Monday, February 28, 2011

Please Stop This Type of Ethnocentric Reporting

What would we think of a person who said, "Well, I could have delivered all seven billion of us into the Good Life, but I had other priorities.” Would it be possible to have other priorities? Would any real priority be best served amid the freedom and opportunity afforded by the Good Life?

- Sam Harris (The Moral Landscape), p. 16.


Superstition Still Widespread Across High-tech Asia AFP reported today in article appearing in the Taipei Times. This tiresome feature reporting has been around ever since westerners first reported on Asia:

The services of witch doctors remain popular in multicultural Malaysia, while in hi-tech Japan, Shinto priests hold purification rites for new bullet trains and many entrepreneurs are said to seek the advice of palm readers and star gazers.

Why is this a load of ethnocentric crap? Because you will never ever see a piece from AFP that writes about the west in a vein similar to the paragraph above:
The services of Christian faith healers remain popular in multicultural America, while in hi-tech Britain, Anglican priests bless new stadiums and many movie stars and politicians in both countries are said to seek the advice of astrologers.
...in an article entitled Superstitions Still Widespread In Educated Western Countries or Educated Westerners Still Worship Semi-Mythical Palestinian Executed 2,000 Years Ago.

Because "we" have Religion while "they" have Superstition.

Hopefully this type of feature will be banished to the dust heap, and AFP and other media will write in future pieces that humans of all religious styles still believe incredibly stupid stuff despite knowing better.

CORRECTION: Originally I said AP. My apologies.

(h/t to Thoth for the nifty quote!)
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The Diplomat draws on Greece

So savage was the factional strife that broke out - and it seemed all the worse in that it was the first to occur. Later on, indeed, all of Hellas (so to speak) was thrown into turmoil, there being discord everywhere, with the representatives of the demos (i.e. the extreme democratic factions) wanting to bring in the Athenians to support their cause, while the oligarchic factions looked to the Spartans.

Write the redoubtable James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara, Taiwan needs to avoid a Greek fate:
Nonetheless, when we discuss cross-strait relations with senior US military officers, they often inform us that China evinces little desire to use the formidable military it’s constructing to achieve longstanding political aims. We fully agree with them on this point. Where we do part ways with them, though, is on the sweeping conclusions they draw from this trivial point—namely that Beijing so abhors the prospect of armed conflict that it will accept the cross-strait status quo more or less indefinitely, and presumably compromise on national unity.

Doubtful. As we see it, Beijing is attempting to amass such military superiority over the island’s armed forces, along with such an overbearing deterrent against outside intervention, that Taipei has little choice but to acquiesce in unification on the mainland’s terms while Taipei’s friends have little choice but to stand aside.
They then draw on the Peloponnesian War for a comparison:
When the island of Melos appeared likely to defect from the Athenian Empire to rival Sparta 2500 years ago, the Athenian Assembly dispatched an embassy to make the islanders an offer they couldn’t refuse. They could bow to Athenian wishes or see their male populace slaughtered, their women and children enslaved.
The people of Melos chose option A and were defeated after "a short, bloody siege," the authors inform us. Their point is that disparity between Taiwan and China may one day reach the point where China can simply overawe the island into annexation. The Melos episode is famous for Thucycidies' "Melian Dialogue" which would lose little if you replaced Athens with China and Melos with Taiwan. In the end the Melosians say to the Athenians: “‘We invite you to allow us to be friends of yours and enemies to neither side, to make a treaty which shall be agreeable to both you and us, and so to leave our country.’” No dice, said BeijingAthens.

I'm not sure of the US military's assessment of China's willingness to use its new military. Certainly the invasions of East Turkestan, Tibet, and Vietnam, as well as the war with India and the border clashes with Russia, ought to augur otherwise. I suspect that the military option will rise in possibility as China's assessment moves in the direction of "this will be a short war." This was the point made by Paul Monk in the piece on the rationality of states I linked to last month:
The corollary of this is that it is not the rational self-interest of states which drives them to engage in intense security competitions and fight wars, but often deeply flawed, ideologically coloured and seriously information-poor calculations of costs and benefits by a shifting combination of competing national elites and ignorant popular opinion. This is what Thucydides showed in his classic history of the Peloponnesian War.
Yeah, Iraq and Afghanistan were supposed to be short wars. Now the military is planning to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely....

After all, the Peloponnesian War began with the idea on both sides that victory would come quickly.

Oh yeah, just as some KMTers have proposed, Sparta and Athens signed a Thirty Years Peace. It lasted three years.

And then there are the Megarans. A faction made a secret agreement with Athens to surrender the city, which was allied to the Spartans. They were discovered and stopped before they could do so. This sort of thing was common -- Mende was lost to the Peloponnesian side in a similar set of events.

Move along now. No parallels here, folks.

Holmes and Yoshihara end by exhorting Taiwan to:
To give themselves the time Prof. Lynch rightly says they need, the Taiwanese government and armed forces must apply their energies and ingenuity to devising a naval and aerial strategy that denies the PLA control of the Strait, holding off an invasion force, and that helps US reinforcements fight their way into the theatre.
They point out that China is not yet as powerful as Athens, nor is the US as weak as Sparta was when Melos was forced to decide its fate. Things are definitely trending in the wrong direction, though.
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Too tired to post....

Some Dorkus erectus decided to burn ghost money in the middle of a busy local road.

