Monday, February 27, 2006

STOP_george Teaches DailyKos

STOP_george has put up a wonderful teaching tool at Dailykos about the current crisis. Don't miss it.

Fire Sale on Kaohsiung City Council Votes

I've decided that what I really want to do is become a Kaohsiung city council member so I can get tons of cash showered on me by gang-connected politicos. It's a dirty job, but somebody....

Kaohsiung prosecutors on Saturday night raided an illegal gambling house which is suspected of being used to generate funding for a candidate running in the Kaohsiung County Council speakership election.

"We received a tip-off that Kaohsiung County Council Speaker Hsu Fu-sen (許福森), who is seeking re-election, was involved in vote-buying and we investigated the matter," Kaohsiung District Prosecutors' Office Spokesman Chung Chung-hsiao (鍾忠孝) said yesterday.

Hsu, a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and suspected of having close ties with gangsters, has been the council's speaker for eight years.

Chung said the accusations levelled against Hsu were that he had offered councilors bribes ranging between NT$500,000 (US$15,150) to NT$1 million in exchange for their votes.

I think it is about time that we dredge up the old saw that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Taiwan has gone one-up on that one, uniting tragedy and farce with great economy of force in Kaohsiung city council elections. As I noted once before, the quintessential corruption case of modern times is the Chu An-hisung case.Longtime Taiwan-watcher Lawrence Eyton's article on the Kaohsiung City Council election that was bought by Chu An-hsiung is a great introduction to local politics on the Beautiful Island.

NUC scrapped

How stupid is this situation: Taiwan scraps a defunct body that has an annual budget that is less than what I spend to take my family to the local Indian restaurant, and it is international news. CNN disgorges:

TAIPEI, Taiwan (Reuters) -- Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian scrapped on Monday a body on unification with China and 15-year-old symbolic guidelines on eventual unification, a move that has riled Beijing and alarmed Washington.

While the move was almost certain to complicate reunion and fuel tensions, Chen said it did not mean Taiwan would push for formal independence.

China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own, has warned the move would "certainly spark a serious crisis in the Taiwan Strait and sabotage peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region."

Chen, keen to shake off Beijing's claim of sovereignty over the self-ruled island, said last week the National Unification Council and the 15-year-old guidelines on unification were "absurd products of an absurd era" and should be scrapped.

So, Chen has chosen to stick his thumb in Beijing's eye. Now they have an excuse to do something. The mind reels at the possibilities. Meanwhile the international media still can't get anything right:

Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 and considers the mainland as China's sole legitimate government -- through the "one-China" policy -- but it is also obliged by law to help Taiwan defend itself.

Hello! The US isn't obliged by law, but by politics. In fact, I'll bet money that at some point in this evolving crisis a US spokesman will quietly point this out.

The council, set up in 1990 under the previous Nationalist administration, has been dormant since Chen took office in 2000. But it is highly symbolic because it was established to reassure China that the island would not go its own way.

Chen, frustrated with China's refusal to deal with him, appears to be breaking 2000 inaugural vows not to push for formal independence or dissolve the council and the guidelines.

Chen's not breaking any vows, but at least the article acknowledges that it is China, not Taiwan, that has the problem here. Jerome Keating reviews the NUC with a good article up on his website:

Some called it a bombshell but it was only the bursting of a bubble. Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has recently caused quite a stir among the biased and uninformed by proposing to abolish the country's ineffective National Unification Council (NUC). The continued flap over the NUC and its guidelines highlights that most people know nothing about this outdated and ineffective organization, how the guidelines themselves contradict reality, and how the council comes from an era when the Kuomintang (KMT) wished to substitute its personal agenda for that of the people of Taiwan.

Formed back in 1990 (six years before Taiwan's people were allowed to directly elect their President) the NUC represents a last ditch effort by the KMT to explain and justify its continued forty plus years of martial law and one-party state rule i.e. their alleged purpose all along was democracy. The council adopted the present guidelines at its third meeting on February 23, 1991.

First examine this; the Pan-blue dominated Legislature in typical hypocritical fashion cries at how President Chen does not have the best interests of the people in mind. That same Pan-blue Legislature had just cut the annual budget of the NUC to a mere US thirty-two dollars-barely enough to pay to install a phone or get fax paper for less than a month. This is more than a slap in the face to the NUC, it confirms that even the Pan-blues consider the NUC useless but it further insults the people of Taiwan.
And so: all this effort expended, and for what? We got rid of a US$32 budget item, and managed to piss off the two most powerful nations in the world. What do have for it? Anything concrete? Maybe for an encore, Chen can personally call the heads of the Hong Kong triads and tell them their wives are ugly and their children are stupid too.

Asia Rare Books in NY Fire Sale

This came on H-Asia. Some of you in the Big Apple might want to drop a few bucks.



I have this evening received the following notice from Stephen Feldman
of Asian Rare books in New York. This may be a good opportunity to
purchase books (or the business, which is also for sale).

Phil Brown

After 31 years as owner of Asian Rare Books I am moving from New York
City (to Manila) and ceasing our book business here. Thus I must
disperse over this coming month our ample stock of out-of-print books
about Japan and Asia. This is not catalogued or available by list.

This is a good buying opportunity for anyone who can arrange to visit
us by appointment in New York City not far from Columbia. Books sharply

If there's a chance you can post this to the Japan interest we thank


Stephen Feldman
Asian Rare Books
(212) 316 5334

175 W. 93 Street (16-D) /corner Amsterdam Ave.

Ma Says Lien Chan is President

Ni Howdy was right. I finally got a chance to listen to the BBC "Hardtalk" interview. Ni Howdy in their excellent take on the Ma interview said

Around minute 13:20 he calls twice-failed presidential candidate Lian Zhan
"President Lian Zhan." Correct?
As far as I can tell, this is correct. At 13:23 Ma does indeed refer to Lien Chan as President. Can anyone else confirm?

UPDATE: Socialforce has a transcript in English. They too have him saying President. Do you think that within the KMT insiders refer to Lien Chan as "President?"

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunday, Februrary 26, 2006, Taiwan Blog Round up

The new semester has started, and its time once again for another round up of the Taiwan blogs. Enjoy the good weather because a cold front is due later in the week! Lots of doings on the political front lately.

The big news this week, at least from the perspective of those of us who engage in polemics discuss politics, was the visit of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou to the UK, and his interview on BBC radio. Tim at Indiac offers a summary of the blog action and some trenchant comments on Ma's inability to truly confront the KMT past:

Ma, in apparent ignorance of how much of a fool he'd already made of himself, was quoted by the Saturday edition of the Taipei Times spouting this nonsense -- just 3 days after the BBC interview was shown -- about his party's so-called lack of involvement in the 228 Incident of 1947:
"Although the KMT was the then-ruling party, it was not directly involved in the event ... The decision to send troops to suppress the riot was made by the government."
Let's see now. The KMT was a party-state. There was no opposition party. "[T]he government" to which he refers consisted solely of the KMT, the KMT, and -- oh, yeah -- the KMT.

