Thursday, September 30, 2010


I'm way overworked and need a few days off. Back online on Sunday. Comments won't be posted til then. Many thanks!
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September Remember: Election Signage

Another month, another pile of political posters. Here a sign for Jason Hu, mayor of Taichung, displays his slogan: Taichung goes Global.

In some places the number of signs is overwhelming.

Tsai Ing-wen on a sign -- she's common everywhere.

It seems that this year more candidates are showing up on posters with spouses and children.

The sign is bigger than the building.

A trio of DPP candidates.

Overpowering a Taichung intersection.

Overpowering another Taichung intersection.

This is one of a tiny handful of signs I have seen with Ma's picture on it.

Begging for votes.


At election time this signboard near a major intersection in Changhua is always covered with election posters.

A candidate peers from behind a building in Tanzi.

No hands. Not appealing.

The female candidate looking all cute and holding the heart is in the midst of a brutal divorce/custody battle that has created lots of salacious scandal news.

A small sign adorns apartments in northern Taipei.

DPP candidates dominate a signboard outside of Shihgang in Taichung county.

Near the Shipai metro stop in Taipei City.

Lots of biking this year.

Another cyclist candidate. No gloves? I'm taking style points off for that....

Cycling seems to a be a thing for urban candidates; here in agricultural Hsinshe the candidate appears in a more traditional pose.

A candidate from the other side of the tracks.

Local candidate and mayoral candidate.
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Secret Police

Major stir this week when it was revealed that a high ranking police official from the Chinese Empire visited Taiwan this month and the visit was kept from the public:
A visit to Taiwan by Chinese Vice Minister of Public Security Chen Zhimin (陳智敏) and his delegation earlier this month was shrouded in secrecy and intentionally unpublicized, even as talks were held with senior government officials, an investigation by the Taipei Times showed yesterday.

Chen, who is believed to be the second-highest-ranking Chinese official to visit the nation in the past 12 years in an official capacity, was in Taipei from Sept. 13 through Sept. 18 and met representatives from the Ministry of the Interior, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and the Ministry of Justice.
What's to be scared about? "This could be the first time in the nation’s history that a visit by senior Chinese officials was covered up by Taiwan’s own government agencies" says the Taipei Times, but it does not seem very likely that Chen's has been the only such visit kept from the public. What did the Administration say? It added:
“We had a tacit understanding with [China] … we weren’t going to release this trip to the media because of the upcoming [November] elections,” he said. “The request [for this] came from China, and as the host, we accepted.”
This offhand description seems to suggest that this sort of thing has happened before (and how can a "tacit understanding" be "a request"?). A friend of mine just got back from Beijing, where he watched a TV show devoted entirely to Taiwan, with intelligent and insightful statements from a military official on the island's electoral politics. This little clarification shows that Beijing is becoming quite savvy in intervening in the island's politics on behalf of its allies, the KMT, and also demonstrates the tight coordination between the two. It is also another example of the many ways in which the KMT uses the China relationship to further its own position in Taiwan.

Consider also that the use of official secrecy for partisan political purposes is an undemocratic abuse of power. Let us hope the party responsible pays for it at the polls.

One must also ask of the KMT media: what did they know and when did they know it? Surely in a case like this the local pan-Green media is the last to get hold of the story. This case may also show how national security and policy, along with democratic media behavior, are subordinate in pan-Blue media reporting to the needs of the KMT.

The visit coincided with the Ma Administration decisions to send Taiwan coast guard vessels to confront Japan in the Senkakus, and with the joint Coast Guard exercises. It seems unlikely that there is a connection to the former event since it must have been scheduled weeks in advance. It also coincided with a big media blitz over other visiting Chinese officials.
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Seventeenth Annual Taiwan Studies Conference, Columbia, South Carolina

The program for the Seventeenth Annual Taiwan Studies Conference, Columbia, South Carolina.... I'd love to read that paper on cross-strait political networks.


Seventeenth Annual Taiwan Studies Conference, Columbia, South Carolina


This Friday the University of South Carolina opens its seventeenth annual Taiwan Studies Conference on the theme "Taiwan at the Center" which will examine economic, social, cultural, and political networks. Below is the current iteration of the program.

Friday 10/1
6:00-9:30 pm, Reception & Dinner Banquet,
Inn at USC Palmetto Room

Saturday 10/2
9:00-9:30 am, Introduction, Inn at USC, Carolina Room

Introductory Remarks
WD Kinzley, Director, Center for Asian Studies
Gordon B. Smith, Director, Walker Institute of International and Area Studies

Keynote Address
Honorable Leo Lee, Deputy Representative, TECRO

9:30-9:45 am, Break
9:45-11:45 am, Panel 1: Cross Strait Political Economy Networks
Chair: WD Kinzley, University of South Carolina

Justin Hastings, Georgia Institute of Technology
Cross-Strait Rapprochement and the Future of Illicit Networks

Scott Kastner, University of Maryland
China-Taiwan Economic Integration and the Prospects for Peace

Shu Keng, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics
Stabilization From Below: Economic Interdependence and Military Conflict
across the Taiwan Strait

Discussant: Dennis Hickey, Missouri State University

12:00-1:15 pm, Lunch, Inn at USC Palmetto Room

1:30-3:00 pm, Panel 2: Cross Strait Cultural Networks
Chair: Marc Moskowitz, University of South Carolina

Krista van Fleit Hang, University of South Carolina

Michael Hill, University of South Carolina
The Beginnings of the Taiwan Commercial Press (Taiwan Shangwu Yinshuguan)"

Guo-Juin Hong, Duke University
From Rootlessness to Rootedness: Constructed Homeland in Taiwan Cinema
Discussant: Carlos Rojas, Duke University

3:00-3:15 pm, Break

3:15-4:45 pm, Panel 3: Domestic Economic and Social Networks
Chair: Tom Gold, University of California, Berkeley

Jon Brookfield, Tufts University
Geography and the Network Structure of Big Business in Taiwan

Ashley Esarey, Whitman College
Media Freedom and Democratization in Taiwan: A Comparative Perspective

Wan-Li Ho, Emory University
The Role of Eco-Feminist Networks in Contemporary Taiwan

Discussant: Tom Gold, University of California, Berkeley

6:00-9:00 pm, Dinner, Sun Ming Restaurant
Sunday 10/3
8:30-10:00 am, Panel 4: Taiwan's Regional Relationships
Chair: John Hsieh, University of South Carolina

Thomas Bellows, University of Texas, San Antonio
Taiwan's Relations with Southeast Asia

Peter Chow, CUNY
Taiwan in East Asian Economic Integration

Uk Heo, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
The Political Economy of Networks between South Korea and Taiwan

Discussant: Dennis Hickey, Missouri State University

10:15-11:45 am, Panel 5: Taiwan's Global Networks
Chair: Jie Guo

Terry Cooke, Independent Scholar

Steven Phillips, Towson University
The DPP Confronts the Possibility of "Taiwan at the Center"

Shelley Rigger, Davidson College

Discussant: Steven Chan, University of Colorado
12:00-1:30 pm, Lunch, Inn at USC Palmetto Room

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!

