Friday, May 22, 2015

Blast from the Past: Formosa entry from 1838 Atlas

From The London General Gazetteer; Or, Compendious Geographical Dictionary by Richard Brookes, 1838.
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Remarks from State: Taiwan: A Vital Partner in Asia

Lunch at a Thai restaurant on the road.

Taiwan: A Vital Partner in East Asia
Susan Thornton
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Remarks at the Brookings Institution
Washington, DC
May 21, 2015

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Jeff, for having me here today and for that wonderful introduction. I really appreciate all your support, advice and insight and it's appropriate, of course, to have you here, since much of our good work with Taiwan is built on the foundation you laid.... (READ MORE)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Comedy and Ethnicity


The wreckage of someone who was once Shih Ming-teh, former political prisoner, former DPP Chairman, and KMT tool, intentional or not, is back to rescue Taiwan. WantWant's story on his announcement of his presidential candidacy is excellent:
Always a provocative and divisive figure, Shih periodically pops up to grab headlines but no longer commands a significant amount of support or respect.
Shih will only get a handful of votes, but he might collect some cash. points out his problem:
But he won’t make it to the ballot at all unless the KMT itself holds a signature drive for him. Back then it was easier to get on the ballot. Today, unless you’re endorsed by a party that got at least 5% of the vote in the latest presidential or legislative election, you need to collect a number of signatures equivalent to 1.5% of the last legislative electorate within 45 days. For this next election, in other words, Shih needs to get 269,709 signatures in 45 days, or 6,000 a day. That takes serious political organization, which Shih doesn’t have.
Tonight's comic relief...

Meanwhile, KMT attack dog Hung Hsiu-chu, a possible presidential candidate for the KMT this election cycle, was out there attacking the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen on China policy...
Online media outlet NewTalk reported that Tsai told pro-independence groups earlier this week that her interpretation of the “status quo” is in line with the stances of the US and Japan, which is “a status quo of [keeping] Taiwan’s sovereignty” and “a status quo that sees Taiwan as not belonging to China.”...

In response, Tsai was said to have told Yao that she is to maintain the “status quo” of Taiwan being separate from China, which is the “status quo” supported by the US, the report said.

Hung yesterday called Tsai’s remarks “dishonest and irresponsible.”

“[Tsai] should read what was stated in the Three Communiques [joint statements made by the US and the People’s Republic of China]. The US stance is that there is one China, that there is what we call the 1992 consensus and that it is against Taiwan’s independence. Are you sure that the stance you uphold is aligned with the US?” Hung asked.

“The US also says that the CCP is the sole legitimate government of China, supports the yearly reduction of arms sales to Taiwan and is against our participation in international organizations,” she said. “Tsai has not only lost national dignity, but also Taiwan’s dignity in saying that she holds the same view as the US on the status quo.”

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) also weighed in yesterday, criticizing Tsai for “basing her cross-strait policy on the US government’s interpretation while running for president.”
The KMT exploits US reticence to clearly state US policy, which is that Taiwan is not part of China, but a territory whose status awaits final determination. The KMT knows perfectly well that the US One China doesn't include Taiwan, but nevertheless comes out with "One China" rhetoric as if it did. The DPP has finally grasped that it should be aligned tightly with the US on this. You can tell how unhappy the KMT is with this move because it is so upset. As remarked on Twitter the other day, it will be fun to contemplate the irony of Tsai Ing-wen, who has some China policy experience with the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), telling Hung that she has no experience in cross-strait affairs, if Hung comes out as candidate. This is important because as many have observed, the KMT's last remaining card is cross-strait relations. It can't talk about its domestic accomplishments because the Ma Administration has been a failure.

The fallout from the ethnic chauvinism of the mainlander core of the KMT continues to reverberate. Because they rejected Wang Jin-pyng, the Speaker of the Legislature, as a presidential candidate, several legislative candidates aren't going to be running, Solidarity translated. This is especially true in the south, where legislative candidates for the KMT face tough uphill slogging without Wang's strong southern support to pull them up.