Good job, Chairman Ma(o)! Keep flapping your lips!
Tim also reports that Chiu Yi, one of those politicians that foreign newspapers always describe as "colorful", was given 18 months in the slammer for his part in the fake riot following the news that Chen Shui-bian had defeated the KMT once again in the 2004 Presidential Election. Jason at Wandering to Tamshui also blogged on this news that has definitely helped clear the path for Pasuya Yao, the former GIO head, to become the biggest nincompoop in Taiwan. Ni Howdy got political with its own excellent take on the Ma interview:

Watch the video and ponder:
  • When did Mayor Ma stop singing for Roxy Music?
  • The Taiwan Anti-Secession (中國反分裂法) law was not anything new, no big deal, except he had to loudly protest publicly, but still it's nothing. No! Yes! No! Yes! No times infinity!
  • Around minute 13:20 he calls twice-failed presidential candidate Lian Zhan "President Lian Zhan." Correct?
  • International space ( China's belief that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of that, I believe, is what he means) is the naughtiest issue we (Taiwan) face. Naughtiest? Oooh! Watch out China! He's gonna call a time-out and send you to your room.

The host, Stephen Sackur, never really gets hard, maybe just functionally firm, with Ma. I think that Ma's planting of his feet firmly on both sides of the fence would just further obfuscate the already confusing Taiwan issue for those who do not actively follow it. If you are one of the aforementioned, watch the video and let me know if it helped you understand the issue.

Jerome Keating, a longtime Ma watcher, also took in the Ma Shuffle of one step forward, and two steps to opposite sides at the same time:

Interestingly enough, Ma had this out and he didn't choose it. The KMT had already published an ad that implied the people could choose to remain where they are, democratic and independent or they could choose unification. Ma could have said that the KMT is in full support of democracy while it also believes that the best interests of the country may (note I use the word may) lie in a future choice of unification with the PRC.

Ma did not state that democracy is a sine qua non for the KMT. He rejected all other choices. Instead he affirmed that the KMT is dedicated to working toward one goal, unification. Perhaps he had to please a certain group in the party; perhaps he will change his mind as he has in the past, but stating it in that way he is confirming that the KMT are waishengren. They are wandering waishengren longing to be united with their former home.

Why are they wandering? Ma does not seem to realize that the thinking in Taiwan is not that of benshengren; it is the thinking of democratic people that are already free and independent. This distinction may be subtle to some but it is real. When put this way, perhaps we should speak of the KMT in Taiwan not as waishengren but as waigworen.

Bourdeiu Boy wrote up a good article for an Aussie paper:

But in his European speeches, Ma has been quite clear in stating his caution regarding Taiwan’s future with China. Ma is broadly practical and conciliatory in tone, welcoming the booming trade and movement of people across the straits and proposing confidence-building measures, but he also says that it is impossible to discuss unification under China’s present political conditions. He has explicitly rejected the Hong Kong model of “One Country Two Systems” saying that a settlement process between Taiwan and China needs Chinese democracy and that any possible agreement must have the popular support of the Taiwanese people.

So despite their different styles, Ma is making just as powerful an appeal as Chen Shui-bian to democratic ideals and Taiwanese self-determination. In London in both his public statements and private comments he consistently expressed the belief that Taiwan can only have a Chinese future with a democratic mainland China which the Taiwanese themselves willingly choose.

Such rhetoric is a challenge to Australia’s political leaders, who have either explicitly or by omission been unwilling to publicly endorse the need for political reform in China and the legitimacy of self-determination for Taiwan. Statements by the foreign minister and opposition leader betray a disquieting lack of understanding of the necessity for public support among the Taiwanese for a successful cross-straits agreement and for the achievement of long-term regional security. The endorsement by Labor’s foreign affairs spokesman of the One Country Two Systems scheme puts him out of step with even the Chinese government, which has notably dropped mention of it with respect to Taiwan over the last year and a half.

At Mayor Ma’s major public appearance in London he was mobbed like a pop star and significantly the majority of those wanting to hear him were young mainland Chinese students. From their sentiments, if Ma was running for president of the People’s Republic of China, he would be a shoo-in.

I think BB is too kind by half to Ma.My own take on the Ma Ying-jeou interview on BBC: A tissue of lies?

All in all, although Ma looked terrible at times, he did manage to hold his own in a couple of places. He was able to conduct the interview successfully in English, present the KMT line and stay on-message throughout, and get a few lies past the interviewer without being called on them. It is doubtful that locals will recognize the lies he told; instead, they will note with approval that he is good-looking and speaks English well, and appeared on the BBC like any serious politician. I think that despite the preparation of the interviewer, who knew his stuff, Ma came away looking pretty good. I wouldn't rate this a great victory for Chairman Ma of the KMT, but it was, all in all, a qualified success.

Jason at Wandering to Tamshui had by far the funniest commentary on the Ma Shuffle:

Ma clenches his mouth and grinds his teeth in annoyance at a question: 1 shot

Ma refers to China as "the Mainland": 1 shot

Ma lamely attempts to explain away the Chinese missile threat: 1 shot

Ma dismisses the interviewer's perfectly good question about his varying positions on unification because he "doesn't understand Chinese and Taiwanese affairs": 2 shots and punch the wall in anger.

Ma tries to interrupt the interviewer by raising his voice and saying "No" over and over: 3 shot

Ma looks like he's holding in an enormous fart when the interviewer catches him in a contradiction about China's military threat (A good example can be seen at the 4:00 mark): 5 shots

Ma pats himself on the back for being the FIRST government leader to oppose the Anti-Secession law: 1 shot and a lozenge to get that taste of horseshit out of your mouth

Ma lamely denies that the KMT's position is the same as China's by merely saying "we're opposed to the Anti-Secession law": 5 Shots

Ma declares that the majority of Taiwanese support any method of attaining peace with China: 2 shots (1 at the 13:50 mark and another one immediately after the first one shoots out of your nose when you hear him say it.)

Ma takes a veiled swipe at James Soong by declaring "Lien Chan was the only opposition leader who wouldn't sell out Taiwan": get on your knees with tears in your eyes and drink 2 shots.

Ma says the Chinese mistook Lien during his trip as "a person in power": 1 shot as you say to yourself "Yeah, Lien made the same mistake himself"

Ma displays his trademark false modesty when asked if he'll be the presidential nominee in '08: 1 shot

The host throws Ma under the bus by enumerating all of China's misdeeds, and then asking "are you telling me that Beijing is the kind of government you can do business with?" Guzzle what you're drinking, flatten the can against your forehead and proceed directly to primal scream therapy.

One small piece of news this week was the announcement that Taiwan might eliminate yet another vestige of the ROC regime, the ridiculous ROC year system. While rest of you have a toe in the 21st century, here in the ROC we're only in 95, Domitian is Emperor, the sundial is high tech, and Flavius Josephus has just published the Greek version of his history of the backwater province of Judea. David on Formosa has a good review of the issues and links to other blogs:

Pinyin News and Michael Turton both blogged on Premier Su's recent remarks that Taiwan may consider abandoning the ROC calendar and use only the Gregorian calendar. The story was reported in the Taipei Times and China Post yesterday.

Both blogs comment on the differences between the reports in the two papers. The Taipei Times is known for favouring the DPP and Taiwan independence while the China Post staunchly backs the KMT and "reunification". Mark of Pinyin News has some less than favourable comments about the China Post on Michael Turton's blog.

I recommend that people go through an issue of the China Post to see for themselves what is original to that paper. (Let's not even bother to wonder which, if any, ideas there are original.)

So, get a copy of the China Post. Cross out everything by "China Post staff." Then cross out all the articles by AP, Reuters, CNA, DPA, Agence France-Presse, and the other news agencies. Then cross out all the ad copy that's printed to resemble stories. Then cross out all the other ads.

