Monday, August 07, 2017

Aug Break....

Dear readers:

I am taking a couple of weeks off. I should be back late in August. Have a great summer!
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!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

One Year on: Tsai's failed apology?

IBM mobile computer: Data recorder used in 1961 agricultural census on Taiwan (photo from 1963 when it was being moved. By oxcart).

It's been a year since President Tsai made her apology to the aborigines. Failed promises?
Aboriginal rights campaigners yesterday condemned the government for having not carried out a promise to reinstate traditional Aboriginal territories, and they demanded that an independent agency be established to restore Aboriginal rights to land and transitional justice.


They criticized the guidelines the Cabinet released on Feb. 14 on the delineation of traditional Aboriginal territories, which would restrict the application of the “traditional area” label to government-owned land, explicitly excluding private land.

It would reduce recognized traditional territories from 1.8 million hectares to 800,000 hectares while companies would be allowed to develop traditional Aboriginal land that is now in private hands without the consent of local Aborigines, they said.

“Tsai promised that the government would prioritize the issue of traditional territories, but it turns out it is only limited to government-owned land,” Amis activist Panai Kusui said.
It is relatively easier to turn government-owned land into aboriginal land, but the issue of depriving landowners of land purchased legally under ROC law is much thornier and more political. Returning meaningful amounts of land to the aborigines would mean depriving Han landowners of their land, and also removing much land from the holding of private corporations. That will be costly to the Tsai Administration in the next election, and may well trigger the revival of powerful old prejudices and of anti-aborigine organizations which are now dormant (see this piece from 1999). The TT has an editorial today on aboriginal rights and the lack of progress....

A good example of how aborigines are screwed by the reality of Tsai Administration decisions was the mess over Asia Cement. A TT commentary from this week summarizes:
Following President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) official apology to the nation’s Aborigines on Aug. 1 last year, many assumed that the government would adhere to the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法) announced on Feb. 5, 2005.

However, on March 14, then-Bureau of Mining Affairs director Chu Ming-chao (朱明昭) approved an application by Asia Cement to renew its mining license near Taroko National Park for 20 years.

Chu’s retirement immediately after the approval has led to suspicions of a quid pro quo deal.

Late film director Chi Po-lin’s (齊柏林) observations of Asia Cement’s quarry in Hualien led to a public outcry over the renewal.

About 21,000 people petitioned the government to revoke the license, while environmentalists demanded that the government conduct an environmental impact assessment on the mining site and follow Article 21 of the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act.

Premier Lin Chuan (林全) ordered a review of the approval process.

On June 19, the Ministry of Economic Affairs confirmed that the license would be renewed, as it did not find anything illegal regarding the application.

Ironically, Tsai on July 14 presented a special award at Chi’s memorial service to his family for the director’s contribution to the nation.
Fudnamentally, there was an uproar over the approvals. The government re-investigated... and nothing was found to be wrong. Stupid. That factory has to go -- it is an easy symbolic move that costs Taiwan nothing (backgrounder here), would help the aborigines, would help the DPP with a wide swathe of voters, and would be a way for the Administration to meaningfully distance itself from the previous KMT Administration with deeds, not words.
Daily Links
Anders Corr wrote on Facebook:
My contract with Forbes was terminated for my article on Chinese influence at the Asia Society (see…/deleted-forbes-article-critic…/ for details). Panos Mourdoukoutas is now writing at Forbes, for example on the South China Sea. He writes, "Vietnam and India need to learn from President Duterte’s wisdom. They should ask Beijing before they make any drilling plans in China’s 'own sea.'" The article's language is pro-China, stilted, and has grammatical and typesetting mistakes. The analysis is paper-thin.

Forbes is 95% owned by the obscure Hong Kong-based "Integrated Whale Media" company and is well on the way to losing credibility in its foreign policy analysis. Having tested the limits of a Hong Kong-based media company, I'm now writing for my own, editing a book on the South China Sea for U.S Naval Institute Press, and for Routledge, writing a chapter on Chinese influence in the U.K.
HKFP report
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Friday, July 28, 2017

Foxconn building factory and 000s jobs in Wisconsin. Also, unicorn captured in Hurtgen forest

Miaoli hills.

