Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Senkakus Irritant Watch: Bandwagoning Edition

Remember when Ma Ying-jeou said Taiwan was going to be a "peacemaker, not a troublemaker"? I bet you already forgot that. I bet you forgot that one of Ma's priority pledges before the 2008 campaign and early in his first administration was repairing relations with the US. Remember when Ma was pragmatic, along with his China policies? The p-word has dropped from the media. Yup. That thwap-thwap you're hearing is me patting myself on the back. Again (brace yourself, rant coming).

A new report from CRS was profiled in the Taipei Times today. The report, Maritime Territorial Disputes in East Asia: Issues for Congress (online at FAS), says that Taiwan puts pressure on Japan in parallel with China.
One issue for U.S. policy concerns trends across the Taiwan Strait since 2008, particularly the question of whether Taiwan’s moves to engage more closely with the PRC have created a greater willingness in Taipei to cooperate with China on issues in which it sees their interests as aligned, such as in the East China Sea. Some analysts argue that there is an issue for U.S. policymakers surrounding whether Taiwan coordinated with the PRC in asserting sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands against Japan amid rising tension in September 2012. Beijing has urged cooperation over the islands to advance cross-strait ties. Taipei’s officials have denied cooperating with the PRC. Even without explicit coordination, the parallel actions of the PRC and Taiwan in the current East China Sea flare-up have added pressure against Japan. Both the PRC and Taiwan deployed government patrol ships and military assets that raised concerns about the potential for accidental collisions and the escalation of tensions.

On September 25, 2012, Taiwan deployed 12 Coast Guard ships that escorted 60 fishing boats and fired water cannons toward Japan’s patrol ships. Furthermore, Taiwan dispatched military systems sold by the United States during the incident.
The government in Taipei is clearly attempting to stoke the Diaoyutai issue at home, to drum up some faux nationalism and to divert attention from the many problems the economy is facing. During recent exercises the military wore patches saying "The Diaoyutai are ours!" (DefenseNews). In the most recent exchange of water cannon fire between ROC coast guard vessels and Japanese ships, Chinese ships were hanging around. The two sides probably aren't actively coordinating, but of course they don't need to. Everyone knows the score and knows how they should behave.

For quite some time I've been arguing that the Ma Administration is deliberately using issue such as the beef issue and the Senkakus to perturb and irritate relations with Tokyo and Washington. People are finally starting to notice this (similar argument today in Taipei Times). Now the Congressional Research Service has called attention to the possibility.

I've heard US officials are unhappy with the incidents in the Senkakus. When Chen Shui-bian had a couple of democratic referendums, US officials excoriated him publicly. When Ma Ying-jeou's military confronts Japan in the Senkakus as China shadows events, a place the US is bound by treaty to defend, the US....oh yeah, what has the US said? Nada. All I can say is, Ma is just lucky he isn't pushing a referendum. Then he'd really be in trouble.

Let's not forget, the ROC is also strengthening its presence on the South China Sea islands. As if it wants to irritate relations with nations to the south.....

Really, what did the US expect when they supported Ma? That he would support them? This is a guy who spent his early life being groomed as an ROC ideologue.This is a guy who wrote his thesis on how China owns the Senkakus. This is a guy who dresses up and performs the Confucian rites with children dancing to him like an old-time emperor (remember? Vaguely, you do). This is a guy whose public speeches are filled with open references to Han Chauvinist ideology. This is a guy who publicly speaks as if Taiwan, the Senkakus, and Okinawa all belong to China. This is a guy who thinks he is President of China.

Good luck getting him on board, Washington. I'm sure you'll hear some very pretty words. Would you be having this problem if you'd supported Tsai Ying-wen? As my man Drew remarked today:
It seems the pragmatists were both Chen and especially Lee (those pro-independence firebrands) who maximized Taiwan's international space, saw China's bluffs, but recognized the value of engagement with caution without compromising their principles or spurning valuable allies. They were not dreamy Greater China ideologues. Funny that.
Daily Links:
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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lovely video of Taiwan, and some links

A gorgeous video from Gigabyte for a new product launch this week.

If you haven't seen the pics from '57-8 below this post, take a look. Meanwhile some links...

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.

Cool Collection of Pics from 1957 and 1958

Former US serviceman Tom Jones sent these around and eventually they made their way to me. Here's his story in Chinese. Visions of a lost Taiwan, in color. The last dozen plates are from his round the island scooter trip. Enjoy by clicking on READ MORE below:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Eating Bottle-nose Dolphins in Yunlin.

Make yourself ill.

One link here. With news videos.

Another information link from same blog is here.
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, January 27, 2013

Richard Bush on ROC 100th, Sept 2012

Richard Bush's speech to the Academia Historica in Taipei last September, up at Brookings this month. Bush is a major US government expert on Taiwan. The speech is studded with errors and omissions, most likely the result of a need to play to its audience. I'd like to isolate a couple of points. Bush writes:
Civic nationalism, I would suggest, is becoming the dominant type for a majority of Taiwan people. It is an attachment to the island’s democratic system and its norms of popular sovereignty and majority rule. To put it simply, it is an attachment to today’s ROC and all it stands for.
The last sentence has everything backwards. Taiwanese are attached to their democracy and link it to the ROC only to the extent that the ROC equates itself to Taiwan. The Taiwanese are hardly attached to the ROC's grandiose territorial goals and do not see themselves as the rulers of China. Moreover, as I have noted here many times, prominent ROC symbols, such as the flag are increasingly being reinterpreted by the locals as symbols of Taiwan. Of course, the attachment to democracy is not an attachment to the ROC and all it stands for -- to get democracy, the locals had to fight the ROC and all it stood for. But Bush can't say that to a bunch of crusty old deep blues at a national nostalgia fest, I suppose.
These differences between ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism and between territory and the state are not simply an abstract academic matter. They have significant consequences for cross-Strait relations. A Taiwan that cannot agree on these issues is a Taiwan that is in a weaker position visà-vis the PRC.
Skipping over his remarkably bass-akwards construction of ethnic and civic nationalism, Bush has been making this point about Taiwan's lack of internal consensus for a while (for example). This point is often made, but it is never made concretely. For example, Bush has never identified what would count as "consensus" or explained how such a "consensus" would help Taiwan concretely.

