Friday, November 30, 2007

Le Roi Soleil as a Responsible Regional Player: L'Affaire Kitty Hawk

Yesterday China came out with a claim that it had denied Kitty Hawk a berth in Hong Kong because it was angered by US support for Taiwan (IHT has a similar story):

The Global Times, a tabloid published by the official party mouthpiece People's Daily, cited an unidentified People's Liberation Army senior colonel, as blaming Washington's decision to sell Taiwan an anti-missile defense system.

That «obviously sent the wrong signals» to Taiwan's leader, Chen Shui-bian, who China abhors for his campaign to assert the self-ruling island's independent identity.

«At a time when the U.S. side is seriously harming China's interests, there is no logic under heaven by which China should then be expected to open its heart and embrace him,» the paper said.

The Defense Department issued a formal protest to China on Wednesday over the two incidents and a Chinese military officer who is Beijing's defense attache in Washington was called to the Pentagon to accept the protest from a Pentagon Asia policy official.

China's foreign minister also met with U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday and blamed the incident on «a misunderstanding.

So China denies port entry to US ships twice, first says it is a misunderstanding, then presents this decision as a response to US moves in support of Taiwan and Tibet....

US decisionmakers are utterly flabbergasted. Recent incarnations of the Washington insider Nelson Report have captured the perplexity of the US Navy and official Washington at the behavior of the Chinese, who appear to have twice denied port calls to US navy vessels -- this despite the fact that the US Navy is the one service that has consistently attempted to forge relationships with the Chinese. From a couple of days ago:

....But its China's "attack" on the US Navy which has everyone really flummoxed. (Repeatedly noted, in our private conversations with DOD types, was the human cost of the expensive airline tickets purchased by the enlisted sailors for their families to join them in Hong Kong...all non-refundable. Happy holidays from your Chinese friends!)

As we noted last night, in the Bush Administration, China has had NO better friend, in terms of adult supervision of the relationship, than the US Navy. It was the Navy which worked to get around the stupid and self-defeating hostility of then-DOD Secretary Rumsfeld, by constantly seeking ways to build mil/mil relations...and thus confidence that in a crisis, adults on both sides could talk to each other in hopes of heading off something neither side desired.

Clearly, today, the US Navy has concluded that its efforts may have been for naught...and its senior leaders may fear there ARE no adults in power on the Chinese least not in terms which a sophisticated (dare one say civilized?) international power would recognize.

A measure of the Navy's concern is that Roughead had his first press conference as CNO today, and this is what he talked about: China's willful violation of the most basic first law of the sea, by denying help actually requested by ships in distress.

The case in point...something which had gone un-reported until the Kitty Hawk incident...Beijing refused to allow two US Navy minesweepers to seek refuge in Hong Kong from an approaching storm, two weeks ago.

"As someone who has been going to sea all my life, if there is one tenet that we observe it's when somebody is in need you provide [assistance] and you sort it [the politics] out later," Roughead said, adding, "And that, to me was more bothersome [than banning the Kitty Hawk]..." Speaking in Hawaii, PACOM Keating echoed his boss, calling the minesweepers' denial "a different kettle of fish for us, in some ways more disturbing, more perplexing" because it violates the unwritten international code understood by all seafaring nations.

Press reports have speculated, some quoting unidentified Chinese sources, that the snubs against the US Navy, and what is being called a "wave of cancellations" of mil/mil contacts since the early Fall, are all due to Beijing's political ire at Bush Administration decisions on Taiwan arms, the Dalai Lama's Gold Medal, and the like. But there does seem to be a belated sense of the limits on this.

The rapid reversal of the Hong Kong decision, presumably attempted by Chinese Leadership political supervisors of the PLA, came too late to salvage the Kitty Hawk PR gaffe.

So it is not known if adult supervisors in Beijing concluded that blocking the minesweepers was "sufficient" message-sending, and that banning the Kitty Hawk was self-defeating over-kill.

And that's why even the experts now ask whether the PLA gets to make these decisions free of the civilian supervision required in all other advanced countries.

Note that not only has China prevented port visits twice, including once by vessels in distress, they have also been canceling military-military contacts. Next week China is scheduled to send a delegation to the Naval War College for a conference on maritime cooperation -- but Beijing has already killed plans for a reciprocal visit by US military representatives. Observe also the US language -- China's actions are the actions of an irrational child. They are not adult, unlike Us. We'll return to that, because that is how each side perceives the other.

Willy Lam over at the conservative Jamestown Foundation had a piece on the affair, arguing that the cancellation was due to a massive military exercise (highlights are mine):

The military drills, which started on November 19, covered a wide swath of the Pacific, including sensitive terrain east of Taiwan and north of the Philippine archipelago. While official PLA media have been reticent about the exercises, Hong Kong papers and military-related websites in China noted that their purpose was to simulate a “pincer attack” on Taiwan as well as a naval blockade. Elite battalions from PLA Air Force (PLAAF) units under the Guangzhou and the Nanjing Military Regions, as well as the East and South China Sea Fleets, were involved. They deployed hardware including Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, Sovremmy-class destroyers and indigenously developed Flying Leopard jet-fighters. Among new weapons tested at the maneuvers were 022 stealth missiles and Russian-made SS-N-27 “Club” anti-ship cruise missiles. (Ming Pao, November 24;, November 24; United Daily News, November 25)

Several hundred commercial flights along China's southeast coast—the majority of which originated from airports in Shanghai and Guangzhou—were postponed during the exercises. It was not until last Saturday that the East China Civil Aviation Bureau lifted the highly disruptive aviation control (People's Daily, November 26). Li Jingao, an official of the CAAC East China Air Traffic Management Bureau, claimed: "The delay was resulted from a backlog caused by the control in previous days." Military analysts noted that PLA authorities did not want the Kitty Hawk battle group—whose 8,000-odd sailors had earlier planned to spend Thanksgiving in Hong Kong—to be in the vicinity. This is despite the fact that during his visit to Beijing earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his hosts made new pledges to boost confidence-building measures, including establishing a military-to-military hotline. On a deeper level, the Kitty Hawk incident reflected Beijing’s anger at Washington’s plan to sell Taiwan a $940 million upgrade to its Patriot II anti-missile shield. Beijing apparently also wanted to protest President Bush’s presence at a Congressional ceremony last month honoring the Dalai Lama, deemed a “splittist,” or leader of Tibet’s pro-independence movement (Washington Post, November 23; Associated Press, November 23).

There are also indications that this stupendous muscle-flexing was targeting more than the usual suspects; for examples Taiwan and the United States. Parts of the exercises took place close to the disputed Paracel Islands, including the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos in the South China Sea, a few islets whose sovereignty are claimed by Vietnam. Last Friday, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry pointed out that the war games were a “violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty.” Le Dung, the Ministry's spokesman, said that “It is not in line with the common perception of senior leaders of the two countries as well as the spirit of the recent meeting between the two prime ministers on the sidelines of the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore” (Vietnamese News Agency, November 23).

US Sec of Defense recently visited Beijing and issues of military transparency were raised. Let's test how well you understand China. Did China:

(a) notify relevant media, local administrative centers, and foreign nations of this exercise?

(b) not tell anyone

If you answered (b), the cigar is yours. Lam reports:

Most notably, there is the issue of military transparency, which was raised by Secretary Gates during his visit to China. The military drills were not reported by any official Chinese media. There are also indications that the PLA did not alert relevant Chinese government departments, let alone countries in the Asia-Pacific region, of the maneuvers.

All this was followed by the inevitable US protests and calls for re-assessment:

In response, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Duncan Hunter, urged Bush in a letter Thursday to sit down with top lawmakers to discuss "an adjustment of US policy towards China."

"As these two incidents clearly demonstrate, China is embarking on a new more confrontational relationship with the US and we need to be prepared," wrote Hunter, a candidate for the party's presidential nomination.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asian affairs David Sedney complained formally to the Chinese military attachi in Washington on Wednesday.

"It is not, in our view, conduct that is indicative of a country who understands its obligations as a responsible nation," said Admiral Tim Keating, the head of the US Pacific Command.

