Friday, October 14, 2005

Friday, Oct 14, Taiwan Blog Round-up

Autumn is here -- breezy sunny days, and cool nights of perfect sleeping weather...and another Friday has come and gone into that vast obscurity beyond our cities, where the dark fields of the nation roll on under the night.....


Suitcasing, who tells stories so well talks about Ghosts and ghost money:

As a general observation, I do find Taiwan a very religiously observant place. Compared to the other countries that I've been to in Asia, there is this constant presence of ritual. It doesn't feel like the intense devotion in Hindu India, or the mysterious spirituality I felt in Thailand – but on x important day, everyone will be in front of their house or business burning paper, or having a barbeque, or praying in front of a table full of food and drink. Having a barbeque hardly sounds all that religious, but when you walk down the street in a country's capital city, and every several houses, there is a group of people cooking - it starts to seem a little more exotic. Then there are the blaring orange funeral vans, that drive around the streets holding up traffic, the temples that get constructed at the end of my street then dismantled a few days later...

And of course, writes movingly on the joys of teaching:

I made a child cry this morning - it's something that always makes me feel happy. I think that one child per day is a sensible target, and as I teach four to six classes, it's not as demanding as it sounds. More would be cruel and counterproductive, but no tears at all? I worry that the worst kids in every class would get a little too enthusiastic.

MeiZhongTai busts me for an error in saying it was Adm. Fallon who wants Taiwan to quietly drop the requests for subs -- it was senior US officers. My bad. MeiZhongTai then goes on to argue for the submarine purchase:

As I am one of the "pundits" in question (see my previous post), allow me to defend the submarine purchase. Not buying new submarines surrenders control of everything under the sea to China (although Taiwan could still conduct anti-submarine warfare from the surface or sky). China currently has the world's largest submarine force (55 submarines), if not the most potent (America's 54 nuclear submarines are far more capable), and is still growing rapidly even as it retires its older Romeos. Surrendering everything subsurface waters isn't particularly wise. To put it mildly, I wouldn't want to be in a surface ship when the opponent is dominant underneath me. Submariners have a saying:
There are two types of ships: submarines and targets.
Turton advocates reallocating the money for submarines to fighters, but the point remains that there is no money for the subs hence the current standstill. I would advocate fixing weaknesses before maximizing strengths, even though both are certainly important.

I've responded to this below.


Speaking of defense, Naruwan Formosa also posted on defense issues and Chen's National Day (Oct 10) speech:

On the occasion of this 94th Anniversary, President Chen (陳水扁) addressed my pet issue, which is the failure of the Republic's political establishment to provide for the common defense, and the unprepared state of the military. I've commented about this in "Taiwanese Self-Defense" (12 April 2005) and in "Military Unpreparedness" (27 July 2005). Taipei Times reports, however, that the KMT's most charismatic figure is not impressed:

The KMT has grasped well the point that the Party needs to stay on message at all times, and that the bigger the lie, the more it should be repeated:

When asked by press for comments on the president's address, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said, "It is not fair for the president to ascribe the blame for the delay of the arms procurement bill to the opposition parties."

With the bill dead in committee 32 times, there is one, and only one reason: the pro-China parties have blocked it. No other reason.

Naruwan Formosa also links to an assessment of the risks of war across the Straits, given in a campus talk, at Mad Minerva. Mad Minerva in turns links to a post at the Dignified Rant that lays out reasons why China will invade prior to the Olympics, and he also has an excellent Taiwan invasion scenario that is very similar to what I have envisioned. It is interesting how the analyses of bloggers from across the spectrum see the China-Taiwan war potential very similarly (Dignified Rant thinks our ongoing defeat in the criminal, and criminally stupid, invasion of Iraq is really a good idea). I'll be posting my own Taiwan invasion scenario soon.


Readers interested in defense affairs should also peruse Sun Bin, who blogs on Taiwan quite a bit. Some interesting arguments this week. First, he argues that Chen is using the KMT to manipulate the US:

My hypothesis: Ah-bien is much smarter than what the pan-Blue would like to believe. This arms deals has never been his baby, instead, it is a KMT legacy handed over to him. However, the US has been pressuring him and he need to sell it to the Taiwanese people. So he cleverly used pan-Blue to play against the greedy arms dealers across the Pacific.