Indeed, does Bush really want Taiwan to internally resolve the issue of whether it is a territory or a state? Fact is, Washington analysts like Bush would be buying ulcer medicine by the case if Taiwan ever actually came to a consensus and formally resolved the issue of whether it is a territory or a state. Because everyone who has ever lived here for twenty minutes knows which outcome the Taiwanese would prefer. The actual consensus on that issue -- do nothing, hope we can muddle through somehow -- is what keeps Washington happy.

Ironically Bush already named some of the elements of the Taiwan consensus in another piece of his, a response to Bob Sutter he co-wrote with Alan Romberg (here with my responses). The actual, real consensus in Taiwan rests on the bedrock of Taiwan's democracy and is quite clear. So is the consensus about dealing with China -- everyone wants the economic benefits, nobody wants political talks. And nobody wants to pay to clean up the mess.

Further, it is hard to see how this alleged lack of consensus makes Taiwan any weaker than it already is in talks with China. Taiwan's problems are caused by China's rampant military buildup and growing economic might. There is little Taiwan can do about that. This situation is compounded by the fact that Washington has burned trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives over the last decade making central Asia and the Middle East safe for Chinese investment and expansion, instead of having its eye on the ball in Asia and investing in its people at home.

The truth is that Taiwan's divisions over China mirror the Beltway's own schizophrenic behavior -- it formally defines Taiwan's status as undecided but breaks out in hives if the I-word is mentioned. It lauds democracy, human rights, rule of law, and social consensus, but then supports the KMT, the party that benefits the most from ruling a divided society with a rough, imperfect democracy. It worries about China's growing power and influence, yet trades with it, transfers new technologies to China, trains its engineers and technologists, and invites its state-run economy to play in capitalist markets. Even Washington's China experts and punditocracy fill the airwaves with China commentary and advice to the government, while quietly doing lucrative consulting deals with Beijing. In fact, it seems to me that the real division and lack of consensus lies in Washington, and that as soon as the Beltway starts providing real leadership on Asia and displays a consistent, forward-looking, and concrete policy attitude on China, Taiwan will respond.

Lead, Washington.

REF: Bush once wondered aloud why China continued with the military build up since Ma was playing ball. Washington amazes me sometimes.
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, January 26, 2013

Two calls for papers

Handing out parking fees in Kaohsiung.

H-Asia passed these around, one on Taiwan in Dynamic Transition, the other on the Kennedy period and East Asia, click on read more:

Singapore Film Company Looks for Haunted Places in Taiwan and Elsewhere

January 25, 2013

Seeking input on relationship between famous hauntings and Asian culture and history for documentary
From; Christopher Laursen , (continue by clicking READ MORE)

A couple of interview Links

Blossom of a sensitive plant.

Michael Richardson interviewed several people on a recent trip to Taiwan, including....
Meanwhile, my post from last month: Free Chen Shui-bian? Think about it...
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, January 25, 2013

Big By-election in Taichung Area...not really

A K-town street.

UPDATE: Low turnout leads to close victory for KMT by a mere 1200 votes after Yen Sr. won by 39,000 the last time. Much better than I expected the DPP to do. But it also goes to show how Taiwanese bitch about political corruption, and then, when given the clear choice....

By-election in Taichung District 2 looks to be an easy KMT win though the DPP is pushing hard for votes..... the Taipei Times reports:
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) appears to be hoping that a conflict between Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Yen Kuan-hen (顏寬恆) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) could help it win tomorrow’s legislative by-election in Greater Taichung’s second electoral district.
Wait...what is the conflict the DPP hopes to exploit?
“Ma, who is the KMT’s chairman, has not campaigned for Yen, and Yen has not used the KMT’s logo during his campaign, nor has he emphasized that he represents the KMT,” DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said at a campaign stop in Greater Taichung.
...and the situation?
The DPP has promoted the by-election as a vote of no confidence in Ma’s governance in an apparent effort to neutralize the Yen family’s strong political presence in the electoral district, a traditional KMT stronghold which includes the districts of Shalu (沙鹿), Longjing (龍井), Wurih (烏日), Dadu (大肚), Wufeng (霧峰) and part of Dali (大里).
The Yen family is the family that runs the big Matsu procession that terminates at the Dajia temple (Check out this informative post from two years ago). Its patriarch Yen Ching-piao himself is a former KMTer who parted ways with the KMT because he was... umm.... too colorful. In reality he's independent of the KMT in the sense that the Byelorussian SSR was independent of the USSR, as I noted before. Yen Sr. is reliably pro-KMT and pan-Blue and Yen Jr. is running as a KMT politician. Yen is probably the most representative local politician in Taiwan, making a fortune from gravel operations, running a powerful political patronage empire, with tight links to the ruling party, and also cultivating links to China through religious and business links. I've noted on several occasions that one of the most important beneficiaries of the burgeoning cross-strait relationship is cross-strait organized crime. Actually I don't even know why I wrote that last sentence. It has nothing to do with the rest of the paragraph. Did I mention that Ma hilariously appointed Yen Sr. the Administration's ECFA spokesman?

