Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bits and Pieces

A Ma-Siew election poster promises 6% economic growth, GDP per capita of US$30,000, and unemployment below 3%. So our "return to the good old days" consists of achieving growth targets already hit in 2004 and 2007. Per capita GDP is already over $30,000 on a PPP basis. I suspect by following China's lead, the KMT means we'll see Chinese-style growth: diddling the numbers to add a few percentage points.

Lots of stuff around the web on a slow Sunday as we wait to go to the big rally this evening...

David from Oz alerts me to this program on Australian Radio on Taiwan independence, with Mark Harrison and Denny Roy, among others. It's downloadable here on the program page. Haven't listened to it yet.

Reuters has a piece on the lack of advanced service skills in Taiwan's workforce:

"It's typically a much more mixed skillset and unfortunately on some of the critical skills, candidates sometimes are lacking," said Liu, whose company employs about 550 staff in Taiwan working in investment banking, securities and asset management. "It's actually quite a handicap for Taiwan in the integration in the global economy."

Managers like Liu are feeling the effects of a brain drain of talent from Taiwan to more global economies like the United States, Hong Kong and China.

Multinational companies also complain that candidates have weak English skills, a lack of talent in management and insufficient expertise in high-level research.

According to the Taipei Times, the Brits are complaining that Taiwan doesn't buy enough China stuff. Can we stop the revolting service to Beijing, guys? It's fair to complain that government procurement isn't open.....

AP's entire list of key facts about the Taiwan election. I kid you not:

WHERE: Taiwan, a democracy over which China still claims sovereignty, is electing a president Saturday, March 22.

THE ISSUES: The economy predominates, but also important is what the two candidates largely agree on: After years of friction with China over whether or not Taiwan is independent, the island needs better relations with its giant neighbor.

THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON: Taiwan going independent could spark a war with China and drag in the U.S., so the U.S. will be happy to see the issue go into deep freeze.

ROFL. Apparently the candidates and parties have no names.

More from the Desk of Our Economy Sucks: Russia overtakes Taiwan as number 1 emerging market in the Morgan Stanley portfolio. Hey, we're only number two. Wow, we suck.

A Canadian piece discusses the thousands of Taiwanese heading home this week to vote, saying:

"Taiwanese society is very divided right now," said James Chou, chairman of the Taiwanese Canadian Cultural Society.

"About half of the people support the (People's Republic of China) and the other half has very strong grassroots emotions about the land of their ancestors."

That's just plain wrong. People who vote KMT don't necessarily understand themselves as aligning their vote with China, and it is wrong to see it that way -- even if the KMT itself is aligned with China, and such voters deny or ignore that. Indeed, grasping conversations like:

A: I'm voting for the KMT.
B: Oh? So you think Taiwan should be part of China?
A: No! I am Taiwanese! a key to understanding that vote. UPDATE: Thoth from Canada comments perspicaciously below. Speaking of voting weirdness, another message came from former President Lee Teng-hui supporting Hsieh. Indirectly. A strong public statement would be really great about now, President Dr. Lee Mr. Teng-hui.

Global Voices Online talks about the use of geospatial technologies in human rights campaigns. This is the kind of thing Tibet needs. In Taiwan these technologies are already in use in a nifty project using GPS systems to map aboriginal territories and their resources. More on that after the election.

Russell Hsiao has a short commentary on the Chinese military budget and the Taiwan Strait at the conservative Jamestown Foundation.

Things going on: The USC US-China center is having a soiree on the 26th to discuss the election outcome. If you're in LA, stop by and let me know what they said.

This came into my mailbox:

New Taiwan Cultural Foundation (NTF) is holding an international roundtable on “Assessing the Meanings and Implications of the March 22 Presidential Election” on March 23, 2008. This event is co-sponsored by Center of China-US Cooperation, Graduate School of International Studies, University of Denver. Many important Taiwanese and international scholars will attend as panelists. This is a good opportunity for you to get the freshest analysis one day after the election.

Time and venue of this event is as follows:

Time: March 23, 2008 at 8:30 am – 12:50 pm

Venue: Room 102, Taipei International Convention Center (No. 1, Sec. 5, Hsin-yi Rd. /信義路五段一號)

Attached please find the detailed agenda, invitation and application form. To sign-up for this event, please fax or email back the application forms by Mar. 17 to: 02-8789-4815 or .

It says "the freshest analysis" but I suspect it is going to be a full blast of the Taipei conventional wisdom, regardless of the election outcome.

See you at the rallies today!

UPDATE: What is the problem with BBC? Taipei-based Caroline Gluck writes on the KMT and DPP rallies, with what looks like a formulaic editorial insertion after:

The events, organised by the two main political parties, are also aimed at expressing public opposition to China's anti-secession law.

Passed three years ago, it legalises the use of force against Taiwan if the island formally declares independence.

Earth to BBC: the laws do not "legalize" the use of force against Taiwan. They are pure propaganda, and should be treated that way. Wouldn't it be more neutral to say that the law is a simple declaration that "calls for the use of force if Taiwan formally declares independence" or something similar? "Legalization" simply plays to Beijing's desire to leverage Western cultural expectations about the normative force of law in its drive to crush Taiwan's democratic existence and gives its expansionist desires legitimacy. The BBC would never say "China's national security laws legalize executions of democracy activists" if it were discussing China's security state and that nation's treatment of its political prisoners. So why does it do that here, when the Anti-Secession Law simply does wholesale what China's security laws do retail? Simply put, murder is always wrong, whether it is done by bullets in a prison or by missiles and bombs in city streets. Stop abetting Beijing, guys.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
corey said...

