As Joe Biden edged closer to a victory in the presidential election in the United States, concern began to grow in Taiwan about what the Democratic candidate’s presidency might mean for the self-ruled island.
President Tsai Ing-wen took to Facebook to address the issue, telling her followers that “whatever the outcome of the general election, these transactions will not change and we will continue to deepen Taiwan-US relations on these basis.”
That is because US President Donald Trump – who is yet to concede defeat – is remarkably popular among Taiwanese, mostly for his willingness to support the territory in the face of an increasingly assertive China, which claims the territory as its own.
The tone of US-Taiwan ties changed almost from the outset of Trump’s presidency when he broke with tradition and took a congratulatory phone call from Tsai following his inauguration in 2016. The move enraged China, whose Communist Party claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has whittled down the island’s formal diplomatic allies to just a handful of small states.
Since the 2016 phone call between Tsai and Trump, US-Taiwan ties have blossomed.
The US Congress in 2017 passed the Taiwan Travel Act, encouraging closer ties between US and Taiwanese officials via official visits and paving the way for a ground-breaking trip by US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar earlier this year. Azar was the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 40 years.
During Trump’s four years in office, Washington has also sold $15bn worth of weapons to Taiwan and approved $7bn more in September – a cache that includes drones, fighter jets and cruise missiles.
Competitor or threat
The growing US support for Taiwan comes against the backdrop of deteriorating relations with China, with the two powers at loggerheads over a range of issues, including trade, the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing’s crackdowns in Hong Kong and the far western region of Xinjiang.
While some say Trump was merely using Taiwan as a bargaining chip in its relations with China, many Taiwanese were delighted at Trump’s combative stance towards Beijing.
The president made China the focus of his re-election bid, blaming it for the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than one million worldwide, most of them in the United States. Biden, however, referred to China as a “competitor” and not a “threat” like Russia on the campaign trail, and many Taiwanese now fear a Biden presidency could mean a more conciliatory White House at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping has raised the spectre of military force taking control of the island.
“There is little in Biden’s campaign rhetoric or party platform that tells us how his administration will deal with democratic Taiwan or the increasingly threatening, totalitarian China,” said Kerry K Gershaneck, a visiting scholar at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University an adjunct professor with the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis.
“No one from the campaign would go on record with policy specifics, although at the last minute when, under great pressure, his campaign put online a very generic statement of support for Taiwan.”
While a presidential candidate, Biden published an op-ed in The World Journal, the largest circulation Chinese language newspaper in the US, where he pledged “to continue deepening our ties with Taiwan, a leading democracy, major economy, technology powerhouse – and a shining example of how an open society can effectively contain COVID-19.”
Gershaneck expressed concern about Washington’s Taiwan policy if Biden were to pick a similar team of advisers as those who served during the Obama administration, who some critics believe delayed arm sales to Taiwan and largely stood by as China increased its military activities in the South China Sea.
“The Politburo is not losing any sleep,” Gershaneck said.
William A Stanton, the former director of the American Institute of Taiwan, the de facto US embassy, said it was still difficult to tell how Biden would handle Taiwan since he has not yet announced his cabinet.
“You have to look carefully at the people he appoints and what their backgrounds are … Personnel is often policy,” he said.
Stanton and other experts, however, observed that both congressional and American public attitudes towards China have shifted in the last four years in Taiwan’s favour.
Congress passed the TAIPEI Act of 2019, upgrading the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that guaranteed continuing US support for Taiwan even after Washington broke off relations with Taipei, the seat of the Republic of China, in favour of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing.
While the US formally supports the One China Policy, which claims there is only one China which also includes Taiwan, the Taiwan Relations Act establishes the US as Taiwan’s biggest security guarantor.
Both houses have introduced bipartisan bills calling for Washington to lobby for Taiwan’s observer status at the World Health Organization (WHO) and passed symbolic bills reaffirming the US commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act, while House Republicans have thrown their support behind proposed H R 7855 Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act.
In October, the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American think-tank, found that 77 percent of Americans surveyed had no faith in Xi following a similar public trend in countries such as Australia, France, Japan and Germany.
With the US Congress relatively unchanged from the election – with Republicans flipping eight seats in the House so far to the Democrats’ five – the Biden administration will also “find himself with the most pro-Taiwan House and Senate since the 1970s,” said Natasha Kassam, a research fellow in the diplomacy and public opinion program at the Lowy Institute in Australia.
That suggests the US will maintain its harder approach to China.
Kassam said that concerns about a softer Biden Administration were largely “likely unfounded,” as Biden’s track record has a “history of supporting Taiwan’s autumn.” While a US senator, Biden was an original signatory of the Taiwan Relations Act,
Taiwan, meanwhile, has seen a huge boost in its global public image from containing COVID-19 at a time when Beijing has come under intense scrutiny for its handling of the early days of the outbreak after the first cases were detected in the central city of Wuhan towards the end of last year.
“The US-Taiwan relationship will likely remain strong primarily because Washington’s interests converge with Taipei’s interests,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“There are shared values as well as concerns about growing Chinese power and the way it is being used. US efforts to strengthen ties with Taiwan may be less public and less visible than under the Trump administration, but they will persist.”
The future of Taiwan-US arm sales, however, is less certain after the Trump Administration in four years sold Taiwan more weapons – worth $15bn – than the approximately $14bn sold during Obama’s eight-year administration.
In September, the US announced $7bn more in sales, which this time upgraded from so-called symbolic weapons such as tanks to much more practical cruise missiles and drones.
Whether a similar sale of missiles, which broke with traditional requests, will happen again is uncertain. However, AIT’s Stanton said that the US military, in particular, had always been “big supporters of Taiwan and many of them have regarded China with scepticism,” Stanton said. “[The military] recognise that, as we always used to say, Taiwan is the canary in the coal mine. If Taiwan goes, then that happens to our other allies in the region, particularly Japan.”
Taipei, meanwhile, has hedged its bets staying largely out of the US election while also emphasising both countries’ close ties and values, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posting on Facebook: “Whoever wins the election, #Taiwan-#US relations will continue to go from strength to strength!”
Tsai also tweeted her support to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris saying that she looked forward to “working together to further our friendship, & contributions to int’l society.”
Now it is my turn to extend congratulations to @JoeBiden & @KamalaHarris on being elected President & VP-elect. The values on which we have built our relationship could not be stronger. I look fwd to working together to further our friendship, & contributions to int’l society. https://t.co/xIvit7emjH
While Tsai is probably aware that a congratulatory phone call with the new US president-elect is unlikely this time, Wang Ting-yu, a legislator and co-chair of Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, said he remained largely optimistic.
“No matter if it’s Biden or Trump, the American government is our ally and we have quite a good friendship with both parties. We don’t rely our national diplomatic relationship on only one person. It’s not responsible to our people,” he said.
“Trump and Biden’s personality and character are quite different, but [as for] the Trump Administration and the Biden administration, I don’t think there are so many differences between them. They have deep differences in domestic issues but for foreign issues, diplomatic issues, and national security issues, I think basically they are the same.”
People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.
between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
heightened and clashes broke out.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of clashes.
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.
Everyone has the right to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely in Canada – but we cannot and will not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind. We strongly condemn the despicable rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend.
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.
‘Protesting is a right’
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.
Montreal is a city of peace.
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.
“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”
When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…
NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…
Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…
Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.
Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.
While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.
“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.
However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.
Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.
No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.
“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.
Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.
“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”
In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.
Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”
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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.
Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.
Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.
Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.
Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.
“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”
She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”
Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.
Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.
Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”
“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.
The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”
The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.
In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.