Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Linkfest

Weeding the sidewalk garden...

Too busy to blog today, so let's catch up on some links:
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Friday, June 28, 2013

When will the American Left learn about Taiwan? Eli Clifton in The Nation

What is wrong with the US Left on Taiwan and China? Too often, my fellow lefties are peering at East Asia through thick Cold War goggles. The latest example of the ignorant Cold War lenses that shape the thinking of the US is Eli Clifton's godawful article in The Nation this week.

Just skim it; it's largely a waste of time. Instead pick up J Michael Cole's excellent rebuke of Clifton's commentary at The Diplomat:
Those are perfectly legitimate questions, and we’re all for transparency in the funding of research institutions — especially when it comes from abroad. The problem is that the article’s claims are based on two assumptions that belie a poor understanding of the think tank world and, more importantly, the maddeningly complex workings of U.S.-Taiwan relations.

On the first issue: U.S. think tanks receive funding from a plethora of governments, institutions, foundations, universities, and individuals. Some of those donors, for various reasons, choose to remain anonymous. For example, the Brookings Institution’s 2012 annual report shows one anonymous donor in the $1,000,000-$2,499,999 category, and three in the $500,000-999,999 range — the same bracket as the “problematic” TECRO identified in the article. That same year, TECRO’s donated between US$250,000-US$499,999 to Brookings, which is hardly a strident advocate of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Like a lot of other foreign entities, the Taiwanese government funds a number of other think tanks in the U.S. There is nothing unusual, or even illegal, in this.

Moreover, while the article focuses on TECRO’s financial contributions to AEI, it makes absolutely no mention of the much more substantial — and oftentimes less transparent — donations to U.S. think tanks and academic institutions by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government, wealthy Chinese individuals, or corporations with strong business interests in China (to that we can also add the co-optation of retired U.S. generals and government officials via highly lucrative corporate positions). Nor is it said that through those institutions, the PRC is attempting to sever U.S.-Taiwan ties, end U.S. arms sales to the island, and encourage the perception that the “re-unification” of Taiwan and China is inevitable, by force if necessary, even if this goes against the wishes of Taiwan’s 23 million people.

In short, by being so selective, the article completely omits the tremendous influence that the much stronger party in the dispute, China, has on U.S. policy on Taiwan.

The second major problem with the article is that it assumes that TECRO was using its (presumably un-kosher) influence on AEI to push for arms sales — especially 66 F-16C/Ds — at a time when, as anyone who follows U.S.-Taiwan relations closely would know, Taipei was dragging its feet on arms sales and, later on, seemed to be doing everything in its power to kill the F-16 program. In other words, rather than dictate to the researchers at AEI, Taiwan was funding analysts that were growing increasingly critical of and impatient with Taipei’s passive attitude to arms procurement — the exact opposite of what the article claims.
Of course China is omitted, that practically goes without saying. Argh. The idea that TECRO wants arms sales is part of the Cold War view that lefties still use to assess East Asia, also present in Lee Fang's piece from last year which makes exactly the errors that Clifton does. In this upside-down view of the universe, F-16 sales to Taiwan "militarize" the conflict between China and Taiwan, while apparently there is nothing China can ever do to militarize the conflict....

Walter Lohman observed that Brookings, also a recipient of TECRO funding, hosted DPP Chairman and likely presidential candidate Su Tseng-chang at a reception a couple of weeks ago, which is certainly not something the KMT-run government wants to see, yet TECRO gives money to Brookings. Some friends of mine who were there told me Su was warmly received... good!

The other reason this article peeved me, in addition to its by-now bog-standard Leftish ignorance of Taiwan, is that all the stuff that Cole writes about is available on this and other political blogs, including Cole's own, as well as in the local media. Clifton didn't have to do much, just send around emails to us and we'd have been happy to explain everything to him. *sigh* Why ever do they think we blog?

Great work, J. Michael.
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Some gossip on the TPP

Gossip drifting over to me ears from inside the Beltway: apparently Taipei is signaling Washington privately that despite what it is publicly saying, the Ma Administration does not want to become part of the TPP. One wonders what private protocols have been negotiated between Beijing and Taipei over closer links to Washington. We already know the Administration doesn't want the F-16s despite the noises it makes publicly.

Anyway, believe or don't, as you please. Just passing along some stuff whispered in my ear......