Then, if you like, see more of what a newspaper it is by crossing out all the remaining pieces that are not actually news but simply puff pieces on restaurants or celebrities.

Quite likely all that will be left are the editorials.

David adds:

It seems that one of the greatest obstacles to better government in Taiwan is the polarisation of politics into pro-reunification and pro-independence camps. The issue of romanisation and the use of Hanyu Pinyin has also failed to get the consideration that it deserves as a result of this. These issues should, in a rational world, not be political. Alas, it is not the case in Taiwan.

Pinyin News also comments on the issue. My own report on the slanted media presentations is at One Story, two points of view.Wandering to Tamshui has an extensive set of comments:

Mucking around with calendar systems has traditionally been the provenance of empires (as in the case of Japan), or dictatorships (like North Korea's juche calendar). Taiwan has managed to move past both, so why continue to insist on using a system that at best reminds one of a bygone era?

Trashing the min guo system would only be a start. If the DPP does manage to get rid of this system, there will undoubtedly be no shortage of celebratory self-fellation among the rank-and-file, but they'd be wrong to think the move will suddenly make the country a better place to live. Premier Su's remarks about the government's fumbling steps toward "internationalization" inadvertently sum the problem up best:
Su said that updating calendar and national language conventions are important aspects of internationalization. This was why the official right-to-left writing system was changed to left-to-right, he said.
Internationalization. Yes... because so many Chinese-reading foreigners in Taiwan just couldn't get over having to read right-to-left. How about starting by adopting a pinyin system that the rest of the world recognizes so the majority of foreigners in Taiwan who don't read Chinese have a prayer of getting around without a GPS receiver? Would that really be such a bad thing?

Not in our lifetimes, I'm afraid.

Kerim Friedman settles into his new post at Donghwa University:

My Chinese name is Fu Ke-en (傅可恩). My efforts to get people to call me Ke-en generally fail. Generally, I end up getting called either “Mr. Fu” (傅先生)or "teacher Fu” (傅老師). The best I can do now that I am a college professor is to insist on the less formal “teacher” as opposed to “professor” (教授). So, that is how I normally introduce myself: “teacher fu.”

Today, when a colleague introduced me to the owner of her favorite bubble tea stand, the owner asked me how she should address me. I replied, as usual, “teacher Fu” (傅老師). To which she replied: “Oh, Professor Fu. Too bad, you’ll never become a full professor!” The joke being that “Professor Fu” sounds exactly like the term for “associate professor” (副教授). That’s what you get for ordering bubble tea near a university!

Kerim mentions that the level of paperwork is ridiculous and that he had to set up a forwarding account to handle all the mails the university sends around. Although I've been begging my department for four years to reduce the flow of email or at least set up two lists, so that department and university business can be let through and the garbage announcements be shunted into the ether, I'm unhappy to report no progress so far.

David at jujuflop blogs on constitutional change in Taiwan, a desperate need:

I am a big fan of Chen Shui-bian’s plans for constitutional change - the fact that noone can give a straight answer as to whether Taiwan is a presidential or parliamentary system, the constant battles between the legislature and executive over who has the power to do anything, and the whole “how many branches of government does a country really need?” question all point to the need for a new (or updated) constitution.

the leaky pen had a couple of great posts this week on 2-28 responsibility this week. First he notes that Chiang's Grandson is Suing Authors of 2-28 Report:

Three authors of the 2-28 report I blogged on last week, all of them respected academics, are being sued by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's grandson, John Chiang. According to the China Times (which we don't ordinarily read because of its lies), John Chiang wants an apology and NT$5 billion for the slander of his ancestor. Three authors, needless to say, did not apologize for accusing the Eternal Leader (Chiang) of being responsible for the 2-28 Massacre:
"Huang Chien-chang, [a] member of the Academia Sinica, said the special report is "totally wrong" in attributing the guilt to Chiang Kai-shek. [...] As the head of state, Chiang had no alternative but to send the troops to drive out Hsieh Hsueh-hung and her armed supporters from Taichung and relieve a small garrison at the Chiayi airport besieged by an overwhelming mob," said Huang.
Note that the big gun from Academia Sinica, Huang (whose specialty is Chinese), does not dispute that Chiang Kai-shek ordered the invasion and crackdown. Instead, he says the attack was aimed at "Hsieh's armed supporters"--i.e., the Taiwanese Communist Party led by the female revolutionary Hsieh Hsueh Hong, based in Taichung. Actually, Hsieh's fledgling group of Marxists was but one element of the vast anti-KMT uprising that took place on 2-28. Indeed, the 3-4000 Taiwanese that Chen Yi executed by the end of March, 1947, almost certainly outweighed the numbers of the group led by Hsieh, and the overall number of victims--at least 30,000 according to the report--were definitely not all "commies."

For those who do not know, the revolutionary Hsieh led a rag-tag army that was eventually defeated. She escaped back to China, where the grateful Communist party executed her for supporting Taiwan independence about a decade later. tlp also blogged previously on this report, concluding:

There were no Nueremberg trials of KMT generals, not even public tribunals or open convictions for wrong-doing, as there were after S. Korea's fascist president, General Chun Doo-Hwan, was removed from power. It's time for a just reckoning, I say, and an end to the silence about the Chinese Nationalist Party's (Kuomintang) guilt in killing over 10,000 innocent Taiwanese citizens.

The Gentle Rant blogged on the shooting death of an innocent bystander in a police shoot-out last week:

The suspect, Chen, had a knife, not a gun. The girl and her mother heard two shots fired and the girl goes out on the balcony to see what's going on, and gets hit by what would be the third, not first, out of twenty four bullets fired, eight of which ended up in crazy Mr Chen. If there was a warning shot, it was likely what drew her out onto the balcony in the first place. Doesn't it seem more plausible that she was hit by one of the 23 other shots that was fired?

Why did it take twenty four shots to take down a knife wielding old man? Why do the Taiwanese police feel the need to completely unload their weapons into suspects. It's like they feel that the magazine is a single serving.

A sad incident. The Chinese papers reported that the police are not allowed to shoot for the body, but had to shoot at the hands and feet, which accounts for the poor marksmanship. Additionally, they reported that the mother had initially claimed the daughter was in the living room, not on the balcony. Apparently Mom wanted a few more dollars from the police department. You can hardly blame her, with compensation here so low.

Pinyin News blogs on a perennial problem of the The Beautiful Isle: Taiwan has way too many Romanization systems.

Groups favoring the promotion of Taiwanese (also called Hokkien, Hoklo, Minnan, and all sorts of other names) are urging Taiwan’s Ministry of Education to come to a consensus on what phonetic system should be used to teach it, according to an article in the Taipei Times.

The article, however, is a bit confused in its facts, so I’m presenting it for what it’s worth and hoping commenters here can help set matters straight. Certainly, though, the variety of systems — and for some of these I use the word loosely — being used in textbooks is a hindrance to effective teaching of the language.

Some might be surprised to know that Tongyong Pinyin is not Taiwan’s official romanization system for Taiwanese, though its schemes were approved for Mandarin and Hakka. I tend to think of Tongyong for Mandarin as more of a nationalist marketing scheme than a romanization. I know there are more than a few people who hold the same view of Tongyong for Taiwanese.

As long as I’m on the subject, I’d like to remind people that, despite the misinformation that has been spread by some of its supporters, Tongyong is not one system that covers all the languages of Taiwan.

