Monday, October 20, 2014

Daily Links

Links... plus an event! Too busy to blog tonight....
EVENT: Discussion of upcoming elections!

November 2014 megacity election preview (link to website)
Speakers: Shen Fu-hsiung 沈富雄, Political and economic commentator/Joanna Lei 雷倩, CEO, Chunghua 21st Century Think Tank/Joseph Wu (Jau-shieh) 吳釗燮, Secretary-General, Democratic Progressive Party
Moderator: Gavin Phipps, ICRT News Department
12:00-14:00, Thursday, 30 October, 2014, Regent Taipei, VIP 1 (4F) /台北晶華酒店,貴賓廳1 (4F)
No. 3, Lane 39, Sec 2 Zhongshan N Rd, Taipei 104, Taiwan /台北市中山北路二段39巷3號
Click read more for synopsis:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Another debris carry lacewing larva

Shot another one of these today on way out walking the dog. They're so weird. But they eat pests, I've read. This one shows the insect itself, with all the debris it has glued to its body. Sorry about the lack of new pics, down with a hip flexor strain and can't ride...
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!

Lien in desperate move: Ko= economic doom!

FormosaNation on Twitter, who has been doing a great job tracking the Taipei mayor election, passed this glorious moment around. Here is Sean Lien, the KMT mayoral candidate for Taipei, announcing that if he isn't elected, the economy is doomed. People on Twitter pointed out that his solution is the same as Ma's: more China. That might have played in 2008. It won't play now. The government's insistence on failed China policies has backfired on one of the KMT's most critical claims in maintaining electoral superiority: the claim that it can deliver on the economy. Clearly, with Ma in office nearly six years, and the legislature controlled by the KMT, this was the time to show that was true. It's obvious to everyone that has failed.

Surely the Lien Campaign has to be one of the worst run campaigns in the history of the island's democracy.

For ordinary people, economy is in the dumps. Polls consistently show that Taiwanese are willing to take higher-paying jobs in China. I met a friend who is a buyer in the electronics industry this week, and he was telling me that Chinese electronics firms offer pay 3-5 times higher, or more, to lure key staffers to China. Once they have squeezed their knowledge out of them, they dump them after a couple of years. That higher paying jobs are widely available in China shows how hard the government has worked to keep wages low -- perhaps one purpose of this policy was to force Taiwanese to move to China.
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!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stereotype Quest: how many stereotypes can you spot?

Watermelon and watermelon juice sellers... man I miss watermelon.

Taipei Times reports:
The video clip was said to portray Aboriginal women as ‘exotic objects of lust, and neglected to mention the artists it was promoting
Here's the link, filmed by aboriginal director. See how many of the millions of ethnic stereotypes crammed in here you can spot. Click read more for a quick list I compiled:

Journal of Current Chinese Affairs Special Issue on Taiwan

On the 193 in Hualien.

Continuity and Change in Policies in Taiwan
Table of contents: Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 3/2014

Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley
The Impacts of Changing Ruling Parties in the Twenty-First Century

Research Articles

Dafydd Fell and Charles Chen
Lessons of Defeat and Success: Taiwan’s 2012 Elections in Comparative Perspective

Lee Chun-Yi
Learning a Lesson from Taiwan? A Comparison of Changes and Continuity of Labour Policies in Taiwan and China

Isabelle Cheng and Dafydd Fell
The Change of Ruling Parties and Taiwan’s Claim to
Multiculturalism before and after 2008

Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley and Chien-san Feng
Anti–Media-Monopoly Policies and Further Democratisation in Taiwan>

Simona Grano
Change and Continuities: Taiwan’s Post-2008 Environmental Policies


Gary D. Rawnsley
Taiwan’s Soft Power and Public Diplomacy

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, October 14, 2014

Poll Eye

Pingtung Aquarium.

A friend and astute observer of things Taiwan flipped me some poll info today from TISR and TVBS on the local elections....

TISR does a periodic Taiwan mood barometer. Ma Ying-jeou's dissatisfaction ratings are at 73.6% with Premier Jiang at 66% dissatisfaction. Jiang killed his presidential shot when he became Premier. The public view of the DPP is 31 (positive) to 35 (negative) but the negative fell from the last poll, while for the KMT the numbers are 20 and 54 and the negative is rising from the last poll.

