Friday, October 21, 2016

A Hotel Occupancy Carol

Slurping down slushies at one of the mountain bed and breakfasts where no tourists are going now.

I was going through a long dark night, listening to James Brown and Aretha Franklin in the bowels of my study. My second bottle of Laphroig had reached the halfway mark and I was despoiling my cupboard in search of a third bottle when I heard the faint scritch-scritch of scrawling on a notepad.

"Who is there?" I called, turning halfway.

A transparent figure appeared, filling my study with the stink of cheap beer and testosterone. It looked up from his notepad, and tucked in its shirt. A bottle of San Miguel slid down its trouser leg, and rolled out onto the floor, spilling beer everywhere. It peered balefully but uncertainly at the enormous collection of Taiwan history books and articles in my library, obviously unfamiliar objects to it. Then its horrible haunted face turned to me.

"I am the ghost of international journalists long gone!" it moaned, its eyes afire as it glared at me. "Tonight you will be visited by three ghosts! Pay attention and learrrrn, or you are dooooommmmeed!"

Then it vanished in a haze of sulfurous smoke.

I shrugged, and sat, addressing the bottle of whiskey once more. The clock on the wall would have ticked, but it was digital, so I was sitting in silence undisturbed when suddenly they were there, a horde of ghosts crowding into my study. Dressed in colorful shirts with flowers, baggy pants, and cheap black shoes that were little more than slippers, they flooded into my living room, accompanied by the unmistakable smell of diesel fuel. Coins clanked in their pockets.

In an instant the room was full. I watched in horror as they scrawled their names on my paintings, urinated on my couch, defecated in my sink, and cut the leaves of my potted plants into the shape of the South China Sea. As they clustered around my chair, I realized they were trying to communicate with me. They made a eerily familiar noise, like someone trying to speak Chinese and swallow marbles at the same time. Finally, after loud argument and much gesticulation, they located a ghost who could speak English.

"Who are you!" I challenged.

"Weee are the ghoosts of Chinese Tour Groups paassssttt," the ghost hissed back.

"Why have you come to disturb my repose?" demanded I.

"To tell you of what has gone beforrre." He crooked a long-nailed pinky at me. "Tonight you will learn the errrrror of your wayssss, Obserrrrve the efffffect of our disssssappearance on your puny economy!"

Suddenly I was transported into a dark hallway. The pale shapes of bureaucrats wound their way past me in the halflight, knives sticking from their backs. Next to me the tour group ghosts pushed their way up to the front of the lines, their coins clanking loudly, moaning about the service. Statistics of monthly report of operations of tourist hotels flared before my eyes, from January of 2016:

Taiwan Total Scenic Areas
num of rooms occupied 553,869 45,977
occupancy rate 64.89% 58.39%
avg room rate 3760 5087
room revenue 2,082,643,603 233,894,481
F and B revenue 2,885,652,411 132,676,771
Total 5,574,301,748 400,903,796

"Remember! You will be visssssited by another beforrrre the clock sssstrikesss thirrrteeeeeen!!" The ghost warned as he faded. A final moan came from him... "Can't you give me a better deal on this statue of Chiang Kai-shek?" I heard him say.

I threw the empty bottle of whiskey at him as he disappeared.

I returned to my previous task, the ghosts already forgotten. The cupboard had just revealed itself to be bare of whiskey when I heard a giggling sound. I turned.

A girl half my age stood there, blinking in and out of existence. Short, she was dressed in the latest Japanese fashions, an American baseball cap turned backwards on her head, and a red Jack Wolfskin backpack slung over one shoulder. She grinned, revealing perfect white teeth, then strode over and punched me chummily on a bicep.

"Hello there! It's so great to be traveling in China's Taiwan!" she cried. "I am the ghost of Chinese individual travelers present!"

I searched my study for some means of escape, for I did not want to argue with a woman, but she was between me and the door. I noticed with alarm that she was growing visibly in front of me. Already she had reached my chin.

She punched me again, still grinning, and suddenly I found myself in Taipei Main Station. Travelers brushed past me, intent on catching a train. I looked up at the big brown board, and saw the statistics for Aug of 2016:

Taiwan Total Scenic Areas
num of rooms occupied 554,578 49,731
occupancy rate 64.44% 58.63%
avg room rate 3875 6411
room revenue 2,148,794,875 318,845,129
F and B revenue 1,853,805,182 138,810,765
Total 4,543,186,674 503,566,089

"See! she cried. "China has punished China's Taiwan province severely! Overall occupancy rates for tourist hotels have plummeted 0.45% in August!" A half a meter taller, she grinned down at me more broadly, continuing. "And in scenic areas occupancy rates have negatively declined compared to January, from 58.39% to 58.63%, with room rates negatively declining from $5087 NT to $6411 NT and revenues falling upward from $400 million to over $500 million!" Now a meter taller, she punched me again. "Can't you feel the pain?" she cried. I rubbed my shoulder, already swelling purple. I nodded, blinking back tears. I could indeed feel the pain.

Her head reached the ceiling, and she vanished. I rubbed the bruise again, then downed the last of the Laphroig, now righteously medicinal.

Suddenly I heard a faint jostling in the air.

"Who is there?" I mumbled.

Faint voices, echoing as if from a vast abyss. "Wee arre the ghosssts of Chinesssse tourrr groups in the futurrre..."

