Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wednesday Links

Nothing like a trip to Little Burma to make your stomach happy. This is all veg, the samosas were divine. Vendor is in the market off Huaxin Street.

Longtime activist and veteran of the democracy movement Lin I-hsiung ended his hunger strike today, his statement is two posts below this post.....
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The Black Water Ditch and the Chinese Claim to the Senkakus

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Another great trip out to Little Burma in Taipei, on Huaxin Street near the Nanshijiao MRT station (Exit 4, head past the KFC and McDonald's).

Work! What's that? I'm blogging! I've long wanted to take a moment and review a very specific and bogus claim that Chinese expansionist scholars typically use to argue that the Senkakus are Chinese: that a black ditch/trough formed the boundary between China and the Rykyus (Okinawa) which would put the boundary north of the Senkakus, which would thus have been Chinese in the 17th century.

Han-yi Shaw's thesis on how China owns the Senkakus appears to be the origin of the claim. He makes the claim as follows on page 48 and subsequent pages. I reproduced it as an image:


This passage appears to say that there is a ditch that demarcates the Ryukyus from China. In the next paragraph on p 49, he writes:


Note how he specifically says "Viewed together" these constitute proof that the ancient Chinese (who were actually Manchus by this point) saw the Senkakus as part of China. In the first section, he states that the boundary is a trough, while in the second he refers to the Black Water Trough which demarcates Fujian waters. He then goes on to claim that the Okinawa Trench is the Black Water Trough/Ditch.

The only problem with this claim is that it is absolute nonsense.

To understand where the Black Water Ditch was in ancient Chinese texts, there are several good works that mention it. Macabe Keleher's Out of China, on Yu Yonghe's diary of his visit to Taiwan in 1697, is a must. Emma Teng's Taiwan's Imagined Geography is another gem. But both of those were written after Shaw's masterpiece here, so any truly raving nationalist could claim that they are lying to harm the True Nationalist Faith under which China owns the Senkakus and Taiwan, along with the sun, moon, and stars.

Fortunately, Lawrence Thompson has a piece in the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies from 1968, three years before China formally announced its invented claim to that island: The Junk Passage Across the Taiwan Strait: Two Early Chinese Accounts (link), that can easily lay this whole affair to rest.

Thompson's first account is that of Yu Yonghe. Yu crossed over to Taiwan in 1697, one of the earliest accounts of the passage, a dangerous and unpredictable one. Yu writes:
22nd. At dawn we crossed the Black-water Ditch. In the passage to Taiwan it is the Black-water Ditch that is most dangerous. [The current] flows from north to south; its source is unknown. The ocean water is a true green, while the ditch water is as black as ink. Its condition is also rather filthy,20 and that is why it is called a "ditch." It is about a hundred 1i wide. The swirling waters flow swiftly, and sometimes a foul odor assails one. There are also snakes with red and black mixed patterns and two-headed serpents that swim around ships. The helmsman will cast paper ingots [into the ditch], holding his breath in fear lest [the vessel be swept] southward by the current to one knows not where.21 The Red-water Ditch is not very dangerous and people regard it as nothing serious. But the two ditches being entirely in the middle of the ocean, it is difficulto understand why, with the agitation of wind and waves, they never become intermingled with the green water.
Yup. The Black Water Ditch lies does indeed mark the boundary between Fujian/Xiamen, except that boundary, an informal one, is between the Penghu/Taiwan and Xiamen, nowhere near Okinawa or the Senkakus. It has nothing to with either set of those islands. Yu actually reaches the Penghu in the very next diary entry, the next day.

It is clear what Shaw has done -- by conflating the odd reference to a Ditch in front of the Ryukyus with the actual Black Water Ditch in the Taiwan Strait that did indeed mark the end of Xiamen waters and which you might well cross on your way out to Okinawa, and then conflating that with the Okinawa Trench on the other side of Taiwan, he has moved the actual boundary out a couple hundred kilometers to swallow the Senkakus. Either this is a truly epic error, or Shaw is lying.

But wait! The Black Ditch issue is even more interesting. Because in the second account, in June of 1763 the traveler leaves Xiamen, goes over to Penghu, and then hits the Black Water Ditch:
According to the navigator-quartermaster, when the night is quiet and the waves are still, one may be able to hear the sounds of dogs and chickens on Taiwan. I did not [have the opportunity to] test this . ...
After the noon meal a north wind suddenly began to blow. In crossing the sea, Experience has shown that the north wind in the sixth and seventh months soon brings typhoons. The navigator-quartermaster wanted to return and moor at P'eng-hu [harbor] to wait until the typhoon was over, but after talking it over with the captains (of the other ships), our captain felt that we had already been held up too long. Moreover, they relied upon the fact that a typhoon had not immediately begun, and so in the afternoon we crossed the Black-water Ditch. The water of the sea [in this place] flows contrary to the prevailing current, And it is the most dangerous place in the passage to Taiwan. The water was a more intense black. One must trust to the wind to get across.... When the ship crossed the ditch, the water was stinking with a noxious vapor that rose (because of poisonous snakes in it). I was afraid to come out and look at it. The navigator-quartermaster said that they had often lowered the lead-tube coir rope to the limit of a hundred and several tens of hsiun (8oo-goo feet), but they had never found bottom and did not know how deep it was4.... At evening the wind grew stronger and the waves were like hills. I suddenly heard a clamor under the ship, a sound like ten thousand horns blown at once in the middle of the earth, and I was even more frightened. When I questioned the navigator-quartermaster, he said that when the wind rises croakers hurry under the ship and blow all evening; when they gasp at the surface they produce this sound ....
What? They crossed the Black Ditch on the other side of the Penghu, between Taiwan and the Penghu? This is explained in a fascinating footnote, which takes its explanation from a text written in 1807:
"The Black-water Ditch is the place which forms the boundary dividing P'eng-hu and Hsia-men. It is about sixty or seventy li wide and the most dangerous place in all the ocean. Its depth is unfathomed, and the water is as black as ink. The current is violent; in form it is a slight depression (see note 20 above). If a vessel is lucky enough to have a favoring wind and sail quickly, she will cross [the ditch], being tossed this way and that. If she is delayed, then the waves will buffet her, and she may easily lose her bearings. "[Note that there are two black-water ditches: the one to the west of P'eng-hu is perhaps eighty-odd 1i wide and forms the boundary between P'eng-hu and Hsia-men. The water there is as black as ink, and it is called the Big Sea. The one to the east of P'eng-hu is also eighty-some 1i wide, and it forms the boundary between Taiwan and P'eng-hu. Its name is the Small Sea. The water of the Small Sea is even blacker than that of the Big Sea, and its depth is unfathomed. When the wind is calm in the Big Sea (a ship) can still anchor; but it cannot anchor in the Small Sea, which is more dangerous than the Big Sea. This is a distinction that has never been made in previous accounts.]"
In fact, not only were there two Black Water Ditches, one each in the Big and Little Seas, Chinese sailors operating between Taiwan and Xiamen referred to several bands of colored water, including red, white, and greenish-blue, which they used to identify their progress across the Strait (the footnotes are the most interesting part of Thompson's paper). Even more misleadingly, in some confused modern descriptions, the Strait itself is sometimes called the Black Ditch.

