Sunday, June 25, 2017

Asia Cement Protests

A friend took this in Buenos Aires

Brian H at New Bloom on the recent protests over Asia Cement's occupation of indigenous lands this weekend:
The systematic injustices against Taiwanese indigenous in the past came at the hands of the ROC state and past exploitation of Taiwanese indigenous by Han Taiwanese businesses was oftentimes carried out with the aid of local KMT government officials, a means by which the KMT serviced the clientelist business networks which provided the vital support they needed to stay in power during the authoritarian period. However, as demonstrators also pointed out during the demonstration today, while the Tsai administration promised to realize transitional justice for Taiwanese indigenous, it, too, has not taken substantial action to benefit Taiwanese indigenous with continued back-and-forth on the Taroko Gorge mine since it took power.
President Tsai's apology needs to be backed by action, and kicking off Asia Cement would be a great symbolic move. Apparently President Tsai has forced action on the matter, as Asia Cement's mining right renewal is going to be reviewed.
Premier Lin Chuan (林全) said on Tuesday that the Cabinet will review the legality of approval issued by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) for a major local cement producer to extend its mining rights in eastern Taiwan.

Lin told the media that the review will be conducted in one week and if the approval issued to Asia Cement Corp. (亞泥) is found to lack due process, the Executive Yuan will hold the persons responsible accountable.
Readers may recall that Legislature moved on this only to learn that underlings in the MOEA had already granted a 20 year extension of the mining rights, which triggered protests back in March.

I have a long backgrounder on the issue here.

Let's hope the DPP government does the right thing and removes Asia Cement from that land.
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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Yes, China knows about Taiwan's identity + situation

Making early morning offerings at a small temple in eastern Taichung.

Very indicative piece in the Chinese rag Global Times on a Taiwanese actress who says she converted to pro-China beliefs in college.
For most of her life, Chang Wei-shan, born in central Taiwan, had believed that people on the Chinese mainland were the enemy and Taiwan should be independent. But her views changed after entering college, when she became a firm supporter and activist of the island's reunification with the mainland.

Despite suffering obstacles, verbal abuse and even alienation from her family and friends due to her change of heart, the 26-year-old has never had doubts about her transition, instead devoting herself to preparing Taiwan for unification.
Either she's wildly misquoted, or she has mastered the art of validating Chinese propaganda on Chinese identity and Taiwan...

  • "She said she was taught to be hostile to the mainland and worship Japan."
  • Some netizens in Taiwan attacked her on social media, asking her to "get out and go back to China." She fought back. "Taiwan is part of China…You who don't recognize China should get out. Get out of Chinese territory and back to your motherland Japan," she posted on her social media account.
... in Chinese accounts the Taiwan identity is always the creation of Japan. This view is racially charged of course, and one of the standard attacks on Lee Teng-hui was that he is half-Japanese. KMT colonialism never plays a role, because of course that would be admitting that the Chinese are colonists. She's regurgitating the standard China line. No doubt there's a lucrative movie role in China in her future.

Interesting to me is this:
Chang laments that less than one 10th of Taiwan residents support fast unification and young people there grew up to worship Western values.
The Chinese know what the situation is in Taiwan. In fact she can even say that nobody wants to be annexed to China (glossed as "fast unification") and be quoted in a government newspaper. And... she's talking to young people. You know, the ones who will be killed in a war over Taiwan.

The government's "charm offensive" isn't aimed at the people of Taiwan. It knows it lost them. Beijing is working to plant the idea that only force can take back Taiwan and it has to convince its own young.
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The origin of Mengjia

My friend Drew flipped me this image from a page of Paul Jen-keui Li's The Ethnic Groups, Languages, and Migration of the Formosan Natives. Fascinating book...
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday links...

DSC_0089
Rush hour.

I lost my watch at a party the other day. I looked around for it, and there it was, right under some guy's foot. He was harassing a woman, so I went over and punched him.

I don't let that shit happen. Not on my watch.

Now that you're groaning in pain, let's have a look at some links....

  • Focus Taiwan: 18 tons of tobacco seized (where else?) in Taichung Port. The leaf was intended for cigarettes produced by illegal cigarette producers in Taiwan. There's a massive smuggling market for cigs in Taiwan, boosted by the 2013 tax increase on cigarettes. Take a gander at this 2010 article in China Post, and that was before the increase...
  • Former Chairman Hung of the KMT continues to insist one China, same interpretations is the best route for Taiwan (Apple Daily in Chinese). I miss her so much...
  • Ed McCord calls for dual recognition of Taiwan and China as a way out of the Taiwan-China problem. Yeah, that'll work. No folks, we are headed for war out here. Hope the next Administration is more focused on preparing for the coming dust-up. Can we haz weapunz pls?
  • Speaking of war Wendell Minnick, the longtime defense correspondent out here, is on ThinkTech discussing Taiwan and war (video)
  • Export orders are up for the tenth straight month. Yes, but where are those orders being made?
  • Meanwhile, stocks hit 27 year high
  • What's going to happen to the Taiwan identity in the future? Well, the new social studies curriculum is going to downplay China (yay!).
  • Latest Global Taiwan brief
  • NPP argues that holiday bonuses to retired civil servants be cut since there is no legal basis for them.
  • SCMP on poll showing Taiwanese think of Taiwan and China as separate countries.
  • Naturalization process for foreigners to be streamlined.
  • Heritage on how to respond to an increasingly hardline China. With 16 inch guns, I'd say.
  • Excellent: A personal look at the New Southbound Policy through the eyes of four people in Taiwan
  • Anthro scholar Stevan Harrell, who wrote many excellent pieces on Taiwan, is retiring.
  • News Lens on Taiwan's domestic violence problem.
  • Asia's declining fish catches and depleted fish stocks are going to lead to conflicts.
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Paper: The Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation: To ‘join the ranks of global companies’

