Tag Archives: taiwan

Tom Arms’ World Review

Gaza War

Sometimes the most shocking statements are the most obvious. Especially when they are spoken by those encumbered with having to be the most diplomatic.

This week President Joe Biden publicly stated what everyone knows but he has been reluctant to confirm: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dragging out the Gaza War as a way to stay in office.

He might have also added that the war is keeping Netanyahu out of prison as he has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. As long as he is prime minister he cannot be tried.

The latest Israeli opinion polls indicate that if an election were held in Israel today Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition would win 46 seats compared to the opposition parties’ 68 seats. But, at the same time, polls show strong support for the war and its goal of eliminating Hamas. If Netanyahu achieves the total destruction of the enemy then the voters might just forgive him for creating the conditions that allowed the 7 October attack to happen.

Biden’s comments came in an interview with Time magazine and only a few days before he announced another plan to end the Gaza War. This one is in three phases.

Phase one would last six weeks and include a total ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Some hostages would be released. Hundreds of Palestinians would be released from Israeli prisons and there would be an immediate and massive influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Under phase two the remaining hostages, including soldiers and the remains of any dead hostages would be released and the IDF would complete its withdrawal from Gaza. Phase three would involve reconstruction which would last three to five years. The two-state solution is not mentioned in this latest plan.

Despite the fact that President Biden has made it clear that there would be no future role for Hamas, the terrorist organisation has said that they view the plan “positively.”  Biden claimed that his phased proposal had been endorsed by the Israeli government, but then a spokesperson said: “Israel has not changed its conditions to reach a permanent ceasefire. That will only happen after our objectives are met including destroying Hamas’s military and governing capabilities.” He added that that is estimated to take seven months.

Meanwhile, a new front is opening on the border with Lebanon. Actually, it is an old front, but the fighting between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel is worsening. Hezbollah is now using explosive drones which are more difficult for Israel’s iron dome to stop and can reach further south. Israel, for its part, is levelling the southern Lebanese city of Sidon. Within the Israeli cabinet there is talk of creating an Israeli-occupied “security zone” in southern Lebanon, similar to the one Israel maintained until 2000.

The US has responded to the Lebanon threat with another three-part plan. First part is a ceasefire to allow residents on both sides of the border to return to their homes. Phase two is US economic assistance for financially-strapped Lebanon and the final phase calls for a newly demarcated border to improve security.

The problem is that the negotiations are with the Lebanese government while the power is with Iran-backed Hezbollah. They are unlikely to accept any ceasefire until a truce is agreed and implemented in Gaza. And, as President Biden acknowledged, that truce is against the political interests of Bibi Netanyahu.

European Parliament

Europe’s far-right is expected to sweep the board in this weekend’s elections to the European Parliament. This could mean problems ahead as a centre-left council and commission clash with a right-wing parliament.

This didn’t use to be a problem. It used to be that the European Parliament was a talk shop with limited oversight powers. The real power lay with the member states through the European Council which in turn effectively appointed the President of the European Commission and the 27 commissioners.

But over the years, increasing pressure has meant that more and more power is vested in the directly elected parliament rather than the indirectly elected council. Parliament has progressed from an advisory body to a co-decision maker.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Surprise, Surprise, Benjamin Netanyahu is opposed to the two-state solution.

The Israeli Prime Minister has never made any secret that he believes that the only guarantee of Israeli security is Israeli control of Palestinian security. On Thursday he reiterated his position.

Any Palestinian state, Netanyahu argues, would be dedicated to the overthrow of the Israeli state. And even if they publicly committed themselves to peace, Netanyahu wouldn’t believe them.

The primary responsibility of every country is defence. Ipso facto, there can be no Palestinian state—according to Netanyahu.

Most of the rest of the world believes that there are basically three possible outcomes to the Arab-Israeli Crisis: The Israelis wipe out the Palestinians. The Palestinians wipe out the Israelis. Or the two sides somehow work out a modus operandi that allows the two groups to live side by side in peace.

The Biden Administration was hopeful that the experience of Gaza would show that the only long-term opportunity for peace is a political solution which involves a Palestinian state.

But Netanyahu appears unfazed by Gaza. He told a press conference this week that Israel must have security control over all land west of the River Jordan, which would include the territory of any future Palestinian state.

