Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Eels in Myth and Solar cycles

Looking forward to roads like this soooonnnnn...

From Eels and Humans, Tsukamoto and Kuroki (Eds.)

Freshwater eels (Anguilla spp.) are an important food resource and support large-scale aquaculture in some oriental countries. Taiwan’s climate is ideal for eel stocks living in the wild and for aquaculture. Indeed, the country’s aquaculture industry, which was initiated in the 1960s and peaked in the early 1990s, contributed greatly to Taiwan’s economic development at the time, though much of that production has since been transferred to mainland China. Despite their economic importance to humans, however, many people are not that familiar with eels, so this chapter supplements material presented elsewhere in this book by documenting aspects of eel distribution and biology, mythology, cuisine, etc, in Taiwan.


The recent decline in the population of wild Japanese eels has resulted in there being an insufficient supply of glass eels for aquaculture in Taiwan and elsewhere. The reason for the decline is not absolutely clear, but as speculated elsewhere in this book and for other species of eel too, it may be related inter alia to overfi shing, habitat degradation and/or global climate change (see below). Whatever the cause of the decline, though, and in an attempt to stimulate recovery of Japanese eels in the wild and concomitantly to increase glass eel production for aquaculture, the Taiwanese government ordered the release of hormone-induced mature eels (silver eels) into the open ocean from 1976 to 2002. Since the millennium, however, that programme has shifted its focus to releasing young eels into rivers.

In addition to the five species of eel found naturally in Taiwan, some exotic species of anguillid eel have also been found in the wild. Succinctly, faced with a reducing inflow of Japanese glass eels and a heavy demand for glass eels generally for aquaculture in the country, glass eels of non-endemic species such as the American eel A. rostrata were introduced from North America; some escaped from the aquaculture ponds into the wild and have since been caught occasionally during their spawning migration as adults (Han et al. 2002; Tzeng et al. 2009). Additionally, the Australian speckled longfin eel A. reinhardtii has been caught in Sun-Moon Lake in central Taiwan, having originally been imported from Australia for cuisine purposes because of its similarity to the A. marmorata eaten preferentially by Taiwanese (Chang et al. 2008).


Long-term catch data (1972–2011) have indicated a significant decadal change in peak catches of Japanese glass eels coinciding with solar activity reflected in an 11.2 year periodic change in sunspot number (Fig. 9.3a; Tzeng et al. 2012a). The catch of glass eels seems to increase with a concomitant increase in the number of sunspots, and although the cause−effect relationship between glass eel numbers and sunspots is not a direct one, the climate change index WPO (Western Pacific Oscillation) that influences the two currents (NEC and Kuroshio) that transport eel larvae from the spawning grounds to the coasts and subsequently affects the Taiwanese glass eel catch is clearly a link (Tzeng et al. 2012a). After peaking in 1979, the Taiwanese glass eel catch gradually declined to a lower peak in 2001, since when it declined further until the most recent lower peak in 2011, mirroring similar decreases in the population size of the Japanese, American and European eels (Fig. 9.3b ). All this is taken as evidence that fluctuations in the catches of glass eels in Taiwan refl ect not only the overall population size of A. japonica but also ocean–atmosphere interactions exemplified by the climate change indices of sunspots and WPO.


The eel is an important religious icon in Taiwanese folklore. The Japanese eel and the giant mottled eel are regarded, respectively, as river and sea gods, and this can be seen in the design and paintings of gate god statues commonly placed at the entrance to traditional Taiwanese village dwellings. Many villagers believe that the gate gods protect them against the devil and evil spirits, and protect the security of their family (Fig. 9.13a ). Additionally, eels appear in the design of “ong-bao” (Fig. 9.13b ), the red bags containing money that parents give children to seek good fortune during the Chinese Lunar New Year. Eels are important also for Taiwanese native (aboriginal) peoples, but those people do not kill and eat the eels because they believe that they are the embodiment of celestial beings.
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Xi's visit to Czech Republic: protests and positives

The First Foundation is thataway.

Czech Taiwan and China security expert Michal Thim just posted this to Facebook


Toward the end of the video (on Youtube), a Chinese woman (I will leave her possible affiliations to everyone's own considerations) tells a Czech citizen that he is not "welcome here". Here means Prague, and she is a part of large group of Chinese "volunteers" who moved around in a buses, ostensibly to welcome Chinese President in Prague, and confronted protesters, especially those who were holding Tibetan flags. In some places they obstructed view with huge PRC flags they carried, or using the buses they rented.

On related note, one of online news sites reported that the Chinese embassy instructed (although it was careful enough not to be direct coordinator, some shady Czech-Chinese Commerce Association was) "volunteers" to tear down undesirable flags, make noise, not to openly provoke, but not to be afraid to confront either. Source is one of the Chinese students who spoke on condition of anonymity. The "volunteers" consisted of people who work in the Czech Republic for Chinese companies like Huawei, students, and also "tourists".

Of course, there was no need to mobilize Chinese citizens who reside in the Czech Republic, Chinese Embassy could just let the protesters protest and deal with the official business. But none of this is exactly new. We have seen it prior to 2008 Olympics in places like Paris or in London last year. I actually have hard times to understand it because in the end of the day, it is counter-productive. I can see in online discussions that many people who otherwise would not care are outraged with the spectacle, by apparent disinterest of Czech police to protect constitutional rights of Czech citizens, and by the kowtow approach the Czech President demonstrates.

On a positive note, the treaty on partnership that was signed yesterday is a standard text that other EU countries signed with China, which means it does not contain any concessions on Taiwan or Tibet. Chinese side tried, the Czech government did not concede.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Party of the Death Penalty

The Ruiguang Industry road, one of the prettiest in Taiwan.

The horrific murder of a four year old girl in front of her mother two days ago has once again brought the death penalty to the fore. The poor child was beheaded in a senseless, entirely random act of violence by a mentally ill man. This was followed by two more apparently random attacks (FocusTw). The media sadly jumped on the attack of the little girl, sensationalizing it as clickbait and a ratings driver, a feeding frenzy that probably helped create the atmosphere for the two other random attacks. A vigilante mob beat up the killer, as well (Apple in Chinese).

In Taiwan the death penalty has wide and deeply visceral support. Taiwanese seem to feel that only a life can expiate a life, and it is difficult to move them off that position. As Ben Goren observed on Twitter after the deputy mayor of Taipei idiotically blamed the parents of the killer and called for an apology from them, events like this bring out Taiwan's feudalistic culture of collective guilt and punishment. J Michael Cole meditates on the issue here, pointing out that the death penalty has no deterrent effect, but more importantly noting that Taiwan's judicial system cannot be trusted, and that its mental health system is lacking.

The mother of the murdered child has asked that the case not be used by death penalty advocates in a moving Facebook post, and said that the killer was irrational and the case should be treated as a mental health issue.

Too late, not merely death penalty advocates, but the KMT itself is exploiting the case. FocusTaiwan reported:
The newly elected chairwoman of the KMT, Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), questioned those opposed to capital punishment, asking "Are you still in favor of abolishing the death penalty?" while expressing her support for the bill proposed by Wang.
"those opposed to capital punishment" of course means many politicians on the pro-Taiwan side. In the recent election many KMTers made a campaign issue out of it...


I wrote on the CPI blog in December about this picture:
This KMT candidate, Shen Jih-hui, was the only one in Taichung to have a poster of herself with former KMT Presidential Candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (sorely missed by this blogger). This sign boldly states that the DPP will scrap the death penalty, thus “not supporting a life for a life” which is a principle with deep roots in the local culture. The death penalty is popular in Taiwan, and she proudly proclaims her support for this ancient principle.
Some of her other signs called for the death penalty for drug dealers.

