Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Household Incomes stagnant

Statistics released this month by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics (DGBAS) show why the public is angry at "graft" in the Chen Administration. The President is the object of inchoate public ire because household incomes have remained stagnant over the last decade at least, and the gap between rich and poor is widening, though it has not yet reached US or Chinese proportions.

According to the report, average annual household income in 2005 was US$33,190, which represented a 0.7-percent increase over 2004. At 58.1 percent, the majority of family earnings derived from wages, with other significant sources including transfer receipts, business activities and property incomes.

The DGBAS statistics also revealed that average disposable household income amounted to US$ 27,453 in 2005, representing a year-on-year increase of 0.4 percent. When divided into five subgroups, the data showed that the top 20 percent, with an average of US$55,123, have incomes 6.04 times greater than the US$9,141-average of the bottom 20 percent, which represents a slight increase over the equivalent 2004 figure of 6.03.

This widening gap between rich and poor is in line with economic changes in countries around the world, said DGBAS Minister Hsu Jan-yau at a press briefing. Nevertheless, Hsu claimed the figures showed that government welfare policies--such as those targeting low-income households, the elderly, farmers, the sick, and victims of accidents and emergencies--had helped reduce the gap which, otherwise, could have been as high as 7.45 fold.

With regard to annual household expenses, the average figure of US$27,270 represents a growth of 1.4 percent. Consumption costs accounted for US$21,503, while non-consumption costs, such as payments for interest, taxes, fines, donations, weddings and funerals, totaled US$5,777, year-on-year increases of 1.2 and 2.3 percent, respectively.

One need only juxtapose the two sentences:
With regard to annual household expenses, the average figure of US$27,270 represents a growth of 1.4 percent.

The DGBAS statistics also revealed that average disposable household income amounted to US$ 27,453 in 2005, representing a year-on-year increase of 0.4 percent.
Cost grow 1.4%, while income lurches up a mere 0.4%, which is probably within the margin of error for the calculations. Stagnant income + rising expenses = political turmoil, simple as that.

Taiwan to buy US F-16s?

Numerous reports have been circulating in the media in recent months that Taiwan is planning to buy F-16s from the US. Yesterday the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced that it would put a request for more aircraft in the budget:

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday that it has proposed a budget for procuring 66 F-16C/D fighter jets from the US.

Vice Minister of National Defense Kao Kuang-hsi (高廣圻), a vice admiral, told a press conference yesterday that part of the budget to purchase the fighters would be included in next year's military budget book which would be sent to the legislature at the end of this month for review.

The ministry's confirmation of the F-16C/D budget is believed to show its determination to push through its arms budget requests and to respond to a report in a US magazine that said Washington has decided not to sell the fighters to Taiwan for the time being.

The Ministry also released its report on national defense, which was obviously heavily politicized, as it claimed the biggest threat to Taiwan's security was China's missile force. The missiles are nasty, but there are too few and they are too inaccurate to be a credible threat to Taiwan's security. The real threat to Taiwan's security is China's development of a modern air force and navy..... In any case it appears that the MND wants to drum up local support for a strategic missile program aimed at China, in case foreign powers such as the US feel the urge to suppress it...

This year's report indicated that the military is establishing a "special missile force," the first time mention of such a force has been made in the annual reports.

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑), however, refused to comment when asked at the press conference whether the "special missile force" referred to strategic missiles.

"I do not want to highlight the matter," Lee said.

"Every time the development of missiles is mentioned by the media, the military comes under pressure internationally. I do not like the pressure," he said.

Washington is severely unhappy with the legislature's refusal to make progress on the arms bill, and other publications have reported that any sales of F-16s will be contingent on forward motion in that regard. I don't see any prospect of that. Thus, look for more Blue betrayal of Taiwan's defense interests. If the DPP plays this card right, they can severely impact the Blues' 'strong on security' claims in the upcoming elections.

(crossposted at Taiwan Matters)

Protecting "our" females

Recently there has been a miniflap about a professor in China and his vituperative reaction to the Shanghai Sex blog, chroncled at ESWN (original post, further info) and Peking Duck and several other major China blogs. ESWN has a list of related links:

What's interesting is not that some Chinese bigot feels compelled to express his contempt for a western slut, but that there is so much interest in this story. The oversexed foreigner on the prowl for local pussy is a common sterotype here in Taiwan constantly exploited by the media, especially by the tabloid Apple Daily, which often simply makes up stuff about foreigners and sex. Violence charged with sexual jealousies is not uncommon outside certain bars -- Feli here chronicles another inventive story by Apple Daily about her own personal experience with one case, remarking:
So the five of us ended up going to a local dance club, located behind the Sogo and Mitusoki Department Stores in downtown Kaohsiung. I haven't been there in about six months because I'd heard about a number of incidents involving Caucasian foreigners being beat up or hit over the head with a beer bottle for simply talking to, or dancing with a local Taiwanese woman.
Taiwanese often snidely remark that foreigners only date the ugly girls -- the ones with bronze skin, freckles, and secondary sex characteristics, leaving the pretty girls -- the ones who look like they're about to expire after being locked for a month in a trunk underground -- for the local men. I have gotten several thank you letters from local women for pointing this out -- they didn't believe it when their Big Nose husbands told them their freckles gave them an energetic and appealing attractiveness to foreigners until they read it on my website. I have also been the victim of harassment from Chinese men who don't like it that I mention that *GASP* Taiwanese women date foreign men and that there is a whole population of local women here who will not get married. The kind of scapegoating nonsense manifested by Professor Zhang against the Shanghai Sex Blog is an all too common visceral reaction. And the responses to it have remained largely at the visceral level.

I wish the Zhangs of the world would wake up. If women are sexually mistreated in Asia; it is predominately by Asian men. In Japan there are guides published about Taiwan for Japanese sex tourists; in China there are villages for the mistresses of Taiwanese businessmen. All over Asia women flow out of rural areas and into urban whorehouses at a rate even the insensate reproductive powers of H. sapiens can barely keep up with, yet this vast river of women cannot slake the thirst of brothels that have carpeted half a planet in prostitution and slavery. In Bangkok children are chained to beds and serve 50 men a day; in Taipei aborigine girls are forced into prostitution; Nepal is stripped of females for the brothels of Bombay; across Asia the remaining comfort women cry out to Japan for justice.

And none of this happens to satisfy the demands of western English teachers who live in Asia.

The problem isn't that Zhang is an idiot or that the foreigner is a slut. Every sensible person already knows that. It is that the cultural habit of scapegoating foreigners -- one found in every culture -- prevents focus on the real issues of male-female relations in Asia: the lack of legal equality, the prevalence of female infanticide, slavery and sex trafficking, and social expectations that place women in impossible and inferior positions. What the Zhangs of the world need is education, not a scornful dismissal.

Tripping to Tainan

My son captures me posing.

Yesterday I had occasion to trip down to Tainan. A gorgeous day and ultra clean train windows enabled another picture taking session, as well as some good dad-son photography bonding.

The Japanese-period train station in Tainan.

The wall outside the Chih Kan Lou.

After taking care of some business in the morning, my son and headed out to visit some of Tainan's innumerable historical sites. First on the list, a ten minute walk from the train station, was Fort Provintia, known in Chinese as the Chih Kan Lou.

The wildly political plaque at the entrance.

The plaque describing the fort is a leftover from the authoritarian period, for it refers to "Chinese patriot" Koxinga "regaining" Taiwan in 1661, although China had never owned Taiwan and Koxinga did not retake it on behalf of the defeated Ming Dynasty. Eastasia is at war with Oceania, Eastasia has always been at war with Oceania. The plaque was informative in other ways, in addition to the semiotics of authoritarianism and colonialism.

The English presentation at the Chih Kan Lou is excellent, so it was a jolt to discover this awful offering from the Tainan city government, which looked like someone had crossed Babelfish with e.e. cummings.

Today the grounds are pleasant and the fort is a repository for a number of tablets and stelae commemorating various incidents, such as the suppression of local freedom fighters bandits in the 18th century.

The beautiful array of tablets offers inscriptions in both Mandarin and...

....Manchu, the language of the Ching Dynasty.

Other archaeological relics are scattered on the grounds.

This section of foundation here is pretty much all that remains of the original Dutch fort.

A model of what the fort must have looked like.

Zeb brought his camera, thus rectifying one of my chief complaints about being a photographer, namely, one has few pictures of oneself. On the other hand, after seeing my stomach, I decided that perhaps I was better off being the anonymous photographer....

After visiting the Chih Kan Lou we caught a taxi out to Erkunshen, a fort constructed in 1874 as the Ching tightened their hold over Taiwan. Prior to the 1860s Ching control over Taiwan had been loose -- the highlands were not under Ching sovereignty at all -- and several Powers had angled for the island. Originally the US envoy to Japan had actually proposed that the US buy it, but Congress refused, so he tossed the idea to the Japanese, who ran with it. As outside powers started sniffing around, the Ching rulers began incorporating Taiwan more fully into the empire, sending expeditions into the mountains to subdue the aborigines, and constructing fortifications and other monuments to Ching control.

Erkunshen was proposed by a local official, designed by a Frenchman, and supplied with British cannon, 250cm Armstrongs. The original guns had long since disappeared when the 100th anniversary of its construction took place in 1974, so the city put in the replica cannon now visible today at that time.

The presentation in English is excellent.

My son's photo of the grounds.

After that, it was just too hot, so we retired to the train station where we hopped a ride home...