Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nelson Report on Adm Owens

The Nelson Report, the Washington insider report, carries news of that awful piece by Admiral Bill Owens in the Financial Times I blogged on a few days ago. Onward....


"PERSPECTIVE" noted in the Summary, a Financial Times OpEd last week by retired Amb. Bill Owens caused some heartburn throughout the China/Taiwan watching community, timed as it was to coincide with President Obama's trip to Asia.

Many in Taipei, and here, wondered if the former Vice Chief of the Joint Chiefs' recommendation to scrap the Taiwan Relations Act in favor of something more suited to his view of current US-PRC relations might be a "covert" message of some kind from DOD, the White House, or perhaps both.

As we read it, the gist of Owens' argument is that because the PRC's military build-up is already so overwhelming, continuing US arms sales to Taiwan in effect feeds an already pointless arms race.

Here's a key section:

It is often politically expedient to paint China as an adversary, or worse, a future enemy. Our national security apparatus is aiming to continue the present level of defence spending and emphasising 30-year-old legislation that is doing more harm than good.

The Taiwan Relations Act was passed in 1979 after the establishment of relations with the People's Republic of China and the breaking of relations with the Republic of China. It is the basis on which we continue to sell arms to Taiwan, an act that is not in our best interest.

A thoughtful review of this outdated legislation is warranted and would be viewed by China as a genuine attempt to set a new course for a relationship that can develop into openness, trust and even friendship.

The first step to halting arms sales might be to observe that the Chinese have stopped the short range missile build-up across the Taiwan Straits (I believe this is true). The US could then stop selling arms to Taiwan unless that build-up was renewed. We must always protect the democracy and freedoms Taiwan has developed - but weapons sales do not do this.

We must consider the facts. China will continue to grow four to five times faster than the US. In less than 30 years China's GDP will equal that of the US and we will live in a world of two great and equal powers. Importantly, if China funds its military at a global standard of 3-4 per cent of GDP, it will have the capacity for a military equal to or greater than that of the US (they get more from the yuan than we from the dollar, manpower costs are less, and production is cheaper because of its scale).

At that time, friends and allies such as Japan, Korea, India and Indonesia will be faced with a difficult choice (and yes, it will be a choice) between China, a rapidly growing and influential regional power, which is continuing to grow and trade in much larger quantities, or stick with the US (a 12-hour flight away). Is that the scenario we would set for the future? I believe not.

The solution is to approach the US/China relationship not with hedging, competition or watchfulness, but with co-operation, openness and trust.


In fact, Owens' piece horrified former colleagues we contacted, on several grounds, including a concern that his long-standing affiliation with a PRC-sponsored talk-shop might be clouding both his political and strategic judgment. [MT: this is probably a reference to the Sanya Initiative held at CSIS last year, which basically resembled the dinner party in The Remains of the Day, with the Chinese for Nazis and retired US military officers for their British sympathizers. See the anonymous comment on my previous post on this topic.]

Our checks make it emphatically clear that Owen's OpEd of Nov. 17 was poorly received for substantive reasons, including his incomprehensible decision not to reference the very deep concerns still unresolved over the USS Impeccable incident earlier this year.

So we asked Loyal Reader and regular adult supervisor on all such matters, Rear Admiral Eric McVadon (Ret.) for his commentary on the Owen's suggerstions...

Commentary for The Nelson Report by Eric McVadon

Admiral Bill Owens has boldly suggested stopping arms sales to Taiwan and embracing China. Yes, the U.S. and China should be better friends, just as Admiral Owens suggests. They are, of course, friendly to a far greater degree than they were for much of the last half of the last century. Indeed, I advocate a goal of partnership in the first half of this century--a path the two countries have arguably taken with respect to North Korea, the global economic crisis, maybe global warming, etc. Progress has been made even with respect to Taiwan, but caution is warranted in what is arguably the most complex problem of this sort that the world faces today--including the Taiwan Relations Act, which addresses U.S. support of Taiwan's defensive capability.

As to specifics, I hope Admiral Owens is right about a cessation of the Chinese ballistic missile buildup against Taiwan. Even if so, there are already deployed against Taiwan roughly a thousand short- and medium-range ballistic missiles (many very accurate) and probably hundreds of land-attack cruise missiles (very accurate)--an unprecedented, overwhelming missile threat against which there is no effective defense. Beijing's saying it has stopped now is not very comforting to the mother's of Taiwan.

Moreover, China has made no move toward renouncing the use of force against Taiwan--and it has built an impressive and modernized military capability focused on the "Taiwan problem." A minor part of this is the amphibious and airborne capabilities that could cap a campaign by missiles and air that had driven Taiwan to its knees. China has modern, capable, and numerous aircraft, ships, submarines, anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-C4ISR systems, fifth column and special forces, and much more that, if used effectively, could defeat Taiwan and that stand a chance of deterring, slowing, and complicating timely and effective U.S. intervention. Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have recently eased; an attack is highly unlikely. Nevertheless, Taiwan needs to have some role in deterring China from using this force and in defending itself, if things go the wrong way in the future.

Taiwan does not need offensive weapons to attack China. Those would be pin pricks to a dragon, which has overwhelming military superiority, favorable geography, strategic depth, vast comprehensive national power, sense of purpose, and obsessive motivation.

Taiwan does need weapons to deter an attack by making Beijing realize that the outcome would be uncertain, an attack would be costly, and that Taiwan would not be immediately defenseless and helpless--forced to accept Beijing's terms. Taiwan cannot defend itself against today's China and PLA without U.S. intervention. The Chinese will attempt to deter or delay a U.S. response with military, technical, and political means. Taiwan needs weapon systems that will help it hold on until the Americans can achieve effective intervention. Beijing must recognize that factor, or it will be emboldened or tempted to use military force in some arising crisis, perceived or real, concerning Taiwan's future direction.

It is, therefore, premature to abandon the Taiwan Relations Act. It is not premature to build greater trust and confidence with China. We need the right balance of engagement and cooperation on the one hand and U.S. and Taiwan military readiness on the other. Neither of these goals is easily achieved. Much intellectual energy and sound thinking and leadership are required. There could soon come a day when Beijing will take a more enlightened position (there are hopeful hints of that) or that a solution is achieved otherwise (probably based on economic interdependence). But, for the moment, a bold stroke to fell the TRA won't do the trick.

Eric A. McVadon
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Consultant on East Asia Security Affairs
Director, Asia-Pacific Studies, Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis


Owen must have known how poorly his strategically shortsighted and ethically challenged opinion on the TRA would be received in Washington. It's pretty clear who it was written to please.

Nelson, a former Dem staffer who was in on the drafting of the Taiwan Relations Act, also refers to the USS Impeccable incident, in which Chinese boats hassled a US surveillance vessel going about its lawful business in local waters. He says that deep issues regarding that incident remain unresolved. Readers may want to reflect on that: of all the US government arms that do business with China, the Navy has gone out of its way to work with Beijing more than most.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Desperately Seeking Suzerainty: The "Not the Time" Talks

Michael: There are negotiations being made that are going to answer all of your questions and solve all of your problems. That's all I can tell you right now.

On this lovely day here in Taichung, Taiwan Today gave the UDN report that, once again, the Ma Administration said there would be no peace talks with China "at this time":
Now is not the time for Taipei and Beijing to enter into negotiations over a peace treaty, according to Premier Wu Den-yih Nov. 20.

