Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Links for Tuesday

Temple celebration in Jhuolan.

Enjoy some links....
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Eric Chu in the limelight

From the most recent TISR poll, the old Global Views survey. Note that satisfaction with Ma is just 12.7%, dissatisfaction at 78%. The DPP approval rating is 43.7% to the KMT's 21.4%

Some good commentary out there on Eric Chu, who is set to become the new KMT chairman next month since no one is running against him.

One thing that has really excited everyone watching is Chu's call for constitutional reform and his support of a national meeting on the matter. Of the two great pieces out today, first read Ben on the Constitutional Reform issue, arguing that the key issue is the Birdcage referendum law, which exists to prevent the public from having real referendum powers. If we see change in that, it might be meaningful. This is important because the mechanism that Chu has proposed to change the constitution is a public referendum, as WantWant reports.

 Frozen Garlic contends in the other excellent one out today:
First, the proposal to adopt a parliamentary system seems extremely hurried and might not be well thought out at all. This is not a minor change. It would impact everything in the entire political system, and we haven’t even begun to think about the first-order impacts, much less the third-order impacts. Moreover, every parliamentary system is somewhat different; there isn’t a simple off-the-shelf model that you can buy at your local Carrefour. It’s one thing to ask for a parliamentary system; it’s quite another to hammer out all the little details. Who gets to have the first shot at forming a coalition government? How will confidence votes be handled? Will the president continue to be directly elected? What happens to the National Security system?
The ROC government was never more than the candy shell over an authoritarian party-state, so making it work as a democracy has always been problematic. Because of this, when links inside the ruling party are poor, the government is even crankier and more inoperable. Commonwealth observed of the KMT's reform moves:
For the KMT to make a fresh start, the new chairman must take big, bold steps to reform. One component of this is for the Central Standing Committee (CSC) – often accused of "sharing business interests with China" – to return to functioning as a platform for diverse opinions.

A former director of the KMT's Organizational Work Committee relates that, among the current 39 members of the Central Standing Committee, apart from seven directly appointed by the party chairman, the other 32 are elected by party members, among which "close to 10 have commercial interests related to China."

The reason such a situation has taken shape is that in China "the title of Kuomintang Central Standing Committee member opens a lot of doors and gets you places, so some people end up competing for seats in order to achieve that type of elevated status," says the source, intimately familiar with the party's workings.

Central Standing Committee elections are frequently plagued by rumors of vote buying. Consequently, when Ma Ying-jeou took over as party chairman he set up the "Zhongshan Council" for direct handling of important party affairs and political decision making. This move effectively relegated the Central Standing Committee, reputedly the party's highest agency of power, to a discussion group that "hears reports" and "makes recommendations."
The Central Standing Committee was full of people like Lien Chan and other core elites who did not like Ma Ying-jeou, hence his relegation of them to secondary status with the ironically-named Zhongshan Council. But this meant that the KMT was effectively split into a pro-Ma inner circle and Ma-Opposed camps, which weakened it, and which Ma institutionalized. Ma's weaknesses are innumerable, but among the most important is an inability to conciliate -- his model for rule, I am ever more convinced, is the dictator Chiang Kai-shek. The creation of competing bodies performing the same function is a classic move of dictators everywhere. The Central Standing Committee's close business links with China are probably what Chu is criticizing when he talks about compradores... more on that.

Chu also said that the current government system means that those who screw-up are not accountable to the people, in which "power and responsibility do not match each other." Its instability is obvious: Ma is on his fifth premier, only one less than Chen Shui-bian, whom he used to criticize for regularly change premiers.

A closer reading of the Commonwealth piece, however, shows that the KMT isn't going to change its cross-strait sell-out policies, nor is it going to change its presentation of them. Su Chi, long close to Ma, is quoted therein:
In cross-strait political discourse, from the Ma Ying-jeou administration's "economics first, politics second" stance during its first term, to "economics only, forget politics" in the second, the administration's total emphasis on economics placed the Taiwanese people's focus on the economic balance sheet of cross-strait interaction. Moreover, the emphasis was placed narrowly on who benefits and who loses out, neglecting the fact that the value of cross-strait reconciliation is not measured exclusively in economic dividends, but also security dividends, international relations dividends, and political dividends.

"Unless this part is explained clearly, misunderstandings result," Su Chi reminds.
The KMT always claims that its pro-Big Business, pro-China policies are rejected because they are not properly explained. The KMT is never actually wrong. It just doesn't communicate well. One wonders, as Froze notes below, how much headway Chu can make against these entrenched interests and attitudes.

Even more fascinating is to watch Chu's "stand" against the "compradore faction" of the party, the big names who have been making the big money off their party connections over the years. Chu has even promised to give the ill-gotten party properties back to the people. Chu complains that the party's policies benefit the rich, recognition that the public perceives the party to be the party of big business. Quite true, but as Frozen Garlic observes, that is where the rubber meets the road.
He said a lot of great sounding things on Friday, but now he will actually have to deal with the consequences of those statements. If he doesn’t do something with party property, people will ask questions. Lien Chan and Wu Po-hsiung aren’t just going to ignore his comment about “compradore-style figures.” Most importantly, Ma Ying-jeou is not just going to yield to Chu’s ideas about economic policies. Chu might complain that Ma’s policies unfairly benefit the richest people, but Ma is still in charge of the government and he doesn’t seem to want to reverse six years of economic “achievements.” The business world isn’t going to sit idly by if Chu tries to change the economic policies they want. They have lots of power within the KMT, and they will defend their interests. Chu is going to have to engage in a full-blown power struggle to force the cabinet to follow his new line. Otherwise, Chu is going to look pretty weak if he, as KMT party chair, is calling for one set of policies and President Ma continues to push ahead with his entirely different political priorities.
Moreover, as Froze notes, Chu's media darling days all over. He'll be a national figure, facing a national media that has deep knowledge of the island's political machinations and little patience with its politicians.