But they never appeared.
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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Surveying the cratered landscape of Taiwan's tourism industry

My friend Dom peers out over the ruins of bed and breakfasts strewn across the hills of Miaoli

It's said in the media, so it must be true. A recent iteration:
Since the May inauguration of the new president Tsai Ing-wen from the anti-mainland side of Taiwanese politics, China has turned off the tap. Chinese group tours are down 40 per cent, hitting the central and southern regions of the island hard.
Skipping over the extremely stupid formulation "anti-mainland", let's see how hard hit our island has been.

Although they are not used by the international media in reporting on Taiwan tourism, the government does collect piles of stats on what is happening in the industry on the BuTourism website. The Sept tourist arrivals stats are not out yet, but the number of hotels/room data is out. Let's look at the devastation wrought by the loss of the stingiest, most unremunerative, most widely disliked tourists in Taiwan, Chinese group tourists.

The government collects data on legal and illegal hotels and rooms across Taiwan. Yes, that's right, it knows where all the illegal ones are, it just does nothing. Here are the overall data for January of 2016:

Estblmnts rooms operators
Legal 6153 24840 6805
Illegal 428 2499 462
Total 6581 27339 7267

You know what happened, of course. Catastrophe occurred, we know that because the media has assured us. Here are the September numbers:

Est Rooms Operators
Legal 6863 27743 7881
Illegal 440 2531 468
Total 7303 30274 8349

As anyone can see, the total number of establishments plummeted from 6581 to 7303, the total number of rooms collapsed from 27,339 to 30,274, and the total number of operators fell from 7267 to 8349.

O wait, did I write plummeted, collapsed, fell? Sorry, writing under the influence... of the international media.

I meant, grew, increased, rose. These tour establishment operators are so stupid, they didn't even know that they were in a state of alarming decline and expanded their facilities. These Taiwanese, don't they know their own country?

But... but... surely the rate of increase fell off... Total numbers for the same period from 2015:

Jan '15 5722 23814 5897
Sept '15 6263 25997 6787

Yup, the nine month period ending in September, 2016 saw a greater rise in total number of establishments and rooms than did the same period in September, 2015. The devastation was immense, clearly.

But... but... tourist areas were hard hit, right? Nantou, 2016:

est rooms ops
Jan 642 3120 673
Sept 675 3242 728

Nantou, 2015:

est rooms ops
Jan 615 3012 619
Sept 627 3050 648

This is so... heartbreaking. In 2015 in this period, Nantou added 12 establishments and 38 rooms. In 2016 in the same period it added just 33 establishments and 122 rooms. 

Sorry, I have to stop writing now. It's too painful to keep exploring this swath of destruction any further.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

LOLz from Reuters on the defeat of Gambling referendum in the Penghu

Three former students I miss very much show off curry cooked by Indian students for one of the campus festivals.

With the sound of that train wreck that is the US election crescendoing across the Pacific, it's always fun to explore what our unbiased international media is feeding us. Reuters reports on the crushing defeat of casino gambling in the Penghu referendum on Saturday...
Taiwanese residents in Penghu on Saturday shut the door to casino development in a referendum that proponents had said would bring jobs to the isolated, tiny, offshore archipelago. [no presention of case of opponents of gambling]

The referendum to allow gaming, open only to residents of the outlying county just west of the main Taiwan island, was opposed to by the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). [...just so you know that the DPP is opposed to "development"]

"The focus is not gaming, it is our dissatisfaction. We have a small population, few votes, no influence," a voter who gave his surname as Hsiao told Reuters. [no comments from opponents provided. No explanation of why the referendum was defeated is ever given, let alone why it was defeated so crushingly]


The concerns of Penghu, with a population of around 100,000 against the 23 million national total, are part of the bigger economic divide that has seen Taiwan's second-tier cities and its offshore counties lag in resources and development compared to the wealthier metropolis areas of the north, including the capital Taipei. [no mention that this divide is the result of the deliberate policies of the former ruling party, the KMT, nor that the DPP has pledged to address this divide. Why is this paragraph here and not further reporting on the casino referendum and gambling in Taiwan? The answer is below...]

Last month, local government officials representing eight Taiwanese cities and counties, mainly ruled by the opposition China-friendly Nationalists, visited China and met with its top Taiwan policymaker in a bid to continue economic and cultural exchanges.[We segue directly to the local official kowtow to Beijing... what on earth do these visits have to do with a casino gambling referendum in the Penghu...? Nothing at all! Their inclusion, rather than more robust and detailed reporting on gambling in Taiwan, shows how the piece attempts to be a hit piece on the Tsai Administration. Gambling in Penghu was/is a long-term plan unrelated to this recent event.

China has frozen official communication with Taiwan since President and DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen took power in May because she refuses to acknowledge the "one China" principle, agreed to with the previous China-friendly Nationalists that allows both sides to interpret who rules a single China that includes Taiwan.[a plain error, Beijing has never agreed to that -- the "two interpretations" claim is merely KMT propaganda, and one the ruling party has been debating. However, 1C2I has become a Media Fact, existing only in the media bubble world, and there is no stopping its constant repetition, like so many Hail Marys on the geopolitical rosary.]

