Monday, April 30, 2007

Su Beng's new book

Feli, who is writing a biography of Su Beng, the longtime democracy and independence activist, announces....


The official book release for Su Beng's latest book, The Ideology of Democracy, will be held on May 5 from 2:00pm-5:00pm at the Taiwan National University's Alumni Building: JiNan Road Section 1, No. 2-1, 4th Floor. There will be some opening remarks made by guest speakers and Su Beng himself will also be speaking publicly on this occassion. I have posed this information on my blog, All About Su Beng. Su Beng's Chinese language website.


New Blog to Oppose Hushan Dam Project

Robin Winkler of Wild at Heart alerted me to a new blog on the Hushan Dam project....

Plans were first laid to submerge You-cing Valley in December 1994. Located in the Hushan area, 10 km south-east of Douliu City in Yunlin County, the valley would be filled with water diverted from the Cing-shui River and dammed just north of Hushan Village. The resulting reservoir would, according to developers, provide the means to relieve Yunlin County of its shortage of agricultural and domestic water, and mitigate the serious land subsidence that had occurred through excessive pumping of groundwater. More than ten years later, however, the dam still exists only on paper, and a growing number of people are fighting to keep it that way.

Dams are yet another symptom of Taiwan's development paradigm that always calls for "build more" rather than "use less." It's sad, because the commitment to recycling here has really paid off, indicating that the government could easily get people to commit to conservation of water and energy if it approached the topic with the right combination of carrot and stick.

Good luck with the blog, and the anti-dam effort.

Meh News: WHO snubs Taiwan; Good news: US doesn't on Torch

Amazingly, the WHO rejected Taiwan's bid to enter it. After all, it had only been ten years in a row....

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) lodged a protest yesterday with the World Health Organization Secretariat over its rejection of Taiwan's application for WTO membership this year.

Taiwan's bid to join the WHO is not an issue that can be decided or rejected by the secretariat or any individual working for the organization, Chen argued while addressing a workshop held in Taipei yesterday to explore Taiwan's bid to join the WHO under the name of "Taiwan."

The president said he filed the formal complaint with the WHO on behalf of the government and the 23 million people in Taiwan.

Taiwan is a sovereign state, whose 23 million people are empowered to apply to join in the WHO's activities based on their collective human rights, Chen contended.

Taiwan is focusing too many resources on high profile campaigns that ultimately are losers, and not enough on building broad support and interacting with the populations of the member nations whose good opinions it needs. What it really needs is stuff in the media in the US and elsewhere every week, written by those canny and perceptive foreigners working in MOFA and TECRO, who understand the audience at home and know which emotional buttons to push.

On the good news front, Taiwan actually did something amazing: it briefed the US in advance of its torch decision. Clearly someone in the local Administration has discovered that while the US can tolerate disagreement, it hates surprises....

The Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan's top policymaking agency on cross-strait affairs, slammed the route arrangement as“unacceptable” on grounds Beijing explicitly painted the torch's passage in Taiwan as part of the“domestic" leg.

The government meanwhile conveyed its discontent to the White House through the American Institute in Taiwan's Taipei office and its representative office in the US, according to the CNA.

The unnamed US official agreed that the torch route smacked of politicking and indicated the administration would not comment on the issue when asked to, the CNA added.

It is good to see Taiwan for once acting sensibly and cautiously in the context of its most important international relationship.

Judging the Speech Contest

Selling me breakfast before the judging begins....

This year once again the Taichung county government called me in to act as a judge for the English speech contest. I always enjoy these occasions, meet new people, interact with enthusiastic children and their parents, see schools around the county....

The contest was held at Daya Elementary School in Daya Township, northwest of Taichung city. This is an old school dating back to the Japanese period (its age is indicated by the large old trees), currently providing more than 3,000 students with a primary education.

The grounds.

Wisdom of the ages at the corner entrance.

I came early to grab some photos.

Cherry tomatoes are a common Taiwan snack.

A vendor sets out the goods.

The school was enormous.

Volleyball practice in the early morn.

Photos of principals dating back to the Japanese period. The Japanese guys are all in uniform, all either policemen or soldiers. Both colonial regimes, the Japanese and the KMT, used policemen as educators in remote and rural areas.

Practicing the speech. All speeches were memorized, and the students were wildly overprepared.

A contestant practices alone..... avoid the crowds.

The timekeepers and secretaries.

The students were given these three topics. They developed a speech for each topic, which they committed to memory, and then one speech was randomly chosen for them to give. The result was massively overprepared students -- totaly memorized, meaning that the tiniest deviation resulted in disaster. One student blanked her speech completely and ran out crying. Broke my heart. But many students, with memorized speeches that required recalling, had no fallback in case they forgot.

