Wednesday, February 29, 2012

*Another* Taiwan Officer Arrested in Spy Case

A friend forwarded this WSJ column to me with the comment that this has a negative impact on the US willingness to sell Taiwan advanced arms....
A spokesman for Taiwan’s defense ministry confirmed local media reports on Wednesday that a Taiwanese Air Force caption surnamed Chiang was arrested on allegations of selling classified information to China.

But the spokesman, David Lo, disputed a report in the publication Next Magazine , which quoted unnamed sources, that the damage was considerable. “The situation is not as serious and dramatic as reported by the media,” he said, adding “the defense ministry has already undertaken ample damage control by tightening up the information flow.”

The arrest is the latest in a slew of information leak cases in recent years, one that has raised concerns in the island over the People’s Liberation Army.
And these are the cases that we know about. In numerous articles and private discussions I have had, this same theme sounds forth -- any technology the US gives to Taiwan is simply pipelined directly to China. AFP gives additional details:
A Taiwanese air force captain at a radar command and control centre has been arrested for allegedly leaking classified data to China, officials and media said on Wednesday.


It said the Chinese military has long sought access to the centre which houses highly sensitive information including details on the air force's "Strong Net" radar system and the US-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles.


But Chen Chen-hsiang, a former general who is now a legislator in the ruling Kuomintang party, said he was "shocked" at the news.

"The unit is supposed to be highly confidential," he said.

Next Magazine cited a military source warning: "Should the air force captain leak electronic factors of the various radar systems to China, the damages from the case would go beyond imagination".
According to the AFP report, the information traveled through his uncle to Chinese authorities.
Daily Links:

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Twofer 2-28

Two interesting things out there in the blogosphere this week. Today Andrew over at Taiwan in Cycles blogged on Jeremy Lin, race, and Chinese nationalism as only he can....
As Americans, with their immense baggage of a history smeared by racial conflict, try to play down and pass censure on the issue of "race", modern Chinese nationalism is founded on a bedrock of racialism that hopes to exploit the west's own vehicle for colonialism to further their own goals of territory and wealth.


Chinese nationalisms in both the PRC and the ROC, continue to use the dated and logically incongruous Sunist construct for defining "Chinese" and "Chineseness", as a shared system of culture, customs, language, history and people. The need to create uniformity in this model that might incorporate vastly different cultures, languages, customs, histories across a wide geographical area under a single national Chinese nationalist umbrella, took the form of a fascist style of state culturalism, in which the state became the creator and promulgator of a centralized and monolithic state Chinese culture. China is not a homogenous place by any means and the fear of regional nationalisms was, and still is, a real threat to maintaining the old Qing borders.
Today is the anniversary of 2-28, a massacre and subsequent terror that took the lives of thousands of educated Taiwanese, "tainted" and impure in Sunist racialist terms by their long association with the Japanese. This racialist view of what constitutes "Chineseness" continues to haunt Taiwan in countless ways, from its exploitation by Beijing in vain appeals to ethnic solidarity with the Taiwanese, who long ago took another path, to the two classes of immigrants to Taiwan: the favored Overseas "Chinese" -- and everyone else.

Andrew's whole post is full of links and insights, spend some time with it.

Quite different is another post a thoughtful reader sent a link to: The Taiwan Bubble Set to Burst. Apparently CLSA has recommended all seven Taiwan banks in its reports are SELL:
Banks are now in the late stages of their credit cycle. After over a decade of loose lending, Taiwan faces the prospect of a bursting housing bubble and a crisis in tech, where the companies are turning into zombies and refusing to die. Credit tightening should accelerate the seasoning process. We reiterate our SELL recommendations on all the market’s banks, especially since earnings should be front-loaded this year. For those who must be in the sector, we suggest Chinatrust for its credit-card franchise and prudent credit policy.

Easy access to credit over 2000-10 led to overinvestment in commodity-tech such as Dram, panels, LED and solar. Housing now faces poor affordability and oversupply. Property prices rose 133% over the past 10 years, but vacancies increased from 13% to 19% over the same period.

Though the timing of the bust is hard to predict, credit tightening should accelerate the seasoning process. It will not only trigger failures and financial restructuring in tech, but also pressure mortgage borrowers and property developers. Tightening will lead to increasing demand for consumer-credit and home-equity loans, while trends in the unorganised money-market rate (ie, loan sharks) and dishonoured cheques suggest signs of trouble.
One hardly knows whether to laugh or cry: Ma's election, ECFA, it was all supposed to save the economy. Think the Ma Administration will do anything real about it? I hear there's some deck chairs on the Titanic that need re-arranging....
Daily Links:
USC US-China Institute
03-02-2012: A Conversation with Ambassador Jason Yuan
Davidson Conference Center, Boardroom
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Cost: Free, please RSVP
Time: 11:00AM-12:00PM

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! Delenda est, baby.

Tour de Taiwan 2012

Won't be seein' this on the Tour de Taiwan

David Reid of David on Formosa, one of the best Taiwan blogs, has translated and posted on the Tour de Taiwan 2012, to be held next month. This route is ridiculous in the extreme, as if someone deliberately set out to avoid all the pretty parts of the island and instead sought to send the cyclists through all the flat, polluted, crowded, dull parts of the island.

No east coast. No cross-island highways. No Kenting. None of the stunning mountain vistas of Miaoli. No Alishan or Yushan. None of the beautiful hilly roads of Chiayi. Nothing in Pingtung. No East Coast Rift Valley.

Fail! Here is an ideal showcase for the awesome beauty and accessibility of Taiwan that can get foreign cyclists talking about how good the cycling is here. Great work, organizers. Fail!

For example, here's the Taichung map (stage maps and information are here):

Tour de Taiwan fail
Rte 12 -- a big crowded road we Taichungers know as Taichunggang Rd (Taichung Port Road) through built up areas. Then to Rte 17, another four lane far from anything pretty.  Along the west coast they come up 17 to the 1, a road that should be destroyed and the ground salted over as a warning to the next ten thousand generations that some levels of ugliness should never be permitted, then turn onto the 132, which shoots through built up Dajia over a couple of limp hills that even a fat guy like me has no trouble doing at the end of a 180 km run. Then in Houli we turn onto the 13 and then to the 3 to Dongshih. The 132, 13 and 3 are completely built up and as ugly as a mutant toad-monster out of a Conan story. Finally, the riders will reach the 8, enjoy a brief moment of lovely landscape and clean air -- and then come up Sinshe the back way (Rte 95/97) -- the only nice part of the ride will be the short climb up to Sinshe (but the best way to do that is to go down it!). Then it is down the Death Spiral, 129, and back through the built up areas to the city. By then everyone on the tour should have asthma....

Note the pictures, all of local tourist spots: the Fengyuan Night Market, the famous Matsu temple in Dajia (how many of the foreign cyclists will know that Dajia is the heart of Taiwan's famous cycling industry?), the Luce Memorial Chapel, Metropark.... I'm stifling a yawn here. See any mountains? Just compare the Tour de France.....

This has all the earmarks of a route mapped by the local flatlanders who whip up and down Taichung's dull coastal roads having testosterone battles on their showy, frail carbon bikes and conceiving of a "tour" of Taichung in a totally conventional Taiwanese tourist fashion. Fail! We already have enough of that kind of advertising! Why not do something else?

Further, if you want to make it to the big time bike circuit, laying out a difficult and challenging course along beautiful mountain roads would be a good way to start. Just compare the Giro Italia.... Imagine if the course had started in Sincheng and went over Wuling at 3200 meters and then came down in Puli.... it would look just as good as that shot from the Giro Italia.