See the article PN cites. One comment noted that this is kind of scary -- the government might be tempted to come up with yet another Romanization system.

The Taipei Kid was one of many bloggers across the world blogosphere who thought it was absolutely comic that President Chen compared the US-Taiwan relationship to Brokeback Mountain:

President Chen somehow likened Taiwan and U.S. relations to the characters in Brokeback Mountain at the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei's annual Hsieh Nian Fan dinner last night. The banquet is held annually by the American business community to thank Taiwan.

Edit: It gets even better: According to the Taipei Times, "(Am Cham president Tom) Johnson said that Chen's Brokeback Mountain analogy demonstrates the value of cooperation."

Maybe Chen was simply intimating Taiwan's ultimate fate -- death in the end.

The Lost Spaceman blogs on the problem of students who can't stay awake.

The average thirteen year old requires eight and a half hours of sleep every night in order to function normally. The average student in Taiwan (if my students are a glimpse into the average) seems to be about five to six hours per night. Due to the pressure placed on them by parents and teachers they are forced to attend classes as late as ten o'clock on weeknight before even thinking about tackling their homework and the studying required for their daily tests. They often yawn in class, drift off to sleep or else they simply cannot concentrate on my lessons and stared into space with a glazed over look that I used to get when I used to wake up for work (back in the day).

I can't even begin to imagine the biological damage done to someone who is still growing to be deprived of so much sleep for such a long time. I can't even function if I don't get at least six hours in a night, and I'm thirty. If Iris is any indication, Taiwanese spend the rest of their lives catching up on sleep.

I often ask my students do things, like think for themselves and be creative, but it's too complicated for an exhausted mind to understand. They simply can't do it. If I ask: "write a paragraph about your hobby," They will all ask me: "What is my hobby?" or "I don't have any hobbies." If I, stupidly, retort, "what do you do in your free time?" They universally say: "Sleep." Of course. Assignments have to be as simple as painting by numbers if you want them done with any semblance of pride. As for creativity, forget about it. Independent Studay? About as foreign as Martian glue.

Perhaps Taiwanese students could take a lesson from Julio Franco. He's 47 years old and just signed a two year 2.2 million dollar contract to play for the Mets. He attributes his longevity to going to bed as early as 8 p.m. Think of all the episodes of Friends this guy missed! But at least he has a hobby.

I read last year that adolescents have erratic biological clocks and have trouble sleeping at the proper times. Apparently the clock does not settle down until one has reached the early 20s. Most of the kids in my daughter's class are asleep all morning.

This week ESWN, the popular China blog, and I got in a spat over his unmitigated contempt for Taiwan and its democracy, and his use of a foreign-owned tabloid rag to "represent democracy in Taiwan." I fired the first shot with this post on ESWN, Apple Daily, and Taiwan when ESWN first made the claim that Apple Daily represents Taiwan democracy......

At first glance this makes a kind of sense – we can study the democratic development of Taiwan by studying its best selling newspaper, which happens to be a sensationalist rag filled with lies (speaking of lies, Roland, did you correct that lying story about macking in Taiwan that you got from Apple Daily yet, that you thought was true? Didn’t think so). It is only when you start thinking about Taiwan's democratic development, which I have spent most of my adult life observing, that you realize how stupid this idea is. ESWN is just engaging in another subtle slam of Taiwan. Some people just can't abide our democracy here, it seems.

Just stop and think about what democratic development means for Taiwan. The changes here that I have seen in the last 15 years have been profound. On a hike on the East Coast last year I saw locals picking up their trash after they had eaten. The trail itself was cared for by a volunteer historical organization. Both of those are results of the rising civic culture and democracy in Taiwan -- in fact, a little noticed but tremendous advance due to the arrival of democracy was the shortening of the work week from six days to five, which means that people now have a day off to engage in activities like hiking, blogging, and political rallies. One could go on all day listing representative changes that range from better government service, better care for the environment, clean elections, privatization of bloated government firms, unrestricted travel abroad, and above all, the free speech that Apple Daily exploits. Any of these things could be chosen to represent Taiwan's democratization, although no one thing could (a point neglected by ESWN). It is also worth mentioning that this sensationalization of the news is not a Taiwan development -- it was introduced from elsewhere. So when you choose a foreign tabloid that sensationalizes the news to "represent" Taiwan's democratic development, what are you really trying to do? I submit the question answers itself

He backed it up with a standard authoritarian article which I went on and dismantled. This triggered a series of defenses of his positions that amounted to "I'm popular so shut up."

The Legal Alien had a post on a Korean comfort woman who was sent to Taiwan:

"There was a 'comfort station' in Taiwan where I then received pilots who belonged to the kamikaze, a special suicide brigade."

One of Japanese kamikaze pilots, who repeatedly raped her in Taiwan, told Ms. Lee that she was his first love.

"That Japanese soldier gave me a Japanese nick-name, 'Toshiko'. And the kamikaze pilot taught me a song. He made up a song, because he was afraid he would die when he finally had to fly.

"It's in Japanese," Ms. Lee said, and then she softly sang the lilting tune which she never forgot.

A little-known rite of passage for foreigners in Taiwan is the encounter with the insane Mormon missionary (mine here). Ed and Karen blog on theirs:

The blonde headed Mormon caught up with me again at the next light. I have to admit, I was starting to like this guy. He was red-faced and winded by our third meeting and was catching his breath while trying to convert me. I heard a little more about John and the Indians before I was off again. Yet another red light and the little fella had cought me again. This time he pulled up even more out of breath and barely able to speak. It was all I could stand, I asked him if there was some kind of spiritual commission that he gained from these sorts of things, as he was definitely working his ass off. If he had of been selling stereos instead of eternal salvation I probably would have bought two! I told him to save his breath and his energy, as he was not going to convert me to Mormonism or whatever they call it. I did tell him I liked his gumption, and out of all the Mormons I had ever spoken to he was my favorite. I assured him he did a good job, and if there was ever a chance of converting me, he had the first crack at it. I bid him goodbye and at the next red light I ran it, just to be safe. I don’t think they are allowed to run red lights.

One of my students, the very beautiful and intelligent Grace, has a blog that she posts to quite regularly, with lots of pictures.

Red envelopes are very important for children in Chinese New Year. I always look forward to receiving a lot of red envelopes. However, the older I grow, the fewer red envelopes I receive. Because I am twenty-one years old now. Oh! No!This year I receive five red envelopes. First is from my grandmother who is eighty-nine years old. May she can live a hundred years! Second is from my father. Its total is usually the highest of all red envelopes I received. Third is from my mother. Forth is from my another grandmother. The last one is from my father's friend. I always hope that I am just twelve years old when the New Year comes. Ha ha ha!!! I think maybe next year will be my last chance to receive red envelopes. > <"

I started the kids on blogging in a business writing class, mostly to enable them to get over their fear of using computers for something other than chatting and playing online games. Out of my 60 kids in last year's class, only one had any experience building on the web.

The New Hampshire Bushman has a fantastic post on using GPS to get around in Taiwan, with images and commentary.