Takin' a break.

So there I was, surfing the net, and stumbled across this paper on the Tobacco and Liquor Monopoly's drive to become a global corporation: Jappe Eckhardt, Jennifer Fang and Kelley Lee (2017) The Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation: To ‘join the ranks of global companies’, Global Public Health, 12:3, 335-350. It notes:
In this context, this paper analyses how TTL shifted, from a company focused on domestic customers, to a more outward looking company. TTL’s ambitions to globalise were initially prompted by a significant decline in domestic market share due to foreign competition from the 1990s onwards and further fuelled by WTO membership and the adoption of stricter domestic tobacco control regulations. Efforts to expand exports and other foreign operations have been limited by the company’s bureaucratic nature, and ongoing political tensions between Taiwan and China. However, by building on the success of TTL’s alcohol export business and by taking advantage of potential warming relations with China, TTL has the opportunity to become a regional company with global ambitions.
According to the paper, the current TTL has its origins in the old Japanese opium monopoly (which I discussed here). That agency then took in the pharma, camphor, and salt bureau to form the Monopoly Bureau. The authors relate:
When the Taiwan Provincial Monopoly Bureau was formed in 1945, the monopoly extended to eight products: opium, salt, camphor, tobacco, alcohol, matches, weights and measures, and petroleum. Following reorganisation, the name was changed to the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Monopoly Bureau in 1947, maintaining a monopoly over alcohol, tobacco and camphor until 1968. The monopoly remained in control of the tobacco market until 1987, when the first steps towards market liberalisation took place with the import of foreign cigarettes (STMA, 2012).
Petroleum and opium in the same monopoly bureau! The TTL changed again when its monopoly was officially abolished in 2002, and it has diversified into supplements, cosmetics, and food products. The firm's name was also changed at that time.

The authors continue...
While through most of the 1990s TTL was able to keep its market share above 60% (Table 1), the market became almost equally split between foreign and domestic cigarettes in 2003, almost immediately after WTO accession, and further declined to below 50% in 2004 (Wen, Cheng, et al., 2005). Since then, TTLs market share has dropped to 29.9% of the Taiwanese market (Table 1). 
According to the authors, two factors will hurt TTL domestically in the future. First, foreign cigarette firms are starting to build factories in Taiwan. There is also a domestic start up company in that field. Second, massive cigarette smuggling continues, especially in the wake of 42% tax increase in 2013. Smuggled cigarettes are a tradition in Taiwan, and they reduce tax revenues and TTL's market share (just today 18 tons of smuggled tobacco was seized). Additionally, with the restrictions on indoor smoking, the activities of anti-smoking organizations, and the drop in smoking among the young, the market in general is shrinking.

TTL followed everyone else in the late 1990s and attempted to expand into China, but the election of Chen Shui-bian and the local cigarette monopoly, as well as the lack of a clear business and marketing strategy, have prevent much expansion into that market, the authors say. Alcohol exports to southeast Asia have been more successful. TTL also attempted to license production of its products in China, but failed miserably due to Chinese protectionism. The firm is, the authors imply, too focused on China.

One interesting thing about this paper is the contradictions in what should be easily accessed and clear public data....
On main export destinations (Table 2), in 2001 these were led by China (including Hong Kong and Macau). By 2014, exports to the combined markets of China, Hong Kong and Macao had grown substantially, remaining among the top five export destinations for TTL. However, Table 2 suggests Vietnam had become the largest export market, followed by Japan, Korea and Thailand. While it is difficult to distinguish exports by TTL versus Imperial Tobacco to Japan and Korea, exports to China, Vietnam and Thailand are likely to be largely TTL’s. The importance of Vietnam as an export market, as indicated by data from the International Trade Centre (2015a) and shown in Table 2, appears to contradict company reports (see e.g. TTL, 2012), which state that up to 90% of export revenue is from China. The lack of reliable and detailed data on the legal, and significant illegal, trade of tobacco products may explain this anomaly. While annual reports contain important information on company finances, data on key indicators of globalisation set out by Lee and Eckhardt (2016a), such as FDI and exports by foreign market, are not provided by TTL. Standardised data on such indicators across tobacco companies remains needed.
Vietnam is a key market, and I have had a rum manufactured for that market by TTL, which you can get in Vietnamese worker shops here, which has a red star on its label. It was quite good after I had three large glasses of it.
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Nelson Report, June 15: the possibility of a 4th Communique

Nelson Report on 4th Communique and Kissinger, who has done so much harm to the world and may do more to Taiwan...
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TAIWAN JITTERS: IS "4th COMMUNIQUE" COMING? (Tillerson
HFAC testimony, Kissinger rumors, has folks worried)
...time to end defense ambiguity (Joe Bosco)

SUMMARY: the Trump Administration may have inadvertently stumbled into another "one China" problem, following yesterday's testimony to House Foreign Affairs by Sec. St. Tillerson, see in full, below.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

On the Foreign Front....

