Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Five Commentaries for Wednesday

The last week has seen several pieces on the Taipei-Beijing relationship in diverse media. Tom Plate, that reliable reflector of Establishment (un)wisdom, had a short essay in the SCMP the other day, noting:
This, at any rate, might be the kind of political advice one would imagine Niccolo Machiavelli giving a Taipei prince. And this, exactly, is the suave policy line now being pursued by Taiwan's current president.

He may be special. Elected last year in a landslide over his discredited predecessor (Chen Shui-bian, the leader of the pro-independence party, who is now in jail facing corruption charges), Ma Ying-jeou realised Taiwan faced two choices. It could persist in hitting its head against the Great Wall of China by constantly hinting at independence, or avoid repeating old stupidities by searching for a new way - and avoiding continuous migraines.

Accepting historic reality, it turns out, is the old way of Mr Ma's Kuomintang. The party has always accepted the one-China principle, without getting too far into the details of how exactly it might work.
Plate has long nursed a crush on President Ma, a longtime opponent of democratization on the island. The piece is nothing more than a mash-up of Establishment shibboleths, but I especially like his description of the current policy as "suave" ... let's call up Taiwan News again:
For example, ARATS turned down various requests by the SEF side, such as Taipei's plea to increase the flights for Taiwan airlines in "golden routes" such as between Taipei and Shanghai and instead graciously expanded flights between Taipei and "hot spots" like Nanchang and Hefei instead and added northward routes that passed only through PRC air control zones to emphasize the "domestic" character of cross-strait air routes.
Yes, that's right, the KMT was completely owned by the CCP in the negotiations, because its self-imposed negotiating position is so weak. That's 'suave' at work! The other wonderful line there-- along with his acceptance that Taiwan should be annexed to China (why are Americans and presumed democracy supporters such ardent advocates of selling out Taiwan to China?) is that "Accepting historical reality is the old way of Ma's Kuomintang." Hilarious -- you mean when they argued that they represented and owned China, as many of the Old Guard still do? Accepting reality was the last thing the KMT did, and only because others forced it to do that by democratic change.

Plate also says that Taiwan is avoiding the "bear hug" of China, although as we know, Beijing's goal is to suffocate Taiwan in its embrace, and it is using the KMT to achieve that goal -- to place Taiwan in a position from which it cannot escape annexation. The DPP was successful in keeping both Taiwan and our cross-strait markets. That is why Beijing hated the DPP. What's going on is not avoiding the "bear hug" but embracing it. Sad. UPDATE: As many readers have pointed out, Plate can't even get Ma's opponent right: he beat Frank Hsieh, not Chen Shui-bian.

As a progressive, I've often complained of the lack of progressive attention to The Beautiful island. What luck! Over on Huffington Post the other day there was an actual piece on Taiwan by National Security Consultant Eric C. Anderson! Discussion of Taiwan on progressive media sites is as rare as Republicans at a gay marriage rally. In fact a reader flipped it to me, for I had stopped looking for such articles on progressive websites.

Anderson's piece is weightier than Plate's, but he still offers the reader no insight in the KMT-CCP reconciliation. He also doesn't understand the way that the KMT is using the economic crisis to advance its goal of annexing Taiwan to China, and that the people of Taiwan reject both the ECFA framework and the larger goal of becoming part of China. Nor does he understand the Old-Guard/Ma split, etc.

Nice to see Taiwan on a progressive website, though. Progress of a sort.... perhaps we can have an actual progressive call for greater support for Taiwan's democracy. Don't hold your breath, though, folks.

My man Erik Lundh posted a piece from the WSJ by Daniel Rosen to his cross-strait economics blog. This is very much Establishment economics analysis, containing an error:
Until now, Taiwan has blocked inward investment from China -- despite WTO obligations -- ostensibly out of national security concerns.
That is incorrect -- regulations permitting Chinese investment in Taiwan were drawn up under the DPP years ago, but no investment occurred, partly because China did not want to reward DPP openness with Chinese investment. Rosen also observes:
Critics within Taiwan will inevitably argue that normalizing economic relations with China brings Taiwan additional national security risk. In the U.S. experience and world-wide, inward investment has proven not to undermine national security but rather enhance it. If Chinese firms build productive capacity in Taiwan, then that is so much more capacity within Taipei's direct reach in the unlikely event of future tensions.
An interesting argument, although it does not seem to be supported by history. The pattern and goals of Chinese investment in Taiwan need to be clarified before we can say much about the future. Rosen doesn't consider the possibility that the KMT is not negotiating in good faith on behalf of the island. I refer the reader to the Taiwan News piece referenced above.

