Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Chi Mei Museum

The Chi Mei Museum is on display all over the island:

Two public museums in Taichung City and one in Kaohsiung City are concurrently holding exhibitions of items on loan from the collection of the private Chi Mei Museum, located in Tainan County's Rende Township. Described by Forbes magazine in a February 1996 article about private collections in Asia as having "one of the world's most surprising art collections," the museum is indeed surprising in several respects.
The rest of the article discusses the various exhibitions in detail. Sounds like they might be fun to go see. And right here in my own Taichung too!

It's a Good Thing Taiwanese Aren't Racist

If you are in Taiwan long enough, you are certain to hear some local explain to you that Taiwanese aren't racist.

Here's a sign that warns on avian flu, distributed by our university and placed all over campus. Note how the bottom right-hand warning, against eating uncooked bird meat, is depicted. A pair of hands, three pictures of an attractive young woman, a bird, and.....

But don't worry. The Taiwanese aren't racist at all.

UPDATE: My wife reminded me of a similar incident involving African ambassadors that occurred a while back:

Taipei - Taiwan has instructed its ambassadors in seven African nations to apologise for a racist design on cups that offended African diplomats, a Taiwan newspaper said on Thursday.

The Foreign Ministry instructed Taiwan ambassadors in the seven African nations to explain the incident to prevent it from snowballing into a major incident, the Liberty Times reported.

The incident occurred on April 7 when the Foreign Ministry took foreign diplomats on a tour of southern Taiwan. When the diplomats sat down for a meal, they saw that their cups were printed with animals and a man in loin-cloth identified in English as an "African native".



Students: take this and present this information in a table

85 MW (Projected capacity for 2005 before its production lines were damaged by a fire)
The company’s first solar cell plant will have a capacity of 120 MW after being revamped, while its second plant will have a capacity of 200 MW.

20 MW
To ramp up capacity to 48 MW in the Q2 2006.

14-20 MW
To ramp up capacity to 50 MW in 2006.

To install production lines in the first half of 2006.

Taichung Bloggers: Going Blogger Meet Up on Dec 3??

I'm probably heading up sometime on Friday, and if someone wants a ride let me know in the comments....

Asia Times on an East Asian Superstate

Asia Times had a thought provoking commentary on the possibilities of political union in Asia.

And the continuing polycentricism of Europe helps to make a continent-wide bloc possible. Four or five major European countries are more or less equal in size and economic potential: for example, there are 60 million French, 82 million Germans, 58 million Italians and 60 million British. The economic potential of major European countries is roughly similar as well. In the case of Germany, the largest country and most powerful economy of the EU, its population forms only 18% of the EU total, and its gross domestic product (GDP) (purchasing power adjusted) is 21% of the EU total. This ratio means that in spite of German, French or British prominence, the EU could not be merely an appendage to Germany, France or Great Britain.

In East Asia, the picture is very different. Currently, in this "Confucian region" there are six independent states - the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Japan, North and South Korea and Vietnam - with a population of some 1.6 billion. This has long been the case. Since the rise of the Tang dynasty, the number of independent states in the Confucian world could normally be expressed in one-digit figures.

China Company to Distribute TIVO in Taiwan

Thanks to a reader for passing this along...Tom Hawk reports that TIVO is coming to The Beautiful Isle:

Reuters is out with an article on TiVo expanding into Taiwan with TGC Inc. Also known as TGC (TiVo Greater China).

"TGC Inc., a closely held Chinese company, will sell TiVo boxes and distribute the electronic guide and video recording service in Taiwan. Currently over 80% of households in Taiwan subscribe to cable television.

TiVo is a minority shareholder in TGC, which also has the right to sell TiVo service in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macao."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


....get back to all the comments on the morrow. Swamped today.


Taiwan to Become Like Vegas

Well, we have the high divorce rates, the gangsters, and the prostitution, so with the ground well-laid (so to speak), we may be seeing the gambling at last:

THREE Scots businessmen and a Las Vegas gambling guru have revealed plans to build a ?350m casino resort in a tropical paradise off the Taiwanese coast.

Former Magnum Power finance director Ian Irvin and Taiwan-based expat Tim Potter are behind Amazing Holdings, which has secured rights on a 27-acre plot of beachfront land in the Penghu islands.

The company intends to construct an upmarket hotel and entertainment complex that would attract high-rolling gambling tourists from Taiwan and mainland China - while also luring punters from Asia's current casino mecca, Macau.

Yes, that's right. The Penghu is a tropical paradise. And it's all a result of our factories moving to China.

Although gambling is not yet legal in Taiwan, plans are being developed as part of a government strategy to create a tourism industry. Irvin stresses that he has no guarantees that new gambling laws will be introduced, but he believes the process will be in motion by the third quarter of next year.

The planned change in the gambling laws is part of a scheme by the Taiwanese authorities to build a tourist economy and diversify away from traditional manufacturing industries.