But anyway, the Yen family comprises one of the most powerful political patronage networks on the island. They are solidly behind the son. The dearth of Ma and other senior figures is probably not indicative of any split, but rather is more likely a wish to avoid calling undue attention to the KMT's deep and abiding involvement with...colorful local figures (like Ma's secretary planning major gangster funerals here or the massive wedding of Yen Ching-piao's son attended by KMT bigshots here/here), or even more likely, the Yen family's lock on Taichung 2 is so strong that bringing out the big guns isn't necessary. As Frozen Garlic noted a while back:
There are two interesting stories.  Most of the attention will be on the contest to fill the empty Taichung 2 seat, so let’s start with that one.  The Taichung 2 district boundaries were drawn specifically for Yen Ching-piao.  His best town, Shalu, was put into Taichung 2 with the rest of his base instead of Taichung 1.  This created a bit of a population imbalance as well as a political imbalance, since the blue camp is quite a bit stronger in Taichung 2 than Taichung 1 and Shalu, where the KMT is particularly strong, exacerbates the difference.[1]  In fact, Taichung 2 is easily the blue camp’s strongest district in the old Taichung County.
I don't give the DPP much of a shot here to win. I think they can best hope to play the better-than-expected card when it's all over.
Daily Links:
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.

The Senkakus Irritant Pricked Again =UPDATED=

At the train station in Pingtung. Sign holding loons such as these sometimes take up residence at train stations around the island. The signs read, right to left: 1. The Bible prophecies disasters will increase. 2. Believe in Jesus and get eternal life. 3. God wishes your family peace. Either believe or die! Oh, and have a nice day!

The CNA account (Taipei Times) of the latest Senkakus spat with its presentation of the government's comically droll position: "Japan must be rational":
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday urged Japan to adopt a “rational” attitude about a Taiwanese protest boat that sailed into waters near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) earlier in the day.

“The voyage was a voluntary action by private citizens and should in no way affect Taiwan-Japan fishery talks,” said Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠), the deputy director-general of the ministry’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
The boat went to the island, the Japanese coast guard got in its way, then sprayed water from water cannons on it, and the ROC Coast Guard answered with water cannons [one moment please. I'm suppressing the urge to make phallic puns.] The ship from Taiwan then returned, its mission to plant a shrine on the island unconsummated [ok, let me have one bad pun.]

I especially love MOFA's admonition that Japan must be "rational." As if letting shiploads of loons into a disputed area to provoke two huge neighboring powers is rational. Such language seems intended to arouse Japanese pride even more.

And what if the Chinese ships had decided to intervene on behalf of the ROC Coast Guard vessels?  Or someone screws up and intervenes. I sure hope a protocol is in place to cover that contingency. The government said that the Chinese vessels had been warned off, just to show the two sides weren't cooperating -- as if their simultaneous appearance in location and time was just a coincidence. Sure. Cooperation doesn't have to be overt to be effective, and everyone involved knows what the game is.

The China Post scribed:
The seven people onboard the fishing vessel were Chinese Association for Protecting the Diaoyutais (中華保釣協會) Chairman Hsieh Mang-lin (謝夢麟), four fellow activists, the ship's captain, an Indonesian crew member and a reporter.

Hsieh previously told local media they were planning to install a statue of Mazu (媽祖) on one of the islands in the hope that the Taoist sea goddess would protect the safety of Taiwanese fishermen operating in the area.
The usefulness of "private" organizations as political pawns in the KMT Administration's game of using the Senkakus to irritate relations between Taiwan and Japan could hardly be better demonstrated. The results are also clear. Again the CP:
Su, however, said Tokyo has hinted that the incident could jeopardize a second preparatory meeting for the long-stalled 17th round of Taiwan-Japan fishery talks.

The meeting, originally set to be held in January or February this year, was meant for both sides to reach a consensus on fishing boundaries around the disputed Diaoyutai Islands.

At the first preparatory meeting held in Tokyo on Nov. 30, 2012 both parties failed to reach a consensus regarding fishing operations in the region.

The previous 16 rounds of fishery talks, dating back to 1996, failed to deliver concrete results and the talks, which were originally supposed to be annual, have been stalled since 2009.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang made this point in an interview a couple of weeks ago with the Taipei Times, arguing that the KMT is escalating tension on purpose:
Although the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration upheld the nation’s claims to the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) and the South China Sea, two areas that have seen escalating disputes recently, there is a “huge” difference between the policies of the DPP and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said in an interview on Thursday.

Washington assumed that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would promote stable cross-strait relations — until the Diaoyutai dispute took place, when the US realized there has been a great shift in the balance of cross-strait relations,” Su told the Taipei Times.

The DPP claimed sovereignty over the islands during its eight years in power, Su said, but this did not lead to conflict with Japan.

“Fifteen rounds of fisheries talks were held during that time, while only one’s been held during Ma’s five years in office,” Su said.
Su is half-right. Washington did assume that Ma would keep things quiet, both erroneously misreading Ma's fundamentally ideological mode of action, and wrongfully blaming Chen Shui-bian for "provoking" China. Unfortunately from what I see Washington hasn't meaningfully revised its opinion of Ma Ying-jeou. First important.