Short shorts for Thursday

Coming into Taipei yesterday, the cloud formations over Yangmingshan were stunning.

Some interesting stuff out there this week. This piece by a Japanese admiral points out some fundamental issues in the China-Japan relationship while calling for mil-mil CBMs:
My estimate is that Chinese Defense Budgets only include development costs, personnel, commodity, maintenance and administrative expenses. The weapon production and purchasing costs are counted as part of national fundamental construction costs. Defense research and weapons developments are counted as part of the education and science research budgets. The armed police administration costs are included in administrative management budgets. Draft and civil military support costs are counted as part of regional finances.

Foreign weapons purchases such as the Su-27 and Su-30 are counted as the foreign currencies foundations. Food and self-sustenance costs are counted as military production activities. The above two items are part of the non-military budgets.[18]

Why does China offer false Defense Budgets? This is consistent with China's deception practices, such as Deng Xiaoping's 24 Character Strategy, especially "Hide our capabilities and bide our time."[19] China wants to defeat the "China Threat Theory," project an image that it is a peaceful rising power and seeks advantages in information and psychological warfare. Chinese defense budgets have been increasing at a rate in the double digits since 1989 just when every country started enjoying peaceful dividends.

The piece contains some very interesting information, including some discussion of China's surveillance activities and use of fishing boats as a seagoing militia. As the admiral points out, the use of fishing boats by the military means that when they are strongly responded to, as in the recent tiff over the Senkakus, China can pretend to be the aggrieved party since its poor (civilian) fisherman were attacked, while if they are not dealt with, then they engage in spying and surveillance activities. This constant probing with seaborne militia is similar to the spy case last year in Taipei involving the Chinese man who left a tour group and somehow walked across Taipei to wind up in the place to take photos in the sensitive area where Taiwan's cyberops are overseen. If he is busted, he is just a tourist.....

Also this week, Congressman David Wu stupidly and unnecessarily announced that the Senkakus belong to China.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today Congressman David Wu will make a statement on the status of the Diaoyu Islands at 6:30 PM EDT at the main gate of Georgetown University (37th St NW and O St NW). Because of the recent fishing boat incident, Congressman Wu intends to make public his belief that the Diaoyu Islands have been a part of China since the Ming Dynasty.

Congressman Wu will state:

“Historically and geographically the Diaoyu Islands have been a part of China since the Ming Dynasty. Japanese sources have acknowledged Chinese ownership since the late 1700s. Japan laid claim to the islands after its war with China in 1895.

“It is in everyone’s interest, including the United States’, that the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands be resolved promptly and peacefully.”

Chinese advocates will be in attendance. Following his statement, Congressman Wu will be holding a town hall meeting at Georgetown University with foreign students from China.
Americans, stop feeding the PRC beast. It will only become more acquisitive. Yesterday I got another lecture from a Chinese nationalist who informed me that after the Senkakus comes Okinawa, which "was ours before." This kind of talk, which I have heard many times and which is not limited merely to pimply-faced man-boys commenting on the internet, shows how the stronger China becomes, the more belligerent it feels like becoming.

Another issue here is the double standard with which "China" is viewed, the construction of "China" that is widely and unquestioningly accepted in the media. In the eyes of people like Wu and Kristof, 18th century maps are probative on the issue of the Senkakus. Imagine if Germany or France tried to redraw its borders based on 18th century maps. Imagine if Turkey decided it wanted to redraw its own borders based on a map of the Ottoman Empire, which folded a few years after the Qing gave up the ghost. Everyone would object that such move would have no rational basis in law, and further, that Turkey is not the Ottoman Empire. When China rages about territory, we only make the first objection. We don't make the second. An important function of the constant invocation of "5,000 years of China" and "Chinese dynasties" is that they normalize territories as "Chinese." That is why they are made.

To see what China may lay claim to, fire up Google and start looking at maps of the Qing empire. Scary, especially when you start throwing in the claims they currently make, like to the whole of the South China Sea....

Speaking of history, Walter Russell Mead has a great piece on Beijing as the Kaiser:
But the old Wilhelm died and a new Wilhelm (Wilhelm II) brought a new generation of Germans into power. Firing the elderly and crotchety Bismarck, Wilhelm read Admiral Mahan’s Importance of Sea Power in History and dreamed of the blue water navy that would turn Germany into a true Weltmacht, world power. Moreover, ‘Willi’ was sick and tired of deferring to all the neighbors. Enough of this insipid “Dreikaiserbund“, the complicated three-way alliance between Russia, Germany and Austria! And enough of this being nice to France. The French were losers, has-beens. It was time they were made to feel it. Germany was the greatest power in Europe and it was high time people accepted this fact.
A very detailed comparison. Go and read.


New websites at Taiwan's English newspapers this week. Taiwan News has a website redesign. It comes complete with unnecessary Flash opening, dorky upbeat KTV super-reverb music, and a clickable hot chick whose image tastefully says "Touch me" after which she does a little dance. If you click on the multimedia news link she appears again, does another dance, and then announces that it is multimedia time. Did I mention that she clearly obtained her dress from the local night market cast-off store? The Taiwan News conception of multimedia is trapped in some horrible endless 1994 loop. The main news website, complete with music (because that's why people go to news websites, right?) is here; bookmark that to avoid another outbreak of the deadly Flash animation plague. I think that this will be a website everyone will visit once.

The Taipei Times website also had a redesign. This website looks great -- packs in the information but feels uncluttered, utterly sensible, and fast and useful. Totally professional. Kudos to the tech team that did that; great work. Some search functions are still undergoing upgrades, but overall I am looking forward to using this website.
Daily Links:
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Daily Links, Sept 27, 2010

The owner left because he wanted to throw stones. Meanwhile, what's being slung around on the blogs today?

MOURNING: Cyclist Jure Robic, quite possibly the greatest ultraendurance athlete in any sport, was killed in an automobile accident this week.

GAMES: Two games made computer gaming in the days of its callow youth, Master of Orion and Civilization. Civ 5 is now out. 19 years have gone by since I first fired up MS-DOS to play Civ. Damn I'm old.....

ADDED: Ice Lollipop (popsicle) Eating Competition in K-town this Thursday:

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The Economist Completely Blows It

No wonder people read blogs.

