Sunday, June 17, 2018

American Citizens for Taiwan #5: America, Taiwan, and the Inevitability of History

Our reservoirs should could have used that predicted rain...

My latest for American Citizens for Taiwan. I was going to post this up yesterday but was out all day biking and got back late...
However, this scheme was killed by the outgoing Secretary of State of the Buchanan Administration. When Pierce became president, he appointed William Reed to Parker’s place, and instructed him that on no account would the US annex Chinese territory. Thus ended the possibility of Formosa eventually becoming a US state.
...go thou and read...
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Monday, June 11, 2018

Then and Now: the Dong 19

A while back I posted on the old Japanese coast road, now the Dong 19 (Streetview), a little road right next to the sea just south of Chenggong in Taitung. National Historic Monuments of Taiwan puts up old pics every day on Facebook, and a recent one gave another view of the road.

This image may show the scene as it is now -- note that the boulder appears very similar. The road has been moved back away from the sea as the coastline has been eaten, so it is difficult to tell.

Another spot might be this view on Streetview. If you look there are remnants of an old road much closer to the sea, and the curve of the land seems quite similar.

I'll have to head back there this summer.
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In which Hau throws shade at Ko, and other developments

Pastoral scenery

The Taipei Times reported on the ongoing KMT-CCP lovefest at the Straits Forum in Xiamen, China this week. It seems former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin, son of far right premier Hau Pei-tsun who challenged Lee Teng-hui for control of the party and the government back in the day, decided to throw stones at current Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je....
Reiterating the importance of the so-called “1992 consensus” and anti-independence efforts as the foundation of cross-strait cooperation, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday said he hoped that both sides of the Taiwan Strait can go from “feeling as close as one family” (一家親) to “becoming actual family members” (一家人).
Readers will recall that the phrase "一家親" was used by Ko to describe the peoples on both sides of the Strait -- a loose but still familial relationship. Hau regurgitated Communist propaganda -- all sense of historical irony in the KMT has been lost in a blaze of ethnic solidarity -- by correcting Ko's formulation back to the CCP's preferred version of "one family".

This might have been wise in the presence of the CCP, but this phrase was precisely the one that peeved Deep Greens in Taipei because they felt it was too close to the CCP. Now Hau has gone and relocated that phrase back to the left of the KMT, rejecting it via mockery as too weak. Let's hope disgruntled purist greens wake up.

Asia Times reported that Hau is a popular leader:
Despite the backlash over his comments in Taiwan, Hau is widely tipped as a possible candidate who could kick out incumbent leader Tsai Ing-wen in the 2020 presidential election and erase memories of the KMT’s ignominious defeat in 2016. Beijing has also been placing high hopes on the KMT to nominate popular figures like Hau.
Somewhere there probably is an alternate universe where Hau is a popular figure.

Meanwhile former President Ma was out saying that Tsai needs to accept the fictional 1992 Consensus, another move to remind voters of what the KMT stands for. Note that when Hau was in Xiamen he did not use the "two interpretations" codicil, because Beijing has never accepted that. This has been known for years, Beijing has instructed its own media never to use it, and Ma had it rejected by Xi while Hau didn't even bring it up at Xiamen -- despite these facts, the western media will soon once again report that there are two interpretations.

In Taipei DPP Mayoral candidate Pasuya Yao, who has no chance to win the election, was busy using public money to buy private votes, as Solidarity tweeted:
DPP mayoral candidate Pasuya Yao 姚文智 proposal of NT$3000/month rent subsidy for single youths and NT$5000/month for young married households (for up to 10,000 households chosen by lottery) draws fusillade of ridicule of netizens
Yao promises an endless supply of ideas like this. But his function, in addition to providing amusement for me, is to soak up deep green votes that might have gone to the KMT's Ting as protest votes, and get out DPP votes for the City Council positions. He is meant to lose.
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Saturday, June 09, 2018

My Latest for American Citizens for Taiwan: Being Taiwanese, Being Chinese

Yes, there is a balloon museum near this spot. Its reputation is inflated, however.

My latest for American Citizens for Taiwan: Being Taiwanese, Being Chinese.
This analytical stance looks useful only because so many accept it, but it is an ideological construct. Its implicit and highly ideological assumption is that being Chinese means you are more sympathetic to political links to China, and further, that the two identities are zero-sum: to have more of one means to have less of the other. The authors of the piece, and many readers trained to think in this way, follow this chain of logic very well: those Taiwanese who have some Chineseness will have greater support for political links to China.
As you can imagine, this piece on Taiwan identity was inspired by that awful presentation of the survey in WaPo. I've been steamed about it for a week, and the more I think about it, the angrier I get. Note what one wrote in the response to my comments which I posted with his permission:
""That said, we think people were probably thinking more about ‘cultural’ Chinese, than about political Chinese. We also asked later in the survey about ethnicity (族群身分). People were asked to allocate 10 points across five ethnic identity choices: 閩南人, 客家人, 原住民, 中華民族, 其他人. It turns out that all three of the original identity groups (Taiwanese, Chinese, both) allocated the most points to 閩南人 and then to 中華民族, and there was no significant difference across these three groups in the average number of points allocated to these two ethnicities. In other words, even those who say they are “Chinese only” give more points to 閩南人 than to 中華民族.
They knew when they composed that write up in WaPo that the Taiwan identity they were examining had no political connection to China, but was entirely cultural and very complex. So given space in a a major paper of record to write about the Taiwan identity in a way that would reflect its complexities and lack of political connection to China, they instead chose to replicate utterly wrong and conventional misunderstandings about the cultural links between China and Taiwan and reinforce existing attitudes and falsehoods.

If someone gave me 1000 words in WaPo, I wouldn't spend it serving Beijing. Nor should anyone from a democracy ever do such a thing.

