Thursday, November 30, 2006

Intercultural Religion Mis-interpretation

Here's a question that I've always wanted answered....I was reading the blog for Jon Benda's intercultural communication class (what? I thought intercultural communication was all done with hand signals) -- which must surely be a blast to teach -- and I came across this highly confused paragraph:

Moreover, I suggest that Wikipedia could provide further discussion about other religions in Taiwan, such as Christianity, Mormon, and Catholic. It is better that Wikipedia makes a comparison of the three main American religious influences. It could provide the reader a clearer macro point of view to know the deeper part of Taiwanese religions.
In addition to erroneously observing that Catholicism and "Christianity" originally entered Taiwan from the US, it reproduces the common misconception that Catholicism and Christianity are separate entities. Foreigners in Taiwan are often asked whether they are Catholic or Christian. What I'm wondering about is the origin of the confusion. Is it because the words for Catholic and Christian in Chinese are different, and the Protestant flavors all denote themselves by Christian? Is the the result of right-wing missionaries who claim that Catholics aren't really Christians? Or what? Idly speculating minds want to know.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Theory and Practice of Blogging

I don't often blog on blogging -- if blogging is a form of mental masturbation, then blogging about blogging is surely a kind of self-absorbed pornography -- but the excellent, which does translations from all over the world, had a link to this set of papers on the theories and practices of blogging. Those of you expats who blog, what do ya think of this comment?

<7> The same is true for the expatriate blogger. In order for the blog topics to remain compelling for the reader, I would argue that the blogger must not get too close or assimilate too deeply to the adopted culture. Everything depends on the blogger's ability to stand back and comment on what they see in such a way that they are still able to present it as interesting and fresh for their readers, and perhaps, by so doing, understanding and making the new experience part of themselves. Once blogged, the experience can be absorbed into the Self, which is always already in the process of comglomeration and transformation.

This is not a position that I agree with at all. Great blogging also comes from people who are deeply assimilated and knowledgeable about the local culture, knowledgeable about the world outside their country of residence, and able to navigate in the murky waters between their multiple and uneasily jostling side-by-side perspectives.

Interesting stuff there in that article. Hat tip to Kerim for reminding me about interlocals.

Polls Show Support for Independence on Rise

One reason I don't like to argue much about local support for Taiwan independence is that it has been very difficult to say for sure what it is. But a recent poll may have changed all that, as the Taipei Times reports:

Sixty-two percent of Taiwanese respondents to a recent survey conducted jointly in four different locations by the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University, the Okinawa-based University of the Ryukyus and the University of Hong Kong said that if Beijing "allowed" Taiwanese to decide the future of the nation, the country should seek formal independence.


A further 54 percent of Taiwanese respondents said that even if Beijing did not "allow" Taiwan to pursue independence, that should still be the goal.

Previous polls have not asked what the locals would support if China grew up and gave up its claim to Taiwan, so this poll is a notable advance for having asked that question. Support for independence will continue climbing, as long as Taiwan remains out of the clutches of Beijing.

Taiwan Boss Woes

A boss I think many of us will recognize:

Not to embark on a tangent, but that last part is possibly the most despicable behavior I have seen at this company, or in all my employment experience. In fact, the plagiarism is not limited to stealing ideas from other companies that produce similar products, or even paraphrasing articles that have been previously published by those companies. As an example, I was once asked to edit an article that had been written by a freelance writer. After reviewing the source material, it became apparent to me that much of the article had been either copied directly or paraphrased from a TIME article. TIME! I promptly edited out the offending material, rewriting much of the article to avoid the plagiarism issues, and handed in my draft with the assumption that my boss would be glad that I had caught such a major problem. Shortly thereafter, I received the draft again, with instructions to put back much of the text I had cut. The manager had really liked that part. (No wonder, since it was written by a TIME writer!) When I explained to the Taiwanese editor who made the request that I had cut the text because of the legal issues involved, she went back to the manager with that information. She returned shortly thereafter to tell me that he still wanted the text, even though it was plagiarized, and told me to take care of it. To her credit, she completely agreed with me, and said she didn't blame me when I refused to do it and told her that I did not want my name to be attached to the story. In the end, the manager told the Taiwanese editor to put the plagiarized text back in herself, and I'm not sure if that particular article has been published yet. I'm tempted to send a copy to TIME if those stolen bits remain in the final copy.

Sad. Welcome to Taiwan bosses....

Andrew Szanajda Proudly Announces

My friend, Axis and Allies partner, and professor at OCIT announces the publication of his new book:


The Restoration of Justice in Postwar Hesse, 1945-1949
By Andrew Szanajda

The Restoration of Justice in Postwar Hesse deals with the reconstruction of the administration of justice in postwar Hesse, a newly established state in the American occupation zone, during the Allied military occupation of Germany from 1945 to 1949. All government jurisdictions in Germany had collapsed as a consequence of the unconditional surrender of the National Socialist regime. The Allied occupation authorities set out to reconstruct German institutions in this vacuum of authority in their respective occupation zones in accordance with occupation objectives. German administrations of justice in the American occupation zone were reconstructed within each of the states therin under the supervision of U.S. military government authorities in each state.

The administration of justice was gradually restored as increasingly greater responsibilities were granted to the state judicial authorities, while the body of German law was reformed to eliminate National Socialist influences. The denazification programme in the American occupation zone, which had been considered one of the major preconditions for the postwar rehabilitation of Germany was abandoned when it proved unworkable in practice. Meanwhile, the significance of the institutional element and its safeguards preventing any violations of the rule of law necessarily took precedence over the personnel element.

The process of reconstructing the administration of justice in this state and restoring the rule of law is analysed by examining developments during the military occupation period. These developments are divided into two main parts, concerning the restoration of judicial institutions and the denazification of judicial personnel from the beginning of the military occupation, following descriptions of the National Socialist administration of justice and military civil affairs planning for the postwar military occupation. A fully functional and independent administration of justice operating under the state authorities was restored when the conditions for the rule of law were fulfilled along with the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany. Simultaneous events involving both processes during the military occupation period are examined separately.


Way to go, Andrew!

Photo blog with Taipei Pics

For those of you into photos, I stumbled across thesegreat photos from around Taipei by Darby Sawchuck, professional travel photographer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Foreign Investment as strategy to Evade China-bound investment laws?

The US investment firm Carlyle's bid for a local hi-tech firm has sent positive vibes throughout the local stock market for a number of reasons....

The local benchmark index capped 10 consecutive days of gains by hitting a six-year high yesterday, spurred by the Carlyle Group's bid for Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE), the world's largest chip-testing and packaging company.

The TAIEX rose 70.79 points, or 0.95 percent, to 7,498.15 on turnover of NT$127.17 billion (US$3.89 billion), marking its highest close since Sept. 6, 2000.

Foreign investors bought a net NT$16.02 billion of shares yesterday, boosting net purchases to NT$88.57 billion since the beginning of this month.

"International acquisition activities are an inevitable trend," Ann Chang (張慈恩), vice president of JF Asset Management Taiwan, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Taiwanese stocks that boast healthy fundamentals are relatively cheaper than those in neighboring markets like Hong Kong, making them attractive to foreign investors and private equity funds like the Carlyle Group, Chang said.

Hong Kong has some pretty interesting problems and has been struggling since it became part of China to establish a high-tech sector -- handicapped by a start up rate that is less than half the global start-up rate.

Why are these companies being acquired?
"The Carlyle bid for ASE is likely to trigger a series of takeovers by foreign investors in Taiwan's high-tech sector, using the island as a springboard into the huge mainland [China] market," an analyst with a regional brokerage said


Citing institutional investor research, local media reported yesterday that 30 local companies, including the world's second-largest contract chip maker, United Microelectronics Corp, along with Acer Inc and Chunghwa Picture Tubes, had been targeted by suitors.

The idea is that if local companies are sold to foreign investors, they are no longer local, and thus, are free to ignore the restrictions on local investment in China. The DPP needs to relent on this one. Taiwan's businesses are moving to China no matter what, and will either ignore or circumvent the laws, as necessary.