....so have some links.
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Daily Links:
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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Events: Democrats Abroad Upcoming Annual Meeting (and others)

First, Dems Abroad:
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Dear DA Taiwan members,

It's now coming up on time for another election for the DA Taiwan Board of Directors and Board of Supervisors. This is an excellent opportunity to get involved with the planning and setup of events for our group, as we head into the 2012 election season. As most of you are already aware, DA Taiwan is part of the Democratic Party Committee Abroad ("DPCA"), which functions within the larger Democratic Party as a full-fledged state party. In other words, the international DPCA organization is involved in selecting persons to serve on the DNC and as delegates to the big national convention in 2012. Following is some information on the positions:

1. Board of Directors: This is the main decision-making body of the DA Taiwan organization and consists of 7 members plus 2 alternates. Directors are expected to attend (in person or via phone/skype) board meetings and to serve on key committees for membership, fundraising, events, and other matters central to serving our membership. The positions of Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, Secretary and Counsel are chosen by vote within the Board of Directors membership. The alternates may be called to step up in case of a vacancy on the board.

2. Board of Supervisors: Supervisors serve to oversee the correct operation of the Board of Directors and the organization, and we will need to elect 2 Supervisors plus 2 alternates. Supervisors get to attend Board of Director meetings but do not have a vote. They will give a short Supervisors report at the annual meeting. The alternates may be called to step up in case of a vacancy on the board.

If you are interested in running for one of the positions, then please submit your name, contact details and a short 200-word candidate bio to the nominating committee at datnomcom@gmail.com on or before Sunday, Feburary 27th.

Best Regards,

Paul Batt, Gabe Seydewitz and David Bell
DA Taiwan Nominations Committee

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It is time for the WHOSE Travel Charity book exchange again this year on March 12th. In addition to the great music and loads of books we have a new addition of children’s entertainment from 4:00 to 7:00. This will be on the second floor of the Frog and we have The Taichung Imporv group, a ventriloquist and a clown performing for the kids.

So if you do plan on coming to this event then everyone is welcome to take in the kid’s entertainment. This year we are supporting the Childhood burn foundation of Taiwan so there will be an educational skit for the kids about how not to get burned and what to do if they do.

We were also hoping to get some volunteers to help look after any the kids to allow their parents to go downstairs and rummage through some books....if you have any questions or would like to volunteer contact Dale at: dale.mackie AT gmail.com
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Banyan on Taiwan's Commonsense Consensus

Banyan over at the Economist has had two interesting pieces on Taiwan recently. This one, entitled "Taiwan's Commonsense Consensus", has some excellent summaries of the island's situation:
Perhaps this is not so surprising. Taiwan has long behaved as a normal country in almost everything except its dealings with its large neighbour. As those become easier, the status quo seems even more desirable. And increased contact highlights points of difference as much as a shared ethnic and cultural heritage. Knowing China better makes Taiwanese even more aware of how lucky they are to be prosperous and free.
I didn't like Banyan's analysis when I first read it, as it appears pretty conventional, but I changed my mind:
China hopes economic interdependence will win hearts and minds. This will keep the more congenial KMT in power. And it will bring closer the day when Taiwan’s people fall willingly back, as China sees it, into the warm embrace of the motherland and “reunify”.
Kudos to Banyan for putting reunify in quotes. The problem is that the economic carrots have nothing to do with winning hearts and minds -- Beijing is well aware that economic carrots will have zero effect on Taiwanese sentiment. Beijing knows perfectly well what goes on in Taiwan -- they watch TV, read the papers, have people on the ground here, and collect intelligence from businessmen in China. They know that the Taiwanese want to make money off China but at the same time do not want to be annexed to the PRC. Rather, the goal of integration is threefold:

-- to build constituencies in Taiwan that are dependent on PRC monies
-- to keep the KMT in power (as Banyan notes) by directing money flows to areas where the KMT can cultivate its local networks and build new ones
-- to entangle the Chinese and Taiwanese economies together so deeply that Taiwan cannot maintain its independent existence.

Banyan surely knows this; I just wish the foreign press was more concrete about what is actually going on.

Further:
The KMT likes to portray the DPP as dangerous hotheads who might force China to carry out its threat of invasion if Taiwan declares independence. The DPP paints the KMT as a party of Chinese stooges leading Taiwan blindfold towards absorption by the mainland. In fact, the two parties are having a more sophisticated argument: not about independence or unification, but about how best to preserve a status quo most people in Taiwan cherish. The danger is how China might react as it becomes clear that present policies are bringing unification no closer. The hope is that, with so much else to preoccupy it, its leaders will enjoy the smoother relations and not ask where they are leading.
It sounds like wisdom but it is actually only conventional. KMT elites don't want to preserve the status quo -- for some Taiwan is a bargaining chip into the great game in the PRC where the real money is; others, such as the President, have a powerful ideological commitment to annexation. The party itself is ideologically committed to annexation, of course, and conventional commentary like this, in my experience, vastly underestimates the extent to which old-line KMTers identify with China emotionally and ideologically, and see Taiwan as an alien place of exile.

The unpopularity of annexation, as Banyan notes, is why the President keeps trying to accomplish it by stealth, chipping away at the island's independence -- maintaining Taiwan is already a part of China, curtailing Taiwan's independent diplomacy, attempting to get the public to start calling China the mainland instead of China, and so forth, even as China continues to suppress Taiwan in the international sphere.

The local public is well aware that the struggle is not over how to best preserve Taiwan's status quo -- that is merely a conventional wisdom/pro-KMT talking point that circulates in Taipei masquerading as a deep insight in the way that such cynicism always does -- but whether Taiwan will be annexed to China. The widespread perception that Ma is too close to China is an important driver of the recent shifts away from the KMT in 6 of the last 8 elections. The public knows where Ma wants to go.

For those of us who live in Taiwan and have watched this struggle for the last two decades, the sad failure of the media to report it properly is quite illuminating. Just imagine how differently this would be reported if the topic was Russia and Estonia and not China and Taiwan. Can you see: "In fact, the pro-Estonian and pro-Russian parties are having a more sophisticated argument: not about independence or unification, but about how best to preserve a status most people in Estonia cherish."