The fisheries issue highlights how Ma has screwed up relations with Japan. The DPP kept the fisheries talks going and kept the Senkakus issue from disrupting the relationship. Ma, by contrast, is a True Believer in a Greater Chinese Empire that includes Taiwan, the Senkakus, and Okinawa (Doubt me?). Remember in June of 2008 when the Premier sad he didn't rule out force in the Senkakus? That was after a Taiwanese ship captain had rammed/been rammed by a Japanese vessel. The Ma Administration's goal is to gently isolate Taiwan from its two big allies, Tokyo and Washington, so that the perception of increased distance and isolation will encourage the public to become resigned to the fate of annexation to China.

UPDATE: I was thinking about this post today and realized I'd missed a connection. The "activists" had intended to place a statue of Matzu on the Senkakus, ostensibly because she is a sea goddess. But Matzu worship is one of the areas of cross-strait cooperation between pro-China elements in Taiwan and the CCP (see this). I wonder if there is a hidden meaning to the Matzu statue.

REFS: Washington opposes actions that unilaterally change Japanese Administration of the islands
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.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ma: Human Rights to be included in discussions with Beijing

Because when you're hungry, what's better than a bowl of boils?

President Ma Ying-jeou sent a few ripples through the Taiwan-watching community this week with the claim that human rights should be included in discussions with Beijing (Taiwan Today):
ROC President Ma Ying-jeou said Jan. 23 that his administration is looking to expand Taipei-Beijing dialogue from economic and cultural affairs to human rights and the rule of law as part of efforts to strengthen freedom and democratic development in mainland China.

“As the first republic in Asia, the ROC is committed to pursuing freedom and democracy,” Ma said. “But years of martial law rule and cross-strait tensions have made us realize that this goal is unattainable without peace.”

Ma made the remarks while addressing the annual conference of Taipei-headquartered nongovernmental World League for Freedom and Democracy.

The event, held at the Grand Hotel in Taipei City, coincided with World Freedom Day, which is celebrated in the ROC and South Korea to mark the decision of 14,000 People’s Liberation Army soldiers to go to Taiwan instead of mainland China after being released as prisoners during the Korean War.
Ma's claim that the ROC was the first republic in Asia is laughable; I can think of two or three earlier ones. He makes this claim quite a bit, no one ever calls him on it.

A friend pointed out the obvious..... what did Ma say when he was inaugurated a second time:
"We hope the mainland can face some of the issues that have happened in the past and can treat dissidents well. We are looking at this from the point of view of kindness, not based on Western human rights values, but traditional Chinese values."
What was Ma talking about? Well, he's speaking at an event at a KMT landmark on a great day for the Chinese Nationalists. What can the reference to human rights possibly mean in that context, especially speaking to an organization formerly known as the Asian-Pacific Anti-Communist League, one of those far-right organizations that quietly proliferated in the bad old days?

Well, in what kind of talks would the KMT side be discussing human rights? Wouldn't need them for economic or cultural talks, the latter a topic just recently broached.

Oh yeah -- political talks. That's when they'd discuss human rights. But Ma has repeatedly promised no political talks.

Hopefully just the usual meaningless noise.
Daily Links:
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.

Three Days with FTV

This week I had the very great privilege of working on some travel segments for FTV. We visited tourist sites across southern Taiwan. It was really great seeing host Michella Jade Weng again and working with professionals in a demanding, high energy industry. It was also wonderful to return to Shuimen town and Sandimen on day 1, a place full of happy memories for me. Click on Read More for more!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

FTV Again

Having a fun time in southern Taiwan with FTV and host Michella Jade Weng making some travel shows. Today we headed up to the mountains of Pingtung to visit some of the local aboriginal villages, including Dewen in the mountains above Sandimen. The drive up was a sphincter-clenching nightmare of poor road surfaces and long sheer drops on a steep temporary road, since the main road is under repair. The views were unparalleled however. Dewen is working to develop tourism promotion. They have nature walks and trails, and local teachers show how snares for large mammals and birds are set. I'll have pictures up later. We also got a taste of local foods. The foreground dish is a famous one, but the squash served topped with ground peanuts was a new and delicious experience. They also had a chicken soup flavored with coffee beans, which was actually surprisingly good. This evening finds me in Kaohsiung getting set for more local fun tomorrow. I'll be back posting on Thursday.

BTW, this is my first blogpost from my eeePC with Linux Mint 14 Cinnamon. I put an SSD drive in it, hoping to see if it can work as a travel computer. Very excited about entering the world of Linux, and jazzed to be seeing a command line again, ever so much faster than a GUI.

In the meantime, slurp up some links:
Daily Links:
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, January 19, 2013

Please stand by...

Please stand by. We are experiencing technical difficulties.... getting Linux Mint running on my Benq eee PC. Check this space tomorrow when we return to our regularly scheduled content. In the meantime, contemplate this gorgeous butterfly. Shots like this are why I bought a 100mm macro lens.
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.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Taiwan's legislature stirs from its torpor, slashes budget, and other links

Several of my future dinners in a farm outside of Houli.

Enjoy some delicious links...
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.

Pigeon Cages

Look around you. They are everywhere, atop buildings, next to homes, in the back of fields. Pigeon cages, housing valuable racing animals. Check out this old piece on pigeon racing to see why they are so important. Click on read more to continue.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

DPP 'Fury' March Success

Morning traffic hurries past motorcycles parked by the train station in Tanzi.

LOL. Lots of different numbers out there for the DPP protest on Sunday. AP reports in an article that gives an excellent view of the situation, hitting on Ma's many failures:
Organizers from the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party estimated the crowd at 150,000, though Associated Press journalists on the scene put the number at no more than 50,000. There was no immediate estimate from police.