The KMT is attempting to make this an issue that it owns, one of the few in which it is aligned with the public, which it can bash the DPP with. The Taiwan Law blog commented on KMT legislators arguing for a referendum to make abolition of the death penalty illegal...
Taiwan Law Blog ‏@TaiwanLawBlog o
Taiwan Law Blog Retweeted 中時電子報
KMT legislators mull referendum against abolition of death penalty. Do they realize death penalty is still the law?
....never mind that the referendum law is badly in need of revision. NPP Legislator Freddy Lim (the lead singer for Chthonic), who spoke out against the death penalty, saw his Facebook page flooded with angry comments from netizens demanding that the killer be put to death. I am proud to say that my legislator, the NPP's Hung Tz-yung, also spoke out against the death penalty. Other legislators from the NPP with a history of opposition to the death penalty were also publicly abused. The Chairman weakly temporized, saying that his party has never advocated against the death penalty.

This debate is merely the latest example of the KMT exploiting the death penalty discussion for political gain. In 2010, readers may recall, the Justice Minister was forced to resign after giving a newspaper interview which stirred up a public debate on the topic. The result was that a few weeks executions, which had quietly been on hold since 2005, were resumed and four more humans were killed, while KMT politicians called for more executions.

The KMT looks like it will be the party of the death penalty. Nothing new there...
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Monday, March 28, 2016

Hung Hsiu-chu ascends to the KMT Throne

Collage (which appears to consist of pictures of herself) Hung sent around after her victory.

As was easily predictable, reactionary mainlander former presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu was elected to the KMT Chairmanship with 56% of the vote, defeating her Taiwanese rival from Chiayi, Huang Min-hui, who had the backing of party elites. The election was a by-election held to fill the seat left vacant when former Chairman Eric Chu stepped down after the KMT's devastating defeat in the 2016 Presidential election.

Hung won because she had the support of the "iron votes", the Deep Blue old KMT voters, even though party elites had all arrayed themselves against her. One longtime observer pointed out that the Deep Blue voters felt Hung was owed something since she had supported the party even after it betrayed her. J Michael Cole described:
More significantly, her political resurrection also completes the process of New Party-ization of the KMT, signs of which had first appeared when Hung was selected as presidential candidate in mid-2015. Hung tends to attract ultraconservative “deep blue” (and generally older) KMT members, as well as pro-unification types from the marginal New Party and even more insignificant China Unification Promotion Party headed by ex-gangster and Beijing agent Chang An-le (張安樂). Those groups rallied around Hung last year and protested outside KMT headquarters when it looked like she was about to be replaced.

What this development means is that at a time when the KMT should have taken note of the factors that contributed to its demise in the January elections and opted for rejuvenation (in other words, to become more moderate or “mainstream”), it has instead regressed to an ideology that has very little appeal among the majority of voters in Taiwan.
Cole observes, very rightly, that Hung has considerable assets at her disposal to resist progressive forces in Taiwan politics, and that she might be more willing to cooperate with Beijing than a more progressive leader. He also says her election is very bad for Taiwanese democracy, and warns that she might not do as much damage as some of us had hoped for, since people within the KMT will be reluctant to leave.

My own view is that KMT hardening was inevitable irrespective of whoever sits in the chair. The party is composed of authoritarians at all levels desperate to protect their fading power, influence, and assets, and Hung is perfect for them...

On the one hand, she represents the old ideology, which she fiercely subscribes to, rallying the troops against the onslaught of Taiwanese identity and democracy. On the other, she makes a perfect foil for when the KMT takes hits on assets and transitional justice. If she succeeds in stopping the DPP, all good, if not, she's a good fall guy: "If only we had picked someone more moderate." They will then pick another "moderate" who will adopt the exact same policies, and just express them in a nicer way.

There are likely several areas where Hung's reactionary politics may well cause immediate hurt outside of the highly public ones of KMT assets and transitional justice. One is energy, where she continues to push for nuclear power even though more moderate figures such as Eric Chu and Hau Long-bin have questioned the idea, at least publicly. Today the horrible news broke that a man had randomly beheaded a little girl in the street, right in front of her mother. Pointedly abusing the DPP's anti-death penalty stance, Hung essentially called for the poor sick killer's execution (Taiwanese are overwhelmingly in favor of the death penalty). Hung also responded to congratulations from Chinese dictator Xi Jin-ping by reiterating the 1992 Consensus.

In China netizens love her; which is probably good since they will imagine all sorts of impossible things about her, and perhaps stop pushing impatiently for Xi to invade Taiwan, at least for a while. We need a KMT so that Beijing continues to hope and need not formally confront the failure of its policies...

The KMT is set for a slow fade, not a collapse, death throes that will last for years and continue to spew out harm like a dying scorpion stinging everything within reach. The only way it could collapse is if there is a large revolt of its disgruntled Taiwanese followers. Wang Jin-pyng, long the unofficial head of the Taiwanese KMT, who might have led such a revolt, is out of power and this week even had to deny that Tsai Ing-wen had offered him a position as head of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). He was always a broker, never a leader. Huang Min-hui, who might have taken his place, has aligned herself with the Party leadership (as Wang once did) and isn't going to lead a revolt. There might be isolated instances of people leaving, but the Taiwanese factions won't bolt because they are too weak and fearful. They will remain, and simply not be replaced as locals look for other parties for power and influence.

Key point: there's another election next summer. If she can win that, she gets another four years. That means that the KMT will likely never Taiwanize as so many had hoped, and never be a Taiwanese party. Instead it will shrink to a rump of Deep Blue Han Chauvinists and authoritarians.* That will be very good thing for Taiwan, if a truly democratic party rises to fill the space it leaves behind.

*See the work of Li-li Huang: “M Shape vs. Bell Shape: The Ideology of National Identity and Its Psychological Basis in Taiwan.” (in Chinese) Chinese Journal of Psychology 49(4): 451-470 (2007) and “Taiwanese consciousness vs. Chinese consciousness: The national identity and the dilemma of polarizing society in Taiwan.” Societal and Political Psychology International Studies 1(1). (2010)
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Catching up: Huadu + links =UPDATED=

The Cross-Strait restaurant outside Changbin, where Taiwan is served on a platter daily.

Last week spokesman extraordinaire J Michael Cole wrote a rather odd piece for the China Policy Institute claiming that Beijing now faces 2 independence camps in Taiwan. The piece blew up a dismissive term used by some Taiwan independence types (=Taidu) for independence types who are willing to accept independence under the ROC label (=Huadu) into a full blown political camp. Ben Goren and I pointed out Cole's error in a follow on piece at CPI.
Although the piece is creative, it posits a false dichotomy based on a misunderstanding of the etymology of the term ‘Huadu’. Although the term has become more popular in recent years, it originated as a dismissive phrase coined by Taidu supporters to refer to other Taiwanese who they see as weak-willed appeasers of the ongoing ROC colonial occupation of Taiwan. Outside of this tiny subset of active citizens who are politically engaged on the issue of Taiwan’s independence, the term Huadu remains largely unknown.
Persual of BBS systems where people discuss such things shows that the term remains a mystery even to those might use it; outside of a few young people engaging in discussions on the internet, there is no camp, no ideology, no political demands, no philosophy for the "huadu". It exists as no more than a feeling that it might be ok to be independent under the ROC label, though it is obvious that people who think that way have never thought much about what the means. Some random remarks from users on a BBS:
Huadu faction [note: not "camp"], except for the Constitution and the nation's name, are Taidu
Huadu hopes that over time the opposite side will gradually become a normal country
國號根本不重要 某些台獨派太狹隘
What we call the nation is not important. Some Taidu people are too narrow-minded
Taidu and Huadu are just labels that are used to divvy up the independence movement into purist and moderate factions, largely for discussion purposes among a few aficionados. Outside of this discussion among Taidu types about other Taidu types, there is no Huadu camp. As Ben and I note in the piece at CPI, if China ever permitted Taiwan to be independent, this "difference" would vanish in a heartbeat.