There's been complaints that Chu is just the second coming of Ma Ying-jeou. Chu promised to do something about the party assets -- well, so did Ma in 2009. In fact Ma did as early as 2006, and in 2000 none other than Honorary Chairman Pickled in Brine Lien Chan, when he ran for President in 2000, promised to do the same. In other words, making noises about getting rid of the Party's ill-gotten assets isn't something that one does when one is a reformer. It's part of the package of noises that anyone who assumes control over the KMT and aspires to higher positions must reproduce, because it is a widely supported centrist position, not because they actually mean it. Chu's position on the party assets may well be a signal that he is going to run for President in 2016 even though he insists he is not going to.

Another interpretation is that if a much weaker candidate than Chu runs in 2016 and is beaten, which is highly likely, then Chu will oh-so-sorry have to step down from the KMT Chairmanship to "take responsibility" and what a coincidence, reform will go unaccomplished. Hey, he'll say, it wasn't my fault, we just didn't win the election. So he wouldn't actually have to carry out reform -- not enough time, you know -- but he can still wear the mantle of reformer when he goes into the trenches in 2020 as the Presidential standard bearer. So all this noise he is making now is just positioning...

Of course, he could actually mean what he says....

Indeed, here's an editorial in the pro-KMT China Times from 2009:
Today Ma Ying-jeou is again in charge of the party. He has proudly waved the party flag on behalf of candidates for the year-end elections. When Ma Ying-jeou declared his commitment to clean government and political reform, people were inspired. Political momentum accumulated. But he has now declared his intention to enforce strict party discipline. He has promised that he will strictly punish those who have disobeyed the party decision and run for public offices. But they doubt Ma will hold up if they give him the cold-shoulder treatment. Ma Ying-jeou has been in charge of the affairs of state for a year and a half. He is being pulled in several directions at the same time. He has not demonstrated sufficient courage and determination. As a result, his leadership has been subjected to constant challenges. Candidates for City Mayor and County Executive offices have thrown their hats in the ring without consulting him. Even incumbents who were elected on the basis of Ma's endorsement are ignoring the party leadership, and bent on rebellion. During the party chairmanship election, the turnout in many constituencies was low. The percentage of invalid ballots was high. Quite a few former "Team Ma" legislators with reputations for integrity and many outspoken and forceful County Executives and City Mayors have all gradually withdrawn their candidacies for membership in the KMT Central Standing Committee. When asked why, they replied without enthusiasm, and sighed, "Let him (Ma) find out what it's like to have a Central Standing Committee not consisting of his own people!"
Already by 2009 Ma had alienated the bottom of his own party. Is Chu headed for that? We can only hope.

As I said, the close business links of powerful KMTers with China are probably what Chu is criticizing when he talks about compradores, but let's not forget that Chu's Dad-in-law Gao Yu-ren (高育仁) was a central standing committee member of longstanding with nearly half a century of service to the KMT in various positions. His father is the former speaker of the "Taiwan Province" legislator. Chu is a princeling, in other words (on his mother's side he is from a family of DPP politicians, which may help his relations with that party, and he and Taipei mayor-elect Ko Wen-je are old school classmates and friends of long-standing). But as the national media begins to focus on Chu, these relations -- his father-in-law was forty years in Tainan politics -- and Chu's own deals in the past are going to come under far more heightened scrutiny than Chu may be able to handle.

I'm going to go roast some popcorn now...
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Eric Chu running for KMT Chair

What path will the KMT take?

Current New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu announces he's running for KMT Chair, and denies he's going to run for President. Note how Chu has appropriated many DPP/reform critiques and ideas, including constitutional reform, lowering the voting age, and criticisms of the wealth distribution. Classic move, to yank the rug out from under the opposition by adopting its ideas. Chu is the popular choice of the party faithful and widely seen as the most likely candidate.

The most common complaint at the moment is that Chu is just another Ma Ying-jeou. The complaint that the KMT is too old and needs a younger boost has been a perennial one (remember the SK II movement from 2005?), and Ma Ying-jeou was once the target of appeals from the rank and file. So it will interesting to see how things pan out. Chu is allied to powerful political family, and another common remark on him is that there are some pretty serious skeletons in that closet, the kind that tend to come out in Presidential runs. He might actually be serious about not running, since the recent elections gave the DPP a big boost, and he might not want to lose. But the KMT still has some pretty tempting advantages...


This translation comes from Solidarity.tw. The original post is from Chu's Facebook.

On November 29, the Kuomintang suffered an unprecedented defeat. Citizens used their ballots to unleash a mighty roar, proving we must learn from our mistakes and thoroughly reexamine our direction and administration.

The economy and cross-strait relations were originally the Kuomintang’s strong suits, but following more than six years in power, the public feels its purse strings tightening and unequal distribution of wealth worsening. A market economy that’s lost its way and a political system that’s lost its competence have forced the ruling party to pay a bitter political price. Citizens want cross-strait relations to be peaceful and mutually beneficial, but because of distorted wealth allocation, suspicion of special privileges, and the bad behavior of a few Taiwanese businessmen upon returning to Taiwan, citizens’ dissatisfaction with us has deepened. High property prices, disputes over mandatory twelve-year education, and food safety problems in recent years have made citizens still more anxious, causing them to lose confidence in the government.

