Saturday, May 19, 2018

Taipei Mayor Race Heats Up

Betel nut flavorings.

It's official: the DPP is running its own candidate in Taipei. That means there will be three candidates: current mayor Ko Wen-je, KMT retread Ting Shou-chung who has run for mayor several times before (Taiwan News has a bio), and whoever the DPP runs. Nathan Batto at Frozen Garlic opines:
I’ve consistently underestimated Ko Wen-je over the past five years. I may be doing so again, but this looks like the beginning of the end for him to me. I expect the DPP to start attacking him, and these attacks will take their toll on his popularity. Right now the DPP is in third place in the race, but if they can knock Ko down to third place, strategic voting will eviscerate him. Right now, my guess is that he will end up between 10% and 15%, far behind the KMT and DPP candidates.
The whole thing is excellent and this conclusion is quite interesting. Batto thinks Ko could be presidential if he can pick up support from an existing party, something Ko himself has observed. I am skeptical that any party will want to support Ko Wen-je for president -- the KMT will never do so, and the DPP already many politicians interested in the job. The NPP's Huang Kuo-chang is said to harbor presidential ambitions, and the PFP is a fading power. Who will back Ko?

The DPP wants to run a candidate because the DPP city councilors are nervous that if the party does not run a candidate, they won't have someone to push votes in their direction, and will lose their seats.

This puts the DPP in a bind. It could stick with one of the two current candidates, former Veep Annette Lu and longtime Taipei mayor aspirant Pasuya Yao. Both are weak candidates who do not attract much support, won't boost the turnout for the DPP, and won't help the DPP councilpeople. However, they will not threaten Ko so much that he will lose the race to the KMT's Ting, producing the gross failure of a KMT mayor back in Taipei.

A few posts ago I put up some aggregate polls that showed that if the DPP ran a weak candidate, it drew support from Ting, probably because protests votes from DPPers for Ting returned to the DPP. The DPP could chose to run a weak candidate and protect Ko anyway.

Or, the DPP could run one of the two hugely popular candidates it has on ice, current Premier William Lai, late of Tainan and often seen as presidential material, and former Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, probably the most popular politician in Taiwan. At present she is secretary-general to the President. Chen Chu has indicated that she is reluctant to take up the baton, but would do so if ordered.

Vote proportion? In 1994, the DPP grabbed 43% of the vote. In 1998, 45%. In 2002, 35%. In 2006, 40%. In 2010, 43%. The DPP's likely best performance falls between 40 and 45% of the vote. By contrast, the total Blue vote has always fallen between 50 and 55%, except in 2002 when the DPP fielded a locally unknown candidate, and in 2014 when the KMT decided to commit suicide and run Sean Lien.

Running a powerful and popular candidate would increase DPP turnout. But, it would then become a three-way race in which Ting might well slink into office. Ko is popular among the young, a key DPP constituency, which does not like the KMT much. Ko the spoiler appears to impact the DPP more than the KMT.

It is hard for this writer to see how Ko can poach votes from the KMT -- Ting has served the KMT and Taipei city for decades, and is acceptable to all KMT groups from old soldiers to the wealthy. He might not get people excited, but they will vote for him dutifully, especially if it means removing Ko, whom all KMTers correctly understand is pro-Taiwan.

And the DPP already trails the KMT in likely voter turnout, even at its peak. Taipei's demographics are changing, but not that fast. Running a strong candidate will likely hand Taipei to Ting and the KMT.

(The stupidity of the DPP's attacks on Ko over the "we are all one family" remarks is that everyone in the KMT knows he is pan-Green and won't shift support to him. What are DPPers thinking? Well, read this attack on him in TT.)

Ting Shou-chung has been running for mayor for over twenty years, failing each time. Last time around he lost the candidacy to Lien Chan's son Sean Lien. The backstory to that was that Lien Chan had been Ting's teacher at NTU and so many traditionalists felt Ting's attacks on Sean Lien were a betrayal.

Ting is not a scion of mainlander elites but the son of an old soldier, which means he has that vote locked down. A longtime KMT who has toiled in the party trenches, he has held many positions in the party and government. He helped institute the Party's polling apparatus in the 1990s so it could develop credible internal polls. He has long been in Taipei. However, he is a lackluster candidate from the previous generation, who lacks a national following like Ko.

Why is the KMT running a lackluster candidate in Taipei, a key symbolic city? Two reasons. One, because they lack decent candidates. Look around -- where is there a KMT candidate untainted by dirt or defeat, with the right mainlander background, a strong local power base, and popular in Taiwan? Nada. Note that if they had such a candidate, they wouldn't put him in Taipei where they would just have to remove him again in 2020 to run him for the presidency.

The second reason is that Ting, as a lackluster, aged, retread candidate, will probably never be in position to run for president, leaving the 2020 candidacy to one of the KMT higher ups, perhaps a princeling like Hau Long-bin or the latest incarnation of the Chiang dynasty or even Taiwanese KMTer Wu Den-yi, who has long coveted the presidency. Ting is a very strategic candidate if your goal is to remove the mayor of Taipei as a potential competitor for the presidency at some point in the future.