That's a very interesting interpretation. A-bian is skilled at playing off his opponents against each other, as I have noted before. Perhaps there has been a secret deal as Sun Bin speculates, but it is more likely that the wily Chen has simply taken advantage of his opponents' predictable intransigence. The flaw in this theory, however, is that the KMT is blocking more than a dozen other bills, many of which A-bian appears to need. So unless A-bian has decided to work with the KMT on the island to bring governance to a halt.....Sun Bin also went into the ever-changing budget numbers for the purchase in some detail.

As a result, the defense power of Taiwan is weakened by this special budget, because to pave way for this deal, MND had to cut 611-340=NT$271bn in other areas of its budget in the coming 10 years. What this means is that the reason for US blaming Taiwan's lack of seriousness in self defense is totally groundless. I hope Meizhongtai would agree with this. It was precisely the external political interference of this deal that has disrupted Taiwan's defense plan and weakened its defense. Ironically, by bending to the defense industry and hence disrupting Taiwan's defense planning, the US is making it a lot more costly to execute its Taiwan Relation Act when needed, unless, of course, if US does not believe that a war would ever happen. I surely hope for such scenario.

The arms purchase is crowding out weapons and training Taiwan needs for weapons that are insufficient (Patriots), dependent upon assumptions that will not work out (the antisub aircraft require that Taiwan control the air, or are useless (submarines). The real question is whether this is US strategy to provoke a war by making Taiwan weak, or whether the US is simply being stupid.

....which then takes us to the next question: is A-bian going along with this because he knows it is weakening Taiwan and will provoke a war, to bring the US in and leverage US power to make the island independent?

Paranoia big destroya! I think I need to take a break.


David at jujuflop led a host of posts across the Internet on the brawling in the legislature. ESWN, always ready to present anything bad about The Beautiful Isle, has a good post filled with photos. Wandering to Tamshui covers events with his usual humor here and here. It is embarrassing to the nation, to be sure, but Taiwan News argues that it was a regrettable but necessary move. David complains:

The day before this (wholly predictable) fight, the leaders of the two main parties were sitting next to each other chatting about the weather at the National Day celebrations. Why did they not discuss how to restrain their legislators? Waiting for a fight to break out and then blaming the other side is pathetic leadership by both DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)

Interesting: the day before all is amicable and friendly, next day there is a brawl in the legislature that Speaker Wang does nothing to stop, the following day Speaker Wang is appointed the nation's representative to the ASEAN meeting. Hmmm....probably all coincidence.

The fight was about whether the members of a media watchdog body should be assigned by the Executive Yuan or the Legislative Yuan. Could you get worked up about such a detail enough to draw blood?

Yes, because the issue is whether the Executive (DPP) or Legislature (KMT) will appoint the members of that media watchdog. But really, the issue should be why there is such a body in the first place. Media watchdogs are inherently authoritarian. Taipei Nights, new to my blogroll and looking very promising, observes:
The one international trump card Taiwan holds is that of the "democratic nation." When its sovereignty is brought into question Taiwan can turn to the international community and argue: "But we are a thriving democracy. Look compare us to China we have civil rights, elections, and a thriving economy." However with the situation as it is China can turn to its citizens and say: "Do you see what democracy will get you? Bloody brawls on the legislature floor." Meanwhile the international community shakes its head as Taiwanese politics descend to violence and the USA becomes frustrated as a bill to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan is repeatedly kept off the legislature floor by the opposition. I can't help but imagine that a little bit of decorum would go a long way towards improving the sense of legitimacy of the Taiwanese government.

Further short posts on the brawl at the Belligeretron, the BellSite .... Enjoy Life, who echoes the way many in Taiwan feel:

Politic is much difficult work for leader. But just want to ask: Have we really think about real problems and improve ourselves and competent for the world? DPP should do best than KMP but now it is still the same the plays for the people as before

Sad...David at jujuflop notes:

Well, that's just great. The day after the latest punch-up, Chen is telling his legislators to block a new law "at all costs". Short of telling them that they didn't put enough opposition lawmakers in hospital last time, I can't think of a worse way to ask Taiwanese legislators to act.

But unlike a lot of the more judgmental posters, David explains why the DPP is so upset:

However, there is more to it than that: this legislation is an attempt to usurp the authority of existing bodies like the Mainland Affairs Council and the Straits Exchange Foundation (who have been handling links with China for many years), and more seriously the powers of the President; It is very likely that this law will be found to be unconstitutional because of this.