*incoherent, frustrated screams*
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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

US Mulling Transiting Warships Through the Taiwan Strait "at a delicate moment" *sigh*

Road cruise

Yes, it's Reuters...
Exclusive: At delicate moment, U.S. weighs warship passage through Taiwan Strait
Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, U.S. officials say, in a move that could provoke a sharp reaction from Beijing at a time when Sino-U.S. ties are under pressure from trade disputes and the North Korean nuclear crisis.


The last time a U.S. aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the administration of George W. Bush, and some U.S. military officials believe a carrier transit is overdue.

Another, less provocative option would be resuming the periodic, but still infrequent, passages by other U.S. Navy ships through the Strait, the last of which was in July 2017.

The Pentagon declined comment on any potential future operations and it was unclear how soon a passage might take place.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged the United States to prudently handle the Taiwan issue so as to avoid harming bilateral ties and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region.
*sigh* It's a collection of familiar, formulaic tropes. Why China funds Xinhua is a mystery to me, when Reuters does the same thing for free.

While a transit can be "less provocative" it is still "provocative". Are China's actions ever described as "provocative"?

Another common trope here is the idea of "it's a delicate moment". Relations between the two hegemonic superpowers are complex and dynamic, and there is always something going on. If the  US refrained  from taking action because "it's a delicate moment" it could never take action.

Note also the common trope of agency being removed from China and assigned to the US only. While Reuters says the US should consider itself constrained by the delicacy of the moment, China is never so constrained. The media does not write "At a delicate moment, China sends warplanes around Taiwan" or "At a delicate moment, China provokes US by occupying Philippines territory." Apparently no moment is so delicate that it could constrain China or cast its actions in a negative light.

This writing style normalizes China's belligerence and expansionism, turning it into an ongoing feature of the terrain, like weather or sea conditions. It places the onus of action entirely on the US, and thus, the blame for how things turn out entirely on the US.

Reuters also makes a gross error:
The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it is unclear whether Washington would want to be dragged into war with China over the island.
The US is not bound by law to do anything with regard to Taiwan's defense. The Taiwan Relations Act is written specifically to prevent binding US officials.

Asked about U.S. obligations to Taiwan, Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan noted Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.

“We have a vital interest in upholding the current rules-based international order, which features a strong, prosperous, and democratic Taiwan,” Logan said.
We need language like this to come out of the White House and the State Department.

China made its usual noise about Taiwan being a core issue. That is precisely why the US needs to put a carrier group through the Strait.

Because Taiwan is a core issue for the US and its Pacific allies, and for its vision of the international system that China is systematically destroying.
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Monday, June 04, 2018

Pollfail: Bizarre WaPo poll UPDATED w/reponse

Your tax dollars at work.
speaking in Taipei on #tiananmen anniversary Shanghai venture capitalist and Party ideologue Eric Li tells me: ‘Taiwan independence will be finished within 8 years, by force if necessary. Young people here must pay attention to earning a living, not politics.’ so much for june 4. -- John Keane on Twitter
UPDATE: My latest at ACT is also inspired by this.

WaPo's Monkey Cage published a very strange poll that avoided any serious questions, comes to upside down conclusions, and couches everything in loaded ideological terms. Pretty much what you'd expect from an establishment survey discussed in WaPo, in other words.

From the opening it is a conventional and deeply confused piece of thinking...
One motive may be Beijing’s concern that it is losing the battle for the “hearts and minds” of the Taiwanese people: If more and more people in Taiwan self-identify as Taiwanese instead of Chinese, this could lead to greater support in Taiwan for a declaration of formal independence. This is an outcome the PRC is determined to prevent.
One problem that people writing in the US still don't get is that (a) Beijing is well aware it has lost the battle for hearts and minds and did years ago and (b) the "hearts and minds" propaganda isn't aimed at Taiwan but at its own people, to convince them that it has done everything it can and they must now get their sons killed to annex Taiwan for the CCP and its wealthy cronies. Beijing knows perfectly well that Taiwan isn't going to declare independence. Tiresomely conventional view...

After noting that familiar NCCU surveys finding rising Taiwanese identity, the authors note that....
The conclusions about Taiwanese identity, however, depend on how identity is measured. To test this, we carried out a unique survey in Taiwan earlier this year. Our results suggest Beijing’s concerns about Taiwanese identity trends may be excessive.
Their conclusions are completely at odds with their findings -- in fact they have made a classic error in interpretation, likely deliberately (below). The old, familiar NCCU tracking poll cuts people up into tiny groups of "unification now" to "independence now" because its blindingly clear political purpose is to obscure the simple fact that most everyone in Taiwan supports independence. Instead, we are told they support the status quo -- which is independence. That is why surveys that force people into an independence or not choice find strong support for it.

More on that below...
The survey used random digital dialing to reach landlines, and randomized respondents into two groups. One group heard the conventional fixed choice between three categories (“Taiwanese,” “Chinese” or “Both”). The other group was asked to allocate 10 points across two identity categories.


The figure below shows the results. The fixed-choice method’s findings were similar to other surveys — a majority of respondents (64 percent) chose “Taiwanese only.” In contrast, the allocation method found that “Taiwanese only” are a minority (46 percent), while a majority of respondents (52 percent) believe they are “both” Taiwanese and Chinese.
The survey asked "how Taiwanese do you feel?" It didn't ask what people meant by Chinese or Taiwanese -- that key question was scrupulously avoided. It replaced one set of fixed choices with another set, recapitulating the problem it claims it was intended to solve.

