Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Sunday my good friend Jason W. flew in from overseas to visit old friends and old haunts. Andrew Kerslake and I picked him up at the airport and then hung out in Taipei, hooking up with the acutely intelligent and hilarious Jason Cox, who works at the Taipei Times, then heading to Tamshui to watch the sun set.
(TVBS) In Taichung's District #3, DPP legislature candidate Hsieh Hsin-ni lost her primary election but she has filed an appeal on the grounds that one of the polling research companies had an improper business relationship with her opponent and this company gave her really bad numbers that resulted in her losing by 0.28%.
Yesterday, the office of Hsieh-Hsin-ni received a threatening letter which contained a bullet. The letter told her not to support DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh anymore.
Hsieh Hsin-ni had appealed to the Appeals Committee of five persons, of which three agreed that there was a procedure flaw in the selection of the polling research companies. But there was also no evidence of wrongdoing by that research company. The matter has been referred to higher levels. If the polls should have to be taken over again, then Hsieh Hsin-ni's current public campaign against the nefarious collusion between her opponent and the polling company will in fact be an unfair factor in the public's mind. That is to day, a poll taking back then and a poll next week will differ to the extent that the public has been exposed to blanket coverage of the public brawl. Oh, yes, it is also well-known that bullets can affect election outcomes in Taiwan.
That last sentence appears to refer to the assassination attempt on Chen Shui-bian by a disgruntled Blue supporter the day before the 2004 Presidential election. It's an article of faith among the pro-Blue crowd that Chen arranged to have himself shot, or dickered the surgery, or something, but anyway, it was all a conspiracy, and of course, it swung the election over to Chen. This theory is on par with alien abduction claims and spoon-bending and other claims of faith that fly in the face of reality -- those same people who constantly claim that Chen and the DPP are hopeless incompetents nevertheless argue that they pulled off a conspiracy involving a cast of thousands at several different locations. The one good thing about, however, is that it makes it easy to sort out who is pro-Blue: pretty much anyone who pushes this theory.
Reality is a bit different than the pro-Blue fantasies alluded to by ESWN, however. It is an article of faith among the Blues that the assassination swung Chen over the edge, giving him the election, but no evidence exists to support this claim. In fact, Agence France Press (AFP) reported on March 7, 2004, that the pro-Blue China Times had come out with a poll showing that the election was close and that Chen had a slight lead over Lien Chan on March 6, 40-38. DPP internal polls were also showing a very tight election with Lien Chan trailing Chen Shui-bian as well by this time. Two days later the pro-Green Taiwan Thinktank came out with a poll that showed results similar to the pro-Blue polls, putting Chen up 40-39.5. In other words, both sides had the election was tight with Chen leading two weeks prior to the assassination attempt.
Chen won by less than 1% of the vote, a number that would have been greater if invalid ballots had been counted, as they had in previous elections. In early March he was leading by up to 2%. Any way you cut it, there's no support in any numbers for a claim that the assassination gave Chen the victory. Instead, any rational analysis of the 2004 election results would have to start with the incompetence of the Blues, who thought they had the election in the bag, mailed in their campaign, and blew a 20 point lead from the 2000 election - a lead that shrank steadily from December of 2003 on. They also had no counter for the 2-28 rally three weeks prior to the election that brought together people from all over the island, and apparently pushing up Chen's support. The DPP government thoughtfully arranged for the Taipei-Ilan tunnel to open five days before the election, and several other things, such as a last-minute endorsement of Chen by Nobel Laureate Lee Yuan-tse, also fell the DPP's way. Fundamentally, if you start with a 20+% lead, and lose by 1%, then you're the one with a problem.
The full irony of the KMT selecting Lien Chan as its Presidential candidate in 2004 is that in 2000, when the Blue vote was split between Lien Chan (24%) and James Soong (38%), enabling Chen to win with 39% of the vote, Deep Blue conspiracy theorists blamed Lee Teng-hui for promoting the candidacy of Lien Chan as a way to split the Blues. Wikipedia records:
Though more popular and consistently ranked higher in the polls, the outspoken former Taiwan Governor James Soong failed to gain the Kuomintang's nomination. As a result, he announced his candidacy as an independent candidate. The Kuomintang responded by expelling Soong and twenty one of his allies in November 1999. It is a very common belief by KMT supporters that President Lee Teng-hui was secretly supporting Chen Shui-bian, and purposely supported the less popular Lien in order to split the Kuomintang, and this belief was given a great deal of credibility after the 2000 election with Lee defected to the pan-Green coalition. Soong, a mainlander, tried to appeal to the native Taiwanese by nominating pro-independence surgeon Chang Chao-hsiung as his running-mate.