Worse than that, each speech was exactly the same -- all of them said, for example, that if there were no policemen there would be anarchy. Nobody took the subversive position that a lack of policemen might be a good thing (because then I could steal my neighbor's Benz!) or the thoughtful one that might look at alternative modes of keeping the social order. The result was that the 26 contestants gave 26 identical speeches, with the same hand motions (like witnessing an endless loop of speech tai chi). Since they were all identically cute, identically good in English, of identical ages, and dressed in their school uniforms, choosing between them was fiendishly difficult.

I'd be curious to see some research on the effect of speech contests on English outcomes. My experience is that they don't have much educational use, since they reward students whose English is already good and do not create motivation for poorer speakers to perform.

Had a great time and met some great people, renewed old friendships and made new ones. If you get the chance to judge, go!

Daily Links, April 30, 2007

Crowded throughways on the blogs today....

  • Former expat here Newley Purnell writes a brief introduction to the island's leisure farms.

  • A pro-Blue blogger points to propaganda by the DPP?

  • Prince Roy has a great post on the POW camp and memorial on the northeast coast.

  • A-gu comments on the KMT plan to avoid splits in the party, although Taiwan News is reporting that some disgruntled KMT legislators are vowing to enter the election anyway. A-gu also has links and comments on the visit to China by the Sell Out Brigade led by Lien Chan.

  • Thirsty Ghosts has an article on the Dublin futures betting on a Taiwan-China war.

  • The California Grill opens in Taipei, shameless plug courtesy of Holly.

  • Sunday, April 29, 2007

    The Bushman Takes a Wife

    This weekend we headed down to the southern port city of Kaohsiung for the wedding of my good friends Chu Hui-chen and Michael J. Klein, alias the Bushman. Had a very good time....married people love to see other people get married. After all, misery loves company....(ka-ching!)

    In other cultures, weddings are time for expansive celebrations. People fire off guns, hold parades and processions, dance, sing, have public toasting contests, host drunken brawls, have all-night parties, copulate in public, and compete to see who can sleep with a bridesmaid. I think that if the DPP is really serious about upgrading Taiwan, it can make great progress with the wedding situation here. In fact, I'd say the Taiwan wedding is in desperate need of reform. Perhaps a little brawling and public copulation might be just the ticket to liven them up....

    The modern wedding in Taiwan also gives good insight into the "traditional Chinese culture" preserved on Taiwan. You know, that traditional Chinese wedding, in which the bride and groom toast with French champagne, serve chocolates wrapped in tinfoil, get married in a white wedding gown, show slides of themselves, have traditional Chinese technologies like rubber balloons and photographs of the bride and groom, drink imported Japanese whiskey, eat several dishes slathered with the deeply traditional condiment of mayonnaise, play wedding music from 19th century Germany... I could go on. "Traditional Chinese culture" on Taiwan is an ever-shifting amalgam of the old and the new. It's fascinating to see how much it can change, and still have people say: "it's traditional." it's also fascinating to see how elements present in the folk culture of bygone centuries, such as the erotic, are represented in new garb in the modern age, as strippers, to be condemned as a modern innovation....

    ...but on to our story.

    Our tale begins in the central Taiwan town of Wufeng, where I teach at a university. We left the school late in the evening and zoomed down to Kaohsiung, where Michael had reserved a room for us at the swank Ambassador Hotel.

    The views out the window were amazing. Here's Kaohsiung, the Love River below us, and the port in the distance, in the early morning as the haze was burning off under a bright rising sun.

    Ghostly in the distance, ships load up.

    I was the official photographer. There was another guy, some poser, also taking photos, whose every photo was simply a stereotyped image too common to be worth preservation, whereas my shots conveyed the authentic reality of the wedding in a stunningly composed and truly innovative and unique visual record. This is because I was shooting with a Nikon D80, while he was using only a D70. Poor bastard.

    Michael with his new family.

    Michael and Hui-chen are cool as cucumbers before the ceremony.

    I spared no effort to get a shot (pic courtesy of my wife).

    KLEIN: "Is there still time to get away?" TURTON: "There's a fire escape next to that window there."

    The wedding was a group wedding with over 20 couples getting served that day -- it was a lucky day, and there weddings all over the island. Despite everyone getting married on lucky days, the divorce rate continues to rise. Maybe the fortune tellers are just doing it on purpose -- after all, nobody in a happy marriage goes to see the fortune teller.....(pic courtesy of my son)

    Here the magistrate asks Michael and Huichen to take their vows. From my outsider's perspective I thought it was a lot of fun and I was wholly moved. It seemed so reassuringly Taiwanese to have too many people crammed into too small a space, very re nao, each witnessing something private and public at the same time -- the couple getting married with the wife a obviously pregnant, the couple getting married, obviously the groom's second, judging from the teenage daughter's holding up the stepmother's train, the couple getting married with a jovially shouted "Wo yuan yi!" to the traditional question "Do you, John Doe, take.....". The magistrate struck a light but earnest note, abjured the couples to do well by one another, and took her role seriously and positively. My wife and I, who were married in a civil ceremony back in the days when a 386-20 was a fast computer, were carried back to that moment. Other people's weddings cause one to rethink one's own marriage. All I can say is that I am very lucky.....that she hasn't killed me yet.