China deems Taiwan a wayward province to be taken back by force if necessary and deeply distrusts the DPP, which traditionally advocates independence.[Look how far we have strayed from gambling, into geopolitics, though no concrete connection to the Penghu was ever offered -- now we are told that China distrusts the DPP -- of course never how Taiwan feels about the CCP, though there is copious polling on many angles of that. But why are we even given this information?]
If anyone wants information on the referendum, consider Matt Fulco's report in Nikkei Asian Review:
Yan plans to vote "no." In his view: "Casino resorts will drive up land prices, making housing unaffordable for many residents. Besides, most people in Penghu can get by on their earnings from the high season and tourism has been growing."
Those three sentences contain more useful information than the entire Reuters report. The Taipei Times report, which notes that gaming legislation would not have passed the legislature, observes:
Chen Kuang-fu [Penghu county chief] said the county is moving forward and he hopes the central government would amend flaws in the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例), which he said is an ongoing point of contention between Taipei and the local government that arises every three years to the detriment of the county.
The China Post report is actually clearer: Chen was complaining that because changes to the Offshore Islands Development Act were made to enable the gambling referendum, every three years there is a divisive vote on the issue that is bad for public unity. The gaming industry's local promoters have promised not to have another referendum in three years' time.

It is also important to note that the groups behind these projects are the same groups that at various times have pushed for the Penghu to become some kind of cross-strait transshipment center for people and goods, and similar. China has indicated that it will not tolerate a Taiwan-based competitor to Macao, so this casino would have been aimed at other tourists, though most likely it would have become just another heavily subsidized way for elites to transfer wealth from Taiwanese to themselves.

In 2009 I observed, fearing that the gambling would pass...
Just as an example of what's happening, AMZ Holdings, a property development firm, holds the largest single plot of land in the Penghu, a 27 acre property that it hopes to develop into a gaming resort. Their website about it is hereThis discussion of the value of the firm notes that the land is worth $46 million even without the resort, and that the acreage was assembled by purchases from over 280 landowners over eight years. That's $46 million dollars of irresistible pressure on local governments... another news report says that Lawrence Ho, the son of Macau kingpin Stanley Ho, is looking to expand into the Penghu if the Beijing government gives the ok signal.
Despite savage repression of anti-gambling arguments in the media and in public meetings by the local government and KMT officialdom, that referendum was shockingly defeated. Looking back, that may have been the inflection point in growing opposition to the KMT by social movements and their supporters.

Thanks, Penghu, for that vote, and for this one.
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Gambling referendum in Penghu

A 1930s house outside Shihgang

Gambling referendum: Matt Fulco gives the background on the Penghu gambling referendum in Nikkei Asian ReviewPresident Tsai opposes gambling in the Penghu. Opponents note that the wording of the referendum is misleading (who could have imagined that in a referendum involving gambling?). Early returns suggest that it is being crushingly rejected. UPDATE: Yup. Crushingly rejected.

KMT lawmakers are concerned about the purported meeting of KMT Chairman Hung Hsiu-chu and Xi Jin-ping, the president of China, as the KMT continues its internal squabble over the direction of the party. New Bloom talks about the proposed meeting here.

IMPORTANT: JapanFocus on Taiwan's energy situation and prospects for renewables, but it doesn't matter because the DPP totally screwed up the power reforms. Damn.
Academics yesterday criticized the Executive Yuan’s policy stance on a draft amendment to the Electricity Act (電業法) as a “great” setback for the government’s policy to liberalize the nation’s electricity industry.

“The government’s stance represents a policy U-turn, because Taipower [Taiwan Power Co (台電)] would still monopolize the industry,” said Kimmie Wang (王京明), research fellow at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research’s (中華經濟研究院) Center for Energy and Environmental Research.

The proposed amendment would make no difference to liberalizing the industry, because non-renewable energy firms are still not allowed to enter the market to compete with Taipower, he said.
Taipower hates renewables, so this change has basically killed renewable energy-oriented reform.

IMPORTANT: On the other hand, AmCham lauds the Tsai Administration for changing the rules to make government more open.
In an executive order likely to have far-reaching implications in improving the transparency and effectiveness of Taiwan’s regulatory process, the Executive Yuan in early September issued a directive extending the notice and comment period for proposed regulations from the current 14 days to 60 days.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Rounding up a lost week...

Waiting for cars to pass around a landslide blocking the road.

AMPHIBIOUS EXPEDITION: Last week I worked like a dog to get all my work done so I could take a bike vacation on the east coast. And the heavens opened... I've never seen so much water on the east coast. Three typhoons followed by the torrential rains left Highway 11 waterlogged and encroached on by land and rock slides. In one place, pictured above, the road was completely knocked out. Our amphibious expedition rode through streams that had broken down walls and through earth barriers to flood the road. It rained steadily, but it wasn't cold, so it was actually an enjoyable challenge, til my old tire finally gave out. So we hung out in the sleepy fishing port of Chenggong for a couple of days instead of biking. Restful, but not very good for my waistline...

An area of Chenggong fishing port. This was dug out by hand in the Japanese era, my friend Jeff who lives there told me, and the dirt piled around it to form the berm that protects it.

FOOD WARS: Last week I was in Jhuolan having lunch at a Vietnamese place when a man walks in. He orders soup and the proprietor begins cooking it. He watches as she removes the herbs and spicy stuff. "Hey!" He says. "Why are you taking that stuff out?" "It's spicy," she replies. "I didn't think you'd like it." "I am an aborigine!" he says with a huff.

