Friday, June 30, 2006

Taiwan Air Force Blog

I don't have time for much blogging today -- famous last words! -- but Wei-Bin Chang sent me a link to his blog on the Taiwan Air Force, read by many foreigners. I love blogs on specific topics, and this one is chock full of info and cool pics of expensive machinery. I'll definitely be including a link when I update my blogroll tomorrow.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Eating Crow on Ma?

Yesterday I wrote:

The point is that Ma has been doing the Ma Shuffle (one step forward, one step back, 180 degree turn left, 180 degree turn right. Repeat) over and over again throughout his tenure as leader and nobody really seems to mind. I have not heard any negative remarks about him among the public. So at the moment I can't join the consensus and say that Ma has taken a hit here. Relative to Soong, sure, Ma has suffered. But he hasn't lost position in any absolute sense. The public does not appear to be less confident in him than before and his Presidential hopes remain intact. The way things are at the moment, Ma could rape a sheep at rush hour on the steps of the Presidential Palace, and emerge unscathed: the largely pro-Blue media would blame the sheep for walking around without any clothes on, and Chiu Yi would accuse it of being involved in an illegal deal for shares of Taiwan Semiconductor Corporation.

Some poll data indicates that Ma is in a long-term slide. ESWN noted of the TVBS poll

In particular, here are is the trend for Ma Ying-jeou
- elected as KMT chairman: 65% satisfied; 20% dissatisfied
- visited United States: 58% satisfied; 14% dissatisfied
- recall vote process: 51% satisfied; 30% dissatisfied
- the day after the recall vote: 45% satisfied; 42% dissatisfied

Several papers are reporting today that Ma took a hit in the polls following the recall motion. Shall I eat a heaping helpin' of corvus? We'll see in a few weeks as Ma positions and repositions himself in the hurly-burly no-confidence motion against the Premier whether this affair is having a long-term negative effect. Like I've said before, Ma's position of Party Chairman forces him to take a risk every time he makes a decision or opens his mouth. It sure would be nice if reality dawned on the locals....

House Lifts Restrictions on US Official Travel to Taiwan

US conservatives continue to support Taiwan. The House lifted the travel restrictions on trips to Taiwan, although I expect the Senate to restore them...

THE US House of Representatives has voted overnight to lift decades-old restrictions limiting contacts American government officials can have with Taiwan.

With little debate, the House approved the measure in an amendment to a funding bill for the State Department.

The bill has not yet been considered by the Senate, which must also approve the changes.


Rep. Thomas Tancredo, the conservative Colorado Republican who pushed the amendment through the House, said: "These guidelines needlessly complicate our ability to effectively communicate with our friends in Taiwan." The amendment did not address other restrictions in place since 1979 limiting visits by Taiwanese officials to the United States.

You go guys.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Exhibit to Showcase Religious Diversity and Tolerance in Taiwan

A Science and Technology exhibition is going to highlight religious diversity and tolerance here on the Beautiful Isle:

The National Science Council (國科會) yesterday introduced a religion component of the upcoming 2006 Science and Technology Expo, which will highlight the diversity of faith and religious tolerance in Taiwan.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, as of June 2001, there were 23,146 temples and churches in Taiwan. Some of the popular faiths practiced in Taiwan include Buddhism, Taosim, folk religion, Christianity, Islam, I-Kuan Dao, and most recently, Falun Gong.

"The fact that these religions can co-exist in Taiwan peacefully is an indication that the Taiwanese people have a high tolerance for different faiths," said Lin Mei-rong, a researcher at Academia Sinica's (中央研究院) Institute of Ethnology.

She noted that Taiwan has a history of religious openness and has always maintained a high acceptance and regard for individuals' freedom of worship, a constitutional right under the country's laws.

"It is typical in Taiwan to find that in family of six, members observe four different religions," Lin said. "Many families in Taiwan are like mini United Nations of religious beliefs."

On any given day, one can find some sort of religious festival or celebration in Taiwan, she added.

Paul Katz, a modern Chinese historian also from Academia Sinica, explained that unlike the West, the Chinese have not had many conflicts among the various religious sects because they historically separated religion from state affairs.

That last statement doesn't make any sense to me. The reason Chinese don't have religious conflict is that none of their major religions is exclusivist -- none believes that it is the sole and only true religion, and none seeks to stamp all others out. I think the way it is written it is not clear: perhaps he means that historically in China State political decisions have not been religiously-driven. Whatever the case, the fun starts at the end of July:

The display on the various religion in Taiwan is one of the many sections that will be featured at the two-month event entitled "Biodiversity in Taiwan: Unity Through Differences," at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall starting July 28.

Visitors to the exhibition can also expect other multi-media presentations on topics such as the various languages spoken in the country, Taiwan's flora, fauna, and marine life, the unique geographical attributes of the island.

Taiwan's tolerance -- or indifference, take your pick -- is one of the great things about living on the Beautiful Island.

Life Goes On

Lots of great posts around the English TaiBlahggers (Wandering to Tamshui, David at Jujuflop, The Foreigner, and Maddog). Most everyone seems to think that this affair has worked out in favor of Anette Lu, the Vice President, and James Soong, and has been a blot on Mayor Ma's record, as he keeps reversing himself. Jason notes:

Ma Ying-jeou - We’re still waiting to hear from that handsome and visionary young leader who’s willing to turn away from politics as usual and do something positive for the country. If you see him, tell him to give us all a call. (Update: Yam's now reporting Ma has once again changed his tune and caved into hardline demands to topple the Executive Yuan's Cabinet, saying he won't rule such a move out. The more things change...

Speaking from the perspective of foreigners who know a little about Taiwan, Ma has certainly looked awful, allowing events to dictate to him rather than dictating to them, and flip-flopping on many important issues. Ma has also suffered a major blow as James Soong, Chairman of the rival PFP party and personal rival of Ma, has revived his career and his party, and positioned himself once again as a major player.

The big knock on Ma is all the waffling and weakness. But that was always the knock on Ma. Nobody held it against him when one day he stridently called for no negotiations with China until the Chinese removed the missiles pointed at Taiwan, and the next, this had to be "clarified" by a sudden reversal of his position. Then there was the time that Ma inserted a toe into the Centrist depths by saying that the KMT could support independence if that's what the people wanted. Oops! That too had to be corrected the following day.

The point is that Ma has been doing the Ma Shuffle (one step forward, one step back, 180 degree turn left, 180 degree turn right. Repeat) over and over again throughout his tenure as leader and nobody really seems to mind. I have not heard any negative remarks about him among the public. So at the moment I can't join the consensus and say that Ma has taken a hit here. Relative to Soong, sure, Ma has suffered. But he hasn't lost position in any absolute sense. The public does not appear to be less confident in him than before and his Presidential hopes remain intact. The way things are at the moment, Ma could rape a sheep at rush hour on the steps of the Presidential Palace, and emerge unscathed: the largely pro-Blue media would blame the sheep for walking around without any clothes on, and Chiu Yi would accuse it of being involved in an illegal deal for shares of Taiwan Semiconductor Corporation.

[[UPDATED to add:
Let's not forget too that Ma has always been the follower. Remember when the Blues blew the 2000 election and there were protests against Lee Teng-hui, then the KMT party chair, in Taipei? Ma was then mayor, and instead of calling for order, he went down and joined the protesters. Whenever spine has been called for, Ma has invariably gone all rubbery. Switching his positions and following the mob are two of his most characteristic behaviors, and they really boil down to one behavior: following the mob.]]

Soong meanwhile has certainly done a nice imitation of It Has Risen From The Grave, and more power to him, since he splits the Blues, benefiting the Greens. If Ma's goal really was to align himself with the PFP to blur the differences between it and the KMT, so he can bring them back to the fold, the opposite effect has been achieved -- the PFP is back in the limelight and Soong is positioning himself to bargain for a spot on the 2008 ticket, if he can keep his party alive long enough.

