Elbridge Colby on why America must pivot from Ukraine to Taiwan

29 min listen

The war in Ukraine is only bogging America down, says Elbridge Colby, a former national security adviser to the Trump administration. On this episode of Americano, Colby tells host Freddy Gray why the US should – and likely will – reduce its support to Ukraine and Europe, to focus on the increasing threat China poses over Taiwan. Europe, he says, can pick up the slack on its own continent. Colby has been tipped to become Trump’s national security adviser should he win in November this year. Produced by Cindy Yu and Joe Bedell-Brill.

There’s trouble ahead for Taiwan’s new president

Not many inaugural ceremonies bring together dragons, dancers, rappers, and a 10-metre-high blue horse breathing steam out of its nostrils. But last Monday morning, as thousands gathered to watch the inauguration of Taiwan’s new president William Lai, Taipei’s residents were treated to just that. And as Lai danced on the stage, he may well have been very happy. His inauguration ceremony, an eclectic display of Taiwanese culture, had gone off without a hitch.  Moreover, his inaugural speech, designed to outline a pragmatic foreign policy while developing new ideas to stimulate Taiwan’s economy, had elicited what felt like a relatively muted reaction from Beijing. Like his predecessor, Tsai Ing-wen, Lai committed

A Chinese invasion of Taiwan remains unlikely

For a second day, yesterday, Chinese fighter jets and warships surrounded Taiwan for drills which the People’s Liberation Army said were designed to ‘test the ability to jointly seize power, launch joint attacks and occupy key areas’. They followed the inauguration earlier this week of Taiwan’s new and democratically elected president Lai Ching-te, who Beijing has characterised as a ‘dangerous separatist’. The exercises were a ‘strong punishment’, said the PLA, presumably for Taiwan’s audacity in electing a leader who wants to distance the island as far as possible from the thuggish leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). There has been an assumption that Russia’s bogged-down assault on Ukraine might

Cindy Yu, Mary Wakefield and Natasha Feroze

18 min listen

This week: Cindy Yu reads her piece ahead of the Taiwanese elections (00:54), Mary Wakefield discusses the US opioid crisis which she fears has come to the UK (07:13), and Natasha Feroze tells us about the rise of relationship contracts (13:26).  Produced and presented by Oscar Edmondson. 

Taiwan can’t escape China’s shadow

The Taiwanese rock band Mayday – ‘the Beatles of the Chinese-speaking world’ – are being investigated by the Chinese Communist party for the crime of lip syncing. Local authorities are combing through recordings of Mayday’s Shanghai concerts from November looking for evidence of ‘deceptive fake-singing’, as the CCP calls it, which has been illegal in China since 2009 (although the law is rarely enforced). Last month, an anonymous Taiwan-ese government source told Reuters that the investigation had been cooked up because the pop stars refused a request from Beijing to say something nice about China in the run-up to Taiwan’s election this Saturday. The band found itself at the centre

Who will be Taiwan’s next President?

43 min listen

Taiwan goes to the polls in just over a month. This is an election that could have wide repercussions, given the island’s status as a potential flashpoint in the coming years. The incumbent President, Tsai Ing-wen, is coming to the end of two elected terms, meaning that she cannot run again. Her party’s chosen successor is William Lai – Lai Ching-te – who is the current vice president. For most of this year, he has been facing off opposition from the Kuomintang, the biggest opposition party in Taiwan, and the Taiwan People’s Party, a third party led by the charismatic Ko Wen-je. Lai remains in the lead with a month

Why China won’t invade Taiwan

41 min listen

In much of the conversation surrounding China and Taiwan, the question of invasion seems to be a ‘when’ not an ‘if’. But is an invasion really so inevitable? No one knows for sure, of course, but there are good reasons to think that speculations of a war have been overblown. For one, the economic links between Taiwan and China mean that their respective interests are not so zero sum. For another, China may well be causing serious damage to itself through an invasion. Former diplomat Charles Parton has written for the Council on Geostrategy on why Xi Jinping would not take the risk of invading, and he joins the podcast.

