Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nelson Report: Why Bush Adm has Frozen Arms & Other Stuff

A recent Nelson Report discusses why the Bush Administration is screwing Taiwan:


Taiwan arms...even though seven notifications are pending and had been expected to be submitted to Congress last week, sources say it may not happen, as White House officials take seriously a case against them made by a defense expert.

"Perspective" tonite comes from the conclusion of an influential study of Taiwan's defense needs by Naval War College analyst Bill Murray which helps explain what's happening...or, rather, not happening.

TAIWAN arms...a Loyal Reader asked last week what's up with notifications which faced a deadline for submission to Congress. Today, it's clear the deadlines have been missed, and pro-Taiwan folks are expressing outrage.

Heritages' John Tkacik tells Defense News he fears that Beijing will just "pocket" the Bush Administration non-decisions and that the next US Administration will be stuck with the ability to sell even less, regardless.

Maybe that's what will happen, say our defense experts...John is talking mainly politics, geopolitics here...but the internal debate on what Taiwan really needs, especially given China's current build-ups and power projection capability intentions...that may help explain the Bush decision to "decide" by not deciding.

Also remember, as Defense News notes, the Taiwan politicians are themselves to blame, in that they indulged in domestic gamesmanship for most of the Bush Administration, and "missed the window" which might...might have produced a favorable decision on some of the systems now stuck in limbo.

But the main reason? Our understanding is that a hard-nosed critique of the Taiwan arms situation by the Naval War College expert William Murray has been very closely read by senior Bush Administration players in various appropriate agencies.

So while it may be psychologically comforting for some pro-Taiwan folks to blame it on State (for example) that's not the real situation, they argue.

For "Perspective" tonite we're providing selections from the 32-page Murray paper which has clearly been so influential. You can ask yourself how YOU would react, were you a decision-maker, knowing that he is not speaking from out in left-field...rather, he is voicing concerns long expressed by experts in and out of the US military itself:

"It is difficult to escape the conclusion that China either already has or shortly will have the ability to ground or destroy Taiwan's air force and eliminate the navy at a time of its own choosing. This prospect fundamentally alters Taiwan's defense needs and makes the intended acquisition from the United States of diesel submarines, P-3 aircraft, and PAC-3 interceptors ill advised.

Diesel submarines are poor antisubmarine platforms, since with their low speed and limited underwater endurance they simply cannot search quickly large volumes of ocean for quiet submarines. These physical restrictions also limit their versatility as antisurface platforms. They are, for all practical purposes, four-knot minefields. At a cost of over U.S. $1.5 billion each and with indeterminate delivery dates, conventional submarines also carry significant opportunity costs, as some in Taipei clearly recognize. Finally, submarines are no more likely than other naval ships tied up at exposed piers to survive the opening salvo of a war with China.

Taiwan's apparent decision to purchase up to twelve submarine-hunting P-3C aircraft is similarly brought into question. Although these planes can collect valuable information during peacetime and in crisis, in wartime they would be sitting ducks while on the ground (though hardened shelters might protect P-3s) and aloft would require uncontested air superiority to have any chance of accomplishing their mission.100 In any case, Taipei cannot protect its runways. Patriot surface-to-air missiles have some utility against short-range ballistic missiles, but China already has the means to defeat this expensive air-defense system.

The implication is that Taiwan would be far better served by hardening, and building redundancy into, its civil and military infrastructure and systems. In that way the island could reasonably hope to survive an initial precision bombardment, deny the PRC the uncontested use of the air, repel an invasion, and defy the effects of a blockade for an extended period. Many of these actions, in fact, would be consistent with recent efforts by Taiwan to improve its defenses. Others, however, would entail substantial shifts that some in Taiwan's navy and air force would doubtless oppose. Air force leaders would be understandably loath to admit that their fighters cannot defend Taiwan's skies; their navy counterparts might similarly resist suggestions that their fleet is acutely vulnerable in port. Both services' political champions would certainly challenge the implications of this article's analysis. So too would the arms manufacturers who stand to benefit from the sale of aircraft, ships, and supporting systems to Taiwan.

Yet under present conditions it is doubtful that the people and government of Taiwan could withstand a determined PRC assault for long. A hasty American military intervention would be Taiwan's only hope, but only at the risk of strategic miscalculation and nuclear escalation. A "porcupine" strategy - a Taiwan that was patently useless to attack - would obviate the need; it would also make a determined Taipei conspicuously able to deny the objective of a bombardment or defeat an invasion, thus deterring either scenario. Ability to resist a full-scale campaign - long-range precision bombardment, invasion, and blockade - for a substantial amount of time would allow its potential allies to shape their responses carefully. Above all, demonstrable Taiwanese resilience would diminish Beijing's prior confidence in success, strengthen cross-strait deterrence, and reduce the risk of the United States being dragged into a conflict with China.

Meanwhile, a porcupine strategy would restore the United States to unequivocal adherence to the Taiwan Relations Act, since Taiwan would be in the market only for defensive systems. Taiwan would find itself with a better defense for fewer dollars, and the United States would abide by the 17 August 1982 joint communique© declaring that it would "not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms, the level of those [arms] supplied in recent years...and that it intends gradually to reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan, leading, over a period of time, to a final resolution."102

Finally, and most important, a porcupine approach would shift the responsibility for Taiwan's defense to Taiwan, rendering U.S. intervention in a cross-strait battle a last resort instead of the first response. Many observers believe that Taiwan today relies unduly on a perceived American security guarantee and does not do enough to provide for its own defense. Yet since 2000 the Kuomintang and the Democratic People's Party have not framed a defense debate that could produce the open, honest appraisal that is desperately needed if domestic consensus on a viable defense is to be achieved. A Taiwan that China perceived could be attacked and damaged but not defeated, at least without unacceptably high costs and risks, would enjoy better relations with the United States and neutralize the threat posed by many of China's recently acquired military capabilities. Unfortunately, political gridlock in Taipei stands in the way of any such hopes. It is not that Taiwan does not do enough to construct a viable defense but that it is not doing the right things.

William S. Murray is associate research professor at the U.S. Naval War College, where his research focuses on China's navy. He conducted submarine deployments and qualified to command nuclear submarines prior to retiring from the U.S. Navy. He is the coeditor of and a contributing author to China's Future Nuclear Submarine Force and China's Energy Strategy: The Impact on Beijing' s Maritime Policies...


It's not a bright idea to base your policy decision on the opinion of a single expert, however intelligent. Especially when he is saying what you want to hear. UPDATE: Original article is here. Murray's assessment, little birdies say, appears to have been made without visiting Taiwan. I'll be talking about it in a post tomorrow.

Defense News reports:

The Chinese will pocket the Bush administration’s Taiwan arms halt as the baseline for approaching the next administration,” said Tkacik, now with the Heritage Foundation. “Beijing will make it very painful for the next administration to restart arms supplies to Taiwan, insisting that doing so would renege on Bush commitments, imaginary or otherwise.”

The package has been held up since December. It includes items promised by the Bush administration in 2001, plus newer items such as attack and utility helicopters.?

"All in all, Taiwan policy is in complete tatters," said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president, U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. “The administration is blatantly gaming the system in a manner that runs contrary to U.S.-Taiwan interests.

“There are simply no other examples of a non-NATO or other security relationship having its congressional notifications stacked at [the U.S. Department of] State in this manner. They are doing so over a zero­sum attitude toward U.S.-China-Taiwan relations and the equities Mr. Bush believes will be hurt by following through on his 2001 commitment.”

