Thursday, August 30, 2007

Nelson Report on Negroponte, State, UN Referendum

The Nelson Report, the Washington insider report, has the lowdown on State's warning to Taiwan.


TAIWAN...on Monday, Dep. Sec. Negroponte continued the Bush Administration's "dual strategy" of working to reassure Beijing that the US will not tolerate risky moves by the DPP government on Taiwan, while firmly whacking the DPP.

He repeated the Administration's very strong public warnings to President Chen about a referendum on United Nations membership, bluntly calling Chen's maneuvering a "mistake" and flatly warning why:

"We oppose the notion of that kind of a referendum because we see that as a step toward a declaration of independence for Taiwan [and thus] towards the [unilateral] alteration of the status-quo."

Continuing, he said, "We believe it's important to avoid any kind of provocative steps on the part of Taiwan." (Note the open-ended use of "any kind"...not just a specific objection to the UN membership issue...note the possible implications, discussed below.)

For those who don't follow Taiwan in depth, this on-going squabble can easily be misunderstood, since the actions being promised (threatened?) by Chen seem largely symbolic.

In fact, there is some debate in US policy making circles, as on Taiwan, whether voter approval of something as inherently impossible to accomplish as full-nation state status at the United Nations means anything...anything except a poke in the eye to Beijing, and implictly, the Bush Administration's treatment of the DPP.

At a minimum, Chen's campaign helps to tie the hands of his would-be successor, DPP presidential nominee Frank Hsieh, as Hsieh discovered to his chagrin, during his brief, brutally frank meetings with State Department and White House officials earlier this summer.

As we reported on Aug. 10, before fleeing to the beach, serious policy types worry that if President Chen continues to push UN membership, however symbolic in reality, he runs the risk of China feeling justified in something "non-peaceful", despite the presumed limitations of the 2008 Olympics, etc.

Less drastically, if some of Taiwan's remaining official diplomatic partners push a formal debate and vote at the UN, as is apparently being urged by Chen, this could prove both embarassing and "difficult" for the US, but even worse for Taiwan.

Concerned US observers warn that forcing the issue in this way may put at risk nearly all of Taiwan's remaining formal diplomatic relationships, since Beijing may finally conclude its "had enough" with ambiguous US policy and the protections afforded to Taiwan over the years.

"If it boils down to a simple 'bidding war' between Taipei and Beijing, this is a diplomatic recognition fight Taiwan cannot win," comments a well-informed, and very concerned player.

To be frank, US observers ask how any Taiwanese official with a full grasp of reality would want to risk any or all of the above.

And there's more: if the DPP persists, there is a rising sense that the US might feel forced to change to a flat negative the deliberately ambiguous formulation that while the US does not support independence for Taiwan, it does not oppose it, either.

Note how close Negroponte came to that with his clear warning, above, that the US opposes even the "notion" of a UN referendum "because we see that as a step toward a declaration of independence for Taiwan..."

The US (and Chinese) concern all along, reaching back to the early days of the Bush Administration, is that the DPP government seems willing to risk changing the mutually acceptable terms of debate in cross-Strait relations in ways which increases the risk that Beijing will feel compelled to react in risky ways.

As in all action/reaction squabbles, each side can pick and chose any particular point in time, or action, to justify their latest action/reaction.

Regardless, as the Taiwanese election campaign proceeds, both US and Chinese officials clearly are increasingly worried, and Beijing is intensifying its pressure on Washington to "control" players events which do not dance to the Bush Administration's tune.


Why would any Taiwanese official with a full grasp of reality engage in such moves? Perhaps it because Taiwanese officials have a full grasp of reality -- that China has not punished Taiwan or the US for any of Taiwan's moves as of yet -- because the PRC knows it can count on the US State Department incurring the cost of suppressing Taiwan independence. Things would look very different if State remained silent and China was forced to engage in repeated threats, bombastic posturing, missile launches during elections, detentions of Taiwanese businessmen, and so on. Everyone would see that China is just another bullying imperial state. However, with State on the the beat, China can look statesmanlike, patient, forebearing -- it could play its game of being the Aggrieved Semi-colony. One could just as well wonder why anyone with a full grasp of reality would serve Beijing so, but we're long past that, at least on this blog.

EDITED TO ADD: Why would any Taiwanese politician in their right mind follow this course? Because they know that when they play out the diplomatic string and their recognition disappears, it will have nothing to do with Taiwan -- the island will still be there, still independent, in the morning -- but the ROC will have disappeared. That government, which none of the DPP considers legitimate, exists only so long as someone else recognizes it. Once Taiwan has no recognition, it will actually be independent -- independent of the PRC/ROC rivalry, and its hands will no longer be tied by the struggle for diplomatic recognition for an ever-shriveling virtual state.

Beijing knows this. That is why, despite what they say -- and what they say is political theatre -- Beijing will continue to tolerate recognition of Taiwan by small countries -- just as they continue to let Taiwan hang on to Kinmen and Matsu -- because as long as Taiwan has a little piece of China, as long as somehow someone recognizes it as "China," it is still part of the motherland.