The leaky pen describes concubine villages in China:

You may not believe it at first, but they do in fact exist: the modern-day "concubine villages" (二奶村) where older, well-to-do Chinese businessmen keep their "second wives" (二奶, er nai) in quiet safety and seclusion until their owners need them. There's one in Guangdong Province, there's even on the outskirts of Shanghai, and there's even one in Los Angeles. In Chinese, kept mistresses are called "er nai," or "second tits," and are usually kept up in comfort and luxury by older, wealthy traveling businessmen. Indeed, it's common knowledge in Taiwan, for example, that when business executives go to the mainland to do business the majority will raise a "little wife" outside their native country and forget about their Taiwanese spouse. From the point of view of the girls who become "er-nais," the temptation of a comfortable living and a stipend with which to buy the latest gizmos--cell phones, fashionable clothes, and beauty products--must be overwhelming if they come from rural areas and want to participate in the vast changes sweeping through China's urban megalopoli.


Menghsin Journal blogs on Taiwanese film festivals:

After picking up my batch of Women Make Waves tickets, I'm inspired to post this list of Taiwan-based film festivals that I've attended in my time here. WMW was the first local festival I attended when I arrived in 2003, and it was an exciting way to find out there was more to Taiwanese film than Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, and Tsai Ming-liang.

Alas, we live in Taichung, that desert of culture.


IslaFormosa, back in Canada for a moment, blogs on what he doesn't miss about Canada:

My Taiwanese wife and I are back in Canada for a month. I think it's a good time to reflect on the things that I don't miss here in the Canada.

1) Coffee culture

I remember once starting a new job at Canada Post. The representative responsible for showing me around shook my hand and slowly started to bring me around to check out my new workplace. No sooner than we had started to move, she asked me if I'd like a cup of coffee. I told her it was ok, I really only drank one cup of coffee in the morning. I was then stunned by the next question: "Do you want to join our coffee club?" It suddenly dawned on me and I was horrified. Was it just a nice way of getting me to join their bulk coffee club?

Yep. Leveraging friendship to get you buy things. It's a worldwide phenomenon.


Bourdieu Boy blogs on Taiwanese film:

Mirror Image (2000) Hsiao Ya-chuan (dir.)

Tung-ching is running his father's pawnshop on the outskirts of Taipei with his girlfriend Eiko while his father is in hospital. A scooter accident has left Tung-ching with no lines on his palm, frustrating Eiko's desire to know his fate. A beautiful woman comes into the shop, who Tung-ching calls Xiaode Le (Now I Know), and they begin a relationship in love and illegal hawking.

Mirror Image is the first feature for Hsiao Ya-chuan, a protege of the great Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien. Hsiao is an established commercial director and was Hou's assistant on Flowers of Shanghai. Mirror Image was selected for the Directors Fortnight at Cannes this year.

POTS has an in-depth look at the Linda Arrigo case and residency rights.

A good example of this is permanent residence, a category of residence created by the Immigration Law after years of activism by Richard Hartzell. The normal path to permanent residence is through legal residence of five or seven consecutive years. But the Ministry, which oversees permanent residence applications, has prevented many legitimate applicants from becoming permanent residents by playing word games with the definition of "consecutive" that fly in the face of the plain Chinese meaning and intent of the law.

Even more egregious was their treatment of Arrigo's application for permanent residence by means of a second, less well-known path to permanent residency. Under the law, foreigners who have made special contributions to Taiwan can apply for permanent residency. But when Arrigo, an obvious candidate, applied, she was told to forget about it - no one had ever been approved and no mechanism existed to approve her application anyway. The contempt of Taiwan's civil servants for Taiwan's own laws was palpable.

The question is: how can long-term expats here get together to work together?

Instead, Arrigo recommends a strategy of activism that would use media attention and pressure from her many friends in high places to crack the Ministry's haughty intransigence. But a key factor would be whether this strategy of activism can win support from the public. Arrigo thinks it can, if it is framed in such a way that appeals to the middle class's sense of justice and serves Taiwan's broader interests.

One particularly promising approach would be to work first on the issue of volunteer work by foreigners and employment of foreigners by NGOs. The animal rights movement, for instance, is a rare example of a social issue that has not yet been poisoned by identity politics. The public will find it hard to believe that foreigners cannot work for the rights of animals without fear, however remote, of deportation.

Media attention would be great, and I think appeals to fairness would work. But animal rights? Get me something that locals are sympathic to, please! I agree that locals would find it hard to believe that animal rights activists can be deported, but that is not because locals find that cause congenial, but because they are completely indifferent to it, and most would probably find it incredible that officialdom would give a shit about something so obviously of no importance. Let's find another topic....