MY HOW THINGS ARE CHANGIN': My close friend's wife Tianna is an elementary school teacher, and she is often brought in by textbook companies to comment on new books and give them feedback. She and a group of teachers were shown a new textbook in draft by the company. One picture had an image of the flag of Taiwan, the ROC flag. "We haven't had a chance to vote on that flag," piped up one teacher. "It shouldn't be there." The others agreed. Moments later there was an image of the island of Taiwan with the ROC flag across the center. "That's too political," several people piped up. "We're not comfortable with it. Take it out."

LABOR STRUGGLES: New Bloom wrote on the struggles of President Tsai vs labor last week. The abuse of working people here is unconscionable. A friend of my wife's calls her and asks if we can find a place for her son nearby, a quiet little apartment. He works at the large hospital near our house, and currently lives in the dorm nearby. Since he lives nearby, whenever the hospital needs people, he is called in to work, irrespective of his sleep status, the law, ethics, common sense, etc. He often works consecutive 16 hour days. In the medical system nurses are squeezed to extract every last drop of profit. "It has to be nearby, preferably within walking distance," my neighbor explains. "He is so tired all the time, if he rides his scooter, when he stops at a traffic light, he falls asleep."

SPEECHIFYING: President Tsai's ROC National Day speech came and went uneventfully. The media reported on her respectful, moderate call for good relations across the Strait with the conventional media framing, sadly. It must have been painful for them not to be able to blame tensions on Tsai. Reuters termed her base "anti-China" instead of what it is -- pro-Taiwan -- and of course tells us that China views Taiwan as a province that must be annexed and the DPP as "distrusted" by Beijing, while it is silent on how the Taiwanese feel about China. This one-sided reporting also tends to assign agency to Tsai, meaning that her refusal to say that Taiwan is part of China is treated as the problem, not Beijing's desire to annex a free and independent island off its coast.

The NY Times hilariously writes:
China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province, while the self-governing island Ms. Tsai leads traces its roots to the formation of the Republic of China in 1911 that overthrew the last Chinese dynasty, only to lose the Chinese civil war to the Communists in 1949.
No, Taiwan has no roots in the Wuchang Rebellion -- it was part of Japan at the time -- and the last dynasty was Manchu, not Chinese. Obviously the writer struggled and failed to get it right. But the article itself is far more sympathetic than the Reuters piece. Kudos.

More important than the pro-forma remarks and reporting on China for 10/10 were Tsai's remarks about opening a maritime cooperation dialogue with Japan:
Regarding Okinotorishima, she said, “Japan and Taiwan have different positions on this issue, but as president of Taiwan, I am most interested in enabling Taiwan’s fishermen to freely enter and operate in the surrounding waters.” Although some advocates in Taiwan contend that Okinotorishima is a “rock” and therefore an EEZ cannot be established around it, Tsai indicated that discussions should give priority to the issue of marine resources.

On economic issues, Tsai said Taiwan “had been too dependent on continental China,” and called for expanded economic cooperation with Japan. “I want to seek chances for cooperation and development with Japan in Southeast Asia and South Asia,” Tsai said.
Moving closer to Japan is urgently necessary for Taiwan's safety, and the Ma Administration cost Taiwan eight years of progress in that direction. Tsai made similar points in her interview with WSJ last week. Philippines piece on Taiwan's new southbound policy...

The Taipei Times editorialized on the KMT, which is now split on its China policy. But as this China Times editorial translated over at Dateline Taipei observed...
The Republic of China that Tsai Ing-wen defends is not the Republic of China founded in 1911. It is the Republic of China that emerged after 1949. It is a Republic of China that has been emptied of its legal significance. Furthermore, Tsai's defense of the Republic of China treats the ROC as the temporary shell of a hermit crab, as a form of backdoor listing. It temporarily accepts the "Republic of China" to protect its advocacy of Taiwan independence, which it will never abandon.
Exactly right. The ROC is doomed: either Taiwan will become independent, or China will annex it, but either way the KMT state is history. The KMT has two increasingly stark choices for survival -- one is to become a Taiwanese party and give up its China-centric identity, the other, to marry itself to the CCP and become a mere appendage of China in Taiwan. The latter would likely be better for Taiwan even though it would be a conduit for Chinese money and propaganda -- it would garner few votes, lose most of its influence, and be quite unpopular, but the longer the KMT can spin its fantasies to Beijing that victory is just around the corner, the better off Taiwan is.

Speaking of the NYTimes, why does it keep publishing uninformed pieces of pro-China propaganda? This latest commentary on China from two writers whom no one appears to have heard of reads like it was dictated by the editors of Xinhua, right down to the "Century of Humiliation" expansionist baloney and accusations that the US is "militarizing the Pacific". "Even before Mr. Obama’s pivot, the American military presence in the region dwarfed China’s," the writers declaim. ROFL. We probably have a bigger navy than China's in the Pacific, but our overall military presence is much smaller. What editor passed that nonsense?
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Nelson Report on TIFA

Cucumber-like caterpillar

Below is from the Nelson Report:


United States and Taiwan Hold Dialogue on Trade and Investment Priorities

Washington, D.C. - U.S. and Taiwan trade authorities concluded the tenth Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting under the auspices of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO). Ambassador Robert Holleyman, Deputy United States Trade Representative, and Wang Mei-hua, Taiwan's Vice Minister of Economic Affairs, co-led the discussions to enhance the longstanding trade and investment relationship between the United States and Taiwan. Other participants and contributors included AIT and the U.S. Departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce and the Copyright Office.

