Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Adm Keating and US China diplomacy

The Nelson Report offers this latest on Pacific Command Admiral Keating, on his recent China trip. Some very interesting points here:


PACOM Adm. Keating at The Army & Navy Club in Washington today, reporting on his latest trip to China.

For better or for worse, most of the non-N. Korea, and non-Taiwan "diplomacy" with China seems to have been carried out in recent years by DOD, and especially the Navy. So you want to pay special attention to the PACOM, whomever holds the post, on these occasions.

On Taiwan, however, Keating said that all of the senior people he met with, naming Foreign Minister Yang, Gen. Gao, and others, talked of Taiwan in a "less strident and less confrontational tone than in the past. They understand the US position better than they did 10 months ago."

Keating by nature is a very positive salesman-type, judging from today, and last year's appearance at CSIS, and in other venues. As such, his inclination to be frank and critical is carefully modulated.

See today's response to a question on China's continued refusal to implement the requested "crisis hotline" with the US....that's being handled by the Secretary of Defense's office, not PACOM.

But when it's directly in his line of fire, as it were, Keating is not bashful...and a major, repeated theme of his talk was to stress not only the need for "transparency", but the specific definition of it as "transmittal of intentions."

Keating's point being "why are they fielding" that system, that capability? The US goal is to minimize confusion and lack of understanding, in order to prevent a crisis, and especially to see that a crisis does not escalate into conflict.

This is particularly a problem with China's ASAT test of last year, an event obviously "transparent", but the reasoning behind it remains unknown.

Keating noted the US knows China has and is developing "area denial weapons", and "some of them are interesting to us, possibly some are of concern". Nice understatement...

The admiral said that when he asks Chinese officials and counterparts about these things the PLA responded its "only to protect what's ours". Maybe, said Keating, but the US thinks some of these systems "exceed our own expectations for what would be needed" questions remain.

Chinese counterparts have been invited to this year's Cobra Gold exercises because the US wants to get the PRC involved in regional military activities.

India? "Remains fiercely not-aligned" but they are joining regional military exercises. Overall the situation with Delhi is "pleasant" a better situation than in the past.

Along somewhat the same lines, on the 6 Party nuclear talks with N. Korea Keating said "we are optimistic, very very very cautiously optimistic about reaching peace on the Peninsula"...adding "There are small signs the security situation on the Peninsula is changing for the better."

The Hong Kong port call denials problem...not a crisis...saw Keating repeating the Navy's very frank criticism of China's behavior as violating "international norms".

Keating said when he hit his Chinese hosts with this their response was in this tone, "yeah, we know, we understand..." The admiral also said he sees no hint of any "split" between the PLA and the political leadership, as has been speculated by some as the cause of the Hong Kong "misunderstanding."

One key point: much of our China diplomacy, Nelson observes, is being carried on by PACOM, which means: the Navy. That's reassuring in one way, since the Navy is historically a very level-headed branch of service, but it just shows how obsessed the Bush Administration has become with a few issues, to the detriment of our position and security concerns on a global scale. On Taiwan and China, Keating appears to be one of those people who "gets it."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Other Nations' Independence and Taiwan

This week the media brings us two tales of independence that are Taiwan-connected, one from India, one from Kosovo. A reader alerted me to this piece in the International Herald Tribune on the issues that independence for Kosovo creates for China. To wit:

Kosovo may be geographically removed from East Asia but what happens there could have potential implications for Taiwan. Taipei strongly supported the NATO intervention in 1999 and pledged $300 million in aid to Kosovar Albanian refugees. Taiwan's "dollar diplomacy" has won it recognition as a sovereign state from a small number of countries, mostly in Latin America and Africa, that benefit from Taiwanese investment and aid.

Unemployment in Kosovo hovers at about 60 percent; much of the province's natural resources cannot be developed without massive infusions of capital. Generous offers of aid from Taiwan might be tempting for Kosovo's leadership, especially if Russia blocks Kosovo's membership in the United Nations and other international organizations.

Despite repeated assurances from Washington and the capitals of Europe that the emergence of an independent Kosovo sets no precedent - and the United States continues to publicly object to any unilateral change in the status quo over Taiwan - a unilateral declaration of independence by Pristina would definitely be exploited by independence-leaning candidates in Taiwan's presidential elections in March, further exacerbating strained relations between China and Taiwan.

So the Kosovo issue could unexpectedly crop up as a real problem in East Asia.

One way to avoid any crisis would be for Beijing to move quickly to recognize Kosovo's independence, and match any offer made by Taipei. This seems unlikely, however. Beijing has signaled in the past that it would want a new UN resolution to replace UNSC 1244 - something unlikely to occur in the face of continued Russian opposition. And trying to buy Kosovo's support might be too expensive for China, since Taiwan will undoubtedly make generous aid offers.

Another would be for the United States and the European Union to use their own significant political and financial leverage to persuade the Kosovar leadership to spurn any Taiwanese offer - but Taipei has shown in the past that it is willing to spend a great deal to gain recognition. Moreover, many in Kosovo feel that there is a pro-Serb tilt in Beijing. Why turn down concrete aid if a new UN resolution is not forthcoming?

As noted before in these pages, the US has been supporting independence for Kosovo despite strong objections from Russia. The parallel with Taiwan, where the US has been objecting to independence in concert with objections from another great power, China, is clear. However, I doubt very much that Kosovo will become a serious election issue here in Taiwan.


I blogged before on Indian independence hero Subhas Chandra Bose (Wiki). Bose died in Taiwan in an aircraft crash on Aug 18, 1945. He had raised an army of Indians to fight the British under the Japanese, believing that Gandhi's non-violent approach would not work.

For many years there had been rumors that Bose hadn't actually died in the crash, but out of Qatar comes the report of the real story of his final moments, with the release of secret papers from half a century ago:

Under the 2005 Right to Information Act, India has released documents that appear to prove that he died in the air crash on August 18, 1945. They include a report from the Counter Intelligence Corps, which questioned Habib ur Rahman, a close aide of Bose, who was among survivors of the crash.

The report, dated September 29, 1945, quotes Rahman as saying that the aircraft vibrated violently and burst into flames soon after leaving Taihoku (now Taipei), the capital of Formosa (Taiwan). “The seat Bose occupied in the aircraft was beside a petrol tank; at the time of the crash the tank exploded, spreading the burning fuel on Bose’s clothing,” it says.

The documents were released at the request of Mission Netaji, a Delhi-based group of amateur historians. Anuj Dhar, its founder, told The Times that the Government had refused initially, on the ground that the documents could stir unrest in India. He did not doubt the authenticity of the documents but said that the information could have been concocted to mislead the Allies.

The Netaji Research Bureau in Kolkata disagreed. Krishna Bose, 77, the widow of Bose’s nephew and the president of the bureau, said that the documents simply confirmed what Rahman and other survivors had said many times. Bose’s supporters regard him as a pragmatic freedom fighter who tried to evict a foreign power by seeking help from the only available sources.

Bose is another one of those fascinating might-have-beens that make history so interesting....

Monday, January 28, 2008

The King of Formosa

The 18th and 19th centuries produced a flood of uniquely gifted and adventurous individuals, like Alexander von Humboldt, Jean-Francois de La Perouse, Richard Burton, and James Cook. One of the lesser known but still fascinating fruits of this amazing crop was Maurice Benovsky, the self-styled King of Formosa.

