News, Flashpoints, and Insights for March 2024


There have been few negative repercussions from the January 13 general election in Taiwan – viewed by many as the most significant poll in the territory’s history.  From the split results, both the PRC and the U.S. must be pleased by aspects of the outcome. 

Dr. Lai Ching-te, the candidate of the fervently pro-autonomy party, the Democratic Progressives, won the three-way, presidential race with a 40 percent plurality of the votes.  China had warned that the Democratic Progressives were the “pro-war” party in the race.  However, sources in Hong Kong and Taipei suggested to SocoSIX the view that Beijing’s ire was likely muted somewhat by the following: (1) that the DP lost its majority in the Taiwan parliament; (2) that Dr. Lai did not (immediately at least) reiterate his call for independence, only autonomy; (3) that Dr. Lai was the first Taiwanese president elected to receive less than 50 percent of the votes cast; and (4) that the White House, while congratulating Dr. Lai, reiterated that it supports Taiwan’s autonomy within a one-China framework, and not independence.

Another U.S. Congressional delegation is planning to visit Taipei soon.  A China specialist with a well-known Asian policy think tank suggested that, while this may again stoke China’s anger, for the moment President Xi’s recent shake-up in his military hierarchy and other domestic priorities downplay concerns that he will carry out his stated threat to reunite China by force any time soon.  This analysis is welcome news for most American investors and businessmen, even while this same authority also suggests that these companies and their executives should be actively looking at ways to protect themselves and their assets for the day when the Chinese President feels must play his reunification card.


It surprises no one that the Israel-Gaza war is a time-bomb waiting for some untoward incident to ignite the world into an even more deadly conflagration than it is at present.  The Biden Administration wants to continue to cover Israel’s back, but the longer the war persists, the harder this is becoming.  According to a source in the NSC, there are three main components at play.

  • First, there is CIA Director Bill Burns heroic efforts to knock heads to bring about as extensive a hostage/prisoner/ceasefire deal for as long as possible.  This would give the Israelis, the Palestinians and concerned members of the international community an opportunity to limit the current nightmare facing more than two million Palestinians caught up in the hellish turmoil of death and starvation brought about by the daily loss of families, homes, food, water, jobs, and other basics of life.
  • Second, a ceasefire and amelioration of the hostage tragedy might turn some needed focus on the very real problem of finding a way out of this morass that is workable and feasible.  Our source reminded us that none has been found in more than 75 years.  Thus, we should not expect a solution satisfactory to all parties this time around either (as the UN’s initial partition of Palestine in 1947 demonstrated).  But small steps are better than no steps.
  • And, third, our NSC source, while qualifying her remark to say that she is a career staffer, said that there is a domestic political angle to this war.  She noted that because of the Administration’s bias towards Israel following October 7, the President’s support among the critical Arab-American voting bloc in Michigan has all but evaporated, leaving this critical state the GOP’s to lose in the November election.  This will not deter the President from doing what is necessary to protect American interests, and she cited his plan to issue an Executive Order sanctioning principally extremist Israeli settlers implicated in extra-judicial acts against their Palestinian neighbors in the West Bank as an indication as to how strongly the President feels about our obligations to support the rule of law in contested areas of the occupied territories.

SCOTUS versus Executive Overreach

Businesses which have been impacted unfavorably by what they consider to be unnecessary and costly regulations by any one of 436 federal agencies that handle everything from the environment to cigarette labeling to air traffic control may find significant relief forthcoming, depending on the outcomes of cases the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has included on its calendar for this year.

On January 17, SCOTUS heard oral arguments in two cases involving herring fisheries.  In each instance, the plaintiffs filed suit against a rule issued in 2020 by the National Marine Fisheries Service that requires fishermen to foot the bill for an observer to join them on their boats to prevent them from overfishing.  These plaintiffs – all fishermen — are questioning a 1984 landmark Supreme Court ruling called Chevron USA versus the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) which federal courts have relied upon ever since to empower agencies to issue rules like those of the Marine Fisheries Service which these plaintiffs view as draconian.

Under what is called “Chevron Deference,” Federal courts are obliged to defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous or unclear statute that Congress delegated to an agency to administer if their interpretations are reasonable.  In similar cases that have appeared before it since 2015, SCOTUS has started to tighten its 1984 interpretation of Chevron.  If the current “tea leaves” are interpreted correctly, Chevron might be buried once and for all in the Court’s May/June 2024 rulings — if the Justices’ remarks on these cases thus far are any indication.



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