Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday, September 30, Taiwan Blog Round Up

Another day, another dollop of wisdom from Taiwan's many great bloggers. Much going on out there in the world, with the ongoing saga of the arms purchase, Li Ao in China.....Some new blogs appeared on my blogroll this week, including Cold Goat Eyes and the leaky pen.


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Scott Sommers posts another entry in the ongoing discussion of foreign teachers in Taiwan.

Since so much of the legal apparatus that controls education in the West is controlled by professional educators and their unions, there is no way that foreign teachers, certified or not, are going to get into public schools in the West. On the other hand, in Taiwan, because of the lack of emphasise in public education on workplace skills, the rich can buy the kind of instruction that fee payers everywhere want to buy but can't. And for reasons still not so clear to me, the DPP even more than the KMT, feel pressure to provide some watered-down version of this to masses.

I don't think it is really the lack of emphasis on workplace skills, but the lack of regulation of the cram school system combined with the incessant pressure from the testing system that has resulted in the slow spread of foreigners out of the illegal economy and into the formal one. Once foreigners, demanded for whatever reasons, started showing up in the cram school system, it was only a matter of time before the formal schools would have to incorporate them, or risk looking inferior to cram schools.

This points to a neglected area for investigation: cross-fertilization between the cram school economy and the public school system. They have already overlapped for decades as many high school teachers work in or operate cram schools and cram school classes, though that is strictly illegal (that is also true of many university teachers). This leakage between the two is usually to the detriment of the formal school system -- teachers demand that students in their classes at the high school attend their cram school at night, or they won't receive important test information and will be punished at grade time. The slow migration of uncertified and semi-competent foreign teachers into the formal school system is not some anomaly but simply another realization of the way that the gray market and legal economy intertwine and interact on The Beautiful Island.

Another issue is really whether we are even looking at leakage from the cram school market into the public school system, or whether we are simply seeing another middle-class wannabe movement. Prestigious private schools have had English teachers for years -- I taught at one school in Taipei in about 1990 or 1991 -- and so have expensive private kindergartens. Are those English teachers flowing up from the gray market, or are public schools trying to upmarket themselves by aping the habits of private schools? I submit probably both trends are at work.

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David at jujuflop leads a list of entries on the boxing matches in the legislature. This week it was the pan-Green parties on the card as they attempted to lay some smack on the pan-Blues for putting forth unconstitutional bills....

The fact that the DPP & TSU are right to oppose all three of the above proposals shouldn't detract from the fact that they are behaving like idiots in treating the legislature as a wrestling arena. The sooner politicians in Taiwan realise that they have a functional legislative and judicial system, and that civilized nations use these institutions in preference to their fists, the better.

David's piece also offers a good summary of the proposed legislation and why it is harmful to the island's interests. Wandering to Tamshui also comments on the Blue betrayal of the island, and on the scrum in the legislature. I should add that I wish those jellyfish who passed for Dems in our Congress showed half the spirit of the pan-Greens in acting positively on behalf of my own nation's constitution.

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The pro-KMT blog Taiwan's Other Side hacks on the DPP and their defense policy.

DPP defense policy right now basically consists of 'don't beat me up because my big brother (the US) will come and beat you up.' Did anyone other than me actually try that strategy in the schoolyard? Let me know if it worked for you, because I got my notebook ripped up and my schoolbag thrown over the fence. When you go around slapping the face of the big bully, you're really asking for it. Chen Shui-Bian's habit of provoking China anytime he needs to win an election may work, but it really hurts Taiwan in the long run. This is the source of the US perception that Taiwan thinks it has a 'blank check' from the US in defense, not an arms bill that charges 3 times the going rate for obsolete diesel submarines. You have to wonder if the US thinks it has a blank check of its own at that price.

I love this post because he managed to write all those paragraphs without once mentioning that DPP policy is to purchase weapons from the US, and KMT policy is to oppose this. Does "Taiwan" think it has a blank check from the US? To the extent that the DPP represents Taiwan as its governing party, then the answer is "no." It is not "Taiwan" but the KMT that is holding up the arms purchases and acting as if it thinks Taiwan has a blank check. Perhaps TOS might want to mention that fact in a similar post. I mean, without that, people might think he is writing slanted anti-DPP propaganda.....

