Monday, January 25, 2010

On Vacation

I'm taking two weeks off from serious blogging while I do some traveling. Might post a pic or two now and then. Good luck to you all!

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Evaluating TVBS

I posted some TVBS polls on the Feb By-elections a couple of posts below and a friend suggested I take a look at TVBS polls (poll center) from the Dec 5 county/city elections to get a sense of how accurate the TVBS polls are. Each number means the percent by which the KMT is ahead of the DPP in the poll (ex: +5 = KMT ahead by 5%). Outcomes are from CEC data (PDF). All the polls were of likely voters. The elections are all county elections.

KMT vs DPP (four polls from Feb, Oct, Nov & Nov): +12, +7, +5, +6
Actual outcome: DPP +8.5 (KMT -8.5)

The Hsinchu race featured three candidates. Three polls from Oct, Nov, and Nov:
KMT over Ind/DPP: +3/+16, -4/+12, +3/+12
Actual Outcome: +8 over both IND and DPP

Two polls from Oct and Nov
KMT over DPP: -5, -8
Actual Outcome: DPP +15 (KMT -15)

Two polls from Oct and Nov
KMT over DPP: -33, -35
Actual Outcome: DPP +31 (KMT -31)

Two polls from Oct and Nov
KMT over DPP: +22, +31
Actual Outcome: KMT +11

Two polls from Oct and Nov
KMT over IND: -9, -25
Actual Outcome: IND +49 (KMT -49)

One poll from Nov
KMT over DPP: +38
Actual Outcome: KMT +6.6

One poll from Oct
KMT over DPP: +53
Actual Outcome: KMT +30

One poll from Nov:
KMT over DPP: +29
Actual Outcome: KMT +5

One poll from Oct:
KMT over DPP: +22
Actual Outcome: KMT +11

Some consistent patterns: except where the DPP has a blow-out lead, TVBS always underestimates the size of the DPP vote, sometimes by very large margins. Another way to look at it is that its findings are strongly biased for the KMT, which is not to say the pollsters are biased, but rather than its findings appear to be. Perhaps KMT voters are more likely to express a willingness to vote for the KMT to a Chinese-owned TV station that is ardently pro-KMT, or for some reason the undecideds predominantly break DPP. Another consistent pattern is that in almost every poll that is not a massive blowout, undecideds constitute 25-35% of the sample. In sum, unless the KMT candidate has a lead of at least 10 points, s/he should probably be considered within reach.

Thus looking at the early polls for the legislative by-elections in Feb, Hualien (KMT+19) should be regarded as out of reach for the DPP (but look for that gap to close), Taoyuan (KMT +3 over DPP and +21/28 over independents) is in play and might even be DPP win, while Hsinchu (KMT -10) looks like a pretty safe DPP bet, and Chiayi (KMT -31) is going to be a DPP blowout victory.

A closer look at the Taoyuan election. The election is being held in Taoyuan 2. That district consists of four townships: Tayuan, Yangmei, Hsinwu, and Guanyin. Rounding down, in the county chief election, they went DPP +8, KMT +12, DPP +13, and DPP +15. The total vote count across those was roughly 70,000 votes for the DPP and 67,000 for the KMT. But all politics are local, and legislators are different than township chiefs, so don't set too much store by that. There are two independents in the race, poaching votes.

Further point: A longtime analyst and observer here told me that in the educated demographic in Hsinchu, the DPP's candidate, highly educated, blows away the KMT candidate.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

PRC in Taiwan: New Restrictions on Defense Lawyers Demanded by MOJ

Read the whole thing, but Jerome Cohen has done the island another service in publicizing the proposed Ministry of Justice curbs on defense lawyers. It compares Taiwan to the PRC, savage in its civility. Read closely and carefully.
....By contrast, the Taiwan government’s new interest in curbing vigorous defense lawyers does constitute “news”. Although Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-Jeou recently took the occasion of the island’s Law Day to call for greater government efforts to promote judicial reform and human rights, his Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has been moving in the opposite direction.

Last year, the Ministry, concerned about the conduct of ex-president Chen Shui-Bian’s defense lawyers in its ongoing corruption prosecutions against him, failed in its efforts to impose disciplinary sanctions against one of Chen’s lawyers for supposed ethical violations. Now it is trying to introduce legislation to punish “obstructions of justice” that will inevitably restrict defense lawyers’ activities.

The MOJ has proposed to amend the criminal code in several ways that threaten the modified adversarial legal system that Taiwan adopted a decade ago. Instead of supporting the equal contest between prosecutors and defense lawyers on which that system is based, the MOJ proposals, reflecting traditional Chinese distrust of defense lawyers, would subject Taiwan’s lawyers to some of the same dangers confronted by their counterparts in China, including significant prison time.

One amendment would punish anyone, including lawyers, for abetting defendants or others to “fabricate, alter, destroy or conceal” important evidence in criminal cases, even when their advice has been ignored and caused no harm! Further, it would punish anyone for abetting defendants to make false statements concerning important facts in trial or investigation. Thus, if a court rejects the defendant’s claim that his pre-trial confession was coerced by police, his lawyers might be prosecuted for having urged him to repudiate the confession. This “Sword of Damocles” hangs over Mainland lawyers, sometimes intimidating them from giving such advice, despite the prevalence of pre-trial torture.

Equally troublesome is the proposal to punish “illegitimate use” of important evidence outside of court. But what use is “illegitimate” and what evidence is “important”? The MOJ has stated that the provision is meant, among other things, to prevent documents from public trials being revealed at press conferences. Yet this would prevent freedom of speech and information essential to monitoring of the judicial process by the media and the people. Such restrictions, to the extent they exist in other democratic societies, are generally justified by the need to protect jury deliberations against media pressures, but Taiwan has no juries.

Even more problematic is the proposal to punish lawyers not only for contempt of court but also for contempt of prosecutors! Legal systems require effective and fair procedures for punishing refusal to heed reasonable court orders. But, in a system where lawyers and prosecutors are supposed to be equal competitors in their efforts to persuade a neutral judge, it is ludicrous to punish lawyers for failing to obey prosecutors.
The Ministry of Justice's response in Chinese is here. Note how the Chen case is being used as leverage against defense lawyers, once again providing evidence that the Chen case is all about politics. But seriously Dr. Cohen, what did you guys expect when you helped lever Ma into power?

More Daily Links
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dalai Lama Stadium

An awful day as the Supreme Court decides to turn US politics over to corporations, delivering a devastating blow to US democracy. There's not much that you can say about the obvious insanity of such a decision. So how about some light news? This story out of Costa Rica:
The Chinese government said Thursday that a Costa Rican presidential candidate’s pledge to name a Chinese-financed stadium in San Jose for the Dalai Lama “is not in line with the common desires of the two countries.”

In a statement sent to Efe, the Foreign Ministry said the stadium, built with $83 million in Chinese investment, “represents the Chinese people’s friendship with Costa Ricans” and is a project that has been “well received by the people of Costa Rica.”

The ministry was responding to statements by Otton Solis, leader of the center-left Citizen Action Party, to the effect that he would name the stadium after the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to show Costa Rica’s lack of dependence on “economic aid.”
The candidate is trailing in the polls....
Daily Links
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Government Restructured this week

From the Blue papers via KNN:
The Legislative Yuan passed legislation yesterday on the government restructuring plan before the current period of sessions adjourned last night. According to the legislation, the existing thirty-seven ministries and cabinet-level commissions will be reduced to twenty-nine, including fourteen ministries, eight commissions, three independent agencies, and four other institutions, with a total of ten existing cabinet-level agencies being merged (see table below). The new structure of the Cabinet will be implemented on January 1, 2012. Likewise, the total number of personnel employed by the Central Government agencies would be reduced to below 173,000, from the current 220,000.