And the CNA report connects the reluctance to sell the weapons to the financial situation:

Taiwan's plans to procure weapons systems from the United States remain unchanged, as the nation is resolved to defend itself militarily and needs to beef up its self-defense capability, Chang Shuo-wen, a ruling Kuomintang (KMT) legislative caucus whip said Sunday.

Taiwan has submitted its military procurement plans to the United States and it is now up to the Bush administration to decide what to do about Taiwan's requests, President Ma Ying-jeou said recently.

Taiwan is seeking to buy a weapons package of anti-tank missiles, Apache helicopters, Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, diesel-electric submarines, P3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, sea-launched Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Black Eagle helicopters from the US.

The US Department of State told Taiwanese news media Friday that Taiwan's arms procurement package is still under inter-departmental screening by the George W. Bush administration.

Once a final decision is made on the arms procurement package, the executive branch would notify Congress immediately, the State Department said.

When asked whether the arms procurement proposal would be left up to the new US administration, a State Department official said that "there is no timetable for that matter."

Commenting on the uncertainties surrounding the arms deal, KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang, who is the convener of the Legislative Yuan Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, said there is no need for Taiwan to worry too much, given that Taiwan remains part of the strategic interests of the United States.

Washington would not like to see the Taiwan Strait become a waterway of China, as this would open a big hole in the US defense frontline in the West Pacific, he added.

Noting that the supply of defense weapons to Taiwan is part of the stipulations in the United States' Taiwan Relations Act, Lin expressed confidence that whoever is elected the next president of the US will not renege on the commitment.

Lin attributed the "bumpy ride" of Taiwan's arms procurement package partly to Washington's reliance on China's cooperation in US anti-terrorism efforts and in its spiraling financial and economic storms. For example, China currently holds between US$500 billion and US$950 billion worth of US Treasury bonds, he said.
We're in deep, deep trouble.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Keelung Photofest

Not mixed eggs.

Saturday morning I went out see more sights of Taiwan's most photogenic city, Keelung. The cheerful port, despite its very Taiwanese feel an overwhelmingly pro-KMT city, has perhaps the biggest collection of history of any city on the island, even Tainan. The focus of military efforts by four colonial regimes -- Spanish, Qing, Japanese, and KMT -- old bunkers, trenches, pillboxes, air raid shelters, and ammo storage areas carpet the ridges around the city. In the company of my good friend, licensed Taiwan guide, and Keelung history buff Jeff Miller, we headed for the hills.

The crowded city of Keelung, built in a crater.

Men shaping the world.

Jeff took us around the north side of the city, lined with port facilities. Keelung port is being phased out in favor of the new port at the mouth of the Tanshui River north of Taipei.

The gateway to the world outside.

The road here was lined with bomb shelters, and Jeff and I got out to go up to the lighthouse on the north side of the harbor. Who knows what goodies awaited us at the top of these steps? But we took the other path....

Jeff stands next to an old Japanese-period installation. The rear is overgrown and we were unable to get inside.

As we walked up.....stunning views of the harbor.

A large set of buildings was in the process of being torn down. Much of the infrastructure will have to be changed as the port becomes a cruise ship and tourist area.

At present it remains a working port.

We finally reached the lighthouse, which was well guarded.

Up the narrow stairs...

When we got to the top, the attendant opened the door for us. "I'm afraid you might be too fat to get through there," he told me, shaking his head dolefully, as Jeff laughed silently behind me.

Despite the intense wind, I panned the harbor from the lighthouse....

...and another view, back toward the city.

Out to sea several ships waited to get into the port.

We left the lighthouse and descended a bit, then turned and walked into this area, which, as you can see, contained a large sign that said PLEASE ENTER.

The door to a bunker beckoned....

...but it was locked.

At the top of the ridge overlooking the harbor, the views were excellent. Below you can see the lighthouse we stopped at. With the typhoon coming, the wind was astounding. I was barely able to hold the camera steady.

An important function of the port is accepting deliveries of gravel from overseas to fuel Taiwan's construction-industrial state. This storage installation belongs to a cement company.

A pillbox overlooks the ocean.

A close-up.

The interior. The flimsy construction indicates that this was never meant to withstand a serious attack.

At the harbor mouth Keelung Island watches.

Jeff shoots the harbor.

Giant machines dominate the skyline.

Containers wait to be moved.

Taiwan's gorgeous northeast coast, looking north from Keelung. Jeff and I headed up the coast....

Fishing ports are everywhere -- because they are great absorbers of pork. And I don't mean the hoofed kind either.

The coast here, next to the oil tanks that provide fuel for the nearby power plant, is lined with a concrete fence and fishermen.

What? Taking my picture?

Despite Taiwan's amazing population densities, the steep cliffs and frangible rock have held development at bay.

We ended the afternoon at the Lucky Star bar in Keelung city, where many a sailor has found...er, never mind. This is a family blog.

Taiwan Arms Freeze Alters Status Quo

Heritage Foundation scholar John Tkacik has a piece at Heritage on the Bush Administration's continuing refusal to lift the arms freeze on Taiwan, attributing it to the Administration's anxiousness to obtain "cooperation" on China....
The President’s hesitation to move on Taiwan may be related to his conversation Monday, September 22, with Chinese President Hu Jintao in which the two leaders discussed how China could help with the current “financial turmoil” on Wall Street and “particularly” how the two leaders could “properly handle the Taiwan question.”

...further noting...

Why would the White House whip-saw a loyal ally and one of America’s three most important security partners in East Asia? Perhaps because of its increasingly sanguine view of China’s record and potential as a security partner. Chinese “help” with North Korea’s “dismantlement” of its nuclear weapons program—now being reassembled—has perhaps persuaded the Administration of the value of being China’s friend.

Tkacik also comments on speculation in Washington....

A complementary view in Washington is that Taiwan simply cannot defend itself, even with the submarines, missile defense systems, anti-submarine aircraft, and so forth included in the current package, so it should not even try. This line of reasoning suggests that Taiwan adopt a “porcupine strategy” of mining all 180 miles of beaches on its west coast with surf-zone sea mines and weapons designed for waters less than 10 feet deep, then engage whatever invaders manage to actually land on those beaches with truck-mounted Harpoon missiles and assorted other last-ditch weapons. These are weapons that will not offend China, so the U.S. could sell these weapons without harming its relations with China.

Like many commentators, Tkacik notes that freeze violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). Another point he makes is that it grossly violates Reagan's six assurances, one of which assures that the US will not hold consultations with China prior to selling weapons to Taiwan, and the other which promises that the US will keep Taiwan in parity with China -- and that the determination of weapons sales to Taiwan will be based solely on the PRC threat to the island.

During the Chen years many US analysts said that Chen was violating the status quo. One or two outside the Administration observed that China's violations of the status quo were far more serious and dangerous to the US-allied democracies around China. Almost no one has pointed out that the Bush Administration has now thoroughly violated the status quo -- by tilting toward China and by refusing to sell weapons to Taiwan: the US is now the chief violator of the status quo. Tkacik points out the danger for Taiwan of Bush's policy: the next President will be asked to continue it:

Senior Bush Administration officials, current and former, say privately it is a safe bet that Chinese President Hu will pocket President Bush’s Taiwan arms freeze and confront the next U.S. President to maintain the Bush “baseline.” The Chinese will threaten the next Administration with “serious consequences” if the U.S. “backslides” on the issue.

Former US official Randall Shriver observed in his appearance here several months ago that bot the McCain and Obama campaigns have said that they will sell arms to Taiwan, but they would prefer that the Bush Administration do it. It's long past time for the Bush Administration to grow up on this issue, and to nurture the status quo, instead of making permanent concessions for temporary gains.

