War Clouds Over Taiwan

2011年底全球三大軍事熱點懸疑(組圖)
http://www.chinareviewnews.com   2011-12-21 12:33:31  
美在阿富汗空軍基地。

  2011年,在一陣陣抗議聲和槍炮聲中,“茉莉花革命”席捲阿拉伯世界,突尼斯、埃及、利比亞發生政權更替;美軍撤出伊拉克,將反恐槍口調向非洲;外部勢力插足,中國南海暗流激湧。然而,北約在阿富汗的走與留、美以是否襲擊伊朗核設施和西方國家軍事干預叙利亞與否,這三個軍事熱點,仍是懸而未決的問題。 

  懸疑1 

  美以將軍事打擊伊朗? 

  據法新社12月14日報道,美國前國家安全顧問布熱津斯基13日警告說,美國似乎正走向與伊朗發生衝突的道路,這場衝突可能演變成帶來“災難性”後果的戰爭。12月6日,以色列總理內塔尼亞胡在紀念以色列建國者、第一任總理本古裡安的儀式上發表講話時稱:“有時一項決定可能要付出慘重代價,但是不作該決定的代價可能更大。我願意相信,我們總是會有勇氣與決心作出正確的決定,保障我們的未來與安全。”外媒認為,雖然內塔尼亞胡沒有提到伊朗,不難推斷他指的是以下決定:不顧華盛頓方面的壓力和以色列國內的反對,對伊朗核設施實施軍事打擊。 

  同時,英國《阿拉伯耶路撒冷報》7日報道稱,一場由以色列摩薩德訓練的分離主義分子領導的、針對伊朗核設施的秘密戰爭,在等待了幾個月後已進入實施階段,美國很可能在兩周內對伊朗數十個重要目標進行空襲。 

  英國《每日鏡報》則援引一些不願透露姓名的有關人士的話說,“如果進攻伊朗,將由美國來領導這場戰爭。很可能會得到倫敦的支持,因為有跡象表明英國軍事專家們正通過地中海監聽站監聽伊朗的通信聯絡”。該報認為,美軍很可能使用新一代高精准導彈摧毀伊朗深達60米的地下工事。還將動用能攜帶重達2.5噸炸藥的激光制導導彈的B-2轟炸機,破壞伊朗被懷疑藏有大規模殺傷性武器的地下掩體和隧道。 

  《每日電訊報》報道稱,針對戰爭威脅,伊朗最高領袖哈梅內伊已要求軍方採取一切必要措施保護伊朗免受外界攻擊。伊朗的“流星”-3遠程導彈重新部署到全國各地的秘密地點,使這些導彈免遭敵軍的攻擊,並有可能用於發動報復性攻擊。伊朗國防部長艾哈邁德.瓦希迪也聲稱,如果以色列敢對伊朗動武,伊朗將會用15萬枚導彈對以色列發動報復性打擊。伊朗空軍也組建了多個“快速反應小組”,並針對假想的敵方空襲展開了多次演習。 

專家點評:短期難動武 

  目前西方國家和美國(包括以色列)對伊朗動武,時機均不太成熟。因為整個北非地區還沒有“消化”完,如埃及局勢依然動蕩、利比亞新政權還沒誕生、也門局勢也不是很明朗。就算美國抽出身來,伊拉克的衝突在內部仍在繼續,阿富汗還在冒著“烽煙”。而且,美國還沒有徹底摸清伊朗的底細,正派遣無人機秘密對伊朗實施偵察,Q-170“哨兵”無人機墜落伊朗境內的事件就足以證明。 

  同時,美以軍事打擊伊朗核設施,還會面臨伊朗瘋狂的反擊,甚至會引發全球戰爭。美國國防部長帕內塔12月2日曾明確表示,由於面臨諸多意想不到的後果,不到“萬不得已”不會對伊朗動武。 

  當然,不排除中長期有動武的可能,甚至可能性很大。但這個可能一定要在歐美走出困境,以及將伊朗的實力削弱之後,否則,可能性不大。目前,美以針對伊朗的暗戰已開打。一方面破壞伊朗的“殺手鐧”武器,減小伊朗的報復能力;另一方面,暗殺伊朗核科學家及破壞核設施,延遲伊朗鈾濃縮計劃,為動武爭取準備時間。所以,現在這種緊張局勢對伊朗警告的意味更濃一些。 

懸疑2 

  叙利亞重演“利比亞模式”? 

  12月11日,叙利亞反對派與政府軍再度爆發衝突,造成近20人喪生。反對派戰鬥人員與叙利亞政府軍在靠近土耳其邊界地區以及南部城市德拉郊外交火,數輛軍車被焚燒。暴力衝突發生的同時,叙利亞多地商店和企業開始響應反對派號召,舉行了大規模的罷工運動。 

  持續惡化半年多的叙利亞國內局勢,正由和平抗議迅速轉變為“武裝起義”式的軍事對抗。由變節政府軍組成的“叙利亞自由軍”宣稱,已有越來越多的官兵脫離政府軍,加入了“自由軍”,因為他們不願執行當局下達的向示威民眾開槍的命令。“叙利亞自由軍”領導人里亞德11月24日甚至呼籲外國軍隊對叙利亞政府的“戰略目標”實施空中打擊,以加速叙政府的垮台。 

  同時,據法國媒體報道,法國對外情報總局等部門官員已經被秘密派往黎巴嫩北部和土耳其,教授叙叛逃士兵如何進行城市作戰,並將加強與美國、英國和土耳其的溝通,利用走私武器、加強培訓等手段,煽動更多叙利亞人參與叛亂,“以在叙利亞發動一場代理人戰爭”,在叙利亞複制“利比亞”模式。 

  另據土耳其《米利特報》12月9日披露,為了推翻叙利亞巴沙爾政權,美國和北約軍事專家早就在訓練叙利亞反政府武裝,美國方面還通過在土耳其的因斯里克空軍基地,向叙利亞反政府武裝提供武器以及資金支持。 