The Economist, in the midst of an otherwise sturdy Establishment-style article on the entirely artificial spat over the Senkakus, suddenly belched up:
China maintains that the uninhabited islands were seized by Japan when it took over Taiwan at the end of a war between the two countries in 1895. Taiwan was handed back to China at the end of the second world war, but the islands remained under the control of the Americans, who administered them as part of the Okinawa island chain. America handed Okinawa back to Japan in 1972, including the Senkakus. Japan says the islands have always been Japanese. America takes no position on the rival sovereignty claims. But it has said that its defence treaty with Japan applies to the islands.
Wow is this ever awful. I noted some of this in a comment I left there and a complaint on the site, but I am placing it here as well.

1. Taiwan was not "handed back" to China at the end of WWII. The San Francisco Peace Treaty does not name a recipient of Taiwan's sovereignty precisely because the Powers did not want either Chinese government to have the island. To this day it is the policy of the US and Japan that the status of Taiwan is undetermined. In fact a representative of Japan to Taiwan was expelled last year after reminding the KMT government of that fact. This is all available online and should be second nature. As an aside, it is astounding the number of media reps out here who do not bother to look this stuff up.

2. Taiwan was not "handed back" to China because it had never been part of any ethnic Chinese emperor's China, but had only been a colony of the Qing empire (and only part of it, at that). Until the late 1930s Taiwan was generally considered not part of China by the Chinese themselves -- just as the Senkakus were not considered part of China. By writing like this, the media abets China's drive to inflate itself out to the old Qing borders. Imagine how everyone would laugh if Ankara suddenly started to claim Jordan because both belonged to the Ottoman Empire. But that is exactly what is happening here.

3. History: Japan took the Senkakus in January of 1895 after about a decade of considering it. The treaty ending the Sino-Japanese War and conceding Taiwan was not signed until April. The Japanese did not completely occupy Taiwan for many months afterward. The seizure of the Senkakus had nothing to do with the seizure of Taiwan. It is irrelevant "what China maintains" since that is false. The media cannot strike a balance between truth and lies; no such balance exists. By repeating this falsehood without identifying it as such, and presenting it as if readers should consider it seriously, The Economist merely enhances it.

4. History: Japan does not say the islands "have always been Japanese." That is totally wrong. Japan's position is that when they were occupied in 1895, no one claimed them. See their response to Kristof, especially point 1.

5. History: until 1968 both the PRC and ROC considered the Senkakus to be Japanese and all their maps and documents said so. Suddenly, when oil was announced beneath the Senkakus in 1968, both Chinese governments manufactured a claim to them. It would be great if someone somewhere in the media actually mentioned this history aloud.

It is one thing to attempt to find a balance between Tokyo and Beijing, but it is quite another to act as though there is a balance midway between fact and fiction. There isn't one. The Economist owes it to its readers to correct Beijing's false claims, especially those made in the context of its burgeoning expansionism. What a massive fail.

The media presentations, which focus on Beijing's ire, are by default, Beijing-centric -- because Beijing is the actor that is flailing about, making noise and cutting off heads. Japan's quiet, classy response isn't presented as a positive policy, but merely means that Japan's response gets fewer mentions and less emphasis. Worse, the media acts as though "tensions" are like gravity, without human agency behind them.
In recent days tensions have risen to a point where China’s leaders refuse even to meet their Japanese counterparts and are threatening worse to come.
Imagine if The Economist had written the facts instead of giving a "balanced" presentation -- that tension occurs because human beings choose for it to occur:
In recent days Beijing has ramped up tensions a point where China’s leaders refuse even to meet their Japanese counterparts and are threatening worse to come.
...because Japan has done absolutely nothing to increase tensions. Arresting a fishing boat captain for twice ramming Japanese vessels in Japanese waters is perfectly legal.

And recall that Chinese fishing boats have been subjected to far worse by other countries, but Beijing did not put on a show like this. This is all about abusing Japan to test its relationship with the US and to score points with nationalist crowd at home, as well as perfect tactics for use in other disputes.
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Short Shorts

The Taiwan into the UN protests were photo'd in the New York Times. Good work, folks.

There's been a great deal of public outrage at the bizarre molestation rulings....
In one case, Supreme Court judges rejected an appeal to convict a suspect accused of molesting a three-year-old girl because prosecutors failed to prove the alleged offense was committed against the girl’s wishes. The case was sent back to a lower court for retrial.

In another case, a judge ruled that prosecutors failed to prove a six-year-old girl had shown “strong will” in fighting off the perpetrator, and found him guilty of “having sex with a person under 14 years of age,” which came with a sentence of three years and two months in prison, rather than finding him guilty of committing “sexual assault,” which is punishable by three to 10 years in jail.
I'd like to think that the lads in the prosecutorial office are not that dense, and are trying to call attention to how stupid the laws are. I would bet that there are rules against public criticism of the law, formal and informal, by public judicial officials.

First time home buyers getting help from mom and dad. How bad is the bubble in Taiwan?:
That finding defies logic because, according to Construction and Planning Agency Director-General Yeh Shih-wen (葉世文), the average housing price in Taipei is 14.1 times annual household income, compared with 8.8 times in Japan.
This is how a bubble skims the savings from hard working savers....

Commonwealth Mag has another great set of stuff this week, with an article on what the next Chinese five year plan means for Taiwan businesses:
To make his point, Lin cites China's wind power industry as an example of how China distorts the market in its favor. Early in its industrial development, China adopted a policy of trading market access for technology transfer, so when China decided to fully promote wind power in 2005, the National Development and Reform Commission opted to protect domestic manufacturers by requiring that all wind power equipment used in the country have 70 percent local content. That forced wind power vendors from around the world to enter into joint ventures in China with local suppliers if they wanted access to the market, preventing them from fully reaping the potential benefits of the commercial opportunities there.

"Now that China's own wind power industry has grown strong wings, they canceled local content requirements this year and have turned the tables to move into the American and European markets," Lin stresses.

Chinese policymakers must marvel at how westerners walked right into their trap.
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China vs Japan: the Scrape of Things to Come

In 1979 Vietnam and China fought a short little war that lasted a few weeks. The reasons given for the war were alleged mistreatment of Vietnam's Chinese minority, and Vietnamese occupation of the Spratlys, which China was trying to annex. One of the real reasons, however, was to show Vietnam that her ally Russia couldn't be depended to come to her aid.

This week China went after Japan in a big way in the Senkaku Islands. As the world has heard, a Chinese fishing boat rammed Japanese vessels twice in the Senkaku Islands. I'm not going to discuss who owns the Senkakus; study of history adequately answers that question.