The government restructuring plan involves amendments to the Executive Yuan Organic Act and the Central Government Agencies Organic Act as well as the newly enacted Central Government Personnel Complement Act and the Temporary Statute Governing Adjustments of the Executive Yuan’s Organization, Functions and Services.
Although it looks like there are going to be cuts in employment, a wise friend told me that it isn't actually going to work out that way. The KNN piece has a table that lists the new government structure.
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Legislative By-Election Polls

First, the TVBS poll (KNN):

1. Hualien County

Which of the following candidates would you vote for if the legislative by-election in Hualien County were to be held tomorrow?

KMT Wang Ting-son 46%
DPP Hsiao Bi-khim 27%
Independent Shih Sheng-lang 8%
Undecided 19%

Note: The latest poll was conducted from January 13 to 14 with 986 people surveyed in Hualien County while 172 declined to be surveyed. The margin of error associated with this sample is plus or minus 3.4 % with a 95 % confidence interval.

Source: TVBS Poll Center

2. Taoyuan County (Third District)
For the legislative by-election in the Third District of Taoyuan County, the KMT has nominated Chen Hsueh-sheng, former KMT legislator while the DPP has nominated Huang Jen-chu, former councilman. In addition, former councilman Wu Yu-dong and the Chungli deputy mayor Lin Hsiang-mei will also run in the by-election as independents. Which of the candidate would you vote for?

KMT Chen Hsueh-sheng 34%
DPP Huang Jen-chu 31%
Independent Wu Yu-dong 13%
Independent Lin Hsiang-mei 6%
Undecided 16%

Note: The latest poll was conducted from January 14 to 15 with 844 people surveyed in Taoyuan County while 227 declined to be surveyed. The margin of error associated with this sample is plus or minus 3.4 % with a 95 % confidence interval.

Source: TVBS Poll Center

3. Hsinchu County
In the Hisnchu County legislative by-election, the KMT has nominated Cheng Yung-tan, the brother of former Hsinchu County Executive Chen Yung-chin, while the DPP has nominated Peng Shao-jin. If you were to vote tomorrow, for whom would you vote?

DPP Peng Shao-jin 44%
KMT Cheng Yung-tan 34%
Undecided 22%

Note: The latest poll was conducted from January 11 to 12 with 827 people surveyed in Hsinchu County while 107 declined to be surveyed. The margin of error associated with this sample is plus or minus 3.4 % with a 95 % confidence interval.

Source: TVBS Poll Center

4. Chiayi County (Second District)
For the legislative by-election for the Second District in Chiayi County, the KMT has nominated Lin De-rui, a professor in National Chung Cheng University, while the DPP has nominated Chen Ming-wen, former Chiayi County Executive. If you were to vote tomorrow, for whom would you vote?

DPP Chen Ming-wen 53%
KMT Lin De-rui 22%
Undecided 25%

Next is this poll from the China Times, which looks at the chance of winning. It basically reflects the above numbers. The numbers out of Hsinchu are quite pretty to look at, and the DPP has an outside shot at Taoyuan. Hsiao Bi-khim is an outsider to Hualien and is not a strong candidate for that area. Not too shabby.
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US Intel Does the China Kowtow

From the land of I-Kid-You-Not comes this story of Kowtowing to Beijing on the part of our intelligence community. Sing to the tune of Kumbaya, please:
The White House National Security Council recently directed U.S. spy agencies to lower the priority placed on intelligence collection for China, amid opposition to the policy change from senior intelligence leaders who feared it would hamper efforts to obtain secrets about Beijing's military and its cyber-attacks.

The downgrading of intelligence gathering on China was challenged by Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair and CIA Director Leon E. Panetta after it was first proposed in interagency memorandums in October, current and former intelligence officials said.

The decision downgrades China from "Priority 1" status, alongside Iran and North Korea, to "Priority 2," which covers specific events such as the humanitarian crisis after the Haitian earthquake or tensions between India and Pakistan.
And why are they doing this? Rational reasons like budget, resources, even more urgent needs? Nope:
But administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the new policy is part of the Obama administration's larger effort to develop a more cooperative relationship with Beijing.
Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! [sputter, choke]. Hahahahahahaha. [drinks water]. Hahahahahahaha!

What else can you do but laugh at the stupidity of this? The article reports opposing claims: (1) it won't have any effect on intel, just a number, and (2) over time quality of China intel will fall. If (1) is true the Chinese will know it, so no effect on relationship. If (2) is true, we shouldn't be doing it for any reason. The report also shows that at least one priority is Iran -- just another way our obsession with the Middle East is crowding out the really important stuff in Asia. It also shows how China, by cheaply feeding Iran's nuke program (at a profit!), is getting the US to consume its resources on secondary targets. Analysts in Beijing must surely go to bed laughing each night at news like this, as they contemplate American boys dying in Afghanistan to make Central Asia safe for Chinese expansion.

But to do it to further a more cooperative relationship with Beijing? I just can't stop laughing. Why doesn't Panetta have the intelligence community date coma victims instead? That will be an experience just like trying to establish a cooperative relationship with China, and it will not impair our intelligence gathering.

Seriously, it might be worth attempting to relate to Beijing, but not by reducing our espionage efforts.

Ok, let's start a pool: how many days after this news will it be before Beijing does something stupendous espionage or hack on the US intelligence community? I'm picking eight days -- the amount of time between the US and China resuming military exchanges, and the harassment of the USNS Impeccable in international waters by Chinese vessels.

Let's hope this news is some kind of disinformation.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dr Pangloss on Finlandizing Taiwan: Bruce Gilley's Not So Dire Straits

This month in Foreign Affairs, put out by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Bruce Gilley published an article entitled "Not So Dire Straits: How the Finlandization of Taiwan Benefits US Security". It adds to the sum total of our understanding about Taiwan's security position the way a deformed child increases population growth. As a friend of mine pithily commented:
I just can't figure out why these presumably smart people have so much trouble wrapping their minds around something I easily figured out as a 24yo. teaching bum.
That pretty much sums it up. This will be a long post, so brace yourselves.

The article has been the subject of much commentary in the pro-Taiwan, pro-democracy community, with responses in both Chinese and English (samples from the Taipei Times: Bellocchi, Chen Yin-nan, Huang Chih-ta, Liberty Times editorial). Nat Bellocchi, former AIT Chairman, noted:
However, once every so often an academic publishes an analysis that is so far removed from reality that it would be dismissed out of hand for its lack of understanding and its outright naivete. Bruce Gilley’s article, titled “Not So Dire Straits” — published in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs (January/February 2010) — is such a work.
The one-sentence abstract of the piece at FA signals Gilley's entire approach:
As Taipei drifts further into Beijing’s sphere of influence, the United States must decide whether to continue arming Taiwan as a bulwark against a rising China or step back to allow the Taiwanese people to determine their own future.
Note how this simple idea stands reality on its head: continued US support for Taiwan is what enables the islanders to determine their future. As soon as the US "steps back" Beijing will step in and terminate any ability of the Taiwanese to determine their own future. Thus, Gilley's essay succeeds not by logic, but by constructing a fantasy world from which he carefully removes anything that might threaten to shake the foundations of his alternate universe. Without further ado.....