As a member of the Kuomintang, I too must take responsibility for this electoral defeat. I have no right to just point fingers at others and forget to examine myself. In city government, I must hew closer to public opinion, use compassion to resolve citizens’ difficulties, and make a greater effort to win the approval of more citizens.

“Do you want to run for party chair or not?” This is a question I’ve had to face every day since the Kuomintang’s brutal defeat.....

Read the rest at Solidarity.tw.
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

KMT Blues

UPDATE: Friday morning -- Eric Chu says he is running for KMT Chair but not president. If he stepped down from running New Taipei City, there would be an election, which the KMT might well lose. Then they would have no major areas in the half year run up to the 2016 election. More later.

Former President Lee Teng-hui called on current President Ma Ying-jeou to step down yesterday....
“Ma is incapable and shameless. He should step down as president,” Lee told reporters while attending the Presbyterian Church’s celebration of its 150th anniversary in Taiwan.
Lee also pointed out, as many have noticed, that the new cabinet is basically the old cabinet minus the premier and Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai, who made herself widely detested.

Lee's remarks, probably deliberately, echoed the language used by Ma Ying-jeou when he called on Chen Shui-bian to step down (video above). A president with 18% approval should step down! he said, a comment that was much derided when Ma's own presidential approval levels tumbled to half that. Ma also said that Chen was incompetent. My how our own words come back to bite us.

The KMT party's big'uns are not declaring their intention to run for Chair even though registration is tomorrow, Friday, Dec 12, and the 13th as well. The election is Jan 17. As I noted after the election, whoever takes the position now will likely have to step down if the KMT loses in 2016. WantWant says:
The bigger party figures seem to be watching and waiting to see what unfolds. The reason for their caution lies in the fact that most of them hold presidential ambitions for 2016 and opting to become chair now might not prove the best move. Such is the situation of Eric Chu, New Taipei's recently re-elected mayor.
The KMT news organ reported that a group of KMT legislators was pushing for Chu.
KMT legislator Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) recently initiated and drafted a circular to prompt New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) to run for KMT chairmanship, and approximately 30 KMT co-sponsored. During a press conference held yesterday, Liao called on Mayor Eric Chu to throw his hat into the ring as Chu had a strong support base among the grassroots, a willingness to listen to public opinion, and the determination to push for reforms. Therefore, Liao said that Chu should stand up and lead the party, adding that if Eric Chu did not make a decision to run, he would collect the application form before the deadline on behalf of Chu if necessary.
It's a classic move among KMTers to pretend that one's supporters have compelled one to run for high office. But there is a perception that Chu will push for "reform", a much bandied about word with no clear meaning -- it is obvious that it will be limited and likely to focus on rebooting the party machine, especially its vertical linkages to local factions and local precinct captains (more on that below). The KMT is simply too invested in its China policies and the structural issues I have discussed at length elsewhere.

According to the WantWant report, current Taipei mayor Hau Long-bin is thinking about running for Chair. Another princeling son, the son of powerful far right dead-ender Hau Pei-tsun, he is usually seen as having little chance of winning a presidential election, though I think people tend to underestimate how his political sense has matured. For one thing, he has studiously avoided say stupid things like Wu in Taoyuan remarking that people who can't afford houses shouldn't buy them, or Sean Lien in Taipei, whose entire mayoral campaign was a mounting crescendo of gaffes. For another, when the Sunflowers occupied the legislature, Hau adopted an equivocal and conciliatory position.

The KMT released its list of reasons it got blown out in the election. The party essentially blamed the media and complacency. Conspicuously absent from that list are its China policy, the princeling issue, and other problems. The "cold treatment" issue there alludes to what I heard from people on the ground in Taipei, who were saying that many of the party's low level people found themselves ignored by the people at the top and middle. This disconnect helped negate the KMT's advantage of a better local presence than the DPP.

Chen Deming, China's negotiator over the Services Trade Agreement, visiting Taiwan this week, said that China will give the STA no more than two years to be ratified, and pointedly refered to the fact that the Korean FTA with China comes into force in two years. That would put Beijing's time limit to coincide with the 2016 presidential race.
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Time for Taiwan: Anytime for Taiwan Contest

This is an NT$2 million contest, with the grand prize of a trip around the world. Here I am promoting and explaining it on FTV.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Human Rights Day Blast from the Past

A Taiwan beer truck at the Miaoli marathon this weekend.

As this blog slowly returns to normal after the election crush, I'd like to observe that today is Dec 10, Human Rights Day, and the anniversary of the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979, a watershed moment in the history of Taiwan. The leaders of the democracy movement in Taiwan, including current K-town mayor Chen Chu, were arrested and imprisoned, and they and the lawyers who defended them, including Su Tseng-chang and Chen Shui-bian, gained lasting fame, becoming stalwarts of the DPP. In honor of their sacrifices, I present this analysis of the 2014 election from "expert" Robert Ross back in 2006 (my blogpost): Taiwan's Fading Independence Movement..
The demise of Taiwan's independence movement has removed the only conceivable source of war between the United States and China. The two countries will continue to improve their military capabilities and compete for influence in eastern Asia, but as the threat of war over Taiwan recedes, they may moderate their defense policies toward each other.
Don Rogers, a longtime researcher on Taiwan, surveyed 941 college students in 2010. He recently put the data up on the China Policy Institute Blog. Read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:
First, it is clear that the students do not believe that Taiwan is part of China. Over 80% of the respondents disagreed with the statement, “Although China and Taiwan have different governments they are still part of the same country.” Additionally, nearly 70% of the respondents agree with the statement, “Taiwan and China are so different that it doesn’t make any sense to discuss unification.” Even students who claimed a dual Taiwanese-Chinese identity made it clear that this does not mean they support unification. More specifically, 91% of the students who expressed this dual identity agreed with the statement, “to say that I am Chinese does not mean that I want to be part of the country of China.” All of these responses provide a very clear indication of the students’ primary identity and attitudes toward unification.
It's hard to imagine that anyone in 2006 could write that the Taiwan independence movement was dead, but there it is. Ross published the piece in Foreign Affairs, which, as I've remarked before, would publish a paper by a hamster, provided it was sufficiently anti-Taiwan.