  而且,美國媒體透露,美國目前可能正與阿盟討論在叙利亞建立禁飛區。美國駐叙利亞大使館的網站上11月23日發布了緊急公告,要求所有居住或在叙利亞旅遊的美國公民,趁還有商業航班或客輪時盡快離開。法國外長朱佩日前與叙利亞反對派“全國委員會”領導人舉行會晤時表示,將承認該組織的“合法身份”,並將幫助叙利亞反對派尋求阿盟及其他方面的正式承認。 

專家點評:內戰可能性較大 

  目前,由於各種因素的制約,以美國為首的北約國家繞過聯合國,對叙利亞實施軍事干預的可能性很小。這不是北約國家不想軍事干預,而是不能干預,或者說干預不起。 

  叙利亞作為連接亞、歐、非三大洲的橋梁,自古就有“世界心臟”之稱,到了現代,叙利亞在國際政治關係中又被冠以“世界小國中的最大國家”。對於這種地緣環境戰略上的“大塊頭”國家,美國等西方國家很難一口啃下。如西方國家實施軍事干預,伊朗可能捲入,中東地區局勢極易走向失控,其混亂及影響也將遠遠超越國界。而且,俄羅斯堅決反對軍事干預叙利亞,故西方難以打著聯合國的旗號介入。 

  叙利亞“開戰”的最大可能是內戰。總部設在土耳其的“叙利亞自由軍”號稱擁兵三萬,近日更不斷發出“捷報”,顯然是希望國際社會將叙利亞變成第二個利比亞。但歐美普遍持懷疑態度,認為他們實力有限、誇大其辭。 

  一旦內戰果真大規模爆發,反對派在某個地區形成武裝割據,則各種軍事干預的借口也就不尋自來,屆時才將是叙利亞“開戰”最危險的時候。 

懸疑3 

  美軍會如期撤離阿富汗? 

  12月13日,美國國防部長帕內塔訪問阿富汗時宣稱,美軍將於2014年完全撤出。現階段,駐阿美軍大約有10萬人。根據美國總統奧巴馬的撤軍計劃,美國將在今年年底前撤出大約1萬名駐阿美軍,明年夏季結束前總共撤出3.3萬人。至2014年底,美軍將全部撤出阿富汗,將安保職責徹底交給阿富汗安全部隊。 

  雖然美軍與阿富汗國民軍眼下正在進行防務移交,但帕內塔也承認,美國尚未完成在阿富汗的軍事任務。目前,北約駐阿富汗聯軍司令約翰.艾倫正在推動將美國從阿撤軍行動推遲一年,稱過早撤軍可能使過去一年在安全方面取得的成績付諸東流。艾倫希望在2013年,駐阿美軍能夠始終維持在6.8萬人的水平,2014年再恢復撤軍行動。 

  此外,北約歐洲盟軍最高司令部參謀長曼弗雷德.朗格12月14日說,在北約戰鬥部隊2014年從阿富汗全部撤離後,北約計劃留下大約1.5萬名士兵,繼續向阿富汗提供幫助。朗格說,留守部隊將不再從事打擊塔利班武裝的行動,而主要向阿提供訓練、技術、醫療等方面的支持。 

  另據報道,美國計劃在阿富汗設立永久軍事基地。阿富汗大支爾格會議(大國民會議)11月19日通過決議,支持阿政府與美國簽署戰略夥伴關係協議。阿富汗總統卡爾扎伊表示,如果美方滿足一定條件,可以考慮讓美軍在阿富汗設置長期基地。此前,美軍方宣布將花費3億美元在阿富汗南部和北部地區擴建空軍基地。為此,巴基斯坦媒體指出,美軍擴建軍事基地是美軍計劃在中東、南亞和中亞地區進一步謀求長期駐軍的生動例證。 

專家點評:“山姆大叔”不想走 

  美軍是否撤離最關鍵的還是美國主觀上是否願意撤軍。阿富汗戰爭已打了10年,美國還是未能解決西方同伊斯蘭信仰和價值觀之間的衝突,雙方的敵對甚至有所加劇。所以,從這個角度講,美國在阿富汗是失敗的,奧巴馬政府的戰略沒有取得理想效果。民調顯示,有70%的美國人認為阿富汗戰爭不會勝利。但是,如果不制定從阿富汗撤軍時間表,大選將至,奧巴馬將面臨民意支持率下降的壓力。 

  倘若撤軍引發阿富汗局勢動蕩,塔利班武裝卷土重來,會導致美軍在阿富汗戰場前功盡棄,這是美國最不願看到的。特別是,阿富汗對於“山姆大叔”來說,至關重要。阿富汗位於亞洲的中西部,是歐亞大陸的交界處,有著非常重要的戰略地位,是兵家必爭之地。美國借助反恐戰爭,取得了在阿富汗的暫時駐軍。如果在阿富汗建立了永久軍事基地,就控制了歐亞大通道,可以遏制中俄、虎視印巴。 

  同時,伊朗核問題正值關鍵時刻,伊朗與阿富汗接壤,一旦戰爭打響,美國在阿富汗的軍事基地有可能成為美軍對伊朗軍事打擊的橋頭堡。(來源:北京日報)

Revelation 6:8

8 (A)I looked, and there was a pale-colored horse. Its rider was named Death, and Hades[a] followed close behind. They were given authority over one fourth of the earth, to kill by means of war, famine, disease, and wild animals.

Jeremiah 16:4

4 They will die of terrible diseases, and no one will mourn for them or bury them. Their bodies will lie like piles of manure on the ground. They will be killed in war or die of starvation, and their bodies will be food for the birds and the wild animals.

War Clouds Over TaiwanBeijing’s expectations that Taiwanese will relinquish their separate identity will be disappointed16 November 2010 
By J. Michael Cole


Two years into his term, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou seems to have transformed the dynamics of his country’s troublesome relationship with China. But this d彋ente is only a temporary phenomenon. The risk of war in the Taiwan Strait is actually growing as Beijing’s expectations for a political end to the unfinished civil war rise, and Taiwan’s ability to defend itself against attack withers.

After years of cross-Strait tension under Presidents Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, it’s hardly surprising that everyone is breathing a sigh of relief now that the two sides are at least on civil terms. The international business community is taking a fresh look at Taiwan both as an investment destination and, given the linguistic and cultural similarities with China, as a bridge to the world’s second-largest economy.