Letters: Britain’s net-zero ambition problem

Zero ambition Sir: How extraordinary that Ross Clark (‘Carbon fixation’, 20 May) can look at the cut-throat competition to capture the economic gains of the future and conclude that Britain’s problem is an excess of ambition. The USA stands alone as the only G7 nation not to have a net-zero target in law, but is nonetheless spending billions to achieve it. The country’s Inflation Reduction Act has proved so popular with the market that it is leveraging trillions more of private investment than previously expected, the majority in Republican-led states. Likewise China may lack a legally binding target, but enjoys a comfortable lead in core technologies following decades of investment.

Letter from Taiwan: life in the shadow of ‘The Bully’

The Grand Hotel sits on the outskirts of Taipei, at the edge of Yangmingshan national park. Overlooking the city, the 14-storey building is designed like a Chinese palace. It was built in the 1950s to host dignitaries when Taiwan was under authoritarian rule. Today it operates as a five-star hotel and is open to tours from the public. Photos of foreign leaders and celebrities who have visited are displayed on the walls: Bill Clinton in 1979; Elizabeth Taylor the same year; Nelson Mandela in 1993. If this were any other hotel, you’d think it was simply boasting about its clientele. But there is something far more poignant about this display

The US knows the main threat is China

China’s President Xi Jinping opened the CCP’s 20th party congress by doubling down on four key issues: no let up on zero-Covid; no renunciation of force when it comes to Taiwan; a promise to build up China’s military strength; and no tolerance of any opposition to his rule. As he enters his third term, the most important new challenge he has to address are the export controls announced by the US on the eve of the congress that threaten to undercut China’s ability to develop semiconductors and supercomputers. Xi remains defiant: he promised to ‘resolutely win the battle in key core technologies.’ Yet Xi must be worried that the US

Nancy Pelosi knows how much Taiwan matters

In the coming hours, Nancy Pelosi is expected to arrive in Taiwan. The plane that is thought to be carrying her is approaching the island from the east to avoid the Taiwan Strait and any attempt by the Chinese to fly close to her. As Speaker of the House of Representatives, she will be the most senior US figure to visit Taipei this century. The economic effects of a Taiwan invasion would dwarf those of the Russian invasion of Ukraine Beijing is furious about Pelosi’s decision to go. It has warned that its military ‘won’t sit idly by’ if she does touch down and is planning various displays of military

Will China blockade Taiwan?

Xi Jinping has made it very clear over the years that he is determined for China to reunite with Taiwan. He has staked his legacy and his legitimacy on it. The problem for Beijing is that the polls in Taiwan continually show that only one per cent of the population is in favour of reunification now. If Xi wants Taiwan then he will almost certainly have to take it by force. Although some western commentators argue that Russia’s travails in Ukraine have made an invasion less likely, there is no evidence to support a change in policy in Beijing. Even though Taiwan’s military is undertrained and equipped with tanks and

Is the US thinking straight about Taiwan?

As the Tory leadership candidates tussle over China, it is well worth reading this essay by the US strategist Hal Brands, who says that contrary to the common perception, the first world war did not happen by accident. Rather it was a product of ‘a determined but anxious Germany… willing to take risks to achieve goals it could not attain through peaceful means.’ The obvious parallel today is with China. It is a peaking power and it may well choose to take risks sooner rather than later. The US, at the moment, is in danger of sending the wrong signals. Last week’s suggestion that Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House,

Inside Taiwan’s plan to thwart Beijing

Taipei   Nowhere is watching Russia’s faltering attempt to crush its democratic neighbour more closely than Taiwan. The Ukraine war is seen in Taipei as a demonstration of how determined resistance and the ability to rally a global alliance of supporters can frustrate a much larger and heavily armed rival. Taiwan has spent the past few years planning how it would cope if China attacked. It is developing a doctrine of defence warfare right out of the Ukrainian playbook. China was carrying out military exercises off the east coast of the island last week when I met Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister. ‘They keep circling in that area,’ Wu says.