In other words, the KMT conspiracy position on the 2000 election recognizes, explicitly, that Lien Chan was too unpopular to win. Yet in 2004 that very same KMT went ahead and nominated that very same Lien Chan themselves!
It is clear that the function of the Chen Asassination conspiracy claim is twofold: it exists to attack Chen Shui-bian, and to more importantly, to divert attention from the incompetence and venality of the Blues.
On a lighter note, in that same post ESWN observes that
Late today, independent legislator Li Ao's office received a threatening letter with a bullet in it. The author claimed to be the leader of a criminal gang and he used foul to language to call Li Ao a coward who is taking money from Frank Hsieh. The writer also said that only Ma Ying-jeou can save taiwan.
Li Ao is a pro-annexation mainlander who ran for President in 2000 on the New Party ticket, the first of the many parties to spin off from the KMT. Li Ao, you may recall, gassed the legislature last year. Li once brandished a knife during a legislative session and told Minister of Defense Lee Jye that he should castrate himself. He has also claimed that the CIA gave him information that Chen arranged his own assassination. Li, who was once a useful public intellectual, has become a clown who told the authorities in Beijing that he hopes they have another 1,000 years of rule....
This is not the first time for Li Ao to make a bullet claim. A couple of years ago he also reported that he recieved a bullet in the mail. Let's hope the police find the culprit, whom I suspect will not be very far from Li Ao's mailbox....
[Taiwan] [Li Ao] [ESWN] [media] [Chen Shui-bian] [KMT]
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
China considers Taiwan a breakaway province but many in Taipei consider the island independent. The United States formally sees Taiwan as part of China but has limited relations with leaders on Taiwan.
It gets the US position on Taiwan wrong -- that is only the State Department's pro-Beijing stance. But it is absolutely wonderful to see an international article that asserts Taiwan independence as an equal and opposite view of the PRC's propaganda claim that Taiwan is a "breakaway" province. The findings?
Some 53.5 percent of U.S. participants in a May 16-18 Zogby interactive poll either strongly agreed (20.6 percent) or somewhat agreed (32.9 percent) that the United States has a responsibility to defend Taiwan should it be attacked by China. Another 21.5 percent somewhat disagreed and 14.5 percent strongly disagreed. A relatively high figure of 10.5 percent wasn't sure.
Self-described Republicans were more likely to voice support for Taiwan (70.5 percent saying either strongly agree or somewhat agree) compared to Democratic participants (8.5 percent strongly agree and 29.3 percent somewhat agree).
Asked if a Sino-U.S. military conflict is likely in the near future, 5.7 percent of respondents said it was very likely, 26.1 percent said somewhat likely, 39.7 percent said somewhat unlikely and 20.8 percent said very unlikely.
There is a 1.4-percentage-point margin of error in the data, which was taken from information provided by 5,141 U.S. residents.
Only 8 percent of Dems? Clearly we pro-Taiwan types have to be posting at DailyKos more often!
[Taiwan] [China] [US] [media]
Battlepanda blogs on the recent Council of Agriculture initiative to get people to eat more rabbits. Why stop there? Dog-eating is part of Chinese culture, and the streets are full of meat on the hoof... Craig Ferguson has some wonderful images of the abandoned resort out at Feitsuiwan. These weird buildings have been the subject of many wonderful photo series over the years. Todd continues his wonderful collection of KinmenMatsu photos. David trips out to Sanzhi, birthplace of Lee Teng-hui. The Foreigner comments on renaming CKS Memorial, not positively. Jerome rips the China Post for distorting history. Feiren has a kickass post on Hsieh the "Moderate". Lotsa people are going to be writing articles about "Hsieh the disappointment" in a couple of years. You foreigners can never know anything about Chinese martial arts. Formosa Neijia comments.
Paishawan beach on the northern coast of Taipei County was listed as one of the ten most dangerous seashores in Taiwan by the Coast Guard Administration (CGA).
Other locations on the CGA list of places where people should take precaution when escaping the summer heat include Peace Island off Keelung, Santiao Cape on the northeast coast scenic area in Taipei County, and Chishintan in Hualien County.
Kenting National Park also made the list, with CGA listing an area near the Chuanfanshi rock as a dangerous seashore, while Anping Harbor in Tainan and Chichin in Kaohsiung are some of the prominent scenic spots on the list.
