Monday, June 30, 2008

Wang Jin-pyng Interviewed in the Liberty Times.

Another lovely day of sun and rain here, so I took the afternoon off to go biking and blog. Using Google's translation tool, I translated this long interview in the Liberty Times with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng. Wang is Taiwanese, powerful, a political rival of President Ma, and the unofficial head of the southern legislators with their powerful connections to local patronage and faction networks. In the KMT Chairmanship election between Ma and Wang a couple of years ago, the popular vote supported Ma, while party elites supported Wang. The interview is very interesting for its media outlet (the chief Green media outlet in Taiwan), Wang's call for more legislative oversight of the talks with China, and his insistence on preserving the nation's sovereignty. As a Feiren observed when he alerted me to this, the interview is very Lee Teng-hui-ish in its feel and vocabulary. A few polished excerpts:

Wang Jin-pyng: In the past month, the rapid progress of cross-strait relations has almost exceeded the progress over the last decade. The two sides can create a win-win situation, promote prosperity and development, and create a stable environment of peace. I am not only optimistic, but also recognize this is a positive and meaningful evolution.*

However, .....I must remind, there are three things that must be paid attention to. First, national sovereignty must be ensured. Second, national security must be protected, and third, the rights of the 23 million people must be protected. If we can master these three principles, then no matter what developments occur between the two sides, it will be relatively easy to build a domestic consensus. From the position of the legislature, these three principles should be the basis for carrying out the necessary oversight of the executive branch.

Especially for the first point, all development of cross-strait consultations and negotiations will inevitably involve sovereignty, and both sides of the issue are so complex, so subtle, that negotiators are often unaware of the sacrifice of sovereignty, and don't realize that it has occurred. This is a very serious matter, I have repeatedly emphasized the need to ensure that these issues are addressed from a position of sovereignty.

Further down...

Moreover, the subject of the Legislative Yuan supervision is the Mainland Affairs Council, not the Straits Exchange Foundation. The content of Legislative Yuan supervision includes: how much power should the Mainland Affairs Council grant the SEF? The scope of the topics discussed? Has [the discussion] exceeded the provisions of the law? All of these are included.

Wang cites several examples of US legislators being involved in key international talks, and talks more about legislative oversight. Further down he hits on a key point that Taiwan must build relations with the US and Japan, not simply leaning to one side, which I take to mean Ma's lean toward China.

Wang: at the time when both sides of the Strait are getting along, more attention should be paid to security, for what individual can guarantee peace? If our self-defense forces are insufficient, this is a very dangerous thing. From this perspective, we should improve relations with mainland China. Relations with the United States and Japan should be strengthened, and we should not lean to any one side. How to use the US-Japan security framework to strengthen Taiwan's security, is something that absolutely cannot be ignored.

An informative interview from a powerful man and possible future presidential candidate should Ma stumble.

*fixed translation error here. Originally it had "not" optimistic which was wrong.

Cargo Cultists: the gods must be crazy

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

What do the cargo cultists do when the gods don't deliver? Most of the cargo cults have disappeared over the years, but my personal favorite, the John Frum cult of Vanuatu, remains alive and well and even has its own political party. Say what you like about the adherents of the Prince Philip cargo cult, but at least Prince Philip isn't pointing missiles at His worshippers....

Meanwhile, back here in another Pacific island with its own more modern version of a cargo cult, the Taipei Times reports that KMT negotiators have been Kitty Hawked by Beijing:

The NT$60 billion (US$2 billion) windfall expected to be generated by Chinese tourists may now be at risk, as the Chinese government has reportedly insisted that only 1,000 tourists per day be allowed to visit Taiwan in the initial stages, a third of the number agreed upon by the two sides during recent cross-strait talks, a local newspaper reported yesterday.

The news has raised fears within the domestic travel industry that Taiwan’s tourism market revenues this year could fall short of expectations, which could also have an impact on economic growth, the Chinese-language China Times said.

Since both sides of the Taiwan Strait signed an agreement in Beijing earlier this month that permits up to 3,000 Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan per day, the government has not yet received any information from China about adjusting the threshold and believes that there won’t be such adjustments, Straits Exchange Foundation Vice Chairman and Secretary-General Kao Kong-lian (高孔廉) said yesterday.

What? We built the ceremonial airstrips and dressed up as officers, and now our Spam and Jeeps aren't dropping from the sky? Say it ain't so, John Frum! The article goes on to recount how petulant KMT negotiators demanded that China -- get this -- live up to its word.

Taiwan’s representatives demanded that Beijing meet the 3,000 target as it was part of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) election platform and had been agreed upon by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

...because it was Ma's election platform! Alas, market and political realities intrude, as it appears the 3,000 target is subject to "adjustment"....

Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Fu Don-cheng (傅棟成) also said that Beijing had already indicated during the consultations that the threshold of 3,000 would be adjusted as needed and in line with market demands. Whether the number is 1,000 or 3,000, the Chinese government will have their own concerns and make a decision and the public shouldn’t over-interpret it, Fu said.

Other officials added that during the consultations, Beijing had proposed to proceed step by step, starting from 1,000 and gradually increasing to 3,000 because of national security concerns. Beijing was worried that if Taiwan allowed so many tourists to enter Taiwan each day from the start, it would double security problems and increase the burden on both sides.
No doubt China is pondering the consequences of letting loose thousands of middle and upper class Chinese on a nation where Asians refute every day the lie that Asians are not suited for democracy.

Meanwhile, in other election promise news, as Kaohsiung politicians awoke to the reality that they were getting only one charter flight from China on Friday, July 4, the first day of the flights, while the President convened his new task force to ponder the sliding stock market. Yesterday the newspapers revealed that four major government pension funds were sinking money into the market. The task force decided to encourage insurance firms, still awash with capital, to sink money into the stock market and to invest in the 12 projects that Ma is pushing to spur the local political economy....

Aboriginal Education in Taiwan and Canada

A friend pointed me to this long and informative article on aboriginal higher education in Taiwan and Canada (link):

This study is an attempt to assess directions, goals, and achievements in higher education for Aboriginal people in Taiwan, with comparisons to Indian higher education in Canada. This study will highlight developing relationships between the College of Indigenous Studies (CIS) at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan and the First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) in Canada. This relationship has emerged over the past several years through initiatives of the Councils of Aboriginal Affairs (CAA) in Taiwan and the SIFC, beginning in July, 1999 with the participation of representatives of SIFC at the Conference on Aboriginal Higher Education at the National Dong Hwa University followed in the same month by a visit of an investigation team from the CAA to SIFC, and an exchange of thirty Aboriginal students representing all nine tribes of Taiwan to SIFC in February, 2000. Through these exchanges it has been realized that many issues and experiences in education are shared between Taiwan's Aboriginal people and the Indian people of Canada, and that these may go towards promoting linkages and support further development of post-secondary education for both peoples.