Ah, the Rational Party at work again. It's worth observing that a key qualification of Eric Chu to be Chairman was his mainlander pedigree. Similarly, Chiang Kai-shek's great grandson is running for legislative office. His qualification? He's a Chiang. An important source of the KMT's current crisis is that it is running out of viable mainlander third generation candidates to assume the role of running the KMT. If the KMT were not run on the basis of ethnic superiority, and were run on a rational basis, it would be fine...

Export orders drop. Note that the US is Taiwan's number one export destination, as orders from China continue to fall since local production is eating Taiwanese exports to China. This will mean that even as the KMT is pushing "closer to China" and "Cross strait stability" during this election, China is becoming less important as an export market. What effect this will have on the election is anyone's guess...

Speaking of things that will be happening in this election, how about the Dome scandalTaipei Mayor Ko orders a halt to construction. A significant chunk of the public believes President Ma did some iffy stuff in connection with that project. With the election looming, Ko is tightening the screws on Ma, probably ensuring that the Dome scandal will be in the news throughout the run-up to the election.
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Compass Food and Music Festival May 23-24 CANCELED

Here's the announcement from the Compass Page.

To all 2015 Compass Festival vendors, sponsors, musicians and other participants,
Many of you have expressed concern regarding the heavy rain that Taichung and most of Taiwan has experienced from Wednesday and, according to the Central Weather Bureau’s extreme weather warnings, is expected to continue to Sunday or Monday.
Festival organizers have been watching this situation very closely and, after much discussion with various participants and examination of the venue site, have decided to postpone the 2015 Compass International Food & Music Festival and reschedule it for September 19 & 20, 2015.
This very difficult decision has been made out of consideration of various factors, including heavy accumulated water on the Art Museum Parkway venue, which puts vendors and sound equipment at risk, a serious reduction in the number of festival visitors, and the risk of damage to the parkway grass areas.
It is our hope that all our vendors, musicians, sponsors and other participants will understand this situation and agree to continue with their commitment to and participation on the rescheduled festival date. However, Compass Magazine will refund any payment it has received for the event if any participant requests this.
Compass Magazine’s publishers and staff have invested a tremendous amount of effort, energy and time into preparing for this weekend’s event and are extremely disappointed at this turn of events. However, we are also confident that the postponement will allow us even more time to prepare and make this year's Compass Festival even better during the hopefully-drier weekend of September 19 & 20, 2015.
We would appreciate it if you can help us inform others of this change of plans. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact Co-Publisher Douglas Habecker at 0936-827-267, or Francis Lai and Ruby Wu at (04) 2358-5466 during office hours. Once again, we deeply appreciate your understanding and support!
Best regards,
Douglas Habecker & C. Donovan Smith
Compass Magazine
May 21, 2015
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Polls and Links for Tuesday

FormosaNation passed these around Twitter today. Top poll is Apple Daily, bottom poll is Liberty Times. Both show that Tsai crushes all comers. On Twitter several were remarking that the Apple Daily poll includes more Blues. However, note the Taiwan thinktank poll below, which has Tsai up only a few points on Chu. Best Chu speculation so far, from a friend: Chu doesn't want to run for president because... he might win.
EVENT: Next Jerome Keating meet up: Jerome Keating ( writes: We are back on track for our next meeting... (READ MORE)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

KMTitanic 10: The Ship is Foundering

A bright new day is dawning.
Ruth: So this is the ship they say is unsinkable.
Cal Hockley: It is unsinkable. God himself could not sink this ship.
Twenty-five years I've been watching Taiwan politics. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed them so much.

I went off to Guguan on my bike yesterday planning to ignore the internet. I just wanted to come home to find everything resolved. Instead, it became more of a mess.

Not that I'm disappointed or anything.