Tkacik points out that current President Ma Ying-jeou desperately needs the sales to shore up his sagging position vis-a-vis China -- it's funny now to read things like this just-released CSIS report on confidence building across the Taiwan Strait -- funny because China has so thoroughly refused to cooperate with Ma. China could hardly have a bigger fan than Ma Ying-jeou and his KMT, yet it has given nothing to Taiwan. As friend of Taiwan Nat Bellocchi comments today in the Taipei Times: "...there is nothing that suggests Beijing will soften its line on obstructing international participation for Taiwan, even in isolated cases." Let that be a lesson to those out there who think that China will be accomodating to its friends.

ALSO: This piece at Taiwan News that observes that Taiwan is not Georgia.

We hope that the next U.S. president continues dialogue with China not to help the PRC squash Taiwan's democracy but to persuade Beijing to cease to block the participation of a democratic and peaceful Taiwan in the global community and realize that maintaining Taiwan as a democratic "lighthouse" is critical to ensuring the fostering of both peace and democracy in Asia.
and the Presidential office is hopeful the sales will still happen. It's a bureaucratic possibility, but just barely....

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Typhoon Jangmai Liveblogging

3:30 PM -- This one is clearly going to be an epic blowout, one for the ages. UDN says it's the most powerful typhoon ever measured in Taiwan, and I can well believe it. The typhoon won't arrive over the island for a couple more hours but already the winds are heaving things about the neighborhood, stripping things off local roofs, knocking tiles off of buildings, and bending the trees over. The gusts are amazing -- my Taipei friends report scooters being blown over now and signs flying about. The eye looks like it will head over Hsinchu at this point, crossing through Miaoli before hooking north a little. Fortunately wife is taking edge off typhoon with some madras-style chicken curry. Approx 1:10 of video up in a minute.....

3:57 power flicker just occurred. Chatting online with friend in Taipei. Says same thing.

4:10 Friend in Taipei reports lightning strike on river near Yungho. Very unusual.

4:20 I can't ever remember gusts of wind like this. It's going to blow Typhoon Herb away.

4:25 Scooters blown over in Taipei even in the alleys deep in the warrens, according to a friend who lives there. I'm eying the Norfolk Pine in our neighbor's backyard with trepidation...

4:40 Wind picking up considerably. Can't be sure, but think I saw neighbor go by on broomstick, cackling.

4:50 Video from 3:30 now up. Gusts are now tremendous.

5:05 Friend in Pingtung checks in, says very windy but not too rainy. Video of the noise and my poor dog:

5:10 Friend points me to http://www.cpa.gov.tw/ for checking on cancellations

5:10 Friend in Taoyuan checks in: "Over here in Taoyuan it's completely dull. Most of the local businesses on the street below me are open and selling food - even those facing right into the wind and rain. Probably 90% of the businesses in this block, only one or two were closed."

5:21 Showering and windy in Tainan, says my man there. Rain not so strong...

5:35 My man on the other side of Taichung passes me this pic from 20th floor:

5:45 Friend in Hualien reports in to say that there's no wind there. "I even got outside today and did some work on the house!"

6:10 Things seem to be dying down slowly. Has storm peaked here?

6:20 The following areas are closed tomorrow for both classes and work: Keelung city, Taipei City, Taipei County, Taoyuan County, Hsinchu city and county, Miaoli county, Taichung city and county, Changhua County, Yunlin county, and Nantou county. Friend told me announcements for the south will go up at 7.

6:23 A friend from south Taichung city checks in: "whaddya mean "dying down"? seems to be just getting started down here near Chung Hsing uni. - mind, that's just using my ears!" They are adding extra tape to the windows. I must be sitting in some local variation then... Xindian checks in too" "Here in Xindian the Xindian River has almost reached the level it was at in Typhoon Krosa. "

7:25 Wind is gusting only lightly, steady light rain is falling. I went out to 7-11 to buy something to drink. Roads were clear, very little traffic, but no trees down, except one in my neighborhood. Local governments announce that work and school are canceled in Chiayi city and county (http://www.cpa.gov.tw/), the east coast (Yilan, Hualien, Taitung), the islands, and all areas north of Chiayi, including Nantou. Only Tainan and Kaohsiung not up there yet.

11:40 Gentle rain falling for several hours. No wind at all.

Forumosa Annexes Taiwan to China

The sky and earth are already heaving as the big typhoon arrives this weekend, bringing gusting wind and rain, and flinging branches, boxes, and Golden Retrievers about our yard with gleeful abandon. Looks like I'm not traveling tonight after all....

Meanwhile, in Taiwanese-American and foreign expat forums all over, the news is spreading that Forumosa and several other local expat forums have annexed Taiwan to China. Forumosa (Forumosa Friends), TaiwanFun, and Taiwan Ho! all use a hosting service run by the Shanghai-based Meta-4:

Shanghai-based Meta4 Group Ltd., which operates WorldFriends Networks, the world’s leading provider of private label multi-lingual online personals announced US$2.5 million in venture capital funding from industry veterans including the co-founders of leading Internet dating service Lavalife.com....

As you can see from the pic above, when you register as a member for these systems, they prompt you for a place of residence (pic above from Forumosa Friends; the TaiwanFun system is exactly the same). The only choice you get for Taiwan is the utterly bogus "Taiwan (China)". Taiwan is NOT and NEVER was part of China. Claims that China owns Taiwan are not supported in any internationally recognized treaty -- the most recent one, the Treaty of San Francisco, the peace treaty that ended WWII, was purpose-written to specify that Taiwan belongs to no one. China's interest in annexing Taiwan is entirely a function of the 1940s and is purely an act of expansionism. The main source of its claim is the simple fact that it has said it will annex Taiwan and kill anyone who gets in its way. Why assist them in this process?

Thus, the correct position for any site to take, one consistent with history, international law, and democratic practice, is to not take a position on the final disposition of Taiwan. Let Taiwan be "Taiwan."

In discussions with pro-Taiwan groups the absurd argument was made on behalf of these systems that having "China" in parentheses does not really make Taiwan part of China, although the drop down menu displayed above clearly shows Hong Kong (China) and further down, distinguishes between the Virgin Islands (US) and the Virgin Islands (UK). The use of parentheses clearly does imply ownership.

For those of us who do not believe that Taiwan should be annexed to China, at minimum, these sites should offer the clear choice of Taiwan without the erroneous and offensive (China) tag. For strict political nuetrality, however, (China) should be dropped and only Taiwan offered. Let the people filling it out imagine where they live. And if the site host Meta-4 refuses to do that, switch. Taiwan sites should have a Taiwan perspective.


I ran up to Taipei yesterday to attend the Obama fundraiser at El Gallo in Tienmu. But before I say anything about that, I would like to say this:


Deadlines for registration from abroad are fast approaching. Tell all your American friends, whether Democrat or Republican, that applications are available from Vote From Abroad (www.fvap.gov), the US government site. Be especially sure to notify the tens of thousands of dual citizenship holders -- they too can vote. Don't think you can't vote from overseas: if you are American and you have a pulse, then you can vote. Doesn't matter how long you have been away from the US or where you are from. You can't change the world by grousing in expat bars.....

Before the fundraiser began at 7 I had the opportunity to meet with Terri "I'm not the author" MacMillan at 5, at Wendell's German bakery in Tienmu. Terri is the current field director for the Obama campaign in North Asia (China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong), friendly, hardworking, and outgoing. Terri kept confusing us, claiming to be fifteen years older than she actually appeared to be. No one believed her.

