Posts Tagged ‘foreign service’

Still in business

December 17, 2010

R.O.C. Marine band members

Since my last post, I’ve been busy pursuing my hobby (triathlons / triathlon training), made a quick trip back to the U.S., and as of late, been burdened quite heavily writing papers and presenting on them at grad school.  First, I’d like to talk a little bit about this last point, sharing a little bit of what I’ve been researching, writing about, and presenting on.  I’ll also share what remains “in the hopper” – requirements left to be satisfied before the end of the semester about a month from now.  Be warned: there will also be a fair amount of miscellany tossed in for good measure!

  1. I wrote a paper and made a presentation this week entitled “China’s Rise and the South China Sea.”  I find China’s recent aggressiveness over its claims in the South China Sea to be part of their overall trend toward consolidation of territorial claims, both maritime and land-based (for example, the September 2010 row with Japan over the Chinese fishing boat which rammed Japanese patrol vessels near the Senkaku / Diaoyutai Islands not far from Taiwan in the East China Sea is another example of aggressive behavior over a disputed maritime claim).  While China’s claim of “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea made just after the July ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi made headlines, in fact China has been making the same types of claims about the South China Sea for decades, going back to not long after the establishment of the People’s Republic.  What was significant in China’s rhetoric about the South China Sea this year was the elevation of the area to “core national interest” status, something that heretofore only long-standing PRC irredentist claims such as those involving Taiwan or Tibet were assigned.  Looks to me like China is positioning itself to be more aggressive about the South China Sea, not less.   There is a chance that the paper might be accepted for publication next year in an edited book on topics related to China’s foreign policy produced by my school, National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU), so I will refrain from posting it until that situation is sorted out.
  2. I also participated in the creation and delivery of a presentation this week about Japan’s national security strategy under Koizumi (2001 – 2006).  There was no paper for this project, just the presentation.  It was interesting to me to learn about how much the U.S. has pressured Japan to assume a greater and greater security role as the decades passed after World War II, and to see how changes in Japan’s laws governing overseas deployment of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) marching in lock-step with U.S. overseas wars since 1990.  Today, Japan is assuming more and more of a “normal” role in terms of its own security, though a there is still a long way to go until the process is complete.  It will be interesting to see how far the process goes, and whether or not at some point perhaps in the next decade Japan’s people reach enough of a consensus to make changes to or perhaps eliminate altogether Article 9 of their American-authored post-WWII constitution that currently outlaws Japan from possessing “military” forces and bans aggression as a policy choice.  You can see the presentation here. (Google Docs)
  3. Papers I am still working on this semester include an examination of the continuing utility of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that established the current non-official relationship between the United States and Taiwan when the U.S. decided to switch official recognition to the PRC, another on non-traditional security issues in Southeast Asia (probably focusing on pandemic disease threats and response preparation, since this [East Asia]  is the region that suffered the most in the SARS outbreak back in the early 2000s and has also been subject to not a few bird flu scares).  The final paper will deal in with national security / crisis management, and will likely revolve around a case study of one or both of the Quemoy crises in the 1950s.
  4. I talked in a recent post about deliberations over selecting a thesis topic.  I decided that the anti-access/area denial (A2AD) realm is the one I am truly interested in with regard to China’s military modernization, so that will be what my thesis will be on – the effect of China’s development of A2AD capabilities like the anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) and associated systems on Taiwan Strait security.  At the very least, the Navy guys should be interested in it.
  5. We continue to benefit from NSYSU professors “mining their Rolodexes” when they will be unable to give classes due to international travel or other conflicts.  This week Ambassador Feng Tai (酆邰), formerly Taiwan’s ambassador in Tuvalu and 37-year veteran of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered a talk on crisis management and negotiating skills.  By far the best parts of the talk were when he leavened it with personal anecdotes from some of his own experiences, from hosting the Saudis here in Taiwan in 1990 when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was weighing switching its recognition of Taiwan to the PRC (it ultimately did so) to stories about preparing to negotiate with meticulous and well-prepared Japanese and Chinese delegations on various issues.  Ambassador Feng mentioned that he is weighing retiring from the MOFA next year and going into academia, teaching foreign affairs at a university in Taipei.
  6. Not really related to academic affairs as the rest of this post has been, but interesting nonetheless: last month I traveled to Taipei to attend the U.S. Marine Corps birthday celebration.  The U.S. Marine Corps was established 10 November 1775, and every year about that time Marines pause to remember fondly those who have gone before us.  The interesting part about this year’s celebration here in Taiwan was that it was the first official celebration of any size since the late 1970s when the above-mentioned Taiwan Relations Act was passed.  For decades after the TRA, there were no active-duty U.S. military officers stationed as attaché with AIT.  It was only in 2005 that the first active-duty military folks returned to AIT.  A couple years later, the first post-TRA U.S. Marine attaché came to Taiwan.  Since that time, every year the celebration of the Marine birthday grew a little bit, and now, in 2010, the celebration of the U.S. Marine birthday here in Taiwan (235 years young!) was on par with celebrations held at places with very robust U.S. Marine presences (like Marine bases in the U.S. or Okinawa).  There was one key difference, though – here we were able to celebrate hand-in-hand with out R.O.C. Marine counterparts, who attended in force this year, led by their Commandant, Lieutenant General Hsia Fu-Hwa.  The Taiwan Marines were even gracious enough to offer up their band’s jazz ensemble to provide the music for the event – that’s them in the photo at the top of this post. (Good thing, because we couldn’t make much of a U.S. Marine band here with the two of us, no matter how talented we are!)  I have no doubt that in the future these birthday celebrations will only become more and more like the finer Marine Corps Birthday Balls put on by embassies and equivalent worldwide each November.
  7. Blogroll update: I’m adding the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank that put out a fine report on the future of security in Asia this year, and also China SignPost, an effort by Dr. Andrew Erickson of the U.S. Naval War College and Gabe Collins.  They publish periodic analytical briefs on various aspects of China and the world.  I’ve found especially their report on how China’s dependence on oil imported by sea will only continue to increase, despite efforts at developing overland pipelines.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs speaks at NSYSU

