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Taipei Times featured Dyson history Professor Joseph Tse-hei Lee piece: "Election results a message to China"

01/21/2020

Taipei Times featured Dyson history Professor Joseph Tse-hei Lee piece: "Election results a message to China"

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party was just elected to her second term in office, defeating two formidable challengers, Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and James Soong (宋楚瑜) of the People First Party, in a colorful presidential race.

Winning the presidential and legislative elections, Tsai has obtained a popular mandate to implement her vision of a new developmental direction for Taiwan through a series of incremental reforms that consolidate democratic governance and human rights, improve people’s livelihoods, pursue multiple diplomatic ties and secure transitional justice for victims of the previous KMT regime.

When the voters went to the polls, they perceived the electoral contest as a de facto referendum on Hong Kong’s post-colonial governance and on Taiwan’s relationship with China.

Ever since taking over the presidency in 2016, Tsai has strengthened the nation and made it a safe haven that is free from fear and suppression. In recent months, she has expressed a great deal of concern over the rapid erosion of freedom and autonomy in Hong Kong, and has sheltered the territory’s political refugees.

Looking back, Taiwan’s trajectory toward democratic self-determination has become part of the global struggle for democracy. Its embrace of universal norms, religious and cultural diversity, and good governance are vital to nurturing an inclusive and cosmopolitan environment for people with different opinions, ranging from liberal to conservative.

China’s dismissal of Taiwan’s electoral outcome is predictable and presents three challenges to Tsai’s second term.

First, Tsai needs to double up on efforts to seek and establish institutional safeguards to defend equity and market stability. Because unemployment among low-skilled workers, wage stagnation and economic reliance on China have long been serious structural issues, it is difficult for any administration to pursue a comprehensive economic strategy that satisfies the public’s expectations. Now she has a larger mandate to launch holistic developmental policies to put the nation on the right path toward self-autonomy on both economic and technological fronts.

Second, during her first term, Tsai reassured Beijing and Washington about Taipei’s efforts to stabilize cross-strait relations, with the goal of revitalizing the nation’s high-tech economy and consolidating her political base. However, there has been little room for bilateral negotiations across the Strait.

Read the full Taipei Times article.

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"NBC News" featured Dyson history professor Joseph Tse-Hei Lee in "Pro-Hong Kong demonstrations in U.S. met with China-supporting counterprotesters"

09/05/2019

"NBC News" featured Dyson history professor Joseph Tse-Hei Lee in "Pro-Hong Kong demonstrations in U.S. met with China-supporting counterprotesters"

...“Right now, China is still the second-largest economy in the world, and I think it is also positioning itself as a major international power,” Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, a history professor at Pace University in New York, said.

“So when you look at the timing, I think there is a sense of urgency at least to control the narrative about China, the discourse about China, not just within the country but also overseas as well,” he added.

Read the full article.

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"Taipei Times" featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-Hei Lee's piece "Cities on coasts must learn from Mangkhut"

09/21/2018

"Taipei Times" featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-Hei Lee's piece "Cities on coasts must learn from Mangkhut"

A vast area in coastal China was severely lashed by Super Typhoon Mangkhut over the weekend. A deadly storm that caused considerable disruptions and dozens of deaths in the Philippines, it brought drenching rains, powerful winds and massive waves when it made landfall in Hong Kong, Macau and China’s Pearl River Delta.

The frequency and intensity of tropical storms exposes the vulnerability of major cities in their path. Storm surges flooded low-lying neighborhoods in Hong Kong and Macau. Heavy rain triggered landslides, and fallen trees and power lines shut down highways and bridges.

Neighborhoods in Hong Kong and Macau looked like disaster zones after Mangkhut passed. Debris and broken windows were piled up in the streets. Residents lost electricity and were cut off from the outside world.

It was moving to see that firefighters and police officers worked together to rescue stricken residents.

Everyone has been grateful for the outpouring of compassion and support, but it is important for metropolises like Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou to reflect on three lessons in disaster management in preparation for the future.

First, global climate change is making extreme weather the new normal everywhere. As the air warms up, the winds and downpours caused by typhoons become increasingly intense. A series of epic storms just brought everyone to their knees in the Philippines, and in North and South Carolina in the US.

Acknowledging this new climatic pattern, policymakers and real-estate developers along the Chinese coast should be more pragmatic in envisioning post-disaster redevelopment plans. Instead of compensating residents who lost homes and cars to Mangkhut, urban officials and developers should avoid building luxurious condominiums, skyscrapers and shopping malls in vulnerable flood zones.

Second, all municipal governments along the storm path must rethink the conventional framework of crisis management and initiate some institutional changes.

