December 9: Taiwan, China, and US Interests in the South Pacific

December 9: Taiwan, China, and US Interests in the South Pacific


Monday, December 9, 2019 from 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Event Description

Once the fulcrum for bloody battles that enabled the Allies to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific against Japan, the South Pacific has now emerged as a region of competition for political and military influence between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the democracies. China’s diplomatic offensive in the region has turned Taiwan’s diplomatic status into a central issue. Having recently convinced Kiribati and the Solomon Islands to abandon their relationship with Taipei, China has rewarded them with large investment deals that could lead to China gaining significant military access. If so successful, then China could also strategically isolate Australia and influence the South Pacific states to diminish their traditional strong ties with Australia, New Zealand and the United States.  

Panelists include: Jennifer Spande, Deputy Director of the United States State Department’s Office of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island Affairs; Vincent Chao, Director of the Political Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Relations Office (TECRO) and James E. Fanell, Captain, U.S. Navy (retired) who has recently returned from a South Pacific tour investigating China’s influence for Australia’s 60 Minutes television program.  The panel will be moderated by retired Foreign Service officer John Tkacik, of the Global Taiwan Institute and the International Assessment and Strategy Center, which is a co-sponsor for this event.  

Doors will open at 11:30 am. The event will begin at 12:00 pm. Kindly RSVP by December 5. Please, direct your questions or concerns to rsvp@globaltaiwan.org.

Reminder: All our public seminars will be live-streamed on our Facebook page at @globaltaiwaninst.

** Media: Please contact rsvp@globaltaiwan.org if you would like to bring additional crew members or equipment so that we can be sure to accommodate you.


Vincent Chao is the Director of the Political Division at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States. Prior to this role, he served in Taiwan’s National Security Council, Office of the President, and most recently as chief of staff to the Foreign Minister. Before joining government, Vincent was the Deputy Director of the International Affairs Department in the Democratic Progressive Party. He has also served as a researcher in the Thinking Taiwan Foundation and as a reporter for the Taipei Times.

Captain James E. Fanell concluded a near 30-year career as a naval intelligence officer specializing in Indo-Pacific security affairs, with an emphasis on China’s navy and operations.  His most recent assignment was the Director of Intelligence and Information Operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.  He served in an unprecedented series of afloat and ashore assignments focused on China, as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence for the U.S. Seventh Fleet aboard the USS Blue Ridge as well as the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier strike group both forward deployed to Japan.  Ashore he was the U.S. Navy’s China Senior Intelligence Officer at the Office of Naval Intelligence.  In addition to these assignments in the Navy, he was a National Security Affairs Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and is currently a Government Fellow with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in Switzerland. He is also the creator and manager of the Indo-Pacific Security forum Red Star Rising since 2005.

He is widely published, has testified before the Intelligence Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, and has just returned from visiting several South Pacific island states, as a consultant to the Australian television show 60 Minutes investigating China’s growing influence in the South Pacific.

Jennifer Spande joined the Foreign Service as a Political Officer in 2002.  She has served overseas in Malaysia, Chile, Cambodia, and Mexico, and domestically in the State Department’s Operations Center, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, and the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  In her seventeen years in the Foreign Service, she has managed political teams in Malaysia and Chile; the economics team in Cambodia; desk officers covering Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands; and rotating teams staffing the State Department’s 24-hour crisis response center.  Following the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea, she worked with senior officials from 17 federal agencies to secure and direct $250 million in emergency foreign assistance and obtain a $1 billion IMF loan for Ukraine. More recently, in Malaysia, she directed the embassy’s anti-human trafficking efforts, leading to landmark changes in Malaysian law, the creation of an anti-trafficking task force spanning Malaysian government agencies, a five-fold increase in trafficking convictions, and a 20-fold increase in the number of trafficking victims rescued.  She is currently the Deputy Director for Australian, New Zealand, and Pacific Island Affairs.

Jennifer graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Gustavus Adolphus College and was awarded the Truman Scholarship for public service.  She earned an M.Phil. in International Relations from Oxford University, which she attended as a Marshall Scholar.  More recently, she earned an M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National War College.


John Tkacik is on the Global Taiwan Institute’s Advisory Board and supplies International Assessment and Strategy Center’s Asia policy, strategy and military programs with analysis and research from the perspective of a career diplomat. He maintains an international network of experts, conducts briefings for congressional, academic, think tank and military audiences, and testifies before Congress. Tkacik served 24 years in the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Service Officer, with almost 20 years of that working in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and on China/Taiwan affairs in the State Department. During his 1989-94 service as the Deputy US Consul General in Guangzhou (Canton), and later as Chief of China Analysis at the US State Department Office of Intelligence and Research (INR), he received the State Department’s Superior Honor Award and the Intelligence Community’s Exceptional Collector Award. At INR, Tkacik supervised all State Department analysis, coordination and dissemination of China economic, commercial, military, political and strategic intelligence.

From 2001-9, Tkacik was Research Fellow for China, Taiwan and Mongolia Policy at The Heritage Foundation. From 1994-present he has served as president of China Business Intelligence, an Alexandria, Virginia, research firm providing intelligence support to US companies doing business with China, publishers of a weekly business bulletin for Taiwan. He has also served as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco International vice president for external affairs in Asia Pacific.

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