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!
Daily Links:
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!


Raj said...

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

That's not really the sort of introduction that can be given on TV. CSIS isn't as openly partisan as FAPA. Besides don't you know that it's very often THE GUESTS who get to decide on the substance of the introduction?

Michael, you really do get too obsessed with these minor points sometimes.

Michael Turton said...

CSIS is as totally partisan as FAPA.

Who guides and controls US foreign policy is not a minor point.

BTW, you should read the comments on the bottom of the post about the FT fail. CSIS shows up there too.


Raj said...

CSIS is as totally partisan as FAPA.

I said as OPENLY partisan.

Ok, take the BBC. You see it as a generally independent media group, right? A lot of Conservatives say it is heavily biased towards the Labour Party. But it's virtually impossible for anyone to introduce a reporter or BBC commentator as anything other than someone who works for the BBC.

You also ignored my point that it's common practice for the guests to write their introductions. If that is the case, what was the Al-Jazeera guy suppossed to do - override Bonnie?

Michael Turton said...

CSIS is as openly partisan as FAPA, Raj. Their "reports" are written by China businesspeople, their china programs are headed by China businesspeople, and last year they hosted the Sanya Forum to call for an end to restrictions on US-China military links.

Yes, Al Jazeera needs to find a way to make that clear to the audience. That's what it is supposed to do -- it's a news organization.