Bill Sharp out of Hawaii had a piece in the Honolulu papers this week on the disarray in Taiwanese politics:

Given the disarray, one wonders if Taiwan will remain a viable two-party system. The KMT controls the presidency, the legislature and most local government positions. A despondent key DPP insider said that if the party retains the six local government positions it now holds in the upcoming local elections, it will be doing well.

The party is plagued by a lack of finances and the lingering negative image of former president and DPP chairman Chen Shui-bian, who is in jail facing corruption charges. Moreover, the party lacks a center of gravity because of the strong factionalism between the more pragmatic wing of the party versus the strongly doctrinaire pro-Taiwan independence wing of the party.

"Taidu" (Taiwan independence) has no chance of succeeding in the near future, and as long as those advocating that position within the party persist, the DPP will remain out of power. The DPP needs to focus more on economic issues and transform itself into a British-style labor party, which represents the interests of those economically less fortunate.

I don't see the DPP regaining control of the legislature, ever. It is not belief in Taidu that keeps the DPP out of power, but its lack of a strong party structure at the grass roots level, failure to set up youth and volunteer training organizations, lack of cash, and so forth. The DPP at present is little more than a party of lawyers struggling to grab the Presidency.

Head and shoulders above these pieces is a longer review by Michael Goldfarb in the Weekly Standard. You only need one small paragraph to understand how much better Goldfarb's understanding of affairs is. Referring to the WHA observership, he notes:
President Ma and other KMT officials insist that Beijing will act out of a new, enlightened sense of self-interest; that the Communists now understand increased trade and a softer touch are the only way to win hearts and minds on the island and prevent any further drift toward independence. But many officials concede that a fear the DPP will return to power is the driving force behind Beijing's sudden flexibility.
And the concluding paragraph...
Fifty years ago the Chinese could only fire artillery shells and make threats in response to any provocation by -Taiwan. In a few more years mainland China will be able to stop tourists, cut air links, and seize Taiwanese investments if Taiwan defies the Communist party. China will be able to devastate the Taiwanese economy. And if that fails to bring Taipei in line, Beijing can credibly threaten to take the island by force. But as long as the KMT is in charge, none of that will be necessary. After all, the KMT and the Communists share the same goal: One China free of the DPP.
Yup.

UPDATE: Another blog lists the numerous problems with even a relatively good piece like Goldfarb's.
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Daily Links
  • The Peaceful Rise: recently India, the Philippines, and today, a piece on China's theft of Su-33 technology from Russia in Defense News hot on the heels of stealing Su-27 tech. That's China, your good cooperation partner.
  • The pro-Green forum Social Force says they have been the target of Denial-of-service attacks.
  • A blog opened to promote Yushan as a world wonder. Because those blog-thingies have magic power to promote stuff, merely opening one will change the world and be big news.
  • Big advance: UN to give Taiwan media press cards to cover WHA meeting. Before the UN barred Taiwanese media.
  • The energy footprint of the Net grows by 10% annually. How long can we sustain it, asks Andrew Leonard? For the sake of the children, can we retire the phrase "a perfect storm" from the English language?
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Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Elected last year in a landslide over his discredited predecessor (Chen Shui-bian"

He's wrong, but also right. The last presidential election was more about not electing CSB than about electing Ma. The DPP should have distanced itself a lot more from CSB if they wanted to have a chance to win that election...

Robert R. said...

I'm impressed how Anderson spends 2 paragraphs on the November negotiations, without a peep of the associated protests. Just goes to further show Michael's point about how this has nothing to do with the people, and everything to do with the KMT.

I'm baffled about Lundh's assertion that trading with China has enhanced the national security of any country.
You can see that China already has an affect on the foreign policy of many western countries because of the great trade defict and dependence on China. Sure, they can get away with meeting the Dalai Lama, but even then Sarkozy ran back to Beijing with apologies.
In Africa it's worse. They've signed agreements for China to do all of these public works projects, and for China to bring in their own people & equipment tax free. So aside from the projects (which never seem to get completed), they resell all of this "surplus" equipment (such as computers) they bring in, knocking out many local businesses.