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the leaky pen, a blog new to my blogroll, from a college teacher somewhere in the hinterlands of northern Taiwan, contemplates his career against a changing Taiwan in a post entitled Confucius, Drugs, and Women:

As I ponder a continuing my career in things are changing all around; important things that I can't control or understand. Drugs and prostitution, an accelerating violent crime rate, the possibility of war on the horizon...There's probably a connection between all these phenomenon, but I can't say for sure what it is. Very much unlike the Taiwan I used to know, in any case. Today's ROC is a society barreling headlong toward death and depression beneath a precarious veneer of Confucian uprightness. Liu kept both his wife and mistress because to dump one would be dishonorable and to ditch the other would be no "fun" at all. His sole reason for selling drugs, he says, was that his wife and mistress needed the money.

leaky writes with an urgent urban edge, or perhaps an urge to edgy urbanity. Here he comments on his school, a lot more candidly than I ever would on a public forum:

Now is as good a time as any to tell you that, although he's Hakka Chinese, Chairman Lam is one of those howdi-ly-doodle-dee-doo-neighbor type of "Christians" who likes to beat on your door at odd times of the day to talk to you about the Good Book. The kind who is into athletics and likes to brag about his exploits on the court. The kind that likes to give lectures about the evils of women, booze, or greasy foods while trying to get blowjobs from each of the new secretaries he hires each academic year. The kind who tells you "all men are brothers with the Lord" to your face and calls you a "foreign devil" behind your back.

ROFL. Looking forward to some good stuff in the future, tlp!

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The Peking Duck, one of Asia's best blogs, pauses for some humorous comments on Romanization on The Isle Beautiful:

For example, the first character I had to learn in China was the one that would help me find an Internet cafe. In China, the character for shang wang (surfing the net) is so distinctive, it jumps out at you - a nifty and stylish box with two big X's in the middle. Here, it's hopelessly different. It looks like a script version of the letter "E" with three squiggly lines underneath it. Maddening. Isn't it time to make things easier for everybody? Isn't it time to leave traditional Chinese to the calligraphers and allow the people to exult in the ease and clarity of simplified characters?

Don't miss the comments either...

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Sunday, September 25, thousands demonstrated in Taipei in favor of the arms purchase. Mengshin Journal, always home to great pics, took a few. RJ Hudson also blogged a few pics in scattered posts. MeiZhongTai blogs on the latest words from America on this hot topic:

While I certainly understand Chabot's frustration, I don't think that such comments are helpful. It only reinforces the impression, that I discussed in a previous post on Richard Halloran's article, that America's friendship can be bought one arms contractor at a time. Chabot's speech was certainly the "American version" of the argument I discuss in the Halloran post, but it will certainly be interpretted in accordance with the "Taiwanese version."

I've blogged on this a couple of times, most recently on Justin Logan's piece in the Washington Times, which makes the same error that is made by Chabot here: it's not "Taiwan" that is the problem, but the obstructionism of the pan-Blues. Someone from American needs to come here and break a few heads.
Until the US puts pressure directly on the problem, the behavior of the KMT, nothing will change. Lecturing "Taiwan" is pointless, as it merely rewards the pan-Blues for making Taiwan look bad.

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Big Ell gets on the soapbox this week with a long post covering politics....

The Gentle Rant's hero Rober Fisk has been barred from entering the States. I guess the right to free speech doesn't apply to English mudrakers. I wouldn't let him in either. A journalist that actually interviews people on the scene and doesn't stay in hotels with his video phone has no place in the world of journalism. It could also be because John Malkovich hates his guts and wants him dead. The Free New Mexican also reports that a rare albino turkey vulture has also been sighted, what a busy news day in New Mexico.

I totally agree -- keeping Fisk out was another in a long list of shameful and disgusting anti-American behaviors from the Bush Administration.