Katy Balls

‘China is all-out against us’: an interview with Lithuania’s foreign minister

On the 16th floor of a tower block in Vilnius, Lithuania, is an office with a nameplate so incendiary that it has started a trade war. The ‘Taiwanese Representative Office’ violates a rule that China imposes upon its trade partners: never allow Taiwan to open official offices. Call it ‘Taipei’, or anything, just not ‘Taiwan’. Lithuania recently decided that an important principle is at stake: should small countries be bullied by big ones? It thought not – and has allowed Taiwan to use its own name at what is regarded as a de facto embassy. This was Vilnius going out on a limb, saying it was time to defend democracies

China’s zero-Covid horror show is inspiring Taiwan to open up

Taipei Nowhere is watching the zero-Covid horror show unfolding in China more closely than Taiwan, where it is encouraging the island to ease restrictions, even as cases of the infectious Omicron variant spike. Taiwan’s premier Su Tseng-chang has said the extreme measures being imposed on the other side of the Taiwan Strait are ‘cruel’ and his country would not follow suit. From next week, mandatory quarantine for arrivals in Taiwan will be cut to seven days from the current ten, as the island moves gradually towards a policy of trying to live with the virus. Taiwan was in the vanguard of the zero-Covid movement, but now recognises that stamping out

Could the Ukraine war save Taiwan?

The phrase wuxin gongzuo – ‘working with your mind on Ukraine’ – has been trending on Chinese social media network Weibo. Essentially what it means is ‘distraction from work because you’re obsessed with the war’. One blog that monitors the site, What’s on Weibo, reports that shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a page with updates on the conflict had received more than two billion views. Censorship, of course, limits what Chinese social media commentators can say, but there is clearly plenty of sympathy for the dying civilians and fleeing refugees. There’s little doubt that in Zhongnanhai, the leadership compound in Beijing, Chinese Communist party higher-ups are, in a more

China and Russia are an alliance of disruptors

Four years ago, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping made pancakes together in Vladivostok while thousands of their military forces conducted joint exercises in Siberia. This month, as China hosted the Olympics, Putin and Xi announced that a ‘new era’ in international relations had begun, one in which the two great authoritarian powers of the 21st century will reshape the liberal international order established in 1945 and reaffirmed in 1991. Some call it Cold War II, yet the blossoming relationship between Moscow and Beijing may best be thought of as an alliance of disruptors. As Russia roils Europe over Ukraine and China turns its attention to Taiwan after crushing Hong Kong’s

The dangerous alliance between Russia and China

The growing alliance between Russia and China is something we shouldn’t lose sleep over, their long history of mutual suspicion runs too deep – or so we are told. Such a view is too complacent by half. China and Russia’s mutual hostility towards the West and their opportunism also run deep. And even if their burgeoning alliance is a marriage of convenience, it is still a very dangerous one. As Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, the nightmare for western strategists is that Vladimir Putin’s actions are being coordinated with those of Xi Jinping in and around the Taiwan Strait, where China’s military intimidation of

China has begun its campaign to take Taiwan

Normally, if the response to a speech of mine was that it had been a ‘despicable and insane performance’ from a ‘failed and pitiful politician’, I’d question what went wrong. But since the comments came from Chinese communists about an address I’d made in Taiwan, it’s hard not to feel some pride. Two years ago, I’d been asked to speak at the Yushan Forum, the Taiwanese government’s annual showcase for their international links. Then, I was worried about the optics of calling out Beijing’s behaviour from Taipei so I pleaded diary difficulties. I didn’t want to be accused of complicating Australia’s relations with our prickly largest customer. But this year,