Of course, this is all wrong. China is not embarking on a "new, more confrontational relationship" with the US. This is because China does not have any "relationship" with the US, or rather, it has the same relationship with the US as it does with every other nation.

Anyone who has observed China's relations with the outside world for any length of time has seen this pattern again and again. In the midst of negotiations with the Vatican, it consecrates two bishops for the state Church. In the midst of negotiations over the Torch coming to Taiwan, it denies a visa to the representative of the city of Kaohsiung to discuss games held there in 2009. Arriving in India for negotiations, its ambassador announces a whole Indian state is part of China. Some months back the Chinese government shut down an expat magazine in China that was widely considered the most sympathetic and supportive expat rag in the nation. China gets the Olympics, and crackdowns on the internet, and journalists intensify, while state security arrests double. Catch the pattern?

Now Bejing has denied Kitty Hawk a berth in Hong Kong, thus abusing the one service in the US government that has consistently supported it, to the extent that the previous head of PACOM apparently instructed his underlings not to hold military exercises using Beijing as the imagined target. The one service that has consistently displayed an eagerness to form relationships with China. The one service that has imagined itself in partnership with China.

The fact is that in doing all these things, the Navy demonstrated that it had arrayed itself in the proper position of suppliant to the Dragon Throne. Just like those petitioners living in the petitioner's village outside of Beijing, or the local peasant who comes before the mighty magistrate to ask for his benevolence. The Navy thinks it has a right to reciprocity, since it has given so much. But in China there are no rights that apply to one's superiors -- superiors give things out of benevolence, and in both receiving petitions and in handing out benevolence, the great demonstrate their greatness. (In addition to displays of benevolence, the Throne also demonstrates its greatness by abusing those who abase themselves before it. They should be grateful for Our Attention.) From this perspective, when the Navy petitioned China for openness, it validated the greatness of China, and presented itself as a suppliant for imperial benevolence. When it made offerings of information and access to the Throne, that is only right, for gift-making is the proper behavior of suppliants, and the Throne in its Benevolence accepts all gifts. Most regrettably, with its insistence on reciprocity, the Navy has defined itself as a collection of small children making wearisome demands on Throne. If the Navy really understood its relationship to the greatness of the Dragon Throne, it would wait humbly for some display of benevolence, just like those petitioners in the petitioners village outside of Beijing.

The Chinese leadership is not annoyed at US weapons sales to Taiwan or President Bush's escapades with the Dalai Lama, no what really annoys them is that these barbarians -- like small children -- require explanations. Nobody gets explanations from the Great Man, his decisions are final, and wasn't it benevolent of him to have considered your petition in the first place? So when Beijing explains its actions in terms of weapons systems to Taiwan or awards to the Dalai Lama, Washington is simply getting an explanation at a level it can understand. Like a small child. Hopefully someday official Washington will grow up, shut up, and array itself in a properly obeisant position with respect to the Dragon Throne, patiently awaiting such drib-drabs as the Throne, in its greatness, may grant it. By the way, when are you going to give us Taiwan? That would make a nice token of your devotion to Our Greatness.

Louis XIV of France described himself as the Sun King -- as the planets revolve around the Sun, so France should revolve around him. Like modern China, absolutism in 17th century France struggled to impose its will on the provinces, which maintained strong local power bases, and convened "courts of reunion" to provide a legal fiction for annexing neighboring territory. Like modern China, seducing a never ending stream of foreigners into buying into its special, exotic status -- China must be treated like a Ming vase, Chris Patten once remarked -- France dazzled all with its myth and pomp, making France the court language of diplomacy throughout Europe. Like France of Louis XIV, China, as Lucian Pye once observed, is an empire struggling to become a state, and in no place is that clearer than in foreign policy. Be grateful, US Navy, that Le Roi Soleil has chosen to permit you to align itself with its light. And if you're really, really contrite and humble, we may allow you to sacrifice yourself on Our Behalf again.

UPDATE: The Pentagon says China has refused 9 Navy vessels and an aircraft were refused entry in the last month:

China has refused nine U.S. Navy ships and one Air Force jet entry to Hong Kong in the past month, U.S. military officials said Friday.

Senior Navy officials said that Beijing denied permission for the USS Reuben James, a Navy frigate, to make a holiday port call for sailors at the end of December.

The rejection occurred last week, at the same time China refused to allow the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier battle group into Hong Kong for a Thanksgiving holiday port call.

A U.S. Air Force C-17 flight that had been scheduled for a routine resupply of the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong also was denied permission to enter, Navy officials said.

The Kitty Hawk battle group was eventually granted permission to enter, but by then the ships were well on their way to port in Japan.

Days earlier, China refused to give two U.S. Navy minesweepers safe harbor in Hong Kong during a storm on the high seas.

The United States has filed a formal protest with China over the decisions.

U.S. officials are baffled about the reason or reasons for the port call refusals. China recently has expressed concerns about U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and President Bush's October presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

The US has protested these refusals.

A friend reminds: For an in-depth academic study of this, see James Hevia's excellent work.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Richard Kagan Announces New Book on Lee Teng-Hui

Taiwan Scholar Richard Kagan announces his new bio of Lee Teng-hui.


Member Publication: Kagan,
_Taiwan's Statesman: Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia_
From: Richard C. Kagan

I am writing to introduce my book to my colleagues. I would appreciate any comments, criticisms, and discussion.

The full citation is :

_Taiwan's Statesman: Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia_. Naval Institute Press. 2007. ISBN 978-1-59114-427-4.

My biography goes beyond a strict and traditional analysis of Lee's democratic reforms in order to provide the context for Lee's character by tracing his intellectual heritage and political philosophy. Lee's experience in the Japanese Army and his witness to the aftermaths of the Fire bombing of Tokyo, and the atom bomb destructions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came at a time when he was passing through the maturing of a young adult. The impact was for him to regard the spiritual path as more important than the sole achievements of technology.

Lee's decision to become an agricultural economist was drawn by the tide of the Manchurian opportunity to live in a cosmopolitan and modern environment. But most significant was his deep personal attraction to the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, and the spirituality of Christianity as expressed in the explanation of the meaning of life and death.

The life of Lee is partially modeled on Richard Brookhiser's study of George Washington. In that vein, this biography is a study about character. It is about how Lee self-consciously built his own identity with regard to Taiwan, Japan, and democracy and the world. Like other post-colonial leaders, Lee invented his own nation in modern and global terms. The book provides a new history of Taiwan, a critique of the "One china" policy, and a list of suggestions for a new policy toward Taiwan.

The title of the book, "Taiwan's Statesman" draws from the Greek and Christian meaning of the term. A Statesman is a herder of human beings who not only takes on the mission of providing for their external security but also creates a disposition of virtue within his flock.

My research involved hours of interviews with President Lee as well as shadowing him during his daily calendar of events. I have read sources in Japanese and Chinese, and have sought information from many of his colleagues, and from scholars. I have addressed in a new way the issues of "One China," Taiwan identity, and Lee's commitment to a Taiwan independent from China's rule and authority.

Richard Kagan
Hamline University

Daily Links, Nov 29th, 2007

What's hiding out on the blogs today?

  • Rye at Ni Howdy talks up the Edward Curtis Indian photo exhibition.

  • Craig offers great images of Angkor Wat. And Jiji too.

  • Pinyin news blogs on an article suggesting Mandarin students write characters using software. Meanwhile Talking Taiwanese talks about reading it. And A-gu has a post on a teacher who teaches in Taiwanese.

  • ROC the Boat with an excellent summary of the recent US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement Roundtable in DC.

  • Josambro, who did the Lonely Planet Guide for The Beautiful Isle, was interviewed on Rick Monday's show.

  • bent on Taiwan's uber-powerful compter industry.

  • Kerim has a great post on how Kevin Rudd might be good for Taiwan.

  • MEDIA: China's state media say it is the Yankee imperialist's fault that the Kitty Hawk got dicked around on Thanksgiving. A government survey says Taiwanese would choose independence over annexation to China, if those are the only choices, and adds:
    Contact between the countries has "carried the public farther and farther
    away from China instead of closer," You said.