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Taiwan and Renewables at JapanFocus

JapanFocus has an excellent piece on Taiwan's energy situation in int'l comparison.... and some good points about the silliness of objections to renewables:
To illustrate our proposition, let us suppose that the Taiwan government said today that the entire nuclear power fleet would be phased out over five years, and would be replaced by a series of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants, rooftop solar PV, and wind power. The scare stories are that this would cover Taiwan in photovoltaic cells and wind turbines; that it would be prohibitively expensive; and that it would be unreliable since power could be generated only when the sun shines or the wind blows. All these claims are false. The reality is that just a few mirror farms using molten salt technology as heat sink would be needed, taking advantage of the fact that China is now committed to CSP and will be driving down the costs. (See our article on CSP (co-authored with Ching-Yan Wu) at Japan Focus here) The land area needed in Taiwan would be no more than 62.5 square km (a square of sides less than 8 km) – which is as nothing when compared with Taiwan’s land area of 32,260 km2, and comparable to the land currently devoted to Taiwan’s advanced science and technology parks. The Hsinchu park totals 650 hectares; the Central Taiwan park 1400 hectares; the southern Taiwan park 1608 hectares – totalling 3900 ha or 39 km2. CSP plants generating half the entire nuclear output would occupy an area only marginally larger than this – and generate power 24/7 in a way that is infinitely more reliable and safer than the current nuclear facilities. And – this is the central point – this would catapult Taiwan into a world-leading position as supplier of CSP key technologies and equipment while creating domestic job opportunities as well. Such a strategy would also facilitate Taiwan’s urgent need for industrial transformation from a lower to higher value-added innovator. 
The world needs to get down to zero carbon within the next two decades, especially major polluters like the US, China, and Taiwan, if we're to have any hope of containing the coming climate disaster.
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Monday, June 24, 2013


Above is a pan of Puli on Saturday morning, taken from the Cheng Pao hotel. Full size.

Third time is charm, they say. The last two tries at Hehuanshan I failed to make it past Tayuling, unable to sleep above 2000 meters. But I had done them from the Taroko side, which everyone says is harder. This time I did it from the Puli side, which is clearly easier. Would I make it? Click on READ MORE below to find out!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Get 'em young, train 'em right: dope testing for schoolchildren in Taichung

Steve contemplates the beauty of a soon to be drug tested landscape

Don't miss Far Eastern Sweet Potato's disturbing post on the apparent pattern of organized crime attacks on critics of Beijing in Hong Kong: a preview of what will happen here? It certainly worked that way in the martial law days. But here at home in the Intelligent City of 2013, the City is mandating massive drug testing for school students (Chinese). Taichung AmCham sent around an English summary:
While the city had previously announced plans to increase the numbers of students pulled out for urine drug testing, this week saw the announcement of some firm numbers--including a pledge to conduct a minimum over 4000 such tests on students in junior and senior high schools and vocational schools. This compares with a mere 193 such tests conducted last year and only 71 conducted so far this year. The city in February announced the standards for determining which students will be targeted, which ranged from the very specific, such as if the parents of the student have a record of taking drugs or the student is found in an internet cafe. Other standards are considerably more subjective, such as if the student arouses suspicions of a fellow student and is backed by a teacher or simply exhibits ‘odd behavior’. They also announced in February that the policy does not require parental consent. Other actions announced include plans to try and get all students, campuses and communities to act as enforcement gatekeepers and a plan for schools to ‘intimidate’ students by telling them drug abuse harms the bladder, which could lead to them having to attend school in diapers. 
This program incorporates some of the worst features of Taiwan schools, including the use of students to rat on one another, a feature that begins from the first day of elementary school. "Being found in an internet cafe" can trigger a drug test? And exhibiting "odd behavior?" This is sick. There will be many false positives and as in all things official in Taiwan, the real dopers will soon learn how to defeat the test. Soon everyone's locker will look like Jude Law's refrigerator in Gattaca, with bags of clean urine hanging from every nail... and if a test is positive, will they test again? And if it is positive, will that result in a permanent record, arrest, and trial? And who is paying for all these tests? The stupidity of this is monumental. You can see how students will use it to hassle kids who are different or who they have grudges with...... this isn't enforcing drug laws, it's enforcing conformity....

Hopefully this program will stay, and die, here in Taichung.....
Daily Links:
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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Taiwan-Phils Fishing Pact? Probably not....

One of the great joys of biking in Taiwan is meeting all the friendly people.

With Taipei and Manila agreeing to forego the use of force in settling disputes at sea at a recent meeting, a pact which enormously favors Taipei since Philippines' boats rarely poach in Taiwan waters, but the reverse, alas, is all too common, the possibility of an actual fishing pact between the two sides is being raised. Discussions (a second preparatory meeting) are scheduled for July...
Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs director-general Benjamin Ho, in an interview with Taipei Times, said his government wants well-defined coastal areas where fishermen from both countries can operate freely.