Taiwan's democracy is an important factor in slowing the rush towards China. Banyan raises the issue of what China will do when it discovers its policies don't work -- but surely Beijing already knows they are not working. A better way to see it is to ask what will happen when Beijing resolves its internal debate over what to do since its annexation policies can't succeed and they know that.

Indeed, one way to see Beijing's "economic carrot" policies is to view them as a way to put off the thorny problem Beijing created for itself when it decided to be completely intractable on the subject of annexing Taiwan. And further -- to build resentment towards Taiwan among its own citizens -- "we're so nice to them, and they are richer than us." I've heard Chinese complain about the "privileges" of Tibetans....

And that decision about Taiwan will certainly come in the context of the heightening of tensions all across Asia by China.

Brrrr.

ADDED: One longtime professional analyst and observer of Taiwan affairs told me this was easily the best piece he's seen on Taiwan in the international media for many years.
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Daily Links:
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Renewable Energy on the March

A reader flipped me a review of Taiwan's renewable energy policies and industries, looking at solar, wind, and ocean:
If Taiwan's PV success is likely to stay centred around exports, it has significant ambitions for its most obvious natural asset – the oceans that surround it and the winds that blow there.

Offshore wind power is central to Taiwan's renewable energy project, says a spokeswoman for the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), the Taiwanese government's technical arm. 'Renewable energy in Taiwan for the most part will be offshore wind power,' she adds.

The nation's industrial sector announced its offshore ambitions at the end of 2010 with the formation of the Taiwan Offshore Wind Power Alliance – made up of 18 companies from the region's energy, engineering and manufacturing sectors – and plans to set up Taiwan's first offshore wind farm in Changhua County, according to local reports. Commercial operations are due to begin in the second quarter of 2013 with its first two 5 MW turbines. If all goes to plan, these will be joined by a further 122 machines by the end of 2016.

Late 2010 also saw the Taiwanese government unveil its own plans for an 8 MW offshore wind demonstration project off the Penghu Islands, to be operational by the end of 2012. Penghu – a cluster of 90 small islands off the western coast of the Taiwanese mainland – is set to become something of a showcase for the country's renewable and low carbon credentials.

The government has pledged support to turn Penghu into Taiwan's first low-emission county by 2015. Plans include 96 MW of onshore wind capacity, solar energy initiatives and the creation of recharging infrastructure for electric mobility. According to Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development, this should enable 56% of Penghu's energy needs to be met from renewable sources by the end of the five-year programme.

Penghu will also play a major role in Taiwan's efforts to harness ocean energy, a high priority technology for the government and ITRI. The national target is for a 200 MW installed capacity by 2025.

With around 1500 km of coastline and a sub-tropical environment, Taiwan has been investigating two main strands of ocean energy development since 2005, when its National Energy Conference formally decreed it a priority.

One is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), in which the country is at the forefront of global research thanks to ITRI's collaboration with Lockheed Martin of the US. The second focus of Taiwan's ocean push is to unlock the considerable potential of the waves and tidal currents around its shores. According to ITRI, studies have shown that the north-east offshore region of Taiwan has a wave energy potential of several hundred megawatts, while the east coast's Kuroshio path and the Pescadores Channel (off Penghu) have tidal current energy that could theoretically be tapped at gigawatt scale.
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion is described in this Youtube video. Unlike fossil fuels which are environmental poisons, OTEC can have an interesting by-product if you live on a tropical island: fresh water. Wiki notes:
OTEC can also supply quantities of cold water as a by-product . This can be used for air conditioning and refrigeration and the fertile deep ocean water can feed biological technologies. Another by-product is fresh water distilled from the sea.
The article also discusses the state of Taiwan's PV tech producers relative to the market -- the old Taiwan story of being good at producing stuff but not at the service side -- installing, distributing, etc. Between them Taiwan and China control around 60% of the global PV market.

There's a map of Taiwan's wind machines but it locates some things in the wrong places, like the four windmills on Datun 12th Street in Taichung city. Oops.

This paper in Renewable Energy discusses the island's wind power potential. At present about 40% of Taiwan's energy comes from coal, a policy that is insane from both an environmental and energy security policy standpoint.
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Daily Links
  • Chinese rag runs article about KMT legislators complaining about Americans getting biased reporting from the Taipei Times.
  • DPP working on cross-strait policies for election and beyond. Can we please stop writing "remarks certain to rankle Beijing." Let Beijing speak for itself; it has Xinhua for that. Quit playing to the propaganda that the DPP provokes Beijing.
  • Banyan at the Economist visits the renovated 2-28 Museum. So far everyone says it's been toned down but not totally whitewashed. Poagao said that much of the old art has been retained. The key thing has been the removal of documents that connect Chiang Kai-shek to the massacre. BTW, Banyan, the original sin of the KMT is being an authoritarian, colonialist party. Everything else, including 2-28, flows from that.
  • China Reform Monitor notes (Russia has a Jewish Autonomous Region??):
    Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports that China is “investing far greater funds in Russia's Far East than the Russian Government” and called the imbalance “Beijing’s clear state policy to assimilate new territories.” The newspaper cites an official Xinhua press report on investment in the Russian Far East claiming that Chinese investors have established 34 special Chinese economic zones in Russia’s Amur Oblast, Maritime Kray, Khabarovsk Kray, and the Jewish Autonomous Region, where they have invested a total of $3 billion mostly in resource extraction. Chinese entrepreneurs also hope to open industrial and agricultural zones in Russia, including processing zones, stock raising, construction, timber cutting, and wholesale markets. To oversee the construction and development of China’s industrial and agricultural zones in Russia, the Heilongjiang provincial administration has created a special leading group. The Russian paper reported that in 2011, Moscow’s total transfers to these regions' – $170 million for Amur Oblast, $74 million for the Jewish Autonomous Region, $234 million for Khabarovsk Kray, and $344 million for Maritime Kray – are under one third China’s investment.
  • Blacked Out Korea -- yes, a site dedicated to photos of Koreans blacked out from being blind drunk in public places.
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tour de Taiwan Schedule Out!