“Cross-strait peace talks cannot be conducted until a consensus has been reached in Taiwan,” Wu said, adding that such negotiations were impossible without stronger public support. “A win-win solution is only in the offing if Beijing faces the reality of divided rule in the strait and treats Taiwan with parity and dignity.”

Wu said Beijing must do more to back Taipei’s efforts at seeking greater international space and dismantle its missiles targeting Taiwan. “The mainland has to make an important gesture such as scaling back its escalating military threat against Taiwan,” he said. “This will help promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.”
"It's not the time" is actually like a theme song of the Ma Administration -- whenever the Administration wants to avoid discussion, it reverts to "it's not the time." Can Taiwanese businessmen serve in local Chinese Communist offices? "Not the time." Can the Dalai Lama come? "It's not the time." Ma, Sept 2008: "It's not the time" to have peace negotiations with China. It's not likely that unification talks will be held "in our lifetimes," says Ma.

But now is that time, for at the press conference Wu was asked by local reporters "but isn't Lien negotiating just such an agreement?" and would not answer. The Ma Administration isn't the only entity attempting to deal with China -- the KMT Old Guard led by Honorary Chairman Lien has its own agenda. Ma appointed Lien Chan the island's rep to the APEC talks, which speaks volumes about how much China likes Lien, and how little Ma can do about it, and Hu went with the public line that the two nations were putting aside political issues to focus on economic ones. But it is hard to imagine that they didn't have a long discussion in private about how best to annex Taiwan to China, and more importantly, who will get the concrete rewards.

Wu also called for the removal of missiles facing Taiwan. This message has now been sent to China many times by both US Establishment writers and by the Ma Administration, so far falling on deaf ears. I can see the set-up now: China "reduces" or "removes" missiles in response to entreaties, the world swoons at the greatness of China, peace prizes handed out like candy. Fortunately the coming Obama surge in Afghanistan will do great damage to the prestige of the peace prize -- people always complain that the US arrogantly doesn't understand the world, but the Nobel for Obama shows that the compliment is returned: the world doesn't understand the US either. Feeling a strong Chinese cultural moment coming on here: Foreigners can never understand our nation. I guess I've assimilated....

Either way, China wins -- the missiles go and the world admires, the missiles stay and Taiwan perspires. Still, they are so useful to China it is hard to imagine Beijing deciding to do away with them.

As Stocks and Politics points out, Ma is fading in the polls: Global Views has him at 29%. He isn't showing up on campaign ads although he is stumping for local KMT politicos. What kind of leverage does he have in his own party at the moment?

Anyone catch this: although Taiwan is not engaging in peace talks, and the government has sworn it will never waver even one inch on sovereignty, the government announced that it concedes the waters around Kinmen and Matsu to China. The KMT cultural policy relentlessly continues too: the Vice Premier today touted Taiwan as the "heartland" of Chinese culture:
"Taiwan is the geographic heartland of Chinese culture and the hub for the use of traditional Chinese characters. It should therefore make the best use of these advantages to promote Minnan (southern Fujian) and Hakka cultures in a market of two billion Chinese people," said Chu.
This was at an international exhibition where he was commenting on Mandarin -- the international language of the 21st century -- another long-cherished dream of Chinese. The Ma Administration has been pushing its "Chineseness with Taiwanese characteristics" as an avowedly assimilationist answer to the problem of the rising Taiwan identity: by repositioning it as a Chinese identity. Here Chu says: it ain't Taiwanese, it's Minnan, and it's Chinese. As Taiwan moves closer to China, many in the Taiwanese mainlander camp are going to discover the contradiction at the heart of their Chinese identity: it is a Taiwan-based Chinese identity, and it contains a separate and not-Chinese Taiwan within. Will they be as confused about how to reconcile Taiwan and China as the KMT appears to be? Only time will tell.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Miiltary, Congress & F-16s

Truth in advertising.

FAPA says that another bill on F-16s has been introduced in the US Congress:
One day after President Obama concluded his China trip and after the introduction of H.R.4102 in Congress of legislation highlighting the stalled U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, Texas Congressman Joe Barton (Republican) introduced H.Res. 927 to boost the expeditious delivery of F-16s to Taiwan yesterday afternoon. Congress introduced two resolutions in 24 hours on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and Taiwan’s security right after President Obama issued a joint statement in China earlier this week.

The resolution concludes that “(1) it shall continue to be the policy of the United States, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, to make available to Taiwan such defense articles and services as may be necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability; and (2) the United States should determine the nature and quantity of such defense articles and services ‘based solely’ upon the legitimate defense needs of Taiwan.”

The bill references that “Taiwanese Defense Ministry has requested and the Executive Yuan approved in August 2007 a 2008 defense budget that includes approximately $764,000,000 for the second year's budget for F–16C/D fighters.”

On October 9, at a Washington press conference, Senator John McCain what his own views are on providing Taiwan with F-16s. The Senator stated: “My position on F-16s for Taiwan is that I believe that we should provide Taiwan with the equipment that they feel is necessary to defend themselves. We know that there's a significant military buildup on the other side of the Strait. So, I personally favor the sale of F-16s to Taiwan.”
US lawmakers are also seeking to put pressure on the Obama Administration about Taiwan arms sales.

Another key piece of news came out of Kyodo News service last week:
The U.S. military has required Taiwan to bear the costs of a major, unexpected security upgrade to a key U.S.-made radar on the island, a move signaling Washington's growing distrust of Taipei's ability to safeguard against security breaches as the island woos China, a local government official said.

The request came as Washington demanded what sources said are exorbitant prices on a range of arms that Taiwan seeks to purchase -- from U.S.-made missiles to helicopters -- and dithers over the island's longstanding request to kick-start the procurement process for F-16 fighter jets.

Amid the ''price-gouging,'' the U.S. military -- without prior consultation with Taiwan -- recently asked the island to pay for the addition of costly ''anti-tampering'' technology in an US$800 million early-warning radar system, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

''The Taiwanese military is really frustrated with the U.S. [over radar issues],'' the official told Kyodo News, adding that the price tag for the unscheduled security measures was nearly NT$2 billion (US$61 million).

''Implementing security measures is standard. But why has the U.S. sprung this on Taiwan some three years after the project started and as it’s nearing completion?'' the official said.

For Taipei, the last-minute request points to Washington's apparent concern over the security of U.S.-made military platforms on the island amid warming relations across the Taiwan Strait, the official said.

''The U.S. is worried about its Taiwan-based technology becoming compromised as cross-strait ties warm…and the island becomes more vulnerable to Chinese espionage,'' the official said.

Asked for comment, a media liaison officer in Taiwan's defense ministry confirmed the extra security costs, saying the ministry was ''looking into the matter.'' The official declined further comment and requested anonymity.

In 2006, Washington hired U.S. defense contractor Raytheon to build the radar facility, reportedly on Leshan Mountain in central Taiwan. Scheduled to begin operations this year, the radar's capabilities include detecting and tracking incoming missiles from China, according to a recent report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS).

But mudslide-induced delays have abounded, according to Defense News, a U.S. newsweekly covering military affairs. Indeed, a recent job advertisement on Raytheon's website seeks an engineer to supervise ''the surveillance radar program at the Taiwan field site…and work in a remote and hazardous environment.''

Since construction began, Washington has ''on many occasions requested more funds'' from Taipei beyond the radar's sticker price, citing washouts of mountain roads and loose soil, the China Times, a local Chinese-language daily, reported last week.