Many people have noted that Soong just keeps helping the Greens by splitting the Blues, and here is yet another example. Because the recall motion failed, the President cannot now be recalled for the reminder of his term. If Chen really does do something requiring recall, they can't get to him. Another example of Soong helping the Greens? Only time will tell.

UPDATE: Ma says the recall failure is a victory for corruption. The man is a master of deadpan humor. I especially enjoyed this:

Rather, Ma said his party's 90 legislators will organize small seminars in their constituencies to preach the importance of integrity so as to revive what he called the old moral values.

"The old moral values." You know, the values of shooting your opponents, arresting local businesmen to shake them down for cash, spying on your nationals abroad, forming alliances with local organized crime, and running a nasty dictatorship.

UPDATE: ESWN collects polls as he usually does. One poll struck me:

(China Times) (727 adults interviewed by telephone on the evening of June 27)
- What next? 28% push for no confidence vote in government; 36% disagree; 36% undecided.
- Should KMT go back to moderate road? 69% yes; 10% no; 21% no opinion.

Look at that second question. Does it indicate a problem for the KMT if it continues to march a half step behind the PFP? 69% want KMT to return to moderate road. Now look at the first: 72% are either undecided or opposed to a no confidence vote. I'm sure curious to see how these numbers will look after a summer of more attacks on Chen Shui-bian.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Great New Blogs on the Roll

Updated with two blogs with really great photos today as I was updating my blogroll. First, photogale, blog of an expat living in Tamshui, who writes in verse and posts excellent pics. Next, Formosa Birding, with absolutely stunning pics of birds. I've shamelessly stolen the pic above from that blog; it's full of similarly beautiful pics.

Chen Apologizes for KMT Instability Policies?

Forbes reports that instead of pointing out what a colossal waste of time the recall motion was, and reminding the public who is really screwing up Taiwan, the President apologized:

President Chen Shui-bian apologized to the nation for the scandals dogging his administration and called for political dialogue after surviving a parliamentary vote to oust him.

'In recent months, political unrest has worsened and the atmosphere of confrontation has heightened to seriously damage Taiwan's internal solidarity,' Chen said in a statement released by his office.

Chen 'humbly accepts criticism... and looks forward to pushing for political dialogue at home and cross-strait peace talks... and promote social harmony,' the statement said without elaboration.

The president 'again apologized to the people for the issues involving him and his family' and urged the opposition to help restore calm on the island.

Hopefully this is an attempt to claim some moral ground from which the President can turn on his critics. The DPP needs to get on-message and stay there: it's the KMT that is destabilizing the island, folks, and that needs to be said loudly and clearly.

(Hat tip to Alan on the Taiwan Focus list)

Chen Recall Fails

Chinese language news services are reporting that, as expected, the motion to recall President Chen has failed. 119 votes for recall, 14 abstentions, and 88 no-shows are the numbers listed on the Liberty Times website. Now the Carnival of Idiots is going to focus on recalling the premier. When the KMT is finished by September, they will have destroyed all five branches of the government one by one. And to think there are idiots out there who view the KMT as a stability party. Alas, I suspect that those beliefs are of the kind that can't be moved by evidence, no matter how strong.

And remember, China has reserved chaos in Taiwan as an excuse for intervention. By October, when the premier is removed, new legislative elections are bogged down in political infighting, and the government is dysfunctional, the typhoon season will be largely finished and good invasion weather can be had.....

Blogging Return

Well, I can't stop -- enjoy it too much, and been sitting around the computer A LOT lately doing editing work and making up grades. This summer I have an uninterrupted vista of 10 weeks of vacation. So the forecast is for heavy blogging again. Hope you find something useful in it!

Conservative Attitudes Toward Taiwan

In the US Conservatives and right-wingers are so far out in front of progressives on the Taiwan issue it is frightening. The Korea Liberator, a conservative blog contributed to by the senior foreign policy fellow at the right-wing anti-science Discovery Institute, blogged on the issue of conservatives and Taiwan (inspired by this article from the Weekly Standard):

I repeat myself, but I will state again, clearly and unequivocally. This is a most dangerous time for Taiwan’s independence. The old consensus on Taiwan in Washington, especially among Republicans is fracturing. The business-wing of the Republican Party has become pro-China engagement and is willing to sacrifice Taiwanese independence to maintain the Sino-American economic relationship.

The conservative base of the GOP remains strongly anti-PRC and pro-Taiwan in its instincts, but the political attention of the base is fixated on issues considerered more pressing (e.g. illegal immigration, the Iraq War, the larger — so-called — War on Terror, Iran, etc.). It is hard enough to get its attention on North Korea. Taiwan, as an issue, is increasingly disappearing from their perspective. This trend will only compound if the likes of Ma came to power and took Taiwan further into the PRC’s fold (”Why should we work to keep Taiwan free when they seem to be so cozy with China?” They will say).

I participate in an ongoing meeting of security-minded conservative individuals and groups in Washington, D.C. I can count the number of times North Korea was mentioned in the meetings over the past year with one hand. With Taiwan, the number is closer to zero. Since American conservatives remain the staunchest friends Taiwan has in the world, this should be a disturbing trend… if you are a freedom-loving Taiwanese.

Hopefully I'll be able to blog at Dailykos, perhaps the leading progressive blog, and one of the most popular blogs on the internet, on the conservative/progressive Taiwan problem later this week.

Wireless networks in Taiwan

My friend the sculptor Joel Haas pointed out two recent articles in the NYTimes on wireless networks in Taiwan. The first:

What if They Built an Urban Wireless Network and Hardly Anyone Used It?
By Ken Belson

Peter Shyu, an engineer, spends most of his day out of the office, and when he needs an Internet connection he often pops into one of the many coffee shops in this city that offer free wireless access.

He could use WiFly, the extensive wireless network commissioned by the city government that is the cornerstone of Taipei's ambitious plan to turn itself into an international technology hub. But that would cost him $12.50 a month.

"I'm here because it's free, and if it's free elsewhere, I'll go there too," said Mr. Shyu, hunched over his I.B.M. laptop in an outlet of the Doutor coffee chain. "It's very easy to find free wireless connections."

Despite WiFly's ubiquity, with 4,100 hot spot access points reaching 90 percent of the population, just 40,000 of Taipei's 2.6 million residents have agreed to pay for the service since January. Q-Ware, the local Internet provider that built and runs the network, once expected to have 250,000 subscribers by the end of the year, but it has lowered that target to 200,000.

That such a vast and reasonably priced wireless network has attracted so few users in an otherwise tech-hungry metropolis should give pause to civic leaders in Chicago, Philadelphia and dozens of other American cities that are building wireless networks of their own.

Like Taipei, these cities hope to use their new networks to help less affluent people get online and to make their cities more business-friendly. Yet as Taipei has found out, just building a citywide network does not guarantee that people will use it. Most people already have plenty of access to the Internet in their offices and at home, while wireless data services let them get online anywhere using phones, laptops and P.D.A.'s.

Like Q-Ware, operators in the United States, Europe and other parts of Asia are eager to build municipal networks. But they are grappling with the high expectations politicians are placing on them. On June 9, MobilePro backed out of plans to develop a wireless network in Sacramento because it said the city wanted it to offer free access and recoup its investment with advertising, not subscriptions, a model that other cities are hoping to adopt. Elsewhere, incumbent carriers have challenged cities' rights to requisition new networks. And many services have had difficulty attracting customers.