    When asked about their impression of China, 55 percent of respondents said they had a negative impression, while 33 percent said their impression of the country was positive.

    When asked about their impression of the Chinese Communist Party, 70 percent had a negative impression and 17 percent a good one.

    And the Sports Affairs Council released its book on the 50 greatest cycling routes on the island...

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    Wow! How did THAT $10 million get there?

    I've often mentioned the Chu An-hsiung case, still canonical as far as Taiwan city council speakers are concerned, but certainly KMT's Lien Ching-tai, former city council speaker of Tainan deserves an Honorable Mention, as he was recently charged with fraud in a land case that highlights how the System works...

    Former Tainan County Council Speaker Lien Ching-tai has been taken into custody after being questioned by prosecutors in the southern city of Tainan over his alleged involvement in profiting from a fraudulently-obtained loan on over-valued properties, local prosecutors said Tuesday.

    The detainment came after Tainan prosecutors brought in 22 people from Tainan City and Tainan County for questioning regarding the scandle, the prosecutors said.

    Lien later reported to the Tainan District Prosecutors Office with his lawyer after the office served Lien with a subpoena, the prosecutors noted.

    Lien denied that he had obtained the loan by fraud, but the prosecutors said that they still filed an application with the Tainan District Court to detain Lien on charges of breach of trust, forgery, and criminal intimidation.

    According to the prosecutors, Lien allegedly collaborated with high-ranking executives of First Bank 10 years ago to obtain the loans by asking the executives to overestimate the value of several plots of land and buildings used by Lien as collateral.

    Lien defaulted on payments of the loans immediately after getting the money, defaulted, and let the bank to auction off the collateral, the prosecutors went on.

    Lien then asked his friend to bid for the properties in the auction, and threatened other interested parties, causing them to drop their bids, which resulted in a very low bidding price, the prosecutors said.

    Lien was therefore able to buy back the properties through his friend and gain NT$100 million (US$3 million) from the process, the prosecutors noted.

    Lien made the news last year with a bribery case that was at once breathtaking in its chutzpah and yet in its way totally typical of the innocence of illegality on The Beautiful Isle:

    A Taiwan High Court judge yesterday was detained for allegedly taking bribes and then ruling in favor of a number of incumbent and former Tainan County councilors.

    "The Taiwan High Court's Tainan Branch judge Hsu Hung-chi (徐宏志) is suspected of accepting more than NT$10 million (US$309,000) from former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Chou Wu-liu (周五六) and then acquitting Chou and a number of defendants," Hsu Mei-nu (許美女), the spokeswoman for the Tainan District Prosecutors' Office, said yesterday.

    How did Lien's buddy Chou get in the position of allegedly having to bribe a High Court Judge? Turns out it was business as usual in Tainan back in 1994:

    In March 1994 KMT Tainan County councilor Lien Ching-tai (連清泰) and Chou ran for council speaker and vice speaker, respectively, and allegedly colluded to bribe councilors.

    Lien and Chou reportedly took 34 councilors to Thailand before the speakership election, where the bribery took place.

    Lien and Chou then each received 47 votes and won the speaker and vice speaker posts.

    Yes, allegedly bribed the entire city council to elect him, meaning that electors and electees were both equally allegedly corrupt. City Council Speak posts are plum posts, since they do so much oversight and direction of land development, one of the cornerstones of local political economy in Taiwan. How was the bribery discovered? Here's my favorite part:

    Prosecutors found that [Vice Speaker] Chou's wife, Chen Hsiu-hsia (陳秀霞), deposited more than NT$10 million into {Judge] Hsu's bank account in August 2001.

    Prosecutors summoned Chen for questioning on Thursday. Because she was unable to explain why she deposited the money into Hsu's account, the Tainan District Court on Thursday night approved the prosecutors' request to detain Chen.

    Stunning. The wife of a co-defendant simply deposits the money directly into the judge's account. What could be simpler? No messing around with difficult international fund transfers to Bermuda or Switzerland. Just drop off the $10 million bribe at the post office bank on the way to the supermarket....

    Media shorts

    I took time out from editing a friend's book on Taiwanese popular religion to have look at the news. My friend has returned to the UK where he is going to Oxbridge, or Camford, or perhaps Hogwarts, to study, after which he will become a Don. This was very confusing to me, since, being from America, I had thought that the only way to be a Don was to kill the previous head of the Family. I guess the British have found a way to remove the violence from the process....

    Anyway, the Hindustan Times offers a travel piece entitled "Taiwan for Lovers: Visiting Sun Moon Lake." Taiwan through other eyes....

    For all the lake's charms, getting there remains half the fun. Taiwan is not particularly large. Despite its population of 23 million, it could easily fit into the space of Switzerland. It's only a few hours drive from the hectic capital city of Taipei to the sparsely inhabited mountains around the lake.

    On the way, visitors drive past rice fields and banana plantations. There's no reason to rush, meaning plenty of time for stops at places like the Wu Wei Culture Tea House in Taichung.

    Built in the traditional style and situated next to a small lake, the teahouse boasts a covered terrace stretching over the water, filled with splashing red and yellow koi.

    "We think that a comfortable atmosphere is important for truly enjoying tea," says Lin Chun-chun, as she serves the hot beverage. She enters the room with a wooden tray; decked out with a teapot, tall, narrow glasses and small bowls.

    First Lin heats several large teapots. Next, she pours hot water into a smaller teapot before pouring the water into the larger pot, which has been filled with green tea. After letting it steep for a short while, Lin pours it into the tall glasses. But the tea in these glasses is only for sniffing.

    Then it's poured into the flat saucers, from which it is slowly drunk while the next serving steeps. The procedure can be repeated up to seven times.

    Lugang is also worth a side trip. The city is known for its craftsmen, working in small courtyards as they carve furniture or statues of Buddha. Wu Duen-how, a renowned master of making traditional lanterns, is the most famous.

    Wu is more than 80 years old and has been making and painting the lanterns for 60 years. He has no plans to stop because he already has so many images of new lanterns in his head, he says.

    The landscape starts getting hillier between Lugang and the lake.

    Instead of millions of Chinese tourists, maybe we can promote ourselves to India instead. Have to do something about all that pork fat in the food, though.... Meanwhile the Taiwan government is working on promoting our growing solar power industry, which has been the subject of more than one article in the last couple of years:

    The Taiwanese government Tuesday forecast massive growth in its solar energy industry, expecting its total value to be worth 403.1 billion Taiwan dollars (12.5 billion US) in 2015, compared with 21.1 billion dollars in 2006.

    By 2015 Taiwan should account for seven percent of the world's production of solar power generation equipment, compared with two percent in 2006, said the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, quoting the Bureau of Energy at the economics ministry.

    The brief flap over the possibility that the Marshall Islands might switch diplomatic recognition appears to have resolved itself in favor of Taiwan:

    A Marshall Islands opposition party tipped to win the presidency supports continued ties to Taiwan, despite signals of a switch in diplomatic loyalties to China, the party spokesman said on Tuesday.

    Litokwa Tomeing, a new member of the Pacific Ocean nation's opposition Aelon Kein Ad party, has visited China and voiced support in the media for switching ties to Beijing. He could become prime minister, as his party looks set to take control of the legislature following recent elections.

    But spokesman Tony de Brum said Aelon Kein Ad would continue to support Taiwan if it won an expected 20 to 22 seats in the 33-member legislature and formed a new government.

    Reuters has a piece on Chen's absolutely asinine suggestion that he might declare martial law to get the KMT-controlled areas of the island to obey the election laws in the recent referendum mess. The piece contains one very nice paragraph, something almost never seen in the international media -- check out that first paragraph below:

    Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) takes satisfaction in having pressured the then-ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) to end decades of martial law in 1987, heralding the island's move to full democracy.

    It also prides itself on putting space between Taiwan and China, which has claimed sovereignty over the self-ruled island since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Raising the "China threat" is an oft-used DPP electoral tactic.