Eager to maintain its edge over rivals in an industry led by Amkor Technology Inc, ASE was expected to use the foreign takeover -- if it went through -- to bypass the government's restrictions on investments in China, dealers said.

Under the nation's current policy on China-bound investments, local companies are only allowed to invest up to 40 percent of their net worth on the mainland.

Critics have called for a relaxation of this regulation which ties the hands of local businesses, while their rivals from around the world face no such restrictions.

"Above all, ASE has come up with a solution for many other Taiwanese companies that have also been weighed down by the government's restrictions against their expanding further in China," said an analyst with a leading foreign securities house who asked not to be named.

If you are scratching your head trying to remember, Carlyle became famous in 2001 when it was linked in conspiracy theory to the airline stock short selling prior to 9/11. One of their paid "consultants" is George Bush Senior, and they are a major defense contractor in the US.

Monday, November 27, 2006

ESWN hacks on Taiwan's Democracy Again

ESWN's obsessive hatred of Taiwan got the better of him again today as he posted another abusive article about our democracy here. I'm not going to bother to deconstruct that silly post in its entirety because really, reading ESWN's yammering on Taiwan's democracy is a comically painful act, rather like watching a Golden Retriever trying to form complete sentences. I'd just like to point out this little bit of rampant nonsense:
Nevertheless, these other factoids are popping up because the media are chasing after politicians' family members and pets as if these are matters of public interest or as if they are entertainment celebrities such as Faye Wong, Jay Chou and Jolin Tsai. No, they really are not! While it is boring and much less sexy to talk about platforms and policies, that is actually more relevant and meaningful!
It's rather hilarious to see a blogger who constantly puts up sex videos and does whole blogposts devoted to Hong Kong actress Gillian Cheong's nipple, complaining about the low tastes of Taiwanese voters. Let he who is without sin....

ESWN hates Taiwan, but more importantly, he just doesn't get democracy:
In like manner, I just find the fluctuating fortunes of the mayoral candidates in Taipei and Kaohsiung to be weird and irrational. Why should the numbers bounce on account of the indictment of the President's wife for embezzlement or the KMT party chairman's problems with the special funds being allocated partially to pay for the living expenses of his dog? The voters are supposed to be electing the best candidate to serve as the mayors for their respective cities. It is a serious mistake to think that they are voting on the presidency (either the current one or the prospective 2008 one). This is a lesson that I hope that United States and Taiwan can learn now, and that someday mainland China can learn based upon these examples.
My dear Roland, governance is about values. The "best" is a value, and values are only defined in reference to other values -- there is no objective absolute anywhere out there that we imperfect humans can consult that tells us who the "best" candidate might be -- "best" is merely a calculus of values -- in this case, voter's values. Voters take party affiliation -- and thus, the behavior of other party members -- as an important signal of the probable values of a particular candidate. Taiwan's voters, who have a far more sophisticated understanding of democracy than ESWN, know this. The reason Roland finds it weird and irrational is that lurking behind ESWN's view of democracy is the Confucian-cum-technocratic fantasy of value-neutral politics run by administrators who know what's best for everyone -- which is always and everywhere an authoritarian nightmare.

Fortunately Taiwan is slowly leaving that behind. Unfortunately, Chinese culture is filled with commentators like Roland who. just. don't. get. it. It is this widespread yearning for technocratic control in Chinese culture, not plebian tastes, that is the real threat to the future of Chinese democracy. Cast out the beam in thine own eye, Roland.

The Ninth Circle of Hell

You wouldn't have thought it, but you're looking at the Ninth Circle of Hell -- that is, if you live next door. In our neighborhood a local charity that is building a hospital nearby has purchased several of the large villas for use as dorms for its doctors and nurses. The buildings are all being made over, and so we have been subjected to months of drilling, shouting, radios blasting bad music at all hours, and dust and brick chunks scattered everywhere. The result is that we have to keep our doors and windows closed in the best season of the year.

Remodeling a house in Taiwan is an ear-splitting ordeal. In the US houses are made of wood, and are easily dissembled and reconstructed. Here in Taiwan the usual methods are either concrete poured into molds, or concrete over brick. Consequently, walls have to be demolished, not taken apart, and by jackhammers. The noise is unbelievable torture.

Of course, another fine thing about having remodeling going on in your neighborhood is that in Taiwan, the streets are used for storage. Our neighbors across the street are also remodeling, and they have left these bricks in our parking spot in front of our house for a week or so, in fine neighborly regard for our needs.

Not that they are the only ones. On one side stacks of bricks block the road, on the other, parking is occupied by roofing and siding material.

I can't wait for this to end.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Japan-Taiwan ties continue to grow

One of the most important trends in the Asian region in the last few years has been the increasingly good ties between Tokyo and Taipei, symbolized by the recent visit of former Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro and a set of Japanese art treasures to the Beautiful Island this month. Taiwan News editorialized:
However, substantive relations between Taiwan and Japan can be said to be in the best phase for over three decades.

In 2004, Japan voted to approve Taiwan's application to participate in the World Health Assembly as an observer and the following year, together with the United States, listed the Taiwan issue as a matter of common concern for the U.S.-Japan security partnerships.

In addition, in September 2005, the Japanese Diet approved a bill submitted by the Japanese government that granted Taiwan tourists permanent visa-free entry into Japan, a privilege not enjoyed by PRC citizens.

Moreover, the bilateral trade between the two economies broke a historical record by topping US$60 billion. Nevertheless, it is evident that the long-time pro-Taiwan and conservative hawk Abe wishes to break new ground as Japan's prime minister. His decision to restore summit meetings between the PRC and Japan was clearly made for the benefit of Japan's national interests as well as his own political situation.

For these same national interests, Abe clearly believes that it is impossible to avoid making some concessions on the Taiwan issue to Beijing.

This trend may have been a factor in the repeated delays to the planned visit to Japan by former Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui.

Although Lee abruptly postponed his planned visit citing ill health, the real reason was apparently that Abe had suddenly canceled his own invitation to hold a meeting with the former Taiwan head of state.

Hence, Mori's visit to Taiwan at the head of a large delegation is evidently timed to complement Abe's "multilayered diplomacy" and calm anxieties in Taipei over the possible impact of his initiatives on our country's ties with our closest northern neighbor.

Japan has a difficult balancing act, given the problems it has with both China and South Korea, the faltering US position in the world, and the debate at home over what its role in the world should be. Abe's Taiwan policy shows that he is clearly committed to keeping his friends close, and his enemies, closer....

More media follies on Taiwan

In a quote I cited a few posts down, American correspondent William Shirer, who was in Berlin during the Hitler era, talked about how, no matter how hard you fought, after a while in a totalitarian state, you begin to absorb its habits of thinking and expression. The steady supply of correspondents who go to Beijing and adopt the Chinese view on Taiwan is an excellent example of this. Over at Taiwan Matters maddog blogs on an appallingly uninformed article from Jonathon Watts of the Guardian.
Mr Chen is a political fighter, who has bounced back from many previous setbacks. With 16 months left in office, the question now is whether he is already a lame duck, or whether he will prove most dangerous at his weakest.
Yes, that's right. China points 900 missiles at Taiwan, but it is Chen who is the dangerous one. Watch out! Mad Chen could do anything! He's so crazed, he could get a majority opposition legislature to vote for independence!

Showing once again, as if any further evidence were needed, that correspondents based in Beijing just don't get Taiwan. I'll be sure to write the Guardian ( as you suggest, maddog.

NYTimes with Spotty Article: Taiwan....