This is a necessary condition, and it conflicts with the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty. What to do? I tell this truth to our American friends, and I also told them to stop the attempt to impose a reality on us that would harm Israel’s security.

John Kirby, the US National Security Adviser, replied: “Israel and the US see things differently.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, sees the Middle East very much through Bibi eyes. His Abraham Accords were designed to circumvent the Palestinians and the two-state solution. Netanyahu’s continued intransigence could—at least in part—reflect his hope for a Trump victory in the November presidential elections.

A Trump Landslide?

Iowa was a Trump landslide. Or was it? Only 15 percent of the state’s 718,000 registered Republicans voted—the lowest turnout in years.

Why? There is no certain answer but here are a few possibles, starting with the MAGA camp: The weather was atrocious. Nobody in their right mind would risk leaving home to caucus in the sub-Arctic temperatures.

Also, the media named Trump the big margin winner before the caucusing started. Why bother risking frostbite to vote for one of the losers or even for the winner? Best stay warm.

Now, for the non-MAGA Republican perspective: We don’t want Trump, but none of the others can win, so why risk hypothermia for a wasted vote?

Everyone is an individual, even in Iowa. So chances are that there are 69,000 reasons why 85 percent of the state’s Republicans failed to caucus. But if that figure is extrapolated across America—then Trump is in trouble come the general election.

As any seasoned campaigner will tell you. The key to winning elections is to persuade as many as possible of your registered voters to get out and vote. Apathy can result in political disaster.


Conspicuous by its near silence in the aftermath of the Taiwanese elections is the voice of Chinese President Xi-jingping.

To briefly re-cap, the Chinese leader was loud in his election support for the Kuomintang but and condemnation for the incumbent Democratic People’s Party. This is because the KMT favoured closer relations with Mainland China based on the 1992 “one country two systems” concept. The DPP, on the other hand, is moving Taiwan closer to a quasi-sovereign independent state.

The DPP’s William Lai won the presidency, although the party has lost its majority in  parliament.

The US is in two-minds about the result. They want Taiwan in the democratic capitalist camp. But not necessarily as a sovereign Taiwan. This could provoke Beijing into a military solution which would drag in America’s Pacific-based Seventh Fleet.

So the State Department issued a rather anodyne statement which welcomed the fact that Taiwan held democratic elections, without focusing on the possible repercussions. Statements from Japan, the EU and NATO countries followed suit.

Beijing was, if anything, more anodyne, it has said virtually nothing about the election result itself. Instead it focused on the statements from the Western countries and basically said they had no right to make any comment because Taiwan is part of China. The diplomatic conversation then ended.

There could be lots of reasons for the Chinese not to take the argument further. There is no point. Xi is busy purging his military and party structures. The Chinese economy is sluggish. Or, he could be waiting for a Trump victory in November.

Is honour now satisfied in the Iran-Pakistan tit for tat missile exchanges?

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Lai wins but DPP lose majority in Taiwan

Phil Bennion with William Lai

With other members of the Liberal International Bureau and senior members of CALD (Council of Asian Liberal and Democrats) I flew to Taiwan for a 5-day mission in solidarity with the Democratic Progressive Party, our sister party in Taiwan, who were facing a challenging election.

The emergence of the Taiwan People’s Party as a third force made the election results less predictable and unprecedented and relentless messaging from China was urging the Taiwanese to “choose peace” by ditching the Democratic Progressive Party.

Our first meeting was with the International Republican Institute, a refreshingly centrist group of people considering the current direction of their US sponsors. Their work in Taiwan is outward looking across East Asia, including mainland China, but they have now closed their office in Hong Kong and programs in China are now virtually impossible to deliver. Some of their work is related to influence and disinformation emanating from the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP narrative on voting  Kuomintang (KMT – Chinese Nationalist Party) for peace or DPP for war were being amplified by Chinese state operatives through online media.  Internally they work cross party on democratic principles with youth across Taiwan. They find that the younger KMT supporters are not interested in any form of unification with China. They are generally third generation since the 1949 influx and have grown up as Taiwanese. Hence the actual positions of the two main parties is now much closer and both are supporting the status quo, albeit with differing levels of enthusiasm.

Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) are working on similar themes and told us that the CCP were also pushing the idea that the US is an unreliable ally and may abandon Taiwan, or that the DPP would use conscription to force young voters to take up arms against China. The CCP is now mainly using Tik-Tok to spread distrust of democracy and antipathy to the DPP amongst Taiwanese youth, but research shows that only 6% of Taiwanese support unification with China at any point in the future.