Benovsky was born in Vrbova, Hungary (now Slovakia) in 1746, a Hungarian nobleman. He left his native land at 22 and joined the Polish confederation, to fight for Polish independence against the Russians. In 1770 he was captured by the Russians and exiled to Kamchatka after a stint in Kazan

Nothing daunted, Benovsky fomented a prison revolt, captured the governor's fort, and made off with his daughter to boot. One of the few educated men in the area, the hapless governor had appointed him to teach his daughter to play the piano. He then stole a Russian ship, and reflagging it as a vessel of the Polish Confederacy, sailed through the Northern Pacific, traveling by way of the Aleutians, Alaska, Japan, and Taiwan, where, he recorded, he became King of Formosa. In 1771 he reached Macao where the governor's daughter died (Wiki says she was accidentally killed in Russia in an ambush). Selling the captured Russian ship and purchasing a new one, he set off for Europe, passing by Madagascar on the way.

In 1772 he reached France, where he found out that he had been made a general in the Polish Confederation, and had scored an international reputation. He suggested to Louis XV that the King establish a protectorate over Formosa or Madagascar. Louis was not interested in Formosa, and the King appointed him governor of the Madgascar instead, and gave him the title of Count. The King of Formosa went off to become the governor of Madagascar.

In 1774 Benovsky, a group of French soldiers behind him, arrived off Madagascar. He established a colony in what is now Antongil Bay, and explored the island. His efforts to create a unified island population paid off in 1776 when he was named emperor by the locals. However, French colonial officials on nearby French-held islands sent negative reports back to Paris on his work.

That same year Benovsky was also made a French general upon his return to Paris. The King of France, however, ignored him, so he turned to Austria. Maria Therese gave him a pardon and the title of Count, and he worked overseeing a road project for her. She empowered him to take control of Madagascar for Austria.

While in Paris Benovsky became close to Benjamin Franklin and Casimir Pulaski. In 1779 he went to American with Pulaski and the Emperor of Madagascar joined the American Revolution. Pulaski would die in his arms at the Battle of Savannah. In 1781 he went back to Europe to raise a legion of troops for the Americans. Two years later he published his memoirs, which were an instant bestseller, becoming a rich source of materials for turn of the century operas, plays, and books. He returned to Madagascar, and there, the King of Formosa was killed in 1786, fighting the French.

Sources: Slovak Encyclopedia, this page with his state flags, Wikipedia

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Psst -- Wanna buy some garlic?

For most of the last two decades Taiwan has imported garlic, unable to service its own demand for that ubiquitous ingredient. From time to time it surfaces in the news, in moments like this:
The businessmen bought the garlic at one yuan (20 US cents) per kilogram in China, and shipped them to Taiwan via North Korea.

As locally-grown garlic is in short supply ahead of Chinese New Year, with demand high as lots of garlic is used in cooking during the week-long festival, the smuggling ring hoped to reap profits by selling the Chinese garlic at 80 Taiwan dollars ($2.5) per kilo.

Taiwanese also like eating raw garlic when they eat noodles, dumplings or other dishes.

New Year's Eve is on February 6.

The smugglers could also be charged with fraud because they planned to pass off the Chinese garlic as Taiwanese, although Taiwan garlic is considered of better quality than Chinese garlic.

When police raided the warehouses, the smugglers claimed the garlic came from North Korea.

"Chinese garlic is not as spicy and tasty as Taiwan garlic. So the experts knew right away it was Chinese garlic," a police officer said.

The experts knew -- and so can you: if your garlic doesn't bite, it must be from China. The local Chinese paper today explained that Chinese garlic usually does not come complete in heads, but reduced to cloves instead. So if the garlic is sold whole, it is probably from Taiwan.

How Much Would the DPP Have Needed? One last look at the numbers..

I was riding home last night after Chaon & Co. creamed my son and I in Axis and Allies, and got to thinking about the legislative election again (imagine that, if you can!). This time I decided to figure out how many votes the DPP would have needed to make a substantial increase in the number of seats won.

Now, obviously, if the DPP total increases by 400,000, those votes won't be spread evenly throughout the island. The growth would be uneven. To weight the numbers, I assumed that any growth in the vote would reflect the extant situation in the district, and thus be proportional to it. For example, if a DPP candidate in District X received 10% of the entire DPP vote, then that same candidate would receive 10% of any increased vote. Naturally this is only a rough assumption, but it is a guide to what-might-have-been.

To do this I first downloaded the vote totals for each district from the CEC database. The overall constituent vote totals are here, with the DPP receiving 3,765,222 votes, and the KMT, 5,209,237. Those represent total votes for all candidates, not votes for the party. I then eliminated all other candidates, leaving only the KMT and the DPP, in most cases (in one or two cases there was no DPP candidate, or the DPP opponent was from the NPSU).

In the chart above, the first three columns are pretty self-explanatory. The fourth column represents the ratio of the DPP vote in that district to the entire DPP constituency vote. For example, in the first line, in Kaohsiung City 1, the DPP obtained 65,266 votes, representing .0173 of the entire DPP vote (1.73%). I took the first four digits, without rounding.

The next column contains two numbers. The first number is the difference between the KMT and DPP vote (KMT minus DPP). The second number is the size of the overall DPP vote increase necessary to generate enough votes in that district for the DPP candidate to overcome the KMT candidate. Again, in Kaohsiung City 1, the DPP candidate received 1.73% of the DPP vote. To generate enough votes to overcome a 27,151 vote deficit, the DPP would have had to poll another 1.6 million votes (1600000 x .0173 = 27,680). No doubt there are some errors, I probably should not be doing math after midnight with a couple of beers in me.

Of course, this also assumes that the KMT vote stays constant, which is obviously not the case. Had the DPP polled more voters, the KMT would have been out trying to stimulate even more people to come out. But I'm assuming away that effect, so we can try and get a glimpse of what-might-have-been.

For simplicity's sake, I incremented the vote totals by 100,000. I also did not look at areas where the DPP did not run a candidate, and I ignored Jinmen and Matsu since there is no way the DPP will ever win there. To understand this, looking at the first line, if the DPP picks up an additional 200,000 votes, it will pick up the seat in Kaohsiung County 4. If it increases 400,000 votes, it gains a total of three seats (Kaohsiung City 4, Kaohsiung County 4, and Taipei County 4).

Kaohsiung County 4

Kaohsiung City 4
Taipei County 4

Taipei County 5
Changhua County 4

Kaohsiung City 3
Taipei City 2
Taichung County 1

Kaohsiung County 1
Chiayi City

Taoyuan County 2
Taichung County 3

Yunlin County 2
Taichung City 3

Changhua County 3
Pingtung County 2

Taipei County 6
Taipei County 7
Yunlin County 1

Taipei County 1
Taichung County 5
Chiayi County 1

Miaoli County 1

Kaohsiung City 1
Taipei City 5
Nantou County 2

Taipei County 1

Taipei County 8

Taipei County 10

Taipei City 1
Taipei City 3
Taichung City 1

Hsinchu City
Taichung City 2

Changhua County 2

Taoyuan County 1
Taoyuan County 4

Taipei City 4
Taoyuan County 3

Taoyuan County 6

Taipei City 6
Taichung County 2
Nantou County 1

Taipei City 7
Taoyuan County 5

Taipei County 11

Changhua County 1



Taipei City 8

Miaoli County 2

Based on these figures, the DPP would have had to pick up another 700,000 votes or so to gain an additional ten seats and reach a total of 40 (with the proportional at-large seats). That would have meant a roughly 20% increase in the vote total, to 4.4 million DPP votes, a figure it has never gotten within shouting distance of. If the DPP had picked up another 1.6 million votes (to 5.3 million votes), a nearly 50% increase, then it would have picked up another 28 or 29 seats.