For decades, Macau has been flush with tax revenues from gambling. As the world’s wealthiest territory in terms of GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (US$104,862 last year), its government’s massive budget surplus makes it the envy of any nation. Driven by a lax approach to governance, the ruling elites treat other residents like shareholders and give them generous cash handouts annually.

Hong Kong is more resilient to typhoons thanks to many decades of investment in underground drainage systems. Perhaps it is time for regional political and business leaders to use resources wisely, concentrating on sustainable infrastructure and weather-related disaster prevention.

Third, there was no outbreak of looting and crime in Hong Kong and Macau. Both territories remained calm and orderly. After the storm passed, volunteers came together to help victims.

Wherever self-mobilization took place in a disaster situation, it empowered local communities to take control of the problems. Regional authorities should welcome and encourage such compassionate and energetic efforts from civic society in a post-disaster recovery process.

One way is to formulate emergency evacuation plans and encourage everyone to be more self-reliant. Another is to divide emergency workers and medical professionals into small response teams with the tools and institutional support to deal with climate-related crises.

Read the full article.

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"Taipei Times" featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-Hei Lee's piece "US changing strategy on China"

08/16/2018

"Taipei Times" featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-Hei Lee's piece "US changing strategy on China"

Joseph Tse-Hei Lee is a professor of history at Pace University in New York City.

The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes and prioritizes federal funding for the US Department of Defense and related military activities for fiscal year 2019, was recently passed by the US House of Representatives and US Senate, and was to be signed by US President Donald Trump into law on Monday. [Editor’s note: Trump signed the bill into law as scheduled.]

Freely accessible online to the public, the 2019 NDAA reveals a significant shift in US thinking toward major adversaries, such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Washington’s attempt to co-opt Beijing into the Western capitalist order and turn it into a clone of the US has failed. In response, it is treating China as a formidable threat, anticipating more great power rivalries in geopolitical and economic spheres.

Rightfully or not, many US lawmakers, foreign policy think tanks and intelligence agents are quite suspicious of China’s global expansion, especially its efforts to subvert US-led international systems and remake the world in its own image.

The 1,000-page NDAA throws light on US anxieties, at several levels, about China’s remarkable rise and its advances in military technology.

The first area of concern focuses on cybersecurity attacks. Deeply troubled by Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, politicians across the partisan divide are worried that history will repeat itself.

This fear arises from the ambiguity over technology transfer agreements between US and Chinese companies. After some notorious cases of intellectual property theft came to the spotlight, more US defense companies and scientific institutes began to guard their strategic technological assets and formulated specific rules of engagement in dealing with their Chinese counterparts.

Equally important is China’s decision to punish Trump’s supporters in states across the US Midwest through retaliatory tariffs on US agricultural products like soybeans, cotton and fruit. China has learned from Russia to be harsh toward international opponents and lenient toward those nations that are receptive to Chinese investments.

Another persistent problem concerns the global expansion of Chinese influence. For example, the US perceives China’s comprehensive developmental plans for Eurasia, widely known as the Belt and Road Initiative, as a Chinese Monroe Doctrine that is creating a series of sinocentric alliances against US leadership.

A similar contest can be seen in the ongoing maritime sovereignty disputes in the western Pacific Ocean, where Washington regards the presence of Chinese military facilities as jeopardizing the freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters.

The US has pressed China to dismantle military infrastructures on disputed islands, but it remains unclear how the US plans to enforce this demand. Perhaps the best way to de-escalate the bilateral naval arms race is for both sides to sit down at the negotiation table rather than flexing their military muscles at each other.

The last anxiety is related to what the US interprets as China’s attempt to export its authoritarian mode of governance, thought to be even more dangerous than Russian interference in democratic elections in the West.

Economically, the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly on market resources completely destroys the free trade myth. Through extensive networks of well-funded state-owned enterprises, China is capable of utilizing capitalistic practices to empower and enrich itself. The business world in China is not flat. Its political, economic, sociocultural and ideological domains are shaped by institutional barriers with irreconcilable differences.

Read the full article.

 

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"Taipei Times" featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-Hei Lee's piece "Heeding the warning of Hong Kong"

07/31/2018

"Taipei Times" featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-Hei Lee's piece "Heeding the warning of Hong Kong"

The past two months have been extremely eventful for Hong Kong. On June 11, Edward Leung Tin-kei (梁天琦), former spokesperson of Hong Kong Indigenous, a populist radical group known for its stance on democratic localism, was jailed for six years on a political charge of inciting violence against police officers on Lunar New Year’s Day in 2015, during what was widely called the “fishball revolution.”