The little roads through these hills are gorgeous.

...我覺得巴拿馬其實是在幫台灣 ("I feel Panama is actually helping Taiwan")-- a Taiwanese friend

On Twitter, Aaron Wytze (@aaronwytze ) has been reporting that the Chinese press is saying night markets in Taiwan are collapsing due to the lack of Chinese tourists. That's probably why the biggest night market in northern Taiwan is opening this week...

Readers may recall that the Nigerian government had ordered the Taiwan office there to move out of Lagos. Taiwan News reported this week that the Taiwan government had retaliated:
Later Wednesday afternoon, the government said its office in the Nigerian capital Abuja had ceased to function and the chief representative had returned to the country. The new office, in the country’s most populous city of Lagos, would bear the name “Taipei Trade Office.”

Taiwan vowed equal treatment and struck back by demanding Nigeria move its office on the island out of Taipei City, reports said.
This kind of childish tit-for-tat behavior doesn't help Taiwan. We also withdrew the scholarships from the students from Panama currently studying in Taiwan's universities, another childish move. Those students were often picked for social or political reasons, and we could have continued to foster relationships. When life gives you the chance to be magnanimous, you should be. MOFA needs to stop pretending that the ROC is a Great Power.

The news also broke with week, as the Taiwan News piece notes, that China was pressuring several countries to change the name of Taiwan offices abroad. Note that while the names may change, the offices will continue to function.

In case the sturm und drang has you worried, a sharp observer pointed out in an email conversation that there has actually be an increase in informal exchanges with the major democracies and major economies. This sort of thing doesn't get reported in the media, but it helps balance the unremitting pettiness of China.

Meanwhile many moves on the US front this week. China's grab of Panama, which had been in the making since 2009 when Panama first asked, was aimed also at the US, to see what the US would do about the burgeoning influence of China in its backyard. Not much, is the answer. Many comments on that below....

Sec of State Rex Tillerson spoke in response to questioning from Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Well I think, Congressman, you’ve summarized it quite well in terms of the situation as we see it today, between China and Taiwan. As you know, the China-U.S. relationship has been defined for the past 50 [sic] years by our ‘one China’ policy, and our agreement around [the] ‘one China’ policy. They have their interpretation of what that means, and we have ours, and we’ve agreed that we’d accommodate each other’s interpretation. But it has led to 50 years of stability in the region, it has prevented conflict, it has allowed for this economic growth that has gone on—much of which we have benefitted from.

As we began our dialogue with Chinese leadership with this new administration, as you know there was some questioning of our commitment to ‘one China’ early on. The President has reaffirmed that we are committed to the ‘one China’ policy. We are also completely committed to the Taiwan Relations Act and fulfilling all of our commitments to them under that Act.
This is reassuring noise, at least. The House subcommittee also unanimously passed the Taiwan Travel Act which is supposed to lift travel restrictions and encourage US officials to visit Taiwan. Lets see if it makes it through Congress into law.

Martin Longman argues in the Washington Monthly that failed US leadership is isolating Taiwan. There's not much you can say except "Amen" and add that this failure extends all the way back to the Bush Administration's shift on Taiwan. The Trump Administration is merely stumbling along after the adults.

At AEI Michael Mazza, a longtime supporter of The Beautiful Island, points out that there is lots the US can do to push back on China for its pressure on Taiwan....
Washington has numerous options for doing so, any of which would signal that the United States does not look kindly upon unilateral changes to the cross-Strait status quo. Options include the following:
  • Announce a new, robust arms sales package for Taiwan;
  • Disinvite the PLA Navy from participating in RIMPAC 2018;
  • Invite the Taiwan Navy to participate in RIMPAC 2018;
  • Arrange a phone call between President Trump and President Tsai Ing-wen;
  • Eliminate limitations on senior Taiwanese officials’ ability to visit Washington and meet with their counterparts;
  • Welcome Taiwan Navy port visits at US Navy bases.
I could go on. There are numerous ways the United States can signal its displeasure to China and stand up for its democratic partner in Taiwan. The Panama switch is not, in and of itself, earth shattering; the consequences for Taiwan of this one act are limited. But failure to respond now opens the door to greater Chinese pressure down the road.
Yep. This was a test. The Trump Administration needs to do more than just make noise.