What was the effect of the TSU? In 2004 the TSU took 750,000 votes, this time around, according to the CEC, just 93,000 people voted for the TSU, concentrated in just three areas. The DPP was unable to grab the missing TSU voters (or perhaps it did and core DPP vote plummeted, without solid survey work, there's no way to know). Even worse, in one case, Chiayi City, the TSU candidate took 14,000 votes, while the DPP candidate lost by 7,000 (in no other district did I notice the TSU having a serious impact). It's often assumed that TSU voters would switch to the DPP in the absence of a TSU candidate, but recall that the TSU was brought out of the KMT by Lee Teng-hui, and some of those voters may have returned to their Blue roots this election. Others couldn't be bothered to come out (Lazy? Angered?). Clearly, the DPP's failure to smoothly absorb the TSU and collect all its votes, the way the KMT eliminated the PFP and incorporated all its voters, potentially cost the DPP. However, in 2004 the TSU took 756,000 votes (CEC), but the geographical distribution is telling: 390,491 of those votes were concentrated in Taipei City, Taipei County, Kaohsiung City, Kaohsiung County, and Taoyuan -- mostly places where the DPP was not competitive, or where it didn't need votes. On the other hand, the DPP lost both Yunlin seats by a total of 38,000 votes -- and the TSU had 33,000 votes there in 2004 (no votes in 2008).

RE the young: I just wrote this to a friend:

It's funny because I was pretty long-term optimistic too, but I made an error, the famous DUNE error -- remember, when Duke Leto errs in trusting, because he thought anyone who hated Harkonnens would never betray him? Heh. That's what I did. I assumed that the rising Taiwan identity among the young would make them shift to the DPP over time, but I suspect it has had the opposite effect -- because they are pro-Taiwan they feel safe voting for KMT candidates.

Enjoy. Discuss. Dissect.

UPDATE: The Taipei Times published my thumbnail analysis of the election.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Japanese Papers on China-Taiwan military balance

One important trend of the last few years has been a halting but on the whole steady shift in Japan's attitudes toward Taiwan, with at least some Japanese politicians and analysts arguing that Taiwan is important to Japan's security and that the Japanese really ought to defend it. The Daily Yomiuri offers a couple of articles this week analyzing the military balance between Taiwan and China. This first one, like many before it, argues the balance is shifting:

According to the defense white paper for 2007, China possesses 70 frigates and destroyers as against 30 held by Taiwan. China overwhelms Taiwan in the possession of submarines 60 to four. China's marine research vessels and submarines are stepping up their activities in the waters off eastern Taiwan.

China's air force also has been active in the airspace above the Taiwan Strait.

"Chinese warplanes have been flying into the airspace over the Taiwan Strait frequently and their flight technique has improved," a high-ranking Taiwan Air Force officer said.

Taiwan has deployed F-16 and Mirage aircraft as its mainstay fighter jets. China, on the other hand, announced last January a plan to deploy self-developed J-10 fighter jets, which are said to have capabilities matching those of F-16s.

China has deployed 1,328 ballistic missiles targeted at Taiwan, about seven times more than in 2000, when the administration of President Chen Sui-ban was inaugurated in Taiwan. Taiwan, on the other hand, has deployed only three sets of Patriot surface-to-air guided missiles (PAC-2) in the surburbs of Taipei and elsewhere. China successfully conducted an anti-satellite test last year, destroying a satellite with a missile .

As a counterbalance to China's military arsenal, Taiwan's military wants to possess PAC-3 missiles, P-3C antisubmarine patrol planes and diesel-powered submarines, which the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush decided to sell to Taiwan in 2001.

But the deals did not make any progress because deliberations on budgetary appropriations made little headway in Taiwan's parliament due to dissent by opposition parties. Appropriations for the purchase of P-3Cs and submarine research costs were approved by the parliament in June. Taipei has sought to purchase 66 modified F-16s, but Washington has not complied with the request as it has grown increasingly distrustful of the Chen administration.

A second Daily Yomiuri piece is an interview with Vice Defense Minister Ko:

The Yomiuri Shimbun: What has the Chinese Navy been doing recently?

Ko Chen-heng: Chinese warships sailed across what China conceives as the "first defense line" [running from off Japan through Taiwan to Singapore] once or twice a year in the latter half of 1990s. But the frequency has increased to five or six times in the past year or two. This indicates China's political intention to demonstrate that the Taiwan Strait is an "internal sea of China."

Chinese submarines have been expanding the area of their operations into the high seas, increasing their activities off the eastern and southern parts of Taiwan. They are expected to increase their activities in the Bashi Channel in the future. Due to the improvement in naval technology, it has become difficult to conduct antisubmarine patrol activities. China aims to ward off U.S. aircraft carriers in times of emergency, at the Taiwan Strait.

Max Hirsch over at Kyodo News observes that Taiwan has apparently armed a warship with its top secret missile:

Another senior officer told Kyodo News that the Hsiung Feng III is ''in a testing phase,'' despite its deployment.

The sighting occurred as Taiwan's navy hosted a group of foreign and local reporters on military exercises at sea on board a French-made Lafayette frigate.

Its helicopter deck thronged with reporters, that frigate passed by the Cheng Kung while exiting and returning to the port, leading to the sighting.

When the Lafayette returned to port after conducting exercises at sea, workers could be seen removing some of the missiles aboard the Cheng Kung, triggering speculation over whether the navy had unintentionally allowed the press to view the missiles.

Plenty of food for thought...

More Election Analysis & Responses

Analysis of the election continues apace, with more from the Blogosphere, this time from the Only Redhead. I'm tired of arguing with people that I know and love, like Robert, but the fact is that lots and lots of commentators out there fondly imagine that if the DPP had only come up with the right message, it wouldn't have been so bad. But here on Taiwan, at the local level, messages don't matter, it's all about voter mobilization and patron-client networks. The KMT excels at those, and the DPP has not come up with local level tactics to counter them (cash is the sine qua non). The real eff-up, in any case, did not take place in this election, but in 2004, when the DPP blew its one and only chance to gain control of the legislature and rig the system in its favor -- not because it had a lousy message, but because of (what else?) faulty tactics.

The best analysis out there in the Land of Conventional Wisdom is probably that of Jacques deLisle at UPenn. deLisle reports, but does not subscribe to, the CW that the election was a repudiation of Chen Shui-bian, but instead correctly notes the KMT spending advantage and the LDP-type system it is implementing at the local level:

The DPP also suffers from a resource deficit, although this has been closing. The KMT’s once-formidable fortune has withered, and reports indicate that the KMT liquidated assets for the 2008 campaign on a scale that will be hard to replicate. Still, the wealth gap has been significant and, as the party in control of both branches, the KMT would have new fund-raising advantages over a DPP which had lost the presidency and much of its share of parliament.


Still, the 2008 legislative elections, predictions for the presidential election, and longer term patterns and trends in Taiwan’s electoral politics suggest that Taiwan may head for a single-party-dominant system rather than the two-party-dominant system toward which it had seemed to be moving. Taiwan’s democracy then would look more like Japan’s under Liberal Democratic Party hegemony and less like the U.S.’s or Britain’s. That would be a regrettable outcome from a perspective that values democracy in the form of competition among candidates representing a range of views (including those reflecting much of the range of policy preferences and interests in society) who have meaningful chances of victory in contests for offices wielding real power. It would be a particularly problematic outcome for democracy in Taiwan, given the risk that a one-party-dominant system could durably exclude from meaningful influence the large minority of Taiwan voters with clearly “Green” preferences.