Macau, which is only a short ferry trip away from Hong Kong, has built a hugely successful gambling industry in the past decade and is expected to pay out more in winnings than Las Vegas within the next two to three years.

[Hat Tip to Gambling Weblog]

Blogger Meet Up in Taipei Dec 3

Jerome Keating passed this to me:


Just a reminder that the Breakfast Club will be having its monthly meeting to share fellowship and discussion on topics that interest us all. (Side note, everyone pays for their own breakfast--there is no free lunch, nor is there a free breakfast!))

The Place is at Jukes (the name may be changed to Al's Resataurant but the location is the same.) #48--6 HoPing East Rd. Sec. 3. Phone # is 8732--3667 That is 3 doors west of the Burger King at the Southwest corner of Tun Hua S. Rd and HoPing East Rd. (Easily accessible from the Liu Changli MRT station) or 285, 235, and numerous other buses.
Time: 9:30 AM.
Topic: Open, however since we have such a diverse group, Robin made an excellent suggestion last time--everyone bring a list of the five books that have most influenced your life and be prepared to expound on such.
Also to give everyone a chance to network and meet and find out each's diverse interests etc. , switching places throughout breakfast is encouraged.
Some thoughts to ponder:
"Speech is civilization itself. The word . . . preserves contact--it is silence which isolates." (Thomas Mann) Join us.
"Every man becomes, to a certain degree, what the people he generally converses with are." (Philip Stanhope) That's why we aim at diversity.
"Too much agreement kills a chat." (Eldridge Cleaver) However leave your weapons at home.
"The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously." (Hubert Humphrey)
"Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted." (Fred Allen)
"Practically anything you say will seem amusing if you're on all fours." (P.J. O'Rourke)
Having said that we hope to see you there; invite any friends you want and pass this on.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Simon World's Forum

I just noticed that the well-known Asian blogger Simon World has opened a forum for discussion of Hong Kong and China affairs.

Good luck with the new forum!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

What's Up In Taiwan

This new blog, What's Up in Taiwan, podcasts on travel in Taiwan. They write:

Until a trip to Peking last month, I came home more motivated. Due to the growing popularity of China, people have the drive to visit the country, learn Chinese, or even make a little cash there; Taiwan became the second choice in contrast. After my trip in Peking, I still feel that there is much to be admired about Taiwan. I have no intention to market, compete, or make any kind of a comparison; every location has its own uniqueness. I'm just eager for the opportunity to introduce this interesting island.

Rallying With Chiu Tai-san

Today we took the family over to Fengyuan for a rally for Chiu Tai-san, the DPP candidate for Taichung County Commissioner. The rally commenced in the south-central part of the city and then walked down Chungshan Rd, the main drag, a few kilometers to Tanzi, where a stage had been prepared at a local school. The candidates gave speeches there to much noisy acclamation.

Fengyuan is generally friendlier to Chiu, and was absolutely plastered with ads for Chiu and the other candidates. We asked the Chiu campaign volunteers why there were so few Chiu ads in Tanzi, and they explained that each time they are put up, someone comes along and takes them down. There's still lots of dirty tricks going on in Taiwan politics.

Zeb poses with a water bottle featuring Lin Chia-lung, the DPP candidate for Taichung mayor.

The rally was slated for 2:30 but we came an hour earlier, to find a good parking spot (which the police promptly evicted me from) and soak up that good DPP atmosphere.

First we nicked massive amounts of election stuff. I am always impressed by the sheer amount of stuff the world produces.

The local TV showed up for the festivities.

Posing with flags and banners.

What would an election rally be without plenty of noise?

Mom the DPP babe.

This old couple insisted I take a picture of this poster from the 2004 Chen campaign.

Naturally, standing around, a prominently pro-DPP foreigner, the Chiu campaign immediately drafted me to hold one of the effigies that would flank the election stand. Zeb and Dan-dan stood alongside me right in front.

As time went by thousands showed up from the various local DPP campaigns.

Here we are. The leather strap helped support the weight of the thing, which was not only heavy, but took off in the wind like the mast of the Flying Cloud.

Sheridan and I get into some good father-daghter bonding.

One of the sins of the opposition.

Chiu Tai-san, left, chats with a policeman.

Here we are posing one of the DPP heavyweights, Chen Jyu, the former head of the labor bureau, driven from office by the ridiculous Kaohsiung MRT scandal. Long a champion of human rights, she was jailed by the KMT back in the old days. She is one of my wife's heroes.

Here we are being arranged in place by one of the DPP volunteers.

Everyone waits in high anticipation for....

Vice President Annette Lu. Lu is one of my favorite Taiwan politicians. She dresses just like your batty old aunt, and just like your batty old aunt, says whatever she damn well pleases.

Here she and Chiu Tai-san share a platform. DPP heavyweights campaigned all over island today.

Drumming up a storm with Chiu.

That's me carrying the purple one.

