Saturday, January 23, 2016

Rainy Day Short Shorts

At Hung Tz-yung's HQ on Saturday night
The all-too-familiar sight of party strongmen vying for positions under the table does not bode well for the self-proclaimed reform-minded KMT. Instead of wasting its time in court politics, the party should realize the existential crisis it is in. April 2015
It's KMT Chairmanship election time, and for the next three months the KMT is going to be preoccupied with its internal conflicts, doing less damage to Taiwan in the Ma-Tsai interregnum than it otherwise might have. KMT chairmanship election fun...
The alliance said a number of KMT members have announced that they would run for party chairmanship, including Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), former KMT vice chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and Taipei City councilors Lee Hsin (李新) and Chung Hsiao-ping (鍾小平).
Former Taichung mayor Jason Hu is also said to be thinking about a run for party Chairman, but has decided not to as of this writing. Of this lot Hu is the only one with real political skills, old time skills in balancing local factions and doling out largesse. He is often identified as a rival of Ma Ying-jeou, who will be a strong player in the Chairmanship election. Hu called for the party to lower the fees for party membership for the young. Hung and Hau are both over 60.

The KMT chairmanship election will be March 26 and the term will end in August of 2017 -- a few months before the 2018 elections for the county chiefs and city mayors. That means the KMT will be facing another bruising internal struggle with an election looming.

The Executive Yuan resigned en masse -- 44 agency heads and the like -- following the election, a decision in the works for months, since my friends in US universities told me cabinet officials in the Ma government have been applying for positions there since the beginning of 2015. Sending out KMT retreads to foreign universities is one of the most important ways the KMT continues to negatively impact the academic discourse on Taiwan. Solidarity observes:
The most important resignation from a governmental standpoint would have to be that of Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) and his entire Cabinet this afternoon (link). This appears to be part of a futile attempt by Ma into goading Tsai to form a joint Cabinet with him the next four months, a diminution of presidential sovereignty that could come in handy at the end of Tsai’s term. Ma and Mao have been talking about the legislative majority being DPP (the new Legislature takes office in just a couple weeks) creating a mandate for a joint Cabinet, another diminution of the president that could also come in handy if the KMT can retake at least the Legislature at some point in the future. Tsai won’t go for any of this and questions the constitutionality of the plan. She wants Ma and his team to sit and wait for May. Complicating things is Mao seeming to insist he wants to leave when Ma is now open to keeping him (link) and media reports Ma’s been unable to contact Mao and Mao’s wife left Ma standing out in the cold when he visited the Mao home recently (link). Anyway, it seems Simon Chang (張善政) (whose Chinese first name literally means “good government”) will be the acting premier until this drama is settled by Ma deciding definitively whose resignations to accept or reject.
Lots of people not really getting why the Tsai camp won't accept the idea of selecting the government from the party with the majority in the legislature. If Tsai accepts that, and the KMT wins back the legislature in the next election, then the KMT gets to appoint the government, making the presidency superfluous. It's one of several faux "reform" ideas the KMT has been floating in the last year to reduce the power of the presidency in the hope of regaining the legislature and eviscerating the DPP president's powers, similar to this one. Fortunately the Tsai camp laughed at it. It's no way to run a government, and does not reflect well on the KMT.

Yesterday a TV commentator pointed out that the KMT has never had a legislator who started out as a legislative assistant -- it's all nepotism. By contrast, the DPP has system for bringing people up. There's also another of the periodic calls for the KMT to drop "Chinese" from its name. Nothing will come of that.

The Great Firewall was opened on Wednesday and thousands of Chinese trolls attacked Tsai Ing-wen's Facebook, What this event really shows is how lucky the world is that the Great Firewall exists. Without that, Wikipedia would quickly become useless, overrun with Chinese trolls flooding it with bad grammar and worse history, and groups interested in China-related issues would become filled with idiots. The Great Firewall is saving the global internet.

It is widely reported, though nothing definitive is out there, that China is going to cut tourists 30-50% in March. Locals will love that; Chinese tourists are widely detested and a net loss for Taiwan in several ways. Recent media reports have tourism profits going to Chinese firms connected to China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), and an old AP report had the profits going to Hong Kong-based firms (here). Moreover, reports from a couple of years ago said that Chinese firms were dilatory or negligent in paying their debts to Taiwan tourism firms, further reducing local benefits. However, because all those tourists purchase NT dollars when they come in, they push the value of the NT up slightly. Thus, a drop in tourists is going to mean a slight weakening of the NT dollar. This may be welcome by exporters, if the central bank permits the NT to continue to weaken.

Even better, Solidarity tweeted that UDN reported 40 hotel projects opening in next few years, and Gwen Wang, who writes for Ketagalan from time to time, observed that they are all owned by Chinese investors from Hong Kong and China. The CCP betraying its own supporters? Who could have predicted that? But it may be that the CCP is floating this as a trial balloon to see what its people say. If Chinese tourists fall, Korean and Japanese tourists who spend much more will return, and no one on the island will suffer. Good riddance. Now we just need to get our factories out of China...

WaPo says China could learn from Taiwan's election. Yes, they are learning that if China democratizes, its empire will lose several regions and the CCP will eventually be swept from power. I think they will learn they have to crack down even more.

O hell yeah: the positive media coverage for Tsai's election is a big plus for Taiwan and the DPP, and signals a shift in the Establishment position on Taiwan, since the international media faithfully reflect Establishment values. Maybe we'll someday be treated like a plucky Eastern European state resisting Russian expansion....
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