"Our goal is to sign a fishery agreement with the Philippines ... We will continue to negotiate with the Philippines [on that issue]," the Times, a major newspaper in China and Taiwan, quoted Ho as saying.

Ho added that the next meeting will likely be held in July involving both countries' fishery, foreign affairs and maritime security officials.

The report added that the second preparatory meeting to take place in Taipei will "pave the way for fishery talks between the two countries."
Over at the East Asia Forum, a commentator from the Philippines has a nifty piece discussing the possibility of a fishing agreement between Manila and Taipei. The last of Taipei's demands in the shooting case, the call for a fisheries agreement, was the most significant, he says. The writer observes:
Yet a fishery agreement at this point in time could be disadvantageous for the Philippines. For one, Taiwan has a more developed commercial fishing industry than the Philippines. In fact, at present, the operation of Taiwanese fishing vessels off Batanes and Cagayan in northern Philippines has been a perennial complaint of many local Filipinos, notably artisanal fishermen since many poachers were caught well within coastal or municipal waters. Thus, any joint fishing cooperation in the overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones of both countries will only increase Taiwan’s advantages. For some, a fisheries agreement would essentially amount to legalising poaching under the façade of cooperation.

There are also practical impediments to an agreement to cooperate to curb illegal fishing. Foreign poaching is rampant in northern Philippine waters, and losses are tremendous, amounting to some P75–P150 million ($US1.8–3.5 million) every year. But because of its inadequate maritime law enforcement capabilities, Manila was only able to apprehend 108 foreign nationals for illegal fishing from 2006–2012. The Philippines’ limited enforcement capabilities would also make it difficult for it to monitor or supervise the conduct of joint fishing activities.
He also observes that the "demanding, haughty (if not outright bullying)" way in which the Ma Administration demanded the agreements has been offputting for Filipinos. Indeed, fishing associations in the Philippines are already demanding that Manila put a stop to any negotiations:
It described a potential deal as being like handing the nation's marine wealth on a silver platter to Taiwan at the expense of the sovereignty and territorial rights of the Philippines' 100 million people.

"Taiwan wants unlimited fishing access in the Philippines and that is the real score and the Manila government seems like ready to give in to the request," the group said in the statement.
See also The Manila Standard. It seems likely that in the end negotiations will stall over domestic opposition in Philippines, and the situation will return to status quo ante, with Taiwanese fisherman poaching and Philippines being able to do little and less about it.

A Taiwan-centric government would make maintenance of relations with Philippines a key priority. Let's hope that the public bullying that Taipei inflicted on Manila during the fracas over the shooting of the fisherman does not appear in the private talks over the fisheries pact.
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DPP Chairman Su's visit to the US

Went out yesterday to collect bug pics for a post but didn't shoot any good ones. But I did find this lovely bit of mimicry. Leaf mimicry is common (and beautiful) among butterflies and moths in Taiwan.

I blogged on DPP Chairman Su's visit to Taiwan over at Asian Correspondent
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Monday, June 17, 2013

Wind Turbine Problems in Miaoli... Wait a second

A protest against the Infravest project in Yuanli winds down.

UPDATED: Ketty Chen has a much longer and better piece on her blog

The Taipei Times ran an article on the wind power protests in Yuanli in Miaoli today. I'm a longtime proponent of wind energy, back to when I was working in Washington DC writing on US energy policy in the early 1990s. It was then that I became a huge wind enthusiast.

When I first heard about the protests in Yuanli a while back I assumed that some of the locals were engaging in the common tactic of using public "protests" as a way to extract some cash from the the big firm. I've encountered this on many occasions before, most notably on this one. I went up there a couple of months ago on my bike but I arrived soon after the protesters left. So I was quite intrigued to hear that the student protesters had gotten involved, and that Dr. Ketty Chen, wise in the ways of things Taiwan, would be heading down to Miaoli to scout the situation. Those two facts alone suggested I might be wrong.....

A number of things struck me about the article.....
He learned that the firm intended to build 14 wind turbines, each capable of generating 2,300 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy, along the township’s 2km pristine coastline.
I've biked this coast a zillion times. There is no "pristine coastline" here. Check GoogleMaps, the satellite image there is old (map link) and gives some idea of what used to be there. There are concreted ports, "improved" stream mouths, ponds, roads, bike paths, and a seawall on either side of it. See this Taipei Times photo that was with the article. Just south of the port the dunes are protected by fences (image). Note in that image the bike path sign.... it's an enjoyable set of paths, winding among the wind machines at some points...

