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China

Does the China factor still matter to Taiwanese voters?

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A man votes in a local election at a polling station in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on 26 Nov 2022. (Photo: Kyodo)

Author: Hsien-Ming Lin, National Open University

After a competitive election campaign lasting nearly half a year, the 2022 Taiwanese local elections wrapped up on 26 November 2022. The election outcome disappointed supporters of the current ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which won only five of 22 city and county mayor’s positions. The major opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), won 13 mayoral positions, including the four metropolitan cities of Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan and Taichung.

The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), a small opposition party with indirect political support from the KMT, won its first mayoral position in Hsinchu city. Chung Tung-chin, elected as mayor of Miaoli County, also has KMT party membership. Taking Hsinchu city and Miaoli County into account, the KMT will directly or indirectly control the governance of 15 Taiwanese cities. All told, the election was an overwhelming victory for the KMT.

Taiwan does not have exit polls that could inform analysis of voting behaviour. But it is likely that poor governance, economic crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure to motivate young supporters to vote were critical factors behind the DPP’s election losses.

Taiwan managed the pandemic successfully in 2020–2021 when there was only a limited number of confirmed cases. But President Tsai Ing-wen’s government had difficulties obtaining adequate COVID-19 vaccines due to the political boycott from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the domestic political competition between the DPP and KMT. As the number of confirmed cases increased, many Facebook users expressed their discontent and left angry messages on the Ministry of Health and Welfare webpage.

Taiwan’s high inflation was another critical issue. Average food inflation between January and June 2022 reached a peak of 5.83 per cent, much higher than Taiwan’s major East Asian counterparts Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. In June 2022 President Tsai Ing-wen’s disapproval rating surpassed even her earlier approval rating upon taking office for her second term in May 2020.

The DPP’s loss of support in the election was reflected in the low turnout rate, particularly among the younger generations. The turnout rate in the election was only 59.86 per cent, the lowest figure since 2008. The DPP has the highest support of any major political party among under 40s at about 30 per cent. The failure to motivate these young supporters to go to vote was an important reason behind the DPP’s loss. The defeat of the recent constitutional referendum to lower the voting age to 18 years old was a further reflection of the DPP’s declining support among young voters. Re-motivating young supporters will be one of the critical challenges for the DPP in the upcoming 2024 national elections.

Many observers have argued that although anti-China sentiment has frequently been used by the DPP and the more pro-independence ‘pan-Green’ parties to elicit support, the DPP failed to capitalise on anti-China sentiment this election. But while anti-China sentiment has been critical to winning political positions at the national level, foreign policy is not a key factor in local elections.

This is not to say that the China factor is no longer essential or that attitudes toward China have changed. Cross-Strait relations are an important issue in national elections every four years. The KMT tends to emphasise the so-called ‘1992 Consensus’, while the DPP stresses a sense of ‘national subjugation’ (wáng guógǎn). Both the KMT and the DPP like to use cross-Strait and regional issues, such as Taiwan–US–China relations, in national-level elections to gain voters’ support and cast doubts on their competitors’ loyalty to the country and attitudes toward China.

In a poll taken after the CCP government began to increased military pressure on Taiwan by sending military aircraft and naval ships around the island, 73 per cent of respondents indicated that they could not accept the CCP’s provocative military behaviour and expected a tough response from the Tsai administration.

The China factor and cross-Strait relations will be critical in the 2024 presidential and the national elections. The KMT may use the ‘local compassing central’ (dì fāng bāo wéi zhōng yang) strategy to ask local mayors to put greater pressure on Tsai’s government to accept the 1992 Consensus or modify her current policy toward China.

One KMT politician — Chen Yu-Jen from the island of Kinmen — has already done…

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Proposed Regulations in China Seek to Regulate After-School Tutoring Services

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China’s Ministry of Education introduced new draft regulations to manage off-campus training in the after-school tutoring industry, following a crackdown in mid-2021. The regulations focus on prohibiting for-profit classes for core curriculum subjects in Grades 1-9, with fines up to RMB 100,000 for unlicensed services.


China’s Ministry of Education recently unveiled

On February 8, 2024, China’s Ministry of Education released the Regulations on the Management of Off-Campus Training (Draft for Solicitation of Comments) (hereinafter, the “draft regulations”). This new set of regulations for the after-school tutoring industry marks a substantial national-level effort to overhaul the sector. It follows a broader reform of the private tutoring industry initiated in mid-2021.

In this article, we delve into the specifics of the new draft regulations, shedding light on their potential implications within the broader context of China’s dynamic education sector.

Fast forward to July 2021, the Chinese government implemented a far-reaching crackdown on the private tutoring industry, effectively prohibiting tutors from conducting for-profit classes in core curriculum subjects. Dubbed the “shuangjian” or “double reduction” policy, its primary objective was to alleviate financial strains on families and reduce academic burdens on students by curbing excessive homework and after-school tutoring.

Notably, the regulations primarily targeted compulsory education (Grades 1-9), making it illegal to offer curriculum-based classes for profit. Conversely, non-academic extracurricular activities like art and sports remained largely unaffected, while high schools (Grades 10-12) experienced minimal disruption across academic and non-academic domains.

Building upon these reforms, in September 2023, China’s Education Ministry announced that unlicensed tutoring services in the country could face fines of up to RMB 100,000 (US$13,715.54). The announcement represents an example of the government’s broader strategy to reshape China’s education landscape.