Our questions included some regarding the issue of same sex marriage introduced by the DPP, which the two opposition parties officially support, but comments by TPP leader Ko has cast doubt on this and many KMT legislators have openly stated their wish to abolish it. Despite this lack of commitment by the opposition, the DPP have been losing support from the youth vote. This is partly due to the Chinese Tik-Tok barrage of messaging, but also due to lack of affordable housing which affects young voters most. The TPP and Ko have seized on this issue in the election campaign. Ko has also attracted younger voters with his vulgar style, somewhat similar to that of Trump.

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Tom Arms’ World Review


“The Day After Gaza” – as the discussion about what to do after the fighting is called in Israel, is the number one topic in the Israeli cabinet.

Not surprisingly, the coalition government is hopelessly divided.

On the far-right side are the representatives of the Ultra-Orthodox parties led by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. They want to “encourage” the Palestinians to leave the Gaza and replace them with Jewish settlers.

A shade more reasonable is Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who wants Israel to retain overall security control while working with a multi-national force in Gaza. Palestinians would be free to manage day-to-day affairs as long as they did not “commit any hostile actions against Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to officially unveil his ideas in cabinet, but he has written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In it he said he had three goals – destroy Hamas everywhere; demilitarise the Gaza Strip and “deradicalise” Palestinians.

The first goal, presumably involves assassinating Hamas leaders in foreign countries. This has the potential of being construed by the host country as an act of war. It certainly would not help Israel’s image.

As for demilitarisation, Gaza is already officially demilitarised. Everyone can see how well that has worked.

The third is new and startling Netanyahu claims that at the root of current problems is a Hamas-controlled education system which has radicalised the Palestinians against Israel. He wants to re-educate or “de-radicalise” Palestinians through a revised educational system. This smacks of the re-education camps of China, the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Cambodia….

Taiwan and China

2024 will be a big election year. Four billion people in more than 70 countries will be trooping to the polls.

Some of the elections will be a sham. Russia is a prime example. I can predict now that Vladimir Putin will win.

Others are real and important. They include the US, UK, EU, India, South Korea and Mexico. One of the most important and potentially consequential elections occurs next Saturday in Taiwan. The result will determine if the 24million Taiwanese move away from or towards Mainland China.

The voters’ decision will have a major impact on the actions of Xi Jinping’s China, and this turn has the potential of dramatic consequences for the rest of the world.

The Taiwanese elections are both presidential and legislative. At the moment both the legislature and the presidency are controlled by the Democratic People’s Party (DPP). The President, Tsai Ing-wen has served two terms and is barred from standing for a third.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

China and USA

The Sino-American goalposts have changed. Two years ago, the Chinese economy was booming and the US was struggling to emerge from a damaging coronavirus pandemic.

But as Presidents Biden and XI met in San Francisco this week the American economy was booming at 4.7 percent. The Chinese economy was reeling from a burst property bubble and government crackdowns have led to a flight of foreign capital.

When the Chinese star was in the ascendant so were the sabre-rattling “Wolf Warriors”. But the changed circumstances has led to the dismissal of bellicose foreign minister Qin Gang and last month Xi replaced Defense Minister General Li Shangu who was under US sanctions for overseeing the sale of weapons to Russia.

Beijing cannot afford poor relations with Washington at the moment. And Washington – with the problems of Ukraine, Gaza and forthcoming presidential elections, doesn’t want to have to worry about China. All of which could explain why the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries managed a cordial meeting in San Francisco this week.

But will it hold and can they build on it? The question is still hanging. A week before the meeting US and Chinese diplomats held a meeting to discuss each other’s nuclear arsenals. It was the first such a meeting and a good sign.

Climate change is clearly a topic to build on. It is difficult for the two biggest economies to dispute the importance of saving the planet. There are differences on how to handle fossil fuels but agreement on methane gas emissions.

A big topic in the US is opioid abuse, in particular fentanyl. A sizeable chunk of the drug is produced in Chinese laboratories and shipped to America. Last year fentanyl was responsible for 75,000 American deaths. The two leaders agreed to discuss the issue further Xi stressed that the easiest way to stop the problem would be for Americans to stop buying the drug.