Here are some of my favorite loops in the area. If someone had given me the Taichung route to design, I would have had them do the 8 and then over the 21, a road with lovely hairpin turns and great mountain views, showcasing Taichung's cycling strengths, then come back over 136, The Fence, avoiding built up areas to the extent possible. Or up the 3 into Miaoli and then back to the coast via 120 or similar. Or up to Simaxian Mountain, surely one of the loveliest areas on the island, via the excellent farms and hills on Dongji Road and then to Tiangou and over (and a nasty grade too!)..... Or anything else. Argh!

ADDED: Hans in the comments explains why the Tour is so dull and rebuts some of my commentary, Drew puts together a dream tour.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Daily Links, Feb 27, 2012

The Daily Links, which are actually weekly links, have returned.....

NOT TAIWAN: "Shouldn't the tower just collapse under the weight of his massive balls?"

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! Delenda est, baby.

Xiluo Bridge History

The Great Xiluo Bridge between Xiluo and Changhua is one of the highlights of riding south from Taichung to Tainan; it is probably the only highlight if you ride down the center of the western plain. The bridge was begun under the Japanese and completed by the KMT gov't in the '50s. It is a remarkably long bridge, lots of fun to ride over. In its day it was one of the world's longer bridges but now it doesn't make the list (though two of our HSR viaducts do).

The bridge is located on Rte 145 -- if you're biking, 145 is a long flat road that shoots across the center of the plain is an excellent alternative to 19 or the 1, both of which are crowded, truck-heavy, and studded with traffic lights.

My friend Drew of Taiwan in Cycles spotted a bit of history built into the south end of the bridge: US-Taiwan cooperation from the old days is still inscribed on it (that's Chris peering around the side there; Drew's pic).  Organized in 1898, the United States Steel Export Company eventually became United States Steel International in 1963. During WWII it was used as a front by the US government to sell machines and steel to the Allies prior to US entry since it was illegal under US law to sell directly to belligerent powers (an ad from 1945). After the war it was involved in steel structural products as the lead bidder on projects all over the world (it's amazing how little information there is on it on the web).

The other plaque on the bridge says "Chinese-American Cooperation". Taiwan's history is written on its infrastructure.....
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! Delenda est, baby.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Will somebody please kill the beef issue?

I had a great ride today from Taichung to Shanhua station in Tainan, 170 kms, flat and with a tailwind. But at Shanhua Station the ticket guy insisted I had to bag my bike even though, as you can plainly see, and as he saw on his computer screen, it was a roll-on, roll-off express. Argh!!!! This is why when people ask, "Can I put my bike on the train?" So many of us veterans of this system answer: "It depends....on the station personnel."

And so I am unhappy to report that the US-Taiwan beef issue continues to vex the relationship. In my more paranoid moments I wonder whether that is its real function -- to provide an excuse for inaction on a number of issues by both sides but especially the US, but as the old saw goes, you should never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. And this issue is really, really stupid. Like the zombie issue it is, it cries out for brains....

The Taipei Times has had a slew of stories on it recently, signaling that it's been a slow news month. Today featured President Ma Ying-jeou vowing to protect public health and food safety....
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday reiterated the government’s open stance on the US beef imports issue and insisted that his administration had not made any promises to the US, pledging not to risk public health over the issue.


Ma said yesterday that Chen and the lawmakers reached a consensus on the issue and that the government would continue to prioritize public health and food safety.
Yes, our vegetables are coated with chemicals, our water is undrinkable, our pork is an antibiotics manufacturer's display case, and our roads are a white-line nightmare, but by god, the government will fight to keep ractopamine out of imported beef.

DPP and other opposition lawmakers boycotted the premier's six hour address yesterday until he promised to maintain the ban on US beef until at least June, so we have another four months of this farce. The result of the agreement between the government and the legislature was reported by the China Post:
First, the Executive Yuan would not issue any decree to allow the import of meat containing residual amounts of the leanness-enhancing additive in the near future.

Second, the Legislative Yuan would make the legal issue concerning the leanness-enhancing additive for livestock the first priority for the Legislature.

Third, the Executive Yuan would abide by the new law passed by the Legislative Yuan.
Doncha just love (2) above? All the problems that Taiwan has, but our priority is this idiot beef issue.

Even worse, it was DPP and TSU legislators out there protesting. What they should have done was lose, and force the Ma government to make a decision. Since in the end the government will issue regulations and take credit for improved relations with the US, the DPP has nothing to lose by forcing the government to accept the domestic opprobrium. More below....

Meanwhile legislators from the DPP, KMT, and PFP put out seven proposals for dealing with the issue, even though it could be decided by Administrative fiat.

Don Shapiro of the American Chamber of Commerce wrote a couple of weeks ago on the issue, which I duly blogged on. Shapiro observed:
American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei delegation that visited Washington last autumn was still surprised by the vehemence of the criticism of Taiwan it heard from American officials on the subject. One high-level official described Taiwan flatly as “an unreliable trading partner,” for example, while another said the disagreement over beef had “cast a pall” over the entire bilateral relationship. Beef had taken on a symbolic importance far out of proportion to its monetary value of less than 1 percent of U.S. exports to Taiwan.
The US position on the beef issue is absurd, but the DPP's is simply self-defeating as Shapiro's observations attest. The pan-Green opposition owns this issue and the US knows it. Clearly beef is important to the US and the DPP really ought to consider catering to its interests if it wants to claim that the DPP is a party that is pro-US and offers a rational alternative to the KMT. Here is a nation that might at some point get its children killed to preserve the freedoms of Taiwanese and yet it won't buy their beef? It's time for the parties in Taiwan to sit down and work out a solution of an acceptable level of ractopamine as Shapiro suggests, and go forward. This issue needs to die ASAP; there are TIFA talks to hold.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cohen on the Shanghai Communique and the Status of Formosa

Jerome Cohen turned a piece for SCMP on the 40th anniversary of the Shanghai Communique, which was subsequently posted to his US-Asia Law site. In it, Cohen lauds the Shanghai Communique for its slick non-agreement that permitted US-China relations to go forward:
While the meaning of the Shanghai Communique is still debated, one thing is certain. Its most famous paragraph cleared the path for progress that has plainly changed the world.
This is basically moot; you're entitled to believe what you like about the long-term effects of the Shanghai Communique. However, the section on the Cairo Declaration and the post war period contains some questionable claims, as John Tkacik points out below. First, here is what Cohen says:
For over two decades following the start of the Korean conflict in June 1950, the U.S. denied that Taiwan was part of China. Yet that had not been the original American position after World War II. During the war, in the 1943 Cairo Declaration, the U.S., the United Kingdom and China had promised that Japan, which had forced China to cede Taiwan to it in 1895, would have to return the island to China at war’s end. Thus, in October 1945, the victorious Allies authorized Chiang Kai-shek, then president of the Republic of China, to accept Japan’s surrender on the island.


They based their decision on the premise that Taiwan had again become part of China, despite the fact that its new status had not yet been formally confirmed by any peace treaty. As Secretary Acheson, an able attorney, put it: nobody “raised any lawyer’s doubts” when Chiang’s forces were placed in charge of Taiwan at war’s end. That, he said, had been done in accordance with the Cairo Declaration and subsequent wartime commitments.