For some reason many of the Green-supporting bloggers have decided the DPP lost because it ran a bad election campaign -- alluring logic, but fundamentally wrong. The KMT won, because it vastly outspent the DPP (on the assumption that it can recoup those losses), because of the gerrymandered districts, and because it has the local level systems in place. If the DPP wants to dominate at the local level, it will need to either replicate those KMT advantages or else come up with an analogue. There is, at the moment, no message that the DPP could come out with that could overcome that concrete KMT advantage of disciplined, well-oiled, tightly linked local networks that the KMT has nourished for the last 60 years. Last year I noted this analysis from UBS:

What about the government? Government investment and infrastructure spending has all but ceased as a result of political differences between the ruling and opposition parties. Political disagreements have blocked many government spending programs in the last few years. This year is no different. The budget is currently on hold due to disagreements over how the Central Election Committee will be staffed. Whereas a few years a go the budget deficit exceeded 6% of GDP it has now shrunk to around 1% of GDP. This drop in the government’s need to finance the fiscal balance has contributed significantly to Taiwan’s low interest rate environment. The upcoming parliamentary election in December and the presidential election in March next year could reverse this pressures and lead to higher interest rates in 2009 if the government becomes unified again. However, that is a ways off.

The fall-off in infrastructure spending upon which the local political economy depends has been one of the reasons for the stagnant local incomes, as people who hustled for jobs in public construction saw less of that work during the DPP government -- and blamed the DPP, however unfairly, for that dearth of work. Now that the KMT is back in power, it will need to recoup its expenditures, and to replenish its local networks, on k-rations as the KMT-dominated legislature has starved the local level. The infrastructure spigots are going to be turned back on, local networks are going to re-orient around that single legislator, and Taiwan is going to go back to the future.....

..... and the KMT is going to do even better in the next legislative election -- though no doubt the next set of western-centric bloggers is going to right on blaming the DPP. "Hey, the DPP got crushed again! It must be the DPP's fault. If only that had really really pointed out how bad the legislature was!" Someday the truth about voting behavior in an island that elected Yen Ching-piao while jail for murder, elected legislators on the run from the police, elected Hsu Tai-li as mayor of Keelung while under indictment and replaced him with a convicted vote buyer when he died..... And then there was Wu Tze-yuan, whose followers carried him into the election commission in Pingtung so he could register as a candidate because diabetes left him to ill to walk...Wu had just been sentenced to life for corruption and was running as a KMT candidate against the party's official wishes...and is now in hiding in China.....someday the simple truth that voters pick candidates, in a sense, because they are "corrupt" -- will penetrate. Not this election, though.

I sent off a letter to the Taipei Times but they evidently didn't want it, though they did publish David Pendery's pricelessly asinine letter on the election. In any case, here's my thumbnail analysis of the future from the end of that letter:

What can we expect for the future? This is not the kind of electoral system where the party on the outside can regroup and then stage a comeback in the next election. Thus, the western-centric claim that "this will be good for the DPP" is badly misguided. It will be good neither for the DPP nor for Taiwan. First each legislator is now serving at least twice as many people -- which means they need twice as much cash. Second, studies of Japan show that as one-party dominance of the legislature rises, spending on particularistic services also rises. Both of these observations suggest that corruption in Taiwan's local politics will undoubtedly increase -- if the reader can imagine that. Further, because constituents will only have one legislator rather than several as under the old system, local political and business networks will have no choice but to re-orient themselves around that legislator, since that is who will bring them home the bacon they need to survive. That will only further cement the dominant party's grip on local politics.

In sum, we are looking at the first step in a potential permanent majority -- as KMT heavyweights themselves have hinted with their recent positive remarks on one-party rule in Singapore. How the KMT handles this remains to be seen -- victory may stress the KMT so much that it will fall apart -- but then it has always been an ethnic coalition lashed together by flows of money. And now, again, it has unlimited access to those flows.
What are we going to see? Massive increases in public construction outlays and corresponding rises in government debt (and inflation!) and of course, public corruption. And the remarks about Singapore should be taken to refer to (1) a warning of dominant one-party rule for the foreseeable future and (2) a deliberate campaign of lawsuits against party opponents. Ma is already suing his prosecutors and has threatened the bureaucracy by reminding them that the DPP will not be in power forever and revenge will come; a blogger got sued for satirizing a politician.....the KMT contemplated this strategy before, in the 1980s, and experimented with it in the past. Remember, as KMT politician Hsu Shui-de publicly claimed: the courts belong to the KMT, and tremble....

Malawian scams the scammers

A reader sent me this article from the Taipei Times with the delightful tale of a Malawian government official who allegedly pocketed the cash from China:

A Malawian official who played a key role in the government's decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China has fled the country after pocketing the million-dollar "sweetener" Beijing had originally intended for the president, media reports in Malawi said.

A Malawi newspaper, the Nyasa Times, reported that Minister of Presidential and Parliamentary Affairs David Katsonga had angered President Bingu wa Mutharika by taking the "billions of kwachas" meant for the president after he broke ties with Taiwan to recognize Beijing late last year (US$1=141 kwachas).

The president has demanded Katsonga's immediate return.


Malawi reportedly agreed last month to switch diplomatic recognition to China in exchange for a US$6 billion financial package. However, Lilongwe waited until this month to announce it was severing its 42-year relationship with Taiwan when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was out of the country.

Heck, China probably paid him to do it -- they keep most of what they paid, give him a bundle to keep him quiet, and he lives in happy retirement in a house in south China with his three local wives...can't wait to see the Nigerian Scams that come out of this one:
Dear Sir:

May God bless! My name Rose Mugambo Matawani, and my husband ran off with a $50 million payment from the Chinese government for Nigeria to switch diplomatic recognition. Unfortunately he died before he could transfer it out of the country....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

RAND on China's Pearl Harbor Strategy

My thanks to a commenter who provided links to a recent RAND study of a hypothetical US-China conflict over Taiwan. The Air Force Times has a summary:

The democratic Republic of China, commonly called Taiwan — which America backs and the communist People’s Republic of China considers part of its territory — frequently irritates Chinese leaders with calls for greater independence from the mainland. But while the American military mulls its options, Chinese missiles hit runways, fuel lines, barracks and supply depots at U.S. Air Force bases in Japan and South Korea. Long-range warheads destroy American satellites, crippling Air Force surveillance and communication networks. A nuclear fireball erupts high above the Pacific Ocean, ionizing the atmosphere and scrambling radars and radio feeds.

This is China’s anti-U.S. sucker punch strategy.

It’s designed to strike America’s military suddenly, stunning and stalling the Air Force more than any other service. In a script written by Chinese military officers and defense analysts, a bruised U.S. military, beholden to a sheepish American public, puts up a small fight before slinking off to avoid full-on war.

This strategic outlook isn’t hidden in secret Chinese documents. It’s printed in China’s military journals and textbooks. And for much of last year, Mandarin literates and defense experts — working for the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Rand Corp. on an Air Force contract — combed through a range of Chinese military sources.

They emerged with “Entering the Dragon’s Lair,” a lengthy report on how the Chinese People’s Liberation Army would likely confront the U.S. military and how the Air Force in particular can brace itself. In many cases, the theoretical enemy nation China’s officers discuss in these scenarios isn’t explicitly named but is unmistakably the U.S.

“These aren’t war plans,” said report co-author Roger Cliff, a former Defense Department strategist and China military specialist who spoke to Air Force Times from Taiwan. “This is the military talking to itself. It’s not designed for foreigners or even China’s general public to read.”

In other words, China's military thinks it can make a surprise attack on US bases -- on US territory and Japanese territory! -- and then the US will stumble around blindly and sheepishly let them have Taiwan. And somehow Japan will mysteriously not retaliate, and neither will South Korea. Say what? That's so dumb, I have some trouble believing it. Yet the recent Kitty Hawk affair, when the military and the ministries were on totally different pages, lends some credence to the idea... Paul M. Fussell once observed of World War II:

"For most Americans, the war was about revenge against the Japanese, and the reason the European part had to be finished first was so that maximum attention could be devoted to the real business, the absolute torment and destruction of the Japanese. The slogan was conspicuously Remember Pearl Harbor. Nobody ever shouted or sang Remember Poland."