Gilley begins by laying out his thesis:
In many ways, the current thaw serves Taipei’s interests, but it also allows Beijing to assert increasing influence over Taiwan. As a consensus emerges in Taiwan on establishing closer relations with China, the thaw is calling into question the United States’ deeply ambiguous policy, which is supposed to serve both Taiwan’s interests (by allowing it to retain its autonomy) and the United States’ own (by guarding against an expansionist China). Washington now faces a stark choice: continue pursuing a militarized realist approach—using Taiwan to balance the power of a rising China— or follow an alternative liberal logic that seeks to promote long-term peace through closer economic, social, and political ties between Taiwan and China.
I've bolded the more interesting parts of this. Note how Gilley ignores what the people of Taiwan actually want: by "closer ties with China" the people of Taiwan want economic ties, not political ties. Gilley then offers us a false dichotomy: our choice is between a "militarized realist approach" or "long-term peace" through closer links. A stark choice between militarism or peace! Given that, who would want militarized realism? Pure rhetoric of course -- there are many possible ways to engage China. One could think, for example, of the DPP's carefully limited approach, which emphasized Taiwan's sovereignty and pursued economic advantage, as an alternative. But that would take us far from the fantasy world that Gilley is busy constructing...

Gilley then reviews the KMT-CCP conflict and wrongly writes:
For nearly three decades, Chiang and Mao harbored rival claims to the whole territory of China. Gradually, most of the international community came to accept Beijing’s claims to territorial sovereignty over Taiwan and a special role in its foreign relations.
As any informed individual knows, the international community has not accepted this. This is an error that the editor should have caught. In this reality, the Powers mostly acknowledge China's claim without accepting it, and the status of Taiwan remains undetermined under both law and practice. That is the position of the US and Japan, to name only two. But of course, the reader will search in vain for Japan in this piece; it occurs only once. More on that in a moment.

Gilley next presents a review of the history of the China-Taiwan relationship through the 1980s, and observes:
This “first détente” ended abruptly in 1995, when the United States issued a visa for Lee to visit Cornell University. China, in the midst of a domestic leadership transition, was already hardening its position on Taiwan, and armchair generals in all three places were publishing books on the predicted order of battle to come. Beijing saw the visa as a betrayal of earlier U.S. promises to refrain from any o/cial relations with Taiwanese leaders. Taiwan’s democratization was also leading to domestic popular pressures for a more assertive stance on independence.
Beijing reacted by hurling missiles into the Taiwan Strait in 1995 and 1996. Washington dispatched aircraft carriers and radar ships to the area. Beijing’s worst fears were then realized in 2000, when Taiwanese citizens elected Chen Shui-bian as their president. Chen, the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (dpp), now the opposition, promised to seek formal recognition of Taiwan’s de facto independence from China. As a consequence, cross-strait relations deteriorated dramatically between 1995 and 2005, leading to a renewed emphasis on militarization by all three sides.
This is a remarkable uninformed and slanted presentation. First, note its entire pro-Beijing positioning. The tensions in the Strait are not caused by Beijing's desire to annex Taiwan and snuff out its democratic government -- they are caused by (1) the US grant of a visa to Lee Teng-hui and (2) the election of Chen Shui-bian. Poor Beijing! So put upon -- its worst fears realized! No wonder it had to fire missiles into the Taiwan Strait.

In the real world, the PRC's anti-Taiwan missile build-up began long before Lee Teng-hui went to Cornell -- the visit was a classic case of Beijing using the excuse of a pro-Taiwan move by claiming that tensions had been raised -- when all along it was Beijing raising them. Let's reiterate: it is Beijing that controls the level of tensions, not Taipei or Washington. "Increasing tension" is policy choice of the CCP leadership in their quest to discredit Taiwan's pro-democracy side. It is sad when commentators from democratic states buy into this oft-used propaganda line.

And then there is that hoary chestnut, the "deteriorating relations" claim. Let's recall what was really happening in the 1995-2005 period of "deteriorating relations": Direct government to government negotations over concrete exchanges. $200 billion in Taiwanese investment in China. Legalization of Taiwanese investment of China. Negotiations over Cross-Strait charter flights. Exchanges of students and scholars. Religious exchanges. Busiest air route on earth between a city in Taiwan and one in China. Yada, yada, yada. Of course, in Gilley's alternate reality, all this disappears. The Lee-Chen years were the Dark Ages....

...with a construction like the above, you know what's coming next: Hu and Ma save the day from the dastardly Taiwanese democracy and independence advocates with their "pragmatism" and flexibility:
The “second détente” in cross-strait relations began with a 2005 speech by Chinese President Hu Jintao downplaying demands for reunification. Beijing was shifting its view as a result of an emerging grand strategy that stressed regional and global influence; accordingly, it came to see Taiwan less as an ideologically charged and urgent matter and more as a pragmatic and low-key management issue. Ma’s election in 2008 signaled the resurgence of a similar vision in Taiwan. He promised “no unification, no independence, no use of force.” Within months, in rapid and unprecedented fashion, the heads of the contact groups began holding semiannual meetings and signed more than two dozen previously unthinkable agreements. Although most of these involved economic matters, they had political implications, too. The number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan—including Taiwan’s long-militarized islands directly off the coast of China—surged by a factor of ten, to 3,000 per day. China sent students to Taiwan, and the two sides authorized 270 flights per week across the strait.
An error-studded fantasy construction. Ma's promised during the campaign to pursue economic closeness and to protect Taiwan's sovereignty. The public mandate was for economic talks, which is why, even today, Ma -- knowing this -- regularly claims that the time is not right for political talks. "Two dozen previously unthinkable agreements"? As anyone who follows Taiwan knows, what the KMT did was ink deals in areas already laid out by the DPP, plucking the "low hanging fruit", as several commentators noted at the time (Shriver, for example). There are not 3,000 tourists a day here, the figure is about half that ("the actual volume of PRC travellers averaged only 1,307 from December 2008 through September 2009" -- Taiwan News). While Gilley says tourist arrivals in Kinmen "surged", Kinmen opened in 2003 (another example of the "deteriorating relations" under Chen) and as Reuters observed, were hitting 3,000 a month by 2007, the year before Ma was elected. Student exchanges were occurring years ago; there were students from Shanghai and Beijing in my PHD classes at NCKU during the Chen Administration. The 270 flights did not include something the DPP long struggled for: the so-called "fifth freedom." The KMT was able to ink these deals because it sold out the island's interests in exchange for quick agreements, something the DPP would never do. Gilley's fantasy world naturally elides all that; it would dent his thesis. Besides, everyone knows how hard it is to use Google to find out this stuff -- heck, it took me three or four minutes....

There isn't space to go over the slant in the remainder of this section of the presentation. It ends:
Taiwan and China are now approaching their relationship using completely different assumptions than those that governed cross-strait relations for decades. Whereas they previously saw the relationship as a military dispute, today both sides have embraced a view of security that is premised on high-level contact, trust, and reduced threats of force. Their views of economic issues, meanwhile, have placed global integration and competitiveness ahead of nationalist protectionism. This represents a fundamental shift in the political relationship between Taiwan and China.
Did the CCP and the KMT see the cross-strait dispute as a military issue? No, they saw it as a clash of competing sovereignties. Have both sides embraced a view that is premised on "reduced threats of force"? China has been constantly increasing the number of missiles facing Taiwan, and building up its navy and armed forces to attack the island, as Richard Bush noted with puzzlement in a recent piece. The threats of force may not be emanating from the top, but it would be easy to find underlings making threats or reiterating the PRC's hardline position. Gilley naturally ignores all that complexity. It should also be noted that the phrase "both sides" coupled with "reduced threat of force" creates a bizarre world in which Taipei, laughably, threatens Beijing.

Next comes the explanation of Finlandization:
To understand the evolution of the Taipei-Beijing relationship, it is useful to consider the theory and practice of what has become known as “Finlandization” in the field of political science. The term derives its name from Finland’s 1948 agreement with the Soviet Union under which Helsinki agreed not to join alliances challenging Moscow or serve as a base for any country challenging Soviet interests. In return, the Kremlin agreed to uphold Finnish autonomy and respect Finland’s democratic system.
After explaining some of the underlying theory, Gilley writes:
Taiwan shares many of the key features that characterized Finland in the late 1940s. It is a small but internally sovereign state that is geographically close to a superpower with which it shares cultural and historical ties. Its fierce sense of independence is balanced by a pragmatic sense of the need to accommodate that superpower’s vital interests. Most important, the evolving views of its leaders and its people today focus on seeking security through integration rather than confrontation. This approach could help defuse one of the most worrying trends in global politics: the emerging rivalry between China and the United States.