    Probably some of you are wondering why I haven't blogged on the martial law thing. Frankly, I have no clue why the President said something that stupid.....your speculation is as good as mine. Yet another incident showing that appointing the President the Chairman of the Party during a major election is a really, really stupid idea. One good thing about this incident: it offers an excellent out for Chen to resign that position and put someone in there who has only one thing on her mind: get DPP candidates elected.

    And don't miss bent, who has the links for today....

    Nelson Report on the Kitty Hawk Incident -UPDATE-

    The Nelson Report, the Washington insider report, gives the point of view of Beltway insiders on the recent flap over the recent problems with the visit of the carrier Kitty Hawk to Hong Kong:


    US-CHINA...let's start with the bad news. You saw last week that Beijing embarrassed itself by completely mishandling a long-planned Hong Kong courtesy call by a US carrier...first canceling, then lamely trying to reverse the verdict on "humanitarian grounds".

    By then it was too late, PACOM commander Keating had already reversed course, and, we understand, bad weather meant the most prudent track back up to Japan lay right through the Strait of Taiwan.

    We are assured by official sources that weather really was the reason for this politically interesting was not a "right back at you" from the Navy, even though there's no question that the admirals are plenty steamed-up about Beijing's actions.

    (We say "Beijing" because under the Basic Law, Hong Kong Authorities have absolutely no decision-making authority on the substance involved here...foreign policy, and military to military relations. This whole game was played out in Beijing.)

    Adm. Keating allowed as how he was "perplexed" by China's screw-up. He was being polite. Every serious China player we know, including likely officials in a Democratic presidential administration starting in '09, had the same reaction we did...this is bad news on multiple levels.

    First, the action and reversal indicates, once again, a weak, inconsistent command and control system at the very top levels of Chinese leadership. As with the ASAT shoot-down earlier this year, and the EP-3 incident in 2001, it shows that you can't always count on the senior political leadership to be on top of the PLA leadership, except to react to bad decisions.

    "We have no 'incidents at sea' agreement with China, even though this helped keep the peace with the Soviets for a generation; we still don't have more than an alleged decision on a 'hot line'; 'transparency' is almost entirely one-way, especially on exchanges", was the "indictment right off the top of my head, since you ask", from one likely senior player in a Democratic Administration.

    Sources in Beijing say the Hong Kong cancellation was made because of Chinese pique at the US announcement of PAC-2 upgrades for Taiwan, and that the reason China was angry was an alleged failure by Defense Secretary Gates to brief them on the upcoming decision while he was in Beijing.

    Experts here say the PAC-2 upgrades have long been in the works, and that even if Gates didn't give a specific "FYI", China's hitting out at the US Navy was not simply out of proportion, it shows a systematic failure of analysis on the part of the PLA. Both Adm. Keating, and CNO Adm. Roughead have both visited China this year, among many Navy efforts with Beijing.

    As one defense analyst argues, "the Air Force is using 'China rising' as its main 'sales pitch' reason for future long-range bombers, but the Navy, despite China's talk of a 'thousand ship navy', has taken a calculated path of out-reach and cooperation, whenever possible, and the Navy is assiduously working to engage China in maritime security cooperation."

    In fact, we'd note, that's the title of a conference set for Dec. 5-6 at the Naval War College, with many important PLAN and other officials invited. Whether these senior Chinese will be allowed to attend is still, apparently, an open question. Other sources note that back in October, apparently to show Beijing's displeasure over the Congressional Gold Medal subsequently personally handed the Dalai Lama by President Bush, China cancelled "a whole slew of mil/mil activities, although unlike the Hong Kong decision, this was done quietly", we're told.

    Since then, "there are a lot of delegations going back and forth", so perhaps next week's conference will be a chance for the authorities in Beijing to demonstrate to the US Navy, at least, that it does "get it" and is serious about reciprocating in a fashion appropriate to a mature power.

    As one email read last week, over the Thanksgiving break, "the Chinese really don't seem to understand that military-to-military relations are important in and of themselves, and as a critical component of keeping the peace. No one is naive here, obviously, about 'friendship', but if China continues to play mil/mil as just a cheap, signal-sending game, and refuses to understand the strategic importance of what we're offering them, this should concern every government in Asia as much as it does us."


    UPDATE: The Kitty Hawk issue is not the only thing the Navy is concerned about, according to AFP:

    Admiral Gary Roughead, the chief of US naval operations, said he was even more bothered by China's refusal to allow two small US minesweepers to enter Hong Kong last week to avoid a tropical storm and refuel.

    "As someone who has been going to sea all my life, if there is one tenet we observe it's when somebody's in need, we provide, and we sort it out later. That to me was more bothersome," Roughead told reporters here.

    He said the navy sent a tanker ship to refuel the minesweepers, the USS Patriot and the USS Guardian, which then proceeded to their homeport in Sasebo, Japan.

    He called China's actions "surprising and unhelpful."

    Roughead said the Chinese have given no reason for the action. He said denying US navy ships port calls at Hong Kong was unusual although not unprecedented.

    Keating said the incident with the minesweepers was "very unusual."

    "Those two minesweepers were engaged in an operation, not against China, but out in international water, and a storm blew up and they needed to get into a place of refuge. And you know, Hong Kong's nearby and it's a great place to go," he said.

    "So, for the Chinese to have denied those two ships in particular, small though they may be, that is a different kettle of fish for us, and is in ways more disturbing, more perplexing than the denial for the Kitty Hawk's port visit request," he said.

    More in the article....

    Lyndon LaRouche Speaks at China Reunification Conference

    This is the kind of thing you just can't make up. Blogger Woolly Days from downunder found this article from a Chinese news service. To get the full flavor, read Woolly's post on the mad LaRouche, a nutcase who perennially runs for president....

    These are central themes for the now 85 year old Lyndon LaRouche. LaRouche has covered the entire political spectrum in his time. He began his political career on the Marxist left before gravitating to the Democrats. Though never endorsed by the party, he has run in the last four presidential elections (including one he ran from prison). In the 1980s, he was given unfettered access to the NSC and CIA for reasons never divulged but he claimed were related to President Reagan's Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI).

    However he is best known for being sentenced to 15 years in jail for fraud related to fundraising for his movement and for his bizarre projects and conspiracy theories. He proposed a Eurasian land bridge to the Americas as “an economic engine of world development”. He also claimed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip head a "financial oligarchy" that rules the world, that the British monarch is also responsible for most of the world’s drug trafficking, that Zionism is part of this conspiracy and that the Ku Klux Klan is controlled by the FBI.

    Googling will bring up more on the amazing LaRouche. Meanwhile reports on him:

    The United States and China should join hands in an effort to reform the world financial system, which has currently entered the most deadly crisis in recent centuries, a renowned U.S. economist said Saturday.

    "The end of the present world monetary-financial system is inevitable, unless the system is replaced by a new world system during a relatively brief, remaining time available," said Lyndon La Rouche at a luncheon at the Forum on U.S.-China Relations and China's Peaceful Reunification.

    La Rouche, also a famous political activist, said the present international financial crisis could only be brought under control when major countries like the U.S. and China cooperate.

    LOL. I wonder what the Americans at the conference thought:

    The forum, jointly organized by several local Chinese-American, gathered nearly 100 government officials, scholars and activists form the U.S. and China, who were expected to discuss issues on U.S.-China relations and their implications on the Taiwan issue during the two-day event.

    Too classic for words...

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    Guangdong vs Gujarat

    Hot special economic zones. Booming industries. Busy ports. Rapid economic growth. Massive inflows of foreign direct investment. Yup, that's Guangdong Gujarat.

    This week's Asia Times has a long study of the success of the Indian state of Gujarat (Wiki Gujarat):

    The northwestern state of Gujarat - notorious for horrific communal violence in 2002 in which over a thousand people, mainly Muslims, were killed - has emerged as India's favored destination for investments. Its dazzling economic success is being highlighted by Chief Minister Narendra Modi in his election campaign as he makes a bid for a third straight term in office in upcoming assembly elections in the state.

    According to a recent study by the Reserve Bank of India, the country's central bank, Gujarat stood first in the country with investments of US$17.8 billion in 2006-07 or 25.8% of India's total investment of $69 billion during the year.