Context: China kicked up a massive fuss in the world media and put a on a show for the home crowd. Yet in February Russia sank a Chinese fishing trawler and the Chinese response was muted. Similarly, there've been several clashes in the South China Sea recently which have received no publicity from Beijing. The leadership in Beijing appears to be engaged in two activities: stoking the home front nationalism, and seeing how the US would react when Tokyo was threatened. Japan makes a nifty victim -- imagine if the Chinese had tried this stunt with the Russians. Of course, the Tokyo-Washington alliance is the pillar of US hegemony in East Asia. Beijing is likely to continue to test it....

Petty bullshit from Beijing abounded -- note the class with which Tokyo handled the affair. No bluster, no random arrests of Chinese nationals in China. China arrested four Japanese nationals investigating possible bilking of the government of Japan in a WWII weapons clean-up in China. It was symptomatic that China apparently barred accredited Japanese reporters from the interviews of the fishing boat captain. ESWN has the translation:
According to Fuji TV reporter Fujita Mizumi, she and six other Japanese reporters got in a queue to obtain temporary passes at 7pm on the evening before yesterday. When the workers learned that they were Japanese reporters, they claimed that all temporary passes have been given out. However, the Japanese reporters observed that late-coming mainland reporters continued to receive temporary passes.

At 3am or so, the Japanese reporters made one more attempt to get interviews inside the VIP suite at the airport. Fujita Mizumi asked one of the Fujian Province Publicity Department workers who was handing out passes: "We are Japanese reporters who are approved by the Chinese government to cover news in China. Why doesn't China allow us to gather news?" The other party said bluntly: "We cannot arrange for Japanese reporters to cover this welcoming ceremony. You ought to know the reason why."
The cut off of rare earths to Japan was handled, this fantastic blog post on the Senkakus mess from Ampontan says that the cut off did not occur as an administrative order, but as an order not to load them onto ships for transport to Japan. Which is not covered by international trade regulations. This is the same pattern we have seen in other Chinese behavior -- remember the complaints from Thai fruit producers that Chinese shippers left their stuff to rot on Chinese docks rather than ship it inland to compete with Chinese fruit? China also suspended ministerial level exchanges.

Of the calculated humiliations and toddler-spite directed at Tokyo, my favorite was Beijing's demand that Japan apologize for detaining the captain of a fishing boat who rammed Japanese vessels in Japanese waters. Disgusting. And again, look at the class with which the incident was handled in Tokyo.

One interesting wrinkle was the way the incident with Japan brought out the usually veiled anti-Americanism among Deep Blue pro-China KMTers here in Taiwan. Not only were the talk shows full of it, I heard, but this China Times commentary is a priceless display of the abiding contempt for America that resides in the heart of the KMT:
The media in the US and Japan have been speculating about Japan’s recent confrontations with Mainland China over the Diaoyutai Islets (Senkaku for the Japanese). Is Japan hoping to drag the US into the conflict? Or is the US encouraging Japan’s confrontation with Beijing from behind the scenes?

Objectively speaking, both scenarios are possible. Without the US as its backup, Japan would never dare to instigate hostilities with Mainland China. The fact that Japan is refusing to back down points to the possibility that it is purposely trying to drag the US into the conflict. Politicians in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) are not stupid; they know that the most effective way to regain public support is to take voters’ minds off domestic issues by inciting nationalistic sentiments. The DPJ’s need to prevent itself from sinking into obscurity is obvious.

If Sino-US relations are too harmonious, the Japanese government may not be in such an assertive position. However, sensing that the relations between the two great powers are on the rocks, Tokyo knows well that Washington will not completely maintain a hands-off attitude. After all, the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan covers all the territories under Japan’s administration because its current jurisdiction was dictated by the US after WWII. Japan is taking this rare opportunity to test the resolve of the US.
The reality is that Japan has become concerned because of Chinese expansionism. That context, along with the behavior of the Chinese in this incident, is entirely missing from the China Times editorial, of course.

The US apparently put pressure on Japan to hand back the captain and resolve the issue. In other words, again, the opposite of what the China Times article claims.

Welcome to the future, folks.
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Phone Code Follies

Taiwan's Next Media animations, famous the world over, has a hilarious depiction of the Chinese fishing boat that apparently rammed the Japanese vessels in the Senkakus last week (still from the video).

China's drive to annex Taiwan is a comprehensive and robust assault on all aspects of Taiwan's international identity. The peripatetic Danny Bloom identified another one in a letter to the Taipei Times this week:
I have always wondered why Taiwan was assigned the country code number of 886 for international calls, since the code for China, 86, is so close. It appears that whoever did the assigning of numbers considers Taiwan to be part of China, since no other country in Asia has a code that is anywhere near the code number of another country. I did some research and found out. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) publishes a list of 192 countries on its Web site, and Taiwan is not on the list. Taiwan is considered a part of China (“Taiwan, China — 886”). Can this mistake be corrected someday? Maybe 88 would do fine.
If you search the Net you'll soon find that it was at the insistence of the PRC that the International Telecommunications Union assigned that code to Taiwan to denigrate its status. One site notes:
The Republic of China (TW Taiwan) is officially recognized by the ITU as a part of CN the People's Republic of China. The country code +886 is designated merely as "reserved," without reference to location. However, most calls to Taiwan originating outside of the People's Republic of China are routed using country code +886, as shown in the table above. (The +86 6 numbering space in China's numbering plan is reserved for Taiwan.)
The ITU refers to Taiwan as "Taiwan, China" in its official documents. Just search on its website...
Daily Links:
  • DPP Taipei Mayor candidate Su proposes more bribes for babies. As if there is no budget deficit. There's nothing like buying Taipei voters with southern Taiwan tax dollars...
  • Although China has denied cutting off rare earths to Japan, this fantastic blog post on the Senkakus mess from Ampontan says that the cut off did not occur as an administrative order, but as an order not to load them onto ships for transport to Japan. Which is not covered by international trade regulations. This is the same pattern we have seen in other Chinese behavior -- remember the complaints from Thai fruit producers that Chinese shippers left their stuff to rot on Chinese docks rather than ship it inland to compete with Chinese fruit?
  • The latest Global Views survey has Tsai Ing-wen standing higher in the public trust than a certain President.
  • English translations of the ECFA agreement are here and the annexes are here.
  • Nat Bellocchi points out the inherent biases in local surveys of preferred status for Taiwan.
  • China's surface ships usefully assessed at Jamestown Brief. As an aside, I'd like to call for an international moratorium on the use of wordplay on the name Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
  • China's missile policy toward Taiwan, also from the Jamestown Brief.
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, September 24, 2010

Invest in the Chung!