Brian Hoie at New Bloom riffed on Cole's piece to speculate on how the DPP might treat ROC independence. He also observes of Cole's error:
If terms such as “ROC independence” or “Taiwanese independence” are terms commonly used in Taiwanese discourse about unification/independence politics to frame specific political positions, such terms are not used in English. Discussion of political positions about independence/unification politics are framed in different terms in English.

In writing about the use of such terms in Taiwanese discourse about unification/independence politics, one hopes to bridge the sometimes vast gap between Taiwanese political discourse within Taiwan and Anglophone discourse about Taiwan—even if others may arrive at different political conclusions than one’s own. But that leaves open the possibility that individual seeks to appropriate a term from its original meaning in Taiwanese discourse to create a different meaning for it in English, which creates misleading perceptions about political discourse within Taiwan.
This does not mean that at some point in time this discourse might spill outside its current existence on the BBS and become a full blown camp with advocates, a program, an ideological system, and so on. Perhaps Cole was just trying to get the jump on such a process as a couple of people observed: "I saw it first!". But at present, there is nothing like that in the offing, and Beijing contends with the Taiwanese and their democracy, as Cole rightly noted in his piece.

ADDED: Jenna responds to Ben and I
Where, however, it seems to me - again in my totally non-scientific observation - that they are wrong is in dismissing it as existing at all simply because it is not an organized or semi-organized political force or a self-identifying label
...except, we never denied that such people existed. *sigh* What we denied was that they represented a "camp" that Beijing had to contend with, or that the terms used in a tiny subset of the political discourse could be blown up that way. To wit:
The only evidence of Huadu’s existence surfaces intermittently in polls that ask whether Taiwanese want independence, the status-quo, or annexation. Those polls provide too little information on the identity of respondents to conclude that those who favour the status-quo have a unique and consciously shared political identity
Taidu is a real political identity conscious of itself, with an ideology and program. "Huadu" is a term used by Taidu people to describe other Taidu types who are less purist. It's really that simple. Everything else is just blowing the whole discussion out of proportion.
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Drone Footage of Oil Spilling Wreck off N Taiwan

Excellent work, whoever did this.
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Saturday, March 19, 2016

China does the Gambia Gambit

The Abbot's house at the old Shinto Temple in Tunghsiao.

First, from the Nelson Report, the Washington Insider Report:


THE TAIWAN FACTOR...In recent years, there has been something of a "working understanding" that so long as Taipei didn't make too much trouble about joining international institutions requiring national state status, Beijing would not resume its campaign to take-away the couple of dozen foreign countries which still extend official, formal diplomatic recognition to the Republic of China.

So if for various reasons this implicit deal collapses, but especially to try and force incoming DPP president Tsai Ing-wen to officially embrace the "1992 Consensus", that would signal heightened tensions across the Strait this year, most folks agree.

Why would that be in anyone's interest, we innocently ask? Our question is prompted by Loyal Reader Robert Blohm, who caught this in today's NY Times, then adds perspective:

The Gambia first recognized Taiwan when it represented China at the UN, then switched to Mainland China when the UN switched. In 1995 a coup installed the current president who switched to Taiwan. When Taiwan refused to increase aid to The Gambia, it broke off relations with Taiwan in 2013 (and also left the British Commonwealth) but the Mainland didn't step into the breach out of deference to the friendly Taiwan KMT government of Ma.

Last December The Gambia declared itself the newest Islamic state. Following Feb. 1st installation in the legislature of Taiwan's newly elected DPP government, prior to Ms. Tsai's inauguration on May 20th, and immediately on closure of the Twin Meetings of the Mainland legislature, the Mainland has now elected to oblige The Gambia and re-establish diplomatic relations, reducing to 22 the number of countries recognizing Taiwan.

Is this is the Mainland's first action signaling disapproval of Taiwan's new government?

BOB MANNING, Atlantic Council:

If this proxy diplomatic battle is renewed, no way Taiwans can win that one. Taipei should focus on TPP, trade deals and UN special organizations like WHO, and try to cut deal w/ Beijing for that as their "international space".

Xi would be smart to agree, it would strengthen Tsai's hand politically in Taiwan, and make it easier for her to do what he wants...accept '92 consensus. But that all makes way too much sense...

Your Editor: good "trade" suggestions, so we've been asking around, and are assured that the re-installed DPP will indeed focus on what needs to be done to get Taiwan "into the game" re TPP.

Harken back to last July's Brookings' conference where AIT chairman Ray Burghardt spoke about a shift under the Obama Administration which has transformed the US-Taiwan relationship so it's no longer an appendage of the US-China relationship...

An involved observer comments:

"Ray's 'shift' might well be in play if the DPP can get their ducks in line re pork and beef, plus the protectionist/regulation/SOE etc issues that need to be addressed to get Taiwan at least up to the KORUS level. If so, and if China uses Malaysia, for example, to block Taiwan's accession to the TPP, might the US be willing to move on TIFA and, maybe even an FTA with Taiwan? That's a long jump, but..."

Bearing in mind that DAS/State Thornton has called Taiwan a "vital partner", observers predict a set of more proactive moves ahead as Tsai gets into office this May. For now, there's another Obama initiative which should provide Taiwan with reassurance, a recently signed "MOU" with the State Department on something called the "Global Cooperative Training Framework."

An informed source:

"This is anavenue to explore greater US-Taiwan activity that gives options for joint action on a variety of issues, e.g. women's empowerment, humanitarian relief and disaster assistance,etc. Former Rep. Marjorie Margolies (Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law and who was a victim of voting for the Clinton 1993 budget deal) was recently in Taiwan hoping to establish Taiwan as an Asia hub for her Women's Campaign Initiative. State was very supportive of her visit and hopes to see the DPP government provide some serious attention to this.

Also Kurt Tong, PDAS at State, two weeks ago sat publicly at a GW event with Bruce Linghu, Dep MOFA, at a program discussing this GCTF. It certainly appears that the Ma Administration has been "slow walking" implementation. You can bet a Tsai Administration will be fast walking these opportunities!

So you should expect to see more in this area - moving Taiwan into position with those organizations that don't require "statehood" but give Taiwan a place at the table where it can be a "responsible stakeholder." Beijing might not like this, but since "statehood" is not in play..."


At Thinking-Taiwan, a well thought out and measured article by Timothy Rich observes....
A knee-jerk reaction by Taiwan would be to try to find a replacement for the loss of The Gambia, similar to a Major League Baseball team trying to replace their former star player with a flashy free agent. However, such a strategy does little for Taiwan. The Gambia after all was not a major trading partner, served no security interests, and remains one of Africa’s more brutal authoritarian regimes. President Yaya Jammeh’s rule has included restrictions on expression, life sentences for those of the LGBT community, and President Jammeh’s own claim to have an herbal cure for AIDS.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of course does not wish to be viewed as weak on cross-strait relations, emphasizing their commitment to strengthening ties with their remaining twenty-two diplomatic allies. It is also easy to view The Gambia within the lens of Taiwan’s historic January elections and assume broader Chinese strategic intent to restart a diplomatic competition that favors Beijing, rather than cautiously view this as an isolated case in which Taiwan tangibly has lost little. Unofficial relations with stable and powerful democracies provide far more in regards to Taiwan’s national interests, while myopically focusing on the potential return of diplomatic battles serves only to constrain Taiwan’s options.
Reuters has been gleefully presenting this as a "shot across the bow" of Tsai Ing-wen, which is how everyone is seeing it. Interestingly, it happened on Ma's watch -- why didn't the PRC simply wait two months and have Gambia flip the day Tsai is sworn in?

