Distinguished guests, diplomatic envoys and delegates, all participants and media representatives, good morning. Thank you for joining this international think tank forum. This is the second year that Taiwan Thinktank and the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) are jointly organizing such a forum.
Taiwan Thinktank has long been supporting domestic policy studies and is also continuously working on track-two diplomacy. In the past, Taiwan Thinktank held many “Taiwan-US-Japan Strategic Dialogue,” jointly with the American Heritage Foundation and Japan’s Okazaki Institute. Last year, with the support of the US-based Project 2049 Institute, we also discussed issues regarding potential cooperation on technology policies between Taiwan and the US, and also the first annual Taiwan-US international think tank forum with GTI. Our goal is to expand Taiwan’s international network, while also enhancing and promoting the visibility of Taiwan in the international community through think-tank diplomacy.
I remember that last year, we held our first international think tank forum in this very same venue as today. In last year’s meeting we reached a conclusion that both Taiwan and the United States should establish a good partnership with a comprehensive framework on topics such as “industrial cooperation,” “regional security,” “global counter-terrorism,” and “humanitarian aid.” As a result of the suggestions we made, over the past year, we’ve witnessed closer high-level communications and more frequent non-governmental exchanges between Taiwan and the United States.
In recent years, East Asia has been facing more severe challenges. China’s military expansion and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program are contributing to increased instability in the region. With growing regional uncertainties, Taiwan is eager to see the United States, Japan, and other democratic countries promote the “Indo-Pacific” vision on the basis of democracy as a core value for protecting freedom and openness in the region. As we continue last year’s discussion about the new framework in the Indo-Pacific, this year we will focus on a hot international topic: how can democracies respond to the threats of “sharp power”? We hope that under the joint efforts of the think tanks from Taiwan and the United States, both countries can study issues such as how to jointly counter the impacts and influences on democratic system from “China’s sharp power.”
As everyone knows, Taiwan just concluded an important local election. However, it is very regrettable that during the campaign process, we found Taiwan’s democratic society suffer from systematic and organized disinformation from China, attack from fake news, and infiltration by many false information in an attempt to affect the voting intentions of Taiwanese voters and shake Taiwan’s democratic system. China is exploiting Taiwan’s democratic and open system, via the raising of multiple wedge issues simultaneously, with the intent of causing contradiction, competition, and conflict within Taiwanese society. In addition, China is facilitating the dissemination of false information through the control of newspapers, television, radio, and online media in Taiwan. Even more disturbing is that China has directly supported pro-China forces within Taiwan to speak on behalf of Beijing. This piercing, infiltration, or penetration of the political and information environment allows authoritarian countries to use “sharp power” to infiltrate the social structure of a democratic system, and incite as well as widen the existing differences, and is the most serious challenge currently facing Taiwan.
“Sharp power” is different from “hard power” and “soft power.” Hard power is usually manifested through military force or economic dominance with the aim of suppressing the target, while soft power appeals to the audience by ways of cultural exchanges rather than by coercive force. “Sharp power” is a means of asymmetric warfare that exploits the openness of democratic societies. In an open and democratic system, sharp power is like a trojan horse that covertly sabotages social harmony. We live in an era of globalization where advanced information technology and mobile devices are everywhere, democratic countries that defend the freedom of speech cannot be like authoritarian regimes that abuse the law to arbitrarily regulate and censor information from adversarial countries that affect its domestic politics and culture. This asymmetry in information management makes democratic countries a relatively easy target for attack and infiltration by disinformation from authoritarian regimes.
This carrots and sticks model, which skillfully uses hard power, soft power, and sharp power, is not only a serious challenge to Taiwan’s democratic system, but presents a tremendous challenge to western democratic countries.
Only by constantly revealing sharp power schemes carried out by China, and enhancing domestic counter-intelligence, rule of law, and ensuring that news are based on actual facts, can a democracy protect its democratic system. In the meantime, it is also important to avoid excessive reaction and inadvertently damage the democratic, liberal, and lawful values we cherish. According to the aforementioned points, there are ample room and opportunities for democracies like Taiwan and the United States to cooperate in countering the threat of sharp power from an authoritarian regime like China. Both the US and Taiwan should boost our information exchanges to expose how China meddles in democratic societies through sharp power. We should also adapt our existing laws and policies to address this threat posed by sharp power so that we can truly consolidate democratic values and guarantee real freedom of speech in our open and liberal democracy.
Democratic freedom is a universal value, and building a democratic international environment is an important factor in maintaining international order. The rise of authoritarian China is the greatest threat to democratic Taiwan, and the main variable influencing stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the current international order. China’s sharp power is attempting to exploit democracy to subvert democratic countries and represents a serious test to our values and abilities to defend democracy, freedom, and human rights.
As Taiwan and the United States share common values and interests, both countries should cooperate on constructing a new framework for US-Taiwan relations, and on how to respond to the current challenges. Going forward, Taiwan Thinktank is committed to promote think-tank diplomacy, and support Taiwan in connecting with the rest of the world through intellectual exchanges and dialogues. This will also allow us to cooperate in finding the way to safeguard the long-term stability of democratic countries.
Last but not least, I would like to thank you again for your participation, and I am looking forward to the exciting dialogues and discussions in this forum. Thank you.