Also, I'm skeptical that Chinese enterprises would have much production facilities here... They would only long enough to figure out how to make it by themselves back in China.

"President Ma and other KMT officials insist that Beijing will act out of a new, enlightened sense of self-interest;..."
Sure, China acts out of self-interest. That interest being annexing Taiwan. Working in good faith with a "government of Taiwan" works against those interests and their stated goals.
How is this not straightforward?

Robert R. said...

Because those blog-thingies have magic power to promote stuff, merely opening one will change the world and be big news.You haven't used your magical powers yet? I use mine for a heightened sense of superiority.

Anonymous said...

Right, because you'd be jumping up and down with joy, if only the Nanjing talks had ended with more direct flights between Taipei and Shanghai.

You must have a lot of time on your hands. Who else has the time to generate paragraph of fluff, just in order to rebut Plate's central thesis that Ma is "suave"?

Tim Maddog said...

Zombie liar Tom Plate needs brains! He actually wrote:
- - -
Elected last year in a landslide over his discredited predecessor (Chen Shui-bian [...]
- - -

Gee, I'd been thinking all this time that Ma had run against Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) in that election. Gotta luv that "historical reality," eh?

Michael, you much more sensibly wrote:
- - -
The DPP was successful in keeping both Taiwan and our cross-strait markets. That is why Beijing hated the DPP. What's going on is not avoiding the "bear hug" but embracing it. Sad.- - -

Can you say "Castle Anthrax"?

Tim Maddog

Michael Turton said...

Right, because you'd be jumping up and down with joy, if only the Nanjing talks had ended with more direct flights between Taipei and Shanghai.Actually, I've always supported direct flights. I'm just not the kind of idiot who believes they will solve our problems.

You must have a lot of time on your hands. Who else has the time to generate paragraph of fluff, just in order to rebut Plate's central thesis that Ma is "suave"?I have so much time on my hands, I even have time to waste on pro-China idiots.

Michael Turton said...

Also, I'm skeptical that Chinese enterprises would have much production facilities here... They would only long enough to figure out how to make it by themselves back in China.Yes, I had the same thought. What is Taipei going to do, seize the 10% share in Far Eastern mobile?

Anonymous said...

I think a summary of the rationale behind China's actions are as follows:

Taiwan annexation = unhindered access to drilling for oil and natural gas in the straits.

Spratlys = oil

Paracels = oil

Senkakus = natural gas

Africa = oil, natural gas

Control of East China Sea ("EEZ") = oil, natural gas

Control of South China Sea = oil

Control of Indian Ocean = oil

Support Myanmar dictatorship = natural gas

Support of Iran = oil

Support of North Korea = oil, natural gas

Funding jihadists in Iraq, Afghanistan = keep US bogged down so China can get more oil

"The Institute of Energy Economics in Japan...forecasts that oil consumption in China will grow to 590 million metric tons in 2020 from 220 million tons in 2000, and the country's oil imports will soar to 450 million tons during the same period, compared with 250 million tons for Japan.

Furthermore, China is expected to become a net importer of natural gas by 2010. China is also expected to become a net importer of gasoline within this year.

China's dependence on the region's oil is expected to reach 50% in 2020 from 15% in 2000, according to experts."

(http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/FG27Dh03.html)

STOP Ma said...

.
.
.
"...Rosen doesn't consider the possibility that the KMT is not negotiating in good faith on behalf of the island."

This is one of the main principles of Western reporting -- especially U.S. corporate establishment journalism. If it fits the establishment agenda, then accept propaganda at face value.

Think about how U.S. journalists fawned over war criminal George W. Bush for years..
.
.

Anonymous said...

"It is not belief in Taidu that keeps the DPP out of power, but its lack of a strong party structure at the grass roots level, failure to set up youth and volunteer training organizations, lack of cash, and so forth."

And who causes the "lack of cash" in DPP?
1) CSB wife ratting out the past donors had pretty much scared future donors to give to DPP coffer.
2) The elephant in the room is that CSB put some much of the supposedly campaign contribution money to DPP into his own pocket and overseas accounts. It is outrageous that Taidu fraction is still making excuses for CSB instead of calling him out for whom he is: a thief who stole from DPP and from his country. If your excuses for CSB is true and he is just stashing away campaign contribution overseas, then it's time for DPP and Tsai to go after CSB for a big chunk of the "campaign contrition". The DPP tradition was for the donors to give money to the DPP party’s leaders for the party's use, not for his family luxurious life style. DPP does have a legal case to sue CSB for 背信 and 侵佔 to go after CSB cash, but DPP and Tsai is not doing a thing.

