Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Great Bot Swarm of 2018

This month many of us in the pro-Taiwan community have made the unpleasant discovery that our Twitter accounts are flooded with passive bot followers. They have the same traits -- the account usually has no profile picture, and it was opened in April of 2018. Most of them do not tweet or retweet. Some like this one tweet only one thing again and again.

Twitter has done little, and probably can do little, since the bots are simply rebooted every time they are deleted.

If you look inside them, they typically follow pro-Taiwan (and human rights people working in Asia on other issues according to news reports), Taiwan-based organizations and individuals like myself, non-white (mostly) celebrities, and Edward Snowden, and follow between 70 and 100 people, and have only 1 or 2 followers.

A good example is the bot shown above. It has a profile pic, which is less common, but it follows the familiar pattern: Edward Snowden is mixed with Rihanna and Oprah, and below it follows AmCham Taipei  and Holly Harrington, the well known expat (whom I have great admiration for) who is deeply involved in the startup community in Taipei.

These bots are either Russian or Chinese (a major media organ said SE Asian gov't but that is just pro-Beijing hogwarsh), and my bet is on the latter. Why? Well, when you look at the China Explainer/Apologist/Shill crowd, you don't see these bots.

China Explainer Michael Swaine:
The one profile without a pic was established in 2017, not from the current round of bots. The popular web tabloid SupChina which often parrots the Beijing line....


...yup. No bots. I checked those profiles.

I check the profiles there w/o images, they all date from before 2018 and appear to be real people. China Explainer Evan Osnos has only one bot in his followers that I could see. I didn't see any bots in the followers of Ralph Jennings, who (confusingly) is not pro-China but writes like it.

I also looked at publicly neutral people like Kharis Templeman, who also has no bot followers. He tweets on Taiwan but his personal beliefs (I do not know what they are) remain private. Similarly well-known international politics expert Bonnie Glaser, whose beliefs are also private, is followed by a single bot, who also follows me.

However -- giant caveat -- the China Explainers/Shills tend to be US-based. The bots also do not follow several Taiwan-centered tweeters and organizations who are obviously pro-Taiwan and based in the US (no names because I don't want to draw attention to them). So "not being based in Taiwan" might explain why the bots are ignoring them.

Yet clearly the bots are able to differentiate because UK-based Jon Sullivan, the brilliant scholar who loves Taiwan, is followed by bots. Some of them are like this profile, which has a picture and a birthdate, was formed in April of 2018 and has never tweeted, and has the usual bot following profile: a mix of celebrities and Taiwan sites, and is following less than 100 accounts.

In Taiwan William Foreman, the head of AmCham Taiwan, has a healthy fleet of bots following him. So does J Michael Cole. Aaron Wytze and I regularly swap jokes about our bot followers (my bot profile pics are WAY hotter than yours, Aaron). Some well-known pro-Taiwan people based on Taiwan who are regular tweeters are not followed, however. I checked a few, but again, no names mentioned. There's a high degree of arbitrariness in who gets selected, but clearly an intelligence is directing them because they don't follow people who support China.

Why people like me have many bot followers is a mystery. The bots do not appear to be doing anything, merely crowding up follower spaces. They do not retweet or attack, and appear to be completely passive. But it is deeply unsettling that Twitter cannot/will not filter them out, and that a tiny person like myself of no particular influence is targeted by a major international hacking operation. Is this a practice run for when China attacks Taiwan? Or what?

It's unsettling. And that appears to be the purpose of the Great Bot Swarm of 2018.

FROM THE COMMENTS:
FYI the same thing has been noticed by non-pro-Beijing (sp?) bloggers in Hong Kong recently.

For example, Hemlock on Big Lychee (biglychee.com) commented April 13:

"I have recently been inundated with hundreds of fake ‘followers’ on Twitter, many but not all with Chinese names or profiles. I am not alone: they generally follow Neil deGrasse Tyson, Denise Ho, the Pope, at least one Obama, Jerome Cohen, and (more to the point) many familiar esteemed China/HK/Taiwan journos and commentators (an example). The bots, or whatever they are, don’t seem to do any harm – but you wonder what’s going on. (Maybe they’ll be sold on to spammers?)"

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Renegade Province: the grail?

Collecting....

Last week Jon Sullivan, the scholar of things Taiwan and China, apparently located the first use of "renegade province" to describe Taiwan in the English-language media. Is it this NYTimes piece from 1982? Can't find an earlier one about Taiwan...
Last Tuesday, Peking and Washington announced an uneasy and tenuous-sounding settlement of the dispute over arms to Taiwan, a renegade province in Chinese eyes.
....but it isn't the earliest  use of the term. Apparently it was well-established in Chinese to describe Vietnam...
"Tracing back to its history of tributary states, the Chinese colossus has fixed views about all states contiguous to its territory; in some Chinese dialects, Vietnam is still referred to as a “renegade province.”
In those days you could write frankly about China's long-term expansionist desires...
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Great, the Good, and the ugly

Fisherman on the rocks at Sanxiantai.

Will you have the power of love or the love of power? The ugly stain of authoritarian Christianity has answered that it will have the latter, and impose it on everyone. Spreading out of the US to plague countries far from its borders with its insensate hatred, intolerance, and need for control, America's worthless, hideous analogue to the Chinese Communist Party's overseas influence campaign was in the news here this week. Now in Taiwan, it has suddenly metastasized from a hate-filled annoyance into a real menace to human rights. A friend put it well on Facebook:
Meanwhile, with the DPP in control of the executive and legislative branches for nearly two years, they've completely abandoned the campaign promises to legalize same sex marriage.

Now a tiny but politically connected group of bigots have captured the initiative, and look prepared to humiliate Taiwan after the country won plaudits worldwide less than a year ago for the Constitutional Court's ruling in favor of gay marriage
What's happened? Exploiting the new referendum law's low threshold for triggering a referendum, these groups are seeking to put same-sex marriage to a referendum. The Taipei Times reports:
The commission said that two referendum proposals from Alliance for the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance president Tseng Hsien-ying (曾獻瑩) and one from its convener, Yu Hsin-yi (游信義), were drafted in accordance with the law.

One of Tseng’s proposals asks people whether they think same-sex marriage is a right that should be granted by means other than amending the Civil Code — which governs marriage — while the other asks whether education about homosexuality at elementary and high schools mandated by the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法) should be abolished.

Yu asked people whether they support keeping the definition of marriage in the Civil Code as a union between a man and a woman.

“The Central Election Commission has made its darkest decision yet,” author Chen Fang-ming (陳芳明) said on Facebook.