The foreign media once again mailed in an effort on Taiwan as NY Times reporter Jim Yardley turned in a definite "D" effort on the island yesterday (IHT version here):

“In 10 years, when we look back, this could be a turning point for Taiwan’s democracy to become mature,” said Emile C. J. Sheng, a political science professor at Soochow University. “Right now, it is a disgrace, and it is quite humiliating. But once we get past this, I think Taiwan’s politics will get a lot cleaner.”
I have no idea how foreign journalists keep finding Emile Sheng, but I suspect someone at AIT must be steering them. Bottom line, Mr. Yardley -- Sheng is not a neutral analyst. He was the international spokesman for the pro-Blue anti-Chen campaign, and has been anti-Chen for years. You can't cite him without mentioning his position in a partisan political rally, and really, you shouldn't be citing him at all. There are plenty of political analysts in Taiwan who don't have his axes to grind. Later, when Yardley cites Antonio Chiang, he identifies him as a former member of the administration. In other words, anti-Chen types don't get identified, pro-Chen types do (not that Chiang is in fact pro-Chen!). The KMT manages the foreign media much better than the DPP does, and here is an excellent example.

These articles on Chen and corruption make a kind of sense to the reader only because they leave out salient facts. For example, Yardley goes on to cite a PFP politician:
“This is very hard evidence that at last we have a fair and independent-minded judicial branch,” said Hwang Yih-jiau, an opposition legislator with the People First Party and a critic of the president. “The principle of separation of power has taken root in Taiwan.”
Citing PFP legislators as "a critic of the President" without any contextualization is highly misleading. First of all, Hwang is a PFP spokesman, second, and second, he's a right-hand man of PFP Chairman James Soong, dating back to the days when Hwang was spokesperson for the now-dead provincial government. Readers of this blog will be aware that Soong, identified in a French court as the recipient of a US$400 million payoff (among other things!), is probably the most corrupt major politician on the island. The BBC also has the habit of leaving out this salient fact when quoting PFP politicians as if they should be taken seriously when pontificating on politics. Treating the PFP in the context-free manner that Yardley does gives it a weight it should not enjoy. It's also ironic to listen to Hwang, whose private life is a mess, talk about principles.

Then a genuine screw-up follows:
“Only the Taiwanese people and politicians can understand the importance of keeping things completely confidential,” said Hsiao Mei-khim, a Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker who is an ally of Mr. Chen.
Hsaio BI-khim, not MEI-khim (it's Mei-chin in Chinese). *sigh*

Once major improvement in Yardley's article over previous work by other foreign media is an explanation of the receipt issue:

To get the money, they submitted personal receipts gathered from friends and family. Mr. Chen has admitted initially lying to prosecutors about the receipts. But he has since explained on live television that the receipts were a bookkeeping necessity that enabled him to use state money for secret diplomacy — for which there are no receipts.

His defenders note that before Mr. Chen took office in 2000, presidents were not required to submit receipts to use such discretionary funds. They say prosecutors presented no evidence that Mr. Chen had used any of the money for personal gain. They also say Taiwan’s unique international isolation, defined by its tense coexistence with China, makes confidentiality essential when a president wants to engage in diplomacy.

Actually, the prosecutor himself has said he has no evidence the money was pocketed. But on the whole, this is pretty good -- though it would have been better had it dropped the slanted "his defenders note...." since it is of course true that Presidents were not required to submit receipts.

Unfortunately the article then goes on to slander the First Lady in a breathlessly tabloid way:

The scandal has also focused public attention on Mr. Chen’s marriage, as several lawmakers have questioned the scruples of the first lady. She grew up as a doctor’s daughter while Mr. Chen was dirt poor. Early in Mr. Chen’s political career, Ms. Wu was paralyzed after being struck by a car during a political rally. The police ruled it an accident, but many people in the Democratic Progressive Party believe that it was an assassination attempt against Mr. Chen.

As first lady, Ms. Wu has attracted whispers for her penchant for luxury. One of the receipts in the scandal was for a Tiffany diamond ring valued at more than $30,000. Newspapers have reported that a Taiwanese sea cargo company had originally given jeweled watches to Mr. Chen’s son for his wedding. But the family had returned the watches for a ring reportedly fitted for Ms. Wu.

Yardley doesn't say that those "several lawmakers" who have questioned the First Lady are opposition lawmakers whose Party was the one that left her paralyzed. It is absolutely unconscionable that Yardley writes: "The police ruled it an accident..." as if the police in the martial law period were someone independent of the ruling party. Why does the foreign media anger me so much? Presentations like that are pathetic. The whole island knows who left Wu Shu-chen paralyzed. Also left out of the Times article is any mention of Wu Shu-chen's accuser, Chiu Yi, recently convicted of inciting a riot, and long known for making unfounded accusations.

In any case, anyone who has followed the scandal here will recognize that Yardley's portrayal of the First Lady as a luxury-loving tramp is a simple regurgitation of the KMT party line that panders to working-class envy of the wealthy. Shameful.

Yardley then goes on to totally misunderstand the Shih Ming-te anti-Chen protests, not surprising since he does not seem to be aware that Emile Sheng was the international spokesman for the protest:
Public revulsion over the different scandals peaked late this summer when a former chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party organized enormous demonstrations in Taipei calling for Mr. Chen’s resignation. At one level, the protests represented democratic free speech. But some here worried that they might overwhelm Taiwan’s democratic institutions, the way similar protests prompted the recent “soft coup” in Thailand or have toppled presidents in the Philippines.
Left out, of course, is practically everything important -- like the fact that the protests were partisan pro-Blue protests led by Shih, allied to the Blues since 2001, and the people protesting were largely Blues, as Yardley's own NYTimes noted TWO MONTHS AGO. But why print bothersome facts and make the effort to do research, when fact-free, slanted political narrative is so much more interesting?

I have this fantasy that someday I'll read in the foreign media about how Shih failed as Chairman, left the Party in 1999 (or was kicked out in 2000), lost two attempts at public office, ran out of money, vanished into obscurity, and switched sides in 2001, joining a pro-Blue political foundation along with two other DPP turncoats, and going buddy-buddy with one of Taiwan's most notorious embezzlers. At the moment, the foreign media's reporting on this event is pathetically ill-informed, with the exception of Bradsher's excellent article that I referred to above.

After that fact-free presentation of the anti-Chen protests, Yardley then goes on to give a pro-KMT view of the partisan politics of the island:
Mr. Chen’s election in 2000 was historic because it ended more than five decades of rule by the Nationalist Party. But many analysts say that many democratic values have not fully taken hold, and also blame the rival political camps for taking a zero-sum attitude toward politics and governing.

The Nationalists never seemed to accept Mr. Chen’s legitimacy as president, political observers say, even as the Democratic Progressive Party, or D.P.P., remained deeply distrustful of its rivals. Political analysts say that Mr. Chen exacerbated this poisonous partisanship with his different political efforts to push for Taiwanese independence.

Did the DPP initially take a zero-sum attitude toward politics? Anyone remember Chen's first administration, when we had a KMT premier and a KMT EPA head (Hau Lung-bin, now the KMT candidate for Taipei mayor)? Note how Yardley quotes unnamed "political analysts" blaming Chen's "political efforts to push for Taiwan independence" without mentioning the KMT's coordination of policy with China, or its blocking of the arms package and other important bills in the legislature, its refusal to approve the President's candidates for the Control Yuan and other positions, and so on. A presentation that attacks Chen for independence efforts without reference to any KMT activities is obviously pro-KMT. Sad.

An article like this is a case study in how the foreign media is effectively managed by the anti-democracy side. Next time, NYTimes, send us someone who can see through the bullshit, and at least get the names right.

UPDATE: I missed Johnny Neihu this particular week, but he also shredded this article.

These, then, are the people that Yardley relied on to bolster his article's authoritativeness. And the great majority of his readers would have no reason to doubt his words, or theirs. But if each one of the quotes is vague, misleading or compromised, then what is the rest of the piece worth?

Oh, and ... wait, could it be? Yes! The interviewees all speak quotable English. So, it seems one of the world's most prestigious newspapers can't afford a translator to accompany Yardley to Taipei. Is it simply a case of roll out the usual suspects who speak English and who gives a crap about the rest?

Jim Yardley won this year's international reporting Pulitzer Prize (with Joseph Kahn), no less. He knows what good journalism is. So I ask: Where did he get his list of English-speakers from? And how will he know what ordinary people think (and make claims thereto) if he only speaks to the English-speaking upper crust who "give good quote"?

Yardley won a Pulitzer for international reporting? Well, even the great ones have their days off.....

