Friday, March 31, 2006

Apple Daily

I can't resist a short comment on ESWN. ESWN has been publishing a series of apologetics on why he uses a 100% Hong Kong-Chinese owned tabloid paper, Apple Daily, a foreign publication, to "represent" Taiwan, instead of a local paper. The latest screed in this purblind affair is a translation of a self-serving column from Apple Daily explaining why it is so popular...

So this was how Apple Daily (Taiwan) rose up. Actually, this is no big deal because it is simply following the ABC's of independent western media. But in a politically polarized society of Chinese people, this small bit of independent spirit is enough to win.
It is truly droll to read this farrago of nonsense against the reality of Apple Daily. What is Apple Daily's idea of the "independent western media?" Today's paper featured a gigantic front page photo of a nude couple, with the woman's erect nipple pointing proudly at the man. Erect nipples, blood-soaked corpses, and affairs that end badly: that's how Apple Daily in Taiwan "genuinely get into the lives of the people."

Pardon me, but I'm going to go out now and laugh my head off.

Another Self-Centered Leavetaking of the DPP

This sad story came out yesterday...

A Democratic Progressive Party legislator yesterday announced his decision to quit the party, a move that not only leaves the DPP with fewer seats in the Legislature than the opposition Kuomintang but also exposes a crisis within the party just as its popularity has plunged to a record low.

But in a six-page statement, DPP Legislator Lin Wei-jo emphasized he was leaving not just the DPP but party politics per se and intended to launch a movement to urge Taiwan's citizens to abandon political parties.

"I did not just quit the DPP, instead I left every single political party," Lin pointed out.

His statement also touted his achievements in office over the past few years and pointed out that he cared only about the welfare of the people and had grown weary of partisan rivalry during his time as legislator.

The 35-year-old legislator, who listed his concerns as education, culture and the protection of the environment, said Taiwan's competitiveness has suffered due to partisan struggles and that such partisan differences have stirred up conflict and rivalry in Taiwanese society.

Lin said Taiwan's parties had abandoned their idealism and now chose to focus on elections and on how to manipulate the public by holding massive rallies.

One of the goals of the KMT and its allies in Beijing is to destroy the idea of democracy on Taiwan, to discredit it, and make people imagine that things were better under the corrupt, inefficient, and murderous former authoritarian regime. That is its long-term purpose in paralyzing governance on Taiwan -- if the government doesn't function, governance itself falls into disrepute. Essentially all it takes for the triumph of evil is for the KMT and its allies to make sure nothing is done...

It is a shame that a single legislator's quitting of politics is cast in this "it is not me, but politics, that is wrong." Politics in Taiwan is a cutthroat business, authority-centered, ethnically-framed, and driven largely by the desire for money and power. That, however, is no excuse for leaving it by condeming the entire idea of democratic politics and inviting the public to stop participating in making their own future-- that is merely service to the KMT and its allies. If Lin is really the good person he imagines himself to be, he would stay in politics and fight for positive change. All it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing....

This week in Japan and the Asia Pacific

Although there's nothing on Taiwan this week, there are two portenteous articles on Japan's naval activities in the Indian Ocean, and there is one article on US pressure on Japan resulting from the diplomatic offensive to lay the ground for its upcoming attack on Iran....


March 30, 2006

This week in Japan and the Asia Pacific

From: Mark Selden _ms44@CORNELL.EDU_


Enclosed find the following articles from this week's harvest:

Oda Makoto, Pak Kyongnam, Tanaka Hiroshi, William Wetherall & Honda Katsuichi, The Diene Report on Discrimination and Racism in Japan

Richard Tanter, Japan's Indian Ocean Naval Deployment: Blue water militarization in a "normal country"

Asahi Shimbun, Japan's New Blue Water Navy: A Four-year Indian Ocean mission recasts the Constitution and the US-Japan alliance

Asahi Shimbun and William Underwood, Minamata Disease at Fifty

Eric Johnston, The Iwakuni Referendum and the Future of the U.S. Military Base Realignment

Tony McNicol, Japan Gender Conflict Spark Censorship Debate

Inoue Yuichi, Dam shame: Tokyo and Kansai flush with water

Masaki Hisane, Shopping at the Village Stall: Japan's new development initiative

Elaine Lies, US Asks Japan to Stop Iran Oil Development: Sankei Shinbun

Japan Focus is a refereed e-journal on Japan and the Asia Pacific. For these and other articles, or to subscribe to receive a weekly mailing announcing new articles go to

mark selden
_ms44@cornell.edu_ (

Shih Hsin U Language Center Position

This was posted to one of my email lists. This is not a full-time teaching job in a university, but with the affiliated "Language Center" that is an admin shell for teaching the general education ESL classes. All students must have two years of English regardless of major, and they need people to teach all those classes. Consequently, many universities have created these centers to handle that teaching load.


Full-Time Teacher for Fall, 2006 Language Center
Shih Hsin University
1. Native Speaker of English 2. Ph.D. Degree or Master's
3. Expertise in * TESOL * English placement test design and measurement
Contact : Dr. Peter Lin or LindaTel : (02)2236-8225 ex.3021,3022E-Mail :

Religion Law in Taiwan

This appeared on H-Asia. Anybody know anything about this?


Query on religion law in Taiwan
From: Philip Clart

Dear colleagues,

updating an encyclopedia article on politics and religion in China & Taiwan. In the old version I had mentioned that during the 1990s efforts were under way in Taiwan to design a comprehensive law that would govern religious organizations (zongjiao tuanti fa). Some internet searches yielded the information that drafts of this law were introduced to the Legislative Yuan in May of 2005. Does anyone know what happened after that? Has the law been passed? If not, where does it stand now in the legislative process? I'd be grateful for any information you might be able to share.

Best wishes, Philip ClartAssociate Professor, East Asian ReligionsDirector of Undergraduate StudiesBook Review Editor, Journal of Chinese ReligionsDepartment of Religious Studies
_ (

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Another Pub Confirmed

It's official -- the revisions were accepted.

We are delighted to inform you that your manuscript entitled "Action Research on the Development of a Caring Curriculum in Taiwan: Part II," manuscript #XXXXXX, has been accepted for publication as a major article in the Journal of Nursing Education. No substantive revisions are necessary, but your manuscript will be copy-edited by our staff.

Tai bang le! There's one more still in the pipeline

Things to Do: Lily Festival

Those of you in Taipei looking for a little romance might want to check out the Lily Festival:

The 2006 Zhuzihu Calla Lily Festival (竹子湖海芋季) opened on Friday with more than 3 million lilies standing in a sea of flowers inviting visitors to come along and enjoy the spring on Yangmingshan. The season, which runs through April 16 at Zhuzihu (竹子湖), also includes a series of events ranging from a photography contest, guided ecological tours and small concerts. According to the Beitou Farmer's Association, there are 25 farms open for visitors to pick flowers this year. Head of the association Wang Mao-song (王茂松) said trimming the stalks everyday and adding some ice cubes to the water would prolong the life of the flowers. The month-long festival is expected to attract around 500,000 visitors. Taipei City's traffic department announced there would be vehicle restrictions between 9am and 5pm around the area on weekends throughout the duration of the festival. The department called on the public to take advantage of public transportation to avoid traffic jams.