I've always been the kind of person to modify my gear to suit my needs. This is especially true of computers and electronic gear. I do this with pretty much everything I own. My TV audio has a custom-equalized setting that I created. My Nikon digital camera has a completely custom program. All my ham gear was modded to death. My bicycle is customized. So, naturally nothing about the operation of my GPS is stock. This model GPS is very highly customizable, enabling the user to not only select what screens of information are available, but to even select the information displayed in virtually every data field per screen. Since I have been using GPS units since 1994, and have extensive experience using Garmin units, I know exactly what I want displayed and under what conditions. I will attempt to show you a little about how this model functions and how I have the difference screens and data files set up in mine. Pressing a button on the GPS scrolls through all the pages, in sequence.

Navigation among the pages and menus is accomplished by a 5-way joystick, very similar to the control you find on many mobile phones. You move up/down, left/right, and push down on the button to select.

The most prominent aspect of this GPS is its ability to display a moving map of your location. In addition, the GPS is capable of routing a path between points and draw the route on the map for you. It also alerts the use to upcoming turns and names streets.
You can always tell the field men. They don't have devices, machines, or even equipment. No, they have gear.

REVOLTING: The Taipei Kid found this uncute pic in the Taipei Times of kids dressed as "Africans" -- when will they learn?

SHORTS: Who is Majorie Bly? Jonathan Benda tells us who Marjorie Bly of Penghu is. Doubting to Shuo reviews the venerable Far East Chinese-English Dictionary. Mind of Mike makes two commercials for Jordan Commercial and Berlitz Germany. Taiwanonymous discovers some toilet humor in a bathroom in Neiwan. A Raven Crows runs down the top party places in Taipei. Great photos from a bike club outing in Taiwan here and here. Peking Duck has a great tradition of threads for discussion, and now they've opened a new forum on all things Chinese, the Duck Pond. Dive in! Don't miss the podcasting at Getting a Leg Up, The Bluesman's Killing Floor, Misadventures in Taiwan, Ugly Expat, The Formosa Diaries, and What's Up in Taiwan. As always, great photos at 35togo, Unplugged, the forgetful's photo gallery, the forgetful's photo gallery, amateur commune, andres, Clarke vs Matt, Cat Piano, T_C at Fotolog, battphotos, Fotologging Taiwan, Photoactionboy, leftmind, MaMaHuHu, Everything Visible is Empty, Roger in Taiwan, Love Songs (Are for Losers), Photoblogging Taiwan, Eight Diagrams, Tagging Taichung, Finding the Rabbit, and The New Hampshire Bushman in Taiwan and The World. Also, Waiguoren Project wants your stories.


Nikki in Taiwan
Chocolate Pussy
Report from Taipei
Adventures in Taipei
there is no 'i' in buddhism
Me -- One of A Kind
meet meh here

PERSONAL NOTE: For those of you who wonder, it took me two hours and 50 minutes to compile this round-up.

Weekend Doings

Another relaxing weekend, the last one for several months, I anticipate.

Thursday I ran into old students Dennis (my left) and Eric (my right) on campus. I hadn't seen Eric in two years. Like so many Taiwanese Eric is off to China to work, managing some kind of supply company, and Dennis works for a biotech firm. It's always wonderful to see old students, and watch them grow into friends.

Friday did another round of Axis and Allies. Did pretty well, but who can defeat the awesome Karl Smith?

Saturday and Sunday I stayed home to do editing and translation work. I'm trying to save money because my parents are visiting this summer. Nevertheless, I did get a chance to do some hiking in Ta-ken Scenic Area.

It looks like I really don't need more macro....

I treasure all my good shots of butterflies, since they are so difficult to get.

Originally I had hoped to get some shots of Taichung for a panorama, but despite the rain in the morning the city was smogged in as usual.

My daughter snapped this pic of me

What is life without spider pics?

Resting by the trailside.

The sign at the foot of the trail says not to release wild animals here! Although domestic animals may be dropped off as you please. In fact, our neighborhood, with the large scenic area right behind and numerous large yards, is where many people dump animals they don't want. No doubt the local government was trying to put a stop to that.

We bought some pineapple at the bottom of the trail.

Mother and daughter look forward to some sweet juicy pineapple.

Swenson's Meet Up, Sat Mar 4

Jerome Keating passed around The Word today:


To all,

We will have our regular monthly meeting this Saturday March 4th at 9:30 am at the same place as last month; Swensen's #81 Keelung Rd. Sec. 2, Taipei.

Phone in case you need extra directions 02--2735-3696

I hope to provide you all with a sheet of interesting books from members (those that have not informed me of their choices, do so)

In addition to general discussions etc. this time bring some opinions on the National Unification Council Guidelines etc.

Should be lively.



That Swensons is on Keelung Rd south of Taipei 101 and the Exhibition Hall. There is a McDee's right nearby, and a long and unusual pedestrian bridge crosses Keelung Rd right there.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

One Story, two points of view

The DPP government has recently floated the eminently sensible (at least to us Big Noses) idea of eliminating the ROC calendar and using the Gregorian system common in the rest of the world. The pro-Green Taipei Times simply reports the article in a deceptively neutral tone:

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday told lawmakers that the government will consider dropping the nation's Republican (minguo, 民國) calendar and make the Gregorian calendar the only official time system.

"I agree with the proposal and I think it's a practical idea," Su said in the legislature yesterday in response to questions from lawmakers.

He added that he would do his best to promote a changeover to the Gregorian system.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺), who proposed the change, said that using both the Republican and Gregorian calendars could be confusing, especially to foreigners.

If the proposal is adopted, the government would carefully plan how to implement the Gregorian calendar and amend laws and regulations, Su told Lin.

The Republic of China's Republican calendar was introduced in 1912, when the provisional legislature authorized a proposal to use the Republican and Gregorian calendars in tandem.

The Republican calendar has been blamed for creating confusion, especially in the case of expiry dates printed on perishable exports.

Su said that updating calendar and national language conventions are important aspects of internationalization. This was why the official right-to-left writing system was changed to left-to-right, he said.
The Taipei Times achieves the appearance of nuetrality by simple suppressing any negative commentary from the pro-China side. At the same time, the anti-Green, pro-Blue China Post runs an intensely anti-DPP article:

The current years marks the 95th year of the ROC because the republic was established in 1991 after ROC Founding Father Sun Yat-sen overthrew the decaying imperial Qing Dynasty.

The change to eradicate the "ROC system" would conform with the independence-leaning DPP's policy of deleting the ROC national name. But the move will also conforms exactly with the system used by the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the Chinese mainland.

Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou commented that there is no conflict or inconvenience to use the dual system as now. He cited the example of Japan which also use both the Western system and the system based on the ascension of a new Japanese emperor.

Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung of the opposition People First Party (PFP) questioned Su if it is appropriate for the DPP administration to waste time one such an ideological issue when people in the country are faced with tremendous difficulties and frustrations in their daily life, including the surging suicide rate.

Su answered that many matters can only be implemented via the revisions of the laws in the nation.

Lee Hung-chun, another PFP legislator, pointed out that the issue signaled the DPP's intention of taking another step toward Taiwan independence and has nothing to do with conforming to the international practice.

He said that all the people in Taiwan now are most concerned if they can make enough money to bring food for their families. Nobody cares whether the banknotes or coins are inscribed with the ROC year or the Christian year, he added.

Two Blue legislators are cited, but few if any positive views are given. I especially like the way the article smears the DPP by noting the "fact" that the calendar is the same as that used in Communist China (but someone forgot to mention that it is also used in North America and Europe). The DPP is just like those Communists! And the hyperbole is numbing:

If the DPP had its way, another commentator said that this could be an even worse disaster to be triggered by the DPP administration after it scrapped the partially completed new nuclear power plant and then was forced to revive the project.