For the first time, a clear definition of after-school tutoring is provided in high-level legislation. The term “off-campus training” as mentioned in the draft regulations is delineated as “organized or systematic educational training activities conducted outside the school education system, targeting primary and secondary school students as well as preschool children aged 3 to 6 with the main purpose of improving academic performance or cultivating their interests and talents”.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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China arrests more than 1,000 Tibetans protesting Chinese dam project

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Police on Friday arrested more than 1,000 Tibetans, including monks from at least two local monasteries, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province after they protested the construction of a dam expected to destroy six monasteries and force the relocation of two villages, two sources from inside Tibet told Radio Free Asia.

The arrested individuals – both monks and local residents – are being held in various places throughout Dege county in Kardze Tibetan Prefecture because the police do not have a single place to detain them, said the sources who requested anonymity for safety reasons.

Those arrested have been forced to bring their own bedding and tsampa – a staple food for Tibetans that can be used to sustain themselves for long periods of time, the sources said.

“That police are asking Tibetans to bring their own tsampa and bedding is a sign that they will not be released anytime soon,” one of the sources said.

On Thursday, Feb. 22, Chinese authorities deployed specially trained armed police in Kardze’s Upper Wonto village region to arrest more than 100 Tibetan monks from Wonto and Yena monasteries along with local residents, many of whom were beaten and injured, and later admitted to Dege County Hospital for medical treatment, sources said.

Citizen videos from Thursday, shared exclusively with RFA, show Chinese officials in black uniforms forcibly restraining monks, who can be heard crying out to stop the dam construction. 

Following news of the mass arrests, many Tibetans from Upper Wonto village who work in other parts of the country returned to their hometown and visited the detention centers to call for the release of the arrested Tibetans, sources said. They, too, were arrested. 

The Dege County Hospital did not immediately return RFA’s requests for comment.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington hasn’t commented on the arrests other than in a statement issued Thursday that said the country respects the rule of law.

“China protects the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals in accordance with the law,” the statement said.

Massive dam project

The arrests followed days of protests and appeals by local Tibetans since Feb. 14 for China to stop the construction of the Gangtuo hydropower station.

RFA reported on Feb. 15 that at least 300 Tibetans gathered outside Dege County Town Hall to protest the building of the Gangtuo dam, which is part of a massive 13-tier hydropower complex on the Drichu River with a total planned capacity 13,920 megawatts. 

The dam project is on the Drichu River, called Jinsha in Chinese, which is located on the upper reaches of the Yangtze, one of China’s most important waterways. 

Local Tibetans have been particularly distraught that the construction of the hydropower station will result in the forced resettlement of two villages – Upper Wonto and Shipa villages – and six key monasteries in the area  – Yena, Wonto, and Khardho in Wangbuding township in Dege county, and Rabten, Gonsar and Tashi in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, sources told RFA.

Sources on Friday also confirmed that some of the arrested monks with poor health conditions were allowed to return to their monasteries. 

However, the monasteries – which include Wonto Monastery, known for its ancient murals dating back to the 13th century – remained desolate on the eve of Chotrul Duchen, or the Day of Miracles, which is commemorated on the 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, and marks the celebration of a series of miracles performed by the Buddha.

“In the past, monks of Wonto Monastery would traditionally preside over large prayer gatherings and carry out all the religious activities,” said one of the sources. “This time, the monasteries are quiet and empty. … It’s very sad to see such monasteries of historical importance being prepared for destruction. The situation is the same at Yena Monastery.” 

Protests elsewhere

Tibetans in exile have been holding mass demonstrations in various parts of the world, including in Dharamsala, India, home to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. 

In the past week, Tibetans have demonstrated before the Chinese embassies, including those in New York and Switzerland, with more such protests and solidarity campaigns planned in Canada and other countries. 

“The events in Derge are an example of Beijing’s destructive policies in Tibet,” said Kai Müller, managing director of the International Campaign for Tibet, in a statement on Friday. “The Chinese regime tramples on the rights of Tibetans and ruthlessly and irretrievably destroys valuable Tibetan cultural assets.”

“Beijing’s development and infrastructure projects are not only a threat to Tibetans, but also to regional security, especially when it comes to water supplies to affected Asian countries,” he added.

Human Rights Watch told RFA that it is monitoring the development but that information from inside Tibet is extremely rare given China’s tight surveillance and restrictions imposed on information flow. 

“People who send information out and videos like this face imprisonment and torture,” said Maya Wang, the group’s interim China director. 

“Even calling families in the diaspora are reasons for imprisonment,” she said. “What we do see now are actually … typical scenes of repression in Tibet, but we don’t often get to see [what] repression looks like in Tibet anymore.”

Additional reporting by Pelbar, Yeshi Dawa, Tashi Wangchuk, Palden Gyal and Sonam Lhamo for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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Canberra ties the knot with Washington

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Canberra ties the knot with Washington

Abstract

Australia has shifted its strategy towards favoring the United States over China due to increasing fear of Chinese power and the competitive Indo-Pacific environment.

The ‘riding two horses’ strategy adopted by Canberra over the past 25 years has shifted in favor of the US alliance to counter China’s growing power. Previous prime ministers sought to balance relations between China and the US, with Kevin Rudd aiming for ‘true friendship’ with China while also promising military intervention if needed. Tony Abbott’s approach was driven by ‘fear and greed’, and John Howard acknowledged the benefits of a relationship with both countries.

However, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed a desire to strengthen the US alliance and cooperate with China while also engaging in Australia’s national interest. This shift is evident in actions such as sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait and introducing legislation to facilitate the AUKUS security partnership.

The Indo-Pacific environment has become more competitive, leading Australia to prioritize fear over greed in its alignment. As China’s GDP continues to rise and may overtake the US by 2030, Canberra’s strategy is likely to continue favoring alignment with Washington due to the lack of a viable alternative for addressing its fear of China’s power.

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