Jerome Keating: Pan-Blues and Justice

Jerome Keating, historian and gentleman, blogs on the insane assassination conspiracy theories of the KMT, and what they should really be doing:

Henry Lee the forensics expert from the United States is back in Taiwan to give a series of lectures. Lee known for his expertise in helping to solve crimes is no stranger to Taiwan since he had been brought here to assist police in the March 19 assassination attempt on President Chen Shui-bian. In the past, Lee's examinations blew a lot of the pan-blue theories on how they had been cheated in the last elections out of the water. Nevertheless, in the hopes of proving that pigs can fly and that the assassination attempt was a hoax, the pan-blue papers jumped on the fact that Lee said that any case can be re-opened if new evidence is brought forth.

What the pan-blue press failed to mention of course is that Lee stressed the word evidence. In stressing that, Lee went into detail explaining that evidence is not hearsay, or rumors, or wishful thinking or crackpot theories or any of the annual garbage that the KMT and PFP drag out every March and that the country has to endure.

It is good to have Henry Lee back in the country to help breathe a little fresh air into the stagnant pan-blue atmosphere of those who cannot move on and face the real facts as to why they lost, nor own up to their past.

If the pan-blues are really serious about justice, why don't they seek out those who gave the approval for the high profile political murders of the Lin Yi-hsiung family, Chen Wen-cheng and Henry Liu as well as all the real crimes of the White Terror period where there are thousands of victims but no criminals. These criminals still walk the streets and some may even hold positions in the KMT structure. Buried in KMT records, this evidence is available if there are any honest men who would dare reveal it.

Hell yes.

Reminder: April Meet-Ups in Taipei and Taichung

Maoman of Forumosa writes:
It seems some Forumosans from middle earth (Taichung) are organizing a Happy Hour at Smooth on the evening of Wednesday April 5th. I don't know if you guys can make it or not, but if you can I'd really like to meet you. There are some exciting developments at Forumosa that we'd like you guys... to be aware of also.

And from me, personally:
In addition to this, last weekend several of us organized a get together and hike out in Ta-ken, which failed due to rain. But next month, April, we're going to try to organize something similar, probably near the end of the month. Stay tuned.

Don't miss the Sat Apr 1 Swenson's Meet-Up in Taipei. See you there!

Ma Enigmatic on Cross-Strait Ties

Kathrin Hille at the Financial Times reports on Ma's return to Taipei:

Back in Taipei on Wednesday, Mr Ma received thunderous applause from his own camp and biting criticism from the DPP. But the picture of what he stands for remains remarkably blurred.

Mr Ma conveyed the message that he would deal with cross-Strait relations in a pragmatic manner, in contrast to the ideological approach for which the KMT blames Mr Chen.

If the KMT were to return to power in 2008, he said, it would restore adherence to the “Five Noes” - a series of promises not to move towards formal independence that Mr Chen made in 2000 but has since discarded.

Moreover, said Mr Ma, a government led by him would start talks with China on a peace accord covering the next 30 to 50 years, strengthen cross-Strait economic exchanges including allowing direct flights, and push for more cultural exchanges across the Strait.

None of these ideas is new – some were proposed by US scholars back in the 1990s, others were raised by Mr Chen and his rivals when he campaigned for the presidency in 2000, and still others were put forward by the incumbent during the past two years.

And Mr Ma has remained non-committal about how far he is willing to go to please China. Over the past few months, he has named eventual unification with the mainland as the country’s long-term goal, but also stated that since Taiwan is a democracy, independence cannot be excluded as a political choice.

When members of the KMT’s Central Standing Committee appealed to him on Wednesday to arrange a China visit as soon as possible, Mr Ma politely refused and said he would leave dealing with Beijing to Lien Chan, his unpopular predecessor as KMT chairman.

“Visiting China would be more appropriate for me after we see some concrete results on the issues the KMT and the Chinese leadership agreed upon last year,” he said.

Hu Jintao, China’s president, received Mr Lien with red-carpet treatment in Beijing last spring. After the meeting, the KMT said the two sides had agreed on a number of points, including increasing cross-Strait exchanges, improving conditions for Taiwanese businesses and students in China, and discussing how Taiwan could be granted more participation on the international stage.

So far, Beijing has done little to follow up on these pledges.

“It would be too risky in terms of domestic public opinion for Ma Ying-jeou to go to China now,” said George Tsai, a veteran scholar of cross-Strait affairs at Taiwan’s Chengchi University.

But he added that Mr Ma has emerged as potentially more acceptable to Beijing.

“The fundamental objective of eventual unification is shared. Therefore Beijing may think that they should grab this opportunity to create a trend in Taiwan that cannot be easily reversed.”(emphasis mine).

This is a great improvement over much of Hille's previous work. It not only recognizes that nothing of substance happened in the US, but that Ma's ideas are old too. For example, it was Soong who proposed the 30-50 year security arrangement between Taiwan and China, in a somewhat vaguer format, during the 2000 election. She stll can't entirely get rid of the old animus against Chen Shui-bian, calling him "ideological" -- ironically, of the two, Ma and Chen, Chen is by far the most pragmatic. It is actually Ma, dominated by the idea of unification and mainlander contempt for Taiwan and love of China, who is the more ideological. Also, it should be noted that Ma isn't running against Chen in 2008. Someone else will be Ma's opponent. The focus on Chen in the foreign and even local media may well be a blessing for the DPP -- because Chen will step down, leaving the field clean for his successor.

Yahoo: N

STOP_George pointed me to this summary of the Newsweek article on the pandas I discussed earlier. It's forgettable, but the first paragraph caught his attention:

While Beijing officials are trying to give two giant pandas to Taiwan as a goodwill gesture, Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian is urging his government to say no, believing it is another attempt by the Chinese to assert their claim over the island, Newsweek reports in the current issue. Beijing is hoping the pair, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, whose names echo the Mandarin word for "reunion": tuanyuan, can help resolve the 56- year armed standoff between mainland China and Taiwan, report Beijing Bureau Chief Melinda Liu and Hong Kong Bureau Chief George Wehrfritz in the April 3 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, March 27).

STOP_george says: "That's right, folks! China hopes it can end ITS OWN MILITARY AGGRESSION by giving Taiwan a couple of pandas. LOL!!"


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

China Military Build-Up Destabilizing Asia? Not really.

A Japanese think tank blames China's military buildup for destablizing the region:

China’s growing military strength and its tense relationship with Taiwan are major destabilising factors in East Asia, according to a strategy report issued on Monday by a think tank affiliated with Japan’s Defence Ministry.

Ties between Japan and China are at their worst state in decades, strained by disputes, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s annual visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine. Beijing sees the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism because it honours convicted war criminals along with the country’s war dead.

Koizumi strongly criticised China’s stance on Monday, saying the shrine issue should not stand in the way of summit meetings between the two nations. "I still don’t understand why China and South Korea criticise my visits to Yasukuni," Koizumi told reporters. "I am an advocate of friendly relations with China and South Korea." Koizumi reiterated that he visits the shrine to pray for peace and honour the dead, not to glorify militarism. In an annual report on East Asian strategy, the National Institute for Defence Studies, a government-funded think tank, warned of China’s military buildup and its growing pressure on Taiwan under independence-minded President Chen Shui-bian.

