This Week in Taiwan 0319-0325

March 20: Former President Ma Ying-jeou will go to mainland China to pay respects to his ancestors from May 27 to April 7. Executive Director Hsiao Hsu-tsen of the Ma Ying-jeou Foundation stated that while there is currently no plan to meet with relevant officials from Beijing, Mr. Ma as the guest will respect the convenience and arrangements by the host. Hsiao also indicated that Mr. Ma is the former president of the Republic of China wherever he goes. However, based upon the understanding that both sides of the Taiwan Strait do not recognize each other's sovereignty but do not deny each other's governing authority, the mainland will continue the precedent of the 2015 meeting between Mr. Ma and Xi Jinping and refer to the former president as "Mister."

The United Daily News cited sources from Beijing that Director Song Tao of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council is expected to meet with Mr. Ma in Nanjing. Wang Huning, the second-hand man with respect to Taiwan and chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, may also meet with Mr. Ma in Shanghai.


March 22: Richard Bush, former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, suggested that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should suspend its Taiwan independence platform. Invited to Taiwan to deliver a keynote lecture, Mr. Bush stated that Taiwan will not benefit if U.S.-China relations continue to deteriorate. He recommended that Taiwan's ruling and opposition party leaders should jointly formulate a set of counter-measures to deal with the challenges facing cross-strait relations and declare that if Beijing insists upon "One Country, Two Systems," then Taiwan will not participate in political dialogue.


March 21: The Office of the President announced that President Tsai Ing-wen will visit diplomatic allies Belize and Guatemala in Central America, make stopover in New York after departure from Taiwan and in Los Angeles on the return trip. The trip will last 10 days and nine nights.

Observers believe that the focus of this trip is to meet with Speaker Kevin McCarthy of the U.S. House of Representatives on the return trip and deliver a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, but this part of the itinerary has yet to be confirmed by the Office of the President. Chairman Mike Gallagher of the House China Select Committee stated on the evening of March 23 that he will accompany Speaker McCarthy during the meeting with President Tsai.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the administration of President Joe Biden is urging China not to use Tsai's visit to the United States as a pretext to escalate tensions. A senior official stated that Tsai's visit to the United States is no different from many previous visits which were free of tension and provocation.


March 22: In order to promote unity and avoid disputes, the Central Standing Committee of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) decided to "recruit" the party's 2024 presidential nominee as opposed to holding a primary election. Mayor Hou Yu-ih of New Taipei is widely believed to be the favored candidate. The DPP caucus of the New Taipei City Council is ready to interpellate rigorously to show that Hou's sights are no longer focused on municipal governance. Chang Ya-chung, principal of the Sun Yat-sen School, issued a statement expressing regret and criticized that a major party does not have the fortitude to hold a primary election.

On the same day, the Central Executive Committee of the DPP reviewed the presidential candidacy registration of William Lai, approving his candidacy and suspending polls for the lone candidate. The Central Executive Committee will officially nominate Lai on April 12 as the DPP's 2024 presidential candidate.


March 23: The Central Bank once again announced an interest rate hike by half a percentage point. Since the start of the rate increase cycle in March 2022, the interest rate has risen five times in a row, which has caused the floor price of mortgage interest rates to return to 2 percent after 14 years. Rising interest rates have also driven the value of the New Taiwan dollar. The Taiwan Machinery Association stated that Taiwan is export-oriented, and the exchange rate has serious impact on the industry. It calls on the government to carefully regulate exchange rates and flexibly adjust rates pegged to the currencies of competing countries. It also advocates that the exchange rate of the Taiwan dollar should be depreciated to NT$32 to US$1.


March 24: The Civil Law stipulates that the party who caused the breakdown of a marriage has no right to file for divorce. The Constitutional Court, Judicial Yuan, ruled the statute partially unconstitutional. The court held that it is obviously too harsh to not allow a party to file for divorce, no matter how long the grounds that make it difficult to maintain the marriage have sustained. It is therefore contrary to the freedom of marriage protected by the Constitution. The court ruled that an amendment is to be completed within two years.


March 24: Former United States National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien visited Taiwan. In a press conference, O'Brien stated that Taiwan should teach all people how to use weapons. If millions are able to use the AK47 rifle, then leaders of the Chinese Communist China may reassess invading Taiwan, effectively deterring China.


March 26: Honduras on March 25 announced the severance of diplomatic relations with Taiwan. In a press conference on the morning of March 26, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu announced the end of diplomatic relations with Honduras, with immediate effect. The Office of the President stated that the switch of diplomatic recognition is part of a series of civil and military threats by China. It expressed strong regret and condemnation of the choice made by Honduras. 

The Republic of China (Taiwan) has 13 remaining diplomatic allies. Paraguay, Taiwan's only ally in South America, will hold presidential elections in April. Observers are concerned whether it may become the "next Honduras." Minister Wu assured that there will be no problem.


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