The analogy is not perfect. U.S. security guarantees for Taiwan today are more explicit than they were for Finland during the Cold War, although few doubt that nato would have defended Finland against a Soviet invasion. And China’s 1,000-plus missiles targeted at Taiwan are a more direct threat than anything the Soviet military ever mustered across the Vuoksi River. But in general the thinking that has motivated the second détente on both sides parallels that which led to the Finnish-Soviet détente of the Cold War. Although it is still early, Taipei is moving in the direction of eventual Finlandization.
"The analogy is not perfect." Actually it is, as the opening abstract suggested, completely upside down. Finland Finlandized to preserve its sovereignty. Taiwan cannot preserve its sovereignty by moving closer to China; only by maintaining distance. My friend Feiren neatly laid out the problems:
.....Gilley also doesn't seem to understand how deeply out of touch Ma is with mainstream Taiwanese views of identity and the possibility of unification with China.

Anthony Chiang had a far better piece in the Apple Daily a few weeks ago. His first point was that Finland accommodated the Soviet Union for the purpose of keeping its sovereignty. Ma Ying-jiu however is accommodating China so that Taiwan will lose its sovereignty. Secondly, the Soviet Union always recognized Finland as country. Third, what is happening in Taiwan is not Finlandization, it's Hong Kong-ization.
Gilley's understanding is upside down and backwards. In Gilley's view Finlandization is a stable end state, but in the real-world China-Taiwan relationship, it is simply another step into Beijing's maw. Sure, Taiwan can be Finlandized, but will it stay that way? Nope.

In Gilley's view Ma is pursuing a "more pragmatic" foreign policy; in the real world, Ma's foreign policy is driven by his pro-annexation ideology (this ideology is one of the many things Gilley makes vanish in this paper). On several occasions, such as declaring Taiwan's relations with China to be region-to-region, he has downgraded its sovereignty and has repeatedly emphasized the social and cultural links between Taiwan and China as a way to move toward annexation. Moreover, Taiwan's people are not seeking "security through integration" but "wealth through economic integration" -- they just want to keep their distance while making money off China's economic growth. As Ma's plummeting approval ratings demonstrate, the public does not like it when the island moves toward China politically. Global Views noted last year:
When asked whether both sides across the Strait should move toward unification eventually, 15.7 percent of people said yes while 69 percent voiced opposition. Amid the pan-blue supporters, 27.5 percent were supportive of the eventual unification while 63.7 percent opposed it. Even among the people with ancestors from mainland China, 55.9 percent did not support the idea andonly 22.9 percent did. The poll implied people in Taiwan had reached an overwhelming and stable consensus on whether two sides across the Strait should march toward unification eventually.
There is a consensus in Taiwan, and it is simple: nobody wants to be part of China. More to the point: support for joining the PRC version of "China" is nil.

"The analogy is not perfect." No shit, really? Lessee: Finland's sovereignty was accepted by all nations. Taiwan's status is undetermined. Finland's independence dates from 1917. Taiwan has never been an internationally accepted independent state. Finland did not host a ruling party ideologically and officially committed to annexing Finland to Russia. There was not a significant minority of Finns who sought to annex the nation to the USSR. Under Finlandization, the USSR promised not to annex Finland -- whereas Beijing is committed to a long-term annexation of Taiwan. Recall also that the USSR kept its agreements with Finland, whereas Beijing has a long history of disregarding its agreements. The reason that Tibet is not mentioned in this paper is quite clear: China tore up its 17 point agreement with Tibet and brutally invaded and annexed that nation. Not a good precedent for Finlandization agreement with Taiwan!

Thus, the analogy between Taiwan and Finland is in fact poor, and necessary ingredients, such as domestic support for impairment of sovereignty in exchange for preservation of it, as well as all parties in Finland being committed to preserving the national sovereignty and democracy, along with credible expressions of restraint from the nearby superpower, do not exist in Taiwan.

The second half of the paper is where Gilley ruthlessly eliminates all consideration of Beijing's actual behavior to construct an alternate reality of geostrategic pragmatism:
In recent years, many Western analysts have rejected this nationalist interpretation of Beijing’s Taiwan policy and opted instead for a geostrategic one. Unrecovered territories are legion in the history of the prc, and the ccp has found it easy to let go of others (including disputed regions bordering Russia, India, and the Spratly Islands, as well as control over Mongolia and Korea).Taiwan, however, by virtue of its geographic location, represents a potential strategic threat to China. It could serve as a base for foreign military operations against China and even in peacetime could constrain Beijing’s ability to develop and project naval power and ensure maritime security inEast Asia.

Beijing’s core goal from this perspective is the preservation of its dominance in its immediate offshore region, as became clear in 2009 when five Chinese vessels trailed a U.S. Navy ship sailing near a Chinese submarine base.Taiwan represents an obstacle to this goal if it remains a U.S. strategic ally armed with advanced U.S. weaponry, but not if it becomes a self-defending and neutral state with close economic and political ties to China. Beijing’s constantly changing position on Taiwan—which has incrementally moderated from “liberation” to “peaceful unification” to “one China” to “anti-independence” since Mao’s era—in fact reflects a concern with Taiwan’s geostrategic status, not with the precise nature of its political ties to China. According to this interpretation, Beijing has no interest in occupying or ruling Taiwan; it simply wants a sphere of influence that increases its global clout and in which Taiwan is a neutral state, not a client state. Seen through this lens, Taiwan is a means to an end and the second détente is a tactic intended to achieve this strategic objective through Taiwan’s Finlandization.
There's so much to deconstruct here. Did the Chinese ships "trail" the US Impeccable? Reality says:
Five Chinese vessels in a possibly coordinated effort yesterday “shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity” to a U.S. Navy surveillance ship in international waters, the Pentagon said.

Two of the vessels closed to within 50 feet (15 meters) of the USNS Impeccable, waving Chinese flags and telling the U.S. ship to leave the area, according to a Defense Department statement issued today. The Impeccable sprayed water from its fire hoses at one of the boats to protect itself.

The boats actually buzzed the US ship, creating the possibility of a dangerous incident (there were several such incidents in which Chinese vessels threatened US vessels). Further, the US boat was not "near" a submarine base on Hainan Island but was 75 miles away in international waters. This construction, trivial as it is, shows how Gilley simply makes actual Chinese behavior disappear.

Has the CCP found it easy to "let go" of territories? Let's ask the Tibetans and the Uighurs. Has it let go of the Spratlys? Nope, still claims them. In fact in December of '09 Beijing passed a new "island protection law" that contains a claim to 3 million square miles and more than 16,900 islands in the South China Sea, sparking protests from Vietnam. Has it let go of its disputed regions with India? Nope, it is expanding its troops and military infrastructure in the Himal, obviously preparing for conflict. Far from "letting go" Beijing's territorial claims have grown in recent years, beginning in 1969 with its bogus claim to the Senkakus and continuing through its insane claim to Arunachal Pradesh. Don't bother searching for India in this piece; this is the only mention of that nation, so important for understanding Chinese expansionism.

