Written by J Michael Cole.
The notion that the Asia-Pacific is an exciting place has been expressed so often as to have become cliché. But with China’s decade of “peaceful rise” being replaced by more assertive and unpredictable policies — from military adventurism in the East and South China Sea to a crackdown on its media environment — the region is now extraordinarily exciting, rife with dangers and opportunities.
After eight years covering regional politics from Taipei, with a special focus on cross-strait relations and the military balance between the two sides, I look forward to exploring for the CPI Blog the shifting regional dynamics in a time when China emerges as a true regional hegemon. How the traditional foundations of regional security, led by the U.S., react to China’s political, military, and economic might, will be key to global stability for decades to come. Getting it right in our analyses will hopefully ensure that our leaders act for the benefit of mankind and avoid the many pitfalls that risk plunging the region into conflict.
My experience as a journalist reporting on China-Taiwan relations has given me useful, perhaps unique, insights into how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) deals with its adversaries. I gained my footing as a journalist at a time when the CCP was shifting gear vis-à-vis Taiwan, setting aside, but not abandoning, the military aspects of the relationship while placing greater emphasis on cajoling Taiwanese leaders and entrepreneurs through a multifaceted charm offensive. The Chinese leadership has put the country’s entire arsenal at the disposal of those who are charged with settling the Taiwan “question”: an increasingly formidable military, political warfare, espionage, investment, tourism, and so on. It will be interesting to see whether Beijing uses similar tools to resolve the many disputes that are expected to arise over the next decade as China endeavors to settle into what it regards as its rightful place.
Writing for the CPI Blog, I intend to continue looking at developments in Taiwan, where there are signs that the “easy” period of cross-strait relations could soon come to an end, as well as in Hong Kong, where cracks in the “one country, two systems” formula — also the formula offered to Taipei — are beginning to appear. I also hope to look into Chinese espionage and Beijing’s use of “soft” operations (e.g., uses of media, censorship, academic exchanges). Other topics of interest will include future security cooperation between Japan and the U.S. as the two find their footing in response to China, along with Washington’s “rebalancing” to the Pacific.
I intend to tackle those issues, and more, from the perspective of Taipei and Washington, D.C., where I will divide my time.