But Washington's latest radar-related request fits with a more recent pattern of overcharging Taipei -- often for political or security-related reasons -- the official said, citing separate deals over U.S.-made missiles and helicopters.

Taiwan's latest bid to procure U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missiles and launchers hit a brick wall after Washington raised the price of each missile from US$80,000 to US$240,000 without explanation, the official said.
Lots of things happening -- is it bad luck, company policy, or is the Obama Administration throwing up roadblocks to arms deals? Hard to say. Kyodo noted in another article that the military is moving to all-volunteer:
''The Ministry of National Defense, which used to isolate itself from the outside world, has now found it necessary to connect with society,'' said Lin Chung-Pin, a former deputy defense minister. The commercial, Lin added, is part of the military's bid ''to connect with youth and meet the goal of an all-volunteer force.''

By 2015, Taiwan will slash its 275,000-strong military to 210,500 service people and phase out conscripts -- a force structure transformation whose scope is unprecedented for the island.

''Implementing voluntarism is the most essential and complicated military (task) for the Republic of China at present,'' Taiwan's 2009 National Defense Report states, referring to Taiwan's official title. ''Voluntarism is also key to determining personnel and warfighting capabilities.''

For now, conscription remains the bedrock of the island's defense, with young men required to serve roughly one year of military service before or after college. The duration of conscripts' service has steadily lessened in recent years as the island's relations with rival China have improved and tensions ease.
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Decoupling the National and the Local

The Taipei Times reported on a phenomenon which I've been discussing for weeks now: the absence of KMT Chairman and ROC President Ma Ying-jeou from the local election campaign, now heating up as we approach December.

The paper observed:
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) absence from the party’s latest campaign commercial for next month’s local government head elections sparked speculation yesterday about Ma’s popularity with the party’s candidates.

The KMT yesterday made public its first campaign commercial for next month’s local elections. The commercial highlighted the interactions between party candidates and local voters, while Ma, who has enjoyed great popularity with candidates in past campaigns, was notably absent.

In response to reporters’ questions about the president’s absence from the commercial, KMT Spokesman Lee Chien-jung (李建榮) said party candidates were the protagonists in the upcoming elections and denied speculation it was related to the president’s plummeting popularity.

“Chairman Ma is already in a lot of news coverage while campaigning for party candidates, and so the campaign commercials put the focus on the candidates because they are the protagonists in the elections,” Lee said yesterday at KMT headquarters. “The election next month is not a presidential election, but local elections for 18 city and county heads.”

In the legislative election in 2008 Ma was in many pictures (selection). This election he has been completely absent -- I've been all over the island, except in the south, and have only seen him on one recent picture. Plummeting popularity for Ma has meant that KMTers elsewhere have to banish him from their pictures.

This morning the KMT was out with more spin:
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said yesterday that the public should not draw a link between next month’s mayor and county commissioner elections and the public’s view of the performance of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his government.


“What does the election of county councilors or township chiefs have to do with President Ma’s national policy?” Wu asked when approached by reporters in Nantou County yesterday.

Wu said that while in the US, the midterm election is seen as a vote of confidence for the sitting president as it is held in between presidential terms, in Taiwan, candidates are selected for their connections with local factions, their personal image and whether they have competence to serve the public, all of which have little to do with the nation’s leader.

Wu is in fact right: local factions are important in local elections. But in previous elections in which local faction politicians have run, Ma appeared. Wu is struggling to keep the public from linking the national and local, after the KMT received a few signals in the form of lost local elections.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Night Lites

On video: FAPA's Bob Yang on Al Jazeera presenting the pro-Taiwan side, and academic Bonnie Glaser of the CSIS think tank, which represents the center-right corporate Establishment view that wants sell Taiwan to China in the (vain) hope that China will turn up sweet (they will simply ask for more). Note that while Dr. Yang's agenda is clearly identified by Riz Khan, Bonnie Glaser's is masked and she is portrayed as a disinterested centrist analyst -- a common pattern in the media. By locating Glaser as a centrist, Yang can then be pigeonholed as a non-centrist, though in fact both are equally agenda-driven. Yes, it's true -- Al Jazeera really is CNN for the Arab world. ADDED: maddog has some good comments and links to both segments of the presentation.

Meanwhile, China, our good cooperation partner, has held an American geologist for two years for purchasing a commercial database -- state secrets! -- and has tortured him. Our good cooperation partner also is engaged in rampant spying on the US, says Congress. Classic middle finger ploy: remember when China held military exercises in islands in South China Sea right after meeting with local nations to discuss the island issue, without notifying them? Yes, the day after Obama, who praised the hope of human rights in China, flies home, the Chinese put a Tiananmen leader on trial. Classic. News likes this makes the commentary in Financial Times the other day from Adm Owens feel a lot like the dinner party of the Britsymps and the Nazis in The Remains of the Day. Freedom House has a report out called Undermining Democracy on China's longterm assault on that value.

Suicide watch: Reuters reports on a Commonwealth Survey that says more than 60% of Taiwanese youth have thought about suicide.
Taiwan-based CommonWealth magazine's first ever Life and Education Survey of 4,475 students between 15 and 22 found that most had thought about suicide, with 23 percent still considering it, survey center director Huang Ching-hsuan said on Thursday.

About 34 percent of respondents said they had no idea what to do in life, the mail survey found.

"We were extremely surprised by the results," Huang said. "Also we had quite a high response rate to the questionnaires."

It is hard to imagine how anyone could be surprised at such results -- the surprising thing to me is that it is only 60%. Taiwanese students live in the iron cages of the school bureaucracy -- their classes are basically chosen for them, their lives consist largely of eating, sleeping, and studying, with no chance to develop their own interests and little instruction in how to do so. Drudgery, drudgery, drudgery. The other day my niece in Maryland wrote on Facebook about how their high school in the US had a program with the local Lockheed unit in which she was building rockets under the guidance of the Lockheed people. Yep, US schools sure suck compared to Taiwan schools. The whole piece in English is here, and the whole issue is actually about education. Commonwealth's output grows more impressive in quality with each iteration. Many thanks, whoever is doing all that excellent work.

Dan Blumenthal, staunch Taiwan supporter, pointed out what many of us have feared when Obama was elected:
The three communiqués do indeed mention respect for territorial integrity. But it is highly arguable that "respect for ... sovereignty and territorial integrity" represent the "core" of the understandings that led to Sino-American rapprochement. The Taiwan issue was treated more delicately by earlier American statesmen. Their basic idea was that we would acknowledge, without accepting, the position that Taiwan is part of China. We would continue strong, unofficial diplomatic ties with the island and we would provide for its security through the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). We thus found a way to normalize relations with China without letting China have its way with Taiwan. Both sides of the Strait have prospered since the U.S. rapprochement with China and the signing into law of the TRA and relations have been more or less peaceful.

Now consider the situation across the Strait today. China has built a military capable of destroying the island if America does not assist Taiwan. Though obligated by law, the Obama administration has not sold a single weapon system to Taiwan. There is in fact no U.S.-Taiwan agenda under the Obama administration. It is even more dangerous, then, to stress the parts of the Sino-American normalization documents that most appeal to China. Of course China wants us to reiterate that our respect for "territorial integrity" and "sovereignty" is at the core of the three communiqués. Beijing wants us to accept its argument that Taiwan is part of China and that we should respect their sovereignty over the island. Obama has thus far done so through deed. With the joint statement he comes closer to officially accepting the Chinese claim of sovereignty.
Blumenthal is technically correct to say that Obama has not sold any weapons to Taiwan, though in fact that was a policy of President Bush as well. But Blumenthal is right on the implications of the joint statement. Obama has some excellent advisors, though, so let's hope that this represents merely a bump rather than a trend.