Everyone in Taiwan knows people like my wife, deep green Taiwanese who will show up at the invasion beach kitchen knife in hand and eviscerate the incoming PRC troops out their ass while cursing them in colorful Taiwanese (the PRC is lucky the ROC generals are giving them a fighting chance by using an army composed of men. If the Taiwan army were composed of Taiwanese women, no PRC troops would reach the beach alive).

Nevertheless, such people have no trouble referring to themselves as "Chinese" if you ask them why they are making a sacrifice to the kitchen god or giving red envelopes at new years. They don't see a problem with those identities, because they don't conflict.

But never mind that, look at who they surveyed: people with landlines. So they got mostly people over 40,no? And that group, as recent work by Taiwanese academics has shown, has experienced a slight bump in their identification as "Chinese" (would have been interesting to see the geographical and age breakdown of respondents).

Moving on...
This matters because in our survey the “Both” category has systematically different preferences and attitudes compared with the “Taiwanese only” group. For example, only 36 percent of the “Both” respondents prioritized defending Taiwan’s sovereignty over developing cross-strait economic relations, compared with 65 percent of the “Taiwanese only” respondents.

Compared with the “Taiwanese only” group, those who identified as “Both” also had significantly more positive views of the people of China — and more moderate views of cross-strait relations — than those who identify as Taiwanese-only.
Note the ideologically loaded description... you're a "moderate" if you like China a bit more (I guess people who want to live in an independent democracy are immoderate).

Note also the little trick they played. First they tell us that identity changes when you measure it and the fixed choices are misleading. No problem -- if you give more mixed options, you get more mixed identities, a well known fact. Then they provide two fixed choices, prioritize Taiwanese sovereignty or develop cross strait economic relations -- after explaining that fixed choices can result in misleading findings (!).

This really tells us nothing because these two choices are not at odds with each other in the real world (the same problem with the Taiwanese/Chinese identity frame they use) -- and note: the "choices" they give us are deeply ideological: they are a conventional pro-KMT framing of the debate over how to relate to China.


It's like the real world doesn't even exist. You remember that world, right? Trade and exports to China exploded during the Chen Administration which was way more concerned about Taiwan's sovereignty than the succeeding Ma Administration, whose policies screwed Taiwan's cross-strait trade position (deliberately, most likely). More: we have massive trade with China right now, busy cross strait flights, and millions of tourists each year criss-crossing the Strait, and we have a president really interested in guarding Taiwan's sovereignty.

There's no conflict between these two fixed choices that the pollsters gave this group of respondents. What they really did was force people to make a false choice so they could come up with misleading results which appear to suit some ideological goal of their own. *shrug*

Which brings me back to their findings:
In contrast, the allocation method found that “Taiwanese only” are a minority (46 percent), while a majority of respondents (52 percent) believe they are “both” Taiwanese and Chinese.
Yes, that's right: only in WaPo could you find that 98% of respondents see themselves as Taiwanese to some extent, and then conclude that Beijing should relax.

It's exactly the same as NCCU's tracking poll: they cut the population up into little pieces to obscure the fact that identification with Taiwaneseness is very high.

But Tai Li-an, one of the poll's authors, has done this polling before. Here is 2013 TISR poll reported in TT. What did he find? He very sensibly asked the respondents what they meant by Chinese.
In a tracking poll about identity, wherein respondents were allowed to make multiple choices, 96.5 percent of respondents identified themselves as Taiwanese, an increase of 0.6 percent from a similar poll conducted in September 2008, the survey showed.

In answer to the same question, 85.3 percent of respondents also identified themselves as “citizens of the Republic of China,” 74.1 percent checked Zhonghua minzu (中華民族, Chinese ethnic group), 72.3 percent chose “Asians” and 69.8 percent huaren (華人, ethnic Chinese).

Meanwhile, the percentage of those who identified themselves as zhongguo ren (中國人, Chinese) dropped to 43.5 percent from 46.6 percent in the 2008 poll, and only 7.5 percent said they were “citizens of the People’s Republic of China [PRC],” down 1.9 percent.
Oh yeah, what other question didn't they ask in the WaPo piece?

What's your position on Taiwan independence?

I think we all know why they avoided that question (the answer would have totally undermined their argument), and I think we all know what that answer would be.

Sadly, the really terrifying problem with this piece is not its conventional misunderstandings of Taiwan or its ideologically loaded framings, but the fact that it is going to be quoted again and again by the media and "knowledgeable" people about Taiwan. Can't wait to have people use it to explain Taiwan to me.

UPDATE: A net-friend asks: For “Chinese,” I wonder if they used 「華人」or 「中國人」.

UPDATE 2: The latter. 中國人

UPDATE 3: Taiwan News has a very cogent report which correctly represents the study's findings and also calls them on their bogus attempt to turn "cultural" Chineseness into "political" Chineseness.


I asked Johston a very short question about which term they used for "Chinese". His very long response is below:

Dear Mr. Turton,

Thank you for your question.

We used 中國人 in the identity question, the same language as standard surveys, for comparability purposes. If you’re interested in some of the questions we used you can find them linked to the WaPo piece at:

That said, we think people were probably thinking more about ‘cultural’ Chinese, than about political Chinese. We also asked later in the survey about ethnicity (族群身分). People were asked to allocate 10 points across five ethnic identity choices: 閩南人, 客家人, 原住民, 中華民族, 其他人. It turns out that all three of the original identity groups (Taiwanese, Chinese, both) allocated the most points to 閩南人 and then to 中華民族, and there was no significant difference across these three groups in the average number of points allocated to these two ethnicities. In other words, even those who say they are “Chinese only” give more points to 閩南人 than to 中華民族.

I read your blog post about our study. I have a few of responses (I can’t speak for my colleague George Yin, though I’ve cc’d him so that he can disagree with me if he wants to).

