Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stuffed to the gills with Beef

CHEEVER: I think it be the cows, sir.

I had a great post planned out for today. My starting point was going to be my friend J Michael's post asking if the DPP is being played by the KMT on the US beef issue. I was going to reference the history of the KMT attempting to stoke anti-Americanism in Taiwan, starting the discussion with the fake riots in 1957 and then zoom through the riots in 1978 when Warren Christopher showed up to announce that recognition has been switched to China. Then I was going to ask if the beef issue -- determined at the highest levels by Ma's right-hand man Su Chi, head of the National Security Council -- was just another in a long string of these events (like the refusal of US aid during Morakot) meant to create separation between the US and the people of Taiwan. I was even going to relate it to the KMT's long-term goal of separating Japan and Taiwan too, in order to move the island into China's orbit. Boy it was going to be a great post.

I used to think the beef fracas might be interesting somehow, but now I'm just so damned tired of this issue of subsidized, environmentally destructive, imported dead cattle flesh being a "health" and a political issue in heavily polluted Taiwan with its mass use of agricultural chemicals and antibiotics and relentless habitat destruction, along with consumption of things like snake blood, shark fins, and cockroaches, that I decided not to write the post. Really, there is nothing more to be said.

For god's sake, DPP, stop the insanity. In case that isn't clear, stop the insanity. If you're going to pick an issue to piss off the US, pick something worth fighting over. The KMT is playing you guys. Beef is an issue the bad guys are using to drive a wedge between the DPP and the US. And you take the blame.....

So instead of long post, dear reader, consult the two good pieces in today's Taipei Times. The first is an extensive article on the Ma Administration delegation to the US, now canceled, and the beef issue in general. The second is an editorial on the beef issue and the incompetence of the government. Taiwan News has a piece on US experts saying that Taiwan has mishandled the issue, and that it will affect a Taiwan-US FTA. Hello, what's more important? Beef or overseas markets? If Uncle Sam wants to subsize our consumption of high quality steak, by all means, let him!

UPDATE: Many good comments arguing against this in the comments below.
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Daily Links
  • The Economist's Strait Talking notes that public support for Ma is waning. It says "The few thousand Chinese tourists who come every day are making little economic impact." The actual figure is less than 2,000. It also says "[ECFA] is born out of his fear that Taiwan, already ravaged by the financial crisis, will be marginalised as a free-trade pact between China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) takes effect this January." Do people really believe that nonsense? ECFA is born from Ma's desire to marginalize Taiwan into a province of China. Period. The first step is integrating Taiwan's economy into China's. Period. The ASEAN FTAs are just a convenient excuse. There is some genuine fear in certain quarters that Taiwan will be marginalized by the FTAs, but nothing suggests Ma really cares.
  • This Taipei Times commentary discusses some of the internal politics of KMT elites and their meetings with Chen Yunlin.
  • My friend Andrew has just finished a new book on postwar justice in Germany.
  • The latest Taiwan What's Up is out.
  • Chinese admiral says the Peaceful Riser© needs an overseas base.
  • SPECIAL: Krugman on Chinese mercantilism.
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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:

Feiren said...

Speaking of FTAs that might threaten Taiwan's economy, what about the US's KORUS FTA with South Korea?

Granted it hasn't been approved by either countries legislative branch, but by Ma's ECFA logic shouldn't we also be pursuing an FTA with the US as hard as possible to prevent the nefarious Koreans from squeezing out our exports to the US?

Marc said...

Plenty of reasonable justification for Taiwan to be wary of American beef by-products as evidenced in this NYT article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/us/31meat.html?_r=1&em

Okami said...

Feiren,
The Obama administration nor the Senate will allow the Colombian nor SK FTA to pass.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, Taiwan is being pretty reasonable. They have been importing US beef, which is generally safe, but they disallow bone, internal organs, brain, which are dangerous. US beef is very problematic in that respect.

Michael, I highly recommend you look more into mad cow instead of dismissing it so lightly. The whole feeding process is very broken and breeds disease.

In the long run, the risk is small of getting mad cow, but it's a risk Taiwan doesn't have to accept. AIT head talking about the risk of death from scooters is a completely illogical since there is no easy alternative to riding scooters.