At the same time, since the US does not have its head on straight, and Taiwan isn't going to stop the referendum drive, the two sides need to sit down and work out a solution both can live with. Beijing isn't going to start a war over a UN entry that can't possibly succeed. In the highly unlikely event that the General Assembly approves such a thing, Beijing can veto it. Hopefully Taipei will wake up to what is going on in DC and adjust its course accordingly.

I'm off to have a drink. Because without mind altering substances, following this mess is extremely painful.

Serving Your Prison Sentence, Taiwan style

In Taiwan, beating the system is an art form, one that depends on exploitation of the willingness of other human beings to take a hit, sweetened with a little cash or mediated by filial piety. For example, gangsters use the ID cards of homeless people to open bank accounts that they use in scams. Similarly, one way parents beat the traffic camera system is to have their children who do not drive take the drivers test, and then take the blame when the parent is photographed speeding. But this habit of better living through human sacrifice reached a new creative milestone this week when a hemophiliac revealed that he'd been used by criminals to take their prison sentences....

The Ministry of Justice is investigating the claims of a man who said that he stood in for a number of criminals by appearing for them at trial and serving their prison sentences.

The man, who suffers from severe hemophilia, said he was willing to take the blame for other people's crimes because he knew he would be released early from the prison sentences as a result of his poor health.

Department of Corrections Director Shaw Ming-yi (蕭明毅) yesterday told a press conference that the man, Kuo Rong-hui (郭榮輝), 35, had been sentenced to a total of 36 years and six months in jail for a number of crimes, including offenses against public safety, theft, using and selling drugs and violations of gun, explosives and knife regulations.

Shaw said that Kuo had been released early from prison repeatedly because of his hemophilia, adding that Kuo had, for example, entered prison in late 2002 and been released for medical treatment on March 2003.

Shaw said that Kuo's condition required treatment amounting to NT$60,000 (US$1,800) per week, which the prisons could not afford.

The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) yesterday reported that Kuo had confessed in an interview to taking the place of a number of criminals at trial and in prison.

The Liberty Times reporter had interviewed Kuo at his home after a judge told the journalist about his suspicion that Kuo could be involved in a scam.

Kuo told the reporter that his criminal record listed about 90 crimes, of which about 70 were committed by other people.

He said that he had received NT$300,000 from each offender to take the consequences for their crimes and had once received NT$12 million from a drug smuggler.

Kuo said that since he had gotten away with the scam so many times, many gangsters had approached him for his service.

Kuo on Tuesday attended a trial at the Banciao District Court on charges of possession of two pistols. Another suspect had been charged with possessing a third pistol in the same case.

Kuo told the court that all three pistols were his and that the other suspect was innocent.

The court said it did not believe Kuo's claim and the judge had become suspicious.

The Liberty Times report prompted a police investigation, with Minister of Justice Morley Shih (施茂林) yesterday saying authorities were taking the matter very seriously because it has implications on the work of police officers, prosecutors and judges.

Banciao District Prosecutors' Office spokesman Huang Yu-yuan (黃玉垣) yesterday said that Banciao prosecutors had arrested Kuo while his claims were under investigation.

The paper doesn't really say it straight out, though it hints at it, that somewhere in the system, people have to be on the take in order for such scams to work.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bush Resignations Affect Korean FTA, Taiwan

While most of the attention in Washington has focused on the resignation of that hopeless and venal incompetent, Attorney General Gonzalez, there was another resignation recently that affects Taiwan indirectly. The Nelson Report noted:
All this by way of saying there were two resignations today which will resonate, one you all know about (Atty. Gen. Gonzalez) and one that may not be "national news", but is perhaps just as important to us inside trade types (Deputy USTR Karan Bhatia).

Bhatia, who was in charge of the Asia portfolio for USTR Sue Schwab, says he's leaving government after six years, with no set plans except to reacquaint himself with family life.

The reaction in the trade community was immediate and while flattering to Bhatia, the consensus is that KORUS...the US-S. Korea FTA...has suffered another heavy blow.

Trade players supporting KORUS had been counting on Bhatia to help lead a more focused, grass-roots lobbying effort, in concert with the affected business community.

When the Korean FTA was first mooted, there was a widespread reaction from analysts that it would have a very negative impact on Taiwan, since Korean companies would have favored status in the markets in which firms from the two nations compete. In this case, bad news for Korea is probably good news for Taiwan.

State Says Taiwan UN Drive Violating Status Quo

Both the French and British governments recognize how great is the sacrifice thus required of the Czechoslovak Government in the cause of peace. But because that cause is common both to Europe in general and in particular to Czechoslovakia herself they have felt it their duty jointly to set forth frankly the conditions essential to secure it. -- Formal note to government of Czechoslovakia, September, 1938.

Big news out of the State Department, with reports from Xinhua to the Taipei Times. Xinhua's editorial says it all:

China appreciates the United States' opposition to the referendum scheme by Taiwan authorities to seek UN membership, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao Tuesday.

Liu made the comment after media reports said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte had expressed opposition to Taiwan authorities' attempt to push for a plan of referendum on the island's entry into the United Nations in the name of Taiwan.

In an interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, John Negroponte said the U.S sees the idea of referendum as "a mistake" and "a step towards a declaration of independence of Taiwan, towards an alteration of the status quo."