"There is a lot of hype about public access," said Craig J. Settles, a technology consultant in Oakland, Calif., and author of "Fighting the Good Fight for Municipal Wireless." "What's missing from a lot of these discussions is what people are willing to pay for."

Taipei garners much praise for its e-friendly environment, and Taiwan in general is one of the world's leaders in e-government. The constrast between the current medieval recall madness that the Blues are engaging in, and the efficiency of Taiwan's e-government, is staggering. The Taipei Cyber City effort is credited to Ma Ying-jeou in the article, and Ma is quoted as saying the problem with the wireless system is the business model. Belson also had another article in the NY Times that same day:

Taiwan' s Model for Electronics in Government

Taipei's WiFly network may be the most visible evidence of Taiwan's technological aspirations, but behind the scenes the government has been working since the 1990's on a far-reaching plan to use the Internet to make it faster and cheaper for bureaucrats to communicate among themselves and with citizens.

The rewards have been substantial. In 2005, 92 percent of businesses and 35 percent of individuals filed their taxes electronically, reducing paperwork and speeding up the payment of returns.

The island's government distributes about 100,000 documents online every working day, saving about $3 million in postage. Before, when the prime minister's office issued executive orders, it typically took up to a week to distribute them across the island. Now it takes about an hour.

By pooling the telecommunications services of all the ministries, the government saves about $70 million annually.

The government also accepts 15,000 online bids each month from companies seeking public contracts. Thousands of students and parents pay school tuition on the Internet, and citizens apply for drivers' licenses, property titles and a host of other certificates online.

To speed up delivery of these services, about one million citizens now have identification cards with chips inside that, when scanned, instantly provide personal data.

The cards, which cost about $8.50, have ID and PIN numbers for protection.

Hsieh Chang-yao, a manager at a clothing company, got his card at the local government office in the Xinyi district of Taipei so that, among other things, he could go online to get a household certificate, an important form of identification, instead of returning to his hometown outside Taipei.

"Since people in modern society are busy and not as flexible, we have to be able to communicate more online," he said.

The government's efforts have attracted notice. The Brown University Taubman Center for Public Policy put Taiwan at the top of its list of the world's most Internet-savvy governments.

Taiwan's goal has not just been to reduce paperwork and speed up services. It has used the Internet to tear down walls between ministries and increase transparency after years of authoritarian rule.

"The Internet is not just to get rid of regulations, but also to establish a mature democracy," said Yeh Jiunn-rong, the former minister of the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission, which reviews the effectiveness of government projects and policies. "While we were doing government reform, it was a golden opportunity to do it right with e-government."

The e-government initiative is the project of the most important government agency that you've never heard of, the RDEC, the Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission of the Executive Yuan. During the mid-1990s it began layout the policy basis for not only the e-government initiatives, but also the quality service initiatives, that changed Taiwan's government so much beginning in the late 1990s. As an RDEC's publication notes:

To promote the widespread development of ICT applications, Taiwan established the NII Task Force in 1994. Then in 1997, the NII Promotion Program (1997 ~ 2001) was established for NII related strategies, measures, and implementation schedules. In 1998, the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC) launched a three-year e-Government Action Plan, which highlighted the focus on Internet application development and relevant infrastructure establishment in government.

The article proudly notes:

In the surveys of the state of e-government in 198 nations published by Brown University, Taiwan was ranked first in 2002, 2004 and 2005. Meanwhile, in the Global Information Technology Report 2004-2005 published by the World Economic Forum, Taiwan was ranked third in Government Readiness and fifth in Government Usage. The surveys by Brown University primarily assessed the service content and functionality of government websites. Taiwan was one of the few nations worldwide that had actually used electronic certificates in e-government services.

UPDATE: Wulingren has also blogged on these articles.

Yes, wireless is free at Doutor, Mr. Brown, New York Coffee, and some others, but many of the cafes and fastfood joints like Starbucks are signed up with Wifly. This means you can use the same 30-day wireless card in Starbucks and other cafes, as well as in and around the Metro stations.

One factor contradicting the city's plan for ubiquitous access is that this card doesn't work in all cafes and fastfood joints. The places where you can't use it include: MacDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, several cafe chains whose names I can't remember now, 101 (the tallest building in the world), etc.

These places all use Hinet, which is the service provided by Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan's largest Telecom company. That means you have to buy a separate card at these places.

Moreover, the majority of people who have laptops are already paying for broadband in their homes at much cheaper prices than most deals in the States. So, the city is basically asking people to pay again for wireless service. The two together is still probably cheaper than what I was paying in Philadelphia.

Rotten Vegetable Time

Today I am swamped with grades and editing work. Enjoy this bad joke courtesy of my father...

A little boy goes to his father and asks "Daddy, how was I born?" The father answers: "Well son, I guess one day you will need to find out anyway!

Your Mom and I first got together in a chat room on Yahoo. Then I set up a date via e-mail with your Mom and we met at a cyber-cafe.

We sneaked into a secluded room, where your mother agreed to a download from my hard drive. As soon as I was ready to upload, we discovered that neither one of us had used a firewall, and since it was too late to hit the delete button, nine months later a little Pop-Up appeared that said:

Scroll Down

You got Male!

Recently heard Cold Jokes (must be said in Chinese):

Q: What do rabbits fear the most?

Requires Taiwan-accented mandarin:
Q: Why don't men understand DuanBeiS(h)an? (Brokeback Mountain).
A: Because they haven't seen DuanBei1 and DuanBei2!

Monday, June 26, 2006

DPP and the Recall

As David at jujuflop pointed out a while back, dissolving the legislature may provoke a serious governmental crisis in Taiwan. Yesterday the Taipei Times published a commentary from a DPP insider on the problems this is likely to create for the parties, and the advantages that will accrue to the KMT.

Everyone knows that the pan-blue camp's motion to recall President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is merely the warm-up act. The real show-stopper will be the pan-blues' vote of no confidence in the Cabinet that may be called in September.

The objectives of such a vote would be two-fold: To vent pan-blue supporters' anger in the likely event that the recall bill falls flat on its face, and bring down Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) -- at present the only potential presidential candidate to pose a threat to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) -- restore balance and incite a power struggle among the four major figures of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) -- namely Su, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), former Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), and DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun.

The more the DPP is in disarray, the less its members will be able to put on the facade of unity to single out their best presidential candidate. Under such circumstances, Ma would have a better chance of winning the upcoming presidential elections.

Even though kicking Su out of office would be an illegitimate move, pan-blue supporters believe that regardless of what they do to maintain Ma's lead in opinion polls, Ma will still enjoy greater gain than loss.

In contrast to the KMT, the DPP seems to rest its faith on chance. The DPP's thinking is that as long as it keeps reminding the KMT of its intent to dismiss the legislature if push comes to shove, the pan-blues will not dare to overstep their bounds.

Victory in such a campaign will probably go to the party that has the best discipline and most cash. That isn't the heavily factionalized DPP.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Skulking in the Boy's Room

Our department meetings are always memorable for the maddening nonsense that can come up, and our most recent one was a perfect example. It seems that a number of the male teachers, including your trusty writer, have encountered the problem of female night school students using the men's bathroom while they themselves are in it. "The girl's bathroom is too far!" they protest, when challenged (imagine what they'd say if it was the other way around, though!). Our girls knock on the door and then run right in, and woe betide any male who happens to be letting it all hang out. The constant flow of females into the men's room has also created new etiquette dilemmas for me, such as whether it is permitted to fart loudly while sitting on the crapper in a bathroom full of one's female students.

It is quite usual to have females in the men's room in Taiwan -- men going about their business while cleaning ladies are going about theirs is a common sight in Taiwan's hospitals and shopping centers. Old ladies cause me no discomfort, but I draw the line at my own students. Anyone else run into this problem? How was it solved?