Yet, less than six months later, when North Korea invaded South Korea, the U.S. interpreted the invasion as an attack by “international communism” not only in Korea but also against Taiwan and Indo-China. With no national debate, President Truman immediately announced that he had ordered the Seventh Fleet to protect “Formosa”, using Taiwan’s Western name, and, to justify their momentous decision, Truman and Acheson changed the American legal position. The President proclaimed that the legal status of the island was as yet undetermined and would have to await restoration of security in the Pacific, a formal peace treaty with Japan or consideration by the United Nations.
Retired State Department official John Tkacik, who went to school here in Taiwan and later served in as a State Department official here, shot around an email in response to the claims in the piece about the evolution of the US position on Taiwan beginning with the end of the war and the predation and abuse by Nationalist troops in Taiwan, observing:
"Eminent Chinese legal scholar Jerome Cohen asserts that the doctrine of Taiwan's "unsettled international status" was invented by clever State Department lawyers only after the Korean War. Professor Cohen is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."
Tkacik, who is researching Taiwan's peculiar international status, has inventoried the documents from the archives of the US Consulate, later "office of Embassy," in Taipei from 1945 through 1950 that track the genesis of the legal doctrine of Formosa's unsettled sovereignty.  Here are some of the documents listed below. Taiwan's unsettled status was accepted as a legal fact of life both in Washington and generally among the allied capitals from the earliest post-War days, especially so after February 28, 1947. He writes:


It was clear as early as 1945 that the US did not consider sovereignty over Formosa to have been transferred to the Republic of China, and that indeed, until a formal treaty of peace, sovereignty remained with Japan.

On November 13, 1945, Richard Butrick, Special Representative of the US Department of State sent Dispatch #5 from the newly reopened US Consulate General in Shanghai analyzing "American Consular Representation in Taihoku" ("Taihoku," of course, was the Japanese name for "Taipei" while Formosa was under the Japanese Empire). Butrick noted in paragraph II B. "Because of the uncertain status of Formosa, the Department did not prepare [consular] seals." Butrick anticipated that Formosa would, indeed, revert to Republic of China sovereignty and suggested that it be temporarily within the Shanghai Consular district.

On November 23, 1945, in the first Consular report by consular agent George Kerr in Taihoku, a bare month after Nationalist Chinese troops began their occupation of the island, Kerr noted that senior Formosan figures, long supportive of China, had become alarmed by the massive influx of corruption and organized crime "which enjoys certain military protections", questioned whether Formosa ought to be returned to China, become independent, or placed under a United Nations Trusteeship.

In the immediate post-War period, as America became disillusioned by rampant corruption in China, and as General George Marshall's peace mission became frustrated with Chiang Kai-shek's regime, the wisdom of turning Formosa's sovereignty over to China was increasingly questioned, especially in America's mainstream press.

On March 21, 1946, a front page article in the Washington Daily News by staff writer William Newton, headlined "Corupt Chinese Worse than Japs, Say Formosans," explained that "their island was turned over to Japan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki - which America supported - and they have been legal subjects of Japan since then." Newton referred to the civil administration on the island as the "Chinese Occupation."

On June 10, 1946, a Time magazine report from Taipei quoted a prominent Formosan as saying "Taiwanese would choose America first and Japan next" now that they have tasted Chinese gov't as here manifested."

Further dispatches from the American Consulate in Taihoku (Taipei) reflect the general understanding, among U.S. officials, Formosans and even the new Chinese administration that the Repubic of China's sovereignty in Formosa had not yet been formalized. On August 30, 1946, Vice Consul Kerr wrote "there is increasing Government awareness that de jure sovereignty over Taiwan by China is not yet a fully accomplished fact."

Even in mundane matters, the legal status of Formosa was a fact of life. On September 26, 1946, the Consul in Taipei cabled the US Embassy in Nanking asking "is it appropriate for Central Chinese Govt or Provisional Government General to give title for land to ConGen in former enemy territory before formal peace treaty transferring sovereignty over Taiwan to China. Would interim agreement be appropriate with stipulation that it be ratified again upon assumption of de jure sovereignty by Central government over Taiwan?"

The alarming maladministration of Formosa by the Chinese occupation authorities was a constant concern in the US Embassy in Nanking and in Washington, D.C. By February 28, 1947, Formosans' patience had given out and the island erupted in anti-Occupation riots forcing virtually all new Chinese officials into hiding and paralyzing all occupation administration for nearly a week. Not until the arrival of several Chinese army divisions beginning March 3, and with the promises of the Chinese central government in Nanking that the occupation administration would be reformed, did the violence cease. The new occupying forces, however, immediately pacified Formosan cities with indiscriminate violence, killing several at the walls of the US Consulate on the night of March 3. In the following weeks, Chinese troops rounded up between 18,000 and 28,000 persons, at least 10,000 of whom were never heard from again.

On March 4, 1947, the Consul in Taipei (Blake) advised the Embassy in Nanking that " . . . After gravest consideration, Consulate believes only practicable solution would be immediate American intervention in its own right or on behalf of United Nations to prevent disastrous slaughter by Government forces if loosed on the capital, which was imminent possibility March 3. American prestige high and intervention profoundly desired by Formosans who believe representations at Nanking and direct intervention by United Nations justifiable under present Japanese de jure sovereignty status."

On March 7,1947, AmConsul Taipei dispatch 43 p. 7 reported " . . . [the Central Government] has sensed the dangers of serious foreign criticism of policy here which may become serious enough to cause a reappraisal of China's capacity to administer a 'liberated' area over which China will not possess de jure sovereignty until the peace treaties are accomplished."

Vice Consul Kerr's dispatch #45 of March 10, 1947, observed that "some consideration must be given to the unavoidable conclusion that the administration of Formosa after the Japanese surrender will come under review at the peace conference."

No doubt informed by the nature of the Nanking Government's brutality on Formosa following the February 28 movement, Acting Secretary of States Dean Acheson wrote to Senator Ball of Maryland on April 11, 1947, that the transfer of sovereignty of Formosa to China "has not yet been formalized."

On May 30, 1947, AmConsul Taipei's dispatch #57 read: "the consulate continues to hear he hope expressed that the negotiations leading up to a conclusion of a peace treaty with Japan will provide an opportunity for careful reconsideration of the decision to turn Taiwan over to China..."

Indeed, the sovereign status of Formosa was an international issue: On July 5, 1947, AmConsul Taipei telegram 113 reports "several Soviet 'businessmen' have arrived on the island for an indefinite stay. Informants report recent Moscow Japanese language broadcasts stating United Nations mandate for Taiwan already decided."

On August 11, 1947, in a briefing prepared for General Marshall's successsor as the official US mediator in the Chinese Civil War, the American Embassy in Nanking began -- on page 1 -- "de jure rather than de facto sovereignty over Taiwan will not be achieved until the conclusion of a peace treaty with Japan." On pages 2-3 the briefing noted "a sensitivity to the reaction that developments on Taiwan could have in the United States has been frequently displayed by local officials and is doubtless a concern stemming, at least in part, from a realization that they occasionally exhibit in informal discussions, that Chinese jurisdiction over the island has not yet been definitively acquired in the full legal sense."

An October 29, 1947, paper prepared by Embassy Nanking for Wedemeyer, said that "although the transfer of the sovereignty over Taiwan has not yet been formalized, China's de facto control over the area was generally recognized."

On November 6, 1947, the Consul in Taipei informed the Ambassador in Nanking that Formosan leader Joshua Liao was "proceeding to Nanking to meet with Amb Stuart ... Primary purpose ... To be 'Presentation of request for Taiwanese representation at Japanese peace conference and United States support to prevent definitive retrocession to China' . . . "

The Embassy in Nanking cabled the Secretary of State on December 17, 1948, advising that "Despite commitment of Cairo Declaration, Taiwan is still legally part of the Jap empire and occupied territory. It could therefore be given somewhat different treatment from peripheral areas on the mainland. Further, it is more directly related to American security and strategic plans. In event of political  or military events on China, ..."