The TIFA is the key forum for trade dialogue between the United States and Taiwan authorities and covers the broad range of trade and investment issues important to U.S. and Taiwan stakeholders. The U.S. authorities welcomed the concrete steps taken by Taiwan after the conclusion of the 2015 TIFA Council meeting to follow through on important commitments related to intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement. Taiwan authorities also highlighted progress in addressing technical barriers to trade and fostering transparency in matters related to trade and investment.

At the meeting, the U.S. authorities pressed Taiwan for expeditious resolution of agricultural trade issues, including removal of longstanding and unwarranted barriers to U.S. beef and pork, which is necessary for any deepening of our trade relationship. In the area of IP protection and enforcement, the TIFA talks took stock of progress on pharmaceutical IP protection and committed to strengthen engagement on Taiwan's intellectual property rights legislation, promoting the use of legitimate educational materials, and on enforcement cooperation.

Both sides welcomed the strong exchanges already conducted between the two patent offices and look forward to deepening this cooperation for the benefit of U.S. and Taiwan rights holders and patent applicants. The two sides also pledged to deepen dialogue to streamline time-to-market of medical devices and to improve transparency and procedural fairness in trade and investment matters. The Taiwan authorities provided updates on its regional and multilateral initiatives and highlighted its close cooperation with the United States on various initiatives in the WTO.


The United States and Taiwan have a long-standing and vibrant trade relationship. Taiwan is our 9th largest goods trading partner and a top-10 destination for U.S. agricultural and food exports. U.S. goods and services trade with Taiwan totaled an estimated $86.7 billion in 2015. The TIFA, signed in 1994 under the auspices of AIT and TECRO, provides the principal mechanism for trade dialogue between the United States and Taiwan authorities to expand trade and investment links and deepen cooperation.


Chris, thanks for the opportunity to discuss:

As noted by USTR, much progress to report on IPR protection and enforcement, addressing technical barriers to trade and fostering transparency in matters related to trade and investment etc. All good.

Ag trade issues remain a stubborn impediment at this point, particularly pork. The Tsai Administration has put together a food safety committee to discuss all food safety issues, issues which have been a significant problem with imports from China, Taiwan products, and the ractopamine problem. US officials have rolled their eyes a bit over this committee's announcement,
but the reality that ractopamine has been publicly touted, by many in Taiwan, as "poison" is one tough issue.

I believe this committee reflects President Tsai's overall governance approach - deal with problems a step at a time striving to be as transparent and communicative as possible. Bring the public along to a consensus position and then move.

The pubic in Taiwan is now feeling its oats on a variety of issues. A slow process, to be sure, but that's democracy. As our friend Winston Churchill noted, "Worst government in the world, except for all the others."

At the recent US-Taiwan Defense Conference, one US participant jokingly said, as we were discussing the decision making process in Taiwan, "Before we used to just pick up the phone and call Hau Pei-tsun and he'd get things done." Yeah, old Hau got things done alright, but with an iron fist. No more, thank Buddha.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Vanuatu peopled from Taiwan and Philippines

If you weren't outdoors this weekend, you missed out.

This news is making the rounds:
Back in 1985, archaeologist Peter Bellwood of the Australian National University in Canberra proposed that the Lapita had roots in farming cultures in East Asia. Based on dating of Lapita sites, he proposed that they moved rapidly from mainland China to Taiwan and the Philippines, then out across the open ocean from Vanuatu to Samoa, covering 24,300 kilometers in about 300 years. This “express train” picture fit with linguists’ models, in which Austronesian languages spread from East Asia into Oceania and were distinct from Papuan languages in Melanesia.

But other researchers argued that the DNA of living Polynesians showed evidence that their Lapita ancestors had lingered in Melanesia, mixing with the locals and slowly spreading eastward. This so-called “slow boat” model had prevailed in recent years.

In the new study, an international team extracted ancient DNA from the skeletons of four ancient women from the islands of Vanuatu and Tonga, dated to 2300 to 3100 years ago, including three directly associated with the Lapita culture. The team sequenced the DNA at up to 231,000 positions across the genomes of each skeleton and compared the sequences to those of nearly 800 present-day people from 83 populations in East Asia and Oceania.

The four women were from a distinct population that had no evidence of mixing with the ancestors of people living in Papua New Guinea today, as the team reports in Nature this week. Instead, the women shared all their ancestry with the indigenous Atayal people in Taiwan and the Kankanaey people in the Philippines. “The Lapita have no evidence for Papuan ancestry,” says co-author Pontus Skoglund, a postdoc in David Reich’s lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston. That suggests that their ancestors rode the fast train, sweeping all the way to Oceania without mixing with Melanesians on the way.
Dr. Frank Muyard, who has long been studying the history of the Austronesian peoples and their migrations, observed in a discussion online (posted with permission):


This is indeed huge, and a game-changing research for both fields of Southeast Asian/Pacific prehistory and Austronesian studies.

Many of the past 30 years assumptions and theories will have to be revised and revisited. It shows that ancient DNA studies are necessary to confirm/infirm research of populations origins, and that inference into the past based only on current genetic analysis can be easily flawed.

But the original Nature article is very light on info about the Taiwan populations studied. We are only told about a closest link to Atayal, and then, in another part of the article, of links to Amis, but we don't have the DNA analysis details. I would also like to see additional research on more Taiwan Indigenous groups data, since recent archaeological researches show that Taiwan peopling history is itself getting more complex than often assumed.