Underneath this fa蓷de, however, lies a dangerous reality: Beijing’s recent “goodwill” toward Taiwan, which culminated in the signing in late June of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, is fully in line with its stated strategy to complete the consolidation of China after a “century of humiliation.” While the Ma administration maintains that the ECFA and other such deals are purely economic in nature and have no political implications, Chinese officials and leading academics are convinced that Taiwan is unwittingly preparing the way for eventual unification.

Beijing is doomed to disappointment, though, because its position on Taiwan is based on a key assumption: The prospect of material gain will eventually transcend politics and be sufficient to win hearts and minds. This is misguided.

For decades a similar philosophy has guided Beijing’s policies in Tibet. The economic development of the Tibetan plateau, it is believed, will eventually convince Tibetans to abandon their desire for self-rule and independence. After more than 40 years of such efforts, however, there is little evidence that they have swayed Tibetans on questions of identity, freedom and religion. The comparison should not be taken too far. Taiwan, unlike Tibet, is already a developed, affluent society. But despite years of cross-Strait trade and investment, poll after poll still shows that a shrinking number of Taiwanese desire unification with China, while a growing number seek independence and identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese.

Mr. Ma’s two years in office aren’t enough to prove definitively that these trends will continue. But the experience of Tibet over more than four decades tells us that economic benefits alone are insufficient to influence a people’s sense of identity. In fact, closer contact can even serve to amplify small differences and solidify identities. Many Taiwanese happily do business with China, but for them this does not change the fact that they are Taiwanese, not Chinese.

China’s leaders either know this and hope for a different outcome, or they are still unable to comprehend the dynamics of nationalism in a democratic, pluralistic society. In either case, Beijing is set for a rude awakening when, sometime in 2012 or soon afterward, it pushes for political talks with Taiwan on the island’s future status.

At that point, Mr. Ma will be constrained by domestic political factors as he seeks re-election, and the Taiwanese electorate will not give him the same leeway on political matters that it has on economic issues. If Mr. Ma is re-elected, Beijing will find it increasingly difficult, beyond 2012, to get Taipei to cooperate on politics, sovereignty and unification, leaving military force as Beijing’s sole recourse. The Chinese government has already stated that it will use force if Taiwan tries to put off reunification indefinitely.

In this light, Mr. Ma’s current defense policies look dangerously weak. Last month, Taiwan put off buying Patriot missile batteries and Black Hawk helicopters on offer from the U.S., pleading budget difficulties. The Ma administration’s cuts in its defense budget, combined with Washington’s growing reluctance to sell Taiwan the modern weapons it needs to defend itself, are creating a dangerous vacuum in Taiwan’s military development at a time when the People’s Liberation Army is manufacturing, acquiring and deploying increasingly sophisticated weapons.

The PLA continues to target more than 1,500 short-range ballistic missiles at the island, and is close to being able to assert air and sea superiority around the island. The final piece in the puzzle, an amphibious landing capability, is also being addressed.

The longer this situation is allowed to persist, the greater the gap between Taiwan’s and China’s military capabilities will grow. Without a reversal, it may only be a few more years before Taipei finds itself incapable of warding off a Chinese invasion. But that would be just the beginning of its problems. Given that Taiwanese are unlikely to abandon their identity, China would likely have to wage an unconventional conflict to control the Taiwanese population, which could result in years of bloody fighting.

To avoid such a scenario, Taipei, Washington and the international community should make sure that Taiwan continues to have a credible defense to prevent Beijing from launching an attack on Taiwan. The costs of military deterrence are tiny compared to those of a conflict should China miscalculate its ability to overcome the Taiwanese will to maintain its separate identity.

Mr. Cole is the deputy news editor at the Taipei Times. A related editorial appears today.

Unbalanced China

Bloomberg

The Chinese economy and Chinese society are riven with imbalances. It is unlikely that investors have fully priced in the risks.

But first a little warning.

Michael Pettis, the sagacious blogger at Peking University, was recently critical–in a thoroughly moderate way–of what passed for Western punditry on Chinese issues, particularly the journalism.

Writing on China, as I do occasionally from an office 5,000 miles away, it made me feel a tad self-conscious. True, Pettis was mostly questioning some of the reflexive boosterism that passes for analysis of China’s economic prospects. No one can accuse me of excess optimism. About anything. But one can also overplay the downside. With that caveat aside, here are a few medium-term outcomes I think the market dismisses as tail-risk, or as low probability events, that I think will be much more significant than investors think.

First, there’s the near term possibility of a trade war. China is reluctant to allow the yuan to appreciate as much as the U.S. government wants. The Chinese export industry is operating on such fine margins that any significant move in the currency rate against the dollar would threaten to bankrupt whole swathes of industry.

This, in turn, would potentially cause massive social disruption.

But without a yuan realignment, the U.S. government, encouraged by leading economists like Paul Krugman, is likely to bow down to populist pressure and slap trade restrictions on Chinese goods. Once the U.S. makes the first move, it won’t be long before other import-dependent governments follow suit.

The second risk is the collapse of China’s property bubble. True, this story has been around for a long while, touted by hedge-fund managers like Jim Chanos and Hugh Hendry. It’s grown so stale that long-term bears on the Chinese property market, like independent economist Andy Xie, are starting to rein in their more extreme predictions. Xie now thinks that rather than collapse, the Chinese property bubble will deflate slowly, because the Chinese government will continue to offer the market unlimited support.

But if the incomes on which those absurdly-priced Chinese property assets are resting–not primarily household, but corporate and local government–become crimped by trade barriers imposed from abroad, the property market could implode with surprising speed.

On a more medium-term basis, there’s a question of inflation. Even if China manages to convince the U.S. to allow a slow and steady yuan revaluation, the Federal Reserve’s massive liquidity operations and the U.S. government’s stimulus operations are feeding global commodity prices and Chinese overheating. Rising inflation particularly hurts China’s rural population, whose consumption basket is disproportionately made up of food. To control inflation, the Chinese government would risk bursting the bubbles it has allowed to build up, not least the one in excess industrial capacity. But not to do so would threaten social upheaval.