Pinyin info blogged on the sad case of use of Hakka in the legislature.

After the head of Taiwan's Cabinet-level Council of Hakka Affairs gave a report in Hakka last week in the Legislature, KMT Legislator Zhū Fèngzhī (朱鳳芝) complained, saying this was a "self-abasing action" showing a "lack of confidence," according to a report in the Taipei Times. This led to harsh words from representatives and organizations from the Hakka community.

...and rightfully so.


Rank posts on Nat Bellochi's piece in the Taipei Times about Lee Teng-hui's historic visit to Cornell those many years ago.

Nat Bellochi's reminiscence of Lee Teng-hui's famous 1995 visit to Cornell in the Taipei Times today takes me back. At that time, I was living in Kunming and immersing myself in socialism with Chinese characteristics. Every once in a while, I would pick up a copy of the International Herald Tribune that some running dog left behind at the Journey to the East coffee shop. But for the most part, my news of the world came from the cankao xiaoxi, a Chinese-language compendium of wire stories that the CPP felt told the truth about the world. Mostly, the stories were critical of Western governments at the time - as one could imagine. There wasn't really a whole lot about Lee Teng-hui's visit to Cornell that I recall, but all of us in China were regaled with glorious footage of the military exercises that are now known as the Taiwan Missile Crisis.

ApplePea Travel Blog, which blogs on that most urgent of topics, things to do on The Beautiful Isle, blogs on Tamshui this week, travel and food.

Dansui, sitting along the mouth of Dansui River, is a historic seaside village in Taipei county. The name itself literally means fresh water. What brings thousands of visitors daily to this tiny town is not just the food but also the gorgeous view of Dansui River. Virtually anytime during the day you'll find great photo spots.

Haven't been there in a long time, but I have many happy memories of Tamshui and many good pics. Lots of history there too.


Andrew and Mei blog on the unfortunate habits of recruiters.

Well, as it turns out, not really. If you recall, Jerry, the recruiter in Taiwan who placed us at our jobs, is a habitual liar. Some of his other comments include, "Your job isn't far from Neihu." (in fact, on the complete other SIDE of Taipei, a mere 1 1/2 hours away by bus and train), "Teachers have all the leverage.", "Schools have all the leverage.", etc. He has an insatiable thirst for lying.

There must be some good ones out there, but the overwhelming opinion on recruiters appears to be negative.......


Being Berta Liao has been chalking up posts recently on the controversial topic of western medicine versus Chinese:

The common thread I found in both articles is that with the two Australian doctors, they suggested a cause and treatment for ulceritis that was vastly different than accepted medical wisdom at the time. Part of the reason that the medical establishment refused to accept their theories at the start was because most of the conventional wisdom had be funded by pharmaceutical companies, which benefitted from the then status quo (recurring prescriptions for their product that relieved the symptoms, but did not actually solve the problem).These companies had a vested interest in making sure other treatment methods were not accepted, since that would hurt sales.

With the diapers, because of our current media and advertising culture, parents think the only options for their babies are cloth or disposable. There's not even a question of whether their might be alternative...even though most of the world's babies go diaperless. It's just interesting how culture and business interests makes some practices seem completely implausible.

The controversy aside, what I find interesting here is the unchallenged narrative construction one runs across in these that western medical practice is just a game for drug companies to make $$, while alternative medical practitioners are brave challengers to a dogmatic establishment, fighters against hegemonic dominance of a foreign culture, motivated solely by the need for patient care.

Of course, Berta doesn't really mean that. But this underlying construction of West=bad and Other=Good is simply one more Orientalist game, in this case validating the predatory habits of eastern "doctors" by linking them to an anti-colonialist myth. Here's an observation: alternative medicine practitioners in the East and allopathic medicine practitioners in the west are both motivated by the same mix of complex motivations. And here's another observation: alternative medicine has no oversight, no support from genuine scholarship and scientific work, and no agreed-upon underlying principles or body of reliable alternative knowledge. Given all that, I think I can be excused for viewing people who proffer unsubstantiated treatments based on unsupported knowledge as con men even worse than western drug companies, who, however imperfectly, at least have an oversight system and work within a body of recognized, reliable, and useful knowledge.


