Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday, November 4, 2005, Taiwan Blog Round Up

Friday again. It's as if there are only seven days in a week, or something. Lots of news from all over: bird flu, Fitzmas, TVBS. And lots of comments from bloggers. Not much on the impending local elections yet, but I am looking forward to insight from all. In the meantime, enjoy the round-up (pics from my election ads site)


This week's biggest story was probably the TVBS controversy, which was discussed all over the blogosphere and all over the island. Maddog bluntly pointed out that TVBS is a Chinese-owned station, in violation of the law here, and that it adopts the Chinese point of view:

TVBS News consistently refers to China as "the mainland" (dà lù) instead of just "China" (Zhongguó), as a Chinese-language search of their web site will reveal. In fact, TVBS has recently been using a very strange term to refer to China: "nèi " ("inland" or "interior") -- to "catapult the propaganda" of "one China" even further.

Counting ducks that have already hatched
A search I just did on TVBS' web site for those terms (all of which were entered in Chinese) and a couple others (which can be subtracted from the larger numbers) gave these results:
* Dà lù (mainland): 12,946
* Guómínda(ng (KMT): 5,864
* Zhongguó: 3,088
* Zhongguó Guómínda(ng (KMT): 34
* Zhongguó Shí Baò (China Times): 32
* Zhongguó Shí Yóu (China Petroleum): 6
* Nèi dì (Interior of the country): 151

Maddog goes on to ask a question that often bothers people who watch the DPP dither while Taiwan gets burned: Where is the DPP's counterattack? Where is the Party message, and why isn't everyone on-message, 24-7? It seems that in both countries I love the democracy forces are disorganized and lack a sense of urgency and mission......

Why didn't the DPP talk about this before, especially in the bloody runup to this legislative mess? Why haven't they talked about it every day since they've known about such things? Are they, like so many Taiwanese, just suicidal?

Instead, Chen betrayed his own people by declaring, in the midst of the hu-hu, that no stations would be shut down on his watch -- without consulting any of his fellow DPP leaders. Frank Hsieh, the premier, was publicly aghast. This is not the first time that Chen has hung Hsieh out to dry. I hope to blog later on the whole leadership problem locally, but right now one could be forgiven for imagining that Chen invited Hsieh to be premier mainly to destroy him as a credible successor. Hsieh should never have accepted that premiership. In Taiwan's unwieldy government, it is the kiss of death.

Big Ell also blogged on this:

In completely unrelated news; the DPP corruption scandal deepens as TVBS continues showing video of the gamblin' man Chen Che-nan (陳哲男) ad nauseum. I think it is fair to say that TVBS is the equivalent of Fox TV in the States. The TVBS News Program "2100 All People Talking," has enjoyed a field day with ongoing anaylsis given by the immortal and politically 'Independent,' Chiu Yi (邱毅) . It is strangely popular because in fact all people are talking at the same time. Chiu is if I remember correctly the prick who rode on the back of a jeep while it drove through a courthouse door back during the election 'troubles,' of 2004. I need to find the time to write a whole piece on this asshole. Meanwhile Ma continues to lash out at Chen Shui-Bian. Who then apologizes to the people who in turn shrug and change the channel.

Pro-KMT blogger TOS took the opposite tack:

The China Post points out the screaming irony that is apparent to the growing number of people outside the DPP distortion machine: TVBS's criticism of KMT corruption paved the way for the DPP's rise to power on a clean-government ticket. Now the DPP is using the same tactics the old KMT used under martial law. Good to see all those fresh ideas coming out of the democratic, progressive party.

Actually, the DPP isn't using the same old tactics the KMT using under martial law (nobody is going to get killed or imprisoned over this, for example). This is just more of the usual obsessive paranoia from the KMT side, which apparently spends more time having fantasies about getting screwed by Chen Shui-bian than his own wife does. I have explained elsewhere why this is a far more important problem than a mere freedom-of-the-press issue. And the idea that the DPP has a "distortion machine" is the purest comedy; the party can't even get its own leadership on-message, let alone any outsiders. That is why I foresee another crushing defeat of the DPP in the upcoming local elections.

Rank was among the many bloggers who complained about the DPP's handling of the issue:

To all who share this view, I say: Grow some more layers of skin and learn to truly respect the freedom of the press. Taiwan simply won't be taken seriously internationally if it fails to exhibit sincerity when it claims to embrace press freedom.

I'm not taking a stand on whether or not TVBS should be licensed in Taiwan, but the way this issue was raised is all wrong.