Finally, there are the longer-term issues.

There is almost certain to be vast amounts of malinvestment in a country that is still heavily directed from the center. Some is in real estate, some in industrial capacity and some in infrastructure projects. The Chinese government may well cover the cost of these failures (and of banks tied in to these projects). But it is not cost free. The price is ultimately borne by savers by way of government-directed, artificially-low deposit rates, as Pettis frequently points out.

As the malinvestment becomes more apparent, the wider population could grow to resent being milked to save industrialists, who are often politically connected, not to mention speculator politicians themselves.

And then there’s the small matter of demographics. China’s one-child policy and the Chinese cultural preference for boy children will cause very major social problems over the decades to come. How these problems manifest themselves is open to conjecture.

It could be that the Chinese decide to export their surplus men through foreign military adventures. Maybe in Africa, in order to defend China’s growing economic interests in the continent. Or maybe closer to home: Taiwan is a sore point for Beijing; North Korea is a certain geopolitical disaster; the only question is timing.

As for the ageing population, it could be that Chinese growth goes the way of Japan. To the point where the economic bubble bursts, after which there will come decades of stagnation.

These are only the downside risks. China clearly has an industrious population, and values education, and therefore has enormous potential to grow its human capital. The country is rapidly developing from a low base. And its politicians seem to be eminently pragmatic. But the positives have been priced in.

Taiwan must have ‘strike back’ capability: US report

By Nadia Tsao  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

Thu, Sep 01, 2011 – Page 1

Although former premier Tang Fei (唐飛) said on Aug. 17 that Taiwan’s indigenous Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missile would be like a mosquito’s bite on an elephant, a new report by a US think tank argues that Taiwan must have “some means of hitting back against Chinese military targets.”

“The ability to hit back at Chinese military targets may not have profound operational effects, but when an inferior force takes on a superior one, the ability to strike back has a nontrivial strategic and psychological impact on an attacker,” said the 38-page Asian Alliances in the 21st Century report, released on Tuesday by the Washington-based think tank Project 2049 Institute.

The report states that US allies in the Asia-Pacific region should closely observe China’s strategies against Taiwan because if Beijing believes its “unrelenting intimidation of Taiwan has worked,” then it “may attempt the same strategy to quiet other ‘troublemakers’ in the region.”

The report added that US allies in the Asia-Pacific should adjust their national defense strategies in accordance with Beijing’s tactics against Taiwan.

“In the event that Taiwan falls into China’s hands, Asia could be cut in half, the US command of the Pacific would be further imperiled, the South China Sea could become a Chinese lake, and Japan would lose strategic depth,” the report said.

“China has built up the wherewithal [of] … air and missile campaigns and maritime blockades [and] is developing capabilities to conduct an air and sea denial strategy against forward-deployed US and Japanese forces, [as] in terms of its ‘command of the commons strategy,’ the United States is most vulnerable to threats to its command of space and cyberspace,” it said.

“Taiwan obviously needs a lethal air force as well. F-16C/Ds can ride out the initial missile barrage in underground bunkers and then conduct air-to-air and maritime strike missions enabled by Taiwan’s own Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) and a common operating picture provided by the allies,” it said.

“If US administrations are really concerned about the survivability of aircraft in Taiwan, given the threat environment, the United States should consider selling Taiwan vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) aircraft or help speed up Taipei’s missile programs,” it said.

“If US and Japanese conventional forces make it clear that they are ready to interpose themselves between Chinese forces and Taiwan through combat air patrols, a ground presence on the island, and counter-blockade operations, then the Chinese may think twice about striking the island in the first place,” the report said.

Translated by Jake Chung, Staff writer

Reunification with Taiwan remains a pressing issue

Lawrence Chung in Taipei
30 September 2009

It’s daybreak on March 17, 2012 – election day in Taiwan.

In the northern coastal town of Tamsui, 35 minutes outside Taipei, old men head out into the cool, clear morning to do their exercises, while delivery vans make their rounds through the empty streets.

Outside the town’s polling centres, election workers lay out tables and plug in the electronic voting machines, and prepare to open up for people looking to cast their votes before they go to work.

Suddenly, a series of massive explosions shatter the calm. Windows smash, huge fireballs shoot upwards, smoke fills the sky. “The Patriot II anti-missile battery was hit,” panicked residents cry.

A few minutes later, the shrieks and screams are drowned out by hundreds of fighter jets ripping through the sky in perfect formation, dropping bomb after bomb. Then a wave of carrier aircraft roar over the town, unleashing tens of thousands of airborne troops who quickly move to seize a string of important military installations and communications points around Taipei. Stunned Tamsui residents look out to sea, and through the smoke and morning haze, what they see is unmistakable – a flotilla of landing craft hurtling at full speed towards the town and the surrounding beaches.

Within days, all major military sites in the north of the island are either controlled by paratroopers or destroyed. The election is postponed, and the leadership bunkered down at the Heng Shan Military Command Centre in Taipei have no choice but to announce that they have agreed to hand over the island to the mainland.

On March 30, an ebullient President Hu Jintao announces the completion of the historic mission of returning Taiwan to the motherland as he passes the baton to his successor, Xi Jinping, during his farewell speech.

This all sounds like something out of a movie, but according to experts in cross-straits relations, the scenario is not impossible.

“2012 is a crucial year,” said Lai I-chung, executive member of Taiwan Think Tank. “It is a year important to Taiwan’s survival.”

Peacefully bringing Hong Kong and Macau back into the fold was one of the mainland’s greatest triumphs, but Taiwan has proven to be an altogether more elusive task. While maintaining the current status quo – no independence and no reunification – has remained the mainstream thinking in Taiwan, the mainland may not share the same patience. Lai said Beijing might want to expedite the reunification process, with Hu eager to leave a historic legacy and set the course for his successor before stepping down in 2012.

He added the scenario could become more real if Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou failed to get re-elected in 2012 and there was a commotion brought about by his electoral defeat and victory for the pro-independence camp. Failure to lift Taiwan’s sagging economy, poor government performance, loss of public trust and leaning too close towards the mainland could lead to a defeat for Ma.