TISR also gives numbers for Taipei in their October 1 poll, with Ko leading Lien 33-24. They also break down things demographically.

Those numbers look ugly for the KMT going forward. Support for Lien is strong in the age 50 and up cohorts, but falls off markedly as people get younger. The young want Ko. Education shows a similar pattern. While Lien does better with the less educated, for people with university education and up, Ko crushes Lien, 41.5 to 18.4. The last section shows the vote by camp affiliation. Blues support Lien at a surprisingly tepid rate, only 59.4%, while 85.7% of the greens support Ko. But among independents Ko has a nearly 4-1 margin over Lien, 30.0% to 8.4%. Those "independents" are probably all light blues in reality.

For Taichung, the TVBS poll of likely voter dated Sept 29 has Lin Jia-lung up 44-30, with Hu down 3 points from mid-July and Lin up 2 since then. Undecideds in that poll were 26%, meaning there is plenty of room for Hu to come storming back. Sure enough, the October Sept poll has Lin up only 32.2% to 29.8%. The pattern of voter demographics is broadly similar to that of Taipei, though not as severe, reflecting the fact that Hu is a much better candidate than the hapless Sean Lien. Hu does much better with younger voters than Sean Lien, but for education it's basically the same. The independents are somewhat stronger for Lin as well.

In Changhua TVBS has the KMT ahead 30-29 for the county chief, with 36% undecided. That poll is two weeks old. In the Yunlin County chief election the DPP is up 33-27 with 40% undecided, about a week ago.

ARGH, mea culpa: Your info on the Taichung polls is incorrect. The TISR one which showed Lin up three points was done on 9/24; the other poll you referenced which had Lin up by 14 was done from 9/25-9/29 by TVBS and was released today. You can see that poll here:

The other numbers in that poll don't actually bode well for Hu, and his approval rating is falling and he is less liked than Lin.

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!

Hong Kong's Effect on Taiwan is major media moment

A hiking trail

Cindy Sui of the BBC sent around a piece today on the effect of the Hong Kong protests on Taiwan's desire to annex itself to China. It's mostly good, and its the first major media piece I've seen that refers to the ghostly deadlines of 2021 and 2049 for annexation of Taiwan that some in the Chinese media have talked about.

As several of us have been remarking recently, one ironic effect of the Hong Kong protests is that everyone is now noticing Taiwan. Yay! Normally the international media hedges when it talks about Taiwan's rejection of annexation speaking of "some people" dislike that, or referring to "skepticism" or "wariness". But perhaps we're going to see more forthright acknowledgement in the major media that Taiwan doesn't want to become part of China. One can only hope.

Ben Goren has a long discussion of the BBC piece here, with many criticisms, which I won't repeat. Ben observes:
Then there’s this beauty:

Thousands of Chinese tourists flood into Taiwan daily, boosting the island’s economy.
I don’t have a problem with the object of this sentence, only the entire predicate. Perhaps Cindy Sui can point to some hard statistical evidence that Chinese tourists are actually boosting Taiwan’s economy and if so, which sectors / areas in particular. If she can’t then really all she’s doing here is repeating Government propaganda.
The problem is an interesting one because there are many ways to think about how to measure the economic effect of Chinese tourists and it would not be easy for anyone to produce a definitive account. This paper argues for a net US dollar gain of nearly $50 million a month from Chinese tourism after allowing for the "crowding out" effect of reducing US and Japanese tourist arrivals, partly because it appears to increase tourism from Hong Kong, but the data are too old and limited to be useful (2009 data). I'd be curious to see a more recent in-depth model. I suppose nearly $600 million annually is technically "boosting" the economy. This 2014 paper views Chinese tourism from another POV -- its economic effect on the environment:
When forecasting the estimated growth of Chinese visitors in Taiwan to 2016, an additional 0.8% increase in economic output is expected at the expense of a 2.7% increase in CO2 emissions and a 3.0% increase in water use.
Another paper from 2013...
It is concluded that by 2011, the economic spillover effects for the retail sector and accommodations services sector were US$773.49 million and US$438.43 million, respectively. The total spillover effects of US$7617 million accounted for 0.183% of Taiwan's GDP
I don't think there is any question we're getting a "boost" from Chinese tourism, if only because the word "boost" has no real meaning, though none of the models attempt to measure the costs, except the one that looks at the environment. I also don't think there's any question that it is not a boost we want: Chinese tourism produces nothing that raises long-term living standards in Taiwan. This pointless flow of revenues (profits go largely to a few Hong Kong tourism firms) might even be tolerable, if it were not part of a strategy to annex Taiwan to China.