What will happen? Your guess is probably better than mine...
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Friday, May 18, 2018

My University has native speaker post open

Breakfast spring rolls

My university, Chang Gung University in Guishan, Taoyuan, needs a native speaker teacher. Must be located in northern Taiwan when work begins. Masters degree acceptable, PHD preferred. For the language center, teaching first year Basic Conversation and Basic Writing, plus one elective. Starting Feb 1. Email me.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ma gets four months

At the hospital, there is a button for hot water and two buttons for warm. Because cold water is bad for you....

Former Taiwan Special Administrative Region Chief Adminstrator President Ma Ying-jeou was finally sentenced today for four months in prison. Bloomberg:
Taiwan’s High Court on Tuesday found Ma, 67, guilty of violating the Communication Security and Surveillance Act, according to Lin Ruey-bin, high court division chief judge. Ma had been found not guilty of the charges by a Taipei district court last year, a verdict prosecutors appealed. Ma said he would appeal Tuesday’s decision in a statement released by his office after the verdict.

Ma could also avoid time in jail by paying a NT$120,000 ($4,000) fine, pending approval from prosecutors.
Note that Ma can easily avoid jail time. Fines are there so people with money can avoid the plebian indignity of jail. However, I expect Ma to win on appeal -- he is the System's fair-haired boy, after all.

This mess stemmed from Ma's decision to leak information from an ongoing case to use against KMT heavyweight and political rival Wang Jin-pying (my old post on the political effects and on the leak). The prosecutor in that case was later indicted and convicted for leaking the information from the wiretap to Ma.

There's some talk that this is a political prosecution and its bad for democracy. Neither of these is true. I addressed this ages ago in a Taiwan News commentary when the case first broke last year. It's worth reposting excerpts here:

Is this indictment some kind of pan-Green revenge? Hardly. This case began in September of 2013. By December of that SID Chief Huang was indicted for his role in the case. For the last few years knowledgeable observers have speculated that Ma sooner or later would come under prosecutorial scrutiny for making the wiretaps public. Moreover, SID Chief Huang was investigated, indicted, and convicted when the Administration was Blue. This case did not suddenly appear under the Tsai Administration.

Moreover, no cascade of indictments has come down on the KMT in connection with this or any other case to match that of the KMT against the DPP. The focus on Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui blinds observers to the all-important context: the opening year of the first Ma Administration saw indictments against an array of pan-Green politicians, including Annette Lu, Su Chih-fen, Ma Yung-cheng, and Yu Cheng-hsien, and in consecutive days in October of 2008, James Lee, Chen Ming-wen, Wang Ting-yu, and Chiou I-jen. Presidents Chen and Lee were merely the most notable victims.

There is no comparable context here. If there were, Sean Lien, Lien Chan, Alex Tsai, Eric Chu, Jason Hsu, Hung Hsiu-chu, and Wu Po-hsiung would all be under indictment, with indictments expected against more individual KMT politicians momentarily.

Another missing context is authoritarianism: it was always KMT policy during the Party-State era to indict DPP and tangwai politicians routinely, to intimidate and control them. Even today a few DPP politicians have outstanding but dormant indictments against them. Neither of the DPP administrations carried out a similar program of anti-democratic attacks on the opposition party.


and of course...


The Ma indictment is thus a step forward for Taiwan's democracy: an indictment of a previous president for a specific action, not merely for existing in opposition to the ruling party as were the previous cases. It represents prosecutors acting in a constitutionally and politically appropriate manner to check the Executive's apparent misuse of power. That is something to celebrate, not condemn.

Sadly, we can expect the international media to either misunderstand or ignore all this context, because pious worries about "democracy" make better copy than efforts to convey the complexities of the case to global and local audiences. Thus, an important opportunity to explain and to validate Taiwan's democracy for audiences within and without Taiwan will be lost in what is essentially an exercise of cynicism presented as wisdom. Much of this discourse is driven by, at least to this writer's eye, a western cultural chauvinism that tacitly treats non-western democracies as always more fragile and inferior.

ADDED: Use brain please, folks. If this is a political prosecution, why is Ma able to avoid jail with a tiny fine?

This occurred because Ma publicly and spectacularly broke the law. He knew what he was doing, and gave the prosecutors no choice.

Had no prosecution occurred, that would have been obviously political, and the judicial authorities would have met with much criticism, especially since someone else had already been convicted in the case.
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Monday, May 14, 2018

The Hat Industry: Foundational

According to Google maps, near Laiji in Alishan an exotic people has taken root.

From The Taiwan hat industry: Pre-war roots of the post-war miracle
Taiwan's pre-war hat industry was a precursor of the export-oriented living-room factory industries which played a leading role in Taiwan's post-1960 economic miracle. After World War I, success in the global hat trade required quick reaction to ever-changing fashion. Taiwan's hat industry was based on a flexible subcontracting system which could respond quickly to fashion change and ramp up production at short notice. Taiwan's early hat industry has been overshadowed by its larger agricultural exporting industries, but the hat industry itself was, by many standards, large and influential. Evidence suggests that Taiwan's early experience in the hat trade was a key factor behind Taiwan's later post-war success.
The miracle years are long over, and flexible production is increasingly moving elsewhere....
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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Ko-DPP Negotiations: DPP Pressure forces Ko Apology *sigh*

Another field lost to developers

Mayor of Taipei Ko Wen-je, First of His Name, is angling for DPP support in the upcoming mayoral elections... first he has apologized for remarks he really never made. From TT:
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) apology for a controversial remark on cross-strait relations and his support for President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) re-election bid were yesterday met with a lukewarm response from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Ko on Tuesday said on a radio talk show that he supports Tsai running for re-election in 2020 and apologized for saying that the “two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family.”
Ko also said he couldn't run for president in 2020 since he doesn't have the support of a major party and it is crazy to imagine he could do so. Ko might be thinking of the presidency, but he has to mend fences with the DPP. Many of its members are imposing purist tests on Ko and are angry he isn't their kind of Green, at least publicly. But he has many times said he is green -- he couldn't win the young vote if he weren't -- and DPP members are showing a distressing lack of brains in criticizing him on that front.