Another potential trigger for a dramatic denouement would be a deterioration in the mainland’s economy, prompting an attempt to divert public attention.

1 Oct 2009 02:43:00

Guanyu 道 said…

“Possible measures include creating cross-strait conflict or even a military attack in the name of pacifying the political disorder in Taiwan,” Lai said.

Shuai Hua-ming, a retired army lieutenant general who now sits on the foreign affairs and defence committee of Taiwan’s legislature, said while he doubted the PLA would attack at that time, a successful takeover of the island basically hinged on how fast the mainland was able to move its troops and whether it could achieve surprise. “How fast the US could move navy and air forces to aid Taiwan after Taiwan survived the first strike from the mainland is another important factor to weigh,” he said.

While the mainland might attack the island to force cross-strait reunification, there is also the potential of Taiwan declaring de jure independence – most likely as a result of mainland aggression.

Stephen Lee Sheng-hsiung, former secretary-general of the Taiwan Independence Party, said it was necessary for Taiwan to declare independence as soon as possible.

“Given China’s anxious ambition to annex Taiwan, it is highly necessary for Taiwan to declare independence before it is too late,” said Lee, now a lawyer.

To do this, Lee said, Taiwan must first abolish the “1992 consensus, one China principle”, under which the KMT government reached a tacit understanding with the mainland at a meeting in Hong Kong to allow each side to have its own interpretation of what “one China” stands for. To Taipei, it stands for the Republic of China, and to Beijing, it means the People’s Republic of China.

Lee said Taiwan should immediately recognise Beijing as the sole representative of China and that Taiwan is not a part of the mainland. Before long, it must rename itself “Republic of Taiwan”. The island should also draft a new constitution and join the United Nations as well as other international organisations whose memberships require statehood. He said once the island did all this, the US and other countries concerned by Chinese regional hegemony would not sit idly by if Beijing attacked.

But George Tsai Wei, political science professor at Chinese Cultural University in Taipei, dismissed the idea of declaring independence as naive. He said not only did it fail to take into account the consequences of war, it also did not consider the attitudes of neighbouring countries like Japan and South Korea that would not want to upset Beijing.

At the same time, Tsai said it was “highly unlikely” that Taiwan would accept the “one country, two systems” co-existence concept.

“For Taiwan to accept that formula, it would mean giving up its sovereignty and recognising its status as the same as Hong Kong and Macau, even though Beijing might offer more privileges and powers for Taipei,” Tsai said.

Were Taiwan to accept that formula, mainland-friendly Ma would be designated as the first chief executive of Taiwan and would be free from worrying about economic doldrums on the island. Beijing would probably help Taipei under some sort of Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement like the one it signed with Hong Kong.

1 Oct 2009 02:43:00

Guanyu 道 said…

Nor would Ma need to worry about whether Taiwan should re-enter the international stage, join the UN and keep the number of its diplomatic allies at 23.

But in return, Tsai said, the Taiwanese would lose the democracy they fought for, judging from what had happened in Hong Kong and Macau, where direct elections of leaders were no longer possible and the freedom of the press was checked.

Taiwan’s democracy is a source of pride on the island, and the establishment of the Taiwanese identity in the last two decades has made it unlikely that people would accept it being rolled back.

Lee Teng-hui, branded a closet pro-independence supporter by Beijing, introduced the concept of Taiwanese identity during his time as president between 1988 and 2000. But it was not until Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2000 that such an identity was widely accepted on the island.

“By the time he stepped down in May last year, Chen had firmly established the Taiwanese identity and sovereign independent status nurtured by his predecessor Lee,” Tsai said.

By branding the mainland as a merciless invader, with 1,300 missiles targeting the island, Chen -who was found guilty of corruption this month and jailed for life – succeeded in intensifying the public anger over the mainland and fanning the sense of Taiwanese identity.

“The KMT had no other choice but to tone down its reunification stand if it was to win support from voters,” Edward Chen I-hsin, professor of the American Studies Institute at Tamkang university, said.

Instead of upholding the party’s platform of reunification with the mainland under democracy, the KMT has called for the upholding of the status quo of Taiwan since 2004, in order to compete with the DPP.

The most recent poll conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s top mainland policy planning body, in April showed that 84.7 per cent of 1,132 adults supported maintaining the status quo.

Just 1.2 per cent of these respondents backed immediate reunification, as opposed to 6.7 per cent who favoured immediate independence.

Analysts agreed that it was impossible for the mainland to wait indefinitely. Something must be done to keep in check the hardline faction which pushes for the use of force, while allowing cross-strait unification to be achieved in a gradual, but natural way. Confederation or some other form of political and economic integration could be a way out.

Former vice-president and KMT chairman Lien Chan is the biggest supporter of a Chinese confederation, under which Taiwan and the mainland could exist like European Union member states under a single economic umbrella but with full autonomy guaranteed for both. However, this would go against Beijing’s sovereignty claim over Taiwan and give the sides equal status, which would make it hard for Beijing to accept.

“Slow but steady and natural integration should be the path of cross-strait reunification,” said Chang Ya-chung, a political science professor at National Taiwan University.

Under his proposal, Taipei and Beijing, which have their own constitutions, would seek to jointly institute a third constitution based on a range of agreements or treaties – from economic and political to cultural – signed by the two sides for closer links and co-operation.

With both sides pledging not to split, these agreements, including the most important one – the peace treaty – would actually pave the way for integration between the two sides and hence cross-strait reunification in the future, he said.

“That way, a new China – no longer a China under Beijing or Taipei – would be born,” said Chang, who also heads the Chinese Integration Association. “The two sides should set this as their common goal, though there is no timetable over when cross-strait integration would take shape.”

1 Oct 2009 02:43:00

December 18, 2011
SNAPSHOT

China’s Real Estate Bubble May Have Just Popped

A Host of Factors Are Set to Undermine the Country’s Economic Growth

Patrick Chovanec
PATRICK CHOVANEC is Associate Professor of Practice at the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University.