The Veep's security detail was amazing. Since a pan-Blue supporter took a shot at the President and Vice-President the day before the election last year, security has tightened tremendously.

The march began as Lu rode off to the next assignment.

Here I am marching. My back was about stretched out of shape at this point. Along the march dozens of old people stopped to shake my hand and thank me, and praise my children for their good looks. Several people also walked along to chat and explain things to me, conversations which invariably ended with a sigh of disgust and the use of the term "Kuomintang" as an expletive.

A TV news reporter interviews me. Several reporters cornered me, cameras in tow, and asked why I supported the DPP. I tried to give some disgustingly earnest answers.

We were instructed to slow down so that the march could spread out along the route.

Marchers crowd the road.

At this point, an hour into the walk, my kids' enthusiasm and energy was flagging.

A volunteer leads cheers.

Marchers crowd a street corner, election ads providing a backdrop.

Destination! A local junior high school.

Everyone gathered around for the rally. At this point most of the marchers had departed for a nap and dinner.

The kids explore Dan-dan's new electronic dictionary.

The candidates speak.

Now that you've gotten all the way down here, it is time to review the pics and ask yourself: what didn't I see here? The answer? Young people. Aside from a few diehard volunteers, there were virtually no young people present. I have never met a more politically apathetic group of young people than Taiwanese young adults. Fortunately they seem to grow out of it.

UPDATE: David adds in the comments below:

I suspect a big reason for the Taiwanese obsession with rallies is that plenty of people grew up with demonstrations their only possible outlet for influencing change: People who have grown up in a dictatorship demonstrate. People who have grown up in a democracy vote.

Good point.

My Daughter turns 10

My lovely daughter turned 10 on Saturday. Happy Birthday!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Taiwan Catholic Church has New Credit Card

Bishops in Taiwan promote credit card to fund Catholic Church:

According to Christian Life Weekly, the diocesan bulletin of Taipei, Taiwan, a new "Beatitudes Credit Card" is being issued through the Taiwan's bishops. It works as a normal credit card, except 0.25% of payments will go towards the charitable works of the Catholic Church.

Taiwan Business Groups Court US Congressmen

The Indianapolis Star is reporting that business groups from The Beautiful Isle have been paying some quid for a little pro quo:

Rep. Julia Carson, D-Ind., said she has long been concerned about the tension between China and Taiwan and went with an aide to Taiwan in 2001 on a $13,490 trip paid for by the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce, which represents Taiwanese business interests.

The United States supports an eventual reunification of China and Taiwan but also has committed to helping Taiwan defend itself against military aggression.

"This is a part of the world where real diplomatic delicacy has long been called for," Carson said.
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., a member of the House International Relations Committee and one of Congress' strongest defenders of Taiwan, has accepted 13 trips there for himself or his aides during the past decade, costing $62,590.

During a 2003 trip paid for by the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association, Burton stood next to Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian as Chen said he would go ahead with a referendum demanding that China remove missiles aimed at Taiwan.

My favorite line is:

Lawmakers said that accepting a trip from a special interest does not make them more likely to support that interest.

Sure. I believe that.

Rallies Scheduled Across the Island

Taiwan News reports on the rallies taking place tomorrow across Taiwan.

Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese are expected to join weekend mass rallies as political parties gear up for next week's local elections, which are seen as an indicator for the 2008 presidential polls, organizers said yesterday.

A total of 77 candidates are vying for 23 city mayor and county magistrate positions while 1,693 others competing for seats in local councils in the December 3 polls.

Many of the DPP candidates are scheduling walks; we're going to one in Fengyuan tomorrow for Chui Tai-san, the DPP candidate for Taipei County commissioner (HQ: 2524-3333). Find one to go to in your area, if you can. Locals are often impressed that so many foreigners rally to the DPP, and the widespread support for the DPP among foreigners of all political stripes is a point of strength for the DPP. The Taipei Times also reported on the same story:

Su and DPP Secretary-General Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) yesterday held a news conference to announce detailed plans for the parades that will be held simultaneously in 19 cities and counties tomorrow afternoon.

To make sure of retaining the important electoral district of Sanchung (三重), Chen and Su will both attend a massive rally in Sanchung, where participants are expected to start gathering at around 3:20pm.

A human chain will be formed from the Kuantu Bridge (關渡橋) to Showlang Bridge (秀朗橋).

About 100,000 people are expected at the parade in Taipei County, which would make it the biggest campaign activity of the day.

Meanwhile the KMT has scheduled an "anti-corruption" rally, which is like the Ku Klux Klan coming out in support of multiculturalism. The DPP naturally ridiculed this:

Meanwhile, DPP Secretary-General Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) ridiculed the KMT as "fleeing the battlefield" by making Taipei City the centerpiece of its anti-corruption rallies, when the upcoming elections do not even concern the capital city.

Lee said it is preposterous that candidates involved in corruption and vote-buying are allowed to take part in the so-called anti-corruption rallies.