Touchiest topic is Taiwan. On that Biden-Xi agreed to disagree. But they did agree to resume communications between each other’s military establishments. These were suspended after the visit to Taiwan of US Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Both sides that it was vital for the opposing militaries to talk to one another to avoid accidents. As Xi put it: “Conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides.”


The potential spanner in the Sino-American diplomatic thaw is January’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Taiwan.

At the moment the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) controls both the presidency and the parliament and opinion polls show them way ahead to stay in power.

This is not good news for either Washington or Beijing. This is because the DPP is moving Taiwan to declare itself an independent sovereign nation. This is opposed by Beijing because Taiwan would then be able to offer itself as a multi-party capitalist democratic alternative to the one-party autocracy on the mainland.

The US administration would be unhappy because an independent Taiwan would undermine its policy of “strategic ambiguity” which allows it bestow de jure diplomatic recognition on communist China while enjoying de facto relations with Taiwan.

The problem is an old one. It dates back to 1949 when the Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan and claimed to represent all of China from the offshore island. Until 1979 successive American administrations agreed with him.

The unilateral independence route is not a foregone conclusion. The Kuomintang Party (KMT) is committed to watering down the independence demands and improving relations with Beijing. This week the party announced it was joining forces with the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) to fight the elections. The outcome could have far-reaching consequences.

Turkey and Germany

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What Xi Jinping is planning on Taiwan

The former Moscow correspondent for NBC Ian Williams wrote an article in The Spectator dated 22nd March, describing what happened when Xi Jinping said goodbye to Vladimir Putin when their summit ended in the Kremlin last month. Xi suddenly turned to Putin and said, which seemed unscripted, “Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years, and we are driving this change together”. Then “The two men clasped hands, smiling. ‘I agree,’ Putin said, briefly bringing up his free hand to hold Xi’s arm. The Chinese leader then added, ‘Please take care, dear friend'”.

What is the “change” that Xi was speaking about? In the last decade, the state media of China has presented the idea of “the East rises, the West declines” to the people, saying that China will become the greatest global power in the foreseeable future. Then the rules of the world will be changed – It was the West who set the rules in the last century, but eventually, the East will become the one to decide. Therefore, Xi was telling Putin: we will overturn those rules together.

That’s why I disagree with US State Secretary Antony Blinken when he said China and Russia are in “a marriage of convenience”, I believe Xi and Putin are soulmates who share the same ideology. The new evidence is the words from the Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye in LCI interview. He reveals Xi’s true thoughts: if the previous Soviet states have no effective status in international law, Putin is righteous to reclaim all those countries. Xi will fully support Putin in doing so; in return, Putin must back Xi to achieve his historical mission, the “reunification” with Taiwan.

US President Biden told the media that he believes there is no imminent threat of a Taiwan invasion after he met with Xi Jinping last November. Reports said Xi promised Biden that China would not take any military action during Biden’s first presidency. Can Xi be trusted? Well, technically, yes, Xi needs time to prepare to strike. We need to know that the failure of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine does not make Xi hesitate but to refine his war plan on Taiwan to justify himself to become the Fuhrer of China.

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In conversation with the founder of LibDem Friends of Taiwan, Jonathan Philip Bird

Jonathan (JPB) talks with Merlene Emerson of the Chinese Liberal Democrats (CLD)

CLD: Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you developed your interest in Taiwan?

JPB: I joined the Liberal Democrats in 2004. I would have been a member of an Alliance party from 1983/84 but I was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness, and the group forbids political involvement. I have been an active member of my branch since then, running as a ward candidate a number of times.

As well as Taiwan I am passionate about Europe being a core member of the cross-party campaign Cardiff for Europe since 2016.

I lived in Taiwan in 2009 and 2010. I found the political situation of the island fascinating. I discovered the Liberal English language newspaper Taipei Times, in a newsagent. Since my time there I have been a daily reader of the Taiwanese press, and kept up with developments, there.

The year of 2015 saw both ends of my political interest overlap. The historic victory of our Liberal International sister the Democratic Progress Party victory in Legislative assembly and Presidential elections. That contrasted so strongly with the trauma of May 2015 here. I contacted Tim Farron as Liberal Democrat leader and suggested he send a letter to Tsi Win as a fellow liberal. He did so and
I believe it is important that those who champion democracy should support each other.

CLD: What are your observations of the political future of Taiwan?