“Having a public referendum on human rights is an insult to Taiwan’s democratic society, undercuts the Taiwanese values that we have long been so proud of and it is a slap in the face to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who has publicly said: ‘My name is Tsai Ing-wen and I support marriage equality,’” he said.
Readers may recall that the high court affirmed the right of same-sex was guaranteed by the Constitution's equality under the law sections. The court basically turned it over to the legislature to then enact the necessary laws.

The DPP controlled legislature has done nothing about it since, inaction which has permitted these bake sale authoritarians to attempt to use referendums to overturn a human right already recognized by the nation's highest court as inherent in the Constitution. Brian H tartly observed that the same civic and social groups that have argued that referendums can overturn judicial decisions in other cases have suddenly reversed their arguments in this case. J Michael Cole wrote last year on how Christian hate groups in the US are driving the current anti-gay Christian movements in Taiwan.

Next up: Christians in Taiwan argue that gay people are 3/5th of a person. O wait. That's what their caterwauling against same-sex marriage means, actually....

As my friend noted, this will certainly hurt Taiwan's image overseas. But more importantly, same-sex marriage advocates vote. And there is an election coming up in just seven months, a critical test of the DPP. There are going to be many close votes and candidates will need cash. Same-sex marriage advocates aren't going to pony up votes and cash if the DPP continues on its current course.

Someone, at the top, needs to put some spine into the DPP. The anti-gay referendums need to pass the second threshold of 280K signatures. Before that happens, something needs to be done. The signatures should be checked carefully as well....

But enough of the bad news, some good news. Tricky Taipei pulled off a minor miracle this week. First Tricky put together a great blog post on the inane Twitter account of the tourism bureau. This work of genius did something I have simply been too lazy and frustrated to do: take the bureau to task for its amateurish, stoopid, cringe-inducing tweets. Nothing but food food food and all of it in English I'd fail my college students for. I've been here two decades and talked to people there many times, always failing to get anyone to listen to how stupid they are at marketing Taiwan. Basically, I have given up trying to do anything.

So kudos to Tricky Taipei, because it is a success. Influential Taiwanese facebook posters picked up Tricky Taipei and also Apple Daily had a piece on that blog post. Maybe we will see some change -- like the hiring of an experienced foreigner with exhaustive firsthand knowledge of the island and long experience with social media to promote the island in social media. Hmmm.... do I know anyone like that?

That piece coincided with David Green's piece on giving Taiwan the digital face it deserves.

J Michael Cole rocked today with a great piece explaining how Beijing played the int'l media like violin....
The main reason why the Taiwanese are not panicking, and why much of the international media reporting on today’s military exercises completely misses the mark, is that they have gotten used to this kind of propaganda and therefore can easily shrug it off. Not only does this strategy fail to coerce the Taiwanese public or make them less supportive of the liberal-democratic way of life they cherish, it actually backfires, compounding their alienation from China. Moreover, the growing frequency of PLA live-fire exercises and passages near Taiwan — many of them in the West Pacific — in recent years, has, ironically, diluted the effectiveness of such propaganda efforts. Thus, if the aim is to spark a panic in Taiwan, Beijing is failing miserably.

It needs to be said, as well, that a sizeable share of recent PLA activity near Taiwan — transits in the Taiwan Strait, the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, and the Strait of Mikayo between Taiwan and Japan — has not been primarily aimed at Taiwan but is rather part of the natural progression of a military that is expanding its presence beyond the “first island chain.” This includes the East and South China Sea, as well as the West Pacific. Therefore, while propagandists may want to portray every military exercise as action targeting or “warning” Taiwan, the psychological impact is in reality collateral, secondary to the principal objectives of the said maneuvers.

As expected, this appears to be a routine artillery drill. According to Taiwanese and military media reports this morning, the Liaoning is still involved in exercises in the South China Sea and unlikely to be dispatched to the Taiwan Strait to take part in the drills off Fujian. Reports, citing military sources, also indicate that there has been no increase in the number of troops in the area, and that no warships or fighter aircraft have been mobilized for the exercise.
As I have been noting, Beijing and its voices have been growing ever more adept at manipulating the western media, which is eager to publish stories about tensions and threats in the Taiwan Strait. People overseas need to start applying discounts to the amount of tension they are being told exists in the media.

Finally, don't miss longtime US Taiwan expert Shirley Kan explaining the submarine tech licensing issues at GTI.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

NYT: Free Speech capital is Taiwan, not Hong Kong

Taitung from Sanhsientai.

The NYTimes turned out another good piece on Taiwan this week:
In recent years, however, as Beijing has tightened its grip on the former colony, Hong Kong has been increasingly supplanted by Taiwan, a self-governing island that has emerged as one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies. Taiwan now draws the sorts of dissidents, rights groups and events that once naturally gravitated to Hong Kong.

A human rights film festival that was held in Hong Kong last year will take place this year in Taiwan. A Hong Kong book publisher who was abducted by mainland Chinese agents two years ago and later released will reopen his bookstore in Taiwan.
Freedom of expression is one of the things that makes Taiwan such a great place to live.

Meanwhile Newsweek.... rocked in a piece discussing whether Xi will attack Taiwan:
Beijing’s strategy that economic integration will lead to political integration has so far caused the opposite effect. Over the past few decades, whenever China put pressure on Taiwan it has backfired. In 2016, citizens voted in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and President Tsai Ing-wen in the face of oppression from Beijing.

According to Hughes, the DPP won a “huge landslide victory” because younger generations turned out to vote in a gesture of defiance. “Beijing is undermining their system. They grew up under democracy. They’ve been told they are Taiwanese, not Chinese,” he said.
"...in the face of oppression from Beijing. Contrast Newsweek's forthright positive tone about Taiwan's democracy and its resistance to Beijing with the craven CNN piece I blogged on below. Great work Newsweek! There's some problems, like the use of "reunification", and quotes from people who don't live in Taiwan (have we no int'l relations scholars?) but you can't have everything.

Michael Swaine, the Carnegie Institute for Peace scholar, tweeted about the horrible paranoid conspiracy to turn China to the The Enemy:
In 45 years of studying and researching China, I have never seen such a determined effort to depict CN as an unmitigated threat. It spans agencies, news organs, and “belief” tanks. It is inaccurate, pernicious, and contrary to US interests. It’s like a virus n very dangerous.
The replies in that thread are pretty negative. Swaine tweeted last month about the positive side of Confucius Institutes, those Chinese intelligence operations in the US. It's probably just a coincidence that Swaine/CIP have an office at Tsinghua University in China. As I often note to people who want to learn more, follow the China money...

...the Engagers and China Explainers will continue to struggle against the turning tide, because there is money and access to be had. But Xi's ascension to permanent dictator has rendered meaningless this stream of apologetics.
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CNN reports from 2007 on Taiwan

Breakfast

Lots of great stuff out there on Taiwan this weekend, but this CNN "analysis" appears to be reporting straight from 2007. Rather than mix the vile and the valuable, I'll post up the good stuff later. Onward and upward...