On January 14, 1949, a top secret National Security Council Decision Memorandum from Acting Secretary of State Lovett [acting for Acheson] to Truman, restated the strategic importance of Formosa, not that the US needs bases there, but to deny the island to hostile forces and advised that . . . "Should the Chinese Communists attempt to take the island by forceful means contrary to the wishes of the Formosan people, or if the Formosans themselves should revolt against their Chinese rulers, justification would exist for action by the United Nations, both on the grounds that the situation represented a threat to peace and based on the de facto status of Formosa . . . " the Memorandum advised that "such intervention should be publicly based, not on obvious American strategic interests, but on principles that are likely to have support in the international community, mainly the principle of self-determination for the Formosan people.''

Nor was the matter of Formosa's "undetermined status" restricted only to Americans. On January 18, 1949, the political counselor of the French embassy in Washington, Jean Daridan, in a confidential meeting with the Department of States' Far East bureau, "expressed the opinion that if China became communist, he could not see why Formosa should necessarily remain Chinese. ... Mr. Daridan said that the problem of Formosa raised many complicated legal and practical problems, and he himself had been toying with the possibility of the creation at an appropriate time an independent Formosa.

As the Chinese Civil War entered its end game on February 24, 1949, The American Consul in Taipei mentioned offhandedly in Airgram A-11 that "Chinese who have sought refuge here from arriving here from the communist onslaught on the Yangtze are suddenly remembering that Formosa is and will continue until the Japanese Peace Treaty to be a segment of the Japanese Empire."

On April 20, 1949, Dispatch #15 from the Consul in Taipei reported that '. . . There has also been great local interest in American press commentary on Taiwan's present legal status and possible future.'. '. . . UP and AP reports on the Taiwan independence and trusteeship movement have caused considerable press repercussion locally and has resulted in a statement by Taiwanese Control Yuan Commissioner Chiu Nian-tai in Nanking who declared that Taiwanese are Chinese people and Taiwan Chinese territory. Mr. Chiu asserted that the numerous Taiwanese political organizations in Tokyo and Hong Kong have altogether less than forty members and that their leaders are "subsidized by the military officers of a certain foreign country" and warned that any plot to league with traitors to snatch Taiwan "will not escape world censure and the united opposition of the Chinese."'

The new Chinese provincial governor of Taiwan, "Wang Shih-Chieh declared that Taiwan is 'Restored Territory' and is not a 'military occupation area of China or any other country' and warned the Taiwanese against any 'direct or indirect control by imperialism through political economic or military invasion.'"

May 1, 1949, the new American "office of embassy" in Canton cabled the Department of a conversation between Ambassador Stuart with the Republic of China's "acting president" Li Tsung-jen (Chiang Kai-shek had "resigned" the presidency at that point) . . . "Governor [presumably Chen Cheng] had mentioned possibility [of Gimo's retirement in Taiwan] to our Consul General who had remarked casually that status of Taiwan would not be determined until Japanese treaty was signed. His casual remark, according to Li, was reported to Generalissimo with result that Generalissimo decided that he could not retire to a place where Chinese sovereignty might be questioned, and though of Fenghwa instead."

A hurriedly composed telegram to the Department of State from Taipei on May 6, 1949, advised that "questions being asked locally why in view of MacDermot statement US government separately or jointly with others has not made official open approach to Chinese government and particularly to governor Chen here that altho recognize de facto interim Chinese admin Taiwan, US and other governments have responsibilities for Taiwan welfare, and cannot repeat cannot disregard recent Chinese tendency to treat Taiwanese in unilateral manner endangering peace welfare natives not yet legally Chinese. Taiwan must not be drafted into Chinese civil conflict."

That cable implored that while "Approach might not succeed but has definite chances and might establish position and hated natives,"

By May 16, 1949, the Consulate in Taipei reported that Formosan and Chinese "business leaders eager for trusteeship solution for Taiwan."

When the State Department published its "China White Paper" that explained the U.S. Government's decision to cease all aid to Chiang Kai-shek's regime, it sent a secret circular on July 29, 1949, to all diplomatic and consular posts which may be queried by host governments of the press "Do not play up comments, such as in Wedemeyer Report, that some Formosans want a US trusteeship."

Even Chiang Kai-shek's own foreign minister understood that Formosa had not been placed under Republic of China sovereignty. On November 1949 a memo summarized the remarks of ROC foreign minister George Yeh said "...government would be a fiction if it had no hold on the continent and said 'apart from legal aspects' island could not long be held. He referred to hopes of many that MacArthur would wish assure security of Taiwan that US would underwrite its defense. Thinks air force and navy should be given up and savings be devoted to southwest and first line troops in Taiwan now be used in southwest."

Secretary of State Dean Acheson did, for six months, order the State Department to downplay the issue of Formosa's unsettled legal status from January through June, 1950, but never disavowed it. Acheson was very open as to his reasons. In a speech to the National Press Club in Washington on January 12, 1950, Acheson explained that the Soviet Union had occupied Mongolia, "had detatched the northern provinces of China from China and is attaching them to the Soviet Union." He added "I am sure that in Inner Mongolia and in Sinkiang there are very happy reports coming from Soviet agents to Moscow."

In a desperate attempt to forestall the January 1950 Sino-Soviet Alliance negotiations, and to remind Chinese Communists in Peking who China's real friends were, Acheson cautioned, "I urge all who are thinking about . . . foolish adventures [in Formosa] to remember that we must not seize the unenviable position which the Russians have carved out for themselves. We must not undertake to deflect from the Russians to ourselves the righteous anger and wrath and the hatred of the Chinese people.


Many similar documents could be adduced. For example, this Jan 19, 1949 NSC draft memorandum clearly lays out the US position that Japan owned Taiwan and the ROC occupation was merely de facto rather than de jure control and that necessary steps should be taken to prevent the CCP from getting it.  Moreover, this discussion over the disposition of Formosa was publicly known; an article dated Aug 13, 1949 in the Saturday Evening Post asks "Should We Grab Formosa?" Darrell Berrigan, the writer, reported that Formosans had told him of the State Department statements on the issue:
" the effect that 'the disposition of Formosa must await the Japanese treaty.' The Communists, of course, claim that the US is trying to take over the island. Propaganda like that makes the islanders very happy."
In sum, the Korean War may have triggered the announcement of the changing US position on Formosa, but the US already knew what the Formosans wanted, knew that Taiwan did not belong to China, evolved a policy of preventing a great injustice, and partly managed to carry it out. This is entirely laudable and should not be seen as a betrayal. The US failure was not changing its mind, but failing to create a free and independent republic on Formosa.