In the Taipei Times Ben Goren argues that Taiwan can play the long game, and proposes:
One way would be for Taiwan to remodel relations with existing allies by actually recognizing a “one China” principle whereby the ROC would be removed from all diplomatic exchanges and replaced with simply the “territory of Taiwan.” This would allow allied nations interested in diplomatic relations with the PRC to stand by a “one China” principle while still retaining a full embassy and relations with Taiwan.
At Heritage Dean Cheng and Walter Lohman also observe that Washington is being tested:
It is important, given the extent of U.S.–Chinese interactions on other issues, such as North Korea and burgeoning trade frictions, that Washington make clear to Beijing that its commitment to Taipei is not a political bargaining chip. Beijing should not be misled into thinking that by cooperating in one area (often through short-term gestures), it will realize major policy shifts and concessions in others. Such a move would not only grant China massive gains, it would devastate American credibility with allies such as Japan and South Korea, who would logically wonder if our commitments to them also come with expiration dates.
Also last week there was a Congressional hearing on "renewing assurances" to Taiwan. The energy at the lower levels and outside the government is clearly there. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has yet to fill many major posts, and appears to be AWOL.
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Samuel Wade on Media Complicity and Taiwan

Mangroves south of Hsinchu city.

This thread was posted by Samuel Wade to Twitter. Wade is an editor at China Digital Times. #9 is something I've been saying for years.

1/11 Thread. Like a lot of us, I've spent a fair amount of time writing around Taiwan's status.

2/11 Cross-strait this, the island's that, Taipei's, Beijing's...

3/11 No.

4/11 The question is not "Should Taiwan be independent?" or "should Taiwan declare independence?"

5/11 The fact is: Taiwan. Is. Independent.

6/11 The question is, will the rest of the world have the courage to acknowledge that?

7/11 Even I, a card-carrying "hostile foreign force," have written around this too much.

8/11 This is not, as I felt for a long time, a side issue.

9/11 This is a nation the size of Australia whose right to self-determination we are routinely complicit in denying.

10/11 Fuck that.

11/11 Taiwan is independent.
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The China Post gets a DNR Order

Somewhere in the hills, giant buildings frame an absolutely ginormous Buddha statue which shows Buddha holding the whole world in his hand. Because Buddhism is a religion of humility.

Several years ago the old Taiwan News went completely digital, fired all their staff, and just reposted CNA articles. Fortunately, those days are over, but now it looks like the venerable China Post is going that route. The newspaper has changed owners, and the reporting staff will be gone by the end of the month. I will miss the China Post, except for Joe Hung's commentaries. Its local coverage was often excellent, and it was a useful indicator of the KMT establishment views of things.

My man Donovan Smith, the ICRT news central Taiwan reporter, posted this to Facebook yesterday. Nobody knows more about the news than Donovan. Also, he has a very fine collection of whiskies which I am not going to share with you. I am just telling you that so you know he is cool...

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China Post has fired all but one of their staff I've now been told from multiple sources. If true, it is very sad news for a paper founded in 1952. At several times over the years it was "my paper", though at other times it was the China News (now Taiwan News) and Taipei Times--I rotated between them over the years.

This means that the news sources (for reading, leaving aside ICRT and TV) are now more diverse, and appears to be this:

Biggest:
CNA (Focus Taiwan), Taiwan's state-owned news agency produces the most content, but almost all (or all) translations/summaries of articles written first in Mandarin.
Taipei Times, the only remaining English print newspaper with (I think) the largest staff of journalists writing in English.

Mid-range:
The News Lens (The News Lens 關鍵評論網) does some great work--mostly big picture stuff--but doesn't cover the daily newspaper beat stuff for the most part.

Taiwan News (Taiwan News) does covers daily news beat stuff themselves and supplements that with CNA material so it does a pretty good job of covering the gamut, and has recently bounced back from near death under new, more energetic staff. A good compliment to The News Lens, each fills in what the other generally doesn't cover.

Smaller outfits:
The China Post. Not sure how this is going to work, but with one employee there is a limit to how much can be done. If they keep a CNA account they could still have a decent range of material daily.

Total Taipei (Total Taipei) provides a good dose of daily updates and articles, often on the serious and business side of things.

The Wild East news section also provides a good dose of daily updates that is actually a good compliment to Total Taipei in that it generally covers dramatic stories, especially crime, accidents and general mayhem that Total Taipei doesn't cover, and vice-versa.

There are others that are institutional (KMT website, RTI, Taiwan Today), specialized (Commonwealth's translations, ICRT's site, Queerious) and of course the bloggers and think piece sites (View from Taiwan, Frozen Garlic, Ketagalan Media, New Bloom, Solidarity.tw, Lao Ren Cha among others) and news aggregators (Taiwan Daily News in English Facebook page) that brings in local and international news (and which I every once in awhile contribute to) and sometimes the international press covers us here.

ADDED: to which I would add AmCham's Topics, whose writers are excellent and whose topics are timely, and Taiwan Sentinel, which routinely has forceful, insightful, and thoughtful analyses. Taiwan Review sometimes has good stuff too.
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

....and another one bites the dust: Panama

Because sometimes one spout just isn't enough...