Even more comical, in its way, is his assertion that Taiwan independence was the "only conceivable source of war between the United States and China"....
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Lost in the Hills of Miaoli

Still recovering, but this weekend I did a lovely long ride in the hills of Miaoli. Got thoroughly lost and ended up being out for a couple of hours longer than I had planned. But it was a beautiful day, and I was in the company of my friend Iris, a strong rider who somehow found it in herself to forgive me for getting her lost. Click READ more to read more...

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Irritant Foreign Policy + Links

Had a great time banging around the hills of Miaoli on Sunday.Hope to get pics up tomorrow, but swamped.

I went to a conference on Saturday hosted by the Taiwan Brain Trust and Project 2049. Bruce Jacobs spoke, and remarked on how the Ma Administration's hysterical reaction to the Korean FTA was part of its strategy to isolate Taiwan from neighbors which might otherwise be in solidarity with it.

To that one could add so many other instances -- the Senkakus with Japan, the entire South China Sea, whose nations otherwise might be in solidarity with Taiwan, the poacher killed in the Philippines by the Coast Guard, and the beef issue with the US. Ma's whole foreign policy approach is based on isolating Taiwan in order to ensure the only answer to the foreign policy question of "Which nation is our friend?" is "China".
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Monday, December 08, 2014

Two from Youtube

Time Mapping Taiwan: Brilliant map of Taiwan over the centuries (Youtube).

Hitler discovers the KMT lost the election (Youtube).
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Perv hunting on the metro

Many people have noticed and commented on these signs in the Taipei metro which assure riders that the restrooms are checked for hidden cameras placed by pervs. h/t for the pic goes to John E.
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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Odds and Ends

A field prepared for planting.

Friend observes: Ma probably won't be able to get anything controversial through the legislature til the end of his term. Yep! This means that his fury and frustration will be largely directed at his own party. I'm thinking Taiwan might actually run out of hot dogs, popcorn, and beer by the time I am through watching the KMT savage itself.

The new cabinet is out, and it is very similar to the old cabinet. Ma has made former Premier Jiang Yi-hwa the Sec-Gen of the Presidential Office. He's not just circling the wagons; he's turtling.

This Apple Daily piece argues that the KMT will effectively lose another 550,000 votes in 2016, when 250K of its old voters will have died off, and another 300,000 young votes come online. As I said, if the DPP performs well and can hang onto those gains -- and their local governance has been good in recent years -- they can pen the KMT up in the north where demographic change will kill it.

Ma is not giving any evidence of willingness or ability to reform -- which is bad in the sense that the DPP is better off with a strong opposition that can keep it honest and hungry.

This possibility of KMT meltdown means that US policy, predicated on KMT dominance that reduces "tensions", and the misinterpretation of Taiwan as the cause of tensions, is rapidly becoming outmoded.

Interestingly, Eric Chu of New Taipei City and Ko Wen-je of Taipei are old friends from their university days.

Interestingly, Eric Chu and Jason Hu former mayor of Taichung were not at the big KMT shindig on Wednesday. Hu has taken a position at Fengchia University in Taichung.
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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Post Election Round up II, Ma Circles the Wagons Edition

Dog finds shade.

Well. My friend Ted reports that on Saturday morning, Judgment Day, when Skynet annihilated the KMT, he was at his brother-in-law's funeral in Hsinchu when the current KMT mayor showed up. The mayor handed out flowers and did the "please vote for me, please vote for me" thing, then left. He was so desperate/thorough, he was visiting funeral parlors the morning of the election (!).

Jon Sullivan and Michal Thim had a fantastic piece in The National Interest about the elections, seeing them as a new political realignment. Don't miss!! Drinking last night with Thim, while I was still sober enough to understand him, he pointed out to me that in addition to the problems discussed in the post below (Blindsided), Ma's preference for appointing academics to top posts means that career KMT politicians don't get the chance to develop governing experience in different offices. Nor, I should add, does it develop a cadre of academics with political experience, since many return to academia rather than continue in politics. It really does nothing for the KMT at all. Sure enough, Ma continued the trend by appointing academic and vice premier Mao Chih-kuo as premier. Taiwan News reports:
...Now several ministers such as current Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih and Interior Minister Chen Chwen-jing who are seen as acolytes of Mao are said to be set to stay on through the Cabinet shake-up following last week’s devastating loss by the KMT in elections. Ma Ying-jeou is apparently confident that the gaggle of Mao followers known as the "Transportation Gang" will be helpful in kick-starting the not-so-all-new Cabinet forming up behind Mao. Legislators on both sides are raising objections, however, saying that the choice of Mao to head a Cabinet that will be largely unchanged is not what Taiwan needs.
The "transportation gang" links to Ma, coupled with the story going around that former premier Jiang Yi-hua is going to be sec-gen of the KMT, means that Ma is moving his people into positions of authority in the KMT and government. Note that Jason Hu of Taichung, the former mayor, is often mentioned as a possible chairman candidate for the KMT. Ma and he are often said to be rivals. Color me skeptical that Hu will take Chairmanship over Ma's objections and Hu's own health issues.