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Writing on a topic near and dear to my heart, Michael Fahey writes at POTS on the Pinglin Exit and its importance for the city of Taipei, and for Taiwan's democracy:

The Pinglin area is environmentally sensitive because it is smack in the middle of the water catchment that supplies water the capital's pampered residents through the Feitsui reservoir. The city and environmental groups are concerned with considerable justification that increased traffic in the area will increase emissions and runoff in the area. Taipei's drinking water (gasp!) might end up like the unpotable water that the hoi polloi in Taoyuan or Kaohsiung put up with. At this, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former Environmental Agency chief Hau Long-bin (郝龍斌) suddenly became concerned. Those election-crazy DPP politicos, they virtuously thundered, are undoing decades of work by the KMT to protect the environment (excuse me while I find somewhere to throw up)!

It's obvious that traffic will never be limited to 4,000 vehicles a day through there. It's close enough to Taipei to make a great bedroom community, and where the exit goes, development in the catchment area is sure to follow. Taiwan runs on construction the way the US runs on military spending (see Gavan McCormack's superb The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence for a great description of how this system works in Japan), a perpetual motion of machine of concrete and public debt, crushing nature and humanity both.

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Brian David Phillips blogs on the recent changes to the TOEFL, a topic ignored by most blogs:

Big news . . . An English Test Is Changed, and Some Foreign Students Worry. Of course, the headline is wrong . . . a lot of foreign students in Asia as well as their parents, teachers and the administrators of programs specifically geared towards teaching students strategies for passing the TOEFL are worried. The addition of a speaking component to the TOEFL calls for very pervasive changes in how English is taught in Asia. This also means that bushibans (cram schools) that guarantee test scores will have to change how they teach the TOEFL, relying more on actual language skills instead of on test-breaking strategies aimed at the multiple choice test format.

Well....there might be a need for a change, but I doubt we'll actually see much of a change.

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Survived SARS, a blog dedicated to banks in China, comments on a recent WaPo article on the currency appreciation issue in China:

Can I please be quoted somewhere for saying something this inane? At issue, of course, is not the actual exchange rate but the mechanism that governs its movement. Currently, the Chinese central bank does not appear to be committed to a particular rate, which is creating problems of credibility in the market, because the market anticipates a larger appreciation than has occurred.

You're quoted here, man! I think what happened is that when the currency started to rise, all those Taiwanese and Korean manufacturers who operate on razor-thin margins saw that as a threat to their existence. After all, if you make 3-4% profit on every dollar of product sold, and the currency rises 2%, your profits have been chopped in half (you have to use those dollars you got for your products in the USA to buy yuan in China, right?). When the Chinese leadership saw all that foreign investment threatening to disappear, the appreciation was checked. As long as a rise threatens FDI, they will keep the currency down, since their growth is driven by FDI, not by accumulation of human and technological capital by local owners, as in Taiwan. And of course, as you point out, the Central Bank's ability to control the situation and prevent sudden instabilities is also a problem. Gone is predictability, an important factor in investment decisions....so the currency will stay put over the long run, I'll bet.

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Rank posts on a website dedicated to backpacking travel in Taiwan.

Next, the text for a section called "Transport - Choice, Convenience and Comfort," reads, in full, as follows: "On any world map Taiwan looks deceptively small, as it is dwarfed by mainland China. Most of the island is mountainous that travel times are not so short. From end to tip it may take up to eight hours, however most destinations are a short trip and there are numerous options for traveling to suit any budget."

Thanks, folks, for all that useful information on the convenient and comfortable transportation choices available to me.

Damn. Worse than my students.

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Cold Goat Eyes, a blog that just found me, writes on living on the Beautiful Isle:

I love Chinese food, of course, I am addicted to dumplings and there is rarely a day that passes when I dont have a fix, but sometimes (only sometimes) I get a craving for Spanish tapas, or some French stinking cheese joint, or even a British fish 'n chip shop (maybe not). Even the corkscrews here are crap. If you get to use it five times you should consider yourself lucky.

Assume it as read that I love this country. I am coming up on ten months here and each day I fall in love with her more, but of course there are things I miss from Europe. The cheesewinebread non-proliferation treaty is one thing I dont like about Taiwan, and I miss the cafes that sell such things.

I don't miss much foodwise, except Mexican food. My wife and I used to buy cheap farmed salmon in Texas which we made into sashimi. I miss that a bunch.