The news washed over Taiwan in the morning: we're losing Panama. Oh noes! Now we only have 20 unimportant countries recognizing the ROC, down all the way from 21. Reports the BBC (from their Latin American office, so slightly more balanced than their E Asian reporters):
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province. A few countries maintain ties with Taipei instead of Beijing, and Panama is the latest to switch sides.

In December last year, the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe made a similar move. Now only 20 countries have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

In recent years China has intensified its economic investment into the Central American country - home of the economically vital Panama Canal.
The media will be delighted, no doubt, since it can report ZOMG CHINA IS CLOSING IN and TENSIONZ and TSAI IZ DOOOMMMMEEEDDD and lay it on real thick.

....my favorite of today's many comments was this Twitter comment from Financial Times' Ben Bland:
Panama just dropped Taiwan for China. @FT warned in January that Beijing was eyeing Taiwan's Central American allies
"FT warned in Jan?" Then they were months late (of course). Panama has been rumored to be on the brink for a year, as this AFP piece in the Hong Kong FP from June of last year notes (one of many). This switch was probably inevitable, the world being what it is.

My man Donovan speculated that the switch was about China dangling the prospect of making Panama irrelevant via the fantasy of building a canal through Nicaragua. Reports indicate that China is eyeing investment in the energy and port sectors. China is the third largest user of the canal, according to several reports.

MIA? Uncle Sam. Thought maybe the Yankee Menace might be interested in China expanding its power and influence in Panama, but the current Administration appears to be everything Putin thought it would be.

On Facebook, someone reiterated the Taiwanese position: "We're now 1/21 steps closer to independence". Outsiders see diplomatic links as important, but Taiwan, as the News Lens piece observes, depends on its rich informal and unofficial links to get things done. China has seldom threatened those. It's very unlikely that China will attempt to swallow all of Taiwan's allies, because that would leave Taiwan independent. There will be domestic criticism from the opposition party, and some small psychological effect. Since there is nothing Tsai could have done, and everyone knows it, life will go on as usual. As the China Post notes, many observe that Taiwan can get along without any "allies" so long as it has support of powerful nations.

More importantly, it is not Taiwan that is suffering, but the ROC. One of the props of its existence are the "diplomatic allies". Today it has become that much smaller...

Ironically, today in the Diplomat one of those silly articles came out arguing that Beijing needs to change its path in order to win Taiwanese hearts and minds. Then many complained that such actions as grabbing Panama don't win hearts and minds in Taiwan. The campaign of "niceness" isn't aimed at Taiwan, folks. It is aimed at domestic audiences in China, who do not want war over Taiwan. Beijing needs to be able to convince them it did everything in its power to get Taiwan peacefully. There is only one way Beijing could win hearts and minds here, and that is to give up its claim to Taiwan. Taiwan scolded China for oppressing and threatening it...

DON'T MISS: But if you wish to go placidly amid all the predictable squalling that is occupying the media, by all means feast your eyes on this wonderful collection of 55 black and white images of Taiwan taken in 1896.

ADDED: Ben Bland correctly observes in comments below...
On the question of Taiwan's informal bilateral relationships, China constantly tries to stymie and stifle them as well. Foreign officials receive stern protests from the local Chinese embassy every time they meet representatives from the Taiwan economic and trade offices in their countries. Many will not meet the Taiwanese officials in their offices, only in hotels etc. And the Chinese embassies also threaten commercial entities that work with the Taiwanese foreign ministry officials in too open a fashion. Even supposedly straightforward tasks like getting landing slots for Taiwanese airlines in third countries can be painfully difficult because of Chinese interference.
What I meant really was that so far while China has harassed Taiwan overseas, it hasn't attempted to shut down unofficial relations outright on an us or them basis like it has formal relations.
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Tuesday Not-so Short Shorts

Went cycling in the succulent hills in northern Miaoli/southern Hsinchu this weekend. Got lost a lot...

Frozen Garlic has a great write up of the KMT Chairman election. He observes of Wu Den-yih's attempt to return to the KMT center....
My guess is that Wu will be fairly successful at holding the broader KMT coalition together. I don’t expect a spate of new splinter parties from the blue side, at least not in the next year and a half. However, I think Wu is overestimating the number of voters who are waiting to be pulled back into the KMT coalition. In 2012, 54% voted for Ma or Soong. In 2016, only 44% voted for Chu or Soong. Wu might consolidate that vote, but his plan to return to the good old days of 2011 doesn’t seem to me to hold much promise of expanding it much. Wu Den-yi is betting otherwise. I guess we’ll see.
I think he is right about the voters. Note that the DPP's attack on the KMT is two-pronged. First, it is going after the assets the Party looted from the people of Taiwan. Second, with the huge infrastructure program it is going after the local factions who are fed and watered by KMT patronage networks fueled by central government development funds. The KMT's real power depends on its connections to the Taiwanese factions in the hinterland. Wu might give them hope...