We didn’t ask about unification v. independence because we were focused on identity in this, the first of a series of polls we hope to do. We were also limited in terms of the length of the survey. We had a lot of questions about social media use that we wanted to ask. In future polls we can easily include a question about independence, and link this to another series of questions about identity. I worry a bit, however, about the reliability of the answers. Because Taiwanese are under the threat of Chinese military force it may be that support for something that is not de jure independence is compelled to some degree by knowledge of this threat of force. So I am not sure how reliable the typical support for independence questions are. Perhaps one could poll Taiwanese people who are not currently living in Taiwan to see if physical distance from the PLA threat makes a difference. In any event, if you have any suggestions about how to control for threat perceptions as a confounder for support for independence, we’d be happy to hear them.

The question about prioritizing sovereignty or economic development was designed to see what trade offs people make because this may reveal something about their own ideological leanings. In this case, asking people to make policy trade-offs provides information about what they value in cross-strait relations. For example, in Beijing surveys I’ve done we’ve asked whether people support increasing military spending or support keeping it the same or support reducing it. Huge majorities want to increase military spending, small minorities wants to decrease military spending. But when we give them a guns v butter choice — do they support reduce military spending in order to improve social welfare — the proportion of those who want to reduce milex goes up. A forced choice on a policy issue can reveal priorities. In addition, this question about x-strait policy trade-offs seemed to us to be more connected to concrete categories of day-to-day cross-strait policies than the unification v. independent question.

Concerning the use of the term moderate/moderating. The dictionary definition of moderate is someone/something not at the extremes. If there is a single policy dimension anchored by position A at one end and position B at the other, any position between A and B is by definition more moderate, since A and B are the extremes. We didn’t see “moderate” as an ideological term, but as descriptive of a position in a policy space that is not at the extremes (this notion of moderate comes from spatial models of politics). But I take your point that non-social science readers might intepret “moderate” differently.

We tries to unpack the “Both” category precisely because it includes people who see themselves as mostly Taiwanese and people who see themselves as mostly Chinese. But this problem exists for the standard method too. There is likely to be some proportion of people who choose “Taiwanese only” in the standard surveys who would allocate up to 4 points to Chineseness if they had the option. So the standard method may under-count people who would acknowledge some Chinese identity. This then creates an amorphousness about “Taiwanese only” using the standard method. At least the allocation method allows respondents (and scholars) to unpack better what people mean when they say they are “Both”.

Our goal in this piece was to show the problems that wording and question choice raise for measuring identity, and perhaps to encourage others to try using the allocation method as well to see whether our finds are replicable. Surveys are not, nor should be, the only tool for measuring identity. Surveys should be combined with anthropological observation, and very labor intensive analysis of popular culture content (see for example the huge project developed by Ted Hopf:

If you have any other questions about the survey, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Best wishes,

Iain Johnston
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Friday, June 01, 2018

....and it's a three-way in Taipei

A winery outside Fengyuan

Yup. It's official. Pasuya Yao is now the DPP candidate for Taipei mayor. I was scared it might be someone who had some possibility of winning, but Yao will help current independent Mayor Ko Wen-je. Focus Taiwan reports:
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Wednesday nominated Pasuya Yao (姚文智) to run for Taipei mayor, making him the third prominent candidate in the election.


A survey released May 22 by Taiwan Brain Trust showed Yao with 13.8 percent support in a possible three-way race against Ko (39.4 percent) and Ting (33.5 percent).

Another recent poll, conducted by Shih Hsin University, indicated a similar level of public support for Yao at 13. 5 percent, while Ko and Ting were neck and neck with 29 percent and 29.1 percent, respectively.

Among voters aged 20-29, Ko has a strong lead of 55.6 percent, while Ting and Yao are trailing with 18.2 percent and 0 percent, respectively, according to the university poll.
In the young bracket... Yao has 0 percent support. That's right, the DPP has lost the young, at least in Taipei, with this candidate.

In other words, Yao is an excellent choice: Ko has strong support among the young, so by picking Yao, the DPP has boosted Ko's chance to win. The DPP protest votes that had supported Ting will switch to Yao, Yao does not much threaten Ko's chance to win, and the DPP city councilors will have a candidate they can parade around to gather DPP votes to themselves. Win-win.

This means that since Yao is little threat to win or drag Ko down much, the DPP will not need to do a "dump Yao to save Ko" vote.

Note that Ko's vice mayor is DPP and the DPP is letting him stay on. He will attempt the difficult trick of appearing colorless while being green, but you know colorless green ideologues sneak spuriously. What if Ko wins and then steps down in 2019 to run in 2020? The Deputy Mayor will still be the same fellow -- he will move into Ko's spot, and Taipei will become run by the DPP. Ko's power base will fall into his opponent's hands. This means that Ko has to get rid of this mayor before he can run for President.

But I don't think he plans to run in 2020.

Yao's presence in this race will mean six months of comedy gold for this blogger. As a bonus, Annette Lu has taken her ball and gone home too.

Two pieces in the Taipei Times today signaled the continued swing of the DPP to the right. Both were on the gay marriage issue. One writer accused the DPP of retreating from progressive politics...
Most people missed the news: In the middle of last month, the New Power Party (NPP) caucus proposed a motion to change the legislative agenda, urging the Legislative Yuan to pass the second and final readings of draft amendments to the Civil Code to legalize same-sex marriage as soon as possible.

However, with only the support of NPP lawmakers, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁), the motion was voted down by a wide margin.

Most of the lawmakers who voted against the motion were DPP legislators, while the KMT boycotted the vote. Since a legislative committee passed the first reading of the marriage equality act in late 2016, the legislative process has been constantly delayed.

DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), who initiated the bill, even voted against the motion, blocking her own bill from a review.
The other piece added more...
On May 11, the New Power Party proposed passing a draft bill on marriage equality in the legislature, but the proposal was blocked by the DPP.