    The article is well worth a read, for it gives a glimpse of India, clicking along at 8-9% annually growthwise....

    "Gujarat has emerged as India's special economic zone [SEZ]," Modi boasted in his speech at a recent meeting of the World Economic Forum at Dalian in China, referring to huge success that Gujarat has experienced in attracting domestic and foreign investment.

    Gujarat's experience with setting up SEZs has been pretty smooth. Unlike in other parts of the country where land acquisition for SEZs has encountered massive protests, in Gujarat where 33 SEZ proposals have been approved since the state's SEZ Act was passed in 2004, the process has been largely trouble-free. Barring the case of Reliance's SEZ near Jamnagar, where farmers went to court, and some protest in Por near Vadodara, Gujarat has seen little protest over land acquisition.

    This is because Gujarat's port-led development of SEZs involves setting up SEZs along its 1,600-kilometer-long coastline. SEZs are located on large tracts of fallow and saline land in Kutch and Saurashtra. This is arid land that had no takers earlier; but the SEZs now hold out the promise of economic activity and are welcomed by the locals.

    The Mundra SEZ, for instance, is being built on land virtually unfit for human habitation and it has brightened economic prospects immensely. A plot here which might have fetched a price of $2,500-$5,000 a few years ago now sells at $250,000. Farmers are eager to sell their land. This is not the case in other parts of India where SEZ developers are eyeing rich agricultural land that farmers are reluctant to sell.

    At the same time, Asia Times also reports that across the Strait, Guangdong is close to realizing its long-cherished goal of overtaking the Four Little Dragons, according to Chinese officials:

    Guangdong Governor Huang Huahua declared last week at a public function that the province could overtake Taiwan this year and would continue to strive to catch up with South Korea.

    Chinese media quoted Huang as saying that Guangdong's GDP was expected to reach more than US$390 billion for the whole of 2007, after registering a year-on-year growth of 14.7% from January to October.

    According to official estimates, Taiwan's economy is expected to grow 5 % to more than $380 billion this year. In 1998, Guangdong's economy reached $103 billion and that of Singapore generated $82.8 billion. In 2003, the province's economy hit $191.4 billion, surpassing Hong Kong's $158.5 billion.

    "From 1991 to 2006, Guangdong registered an average annual economic growth of 14.4%, which was not only more than four times the average annual growth in the world, but also higher than the average annual growth of 'the four little dragons' in the 1970s when they experienced rapid growth," Huang said.

    "Guangdong generated an economy of 2.6 trillion yuan [US$351 billion] last year, increasing by 14.1% when compared with 2005. The figure doubled that in 2001 and accounted for one-eighth of the country's total," he said.

    However, experts say it may not be easy for Guangdong to catch up with South Korea in a few years. In South Korea, the Ministry of Finance and Economy in July revised its GDP growth estimate for the whole of 2007 to 4.6% from 4.5%, due to strong export and domestic demand. In 2006, South Korea's GDP grew by 5% to $897.4 billion, due to popular demand for key export products such as mobile phones.

    As readers of this blog know, I've long advocated closer Taiwan-India ties. China is not the only country in the world growing at booming rates, and there is no reason why Taiwan should not be trying to cash in on Indian growth as well. The government has recently been working to develop India ties -- as evidenced by the Taitronics expo there in September and the signing of trade agreements between the two nations.

    China Opposes UN Earth still orbits sun

    Reuters reported that China was once again kvetching about the UN referendum, a harmless piece of electioneering that can have no concrete effect, since China possess a veto in the UN and can block Taiwan's entry whenever it pleases.

    China has again prodded the United States to oppose a controversial referendum on U.N. membership by Taiwan and warned Washington to stop arms sales to the island China claims as its own, state media said on Tuesday.

    The purpose of this exercise is apparently to get Washington to say something to Taipei. But the latter two players have already expressed their mutual displeasure with each other's stance, and neither the obdurate Bush nor the election-bound Chen is going to back down.

    Meanwhile French President Sarkozy, in Beijing drumming up business for French companies, was kind enough to say a few words on behalf of Beijing about the referendum:

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday that his country opposes "Taiwan independence" and the island's push for a referendum next year on UN membership.

    France holds that there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an integral part of China, which is the general position of the international community, Sarkozy said.

    Any unilateral initiative is "ineffective and unjustified", especially the planned referendum, he said during the meeting with President Hu Jintao.

    "It (the referendum) is not a useful initiative. It is therefore regrettable and I hope it will not be pursued."

    Several European leaders have spoken out on China's behalf. Last month it was EU Preznit Javier Solana who did the Beijing kowtow. As the Economist reported this summer:

    Why is the EU meddling? Taiwan is a thriving democracy and big trading partner (almost as important as India or Brazil). The explanation is simple and unedifying: the EU is doing China's bidding. Chinese rulers regard the Taiwan referendum as a sneaky step closer to an eventual declaration of formal independence by the island.

    China expends extraordinary energy on pestering other governments to preserve the strange limbo inhabited by Taiwan, a self-governing island of 23m that it insists is a wayward province. Whenever Taiwan irks China, its ambassadors appear at foreign ministries worldwide, demanding that Taiwan be rebuked.

    An internal EU memorandum sheds light on the way such strong-arm diplomacy works. Prepared by officials working under Javier Solana, the EU's foreign-policy supremo, it describes a meeting, late last month, between the Chinese ambassador to the EU, Guan Chengyuan, and a top Eurocrat. According to EU note-takers, Mr Guan called the referendum provocative and destabilising, and said China wanted EU support, as it did not want to have to use “the last resort”—an apparent reference to its threat to use force, if necessary, to “reunify” Taiwan.

    China always welcomes people to meddle in its "internal affairs", so long as they agree with Beijing. Fortunately the EU rank and file is hardly as craven as its leadership -- despite calls from leaders the embargo on arms sales to China remains intact, and 84 members of EU lawmaking body called for representation for Taiwan in the UN last month.

    A group of 84 members of the European Parliament released a joint statement Thursday to express their support for Taiwan's bid to join the United Nations.

    The members representing various political groups, who have gathered in Strasbourg, France for the European Parliament's plenary session, noted in their statement that Taiwan is a sovereign state that has never been governed by the People's Republic of China and that it is wrong and unfair for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to claim that Taiwan is part of China and deny Taiwan's eligibility for membership.

    They pointed out that in a report on China issued last September, the European Parliament called for representation for Taiwan's 23 million people in international organizations and that to this day, Taiwan remains excluded from most of these organizations.

    Calling Taiwan a full-fledged democracy with a highly developed economy that can make valuable contributions to the international community, the members urged the European Union's 27 member states and other U.N. members to seriously consider Taiwan's application for membership in the world body.

    China knows full well that the referendum cannot succeed. Why is it pushing the EU and Washington so hard to suppress Taipei? Because if it attacks Taiwan's democracy itself, it risks stirring up the DPP's pro-Taiwan voters, and souring KMT supporters with its heavyhandedness. Hence it wants other to do its dirty work. Hopefully US and EU officials won't continue their policy of running interference for China.

    A Man, A Plan, Japan

    Ma Ying-jeou has returned from his recent trip to Japan, and it appears to have gone well, reports Max Hirsch of the Kyodo News service:

    The KMT, which identifies strongly with Chinese culture and nationalism, has traditionally fared poorly in wooing Tokyo.

    Ma hopes to improve those relations as Japan becomes a more important trading and strategic partner for Taiwan.

    "I've changed my mind about Mr. Ma," said Lower House member Takeo Hiranuma after meeting Ma on Thursday. "I think his proposals are good."

    Behind Ma's improved reception in Tokyo are his vows to improve Taipei-Tokyo ties while maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait — a potential global flash-point that would likely impact Japan.

    China, which has vowed to unify Taiwan with the mainland, threatens to attack the island if it tries to make its independence stance a permanent one.

    Those threats keep Tokyo concerned because any conflict in the strait could see intervention from the United States, which would drag the Japanese military into the conflict via a joint defense pact and affect its southern territory.