That observation goes to the heart of Gilley's "argument": it doesn't deploy logic, it simply waves a magic wand that makes everything disappear. No mention of India and Arunachal Pradesh, no mention of Japan or the Senkakus. No mention of its "string of pearls" strategy in the India Ocean or its pursuit of ties with India's neighbors, to India's detriment. China's enabling of Sri Lanka's military? Not a word. Tibet and Xinjiang don't appear here either. No mention of how China's grab of Tibet has led in turn to further claims to Indian territory as "South Tibet" in which every person is "Chinese". No mention of these and other issues because it is impossible to make a case for a changed China if they have to be dealt with. Hence, they disappear. Gilley's Asia is a fantasy Asia bereft of Chinese expansionism. The reader can nod as she reads Gilley only because his world is nothing like the real world.

Moreover, Gilley's claim for a "constantly changing position on Taiwan" in Beijing mistakes a selection of rhetoric for a robust description of reality. What is China's position? It is laid out again and again and again in policy documents and public statements: Taiwan is part of China, period. Everything else is rhetorical smoke. Gilley is making the classic mistake of listening to what Chinese say instead of watching what they do.

Gilley moves on to argue that Finlandizing Taiwan will enable China's liberalization:
At present, a rising China threatens the world primarily because there has been little in the way of domestic political liberalization to keep Beijing’s increasing economic and military power in check. Taiwan could play a far greater role in China’s liberalization if it were to become a Finlandized part of the region and its officials were able to move across the strait even more freely than they do now.
Actually, Taiwan officials are free to move across the Strait anytime. Many of them are and have. Further, hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese live in China, running businesses there. Hundreds of thousands of more have visited as tourists. Has China moved toward democratic liberalization as a result of Taiwanese engagement with that nation since the early 1990s?

Be serious.

Just the opposite has happened, the most recent example being the rising self-censorship among local reporters in Taiwan in dealing with China (my post): as we move closer to China, we move farther from democracy. It is not Taiwan that is going to change China, but China that will bend Taiwan.

Remember when US corporate engagement was going to foster reform in China? Ah, those days were the bright morning of our naivete. One word: Google. As Gideon Rachman recently noted in his FT blog:
But all this economic growth shows little sign of provoking the political changes anticipated by Bush and Clinton. If anything, the Chinese government seems to be getting more repressive. Liu Xiaobo, a leading Chinese dissident, was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison for his involvement in the Charter 08 movement that advocates democratic reforms.
Quite. Twenty years of Taiwan engagement in China has failed to move China off its quest to annex Taiwan one iota. But apparently, Finlandization will.

I suppose I should also mention PRC view, laid out in statements from PRC officials, that the closer economic integration is simply the first step in political annexation. Gilley of course makes that disappear. Finlandization can't work because from the PRC perspective, integration leads inexorably to annexation.

The rest of this disaster is quite predictable. For example:
In recent years, the U.S.-Taiwanese relationship has been increasingly dictated by the interests of narrow lobbies rather than grand strategy.The U.S. arms industry, the Taiwanese military, and Taiwanese independence activists together make a formidable force. Before the current détente, Taiwan’s staunch anticommunism and adversarial policy toward China aligned well with Washington’s own ideology and militarized approach to the Taiwan Strait. But the recent evolution of tactical and strategic thinking in Taipei and Beijing has created a disjuncture. The adversarial status quo that the United States has protected is no longer the status quo that the Taiwanese want protected.
Hmm....the Taiwanese want and like the current status quo, one in which they have full sovereignty and can invest in China. Note how Gilley slams the independence activists as "narrow lobbies". Yes, we are lucky that Dr. Gilley is here to support the robust authoritarians in Beijing rather than the narrow lobbies of democracy activists!

By focusing solely on Taiwan, China, and the US, Gilley fails to spot one of the most important developments of the KMT's China policy: it has enabled China to ramp up tensions elsewhere. Finlandizing Taiwan will not lead to peace, but to increasing tensions in other nations' relations with China. This is because the source of tensions isn't Taiwan, but China, and those desiring cross-strait peace will have to change China, not Taiwan's relation to it. If you make things easier for China in one place, it will simply shift resources to pressure other regions.

Gilley says that Finlandization will create The Best of All Possible Worlds:
....The tragic result of this policy, however, has been that it has played into Beijing’s fears of encirclement and naval inferiority, which in turn has prompted China’s own military buildup.

Finlandization will allow Taiwan to break this cycle by taking itself out of the game and moderating the security dilemma that haunts the Washington-Beijing relationship.


Even from a strictly realist perspective, there is no need for the United States to keep Taiwan within its strategic orbit, given that U.S. military security can be attained through other Asian bases and operations.Taiwan’s Finlandization should be seen not as a necessary sacrifice to a rising China but rather as an alternative strategy for pacifying China.
This argument can make sense only because Gilley has removed all other nations from consideration by the simple expedient of not mentioning them. But Finlandizing Taiwan will not resolve the US involvement in Japan's security against China (codified by treaty!). It will not end the Chinese threat to India. It will not ameliorate the Chinese claims to numerous islands in the South China Sea and elsewhere. Instead, the obvious conclusion is that it will lead to calls from future Bruce Gilleys to Finlandize Japan, along with everywhere else that China claims. Indeed, I look forward to his upcoming article: Hawaii: the Case for Finlandization.

Towards the end Gilley again raises the fantasy that Taiwan will change China, rather than vice versa, and argues that Taiwan's territory is secure and its democracy is consolidated. This is good news, because I had thought that Freedom House had just become the latest in a long line of observers to warn on our democracy, and that the Chinese military build up continued apace.

Clearly I am living in an alternate universe.

You know, the one where Japan and India actually exist. And where a democratic Taiwan and a PRC already co-exist.
Daily Links:
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A barefaced grab for power

Panorama of strawberry fields along 6 in Miaoli.

Taiwan News explains the ruckus in the legislature today, and shows how, once again, the KMT is impairing the island's democratic development..... read carefully!


President Ma Ying-jeou and his right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party wrote a new dishonorable page in Taiwan history Monday by ramming a bill through the Legislative Yuan that tramples on the one of the most fundamental of democratic principles, namely the right of citizens to vote and be elected to office for fixed terms.

In a legislative session featuring incessant shoving and occasional slugging, the KMT used its nearly three-fourths majority to ram through revisions to the Local Government Act over intense resistance by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party that will allow the KMT to retain its grip over grassroots administration regardless of who wins year-end mayoral elections for five special metropolises.

The KMT revisions, notably to Article 58, overturn the draft changes approved by the KMT Cabinet last September to ensure the smooth process of upgrading the local administrations in the new "Xinbei City" (formerly Taipei County) and the mergers of Taichung City and Taichung County, Tainan City and Tainan County, and Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County.

The Cabinet's version, which had received bipartisan backing, mandated that township mayors, village chiefs and township and village assembly members would step down when the new metropolitan mayors are inaugurated and be replaced by civil service appointees, as is now the case in Taipei City and Kaohsiung City.

Partisan purposes

However, the KMT shifted gears last week in the wake of the DPP`s sweep of three legislative by-elections on January 10, allegedly due to low turnouts by KMT "mobilization" voters, in the wake of well-orchestrated pressure campaign by KMT grassroots officials who burned party cards and promised further boycotts of KMT candidates unless their future employment was guaranteed.

In the wake of sharp objections by the DPP over such an "unconstitutional" proposal and opposition and outcries of protest by citizen and indigenous rights groups, KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung declared final support for three different versions within as many days last week before settling on the version rammed through the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

Besides questions of the validity of the voting process as numerous KMT lawmakers gathered at the speaker's podium had their voting buttons illegally pushed by other colleagues, the KMT revisions trample on the fundamental democratic "social contract" between the electorate and their elected officials and representatives for regular elections with fixed terms.

Under the revised Article 58, over 50 urban and rural township mayors will continue in office as appointed political officials for up to four years or until the merger of their districts is substantively completed and cannot be dismissed by the incoming metropolitan mayors.

In addition, the revised Article 58-1 will mandate the appointment of former township and village assembly persons as "advisors" and paid for attendance at meetings deemed necessary for the merger process for as long as four years.