Sui writes, referring to the Sunflower Protesters (her reporting on them was excellent, example) and their demand for a bill to provide oversight of cross-strait agreements:
They might just succeed. The activists enjoyed nearly 50% public support for their demands for greater scrutiny of government deals with China, according to a government survey, partly because - unlike Hong Kong - they did not disrupt traffic.
Actually, "nearly 50% support" seems wrong. Rather, it was strong majority support. For example, Ben writes on a pro-KMT TVBS poll that has 65% supporting passage of a bill to oversee agreements with China, including a plurality against the trade pact. Another TVBS poll showed over 60% wanted the services pact withdrawn, numbers similar to those in this Businessweek poll. That the government has not attempted to ram the bill through again clearly indicates its deep unpopularity, both with the public at large and within the KMT. The students had broad public support because the service pact was a crapshit agreement that was bad for Taiwan and rejected by the public. If only someone in the media would clearly say that....

PS: if you're interested in the meaty contents of the oversight bill, the always-excellent Frozen Garlic has a great post on it.
PPS: In fairness, a government poll found the public supported the services pact, by 1%, 41-40. Those results surely required real artistry to achieve.
PPPS: What's the boost from the services pact? I looked at it here. You'll need a microscope to see it.
Daily Links:
  • New ROC stamps honor endangered species. Test your ROC understanding: which stamp has higher value, Formosan Black Bear or Giant Black and White Annexation Lardbombs? Go here, select MINT STAMP and 2014 in the drop down menus.
  • Taiwan Review on the new national park in the Penghu
  • Ma tells K-town residents they should take the MRT and other tales from Ben at Letters from Taiwan. There have been lifelong authoritarian rulers who were less tone-deaf than Ma Ying-jeou. 
  • Huffington Post notes Sunflower influence on Hong Kong protests. This is amazing.... even though they get a UDN guy.
  • Chinese espionage now rampant in Taiwan
  • Ma vows to clean up food industry in Taiwan. Yawn. Let's revisit the past. Government vows to improve tracking after plasticizer scare (2011). I'm not going to bother searching for more.
  • WHOA: I was wondering when something suggestive like this would appear. The oil scandal for Ting Hsin/WeiChuan has caused the Ministry of Finance to put the brakes on Ting Hsin conglomerate's takeover of the management of Taipei 101. And there is the purchase of the cable news station. One wonders what toes Ting Hsin was going to step on. Lucky for those being stepped on the oil scandal broke, eh?
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, October 13, 2014

Another day, another cooking oil scandal...

Nanhua Reservoir

Well, I've been manfully ignoring this latest cooking oil scandal, one in a string of dozens over the years since I've been here. I tire of commenting on them. But it's no use. It's just too damn big and hot right now. The KMT news organ emotes:
Last week, it was revealed that Cheng-I Food Co., Ltd. (正義公司), a subsidiary of the Ting Hsin Group (頂新集團), allegedly mixed animal feed oil with edible oil to produce over 60 kinds of cooking oil products for sale. During a press conference in the morning of October 11, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) stated that the tainted oil scandal caused widespread public concerns over food safety, and pledged that the government would demonstrate its resolve to root out all black-hearted (unscrupulous) food manufacturers. Jiang vowed, “The government will take all necessary measures to eliminate the production of tainted foods.”
In case you were wondering, the Kaohsiung city government shut down the production lines of Ting Hsin and Cheng-I, meaning that they do have the power to do that. Horse, barn door, etc. The premier had tariffs on imported lard lowered to help get exports to cover demand.