Finally, Jonathan Adams on the financial MOU in the NY Times.
The deal includes three memorandums of understanding on financial ties. The statements cover information-sharing, inspections, protection of information and crisis management — in the event, for example, that a financial institution with interests on the other side of the strait goes bankrupt.

The most anticipated deal was on banking. Taiwanese banks have long yearned to do business on the mainland, where about one million Taiwanese live and work, and where Taiwanese firms have invested at least $150 billion, according to Taiwan government estimates. But until now, Taiwanese banks have been allowed to set up only representative offices that cannot do business.

After the new deal takes effect in January, Taiwanese banks like Mega Financial Holding and Cathay Financial Holding will eventually be able to upgrade those offices into branches, allowing them to lend to Taiwanese firms on the mainland and do other business, according to Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission.

But restrictions remain. The agreement “is a precondition for the banks on two sides to set up a branch on the other side,” Ms. Tao said. “But how many they can set up and under what condition and terms will have to be determined in future negotiations.”
Apparently the actual restrictions are not clear to anyone in the banking industry, for I heard from one frustrated reporter that some are saying that the conditions start from the signing of the MOU, and others that they start from 2013. It will be some time before things are clear.

Remember when Ma and others were saying we had to have an agreement right away to save Taiwan's economy? It will be years before all this stuff is negotiated and the full effects are known and felt. What a load of poppycock!
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EVENTS: This was sent to me:

Gathering of the Tribes: Reviving the Annual Autumn Struggle

Come join dozens of advocacy groups in the revival of the Autumn Struggle an annual event that was initiated just one year after the world’s longest period of martial law was lifted in Taiwan in 1987 and was last held in 2003.

Organized somewhat hastily by professors and a number of first peoples, worker rights, environmental, glbt, sustainable economic and other groups, the march will begin with a gathering at 1200 noon Sunday 22 November 2009 in front of the Council of Indigenous Peoples at No.172, Sec. 2, Chongcing N. Rd., Datong District, Taipei City and will arrive around 1300 at the Council of Labor Affairs at No.83, Sec. 2, Yenping N. Rd., Datong District, Taipei City, around 1400 at the Department of Health No.36, Tacheng St., Datong District, Taipei City, the Executive Yuan around 1500 at the corner of Chongsiao and Chongshan and on to Ketagelan Boulevard around 1600.

The “demands” this year are broad ranging but generally come within a widening gap between the haves and have nots and in particular growing frustration at the increasing and closer cooperation of government and companies at the expense of the citizenry’s interests in everything from land ownership, health policy, enforcement of environmental and labor laws and regulations. One of the sponsors TIWA is active in helping foreign language teachers assert rights against Buhsipans.

There will likely be some lively skits and other activities. The sponsors have obtained all legal permits so those without Taiwan nationality may join without too much fear of deportation for “activities inconsistent with purposes stated in their visa” (although they can always find a way if you piss off the wrong people).

For more information feel free to contact Robin, or Lai Hsiang-ling of the Raging Citizens Act Now or Professor Chen Hsin-hsing.

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!

Chiang's Gold: where is it?

There's a persistent myth among KMTers and resentful PRC trollbots alike that the KMT stabilized the economy of Taiwan with the gold looted from China's treasury (I discuss why it is nonsense here). WSJ featured a letter yesterday that sheds light on the gold issue:
NOVEMBER 19, 2009
Those Golden Days Flying Out of China

Regarding Melanie Kirkpatrick's review of "The Last Empress" by Hannah Pakula ("China's Mystery Lady," Bookshelf, Nov. 4): When Chiang Kai-shek decamped to Taiwan in 1949, he took the gold with him. Trans Ocean Airlines picked up the gold in Taiwan and transported it to Oakland Airport, home base, where it was transloaded to a Slick Airways C-46 to be delivered to Chase National Bank in New York. The plane was grossed out with a payload of seven tons of gold.

I was the pilot of this flight and have often wondered who ended up with the gold.

William P. Willoughby
Retired Captain, Slick Airways
Palo Alto, Calif.
Where did it go?
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

E-government Aargh

MyEgov of Taiwan is having a photo contest and they want you to register and vote. The link for the registration is here. There are some really lovely photos there, but the interface is clunkier than a Model A.


To promote it, they flipped me an image and an email advertising the contest. Brilliant e-government planning.... the email they sent contained only the image and no other information -- no link-- while the image itself... contains no link to the online contest they are promoting.

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!

House Members Introduce Bill on Arms Sales to Taiwan

FAPA passed this around:


SENIOR HOUSE MEMBERS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION RE. ARMS SALES FOR TAIWAN - Resolution Seeks to Reinvigorate Congressional Oversight on Defense Consultation

(Washington) – In an attempt to pressure the Obama administration to expedite a decision on F-16C/Ds sale and notify Congress of the remainder of the defense services and articles for Taiwan that were approved by the Bush administration, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), along with Taiwan caucus co-chairs, Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA), Mike Ross (D-AK), Dan Burton (R-IN) and Walter Minnick (D-ID) introduced H.R. 4102 this afternoon, requiring the administration to provide detailed briefings to Congress on U.S. arms sale to Taiwan. The bill, if passed, would “mandate briefings no later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act and at least annually thereafter, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, shall provide detailed briefings to Congress on (1) any discussions conducted between any executive branch agency and the Government of Taiwan; (2) any potential transfer of defense articles or defense services to the Government of Taiwan.”

FAPA President Bob Yang says, “The introduction of the resolution today is most timely as Taiwan supporters are disturbed by President Obama’s statements in China in regards to Taiwan. President Obama’s omission of the Taiwan Relations Act while stating that the U.S. respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity through the three joint communiqués is likely to embolden China to press even harder her spurious claim over Taiwan. Such statements seriously undermine U.S. legitimacy to continue providing defense articles and services to Taiwan as codified in the Taiwan Relations Act (Public Law 96-8) and compromise the strategic interests of not only Taiwan but also of the U.S. in the region.”

Yang continues, “For the past few years, members of Congress have been expressing strong concern about the stalemate in U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Their repeated appeals to the administration went unheeded. Annual briefings, as mandated by this bill, will reassert Congress' prerogative to co-determine with the President the nature and the quantity of the defense articles and services for Taiwan, as stated in Section 3(b) of the Taiwan Relations Act.”



為了施壓歐巴馬政府儘快就出售台灣F-16一事作出決定,以及儘快通知美國國國會數項布希政府已通過的相關軍售,眾議院外交委員會副主席蘿斯列敦娜(Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL)與台灣連線三位共同主席柏克莉(Shelley Berkley, D-NV)、金格瑞(Phil Gingrey, R-GA)、迪亞斯巴拉特(Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-FL),以及眾議員羅依斯(Ed Royce, R-CA)、羅斯(Mike Ross, D-AK)、柏頓(Dan Burton, R-IN)與明尼克(Walt Minnick, D-ID),特於今日下午提出第4102號議案,要求行政部門向國會詳細報告對台軍售事宜。






H. R. 4102


To require the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, to provide detailed briefings to Congress on any recent discussions conducted between United States Government and the Government of Taiwan and any potential transfer of defense articles or
defense services to the Government of Taiwan, and for other purposes.