I constantly tell my own students that they have to learn to swim. Swimming, I tell them, should be viewed as a necessary skill, not a leisure activity. I read several years ago that drowning is the number 2 cause of death among Taiwanese students abroad, while at home, 411 people drowned last year on Taiwan. Many of those people might have survived with a little swimming ability.
The paper also reported:
Officials are warning people to take heed of warning signs along the coast or rivers and lakes in the inland area in pursuing swimming or other water activities during the summer.
Yesterday, a high school student drowned near a waterfall in the Taiping scenic area in Taichung County after jumping from a 10-meter high cliff.Police had to maneuver through steep cliffs along a river to recover the body of the student
My friend Jason, on a visit from the US, and Andrew Kerslake (more on them later) were out at the waterfall yesterday and sent me these pictures:
do not mix.
The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) likely presidential candidate, former premier Frank Hsieh (
謝長廷), is known for his moderate stance. He has been advocating the concept of "reconciliation and coexistence" and has said that he would be happy to team up with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou ( 馬英九) against the Chinese Communist Party if elected.
In a bid to court voters in the middle of the political spectrum, the KMT is expected to revise its party charter next month and include "Taiwan-centered" values in the revised version. The changes will mark the first ever mention of "Taiwan" in the party's charter.
Ma, who is born to Mainlander parents, has been trying to convince Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), a non-Mainlander, to pair up with him in the presidential race.
In some political theories, movement toward the center is known as the principle of minimum differentiation: since there is some amount of public policy X that is best to have, politicians in rational electoral systems will both move toward that, and after a while, will come to look like each other. That is essentially what had happened in the US until the rise of the Right after the late 1970s perturbed the cozy Republicrat political Establishment. That is also what has happened here in Taiwan: across a wide range of issues, there is broad agreement on what the System should look like. If only it weren't for that pesky national identity thing.....
One of the analysts they talked to appeared to have things down pretty well:
Wu Chih-chung (
吳志中), a political science professor at Soochow University, said that it was logical for political parties to take a pragmatic approach, but added that he did not think there would be much room for moderate parties.
Hsieh may be a moderate and the KMT seems poised to change its party charter, but what the two parties do does not necessarily reflect their intention to move toward the center, Wu said.
Citing the recent wrangling over the name change of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall as an example, Wu said that the issue was a perfect example of an ideological battle between the pan-blue and pan-green camps.
As the upcoming legislative elections will adopt a new electoral system, Wu said the DPP and KMT would continue to dominate local politics and smaller parties would find it difficult to survive. In order to win votes, the two bigger parties will continue to use ideological issues as their political leverage to consolidate support.
The Chinese factor also plays a significant role, Wu said. The more Beijing suppresses Taiwan, the more the public resists and the more Taiwanese resist, the less room smaller parties have.
Wu said that many people detest the political bickering between the two camps, but when it comes to elections, voters stand by the two main parties.
This is what I have been saying too. Since only national identity issues separate the parties (along with renewable energy and a few other items), voters can only distinguish between the KMT and the DPP on national identity lines, and respond accordingly even if they do make noises now and then about the political bickering.
What of the other analyst? He noted:
Chao Yung-mau (
趙永茂), a political science professor at National Taiwan University, said that it was clear that political parties wanted to move toward the center to win votes because they realized moderate voters played a significant role in elections.
It is a good sign that political parties want to adjust their course, Chao said, adding that they should map out details of their new policies rather than just touting their changes.
Chao said the KMT's plan to change its party charter was a move made in response to the DPP's efforts to tap into swing voters. It remains to be seen whether the two parties can quell the concerns of their party members while making changes.