David on Formosa passed around the Tour de Taiwan schedule in English. Great work, David!
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Global Views Satisfaction Survey

Satisfaction and trust of Ma both dipped in the latest Global Views Survey Research Center poll, while dissatisfaction and distrust both rose. In its Chinese language version Global Views explained the dip in terms of the fallout from the Philippines sending 14 Taiwanese accused to China and other issues, while the English version contained no such explanation, merely presenting the numbers. In any case both versions observe that the change in Ma's ratings are within the margin of error. It should also be noted that the trend line, whatever the dip, is still generally up.
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Monday, February 21, 2011

This is just Silly


中 (-chung) is in every sign that mentions 台中 (Taichung) in and around the city. Think about how common it must be. Despite this, apparently sign makers and sign placers didn't notice that there are two different romanizations of 中, both of which are wrong. How hard can it be to get the romanization right for a character that you had to put up 10,000 times?

In the last decade the nation has used at least three romanization systems, never mind what the signmakers are constantly inventing. Isn't it time to switch to the internationally used and understood system, Hanyu Pinyin? Yes, I know it's supposedly associated with the PRC. But really, this sort of stupidity -- "zhueng" AFAIK doesn't even represent a sound used in Chinese -- is long past inexcusable.

ADDED: David on Formosa notes that being literate in a romanization should be a basic requirement of literacy in this culture.
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

2-28 Massacre Museum Reopens to "controversy"

Last year the 2-28 Memorial Museum in Taipei closed "for renovation". Like many people, I thought....
Scary to think what might happen to the museum under a KMT government. Taiwanreporter, with the same thought, has put up many pictures of the museum on Facebook in case there are wholesale changes.
Today the Taipei Times reported:
The Taipei 228 Memorial Museum is reopening its doors to the public this morning after a 10-month renovation, but its efforts to reveal the truth of the 228 Incident met with challenges as pro--independence activists and family members of the incident’s victims yesterday accused the museum of glorifying the acts of the then-government and distorting the truth with its selection of documents.

.......

Chang said the museum displayed an official order from Chiang from March 1947 that banned military from taking any revenge measures against civilians following the 228 Incident. However, two other valuable historical documents that showed Chiang ordering then-Taiwan governor Chen Yi (陳儀) to lead troops to Taiwan to handle the accident were not on display.
The article says that the two people invited were history prof Chen Fang-ming is at NCCU, but the only such person I can find at NCCU is a lit prof and former DPP spokesman by that name. Hsu Hsueh-chi is discussed here. Neither appears likely to have approved a pro-KMT exhibit, if there really are such changes.

Hopefully I can get a chance to get over there this week and take a look at the alleged changes.

ADDED: A smart friend reminds me that a similar redrawing of history occurred when they reopened the Jingmei prison as a cultural park.

REF: The China Beat's 2008 post. Kerr's immortal Formosa Betrayed is online complete. It covers the disastrous events leading up to the 2-28 massacre, including the widespread looting by the KMT and its minions and breakdown of rule of law.
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In which The Daily Bubble Tea Gets a Bike


I really enjoy shopping for bikes with other people. Get to learn a bunch about bikes and the people who ride them, and spend an enjoyable day thinking and talking about cycling. Not to mention snacking....except that we met a fellow cyclist at Terry's Cafe and he looked at us and said "You're the blogger!", pointing to Drew. I am never taking Drew anywhere again.....

Despite that heartbreaking blow to my ego, today Drew of the renowned blog Taiwan in Cycles and I took Todd of The Daily Bubble Tea fame around the Taichung bike shops in a quest for a new road bike. Pictured above is the bike he bought, though with a much bigger frame, of course. This bike was set up as a tester for the SRAM Apex groupset, with a 50-34 crank and an 11-32 cassette, at 185 Warehouse. The frame is alum alloy with a carbon fork and carbon chainstay. I took out for a test ride last week in the hills above my house and it has a smooth, stable ride that I fell in love with instantly, while the Apex makes hills a lot easier. My man James at 185Warehouse put it together for Todd for under NT 45K. If you are looking for an upgrade to a road bike, especially from a mountain bike, that can eat those Taiwan slopes right up, this bike is an excellent choice for a Taiwan road bike.

ADDED: Drew's wonderful post on our day is here.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Discuss: What should the DPP do to win in 2012??

A-gu writes on DPP heavyweight Su Tseng-chang's proposal for a "Taiwan Consensus" to counter the KMT's fictional "1992 Consensus" that underlies so much of its pro-China propaganda thrust:
I fully expect Su Chen-chang's phrase of "Taiwan Consensus" will end up defining the DPP position vis-a-vis the KMT come 2012, though I imagine we can expect some internal wrangling between heavy weights for a share of the credit.

Su's statement is summarized in this article:
蘇貞昌認為,台灣歷經四次總統直選,是主權獨立的國家,不隸屬於中華人民共和國,依據憲法,目前名稱是中華民國,改變現狀要全民同意,已是全體國人最大的共識

Su Chen-chang believes that Taiwan has had four direct presidential elections; that it is a sovereign and independent country, not part of the People's Republic of China; that according to the constitution, the national name is currently the Republic of China; that changing the status quo [thus defined] must be agreed to by the people as a whole; and that these points already form the broadest consensus [of cross-strait relations] in the country.
That last sentence is, I think the most important here. The public is already clear that it does not want to change its current state of independence from China into an annexation to China. That is why Ma, front man for the KMT message, keeps saying in various quiet ways that Taiwan is already part of China and always has been, to finesse the problem of this public consensus. But Su is pointing to where the DPP needs to be in 2012.