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

Congress finds the following:

(1) Relations between the United States and Taiwan are governed by the Taiwan Relations Act
(22 U.S.C. 3301 et seq.; Public Law 96–8), three joint communiqués, and the Six Assurances.

(2) The Taiwan Relations Act has governed United States arms sales to Taiwan since 1979, when the United States extended diplomatic recognition to the People's Republic of China.

(3) The Taiwan Relations Act specifies that it is United States policy, among other things, to consider any nonpeaceful means to determine Taiwan's future ‘‘a threat'' to the peace and security of the Western Pacific and of ‘‘grave concern'' to the United States, ‘‘to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character'', and ‘‘to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion'' jeopardizing the security or social or economic system of Taiwan's people.

(4) Section 3(a) of the Taiwan Relations Act states 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."

(5) Section 3(b) of the Taiwan Relations Act stipulates that both the President and the Congress
shall determine the nature and quantity of such defense articles and services ‘‘based solely'' upon their judgment of the needs of Taiwan.

(6) Taiwan in March 2009 issued its first Quadrennial Defense Review, a robust, defense-oriented strategy that aims to shape the regional security environment and deter conflict while transforming the military into a leaner, more efficient fighting force with sustainable capabilities, thereby helping to demonstrate that Taiwan has the resolve and commitment to successfully strengthen its own defenses.

(7) According to the Congressional Research Service, the executive branch has yet to send any
arms transfer notifications to Congress for Taiwan during calendar year 2009, including notifications for Blackhawk helicopters, diesel submarine design, and additional Patriot PAC-3 systems, nor has it yet transferred the OSPREY class minehunter coastal ships ORIOLE (MHC-55) and FALCON (MHC-59), even though Congress authorized the sale of these ships in calendar 2008 in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–229).

(8) Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has reiterated his administration's desire to acquire United States built F-16 C/Ds and other weapons on many public occasions, including in an April 22 address to the United States by teleconference to mark the 30th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act and a statement issued during a May 26 transit stop in the United States on his way to Central America for a diplomatic visit.

(9) Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou also stated on October 2, 2009, that ‘‘Although there are
pragmatic improvements in cross-strait ties, this doesn't mean we can let our guard down."

(10) As highlighted in the March 2009 Department of Defense annual report to Congress on China's military, ‘‘China's armed forces are rapidly developing coercive capabilities. . . [that] could in the future be used to pressure Taiwan toward a settlement of the cross-Strait dispute on Beijing's terms while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay, or deny any possible U.S. support for the island in case of conflict."


(a) BRIEFINGS.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act and at least annually thereafter, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, shall provide detailed briefings to Congress on—

(1) any discussions conducted between any executive branch agency and the Government of Taiwan during the covered period; and

(2) any potential transfer of defense articles or defense services to the Government of Taiwan.

(b) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:

(1) COVERED PERIOD.—The term ‘‘covered period'' means, with respect to—

(A) the initial briefing required under subsection (a), the period beginning on the date of
the enactment of this Act and ending on the date of such initial briefing; and

(B) subsequent briefings required under such subsection, the period beginning on the day after the date of the most recent briefing and ending on the date of any such subsequent briefing.

(2) EXECUTIVE BRANCH AGENCY.—The term ‘‘executive branch agency'' has the meaning given the term ‘‘agency'' in section 551(1) of title 5, United States Code.

(3) DEFENSE ARTICLE.—The term ‘‘defense article'' has the meaning given the term in section 5 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2794).

(4) DEFENSE SERVICE.—The term ‘‘defense service'' has the meaning given the term in section 47 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2794). ###

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Listen for the Giant Sucking Sound: Financial MOU inked

Lots of news and commentary on Taiwan-China relations in the wake of the MOU negotiations. We'll start with the eTaiwan News editorial:
In an address at a seminar on "60 Years Across the Taiwan Strait" held in Taipei last week, former CCP Central Party School vice president Zheng Bijian highlighted Beijing's position that there was an "objective need" for a "cross-strait peaceful development framework" to permit "the gradual resolution of the remnant historical issues and the new problems in future cross-strait development."

Zheng grabbed headlines with his declarations that "mainstream public opinion" in Taiwan favors "continuous, peaceful and stable development of cross-strait relations" and is opposed to "Taiwan independence," a cause which the CCP ideologue declared was "doomed to decline and failure."

Other PRC scholar - officials expressed Beijing's intent to set in place a "one China framework" as a precondition of any "peace agreement" and to "legalize the one China principle" in order to "clarify the requirement to oppose Taiwan independence."

As noted by various DPP and pan-green pundits, Zheng's statements reflected at best a "misunderstanding" of the fact that the overwhelming consensus in Taiwan public opinion opposed to cross-strait unification, even if political, economic and social conditions are similar.

Faced with protests from even pro-KMT scholars that the "one China principle" cannot be accepted by Taiwan's people and that the existence of "Republic of China' should be respected, China Academy of Social Sciences Taiwan Research Institute Director Yu Keli stated that the "one China principle" had been jointly formulated by the KMT and CCP to block "Taiwan independence forces in the island" from splitting Taiwan away from China and said "I am a little shocked that now there are still some KMT friends who raise opposing views."

Moreover, the PRC delegation intoned that acceptance of Beijing's "one China principle" was a "precondition" to any "peace agreement," that there could be no possibility of a "legal existence" of the ROC and that only a "Taiwan consciousness" that did not consider Taiwan to be a distinct state was permissible.

The PRC delegation clearly punctured Ma's quasi-religious faith that the so-called "Consensus of 1992" meant "one China with separate expressions" and would offer sufficient flexibility to tolerate the KMT's retention of the fig leaf for its "legal tradition," namely that "one China" meant "the Republic of China."

This state of affairs should not have come as a surprise given innumerable affirmations by PRC leaders, including by Hu himself in his six-point statement on Dec. 31, 2008, that all cross-strait consultations and agreements, including economic, are predicated on Beijing's "one China principle."
Taiwan News' argument is that the PRC isn't going to tolerate any of the fig-leaves that Ma has attempted to spread over the PRC's One China principle: it is going to insist on a One China policy that leaves room neither for a Republic of Formosa nor for a Republic of China. The KMT heavyweights currently shuttling back and forth between the two parties probably won't don sackcloth and ashes for the ROC, especially since handing over The Beautiful Isle will guarantee their family's places in the new order, but Ma has increasingly struck me as a True Believer in the ROC.

Of course, opposition voices weren't invited to the forum ...
“[Chinese President] Hu Jintao’s [胡錦濤] confidant Zheng Bijian [鄭必堅] can come to Taipei and claim that the Taiwanese independence movement is doomed and some retired People’s Liberation Army general can threaten us the next day, but academics from the opposition are not invited,” Wu said.
This PRC's heavy-handedness and inflexibility may yet disrupt the smooth flow of capitulation. I'm curious to see what happens when the PRC starts complaining about the pace of the sell out. It is not difficult to get on BBS all over China and see nationalist hotheads calling for an invasion since Ma Ying-jeou is just as big a disappointment as Chen Shui-bian. Ma's election increases tensions? Say it ain't so! It will also be interesting to see whether the US will turn on Ma the way it turned on Chen Shui-bian when the KMT government starts hemming and hawing over the damage that ECFA and the MOU will do to the Taiwan economy and thus, to its electoral chances.