The day opened with Apple Daily publishing an interview with President Ma Ying-jeou, who more or less ripped Eric Chu, the KMT Chairman, for not running.
"As party chairman, (Eric Chu) has the responsibility to find the most suitable candidate," Ma told Apple Daily, a tabloid-style newspaper. "If that fails, he himself has decent qualities and should not dodge the responsibility that is his to shoulder."
(Did you catch that? FocusTaiwan, the government's own news source, referred to Apple Daily as a "tabloid-style newspaper.")

Despite pressure from all sides, Chu again denied he was going to run for President.
"The decision not to run has subjected me to more pressure and criticism than if I had decided to run," said Chu, who is widely considered as his party's best chance of beating Tsai Ing-wen,(蔡英文), chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), in next year's presidential elections. Chu said the decision not to compete does not mean he is " biding his time or fears defeat," but rather that he is honoring his promise of serving out his four-year term as mayor of New Taipei City, as promised during the local government election campaign last year.

As a KMT chairman, he said, he has been working to revive the party's spirits since its crushing defeat in the local elections last November.

He has also been working for true unity of the party, Chu said at a press conference held at the KMT's headquarters after the closing time for the collection of registration forms for the party's presidential primary.

Noting that some people have been saying that he is refusing to run for president because he is afraid to lose, Chu said if that were the case he would not have run for the chairmanship of the party.

Serving as KMT chairman is "a difficult and underappreciated job," said Chu, 53.

He said that if the KMT wins the 2016 election, the new president will serve concurrently as party chairman, and if the KMT loses, "I certainly will have to step down to take responsibility" for the loss.

He said, however, that if his decision not to compete in the presidential election will cause even more disarray and disunity in the party, he will step down as chairman.
Several sharp people I know have been saying since Chu became Chairman of the KMT months ago that he wouldn't run for President. I have never believed it, assuming that even if he really didn't run, all this kabuki theater would get him on board, eventually. But pressure from all sides has failed. In fact, there are calls already within the KMT for Chu to resign since he failed to provide a meaningful candidate (!).
After Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Friday apologized to supporters while saying he would not be joining the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential primary, some KMT lawmakers reacted angrily, blaming KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), with some calling for Chu’s resignation as chairman if the party ends up with a less-than-satisfactory candidate.
Ah, what a joy it is for me to be comprehensively wrong about Chu. I always thought he would come out. What a joy it is as well to see this acted out in public by KMT officialdom. My wife has been ROFL watching me walking around the house, grinning from ear to ear.

Solidarity has Chu's speech in English here.

This means that the KMT really has no candidate, with the election eight months from now. That leaves:
On Saturday, Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), and Huang Po-shou (黃柏夀), the chief secretary of Dayuan Township in Taoyuan County, were the only KMT hopefuls who collected registration forms for the party's presidential primary.
It's irrelevant who they pick from this bunch: Tsai Ing-wen will steamroller them. I will thoroughly enjoy watching former Vice President of JP Morgan and NSC director Douglas Paal come to Taiwan at election time and do his dog and pony show for... Huang Po-shou, a former township secretary with great ambition. Recall that Chu has already said that the KMT won't be spending money on the Presidential campaign -- whoever runs has to fund it on their own. A friend of mine on FB summed it up nicely:
Imagine if in 2008, knowing they'd lose because of Bush, none of the top Republicans ran for president, and the party was ultimately left with only these 3 primary candidates: former health secretary Michael O. Leavitt, far-right legislator Allen West, and the secretary of the GOP's Kokomo, Indiana chapter. This is exactly what's happening to Taiwan's ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), right now.
Chu is probably saving money for the legislative elections which will take place the same day. But if the KMT goes with one of these inferior candidates, then the legislative election will take a huge hit.

When they lose, Chu will have to step down.