The Changhua County prosecutors office is pursuing this affair, and have detained several people related to the two firms. Chiayi county hosts the factories which sold animal feed oil to Ting Hsin/Cheng-I and the operators of those firms are being detained as well. The oil meant for animal feed came originally from Vietnam, so only the food gods know what is in it. *sigh*

I wrote in November of 2013 about the scandal last October: What's Not in the News:
HEADLINE NEWS!!!! Taiwan gov't tipped off by Spain in 2009could be something wrong with the oil! Or adulterated oil company executive appears in court and is unrepentant. Defense Ministry to seek compensation for suspect oils

The oil scandal is so useful. The oil companies are scapegoated for all the food sins of Taiwanese firms, the meat packed with antibiotics, the fraudulent organic food, the pears from Dongshih sold as Lishan pears, the rice noodles that aren't rice...

and when was the last time you read an article on the wiretapping issue? Gone from the news. Never mind the stagnant incomes, the capital gains tax, the land tax... modern Establishment media is so useful, if it didn't exist, it would have to be invented.
We just had an oil scandal a month ago. This one is bigger. One of the firms involved is the well-known brand Wei Chuan, which is part of the same conglomerate as Ting Hsin. Once again, the KMT news organ:
On October 9, Wei resigned as chairman of three companies under the Ting Hsin International Group, i.e., Wei Chuan Foods Corporation, Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co., and Cheng-I Food Co., Ltd.

In fact, before Wei announced the suspension of Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co. (頂新製油) and Cheng-I Food Co., Kaohsiung City’s Department of Health had already ordered that the production lines of two companies be suspended pending further investigation.
Wei Chuan ejected itself from the last scandal (Oil Theatre) by yanking products from the shelves, but can't do anything about this one.

Apple Daily has been featuring angry and potentially explosive anonymous letters from the Angry Citizen, as the Taipei Times reports:
The two top government leaders’ response to the scandal was also published in yesterday’s issue of the Chinese-language Apple Daily, in which Ma said: “It only hurts our feelings, not our bodies,” and Jiang said: “Like every one of you, I’m worried about food safety, so in my home, we use only imported olive oil.”

“The responses from both of you to these incidents have flabbergasted the public, hurting not only their feelings, but also their physical health,” the citizen said.

The citizen went on to accuse the government of not doing enough to punish law-breaking businesspeople and not alleviating people’s concerns about food safety in Taiwan.

The citizen expanded their complaints to the government’s missteps over the past few years in terms of economic development, social order, labor rights and information security.
The interesting thing here is the last paragraph. The last go-round of tainted oil didn't seem to have the power to make a political impact, but like Angry Citizen, people are connecting the dots. Rex How, the former Ma government advisor turned sane, has called for a boycott of the Ting Hsin group.
Former national policy adviser Rex How (郝明義) yesterday urged Taiwanese to boycott media subsidiaries of Ting Hsin International Group, including recently established 4G mobile provider Taiwan Star Telecom and possible acquisition cable TV operator China Network Systems (CNS), over the embattled conglomerate’s involvement in a series of food safety scandals.
How said that most of the group's revenues come from its China business (China suspended imports of its oil) so the boycott some are calling for won't have much effect. The government made its usual promises to crack down... but remember, there's an election next month. Will this affect the election? If Angry Citizen keeps filling Apple Daily's front page with the shameful state of the government's regulation of the food processing industry, it just might. People are angry here.

Yet, it's not like food scandals are happening in a vacuum. Everything is this way in Taiwan, from the corner-cutting in construction to the widespread tax evasion to the blithe neglect of bad drivers to the enormous underground economy, with its factories, retail establishments, hotels, and banks, all illegal. We all participate in it, and we all take advantage of it. Does the public want to see this paradise of lax legal enforcement curtailed, have it own behavior inspected?

I doubt it.
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!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

ROC National Day: Ma calls for Hong Kong Democracy

In his 10/10 speech President Ma urges China to try democracy, first in Hong Kong, and the whole world reports on it (LA Times, The Guardian via AFP, IBTimes). Hong Kong's importance is at last putting Taiwan on the world stage, as an up-and-coming writer on Taiwan reminded me in chat today, to our mutual satisfaction.

The Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council followed Ma in calling for democracy in Hong Kong...
Protecting Hong Kong people's basic human rights such as freedom of assembly and speech and allowing Hong Kong democracy to blossom "will not only guarantee Hong Kong's stability but will also play a significant role in the long-term development of cross-strait relations," the MAC said.

In his speech, Ma backed the democracy protests in Hong Kong and urged Beijing to fulfill its promise of a high degree of autonomy in the special administrative region.
The irony of Ma, who spent his political career fighting democracy in Taiwan until the late 1990s and was one of the last holdouts against repealing the national security laws in the early 1990s, calling for democracy in Hong Kong was not lost on observers here. There was also some laughter at Ma's irony-free praise of the Hong Kong protesters while excoriating the Taiwan protesters for hurting democracy, though both were doing exactly the same thing for pretty much the same reasons.

It's not difficult to see why Ma might call for Beijing to give Hong Kong greater autonomy. Remember that the people of Taiwan and the KMT itself have rejected the One Country, Two Systems offers of a succession of Chinese presidents. But it is obvious that the KMT can't continue in power in Taiwan after annexing the island to China without local autonomy. China's Hong Kong policy, which continues to strengthen independence feelings in Taiwan and has dealt a body blow to US policy in doing so, is also putting a crimp in KMT plans to maintain power in Taiwan after the handover -- which they can't do without Beijing's cooperation. Ma's calls for Beijing to let Hong Kong have autonomy are really desperate pleas for Beijing to permit Hong Kong autonomy to save the KMT and to perhaps stop making annexation to China so unattractive to the Taiwanese.

Hong Kong is unlikely to hurt the KMT's chances in the local elections here in Taiwan next month, which are decided on local issues, but may well impact the 2016 presidential election campaign, which will begin in the latter half of next year.
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!

Looking for guided cycling on the east coast?

A Taichung road.

UPDATE: Link is now correct.

My friend the awesome Cheryl Robbins writes:
This Website contains detailed information about two-day cycling tour itineraries along the east coast of Taiwan in October and November. They include stops and overnight stays in indigenous Amis communities. Great natural scenery, culture, hospitality, cycling...For those requiring an English-language tour guide an extra benefit is that it will be me! Who could ask for more?
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!

Not seeing the Taiwan forest for the China trees

Went to a performance of the Chiotian Drum Troupe yesterday. Here is one of the troupe leaders.

Today brings us several articles on the Hong Kong protests, including one from Jeffrey Wasserstrom, the well known scholar, in Foreign Policy, and another from John Garnaut, the Australian journalist who actually gets Taiwan.

Several years ago I had a conversation with an acutely intelligent friend who is also an acutely intelligent observer of Taiwan, and he pointed out that the Chen Shui-bian Administration had done such a good job separating Taiwan from China that at academic conferences his work on Taiwan had less relevance because it wasn't about China, which was hot. Indeed, this separation has gone so well that Taiwan has vanished off the media radar, as we found when the Sunflower protests were so woefully underreported. Wasserstrom's piece surprisingly reproduces this China-centric view of the Hong Kong protests, reviewing the way the protesters replicate the past behaviors of students protesting in China, with a nod to the Occupy movement in the US:
The Hong Kong protesters have shown themselves tremendously resourceful, able to borrow freely and creatively from many different sorts of movements. They are aware of --and draw strength from local struggles of the past. They borrow from the playbook of Chinese revolutionary heroes and from the mainland students of 1989. As their leader, they have even picked Joshua Wong, a noted participant in the 2012 protests in Hong Kong. They have also looked for inspiration to other parts of the world. The student protesters allied with Hong Kong’s Occupy Central activists, for example, who embody the spirit of New York City’s Occupy Wall Street movement and are largely concerned with economics and inequality.
Yet though the piece is about searching for an analogy for the Hong Kong protests, it totally omits any reference to Taiwan, whose recent Sunflower protests in many ways shaped the current round of protests -- there are many links and parallels between the two, from the links between the protesters themselves to the reporters who covered both -- and were treated in the same way by the government, right down to the deployment of nationalist gangsters against the protesters. Moreover Hong Kong and Taiwan face a similar set of economic and social problems -- high housing prices, rampant income inequality, rule by tycoons, and so on, as well as an increasingly powerful non-China local identity, especially among the young, incompetent and divided pro-democracy parties, and an overarching China invasion that threatens many aspects of local lives and identities.This omission is all the more puzzling because Wasserstrom interviewed Shelly Rigger on the Sunflower protests in Dissent...