(hat tip to Jason at WTT)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Third Recall Fails; PFP to go after Premier?

The third attempt by the KMT and PFP to recall Chen failed yesterday, as WaPo reports.

President Chen Shui-bian easily survived an impeachment vote in Taiwan's legislature Friday despite his wife's indictment on embezzlement charges and a prosecutor's statement that Chen could be indicted as well if he did not have presidential immunity.

The vote signaled that Chen, a combative champion of Taiwanese independence, is likely to remain in office until the end of his second four-year term in 2008 unless new irregularities are brought to light or new charges are filed.

I'd cheer, but the result was foregone, and the recall has accomplished its twin goals of continuing to focus the legislative agenda on trivialities instead of on passing legislation the island desperately needs, and on embarrassing the President in the run-up to the Dec 9 Mayoral elections in Taipei and Kaohsiung. In both places the KMT candidates are showing decided leads over their DPP counterparts. Why the TSU is in those elections is beyond me.

The Washington Post article noted:

Chen, in a televised speech two days later, argued that the money in question was used for "secret diplomatic work," suggesting it went to pay off foreign leaders and lobbyists to further Taiwan's quest for diplomatic recognition. The rules governing receipts for such expenditures are complicated and unclear, he maintained, and at no time did he divert money for his own use. He said he would resign only if his wife was convicted.

Chen did not explain how his wife came to be involved in gathering receipts for such expenditures. The two have worked closely together since they married in 1975 and struggled side by side during the 1980s for native Taiwanese rights during martial law under the Nationalist Party government.

Ma Yingjeou, the Nationalist leader and the party's putative candidate for president in 2008, has reaped political benefits from the uproar for the past six months. But over the last 10 days, Ma, who is mayor of Taipei, has himself been accused of misusing official funds and has been interrogated by prosecutors. While Ma has denied the allegations, he acknowledged that a clerk in his office forged receipts to claim expenses.

"Chen did not explain...." Actually Chen explained very clearly; the Post reporter didn't listen. Chen used his family receipts because changes to the accounting rules in 2002 required him to submit receipts for money spent. Since his family's receipts were the only ones he had access to, naturally, he used those. Submission of fake receipts for money spent in good faith is the norm in Taiwan.

This article is pretty good, giving some background on the First Lady and the President that is helpful to understanding who and what they are. Kudos for that. Unfortunately that last sentence is a disservice to Mayor Ma. Proper contextualization would require noting that the official who handled the receipts had substituted fake ones for real ones which still existed -- in other words, no money had been embezzled that way. Note that the article is silent on the far more dangerous fact that Ma had downloaded official money into his own account -- probably because to explain how that had come about would require a very long and involved article. Too bad. Chen's position - and Ma's -- becomes much more understandable once the reader realizes that 6,500 officials here have slush funds from the government, half of which they can place in their own personal accounts and not provide receipts for.

The Taipei Times reported that the PFP has reverted to its next plan of bringing down the Premier.

Following the recall vote, PFP spokesman Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) told a press conference that the PFP caucus would propose a measure to topple the Cabinet because the Cabinet cannot function well, given that it has been defending the president, who was "embroiled in corruption scandals."

Lee also criticized the KMT caucus for spending too much time in dealing with KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) mayoral special allowance case and "forgetting the recall motion." He urged the KMT caucus to join the PFP in pushing a no-confidence proposal.

The PFP's plan, which has been under discussion since the summer, is to bring down the premier since the president cannot be recalled with the current legislature. The president will dissolve the legislature once the premier has been recalled, meaning new legislative elections. Once the new legislature is in place, the PFP will then....recall the president.

The problems Constitutional and political are manifold. The legislature is being shrunk under the reforms, and new legislative districts have not been voted on by the legislature, one of the many pressing items the legislature has neglected in order to perform the important work of recalling Chen. If the legislature is dissolved, it can't vote on the new districts, and new elections cannot be held. Result: no government anywhere on the island. However, officials have commented that districting is largely a political issue that can be solved with some appropriate winking at the laws and dickering among the parties, in the event that President Chen actually chooses to dismiss the legislature if the premier is recalled.

The second issue is that the new legislature is half the size of the old one, meaning that half the legislature is going to lose its seats. The conventional wisdom is that the small parties will quickly die a horrible death, leaving the legislature divided between the DPP and the KMT. Since nobody is anxious to lose a lucrative seat, it is likely that nothing will come of the PFP's proposal. Still, the fact that they can argue for something so clearly insane shows you just how little the Blues actually care for the Beautiful Island.

Tom Plate, Media, and Taiwan

"I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state..... It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one' s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one's mind and often misled it. -- William L. Shirer, US news correspondent in Berlin during the Hitler years.

A few days ago Tom Plate and Mike Chinoy hosted an event at UCLA on the media and Taiwan. I wrote several letters to AsiaMedia about the forum, but none were published -- probably because they were too long. It is a sad fact of life that it takes more space to correct error than to make it. I also wrote Tom Plate about Chinoy's errors and other concerns. Plate did not write me back directly, but his most recent column addresses some of the issues I raised in my letter about the foreign media, so I'd like to take a moment to commment on his column. Plate writes (my emphasis):

"At one point a guest speaker was asked how an American or Western correspondent or columnist could fairly report on China -- not to mention Taiwan -- without their reports reflecting cultural bias. The answer, of course, was that bias of some kind inevitably colors the reporting of events, whatever culture or country the correspondent hails from. But it's also the case -- we sometimes forget -- that bias colors the way in which that reportage is viewed and processed by media consumers as well."

I've corresponded with a number of foreign media representatives in Taiwan, and one pattern I've found is that when you point out factual errors in their presentations, they accuse you of being biased. Another example? You be the judge.

I had originally pointed out to Plate that Chinoy's remarks were both erroneous and biased. Here's the paragraph that sent several of us to our keyboards:

"Chinoy said that the contentious nature of politics in Taiwan hurts the country's progess. A reigning party will unlikely gain support from an opposing party for the sake of political power. An event such as U.S. president George Bush's acknowledgment of the Democrats' victory in last Tuesday's midterm election, for example, would never happen in Taiwan. Chinoy explained, "In Taiwan, such gestures would be almost inconceivable. It's one of the darker and more worrying signs [in Taiwan's democratic process]."
This remark...

An event such as U.S. president George Bush's acknowledgment of the Democrats' victory in last Tuesday's midterm election, for example, would never happen in Taiwan. clearly factually incorrect. Smooth concession is in fact the norm in Taiwan politics. In 1996 Lee Teng-hui beat three other candidates for the Presidency, without public disturbances, including the DPP's Peng Ming-min (bonus points for remembering who his running mate was). In 1998 Chen Shui-bian conceded gracefully after the Taipei mayoral loss, as did Lee Ying-yuan in 2002. Several legislative elections since 2000 saw only minor disturbances, at best, while the National Assembly Elections and the DPP's crushing loss at the county chief level in the recent 3 in 1 elections also failed to demonstrate Chinoy's point. In short, only in two instances, the 2000 and 2004 presidency elections, did the KMT and its allies cause relatively large-scale social disturbances instead of giving way gracefully. Chinoy is empirically incorrect, and he is comprehensively falsified by the recent history of elections in Taiwan. The question is not open to debate, and the conclusion is not a function of my pro-Taiwan bias, either. Chinoy does not know what he is talking about.

One of my common complaints about the foreign media is that not only does it not understand Taiwan, its misunderstandings tend to support the forces that seek to undermine local democracy. Here again Chinoy presents us with the double-whammy: first the error, and the ascription of that error to a problem that Taiwan generally has, rather than a problem that a specific side has. The pro-democracy side of Taiwan's politics has no trouble with smooth concession. That is entirely a problem of the Blues. I know it is a rhetorical question evolved from my pro-Taiwan bias, but which side in Taiwan's politics does Chinoy's error favor?

Ironically in his attempt to justify Chinoy's ignorance of the realities of Taiwanese life, in the most recent column Plate includes yet another error of Chinoy's.