But let's return to the text Shaw quotes. After the emphasized comment on p 48 that the trough marked the boundary between China and the Ryukyus, the ancient writer recorded:
"...upon inquiring how the boundary was differentiated, I was told through estimation."
If the boundary was marked by a clear color change in the water, why did it have to be estimated?

Clearly that text was not referring to any marked change in the water, and no color change is present in the text. Deliberately or not, Shaw has simply seized on a stray word and invented a bogus past.
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Lin I-hsiung ends hunger strike

Longtime activist and pro-democracy stalwart Lin I-hsiung has ended his hunger strike to stop the fourth nuclear plant. His statement in Chinese is below (click READ MORE):

感謝你!台灣人!──為停止禁食敬告親友

敬愛的親友....

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Another Overwhelming Wave of ECFA Successes

Putting in cables in Kaoshiung.

The Taipei Times reports on the amazing increases decreases in Chinese investment in Taiwan:
Chinese investment in Taiwan in the first quarter plummeted 90.83 percent to US$12.75 million from a year earlier, and investments from other foreign countries also fell in the first quarter by 33.82 percent to US$833.7 million, the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Investment Commission said on Monday. Meanwhile, Taiwanese investment in China grew 28.97 percent in the first quarter from a year ago to top US$2.8 billion, the commission said.
Yes! Chinese investment has reached $12.75 million, or about what my in-laws spent on liquor at the last wedding in the family. Meanwhile capital that could be growing Taiwan is still flowing into China as China continues to be the abyss into which Taiwan's future is poured.

Both ECFA and the current services pact are projects that benefit the 1%: big finance, big corporations, and organized crime. As if in acknowledgement of this, I heard that the DGBAS, the official stats bureau, announced this week that it is going to stop publishing the ratio between the top and bottom of Taiwan's income groups. It will now become more difficult to discuss income inequality in Taiwan. That ratio of top/bottom incomes is a powerful indicator of the level of income inequality in Taiwan, a worsening problem which is linked to two major trends since 1990: financial liberalization, and closeness to China, both of which have been massively beneficial to the 1%.

News from the construction-industrial state: a friend who purchased land on the east coast wants to build a house. In order to do that he needs to grow crops on that land. The local gov't people have to come out to image the crops and verify that the land is planted, which it is, beautifully. Only they are slow in coming. Why? Well, one reason bouncing about the local community is that big hotel developers want a go-slow in the area so nobody opens bed and breakfasts that might compete with them.

See J Michael's latest in The Diplomat on the Anti-Nuke protests. Premier Jiang said that the government will never shutter the nuke plant. Stay tuned. The KMT's probable presidential candidates are all involved in this: Eric Chu, the New Taipei City chief in whose district the plant will function has called for revising the referendum law to bring it up to international standards. Hau Long-bin, the Taipei mayor, has played it close to the vest. Premier Jiang, whom I consider Ma's hand-picked successor, has been the President's attack dog, in the time-honored style of the lower level official saying things the Benevolent Great Leader wants said but cannot because they interfere with his appearance of benevolence. With everyone positioning for 2016, things could get interesting inside the KMT....
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Sunday, April 27, 2014

MASSIVE BREAKING Ma announces halt to Fourth Nuclear Plant Construction

It ain't over til the fat lady sings, but for now, the Ma gov't has taken another one on the chin. Yesterday thousands rallied in Taipei against the backdrop of longtime democracy activist Lin I-hsiung's hunger strike to end construction of this plant. The fifth day in, the Ma Administration threw in the towel and announced that it was halting construction of the plant. Lin I-hsiung could not be permitted to die.

We went through this a couple of years ago when the Ma Administration terminated that horror that was the naptha cracker down in Changhua, blaming the environmentalists. The project searched for another spot in Taiwan, then finally moved overseas. I suspect the Administration will struggle to breathe life back into it. Indeed, a keen observer of local affairs pointed out that apparently, the administration's inner circle made the decision without informing its own legislative caucus, [update: caucus leader was present] which it is at odds with since trying to force through that horror of a services pact, which probably has less public support than that nuclear time bomb it is building just east of Taipei. Taipower was quick to denounce the decision, saying it would need to somehow be shielded from bankruptcy.

Let's also recall, as an especially keen observer noted, that when Chen Shui-bian called a halt to construction, the KMT was quick to scream that it was unconstitutional. I expect Ma will say his hands are tied and they have to finish. The Constitution, you know.

A couple of other observations were made. First, the announcement was made by a KMT Party spokesman, not a government spokesman. Second, the decision was made without democratic input. When it is all said and done, the KMT believes itself to be in Taiwan but not of it, and in Taiwan's democracy, but not of it. To the mainlander core, it is always Party-State time.

But let's savor this. The Ma Administration has taken a savage and totally unnecessary beating, dating back -- anyone remember it? -- to the surprising 2009 referendum on Penghu, which I and everyone else thought would end in passage of a referendum authorizing casinos on the islands, but instead was defeated. The KMT even tinkered with the referendum law in an attempt to get that passed. Since then the Administration has slid slowly off the cliff. A triplet of wounds: Ma's attempt to get rid of Wang Jin-pyng, the occupation of the legislature, and now the shuttering of construction on the Fourth Nuclear Plant.

Perhaps this was done with the November elections in mind. Perhaps it will be reversed. But it really doesn't matter. Tonight it tastes like victory. And let's not forget two other victories that occurred recently. The High Court invalidated a portion of the Parade and Assembly Law, an authoritarian leftover. That was a victory of the Wild Strawberries and the professors who led them. And just this week the construction-industrial state took a blow as the Council of Grand Justices invalidated several clauses of the urban renewal act, halting up to 90 land thefts by big developers urban renewal projects. The youth activists were involved in that case as well, taking up the cause of the family who eventually took this case as far as it could go.