While there are many features that distinguish Aboriginal people of Taiwan from Indian people of Canada, there are many similarities in their experiences including their minority status at about 2 percent of the total populations, a history of colonial influence over the past several hundred years, realities of exclusion from the mainstream of society, and close ties to the land as part of a holistic philosophy of life. Today another similarity is apparent between Indian people of Canada and Aboriginal people of Taiwan; the desire for greater opportunity and autonomy through education.

The article is long a covers Taiwan's aboriginal college, the history of aboriginal education, and aboriginal attitudes toward migration, education, and modernity.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sweeping Falun Gong Under the Carpet

Lawrence Chung at the South China Morning Post reports that local governments are suppressing Falun Gong protesters, a common sight at tourist spots all over Taiwan, ahead of visitors from China...[no link, behind paywall]

...He vowed supporters would continue promoting Falun Gong, which they say is a spiritual movement but which is banned on the mainland as an "evil cult".

Local governments on the island are reported to have barred Falun Gong followers from promoting their movement at scenic spots during a recent visit by representatives of 33 mainland travel agencies to survey sites ahead of visits by mainland tourists that begin next month.

Falun Gong practitioners have long set up tables and hoisted banners at tourist attractions in Taiwan to promote their movement.

Taiwan is to allow direct visits by 3,000 tourists per day, a move authorities and the industry say will create 45,000 jobs and bring in NT$60 billion (HK$15.4 billion) a year.

Local governments seeking to alleviate financial problems have widely applauded the island's opening up to direct, as opposed to group, tourism from the mainland.

Dr Chang, who is a professor of economics at National Taiwan University, said mainland authorities' stipulation that tourists be kept away from places where people promote Falun Gong or Tibetan or Taiwanese independence was "impractical, unreasonable and illegal".

He said Taiwan was known for its freedoms of expression, religion and assembly. "This is a precious culture in Taiwan, and it would be a big waste if mainland tourists are not able to see it."
It is always fun to hear a state that has the embalmed body of its mass-murdering leader on display refer to another belief system as "an evil cult."

More importantly, several weeks ago I argued au contraire to those who argue that Taiwan is likely to change China, that it was more likely that China would change Taiwan, and not in a positive that what we are seeing here?

And from Japan....

Japan Focus has some interesting articles this week. First is an insightful piece on North Korea as the canary in the coal mine for the coming food crisis....

....At the time, of course, all the knowing analysts and pundits dismissed what was happening in that country as the inevitable breakdown of an archaic economic system presided over by a crackpot dictator.

They were wrong. The collapse of North Korean agriculture in the 1990s was not the result of backwardness. In fact, North Korea boasted one of the most mechanized agricultures in Asia. Despite claims of self-sufficiency, the North Koreans were actually heavily dependent on cheap fuel imports. (Does that already ring a bell?) In their case, the heavily subsidized energy came from Russia and China, and it helped keep North Korea's battalion of tractors operating. It also meant that North Korea was able to go through fertilizer, a petroleum product, at one of the world's highest rates. When the Soviets and Chinese stopped subsidizing those energy imports in the late 1980s and international energy rates became the norm for them, too, the North Koreans had a rude awakening.

Andre Vltchek has a fantastic piece on the staggeringly depressing situation of America Samoa. And Hamish McDonald points to the possibility of a China-Japan security axis over East Asia.

Finally, very heartening is this well-rounded piece in the Daily Yomiuri which discusses the decline of Taiwan-Japan relations. Not only does it do a good job describing the politics of the DPP and the KMT, it also takes the position that this is a bad thing. I'm informed that in the Japanese media the dominant voices do not want Taiwan to "drag" Japan into a war with China. An excerpt:

According to sources involved in bilateral affairs, under the pro-Japan administration of Ma's predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, bilateral ties were at their warmest since Japan severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1972. Ma--who assumed office in May--repeatedly stressed his intent to maintain this solid relationship.

However, Taiwan's criticism of Japan has intensified since a Taiwan fishing boat sank in waters near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on June 10.

Pressured by pro-China Nationalists who favor a hard-line approach toward Japan, Ma dispatched nine patrol boats to the waters off the Senkaku Islands to ratchet up awareness of Taiwan's sovereign claim on the Senkaku Islands, known as Tiaoyutai in Taiwan. As a result, tensions rose dramatically between Japan and Taiwan.

Unlike former Presidents Lee Teng-hui and Chen, both of whom avoided playing hardball with Tokyo over the territorial issue, the Taiwan patrol boats' incursion into the disputed waters has highlighted Ma's brusque approach toward Japan.

The nature of the problem lies in differences in historical perception between the Nationalist Party and the Democratic Progressive Party.
Ma has not been in power 40 days and already this has happened. So much for promises not to be a troublemaker...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tsai Ing-wen on the DPP's Path to the Future

I have been greatly cheered by what I've so far from new DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen, whom I always thought would make a great chairman. Today the Taipei Times reported on her talk at the foreign correspondents club....

Tsai — talking to members of the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents Club in Taipei — reiterated the message she has been delivering since taking over as party chair last month, saying the next four years were vitally important as the party needs to start again following its defeat in January’s legislative and March’s presidential elections.

Party unity was the most important aspect of the rebuilding, Tsai said, adding that a recent opinion poll had shown public perception of the DPP’s unity had increased dramatically.

Asked about how the party would reconnect with grassroots voters and compete with the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) traditionally strong local organization networks, Tsai said the DPP would strive to increase direct contact with voters and would use former government officials to extend its grassroots movements.

Tsai said that although the party was strapped for cash, one thing it did have was a lot of time and it would use that time to re-energize its disappointed supporters.

On the issue of sovereignty, Tsai said that while it was important, it would not be the main focus for the party under her tenure. She said the DPP would remain firm but practical on the issue and accused the KMT government of giving away “too much, too fast” in the recent cross-strait talks with China, adding that a balance needed to be obtained.

Quizzed on whether she would lead opposition supporters to the streets if the new government failed to live up to expectations, she said that it was not her “style.”

She said that while the DPP wouldn’t tell people to protest, it would help organize things if that were the case.