The distance showed between Lapita aDNA and current Dai (Tai-Kadai) DNA would also in theory dismiss the hypotheses of direct migration from South China to the Philippines, which have been opposed to the Out-of-Taiwan theory of Austronesian dispersal, although here also we would need aDNA from South China to confirm that.

[and in response to a later query]

This is indeed a confirmation of the Express train hypothesis supported by Bellwood, Blust and Diamond.

But the Bellwood-Blust theory has been challenged in many places for years and was not fully supported yet by genetic studies (same for the precise origins in Asian mainland for proto-Austronesian migration to Taiwan which are still much debated).

Now it is. The "game changing" is thus about the lack of mixing with the "Papuan" populations in the Bismark Archipelago (the Triple I hypothesis, Roger Green) and therefore non-hybrid nature of the Lapita culture and first colonization of Remote Oceania (up east to Tonga/Samoa).

The closest genetic link with the Kankanaey in N-W Philippines, rather than other places in the archipelago (this also will have to be confirmed by other studies) is also interesting both for the Taiwan-Philippines and the Philippines-Lapita relations.

The direct ancestor of Lapita distinct ceramics is still eluding research and now that it appears not being due to cultural hybridity in the Bismarck Arc. will certainly spur more investigation.

Expect more aDNA research in the whole region to try and back up various theories.

We also need to understand better the Atayal-Amis similarities/differences, and the repeatedly attested close links between Amis and Polynesians - both in genetics and culture. In any case, the ancestors of the Lapita people lived in Taiwan/Philippines 4000 years ago, and cannot be directly associated with present groups, much evolution/change happened since in Taiwan and in post-Lapita Polynesia.

And that would involve understanding better the late Neolithic/Metal Age interactions between Taiwan and the Philippines. Hopefully we will have more studies on that soon.
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Monday, October 03, 2016

Forward Taiwan: Latest NDC Proposals on Liberalization of Laws related to Foreigners

Threading our way through the mass of downed trees and debris on a forest road near Sanyi.

This was posted to Forward Taiwan's Facebook page. Very important stuff here....  because it is long I have posted it below the READ MORE line. UPDATE: Dont miss the excellent comments.


National Development Council’s Plan to Create an Environment for Retention of Talent in Taiwan

This note translates the various proposals made by the National Development Council to the Executive Yuan on September 1 2016. It is divided into an introduction followed by translations of the proposals themselves with comments and explanations from Forward Taiwan. We look forward to your feedback and any corrections.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Links for a lazy Saturday

Whip scorpions struggle on a tree.

Enjoy some links....
Daily Links:
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Friday, September 30, 2016

DPP gov't takes important step forward on land expropriation crisis

Looks like somebody forgot to tell the printer the name of the bike...

That hideous Taoyuan Aerotropolis, with its massive land thefts, is going to be slowly strangled by red tape. An apt solution....(Taipei Times)
About 30 members of the Taoyuan Aerotropolis Local Promotion Association shouted opposition to what they called opaque “black box” drafting of possible amendments to the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例), saying that only people opposed to the Aerotropolis project had been invited to a ministry meeting yesterday on the amendments.

The ministry said last week that it would propose amending several laws to increase the protections for landowners and residents, including raising the support threshold for approval of “zone expropriation” to more than 90 percent of landowners.
These associations are usually astroturf for construction/development firms. The reason the threshold is being raised to 90% is simple. The usual practice is for the construction firm to have its employees purchase homes in the area. Once it has a majority of area homeowners, it can then have its own people vote to have the land expropriated and turned over to the corporation, using public law to turn private land into corporate gold. By raising the bar to 90%, the government will end this practice.

The Aerotropolis is often said to be the largest single expropriation of the democratic era, 4700 hectares of land were being appropriated, 3200 of them farmland (in a nation where the government has been worried about losing farmland). These changes are a wonderful move forward against the terrible abuse of the land laws over the last couple of decades.

Note also how these pro-corporate protests keep attempting to appropriate the language used by the Sunflowers: the government's decision is a "black box" -- which was the Sunflower criticism of the services pact (for example).

Background: this post, follow its links. Also Solidarity's post on how KMTers had purchased ponds in the Aerotropolis area to turn into gold. Recall that each pond by regulation can only have one owner, making negotiation for purchase easy. Development in Taoyuan is killing its precious ponds.
Daily Links:
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Taiwan Responds to the ICAO

Taiwan asks to be included in the international aviation safety organization. The western democracies have failed the world shamefully.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Taiwan for Expats: Forward Taiwan what should be done

Nature's perfect food

On a discussion group, someone asked why Taiwan had fallen from #8 to #14 in a survey of expats. A friend responded (posted with permission):


In my view, Taiwan's slight drop in the ranking has little or nothing to do with President Tsai.

One reason Taiwan is No, 14 is that six more countries were surveyed for the 2016 report. Two of those countries--Norway and Austria--ranked higher than Taiwan. So Taiwan really only fell six places.

The survey once again shows that Taiwan is great place to live but not a good place to work... (MORE BELOW)

NYTimes *sigh*

From the NYTimes Sidelined at the UN, A Frustrated Taiwan Presses On
The diplomatic maneuverings that takes place upstairs are less fruitful. The election in January of Tsai Ing-wen, who is Taiwan’s first female president and whose Democratic Progressive Party has in the past flirted with independence, is sending a chill through cross-strait relations. Under her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang, Taiwan and China signed a series of agreements that included increased trade, direct flights and a surge of mainland tourists that buoyed the Taiwanese economy.
When you read the NY Times piece on Taiwan's UN efforts, and you see this same garbage, repeated ad nauseum... according to the NYTimes, it was Tsai's election that caused the chill, not Beijing's decision to cut off relations and reduce group tourists. Indeed -- Taiwan has not "chilled", only Beijing has chilled.