At one point she solicited information about how people regarded Obama. There was a moment of discussion among the several expats gathered around the table (I was delighted to find another member of the Cleveland Diaspora there) and I summed it up by saying that the fear was that the Obama camp would sell Taiwan to China to get good relations with China, to which there was general agreement. Hold that thought.....

...I got to the fundraiser early and watched over the next half-hour as it filled with Americans, almost entirely from Tienmu. I can't think of the last time I had been around so many strapping, well-fed Americans. I couldn't have felt more pudgy and out of place than if I had been dropped buck-naked into a Zulu raiding party running to attack a kraal thirty kilometers away. Culture-shocked, I went off to skulk in a corner with a trio of us up from The Real Taiwan, or Taichung, as it is known to locals.

I got in line to get food -- quite strange it was, Tex-Mex food with actual nacho chips. Yes, not Doritos with mozzarella cheese spread squeezed on them and microwaved for 2 minutes on high. My body didn't know what to do with foreign food of such excellent quality: should it digest it, or preserve it for posterity? Coming back a few minutes later, I discovered that two attractive young Taiwanese women had taken my seat at the table. I've been here so long that my first thought was not WHOA! BABE ALERT! but "Whew. Taiwanese people. Thank god. Now I feel at home...."

It turned out that one of the women was a journalist for the Taipei Times sent to get some information on Obama supporters and how they saw things, a person I had interacted with on the net and long wanted to meet, while the other was an absolutely stunning reporter for the Central News Agency (CNA) there on the same mission. Eventually we fell to chatting, and she asked me what would happen if Obama won, and I said that it would probably mean that Taiwan was doomed, at which she made a face and said, yes, everyone is saying that......

......Obama folks: there's a widespread perception among people out here that if the Dems win it will mean that Taiwan is screwed. That perception is not helped by the recent pieces that have come out of the campaign's Taiwan/China people (reviewed on this blog here and here) that were essentially graceless and wrong-headed hacks on former President Chen Shui-bian's foreign policy, combined with folk tales about how the Establishment saved Asia by serving China's interests, and reassurances that EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL. Please stop talking about the past, Obama folks. What many of us expats who love this place would like to hear is words about the future: words about commitment to Taiwan's future as an independent and sovereign state, and as an integral part of the US-led security alliance in Asia, and strong reassurances that an Obama victory isn't going to be followed by a renewed attempt to shove Taiwan into Beijing's maw.

Because what the recent melamine scandal really means is that economic integration of Taiwan and China is not going to be followed by political integration as the US political Establishment appears to hope, since each time Taiwanese get closer to China, they get reminded about what China really is. Taiwanese themselves have very clear views about their relationship with China: they are there to make money, not become a satrapy of Beijing.

It doesn't help that the pro-China party now running Taiwan -- the one that the US foreign policy establishment claims it helped install -- gives every appearance of being hopelessly incompetent....so "wretched" that even its political opponents want it to perform better, for the sake of the common good. KMT failures at home will not be good for the party's long-term plans to annex Taiwan to China. Folks, it's not too late to conclude that the wrong Horse was backed.....

Saturday, September 27, 2008

China Consul's Letter to Canadian Paper

My thanks to the reader who left this link to Willy Lam's fascinating piece in the Asia Times on the financial problems of China, and its regional-center tensions. I've heard it said that if China "lets Taiwan go" then other regions will want to go their merry way as well. Managing an empire from Beijing is no easy task.

Taiwan Journal has academic David Lorenzo's call for China to reciprocate Ma Ying-jeou's gestures of goodwill with a few concessions. He writes:

In these statements, as in the past, the position of the mainland government is that it looks after Taiwan's affairs. This of course is absurd, for as a government it does not represent people on Taiwan, is unable to provide them with services, nor has it in any way gauging their interests and concerns. This has been amply demonstrated, most notably with regard to the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in 2004 wherein the mainland government not only
did nothing tangible to help people on Taiwan deal with the sickness, but it also blocked Taiwan's access to critical help and supplies that otherwise would have been available to it through the WHO and other international organizations.

It is therefore crucial to recognize that in its overriding desire to portray cross-strait relations only in the context of "internal Chinese affairs," the mainland has painted itself into an ideological and conceptual corner. If it continues to insist that Taiwan unquestionably must be considered part of the mainland, administered and represented by the mainland government, then the concept of Taiwan participating separately from the mainland in specialized international agencies makes no sense, no matter how many negotiations and mutual agreements take place. In other words, so long as it continues to follow this formal policy, it cannot deliver on its promises to reconsider and facilitate Taiwan's participation in the international community.

The question then becomes Hu's seriousness in making that promise and his stated concern for the feelings and well-being of the people of Taiwan. The ROC government has moved in its position on these and other matters. It has shown itself to be flexible, pragmatic and willing to negotiate. Hu's statements in May indicated a willingness to follow suit. It is now time for him and his government to make good his promises.
China should make nice? Don't think so. The depth of China's stupidity and obtuseness is shown by the China Consul in Canada's response to a Canadian paper's call for Taiwan to join the UN. The Consul wrote in response:

Taiwan has been an integral part of China's territory since antiquity. Around 1,000 years ago, the then central government established administration on the island. Ever since, dynasties and governments of China have maintained effective control of Taiwan until the late 19th century, when the Qing government was overpowered by Japan and was forced to cede Taiwan as reparation of war. In 1943, the state heads of China, the USA and the UK held a summit in Cairo, Egypt to discuss the war against Japan and postwar policies to Japan, and the Cairo Declaration jointly signed stated that all the Chinese territories seized by Japan, including Taiwan, shall be restored to China. Later on, in 1945, the Potsdam Proclamation jointly signed by China, the USA, UK and Soviet Union, reaffirmed that "the terms of the Cairo declaration shall be carried out." In this way, China's sovereignty over Taiwan was confirmed in the form of international law. As Japan was defeated and surrendered unconditionally in August, 1945, Taiwan was brought back to China. After three years of civil war, the Kuomintang Regime fled to Taiwan and the People's Republic of China was established on mainland China in 1949. At present, more than 160 countries in the world recognize the one-China principle and that Taiwan is a part of China.
The historical claims here are completely laughable, but the consul writes them in all seriousness, to a major Canadian newspaper, the Calgary Herald. MOFA people say that Chinese overseas representatives score points with the home office if they take a hard line on Taiwan or perform some obnoxious act such as ripping down a Taiwan flag at a sports event. Articles like this are written to show the boss back home, not impress the local Canadians.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Milk Makes a Nation Strong

I have my Google Maps page set to Taichung, and it opened to Taichung yesterday. I had a lot of trouble finding my way home.....

AP reports on the way tainted milk products from China have affected Ma Ying-jeou's plans for putting the island into China's orbit.

Now many Taiwanese are questioning whether Ma was right, amid nonstop media coverage of Chinese products being ordered off store shelves and of anxious parents monitoring their children's health.

High-tech employee Kuo Yu-chun, 34, said the milk scandal has reinforced his negative impression of China.

"We should not allow all things Chinese to come to Taiwan just because the government is opening up to the mainland," he said.

The report also observes:

China policy expert Andrew Yang of Taipei's Council of Advanced Political Studies said that further wavering by the government could undermine popular support for Ma's wide-ranging China initiative.

"If Ma fails to impose strict controls on the import of Chinese goods, people will lose confidence in his cross-strait policy," he said.