Condos under construction in Guangzhou. (Photo: Slices of Light / flickr)

For years analysts have warned of a looming real estate bubble in China, but the predicted downturn, the bursting of that bubble, never occurred — that is, until now. In a telling scene two months ago, Shanghai property developers started slashing prices on their latest luxury condos by up to one-third. Crowds of owners who had recently bought apartments at full price converged on sales offices throughout the city, demanding refunds. Some angry investors went on a rampage, breaking windows and smashing showrooms. 

Shanghai homeowners are hardly the only ones getting nervous. Sudden, steep price reductions are upending real estate markets across China. According to the property agency Homelink, new home prices in Beijing dropped 35 percent in November alone. And the free fall may continue for some time. Centaline, another leading property agency, estimates that developers have built up 22 months’ worth of unsold inventory in Beijing and 21 months’ worth in Shanghai. Everyone from local landowners to Chinese speculators and international investors are now worrying that these discounts indicate that “the biggest bubble of the century,” as it was called earlier this year [1], has just popped, with serious consequences not only for one of the world’s most promising economies — but internationally as well.

What makes the future look particularly bleak is the lack of escape routes. If Chinese investors panic and rush for the exits, they will discover that in a market awash with developer discounts, buyers are very hard to find. The next three months will be a watershed moment for a Chinese investor class that has been flush with cash for years but lacking a place to put it. Instead of developing a more balanced, consumer-based economy, an entire regime of Beijing technocrats — drunk on investment-led growth — let the real estate market run red hot for too long and, when forced to act, lacked the credibility to cool the sector down. That failure threatens to undermine the country’s continued economic rise.

Real estate woes are already sending shockwaves through China’s broader economy. Chinese steel production — driven in large part by construction — is down 15 percent from June, and nearly one-third of Chinese steelmakers are now losing money. Chinese radio reports that half of all real estate agents in the southern city of Shenzhen have closed up shop. According to Centaline, more than 100 local government land auctions failed last month, and land sale revenues in Beijing are down 15 percent this year. Without them, local governments have no way to repay the heavy loans they have taken out to fund ambitious infrastructure projects, or the additional loans they will need to keep driving GDP growth next year.

In a few cities, such as coastal Wenzhou and coal-rich Ordos, the collapse in property prices has sparked a full-blown credit crisis, with reports of ruined businessmen leaping off building rooftops; some are fleeing the country. The central bank’s decision on December 5 to lower the reserve requirement ratio for the first time in three years signaled a broader move to pump money into the economy. Beijing has directed banks in Wenzhou to extend emergency loans to troubled borrowers. Of course, officials could halt the sell-off simply by handing developers enough cheap loans to allow them to carry their inventory. But such a strategy risks re-inflating the bubble.

The impact of a housing downturn would have a significant impact globally. International suppliers who have been fueling China’s construction boom — iron-ore miners in Australia and Brazil, copper miners in Chile, lumber mills in Canada and Russia, and multinational equipment makers such as Caterpillar and Komatsu — could be hard hit. Heavy losses on real estate and related lending could damage investment and consumer confidence, undermining the rising tide of Chinese demand that has been a much-needed growth engine for everything from Boeing airplanes to Volkswagen and GM automobiles to KFC and McDonald’s fast food.

Understanding how this came to pass means parsing the host of distortions and mind games that characterize China’s real estate market. Residential real estate construction now accounts for nearly ten percent of the country’s total GDP — four percentage points higher than it did at the peak of the U.S. housing bubble in 2005. Bullish analysts have long argued that large-scale urbanization and rapidly rising incomes warrant such an extraordinary boom.

But new urban residents are not the immediate drivers of China’s recent run-up in real estate. Chinese investors, large and small, are the ones creating the market. For more than a decade, they have bet on longer-term demand trends by buying up multiple units — often dozens at a time — which they then leave empty with the belief that prices will rise. Estimates of such idle holdings range anywhere from 10 million to 65 million homes; no one really knows the exact number, but the visual impression created by vast “ghost” districts, filled with row upon row of uninhabited villas and apartment complexes, leaves one with a sense of investments with, literally, nothing inside.

The craze for vacant real estate is due in large part to a lack of attractive alternatives. Strict controls on capital outflows prevent most Chinese citizens from investing any real money abroad. Chinese bank deposits earn very low interest rates — lower, for the past year now, than the rate of consumer inflation. The public sees the country’s domestic stock exchanges, which have endured volatile ups and downs over the last few years, as little more than high-risk casinos. In contrast, real estate, which has not seen a sustained downturn since China first converted to private homeownership in the 1990s, has long looked like a sure bet.

Beijing’s response to the global financial crisis added jet fuel to the fire. To maintain GDP growth of nearly ten percent during a massive downturn in global demand, China’s leaders engineered a lending boom that expanded the country’s money supply by roughly two-thirds. Real estate was already the preferred place for the Chinese to stash cash; now, investors had that much more cash to stash. Prices rose accordingly: In many locations, the cost of prime new properties doubled in just two years.

But this run of speculation has bid up the price of housing and left people who actually need a place to live in the lurch. Given the prices prevailing earlier this spring, the average wage earner in Beijing would have had to work 36 years to pay for an average home, compared to 18 years in Singapore, 12 in New York, and five in Frankfurt. The bidding war has further pushed developers to build ever more costly luxury properties that investors crave but few ordinary people can afford.

By the spring of 2010, China’s leaders were growing increasingly worried that skyrocketing prices were sowing the seeds of social unrest. In response, Beijing imposed a series of cooling measures to rein in speculative demand. These included a stipulation for larger down payments, tougher qualifications for mortgages, residency requirements for home purchasers, and limits on the number of units a family could buy. Although these restrictions were mainly confined to Beijing and Shanghai, where central authorities hold the greatest sway, they were meant to send a clear signal that China’s leaders wanted property prices to level off.

Real estate developers, however, believed they had seen this movie before. They had witnessed earlier cooling campaigns, as recently as early 2008. Each lasted a few months before reverting back to business as usual. Local governments depend on a healthy real estate market to generate revenue from land sales (as the state owns the land), and property development has long been a key driver of the GDP growth that the central government both demanded and prized. Let them see the effects of a slowdown, developers figured, and China’s leaders would rush back in to support the sector. They always had before.