The remarks that rankled were made at the Shanghai Forum in 2015.
Ko said that his stance on cross-strait relations and the forum can be summarized as “one family across the Strait” and four “reciprocal” actions: to know each other, to understand each other, to respect each other and to work with each other.
But as I noted at the time:
Ko said: “兩岸一家親” whose "family" meaning is a bit broader, more like "we're all relatives together". Ko did not say "兩岸一家" the straight up "(one household) family" that Beijing always uses. Ko reminds me of Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, who understood the importance of discourse and were always seeking ways to push it and rework it in a pro-Taiwan way. Now Ko has added a new and weaker form of "family" to the range acceptable discourse, widening it in baby steps. Ko is pro-independence, so it's not like we have anything to worry about anyway...
Still, Mayor Ko has made all the right moves, apparently signaling the DPP he wants DPP support. The DPP hasn't signaled back, though. The DPP city councillors all want the DPP to field its own candidate, IMHO a very short-sighted move. It doesn't seem like any current DPP candidate can beat Ko, so the DPP should support Ko and let Taipei experience another four years without a KMT mayor...

Let's hope reality stops the DPP from fielding its own candidate.

UPDATE: Several people have pointed out that Ko didn't really apologize, because he took nothing back. Technically true, but he's created the perception that he apologized, which is more important.
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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The KMT isn't rocking the boat. Surprise, surprise.

It's a fixer-upper

The rains arrived today, which was a good thing as this aerial view of the Tsengwen Reservoir, dry as a bone (Facebook link), shows.

One of the major media reported this on the KMT's election-time ritual of announcing that "the time is not ripe for unification" as if this were a new thing, driven by the KMT's currently desperate straits. For example, consider this piece by Ralph Cossa from 2008 on Ma Ying-jeou's promises which nails the reasons for this ritual:
Ma's first "no" actually reads, in full, "no negotiations for unification during my presidential term[s]." This serves several important purposes. It aims first to reassure those at home who fear that if Ma were elected, he would somehow "hand over Taiwan's sovereignty" to China.

Just as it has proven impossible for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to unilaterally make Taiwan officially "independent," absent support from the people and legislature, it would be equally impossible for Ma to officially and unilaterally turn Taiwan into a province of the PRC, even if he wanted to. Nonetheless, fears and accusations persist. Hence the domestic importance of the "no unification negotiations" pledge.
So the DPP must say it isn't going to rock the boat by suddenly declaring independence, so the KMT must also make noises saying that it isn't going to deliver the island to China. For Ma this took the language of no negotiations for annexation to China, which he repeated (for example) before the disastrous 2014 election.

Nor is this new for Wu. During a trip to China last Dec...
On Dec. 23, KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) gave a speech during a visit to a pro-unification cross-strait exchange association. When an association member shouted “peaceful unification”, Wu quickly told him not to bring up the issue, saying that the unification of Taiwan and China would occur naturally.

One might say that Wu is “naturally pro-unification.”

Wu later explained that the purpose of his remark was to emphasize that it is not necessary to bring up peaceful unification at the moment, but this is the kind of explanation that makes things even worse. He sounds more like his teacher, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who tried to attract votes before the presidential elections by saying that Taiwanese would be allowed to decide their future for themselves, only to actively lean toward unification with China after his election.
The Taipei Times editorial notes that Wu is more "moderate" in the sense he is not demanding UNIFICATION NOW like former KMT Chairman and spurned Presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (how I pine for those days). TT links this moderation to former President Ma Ying-jeou, and indeed, Wu is Ma's man. Ma understood that the KMT has to present itself as being local for the duration of elections -- even longtime Deep Blue Mainlanders like Lien Chan and James Soong had to kiss the soil of Taiwan and proclaim themselves Taiwanese for the 2004 election.

Thus, for the KMT, it is always the time "not to talk about reunification". That is some distant time in the future... remember Soong's 50 year peace treaty from the 2000 election? The KMT simply pushes the idea into the mirky future, so nobody has to think about it.

Although KMT Chair Wu Den-yih has been publicly equivocal about attending the CCP-KMT Leninist Party Kissfest in China, the KMT news organ says it is very likely. Wonder how that will affect his party's election chances. Recall that he has to go kiss Xi's ring to get the KMT presidential candidacy, and he yearns to be President.

Say, whatever happened to Wang Jin-pyng? I'll bet everyone has forgotten all about him.