The milk scandal is just one of several things that have the locals up in arms over Ma's policy drift in the first few months in office -- it isn't just the economy -- there was the typhoon, our shrinking sovereignty, the tourists who haven't appeared, and the "opening" to China that has local businessmen exasperated. Tainted milk is a metaphor for Taiwan's entire relationship with China that anyone can read -- and the government's decision to raise allowable melamine levels to protect Taiwan's businessmen essentially says that China can poison the milk if it wants. In the Ma administration, service to Beijing is more important than service to the people of Taiwan. Paul Lin noted this in a commentary in the Taipei Times today:

Almost every country in the world has banned existing imports of Chinese milk powder. Last week I wrote that Taiwan’s government should lodge complaints with the WHO and WTO to uphold national sovereignty and dignity and protect Taiwanese interests. But all the government did was inform the WHO that some Taiwanese products made with Chinese milk powder had been sold to Hong Kong. The government put Taiwan in the position of being an accomplice of Beijing, providing the Chinese-controlled WHO with another opportunity to belittle Taiwan’s sovereignty.

MEDIA NOTES: The AP report contains a couple of highly problematic statements. The first is The Formula:

"....In Taiwan, an island of 23 million people that split from China amid civil war in 1949, the stakes are also political."

Three years ago Gerrit van der Wees of FAPA wrote a piece in the Taipei Times pointing out that AP was one of the news services that was especially guilty of perpetuating this historically incorrect description. Nothing has changed since. History still says that in 1949 Taiwan belonged to Japan, and would until 1952 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect, and AP is still writing that in 1949 Taiwan was part of China. A gross error.

Further, Taiwan and China did not split "amid civil war" since Taiwan was not part of the war between the KMT and the CCP. The KMT lost the civil war and retreated to Taiwan, which did not see itself as part of China.

Finally, saying that Taiwan split from China is not only perpetuating a historical error but adopting the position of Beijing with respect to the status of Taiwan: it is a piece adrift that needs to be "returned." Why must AP take a position on the status of Taiwan?

Other news services manage to describe Taiwan without falling into historical error or taking a position on where Taiwan belongs. Why can't AP do it?

The second problem is the wording of this paragraph:

Ma cruised to victory in March by convincing a large majority of voters that his predecessor's policy of distancing the island from its communist rival was bad for business and a threat to regional peace.

Ma actually convinced only a small minority of voters to switch -- the 10% or so who swing vote. The vast majority of voters remained with the parties they normally identify with. But more important is AP's ridiculous characterization of the DPP's China policy during the eight years of the Chen Administration as Chen "distancing the island" from China.

It's 2008. There are a million Taiwanese in China, $200 billion in Taiwan investment there, the world's busiest airline route is between a Chinese city and a Taiwanese one, we have direct flights, Chinese tourists, student exchanges, legalized investment, etc, etc, etc. Whatever Chen was doing, it was not "distancing." Taiwan is intimately involved with China. Rather the DPP, which sought to manage the relationship to benefit from China's booming economy and maintain good relations with China, staked out strong limits on sovereignty in negotiations. Ma convinced the locals that if those limits on sovereignty concessions were removed, then the economy would "be saved."

It would be better if the next time this appears, it attributes "distancing the island from China" to Ma as a campaign position, rather than presenting it as a fact in a neutral narrative of the issue.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another One Bites the Intellectual Upper Crust

The Liberty Times reports that another foreign university instructor, this one at beautiful Chinan University in Puli, is being publicly sued instead of privately reprimanded, for intemperate remarks.... it's yet another sign that the stuff Americans say to each other all the time is legally actionable here in Taiwan -- so watch your mouth!

罵系主任「UP YOURS」 暨大洋教師被訴

〔記者陳鳳麗∕南投報導〕罵人「UP YOURS」是會吃上官司的!

南投地檢署檢察官請專家翻譯後,24日依妨害名譽罪嫌起訴罵同系老師「UP YOURS」的國立暨南大學外文系外籍老師。


起訴書指出,該案發生在去年8月,當時擔任暨大外文系系主任的男副教授周曉青,在該系辦公室內要同系美籍男教師LOREN ALLEN BILLINGS歸還系上的吸塵器,美籍教師不悅地指責系主任不該鎖上系會議室和儲物室,雙方為此起爭執。外籍老師以英文對著周曉青說:「UP YOURS」及「YOU ARE THE MOST BARBARIC CHINESE.(你是最野蠻的中國人)」,周曉青認為他公然污辱,遂向埔里警分局提告。

美籍教師應訊時否認他說了「YOU ARE THE MOST BARBARIC CHINESE.」等語,但承認說了「UP YOURS」。而他辯稱該句英文的意思是「別管了」、「隨便你」的意思。


周曉青向偵辦該案的檢察官劉仁慈指出,「UP YOURS」是極粗野的話,有「比出中指且做出攪動的動作」。劉仁慈檢察官為慎重起見,函請國立台灣師範大學的學者幫忙翻譯解釋,經該校回函表明該語的確是不雅粗魯之語後,確認這名外籍老師的說法不可採信,昨日偵結該案,認為該外師有妨害名譽之嫌而起訴。


周曉青說,LOREN ALLEN BILLINGS在系上已不是第一次出現不雅的話語及動作,過去就有老師提出,也有學生反映過;知識份子絕不能用語言暴力傷害知識份子。

According to the report, Billings admits saying "Up yours" but denies saying "You are the most barbaric Chinese" -- which is extremely awkward English, and would be a highly unusual construction for an educated native speaker to evolve. On the face of it, I don't believe Billings ever made that remark (god knows what was actually said); it also has a made-up ring to it because it appears to push so many cultural buttons (similar to the utterly false accusation that a teacher at my university had used the term "Chinese dog" directed at a student). From my totally uninvolved angle this looks like a typical blown up university incident, in which from some tiny nub of truth evolves a fantastic and elaborate tale of abuse. The remark in the concluding paragraph that Billings has done this before is a signal that he is probably not a popular teacher and therefore an easy target.

My favorite part of this is the plaintiff's remarks:


Chou Shao-ching said that the suit was not a rejection of foreigners or prejudice, nor was it about revenge, but in the hope that through this, it would be seriously demanded that foreign teachers not speak to their coworkers or students using violent language, and also that the authorities should pay attention to the negative mood produced by, and inappropriate behavior of, foreigners in Taiwan.

ROFLMAO. Although this suit is not about ethnic prejudices, nevertheless the plaintiff hopes that the authorities would pay attention to the problems foreigners cause. You just can't make up dialogue like that....

Tancredo makes last minute push to end arms freeze

Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, a good friend of Taiwan, has introduced a resolution to force the Administration to sell needed weapons to Taiwan, taking advantage of Congress' being in session for the financial market mess. Below are copies of the bill, and various press releases. Many thanks to the Congressman for his hard work on behalf of The Beautiful Island.



On September 24, 2008, a Resolution requiring the sales of defensive arms articles to Taiwan was introduced in the House by Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO). The Resolution refers to section 3(a) of the Taiwan Relations Act, and states:

…. the defense articles and defense services described in subsection (b) shall be transferred on a sales basis to Taiwan as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of this Act.

In the subsequent section it refers to the following specific defense items:

… diesel electric submarines or relevant designs, Mark-48 ASW torpedoes, Harpoon submarine-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, PAC–3 missile defense systems, Paladin self-propelled howitzers, Apache helicopters, mine-sweeping helicopters, and 66 F–16 C/D fighter planes that were requested by the Government of Taiwan in August 2007.

The Formosan Association for Public Affairs applauds introduction of this resolution and urges Congress to act on it before adjournment. FAPA President Bob Yang, Ph.D. stated: "The US Administration's stalling on the arms sales to Taiwan is both bad strategy and a direct violation of the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances: delaying the arms sales is playing into China's hands, which wants the sales stopped altogether, so Taiwan has increasingly less leverage in its negotiations with China."