    Exchanging the rings.

    Reception time!

    A reception like every other reception, all the relatives there, trading gossip over food.

    Bride and groom's table.

    Mark and I share an evil laugh at the success of our plan...(pic courtesy of my son). talk Michael into singing at the wedding. He's a fantastic singer, and was a huge hit.

    Michael and Huichen bid the guests good-bye.

    We went back to Taichung in the dead of night, and the next day, went for a hike. My son snapped my wife: sixteen wonderful years. Here's to sixteen more, and sixteen times sixteen.

    Beeb on Torch and China-Taiwan Forum

    The BBC reports on the Torch Relay Row and the recent China-"Taiwan" Forum...offering a peek at how the news is constructed. The Beeb opens with the following two sentences:

    Chinese President Hu Jintao has called for closer economic and cultural exchanges between China and Taiwan.

    Mr Hu was speaking at a China-Taiwan forum in Beijing, aimed at improving ties between the two rival neighbours.

    Is the forum really aimed at improving ties between the two nations? It would have been great if the Beeb had qualified that statement with a "China claimed" or "Beijing said" so that it was reporting, and not constructing, facts. If China was serious about building ties with Taiwan, then there are many steps it could take....

    In both this article and the previous one on the torch, the Beeb faithfully reported China's claim:

    The executive vice-president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), Jiang Xiaoyu said he was "surprised by [Taiwan's] attitude and comments".

    BOCOG believes the current attitude of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and its authorities... breached the principle of separating sport from politics as enshrined in the Olympic charter," Mr Jiang said.

    Amazingly, the Beeb's reporters failed to note that the torch route was politicized by China and that Taiwan's rejection was a response to that politicization. Methinks we're going to see a lot of reports like this in the international media, in which articles present the Chinese response, unchallenged by either Taipei or reality. The first torch article quotes from the Taiwan side, but the second article is entirely China-centric. A quote from Taipei would have added balance -- there was plenty of space, since the article managed to find room twice to describe that China sees Taiwan as part of its territory. Just in case readers had forgotten by the end of the article what had been said at the beginning, I suppose.

    The article also observes that China expressed its surprise at Taipei's decision to reject the torch route.

    But Taipei said the plan was unacceptable and compromised the island's sovereignty.

    In response, China expressed its surprise over Taipei's rejection of the plan.

    What if the BBC had qualified that by pointing out that Taiwan had long threatened to reject the route if it placed Taiwan in a position subordinate to China? It's an old complaint, but of all the news reports I read, the BBC's consistently offer the least context. I guess they had to save room to tell us twice that China sees Taiwan as part of its territory....

    The Beeb has a pithier formation of the island's history than some:

    Taiwan and China have been ruled by separate governments since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

    ...which isn't too bad, all things considered.

    Trivia: The article notes that 30 MPs (that's British English for legislator) from the KMT stopped by to kowtow to Hu. Isn't it time the Beeb stopped calling them MPs? I think readers of BBC are well enough educated to know that a legislator is a person in the legislature and that both those refer to members and representative bodies. Isn't it a bit silly to refer to Taiwan's legislators as MPs? Does the Beeb refer to the US Senate as the House of Lords?

    Daily Links, April 29, 2007

    The Central Weather Bureau says we can expect rain for the next two months....and there's plenty of traffic on the blogs....

    SPECIAL: Spent this weekend in Kaohsiung as my friend The Bushman Is Now Married! More on that later.

  • nostalgiaphile rips NTU for studying Shakespeare.

  • The meiguotaiwanren blogs on Mr Donut. Hey, my sympathy for the lost post. I switched to Firefox ages ago for just that reason...

  • Poagao nails the Blue-Green Divide.

  • Anarchy in Taiwan has a great post on Little Manila in Taipei. I don't know if the Filipino world is a lot more positive than the western expats, but I sure enjoy the time I spend hanging out in that other world.

  • Ilha Formosa blogs on evolution of the famous Darly toothpaste.

  • Pinyin news blogs on Mandarin's Four Languages.

  • Jerome blogs on China's injection of politics into the Olympics. Who wudda thunk it?

  • the Bushman does the drains. With pics.

  • Patrick discusses the history of Treasure Hill.

  • MEDIA: Taiwan's online game market worth $300 million. The terrifying phenomenon of missing bees is hitting Taiwan too.

    The Torch is Passed

    The Taipei Times put out a hard-hitting editorial on the vapid International Olympic Committee and the torch situation:

    The disingenuousness of the International Olympic ommittee (IOC) is breathtaking. To allow China to host an Olympics at all should have been warning enough; for IOC officials to now feign surprise at Taiwan's unhappiness with its proposed torch route suggests that there are still many feeble words and actions to come from them in the months to come.