The Taipei Times noted that the legislature was unhappy with the "surprise" signing of the MOU (which is non-binding).....
The DPP criticized the government for compromising the nation’s sovereignty as the MOU was signed under Beijing’s “one China” framework, adding that it held the legislature in contempt for keeping the contents of the MOU secret.

It said the MOU would harm the local finance sector and that only Chinese lenders would benefit from the deal.

“How the signing of the MOU was handled proves that Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) lied when he said last week that he would show respect for the legislature,” DPP Policy Division Deputy ­Executive-Secretary Liu Chien-hsin (劉建忻) said.

Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) Chairman Sean Chen (陳冲) announced unexpectedly at 6:15pm on Monday that the commission had completed the signing of the MOU with its Chinese counterpart at 6pm via a document exchange.

It happened just a few hours after officials discussed the issue with lawmakers at the legislature’s Finance and Economics committees.

The agreement was signed in the name of financial supervision representatives on the Taiwanese and Chinese side to avoid the official title of the two regulators, which carries the phrases “Executive Yuan” and “China” respectively.
My favorite line in there? "Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) said the commission had failed to fully respect the legislature." Who is Lee Ching-hua? He's the brother of Diane Lee, who failed to report her US citizenship to the legislature and may be facing corruption charges. However, she didn't beat Lien Chan twice in a Presidential election so I expect she'll be ok....

eTaiwan News, as usual, had a clear explanation of why the MOU was so problematic:
Even though such MOU's are not legally binding documents, it is notable that the accounts of the content of the MOU by both Taiwan's FSC and the PRC's CBRC fail to make any mention of "official" or government authorized and legally accountable supervision or the establishment of an "official" cooperative mechanism for cross-border financial supervision based on the Basel principles.

Hence, the questions of whether the FSC will be able to directly send legally empowered staff to carry out financial inspection of Taiwan bank branches operating in the PRC or whether cross-border financial interactions, which is particularly sensitive given the PRC's political ambitions with relation to Taiwan, will be subject to "effective supervision" lack a definitive answer.

Moreover, the "surprise" decision to sign the MOU after a day of legislative questioning by lawmakers indicates that the KMT government aims to avoid substantive legislative review of the MOU and allow it to automatically take effect 60 days after signing on January 16 based on Article 25 of the statute governing cross-strait relations, backed by the KMT's overwhelming majority
I have also heard that Taiwan banks in China will be forbidden under the MOU to take deposits in RMB, meaning that they will have to bring in capital from Taiwan, and convert it to RMB in China -- meaning that the MOU will result in capital being sucked out of Taiwan. Informed sources tell me that it seems likely that the current law, which prohibits Chinese financial firms from setting up shop in Taiwan, will be revised within 60 days to permit them to establish banking outlets here (WTO mandates equal treatment, unless an exclusion is declared -- the KMT Administration does not appear likely to do that).

Let us also not forget that China's banking industry is basically state-owned and run. Remember how China apparently used the flow of tourists to punish Taiwan for political action? Now imagine what its banks might be capable of....WSJ is already reporting that one of China's Big Four banks, the basically state-owned China Construction Bank (formerly People's Construction Bank) has already expressed interest in entering Taiwan...

This is not "free trade." This is trade that is managed, and at present, managed to keep it out of public scrutiny here in Taiwan, and apparently, in favor of China.
Daily Links
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Week of Media Fails: FT now

It's been a bad week for the media out here in East Asia. I blogged a couple of days ago, briefly, on the total lack of skepticism in reporting on the KMT Administration's "new questions" in the Chen assassination. Obama's trip to China has also caused Beijing and Washington bureaus to screw up majorly on US policy toward Taiwan. Both Reuters and AP mistakenly insisted that the US thinks China owns Taiwan. It doesn't look like Reuters is going to change its extremely misleading headline. AP, however, did much better, changing "...Washington's "one-China" policy, which views Taiwan as part of China" to "...Washington's "one-China" policy, which acknowledges China's position that Taiwan is part of its territory." A paragraph was also added to the corrected version to explain Washington's position. Excellent work, AP!

Amidst these failures comes a truly shameful ethical lapse on the part of Financial Times in hosting a piece by one Bill Owens. Just a taste:
It is often politically expedient to paint China as an adversary, or worse, a future enemy. Our national security apparatus is aiming to continue the present level of defence spending and emphasising 30-year-old legislation that is doing more harm than good.

The Taiwan Relations Act was passed in 1979 after the establishment of relations with the People’s Republic of China and the breaking of relations with the Republic of China. It is the basis on which we continue to sell arms to Taiwan, an act that is not in our best interest.

A thoughtful review of this outdated legislation is warranted and would be viewed by China as a genuine attempt to set a new course for a relationship that can develop into openness, trust and even friendship.
Who is Bill Owens? FT tells us: Retired Admiral Bill Owens is a former vice-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Clearly presented as a disinterested expert who only has the best interests of the US in mind.

I've blogged many times before about how advocates for US China policy positions are presented in the media as experts speaking from lofty perches, when they are actually businessmen involved in the China trade (here, here, and don't miss Ken Silverstein's excellent article on the issue, and Carsten Holz's FEER piece). Former vice-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Bill Owens is no exception. Let me pass along a friend's comments:
"After leaving the military, Owens served as president, chief operating officer and vice chairman of Science Applications International Corporation ("SAIC"). Recently SAIC provided tsunami warning buoys to China.

On April 28, 2004, Owens became the chief executive officer of Nortel, where he had previously served on the board of directors since February 2002. Owens stepped in to replace Frank Dunn, who was fired following an investigation into financial reporting. Owens served until November 15, 2005. Nortel is HEAVILY onvested in China.

On April 1, 2006, Owens became the Chairman and CEO of AEA Holdings Asia overseeing all Private Equity, and Real Estate investments in Asia.

Admiral Owens is also a chairman of privately held Intelius, an information commerce company based in Bellevue, Washington. Intelius is currently expanding into China.
There is absolutely nothing unethical about a businessman advocating a particular policy position, namely, that Taiwan be sold out to China so that he can make heaping amounts of cash in the China trade. FT would have done nothing wrong had it clearly identified Owens as connected to a number of firms currently expanding in the China trade. The ethical breach occurs when the knowledge of his investments in the region he is advocating policy for is withheld from the reader and instead he is presented as if he were solely an analyst. It is sad that after numerous exposures of this sick practice in both the print and broadcast media (the latest major one that of Peter Galbraith), that this practice continues. Until our media improves, our democracy won't.

UPDATE: Taiwan Link has an awesome piece on Owens, missiles, etc.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Daily Links, Nov 16th, 2009

I snapped this picture of a couple in a string store winding some of the product, yesterday in Lukang. What's being unwound on the blogs today?
MEDIA: Share your thoughts on Obama's visit to Asia via video with the NYTimes. NTU President says Taiwan students are slackers, not like in his day when they had to walk 40 kilometers to school in a typhoon every day, uphill both ways. With the election weeks away, vote buying is off to a rousing start. Taipei has 355 mental patients on the loose. The remainder are safely penned up in the legislature. The Korean model beats the West -- yes, it's true, one crisis proves that western models have failed. Taiwan and China ink the financial pact, can't wait to see how the KMT gave away the house this time. Enough concessions on Taiwan, says Japanese diplomat. Spineless president, spineless citizens, says Peng Ming-min. How to appease China without really trying. Another piece on Japan's approaching fiscal doomsday. John Tkacik argues for a free trade agreement between US and Taiwan, though the idea that the US could have sold 600K cars annually since 2004 in Taiwan is laughable -- in 2006 only 366K units were sold in Taiwan, in total. Philippines politician says RP should expand ties with Taiwan. I just love this headline: "Taiwan's environmental agency to stop illegal dumping" -- why is the EPA involved in illegal dumping? Another one of Peter Harmsen's excellent pieces on Taiwan for AFP, this one on baseball. One of the great things about writing about Taiwan in international publications is that you don't need to get any of your facts right.