Of course CNN begins with those causeless tensions...
Prior to those elections, relations between the two were at a high point after Xi met with then-President Ma Ying-jeou, the first such meeting in history between leaders of the two governments.

But since then, tensions between China and the island it views as a breakaway province have become strained under Ma's successor, President Tsai Ing-wen.
Those restless, unceasing Uncaused Tensions, the Augustian First Cause of Cross-Strait Cosmology, once again appearing to cause trouble. Tensions, it must be said again, are caused by China's desire  to annex Taiwan, not by anything Taiwan does. While Tsai's party is cast as pro-independence in the CNN piece, CNN does not report that Ma was pro-China, nor that the meeting was a failure without fruit. Instead the happy days of Ma's disastrous reign are contrasted with Tsai's failure to kow-tow to Beijing.

CNN originally invented reported:
Officially, Washington acknowledges Taiwan is part of mainland China under the Communist Party's "One China" policy.
This is a classic -- CNN reports wrongly that US policy says Taiwan is part of China, and as a special bonus, goes on to say the US follows the CCP's Taiwan policy! LOL.

I tweeted several of the reporters involved about this -- dunno if I had any effect because none responded -- but this was changed in the next version, to...
While Washington does not challenge Communist China's claim over Taiwan, the official US policy simply states that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait recognize there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.
LOL. Nope. The US does not recognize but instead merely acknowledges that Chinese on both sides of the Strait feel that way. The language of the Shanghai Communique is online, but apparently CNN reporters have not solved Google. The "official US policy" is that Taiwan's status is undetermined. Why CNN can't say that is a mystery. No doubt it is due to those Uncaused Tensions.

Even war is treated that way:
Not least of which, if war were to break out between Beijing and Taipei, there's no guarantee whether or not Washington would join the island's defense.
War "breaks out". It has no cause. In fact the only way war could occur is if China attacks Taiwan. Once again CNN refuses to assign negative agency to China.

One way the US could really help Taiwan is for US officials to change the way they speak about Taiwan and clearly state what US Taiwan policy is. That would help reporters unravel the Deep Mysteries of US Taiwan policy, encourage them to report openly what US policy is, and help position Taiwan as an object of sympathy and support rather than a provocative driver of tension as CNN positions it here.

Yes, I will have a piece out on that in a couple of days...

CNN then urks up another classic.
The developments follow a surprise move by the Trump administration to facilitate direct communication with Tsai in December 2016, the first known contact between a US president and a Taiwanese leader since the US broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979.

Though that call created diplomatic ruptures with China, in recent months Trump has looked to build closer ties between Washington and Taipei.
What a laffer. There was no Trump Administration in Dec of 2016, Trump was president-elect, not POTUS. Even under CNN's erroneous frame, the call was not the "first known contact" between presidents of Taiwan and the US as Michael Green noted in a piece two years ago. As for a surprise move, it was being reported in the media here the day before it occurred, and... well, I've already discussed this at length. Ruptures? No "rupture" occurred, the Chinese response was pro forma.

Deeper problems abound, however. Who speaks?
Collin Koh, research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies' Maritime Security Program, told CNN.

Responding to the news of the upcoming live-fire drills, the Taiwanese Defense Military said in a statement [describing the Chinese military drills]

"Every inch of our great motherland's territory cannot be separated from China," President Xi said during a nationalistic speech at the National People's Congress in March, drawing huge applause.

with the tabloid Global Times writing in an editorial that the mainland needed to "prepare for a possible military clash."

"That's a dangerous trend," Richard McGregor, senior fellow at Sydney's Lowy Institute, told CNN.

Issuing a word of caution, Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at CSIS
Singapore... Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (not Defense Military lolwut?)... President Xi... Global Times... Australia... the US...

Yeah. That's right. No one based in Taiwan is permitted to speak and advocate Taiwan's point of view. Although the piece is about the US and China, only one American voice is quoted (and this from a US media organ. Oy ve). The President of China is quoted a couple of times, along with the state media, but President Tsai is silenced. Sec of State (designate) Mike Pompeo is cited but not quoted. Although we are informed that Taiwan is a "core interest" of China, no one explains what US policy is or what its interests might be, or why Taiwan might be worth defending. Instead, Taiwan is reported as site and generator of tension.

CNN kneecaps itself: because it has reported, falsely, that the US does not challenge China's claim, it cannot depict Taiwan as the victim of expansionism nor can it report that a Chinese attack is a violation of international law while a US defense would be consistent with it. Instead, a great American news organ aligns itself with Beijing.

The piece highlights what I blogged on below: Beijing has well learned how to position these drills to manipulate the media. The drill did not take place in the waters  between Taiwan and China. It took place in coastal waters off Fujian. Beijing has realized that if it reports these drills as taking place in "the Taiwan Strait" rather than its own coastal waters, the media will seize on them as evidence of tensions. Tensions sell papers... a perfect, and very anti-democracy symbiosis has been forged.

CNN's opening sentence thus sexes up the tensions:
Chinese President Xi Jinping has sent a clear message of Beijing's disapproval over growing ties between the United States and Taiwan by ordering live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait.
....the drills were planned months in advance and were not aimed at Beijing's disapproval of growing ties between Taiwan and the US -- the piece even quotes the always sensible Bonnie Glaser saying so! (when I encounter women interested in international politics careers, I always point to Glaser as a model for them of how to communicate as a forceful and intelligent thinker who happens to be female.) But CNN ran with that opening ZOMG TENSHUNZ! line because it brings in the clicks.

TENSHUNZ are further highlighted by juxtaposing the Chinese drills with the Taiwan drills (but no mention of the richly abundant trade and human ties between the two nations), with CNN twice saying Tsai boarded a warship. Yes, twice, but CNN couldn't find room for a quote from Tsai (or anyone else) on what Taiwan's perspective might be. If only Taiwan were an eastern European state resisting Russian expansion, rather than an Asian state resisting Chinese expansion...

Contrast CNN's presentation of Taiwan in this piece with this one on Estonia vs Russia from WaPo. Check every mention of Tsai. Is she ever positioned as the leader of a nation bravely resisting Chinese expansionism?

Never mind energy and action: manly Xi "personally reviewed the troops himself from the deck of the Chinese destroyer" while Tsai merely "boards" a boat to "review". Is this a pro-China thing, or just ordinary gender bias? The reader will have to pluck that straw out of this haystack of possibilities. CNN even emphasizes that he "personally" did it "himself". That Xi, so manly, CNN had to tell us twice.