"They listened raptly as Chinoy -- now on the staff of the influential Pacific Council on International Policy here in Los Angeles -- alternatively praised Taiwan for its achievements since the end of martial law in 1987, then criticized the current government for making a public fool of itself. The award-winning television correspondent especially lambasted Taiwan's leaders for their feral, crude and sometimes allegedly corrupt conduct. He worried that such obvious malpractice could wind up giving democracy a bad name and offer mainland Chinese cynics of democracy a reason to ask whether the democratic process, as practiced in Taiwan, is really what the mainland should want."

This remark....

He worried that such obvious malpractice could wind up giving democracy a bad name and offer mainland Chinese cynics of democracy a reason to ask whether the democratic process, as practiced in Taiwan, is really what the mainland should want." misguided. Chinoy appears to be unaware that the indictment of the Chen Family was seen as a positive thing in China in many ways, showing how far Taiwan has come by comparison with the mainland's doddering, corrupt, incompetent authoritarianism. In fact, just today, China Digital Times featured an article from a mainland scholar pointing this out:

"Law professor He Weifang of Beijing University (note: He's writings collected on line here) says that knowing that Taiwan can build a democracy is very important to mianland China. From Taiwan's experience, the people realize that Chinese people are not born with a saddle attached to their umbilical cord, they are not born for someone to get on them and ride, to be driven and whipped. Chinese people can create a democracy too".

He Weifang says that the orderly behavior of the demonstrators in Taiwan is very impressive – the crowds are acting rationally, showing that Taiwan is a rule by law society. Ever since He Weifang visited Taiwan in 1999, he has been telling Beijing University students "Taiwan's today is the mainland's tomorrow".

What is important is not just the result but also the process. Lecturer Teng Biao of Zhengfa Daxue said that over the past year when many mainland rights lawyers have defended the rights of the Christian house churches, they thought of the lawyers who defended the Meilidao ["rioters" of 1979 in Taiwan].

People need an enlightenment experience in order to understand democracy, said Teng Biao who graduated from Beijing University. Teng said that listening to lectures by professors, reading and discussions, he little by little put aside the ideas he had learned in high school and formed his own thinking. Teng said he discovered by reading the early works of Long Yingtai and Li Ao that the motive force of democracy came from constant conflict between people in society and intellectuals with the power structure. He learned that more people in the mainland need to stand up and make their voices heard."(emphasis in original)

Look at that third paragraph. Taiwan's effects on the mainland surely deserve a more nuanced treatment than empty dismissal. Fact is, "the mainland Chinese cynics" Chinoy refers to will always hate Taiwan's democracy and seek any excuse to denigrate it, so Chinoy's remark is either tautological and empty of meaning ("cynics are cynics") or else it comprehensively misunderstands the complex effects of Taiwan's democracy on China. I invite the reader to choose, and must again point out, that empty, generalized, uninformed hacks on Taiwan's democracy serve only the forces that oppose that democracy. Thanks, Mike.

Meanwhile, as my friend the Levitator points out, the mainland government can hardly handle Taiwan's democracy in action.

"You can imagine the pro-China and pro-KMT media throughout the Chinese-speaking world going into high gear over the indictment, but what is the official response from Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office? According to this China Times report, the office spokesman told reporters:


"We've seen the Taiwan media reports (about the indictment)." When asked if he had any more comment, Yang Yi said, "I've already commented, and that is "We've seen it."

Why not take a potshot at the "Taiwan leader," the incarnation of evil, for his corruption while you're at it?

I suspect such sniping doesn't reflect very well on most officials of the People's Republic, who are widely perceived to be having both hands in their taxpayers' chocolate cookie jars."

Reality again: the PRC hardly knows what to do with Taiwan's democracy. The transformative power of democracy and rule of law here is Taiwan's mightiest weapon against the thugs in Beijing.

Bottom line: there are many foreign journalists based here who know and understand the island and its politics -- names such as Lawrence Eyton or Wendell Minnick will be familiar to many readers of the local English media. There are many local journalists who know and understand the island and could comment in English. In one respect, though, Chinoy is a perfect panelist: he neatly illustrates the problems of the foreign media in dealing with Taiwan's complex politics. Regrettably, no one was on hand to point that out. And regrettably, in a forum on Taiwan, the island and its views went unrepresented. Instead, we were given an Asia media personality whose career has been spent in Hong Kong and Beijing, a problem typical of the foreign media (I am greatly cheered to note that both the BBC -- whatever its problems -- and Reuters have correspondents based here).

A second complaint of mine to Plate was that the foreign media incorporates pro-Biejing views into its writing. The report had said of Plate:
"With the return of Macau and Hong Kong some years ago, the major last piece of the puzzle [for China] is Taiwan," Plate explained.
This is, as Plate knows, a partisan pro-China view. No ethnic Chinese emperor ever ruled Taiwan, and that is a historical fact not open to debate. This explanation, which one hears quite bit, is the way the media turn the accidental expansions of the Manchu empire into the sacred national territory of the modern Chinese state (itself a post-1949 invention). Taiwan is not the "last piece of the puzzle" because there is no "puzzle." UPDATE: Plate just sent me a very kind email in which he stated that he was only presenting the China view as the China view. No doubt the summary nature of the article resulted in making his statement look stronger than it was. So I've rewritten the foregoing section in response.

Plate's second column offers an interesting comment:
"But for all that sympathy, [the people of the world] are not geopolitically naïve. They recognize the reality of the numbers game: If push comes to shove and the world had to choose, will it truly side against the 1.3 billion people on the mainland?"
If I had a nickel for every time some pro-China propagandist had come out with a line describing China's desire to annex Taiwan as the will of the "1.3 billion people," my collection of coins would be a magnetic anomaly detectable from orbit. Plate's well-meaning remark once again shows how the media discourse on Taiwan is actually peppered with China-centered catchphrases. Plate is correct about the geopolitics, but his framing of the sentiment is Beijing's.

Let's hope that the next forum on Taiwan's media offers us a more inclusive range of views, and more inclusive range of panelists. And some Taiwan-centered commentary to go with it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Taiwan Blog Search Tool by fili

Fili just emailed me to say that has developed a way cool Taiwan blog search tool:

Using Google’s powerful tools, I’d like to introduce a new simple tool I created for performing a search in China or Taiwan related English blogs. I’ve gathered all my RSS feed links, all the blogs registered in Chinalyst and in the projects mentioned above, plus many links from linkrolls and sidebars in the popular China/Taiwan blogs and have created a custom search for the China and Taiwan blogspheres.

Brass Monkey: English Language Night

The Brass Monkey
English Language Night this Sunday
Nov. 26 at 6:00 PM

The Brass Monkey's language program continues this month! If you want to practice English or Chinese in a fun environment, this is the chance you've been waiting for. Come and meet people like you, who want to improve their language skills!

Admission is only $100, which covers the expenses of the program. (Admission is waived for native English speakers.) Reservations are not required, so come on down. You can bring friends or come alone; regardless, you're sure to have a good time.

[BLOG OWNER'S NOTE: The Brass Monkey is having an activity centering around a certain Mouthless Cat from Sanrio. Bring your collection if you have one. To preserve blog quality, this blog is 100% Mouthless Cat-free. We hate cute.]

Show and Tell
Again this month we'll be practicing our tradition known as Show & Tell. All participants are invited to bring something from work, school, or home and show it to the rest of us. The item you bring can be anything--photos from a recent trip, a sample product from work, an old tooth even--anything at all. Whoever brings the most unusual item will win the grand prize for the evening.

In addition to all that, English Language Night provides you with a way to meet people like you, who want to practice another language. No matter if you want to practice your English, Mandarin, or Taiwanese there's almost always someone who can talk to you--without a strange accent!

English Language Night Coordinator
Our coordinator for English Night is Joyce Tsai. Joyce has an advanced degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and several years' experience teaching English in Taiwan. Joyce has a lively and educational program lined up for this month so you're sure to want to attend.

The co-coordinator this month is Chris Lawrence, a native speaker of English who taught in Taiwan for a number of years as well as at the University of Minnesota in the US.