The DPP is continuing to squeeze the KMT on all fronts. This week the irrigation associations were in the news again. Recall that the irrigation associations and farmer's cooperatives have long been important sources of local KMT power and key fonts of financial and political patronage for the KMT. The DPP has decided to vest authority over the associations in the central government (where they will be under DPP control) rather than among the local farmers (where they will be under KMT control).

Because the irrigation association heads will be civil servants, they can't serve in political party positions. Thus, several central standing committee members of the KMT must give up their party positions -- it is a measure of the power of these local cooperative associations that their heads either get them as patronage rewards or derive immense influence from controlling them. No one considers control of a local irrigation association beneath the dignity of a powerful member of the KMT. In fact, one of the most influential CSC members resigned from the KMT rather than give up his local power base, the report said.

Thus the DPP strikes a blow at the KMT. I'd like to report that the DPP was eliminating the clientelist state with its patronage networks from local politics, but it looks to me like it is merely re-orienting those networks on itself.
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Wednesday, May 02, 2018

In The National Interest Asking US Officials to Change the Way they Talk about Taiwan

A smoggy day in Taichung...

The National Interest published me today:
At present, searching U.S. State Department texts, it is nigh impossible to find a clear statement of the U.S. position on Taiwan. Washington officials respond to queries about U.S. Taiwan policy with a string of historical references: the Communiqués, the Taiwan Relations Act, the Six Assurances, peppered with words like “consistent” and “status quo.” Outsiders receiving this catechism are like medieval peasants hearing the Catholic mass in Latin: enthralled by the ceremony, but fundamentally lost.

If the United States wants to help Taiwan, one of the simplest and most effective ways would be for U.S. officials to clearly and consistently communicate that Washington views Taiwan’s status as undetermined, a position that reflects international law.
The media keeps getting this wrong...
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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Viewing Taiwan from the Beltway Bubble

Two bikes collide on the bike path, resulting in serious injuries. 

Scott Kastner has a solid piece in WaPo -- he even gets US policy on Taiwan correct -- good until point 5:
A final point is that Taiwan itself benefits from a stable U.S.-China relationship. As I argue in a recent International Security article, good U.S.-China relations give Beijing a stake in a stable status quo. Even if the United States were to stay out of a cross-Strait military conflict, such a conflict would be disastrous for the U.S.-China relationship. Good relations with Washington, then, give Beijing more to lose by initiating war in the Taiwan Strait — and that’s a good thing for Taiwan.
The problem here is that Kastner has a hidden assumption that governs his thinking: that Washington will guide Beijing's behavior in the status quo by rewarding it when it behaves and punishing it when it doesn't. That is wrong: for Beijing the SQ is meaningless because Washington never punishes Beijing. Whenever it might contemplate punishment, a whole chorus of Beijing shills and Explainers howls that Washington is disrupting stability and hurting the US-China relationship. (To understand their thinking, just delete "US" and "relationship" from that phrase, and consider that the majority of these people gain access, status, and money from their China relationships. That is why so many of these people are upset with Trump Administration China policy.)

A "stake in the SQ" is only possible when there is some risk of it disappearing. Otherwise the SQ is merely a recurring gift from Washington to Beijing.

There's a word for that: tribute.

IR thinkers join this chorus because for so many of them, "stability" and "US national interest" are coterminous. It seems like a generation has forgotten that "stability" is a means to an end, not the end in itself. This lesson has not been forgotten in Beijing.

Practically, this means that stability benefits Beijing, not Washington. Under cover of "stability" Beijing then has opportunity to poach tech (with no punishment), build military (with no punishment), grab the South China Sea and threaten US allies Manila and Tokyo (with no punishment), and suppress Taiwan (with no punishment).

Indeed, because "stability" is the end, Beijing in practice has enormous leverage over the US. It knows that if it ramps up tensions and makes loud grumbles, the US will sacrifice Taiwan (and Phils and possibly even Japan, never mentioned in analyses of Taiwan-US relations) for "better" relations. Hence, "stability" lacks many of the benefits for Taiwan that Kastner argues it does, because maintaining it gives Washington the incentive to ignore or suppress Taiwan, while making Taiwan look like it is the provocative threat to regional "stability".

Even worse, from they way people like Kastner write, it is obvious that they think maintaining a stable relationship with Washington is its own reward. This existential assumption about the nature of international reality undergirds the Beltway Cosmology. With China rapidly becoming the world's dominant trading nation, this assumption is as obsolete as Ptolemaic astronomy.

Because stability is the goal, the US is constantly being called upon, not only by the China Explainer crowd, but by IR thinkers, to reduce its freedom of action and leverage over Beijing to maintain "stability".

A "stability" that, for Beijing, is just a temporary means to its end of overturning the current order and replacing the US.
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Monday, April 30, 2018

Taichung KMT Mayor Candidate Lu's new campaign launched

It's Taichung Plus+!
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The Week in Chinese Belligerence with bonus CNN moment

What happens when the machines stop?

Russell Hsiao at TNI asks What Would Taiwan Do If China Invaded? Hsiao notes:
As one analyst observed in 2003:

… it is not clear how high a price Taiwan is willing to pay to oppose China. Taiwan’s people have generally resisted the sacrifices that go with a high degree of military readiness. Mandatory military service for young men is unpopular, and the government has already cut the length of service several times. Some high-ranking Taiwan military officers admit that the civilian population’s willingness to fight is not beyond question. Opinion polls commonly indicate that a significant proportion of Taiwan’s trained reservists would be reluctant to answer the call to arms in the event of a war with China.
Hsaio then lists polls that show people are willing to fight. I think many analysts are confused on this point. Most people will fight, and that number will rise when China attacks the island and people see their loved ones killed around them.