The clash of nationalisms in the region -- Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese -- is the massively destablizing force. In turn the factor underlying that is the bankruptcy of Communism as a legitimating factor for the Chinese government, and the resultant stoking of Chinese nationalism that in turn means trouble for all the small countries around China, including Taiwan. It seems that at last the Communist Party is going to go the way of all barbarians who have traditionally invaded China: it is going to be swallowed by Chinese culture -- in this case, by Chinese nationalism.

The fact is that the military upswing -- also taking place in Japan -- is just a symptom of the deeper structural changes going on caused by China's growth, increasing natonalism, and the looming decline of the US. It is interesting to reflect on this in light of the controversy caused by the closing down of Bingdian (Freezing Point) for the publication of an article criticizing China's empty-headed nationalism (which looks a lot like right-wing nationalism in Japan)....

Professor Yuan's article begins by observing that after the Cultural Revolution people explained their violent excesses by bitterly commenting "we grew up drinking wolf's milk." But in looking through middle school history texts, Yuan was stunned to find "our youth are still drinking wolf's milk!" The textbooks' treatment of key nineteenth century incidents make his point. The authors present the Taiping rebels and the Boxers as patriotic and heroic precursors of revolution. The crimes of the British in the Second Opium War (1858-1860), such as the burning of the Summer Palace in 1860, are correctly characterized, he says, but the texts fail to hold the Qing government responsible for its own obstinate and criminal acts, which are simply described as patriotic. Yuan concludes that these views are not in the true spirit of China's revolution but represent the "poisonous residue of the vulgarization of revolution." He exorts his readers:

You should not underestimate the consequences of this mis-education. It is against commonsense and rationality to distort the historical truth in the name of the "revolution"...the direct ill effects of praising the Boxers were exposed during the Cultural Revolution. The Red Guard setting fire to the British consulate is the replica of the Boxers' action; the mania to eliminate all foreign things in the "Anti-Four Olds," "Anti-Imperialism" and "Anti-Revisionism" campaigns had the same logic as the Boxers' desire to destroy the foreigners.

He goes on:

The logic presented in the above textbooks is no different. Their common points are: 1) The current Chinese culture is superior and unmatched. 2) Outside culture is evil and corrodes the purity of the existing culture. 3) We should or could use political power or the dictatorship of the mob to violently erase all the evil in the field of cultural thinking. To use these kinds of logic in order to quietly exert a subtle influence on our children is an unforgivable harm no matter what the objective intent was.
As an attack on unthinking natonalism, the Professor's paper is an attack on the foundations of government legitimacy in China. As an added bonus, by criticizing the Qing and pointing out that they were imperialists as bad as any (other) foreigners, the good Professor also undermines the Chinese claim to Taiwan, since it is based on Qing imperialism (no ethnic Chinese emperor ever ruled the island). No wonder they shut down Bingdian.

Bush's Imperial Folly Only Helping China

The Guardian published an article by Martin Jacques, currently at the University of Singapore, that echoes what I've been saying for the last three years: that Iraq signals the beginning of the decline of the US, and the rise of China. This will only make Taiwan's situation more precarious.

The world is in the midst of a monumental process of change that, within the next 10 years or so, could leave the US as only the second largest economy in the world after China and commanding, with the rise of China and India, a steadily contracting share of global output. It will no longer be able to boss the world around in the fashion of the neoconservative dream: its power to do so will be constrained by the power of others, notably China, while it will also find it increasingly difficult to fund the military and diplomatic costs of being the world's sole superpower. If the US is already under financial pressure from its twin deficits and the ballooning costs of Iraq, then imagine the difficulties it will find itself in within two decades in a very different kind of world.

The criminal, and criminally stupid, invasion of Iraq has meant the end of many dreams, from those who watched their loved ones die in Iraq, to those of us here in Asia who knows what a region run by China will mean for human freedom in the East.

UPDATE: On this note, Pacific Island nations are in distress as the US and other western powers vacate and in come the from the latest summit of Pacific island nations...

Sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation, the conference explored the viability of a closer alliance between island nations to protect their natural resources and cultural heritage while promoting sustainable development.

High on the list of concerns was the withdrawal from the islands of interest and investment from their traditional powerful allies -- the United States, Australia and New Zealand -- while China is rushing in to fill the void with offers of aid and trade.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will arrive in Fiji next week, where the first China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum will open on April 5. Heads of state of six island nations will travel to Fiji to meet Wen, who is bringing along more than 200 Chinese businessmen whose interests include fishing, agriculture and tourism.

South America, the Pacific, North Asia....Iraq is reverberating everywhere.

Pandablitz Continues in SF Chronicle

As Taiwan is making a decision on the pandablitz on April 3, China seems to have stirred up more media interest in this topic. The SF Chronicle has another installment...the piece is that highly slanted one from Mark Magnier at the LA Times that I ripped up a few days ago. I sent the LA Times a letter about it....and while Magnier's piece has not a single word changed, some stuff appears to have been added at the end about the animals' high cost, along with some of the diplomatic history. I'll forward my letter to the Chronicle too.

Taiwan to Open China Investment

The Financial Times reports:

Ms Tsai would not specify which industries she was referring to but Taiwanese companies have been waiting for years for the government to lift restrictions on mainland investments in sectors such as banking, petrochemicals and chip-packaging. Apart from sectoral bans, businesses are restricted by a ceiling that limits mainland investments by listed companies at 40 per cent of their net worth. Ms Tsai said the government had started to discuss changes to the ceiling but this had not reached the stage of policy considerations yet. Ms Tsai, who is seen as the architect of many conservative policies on cross-Strait trade and investment in the 1990s and heads a cabinet panel on economic issues, defended the tighter controls.

“This will not result in cutting off investment in China but will slow it down a little, at best,” she said. “It aims to enable Taiwan’s economy to react faster to changes in China.”

The government plans to lower the percentage of China investments in Taiwan’s total outward foreign direct investment in order to reduce the island’s economic dependence on its politically hostile neighbour.

The policy is part of a larger drive to diversify Taiwan's investments away from its mortal enemy across the Strait. It was by-lined Kthrin Hille, who managed to go a whole article without hacking on Chen Shui-bian, for once.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Contemporary Short Films from Taiwan in London, Apr 11, 2006

Mark Harrison of the great blog Bourdieu Boy passed this along to me....for those of you in the UK:


Contemporary Short Films from Taiwan
Tuesday April 11, 7pm,
Goethe Institute, 50 Princes Gate, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2PH,

The Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster and the Pacific and Asian Cultural Studies Network (Goldsmiths College) are hosting a screening of contemporary short films from Taiwan on Tuesday April 11 at 7pm. Covering experimental, documentary and animation, this collection showcases some of the newest Taiwanese filmmaking talent in works dealing with love, birth, death and modern life through striking and beautiful image-making.

This event is made possible with the generous support of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK.

The event is being held at the Goethe Institute, 50 Princes Gate, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2PH, with thanks to the Goethe Institute for making their venue available.

The screening will be followed by a wine reception.