Think Foxconn is going to build a factory in Wisconsin? Luz Sosa, an econ instructor in Wisconsin, observes in a local newspaper column titled Take off the rose-colored glasses about Foxconn:
How about a cold shower and some due diligence? Here’s Foxconn’s record of failed promises:

• Foxconn promised a $30 million factory employing 500 workers in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 2013. The plant was never built, not a single job was created.

• That same year, the company signed a letter of intent to invest up to $1 billion in Indonesia. Nothing came of it.

• Foxconn announced it would invest $5 billion and create 50,000 jobs over five years in India as part of an ambitious expansion in 2014. The investment amounted to a small fraction of that, according to The Washington Post’s Todd Frankel.

• Foxconn committed to a $5 billion investment in Vietnam in 2007, and $10 billion in Brazil in 2011. The company made its first major foray in Vietnam only last year. In Brazil, Foxconn has an iPhone factory, but its investment has fallen far short of promises.

• Foxconn recently laid off 60,000 workers, more than 50 percent of its workforce at its IPhone 6 factory in Kushan, China, replacing them with robots that Foxconn produces.
Even if a factory goes up, it will just be automated, with few workers, churning out products and farming subsidies, Sosa says. Tim Culpan, probably Taiwan's sharpest econ reporter, observes in Bloomberg:
Just this past year, Foxconn is reported to have pledged investments of $5 billion in India; $3.65 billion in Kunshan, China; and $8.8 billion in Guangzhou. It's too early to know if those sums will ever be spent, but including Wisconsin, the tally now stands at $27.5 billion of commitments. That's more than Hon Hai has spent in the last 23 years.
He also notes that the subsidies come to $519 a head for Wisconsin residents, or enough to buy an iPhone for everyone in the state.

Perhaps this is related to trying to gain Trump's support for a 2020 presidential run as the KMT candidate.
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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday: Tales of Future and Past + Linkfest

The local election of 1935, the first in Taiwan. Here banners decorate the streets of Taichung.

Typhoon to make landfall on Saturday, so weather will deteriorate on Friday. Stay safe, dear readers.....

Where did the nation's farmland go? This week the government said it has gone to factories: more than 52,000 illegal factories squat on farmland, according to one survey prepared because the government is going to rezone the nation's land.
A council survey found about 13,000 hectares of farmland have been appropriated by illegal factories, Department of Planning Director-General Tsai Sheng-fu (蔡昇甫) said.


Each factory claims about 0.25 hectares of land, Tsai said, adding that the council made the estimation based on satellite and aerial images compared with land registration records.

The economic ministry is to list the illegal factories, he added.

The first to be first demolished would be 109 illegal factories in Changhua County, which has the most of all municipalities, Tsai said, adding that the demolition work would be done by local governments.
I am skeptical that anything will be done about these illegal factories. Anyone who has been here for a while has already been through this charade of the government clenching its fists and saying "sometin' gonna happen!" and then nothing happening. Remember those illegal hostels and bed and breakfasts in mountains above Nantou -- yeah, nothing happened to them. In fact, the government actually tracks such illegal establishments but does nothing. This is the administrative perspective on law enforcement, rather than the enforcement perspective. Enforcement demands positive action by officials, but administration is passive and waits for someone to file a complaint about the infraction, which no one ever does because everyone nearby is committing some/the same kind of legal violation. The possibility of reprisal is one of the key factors maintaining so many illegal social systems in Taiwan.

Commonwealth has run several good pieces over the years on Taiwan's industrial land problems, but this outstanding piece is one I use in my current events class. It observes that the land problem is not a problem of tiny run down craphole factories churning out cheap plastic garbage as you might think:
Another area with a high concentration of rules offenders is Changhua County with 91 companies. They are centered primarily in Dingfanpo in the Lugang area, a leader in plumbing hardware with an annual production value of NT$80 billion.

One of the most representative of these illegal factories is a so-called unregistered factory (an illegal factory applying for government help in gaining legal status) that had its application to re-zone the agricultural land it sits on reviewed by the Ministry of the Interior’s Regional Planning Committee on Sept. 22. The factory belongs to Depo Auto Parts Industrial Co., a major Taiwanese car lamp maker listed on the Taiwan stock exchange.
Because land owners speculate in industrial land, it is easier for factories to rent/purchase farmland and build illegal factories on it, then beg the local government to rezone. Local governments wink at this since such factories have obvious economic benefits. Consider:
The problem has reached epidemic proportions in northern Taiwan, most evident in a more than 400-hectare site that surrounds Fu Jen Catholic University in the Taipei suburb of Xinzhuang.