Talking about the lack of stability and continuity in the DPP and the high turnover of party leaders in the past, Tsai said it was important for the DPP to experience a period of stability and emphasized she would not resign if the party performed poorly in next year’s local county commissioner and mayoral elections.
Good news all around, though I think the DPP needs to keep the tactic of street demonstrations as a threat if the situation turns really bad. UPDATE: She actually said after that remark that if demonstrations occur, the situation is serious. I especially like her commitment to stay on even if the party does not do well in next cycle -- the habit of empty resignations to 'take responsibility' in local government is destructive and instability-inducing.

UPDATE: On a totally unrelated note, amusing musings from The Granite Studio, an excellent China blog, on the possibility of cross-strait reconciliation in the NBA.

1953: Renmin Ribao says Senkakus part of Japan

A kind friend forwarded me some images from the past: Chinese newspapers from 1953. I have assembled them into the image above.... Yesterday I blogged on John Tkacik's piece in the Taipei Times that included a tidbit on China's pre-1969 attitude toward the Diaoyutai Islands. Tkacik wrote:

A People’s Daily commentary of June 1953, which called on the people of Okinawa to resist the US imperialists occupying their homelands, enumerated the “Jiange” (Senkaku) islands as part of the Ryukyu chain, clear evidence that the Beijing government considered the islands part of Japan even in the heat of the Korean War.

The 1953 news article from the Renmin Ribao that used the Chinese version of the Japanese name for the islands, and included them in Ryukyus, is imaged above. The article is entitled something like: Intelligencer: the Ryukyun People's Struggle Against US Occupation. The first sentence in Chinese says...琉球群島....我國台灣東北和日本九週洲島西南之間的海面上, 包括尖閣諸島, 先諸島 . . ."The Ryukyus are located in the ocean northwest of China's Taiwan and southwest of Japan's [九週洲島] islands, and include the Senkakus, the.... The original is dated Jan Nov 1953, not June as in the Tkacik piece (an apparent typo). The article is not pictured in the inset; that merely gives the date.

Further notes on Taiwan's Status

More on the US position toward Taiwan's sovereignty, from Bill Geertz at the Washington Times...

Inside the Ring
Bill Gertz
Thursday, June 26, 2008

Questioning one China

The Bush administration has backed away from China's position on Taiwan by declaring in a diplomatic note to the United Nations that the issue of Taiwan's sovereignty remains unsettled and effectively stating that the island is not under Chinese sovereignty, as Beijing insists.

A copy of the diplomatic note, from August, was obtained by the Heritage Foundation, and its disclosure is likely to upset China's government, which regards U.S. support for Taiwan as the most sensitive issue in U.S.-China relations.

Administration diplomats and other U.S. officials who engage China are under constant pressure from Beijing to adhere to the so-called "one China policy" that in China's view implies formal U.S. recognition that democratic Taiwan is in reality under the sovereignty of communist China, like former colonies Hong Kong and Macao.

The State Department, however, quietly challenged that policy in the summer of 2007 when it privately notified senior United Nations officials that "If the U.N. Secretariat insists on describing Taiwan as a part of the [Peoples Republic of China], or on using nomenclature for Taiwan that implies such status, the United States will be obliged to disassociate itself on a national basis from such position."

Heritage China specialist John J. Tkacik, a former State Department official, said the diplomatic note was triggered by concerns that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was undermining important U.S. trade and other relations with Taiwan by tilting toward Beijing's view of Taiwan.

Mr. Ban stated in March 2007 that the world body considered Taiwan "an integral part" of China. It was the first time any U.N. secretary general had spoken of Taiwan's status since 1971, when Taiwan was expelled and replaced by mainland officials.

Since 1971, the United States and many allies have withheld formal acceptance of China's claims to own Taiwan. However, under Chinese pressure, U.S. diplomats delicately have sought to placate the Chinese by pledging support for "one China." At Foggy Bottom, department officials even call it "our one China policy," which even senior diplomats admit remains undefined but is clearly not Beijing's version.

Mr. Tkacik says he thinks the belated clarification note may be too late. "For six years, the Bush Administration has given Taiwan's voters the impression that America actually wants their democracy to submit to communist China's demands," he said.

While Taiwan, under newly elected President Ma Ying-jeou, is moving toward closer ties with the mainland, the Bush administration appears to be working at cross purposes internally on Taiwan.

"The Bush administration discourages Taiwan from relying on the U.S. to strengthen Taiwan's defenses as it engages in negotiations with Beijing about the island's future," Mr. Tkacik said.

For example, the White House recently halted sales to Taiwan worth about $12 billion in new arms procurement, to avoid upsetting Beijing.

"How the United States defends democratic Taiwan's international identity in the current environment will tell Asia and the world much about Washington's willingness to stand against the broader challenge from China," Mr. Tkacik said, noting, however, that Taiwan's new president "will be left to bargain with Beijing with little material or moral support from the Bush administration."

The Bush Administration's policy of appeasement -- and I use the word advisedly -- has resulted in incalculable damage to both Taiwan and the US. AP offered us a lighter moment with a report that China said Japan would benefit from letting China annex Taiwan:

Beijing’s top official on Taiwanese issues was quoted as telling visiting Japanese member of parliament Otohiko Endo that unification with Taiwan would bring advantages to Tokyo.

The only benefit I can see to Japan would be having Beijing finally shut up about annexing Taiwan.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Musings for Friday

Busy week for me. Only time for a few short hits for today.

John Tkacik has a nifty piece in the Taipei Times that points out that the Chinese construction of the Senkakus as sacred national territory is of very recent vintage:

Japan first claimed the Senkakus in January 1895 after decades of shipwrecks and near disasters had convinced Tokyo that lighthouses needed to be erected there. The claim on the Senkakus, as such, had nothing to do with Japan’s colonial occupation of Taiwan as part of the settlement of the Sino-Japanese War that same year.

At the turn of the last century, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said, a Japanese businessman named Koga found that the main Senkaku Island held a fresh-water spring that could sustain about 200 people. He then brought workers, food and supplies to the main Senkaku Islands and built houses, reservoirs, docks, warehouses, sewers and farms for tuna fishing and canning. The tuna cannery business continued until World War II.

Clearly, for the purposes of international law, the Senkaku chain qualifies as “islands” because they are capable of “sustaining human habitation.”

This is important because under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea — to which both China and Japan are parties — an “island” brings to its owner a 200 nautical mile (370km) “exclusive economic zone” and sovereign claim to the resources and seabed minerals therein.

On May 15, 1972, after 25 years of military occupation, the US relinquished to Japan “all rights and interests” over the Okinawa territories, the State Department said, “including the Senkaku Islands, which we had been administering under Article of the Treaty.”

Prior to 1969, neither Beijing nor Taipei indicated any desire for the Senkaku Islands. Maps printed in Taiwan before 1969 either failed to depict them entirely, failed to name them or included boundary delineations to the west of the islands (inferring they were in Japanese waters).