Speculation about Chu is heading in several directions. Chu doesn't want to run because he wants to save himself for 2020 (he'll be 57 then). Chu doesn't want to run because he is gun-shy and out of his depth. Chu went to China and saw the light -- Xi, no politician either and apparently unable to identify where his interests lay, treated him like a mentally defective farmhand who wanted to marry his daughter, instead of a prodigal son come home -- and discovered he is Taiwanese, not Chinese. Chu doesn't want to preside over a presidency married to Ma's cripplingly stupid China policies. Chu doesn't want to run because the KMT will lose both the election and New Taipei City in the by-election, and then Chu will have to resign from the Chairmanship, meaning that he will be left with nothing but memories. Chu doesn't want to run because he really is committed to the people of New Taipei City. Chu doesn't want to run because he never wanted to be Chairman either.

Whatever the reason, Chu doesn't want to run. Even if they somehow draft him, he'll be seen as a reluctant candidate, wounded by repeated denials. Recall that the KMT has another month before it is supposed to announce a candidate.

And there's Hau, running the KMT on a day-to-day basis while Chu does other stuff. Like Chu (a former accounting prof, which also shows how the KMT uses the universities as job programs for mainlanders, one of the ways the KMT uses all the government and quasi-government and industry organizations as job programs for mainlanders), Hau is a mainlander and former professor who had greatness thrust upon him. One has to wonder whether he will have the same reaction as Chu.

And there's Wang Jin-pyng, the Taiwanese Speaker of the Legislature who withdrew from the race on Friday after having his candidacy blocked by the Ma camp and the mainlander core. Recall that Wang is the leader of the Taiwanese KMT, or the "southern KMT", the Taiwanese faction politicians who run the KMT at the local level and which the KMT is entirely dependent on for its local presence. The mainlander core didn't want Wang because he isn't a mainlander -- not a Chinese. Nothing like ethnic chauvinism as a basis for political choices. That's a giant middle finger to the party factions and to Taiwanese who are KMTers, because at the local level Wang is something of a hero in a local-boy-makes-good way. That won't be good for party unity going into the election.

I want to put away a nice bottle of whisky for election day. Any suggestions?

UPDATE: DON'T MISS Solidarity's excellent take on Eric Chu.
UPDATE: New Bloom on the KMT and Chu
UPDATE: Frozen Garlic on the mess
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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Guguan with a twist

Fisherman cluster in front of a water gate above Dongshih on the river.

There are two rides I do just for the workout, the 125 km run down to the Chiayi HSR station, and the 115 km climb and return to Guguan. Today I wanted to do it to test my healing leg (verdict: leg is good). The Guguan ride is pretty enough, but the traffic makes it painful. Today we found an alternative that saves much pain. Click READ MORE for the story...

Friday, May 15, 2015



It's official. Wang Jin-pyng, Speaker of the Legislature, KMT heavyweight, possible presidential candidate, is out. He held a presser this morning to say that he would not be picking up a registration form for the KMT presidential primary. Storm media has it in Chinese.

This means that either Chu has to jump in or be forced in, or the KMT is going to go with a third-tier candidate and hope that some combination of Taiwanese businessmen in China, threats and more from Beijing (and as someone pointed out to me on FB today, Beijing can keep the KMT alive as long as it wants via transfers of money), and local faction clout can deliver the victory despite the incredible weaknesses of the remaining possibilities.

Because this has been arranged to give Chu no choice, he can claim he was forced and break his promise to the people of New Taipei City, to whom he promised he wouldn't run.
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Thursday, May 14, 2015

KMT forces Chu's hand

On Longxi Road in Taitung

Disaster looms... (KMT news organ)
There are three days left to pick up registration forms for those who want to run in the KMT Presidential primary, according to the Taipei-based China Times, May 14, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) has been keeping a low profile. According to an informed source, strong opposition from Wang’s family and obstruction from President Ma’s subordinates have caused Wang to hesitate to throw his hat into the ring. According to the same source, Wang also wanted to avoid causing a rift in the KMT before the 2016 Presidential Election, so it was highly unlikely that Wang would pick up a registration form for the KMT primary.

