IPCS Interaction with Taiwanese Delegation
Critical Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security in the China-Taiwan Context
Report of Interactive Discussion held at the IPCS on 5 April 2011
Chair: Maj. Gen Dipankar Banerjee, Mentor, IPCS
Prof. Wan Hang-Kuo, Fo Guang University, Yilan
Prof. Shen Ming-Shih, National Defense University, Taipei
Dr. Su Yi-Yuan, Zhongxin University, Taichung
Speaker: Dr. Su Yi-Yuan
A significant concern amongst the Taiwanese strategic community is that the government of Taiwan has not yet defined what critical infrastructure (CI) is domestically. Since it is a matter of national significance, it needs to be prioritized. Many prominent research organizations and analysts are trying to gauge the CI requirements and existing facilities in the realm of national security, national economic security, national public health and safety. The aim of this endeavour is to learn from various industrialized nations and adapt their frameworks by moulding them to the domestic needs of Taiwan and also in accordance with the geographic and climatic conditions in Taiwan.
Some of these scholars have suggested a massive revamp in the current structures of CI particularly in the eight categories of energy, water supply, information and telecommunication, banking and financial services, central government institutions, emergency services and hospitals, transportations and hi-tech industrial parks. The researchers also found some sectors which elicited overlapping concerns for homeland security forces, which make it difficult to demarcate responsibility and accountability. Meanwhile, the Taiwanese government is cognizant of risks from natural disasters, anthropogenic negligence, technological limitations and perceived military threats from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Climate change can be identified as an issue of prime significance as it is closely connected to the health security system and any mismanagement in this regard is likely to cause a destabilizing impact on the infrastructure in Taiwan. Climate change also augments the level of the impact of natural disasters. To avoid negative repercussions scholars have suggested a four-pronged approach: (a) identification of vulnerable infrastructure (b) review of its security (c) prioritization and (d) preparation of adaptation measures.
Another major concern is the state of water resources. While there is less water available during spring and winter, on the other hand the island nation faces massive typhoons during summer. Moreover, there is a rapid-run off during the rainy season which makes it difficult to sustain a ground-level water harvesting system. Sea-level rise also affects the facilities in coastal areas. Deteriorating quality of water also affects the nature of services provided by the government.
Meanwhile, larger concerns emerge from the fact that there are no attempts at scenario building on climate impact in Taiwan currently. There is no established flood defense plan and nor are there any adaptation measures stipulated for climate change.
Besides the concerns on water and climate change, accumulation of sufficient energy resources for its economic growth also remain a huge responsibility for the Taiwanese government. 98% of Taiwanese energy is dependent on imports and thus any disturbance in the supply chain can bring the economy to a standstill. The most prominent challenges to energy accrual come from natural disasters (great potential of tsunamis devastating the coastal regions) and terrorist attacks or piracy. Non-traditional threats buttressed with possibilities of supply failure or shortage of oil and gas aggravate the government’s anxieties.
• Out of the 98.7% energy imports, 33% are accrued from Australia. While, the contribution of People’s Republic of China in Taiwan’s energy basket has been decreasing over the previous decade, plummeting from 10% to 5%. Taiwan is more concerned about the news of increased nuclear reactors in the Fujian province of China opposite Taiwan. Some 17 new reactors out of 50 odd in China by 2050, are proposed in this province alone and any accidents here could conceivably have an impact on Taiwan, nearby. In the wake of the Fukushima incident, cross-straits dialogue has now been initiated to increase transparency and have better alert systems. Meanwhile, Taiwan is currently trying to develop indigenous technologies to reduce its dependence on other countries for energy, especially through nuclear plants.
• Nuclear issues are also treated as issues of national security in Taiwan. The Straits Exchange Foundation of Taiwan in its dialogues with mainland China’s Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) has tried to bring pressure on China to maintain transparency in its energy and nuclear issues but has have not been able to achieve much so far. Taiwan has learnt and borrowed most of its nuclear technologies from the US and is currently not engaged in any projects with the mainland. Neither is there any critical infrastructure project where mainland China is engaged in Taiwan.
• The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement is a structural agreement which has not come into force on the ground and there are major concerns regarding intellectual property rights on both sides. High-end technology transfer restrictions exist between the mainland and Taiwan even though many supply chains have been shifted from Taiwan to mainland China. The components of the hardware sector are directly imported into China from primary sellers like Japan.
• For the purpose of improving protection of CI, there is an emphasis on scenario-building with respect to PLA military action. Taiwan is eager to build its military capabilities – both defensive and offensive – and to reduce its reaction time for any unanticipated attack.
• The great 1999 earthquake on Taiwan was the first time when the defence forces were used in a natural disaster management. However, during peacetime, the major function of the armed forces is maintenance of law and order and avoidance of chaos. There is also a strong realization that the PRC can at any given point of time degrade Taiwanese infrastructure at multiple levels through various strategies as they have a huge corpus of talent in computer sciences and space research.
• Taiwan faces some one million attacks on its cyber information networks everyday which are routed through different channels and services all over the world but can be mainly traced to the Chinese authorities. There is speculation that China possesses a 300,000-strong ‘cyber army’ under its military apparatus which is instrumental in these attacks.
• A major source of concern attached with climate change is the spread of disease. Taiwan has suffered a lot due to disease outbreak seasonally, but it does not have the required infrastructure to tackle the problem. Scientists and academics are involved in studying the patterns in outbreak, collecting data on climate change and its correlation to public health and coming up with medical and legal solutions to these problems. So far however, public awareness is limited to dealing with and combating the effects of heat waves.
• For protection of CI, Taiwan is currently 20-30% prepared in terms of infrastructure, however, more efforts are needed in the future to enhance its capabilities. While the US has a National Infrastructure Protection Plan, Taiwan has a corresponding Critical Infrastructure Protection plan.
• It would also be in best interests of India and Taiwan to cooperate in CI developments. But this has to be attempted without antagonizing China given its sensitivity on issues related to Tibet and Taiwan.
Report prepared by Bhavna Singh, Research Officer, IPCS