Called “Wen Zai Jun” (塭仔圳), the site is home to the biggest cluster of illegal factories in the northern part of the country. Hidden here are makers of the gearbox for the 202nd Arsenal’s Clouded Leopard armored vehicle, the exhaust pipes for Luxgen cars, storage racks for Gogoro’s electric scooters and components for wind turbines.
This is a facet of Taiwanese life that I have long wanted to write on: the existence of parallel gray markets for legal markets in most aspects of Taiwanese life. Just as the government lotto is mirrored in the Mark 6 lottery, the legal banking system in the system of underground cross-strait banks and in complex informal financial systems among friends and families, so the shiny legal science parks and industrial districts are mirrored in the clusters of factories on farmland.

In Washington, the State Department is apparently considering Olin Wethington as its Asst Sec for East Asia Pacific. This Buzzfeed media report on the idea contains a classic omission that I have oftimes remarked on here: it describes him in nuetral terms....
Olin Wethington, a former Treasury Department official and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, is now a contender for the nomination of assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, four individuals familiar with the matter said.
It completely omits that Wethington headed AIG's China operations. Omission of officials' connections to Wall Street is par for the course for our media. Wethington appears to have no Taiwan experience and none in the complex diplomacy of NE Asia. *gulp*

Also in Washington, Senators Cotton and Gardner introduced the Taiwan Security Act, an ambitious act that mandates that the US take all necessary steps to promote its relationship with Taiwan by:
  1. Mandates senior defense and diplomatic exchanges between the United States and Taiwan at the flag officer and assistant secretary level or above.
  2. Reestablishes an annual strategic dialogue between the United States and Taiwan on arms sales in order to ensure the regular transfer of defense articles.
  3. Directs the U.S. secretary of defense to invite Taiwanese forces to participate in the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise and a 2018 edition of the Red Flag air-to-air combat exercise.
  4. Requires U.S Navy port visits to Taiwan and vice versa.
  5. Expresses Congressional support for Taiwan's plan to spend 3% of GDP on defense and its ongoing efforts to suspend all economic ties with North Korea.
Congress also proposed bringing Taiwan back into the WHO and WHA
Daily Links:
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Monday, July 24, 2017

A weekend of scootering in Miaoli and Taichung

My god. 36 years ago I was 18 and David there with the beer was my college roommate. We've been friends ever since. Recently he has been studying traditional Japanese theatre and musical instruments, and has also taken an interest in things Chinese. He is now studying Chinese at NTNU this summer. This weekend we scootered around Miaoli and to the Dajia Matsu Temple. Enjoy the pics below the READ MORE line...

More Taiwanese fraud suspects bound for China?

A pigeon house sits above fish ponds in Fengyuan.

Local news organizations are reporting that Taiwanese fraud suspects in Thailand will be sent to China.
As earlier reports led to believe, Thailand on Sunday announced it was sending 25 Taiwanese phone fraud suspects to China, and not to Taiwan, as should have been the case.

It was reportedly the first time since the two countries concluded a bilateral judicial cooperation agreement concluded in 2013 that Thailand made a decision running counter to it, reports said. Pressure from China has widely been blamed for Thailand’s change of heart.
The Bangkok Post reports on the case in detail:
Among the suspects, 19 are from mainland China and 25 from Taiwan, but investigators believe there are Thais working for the gang who help find areas to carry out the scam, provide them with electronic equipment facilities, and offer to open bank accounts for them, Immigration Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn said Sunday.


"At least five Thais may be involved," Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn said.

His bureau is in the process of withdrawing the suspects' permission to stay in Thailand, which was granted to them when they entered the country as tourists, as they are a threat to the country.
The case bears many similarities to the Kenya deportations (my blog, The Diplomat). I expect that the gang flew out to Cambodia together from China, meaning that the Thai police can deport them to China with perfect legality, since revoking their visa sends them back to their most recent port of embarkation, which should be China. No extradition process necessary.

Thailand could even argue it is merely revoking the visas of the scammers, and thus the bilateral cooperation treaty is not an issue since it is not proactively sending them to China over Taiwan, but passively returning them to the place they came from last. China and Thailand also have a bilateral crime agreement.

The set up in Thailand was very similar to the one in Kenya, with sophisticated call centers and victims in many countries, but predominantly China. Under international law, as we have seen in other cases, the Chinese have the right to ask for the suspects since they are an offended party.