    But it's hard to imagine more feeble words than IOC officials pleading for Taiwan to separate politics from sport, apparently oblivious of the IOC's employment of the Olympics in Games past to heal political differences between states.

    After abusing the IOC, the editorial goes on to observe:

    The presence of the torch was always going to be "political"; the real question was how the politics was going to be employed and whether an understanding was ever possible between Taipei and Beijing.

    The fact that the Olympic torch's journey within Taiwan was restricted to the metropolis of Taipei suggests that the Chinese and the IOC took the ridiculous name of "Chinese Taipei" all too literally. If there had been a sincere attempt to coax Taiwanese into the spirit of the Games, the torch route might have been able to go elsewhere -- Kaohsiung, the east coast, rural Taiwan, an Aboriginal village or two. Instead, the whole process smacked of tokenism -- and possibly a kickback to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which holds power in the capital.

    It is difficult to see how a compromise can be reached without either side backing down, and neither side will be inclined to do so.

    But if by some miracle the torch ends up on Taiwanese soil, no one who cares about Taiwan's freedom from Chinese violence could deny the right of people to protest its presence. And what a circus would result, with images beamed around the world (but censored in China): groups of colorfully dressed protesters from all around the country, on every street corner, on every sidewalk, hanging out of windows -- all holding big buckets of water.

    One thing is for sure -- when Taiwan gave up the torch, it gave up a great chance to stage a huge protest over China's treatment of Taiwan, and treatment of its own people, as the torch transited the island -- with a large international audience. One reason that China might have sent the torch through Taipei is to minimize that possibility, since the capital is a stronghold of the pro-China parties.

    UPDATE: Wulingren notes in the comments below:

    It is interesting what the Chinese official said about not injecting politics into a sporting event, because Chen Chu said the same thing last week about China. She was complaining about the fact that Kaohsiung's deputy mayor was denied a visa to go to China. He was planning to attend a sports conference in Beijing to promote the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung.

    Statues and Colonialism here and there

    Recent events in Estonia show how colonial monuments are typically treated during a transition to democracy, with some strong parallels to our situation here in Taiwan:
    Estonia took away the controversial statue of a Red Army Soviet soldier from the center of the capital early yesterday after violent riots against its removal in which one man was killed.

    The 2m high bronze statue of a World War II Red Army soldier was spirited away overnight after the worst violence seen in years in Estonia, including vandalism and looting by mainly Russian-speaking protesters.

    "The aim of the government decision was to avoid further possible actions against the public order," the Estonian government said, and the president called for calm.>

    Like the statues in Taiwan, the statue in Estonia is a symbol of the former authoritarian government controlled by outsiders:

    Estonia has said the monument is a public order problem as it attracts Estonian and Russian nationalists. It also said it is more respectful to the dead for it to be moved to a cemetery.

    Removing it angered some Russian-speakers, a large minority of around 300,000 in the country of 1.3 million. Estonians tend to view it as a reminder of 50 years of Soviet occupation.

    Like Taiwan too, the huge neighboring power which has connections to a minority of locals who identify with it, and nurses dreams of annexing it, got angry:

    Russia's upper house of parliament yesterday approved a resolution calling for a break in diplomatic relations with Estonia in retaliation for the removal of a Soviet war monument from central Tallinn.

    The non-binding resolution was approved unanimously by the senate and comes amid furious reactions from Moscow after the removal of the monument, which sparked violent clashes in Estonia.

    The senate "calls on the leadership of the Russian Federation to adopt the toughest possible measures, including a break in diplomatic relations," it said.

    Russia's reaction should "show that modern Russia categorically does not accept the barbaric attitude of Estonian authorities to the memory of those who were victorious against fascism," it said.
    There many other parallels -- after Chiang Kai-shek's Stalin's death the local Kuomintang Communist Party expanded its membership to include Estonians, while simultaneously moving to suppress local culture. Chinese Russian was taught in the primary schools. A key difference, though, was that the West recognized the illegal nature of Soviet rule over Estonia and the independence of Estonia, while the Chiang regime had strong Western support and Taiwan independence was simply a card that the US, among others, might consider playing if necessary.

    The case of the post-Soviet states in Eastern Europe shows how normal it is, in the transition to democracy, for the emerging democratic institutions to sweep away the monuments the colonial regime erected to itself and rename its institutions and organizations. What's happening in Taiwan is normal.

    Jim Mann makes an interesting point in his new book on China, The China Fantasy, which describes how people in Washington rationalize away the repression in China. One way, he notes, is that dissidents in the Soviet world were cool, whereas dissidents in the Chinese sphere...are not so cool. One need only contrast the patronizing commentaries on Taiwan's name changes with the widespread cheering for exactly the same events in post-Soviet eastern Europe to see his point.

    Google Maps: Now with full Taiwan Support!

    Jason at WTT now informs me that Google Maps now supports Taiwan right down to the individual alleyway!