JPB: Unfortunately, the status quo is not an alternative allowed by the CCP. In 2008 the People’s Assembly passed the “Anti Succession act” it caused consternation in Taiwan and extended the post TianAnMen Square European Union ban on arms exports. Not only did it threaten war on Taiwan should it declare independence or redefine its constitution as the Republic of Taiwan etc.. but also, commands the Bejing regime to continually assess the rate of progress to unite with China. If that progress is considered to have stalled, then to use force to “reunify” China.

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Observations of an expat: Asian Stew

The current president of Taiwan is in America. Her immediate predecessor is in China. Meanwhile Beijing and Washington are slipping deeper into a dangerous stew of suspicion, enmity and mutual recriminations.

The visit to America by President Tsai Ing-wen is unofficial. It has to be to mute Chinese objections. But even unofficial visits by the Taiwanese raise the ire of Beijing and in this case the protests will be louder than usual because on April 5th President Tsai flies to California to meet Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders.

President Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party are not flavour of the decade in Beijing. They lean towards a separate and independent Taiwan, although President Tsai is careful to avoid an explicit policy. She has cautiously declared: “Taiwan is already an independent state, thus rendering a formal declaration of independence is unnecessary.”

President Ma Ying-jeou was Taiwanese president from 2008 to 20016. He and his Kuomintang party lean towards a rapprochement with Beijing. Ma is currently on a 12-day unofficial visit to Mainland China. The first such visit by a past or present president of Taiwan. Like Tsai, he hedges his bets on relations with Beijing. In his first inaugural address he pledged: “No reunification, no independence, and no war.” He might have added: no commitments in any direction.

It was during Ma’s administration that shipping and other transport links with the mainland were re-established as well as a family reunification plan and a number of commercial ties. Some of those ties have been suspended by the Chinese Communist Party during Tsai’s administration.

Elections are scheduled in Taiwan in January and relations with the mainland are likely to dominate debates.

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Observations of an expat: Happy Birthday

Fans of our foreign editor, Tom Arms, will be delighted to hear that he has started a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

Happy Birthday Ukraine, the Russian people, Europe, America and all the rest of the world.

The Ukraine War is one year old. An estimated 300,000 lives have been lost so far – and that is only the soldiers.

More than 5.2 million refugees have fled the fighting, mainly women and children who have left fathers, sons and husbands behind. Those who remain in Ukraine live in daily fear of Russian missile attacks. Many are without water, electricity or heating.

The ripple effects of the Ukraine War have encompassed the world. A trillion dollars’ worth of damage has been inflicted on Ukraine and the war has so far cost Europe and America an estimated $215 billion and this is only the beginning.

The Ukraine War has closed key gas and oil pipelines from Russia to Europe and forced Europeans to seek alternative supplies from America and Middle East. This in turn has pushed energy prices to crisis levels.

Inflation has been fuelled by energy problems and food shortages as Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are major suppliers of grain, sunflower oil and fertilisers.

The war has also produced tectonic diplomatic shifts. It has united Ukrainians and provided them with a clear national identity reinforced by a charismatic leader. Yes, Putin is right when he says Ukraine’s history is closely linked with that of Russia. But its future is not.

The war has also re-united Europe and NATO. For years America has complained about low levels of European defense spending, especially in Germany. Donald Trump even threatened to withdraw from the alliance. That has ended. Europeans are spending more and sending aid to Ukraine. The EU financial aid is actually $5 billion more than America’s $45 billion. But America’s total commitment of humanitarian, financial and military -dwarves the contributions of all the other countries combined.

Putin claims that his invasion is a reaction to NATO enlargement. If so, the war has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as Sweden and Finland have reversed their long-standing commitments to neutrality to apply for NATO membership and Ukraine is now a de facto member of the Western Alliance, but still outside the ultimate protection of Article Five.

Vladimir Putin’s repeated threats – veiled and unveiled – to use nuclear weapons has also revived the fear of a nuclear war. As has his announcement this week that he is suspending Russia’s in arms reduction talk, formally ending inspections of nuclear weapons sites and increasing Moscow’s nuclear arsenal.

On the ground, both sides are literally dug in with trenches crisscrossing in a general north-south gash across the Eastern part of Ukraine. Russia is believed to be on the verge of throwing another 200,000 conscripts against the Ukrainian frontline. The Ukrainian, for their part are hoping that poorly-led Russian troops will exhaust themselves against their defensive wall and fall to a Ukrainian counter offensive in the spring.