To see this in much larger size, go here.

UDN published an investment guide for foreigners in Taichung, in both Chinese and English. As you can see, all the projects listed are BOT projects, which are built by the private sector as a government concession and then transferred to the government after a stated period of time. It's hard for me to believe that any of these projects will make the promised returns -- for one thing Taichung already has more department store floor space per capita than any other city on the island, and yet the city government is proposing many projects that are shopping driven. Clearly these seem to be envisioning increases flows of/from Chinese tourists, and perhaps they are aimed at Chinese construction firms. Hmmm.....

Some of them appear to substantially misrepresent things: project 9 will be located next to the "historic old town areas" but as anyone who has been downtown can see, there is no historic old town area as such, just a few isolated older buildings without any specific identity along with a couple of preservation projects. Much of the old Japanese period architecture that might have given the area a unique flavor has been destroyed or left to rot (just another KMT success!). The "HSR Taichung Station" project calls for commercial development at the HSR station -- there is nothing there at present (it is in the middle of nowhere) and getting out there is a pain -- perhaps things will change after the metro reaches it. This appears to be another version of the original policy of the HSR to make money by developing the land around the stations, but they are so badly located that nothing has ever come of that in most cases.

I blogged on the BOT model in Taiwan a few years ago.

Speaking of business in the Chung, Dom sent me a link to his labor of love, a blog devoted to Taichung's eateries, mainly bakeries. Go thou and read!
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Friday Night Lites

Wen Jiabao, Premier of the Chinese Empire, said today that Chinese missiles facing Taiwan could be removed someday. "I believe the issue you mention will eventually be realised," he stated. He means after Taiwan has been annexed, of course. Games.

More games from China. Two days ago the news was that China had blocked rare earth exports to Japan over the Senkaku Islands dispute. Then today it came out that such a thing hadn't really happened. Just talk. Coincidentally, Japan decided to release the Chinese fishing boat captain it was holding. On the hegemony front, the US and ASEAN are coming together to push back against China. Meanwhile our troops stay in Afghanistan, making central Asia safe for Chinese expansion. Perhaps our foreign policymakers can all get on the same page?

Speaking of Japan, Taiwan News published a good analysis of the Japan-China-US-Taiwan relationship that focused on Japan's changing domestic calculus -- the new government has a China hawk for a foreign minister, and China's bluster has played right into his hands....
Ironically, the PRC's bald assertion of its "territorial sovereignty" over virtually all the waters in the East Sea, the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea may make it easier for Tokyo to convince reluctant Okinawans that their own security is also at stake.

Indeed, the "Ryukyu Shimbun" reported yesterday that Japan's Ministry of defense plans to boost the number of Ground Self-defense Forces stationed on the main island of Okinawa from 2,000 to 20,000 by 2020 in part to cope with "special needs due to the increase in Chinese military activities" near to the Okinawan island chain.
The article points out relations with Japan have been rockier under Ma because of the (apparently deliberate use of) the irritant of the Senkakus. A China Times editorial blamed US machinations for the Senkakus mess -- a sample of how both Chinese nationalisms, rightist and leftist, use the US as a convenient whipping boy -- but note this comment at the bottom:
Editor’s Note: Ambassador Stephen S. F. Chen, former representative of the Republic of China to Washington and currently associated with the National Policy Foundation in Taipei, recently made a comment on the status of the Diaoyutai Islets when answering press queries in Los Angeles. He said that the Government of the Republic of China (ROC) holds the consistent stance that the Diaoyutai Islets belong to the ROC. The Japan Coast Guard’s forcible detention of fishing boats from across the Taiwan Strait in recent months had clearly violated ROC sovereignty, added the retired diplomat. With regard to similar claim of sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islets by Mainland China, Ambassador Chen emphasized his point by citing the ROC Constitution, which stipulates that the ROC’s “existing national boundaries” encompass the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, and surrounding islands. He explained that, leaving aside the issue of which China has the right to claim sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islets, Beijing’s stance did not collide with that of the ROC based on the concept of sovereignty.
It's the 1992 consensus, Senkakus version.

The typhoon Fanapi flooding down south in Taiwan turned into a political football, but it was a game nobody won, though Chen Chu's intemperate words probably cost her at the polls, at least temporarily. Flooding occurs in part because of massive land subsidence and will only get worse as global warming gets into gear as this century goes on. To solve these problems requires changes in the way the System works in Taiwan (and elsewhere). That isn't going to happen. Meanwhile the Arctic Ice is now in a death spiral. Yes, I'm feeling pessimistic today.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Discuss: DPP Talent Crunch

It is the sun that shares our works.
The moon shares nothing. It is a sea. -- Wallace Stevens

It's the Moon Festival once again. The bright star under the moon tonight, rising in the east, is the planet Jupiter on closest approach to earth in decades. Enjoy them both tonight; I had a lot of fun shooting the moon tonight amidst the sound of fireworks and the aroma of BBQing meat.

I biked down to Lukang today with my friend Drew and his wife Joyce. Drew and I were chatting about politics and wondered: assume a DPP sweep of the five municipal elections. In that case, the usual question is: who shall be the Presidential candidate against Ma in 2012? But also important is: who shall be the premier?

Such questions bring into full focus the disaster of DPP heavyweight Yang Chiu-hsing switching sides in the Kaohsiung election and running against Chen Chu. A popular and capable administrator, Yang was well-suited to moving into some high post. A great loss.

Anyway, I'd like to throw open that question to you all. Post suggestions for president, veep, and premier in the comments. I'll post them tomorrow morning.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Polls out this week making the news. First, Ma's approval rating remains in the dumps (Taipei Times, KMT):
The poll, conducted by the Global Views Survey Research Center, put Ma’s popularity at 30.1 percent, down 0.9 percentage points from last month. His disapproval rating also dropped 1.4 percent to stand at 55.6 percent.
Ma's support rating has basically been orbiting 30%. It troughed back in March after the fracas over beef with the US at 23%. The elections in November have been the major media focus domestically, meaning that Ma is no longer making the news as much as he did before, especially now that ECFA is both passed and routinized.

Note that the approval rating for the legislators is just 19%. This won't stop the public from voting them back in en masse. After all, my legislator sent a bottle of wine and some flowers to my cousin A-Chen's wedding! And that's what's really important.

The interesting news is from Taichung. First, the miraculous thing is that the Taipei media has actually noticed Taichung for something other than a gangland execution. We are grateful for the attention. Second, it looks like incumbent Mayor Jason Hu is in a dogfight, at least according to a recent China Times poll, dated the 20th. Among likely voters in the November election for the mayor's post in the new Taichung Municipality, Hu is up just 40-34 over the DPP's Su, with 28% undecided. I've heard that KMT internal polls have the race even closer. However, 50% of respondents say they expect Hu to win, versus just 18% for Su.