Yang adds: "To those who have worked hard and sacrificed to help make Taiwan a free and democratic country, the American hesitations to move forward with these sales are undermining US credibility as a proponent of democracy in East Asia."

* * *

To require the sale of certain defense articles and defense services to Taiwan.


Mr. TANCREDO introduced the following bill; which was referred to the
Committee on


To require the sale of certain defense articles and defense
services to Taiwan.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(a) REQUIREMENT.—In accordance with section 3(a) of the Taiwan Relations Act, the defense articles and defense services described in subsection (b) shall be transferred on a sales basis to Taiwan as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(b) DEFENSE ARTICLES AND DEFENSE SERVICES DESCRIBED.—The defense articles and defense services referred to in subsection (a) are the following: (1) The unfulfilled elements of the request made by Taiwan and approved by President George W. Bush in 2001 that includes diesel electric submarines or relevant designs, Mark-48 ASW torpedoes, Harpoon submarine-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, PAC–3 missile defense systems, Paladin self-propelled howitzers, Apache helicopters, and mine-sweeping helicopters. (2) 66 F–16 C/D fighter planes that were requested by the Government of Taiwan in August 2007.

(c) CONGRESSIONAL NOTIFICATION AND APPROVAL.—The requirement to transfer defense articles and defense services under subsection (a) shall be carried out notwithstanding the provisions for congressional notification and approval of a proposed sale of defense articles or defense services in section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2776(b)).


Tancredo Makes Last Minute Push to Complete Stalled Taiwan Arms Sale

Bill Would Sidestep Legally Dubious Bush Administration “Freeze” And Mandate Weapons Transfer

(WASHINGTON, DC) – U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo today introduced legislation that would mandate the completion the long-stalled arms transfer from the United States to Taiwan.

The bill would require the sale of diesel-electric submarine plans, F-16 fighter jets, cruise missiles, and Apache helicopters to Taiwan. The transfer of all of these weapons systems was approved by the U.S. government as far back as 2001 and, in some cases, earlier.

Despite long-standing U.S. policy, and in defiance of the legal requirements of the Taiwan Relations Act, however, the Bush Administration has blocked the completion of the sale in what many believe is yet another attempt by the White House to curry favor with the communist government of mainland China.

“We have a moral obligation to make good on our commitment to our democratic friends in Taiwan,” said Tancredo. “Congress and the Administration have a legal obligation under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with these weapons systems, regardless of what the communists in Beijing or the ‘panda-huggers’ in the U.S. State Department might think.”

Tancredo pointed to the text of Taiwan Relations Act which stipulates that, “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,” and that “The President and Congress shall determine the nature and quantity of such defense articles and services based solely upon their judgment of the needs of Taiwan” (emphasis added).

The Bush Administration has flip-flopped on the issue of supporting democratic Taiwan since taking office eight years ago. In 2001, President Bush declared that the U.S. would “do whatever it takes” to defend Taiwan, and approved a robust transfer of defensive weapons to aid the island nation in beefing up its defenses against its rapidly militarizing and increasingly belligerent communist neighbor.

Since then, however, the Bush State Department has taken great pains to accommodate and appease China, refusing to accept Taiwan’s request for replacement aircraft in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and freezing portions of the 2001 arms transfer by withholding a routine “notification” to Congress that is necessary for the completion of the sale.

“The Taiwan Relations Act entrusts both the President and Congress with the task of helping Taiwan defend itself from a hostile China,” concluded Tancredo. “Unfortunately because the President has made it clear that he isn’t interested in living up to that responsibility – Congress is going to have to take the initiative.”

Tancredo’s bill would waive the requirement for a “Presidential notification,” and allow the unfulfilled elements of the 2001 sale, as well as the F-16 fighters the Taiwan government requested two years ago, to go forward.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

China Apologizes to Taiwan --UPDATED-- Nope

AP reports that China has apologized to Taiwan over the tainted milk scandal.

In Taiwan, authorities said all China-made milk products and vegetable-based proteins had to be tested before they can go back on sale.

The checks on the vegetable-based proteins show the concern over how the problem is spreading.

Taiwanese officials say at least seven Taiwanese companies have imported contaminated proteins from China. They say the proteins are made from corn or other vegetables but may be mixed with tainted milk products to improve their flavor.

China on Wednesday apologized to Taiwanese consumers.

"We feel extremely painful about the damage that the milk powder brought to people in Taiwan. Our government attaches great importance to it and is taking a series of measures to minimize the damage and influence," said Li Weiyi, a spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office.

In Taiwan authorities said all products from China had to be tested? You mean they weren't regularly testing them? After revelation upon revelation of tainted this and adulterated that? There's a reason so many consumers avoid products from China whenever possible.

But don't worry: if it isn't tainted food coming from China, it's a jarring mixture of tissues, brainwashed children, ocean pollution, and nationalist expansion.

UPDATE: No apology here. As Feiren and Maddog both point out in the comments, the Chinese spokesperson did not apologize, merely expressed sympathy of an "I feel your pain" nature. AP appears to have missed badly on that one. Feiren observed:

What crappy reporting. Maybe they should consider hiring some people who can actually read Chinese and understand it. Li said that China was pained tong4xin (痛心). That is an expression of sympathy ('I feel your pain') not at apology dao4qian4(道歉). It's even weaker than 'regret' (悔意). China has not admitted any wrongdoing here.

Bad News for the Regional Administrator, Taiwan Region

President Regional Administrator [insert title here] Ma Ying-jeou's popularity sunk to a new low this week, according to a poll from Global Views Monthly reported in the Taiwan News. In addition to approval ratings for Ma at 24.9%, participants also dissed the legislature....

The poll also revealed dissatisfaction with the performance of the ruling Kuomintang's overwhelming majority at the Legislative Yuan. Global Views Monthly said 59.3 percent of the survey respondents did not approve of the KMT lawmakers' showing, with even 48.3 percent of KMT supporters expressing disapproval of their own legislators.
The legislature has higher approval ratings than Ma Ying-jeou? This means we are seeing the same pattern of the Chief Executive taking the heat for the legislature's incompetence that we saw under the two Chen Administrations. The Presidency's role as a scapegoat for political failure is one of the factors that enables the legislature to keep getting re-elected. Ma would do well to start thrusting the onus for these problems back on the legislature...

....The policy drift will continue until the legislature gets off its duff and gets legislature moving, as Speaker Wang promised a couple of weeks ago. The survey also noted that a large segment of the public wants a cabinet reshuffle, a useless move that will simply set policy back months. President Chen -- can't say "previous President..." now that Ma has demoted himself to Regional Administrator -- was roundly criticized for changing the cabinet repeatedly. Things are not likely to improve for Ma either, with export order growth falling again, in single digits for the third straight month, and economic growth expected to barely reach 3% in the third quarter.

The melamine milk powder scandal has crossed the Strait with many local companies under scrutiny. King Car, a company whose foundation is one of the most active in Taiwan education, pulled eight of its products from the shelves. Products containing plant substances from China have basically been banned. Hilariously, the government decided to send an expert team to China. Anything to avoid having to put in stricter regulatory regimes! This morning word came in the local Chinese language papers that Canadian milk products may be tainted with Chinese powder, and perhaps US as well. It's like a metaphor for the Wall Street mess, in reverse..... MOFA meanwhile sent a protest to the WHO over a reference to "Taiwan, China" in a letter on the milk powder scandal. Why does the WHO even bother, since its own shameful, secret memorandum with Beijing has made it impossible for it to be an effective participant in events that affect Taiwan and China?