The event is free, but please RSVP Dr Mark Harrison, University of Westminster at

Dr Mark Harrison, University of Westminster
Professor Chris Berry, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Wendy Chiao - Deterioration - 9'22"
Hou Chi-jan - Stardust 15749001 - 11'43" (Grand Prix in Taipei Film Festival, 2003)
Allen Chang and Chen Da-Yu - Travel - 19'10" (Best Short Film, Golden Horse Film Festival, Taiwan, 2002)
Ching Yi-liu and Nell Wang - Birthday - 11'29"
Lin Tay-jou - Chichi, the Monster - 9'44" (Generation Next Award, Taipei International Documentary Festival, 2004)
Wu Chun-hui - More Intimacy - 11'11"
Charlene Shih - Papa Blue - 12'31"
Charlene Shih - Women - 5'18"

Link to Foreign Affairs: Taiwan's Fading Independence Movement

LOL. This kind fellow posted the whole uninformed mess to his blog. I'll be roasting this one tomorrow for target practice. There's nothing I despise more than people who think "building for the future" means screwing the present.

Sorry! Massively busy!

I know I owe a bunch of people emails and comment replies. I'll be along tonight or tomorrow. Just massively busy yesterday and today! Very sorry!


Monday, March 27, 2006

Downside Risks for Taiwan in the future

Fitch expects Taiwan's growth to slow this year, as do several similar projections.

The agency’s concern centres on the recent fall in export growth, while it also notes consumption is showing signs of declining.

This partly reflects rising personal debt levels as Taiwan goes through a credit card crisis similar to that experienced by South Korea a few years ago, but the company suggests there is unlikely to be any resultant decline in the country’s debt rating.

The fact Taiwan is a net external creditor, meaning the rest of the world owes it money rather than the other way around, is supportive for its rating in the company’s view, as is the country’s strong balance of payments position. One area of concern though in the agency’s view is the rising level of government debt.

Basically, growth is expected to be 4%, but the risk is that it could fall, not go up. I think it is neat to note that Taiwan is a net creditor to the rest of the world.

Newsweek Panda Article

I have no time tonight to comment. The panda media offensive continues as Taiwan nears a decision on April 3. Evidently Beijing has stimulated a new round of media interest in the issue, in an effort to paint Taiwan as churlish and childish and put pressure on the Taiwan government. This article from Newsweek is the latest outgrowth of this campaign. The article gets quite a bit right, actually, correctly understanding the hidden sovereignty issues involved here, although it doesn't get into the conservation issues, nor mention the cost problem, except by indirectly noting the vast investments required for local zoos (the size of the investment seems to indicate that Someone already knows what the outcome will be). China has been successful in suppressing those in articles in the US media, and has done a good job controlling the presentation. Note how the last paragraph ends not on a discussion of the animals' endangered habitat, but on a discussion of the success of the center in China in caring for the pandas. Positive press for China -- I also like the way they got the Chinese pandakeepers to piously intone that this has nothing to do with politics.

NSC Points Taiwan to India

I've long been an advocate of closer Taiwan-India relations, and stuff like this just warms the cockles of my heart:

With India's increasing influence in the South Asian region, Taiwan might want to extend its "go south" policy to include that country and seek more economic and political cooperation with the developing economy, a top official at the National Security Council (NSC) said yesterday.

"The world is observing the warming relations between the US and India, especially the most recent US-India nuclear agreement, which US President George W. Bush hopes the US Congress will endorse despite the fact that India has not signed the UN's nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," council Deputy Secretary-General Parris Chang (張旭成) said.

"India sees China as its biggest threat in the region and its alignment with the US reflects a change of course in its foreign policy," he said.

Could the brazen a$$hole of 2006 award go to....

Last year's brazen asshole was a South African with a fake degree who was lawfully and correctly deported by Taiwan used his fake degree to appeal the verdict and bamboozle the court. This year we've got an early start on the the Standard reports via AFP that the company whose mistreated Thai workers rioted last year is suing said workers for damages:

A Taiwanese contractor whose mistreatment of Thai workers sparked a riot has filed a civil lawsuit against 14 of the workers, demanding NT$19.67 million (HK$4.68 million) in compensation.

Sunday's disclosure of the lawsuit, seeking compensation for property damage, sparked anger. "The company has been fined by the Council of Labor for its wrongdoing. Now why has it dared to do this without hesitation?" Kuomintang legislator Joanna Lei said.

Around 300 construction workers, protesting poor living conditions, vandalized vending machines in August at their dormitory in Kangshan town, set fire to their canteen and clashed with police and firefighters.

The protest forced then-labor minister Chen Chu to resign. The workers resumed work after the firm promised to improve food and living conditions.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sunday, March 26, Taiwan Blog Round Up

Today's Round Up is dedicated to Patrick Allard and Mark Wilbur. I finally met Mark today over at Patrick's house outside of Taichung (waaaaaay outside of Taichung). Mark, who runs the great blog Doubting to shuo, is a geek and investor, brainy, articulate, and full of interesting knowledge and ideas. He showed us some great new geek tools (blogged on his site, so go and look). I liked him a lot, mostly because he has less hair than me. In the pic above, that's my wife Juying; me; Mark Wilbur; Amy and her daughter Maya; Patrick, Amy's husband; and their son Isha. That's my crazy son Sebastian sticking his head out of the car. My daughter is taking the picture......


Ordinarily I'd blog this as a SHORT, but I'll be damned if I'll let MeiZhongTai go without a good-bye letter. Yes, MZT is leaving the blogosphere. MZT, I'll miss you very much. You stimulated me, you caught my errors, you taught me. You're a great conversation partner and someday I hope to buy you a beer or three. I hope that life brings you more PHDs, slinky Asian babes, and expensive booze than you can handle! Good luck in all you do, my friend!.

Mark Wilbur, up close and personal.

This week we'll start off again with Mayor Ma Ying-jeou of Taipei, currently touring the US. Ma wants to establish himself as a credible candidate in US eyes, and use that to leverage votes over here. No doubt we'll be subject to a barrage of lies when he gets back and describes the visit. I'll have to spend some time with the Chinese-language media -- after which a shower will be required....

Maddog calls Ma on the stream of lies, evasions and twisting that issued forth from his mouth:

Protruding prominently from Ma's "5 Do's" is this long-dried-out, recently-detached dingleberry:
* ...restart the 1990's Hong Kong cross-strait talks on the basis of the so-called "1992 consensus"
Never mind that KMT con artist Su Chi admitted just over a month ago that the term "1992 consensus" was a fabrication, er, a motherfucking lie. In spite of this, Ma Ying-jeou continues spewing this sort of crap as if everyone else were as ignorant of Su's admission as he appears to be.

As far as the other "4 do's," well, who gives a flying fuck on a rolling doughnut? Coming from the mouth of Ma Ying-jeou, they couldn't possibly be anything but the same old shuck and jive.
I loved the "real and imagined entities" next to his list of tags. David at jujuflop points out that Ma is simply Chen Shui-bian, updated. When you can't beat your opponent, steal his best lines:

One thing that Ma Ying-jeou has been attempting to do is convince the US government that he has a plan for China-Taiwan relations. In the great tradition of Chinese (Sorry - Chinese and Taiwanese) politicians he has come up with a number-word combination which sounds awkward in English: the “Five Do’s”. I haven’t got his original text, but they are (as described here):

  • Lay out a provisional framework for peaceful engagements across the Taiwan Strait
  • Push for the resumption of cross-strait dialogue
  • Seek to improve cross-strait trade and economic relations
  • Promote talks with Beijing concerning Taiwan’s entry into international bodies
  • Promote cross-strait cultural and educational exchanges

Now compare that with this speech given in 2004:

It is my belief that both sides must demonstrate a dedicated commitment to national development, and through consultation, establish a dynamic “peace and stability framework” for interactions; that we must work together to guarantee there will be no unilateral change to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait; and, additionally, we must further promote cultural, economic and trade exchanges–including the three links–for only in so doing can we ensure the welfare of our peoples while fulfilling the expectations of the international community.