Taiwanese do not rejecting sacrificing to defend their island. Rather, they abhor the military. The problem is that the military treats its recruits like crap. In a society that runs on chickenshit, the military is the ultimate realization of the chickenshit culture. For the conscripts, who are under the absolute, unchecked authority of the officers, life can be hell. Naturally young males dread joining the organization...

Military service in the old days was a mandatory two years so that males could be constantly indoctrinated with KMT propaganda and so that they would be off the streets and unable to take part in protests, and to keep them under surveillance for their politics and the pro-democracy types identified and perhaps imprisoned. China had no navy in the old days and there was never any threat to take Taiwan back then. It was all about domestic political control.

It would be better if foreign commentators focused on pressuring the military to reform its  culture rather than claiming (falsely) that Taiwanese don't want to defend Taiwan.

This week Chinese belligerence was the theme. CNN "reported" with a fine piece of stenography on China's noisemaking via imagery, propaganda, and air force flights around Taiwan, with the stupidly wrong title:
China's release of images reinforces vow to keep Taiwan as a territory
Yes, that's right, for CNN Taiwan is already part of China, which it is trying to "keep". Thus does a great American news organization align itself with authoritarian power rather than international law, under which Taiwan's status is undetermined. It would be sick but frankly the media's failure to advocate for democracy in Asia is so awful I accept this as par for the course.

Sometimes I don't even understand why the CCP bothers to waste money on Xinhua.

CNN remains mystified by Taiwan's actual status in US policy. After a long piece with many quotes from Chinese sources, CNN ends with a confusing comment on US policy:
While Washington does not challenge Communist China's claim over Taiwan, the official US policy simply states that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait recognize there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.
Very confusing and wrong, twice now. The US acknowledges but does not recognize that people on both sides of the Strait say Taiwan is part of China. US policy is that Taiwan's status is undetermined. Apparently CNN has never heard of Google.

Again the same crap as last time. Quote after quote from China sources, but none from Taiwan or Washington. Even when CNN mentions Washington and Taiwan, as if to apologize for having the temerity to suggest there were places in the world where Beijing's writ did not run, it quickly listed the Chinese reaction:
But under US President Donald Trump, the United States' has appeared enthusiastic to move closer to Taiwan, a move which has caused deep concern in Beijing.

"Every inch of our great motherland's territory cannot be separated from China," President Xi said during a nationalistic speech at the National People's Congress in March, drawing huge applause.

The Trump administration has sought closer ties to President Tsai's government, angering Beijing by recently signing two deals to tighten ties with the island, including a travel act which will allow more official visits between the US and Taipei.
CNN doesn't bother to present any information or quotes on why the US might have this policy and what Taiwan's position is, except to say that the ruling DPP is pro-independence (so is the whole island, CNN). We get lots of Beijing reaction, but no US reaction to Beijing's posturing. This is not a short piece, so CNN cannot plead lack of space.

Is CNN simply pro-Beijing, or censoring itself?

Meanwhile, the US responded with B-52 flights to Pratas Island off China. Someone is paying attention. Jason Diehl's WaPo piece contains a rare tidbit: scuttlebutt is that Trump was angry that Alex Wong visited Taipei. The Administration is complex and Trump is hardly the whole of it.

A lighter moment: China "discovered" a map from 1951. O so conveniently, it addresses some issues with the infamous Nine Dash Line. I expect that ancient texts and modern documents both are going to be undergoing continuous alteration to support PRC expansion, and we are all going to be like Winston Smith watching O'Brien send a photo the memory hole...
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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Another academic study confirms what we all knew about Chinese tourists

From the recently published How the influx of Chinese tourists affects national tourism behaviors: Evidence from Taiwan...
Taiwan implemented its tourism open policy for Chinese tourists in 2008, thereby inducing a skyrocketing‐growth of tourist arrivals from China in subsequent years. This paper examines the influence of Chinese tourist arrivals on national tourism in Taiwan. Based on individual‐level data in 2006–2013, empirical estimations find no crowding‐out effect on national tourism, whereas Taiwan's residents exhibit an increasing frequency of domestic trips. Crucially, residents lower their willingness to visit most of famous tourism sites that Chinese tourists prefer to visit, suggesting the increasing domestic tourists are crowded out from famous tourist attractions and, instead, visiting some local scenic sites.
This is what many of us have noted: Taiwan tourists didn't go to places crowded with Chinese tourists. Looking forward to Ian Rowen's book on this topic.

Tourism numbers for Jan-March 2018

March HKK 150,986
China 191,805
Feb HKK 109,395
China 289,758
Jan HKK 106,441
China 218,648

Total China 700,211
CH+HKK 1,067,033

Hey... when was the last time you heard about the horrible complaints from the domestic tourism industry about the loss of Chinese tourists... yeah me neither.
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Friday, April 27, 2018

Taipei and Taichung election Polls


My man Donovan published in the News Lens today on the mayoral race in Taipei. He observes:
There is, however, something very surprising I haven’t seen publicly commented on that may be (or should be) a factor internally in the party: a closer look at the numbers in the last five to six polls in a two-way race between Ko and the KMT’s Ting shows Ko’s lead at 10.4 percent versus 15 percent in a three-way race.