Last night we were having one of those alcohol-fueled discussions about what the DPP needs to do to take the 2012 election --a arguably the 2011 legislative election is even more important, but a 2/3 KMT majority is a foregone conclusion with the current districting arrangements (see here). One side took the position that the DPP needs a grand strategy/message to win the election, while the other side argued that the DPP's problem was structural: its local structure remains far behind the KMT in its ability to mobilize votes and to carry its message to local voters. What should the DPP do to win in the legislative and presidential elections in the next two years?
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Daily Links:
  • Australian Man cycles Taiwan to raise money for charity.
  • Latest version of Taiwan What's Up out.
  • Cyclists who visit east coast to get certificates for participation in two tours.
  • Taiwan growth offset by tightening in China
  • DPP accuses Ma of echoing One China policy of Beijing in WaPo intervew. Yes, of course, that's what he has been doing all along....
  • Taipei Times warns on dangerous trends ahead:
    "On Thursday, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council announced that a Chinese purchasing mission had placed US$1.45 billion in orders with Taiwanese firms — mostly in the high-tech sector. Acer and Asustek Computer, both of which have major manufacturing sites in China, won big orders. Left unsaid was that essentially these major Chinese purchases are for products that will be manufactured in China by Chinese workers."
    Note how that is missing from the AFP article on this buying spree.
  • WAY COOL: Link to Kirill Yeskov's retelling of The Lord of the Rings with Gandalf cast as power mad magician out to snuff out rational sci-tech empire of Mordor.
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Confucius Institutes: Beware =UPDATED=

Epoch Times wrote on this a while back:
Besides his explosive comments that some Canadian politicians could be under foreign influence, CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) Director Richard Fadden also exposed the danger posed by the quiet expansion of Confucius Institutes in Canadian post-secondary schools.

While the Chinese regime promotes the institutes as a place to learn Chinese language and culture, they are commonly seen as part of Beijing’s efforts to expand its soft power and non-military influence. Critics of the institutes allege they are propaganda entities that can interfere with the academic independence of the universities they are often attached to.

Speaking to an audience of police, military and intelligence personnel at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in March, Fadden said the institutes are controlled by Chinese embassies and consulates. He lumped them together with some of Bejing’s other efforts to steer Canadian China policy.

Evidence was on display during Hu's visit to Canada in June when a crowd of hundreds gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to both welcome Hu and shout down protesters concerned with human-rights abuses in China. In the crowd were a group wearing T-shirts with labels identifying them as being from Montreal's Confucius Institute, which is hosted at Dawson College.

The recording of a speech at the Chinese embassy obtained by The Epoch Times showed the rally was funded and organized by the embassy with the intent of waging "war" with protesters. Several groups have now called for the expulsion of Mr. Liu Shaohua, the embassy official caught on tape.
Last night in Taipei I met a few academics from Europe who had some very scary stories to tell. I was informed that China has already begun quietly refusing visas to students of professors who are pro-Taiwan or anti-China. How is it collecting the intelligence necessary to fine-tune these refusals? On-campus Confucius Institutes. The Institutes, they said, also attempt to suppress criticism of China and to shape what is taught on campus through the usual tactics of bribery and intimidation. At at least one EU university, the professors banded together and tossed the Confucius Institute of campus because of its campaign of intimidation.

Epoch Times continues:
In 2006, one faculty member at Stockholm University’s institute tried to stop the school’s Center for Asia Pacific from having Erping Zhang as a visiting scholar because of his volunteer work for the U.S.-based Falun Dafa Information Center. An email from that professor was sent to the university’s faculty alleging Zhang was not a scholar, despite having five degrees including a Master's in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

In Israel, a judge ruled Tel Aviv University had bowed to the Chinese regime by shutting down an art exhibition about the oppression of Falun Gong in China put on bystudents because the school feared losing perks provided by the Chinese regime, including a Confucius Institute.

As the University of Sydney closed a deal to have its own Confucius Institute in 2007, Jocelyn Chey, a former diplomat and visiting professor there told the Australian that having the institute on campus was going to make it difficult for academics to maintain their freedom and independence.

The University of Pennsylvania never applied to host an institute over concerns the regime would try to meddle with its curriculum while the University of British Columbia declined an offer to host one.
Confucius Institutes have two, and only two, functions: one is propaganda, and the other is intelligence on the academic community. Watch out for the one in your neighborhood; its presence is entirely inimical to the development of robust critical views of China, academic freedom, and democratic politics.

ADDED: Nathan notes in the comments that the Confucius Institutes are supervised by the PRC's education ministry. He also passed me this link to this article on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report which says basically that US public diplomacy is woefully underfunded.

ADDED: I forgot to add that Confucius Institutes in certain European countries are also trying to put their officials on the boards of local Asia societies in order to control their content and block Taiwan and Tibet-related programs, even apolitical business and investment activities.

UPDATED: This link goes to a Chron of Higher Ed article on the Confucius Institutes. And here's a link to a relatively positive article.

UPDATED: Glen Anthony May has excellent piece in Asia Sentinel on the Confucius Institutes.
They come with visible strings attached. Some of the strings can be seen in the memoranda of understanding that US universities conclude with Hanban. Among other things, they must state their support for the "one China policy" – the decades-old US policy of not recognizing the legitimacy of the Republic of China on Taiwan.

I, for one, consider that policy profoundly misguided, and I'm sure that I'm not the only American who feels that way. At universities, we normally have an opportunity to debate issues like that, allowing professors like me and students to take issue publicly with our government's policy. Hanban, for obvious reasons, wants no such discussion to occur.

What that particular attached string means in practice is that Confucius Institutes will hardly ever provide funding for events relating to Taiwan. It also means that other academic units at Hanban-affiliated universities will not likely fund them either. Once the perks from Hanban begin to arrive, professors at universities with CIs become extremely reluctant to do anything to upset their generous benefactors.