It also assigns US-China tensions to the advent of Trump, specifically instancing the Taiwan Travel Act, which had unanimous, bipartisan support in Congress (and the drills held in 2018 are said to "follow" a phone call held in 2016, as if the call were held on Alpha Centauri and the light was just reaching Earth now). We are told that Trump worries Beijing, but never why his administration might support Taiwan. We are never told what Beijing is doing to worry the US, either.

Thanks, CNN. With reporting like this, my blog will always have an audience eager to learn what is actually going on.

PS: CNN doesn't even mention the word "democracy" in the piece. Sad.
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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Beijing manipulating the media in real-time

Drying millet

A longtime observer sent this around the intertubes (posted with permission):
Also, this announcement seems very similar to an event announced in September 2015. At the time, analysts from Taiwan noted that the initial announcement used the term "off the coast of Fujian." That one was pulled and replaced the next day with the term "Taiwan Strait," which gives routine training a purposefully amplified political effect. That's certainly possible in this case as well. I haven't done a detailed analysis, but this Fujian Provincial Maritime Bureau announcement was amplified very quickly by trolling netizens. Then MND, CCTV, and PLA Navy picked it up and reported it. It's worth noting that the PLA Strategic Support Force (former General Political Department) Base 311 -- the so-called "Three Warfares" base -- is based in Fuzhou and quite focused on messing with Taiwan..

Most interesting is how this announcement, carefully using the term "Taiwan Strait" even if it's only 12nm of the Quanzhou coast, was projected through propaganda outlets and purposefully linked with exercises in the South China Sea. Linking the Taiwan Strait with the South China Sea in propaganda seems to be a trend.
 
The DPP US mission observed on Twitter(Taipei Times):
Legislator Lo Chih-cheng, Director of DPP's International Affairs Department, said China purposely amplified its announcement of routine live-fire drills scheduled for next week to terrorize the Taiwanese public and urged people not to overreact
Beijing's manipulation of the media is conscious and its stimulation and coordination of netizens is purposeful and knowing.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Elections in a post-colonial context

IMG_0427
Hibiscus
But alas for Saruman! I fear nothing more can be made of him. He has withered altogether. All the same, I am not sure that Treebeard is right: I fancy he could do some mischief still in a small mean way.'
Well, it is Su Tseng-chang in New Taipei City. The Taipei Times editorialized....
However, while he has a stellar resume, Su has had his fair share of time on the political stage. Not to mention his comeback this time not only goes against his pledge in 2010 not to run for the New Taipei City mayoral post, but also adds further fuel to recent concerns that the DPP is devoid of new presentable talent and is overshadowed by senior party members who are reluctant to step out of the limelight.

........

Nominating Su is simply playing it safe, and goes against the youthful and reformative image that the DPP has been trying to build over the years.
Yes, it is playing it safe and smart. Lotta people out there don't get it: New Taipei City has plenty of blue voters, they will be energized, and they have a typical Blue candidate to vote for. The DPP needs a candidate who can at least make a game of it. No other DPP candidate is likely to do as well as Su. There are plenty of other places to develop new faces.

A pro-Green poll has Su edging Hou You-yi in New Taipei City. It's going to be a long election and Su is going to take a beating. At this point I don't think he will win. Recall that the DPP tried to recruit Hou in the early 2000s, a sad commentary on the party.

Don't miss Donovan Smith's excellent piece at the News Lens on the NT City and Taichung races.

The Taipei Times reported on the referendum drive by former presidents Lee and Chen....
Yesterday’s launch was attended by former premiers Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) and Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), former presidential advisers Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) and Wu Li-pei (吳澧培), late democracy activist Deng Nan-jung’s (鄭南榕) daughter, Deng Chu-mei (鄭竹梅), as well as 3,000 supporters of the new alliance.

Members of opposition parties — including New Power Party Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), Taiwan Solidarity Union Chairman Lau Yi-te (劉一德) and Social Democratic Party member Miao Po-ya (苗博雅) — were also in attendance.

The Formosa Alliance was founded by Formosa TV (FTV) chairman Kuo Pei-hung (郭倍宏), former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Lee and other politicians who support Taiwanese independence.

At the event, the alliance reiterated its goal to push for an independence referendum on April 6 next year and elected Kuo as its convener.
The referendum law is set up so that no referendum on sovereignty can take place, so as far as achieving this goal, this movement is pointless. Nor can the wording of the referendum be arranged to get around the law -- the Control Yuan reviews the wording, and it will prevent that.

What is clear is just how stupid this is. Every time the words "referendum" and "Taiwan" occur in the same sentence inside the Beltway eyes bug out. Judging from the several conversations on this I've had already getting people in DC to understand that nothing will happen and that this is just a protest against that law... is going to be an uphill struggle. A bunch of politicians led by two former presidents looks like something serious in Washington. Just another headache for Tsai to manage with Washington. Fortunately she is very good at ignoring this kind of thing and at reassuring Washington.

Doing this in the run-up to an election is also incredibly stupid. The DPP does not need an attack from independence purists at the moment -- do these people think that they will get an independent Taiwan by making things more difficult for the DPP? It also shows how lucky Tsai Ing-wen was, as I noted many times, that the KMT locked up Chen Shui-bian and silenced him during the 2016 election. Now that he is out and about he is stirring up senseless trouble for the pan-Greens with no commensurate gain in votes or resources.

Anyone want to start a Kickstarter to build a home for former Chen Administration officials on Taiping Island?

This episode also highlights the problem of the post-colonial transition in Taiwan that Tsai must manage. Few presidents have ever been so sorely taxed -- not only must she manage the tasks that any president must manage, but she has to deal with the China problem, and manage the post-colonial transition in from KMT rule in Taiwan to a real Taiwan-centered democracy. For people in Lee and Chen's generations, independence meant independence from the KMT, and that colonial period will never be ended until Taiwan is an independent state, and they want to see that transition completed before they die.

Not gonna happen.

They will die, and I will die, and very likely this island will not yet be independent. That is how history works. We are playing this game for our children and grandchildren. “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till..."
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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Nelson Report on the Bolton/Taiwan Story in the Economist

IMG_0460
Taitung.

Nelson Report, April 10, 2018

THE BOLTON/TAIWAN "STORY"...we have heard from our valued Economist colleague, fellow scribbler Dom Ziegler, his original piece having been substantially mis-reported by others!

And as a long-time fan of all puns, good and otherwise... huge congrats to the copy editor who came up with the sub-head "there Xi blows"...Melville would be proud.

DOMINIC ZIEGLER:

Hi Chris,

I'm grateful to Yun Sun for pointing out that, on her reading, last week's Banyan column was not actually saying John Bolton might go to open the new AIT building in Taipei--whatever the rather breathless speculation made of the column in Taiwan.

Just to say I absolutely did not mean to imply that we had heard Bolton might be going to Taiwan. Not least, when I wrote the column last week, he was not even a member of the administration. And David Brown's description yesterday of Taipei's concern not to be sucked into a US-China confrontation is surely right. The Economist's conversations with folk in Taipei underscore a strong degree of circumspection from Tsai Ing-wen and her administration when it comes the Taiwan Travel Act--and it's possible here to overestimate the pressure she's feeling from the Deep Greens.[MT--kudos to Ziegler for noting this. Most other media sources are playing up this angle. Indeed, one of the Deep Green complaints about Tsai is that she is ignoring them.]

Lastly, Yun is of course right in pointing out that the National Security Advisor is not a cabinet member. But the travel act does interestingly call for US policy to allow (my italics): "officials at all levels of the United States Government, including Cabinet-level national security officials, general officers, and other executive branch officials, to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts".

The column is below in case it's behind your paywall.

All the best,

Dom
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Nelson Report, April 9, 2018

THE BOLTON TO TAIWAN STORY TURNS OUT TO BE...sort of a mistake, notes Loyal Reader Yun Sun, Stimson, to whom huge thanks for this:

YUN SUN:

Hi, Chris:

I double-checked the article by The Economist since that seems to be the source everyone is quoting. Here are the two references The Economist made about Bolton:

"Yet a shift of sorts is under way. In January one pro-Taiwan China hawk, Randall Schriver, was put in charge of Asia-Pacific policy at the Pentagon. A more prominent hawk, John Bolton, is about to become Mr Trump's national security adviser. And in March Alex Wong, the official in charge of Indo-Pacific strategy at the State Department, was in Taipei to deliver a speech. "

"A test comes in the summer, when America opens a gleaming building in Taipei to house its unofficial embassy, with rumours that a member of the cabinet may attend. Mr Bolton's presence might genuinely alarm China. Alternatively, it might interpret the Trump administration's steps over Taiwan as a mere prop to pressure on trade."

I don't think the original article was suggesting that Bolton could go to Taiwan. And correct me if I'm wrong- National Security Advisor is not a member of cabinet (see here for the composition of the Trump Cabinet) He can of course go to Taiwan, but that is not the point The Economist article was making.

But, since people are all quoting/misquoting that article, it may have just become an option...

best,

Yun

DAVID BROWN, long-time US-Taiwan hand at SAIS, with some Adult Supervision:

Chris,

Rumors rumors rumors! Bolton is of course a wild card. Do any of us know what is on his mind on this issue? I am confident that those in state, defense, NSC understand the issue. It would be a huge policy change, with profound implications for US-China relations, which are already under too much strain.

I'm sure US participation in the office opening is and will be coordinated with Taipei. I believe Taipei would think long and hard about Bolton's participation. Domestic politics would pull Tsai one way and national security considerations another. There is real concern in Taipei about being sucked into a US-China confrontation. Despite talk of never stronger relations, trust in the US seems to be declining.

Dave

HERE'S HOW THE ECONOMIST PLAYED IN TAIPEI:

Incoming US national security advisor John Bolton could visit Taiwan in June to attend opening of new AIT
By Keoni Everington,Taiwan News, Staff Writer

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- U.S. President Donald Trump's pick for the new national security advisor, John Bolton, could visit Taiwan in June, when the new American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) is slated to open, according the Economist.

...... [remainder removed]. The Economist never said Bolton would visit, but everyone is so supercharged by the name BOLTON that people were prepared to believe he'd show up in Taipei riding an auroch and wielding thunderbolts, with an army of deathless zombies in his wake. Some calm would be nice. Even if Bolton shows up in Taipei nothing will happen except that Taiwan government officials will have to attend meetings with him in the middle of a busy election run-up. Punishment enough. Believe me, free elections here torment Beijing far more than John Bolton's presence could...
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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

In News Lens with Tensions, WaPo with tensions, and Submarines!

A land of tension

So here I am in the News  Lens today writing on how media workers and commentators exploit China-driven cross-strait tensions to drive clicks...
The media does this because tension-inflating prose sells, while tension-deflating facts do not. Tensions between China and Taiwan present themselves as easily grasped binaries that invite readers to imagine they understand things and are participating vicariously in the great events of the age. Facts, alas, demonstrate to the reader that events are complex and not readily accessible, might even be a bit dull, and that the reader is an ignorant outsider. Who wants that?
...when WaPo publishes Simon Denyer writing from Beijing on increasing tensions. Normally watching someone based in Beijing writing on Taiwan would be cause for laughter, but Denyer, whom I've had a couple of interactions with, is a pro and turned in an excellent piece made of stuff longtime readers frequently see on this blog:
The backdrop is a rise in tensions between Taipei and Beijing since the 2016 election of Tsai. Her party sees Taiwan as a de facto sovereign nation, and although she has ruled out any declaration of independence from China, she has declined to endorse the idea that there is “one China.”

China has responded by restricting the flow of mainland tourists to the island. It has poached two of Taiwan’s few diplomatic allies, put pressure on global corporations to list Taiwan as a province of China on their websites, and managed to exclude it from international bodies coordinating global health policy and civil aviation.

It has also stepped up sorties by fighter jets and bombers around the island, and sent its sole aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait, most recently last month. Xi, meanwhile, has dialed up the nationalist rhetoric, warning in a speech to the National People’s Congress last month that any attempt to split China would be met by “the punishment of history.”
The bomber sorties are interesting because they have a wider context, given in a piece by Beauchamp-Mustafaga, Grossman, and Ma: the PLA  Air Force is practicing long range flights, and the push around Taiwan is part of that larger expansion. To see them as part of China's pressure on Taiwan is to see only a fraction of what is going on:
The PLAAF has responded by conducting longer-ranging and increasingly complex over-water air combat operations. Before it started circumnavigating Taiwan, the PLAAF concentrated on achieving the major milestone of breaking through the First Island Chain into the Western Pacific. It did this several times, through both the Miyako Strait (between Okinawa and Taiwan) and the Bashi Channel (between Taiwan and the Philippines). Building on this momentum, the PLAAF conducted several bomber flights in 2016 — labeled “combat air patrols” — over disputed features in the South China Sea, including Fiery Cross Reef, Scarborough Shoal, Mischief Reef, and Woody Island. Other bomber flights have been touted in Chinese defense circles as enhancing PLAAF coordination with the PLA Navy — another major milestone underscoring an increasingly joint Chinese military.

Recent bomber flights around Taiwan represent the most concerted training regimen yet aimed at improving Chinese airpower. Indeed, the operational tempo of these summer flights near Taiwan is unprecedented, with at least seven flights since July 13 alone (see table below). Moreover, the flights in November and December 2016 appear to have incorporated at least six different types of supporting aircraft, including intelligence/reconnaissance, early warning, fighter, and electronic warfare aircraft. These bomber flights provide important operational training for PLAAF crews on a range of skills that can only be cultivated in this combat-realistic situation, such as pilot endurance for distance flights (at 10 hours, flights to the South China Sea likely push the H-6K’s limits), varying weather conditions over water, navigational challenges, interaction with foreign aircraft (Japanese and Taiwan fighter jets intercept flights near their airspace), and signals intelligence collection.
Asia  Times reported on the PLA's practice attacks on Taiwan

This week the US gave approval for submarine tech sales to Taiwan (also Defense News), which will help Taiwan construct its own submarines. The Guardian reported that China said conflict was now "more probable" but it was actually only the Global Times, which always threatens to rain hell and damnation on Taiwan and Washington.

China came out with the usual objections. Ian Easton nailed it:


Reuters has its usual Xinhua verbiage, including the claim that "China fears" Tsai supports independence. Nobody ever reports on how much Taiwan fears China in those boilerplate statements.

Finally the US is groping toward figuring out that it has to figure out how to use an actual pro-US administration in Taipei that sincerely wants Taiwan defended. Although there has been much media speculation that Bolton might "play the Taiwan card" and dump the US one-China policy or even station troops here, that is highly unlikely. He is more likely to work with ideas that bubble up from below, and other voices will be pushing back against deep changes in US Taiwan policy.

Someone needs to point out that recognizing Taiwan as the Republic of China will make it more difficult to resist the package of KMT claims that the ROC represents China and Taiwan is part of that China. It will also give a boost to the KMT -- does the US really want a pro-China gov't in Taipei as it moves increasingly into confrontation with China? I've asked that rhetorical question before. The answer should be no way, but sadly policy inside the Beltway appears to be made by centipedes, given how many times they have shot themselves in the foot.

There is a way that has no material cost to the US that could easily shift the conversation in a pro-Taiwan direction: make public and clear the US position that Taiwan is not part of China. Stop having State Dept officials and US policymakers deliver a word salad that none but the cognoscenti can make sense of whenever Taiwan's status is spoken of. Imagine if the boilerplate were:
REPORTER: So what is the US position on Taiwan's status, Madam Spokesperson?
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the US position is that the status of Taiwan remains undetermined. This position is based on the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the Treaty of Taipei, and the UN Declarations on Decolonized Territories, and is firmly rooted  in international law. 
Hitting this hard would help create the impression that Taiwan is not "breaking away" from China but rather seeking to ratify a status it already possesses in the face of Chinese threats. It would shift the legal and moral onus firmly onto Beijing. And it wouldn't cost a cent.

Once again Ian Easton framed it perfectly in an email he sent to one of the discussion groups:
This angst in spite of the Taiwan Travel Act, Alex Wong visit, Bolton to NSC, etc. Does it stem from Chinese influence, Trump trepidation, ingrained pessimism, or something else? Whatever the case, it's amazing how many folks are scared of change in state of U.S.-Taiwan relations. We should be far more worried about what happens if everything stays the same. China is working hard to change the status quo. And we all know what Beijing's objective is and what an ugly future that would be.
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Sunday, April 08, 2018

John Bolton Could Visit Taipei

Offered without comment.
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Bi-khim's new Hualien blog

On a rainy caturday in Hualien

Hsiao Bi-khim, the DPP legislator who has done so much for the party and the people in Hualien, has started up a new  blog on Hualien: Beautiful Hualien. A sample:
Following the morning coffee and dairy products with the press, we started traveling north through the Rift Valley. To the north of Ruisui Township lies one of my favorite villages, Fuxing Village 富興村. I like this village for its friendliness and cooperative spirit. Over recent years, the villagers have together managed to transform what used to be sugar plantations into pineapple fields with a high yield and income for its residents. Part of its success story is in local branding and combining the element of tourism into the production chain. Here at the village you can taste fresh pineapples (which take 22 months from planting to harvest), make your own pineapple cakes, the favorite Taiwanese delicacy, and also take a little train ride through the pineapple fields for a small fee. Just a week ago I also brought a delegation of foreign diplomats and representatives to this village, where I am always proud to show off the rural beauty of Taiwan with traditional warmth and hospitality.
Go thou and read!
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Saturday, April 07, 2018

Election begins to heat up

A lovely day at Sanxiantai near Chenggong

Lots of talk floating around, but the very long scuttlebutt on 2020 is that everyone who works with DPP Administration is saying the same thing: the DPPers are inferior in performance to the KMT appointees, and many of them got their positions through connections instead of merit. Even after you apply the usual discount because the conventional wisdom is pro-KMT, it remains unsettling. That assertion may/not be true, but the fact that it is consistently said, including by very sharp and experienced lifelong DPP supporters I know, is ominous. There's already talk that Tsai will not run in 2020, hence the appointment of William Lai as Premier. It's all talk now... but still...

Looking to 2018, things are firming up in New Taipei City (below). But the DPP and KMT are running neck and neck in Taichung right now according to my man Donovan. That means that current DPP Mayor Lin Jia-lung has blown a 20 point win and tons of goodwill in a short two years, and if he loses, should be put out to pasture in some harmless post somewhere, preferably an orbital station off Jupiter. Too bad they can't clone Chen Chu.... but as has been rumored for weeks, she is heading off to head the Presidential Office.

Also in play is Changhua, says Donovan, who is ICRT's central Taiwan news guy. It's the largest non-city in Taiwan and a key industrial production center. The DPP will have to fight to keep it. The midterm election is going to be brutal for the DPP if they don't turn things around in a hurry. But if there is one thing this administration can't do, it is do things in a hurry.

In New Taipei City the KMT has settled on Hou You-yi:
Although the KMT decided not to reveal the poll numbers, a party source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Hou defeated Chou by nearly 20 percent and enjoyed a near 20 percent lead over former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) in a hypothetical scenario in which Su represented the DPP in the mayoral race.
The anonymous speaker is probably exaggerating Hou's popularity, but Hou will be a popular choice -- his various issues, such as accusations of cooperating with organized crime from his police officer days will not hurt him, indeed they might help. New Taipei City is filled with old soldiers, has a solid KMT base, and the KMT will benefit from the rebound against the DPP in 2018. The DPP wants former Taipei County (New Taipei City) chief Su Tseng-chang to run against Hou. Su is an experienced campaigner and the DPP says he is neck and neck with Hou (also an exaggeration), but he's done this before and is getting old.

BOTSTORM: A couple of weeks ago a storm of bots began following a number of individuals who are pro-Taiwan posters and tweeters (and others with Asian interests opposed to CCP positions. These mysterious bots simply appeared as extra followers but otherwise did nothing. Aaron Wytze's latest tweet shows that they have evolved and are now posting  pro-CCP news. Twitter had been deleting them religiously, but there were too many. I have not been followed by them so far.
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Nelson Report, latest Taiwan comments

Drying millet in Chenggong on the east coast.