Su has a couple of advantages over Hu. Incumbency actually means that Hu has a full-time job, meaning that he can't campaign during the day -- he has to work. According to a Liberty Times article the other day, Hu is in trouble with some of the local factions out in what is now Taichung county (which will become one with Taichung city to form the monstrous hybrid Taichung Municipality), who grumble that he hasn't given them enough attention, so they won't deliver him the votes they command. The article claims that Hu has done no campaigning out in the county yet. He is, however, omnipresent on local election signage out in the county. There is also the class issue between Hu and Su -- Su is a lot more sympatico with the county than Hu is. This may not necessarily hurt Hu as much as you might think, since many locals will see Hu as someone who is fit to be their leader by virtue of being a high-class gentleman.

At this point (disclaimer: two months to go!) the DPP looks like a lock in Kaohsiung, where even if somehow the KMT candidate and DPP turncoat Yang pool their support, incumbent DPP mayor Chen Chu will still win decisively. Tainan is similarly a foregone conclusion for the DPP. In Taipei the DPP's Su Tseng-cheng is mounting a strong campaign against unappealing KMT mayor, and looks like a winner. In Taichung Hu is still strong but the trend is against the KMT. Only in Taipei County does it look like the DPP is fighting an uphill battle. Good showing, guys.
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Daily Links, Sept 20, 2010

CWB image of rainfall distribution from Fanapi.

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Feelgood for Sunday

Got two tales for ya. First, enjoy this uplifting story about Taiwanese golf sensation Yani Tseng, who, when offered a US$25 million sponsorship from a PRC businessman, refused because she'd have to change her citizenship.

The second is this tale packed with facts and pictures, of the wreck of the SS President Hoover off Green Island in 1937. President Hoover, the largest liner built in the US when it was launched in 1931, had just got done being mistakenly bombed in China by the Nationalist Air Force. On its way to the Philippines from Kobe, it hit a reef off Green Island... and the rest was history, as they say.

And one more Feelgood, totally without a Taiwan connection: how MLK persuaded NN to remain on ST:TOS as Lt. U. Totally will bring tears to your eyes.

Enjoy! Hope Typhoon Fanapi was as big a dud for you all as it was for those of us in central Taiwan; I had a pleasant bike ride in the cool, dark afternoon weather.
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=UPDATED= State Department on China/Taiwan/Japan tensions

AFP reports on the mess in East Asian islands.... The US urges calm....

The United States wants to "make sure that as we have forces that are operating in the vicinity of one another, we all respect the rules of the road that are out there."

Tensions have flared between Asia's two largest economies since a Chinese fishing trawler and two Japanese coastguard vessels collided on September 7 near a disputed island chain between Taiwan and Japan's Okinawa island.

China has summoned Japan's ambassador five times, demanded the release of the boat's captain and scrapped talks on joint exploration of a gas field near the disputed islands.

I am still amazed at China's mishandling of Japan. A charm offensive would have accomplished so much more....AFP goes on:

Flournoy was optimistic about building defense ties with China.

"Recently we have received signals from the Chinese that they are interested in resuming our (military-to-military) relationship and we are actively engaged now in laying out how to do that," she said.

China in January snapped defense exchanges with the United States and threatened to punish US companies after the Obama administration approved a 6.4 billion-dollar weapons package for Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing.

The Chinese are just playing a game. They want to be able to claim to their own domestic audience "Look, we tried to play nice with these guys, but they keep selling arms to Taiwan!" while preventing arms sales from the US by holding out the possibility of "improved relations". This is an old game with China -- leveraging the US desire for a "relationship" to obtain concrete results (in this case, no arms sales), since the US is always willing to make concessions to achieve a "relationship" with China. Hopefully the Administration is aware of this game and will continue to move forward with Taiwan arms sales and other positive Taiwan-related moves. Can we have some high ranking officials stop by for a visit? Seems like its been years.

But the best part of the AFP piece is here:
The United States does not recognize Taiwan -- where China's defeated nationalists fled in 1949 after losing the mainland's civil war -- but is bound by congressional action to ensure that the island can defend itself.
W00t!! W00t!! None of that "split in 1949" bullshit. Progress!

UPDATE: As I was reading this uplifting story about Taiwanese golf sensation Yani Tseng, who, when offered a US$25 million sponsorship from a PRC businessman, refused because she'd have to change her citizenship, this story related to the one above, from SCMP, crossed my desk:

Tung tells US to go easy on Yellow Sea
Tung Chee-hwa recently warned the most powerful US military official in the region against future missions by US aircraft carriers in the Yellow Sea.

His words, at a dinner in Hong Kong, are further proof of the behind-the-scenes influence the city's former chief executive has on Sino-US relations.
The article has extensive information on Tung a little further down:
Tung appears in his element as he works an increasingly important back channel between Beijing and Washington.

He struggled to communicate with the people of Hong Kong during his troubled tenure as the special administrative region's first chief executive, but in small groups and one to one he is considered engaging, discreet and wise and shows a broad grasp of world affairs.

"Ordinary Hongkongers may find it surprising, but the Americans find in him someone that can speak their language ... he's the world-wise old tycoon and someone who has a finely tuned understanding of not just the way the US works, but also its freedoms, strengths and its power," said one retired diplomat with long experience of dealing with Tung.

"Of course, everyone understands he is talking from Beijing's perspective. But he is a lot easier to engage than some hard-bitten Communist Party bruiser.

"When Tung expresses worries and fears for the relationship, he is sincere ... he wants the countries closer."

In Beijing what Tung says is apparently valued, too, since he offers a unique perspective.

Like his father Tung Hao-yung, founder of Orient Overseas Container Line, who forged ties with US presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, Tung maintains both Republican and Democrat connections and expansive business relationships.

Elaine Chao, labour secretary in George W. Bush's cabinet, is considered a close family friend.

Both US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Bush have quietly visited Tung in Hong Kong this year.

He lived in the US during the 1960s, where he worked for General Electric, and his children were born there. He maintains homes on the east and west coasts.
The warnings on the Yellow Sea were made at an informal dinner party where Tung hosted prominent Hong Kongers and Admiral Willard of the US Navy....

"Tung was his usual emollient and courtly self ... but he made clear that he thought US aircraft carriers in the Yellow Sea was too close for Beijing's comfort," one person familiar with the talks said.

While Tung's discretion is such that he never attempts to send a direct message from the senior Beijing leadership, another said he did most of the talking and appeared "fully briefed" on Beijing's position concerning mounting tensions in both the South China and Yellow seas.