As a result, when combined with the one - year extension already mandated by revisions to the same law last year, mayors and assembly members originally elected in December 2005 for four year terms will hold their positions for as long as nine years even though their electoral mandate was only for four years.

There should be few doubts that such officials, which are almost all KMT members, will do their best to delay the completion of this process for a full four years.

Moreover, the KMT revisions will prevent DPP metropolitan mayors from breaking the hold of such KMT local officials and their networks of "black and gold money politics" or even effectively implement their administrative reform programs before the next set of presidential and legislative elections in early 2012.

It should come as no surprise that opinion polls have shown that over two-thirds of citizens of across partisan lines expressed opposition to these changes or that the KMT has decided to ram them through the Legislative Yuan for the sake of its own electoral purposes.

This decision to trample on democratic systems and values for the sake of the KMT's partisan interests is no different in spirit

from the indefinite extension by the late KMT dictator Chiang Kai-shek of the terms of parliamentary bodies elected on the China mainland pending "completion of the KMT's "sacred task" of "recovery" of the China mainland from the "bandit" Chinese Communist Party.


It should now be obvious why the DPP has been doing so well. Not only are many in the KMT fed up with the poor performance of the Ma Administration, but its local politicians, upon which the national party depends to keep its grip on the local areas, are holding the KMT to ransom over their future livelihood in local government positions. Thus, the KMT has decided to stage a raid on the treasury, as well as impair the democratic development of the island.

A disgusting power play, that also shows that there is widespread fear in the KMT of losing some of the municipal government seats. In the ROC administrative system the new municipality chiefs (mayors? governors?) will be more powerful than the county magistrates, for the municipalities are the equivalent of provinces in the ROC system. Plum positions, and the KMT appears to believe that if it can't win, at least it can obstruct....
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Daily Links, Jan 18, 2010

Drew spotted these aboriginal-style granaries as we rode south on 145. Note that the rear one is woven of sticks and mud.

Had an awesome weekend of riding with my friend Drew. On Saturday I did my first Century (100 mile) ride, going 187 kms to Tainan from my house. On Sunday we reversed the ride, doing 182 kms back. Saturday we rode across the flats of Changhua and Yunlin, while on Sunday the return ride was through rolling hills and a bit slower. Over 350 kms in all.

Lots of stuff out there this week:
MEDIA: Danish Taiwan friend Michael Danielson interviewed in the Liberty Times. NYTimes piece on Google says that Google got access to the server here in Taiwan and then discovered that the cyber attacks had targeted many other companies. H1N1 vaccine: it is probably just a coincidence that the chairman of Adimmune, the local vaccine maker, is also a powerful member of the KMT. Chinese visit Taiwan for medical tourism, long expected to be a growth market for the island. Land prices in Taipei continue to rise, with land prices in Taitung, Hualien, Pingtung, Changhua, Miaoli, Nantou, Yunlin and Chiayi falling. Birth rates here continue to fall, with births hitting new lows. Population decline could begin here as early as 2017. Apple Daily editorializes on Taichung's decaying public order. Taiwan may be listed in visa waiver program for US. UDN editorial argues that vote buyees don't get punished enough and -- check this out -- vote buyers need not return their public subsidies if convicted of vote buying. Taiwan stock market opens to Chinese institutional investors. Bank of China to establish branches in Taiwan. Taiwan soldiers busted having sex with underage prostitutes. Asia Sentinel: World headed toward another rice crisis? As US invasion of Afghanistan sputters, China moves in commercially. Each night, analysts in Beijing go to sleep laughing at US foreign policy.

IN-DEPTH: CSIS with piece on China-Taiwan trade. "Taipei has continued to resist pressure from Beijing to address political issues about which opinion in Taiwan remains deeply divided." Bullshit: opinion is quite united: only a few yammerheads here want political talks. Another CSIS piece on Confidence Building Measures: silly Taiwanese public opinion is a "serious constraint on progress." If only they were Serious People like CSIS commentators and agreed that Taiwan should be sold out so global finance could make the big bucks. They also note: "although Beijing is interested in CBMs primarily as a means to build political trust, while Taipei seeks CBMs to avoid accidents and create a more predictable security environment." Nicholas Lardy on the growing rift in US-China relations after Copenhagen. Commonwealth on the Fear of Death: Major Taiwan corporations do not have plans for the second generation when the current leader dies. This failure to plan for the death of the patriarch is a major problem at every level of Taiwan society.

TOM FRIEDMAN: Lots of discussion about the NYTimes piece mentioning Taiwan from Tom Friedman, Establishment Buffoon. Yes, Friedman is an idiot:
Has anyone noticed the most important peace breakthrough on the planet in the last two years? It’s right here: the new calm in the Strait of Taiwan. For decades, this was considered the most dangerous place on earth, with Taiwan and China pointing missiles at each other on hair triggers. Well, over the past two years, China and Taiwan have reached a quiet rapprochement — on their own. No special envoys or shuttling secretaries of state. Yes, our Navy was a critical stabilizer. But they worked it out. They realized their own interdependence. The result: a new web of economic ties, direct flights and student exchanges.

A key reason is that Taiwan has no oil, no natural resources. It’s a barren rock with 23 million people who, through hard work, have amassed the fourth-largest foreign currency reserves in the world. They got rich digging inside themselves, unlocking their entrepreneurs, not digging for oil. They took responsibility. They got rich by asking: “How do I improve myself?” Not by declaring: “It’s all somebody else’s fault. Give me a handout.”
Everything in here is wrong, from Friedman's claim that peace prevails in the Strait (hello, 1,500 missiles) to his bizarre construction of Taiwan's development history (massive US aid, for starters). It's so obviously stupid that there is no need to even discuss it. But his main point, that the national direction, our insane obsession with the Middle East, is an unproductive dead end and we should be focusing on China and the future of our people, is correct. Of course, Friedman's point would have had actual impact if he had not been a major cheerleader of that obsession (Greenwald's rip of this with Friedman's 2003 remarks). A few years ago I might have been amazed that a vapid, ignorant, hypocrite like Friedman has a national audience, but now it merely induces a kind of grim, knowing, amusement.

SPECIAL: Taiwan News with an excellent piece on the KMT's local government power play. Read the whole thing; Ma is trying to get the legislature to change the law to preserve local KMT officials in place after the new municipalities come into effect this year. The idea is that whoever is election, local faction politicians will retain their grip on local politics through being given an additional four years, whereas the reformists wanted the elected magistrates to be able to appoint their own people. One implication of this law is that is appears to fear that the KMT may lose big in the elections at the end of the year....

VIDEO: Bloomberg has a collection of its own stuff which you can sort through.

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!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ma says Taiwan FTA Need Beijing FTA First

As my loyal readers know, pundits both here in Taiwan and abroad have been saying that with ECFA Taiwan will be able to sign FTAs with other nations. ECFA must come first, they all claim, and then everything will be alright -- despite the fact that China has consistently refused to promise to permit Taiwan to have Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with other nations once the ECFA agreements are signed.

But what does Mr. Ma say about it? Taiwan Today translates the China Times:
Taiwan should not demand that mainland China allow it to enter into free trade agreement talks with other nations as a precondition for discussions on an economic cooperation framework agreement, said Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation.

The idea, first put forward by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, is “excellent—but inappropriate,” said Chiang, adding that making such a demand publicly could cause additional difficulties.

The SEF Chairman made his remarks Jan. 11 during an interview with “Formosa Weekly,” an online newspaper founded by former Vice President Annette Lu. His interlocutor was Hsu Hsin-liang, former chairman of the DPP.
The paper adds:
In related news, President Ma Ying-jeou noted though cross-strait economic development has been growing rapidly, there has not been a systemic trade mechanism between the two sides.