...which leads to another thing that bothered me rather deeply:
They apprehend the low-frequency noise generated by the turbines and fear they might develop a condition known as wind turbine syndrome from living so close to them. Although the condition has yet to be medically recognized, a number of scientists believe there could be a correlation between a higher incidence of health problems and depression due to long-term exposure to the low-frequency noise generated by wind turbines.
Actually, it's not a case of "yet to be medically recognized." "Wind turbine syndrome" is, at the moment, known to be a form of psuedoscience, right up there with the anti-vaccine movement, global warming denialism, creationism, and similar. Wiki has an excellent page on the impacts of wind power. It notes that in the last decade there have been eighteen peer reviewed articles on turbines and health, finding nada. Many observers have noted that communities targeted by anti-wind activists are the ones that worry about wind turbine syndrome. As the Wiki page points out, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) sardonically noted that wind turbine syndrome has a cure: money...
The second factor is whether people derive income from hosting turbines, which miraculously appears to be a highly effective antidote to feelings of annoyance and symptoms."
It should be intuitively obvious that with two decades of operation of wind machines around people, wind turbine syndrome should be robustly appearing in communities that host wind machines, among wind energy researchers and engineers, and so on. No such body of data exists. Interested readers can google "wind turbine syndrome" and bone up on the topic. This article from Slate is a good start.

Despite the positioning of the article as "big business vs the local community" to me this one still has a strong feel of the kind of thing where nobody is on the side of Right, though I have no doubt that opponents are sincere in their opposition. Alas, not every case of residents fighting city hall is the Miramar Hotel fiasco redux. If residents of Yuanli really want to remove something of proven toxicity from their environment, they might think about that fossil-fuel fired power plant just up the road in Tunghsiao (visible in the top picture, ghostly in the background). That thing is going to kill and sicken far more residents of Yuanli than the wind machines ever will.

Bottom line: the worries over wind turbine syndrome can be cured with a healthy injection of cash. Someone needs to take the lead on that. It would also be nice if someone introduced Taiwan's big firms to the idea of managing community relations so that this sort of thing is stopped before it starts.

REF: this image shows the art gallery discussed in the article. It is located here. The bike path goes right past it. Beautiful grounds, well worth a visit. Also, in 2008 residents of a village in Taoyuan defeated an InfraVest plan to deploy wind machines there. UPDATED: Infravest Taiwan's backgrounder on the issue.
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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Blast from the Past: June 6, 1913, 'Terrible Campaign' Launched in Taiwan

The Japan Times reprinted a piece from a century ago this week:


‘Terrible campaign’ launched in Taiwan

Military operations against the tribes in northeastern Taiwan were commenced at dawn yesterday. The government forces consist of 3,000 men, of the police and native troops. Mr. Uchida, Chief of the Civil Administration, is on the scene. General Sakuma, Governor-General of Taiwan, will be in the field early next month.

The Governor-General, it is believed, has planned one of the most terrible campaigns for the subjugation of the savage tribes living in eastern Formosa.

Most of these tribes have been brought under the rule of the Japanese Government, but there is one, called the Taruko [now rendered Truku], that has never recognized the sway of foreigners. The tribe lives around the upper reaches of the Takkiri River [Taci Jili River], a locality surrounded by the most rugged and precipitous mountains in Taiwan. The tribe is composed of 20,000 savages of the most ferocious type, and the Chinese Government, when it ruled Formosa, never attempted to subjugate them....
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Friday, June 14, 2013

The Disappearing East Coast

A beetle takes wing.

I've blogged many times on the destruction of the East Coast by the forces of development, on the magical transmutation process by which local lands are seized and transformed into profits for big developers with the apparent connivance of local government officials. A very representative case is the disgusting Miramar Hotel development project just north of Taitung city, but Hualien is also being ravaged by "development". This week it was local Amis people complaining about the county government's surprise annexation of tribal lands...
Karo said he and his neighbors have received a notice from the county government, asking them to tear demolish their homes and move away from a plot of land right on the border between Fenglin and Guangfu (光復) townships. The county wants to build a stray dog shelter on the site.

“I wonder if the county government considers dogs more important than people, so it wants to drive us away to make way for a dog shelter. But is not the government’s job to take good care of its people?” farmer Cunsing Rokateh said. “The problem is we do not have another place to move to even if we were willing to move.”

Namoh Nofu, an Aboriginal rights advocate who is from the area, said that in the past decade, the county government has planned development projects for about 1,400 hectares of land around the border area of Fenglin and Guangfu townships, which is the traditional domain of the Amis villages of Tafalong and Fata’an.