Cohen reminds about the Cairo Declaration, in which the US promises to "restore" Taiwan to the ROC. I've written about it in a longish post here. As I have noted many times:
  • Cairo is merely a declaration of war aims, which can change. It has no legal effect. If the ROC didn't want the Americans to change their position on Taiwan, they shouldn't have alienated the population, murdered thousands of Taiwanese in the 2-28 incident and then lost the Chinese Civil War. 
  • Cairo defines that Taiwan is to be "restored" to the "Republic of China." Note that the ROC never owned Taiwan, didn't exist when Taiwan was given to Japan by the Qing dynasty, and thus it cannot be "restored". Indeed, until the mid-1930s, Taiwan was seen by Chinese as lying outside China. In other words, Cairo refers to a situation that never existed.
  • Neither the US nor the UK could dispose of Taiwan; in 1943 Taiwan was owned by Japan.
  • Even in the benighted days of 1943 international law and practice held that territorial transfers required the approval of the affected population. Because such consent was never obtained, Cairo actually represents a gross violation of human rights. Observe that some of the items in Tkacik's list show that US officials indeed realized that the Formosans wanted an international trusteeship solution and possible independence and that any disposition of the island would have to include them.
The Cairo Declaration is an odious low in US and international history, one of those ugly moments that the unfolding of history reveals to be a great moral and political injustice, like chattel slavery or the relocation camps of WWII or the dispossession of the native Americans. It's really time to consign Cairo to the same pile, to point out, when it is mentioned, that it was product of a particular historical and social moment, the uncertainty of a desperate war and the ugly legacy of colonialism, that has long since passed.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Moving the Legislature to Taichung: sensible?

Lin Chia-lung of the DPP had floated an interesting suggestion in the Taipei Times today: move the legislature to Taichung. I thought it was great; who will notice the extra gangsters in Taichung? Although I myself would have suggested Siberia....

Ok, I'll stop. But it just cries out for snark....

Seriously, though, the DPP has long proposed decentralizing the government out to the center and south as way one to compensate for Taiwan's grossly uneven regional development. Lin observes:
Even more important is the issue of rezoning national land. Taiwan has yet to address the problem of uneven development, which has caused differential development between the northern, central, southern and eastern areas, as well as an increasing urban-rural gap.
Lin also argues that the government is too close Taiwan's nuke plants in the north, and a nuclear melt-down could threaten governmental stability. He points out that the HSR makes travel to the north and south easy...
Also, legislators should be serving people throughout Taiwan, so the move to Greater Taichung would make sense. In addition, the Legislative Yuan only meets for about six months of the year and, with the exception of government officials who might have to go there twice a week to answer questions, legislators would not have to be tied to its location.
I should add that there is plenty of land out by the HSR station in Taichung that is not occupied and which would be perfect for a large government complex.

Meanwhile there is something totally representative of Taiwan in the little factoid he gives about the legislature:
The Legislative Yuan is currently located in the former grounds of a Japanese colonial-era high school. Apart from costing more than NT$100 million (US$3.38 million) in annual rent, its current location is actually illegal, as the grounds should be allocated for a school.
Thinking outside the box, Lin is.... Lin's nod at Fukushima was echoed in this commentary in the TT last year that argued for decentralizing the island away from the north.

The nukes are only one possible catastrophe that could whack Taipei. There's always the possibility of a killer quake hitting either the city or the nuke plants. This potential is assessed in this paper which reviews Taipei's quake history:
"...A large earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7 occurred in 1694. It caused large subsidence (less than 5 meters, with no available epicenter location) in the northwestern part of the Taipei Basin (Wang et al. 1994; Chan et al. 2007). During the 19th century, there were several earthquakes that caused considerable damage in the Taipei area. These destructive earthquakes included earthquakes in 1815 (M 6.5), 1853, 1860, 1865 (M 6.0), 1867 (M 7.0), 1881 (M 6.2), and 1893 (Hsu 1983; Tsai 1985; Cheng and Yeh 1989). The 1815 earthquake, which was located in present-day Shihdin, in the eastern corner of the Taipei Basin, was a relatively deep earthquake, which caused damage in Taipei City. The famous and delicate Longshan Temple totally collapsed during this earthquake. The 1867 earthquake, which occurred offshore of Keelung in northern Taiwan, caused a series of tsunamis and several hundred people drowned. In April 15 of 1909, an 80-km deep, M 7.3 earthquake occurred in the Taipei Basin with its epicenter at Chunghe. This earthquake caused 9 deaths, 51 people injured, 122 buildings collapsed and 1050 buildings damaged."
In addition to the quake problem, the riskiest dam in Taiwan is the Shihmen Dam in the hills south and west of Taipei which supplies water to the city. The China Post reported on it two years ago in an excellent piece on Taiwan's urgent reservoir problems (which would probably make a great article for someone). A dam collapse caused by quake or a super-typhoon may flood Taipei in a short period of time, and knock out water supplies all over the north. Far more remote is the possibility of renewed vulcanism in the Datun volcano group just north of the city, which are usually described as extinct but which experts generally describe as dormant.

The Shihmen Dam also highlights an issue that Lin touches on, because it impacts so many areas of national life: because Taiwan still has no integrated national land policy plan, it cannot address many issues from control of construction along rivers that causes reservoirs to silt up faster than planned to the relocation and decentralization of the government.
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Economy Slackening

Economic forecasts for 2012 were downgraded slightly....
Taiwan’s economy is forecast to grow 3.85 percent in 2012, down 0.06 of a percentage point from last month, as data showed local tech companies pulling back on investment.

Semiconductor, display panel and dynamic random-access memory firms will slim down investments in the coming months owing to a significant drop off in export orders, an official from the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics said Feb. 22.
The background is the general economic weakness. With Europe mired in crisis, the US government in the grip of mind-blowing economic and foreign policy irrationality, and weakening demand from China, Taiwan is buffeted by forces beyond its control. Earlier this month reports said that exports had fallen for the first time in two years....
Taiwan said Tuesday that exports in January fell for the first time in more than two years due to weakening demand for the island's signature electronics and telecom products.

Shipments fell 16.8 percent year-on-year to $21.08 billion -- the first contraction since a 4.6 percent decline in October 2009 -- and dropped 12.0 percent from December, according to the finance ministry.

Exports of information and telecom products shed 26.7 percent from a year earlier while electronics fell 23.2 percent year-on-year, the ministry said in a statement.

Exports to the island's major markets, including China, the United States, and Japan, all shrank from last year, with the biggest decline of 25.9 percent in shipments to China and Hong Kong to $7.57 billion.
Economic growth the last quarter was less than 2%. Interestingly, AFAIK no one has claimed that Ma would have won bigger but for that; evidently the Taiwanese were above seeing the election in terms of transient economic change. Note the huge drop in China shipments, a sure sign of economic fall-off there. It would be too easy to argue that Ma has put all Taiwan's eggs in the China basket and now look what happened, or to take another shot at ECFA for not giving us a boost, but diversification of exports is a trick when major markets like the US and Europe are in the doldrums. The DGBAS had originally predicted Oct-Dec would see 3.69% growth but actual growth was only 1.90%.

In other news, foreign investment was a hair under $5 billion in 2011, a 30% rise. In 2006 and through the first nine months of 2007, under the isolationist, business-hating Chen Shui-bian, foreign investment was $24 billion.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Events that need your support

I don't have time for full links today, but I wanted to send some of this information around.....

Kevin Skelly fundraiser the 24th:
Kevin was in a terrible accident and is now in a coma. His family needs your support. The Kevin Skelly Support Group on Facebook is here.