But there are lighter moments in all this nonsense, and Wandering to Tamshui exploits them mercilessly:

Even though I've been following the recent uproar over the government's decision to stick it to TVBS with great interest, I've refrained from blogging about it because everyone involved has been taking themselves so goddamn seriously.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to announce that this is no longer the case:

Of course, POTS nailed the one thing that has been consistently missing from this debate over the Kaohsiung Metro Scandal that spawned the whole TVBS controversy in the first place: the workers themselves. They are the real victims, and they have been completely ignored. Here is POTS writing on more mistreatment of workers in Taiwan:

On Aug. 2, at least four Filipino laborers at the plant were severely beaten at a highway rest stop near Hsinchu. According to the workers, this was done to coerce them and 12 others into signing agreements nullifying their contracts and allowing for immediate repatriation to the Philippines. After the beatings, the workers were taken directly to the airport, where at least one, Gil Lebria, was carried through customs and onto the plane in a semi-conscious and in need of medical attention. A month earlier, these workers had been involved in a strike, protesting illegal side agreements and other highly questionable fees deducted from their pay.

Cases like this reveal that the real scandal of the MRT Scandal is that neither party has done a damn thing to improve the conditions of the slaves foreign workers in Taiwan. Both Blues and Greens agree that the case is really about attacking the other side. Nobody gives a damn about the real victims.


Lost in the MRT scandal and the TVBS scandal are thousands of dead from the island's policies. No, I'm not talking about the 2-28 incident and the White Terror. I'm talking about the Taichung water supply and asbestos. Wandering from Tamshui has the call in a nicely titled blurb:

But look at the bright side here, at least we can rest assured that Taichung's water supply is now extra fire-resistant. Hell, now that I think about it, this is the marketing opportunity of the century--imagine how much money could be made selling 超級消火水 to fire departments all around Taiwan!

Taichung has been KMT-land since time immemorial. One would think that it would be vulnerable, but the DPP is stuck in the usual sound-truck-and-poster mode....and don't worry, my water doesn't come from the city. Worry about all those poor fools who thought the government would take care of them...


The Belligeretron translates the Taipei Metro's new promotion jingle...

Taipei's Rapid Transit Cooperation has just lobbed a giant lump of cash into that swirling, zero-sum vortex known as a PR. As if the citizen's of Taipei needed more incentive to ride the MRT, The TRTC is going balls-out in a incomprehensible move to promote it.

Don't miss his poetically insightful translation of the lyrics...


Doubting to Shuo discusses that most common of topics, the failure of ESL instruction in Taiwan:

Perhaps the most influential L2 acquisition linguist, Stephen D Krashen, has long maintained the importance of massive comprehensible input for language learners. Mountains of research make it quite clear that no matter how many vocabulary words and grammatical structures students of a 2nd language memorize, they will not be able to write well until they have done a considerable amount of reading. Likewise, students will not speak well until they have heard a great deal of the target language. The most important thing, however, is that the input be comprehensible.

But DtS, English instruction is a total success! The parents love it and the schools make tons of money! What's the problem?


David on Formosa blogs on the new Chinese profiency test the government is introducing for foreign students.

The Taipei Times reports that Taiwan is set to introduce its own Chinese Proficiency Test. The test will be for foreign students coming to study at Taiwan's universities.

China has had its own proficiency test for Chinese for a number of years. It is known as the HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi). However, this test has not been used in Taiwan because it uses simplified characters, and I also assume for political reasons.

Looks like the government has finally realized what a cash cow remedial Chinese courses can be. Pinyin News has more info on the details.


Mutant Frog, who has some great photos of Taiwan and Japan in his Flickr galleries, discusses the US policy debate over how China should be handled:

Kaplan's view, which is more in line with official Defense Department policy since the Cold War (and also gets lots of nods on the Japanese right), is that China is an emerging military threat that the U.S. has to contain with ships, airplanes, and missiles. Barnett's view is that the U.S. has to become partners with China, as the economies of the two countries dictate, rather than let political concerns screw up the countries' mostly-beneficial symbiosis.

Which view prevails will necessarily determine the future of U.S. policy toward Taiwan. A Kaplan view means that the U.S. has to defend Taiwanese sovereignty at all costs, as a roadblock to Chinese ambition in the Pacific. A Barnett view leads to the U.S. maintaining the status quo in Taiwan until the two countries can be united without force, either through incorporation in a democratic China or as part of a larger EU-style Asian community.