This actually misses a key point: the KMT's strategy is to rally its own base, whose core is heavily mainlander Taipei, and to provide a circus for the Taipei-based foreign media. The KMT is playing to reporters from abroad, much the way it did with the staged demonstrations after the Presidential election last year. No doubt we'll read at least a few accounts in foreign newspapers about "Taiwanese opposition to the increasing corruption of the DPP" or something similar.

China, Taiwan Economic Integration, Peace, and War

There are three immutable economic laws of life:

1. There is no town so small that it can't use another shoe store.
2. By the time you get around to investing in the bubble economy, it will already be too late.
3. Nations do not form political unions because they are economically integrated.

Last week Asiapundit had pointer to Madman of Chu on Taiwan and China, who made a point that seems destined to become the new conventional wisdom on Taiwan-China relations:

Taiwanization seems more and more likely at least in part because it is already under way. As China's economy has liberalized and cross-strait tensions have cooled (albeit incrementally) the PRC has become a major target of Taiwanese investment capital. At least a quarter of a million Taiwanese businessmen and women are resident in Shanghai, billions of Taiwanese dollars have built factories and office buildings across Southern China. Just as Taiwanese capital has flowed to China, mainland citizens have become increasingly enthusiastic consumers of Taiwanese products. Taiwanese pop music, movies, and snack foods have become ubiquitous in the PRC both north & south.

With such an ever-increasing volume of economic intercourse one can only wonder how long it can fail to slide over into the political realm, especially given that both governments remain, in name at least, dedicated to a policy of "eventual reunification." Indeed, such political intercourse has proven unavoidable. The PRC government particularly is in some respects hostage to its commitment to reunification, a condition clearly ilustrated by September's visit to Beijing by Taiwanese intellectual and parliamentarian Li Ao. Li Ao has been one of the most articulate and effective advocates of reunification on the Taiwanese political scene, a fact which no doubt inspired the PRC government to invite him as a state guest. One can only imagine their chagrin when in a speech at Beijing University Li launched into scathing critique of the anti-democratic nature of the PRC government and berated the school's faculty for lacking the courage to dissent.

This reasoning is mirrored by a similar negative formulation, neatly articulated by a Smith Barney policy report back in 2000:

"The deeper economic integration goes, the higher the cost of disruption and the lower the probability of conflict," it said. "Most likely, the possibility of war is already behind us."

Unfortunately history does not provide any support for the idea that economic integration ameliorates political conflicts. In fact, history is one long story of just the opposite case: that economic integration may exacerbate political conflict by spotlighting dependency relationships, or by creating new areas of conflict.

How integrated are China and Taiwan?
There's more than one way to define what economic integration means in this context. It is difficult to get clear figures, since at least some of the trade and manufacturing is gray, but:

In 2004, China (including Hong Kong) accounted for over 23% of Taiwan's total trade and almost 37% of Taiwan's exports. Japan was Taiwan's second largest trading partner with 15% of total trade, including 26% of Taiwan's imports. The U.S. is now Taiwan's third-largest trade partner, taking 16% of Taiwan's exports and supplying 13% of its imports. [here]

The CIA factbook similarly gives for exports China, including Hong Kong, at 37%, but the at US 16%, and Japan 7.7% (2004). Statistics vary -- and are difficult to calculate -- but probably a similar proportion of the production of Taiwan's firms also takes place in China. One should keep in mind that much of this "trade" is probably trade within firms and the end products are exported out of China. Further, Taiwan at the moment runs a trade surplus with China. Finally, many of Taiwan's most important electronics firms have both legally and illegally moved their factories to China.

"How integrated" of course simply begs the question of what kind of economic integration Taiwan and China have. What are the Taiwanese doing in China? They open up factories, they use local labor, they ship in parts and expertise, and ship out products to markets in the industrialized world. They take local concubines and live in separate enclaves. They eat at local restaurants, but also in Taiwan restaurants that have located there. They often shop in supermarkets where they can buy goods from home. Integrated? If any other two nations were involved, everyone would automatically call the Taiwanese colonialists and the Chinese a colonized people. The Taiwan-China relationship is a dependency relationship, and it is the Chinese who are dependent. Tomorrow if the Yuan rises all that Taiwanese investment will leave faster than you can say "baffled pundits" and the gospel of economic progress and friendly relations will once again founder on reality. Not, as history teaches, that anyone ever gives up their beliefs when their theology conflicts with reality.

It might be more illuminating to say what is not happening: there is no influx of Chinese students into Taiwan to study the more advanced knowledge there. Any Chinese with money and brains to study abroad goes to real universities in the West, not to the faux versions in Taiwan. There is no blending of law or policy -- indeed all of this economic "integration" is taking place in a regulatory vaccuum. Each side has its own policies governing exchanges, but shared regs are few and far between. Joint ventures between large firms from both sides are uncommon. Neither side depends on the other for raw materials, which both import, but not from each other. The Taiwanese only do business. They do not build China in any other significant way.