Despite the wealth of information on the internet, the last sentence of that paragraph goes on, zombie-like, to inform us of the greatness of Ma Ying-jeou's economic sellout program. *sigh*

I probably don't have to tell you that the NYTimes writer is their Beijing correspondent. Nobody gets Taiwan wrong like Beijing correspondents...

Meanwhile contrast Andrew Jacobs' regurgitation of this zombie nonsense with the attitude in the 1996 Nightline piece in the video above on the Taiwan elections. China is clearly recognized as the problem. Taiwan is referred to as a country. Pro-Taiwan analysts like Rick Fisher and Syd Goldsmith speak. A senior diplomat is permitted to explain that one China acquiescence is just noise. Totally different media attitude.

O and special joy: Lien Chan calls for UN entry. ROFL.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Round Up

Along came a spider...

KMT: The internal struggle for the KMT continues apace. This week Wu Den-yi and Hau Long-bin criticized KMT Chairman Hung Hsiu-chu over the One China/Two interpretations of the 1992 Consensus....
Former ROC Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) attended the annual meeting of the Taiwan Benevolent Association of America (TBAA) in Boston on September 24. During the meeting, Hau stated that the 1992 Consensus must be connected with “one China/different interpretations.” Hau asked why we would abandon the one China/different interpretations formulation since it worked so well during the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration.
As the article notes, Wu and Hau have formed an alliance, and Wu will likely challenge Hung for the Chairmanship in the 2017 election. This will be a replay of this year's election when the Taiwanese candidate was backed by the party structure, and the ROC/mainlander ideologue was backed by the Old Soldiers, who form a large voting block that controls who wins. That same occurred a decade ago, when the Old Soldiers voted for Ma Ying-jeou as Chair while the Party elites supported Wang Jin-pyng. Enough of the Old Soldiers should still be around to ensure that Hung wins another term, just in time for the 2018 midterm elections.

NHI: Excellent interview in TT with NTU President Yang on the plight of doctors in the NHI system. The system holds costs down just like any other Taiwanese boss: it overworks its laborers, and underpays them, both doctors and nurses.

ICAO: The ICAO, the aviation safety body, blocked Taiwan's attendance with the usual displays of moral cowardice characteristic of the western democracies. Beijing is punishing Taiwan because Tsai will not say Taiwan is part of China, and took credit for it.

MEDIA: The only good thing about blogging on the media is that the supply of stoopid never dries out. This week J Michael Cole took Simon Tisdall to task for a demonstration of clueless, lazy, incompetent writing...
In reality, the 25 percent drop in support for President Tsai cannot, contrary to what the author argues, be “summed up in one word: China.” In fact, it can be summed up in not one but two words: not China. Like anywhere else, what contributed to President Tsai’s support levels are primarily domestic matters, from a stagnant economy to urban renewal, broken promises on same-sex marriage to lackluster Cabinet appointments, labor issues to the New Southbound Policy that increasingly doesn’t sound so new — in other words, the regular stuff of regular countries.
Tisdall got everything wrong of course, hilariously referring to the China tourist trade as "lucrative" when it is a pernicious money loser that is widely despised in Taiwan.

This problem also showed up last week at FPRI, where Thomas Shattuck, in an article describing the horrible summer of Tsai Ing-wen, completely misread my piece on the Kenya deportations...
In April, Kenya sent 45 Taiwanese nationals to China, and in August, it deported another five individuals. These deportations sparked outrage because the people and government of Taiwan viewed it as a slight to their nation and as another instance for China to assert its power over them. While some have argued that this deportation process is normal operating procedure—Kenya sent them back to the city that they departed from—Taiwan’s government lodged complaints saying that these deportation were nothing more than “extrajudicial abduction.” China argued that these people flew out of China and targeted Chinese citizens with these scams and that as citizens of Taiwan (which China views as a rogue province), they were under the jurisdiction of China. This issue did not just involve Kenya—Armenia recently deported over 70 individuals to China, Cambodia deported another 13, and Malaysia sent 32 suspects. After the latest round of deportations from Armenia, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement, “We have repeatedly demanded the Chinese side not to deport our people to mainland China. The Chinese side’s action again disregarded our call … and further hurt the feelings of Taiwanese people.” Making these deportations such a large, international issue between China, Taiwan, and several other countries demonstrates Taiwan’s lack of options when pitted against China—not so strongly worded statements of condemnation. These countries chose to avoid challenging China instead of pleasing Taiwan.
No, I didn't argue it was SOP. Read what I wrote, Mr Shattuck. The key point of what I wrote is that the deportations weren't aimed at Tsai Ing-wen because the policy of deporting (alleged) Taiwanese scammers to China had been decided over a year before Tsai entered office. This policy HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH TSAI ING-WEN. IT BEGAN UNDER MA YING-JEOU. 

How hard can that be to explain? But that's not as sexy as "Look what a tough summer Tsai is having!"