“We must seek a breakthrough, or Taiwan will be marginalized in the wake of East Asian regional economic integration,” he said.

Asked whether Taiwan will sign FTAs with other countries after signing an ECFA with the mainland, President Ma answered, “It most certainly will.”

“As long as other nations have already signed FTAs with the mainland, Beijing will have no objections if these countries wish to discuss similar deals with Taiwan,” the president said.
Read it -- from Ma's lips to your ears: first Beijing signs the FTA, and then Taiwan follows, but only with those countries. In other words, Taiwan has no independent policy of its own.

Sell. out. Can it get any clearer? Is this what the foreign business community in Taiwan wants? To go meekly where Beijing points?

The China-ASEAN FTA is coming into force this year, and strangely, other nations take a jaundiced view of what an FTA with China might mean. For example:
The FTA, which was first announced at the Asean-China Summit in 2001, is the third largest in the world and covers a combined population of 1.9 billion with a gross domestic product of US$6.6 trillion and a trade volume of US$4.3 trillion.

Under the FTA, more than 9,000 products imported from China to Malaysia are duty-free while China will reduce tariffs on more than 7,000 products from Asean. Besides manufactured goods, the agreement also covers services and investment.

Unlike the Asean-India FTA, which was concluded last August at the 7th Asean Economic Ministers-India meeting, and also came into force on Jan 1, the FTA with China faces opposition.

While governments in the region have welcomed the agreement with China, whose economy is the fastest growing in the region, thousands of workers from across west Java staged a rally in Bandung against the FTA last week.

The Jakarta Post on Tuesday carried a commentary by an Indonesian academic on how the FTA could slow down the fulfilment of human rights in Indonesia, including rights to health, decent wages and access to natural resources.

Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia president Tan Sri William Cheng had in an earlier interview with a Chinese-language newspaper called for a delay in the full liberalisation of trade with China.

However, sections of the business community were more cautious on the impact, with Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Mustafa Mansur saying that it was still early to assess the impact on local businesses.

“We’re organising a special panel discussion with Chinese officials together with officials from the International Trade and Industry Ministry next month as we’ll be able to better assess the impact after one month,” he told StarBiz over the phone.

Cheng had voiced objections over the removal of tariffs for 90% of the goods traded under the FTA as local businesses might not be fully prepared. The more restricted agreement with India carries with it many exemptions, especially for agricultural products, while negotiations are still ongoing under the FTA for services and investment.

Cheng added that industries in Thailand and Indonesia had also called for a delay in the implementation of the agreement.
This opinion piece gives the propaganda vs reality on the China-ASEAN FTA. Grim....
The trend of Asean losing ground to China accelerated after the financial crisis of 1997.

In 2000, foreign direct investment in Asean shrank to 10 per cent of all foreign direct investment in developing Asia, down from 30 per cent in the mid-nineties.

The decline continued in the rest of the decade, with the United Nations World Investment Report attributing the trend partly to "increased competition from China."

Since the Japanese have been the most dynamic foreign investors in the region, much apprehension in the Asean capitals greeted a Japanese government survey that revealed that 57 per cent of Japanese manufacturing TNCs found China to be more attractive than the Asean-4 (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines).
But wait, there's more. There's the smuggling -- not just Taiwan, it's everywhere:
Massive smuggling of goods from has disrupted practically all Asean economies.

For instance, with some 70-80 per cent of shoe shops in Vietnam selling smuggled Chinese shoes, the Vietnamese shoe industry has suffered badly.

In the case of the Philippines, a recent paper by Joseph Francia and Errol Ramos of the Free Trade Alliance claims that the local shoe industry, along with the vegetable industry, has also been hit badly by smuggling of Chinese goods.

Indeed the range of goods negatively affected is broad, including steel, paper, cement, petrochemicals, plastics, and ceramic tiles.

“Many Philippine companies, even those that are competitive globally, had to close shop or reduce production and employment, due to smuggling,” they write.

It is owing to massive smuggling that few analysts take seriously official trade figures with China released by the Chinese Embassy in Manila that show the Philippines enjoying a positive trade balance.
Then there was the Thai "early harvest" which, as the writer notes, is now well documented.

Local vegetable producers complain that they have already been badly hit by Cafta’s experimental “early harvest agreement” that went into effect in December 2005. A similar result has apparently emerged in Thailand, where the impact of the early harvest agreement with China has been better documented.

Under the agreement, Thailand and China agreed that tariffs on more than 200 items of vegetables and fruits would be immediately eliminated. Thailand would export tropical fruits to China while winter fruits from China would be eligible for the zero-tariff deal.

The expectations of mutual benefit evaporated after a few months, however, with most Thai commentaries admitting that Thailand got a bad deal.

As one assessment put it, "despite the limited scope of the Thailand-China early harvest agreement, it has had an appreciable impact in the sectors covered.

The "appreciable impact" has been to wipe out northern Thai producers of garlic and red onions and to cripple the sale of temperate fruit and vegetables from the Royal projects."

Thai newspapers pointed to officials in Southern China refusing to bring down tariffs as stipulated in the agreement while the Thai government brought down the barriers to Chinese products.

Resentment at the results of the China-Thai "early harvest" agreement among Thai fruit and vegetable growers was, in fact, one of the factors that contributed to widespread disillusionment with the broader free trade agenda of the Thaksin government; and opposition to free trade was a prominent feature of the popular mobilizations that culminated in the ouster of that regime in September 2006 by a military coup.

The whole piece, written by a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippines, is a ringing condemnation of the China-ASEAN FTA Cargo Cult, well worth reading and contemplating.

Note the same patterns we always see with China: agreements made but not kept, illegal activities designed to undermine the competition, streams of lies issuing from Beijing and its representatives, and local businesses dying off in droves. Welcome to the future, Taiwan.
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More Google/China Stuff

An avalanche of opinion and reporting on Google -- great work there, Google people, shaming Beijing by publicizing its thuggish, criminal ways -- starting with the Wall Street Journal. Rebecca Mackinnon:

By announcing it will no longer censor its Chinese search engine and will reconsider its presence in China, Google has taken a bold step onto the right side of history.

Four years ago when Google entered the Chinese market and launched, Chinese bloggers called it the "neutered Google." At the time, Google executives said the decision to bow to the Chinese government's censorship demands had been made after heated internal debates. They said they had weighed the positives and negatives and concluded Chinese Internet users were better off with the neutered Google than with no Google. They drew a red line under search and said they would not bring any other Google products containing users' personal information—including email and blogging—into China. They held to that line.

Over the past four years I tested from time to time and compared its search results with the Chinese market leader, Baidu. I found that tended to censor search results somewhat less than Baidu. This supported Google's argument that it at least gave Chinese Internet users more information than the domestic alternatives.

Google executives also pointed out that a notice appeared at the bottom of every page of censored results on, informing users that some information was being hidden from them at the behest of Chinese authorities. In this way, the logic went, they were at least being honest with the Chinese public about the fact that Google was helping their government put blinkers on them.

The company's effort to walk a fine line between Chinese regulators and free speech critics ended up being unsustainable. Anticensorship activists still viewed its compromise as contributing to the spread of censorship around the world. On the other hand, the compromise was also unacceptable to Chinese authorities, who were unhappy that Google wasn't censoring as heavily as Baidu. Last year Google came under a series of attacks in the state-run media for failing to censor porn adequately when users—horror of horrors—typed smutty phrases into the search box.

China's treatment of Google, folks, is exactly what they will do to Taiwan -- no matter what cooperation is offered, China will not deal, will insist on what it wants and only what it wants, and will attack you no matter how well you cooperate. A lesson for Taiwan, and for the KMT.

