government-led initiatives to provide the children of new Southeast Asian immigrants with language skills and work experiences in Southeast Asia and familiarize the Taiwanese teachers and students with Southeast Asian languages and cultures. By doing so, this cultivates an environment of mutual respect and understanding as well as builds essential connections to Southeast Asia.
As of August 2017, Taiwan’s current foreign-born resident population was overwhelmingly comprised of immigrants from the Southeast Asian nations of Indonesia (232,145), Vietnam (189,500), the Philippines (145,425), Thailand (65,139), and Malaysia (14,531). Furthermore, approximately one in six children born in Taiwan are born to immigrant families and about 260,000 primary and secondary school students are children of new immigrants. Therefore, one avenue in particular where the government has chosen to focus its integration efforts is through the education system. To create opportunities for children of immigrants to better understand the cultures and languages of their homeland, as well as to establish opportunities for mutual understanding between migrants and native children, Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has announced that beginning in fall 2018, elementary and junior high schools throughout the country will begin offering courses in Southeast Asian languages. Through this initiative, students at the elementary level will have the option to choose a course in either a local language or a Southeast Asian language to meet their requirement and once students reach junior high, the language class becomes optional. If they choose to take a Southeast Asian language, they may choose from Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai, Burmese, Khmer, Malay, and Tagalog, which compared to the numbers above, accurately represents the languages spoken by the largest migrant groups residing in Taiwan.
By adding these languages to the curriculum, the government is acknowledging the benefits that new immigrants and their children bring to Taiwan in terms of diversity and future opportunities for cooperation that transcend culture and language barriers. Furthermore, the addition of Southeast Asian languages to the curriculum along with government subsidized remedial Chinese language courses provides children of Southeast Asian descent with greater opportunities to catch up to their peers. When asked specifically about the addition of Vietnamese to the language curriculum, Au Quy Hi, Education Secretary at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Ho Chi Min City remarked “we hope the introduction of Vietnamese will help children of Vietnamese origin to better integrate into Taiwan’s education system and be on an equal footing with native children.”
School-aged immigrant children are not the only ones benefiting from this government led integration initiative. To meet the new nationwide demand for Southeast Asian language teachers in elementary and junior high schools, Taiwan’s Ministry of Education K-12 Education Administration began a certification program in July 2016 that allowed new immigrants with the appropriate skillset to earn accreditation to instruct compulsory and elective Southeast Asian language courses at local schools as teaching support personnel. Based on its currently enrolled K-12 student population, more teachers of Vietnamese and Indonesian languages are needed than other Southeast Asian languages, as 67 percent of the demand is for Vietnamese and 18 percent for Indonesian languages, respectively. According to Chang Ming-wen (張明文), director of Department of Teacher and Art Education, “ [the] teaching staff of new immigrants’ languages are mainly made up of ‘teaching support personnel’, who include new immigrant mothers in the community or existing teachers who have studied the languages and past [passed] certification examinations.” Through this unique opportunity, new migrants are able to work alongside native Taiwanese populations in a formal school setting, which allows for faster integration into Taiwan’s labor market.
Granting new immigrants the opportunity to work side-by-side with native Taiwanese teachers in the same capacity, also addresses a controversial concept of Taiwan’s migration and citizenship policy known as ‘population quality’ (人口素質). This idea is also referred to by some sociologists as the ‘cultural quality’ problem, which categorizes migrants as being of lower or higher quality depending on their home country. Under this system, those coming from Southeast Asia are considered undesirable citizens and the mixed children of Southeast Asian mothers are also regarded as belonging to the poor quality population. However, through increased engagement with Southeast Asia under the New Southbound Policy and government assisted integration efforts, these stereotypes are beginning to break down.
Although Taiwan is on the right track when it comes to integrating new migrants from Southeast Asia into Taiwanese society and meeting the goals laid out under the New Southbound Policy, the government still faces obstacles in how it selectively chooses to interact and engage with its domestic immigrant population. For example, Vietnamese immigrant, Ho Thanh Nhan (or Hu Ching-hsien, 胡清嫻), was named as the first new immigrant advisor by President Tsai to help set policies relevant to immigrant concerns almost one year ago, yet she has reportedly not had the opportunity to meet with the President or any other high level officials to express such concerns.
Ranking as a top concern among immigrant groups is the decline of intergenerational mother tongue transmission. Though the language policies outlined above seem to address this concern, a significant portion of the Taiwanese population does not entirely support language transmission to children of mixed Southeast Asian and Taiwanese descent. Furthermore, although the migrants support the introduction of the seven Southeast Asian languages into the K-12 curriculum, they fear the lack of qualified teachers will negatively impact the instruction. According to officials, this fear is well founded. Tsai Chih-ming (蔡志明), a Ministry of Education K-12 official, remarked, “teaching materials for Vietnamese and Indonesian languages have been prepared for many years and are therefore more ready than those for the other languages.” Additionally, there is concern among the immigrant community that the government will recruit teachers directly from those countries rather than recruit from their domestic immigrant talent pool. The inability of migrants to communicate with policy makers on issues directly affecting their own and their children’s livelihoods is troublesome and reveals the government’s true motivation behind introducing new languages to the curriculum, to increase future profits with Southeast Asian countries. It also suggests that perhaps there has been too much emphasis placed on the formalities of establishing policies and positions and not enough execution of those policies.
In all, integration processes by nature are not meant to facilitate change over a short period of time. As of this writing, the new language program has only been piloted in a handful of schools throughout the country and will not be fully introduced into the curriculum until the 2018 school year, therefore, only time will demonstrate the government’s success in pursuing Southeast Asian immigrant integration efforts. Although there are some indications that the government may be unilaterally pursuing such integration efforts without consulting the affected groups, there is still plenty of opportunity to open a dialogue with such groups in building a more accepting, more diverse, and more welcoming Taiwan for all.
Main Point: Under the New Southbound Policy, Taiwan’s government has increased its ability to facilitate Southeast Asian immigrant integration into Taiwanese society through its compulsory education system, but still has progress to make in demonstrating its commitment to such integration initiatives.