Liu said China appreciates the U.S reiteration of its opposition to the referendum scheme of Taiwan authorities.

"Opposing and checking 'Taiwan independence' is key to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the Asia-Pacific region," said Liu.

"The Taiwan authorities' moves run counter to the tide of history and their attempts are doomed to failure," he said.

The Taipei Times reported all that stuff about democracy that Xinhua left out:

The US has signaled a major intensification of its campaign against President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) plan for a referendum seeking membership in the UN under the name "Taiwan," warning publicly for the first time that it sees the referendum as a move toward independence.

In an exclusive interview on Monday with the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte called the proposed referendum a "mistake" and warned that it would be seen as violating Washington's policy against any attempt by Taiwan to alter the "status quo" with China.

"We oppose the notion of that kind of a referendum because we see that as a step toward a declaration of independence for Taiwan, towards the alteration of the status quo," Negroponte said.

"We believe it's important to avoid any kind of provocative steps on the part of Taiwan," Negroponte said.

The US State Department official's interview with Chinese media comes as Washington has come under increasing pressure on the issue from the Beijing administration, which considers the referendum to be what one leading US analyst described as a "referendum on independence in disguise."

The interview also comes three weeks before the opening of the UN General Assembly, at which several of Taiwan's allies are poised to introduce a resolution on Taiwan's membership in the world body.

China has also threatened to push for a UN resolution that would officially define Taiwan as part of China.

Such a resolution could harm efforts to break out of the international isolation Beijing has succeeded in imposing on Taiwan and could also force Washington to make a wrenching decision on whether to vote with China on the issue.

But it is not clear why the administration of US President George W. Bush decided to use a Chinese TV station as the medium through which to make its strongest and most extensive case against the referendum, though the US administration has generally rejected interviews with Taiwanese media.

In the Phoenix TV interview, Negroponte reiterated US friendship for Taiwan as well as Washington's strong support for Taiwan's democracy.

Asked whether it concerned him that Taiwan's democratic development was "sliding out of US hands," Negroponte said: "We feel that this is a time for the authorities in Taiwan to behave in a responsible manner, to behave in a way that would advance the interests of Taiwan while, at the same time, not disturbing the situation across the Taiwan Strait."

There's a certain discontinuity here, as A-gu pointed out a few posts ago. While the Chen Administration and US officials see the referendum as an independence move, the local populace here in Taiwan probably does not view it that way.

The State Department, for whatever reason -- be it to obtain China's cooperation on the North Korean situation, or because it genuinely fears the Chinese reaction -- is now bearing the cost of enforcement of China's demands -- or rather, the US-Taiwan relationship is bearing that cost. China's brilliant strategy of "being provoked" has enabled it, through adroit use of political theatre, to get the US State Department to enforce its demands on Taiwan. Ross Terrill has illustrated the problem quite nicely in The New Chinese Empire:
Why should the world's top power repeatedly recite, at Beijing's insistence, support for One China? We did not endorse the territorial integrity of the Soviet Union. On the contrary, we declined to accept the incorporation of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia into Moscow's realm. The Soviet leaders lived with that. Why, in the case of China, a comparable Communist empire, do we endorse its questionable view of its own boundaries?

Countries friendly to Indonesia do not speak of One Indonesia, when questions arise about the rights of the turbulent provinces of Aceh and West Irian. No global tears are shed for Mongolia as a "divided country," yet it is one; should there be a doctrine of One Mongolia, to match One China? But China is special. China must be treated like a Ming vase, in Chris Patten's phrase. All this benefits the new Chinese empire. Beijing can pretend to be an aggrieved former semicolony, rather than the only multinational empire to survive into the twenty-first century.(p279-80)
Anyone perusing State Department reports from the 1960s knows that for forty years the US has been aware that if it pressed for the democratization of Taiwan, it was encouraging independence in the long run. One reason the KMT resisted, and resists, increased democratization is that it knowns that each step toward democracy is another step toward independence. Blaming Chen Shui-bian for the UN referendum drive is pointless -- the desire to enter the UN is a structural feature of Taiwan independence in the context of the world community of nations -- entering the UN is a signal that Taiwan is independent. Any independence-minded government would want to enter the UN, which is why entering the UN is supported by everyone within the DPP, and by those ideologues within the KMT who still dream ROC dreams. The US may also complain that Taiwan is engaging in this move at a time when it is otherwise busy in the Middle East and with the Korean situation, but that too is nonsense -- the US is always busy, somewhere.

China is engaging in political theatre. Note that despite its alleged displeasure, nothing concrete has happened to Taiwanese in China -- they are not being detained in large numbers, nor are visas and movement in and out being restricted, the underground banks that move money back and forth are not being closed down. Nor has China struck back against the US -- there are no "spontaneous" organized riots at US consulates, no expulsion of diplomats, no restrictions on US firms or trade. Once again, China's "being provoked" is taking place only in the media and it is incurring no real world costs to itself -- instead, thanks to the US State Department, it has transferred all those to the US-Taiwan relationship. Had UN Sec-Gen Ban not missed his cue and stupidly pronounced that UN 2578 meant that Taiwan was part of China, there would be no controversy at all, except, of course, in the media.