The KMT has yet to come up with a standard bearer for the 2016 Presidential election. According to the KMT party central’s internal regulations, if Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) or Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), who have already picked up registration forms, did not receive enough qualified endorsements or the minimum 30% support rating in the primary opinion polls, the KMT’s Central Standing Committee would likely directly draft a candidate in June, with the approval of the National Party Congress scheduled for July 19. KMT Chairman Eric Chu, Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), and Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) are thought to be the most likely draftees.
At the moment -- savor this thought -- the most credible candidate the KMT has is Hung Hsiu-chu, the Deputy Legislative Speaker (name recognition test: quick, name your own country's deputy legislative speaker), who has been burnishing her rightist credentials. An SETV poll from April 21, Solidarity reminded us on Twitter today, has Tsai crush her 60-11, while UDN has Tsai over Hung 60-12. She's bug on windscreen bad. There's no way the KMT goes with her.

Nope, with Wang out, because as many have already noted the party would split between the local factions and the KMT core -- nothing more dramatically shows Wang's importance as the tongs by which the KMT handled the local factions -- that leaves only one option.

Eric Chu must come out. It's looking to us chatting about this that the Party core is pushing Wang out to ensure that Chu has to run. Because if anyone else runs, it will be a blowout, and the KMT can't afford a blowout -- the factions are already going to take it personally that Wang wasn't supported by the mainlander core after all he's done -- I suspect that's why the KMT has been putting it about that Wang's family doesn't want him to run, to reduce some of that damage. Moreover, some of them have already started to leave, signaling that more must be thinking about it. A blowout loss would mean that the legislature might be lost as well, which would send many faction politicians out to make deals with the DPP. Meanwhile Chu would have to resign as Chair, and his shot at the 2020 nomination would be damaged. Chu may have to run merely to preserve his position for the 2020 election. On the other hand, maybe he won't resign no matter what. Who knows?

And there's Hau, waiting in the wings if Chu falters.

The nomination process closes this weekend, according to the -- haha, I don't know why I am even using this word in connection with the KMT -- rules (Solidarity explains them here).

More bad news for Chu came out this week with the new TISR poll on his visit to China (link). Just as everyone said, it'd didn't play in Peoria.
  • Who benefited? 41.2% said China, 15.7% said Taiwan. 
All this reminds me -- Wang is aging. Who is going to handle the party's relationships with its factions after Wang is gone?

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

KMT: Wang on hold as Ma objects

Puli in the morning.

Solidarity evidently had a slow day at the office, for he translated a bunch of stuff today. One piece explained why Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pyng did not announce his bid for the KMT candidacy today as expected last week:
The KMT’s presidential nomination registration period is nearing the end, and legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s 王金平 intention to declare his candidacy is clear, but the “iron blues” are fighting back in a big way, forcing Wang to delay his plans again and again. He’s been forced to scrap his original plans to go to the KMT headquarters to register his campaign today [5/13] at 8 a.m., which is an extremely auspicious time from an astrological standpoint, as the nation will at that moment be under the Emperor Star 紫薇入座.
Opposition to Wang from the Deep Blues is powerful -- they understand that theirs is an ethnic-based ruling class, and won't tolerate a non-member of that club, even as a front man. Nor do they trust Taiwanese either. Somewhere in Wang's heart there has to be powerful feelings from listening to the abuse of locals that circulates in mainlander circles and occasionally leaks out in public, and also, deep anger at his treatment at Ma's hands. Now it is Ma who is blocking his attempt to become a primary candidate.

Wang's support comes from the Taiwanese KMT, especially in the south. The faction networks, nourished on fisheries and agricultural cooperative monies, support him. As Solidarity notes, Chu could bring the party together to support Wang, but it would likely cost him the Deep Blues.

