Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Rounding up a lost week...

Waiting for cars to pass around a landslide blocking the road.

AMPHIBIOUS EXPEDITION: Last week I worked like a dog to get all my work done so I could take a bike vacation on the east coast. And the heavens opened... I've never seen so much water on the east coast. Three typhoons followed by the torrential rains left Highway 11 waterlogged and encroached on by land and rock slides. In one place, pictured above, the road was completely knocked out. Our amphibious expedition rode through streams that had broken down walls and through earth barriers to flood the road. It rained steadily, but it wasn't cold, so it was actually an enjoyable challenge, til my old tire finally gave out. So we hung out in the sleepy fishing port of Chenggong for a couple of days instead of biking. Restful, but not very good for my waistline...

An area of Chenggong fishing port. This was dug out by hand in the Japanese era, my friend Jeff who lives there told me, and the dirt piled around it to form the berm that protects it.

FOOD WARS: Last week I was in Jhuolan having lunch at a Vietnamese place when a man walks in. He orders soup and the proprietor begins cooking it. He watches as she removes the herbs and spicy stuff. "Hey!" He says. "Why are you taking that stuff out?" "It's spicy," she replies. "I didn't think you'd like it." "I am an aborigine!" he says with a huff.

MY HOW THINGS ARE CHANGIN': My close friend's wife Tianna is an elementary school teacher, and she is often brought in by textbook companies to comment on new books and give them feedback. She and a group of teachers were shown a new textbook in draft by the company. One picture had an image of the flag of Taiwan, the ROC flag. "We haven't had a chance to vote on that flag," piped up one teacher. "It shouldn't be there." The others agreed. Moments later there was an image of the island of Taiwan with the ROC flag across the center. "That's too political," several people piped up. "We're not comfortable with it. Take it out."

LABOR STRUGGLES: New Bloom wrote on the struggles of President Tsai vs labor last week. The abuse of working people here is unconscionable. A friend of my wife's calls her and asks if we can find a place for her son nearby, a quiet little apartment. He works at the large hospital near our house, and currently lives in the dorm nearby. Since he lives nearby, whenever the hospital needs people, he is called in to work, irrespective of his sleep status, the law, ethics, common sense, etc. He often works consecutive 16 hour days. In the medical system nurses are squeezed to extract every last drop of profit. "It has to be nearby, preferably within walking distance," my neighbor explains. "He is so tired all the time, if he rides his scooter, when he stops at a traffic light, he falls asleep."

SPEECHIFYING: President Tsai's ROC National Day speech came and went uneventfully. The media reported on her respectful, moderate call for good relations across the Strait with the conventional media framing, sadly. It must have been painful for them not to be able to blame tensions on Tsai. Reuters termed her base "anti-China" instead of what it is -- pro-Taiwan -- and of course tells us that China views Taiwan as a province that must be annexed and the DPP as "distrusted" by Beijing, while it is silent on how the Taiwanese feel about China. This one-sided reporting also tends to assign agency to Tsai, meaning that her refusal to say that Taiwan is part of China is treated as the problem, not Beijing's desire to annex a free and independent island off its coast.

The NY Times hilariously writes:
China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province, while the self-governing island Ms. Tsai leads traces its roots to the formation of the Republic of China in 1911 that overthrew the last Chinese dynasty, only to lose the Chinese civil war to the Communists in 1949.
No, Taiwan has no roots in the Wuchang Rebellion -- it was part of Japan at the time -- and the last dynasty was Manchu, not Chinese. Obviously the writer struggled and failed to get it right. But the article itself is far more sympathetic than the Reuters piece. Kudos.

More important than the pro-forma remarks and reporting on China for 10/10 were Tsai's remarks about opening a maritime cooperation dialogue with Japan:
Regarding Okinotorishima, she said, “Japan and Taiwan have different positions on this issue, but as president of Taiwan, I am most interested in enabling Taiwan’s fishermen to freely enter and operate in the surrounding waters.” Although some advocates in Taiwan contend that Okinotorishima is a “rock” and therefore an EEZ cannot be established around it, Tsai indicated that discussions should give priority to the issue of marine resources.

On economic issues, Tsai said Taiwan “had been too dependent on continental China,” and called for expanded economic cooperation with Japan. “I want to seek chances for cooperation and development with Japan in Southeast Asia and South Asia,” Tsai said.
Moving closer to Japan is urgently necessary for Taiwan's safety, and the Ma Administration cost Taiwan eight years of progress in that direction. Tsai made similar points in her interview with WSJ last week. Philippines piece on Taiwan's new southbound policy...

The Taipei Times editorialized on the KMT, which is now split on its China policy. But as this China Times editorial translated over at Dateline Taipei observed...
The Republic of China that Tsai Ing-wen defends is not the Republic of China founded in 1911. It is the Republic of China that emerged after 1949. It is a Republic of China that has been emptied of its legal significance. Furthermore, Tsai's defense of the Republic of China treats the ROC as the temporary shell of a hermit crab, as a form of backdoor listing. It temporarily accepts the "Republic of China" to protect its advocacy of Taiwan independence, which it will never abandon.
Exactly right. The ROC is doomed: either Taiwan will become independent, or China will annex it, but either way the KMT state is history. The KMT has two increasingly stark choices for survival -- one is to become a Taiwanese party and give up its China-centric identity, the other, to marry itself to the CCP and become a mere appendage of China in Taiwan. The latter would likely be better for Taiwan even though it would be a conduit for Chinese money and propaganda -- it would garner few votes, lose most of its influence, and be quite unpopular, but the longer the KMT can spin its fantasies to Beijing that victory is just around the corner, the better off Taiwan is.

Speaking of the NYTimes, why does it keep publishing uninformed pieces of pro-China propaganda? This latest commentary on China from two writers whom no one appears to have heard of reads like it was dictated by the editors of Xinhua, right down to the "Century of Humiliation" expansionist baloney and accusations that the US is "militarizing the Pacific". "Even before Mr. Obama’s pivot, the American military presence in the region dwarfed China’s," the writers declaim. ROFL. We probably have a bigger navy than China's in the Pacific, but our overall military presence is much smaller. What editor passed that nonsense?
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Kabson said...

Something that might interest you on the Chinese soft power front: My son's three, so I get to watch the toy-shilling 'Super Wings' series (KO/CH/DE/US production) - The sub-text in the Taiwan episode is interesting (they visit one county/city each episode, and I was mildly surprised they even had a TW, erm... Taipei, episode.)

Also worth comparing the English and Taiwanese dubbing - there are a few small differences (even though the english dub is painfully bad).

Anonymous said...

If Lee Tien-Chu had the courage of his convictions, he'd protest the Chinese government's repression of Christians. Or would that interfere with his PRC-based acting career?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if China model or Taiwan model will win in Southeast Asia.