It should also be noted that it is unconscionable for the State Department to refer to a referendum as a violation of the Status Quo while ignoring China's moves to suppress Taiwan in the international sphere. It would be nice if State came out and said that China's missiles are a violation of the Status Quo, as is its repeated blocking of the island's entry into the WHO. Some balance would go a long way toward redressing the situation -- which has now, as Max Hirsch notes in the Kyodo News, impacting the Taiwan-Japan relationship as well.

The referendum isn't going away, and now everyone has adopted their respective theatrical postures, restricting the space for action. Note how successful the Chinese posture is: it merely expresses anger, and now Taipei and Washington are locked into opposing positions, while China retains its flexibility. It can advance or retreat as necessary, since someone else is enforcing its strictures. Brilliant.

Time for Washington to sit down with Taipei and find a wording on the referendum it can live with, and for Taipei to tone down the referendum rhetoric outside Taiwan. One way to signal a more reasonable posture while placating the home audience would be a show of inter-party unity -- making the annual resolution under a name acceptable to the KMT and to the US. But the situation urgently requires an introduction of flexibility before another idiot like Ban forgets his lines and does something stupid that will have real-world consequences.

Domestic Political Fun

While the DPP grooms itself for the future, the KMT is riven by internal strife.

The China Post reported the other day that Yeh Chu-lan, the wife of dissident and activist Chen Nan-jung, is under consideration by DPP Presidential candidate Frank Hsieh for the Premiership:

After I had served as Kaohsiung mayor, Yeh Chu-lan also served as Kaohsiung mayor. As I have been premier, Yeh Chu-lan may also become premier," Hsieh told supporters at a rally in Hsinchu.

Hsieh was flanked by both his running mate Su Tseng-chang and Yeh at the rally of supporters from the Hakka community, to which the campaign manager belongs.

"If I am elected president, one day a Hakka woman may also become president," Hsieh told the rally.

Observers said Hsieh's remarks were not just meant to be a gesture to attract the backing of the Hakka community.

The Central News Agency cited his close aides as commenting that it was actually an important announcement of Hsieh's that Yeh would be a potential candidate for the premier post if he was elected president.

Yeh reportedly had been Hsieh's number-one choice for running mate before the DPP standard bearer picked Su instead.

Yeh had lobbied hard for the Vice-Presidency, and the Premiership is an obvious choice for this increasingly important DPP politician, one of the many talents the DPP is bringing along for the future. Yeh is a Hakka and may help attract Hakka votes to the campaign. The Hakka ethnic group, a large minority in Taiwan -- something like 25% of the pre-1949 population was Hakka -- has traditionally been an important part of the KMT's ethnic coalition and a pillar of KMT support. The rally, as the CNA reported, was held in Hsinpu, an important Hakka community. The first of the new Hsieh-Su ticket, its kickoff in a key Hakka town was no accident:

Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh wooed Hakka voters Saturday with promises to promote Hakka language and culture as well as accelerate economic development in Hakka communities if he wins the presidency.

Hsieh made the pledges while attending a rally in front of the Yiming Temple in Hsinpu, a Hakka township in the northern county of Hsinchu, in the company of his running mate Su Tseng-chang and Presidential Office Secretary-General Yeh Chu-lan, who concurrently serves as the Hsieh campaign's top strategist.

It marked the first time that the three DPP bigwigs have attended a campaign rally together since the formation of the Hsieh-Su ticket for the 2008 presidential election earlier this month.


As Yeh is favored by many of her Hakka fellows to join Hsieh on the 2008 ticket, Hsieh deliberately chose the Hsinpu Hakka community as the place for his first campaign rally together with Su and Yeh to stage a tableau of unity and party coherence.


Since the DPP won the presidency in 2000, Hsieh said a Hakka television station has been established and Hakka language has been actively promoted. Hsieh said he himself took a Hakka proficiency test during his premiership from 2005 to early 2006.

He promised to boost ethnic harmony and glorify Hakka culture if elected the next president.

Su, who succeeded Hsieh to serve as premier, addressed the rally in fluent Hakka as he once served as magistrate of the southern county of Pingtung which has a large Hakka population.

For her part, Yeh urged her Hakka fellows and friends to support the Hsieh-Su ticket to help the homegrown DPP retain its grip on power next year.

Many Hakka heavyweights residing in Hsinchu County, including former Hsinchu Magistrate Lin Kuang-hua, also attended the rally to lend their support.

Making inroads in the Hakka communities in the north will be an important step for the DPP in winning the Presidential campaign. Note that Vice Presidential candidate Su speaks Hakka, just as his counterpart Vincent Siew for the KMT does -- both parties have signaled that the struggle for the Hakka vote will be a crucial one.

By constrast, over in the KMT the grumbling from the Taiwanese legislators serving under the Ma regime continues. On August 26th a group of southern legislators, a code phrase for largely ethnic Taiwanese legislators in the KMT, blasted the party for its treatment of Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, a Taiwanese, and the unofficial leader of the Taiwanese legislators. Party officials responded the next day by saying that the whole thing was a misunderstanding:

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday called for party unity amid harsh criticism from supporters of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) of KMT Secretary-General Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Deputy Secretary-General Liao Feng-de (廖風德).