In any case, Shannon Tiezzi observes at The Diplomat that in 2013 at least five of the ROC's allies approached the PRC about switching, but Beijing turned them down, just to be nice to Ma.

The existence of the ROC depends on four things: its existence on Taiwan, its control of islands off China's coast, its territorial claims, and its diplomatic allies. Beijing will likely pick off a few because it can, and to put pressure on Tsai. But if Beijing scoops them all up, then the ROC will effectively equal Taiwan, which Beijing does not want, since that encourages Taiwan independence. For that reason, some independence advocates argue that Beijing should be encouraged to do that. Moreover, Beijing needs the ROC alive and well, because it is counting on the ROC to annex Taiwan to China without a war. That is also why it has never taken back Kinmen and Matsu, though it easily could.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's truly important links are with Japan and the US, and neither of those are ROC-driven. So relax, and brace for comforting your Taiwan friends when more countries switch. There isn't a thing anyone here can do about it, and in the long run, it might even be a good thing.
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Thursday, March 17, 2016

AmCham Three Parter on the Defense Industry

Tea farms on Alishan.

AmCham's Taiwan Business Topics has published a series of articles on Taiwan's defense industry by Tim Ferry, who is competent and knowledgeable (and a great person to have a chat with). Giving them some good blog love today... go thou and read.

The Future of Taiwan’s Defense Industry Part 1: Politics, Aircraft, and Missiles

The Future of Taiwan’s Defense Industry Part 2: Submarines and Drones

The Future of Taiwan’s Defense Industry Part 3: Cyber Warfare & Security

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Crackling like electricity prices and other meandering discussions

The strange, bullet shaped monument to the 1935 earthquake at Tai-an station.

FocusTaiwan reports that electricity rates are going to receive the largest cut ever: 9.5%.
It was decided at the meeting that electricity rates will be cut by 9.56 percent, the biggest cut in the country's history, with every kilowatt hour cut to NT$2.5488 from NT$2.8181 on average.

Shen noted that the rate reduction mainly reflects a marked drop in international fuel prices.

Electricity rates after the cut will be even lower than the NT$2.6001 per kWh in 2011, one year before double hikes of fuel and electricity rates that pushed up commodity prices and invited complaints from the general public.
The awesome Kharis Templeman, always policy-oriented, immediately pointed out that this will create demand for nukes, which Taipower loves, since cheaper electricity will drive up demand. Taiwan needs a new energy policy, he observed. I should add that by driving up demand, lower prices will also drive down demand for conservation and renewables, which Taipower hates. It will also create profits for large KMT-connected firms in energy-intensive industries like steel and aluminum whose bottom line rests heavily on electricity prices.

But to my mind this move is political. It's the biggest cut ever, and it comes right before Tsai Ing-wen assumes power. This means that at some point the DPP Administration will have to raise electricity prices, having the effects noted in the third paragraph there -- creating public discontent with the government. That was one of the factors which drove Ma's drop-off between 2008 and 2012.

Note also that Taipower has large debt problems. Not eight months ago the China Post reported:
Taiwan Power Company (Taipower, 台灣電力公司) said yesterday that if the scheduled price hike does not occur in October, the company will lose an additional NT$13.7 billion, totaling a NT$70 billion loss for the year, said Taipower spokesman Roger Lee (李鴻洲),.

If the price hike is not implemented in October, Taipower will accumulate a total deficit of NT$263.2 billion, which is more than two thirds of its NT$330 billion equity, according to Taipower.

In an effort to rationalize electricity prices, the government rolled out a three-phase price hike plan in 2012. The second-phase price hike was set to start in October in 2012, but was then postponed and scheduled to resume in October, 2013. Given lower-than-expected first quarter GDP growth, some have suggested the price hike may be postponed.


Taipower incurred a loss of NT$62.1 billion in 2012, and accumulated a total loss of 193.6 billion. Taipower incurred a loss of NT$20.3 billion from January to April, and has accumulated a total deficit of NT$213.9 billion.
Nevertheless, when October came, the government actually cut prices. Anyone think all those massive debts have been cleared up? Eventually, even if fuel prices stay low, the DPP Administration may feel the pressure to raise electricity prices to service that debt. Certainly, if it does not, it may open itself to accusations of mismanagement... which is, I submit, the whole purpose of this price lowering charade. This suggests that the first thing the DPP Administration should do when it comes to power is reverse this decision so that the impact isn't felt so strongly in subsequent elections, and start getting money into Taipower to put in all the renewable systems that Taiwan needs.

Ketagalan Media is constantly adding new writers. Today another sharp pen premiered: Calin Brown, on racism in Taiwan. The nice thing about this was that it focused not on the experiences of westerners, but on the Han-Aborigine relationship.
Chinese expansion made aborigines subject to heavy-handed, sometimes brutal, assimilation practices. In the 1940s, the Chinese Nationalist Party took away centuries-old aboriginal ancestral lands – the aborigine communities’ main source of income. Now, they’re still more likely to be unemployed, more likely to hold lower-paid or riskier jobs, and less likely to graduate from college. According to the Council of Aboriginal Affairs at the Executive Yuan, the average wage of aboriginal workers in 2014 was 75 percent of the average wage earned by a Han-Chinese counterpart.
It reminded me of Martin William's classic 1999 article on the Pingquanhui, a KKK-like organization of Han to suppress and expel aborigines. Do not miss that article. It is hosted on the useful First Nations website. hosts a nice piece on Taiwan's changing relationship with its aborigines.
President-elect Tsai Ing-wen, the first woman to serve in the post, has already vowed to apologize for the past suffering of Taiwan's natives, and to press for reforms in policies towards the island's roughly 500,000 indigenous people.

"Why apologize? Well, looking back through history, Aborigines gradually lost their lands while under the rule of different governments and foreign powers," Tsai said last year. "Even today, they continue to be at a disadvantage in areas including economy, education and health."
Speaking of Tsai, the new administration formally announced that its premier will be finance and econ expert Lin Chuan.
Lin, born in Kaohsiung on Dec. 13, 1951, was chief of the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics of the Executive Yuan between 2000 and 2002, and minister of finance between late 2002 and early 2006 under then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). He has no party affiliation.

Lin is now the chief executive officer of the New Frontier Foundation, a think tank chaired by Tsai. He played a major role in her presidential campaign.

Although Lin worked exclusively on financial matters when in government, Tsai said: “I promise everyone that Lin Chuan’s Cabinet will not be one focused on economics and finance,” but one of reform, and one that is good at communicating and getting things done.
This is a neat signal to local and foreign markets, and also to China, since Lin is hardly a firebrand on independence. But the Tsai Administration, at least based on the media speculation, is recycling lots of Chen Administration people (on the other hand, who else is there?), as the Taiwan Law Blog opined the other day (if you're not following him on the blog and twitter, you should be). Hey, don't miss his discussion of Mongoia and the ROC Constitution.

The Hong Kong Economic Journal has a discussion of the fantasy proposal of a rail link under the Taiwan Strait between Fujian and Hsinchu. It's a non-starter, but fun to think about, like Harry Harrison's classic SF novel of the tunnel under the Atlantic Ocean between the UK and its North American colonies. Some people regard it as a threat, but it's fanciful to imagine that the PRC could rush troops through it to take Taiwan.