It seems that few US analysts are willing to envision an independent future for Taiwan. And that, in the long run, is one important reason why Taiwan will probably not be independent.


ESWN records the absolutely fascinating tale of China's destruction of five U-2 spy planes during the Cold War and the ultimately positive result:

While the Black Cat squadron was thought to have served in the Cold War, it may have ultimately brought peace. In Henry Kissinger's book The White House Years (p.700): "Indeed our intelligence shows a continuing improvement in military capabilities along the Sino-Soviet border, and this fact no doubt plays some role in Chinese willingness to go along with signs of normalization of state relations ..." It was the U-2 that brought the intelligence to show increasing tension along the Sino-Soviet border. Would President Richard Nixon have gone to Beijing if he didn't have this intelligence?


the leaky pen blogs on Taiwantown and prostitution in Shanghai....

The Taiwanese branch of the American Chamber of Commerce has an interesting article about "searching for Taiwantown in Shanghai" that nicely illustrates my point. The author of the piece went in search of Shanghai's "Taiwan-town," the Taiwanese ghetto of that city. He doesn't really find any "little Taiwan" per se, just pearl tea and some stinky tofu for sale on a street called Renmin Rd. (People's Rd.), but he does find distinct signs/markers of Taiwanese culture:

tlp is a very insightful writer, and pleasure to read to boot.


Speaking of sex and Taiwan, which we do a lot, the Taipei Kid logs a post on sex stores in Taiwan:

And it's a shame, because this part of Taipei County is supposedly home to one of the world's largest sex toy companies. This is sex toy central, but unlike that Hershey town with kisses for streetlights, none of the city planners are up for a g-string walk of fame. It should be stated that they do the design here, while the manufacturing is mostly done in China. But still, the little adult-based science park does deserve some recognition.

Informative and funny....


35togo talks about incinerators in Hsinchu and elsewhere....

Building incinerators in Hsinchu is quite controversial. As each incinerator lines the pockets of key officials most of the concerns and fears of ordinary citizens go unheard. The nature of the dioxins released means that the effects of the policy won't be felt until long after those who built them are gone.

Slightly longer article: Nightmare Neighbor "Incinerator". A Google search will bring up many more.

Periodically there is a dust-up in the press about Taiwan's scores of incinerators, with many unlicensed and unknown to their neighbors. Then the issue is forgotten....


Jerome Keating blogs on the military side of Kinmen:

After that setback, Mao relied on artillery. In 1954 a heavy artillery duel took place, but the largest began on August 23rd 1958 and earned its own Artillery Battle Museum. In almost Biblical fashion, for forty days and forty nights hundreds of thousands of shells rained down on the island. Mao hoped to isolate it from any supplies. The PRC however could not control the skies or the seas. Kinmen proved its ability to withstand the onslaught, fire back, and keep supplies coming in. Eventually Mao relented and on odd days the sides exchanged gunfire; this time mostly with propaganda leaflets inside the shells and not explosives.

The famous Kinmen cutlery is made from shells and shell casings, particularly those that carried propaganda leaflets. At present the factories have used up all of the shells from Kinmen and now import remainders from the PRC side.

What! Fake Kinmen cutlery! It just can't be....


Bourdieu Boy explains why China and Taiwan could be so intertwined yet so ready to go to war:

In the first instance, to propose a reconciliation of these two apparently contradictory features of cross-straits relations is to appeal to the possibility of determining the "true" state of relations between China and Taiwan. A critique of notions of truth in international relations is not difficult, and in the case of China and Taiwan, the appeal to the true state of cross-straits relations at any one time can be understood as an act of narrativization. The attempts to weigh up their different aspects and to produce some measurement of their status as positive or negative is to hope inscribe a trajectory or teleology of their development. Implicit in each individual instances or moments is a temporal potential in which they represent"improvement" or "deterioration". (... e.g. the anti-succession law=deterioration) This is clearly a dominant theme in the analysis of cross-straits relations. In particular, the subtext is always the possibility of military conflict. Therefore, to ask whether cultural links can ameliorate political tensions is to hope that the trajectory of deterioration is more stable or positive than the on-going crises would suggest.

....and comes to very pessimistic conclusions:

The intervention of the state in transnational Chinese popular culture suggests that however epistemologically distinct cultural knowledge and politico-military knowledge of China and Taiwan might be, there are nevertheless in structured power relationship. Specifically, the politico-military exercise of power by the state is, however we might hope it is not, pre-eminent over cultural power. That is, although we might hope that cultural flow across the straits via television, film and music might provide a bridge for common identity formations and cultural undertsandings, if states - and men in suits - choose to be in conflict, and to even go to war, then popular culture is powerless to stop them.