Even more curious is where Yao is taking the votes from: mostly from the KMT’s Ting at an average of 9 percent and only taking an average of 5 percent from Ko’s base. However, though poll numbers vary, all the polls are fairly consistent in this respect – Yao is taking more votes from Ting than Ko.

One reason the DPP’s Yao might take more votes from the KMT’s Ting is that moderate DPP voters dislike Ko, and given a two-way race they would vote against the incumbent mayor Ko, but given a DPP candidate they would vote with their party.

Another possibility is that having both DPP and KMT challengers boosts Ko’s credibility as an independent, keeping some voters loyal to Ko over Ting, who is a lackluster candidate that has failed repeatedly in past mayoral runs.
Donovan is referring to these two polls from the link in the News Lens piece:

In the poll above, current mayor Ko leads the KMT's Ting Shou-chung 47% to 37%. That's no surprise. Ting has longtime name recognition, but he's from a previous generation of politicians who came to prominence in the 1990s when the KMT and DPP were first attempting to institute credible internal polling, as the KMT party pollster.

However this next three-way poll...

...has Ko at 43%, Ting at 28%, and the DPP's Pasuya Yao (Yao Wen-zhi) at 14%. When Yao enters the race, he takes ~4% from Ko, but 9% from Ting.

This suggests, as Donovan points out, that either DPP voters are voting for Ting because he is not altogether bad, and they dislike Ko --strongly, recall that the DPP city councilors in Taipei largely support Yao and have demanded that the DPP run a candidate. However, when Yao enters, those votes shift to him. Or that having three candidates makes Ko look more independent. I myself lean toward the first explanation.

Ko is strongly supported by the young. Today on the train I sat down next to a young women of 20, who promptly opened up a bag and pulled out a book on populism, Robert Evan's book on vices in the development of civilization, and Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow before selecting the last to read. That signaled to me she might be interesting, and sure enough, she was full of political opinions, including that Ko was strongly supported by the young. I asked her what concrete achievements of his she could point to, and she instanced the athletic games from last year. She also went right down the checklist of good points: he's not a career politician, he's learning fast, and so forth.

Donovan also directed me to this Storm Media piece polling the Taichung mayor race....
Who will win?
Lin Chia-lung: 40.6%
Lu Shiow-yan: 20.1%
Dunno: 39.4%

Who do you support?
Lin: 31.9%
Lu: 23.7%
Won't vote/spoiled ballot: 8.6%
Dunno: 35.7%
That's very surprising to me, but our growing population is likely adding more greens than blues, which will help Lin. Lu, Donovan said, seems like a lackluster candidate. However, it is early, and the undecideds could easily swing the election to Lu. Much will depend on whether all the money the DPP is shelling out for public construction will swing the factions to the DPP. I expect Lu's mainlander background doesn't help her in Taichung either.

As for the referendum protest  of Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian stirring up trouble... years ago I wrote:
Were Chen ever to get out, he would go back to seeking the limelight, encouraging splits within the DPP in order to aggrandize his own faction and friends, and so on. Both the China Post and Taipei Times pieces essentially say the same thing even though they disagree. When Chen gets out he is going to re-enter pan-Green politics, sucking up time, effort, resources, and funds that could be going directly to the DPP and meaningful and important pro-Taiwan groups and causes. He'll be constantly pursued and goaded by the pro-Blue media for inflammatory quotes, further dividing rather than uniting.
...all so predictable. In addition to being a pointless distraction, the referendum law protest is legitimating the kind of thinking embodied in Judith Norton's recapitulation of KMT talking points at TNI last week. This one is especially annoying:
Given that Tsai’s administration could perceive U.S. policy now favors Taiwan over the PRC, it could hold a national referendum on a sensitive issue to deepen democracy, protect human rights, and determine Taiwan’s future, something that is an established component of the DPP political agenda and mentioned in President Tsai’s major speeches. Holding a national referendum could cause a further deterioration in cross-strait relationship because the PRC perceives it as “separatist activities”, which, based on the Anti-Secession Law, could justify an aggressive response, making the Taiwan Strait a potential military flashpoint.
President Tsai and her DPP passed a law making it impossible to hold a referendum on "Taiwan's future". There will not be such a referendum during her presidency, nor will she waste time on the other two. Perhaps some private body might push for one, but so far the only referendum on human rights in the pipe is from hate groups trying to roll back human rights for people whose sexual choices they disapprove of.

But Chen et al's referendum law protest feeds fears inside the Beltway of ZOMG REFERENDUM. This is the kind of thing I feared Chen might do in the 2016 election. Luckily the KMT left him locked up...
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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Great Bot Swarm of 2018

This month many of us in the pro-Taiwan community have made the unpleasant discovery that our Twitter accounts are flooded with passive bot followers. They have the same traits -- the account usually has no profile picture, and it was opened in April of 2018. Most of them do not tweet or retweet. Some like this one tweet only one thing again and again.

Twitter has done little, and probably can do little, since the bots are simply rebooted every time they are deleted.

