Monday, February 11, 2008

Taipei at New Year

Traffic. This year the traffic jam in the northbound lanes extended from Taipei all the way to Taichung with no end in sight. As I drove home around 4 it was basically a parking lot all the way back to the 140 km marker, or over 100 kms from the Taipei exit.

Ran up to Taipei for New Year this year. The weather was awful -- colder than Republican domestic policy, and grayer than a Jesuit's heart. Of course, it was drizzling too. But I had a wonderful time hanging out with many interesting people.

Latest rumors running around the capital and in the Chinese-language media: KMT Presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou has a US passport and US citizenship, which would disqualify him from running for the presidency. The local media was reporting that 2004 presidential candidate Lien Chan is a US citizen as well, which would have disqualified him from running in 2004. The DPP has growling that it was going to sue the Central Election Commission (CEC) for not doing its job.

Taipei, done up in gray.

Lots of commentaries in the media recently. Some of you might want to stop by to politely reply to this pro-China piece full of misunderstandings that found its way into the Yale Daily News. In the Star Bulletin in Hawaii Bill Sharp passes on the conventional wisdom on the election and on Chen Shui-bian, along with some weirdnesses (referring to the KMT as the "NP") and believing that the KMT's superior local networks date from the successful 2005 3-in-1 elections. Huh?

Speaking of the conventional wisdom, David Yang has an article in a recent edition of World Politics that argues that Taiwan's democratization was not a middle class project as is typically argued, but a working class one. Quite interesting, especially in light of the long conversation I had with Linda Arrigo yesterday on labor unions and social movements in the 1990s and how they were used and abandoned in different ways by the DPP and by the KMT. Those of you who are looking for thesis projects for MA and PHD work should contact her; she's a font of ideas, questions, and intimate, personal knowledge (Why did the pro-PRC leftists allied to the KMT end up in the 1996 Presidential election supporting -- not KMT candidate Lee Teng-hui -- but Hao Pei-tsun and Lin Yang-kang, the reactionary right-wing candidates from the KMT who ran as independents?). Linda has many stories to tell....Finally, Global Voices online has a great article on influential local blogger Portnoy.

Last week also saw some meetings in Washington, where Bush Administration official John Negroponte balanced critical remarks on the referendum prior to the election with more positive remarks at a media event:

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte urged Beijing to be "a little bit more generous toward Taiwan" when Taipei seeks participation in international organizations that do not require statehood.

"Our policy is to counsel restraint on both sides of the Strait, to reiterate our position that this is a question that should be settled by peaceful means, and that no one should do anything that would unilaterally alter the status quo," he said in an interview with the US Council of Foreign Relations on Monday.

"And for its part, one of the things that we urge the People's Republic of China [PRC], is that they shouldn't try to deprive Taiwan of all of its political space," he said.

"For example, there are institutions, global institutions, that don't require being a state to have membership. We think Beijing can afford to be a little bit more generous toward Taiwan in regard to some of those organizations," he said.

"We also are concerned, and expressed our preoccupation, about this military buildup on the PRC's side of the Strait. That's a subject of continual concern as well," he said.

Contrast this weak statement, which lacks any strong criticism of Beijing, with the Administration's abusive comments on the harmless referendum over the last few months. Meanwhile stalwart Taiwan supporter John Tkacik and longtime Taiwan abuser Ted Galen Carpenter spoke at a think tank event last week:

Meanwhile, at a forum on Wednesday on Taiwan's defense capability, a US academic said he believed Taiwan's future would be grim unless the nation could reach a consensus on its relations with China.

John Tkacik, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said that based on the current pace of military expansion on both sides of the Strait, Taiwan was virtually defenseless.

He said that while a majority of Taiwanese politicians advocate opening up trade relations with Beijing, many overlook the fact that allowing Taiwan's high-tech companies to invest in China is basically handing Taiwan's strength to Bei-jing on a silver platter.

Tkacik also questioned the logic of the Bush administration's Taiwan policy.

On one hand, the US government wants Taiwan to purchase weapons to defend itself, but on the other, it opposes Taiwan buying offensive weapons that have the capability of destroying the Chinese military.

Another US academic at the forum, Ted Cato of the Cato Institute, said for the past eight years, the pan-blue camp has been depending on the US for military support.

He said he hoped Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential hopeful Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would stick to his word when he said he would increase Taiwan's military budget if elected.

Carpenter said there were several benchmarks that could be used to assess China's "friendliness" toward Taiwan if Ma wins office: would Beijing stop deploying missiles pointed at Taiwan, stop suffocating Taiwan's diplomatic space and allow for Taiwan's greater participation in international bodies such as the WHO.

Beijing's post-election posture toward Taiwan is the subject of everyone's curiosity. I myself am curious as to why Beijing would do any of the things that Carpenter identifies, since it has suffered neither concrete censure nor concrete punishment for engaging in these activities as it currently stands. Indeed; it is constantly rewarded with ever greater leverage over US policy and international media presentations, as well as calls from people like Carpenter for the US to abandon Taiwan. Why on earth would it switch away from this utterly successful strategy mix? Wendell Minnick, one of the region's most reliably excellent reporters, has an article over at Defense News on Taiwan's missile programs, as well as China's longterm military plans. It's clear that China isn't going to swap strategies at this point....the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has a short piece on the upcoming Presidential election.