But it's not just Taiwan that receives special treatment. Two other "T" words are anathema to Beijing, and hence to Hanban: Tibet and Tiananmen. Don't expect any universities with CIs to arrange a visit of the Dalai Lama anytime soon or to schedule a symposium on the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. In Canada last year, during riots in Tibet, the head of a Confucius Institute at the University of Waterloo succeeded in reversing the direction of coverage and getting a major Canadian television station to apologize for its previous pro-rebel coverage.
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview with Ma in Wash Post

Not bad as interviews of Ma go, Keith Richburg interviews President Ma of the ROC on Taiwan. Ma hit the usual notes, asking for the F-16s again, noting that the island needs arms (it would have been great if Richburg had possessed the background knowledge to ask Ma why his party had blocked the major arms purchase 60 times in the legislature, even when Ma was chairman), inserting a couple of hacks on the DPP, and in general being the Ma we've always seen in interviews. This interview was conducted in Chinese, with Ma speaking through an interpreter.

A contradiction between Ma's usual position that Taiwan has already been annexed to China, and what Richburg reported emerged in internet discussions. Ma clearly did not say that Taiwan is a sovereign state as Richburg appeared to report in his article.
Taiwan "is a sovereign state," Ma said in an interview at the presidential palace here.
This looks like sloppy editing. Surely Ma did not contravert his lifelong claim that there is no such thing as sovereign Taiwan.

Richburg did manage to gently point out that Ma was full of it, which is more than many interviewers have done, for whatever reason....good on him:
Just to continue that, since the relations are good, and everybody on both sides agrees to that, why, for example, are you still developing your own missile system? And why are you still requesting the new F-16C/Ds from the United States? Shouldn't this be a time to be decreasing missile weapons?
Since relations are good, why are you still trying to kill each other? Ma downplayed the effect of the recent spy case on US-Taiwan relations, though his own officials have said the effect was serious.

All in all, par for the course, Ma, as always, on script -- one of his biggest assets as the face of the KMT is his ability to stay on message.
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

*Yawn* Anti-bullying in schools campaign commences

An anti-bullying campaign has begun here in Taiwan, to try and address the problem of rampant bullying in Taiwan's school system. Note the skepticism of the reporters mentioned in the article:
Vice Education Minister Chen Yi-hsing and Taipei City Education Commissioner Kang Tzong-huu took part in a "friendly school campus week" rally at Taipei Municipal Lanya Junior High School.

Chen said the ministry wanted to use the campaign to enhance anti-bullying, anti-gangster and anti-drug awareness at schools.

"We hope students can learn about school bullying and how to deal with it to help them respect themselves and others and create a superior school environment that is safe and friendly, " Chen said.

Reporters questioned whether a campaign of slogans and skits could achieve the desired effect, but Chen said that action would only be taken when a consensus was formed and that "awareness is the first step in education."
Of course -- what social action in Taiwan would be complete without skits? A recent issue, said the article, had highlighted the problem:
Meanwhile, Taoyuan County's Bade Junior High School, where public outrage over the issue was triggered late last year after its principal was found to have deliberately ignored a string of bullying incidents, also took part in the campaign.
There were some great comments on Forumosa, the popular discussion forum. Forumosan Icon observed:
And that is the key to teh situation. Those kids are already off the system, it is useless, according to teh mentality, to spend time on them. They will not go to Tai-Da, they will not pass the exams. Look at the system: the kids who are smarter get more lessons, spend more time at school. The kids who fell behind stay behind, no extra lessons, no extra homework, no more imput from the teachers.

The teachers at your school know it. This kids did not make teh grade. If it is not Yienguo, then they are out of the race. Hence, no point in making teh effort. This is why you go to schools and teh kids do not want to learn anymore. There is no point. Study is a competition, not an acquisition on learning. If they are in a private school, they already fell off the train, if you know what I mean. The situation is different in public schools, or at levels where they can still make a difference. Afterwards, there is little to do but pass the time. Their destinies are written from the Big Test at middle school on, maybe even before. If tehy do not have teh knowledge to pass teh test, that's it. If they do not live in the right area to go to the right school, or have enough money to pay buxiban, same. If the teachers know this, why try harder? Unless they are masochists/idealists, of course.
Right on. Mark Ames, in Going Postal, perhaps the best book on the debacle for the average American worker that was the Reagan years, noted that the reason school shooters can't be profiled very clearly is that the problem isn't the students but the school itself, where bullying is ingrained and institutionalized. I would argue that a similar institutionalization of bullying exists in Taiwan:

*students in many schools are triaged into high and low performing classes and given access to resources and teachers accordingly, as Icon notes above. The students know where they will end up in the pecking order. What effect does that have?

*hitting of students is widespread. Not only are "perps" hit but classes are punished (hit) as a group for the actions of single individuals. Parents may complain if schools do not hit; they are not being tough enough. This is nothing more than institutionalized violence and bullying. What message does it send to would-be bullies?

*Widespread corruption in the school system -- from kickbacks to school administrators to the children of powerful local individuals able to threaten teachers and escape punishment. This culture of impunity is known, however dimly, to the students in the schools. This leads directly to bullying.

Until the Ministry of Ed and society at large is willing to change, slogans and campaigns won't do diddly.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

BBC, VOA to kill Mandarin Language Services =UPDATEDX3=

Taipei Times reported today on a story that's been on the net for several days. One can only echo Arthur Waldron's words:
Voice of America (VOA) plans to end all radio and TV broadcasts in Mandarin and Cantonese starting in October amid a budget cut plan announced by US President Barack Obama, reports said yesterday.

The decision is highly controversial and has already engendered some strong reactions among China watchers.

“Shocking and idiotic,” said Arthur Waldron, professor of international relations at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on China.

“Information is our strong point. As true news about China comes out, it will be easier for us to deal with them. Radios are very effective indeed at shaping public opinion,” he said.
The short-wave services are being cut in favor of social network and digital network content programming.