Does history repeat itself? Read the Air Force summary:

China’s experts concede its army would lose a head-on fight, with one senior colonel comparing such a scenario to “throwing an egg against a rock.” Instead, the Chinese would attempt what Rand calls an “anti-access” strategy: slowing the deployment of U.S. forces to the Pacific theater, damaging operations within the region and forcing the U.S. to fight from a distance.

That was the Japanese plan too -- defeat the US Navy in the opening punch or a later decisive battle, then use diplomacy to end the war. Only the US didn't play ball -- it opted for unconditional surrender and the destruction of the Japanese empire. What do you think will happen if China launches a surprise attack on US bases.

Good thing China is a force for stability, eh?

To read the entire document, the links are on the RAND website.

Bruce Jacobs' Open Letter to Hsieh and Ma

This morning Apple Daily published an open letter from respected Taiwan scholar Bruce Jacobs, directed at the two presidential candidates.


An Open Letter to Frank Hsieh and Ma Ying-jeou

By Bruce Jacobs (家博)

Over eighty per cent of the residents of Taiwan (台灣住民) want this country (本國)to be a member of the United Nations. As both of you have recognized in the past, this country is a sovereign nation (有主權的國家). According to international law, the best definition of a sovereign nation appears in the “Convention On Rights And Duties Of States” signed in Montevideo on December 26, 1933. According to this Treaty, a sovereign state has four characteristics: “a ) a permanent population; b ) a defined territory; c ) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” This nation clearly has all four of these characteristics. In addition, the people of this nation freely and democratically elect the nation’s government.

This clear unity among the people of this nation in desiring to participate in the United Nations has been lost in partisan bickering. I urge you both to put aside partisan interests and to concentrate on national interests.

In order to demonstrate to the world the desire of the people of this nation to belong to the United Nations, I would urge you both to reach a three-point agreement:

1. In discussing membership of the United Nations, you put aside the issue of “name” and do not refer to “Taiwan” or the “Republic of China.” In discussing membership of the United Nations, you can both refer to “this country” (本國).
2. In discussing membership of the United Nations, you put aside the issue of whether this country shall “join the United Nations” (入聯) or “return to the United Nations (返聯).” Rather, you can both refer to “participating in the United Nations” (參加聯合國).
3. You both urge all voters to support both UN referenda in the March 22 election.

With both of you supporting the two referenda, it is highly likely that both referenda will pass. This will send an important message to the world community that this nation is a sovereign nation that both wants and deserves to be a member of the United Nations. On the contrary, failing to pass the two referenda would send exactly the wrong message to the world community.

Such an agreement between the two of you would also go far towards diminishing political division in this nation and help to forge a new national unity.

Respectfully yours,

J. Bruce Jacobs (家博)



Good luck. Based on the election results, I see a lot of pious words but little real cooperation on this. Further, since the KMT is working with China, it doesn't seem very likely. And then there is the Bush Administration, which issued another round of attacks on the UN referendum just prior to the election.

China Investment Policies -- Meeting in the Middle

Forbes came out with a couple of articles that highlight how close the DPP and KMT policies are on China investments. First, there was a very short article on Frank Hsieh, now Chairman of the DPP, who said:

The government should ease regulations on China investments as soon as possible, subject to national security considerations, the Commercial Times reported, citing Frank Hsieh, the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

High on the agenda should be relaxing the provision that caps China investments at 40 pct of a company's net worth and allowing local financial institutions to open shop on the mainland, Hsieh said in his capacity as acting chairman of the DPP.

Hsieh's position, readers may recall, is opening to China on a "case-by-case" basis. Forbes has a much, much longer article on the KMT's position, in which Chairman Wu argues that the KMT can prevent capital flight by opening even more to China:

Wu said the KMT is also ready to do away with the current provision capping China-bound investments by local companies at 40 pct of their net worth.

In its place will be a control regime patterned on the system developed by the US to regulate the export of technologies deemed crucial to national security, he said.

'We believe only the right policy can help [dissuade capital flight and] retain capital here,' he said. 'Capital always finds places where it can best preserve value and the highest possible return.'

Currently, China-bound investments are mostly capped at 20-40 pct of a company's net worth; higher net-worth companies have lower ceilings

Note that these are exactly the same positions: both argue for a case-by-case basis. Neither will restrain the flow of investments to China, since review systems in Taiwan rarely (1) have serious teeth or (2) are strictly enforced. It seems that both parties are signaling that business can do what it wants. However, rising labor costs in China may deflect investment elsewhere, to Vietnam, for example. India is often mentioned as a possible destination, but infrastructure there doesn't match China's.

Meanwhile Forbes has a little blurb that gives an authoritative estimate for the size of Taiwan's investments in China that is much greater than I had realized:

No matter which side wins, the money that the Taiwanese have taken offshore -- estimated by Morgan Stanley to be as much as $207 billion in capital outflow between 2000 and the end of the third quarter in 2007--should start to come home. This is a lot of money relative to the $625 billion market value of the Taiwanese stock market.

$207 billion -- a sum equal to about 2/3 of Taiwan's GDP. Sheesh!

Finally, Wendell Minnick over at has an excellent article on Ma Ying-jiu's cross-strait policies and defense issues.

More on China's Air Defense Zone

The China Brief from the conservative Jamestown Foundation has the latest on China's provocative moves in the Taiwan Strait:

According to Dr. Joseph Wu—Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States—in early December, the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) issued a press release stating that the Central Military Commission and the State Council had approved the route and flights would run some 4.2 nautical miles (7.8km) west of the centerline (Taipei Times, December 20, 2007).

The Taiwanese government claims that since approval for the bid had to be attained from the Central Military Commission, which has authority over China's civilian aviation and airspace, China’s bid to the ICAO to operate on Taiwan's side of the Straits can be construed as a militarily provocative move, as it also gives them the ability to deny access to foreign aircraft in the area.

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang repeatedly denied any knowledge of China’s plan to establish an ADIZ within the Taiwan Straits at press briefings (Ta Kung Pao, December 11, 2007).

In related news, citing Taiwanese military sources that Japanese government sources later confirmed, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun revealed that Chinese Hong-6 bombers from the Huaining air force base in Anhui province conducted military maneuvers in areas of the East China Sea in September 2007, the route covered areas that are jointly enclosed by the Taiwan Straits Air Defense Identification Zone and the Japan Air Defense Identification Zone. The Hong-6 bombers reportedly made 20 sorties to the area on September 11 and 23, which forced Japanese F4 fighter jets based at Naha base in Okinawa Prefecture to respond by conducting a total of 12 sorties along the routes (Asahi Shimbun, January 2).

In an interview with Kensuke Ebata, a subject matter expert on defense and military affairs in Tokyo and member of the Japanese Security Export Control Committee, Asahi Shimbun reported Ebata as saying:

“Hong-6 bombers can carry long-range air-to-sea missiles … So it is possible for the bombers to attack vessels at sea. Personally, I think the bomber pilots were undergoing a training exercise under the scenario of blocking the arrival of U.S. aircraft carriers in Taiwan in the event of an emergency situation there."

“The flights may also have been aimed at trying to contain U.S. forces following large-scale maneuvers near Guam in August under a scenario that the United States was at war with China," he added (Asahi Shimbun, January 2).

But really, it's the dastardly Chen Shui-bian with democratic referendums who is the threat to stability. Missiles and aircraft threaten nothing...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One Last Election Analysis

This came with the latest Nelson Report: Shelly Rigger's observations on the recent LY election, mine in brackets.