UPDATE: For those of you who wonder why I allow anonymous commenting, this comment below is sufficient justification

Michael, I see what you're trying to do with drawing parallels to the previous administration, but this is a completely different situation. All the papers are calling for a new Cabinet with getting rid of Premier Liu Chao-Hsuan at the top of the list. There has been lots of executive incompetence these past few months, with none of the big problems that have come to mind having anything to do with an executive being hobbled by a do-nothing legislature. If you disagree, name one way in which they have been limited by an ineffective legislature. I can think of one, anti-corruption and ethics laws, but that isn't why people are so hopping mad at Ma and it definitely isn't something the executive is pushing for (they haven't even mentioned it).

I'm not sure what you mean by "set policy back months". What coherent policies have you seen coming out of the executive? Other than being consistently pro-China, do you like the consistency in flip-flopping on whether or not to return the gas market to "free market principles" (first they said they wouldn't subsidize, then they subsidized, now they aren't lowering prices as fast as the world market... what the hell is the mechanism they are using?) or do you like the consistency in Ma saying that as President, he's not supposed to personally go view disaster damage, then a full week after the hurricane, going anyways, or do you several cabinet members speaking about how great the stock market is going to be then saying they are just kidding then saying every stock owner needs to take responsibility for their own actions?

When the melamine scandal first came out, why didn't they ban dairy products from China right at the beginning like every other country did? That's not a legislative problem.

The list goes on and on and on. It's hard for me to see how an executive facing huge crises and bumbles them is being hobbled by the legislature. These aren't things that are meant to be handled by laws.

The legislature is doing a shitty job, yes. But in other countries (say the US), the executive leads the legislature even when they are of opposite parties, especially in times of crises. Where is the leadership? What coherent policy are you afraid of upturning with a new cabinet?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Turn out the lights

State Department telegram of Jan 1950, months before the Korean War would save Chiang Kai-shek. If only the US had possessed the political imagination to plot a different course....

+ + + +

By the waters of the Leman I sat down and wept...
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear
The rattle of bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.

Lots of stuff in the news this week -- and none of it much good. Yesterday the Taipei Times printed an editorial from its sister paper, the Liberty Times, on the mad plan to allow Taiwanese to take positions in the local governments in China, which it described as "selling out the country, step by step."

A few days ago, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) held talks with China-based Taiwanese businesspeople. During the meeting, the head of the Taiwan Business Association requested that the government allow Taiwanese businesspeople to hold positions in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) to increase their say on China’s government policy and help protect their rights and interests in China.

Giving in to such a demand, however, would irrevocably destroy Taiwan as a nation.

Nevertheless, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said that the provincial and municipal levels of the CPPCC were not as politically sensitive as other Chinese government posts and that her council would look into the issue to see if the law leaves room for interpretation.

She also said she hoped it would be possible to relax regulations to let Taiwanese businesspeople achieve some measure of political power in China.

Xinhua news agency recently reported that Taiwanese businesspeople had complained to Ma about not being allowed to become CPPCC members, telling him they hoped the law could change and that Ma had said the idea was a good one that would be a breakthrough in protecting the rights and interests of Taiwanese businesspeople.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) and his colleagues are planning to push for the required amendments in the legislature.

But a Presidential Office spokesperson said Ma had only told the businesspeople that the MAC would look into the matter of low-level CPPCC membership.

This is evidence that the Ma administration already has decided that it wants Taiwanese businesspeople to become CPPCC members. Restricting such membership to provincial and municipal levels would be just the first step.

As the editorial points out, the Regional Administrator Ma has already downgraded Taiwan's status by saying it is not a state. Now the KMT wants to change the law to bring Taiwan under China's control even further by integrating Taiwanese into the China government. Current law absolutely forbids Taiwanese from assuming positions in the China government.

As if to reinforce this, current Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan told a group of Taiwanese-Americans yesterday that Taiwan can't afford to ignore China. That's right -- with exchanges of every kind in motion, with thousands of tourists going every month, hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese living there, and tens of billions in investment, and a whole foreign policy driven by China's ongoing campaign to annex the island -- yes, Taiwan has been ignoring China. Lai's sage advice was couched in the euphemistic, patronizing language of Establishment doubletalk....

“While mainland China must blend into the international community, Taiwan cannot continue to guard against the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] and block cross-strait exchanges,” she said.

“The survival and development of Taiwan will depend on whether we can incorporate with the world. The sooner we do so, the faster and deeper the assimilation will be,” she said.

Lai made the remarks at a gathering held by the Taiwanese Association of America in Chicago, Illinois.

When Taiwan tries to connect with the rest of the world, it must not avoid China deliberately, but must reduce unnecessary obstruction to cross-strait interactions, she said.

I love that phrase.... "reduce unnecessary obstruction." It has the same ring as the free-market fundamentalism of "reduce unnecessary regulation" -- a signal that safeguards are about to be taken down and wholesale looting to begin. It is jarring to recall that when she was appointed to the MAC, there were international headlines announcing that she was a "pro-independence" politician. R-R-Right.....

Meanwhile the US Federal Reserve extended credit to the last independent bank on Wall Street. After years of free market yammerheads immiserating the universe by telling the Third World that utopia was just around the corner, if only their governments would stop all that nasty socialist care for their own people, the US government has socialized its financial sector. With its invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration has gravely wounded American leadership in democracy and human rights, and with its catastrophic mismanagement of the financial sector, it has now savaged the US position as a champion of free markets and arbiter of world financial markets. And this from a "conservative" Administration. The Bush Administration's response, with its blatantly corrupt and completely predictable demand for unlimited power, was merely the last vicious act in the Administration's gutting of the US and its political and social institutions. It introduced, however, an ugly new player in US financial markets....

Morgan Stanley, which has some US$36 billion in bank deposits, said it sought the new status from the Federal Reserve “to provide the firm maximum flexibility and stability to pursue new business opportunities as the financial marketplace undergoes rapid and profound changes.”

Some reports said Morgan Stanley was in merger talks with Wachovia, one of the largest US banks, and that China Investment Corp could take a stake in the company as part of a deal.

Anyone out there remember that other world, the one where Chinese companies ran into trouble and had to drop $18 bids to buy a US oil firm? My how things change... China Investment Corp (CIC) is a subidiary of China's massive sovereign investment fund, a $1.8 trillion monster that China has already demonstrated it will use for political purposes. Now Chinese government firms are being brought in to help stabilize our socialized Wall Street firms.... "The creatures outside looked from pig to man , and man to pig, and from pig to man again but already it was impossible to say which was which...."

Which brings us to the real issue: China is flush, and in Washington DC there is an entire political class with a giant FOR SALE sign on the front lawn. China awash in money, the good ship US dismasted, rudderless, and adrift, and Taiwan run by a party bent on annexing it to China... well, things haven't looked this bleak in a long time.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fun With the News

AFP reported on a TVBS poll that said President Regional Administrator Ma's popularity had plummeted to 28%, announcing that this was a new low. Remember, guys, this is TVBS, not a rational polling organization. Ma's approval ratings may well be that low, but as the saying goes, even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. Better to wait until more rational polls have confirmed that Ma's standing has indeed plummeted so far. TVBS' "news" does remind us, though, how Ma's social function is to serve as a scapegoat for public opinion, just as Chen before him -- playing Lotho to KMT elites' Saruman....