US Opposes Taiwan Missile Plan

A Taipei Times article on the US attempt to make Taiwan end its missile programs has been making the rounds:

The US is troubled by Taiwan's efforts to build missiles to defend itself against a Chinese attack and may pressure Taipei to cancel indigenous missile programs, according to a report in the latest edition of the US-based Defense News weekly.

The report cites Richard Fisher, vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, a Washington-based think tank, in claiming that the Bush administration is quietly opposing Taiwan's efforts to develop long-range missile technology.


Richard Bush, a former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman and director, is also quoted in the article as saying that "Taipei's decision to acquire offensive weapons would make it easier for China to take provocative or even hostile measures."

The report said that Taiwan first publicly acknowledged its efforts to build long-range ballistic missiles in May last year, when Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) admitted to legislators that the military's Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology had been seeking to develop offensive missiles that could strike China.

"Here you have the US complaining that Taiwan doesn't take its defense seriously, isn't buying the necessary weapons. On the other hand, the US is squashing Taiwan's efforts to develop its own defenses," Wendell Minnick, Defense News Asia bureau chief told the Taipei Times.

There have been quite a number of indignant comments along the lines of Wendell Minnick's, and I think they are quite justified, especially given China's own missile build-up. Note that the China scholar for the International Assessment and Strategy Center is none other than Arthur Waldron, who has longstanding connections to the KMT. Also see Richard Fisher's report on the PLA army modernizatin threat to Taiwan. It seems the Center is conservative, pro-Taiwan, and anti-China.

Bone Marrow Donors

Just remember, for every jerk that screws up your day, there are plenty of good people out there in Taiwan. Xinhua reports:

More than 300,000 people in Taiwan have registered with the private charity Tzu Chi Foundation to donate bone marrow from their spinal chord for transplants, according to a report reaching in Hong Kong from Taipei on Monday.

Chen Nai-yu, who seeks possible bone marrow donors for the foundation, said the 300,000th would-be donor, a female nurse, signed a statement in Luchou of Taipei county on Sunday promising to donate bone marrow if needed.

The nurse was one of 120 people who did so and had their blood drawn for tests for this purpose Sunday morning in the northern Taiwan rural township, Chen said.

The Tzu Chi Foundation began a program in 1997 to collect information on people willing to make bone marrow donations. The foundation has kept this information at its Stem Cell Center in Hualien.

The center, which is touted as the world's third largest data bank of its kind, has successfully matched 1,100 donors and recipients from 23 countries and regions since the program began.

I'm sure Tz Chi is exaggerating its success, but nevertheless, it's good to see Taiwanese stepping forward for others. 300,000 would be a substantial number of donors in a nation of 23 million.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Chiu Yi Baby -- He's Mr. Clean!

Ken Choy sent this comic article, a puff piece on Chiu Yi, around the TaiwanFocus list today. I suggest you have an airsickness bag close at hand, because the SCMP actually means this seriously:

Saturday, June 24, 2006
'Mr Clean' relishes digging the dirt on Chen


Chiu Yi says he planned to quit politics after he and his wife divorced in March last year.

One man who must be wishing the Kuomintang legislator had not changed his mind at the last minute is Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, who is now facing his biggest crisis and coming under mounting pressure to step down.

"I was very frustrated and disappointed with local politics after I divorced last year. When I was thinking of stepping down from the political stage, TVBS made me change my mind," said Mr Chiu, referring to the cable TV network known for the dirt it digs up on the government in its political talk shows. The 50-year-old economist said it was TVBS that suggested he focus on exposing the irregularities of top government authorities.

"This was how I started my career exposing corruption and irregularities," he said.

His exposure of alleged corruption involving senior officials, including a close presidential aide, in the multibillion-dollar Kaohsiung subway construction project last year seriously dented the
image of Mr Chen's government.

Earlier this year, Mr Chiu dug up alleged wrongdoing involving the president's son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming. The arrest of Dr Chao last month for alleged insider trading dealt a further blow to Mr Chen, who, when he ran for the presidency in late 1999, had vowed to stamp out corruption and privileges if elected. He said he would end what he said was more than five decades of "totally corrupt" KMT rule.

That promise was a key reason Mr Chen won the presidency in 2000, but it has also become his biggest political problem. The opposition is seeking support from ruling party lawmakers for a recall motion that could lead to Mr Chen's ousting.

Mr Chiu said he was proud of his efforts in making the island's leader face up to corruption allegations tied to his family. He said he would pursue his mission of attacking corruption and wrongdoing by the top authorities.

"Even if the KMT wins the presidential election in 2008, I will do the same," Mr Chiu said.

The father of three quit the People First Party, the second-largest opposition party in Taiwan, just after his divorce and joined the KMT.

He said the most important quality for a graft-buster was a spotless personal record.

"You must not have a record of wrongdoing, otherwise you will suffer a tragic death. I happen to be a person with a clean record, and this means a great deal to my graft-busting efforts," Mr Chiu said.

The legislator, who grew up in a poor market neighbourhood, said some fellow lawmakers, whom he declined to identify, who had wanted to expose the wrongdoing of certain officials had been seriously hurt when their allegations backfired.

"I have never hung out in any improper places after work. I return home to be with my family as soon as I finish work. I consider myself to be a man with great discipline. This is why I don't get hurt after digging up all the dirt of others," he said.

The legislator said he had faced tremendous pressure since shifting his focus to the exposure of graft.

"My phones are tapped and I have been followed everywhere [by government agents]. I have received countless death threats," he said.

Mr Chiu said he was careful to make sure his children were well protected because of fears that someone might seek to avenge his deeds by harming them.

But he was adamant that those fears would not stop him being a whistle-blower.

"Threats do not work. Some have offered big bucks to shut my mouth, but that does not work either," Mr Chiu said, adding he did not really care about money after giving all his wealth - NT$500 million ($119 million) - to his former wife.

Asked what it felt like to be called a graft-busting hero on the mainland, Mr Chiu, who received a PhD in economics from National Taiwan University and studied in a postgraduate programme at the prestigious Cornell University in the US, said Taiwan's press freedom had made it possible for him to make a difference.

"This has made it possible for me to do this, because the news media will report about what I have found out. But it would be difficult to do so in a society like the mainland where news freedoms are held in check," he said.

Mr Chiu was gagged last month when he attempted to speak on his graft-busting exploits at Peking University.

LOL. The paper never mentions that Chiu Yi divorced his wife and gave her his assets so that if successfully sued, he wouldn't lose a thing. It also never mentions that Chiu Yi was arrested for inciting a riot, that TVBS us a 100% Chinese-owned station that is anti-DPP and pro-KMT, and so on. Never a dull moment on the Good Ship Chiu Yi, as Jason at Wandering to Tamshui chronicles :

The Evidence: During the pan-Blue protests following their election upset, Chiu kept himself busy on election night by instigating pan-Blue rioters to ram a truck into the Kaohsiung District Court on March 20. Chiu defended himself against the charges, saying "The prosecutors decided to indict me before they had really talked to any witnesses. People who were there with me all knew that I didn't do whatever it was they said I did." Prosecutors, however, had evidence suggesting otherwise, including a video clearly showing Chiu's misbehavior, and charged him with violating the Parade and Assembly Law.

Chiu has made a name for himself by suing others for reportedly secretly filming him sex up his old lady, slamming the pan-blue alliance's legal team for its handling of the post-election lawsuits, suing DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun for defamation, and publicly fighting with ex-Premier Frank Hsieh over whether Hsieh had called First Lady Wu Shu-chen "an empress" over the phone. Most recently, Chiu has made headlines for ditching the PFP to return to the KMT (purportedly to buy win more votes in the year-end mayoral election), and just last night was arrested following an appearance on a popular talk show for failing to show up in court to face charges related to his performance on election night 2004.

