- Looking North, Looking South: China, Taiwan, and the South Pacific ed. by Anne-Marie Brady, and: Taiwan’s Politics in the Twenty-first Century: Changes and Challenges ed. by Wei-chin Lee, and: Politicized Society: The Long Shadow of Taiwan’s One-Party Legacy by Mikael Mattlin
These three books vary considerably, both in content and in quality. Though disparate, the topic of Taiwan’s politics more or less brings them together, especially if we include Taiwan’s relations with China, the United States, and other countries within that rubric.
The best book of the three, especially in terms of its uniqueness, is Looking North, Looking South, edited by Anne-Marie Brady. The book’s main focus is China’s entry into the South Pacific region, a facet of which is China’s competition with Taiwan. The book’s chapters consider many other aspects as well. It gets off to a bad start with a common stereotype: “China is on the rise.” Therefore, “Taiwan (still formally known as the Republic of China) is on the decline on the international stage” because only twenty-three countries recognize it (Brady, p. vii). In fact, Taiwan’s foreign relations go much beyond formal diplomatic recognition. Taiwan and most of the world’s major and middle powers have large diplomatic offices in each other’s capitals. Taiwan’s contests with China are not a zero-sum situation. The rise of one does not mean the decline of the other.
The South Pacific has fourteen nations, six of which diplomatically recognize Taiwan and eight of which recognize China. Until the diplomatic truce, initiated by Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou in 2008, several of these countries had switched recognition between China and Taiwan. The book begins with a chapter by Bertil Lintner, the well-known Swedish journalist who has contributed importantly to our understanding of Southeast Asia. Lintner’s contribution outlines virtually all of the primary topics that appear later in the book, including early [End Page 367] Chinese settlement in the South Pacific and modern China’s exploitation of resources, especially minerals in Papua New Guinea and the tropical forests of the Solomon Islands. The late Ron Crocombe, in “The Software of China-Pacific Relations,” goes beyond China’s interest in such hardware as raw materials and foreign aid in order to examine issues such as religion, language, the media, and tourism.
James Jiann Hua To analyzes China’s policies toward overseas Chinese, drawing a distinction between the old and the new overseas Chinese. In recent years, the numbers of overseas Chinese have increased greatly as laborers on Chinese projects do not return to China and as other illegal immigration has increased. This has led to considerable crime as well as unqualified, or poor-quality, migrants. Modern science tells us that Taiwan was the original source of all Austronesian peoples, who subsequently settled every inhabitable island in the Pacific. James To reports that the Democratic Progressive Party administration (2000–2008) emphasized Taiwan’s Austronesian links with the Pacific rather than Taiwan’s earlier concerns with overseas Chinese.
Fergus Hanson concentrates on China’s move into the South Pacific, focusing on the eight nations with which China has established diplomatic relations. Hanson’s chapter is particularly devastating in its analysis of China’s foreign aid as unpredictable, poorly designed, and secretive. He also questions the wisdom of China cooperating so closely with the 2006 military coup leaders in Fiji, suggesting that the coup “lacks popular support” and “is not a guaranteed...