Thus, one could hardly find a better analogy for Hong Kong than Taiwan, but Wasserstrom thinks of China in terms of China -- deployment of Chinese history to explain Chinese history is a kind of legitimating shibboleth among China hands, like the way New Testament scholars deploy knowledge of Greek to fence the boundaries of their field, or business scholars use advanced statistics to turn data porridge into scholarly bisque. But the Hong Kong protests can't really be understood in terms of Chinese historical protests (isn't part of the issue the fact that Hong Kongers don't feel Chinese?). They have to be seen in some other context: globally as part of the global movement against the growing concentration of wealth in a few hands, the rule of corporate power, the widespread corruption at the top of governments, and the disappearance of economic opportunity for the middle classes, and locally, against the overarching drive of Beijing to annex and suppress democracy and local identities, like the protests in Tibet, Xinjiang, and.... Taiwan.

PS: Don't miss this piece on the secret history of Hong Kong democracy: the reason that Hong Kong never got self-governance from the Brits is because Beijing threatened to invade if Britain made Hong Kong a democracy. Hence the bullshit from fake leftists that compares/criticizes Britain's never giving Hong Kong representative government with China's current deal is.... bullshit.

John Garnaut, the Aussie journalist, does what Wasserstrom failed to do, and locates the Taiwan/Hong Kong protests in their proper context: the problems of "mainlandization" of China's peripheries and corporate power, where corporations serve Beijing's goals:
Before the umbrella protests of Hong Kong it was easier to believe that it was only a matter of time before the peripheries were fully absorbed into the empire and made safe for Chinese Communist Party rule. And that's the way the way that Hong Kong's great multinational banks, the world's top four accounting firms, and even the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong still see the odds, judging by their recent statements.

"The present situation is damaging to Hong Kong's international reputation, may harm Hong Kong's international competitiveness, and is creating an uncertain environment that may be detrimental to investment, to job creation and to Hong Kong's prosperity into the future," said Austcham, in a statement on September 29 which echoed Communist Party propaganda almost word-for-word, and incited a heated internal backlash.

Geoff Raby, a former ambassador who represents Australian corporations in Beijing and sits on the board of Andrew Forrest's iron ore company, Fortescue, was empathetic with the protesters he surveyed in central Hong Kong. Indeed, their earnest faces were haunting reminders of those he'd seen a quarter of a century earlier in Tiananmen. And, to him, their hopes are as futile now as they were back then. To contemplate otherwise would not just be wrong, as he put it this week in the AFR, but "ideological". So much so that Canberra should resign itself and allow history to take its inevitable course if the People's Liberation Army is once again sent in. "It will be a time for cool reason, rather than ideological enthusiasm,"according to Raby.

Similarly, when the Sunflower protesters occupied the Taiwanese Yuan, in response to President Ma Ying-jeoh bypassing the island's hard-won democratic institutions to sign a wide-ranging economic integration pact with the mainland, economists at ANZ felt qualified to instruct the island's misguided youth what was good for them. "The protest in Taipei may heighten the anti-Mainland sentiment that is seen in Hong Kong," they said in a research note of March 26. "Turning back such economic integration will only exacerbate the current plight of the middle class, increase youth unemployment, and lead to a loss of thousands of high quality job opportunities."

The mainlandisation of China's peripheries has been accelerating and intensifying under the emperor-like Xi Jinping ever since he assumed the presidency – the third and least important of his titles – in March last year. Raby, and the anonymous author of that Austcham statement, and the China economics team at ANZ bank all assume that China's journey to empire is inexorable, whatever speed bumps lie along the road.
Kudos to Garneau! This linkage between China's power and corporate power is mirrored by the linkage between the Hong Kong protests and the Taiwan protests, and mirrored as well in the support of the American and European Chambers of Commerce for the KMT's pro-China politico-economic goals (noted most recently in my post on FTAs). Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT have deliberately cloaked their pro-annexation structural changes in the language of neo-liberal economic discourse to evoke just this response.