    Ma wooed lawmakers this time by promising peace in the strait through improved economic and security relations with Beijing. He also vowed to make Taiwan a "hard rock" by maintaining defense spending "at no less than 3 percent of Taiwan's growth domestic product."

    Ma typically does well overseas, where settings and speakers can be controlled, and he can be on-message more easily, than in Taiwan, where speaking settings are more spontaneous. People might have been polite and positive, but the KMT is pro-China, not pro-Japan, and nothing Ma can do will change that; indeed, the last time Ma was in Japan, he was grilled for being anti-Japanese, as the article observes.

    Ma's proposals are also completely bogus. As China scholar Arthur Waldron pointed out in a letter to the Taipei Times yesterday, if Ma wants to raise defense to 3% of GDP, all he has to do is command his party to pass the legislation, for the KMT and its allies control the legislature. Ma in fact said this in February of 2006 during his trip to England -- yet no progress has been made on the issue in the 20 subsequent months. There is nothing to stop Ma from keeping this commitment, except, of course, that he doesn't really mean it -- it is a claim intended purely for foreign consumption, as is par for the course for Ma trips overseas. In any case the DPP is also committed to a 3% level....

    ....and Ma's free trade proposal is old news -- the 30th East Asian Economic Conference proposed that five years ago, and that was hardly the first time for that idea to surface either. Ma staying on-message means simply repeating stuff that foreigners like to hear. In its way, the lack of freshness in Ma's approach is almost an insult to his audience.

    Frank Hsieh is due for a trip to Japan next month. I'm sure we'll hear good things; Hsieh studied there.

    Meanwhile, as is the pattern for Ma, he announced his policy that he would not negotiate to annex the island to China if elected head honcho:

    Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that he will not negotiate with China on unification if elected president.

    Ma made the remarks when meeting with members of the Japan-ROC Diet Members' Consultative Council in Tokyo, the Central News Agency reported.

    The council, better known as the Nikkakon (日華懇談會), is made up of senior Japanese politicians across party lines and has been the main channel of communication between Taiwan and Japan since the two countries cut diplomatic ties in 1972.

    During the meeting, Ma said he would pursue a policy of "no unification, no independence and no armed conflicts" if elected next year.

    The presidential candidate said he would neither hold unification negotiations with China, nor support independence for Taiwan.

    Ma said he would maintain the "status quo" in cross-strait relations, but would seek to negotiate with China on "normalizing economic ties, signing a peace treaty and increasing Taiwan's presence in the international community."

    The presidential hopeful added that he would ask China to dismantle the ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan before attempting any peace negotiations.

    Ma often saves "policy" announcements for foreign trips, because the foreign media is listening at that time. At home his statements get attacked by his opponents and by his party allies, exposing holes and dampening their value and "confusing" the media. He knows that the missile issue plays well with foreigners; he made the same announcement last year in London, although he backtracked when he got back to Taipei.

    Simultaneous with Ma's visit was a conference on Taiwan-Japan economic relations.

    A two-day Taiwan-Japan economic cooperation conference drew to an end Wednesday with both sides agreeing to strengthen exchanges and cooperation over a wide range of fields, including customs, agricultural, fishery and investment affairs.

    A spokesman for the Taiwan delegation to the conference said that the two sides have agreed to beef up strategic cooperation and information exchanges in intellectual property rights (IPR) protection.

    According to the spokesman, Taiwan promised during the meeting to intensify its crackdown on commercial piracy while Japan offered to arrange for Taiwanese law enforcement officers to study its IPR protection systems and counterfeiting prevention measures.

    On the proposal that the two sides establish a substandard foodstuff reporting mechanism, Japan agreed to conduct working-level dialogue with Taiwan in this regard, the spokesman said, adding that Japan also promised to study the feasibility of forging a mechanism for the exchange of public health statistical data.

    Also in the Japan times this week was an excellent editorial on the referendum issue.....

    Ostensibly, America's reason for opposing the referendum is that it would intensify tensions across the Taiwan Strait. In fact, at a U.S.—China summit on the sidelines of the last Asia—Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Chinese President Hu Jintao reportedly told U.S. President George W. Bush that China was opposed to the referendum itself, and even hinted that China might invoke the national anti-secession law, which means military action. That would certainly intensify cross—strait tensions. The veiled threat, though, is largely rhetorical. Calm judgment suggests that the real problem lies elsewhere.

    The question at stake is rather simple. If a referendum is actually held next spring, will China use military force? The answer, if put to all schools of China experts including pro-China ones, invariably would be "no."

    With China hosting the next Olympics, it is simply inconceivable for that country to resort to force if Taiwan, instead of making a formal declaration of independence, just changed its name from the Republic of China to Taiwan in its annual membership application to the United Nations. If so, then what compelled Hu to drop the dark hint, and what is his real motive?

    To Chen and his supporters, the purpose of the referendum is clear: Having voters reaffirm their Taiwanese identity and thereby bring electoral gains to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In opinion polls asking "Do you consider yourself Taiwanese or Chinese?," an overwhelming majority say Taiwanese. So it is a foregone conclusion that most people will prefer the name of "Taiwan," not China, in its application for U.N. membership.

    In democratic elections everywhere, political parties devise their own methods for campaigns. As long as the campaigns are lawfully carried out, outsiders should stay on the sidelines.

    What China wants to see may well be the opposite of what the DPP wants to achieve. Beijing wants the Nationalist Party (KMT) to win in the next presidential election, so it is trying indirectly to promote the KMT, because U.S. opposition to the referendum hurts the Democratic Progressives while helping the Nationalists.

    What happened four years ago comes to mind. Following public protests of the referendum from both the U.S. and Japan, Peng Ming-min, senior adviser to the Taiwanese president, told me during a visit here, "If Chen Shui—bian loses in the presidential election, it will be because of interference from America and Japan." It turned out that the DPP won a razor-thin majority.

    In effect, the U.S. was, and is, interfering in Taiwan's elections between the KMT and the DPP in ways that favor the former. This seems to be the inevitable conclusion given that the possibility of tensions escalating through the use of force is virtually nil.

    For the Fukuda administration, the right course to follow is to stick with the policy of the previous administration, no matter what China says or does.

    The people of Taiwan are our neighbors who have a deep affinity and close feelings of good will toward Japan. At a time when they are trying to run their country as democratically as Japan, it is unconscionable for the Japanese to betray these feelings. Moreover, Japan has no legal or moral reasons for doing so. After all, interference in the internal affairs of other countries is strictly prohibited among modern states.

    China may say that Taiwan represents its internal affair, but by asking foreign countries to interfere, China is tacitly admitting that Taiwan is more than just an internal affair.

    .....along with this interesting article that revealed that South Korea and the Republic of China both urged the US to keep Okinawa nuke-filled in the interests of their security:

    The documents, found at the U.S. National Archives by Yasuko Kono, a professor of Japanese political and diplomatic history at Hosei University in Tokyo, show that some of the well-known U.S. reluctance in those days to return Okinawa without keeping its forces there nuclear-capable was in part due to demands from Seoul and Taipei, which at the time faced threats from the Soviet Union, China and North Korea.

    Despite the South Korean and Taiwanese objections and the U.S. reluctance, Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972 after Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and U.S. President Richard Nixon agreed on Nov. 21, 1969, on its return with the U.S. giving up the right to use military bases in the prefecture as it saw fit, including maintaining atomic arsenals, as was the case during the occupation period.

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Underwear Day in Taichung

    With all the negative publicity about our fair city from our high crime rates and the fact that we host the world's biggest polluting power plant, we get a break:

    The Audrey Underwear company in Taizhong city named November 21 Camisole Day to celebrate record sales.

    Much to the excitement of their male colleagues - all 500 women working in the firm's headquarters were encouraged to wear only camisoles and knickers.

    "We have been waiting for this day all month. Today, we are super high, and don't know where to put our eyes," salesman Cai Mingda told Straits News.

    More than 90 percent of female workers reportedly went along with the spirit of the day and worked in their underwear.

    Shannon Meet Up Dec 9 (Sunday!)

    From the Home page of the Reporters without Borders, referring to the 2008 China Olympics.