From the Nelson Report... the first set of comments are Chris Nelson's own on the Stimson Center Lunch. After that a short excerpt from the Asia Times piece, I removed the rest. Speculation is that the high ranking official will be Bolton. Finally, Dave Brown's comments.

+++++++++++++

US/CHINA/TAIWAN...we noted the excellent Stimson Center lunch discussion yesterday with valued Loyal Readers and co-chairs for Asia Yuki Tatsumi and Yun Sun, with CSIS's Bonnie Glaser joining. Strong emotions at the realization that Alan Romberg, the long-time Stimson mentor on all things Asia, but especially China-Taiwan, was not sitting with his proteges.

Much sophisticated rumination on the new Taiwan Travel Act and what level of official USG representation would be sent to conduct normal business relations...and what the "red lines" might be of China's reaction to any Cabinet level reps being sent.

Consensus reminds that the language of the TTA is non-binding desires, and full of "should", not "must" exhortations, and so Beijing can, if it chooses, react calmly...so long as Trump recognizes certain realities, such as not sending Sec. Def. Mattis, or Sec. St. Pompeo.

A "test" of redlines may come if, as the following Asia Times article speculates, Acting A/S St. Asia Susan Thornton is sent out for the new AIT office opening. DAS's are one thing, and even Cabinet or sub-Cabinet senior officials from Commerce, and other business, trade, agriculture and humanitarian-related departments...OK in the past.

High level State or DOD? Hummm...we'll see. It was also agreed that US Navy port calls, to mix a metaphor...certainly a bridge too far.

Similarly, the language on Taiwan officials, including Pres. Tsai, being allowed to "transit" in the US should, as in the past, be acceptable to Beijing so long as they don't come down to Washington, for example.

It was agreed that China's increasingly unsatisfactory performance in Hong Kong has "succeeded" only in making it even less likely that the rising generation of Taiwanese citizens will be even remotely interested in "one country/two systems". And as polls have been showing for years, Taiwanese now think of themselves as "Taiwanese"...while "China" is a place they want to visit, and when possible to work and make money. Only.

So...as in other venues, Bonnie and company agreed that the potential danger point in Cross Strait relations would come if Pres. Xi seems to be getting seriously impatient and/or attempts to somehow force Taiwan to take certain steps or make certain commitments about unification.

Consensus was that certainly the Trump Administration seems sincere in wanting to "upgrade" the level of officials visiting Taiwan. Scroll down for Taiwan-scholar and Loyal Reader Dave Brown's exploration of how things might play out...many of Dave's points were covered by Bonnie, Yuki and Yun, so we won't repeat their versions:

Asia Times
'Very senior official' to open de facto US embassy complex

The new compound of the American Institute in Taiwan is scheduled to open in June, with top State Department personnel rumored to attend

By ASIA TIMES STAFF

A "very high-ranking" official from the US State Department is likely to visit Taiwan in June to officiate at the opening of the new compound of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Washington's de facto embassy in Taipei's Neihu district, Liberty Times and Taipei Times have reported, citing a Taiwanese government official.


On Strengthening US-Taiwan Relations
By David G. Brown

For the past 18 months, China has been putting increasing economic, diplomatic, military and psychological pressure on Taiwan to get President Tsai Ing-wen to accept Beijing's one China position. Predictably, Washington has responded to these pressures by strengthen its support for and ties with Taipei. The US Congress has adopted legislation recommending further enhancements to political and security ties. Beijing has objected to the Taiwan Travel Act and to provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, while ignoring the reality that these actions were in large part a reaction to its pressures on the Tsai administration.

Since the new congressional acts are sense-of-congress legislation, the Trump administration has flexibility on how they will be implemented. Past practice provides some guidelines on how these new tools can be used to best advantage.

The most important guideline is that changes should be implemented in close consultation with Taiwan. Consultations are particularly important now because President Trump's tweets and posturing have created considerable anxiety in Taiwan. Since the Chen Shui-bian era, the US has been urging Taipei to consult on any significant actions affecting US interests. The goal has been a surprise free relationship. The Tsai administration has taken US interest into account and consulted closely. Generally, Washington has reciprocated by keeping Taiwan informed. However, President Trump's unpredictable statements have undermined the mutual trust that is the basis of a solid US-Taiwan relationship.

There is a recurring fear that Taiwan will be treated as a pawn or bargaining chip in US-China relations. The President's recent trade actions against China have reignited these fears. That incoming National Security Advisor John Bolton has advocated using the "Taiwan card" to counter PRC assertiveness will sustain such fears. Regrettably, these fears undermine confidence in the US as a friend and partner. The way to counter those fears is to treat the US-Taiwan relationship as something that is important in its own right and to consult closely with the Tsai administration about any proposed changes. It is also important to recognize that US-Taiwan and Taiwan-mainland relations are crucial domestic policy issues affecting President Tsai future. Unilateral actions, even well intentioned ones, will further undermine confidence in the US and our interests in Taiwan.

Past practice shows the wisdom of taking pragmatic steps to improve relations rather than focusing on symbolic actions. The primary US interest in Taiwan is to maintain the peace that will ensure that Taiwan can prosper free from coercion. Taiwan faces real security threats from an increasingly capable PLA. Washington has been engaged in a quiet dialogue about the best ways to address those threats. As Beijing will likely continue to increase the pressure on Taiwan, concrete steps to strengthen Taiwan's self defense capabilities and to develop US-Taiwan security cooperation are justified and should be implemented.

Some concrete firsts steps might include: establishing a pattern of the routine approval of individual arms sales as they are agreed; a first US-Taiwan joint search and rescue operation, and sending a serving flag officer observer at Taiwan's annual military exercise. Grander proposals to sell next generation aircraft raise deterrence strategy and budget priority issues. Taiwan will need new more advanced aircraft, but which planes at what cost and with what priority is yet to be decided.

Traditionally, Taipei sought symbolic signs of US support; The Tsai administration appears to be placing greater importance on substantive improvements. That is to be encouraged. Gradually increasing practical support in response to PRC actions will convey reassurance. While unilateral symbolic actions will likely undermine Taiwan's confidence in the prudence and predictability of US policy.

Past practice has also shown the wisdom of acting without unnecessary publicity. Just do it. The administration should implement improvements incrementally, emphasizing that they do not represent changes in our long standing one China policy. One can count on the Taiwan press to examine the facts minutely. The Taiwan public knows how to read between the lines. At a time when, the public is concerned about perceived US unpredictability, concrete steps accompanied by affirmations of policy continuity will be reassuring and contribute to confidence in the US. Of course, some actions will occur in public. Yet, in general, the less said the better.