I think somewhere in the background Hau Lung-bin, the former Taipei mayor and now heavily involved in the running of the KMT, is going to play broker/kingmaker. He's a Deep Blue son of a far right Chinese nationalist father. He might be able to bring over some Deep Blues, if he comes out strong in support of Wang. He must also be nursing presidential ambitions under there somewhere. Although Chu's experience at the highest levels must be a salutary lesson for him...

Meanwhile Hung Hsiu-chu, who has been Chu's stalking horse, finally conceded today that KMT nomination rules don't allow the Party to draft Chu against his will. This reads like a concession that Chu isn't going to be the candidate.
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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Today's WTF?

Check out that caption from this article...

...and then here's a comical story about a family from Dallas trying to make it in the brutal world of .... Tienmu. I hear some places are like a ten minute walk from the metro.

h/t to @TaiwanExplorer on Twitter
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Monday, May 11, 2015

Nazi Kitsch

An acquaintance posted this to Facebook. Words fail me.
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Monday Links and comments

The kids in Taipei a decade ago.

Lazy Monday...

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Friday, May 08, 2015

The We're China Correction Policy

Enjoying an east coast ride.

Eric Chu's demand that AP correct its claim that he had agreed on eventual "unification" of Taiwan with China was not an isolated incident. It's policy.

Remember this from last year?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said it would demand a correction after a Chinese-language report by Deutsche Welle (DW) quoted President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as saying he aims to learn from the experience of East Germany and West Germany in handling bilateral relations and “their ultimate unification.”
Ma had a habit that Chu appears to be recapitulating. He'd speak to some foreign newspaper or in a foreign location, and reaffirm that Taiwan is part of China awaiting "unification" with the motherland, which the reporter would dutifully paraphrase or quote. Then the following day, when the local public woke up to discover that Ma had declared them all Chinese, a deeply unpopular position, the President would demand a retraction.

Another example is this one from 2010:
The Presidential Office yesterday released audio recording of President Ma Ying-jeou's interview with the Associated Press in an attempt to set the record straight over a controversial interpretation by the news agency on Ma's readiness for cross-strait political talks.

Ma denied a report by AP Tuesday suggesting that he was ready for political dialogue with mainland China in his second term if he gets re-elected, stressing that he never made such a remark nor linked political talks with his second term in the interview.

The Presidential Office Tuesday demanded AP correct their story. AP did not make such a correction. Asked by Taiwanese media on the news agency's response, AP's Taiwanese correspondent, Peter Enav, said that AP stands by its report.
As the always insightful James Wang noted in the Taipei Times about this "correction":
His recent interview with The Associated Press (AP) was no exception. The more he spoke, the more pro-Chinese he sounded, and he showed that internationally he fears China, while at home he fears the voters. These two fears have one thing in common — fear of not being re-elected. This kowtowing and deception was at the center of his demand that AP “correct” its report about the interview.
Here, with Chu, we have the same situation: Chu in a foreign country, talking about Taiwan's status. Obviously, a correction had to be demanded.

It's policy, after all.
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Ex-Im News + Fun with WSJ

A fighter comes in for a landing in Taitung.

A friend alerts me: Great decline in Taiwan exports and imports last month. From the Ministry of Finance:
"For the month of Apr. 2015, total exports contracted 11.7% year on year to US$ 23.49 billion. However, total imports fell 22.1% from a year earlier to US$ 18.73 billion. The trade balance of this month was favorable, amounting to US$4.76 billion."
Exports to Europe and ASEAN-6 fell, reflecting the slower growth in both regions.
In Apr. 2015, comparing with the same month of last year, exports to Japan and U.S.A. rose by 9.3% and 1.2% respectively, however exports to Mainland China and Hong Kong, ASEAN-6 and Europe declined 12.2%, 18.9% and 21.6% separately.
But particularly interesting, my friend notes, is the 12.2% drop of exports to China and the 10.2% drop of imports from China. Combined with the "unexpected" fall of 6.4% in exports and 16.2% imports in China (via Reuters), the not-so-smooth landing of the Chinese economy is starting to have some serious effects.

