Saturday, December 16, 2017

Chen Chu Still Rocks

This recent poll from a pro-DPP polling organization had Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan as the most popular mayor among the 6 municipality mayors, but Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu remains probably the most popular politician in Taiwan. I caught her today on this sign by the train station in Tanzi in Taichung city.
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

TENSHUNZ: ZOMG its WAR if US navy calls at Taiwan port

Not China.

Chinese diplomatic bluster once again gave us a ZOMG TENSHUNZ moment. Reuters reported, headlining China, Taiwan spar over Chinese diplomat's invasion threat:
A threat by a senior Chinese diplomat to invade Taiwan the instant any U.S. warship visits the self-ruled island has sparked a war of words, with Taipei accusing Beijing of failing to understand what democracy means.
Since the Taiwan government doesn't sell papers by hyping tension, Focus Taiwan more rationally headlined Taiwan responds to Chinese diplomat's threat with call for peace
Taiwan's government wants peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Saturday in the wake of a comment by a Chinese diplomat that threatened military action by China if U.S. Navy ships are allowed to call at Taiwan ports.

....

The issue arose after the U.S. Congress on Nov. 30 passed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes clauses that would allow the U.S. to look at the possibility of reestablishing "regular ports of call by the U.S. Navy at Kaohsiung or any other suitable ports in Taiwan" and permits the U.S. Pacific Command to receive ports of call by Taiwan vessels.
I'll return to the media in a moment....

On Twitter Julian Ku pointed out that the comments were not disavowed by the foreign ministry while Dan Blumenthal, always perspicacious on things Taiwan, observed:
Daniel Blumenthal‏ @DAlexBlumenthal
The facts are plain: the Chinese Ambo wrote a threatening letter to Congress and a Chinese “diplomat” threatened in public; Congress dropped language about port visits to Taiwan in the NDAA. A political influence campaign that worked.
(love the quotes around the word diplomat, DAB). Julian Ku wrote in Foreign Policy that the US backed down against China again. Sad. Blumenthal also observed:
It’s important 2 understand how many times China threatened war (GO talks, enhanced cooperation, enhanced arms sales) between 1999-2009 DOD went ahead anyway and all was fine.
Mark Stokes, one of the quietest but sharpest observers of Taiwan, noted:
Modest USN port calls would be consistent with US One China policy and unofficial nature of relations with TW. Besides, care to guess how many USN vessels (including contracted) or USAF aircraft have visited TW over past decades? This CCP provocation warrants firm response.
Rupert Hammond-Chambers of the US-Taiwan Business Council remarked:
R J Hammond-Chambers‏ @RJHCUSTBC
It’s non-credible that the PRC would start a war over a port visit by a USN visit. They’re counting on self-censorship as a means to curb US support for Taiwan
Not to be left out, the always-bellicose Global Times gave a good imperialist harrumph:
Li's words have sent a warning to Taiwan and drew a clear red line. If Taiwan attempts to hold an independence referendum or other activities in pursuit of de jure "Taiwan independence," the PLA will undoubtedly take action.
The PRC has been using similar language for years. Yawn.

This diplomatic bluster is one of the many Chinese influence operations in the US. The current debate over China's influence in Aussie politics is just a proxy for the debate over its influence in the US. Good to see it though, since it helps make such a debate possible in the US.

No question that the Chinese "diplomat" is trying to deploy the idea of tension to manage the US policy response and the media reporting. That is the whole point of "tensions". The media always refuses to point that out, though it is well known in media circles and among those of us who follow Taiwan. Instead, the media reports on the "tensions". They are news, ya know.

Yet, it also important to remember that Chinese bluster is aimed at domestic audiences as well. They might even want a port visit by US ships, because then they can present that to their own people as evidence of US bellicosity. "Look at what the US is doing!" The Chinese people are no doubt reluctant to go to war, like most ordinary people, and so must be slowly convinced of its necessity.

That said, this does need a response. The US might consider sending an innocuous vessel, such as a US navy research ship, supply ship, or minesweeper, to Kaohsiung port. Another option would be to send the USS Blue Ridge, which visited Shanghai in 2016, to Taiwan (as a friend snarkily Tweeted, did the US navy vessel's appearance there mean Shanghai was seceding?). It could imply, or overtly state, that is a clear signal of even-handedness.

J Michael's analysis is here.

MEDIA: Reuters loves to sell tension (remember when it manufactured clickbait tension out of the phone call?) and so it sexed up the event by using terms like spar and war of words. Here's the conversation:
BEIJING: We are gonna kill you and your US buddies.
TAIPEI: We want peace. You hurt us.
REUTERS: Stop sparring, you two!
It's not "sparring" when one side refuses to fight, but instead makes gestures of hurt and peacefulness.

Still obsessively pursuing its quest to supplant Xinhua as the number one source for the Chinese government's point of view, Reuters wrote:
At a Chinese embassy event in Washington on Friday, diplomat Li Kexin said he had told U.S. officials that China would activate its Anti-Secession Law, which allows it to use force on Taiwan if deemed necessary to prevent the island from seceding, if the United States sent navy ships to Taiwan.
As I wrote about BBC writing the same 'gwash in 2008:
Earth to BBC: the laws do not "legalize" the use of force against Taiwan. They are pure propaganda, and should be treated that way. Wouldn't it be more neutral to say that the law is a simple declaration that "calls for the use of force if Taiwan formally declares independence" or something similar? "Legalization" simply plays to Beijing's desire to leverage Western cultural expectations about the normative force of law in its drive to crush Taiwan's democratic existence and gives its expansionist desires legitimacy. The BBC would never say "China's national security laws legalize executions of democracy activists" if it were discussing China's security state and that nation's treatment of its political prisoners. So why does it do that here, when the Anti-Secession Law simply does wholesale what China's security laws do retail? Simply put, murder is always wrong, whether it is done by bullets in a prison or by missiles and bombs in city streets. Stop abetting Beijing, guys.
Would Reuters say that China's security laws "allow" it to imprison, torture, and murder dissidents? No, such language would be unacceptable. The AS law does not "allow" anything -- laws are not needed, as China can murder and maim Taiwanese to annex their island any time it wants, for any reason it likes. Language that normalizes evil as lawful should not be permissible. Observe that when Lee Ming-che was "tried" in China, Reuters did not say anything about what the laws "allow" and even had statements showing how the laws and trials were bullshit.

The Reuters report would be far less harmful if it weren't a news service that other news services relied on.

It would also be nice if the term "seceding" were put in quotes since Taiwan is not currently part of China.

Wouldn't it be awesome if the media supported democracy, democratic values, and the nations which espouse them?
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Transitional Justice Act Passes + Links

Fixing a bike at a small shop in Ruisui.