In my collection of maps, I have a facsimile of plate 18 of the Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Fen Sheng Ditu (People’s Republic of China Provincial Map) of “Fujian Province, Taiwan Province” published in mimi (confidential) form by the Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Guojia Cehui Zongju (Headquarters, National Surveillance Bureau), Beijing, 1969, which identified the Senkaku Islands as the “Jiange Qundao” — using the Chinese characters for the Japanese name “Senkaku Island Group” — rather than the Chinese name “Diaoyu.”

A People’s Daily commentary of June 1953, which called on the people of Okinawa to resist the US imperialists occupying their homelands, enumerated the “Jiange” (Senkaku) islands as part of the Ryukyu chain, clear evidence that the Beijing government considered the islands part of Japan even in the heat of the Korean War.

Prior to 1968, no one in either Taipei or Beijing knew of any particular benefit in owning the Senkaku Islands. In 1968, however, geologists K.O. Emery and Hiroshi Niino, writing for the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (UNECAFE), noted that “a high probability exists that the continental shelf between Taiwan and Japan may be one of the most prolific oil reservoirs in the world.”
...and yet there are people who deny that China is expansionist.

Little flap this week...first Kaohsiung, headed by DPP Mayor Chen Chu, was left off the list of cities getting direct charter flights. was back on again later in the week. DPP local officials have been complaining that the infrastructure spending has been directed away from their localities.

The Central Bank raised interest rates slightly today.

The central bank toughened its monetary policy yesterday, hiking its benchmark interest rate by 0.125 percentage points and ordering lenders to put aside more saving reserves in an attempt to curb inflation stoked by surging fuel, food and raw material prices.

When interest rates rise, borrowing falls. When people stop asking for credit, they stop buying new stuff like cars, land, and factories. Economic activity then slows.

Further, as interest rates rise, foreigners want to put their money into Taiwan to cash in on the higher rates. Those investors buy NT dollars, driving up the value of the NT dollar as demand rises. When the NT dollar goes up, exports fall because they are more expensive for outsiders.

The Central Bank also made Taiwan banks hold more money in their reserves. This means they take cash out of the economy. Money is a commodity like any other -- if there is less of it in the economy, the price will go up. What is the price of money? The interest rate...

Of course, it is very likely this will affect the stock market. Not positively.

Simply put, rising interest rates mean a slowing economy. Not good for Mr. Ma. Even Taiwan's majority-Blue media can't keep that under wraps forever. Wonder what new three-day wonder scandal will overwhelm the media next?

Armed Services Committee Testimony Did Not Say....

Some of you sent me the testimony of Jim Shinn in front of the Armed Services Committee....

MR. SHINN: You'll pardon me if I consult my notes very carefully, since anything regarding Taiwan, it gets parsed very carefully, not just here but abroad.

It is true that for a couple years Taiwanese defense expenditures actually decreased in the face of what, in our view, was a significantly expanding PLA force. It appears that that's reversed, that we have a -- that the Taiwanese National Assembly has passed this budget and they're going to be engaged in a -- I think long overdue uptick in acquiring some additional systems.

REP. COURTNEY: So the recent decision to sort of put this on hold is temporary? Is that your view?

MR. SHINN: Actually, I don't believe that we made a decision to put things in abeyance. This was -- this was driven, as far as I understand, by Taiwanese domestic politics.

Newspapers here had reported that the KMT had asked the US for a freeze on arms sales during the sellout negotiations with China. Wouldn't want to upset poor Beijing! Some readers took Shinn's remarks above for an admission that this was true.

It may be true -- and I think it is -- but these remarks won't support it. I didn't blog on this yesterday while waiting for the facts to come in, because I didn't read it as confirming the story. Sure enough, I have it on good authority from a highly-placed source that Shinn's remarks referred to the 6 year stall by the KMT in the legislature, NOT the nefarious de facto arms freeze.

I do believe that the KMT and the US State Department worked out the de facto arms freeze between themselves -- observe how Ma promised and promised that the legislature would pass the arms budget and then finally, in June of '07 they passed the budget with the caveat that it would need the State Department to approve the letter? And then the Bush Administration didn't approve the request. What a coincidence, eh?

Note Shinn's opening line -- in which he observes that he is going to be careful in his testimony because many people read much into remarks about Taiwan. He isn't going to reveal the KMT/Bush Administration plot to freeze arms sales to Taiwan in an open forum like this.

Send us the F-16s!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nelson Report on Upcoming Taiwan Problems

Chris Nelson's latest missive straight from the Beijing-dominated heart of the Washington Establishment (my comments in brackets):


TAIWAN...we've noted in many Reports that while the US has tried for years to encourage a more productive Cross-Strait dialogue, in hopes of reducing tensions between China and Taiwan, there is a built-in potential contradiction.

That is, as much as the US supports the people of Taiwan and their right to international space, as a practicing democracy, the US recognizes that the bedrock of its relations with China requires agreement with the "one China" principle as it regards "Taiwan independence". [MT -- the US position is actually that Taiwan's status is undetermined. It weasels its way between that position and kowtowing to China.]

Veritable East China Seas' of ink have been spilled parsing the fine points of legal, diplomatic and alternative universe definitions which allow Washington, Taipei and Beijing to...if not keep the peace, exactly...avoid the disaster of war.

Now, after eight years of sometimes high tension because the US supported Taiwan's democracy, but not always the independence-minded goals and actions of Taiwan's democratically elected DPP government, the newly-elected KMT government is moving rapidly to consolidate a more cooperative working relationship with Beijing.[MT -- this paragraph is just plain silly, and it is silly in a terrifying way. In the first sentence note that the "tension" is cause by -- yes! -- US support for a democracy. The Washington Establishment has now completely absorbed Beijing's point of view, under which "democracy" creates tension. The reality is, as everyone knows, is that the Straits are tense because China has threatened to maim and murder Taiwanese in order to annex their island, and to kill anyone who gets in its way. Tension is caused by threats to democracy, not support of it. Yet Nelson here identifies the US with the cause of the problem!]

There are observers from the DPP side of the debate who don't like much of what they think is going on, either openly, or behind the curtain...and you have to ask how much of their concerns will start to be echoed by some US supporters of Taiwan, either now, or next year:

The basic problem is seen as Hu and Ma's priorities now being reversed, with Ma under far more pressure to deliver on his campaign promises because he lives in a democracy...people do "throw the bums" out when they don't deliver, especially on economic issues.[MT -- maybe somewhere else, but not here -- we are in our 60th year of KMT control of the legislature, and so far the public has given two previous presidents both their terms. It is fascinating how often people repeat the mantra of "Taiwanese will change their leaders!" without ever looking to see if they have actually done that before.]