    Jerome Keating sends around the latest skinny on the upcoming Shannon Meet Up: UPDATE: This is now confirmed for Sunday, the 9th. The Shannon is next to Dan Ryan's on Tunhua N. Rd, across from the concert venue.


    To all,

    I am planning our December meeting for Sunday, December 9th in the morning.

    Our speaker for the month will be Steve Yates, who has worked with Heritage Foundation and spent five years in the Whitehouse under Dick Cheney. (No he never went hunting with Cheney.)

    Steve is an affable, straightforward person who will be in town for a Straits Exchange Conference on Saturday the 8th.

    I see three immediate areas of interest.

    --Some may want to know how things operate in a conservative foundation like Heritage.
    --Others may want to know about goings on in the White House.Or being inside the Beltway.
    --Others may want to know about what was said at the StraitsExchange Conference.

    Steve is a Giuliani man and probably will be working on his campaign if he is nominated. He can down a beer with the best of them. He was in the group that I travelled with for two weeks in Europe; he was great company and is a staunch supporter of Taiwan.

    I have still to get confirmation from Shannon's about having the meeting on Sunday instead of Saturday; I will let you know shortly.



    Saturday, November 24, 2007

    KMT Claims DPP Is Inventing Economic Growth Figures -UPDATED-

    DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH), a German news service, came out with an appalling article on growth that simply regurgitates KMT claims on the economy without any context or countervailing evidence offered. The article reports the KMT attack on the government's growth figures.....

    Taiwan on Friday released encouraging export figures but many Taiwanese are questioning the accuracy of the government's earlier economic figures.

    The article is technically correct -- many Taiwanese probably do question the figures -- but nowhere does it note which Taiwanese or why. Note that by saying "many Taiwanese" rather than "the opposition KMT" in the opening frame, it creates the impression that this claim is neutral among election campaigns, though in reality, of course, it is an article of faith among KMT supporters. A few paragraphs further down, it says:

    On Thursday, the central statistics office said Taiwan's gross domestic product (GDP) grew 6.92 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, marking the fastest pace in three years.

    Some economists and government critics have questioned the accuracy of the government figure. In addition to the fact that many Taiwanese are out of work, the growth estimate is far bigger than the average year-on-year real GDP growth that Taiwan has posted over the last five years.

    First, again observe -- the article says "some economists and government critics" without mentioning that this position is the position of the political opposition. The slanted framing should by now be very clear. How slanted is the framing? The terms KMT and opposition never appear.

    "Many Taiwanese out of work"? But the latest unemployment numbers are below 4% and hiring is on the upswing, as the pro-KMT China Post reported the other day. Nor is there anything unusual about 5.46% growth. Here are the growth rates from DGBAS, using 2001 prices:

    1997 6.59%
    1998 4.55%
    1999 5.75%
    2000 5.77%
    2001 -2.17%
    2002 4.64%
    2003 3.50%
    2004 6.15%
    2005 4.16%
    2006 4.89% (since revised to 4.68%)
    2007 5.46% (est)

    In other words, if you look at the range of growth rates rather than the average for the last decade, 5.46% lies well within the range. But never mind that. All DPA had to do was cite countervailing independent evidence: the Bloomberg survey I blogged on earlier this week, a survey of 16 economists who work in international firms -- independent of the government, needless to say -- that pegged Taiwan's growth rate at 5.12%. The two figures differ by less than 7% -- if the DGBAS is making up numbers, it is doing so very conservatively.

    DPA then commits what looks like a gross ethical breach:

    Wei Duan, former director of the central statistics office, suspected the figure was fabricated to win votes in the upcoming presidential election.

    Here Wei Duan is cited as a "former director of the central statistics office." That was in the late 1990s. Wei Duan is actually a KMT stalwart, a former member of the Party's Central Standing Committee from 1999-2000. In other words, the DPA cites him as an 'expert' without revealing that he is a KMT member with high rank. That strikes me as deeply unethical -- and par for the course for this piece.

    The DPA then regurgitates the KMT election plank, without any observation that it is, indeed, part of an election platform, using loaded language:

    In the 1970s and 1980s, Taiwan used to be one of Asia's Four Small Dragons, but Taiwan's economy has deteriorated due to Taipei's five- decade ban on sea and air links with China, the world's largest production base and consumer market.

    The idea that the economy has "deteriorated" is pure KMT bullshit. Economic growth has slowed, only, but it is easy to sustain high growth when the economy is tiny and your patron power, the US, gives you every assistance in exporting to its own economy. As can be seen from the real GDP growth figures above, economic growth is clicking along at rates many nations would envy. Someday I'd like to see a media article that acknowledges that the DPP government is probably the most open to China in the history of the island. The real issue is that incomes are stagnant and prices are rising, and that is caused in part by the exodus of Taiwanese firms to China -- because the DPP is so open, especially compared to Taiwan's previous KMT governments.

    The DPA soldiers on in the pro-China cause:

    In recent years Taiwan has been further marginalized as foreign countries have signed joint free trade agreements (FTA) or formed free trade blocks to the exclusion of Taiwan for fear of angering China which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province.

    Once again, we get how China sees Taiwan, but not how Taiwan sees China. Compare this more professionally done AP article, which adopts a more neutral tone in discussing the same issue, identifies the claim that the figures are bogus as an opposition claim, provides contextualizing information, and reports the claims of others, rather than incorporating them into its own presentation.

    Nice work, DPA.

    UPDATE: DGBAS says monthly wages are at a seven year high.

    Regular monthly salaries of local wage earners in the country's service and industrial sectors averaged NT$36,676 (US$1,134.08) in the first nine months of this year, up 1.73 percent from the year-earlier level, an official said Saturday.

    The amount marked a seven-year high, the official with the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said.

    Moreover, local wage earners' average regular monthly salary has continued rising for the past six quarters and consistently registered a more-than-1-percent year-on-year growth for the past 16 months in a row, the official said, adding that all these figures indicate a steady increase in their regular average salary.
    UPDATE II: Anon adds in the comments below:

    Hey Michael, there's a great weekly radio program that does very politically-neutral, very scholarly based explanations of hot economics in Taiwan. This week's program was about the whole South Korea vs Taiwan topic and rising prices.

    Here's the link to this week's: mms://
    Here's a link to the archives:

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Homelessness in Taiwan

    Reuters offers yet another dismal report on the state of Taiwan's economy....

    Lack of family or close friends, or shame in confronting them in a society that puts a premium on getting ahead materially, pushes some jobless people outdoors.

    "They think if that if they haven't succeeded they can't go home, and some don't want to be a burden on anyone," said Liu Chi-chen, a publicity worker with the Homeless Welfare Foundation. "Today's society is very complex."

    Taiwan's unemployment rate has hovered at 4 percent over the past two years, but salaries are stagnating or falling, with the best jobs elusive, as prices of food, rent and transportation go up. Cheap labor from Southeast Asia is standard at construction sites and factories in Taiwan.

    Government statistics show that 3,655 homeless people were assisted last year compared to 2,260 five years ago. Many more go it alone or look to charities, aid workers say.

    Within the past five years, the number of boxed lunches given away by the charity Homeless Welfare Foundation has soared from just over 9,000 per month to over 29,000 last month.

    "In the past few years, the number of homeless people has gone up a lot as the unemployed population gets bigger," said Lu Fang-tsuang who handles Buddhist charity Tzu Chi's homeless relief work in northern Taiwan.

    Reuters here makes a signficant deviation from facts reported elsewhere:

    Employers have forecast their slowest hiring in three years because of rising global raw material prices and uncertainty over the outcome of Taiwan's 2008 presidential election.

    Is hiring slowing? Um....nope. Hiring is on the upswing, as Bloomberg reported:

    Manufacturers, led by AU Optronics Corp. and Hewlett- Packard Co., and banks including Standard Chartered Plc are expanding and hiring more workers, boosting household incomes and stoking consumer spending. Faster economic growth provides room for the central bank to raise interest rates next month.

    ``The cyclical recovery in consumer spending has helped cushion slowing external demand and is the key to our rather upbeat growth assessment for Taiwan this year,'' said Tony Phoo, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Taipei.