In the spirit of balancing the bad with the good, let me direct you to this post by Foreigner in Formosa, always a good read, on possibility of the Blues getting Cold Feet.

A few weeks ago, the China Post suggested that the KMT could spend the next two years toppling premier after premier, cabinet after cabinet. The notion that the KMT could do this repeatedly and not eventually be punished by the voters seemed absurd to me. Fooling all the people all the time, and all of that.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when the China Post ran up the white flag on a cabinet non-confidence vote earlier this week:


LA Times on Chen as Bush

There's an ugly bit of nonsense making the rounds, the claim that Chen = Bush, which has made its way out of Blue propaganda pieces and is now slowly filtering into the traditional media. Wulingren has pointed me to a writing by Ting-I Tsai and Mark Magnier (late of a very pro-Beijing piece on Pandas) in a post on an LA Times article (More on Chen's similarity/difference to Bush). The article itself is appears more balanced than previous work by Tsai and Magnier, but as Wulingren points out, its fundamental assumption is wrong: there is no similarity between Bush and Chen except low ratings.

The Carnival of Idiots

David at jujuflop has been doing yeoman work chronicling the Carnival of Idiots a.k.a. the recall motion and its associated politicking. I'm swamped at the moment, so visit his excellent posts on Who really wants Chen recalled? and Update on no-confidence vote, in which he discusses some of the constitutional issues. David notes in asking what would happen if Annette Lu, the current Veep, became President:

If Chen is recalled, then the current Vice-president Annette Lu will immediately take over and serve out the rest of Chen’s term (i.e. until May 2008). That would mean:

  • Someone who is a much more outspoken advocate of Taiwanese Independence than Chen has ever been would be president.
  • Someone who is even less of a diplomat (more abrasive and less likely to compromise her principals to get agreement) would be president.
  • A recalled Chen would lose nearly all his control over the DPP. Given that Chen is generally hindering reform and progress in the DPP now, that could only be good news for the DPP (and so bad news for the KMT).
  • Despite the fact that Chen won’t be running in 2008, one of the KMT’s likely trump cards in that (and the preceding Legislative elections) would have been ‘look how badly CSB has cocked things up’. With Chen long-gone, this is much less powerful.
  • One of Annette Lu’s (few) strong points is her perceived strong personal integrity and distance from any corruption scandals. A godsend to the DPP in their current scandal-ridden mess, but not for the KMT.
  • One of the ways that the DPP have won elections in the past was by winding up China and causing them to do something stupid; CSB was a master at this. Although China seem to have wised up to this tactic, the only politician in the world who can rile China more than Chen Shui-bian is Annette Lu.

One might add that Lu is the last link to the human rights, democracy, and independence movement of the 1970s, with Shih Ming-te, Hsu Hsin-liang, Lin Yi-hsiung, and others all gone. Current core DPP leaders Frank Hsieh, Chen Shui-bian, and Su Tseng-cheng were the lawyers for this crowd, the Kaohsiung 8, during their trial, and later came to prominence with the DPP. They represent a later generation of the independence and democracy movement. Lu is an fire-eating independence radical who was imprisoned and tortured by the KMT, but she also came of age in an earlier movement that had a considerable component of mainlanders, and may be more amenable to cooperation with the KMT than many might think. Further, many in her generation regret the bitter polarization of the island's ethnic groups that the KMT wrought and which has now become SOP for all parties. The movement was also more avowedly left-wing in its economic orientation in those days than the current center-right DPP. Who knows what Lu might actually attempt to do?

I see less of a possibility that this will backfire on the KMT, though I agree that the risks are huge, especially for Chairman Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT, who as Chairman must appear to be in control, and must constantly risk saying something stupid since he must talk so much. I suspect that the Blue strategy is to ameliorate this possibility by the constant raising of new issues. The past few days have seen new accusations on the Sogo vouchers, that Chen passed them out at a 2003 banquet, and new claims from Blue legislators that the DPP is cooking the government books and that Taiwan is really almost bankrupt. Actually, I found the latter accusation the most believable of any Blue accusation to date. Every time I go get some health service I wonder where the money is coming from.

Meanwhile the death threats continue...yesterday the front page of the Taipei Times featured a PFP legislator pointing a gun at a doll, and intimating that Chen should "end it all." Nice. UPDATE: ESWN has photo and comments too.

Friday, June 23, 2006

House Next Door For Rent

Our house. The house next door has the same layout, etc.

I'm putting this on top for a while

The house next door to us is for rent. It's over 100 ping, and rents for NT$10K/month. Contact me (turtonm AT if you live in Taichung and want to move out here, far from the beaten path. I'd love to get foreigners with kids in here.

Dusk over Taichung

This semester sucked, perhaps the worst of my teaching career, since my first semester in Kenya. Way too much pressure, my beloved 4A class graduating, too many classes, and too many frustrations in my personal life. Three months of hell.

So I thought that it would be appropriate to end my semester with photos of dusk over Taichung. These are dedicated to every fracking moment of pure torture that I experienced this semester. May it be swiftly forgotten.

It was a beautiful dusk....and I am glad it is all over.

Defense Procurement: Great Comments

Taiwan Focus was once again the source of a great post from shimk83, on defense procurement. There's plenty here I'd like to comment on but why spoil something good? Enjoy!


Taiwan relies on Foreign Military Sales (FMS) channels as a proportion of its force modernization and follow-on support, perhaps more than any other country in the world. The one exception is Saudi Arabia.

There are two rationales given for this type of reliance. One is the lack of a professional acquisition corps. There is a view that management of complex public projects, such as weapons acquisition, either domestic or foreign, is complex. The uniformed military focuses on warfighting, and assignments to positions responsible for acquisition tend to be temporary "touch and go's." Countries such as the U.S., Japan, Australia, UK, France, etc, tend to rely on a cadre of civil servants.

Secondly, there is risk averse culture in Taiwan's defense establishment, especially in the wake of the Lafayette scandal. Having high cost programs managed by the U.S. government, including selection of the prime contractor, relieves the military of having to take responsibility for the decision. No one wants to open themselves up to charges of corruption.

And there is the view that weapon systems that the US, or other foreign countries, produce are of higher quality than those which could be developed indigenously. Perhaps more important, however, is that arms sales from the U.S. imply a linkage with the U.S. that carries with it a political symbology in the political struggle with China. It shows that Taiwan is not isolated, and that it has a powerful benefactor. This is a good thing, and has value for Taiwan, at least up to a certain limit.

This is not to say that Taiwan doesn't have an indigenous defense industry. In the 1980s, AIDC working in partnership with General Dynamics (now Lockheed Aeronautics in Ft Worth), produced the IDF. This fighter is often disparaged (i.e., called "I Don't Fly"), but the problem is not with the quality of the aircraft -- AIDC has some very talented engineers. It was with the restrictions that the US government put on the design of both the engine and fire control system. God forbid if it were ever used to defend the island by hitting PLA staging areas as the Gomers (a term for the PLA based on their Gomer Pyle-style uniforms and a play on the Beijing term for "pengyou" -- Gummer) prepared to attack Taiwan.

CSBC, working in partnership with Lockheed Martin, played a key role in the joint development and production of the PFG-2s, a program which many believe to have been one of the most successful and smoothly managed U.S-Taiwan program in history. CSIST and Lockheed also worked together in the 1980s on the Tienkung program, which uses a variant of the AEGIS radar (in Taiwan, known as the ADAR or Changbai radar). Also in
the 1980s, there was the General Dynamics joint development program with ORDC on the M48 Hybrid Tank.