Despite the need for reform Ma is circling the wagons. Not a reformist in sight in the heights of the new Administration. It is behavior like this that makes me suspect Ma's real political model is Chiang Kai-shek, not Chiang Ching-kuo.

This also highlights another structural difference between the DPP and the KMT: generally the DPP politicians are cleaner than those of some other parties I could name if I had better libel insurance. In the DPP anyone can rise to real power anywhere in the nation, and ambitious politicians can carve a path to high office. In that case it pays to be clean. For the KMT... my, it's really cold and rainy outside. What was I saying?

Meanwhile Wu Den-yi continues to provide the awesomeness I expected. I knew his light would shine bright as Acting Chair of the KMT. Solidarity.tw provides the translation:
However, currently when the government does something right no one applauds, and when it does something wrong it’s endlessly criticized, he noted. “This isn’t good—really, it’s like the goodwill between a husband and wife. If the wife is unpleasant to her husband every day, eventually he won’t want to come home, and if he doesn’t come home there’s the danger he’ll take a mistress.”
Yes, watch out people, if you nag too much, the government is going to take a mistress. In case anyone wondered, Wu Den-yi is never going to marry my daughter. Other KMTers were also out in front with wisdom beyond mere human comprehension. Sisy Chen, the talk show host who is allegedly pro-KMT, blamed the Sunflower movement, complaining that: "the country is heading toward wicked democracy and beyond redemption.” Personally I like young people who are wicked and beyond redemption. I hope Sisy can introduce me to some.

Frozen Garlic examines the hypothesis that blue voters stayed home and killed the KMT on Saturday. Inconclusive, alas. So far I've been asking my students from Taoyuan if anyone had seriously suggested that the KMT would lose Taoyuan. So far no one has said they knew anyone who said beforehand the KMT would lose Taoyuan. Interestingly, I had a couple of students complain that Taoyuan has the highest bus prices in the nation, and that the owner of the Chungli Bus Company and Taoyuan Bus Company is none other than KMT Taoyuan County loser on Saturday Wu Chih-yang. True?

The China Post talks about pre-election polls, which stank. This raises yet another KMT competence issue -- how come KMT internal polls didn't show that Taoyuan and New Taipei City were in play? If they did, why weren't they listened to? Did the polls suck or were the politicians complacent? Or did they not even bother with such items as expensive professional polls? Any way you look at it, it doesn't reflect well on KMT campaign management.

There have been a few pieces claiming that the Hong Kong protests drove the Taiwan election outcome, like this one at Foreign Policy that left all us longtime observers shaking our heads. Similarly Kerry Brown, the Aussie academic, sent around a general wince that not only argued that Hong Kong was an influence but that Ma's trade treaties with China are "pragmatic." Yes, it is 2014 and someone out there is still labeling Ma "pragmatic." They're not pragmatic, Kerry, they are ideologically-driven sellouts. DPP policy to keep industries in Taiwan to the extent possible, legalize their operations in China, and expand business across ASEAN, that was pragmatic.

Fact is, the Hong Kong claim is false. Worse than that, it is also a claim made by the KMT's official spokesmen in explaining their election loss. Please stop forwarding that bit of KMT blame-the-depraved-immoral young propaganda. The loss was due to the economy and to awful KMT candidates. No one voting against Wu Chih-yang in Taoyuan on Saturday was checking DPP boxes because of Occupy Central. Taiwan rejected 1C2S years ago and Hong Kong only confirmed what everyone here already knows.

Ben has a good discussion of framing issues in his post Reflections:
This illustrates how intense the battle over just framing the impact, positive or negative, of Ma’s cross strait policies is. For those who dislike or criticise those policies (including myself), a major hurdle has just been dismantling the chimerical aura of legitimacy, success, and authority those policies have been given by a supine international press that has mindlessly repeated the mantra of Warmest-Ever Cross-Strait Ties ™ for the past six years. But were the election results really mostly a protest against Ma and his China policies? I don’t think the evidence is there yet to suggest this is the case, regardless of how much some people would like it to be so...  
Fortunately Foreign Policy made up for that laffer with a good one from Chieh-ting Yeh of Ketagalan media fame on the need for government structural reform in Taiwan. There's been some talk of implementing a parliamentary system...

Unfortunately Washington is still clueless. DPP moves into power at the local level -- they aren't making foreign policy, guys -- but lots of whipped up fear is appearing that ZOMG. IT. COULD. BE. INDEPENDENCE., the DPP could "increase tensions" as Taipei Times reports. The DPP cannot simply declare independence -- with the legislature, the police, the media, the army, and the bureaucracy all controlled by the KMT? C'mon. ADDED: Maddog reminds me that the DPP policy is that a change of status requires a referendum.

Nor does the DPP increase tensions. What poppycock! Folks, China is in control of tensions, and increases or decreases them in order to influence Washington and transfer tension from the Beijing-Washington relationship to the Washington-Taipei relationship. Tensions are a tool of Chinese policy. Every time someone in official Washington refers to Taiwan causing tensions, it's a strategic victory for Beijing. Once again, let's say it:
The cause of tension in the Taiwan Strait isn't Taiwan, but China's desire to annex Taiwan.
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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

BREAKING: MA resigns KMT chairmanship

Ma has officially quit, a day early.