A few quick observations in response to Kirk and Hans. There's no question that the new system really hurt the DPP in terms of seats, but to say that this doesn't matter, and they're still in okay shape overall, does not sound right to me. For these reasons:

[Yup. The DPP is in deep doo doo]

1. The DPP really didn't increase its vote share much at all. This election was similar to EVERY other election the DPP has competed in, save one (the presidential in 2004). They just can't seem to break that 40% barrier. The percentages go up and down marginally, but they are really stuck at about 40%. This makes 2004 look more and more like a fluke, and not an indicator of a trend.

[Yup. 2004 is an anomaly. And the DPP numbers are a structural feature.]

2. Eight years ago, when CSB got 39% of the vote, people were genuinely afraid to vote for the DPP -- many feared the PRC would do something extreme if Chen was elected. But the sky didn't fall after all, so voting for the DPP should be getting easier. But the party vote this time was not quite 37%. So given a chance to endorse the DPP, fewer people were willing to do it in 2008 than in 2000. This is really bad for the DPP: Despite their (and CSB's) frantic exertions over the past 7 years, they have made no progress in expanding their share of the electorate.

[Alas, Dr. Rigger is confused here. National and local elections cannot be compared -- in 2000 CSB garnered 4.97 million votes, in the recent LY election, the DPP got 3.6 million. Those were two very different levels of "40%"]

3. The DPP lost districts it shouldn't have lost. They were at or close to 50% of the vote in about 25 of the new districts in the past three elections; they should have won those under the new system, but they got only half of them (13). This is another very bad sign for the DPP. It's losing in places it should win. The same thing happened in the municipal elections in 2005. Also, where they did win the margins were narrow.

[It's not surprising, actually, that they lost in Kaohsiung. People think that the south is automatically DPP territory, but the Kaohsiung mayor and city council elections are always split.]

4. The DPP may not have lost a lot of votes, but the KMT gained a lot. They got 51% of the party vote -- that's the strongest endorsement they've had in years. The PFP is dead as a doornail, as is the New Party. Humpty Dumpty has been put back together again. Yes, there are cracks. Not everybody loves everybody. But compared to a year ago, the KMT is way, way stronger.

[The KMT did gain a lot -- by swallowing the PFP and gathering all the Blue votes unto itself, as I noted already.]

5. Although there are divisions in the KMT, the DPP is even more divided. The party primaries were extremely damaging, mainly because the other factions -- including Frank Hsieh's -- declared war on the New Tide faction. There was extreme ugliness -- eleven long-time party activists were declared "traitors" and "friends of China" -- and the victims blame Hsieh, among others. I am pretty convinced he's not going to win them back between now and March. I think calling them "pro-China" crossed a line. Without the enthusiastic support of New Tide activists, Hsieh is in trouble. It's true that they don't want Ma to win, but how hard are they going to work? Everyone is already exhausted ...


6. The KMT is likely doing much better than the DPP is for funds -- and not because of party assets, which is really a red herring at this point. The KMT clearly was spending more in the LY campaign, and with the momentum in its direction, the money is going to pour in. The business community has to be able to taste victory at this point.


7. The pitiful performance of the referendums suggest that voters know they're being gamed on that, and they don't want to play. The UN referendums might be different, but they very well might not. If the DPP referendum loses, that's another big setback. My conversations in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung last week make me think there's a lot of panic around that possibility.

[The referendums will certainly lose.]

8. I see no reason to assume that any particular group of voters turned out at a low rate. What is the evidence that it was the "light greens" who didn't vote, and what is the evidence that they WILL turn out in March? The DPP is spinning it that way (there will be another 20% turnout, and it'll break our way), but I think that's pure wishful thinking. If Hans has evidence, I'd like to see it. I didn't see any, and the logic doesn't make much sense to me. Why would people be more excited about Hsieh than about their local legislative candidates? And why would KMT voters be MORE excited about legislative candidates than Ma? If anything, I'd guess the light blues didn't turn out. When they do, they're going to vote for Ma. And as for the local factions: They have to be thinking that if Ma wins, given the KMT's LY majority, trough will be overflowing with swill. If Ma loses, not so much.

[Exactly what I said. Can anyone name the evidence for who didn't turn out and who did? UPDATED: One thing Rigger is massively wrong here on is the legislative and national elections. "Why would people be more excited about Hsieh than their local legislative candidates?" The answer is that people are, as shown in the numbers, that DPP voters are far more willing to come out nationally than locally. Further, many who vote Blue locally vote Green nationally. Voters treat the elections as different.]

9. So, I'm not counting Hsieh out -- he does have one good argument (don't let the KMT have total control over everything), and the KMT could stumble. But I think the situation looks very grim for Hsieh and for the DPP.


Some Announcements of Tax Changes and Grad Programs

Michael Fahey over at Winkler Partners notifies of new tax preferences for foreigners.

On January 8th, Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development announced new tax preferences for foreign professionals in Taiwan. Employers of eligible foreign professionals will be able to declare non-salary payments and reimbursements to foreign professionals as operating expenses. Examples of expenses include travel and school tuition for children. From the perspective of the employee, the preferential incentive is that these payments and reimbursements will no longer be treated as income for tax purposes.

Winkler has the entire regulations translated on their website as a courtesy to the local foreign community.


The redoubtable anthropologist Jeff Martin, whose wisdom has graced this blog on more than one occasion, announces the Taiwan Studies grad program at his university on H-Asia:

I would like to inform the H-Asia membership of the existence of a Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies, now in its third year of operations at Chang Jung Christian University in Tainan. Based on my experience working here for two of these years, I would say we have a pretty interesting thing going on, with an interdisciplinary faculty (history, geography, anthropology, political science, literary studies, religious studies) and about 30 graduate students working on a broad variety of research projects. We are now in the process of developing an English language curriculum for a two year program leading to a master's degree,
and applications to this program for Fall of 2008 will be accepted through April of this year. If anyone would like to learn more about us, our program, or Taiwan Studies in Taiwan, our website address is and I would also be glad to answer questions. Finally, I would like to extend an invitation to anyone passing through the southern parts of Taiwan to drop in on us for tea and Taiwan-Studies talk; just drop me a note and let me know your interests and schedule.
Jeff is both extremely personable and extremely knowledgeable, and if you are in southern Taiwan, definitely take the opportunity to say hello.

Monday, January 21, 2008

DPP Rally in Taichung

Yesterday I went to the DPP rally in Taichung to hear DPP Vice Presidential candidate Su Tseng-chang (pictured above) and Presidential candidate Frank Hsieh speak, as well as scoop up some paraphenalia and soak up some good DPP feeling. My wife went with but one goal: to shake Frank Hsieh's hand.

Outside the rally site the betel nut stands were bracing for action.

Slowly the crowd trickled in, with people bused in from all over south-central and central Taiwan.

Slowly the place filled up.

This being Taiwan, no public event can be without vendors.

And more vendors.

Thousands of empty seats quickly got taken. We located ourselves next to the aisle where we thought Hsieh might pass on the way to the stand. My wife stood ready to grab that Presidential hand.

Plenty of old people, with a leaven of the young. It was gratifying to see a few the young people, but I wish there had been more.

The rally opened with singers.

The crowd listened, and sang along.

Cameramen from several networks were there.

As were flag waving supporters.

And airhorns aplenty.

The DPP faithful go nuts over a speech.

A women's organization brought along their stalwart supporters.

The place was packed, with people standing out in the park and hanging on the fences.

Two legislative candidates acted as emcees for the evening.

Drums are a key presence at any political event.

Yeh Chu-lan, once mentioned as a possible Veep candidate, speaks to the crowd. She asked the young to come out and vote for Hsieh.

After her came Freddy of the metal band Chthonic, one of Taiwan's better known international voices.

Accompanied by a group of young people.

Some real characters out there yesterday.

And plenty of loud signage.

Su came out to speak. He's an excellent speaker.

As Su spoke, security watched.

Su gestures.

The DPP faithful wave their flags as they roar approval.