Beijing's protests about US military exercises off its coasts have become increasingly strident in recent months - despite Washington repeatedly insisting it has obligations to military allies, such as Japan and South Korea and that its ships have the right to manoeuvre in international waters.

As a former shipping tycoon, Tung has a deep knowledge of nautical issues, from legal rights of innocent passage to trade routes, and also has an understanding of traditional US naval activities in East Asia, according to a range of people familiar with his views.
Of Willard it said:
While Willard's precise response to Tung's warnings is not known, in Tokyo he repeatedly defended US activities in the Yellow Sea - and suggested there would be more to come.

"We routinely operate on both sides of the Korean Peninsula and have for 60 years, [aircraft carrier] the USS George Washington has operated there as recently as last October and the US and [South Korean) military will continue to operate on both sides of the Korean Peninsula as circumstances dictate," he said.

Recent exercises were directed at North Korea, not China, the admiral reiterated.

Pentagon officials have repeatedly stated that when China or other countries seek to deny the rights of free navigation in international waters, the US must respond with increased patrols to assert and maintain those freedoms.
And the final note: Tung is one of the sponsors of the Sanya Initiative, which brings together PRC brass and US leaders to get the latter to kow-tow to the needs of the former. During the dinner party Tung informed Willard that the US had no need to fear China.

The game goes on, alternately tormenting the US with fiery rhetoric and then explaining that all will be well if the US just does what Beijing wants. Classic.

In case you missed that in the rush of information, Beijing says that US carriers shouldn't sail in the Yellow Sea -- which is international waters. Because then Beijing might be provoked into using its anti-carrier ballistic missile on them.

As a wise old Taiwan had remarked in a private email, this shows how unwise it was for the US to not send the carrier into the Yellow Sea in the exercises earlier this year, because it might "provoke" China. As usual, this kind of deference to "provoking" has only lead to China becoming more hardline insistent in its claims. Give'em an inch....

Paul Lin had a nifty observation in his piece in the TT today:
In February, for example, the Chinese vessel New Star sank off Vladivostok after being fired at by the Russian navy. Some of the crew were rescued, but seven went missing and the captain of the vessel was prosecuted. Despite the seriousness of this incident, Chinese diplomats were instructed only to relay a stern message. The Russian authorities took little notice, saying that the actions of its navy were perfectly legal.

Clearly, the storm Beijing has whipped up over Japan’s arrest of the captain is politically motivated, kicking sand in the face of Japan just to flex its own muscles.
Yea, verily. The Pentagon is moving drones to Guam so it can observe China better. It will need them.....
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=UPDATE= Video: Typhoon Fanapi, Taichung, Taiwan

7:45 am: The wind is mounting. More updates on the way!

Fanapi maps and info. Gusts up to 200 kms an hour. Ouch!

Fanapi about 9:15

UPDATE: Well, it's noon, and Fanapi seems to have fizzled here in The Chung. On the east side of city I'm not getting any rain and the wind is negligible. At present, it looks as if all you who were hoping for a day off tomorrow better get ready for work.

Downed tree in the neighborhood. This was the only serious damage I saw when I went into town to the market, which was open, though not heavily trafficked.

Northern Taichung under Fanapi.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Taipei Race Still Tight

As we batten down the hatches for typhoon Fanapi here on The Beautiful Isle, a China Times poll finds the DPP's Su slightly ahead of KMT Mayor Hau for the Nov election in that city. Hau has taken a beating from a steady drumbeat of DPP criticism of corruption in the city's procurement system. The Taipei Times reports:
Amid a string of procurement scandals related to the Taipei International Flora Exposition and the Xinsheng Overpass, Hau on Monday announced he had approved the resignation of his deputy mayor Lee Yong-ping (李永萍), adviser Chuang Wen-ssu (莊文思) and Chuang’s wife, Ren Shiao-chi (任孝琦), a secretary in Hau’s office.

The move came weeks after the city government was accused of buying flowers for the Taipei International Flora Expo and drainage piping for the Xinsheng Overpass at highly inflated prices. The city government’s slow response to the allegations only exacerbated the situation and hurt Hau’s image, costing him support in opinion polls less than three months before the election.

A poll conducted by the Chinese-language China Times suggested yesterday that Hau’s election opponent, Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) of the DPP, now enjoys a support rate of 41 percent, two percentage points ahead of Hau.
The poll is more interesting than that. The KMT news site has it. The China Times poll also asked people who they thought would win: Su over Hau 43-27 in that one. China Times also polled on The City Formerly Known As Taipei County. The KMT's Chu was up 42-38 over the DPP's Tsai, and when asked who they thought would win, voters gave the nod to Chu, 38.5 to 32.7. It's incredible that after the solid performance turned in by the DPP in many years of rule, and the dismal display of inepitude by the KMT's Chou Hsi-wei, the current magistrate, people would be thinking of voting KMT. But Chu cuts a solid technocratic figure. Apple Daily has him up a decisive eight points over Tsai.

Interestingly, the fact that both Chu and Hau are sons of powerful KMT politicians seems not to have any effect on the vote for them. Such nepotism appears to be thought natural by voters.

Voters are being wooed with promises of Enviro-leisure. For example, Eric Chu, the KMT candidate for The City Formerly Known As Taipei County, released his platform the other day. It's a nice mix of pork and middle-brow enviro-leisure:
Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Sinbei mayoral candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) yesterday pledged he would work to greatly expand the area covered by pathways and bicycle lanes, if elected in November, as part of his policy to develop tourism.

Just hours after he officially registered his candidacy with the Central Election Commission yesterday morning, Chu’s campaign office released a nine-point policy guide on tourism, the latest major policy announcement following earlier pledges to expand the MRT system and provide discounts to seniors.

In the five-page document, Chu said he would create new low-speed limit tourist roads in major scenic destinations along the coast and in areas including Danshui Township (淡水) and near Keelung. He added that, if elected, he would push for the construction of a 120km-long ocean-side bicycle path along the northern coastline.
A 120 km bike path would be awesome and I hope it happens. Chu's campaign focuses on increasing tourism -- many Taipei county destinations are already tourist meccas, such as Yingge (ceramics), Danshui (riverside), and Pinglin (tea). Chu wants to run spur lines into smaller tourist communities to bring in the masses -- an example of this are the short lines to Jiji in central Taiwan and to Neiwan (Hakka culture) in northern Taiwan. Chu also wants to build 80 kms of metro tracks in Taipei county. Hard to see how the budget for that would ever materialize....