Per the "one China, two governments' idea, one key to viewing all this is the Ma Administration's willingness to fudge the meaning of the so-called "1992 consensus." Su Chi and Ma's formulation has always been "One china with different interpretations."

The Chinese never say "different interpretations" because, fundamentally, this means two Chinas - one PRC and one ROC. Both Hu and Ma talk about "shelving differences" in order to go forward, and there is much support for that view in Washington.

Perhaps, DPP advocates argue. It has meant that negotiations have gone forward swiftly and, apparently, smoothly. But friends in the DPP worry that the Chinese hold on their one China principle - that sovereignty is not possible to divide up- means that the Ma folks are involved in a game of Go in which Taiwan is already surrounded even if they don't see it yet. [MT -- this is too charitable a view of KMT plans, though I suppose Chris cannot -- yet -- openly suggest that the KMT plans to sell out Taiwan.]

One obvious area of conflict...right now...between the traditional Taiwan lobby here and both the new KMT government, and the Bush Administration, is arms sales.

If the whole goal of the Bush Administration has been to lower tensions and hope for improved dialogue Cross Strait, and if those goals are now being actively pursued by both sides...why is the US-Taiwan Business Council, led by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, loudly demanding that a large US arms sale package be announced for the island?[MT -- duh! Because we need new weapons here. Not selling weapons to Taiwan will only serve China's interests, not ours.]

Either McCain or Obama will likely face an increasingly complex, possibly very contradictory "Taiwan lobby" next year.


In reality, the "area of conflict" is not between the "Taiwan lobby" and the KMT government, but lies deep within US policy, which seeks to be all things to all men. The various pro- and anti-Taiwan positions simply reflect the fundamental contradictions in US policy. No doubt, though, when things get screwed up as they inevitably will, the "Taiwan Lobby" will take the blame. Because the realpoliticians who craft US policy save admissions of error for their memoirs......

An Island Divided.

The Age out of Australia has an excellent piece on our divided island that refracts the island's identity politics and democratic transition through the life of Peter Huang, the would-be assassin of Chiang Ching-kuo who now heads Amnesty Taiwan. Huang would have made a second attempt at a nuclear power plant in Nevada, Linda Arrigo told me once, using a rifle with a specially made sight -- which still exists. The article is long and does a good job discussing the island's identity issues...

PETER HUANG doesn't look like an assassin. His grey hair is thinning and as he talks he sometimes pauses, as if lost in thought. Then he apologises and says he's 72 and these days sees a geriatric specialist. But he's lively and his eyes glisten when he laughs. He chain smokes as he sips iced tea on a humid night in Taipei, Taiwan's capital.

With his shorts, sandals and backpack, his glasses perched on the end of his nose, Huang looks like a veteran human rights activist, which is what he is.

He heads Amnesty International in Taiwan, and he's just come from an all-day meeting of human rights groups. He apologises for being late, but says such meetings are often complicated by intense debate, where everyone insists on being heard.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Quickies

As the typhoon howls outside our windows on its way to wreak havoc in south China, a friend reports that finally, the Taiwan High Speed Rail was placed the word "Taiwan" on their tickets. In ordinary print. On the back. *sigh*

Taiwan News pointed out a little ray of light in an editorial today:

In their status as the Constitutional Court, the 11 grand justices issued Interpretation 644 which immediately struck down Articles 2 and 53 of the Civic Association Law which, respectively, banned civic associations from "advocating communism or division of the national territory" and mandated vetting of new civic organizations and prohibited the registration of any that had such advocations on the proper grounds that such restrictions violated the guarantee of the right of free speech in Article 14 of the Republic of China Constitution.

The interpretation was issued in response to a request by former presidential secretary general Chen Shih-meng to clarify the constitutionality of ban on the "advocation of communism or the division of the national territory" in the Civic Associations Act, which the Taipei City Social Welfare Department cited in 1998 to reject the application for the Goa-Seng-Lang Association for Taiwan Independence (GATI), a group of mainlander "new immigrants" who support independence, to register as a civic organization.

But just in case anyone was dumb enough to think that freedom of speech actually meant, well, freedom of speech, the KMT was quick to disabuse them:

The response of the KMT government to Interpretation 644 reflected its continuing authoritarian mentality. The Ministry of the Interior acknowledged Friday that Interpretation 644 will block the MOI from refusing to register political parties or civic groups that advocate "communism or national division."

However, the interior ministry declared that if such political parties act in ways that "threaten the existence of the ROC or the free and democratic constitutional order," it will apply to the Constitutional Court to dissolve such parties as "unconstitutional."

Similarly, KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng warned the opposition center-left Democratic Progressive Party not to take Interpretation 644 as a "protective amulet" to advocate "Taiwan independence" and declared that while advocacy of communism belonged to the sphere of freedom of speech, advocacy of "division of national territory" or Taiwan's independence "involves sedition."

It is worth pointing out that there are now only 11 Grand Justices, four short of the mandated 15, because the KMT-controlled Legislative Yuan refused to confirm four scholars nominated by former president Chen Shui-bian on the grounds that they had "politically incorrect" positions on issues such as whether they believed the R.O.C. still exists or how would they rule on the definition of the R.O.C.'s territory.

In the meantime, the new Ma regime continues make our stock market (go) boom, as today the pro-KMT China Post published the pleadings of the Financial Supervisory Commission Vice Chair....

Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) Vice Chairwoman Susan Chang called on investors yesterday to have more faith in the local bourse, despite an estimated average loss of NT$440,000 by each stock market investor in the month since the Kuomintang (KMT) government took office.

One month after the inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou, the weighted index, Taiwan stock market's key barometer, on June 20 recorded a drop of 1,166 points, from 9,068 to 7,902 points. The stock market value slid by NT$2.94 trillion, or 12 percent, from NT$23.3 trillion to NT$20.86 trillion during the same period.

The share prices was trading as high as 9309 points when the market opened on May 20, but have lost steam since.

Finally, Reuters reports that Chinese banks will be permitted to purchase stakes in Taiwan banks.

Chinese banks will be allowed to buy up to 20 percent of their Taiwan counterparts under a plan being developed by Taiwan's banking regulator, local media reported on Tuesday.

The plan being developed by the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) is part of a broader series of moves aimed at boosting Taiwan's economy through closer ties with political rival China under the administration of new President Ma Ying-jeou.