The transitional justice act was finally passed.
The act is aimed at addressing injustices perpetrated by then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government between Aug. 15, 1945, when the Japanese government announced it had surrendered, to Nov. 6, 1992, when the Period of National Mobilization against Communist Rebellion was ended in Kinmen and Lienchiang counties.

A nine-member Transitional Justice Promotion Committee is to be created, to be overseen by the Executive Yuan, with its chairman nominated by the premier and approved by at least half of the members of the Legislative Yuan.

The committee is also to address and utilize ill-gotten political party assets, but its purview will not include items already covered by the Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations (政黨及其附隨組織不當取得財產處理).

The new act states that data unconstitutionally seized during the authoritarian era are to be collated and archived and made available for research and educational purposes as long as people mentioned in the data have their privacy and their freedom of communication protected.
The Act thus covers the actual period of martial law in Taiwan. It is often forgotten that after martial law was "lifted" in 1987 the government immediately promulgated a new national security law that was martial law in all but name. Dissidents remained in jail until 1993.

The land justice issues involving aboriginal lands were separated out from this bill for later consideration. They are likely to be highly contentious. Taiwan is just beginning to wrestle with the fact that it is a settler society with all the evils and abuses that entails.

Meanwhile the KMT is so broke it is levying a special tax on members to raise funds. This is why I expect in 2020 Terry Gou has a good shot at the KMT Presidential candidacy, because he is the only possibility who can fund his own election campaign.

Don't miss Ian Rowen's great research piece on transitional justice in Taiwan, which is open access. A piece at Taiwan Sentinel argues transitional justice must be institutionalized in order for it to be successful.
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Thursday, December 07, 2017

Pollution Takes Center Stage

Somewhere with clean air...

Donovan Smith, ICRT's central Taiwan news reporter and all around awesome guy, observes of the pollution issue:
DEC 6, Donovan’s Central Taiwan News ICRT report
Taichung’s Mayor Makes Major Move on Pollution
Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung made another major move against Taipower’s Taichung Power Plant.

......

In exchange for extending the operating licenses for nine coal-fired generators next February, Taichung made three demands.

The first is to reduce coal usage in total to 16 million tons, a claimed reduction of 5 million tons from permitted consumption of 21 million tons--or a 24% reduction--next year.

The second is to reduce the licensing periods to two years, down from five currently--significantly increasing the city’s leverage.


And third, the city reiterated the demand made in a law passed by the Taichung City Council pushed by Mayor Lin himself to reduce emissions by 40% in total by 2020.

Taipower responded by warning that could reduce Taichung’s power supply by 10%, which could put Taichung’s and the national government’s industrial expansion plans and related job growth in jeopardy--including a massive TSMC expansion underway.

However, instead of simply overruling the local authorities as usual, after some grumbling the national economics ministry announced plans to massively ramp up plans to cover reservoirs and other water installations with solar panels to help alleviate the shortfall--though it would still be a drop in the bucket.

Pollution and Politics Totally Dominate Local News
Taichung local news has talked of virtually nothing--outside of some restaurant news of course--but the pollution issue and related politics.

After gaining considerable traction in the polls against the mayor by portraying him as weak on the issue, this move set off a KMT storm of attacks.

Most significantly, they took aim at his 24% reduction numbers, with one KMT mayoral candidate Johnny Chiang Chi-cheng pointing out that the 5 million tons of coal reduction from permitted consumption was at odds with the actual consumption of the plant, which averaged under 18 million tons in the last three years, yielding only a 2 million ton reduction in practice.


Mayor Lin shot back that they were playing with semantics between “actual” and “permitted” usage, and noted that he had already gotten them to reduce usage to under 18 million tons since he took office.

....

Politics also entered into the fray regarding a major anti-pollution march scheduled for December 17th at the Taichung City Hall.

The KMT announced en masse they would be supporting and marching with the protestors.

The mayor hit back however, saying that he agreed with the aims of the protesters and called on the public to join in and support the march--but criticized the KMT for using the march for their own electoral gain.

He also slammed the KMT over past policies, saying “the perpetrators now acting the victims, how ironic”.
I met up with Donovan earlier this week and we had a good laugh about the Celestial Dragon Kingdom. The pollution issue suddenly exploded when pollution spilled over into Taipei (how dare it!) instead of remaining respectfully at a distance from the center of power.

Just want to remind the reader: Taichung is now the second most populous city in Taiwan. Its mayor might be presidential someday, especially if he is KMT. It turns out in Taoyuan the KMT is running the same princeling from the Wu family who lost the last election, and in Taipei, the Blues want Chiang Wan-an, a princeling of the Chiangs of yore. Ko Wen-je will likely win again and the Taipei will be ready for a DPP mayor. Meanwhile the princeling-heavy KMT will find it difficult to win with such individuals even in their home localities, and they have little national appeal. So any KMTer who can do well in central Taiwan might become a presidential hope, especially he wins the city and develops his own power base -- a hard blow to the DPP.

Pollution keeps striking me as the wrong issue, especially since the part the DPP can affect, the power supply, is responsible for only a tiny fraction of air pollution. This seems like a made-to-lose issue, unless the DPP has some incredible policy in the bag still unrevealed.

Like maybe getting the public to implement conservation?
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Saturday, December 02, 2017

Oh look... after decades of killing Taiwanese, suddenly the air pollution is a political issue

The huge new train stations in Taichung, completely lacking in human feel and individuality. They couldn't even use different color paints?

Yup. It's election time, and the DPP has announced its candidates... incumbents, for now.
The nine incumbents are: Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌), Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien (林智堅), Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), Changhua County Commissioner Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷), Yunlin County Commissioner Lee Chin-yung (李進勇), Chiayi Mayor Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), Pingtung County Commissioner Pan Men-an (潘孟安) and Penghu County Commissioner Chen Kuang-fu (陳光復).
Intense internal struggles for Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Yilan delayed the announcements of those candidates. The Penghu mayor is sinking in the polls, and I fear for Mayor Lin of Taichung...

Yup. It's election time, and the DPP is making a coordinated assault on air pollution, with all the sanctimony of the newly-converted. After decades of deaths and illnesses from Taiwan's toxic air, suddenly pollution is an election issue, to be forgotten the following day, of course, unless the DPP needs to relax regulations to please big business small business owners.

Sorry. Just a bit cynical today watching our Republican Congress loot the future of the United States. I think in the coming years my sole enjoyment in international politics will be watching all those yammerheads in other countries who wanted to see the US giant fall complaining about Chinese influence and pining for the good old days of US imperialism....