If you look inside them, they typically follow pro-Taiwan (and human rights people working in Asia on other issues according to news reports), Taiwan-based organizations and individuals like myself, non-white (mostly) celebrities, and Edward Snowden, and follow between 70 and 100 people, and have only 1 or 2 followers.

A good example is the bot shown above. It has a profile pic, which is less common, but it follows the familiar pattern: Edward Snowden is mixed with Rihanna and Oprah, and below it follows AmCham Taipei  and Holly Harrington, the well known expat (whom I have great admiration for) who is deeply involved in the startup community in Taipei.

These bots are either Russian or Chinese (a major media organ said SE Asian gov't but that is just pro-Beijing hogwarsh), and my bet is on the latter. Why? Well, when you look at the China Explainer/Apologist/Shill crowd, you don't see these bots.

China Explainer Michael Swaine:
The one profile without a pic was established in 2017, not from the current round of bots. The popular web tabloid SupChina which often parrots the Beijing line....

...yup. No bots. I checked those profiles.

I check the profiles there w/o images, they all date from before 2018 and appear to be real people. China Explainer Evan Osnos has only one bot in his followers that I could see. I didn't see any bots in the followers of Ralph Jennings, who (confusingly) is not pro-China but writes like it.

I also looked at publicly neutral people like Kharis Templeman, who also has no bot followers. He tweets on Taiwan but his personal beliefs (I do not know what they are) remain private. Similarly well-known international politics expert Bonnie Glaser, whose beliefs are also private, is followed by a single bot, who also follows me.

However -- giant caveat -- the China Explainers/Shills tend to be US-based. The bots also do not follow several Taiwan-centered tweeters and organizations who are obviously pro-Taiwan and based in the US (no names because I don't want to draw attention to them). So "not being based in Taiwan" might explain why the bots are ignoring them.

Yet clearly the bots are able to differentiate because UK-based Jon Sullivan, the brilliant scholar who loves Taiwan, is followed by bots. Some of them are like this profile, which has a picture and a birthdate, was formed in April of 2018 and has never tweeted, and has the usual bot following profile: a mix of celebrities and Taiwan sites, and is following less than 100 accounts.

In Taiwan William Foreman, the head of AmCham Taiwan, has a healthy fleet of bots following him. So does J Michael Cole. Aaron Wytze and I regularly swap jokes about our bot followers (my bot profile pics are WAY hotter than yours, Aaron). Some well-known pro-Taiwan people based on Taiwan who are regular tweeters are not followed, however. I checked a few, but again, no names mentioned. There's a high degree of arbitrariness in who gets selected, but clearly an intelligence is directing them because they don't follow people who support China.

Why people like me have many bot followers is a mystery. The bots do not appear to be doing anything, merely crowding up follower spaces. They do not retweet or attack, and appear to be completely passive. But it is deeply unsettling that Twitter cannot/will not filter them out, and that a tiny person like myself of no particular influence is targeted by a major international hacking operation. Is this a practice run for when China attacks Taiwan? Or what?

It's unsettling. And that appears to be the purpose of the Great Bot Swarm of 2018.

FYI the same thing has been noticed by non-pro-Beijing (sp?) bloggers in Hong Kong recently.

For example, Hemlock on Big Lychee ( commented April 13:

"I have recently been inundated with hundreds of fake ‘followers’ on Twitter, many but not all with Chinese names or profiles. I am not alone: they generally follow Neil deGrasse Tyson, Denise Ho, the Pope, at least one Obama, Jerome Cohen, and (more to the point) many familiar esteemed China/HK/Taiwan journos and commentators (an example). The bots, or whatever they are, don’t seem to do any harm – but you wonder what’s going on. (Maybe they’ll be sold on to spammers?)"

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, April 20, 2018

Renegade Province: the grail?


Last week Jon Sullivan, the scholar of things Taiwan and China, apparently located the first use of "renegade province" to describe Taiwan in the English-language media. Is it this NYTimes piece from 1982? Can't find an earlier one about Taiwan...
Last Tuesday, Peking and Washington announced an uneasy and tenuous-sounding settlement of the dispute over arms to Taiwan, a renegade province in Chinese eyes.
....but it isn't the earliest  use of the term. Apparently it was well-established in Chinese to describe Vietnam...
"Tracing back to its history of tributary states, the Chinese colossus has fixed views about all states contiguous to its territory; in some Chinese dialects, Vietnam is still referred to as a “renegade province.”
In those days you could write frankly about China's long-term expansionist desires...
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Great, the Good, and the ugly

Fisherman on the rocks at Sanxiantai.

Will you have the power of love or the love of power? The ugly stain of authoritarian Christianity has answered that it will have the latter, and impose it on everyone. Spreading out of the US to plague countries far from its borders with its insensate hatred, intolerance, and need for control, America's worthless, hideous analogue to the Chinese Communist Party's overseas influence campaign was in the news here this week. Now in Taiwan, it has suddenly metastasized from a hate-filled annoyance into a real menace to human rights. A friend put it well on Facebook:
Meanwhile, with the DPP in control of the executive and legislative branches for nearly two years, they've completely abandoned the campaign promises to legalize same sex marriage.