In response to a petition signed by several local-level politicians and grassroots groups in the south demanding that the party replace Wu Den-yih, who they said had damaged Wang's reputation, KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) yesterday stood by the two top party officials and said the accusations against them were just a "misunderstanding."

"Wu [Den-yih] and Liao are important comrades who I rely on the most in each battle. No one knows better than me that the KMT will have to unite to win the elections," he said yesterday in Taichung City.

The petition, which was signed by Kaohsiung County Council Speaker Hsu Fu-sen (許福森), vice speaker Lu Shu-mei (陸淑美) and a number of councilors in Kaohsiung, Taichung and Hsinchu, accused Wu Den-yih and Liao of spreading rumors to tarnish Wang's name.

They threatened not to campaign for the party's candidates in next year's elections if the party did not fire both of them.

Wu Poh-hsiung said that the party supported Wang and called on the petitioners to end this "misunderstanding" and refrain from making more accusations.

KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) echoed the call for party unity.

"We are only five months away from the legislative elections and seven months away from the presidential election. We should be thinking about the overall situation and not get trapped by our opponents," he said in Taipei.

Wu Den-yih is the former mayor of Kaohsiung, while Wu Poh-hsiung, a Hakka, is the Party's Chairman and widely seen as a Ma supporter. Apparently there is a whispering campaign going on to the effect that Wang will not get a seat in the new legislature. This cutthroat rivalry may well lead to problems for KMT candidates in the upcoming elections. One need only compare the Ma-Wang rivalry with the Hsieh-Su rivalry -- the DPP did everything it could to put the two rivals on the ticket, patch up differences, find a plum spot for disappointed veep possibility Yeh Chu-lan, and put together a show of unity in an important ethnic community. Those are the moves of a winning political party. The KMT, by contrast, failed to put together the obvious Ma-Wang ticket, took a giant step backward with the selection of Siew, does not appear to have a broad list of future talent moving up the ranks, and can't seem to manage a display of unity. Instead, many of its local legislators are threatening to bolt the party. Still, it remains to be seen whether these rumbles on the horizon signal an approaching forest fire, or are just summer thunder....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dolphin Conservation Conference, Lukang, 4-7 Sept

This breathtaking dragonfly stopped by our house today.

Robin and Christina from Wild at Heart passed me the news of this workshop on Dolphin conservation in Taiwan taking place in Lukang next week.


The Second International Workshop on the Conservation and Research Needs of the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins, Sousa chinensis, in the waters of western Taiwan

4-7 September 2007 Lugang, Taiwan


Host:National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium
Sponsors:National Science Council, Forestry Bureau, Ministry of Education, Winkler Partners, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong,
Humane Society of the United States/Humane Society International (US), Natural Resources Defense Council (US).
Location: 2F Da-peng-ting Meeting Room, Formosa Hotel, Changhua City, 668 Chungcheng Rd Section 2 (address in Chinese全台大飯店二樓大鵬聽會議室 彰化市 中正路二段668號)
Chair:John Y. Wang
Rapporteur:R.R. Reeves

My son tries for a shot.

Daily Links, August 28, 2007

David on Formosa is much too busy this week to handle the Daily Links, so I'm pinch hitting for him in the meantime. He'll be back with hordes of links when he is tanned, rested, and ready. And on the blogs....
  • Sponge Bear also wreaks havoc on Clark's piece. Lots of good historical stuff.

  • Kerim wants a list of websites that are not foreigner-friendly.

  • Battlepanda: save the earth, shoot a moose.

  • Ayn Rand in China.

  • Senorita Pequena reviews About Time.

  • Tea Masters shows off her Celadon tea cups.

  • Pinyin News reviews names of Japanese love hotels.

  • Todd has a great pan of the Taipei Main Train Station. Beat me to it, man.

  • The Only Redhead has another great post on China and its overinflated rep.

  • Laowiseass blogs on an ill-fated expedition for Asian unity.

  • Announcements: Taiwan Photographers features Paul Batt. Congrats go out to Bent on the new kid. KGD Jazz Trio in Taipei, Wed, 8/28. Big Ell collapses from overwork after posting three times in one month. Scott S interviewed on Radio Taiwan International.

    MEDIA. Found this great article from Brent Hannon on ultralights in Taiwan.

    US, Taiwan, China, Japan: Two Views

    Two Establishment views of the relations between the powers in East Asia popped up in the Japanese press this week. One, offered by Harvard PhD student Lief-Eric Eisley, has a series of recommendations for Taiwan, which is of course at fault in harming US-Taiwan relations (in a US establishment commentary, that goes without saying). Eisley argues that the US isn't selling out Taiwan to obtain China' cooperation on North Korea....he recommends:

    Taiwan can constructively improve ties with the United States (as well as with Japan and South Korea) by further strengthening its democracy. Taiwan's political development is impressive and demonstrates commonalities with other free societies, but Taiwan still lacks consolidated democratic institutions. Taipei can also make greater investments toward a credible national defense. Allies are less willing to defend friends who do not show serious efforts to defend themselves.