But as my friend points out
Yet the imports from China drop less than from other regions, meaning that ECFA did its job in replacing ever more Taiwan local production and imports from elsewhere with made-in-China products.
I've reproduced Table 5 showing imports....
I note that imports from China for the first four months also decline the least. This has an interesting effect -- if everyone else is declining faster, China's share of Taiwan's import market is rising even when overall imports are declining. ECFA not only buffers the fall in Chinese exports to Taiwan, it also ensures that China's market share grows even in periods of decline. There's a reason why the public rejects these bullshit "free trade" agreements...

My friend then observes that this new economic reality of Chinese slow down is the reason that the CCP and KMT are pushing to move from the "economic benefits" phase of the KMT's China engagement to the "political talks" phase. The economic benefits, which went only to big businesses anyway, are gone. If economic benefits were the reason to annex Taiwan to China, there's no reason now, and no support for it among the populace. "Peace accords" --likely annexation in all but name -- will be next.

Just think about it an alternate universe where Lien-Soong wins in 2004. The 2004-8 period was the golden age of Taiwanese investment and manufacturing in China. Imagine what treaties they could have passed then, when things were booming. Chen Shui-bian's victory in 2004 was a major turning point in Taiwan history, probably saved Taiwan from a much worse fate than the ugly ECFA agreement.

WSJ "blog" with piece on how opposition to "free trade" is hurting Taiwan's exports. Can we stop writing as if this simpleminded dichotomy "for free trade or against the services pact" is really something other than ideological spew? To wit:
Taiwan’s exporters could soon face another challenge: local opposition to further free trade with China.

Taiwan already is heavily dependent on China, which sucks in 40% of its exports. Many Taiwanese work on the mainland. Currently, the territory has a limited free-trade agreement with its neighbor, which the ruling Kuomintang party wants to extend to cover up to 5,000 items and services.

But protests against the deal last year, led by students, shut down Taiwan’s parliament and put such trade liberalization on the backburner. Many in Taiwan feel further dependence on China will erode its independence and give ballast to China’s claims on Taiwan’s sovereignty.

The problem for Taiwan is that rivals like South Korea are pushing ahead with their own deals with Beijing. Southeast Asia and China already have a trade pact.
What silliness! Everyone on the island is pro-trade liberalization. In the real world, some pacts are good and some are not. Claiming that being against the services pact is the same as being against free trade is like arguing that because I dislike Risk I must hate boardgames. What kind of world is it where this has to be explained? Srsly!

The purpose of ECFA and the services pact are to hollow out the Taiwan economy and boost exports from China to Taiwan, as well as provide a channel for Chinese people to flood into Taiwan. It's not difficult to figure out that these are not "free trade" pacts. The island's exports are in the doldrums because the US and Europe are down, not because the services pact -- a trade treaty so crappy even legislators from its own party wouldn't support it and the KMT had to try to get into law without a vote -- was blocked by the students.

Note that the WSJ blames the students. It says nothing about the opposition from within the KMT. That's another political fallout of this mindless four legs good, two legs bad kind of thinking: it covers up the fact that the treaty was supported by the KMT leadership and big business and nobody else. Indeed, neither ECFA nor the services ever achieved majority support in credible independent polls. But why let facts stand in the way of ideological posturing?

Finally, the clearest marker of ideological blindness: the writer presents no concrete evidence that defeating the services pact has negatively affected Taiwan's external trade. Ma himself said it would create only 12,000 jobs, while the Chung-hua Institute for Economist Research said GDP would grow by an awesome 0.025-0.034 percent. What a shame those anti-free trade students are preventing us from getting those incredible benefits, eh?
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