Today, Taiwan's defense industry has a number of indigenous programs, such as the Hsiungfeng 2E, which has become famous recently (it's been going on for six years), the TC-2A (modified version of the TC-2 air-to-air missile), the Tienlei multiple launched rocket system (MLRS), the CM-32 light armored vehicle (LAV), and the PRC-37 tactical radio. All of these programs are almost all indigenous, with the US and other foreign industries serving only as sources of components. No systems engineering, program management, or other significant role as one saw in the 1980s. And most programs have been criticized by the customer (i.e., Taiwan Army, Navy, and Air Force) for not meeting requirements.

Nevertheless, Taiwan dedicates at least 75% of its annual force modernization and follow-on support budget on foreign acquisition, mostly through FMS (government to government) channels. There are costs for doing this. First, DoD charges an administrative fee of 2.5% for managing FMS programs. This is going up to 3.7% in the very near future. So, in the case of a US $1 billion program, Taiwan taxpayers pay an additional US $25 million (US $37 million in the future) for US government management of a program. A US $10 billion program, such as submarines, would involve an extra fee of US $250 million (or US $370 million in the near future). But there's more. The US program manager within the Army, Navy, or Air Force, charges an additional amount, often about the same, so the cost charged to the Taiwan government goes up even more. So administration fees for using the FMS channel charged to Taiwan taxpayers adds at least 5-10% on top of the actual cost of a weapons system.

There's more though. For all foreign procurements above US $20 million, the Taiwan government requires an "offset" obligation. This is similar to a rebate in some ways, in which the US company is obligated to transfer technology or some other service valued at an amount as much as 40-70% of the program value. In other words, a US $1 billion program would have an offset obligation of at least US $400 million. The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) Industrial Development Bureau (IDB), however, assesses each proposal that a US company forwards to satisfy parts of this 40-70% offset obligation for each program. MOEA/IDB evaluates the proposal and assigns a multiplier of anywhere between less than one all the way to 10 or even 20 (only rumors about this much). The offset programs are usually indirect in sense that they have nothing to do with what the military is buying. They could for a US company to provide technology for motorcycles, or washing machines. MND nornally stays out of it, even though it is associated with their

In terms of real dollars, offset obligations cost the US company, which is contracting with the U.S. government (which in turn contracts with the Taiwan government), roughly 10% (sometimes more, sometimes less) of the overall value of the program -- in a US $1 billion program, this means about an additional US $100 million. The US company is not going to take this out of its profit margin, which is limited in accordance with US federal acquisition regulations. It adds the costs of offsets into its contract with the US government, a move that is permitted under US regulations. Offsets aren't free, so the US government, because it is billed by the US company for the offsets, adds an additional 10% on top of the standard administration fees associated with FMS, and passes this additional cost back on to the Taiwan taxpayer, through the Taiwan government.

It doesn't stop here. Commissions that US companies pay to sales representatives in Taiwan are also added into the bill sent to the US government. Under FMS rules, there are certain limits to the amount US companies are allowed to bill. But this isn't transparent. As an aside, commissions, which can run anywhere from 1% to 15% of the total value of a program, tend to be a major factor in tempting officials in Taiwan toward unethical behavior -- kickbacks or success fees in the event a program actually goes through. There often is an assumption that there are no commissions on arms sales today, especially if a program is managed through FMS channels. Not true at all -- just means the commission is less.

In short, use of FMS channels, when one adds in all the administrative fees, projected costs of offsets, commissions, etc, adds to the cost of a program by as much as 20%. So when you hear pan-Blues bitching about overpriced weapons, "sucker" arms deals (kaize de jungou), etc, this is in large part is what they're talking about.

But the costs are more than just a straight dollar figure. One also has to deal with inefficiencies inherent in a large bureaucracy, such as the US security assistance community. The US government is in effect serving as a middle man, or broker, between the manufacturer and the customer. In relying on the US government to facilitate spare parts supply for programs it is managing, Taiwan's military units can wait for as long as six months or a year to get what it needs!

But there may be a calculation that the additional costs are worth it. It saves by not having to worry about managing complex programs -- the US government (Army, Navy, or Air Force acquistion units) does all the program management. And it helps to avoid the impression of impropriety (this is somewhat of an illusion since commissions are still allowed, but normally less than in a direct commercial sale). And there is the political value of the linkages with the U.S. government.

But the key issue is this. Those funds used to procure weaponry from the US, as good as US weapons are in terms of quality, have very little direct positive impact on Taiwan's economy. Indirectly, it does by providing for defense of the island. And there are supposed to be offsets -- rebates of a sort -- that are intended to help Taiwan's overall economic development. However, almost every other country in the world views investments made in defense as not just buying metal and electronics -- those public expenditures are also intended to create jobs, money to circulate in the economy, and technology spin-offs.

So when the the DPP asks the LY to appropriate US $15 billion for three FMS programs, one could imagine scenario in which pan-Blues ask three questions -- what's in it for me (i.e., money in the pocket). Probably nothing. Second question would be -- does it create jobs in my district so that I can get elected again (only applies to those LY members who are elected by their local constituencies and not at large representatives appointed by the party).

If neither of the first two is in the affirmative, then it leads to the last question -- how could I use this to bash my political opponent, in this case the DPP? Of course, there are other rationales, but these likely are less important than sheer politics. If there's no personal gain, either money in the pocket or getting re-elected, then why not use it as a political football? Plus, if there is any inkling that the DPP would use the opportunity of a single package, rolled together at a huge amount, such as US $15 billion, for either personal gain (i.e., in
the pocket) or for political campaign funding (i.e., skimming off US $100 million or so, which is almost unnoticable when a US $15 billion package is bundled together), then opposition would be even greater.

The U.S. Congress is not that much different. But at least in the US, the second question -- jobs, income, and technology spin offs -- is critical. Having a defense industry, spread through the US in almost every state, that creates jobs and income, is a major reason why the US Congress, and the Executive Branch, is able to garner so much public support for high levels of defense spending. Without the pork barrel benefits (this is a reality and not a criticism) that creates jobs and income for constituents, there would not be so much support.

Taiwan is no different. If one wants to create incentives for the KMT/PFP (or DPP later -- there's a good chance that if it loses in 2008, it would do the same as the KMT/PFP is doing now) to increase defense spending, then create jobs and income for constituents. Do it in a fair way that brings in the foreign assistance for systems engineering expertise, creates an equitable distribution of jobs and income in the US and Taiwan, and get a good weapon system on top of it. And cut 20-25% additional charges from having to go through FMS channels (locally produced products incur no offset obligation).

It would take one key move though -- transparency in procurement. There are legitimate reasons to keep a certain portion classified, especially for intelligence and "black" programs. But right now, 16% of Taiwan's defense budget is classified. It's almost all the funds used for weapons acquistion, with most of it being from the US. There is little, if any, public accounting for how those funds would be used, line item by line item. Most other countries do this -- why not Taiwan? Taxpayers, who ultimately are paying for Taiwan's defense, have a right to know how their money is being used (or misused).

If one had a transparent system for use of public funds, then corruption becomes much more difficult and ethical standards would likely rise (Transparency International has lots of background on this). And the military could manage programs without fear of being accused of corruption. And it could recruit a talented corps of civilian acquisitions specialists to manage complex programs. And there would be less fear within Taiwan's private sector of having to deal with those politicians of questionable integrity.

Last point, then I'll cease and desist. Today, there are alot of charges being slung around against the DPP. But why are few, if any, prescribing solutions to fix the system? Ma Ying-jeou, or Chen Shui-bian or others in the DPP, could gain huge brownie points by actually striking at the heart of corruption at its source. This includes transparency in procurement, a viable judiciary, and encouraging a responsible, but watchful media.

