Monday, January 19, 2009

Calendrical Encyclicals

J Michael Cole with another hard hitting Op-Ed in the Taipei Times on the recent calendar "errors" says Only fools wouldn’t see a developing pattern:

NOT ONCE, NOT twice, but on three occasions calendars meant for distribution by government offices across the country included Chinese holidays such as Reunification Day and Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) birthday, or substituted the Republic of China (ROC) flag with that of the blood-drenched People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Every time, government officials blamed printing companies or, in an insult to our intelligence, black-and-white samples that had ostensibly prevented proofreaders from seeing clearly, for the mishaps.
First it was a Taoyuan county calendar that acknowledged PRC holidays, then a similar incident in Taitung and now Hualien. As Cole points out, it is difficult to imagine how the printer could have screwed that one up. Or how three different printers could have screwed them up once each.

If you were wondering what China wants out of all this, look no further than the gravel shipping industry, the latest victim of the Ma Administration's China policy. The Taipei Times ran a story on the continuing saga of Where did our market go? The gravel shippers planned to stage a protest because they have been chiseled out of their markets by the KMT's support of China:
Cheng said they were not going to trust the government any more, adding that the agreement on direct sea transportation links did not benefit Taiwan.

“Officials at the transportation ministry and the Mainland Affairs Council [MAC] seem to be working for the Chinese, not for us,” Hsiao said.

Cheng said Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) has been trying to talk him out of pursuing the shippers’ case. Chiang also told him that he could not do anything to help because the MAC had not authorized him to negotiate, Cheng said.

Since Jan. 1, Cheng said 15 of the association’s ships have stopped operating and that they had lost NT$73 million (US$2.3 million) in the last half a month.

Cheng has two ships that have been transporting gravel from China since 2000. He said he cannot afford to sell them because each cost him more than NT$300 million, but now he could only sell them for about NT$30 million.

China has approved 10 of its own ships for the direct sea transportation links, but Cheng said five of them had never shipped sandstone before. The five Taiwanese ships authorized to transport gravel across the Strait before the agreement was signed must apply for new permits from both Taiwan and China, but China had approved only three, he said.

What is worse is that the three ships cannot transport river sand, which is more popular because of its better quality and accounts for more than 75 percent of the local gravel market, Cheng said. Rive sand can only be shipped by their Chinese counterparts, while Taiwanese ships can ship only artificial sand and pebbles, Cheng said.

Although Taiwanese shippers could file applications for China’s single-trip permits or long-term permits, Cheng said, China has yet to approve any application from Taiwanese shippers.

Taiwanese without a permit can no longer enter Chinese ports because the Chinese government has banned Chinese shipping agencies from sponsoring their ships, he said.
In the long-term, China wants to annex Taiwan, but in the short term, it is using the "improved relations" (read relations that serve China) to lever Taiwanese out of cross-strait markets. One key reason China objected so vociferously to Chen Shui-bian was because the DPP administration fought to maintain Taiwanese markets in the China trade. The KMT Administration has other priorities....

The KMT, on the other hand, dreams of retaking China and turning it into a "democracy." President Ma Ying-jeou, speaking to the World League for Freedom and Democracy (WLFD) Republic of China Chapter (Google that, it's a hoot). Ma noted:
“A military race is the last thing we need with China,”Ma said.

"Where we should really compete against each other is the race for freedom and democracy.

“Considering our strength (in those areas) , I believe we will definitely win,”the president said.

Only through reconciliation can both sides of the Taiwan Strait avert conflicts, and cross-strait confrontation can only be replaced with negotiations, Ma asserted, which is why his administration resumed talks with Beijing immediately after assuming office last May 20.

“If there is no war but peace and prosperity across the Taiwan Strait, I believe both governments will have greater courage to promote free and democratic societies,”Ma said.
True to his word, news came today that Taiwan is cutting the size of its military. The report, which comes originally from the CNA, contains a factual error: it was not Ma that resumed talks, but China. The DPP was always willing to talk with China; it was China that cut them off.

Everyone is saying that the upcoming WHA meeting will be a test of China's Taiwan policy. Will China give Taiwan observer status at the meeting?

The outcome of Taiwan’s bid for observer status at World Health Assembly (WHA) in May will serve as an important indicator of whether the development of cross-Taiwan Strait relations can be normalized, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言), quoting President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), said that if Taiwan continues to be isolated from the meeting, it would be impossible for Taiwan and China to foster normal links.
Two things should be mentioned. First, the framework -- what if China asks Taiwan to enter as a region of China? If that occurs, remember our problem: The Process is the New Status Quo. If Taiwan balks, there will be criticism from people who want Taiwan to Just Enter The Process. The process of engagement thus has a built-in ratchet effect -- each time Taiwan balks at China's embrace it will receive criticism that it is disrupting the process -- that it is, in effect, unilaterally altering the status quo. Not that the KMT government would ever do such a thing.

Hang on to those 2009 PRC holiday calendars. They may come in handy in the not too distant future....

4 comments:

claudiajean said...

Glad someone picked up on the calendar thing. There's no way it was the printing companies' fault. Why didn't this occur before? Why didn't they 'accidentally' download the US version but the Chinese? Did the agencies skip proof reading? No way.

All government agencies (local or central) get calendar templates from Executive Yuan Central Personnel Administration every year. Unless the Central Personnel Administration has started using the Chinese version, I can't see how anyone say this is not part of a planned 'test' on Taiwanese and it's getting harder to argue that Ma doesn't have the intention to annex Taiwan to China.

Anonymous said...

There have been quite a few signs of China black ops operating in Taiwan. The actual arrest of the spy in the Presidential Office of course was clear evidence. The calendars Michael points out are another. And anyone remember when Chen Yunlin came to Taiwan and when Ma Ying-jeou met with them? Chinese media was here, and it was broadcasted live--funny thing that the parts where they say "welcome the honorable President Ma Ying-jeou", the audio was cutoff. Supposedly just a malfunction, but it was way too convenient for the Chinese media.

The calendars thing isn't a huge deal in terms of harm to Taiwan because each time it's found out, but someone is behind it and has either a strange sense of humor or is trying to test the patience of the Taiwanese people. What's scary is the overall organization and frequency behind this...

Anonymous said...

Michael,

A good article from at Asia Times Online on the judiciary disaster in Taiwan.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/KA17Ad01.html

Thomas said...

I am interested to see what happens to the gravel shippers. As I have said before, where Thailand's government was vulnerable through the closure of an airport due to the effects on the tourist industry, Taiwan's would be vulnerable if an effect could be had on shipping.

These gravel guys are small potatoes. But the effect that they could have, say if a protest of theirs inhibited traffic at a port for enough time, especially during a recession, wouldn't be small. And they do seem to be hopping mad, with good reasons.

Incidentally, I have read that Kaoshiung Port experienced a surge in traffic at the end of the year due to the direct shipping, although the total throughput for the year declined. KSS is almost certain to fall out of the top 10 ports.

Port officials were saying that they think the direct shipping can add 1 million TEU per year. To put that in perspective, that extra 1 million TEU would put KSS at around 11 million TEU annually, which is a lot. But it won't be enough to avoid falling behind faster-growing ports.

The Taiwan Miracle is not coming back... not through any stretch of Ma's imagination. Too bad that so many people in Taiwan can't simply be content with good growth.