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Tom Arms’ World Review


Who are the MAGA Republicans that Biden claims are threatening American democracy?

For a start they support the cult of Donald Trump and cults are antithetical to democratic values. Next they propagate the lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential elections. And unless an estimated 40 million voters drank a hallucinogenic Kool-aid they know that Trump is lying. Or alternatively, America is facing a major mental health problem. Finally, they feel so threatened by the values and policies of the Democratic Party that they are prepared to jettison truth, the rule of law and a much-revered constitution in the pursuit of power.

The current battle ground for what Biden has dubbed the “soul of America” is the mid-term elections to the Senate in House in two months’ time. His threat to democracy speech this week at Independence Hall in Philadelphia was Biden’s opening salvo in the campaign. Only a few months ago the received political wisdom was that the Democrats faced a drubbing at the polls and the likely loss of both houses of Congress. But that was then.

In the intervening period Biden has proved himself a legislative mastermind by pushing through his economy and climate change package. Missing top secret papers have been found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago hideaway. Support for the Ukraine war has grown. Abortion has become an election campaign with polls indicating most voters favouring controlled termination. Inflation has stalled and gasoline prices tumbled.

Sleepy Joe has woken up, come out fighting and rapidly climbed five percentage points in the opinion polls. Trump backers are, however, standing firm. In fact, every attack on the ex-president and every legal investigation is greeted with cries of “witch hunt” and “conspiracy.” The MAGA squad have invested too much in the cult of Trump. They cannot afford to fail and are likely to resort to increasingly desperate claims and acts. This should be one of the most interesting US mid-term elections ever.


Two thousand-plus dead so far. More rain. More death. More destruction to come. Baked mud homes returned to mud and washed away. A bill which so far is expected to easily surpass $10 billion. Pakistan’s monsoon floods are a humanitarian disaster and another climate change warning.

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Tom Arms’ World Review – 29th May 2022

The 27 EU heads of government are meeting in Brussels next week to supposedly confirm plans to stop imports of Russian oil and gas. It may not happen. Decisions have to be unanimous. Hungary’s Viktor Orban has signalled that he will block the move.

Hungary is dependent on Russian fossil fuels for 100 percent of its energy needs. These can only be delivered by pipelines because Hungary is landlocked. All the pipelines run from Russia. The other EU countries have offered to give Hungary a two-year grace period to find alternative sources. But Orban maintains that he has no alternatives and that stopping imports of Russian gas would destroy the Hungarian economy.

At the same time, the newly re-elected Hungarian leader has used the war in Ukraine to declare a state of emergency which allows him to effectively rule by decree.  Orban claims that the Ukraine war “represents a constant threat to Hungary.” He has already used his new powers to impose fresh taxes to finance an increase in defence spending. Many fear that Orban will abuse the state of emergency to bypass parliament and suppress critics. He is already under attack from Brussels for damaging Hungary’s democratic institutions and the EU is threatening to withhold development funds because of that and allegations of corruption. Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: “Hungary was already no longer free, now it is no longer a democracy”.

With all this talk about Taiwan and ambiguous or clear US policies on the issue of whether or not to defend the island, one thing has been slightly overlooked – chips. To be precise advanced semi-conductor computer chips. Taiwan produces 92 percent of the world’s advanced semi-conductor computer chips. The remaining eight percent come from South Korea. These tiny electrical conductors are to technology what oil and gas are to industry and transport. Without them our computer-dependent world would come to a sudden halt.

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World Review: COP26, French fishing, Taiwan territory and Russian gas

COP26 finished its first week with a super abundance of world leaders making a plethora of pledges about climate change. Deforestation is to end (except maybe in Indonesia). More money is to be made available for green technology in developing countries. Eighteen countries (most of them small) have agreed to move away from coal generated energy. Now the leaders have flown home in their gas guzzling carbon emitting private jets and left it to officials to hammer out the devilish details and attempt to wring out concessions from the biggest polluters, mainly China and India who together are responsible for over a third of the planet’s carbon emissions. On the latter point they will have a tough job. India refuses to commit to climate change targets until 2070 which most climatologists reckon is much too little much too late. China, for its part, is continuing to build and export electricity stations powered by its massive coal reserves. Meanwhile, the Global Carbon Project reported that global carbon emissions are climbing back to pre-pandemic levels, with India rising by 12.6% and China by 4% between 2020 and 2021. The climate watchdogs predict that 2022 could see record levels of carbon emissions as air travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.