The current political crisis carries with it the seeds or opportunity for advancing Taiwan's system of governance. Transparency, effective enforcement of laws, and a fair, unbiased media are critical elements to moving toward a mature democracy -- Taiwan's is still in its nascent stages of democratic development. To me, one of the best things the US could do would be to offer positive suggestions on how to enhance the quality of democracy. If, of course, it really believes what it says, and stands by the principles upon which it was founded.

Enough rambling! That's it for now....

New Taiwan Communique Out (#109)

Taiwan Communique informs....


We are pleased to let you know that Taiwan Communique no. 109 is off the press. During the past few weeks, Taiwan was in the news on a number of occasions: The stopover saga, the pan-blue recall bid, Mr. Zoellick's testimony in Congress, the US DOD Report on China's military, and Taiwan's National Security Policy Paper.

In our Taiwan Communique no. 109 ( June/July 2006) we present a concise overview, with analyses and commentary designed to enhance the understanding of the political developments in and around the island. We especially focus on US policy towards Taiwan, and discuss initiatives in Congress, such as the US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement.

Below you find the table of contents, while the full publication is available on our website We wish you happy reading. Do not miss the excellent cartoons, courtesy the Taipei Times. For back issues, check out our website at

Best regards,

Gerrit van der Wees


Contents Taiwan Communiqu¨¦ no. 109

June / July 2006

Opposition motion to recall President Chen

Drifting into a Constitutional crisis .............. 1

President Chen's Travels

Around the world in 8 days ......................... 2

What prompted the American cold-shoulder? .......... 4

Letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ...... 5

Zoellick¡¯s testimony in Congress by G. van der Wees 7

China's Military Threat

US DOD: China is changing the "status quo"........ . 9

Taiwan National Security Policy by Iris Ho ....... . 11

The WHO turns Taiwan down again by Kin-ming Liu ..... 14

Taiwan's Cracks by William R. Stimson ................ 16

Three responses to Robert Ross ..................... 18

Report from Washington

Congressional Resolution on high-level visits ..... 19

Bhatia's cold-shouldering of Taiwan deplorable .... 21

Book Review

A history of Taiwan in comics by Wu Mi-cha ........ 22

Three Jobs: Chinese Culture University

The Department of English Language and Literature of Chinese Culture
University, Taipei, Taiwan (R.O.C.), invites applications for three
full-time faculty positions The appointment is to be effective August
1, 2006.

Ph.D. in the fields of American/English Literature, Linguistics,

In addition to conducting and publishing scholarly research, full-time
faculty are required to teach undergraduate courses such as
Composition, Conversation, Reading and Listening Lab.

Applicants should provide: (1) C.V. (with letter of interest); (2)
Photocopy of BA, MA, and Ph.D. diplomas (If the official Ph.D. diploma
is not issued, a formal letter of satisfaction in the Ph.D. degree
from the university is required); (3) Official transcript of Ph.D.
studies; (4) Ph.D. dissertation; (5) Photocopy of Teaching Certificate
issued by the Ministry of Education, R. O. C. (if applicable one); (6)
two letters of recommendation; (7) list of representative
publications, and any other materials which reveal your professional

Deadline: All application materials must be received no later than
July 25, 2006.

Applications may be sent to:
No. 55, Hwa Kang Road, Yangmingshan, Taipei 11114, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Department of English Language and Literature
Chinese Culture University

Contact Information:
TEL:(02) 2861-0511or 2861-1801
FAX:(02) 2861-8279
Chairperson Prof. Lucy Chung-Kuan Yao Ext.23701
Assistant Alice Liang Ext. 23705;
Candice Chang Ext. 23805;

Department Staff Hours in July & August:
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday to Thursday
Summer Break: July 7-16, 2006

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Review of book on Lien Chan's Grandad

This summer I hope to get back to the Sunday roundup again. Bopping through the blogroll this evening I noticed Mark Harrison's review of Lien Heng: Taiwan's Search for Identity and Tradition by Shu-hui Wu, originally published in the prestigious journal China Quarterly.

Lien Heng (1878-1936) was a leading intellectual in Taiwan, active during the Japanese colonial period from 1895 to 1945. His contemporary claim to fame is two-fold, that he wrote the first modern history of Taiwan, T'aiwan t'ung-shih (The General History of Taiwan) published in 1920, and that he is the grandfather of the former Chairman of the KMT and failed presidential candidate Lien Chan.

Those two facts are enough to warrant academic interest in Lien, but as Shu-hui Wu's book amply demonstrates, scholarly knowledge of Lien's whole life and work is a significant addition to the tremendous amount of scholarship currently being undertaken on Taiwan's Japanese colonial history. Lien's life as an historian, poet and political activist has been overshadowed by his contemporaries, especially Lin Hsien-t'ang and T'sai P'ei-huo, and therefore Wu's biography is timely and important.

Take a moment and enjoy. Yet another book for the stack when they invent the 36 hour day. *sigh*

The Politics of Fourth Grade: Kickbacks and Corruption

My wife is one of a group of mothers who volunteers at the school. Today they found themselves processing the results of a large donation to the library....

In many local communities the school and its relationships and experiences continue to govern subsequent adult relations. Taiwanese, especially in small towns, sometimes stay in or close to one place their whole lives. The mothers that my wife volunteers with all went to that elementary school together, and forty years later they still volunteer there together. I should add that this has not appeared to affect their acceptance of my wife and daughter; the community has had no trouble welcoming us and my daughter and wife both have a raft of friends. Everyone treats me very well too.

Like all small towns, rampant moral hypocrisy is the order of the day in Taiwanese communities. Last year a former school student who has neither wife nor kids of his own donated NT$100,000 to the school PTA. He has often given sums of money, and comes by to help take care of the school. How did the PTA react to this display of generosity? Well, it seems the money was tainted because the man in question was living in sin with a woman not his wife. The PTA thus balked at taking it. Our PTA is not actually a PTA, but a GTA -- frequently grandparents represent the family rather than parents, resulting in very enlightened discussions like the one above, all in Taiwanese because the oldsters speak no Mandarin, and all involving men because the oldsters don't take female opinions seriously. Everyone in my wife's generation was absolutely disgusted with the PTA's attitude, but in the end the PTA refused the cash, and it was handed over to the library, which has a separate donation route.

Let's test your auditing skills. Today the library got the books and the receipts. The receipts matched perfectly, a book with a cover price of $250 was indeed charged at $250 on the receipt, and the final sums all worked out. Naturally, my wife and one of her fellow volunteers immediately cried Foul! to each other. Clearly there had been kickbacks involved, and someone somewhere in the system was pocketing a portion of the donation.* They raised the issue with the principal but he seemed reluctant to intervene. After that, the group resolved that future donations would be handled by them alone.

I was reading a paper on guanxi networks, SMEs, and the China market today, and reflected on this incident in light of what the paper observed. In Taiwan guanxi networks between officials and favored companies handle all such transactions. One of the interesting clashes between Westerners and Chinese is over this issue. My Western self immediately cried Corruption!, as did the mothers at the library. Certainly whoever did it knew it was against the law and procedure. But on the other hand, such networks require feeding and watering to sustain them. Hence, in the West, where the concept of civil society governs relations between organizations and individuals, such feeding and watering -- exchanges of kickbacks -- is viewed as a violation of civic norms and is condemned. But in Confucian society, such guanxi -- relationship -- networks are seen more positively. In purchasing books for the school from a particular agent, a set of reciprocal favors have been done, and these require appropriate exchanges of gifts, that have to be skimmed off the transaction. Thus a major clash between scholars with Western ethical orientations and Confucian ethical orientations is over the ethical nature of guanxi relationships. Whereas Western scholars are likely to see them as the nexus of under-the-table dealing, scholars working out of Confucian Chinese frameworks are more likely to view the construction of guanxi as an ethically positive act. To a certain extent, the problem of "corruption" in Taiwan is actually a problem of clashing sociocultural readings of relations between individuals and organizations.

