Monday, October 16, 2017

Biking and Cole and Links....

Hidden in the hills around Taichung are many interesting places...

If you read one thing today, it should be Andrew Kerslake's piece on Stifled Paradise of Biking... Andrew writes:
I too often feel embarrassed for the people who have read my writing and taken the plunge to visit for a ride only to find their routes choked with pollution levels too dangerous to cycle without tempting asthma. I am embarrassed by glistening natural vistas marred by the industrial blight of smoke stacks, cement factories or the rotting concrete shell of a failed mega-resort. In Taiwan we almost get it right so often and we have a lot of potential, only to overdevelop our way into having all the charm of a shopping mall food court. I wrote about this issue back in 2015. I am writing about this issue today.
J Michael Cole came out with one of his weakest pieces in a long time: Double Ten and the Narcissism of Small Differences. It's the kind of thing that attempts to gain by force of rhetoric what it cannot take by force of argument:
While differences exist on a number of issues, both blues and greens agree on the fundamentals, on the ideology — which goes well beyond a chosen form of governance — that defines Taiwan (or the ROC) and that differentiates it from the increasingly authoritarian PRC. Thus, while crass attacks on one’s political opponents are an unavoidable, if lamentable, by-product of electoral politics, we need to separate those tactical punches from attacks (often made by politicians seeking attention with an eye to securing a position or their party’s nomination in an upcoming election) that, for short-term political gain, risk harming Taiwan at the strategic level: its institutions and the way of life that mainstream blues and greens alike have come to cherish. The actions of politicians who break that basic rule (and those happen far too often) should no longer be countenanced.

Rather than bicker over a flag or nomenclature, matters which like institutional reform can in due course be addressed by a process of evolution, Taiwanese from both sides of the aisle must find it within themselves to recognize and emphasize their shared interests. One can be a radical supporter of Taiwanese independence or conversely a proud waishengren citizen of the ROC and still both would agree on the values, mores, ideas and means of governance that define this place. If only they would sit down together and listen to each other rather than talk past each other or treat the Other as a perennial enemy. Much of those differences are artificial, kept alive and exploited by politicians and media outlets that thrive on division. Democratic systems by design create political camps that act in opposition to each other, rallying voters behind them. Such are the politics of contention. However, given the immense challenges it faces, Taiwan cannot afford to create divisions where they no longer exist, or to widen those that do exist to the extent that they begin to erode the very foundations of the state. At this juncture, reconciliation might very well be a matter of survival.
Yeah... except no. It would nice if reconciliation were so easy. But the ROCers and the Taiwan independence crowd disagree on fundamentals: on whether Taiwan is part of China, on the relationship between the government in Taipei and Kinmen, Matsu, the South China Sea Islands, and the Senkakus, all of which are part of the ROC but not part of Taiwan. On the legacy of the authoritarian era and how to handle it. On markers of KMT colonialism in Taiwan, and on whether the ROC is a colonial state. And on many other things...

...what Cole has done is confused Taipei class solidarity for general political solidarity. Middle and upper class people in Taipei agree widely on many things. This shared broad class solidarity is the foundation of a broad political consensus -- much of it somewhat liberal to very progressive, a spectrum Cole meets daily, fits into, and finds congenial, but things are very different when you get to working class greens who have risen from working to running small factories far from Taipei, or farmers, or central and southern Taiwanese in general. The shared ideology Cole refers to is really more or less the common view in the capital that the economic and political arrangements that make life in the capital so sweet really ought to continue.

But this is an agreement among elites... Recall, for example, that while the Taipei DPP is mostly in support of gay marriage, southern Taiwan DPPers are not. They have a completely different world view. Recall the bitter struggles over irrigation and fishing cooperative positions, the vast corruption of local governments, the interpenetration of organized crime and everyday life, the patronage-construction networks, the lack of super convenient public transportation, the easygoing nature of the police, the ominpresence of agriculture, the constant lawbreaking, the running of local areas by factions of powerful families... the world outside of Taipei is very different, and does not share its values.