When asked about the bill during a radio interview, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said that the party would not deal with the issue before the year-end elections.
Gay marriage will not be an issue before the Nov elections. Hopefully the DPP will shove a bill through right after them so there is a year to get used to the idea before the next presidential election.

ADDED: Taipei Times on the Taipei election
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American Citizens for Taiwan #2: Know Your Weaponized Narratives

That guy waited so long, he turned into a statue

My second installment for American Citizens for Taiwan: Know Your Weaponized Narratives. An excerpt:
Another way that Beijing attacks its critics is “whataboutism”? China invaded Tibet? Well, what about the US attack on Iraq, and Libya, and support of Israel, and so on. What about US racism, and America’s decimation of its aboriginal population? A variant on this is to sniff at critics and dismiss Taiwan as just a pawn of US imperialism, a form of whataboutism common on the Left.

This has two important functions. It appears to prevent the critic from asserting criticisms, since his own society is just as bad (Isn’t China behaving like any Great Power in history? goes a more cynical version of this, with a knowing wink). It also diverts the conversation to a discussion of western imperialism. Scholars of Beijing’s influence operations know that distractions are more effective in stopping discussions of what Beijing is doing than straight-up denials.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Paper on Parade: Irrigation Water Theft, Fertilizer Fraud, the good old days.

A sentry stands guard at the old rail bridge on the bike path outside Fengyuan

The Taipei Times ran a report the other day on rising irrigation water theft driven by water rationing...
Due to the shortage, a scheme has been introduced in which farmers are supplied with irrigation water for seven consecutive days, but do not have water for the next seven days. As the first rice harvest season is about to end, irrigation water would be supplied for the last time on June 4.

The association on May 1 set up a team to patrol its irrigation sources. The team reported more than 400 cases of water theft this month in which some farmers allegedly stole water by inserting additional tubes in the middle of irrigation waterways, an anonymous association member said.

The association tends to warn people stealing water, instead of calling the police, unless they are really hostile, the member said.

The water thefts often occur in the northbound and southbound waterways flanking Wushantou Reservoir (烏山頭水庫), with the northbound waterway reaching Chiayi County’s Puzih City (朴子) and the southbound one reaching Tainan’s Sinhua District (新化), the member added.
Irrigation water theft is old in Taiwan, of course, as old as irrigation. In Bernard Gallin's 1983 work Guests in the Dragon, on the social demography of a "Chinese" rural district in Taiwan, he remarks briefly on the routine theft of irrigation water by local residents in the Japanese era (it's a reminder of how much things have changed that as late as 1987 Hill Gates called her book on Taiwanese working class people Chinese Working-class Lives: Getting by in Taiwan. In those days you had to call Taiwan "China", now that language has largely disappeared).

Theft reminded me of fraud, which brought to mind this paper I had read the other day, "The Peasants’ Dilemma: Finance and Fraud Problems in Purchasing Fertilizer in Taiwan (1910–1930s)" by Kensuke Hirai in Economic Activities Under the Japanese Colonial Empire pp 115-136 (it's a translation). So I thought I'd offer another installment of my regularly irregular Paper on Parade series on this paper.

Like so many habits and practices, fertilizer use was brought to Taiwan by the Japanese. The paper observes:
In Taiwan during the late Qing dynasty, as a report from the British consul in the 1860s noted, peasants were not in the habit of purchasing fertilizers (Irsh University Area Studies Series 1971–72, p. 73). The amount of bean cake imported to Taiwan recorded in Maritime Customs statistics supports the claims of the British consul. The first time bean cake appeared in the Maritime Customs statistics was in 1880 and only a mere 270 piculs was imported. Although the import volume increased in the 1890s, it never exceeded 2000–4000 piculs (Huang, Lin and Wong 1997).
To get peasants to use fertilizers, the Japanese colonial government organized farmer's associations and promoted its use among them. Though science said fertilizers worked, the peasants were distrustful because the farmers associations played the dual role of police state enforcement organizations which were response for using the police to control farming villages. Eventually the government hit on the idea of using the baojia system, which the Japanese had reinvigorated and reorganized, to transmit fertilizer information downward to the peasantry. The author notes:
The fertilizer most commonly used for rice cultivation was bean cake, which was imported from the northeastern part of China. Figure 5.1 shows the amount of fertilizer imported into Taiwan. Imports started at 10,570 piculs in 1903 and rapidly increased after 1909, reaching 1,000,000 piculs in 1916 and 1,800,000 piculs in 1920. Later, imports fell drastically in 1921 in the recession after World War I, but increased rapidly again in the latter half of the 1920s and exceeded 3,000,000 piculs in 1931.
The fertilizer was initially sold by big Japanese firms who had the financial muscle to bring in high volumes, but later Taiwanese merchants entered the fray as imports became more diverse. The peasants suffered from the problem of financing the purchase of fertilizers, but they also suffered from another problem: fraud. The author writes:
The second problem in the purchase of fertilizers was the issue of fraud. It seems that the first mention of fertilizer fraud in Taiwan was in 1921 (TNK 1921, pp. 6–10). The fertilizer trade was characterized by an asymmetric balance of information . Since “it was hard for even specialists to distinguish between good and bad fertilizers (TNK 1921, p. 10),” the possibilities for fraud in the form of defective or adulterated products were high and the players “did not stop with manufacturers and suppliers but extended to amateurs secretly engaged in deception (TNK 1923, p. 13).” Furthermore, since there was no fertilizer inspection agency for the private sector in Taiwan, peasants and merchants had difficulties in assessing the quality of fertilizers that they were planning to buy (TS 1927, p. 31). Thus, there were many importers who “gained profits by secretly carrying domestically- and internationally-rejected and substandard products onto the island (TNK 1927, p. 6),” and those vendors on the island who bought from them were “only trading fertilizers conventionally, most lacking the skills to judge the quality of fertilizers, and they eventually sold them to peasants unaware that they had been tricked by unscrupulous merchants (TS 1927,p. 33).” It was, therefore, vital for the peasants to reduce this type of asymmetric information.
The government responded to the pervasive fraud problem with the Fertilizer Control Act of 1927 which stipulated that vendors had to attach a guarantee to the product and provided for inspections and punishment of fraud. Though the fraud rate fell, showing it had an effect, fraud continued to exist, meaning that the system failed to resolve the problem.