The 20 percent ceiling in the plan parallels a similar rule imposed by China, which limits foreign investment in its banks to 20 percent or less, the Chinese-language Commercial Times reported, citing an FSC official.

Here's an idea: our banks are running a bit short due to dodgy loans -- let's bring in the suckas from across the Strait to shore them up.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Prices announced for Cross-Strait Flights

Xinhua reports on the announcement of prices by China Eastern:

China Eastern Airlines announced on Friday flight fares for weekend charter flights from Shanghai to Taipei and immediately started selling tickets.

The carrier is charging 3,700 yuan (US$ 528.6) for a round trip of economy-class flight, while business class costs 5,500 yuan, both including taxes.

Group tickets, for at least 10 passengers, costs 2,600 yuan each, the company said in a statement.

Between July 4 and 31, a passenger aircraft will leave Nanjing city in east China at 9 a.m. every Friday and arrive at Taipei at noon. The returning flight will start at 1 p.m. and arrive and Nanjing at 4 p.m. the same day.

According to the report, there will be 36 flights each weekend, Friday to Monday. Previous negotiations give 18 to China and 18 to Taiwan, as I recall. Airlines involved on the China side include Air China, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.

Media Changes

The China Post yesterday reported that the China Times, the Chinese language paper that was once the Xinhua of Taiwan and remains ardently pro-Blue, will reconstitute itself in tabloid format in a couple of months:

No date has been fixed for the downsizing, which the paper said is necessary after the rise in the cost of operations and the advertising revenue shrinkage due to Taiwan's economic downturn.

Lin Sheng-feng, president of The China Times, said the adjustments will be completed in two months for the change to actually become a tabloid. Financial stringencies have already forced the English-language Taiwan News in Taipei to appear in tabloid form.

According to its schedule, The China Times will appear in downsized form in early September.

Union leaders at The China Times were seriously concerned over the proposed layoff of close to 600 or half of the paper's staff members.

They hope the Taipei municipal bureau of labor would mediate in the negotiations for the severance pay of the staff who will be laid off.

At least, union leaders said, the workers who will lose their jobs should be paid just like those when the China Times Express closed in 2005. The afternoon paper of The China Times was closed on October 28.

That may not be possible, according to Chou Sheng-yuan, publisher of The China Times.

In a letter to the staff, Chou apologized for failing to improve the operation of The China Times over the past year. The paper has been losing money.

He said he would leave The China Times along with those workers who have to be separated.

The China Times tried to diversify its media operation by acquiring two TV networks. Neither electronic media has made money.

One of the networks, CTI, has increased its advertising revenue since its introduction of a popular songfest program, The Starlight Highway.

The other, China TV, has continued to lose money, though the loss was lowered to NT$246 million last year from NT$764 million in 2006.

"We believe," a union leader said, "the paper has made a wrong venture, which made its financial situation worse to the extent that many of us have to be fired."

Whether The China Times will survive as a tabloid remains to be seen, as the Ming Pao Weekly of Hong Kong will debut in Taiwan today.
Taiwan's crowded media market offers three English language papers alone, plus several 24 hour news channels, in addition to a slew of Chinese-language news organs. I would bet money that more local news organs will be downsizing to survive over the next couple of years.


My daughter plays as two teachers sing to the students.

Saturday was my daughter's graduation from sixth grade. As I chronicled last week, petty politics had broken out, creating bad feelings in the community, so when I went to the ceremony on Saturday night I was dreading what might happen.

Picking up my daughter's diploma.

Couldn't have been more wrong. The ceremony was a blast -- fun, light-hearted, sentimental, and moving. Loving. In fine Taiwanese style, there were plenty of boring speeches, but in fine Taiwanese style, everyone talked right through them. Our class rose above the possibility of immature reactions to the machinations of the other's classes volunteer mother, and we raucously shouted out the names of our kids each time they appeared on stage.

A teacher puts on a display of belly dancing.

We had belly dancing, fireworks, and songs. The school hired professional entertainers to handle the ceremony, and they were superb, keeping the kids entertained for the whole three and a half hour event. The finale was a candlelight ceremony at which everyone cried. It was beautiful.

The local Taoist Temple lists awardees. It provides scholarships to pay the fees of poor students.

Why so serious? The ceremony marks a key transition: from childhood into the world of studying for the future. For many of these kids childhood is essentially finished; from now on they will go to school literally from morning to night. Junior High summer classes, essentially mandatory, start today, with students from my schools reporting for the "Wisdom Measurement" (zhi li tse liang) at the local junior high, a two and half hour placement test. That's right, graduate on Saturday, start school again on Monday. My daughter had a big party for everyone in our class on Sunday, with 17 kids coming over. Several mothers balked at sending their children, since the kids had to study for the big test tomorrow, but in the end, they relented. As one explained: "after all, this is the last chance she will have to play."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Obama Asia Team

According to the Beltway insider Nelson Report, here are Obama's Asia advisors:


Obama's Asia Advisors:

Monitoring of all foreign policy advisors is by Tony Lake, Clinton 1 National Security Advisor, assisted by Mark Lippert, back from military duty in Iraq.

Directly in charge of the Asia team is Amb. Jeff Bader, ex-State, NSC, USTR, also in charge of China, and administering the team via Mona Sutphen, of Stonebridge International, directly to the Campaign via Denis McDonough, a former Sen. Daschle expert on energy, the environment and trade.

For ease of discussion and/or recognition, we've divided the Asia Group into "teams", all under the general supervision of Bader, but we are assured that "basically everyone talks to everyone...".

The Japan team is supervised by Michael Schiffer, and includes former NSC-econ Matt Goodman, of Stonebridge; Derek Mitchell, CSIS; and academics Carol Gluck, Amy Searight, Gerry Curtis, and Skipp Orr, also a major player in Overseas Democrats.

The Korea team's day to day work is by Frank Jannuzi of Sen. Biden's staff, and Gordon Flake, Mansfield Center, with advice from Ambassadors Tom Hubbard, and Don Gregg, former President of The Korea Society, and Steve Bosworth, and arms control expert Joel Wit.

China is run directly by Bader, with assistance from Richard Bush, ex-AIT now Brookings; Ken Lieberthal, former NSC; Mike Lampton, SAIS; Evan Medeiros, back at RAND again; Bob Kapp, former president of the US-China Business Council; Kevin Nealer, The Scowcroft Group; Bob Suettinger, former NSC and CIA now consultant.

General Asia, SE Asia, et al group, including economic and environmental issues... Catherine Dalpino, Bob Gelbard, Liz Economy, Jamie Metzel, and Bob Oxnam.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Daily Links, June 20, 2008

Here's the add for the Canadian Society's annual beach party. Meanwhile, who is partying on the blogs?

