Sunday, February 15, 2009

Black Boxes

I was just reading an interesting blurb on Echo Taiwan's blog about Taiwan's own IDF fighter, which local wags formerly termed the I Don't Fly but now refer to as the I Do Fall. Apparently the military discovered that the black box from a 2004 IDF crash never recorded any data. Rather than check all the black boxes at that time, the Air Force waited to learn from a crash in 2008 that none of the black boxes on their IDF aircraft were recording any flight data.

Lots of other black boxes were opened this week. President Ma, for example, was interviewed in the NYTimes by the normally excellent Keith Bradsher, but this interview is an almost total waste of time, as no difficult questions were asked of Ma (though it does not seem likely he would have permitted them). Instead, he laid out some goals, and admitted that the tourists weren't coming:

Mr. Ma also said he planned to push further this year for close economic relations with mainland China, even while acknowledging disappointment with the number of mainland tourists who have been allowed by Beijing to visit Taiwan. The Taiwanese government has set a limit of 3,000 a day, but actual arrivals have been closer to 500 or 600 a day.

Recent moves to let mainland tourists stay up to 15 days instead of 10, and come in groups of as few as 5 people instead of 10, could help increase their numbers, Mr. Ma said. His administration has also opened up charter flights, shipping and investment, and he said Thursday that he wanted regularly scheduled flights to the mainland by the middle of this year as well.

It is high time the US media quit referring to China as "the mainland" or "mainland China." That is an adoption of the terminology of the KMT and Beijing. "China" is quite clear enough, thank you.

According to the article, one of the goals is the incredibly laudable idea of setting up an extradition treaty between Taiwan and the US. This could easily be done under the framework of the TRA, and then the US could start handing over some of the local criminals who have fled there. This is one goal I wholeheartedly support.

A US black box was opened this week as well as Obama intelligence chief Adm. Blair spoke on Taiwan security. The jury's still out on Obama's Taiwan policy, but every little clue helps.

I was contemplating, with vast amusement, and not a little sadness, US-based China expert Bonnie Glaser's comment in today's Taipei Times that she "view[s] Ma’s policies as pro-Taiwan." Oy ve. Glaser is a reliable guide to what the US Establishment thinks, and the US Establishment clearly loves Ma -- probably because they don't live here. To see what the locals think of our new pro-China president (not pro-Taiwan, Dr. Glaser), Commonwealth Magazine, which no one would ever describe as pro-Green, this week last month opened the black box of Taiwanese opinion with a survey....
The survey found that those dissatisfied with President Ma's overall performance since taking power May 20 outnumbered those who were satisfied by 55.3 percent to 33.4 percent, a 22 percentage point margin.

Looking more closely at the numbers based on respondents' political leanings, 85.7 percent of opposition Democratic Progressive Party supporters voiced their dissatisfaction with Ma, while only 2.4 percent approved of his performance to date. KMT supporters were more forgiving, with 46.3 percent voicing satisfaction with his performance and 27.1 percent saying they were dissatisfied. (Table 6)

Respondents also were generally unhappy with the performance of Premier Liu Chao-shiuan by a 53.7 percent to 27.9 percent margin. Even KMT supporters backed his performance by a lackluster margin of 53.8 to 36 percent. (Table 7)

Commonwealth goes on to observe:

The most important publicly articulated policy of the Ma administration has been its advocacy of 12 major infrastructure projects to boost domestic demand. But one member of a Taiwanese business association in the United States told friends after listening to a presentation on the program in Taiwan that he found it "difficult to understand" and "full of empty rhetoric without a central focus."

"All the 12 infrastructure projects and the NT$500 billion stimulus package have are numbers. They have no sense of direction, no sense of showing people where the government wants to take Taiwan," says Mon-Chi Lio, an associate professor at National Sun Yat-sen University's Department of Political Economy. Lio stresses the he does not want to hear bureaucratic rhetoric, but a vision of what the result of Taiwan's future development might look like.

The survey also asked who should be held responsible for not articulating the country's future course. Some 34.6 percent identified President Ma as the guilty party, while the Cabinet (21.5 percent), the ruling KMT (13.8 percent) and Premier Liu (4.4 percent) were also fingered. In all, 74.3 percent of respondents put the blame for the lack of a clear direction on those in power – the president, the Cabinet, and the ruling party. (Table 12)(emphasis mine)
The country may lack direction as Ma repeats the same policy drift we saw during his eight years as mayor of Taipei (as the Survey notes), but 76% of the people are proud to be Taiwanese, it found, and it adds:

The State of the Nation survey first began analyzing the inclinations of Taiwan's people toward independence from and unification with China in 1994. The latest numbers reveal that 23.5 percent of respondents want formal independence for Taiwan (whether as quickly as possible or as a long-term goal), the highest percentage in the history of the poll and far higher than during the pro-independence Chen Shui-bian's eight years in power.