Finally, Hsieh appeared. But he foiled my wife, making an entrance from the side. When could she shake his hand?

Hsieh is also a first-rate speaker with plenty of passion.

The evening ended with candlelight.

Hsieh again frustrated my wife, taking off down the wrong aisle! Quickly we ran after him! The crush was tremendous -- you can just see Hsieh caught up in it on the center-right as everyone wanted a piece. We flowed with the crowd out the gate....but couldn't get near Hsieh. No handshake for my wife....

We stopped as the policemen rearranged the crowd to permit Hsieh's caravan to back through -- finding ourselves right at the front. Hsieh's car came to get Hsieh and he ran up to get in, stopping to grip my hand and those of a few other nearby supporters. My wife wailed in frustration. Hsieh jumped in the black car. He looked directly at me -- I smiled back and flashed him a thumbs up sign -- and suddenly the window came down and his hand shot out. Alone in all the crowd my wife was ready -- she reached out and shook it. And then the hand disappeared and the window rolled back up.

"He shook my hand," she said, turning to me, immensely satisfied. "Now he's certain to win the election."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Empire of Bacon

Shot of Taichung showing massive haze over the city, Jan 19, 2008.

By its workings, astronomical sums have been appropriated into circuits from which many benefited. While the momentum of growth was maintained, Japan's reputation as a great power was enhanced, and trade frictions with G7 member countries eased. Massive civil-engineering projects were favored: bridges, tunnels, highways, railways, and airports. The circuits through which the construction state functions ensure that sufficient largess has been spread locally to hold in place the ruling party's support network, with some funds in "rebates" and kickbacks for the party's central apparatus. Politicians are valued for their ability to bring work, money, and jobs to their electorate, and money to their party. The cost of being a politician in Japan far exceeds that in any other country, by a factor of more than four according to one estimate, and a politician commonly needs a couple of million dollars (hundreds of million yen) a year to constituency affairs. -- The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence, Gavan McCormack, pp34-5

In commentary on blogs, in the media, and even at such august bodies as the Heritage Foundation a fundamental error stands out: the imposition of ethnocentric western models on Taiwan politics. Thus, we hear analyses that claim that voters were disappointed with DPP policies, and hence, did not come out to vote for it. Similarly, we hear reassuring claims that being out of power will be good for the DPP, that it will come back revamped and ready for action. It is my belief that such claims misunderstand the structure and nature of politics on the Beautiful Island, and thus underestimate the shape and impact of the KMT victory on the island's political, economic, and environmental future.

The predominant political influence on Taiwan is not the US nor modern western democratic thought. These receive lip service in international seminars and academic publications, but have little influence on the day-to-day hurly-burly of local politics. Taiwan, instead, takes its cue from Japan and its construction-state political system. In Japan, as in Taiwan, politicians are not associated with specific policies or with public policy offerings that tempt voters to swing their way -- they are specifically valued, as McCormack notes above, for their ability to bring home the bacon.

Visiting the morning market in a small town.

Consider first the KMT legislative record, as the Taiwan News pointed out just prior to the election (it's behind a pay wall but cached in Google). Some excerpts:

As the Citizen Congress Watch noted in its evaluation of the Legislative Yuan's performance last July, "there is nothing good to say."

Besides engaging in unsubstantiated "explosive exposures" and approving a record low 393 legal bills, the Legislative Yuan has spent most of the last three years boycotting the normal review of draft bills submitted by the DPP government, grabbing powers not granted to it by the Constitution and unsuccessfully trying to depose President Chen.

From September 2000 to the end of last year, the Legislature has abused its control over the weekly meetings of the procedural committee to engage in over 6,300 instances of boycotts to block normal debate and review of important bills submitted by the government.

The list includes 165 boycotts of a DPP draft bill to set up an independent commission against corruption, 101 boycotts of the draft law to set up an impartial commission to investigate and recover "party assets" improperly obtained (that is, stolen) from the state by the KMT during its authoritarian rule, and nearly 100 boycotts of other "sunshine" laws.

In terms of "struggling for the economy," the Legislature has delayed central government budgets and public construction and enterprise budgets every year and frozen over NT$530 billion in allocations, causing serious cutbacks in government services and development programs and has refused to approve a long-awaited law to promote a renewable energy industry.

In terms of clean government, the Legislature has only approved one of a host of new "sunshine" anti-corruption draft bills submitted by the DPP-led Cabinet, namely the DPP-proposed law regulating lobbying.

In the field of human rights, the record shows a clearly defined "division of labor," namely that the DPP Cabinet has submitted new human rights reform bills while the KMT-controlled Legislature has specialized in blocking their review and passage.

Examples range from the DPP's early proposals for a national human rights commission and a national human rights memorial museum to revisions to the draconian laws governing labor unions.

The Legislature has also failed to approve long discussed plans for thorough revamping of the organization and operations of the Executive Yuan and Judicial Yuan and other judicial reform.

What the KMT has done is use its legislative clout to push through bills that boost its own power at the expense of the integrity of Taiwan's current constitutional division of powers.

For example, the KMT has blocked the normal operations of the Control Yuan, the watchdog branch of government, for over three years by refusing to carry out its constitutional obligation to review and approve or reject the president's nomination of 29 Control Yuan commissioners.

Besides blocking the president's nomination of a truly independent chief public prosecutor, the KMT legislative majority also froze the nomination of four highly qualified presidential nominees for the Judicial Yuan and only approved four nominees who shared its ideological values, after an intense and insulting vetting.

The KMT has also attempted to use a bogus "democratic" system of organization of "independent bodies" based on party shares of legislative seats to take control over the powerful National Communications Commission and turn the "Referendum Review Committee" set up by the Referendum Law of 2003 under the Executive Yuan into a censorate to veto any "bottom-up" initiatives that the KMT opposes, thus completely subverting the concept of direct democracy.

The Constitutional Court found that the laws that organized the tribunal and the NCC organization were "unconstitutional," but the KMT intends to use this unconstitutional system to reorganize the Central Election Commission and thus prevent forever any fair elections.

In this sense, the past session of the Legislature can justifiably be characterized as an "unconstitutional" parliament.

While the DPP merits a barely passing grade for its administrative performance, it has at least tried to approve a wide range of progressive reform bills, most of which the KMT has boycotted to prevent the DPP from "getting credit" and to block Taiwan's 23 million people from getting the benefits of progress and a well-being social economy.

It is the KMT alone who is responsible for the awful performance of the Legislative Yuan during the past three years and therefore it is the KMT that merits to be taught a lesson by the Taiwan electorate in Saturday's legislative election.

To sum up, no one interested and informed could fail to notice that for the last eight years the KMT-dominated legislature has been a disaster for the island. Yet on Jan 12 it gathered all 5 million pan-Blue votes unto itself, ensuring over 80 seats in the legislature. Anyone who wishes to argue that the public voted for reasons of public policy has to ponder that if voters really do care about the policy success of their legislators, and really do swing between parties, then they swung in the direction of the more corrupt, obstructionist, and anti-democracy of the two parties. The answer to this apparent conundrum is quite simple: voters in Taiwan are not attracted by sound public policy, but by flows of money out of the central government into the personal networks of the politicians they support. Most could care less how many bills the KMT boycotts, if they even know. Rather, they are strictly focused on what to them are local bread-and-butter issues: where be my bacon? Candidates respond to this: outside of Taipei many candidates offered billboards with frank estimates of how much money they'd brought into the district, or how much they were planning to.

A ship under construction at the Taiwan Shipbuilding yard in Hsiaokang.