The Brass Monkey · 166 Fushing North Rd. · Taipei · Taiwan · 104 · Taiwan

December 1 Swenson's Meetup -- Important Changes

Jerome Keating sends around the news....note important changes to time and location! If you are going, please regard this as firm, since Jerome needs a realistic head count.


To all,

This month the breakfast club will go evening again because of the schedule of our next speaker.

The speaker will be Wendell Minnick: (cf. following)

Wendell Minnick is the Asia Bureau Chief for Defense News. He previously served as the Taiwan correspondent for Jane's Defence Weekly from April 2000 to April 2006. He has written over 250 articles for a variety of Jane's publications: Jane's Airport Review, Jane's Asian Infrastructure, Jane's Defence Upgrades, Jane's Defence Weekly, Jane's Intelligence Review, Jane's Missiles and Rockets, Jane's Navy International, and Jane's Sentinel.

The meeting date will be Friday December 1st at 7 pm.
The location will be Cha-for Tea at #331 Tun Hwa South Road, Section 1.
That is at the northeast corner of Tun Hwa S. Rd. and Hsin-yi Road.

Wendell will talk on Taiwan's military and defense situation and field any questions you choose. It will be a good time to ask those questions you had in your mind about Taiwan's defense but could never find the right person to ask.

We will meet for an evening meal; cost will be about NT320 per person (you get a choice from 3 set meals)
Meal and discussion will be from 7pm--9:30.
Afterwards for those that wish to continue the discussion with a different brand of liquid refreshments, we will retire to "Saints and Sinners" on AnHo Road.

I will need advance commitment on this one since I have reserved a room in the basement and a headcount is important.

Let me know by return mail.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Reed Institute Collection

I've been meaning to blog on this for some time....the Reed Institute has a fantastic collection of Taiwan stuff, including a great Taiwan map collection, and texts from 19th century European and US visitors to the island. There's some really great stuff in here for history buffs. Here's their list minus a couple of bibliographies....

  • Allen, [Herbert]. "On a journey through Formosa from Tamsui to Taiwanfu." The Geographical Magazine 4 (1877): 135-136.

  • Allen, Herbert J. "Notes of a journey through Formosa from Tamsui to Taiwanfu." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 21 (1877): 258-266.

  • "The island of Formosa." In Illustrated travels: A record of discovery, geography, and adventure. Edited by Bates, H.W. London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, 1869. Pp. 250-252.

  • Beazeley, M. "Notes of an overland journey through the southern part of Formosa in 1875, from Takow to the South Cape, with sketch map." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography n.s. 7 (January 1885): 1-22 (plus maps).

  • Bridge, A.G. Cyprian. "An excursion in Formosa." Fortnightly Review n.s. 20 [= Vol. 26 old series] (1876): 214-222.

  • Bullock, T.L. "A trip into the interior of Formosa." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 21 (1877): 266-272.

  • Campbell, W. "Aboriginal savages of Formosa." Ocean Highways: The Geographical Review n.s. 1 (1874): 410-412.

  • Carroll, Charles. "Rambles among the Formosan savages." The Phoenix 1 (1871): 133-134, 164-165.

  • Collingwood, [Cuthbert]. "A boat journey across the northern end of Formosa, from Tam-suy, on the west, to Kee-lung, on the east; with notices of Hoo-wei, Manka, and Kelung." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 11 (1867): 167-173.

  • Collingwood, [Cuthbert]. "Visit to the Kibalan village of Sano Bay, north-east coast of Formosa. Including a vocabulary of the dialect." Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London n.s. 6 (1868): 135-143, 362-363.

  • Collingwood, Cuthbert. Rambles of a naturalist on the shores and waters of the China Sea: Being observations in natural history during a voyage to China, Formosa, Borneo, Singapore, etc., made in Her Majesty's vessels in 1866 and 1867. London: John Murray, Alblemarle Street, 1868. Pp. 35-128.

  • Colquhoun, A.R., and J.H. Stewart-Lockhart. "A sketch of Formosa." The China Review 13 (1885): 161-207.

  • Corner, Arthur. "Journey in the interior of Formosa." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 19 (1875): 515-517.

  • Corner, Arthur. "A journey in Formosa." The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal 7, ii (1876): 117-128.

  • Corner, Arthur. "A tour through Formosa, from south to north." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 22 (1878): 53-63.

  • "Formosa." The treaty ports of China and Japan. Compiled and edited by N.B. Dennys. Maps and plans by Wm. Fred Mayers, N.B. Dennys, and Chas. King. London: Trübner, 1867. Pp. 291-325.

  • Dodd, J. "A glimpse of the manners and customs of the hill tribes of Formosa." Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 15 (1885): 69-78.

  • The Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Formosa." (1889).

  • Ford, John D. "Formosa." Chapter XIX in An American cruiser in the East: Travels and studies in the far East. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1898. Pp. 322-330.

  • Guillemard, F.H.H. "Formosa." Chapter I in The Cruise of the Marchesa to Kamschatka & New Guineaa, with notices of Formosa, Liu-Kiu, and various islands of the Malay Archipelago. London: John Murray. 1886. Pp. 1-25.

  • Habersham, A[lexander] W. The North Pacific surveying and exploring expedition; or, My last cruise. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1857. Pp. 159-179.

  • Hancock, [William] A. "A visit to the savages of Formosa." Good Words for 1885. Pp. 373-379.

  • Hughes, T[homas]. F[rances]. "Visit to Tok-e-Tok, chief of the eighteen tribes, southern Formosa." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 16 (1872): 265-271. Note: Previously published in Takow trade reports.

  • Ibis, Pavel. "Ekskursiia na Formozu." Morskoi sbornik 152, i (1876): neoffitsial'nyi otdel, 111-149; 152, ii (1876): neoffitsial'nyi otdel, pp. 111-141. [Original Russian-language text.]

  • Ibis, Pavel. "Ekskursiia na Formozu" [Excursion to Formosa]. Morskoi sbornik 152, i (1876): neoffitsial'nyi otdel, 111-149; 152, ii (1876): neoffitsial'nyi otdel, pp. 111-141. Translated by Kirill Shklovsky. Edited by Douglas Fix.

  • Ibis, Paul. "Auf Formosa: Ethnographische Wanderungen." Globus 31 (1877): 149-52, 167-71, 181-87, 196-200, 214-19, 230-35. [Original German-language text.]

  • Ibis, Paul. "Auf Formosa: Ethnographische Wanderungen" [On Formosa: Ethnographic travels] Globus 31 (1877): 149-52, 167-71, 181-87, 196-200, 214-19, 230-35. Translated by Christian Buss. Edited by Douglas Fix.

  • Illustrated London News. "Articles concerning Formosa (Taiwan) in the Illustrated London News, 1850-1890."

  • Kopsch, Henry. "Notes on the rivers in northern Formosa." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 14 (1870): 79-83. Reprinted in The Cycle No. 2 (14 May 1870): 23-24.

  • La Pérouse, Jean-François de Galaup, comte de, 1741-1788. The voyage of La Pérouse round the world, in the years 1785, 1786, 1787, and 1788, with nautical tables. Arranged by M.L.A. Nilet Mureau, Inspector of Fortifications and member of several literary societies at Paris. To which is prefixed, narrative of an interesting voyage from Manila to St. Blaise, and annexed, travels over the continent, with the dispatches of La Pérouse in 1787 and 1788, by M. de Lesseps. Translated from the French. Illustrated with fifty-one plates in two volumes. London: Printed for John Stockdate, Piccadilly, 1798. Ch. 16 and Appendices, Vol. 2.

  • Le Gendre, C.W. Reports on Amoy and the island of Formosa. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1871.

  • Mackay, G.L. "Unter den Aboriginalstämmen Formosas" [Among the aboriginal tribes of Formosa]. Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft (für Thuringen) zu Jena 15 (1897): 1-21.