Some new polls out this week. TISR, the staid establishment poll group, found that people are rejecting One China in all its forms:
Asked about their opinions on the statement that “one China” refers to the PRC, an overwhelming majority, or 81.6 percent, of respondents opposed the concept, with only 9.2 percent accepting the notion.

Even if “one China” refers to the ROC, 60 percent of those polled still disliked the idea that both sides belong to “one China,” but the percentage of people willing to embrace the notion rose to 28.8 percent.
The poll observes that the fake 1992 Consensus, invented in 2000 to cage a future non-KMT president, is not strongly supported:
About 38 percent of respondents believed Tsai should not acknowledge the “1992 consensus” under such a condition, while 33.4 percent urged the incoming president to do so, the poll showed. Nearly 29 percent declined to express their opinions.


Respondents aged between 20 and 39 tended to aspire to see Tsai shrug off the “1992 consensus,” while those in the 40 to 59 age group generally believed she should welcome the consensus, the survey indicated.

The “1992 consensus” refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

Former Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Su Chi (蘇起) has admitted that he made up the term in 2000.
Tsai's position of evading acknowledgement of the 1992 Consensus has strong support from the young. Several other polls show that support for kowtowing to China on this is under 35%. A UDN poll noted that over 70% identify as Taiwanese, and like a couple of other polls, found that a stubborn minority would declare independence even if it meant war.

Thus, Tsai can point to considerable domestic support for her position, and further, Beijing currently does not consider her to be a "radical". J Michael Cole today points out in SCMP that Beijing will likely not turn the screws on Tsai:
If we believed many of the article headlines that have appeared in international media since the January 16 election of Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, we would think the roof was about to come crashing down on the Taiwan Strait. Time and again, articles and editorials have warned that if Tsai refuses to recognise “one China” or the 1992 consensus, Beijing could – or should – punish Taiwan by, among other things, severing all official and unofficial contact. Such alarmism, however, doesn’t pass the reality check.
Indeed. The total failure of China to take any concrete action against Taiwan during the Chen Administration never seems to make the media and commentariat pause for thought in its predictions that the sky is imminently falling in the Taiwan Strait. I am sure that one day when China finally goes to war, this crowd will blithely pat each other on the back for being so right. And blame Taiwan, of course. The claim that "Taiwan provokes tension!" serves the PRC, not peace. It's the PRC that creates and determines the level of tension in the Taiwan Strait, which it uses to influence US policy and US commentators. Very successfully, I might add.

VISITING SCHOOLERS: The local media is in a tizzy as longtime US government Taiwan expert Richard Bush III, Denny Roy, and Bonnie Glaser are coming to Taiwan, allegedly to convey the US position on Taiwan and how it should behave to Tsai Ing-wen, who apparently is not aware of it, although it has been in the news since roughly 1990 or so. That is, they are supposed to be telling Tsai to be a good girl and not rock the boat, according to media reports, by announcing independence or behaving like the awful Chen Shui-bian, who riled relations with China so much that Taiwanese investment in China reached around $200 billion, tens of thousands of Taiwanese went to work there, and the Hong Kong-Taipei air route was the busiest in the world. As you can see, China totally punished Taiwan by cutting off relations. O wait...

Anyway, hopefully they will convey sympathy and support, and not dial back the clock to 2005. With Chinese expansionism on the rise, the US should be seeking ways to bring Taiwan and Japan together under the US umbrella. Taiwan can be a powerful asset, if only they US has the imagination to use it. Hopefully also they will help Tsai find ways to delink ROC claims in the South China Sea from China's, and deprecate them, so that Taiwan can build much-neglected relationships with the nations bordering that region. Need US help there!

Let's also recall that the bit of theater may not even by aimed at Tsai, but at Beijing, to show it that the US is doing everything it can to keep the lid on the DPP. Though, as a someone noted in a conversation about this today, PRC analysts don't see Tsai as very willing to rock the boat.

MEDIA: Shout out to Reuters for its excellent background on Taiwan's historical relationship with China and its various rulers...
China considers self-ruled Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after the Chinese civil war.


Japan ruled Taiwan as a colony for about five decades until the end of World War Two. China’s last dynasty, the Qing, had ceded Taiwan to Japan in 1895 after losing the first Sino-Japanese war.
How many times have you seen a reference to 1895? That's great. Now if could just get them to start writing that it is problematic whether the Qing were Chinese...

Once again, note the way the tone of the reporting has changed since Tsai won the election.

FOR AMUSEMENT PURPOSES ONLY: Ted Galen Carpenter continues to party like its 2005, with (yet) another recommendation that Taiwan be sold out to China, this time in the guise of Finlandization, complete with PRC bases on Taiwan, just to make China feel safe. Poor, put upon China! As is typical with Carpenter, he simply ignores the effect of such an agreement on neighboring states -- Japan is mentioned only twice and not at all in the context of Chinese expansionism, for example. And what about the islands in the South China Sea, and the Senkakus, claimed by the Republic of China? Rather like a dumb but enthusiastic golden retriever who always wants to play ball with you, Carpenter, bless his heart, never ceases to entertain.

PS: If you haven't bought A Pail of Oysters, Vern Sneider's searing novel of Taiwan in the early 1950s, read the reviews below and get it for Kindle or epub. It's a steal at $2.99.
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Monday, March 14, 2016

A Pail of Oysters: Camphor Press, you rock

A Pail of Oysters
Vern Sneider
246 pages
Kindle and epub formats available
Amazon link

The latest offering from Camphor Press is Vern Sneider's A Pail of Oysters, an incredibly moving novel of Taiwan in the White Terror years. Camphor's own description is spot-on:
Vern Sneider’s A Pail of Oysters is the most important English-language novel ever written about Taiwan. Yet despite critical acclaim, this exciting and controversial book has long been unavailable to readers. Unlike Sneider’s previous novel, the humorous bestseller The Teahouse of the August Moon, this 1953 publication has a dark, menacing tone. Set against the political repression and poverty of the White Terror era, A Pail of Oysters tells the moving story of nineteen-year-old villager Li Liu and his quest to recover his family’s stolen kitchen god. Li Liu’s fate becomes entwined with that of American journalist Ralph Barton, who, in trying to report honestly about KMT rule of the island, investigates the situation beyond the propaganda, learns of a massacre, and is drawn into the world of the Formosan underground.
The book opens with Li Liu, who identifies as  an aborigine, struggling desperately to avoid having his pail of oysters being looted by soldiers as he hurries home with his treasure, which can purchase much-needed high quality rice and medicine. The reader is drawn immediately into the story: the marauding KMT soldiers stripping the countryside of everything they can carry, the lack of the basic necessities of life, the brutal family obligations of younger sons, the rampant selling of young women into sex slavery, and the savagery of the KMT regime, are all brought to life in spare, accessible prose. His characters are human beings who never become the stock characters so common in fiction, and his understanding of Taiwan is deep.

As good as the book itself is Jonathan Benda's outstanding and informative introduction (well worth the price of admission, Benda has a longer piece here), which discusses the history of the work and its subsequent suppression, including McCarthyite attacks on Sneider himself by US government officials. One noted:
"Published last fall, this thoroughly dishonest book received rave reviews. In the Saturday Review of Literature it was reviewed by one Pat Frank, who stated that the book cast "a bright light thrust into the infect peritoneum of is a true light."*
Yes, indeed, it casts a true light. Camphor has also cleaned up many of the small typos and other errors from the first edition. This edition shines.

At $2.99, this story of early post-war history in Taiwan should not be missed. I cried my eyes out at the beautiful ending of this sad, chilling, and revealing account of the horrors of the KMT regime. You will too.