So much damage to Taiwan and to his own party... Break out the hot dogs and popcorn! It's carnival time for KMT watchers.
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Monday, December 01, 2014

Post Election Roundup, WWE edition

A sign that will bring back old Taiwan memories: "edible salt".

Wow... watching the KMT party core meltdown amid a local media frenzy is pure enjoyable spectacle, better than WWE.

The fun begins at the top as Vice Chairman and whatnot are resigning left and right. I updated yesterday's post to note that the KMT charter requires the President to be the Chairman of the Party. Ma thus has a perfect excuse not to resign. Media scuttlebutt says Ma will appoint Wu Den-yi, the current Veep, as Acting Chair (Can this be true? Ma and Wu running things? That's like having beer and pizza delivered to my door every night by the Swedish bikini team). Wu resigned his vice chairman post. As Ben observes today, the chairmanship situation is complicated: the KMT has one chair, a couple of honorary Chairs, 7 (or eight) vice chairs, and three honorary vice chairs. The KMT vice chairmanship has become the Schrodingers Cat of Taiwan politics: you don't know how many there at any given moment until you open the media.

The various KMTers were out there today variously indulging the media with various presentations of their own unvaried greatness. Eric Chu chose to go the Marc Anthony route, saying that if tabbed for the Chairmanship or the Presidential candidacy he'd do his duty for the party. Good lad, that, so self-sacrificing. Chu also complained that the KMT doesn't listen to the young. He's come rather late to that party.

Wu Den-yi, possible presidential contender, told the press about his family background, which was kind of fascinating, actually. He criticized Eric Chu for complacent campaigning and resigned his vice chairmanship in the KMT. Hau Long-bin, mayor of Taipei, who hasn't come out with any egg or mud on his face, also resign the same post. I think he's the dark horse behind Chu and Wu for the KMT presidential nod.

Lien Chan, ever the party loyalist, said that his son Sean Lien's loss in the Taipei Mayor election was all Ma Ying-jeou's fault. Yes, Ma Ying-jeou forced the party to accept Sean Lien as its candidate and then said the other candidate was a bastard who was a closet Japanese and ethnically divisive. Wait... those were Sean Lien supporters Lien Chan and Hau Pei-tsun who said those. Other news reports had Sean Lien's campaign as actually being run at times by his father, Lien Chan.

Hau's accusations about Ko will be replayed on the net if his son Mayor Hau Long-bin of Taipei finds himself getting the presidential nod and Hau is still alive at that point in 2016. Hau Senior did not only hurt Sean Lien.

Maybe Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pyng, who was somebody once, is quietly being nobody. He said the other day he's not saying anything, and not making any predictions. Many have remarked on the vanishing of behind-the-scenes kingmaker King Pu-tsun, Ma's "little knife" hatchet man. Alex Tsai, Sean Lien's campaign manager, has also vanished. People joke that he's run off to China...

The cabinet resigned en masse today, enabling the Premier to resign, leaving the nation without a government. Will anyone notice?

Two tips'o'the'hat today -- one for @FormosaNation on Twitter, who spent this election telling me and Ben Goren that we were too pessimistic and the DPP was going to tsunamify the KMT. He was so right! The other goes out to Ben Goren, whose wide ranging post today is a great roundup of yesterdays events in the ongoing mess at the top of the KMT. Don't miss Jason Hu's f@ck-the-young comments, along with Ben's description of The Death Touch of Terry Gou and of course, (yet another) demonstration of the blatant double standards on China and Taiwan vs China and other countries of our commentating class. Well worth the price of admission.

Frozen Garlic, who is approaching this election like Harry Potter given a mysterious book of new spells, notes that the DPP made big gains in aboriginal townships. Frozen Garlic also looks at the numbers for Taoyuan, though nothing jumps out.

Other analyses: Bruce Jacobs at CPI. Wm Pesek at Bloomberg with another fine piece full of facts: Taiwan needs a reboot. Framing: China Post says it was China policy that cost the KMT the election.

Donovan Smith commented on my post from yesterday on Facebook:
I'll go further and note that back in the 60's and 70's the martial law govt/KMT put a lot of effort into cultivating internationally educated personnel (weighted heavily toward mainlanders) that would eventually become the reformist, less corrupt generation that managed to revive the party's fortunes after martial law ended. But who do they have now to follow them?

The KMT is going to have to change or perish. They're going to have to address some of the issues that Michael brings up, because otherwise, they're not going to have anyone to run with national credibility. If they attempt to continue on their current path through to the 2016 elections, they're going to lose. Once they lose that, combined with the loss of so many local govts, they're going to lose one of the most important assets they've always held: the perception in many people's minds that they are the more powerful party, and always will be. This will be especially true if they lose the Legislative Yuan as well, though they have a good shot at hanging on to that.
If it is numbers you want, Thinking Taiwan has another Insider with a fantastic set of numbers and facts on the election. Ben compares polls with the election reality.

Speaking of facts, some of you out there are saying that's the first 1 on 1 victory of a non-KMT candidate in Taipei history. But AFAIK Henry Gao of the tangwai beat a KMTer back in 1964 for the Taipei mayor slot. Gao's victory led to a massive KMT assault on democracy and independence activists, with over 250 given prison terms, and led the KMT to make Taipei an appointed mayoral position. Yes, Taipei was once a Green redoubt.