“The development projects include car-racing tracks, a camping park, golf courses, holiday resorts and an ‘eco-friendly industrial park,’” Namoh said. “However, the county government has never consulted local Amis villagers before coming up with the plans. It simply pretends that it does not know these are lands on which the Amis of Tafalong and Fata’an villages have lived for thousands of years.”
A map of the area (source)(GoogleMaps link)

The Taiwan Environmental Information Center put out some information on it:

The alluvial fan known as Cidihan in Hualien County between Fenglin Town, the Mataian River, the Hualien River, and the Wanli, has been designated the "Fenglin, Hualien County Comprehensive Development Plan - Wanjung Devleopment Zone". However, for many years the area has been the traditional croplands, grazing lands, and hunting grounds of the neighboring Tafalong (Taibalang) and Fata'an (Mataian).  Down to the present day the two communities still have many tribal people engaged in farming in the Palicanlican and Takomo areas.
According to the TEIR, the Hualien County government's stray dog shelter is merely the camel's nose in the tent. Once the land is actually seized, the government plans to put in -- please swallow what you're drinking so you don't spew it all over your keyboard -- an international Formula 1 race track (no, not kidding) taking up 70 hectares, a light airfield, a landfill, a high tech industrial park and an "international class love dog park" (國際級愛狗樂園). Man, you just can't make this shit up....

The Taipei Times article said that the exact ownership is locally known but has not been formalized. The TEIR piece observed that a spokesman for the local people said that they have never given up their rights to the area. In 2008 they applied to receive protected status but the government has been delaying processing the application. Wonder why.....

Cases like these are only the ones that receive publicity; there are many others. See the East Coast now, over the next couple of decades, it's going to be concreted over....
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AmCham Taichung 2013 America Day, Sunday, June 30th

It's Sunday, June 30th, 2013. If you want to have a stall or visit, for details click on READ MORE below

Thursday, June 13, 2013

BREAKING: Phils Investigators hold Phils Coast Guard Criminally Liable

Phils Investigators fault Phils Coast Guard....
The National Bureau of Investigation has recommended the filing of criminal charges against the Filipino coast guards involved in the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman in northern Philippine waters last month, the Inquirer learned on Tuesday.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

LuvStock this year at The Refuge Jul 12-14

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Taipei Times Editorial Page on history: say what?

A vendor waits for customers

Lately the strange rightward shift in certain editorials of the Taipei Times has sent any number of people scurrying to their keyboards to ask me WTF is going on with those editorials. This week's piece  was hard to classify....
The effort continues and only last week, Taiwan supporters were excitedly clamoring over the release of a declassified CIA document from 1949 which said that from a legal standpoint, Taiwan could not be considered to have been part of the ROC. All that is fine, but in the end, no amount of legal documents, historical findings, maps, obscure quotes or other materials will convince Beijing to abandon its longstanding claim that Taiwan is a renegade province of China that needs to be “reunited,” by force if necessary.
Does the Taipei Times really imagine that anyone who studies these matters thinks if they wave a document that Beijing will suddenly change its mind? Probably there is a nutcase or two who thinks that, but no one sober does. Who is the Taipei Times talking about here?

Actually, no one was excitedly clamoring, for I was on the discussion list where the document appeared in its wanderings around the web, that appearance being the one that triggered the article in the Taipei Times about the report "CIA report shows Taiwan concerns". Erudite list members quickly pointed out that the document was released in 1993. Hence, no clamor. Just a document of historical interest. This did not stop the Taipei Times from making the same point again in the next paragraph.
Beijing’s recent behavior with regard to its territorial claims in the South China Sea, or the even sillier contention made more than once during the past weeks in the Chinese Communist Party-controlled media that Okinawa, Japan, might also be part of Chinese territory, should be enough to drive home the reality that historical facts and international law will not influence Chinese thought.
So I'll make the the same point again: no one seriously believes Beijing will pay attention to international law. But the editorial goes on to repeat the same point a couple of more times, in case you missed it the first two times...
....Relying on prayers and entertaining fantasies about a Eureka document that will succeed in deflating Beijing’s claims where everything else has failed serves no purpose other than delaying an outcome that should not be inevitable.

....However, Taiwan should not kid itself — old maps and declassified missives are a waste of time, no matter how valid the cases they make.

....Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Russians, the French and others would have been foolish to sit and wait for the Nazis as they advanced across Europe armed only with legal documents and maps.
Yes, we should have a consensus on resisting China. But part of constructing that consensus is building a shared identity. And that identity has to have a past that presents a strong and true alternative to Beijing's false claims. That past must be plausibly legitimate. That's one of the key uses of history, and of documents like this.