    Friday, April 27, 2007

    IHT: Taiwan Refuses Olympic Torch

    It's all over the news, so go see it for yourself: Taiwan has become the first nation to ever refuse the Olympic Torch:

    Within hours of Beijing's announcement Thursday of what would be the longest torch relay in Olympic history — a 137,000-kilometer (85,000-mile), 130-day route that would cross five continents and scale Mount Everest — Taiwan rejected being included.

    "It is something that the government and people cannot accept," Tsai Chen-wei, the head of Taiwan's Olympic Committee, said in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.

    The episode underscores the deep mistrust between Beijing and Taipei, antagonists in an unresolved civil war, and how entwined the Olympics become with politics.

    Aside from Taiwan, the torch is also supposed to pass through another political hotspot, the Himalayan region of Tibet which China has controlled for 57 years, often with heavy-handed rule. Four American activists were detained by Chinese authorities Wednesday on Mount Everest after they unfurled a banner calling for Tibet's independence.

    So what's interesting? Well, everyone knows that China seeks to annex Taiwan, so naturally, they sent the torch through Taiwan and thence to Hong Kong and into China, a "domestic" route. More interesting than that, though, are the two stops prior to that, Vietnam and North Korea. The Taiwan News reported yesterday:

    Wu Ching-kuo (吳經國), Taiwan's sole IOC member, urged the public not to link the torch to politics, stressing that the torch relay should be a purely athletic event.

    Speaking to reporters in Beijing, Wu said that he thought the route proposed by Beijing was reasonable. He said that because the land of North Korea and the land of Vietnam are both connected to mainland China, Wu said, Beijing decided that the torch should pass through Pyongyang and Ho Chi Minh City before entering Taipei.

    Korea and Vietnam are both places that China has traditionally viewed as culturally subordinate to China. In recent years China and Vietnam have been adjudicating a new boundary, one that activists in Hanoi claim gives too much land to China. There was also a flap a couple of years ago about Chinese claims to Korea via slanted claims about Korea history.

    It is clear that Beijing considers this route between Taiwan and Hong Kong a domestic one. The question is, what other parts of the route are seen as domestic in Beijing?

    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    Warner Warns Taiwan

    The good Senator from Virginia, a crusty old school paleocon, yesterday warned Taiwan not to do anything provocative yesterday in a hearing aimed at the new US commander in the Asia-Pacific region:
    A leading critic of Taiwan in the US Congress has warned Taiwan not to cause "another problem" for the US at a time when its military is heavily involved in Iraq and elsewhere.

    Senator John Warner, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and committee chairman until the Democratic Party took control of Congress in January, warned Taiwan's leaders not to "play the Taiwan Relations [Act] (TRA)."

    He was referring to the provision of the Act that commits US forces to maintain a state of readiness to assist Taiwan in case of an escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

    Warner made the comments during his questioning of the new US forces commander in the Pacific, Admiral Timothy Keating, at a committee hearing that dealt with security issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.

    It was not the first time Warner has issued such a warning. Last year, when he was chairman, he said that the US might not be willing to aid Taiwan against a Chinese invasion or other hostile military acts, as called for in the TRA, if Taiwan was seen as provoking Beijing.

    Several issues are striking here. First, the repetition of the common misconception that the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) somehow obligates the US to act in Taiwan's defense. Section 3 of the Act is very clear in this regard:
    SEC. 3. (a) In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 2 of this Act, the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.

    (b) The President and the Congress shall determine the nature and quantity of such defense articles and services based solely upon their judgment of the needs of Taiwan, in accordance with procedures established by law. Such determination of Taiwan's defense needs shall include review by United States military authorities in connection with recommendations to the President and the Congress.

    (c) The President is directed to inform the Congress promptly of any threat to the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan and any danger to the interests of the United States arising therefrom. The President and the Congress shall determine, in accordance with constitutional processes, appropriate action by the United States in response to any such danger.
    Look at 3(c) closely. The Act simply mandates that the President notify Congress of a threat, and that they shall next determine what to do. Taiwan is nowhere involved in the process, and nowhere does it mandate armed response. I do not know if Senator Warner understand this -- it seems unlikely that he doesn't -- but Taiwan cannot "play that TRA" because there is nothing for Taiwan to play. 3(b) says that the President and the Congress shall "solely" make the determination -- in other words, Taiwan is overtly excluded from this process. Nothing in the TRA excludes the possibility of Congress and the President jointly washing their hands of Taiwan while publicly announcing that Taiwan is sufficiently protected. The TRA is simply Congress' way of chucking Taiwan on the chin and saying "Here's looking at you, kid."

    Warner's words also remind this reader of the implicit connection between our defeat in Iraq and Taiwan. As long as the US is emptying its treasury and bleeding its military in defeat in Iraq, it cannot pursue a vigorous policy of leadership in Asia. For Asia's sake, we need to wind up that war yesterday. One cannot help but point out, though, that a nation that has been defeated in an unprovoked and illegal war in Iraq (which Warner voted for) is really not in a position to warn other nations not to do stupid, provocative stuff.