Yet another reason to read the Taipei Times -- the English editor at the China Post seems to have gone on vacation.

New Semester, Old Students

"Whoever is a teacher through and through takes all things seriously only in relation to his students — even himself." -- Nietzsche

Obervations: The new semester has started here. I'm teaching 18 hours this semester, partly as the result of being the sucker they go to in emergencies, and partly to save money for my parents' visit this summer. At the moment I have 4 writing classes, 1st and second year English writing, first-year Listening, the introductory economics course, a research methods course, and the course I got stuck with last week, tourism english.

Having 18 hours is bad enough, but recently I've developed a medical condition that has forced me to curb my consumption of alcohol and caffeine. Not only are these the two substances that make expat life bearable, this means I have to do all 18 of those hours without any caffeine in my veins. Pity me! At the end of the day I drag my body home as though it were a corpse someone had draped over my bones.

Complaints: Of all the courses I teach I detest Listening the most. Any teaching in English would involve listening, so it doesn't make any sense to have a class in what they are bound to do anyway. Hence I try to take the two hours a week and teach something that everyone will enjoy and find useful, using video media as the aural experience. Usually I transform it into a myth and lit course through movies. I introduce the kids to Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, make them read the Odyssey and the Gospel of Luke, and then we watch movies that are overlain with mythic allegory like A Fistful of Dollars, The Truman Show, and The Wizard of Oz. I finish with The Abyss, which is full of somewhat more complex images of rebirth and resurrection, and The Ice Storm, which is a difficult and beautiful movie, very moving. We go over these shot by shot, frame by frame, all in English. The kids are at that age where they love to discover the world of myth and imagery, which usually no one has shown them, and I think being able to make connections between apparently unrelated things, and being able to see below the surfaces of things, are two key critical thinking skills that you can teach through literature.

The basic problem with English is that the Applied Foreign Language model is fundamentally unsound. But more on that in another post.

Encounters: Poignant joy in seeing my students again, for this is the last semester for my advisees, whom I have been with for four years and have come to love very deeply. Standing in the corner of the elevator as Jasmine, who has been my student and self-appointed ego deflator since day one, and is now a grad student, comes in with a herd of students and prods me in my ample stomach: "Look, there are two people standing in this corner." Swapping jokes over lunch with Grace, Emily, Sara, and Linda. Learning Taiwanese from Angela and Tina. Exchanging hugs with Aaron. Getting punched in the arm by P. after poking fun at her strange haircut. Seeing Lily back after a two-year hiatus from school. Worrying about Frank's bloodshot eyes. Finally getting a chance to sit down and talk to M. Planning a BBQ at my house for my advisees with Marco. Meeting my new adult writing students, eager as puppies. Wondering whether X's loss of 15 kilos is a sign of successful dieting or something deeper. Wondering whether H.'s addition of 15 kilos is a sign of poor diet and exercise or something deeper. Pondering the mystery of L., who audited my Composition class and came for every session a year ago, but signed up for my Business Writing class last semester and never came. Chatting abut movies with J, a movie buff like me. Admiring all the new haircuts. Cudgeling the brain for the name of that girl sitting next to Peggy. Arguing about God with J.

That last was one of the most unusual encounters I've had. As an out atheist I never have any trouble here, since probably the majority of students are not religious at all, and those that are belong to eastern religions that politely tolerate other views, instead of rushing to stamp them out. Christians are rare in Taiwan, thank God.

Last semester I had a student, J, an attractive young woman with a ready smile, who always did her homework, and did it right. Toward the end of the semester I had the kids write a 5 paragraph essay on why the DPP lost the Dec 3 elections. She responded that she was a Jehovah's Witness, and couldn't write an essay on politics. What could I do but give her some other work instead? But inside I seethed at the thought of another beautiful mind lost to that sick authoritarian cult. She caught my anger, but naturally thought it was directed at her, instead of on her behalf. I apologized and explained myself. My "explanation" was of course intended, and received, as a challenge.

The other day I had J. in class for the new semester. When I sent the kids home she whipped out a JW tract. Apparently she had been thinking about what I said for six weeks over vacation. Challenge accepted!

We talked, J. and I. And thus began the new semester.

Sinosplice Character Creations

Sinosplice, an excellent China blog, has a funny post on foreigner-invented Chinese characters. Some knowledge of Chinese required.

Ma Ying-jeou interview on BBC: A tissue of lies?

Thanks to cleverClaire, we now have a transcript of the Ma Ying-jeou BBC "Hardtalk" interview the other day (part one, part two, part three).

The interview begins with Ma conceding that China is a threat to Taiwan. The discussion then moves to the KMT's refusal to support the arms purchase. Ma defends the KMT with his first lie:

Ma: But the anti-missile, uh, missile plan was vetoed by a referendum the president pushed in March two years ago. You know it's a, he didn't, if he really want it, he shouldn't have put it in a referendum. But it was vetoed.
Totally untrue, of course. The referendum was overwhelmingly supported, but failed to gain enough votes to be valid. It wasn't "vetoed." Ma then claims that the public did not support the arms bill.

And you have to understand that the original price tag was 18 billion US dollars, and when the news came out, those people, according to the opinion polls, were opposed to it.

Polls vary. It would be truer to say that the public was split on the issue. But the public is not split on the issue of purchasing anti-missile missiles. It wants to. It's just that the KMT would rather have Chinese missiles be unopposed than do something that might benefit Taiwan and the DPP. But I digress...

Kudos to the host for this wonderful comment:

Host: Joseph Wu, the chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei, he said that your party has blocked the expansion of the defense budget on 40 separate occasions.

Not many westerners have been willing to say that out loud. Forty times! Next comes the second lie:

Host: But what you have also done is take up valuable time. We began this interview with you saying, absolutely yes, Taiwan faces a serious threat from China. You don't have time to play with.

Ma: Now actually the arms purchase program was approved by President Bush in April 2001. But the DPP government didn't make any action until 2004. They delayed the process for three years.

This is a lie that Ma has uttered before and the Taipei Times has already published the comprehensive refutation.

However, given the lengthy bureaucratic process for submitting weapons purchase requests -- an average of 22 months -- it is unlikely that the MND could have submitted a budget request any earlier than mid-2003. In order to expedite the procurement of systems that were deemed vital to national defense, the president ordered the MND in July 2003 to submit a special request for the three weapons systems included in the budget.

As it was not until 2003 that a special budget was first proposed, it is not clear what Lien is referring to when he cites "a figure of NT$280 billion" offered in 2002.

Finally, a former senior Pentagon official said that Taiwan "did not decide to pursue the PAC-3 until spring of 2003, after discussions with senior US officials," while it was impossible for the Taiwanese navy to submit a budget request for submarines until 2003, as the US navy did not even release its independent cost estimate for the subs until December 2002.

Lien then claims in his letter that "the `explanations' of the [MND] have been no more than a few sporadic brief pages and slides."

Yet according to media reports and the MND, Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) has personally met with every legislator in the Legislative Yuan, and has also briefed each legislative caucus on the issue at least once.

The MND was also responsible for printing brochures and charts regarding the special arms budget, which were distributed to the public, and has even erected billboards outside of military facilities explaining its position on the special arms budget.