This is what happens when Taiwan didn't carry out its part of the bargain to prosecute scammers. It forced China to start pushing countries to hand over those fraudsters to China instead of sending them back to Taiwan. If only Taiwan had actually punished these men... and the scammers are well aware of what could happen if they are caught. Perhaps the prospect of being sent to China will deter Taiwanese from participating in phone scams abroad. Hopefully.

The case also shows the shifting geopolitics of SE Asia. Cambodia and Laos are fast becoming Chinese colonies/protectorates with massive Chinese influence. Indeed, this news comes as Cambodia is considering sending 7 Taiwanese suspected fraudsters to China. Thailand has to be feeling that same pressure.

Taiwan is the third largest investor in Thailand, and the Tsai government has suggested a free trade agreement with China. If it wants the economic benefits of interaction with Thailand, the Administration will likely make noises like "regrettable" for the benefit of its domestic audience, but do nothing. Recall that a pan-Blue poll found that 49% didn't mind the suspects being sent to China, so it appears that the Administration will suffer little blowback from letting China punish and pay for jail time for the Taiwan scammers.
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!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Film Festival Opportunity

Guanxi Media sent this around:

In December 2017, Taichung will host an international film festival(WOFFF). There will be hundreds of films from talented filmmakers from over 40 countries. Guan Xi Media will produce an introduction video that will be played at the beginning of each film. We’re looking for some quality video footage to include in our video. This video will be a collaboration of several different videographers and different types of footage. If you have anything to contribute, that shows how beautiful and fascinating Taiwan is, please send it to the below email. This is a fantastic opportunity and you will get full credit for your work. You will also be invited to the festival as special guests.

mike.guanxi AT

FB: 福爾摩沙電影櫥窗 windows of Formosa Film Festival - WOFFF
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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Totally vindicated on the bogus 1992C. Thank you, Beijing!

A woman cleans "tree seeds" in Jhuolan.

Before I get to the meat of this post, in which I count coup on our lazy, Kuomintang-propaganda-regurgitating international media, I'd like to point out this fantastic post from back in 2009, which says that the English  word ketchup derives from a Southern Minnan word for "fish sauce". Apparently fish sauce was an ancient food of China. Those of you with an interest in Austronesian history will note (1) the overlap between the distribution of fish sauce and the presence of Austronesian peoples and (2) the fact that fish sauce disappears from south China when the Han move in and replace it with fermented soybean sauces. I expect that the Minnan word for fish sauce derives from some Austronesian ancestor, and that fish sauce was originally an Austronesian invention.

But on to the post, which has me LMAO. The expansionists in Beijing issued style guidelines for their press this week, among which was a command that the "one China, two interpretations" of the fictional 1992 Consensus is unacceptable usage, because Beijing does not accept "two interpretations"...
In a move intended to increase pressure on Taiwan, China’s official Xinhua news agency published a set of guidelines for Chinese media when referring to Taiwanese authorities, including a ban on using the Taiwanese version of the so-called “1992 consensus.”

The “1992 consensus” — a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted making up in 2000 — refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese government that both sides acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
Yeah, that's right. For years the western media has been regurgitating this piece of KMT propaganda as if it were a fact. Few, if any, have ever stated the reality: that Beijing has never recognized the "two interpretations" codicil. This is known to everyone who has studied the issue, and there is reference to that fact on the net, including on this blog -- which I know international media workers read (I never toot my own horn, but I will break this rule just once).

Thank you, Beijing, for confirming what I have been saying for some time now.

What does this mean? It means -- again as all of us on the pro-Taiwan side have been chorusing for ages:


The "consensus" as promoted by the KMT consists of two parts -- one of which is "two interpretations". Beijing has just nixed that. There is no and never was any 1992 Consensus.