  • J-Hole over at Ni-Howdy has fun with ROC nationalism.

  • A-gu observes that satisfaction with Ma has fallen -- and here too.

  • David on the Free Burma protest in Taipei, with pics.

  • Steven Crook with a nifty article on the oldest street in Tainan's Yenshui.

  • Carrie has a fantastic post on Yehliu with nice pics and a how-to-get-there guide. But Hoping Island is better...

  • The former native speaker judges a debate on whether to allow Chinese students in Taiwan. By his own students at Tunghai. So what were the arguments, man?

  • Rank looks into the interview with Ma.

  • Laowiseass on a rapper's view that Ma was inevitable.

  • The Foreigner hacks on the KMT's Diaoyutai mess.

  • Scott on the DPP's policy of expanding our university system.

  • Only Redhead has a wonderful post on our cyber vulnerability.

  • Michelle has great pics of the Nanmen market.

  • Lots of people had Peacefest stuff: like Real Taiwan

  • I updated my latest post on the Politics of Sixth Grade, below. More hilarious expenditure of epic amounts of energy to inflict trivial pains on others.

  • American Enterprise Institute's Roundtable on the US-Taiwan FTA is blogged on.

  • EVENTS: The Canada D'eh Beach Party hosted by the Canadian Society, is on the 28th. Information at the Canadian Society website. Tickets may be purchased island-wide at Hi-life stores.

    MEDIA: Interview with Ma Ying-jeou in NY Times by Ed Wong, Keith Bradsher, and Leonard M. Apcar (of IHT). Here's the transcript provided by the "Taiwanese" GIO. Ma at his best, wowing the interviewers, and listing DPP achievements without mentioning the DPP. The NY Times article on it is here. Interestingly they mention his "flawless English." If only Chen had spoken English, the media would have swooned at his feet too. Clearly speaking English can make up for a host of flaws, such as defending the jailing of dissidents and opposing the lifting of martial law. Microsoft erects innovation center in Taiwan, while DuPont puts in a solar cell center. John Tkacik calls for the US to say publicly what its policy is on Taiwan: sovereignty is not a settled question, and also asks if firms that kow-tow to China pressure are in violation of the law. New species of longhorn beetle found in Kenting. Enterovirus: 4 new cases. The Economist on the Senkaku mess. China's top negotiator says negotiations with China not a threat to the US. Yes, because if we follow Bush policy in the future, we won't have any influence out here anyway.

    The Alternate Reality of the South China Morning Post

    The South China Morning Post, writing from an alternate reality, observes:
    In an economic climate haunted by the US recession, soaring oil prices and soaring inflation, Taiwan seems to be sticking out in the crowd. As stock markets dip round the world, Taiwan's Taiex index appears to have an exceptional power to defy gravity. Since his landslide victory in the March election, Ma Ying-jeou seems to have pulled Taiwan out of its nine-year economic stagnation....
    Maddog alerted me to this piece of either supreme incompetence or witting propaganda -- take your pick -- and passed me a link to the TSEC Weighted Index. Above is the picture for the last three months. Note the anomalous peak on May 19-20, the day Ma was sworn in. Since then, except for the minor recovery a couple of days ago, it's been nothing but downhill -- lower than under the last few months of Chen Shui-bian, continuing a trend that began a couple of months ago.

    Nine-year stagnation? We are now in our 28th straight month of expanding exports, and growth last year ran at 5.7%. UPDATE: First quarter of this year, growth was 6.06%. The investment firm UBS notes of this year:

    UBS, the world’s largest manager of private wealth assets, said yesterday the economy would reap benefits from the arrival of Chinese tourists starting on July 18, but it might not be the economic godsend many have hoped for.

    “Even if 10,000 Chinese were allowed to visit a day and spent NT$15,000 each during their stay, it would only raise the nation’s GDP by 0.5 percent,” said Kevin Hsiao (蕭正義), a chartered financial analyst at USB Wealth Management Research Taiwan. “But the public sentiment here is that they will bring in a huge fortune and fix the economy.”

    Under the agreement between Taiwan and China, 3,000 tourists will be allowed per day.

    Hsiao was optimistic about the economy, however, and raised his forecast for economic growth from 4.1 percent to 4.5 percent for this year, citing the the nation’s better-than-expected performance in the first five months.

    In other words, Ma has rescued our economy by lowering year on year growth from 5.7% to 4.5%, and making the stock market fall. But why let reality intrude on cheerleading?

    Once again, the nation's problem isn't economic performance, but economic inequality. That is a growing structural feature of our economy that the KMT is unlikely to address.

    On a personal note, we went out this week and bought bikes for ourselves. Interestingly, we visited several shops and they all said the same thing. Thanks to rising gas prices and rising recreational use, demand for bikes is high, and they are having trouble maintaining inventory levels.

    Thursday, June 19, 2008

    Van der Wees on Diaoyutai, Ma

    Gerrit van der Wees discusses recent threats to Taiwan's security and democracy in the Taipei Times. Because the Taipei Times edited their piece, I offer the unedited version here.


    Ma undermining Taiwan’s democracy and security

    Two recent events show that the Ma Administration is quickly earning itself the label of being a trouble-maker and is letting the courts and the Legislative Yuan undermine the island’s hard-earned democracy.

    First, the political uproar generated by the provocative comments of Prime Minister Liu Chao-shiuan and the reckless actions by extremist KMT legislators: in response to the accidental sinking of a Taiwanese recreational fishing boat in the waters near the Tiaoyutai/Senkakus, Prime Minister Liu let himself be goaded by the KMT legislators into saying that he “doesn’t exclude war” with Japan over the incident.

    While he later retracted the statement, the events do display the rather unbalanced thinking of the Ma Administration on the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty and security: they seem to want to “defend the nation’s sovereignty” over a fishing boat and a piece of rock, but Mr. Ma neglected to mention Taiwan’s sovereignty in his inaugural address and it was whitewashed in the recent meetings with China.

    The Ma Administration could have tried to determine what actually happened. They would have found out that the boat from Taiwan was there against the 12 mile zone agreement between Taiwan and Japan, and that the captain was unnecessarily endangering the lives of his crewmembers.

    Instead of letting the legal authorities handle it (like the Japanese did in a very evenhanded way), the KMT authorities made a political issue out of it, and even recalled the Taiwanese representative in Tokyo. That was a very unwise political move, because it estranges Taiwan from its closest ally in the region. In doing so, he seriously undermines Taiwan’s security.