Independent Taipei mayor candidate Ko Wen-je is in the US at the moment. The always excellent Ketagalen Media covered his stop there....
On Wednesday, independent Taipei mayoral candidate Dr. Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) began his US tour, visiting San Francisco Bay Area and meeting with academics, students, industry leaders and Taiwanese American supporters. During a dinner speech Ko gave, he listed Taipei’s largest problem as the high housing prices, and Taiwan’s greatest issue as the social immobility caused by inheritance of wealth and power.
That same concern is mirrored in recent surveys of Hong Kong youth (here), who see social mobility as more difficult and the wealth gap in Hong Kong as growing since the handover. All over the world, it's the same cry for social justice in the face of the same issue: authoritarian government with its totalizing identity politics intertwined with corporate power with its totalizing economic dreams. Social identities, after all, are consumption identities...

Also see: Lorand Laskai on LARB connects Hong Kong and Taiwan. Ian Rowen on the Taiwan-HKK 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, October 10, 2014

Blast From the Past: British Pathe Films of Taiwan from Japanese era

There is a collection of 80,000+ British Pathe films like this on Youtube, all free. Most about Taiwan are from the post-war period and tend to reflect the propaganda of the era. But a few....  here is Lanyu, 1931. Lanyu!!!

The US liner President Hoover aground off Taiwan

Aboriginal marriage ceremony, 1932
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!

10-10 Links + Comments

Taichung Mahor Jason Hu stopped by an event in Wuci in western Taichung today to speak for a few moments and press the flesh. An excellent populist politician, and personally affable, Hu has trouble walking and standing since a stroke, and had to be supported most of the time. 

A few comments....
Daily Links:
  • Taiwan Brain Trust's English Newsletter. Some good info here, including serious discussion of the ECFA FTA failure. 
  • Ma says Taiwan eager to share democracy experience with China. Democracy experience... democracy experience.... That would be the one where the ruling party shoots a lot of people, then shares the wealth with cronies and insiders while handing out a few carrots to the people below, insists that everyone speak Mandarin, denies all local history and culture, makes everything state-owned, and develops a massive concrete-fueled construction-industrial state that eats up local lands and environments, before being forced to democratize by dissidents and democracy supporters? Hmmm.... seems like China's halfway there already....
  • Hundreds more firms implicated in latest cooking oil scandal. Many people and companies have taken to making their own lard as a result, as Want reports -- well, the famous restaurants are saying they are making their own lard. People are also complaining pork fat is becoming less available in markets since everyone is making lard. This latest scandal apparently involves a Chinese-owned Taiwanese firm backed by the KMT, according to the DPP, which is demanding that the Premier take responsibility for the scandal. At least they realize that Taiwan has good laws, they just aren't enforced.
  • Knowledgeable scholars pointed out that Xi isn't "reviving" the 1C2S proposal as this Taipei Times piece claims, but rather is simply reiterating settled policy often embraced by previous Chinese leaders.
  • Keep on keeping on catapulting the propaganda: Premier Jiang hit all stops, accusing Taiwanese people of being irrationally afraid of China and claiming that the service pact and other sell outs will result in FTAs. This was already old when they were trundling it out for ECFA. 
  • Don't miss: Frozen Garlic's review of the local elections, part 5. His analysis of the election mirrors everything I've said on this blog. I was out drinking this week with some sharp and experienced observers of local politics, and one of them said that he has visceral trouble imagining that Sean Lien won't win this election. I suffer from the same problem. I don't see why he can't win, but there's no movement in the polls at all. Ko continues to hold a large lead. It will all come down to whether the light blues will get out there and vote for their class privileges and social identities. But as Froze notes, Lien's campaign materials keep throwing his own privileged life in their face. 
  • Excellent piece on WSJ with a good exploration of how China's Hong Kong failure is negatively impacting its hope of annexing Taiwan.
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Tuesday, October 07, 2014


The attempt by the KMT in Taipei to drum up a scandal involving current non-aligned candidate Ko Wen-je, who is leading in the polls, has been a flat failure. Number of those polled who believe Ko has risen, those who don't believe has fallen, and those not answering have also fallen. All small changes, but all in the same direction. The hospital's current president and accountant were grilled today in the legislature.