When Beijing uses the term "1992 Consensus" it just wants Taiwan's leaders to say that Taiwan is part of China. It has never accepted "two interpretations". Beijing has conclusively demonstrated that the 1992C is just a cage to imprison a non-KMT president. As I wrote two years ago:
The KMT and CCP do not need an idea they can agree on to talk, they can talk any time they like and do. It's not like Chu and Xi sit down and an aged cleric walks out with a copy of the Lun Yu and then Xi and Chu both take an oath on it to adhere to the 1992 Consensus before they talk. Neither gives a flying f@ck in a rolling donut about the 1992 Consensus. Like all legal ideas put forth by Leninist authority organizations like the KMT or CCP, the rules cage others; they don't apply to the Party itself. It's always important to keep in mind when thinking about the KMT that it is not a political party but the political organization of a colonial ruling class. Hence, the key point from the KMT-CCP view is that it is a cage that both Chinese parties can use to imprison the DPP's policy makers, since each insist the DPP must adhere to it if it wants to talk to China.
That was true in 2015. It is true today. But you know what sucks? Two things will happen:

1. Some yammerheads in the int'l media will continue to write as if Beijing has never confirmed there is no 1992C and will continue to use the "two interpretations" nonsense.

2. Not a single international media organization will issue a public correction/apology for misleading their readers the next time the 1992C comes up.

The best we can hope for is the reference to the 1992C disappears in the international media. It will be amusing to see how they wriggle and squirm on that one.

Why O why can't we have a better media?
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Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday links and comments

Fengyuan from above.

Cole writes on the staged legislative brawls.
A despairing KMT, which suffered severe losses in the January 2016 elections, now sees no alternative than to create disruptions in parliament. To be fair, when they were in a similar position, it was not beneath DPP legislators to turn to similar means to prevent the passage of bills. It is not impossible, moreover, that some of the opposition legislators who have engaged in such behaviour are doing so consciously, to discredit not only the institution itself but, more cynically, the democratic ideals that are often associated with President Tsai Ing-wen and her DPP. Whether they do this for short-term electoral gains or willingly as part of a counter-democratic narrative orchestrated by Beijing is open to question. Whatever the motivation, such antics should no longer be countenanced and ought arguably to result in fines and/or temporary suspension.
Kharis Templeman had a great series of posts on brawling.

D Fell in the Sentinel on when martial law really ended:
In a recent panel discussion one of my students suggested that by talking of a 30th anniversary we are neglecting the different experiences of Taiwan’s offshore islands (this point was made by SOAS M.A. Taiwan Studies student Matt Taylor). We should not forget that martial law was not lifted on Kinmen and Matsu until November 1992. County commissioners were only directly elected there in 1993. Although martial law was also lifted in Penghu in 1987, the military remained highly influential in the archipelago county’s governance and the KMT had an effective monopoly on its local politics until 1993.
The national security law that the KMT passed in 1987 was martial law in all but name, and Fell observes that people were still being arrested under Premier Hau's administration until 1992. Political prisoners remained in custody until 1993. That's really the year that democracy began in earnest in Taiwan.

I have often made the point that martial law lingered, but another disturbing aspect is that the structures of authoritarian control remain. For example, the neighborhood captains are still around, and in universities, classes still have a class leader and are divided into groups of 50, originally a structure set up for authoritarian control. The democratic spirit permeates all, but it is worth noting that some bones of the skeleton of the old one-party state are still there, waiting for the flesh to revive them. Brrr......

Taiwan Sentinel with a useful piece on a campaign to discredit the Tsai Administration among the nation's temples. The campaign claims the Administration is going to ban the burning of incense, which is nonsense. Temples are key political players in many localities and powerful temple organizations can influence voters.

This is why I don't trust any polls. Tsai's approval rebounds? Taiwan Next Gen Foundation, whatever that is, published a poll on Tsai and her administration's policies, with approval of Tsai at 51%. Yeah right.

Squeezing of KMT assets continues, with the government demanding the party pay US$28 million for assets seized from Japan and then sold off. No one knows what treasures were lost when the KMT took for itself what belonged to the people of Taiwan as their historical legacy. Ironically, by removing so many visible symbols of Japanese power, and then by setting up a one-party state that was even more abusive than the Japanese state, the KMT made it possible for Taiwanese to sentimentalize Japanese rule. Karma is a bitch.

POLITICIANS IN THE NEWS: Popular DPP politico Lo Chih-cheng blows his chance at New Taipei City mayor run by getting caught having an affair. But this is the most beautiful thing ever: KMT politician Alex Tsai held for embezzlement. I'll have a full workup on this in a bit.