    In addition to Bloomberg, the pro-KMT China Post -- it is a plank in the KMT platform that the economy sucks and only the KMT can save it -- also reported Taiwan's excellent job numbers, citing the DGBAS:

    Taiwan's jobless rate remained unchanged at close to the lowest this year in October as companies hired workers amid signs the economy's expansion is gathering pace.

    The rate stayed at 3.89 percent last month from September, seasonally adjusted, the statistics bureau said in Taipei yesterday. That matched the median estimate of 13 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

    The Taipei Times has an in-depth look at the strong positive numbers -- projected at 5.46% this year, up from 4.5% predicted earlier this year, driven by booming export growth.

    The always excellent Taiwan Review shows that the growing homeless problem is actually an ongoing issue with deep roots going back to the economic changes in the 1990s. Here's what they wrote six years ago, in 2001:

    Some factors are unique to the individual, but there are also historical, political, and socioeconomic factors at work," Yang says. According to him, over 90 percent of his charges are men in the forty-to-sixty age group with not much education. Apart from the mentally and physically sick, and victims of domestic violence, there are also some veterans who came to Taiwan in 1949 with the KMT government. Some have no relatives in Taiwan to turn to for support. Others are deserters and therefore have no papers. The consequence is that they may not apply for a veteran's pension or receive care at the various veterans' homes run by the government islandwide.

    In recent years, Yang has noticed that a growing number of people with marketable working skills are losing their homes through some traumatic change in circumstances, often the result of an economic downturn. After it became legal to hire laborers from abroad in 1990, most traditional manufacturers assembled work forces drawn from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, paying them less than Taiwanese would demand. This naturally threw many local people out of work. "The fact that a lot of manufacturers are now going bust or moving to mainland China or Asian countries in search of cheaper overheads only adds frost to the snow," Yang says.

    Over the past two years, social workers have also started to find white-collar workers living on the street. Usually they are well educated, and they held managerial or better positions in the company that formerly employed them. "You'll even find people who used to run their own businesses," Chen Ting-hsun says. "They're often difficult to recognize as homeless, because they may still be wearing suits and ties."

    Both Yang and Chen predict an increase in the number of homeless people who are victims of drastic social and economic change, as Taiwan develops into a mature industrialized country. Pressures, particularly financial ones, are sapping the system of family ties that used to support people in times of adversity. At present, there are only a handful of sad stories about aged, frail parents being dumped on the street or rummaging through the garbage in search of food, but their number will increase, and with each increase the tale will become a little less shocking, a little less of a spur to make people stop and think about where things are going.

    "Times have changed," Chen observes dryly. "Nowadays it's hard enough to support your own immediate family, even with two paychecks, let alone having to take care of your parents. Some old people deliberately chose to become homeless. They know that the law obliges children to take care of their parents, and they don't want to be a burden."

    The whole article gives an excellent overview of the history of homeless policy in recent years, and an in-depth look at the homelessness problem. Well worth a read.

    Op-Ed fun

    I opened up my email the other day to discover my friend's nomination for blog of the year, a link to Ma Ying-jeou's blog, and an op-ed in Pacific Times from Gerrit van der Wees of FAPA. The latter relates to the recent exasperations caused by the Dept. of Defense in its visit to China, which I blogged on earlier....


    The US Department of Defense’s clumsy gaffes

    Normally it is officials of the US State Department who make the blunders when they try to reiterate the unexplainable and fuzzy policies the US holds towards Taiwan. This time it was the Defense Department’s turn to commit the gaffes, and it was the State Department that galloped to Taiwan’s rescue. What happened?

    In a couple of reports in preparation for US Defense Secretary Gates’ visit to Beijing, the American Forces Press Service published a couple of articles in which it tried – in vain - to describe US policy.

    In an article by Jim Garamone on Nov. 3rd, it described US policy as being based on “a sincere desire to see reunification done in a peaceful manner”, while in another article by the same author on November 4th, the US position was inaccurately described as being “against independence for the island nation.”

    On 5 November 2007, the DOD had to issue a statement that the two earlier reports had “inaccurately described” US policy. One would think that in view of the sensitivities of the issue, the DOD would get it straight the first time.

    So what is US policy on these issues?

    Since 1979, US policy has rested on the expectation that there has to be (not just a “sincere desire”) a peaceful RESOLUTION of the conflict in the Taiwan Strait. This is enshrined in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. The word “Reunification” has never been part of the US lexicon, and never should be.

    On the issue of “independence”: from 1979 through 1998, the US was totally agnostic: it neither supported nor opposed independence, and it neither supported nor opposed unification. In 1998, President Clinton pronounced his infamous “Three Noes”, which included “no support for independence.”

    However, since 1998 US officials have hastened to emphasize that this did not mean that the US “opposed” independence. It merely meant that the US does not – actively – support independence. Indeed, Mr. Clinton later added that a decision on Taiwan’s future should have the expressed consent of the people of Taiwan.

    It would be good if the US government could repeat the “expressed consent of the people of Taiwan” statement a bit more often. That would be more in line with the principles of human rights and democracy which the US professes to hold so dear.


    I think it would be great if US policymakers did talk more about the necessity of "consent.' But even better would be if they developed policies for coping with the current mess, which US policy helped make inevitable but nowhere explicitly addresses -- what happens when one of the populations on "both sides of the Strait" doesn't give its consent? In fact, appears likely to never give its consent?

    US policymakers will tell you that the "status quo" policy addresses this, but of course, it doesn't. Since the status quo is not concretely defined -- and no sanctions are specified or even mentioned in this policy -- China can violate the Status Quo with impunity, knowing it will suffer no punishment (Taiwan, on the other hand....). Moreover the whole idea of "status quo" envisions a future that will never arrive. Alas, the future arrives anew every minute... Thus, at present, the Status Quo functions as a ritual invocation asking the protection of the gods, made whenever activity occurs in the cross-strait relationship....

    At present the US appears to be hoping that Taiwan will strike a deal with China which will enable it to avoid the massive political headache of developing a policy that deals with the future....


    Speaking of pro-Taiwan op-eds, the Financial Times also came out with a strong editorial on China's bombast on Tibet and Taiwan....

    China has long been sensitive about threats to its territorial integrity, but there is little excuse for its prickliness. Last month Beijing condemned Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, for his “disgusting conduct” in meeting the Dalai Lama and arrogantly demanded that Canada “correct its mistaken conduct”. Mr Harper, Ms Merkel and others have defended their right to meet whom they please; the shame is that Asian nations such as Japan, as well as some Europeans, kowtow to Beijing for commercial advantage. Democracies should speak up for freedom.

    The Tibet dispute is not about sovereignty. It is not unusual for democratic prime ministers and presidents to meet opposition leaders from other countries. Europe recognises Tibet as part of China, as does the Dalai Lama. Although condemned as a “splittist” by Beijing, he now calls for autonomy, not independence. He simply stands up for the Buddhist inhabitants of his homeland in the face of human rights abuses by the Chinese state.

    Unlike Tibet, Taiwan’s de facto independence from the mainland is an obvious challenge to Chinese sovereignty, but even on this the Chinese leadership is too thin-skinned. Beijing’s refusal to permit a routine US naval visit to Hong Kong this week seems to have been provoked by US plans to help upgrade Taiwan’s anti-missile shield, though no reason was given.

    Taiwan needs an anti-missile shield because China has threatened to attack it and has hundreds of missiles stationed for that purpose on the Chinese coast. The Dalai Lama, likewise, needs to represent his people because the Chinese state is oppressing them. Chinese leaders, rather than wondering why foreign presidents meet the Dalai Lama, should tone down their old-fashioned rhetoric and think about meeting him themselves.

    Not bad. The US does not "provoke" China by selling weapons to Taiwan -- China chooses to get upset. But stuff like this is good to see. Commentators generally watch Hong Kong to see how Taiwan will go, but a better comparison is Tibet, where China annexed their country, forced the 17 Point Agreement (text, here; discussion, here) on the Tibetans, and then reneged on what they had coerced the Tibetans into accepting. Hong Kong was never independent, but both Taiwan and Tibet have been....