But don't worry! There's always more money to keep Guantanamo open and continue the epic foolishness in Afghanistan. In Beijing they must go to bed every night laughing at the leadership of the US.

Meanwhile the BBC, in the grip of austerity madness in the UK, is doing the same thing:
BBC World Service will cease all radio programming – focusing instead, as appropriate, on online, mobile and television content and distribution – in the following languages: Azeri, Mandarin Chinese (note that Cantonese radio programming continues), Russian (save for some programmes which will be distributed online only), Spanish for Cuba, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian.
As one expert I saw noted, China is quite capable of blocking digital media access but it is much harder to shut out shortwave broadcasts. He also claimed that VOA Chinese is listened to by policymakers in Beijing as a way to gather open source intelligence on the US -- a very important way to talk directly to the leadership, he observed.

Finally, a number of people have pointed out that at a time when China is ramping up its propaganda all over the world, including in the US, cuts in our side's programs is really a dumb idea.

UPDATE: Alton notes that the TT article says Radio Free Asia will be taking over some of VOA's mandarin broadcast hours, and continuing to broadcast in Mandarin.


UPDATE 2: China's Global Times has multiple propaganda orgasms at the reduction in competition:

The Chinese service of VOA and BBC are heading toward an inevitable fall. In addition to competition from other media, they are being marginalized due to their biased and unprofessional reporting.

As tremendous changes have happened in China, their coverage has been persistently negative, which has increasingly turned away Chinese audiences.

Their Chinese service is coming to a historical end, with their mission unfinished.


UPDATE 3: VOA employees say management pushed them to engage in self-censorship due to pressure from China:
However, even prior to the announcement morale at the service had long been suffering, sources at VOA told the Taipei Times in an interview on Thursday night, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of their positions.

In recent years, one source said, not only did employees at VOA Chinese service work terrible shifts, but occasionally they would be reprimanded for failing to provide what management called “balanced” reporting on China.

One instance involved the invitation of World Uyghur Congress leader Rebeiya Kadeer for a show, which resulted in the show’s host being slapped on the wrist afterward for failing to invite a Chinese official to provide the other side of the story.

“The Chinese propaganda is already available for all to listen to,” the source said, adding that VOA did not need to serve as a platform for the views of the Chinese Communist Party and in many cases VOA served as one of the few means for minorities to voice their message out.
A US gov't radio station serving Beijing's propaganda needs? Disgusting.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Daily Links, Feb 15, 2011


Another week, another collection of links. The Democrats Abroad annual meeting and elections will be held at the end of March, I'll post on it tonight. The venue is not yet decided.

OPPORTUNITY: The Pingtung County Government is looking for a foreign blogger to spend 15 days travelling in Pingtung between 20 March and 20 April. You need to write posts on your blog about places you visit and will be paid for it. Contact David Reid at David on Formosa if you are interested and he will put you in touch with the organisers. (MT: Does the county government think we have no day jobs?)

BLOGS:
MEDIA:
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Bike For Taiwan in Japan

My friend Sean Su and a crew of pro-Taiwan folks are off to Japan to cycle for two weeks in support of Taiwan. They will meet with local government officials and politicians on their journey, and are carrying a list of signatures from prominent Taiwanese to show Japan that even though the Ma Administration does not appear to care about relations with Japan, the people of Taiwan do. Their crew consists of 4 cyclists, a local support van driver, and others. They plan to cycle south from Tokyo, and raise awareness of a bill that some legislators there are contemplating which would create a law similar to the US Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) for Japan. Check ’em out at bikefortaiwan.org. Sean tells me that the next trip will be to India, so stay tuned. I know many people want to participate.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Latest Fad: Glasses w/o lenses

What's wrong with this picture? Yes, one encounters them everywhere. Over the last year or so a new fad has emerged: people wearing glasses without lenses. I suppose it's harmless -- it's not lethal like those witch shoes that were popular five years ago, nor offensive like the Great Butt Crack Plague of 2006-7. But....couldn't we have a more reasonable fad? Maybe one memorizing English vocabulary, or a foreign policy fad? Or a pick up litter fad? Or....
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

China, Japan Defense Forces, and Yoniguni


The New York Times ran a piece this week about changes coming to the nearby Yonaguni island. In addition to its fame for being the putative East Asian Atlantis (good pics here), Yonaguni is the closest island to the Senkakus, a target of Chinese expansion, and as a result of China's rise, they are getting a garrison......
This put Yonaguni and its 1,600 mostly aging residents uncomfortably close to a bruising diplomatic showdown with Beijing last September over a Chinese trawler detained near the Senkakus, which resulted in Tokyo’s backing down. The government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan has since vowed to beef up defenses for Japan’s “outlying islands,” and it appears close to a decision on the small Yonaguni garrison, a plan that has been under discussion for years. “China keeps coming, and all we have protecting us now is a pair of pistols,” said Yonaguni’s mayor, Shukichi Hokama, referring to the two policemen who are the island’s only security presence.

But the deployment plan has created an uncharacteristic uproar on this normally sleepy island. A local election held in September, in the midst of the trawler standoff, turned into a bitterly fought referendum over whether to accept the garrison, with supporters winning four of the six town council seats up for grabs.

The supporters of the garrison, led by Mr. Hokama, say they hope the base brings not only peace of mind but also an influx of badly needed jobs and youthful residents, especially if the soldiers come with their families. They hope this will provide a lift for an economically depressed island that currently lacks either a high school or a hospital, and where the number of residents has fallen by 250, or almost 15 percent of the population, during the past decade alone.
Yonaguni had old connections to Taiwan during the Japanese period. This 2008 article points out that the island was looking for tourism from Taiwan:
Before World War II, when Taiwan was under Japanese control and there was no border between the two islands, Yonaguni was affluent and had a population of 4,000 to 5,000 who could freely visit Taiwan, about 110 km away.