The deportations do not demonstrate Taiwan's "lack of options" against China. Instead they demonstrate that China was complying with international practice in having criminals who had committed crimes against its people deported back there, as Ma Ying-jeou's own officials admitted. The noises that the Taiwan gov't made about the unfairness of it all were just noises designed to placate its own voters, made by both the Ma and Tsai Administrations. They don't signify anything. No nation could have stopped China from deporting the alleged Taiwanese gangsters back to China, because China had every right to.

But why bother to explain anything like that? It's waaay more fun to write about how bad things are. Actually, they are pretty normal for the first 100 days of a presidency on The Beautiful Island.

Deportations back to Taiwan, as happened with Indonesia don't count for Tsai, aren't even mentioned, in fact. No selective use of facts here folks, move along now.

Shattuck also nattered about the tourists...
China’s self-assertion also involves pinching local Taiwanese citizens’ pocketbooks by preventing Mainlanders from travelling to the island. The normal deluge of Mainland tourists to Taiwan has slowed to a trickle over the summer in response to Tsai’s election and her refusal to meet Beijing’s demand of accepting the 1992 Consensus. Though Tsai has moved towards the center recently in this regard, Beijing’s “red line” is its acceptance for the continuation of cross-strait relations. In 2015, between May and July, over 1 million Mainlanders came to Taiwan; this year, during that same time period, under 900,000 made the trip—the lowest since 2013—for a difference of nearly 150,000 tourists.[2] While that number does not seem too significant at face value, there are now that many fewer people renting rooms, using tour buses, taking taxis, frequenting museums and restaurants, and buying souvenirs. Places once full of tourists are now empty thanks to this 30% decrease in Mainland visitors. Workers rallied in Taipei to protest their current situation, and the government has set up a NT$ 960 million fund to help ease the burden. It has gotten so bad that counties not run by the DPP have sent delegations to China in order to encourage tourism to specific cities and counties that have a more friendly view of China. These leaders hope to increase tourism again and create new markets to increase economic interactions.
The key issue is this: tourists are a tiny part of the Taiwan economy, and the missing group tours, the stingiest, lowest spending, crappiest tourists, are less than a third of Chinese tourists, and an even smaller fraction of all tourists. In other words, the missing fraction is a fraction of a fraction in Taiwan's ~$530 billion economy. The only people complaining are those idiots who invested in an obvious political bubble.

There are way more important sectors, so why are we talking about tourism from China? Quick -- what's the largest sector of Taiwan's economy? What happened to our manufacturing orders last month? What's the inflation rate? Those things are far more important than 150,000 sheep for the slaughter from China. The automatic reach for the Chinese tourists, along with the deportations, neither of which is important, is just another example of how the outside world continues to view Taiwan in terms of China, and how Beijing controls the narrative, dominating the minds of those who write about Taiwan. Sad.
Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Friday, September 23, 2016

1958: The Mystery of the Missing Blue Goose

1958 China Post report of the incident

A 2010 piece gives some details....
There was an aviation incident that took place in the East China Sea on 1 October 1958. About 0600 hours, four National Chinese crew members, three Republic of China (ROC) officers and four U.S. servicemen routinely boarded a civilian Foshing Airlines (FAL), a PBY-5 named the “Blue Goose” on Matsu Island, for the return trip to Formosa for some much needed R&R. They were never seen again.

The four U.S. military personnel on board the Blue Goose were Army Major Robert C. Bloom (Eau Claire, WI); Captain Wayne A. Pitcher (Asbury Park, NJ); Navy radioman RM3 Dwight H. Turner (Clarence, MO), and Army PFC Claude L. Baird (Duff, TN). They were all members of the elite Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) and all were assigned to the Matsu Defense Command at the time they went missing.
Then it gets weird...
The United States government has never acknowledged these missing men, nor have they ever honored them for the ultimate sacrifice they made in the cause of freedom. However, one thing is clear, on 1 October 1958, four American servicemen in uniform went missing, and they need to be acknowledged and honored and their families provided with answers.

Foshing Airlines reported that the Chinese Ministry of National Defense (MND) ruled the incident as a mid-air collision; the MND also ruled the plane was shot down, but no evidence of any wreckage was ever found and the MND cannot produce records to support that theory.

Brigadier General L.S. Bork, Commander of the Military Assistance Advisory Group (1958-60), believes that the aircraft was taken by force to mainland China (U.S intelligence sources seem to confirm that scenario) because the aircraft carried valuable defense plans and had an unnamed “special cargo.” He also believes a $100,000 ransom was offered by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) for the delivery of the Blue Goose to Formosa.

During the second week of October 1958, an intelligence source reported that the aircraft and her crewmembers were seen in Shanghai shortly after the incident and, two weeks following the disappearance of the PBY-5, a Communist Chinese radio news broadcast reported that the PBY-5 aircraft reached the mainland and even identified one ROC officer who was on board and reportedly spoke on the broadcast.

During that same timeframe, two American families heard similar newscasts that reported the names of all the U.S. servicemen and confirmed they were being held by Communist China.

Mrs. Margret Baird Petree and Mrs. Sue Baird Walden, the sisters of PFC Claude L. Baird, have had a very difficult task in trying to unravel the unexplained issues of this case.

The Department of the Army declared the incident an “Operational Loss” and the servicemen were declared “missing” for a period of one year. Then, without any further proof or evidence, these men were listed under the “Presumptive Finding of Death” on 2 October 1959. The U.S. Army declared the flying boat was “lost without a trace,” and a thorough search by planes and ships found nothing new to report.
UPDATE: Wreckage found

I have placed a Yahoo forum post with a timeline under the READ MORE line: