Saturday, March 07, 2009

Odds and Ends for Friday

From the Wiki entry for Obama's new cabinet secretary:
Chris Lu was born June 12, 1966 in New Jersey.[1] In 1974, his family moved to the Fallsmead neighborhood of Rockville, Maryland,[2] where he grew up. Lu is the son of Eileen and Chien-Yang Lu, both of whom are of Chinese descent and lived in Taiwan, but immigrated to the United States to attend college during the 1960s. Lu's grandfather, Wang Ren-Yuan, was the attorney general of the Republic of China from 1960 to 1966 and served as first Representative of the Legislative Yuan from Tianjin District during the period of Kuomintang rule in China. Lu said he was heavily influenced by his father, who worked as an electrical engineer but loved literature and history; the two would read biographies of famous statesmen together and watch the evening news together every night.[3]
That's what we need: another individual from an old KMT family around Obama.

Over at CSIS Bob Sutter has a piece asking about the direction of US policy.
Consultations among policy experts in and out of U.S. government and recent developments suggest that the longstanding notion of U.S.-supported balance in the Taiwan Strait is no longer viable in the face of ever-increasing Chinese influence over Taiwan. Policy experts in the camp of presidential candidate John McCain and others argued for a robust buildup of U.S. support for Taiwan to counter what they viewed as adverse trends toward greater asymmetry between Taiwan and China. But this approach has been overshadowed by more pragmatic and immediate concerns in Washington and Taiwan regarding fostering positive relations with China and avoiding disruptions in recent reassurance efforts regarding Taiwan.

Some officials and policy specialists in Washington and Taipei privately say that recent easing of tensions and cross-Strait trends work well for longer-term U.S. interests regarding Taiwan. They assert that support for those trends should supersede traditional U.S. concern with sustaining balance. That case has not yet been made effectively by the U.S. government. The argument also is not well understood by many congressional officials as well as media and other representatives with an interest in U.S. policy toward Taiwan who still see U.S. interests based on seeking appropriate balance that is influenced by the United States.

Against this background, it appears that needed adjustments in U.S. policy include:

*A review of U.S. policy options that takes account of the full implications of China’s markedly increased influence over Taiwan along with the perceived benefits of reassuring Beijing in the interests of cross-Strait stability.

*If, as seems likely under prevailing trends, this review determines to put aside or seriously modify the longstanding U.S. emphasis on sustaining a balance of influence in the Taiwan area favorable to and heavily influenced by the United States, U.S. policymakers need to consult closely with, educate, and persuade congressional, media, and other representatives with a stake in U.S. Taiwan relations on the benefits of the new approach.
The Washington Establishment is now attempting to adjust itself to the new reality. They wanted Ma and got him, and now they are losing influence over the Taiwan situation -- Taiwan is moving into China's orbit -- as anyone with a still-functioning brain could have predicted. Note that while on the surface the document appears to ask how the US should adapt to the situation, it actually labels the idea of working to sustain US influence over Taiwan "unpragmatic", which is the Ultimate Sin in foreign relations. It merely wonders how this should be explained to Congress, which appears to subscribe the bizarre idea that the US should maintain its influence here. What weirdos congressmen are....and look too how Sutter more or less announces: the Status Quo no longer exists. What is to replace it?

China Security offers lots of useful stuff.

Michael Richardson, now with the Boston Progressive Examiner, but a former correspondent out here, reports that Ma's PhD thesis is a mess (the Taipei Times picked up the report today):
Ma's thesis is filled with errors, mistakes, misspellings, misattribution, missing words and grammatical problems. The thesis contains over 1,000 errors that violate Harvard's writing guidebook for incoming freshmen students.

A retired schoolteacher looked up Ma's thesis because she was interested in his views on the Senkaku Islands. The former teacher was shocked by the sloppy scholarship and got out her red pencil. She spent a year studying the thesis, checking out all the footnotes.

The teacher has not yet found plagiarism but with misattributed material and footnotes that do not check out she is suspicious and continues digging into the academic paper.

Like any good teacher, the tireless researcher took her concerns to Harvard where she was directed to Ma's faculty advisor, Detlev Vagts. Professor Vagts is retired and conveniently didn't keep a copy of the thesis he approved.
He's writing an PhD thesis in a second language? Of course it is going to be a mess....let's wait until there is something substantive to report.

Charles Freeman, our new NIC chief-to-be, gave his chilling views on Taiwan in 2000. Some of these words you know, some might be new:
Reunification on terms like those proposed by Beijing would threaten no American or allied interest. It would not entail a presence of the People’s Liberation Army in Taiwan. There would be no change in north-east Asian strategic alliance or balance. It would not alter Taiwan’s ability, the ability of the voters in Taiwan, to elect their own leadership and govern themselves. It would not affect Taiwan’s economy or way of life. It would not deprive Americans of any of the human ties we enjoy with people on the island. It would, however, eliminate the only conceivable cause and venue of armed conflict between the United States and China. And it would maximize the influence of the values Taiwan exemplifies on the mainland.
ROFL. Each one of those points is comprehensively incorrect, as we are now seeing. Thankfully, the Freeman appointment is coming under review from Congresspersons who, surprisingly are concerned about his business gonegations with the Middle East:
In a letter today responding to 10 congressmen led by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) who have raised concerns about the appointment of Chas Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council, Edward Maguire, the inspector general of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, has written that he is reviewing the matters they have raised.

"We are examining the matters you have raised and will respond upon completion," Maguire wrote (pdf).

In response, Kirk and Rep. Steven Israel (D-NY) wrote another letter to Maguire, asking him to examine Freeman's role on the board of directors of the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company, which is owned by the People's Republic of China. "Ambassador Freeman's service on the Board of Directors of a company owned by a foreign government seems to constitute an obvious conflict of interest -- especially given his service to a company owned by the People's Republic of China with significant investment in the Islamic Republic of Iran," congressmen Kirk and Israel wrote. "Your attention to whether Ambassador Freeman is an inappropriate candidate to participate in this independent review would be appreciated."
Kirk's press release is online here. Do we really need a man who sat on the board of a Chinese petroleum company as our National Intelligence Chief? Is there no one else in the US who can do this? UPDATE: The Peking Duck has a thoughtful opposing view.

WaPo has a short piece on Taiwan today that says Taiwan is not ready for peace talks:
Analysts in Taiwan and on the mainland said Wen's overtures are unlikely to bring substantial results in the short term, given the substantial domestic political pressure on Ma from those who remain wary of Beijing's motives.

"Accepting the 'one China' principle would be political suicide for Ma," said George Tsai, a professor of politics at Taipei's Chinese Culture University.

Yes, that's right. At present, the biggest problem faced by the pro-annexation gang now in power in Taipei is not US or Japanese objections -- even though annexing Taiwan to China is almost certain to lead to war -- but domestic voters, who are overwhelmingly against such a move. WaPo also reports on the three year sentence asked for in the Presidential office spying case. Just three years!

Meanwhile, with all that is going on here, Time Magzine is on top of things with a crucial report on Taipei's Toilet-themed restaurant. People have been blogging and reporting on this restaurant for at least four years now. Do you think I should send them the story of the whale that exploded in Tainan in 2004?

Finally, why did the economy go bad? There's a long post at DKOS that collects a great deal of information on the machinations of a group of short sellers in cahoots with the mainstream media, reported by the business editor of the Columbia Journalism Review in a forthcoming book. And Robert Brenner, in an interview at Japan Focus, offers a Marxist argument that the real problem is overcapacity.

Happy reading!


Tommy said...

"That case has not yet been made effectively by the U.S. government. The argument also is not well understood by many congressional officials as well as media and other representatives"

Can we read "not yet been made effectively" and "not well understood" as "not been accepted" and "rejected"? I find it hard to believe that the people Sutter is referring to don't see the benefits of handing Taiwan back to China. Is it more possible that they just don't agree with the idea of handing a democracy and friend back to its authoritarian neighbour?

Sigh. If only McCain had been elected...

Anonymous said...

Harvard is a huge cesspool of shady scholarship and plagiarism. In my opinion, it's structured to attract that sort of personality; MIT, Yale, Stanford don't seem to suffer anywhere near Harvard's level of academic dishonesty despite equivalent intellectual gift.

For a good overview of Harvard plagiarism, check out Slate's piece from a few years ago. The faculty are never punished for this, and in fact, one even has a $10 million chair being endowed in his honor.

It's a pattern of Harvard the institution and the people it attracts attempting to succeed at any cost. Look at the questionable medical ethics of Harvard med school.

Anyways, I guess you can see why all the entrepreneurs and innovators and interesting people are coming out of places like Stanford.

Anonymous said...

That's what we need: another individual from an old KMT family around Obama.

These old Nationalist families have deep roots in local and national politics throughout the world. And let's not forget that when the DPP held the reigns, it failed to replace all the old-guard KMT diplomats around the world with people who would change the message.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

I wonder which outweighs the other: the advantage of having a person of Taiwanese extraction (though I suspect he'd call himself Taiwanese-American or just American) in a position of influence, or the disadvantage of his being deep blue.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you are fair for attacking Lu for his heritage and family ties to the KMT. While he may have benefited materially from that background, he is certainly not the only one, and that has nothing to say about his own views on Taiwan or the PRC. Furthermore, there is quite a diversity of views among the mainlander community in Taiwan itself, not to mention Taiwanese who have immigrated. And lastly, his family background is only tangentially related to his new role, which has nothing to do with foreign policy, much less this part of the world. Your animosity toward the KMT dictatorship is justified, but don't let that become hostility toward people who had no part in that.

Anonymous said...

So far Obama's foreign policy hasn't been too impressive, and bringing on someone from a KMT family isn't likely to help him learn more about Taiwan.

Obama apparently gaffed with the choice of gifts for the British Prime Minister's kids. I wouldn't consider it serious, but it did get press play in Britain, and it should have been easily avoided had he chosen seasoned veterans for advice.

More costly was his attempt at a secret deal with the Russians to sell out our Polish and Czech friends in exchange for Russian help with Iran. His naivete was on display in thinking the Russians would have the decency to keep such a proposal secret. Instead, he's weakened support from our allies who have to question how important Obama considers them. By extension, that is also bad news for Taiwan.

I hope he learns quick before making anymore amateurish mistakes.

One can argue with Bush foreign policy - that it was philosophically way off. But at least it wasn't so clumsy in execution.

Anonymous said...

The WaPo article on Taiwan demestic opposition to China was a welcome change of pace from the usual articles that try to portray Taiwanese nationalism as a fringe group rather than recognizing that most Taiwanese identify themselves as Taiwanese.

It was especially good considering the source of the article: Cha reported from Beijing. Researcher Wang Juan in Beijing contributed to this report.

However, it was disheartening, but perhaps expected given the source, to see China repeatedly called "the mainland". I think of Taiwan's mainland as the big island (as opposed to Turtle island, Lanyu, or the Pescadores". Calling China "the mainland" suggests an acceptance of the KMT/CPC "one-China no-Taiwan" line.

On an unrelated note, the human-readable text I'm having to type in to verify that I'm a human and not a bot is "proberod". Who comes up with this stuff?

Anonymous said...

He's writing an PhD thesis in a second language? Of course it is going to be a mess....let's wait until there is something substantive to report.

I thought that uncharacteristically generous toward Ma. Perhaps since Mr. Turton has had his own frustrations learning Chinese and working in a Chinese speaking environment.

I was just amazed that anyone would spend a year trying to find problem's in Ma's thesis. Aren't there more valuable ways to spend time? Video games? Watching TV? Twiddling your thumbs?

Anonymous said...

Readin said: However, it was see China repeatedly called "the mainland"

"Mainland" is a meme. The world press uses it with little or no awareness of its implications. Even my Taiwanese university students do it automatically in their writing, and when I ask them if they deliberately choose to use this geopolitical term instead of writing simply "China", most express surprise that there is a implied difference.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you are fair for attacking Lu for his heritage and family ties to the KMT...Furthermore, there is quite a diversity of views among the mainlander community in Taiwan itself, not to mention Taiwanese who have immigrated.

Sadly, living here in the U.S. I have found a person's views on Taiwan to be a very reliable indicator of their family background. If they support TI, they're family is Taiwanese. If they oppose it, their family came from China. If they're ambivalent, their family is mixed.

A couple years ago I thought I had found an exception. I met a young man who referred to a Taiwanese person as "Chinese". I corrected and said "Taiwanese". His was response was to say rather smugly "She's Chinese." I knew he was from Taiwan and I said his parents must have been born in China. He said "nope". I was shocked and confused! How could it be?!? Then I remembered his young age and said "your grandparents?". He had to admit that yes, his grandparents were from China.

Anonymous said...

Ma's thesis...contains over 1,000 errors...

As an instructor in graduate-level academic writing, I have a few thoughts:

My little New England college required every dot and dash to be correct in my thesis. I had to redraft it 8 times.

But it's possible to find substandard work even in top unis. This simply translates into lower marks, and/or not getting published, etc. For these students, they passed under the wire. Happens everywhere.

Most students who are interested in receiving the highest mark/honors will submit papers that meet the exact standards of their uni. Most PhD candidates I've worked with and know hire an editor to look over the final draft of their dissertation to accomplish this.

(Don't forget this little exchange at the end of the Jerome Cohen interview with Ma at Harvard in 2006:

JC: Well, next month President Hu Jintao comes to America. I hope he will be subjected to the kind of questioning Mayor Ma got today, and I hope he will do as well. I give him an A-plus.

MA: You didn’t give me A-plus when I was in Harvard.)

Non-native speakers are just as capable of submitting a high standard paper as a native speaker. I don't buy the idea that non-native speakers can't accomplish this, one way or another.

Anonymous said...

The usual practice for academics publishing in languages in which they are not entirely comfortable (often English), is to have a copy-editor / English polisher go over it. Not to have done this for a dissertation is just lazy.

Taiwan Echo said...

Marc: "My little New England college required every dot and dash to be correct in my thesis. I had to redraft it 8 times."

When I studied for my PhD (in USA), I was warned by my adviser that some professors will check the references of a thesis by carefully checking several randomly picked items. If they found more than 3 references having errors in any form, like typos, wrong page number, wrong year ... the thesis would be rejected.

It is therefore a shock for me to learn that Ma Ying-jeou could get a degree in Harvard with 1000 +errors in his thesis having.

If "no computer" can be an excuse for unchecked references, it would have been a disaster for researchers, because they would have to spend lots of time correcting the wrong references made by others.

Dixteel said...

ha...I have long suspected that there are something fishy about Harvard...

Michael Turton said...

Yeah, but Marc, the errors in the references are typos. I want to see the entire set of corrections.


Anonymous said...

Most of these spelling errors, stylistic errors, grammatical errors, referencing errors, and lack of fluency in his SJD dissertation would be a tempest in a teapot had Ma not puffed up his own English-speaking abilities, using his US education and Harvard degree to establish himself as a literate cosmopolitan, as opposed to that "country bumpkin" CSB. In that regard, this expose of his dissertation is an obvious case of schadenfreude.

It would have been more effective, though, during CSB's administration when a report with faulty English translation was hastily distributed, and with great fanfare, Ma complained about the lousy quality of English in the translation, if this examination of his own dissertation had been released then.

Anonymous said...

"though annexing Taiwan to China is almost certain to lead to war"

War between what parties?

Anonymous said...

As indicated in Michael's opinion of Mr. Lu, there is no future for "mainlanders" in a "Republic of Taiwan." That is why the ROC military views the resistence of TI as an act of self defense.

Michael Turton said...

No, what it shows is that if you support a policy of murdering Taiwanese to possess their island, you don't have my support.