Tsai’s new policy and Taiwan’s position
By Paul Lin 林保華

Taipei Times  2016.5.30

In her inaugural address, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) talked about Taiwan’s role in regional stability, the international community and cross-strait relations and pledged to deepen Taiwan’s relations with the US, Japan and European nations. She also gave priority to the “new southbound policy” — and since the New Southbound Policy Office is to be run by the Presidential Office rather than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the importance of the policy must not be ignored.

Talking about the policy, Tsai said: “We will broaden exchanges and cooperation with regional neighbors in areas such as technology, culture and commerce, and expand in particular our dynamic relationships with ASEAN and India.”

However, it could be more broadly applied.

According to a study by Mackay Memorial Hospital researcher Marie Lin (林媽利), 85 percent of the nation’s ethnic Taiwanese and Hakka — who account for 91 percent of the total population — have Aboriginal ancestry. More than 90 percent of them also show DNA traces of ancestry from the Baiyue (百越) people of southern China, so they are not pure descendants of the Han people of northern China, and they might be closer to Southeast Asians in genetic make-up.

If China still plans to annex Taiwan, the policy can be used to initiate an acknowledgment among Taiwanese of their real ancestors as Taiwanese might be genetically more similar to Southeast Asians than to a mythical ancestor known as the Yellow Emperor.

Cooperation between Taiwan and ASEAN can include political, economic, military, cultural and other areas.

Today, Taiwan is working to promote Aboriginal culture, and the addition of ancient Aboriginal tunes to the national anthem at Tsai’s inauguration ceremony was a good example of that effort.

Among the 500,000 foreign spouses in Taiwan, 30 percent are Southeast Asians and they bring their cultures with them. Their children would be an important part of the policy, since they have the advantage of language and connections, something the government should cultivate.

In terms of military cooperation with Southeast Asian nations, military ties between Taiwan and Singapore have lasted for 49 years, and the “Project Starlight” joint exercise has taken place for about four decades.

Due to xenophobia and deteriorating cost advantages in China, many Taiwanese businesspeople have relocated their operations to Thailand, Vietnam, India and other nations. The combined population of those nations exceeds China’s, and they enjoy a greater “demographic dividend” — falling fertility rates leading to the labor force temporarily growing faster than the population dependent on it — than China.

Former China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Corp chief executive Chen Jiulin (陳九霖) recently published an article entitled “Unwise of Singapore to help US stir up trouble in South China Sea; may eventually get burned.” The Chinese tycoon was sentenced to prison in Singapore for insider trading in 2006, and his article is a sign of the current state of China-Singapore relations.

Many Southeast Asian nations and India are highly alert to Chinese expansionism. In the past, China used ASEAN to exclude Taiwan, but if Beijing’s expansion policy remains unchanged, it is possible that Taiwan could gain ASEAN membership.

Geographically, Taiwan is located between the coverage of the US-Japan Security Treaty and ASEAN, standing as a bridge between north and south. The nation should make good use of this location to boost its international status and national security.

By Paul Lin 林保華

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Eddy Chang


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