Seen on Facebook:
I'm not sure if any of you have seen but an Axing mama in Ping shi has had a cruel attack on her shelter. Someone set fire to the animal food supply and the fire quickly spread killing over 60 dogs and cats. There are still over 100 dogs and cats there who are in need of food and blankets. If you can donate any food or blankets can you please contact Animals Taiwan 02-28338820 and we'll be in charge of transporting it up to ping shi to the dogs and cats in need.
Got this from a longtime reader:
I don't know if you're already aware, but there's a government initiative going on right now to try and improve the English on some gov't websites and it strikes me of being of interest to you. I guess the idea is to take it baby steps at a time, since they're not looking for serious revisions, but rather general pointers, like perhaps "fix everything." At any rate, the project is in the form of a Facebook event called 'Approve or Improve?' over at I'm sure it could use your input, and maybe you could inspire other foreigners to mobilize and flex their English muscles.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wind on the march in Penghu

Taipei Times reported last month, but I wanted to highlight it:
While strong winds may be a bane for tourism in Penghu during winter, they may yet prove to be an economic boon once the 45m tall wind power turbines and submarine power cables are all installed by 2016, which could generate as much as NT$13 billion (US$434 million) a year in electricity, academics estimate.

At present, giant wind turbines spin at two sites on the island — near the coasts of Baisha Township’s (白沙) Jhongtun Village (中屯) and Husi Township’s (湖西) Peiliao Village (北寮). Both wind power sites are operated by state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower).
Alas, the noise remains an issue for many residents, as it nearly always does around windfarms. Two years a local farmer made world headlines when he said the noise had killed 400 of his goats by keeping them awake at night. At present wind generates less than 5% of Taiwan's energy.

I posted an excellent article that identified some of the obstacles to wind and renewable energy expansion in Taiwan. The article observed that Tsai Ing-wen, if elected, might create a more favorable regulatory environment for renewables -- a lost issue, which should have had more play in the campaign. But it also argues that Taiwan's energy-intensive manufacturing sector makes it difficult to implement renewables.
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Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Beef Bull

Don Shapiro of the American Chamber of Commerce writes at Brookings on The Beef Beef that is impairing progress in US-Taiwan relations, with background:
Although it considered itself well-versed on the beef issue, an American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei delegation that visited Washington last autumn was still surprised by the vehemence of the criticism of Taiwan it heard from American officials on the subject. One high-level official described Taiwan flatly as “an unreliable trading partner,” for example, while another said the disagreement over beef had “cast a pall” over the entire bilateral relationship. Beef had taken on a symbolic importance far out of proportion to its monetary value of less than 1 percent of U.S. exports to Taiwan.

The background is that the two governments signed a protocol in October 2009 lifting most of the remaining restrictions on U.S. beef products that Taiwan had put in place following the discovery of a case of mad cow disease in 2003. Just two months later, however, the Taiwan legislature – in which Ma’s Kuomintang controlled some three-quarters of the seats – enacted a law that reversed some of those very provisions. Despite resentment at what it regarded as Taiwan’s reneging on the protocol, the U.S. government by early 2011 was willing to start preparations to resume TIFA talks. Then another obstacle arose when Taiwan rejected some shipments of beef found to contain traces of the leanness-enhancing feed additive ractopamine. Though ractopamine, widely used by American ranchers, had long been a banned substance in Taiwan, inspectors had not previously tested for its presence. Random inspections, and the rejection of many shipments, have continued over the past year, and the uncertainty has caused some big buyers such as Costco to switch to other sources of supply.

Whenever questions were raised last year about finding a solution to the impasse, Taiwan officials responded that nothing could be done before this January’s elections, for fear of sparking protests from consumer and farming groups that could escalate into a campaign issue. Although no promises were made about what might happen after the election, this month has seen a flurry of public comments from government officials and scholars that appear to be preparing the groundwork for a change in policy. Inter-agency discussions are currently taking place among the Council of Agriculture, Department of Health, and Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The likely way forward would be to replace the current zero tolerance of ractopamine with a defined limit on the amount permitted. In fact, in 2007 Taiwan had notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of its intention to set such a Maximum Residue Level (MRL), though it never followed through. But a major question mark would be whether Taiwan would propose – and the United States agree to – a compromise in which an MRL would be set for beef but not pork. Taiwan has no beef industry to speak of, but hog-raising is big business, and the pig farmers, who are politically well organized, are adamantly opposed to opening the door to competition from American pork.

Although the U.S. government and meat industry insist there is no scientific basis for a total ban on ractopamine, the Taiwan public may not be so easily persuaded, especially after several major food-safety scares in recent years. And the political delicacy of the whole issue was driven home two years ago when Su Chi, one of Ma’s most trusted lieutenants, was forced to resign as head of the National Security Council after his efforts to resolve the matter through the protocol with the U.S. were undercut by the legislature. It would therefore require a measure of political will and some skillful maneuvering to reach a solution, though acting four years before the next presidential election is perhaps the best time to risk taking a political hit.
The reason the public may not be so easily persuaded is that ractopamine is banned in 150 countries, including the EU. This suggests that there is no reason the US couldn't fall in line with the world and ban the stuff, thus improving the healthiness of its food products, opening up new markets, and removing a potential trade issue, but that would be too intelligent.

As Shapiro notes, the use of ractopamine also makes it easy for local pork producers to argue that US pork should be kept out of the market. This means that a proposed compromise, setting a defined limit on ractopamine exposure, may fail because pork producers would demand zero tolerance (not that local pork producers mind inundating locals with their untreated pig waste but god forbid we have trace amounts of ractopamine), meaning that the beef issue would simply be replayed over pork.

Fortunately the US has not held the beef issue against Taiwan in other areas. Arms, for example. Taiwan was nominated for the visa waiver program, but an extradition treaty has stalled since it would mean that Taiwan would have to hand over criminals residing in Taiwan with US citizenship -- who might also have Taiwan citizenship.

Shapiro lists some of the areas where the US and Taiwan could make progress, one of which is IP protection, where China once again rears its mercantilist head: apparently US business secrets are stolen by Chinese firms by poaching Taiwan employees of US firms in Taiwan.
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Vote Buying Prosecutions Begin

After the election, scattered vote buying prosecutions are the norm... Kaohsiung prosecutors go after the newly elected KMT legislators down there. Of the 9 spots in Kaohsiung, the DPP took seven. The China Post scribes:
In the Kaohsiung case, the defendants' relatives, friends and aides have been found to have allegedly offered cash to voters in return for their ballots, the prosecution noted.

The prosecution argues that Chien and Tung must have pulled strings behind the alleged vote-buying acts, or turned a blind eye to what they knew was going on, according to the Central News Agency.
The article notes that prosecutors in Taichung are going after aides of May Chin, the aboriginal legislator, for vote buying, though they claim she had no knowledge of it.

These prosecutions provide evidence for the assertions of widespread vote buying that helped propel the KMT to victory in the 2012 elections.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spot On

This meme has been running around the internet; here's a Taiwan version being passed around Facebook.
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! Delenda est, baby.

2012 Presidential Election: Belated Thoughts

Another four years, another election....

First, apologies for taking off after the election. I've never taken time off after an election before; usually the analysis of election results is meat and drink to me. But I've gotten burned out from blogging, and as I told many of my friends before the election, it seemed like a good point to take a break irrespective of who won.


Dan Lynch described why Ma won in a piece for (the notoriously anti-Taiwan) rag Foreign Affairs...
For their part, voters seem to have accepted Ma's contention that reducing cross-strait tensions improves the country's economic well-being.
That, in a nutshell, is the conventional wisdom, found across the western media in its reporting on the election. According to this conventional wisdom, the public felt that Ma's cross-strait policy was better than Tsai's and were uncertain of what would happen if they elected Tsai. Ma, this narrative informs us, was the stability vote.

Grand narratives like this appeal to us on multiple fronts. For the KMT and its backers in Beijing, Washington, and Wall Street, they confirm that indeed the KMT had the best policies. For the DPP, they have a consoling effect -- there was just no way to overcome the advantages enjoyed by the KMT. Grand Narratives thus work to absolve the DPP and its politicians of their own incompetence as well.