*The Pat Frank review is in the post below
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Pat Frank's Review of A Pail of Oysters

The text of the review of A Pail of Oysters cited above. Many of you will know Pat Frank for his novel Alas, Babylon, the tale of a nuclear war between the USSR and the US, and its aftermath.


Light on Formosa "A Pail of Oysters," by Vern Sneider (G. P. Putnam. 311 pp. $3.50), records the lije and aspirations of a simple Formosan peasant. Pal Frank, who reviews it here, is the author of "Hold Back the Night," a novel of the Korean War, and "The Long Way Round," the memoirs of a Far Eastern correspondent.

By Pat Frank

IT is not often that one is privileged to read a novel like the new one by the author of "The Teahouse of the August Moon." Vern Sneider's "A Pail of Oysters" combines beauty of expression, originality of thought, and contemporary historical importance; it is a bright light thrust into the infected peritonium of Formosa, into a region murky with propaganda. It is a true light, which shows nothing as sheer black or white, but in many shades of gray.

It is a novel that will infuriate some, and delight others. It may be denounced by the China Lobby's kept journalists and legislators, yet it may also be vilified by the Communists. Its theme is quite simple. The people of Formosa are Formosans, not Chinese Communists or Chinese Nationalists. Since about the last person a visiting American is likely to meet in Formosa is a true Formosan, Mr. Sneider presents an entirely new picture of the strategically and politically important island. Formosa is more than a pawn in the world struggle. It is at least a Castle, but within the Castle its rightful owners (if you believe in Woodrow Wilson's selfdetermination of peoples) are at best servants and at worst slaves. The Castle is presently the property of Chiang Kai-shek. If Chiang were not in occupancy, and protected by the American Navy, it would be subject to Mao Tse-tung. Mr. Sneider carefully points out the similarities between the two, as dictators, and operators of police states. Strangely, their methods stem from the same source—the Kremlin.

Among all Formosans Li Liu is the poorest and most humble. He is of a family of oyster growers who work in the tidal flats. In the beginning he saves a pail of oysters from scavenging Save-the-Country soldiers who guard the flats against invasion by the People's Liberation Army.

To understand this book it must be understood that this pail of oysters is as important to the family of Li Liu as a bank account, insurance, and credit, all combined, is to an American family. This pail of oysters can be traded for rice, millet, a new needle to replace the one that broke, and quinine to keep the father alive.

Li Liu is trusted with some of the oysters to trade for rice in the farmland that lies back of the tideland. So begins an adventure that takes him to the capital, Taipei, and companionship with two people his own age, a brother and sister owned by an entrepreneur of the city. In his skilful presentation of Formosans, the characters make statements shocking until examined, evaluated, and finally judged true. Like the Japanese occupation of Formosa. "The Japanese took," says a landowner, "yet they gave, too. They gave us electric lights; and the great irrigation ditches which bring water so we can grow rice . . . and the improved rice. They took, but they always left plenty for us . . . not like these swine."

Two Americans rise as strong characters. Both are correspondents. One is "an old China hand" who accepts corruption and prefers to look the other way while murder is done. The other is "a good man." We have "bad men" and "good men" in our ubiquitous Westerns, and so we might as well have them in our Easterns.

Mr. Sneider was a platoon commander in the Pacific, and a commander of regimental scouts during World War IL As a member of U. S. military government he bossed a city of 5,000 refugees on Okinawa. He went to Korea in 1945, and had charge of sheltering and feeding a million refugees fleeing from the Communists north of Parallel 38. His novel, I feel, should be especially recommended to Congressmen and statesmen who "made" Formosa for forty-eight hours on Far Eastern junkets, and who were most unlikely to meet, or talk to, anyone like Li Liu, or his friends, Precious Jade and Didi. If they read it they will comprehend why all our money and all our men can't put Chiang Kai-shek together again.
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BBC: Ok to whack dissidents if they are commies? + forwarding the propaganda under the guise of "balance" *sigh*

Study carefully all the things in this picture. Then: don't.

BBC writes on the White Terror -- no kidding, BBC feels it needs to publish "the other side" of a government program of mass murder, torture, intimidation, censorship, and colonial control of food, energy, education, the economy, and finance. Sick:
While victims' families label Chiang "the murderer", others, especially those whose families fled with him from communist China, credit him with liberating Taiwan from Japanese colonial rule.

They argue he had to consolidate control over the island and keep it from descending into chaos and falling under communist rule.

But most agree his methods were excessive.

Some of those arrested did support communism but only because they were repulsed by Chiang's harsh suppression of dissent.
"liberating Taiwan from colonial rule". That was the US, BBC, that liberated Taiwan, by defeating Japan. It's irrelevant what Chiang's supporters think because what they think is bullshit on every level, and shouldn't be reported as if it were balancing" information. Instead, BBC should have identified it as propaganda. BBC even identifies Chiang Kai-shek as "who [the victims' families] see as the biggest culprit" as if it were possible for someone else to be the culprit, thus softening his role.

The chaos and colonialism were the direction result of Chiang's murderous, loot-driven, income-reducing rule. Chiang could have "consolidated control" in any number of non-murderous ways, for example, by erecting something like a functioning democracy, as the US more or less did in Japan. BBC gives no hint of the actual history, nor does it provide any disclaimer warning that such claims are nonsense.

Never has there been a better illustration of the way false "balance" functions as a way to forward anti-democracy, anti-Taiwan, pro-China propaganda. Shame on you, BBC.

As I have often noted, in the western media, eastern European states resisting Russian expansion are portrayed as plucky little democracies and the history is correctly represented, while Taiwanese resisting Chinese expansionism and colonialism are treated as provocative children who get what they deserve. Articles illustrating this double standard are not difficult to find. Consider this BBC report of a statue being pulled down in Estonia:
Russia, and many ethnic Russians in Estonia, consider the monument commemorates those who died to liberate Estonia from the Nazis.

However, the Soviet Union had occupied Estonia before the Second World War, and annexed it again in 1945, and so many Estonians regard the statue as a symbol of the country's occupation.
Note that the first paragraph gives the Russian propaganda line. But, BBC then correctly and ethically signals that this is propaganda by giving the actual history. Taiwan never gets this kind of service. Imagine if BBC had written of Estonia:
While Estonian families label Russians "the murderers", ethnic Russians, especially those whose families came in with the Russian occupation, credit Russia with liberating Estonia from German colonial rule.

They argue the Russians had to consolidate control over the Baltic state and keep it from descending into chaos and falling under Fascist rule.

But most agree Russian methods were excessive.
Everyone would say "those weren't excesses, they were deliberate policy." Ditto for Taiwan.

But if those two vile paragraphs weren't enough, BBC then contends that "some who were arrested did support Communism" as if that made it ok to arrest and kill them. Hey, it's excusable to tie them up with wires, drag them down to the race course, put a bullet through their heads, and toss them in the river, because, well, some really were Communists. The "but only" excuses the Communists from believing in Communism, while the fact that they "did support Communism" appears to excuse the KMT from killing them. What if BBC had written:
The KMT murdered thousands of people, many by falsely accusing them of supporting Communism. Others were arrested and executed for the "crime" of being without ID cards, or because someone wanted revenge, or coveted their property.
That would be history. BBC gets within shouting distance by noting that some were killed for wanting a more democratic society, or for being in the wrong place at the wrong time (what does that mean? "Oops, sorry we made a mistake"). But then, BBC only does concrete history if you're a plucky Baltic democracy resisting Russian expansion. If you're a Taiwanese being executed by the Chiangs, some of you probably deserved it somehow.
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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hung for Chair of The Rational Party

Was in Miaoli scootering on Tuesday and came to the famous Longteng Broken Railroad Viaduct. The previous Miaoli tourism planner once explained to me that he set up the system so that vendors were kept away from the historical and tourist sites. That is one reason Miaoli was so enjoyable. Now that he is gone, vendors are swarming into public spaces where they were not allowed before...