Oh, Wuerkaixi of Tiananmen fame is running in 2016 for the legislature in Taichung.

Austin Ramzy with a really good report in the NYTimes, focuses on local issues. Beijing's loss was our gain

The Economist also with some good focus on local factors, including the China trade failure and incomes.  LaoRenCha ranted on its its ridiculous double standards... But Economist claims "DPP corruption" (as fact!) cost the DPP the 2008 election, but assigns problems with China trade to voter perceptions. I can't wait to see Banyan's paean to the misunderstood greatness of Ma Ying-jeou.

Rounding up the reports:
Ralph Jennings in LA Times.
RFA: Taiwan Local Elections to Give Glimpse Into Voters' View of China
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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blindsided: 藍天變綠地 UPDATED X 3

Liyu Reservoir in Miaoli, way below full. Taiwan is in the midst of drought, worsening the haze and smog.

Wow. Everyone went to bed last night stunned. Many people thought Lin might win Taichung (not me, pessimism overcame me, I think), and of course Ko seemed a shoo-in for Taipei and Keelung no contest as well. Changhua was in the polls too. But nobody saw Taoyuan flipping, or Hsinchu City by a nose. Penghu seemed like a surprise, because I read complaints that planes back had all been booked and no one could come home to vote. But it turns out Ko's wife is from there, and she had a coattail effect on things, I heard. But You's fantastic performance in New Taipei City was unforeseen by all as well, except my friend and ICRT reporter Donovan Smith, who warned me that he was going to surprise everyone. I didn't listen.  What a fantastic night!

Out with the old, in with the new, see maps below...

...where, on the left, is the pre-election situation, on the right, the post (map source). Look clearly. The KMT controls -- barely, with a split city council -- New Taipei City. Aside from the built-up areas around Hsinchu city and the science park, the KMT controls a set of underdeveloped rural counties with small and declining populations. Everywhere voters lived in urban settings with strong, deep links to the modern global economy, they stayed home and rejected the KMT. This means, as the Economist noted, 60% of people now live under a DPP mayor.

Frozen Garlic took a first pass at the numbers (I'll discuss those tomorrow), and there are a lot of them. Go and look at his numbers, but I want to comment on his major observation.
Why? Again, these are all guesses at this point. I wonder if this has to do with urban labor forces. I think this pattern is compatible with the idea that the crucial group withdrawing support from the KMT is the lower income, renting, predominantly younger, wage labor or low-salaried labor force.
Froze interprets this as largely an anti-KMT vote, which it seems to most observers, including my very pudgy self.

I don't think we need analyze Taipei, where Sean Lien ran a beautifully awful campaign. But Taoyuan was really a shock. Last night everyone saw the DPP candidate up 30K and said "That's nice, but it won't last." Ha! A night when being wrong was sweet. But why?

Two major factors. The first, my man Frank M pointed out to me, is the Taoyuan Aerotropolis, a KMT construction-industrial state giveaway to China and to big development firms, which is a giant tumor that is swallowing ever more lumps of land. It's deeply unpopular. The week before the election a Taoyuan District Court judge wrote a blistering expose of it for Apple Daily. A while back J Michael Cole wrote a blistering expose of the mainstream media's failure on it. There were also other land scandals, like the Farglory mess, that were damaging to the KMT candidate, John Wu, son of Wu Po-hsiung, longtime KMT heavyweight.

A second issue is the internal migration/demographics that Frozen Garlic alluded to. There's been a massive movement out to Taoyuan and New Taipei City of people who can't afford to live in Taipei. This floating population is shut out of social mobility in the KMT's finance-driven, China-dreaming 1% looter economy, symbolized by the Taipei Housing Bubble, which, like the Blight from A Fire Upon the Deep, is slowly engulfing the known universe. That housing bubble, like all bubbles, exists to rob the middle class of its savings. It is inexorably re-arranging living patterns as people move out of Taipei in search of cheaper housing elsewhere. Moreover, Taoyuan is growing fast and sucking in young people from all over Taiwan. I talked about these demographic changes on the blog before, I think, but I didn't really expect them to be a factor for at least another election cycle.

It was the land issues and that demographic shift, coupled with a congealing of support for the KMT in this very anti-KMT election that I believe brought about a flip in Taoyuan. Now let's hope that the new guy can stop that Aerotropolis.

Kerim Friedman of Savage Minds sent this around. Map by Zhen Hong-lai.

Geographic, Generational Gaps Yawning in the KMT
Haha. Early in the vote count, as it became clear that all those KMTers who said they were staying home really did stay home, Luo Shu-lei, Sean Lien's Taipei attack dog, called on Ma to resign. Ma has promised a major speech for Wednesday, and there is a KMT central standing committee meet the following Wednesday. Get out the popcorn, boys, because the top of the KMT is about to become a snakepit, with all those vice chairman competing for the top position (Taichung loser Jason Hu says he won't resign his vice chairmanship post).

Major local papers are saying Ma will resign as KMT Chair, with Taiwan News reporting in English that both he and current Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin will resign their party positions. Most everyone said/thought on Saturday he wouldn't resign as did I, I just figured he go into his usual Saruman in Orthanc mode. But when Premier Jiang Yi-huah resigned, I assumed Ma was setting Jiang up to become the KMT's Chairman if/when he stepped down, so Ma could run things from behind Jiang.

If Ma succeeds in levering Jiang into the KMT chairmanship, we can settle back and watch Ma do more grievous harm to the KMT. Remember his vicious campaign against Wang Jin-pyng. That was Ma the Pragmatic Technocrat at his best.