Now a tiny but politically connected group of bigots have captured the initiative, and look prepared to humiliate Taiwan after the country won plaudits worldwide less than a year ago for the Constitutional Court's ruling in favor of gay marriage
What's happened? Exploiting the new referendum law's low threshold for triggering a referendum, these groups are seeking to put same-sex marriage to a referendum. The Taipei Times reports:
The commission said that two referendum proposals from Alliance for the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance president Tseng Hsien-ying (曾獻瑩) and one from its convener, Yu Hsin-yi (游信義), were drafted in accordance with the law.

One of Tseng’s proposals asks people whether they think same-sex marriage is a right that should be granted by means other than amending the Civil Code — which governs marriage — while the other asks whether education about homosexuality at elementary and high schools mandated by the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法) should be abolished.

Yu asked people whether they support keeping the definition of marriage in the Civil Code as a union between a man and a woman.

“The Central Election Commission has made its darkest decision yet,” author Chen Fang-ming (陳芳明) said on Facebook.

“Having a public referendum on human rights is an insult to Taiwan’s democratic society, undercuts the Taiwanese values that we have long been so proud of and it is a slap in the face to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who has publicly said: ‘My name is Tsai Ing-wen and I support marriage equality,’” he said.
Readers may recall that the high court affirmed the right of same-sex was guaranteed by the Constitution's equality under the law sections. The court basically turned it over to the legislature to then enact the necessary laws.

The DPP controlled legislature has done nothing about it since, inaction which has permitted these bake sale authoritarians to attempt to use referendums to overturn a human right already recognized by the nation's highest court as inherent in the Constitution. Brian H tartly observed that the same civic and social groups that have argued that referendums can overturn judicial decisions in other cases have suddenly reversed their arguments in this case. J Michael Cole wrote last year on how Christian hate groups in the US are driving the current anti-gay Christian movements in Taiwan.

Next up: Christians in Taiwan argue that gay people are 3/5th of a person. O wait. That's what their caterwauling against same-sex marriage means, actually....

As my friend noted, this will certainly hurt Taiwan's image overseas. But more importantly, same-sex marriage advocates vote. And there is an election coming up in just seven months, a critical test of the DPP. There are going to be many close votes and candidates will need cash. Same-sex marriage advocates aren't going to pony up votes and cash if the DPP continues on its current course.

Someone, at the top, needs to put some spine into the DPP. The anti-gay referendums need to pass the second threshold of 280K signatures. Before that happens, something needs to be done. The signatures should be checked carefully as well....

But enough of the bad news, some good news. Tricky Taipei pulled off a minor miracle this week. First Tricky put together a great blog post on the inane Twitter account of the tourism bureau. This work of genius did something I have simply been too lazy and frustrated to do: take the bureau to task for its amateurish, stoopid, cringe-inducing tweets. Nothing but food food food and all of it in English I'd fail my college students for. I've been here two decades and talked to people there many times, always failing to get anyone to listen to how stupid they are at marketing Taiwan. Basically, I have given up trying to do anything.

So kudos to Tricky Taipei, because it is a success. Influential Taiwanese facebook posters picked up Tricky Taipei and also Apple Daily had a piece on that blog post. Maybe we will see some change -- like the hiring of an experienced foreigner with exhaustive firsthand knowledge of the island and long experience with social media to promote the island in social media. Hmmm.... do I know anyone like that?

That piece coincided with David Green's piece on giving Taiwan the digital face it deserves.

J Michael Cole rocked today with a great piece explaining how Beijing played the int'l media like violin....
The main reason why the Taiwanese are not panicking, and why much of the international media reporting on today’s military exercises completely misses the mark, is that they have gotten used to this kind of propaganda and therefore can easily shrug it off. Not only does this strategy fail to coerce the Taiwanese public or make them less supportive of the liberal-democratic way of life they cherish, it actually backfires, compounding their alienation from China. Moreover, the growing frequency of PLA live-fire exercises and passages near Taiwan — many of them in the West Pacific — in recent years, has, ironically, diluted the effectiveness of such propaganda efforts. Thus, if the aim is to spark a panic in Taiwan, Beijing is failing miserably.

It needs to be said, as well, that a sizeable share of recent PLA activity near Taiwan — transits in the Taiwan Strait, the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, and the Strait of Mikayo between Taiwan and Japan — has not been primarily aimed at Taiwan but is rather part of the natural progression of a military that is expanding its presence beyond the “first island chain.” This includes the East and South China Sea, as well as the West Pacific. Therefore, while propagandists may want to portray every military exercise as action targeting or “warning” Taiwan, the psychological impact is in reality collateral, secondary to the principal objectives of the said maneuvers.

As expected, this appears to be a routine artillery drill. According to Taiwanese and military media reports this morning, the Liaoning is still involved in exercises in the South China Sea and unlikely to be dispatched to the Taiwan Strait to take part in the drills off Fujian. Reports, citing military sources, also indicate that there has been no increase in the number of troops in the area, and that no warships or fighter aircraft have been mobilized for the exercise.
As I have been noting, Beijing and its voices have been growing ever more adept at manipulating the western media, which is eager to publish stories about tensions and threats in the Taiwan Strait. People overseas need to start applying discounts to the amount of tension they are being told exists in the media.

Finally, don't miss longtime US Taiwan expert Shirley Kan explaining the submarine tech licensing issues at GTI.
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