But grand narratives appeal to us in another way. When we talk about Grand Narratives with Big Words like Stability and Economy, we flatter ourselves that we are Big Thinkers, Big Thinkers who Think about Big Stuff. Grand Narratives thus directly appeal to our egos -- they legitimate ourselves as thinkers who think strategically, and best of all, we don't have to think about numbers!


Let's step back and consider a few things.

First, recall that for much of the election Tsai was either neck and neck or at times ahead of Ma until December. In mid-October the Global Views polling arm was shut down, apparently after pressure from the KMT, since it was showing Tsai ahead 4-6 points.

Why was Tsai in the race until December? It wasn't because the populace was enamored of her cross-strait policies or enthralled by the DPP's brilliant election campaign. Rather, the KMT ran the most inept major political campaign since the DPP's 2008 disaster. President Ma reversed himself on subsidies for farmers, floated a ridiculous cross-strait peace plan, and handed the DPP its piggy bank theme through government blundering, among many such sillinesses. This culminated in the disastrous smear of Tsai over the TaiMed case that backfired on the KMT.

At the same time, the DPP had been running a tight ball control campaign. The issues that the KMT had invented, Veep candidate Su's illegal farmhouse, and the ridiculous misprint on a calendar, hardly affected the campaign. The DPP had opportunistically seized on the piggy banks to whip up support.

We all know what happened. Two events occurred simultaneously, each important. First, the KMT stopped screwing up. The Ma campaign got back on-message and did what it did best, going negative and garnering support from its allies in Washington, Beijing, Big Business and Big Finance. As my friend Drew observed, Ma ran a much better campaign when he stopped trying to win. There were no changes in Ma's announced policies; rather, the KMT's tactics changed.

Simultaneously, the DPP suddenly became brainless. The TaiMed smear practically begged the DPP to play the martyr card. Instead, the DPP raised a similar issue with Ma about an old bank merger, playing right into KMT hands. In the race to negative, the party with fewer scruples is bound to win. But worse, the week before the election Tsai said she would institute a coalition government if elected. A number of my friends around the island pointed to that announcement as a major negative for her. Not only did it raise the specter of the failed coalition era of Chen Shui-bian's first administration, but it was predictably short on details. It was ridiculed by the KMT and according to analysts hurt the DPP in its southern base.

The counterfactual is obvious: if Ma's team had flatpetered the election during the last few weeks the way it had during the previous couple of months, Ma might have lost (and what would the grand narrative be then?).

At the tactical level, several other factors need to be addressed. First, the CEC's decision to place the election on Jan 14. For many students the Jan 14 date, at the end of the semester for most schools, meant that they would have to return home to their families twice, once for the election and then once again the following week for Chinese New Year. Many students had neither time nor funds to be traveling during finals week. Further, since the 14th was a working day, many factories refused to give workers more than a couple of hours off to vote, meaning that they could not return to their home areas in the south. By moving the election up from its traditional March date, thousands of young voters could not vote since they were not old enough. Yet another effect was that the election occurred before the traditional DPP holy day of Feb 28, meaning that the DPP got no morale boost from that holiday. The CEC's date choice could not have been better for the KMT.

Yet another factor was the money advantage. As one wag put it in the best line of the elections: "These aren't free elections for the KMT; they have to pay a lot." Julian Baum and Gerrit van Der Wees noted in a piece in The Diplomat...
In addition, the KMT’s large holdings of financial assets, corporations, and media outlets give it an abundance of resources, allowing it unrivaled capacity to spread its message and influence voters with advantages not tolerated by more mature democracies. In the election campaign just passed, for instance, the KMT out-spent the DPP by more than 10:1. Drained of support from Taiwan’s business community by pressures from the KMT and especially from China, the DPP had to rely on numerous small donations from the grassroots.

This asymmetry in resources is troubling since electoral campaigns are now waged heavily through TV advertising, and to a lesser extent in buying votes for cash, especially in the 73 district legislative races. While vote-buying is a criminal offense, often prosecuted, there were numerous reports in this election that the practice continues.
The far greater resources of the KMT, the result of 50 years of authoritarian rule, enabled it to mobilize many different sectors of society on its behalf. Such spending also equates to greater amounts of advertising, and any marketer will tell you that repetition is a key factor in getting public buy-in regardless of what the message is. People made much of big business support of the KMT, but just as important is the ghostly presence of people at polling stations across the land, quietly telling voters as they enter to vote KMT. Scary, especially to older voters.

Attention should also be paid to the widespread reports of election shenanigans. Claudia Jean has a long report on her blog. She argues that vote buying actually takes two forms. One is the simple giving of cash to mobilize votes. But another form shows the great resources of the KMT at work, if true.....
‘Vote buying’ also appeared to be widespread. The reason why we don’t hear much about it was probably the inaction of the law enforcement when it comes to the KMT. This may also be because the KMT changed their tactic – they paid potential green supporters NOT to go out and vote rather than asked them to vote for the KMT. The KMT workers either asked those people to hand over their ID cards and withhold them until after the election or directly threaten to do those people harm if their names appear in the register.
This tactic of "renting IDs" first appeared a few election cycles ago. The government sent a strong signal about what the judicial system should be doing when it transferred a prosecutor in Kaohsiung who did pursue such cases (article).

There were numerous anecdotal reports of other types of shenanigans, including what appeared to be deliberate counting errors and similar. Echo Taiwan wrote that ballots were counted so rapidly no double checking was possible. In other stations, he stated, police blocked people from entering to observe the count for a few minutes. And so forth.

This doesn't even get into the reports of problems within the DPP, faction and personality infighting. Claudia Jean discussed that in a recent blog post (here). She's a Hsieh partisan, so take with grain of salt. Bruce Jacobs, the well known scholar of Taiwan and of Chiayi's faction politics, argued in a piece in the Taipei Times a few days after the election:
Tsai initially did not listen to advice. Thus, for example, her performance in the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) debate with Ma was disastrous. After that, she improved her debating performance, but her key aides, who controlled access to her, remained limited to three young women. These aides were overworked and blocked access to Tsai herself. On several occasions her aides proved they weren’t up to the tasks facing them and the DPP.[In Jacob's favor is that this exact criticism of Tsai was made by DPP officials after her report to the party explaining her election failure (here).]

One area that concerns many DPP members is dealings with the foreign media. A highly respected Washington Post correspondent requested an interview prior to Tsai’s visit to Washington in September. Because a key aide of Tsai perceived to reporter to be unfriendly, the DPP did not grant the interview. The Financial Times, which also asked for an interview, likewise did not gain access. Thus, Tsai was unable to counteract the negative feelings among Washington officials, such as the White House’s National Security Council.

In another example, the DPP only translated into English the cross-strait section of the DPP’s 10-year plan. Some US-based professors had provided a full translation of the plan months ago. Despite there being no questions about the quality and value of the professors’ translation for the foreign press, a key aide to Tsai blocked its release.
Jacob's observation about DPP handling of the foreign press is particularly painful, since exactly the same thing happened in the 2008 election. Ma in fact made fun of the DPP's refusal to talk to the foreign press just before election day. You might argue that the foreign press is pro-KMT and pro-Beijing, especially the odious Financial Times, but it is the only game in town, and you have to play it.