The DPP's Su Tseng-chang in Taipei released a plan for Taipei the other day.
He proposed 10 strategies to make the capital greener, prettier and healthier, including constructing leafy boulevards, planning mid and long-term green infrastructure and constructing more “green corridors” connecting the city’s parks and MRT stations.

Su urged voters to let him win the Taipei mayoral election to counter the speculation that he was not committed to the November poll and was using the mayoral race as a springboard for a possible candidacy in the 2012 presidential election.
The proposals are aimed squarely at middle class independents, many of whom who vote the KMT by default, who can be swayed by appeals to modernity, leisure, and greening the built environment. At present Su enjoys a solid lead in that demographic. The basic strategy of the this triple appeal is the same as Chu's.

Take care of yourselves this weekend!
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Subsidence Farming

As my longtime readers know, I'm very interested in water issues in Taiwan. The Taipei Times hosted a commentary on land subsidence in Yunlin county today. You might recall that back in April there was a minor flap over the possibility of subsidence affecting the HSR. The commentary set the problem in the context of the total lack of government enforcement of underground water usage laws. As so often is the case in Taiwan, the laws are sensible, but ignored....
Under this irrigation system, there are two crop periods each year. Considering the available water resources, rice cultivation in Yunlin County should be confined to the second crop. Since that crop coincides with the rainy season, there should be no water shortage. Why, then, do we still have this problem of excessive groundwater extraction? The trouble is that, in order to make more money, farmers plant rice in the first crop period, from February to June. Since there is no surface water available at that time, the only way farmers can irrigate their paddy fields is by using groundwater drawn from wells that they bore themselves.


Turning to the third point, there are more than 100,000 wells in Yunlin County, more than 90 percent of which were dug without confirming water rights or applying for permission to build hydraulic facilities, as required by the Irrigation Act. If things were run in accordance with the law, the authorities would clamp down and stop illegal extraction of groundwater.

The current reality, however, is that out of consideration for farmers’ livelihoods and to avoid clashes, illegal wells can only be dealt with when complementary measures are in place....
This is illustrated by the debate over the subsidence issue and the HSR. One simulation estimated that only 60 wells need be shut down to reduce the problem to non-worrisome levels. Nevertheless....
The ground where the elevated railway passes over Provincial Expressway No. 78 has sunk 55cm over the past seven years, according to data from the line’s operator, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC), raising potential safety concerns.

The Water Resources Agency (WRA) issued a directive recently to seal off 1,115 shallow wells near the problematic areas to limit subsidence, but it was rejected by the Yunlin County Government, which said it would hurt farmers’ interests.

Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬), who refused to follow the WRA’s directive without suitable complementary measures, said the measure would do little to mitigate the problem because the subsidence was mainly caused by deep wells that had all been sealed off years ago.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Hong-chi (林鴻池) agreed, saying that well closings and high-speed railway safety involve many complex issues that require the collaboration of various government agencies.
Note that the law is made by the Central government but enforcement is handled at the local level. This means that local politicians would have to shut down their neighbors' -- and voters -- wells. Like that will ever happen.

The chart above shows estimated subsidence rates for coastal Yunlin using GPS from the preferred model in this article, in cm/year. Scary -- near the coast the land is subsiding at nearly 1 meter every five years. And sea levels are rising.....

How subsidence occurs is described in this piece about a similar problem in the Philippines:
How excess groundwater use causes land subsidence has been known for a long time (Terzaghi, 1925; Tolman and Poland, 1940), and the theory is summarised admirably by Galloway et al. (2001). In river deltas, groundwater is stored in and recovered from sandy and gravelly aquifer (‘water bearer’) layers. Aquifers are contained by interbedded aquitards, layers of clayey sediment that are much more porous and contain significantly more water, but, being of a very fine grain, have a great deal of grain surface to offer frictional resistance and retard the through-flow of water—hence their name.

Deltaic sediment columns are supported in part by the fluid pressure of their pore waters. When water is extracted from an aquifer, support is transferred from its fluid pressure to the sediment grains comprising its granular skeleton, which is somewhat compressed, commonly causing the ground to subside a few centimetres. If groundwater extraction is not excessive, that compression and subsidence may be fully reversed when precipitation recharges the aquifer.
The reference I append at the end has a nice picture of the aquifers underlying the Choshui River's alluvial fan -- four in all, interlaced with aquitards. The Choshui is the large river bordering Yunlin on the north.

In addition to the farming practices outlined in the TT commentary above, many sources identify water withdrawn for fish farming as a major source of subsidence. As Taiwan Review noted in an excellent article on fish farming last year, at its peak in the 1990s the aquaculture industry covered 1.5% of the island's land area. It exports plenty of lucrative high value fish, but the staple export is the drab Tilapia (wu guo yu). This study in fact finds that salinization of the shallow aquifer along the coast in Yunlin is due to sea water used in fish ponds seeping back into the aquifer....
The determined local hydrogeologic setting suggests that the shallow aquifer may be connected to the sea water, resulting in salt water intrusion as a large amount of shallow ground water is withdrawn. The percent contributions of sea water intrusion, percolation through wells, and infiltration of water from fish ponds, to the salinization of the shallow aquifer at Ko-Hu in the Yun-Lin coastal area are approximately 27 percent, less than 1 percent and 73 percent, respectively. The results suggest that the vertical infiltration of salt water from fish ponds is the major cause of shallow ground water salinization in the coastal area of Yun-Lin.
This report identifies Tuku as the center of the "basin-like" subsidence and says that compaction is greatest at depths greater than 200 m. Deep wells -- thousands of them -- are sprinkled throughout the area.

How is the Yunlin government dealing with the issue? The central government ordered a halt to pumping around the HSR but as noted above that is not a realistic possibility. Instead the county government has proposed a PV industrial district for the affected area:

The plan was put forward in an attempt to override the decision made by the Water Resource Agency of the Ministry of Economic Affairs to designate the subsidence area on the intersection of the rail lines by No. 78 highway as a model district subject to a ban on pumping underground water to irrigate the land.

The county government contended that the decision would take a serious toll on living of farmers depending on this piece of land, which is now a rice paddy. The county government suggests PV manufacturers on the planned industrial zone pay land owners NT$26,000 per hectare as monthly rental. Total rental for the 385-hectare land is estimated at NT$92.4 million (US$2.8 million at US$1:NT$32) a year, much higher than the NT$100,000 (US$3,125) average that Taiwan's rice farmers earn a year on each hectare.

It is understood that many PV manufacturers and the ministry have voiced support for the industrial park plan.

Of course, this all only a proposal at the moment. And we've seen in the Central Taiwan Science Park land cases how compensation is often miserly and poorly handled....

REF: Charts, cores, maps in this scholarly article on clay and subsidence in Yunlin.
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