Thus, one could profitably ask -- what integration? May as well say that a mining company is integrated with its vein of ore. Taiwanese investment in China is a plant that exists in the hothouse of 9% growth. If that growth should slacken, the plant will die. Although I have been talking to local businessmen about Taiwan-China investments for many years, I have never heard one say: "I really have come to love China and even if the economy tanks and my costs rise, I'll still keep my company there regardless." Taiwanese economic investment in China has not produced any emotional connection to China. In fact, until the economy took off at the turn of the century, polls showed consistently that Taiwanese who went to China came back more confirmed in their Taiwanese identity. Talk of political integration following trade is strictly a phenomenon of the last five years, and, I believe, strictly a wish-fantasy of those who flinch from facing the reality of potential conflict in the Taiwan Straits.

Another way to look at Taiwanese economic integration is to ask in what important way Taiwanese factories in China are different from the factories of other nations' businesses in China. After all, American businessmen come to China, live in enclaves, shop in American supermarkets, eat in American-style restaurants, and take a local mistress. Ditto for Japanese businessmen. Again, do Taiwanese business behave differently? If economic integration drives political integration, surely China and Japan or China and America will draw closer politically. But the reality is that just the opposite has happened: Taiwan, Japan and the US have grown more wary of China even as their economic relationships with China have deepened.

Culture is not Destiny
One might argue that of course, the important difference between Taiwan and other countries heavily involved with China is that Taiwanese culture and Chinese culture are closely related -- some might say, even the same -- and thus, economic integration is different for them. But then one is essentially arguing that the important factor in any putative political integration is cultural.

Madman of Chu also points to the "Taiwanization" of China. "Taiwanese pop music, movies, and snack foods have become ubiquitous in the PRC both north & south." So, one might add, are Taiwanese authors, and Taiwanese celebrities. So what! One could say the same about US brands, foods, movies and music, which are as common, or even more common, in China than anything Taiwanese. But no one argues for the "Americanization" of China.

Other Places, Other Non-integrations
Yet another way to get a handle on the integration issue is to look at other pairs of nations with a long history of interrelating and shared culture.

Take Germany and Austria. Ireland and the UK. The US and Canada. The US and UK. Australia and New Zealand. Ukraine and Russia. Taiwan and Japan. All these represent nations with shared cultures and languages, close trading relationships, colonial histories, and so on. Some of them are far more economically interdependent than China and Taiwan. Yet no one ever argues that New Zealand and Australia or Germany and Austria will become one state because they are so economically and culturally interdependent.

One can also name innumerable civil wars, trust territories, and dependencies, in which one side opted for independence from the motherland despite close economic interdependence. The South seceded from the Union even though its goods were shipped on northern ships and it was profoundly dependent on the north for manufactured goods. Puerto Rico is happy as a commonwealth and has not pressed for further political integration with the US. Quebec's interdependence with the rest of Canada has not prevented the rise of Quebec nationalism. The Ukraine left Russia, and the Chechens are trying to, despite the fact of close economic relationships. Tibet does not want to be part of China despite the fact that China has probably invested more in Tibet than Tibet could have obtained from international development organizations, and on much better terms. Such a list of failed marriages could be extended indefinitely. When people wish to break ties, economic interdependence is an annoying reality that everyone plans for to the extent that they are able to. It is not, however, the determining factor.

It's the Missiles, Stupid
What is really on display here is a sort of willful neglect of reality -- reality in the form of 700 missiles pointed at Taiwan, reality in the form of continued Chinese suppression of Taiwan's international status, reality in the form of Chinese threats to kill and maim Taiwanese if they decide that political union is not in the cards. The reality is quite simple: if China was not out to annex Taiwan, no one would be discussing political union, just as no one discusses political union between China and Japan although in absolute value China-Japan trade will reach nearly $200 billion in 2005, a sum that dwarfs China-Taiwan trade, and in fact is equal to more than half Taiwan's total GDP. China accounts for about 17% of Japan's foreign trade (compared to 23% of Taiwan's foreign trade). No one would take issue with the suggestions that (a) China's share of Japan's trade will continue to rise and (b) despite this, no one will talk about political integration between China and Japan. So why are we talking about it with China and Taiwan?

It's the missiles, stupid.

In other words, the way that Madman of Chu's question.....

With such an ever-increasing volume of economic intercourse one can only wonder how long it can fail to slide over into the political realm, especially given that both governments remain, in name at least, dedicated to a policy of "eventual reunification." phrased is wrong. What he is really asking is "Will the Taiwanese become more resigned to annexation to China as their economy becomes more integrated with it?"