In contrast, only 6.5 percent of respondents hoped for unification with China (either quickly or eventually under certain conditions) – the lowest percentage ever. Some 7.6 percent of those surveyed favored unification in last year's poll, down dramatically from the 13 to 18 percent who backed unification in the poll's earlier years.

Reuters reported today on another failure of Ma's, his policy of appeasing China militarily, which has produced no positive results. Instead, the number of missiles facing Taiwan is still increasing. To wit:
China expanded its arsenal last year even as tensions eased after the election of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said.

“In this period of warmth, a war won’t break out, but don’t forget China still has 1,500 missiles aimed at Taiwan — more than 1,500 — and that’s not right,” Lai said. “They’re always adding [missiles].”

The Ministry of National Defense estimated early last year that there were 1,300 missiles pointing at Taiwan.
The article notes that we've cut our live-fire drills to once every two years. Thus, our "pro-Taiwan" President has enabled China's military build up while slashing our own, failed to reach any of his tourism goals, handed over our cross-strait markets to China (as his party condemns the locals for protesting this betrayal), handed off China policy to unelected KMT heavyweights, destabilized the status quo by moving closer to China, shrunk our sovereignty to a "region" and let the pandas in as a "domestic transfer", puttered around while the economy burns, refused to push the legislature on needed legislation, reintegrated the Party with the military and the government, and stood by as his ruling party adjusted the courts to suit itself, pressured local TV stations to reduce their pro-Green coverage, and took control of the government media in a manner that provoked international protest. If this is a "pro-Taiwan" president, then I'd sure hate to see what a pro-China President looks like.

Oh wait -- that's what we're seeing.


Ah-Ben said...

Boom! That's a succinct a summary of the Ma Administration's record. The Commonwealth Magazine's results were very interesting though, given the theory that there exists a 10% swing vote, perhaps respondents could have been given more choices of political identification eg independent? ... especially given that Table 22 shows that 72.2% of respondents either held no affiliation or where unsure. For me Table 15 was killer ... 11.9% who don't identify with Taiwan and 8.6% who were unsure - pretty close to the 19.9% in Table 22 who support pan blue parties. So are we to conclude that this administration and more importantly its core ideology, identity and policies are supported by only around 20-25% of the population? With DPP affiliation at all time lows is it an opportune moment for a third party (not TSU) to given TW voters another credible choice? - if so i'd wish it to be the Green Party though it is not politically likely given their current size. Now if the DPP gave them and the TSU assistance and formed a 'rainbow coalition' .... *sigh*, dream on hippy.

Anonymous said...

I will stop using the term "Mainland" when Taiwanese stop saying "Da Lu."

Ain't gonna happen.

Red A

Richard said...

Wondering what you think about the term "guo-yu" when describing Mandarin/Chinese? Wasn't 國語 (the term) invented by the KMT as part of their efforts to suppress Taiwanese? Anyways, I believe the proper way to say you speak Mandarin/Chinese is to say 中文, but I admit, I'm in the habit of saying 國語.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say it was invented to "suppress" Taiwanese. The language was invented by combining several northern dialects with official court Mandarin. The KMT in China set out on a difficult course of trying to centralize the government of China and took a very hard line at creating a sense of national unity. Contrary to popular belief, a Chinese nation was a very new and difficult proposition. The KMT spent decades battling warlordism and felt that only a strong, centralized nationalization could unite the peoples they sought to govern. During this period there had been attempts to create a United States of China, giving many regions more autonomy under a strong governorship.Other regions sought independence after the fall of the Qing. Chiang and his cohorts felt anything shy of strong centralization would only result in a weak and divided China.

The language policy was put in place to create a unified, national language of a single nation and eliminate the divisions that had existed under successive empires.

Under the strong centralization of the KMT, Taiwanese languages and cultures ran in opposition to KMT policy and were targeted for elimination and assimilation

Anonymous said...

"I will stop using the term "Mainland" when Taiwanese stop saying "Da Lu."

Ain't gonna happen.

Red A"

It's offensive to many Taiwanese for you to say "da lu" or "Taiwan sheng" right now. Many people just use terms because that's what they're used to, just like nigger was highly prevalent throughout the US. But people are rational beings, they think about what these things really mean, and you can make a conscious decision to either accept the old status quo and all the values that they entail and reinforce or you can say what you think is accurate or polite and try to change things.

Especially in this case, when many Taiwanese say "zhongguo" and avoid using "dalu", you'd be crazy to try to "respect" the convention in Chinese and use the very uncommon "mainland" to describe China in English.