But: here's a reminder from J Michael that the struggle goes on. This time, over trees....
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Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Kiss of Lady X to premiere at Urban Nomad Film Festival

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Water drops are whole worlds.


It’s official!! My friend Dean K's movie, “The Kiss of Lady X” has been accepted into the Urban Nomad Film Festival, and will be showing on Saturday, May 10 at 4:45 at the LUX theatre in Ximending. 
Here's the trailer, and the bare bones website
If you're in Taipei that weekend, go to see The Kiss of Lady X and the other wonderful films at the festival And please feel free to invite others -- they want to pack the house and make a real party of it!
People can reserve tickets online here, or buy them at the door.
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Friday, April 25, 2014

Matsu, Goddess of Annexation

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A religious procession in Tawu, Taitung.

Taichung city's tourist bureau is out to build the world's largest statue of Matsu, a sea goddess much reverenced in Taiwan and China. Taipei Times says:
Among the NT$1.2 billion (US$39.8 million) to be spent building the proposed Daan Matsu cultural park in Greater Taichung, around NT$600 million of the funds will go toward constructing a nearly 70m tall statue of Matsu, including the foundation and a path of reverence for the sea goddess. Greater Taichung’s Tourism and Travel Bureau Director General Chang Da-chun says, “This will definitely be the tallest Matsu statue in Southeast Asia.” There are already many official and private tour groups from China making queries, Chang says, adding that he is confident that, along with Jenn Lann Temple in Dajia, “It will create a huge tourist attraction.”
The Taichung city government has long complained that those busloads of Chinese tourist dollars leave Taichung port and head directly to Sun Moon Lake in Nantou without dropping a cent in the city. Determined to change that, the city government proposed a few years ago to build a penguin exhibit in the city, to which tourist flows would be diverted, presumably because everyone knows you go to Taiwan to see the native penguins. That idea was greeted with general derision, but this one is more interesting.

Interesting because Matsu worship has long been an important vector of pro-China, pro-annexation propaganda and activities on both sides of the Strait. Remember when the emerald Matsu statue landed at Taichung harbor, there to be received by Taichung Mayor Jason Hu and the head of the Jenn Lann Temple in Dajia, pro-annexation politician/businessman/but not gangster, no siree Yen Ching-piao? Several years ago BBC noted this connection between Matsu and China's drive to annex Taiwan, in the context of visits by Chinese religious representatives to the famous Matsu procession:
But for China, sending its temple representatives here to join in the celebrations is not without its political motivations.

The Chinese government has placed great emphasis on reviving Mazu in China – seeing it as an important way to underscore its insistence that Taiwanese people and culture came from China – and that Taiwan is a part of China.

Beijing hopes to reunify with the island one day and has not renounced the use of force to do so.

"They’re doing this to show both sides believe in Mazu and have a similar heritage," said Tsai Ming-hsien, a volunteer Mazu celebrations organiser who has had many dealings with Chinese temple officials.
In 2009 Yen Ching-piao's right hand man Cheng Ming-kun, whose formal position is deputy Chair of the Jenn Lann Matsu Temple in Dajia, the center of Taiwan's Matsu worship, was in China discussing with Beijing how to use Matsu to help China annex Taiwan. In May of 2009 a boat carrying Cheng Ming-kun and a load of Mazu pilgrims was the first passenger ferry to cross the strait. Of course Ma Ying-jeou appointed Yen Ching-piao, who says he is not a gangster at all but merely a misunderstood businessman, his "local spokesman" for ECFA.

It may seem like a silly religious stunt, but building a giant Matsu statue in Taichung where it will face China across the Strait, is a stunt with serious pro-annexation political overtones.
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Taxes and our fading economy


From the link below...

The Taipei Times wrote up a short piece on potential changes to the property tax laws to "curb property speculation"...
Taipei Deputy Mayor Chang Chin-oh (張金鶚) yesterday met with Minister of Finance Chang Sheng-ford (張盛和) to discuss the high housing prices, after Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) vowed to reduce the home price to income ratio in the Greater Taipei area from 15.01:1 to 10:1 in two years.

“Under the cooperation established between the central and local governments, we are confident that the average cost of a housing unit [in the region] could be reduced by one-third in two years,” Chang Chin-oh told a press conference after leaving the ministry.

The two sides have agreed to expand the interval of the home tax rate on non-residential properties up to 3.6 percent and stipulate a more accurate definition of what constitutes self-use residences (properties not occupied by the owner).

Currently, local governments determine their own housing tax rate and all of them have adopted a rate of between 1.2 and 2 percent of a residential property’s value, which is the range set by the central government.
Note in that third paragraph the two salient points: (1) tax rate to jump up to 3.6% and (2) accurately defining what it means to self-use a residence. The skill lies in the second; it will be relatively easy for homeowners to evade this milequetoast tax rise simply by redefining their own residency.

The real issue, as always, is that the assessed value has remained the same since 1987. Recall this piece from the excellent mag Commonwealth:
Land in Taiwan has four different values. Aside from the actual market price, there is the "publicly announced land value," which is adjusted once every three years, the "reported current land value," which is the value reported by landowners used to calculate the land tax and can be up to 20 percent higher or lower than the publicly announced land value, and finally the "assessed present land value" on which land value increment taxes (similar to capital gains taxes) are based.

Taiwan's houses also have two prices -- the actual market price and a "standard unit price for housing construction" set by the tax revenue offices of each local government for residential units under their jurisdiction. This publicly assessed price has not been adjusted for 27 years. Legislator Lai Shyh-bao estimates that the current "standard unit price" is roughly only one-fifth of the actual market value.
and of course...
"Taiwan is the only country in the world that uses an assessed present value to calculate housing and land taxes," says the economist Ma Kai. The publicly assessed land and house value usually seriously understates actual market values. "The Palace's apartments are publicly valued at only NT$3 million to NT$4 million," Ma says of the luxury property that reportedly has sold its units for up to NT$ 70 million.

Another Commonwealth piece observed:
On a profit that was in fact NT$82 million but assessed by the government at NT$15.25 million, the investor paid a land value increment tax of NT$3.05 million, an effective tax rate of 3.71 percent. Even when deed taxes and other fees are added, the investor's tax liability was still under NT$4 million, or lower than 5 percent, the lowest marginal rate on personal income taxes.
You can see the problem. The additional tax on non-occupied residences is a fleabite because it doesn't address the real issue, the disparity between the assessed value and the actual value that has remained unchanged since 1987. That disparity is driving the enormous housing bubble in Taipei, an alternate universe of unreal values, spinning off still further alternate universes of housing price bubbles like a bad SF horror movie in other locations in Taiwan.