I highly doubt the Taiwan News article truly cited any important official. It's probably the same economics official working at AIT in Taiwan that would actually have ZERO power to implement any of the threats Su Chi has mentioned.

If the US is going to make serious policy, they need to publicly announce what the hell it is they want and threaten Taiwan openly. Otherwise, it's a ridiculous situation where "negotiations" basically just were about how much Taiwan was going to concede and without any benefit to Taiwan. The US in this whole negotiating process is nothing more than a blackmailer or a mob goon walking around with a bat and asking for "protection" money.

Arty said...

Plenty of reasonable justification for Taiwan to be wary of American beef by-products as evidenced in this NYT article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/us/31meat.html?_r=1&em


E. Coli? How much you want to bet that the pork and beef that you brought in Taiwan's traditional markets is far worse. There is a reason we invented "FIRE." We can also make our food 100% safe if we irradiate our food during mass processing, but a lot of "idiots" are worry about UV irradiation food is bad while sun tanning beds are good.

Formosa Coweater said...

With all due respect, have you ever read "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser? Among other things it's a properly researched takedown of the American beef industry (a bit like Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" from the early 1900s). The U.S. refuses to test beef, even going to the point of prohibiting beef producers that want to test their beef and share that information with consumers. This is unacceptable to me.

Anyway, I know you're looking at this more from the local political point-of-view but from a health perspective, it's just not smart to eat U.S. beef until the meat is tested never mind the whole idea of all the chemicals used, use of downer cattle, feeding cow parts to cows, etc.

New Zealand or Argentine beef is just a better way to go...

Michael Turton said...

Look, the issue isn't the reasonableness or unreasonableness of it. I KNOW the US beef inspection system sucks; I assigned FAST FOOD NATION to my kids so they could understand what's going on.

The odds of getting mad cow from US beef are so low as to not materially exist. The odds of getting something else is much higher. This whole thing is a domestic issue that is affecting interntional relations, over a trivial issue.

Moreover, the KMT's long-term plan is to separate Taiwan and the US. Issues like beef are useful for that.

It's not the time to make trouble with the US, not when the foreign policy elites are impatient with Taiwan and want it to disappear so they can make the illusory big bucks from China.

The DPP needs to rethink its position and stop making noise about this issue. It's been six years that this shit is ongoing. Time to move on to more important stuff, mend fences, look at the big picture, etc.

Anonymous said...

Michael, where are your numbers coming from? A little Googling gave me this CDC page which estimates Canadian BSE cases at 18- to 48- times that of official estimates: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/bse/. One can only wonder how badly US estimates are off.

In any case, the USDA prevents testing of cattle for mad cow so that it is difficult to know the true number of cattle with mad cow.

Japan and Korea all have gone through this too. It's a low probability for very agonizing death that can be easily, and fairly cheaply eliminated. Any talk about other probabilities for disease and death are silly if you can't easily eliminate them. The dangerous parts of US cattle are very easily eliminated from Taiwan's food supply.

The question is why the US is politicizing this beef issue so much when its clear that they've pissed off Japan, Korea, and Taiwan greatly at a time when China is trying to woo them out of the American camp. Its absolutely time for the US to just give up and stop hurting relations with important allies over a non-issue.

Anonymous said...

A more straightforward reading: beef is an issue the DPP and Ma's rivals in the KMT used to bash Ma. The DPP is perfectly capable of manipulating an issue like this for their own political advantage without any help from the "bad guys".

Anonymous said...

"Ma's rivals in the KMT"

Heh, do you read the news? The entire KMT legislative caucus? Ma is just on the wrong side of public opinion on this...

Marc said...

Re Krugman on the yuan...

So does this mean that if Taiwan pegs its economy to China, it'll go down with the economic sinking ship when Europe and the US ultimately revive their manufacturing bases and/or take more aggressive protectionist measures?

Anonymous said...

Michael: OMG! What a blatantly un-objective statement:
QUOTE: " ECFA is born from Ma's desire to marginalize Taiwan into a province of China. Period. The first step is integrating Taiwan's economy into China's. Period. The ASEAN FTAs are just a convenient excuse." ENDQUOTE
You are saying that Ma only cares about unification, not about Taiwan's economy. Could you please give us a semblance of a logical argument for this assertion? Maybe it's OK with you buddies to make such blanket statements, but if you held yourself to the same standards of evidence and argument that you do to the people you criticize, your statement would be revealed as excessive and unsubstantiated.