So the property developers bet against cooling. They continued borrowing and building, even in the face of a relatively soft and uncertain market. Until that point, Chinese developers had been able to move everything they built, usually pre-selling it before it was finished. But starting in the late spring of 2010, they began piling up substantial stocks of unsold inventory, for the day when the government would, so they thought, relent and demand would come surging back. 

Because the industry kept on building, there has been no negative impact on GDP. Real estate investment has continued growing at nearly 30 percent annually. But inflation began to rise from 1.5 percent in January 2010 to a peak of 6.5 percent in July 2011, and authorities began to sweat. They broadened their cooling efforts. The central bank tightened credit expansion, and China’s economy began to slow. As 2011 progressed, developers scrambled for new lines of financing to keep their overstocked inventories. They first relied on bank loans (until they were cut off), then high-yield bonds in Hong Kong (until the market soured), then private investment vehicles (sponsored by banks as an end run around lending constraints), and finally, in some cases, loan sharks. By the end of last summer, many Chinese developers had run out of options and were forced to begin liquidating inventory. Hence, the price slashing: 30, 40, and even 50 percent discounts.

The biggest unanswered question is whether existing investors — the people holding all those sold but empty “ghost” condos and villas — will join in the sell-off, which could turn the market’s retreat into a rout. So far, that has not materialized. Unlike highly leveraged developers, most multi-home buyers invested their own money and do not face the same immediate pressures to sell. However, their willingness to hold idle properties depends on real estate’s reliability as a store of value — a rationale that seems to be disintegrating before home buyers’ eyes. While pre-owned home prices in Beijing fell only three percent last month, transaction volumes there and in other cities have plummeted (down 50 percent year on year in Shenzhen, 57 percent in Tianjin, and 79 percent in Changsha), suggesting that many owners would like to sell — so long as it is not at a loss — but are having trouble finding buyers. Would-be residents, who once felt pressured to buy before prices rose even further, now prefer to wait and look around for a better deal.

In recent weeks, a growing chorus has called on the government to lift restrictions on multiple home purchases — revealing, when push comes to shove, just how much the market has come to depend on investor, rather than end-user, demand. But both types of demand depend, in their own way, on the assumption of ever-rising prices. Unless that assumption can somehow be restored, neither looser regulation nor looser lending will persuade the Chinese to pile back into property. Just as elsewhere, China’s monetary authorities may find themselves, as it’s said, pushing on a string of unwilling demand. 

Ironically, as Chinese investors start pulling their money out of property, many are putting it into bank- and trust-sponsored “private wealth management” vehicles that promise high fixed rates of return but channel the proceeds into investments — like real estate developers and local government bonds — whose returns are themselves predicated on ever rising property prices. Many fear this repackaging of real estate risk is laying the foundation for a follow-on crisis that some are labeling the Chinese equivalent of Wall Street’s collateralized-debt-obligation mess.

While frightening, the popping of China’s real estate bubble is not all bad news. Cheaper, more affordable housing could also unlock the savings of China’s working-class families, unleashing greater consumer demand and helping to rebalance the global economy. Investment long bottled up in idle real estate could flow to more productive pursuits. These adjustments have been put off too long. This is why at least some of China’s leaders appear determined to force a correction despite the risks. But they know they are walking a razor’s edge.

‘Global economy faces difficult 2012’

Tuesday 20th December 2011

In its latest Fundamentals briefing, Legal & General Investment Management’s Economist Tim Drayson forecasts a difficult year for the global economy in 2012, and highlights that the euro area and UK could both face recession…

“The euro area problems don’t just affect Europe. Europe is a major trading area for the US, China and the UK. European banks have been major providers of credit to the global economy. These problems will be felt globally.

“Even in the unlikely event of Europe’s leaders finding an immediate and comprehensive solution to the debt crisis, a lot of damage has already been done.”

Italy is expected to fare worst in the euro area, although Drayson also expects France to perform poorly next year.

“We expect to see a sharp contraction in investment in both countries as the corporate sector will remain cautious. Add austerity measures and low consumer confidence, and you have all the ingredients for a recession.

“Looking at the global economy, there are other potential pitfalls to consider. For instance, in the US, we expect only modest growth in 2012, even if expiring tax breaks are renewed. Given political pressures in an election year, renewal cannot be guaranteed.”

Turning to the UK, Tim believes that the Office for Budget Responsibility remains too optimistic despite its recent GDP downgrades for 2012.

“Given planned austerity measures, we feel that the OBR’s forecasts would be achievable only if the private sector grows at near record levels. We see no basis for that.”

Drayson expects a stormy year for investors.

“Weaker economic growth means earnings will be under pressure in 2012 and this will impact equity markets. We would favour the US over Europe although ‘safe’ government bonds such as the US, UK and Germany look expensive, weak growth, risk aversion and further quantitative easing should keep yields low. Credit markets will be volatile but are looking more attractive, particularly for those with more long-term investment horizons.”

Have your say on this story using the comment section below

Mike Jones

The 2012 Blind Side: China’s Housing Bust

By  Dec 19, 2011, 8:30 AM Author’s Website  

As the world’s attention focuses on the death of Kim Jong Il and shorts keep piling up in the Euro, China’s real estate bubble appears to have finally burst. This is the one macro swan that could really smack developed markets in 2012 as few are focused even though the Shanghai composite and Hang Seng are down over 25 percent from their highs earlier in the year. Both are down 21 percent for 2011 with Shanghai closing at its lowest weekly close for the year on Friday.

Foreign Affairs has just posted a must read piece, China’s Real Estate Bubble May Have Just Popped, which will sound very familiar to Global Macro Monitor readers.

Here are a few money quotes,

For years analysts have warned of a looming real estate bubble in China, but the predicted downturn, the bursting of that bubble, never occurred — that is, until now. In a telling scene two months ago, Shanghai property developers started slashing prices on their latest luxury condos by up to one-third. Crowds of owners who had recently bought apartments at full price converged on sales offices throughout the city, demanding refunds. Some angry investors went on a rampage, breaking windows and smashing showrooms.