Despite this high-profile offensive by the MND, the KMT legislative caucus has successfully blocked the special budget 26 times since it was first submitted. Each time, the obstruction occurred in the Procedure Committee, not the Defense Committee, which would normally be responsible for carrying out a debate about the bill's pros and cons.

In other words, the bureaucracy on both sides, cranking normally, takes a couple of years to process the entire budget request -- the US did not even provide a price for the subs until Dec of 2002, after which the Taiwan side had to process the arms purchase request, a process taking nearly two years. Mayor Ma is lying.

The KMT rationale for the purchases keeps shifting. The high price has always been an issue, but the KMT has also claimed that a pro-independence party can't be trusted with the weapons. This is all despite the fact that all the weapons in the package were originally requested by the KMT government prior to the DPP taking power. It is basically redundant to use the words "KMT" and "hypocrisy" in the same sentence.

The interviewer went after Ma:

Host: So you are not oppose to, when you say, yes we blocked the measures of the proposals for spending the military budgets 45 times, you don't regard that as a delay?

Ma: No, because we want to make sure that all the items we are going to purchase are really suitable for Taiwan defense. We should not spend an, wasted any money on arms that will not help us defend ourselves.

Host: What if you end up saying that on the day China invades?

Ma: Well, if you said anything the government propose should be accepted by the opposition party, that's not democracy. The opposition party has a responsibility to make sure that no money is wasted on a reasonable arms purchase.

...but I think Ma had a good comeback. It's always a delight to hear a KMT spokesman talking about democracy. Must make the White Terror victims turn over in their graves.

Next the interviewer attempts to pin the slippery Chairman Ma down:

Host: In the spring of 2005, China passed an anti-session law, which clear commits China to using, I quote, "non-peaceful means"...[Ma: That's right.] in any response to a Taiwanese declaration of independence. Now, do you regard China's passing of that anti-session law as a fundamental break with the status quo that has existed for decades across the strait of Taiwan?

Ma: I was the first one among Taiwan's political figures to come out to oppose that. Actually I start opposing that as early as December of 2004. I said, this move is entirely unnecessary and unwise. It will definitely provoke strong reactions of Taiwan and it's why when it was passed on 14th March 2005, I together with another 12 local government leaders called a press conference and oppose that openly. I think they have misunderstood Taiwan's public opinions. Actually not the majority of Taiwanese people support de jure independence. The majority supports maintaining the status quo.

Note how Ma is on-message and evasive. He doesn't directly answer the question -- he just "opposed" the Anti-Succession law. In a skillful use of time, he gets to the third of his lies, that the Taiwan public doesn't favor de jure independence, when of course they would, if China didn't point missiles at them. Ma deftly uses this question to segue to that last comment, claiming that the Taiwan public doesn't support de jure independence.

Observe also how cleverly worded that is -- by using the term "de jure" Ma gets the listener to miss the fact that he has just admitted that the Taiwan public supports independence: because that's what the current status quo is -- it is de facto independence. Ma is working to create a rhetorical space in which the KMT can claim to support the status quo without supporting independence, and thus paint the DPP as warmongers supporting a minority position. Rather than move the KMT to the middle, Ma is attempting to move the middle over to the KMT. Reconfiguring the pro-independence center is a clever rhetorical move, and I hope the DPP comes up with a strong counter.

Next, Ma gets all evasive as the interviewer attempts to pin him down:

Host: Let me stop you there, if I may, just for a moment. Can I take you for what you have just said, in your strong opposition to what Beijing did, you therefore supports President Chen, when he said, that Beijing has broken the status quo, and we in Taiwan, must therefore take certain political measures.

Ma: Well, I think the status quo, I think maybe different sides have different expectaions, or what constitutes status quo ...

Both sides have different ideas of what constitutes the status quo! Ma simply cannot say that China has violated the status quo with the Anti-Succession law. So he has to squirm his way out. But the interviewer won't let him get away with this:

Host: Now President Chen wants to get rid of, dissolve, unification council or unification guidelines, do you?

Ma: Uh, actually, when he was inaugrated in 2001, he said that he will not do that because he believes, this is, what constitutes status quo.

Host: Yes. The point is China has broken the status quo.

?Ma: Well, but uh, he did say that again in 2004. And that pledge was not only made to the people of Taiwan, but to the rest of the world as well.

Host: But precisely comes back to my point. Would you agree that the anti-session law passed by Beijing has changed everything?

Ma: Oh actually, I don't think that is anything new. Because the PRC has always said that it wants to use force against Taiwan, if Taiwan goes into independence. They only put that into a form of law. This is what we oppose because, I don't think the PRC is that law-abiding to a point that they need a piece of law to get the authorization to use force against Taiwan.

The interviewer understands the issue perfectly. It is Ma who has to dance around in an attempt to avoid looking like the complete hypocrite he is. The interviewer then nails him:

Host: I'm a little bit uncomfortable because your position basically is Beijing's position.

Ma: No. We oppose anti-session law, as I said very clear and I will ....

Host: ... anti-session law isn't a big deal because it simply formalized what we already knew with Beijing's position. What you really don't like is President Chen's reaction.

Ma: That is why I said it's unnecessary and unwise to do that. That when status quo has been in place for such a long time, there is no need for Beijing to do that. Again, the mainland affairs council, the mainland affairs uh, the guidelines have been there for 15 years. There is no point to change that. So that's why both sides have changed the status quo to some extent. That is why we are opposed to that.

So in the end Ma does admit that "both sides have changed the status quo to some extent." First he evades, then he denies, then in the end his compelled to admit that the truth. Kudos also to the interviewer for forcing Ma into this position and for stating that the KMT serves Beijing. It is very refreshing to read an interviewer who understands that the KMT's position on Taiwan's future is irrational and indefensible, and its cooperation with Beijing is despicable.

Nevertheless, Ma remains on message, and manages to parry the interviewer again:

Host: Um. The Taiwan Daily called the visit detestable and shameful and Taipei Times wrote this in an editorial, "today the nation's sovereignty," that is Taiwan's sovereignty, "is in the hand of the people. We have the right to decide Taiwan's future. If, under such circumstances, we allow Lien Chan to unite with the communist to sell out Taiwan, our descendants will laugh at our ignorance and naivety".

Ma: I don't think Mr. Lien is selling out Taiwan. He is only the opposition leader. He doesn't have that power. Only the people in power could sell out Taiwan. So I think they actually, uh, mistook Lien Chan for somebody in power.

That is a good riposte. But his next reply ends with another lie:

.....In other words, we hope to use these mechanisms to bring peace to the Taiwan Strait, instead of an arms race or confrontation, as the Chen administration has done.

Ma is on-message, and the message is that Chen is a madman who is confrontational with China. It is hard to see how Chen could be accused of starting an arms race, with Beijing adding 100 missiles annually to the inventory of terror weapons pointing at Taiwan, and the last major arms purchases all conducted under the KMT. Moreover, the weapons requested in the package were all originally requested under the KMT. For two decades the KMT armed forces requested submarines, and for two decades the US turned them down. Yet another example of a policy that the KMT supported but then opposed when the DPP advocated it.

Ma looked especially good in this section:

Host: Let me put it this way. we know that China is suppressing freedom of speech... [Ma: yes.] ... by closing down newspapers. They don't allow, for example, BBC online to be seen inside China. We know that , according to Amnesty International, there's dozens of people still in prison as a result of the Tiananmen Square over 15, 16 years ago. We know also, that in August 2005, one journalist working in China was arrested now faces charges of spying for Taiwan. Amnesty International expressed deep concern about that. Are you telling me that China and the Chinese authorities are people that you can do business with?