Notice the similarities? By my reckoning he’s proposing to do exactly what Chen Shui-bian was proposing when he started his 2nd term - with the exception of negotiation on international representation (although I’m sure Chen would have loved to chat with China about that).

Taiwan's Other Side, the pro-KMT blogger, thought Ma did a stellar job handling the media:

Taipei Times reporter was practically battering Ma with annoying, completely DPP party-line questions - why did he delay the arms deal? If Ma were president how would he deal with the opposition going abroad? I was particularly pleased with how Ma managed these rather mean-spirited questions - he pointed out that it was the DPP administration that delayed the arms bill for the first three years, and then presented the legislation just before the end of the legislative session in an election year to create an issue. Ma also pointed out that there is no confusion on ROC foreign policy when KMT leaders go abroad, and that legislation to stop such visit would also preclude him from visiting the US.

TOS unfortunately regurgitates Ma's lies without any comment on them. Sad. He might have noted that the US did not submit the prices until Dec of 2002, and that the MND took another 18 or so months to process the request. And of course, that it was the KMT that had originally requested the arms. No shit -- the KMT says it is a bad idea for Taiwan to buy the arms it had requested. For twenty years the KMT asks for subs and the US says no -- then the US says yes and suddenly, subs are a bad idea, so bad that the KMT has to block the bill in a procedural committee 45 times. Authoritarian logic, at its finest.

Meanwhile Rank is there blogging on an especially awful piece from the Washington Post:

Ma, by the way, is not admitted to the bar in Taiwan because he could not pass the notoriously difficult bar exam (less than 1 percent of candidates passed in 1970s and 1980s) although he did graduate from National Taiwan University with a degree in law. Chen, Frank Hsieh, and Su Chen-tsang, in contrast, are all admitted lawyers.

His last comment about the US's being gullible is one that I think he should have left unsaid. He tried a similar line with the obviously well-prepped interviewer in his recent BBC interview where he said that the interviewer didn't understand Taiwan's relations with China. Rather than engage in a serious discussion of ideas, Ma is showing a tendency to dismiss foreigners who disagree with him as being gullible or failing to understand the 'impenetrable' mysteries of the east. His English may be fluent, but his mind, Rank fears, is shut tight.

Yep. That's the arrogance of Ma. I think there is a good chance that Ma will sink himself somehow with either his US allies or the Taiwan populace. As another blogger pointed out, Ma's ratings have sunk 22 points in Taipei as it has begun to dawn on everyone there what a great mayor Chen Shui-bian was, and how superficial Ma is. I blogged extensively on the Great White Hope of the KMT with:
There's much to come, including more fawning media stuff, and the election fight. Ma's speeches in Washington were questioned rather more closely, but the softball session at the CFR seemed to signal that Ma will not be challenged by American elites, who either want to give Taiwan to China, or really believe Ma when he talks. He did say that Americans were gullible......

The leaky pen, always a blast, had some great blogging this week. First, Chiang Kai-shek Statues Coming Down, a move which was long overdue:

The graven image of the venerable Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek will no longer greet you as you report for mandatory military service. President Chen has decided that the statues of Chiang which grace all of Taiwan's military 100+ bases will be brought down and stored at an undisclosed location. According to one KMT Party mouthpiece (i.e., The China Post), this is like the destructive dismantling of traditional cultural icons that took place in China during the Great Proletarian Revolution (1966-76). Just as monuments to Confucius were scrapped, so too will images of Chiang, our "Eternal Leader," be tossed on the fire.

It is an outrage that statues of this murderous dictator may still be found. Wandering to Tamshui also blogged on Statues of Limitation:

Yes, yes, and hell yes. For a small island democracy, Taiwan still has an obscene amount of icons idealizing its authoritarian past, most conspicuously in the form of imposing tacky statues like the one sitting in CKS Memorial Hall in Taipei. Ugly reminders of an ugly time, they have as much place in democratic Taiwan as statues of Hitler would in today's Germany. And considering the abuse I've seen visited upon similar statues all over Taiwan (like the CKS statue by the front gate of Taichung's Da-Keng Recreation Park, which got its face hilariously smashed in immediately after the 2000 election.*), I know I'm not alone in saying this.

As for the angry apologists who are loudly complaining today about how the Chiangs are untouchable "historical figures" (歷史人士) and thus aren't subject to changing public attitudes and understanding of the facts surrounding them: Please give it a rest.
Alas, that will never happen.

Mark at Doubting to shuo blogs on non-racist recruiting.

One of the most frustrating things about living in Taiwan (or anywhere as a minority) is all of the racism one sees. One of my good friends when I first showed up, was a black guy. He graduated from a school pretty much equivalent to mine, had good grades, and a degree in linguistics. Neither bŭxíbāns, nor high schools would touch him with a ten-foot pole. Seeing that his work opportunities were so terrible here, he left. Friends have told me not to buy clothes at Hang Ten, because “That’s where Thai people shop.” On one occasion, I was kicked out of my apartment for being white. The landlady wanted to “get rid of the foreigners”, but the Asian-American guy and the Asian-Canadian gal could stay. Stuff like that happens. It’s part of life. Most frustrating of all, is that nearly every Taiwanese person I’ve met is convinced that racism doesn’t exist here; it’s just a “western problem”.

Hahahahaa. "Just a western problem."

The leaky pen also blogs on a real common problem in universities in Taiwan, grade changes:

It was an afternoon meeting, so I prepped myself by drinking lots of strong, black-as-hades coffee to keep alert through the whole 2 hours of bureaucratic back-and-forth. This didn't do much for my nerves, of course, which were already on edge because I was asked to report on the case of one of the part-time instructors "under my command" in the night school. Said instructor, let's call her Cindy, had called me up three days before to explain her situation and say that our Chairman told her to find someone else to "speak for her." She was trying to change the grades of three sophomore English students whose final reports simply got mixed up (and lost) in the semester's-end-crunch. It was a simple case of "oops" really, but Cindy asked me to help her out so I had to try and spin this as an accident or foul-up caused by the computer system. Now, to understand the gravity of the situation you have to know that last semester our President had worked himself into something of a fury over the issue of Grade Changes—finally proclaiming that teachers who change grades would be summarily ineligible for contract renewals and run out of town...Well, kinda. Anyway, Cindy was in deep shit.

Changing grades is such a pain that no one does, which means the innocent get screwed, kids get passed who otherwise might not, and so on.

Kerim blogs on Chinese names:

In Taiwan it is not uncommon for someone to change the character used to write their name as a means of averting a streak of bad luck. Although sometimes people will actually change the pronunciation of their names, more often they will simply find a homophone with a different number of strokes in the character. According to Chinese numerology, the number of strokes is directly tied to one’s fortune.

This, of course, makes life somewhat difficult for beleaguered non-native speakers - especially when trying to do roll call in their class. (I’m working on it, but at present I still have my TA helping with that task.) Even Taiwanese sometimes get confused, and I’ve seen banners for political candidates that supply the phonetic pronunciation for unusual characters....