A thoughtful, charismatic and eloquent speaker, Leung has championed Hong Kongers’ right to self-determination and enjoys much popularity among post-colonial young people. He has become Hong Kong’s Wei Jingsheng (魏京生), an activist who was imprisoned for posting an essay titled The Fifth Modernization on Beijing’s Democracy Wall in 1978, criticizing then-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dictatorial impulse and calling for the replacement of China’s one-party dictatorship with democracy.

Another political casualty is Andy Chan Ho-tin (陳浩天), convener of the Hong Kong National Party, a small political fringe group that advocates the territory’s independence from China. Condemned by Beijing as subverting national sovereignty, his pro-independence organization has been banned.

These fiascos have wider repercussions for Taiwan. China has always intended to use the formula of “one country, two systems” used for Hong Kong and Macau to co-opt Taiwan, but the latter is determined to oppose political integration.

As Richard Bush argued in his 2016 book Hong Kong in the Shadow of China: Living with the Leviathan, Taiwan’s successful liberalization has enlarged the gap between its democratic governance and the Chinese framework of administrative autonomy designed for Hong Kong.

The most serious problem has to do with China’s capability to manipulate, dictate and dominate Hong Kong’s electoral processes and outcomes. During the 1990s, China sought to ensure that none of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy leaders would become chief executive, and that the existing pro-democracy and pro-Beijing parties would not expand to rival the Chinese Communist Party.

Having experienced political persecution and survived the White Terror era (1947-1987), many Taiwanese are skeptical of the traps of institutional hypocrisy. Proud of their hard-won democracy, Taiwanese do not want the functioning electoral system to be infiltrated and controlled by an outside power, as has happened in Hong Kong.

If the nation were to embrace the same constitutional arrangements as in Hong Kong, the Democratic Progressive Party would never win the presidency or control the Legislative Yuan.

When Taiwan turned away from authoritarianism toward democracy in the late 1980s and 1990s, Hong Kong relied on Britain to negotiate with China over the extent to which liberal institutions, such as free and competitive elections, independent media and the rule of law, would be preserved.

China is tightening its grip over Hong Kong’s internal affairs and declaring war on local pro-independence forces. This reveals a deep obsession with control and a great fear of instability. Hong Kong has been trapped by a concerted effort to deliberalize it, losing its limited autonomy and moving toward an autocracy.

By comparison, Taiwan enjoys a great deal of freedom that is unseen in neighboring countries. It is to be the first and only Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage, giving homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual ones. Taiwanese voters have the constitutional right to choose representatives and leaders at all levels of government. The results of free, fair and transparent elections express public sentiment and concerns.

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"Taipei Times" featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-hei Lee's piece "N Korea-US summit is a milestone"

06/18/2018

"Taipei Times" featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-hei Lee's piece "N Korea-US summit is a milestone"

Joseph Tse-Hei Lee is a professor of history at Pace University in New York City.

Under Soviet and Chinese pressure in the mid-1950s, Kim II-sung introduced the concept of juche in 1955. Permeating all levels of society, the ideology motivated the entire population to sacrifice for state-building and nullified US pressure to force a regime collapse.

For decades, Pyongyang has demanded that Washington withdraw its military from the peninsula and sign a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War, but the US dismissed the North’s demands. Against this backdrop, North Korea acquired nuclear technology from Pakistani scientists in the 1990s.

By 2001, when Bush took office, the North had the scientific knowledge and skills to produce nuclear weapons. For the US, the objective of diplomatic engagement was to persuade Pyongyang to slow down, if not dismantle, its nuclear weapons programs.

By comparison, China has shown a great deal of hesitation toward the Trump-Kim summit. China strives to replace the Cold War structure with a new multilateral order against the US.

China’s involvement in the previous rounds of six-nation nuclear talks was a defense against any potential US attacks on the North and a response to the Sino-American rivalry over Taiwan.

It can be anticipated that any settlement with North Korea will inevitably lead to a clarification of the US policy on Taiwan.

The latest efforts by Trump and Kim to seek common ground on the nuclear issue signaled a qualitative change in the bilateral relationship. The summit in Singapore suggests that the US publicly acknowledges North Korea as an equal in substantive negotiations.

To Kim Jong-un, political survival and power consolidation dictate his decision to reduce tensions with the US. Since proclaiming itself a nuclear state, North Korea appears to be operating in a larger international arena.

Dissatisfied with its status as a client of the US, South Korea has reached out to the North directly. This reconciliatory sentiment manifested itself in the Moon-Kim summit in Panmunjom in April.

Key for the US is how to contain a nuclear North Korea while preserving its defense alliances with South Korea and Japan.

In these webs of geopolitical encounters, North Korea has taken advantage of Sino-US rivalries, playing one against the other to empower itself.

Read the article.