And the answer to that question is: probably not. Peaceful annexation of Taiwan to China isn't going to follow on the heels of the popularity of Taiwan snack foods and Taiwan celebrities, nor will it be created by concubinage, investments, factories and rising trade. I doubt that even China becoming a democracy would entice Taiwan into the Chinese political embrace. One, and only one thing will create "peaceful" union between China and Taiwan: the Taiwanese belief that China is willing to commit murder and mayhem on an island-wide scale, coupled with the calculation that they are unwilling to accept such destruction in exchange for their independence, that will cause them to pack up their tents and set out the white flag.

But few among us would call such blackmail "peaceful."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Friday, November 25, Taiwan Blog Round Up

Friday and time to round up the burgeoning Taiwan blogosphere. Lots of blogging on Taiwan this week, too much to keep up with. But let's try anyway...

ELECTION: The local elections are next month, Dec 3, and many of us have been following them with great interest. David at jujuflop flayed the candidates and media with a few acid observations on their compulsive idiocy:

What does a Taiwanese politician do when he finds out about weblogs - and that people are using them to make fun of him? He blames his opponent and then sues him:

David notes that the Chinese think the election atmosphere is crazy. He also blogs on election mania in Taiwan:

December is election month in Taiwan. You'd have thought that after presidential elections (March last year), legislative elections (December last year), and National Assembly elections (May this year), we were due a bit of a break. Not so - Taiwan works on the principle that a democracy needs elections, and lots of them!

This time around, it's local elections. These always used to be the preserve of corruption and vote-buying - with the candidate who could provide the most 'incentives' for his constituency a surefire winner. Nowadays, things have improved no end, to the point where the election is all about ... allegations of corruption and vote buying. The candidate who can make the most mud stick to his opponent wins.

Negative campaigning is the inevitable result of the fact that so few of the candidates appear to have positive legislative and administrative programs, and that half of the candidates, the pan-Blues, are anti-system and thus negativity is a positive policy for them.

Wandering to Tamshui posted a great overview of the local races as the Empire Strikes Back:

After observing yesterday that the Blues had thus far taken a surprisingly mild tack in the run-up to the Dec. 3rd elections, I open the paper (well, the laptop, actually, but same diff) to find that the House that Peanut Built has come out of its corner, and this time with some teeth. So much for that soft-sell strategy.

Once again, don't miss that detailed look at the local races. The Blues are going to win big....

On this topic, I blogged a few pics of our visit today to Chiu Tai-san's election HQ, and have updated my election ads page this week as well.


Newley Purnell, a former teacher here who blogs on Taiwan quite a bit, has a piece in Student Traveler about the hazards of getting a scooter license in Taiwan.

But for several weeks, rumors had swirled that the police were beginning to crack down, imposing exorbitant fines and finding license-less expats financially liable in accidents even when they weren't at fault. So, I'd decided, it was time to go legit. Thus, I found myself at the Taiwanese traffic bureau that day facing the written exam.

It seems like only yesterday I was failing my own driving test. "Whaddaya mean I can't stop on the S-curve?" Chester also blogs on his new license.


Scott Sommers had a bevy of beauties this week. Among them was this one on construction workers and university students:

Let me expand on this issue of how much workers in construction can make. One of the managers that I quoted in the original post was at one time the vice-president of a leading local construction firm. I spoke with him the other day about the wages of construction tradesmen. According to him, a tower crane operator in Taiwan can make almost as much money as a Canadian tower crane operator. That's right. In Taiwan, the operator of this kind of machine can make between 80 and 100,000 a month, which translates into about cd$42,000 a year. In Canada, a similar worker would make about cd$50,000 a year. He cited comparable figures for trades such as bricklayers, electricians, and plumbers.

But in a sense, why shouldn't constructions tradesmen make more money that graduates of low-ranked university programs? Tradesmen actually know something. It's doubtful that many of the graduates of the programs in question actually have knowledge of anything that an employer would want to pay for. The quality of education in most of the newly opened schools is so poor that their diplomas mean nothing. As a result, they can not get hired in the jobs I mentioned earlier.

Yeah, I was lucky that many of my grads found employment this year. Another thoughtful post discussed DPP native language policy:

But it does not, and I suspect this is at the root of its failure. The DPP, like the USA in Iraq, were calculating on huge grassroot support for their cultural policies. They presumed that 'the masses' would rise up at the first chance to be Taiwanese at school. They were not prepared for what would happen if this failed. And it was certain to fail because no one appears to have given even the slightest thought to why anyone would want to learn to Taiwanese.

I think these are both wrong -- the Bush Administration really didn't care whether the masses in Iraq rose up or not, and the DPP was not counting on the masses rising up either. The DPP's models for state-building consist of the colonial Qing Dynasty, the colonial Japanese, and the colonial KMT. The latter two emphasized language policy as part of their nation-building programs, so it is natural that the DPP should turn to that solution. The other strain of thought is 20th century thinking on what constitutes a state: geography + volk. The DPP has the geography, but it must build the volk. Or so it imagines. Beyond that, there are about 3,000 years of Chinese states with centralized language policies that serve as models as well. The DPP simply has no cultural or historical template for the multicultural, democratic state it must build. Its imagination is hampered by the limitations of its conceptual toolkit, and thus it has churned out this particularly stupid and short-sighted policy, which I have opposed since its inception.