    U.S. cooperation with Taiwan has stalled because the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) controlled executive has played the "democracy card" for political purposes rather than strengthening Taiwan's democratic institutions. In addition, the Kuomintang (KMT) controlled legislature has obstructed adequate funding for Taiwan's self-defense. Circumstances may improve after Taiwan's 2008 presidential election, as both candidates, Frank Hsieh of the DPP and Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT, appear committed to address these matters.

    In the meantime, Washington should communicate convincingly that the recent downturn in coordination with Taiwan is not because of a quid pro quo with China over North Korea or because of a reticent U.S.-Japan alliance. Otherwise, misperceptions about the role of Korea and Japan in U.S. Taiwan policy may grow, leading to feelings of betrayal in Taipei, an exaggerated sense of advantage in Beijing, and fears of entrapment in Tokyo. Such developments would not serve Taiwan's security or U.S. interests.

    Korean and Japanese historical developments have had significant effect on Taiwan. But Washington does not link current security issues in ways that force trade offs for U.S. Taiwan policy. There is however, a lack of positive linkages. North Korea dominates the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia's schedule, and U.S. diplomacy is not doing enough to link friends in North and Southeast Asia. The United States can encourage more consultation among South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and ASEAN to ease Taipei's concerns about being adversely affected by security mechanisms that exclude Taiwan.

    Japan-South Korea-Taiwan coordination should focus on economic issues. Both Tokyo and Seoul could explore free trade agreements with Taiwan. In addition, Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei could benefit from greater information sharing on China's World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance. The three also share similar concerns for increased economic interdependence with China, and a lack of transparency in Beijing's military modernizations. On these matters, more Track II or unofficial dialogues among Japan, South Korea and Taiwan could prove useful.

    China's contribution in dealing with North Korea is significant, and the United States would prefer to avoid developments that would disrupt Beijing's positive role. Tokyo's commitment to the U.S.-Japan alliance, inclusive of Taiwan contingencies, is vital to East Asian security. However, China-North Korea and U.S.-Japan interactions only indirectly affect Washington's relations with Taipei.

    Recent strain in U.S.-Taiwan relations can be traced to Taiwan's domestic politics. When Taiwan achieves democratic reforms and builds an internal consensus on national security, cooperation with the United States will improve. Meanwhile, Washington, Tokyo and Seoul should not allow productive relations with Beijing to obscure shared values and interests with a democratic Taiwan.

    This follows the standard US line that Taiwan -- one of the biggest purchasers of US arms and biggest importers of arms in the world -- doesn't spend enough on defense (that uninformed canard is dealt with here), that Taiwan's domestic politics are a cause of instability, and ends with the standard bromide that the US and Taiwan share values and interests as fellow democracies. This is all pretty much par for the course for the future undersecretary of something or other circuit. Eisley does point out that the Status Quo is a convenient fiction and that the situation in the Taiwan Straits is dynamically changing. Kudos to him also for calling for free trade agreements with Japan and Korea, and for calling for the US to reassure Taiwan on the North Korea issue. Insider reports from DC like the Nelson Report have repeatedly stated that the US is peeved at Taiwan because it wants China's help on North Korea....

    It is true that the DPP "plays the democracy card" (as the US used to in international affairs before the Bush Administration gutted our moral position in the world) but it also has done much for democratic institutions in Taiwan -- simply by being elected, for starters. Most observers miss the progress the DPP has made, since so much of it involves more localization, devolution of power to local governments, and similar moves that foreign observers typically don't see. Too, US analysts who call for Taiwan to strengthen its democratic institutions rarely condemn the pro-China parties for objecting to such strengthening (instead the condemn the DPP for not carrying it out, as if the bureaucracy were neutral between the parties and the opposition acted in good faith). Such analysts also refrain from criticizing the US for pressing Taiwan not to rewrite its Constitution -- but the institutions of democracy here cannot be strengthened without substantial constitutional revision.

    Very different is longtime China apologist Gregory Clark's piece in the Japan Times. Clark's comments on Taiwan are rather mild, so you can imagine what he is like when he is hitting one for Team Beijing....

    Taiwan is a good example. Separation from mainland China in 1949 gave the embattled anticommunist Chinese minority the chance to regroup, regain confidence and even do much to educate the dominant majority during the latter's periods of ideological madness. Hong Kong, too, has played a crucial in educating and helping its Chinese parent to revive economically. True, those partitions only came about through historical and geographical accident. And Taiwan's refusal today to accept some reconciliation with the mainland creates problems. But they are significant all the same, today especially.

    It's hard to parse these comments. Does he mean that the anticommunist minority "educated" the island's majority -- presumably the Taiwanese -- during periods of ideological madness (democratic development)? Or that they educated the Communists in China? Note that for Clark, it's Taiwan's refusal to be annexed that is the cause of trouble between Taiwan and China, not China's post-1945 discovery that Taiwan had always been sacred national territory. It's always amusing to see China apologists advocating that Taiwan annex itself to China while safely ensconced in democratic nations far from China's grip. Show some leadership to Taiwan, Greg, and annex yourself to China first (Jim over at Sponge Bear goes even deeper in showing how awful this piece is).