Deep Blue reactionary Hung Hsiu-chu, the former presidential candidate, now running for Party Chairman, this week implied that the KMT helped the government financially....
However, Hung also said that the problem of the KMT’s party assets has its “historical background” and should not be treated as a crime, adding that “returning party assets to zero” is a “pseudo-issue.”

She said that the KMT had also contributed a lot to the government, citing the amount of gold and national treasures now housed in the National Palace Museum that the party had brought from China in 1949 and asked the public to rationally examine whether it was the government that had helped the party or the party that had helped the government.
"Rationally" and "objectively" are favorite rhetorical moments in the world KMTers -- such words contend that the other side is irrational. Former KMT spokesperson Yang Wei-chung, who has been in the news attacking her absurdities, pointed out in the article that the KMT had historically always drawn on the government to pay its bills.

Everyone in Taiwan knows that the KMT-Party state was financed by taxpayer coffers, but that's not the point. Hung is running for KMT Chair and is doing so by appealing to Deep Blue rank and file, where she has strong support. This week I had dinner with a longtime friend inside the Hung campaign who said that (1) President Ma and all other high level KMTers support Huang Min-hui, a faction politician and Hung's Taiwanese rival for the Chairmanship (2) "if you work for Hung, everyone distances themselves from you" (3) Hung is busy running activities appealing to the rank and file, where she is strongly supported (4) the DPP does a much better job at everything right now -- "when we sit down with DPP party officials, they always know how to do things better than we do and we learn from them" (5) the KMT youth organization is run by a crony of King Pu-tsun, who is Ma's hatchet man. As a result, it produces propaganda singing the praises of the great Ma Ying-jeou and is hopeless at attracting the young (6) what we all know: the KMT has no appeal for youth (7) Wang Jin-pyng has little influence or power (in case you had any doubts).

This election is a replay of the 2005 election between mainlander ideologue Ma Ying-jeou and Taiwanese faction politician Wang Jin-pyng, in which Party elites supported Wang, and the rank and file voted for Ma. The rank and file are more conservative and ideological than the core elites of the party, and prefer candidates who share their KMT religious identity.
Daily Links
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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday Short Shorts

Retaining wall construction

Experiencing colonization by Chinese, Hong Kong is increasingly sympathetic to Taiwan, with rising support for Taiwan independence:
Hong Kong people’s support for Taiwanese independence stands at 35 percent, the highest level since June 1995, a Hong Kong University POP survey shows. It also found that younger people were more likely to favour Taiwanese independence. Among 18-29-year olds, support for Taiwan nationhood stands at 67 percent.

Overall, 52 percent of those surveyed oppose independence for the island. The notion of Taiwan rejoining the United Nations received considerably more support, with 47 percent in favour and 30 percent opposed.
As a friend on Twitter pointed out, this should be read as proxy support for Hong Kong independence. Remember that this destruction of the local and different is happening all over China as Beijing forces Mandarin, simplified characters, and faux Chineseness on its disparate peoples. Hong Kongers and Taiwanese are just lucky enough to have the international media reporting on this process. Moreover, as they interact more with China and Chinese, support for Taiwan (and HKK) independence will only grow.

Passed around this week was this longer piece from Australia on whether it is time to worry about Taiwan again. It observes:
However, we would also caution against too much optimism and the notion that cross-strait conflict is now all but unlikely. Under President Xi Jinping, China has demonstrated a rather uncompromising approach to territorial disputes and the status of Taiwan is a declared ‘core interest’ of Beijing. As well, China continues to change the cross-strait military balance in its favour, potentially inviting miscalculations and instability. Moreover, Taiwan is also likely to become more important in the context of emerging East Asian power shifts and Sino-US strategic competition
As many of us have noted, since the Tsai election, commentators are less and less willing to identify Taiwan as the source of the problem, and more likely to note China's intransigence and aggressiveness, as well as locating Taiwan in the context of the hegemonic struggle between Beijing and Washington. This shift in the discourse, also caused by China's expansion in the South China Sea, is a welcome development, and may help garner support for Taiwan in Washington.

Another excellent paragraph is the one discussing how the DPP Administration can be used to de-legitimize Beijing's expansionist claims:
Finally, both allies should consider Taiwan’s potential to play an important and constructive role in SCS territorial disputes. Often overlooked, the ROC is also a claimant and, at least on paper, shares the infamous ‘nine dashed line’ with China. Under President Ma, Taiwan had made small but important steps towards a more conciliatory approach based on shelving disputes and the promotion of joint exploration. However, one of outgoing President Ma’s ‘presents’ to the Tsai government was a recent visit to Itu Aba (Taiping Island in Taiwanese) to reaffirm Taiwanese sovereignty. The visit drew an angry response from two other claimants (Vietnam and the Philippines), while the US criticised it as ‘extremely unhelpful’.35 Yet, the DPP has so far adopted a nuanced approach to the SCS, calling for all parties to assert their claims and positions in accordance with UNCLOS, maintain freedom of navigation and overflight, and work towards peaceful conflict resolution. Therefore, the Tsai government could play a critical role in delegitimising Beijing’s extensive SCS claims.36 Thus, rather than seeing Taiwan only as a security problem, Australia should also consider its potential role as a contributor to regional security and the preservation of the rules-based order.
This rationality and geographic knowledge is a welcome change from the irrational, uninformed Hugh White school of ZOMG INDEPENDENCE COULD DESTROY THE WORLD!

Against that, China is busy laying the groundwork for blaming Taiwan when Beijing finally cuts off relations. First a few days ago Xi himself was saying that independence is a no-no, then today SCMP reported on the Dean of Beijing University's Taiwan Studies Institute...
“If Taiwan’s leader [Tsai] fails to make a clear position on the 1992 consensus in her inauguration speech on May 20, it will have a great impact on the cross-strait relationship and future development,” Li Yihu, dean of Peking University’s Taiwan Studies Institute, said at a press briefing organised by the State Council Information Office.

Li said the impact would include the suspension of all official and semi-official exchanges, including talks between Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Taipei’s Mainland Affairs Council and both the non-governmental intermediaries, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait and the Straits Exchange Foundation.
One of the things I constantly complain about is the way the international media portrays "tensions" as not something created by China, but as arising mysteriously by mysterious processes which the writer never identifies. Note first that Li carefully positions Tsai as the one to take the blame. Then "suspension" occurs -- not "Beijing suspending." These small reductions in Beijing's agency help conceal and smear over its actual role in creating tension and deploying it to manage the international media and foreign governments.

This should not be read as "pressure on Tsai". Instead, it should be read as preparing the ground for a break/downgrade in relations.

This article also contains a new and ominous excuse for China's behavior...
“Beijing is now facing very strong internal pressure on opposition to Taiwan independence, especially from netizens who say they will punish Tsai and other political parties with strong anti-mainland sentiment,” Liu said.
This is also preparing the ground by offering the recursive Hey, our hands are tied (by the Chinese nationalism we ourselves have whipped up) as an excuse. Scary...

Speaking of the response to Tsai Ing-wen, it looks like the tourism decline is indeed at Beijing's behest (China Post):
Repeated attempts by Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (海基會) to confirm the cut have received no official response.

Wu Pi-lian (吳碧蓮), a committee member in the Travel Quality Assurance Association and president of Cheng An Travel Service Co. (正安旅行社), said that available information indicates that the cut will take place.