This analyst is still working with the mental that there is a "political spectrum" out there that voters move along, and the goal is to capture the undecided "moderate" voters in the middle. That one looks something like:
Under this view, people at the ends are basically unthinking robots who simply act out the political demands of their masters, while those smart moderates in the center can be captured by good public policy offerings. Reality is, of course, opposite -- anyone who lies between Green and Blue in Taiwan isn't a moderate swing voter, but someone totally apathetic about the system and not participating in voting. The fundamental assumption of the "spectrum" view above is that moderates shade into radicals on either end, and that there are a lot more moderates who can be captured by offering good public policy aimed at the center. That assumption used to be paradigmatic for the United States, but it doesn't work very well for Taiwan. In my opinion, Taiwan looks something like this:
Under this view, "swinging" takes place only when a voter shifts political identity from one line to the other. On the left end are the core voters who reliably come out to vote Green or Blue, who are generally labeled "deep". On the right end are voters who are meh about their own identities and stay home if they don't like the candidate, usually labeled "light" in the press. My view here recognizes several realities about Taiwan:
there is no spectrum. The light voters do not blend into each other at the end since these political identities have no overlap; they cancel each other out. Hence, the lines do not touch. there are a lot more Green voters. More Greens are Light Greens. there are fewer Blue voters overall. Relatively fewer Blues are Light Blues. this works only at the national level. For the local level, apply to your local clan and patronage networks. In this view the distinguishing characteristic of Core and Light voters is willingness to vote. The spectrum is not one of identity vs. policy, but of voter apathy. That is why the "middle" contains people who don't vote at all.
This raises the question of why, then, do parties behave as though there is a "center" full of moderates who must be appealed to? Why do they engage in last-minute electoral stunts that appear to assume some voters are undecided, such as Chen Chu's release of a videoing showing alleged vote-buying by her opponent's side the day before the latest Kaohsiung mayoral election, or a similar event in the previous cycle of county chief elections, in which supporters of DPP candidate Su were allegedly captured vote buying?
In my view both sides get out the vote by appealing to their respective bases, not by appealing to undecided centrist voters. But that base consists of human beings who vote for a variety of reasons. While few voters will switch to the Other Side, the Light voters might not come out unless they are given other sweeteners in addition to appeals to political identity -- public policy and of course, stunts that make victims out of one's own side. Chen Chu's release of the vote-buying video was not an appeal to last minute undecided voters who make up their minds based on whether a politician is "corrupt", it was a statement of victimhood that appealed to her own side: See!? I'm getting the shaft! Come out and help! Such moves ask Light voters to come out and Stand By Their Man.
I'm still working on it. But any "spectrum" model used to study Taiwan will fail to grasp Taiwan, in my view. As with so many other areas of human life, the analysis used to understand western industrialized democracies won't really work on The Beautiful Isle.
[Taiwan] [DPP] [KMT]
Monday, May 28, 2007
the same route up as last time. But after a few minutes, we took a new path.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) announced last week that it would put "Taiwan" into the KMT charter, as the Taipei Times reported:
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday acknowledged that it would include "Taiwan-centered" values in its soon to-be-revised party regulations, but said it would not ditch ultimate unification with China as one of the party's goals.
"The phrase `adhere to a belief that will prioritize Taiwan and benefit the people' will be added [to the party's regulations], but the basic principle of opposing independence for Taiwan remains the same," chairman of the KMT's Culture and Communications Committee Yang Tu (楊渡) said yesterday at party headquarters.
Yang made the remarks in response to a report in yesterday's Chinese-language China Times that said the party would add the term "Taiwan" and delete "unification" in its revised regulations in an attempt to broaden the party's appeal.
The KMT will revise its party regulations on June 24 during the party congress, and the changes will mark the first ever mention of "Taiwan" in the party's regulations.
There were mixed reactions, as some KMTers wondered aloud whether including "Taiwan" in the Charter might be acceptable to the Deep Blue base -- yes, you read that right -- the very word "Taiwan" is offensive to the Deep Blues. The DPP predictably dismissed it as a ploy, while some of the more rational voices in the KMT thought it was a good idea. KMT bigwigs presented the move in the usual conflicting we-mean-it- But-we-don't-really-mean-it style, arguing that it was a necessary change and a normal one, but stressing that Party's goal of obliterating Taiwan and annexing the island to China remained inflexible.
As the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) plan to prioritize "Taiwan" in the proposed charter change threatens to split party members, KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) tried to play down the issue yesterday, insisting that the party was still seeking consensus on the revision.
"The KMT's biggest responsibility at present is to defend the Republic of China ... We are being pragmatic, but we won't make big changes on the party's goals," Wu said yesterday before hosting a KMT local government chiefs meeting in Taipei County.
The KMT is expected to revise the party charter during its congress on June 24 and include "Taiwan-centered" values in the revised version. The changes will mark the first ever mention of "Taiwan" in the party's charter.
KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (
馬英九) reiterated yesterday his support for the revision, but denied that the changes were an election ploy to help him attract votes in the presidential race next year.
"The phrase `prioritize Taiwan and benefit the people' has been mentioned many times before. We are just including it in the charter to reflect what we've been doing all along," Ma said during the meeting.