Still, that bubble of construction and "investment" is probably driving a large part of GDP and thus, no government can afford to prick that bubble. If Ma really wanted to screw the DPP, he'd raise the assessed value on real estate to current levels as his last act in office, but his Administration is owned and operated by the 1%, so don't look for that to happen.

Commonwealth also takes a look at the proposed tax reforms to make up the government's fiscal shortfall. I have a lot of respect for that mag: they produce a ton of useful articles on taxes and on economic growth and economic and finance policy. And they don't subscribe to the fiscal and economic insanity that lowering taxes on the wealthy produces economic growth.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago the 104 Job Bank, Taiwan's most important, produced data showing that average wages for first time job seekers fell below $30,000 NT a month. Other reports set the sum even lower, at 22K, a sum that was the butt of sardonic jokes during the occupation of the legislature. The 104 Job Bank also showed that average real wage is $44,739 for 2013, lower than the real average wage of $44,798 for 1998. Yet prices, the article notes, have risen 10% since then.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Paper on Parade: Tourism as a territorial strategy: the case of China and Taiwan

A roadside vendor in Miaoli looks to capture some tourist dollars.

Time for another installment of this blog's regularly irregular Paper on Parade. Ian Rowen, the anthropologist sociologist geographer who was inside the Legislative Yuan during the Sunflower Movement occupation of that body, has written a very interesting article for the Annals of Tourism Research entitled Tourism as a territorial strategy: the case of China and Taiwan (Annals of Tourism Research. Volume 46, May 2014, Pages 62–74)(he's put it online)(link to publication).

Rowen opens the paper in fine anthropological style, beginning with Chinese blogger and celebrity Han Han and his trip to Taiwan, where he met a generous taxi driver:
Han’s taxi driver was not just a taxi driver—in the retelling, the cabbie came to represent of the supposed generous spirit of all Taiwanese people. Except, in Han’s reading, the driver’s generosity was not so much Taiwanese as it was Chinese, free of the corrupting influence of the CCP. Han therefore suggests he was not helped by a Taiwanese as much as he was by a more authentic Chinese subject. Taiwan’s history as a Japanese colony and US protectorate, as well as its many other specificities and contingencies are elided in this account.
He then goes on to review the way tourism is nested within important cross-strait currents -- the PRC's desire to annex Taiwan, the desire of the locals not to be annexed, the ongoing and constantly mutating discussion on Chineseness and resistance to such labels, and so on. He observes:
Past work suggests that the strategic deployment of tourism is part of China’s foreign policy apparatus (Arlt, 2006; Richter, 1983). Nyíri (2006) has argued that PRC state agents use tourism and tourist sites to articulate hegemonic claims about cultural identity and state authority, even beyond China’s borders. If this is true, then tourism to Taiwan should be no exception. Yet, it remains to be seen exactly how tourism may be serving the PRC’s claims to sovereignty over Taiwan, or possibly producing unintended effects of alienation. Though mediated by state and market forces, the narratives of tourists and toured are taking on political meanings and trajectories of their own, potentially reconfiguring the modes in which Taiwanese and PRC subjects recognize and engage with each other.
"Unintended effects of alienation." LOL. I've always supported PRC tourism here since I knew it would help distance Chinese from Taiwanese even further. I've had many encounters with Chinese tourists here and it is not difficult to get them to proclaim, at some point in the conversation, that Taiwanese are Chinese and Taiwan is part of China: "We are all Chinese!" a comment guaranteed to peeve locals.

Rowen moves on to offer the theoretical basis for his writing, arguing that the phenomenon of Chinese tourism in the annexation context may be understood using the rubric of state territorialization, the processes by which the state lays claim to particular places. Next he lays out the methodology, which consisted of him traveling around with group tours. What a kick that must have been!

As an avid cyclist I've had hundreds of "where should I go?" conversations with people and invariably, one hears "You should avoid such and such a place because Chinese tourists go there." I often make that point about the sump for Chinese tourist dollars that is Sun Moon Lake. Rowen observes that this is common among Taiwanese:
On the other hand, ordinary Taiwanese suggest that they don’t want to go to sites popular with PRC tourists, because they don't want to feel like they are “in China”. This leads to the second point: The more PRC group tourists engage with Taiwanese, the more they express a sense of cultural affinity, admiration, and crucially, identification with them as fellow Chinese nationals. Yet, the more Taiwanese engage with PRC group tourists, the more culturally, socially and politically alienated Taiwanese feel from China and PRC nationals. Such a contradiction between the delight of guests and the distaste of hosts is certainly not unique to cross-Strait tourism. What makes this case remarkable is that PRC group tourists, almost invariably believing that Taiwan is a part of China, identify with Taiwanese hosts as fellow (ethno)national subjects that should rightfully be under the sovereign jurisdiction of the PRC, even if these tourists acknowledge the existence of Taiwan’s different state administration. Therefore, the push and pull of this encounter is of consequence for the territorial socialization of tourists and the toured, as well as for the trajectory of cross-Strait diplomatic engagement, especially given Taiwan’s democratic political system.
This Chineseness of places that Chinese visit is in fact perceived by PRC tourists, according to Rowen:
The influx of PRC tourists has dampened the Taiwanese desire to visit Sun Moon Lake. “It’s pretty but I don’t go there anymore. If I wanted to feel like I’m in China, I’d just go to China,” said a Taipei colleague. His friends nodded in agreement. But Sun Moon Lake is not just viewed by Taiwanese as a “Chinese” space—PRC tourists themselves reported feeling as if they were still in China. Although this effect is not limited to Sun Moon Lake...
Rowen also reports that Chinese view Taiwan as more civilized place, a "China" unspoiled by the Cultural Revolution and Communism, but never connect any of Taiwan's more "civilized" behaviors to the years of Japanese colonialism. The idea that Taiwan better preserves "Chinese" culture is is a key trope of pro-China propaganda, and ignoring or downplaying the pervasive Japanese influence on Taiwan is an inevitable result of this trope.