Doubting to Shuo has begun a new series of Chinese Textbook reviews. This kind of thing is very useful:

However, there are a few drawbacks. Even though the book was written in 1994, sometimes it seems like it was written in 1954. The accents of the speakers on the accompanying CDs and VCDs are decidedly mainland. Also, there are a few grammar constructions taught in the book that many Taiwanese people don't understand, such as the double construction. Even worse, is the use of and as passive markers. For example, "我讓你給弄糊塗了." Most Taiwanese people under the age of about 50 will say that construction is flat out wrong. In truth, it is standard Mandarin, but it's Mandarin that simply isn't used here anymore. While this book isn't quite ideal, it will get the job done, and many, many people have used it as a stepping stone to the next level.

Great idea, DtS.


ESWN reports on media corruption in Taiwan.

Chinese Television System (CTS) president Chiang Hsia (江霞) made the astonishing claim today: "In normal countries, television ratings are trustworthy. But in Taiwan, ratings can be bought." She swore an "oath" that ratings can be bought with money or else "Chiang Hsia's head can be handed to you."

At a forum titled "Give me culture and forget all else -- elevate culture and stay away from the stench and violence," Chiang Hsia pointed out that television ratings is the source of the chaos in televised news. Since becoming CTS president 18 months ago, she has never looked at any ratings.

She said that media buyers and the ratings combine to go through "special analyses" by the ratings company, such that if you are willing to pay NT$500,000 to 1,200,000, you can get to be the ratings leader.


Jerome Keating essays on hatred, POWs, Taiwan, and China:

It was a most unlikely meeting of a most diverse group with a most unusual purpose: that of democracy, freedom, peace, and reconciliation. There on Friday morning November 18th at the Presidential Palace in Taipei, Taiwan, President Chen Shui-bian of the Republic of China received three former British Prisoners of War (POWs) George Reynolds, Ernie Agass, and Adam Houston along with members of the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, members of AGAPE a Japanese Reconciliation Organization, members of Academia Historica and Taiwan Historica and family and friends of the three POWs.

Alas, for hatred is driving so many of our leaders today.


Congratulations to Bourdeiu Boy for his new book contract for a book on identity and Taiwan:

The development narrative has become part of one of the most powerful narrative structures for understanding Taiwan. Like other forms of meaning, it is a way of 'knowing' about Taiwan which produces its identity. Development has been an alternative discourse of identity to that of Chinese or Taiwanese nationalism, into which Taiwan was incorporated in the 1980s. It can be summarized by the term 'the Little Dragon', although there were a range of related terms: the miracle economy, the Tiger economy, the Asian Tigers or the NIC's, the Newly Industrialized Countries.
Can't wait to see the whole book....


Pasuya Yao, who has been the subject of merciless savaging in the media and in the blogs around town, got another bloody nose from Wandering to Tamshui:

The tragic tale of Pasuya Costanza Yao continues as word comes that his nomination to be named one of Taiwan's "Top Ten Outstanding Youth" faltered in the first round. The Yao-hatin' United Daily News has the dope:

Nominated as one of Taiwan's Top Ten Outstanding Youth! You just can't make up shit like this....


Michael Fahey at POTS reports on Ma Ying-jeou's China policy as a probable future president of Taiwan.

Mr. Ma has come out against the Chen administration's proposed US$10 billion arms purchase from the US. He has repeatedly argued that his concern is not cost, the major issue in the domestic debate over the purchase. Mr. Ma's contention is that the arms purchase is unnecessary in principle because China does not pose a threat to Taiwan unless Taiwan provokes China with steps towards independence such as changing Taiwan's official name or instituting a new constitution by referendum. The Chen administration, Mr. Ma argues, has created an artificial need for advanced weaponry by repeatedly provoking China with such steps. At the same time, Mr. Ma believes that his party, the Chinese nationalist KMT, has eliminated the casus belli between China and Taiwan with the meeting between his predecessor Lien Chan and Chinese president Hu Jintao in April. That meeting, Ma claims, ended the Chinese civil war and with it, the military threat to Taiwan.

Ma's position is complete bullshit and totally dangerous, because if you read further on:

This bold position reflects not just Mr. Ma's commitment to democracy, but also his pragmatism. Mr. Ma understands that the ultimate decision about Taiwan's future will have to be ratified by the Taiwanese people who are in no mood to unite politically with a China that is any less than fully democratic. To urge unification under any other circumstances would be political suicide. Mr. Ma is keenly aware of this reality, and he is prepared to wait.