Kerim also spotted the news that the UN will eliminate the use of traditional characters in its publications in 2008.

Maddog pointed me to this great new blog on Taiwan politics, democracy, and independence, from Taiwanese, Taiwan Today. Lots of good stuff on Taiwan history....

The comment "Birds in Taiwan don't sing, flowers lack fragrance" was made by Prime Minister Li Hung-chang of the Ching Dynasty just before the empire relinquished Taiwan to Japan after the 1894 Sino-Japanese war. The Chinese prime minister went on to say that Taiwanese men on the island were heartless, and the women had no loyalty to their lovers.

Well, it's good to know that nothing has changed. :) We'll be looking forward to more great posts from this blog, whose members include the stunningly beautiful and extremely tasteful cleverClaire. I know this is true because she reads my blog....

The Lost Spaceman blogs on an icky new idea from Taiwan beer: cute beer cans apparently aimed at teens:

In an effort to get the youngsters on the sauce, Taiwan Beer has introduced their new pre-teen friendly packaging for those impressionable young tweens looking for something a little more risque than bubble tea, knee socks and Jolin Tsai.

Why, just look at the effect it has on the cute girl on the left, whose beer goggles are fully defined, no doubt due to a healthy injection of the suds. She certainly looks like she is enjoying her beer. And, naturally, the boy on the right knows exactly what to say to get what he wants. We all know how this scene plays out. Boys will croon and girls will swoon and we will all be engulfed in the loving rainbow of gaiety. There is indeed something about love. A round of happy endings!

In fact, I can't think of a single reason why this can is a BAD idea. Sugary cute cartoons with large heads, subtle use of the heart image, a focus on love and a message to the kids? Who DOESN'T want a beer? Good work, Taiwan Beer!

I think they should put Jolin on the package instead. She's a lot cuter than those people....and she dresses so conservatively, and has her very own English language textbook. So she must be cool....

Taiwanonymous, always ready with a useful review, posted this time on a Chinese language learning program.

One of the challenges of language learning is the law of diminishing returns. At an advanced level, you just don't get as much mileage out of learning fifty new words, or practicing listening for five hours as you did when you were beginning. However, if you want to get to the level where you can understand the Chinese news well enough that you actually enjoy watching it, you'll just have to put in a lot of hours practicing. (At least that's my guess--the results I have achieved using the non-practicing method are less impressive than expected.) So, how to practice?

I think repetition of the same material is more valuable than just listening to streaming radio, and an actual recorded Chinese lesson sounds like the most direct way of learning, so long as the material is interesting. If you search for Japanese language learning podcasts, there are quite a few available, but for Chinese learning, I've only seen one podcast with a significant amount of material, and that's from They recently put up a couple of advanced lessons, so I decided to give it a try.

Chinese language lessons.....I wish I had time.

Fred Shannon blogs on the recent change limiting teacher hours -- as if anyone will pay the slightest attention.

The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) has anounced that beginning in April, 2006, new regulations will come into effect limiting the number of hours foreign EFL teachers can teach.

Foreign EFL teachers will soon be limited to teaching no more than 32 hours a week. Also, if foreign teachers are teaching at a second school, they must at least teach 6 hours at the second buxiban. However, the total number of hours taught between the 2 schools must not exceed 32 hours a week.

Exceptions will be made for those teachers asked by their schools to cover for substitute classes. However, schools found to in violation of the new regulations will face fines.

Bourdeiu Boy has some bricollage on the closing of the National Unification Council:

It is this question, the issue of self-determination for the Taiwanese, which remains the great unspoken principle in cross-straits relations. There is a tacit assumption that unification is the only plausible long-term outcome, and it will come about as a natural progression in China’s economic and political development in the years to come. While China is currently undemocratic, its rapid economic development will in time lead to political liberalization which will make unification a positive step for the Taiwanese. Critics of the Taiwanese government say its actions only destabilize this trajectory and risk regional security.

However, such a view is an abrogation of a moral position towards Taiwanese democracy and Chinese authoritarianism. The criticisms of Taiwan’s limited and symbolic attempts to maintain its viability as an autonomous and democratic society assume that the Chinese government's political and military threats against Taiwan are somehow a legitimate response to the Taiwanese problem, and do not themselves represent an undermining of the status quo. The popular support in Taiwan itself for the status quo cannot be understood outside of the genuine fear in Taiwan of Chinese military action and a pragmatic belief in the importance of peace and security in the straits.

Whether China becomes democratic will not be the result of economic development, but of the courage and actions of Chinese democracy activists. Just as that activism deserves the support, tacit or explicit, of the international community, so to does the principle of self-determination in the case of Taiwan. Only with self-determination will a genuine long-term peace be secured across the Taiwan Straits.

Preach it, brutha!

Pinyin News blogs on the mysterious letter e in DVD titles:

The cover for the DVD for Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (Dìyù Xīnniáng / 地獄新娘 / “Hell Bride”) has what more me is an arresting usage: the roman letter “e” has been incorporated into a Chinese character.

"Hell Bride?" Yeesh. Think they'll have those characters on the national exam?

A couple of weeks ago the New Hampshire Bushman had a sad encounter with someone who needed to control a parking space. This time Ni Howdy posts a scary tale:

The doorman of my doorstep KTV decided to inform the driver of the blue truck not to park in front of part of his shop. On my way to 711, I heard glass breaking but saw nothing. On my return I heard a hissing sound, but didn't really wonder why. 30 minutes later the truck driver returns screaming 'the things about someones mother'. The driver calls the cops. More shouting. More shouting. Doorman runs down the street screaming "Wo gung ni sue!!" (maybe I'll pay for the damage). So far it is three flat tires and a broken mirror. Cops leave and shop closes... One hour later shop re-opens. Doorman picks up fire extinguisher covers truck in white dust, jumps up and down on truck roof then smashes windshield with fire extinguisher.

It seems like these experiences are just so common.....

The Foreigner on Formosa has a great piece on Lee Jye's revelations that high-ranking military officials wanted to bring down the Chen government...Soft Coups And The Pan-Blue Line Of Silence:

The 2004 presidential election in Taiwan was a precarious time. Just imagine it: President Chen gets shot a day before the election by an unknown assassin. Then we hear he's still alive; the bullet merely grazed him. Lien Chan, his KMT opponent, demands to visit the injured president in hospital, but is rebuffed - probably because the president believes Lien was behind the shooting. Lien then trivializes the crime by telling television reporters that the situation is "not a crisis". The military is mobilized.

The next day, the wounded president wins by a miniscule 30,000 votes.

And things REALLY get hairy after that.

First, the KMT and its allies go ballistic. Didn't their polls tell them their guy was 4-7% ahead? Didn't their newspapers tell them their guy was a shoo-in? Their guy COULDN'T have lost, so they take to the streets. They demand a recount. They demand a do-over. What of the members of the military who didn't get to vote because of the mobilization in the wake of the assassination attempt? Let them vote, and let them vote NOW. Thirty thousand votes - that's all the KMT needs. Just 30,000...

What, the law says we CAN'T do any of those things, at least not immediately? Well then, bend the law - JUST THIS ONCE. President Chen, the KMT DEMANDS that you declare a State of Emergency so that the niceties of the law can be set aside*.

This is a great piece of writing, insightful, well-written, and didactic. Great work, FF.