Since Ma’s re-election, his popularity has plummeted amid the failure of his China-oriented economic program to show results and nagging unease over Taiwan’s increasing orientation toward the mainland. Ma — whose approval rating now stands at around 15 percent — insists that tying the island’s high-tech industries ever closer to China’s lucrative markets is the best way for Taiwan to avoid economic marginalization.
Estimates: in any case this Tokyo paper claimed the police had announced 90,000 as did the China Post. VOA news also said 50,000 like AP. Taipei Times pegged it at over 100,000. Obviously the Taipei Times is a lot closer to the truth than the international media. Lowball crowd estimates are a problem with the international media, see this old post from 2008 (at bottom) as well as this one which gives a detailed discussion of why crowd counting is so hard.

The last sentence there in the AP piece is especially delicious, pointing out how ridiculous Ma's claim is that globalization = marginalization without ever saying so directly. Good work. Unfortunately AP is still writing the pro-Beijing claim "Taiwan separated from the mainland (in 1949)" hogwash. Not much point in pounding on that dead equine any further.

Jenny Hsu turned in another of her uniformly top-notch pieces on the rally, though with no crowd estimate, in WSJ:
Playing a clip from a speech by Mr. Ma during a 2006 rally to depose the former DPP leader Chen Shui-bian, Mr. Su said the Hong Kong-born president should “take his own advice” and remove himself from the office when the public is no longer behind him, referring to his current 13% support rate.


The island’s export-reliant market has been in doldrums since the onset of the euro-zone crisis in 2010. The slower-than-expected recovery in the U.S., along with weakening China demand and stiff competition from South Korea’s booming tech industry, have stunted Taiwan’s exports, which contracted 2.3% in 2012 from the previous year.

But supporters of the KMT say Taiwan’s sputtering growth is an inevitable result of the global downturn. The government has rolled out policies, such as offering foreign-based Taiwanese businesses tax breaks to move part of their operations back to the island to boost local employment, in attempt to pull itself out of the mire.
Frozen Garlic has an excellent post on the DPP's campaign to get Ma recalled, noting:
First, the video they showed of President Ma calling on his supporters to recall President Chen in 2006 was extraordinary. Ma systematically destroyed all the arguments he might make today to delegitimize the DPP’s actions. If I were the DPP, I would buy TV commercials and play that clip over and over. I’m sure Ma never dreamed that speech would come back to haunt him. Politicians never expect that they will someday be in the same position as that incompetent, immoral jerk they are attacking.
The recall is certain to be a failure, and is dividing the party (predictably). Perhaps somehow all that energy could be directed into developing the party's local networks and ensuring that each and every elected position in Taiwan's local governments has a DPP candidate running for it.

There's a certain irony in contemplating how the general agreement that Ma sucks has actually hamstrung the opposition's ability to fight him. Not only that, the focus on Ma is wrong. The DPP needs to make a general case that Ma is symptomatic of the KMT as an incompetent, out of date, do-nothing, party.

I'm sure you're curious, on a day in which the DPP packed around 100,000 souls into Taipei to protest the President, what Ma himself was doing that day. As protesters exercised democracy in the streets, the President visited the tomb of former dictator Chiang Ching-kuo to commemorate the anniversary of his death. Almost as if he was sending a message of wistful regret that he couldn't clap all the protesters in irons or send gangsters in to beat them up as was done in Chiang's day.
Daily Links:
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.

in Taichung, even the dogs....

In Taichung, even the dogs dress like betel nut girls...
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, January 14, 2013

DPP Documents Treatment of DPP Politicians by Justice System

The DPP released a new document this weekend detailing the treatment of DPP politicians at the hands of the Justice system. This document contains a comprehensive list of cases, brief sketches of each case, and their (non-) resolutions. A list of references is provided at the end. For the sake of brevity I have removed most of the introduction. The list, which is very long, is available after the READ MORE button. For the full and most updated version, the link on the DPP blog is here.


The Unfair Treatment Suffered by Former Democratic Progressive Party
government officials in Judicial Investigations and Trials
Democratic Progressive Party
Taipei, Taiwan

Generally speaking, prosecution offices and the MJIB are the agencies that launch investigations. Therefore, this report will primarily focus on major cases in which DPP members have been subjected to arbitrary investigations launched by prosecutors or the MJIB or indicted in abuses of prosecutorial powers. This report will list numerous cases in which DPP members who served or are serving in government have been subjected to unfair and unjust treatment at the hands of the judiciary and provide brief explanations.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hegemonic Warfare Watch: Magical Thinking Phase

One way to get a bike clean: wash it down at one of the ubiquitous self-service car washes.

The LA Times reports that Japanese and Chinese warplanes played footsie over the Senkakus.
Chinese and Japanese fighter planes tailed each other over a disputed cluster of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, raising alarm that a miscalculation could set off an armed confrontation.

Chinese military authorities ordered two J-10 fighter planes to perform what China called “verification and monitoring” on Friday after a Chinese transport plane was tailed by Japanese F-15 fighter jets. The incident above the islands, known as Senkaku to the Japanese and Diaoyu to the Chinese, was the most potentially dangerous in months of escalating tensions over the islands.
This was followed by the usual warnings (same article)
"There is far more at stake here than a small cluster of islands. Crisis-mitigation mechanisms need to be urgently reinstated and communication increased between Beijing and Tokyo to reduce the risks of an accidental clash or escalation," warned Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, China and Northeast Asia project director for the International Crisis Group, in an editorial last week.
Humanity's dominant mode of response to its problems is magical thinking and in our age, the two primary theaters of operation for magical thinking are advertising and politics. Crisis mitigation mechanisms and increased communication.... It's just magical thinking. Accio....solution! Imagine this as an essay question for an exam: Please explain how crisis-mitigation mechanisms will solve this problem. Be concrete. 