民進黨窮到這個地步沒錢打選戰 是活該啦 自作孽不可活

BTW, it's about time that you grow up and stop equating anti-CSB/anti-DPP to pro-KMT/pro-China.

amida said...

"Suave"? Who is this guy, Frank Booth out of Blue Velvet?
http://tinyurl.com/d5k76c

Anonymous said...

"It is not belief in Taidu that keeps the DPP out of power, but its lack of a strong party structure at the grass roots level, failure to set up youth and volunteer training organizations, lack of cash, and so forth."

Could it be that the DPP's lack of grass roots organization and lack of cash have to do with its unrealistic stance on TI? The KMT has downplayed its platform of unifying China under its auspices because most Taiwanese find it unrealistic. A Repubilc of Taiwan is equally unrealistic to most Taiwanese yet the DPP places that above all else in its platform.

Taiwan needs to have a new progressive party promoting freedom and democratic values as a counter to a resurgent KMT, but this party cannot be based on divisiveness and tribalism or be seen as an ally or puppet of foreign militarists.

Michael Turton said...

BTW, it's about time that you grow up and stop equating anti-CSB/anti-DPP to pro-KMT/pro-China.

Anon, I've never made any excuses for Chen Shui-bian. I don't know where you get this idiotic shit from.

Michael Turton said...

Could it be that the DPP's lack of grass roots organization and lack of cash have to do with its unrealistic stance on TI?

Yes, in addition to your point, I also think that Taidu is supposed to replace the lack of a party organization -- the DPP apparently feels that if everyone can identify with Taiwan, it will automatically win. I think 2008 exposed the fallacy of that position.

Michael

Dixteel said...

anon,

sometimes minority or the weaker party in a democratic system has its value. Usually they are the one that has the most progressive ideas that is beyond other people's concept at the time. And slowly, if their ideas are not too bad, people might accept them gradually.

If DPP didn't push for TI concept etc, and get shits from KMT and its cronies all the time for the past 20 or so years, there is no way 70% (or was it 60%...don't remember) of people now identify themselves as Taiwanese (and not Chinese).

If they just follow the majority idea...sure, they might get more support and more money, but we will probably still think we are pure Chinese, and eventual "unification" is unavoidable (note even how the term changes, nowadays people use "annexation" instead of unification)...It's just an example of how minority changes others.

Sean Reilly said...

Amen to getting rid of the phrase, "the perfect storm."

I mean, it wasn't a bad movie for a Hollywood Blockbuster. No car chases or gun battles and I applaud any director who kills off all of the heroes at the end - it just doesn't happen enough on the American silver screen. But I'm sick and tired of hearing that phrase on everyone's lips. Even Putin used it the other day.

Any poetry it once had has long ago been eroded away through its constant, thoughtless repetition.

Thank you, professor.

Readin said...

Rosen says: In the U.S. experience and world-wide, inward investment has proven not to undermine national security but rather enhance it.Really? How so?

Anonymous said...

"but this party cannot be based on divisiveness and tribalism or be seen as an ally or puppet of foreign militarists."Wait, what the hell, did you notice you just described the Chinese KMT?

The KMT labels green supporters alternatively as low class, violent, dumb and innocent, naive, easily manipulated. They always deny facing the history of 228 and white terror, preferring to simply ask everyone to just forget it all. They think anyone that holds any reservations about increasing economic dependence on China is foolish, too local, irrational.

I don't think I need to expound on how the KMT finds the CCP a better ally and negotiating partner than the DPP...

Anonymous said...

"the DPP apparently feels that if everyone can identify with Taiwan, it will automatically win. I think 2008 exposed the fallacy of that position."I don't think that was why they lost so big at all. I think 1) everyone was just tired (sick) of CSB and wanted to try something else and 2) a vast majority of people really were convinced that Taiwan's economy was in dire straits... (which leaves us without words to describe our current situation...)

All the things about how great Korea's economy is, how awesome it is for Thailand to have street protests that topple popularly elected govts every few years--they all ring hollow now, but they didn't a little more than a year ago.