ESWN, popular tabloid blog, attempted and failed to comment rationally the other day on the Taipei Times report of former First Lady Wu Shu-chen's latest avoidance of court appearances by citing her failing health. After reviewing the Taipei Times coverage of the mess, ESWN pointed out that there were no quotes from Green lawmakers on the issue, only KMT lawmakers:

Why couldn't they get a quote from any lawmakers on the other side of the fence? Well, it is possible that it would embarrassing to the 'green' lawmakers and Taipei Times would not want that to happen, would they? It is also possible the the 'green' lawmakers made themselves unavailable because they know where the public opinion stands.

So I went and checked the pro-KMT China Post's coverage, which also did not appear to cite any Green lawmakers. In fact it cited a KMT lawmaker, the notorious Chiu Yi, whom President Chen let out of jail after he'd been sentenced for attacking a government building and assaulting policemen. Which the China Post did not mention, of course. Does this mean that the China Post has a horrible pro-Green bias? In both cases it appears that reporters probably felt they had the Green side since they had Wu's lawyer, and so -- for balance -- sought Blue counterquotes. In other words, ESWN most likely has completely misunderstood. The China Post did say that prosecutors thought this a travesty of justice, though evading court and police dates for health reasons is a time-honored practice in Taiwan's political circles.

Curiously, ESWN missed commenting on the far more ominous promise from the prosecutors in the Chen Shui-bian special funds case, in which eight prosecutors convened a press conference to announce that the prosecution of Chen would never stop until they had convicted him (not until they have found the truth).

On Monday, eight prosecutors in charge of the investigation into former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) secret overseas accounts held a press conference in Taipei.

During the press conference, prosecutor Yueh Fang-ju (越方如) proclaimed that if they failed to solve the case, they would step down.

Yueh asked rhetorically: “If the case cannot be solved, how could we not be too ashamed to stay?”

Supreme Prosecutor Office’s Special Investigation Panel (SIP) spokesman Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南) echoed Yueh’s comments, saying that if the team failed to solve the case, then they would have to step down, too.

The problem with this is that prosecutors are civil officials, not political appointees.

They should handle cases in accordance with the law and make remarks and decisions based on the evidence associated with the case at hand — nothing more and nothing less.

The language used by the SIP prosecutors at the press conference makes it sound as if they were pan-blue politicians commencing a campaign of attack on Chen Shui-bian.

In addition, the SIP ignored Articles 2 and 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法).

Article 2 stipulates that “a public official who conducts proceedings on a criminal case shall give equal attention to circumstances favorable or unfavorable to an accused,” while Article 154 stipulates that “prior to final conviction through trial, an accused is presumed to be innocent."

No doubt just an oversight on ESWN's account.

Speaking of special funds, I've always thought the whole pushing of Taiwan's stock exchange in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election was purely a pump-n-dump by stock pushers. What was the smart money doing? Well, foreign direct investment fell 46% in the first eight months of 2008 compared to the previous year. So while the big boys were patting you on the back and telling you to invest in Taiwan, they themselves were busy schlepping their money elsewhere.

NY Times article on food

The NY Times travel section has a long article on food in Taipei.

And Taiwan? The little democratic island of 23 million just can’t compete with the Communist state of 1.3 billion that claims it as a renegade province and would react unfavorably if Taiwan’s leaders were officially to declare independence. Unless you’re in the semiconductor business, chances are you’ll choose the Forbidden City over, say, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, especially when Taiwan’s tourist bureau promotes it with slogans like “Taiwan: Touch Your Heart.”

Which is a pity if you like to eat, for food is one arena where Taipei — the world’s most underrated capital city, according to Monocle magazine — blows Beijing away. Its food incorporates more influences, spans street food to haute cuisine with greater aplomb and is out and out more delicious than that of its mainland counterpart. Not to mention that its people are perhaps the most comestible-crazed Asians outside of Singapore — no excursion is complete without, say, a bag of stewed duck tongues at journey’s end.

Had to laugh at the dig at Taiwan's klutzy tourism bureau. Although I know many people who would strongly dispute the claim that Taipei blows Beijing away. Three pages, a long and loving look at the island's culinary capital. (hat tip to Joel H, come back to Taiwan soon, man!)

Sunday Morning Hiking in Miaoli

Sunday morning a group of us took the back roads out to Miaoli to do some easy hiking on the abandoned rail line between the ruined viaduct and Shenghsing train station, now a popular tourist area. I went there briefly last year on a long outing all over Miaoli with my friend Drew, one of the most enjoyable trips I've had, and was looking forward to coming back for some more exploration of the area.[Click on any picture to be taken to its Flickr page and see it in a variety of sizes.]

Drew looks fiercely resolved as we wait for the other members of cast to join yesterday's production in Fengyuan.

Passing through Fengyuan. We took the back way in over the foothills since the typhoon had finally applied the coup de grace to one of the area's most important bridges. As always, on the way I recorded photos of historical importance, such as this one.

Here a politician advertises for the upcoming election. Along the bottom it says that he has a PhD in politics from an overseas university. Degrees are much vaunted symbols of status and accomplishment here.

The haze was awful today, but the shot gives a good idea of what it was like once we got up on the ridges. The views back over Dongshih and the Tachia River were excellent, and on the other side was the reservoir, glimpsed through the trees.

Here's about a minute of riding on a local road. Turn the sound down; the wind and the engine produce a lot of loud, useless noise.

We motored all over creation, got a little lost, got to see some excellent Taiwan countryside.

We arrived at the ruined railway viaduct, a leftover from the Japanese period, long before 10. Thus, there was nobody there.

Drew and Roddick make plans.

Augustin, a new friend hailing from France, readies for the big walk.

Jim of Sponge Bear fame eats up the distance with long strides.

Here's something I've never managed to do before: an insect in flight. It's not a good pic, but I was delighted with it.

A grasshopper enjoys a flower.

The track stretches away into the distance. The walk was several kilometers, along the track and the road that runs parallel.

Lots of other people out today, including locals out working.

Good views of the countryside.

Other hikers too.

There's plenty of infrastructure left over from the Japanese period, including this culvert.

Biking is a new fad here, and we saw groups of bikers everywhere. Most of the bikers are in uniform -- brightly colored bike outfits.

Bikers were not the only brightly colored things around.

The route is now lined with teahouses, B&Bs, and similar.

A butterfly takes a tea break.

Just before Shenghsing station there is a long railway tunnel, 725 meters of darkness. It was packed with hikers using their cellphones as flashlights.

The station is now a major tourist site and has been completely redone with all the kitsch authenticity Taiwan can muster...

The station was packed with people resting....




...or just strolling, like these foreign factory workers. Anyone who has taken a train on the weekend has seen the factory workers out and about at tourist sites.

It was getting on toward lunch, and everyone was eating. We determined to head back along the road.

The road was much longer than the track, but facilitated plenty of excellent chatting with the politically engaged Augustin.

The tracks vanish into the green distance.....

Bugs: they grow'em big here.

Unfortunately, this wonderful angle on the dam is ruined by the wires someone has thoughtlessly strung in front of it.

Andrew defies the warnings....

90 seconds of motoring back along the ridges. The first 15 is a little unsteady, and the part where I nearly wrecked looks a bit like the death of Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia, but the last 30 seconds contain some nice views, and there's a funny moment where Augustin does some drive-by shooting...

Jim took this shot of Roddick, Andrew, me, Augustin, and Augustin's wife Chou.

We stopped for lunch at the Leftbank (左岸) in Jhuolan (卓蘭), just off the intersection in the town center where five roads come together on Chungshan Rd (中山路). You can see some pics of it on this blog. The food, Thai and Hakka, was good, and the owner promised to put us on his blog, which I unfortunately I cannot find.