Good luck with that one.

Let's be concrete. The crisis isn't caused by a lack of communication or crisis containment mechanisms. It didn't arise because of "tension" or ambiguous and conflicting claims. It is caused by China's desire to expand its territory at Japan's expense. It can only be solved when that desire ceases.

Hence "crisis-mitigation mechanisms" -- whatever they may be -- won't work because they help legitimate China's expansionist tendencies, either by treating them as a non-issue for future treatment ("Look, we've got to solve this immediate crisis. We can deal with the cause later.") or by treating the Chinese claim as morally equal to the Japanese one. Either way, China wins. They also help China by lowering the risk that war will occur before Beijing is ready, a fear which might otherwise deter China from taking risky actions. Perhaps they will help extend the era of peace by giving Beijing the idea that it might get the Senkakus via negotiations brokered by the other powers....

The Abe government in Japan also announced increased military spending this week, thanks to the threat from Beijing. This will be adduced by Beijing as further evidence of Japan's "re-militarization" (to understand that, see this good piece from CSIS on the way Beijing says it sees Japan). China is also deploying the old "creating tension" tactic it used so successfully against Taiwan during the Chen years:
China accused Japan yesterday of “creating tension,” a day after China’s air force scrambled two fighters in response to a flight by Japanese jets to intercept a Chinese military plane near Japan-controlled islands, the latest incident between the countries following months of tension over the disputed islands.
Chinese officials have also attempted to use its old trick of transferring tension from the Beijing-Taipei relationship to the Taipei-Washington relationship, in this case, attempting to move tension between Beijing and Tokyo to the Tokyo-Washington relationship.

Jens Kastner, a local freelance reporter, argued over at World Politics Review that Japan may turn to Taiwan as it confronts China. It that happens, what will the Abe government find? A President and party allied to China in its quest to expand and happily enabling that expansion by "reducing tensions" across the Taiwan Strait -- which enables China to ramp them up elsewhere. How cooperative will such a Taiwan be? Imagine if the United States had supported the DPP candidate instead of Ma Ying-jeou. Japan (and the US) would then be facing a friendly government in Taipei with no place to turn to but Tokyo and Washington.

One key piece of positive fallout from Beijing's push in the Senkakus and the South China Sea may well be its ability to paint the next DPP government as "provoking tension." China has made it blatantly obvious that Beijing itself is the source of tension....
Daily Links:
  • Criminalization of adultery? You have to be caught in the act, and satisfying the standard is really difficult. It remains a total waste of police and prosecutorial time.
  • Executions put Ma Administration on the spot. Actually, the death penalty is quite popular in Taiwan. 
  • People's Daily on how Chinese tourists in Taiwan are treated like cattle by their travel agencies.
  • If Fourth Nuclear Plant isn't completed, electricity prices will rise! Shock doctrine fallout: if the government didn't make so many empty, stupid threats in order to get people to accept nukes, people would probably trust nuclear power more. Anyone remember the brownouts in the '90s when the government was trying to get the fourth nuke plant accepted?
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, January 11, 2013

DPP March Sunday

The DPP is holding a major march on Sunday in Taipei to which it hopes to attract 100,000 people. The meeting spot is the intersection of Ren Ai Road and Yi Xian Rd at 2, the march begins at 3. The march is to protest the handling of the economy and other issues by the Ma gov't.
Daily Links:
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.

WantWant media monster merger maneuvers

My wife and daughter attempt to lure a puppy dumped in our neighborhood so they can take off the collar left on him by the idiot who dumped him. Near a hilly area, our neighborhood is a big favorite for dumping dogs.

WantWant's drive to create a media monster by annexing Next Media hit a snag at the National Communications Commission (NCC) this summer when the NCC demanded that it meet three conditions:
  • Want Want China Times Group Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) and his family sever all ties with the management of CtiTV’s news channel
  • China Television Co’s (CTV, 中視) news channel be changed into a non-news channel
  • an independent editorial system be set up for CTV’s news department
which WantWant then publicly rejected:
...Chao Yu-pei (趙育培), special assistant to the chairman of Want Want China Broadband, yesterday said that the Want Want China Times Group could not accept the NCC’s conditions, saying that “The company will not sell CTI Television Inc. (中天電視台) or alter the operating status of China Television Co. (CTV, 中視).” He went on to stress that “The NCC does not have any legal authority to demand that we delink the Want Want China Times Group and CTI, or change CTV’s operating status....
WantWant and the other buyers of NextMedia agreed to all of the conditions last week when it announced that it was putting CiTV in a trust run by the Industrial Bank of Taiwan and then submitted a proposal to the NCC for handling the second and third conditions listed above. Throwing in the towel?

Previously the KMT had been against legislation for handling the media monopoly issue, but reversed its position the other day. Legislation sailed through the legislature. The KMT news organ passed this around today:
The legislative Transportation Committee on January 9 reported out of the committee amendment bills to the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法), the Cable Television Act (有線電視法) and the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) proposed by the DPP caucus.


According to media reports, the KMT party central hoped that the whole matter would be dealt with only after the NCC proposed an exclusive draft bill on anti-media monopoly in March.

The anti-media monopoly amendment bills sailed through the Transportation Committee in a hasty manner on Wednesday. Yesterday, NCC Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) called on Premier Sean Chen (陳冲), expressing the NCC’s view that many parts of the amendment bills were impracticable. Premier Chen concurred with Shyr in that regard.