To cold to fly.

Hope everyone had a wonderful New Year!


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to you too.

Some typo : To cold to fly.

Anonymous said...

I'd guess that James Soong has USA citizenship/passport as well.

Many Taiwanese like to call it "pragmatic" to have dual citizenship, but I call it immoral. Where is their honor and dignity? These virtues are not something that only one culture has so cultural interpretation can't be used as an excuse. If you can't understand what you swear allegiance to, then don't make this committment in your life.

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. This non-sense reminds me of how last year the KMT nitwits were after Chen's son to not have his baby in New York. Fucking asshole hypocrites.

True Blue said...


if I recall, CSB largely brought that on himself for saying earlier he'd 'never be a granddad to a US citizen'.

And what you're dealing with are spurious allegations and rumor that as of yet have no basis in fact, yet you are calling people 'fucking asshole hypocrites'?

Where's any serious evidence of this? Oh yeah, Michael's Chinese-language media. We all know how reliable those guys are. Color me 'not convinced'.

Thomas said...

I guess it really must be "rumour" indeed if it did not make the pages of the Taipei Times or eTaiwannews. Just out of curiosity, how did you hear about it? Reading Chinese papers? My Chinese is not yet good enough to browse lightly.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, it wasn't CSB that started this whole flap, it was the kmtards like Cho-Yi that pushed him to make a statement.

And why can't Ma just clear this up with just one simple statement, yes or no. Over and done with.

For that matter, I'd like to know why Ma won't debate Hseih? Its only a month or so before the election. What is Ma afraid of? Isn't a debate the fairest way to judge who will be the best leader?

Hypocrites because many of the heavyweights/family in the KMT have dual citizenships, but they still allowed their attackdogs to go after CSB's son/daughter in law.

True Blue said...

Oh, poor CSB, 'pushed' into making a ludicrous statement by some nobody KMT figure. Spare me. He has no one to blame but himself. So who in Taiwan doesn't have multiple family members/dual citizenship in the US? The DPP plays this game more than the KMT, so I guess they're even worse hypocrites, hmmm?

Ma cleared it up long ago in his clumsy ham-fisted way. He abandoned his lpr status. He has since been issued at least two US visas. Here's a clue for you: US citizens can't get US visas.

If you base your conclusions by what you read in the Chinese language media, that paragon of journalistic standard and integrity, it is no wonder you are such a bitterly confused individual.

As someone else has requested, how about a link to those Chinese language sources, Mr. Turton?

channing said...

Agreed with Ma's wishy-washy political habits.

That's a nice detail shot of the critter.

Anonymous said...

Au contre - I've been here 20 years and have seen my share of KMT and DPP fuckups. I'm not bitterly confused as you say, I just tell it like it is.

Like Michael, I am not pro DPP, I am pro-Taiwan and pro-democracy. Insult the DPP all you want. If they deserve it, they deserve it. Just be fair. The example I post shows how one-sided the KMTard are. So spare me your drivel.

Thomas said...

To be fair to Michael, all he said was that these were rumours, and all I was asking was how he heard about them. It was not a call to "show your cards or else".

As for Ma's passport or lack thereof, True Blue is right that he would ordinarily not be given a visa if he were a citizen. But sometimes politicians just need to come out and say clearly: "Yo! Done nothing wrong! Ask the US if you don't believe me" to just shut people up.

Remember the damage that the whole Swift Boat fiasco did to John Kerry? Were the rumours true? From what I heard, the evidence was sufficient to prove they were not. But Kerry did not make a strong stand for himself until way too late. His wishy washy approach to the whole thing was enough to convince enough Americans that he would not make a good president for him to lose the election.

This may not happen in Taiwan, but Ma seems to be showing time and time again that he cannot decisively respond to crises.

Note that since soon after the LY election, no Blue polls have been published. At the same time, Hsieh has been on attack mode for a month (as well he should be). Could all of this be doing damage to Ma? Maybe not... but I can't imagine it is doing him a lot of good either.

As for the lack of debates, the TT has announced a date for the first one. Ma is saying he did not refuse to debate, berating Hsieh for his impatience. However, whether Hsieh has been impatient or not, he quite vocally requested earlier debates more then once. The fact that the first debate is happening at the end of February seems to back up Hsieh's version of the story more than Ma's. Is Hsieh's version true? Who knows? But in the game of campaigning, a lot is about appearances, and Ma appears to be constantly dancing on his left foot at this moment.

Michael Turton said...

Sorry. I only heard by word of mouth about the passport thing. I think Thomas is right, though. They want Ma to be off balance, and they are going to keep pressing. Several people have made that observation to me both on the blog and in the email.

I'm psyched for the debates. If Hsieh is on form, he'll do well.


TicoExpat said...

I think if the DPP wants to press as a strategy to keep Ma off his toes, they should pick their angle carefully, though.

From my perspective, most people here still look up to "America" as a goal, and having a green card/passport is considered an asset, even if it is supposedly illegal to participate in an election with it (whose idea was it, by the way?). Many people here share the same situation, meaning they have it but are hiding the fact. So, they cannot be partial to Hsieh, but rather take Ma's position. They are all in the same boat.

Example: One neighbor was asking me to help him find a good excuse to get out of jury duty. Why not just say you're not there?, I replied. They do not know, he said, meaning immigration. How do they manage to do that? I mutter and shake my head.