Whatever specific steps are taken, Beijing will object. They have their own positions. It is there standard practice to accuse the US as being the one responsible for creating problems in US-China relations. In fact, to a large extent recent congressional support for strengthening US-Taiwan relations is a reaction to Beijing's pressure on Taiwan and its more assertive actions in East Asia generally.
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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Odds and Ends

ZebLanyu_DSC02833
Miss this place.

J Michael Cole sent this around:
Dear readers and friends of Taiwan Sentinel: Please note that as of April 1, 2018, Taiwan Sentinel (sentinel.tw) will no longer receive financial backing from the New Taiwan Peace Foundation. Since its launch in January 2017, Taiwan Sentinel has positioned itself as an indispensable platform for timely and in-depth analysis about Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait. More than 215 original articles were published on the site during that period, and many of those were cited in domestic and international media. We thank Mr. Koo Kuan-min and the New Taiwan Peace Foundation for the generous financial support over the past 16 months, which allowed us to successfully launch our operations. As we continue our operations, we are now actively looking for new funding to ensure the sustainability and independence of our important work for Taiwan; we are associated with a non-profit organisation that can legally receive donations.

J. Michael Cole
Chief editor, Taiwan Sentinel
jmc@sentinel.tw
Donate if you can. Sentinel has provided some great stuff and we need its voice.

Back in the north the KMT is looking pretty good in New Taipei City at the moment as the DPP has not decided on a candidate, and Eric Chu, the current Mayor, has groomed a capable successor, Hou You-yi, according to some smart observers. To wit:
He said he had learned much in the seven years he was deputy mayor and hoped to do more for the city and Taiwan.

“This has been my dream since my first day as a police officer,” Hou said, adding that his aspirations have never changed.

He said he would continue to propose ideas that would help make New Taipei City better, adding that he was open to suggestions from all parts of society.

As this would be his first election, Hou said he knows what he is fighting for — the betterment of living conditions for residents of New Taipei City.
Chu was just in China meeting the new TAO head where he re-affirmed the 1992 Consensus which says that Taiwan is part of China. I am curious to see whether his patron Hou must also make the trip across the Strait to kiss Xi's ring and recite the 1992C. That will not make him popular with local voters.

Another observation: talking with a friend interested in reforming Taiwan's immigration laws, and he pointed out that William Lai is strongly supportive of liberalizing immigration. Probably, my friend suggested, because he has watched Tainan empty of its young who head off to K-town, Taichung, or the Celestial Dragon Kingdom in search of jobs.

A couple of days ago, CSMonitor published a piece on how China is luring Taiwan's young. This is clearly important news, since TIME published the same idea in Aug of 2017, the NYTimes worried about it in 2016, BBC said China was land of opportunity for Taiwan's youth in 2014, and FT wrote on it in 2013. Well, this time it's different, right?

UPDATE: At last, Taiwan has spoken out, accusing Beijing of deliberately fueling the brain drain. Too late. Or... the gov't could try getting businesses to raise salaries. Just sayin'.

LOLOL. Reactor 2 at the second nuke plant was restarted. It immediately had to be shut down for safety concerns. The reason that we have electricity issues in Taiwan is that our nuke plants are so unreliable, as I posted on before. Fortunately the DPP Administration is raising electricity rates next month... have to see how that affects the elections.
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Friday, March 30, 2018

In the News Lens: the Strangest Taiwan-China Divide of All

Today I am in the News Lens
Meanwhile, on the Taiwan side, everyone is kicking back and downing margaritas. We don't look at events using the conventional interpretive frameworks that focus on promoting China as a serious participant in the international system and marginalizing Taiwan. We don't have to sell papers or drive clicks to our websites. And we've seen this happen a hundred times before.
You read it here, and I have worked up a piece for it there...
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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Water, Water, Not Everywhere

This month Commonwealth came out with two excellent articles on water in Taiwan, one trying to work out how a nation with so much excess water could be water-starved, another explaining the great underground reservoir system now under construction in Pingtung.
Taiwan has the highest rate of precipitation of any developed country in the world, so why has it become known as a “water-starved island?” The answer, simply put, is sedimentation – silt now accounts for a third of the capacity at six of Taiwan’s 18 main reservoirs.
The article then goes on to list all the causes of sedimentation. The article focused on Shihmen Dam:
We found more than 100 campgrounds built in the catchment area; indigenous peoples selling land to grow soil-scarring ginger; and 690 reports of activity over the past five years destroying the land, only to find that 90 percent were given the veneer of legality.
The economic effect of this on Taiwan's industries has unusual results:
Wafer foundries, along with flat panel manufacturers, have been forced into long-term contracts to “nurture” fleets of water trucks. Under the arrangement, the water trucks operate freely but can be unconditionally mobilized at a moment’s notice when needed to combat a drought.
Apparently Koreans have used this to claim that Taiwan's manufacturing sector is unstable. It's a solid article, with many interesting facts, but there's a word you won't find in it: price. As I noted years a while back in a column for Taiwan News:
Elsewhere the waste continues. The water price for industrial users in Taiwan is NT$11 per cubic meter, unchanged for two decades. In 2015, in response to prolonged drought, the government meekly decided to campaign to reduce water use from 270 liters a day per person all the way to 250, but this was a voluntary program, not mandatory.

By comparison, in the UK and Germany water use is already around 2/3 of that figure. The low water prices not only encourage waste, but as the EPA pointed out two years ago when it called for higher water prices, low prices discourage industrial recycling of water, and impede the development of new water-related technology. They also keep the water authority starved for funds, meaning that urgent infrastructure upgrades arrive slowly, if at all.
A major driver of Taiwan's water shortages is the absurdly low price of water, which no party wants to pay the political cost of raising. The reckoning will come, and it will fall on the DPP, which will likely still be governing in the early 2020s.

The Greater Chaozhou Lake Project is fascinating...
Phase one of the Greater Chaozhou Artificial Lake Project has been allocated a budget of NT$1.4 billion. Over the past two years, trials have been run to replenish groundwater under the Pingtung Plain, and the manmade lake can be recharged with an estimated 150 million tons of underground water per year. After 10 years of replenishment, it is hoped that half of the water volume (75 million tons) can be extracted and used each year.
There are several problems, among which is the complete lack of enforcement of regulations on illegal dumping. Companies routinely inject garbage, toxic waste, animal carcasses and other waste into the earth, or extract gravel and fill the area with refuse. The destruction is immense and hidden from the public eye. The government says that "Da Chaozhou Artificial Lake is not a lake, it's the largest Ground Water Recharge Project in Southeast Asia." (Video)
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