*How did the mothers know? Ok, Encyclopedia Brown, I know you can figure it out!

Sun Bin on Ma, Chen, and the recall

I don't have much time for blogging today. Papers to grade, edit, and write. Meanwhile Sun Bin out of Hong Kong has an interesting post with some good comments from David at jujuflop.

One of the key tools in strategy formulation is 'leverage'. Leveraging means mobilizing resources that you would not normally be able to command, or even your enemy's resources, to achieve your objectives. The other is to choose the battleground where you are most likely to win, by tricking or forcing the opponent into there.

It seems that the descendants of Sun Zi and followers in Taiwan know this very well. As an illustration, there are two blogs in Taiwan that got the essence of Sun Zi.....

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pro-Blue Themes in the Media

The Asia Times last week featured a mix of pro-Blue themes though balanced by some thoughtful analysis, from Ting-I Tsai, a "freelance writer" here.

First the Blue Theme....

Analysts are certain that Chen, who has lost much public support after the exposure of corruption scandals involving his son-in-law and close aides, can no longer play his old trick of diverting public attention by provoking China with pro-independence moves, such as drafting a "new constitution" for the island. Thus, during the remaining two years of his office, the situation in the Taiwan Strait will likely remain stable.

"His old trick" is a bit of judgmental nonsense that should have been spotted and expunged by the editor. More worrisome is this comment.....

Thus, during the remaining two years of his office, the situation in the Taiwan Strait will likely remain stable.

....a wrongheaded bit of nonsense. First, it assumes that Chen is to blame for instability, as if other actors, such as China, Japan, and the US, don't exist. Second, by blanking out China, it makes the reader forget that the source of the problem is China, not Chen. The missile and military build-up are destabilizing, but the author neither points that out nor holds China to account. The situation in the Straits cannot remain stable as long as the Chinese military build up and the threat to Taiwan continues. Naturally the next quote is from pro-KMT analyst Emile Sheng, whose citations often appear in anti-Chen pieces. The rest of the article offers a variety of viewpoints, including this thoughtful one from Antonio Chang:

"Taiwan has a premier with substantial authority. The government is functioning as usual, without A-bian [Chen's nickname], and we should take this chance to figure out the advantages and disadvantages of the presidential system, cabinet system, and the semi-presidential system," said Antonio Chiang, former deputy secretary general of Taiwan's National Security Council.

I can't emphasize this enough: the legislature has too much power, and the Presidency is weak. That needs to be rectified through a major Constitutional overhaul.

(hat tip to Wulingren's That was my advice too! Wulingren has an excellent blog; check it out)

What's Up in Taiwan Podcast

What's Up in Taiwan Podcast, a blog that specializes in podcasted audio interviews with local expats, is featuring interviews with two notable members of Taiwan's expat community, podcaster and businessman Mark Forman, and Anthony van Dyck, AKA Maoman, who helps run the most important expat forum on the island, Enjoy!

Chen's Speech on the Recall

The Asia Times reports on Chen's speech on the recall:

Taiwan's president struck back at the opposition's campaign to recall him, saying in a television address Tuesday night that his rivals were falsely accusing his wife of corruption and that their bid to oust him had no merit.

President Chen Shui-bian worked his way through a long list of arguments the opposition has used to justify the campaign to sack him with two years left in his second term. Some of the main allegations included charges Chen has mismanaged the economy and his family is corrupt.

Chen defended himself but in my opinion did not go far enough. The pan-Green camp needs to get on-message: the Blues are killing the nation by paralyzing the government and damaging confidence in the economy....

Still, uncertainty over the campaign has hurt investor confidence on the island, contributing to a drop in stock prices Tuesday, traders said. The Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange fell 219.49 points, or 3.3 percent, to 6,363.55.

“People don't know how long this political back-and-forth will last,” said Daniel Tseng, an analyst at Fubon Securities Investment Services in Taipei.

.....instead of taking potshots at Chen, as so many of them have, lately. Of course, you can count on James Soong, Chairman of the PFP and desperate to revive his ailing party and fading political career, to supply the humor:

James Soong, one of the recall bid's main leaders, said the campaign wasn't a bid by him to grab more power. He said he would retire if Chen was recalled.

“I'll pull out of politics,” said Soong, leader of the minor opposition People First Party.

The Beeb also reported on Chen's speech:

Earlier, his decision not to write to the legislature infuriated a group of around 20 opposition lawmakers, who attempted to march in front of the presidential office waving placards and calling on the president to step down.

They said his refusal to issue a written defence showed contempt for the legislature and was tantamount to an admission of guilt. Scuffles broke out with police.

Imagine not respecting the legislature. That would put Chen in step with just about everyone I know, Green or Blue. The BBC also reports on the move against the PM:

The opposition parties say if the vote fails, they will attempt to topple the cabinet by tabling a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.

Being toppled might actually work in favor of the competent, quiet Su, who has considerable appeal across Party boundaries and is expected to contend for the DPP Presidential candidacy. He'd have a bulletproof excuse for not accomplishing any of his promises.......Ma Ying-jeou led a Blue camp attack on the President yesterday, as reported by Taiwan News:

Ma, who is also Taipei mayor, re-emphasized that the proposal to recall President Chen Shui-bian aims to reflect the spirit of "accountability" rather than to cause political conflict, and urged the public to condemn ruling party lawmakers who oppose the recall motion.

According to the joint statement titled "Reflect the Public Opinion, Support the Motion to Recall the President," opposing Chen and saving Taiwan from corruption are not only an individual political party's appeal but also people's consensus. To preserve Taiwan's dignity and the happiness of the next generation, everybody should move to oust President Chen Shui-bian together, the statement stressed.

There's nothing funnier than Ma, the KMT leader talking about corruption, given his firm support of corrupt local politicians (in Keelung and Taitung, for example. And again). Still, conversations with locals indicate that he has managed to maintain his reputation for integrity. Meanwhile Reuters reports that Chen's approval numbers have gone back up.

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's popularity has risen slightly since May, a poll showed on Monday, but more than half the respondents felt he was unfit to rule.

The survey by the China Times and a television station found that 28 percent were satisfied with Chen's performance as president, up from 21 percent in May, when his son-in-law was detained in relation to insider trading allegations.

The rise could provide a crumb of comfort for Chen who has faced relentless pressure from the opposition for him to quit over financial scandals implicating family and senior aides.

The number of people dissatisfied with Chen dropped to 56 percent from 61 percent over the same period, the telephone poll of about 1,000 adults showed.

The newspaper attributed the improvement in Chen's popularity to the ability of his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its supporters, known as the "green camp", to divert attention from the scandals by painting the opposition action as a power grab.

I wondered if we'd reach that magic moment when Chen would get a bounce. One poll doth not a bounce make, but it sure is nice to see. Perhaps the Blues have finally gone too far, and forced the public to see how indifferent they are to the future of the island (Paralyze the Government, Attack Chen). Note that the poll is from the pro-KMT and anti-Chen China Times. Unfortunately Reuters then goes on to display the international media's usual ability to avoid nuance and local knowledge:

Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, has been accused of accepting millions of Taiwan dollars of department store gift vouchers and his son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, has been detained since late May on suspicion of insider trading. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Observe how Reuter's sticks both of these accusations together as if they were somehow equal in weight. In fact, there's no evidence to support the accusations against the First Lady; they are apparently vapor. Meanwhile the insider trading accusations against Chao give every appearance of being true.

UPDATE: ESWN has a post on polls after Chen's speech.