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Li Ao's trip to China and his three speeches at Beijing University, Tsinghua U, and Fudan in Shanghai were ignored by many Taiwan bloggers, and dismissed by all. The general opinion of Li Ao among us bignoses is a succint four-letter word. The Forgetful had a good analysis of some of his comments in an interview that explains why:

While I was waiting for Lady D to get ready to go to Grandma Nitti's for breakfast -- well brunch, since we didn't get out of bed until 11.30 this morning -- I flipped through the Chinese-language news channels, and saw Li Ao deliver another groundbreaking wonder of intellectual might during his hugely overrated tour of China.

First, he showed his total lack of anything even resembling a grip on reality by saying that "there is no Taiwan independence problem, there is only a US-China problem." I wonder where he spent the last 25-30 years. You may not support de jure Taiwan indpendence (important distinction, since Taiwan has been a de facto independent country since the Japanese left after WWII) for Taiwan, which is fine, but no one with his head screwed on right can deny that there is a Taiwan independence issue. Oh, I forgot, that's exactly what the PRC's foreign ministry spokesman said. Well, that explains it, then.

Li's a coward....he goes to China with a chance to make the students see the world in a richer and more complex way, and instead he feeds their prejudices. Perhaps he is engaging in some kind of subtle parody of their cupidity by playing to their prejudices, but he comes off as too much of a self-absorbed windbag -- "I am smarter than you because I have read more books than you" -- for me to believe something subtle is going on.

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J & J's travel blog tells the story of a failed attempt to BS his way out of paying for a ticket:

The vehicle was a loaner from Huiching, and was officially registered to a foreigner named Andre who had left Taiwan several months before. I planned to hand over Andre's registration papers, and then, if asked, explain that I was tade pengyou–his friend. But I really hoped they would assume I was Andre; as any Taiwanese will tell you, all foreigners look alike.

I told Huiching my plan on the phone the next morning. She was skeptical, and offered to come down and help after work. We already felt bad at having gotten Chinger's scooter towed, and I insisted I could take care of it myself.

I cabbed to the tow yard without a hitch. A Confucius era security guard lowered a clothesline to allow me into the parking lot, and I walked past 70 or 80 imprisoned scooters and cars to an office building with a little payment window. The lot was small, the building unimposing, I figured that I would have no problems.

I handed in Andre's papers, a $1000 bill, and smiled primly yet ignorantly. I hoped that the clerk would speak no English, and, when I cunningly pretended not to understand her Chinese, she would just take my money and send me along.

It grows ever more comical, like one of those sitcom tales...

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Daniel at Suitcasing muses about big and small in Taipei:

But Taipei has enough fantastic places where the two tendencies mingle, where one can explore and see strange lovely things, people walking their toddlers in the evening, and bicycle lanes near City Hall MRT, and small parks where old men play chess, and cheap day market streets where coffee bars have their frequent customer's loyalty stamps pinned up behind the counter. Long fancy alleys where boutique shops sell trousers I can't fit into.

I can still recall that feeling, sometimes, of what a wonderland Taipei seemed all those years ago in the Ching Dynasty when I first arrived.

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ESWN writes on his deserved popularity in and out of China:

How do people in China find me? Googling a specific subject or topic might be a reason. But the most often stated specific answer is Danwei, especially when they go out of their way with a post like Don't mess with ESWN that has this endorsement: "The best English language blog about China, by far, is called ESWN, or East South West North."

Yup. It's true! Kudos to ya, Richard, for building something wonderful. Speaking of which, his translation of Li Ao's disparaging comments about democracy and Taiwan is now online. Revolting, our Li Ao, like Rush Limbaugh, but without the drug addiction and with actual learning.

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Speaking of good blogs, Wandering to Tamshui just keeps getting better and better. This week there was a slew of good posts, including a sharp-eyed look at the submarine purchase, whose shape is mutating faster than bacteria in an extinction event:

How much more trimming and pruning of this shaggy mutt of a deal is it going to take for people to realize that the submarines are nothing more than a vanity purchase for the military?