Yes, I can't resist another laugh at the international media. Ma the Pragmatic. Bwahahahahaha!

The DPP's easy victories in the south are horrible news for the KMT. I think not many people have realized their implications for the national races.

Let's consider Su Tseng-cheng, the DPP stalwart. Su was County Chief in Pingtung and then went up north and became County Chief of Taipei County. Or Su Chia-chuan. He was County Chief in Pingtung and then went up to Taichung to barely lose an election for Mayor to Jason Hu.

If you are a DPP politician and want to acquire a national power base, you can run anywhere in the country and can acquire personal contacts and name recognition in heavily populated areas. If you are a KMT politician, however, you are locked out of the big southern mayorships and county chief seats. You can only win in less populated marginal counties like Miaoli and Taitung, outside of the north, assuming the DPP's victories hold up over time. Taitung's population is a mere 230,000, lower than in 1980, in fact. That's about as many people as in some apartment buildings in Taipei...

That means that, for probably a decade, no national level KMT politician can gain a large power base in the south of personal contacts, or develop administrative experience, or become nationally prominent, via the south. At the national level -- if the DPP can make some of these victories hold up -- the KMT is going to be a mere northern party with a few mountain appendages for some time to come. Where are they going to get seasoned politicians with broad national experience from? Worse, running places like Nantou and Miaoli doesn't exactly leave one with a reputation for clean politics... ditto even if they retake Changhua, whose politics are so dirty they can be used to generate topsoil.

This is seriously bad news because the KMT, unlike political parties in the US, has no system for making local politicians into national figures. In the KMT local faction politicians can never rise above that level to national prominence, the national party run by the mainlander core does not permit it. The only way to become a national figure is to make your way into the ruling caste, or be born into it. Hence those faction politicians in the south will never make it above the legislator level. Any KMT political talent born in the south dies there.

So to that shrinking caste presence which I have already discussed, add this contraction of KMT positions for grooming new talent. The loss of Changhua, Taichung, Keelung, Hsinchu City, and Taoyuan were disasters, reductions in the places where the KMT can groom new talent. If the DPP can retain one or two in the next election, especially Changhua, Taichung, and Taoyuan, then it can really hurt the KMT's talent base and further pen it up in the north, where demographic change will finally kill it.

The election was also a disaster for KMT up-and-comer Eric Chu, who barely beat You Shyy-kun in New Taipei City, a shocking outcome few foresaw. Chu has affirmed that he will not step down in 2016. It's easy to see why. As a longtime observer pointed out to me, just as the 1997 DPP victories helped pave the way for Chen Shui-bian in 2000, so these victories will make it that much more difficult for the KMT to win in 2016. If Chu comes out as the candidate, his chance of losing has palpably increased. Why risk it? He'll likely wait til 2020.

He might wind up as Chair, though. But then again, he might not -- the 2016 DPP advantage means that if the KMT loses the 2016 election, the Chair will likely have to resign. That will figure into the calculations of politicians seeking that office. If Chu does not run, the likely candidate will be someone much less popular, and thus, even more likely to lose, like current veep Wu Den-yi, current Taipei Mayor Hau Long-bin, or not-current premier Jiang Yi-huah. Which means it is even more likely that the Chair will have to resign. The DPP victory has avalanched a cascade of hurts on the KMT.

The selection of Yang Chiu-hsiung to run a hopeless race in Kaohsiung was another signal of KMT problems. Yang was a traitor, foredoomed to lose badly. Why not get someone down there to run a real campaign and maybe pull up local politicians' chances? Get some new guy some practice, out in front of the public. Despite the fall in turnout in Kaohsiung Chen Chu actually increased her total vote count from 2010, the public there was so un-enamored with the KMT. Yang was a giant middle finger to everyone who has served the KMT loyally down there, just like Sean Lien was a giant middle finger to the KMTers in Taipei, especially to longtime loyalist Ting, who would have won the mayorship handily against Ko.

My friend Drew Kerslake joked that in 2016 candidates from both the DPP and the KMT will be running on "I was opposed to Ma before anyone else was" platforms...

Now the pressure's on the DPP to produce...

UPDATE: Taiwan observer extraordinaire Michal Thim responded to me in chat:
i think that Chu is still in play for 2016, for simple reason, who else? and one possible explanation of his underperformance is that many of his voters stayed home, being confident their guy will win anyway...also, he under-performed but in the larger context, he excelled just by keeping his seat... also, if Tsai wins, she will be incumbent in 2020, and so far every incumbent got re-elected
Good remarks. I wasn't clear. I think it is a disaster for his presidential prospects, since he was the frontrunner. mea culpa.

UPDATE 2: Josh Ellis remarked on Google+
Another factor that caused John Wu to be defeated here in Taoyuan was his prince-like attitude when discussing the skyrocketing housing market. His statement: "If you can't afford a house, then don't buy one" (”覺得房貴不要買“) infuriated a lot of people in the county and Cheng the DPP candidate pounced all over it and used it to his advantage.

UPDATE 3: Ha forgot this. KMT amended Charter last year in Taichung meeting to say President must be Chair and when KMT President is sworn in s/he automatically becomes chair. From the KMT media organ:
1. An Amendment to Article 17: In order to coordinate the KMT and its ruling presidency more closely, Article 17 was amended to mandate that any KMT President elected in the future doubles as KMT Chairman. In the future, whenever a KMT member is elected as President of the Republic, he/she will automatically assume the party chairmanship when he/she is sworn in as President.
It's the excuse Ma needs to remain as Chairman.
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