In a rare press conference last night, an NCC official commented on the anti-media monopoly amendment bills, saying that the NCC, as the competent government agency, considered the adoption of the amendment bills by the Legislative Yuan as the worst possible outcome.

The NCC official said that the DPP’s proposal in the amendment bills to separate media operations from the financial services industry would adversely affect the financial industry’s willingness to invest in the media industry because the proposal was too draconian.
Hmmm..... lots of backdoor dealings there. Was the NCC concerned the bill would limit its power? Was the KMT concerned that the bill would stop the WantWant deal? I'm taking Door B on that one. Reuters reported it that way -- KMT blocks bill:
In an about-turn on Friday, the ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) rejected the anti-monopoly media law proposed by Taiwan's major opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a move that is expected to swell numbers at a rally planned for Sunday against China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou.
MEDIA NOTE: Reuters version of The Formula for China's claim is subtly delicious:
China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's KMT fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule eventually, and by force if necessary.
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.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday Links

Fence, Taichung.

Busy as heck this week. Enjoy some links
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.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

1940s Japanese Map of Taiwan

1940s Japanese map of Taiwan.
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, January 07, 2013

Will Taiwan Independence Rock the World in 2013?

Love getting out in the morning to see what bugs are hanging. Alas, he spun just as I hit the shutter.

Michael Mazza, longtime commentator and observer on things Taiwan, argues in Foreign Policy that in 2013 Taiwan independence could be an issue that rocks the world, with three other similar "surprise" issues:
Taiwan Independence

.......But while Taiwan's businesspeople enjoy closer ties with China, the average Taiwanese voter continues to move toward independence. Over the last 20 years, the portion of citizens of Taiwan identifying as "Taiwanese" has increased from 17.6 percent of those polled in 1992 to a whopping 53.7 percent today; those identifying as "Chinese" has declined over the same period from 25.5 percent to just 3.1 percent today. Support for independence has nearly doubled over the last two decades, from 11.1 percent to 19.6 percent. Support for immediate or eventual unification, meanwhile, has more than halved, from 20 percent in 1992 to 9.8 percent in 2012.

Economic integration is apparently failing to halt what Beijing sees as a troubling trend. With a cross-strait trade agreement and a slew of other, easier deals already on the books, Beijing now expects Ma to discuss political issues. But Ma doesn't have the domestic political support to pursue political talks -- in March 2012, two months after his reelection, 45 percent of those polled said the pace of cross-strait exchanges was "just right," but the share of respondents answering "too fast" had increased to 32.6 percent, from 25.7 percent before the election. Any Chinese shift toward a more strident Taiwan policy could portend a new crisis in the Taiwan Strait sooner than many expect, as a lack of progress on these issues may buttress hawks in the new Xi Jinping administration. And America would surely be dragged in: Even low-level coercive measures against Taiwan -- a top 10 U.S. trading partner and security ally -- could throw U.S.-China relations into a tailspin.

Taiwan independence makes a sexy title component, but the real issue is that Beijing wants to annex Taiwan. Mazza here correctly if subtly identifies the problem: Beijing may well get impatient with the lack of progress toward annexation under the Ma government, and take some kind of more militant position.

Mazza's numbers for support of Taiwan independence are too low. Other polls show it at 70% or more (for example).

The interesting thing for me here is the Ma Ying-jeou factor. During the Chen Shui-bian Administration Beijing pursued the tactic of declaring Chen "provocative" and accusing him of disturbing Taiwan-China relations. One purpose of this was to discredit Chen internationally. Sadly, the international media gleefully piled on. But another purpose of that tactic was to transfer the tension in the Beijing-Taipei relationship to the Washington-Taipei relationship, enabling Beijing to manage Washington using the policy of "anger". can't do that with Ma Ying-jeou. Because Ma is ostensibly Beijing's ally and chosen one, they can't attack him the way they attacked Chen Shui-bian. Ma actually constrains Beijing's freedom of action on Taiwan even when he is cooperating with it (though as we have seen, he permits Beijing to ramp up tensions elsewhere since it has Taiwan well in hand). Ma also highlights the continuing problem Taiwan's democracy poses for the CCP: he has little public support, let alone public support for political talks. Moreover, the flow of opinion polls and other data is open and public, meaning that no one can fool themselves or others as to the extent of Ma's weakness.

Taiwan's democratic politics thus restrains Ma in two key ways. First, it prevents him from taking public action to annex Taiwan to China. Second, Beijing no doubt hoped that Ma would do something about Taiwan's democracy. Suppressing Taiwan's democracy, a daily reminder that people in the Chinese cultural sphere are as capable of democracy as any people, is surely a key policy goal. If Taiwan were taken into the Chinese empire, Beijing would have to make all kinds of tough decisions. Two systems? Then its other territorial holdings would clamor for democracy (why should Taiwan be different?). Yet, as the experience of Ma for the last few years has shown, Taiwan's democracy, however imperfect, is often robust and capable of defending itself. Ma is thus limited internationally and domestically.

Be careful what you wish for...
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.

What Beijing Fears

People in China copying the Taiwanese WantWant media monopoly protest tactic in criticizing the government's closure of a newspaper there.
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, January 06, 2013

Thanks! Really Appreciate your letter!

A young woman contemplates the computer screens aboard the colorful metro cars on the Xinbeitou line out to the hot springs in Beitou. Hence the tub shaped computer center.

Last year I got contacted by a couple heading out to Taiwan. They had been inspired by my Huffpost piece from a couple of years ago. Yesterday they sent me a great letter that totally shows the great cycling potential of Taiwan and the silliness of the government in pushing Sun Moon Lake (bleah!)