    The third issue here is the problem of "provocation." Warner no doubt means something serious, like declaring independence (as if!), but it is worth noting, again, that "being provoked" is a policy choice for Beijing, not some visceral emotional reaction that it can't control. Chinese authorities decide whether and how much they are provoked, because they have come to understand that if they have a sufficiently annoyed snit fit, the State Department and other US organs will come to their aid in suppressing Taiwan. "Being provoked" is an important tool of Beijing's -- and now Senator Warner has just publicly informed the authorities there that their policy is a success.

    Sunday (4/29) English Language Night at the Brass Monkey

    The Brass Monkey, a Taipei pub, sent this around:

    The Brass Monkey
    English Language Night this Sunday

    April 29 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.) Note, that you can save $50 by reserving in advance! To receive your $50 discount, send an email to, our language night Coordinator, and tell her how many are coming. Reservations are not required, however, so if you can't "get your act together", just come on down! Bring friends or come alone; either way, you're sure to have a good time.

    The Science of Lying

    Lying is very stressful. Parts of your body are going to act differently when you lie. These differences are what lie detectors, or polygraphs, measure. These machines check a person's heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure.

    Can you tell easily if a person is lying? How can lying be useful? Are you familiar with the story of Pinocchio? How often do you tell lies? Bring your experiences and opinions this Sunday, for a lively discussion.

    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 this, 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!

    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 (click here for more information) provides a relaxing atmosphere and native English speakers are often there to help you speak English. Many Taiwanese used to say they don't have a chance to practice English in Taiwan. Now, this is an opportunity you shouldn't miss." -- Anonymous satisfied attendee

    See you Sunday!

    The Brass Monkey
    voice: 02-2547-5050

    Taiwan Volunteers Needed for Summer Work in Thailand and Myanmar

    A fellow blogger informs me that the Taiwan World Youth Volunteer Association is looking for people to work with Chinese and Karen refugees in Thailand and Myanmar.


    We are still looking for some overseas volunteer associations that might want to join our Northern-Thai summer camp. Maybe you know some associations interested in the subject. Thanks!

    David HUANG

    Taiwan World Youth Volunteer Association
    80759 高雄市三民區九如二路179-3號4樓
    TEL:+886 7 316-0607 FAX:+886 7 316-0610

    Nukes or Blackouts!

    The pro-nuke side is pushing nuclear power, and threatening blackouts within three years. Been there, done that, the first time around. Bloomberg reports:
    China's missiles may not be the biggest danger to Taiwan. An impending power shortage could cause blackouts within three years and weaken the nation's economy.

    Power production is failing to keep pace with demand because of a ban on new nuclear plants and delays in completing projects already underway, says Jeffrey Bor, a fellow at the Chung-hua Institution for Economic Research, which advises the government.

    "The chance of large-scale blackouts is quite high," he says. "Defense against missiles should be of lower importance because the chance of an attack is slim."

    President Chen Shui-bian's government has ignored long-term economic planning because of his drive to secure Taiwan's formal independence from China, says political scientist Yang Tai- shuenn. Power supply disruptions may accelerate the exodus of Taiwanese manufacturers, who already fill more than 40 percent of their export orders through overseas factories.

    There are a couple of good hacks on President Chen which anyone can recognize as pro-forma Blue propaganda. Threats of blackouts are the usual tactic whenever the nuke side wants to advance their cause, used back when the plant was first proposed (needless to say, no nightmare blackout scenario occurred).

    In 2000 when the DDP came to power it proposed phasing out the nuke plant, but the KMT was committed to nukes and threatened to have Chen recalled over the issue. The DPP wanted to emphasize natural gas, but then natural gas prices skyrocketed, making that choice expensive and the DPP look foolish.

    Is the government not focused on Taiwan's needs for energy? Here's a picture I took in Hsinchu last year:

    There are wind power plants all over the island. I haven't see many good figures on wind energy here, but it is my understanding that Taiwan has enough wind potential to supply its own needs, especially once offshore wind is factored in. Fortunately the Bloomberg reporter, despite the provocative and misleading headline, did go out and get the government's side, pointing out that the government is investing in renewables. Jeffrey Bor, the researcher cited in the article, has long pushed nukes for CIER.

    The energy issue is a case of a genuine policy difference between the two parties that the DPP should be exploiting more. ITRI has a page on wind (Chinese, not so good) and a short precis in Anglais on wind in Taiwan.

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    Ted Galen Carpenter on US and Taiwan Defense Policy

    Last year Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute published a book discussing why we shouldn't defend Taiwan. This year he's back to work on the issue of defending Taiwan, this time complaining in the Asian Wall Street Journal that Taiwan is free riding on the US defense network:

    The Taiwan legislature's reluctance to pass a "special defense budget" to pay for U.S. weapons systems looks set to continue as the island's presidential campaign heats up. That leaves America in the unenviable position of having an implicit commitment to defend a fellow democracy that doesn't seem especially interested in defending itself.