Anonymous said...

Here's a tip to understand what's happening to Taiwan and what the US is doing around the world:

"How Costly is Protectionism" Robert C. Feenstra.

The US and many other countries push for these bilateral FTAs, traditionally framed as a pro-business vs pro-jobs battle. Signing an FTA is obviously pro-free trade, right?

What actually happens is that because the US is such a huge market, when the US signs an FTA with say Korea, sure there's "free trade" between Korea and the US but many of S. Korea's competitors get hurt. Note this isn't an efficiency gain--there's simply a shift from regions whose products are tariffed to regions who can enjoy free trade. The US thus imposes unfree trade and greater costs on countries isn't doesn't allow free trade with every time it signs an FTA.

My example wasn't just an example and the US FTA with Korea as well as the EU FTA with Korea will hurt Taiwan enormously. But its likewise some food for thought with regard to the Taiwan-China situation. If Taiwan really does get preferential no-tariff treatment in China and say, Korea, does not, certain types of production will shift to Taiwan, but not because Taiwan is efficient in any way. This is not desirable since its what will most likely only be a temporary imbalance that won't aid Taiwan's long term competitiveness.

The US really should have and in the future link signing bilateral FTAs with similar economies. Thus negotiations should have been held simultaneously for a Taiwan-US FTA while KORUS was being negotiated. Otherwise, distortions lead to undesirable outcomes that very much go against the "free trade" is good for everyone mantra.

Michael Turton said...

You are saying that Ma only cares about unification, not about Taiwan's economy. Could you please give us a semblance of a logical argument for this assertion? Maybe it's OK with you buddies to make such blanket statements, but if you held yourself to the same standards of evidence and argument that you do to the people you criticize, your statement would be revealed as excessive and unsubstantiated.

Did you start reading my blog yesterday? Where have you been for the last two years of lies, unfulfilled promises etc? Do any of the following ring a bell: 6-3-3? Siew the Economic Czar? "Fifth freedom"? Vouchers? We must have ECFA as soon as possible? Etc Etc Etc

I notice also that you cut off the quote. I said nothing suggests Ma actually cares. What would you say supports the contention that Ma actually gives a shit about the economic future and lives of the people of the island?

Michael

Anonymous said...

You are saying that Ma only cares about unification, not about Taiwan's economy. Could you please give us a semblance of a logical argument for this assertion?

Well, on the other side of the negotiating table are the Chinese. And Chinese officials have stated publicly that the goal of negotiations will be to cause economic reliance of Taiwan on China, such that they will have no choice but political unification. Look it up--public and official.

This means that there's actually very little hope for China OK-ing any FTA between Taiwan and any other country--it will be the same situation as it is now--if Taiwan wants it, it will have to fight for it and get it through charm, smarts, and hussle.

Ma has said many similar things whenever he comments on anything cultural or Chinese students or simplified characters or Hanyu Pinyin or any kind of exchange between China and Taiwan. To him, everything is towards a single end--unification.

Anyways, this is all public and on the record--Ma's not embarrassed about it and other Anon, I don't see why you should be on his behalf.

Anonymous said...

Since the US beef was allowed into Taiwan, H1N1 vaccinations have killed far more people than US beef.

Anonymous said...

RE: :You are saying that Ma only cares about unification, not about Taiwan's economy."

Michael: I don't want to get into a war of words with you, I just felt it had to be said. The assertion that Ma doesn't care about Taiwan's economy is absurd. Perhaps he is also a unificationist, yes. But that doesn't mean he is just a "5th Column" and doesn't care about the economy. BTW, the 6-3-3 thing was before the largest economic meltwdown since the big one. Why does that show that Ma doesn't care? That seems like DPP ranting to get votes, not reasoned dialog amongst intellectuals. My 2 cents worth.

Anyhow, I usually appreciate your comments, even if I don't always agree. I really like your blog. I just think your usual tone is above that kind of ranting generalization. I leave the last word to you - it's your blog!
BugJohn out.

Michael Turton said...

Your answer was very kind, thanks, BugJohn.

Michael

Anonymous said...

Whoops! Typo! I am "Big John" not "Bug John".

And to other Anon: I am not on MYJ's side. I support reasoned discourse above emotionalism.