This paper offers a few moments of scary humor. For example, anyone who goes to PRC tourist sites knows that there will be Falungong propaganda hanging about -- indeed I now interpret the presence of an FLG sign as a signal that a place is visited by Chinese tourists. Rowen notes:
In an interview, a Falun Gong activist and retired professor, mentioned that a PRC tourist, perhaps confused about what country he was in, attempted to call the local police to report illegal, anti-government activity. The police took no action.
But overall, Rowen keeps returning to his major theme, which is that PRC assertions of control over Taiwan via tourism are backfiring because the PRC tourists are alienating the Taiwanese. This is an inevitable result of the fact that tourists are a picked group, probably more nationalist than the PRC population at large. It will be interesting to see how the individual tourists are perceived and how they see Taiwan. Hopefully Rowen has another excellent paper on that in the future!
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Catch Up Links Fest

Wrecks rest on the east coast.

Apologies for the lack of posts. Just too damned busy. Have a huge list of stuff I want to post on.... but first to catch up.

Well, the great wave of anti-sunflower movement propaganda begins. The government claimed today that all FTA talks with other countries have been shelved over the student occupation of the LY (China Post)...
All free trade negotiations with Taiwan planned for this year have been shelved by “other countries” because of unrest over the services pact with China, Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) said Monday, though he refused to name any specific countries.
Chang told the Legislature's Economics Committee that many countries have grown hesitant and indefinitely postponed scheduled talks after the weeks of protest and ongoing controversy over the service trade pact that have gripped the country and, at one point, ground the Legislature to a halt.

Accused by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) of making threats to scare the public, Chang said that he and his ministry are not at liberty to reveal the names of countries interested in talks with Taiwan.
The idea that other countries have shelved their FTA talks over the student occupation felt palpably absurd. US officials have said that US trade deals have nothing to do with the services pact, just as former official William Stanton said further down in that article  (indeed a minor deal between TAITRA and the US FCS was inked while the students were occupying the legislature). AIT quickly distanced itself.

A KMT spokesman delivered the propaganda barrage last week in The Diplomat, doing exactly as I had predicted. He was arguing against Michal Thim's earlier piece, and his piece is important in that it shows how the KMT's anti-student propaganda will work: just as in the piece above. The students are going to take the blame for the KMT government's own decisions. The KMT has used this approach before, when it blamed environmentalists for what appeared likely to be its own decision to shutter the proposed naptha cracker in Changhua. Thim's response was classic.

The Diplomat's coverage of the Sunflower Movement has been excellent, but among the most interesting pieces was this one from a Chinese writer on democracy.
Regarding the Taiwanese students’ occupation of the Legislative Yuan, comments from Chinese scholars have been different from the comments made by the Western and Taiwan scholars. The Western scholars are mostly discussing the facts on the ground. From the beginning, the Taiwanese scholars discussed whether or not Taiwan needs the service trade agreement, and whether Ma Ying-jeou’s actions complied with the democratic process. But mainland Chinese scholars, whether for or against the protest, all carried a strong strain of idealism. They tried to analyze the issue using the theory of democracy, seeking a strategically advantageous position. They have one concern only: democracy.
Democracy be damned: prosecutors began questioning students this week.

Ben Goren has had some great stuff lately. This piece in the CPI blog covers an important paper which demonstrates what many of us have been trying to point out for the last six years: that the Taiwan-China make up is really a deal between the CCP in China and the KMT in Taiwan. The paper goes into detail into the institutional arrangements the two parties have made to keep advancing Taiwan into China's arms even if the pro-democracy side takes the presidency again in 2016.

Longtime Taiwan scholar Mark Harrison reviews the Sunflower movement:
The strength of the political response to the trade agreement from activists and the Taiwanese public suggest that both positions are expressing deep fissures in Taiwanese society. In the simplistic arguments of both proponents and detractors of the CSSTA is a shared anxiety (and scepticism) over the viability of a distinctive Taiwanese polity and identity. For the KMT, in a position that is little changed from the martial law era, the Taiwanese will ultimately accept Chinese investment and act in their narrow financial interests rather than over political or cultural ideals. For the opponents of the CSSTA, in a fear that also echoes the martial law period, Taiwanese identity will dissolve in a media, cultural and educational environment gradually dominated by the Chinese identity politics that will come with mainland investment.
Finally, one important change: the police are being investigated for their violent behavior. Taiwan Voice on Facebook notes:
A step in the right direction: The courts have approved a case against the police and requested that all evidence be preserved regarding possible police brutality during the eviction at the Executive Yuan. This is unprecedented for a case brought about by citizens trying to hold the police accountable for their actions.
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Riding the Tawu/Longxi Industry Road

The evening we stayed in Tawu we ran into this amazing man, TX Wong, from Hong Kong. Tex was walking around Taiwan, a 30 day tour, 30-40 kms a day. He was two weeks in and expected to take another two weeks. This was his second trip. I am hoping to interview him in early May about his experiences.

Busy as heck this week, and then took three days off to go cycling. So that explains the lack of posts...

A lovely weekend on the east coast as my friend Michael Cannon and I headed out to explore the Tawu-Longxi industry road. Two days of fun in the sun, with plenty of beer, great scenery, and even a trio of pole dancing babes. Click on READ MORE to read more...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mayor Hau And Taipei City Government blow emergency funds on pro-annexation propaganda

In case you thought that display of 1600 pandas in front of the CKS Memorial/Democracy Square wasn't about politics, it was all about annexation propaganda. The Taipei government created the revolting propaganda set of stickers for LINE above back in Feb. They show a Formosan Black Bear and a panda cavorting together:
The local government’s Department of Information and Tourism squandered taxpayers’ “life savings” after it used money from the city’s emergency secondary reserve fund, which is earmarked for emergency relief, to release a set of eight LINE stickers featuring panda cub Yuan Zai (圓仔), Taipei City Councilor Ho Chih-wei (何志偉) of the Democratic Progressive Party said on Tuesday.

.....

The city government has taken about NT$3.33 million from the reserve fund to promote the pandas, NT$1.6 million of which went toward the sticker pack and NT$1.73 million for a 10-day outdoor art exhibition featuring 1,600 papier-mache giant pandas made by French artist Paulo Grangeon, the sources said.
The stickers are for the popular communications app LINE. A set of stickers put out by the city promoting love between the Formosan Black Bear (=Taiwan) and a panda (=bombastic expansionist power) are clearly intended as political propaganda.
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Monday, April 14, 2014

BREAKING: Su, Hsieh, drop out of DPP Chairmanship race + stuff

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Me at the historic Ta-an train station outside Houli on Fumei Road. The station and area are being developed as tourism area.