....but these connections were wrecked by Ma. Solidarity.tw wrote two years ago...
In the 1980s and 90s, Presidents Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and especially Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) sought to “Taiwanize” the KMT by giving power to members of other ethnic groups, but President Ma has reversed that current. Four of his five premiers have been waishengren. The current one, Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), was born in Fenghua County, Zhejiang Province, just like Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo. One can guess from his first name (治國, literally “govern the nation”) that his parents somehow had plans for him to someday hold the post he does now. What goes for the premier also goes for the ministers. Eight of the past nine winners of the Executive Yuan’s National Cultural Award were born in mainland China. And Ma is thought to have led the campaign to block Wang’s presidential nomination.
Ma's government and governance were both focused on a tiny class of elite mainlanders and academics. Throughout his presidency there was constant grumbling from the Taiwanese KMT, who must have been very happy with Wu Den-yih's election as chair.

The interesting moment will come when the 2020 presidential candidate is chosen. Wu has made no secret of his desire to be the candidate. He will be 72 in 2020 (b.1948) and he is Taiwanese. The old mainlander rank and file have made it clear they will never put up with a non-mainlander presidential candidate. For them this is one advantage of Honhai/Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou (Guo Tai-ming) -- he is a mainlander whose father was a police officer -- and thus acceptable to that deep blue base as a presidential candidate for the Party.

2018 also looms. I expect the KMT to recover some ground in the legislature. That will reflect well on Wu and further encourage him to toss his hat into the 2020 ring. D'oh: no legislative election in 2018 despite the fact that I keep thinking there is. Still living in 2005.... I expect the KMT to recover some ground in that election....

The struggle over the infrastructure bill is terrifying the KMT. Some criticisms from the anti-Taiwan party are in this Taipei Times article. Note the complaint about building parks -- the KMTer insists it should be spent on Big Infrastructure which will enable the government to hand down cash to its patronage networks for public construction. The Tsai plan isn't like that, which is worrying the KMT no end.

The asset struggle continues, as the DPP accuses the KMT of submitting "ghost documents" to support its claim to ownership of certain land. Forged land titles and fake contracts were hardly abnormal during the authoritarian period...

Meanwhile, back in the KMT authoritarian days of straight Confucian families, certain Taiwanese parents are desperately struggling to keep their gay children straight on the surface and suicidal in their hearts. Retrograde alliances demand that references to the complexity of human sexuality be removed from textbooks, in case children discover that it is normal to be complex and different. At a local high school a campaign of threats and harassment forced the school to remove a rainbow flag from the graduation ceremony memorabilia. If only these people put such energy into making the world a better place...

On a side note, the constant use of "terror" as a descriptor -- in this case, the "rainbow terror" of ZOMG gayness -- tends to cheapen and debase the meaning of that word, which I expect is one reason that anti-democracy groups constantly use it.

Cleaning up the damage from KMT rule is going to take two generations...

Across the Pacific, the Canadian government decided to permit the sale of a key tech/defense firm, Norsat, to a Chinese company. Norsat does business with both the US and Taiwan. The stupidity of this is mind-blowing. Lots of criticism inbound, so perhaps the Canadian government will reconsider betraying two democracies and its own tech sector for better relations with a government that despises Canada and wants to steal its technology.
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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Camphor with new releases

Camphor Press has a set of new releases out to help in understanding the White Terror. I've talked about A Pail of Oysters, which is sad and fantastic. Absolutely a must read. Formosa Betrayed will be familiar. But Shackleton's Formosa Calling will probably be new to many of you out there. Camphor describes....
Allan J. Shackleton was a New Zealand officer with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration assigned to in Taiwan at the time. His eyewitness account of the massacre is an important piece in understanding modern Taiwan’s founding tragedy. Shackleton tried for years to get Formosa Calling published, but it was deemed too politically sensitive during the Cold War when “Free China” was an ally of the Western world. Finally, after Taiwan’s first democratic presidential election, a Taiwanese-American publisher approached Shackleton’s son to publish the book, and it first appeared in 1998, forty years after it was written.
Camphor has also released the autobiography of independence stalwart Peng Min-min, A Taste of Freedom:
An astonishing life in the grip of historic events. Peng was born in the Japanese colony of Taiwan in 1923. While living in Japan he witnessed the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, and on his return to Taiwan saw the corruption and brutality of the new Kuomintang government. He established an international reputation as a legal expert, something which probably saved him from a worse fate when he was imprisoned for sedition after printing a manifesto for a democratic Taiwan. Later released under house arrest, Peng fled the country under the nose of his guards and was granted asylum in Sweden. He later moved to the United States and, after the end of martial law, back to Taiwan where he stood in the first democratic election for president, in 1996. A gripping and well-written account of a turbulent life and turbulent times.
Both these books should be considered must-haves.
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The Interesting Side Effects of Sex-selective Abortions....