The peasants attacked the problems of financing and fraud through a joint purchasing system.
The next consideration is the problem of guaranteeing the quality of the fertilizer and avoiding fraud. The agricultural associations checked the quality of fertilizers they purchased by conducting inspection . The agricultural associations set standards for successful bidders, stipulating that water content was less than 20% for bean cake, that there was more than 19% soluble phosphoric acid for superphosphate, and equal amounts of bean cake and superphosphate for compound fertilizers (TSN 1921, p. 44). Moreover, since the agricultural association conducted joint purchasing to promote the use of fertilizers, there was no incentive for the agricultural association to commit fraud. Therefore, the peasants’ costs of searching for reliable information on the quality of the fertilizer were nearly zero when they used joint purchasing. This is shown in the rate of use of joint purchasing. Figure 5.3 shows where peasants obtained their fertilizer for rice cultivation. The figure demonstrates that peasants purchased fertilizer mainly by joint purchasing and the percentage of fertilizer obtained from joint purchasing (joint purchasing usage rate) was about 70 % until 1927. As mentioned above, joint purchasing prices exceeded wholesale prices during this period. So it would seem that peasants were mainly concerned with the fertilizer quality.
The situation grew complicated after WWI when speculation become common in the rice market and  fertilizer merchants often acted as moneylenders. Many moneylenders lost money speculating on rice prices and couldn't make rice deliveries to the export merchants who had advanced them funds to purchase rice for export. The association of export merchants than restricted funds to moneylenders. Thus choked, the moneylenders couldn't find funds to lend to peasants. After the 1930s the industrial associations set up financial systems that also squeezed moneylenders since they offered better rates for loans to peasants.

To combat this, the moneylenders offered fertilizer in exchange for unhulled rice. Fertilizer would be "lent" in advance and repaid with unhulled rice after the harvest. The moneylenders also loaned rice for consumption for repayment with unhulled rice.

Because competition was fierce, the moneylenders did not cheat the peasants in either loan rates for fertilizer quality. To obtain good quality unhulled rice to forward to exporters and processors, the moneylenders had to provide good quality fertilizer. Most peasants trusted this system and made use of it, according to the writer.

From the point of view of Taiwan's future industrial and agricultural history, this system was the breeding ground for a peasantry with skills in financing, borrowing and repaying, exports, and other advanced economic behaviors, as well as the formation of local networks of trust and government-led associations. After the land reform of the early 1950s, many of these farmers would go on to build small factories on their land and enter global supply chains and export markets, supplying big Japanese firms (some of them firms such as Mitsui which had originally entered Taiwan's fertilizer market in the early twentieth century) for assembly for the US export market, and later directly to the US.
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Gutmann on Xinjiang: Is this what's in store for Taiwan when China comes over?

Gutmann has for years been working on CCP organ harvesting from political prisoners. He made this talk last month but for some reason it only popped up in my feed yesterday. I am putting it here because the Chinese occupation of Taiwan is going to be Xinjiang Lite. Recall that a skeleton of the infrastructure of authoritarianism still exists all over Taiwan -- from the schools that still have classes with class leaders and micromanaged, centralized control from the MoE, to the military bases in almost every community that could be used as emergency re-education camps, to massive internet surveillance already and widespread use of China-made mobile phone tech to cameras on many street corners.... it would not be hard for a Chinese occupation force to breath new life into that system. Taiwan is an island, easy to cut off from the outside world...


Ethan Gutmann’s remarks at the Westminster Roundtable. April 17, 2018.
(Special thanks to Rukiye Turdush and Becky James)

Back at the Roundtable in mid-December 2017, I examined the allegation that Beijing was ending the practice of harvesting political and religious dissidents for their organs. I argued it was logical for the Chinese Communist Party to do so, and their rhetoric has certainly followed that logic – and yet, China’s transplant volume has held steady. Even if we believed the Chinese voluntary donation numbers, they could not come close to filling China’s output. I also spoke of the Chinese effort to gather blood and DNA from every Uyghur in Xinjiang – tests that could be exploited for tissue matching.

What has happened in the new year?

The blood testing of 17 million Uyghurs is complete. And the Vatican is edging toward a historic rapprochement with Beijing. In the words of Bishop Sorondo: “the Church, the United Nations, and the people of the earth must follow the evolution of a country with a population of 1,300 million and 31 million Christians” – China, it seems, is the “protagonist of the new world scenario that is passing from the Atlantic to the Pacific…”

In other words, it doesn’t matter what Beijing is doing now – such as demolishing churches – and it doesn’t matter if the Party has committed mass murder. In essence, the Vatican wants to run with the big dogs and Beijing wants a papal dispensation.

Both parties may need one. Because there is a new development since we last spoke: Uyghur mass incarceration.

There are Falun Gong practitioners in this room today who know something about incarceration. And that’s the point: China’s public security bureau, the PSB, have exploited both Uyghurs and Falun Gong as experimental subjects.