......

"If we can function as a border, people and material goods from Taiwan, which has a population of 23 million, will come through Yonaguni, which has a history of sharing culture and of living within the sphere of Taiwan," said Chiyoki Tasato, head of the Hualien liaison office.
Currently each side is blaming the other for the fact that there are no flights between them, even though they are just ~100 kms apart.

The map above shows the proximity of Yonaguni to the Senkakus, and also another interesting fact: the closeness of the Japanese islands to Taiwan means that an attack on Taiwan from China that involves operations against the northeastern and eastern side of the island of Taiwan -- highly probable given the naval base at Suao -- will have to go through Japanese air and sea space. In December the US and Japan held a naval exercise aimed at a scenario in which they have to recover islands from an attacker who invaded and occupied them. Arthur Waldron, the longtime scholar and commentator on Taiwan affairs, observed in September:

Waldron said the Japanese-held Ryukyu Islands could effectively block any Chinese attempt to attack the east coast of Taiwan from the north.

“In case of conflict, the actual Taiwan Strait itself is likely to be impassable, as each side will have the ability to destroy just about anything that moves,” he wrote.

“This would mean that the only attack direction is from the southeast, which means passing to the east, north of the Philippines, at the point where the strait is widest, before turning to the north and east to gain access to Taiwan’s strategic east coast — with its high stone cliffs and very deep water, good for submarines,” Waldron said.

“My own view is that if the defender had good anti-ship missile capabilities, which according to some reports Taiwan does, this would be a very risky operation,” he said.

In their joint study, Holmes and Yoshihara said the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been making efforts to break out of the first island chain and operate freely in the Western Pacific, “either to threaten the east coast of Taiwan or for some other purpose.”

They add that occupying one or more of the Ryukyus offers one way for the PLAN to do so.

Held in Dec, the exercise was disrupted by the appearance of Russian aircraft.

Anyone want to go this summer? I'd love to charter a boat and visit Yonaguni island.
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Year Riding

Last week the excellent weather over Chinese New Year was a veritable invitation from the Bike Gods to enjoy some of central Taiwan's superb rides. So off we went....

Twice last week I rode along Pinglin Road out of Jhuolan between Jhoulan town and Nanhu at the beginning of the strawberry area around Miaoli. A rolling lane that runs 15 kms through hillside farms with little traffic, it was a total stress beater.

Route 3 between Taichung and Dongshih was a mess with New Year party crowds heading to the spas of Guguan and the strawberry fields of Dahu, but local police kept up a rearguard action to prevent total anarchy from breaking out.

In Tanzih I met up with my friend Simon. Last time we met, in Hualien, he had just gone over Hehuanshan in the winter, battling rented tour bikes through the ice and snow.

We picked up Emily on the bike trail.....

...then crossed the great bridge on 3 into Jhuolan town.

Emily, who got her bike from my man James Murray at 185 Warehouse, glides by a big tree and temple in Taiwan. Everyone pays attention to the temple worship, but no one talks about the Big Trees. Yet Big Tree worship is ubiquitous in Taiwan. I've never been able to find a serious scholarly article on its origins and functions. Anyone out there got one?

A vineyard. Jhoulan township is famed for its grapes.

Riding into the hills on an absolutely clear day.

Even in the winter when all is brown, the road promised a stunning spring.

Pinglin Road is rolling and some of the hills are quite steep. It makes for a great workout.

Everywhere families were getting together for the New Year celebration.

Emily works her way up a tough hill.

Stunning views on the way down.

More great views.

Another poor victim of a drive-by shooting.

In Nanhu for lunch, the crowds were rolling down Route 3 bound for the strawberry fields, forever at the pace the cars were moving.

Between the traffic and the vendors, Route 3 was a struggle.

We stopped at the top of the ridge above Jhuolan to take in the stunning vistas.

I took Simon down to the dam, where a group of comely young lasses insisted on pictures with us.

On Saturday Drew and Simon and I met up for Route 21 south from Dongshih to Guosing, one of the best easily accessible rides in central Taiwan, a workout involving two climbs of 400 meters and then a wonderful twisting downhill into Guosing for lunch. Drew's post on this ride is here.

The first climb takes you up to Hsinshe via 129, which I always refer to as the Death Spiral from its combination of blind curves and crazed drivers. On a clear day the pollution over Taichung is quite visible. We always stop for drinks at the 7-11 and then proceed south on 93 to continue climbing, eventually reaching over 600 meters.

Then its wheeeeee down a miniature set of Alpine turns to the Dajia River. That's Simon heading for the bottom curve there.

From there we turn east and ride along the river until reaching the beginning of Rte 21.

The grade on Rte 21 is not difficult....

....and the views are excellent.

At the top there's the inevitable coffee shop, but it was closed for the holiday.

Next comes the fabulous downhill into Guosing. A total blast. This route should be on everyone's list.

The hills covered with betel nut trees.

Hairpin turns on 21.

Alas, a few more kilometers until lunch.

Stopping for lunch in Guosing town.

From Guosing we set out for Rte 14 back to Changhua. Drew and I both heartily detest 14, an unlovable mess of tourist traps, trucks, and pointless hill climbs.

Fortunately after 10 kms or so there is a shortcut through the farming areas that takes one over to Rte 3 and Taichung.

168 peaks.

The road winds through a number of little communities.....

...where everyone was out enjoying the fine weather.

On Sunday I paid a visit to the port area, home of straight roads and strong winds, for sashimi.

So did a lot of other people.

We went home along the north side of the Dajia, 10 kms of rice fields....

...and little else.

My new Canon Powershot S95 performed as expected. Most of the photos above were taken while moving. I am deliriously happy with the Powershot's fun functions, its clean shots, and ease of use.

Hope to see you on a road soon!
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