Naruwan Formosa blogs on the Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights, CA.

On Monday, I took a little visit of the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights. My mother was at one time a devotee of Master Hsing Yun (星雲法師), although the demands of the secular life have made it difficult for her to spend as much time as she would have liked.

The temple was conceived in the late 1970s, and built throughout the 1980s. It is now a landmark of Hacienda Heights. When the city planning committee had debated it, there had been some opposition, because Buddhism was at the time a novel thing. Now, a decade and a half later, it has become a part of the community, and continues to draw devotees and tourists.

Speaking of religion, The Heavenly Mother Gets GPS! wrote the leaky pen:

Last night Taiwan's patron Goddess, the Taoist deity known as Ma-tsu (媽祖), went off on her annual journey around the island once again, leaving her traditional resting place in Ta-chia (大甲, near Taichung) to circle the island and bless as many people as possible in a whirlwind 8 day tour followed by 10's of thousands of believers. Some will be unable to take time off from work to go get blessed--it's a shame, but for some reason Her birthday is not a holiday in Taiwan--however, for the folks who can't, there's now a solution.

This year, for the first time, you can actually track the Heavenly Mother (天后) using your cellphone. The Zhenlan Gong temple has authorized the installation of a GPS satellite tracking system that allows you, the devout, to pick up any new 3G cellphone, dial a number (available here in Chinese), and see where Ma-tsu is at any time during the next 8 days. This is not lucky in itself, however, but the closer you can get to Her the better (best is when you can lie down in the street and get her ritual palanquin to pass over your head). If you're like me, with a broken Moto, you'll have to watch the news.


HUMOR: The New Hampshire Bushman scores with this classic:

The Miltown Kid scored some betel nut girl dolls. I gotta get some of these:

Although she is wearing rather too much clothing for a real betel nut girl.

SHORTS: Jerome Keating takes a moment from politics to enjoy Shei Pa National Park. Daniel at Suitcasing goes wild on Chinese culture: All the Chinese culture series. The New Hampshire Bushman finds some new Taiwan Wood Culture. Don't miss the podcasting at Getting a Leg Up, The Bluesman's Killing Floor, Misadventures in Taiwan, Ugly Expat, The Formosa Diaries, and What's Up in Taiwan. As always, great photos at 35togo, Unplugged, the forgetful's photo gallery, the forgetful's photo gallery, amateur commune, andres, Clarke vs Matt, Cat Piano, T_C at Fotolog, battphotos, Fotologging Taiwan, Photoactionboy, leftmind, MaMaHuHu, Everything Visible is Empty, Roger in Taiwan, Love Songs (Are for Losers), Photoblogging Taiwan, Eight Diagrams, Tagging Taichung, Finding the Rabbit, and The New Hampshire Bushman in Taiwan and The World. Also, Waiguoren Project wants your stories.


  • Paul's Space

  • Cody and Rob

  • The Nebulon Fry

  • Wei's World

  • just going

  • Taiwan Today

  • The Religious Procession

    Last week I had the great luck to stumble across a religious procession that was cutting through an alley just as I was cutting across it, camera in hand. Ok, so the second part isn't luck, as the camera is always in hand.

    I don't know much about local religious stuff, as local religious types never show up at my door to convert me to whatever version of Disembodied Other Minds With Magic Powers they happen to believe in, ask me to discriminate against people because they don't like what they do with their genitals, or demand that we give up our democracy because it is incompatible with their love of power. One of the great things about Chinese culture is the widespread and serene tolerance of the religious beliefs of others -- a tolerance I heartily subscribe to -- coupled with a reassuring lack of the missionary impulse, except among Buddhists (for whom tolerance is also an important value). Hence, I haven't looked into local religous belief because it is (1) a hugely complex field of study and (2) no threat to any of the freedoms I believe in.

    So, sadly, although I can offer you pics, I have nothing intelligent to say about what they mean. Consult your local anthropologist.

    The brightly-lit vehicles emerge from around a bend in the alley.

    A troupe of female drummers provides sound effects.

    The procession was endless.

    A close-up of one of the vehicles.

    Such processions are always accompanied by police who shut down traffic. At the speed of the marchers on foot, the parade took about 15 minutes to pass by.

    A vehicle pushes through smoke from fireworks.

    A marcher prepares to launch fireworks.

    Parading the temple god around.

    Transcript of Ma at the Council on Foreign Relations

    This link to Ma's conversation at the CFR was passed on to me by Jerome Keating. The topic is largely about Taiwan's sovereignty. The interviewer, Jerome Cohen, is a friend of Ma's and does not challenge Ma on anything, giving him the maximum opportunity to look good. The conservation is structured so that Ma gets no difficult or embarrassing questions. I don't have time to blog on this busload of bad argument, but it is sad -- and scary -- that Ma gets to talk unchallenged, for so long. They let him get away with this lie again:

    You know, the U.S. approved the arms sale to Taiwan, the three types—Patriot 3—(inaudible)—and the anti-submarine aircraft P3C in April 2001. But the DPP administration did not take any action until June of 2004, more than three years later. And by the time they sent the proposal to—(inaudible)—on June the 2nd, it was only barely nine days before the recess, so no serious discussion occurred. After the Legislative Yuan members came back in September—that was an election year—they were all concerned about their own election campaigns. So again, there was no serious discussion until 2005.

    Once again, the US failed to submit prices on the subs until Dec of 2002, and then the MND took another 18 months to process the purchase. Ma lies a lot.

    Ma is right about one thing though:

    QUESTIONER:....I noticed in one of your recent interviews you said that the Americans were somewhat naive about—

    MA: No, I didn’t say naive. I said gullible. (Laughter.)

    No kidding.

    EU to not disscuss lifting ban on arms sales to China in first half of 2006

    The Taipei Times noted that the European Union will not be revoking the ban on arms sales to China any time soon:

    The 25-state EU would not address in the first half of this year a proposal to lift the ban on arms sales to China, German officials said on Thursday.

    The officials made the remarks ahead of the opening of a two-day EU summit meeting in Brussels that concluded yesterday.

    According to the German officials, the China arms ban issue was not on the agenda for the summit. Moreover, they said, the issue was not expected to be tackled during Austria's EU presidency in the first half of this year.

    Germany and France were originally keen to push for the removal of the ban on arms sales to China imposed by the EU after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in which Chinese troops brutally killed unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators.

    But since German Chancellor Angela Merkel took office last November, Germany has changed its position on the issue and no longer pressures the EU to remove the ban. Many party caucuses in the German Bundestag, or parliament, are even planning to come up with a motion to demand that the EU not lift the ban.

    That's a relief. But I suspect that sooner or later the ban will be lifted, and Taiwan will face even graver threats.

    Driving Defensively: A letter

    One wonderful aspect of blogging and building websites is the great letters you get. Excerpts from a recent one:


    One more note, I think paid plane fare is a thing of the past; if you come now it's on your own dime and the best one can hope for is reimbursement (some or all) after the contract is up. My employer wouldn't offer to pay anything for my ticket, although I do have performance and attendance bonuses I meet every month that will make up for it.