Thoth, I guess Canadians and Americans are in the same boat...I've had this conversation more times than I'd like to admit:

Other: Have you ever been out of the country?
Me: Yeah! England, France, Hong Kong, Canada, and Taiwan!
Other: Oh, cool! I've never met a Thai person before!
Me: I've never been to Thailand...
Other: Then what is Taiwan?
Me: A country below Japan and above the Philippines...
Other: [in a less excited tone] oh...

Chris said...

That's just plain wrong. People who vote KMT don't necessarily understand themselves as aligning their vote with China, and it is wrong to see it that way -- even if the KMT itself is aligned with China, and such voters deny or ignore that. Indeed, grasping conversations like:

A: I'm voting for the KMT.
B: Oh? So you think Taiwan should be part of China?
A: No! I am Taiwanese! a key to understanding that vote.

A vote for the KMT does not mean a vote for China- this is just how the greens have twisted the situation: just campaign talk. Let me explain:

Many have said, "Taiwan's future should be decided by the Taiwanese people." It's sad to say, but Taiwan's future isn't going be decided by the people of Taiwan, but by the government of China. We can push Taiwanese independence and "UN for Taiwan" all we want, but in the end, the world doesn't care what we say. They care what China says. China is a international superpower: a country with the power and influence to forever isolate Taiwan from the rest of the world (which they are doing right now). If we fail to open talks with China, UN/WHO membership, let alone independence, would be impossible.

The KMT is not aligned with China. Compared to the DPP, they are just more open to more peaceful communication and negotiations that could eventually lead to better situation for Taiwan and its people (ie. WHO inclusion, increased trade and economic growth).

For the last time here are Ma and the KMT's positions: No indepedence, no unification, no use of force.

Taiwan's sovereignty is safe with both the KMT and the DPP.

Anonymous said...

Well, what I want to know is what's behind the DPP's changing the color of their flags, posters, hats, etc.

It used to be a nice, simple green...but this year it has become a weird shade of...teal? aqua? cyan?

Why the creeping shift

Scott in 士林

Tim Maddog said...

Michael wrote:
- - -
Apparently the candidates and parties have no names.
- - -

The dumbasses at AP put Taiwan's modern political history, Key facts about Taiwan's election, and Bios of Taiwan's presidential candidates on three separate pages without linking them either to each other or back to the parent article. You can see them in context here.

Shockingly, in that same article, in the very same sentence with the ubiquitous "split in 1949" lie is an actual out-loud declaration of the same truth you stated in your example conversation about "No! I am Taiwanese!":
- - -
... unification is wildly unpopular on the island
- - -

I wish we'd see examples like that more often.

Tim Maddog

Michael Turton said...

Chris, the KMT and Beijing have been talking since the mid-1990s, when the first envoy from Beijing was sent.

The two are coordinating policy across a wide front, from the agricultural offerings, to the termination of gravel exports -- helping to hold local incomes down by holding up projects -- to sovereignty issues. To deny this is to deny reality.

Ma's positions are irrelevant since his bosses within the KMT have totally different positions, and Ma is both spineless and not in control of his party.


David said...

Thanks for the link to the ABC radio program. I thought it was quite well done.

A few errors I would like to point out. The journalist refers to the forthcoming referendum as an "independence referendum" rather than the "UN referendum(s)". Democratic People's Party rather than Democratic Progressive Party. She also says Taiwan is a little bigger than Tasmania. Actually it is about half the size!

The academics gave quite a good overview of Taiwan's history and were all well informed about Taiwan rather than being China focused.

Paul Monk (I think) draws a very interesting analogy about China's claim to Taiwan comparing it to a Chinese asking him what it Tasmania wanted independence. It's right near the end.

Something that really annoys me is the use of the term "mainland". Both the journalist and the academics interviewed use it a number of times. There is no country in the world called "Mainland". I wish people would just call China "China" and Taiwan "Taiwan". The terms are clear and unambiguous in most contexts.

B.BarNavi said...

Thoth, there's much more at stake than the sovereignty issue. Even if Ma upholds the status quo on that part,you've still got the problem of one-party rule and crony politics.

Unknown said...

Michael, last I checked Taiwan's 2007 GDP per capita (PPP) was a tad below $30K. It's $29,800. This is according to the CIA World Factbook. Just scroll past HK and Singapore to #42 in the GDP per capita rankings.
And this is the first time I've heard about how the CCP and KMT have allegedly been coordinating policy to terminate gravel exports to Taiwan. Can you provide me with evidence of your claim? Thanks.

Michael Turton said...

Eric, the figure I have was actually $32,600. But you can find numbers that have PPP GDP per capita crossing $30K as early as 2005. It's really irrelevant -- whether you have 29,800 or 32, it's obvious we're at or above $30, so Ma's promise is empty.

And this is the first time I've heard about how the CCP and KMT have allegedly been coordinating policy to terminate gravel exports to Taiwan. Can you provide me with evidence of your claim?

Sure. In '06 China cut off gravel exports. This had a profound effect on projects all over Taiwan, and on local incomes. There's no reason that the KMT couldn't get them turned on again, given the close cooperation between the two, except that lower incomes and interrupted work mean more complaints about the economy, which appeals to its campaign platform of claiming the economy here sucks. Hence the KMT has not intervened, though it has done so on fruit and other areas.

The KMT strategy is to make Taiwanese suffer to support their claims that it is all the DPP's fault.

And if it is the first time you've run across this, you should study gravel more. No commodity gives a greater clue to the status of Taiwan's domestic political economy than flows of gravel.