Yep. People can always be made to kill each other no matter how friendly they are. It should be recalled that the world did not acheive the level of trade it had in 1914 until after 1970. In our own civil war the two sides, indeed the two armies, conducted trade with each other even during the fighting. No amount of links will matter when it comes to war, and history amply demonstrates that.


Speaking of warfare, don't miss this discussion at Coming Anarchy of US policy toward Taiwan. Be sure to read the comments.

The US is the watching Taiwan with the chess board and has control of the black knight. What do you do? Chill out. Just wait. Pro-independence President Chen barely won reelection by a slim margin; Taiwan's foreign policy is imploding; the opposition party is taking trips to China; and cultural and economic ties are growing by leaps and bounds. But this won't happen tomorrow—polls say 87% of Taiwanese think cross-strait dialogue can be possible only if both sides are equal, and 77% says China must implement democratization before they even talk about reunification. We need patience.

Big Ell blogs on the Taike KMT:

It looks like there was a great Halloween party at the KMT headquarters yesterday. I am only kidding. It wasn't a Halloween party but yet another attempt by the KMT to appeal to 'uncouth, low class Taiwanese,' voters. Just kidding again The goal of the Taike ampaign group is to turn this negative term into a positive one. Lien Sheng-wen or Sean Lien or Lien Chan's boy is in the middle of the back row and appears to be the leader. Am I the only one who looks at this picture and sees West Side Story with Lien Sheng-wen playing Riff?

The pic is a classic. Nobody could be dumb enough to fall for this crap, right? I mean, it would be like believing some born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth northeastern elite, Yale-educated scion of a powerful American political family was actually a self-made man from Texas. Who could fall for that?


The Lost Spaceman writes up the Chipan Dam, one of a series of posts on things of note in Hualien:

Visitors to Taroko National Park on the east coast of Taiwan invariably pass Chipan (Sipan) Dam on their way up the gorge to Tienshiang and beyond. This unassuming structure on the Liwu River possesses an interesting and vibrant history as well as a controversial and uncertain future.

Built as a hydroelectric project by the Japanese in 1944 it was destroyed by a typhoon after only five months of operation, burying the generators. It remained ruined until Taiwan Power Company began repairs on the dam in 1968.


Cold Goat eyes asks about hitting students in Taiwan:

Following a recent post I made about the caning video, a commentor said he had been encouraged to cane his students more than once by many parents. So, out of interest, I ask my peers here in Taiwan (or elsewhere for that matter); (i) Have you been encouraged to use corporal punishment in class by parents or owners? (ii) Have you followed this encouragement and caned your students? or, (iii) Do you use some other form of punishment? (throwing wooden blackboard erasers at them, pulling hair, grabbing ears, playing Celine Dion songs, poking them in the eyes, etc). Just out of curiosity, nothing else. Feel free to leave a comment about this, anonymously if you like.


Broken Bulbs discusses Taiwan innovation:

You've probably heard that relations between Japan and China are sour at the moment. This has benefitted many a Taiwanese company as Japanese firms continue to choose Taiwanese firms to design or make their products for them. Here is an interesting article from the Taipei Times on digital camera production.

Beyond just design and manufacturing, some Taiwanese firms are choosing to forward integrate and develop their own brands. Have a look at this Taiwan-owned brand, HANNspree. Who would have thought that this is Taiwanese?

Sun Bin, always a font of rational and logical analysis, has a fantastic essay on how to pin Taiwan:

President Hu Jintao, if you hold your fist tight, you grasp nothing inside; open your hand, you will have the sky on you palm. DPP asks for a referendum, give them the referendum. There is nothing to lose. Treat our Taiwanese compatriots like how we treat our brothers and sisters, you will win their hearts.

Yup. A lot of us here have been saying this for years -- when China's policy softens, it can reel Taiwan in. "The more you tighten your grip....the more star systems will slip through your fingers." Fortunately, I doubt the Chinese have that kind of imagination. I greatly fear that for the Chinese leadership, "saving face" will entail a bloody invasion that will help no one.