Sternberg in WSJ takes the more cynical view that it is all about the low returns from the China market, whose revenue for Google is "only a few hundred million." He also instances another case where the Chinese government has apparently stolen proprietary technology....
A smaller example of the same phenomenon is Cybersitter. The Santa Barbara, Calif.-based producer of antipornography filter software is suing the Chinese government, claiming that the government's own filtration software, Green Dam Youth Escort, illegally copied nearly 3,000 lines of Cybersitter's own computer coding. The company is asking for $2.2 billion in damages stemming from the infringement.

The legal merits of the case are a matter of debate. But merely by filing suit Cybersitter is taking a bold step that could prove so embarrassing to Beijing that Cybersitter's own product could end up banned from China in retaliation. The family-owned U.S. company is willing to take that risk. "We're not at all concerned about whether we'll lose China as a customer," Jenna DiPasquale, Cybersitter's marketing director, says. In the past dozen years, Cybersitter has sold at most 15,000 copies of its software in China, compared to world-wide sales of four to five million. The company says the costs of not defending its code are much greater than the benefits of a presence in China.

WSJ offers in another piece, very balanced and informative:

Google has faced its share of business obstacles in China, some of which may be traced to government action. Its main search competitor, Baidu, has received government support to control 58% of the market, compared to Google's 36%. No doubt the fact that Google's revenues in China are what it calls "insignificant" make it easier to pull the plug.

But the problems go beyond Google. A company spokesman tells us that the decision to abandon the China market was the result of the hacking attack and a broad crackdown on the Internet in China. In the last year Chinese authorities have blocked YouTube, attempted to force computer retailers to pre-install the Green Dam filtering software, pressured Google and other search providers to further filter racy content, and allegedly launched a "DNS poisoning" attack on Google that led to the company's services crashing world-wide.

This is clearly an ongoing program by China. A friend related the tale of China's attempt to grab Seagate, which makes the Maxtor portable hard drives. First a Chinese firm attempted to buy the company. Then when Seagate refused to sell, the Chinese subcontractor for the drives infected one type of drive with a trojan horse that collected passwords, etc. Seagate was forced to recall the hard drives.

Another example: In October 2007, Kaspersky Labs inked a deal with the Huawei-3Com joint venture, H3C, as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for H3C servers. Kaspersky is, presumably, working closely with H3C, wholly owned by the "U.S. fir"m 3Com (corporate headquarters actually in Shenzhen) to “further enhance the performance of H3C’s security products to quickly respond to malicious software threats and therefore to protect customer’s network to be safe and sound” according the Chief Technology Officer at H3C.

However, as late as December 2006, every one of H3C’s Chinese employees remained on the personnel rolls at the Chinese telecom giant, Huawei, even though Huawei no longer owned any H3C shares. One Chinese news report noted that “They retain Huawei personnel employment numbers, Huawei stock ownership, and their internal corporate contacts, job descriptions (zhiwei) and ranks.” Therefore, Huawei likely continues to maintain all security dossiers and to control “work certificates” (gongzuo zheng) for all of H3C’s Chinese citizen employees. Where do you think their loyalties lie?

Josh Schrei says more firms should follow Google's example.
Timeline of Google/China history
ChinaHush with evidence of proof for the security breach
Daily Links
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Quake Hurts Taiwan Ambassador

Straits Times says that Taiwan's ambassador to Haiti was hurt in the quake. Haiti is one of the 23 countries that recognize the ROC.
TAIWAN'S ambassador to Haiti has been injured in the powerful earthquake in the impoverished Caribbean nation where hundreds of people are feared dead, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

'The initial information we obtained showed that ambassador Hsu Mien-sheng was injured in the earthquake,' a ministry official told AFP. 'He suffered a fracture and has been treated in hospital.'

The official gave no further details, but added that other embassy staff had escaped unhurt when the embassy building was damaged in the capital Port-au-Prince after Tuesday's earthquake.

Taiwan pledged US$200,000 (S$277,539) in humanitarian aid and President Ma Ying-jeou sent condolences to his Haitian counterpart, the foreign ministry said in a statement. 'The government may provide further assistance to Haiti depending on its needs,' it added.
The Rumpus has a collection of links for giving to Haiti.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

China hacks Google =UPDATED=

Google Blog says, in its entirety:


Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident--albeit a significant one--was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers.

We have already used information gained from this attack to make infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security for Google and for our users. In terms of individual users, we would advise people to deploy reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on their computers, to install patches for their operating systems and to update their web browsers. Always be cautious when clicking on links appearing in instant messages and emails, or when asked to share personal information like passwords online. You can read more here about our cyber-security recommendations. People wanting to learn more about these kinds of attacks can read this U.S. government report (PDF), Nart Villeneuve's blog and this presentation on the GhostNet spying incident.

We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech. In the last two decades, China's economic reform programs and its citizens' entrepreneurial flair have lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Indeed, this great nation is at the heart of much economic progress and development in the world today.

We launched in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China."

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down, and potentially our offices in China.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.


Doesn't it look like they know that the Chinese government is behind all this? And that the decision to operate openly is a response to that? Good work, Google. Now that you've talked the talk, walk the walk.

UPDATE: The New York Times has more:

Google did not publicly link the Chinese government to the cyber attack, but people with knowledge of Google’s investigation said they had enough evidence to justify its actions.

A United States expert on cyber warfare said that 34 companies were targeted, most of them high-technology companies in Silicon Valley. The attacks came from Taiwanese Internet addresses, according to James Mulvenon, an expert on Chinese cyberwarfare capabilities.

Mr. Mulvenon said that the stolen documents were sent electronically to a server controlled by Rackspace, based in San Antonio.

“For Google to pull up stakes and basically pull out China, the attack must have been large in scope and very penetrating,” Mr. Mulvenon said. “This attack highlights the fact that cyberwarfare has basically gone to the next level.”

Note again the abuse of Taiwan -- the attacks originated from here, just as China used Taiwan firms to send nuke tech to Iran. It's obvious that at least one payoff China is hoping for is western ire at Taiwan.

Hope the local papers give this wide publicity.

UPDATE II: "call me cynical, but would google be this principled if their China business were #1 and doing well?"(post to niubi)

There are a lot of comments from "knowing" expats that Google is just doing this because it is losing market share to Baidu. While true, it still commands a ~20% share and losses among users who actually spend money appear to be smaller (20% of China's educated internet users is bigger than many countries where Google dominates). But both that article and Google's 2006 blogpost say that they are in China for the long haul. Moreover, the post shows that Google has always been cognizant of the human values involved in investing in China.

The cynicism of "it's all about market share", and all such uses of cynicism as an analytical stance rather than as an emotional response, is really just a mask for an ideology of power that shills for China (and all forms of authoritarian power). By treating Google as the active agent, and China as the passive recipient of Google's action, it takes China's theft and spying activities, its authoritarian regime, its murderous, thuggish ways, as constants, like gravity, something part of the environment, but something which need not explain itself nor account for its actions. In the cynical formulation, "power" just is and has no moral agency of its own. Hence the spotlight is always focused on those who take action, "exposing" their hypocrisy. By putting the spotlight on Google, the cynics remove it from China -- but it is China that has acted evilly here, not Google.

So call me cynical, but would all those China expats be so quick to leap on Google if they lived outside China?

UPDATE III: Imagethief says Google detonates the China corporate communications script with many good links.
Daily Links
  • Iranian hackers take down Baidu!?
  • In response to the US arms sales, China tests new anti-missile system, but no details are given. I just bought a Porsche, but I'm not showing you any pictures nor telling you where I bought it or how much I paid or which model it is. You'll just have to believe me. And then there is the timing. "Comrade! The Yanqui bastards have sold more arms to Taiwan!" "Quick, we must test our anti-missile systems!" "But comrade, it takes weeks to arrange the test vehicles and set up the equipment."
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