Meanwhile, in Kaohsiung, the government is handing out free metro rides in a bid to reduce pollution...
The number of passengers who took the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) during morning peak hours rose more than 10 percent yesterday, the first day the city provided free public transport in an effort to combat air pollution, data released by Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp showed.
The K-town EPA is running the program til Feb 28. This time of year the air quality is awful in central and southern Taiwan.

In central Taiwan, the battle of Taiwan's second largest city is being fought over pollution. After years of doing and saying nothing about the incredible pollution in central Taiwan's air, suddenly it's an issue for both parties:
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers and environmentalists yesterday called on the Taichung City Government to revoke the coal-use permits it has awarded the Taichung Power Plant, which they said is the “dirtiest power plant in the world.”

KMT legislators representing electoral districts in Taichung, andYunlin, Changhua and Nantou counties called a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei to address the permit extension issue.
Since the leading KMT voices in this charge, Johnny Chiang and Lu Hsiu-yen, are gunning for the Taichung mayoral candidate position for the KMT, the political manipulation is obvious. Sadly, we won't get real change. The hypocrisy is breathtaking -- we have these crappy coal fired plants because for years the KMT controlled Taipower did nothing to implement renewables.

Environmental Protection Agency Minister Lee Ying-yuan said he would step down without a 20% reduction in air pollution by May 20. Haha. That means he will step down in May, in time to be a candidate in the November election. LOL.

How much effect will the cuts in coal consumption at the Taichung plant have? From a discussion of the issues surrounding the distribution of monies for pollution:
In Taiwan’s case, one third of air pollution comes from mobile sources, such as automobiles and motorcycles, and one third from stationery sources and industrial facilities, Lai said, adding that thermal power plants only account for 2.9 percent of Taiwan’s pollution.
What's really happening is shown by the air pollution data collected by Airvisual App. Here is some data from today:




Note the purple boxes. The '12 pm' is mislabeled, should be 12 am. The purple box shows the air pollution in the wee hours of the morning, with type of pollution in gray at the bottom (example: the second chart is SO2, sulfur dioxide). You can see that in the early morning the pollution spikes, I suspect as factories dump their emissions into the air to avoid daytime emissions that attract EPA attention.

So no, this pollution issue is purely cynical politics by both sides. No real enforcement will take place, because nobody wants to put any restraints on the great capitalist machine that is spitting out jobs and tax revenues, even as it eats the future of the island and the world. As a special bonus, many of those factories are illegal factories in residential areas and on agricultural land. Once, many years ago, I was asked by a state official in a midwestern state whether they could get small factory districts like Taiwan going in their state. I laughed and explained that the whole system runs on illegality, which the textbooks don't discuss...

It also means that the DPP has put itself as a disadvantage in the close battleground areas of central Taiwan, since it is the incumbent and the pollution cannot be meaningfully reduced in such a short time. Plausibly DPP Mayor Lin can claim progress, but the KMT will laugh, and voters sneer, especially with Nov PMI at a six year high. It never ceases to amaze me that voters live in the crap left behind by KMT policies but never make the KMT suffer for it...

Well, as a cyclist, election time is my favorite time. Not only are there lots of pretty posters to photograph, but the local governments are busily repaving the roads. Lots of lovely new tarmac out there next year....
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lee Ming-che gets 5 years: Reactions

DSC_0498
The excellent little memorial museum to the Tapani Revolt of 1915 in Yujing, Tainan.

Lee Ming-che, the Taiwanese democracy activist who was detained in China, has been given a five year sentence after his show trial earlier this year. The Guardian observes:
A court in China has sentenced a Taiwanese democracy activist to five years in prison on subversion charges in a case that has strained relations between Beijing and Taipei.

Lee Ming-cheh sat silently as a judge read the sentence, accusing him of disseminating articles, books and videos critical of China’s Communist system in an attempt to foment a “western colour revolution”.

Taiwan’s presidential office called the verdict “unacceptable”, adding: “We urge the Beijing authorities to release Lee and allow him to return to Taiwan soon. We regret that Lee’s case has seriously damaged cross-strait relations”.
AFP turned out an outstanding report on the sentencing, themed on human rights and democracy:
His wife, Lee Ching-yu, who attended the sentencing, said her husband had "paid the price" for his ideals.

"Fighting for human rights for the disadvantaged is a commitment that must be made to push for the enhancement of human civilisation... I want to express again that I am proud of his dedication," she said in a statement.

Amnesty International East Asia research director Roseann Rife called for Lee to be "immediately and unconditionally released", saying he had committed no crime.

"Lee Ming-cheh is the victim of a politically motivated prosecution... He is the latest to suffer under the Chinese authorities' relentless attack against human rights and democracy activists," Rife said
.
The NYTimes also turned out a sympathetic and detailed report.

J Michael Cole observed in a piece for the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy:
Lee is the first Taiwanese national to be sentenced for such a “crime” in China under the new National Security Law which passed on July 1, 2015 and which stipulates that preserving the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China “is a shared obligation of all the Chinese people, including compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.”

The court’s suspension of Lee’s political rights is no doubt meant to underscore Beijing’s contention that the new National Security Law applies to Taiwanese nationals (whom it regards as PRC citizens) regardless of where the alleged crimes are committed. We should note here that the said crimes Lee is accused of having committed occurred primarily online.

The heavy sentence is also meant to send a loud signal to other activists in Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere that they, too, can now be apprehended and convicted for “crimes endangering national security” and the “people’s democratic dictatorship regime” as (loosely) defined in the Law, irrespective of where the said crimes have been committed, both physically and online.
When that "law" Cole refers to above was passed, the International Federation of Journalists warned on its implications for journalists and others from Taiwan. That warning has now come to pass.

The loud signal that China sent will be heard within China as well: a Chinese man was also sentenced at the same "hearing", to seven years.

Brian Hioe at New Bloom cautioned on the insipid Taiwan reaction:
And it also remains to be seen what is next for efforts to free Lee in Taiwan. It seems to be primarily social movement activists that have paid attention to the issue and one has not, in fact, seen mass mobilizations to free Lee. Demonstrations to date have actually been disappointingly small. New means of outreach will be needed in order to provoke public outrage to set Lee free—after all, if the Taiwanese public has little reaction to Lee’s sentencing, one imagines that this will only move China to take actions against Taiwanese citizens abroad with impunity, as well as encourage China to take actions against Taiwan as a whole.
A few things remain to be said. First, the Lee Ming-che case shows that China has completely given up on the hearts and minds approach. Beijing undoubtedly knows that Taiwan has no desire to annex itself to China. This case will make it more difficult for Beijing observers/explainers/apologists to write about how Beijing's bumbling is screwing up its ability to win hearts and minds in Taiwan. There are no hearts and minds to win now.