Today both Su Tseng-cheng and Frank Hsieh announced that they would not run for the DPP Chairmanship position. This leaves it open for Tsai Ing-wen. I hope, against hope, that the DPP has had an attack of sense and will appoint one person to run the party while another runs as its Presidential candidate.

Yesterday this very frustrating interview of Taiwan expert Shelley Rigger by Jeffery Wasserstrom appeared in Dissent Quarterly. Her heart is in the right place, judging from her comments on neoliberalism and its discontents, but much of her commentary on Taiwan and the services pact consists of KMT talking points presented as actual analysis. Not much point in critiquing neoliberalism if you are just going to turn around and forward the propaganda. Ben Goren rakes it over the coals here.

In addition to Rigger's issues, the other thing that peeved me about this piece is that there are many credentialed academics who have been down at the protests such as Ketty Chen, Stephane Corcuff, Frank Muyard, Ian Rowen (actually inside the LY), Kerim Friedman,and several others plus a bunch of local academics who would have been happy to talk, and a raft of experienced and savvy journalists, including people like J Michael Cole, Jenny Hsu, Michael Fahey, who writes from time to time for the SCMP and who is an extremely sharp observer of Taiwan politics, Martin Williams, who is incredibly knowledgeable and witty as hell, and Dennis Engbarth, who writes for IPS and was present in the Executive Yuan when the police attacked the protesters there, and whose knowledge of Taiwan politics runs deeper than anyone I know, scholar or no. But who gets the interview? Rigger, who is 12,000 kilometers from the action and is clearly out of touch.

And people wonder why I bike 200 kms a week. It stems off the madness from contemplating the workings of our universe.

The Friday night mess: the police withdrew the protest permit for the ART on Friday, in the usual manner of institutions wreaking vengeance on perceived opponents. The Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan, which anyone who has gone down to the legislature or Foreign Ministry has seen on the corner of Chinan and Chungshan, had their longtime permit to protest revoked, for helping out in the recent student protest. This sparked a small protest of about 1,000 appearing in front of the police station there on Friday night. The protesters, droll to the core, said they didn't need a permit to be there since they were just "passing by," echoing the city's refusal to press charges against alleged gangster Chang An-lo for his "counterprotest" because he was just "passing by." There were a few tussles on Friday night, but nothing too serious.
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Taiwan/India/Modi

Taiwan wants Modi in the election, according to the Economic Times, from whence this came.
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Weekend in the hills: the Miaoli 54-1 and Dongchi Road

On the 54-1 above the tombs.

Two days of excellent sunny weather. I decided to see what the Miaoli 54-1 is like and have a long-anticipated meet up with Scott E. Click on READ MORE as always...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Call For Papers: Tainan Area Studies: Society and Daily Life in the Tainan Region

Still taking a couple of days off, but I thought I'd forward this.

Dear Colleagues,

This message is a call for papers for the 4th International Conference on Tainan Area Studies, entitled "Society and Daily Life in the Tainan Region," co-organized by the Nanying International Center for Tainan Area Humanities and Social Sciences Research and the National Museum of Taiwan History, based in Tainan.

The conference will be held October 18-19, 2014. Abstracts should be send before April 30, 2014. The deadline for sending the final papers is September 30, 2014.

More information is in the attached document. Click READ MORE

Friday, April 11, 2014

Call for Papers on Youth Politics

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I'm going to take a couple of days off to bike. Emotionally drained and burned out from the events of the last few weeks. But here's an important call for papers.


10月在華盛頓DC有一場研討會,主辦單位希望有一個panel給研究生寫太陽花運動(及野草莓/野百合),假如有人10月寫得出來的可以考慮投稿,有交通補助。
---
Lilies, Strawberries, and Sunflowers: In search of papers on Taiwan youth politics” CALL FOR PAPERS

I am organizing a panel on youth politics in Taiwan for the American Association for Chinese Studies annual conference, and I need a couple more papers. Given what’s going on in Taiwan these days, there must be people who want to write on this topic. If you are working in this field, or know of colleagues or students who are (or could be inspired to do so), please let send me names and contact information so I can reach out to them. A graduate student could start working now and have a great paper in hand in time for the conference, which will take place October 10-12 in Washington, DC (at George Washington University). There is travel money available for grad students to attend the conference.

Cheers – Shelley
Shelley Rigger
Brown Professor and Chair of Political Science and Chair of Chinese Studies
Davidson College
PO Box 7018
Davidson, NC 28035-7018
704-894-2505
704-894-2881 (fax)

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Coming thick and fast: more Links-n-Stuff

Things are happening so fast, stuff is shooting out over the internet like kernels exploding from a popcorn popper someone forgot to cover. I've rounded up some more stuff for your amusement and edification.

First, today's big news: Ma "Saruman" Ying-jeou is refiling the lawsuit against Wang Jin-pyng to get him dropped from the KMT. Note that Ma, instead of trying to look more statesmanlike than Wang, something he could do very easily since he has the advantage of actually being the President, ups the viciousness ante. This also means that he will never rest until the protest leaders are behind bars. This viciousness is also extended to the simple matter of paying for the alleged damage to the LY, where the government is trying to restrict who can pay (many people have offered to pay on the kids' behalf) and to try and make donations illegal. As many have noted, nothing happened to the Red Shirts for collecting donations. If only for the sake of those kids, we need a DPP President in 2016.

Ma took another blow when the US representative office in Taiwan, AIT, said that the TPP and the services pact are not related and failure to sign the latter won't affect the former. And all along he's been saying that Taiwan will be locked out of other agreements if it doesn't get this one.

Ben has the latest poll from the pro-KMT TVBS. The details are in his post, but basically the people tell Ma he can go pound sand.

Taiwanese songs and language in the protests from CPI blog.

William Pesek rocks Bloomberg with another hard-hitting piece noting how little Taiwan has for cozying up to China. The idea that Taiwan is doomed without the services pact is ridiculous.

International academics with an open letter on the Sunflower Movement.

J Michael contends the Sunflower Movement has sparked a necessary debate on democracy

Tkacik at Chinafile: Why the protesters stuck it out.

BBC reports on the the bamboo industry's recovery.

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Another in the continuing run of ECFA successes

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Lost a toy on the roof...

ECFA struck again in March, delivering massive gains in exports to China. Hahaha, no, slowly declining trade with China. Of course! ECFA missed the golden age, which was during the Chen years, and now as China upgrades manufacturing technology, it is starting to render Taiwan producers either irrelevant or vulnerable.
Exports to Southeast Asia—Taiwan's second-largest overseas market after China and accounting for about a fifth of all exports—gained 5.7% after a 4.8% growth in February.