December 2, 2009

Ambassdor Ding Mou-shi (L) and Dean Lin Wen-cheng (R)

Dean Lin Wen-cheng (R) introduces Ambassador Ding Mao-shi (L)

I said I would write about yesterday’s lecture if it was interesting.  I want to share a little bit about it.

First, I didn’t really do Ambassador Ding’s (丁懋時) background justice with my post yesterday (which I can partly attribute to writing it while mobile and not having access to his full bio at the time – what stood out when I read it initially was what I mentioned, that he was Taiwan’s representative to the US).  He’s done a lot more than that, including foreign service in Africa for over 10 years, was Taiwan’s ambassador to South Korea, Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, secretary-general of Taiwan’s National Security Council, and so forth.  You can read all about it here (link to a translated version of his biography on Wikipedia).  His experience in over four decades of foreign affairs work runs the gamut.

Which is precisely why he came to talk yesterday.  His talk mainly focused on the earlier portion of his career when posted in various places in Africa.  He spoke of the various noteworthy things in the numerous countries he worked in or traveled to, referring to Rwanda as the “land of 1000 hills” and mentioned that he saw vast rain forests in The Congo.

He also spoke of some of the challenges he faced, primarily linguistic.  I did not catch how many languages he speaks, but clearly his English is excellent and he is a native Chinese speaker (most of the lecture was in Chinese, but now and again he switched to English for a few words to describe things hard to express in Chinese).  He talked about how he was able to speak with the South Koreans in Chinese and in English.  I would not be surprised, due to the amount of time he spent in Africa and working on Africa issues (such as at working in the Africa Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the early 1970s) if he is also conversant in at least one of the African languages.

Ambassador Ding Mou-shi addresses NSYSU students

Ambassador Ding Mao-shi addresses NSYSU students

All this was essentially a “soft sell” for the foreign service.  Here was an elder statesman of Taiwan, talking to an audience of who could essentially be his grandchildren, about the good things that come from a career in foreign affairs.  He talked about the travel, about learning about other cultures and people, about sorting out language differences and learning foreign languages.  This type of experience will open your eyes to the rest of the world.

But he didn’t make it all sound like it was easy – far from it.  He explicitly mentioned that foreign affairs work is hard and that it is a high-pressure field.  About this, he expressed the sentiment that “hard work is good training.”

National Sun Yat-sen University has these types of lectures and events from time to time and as I am able to attend and discover relevant material, I will treat it here in the future.


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