Ma: Well I think Great Britain also do business with China. Could you do business with China when they do all these human rights violations?

Host: But with respect, we don't have 700 missiles pointed at our island.

Ma: Well, no matter whether they are hostile or not, they are having some human rights violation that you disagree. But Great Britain still trade with them, recognize them, but they don't recognize Taiwan.

Host: But you need to trust Beijing in the way that we do not. They pose, as you said, a great military threat to you. So my question is, are you prepared to take the word of President Hu and other Chinese leaders in direct negotiations, which is what you seem to heading towards.

Ma: Well, if we don't negotiate with them, what can we do? We just build up our arms and prepare for war with mainland China? We certainly want to fight with, to negotiate a modus vivendi, that could give Taiwan peace, and then to give our people opportunity to seek friendship and cooperation with the Chinese mainland.

Are you aware that we are now trading with mainland at the amount of 70 billion dollars a month? Do you, are you aware that 4 million residents of Taiwan went to mainland China last year? Are you aware that we have more than 70 thousand Taiwanese businessmen currently investing in mainland China, creating about, around, uh, 10 million jobs there?

Bingo, Mayor Ma. The UK's shameful handover of Hong Kong, and its continued trade and military cooperation with China, means that it is not in a position to take the moral high ground (speaking of human rights violations, how about Iraq?). If I were Mayor Ma I certainly would have taken any British spokesman to task for those things. I like the way he zings the UK for recognizing a poisonous Communist government but ignoring the democracy that is Taiwan. A strong point and one which I have made myself on occasion. Ma handled this part of the interview extremely well.

Of course, the interviewer nailed him on the rebound:

Host: Well, that, that, that is President Chen's view. But your view is somewhat different, You don't believe...

Ma: No no no no no, we are...

Host: You don't actually believe in an independent sovereign Taiwan in the future, do you? You are actually believe in One China and unification.

Ma: No no no no no. You don't understand what these terms mean because you are not very much affa.. familiar with Chinese affairs and Taiwanese affairs. We support, we support Republic of China on Taiwan, which at the moment is independent from foreign interference. We elect our own president. We elect our own parliament. We are not ruled by foreign country.

Ma cleverly evades getting pinned down by bringing up the Republic of China -- which he is compelled to think controls all of China. It's too bad the interviewer didn't have the time to nail Ma on all the contradictions involved in that. It is shameful that Ma finally evades by accusing the interviewer of not knowing what he is talking about -- like a Fundamentalist claiming that "you don't know the Bible!" For the interviewer has at last reach the core beliefs that constitute Ma's mainlander identity.

The interviewer then took one last crack at Ma:

Host: No, I understand that. But you have in the past been confusing. You said your ultimate goal is unification with mainland China but you also said it's an issue that should be settled by Taiwan's 23 million people. And then you said it's an issue that should be settle by both sides of the strait. [Ma: No no no no no.] So which is it?

Ma: Ok. What I have been saying is that, Taiwan's future should be decided by Taiwanese people. This is a consensus of all the people in Taiwan, and they are...

Host: what about people from the other side of the Taiwan Strait?

Ma: Listen to me. There are 3 options before us, independence, status quo , and unification. And at the moment, the vast majority of the people support status quo. And only about 15 to 20 percent people support either independence or unification. So at the moment I think we should maintain status quo. And we oppose any unilateral change of the status quo. But in the future, when conditions are right, if Taiwanese people have some other thought, they could still make that decision according to their free will. This 100 percent democratic.

Here it is plain: you can't on one hand argue that Taiwan is part of China, but deny that anyone in China has a right to have a say in the final disposition of Taiwan. Ultimately Ma's position is riddled with self-contradictions, because it is a belief about self-identity, something imbibed from birth and not to be questioned, not a position arrived at by consulting values that one has held as an adult, and that is comprehended in a rich way. Note again, though, that Ma attempted to divide Taiwan's "future" into three positions, annexation, status quo, and independence, as if these were three different positions -- in reality there are only two positions, annexation and independence, the status quo being a temporary state created by circumstances that could change at any moment. Bottom line: Ma cannot claim that the Taiwanese have the right to decide their own future -- and at the same time argue that Taiwan is part of China. Ma may be blind to how completely incompatible his position is with real democracy, but the rest of us aren't. Either he will have to give up the people's right to choose, or give up his belief that Taiwan is part of China. I suspect when push comes to shove the veneer of democratic values will collapse. He came of age, after all, a servant of the dictator Chiang Ching-kuo, nurtured in the bosom of the KMT party-state.

All in all, although Ma looked terrible at times, he did manage to hold his own in a couple of places. He was able to conduct the interview successfully in English, present the KMT line and stay on-message throughout, and get a few lies past the interviewer without being called on them. It is doubtful that locals will recognize the lies he told; instead, they will note with approval that he is good-looking and speaks English well, and appeared on the BBC like any serious politician. I think that despite the preparation of the interviewer, who knew his stuff, Ma came away looking pretty good. I wouldn't rate this a great victory for Chairman Ma of the KMT, but it was, all in all, a qualified success.

Ma Interview Transcript in English

Blogger cleverClaire has a rough English transcript up on her blog:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Thanks, Claire. That is extremely useful.

Pan-Blues Threaten to Recall Chen if NUC is Abolished

Taiwan News reports that the Pan-Blues are threatening to recall Chen if the President abolishes the defunct National Unification Council.

Seeking to prevent President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) from scrapping the National Unification Council and guidelines, opposition parties yesterday threatened to adjourn the Legislature indefinitely and mount a recall campaign if Chen should take steps to upset the cross-strait status quo.

The largest opposition Kuomintang said its lawmakers and People First Party allies plan to introduce a motion to condemn Chen for his proposal to abolish the Council and its guidelines that set a three-stage timetable for unification between Taiwan and China.

To demonstrate their displeasure over the matter, KMT lawmakers said they will seek to place the censure motion on the legislative agenda when the Legislature's Procedures Committee meets today.

For its part, the PFP legislative caucus demanded that Chen brief the Legislature on his plan to scrap the NUC, which has existed in name only since the transfer of power in May 2000. Chen has not appointed any NUC members or convened the council whose nominal existence has riled pro-independence groups.

Hmmm.....the furor over this useless relic of a bygone age has gotten completely out of hand. It is reaching the point where Chen will not have any face-saving way to back down, and thus will be forced to go through with it. Some deft diplomacy is needed on the part of the DPP.

Meanwhile the President begged the US to understand what was going on:

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday indirectly urged the United States to adopt a more understanding attitude on reforms needed for Taiwan's democratic deepening and to "use rational dialogue and cooperation" to overcome differences.

In the wake of reports of differences between Washington and Taipei over the president's proposal to formally abolish the long-dormant National Unification Council and its National Unification Guidelines, Chen made the remarks at the annual "Hsien Nien Fan" or year-end dinner held by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan.

The dinner, held at Taipei's Grand Formosa Regent Hotel, was attended by hundreds of Amcham members and other foreign businesspersons as well as government officials and scholars.

Ma Ying-jeou also weighed in:

Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that President Chen Shui-bian should“think twice”before making any more comments that could endanger Taiwan's safety, such as abolishing the National Unification Council and declaring the“1992 consensus”non-existent to visiting officials from the United States.