The indigenization of the KMT has been a long process filled with contradictions for the party and its associated organs. Originally the Party legitimated itself and its authoritarian rule by claiming to represent all of China, and building its theology around retaking China. That went by the wayside. During the late 1970s and 1980s the Party began bringing in members of prominent local families, the Golden Oxes, who had to make substantial contributions to the Party coffers in order to get access to positions of power at the local level. Further, to hold many positions of importance in the government and society, the Leninist Party-State required membership in the KMT. Gradually the number of locals in the KMT rose, and they in turn rose within the KMT.
The Taiwanization of the KMT created significant problems for the KMT. During that same period, as it became obvious to even the densest Zealot that the KMT would never retake China, the guiding theology underwent a shift from taking China back to annexing Taiwan to China. This is, interestingly, an advertently pro-China position, and an inadvertently pro-Taiwan position. To wit: the old position asked: What shall we do with China? and treated Taiwan as nothing more than as base of operations to be exploited. The new theology instead asks: What shall we do with Taiwan? which places Taiwan at the center of the conundrum, not China. The answer may be pro-China, but the question is not. Like it or not, the creeping Taiwanization, and a strong presence at the local level, is inevitably making the KMT a Taiwanized party. If the KMT loses the Presidential election, especially if it loses it badly, expect a far more open call for reform of the party's position. As I have noted many times before, as long as the KMT's guiding theology calls for a denial of its Taiwanization, it will experience internal conflicts between the need to guard its identity and its need to get its people elected.
I spent the weekend hanging out with one of the island's most informed foreigners, Andrew Kerslake, who pointed out to me another example of this inadvertent indigenization process: the Blue media. In cultural studies, the media (in its broadest sense of books, journalism, and so on) is an important part of shared experience that helps form and transform national identities. In Taiwan the pan-Blue media constantly criticize the local government and the local pro-Taiwan parties. Despite their pro-China stance, their insular focus on Taiwan -- to the exclusion of all else -- helps create in the locals a sense of a shared Taiwan experience. Even as they attack the Taiwan Consciousness, they can't help but build it.
[Taiwan] [DPP] [KMT] [2008 Presidential Election] [name rectification]
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Fossil remains of the once indigenous mammuthus -- a species of prehistoric elephant -- have been unearthed for the first time in central Taiwan by an amateur archaeologist at the Taichung Mountainview Community University, local sources reported yesterday.
The fossil -- part of an upper molar tooth -- belonged to a newborn calf that lived in the area around Shih-kang village in Taichung County some 1.6 million years to 2.2 million years ago, they said.
Mammuthus fossils were first found in 1961 in a village in the southern county of Tainan. The mammuthus was dubbed initially the "ancient Taiwan elephant" but officially renamed the "grassland mammuthus" last year.
No mammuthus fossils had previously ever been found outside of Tainan, and the find in Taichung gives new evidence as to the possible distribution of the animal.
In the report, the Defense Department explicitly describes what would happen if China should attack Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island that Beijing claims as its own. It says China does not yet have "the military capability to accomplish with confidence its political objectives on the island, particularly when confronted with the prospect of U.S. intervention."
An attack could severely damage China's economy and lead to international sanctions, spur a Taiwan insurgency that could tie up the Chinese military for years, and possibly cause Beijing to lose its coveted hosting rights for the 2008 Olympics, the report said.
"Finally, China's leaders recognize that a conflict over Taiwan involving the United States would give rise to a long-term hostile relationship between the two nations - a result that would not be in China's interests," the report said.
Michael Pillsbury, a former Pentagon official who now serves as an adviser on China issues, called the Taiwan language the "most blunt warning in any U.S. document in history to China of the really bad things that will happen if they attack Taiwan."
I sometimes wonder if the US underestimates China's abilities, and the new links it is forging with the pro-China side in Taiwan....it is interesting that they chose to warn Beijing that it could lose its right to host the '08 Olympics -- as if they know China is at this very moment contemplating an attack. I've speculated before what a Chinese attack might look like, and also that it might be sooner than anyone thinks.
The "blunt warning" misses a key point: sanctions go both ways. While the US has been breaking its military and its treasury in its stupid and criminal failure in Iraq, China has been on the march all over the world. If the US intervenes, Chinese markets might be closed to it for years afterwards, and Chinese allies hostile to its interests. Here's a sobering thought for the Pentagon: we are more hated than China at the moment, and given the manifest incompetence and venality of our President, this will only get worse.
[Taiwan] [China] [US]