The idea that Ma is committed to democracy is nonsense (Fahey is just reporting, not editorializing), but Fahey's commentary highlights the elephant in the room: the Taiwanese people will not accept annexation to China until China is a democracy and probably not even then. This means that on one hand Ma's policy will strip the nation of its defenses, claiming that China is not a threat to Taiwan, while at the same time preventing Taiwan's annexation to China. Ma thinks that Taiwan can be both undefended and free.

Anyone see the problem there?


Cold Goat Eyes rants on a subject near and dear to my heart, digital cameras:

It was always a moot point as to whether photography is an art, but the proliferation of the digital camera has put that argument to bed once and for all. It is out-of-control photography, it is point and hope for the best. It is just the latest symptom of a world that is doing it's best to extract and crush everything that is not instantly gratifiable. This is not art, even if it never was. It is just taking pictures. Taking crap pictures that you can now crapify even more by putting them through some picture manipulation software. This fucking MacPhotography, this psuedo-art, it is another nail in the coffin of civilization. You can smell it in every city as you walk past the golden arches, this stench of death and decay. You can hear the music of collapsing empire and degeneration in any nightclub or on any radio station. And you can see it on every street. I wonder what Rome smelled like in it's final days, or how the Greeks sounded as they faded into obscurity.

The Greeks probably went out bitchin' about how everyone had a mosaic of some story from Homer in their house these advice? Get a prosumer or digital SLR. You'll be raving about it within hours.


MeiZhongTai had a busy week churning out absolutely informative posts on...

...pilot hours in the Chinese air force...

...China's sealift capability....

...and changes his stance on whether Taiwan needs subs....

...and posts a paper on Taiwan's military capabilities....

...and a widely-linked review of China's missile capabilities...

Sure wish I could comment in detail on this shower of useful stuff. I'm saving up the comments for a separate post. But enjoy many hours of useful reading.


Rank notes:
From the Taipei Times: [Premier Frank Hsieh] added that since people abroad generally pay no attention to local newspaper coverage or TV talk shows, they have a better perspective on what's really happening in the country.

What a startling statement by the premier. I can't decide if he's thoroughly correct or thoroughly incorrect.

I can't either. But even more interesting than whether he is right or wrong was that he said that thought aloud.


Lot of bloggers commented on Bush's remarks, but The Foreigner in Formosa had a pithy post that put them nicely in perspective by drawing on some nasty and revealing commentary from the China Post:

The pro-unification China Post wasn't cheering when they heard Mr. Bush's words, though. Taiwan? A Model? Democracy? Humbug!

"Is Taiwan's "model" so wonderful as President Bush has depicted? Let's not get too giddy. The fact is, Taiwan has not "delivered prosperity to its people" for almost a decade, thanks to the political implosion brought about by "embracing freedom at all levels."... Taiwan may not be a convincing example for the mainland to emulate, at least as far as economic prosperity is concerned. Apparently, President Bush had a political axe to grind."

They sure don't sound too happy about Taiwan "embracing freedom at all levels" now, do they? In fact, they sound downright resentful. Because Taiwan isn't their model - Beijing is.

Damn straight.


SHORTS: Big Ell blogs on crybabies and other useful stuff. Pinyin News reports on a new Taiwanese sign language reference. Anarchy in Taiwan has a hiliarious encounter with a Korean girl and a kimchi fox paws. I discovered Doubting to Shuo's movie review blog. Joytoyz posts revenge for "I just want you to hold me." Pat Golemon goes to Sun Moon Lake and returns with the obligatory nice shots. Don't miss the podcasting at Getting a Leg Up, The Bluesman's Killing Floor, Misadventures in Taiwan, and Ugly Expat. As always, great photos at 35togo, Unplugged, the forgetful's photo gallery, the forgetful's photo gallery, amateur commune, andres, Clarke vs Matt, Cat Piano, T_C at Fotolog, battphotos, Fotologging Taiwan, Photoactionboy, leftmind, MaMaHuHu, Everything Visible is Empty, Roger in Taiwan, Love Songs (Are for Losers), Photoblogging Taiwan, Eight Diagrams, Tagging Taichung, and This Life.


I shamelessly stole this gorgeous spider from Aaron:


New Blogs on the roll this week:

  • Doubting to shuō: Movies
  • tai kua zhang le ba!
  • James in Taiwan
  • by Sue-Fang Li
  • Cruise Taiwan
  • peachy martini shizzle*
  • Leave Your Sanity With the Nearest Customs Agent
  • Rod & Eileen's Fireside Room
  • juliekintaiwan
  • welcome to my cool space
  • Music Felling Beat
  • SeekSaveServe
  • Spaceman
  • Yo
  • Vicky MO
  • Marek's view of Taiwan
  • Poohat and the 10 billion years before the sun blew up!

  • ++++++++++++++++

    SNARK OF THE WEEK: Jason at Wandering to Tamshui on the conviction of two cannibal killers in Taichung: "I do, however, feel that its a mistake to revoke their right to vote. After all, the New Party needs all the help it can get, right?"