Second, it also shows how the Chinese border matters to the international media. Hong Kong dissidents and activists are almost never negatively portrayed in the international media. Whereas, Taiwan activists and democracy fighters, as well as Taiwan's democracy itself, are frequently portrayed as provocative and probably deserving of whatever punishment China will mete out. When Lee crossed that border, he went from provocative, exasperating Taiwanese hothead to tragic hero dissident. That double standard deserves to die. Anytime, media.

Finally, this will be a blow to the narrative that the Tsai Administration is somehow equally to blame for the "chilled relations" between Beijing and Taipei. One of the outstanding moments in the AFP piece above is that it assigns Beijing blame for cutting off relations with Taipei. This sort of thing will give editors and writers more courage to take that position when they describe Beijing-Taipei relations. After all, Beijing very obviously doesn't care about its relations with Taipei.
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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Cycling Tainan: Uplands and Badlands

1511693153710
My friend Blair Hargreaves snapped these boars waiting for the inevitable end.

Another weekend, another bike ride. This one took us to the back roads of Tainan, including the gorgeous 175 and the strange Moon World, one of the few tropical badlands in the world. Short days, but super enjoyable. Click on READ MORE to see moar pix and the route notes for day 1 and day 2...

Friday, November 24, 2017

Yes, AmCham, the cram school market is saturated. It reached that point a decade ago....

AmCham passed around this Taipei-centric piece on the cram school market, arguing that it had reached its saturation point. Quite true, it had reached it over a decade ago. The article observes:
Yet some cram schools (buxibans) would at times bend even those limited requirements for the right candidate. Doing so was illegal, but the demand for instructors of English as a second language (ESL) often outstripped supply as the industry grew at a torrid clip. From 2003 to 2008, the number of cram schools more than doubled from 6,000 to 12,500, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE). In the Taipei area, most qualified teachers preferred to work in the city or nearby suburbs accessible by subway. A bit farther afield, schools couldn’t afford to be picky.

.....

Growth has slowed as well. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of buxibans expanded from 12,500 to 18,500, half the rate of the preceding five years. Since 2016, growth has been flat.

“Business has been tough for a while,” says Jocelyn Lu, director of the test-prep and study abroad consultancy Cambridge Taipei. In recent years, student enrollment at Cambridge Taipei has been dropping 10-15% per year on average. Profit margins are razor thin, especially after the company felt the need to reduce its tuition fee by almost one-third.
This article is years behind the curve. Feiren, one of the more acute observers of things Taiwan, observed back in 2010....
But I did find stats on the number of teachers here with work permits and was surprised to learn that in 1992 there were just 1,500 teachers here on work permits. Now at that time they had just begun issuing work permit and residence cards to teachers and most teachers still flew to Hong Kong every six months. But as late as 2000 there were still only 3,800 foreign teachers legally residing in Taiwan. That figure peaked in 2004 at 6,831 and stayed above 6,000 until June of this year when it declined to 5,749. In October there were 5,946.

...

Another interesting set of figures from the MOE is the percentage of household income that can be allocated to education. The average figure peaked at around NT$48,000 in 2004 and decline to NT$42,500 in 2009. There was a drop of more than 10% in 2008.
That tracks the declining number of English teachers over the same period by almost the same amount c. 11.5%.
That was Feiren writing in 2010. You can see why the 2003-2008 period saw an "expansion" of bushibans, which at that time was more like the swelling of a corpse, for the market had already been killed. Household incomes had less money to put into education after 2009, and of course under Ma worker incomes receded back into the 1990s. The "expansion" thus took place in a market with a stable population, meaning that while there were more schools, they had fewer students.

"Razor thin" profit margins had been around for a while, for I noted the death of the market back in 2005 (Yes, this blog has been around that long) because of the emergence of perfect competition in the market in the 1990s, a common phenomenon across small businesses in Taiwan....
As the chains proliferated, the size of schools began to shrink rapidly. It is now the case that around large elementary schools in Taiwan there may be a dozen or two English schools, each serving only a few score students. Essentially a situation of perfect competition has arisen in the market, where producers are small relative to market size, prices are equal to marginal cost and marginal revenues, and everyone knows the market well. Schools must struggle to keep costs down if they want to stay alive. Growth is difficult, for if the market increases anywhere, another school will quickly open to subdivide the market. Teacher pay is a major cost component for schools. With competition intense, and everyone facing the same cost structures, it was inevitable that teacher pay should become identical and stagnant within local markets.
I was explaining why teacher pay hadn't budged in a decade (and is still stagnant). But at that time it was already possible to see the trend, with falling birth rates, stagnant household incomes, and rising income inequality.

The reason the bushiban market boomed in the 2003-2008 period, then fell off, is probably related to money returning from China via legal and gray/black channels. Cram schools are ideal ways to launder money and gangster investment in cram schools and in legal private schools is common, and of course, many a legal dollar was seeking business opportunities at  home. That 2003-2008 period that AmCham refers to was the peak of the Chen Shui-bian era boom in Taiwanese investment and profit in China. Many people invested in cram schools because they had always been a steady earner, and because entry and exit were easy, and there was a widespread perception that they were cash cows (many of my relatives were urging me to open a cram school with them, easy money!), even though all the numbers said otherwise.

Now the market is saturated (the most saturated area for cram schools is not Taipei but Chiayi). No one I know plans to open a cram school....
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Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Whining, Petty World Of Chinese Nationalist Expansionism


@jonlsullivan Nov 19 The thing we often forget about the CCP is that every sphere is an ideological battlefield. Doesn't matter if its stupid memes online or Katy Perry holding a ROC flag or a Chinese youth team match in German 4th division. Absurd for us, logical for them
One of the online games I play, World of Warships, recently had an encounter with the pettiness of Chinese expansionism. The game is about to release a new set of destroyers, the Pan-Asian line, which groups together ships from Korea, Thailand, the PRC, and the ROC, since none of those nations has enough ships to fill out several lines of a full fledged navy over the games's period from just before WWI to just after WWII.

The new line was initially released with the Republic of China boats flying the Nationalist Flag. The Longjiang, which was ordered from Germany in 1913 for the ROC and designed but never built, thus carries the ROC flag.

Despite the historical reality of the Republic of China being the only China during that period, and the simple reality that ROC ships carried ROC flags in the postwar period, Chinese wumao yammerheads complained to their embassies in Europe, which duly complained to WarGaming, the company that operates World of Warships. WG responded not by censoring the ROC flag, but by removing all the national flags -- including those of Thailand and Korea -- and replacing them with a meaningless generic Pan-Asian flag.

World of Warships has its own Chinese server which is separate from the other servers in Southeast Asia, Europe, North America, and Russia. That server is a separate business from the other World of Warships servers, as it operates under Chinese "law". Chinese players thus cannot see the North American, European, Russian, or Southeast Asian servers unless they are resident in those countries. So the only people affected by which flags the ships carry are people who are... not Chinese.

I am happy to report that this decision was greeted with overwhelming negativity (non-scientific poll of North American server discussion forum). The company was roundly criticized. The Koreans were especially upset since they finally had a ship in the game with its very own Korean flag, which was suddenly whisked from them by Chinese whining. It is possible to use "mods" (add-on programs) which can alter the appearance of the ship, to add the proper flag, but only the player herself can see that.

WarGaming is making the flag customizable, so you can add whatever flag you want. I will certainly be flying the ROC on my ROC navy ships. Giving the middle finger to the whining insecure wumao horde just makes it that much tastier.

This isn't the first time and increasingly, won't be the last, that China attempts to alter historical reality and to insert its politics into every last trivial thing.

China's soft power, hard at work, making friends for the nation everywhere....
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NPP, DPP, KMT: An Eternal Golden Braid

Hittin' the road again this weekend after a week struggling with the flu.

Watching corporate power gut the US economy and in the latest piece of predatory success, internet neutrality, would make me cry, if it didn't make me laugh. Americans will soon be paying even more for less service, while here in Taiwan, we get unlimited internet for peanuts, stable and fast. My friend and sharp observer Aaron Wytze used Taiwan's superior internet service to tweet:
1. NPP released their 2018 party strategy: party plans to run candidates in 19 of Taiwan's 23 electoral areas. Big pushes in Central, South, and East Taiwan. #Taiwanpoli https://www.facebook.com/newpowerparty/photos/a.891139534290737.1073741828.891084220962935/1873460272725320/?type=3&theater

2. oops. 22 electoral areas (municipalities and counties)

3. First observations: No surprises, NPP fielding a lot of candidates in big urban areas like Taichung, Kaohsiung, Taoyuan, New Taipei, Taipei, and Hsinchu.

4. Surprising to see NPP run candidates in rural counties like Yunlin, Changhua, Taitung, and Pingtung.
5. HUGE push in Hualien. NPP perhaps looking to pick up young indigenous votes? Any truth to rumors that Kawlo Iyun for Hualien mayor?

@Rusted_Van Replying to @aaronwytze
DPP's recent labour standars act revision push is resulting in a lot of livid young ppl (including yours truly); the timing is ripe for NPP's picking. I'm curious how this dynamic will play out with the 本土陣線 the SDP is forming tho.
IMHO the NPP is aiming at traditional DPP areas like Yunlin and Pingtung because it wants to cannibalize DPP votes, or even more likely, to threaten to cannibalize such votes and cost the DPP seats, so that the DPP is forced to make a deal with to give it at least some safe seats in exchange for withdrawing some candidates. This wide action is about leverage. Note that the NPP did well in traditionally KMT areas last time, which may account for its taking a shot a Hualien.

Word has it Su Tseng-chang is considering running for New Taipei City position. He did well when he was county chief of the area. But he is old... meanwhile everyone has agreed that air pollution will be the next big issue for the 2018 elections in Taiwan's no.2 city, Taichung. Hahaha. That won't end well for the DPP. In K-town Chen Ching-mai, leading the polls, declared his candidacy for Kaohsiung Mayor. That should end very well for the DPP.

The DPP must knock out the KMT or else it risks being squeezed between the NPP and KMT. More on that in a moment....

The labor issue took an ugly new twist this week, with labor groups protesting outside the Executive Yuan this afternoon as I write these words.

The NPP filibustered the law by grabbing the podium. Huang Guo-chang, the NPP politico target of a recall whose stupid law is explained in a great post by Frozen Garlic here, complained that the Ministry of Labor gets 1000s of complaints but only investigates a tiny handful of them. Companies in Taiwan operate with impunity (as do individuals, a foreign maid fell to her death this week attempting to escape her employers). The NPP seems determined to make this its issue for the elections, since the KMT has no credibility on labor issues and the DPP seems determined to screw labor once again, having learned nothing from the history of the last two decades.

While he was at the podium blocking things, NPP legislator Hsu Yung-ming made a startling and saddening claim:
While at the podium to delay the review, Hsu also criticized the DPP for what he said was a secret deal with the KMT over the legislation.

The DPP has agreed to shelve a draft act on the promotion of transitional justice if the KMT does not obstruct review of the amendment to the labor law, Hsu said.
Selling out transition justice in order to pass anti-progressive labor law is a double whammy of betrayal and inhumanity, if true. I contacted someone close to Hsu, and they said that they had no idea whether he knew it to be true or not. So I am tentatively going with misreported/exaggerated claim. New Bloom has extensive coverage of the filibuster here. If the DPP trades away transitional justice, it relaxes pressure on the KMT, which it must have if it is going to keep that party squelched...

New Bloom also observes that despite the occurrence of the Ching Fu contract award under the Ma Administration, the KMT is attempting to pin the scandal on the DPP. Brian notes:
Ching Fu stands accused of dispersing its money in a suspicious manner between accounts in Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore, leading to suspicions that Ching Fu may have used the money to invest in development projects in China. Given its ties with Chinese development projects in the past, some have even made accusations that Ching Fu may have leaked navy technology to China. However, Ching Fu claimed that it needed the 20.5 billion NTD loan provided to it to pursue a shipbuilding project with Tuvalu, one of Taiwan’s few diplomatic allies. The contract was originally awarded under the Ma administration. 
With 24 officers being censured for their shady dealings with the the award of the contract this week, and the company's headquarters impounded by prosecutors, the Taipei Times had a couple of stories showing how the story, pushed by the KMT as a DPP scandal, is now blowing back on the KMT.

DPP pushback on the KMT has forced KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih, who was Veep when the contract was awarded, to issue a denial that he had any influence. Wu's defense was the classic one that the Vice President has no clearly defined function so he couldn't have had any influence on the award. This is an appealing defense since his claim is true. Unfortunately, things work on personal influence in the KMT and Wu's influence was immense. So his many meetings with the head of the firm could well have meant something given his unofficial clout. The DPP noted...
DPP spokesperson Ho Meng-hua (何孟樺) said that Wu’s denial and deflection betrays his concern about the incident and that he cannot give a straight answer about his involvement with Ching Fu.

[Ching Fu head] Chen was the only person from the private sector to attend four state banquets that the administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) held for foreign dignitaries, Ho said, adding that Chen and his wife shared a table with Wu at one of the banquets.

Chen visited the Presidential Office Building twice when Chien was Cabinet secretary-general, Ho said, adding that the visits coincided with Chien’s meetings with banks on the syndicated loan and its amount.
The salience of these points should not be lost: Wu himself argued elsewhere  that Chen's ability to get close to Tsai Ing-wen signaled that he was well known either to her or her guards. Yet here is Chen in close proximity to Ma, repeatedly.

The strange and suggestive nature of Ching Fu's success in getting money out of the government...
DPP Legislator Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) pointed to flaws in the tender process and subsequent program management by the Ministry of National Defense, which “revived” Ching Fu from potential disqualification.

Ching Fu, which in 2014 was awarded the NT$35.8 billion (US$1.19 billion at the current exchange rate) contract to build six minesweepers as part of a domestic warship program, secured the contract after the ministry lowered the minimum asset requirement for bidders from one-10th to one-200th of the contract’s value.

That year, a ministry tender review committee — without its convener and deputy convener present — drew lots to pick a contractor for the minesweeper program, with Ching Fu securing the contract over CSBC Corp, Taiwan.

In 2015, Ching Fu failed to acquire export permits from its subcontractors, Italian shipbuilder Intermarine and US defense firm Lockheed Martin, but the ministry did not dissolve its contract, despite the failure.

State-run banks approved a syndicated loan of NT$20.5 billion to Ching Fu, even though the company was determined to be financially unstable, Wang said.

DPP Legislator Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) questioned how Ching Fu, which has registered capital of about NT$500 million, was able to secure a tender worth NT$35.8 billion.
When you hear complaints about Tsai Ing-wen and Ching Fu, remember, all this happened under the Ma Administration....
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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Book Review: Outcasts of Empire: Japan's Rule on Taiwan's "Savage Border," 1874-1945

Outcasts of Empire: Japan's Rule on Taiwan's "Savage Border," 1874-1945
Paul D. Barclay (Author)
Asia Pacific Modern
Philip E. Lilienthal Imprint in Asian Studies
University of California Press, 2018


In Outcasts of Empire: Japan's Rule on Taiwan's "Savage Border," 1874-1945, Paul Barclay tells this story, beginning with the Wushe Rebellion in 1930 led by Mona Ludao...:
The invasive and exploitative policies that provoked Mona and his confederates also eroded precolonial forms of social organization, authority, and ritual life among Taiwan’s indigenes. As it severed bonds between indigenes and their lands, in addition to prohibiting or reforming folkways it deemed injurious to its civilizing mission, the government-general nonetheless laid the groundwork for the emergence of Taiwan Indigenous Peoples as a conscious and agentive historical formation. By arresting the diffusion of Chinese language and customs into Taiwan’s interior, restricting geographic mobility across the so-called “Savage Border,” dividing the colony into normally and specially administered zones, and sanctioning a battery of projects in top-down ethnogenesis, the government-general inscribed a nearly indelible “Indigenous Territory” on the political map of Taiwan over the five decades of its existence.
...and tells it in narrative that is at once highly readable, deeply informed, illuminating, and sensitive to the humanity of every historical figure who appears in it. You can imagine my happiness in this age of unaffordable scholarly books that the book is available for free download. My deepest thanks to Dr. Barclay for not only writing this excellent book, but also for letting it be freely available.

Barclay's tale begins with the drama of the Wushe uprising, using it as a wedge to pry open the relations between the Japanese colonial state, run "on the cheap" as he frequently points out, and the original peoples of the island. Every aspect of their existence presented a quandary for Japan. Taiwan was that nation's first colony in a world of colonies and colonizers, and there was no reserve of experienced administrators and explorers that Japan could draw on. The nature of the aborigines themselves was elusive and the incoming Japanese state had only the most rudimentary body of knowledge about them to draw on. Moreover, the high mountain areas were inaccessible and unknown.

For the Han settlers on the plains Japanese rule was simpler. The initial period of Japanese rule was marked by rebellion after rebellion, ending with the crushing of the Tapani Revolt in 1915. This revolt complicated relations with the aborigines, since it drew off colonial resources urgently needed to extend Japanese rule into the highlands.

After that period of revolt in which the population was ruled via state brutality and terror, the settler population was ruled via what Barclay, drawing on existing theory, labels the "disciplinary state". The settlers could gradually be educated and disciplined into internalizing state-sanctioned behavioral norms and producing a surplus that could both fund the colonial government and provide some return on the massive investments of the Japanese state for the new colony.

However, this approach could never work for the peoples residing in the highlands of Taiwan. The colonial government simply lacked the resources to enforce disciplinary rule in the highlands of Taiwan. Thus, in Taiwan, as in so many other areas, the incoming colonial power created two areas: one where its disciplines could be enforced and the population gradually assimilated at least some of the expected norms, the other a special administrative district where peoples were exempt from the power of the disciplinary state and instead interacted with it in other ways. Those latter areas are what we call indigenous areas today. In Taiwan "the indigenous areas", like so many other aspects of Taiwanese life from the use of Penglai rice to Taiwanese deep sea tuna fishing practices, are constructions of the Japanese colonial state.

The story thus begins with the Japanese state's attempt to communicate, study, and trade with the peoples of the area. At first, because it was weak and underfunded, and its knowledge of aboriginal communities was poor, it had low-ranking colonial officials and soldiers marry aboriginal women and act as brokers between the state and its perceived subject peoples, and it conducted trade through intermediaries. These arrangements gave aboriginal leaders leverage, which the state found odious and obstructionist. Unlike the Japanese, the aborigines were experienced in handling imperial rule, and Barclay repeatedly notes how the frontier was a fluid place filled with hybrids: aboriginal leaders who lived in Chinese houses and acquired Han wives, Han who moved easily between the two worlds and spoke the languages of both, and flows of gifts and resources in both directions.

Eventually the state acquired enough power to dispense with such makeshifts and came to rule more directly. The broker-buffer and the power of aborigines to impose at least some limited terms on the colonial state's desire for profits and resources were a cost the state became unwilling to tolerate in its capitalist quest for the resources of Taiwan's mountains. In telling this history, Barclay never loses sight of that simple fact: the purpose of Taiwan, like every colony, was to make money for the "mother" country.

Every aspect of this book, from its copious illustrations, maps, and photos, to its insistence on  proper representation in labeling aborigines with their aboriginal names along with the other names they were known by, to its deep empirical and theoretical understandings of colonial processes and racial hierarchies, is an absolute delight. A Japan scholar, Barclay always has one comparative eye on developments in Japan -- the colonial processes to assimilate and suppress Taiwan were mirrored by similar processes in Korea, and by the Japanese state's ongoing program to create a state and a language at home out of its own unruly and variegated peoples. These programs frequently intersected, for example, when the State moved to ensure its low ranking soldiers and privates, often drawn from marginal and under-educated populations at home, instructed the aborigines in the "right" Japanese language forms.

Barclay points out that a key factor in the creation and preservation of an "indigenous" area in Taiwan was the deep appreciation of aboriginal artistic powers in Japan. This provided motivation for the state to research, construct, and produce aboriginal identities, and preserve a separate territorial and cultural space for them. Today aborigines in Taiwan are dependent on these Japanese representations and constructions of aboriginal lifeways in "recovering" their past practices and traditions.

Barclay's book is timely as well as informative. In the ceaseless struggle over local identities Taiwan's aboriginal peoples, today as yesterday, remain useful for demonstrating that Taiwan is different from Some Other Place. That they are so useful for such goals was both a purpose, and a legacy, of the Japanese colonial state in Taiwan.
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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Volare Novels: A Novel Start Up

The halls of mystery, where true warriors may suddenly appear....

Last week I got a very interesting email from a young woman who runs a very interesting company, seeing if I would be interested in her company’s interesting story. I was.

I met etvolare of Volare Novels in a bookstore cafe, appropriately enough. Her business, now one year old, is one of the few in a niche which was completely unknown to me: her company translates Chinese martial arts novels (武俠小說) into English and then hosts them on the company website, where they get nearly 20 million hits a month. Clearly there is a huge appetite in English for these stories.

This is not a small market, and etvolare's company is one of the Big Three publishing houses. She's also the only Taiwan-based business in this market, working with a variety of Chinese literature companies and directly with authors. The biggest publishing house in this market gets over 100 million hits a month.

The novels, etvolare explained to me, are serialized, with translators churning out a new chapter of roughly 2000 words every day or so and posting them to the sites. When I wondered aloud about whether I could write one, she laughed and said it's tricky: you have to leave the audience with a story that brings them back the next day for more, but if you write too many cliffhanger endings to chapters, the audience deluges you with angry letters. Her translators include both amateurs just starting out and professionals with major books and movie and TV work on their resume.

The novels are selected for quality but fundamentally, they are selected by the translators, who like them and want to translate them. This enthusiasm and passion is shared with the audience, who respond in kind and can leave more than a hundred comments on each chapter. She has a team of 30 translators scattered around the world. She herself has chosen many novels, and likes to have a selection of offbeat genres and unusual twists, describing Volare Novels' selection as "eclectic". Volare also has a "significant focus on alternative and women's interest novels." In China, she said, this world is not primarily divided by genre (comedy, horror, mystery) but by gender first: male (pretty much everything not romance) and female novels (romance tinged martial arts, romance tinged historic fiction, schoolyard romance…).

Because the stories are hosted on the net and posted frequently, they are quite flexible. This forms part of their allure, as the Chinese authors can adapt quickly to modern events and fads to incorporate them into the work. Her web-based business also emphasizes the use of not only of more conventional communication platforms like Skype to keep in touch with translators, but also Discord, a popular site with gamers (link on her sidebar).

How does the money flow in? Crowdfunding, reading donations, and advertising. Her audience is almost entirely people under 35 (hint: disposing of much disposable income hint hint) and living in Western Europe, Canada, and the US (high income countries hint hint). Oh yeah, many of these stories make great movies and TV shows, such as recent hits Princess Agents (楚喬傳), Nirvana in Fire (琅琊榜), and Just One Smile is Very Alluring (微微一笑很傾城). Hint.

At present etvolare is looking to build partnerships with Taiwanese publishers, given her local roots. Regrettably, getting the government to pay attention to what she is building is difficult. It seems likely to me that this is because etvolare's business lacks status, and so much of what the government does involving foreigners and outsiders is based at least in part on how much status such individuals or companies can confer on the government ministry they are interacting with.

In the meantime, I will be brushing up on my understanding of the mysteries of qi and Han dynasty geography. Where did I leave those Dungeons and Dragons reference books...?
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KMT on Counterattack

If wishes were horses...

The KMT is in full counterattack mode. The DPP's recent moves to put the government in charge of the irrigation cooperatives as well as its roll-back of labor rights are motivating the KMT (KMT news organ) and giving it ammunition to attack the DPP:
On November 13, KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) separately received four KMT legislators, i.e., Hsu Yu-jen (許毓仁), Ma Wen-chun (馬文君), Chiang Chi-chen (江啟臣), and Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) in order to listen to their views on bills being reviewed in the Legislative Yuan. Two of the bills, both proposed by the DPP, intended to change the irrigation associations into government agencies, headed by government appointees, and to change township mayors from elective to appointive. Wu declared his opposition to both bills.
I already discussed the import of the irrigation cooperative changes for KMT patronage networks. The change in the township mayors will also have a profound effect on the KMT's local level networks. This is because while the higher elective levels might be DPP, in many "green" areas the local elected officials are KMT. The south is not a green monolith, but a patchwork that is a different checkerboard at every level.

By making the township mayors appointed by county chiefs, the DPP is removing the ability of the KMT to elect these individuals, and again, cutting off the KMT's patronage networks at the local level. Recall that in the municipalities (Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung, Taoyuan, New Taipei City, and Taipei) the mayor appoints all the city officials. Thus, in the five cities controlled by the DPP, the KMT has almost no public offices. The DPP is now replicating this for the counties, ensuring that there will be fewer sites the KMT can cultivate local politicians for higher office and reducing patronage monies to local KMT-connected businesses.

The new labor laws, which represent a vulnerability the  KMT could exploit, were it not the party of big business, were the subject of a staged brawl today in the legislature.

Another area of KMT attack is the growing Ching Fu Scandal. The latest on it has the KMT pointing out the absurdly rapid payment to the company after it requested the funds....
The funds were disbursed on Dec. 16 last year — just 10 days after Ching Fu again asked the ministry for the payment, which was quick and suggests that the office’s top management was involved in the disbursement of the funds, she said.

Considering the sheer size of the payment and that it was composed of budgets earmarked for other military services, it was unlikely that the ministry could have paid the shipbuilder without receiving instructions from upper management, Lee said.
The Ministry is allowed to re-arrange funds if it needs, within certain limits. Also this week the Ma Administration, which contracted for the ships, was also implicated:
The shipbuilder has been embroiled in a fraud scandal over a contract that it won from the Ministry of National Defense in October 2014 to build six minesweepers for the military at a cost of NT$34.9 billion (US$1.16 billion).

To finance the construction, Ching Fu obtained a syndicated loan of NT$20.5 billion from a group of nine domestic lenders led by First Commercial Bank.

However, an investigation initiated by prosecutors in August found that Ching Fu might have used bogus documents to falsify four capital increases that were required as part of the terms of the loan.

The controversy has seen DPP and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers trading barbs over who used their influence to help Ching Fu obtain the syndicated loan, of which NT$15.4 billion had already been disbursed.
Officials visiting the firm have also come under fire, though they have denied working on its behalf. The owner of the firm, Chen Ching-nan, was arrested and charged with obtaining the loans under false pretenses, which triggered the messThe case has shaken local banks, since it appears the firm is insolvent and no funds of the massive loan will ever be returned.

The Ching Fu case may appear that enough mud is spread throughout this and the previous administration, and also because it is huge and complex, and therefore the public will perceive it to be yet another in the endless business-as-usual deals that the government engages in. But such perceptions hurt the DPP more than the KMT....

Meanwhile, as many expected, longtime KMT politician in Taipei Ting Shou-chung will enter the KMT mayor primary, for the fifth time. Ting is 63 and will be nearly 7o in 2024, too old to become president if he is elected mayor and plans to use Taipei as a base for a national bid. If he wins the Taipei mayor race, that is one more datum showing that the next president is likely to come from Taoyuan or Taichung.
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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

How the labor law changes screw workers

eecc41.JPG
Aboriginal performers at a resort

Kassy Cho on Twitter explains:
Currently, Taiwanese workers are entitled to 1 fixed day off and 1 flexible day off per week. If you work on your flexible day off, it’s considered overtime, and you should be paid in increments of 4 hours. i.e. 1–4 hours counts as 4 hours, 4-8 hours counts as 8 hours and so on

Employees are legally entitled to 7 holiday days a year in their first 2 years at the company, increasing to 10 days for their 3rd and 4th years, and 14 days after 5 years and so on, with a max of 30 holiday days after working at a company for 25 years

I should also preface this with: Taiwanese people are some of the most overworked people out there, with many getting off work any time from 10pm to past midnight and usually not paid for any overtime at all

Holidays are rare, and employers have the power to reject holiday requests and often do. I know because I have worked in Taiwan and experienced this myself. Anyway, here are the proposed reforms and what they mean:

Overtime pay will no longer be rounded up to four hour increments and employees will only receive pay for the exact number of hours they have worked.

Comp days are now valid for two years. Employees will no longer be able to take or get paid for any comp days they didn’t take at the end of the year but may have to wait another year before they can take the days or get paid for them

The minimum time employees have off between shifts will be shortened from 11 hours to 8 hours, meaning if you get off at 6pm, you could theoretically be called into work at 2am and have to go.

The maximum number of days employees can work in a row before a day off will be doubled from 6 days, meaning people could work 12 days straight before getting a day off.

The maximum hours a person can work a week will also be increased from 46 hours to 54 hours.

Also worth noting the fact that 7 public holidays were already cancelled with the launch of this act

All of this goes to say, employees are very concerned that these reforms could mean longer shifts and less rest in a culture that already promotes and actively encourages overwork
She ends by linking to this piece from The Reporter that explains everything (Chinese).

The massive piles of homework and the cram schools exist for a couple of reasons. One is politics: students can't develop interests outside school or engage in political activity if they are loaded down with homework and thirty hours of class each week.

But the other is to habituate students to their future work lives in which their time will be controlled by the one with authority over their lives -- first the school, then their boss. Taiwan culture powerfully instills the idea that hard work will pay off and authority should not be challenged. These values make Taiwanese ideal workers for a slave-driving employer class.

The real white privilege in Taiwan isn't the ability of white males to get attention from local women (wildly exaggerated) or easily getting jobs as cram school clowns/teachers. It is being exempt from this hellish system of time control.

The DPP has screwed labor again, after courting it before the election. Unfortunately there is no third party labor can turn to, the NPP being too small and the KMT being the party of big business. In 2018 I expect that many in the working class will sit home while others will switch parties to punish the DPP. It appears that the DPP idea of "social justice" is limited to those areas where social justice touches on KMT power.

Recall that the miracle economy was built on the premise of cheap, well-controlled labor. This enabled families to open factories. Workers would learn skills and go off to open factories on their own, supported by networks of similar factories operating in clusters: the famous "Shoes Nest" in Taichung, the bike industry cluster around Dajia, the mold and die cluster in Sanchong, the textile cluster near Yuanlin and Hemei in Changhua, the furniture cluster in Kaohsiung (see Hsieh's Boss Island for a description of how workers spun off bosses in the old system). That system was also premised on links to the US economy via exchange students, emigrants, and political exiles.

The US middle class has been destroyed, and the workers can no longer accumulate the social and financial capital to open their own tiny factories with so many firms moved to China, but the Taiwanese family run factory business lives on, a 1970s zombie in a 21st century world. The only way it can survive is by exploitation: exploiting workers by overworking and underpaying them, exploiting the environment by ignoring regulations, and exploiting females.

The move to China enabled Taiwanese family firms to continue to survive in the global market without investing in upgrading production technology and management. Now such firms are leaving China looking for marginalized labor forces elsewhere in places like Indonesia and Burma. But to remain "competitive" Taiwan firms are rolling back the pittance of labor rights in Taiwan. This will enable bosses to continue to exploit labor in lieu of investment in upgrading productivity.

Indeed, Premier William Lai's recent call for a $30,000 minimum salary was quickly "clarified" to include only large firms. It was just a nod of the head and polite meaningless words...

The productivity-wage gap in Taiwan is huge, and for bosses, seductive. Taiwan labor is among the cheapest in developing countries, relative to its productivity. Yet labor exploitation can only lead to the slow fossilization of Taiwan firm productivity and production techniques, leaving Taiwan further behind the global production curve, while talented and capable Taiwanese look elsewhere to sell their labor. "Reforms" like this hurt the island by feeding the brain drain while convincing small and medium sized firm owners that they can go on indefinitely substituting labor for capital in the productivity race...

Perhaps the bosses are hoping that they can exploit workers until robots become widely available, capable, and cheap, but I doubt they are that forward looking. Rather, this law is simply the visceral response to labor: exploit labor more, a subset of the Great Answer to all social "problems" in Taiwan society: more control.
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Monday, November 13, 2017

Reginald Kann's 1909 Formosa, Japan's First Colony: the land and her peoples


I know you don't have enough to read, so I took a few minutes and Google-translated Reginald Kann's Formosa, de eerste kolonie van Japan: De Aarde en haar Volken, 1909, Formosa, Japan's First Colony: the land and her peoples. There doesn't seem to be much in English on him, but Kann was a war correspondent (fought in the Boer War) who covered campaigns in Cuba, Morocco, Europe, the Far East and later, WWI. In between he wrote of his travels in the area.

I have placed the text below the READ MORE line. The photos may be found at the original link.