MEDIA STUPIDITY: ^&#%^&!@#%!!! BBC, Reuters, AFP, and other news organizations breathlessly report the KMT propaganda on "new questions" in the assassination attempt on Chen, without a word of skepticism or any revisiting of things like the CIB's refutation of absurd claims that the shooting was staged. I tried to think of a witty thing to say here, but in the face of the world media exhibiting a collective IQ of 13, snark shrivels. ADDED: BBC images from the shooting.

RECOVERING: Send warm thoughts my friend Dan Bloom's way, he is getting over a recent heart attack.
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Total AP Fail today. =FIXED=

UPDATE: This problem has now been fixed. The story was run out of the national office. So I am taking the story off but leaving the post up to preserve the comment conversations.

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Scam of the Century

My friend alerted me to this clever, well-satisfied scammer. How come I never think of scams like this?
Allegedly, Hsu posted photos online of a young model and used that image to contact the women. Going under the name Angor, he introduced himself as a 30-year-old son of a Taiwanese father and French mother who was on business in the US, but was looking to marry a Taiwanese

However, according to reports, Angor would not consider marrying a woman unless she was prepared to have sex with his father - Hsu, in real life. The request was explained by the fact that Angor's father had terminal prostate cancer and only six months to live. Only constant sex would keep him alive, Angor told the women.

Some 100 women, aged between 28 and 50, were drawn in by the scheme. Of those, about 20 went on to have sex with Hsu. Others sent money to help with Angor's mother's breast cancer surgery.

One married woman, identified as Mrs Yu, gave Hsu 180 million Taiwanese dollars (5.4 million US dollars) to buy stocks, a house, a car and a diamond watch, and gave him 100,000 Taiwanese dollars (3,000 US dollars) monthly living expense, in the hope that Angor would marry her.
$5.4 million US!!!!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Some thoughts on Biking

Stopping in Changhua on the way to Lukang.

I went biking today with a couple of friends and my son, from Taichung to Lukang and back again. We got back and I found that a commenter wanted to know about biking and me. I've been mulling over posting on that.

Drying wood-ear fungus on the steps of a building in Lukang.

It's difficult, of course, explain what biking means to me. I can show you easily -- put you on a decent bike, and make you experience that wow! moment when you realize that biking is everything its evangelists have cracked it up to be. I myself don't know what that moment was for me, but I do know that after I came back from that first trip down the east coast earlier this year I was totally hooked, even though my bike was a complete piece of crap and I utterly unfit.

Goat meat and pork in a Lukang market.

I suppose the easiest map to make is the terrain of the physical changes.

Me on the dike along the north side of the river, south of Taichung. The dike has been turned into a first-rate bike path, with lovely views, and layered with smooth, new pavement.

Here's me today. No question but the gut remains. Yet my belt reminds me each month: I am shrinking. I've reached the last loop on it and in the next couple of months will probably have to buy a new one. My waistline has shrunk 3-4 inches since I started biking in February, and the weight has been wrung from my face, shoulders, and legs. I never imagined that at 46 I'd be able to lose any weight, let alone significant amounts. And then there are little side benefits, like being to climb stairs without puffing. And being able to bike 100 kilometers and arrive in a condition to do at least another 50. And have the same heart data I had twenty years ago.

Between the noisy election trucks and the constant crescendoing cacaphony of religious processions, Lukang was a madhouse today.

That's one of the things that makes biking so addictive -- not merely physical improvement, but steady physical improvement, often in seven-league boot sizes. Not just being able to see the improvement, but to measure yourself against what you used to be able to do, and see that each time you do it, you get better.

Yes, those are real horses.

But it's more than that. I took my friend who hadn't biked in years out the other day and he remarked: "I never realized how much time we'd have to chat!" The social aspect of biking, spending hours chatting with others while biking through stunning mountain terrain, is a major attraction. But more than that, on bikes you meet people too, in addition to the ones you are traveling with.

The real fun of this ride is coming up the West Coast Highway back from Lukang to Taichung, through flatlands populated by random unrelated objects, like things the gods tossed here because they had no place else to put them. My son and I came up the access road along 61, riding along the dikes lining the rivers when the road disappeared.

When do you know you're well and truly addicted? When you start looking forward to hills. When you feel guilty that you didn't do any on a route. When you stop doing that hill you used to be unable to do without an embarrassing number of rests, because it is too easy. When you are driving on the highway and see a hill, and start plotting how you'd climb it.

Wetlands presided over by wind machines lined most of the route.

Today I biked over 90 kilometers in Changhua and Taichung, and it sounds like a lot, but I know that in the Great Book in the Sky where the Biking Gods write down your accomplishments, this one doesn't count: the route had no hill.

A man watches his friends fishing under Hwy 61.

So many people have written so much -- biking is like being a kid again. It's immersive. It's exercise that's interesting. It's healthy activity that actually enables you to get somewhere. It keeps you young and strong -- a friend told me today that his doctor nearly panicked when my friend's resting pulse turned out to be 48.

My son parks by the dike on under 61

And whatever makes it good, is doubled if your family and friends are with you.

An egret waits in the flat light and muddy land.

When something both concrete and wonderful changes your life, takes it over, enlarges it, reshapes you, words fail.

Also, cows.

All I can say is that I am a total addict.

..and fish farms.

I hope that all of you in your 20s and 30s will make the effort to get out there and bike. The lone regret I have about biking is that I didn't start twenty years ago. When you get to forty and start biking, you'll regret that failure.

On the muddy field bottoms, the crabs move in.

The brilliant and eccentric General Charles Gordon, who died in Khartoum fighting the Mahdi, once said that he would rather spend one night in the desert with the Mahdi's men than attend a year of dinner parties in London.

....and recycling.

That's pretty much how I feel about biking.

You're never far from a ruined factory in Taiwan.

Biking has taken me places I'd never imagined I'd be. It has shown me that I can succeed at things I never thought I could do, and tortured me with spectacular and humiliating failures at things I had hoped I could accomplish.

During the election season I have seen election displays all over northern and central Taiwan. This is the only image I've seen of a current candidate with President Ma.

It has put me face to face with landslides in Tianxing, and five hundred meter drops just above Lishan. It has had me in a tidal pool off Shitiping after a 75 kilometer ride, and a spa in Jiaoxi after a spin down the northeast coast. It has brought me up short of a viper on 7 out of Baling, and made me an object of interest for every dog between Taichung and Hsinchu.

Lunch? Pets? Zoo displays?

I've gone a thousand meters up a massive mountain in a single morning, and introduced myself to dozens of lovely betel nut girls. I have pierced curls of smoke on a rolling dawn as the farmers burned off their fields, and sped past the stink of mud and trash oozing from the muck of a canal next to the ocean in Changhua. I've bantered with the old women selling me water and mantou, and exchanged hellos with farmers spraying fruit trees in the fading light of a summer evening. I've skimmed into Chingshui port for sashimi, and lugged the last few klicks to the only noodle stand for a hundred miles in any direction.

