Saturday, September 05, 2015

TAO WOW: The most important thing you will read this month on Taiwan

Betel nut trees removed from a hillside in Taichung

For a long time I've been resistant to concluding that Beijing was inept and ignorant of Taiwan affairs as so many have asserted privately to me. It looks like I was wrong to give Beijing the benefit of the doubt....

Solidarity translated two reports from Storm Media about Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO). Apparently the anti-corruption drive has now reached into the TAO and is going after Chen Yun-lin...
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has stationed itself inside the PRC Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), serving notice to China’s Taiwan network and Taiwanese business community. An ROC (Taiwan) cross-strait official divulges that according to the information the office has gotten hold of, after Taiwan’s nine-in-one elections Chairman Xi Jinping in an internal meeting criticized former ARATS and TAO chief Chen Yunlin for his “erroneous methods” which had caused Taiwan policy to produce poor results. Hence, the CCDI’s investigation of Chen Yunlin [S.tw: more on that in the next report] is not just “wind blowing through an opening.” Our government source believes that the PRC anti-corruption campaign aside, the true purpose of the CCDI investigation is to put the nation’s Taiwan network on notice that policy work on Taiwan affairs will no longer run on mutual exchanges of benefits.
You have to read the entire thing, with its rumors, allegations, and descriptions of Beijing's leadership circles being unable to understand a thing about Taiwan even though media and social networks make things abundantly clear. Apparently, Beijing's spy network in Taiwan can't even read the newspapers. It is incredible how stupid things are...
A knowledgeable source says that the TAO’s reports had originally led Xi Jinping to believe that the KMT would hold onto Taipei City. When the TAO’s prediction was proven wrong, Xi was infuriated. He demanded the Taiwan network write a review report of what had happened. In the first report it submitted Xi, the Taiwan network repeated its past rhetoric by blaming the Democratic Progressive Party for “fanning the flames of the Taiwanese citizens.” Xi believed this report was unable to explain the real problem and demanded it be rewritten.
But wait, there's more...
However, last year as the anti-services pact controversy got hotter and hotter, there was word across the strait that Lai Xiaohua had embezzled at least US$10 million through different channels of the TAO and the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland. When it became clear later that the organizations’ books didn’t add up, the TAO was forced to ask Taiwanese businesspeople to use the accounts of Taiwan Associations and the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland to cover the hole. The Taiwanese businessmen were so infuriated by this request that they were speechless, but for the sake of their businesses they gave in and covered the loss.

According to a Taiwanese businessperson, when Chen Yunlin ran the TAO during Taiwan’s Lee and Chen administrations, Taiwanese investment in China was still not systematic, and cross-strait relations were not good, so most things were done through private channels. The line between personal investment and government Taiwan work was hazy. Hence, there have been many unproven rumors of beneficial relationships between China’s Taiwan hands and certain Taiwanese politicians and businessmen.
Such things have long been rumored, but there have been few articles on it. Solidarity and Ben from Letters from Taiwan talked about it on Twitter...
It's pretty obvious that the combination of authoritarian institutional arrangements -- where you can't speak truth to power because it will get you killed -- ideological blindness, faction politics, corruption, and incompetence have created a vast ignorance in Beijing. Cole notes:
For all his faults, Mr. Chen is being unfairly accused by a regime that, despite multiple occasions to learn from Taiwan’s open society, stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the drivers of Taiwan’s distinct identity. Beijing seems to regard the trend lines that indicate a rising self-identification as Taiwanese and single-digit support for unification as a sign that it — the TAO, ARATS — has failed to properly communicate with the Taiwanese people and explain why its Taiwan policy, which is largely influenced by a belief in economic determinism, should be embraced by its 23 million people. The problem is that Beijing appears to have become a victim of its own propaganda, a phenomenon that may have been exacerbated by the authoritarian nature of its political system which discourages officials from providing their superiors with information that doesn’t fit the accepted model.
Not just Beijing has bought into the economic determinism model. How many times has it been said since 2000 that annexation is inevitable and economics will make Taiwan just fall into Beijing's lap, ripe plumlike and all? Quite the opposite: the closer the two sides become economically, the more the Taiwanese reject China. Moreover, the golden age is over. A lot of people have yet to wrap their heads around that. No doubt in 2035 I'll wheeze into a bar in Taipei with my walker and IV drip, and some paleface will inform me with a patronizing sneer that close economic relations between Taiwan and China mean annexation is just around the corner...