We need sub-hunters, a butt-load of PAC-3 batteries, and more jets, not a ragtag fleet of diesel-powered U-Boats to make the navy feel like they're finally wearing the big-boy pants. Who's running the show here, Buck Turgid?

The sub purchase is what makes even us strong supporters of the deal shake our heads in wonder. Although I don't read it as a vanity purchase, but as the US assigning a role to Taiwan in a general war against China (diesel subs for closing the Straits), much the way the US assigned the Dutch the role of minesweepers in NATO, and so were embarrassed to find that they had few of their own in the first Gulf War.

In addition, Wandering to Tamshui posted on a very important article in FEER: 2005: The Year China Declined? A very insightful post on a very thought-provoking piece. WtT also has an important analysis of Ma's swing through the south in the context of the 2008 election and Ma's rivalry with KMT bigwig Wang Jin-pyng.

Actually, there's a lot more to Ma's southern jaunt than many give him credit for. Yes, the main reason is to support his boys in this December's upcoming elections, but in his unprecedented decision to hold the CSC meetings he manages to simultaneously stick his thumbs in the eyes of the DPP and Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who still represents a threat to him in his drive to consolidate power within the party. By personally rallying the troops in the South, Ma is putting Wang on notice that Wang's grip in the south isn't a lock while raising his profile among southern voters ahead of the 2008 presidential campaign.

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Tea Masters was there for the introduction of old tea to a new generation.

The event lasted 2 and a half hours, with many speakers, Teaparker amongst them, to teach and tell us about Taiwan's old teas. Such teas are not very well known among the oolong and pouchong/baozhong drinkers. Tea drinkers usually only associate old tea with Yunnan's puerh. One speaker even talked about this misconception in political terms: "Taiwanese, be proud of your old teas! Don't turn to the Mainland for old puer, but discover the uniqueness of Taiwan's oolong." He seemed to imply that oolong had been invented in Taiwan. Fortunately, I was sitting next to Teaparker and he told our table that this was wrong as oolong originated from China (Fujian, if I remember well) and not in Taiwan. (Nothing political here, just a plain fact.)

The Wiki entry for oolong is here. Most sites indeed give Fujian as the origin of oolong, so you can relax, Steph -- Alzheimer's is a long way off....

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Wondering what to do? Try TaiwanFun.Com, which lists events throughout the island. For example....

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Karl at Chewin on the Chung posts on two perplexing translation problems in China, number 1 and number 2. Don't miss the great Bush jokes at The Gentle Rant this week. NiHowdy blogs on a machine that dispense live lobstersThe Lost Spaceman finds a photo that speaks for itself. Some Cute Little Sayings at lyh0626. Me from Taiwan blogs on foreigners who became locals. The Taipei Kid warns that Rent-a-Taike is here. Congrats to Pinyin Info for its One Year Anniversary. The China Toilet blog captures modern toilets in Shanghai. As always, great photos at 35togo, a better tomorrow, including awesome pics of a spider capturing and binding up a bee, andres, amateur commune, Leftmind, onebackpack.com, Photoblogging Taiwan, Roger in Taiwan, unplugged.....if you live in Taichung, I get together for Axis & Allies Ver. 2 frequently, and we are always looking for new victimsplayers, drop me a line....also, like so many bloggers, I'd like to take a moment to give the government the One Finger Salute for making me work on Teacher's Day.

Happy Teacher's Day!


5 comments:

Red A said...

Do you think Confucius would take a day off?

You're sounding more and more like some sort of lazy Taoist. ;)

...who posts major links in a huge list! Impressive. Call it "Carnival of Taiwan" and try to get Instapundit to link to it, dude.

Also, I want to improve my posting on NiHowdy, but don't have the time...do you live with a camera attached to your body?

Excelletn round-up as usual.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, man. I grab the pics from the ones on my website. I was so busy this summer I haven't had time to post new pages yet...

Michael

Taiwan's Other Side said...

So paying the check means buying overpriced outdated hardware? That's the solution? How about NOT provoking China and not spending the money at all?

Michael Turton said...

Taiwan has to defend itself, TOS. We can only buy weapons from the US. Therefore we're stuck. Simple as that. The alternative is giving up all the progress made here since 1987.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

a$$hole spammer deleted