Further, knowledge of the past is extremely useful in summoning help for the present and future..... One can imagine how the TT's position would play in reality:
Taiwan independencista: You should support Taiwan independence!
American Shiao Ming: Why? The Chinese say Taiwan has been part of China for centuries.
Taiwan independencista: Never mind that! We are looking to the future! We don't believe we are part of China!
American Shiao Ming: Why not? Aren't you Chinese? Weren't you given back to China in 1945!
Taiwan independencista: I don't know! Who cares!? Why is this history important?! What I think now is more important!
American Shiao Ming: Ok, sure. Whatever.
The flaw in the Taipei Times' position is simple: China legitimates its position via appeals to history (among its many approaches) and it is necessary to know that history in order to respond to those claims. Moreover, since history legitimates, proper use of it can help others who might want to rally to Taiwan's side to support us. We are not just talking to Beijing here, but to the whole world, including uncaring and uncommitted Taiwanese at home. By legitimating our position through law and history, we define ourselves as different from the expansionists in Beijing who ignore law and history. Key!

The Taipei Times should take notice that it is common for people who delve deeply into the history of Taiwan to have very little support for annexing it to China, and for the political parties that advocate annexation. Instead of accusing people of searching for a magic bullet, perhaps the editorialist should make a better attempt to understand the uses, functions, and effects of historical knowledge.

One of the great victories of the KMT in shaping the Taiwan consciousness was getting the Taiwanese to care so little for their own history. Let's not ape that trend.

UPDATE: J Michael responds here.
Daily Links
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Daily Links, Monday, June 10th

As a day of riding in Miaoli came to a close, we found ourselves above Liyutan Reservoir with the sun falling into the west. Yesterday was gorgeous.

Enjoy some links for a rainy monday...

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SOAS Postgraduate Summer School -- Taiwan

For bigger size go here.

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Sunday, June 09, 2013

And now for a lighter moment: Greater Taichung Named Intelligent Community of 2013

Digging for the fuel of Taiwan's domestic political economy: gravel.

After a long day of riding in the hills of eastern Miaoli -- the bike gods gave us lovely weekend weather this week -- I cracked open the Taipei Times to find this tale: Greater Taichung Named Intelligent Community of 2013. As a longtime Taichung resident, at first I thought someone had spiked my wine with something stronger, but then gradually I realized I wasn't hallucinating. The article said...
It said Taichung, boasting a sound infrastructure, represented a good combination of technology and cultural development.

“The rise of Taichung over the past decade has been a well-planned, unwavering act of collaborative team-building under the vision of Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強),” ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla said in a statement.
I thought of other articles:
Taichung's convenient geographic location and the business-friendly environment has made the central city a favored location for organized criminal gangs to set up operational bases....
...and of course, the May 2013 poll which named Tainan as the best city in which to live, whereas the Intelligent Communityof 2013 came in 17th. I thought the last part of the award announcement was especially sweet....
The ICF said a relatively low jobless rate of 4.4 percent and annual economic output of US$30 billion are part of Taichung’s success.

“This city understands that a great place to live is not one that only dominates world export markets in areas such as precision manufacturing, machinery and silicon wafer production, but goes to the next level and becomes a great cultural center,” Zacharilla said.

Liao said some judges had told her that they were impressed by Taichung’s ability to integrate technology and culture, which made technological advancement not just an impersonal development, but a driver for a higher living standard.
There's so much you can say about this. For example, the city's annexation of Taichung County in December of 2010 meant that it annexed all the SMEs that form the base of the precision manufacturing in the "city" -- companies whose development had zero, zip, nada to do with Mayor Hu (hey, what's unemployment in all those mountain communities of "Greater Taichung" again?). Speaking of unemployment rate, look up the stats -- Taiwan's overall unemployment rate is about 4.2%, which means that Taichung is actually marginally underperforming (look at the unemployment data for 2012, when the city was likely applying). Well-planned? I don't want to discuss that, it would make me urk up dinner. But a "great cultural center"? If anyone told me that this city was a great cultural center, I'd get him out of the sun, which was obviously affecting his brain. Remember when Mayor Hu destroyed the city's authentic and awesome music scene by shuttering 300 bars and restaurants which had been improperly registered (...for years under his benign rule). Here's a piece I wrote a couple of years ago on the politics of the city, and how Hu's performance had negatively affected KMT presidential election chances in the area....

It's odd because Taoyuan County was one of the seven finalists, and if you had to pick a place in Taiwan with a roaring economy, plenty of authentic culture, and lots of newly-built infrastructure, Taoyuan beats Taichung hands down. For culture there's nothing in Taichung to compare with Daxi or Taoyuan's historical pond system....

REF: here is the actual announcement, whose disconnect from reality approaches a kind of lyricism.
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Friday, June 07, 2013

Happenings: LSE Workshop

Dragon boat rowers, Tainan

On tap: a workshop at LSE entitled: “Taiwan Youth Ambassador Programme Workshop: Unexplored Taiwan” and AmCham Taichung June Happy Hour

Click on READ MORE below....

Friday Night Lites

A night market in Wanhua.

Apologies for the light blogging, but the end of the semester here has been brutal. Waay overloaded with work.

Another reason I haven't blogged much is because I'm waiting for the release of the video of the Philippines Coast Guard vessel shooting at the Taiwanese fishing craft. There doesn't seem to be much more to say, since the Taiwan government hasn't moved off its ridiculously intransigent position, still taking the absurd position that Philippines should accept responsibility before the investigation terminates.... for example, from Ma Ying-jeou himself:
“This is the first incident which has taken place since the Taiwan-Philippine Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Judicial Matters was concluded in April,” stated Ma, adding that if the case could be brought to an end with an impartial conclusion so as to render justice to the victim, the ROC government would lift the eleven sanctions leveled against the Philippines. By doing so, Ma stated, he believed that Taiwan-Philippine relations would become even stronger.
As I chuckled sourly before, for the Taiwan government, an "impartial" investigation is one in which Manila accepts fault. The KMT government takes essentially the same position in the brochure in the post below this one. Sad. This is also the position taken by Dennis Halpin two weeks ago in a very strange piece in The Diplomat which was basically an empty rehash of the KMT government line with some significant reshaping of events. As commenters below the piece noted, it was highly misleading. Consider this passage:
On May 11 the public outcry in Taiwan was already high. Understandably, Taipei was very concerned with Manila’s evasive attitude in handling this crisis. As the aggrieved party, Taipei urged Manila on May 11 to agree within seventy-two hours to conduct a joint investigation, in addition to asking for a formal apology. Taipei also requested Manila to start negotiations of a bilateral fishery agreement to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again in the future.

During this seventy-two hour period from May 11 to May 14, there was only silence between Taipei and Manila. If, at this critical moment Manila had taken immediate, consistent and concrete steps to build mutual trust with Taipei, the standoff would have been largely resolved. Taipei needed to be reassured but, regrettably, Manila kept sending the wrong signals.
Haha. The "72 hour period" is actually the period when Taipei issued an ultimatum to Manila to kowtow or face sanctions. Note the verbs: "Taipei urged" and "Taipei also requested". Taipei neither urged nor requested. It set out threats and conditions. These two paragraphs are a total travesty in which the terms ultimatum and sanctions are omitted, completely misleading the reader as to the reality of the situation. Further down, finally, the term sanctions is introduced.


Meanwhile, back at the farm, the KMT was protecting its real constituents, the 1%. Commonwealth Magazine had another excellent piece on Taiwan's doleful tax problems and its obedience to the stupidity of trickle down economics.
May 3 was a normal Friday, seemingly just like any other. But away from the glare of Taiwan's pervasive media, without any debate, conglomerates, Taiwanese businesses operating overseas and majority Kuomintang legislators teamed up to block an amendment to Taiwan's Income Tax Act that would prevent companies from avoiding taxes by booking and keeping their profits overseas.

The revision, which had already cleared its first reading in the Legislative Yuan (a bill has to clear three readings to become law), was removed from the body's agenda and sent for consultations between majority and minority lawmakers, to take place out of the public eye.
Read the whole article, it's excellent. This happened quietly, but the furor over the amendments to the Accounting Act has forced both President Ma and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang, to apologize for one of the more despicable moments in bipartisan screwing of the public by the two parties. Ben Goren has an excellent round-up:
Taipei Times cartoon critiquing the midnight Friday amendment of the Accounting Act (會計法) by the Legislative Yuan which appears to have been designed to exonerate and clear of wrong doing a large number of public servants, including currently jailed gangster politician and former independent legislator and Taichung County Council speaker Yen Ching-piao (顏清標). The DPP are divided on this as apparently some of their members aided the passage of the amendment without first getting consensus within the caucus.

According to the report, the DPP wanted the amendment to clear hundreds of professors facing possible indictment but the KMT wanted it to cover city councillors as well so they made a deal and pushed it through. In a blatant piece of convenient hypocrisy and double standards, the KMT surprised no one in refusing to also include decriminalizing the misuse presidential state funds, something that might have benefitted former President Chen. On hearing this news of law being made to retrospectively figuratively relocate people back across the line from criminality to innocence, Chen allegedly tried to hang himself in prison.
The Taipei Times put it succinctly today:
The amendment, passed at the last minute in closed-door cross-party negotiations on Friday last week before the legislature went into recess, was supposed to exempt research grants given by the government to professors and elected officials’ special allowances from being audited.

However, the word “teaching [faculty]” was missing from the amended act’s Article 99-1, which means professors may still face prosecution.

Meanwhile, convicted officials, such as former Non-Partisan Solidarity Union legislator Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), who has been in jail since Feb. 19 after he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for using nearly NT$20 million (US$668,500) in taxpayer money to visit hostess bars, will be released once the amendment is promulgated.
Yen Ching-piao, you may recall, runs his central Taiwan legislative district as his personal fief and is widely reputed to be one of the island's wealthiest and most

The Executive Yuan isn't going to veto the bill, says the article, because the error was typographical, according to the Premier, and because the preamble to the bill clearly says it includes professors. The bill exempts Special Funds, slush funds provided to most major political positions which appointees may basically use as they please. President Ma was indicted and tried for downloading them into his personal accounts, a fact which no one disputed. Ma's defense was that they were intended by the KMT government for just that purpose. Chen Shui-bian was tried for doing that as well and cleared in the original trial and on two appeals. Last I recall, another court had sent the charge back down for retrial.

If the bill doesn't include professors, well -- auditing pesky professors might become just the antidote to suing them. Let's hope the law is read as the Premier says.

As for our economy..... a few posts down I took a quick look at the "stimulus" the government is touting, a worthless number too low to have any effect. The KMT government undercut its "stimulus" by quietly asking all government departments to implement an across the board 8% cut in 2014 budgets. There is no stimulus.
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Phils/Taiwan Cringe: ROC reps pass this around

Here are the two pages of a brochure the TECRO (ROC representative) offices in the US are passing around. Look carefully at the map on page 1, it includes the Senkakus, showing how these territorial claims are linked in ROC (Chinese expansionist) propaganda and shows the "overlapping" EEZs of Philippines and Taiwan. Its use of international law is selective, to say the least: as a friend pointed out, there's no territorial waters around the Japanese islands and no EEZ extending into the Taiwan Strait. There's a bigger view of it on my Flickr account here.
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Monday, June 03, 2013

Taidong Development in a picture

Taidong Protest shared this on Facebook. It shows how in one small area of Taitung several hotel projects are going in that will wreck one of nicest areas on the east coast. In the center right, the small circle shows the bitterly opposed Miramar Hotel, just plopped on a lovely beach via a process that gives every appearance of involving developer-local government collusion. For non-Chinese readers, in each description, the number in the center is the size of the development in hectares, while the bottom number gives the number of hotel rooms. Visit the east coast now because in even five years it will be changed.
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Sunday, June 02, 2013


A mountainside slides away....

The CNA reports:
One person was killed, two were critically injured and 17 others suffered less serious injuries in a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck central Taiwan at 1:43 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Fire Agency.

It is the most powerful earthquake to have hit Taiwan so far this year.


The earthquake was centered 30 kilometers east of Nantou County Hall at a depth of 10 km, the Central Weather Bureau said on its website.

The strongest intensity was in Tsaoling, Yunlin County, where it was recorded at 6, according to the bureau.

The temblor was felt in most parts of Taiwan, with Sun Moon Lake in Nantou, Alishan, Tainan and Dadu in Taichung recording an intensity of 5, the bureau's website showed.

In most parts of northern Taiwan, the quake was felt at an intensity of 3, it said.
I was standing at the Tongluo Train Station waiting for the 2:00 train when I thought I felt the ground move. Ok, maybe I've been standing on my left foot too long. I shifted to my right foot and suddenly the whole place was rocking! This one lasted unusually long and I became very worried that someplace in central or eastern Taiwan had been wrecked. I hopped on the train and discovered the train was limited to half its normal speed.... very scary, could have been a lot worse.

The quake punctuated what had been a lovely day. I rolled out of Jhubei on the 118 heading for the coast early in the morning on Sunday.

Ibises search the mud flats of Hsinchu for food.

Despite the gorgeous day, the wind down the coast was brutal.

Wonder what he thought of the quake.

Finally I gave up when I reached Xihu and hopped on the 119, one of Miaoli's innumerable pretty mountain roads.

The 119 rolls gently up to Tongluo and then on to Sanyi through beautiful farming countryside.

Great views off towards the mountains to the east from the 119. Miaoli is Taiwan's great undiscovered gem.
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