    First, the good thing: Carpenter understands the difference between Blue and Green and their respective positions on the defense purchase:

    Though Mr. Chen's administration has repeatedly scaled back the deal, reducing it in stages to a mere $10.3 billion, from $18.5 billion, prospects for its passage have barely budged. So far, the Pan Blue coalition has blocked a vote on the measure more than 60 times. It took until December of last year for the majority to agree even to send the proposal for consideration in the budgetary committee. U.S. President George Bush grew so disgusted with Taipei's behavior last month that he personally overruled a Pentagon arms proposal for the island unless and until the special defense budget is approved.

    Then Carpenter veers into the mad mad media world, going to blame President Chen for being, you know, "provocative." Mad Chen, the Crazed Independence Radical, strikes again!

    A very disturbing dynamic is developing in Taiwan. On the one hand, Mr. Chen's government seems determined to consolidate Taiwan's separate political status -- even if that means taking measures Beijing regards as highly provocative. The latest incidents include, for instance, Taipei's decision to rename various state corporations to substitute "Taiwan" for "China." Yet even as Taipei adopts ever more assertive policies toward the mainland, it underinvests in defense. Its spending on essential matters like procurement, operations, training, and personnel has shrunk, in real terms, by more than 50% since 1993, and continues to contract at an alarming rate. Taiwan's regular defense budget has plunged to an anemic 2.2% of its annual GDP.

    Chen cannot help but be provocative, because being provoked is a choice China makes. Writing like this makes China the helpless victim of Chen's actions, rather than a calculated actor making use of all its agency in international arenas to lead, and to mislead.

    Further, as I and others have stated (see Mark Harrison's commentary below this one), name rectification is a normal and inevitable step in the democratic evolution of the island. Taiwan is simply restoring the name "Taiwan" to items that were originally named "Taiwan" in many cases, like the shipbuilding and posts.

    Thus, in the rhetorical world Carpenter builds, Taiwan is being "provocative" on one hand while cutting defense spending on the other:

    From America's standpoint, Taiwan's political leaders are creating the worst possible combination: the DPP's provocative cross-straits policy with the KMT's irresponsible policy on defense spending. That is a blueprint for trouble. China has already deployed nearly 1,000 ballistic missiles across the Taiwan Strait, and Beijing's military modernization program appears heavily oriented toward credibly threatening military action against Taiwan. A bold cross-straits policy, coupled with inadequate defense spending, virtually invites a Chinese challenge.

    At least this time around he mentioned the missiles China points at Taiwan. Carpenter does not face the strong role of the US in creating this mess by jacking up the price of the submarines and refusing to give Taiwan any co-production role (getting all historical and suchlike, I must remind that the KMT is on Taiwan because of our intervention). In Carpenter's rhetorical world, it is all Taiwan's fault, a sad trait shared by many observers in the US, and a position China wants observers to take. Too bad Carpenter buys right into it.

    Chen's actions are not "a blueprint for trouble." China makes noise whenever Taiwan takes any action in the international sphere. Readers may recall that the National Unification Council (NUC), which Chen froze last year to international farce dismay, was opposed by China when it was erected. There is no way Taiwan can exercise its democracy -- indeed, make almost any autonomous international decision -- without peeving China...and it should be noted, China gets "provoked" because "being provoked" is how China achieves leverage over Taiwan -- bullying the international community into complicity in suppressing Taiwan's democratic development and international space. Hence it pays China to get "provoked."

    Rhetorical blindness finally overtakes Carpenter at the end:

    It is even worse to incur such risks on behalf of a client state that is not willing to make a meaningful defense effort.

    As Mark Stokes, who used to run the Pentagon's Taiwan policy, said last year, in Taiwan there are pilots prepared to board aircraft for suicide missions against China should war arise (and all honor to them, for they are men). There are people on Taiwan who spend their whole professional life preparing to die for this island. But Carpenter surely does not mean to denigrate them, so what can he be talking about? Because Carpenter cannot be talking about the Taiwan I live on. As the Congressional Research Service observes:

    As for U.S. arms transfers to Taiwan, they have been significant despite the absence of diplomatic relations or a treaty alliance. The value of deliveries of U.S. defense articles and services to Taiwan totaled $7.7 billion in the 1997-2000 period and $4 billion in 2001-2004. Among worldwide customers, Taiwan ranked 2nd (behind Saudi Arabia) in 1997-2000 and 4th (behind Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Japan) in 2001-2004. In 2004 alone, Taiwan ranked 5th among worldwide recipients, receiving $1.1 billion in U.S. defense articles and services. Values for U.S. agreements with and deliveries to Taiwan are summarized below.