For the rest of Taiwan, that middle/upper class in the Celestial Dragon City is a colonial ruling class that sucks resources from everywhere else on the island and brings them north to ensure its comfortable lifestyle. And the farther south you go, the less they like the ROC. This regional difference is a key driver of politics in Taiwan, and it is not a difference in nomenclature.

The difference between the ROC and Taiwan is not a difference in nomenclature obscuring shared ideologies, any more than the difference between British India and modern India is merely a difference in nomenclature obscuring shared ideologies.
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Blast from the Past: Economist: The Future of Formosa 1949, p. 124

The Future of Formosa" in The Economist, July 16 1949, p. 124
"Nobody so far has paid any attention to the wishes of Formosa's inhabitants, but it is arguable that they should be considered. The agreements made with the Nationalist Government about the provisional postwar occupation of Formosa would lapse if recognition were at any time to be withdrawn from it, unless these agreements were specifically to be renewed in favour of a Communist China; meanwhile, ultimate authority would revert to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers as part of his responsibility for all Japanese territory. The Americans, if they wished to do so, could provide sufficient protection for a Uno Commission to hold a plebiscite of Formosans on their future. But there is so far no indication that Washington now contemplates any Far Eastern policy involving new activity. If there are any misgivings about Formosa, however, they may emerge in the expected State Department White Paper on the Far East."

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Taiwan Nephrite and regional trade

Archaeologists have observed the spread of jade out of Taiwan for decades now. This paper from a decade ago shows the extent of the trading links. Text and map from Ancient jades map 3,000 years of prehistoric exchange in Southeast Asia. The abstract observes:
We have used electron probe microanalysis to examine Southeast Asian nephrite (jade) artifacts, many archeologically excavated, dating from 3000 B.C. through the first millennium A.D. The research has revealed the existence of one of the most extensive sea-based trade networks of a single geological material in the prehistoric world. Green nephrite from a source in eastern Taiwan was used to make two very specific forms of ear pendant that were distributed, between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D., through the Philippines, East Malaysia, southern Vietnam, and peninsular Thailand, forming a 3,000-km-diameter halo around the southern and eastern coastlines of the South China Sea. Other Taiwan nephrite artifacts, especially beads and bracelets, were distributed earlier during Neolithic times throughout Taiwan and from Taiwan into the Philippines.
the map above....
Fig. 3.
The distribution of Taiwan nephrite artifacts in Southeast Asia. The green zone represents the currently known distribution of Taiwan nephrite artifacts. The green triangle locates the Fengtian nephrite deposit. Yellow stars represent sites outside Taiwan with positively identified Fengtian nephrite artifacts (Taiwan itself has108 jade-bearing sites, and these cannot be shown individually). Blue stars represent sites with jade artifacts of possible Fengtian origin, based on visual examination but not yet demonstrated in terms of mineral chemistry. Black circles represent sites that have identified nephrite of non-Fengtian origin. Identified Fengtian and possibly Fengtian nephrites: WG. Liyushan, Wangan Islands; QM, Nangang, Qimei Islands, Penghu Archipelago; JXL, Jialulan, eastern Taiwan; LD, Yugang and Guanyindong, Ludao Islands; LY, Lanyu High School Site, Lanyu Islands; AN, Anaro, Itbayat Islands; SG, Sunget, Batan Islands; SD, Savidug, Sabtang Islands; NGS, Nagsabaran, Cagayan Valley; KD, Kay Daing, Batangas; EN, Leta-Leta and Ille Caves, El Nido, Palawan; TC, Tabon Caves, Palawan; NC, Niah Cave West Mouth, Sarawak; AB, An Bang; GM, Go Mun; DL, Dai Lanh; GMV, Go Ma Voi; BY, Binh Yen (these five sites in Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam); GCV, Giong Ca Vo, Ho Chi Minh City; SS, Samrong Sen, Cambodia; UT, U-Thong, Suphanburi; BTDP, Ban Don Ta Phet, Kanchanaburi; KSK, Khao Sam Kaeo, Chumphon. Identified non-Fengtian nephrites: BTG, Uilang Bundok and Pila, Batangas; TK, Trang Kenh; YB, Yen Bac; MB, Man Bac; QC, Quy Chu; GB, Go Bong; XR, Xom Ren; GD, Go Dua; GL, Giong Lon. The red dashed lines enclose the major Austronesian language subgroups according to Blust (17) (SH/WNG, South Halmahera/West New Guinea).
In the modern age, nephrite mining in Taiwan died in the 1980s when it became too expensive.
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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

