EXCLUSIVE: India can be more active in the Indo-Pacific, says Taiwan's Rong-I Arthur Hong

Arthur Hong is the advisor of security and defence to TPP chairman

Rong-I Arthur Hong Rong-I Arthur Hong

The Taiwan People's Party will play a crucial role in the coming days and months as Taiwan chooses its next President on January 13. After the democratic process is over, once again the concerns around Taiwan's national security will be centre-stage for the next government as it tries to balance Beijing and Washington. 

Rong-I Arthur Hong, advisor of security and defence to Taiwan People's Party Chairman Ko Wen-je, exhorts New Delhi to play a larger role in the Indo-Pacific region and to strengthen stronger economic ties with Taiwan. "India is not the same as it was ten years ago. It is much wealthier and stronger and regaining international status and prestige. I strongly believe India can be more active in the Indo-Pacific region," he tells The Week. 

Q: What are the key issues for the next government in Taiwan? 

The first thing in national security is our relationships with Washington DC and Beijing. How should we try to strike a balance with Beijing between security and economy? And how do we balance between Beijing and Washington DC? These are the issues people have been trying to answer since the last elections. But we do not have good answers yet. For internal issues or domestic agenda, governance, integrity, transparency, anti-corruption and fake news seem to be ruling the top. And, of course, our economy is still the biggest concern. 

How badly has China’s economy suffered? 

The global economy is not in good shape, so China is not the only country which is not doing well. But there are other countries whose economy has bounced back and is doing quite well. India is one of them. India is becoming one of the major manufacturing partners not only for the United States but also for other Western countries. So India is in very good shape in the transit economy. 

Of course, Vietnam is another good example. For Taiwan's economy, we still have to focus on our energy security. There is a raging debate in Taiwan if we should go back to nuclear energy or stick to so-called green energy? The other big concern is changing demographics and declining economic growth. The generational gap and generational inequality on the Island is emerging as one of the biggest concerns. 

What is your outlook towards India? 

As we can see there are increasing investments from Taiwanese companies in India. And I think we should promote more joint ventures between India, Japan, the U.S. and Taiwan for the consideration of supply-chain resilience. India is not the same as ten years ago. It is much wealthier and stronger and regains international status and prestige. I believe India can be more active in the Indo-Pacific region in many dimensions. Its role in the Indian Ocean is essential and important for our regional security and prosperity 

What were the reasons for a third party, Taiwan People’s Party to emerge? 

The TPP is a small party established in 2019 by it’s chairman Dr. Ko Wen-je, a former Mayor of Taipei. When I met him the first time, he stressed a lot on anti-corruption, integrity and transparency. In a democracy, we can say corruption is like cancer. It is not curable but it has to be manageable. So instead of focusing on wiping out corruption completely, will that be more logical to put human behaviour under control with measures and mechanisms? Ko is more pragmatic and logical and less ideological than traditional politicians. And I think for the younger population it is a good change, which is why he has got a lot of support from youngsters. 

What is TPP’s approach towards China? 

The problem between Taipei and Beijing is not a simple one. And I will say most of the people in Taiwan do not believe or think that war is a mechanism to solve problems across the strait. TPP's approach to China is part of TPP's approach to Taiwan's future. From a pragmatic perspective, the questions we ask are whether independence or reunification is the end, the way, or the means. 

Is there is a must for Taiwan to give an immediate answer to any ideological considerations? Or should we construct a mechanism to pave a pathway of progress for Taiwan and to build a better life for it’s people? Then, our young generations can enjoy stable security, strong and fair economy, and resolute faith in democracy to work for the best of Taiwan's future. 

How do you analyse the threat from China to Taiwan’s democracy during incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen’s tenure? 

I have to say President Tsai carefully and cleverly managed issues for Beijing and for cross-strait relations. She is cautious enough not to embarrass Beijing with unchecked language or uncontrolled anger. Even though she extended a warm welcome to former US speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan, in the meantime, Beijing also understood President Tsai could not have shut the door on her for both domestic agenda and international courtesy. 

We saw great power rivalries throughout the period of tensions till the end of 2021. The lessons are that the cost of changing this dynamic status quo across the Strait is too high for all stakeholders, and an approach of not putting your counterparts in an awkward situation is critical. 

What do you think should be Taiwan’s national security strategy? 

The most important step in national security is a stable economy, shared by Taiwanese people fairly, integrated into the changing global orders and with sustainable developments. The winner of the 2024 Presidential election has to demonstrate an administration of good governance, integrity and transparency in order to strengthen the Taiwanese people's faith in democracy. From the security perspective, re-aligning Taiwanese people's identities and consensus on a mechanism of searching for pathways for Taiwan's future is a must. How to re-construct Taiwan's credible deterrence and re-establish reliable communications with all stakeholders in the region is another must. 

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp