Monday, December 29, 2014

The Hippo Dies

Hippo lying in the street in Miaoli.

No time for posting tonight... Straits Times on the hippo:
A hippo in Taiwan died on Monday after suffering two accidents last week, once when it fell from a moving truck and again when its container was dropped as it was being returned to its pond.

The animal, named "A Ho" after the Chinese word for hippo Ho Ma, was found dead in its pond at a farm in central Taichung city.

Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji has slammed A Ho's owner, the head of a private ranch, for what he said was carelessness in transporting the animal and, while a post-mortem will be performed on the mammal to determine the exact cause of death, the government is considering prosecuting the hippo's owner.
All the terrible things happening in the world, and yet this hippo has broken my heart. News says prosecutors are going after 5 people. The zoo involved has a long history with the authorities, but as is so typical with so many things in Taiwan, somehow it just lurches on...
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Friday, December 26, 2014

DPP, as always, 2 steps forward, 1.99 steps backwards

Stop the insanity: some loser brought three of these yapping pests -- I hesitate to dignify them with the good name of dog -- on the bike path on a crowded Saturday.

Sunflower leader Chen Wei-ting finally through in the towel (Taipei Times) and withdrew from the Miaoli legislative by-election over his molestation of women. In addition to the two cases mentioned before, apparently new ones were cropping up. has the PTT post that slew Chen's candidacy (in Taiwan young people get their news via old-fashioned bulletin boards, not newfangled PHP forums). I have said all I want to say on this.

Meanwhile, the KMT swept the local elections.   ジェームス@jmstwn (whom you should be following on Twitter) pointed out that while the national level KMT is in chaos, the local level party machines are ticking along. The Taipei Times reported:
While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured the speakers of the Greater Kaohsiung, Yilan County and Chiayi County councils, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) picked up 15, with the remaining four — Hsinchu City, Lienchiang County, Pingtung County and Chiayi City — won by independent councilors.
The really hilarious one was Tainan. The DPP had a 29-16 seat advantage over the KMT, but the KMT secured the speakership 29-26, meaning that at least five councilors had switched sides. The nation cynically concluded that the five who switched had been bribed, and that many of the independents who sided with the KMT in elections across Taiwan had been bought. Note that I am not making an accusation, just reporting what others say. I certainly do not believe that the KMT could ever do a thing like that. The Speaker of the county/city councils has all sorts of agenda and other powers that enable them to direct patronage funding to key allies, but note that I would never say that the winning speakers had bribed the councilors with the expectation of getting kickbacks on lucrative construction contracts which they will award to their cronies. Because that just never happens in Taiwan.

Yes, it's deeply frustrating.

President Ma is involved in a lawsuit against Clara Chou, maker of public allegations that he took big bucks from Ting Hsin, the company in the black oil scandal. The Special Investigative Division of the Ministry of Justice is investigating the allegations. The Minister of Justice, always fair minded, said yesterday:
Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) yesterday accused Taiwanese media and political pundits of rampant abuse of the freedom of speech and making unsubstantiated accusations, amid widely reported allegations that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his campaign team received an off-the-books political donation from Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團).
So... let me get this straight. As the Minister's own agency is investigating the President over shady money allegations, the Minister holds a press conference to accuse the press of making stuff up, obviously alluding to the allegations his ministry is investigating. It's a good thing the Minister is impartial. I'm sure none of the prosecutors under him will take that as a signal.
Daily Links:
  • Ryan Scoville with excellent commentary on Japan's new/old position on the Senkakus, with stats.
  • New Taichung mayor Lin denounces the BRT as basically a scam.
  • NYTimes runs another of the ZOMG! The DPP could sour cross-strait relations! pieces we've been seeing since the KMT blowout loss in the recent elections. However, unlike most of those pieces, it provides several quotes from other-than-KMT viewpoints, and ends by noting that Washington probably should think about changing its policy to handle the new reality.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Chen Wei-ting lets the side down

A local road in Miaoli.

Chen Wei-ting, the Sunflower movement leader, made a stunning revelation this week (Taipei Times):
In an interview with the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) published yesterday, Chen, who is running for legislator in the by-election in Miaoli County in February, was asked to discuss his potential risk of falling victim to “attacks on his personal integrity,” to which he responded by making the revelation, saying: “There are things that I have kept to myself for a long time.”

“One day, during the summer vacation before my senior year in college, I groped the bosom of a female passenger sitting next to me on public transport and was taken to a police station. Sometime later, I had improper physical contact with a female on the dance floor at a night club, for which I underwent mental health consultation at the order of school administrators,” he said.
Essentially Chen Wei-ting stepped into the Miaoli seat campaign and booted out the DPP candidate. The DPP gracefully stepped aside. Only then did he admit that he had this problem in his past that might interfere with the campaign. Not only was that selfish, but it put the DPP in an awkward position -- they have always supported the Sunflowers and kept away from the movement, which helped legitimate it in the public eye as a genuine third force not under the control of the DPP, despite KMT propaganda to the contrary. Chen should have repaid the DPP for its forbearance by revealing this to them PRIOR to taking up the challenge for the seat and evicting their politician, and he should also have met with veteran politicians who have dealt with these things before announcing this. Instead, the DPP has to contemplate action against a Sunflower. Consequently, the DPP is now reconsidering its position on the Miaoli seat.

The reformist party and its leaders must be above reproach. Simple as that. Chen should have confessed to this ages ago -- now, as netizens pointed out, it looks too much like a cynical political ploy, a calculated appearance of remorse.

The by-election is on Feb 7. The DPP said that it will make its decision next Wednesday.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Then and Now: the old Japanese Coast Road

I was trawling around the East Asia Image Collection again today, the Taiwan Photographic Monthly, and found this image of the old Japanese coast road. I stopped for a moment, thinking... I've seen this spot.

Sure enough, back in March of this year I came down for a weekend of riding on the rift valley and the coast and got a shot of my man Drew Kerslake riding the old Japanese coast road. The old Japanese coast road is now the Baonon bike path on the coast in Chenggong township (it is designated the Dong 19). It's a slightly different angle, and the rock has fallen/been bashed into a smaller piece, but it's the same spot (Google maps Streetview).

This will give you some idea of what the first Japanese drivers on this road must have seen.
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Cancer in East Asia, Health in Taiwan

A petting zoo near my house has an ostrich. Must be tough on the kids.

Pfizer has a very interesting report on Cancer in Asia which a friend of mine flipped me.
This report presents cancer statistics for fifteen South Asian and Southeast Asian countries: Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mongolia, India, Laos, and Cambodia. For purposes of comparison, statistics are also presented for the United States.
Among its findings:
  • Among the 15 Asian countries the highest incidence rates (age-standardized) for total cancer (all sites) in males are in Taiwan, Korea, and Japan; female total cancer incidence rates are highest in Taiwan, Singapore, and Philippines.
  • Lung cancer is the most common or second-most common cancer among males in all Asian countries but for India, Japan, Mongolia, and Taiwan.
  • Stomach cancer is the highest incident-rate cancer among both males and females in Korea; it is the most common among females in China, and the most common among males in Japan.
  • Among females, breast cancer is the highest incident cancer in 7 countries— Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan.
  • 41% of all new cancers diagnosed in males, and 37% of cancers diagnosed in females are in the fifteen Asian countries—about 3 times as many cases as that in the United States.
The data are taken from a 2005 report for Taiwan, and are probably out of date.

A couple of friends of mine have also raised the problem of arsenic and other toxins in the air Taiwan. Groundwater arsenic is a well-recognized problem and there are numerous studies of it, including of the famous blackfoot disease in southern Taiwan. Groundwater arsenic is not caused by the IT industry and thus is safe to investigate. But there seems to be little on arsenic and other airborne toxin exposure from power plants and factories. It's long been recognized that the dominance of the IT industry (and here and here) means that the government has looked the other way when those industries pollute downwind and downstream. This is true of all industries. Paul Jobin's piece entitled Hazards and Protests in the "Green Silicon Island" in 2010 notes:
Between 1988 and 1991, along with their opposition to the construction of the fourth nuclear plant, environmental activists and intellectuals joined in solidarity with the Dawu aboriginal people to protest the storage of nuclear wastes in Lanyu (Orchid Island). (16) Around the same time, the magazine Renjian reported on the sudden deaths of temporary workers employed in the maintenance of the existing three nuclear plants.(17) Ten years later, the situation has not improved: despite Taipower’s denial, most workers, though exposed to high levels of radiation, did not have the appropriate regular health checks. (18) An epidemiological survey found that the population living between the two nuclear plants near Jinshan, 20 kilometres north of Taipei, had elevated blood cell counts that could induce hazardous consequences for health. (19) Another survey near the research reactor of the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research based in Taoyuan, south of Taipei, revealed abnormal levels of Cesium 137, a highly radioactive isotope. (20) Around 1992, the fear of nuclear power became even more palpable for the urban middle-class with the scandal of 200 buildings containing steel bars contaminated by cobalt 60, which put at risk more than 10,000 citizens and students.(21)
After a review of the early protests against poisonous factories in Lukang and in Linyuan, against which the government deployed the full martial law apparatus, including death sentences for the protesters (suspended), he observes that the famous RCA factory ushered in the chemical and technology industries that are poisoning Taiwan today, and observes:
But RCA and the launch of the electronics industry in Taiwan share another legacy, as RCA’s Taoyuan plant is the likely cause of at least 1,200 known cases of cancers among its former workers, mostly women, as well as permanent pollution in the vicinity of the plants. (37) The RCA plants were shut down in 1991, but other cases remain hidden, as all electronics plants continue to use massive quantities of chemical products. (38) Many of those products have known toxicity for humans, and many are carcinogens. Given the complexity of carcinogenesis, especially when many different forms are at stake, and due to the long latency between exposure to the products and the appearance of cancer, there is reason to focus now on conditions at other electronics companies and science parks, and not to wait for the next RCA-type issue to emerge. But the task is daunting, mainly because of the direct economic benefit of the electronics industry to the nearby cities of Hsinchu, Chupei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, and because of its strategic importance to the Taiwanese economy. The epidemiologist Chen Pau-chung, who has conducted one of the few retrospective cohort studies on semiconductor fabrication at the Hsinchu Science-based industrial Park (HSP), found that female workers who were exposed to chlorinated organic solvents during pregnancy might show increased risk of cancer among their children—especially leukaemia—while the offspring of male workers might have an increased risk of infant mortality and congenital cardiac malformation. (39) So far there has been no equivalent survey concerning the population living near the science parks.
You live near a science park? Only the gods know what you're breathing... few people have the courage of Chan Chang-chuan, who was involved in the epidemiological survey work for the Linyuan naptha cracker, and then went on to look at the Mailiao complex in 2009. His results have been attacked by the company and by other scientists and politicians. Two years ago Tsuang Ben-jei of NCHU was sued by the Formosa Plastics Group for a study opposing the construction of the new naptha cracker in Changhua, which thankfully was not built. It's not a surprise there's so little work out there.

There is one long-term study out there, which Chan participated in. It is open access: "Our findings suggested that life expectancy lengthening was slowed and income growth was stalled for residents living in the industrial communities."
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Monday, December 22, 2014

Words of Wisdom for Monday

A small lake up in Hsinshe.

My father in law, 85 years old. Has been falling down in the bathroom lately, but he is an indomitable soul, and despite two broken ribs from this latest episode, went out to the park to work out. He comes back, exhausted, and wants to go to the market with my mother in law. He gets halfway and says he can't walk. "Why don't you use a cane?" she suggests, in her exasperated wife-of-many-years voice. "Because then everyone will think I'm old," he replies.

Great comment on the post below about Chu's house being renovated by the Culture Bureau.
Thanks for sharing. This house mini-scandal is going to haunt Chu because (1) it's so easy to explain to the average person (2) it'll be brought up by everyone in New Taipei who tries to save a historic site from KMT developmentalism (3) as a nascent project it's sure to come back if there's a cost overrun or an attempt to initiate phase 2, and most importantly (4) the KMT's now invited DPP bureaucrats and Taoyuan journalists to go on an Easter Egg hunt through Chu's Taoyuan record.

Running unopposed for chair, by the way, may be a curse in disguise because it leaves Chu unable to score a clear victory over political opponents the way Ma beat the 主流派 by besting Wang Jin-pyng for chair. Instead they'll be lying in wait to muck things up for him later.
Speaking of Chu, AFP reports that Chu, running unopposed for the KMT Chairmanship, will continue the KMT's China policy, even though that policy appears to have cost it in the local elections. As I said before, the "reform" is going to be limited to the party core reasserting control over, and binding itself more tightly to, its local networks. Reform of its pro-China mindset, its privileged access to resources (like Cultural Bureau funds to renovate ancestral homes), and its culture of top-down authoritarian control isn't going to happen.
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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Then and Now: Anping and Yangmingshan

The top image of Sekkan Fortress (Anping Fort) I got from the East Asian Image Collection at Lafayette, in their collection of Taiwan Photographic Monthly imagery. The shot of the ruined fortress in the upper right inset is taken from the land side. In the main image, shot from the harbor, you can see that the fort has been restored, with the small white building still there and housing the small museum, but without the silly observation tower. The modern harbor is below, same angle but much farther away. The area behind the fortress is now developed, of course, and a major tourism disaster.

A reader sent me these two shots, the top from 1931, the bottom from 2012, of a building on Yangmingshan. Which building?
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The Miaoli 51

Today Drew and I rode up the Miaoli 51 (苗51), a lovely little road that starts just north of Houli, then climbs a set of switchbacks to the top of the ridge, and rolls gently over the ridge through a national forest until it hits the train station in Sanyi. The road network between Sanyi and Jhoulan is wonderful, I highly recommend exploring it (Drew's post on it). Map below the READ MORE....

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cheryl Robbins' new guides in her series A Foreigner's Travel Guide To Taiwan's Indigenous Areas

DSC03632Cheryl Robbins, the well-known, longtime resident of the island, is building a travel service that takes visitors to remote areas to tour in aboriginal villages. Highly recommended! She's also put out a set of guidebooks for traveling in Indigenous areas. I've blogged on them before, but I'd like to remind readers that these bilingual texts are available from her website. Recently she has released two more volumes in the series, the Hualien and Taitung volume, and the Northern Taiwan volume.

These incredibly useful books, roughly 200 pages each, contain road directions, contact information for hostels, bed and breakfasts, tour guides, and more, as well as excellent pictures. They also contain information on history, culture, and cuisine, and are stuffed with gorgeous photos, done up in side-by-side bilingual text. Well worth the NT $380 price. Get yours now!

Robbins is a certified tour guide in Taiwan, fluent in Chinese, and offers legal tours in conjunction with a local tour company. She'd be happy to take you and your company on one! Get in touch with me, and I'll be happy to put you in touch with her.
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More Chu joy: Chu's Ancestral House Renovated by Taoyuan Culture Bureau

My friend Iris shoots a mountain road.

Business as usual: translates/writes on how the Taoyuan County culture bureau hurriedly signed $NT 30 million in contracts to renovate incoming KMT Chairman Eric Chu's ancestral home as a cultural/historic site, before the DPP could get in and stop the silliness. What a coincidence! It was declared to be a historic when Chu was the County Chief. Chu is a reformer? This is business as usual, in which high-ranking KMTers treat the government and the nation as a combination ATM and game preserve. From the piece:
Councilor Huang Ching-hsi pointed out that not only was the villa was named a historic site when Chu was county magistrate; it is the estate of Chu’s grandmother’s family. If the government “has too much money,” it could instead renovate county-owned historic buildings, like the Japanese-style police dormitories, Huang suggested.

The cultural bureau’s rush to finish refurbishment tendering procedures before the county is promoted to a special municipality is inappropriate and aimed at making everyone feel that “the rice has already been cooked” [what’s done is done], Huang said. “Not only is the bureau slapping the buttocks of Eric Chu’s horse; it’s making Chu look unethical.”
Too right. Not only does it make Chu look bad -- and Chu should have stopped it -- but it also shows the way the KMT has distorted Taiwan history by making it, not a history of things that happened in Taiwan, but a history of things that the Han did in Taiwan. This anti-Japanese approach to history is also slowly erasing Japan in Taiwan. All over Taiwan Japanese-era buildings rot, with no one to preserve their tales. Sad.
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Friday, December 19, 2014

Blast from the Past: 1971 letter in Chicago Sun-Times

From a longtime reader and net-friend, who wrote it in 1971. Closing sentence..."We have the responsibility to inform ourselves of the political realities inside Formosa and not to be blinded by those who would have us believe that Formosa is an economic paradise while justifying the political hell which reigns there."
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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday stuff: our first joy from Eric Chu

Whatever you read today, don't miss this review of the disaster that is the Taoyuan Metropolis project. The project is going to be reviewed by the DPP County chief. It is a construction-industrial state giveaway, and will likely survive, slowed, but continue to move forward, eating good farmland, another example of Taiwan's most important form of alchemy, using public laws to convert private land into public projects that are private gold.

Todays news was the story of netizens busting New Taipei City mayor and incoming KMT Chairman Eric Chu for appointing the head of the KMT party investment organ to be the new legal affairs commissioner for New Taipei City. has the translation (Apple Daily in Chinese)...
The Kuomintang’s financial interests are massive and complex and pose a huge problem for the presumed future party chairman, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu. Having led off by saying the party needs more “Hiroki Kurodas” [low-key players who aren’t stars but work hard and contribute a lot to the team] he has quietly brought at least one such figure into his city Cabinet to help him out.

Among the Cabinet members announced by the city days ago was new Legal Affairs Department Commissioner Huang Yi-teng 黃怡騰, who has previously served as chairman of the board of the “Central Investment Company” 中央投資公司 [no official website or English name], the biggest KMT-run enterprise. New Taipei’s official announcement omitted this sensitive information, which was later exposed on Facebook by famous political commentator Chung Nien-huang 鍾年晃.

While attending an event for the publication of a book of inspirational true stories of New Taipei schoolchildren this morning, Chu stated that he at first didn’t know this about Huang, and only knew Huang had been a city government consultant for four years, a member of the Petitions and Appeals and the Legal Affairs committees, and former chief secretary of the Consumers’ Foundation. Chu explained that he has since asked about this issue and found out Huang’s law firm had been hired by the KMT’s asset holding company; Huang served in this post as a representative of his firm; and the management of party assets was not his chief work responsibility.
Chu didn't know that the guy he hired was the former Chairman of the Board of the KMT's investment organ? As said, "journalists are incredulous." Just an example of the heightened scrutiny that Chu is going to face every day, with the added joy of an army of netizens examining every move. Everyone I know was having a good laugh about his assertion that clean government is the foundation of the KMT -- I guess foundation in the sense of something you build your house on, and never see again. observes of Eric Chu's "reformist" move toward a parliamentary system. Read it all, but note:
Though Chu says amendments “should not involve partisan biases and personal calculation,” it’s easy to see that this amendment is in the immediate interests of both him and all the legislators who are pushing it. It’s silly to ask legislators if they’d support a parliamentary system. Of course they would! Then they could be the clear foundation of political power and be able to make and bring down executives by themselves. And Eric Chu? This week has shown that the legislators are his power base in the KMT, and surely he’d love everyone to think he’s a creative reformer without having to first survive life-and-death battles with entrenched interests in the KMT over party assets, compradors, and so on.
Frozen Garlic figures out how a parties could game a mixed member system to produce majorities.
However, what if the KMT or DPP cynically set out to create overhang seats? Could they crash the system? Let’s go back to the first MMP example, where Party A won 76 district seats and only 4 list seats. What if Party A decided that 4 list seats wasn’t enough for their 40% list votes? What they could do is to form a fake party called Party A*. All of the district candidates would run under the Party A* label, and all of the list candidates would run under the Party A label. Now let’s look at the table...:
As Froze notes, this system already exists in embryo form with all the gangster and far right parties allied to the KMT. It would just require that the KMT support them. The Taiwan propensity for gaming any system of rules ("if it has rules, it must be gamed") which is responsible for so much of the bureaucratization and inefficiency of Taiwanese institutional governance, guarantees that if such a thing is possible, someone, most likely the KMT because it has the resources, will trash the system.

In some ways more important than the political moves was the news that the legislature had put off the capital gains taxes for a tiny proportion of traders until 2018. Note the numbers:
Minister of Finance Chang Sheng-ford (張盛和) and Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman William Tseng (曾銘宗) agreed on a three-year moratorium after some bargaining to save what Chang called “the last breath for fair taxation.

The “active trader” clause is part of the income tax law under which individual investors who sell more than NT$1 billion of local shares a year have to pay either a 15 percent tax on stock gains or an extra 0.1 percent tax on transactions in excess of the threshold.

“Let time judge if the clause is really in need of revision... It is better to leave it intact for the time being,” Chang said.

According to the ministry, only 1,243 individual players would meet the threshold and 47 percent currently pay income taxes of less than NT$25,000 a year, accounting for a tiny 5 percent of gains.
Yeah, read that last paragraph again. Apparently nearly half the individuals who trade a billion NT worth of stock each year, pay less than $25,000 in income taxes. Why is there so much income inequality in Taiwan? Because the economy and tax system are arranged that way. And no one on top wants to change them. This is the challenge for the DPP -- it can't just play the social justice party every four years. It actually has to do something meaningful on this.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Links for Tuesday

Temple celebration in Jhuolan.

Enjoy some links....
Daily Links

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Eric Chu in the limelight

From the most recent TISR poll, the old Global Views survey. Note that satisfaction with Ma is just 12.7%, dissatisfaction at 78%. The DPP approval rating is 43.7% to the KMT's 21.4%

Some good commentary out there on Eric Chu, who is set to become the new KMT chairman next month since no one is running against him.

One thing that has really excited everyone watching is Chu's call for constitutional reform and his support of a national meeting on the matter. Of the two great pieces out today, first read Ben on the Constitutional Reform issue, arguing that the key issue is the Birdcage referendum law, which exists to prevent the public from having real referendum powers. If we see change in that, it might be meaningful. This is important because the mechanism that Chu has proposed to change the constitution is a public referendum, as WantWant reports.

 Frozen Garlic contends in the other excellent one out today:
First, the proposal to adopt a parliamentary system seems extremely hurried and might not be well thought out at all. This is not a minor change. It would impact everything in the entire political system, and we haven’t even begun to think about the first-order impacts, much less the third-order impacts. Moreover, every parliamentary system is somewhat different; there isn’t a simple off-the-shelf model that you can buy at your local Carrefour. It’s one thing to ask for a parliamentary system; it’s quite another to hammer out all the little details. Who gets to have the first shot at forming a coalition government? How will confidence votes be handled? Will the president continue to be directly elected? What happens to the National Security system?
The ROC government was never more than the candy shell over an authoritarian party-state, so making it work as a democracy has always been problematic. Because of this, when links inside the ruling party are poor, the government is even crankier and more inoperable. Commonwealth observed of the KMT's reform moves:
For the KMT to make a fresh start, the new chairman must take big, bold steps to reform. One component of this is for the Central Standing Committee (CSC) – often accused of "sharing business interests with China" – to return to functioning as a platform for diverse opinions.

A former director of the KMT's Organizational Work Committee relates that, among the current 39 members of the Central Standing Committee, apart from seven directly appointed by the party chairman, the other 32 are elected by party members, among which "close to 10 have commercial interests related to China."

The reason such a situation has taken shape is that in China "the title of Kuomintang Central Standing Committee member opens a lot of doors and gets you places, so some people end up competing for seats in order to achieve that type of elevated status," says the source, intimately familiar with the party's workings.

Central Standing Committee elections are frequently plagued by rumors of vote buying. Consequently, when Ma Ying-jeou took over as party chairman he set up the "Zhongshan Council" for direct handling of important party affairs and political decision making. This move effectively relegated the Central Standing Committee, reputedly the party's highest agency of power, to a discussion group that "hears reports" and "makes recommendations."
The Central Standing Committee was full of people like Lien Chan and other core elites who did not like Ma Ying-jeou, hence his relegation of them to secondary status with the ironically-named Zhongshan Council. But this meant that the KMT was effectively split into a pro-Ma inner circle and Ma-Opposed camps, which weakened it, and which Ma institutionalized. Ma's weaknesses are innumerable, but among the most important is an inability to conciliate -- his model for rule, I am ever more convinced, is the dictator Chiang Kai-shek. The creation of competing bodies performing the same function is a classic move of dictators everywhere. The Central Standing Committee's close business links with China are probably what Chu is criticizing when he talks about compradores... more on that.

Chu also said that the current government system means that those who screw-up are not accountable to the people, in which "power and responsibility do not match each other." Its instability is obvious: Ma is on his fifth premier, only one less than Chen Shui-bian, whom he used to criticize for regularly change premiers.

A closer reading of the Commonwealth piece, however, shows that the KMT isn't going to change its cross-strait sell-out policies, nor is it going to change its presentation of them. Su Chi, long close to Ma, is quoted therein:
In cross-strait political discourse, from the Ma Ying-jeou administration's "economics first, politics second" stance during its first term, to "economics only, forget politics" in the second, the administration's total emphasis on economics placed the Taiwanese people's focus on the economic balance sheet of cross-strait interaction. Moreover, the emphasis was placed narrowly on who benefits and who loses out, neglecting the fact that the value of cross-strait reconciliation is not measured exclusively in economic dividends, but also security dividends, international relations dividends, and political dividends.

"Unless this part is explained clearly, misunderstandings result," Su Chi reminds.
The KMT always claims that its pro-Big Business, pro-China policies are rejected because they are not properly explained. The KMT is never actually wrong. It just doesn't communicate well. One wonders, as Froze notes below, how much headway Chu can make against these entrenched interests and attitudes.

Even more fascinating is to watch Chu's "stand" against the "compradore faction" of the party, the big names who have been making the big money off their party connections over the years. Chu has even promised to give the ill-gotten party properties back to the people. Chu complains that the party's policies benefit the rich, recognition that the public perceives the party to be the party of big business. Quite true, but as Frozen Garlic observes, that is where the rubber meets the road.
He said a lot of great sounding things on Friday, but now he will actually have to deal with the consequences of those statements. If he doesn’t do something with party property, people will ask questions. Lien Chan and Wu Po-hsiung aren’t just going to ignore his comment about “compradore-style figures.” Most importantly, Ma Ying-jeou is not just going to yield to Chu’s ideas about economic policies. Chu might complain that Ma’s policies unfairly benefit the richest people, but Ma is still in charge of the government and he doesn’t seem to want to reverse six years of economic “achievements.” The business world isn’t going to sit idly by if Chu tries to change the economic policies they want. They have lots of power within the KMT, and they will defend their interests. Chu is going to have to engage in a full-blown power struggle to force the cabinet to follow his new line. Otherwise, Chu is going to look pretty weak if he, as KMT party chair, is calling for one set of policies and President Ma continues to push ahead with his entirely different political priorities.
Moreover, as Froze notes, Chu's media darling days all over. He'll be a national figure, facing a national media that has deep knowledge of the island's political machinations and little patience with its politicians.

There's been complaints that Chu is just the second coming of Ma Ying-jeou. Chu promised to do something about the party assets -- well, so did Ma in 2009. In fact Ma did as early as 2006, and in 2000 none other than Honorary Chairman Pickled in Brine Lien Chan, when he ran for President in 2000, promised to do the same. In other words, making noises about getting rid of the Party's ill-gotten assets isn't something that one does when one is a reformer. It's part of the package of noises that anyone who assumes control over the KMT and aspires to higher positions must reproduce, because it is a widely supported centrist position, not because they actually mean it. Chu's position on the party assets may well be a signal that he is going to run for President in 2016 even though he insists he is not going to.

Another interpretation is that if a much weaker candidate than Chu runs in 2016 and is beaten, which is highly likely, then Chu will oh-so-sorry have to step down from the KMT Chairmanship to "take responsibility" and what a coincidence, reform will go unaccomplished. Hey, he'll say, it wasn't my fault, we just didn't win the election. So he wouldn't actually have to carry out reform -- not enough time, you know -- but he can still wear the mantle of reformer when he goes into the trenches in 2020 as the Presidential standard bearer. So all this noise he is making now is just positioning...

Of course, he could actually mean what he says....

Indeed, here's an editorial in the pro-KMT China Times from 2009:
Today Ma Ying-jeou is again in charge of the party. He has proudly waved the party flag on behalf of candidates for the year-end elections. When Ma Ying-jeou declared his commitment to clean government and political reform, people were inspired. Political momentum accumulated. But he has now declared his intention to enforce strict party discipline. He has promised that he will strictly punish those who have disobeyed the party decision and run for public offices. But they doubt Ma will hold up if they give him the cold-shoulder treatment. Ma Ying-jeou has been in charge of the affairs of state for a year and a half. He is being pulled in several directions at the same time. He has not demonstrated sufficient courage and determination. As a result, his leadership has been subjected to constant challenges. Candidates for City Mayor and County Executive offices have thrown their hats in the ring without consulting him. Even incumbents who were elected on the basis of Ma's endorsement are ignoring the party leadership, and bent on rebellion. During the party chairmanship election, the turnout in many constituencies was low. The percentage of invalid ballots was high. Quite a few former "Team Ma" legislators with reputations for integrity and many outspoken and forceful County Executives and City Mayors have all gradually withdrawn their candidacies for membership in the KMT Central Standing Committee. When asked why, they replied without enthusiasm, and sighed, "Let him (Ma) find out what it's like to have a Central Standing Committee not consisting of his own people!"
Already by 2009 Ma had alienated the bottom of his own party. Is Chu headed for that? We can only hope.

As I said, the close business links of powerful KMTers with China are probably what Chu is criticizing when he talks about compradores, but let's not forget that Chu's Dad-in-law Gao Yu-ren (高育仁) was a central standing committee member of longstanding with nearly half a century of service to the KMT in various positions. His father is the former speaker of the "Taiwan Province" legislator. Chu is a princeling, in other words (on his mother's side he is from a family of DPP politicians, which may help his relations with that party, and he and Taipei mayor-elect Ko Wen-je are old school classmates and friends of long-standing). But as the national media begins to focus on Chu, these relations -- his father-in-law was forty years in Tainan politics -- and Chu's own deals in the past are going to come under far more heightened scrutiny than Chu may be able to handle.

I'm going to go roast some popcorn now...
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Eric Chu running for KMT Chair

What path will the KMT take?

Current New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu announces he's running for KMT Chair, and denies he's going to run for President. Note how Chu has appropriated many DPP/reform critiques and ideas, including constitutional reform, lowering the voting age, and criticisms of the wealth distribution. Classic move, to yank the rug out from under the opposition by adopting its ideas. Chu is the popular choice of the party faithful and widely seen as the most likely candidate.

The most common complaint at the moment is that Chu is just another Ma Ying-jeou. The complaint that the KMT is too old and needs a younger boost has been a perennial one (remember the SK II movement from 2005?), and Ma Ying-jeou was once the target of appeals from the rank and file. So it will interesting to see how things pan out. Chu is allied to powerful political family, and another common remark on him is that there are some pretty serious skeletons in that closet, the kind that tend to come out in Presidential runs. He might actually be serious about not running, since the recent elections gave the DPP a big boost, and he might not want to lose. But the KMT still has some pretty tempting advantages...


This translation comes from The original post is from Chu's Facebook.

On November 29, the Kuomintang suffered an unprecedented defeat. Citizens used their ballots to unleash a mighty roar, proving we must learn from our mistakes and thoroughly reexamine our direction and administration.

The economy and cross-strait relations were originally the Kuomintang’s strong suits, but following more than six years in power, the public feels its purse strings tightening and unequal distribution of wealth worsening. A market economy that’s lost its way and a political system that’s lost its competence have forced the ruling party to pay a bitter political price. Citizens want cross-strait relations to be peaceful and mutually beneficial, but because of distorted wealth allocation, suspicion of special privileges, and the bad behavior of a few Taiwanese businessmen upon returning to Taiwan, citizens’ dissatisfaction with us has deepened. High property prices, disputes over mandatory twelve-year education, and food safety problems in recent years have made citizens still more anxious, causing them to lose confidence in the government.

As a member of the Kuomintang, I too must take responsibility for this electoral defeat. I have no right to just point fingers at others and forget to examine myself. In city government, I must hew closer to public opinion, use compassion to resolve citizens’ difficulties, and make a greater effort to win the approval of more citizens.

“Do you want to run for party chair or not?” This is a question I’ve had to face every day since the Kuomintang’s brutal defeat.....

Read the rest at
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

KMT Blues

UPDATE: Friday morning -- Eric Chu says he is running for KMT Chair but not president. If he stepped down from running New Taipei City, there would be an election, which the KMT might well lose. Then they would have no major areas in the half year run up to the 2016 election. More later.

Former President Lee Teng-hui called on current President Ma Ying-jeou to step down yesterday....
“Ma is incapable and shameless. He should step down as president,” Lee told reporters while attending the Presbyterian Church’s celebration of its 150th anniversary in Taiwan.
Lee also pointed out, as many have noticed, that the new cabinet is basically the old cabinet minus the premier and Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai, who made herself widely detested.

Lee's remarks, probably deliberately, echoed the language used by Ma Ying-jeou when he called on Chen Shui-bian to step down (video above). A president with 18% approval should step down! he said, a comment that was much derided when Ma's own presidential approval levels tumbled to half that. Ma also said that Chen was incompetent. My how our own words come back to bite us.

The KMT party's big'uns are not declaring their intention to run for Chair even though registration is tomorrow, Friday, Dec 12, and the 13th as well. The election is Jan 17. As I noted after the election, whoever takes the position now will likely have to step down if the KMT loses in 2016. WantWant says:
The bigger party figures seem to be watching and waiting to see what unfolds. The reason for their caution lies in the fact that most of them hold presidential ambitions for 2016 and opting to become chair now might not prove the best move. Such is the situation of Eric Chu, New Taipei's recently re-elected mayor.
The KMT news organ reported that a group of KMT legislators was pushing for Chu.
KMT legislator Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) recently initiated and drafted a circular to prompt New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) to run for KMT chairmanship, and approximately 30 KMT co-sponsored. During a press conference held yesterday, Liao called on Mayor Eric Chu to throw his hat into the ring as Chu had a strong support base among the grassroots, a willingness to listen to public opinion, and the determination to push for reforms. Therefore, Liao said that Chu should stand up and lead the party, adding that if Eric Chu did not make a decision to run, he would collect the application form before the deadline on behalf of Chu if necessary.
It's a classic move among KMTers to pretend that one's supporters have compelled one to run for high office. But there is a perception that Chu will push for "reform", a much bandied about word with no clear meaning -- it is obvious that it will be limited and likely to focus on rebooting the party machine, especially its vertical linkages to local factions and local precinct captains (more on that below). The KMT is simply too invested in its China policies and the structural issues I have discussed at length elsewhere.

According to the WantWant report, current Taipei mayor Hau Long-bin is thinking about running for Chair. Another princeling son, the son of powerful far right dead-ender Hau Pei-tsun, he is usually seen as having little chance of winning a presidential election, though I think people tend to underestimate how his political sense has matured. For one thing, he has studiously avoided say stupid things like Wu in Taoyuan remarking that people who can't afford houses shouldn't buy them, or Sean Lien in Taipei, whose entire mayoral campaign was a mounting crescendo of gaffes. For another, when the Sunflowers occupied the legislature, Hau adopted an equivocal and conciliatory position.

The KMT released its list of reasons it got blown out in the election. The party essentially blamed the media and complacency. Conspicuously absent from that list are its China policy, the princeling issue, and other problems. The "cold treatment" issue there alludes to what I heard from people on the ground in Taipei, who were saying that many of the party's low level people found themselves ignored by the people at the top and middle. This disconnect helped negate the KMT's advantage of a better local presence than the DPP.

Chen Deming, China's negotiator over the Services Trade Agreement, visiting Taiwan this week, said that China will give the STA no more than two years to be ratified, and pointedly refered to the fact that the Korean FTA with China comes into force in two years. That would put Beijing's time limit to coincide with the 2016 presidential race.
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Time for Taiwan: Anytime for Taiwan Contest

This is an NT$2 million contest, with the grand prize of a trip around the world. Here I am promoting and explaining it on FTV.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Human Rights Day Blast from the Past

A Taiwan beer truck at the Miaoli marathon this weekend.

As this blog slowly returns to normal after the election crush, I'd like to observe that today is Dec 10, Human Rights Day, and the anniversary of the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979, a watershed moment in the history of Taiwan. The leaders of the democracy movement in Taiwan, including current K-town mayor Chen Chu, were arrested and imprisoned, and they and the lawyers who defended them, including Su Tseng-chang and Chen Shui-bian, gained lasting fame, becoming stalwarts of the DPP. In honor of their sacrifices, I present this analysis of the 2014 election from "expert" Robert Ross back in 2006 (my blogpost): Taiwan's Fading Independence Movement..
The demise of Taiwan's independence movement has removed the only conceivable source of war between the United States and China. The two countries will continue to improve their military capabilities and compete for influence in eastern Asia, but as the threat of war over Taiwan recedes, they may moderate their defense policies toward each other.
Don Rogers, a longtime researcher on Taiwan, surveyed 941 college students in 2010. He recently put the data up on the China Policy Institute Blog. Read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:
First, it is clear that the students do not believe that Taiwan is part of China. Over 80% of the respondents disagreed with the statement, “Although China and Taiwan have different governments they are still part of the same country.” Additionally, nearly 70% of the respondents agree with the statement, “Taiwan and China are so different that it doesn’t make any sense to discuss unification.” Even students who claimed a dual Taiwanese-Chinese identity made it clear that this does not mean they support unification. More specifically, 91% of the students who expressed this dual identity agreed with the statement, “to say that I am Chinese does not mean that I want to be part of the country of China.” All of these responses provide a very clear indication of the students’ primary identity and attitudes toward unification.
It's hard to imagine that anyone in 2006 could write that the Taiwan independence movement was dead, but there it is. Ross published the piece in Foreign Affairs, which, as I've remarked before, would publish a paper by a hamster, provided it was sufficiently anti-Taiwan.

Even more comical, in its way, is his assertion that Taiwan independence was the "only conceivable source of war between the United States and China"....
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Lost in the Hills of Miaoli

Still recovering, but this weekend I did a lovely long ride in the hills of Miaoli. Got thoroughly lost and ended up being out for a couple of hours longer than I had planned. But it was a beautiful day, and I was in the company of my friend Iris, a strong rider who somehow found it in herself to forgive me for getting her lost. Click READ more to read more...

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Irritant Foreign Policy + Links

Had a great time banging around the hills of Miaoli on Sunday.Hope to get pics up tomorrow, but swamped.

I went to a conference on Saturday hosted by the Taiwan Brain Trust and Project 2049. Bruce Jacobs spoke, and remarked on how the Ma Administration's hysterical reaction to the Korean FTA was part of its strategy to isolate Taiwan from neighbors which might otherwise be in solidarity with it.

To that one could add so many other instances -- the Senkakus with Japan, the entire South China Sea, whose nations otherwise might be in solidarity with Taiwan, the poacher killed in the Philippines by the Coast Guard, and the beef issue with the US. Ma's whole foreign policy approach is based on isolating Taiwan in order to ensure the only answer to the foreign policy question of "Which nation is our friend?" is "China".
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Monday, December 08, 2014

Two from Youtube

Time Mapping Taiwan: Brilliant map of Taiwan over the centuries (Youtube).

Hitler discovers the KMT lost the election (Youtube).
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Perv hunting on the metro

Many people have noticed and commented on these signs in the Taipei metro which assure riders that the restrooms are checked for hidden cameras placed by pervs. h/t for the pic goes to John E.
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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Odds and Ends

A field prepared for planting.

Friend observes: Ma probably won't be able to get anything controversial through the legislature til the end of his term. Yep! This means that his fury and frustration will be largely directed at his own party. I'm thinking Taiwan might actually run out of hot dogs, popcorn, and beer by the time I am through watching the KMT savage itself.

The new cabinet is out, and it is very similar to the old cabinet. Ma has made former Premier Jiang Yi-hwa the Sec-Gen of the Presidential Office. He's not just circling the wagons; he's turtling.

This Apple Daily piece argues that the KMT will effectively lose another 550,000 votes in 2016, when 250K of its old voters will have died off, and another 300,000 young votes come online. As I said, if the DPP performs well and can hang onto those gains -- and their local governance has been good in recent years -- they can pen the KMT up in the north where demographic change will kill it.

Ma is not giving any evidence of willingness or ability to reform -- which is bad in the sense that the DPP is better off with a strong opposition that can keep it honest and hungry.

This possibility of KMT meltdown means that US policy, predicated on KMT dominance that reduces "tensions", and the misinterpretation of Taiwan as the cause of tensions, is rapidly becoming outmoded.

Interestingly, Eric Chu of New Taipei City and Ko Wen-je of Taipei are old friends from their university days.

Interestingly, Eric Chu and Jason Hu former mayor of Taichung were not at the big KMT shindig on Wednesday. Hu has taken a position at Fengchia University in Taichung.
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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Post Election Round up II, Ma Circles the Wagons Edition

Dog finds shade.

Well. My friend Ted reports that on Saturday morning, Judgment Day, when Skynet annihilated the KMT, he was at his brother-in-law's funeral in Hsinchu when the current KMT mayor showed up. The mayor handed out flowers and did the "please vote for me, please vote for me" thing, then left. He was so desperate/thorough, he was visiting funeral parlors the morning of the election (!).

Jon Sullivan and Michal Thim had a fantastic piece in The National Interest about the elections, seeing them as a new political realignment. Don't miss!! Drinking last night with Thim, while I was still sober enough to understand him, he pointed out to me that in addition to the problems discussed in the post below (Blindsided), Ma's preference for appointing academics to top posts means that career KMT politicians don't get the chance to develop governing experience in different offices. Nor, I should add, does it develop a cadre of academics with political experience, since many return to academia rather than continue in politics. It really does nothing for the KMT at all. Sure enough, Ma continued the trend by appointing academic and vice premier Mao Chih-kuo as premier. Taiwan News reports:
...Now several ministers such as current Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih and Interior Minister Chen Chwen-jing who are seen as acolytes of Mao are said to be set to stay on through the Cabinet shake-up following last week’s devastating loss by the KMT in elections. Ma Ying-jeou is apparently confident that the gaggle of Mao followers known as the "Transportation Gang" will be helpful in kick-starting the not-so-all-new Cabinet forming up behind Mao. Legislators on both sides are raising objections, however, saying that the choice of Mao to head a Cabinet that will be largely unchanged is not what Taiwan needs.
The "transportation gang" links to Ma, coupled with the story going around that former premier Jiang Yi-hua is going to be sec-gen of the KMT, means that Ma is moving his people into positions of authority in the KMT and government. Note that Jason Hu of Taichung, the former mayor, is often mentioned as a possible chairman candidate for the KMT. Ma and he are often said to be rivals. Color me skeptical that Hu will take Chairmanship over Ma's objections and Hu's own health issues.

Despite the need for reform Ma is circling the wagons. Not a reformist in sight in the heights of the new Administration. It is behavior like this that makes me suspect Ma's real political model is Chiang Kai-shek, not Chiang Ching-kuo.

This also highlights another structural difference between the DPP and the KMT: generally the DPP politicians are cleaner than those of some other parties I could name if I had better libel insurance. In the DPP anyone can rise to real power anywhere in the nation, and ambitious politicians can carve a path to high office. In that case it pays to be clean. For the KMT... my, it's really cold and rainy outside. What was I saying?

Meanwhile Wu Den-yi continues to provide the awesomeness I expected. I knew his light would shine bright as Acting Chair of the KMT. provides the translation:
However, currently when the government does something right no one applauds, and when it does something wrong it’s endlessly criticized, he noted. “This isn’t good—really, it’s like the goodwill between a husband and wife. If the wife is unpleasant to her husband every day, eventually he won’t want to come home, and if he doesn’t come home there’s the danger he’ll take a mistress.”
Yes, watch out people, if you nag too much, the government is going to take a mistress. In case anyone wondered, Wu Den-yi is never going to marry my daughter. Other KMTers were also out in front with wisdom beyond mere human comprehension. Sisy Chen, the talk show host who is allegedly pro-KMT, blamed the Sunflower movement, complaining that: "the country is heading toward wicked democracy and beyond redemption.” Personally I like young people who are wicked and beyond redemption. I hope Sisy can introduce me to some.

Frozen Garlic examines the hypothesis that blue voters stayed home and killed the KMT on Saturday. Inconclusive, alas. So far I've been asking my students from Taoyuan if anyone had seriously suggested that the KMT would lose Taoyuan. So far no one has said they knew anyone who said beforehand the KMT would lose Taoyuan. Interestingly, I had a couple of students complain that Taoyuan has the highest bus prices in the nation, and that the owner of the Chungli Bus Company and Taoyuan Bus Company is none other than KMT Taoyuan County loser on Saturday Wu Chih-yang. True?

The China Post talks about pre-election polls, which stank. This raises yet another KMT competence issue -- how come KMT internal polls didn't show that Taoyuan and New Taipei City were in play? If they did, why weren't they listened to? Did the polls suck or were the politicians complacent? Or did they not even bother with such items as expensive professional polls? Any way you look at it, it doesn't reflect well on KMT campaign management.

There have been a few pieces claiming that the Hong Kong protests drove the Taiwan election outcome, like this one at Foreign Policy that left all us longtime observers shaking our heads. Similarly Kerry Brown, the Aussie academic, sent around a general wince that not only argued that Hong Kong was an influence but that Ma's trade treaties with China are "pragmatic." Yes, it is 2014 and someone out there is still labeling Ma "pragmatic." They're not pragmatic, Kerry, they are ideologically-driven sellouts. DPP policy to keep industries in Taiwan to the extent possible, legalize their operations in China, and expand business across ASEAN, that was pragmatic.

Fact is, the Hong Kong claim is false. Worse than that, it is also a claim made by the KMT's official spokesmen in explaining their election loss. Please stop forwarding that bit of KMT blame-the-depraved-immoral young propaganda. The loss was due to the economy and to awful KMT candidates. No one voting against Wu Chih-yang in Taoyuan on Saturday was checking DPP boxes because of Occupy Central. Taiwan rejected 1C2S years ago and Hong Kong only confirmed what everyone here already knows.

Ben has a good discussion of framing issues in his post Reflections:
This illustrates how intense the battle over just framing the impact, positive or negative, of Ma’s cross strait policies is. For those who dislike or criticise those policies (including myself), a major hurdle has just been dismantling the chimerical aura of legitimacy, success, and authority those policies have been given by a supine international press that has mindlessly repeated the mantra of Warmest-Ever Cross-Strait Ties ™ for the past six years. But were the election results really mostly a protest against Ma and his China policies? I don’t think the evidence is there yet to suggest this is the case, regardless of how much some people would like it to be so...  
Fortunately Foreign Policy made up for that laffer with a good one from Chieh-ting Yeh of Ketagalan media fame on the need for government structural reform in Taiwan. There's been some talk of implementing a parliamentary system...

Unfortunately Washington is still clueless. DPP moves into power at the local level -- they aren't making foreign policy, guys -- but lots of whipped up fear is appearing that ZOMG. IT. COULD. BE. INDEPENDENCE., the DPP could "increase tensions" as Taipei Times reports. The DPP cannot simply declare independence -- with the legislature, the police, the media, the army, and the bureaucracy all controlled by the KMT? C'mon. ADDED: Maddog reminds me that the DPP policy is that a change of status requires a referendum.

Nor does the DPP increase tensions. What poppycock! Folks, China is in control of tensions, and increases or decreases them in order to influence Washington and transfer tension from the Beijing-Washington relationship to the Washington-Taipei relationship. Tensions are a tool of Chinese policy. Every time someone in official Washington refers to Taiwan causing tensions, it's a strategic victory for Beijing. Once again, let's say it:
The cause of tension in the Taiwan Strait isn't Taiwan, but China's desire to annex Taiwan.
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