Just envision, for a moment, Xi's alleged cluelessness on Taiwan and then extend this kind of information collection regime and response across all areas of China's government. Brr....
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10 comments:

Tommy said...

When I talk about Taiwan and Hong Kong to people, I often point out the fact that this is not a Taiwan and Hong Kong problem, it is a general problem of a system that does not cultivate pluralism in policymaking. That is, the Taiwan and Hong Kong problem is also the Xinjiang problem. It is also the Tibet problem. It is also the journalist arrest problem, and a multitude of others. Different identities lead to different interpretations of the same problem. It is impossible to effectively lead a multi-ethnic society unless you have the ability to accept and make allowances for this.

In such a system, maintained over a period of decades, it would be impossible for Tibetans to not want to be Chinese, for example. What the Chinese leadership wants is simply the right way to do things, so any rational person would naturally come to understand that with the proper education.

In the Hong Kong setting, the past year has yielded many comments about youth guidance and youth unruliness (Ex: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1845531/hku-council-meeting-chaos-reflects-worrying-mob-mentality?page=all). Many op-eds by pro-establishment figures lament the decline in values among the young. It has even been speculated that Beijing's disappointment over former Home Affairs Secretary Tsang Tak-sing's youth work was a cause for Tsang's early retirement.

The implication is that if only youth were better educated and better respected their elders' viewpoints, then these problems would not exist. This reduces any genuine concerns of young people to a need for more appropriate education. Until the Chinese political system is reformed to allow for alternate viewpoints to shape policymaking (outside of the economic sphere), such screw-ups will continue to occur.

Alexandre Charron-Trudel said...

Michael, I take it you haven't seen this video then?

http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/this-is-the-insane-video-china-just-put-out-showing-it-1728674129

it's an allegedly PLA produced video released on the same day as the parade, in addition to this:

http://thediplomat.com/2015/09/confirmed-chinese-navy-entered-us-territorial-waters-off-alaska/

I would love to hear your thoughts on these.

Mike Fagan said...

"Until the Chinese political system is reformed to allow for alternate viewpoints to shape policymaking..."

Do they even have the culture to support such a system were it miraculously to come about?

Anonymous said...

So, if annexation via compradors is out of vogue in Beijing, what is next? Does Beijing want the island or does it want the island plus it's population? It's not like they are short of a few slaves eh. I wonder how many Taiwanese would give up their right to reside here in exchange for a lump of cash, like NT$10m, if the alternative is assimilation...

Anonymous said...

So they commemorate the end of the war against Japan by putting on a video of destroying ships, air crafts and bases in the likeness of those of the country that forced the Japanese Empire to surrender? The original source noted that the PLA connection is only suspected, not substantiated. Still, it's bizarre on so many levels I don't even know where to begin. Some people dismiss it as a demonstration video, and a fantasization at that. But that fantasization just reaffirms what everyone should know, that China is a non-expansionist country that will defend its legal territory according to its own law that it fancied to draw up, even if an international alliance is against it. It is a peaceful country will sue for peace by raining missiles on random targets of random countries they consider enemies if an explosion occurs at one of their bases for no apparent reason.

John Groot said...

Interesting post Michael. In your opinion, what are the specific points that Xi is missing? He's a smart guy, so are you sure he is actually missing them or is he just saving face by blaming an obvious target?

Michael Turton said...

I think they are actually missing them, if their information sources are Taishang and spies in Taiwan. I don't think it is faked... they are missing the transformed identity, etc...

Alcibiades said...

Exactly. Too bad we don't have a name for such a system of competing perspectives embraced within a single social structure.

John Groot said...

Thanks for your response Michael. I am sure that Xi gets reports from a lot of people, including some clever analysts. The CCP can be open to hearing about different points of view in private, controlled circumstances, I believe, in the standing committee of the politburo. However, this is such an opaque group to read so my just saying that doesn't prove anything. Could you please indulge me if you have the time to explain what aspect of Taiwan Xi is missing? Thanks!

les said...

It's also possible this is the start of Xi's face-saving excuses to the Chinese people for not 'solving' the 'Taiwan question' during his term.

"I was given the wrong information"
"The people in charge made mistakes"
"Our policies were correct but weren't properly implemented"
"The dog ate my homework"

I have no doubt though that Beijing will give up on the KMT as the vehicle by which to meet their goals. Lien Chan seems reliable, but not the rest of them. Either too inept or not properly motivated to do Beijing's bidding.