Taipei County's shady entrepreneurs and outright gangsters are only, however, flashes of bright color in the muddy palate of Taiwan politics. Outside the relatively sophisticated big cities, the SNTV system facilitates domination of the political landscape by local political machines based on patron-client relationships, often linked to gangsters who carry out the less pleasant tasks--vote-buying, for example--in return for a cut of the spoils. The convenient rezoning of land and the awarding of construction contracts are favorite payoffs, not to mention the inevitable word to the local constabulary about "not bothering" certain establishments. The world is that of The Godfather, a feudal relationship where Don Corleone looks after "his" people as long as they obey his wishes. And this is facilitated by an electoral system in which only a relatively small proportion of people in any community have to be involved. -- longtime Taiwan observer Lawrence Eyton, writing on the 2001 legislative election

In a piece entitled "Party Provision for Personal Politics: Dividing the Vote in Japan" in Structure and Policy in Japan and the United States (eds. Cowhey and Daniel), Mathew McCubbins and Frances Rosenbluth note the particularistic model of political behavior found among Japanese politicians but much less so among their American counterparts.

How do candidates go about establishing a personal vote? The first means is to court voters with personalized attention. Japanese politicians attempt to draw constituents into personal support organizations (koenkai). Politicians coddle voters with small favors in exchange for votes. Journalistic reporting as well as scholarly analyses of Japanese elections invariably focus on individual candidates' support networks and the enormous sums of money needed to build and maintain them. LDP politicans are famous for showing up at weddings and funerals, helping voters with job placement, and sending bottles of sake for neighborhood festivals (Hirose 1989). Each LDP candidate is said to have spent the equivalent of $3 million to $12 million for the February 1990 Lower House Election.

The authors note in a footnote below that this sum works out to $50-120 per constituent -- in the US, similar elections average about $1 per constituent. The only way an aspiring legislator can stay in office in Japan is to have access to massive sums of cash, which must find their way down to the local level. In Taiwan the analogue to the neighborhood festival are the local temple festivals, which bring together local politicians, business, and organized crime. The pre-eminent example of this is the nation's major pilgrimage event to the goddess Matzu, which ends up at the old Matzu temple in Dajia north of Taichung city, and is overseen by the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union legislator Yen Ching-piao. Yen, who was once elected to office from jail, made his money in the gravel business, a key business in the island's concrete-driven domestic political economy. Particularistic networks in Taiwan are also facilitated in other ways, for example, people often call on their legislators and other local politicians to handle minor personal matters, such as traffic accidents. At a recent forum on reform of the legislature hosted by the KMT, a local academic observed:

"Some Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] lawmakers attend more of their supporters' wedding banquets and funerals than they do legislative meetings. They also spend more time thinking about how to get re-elected or how to earn back the money they spent on their election campaigns," said Yang Jih-ching (楊日清), a political science professor at National Chengchi University.

A ship under construction at the Taiwan Shipbuilding yard in Hsiaokang outside of Kaohsiung.

This dependence on particularistic personal connections to create local networks of supporters raises an interesting issue for the next few years: how will legislators handle the increased constituent load? Since districts are now represented by single legislators who, on average, represent twice the number of people they did, legislators will face the need for increased sums of cash, and increased amounts of time spent with constituents. It is almost axiomatic that politics in Taiwan, already thoroughly corrupt, will become even more money driven. Another effect of one-party dominance has already been identified in Japan -- Mathew McCubbins and Frances Rosenbluth found, in their study of money politics in Japan, that spending on particularistic relations actually rose as the number of LDP politicians in the Lower House grew. Maintenance of a permanent majority is expensive.

Similarly, Cox, Rosenbluth, and Thies found in Mobilization, Social Networks, and Turnout: Evidence from Japan that the 'social capital' -- the value of an individuals social networks to the performance of whatever task s/he wants to carry out -- of an individual politician is absolutely crucial in races that are competitive. The calculus is quite clear -- a politician mobilizes his social networks to the extent that a race is competitive. Since almost all the races in Taiwan were at least somewhat competitive, it follows that mobilization of local networks is critical to victory at the local level. The KMT has enormous advantages in putting its social capital to good effect, not only in its 5-1 dominance in spending, but also in the fact that the structure of local officialdom -- the neighborhood and precinct captains, the village chiefs, the township chiefs -- are 90% KMT. In other words, the KMT gets to have its cake and eat it too -- its local networks are not only vastly better than the DPP's, they are all on government salaries!

Cox et al also found that in Japan politicians who want to mobilize more voters should turn to more tightly constructed social networks. In Taiwan this means accessing local clan and faction politics, right down to the level of individual families. In certain areas on the island, orders on how to vote travel downward through networks of precinct captains to local neighborhood and extended family groups. If the candidate has connections to a university, teachers and staff may be mobilized to have their students and families vote for the candidate.

Is there some preference for clean politics that might counter the possibility of an LDP-style permanent majority? The election of politicians under indictment, while in jail, while on the run, while gaming the system legally and illegally, with convictions for various sorts of official misbehavior, with known backgrounds in organized crime, with illegal businesses -- should forever put a spike in the claim that Taiwanese voters want clean politics. Again and again, Taiwanese voters have shown that they don't care about such issues, with obviously corrupt politicians winning by large margins. Indeed, viewed from this perspective, a corruption investigation is proof positive that a local politician is manipulating the system in favor of his local constituencies.

Me at the shipyard.

This Empire of Bacon approach has another effect on politics highlighted by McCubbins and Rosenbluth -- it makes it far more difficult for the opposition parties to get elected: providing a wide range of services to a large part of the population and weakening the salience of ideological issues, LDP representatives collectively make it harder for politicians of opposition parties to compete. This electoral strategy leaves few niches of support groups unattended and vulnerable to appeals from other parties...

As long as rank-and-file members can discipline their leaders, and as long as party leaders seek to win a majority of seats for their party, the rank-and-file members can get the party to establish policies and institutions to facilitate the development of particularistic policies... the result of rank-and-file pressure is that the vote division in the districts results largely from candidates' ability to provide particularistic policies.

The particularistic social relations that characterized Japanese-style politics mean that ideology plays a lesser role in politics; personal relations a greater. In other words, the KMT's social networks can easily nullify any advantage the DPP gains from having the more democratic, foward-looking, and Taiwan-centered ideology. Moreover, since each district has but a single legislator, local political and business networks will have no choice but to orient themselves around that legislator, further cementing the dominant party's control.

Gawking at the gigantic cranes and other equipment.

The Wiki page on the LDP describes how the LDP maintained itself:

By the early 1990s, the LDP's nearly four decades in power allowed it to establish a highly stable process of policy formation. This process would not have been possible if other parties had secured parliamentary majorities. LDP strength was based on an enduring, although not unchallenged, coalition of big business, small business, agriculture, professional groups, and other interests. Elite bureaucrats collaborated closely with the party and interest groups in drafting and implementing policy. In a sense, the party's success was a result not of its internal strength but of its weakness. It lacked a strong, nationwide organization or consistent ideology with which to attract voters. Its leaders were rarely decisive, charismatic, or popular. But it functioned efficiently as a locus for matching interest group money and votes with bureaucratic power and expertise.

In Taiwan things are somewhat different (there's no apparent analogue in Japan to the identity politics here in Taiwan), but there are recognizable structural similarities between the LDP and the KMT that will occur to any alert reader, from multi-million dollar CIA support in the Cold War era, to its construction of a coalition out of local interest groups. These coalitions can be expected to expand as local KMT politicians attempt to annex all local interest groups to their personal networks, to prevent gaps that the DPP can exploit. Identity politics will continue to drive DPP voting, but eventually, as KMT control tightens, many Greens will be forced to enter local networks in order to gain access to resources. Indeed, many who vote Green at the national level already vote Blue at the local.....and thus, the DPP vote at the legislative level will probably shrink over time.

The LDP, it should be recalled, ruled from 1955 to 1993.

Thirty-eight years.