Kelake blogs on unpaid parking bill sticker shock:

These little bills of 20-80NT$ tend to get lost in the expanse of my car. Because they are of such low value you might not immediately take the effort to pay or perhaps it's just me who has poor personal financial management skills. Either way these bills have a time limit of one week from the time they are issued. When that time passes you are issued another bill via snail mail at which time you must pay 600NT$ per bill. If for some reason you neglect to pay that within a week you must pay double - 1200NT$ per bill. Until you pay that bill you cannot have any major repairs done to your car, pay car insurance, or update the car registration. If for some reason they don't have your proper address, tough.

Due to my negligence and the built in traps inherent in the system I now owe 22,000NT$ (~800CAN$) in unpaid parking bills.

Ouch! Looks like you've got to find that guanxi that can make those bills disappear! Or get lucky, like us a couple of weeks ago, when the nice lady at the motor vehicle registration, overflowing with ren ching, made our late registration fine disappear.


meiyunnchung discovers that Taiwanese food is different in China:

What did it write in that AD? Selling tickets of Taiwanese fruit. That means you buy the tickets first, then you can have Taiwanese fruit. People love things come from Taiwan in those big cities in China. Like Shang-hai, Hang-zhou and etc. So, what comes from Taiwan is very hot in those big cities. But, do those things really like the way they in Taiwan? I double it.

Why? Cause, soybean milk is lighter. Taiwanses saucege? No, not saucege, more like hot dog. And, we do not eat so salty food in Taiwan.



Teamasters blogs again on the best Pu-er:

I had the honor, but also the responsibility, to make the tea. I did my best to remain calm. A nervous flow of water would adversely affect this fine tea. I was also concerned that the water was not hot enough. For pu er, the water flow that enters the pot in the first brew must be of medium strength and hit the leaves directly. Teaparker recommended I don't use a pitcher, but that I should pour directly from the silver teapot into the cups. This allows the tea to be warmer.

I added the great blog The Peking Duck to my blogroll recently. There's always something of high quality being posted there on China and Taiwan affairs. Also, they have excellent taste, as evidenced by the appearance of my blog on their roll the sumptuous layout of their blog.

Yesterday they pointed to China's celebration of the "return" of Taiwan by Japan.

China, in a move seen as further extending its divide-and-rule policy of isolating Chen Shuibian, will for the first time mark the anniversary of the island's return to Chinese rule from the Japanese on October 25 1945. The People’s Republic has never previously recognized this anniversary for fear that it would tarnish the official line that the Red Army, not the larger and better-equipped Nationalist forces, won the 8-year Anti-Japanese Struggle.


The USGS notes that we had a 4.4 quake on 10/10. They have a great info page on Taiwan quakes with lots of links and explanations:


The tectonic environment near Taiwan is unusually complicated. Tectonically, most of Taiwan is a COLLISION ZONE between the Philippine Sea and Eurasian plates. This collision zone is bridged at the north by northwards subduction of the Philippine Sea plate beneath the Ryuku arc and, at the south, an eastwards thrusting at the Manila trench. The northern transition from plate collision to subduction is near the coastal city of Hualien, located at about 24 degrees north, whereas the southern transition is 30-50 kilometers south of Taiwan.

including this glorious pic:


SHORTS: Writer's Block alerts us to historian, independence activist, and writer Su Bing's (Taiwan's 400 Years of History) lectures in Taipei. Cold Goat Eyes goes to Kaohsiung and reports on restaurants and relics. Everything Visible is Empty heads south and comes back with a clutch of good pics. Hangover the World does Sun Moon Lake & pics in several posts. Peow Liung Taiwan fotos Tainan. swf in Taiwan participates in a Chinese speech contest. Slow Food brings translates food info and put up compelling pics. Taiwan Fashionista blogs on fashion families in Taiwan. Don't miss the podcasting at Getting a Leg Up and Ugly Expat. The widely-linked and liked Taiwan Tiger and Betel Nut Blogger, along with Taipei Taipei, seem to have disappeared. [VOICE OF ROSE, TEETH CHATTERING] "Come back....come back." BrianMathes looks stable now (looking forward to more informative posts). a better tomorrow is breaking my heart by being under construction. As always, great photos at 35togo, the forgetful's photo gallery, amateur commune, andres, Clarke vs Matt, Cat Piano, Fotologging Taiwan, Photoactionboy, leftmind, MaMaHuHu (Jackson, you gonna put new stuff up there?), and This Life. There is a Taiwan missions blog ring at Xanga here.



wayne said...

I let expire. Oops. Anyhow, my infrequently updated blog can be viewed at

Good job as always with the Friday blog update. I never would have found any of it on my own.

Daniel said...

Thanks, Michael!

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, guys!