Finally, the DPP's ground campaign failed to match the DPP's in many areas of conflict. My neighborhood was flooded with KMT propaganda materials; we got campaign literature from Tsai once. Superior KMT campaign intelligence and resources is anchored by the simple fact that the vast majority of key local officials -- neighborhood and precinct captains, school principals, township officials and so on, are KMT politicians. Whether due to lack of resources or strategic focus, the local level remains a KMT stronghold, and that is where elections are won and lost -- not to mention that KMT institutional control at the local level means that so often, vote counts are overseen by KMT officials.

The DPP's ground game also failed to educate its voters. In my extended family voters got together and madly determined how to split their votes between the DPP and the TSU to ensure that the latter got enough votes. In many areas it appeared some DPP voters opted for Tsai for president and then voted KMT for the legislature. Apparently a swatch of DPP voters thought it a good idea to hamstring their presidential selection by providing Dr Tsai with a legislature from the opposite party. Anecdotal evidence says lots of pro-Green voters weren't happy with Tsai's shift to the middle and didn't turn out -- weirdly, many southerners apparently thought they could get what they wanted by not voting. Clearly someone from the DPP needs to crack heads in the south.

In other words, anyone familiar with the ground offensives of both campaigns could easily construct a different narrative of the election, one in which the election was won because the DPP blew the campaign in the last few weeks, the KMT recovered from its inept opening campaign, the KMT's vast spending and resource advantage, and other issues on the ground enabled Ma to win. You might argue that the reports of election shenanigans are anecdotal; well then, so are the reports underpinning the conventional wisdom that people voted for Ma because of the stability issue. You can't reject one on the grounds that it is anecdotal but accept the other; that is merely an ideological position. Either you accept both or neither.

The nuts and bolts of campaigning are important because the actual number of votes at issue is small. The DPP's base in the presidential election is about 40%, as the 2000 (39%) and 2008 (41%) demonstrate -- the KMT's base is closer to 47-48%. In order to defeat the KMT the DPP has to collect nearly all of the tiny base of swing voters, just 8-12% of the electorate. Since a significant portion of this base is composed of light Blues who flatter themselves that they vote on merit instead of tribal identity and occasionally vote Green just to prove to themselves they are broad-minded, the DPP has its work cut out for it. At the same time it has to convince its mercurial base to come out (this election it did not, voter turnout in the south was depressed). The DPP reported in its post election report that after November its gains among independents began to erode....

In sum, the Grand Narrative is a macro level explanation with a nice ring to it, and makes both speakers and hearers feel they are participating in something important when it is put forward, but it doesn't account for Tsai's ability to take the lead at several points, and it fails to explain the victory of Ma (you mean his stability policy was so awesome he didn't even have to campaign?) while absolving the DPP of any blame for its incompetence and factional issues. No single factor, from the election date to electoral shenanigans to the KMT's money advantage to the KMT campaign's greater competence in the closing weeks, explains the KMT victory on its own. But taken together and in conjunction with the Grand Narrative, the KMT victory can be explained.


The worse thing about the Grand Narrative is not its status as a seductively incomplete explanation of what happened, but that it has become the basis for a whole class of pundits to make recommendations about what the DPP should do. For eexample, WantChinaTimes, the rabidly pro-China newspaper, gleefully ran such recommendations from ex-DPPers (here). DPP has to become more "centrist" in its China policy. It has to accept the 1992 Consensus. Such suggestions based on the Grand Narrative flooded both the Blue and Green media after the election.

Perhaps these are necessary, but what really needs to happen is fundamental changes in the way the DPP conducts elections. The DPP needs to pursue a Taiwan version of the 50 state strategy. Every local election, no matter how piddling, must have a DPP candidate; the KMT needs to be attacked at every level. The party should also hire professionals to conduct its campaigns. In the next Presidential election, the Chairman should not be the candidate, and a professional campaign manager should be hired, so that the Chairman can run the party, the manager can run the campaign, and the candidate can just run. Etc. No point in making changes to the China policy, even assuming they are wise, if the next campaign is run like this one was.

A news report on the DPP's analysis of the election failure is here.


In Taiwan the independence issue is one way that the north-south regional struggle for resources against the KMT colonial state plays out. Similarly, the issue of Taiwan economic involvement in China is going to increasingly play out as a 1% vs 99% issue* with Big Business following the standard corporate strategy of seeking handouts from the Taiwan government to pursue profits in China. There won't be any Golden Decade as Ma claimed in his campaign promises; instead we're going to get more of what we have now: increasing income stagnation, increasing income inequality, mediocre economic growth, and local governments continuing to live lives of quiet desperation. Other issues that affect income and resource distribution, such as the lack of meaningful and comprehensive land policies, the weakness of the environmental agencies, Taiwan's laughable climate and energy policies, or the continuing crisis in agriculture, will not be addressed in the next Ma Administration. One of the most important functions of Ma's China emphasis is that it draws attention from the rapacious policies of the Administration in other areas like land and the environment. I can't imagine what the East Coast is going to be like in 2016; better see it now.

The Taiwan identity issue is already settled and the locals are only going to get more Taiwanese as time goes by. Note that Taiwanese feel comfortable voting for the KMT because the KMT is incorporated as part their local identity. Hence this issue does not help the DPP as much as some might think. Far from making this sympathetic to the DPP's "Taiwan!" appeals, I suspect that DPP appeals to "Taiwan!" will sound increasingly obsolete, irrelevant, and offputting to the up and coming generation as time passes. This confidence in the Taiwan identity was pointed to by my friend Michael Fahey, who hollowed out the Grand Narrative of rational voters selecting the right policy, convinced by the KMT, when he observed that locals may have voted for Ma as a coldly pragmatic way of getting the benefits from China because they feel like they can take to the streets if he goes to far. In other words, they voted for Ma's China policy not because they believe his promises but because they have confidence in their ability to control him. Ma is just a tool.....


By party, the KMT gained 7 seats but lost 13, the DPP gained 13 but lost 5, independents and others won 1 and lost 3. Thus, the DPP netted +8, the KMT -6. Not bad, all things considered. Just 21 seats changed out of the 79 possible, leaving the KMT still in possession of the legislature.

Looking more closely, the DPP only held two of six by-election seats won from the KMT (Yunlin 2, Taitung). The other four were lost to the Dark Side. Looking at the seats the KMT gained, a total of seven: four were won back after the DPP took them in the by-elections, one seat taken from the independent in Miaoli who won in the by-election, one from an independent/PFP in Kinmen, and of course there was Kaohsiung 9, a gift from Chen Chih-chung, son of Chen Shui-bian, who split the green vote in a safe DPP seat to hand it over to the KMT. Argh.

The presidential loss, in other words overshadowed some real DPP successes at the legislative level. The DPP even won a seat in Penghu.

Still, the legislature is set up so that it appears the KMT will always have the advantage. Consider: for a total of 79 seats, the KMT garnered 48.18% percent of votes but won 60% (48) of the seats. The legislative election framework is so skewed in favor of the KMT that it needs less than 50% of the vote to maintain its control of the legislature.

At the party level, for the at-large seats, the KMT had 5.86 million votes, the DPP 4.55 million, the TSU 1.17 million, and the PFP 0.72 million. Every one of those votes for the TSU was wasted. Time for Lee Teng-hui to fold that party up....

Apologies for the length, hope you found it useful in stimulating your own thinking..... see ya in 2016!

UPDATE: Excellent comments and critiques below
REF: For those interested the USC China Institute has a video of a seminar on the election: Video from the USC China Institute
CEC legislative numbers by party and candidate:

*I lettered to the TT on this here. Ignore my error of adding Italy. Argh. Brain glitch.
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