    1997-2000 period 2001-2004 period 2004
    U.S. Agreements $1,900 million $1,200 million $590 million
    U.S. Deliveries $7,700 million $4,000 million $1,100 million

    From worldwide sources, including the United States, Taiwan received $13.9 billion in arms deliveries in the eight-year period from 1998 to 2005. Taiwan ranked 3rd (behind Saudi Arabia and China) among leading recipients that are developing countries. Of that total, Taiwan received $9.8 billion in arms in 1998-2001 and $4.1 billion in 2002-2005. In 2005 alone, Taiwan ranked 6th and received $1.3 billion in arms deliveries, while the PRC ranked 5th and received arms valued at $1.4 billion. As an indication of future arms acquisitions, Taiwan’s arms agreements in 2002- 2005 totaled $4.9 billion. The value of Taiwan’s arms agreements in 2005 alone did not place it among the top ten recipients that are developing countries.

    What does Taiwan have to do to get Carpenter's approval? Here are the budget numbers from the CRS report:

    Note that the budget is pretty much the same every year. This means that in real terms expenditure is falling. One might argue that viewing in dollar terms is unfair -- in 1994 $250 billion NT$ got you almost $10 billion greenbacks, now it gets you just under $8 -- but recall that Taiwan's overseas weapons purchases are dollar-denominated and so the exchange rate gives a meaningful indication of the island's falling purchasing power. Except --wait -- weapons procurements are typically funded out of Special Budgets which amount to another US$22.6 billion over 1994-2003, spending that went for purchases of fighters and military housing.

    There is no question that the island's defense budget must rise. There is also no question that forcing Taiwan to purchase submarines at three times the world rate while not giving the island any co-production is short-sighted and counterproductive -- and a poor use of limited and precious defense dollars. It is not for nothing that many observers are recommending that Taiwan build its own submarines -- weapons, it should be noted, that the US refused Taiwan for two decades, because they have no obvious defensive function! In other words, Carpenter excoriates the island for not wanting to purchase weapons the US said it didn't need for better part of two decades. The gods of history love irony....

    And more irony: since Taiwan won't buy subs, the President has indicated that he doesn't want to sell it fighters. Surely a more reasonable US position to take is to sell the island fighters, the one weapon it really needs, while pressuring it to purchase the other weapons using less dangerous leverage. It is one thing to say: you're not doing enough to defend yourself. It is quite another to say: you have to defend yourself in exactly the way we tell you to....

    Thus, Taiwan is too making a "meaningful defense effort." It is one of the largest arms importers in the world. It is revamping its military organization, procuring radar, command and control, and land warfare systems. It may not be up to the levels that Carpenter would like to see, but no one can deny that Taiwan puts quite a bit of emphasis on defense.

    Carpenter finishes:

    America is in an unrewarding and potentially dangerous position. Washington must make it clear to all political players in Taiwan, especially the Pan Blue leaders, that free riding on America's military might cannot continue.

    Yes, perhaps America is in an unrewarding and potentially dangerous position. If so, it has only itself to blame for this mess -- rational pricing, a friendly co-production strategy, some patient commitment to the democracy side in the island's politics, constant pressure on the pro-China parties -- and all of this might have been avoided. (I am delighted that Carpenter calls for some sharp policy directed at the pan-Blue leaders -- here the US has not yet realized that effort on the pan-Blues must be direct and sustained, not fitful and clumsily aimed at "Taiwan.")

    Withal, it must be said: it is high time US opinion leaders focused on a major cause of the problem: the United States. Sort out our own behavior, and Taipei will perforce follow.

    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    Name Rectification Commentary in Oz Paper

    Mark Harrison points to a great commentary on the name rectification issue (I assume he wrote it):

    China has observed Taiwan’s renaming of its identity and history with frustration and sometimes anger. But it has learned that belligerence serves only to define Taiwan’s identity as Taiwanese all the more sharply, and so in recent years the public statements of the Chinese government have become more circumspect and ritualized. Despite China’s ascendancy as a global power, without direct control over the island it is limited to either military action or intervention in proscribed parts of the international community, especially those where the Taiwanese government also operates. In that arena China has been aggressive and uncompromising, shutting down any and all international space for the island to operate as “Taiwan”.

    However, as effective as China has been in the areas available to it, in the wider field of global commerce, media and civil society, China is actually losing the fight over naming Taiwan. For the first time, on its 60th anniversary in February, the 1947 uprising was widely reported in the international media, even if much of that reporting failed to understand its significance. That Taiwan is a centre of the global computer industry is also widely known. More fundamentally, since the name Formosa fell into disuse in the 1960s, it has been common sense that the name Taiwan refers to an island in the northern Pacific and China to a great nation on the mainland of Asia. No one who says they are visiting “China” then travels to Taipei. As Confucius would have understood perfectly clearly,the Chinese government’s goal of the accession of Taiwan means overcoming the power of language itself.
    Go read the rest.