.....

However, China stood out as a weak spot. Last month, Taiwan's exports to China fell 3.7% from a year earlier, after a 11.3% increase in February. It was largely due to China's increasing reliance on locally-produced raw materials and components, Taiwan's government said Monday. Taiwanese TV panels, once a major export to China, are also losing out to the Chinese who have more advanced technology, the government added.
The real area of gain for Taiwan is South and Southeast Asia, and that's where the national effort should be focused. The long-term trend for China isn't good. And if Taiwan could fix its South China Sea policy, it might have an advantage over China. But the current administration....

As for the yammering punditocracy that argues for the inevitability of China's annexation of Taiwan via trade, perhaps the trend here might have an effect. But I'm not holding out any hope.....

Anyone who looks at the promises from ECFA will see the same ones as for the services pact....
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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Student Leaders could get years

Pic from the SET TV link below.

SET TV reported last night....the government wants years in jail for Lin Fei-fan and Chen Wei-ting. J Michael gives the sobering description.
Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), two of the main leaders in the Sunflower Movement that has occupied the Legislative Yuan since March 18, could be prosecuted on five and six counts respectively, with the most serious offense resulting in imprisonment up to seven years for Chen.

In all, the Ministry of Justice has listed 34 defendants in the case. The charges against Lin and Chen include “Offenses Against Personal Liberty” (妨害自由), “Offenses of Interference with Public Functions” (妨害公務), “intimidation” (恐嚇) and “malfeasance” (瀆職).
Of course, openly operating gangsters can come and go as they please, assault police, and even get citizenship despite a serious criminal record....
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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Ma Looks Down from Orthanc: Winners and Losers Edition

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On the remains of the rail line out to Dongshih in Taichung.
     A shadow passed over Saruman's face; then it went deathly white. Before he could conceal it, they saw through the mask the anguish of a mind in doubt, loathing to stay and dreading to leave its refuge. For a second, he hesitated, and no one breathed. Then he spoke, and his voice was shrill and cold. Pride and hate were conquering him.
     "Will I come down?" he mocked. "Does an unarmed man come down to speak with robbers out of doors? I can hear you well enough here."
Well, the students are leaving on Thursday. After the student presser Ma held a press conference and basically repeated all the points he's been making since Day 1, which basically consist of:
Against the power of Mordor there can be no victory. We must join with Him, Gandalf. We must join with Sauron.
Sorry! Don't know how that slipped in there. I mean, he made the usual (1) we're in competition with Korea and we'll be weeded out and (2) it will hurt Taiwan's chances to join other treaties. The KMT rejected Wang's proposed compromises.

(You can see how the pork thing is going to play out. At present Taiwan is blocking imports of US ractopork to protect its own pork producers. This will disrupt talks with the TPP and TIFA agreements with the US. Ma will then blame the students.)

LOSER: Ma Ying Jeou. Wow has Ma taken a beating. Speaker Wang Jin-pyng's decision to talk to the students on Sunday was a decisive blow against Ma. Ma is looking shrill, isolated, inept, and blundering (don't worry Mr President, I'm sure Banyan at the Economist will produce another fawning piece to help shore up any decline in ego). His lack of people skills shone -- Lee Teng-hui would have gone down to talk to the students, Chiang Ching-kuo would have gone down to talk to the students (yeah, and then have had them all locked up after having gangsters break their heads). Ma is now isolated within his own party. Only his position as KMT chair is sustaining him. The Old Guard remains silent -- Old Guard children Hau Long-bin and Sean Lien may be Presidential and Taipei Mayor candidates, respectively, as my man Ben pointed out to me -- and so their parents have said nothing in public. But the disgust with Ma in the KMT is widespread.

That said, recall that Ma's real audience is in Beijing. Those are his real allies. And they will be quite pleased at the simple outcome -- the services pact will be approved, there will be no review, Ma and his KMT allies have rejected a review.

But overall, Ma has defeated Taiwan. Let's list all the things that have (not) happened. ECFA passed. Services pact will pass without review or alteration. No real capital gains tax. No increase in land tax. No slowing of the construction-industrial state's project of concreting over the entire island. No reduction in local corruption and local factions -- it's still divide-and-rule down there. Organized crime remains a powerful political and social force. When you peel back the pro-Taiwan furor and feeling, the truth is that Ma's program of 1% dominance has won. Ma has taken a beating where he can afford it, in the court of public opinion. His 1% backers must be well satisfied with their creature.

LOSER: Premier Jiang Yi-hwa. I'll let Ben over at LFT carry the ball from his excellent post on this:
What is interesting here is how Premier Jiang, who many have suggested is Ma’s pick for party candidate in the 2016 Presidential elections, has now completely transformed from so-called ‘liberal academic’ to ‘scholar Premier’ to ‘Party Premier’ and now ‘President’s Protegee’. Unfortunately, Jiang’s clumsy and puppy loyal observance and parroting of President Ma’s positions over the CSSTA and Sunflower protests will likely have cost him any chance of either being selected as candidate for, or winning, such an election.
Jiang will probably never be elected president. He's now too closely tied to Ma.

WINNER: Speaker of the legislature Wang Jin-pyng. Wang is positioning himself to take over as KMT Chairman if/when the Party takes a beating in the 2014 elections. Perhaps Ma will step down, but my attitude is that he won't. The moment he steps down as Chair, he becomes totally marginalized as does his right-hand man, "the Little Knife", King Pu-tsun, who came rushing back to comfort and support Ma a couple of weeks ago.

However, there's been some speculation that Wang, often seen as the informal leader of the Taiwanese KMT legislators from central and southern Taiwan, will lead some kind of internal putsch against Ma. Let's face it, for the Taiwanese legislators, the KMT = CHOAM. They are not in it because they have a pro-China social identity like the mainlander core nor does the KMT proffer any moral position that anyone with moral backbone could serve. They are just in it for the money, and as long as the money comes down to their patronage networks, they will grumble but not do anything. Building a revolt on them would be like trying to build walls on a foundation of pudding. Hence, unlike some, I see the chances of Ma being pushed out as slim. They only way there will be a putsch is if the mainlander core backs Wang and joins with the Taiwanese KMTers.