A deity perambulates before a temple.

I've nursed a flat tire as the gravel trucks blew by me on 3 in Shihgang, and wolfed down Vietnamese food in Fengyuan as my bike waited patiently by the door. I've rolled down 52 above Miaoli at 75 kmph and crawled up the 9% grade above Fuxing at 5 kmph. I've looked down on the lovely Liyu Reservoir and up at the terrifying landslide scarp at Jiufen Ershan. I've sweated out the kilometers under the pitiless hammering sun on a thousand simmering roads, and yelled at my friend for pushing me beyond my limits on a gorgeous fall day under the sumptuous shade-bringing pines on the way to Puli. I have seen the backs of my companions as they left me behind, and their glad grins again in the evening over beer and fried rice. I've stood with my son next to chasms as deep as geological eras, and heard the whistle of teapots in houses far above, filling the mountains as a crisp dawn cracked across the peaks with six hundred meters of hill in front of me and a handful of people I love at my side.

No man can say these things well. All I can really say is this:

I've climbed. I've biked. I've lived.

You should too.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

How to construct a smear

Anatomy of a smear accusing Chen Shui-bian of hanky-panky in Palau. From two days ago:
Taipei, Nov. 11 (CNA) The Special Investigation Division (SID) of Taiwan's Supreme Prosecutors Office said Wednesday that as of now they have no evidence indicating former President Chen Shui-bian had any involvement in a mysterious fund deposited in Palau, but prosecutors said that if necessary, they will request Palau's government provide information on the US$41 million.

Speculations of Chen's involvement in the fund fanned by Taiwan's media after Palau's President Johnson Toribiong said in an interview with local television channel, TVBS, on Monday that a fund of US$41 million had been remitted from his country's Pacific Saving Bank, which has gone bankrupt, to an unspecified overseas bank in 2005.

Toribiong said the fund was deposited in that bank one year before Chen's visit to Palau. Although Toribiong said he was not sure whether the fund has anything to do with Chen, Taiwanese media have suggested that there might be a connection.

But the SID said in a statement Wednesday that even if there was such a transaction, it is hard to identify the relation between the transaction and the money laundering case of the former first family.
Keep this information from earlier this week in mind when you read this China Post article of December 3, 2008:
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Former President Chen Shui-bian smuggled cash aboard his Air Force One to Palau, where the money was laundered, Kuomintang lawmaker Chiu Yi charged yesterday.[MT: Chiu Yi, the convicted felon whose charges are never right.]

Chen paid a state visit to Koror from Sept. 3 to 6, 2006. He flew there aboard Air Force One, which returned to Taipei without him. He later took a commercial flight to return to Taipei.

At least NT$170 million (US$5.17 million) was aboard the presidential jet, the expose expert legislator said. The plane took off from Songshan Air Force Base, where no luggage was checked.[MT: But the President of Palau said the money was deposited a year before Chen got there, in 2005.]
From Dec 4 article in response to the one above, in which Chen and the Air Force (an incidental victim of the smear) angrily denied the charges:
The Chinese-language China Times said yesterday that "its understanding" was that the SIP found, through the information obtained from the flash disk of former presidential treasurer Chen Chen-hui, that the former first family has a "secret account" at the First Bank in Palau.[MT: Remember, SIP has now said it has no evidence Chen is connected to this money. So either the leaker is lying, or China Times is just making stuff up.]

Investigators suspected that NT$170 million of that account might have come from financial holding firms or communications companies, the report said.

The report described the former president's residence as an "international financial trading center" as the transactions were rife during the time of the former president's state visit. The report said the SIP was planning to subpoena Michael Chang, former chairman of the First Bank.

Meanwhile, the Air Force yesterday denied allegations that it helped Chen by sending the cash.

"The Air Force strictly abided by the rules in operating the presidential jet and did not do anything outside the law," it said.

Citing the denials from the Air Force, the First Bank and Chen's then security chief, Chen's office called on the accuser to produce his or her evidence to the SIP instead of speaking on behalf of the SIP.[MT: SIP now says it has no evidence that Chen was connected to that money. Not only that, but a connection would be hard to prove. Flash disk with the secret account information? What are you talking about?]
Two months ago in the Taipei Times:
SIP not looking into Palau bank deposit claim against Chen
MORE ALLEGATIONS: ‘Next Magazine’ said that the former president may have taken US$40 million with him on a trip to Palau and deposited it there [MT: The President may have taken $40 million to Palau and deposited it there. The President may also have taken the carcass of an alien from Area 51, the entire genealogical records of the crowned heads of Europe, and the formula for Coke, and left them in Palau. Chen is truly a clever man, having eluded reporters domestic and international, his security, stray airmen aboard Air Force One, along with assorted paparazzi, bank customers, and KMT agents, to walk into a bank in Palau with $40 million (or $5 million, let's not be picky about details) in cash. Because you know how often heads of states walk into banks in Palau, and nobody notices. I bet they get five or six a day.]

Thursday, Sep 03, 2009, Page 3

Prosecutors investigating former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday denied they were looking into allegations that the former president deposited US$40 million in laundered funds in a bank account in Palau.[MT: Whose allegations?]

Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南), spokesperson for the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigation Panel (SIP) said prosecutors were not probing the allegations, but hinted that “other units” were looking into the matter.

When asked what units were investigating the allegations, Chen Yun-nan declined to comment.[MT: Other units indeed! Those unidentified other units are so useful, if they didn't exist, they would have to be invented to keep that smear up!]

The Chinese-language weekly Next Magazine yesterday said that when Chen visited Palau in September 2006, he may have taken US$40 million with him and deposited it in Palau’s National Development Bank.

The bank received a large deposit in one of its accounts during Chen’s visit, the magazine said.[MT: When was that money deposited? Oh yeah, 2005, says Palau's President, a year before Chen landed on Palau's fair shores. Oh yeah, the money was remitted to a US bank the year before Chen came to Palau, says the President of Palau.]

The magazine said US officials suspect money laundering because the US$40 million was then wired to accounts in the US through several transactions. [MT: Because everyone knows if there is money laundering in Palau, Chen Shui-bian is conducting it. He launders money when he is not causing earthquakes, hurricanes, and injuries to Wang Chien-ming's pitching arm. And why is the US watching Palau? Could it be because Palau was sanctioned in 2000 for money laundering problems, a common problem among Pacific Islands?]
A quick search will find this interesting tale, full of contradictions and false claims, to have ensconced itself around the web. The reality is contained in the terse sentences from the SID:
...they have no evidence indicating former President Chen Shui-bian had any involvement in a mysterious fund deposited in Palau...

....even if there was such a transaction, it is hard to identify the relation between the transaction and the money laundering case of the former first family....
Nevertheless, I'm sure it will be repeated as gospel from now on that Chen deposited a hundred million billion zillion dollars, along with the jewels of Romanovs and several tons of Inca gold, in an account in Palau.*

*Disclaimer for yammerheads operating in dichotomous brainless thought frameworks: that Chen is smeared does not mean he is innocent. Nothing in this post should be construed as me advocating a position for or against Chen or on his innocence or guilt. I'm as certain as you are that he caused the Dark Ages, the Fall of Rome, and Sauron's agents to find the Ring, and probably makes the chocolate melt in your hand, not in your mouth, as well. No animals were harmed in the making of this post.

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