Not only live organ extraction, but the harvesting of prisoners of conscience began with the Uyghurs in the mid-1990s; the procedure was perfected and put into mass production with Falun Gong. In 2001, the PSB created a mass-media pretext for murdering Falun Gong with the stage-managed immolation in Tiananmen. Thirteen years later, it was Uyghur “terrorists” in the Kunming station. The facts are murky, yet there was a reason why every Western media outlet used quotation marks around the term “terrorists” – until CNN caved to Beijing’s pressure. About five years ago, the PSB began DNA home-testing practitioners; now they’ve sampled the entire Uyghur population. Beijing created China’s Big Brother web to catch Falun Gong; yet predictive policing using big data analysis – that is, true total surveillance – blossomed in the deserts of Xinjiang.

For the years 2000 to 2008, I postulated that 450,000 to a million Falun Gong were incarcerated in the Laogai System at any given time. Now, the Congressional Executive Commission on China has confirmed that half a million to a million Uyghurs are presently incarcerated in “re-education” camps, or “transformation” facilities – and practitioner refugees understand the full implications of that word.

How do we come up with this number? It’s pieced together from Chinese sources. Beijing estimates that there are only 12 million Uyghurs (not 17 million, the Uyghur estimate) and according to Radio Free Asia and AP, the local PSBs tend to brag about their arrests: 10% of the Uyghur northern population is incarcerated, 40% in Hotan, 10% in Kashgar. Easy enough to get to a million, although let’s acknowledge the uncertainties; these may be “revolving door” numbers with “sentences” ranging from a single weekend to 20 years. It won’t be cleared up soon. With the arrest of the Globe and Mail’s Nathan Vanderklippe, Western journalists have generally avoided the trek out to Xinjiang. So under conditions of an Internet black-out, the academic, political, and intelligence community believe – as do I – that these are the best numbers that we can get.

The tragedy lies behind these numbers. Every township has a story: In Bullaqsu, there are “hardly any males to be seen.” The pretext was an incident four years ago where police removed two women’s headscarves. About 200 Uyghurs stopped the police from arresting the women. So the PSB multiplied that number by four, and threw all the males in a camp.

Or take just one of the deaths in detention. An 87-year-old man was held for a year, with continuous sound torture using a specifically designed helmet – along with sleep and water deprivation. The PSB released him and he died. Immediately. Anyone familiar with my book, The Slaughter, or indeed many of the accounts on will know the pattern. Release to the home community at the point of death – “kill the chicken to scare the monkey”

And the humiliations: Mosques patrolled. Then shut down. Then destroyed. Suppressing public displays of Muslim prayer. Then the compulsory patriotic songs. Then imams forced to perform the “Little Apple” dance. College students forced to eat during Ramadan. Uyghur prisoners forced to drink alcohol and eat pork – specifically, the pig’s head, feet, and guts.

The oft-imagined world of Islamophobia is the real-life world of the Uyghurs. And any practitioner who had to step on a poster of Teacher Li Hongzhi just to pay a visit to a loved one in the Dragon Mountain labor camp will know that this gratuitous humiliation – the rape of human dignity – may be the worst torture of all.

So if the British Foreign Office is listening: The time for questions about organ harvesting and the reasons for the persecution – that’s done. Because it is already starting over again.

Congress and the European Parliament have openly condemned Beijing for the organ harvesting prisoners of conscience, so you don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Nor do you need the big dogs or “the new world scenario.” You need to run with your allies, and publicly, explicitly, condemn Beijing.

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Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan Press Freedom Committee on WHO Exclusion

A solarized school. Wish they'd do that to all public buildings...

In mid-May the UN excluded Taiwanese journalists from attending the meeting of the World Health Assembly, which overseas the WHO (FocusTaiwan). Many international organizations and individuals spoke out in support of Taiwan. This week the Press Freedom Committee of the  Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan sent around this statement of support:
Press Freedom Committee Statement on Taiwanese Journalists, WHO

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan's Press Freedom Committee objects to the World Health Organization's decision to deny Taiwanese Journalists press accreditation to cover the World Health Assembly, which started May 21.

Although Taiwan is not a member state of the WHO, its journalists had been allowed to attend and report on the annual meeting prior to 2017. Denial of their accreditation is an infringement on press freedom. Accurate health reporting is critical to a safe and informed citizenry and health crises do not stop at political borders. We therefore call on the WHO to resume issuing press credentials to Taiwanese journalists because no journalist should be barred from reporting solely because of their nationality.

Freedom of Press Committee
One of many insults from China....
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Monday, May 28, 2018

New Book: Lord of Formosa

Lord of Formosa
Joyce Bergvelt
Available from Camphor Press

Last month Camphor formally launched its latest offering in an increasingly diverse and interesting library of books about Taiwan, Lord of Formosa. Bradley Winterton, the sturdy book reviewer for the Taipei Times, described it:
Chinese war junks with crimson sails, diets said to influence the sex of a child and match-makers with painted white faces and red cheeks: Lord of Formosa, which centers on the life of the 17th century warrior and Ming Dynasty loyalist Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功, also known as Koxinga), is crammed with these details. I had no idea his life was going to be so fascinating.
Set in the 17th century, the book tells the story of Koxinga, who conquered southern Taiwan and established a pirate state on the island. There's a video introduction on Youtube and a Goodreads page. The author is on Goodreads here introducing herself and taking questions.

The book itself is a great story, but just as great is the story of how the author came to write it. She's interviewed on Bookish Asia:
The answer to that goes back to 1983, when I arrived in Taiwan with my parents in my teens. It was then that I learnt that Taiwan had once been a Dutch colony. This intrigued me. I read about Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong), but information on the Dutch, who they were and what they were doing on Taiwan was limited. When I had to decide on a subject for my academic dissertation for my Chinese Studies degree at Durham University (UK), I didn’t have to think very hard. My final dissertation had the title: ‘The Battle of Taiwan: Taiwan under the Occupation of the Dutch and their Expulsion by Koxinga.’ Not a very catchy title.