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World Review: Tensions east, in NATO, in Facebook and in Boris’s Britain

In this weekend’s World Review, Tom Arms comments on the implications of a mutual defence pact between Greece and France for Turkey’s role in NATO. Heading for cooler climes, Covid-19 has reached Antarctica but for those who as destined to suffer or die from malaria in sub-Sharan Africa, a vaccine has been approved for to tackle the disease. Tension are building in the east and Taiwan, China, the US and other countries are in danger of falling into the trap of unintended consequences. Can Facebook be held to account? And how can Boris boast about Britain being one of the world’s wealthiest countries while branding it “broken”?

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Observations of an expat: Taiwan

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Hong Kong has taught the Chinese leadership that they can’t win the hearts and minds debate. One country, two systems, has not worked.  Neither will Beijing be able to buy support with their economic performance.

All of this raises questions about the future of Taiwan, and recent moves by Beijing are causing an increasing number of misgivings about the possibility of a peaceful solution to a problem as old as the People’s Republic.

Fears that the Chinese Communist Party is moving ever closer to a military solution have been fuelled by recent events. Last month 40 fighter jets from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted a series of sorties over the sacrosanct median line that runs down the middle of the Taiwan Straits.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen responded with a call for tension-reduction talks with Beijing. China’s President Xi Jinping wasted no time in replying. The following day he rejected negotiations, issued a threat to invade Taiwan and released a video of training exercises simulating an invasion of the island.

So what would such an invasion look like and what are its chances of success? Well for a start, the Chinese forces are about five times the size of the Taiwanese military, and they are backed up with nuclear weapons.

But that is not the complete story. Two-thirds of Taiwan is mountains which are much easier to defend than open plains. On top of that, there are only a handful of beaches suitable for Chinese landing craft. If the PLA does successfully land it will face a determined military of 174,000 professional soldiers and a million reservists.  They—and the political hierarchy—will be ensconced in a bewildering labyrinth of mountain tunnels.

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Observations of an expat: Taiwan

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Forget about Hong Kong. The ex-British colony is a consolation prize for Beijing compared to the 23.6 million souls on Taiwan, or, to give it its claimed name, the Republic of China.

The Taiwanese have kept an eagle eye on political events in Hong Kong since before the 1997 handover. From the start they were sceptical about the Beijing’s talk of “two systems in one country” and pledges of peaceful reunification. Recent events in Hong Kong have confirmed their scepticism and is threatening to ignite a 71-year-old Asian powder keg which could all too easily lead to a Sino-American showdown.

The dispute dates back to 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek, leader of China’s Kuomintang government, fled across the Taiwan Straits a few months before Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party declared victory in the long-running Chinese Civil War. He took with him China’s gold reserves, American-backing, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and a totally unrealistic claim to rule the 3.7 billion square miles of Mainland China from an offshore island of 13,980 square miles.

It couldn’t last. And it didn’t. In 1971 Taiwan lost its seat on the Security Council and the UN. In 1979 the US caved into the pressures of realpolitik and extended diplomatic recognition to Beijing. It maintained a de-facto embassy in the Taiwanese capital Taipei and pledged itself to the continued defense of the island, but in the eyes of Beijing and the rest of the world it was the de jure recognition that counted. Today there are only 15 countries (including the Vatican) that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

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    @Nonconform. I'm stating that it's my responsibility & my husband's that my children were toilet trained & had basic reading and writing skills prior to...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @Simon Atkinson - I am so pleased you like our musings on Max's impact within and beyond the party. And please accept my sympathies to the whole family for the ...
  • Chris Moore
    @ExLD Leeds: that's a ludicrous reason not to vote LD. Theakes is in a vanishingly tiny minority regarding the desirability of PR, as you must well know. LDs...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @David Raw - yes, you can register as an online member and vote for £20. I did it last time and it worked well. And anyone can watch it for free on the Lib Dem...
  • Simon Atkinson
    Thank you so much for these wonderful comments everyone, and for the smashing tribute, Mary. He would have been so chuffed to read your kind words. Max wasn't a...