IN CASE YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN: Lee Ming-che is still in custody in China. NYT piece on it.
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Vintage Anti-Malaria poster

Formosa Vintage Museum sent around this anti-malaria poster from the Japanese era, for Taichung. It goes well with this excellent blog post from John Benda on George Kerr's alleged career as a CIA spy in Taiwan... in the 1930s. *sigh*
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The arguably ethnocentric presentation of Taiwanese legislative brawling in the US media

It was hard biking in the midday heat, but even so, we just couldn't figure out why our pace was so slow.

Huffington Post offered this report on the legislative brawling last week:
Brawl Breaks Out In Taiwanese Parliament As Lawmakers Throw Water Balloons And Chairs

Who among us hasn’t gotten in a fistfight over infrastructure development?
The ethnocentricism of the article -- or its fundamental laziness, take your pick -- lies in its total lack of recognition that brawling in the legislature needs an explanation. Why do they do that? It's just what they do. How do we know that? Look at the other examples! At the bottom, the article goes on to list other examples of "brawling".

Recall that the fight involved water balloons, meaning that it was planned (no one carries balloons around on the off chance they may be involved in a water balloon fight). So why no inquiry into that? It's not like there aren't 00s of informed individuals on Taiwan  that Huffpost could have emailed for an explanation. But apparently zero effort went into finding out why people might brawl over an infrastructure bill. That was a thing that didn't need explained, because, you know, it's what they do.

The CNN video similarly lacks any recognition that there are reasons that ordinarily peaceful humans might stage a brawl in the legislature. AP at least gives a few lines of description, which hardly amount to an explanation.

The AFP article, one long attack on the DPP as is normal for AFP, at least gives some explanation via repeating KMT talking points (Channel News Asia's AFP version is slightly different and leads with the DPP view). The Straits Times also took some time to report on it. BBC turned in a long report with background information and even a kind of in-depth explanation. But none of these are American.

This news-as-infotainment-spectacle is why we get lots of videos in the US of legislators brawling but zero explanation as to why. It is very bad for American democracy that our news media is so relentlessly committed to producing an endless flow of spectacle instead of news.

Fortunate indeed is the US, whose legislature remains decorous as it attempts to organize a vote to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare, which will lower their living standards and reduce their lifespans. But those legislators in Taiwan! So uncivilized!
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In the Diplomat: The Chinese Cult of Cairo and the Status of Taiwan


Michal Thim and myself begin this piece....
In Taiwan a small but remarkably positive step took place this month: on July 12 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan quietly removed a webpage that erroneously claimed that Taiwan was part of China. The Tsai administration also announced changes to the school curriculum, under which the Cairo Declaration will no longer be taught in Taiwan’s schools as the canonical definition of Taiwan’s status. Predictably, this action met with outrage from Beijing and its allies inside Taiwan, who once again cited the Cairo Declaration and bitterly attacked the Tsai government’s decision.
Go thou and read!
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Friday, July 14, 2017

President Tsai on the passing of Liu Xiaobo

President Tsai Ing-wen:
Tonight, together with everyone that cares about human rights in China, we mourn the tragic passing of Liu Xiaobo. I want to pay my highest respect to this tireless advocate for human rights. I also wish to express my deepest condolences to his family, particularly Ms. Liu Xia who is currently still under house arrest.

In 2010, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. At the ceremony, the attention of the whole world was drawn on the empty chair. Sadly, he will never have a chance to reclaim his seat.

In “No Enemies, No Hatred,” he once said “I firmly believe that China’s political progress will never stop, and I’m full of optimistic expectations of freedom coming to China in the future, because no force can block the human desire for freedom. China will eventually become a country of the rule of law in which human rights are supreme”.

This was Liu Xiaobo’s Chinese Dream. We hope that the Chinese authorities can show confidence in engaging in political reform so that the Chinese people can enjoy the God-given rights of freedom and democracy. This will be a turning point in cross-Strait relations. The Chinese Dream is not supposed to be about military might. It should be about taking ideas like those from Liu Xiaobo into consideration. Only through democracy, in which every Chinese person has freedom and respect, can China truly become a proud and important country.

If the Chinese dream is democracy, then Taiwan will provide any assistance necessary to achieve this objective. I believe that this is what he would have wanted.