It was all factual, of course, but I wrote it in chapters, alternating between Koxinga’s story and that of the Dutch, leading up to the final climax of the siege. My history professor gave me a good assessment; he even told me that it read ‘like an exciting novel.’
The author is also interviewed here.

The prose is accessible and lively and the book is full of wonderful nuggets of history and minutely informed by the author's deep historical knowledge:
THE size of the armed Black Guard that escorted Zheng Sen back to his home in Fujian was significant. Years ago, his father had explained to him why he preferred these men over his own countrymen for his personal army. From bitter experience, his father had learned not to trust anyone, not even his own brothers, and found that employing these hardened, foreign soldiers had its advantages. The Black Guard consisted of a motley crew of Africans and Moluccans from the East Indies, most of them mercenaries and former slaves of the Dutch. Recruited as strangers from other lands, they played no part in the intrigues that were rife among his Chinese officers or even his own family, all of whom had their own agendas. These people had no history of conflict or loyalty to any particular Chinese lord. The only loyalty they felt was to the wages he paid them.
Not many people know that Koxinga was attended by a unit of freed slaves. For the history alone this book is worth it.

I won't spoil it for you, but I am enjoying it very much, both as a Taiwan history buff and as a reader of good stories (that moment when the messengers arrive with news of his father's death. And a whole lotta something else...). Someone will certainly make a great movie out of it.

Buy it, Camphor has it in both e-book and printed formats. Well worth their affordable price.
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Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Unbearable Rightness of being the Economist... and Politico *sigh*

The Tazih Train station. Hopelessly and inhumanly huge and poorly designed, in the morning when it is crowded the crappy chairs are flooded with sunlight because the roof is too small. No solar panels were installed to defray the cost of running the escalators all the time, of course. Nothing but wasted space. *sigh*
"Lenin wrote, “When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie with each other for the rope contract.” —Major George Racey Jordan."
Ah, the Economist. Nothing slanted here! Describing her recent live interview with the public, the Economist observed:
Ms Tsai badly needs to restate her case to the people. In two years her approval ratings have slumped from almost 70% to as low as 26%, according to a broadcaster, TVBS; the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation says 48% of her compatriots disapprove of her performance, against 39% in favour. She has lost ground especially with the young, whom she has eagerly courted.
Yes, Saint Ing-wen, Our Lady of Perpetually Slumping Approval, is always perpetually slumping to... right around the low 30s/high 20s. Presentations like this are the truth but only in the most technical sense: yes, Tsai's approval was 70% once and is now 26%. Tsai's approval ratings fell to low 30s in Sept of 2016, and have remained there. They haven't slumped, but orbited in this range most of the time for the last 18 months. This is entirely normal, as I noted in a piece at Taiwan News. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether the Economist lied by not providing that context.

In addition to the misrepresentation of Tsai's perpetually slumping approval ratings, the Economist misrepresents in another way: what was Ma's approval rate at this time (it had fallen to below 30% by Sept of the first year of his first term, even worse than Tsai -- but then the Economist loved Ma). By omitting comparisons, the Economist denies the reader the opportunity to contextualize the information. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether the Economist lied by not providing that context.

I'm getting tired of this misleading reporting, but as long as the Economist remains committed to appearing to support the party that murdered 10 million people in China and Taiwan, we'll see more misleading constructions of this nature. Sad, but our media worships power, not truth...

Speaking of worshiping power, how about that Politico? Yes, Politico has made a "content partnership" with SCMP, which is not exactly scrupulously balanced in its reporting with respect to China. The first fruit of this unholy union was out this week:
Mainland Chinese media names and shames foreign airlines that refuse to comply with ‘Orwellian’ Taiwan demands
The content is imported directly from SCMP without any editing for reality...

Another media organ sells out... in WaPo Isaac Stone Fish wrote on the SCMP-Politico deal. The irony is thick... WaPo has a deal with China Daily, a CCP state organ.

Scott Simon looks at Air Canada's surrender to China in a longer piece.
Daily Links:
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Donovan: Froze, the Turtonator and Me on Ko P

My friend Dom took this picture of me, which I really love because it is with a good friend whom I have known for several years. He lives at the police station near Tai-An station, and I always stop in to see him when I am in the neighborhood.

So I took Donovan's whole response to me post the other day and put it on my blog. How will Ko P do? Donovan is more optimistic about his prospects for a win in Taipei. Go to READ MORE to read more, it's a long one. I will wait til the DPP comes out with its own candidate before I update.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Frozen Garlic and Donovan Smith on Local elections, K-town and Taipei

George and Mary's. It's for sale!

Long post ahead, so let's get Kaohsiung out of the way. Frozen Garlic has a superb post on it.
I don’t know if Han’s message will work. I suspect it will not. If it doesn’t, he doesn’t have the deep organizational networks to overcome the lack of a compelling message. It’s entirely possible that more conventional KMT city council candidates will panic and encourage a more standard politician to run an independent mayoral campaign, worrying that their voters will not want to turn out to vote for a mayoral candidate like Han. However, if Han somehow manages to break into the low 40s, KMT presidential and legislative candidates (in green districts) in 2020 might decide to copy his populist approach. It’s worth keeping an eye on.
It's a really thought provoking post. My own view is that Han's populist approach won't work very well because Taiwanese are not as dumb as Americans. I think he will appeal to disaffected over-50 types, and that's all. The young know perfectly well that the political economy of Taiwan is responsible for their problems, and their problems are structural. Han's alleged underworld connections mark him as an old school politician younger voters won't like....

On to Taipei after the READ MORE break.