    In addition, at home Mr. Ma is undermining Taiwan’s democracy and is fostering the corruption that he says he so much abhors: the judicial authorities are pressing charges against former President Chen Shui-bian in relation to a “slander suit” brought against the former President and two DPP legislators, one of which is presently still serving in the Legislative Yuan.

    The case stems from remarks made by the President and the two legislators in 2005, stating that retired vice admiral Lei Hsueh-ming, retired rear admiral Wang Chin-shen and three others were involved in a 1988-1992 kick-back scheme in the purchase of French-made Lafayette frigates. The two navy officers held key positions under former Defense Minister Hau Pei-tsun when the decision was made to switch from a purchase from South Korea to France.

    According to former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, some US$ 500 million in kickbacks were paid by Thompson CSF, US$ 400 million through the office of the KMT secretariat general, then headed by Mr. James Soong. During his term in office, President Chen tried to get court authorities to investigate the case and prosecute those who were found guilty, but this was stonewalled by the KMT-dominated courts.

    So, by allowing the slander suit against the former President to move ahead, Mr. Ma is undermining democracy and is not taking the necessary action against those who were involved in corruption on a large scale. A fair and just judicial system should take legal action against corrupt practices, not against whistle blowers.

    The people of Taiwan have worked hard to achieve Taiwan’s security and democracy. It would be foolish for it to be squandered away by provocative words and reckless actions of the Ma Administration and ultra Chinese-Nationalist KMT legislators.

    Gerrit van der Wees is editor of Taiwan Communiqué, a publication based in
    Washington DC

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    Nelson Report on Diaoyutai Mess

    The Washington insider report The Nelson Report talks about the Diaoyutai mess from the US perspective, including worries about Ma's ability to control his own people....and the backchannel discussions between Washington, Taipei, and Tokyo.


    JAPAN/TAIWAN...observers actively involved in Taiwan affairs are expressing relief that President Ma today seems to have re-established a degree of adult supervision over extreme nationalist elements in his own KMT party...thus helping to defuse the maritime crisis boiling away since a June 10 incident with Japan.

    US experts note that Ma was able to coordinate with his defense officials, blocking any further dispatch of boats to the Senkaku and/or Diaoyutai Islands...and then was able to prevent a delegation of KMT extremists from conducting a highly provocative "fact finding mission" to the region.

    Our sources say that while the outcome for now must be credited to Ma, today's actions came after "conversations, consultations, you name it, between Washington and Tokyo, Tokyo and Taipei, Washington and Taipei, and every combination...everyone talked to everyone."

    This, after the US had nearly 7 years of "difficult" relations with the independence-minded DPP government, and what President Bush himself perceived as a consistent failure by Taipei to take US interests into account.

    This time, "We made clear we didn't want this 'politicized'," an informed observer explains...a reference to the problems with the KMT.

    Other observers admitted they were a little taken aback by language used yesterday by the State Department calling for a "peaceful" resolution of the standoff, explaining, "it's a little worrisome that we didn't call for a 'diplomatic' would seem to imply a genuine concern about the potential for violence..."

    For what it's worth, President Ma also picked-up on the word "peaceful", rather than "diplomatic", before he apparently took the actions which today, at least, seem to have calmed the waters.

    US observers noted that Prime Minister Fukuda expressed "regret" over the original incident of the 10th, in which a Japanese Coast Guard vessel collided, and sank, a Taiwanese fishing boat which had ventured into the disputed waters.

    So the US was pleased that Ma said he "agreed" with Fukuda's statement that "both sides should remain calm".

    For the longer run, we should note that during our visit to Taiwan for the elections, in March, observers in Taipei expressed concern, and some frankly offered a considerable degree of doubt, that President-elect Ma would be consistently able to exert control over powerful senior KMT players.

    Today, an observer here, looking at the overall situation, concedes "Japan has much reason to be concerned..."

    Back during his Inaugural speech, Taiwan President Ma worried observers in both Japan and the US by not reading a paragraph praising Japan...a deliberate omission seen in some quarters as a harbinger of Ma's determination to patch-up relations with Beijing regardless of Japan.

    We mention that as there are some observers in the DPP who feel that the recent "invasion" of disputed off-shore islets and energy exploration areas by right-wing activists and KMT members was somehow orchestrated by China.

    But most experts we mentioned this to say it seems unlikely, given China's recent campaign to patch-up relations with per the joint energy exploration deal being announced this week.


    Think about it -- US officials were pleased that "Ma was able to coordinate with his defense officials." Ma's position among his own people is so weak that it is notable he was able to give orders to his own officials.

    Another Gorgeous Day in Tainan

    Air Supply, behind bars at last.

    The rain stopped, the wind blew in, and the sun came out. And so I marched across Tainan, camera in hand.

    This introduction to the history of National Chengkung University, whose institutional core dates back to the Japanese period, refers to Taiwan being "returned" to China. *sigh*

    Rising prices don't slow down those delivery vehicles. In many cities gas delivery trucks constantly roam the streets of their neighborhoods, waiting for phone calls. This reduces delivery times.

    Sunlight in the alleys.

    Shengli Road in Tainan.

    Flowers crowd the camera.

    There's a doctoral dissertation hidden in these signs.

    85C is a booming Taiwan coffee chain that opened an outlet in Australia.

    One thing I like about Tainan is that the wilderness of signs has not been tamed by some local government that wants all the signs to look the same.

    Residential neighborhoods.

    Curving alleys are a feature of Taiwan neighborhoods. A relic of their origin in converted rice fields?

    Water pumps waiting for customers.

    A small restaurant takes a break between meals.

    Another great thing about Tainan is the brick pavements. Very atmospheric.

    A gas cooker, common in street stands.

    Washing down after lunch rush.

    A small shrine tucked into a crevice next to an auto repair shop is a physical metaphor for the unobtrusive integration of religion into everyday life in Taiwan.

    A street stall.

    I've never seen this variety of mango before. Delicious.

    It's nice to have something to do while the vendor cooks your onion cakes.

    In every neighborhood such bulletin boards announce places for rent.

    The sun brought out the clothes.

    Enjoying an afternoon BBQ in a tea stand.

    Good fengshui: where an alley intersects housing, a temple is often built to deflect the negative effects of the road running like a dagger into a potential home.

    The inside of a local restaurant. Bare walls: I've never understood the attraction.

    Meats pose in a local restaurant display.

    Your friendly neighborhood police station.

    Filling up with water.

    Words fail me.

    Sells a little bit of everything.

    Drying the cleaning stuff.

    The imposing edifice of a local junior high school.

    The day was so clear that the mountains were visible. I've actually never seen them before.

    After a long walk, ice cream is the correct therapy for sore feet and a parched tongue.