Brian David Philips describes why there is no 3-D in Taiwan movie theatres:

In the US, the studios are offering at least some investment coverage incentinves for some theatres that opt to convert to the new 3D Digital systems (at around US$80-90,000 a pop, it's a heavy investment for one to three films per year at the get-go). Unfortunately, the cost is shutting out a lot of theatres and the technology restriction demands are shutting out even more.

Don't worry about it, Brian. I am sure you can find 3-D disks in your local night market. Genuine. I swear it!


The Lost Spaceman, who has a great local English-Chinese magazine, blogs on the frustrations of finding writers in Taiwan:

Furthermore, many prominent members of the community have commented on both the usefulness and nessecity of such a publication and have offered their help and guidance should it be needed (for the time being, we are happy to remain an independent press devoid of any influence from the government or other institutions that might want to impose their agendas).

I don't want to sound as if I'm biting the hand that feeds me by chastizing my own readers, i simply don't understand how someone can be so harshly critical on the one hand but refuse to take the matter into their own hands on the other.

In other news, our magazine, represented by Iris and myself, has the privilege of sitting down with the vice-magistrate of the county to discuss ideas for tourism in the Hualien area. It was constructive, informative and eye opening with some very interesting ideas born from the discussion. Updates may follow.

Please! Can't wait to see the details! And folks, if you live on the East Coast and want to talk about it, drop TLS a line....


Taipei Nights describes a common experience of foreigners in Taiwan: being the practice doll for some high school student.

As a foreigner one is often stopped in the street by school-aged children. All kids here study English in school. These kids are given"homework" in the form of instructions to go out, find a foreigner, and have a conversation. I find it humorous as these instructions are exactly the opposite of what North American kids are told time and again,"don't talk with strangers." Here kids are not only encouraged to talk to strangers, they have to have the stranger sign a piece of paper to prove that they have done so. Usually the kids just want your signature. The exchange goes thus:
Student:"Hi, can you help me with my homework?"
Me:"What do you need?"
Student:"I have to have an English conversation."
Me:"What do you want to talk about?"
Student: (thrusting paper in my face)"Just sign this."
I sign the paper, and they walk away. I've no idea why they bother finding a foreigner to sign the paper. Anyone could do as good a job as me of scrawling an illegible signature onto their homework. That said, I'd prefer to have them use me to skimp on their homework, rather than steal my MP3 player like many North American teens would do.

SHORTS: Poagao goes to a wedding. MeiZhongTai links to a great interview with a Japanese Admiral who advocates closer defense ties to Taiwan. Great photos of mountain trips from Formosa Online. Taiwan Fashionista blogs on fashion in the fall and winter here. Traffic confrontations: Everything visible is empty just loves them, and Kelake survives the fatal third strike. The Bluesman's Killing Floor, new to my roll and looking very promising, describes Vietnamese wives and their food stalls in Taiwan. Anarchy in Taiwan plays Taichung. Scott Sommers compiles an extensive list of his own excellent posts on teaching English in Taiwan. Once upon a Dreamer describes how Sony puts malware on your computer when you play their CDs. Scary! The Other Side of the World links to 400 pics of a trip to Green Island on the website of CAPT, an organization that brings together English-speaking professionals. Poew Luing Taiwan also went to Green Island. Pat Golemon, here for a year at a Taiwan U, blogs on what it is like to live here. Don't miss the podcasting at Getting a Leg Up, The Bluesman's Killing Floor, 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, Fotologging Taiwan, Photoactionboy, leftmind, MaMaHuHu, Everything Visible is Empty, Roger in Taiwan, Love Songs (Are for Losers), Photoblogging Taiwan, a better tomorrow, Eight Diagrams, and This Life.

I had to reproduce this great foto of a very witty sign from Tim and Tam's blog:

New Blogs on the roll this week: The Bluesman's Killing Floor, the forgetful's photo gallery, Toronto to Taiwan: John Q's Blog, thebigyawn,


Anonymous said...


TVBS News consistently refers to China as "the mainland" (dà lù) instead of just "China" (Zhongguó), as a Chinese-language search of their web site will reveal.

******In fact, TVBS has recently been using a very strange term to refer to China: "nèi dì" ("inland" or "interior") -- to "catapult the propaganda" of "one China" even further.'''''

Anonymous said...

I counted 73,600 "Taiwan" on TVBS site with google! What does this tell you?!

Tim Maddog said...

What does this tell you?!

Besides telling me that calling something by its name doesn't usually carry any special meaning, it tells me that you ("anonymous #2") either can't figure out what I was saying or are being disingenuous, so I'll let you think about it some more.

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