  • Maron, Hermann. "Ein Besuch in Amoy und auf der Insel Formosa" [A visit to Amoy and the Island of Formosa]. Japan und China - Reiseskizzen, entworfen wþhrend der Preussischen Expedition nach Ost-Asien. Berlin: O. Janke, 1863. English translation by Tina Schneider, Reed College; edited by Miranda Fix and Douglas Fix.

  • Pickering, W.A. "Among the savages of central Formosa, 1866-1867." The Messenger and Missionary Record of the Presbyterian Church of England n.s. 3 (1878): 15-16, 29-31, 69-71; The Gospel in China n.s. 5 (May 1878): 29-30.

  • Reclus, Elisée. "Formosa." The earth and its inhabitants. Asia. Vol. II, East Asia: Chinese empire, Corea, and Japan. Edited by A. H. Keane. New York: D. Appleton, 1884. Pp. 275-284.

  • Ritchie, Hugh. "Notes of a journey in east Formosa." The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal 6 (1875): 206-211.

  • Schetelig, [Arnold]. "On the natives of Formosa." Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London 7 [1869]: 215-229.

  • Steere, J.B. "Formosa." Journal of the American Geographical Society of New York 6 (1876): 302-334.

  • Steere, J.B. "Letters from Formosa." Ann Arbor Courier (1873-74)

  • Swinhoe, Robert. "Additional notes on Formosa." Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 10 (1866): 122-128.

  • Hall, Philip B. "A Victorian naturalist in treaty port China: Robert Swinhoe (1836-1877)." Url:

  • Taylor, G. "A ramble through southern Formosa." The China Review 16 [1888]: 137-161.

  • Thomson, J[ohn]. "Notes of a journey in southern Formosa." Journal of the Royal Geographical Society XLIII (1873): 97-107.

  • Thomson, J[ohn]. Illustrations of China and its people: A series of two hundred photographs, with letterpress descriptive of the places and people represented. London: S. Low, Marston, Low, and Searle, 1873-1874.

  • Thomson, J[ohn]. The Straits of Malacca, Indo-China and China or Ten yearsÕ travels, adventures and residence abroad. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low, & Searle. 1875. Chapter XI.

  • Warburg, [O.] "Ueber seine Reisen in Formosa." [On his travels in Formosa.] Verhandlungen der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin. 16 (1889): 374-387. English translation by Tina Schneider. Edited by Douglas Fix.

  • Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    Taiwan's Undergraduates in Decline?

    Survey says:
    In response to a survey released yesterday saying the quality of undergraduates is declining, educators of higher education argue the phenomenon.

    The survey, conducted by CommonWealth Magazine, asked university and graduate students whether they think the quality of university students is declining, and more than 80 percent of the respondents agree. The survey also found that 33.7 percent of parents think that the Ministry of Education has to be responsible for the declining quality of university students, while 42.5 percent of students who responded think university students have themselves to blame. Moreover, 82.6 percent of the university respondents worry about losing competitiveness in the international community by studying in Taiwan.

    Soochow University President Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), said yesterday that he does not find the figure to be strange due to the fact that the quantity of universities has increased to 162 nationwide in the past 12 years. However, Liu argued "it is 'the level' of university students that declines, not 'the quality,'" adding "the declining average quality of university students does not mean the declining of an individual quality."

    Liu suggested in order to counter the booming rate of undergraduates leading to the lower quality of students, schools have to put more effort into teaching, and to figure out ways to increase the motives of learning for students.
    Whoa! The university has massively expanded in recent years, due to increases in government subsidies -- many construction companies have opened universities to farm the government subsidy programs. One wonders at what point infinite demand and finite budget will at last collide. Let's see...subsidized water, subsidized universities, subsidized health wonder we have a fiscal crisis in Taiwan.

    Will the KMT Bring Down Ma?

    The KMT is fundamentally a divided party in the midst of a crisis that dates back to the death of Chiang Ching-guo, and nothing illustrates this better than the constant whispering against Ma Ying-jeou. Consider the recent spate of media reports in the Chinese and English press about how the KMT is going to run Lien Chan (again!) for the Presidency in 2008, with either Wang or Ma at his side:

    According to the newspaper report, plan A would be for Lien and Ma to pair up for the presidential election. The KMT would then push a constitutional amendment and change the governmental system to a parliamentary one so that the main authority would be the premier.

    As part of that supposed plan, the prime candidate for the post of premier would be Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

    Plan B would pair Lien and Wang for the presidential ticket, with Ma becoming premier once the KMT returned to power.

    Huang said he he had not heard of such plans and urged KMT members to stick together during the current crisis, referring to Ma's alleged involvement in the misuse of the Taipei mayor's special allowance fund.

    The KMT has denied that any of this discussion has taken place, but the denials do not sound very convincing, at least to my ear. Note several things I've discussed before -- the fundamental split here is between the Deep Blue ideologues, whose man at the moment is KMT Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, and the KMT Machine politicians like current legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng and two-time presidential loser Lien Chan, now the Party's Grand Old Man. At the moment the group of KMT legislators known as the "southern legislators" (read Taiwanese KMT) is allied to the machine politicians (David at Jujuflop reported on them earlier this year) against the "Ma troop" -- the pro-Ma KMT legislators in the legislature. Wang is also very close to pan-Blue ally and PFP Chairman James Soong, who has been very critical of Ma, his main rival for Deep Blue support, and who has a deep base of support within the rival KMT. How does Ma stand with the KMT Machine? After Ma was elected Chairman in July of 2005, the Taipei Times noted:

    Ma has long been isolated from the party's central administration, said analysts, pointing out that many of the party's upper-level officials, from over 60 of its legislators to high-level administrative officers such as the party's Central Executive Committee head Chang Che-shen (張哲琛), expressed support for Wang during his campaign.
    The Machine does not like Ma -- and many will take note of the fact that Ma's favorite lost the KMT nomination for Taipei mayor, beaten by Hau Lung-bin, whose father is the corrupt old KMT authoritarian Hau Pei-tsun, who tried to stop Lee Teng-hui's democratization program. And now that Ma has shown poor judgment in handling the mayoral funds (I've always said that streak of arrogance of his might be his downfall) the whispering against him within the KMT will only be gain traction. Recall too that Ma beat Wang badly in the KMT chairmanship election last year, and Wang has been itching for revenge. Further, recall that Wang is not an elected politician -- he holds his position in the legislature because he was appointed as one of the KMT's at-large candidates, a tribute to his excellent standing with the Party insiders, who are mostly Machine politicians. When the legislature shrinks in 2007, Wang might have a much harder time gaining a seat. Hence his interest in securing another future.

    Another issue, somewhat separate, relates to the KMT's struggle to destroy the Presidency. President Lee made two important changes in the 1990s. First, he made the Presidency directly-elected -- to prevent rival Hau Pei-tsun from defeating him in an election controlled by Party insiders -- and second, he made the premier appointed by the President instead of appointed out of the legislature. By doing so, he accrued more power to the Presidency. A directly-elected President and a Presidential system gives the advantage to the DPP, which does well at the national level, while a parliamentary system with the Premier selected by the Parliament gives the advantage the KMT, which still controls the local level elections. Observe then, that the KMT's plan, according to the media, would be:

    "The KMT would then push a constitutional amendment and change the governmental system to a parliamentary one so that the main authority would be the premier."
    Just as I've been saying all along.

    Finally, as a longtime democracy supporter, I continue to marvel at the Blue (KMT + PFP) capacity to snatch defeat from potential victory. In 2000 and 2004 they blew elections they were heavily favored to win by running Lien Chan, who running as the KMT candidate in 2000 barely mustered a quarter of the vote. Lien is probably the most widely detested major politician in Taiwan, widely perceived as ugly and uncongenial, and identified as a wife beater several years ago. The KMT could hardly do worse than to pick Lien as its candidate for 2008. But with Ma now taking hits, first from the Shih Ming-te anti-Chen campaign, which exposed Ma as irresolute and hypocritical, and now from the receipt forgery case, Ma may be looking vulnerable to KMT insiders. Look for more ghosts from the Machine making nightmares for Ma Ying-jeou.