ROC National Day Goes on "Amid Tensions"

ROC people visit local historical site amid tensions. I'm sorry that the tensions are obscuring the clarity of the photograph, but my hands were shaking from tensions.

President Tsai of the Republic of China spoke on ROC National Day. The official text of her speech is here. AP reported "Taiwan leader: Protect regional stability amid China tension". The opening paragraph said:
Taiwan’s independence-leaning government will defend the self-governing island’s freedoms and democratic system amid heightened tensions with rival China, President Tsai Ing-wen said Tuesday.
That's right. Ralph Jennings has simply added "tensions" much as a chef adds fat to make a dish tastier, not that this will surprise anyone who has read his stuff before. Tsai never referred to "heightened tensions" or "tensions" in her speech. The opening sentence is thus, at best, misleading. The speech is the usual boilerplate, with references to peace and stability, and a long section devoted to the new southbound policy. There is no reason that AP simply couldn't have reported positively on it: Tsai affirms commitment to peace, or Tsai emphasizes relations with neighbors. May as well wish for unicorns...

[UPDATE: Since I posted this, AP has re-organized the opening sentence to move "heightened tensions" and add Tsai's call for dialogue. It now reads:
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday said her government will defend the self-governing island’s freedoms and democratic system amid heightened tensions with rival China, and renewed calls for dialogue that Beijing suspended more than a year ago. the "heightened tensions" might not be something she said.]

 One light moment in geography...
Tsai said Taiwan plans to open a greenhouse gas monitoring station in the Pratas Islands, another South China Sea chain. She also said Taiwan has started helping Southeast Asian countries fight dengue fever.
Pratas is an atoll consisting of three islets, not a chain. But I guess if you're inflating tensions, inflating islands is no problem.

Speaking of inflating tensions, Lawrence Chung, who seems determined to create some kind of incident, was out this week with his third piece on how the horrible independence beliefs of Premier Lai will create problems with China. No analysts in Taiwan are reporting this story, because there is no story. This is what I mean when I say the media helps create tensions.

Meanwhile, as we close in on the elections in 2018, the mayor races are starting to bubble. This week Yen Kuan-heng, the son of Yen Ching-piao, who is definitely not the biggest gangster in Taiwan, but is just a law abiding businessman, put out feelers for a Taichung mayoral run. In Taipei KMT veteran Chou Hsi-wei has already announced his candidacy, and former KMT Chair Hung Hsiu-chu has set up a school to field reactionary candidates for the KMT mayor candidacies in the major cities. Hung has made a few noises about running for Taipei, and so has Alex Tsai, who managed Sean Lien's busted campaign that put Ko Wen-je in power.

Since the beginning of summer I have been hearing mutterings from many corners that the Vatican is negotiating with Beijing on switching recognition to China. With the mutterings crescendoing, the Vatican put out a denial this week.

No doubt it occurred amid tensions.
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The dark, ugly side of Taiwanese life

In Taiwan there are many illegal factories, gravel mining operations, and stone quarries. They make money for the county governments and for their owners, but they make life hell for the ordinary people living next door to them. A net-friend of mine has been fighting a running battle with an illegal operation next door to him for a while now. In the latest round of reprisals for his complaints to the authorities about their pollution and general illegality, they dumped creosote over his house, as the images above show.

Fortunately, this last round of attacks on his property have brought out the media, which may result in changes, at least for as long as the media spotlight is on him. Along with a warning from the local precinct captain to be careful.

The reason that so many illegal operations exist is because of the exact situation my friend faces. For ages local administrators and police have ignored his complaints. In the face of clear illegality, the authorities do nothing -- indeed, they scold complainers. So Taiwanese do not complain.

But worse awaits. Aware that they can act with impunity, illegal operations engage in reprisals against those who might resist. This double whammy of government collusion and open reprisal is a major cause of environmental destruction and resource depletion in Taiwan. For those on its edges, it sucks.
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Saturday, October 07, 2017

Hong Kong tourism is helping to offset China fall? Nope.

Mysterious chicken. Because you'd rather action immediately than heart attracting.

So I downloaded the numbers from the tourism bureau.....

Hkk/Mac China Tot %Hkk/Mac
Jan 112043 255689 367732
Feb 106183 202287 308470
Mar 124044 201599 325643
Apr 190785 214196 404981
May 128522 201867 330389
Jun 147918 189078 336996
Jul 156823 237251 394074
Aug 177048 249999 427047
1143366 1751966 2895332 39.48
2016      1,614,803 3,511,734 5,126,537 31.49 you can see, last year arrivals from Hong Kong and Macao accounted for 31.49% of all arrivals from China. This year, such arrivals account for 39.48% of all arrivals from China. When I looked at this a while back, it seemed that China was loudly announcing cuts while using Hong Kong to silently buffer the cuts by increasing the Hong Kong share.

That's what I thought at first. But actually, Hong Kong's share is pretty steady. Consider: if Hong Kong continues at its average of 130-140K or so a month for the next four months (Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec), it will reach a number higher, but still close, to the 2016 figure. The rising share of Hong Kong is an illusion caused by the fall in Chinese tour group tourists.

In other news, origin unstated arrivals are up year on year. So there's that, anyway.

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Friday, October 06, 2017

Review in the News Lens: Ian Easton's The Chinese Invasion Threat...

Easton's book is excellent. My review begins...
Despite the flurry of recent media accounts, Ian Easton's new book “The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan's Defense and American Strategy in Asia” makes no prediction of a 2020 invasion of Taiwan. Ignore the erroneous media hype: Easton offers a brilliant, thick description of China's invasion plans, Taiwan's plans to repel an invasion, potential invasion scenarios, and how the U.S. might respond. Throughout the incredible level of detail, and the vast number of plans, locations, weapons systems, operations and doctrines it presents, Easton's clarity of order and logical presentation keep everything firmly under control. As the father of a son soon to serve in the Taiwan army, I came away from this book with a renewed sense of optimism and pride in the abilities of the Taiwan to handle an invasion from China, and a much better appreciation of how difficult it would be to invade "The Beautiful Island." In short, do not buy the pessimism, but do buy this book.
....go thou and read the rest. Get it on Amazon!
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Anatomy of a Silliness

Anchoring ships in southern Taiwan

This week Ian Easton's new book The Chinese Invasion Threat was launched. Many news organizations followed Bill Geertz' report in the Washington Free Beacon without actually checking with Easton. In Taiwan the Taipei Times dutifully went with the Geertz report, saying that Easton's book says China plans 2020 invasion:
China has finalized a clandestine plan to invade Taiwan in 2020 by launching missile attacks, blocking the nation’s air and sea space, and carrying out amphibious landings, Washington-based think tank Project 2049 Institute research fellow Ian Easton said.
Taiwan News originally had this story. I alerted them, they then contacted Easton and changed their report. Liberty Times retracted their version of the Geertz piece. Why?

Because Easton never says this. Nowhere in the book. And none of the news organizations I googled below had the good sense to contact Easton and confirm, or get a copy of the book.
Report: China Has Secret Plans to Invade Taiwan by day ago - The Washington Free Beacon reports that China has a secret plan to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2020. While the existence of the plan does ...

China 'has drawn up secret plans to invade Taiwan by 2020' - Daily days ago - China is planning to invade Taiwan in 2020, US analyst claims in a new book; 'Secret documents' in the book reveals a plan by the Chinese ...

China's Secret Military Plan: Invade Taiwan by 2020 - Free days ago - China has drawn up secret military plans to take over the island of Taiwan by 2020, an action that would likely lead to a larger U.S.-China ...

China set to invade, retake Taiwan by 2020: Taipei | 27, 2015 - TAIPEI — China has completed its planned build-up of joint forces for military engagement against Taiwan and is on its way to ensure victory in ...

China plans 2020 invasion: researcher - Taipei day ago - China has finalized a clandestine plan to invade Taiwan in 2020 by launching missile attacks, blocking the nation's air and sea space, and ...

China's Secret Military Plan: Invade Taiwan by 2020 | RealClearDefense days ago - China has drawn up secret military plans to take over the island of Taiwan by 2020, an action that would likely lead to a larger U.S.-China ...
The whole thing is based on Easton's reference to a Reuters report of Taiwan's MND from 2013 and then a further discussion of noises from China about 2020, which Geertz for whatever reason runs the wrong way with...
Taiwan says China could launch successful invasion by 2020 - Reuters
Oct 9, 2013 - China will be able to fend off U.S. forces and successfully invade Taiwan by 2020, the island's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday, the first ...
Easton's book forcefully makes quite the opposite point: Taiwan would be very hard to take, and there is no way China will be able to do it in 2020. In fact, after reading it, I was greatly cheered. Hopefully I will have a review up at News Lens today or tomorrow, but right now, I will only say that it is an excellent and exhaustively detailed book, well worth the money.
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Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Are there any lessons from Catalan Independence for Taiwan?

Politicians in Changhua with no formal sign of what party they belong to.... the woman has included Bopomofu by her name so voters know how to say its rare characters.

Lot of people commenting on this one.... from Brian H at New Bloom, who focuses intelligently on the global politics of referendums:
THOUGH THE the Kurdish referendum seems to be wholly undiscussed in Taiwan whereas the Catalan referendum is hotly discussed, the results of both the Catalan and Kurdish referendums showed that Catalans and Kurds desire independence from Spain and Iraq, with over 90% of Catalan voters voting in favor of independence and preliminary results showing that over 92% of Kurds support independence. As such, the two referendums succeeded in raising the international profile of both the Catalan and Kurdish independence movements. Nevertheless, what is also shared between both is the means by which state actors moved to try and shut down referendums, sought to arrest the political leaders who organized the referendum, and have vowed to use the means necessary in order to prevent would-be independence movements from succeeding. In particular, international attention has focused to a large extent on Catalonia, give the dramatic sight of riot police attacking peaceful civilians, injuring close to 900, even as Catalan firefighters and other individuals have sought to defend voters from assault from assault by police. This has resulted in the present call for a general strike in Catalan.
Brian's observation about the Kurds is spot on. The networks are full of coverage of the Catalan drama. Brian's observations about raising the profile of the Taiwan independence movement via a referendum are good, as is his comment that the US would probably oppose a Taiwan referendum, since its support for Taiwan is rational and limited. From my perspective, any independence referendum would have to take place in an international context when it could get support from both Japan and the US.

It would also have to include a majority of voters. The Catalan vote may have been 90% in favor of independence, but turnout was 42%. That level of turnout would leave the legitimacy of any independence referendum in question.

It would, however, be great to get a vote out there, since if there is anything I am tired of, it is the constant flow of idiot comments about how Taiwanese "don't care about independence" or "there is no evidence of support for independence" etc. Apparently zillions of polls, actual elections, anecdotes, whatever, none of that counts.

J Michael pores over the pragmatics of the Catalan vs Taiwan independence issue -- the whole piece is solid:
Taiwan, meanwhile, is already both a nation and a sovereign state. Unpalatable though the historical burden of its official appellation may be to many, it is nevertheless undeniable that Taiwan — or the Republic of China (ROC) — is and acts as a sovereign state. It has its own elected government, armed forces, currency, passport, has a designated territory, and is able to engage in relations with other states, to sign treaties and to join international institutions. The ongoing quest for self-determination in Taiwan is therefore evolutionary rather than revolutionary; already independent and meeting all the criteria for statehood, Taiwan (the ROC) need not break away or separate from anything in order to achieve the status of country. It should not be surprising, then, that the majority of Taiwanese, regardless of their party preference, do not feel the compulsion to take drastic action, such as holding a referendum, because the current situation already confers the benefits of statehood. Pragmatism, rather than emotion or preferences over nomenclature, is what guides the Taiwanese public on matters of sovereignty. (I would even argue that cleansing Taiwan of the impositions and legacies of the ROC, as members of the deep-green camp have long called for, is an evolutionary and not a revolutionary process.)
Cole also observes that the level of violence deployed against Catalonia is nothing compared to what Taiwan would face.

An additional issue to watch out for in comparisons is that Taiwan is not part of China under international law and in the eyes of many of the Powers. Catalonia is an internationally recognized part of Spain. The comparison can only be pushed so far.

Taiwan might take a cue from the Estonians: instead of treating a referendum as an "independence" vote, some other terminology might be adopted. The Estonians refer to gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 as "Restoration" (explanation). Referendum on "ratification of Taiwan's current independence"?
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Monday, October 02, 2017

No, Ko Wen-je is not a viable presidential candidate.

How hard can it be to get the English done properly?

Financial Times, which I generally don't link to since they decided to intervene in the 2012 presidential election on behalf of China, published an interview with Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je which caused a stir in Taiwan. Taiwan News reports on the FT piece:
Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is a potential future presidential candidate thanks to his blunt style, the Financial Times of London wrote in a profile this week.
It's very unlikely, unless a major party adopts him, that Ko will ever be a presidential candidate. I hope the DPP does not challenge him in 2018, but lets him run the city for another few years so that the demographic trends that are undermining KMT strength in Taipei can continue. The FT story is largely a fantasy -- no one takes him seriously as a presidential candidate, nor is Taipei always a springboard to the presidency (see case of Hau Lung-bing. Quick, who was mayor before Chen Shui-bian?).

Those of us who follow these things know how transient and illusory such popularity is and also, that the poll the FT ran with appears to have nothing to do with Ko's actual performance. March of 2016 report of Taipei Times:
A survey conducted on Tuesday by — a Web site analyzing the latest trends among Internet users — showed that the approval rating of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has plunged to 35 percent, with the site saying that the Taipei City Government’s slow progress on its probe into the “five cases” and its transportation policies are the main factors behind Ko’s decrease in popularity.
In Dec 2016 Ko's popularity stunk as Taiwan News observed:
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu’s approval rating is the highest among six major cities’ leaders in the latest opinion poll conducted by Taiwan Brain Trust, while Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je comes in last.
In July of 2016 Taipei City's internal policy department, its RDEC, released a survey showing that his disapproval ratings had reached new highs.

Most importantly, a more reliable survey, the Commonwealth survey of the performance of city/county leaders, came out two weeks ago. The description in it noted:
The just concluded highly successful World University Games (Universiade) in Taipei, the largest international sports event ever held in Taiwan, greatly boosted the popularity of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, catapulting him up seven places from rank 21 to 14.
That's right. Ko was nearly dead last the previous year, but this year he has clambered all the way up to.... the top of the bottom third. The FT story was likely inspired by this poll but nothing in that poll or pollster's background suggests that it is reliable, and the Commonwealth poll suggests that the poll the story relied on is specious. At least it suggests that Ko is popular only where people don't know him yet, which does not bode well for a presidential run.

The FT story, in addition to sexing up something out of nothing with Ko, missed the real story, which is the rise of Taoyuan's Cheng Wen-tsan. Commonwealth again (whole piece is excellent as always):
That constant exposure has already paid dividends. In CommonWealth Magazine’s 2017 Local Leader Approval Survey, Cheng ranked fourth among the chiefs of Taiwan’s 22 cities and counties. He also became the first Taoyuan mayor to receive the highest rating of any of the mayors of Taiwan’s six major metropolitan areas (Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung).
Cheng is an increasingly viable alternative to William Lai, and in many eyes, looks very presidential. But he governs Taoyuan, which is a vast distance from Taipei, maybe as much as 40 minutes on the airport metro....
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