    Clark's article, which discusses separatism in a number of contexts, points to the Kosovo situation as an example of a state which should come into existence. The interesting thing about the Kosovo situation is that while the US is making tiny Kosovo independent in defiance of both Russian and European wishes, it will not do so with Taiwan in the face of Chinese objections.

    Acer Buys Gateway

    It's all over the media and the blogs, so let me add mine to the pile: Acer has bought Gateway, with its familiar white and black cow logo. Reuters reports:

    Taiwan's Acer said on Monday it will buy Gateway for $710 million, creating the world's No.3 PC maker, as Acer doubles its presence in the United States, Gateway's fiercely competitive home market.

    Acer said it would pay $1.90 per Gateway share, representing a 57 percent premium over Gateway's last closing price.

    Acer said the merger would create a company with more than $15 billion in sales and 20 million PCs shipped per year, adding it would keep the Gateway brand in the U.S.

    "This acquisition of Gateway and its strong brand immediately completes Acer's global footprint by strengthening our U.S. presence," Acer Chairman J.T. Wang said in a statement.

    "This will be an excellent addition to Acer's already strong positions in Europe and Asia."

    Acer shares closed down 1.85 percent at T$63.60 before the announcement.

    The Taiwan firm has said for months it was in acquisition talks, but had declined to name the target.

    The deal would help Acer immediately double its U.S. market share, combining its own 5.2 percent share with Gateway's 5.6 percent, according to second-quarter market data from IDC.

    The deal is expected to be completed by December, and the merged company would still be a distant third in the U.S. behind market leader Dell , at 28.4 percent, and Hewlett-Packard , at 23.6 percent, according to IDC.


    But execution will be key -- a lesson Lenovo learned when it stumbled badly after forecasting similar cost savings following its 2005 acquisition of IBM's PC business.

    "This starts to bring back memories of the whole Lenovo-IBM deal," said IDC's Ma. "Can you integrate the operations of the two organisations quickly enough to reap the benefits of that kind of scale? That remains to be seen."

    Taiwan steps out!

    Monday, August 27, 2007

    Lung Ying-tai Cultural Foundation: Responsible Media in a Democracy

    The Lung Ying-tai Cultural Foundation is hosting a salon on the issue of responsible media in a democracy, in English. See poster above for details (click for larger version).

    City of Photo Ops

    On a perfect Saturday in August, Jeff Miller and I decided to check out some of the military works dating back to the 19th century that dot the ridges around the city of Keelung. (click on any pic below to be taken to its Flickr page for larger size)

    Apartments and a school near Jeff's place. The day didn't look very promising when we started out (pan, composite of 5 pictures).

    The day began in the massive apartment complex where Jeff lives, just outside the city of Keelung. Here people are setting up for the massive ghost month celebration that we saw later in the day, that Saturday being the first day of Ghost Month. Keelung is famous for its ghost month festivities.

    Stopping for java at IS Coffee. It may just be me, but almost any of the local chains serves up a better cappuccino than Starbucks. Even McDonalds is better, when they remember to clean the machine.

    In nearby An Le District...

    The vendors were out making breakfast....

    ...and the police were out writing tickets for illegally parked cars. Pinch me -- is that for real?

    Our trail followed the opening steps of a previous hike through some of the Qing-era defensive works we had gone on a few years before. Here we follow a stream near the exit for Badu off of Highway 1 to the base of a ridge outside of Keelung.

    Beautiful flowers lead the fight back against the gray concrete world of Taiwan residential areas.

    We strolled through this community of small, older homes.

    Like this home, for example.

    Jeff heads uphill.

    When we reached the top of the ridge, Jeff indicated a bamboo thicket. "Here's the trail!" he announced. I deny that I gave vent to strong sentiments of doubt and skepticism in colorful American dialect.

    The bamboo leaves were warm and wet, hosting only a couple of leeches.

    The trail was marked, informally, by handwritten signs, and by little blue pennants left either by a trekking club or a water resource assessment.

    During the Sino-French War (Jeff's excellent blog entry) the French grabbed the port of Keelung, apparently in an attempt to save the city from its future of Starbucks, Burger King, and casino cruises. The Qing sent 12,000 troops, and along with forces raised locally, surrounded the French soldiers, occupying the high ground around the city. Built in a volcanic caldera, Keelung is almost ideal for such a defense, surrounded as it is on every side by steep ridges. Bottled up in a miniature Gallipoli, the Qing achieved a strategic success over the French, who were unable to take Taipei or seize the coal mines nearby.

    As a result, the ridges around Keelung are littered with old forts, observation posts, trenches, and other defensive works, the remains of French, Qing, Japanese, and KMT defensive works, often built one on top of the other. Jeff explained that the larger constructions, including forts the Qing built in the 19th century, were close to the water, and are now lost under the modern city. In this photo the wall of a trench is all but hidden by the undergrowth.

    When it reaches the top of the ridge, the path dives into the trench system. Here Jeff stands inside an old trench.

    This cleared area is all that remains of an old observation post and strongpoint.

    Here the path into the post crosses over its wall.