    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    Shih to Thailand

    Under the category of Where are they now? former democracy activist turned anti-democracy tool Shih Ming-te is off to Thailand next week for a televised debate on street protests, reports the Bangkok Post yesterday. Unfortunately the article does not appear to be online yet. Think Shih will meet up with his pal, the notorious embezzler Chen Yu-hao while there in Thailand?

    UPDATE: Move keyboard before you read this. the deep Blue newspaper UDN is reporting that Shih is being considered for Nobel Peace prize nomination. Hopefully it's just hot air.

    UPDATE II: It's just hot air, mercifully.

    World Kendo Championships at NTU

    Just got this in the email. Always wanted to study kendo:


    .....I just want you and your readers to know that on December 8,9 and 10 Taiwan is hosting the World Kendo Championship (which is held every three years) at NTU - .... Anyone interested in seeing some awesome kendo please come out.

    Monday, November 20, 2006

    State Affairs, Slush Funds, Reform

    I've been talking recently about the problems inherent in having officials who get slush funds from the government that they can put in their personal accounts, but the Chen/Ma Slush Fund Affair also highlights another issue so common in Taiwan: unclarity of laws and conflicting regulations. The pro-Green Taipei Times today had a commentary from Liu Wen-shi, an adviser of the Ministry of the Interior and executive secretary of the ministry's Laws and Regulations Committee. He noted:
    This means that the key to this case is what the law demands of the president. This is also the point that society hopes the courts will clarify. However, all we have heard are suspicions surrounding one receipt, or where another receipt ended up.

    The indictment is an impressive 30,000 characters in length, but only a little more than 100 or so address this issue.

    Moreover, the only basis referred to is the Management Guidelines for The Disposal of Expenditure Vouchers (支出憑證處理要點). No law is cited, nor is any jurisprudential explanation given. Indeed, in this "legal" document with such a serious impact on the reputation on a head of state, we do not even see the word "law."

    The predecessor to the management guidelines -- rules for certification of expenditure vouchers (支出憑證證明規則) -- was established by the Ministry of Audit in 1989 based on the Audit Law (審計法).

    In 2002, however, authority was transferred to the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), which replaced the rules with the management guidelines that were merely a set of administrative regulations. Not only did this document lack legal authority, but the method by which a budget should be compiled, and how expenses should be verified and written off, was left entirely to the discretion of the DGBAS.

    In this case, the basis for the state's right punish improper use of the fund is a procedure that allows budget and accounting officials to make changes and adjustments with little notice.

    Leaving aside the issue of whether this infringes on the basic principle that delegated authority should have a clearly defined source, even if the guidelines were to be considered a link in the accounting system mentioned in the Accounting Law (會計法), and even if we look at item three in the management guidelines, which say that "[the person] applying for expense reimbursement should ... vouch for the truthfulness of the actual expenditure," the guidelines do not restrict reimbursements on the basis of invoices alone.

    Any receipt or document received as proof of an expense is acceptable. In particular, the guidelines' statement of purpose indicates that they are concerned with substance and not with form. In other words, the actual existence of vouchers is what is important, and not the kind of voucher. This is also the viewpoint expressed in the indictment.

    One of the consequences of living in a society where there is no rule of law is that the law is often murky, because it is used as a club to punish those the authorities may not like. A legacy of the KMT era is this lack of clarity and conflicting laws, as well as weak enforcement mechanisms, overlapping jurisdictions, and feeble administrative and legal institutions (if you have a chance see Kennedy and Guo's excellent article in this month's AmCham Topics on judges. Kennedy also has a good article on prosecutors in the Dec Taiwan Review). In the authoritarian era institutions were weak because individuals were powerful; if you wanted to know what to do, you got a directive from the Authoritarian-in-chief. Now individuals are (rightly) constrained by laws, but institutions remain weak. In the Chen case we see all this at work -- the rules were drafted by the Budget Office and are only weakly related to the Accounting Laws, they are administrative regs, so it is arguable whether they can be regarded as "laws", and so on. The second-to-last paragraph above, with its cascade of "even if..." shows how tenuous the legal case is against Ma and Chen.

    The confusion is also expressed in this Taipei Times article on the differing views of the budget office and the auditing ministry:

    Acting on the claim made by fashion designer Ligi Lee (李慧芬), who alleged in June that the Presidential Office submitted fake receipts to gain reimbursement from the fund, the Ministry of Audit sent auditors to the President Office to investigate the fund's use.

    After four visits in two months, the ministry reported to the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office in July that it suspected the Presidential Office of misusing the fund.

    The ministry also reported to the Control Yuan, complaining that the Presidential Office had obstructed its auditing process by refusing to provide documents it deemed sensitive and confidential.

    The ministry also said it was innappropriate for the Presidential Office to assign someone who was not a certified accountant to handle the special account.

    The Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), however, has a different view of the nature and function of the fund.

    DGBAS defined the fund as a "special fund" and "secret fund" and as such it is not necessary to produce receipts or invoices if the fund is used for confidential purposes.

    Accounting and Statistics Director-General Hsu Jan-yau (許璋瑤) said his department did not send auditors to check on the use of the fund because it "trusted and respected the national leader."

    Chen has said that it was unfair to hold him accountable for the fund's poor controls since he merely followed the practice exercised by his predecessors.

    Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), a professor at Tamkang University's Department of public administration, agreed that Chen should not be held solely responsible for the ill-designed system, but the administration should have taken the initiative to change the modus operandi as soon as it discovered the flaw.

    All this then comes back to the problem of "order" -- if only we had clearer laws, these things wouldn't have happened. The problem is not clarity of laws, but the fact that politicians have access to special accounts in the first place. Why do 6,500 officials have what are essentially personal slush funds? Ever wonder why the bureaucracy loves the KMT so much? Now you know: the government showered money on favored bureaucrats and winked when it disappeared. Does the system lead to corruption? Silly question.....

    Meanwhile, Kenneth Lin (林向愷), an economics professor at National Taiwan University, criticized the Cabinet's new measure requiring receipts detailing all expenditures from the funds as "inflexible" and "a step backward."

    Chen Chun-kai (陳君愷), an associate professor of history at Fu Jen University, agreed, saying it is a common practice to use fake receipts to claim reimbursements from government funds.

    Observe how the debate is over what kind of supervision the slush funds should have, not whether there should be such things in the first place. Also of interest to those interested in the political protection Ma gets from his buddies in the bureaucracy is the Ministry of Audit's initial failure to find anything wrong with Ma's receipts and to certify them as OK.

    Finally, the Chen-Ma affair illustrates, as always, official impunity at its finest. For the last couple of days the pro-Green Chinese language Liberty Times has been kvetching about the fact that KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and his receipts are being investigated by a prosecutor who is the mayor's good friend:

    Commentators yesterday questioned the impartiality of the prosecutor investigating the alleged misuse of Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) special allowance fund, saying the investigator's friendship with the mayor created a conflict of interests.

    Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁) should hand over the investigation to another prosecutor, the experts said.

    "Ma was the witness at Hou's wedding ceremony, which indicates their good relations," senior adviser to the president Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) told the Chinese-language Liberty Times,(the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) yesterday.

    Peng said that according to the Criminal Procedure Code (刑事訴訟法), prosecutors should avoid involvement in an investigation if there is a concern of bias. He added that he was surprised that Hou has not applied to transfer the investigation to another prosecutor.

    Lin Ching-tsung (林慶宗), a prosecutor with the Kaohsiung branch of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office, yesterday told the Taipei Times that although the Criminal Procedure Code requires prosecutors to transfer an investigation when there is a risk of bias, the law does not clearly define what kind of situations prosecutors should avoid. Therefore, he said, opinions often differ on the issue.

    Peng Ming-min, in case anyone has forgotten, was the DPP presidential candidate in 1996 and is one of the most important figures of the old democracy and independence movement. He seems to have faded from the public eye...

    ...meanwhile we have the prosecutor refusing to refuse himself in what appears to be a clear case of appearance of a conflict of interest. In Chinese culture it is shame, not guilt, that acts as the negative motivator, and the DPP and the Green press are clearly out to shame the prosecutor into proper behavior.

    Good luck!