Watermelons await buyers at my favorite watermelon juice shop in Xiluo

More Missing Women, Fewer Dying Girls: The Impact of Sex-Selective Abortion on Sex at Birth and Relative Female Mortality in Taiwan (Ming-Jen Lin, Jin-Tan Liu and Nancy Qian, 2013, Journal of the European Economic Association)

From the introduction...
More importantly, the results show that conditional on compositional changes in mothers choosing to give birth, the reform reduced relative female mortality rates for higher parity births. In other words, for parents that would give birth to higher parity children regardless of access to sex-selective abortion, the reduced cost of sex-selection due to the reform reduced the number of unwanted daughters that were born, and thereby, reduced female mortality. For such parents, the reform explains 100% of the rise in the fraction of males at birth and over 50% of the reduction in relative female neonatal mortality rates.
From the conclusion, in simpler language...
This paper shows that increased access to sex-selective abortion in Taiwan significantly increased the fraction of males born and reduced the relative neonatal mortality rates of girls. These effects are large in magnitude as they explain all of the increase in the fraction of males born and over half of the decline in relative female neonatal mortality rates during this period. The results make a simple point: there is a tradeoff between pre- and post-natal sex selection for some parents. In the context of our study, such parents are those with strong son preference who have higher parity children regardless of access to sex-selective abortion. The findings suggest that policymakers who wish to ban sex-selective abortion should consider complementary policies that incentivize parents to invest in daughters.
Yeah, that's right. If people in societies in which males are preferred are allowed to terminate female fetuses, then fewer of their female infants die....
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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Reuters is... still Reuters

Rivers in full bore this week.

Salieri: How... Did my work please you?
Mozart: I never knew that music like that was possible!
Salieri: You flatter me.
Mozart: No, no! One hears such sounds, and what can one say but... Salieri!

The strongest spring rains in decades have caused agricultural losses over $2 million US, with thousands of households affected by flooding and water shortages. Unfortunately that is not enough, human scum are preying on the unsuspecting with a new variation on an old scam. Scammers are calling people, telling them their houses have been destroyed in a flood, and then demanding they deposit money in a certain account. My family members and friends have been trawled for cash this way. The scammers are hoping that they can take advantage of panic to extract some cash. These people are vermin. I hope they all end up doing time in Chinese jails...

The mention of scams, of course, leads me to contemplate the beauty of Reuters this week. As usual, Reuters inserts anti-Taiwan editorializing into its "reporting", and then appears to deliberately mistranslate China's response to President Tsai this week, so that the reader misses its import, and omits the amused reaction in Taiwan which properly contextualized the Chinese spokesman's remarks.

First, the Reuters "report" of Tsai's remarks:
Tsai said that the biggest gap between Taiwan and China was democracy and freedom, needling Beijing at a time when relations between China and the self-ruled island are at a low point.

"For democracy: some are early, others are late, but we all get there in the end," Tsai said, writing in Chinese on her Facebook page and tweeting some of her comments in English on Twitter.

"Borrowing on Taiwan's experience, I believe that China can shorten the pain of democratic reform."
Reuters childishly characterized Tsai's remarks as "needling" Beijing and then added a particular context: relations are "at a low point".

This structure is built out of three common media tropes: (1) that Taiwan "provokes" Beijing; (2) that tensions occur mysteriously for no reason, and are never assigned an identifiable cause; and (3) Taiwan's pro-democracy side is always interrogated, deconstructed, and negatively presented.

First, let's reimagine Reuters' editorializing as an actual, neutral news report:
Tsai said that the biggest gap between Taiwan and China was democracy and freedom, an argument made by many analysts of the differing cultures of the two sides. Since Tsai became president, Beijing has chilled relations between China and Taiwan.
The failure of the western establishment media to simply report, never mind resolutely protect democratic values and democratic governance, is one of the great failures of our age.

The next paragraph then gives the Beijing-centric view of things:
Beijing distrusts Tsai and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party because it traditionally advocates independence for Taiwan. Beijing says the island is part of China and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control.
Another common trope, in which Beijing's expansionist POV is presented with no mention of what Taiwan thinks. Why not add that polls show the majority of Taiwanese do not want to be part of China? Why not say, equally truthfully, that based on history, the majority of Taiwanese "distrust" Beijing?

Note that the word "distrust" is used to characterize Beijing. Seriously: is there anything that Beijing trusts? The word is simply an editorial insertion intended to create more negativity around the idea of independence and the DPP.

But that was only the beginning for Reuters this week. It then (apparently deliberately) mistranslated the response of China's Taiwan Affairs Office to Tsai...
China's Taiwan Affairs Office said only mainland Chinese had the right to speak on mainland affairs, while suggesting Tsai could better spend her time reflecting on "the widespread discontent" in Taiwan and the "reasons behind why cross-strait relations had reached an impasse".
However, "only Mainland Chinese" was not what the TAO official actually said, and Reuters must know this, which is why they have paraphrased, and not directly quoted that particular section of the officials remarks. The original remarks caused hilarity in Taiwan....
中國國台辦發言人馬曉光表示,「只有中國人民最有發言權」,並指讓兩岸關係陷入僵局的台灣當局和民進黨,應該進行深刻的反思。
The bolded part is the actual remark: "only Chinese people have the right to speak". The term "mainland" was nowhere used. Taiwanese were ROFL when they heard these remarks, reading them to unconsciously reveal the feeling that Tsai herself pointed to in her speech the previous day: that Taiwanese are different from Chinese. A connection Reuters could have made...