    What's that hidden in the brush?

    A marker.

    I climbed up onto the wall of the observation post to have a closer look.

    Covered on three sides by writing, Jeff deduced that the marker must be a relic of the Japanese period, as it had "security forest boundary" on one side. In the Japanese period the port of Keelung was a restricted area. The smaller marker is a modern survey marker.

    Here Jeff stands in the observation post. The view over his shoulder gives some idea of the view northwest over the surrounding hills. In those days, of course, all this brush didn't exist and views would have been unobstructed.

    The presence of all that brush is a reminder of how vulnerable these historical sites are. The Keelung city government is sitting on a wonderful tourist attraction -- with some care, nice wooden walkways, some high quality presentation, and the incredible views, this could be a popular tourist outing. I can't decide whether it is better that the works are quietly rotting on the hillsides, undisturbed except by time, or whether they should become just another fake-brick-and-sausage-vendor experience like so many other tourist sites in Taiwan.

    The origin of the mysterious blue pennants we saw everywhere along the trail?

    As we followed the ridge up, the views were excellent. Here is Badu and Changgun Hospital. The cleared area in the right center is a modern military installation.

    Jeff said that the cemetary actually marks the site of many deaths that took place during a struggle between powerful local clans.

    A close up of the modern cemetary.

    Of course, we were not the only carnivores out on the ridge that day.

    Although it is not well marked, the trail is easy to follow, once you find it at the top of the ridge.

    A cicada rests on tree limb. We disturbed many of these large insects, and they buzzed by us angrily.

    Blockhouses and ammo storage, probably dating from the Japanese period.

    A gun platform.

    It started to drizzle, as the spot on the lens shows, but soon cleared up.

    From the blockhouse the views are good, but we moved on to an even better place.

    A very unusual spot to find one of these spiders -- they usually prefer to anchor their webs to trees or bushes with springy branches, not leaves.

    The views over Keelung are superb.

    Here a marker denotes some famous Keelung sights. Unfortunately, as with so many parks I've been to in Taiwan, the construction is poor and the picture has yellowed and is illegible in many places. Sad.

    I did a series of panoramas, but none of them worked out very well. This one shows the city.

    This one turned out pretty well, I thought.

    With the water in the center and ridges on all sides, Keelung is a cramped, crowded city.

    Hard to take a bad picture from along the ridge.

    Train tracks and bridges abound.

    31x digital telephoto.

    In case you don't know where you are, the city has thoughtfully placed a sign on the hill.

    Here Jeff grimaces as he yanks on a screw pine. Jeff explained that the Qing soldiers planted screw pine around their defensive works. It has pointed leaves, making it annoying to move through, and breaks when tugged strongly, making it impossible for attacking troops to pull themselves up the hill by using it. Jeff observed that if you see large quantities of screw pine on the slopes, you're probably looking at an old Qing defense work.

    If only the Qing had managed to invent the internal combustion engine, wrecks of their Nissans wouldn't litter the trails around Keelung.

    If you dive off the trail and into the forest, many interesting finds await. What's this underneath that tree?

    An old strongpoint. This one faces the city. Who built it is unclear, but the size of the tree growing over it suggests it must predate the KMT occupation of Taiwan.

    As we stood speculating on the date and purpose of the blockhouse, this centipede, longer than my foot, came scurrying out to see if we were edible.

    The hills are also studded with farms and homesteads.

    Either a pack rat or really into recycling, the old man was sitting outside sharpening a knife and steaming his lunch. He gave us directions to a trail that would take us down into the city.

    We plunged back into the forest and followed a steep muddy trail until we hit this culvert and found the city. We were not actually lost. Real men don't get lost. We were just trying out several different trails.

    Free range chickens.

    With its old-Taiwan feel, cozy streets, beautiful hills and port, Keelung offers many wonderful photo ops. I can't decide whether Tainan or Keelung is more congenial to the photographer.

    Down in the red light district, this son of a betel nut seller showed us his best Asian Sign of Picture Taking.

    Market time.

    On a beautiful Saturday, a day off for most workers, and the first day of Ghost Month, the streets were packed.

    A Keelung street. The clouds had disappeared and the sun was ruling the streets.

    A vendor rolls up instestines into little balls for sale.

    Economizing on helmets, a family speeds past a large truck used in religious processions.

    A pan of the harbor turned out beautifully.

    After stopping at Burger King for a healthy, low calorie lunch, we decided to walk back out of the city. When we reached this feast for the Ghosts, in their usual friendly way, the locals insisted we photograph the whole thing.

    Especially the freshly-killed pig.

    The head table.

    One of the organizers of the festivities takes a break.

    In the alleys the noise of the street disappears.

    Tea shop and temple flow into one another.

    With the ridges rising steeply over the city, there are many opportunities to put the telephoto to good advantage.

    This temple is famous for offering a "store" for Ghosts.

    Those six day work weeks are killer.

    When we returned to Jeff's community after five hours of walking, we encountered this massive festival. Here celebrants line up to light their incense tapers.

    Crowds of people lined the road into the community.

    And of course, an announcer.

    Tables crowded with delicious stuff.

    A shot from atop the activity center.