Moreover, even if the 2014 election is blown, he may not step down -- I believe he is that disconnected from reality. Instead he might argue that it wasn't a defeat -- he's constantly turning black into white in any situation -- or that only he can "save" the KMT. Recall that this is a man who takes on the trappings of the Emperor of China when he participates in Confucian ritual. I read that as Ma conceiving of himself as having a superior moral right to lead the KMT and the ROC. And while he talks about Chiang Ching-kuo just to please the masses, he is a child of the 60s and 70s, and his real model of leadership appears to be the vicious, aloof, and inept Chiang Kai-shek.

Which brings me to my last point. If Ma stays on into 2015, don't be shocked if he starts pushing Jiang Yi-hwa as his handpicked presidential candidate. 2015 promises to be a very interesting year on this blog, if I am still blogging.

LOSER: The KMT. This event shows how any little bit of pressure can reveal the deep fissures in the party between its various factions. It is obvious that only Ma's iron control on party resources is preventing defections from the party line.

WINNER: The student movement. The long series of protests has matured them, and they handled this one well. A nation came out in support of them. The government's quick removal of the protesters from the Executive Yuan meant that the LY students would be the only protest and the movement would not bifurcate. Will they all be arrested? The prosecutors have their info, but no summons have been issued and no arrests have occurred. Chen is already under indictment for protesting in Miaoli. What many of us are quietly worrying about is "suicide" or "auto accidents" (happened to two activists). Before you dismiss this as paranoia, recall that one of the Dapu resisters was found dead in a ditch.

WINNER: Lin Fei-fan and Chen Wei-ting, the student leaders. Everyone is looking forward to their next move.

WINNER: J Michael Cole. Cole's reportage has owned this affray. His initial piece at The Diplomat has 8200 shares at this point and he churned out excellent piece after excellent piece. Awesome work, Michael.

WINNER: Taiwan. Oh hell yeah. Are the young going to wake up and grab their future? Will they vote in the elections later this year? Will the DPP get its act together, embrace the social justice movements and get down and dirty at the local level?

What a year this will be.....
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House Passes Taiwan legislation

The US House passed legislation that is important for Taiwan (here). Rep. Royce's announcement:
Today, the House of Representatives passed with overwhelming bipartisan support H.R. 3470, the Taiwan Relations Act Affirmation and Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2014, introduced by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The legislation reaffirms U.S. commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act and strengthens ties with key U.S. security partners by transferring ships that meet shared maritime security requirements. Specifically, the legislation authorizes the transfer by sale of four Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates to Taiwan.
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Monday, April 07, 2014

BREAKING: LY Occupation to end on Thurs at 6 pm =UPDATED=

Students are holding presser at the moment. LY occupation to end on Thursday at 6 pm.

Ian Rowen sent this around Facebook:

BREAKING: Chen Wei-Ting announces that the Sunflower Movement has achieved significant progress in the pursuit of its goals. The world has heard the news. Students are already forming a new organization to hold legislators to their promises to the people. The occupation of the Legislative Yuan will end this Thursday at 6pm. All are welcome to gather before the end. Lin Feifan answers question, explains that students will clean up after themselves, should support each other through possible political persecution, and are open to future reflection.

UPDATE:
Taiwan Voice explained:

At a press conference Monday night at 8:00 p.m., the student leaders announced that their student movement has evolved to a state of becoming a citizens' movement. They also asserted that the occupation of the Legislative Yuan was one of many actions they are ready to take. The Sunflower Movement has most definitely not stopped.

More, they have satisfied the following demands:

(1) Regulations for cross strait agreement monitoring: The Citizen's version of the cross strait agreement monitoring draft bill has been sent into the Legislative Yuan. The Executive Yuan has also sent their version.

(2) Pass the cross strait agreement monitoring act before passing the trade pact: Wang Jing-Pyng promised to not hold any negotiation between the KMT and the opposition parties.

(3) Hold a citizen's constitutional meeting: Students and citizens group already held Grassroot Citizen Constitutional Forum on April 6, and used the decisions made during the meeting to hold a forum inside the Legislative Yuan on April 8th. The movement has already provided the results of the citizen's constitutional meeting to society.

(4) Retract the Trade Pact: According to the meeting on March 24 in the the Legislative Yuan, the Legislators have agreed to request the Executive Yuan to retract the trade pact and re-initiate negotiation. The Legislative Yuan will continue dealing with this issue.

Students also added that the whole of Taiwanese society has become a legislative chamber. The students will face all legal ramifications for their actions as they stand resolutely behind them.

Photo taken on the scene outside of the Legislative Yuan as protesters watch Lin Fei-fan's announcement.

UPDATE: South China Morning Post reports.

UPDATE: FocusTaiwan short report

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Taiwan Voice Twofer + links

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House near Jiaxian.

Taiwan Voice has been rocking the protests with a great flow of information. For those of you who aren't connected to Taiwan Voice via Facebook, here are two from today below the READ MORE link, one from a former Grand Justice (=Supreme Court) about the rightness of the Sunflower Movement and one from Liberty Times on the hollow cross-strait oversight bill the Executive Yuan is pushing, which basically strips out the role of the Legislative Yuan in overseeing agreements.
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The political role of "There is no consensus"

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Waiting for people to hang out.

Was reading up on some notes of the presentation of Taiwan Defense Minister Andrew Hsia at one of the conferences on the 35th anniversary of the TRA. Hsia said the government recognizes three security threats:
1. unconventional threats - climate change, natural disasters.
2. "problems with Japan over the Diaoyutai," issue with the Philippines
3. biggest threat still the other side with its increasing defense budget since 1985.
I thought it was cool that global warming was the number one threat, and thought it was really stupid that the second one was Japan and the Senkakus/Diaoyutai (and Manila. LOL). I doubt many ordinary people see Japan as a threat. It really shows the insanity of the ROC position on the Senkakus, and also their important function as an irritant in Japan-Taiwan relations, cooling and complicating Japanese support for Taiwan.

The notes observed that Hsia's next point was that the government wants a prosperous and stable Taiwan without being coerced by China, based on the 1992 consensus. But interestingly, Hsia then said that due to the lack of mutual trust and Taiwan being a democracy, there is no consensus on how to handle China. Hsia then went on to claim that the KMT move toward Beijing was apolitical and pragmatic (how they love that word!).

You can see the political function of the constant claim about how there is no consensus from the KMT side right in Hsia's comments. The reason they keep reiterating that is (1) to cover the fact that there is indeed a consensus and (2) it permits them to do whatever they want -- they're not defying the consensus, right? -- and claim that since there is no consensus, they aren't being "political."
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