Speaking of revealing, how about yet another hidden slant? Chinese officials are quoted in the two Reuters reports:
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had long ago reached a conclusion about June 4.

"I hope you can pay more attention to the positive changes happening in all levels of Chinese society," she said without elaborating.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office said only mainland Chinese had the right to speak on mainland affairs, while suggesting Tsai could better spend her time reflecting on "the widespread discontent" in Taiwan and the "reasons behind why cross-strait relations had reached an impasse".

"We are closer than any other point in history to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people," office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said in a statement sent to Reuters.

"(Taiwan authorities) should not divert attention and shirk responsibility while further inflaming cross-strait antagonism."
Note that while Tsai is described as "needling" Beijing, no Beijing official is described in a similar way. The TAO official "suggests" even though he is obviously abusing Tsai. Neutral language such as the word said is used to describe statements by Beijing's blowhards, which are not contextualized in any negative way -- they are not said to occur during a period of low relations between the two sides.

Tsai is thus a victim of a third common media trope, in which statements from Taiwan (run by a pro-democracy party allied to the west!) are constantly interrogated, deconstructed, and negatively contextualized, while statements from Beijing are presented without comment.

The anti-Taiwan slant is painfully obvious. And painfully sad.

Meanwhile, with lips firmly curled in a patronizing upper class sneer, the Economist discussed Tsai's economic policies this week.
...Less noticed is that Ms Tsai has, for now, won over one important group: investors. Cash inflows from abroad have made Taiwan’s stockmarket and currency among Asia’s best performers. Foreign direct investment in the electronics industry has also surged.
The Economist was obviously hoping to gleefully report that Tsai had ruined the economy, since it had spent so many years cheerleading for Ma Ying-jeou (who did vast harm to the economy and Taiwan, all unreported by the Economist). It must have been painful to them to contemplate LSE graduate and neoliberal Tsai doing well, so they hurriedly added:
The government, to be sure, cannot take too much credit...
But then, with patrician fairness, they conceded...
Nevertheless, without a deft touch from Ms Tsai, things could have been worse. It is easy to forget that, a year ago, the odds seemed stacked against Taiwan’s economy. Falling exports had tipped it into a recession. Slowing smartphone sales pointed to little relief ahead. Most worrying was the political backdrop, with Ms Tsai caught between her supporters, many of whom crave independence, and China, which demands that she acknowledge Taiwan to be part of “one China”.

Ms Tsai has, so far at least, steered a middle course, neither ceding ground to China nor taking actions that might provoke a harsh response. Investors, judging that cross-strait relations are frosty but generally stable, have felt confident enough to scoop up Taiwanese assets. The $8.3bn in foreign direct investment in Taiwan last year was more than triple the 2015 amount and the highest on record. If exports remain strong, the economy has a good chance of beating the government’s forecast of 2% growth this year.
They then discuss the good news from the economy, and close with editorializing reporting:
Ms Tsai’s economic strategy has three main prongs. First is an NT$882.4bn ($29.3bn) infrastructure stimulus, covering projects from the railways to renewable energy. Second, she wants to lessen Taiwan’s reliance on China with a “New Southbound Policy”, of closer ties with countries in South-East and South Asia. Finally, Ms Tsai is crafting an industrial policy to promote innovation, talking, for instance, about creating an “Asian Silicon Valley”.

All sensible enough, but each prong, on closer inspection, looks flimsy. The stimulus will be spread over eight years, providing a smaller boost than advertised. Variations of the southbound policy have been tried for decades: the smaller economies of South-East Asia are no substitute for the Chinese giant next door. And just about every country aspires to foster innovation; few succeed.
Note that none of the second paragraph is supported by any evidence, fact, or argument. It is pure negativity. One could just as well as have editorialized:
All sensible enough, and each prong, on closer inspection, looks intelligent. The stimulus will be spread over eight years, offering a steady boost to local governments and local economies, as well as re-orienting local patronage networks on the DPP. Variations of the southbound policy have been tried for decades: the smaller economies of South-East Asia have in recent years been better trade partners for Taiwan than the Chinese giant next door, And just about every country aspires to foster innovation; yet Taiwan has a track record of successful innovation in firms of all sizes.
But just to be certain that the reader is left with a negative feeling, the Economist concludes with a decontextualized negative quote from Gordon Sun, and then negatively again, with the worry that things might not work out. Because god forbid the western media say something positive about hoi polloi from the democracy side in Taiwan's politics. My god, do those people even know how to use a salad fork?

Oh yeah, about that Southbound policy? Taiwan News reported on the flimsy-looking Southbound policy this week:
Citing statistics compiled by the Ministry of Finance, the DGBAS said exports to the regions totaled US$21.14 billion between January and April for a gain of 15.6 percent, compared to the 13.6-percent increase in the nation’s global exports over the same period.
It's too early to say anything for certain, and the Economist could have taken that uncertain, more neutral position.

But didn't.
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Sunday, June 04, 2017

Rainageddon: a house slides into a river


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