Wu said yesterday that mainland Chinese travel firms had not been given formal directives, but had been guided to infer the implicit orders of government travel authorities.

"According to what we know, their superiors would, after completing half a thought, say, 'Do you understand what I mean?' And the listeners would say, 'Yes, we do,'" Wu said.
One of the most difficult aspects of Chinese society for foreigners is that people are supposed to understand things without being told. Indeed, I have heard of academics arguing that there is no secret KMT-CCP collusion -- at least, no evidence of it. Of course, anyone who understands how things work in Chinese society... doesn't need that sentence completed.

It's indicative that the Taiwan SEF can't get a confirmation/denial despite repeated attempts. Silence is telling... UDN went into greater detail, giving several examples... (via the KMT news organ):
...Yesterday, a Mainland netizen stated that his application for exit permit (the Taiwan Travel Permit for Mainland Residents 大通證) in Zhengzhou (鄭州), the capital of Henan Province (河南), was denied by Mainland authorities on the pretext that they “lacked blank permits.” The netizen said he had no other choice but to cancel his plan to visit Taiwan.

An official notice posted yesterday on the reception hall of Zhengzhou’s Exit and Entry Office read, “The Ministry of Public Security and departments of relevant ministries and agencies are proactively coordinating with each other to deal with the lack of blank exit permits for Mainland residents. Therefore, those who do not plan to travel to Taiwan in the near future, please defer your permit applications. Applications for travel permits to places other than Taiwan will not be affected.”


A state-owned travel agency in Henan said that they had received the notification from relevant authorities at 11 a.m. yesterday. According to the notification, those who had not received exit permits for Mainland residents would not be allowed to join any Taiwan package tours from March 20 to June 20; those who could not join Taiwan tours were advised to travel to places other than Taiwan.
Happy to see this. I hope they punish us harder and refuse to send even more tourists; Taiwan can quickly replace those low-value China tourists with higher value tourists from Korea and Japan. Beijing really has few options -- it can't cut off industry and trade relations since those are components of its plan to stripmine Taiwan's economic and technological prowess. It can't expel all the Taiwanese factories without seriously harming its trade not only with Taiwan, but with other nations. Beijing knows that the profits from tourism go to Chinese firms, and a tourism cut is largely symbolic and won't hurt any of its other long-term plans.
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Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Nelson Report: responses to Xi's comments on Independence

On the Nantou 6, a great little way to avoid a section of the odious 14

Several people respond to Xi's comments on Taiwan independence....


CHINA/TAIWAN/US...we noted last week what Loyal Reader Richard Bush characterized as the "ritual salt throwing and foot stomping" period of a sumo match...senior players in Beijing and Taipei laying down rhetorical markers in preparation for how they will attempt to deal with each other once Tsai Ing-wen is sworn-in as president, this Spring.

More, of course, will be forthcoming, and the latest (see following some LR comments) caught our eye, so we again pulsed our advisors on whether this continues to be pro-forma, from Beijing, or something more, and thus to worry about.

A highly experienced USG who must be "anon" remains cautiously optimistic:

Chris, this can be seen as a step in the right direction. It is less hysterical than the earth will shake (or whatever it was) statement last year, and there are snippets of language like the reference to the 1992 consensus as a political foundation and historical fact that reflect Tsai language. No question this remains tough and neuralgic, but the warning also provides the basis and structure for feeling our way to a stable modus vivendi, too.

Another "ANON" is similarly careful:

"The best one could say is that it could have been worse. I agree with Randy [Schriver, below] Beijing is very good at placing the blame for the failures of its own policies on others. Washington will have to keep its game face on and resist Chinese propaganda. Taipei will have to do a superior job in explaining why BJ is to blame for whatever difficulties occur. Setting preconditions is never the basis for good policy."

Bob Manning, The Atlantic Council:

I don't see anything new here. I would expect in the interim until Tsai takes office in May that Beijing will keep underscoring Chinese concerns about the DPP veering from the 1992 consensus. One could argue that the good news here is that Xi's body language suggests he's not pushing for more than the status quo - which is the best he can expect from a DPP government.

For the "yes do worry" side of the group, Armitage Associates' Randy Schriver:


We need to understand the Chinese playbook here. They want to portray Dr. Tsai as the trouble maker, pressure Washington to pressure her, and ultimately recreate a type of "co-management" of the Taiwan issue between the PRC and the U.S. These markers are not being placed for the purpose of keeping things stable - rather, Beijing is laying the ground work to set her up for "failure" (failure in the sense of not meeting Beijing's unreasonable/unrealistic benchmarks).

The Chinese will then seek to place the blame squarely on Taiwan for the renewed tension in the Strait. Chinese leaders will then parade through Washington and proclaim that this is a "shared problem" and Washington must do its part to keep Taiwan in the box.

I think too many people misunderstand CCP objectives and think that leaders in Beijing want stability and that they hope for steady progress in Cross-Strait relations. That's false. Xi and others want unification, not stable development of ties between Beijing and Taipei. More pressure is coming and Washington better be prepared.

Dr. Tsai can be a great partner to the U.S. based on what she has laid out in the campaign and based on her track record. In order to harvest those opportunities, this Administration and the next are going to have to be vigilant in withstanding Beijing's coming assertiveness/aggressiveness on Taiwan, as well as in charting a course for stronger U.S.-Taiwan ties in such an environment.

ANON USG: also worried:

I am sure the DC commentariat will say it is pro forma, except that there has been a tremendous uptick in anti-Taiwan and anti-Tsai sentiment coming from PRC state media organs. I have seen similar stories in PLA Daily, Global Times, Xinhua, and People's Daily. This seems to be an organized campaign, and the language seems sharper than usual and from more senior officials. My gut tells me this is not just standard fare for domestic consumption but perhaps laying down a marker for more concerted action of some kind in the coming months. I am not saying the very worst case will come true. I am suggesting that Beijing is preparing the messaging battlefield for some serious saber-rattling as Tsai's inauguration approaches.

Here's what the Loyal Readers were reacting to, at our request:
President Xi Warns Against "Taiwan Independence" In Any Form. Zhang Tao, PLA Daily (China). "Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday warned against "Taiwan independence," saying the historical tragedy of national secession will not be allowed to repeat. "We will resolutely contain the 'Taiwan independence' secessionist activities in any form," said Xi when joining the group deliberation of lawmakers from Shanghai on the first day of the national legislature's annual session. "We will safeguard the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and never allow the historical tragedy of national secession to happen again," Xi said. "It is the common wish and firm will of all Chinese people, and it is also our solemn commitment and responsibility to the history and the people," he said. "Our policy toward Taiwan is clear and consistent, which will not change along with the change in Taiwan's political situation," Xi told the lawmakers. "Compatriots from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are expecting the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, and we should not make them disappointed," he said. "We will adhere to the '1992 Consensus' as a political foundation, and continuously advance the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties," said the president. Only by accepting the historical facts about the "1992 Consensus" and recognizing its core implications can the two sides have a common political foundation and maintain good interactions, Xi said."

No question, Schriver has the right of it. As I have said many times, the function of "tension" for Beijing is to transfer tension from the US-China relationship to the US-Taiwan relationship, a strategic victory for Beijing. Every hack on Taiwan by the Bush and Obama Administrations has been service to Beijing.

In this case the few conciliatory remarks and apparent restraint Xi is showing are there to set up later complaints about Taipei: look what restraint we've shown! And look how they are behaving with that democracy and everything! We've been trying so hard!. Eventually Beijing will start more serious complaining, which the international media will duly forward in its best stenographic fashion. And the pressure on the US President will begin.
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