Sprinkling some links into your day....
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Monday, October 06, 2014

Taiwanese Swooning at latest ECFA Success

My man Ben of Letters from Taiwan remarked to me in chat today:
Good job the diplomatic truce and ECFA totally stopped Beijing blocking TW on international stage and getting in the way of signing FTAs with Malaysia and Australia. Oh wait... Beijing meddling in Taiwan's trade pacts...
Readers will recall those heady days of 2009 and 2010, when the Ma government was promising that the ECFA trade agreement would enable Taiwan to sign FTAs with other countries. As recently as 2013 the WTO came out with a book in favor of ECFA, saying it would help Taiwan sign FTAs. Of course, the failure of Ech!-Fah! to result in FTAs because Beijing wouldn't permit them was totally foreseeable. D'uh:
Taiwan's economics minister Duh Tyzz-jiun has accused the mainland's government of meddling in other countries' efforts to sign trade pacts with the island, according to a local media report. The minister said countries that were likely to enter into substantive trade talks with Taiwan this year had decided to hold off after Beijing expressed concerns about their engagement with Taiwan, the Central News Agency reported yesterday, citing an interview Duh gave with the United Daily News group. Duh said Beijing had obstructed Taiwanese efforts to reach or sign free-trade agreements with at least two countries,...
In the run-up to the signing of ECFA Ma emphasized again and again that ECFA would lead to FTAs and that we needed to tie ourselves to China, marginalize ourselves even further, in order to get FTAs. As I pointed out at the time, that was shock doctrine policy-making at work:
1. Hurry! The rest of Asia, including China, is forming a free trade region!
2. We'll be locked out of this if we don't get on board now!
3. Our economy is in the tank! We must do something now!
4. Claims that opponents' objections are "ideological"
Yea, verily, remember when TV ads and the President himself said that without ECFA Taiwan would be "isolated like North Korea"? The logic of his "argument" is encapsulated in this example:
President Ma stressed that the signing of FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) had become a global trend. If Taiwan hesitated to first sign an ECFA with the Mainland, Japan and the ASEAN countries would not sign FTAs with Taiwan. In the past eight years, the DPP administration had made no progress in signing FTAs with other countries because the DPP had refused to sign any kind of economic agreement with the Mainland.
That last comment is technically right but morally wrong -- the DPP had an agreement all wrapped up with Singapore, but China nixed it.

It goes without saying that the usual suspects were rah-rahing Taiwan into FTA oblivion. Yes, the Establishment was clueless. AmCham stated in its 2009 Taiwan White Paper that “the conclusion of ECFA would pave the way for Taiwan to participate in regional trade blocs and enter into bilateral FTAs with additional trading partners.” The European Chamber of Commerce said in its 2009-2010 Position Paper: “The sooner Taiwan signs ECFA with China, the quicker political impediments to other countries signing economic agreements with Taiwan will be removed.” If that wasn't fantastic enough, some of this ECFA=FTAs stuff rose to amazing heights of fantasy...

Bwahahahaha! As early as 2011 WSJ was observing that ECFA had turned out to be a failure on the FTA front. By 2012 the Ma Administration was pushing greater progress on ECFA to compensate for the failure of FTAs to materialize.

As I noted in posts at the time (Don't Mistake My Blue-Swayed Schmooze, just read the whole post, it is as germane now as it was when it was written in 2009; this one is also good ), there was only one problem with this combination of rosy prediction and devastating threats conveyed in the foreign and domestic press:
Imagine how this would look had the article presented a key piece of information: China has consistently refused to promise that Taiwan can have FTAs with other nations. Its real goal, argue some analysts, is to force Taiwan firms to relocate to China to take advantage of China's FTAs.
That's right, all this yakitty-yak-yak existed to cover up the simple fact that China had never promised not to interfere. The goal of ECFA was always political and economic: to hollow out Taiwan's productive industries and gut its economy, since that is a powerful resource for Taiwan independence and Taiwan democracy.

EFCA + FTAs was always cargo cult economics. We've built it, and they haven't come.
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