    One thing others have told me about Taiwan and I agree with is the driving habits. You don't say it on your site, but people in the south tend to be worse drivers (more speeding and agression) than those in the north. About the only time they, cars and scooters, don't drive recklessly around me is when I'm carrying my folding shopping cart to the market. When they see a big metal item in front of their body or bodywork, they don't come close. I'm not suggesting that I'm agressive, but rather the drivers don't try to come close when they see the potential damage. I call it the "pain and paint" philosophy: people only pay attention and back off when they or their property will be hurt.

    I'm glad I brought with me from Korea the extra cycling gear I used there: plastic hand, elbow and knee pads that rollerbladers use. In four months here I've lost count already the number of times those have saved me from these idiot drivers. When a car tries to cut me off, my knee scraping on the panel and elbow on the window is much more effective than skin at making them move over, and the same applies to the hands of scooter drivers who try to muscle me off the road; it's funny to see one take his hand off the accelerator and shake the pain off his hand when his hand bangs into mine. As above, I'm not being the aggressor, I'm riding in straight lines and the Taiwanese weave like lunatics.

    Because I know and have seen way too much to write in a first email, it would be better to send a list of differences for those are interested or want to leave Korea for greener pastures. And I do mean *green*; if you think Taipei is bereft of plant life, it's a rain forest compared to Seoul. Many parts of Seoul have no bugs because the land is so dead. [S. Taiwan] is almost as green as I remember Vancouver to be.

    Taiwan's not as clean or orderly as Japan and the people aren't as friendly as the Thais or Filipinos, but it's better than a lot of places I could be.

    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    Lee Jye and the Soft Coup

    I've been planning to write on Defense Minister Lee Jye's allegation that he was approached by senior military officers who asked him to feign illness to help undermine the Chen government. But then I found out that the Foreigner had already done a bang-up job. Over to him......

    Who were the plotters? Their identities are unknown to the public, but have been revealed in closed door sessions of the libel trial. It's unfathomable to me why their names and faces aren't plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the country. Firing them, allowing them to retire, or "promoting" them to an important post in the 21st Envelope-Stuffing Battalion isn't enough: Each and every one of them should be tried for sedition and punished as an example to future army officers. Leniency of course should be granted to those who finger political instigators. Not wanting to air the military's dirty laundry here is no excuse. I cannot help but agree with one legislator who spoke about the matter to Lee Jye during a hearing:

    "Because you refused to name the generals who approached you and asked you to feign sickness and step aside, everyone keeps guessing, and that has hurt the reputations of innocent generals."

    I have long feared that the mainlander-dominated officer class would pull something like this. How much has Taiwan changed? The failure of the plot is an example. And I totally agree with The Foreigner's comment that their names should be publicized...and this great comment:

    It was quite a spectacle to witness the KMT asking the same man they vilified as an "evil dictator" to declare martial law. How many of you would ask a political opponent to declare martial law if you truly thought he had tyrannical tendencies?


    Washington Times: Ma Wants Peace

    Ma's visit in the Washington Times from Xin Li. The article's slant lies in its absence -- none of Ma's claims are challenged or explored. David at jujuflop has already pointed out that Ma's plan is a lot like Chen Shui-bian's, except that Chen didn't advocate a 30 year long capitulation to the Chinese. The article also refers to "Taiwan's Nationalists," although the KMT is the Chinese Nationalist Party.

    The United States "always encourages us to open dialogue with the mainland," said Mr. Ma. "We don't want to be the flash point in East Asia anymore."
    Mr. Ma offered no new hope for progress on a proposed $18 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which the Nationalists have been holding up in the island's legislature since it was approved by President Bush in 2001.
    The delay is partly because of the failure of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to provide adequate information, he said yesterday.
    The Nationalist Party "is not blocking the deal" and will support reasonable arms purchases from the United States, he said.
    He said the determination of what is reasonable should be based on a comprehensive evaluation of Taiwan's defense needs, its relationship with China, public opinion and Taiwan's financial capabilities.

    The result of not challenging any of Ma's statements is of course, obvious. The writer is either not aware that Ma's party has blocked the arms bill more than 45 times (not competent) or has suppressed the information (biased). Another particularly bad moment is here:

    The United States "always encourages us to open dialogue with the mainland," said Mr. Ma. "We don't want to be the flash point in East Asia anymore."

    Ma's statement goes unexplored, sadly. The writer does not mention that the DPP would love to negotiate with the Chinese, but that China will not talk to them. This leaves the impression that the DPP is somehow unreasonable, when in fact it is the Chinese who are unreasonable. All sides in Taiwan want to open a dialogue with the mainland.

    The outlines of Ma's post 2008 strategy are already clear -- victory over the DPP, then a triumphant visit to China, in which they strike a deal that will deliver Taiwan to China in a much shorter period than 30 years. Ma must know as well as anyone else that another generation out of China's embrace will only strengthen the Taiwan identity. As a pro-annexation politician, he cannot seriously support another three decades of Taiwan independence. Therefore the whole thing has to be nonsense.

    On the whole the article is generous to Ma, but it is not overly fawning. So perhaps things aren't going to be as bad as I thought. However, the title -- Opposition Leader Seeks Long-Term Peace -- is blatantly slanted: the DPP wants a long-term peace too; but they want it on terms of democracy and independence, something that the Chinese and the KMT do not want.

    Media and Policing in Taiwan

    The recent case of a railway worker accused of murdering his Vietnamese wife by staging a train derailment has highlighted the serious problem of the incestuous relationship between the police, prosecutors, and the media in Taiwan.

    The investigation was turned over to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office, effective yesterday, said Lee Jing-yong, deputy justice minister. The decision was later confirmed by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) during a legislative interpellation session.

    Justice Minister Morley Shih also said the Pingtung office will be penalized for their misconduct. The details of the disciplinary action will be decided in the next two days, he noted.

    The prosecutors on Thursday portrayed Lee as debt ridden, saying he had lost over NT$30 million on the stock market. They implied that Lee may have planned last Saturday's derailment to kill his Vietnamese wife Chen Shi Hong-sheng in order to collect NT$20 million in insurance.

    However, the debt allegation was completely overturned when the securities company said not only did Lee not lose money, but he had made over NT$100,000 from his investments.

    To set the record straight, Chung Ji-mei, a vice president of Grand Cathay Securities Corporation said the company indeed provided prosecutors with Lee's transaction history and did not understand how the law enforcement came up with such a figure.

    Chuang Rong-song, spokesperson for the Pingtung prosecution office, admitted to the miscalculation and expressed regrets to Lee's family.

    Around 6 o'clock Thursday morning, Lee's body was found hanging from a tree near his house. In his three suicide notes, Lee said that he was innocent of the suspicions leveled at him and accused the prosecution and media of driving him to his grave.

    It seems almost pointless to call for reform of Taiwan's hopeless media, and its hopeless attitude toward it. One reason I hate watching TV news -- on in every restaurant in the nation -- is that I don't want to see people in emergency rooms, people suffering and crying horribly, people bleeding, people out of their wits -- it's like a pornography of pain. No one should have to suffer the intrusion of the media into their private lives like that. How many more lives will these locusts destroy?

    Not only does such behavior degrade all it touches, it also threatens the whole idea of democracy on Taiwan in two important ways. First, the media's role is to function as a watchdog, to hold the government accountable. Obviously it cannot fufill that role if it does not take such a role seriously. Second, by behaving like animals, the media invites attempts to control it and rein it in. Both are problematic for the development of a robust democracy on Taiwan.