Hi Michael - I wanted to let you know that we had a fabulous time biking in Taiwan, so thanks again for your article that inspired our trip. We ended up biking the following:

Taipei to Baling
Baling to Wuling Farm
Wuling Farm to Puli (over Wuling Pass!! - thankfully it was dry)
Puli to Quanzelling
Quanzelling to Maolin
Maolin to Kenting
Kenting to Taitung (via 200 and 199)
Taitung to Hualien
Taroko Gorge
train back to Taipei

The trip far exceeded our expectations. The riding was fantastic, the people could not have been friendlier or more generous and the food was outstanding!!

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.

Taichung 46

Gorgeous day yesterday, so I headed for the Taichung 46, a magnificent little loop south and east of Dongshih, right off the 8. Accessible, lovely, and a great workout, I highly recommend this road (map link for map above). Click on READ MORE to see more.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Taiwanese young people are with Chomsky Update

Young people against the WantWant media monopoly.

Noam, you rock!
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.

Quickie Poll....

Spider waits inside flower....

Taiwan tourism people want to know.... have you foreigners ever participated in any of the following four activities? Leave the answer in a comment below

1. Pingxi Lantern Festival
2. Dachia Matsu Procession
3. Yenshui Fireworks Festival
4. 101 Stairway Climb

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.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Pandas: Reviewing the Promises

Attendance at Taipei Zoo, 1999-2012. The pandas arrived in Dec of 2008. Figures for 2012 do not yet include Dec, which should add at least 225,000.

Heh. It was four years ago this month that the Annexation Lardbombs exploded at the Taipei Zoo. They were delivered on Dec 23, 2008, and went on display a month later, to a brief flurry of absolute madness. Profoundly political and not the least bit a demonstration of goodwill, they were handled as a "domestic transfer" under CITES, one of the many quiet ways that the Ma government has capitulated to Beijing, as my round-up post above notes. They were named "Reunification" in Chinese. The Zoo's annual budget for them was over a million US$, and it wasted $10 million US on the enclosure for them, according to AP.

Meanwhile, let's review those promises from the heady days of late 2008.
Zoo officials expect the two giant pandas to attract more than 6 million visitors in the first year, saying they will issue numbered slips to visitors at the panda hall to prevent them from waiting in long lines.(TT)
Six million! Zoiks! Meanwhile I wrote at the time:
Based on these previous crazes, there will undoubtedly be another craze for the pandas, simple creatures, the public will queue up in long lines for a short glimpse of the rotund bamboo chewing machines, leading commentators to write about how successful the Capitulationist Raccoons are.

But the fact is that such crazes, normal in Taiwanese life, have short half-lives, and this one will fade as it dawns even on the easily-led primate herds of Taipei that observing pandas is as unique and fun and interesting as watching granite erode.
Of course I was right, the whole thing was another one of those "we'll make money by subsidizing China" scams the pro-China crowd is so fond of. I wrote at the time:
It's a very Chinese gift somehow, that gets Taiwan to pay to starve its own resources for the sake of China. Indeed a perfect metaphor for Taiwan-China relations.  
If you eyeball the chart at the top, you can see that there is a bulge for the pandas but the general trend is flat and falling since 2002. Essentially officials were predicting a doubling of attendance thanks to the presence of two furred machines for turning bamboo into shit. The exact opposite actually happened.

How long did the craze last? Zoo attendance figures by month for 2008-10:

The major portion of panda-money'em lasted through May, with another small bump in the summer. After that, it was business as usual, with attendance figures in the excellent fall weather actually below those of the same time the previous year. The pandas are an expensive failure. I hope the next DPP president has the stones to send them back and spend the money on the popular Formosan Bears and other less political creatures.

REF: Information from the Zoo's 2012 quarterly report (4th quarter).
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.

WantWant Group Already Hard at Work

Animal Hospital in Taichung on Yingtsai Rd north of Taichunggang Rd.

The WantWant Group's ability to slant and control the news was once again on display this week. CTI cut criticism of the WantWant purchase of Next Media from a concert:
China Television Co’s (CTV) controversial removal of remarks against media monopolization made by Wu Ching-feng (吳青峰), the lead singer of the popular band Sodagreen (蘇打綠), during his New Year’s Eve performance in Greater Kaohsiung from its rerun of the festivities continues to brew, with scores of netizens calling the TV station “shameless and despicable.”

Prior to his performance of Days Without Cigarettes (沒有菸抽的日子), whose lyrics were written by exiled Chinese democracy activist Wang Dan (王丹), at Kaohsiung’s E-da World theme park on Monday night, Wu expressed his opposition to media monopolization on stage in front of tens of thousands of fans.

“From my perspective, the media should be an open platform through which the truth is conveyed, rather than something that attempts to monopolize [the market] or seeks to manipulate you and me,” Wu said.

However, Wu’s rhetoric was cut from the rerun aired by CTV, which was in charge of broadcasting the New Year’s Eve celebration.

CTV is one of the many media outlets owned by the pro-China Want Want China Times Group, which also owns CtiTV and the Chinese-language newspapers Want Daily, China Times and China Times Weekly.
Remember that previously WantWant papers had gone after students who criticized them. I wish more people in their thirties and forties were out protesting this. The WantWant media deal is an unmitigated disaster for Taiwan's democracy, not merely because it increases China's influence over the local media, but also because WantWant's owner has already signaled he is going to curb Next Media's environmental and political investigative reporting.
Daily Links:
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.