Liu Xiaobo had no enemies, because democracy has no enemies. Again, I offer my respects towards his commitment to his ideas.
My friend Catie Lilly's tweets say it all:
Catie Lilly‏ @catielila
#Taiwan's freedom is worthy in itself but even more so if the PRC refuses change. To continue on this freedom needs international support

Many westerners are obsessed w/pipe? dream of CN democracy & yet are indifferent to #Taiwan's freedom, which exists in brave defiance of PRC

If #LiuXiaobo didn't 'cause tension' by fighting for Chinese freedom, then neither is @iingwen to blame for 'tensions' with a bully neighbor

Often ppl who admire CN dissidents will still deliberately or not buy PRC narrative of #Taiwan as separatist & trouble-making. This is wrong

No accident that #Taiwan's @iingwen offered shelter to #LiuXiaobo. TWese understand cost of speaking truth to Chinese power - and do it anyway

Hope all who rightfully praise #LiuXiaobo's bravery will also stand up for #Taiwan's freedom from #China. These are interconnected battles
This month the world watched China murder Liu Xiaobo in a demonstration to its people of what will happen to those who oppose the existing order, and as a signal to its people that the West will do nothing for them if they oppose the regime.

In Taiwan everyone is a dissident. Let us hope, in the end, we are not all Liu Xiaobo.
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China Suborns our neighborhood chiefs and precinct captains?

Let them lie...

STORM media reported this week that China is recruiting the most basic level of politicians in Taiwan, the Lizhang (里長) . Lizhang are the neighborhood chiefs/precinct captains, who in the old days monitored the population's political activities. Today they have morphed into the gophers at the bottom of the political order, bringing local requests like fixing broken streetlights to the attention of higher authorities, and handing down official communications, like surveys or election forms.

Beijing has been working on this for a couple of years, apparently. The Chinese have even formed an association, the "China Taipei Village and Li Head Association" (中華台北村里長聯合總會). At first glance these seems terrifying, given the kind of data they have access to, but actually, it probably isn't aimed at Taiwan at all. People seem to forget that Beijing's Taiwan policy has a strong domestic element. China needs organizations like this to convince its own people that it is making progress and keep a lid on nationalism that might get out of hand (recall all the instances in which the people pushed the government to fight harder against foreign powers).

The Lizhang association is a Potemkin Village, entirely show. It's the kind of thing that you do when you have no policy but have a budget and must do something to convince higher-ups that you are actually doing something... because China certainly has spies inside the Ministry of the Interior who can get whatever information the lizhangs have access to.
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The existential meaninglessness of Tsai's approval ratings

The chart above shows Ma Ying-jeou's trust and approval ratings from the TISR Taiwan Mood Barometer Survey from Dec of 2015, just before the election. The chart shows his ratings for the whole of his Administration. The dark blue line at the bottom that ends in 18.3% is his satisfaction rating, the red line, trust, the yellow, distrust, and the blue, dissatisfaction.

That's right. Ma's approval hardly touched 40% the whole of his eight years, and he spent most of his second term below 20%. He got re-elected with below-30% satisfaction.

Let us recall that at the moment Tsai's party is relentlessly squeezing KMT assets, reducing everyone's pensions, redirecting public infrastructure spending, and supporting gay marriage. Change is slow and everyone is impatient. Being above 30% is a strong performance, testimony to her ability to stay calm and never say anything stupid.

I'm posting this because I have had conversations with people who really ought to know better: the proper comparison is with Taiwan presidents who traditionally have low satisfaction ratings, not the President of some other country. Taiwanese are pessimists and complainers, like most humans, and are always dissatisfied with the pace of change, unless they are dissatisfied with the direction of change.

Let me emphasize this: Tsai's satisfaction ratings aren't low. They are, compared to Ma's, somewhat higher overall. I fully expect them to continue to sink into the twenties and bounce around there, as Ma's did, and Tsai to win re-election, as Ma did. The reasons for these ratings are structural and have nothing to do with who is the President, as I noted in my post on the LA Times hit piece on Tsai Ing-wen.

A complicating factor is that there is no group like TISR with stable long-term polling on the issue, and frankly I do not trust the polls from these new organizations, because I do not know what their politics are. TISR was a staid Establishment poll, generally solid. Unfortunately TISR stopped polling. Their last poll of Tsai has her at 34.6% approval at the end of October last year. Obviously the sheen from the presidential election evaporated quickly, and she fell into the usual territory for Taiwan presidents.

Good luck finding a reliable poll on Chen Shui-bian. Here and there one can dip into the past: for example, this Oct 2005 UDN poll has Chen at 25%, in his second term, which feels reasonable.

Nothing to see here, move along folks.
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