Shanghai homeowners are hardly the only ones getting nervous. Sudden, steep price reductions are upending real estate markets across China. According to the property agency Homelink, new home prices in Beijing dropped 35 percent in November alone. And the free fall may continue for some time. Centaline, another leading property agency, estimates that developers have built up 22 months’ worth of unsold inventory in Beijing and 21 months’ worth in Shanghai. Everyone from local landowners to Chinese speculators and international investors are now worrying that these discounts indicate that “the biggest bubble of the century,” as it was called earlier this year, has just popped, with serious consequences not only for one of the world’s most promising economies — but internationally as well…

The next three months will be a watershed moment for a Chinese investor class that has been flush with cash for years but lacking a place to put it. Instead of developing a more balanced, consumer-based economy, an entire regime of Beijing technocrats — drunk on investment-led growth — let the real estate market run red hot for too long and, when forced to act, lacked the credibility to cool the sector down. That failure threatens to undermine the country’s continued economic rise.

This should put the Wukan protests in the Guangdong province in better context,

In a few cities, such as coastal Wenzhou and coal-rich Ordos, the collapse in property prices has sparked a full-blown credit crisis, with reports of ruined businessmen leaping off building rooftops; some are fleeing the country. The central bank’s decision on December 5 to lower the reserve requirement ratio for the first time in three years signaled a broader move to pump money into the economy. Beijing has directed banks in Wenzhou to extend emergency loans to troubled borrowers. Of course, officials could halt the sell-off simply by handing developers enough cheap loans to allow them to carry their inventory. But such a strategy risks re-inflating the bubble.

The impact of a housing downturn would have a significant impact globally. International suppliers who have been fueling China’s construction boom — iron-ore miners in Australia and Brazil, copper miners in Chile, lumber mills in Canada and Russia, and multinational equipment makers such as Caterpillar and Komatsu — could be hard hit. Heavy losses on real estate and related lending could damage investment and consumer confidence, undermining the rising tide of Chinese demand that has been a much-needed growth engine for everything from Boeing airplanes to Volkswagen and GM automobiles to KFC and McDonald’s fast food.

We’re going to be spend a lot time over the holidays thinking how this plays out in China’s financial sector and the implications for markets.

Finally, this should sound familiar as the author, Patrick Chovanec, writes,

Beijing’s response to the global financial crisis added jet fuel to the fire. To maintain GDP growth of nearly ten percent during a massive downturn in global demand, China’s leaders engineered a lending boom that expanded the country’s money supply by roughly two-thirds. Real estate was already the preferred place for the Chinese to stash cash; now, investors had that much more cash to stash. Prices rose accordingly: In many locations, the cost of prime new properties doubled in just two years.

But this run of speculation has bid up the price of housing and left people who actually need a place to live in the lurch. Given the prices prevailing earlier this spring, the average wage earner in Beijing would have had to work 36 years to pay for an average home, compared to 18 years in Singapore, 12 in New York, and five in Frankfurt. The bidding war has further pushed developers to build ever more costly luxury properties that investors crave but few ordinary people can afford.

Take the time to read the piece in full. It may help as you determine your 2012 strategy.

China 2012: the year ahead

America will hog the headlines with its election, but in China 2012 will see an arguably equally important political transition as current President Hu Jintao gives way to a new generation of leaders after a decade in power.

Unlike America, there will be no hustings or TV debates, no razzle-dazzle conventions or soliciting of votes. Instead, the jockeying for position has been going on behind the scenes, with the new leaders still having to play to China’s various constituencies.

Barring an unforeseen catastrophe, the results of China’s leadership ‘election’ have now been telegraphed.

In October, Xi Jinping (pron. ‘Shee Jinping’), a 58-year-old engineer drawn from Chinese Communisty revolutionary bloodstock, will be crowned the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and as a result become the most powerful man in a country of 1.3bn people.

His elevation, which will take place the following March, will mark the ascendancy of the ‘fifth generation’ of Communist Chinese leaders since Mao Zedong seized power in 1949, to be followed by Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and the out-going Mr Hu.

Mr Xi, who is married to a flamboyant People’s Liberation Army songstress, will take power at a critical time for China, when the durability of its export-dependent economy and autocratic polity is being tested by a European financial crisis abroad and social and technological upheaval at home.

In the nature of Chinese politics, analysts widely expect an orderly transition, but they will also question whether Mr Xi can provide more dynamic leadership than his ultra-cautious predecessor whose obsession with “stability” spawned a decade of political and structural stasis.

His transition year may also be marked by the passing of Jiang Zemin, the leader of the third generation, who is now old and frail but whose Shanghai Clique is said to have been instrumental in helping secure the succession for Mr Xi.

Chinawatchers, as well as studying the composition of the new Politburo Standing Committee for signals over the direction China will take over the coming 10 years, will also be scrutinizing changes among the top brass in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

As with China’s civilian-political leadership, the unofficial (but enforced) retirement age of 68 means that Party’s secretive 11-man Central Military Commission (CMC) will also see a raft of changes at the top, perhaps paving the way for more hardline, nationalist voices that have been heard rising in the PLA of late, to make themselves heard.

As the threat of a disorderly break-up of the Euro looms ever larger, the health and stewardship of China’s economy will also be a focus of global attention in 2012.

After a year of relative tightening aimed at damping down soaring property prices and above-expectation inflation, it is widely expected that China will start to loosen monetary and fiscal policy early next year.

Economists say the early signs are already present – December saw a surprise 50 basis-point cut in the reserve ratios required by Chinese banks, injecteding $63bn into the economy – but officially Chinese policy makers are still pledging to keep firm hold on property prices.

Even so, if Europe (China’s largest export market) causes a repeat of the factory closures and job losses seen during the 2008 banking crisis, China can be expected to deploy its considerable fiscal firepower to maintain economic growth.

For those looking for a break from the doom and gloom of political and economic turmoil, they can look forward to China handing over the Olympic baton to Britain, which plans to use the moment stage a series of exhibitions and events in China showcasing British creative talents.

The wider world will also be hearing a lot more about a Chinese football team, Shanghai Shenhua, in 2012 after they signed the French striker Nicolas Anelka for a rumoured £8m a year, and are now reported to be mounting an audacious bid for his Chelsea teammate, Didier Drogba.

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For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
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