Thursday, April 30, 2009

Daily Links, May 1, 2009

What fertilizer are they spraying on the blogs this week?

  • WHA on the blogs: Letters from Taiwan

  • Andres visits the National Aquarium in Kenting. Awesome pics.

  • Taiwanese environmentalists criticize Luc Besson's (director, The Fifth Element, The Professional) decision to invite Taipei Mayor Hau to environmental shindig
  • .
  • David with a fantastic post on how the KMT constructs history.

  • One of the great things about being a blogger is the privilege of interacting with smart people who share your passion.

  • Taipei Prosecutors turn a blind eye to police misconduct, says maddog.

  • Letters from Taiwan on the Party of Violence -- maddog on same.

  • Reason number 5 to love Taiwan

  • Jerome K on Jerome C criticizing Ma YJ.

  • Hahahaha. I've had the exact same experience at pools in Taiwan as Mark.

  • Todd does the Tung blossom trail. Beautiful.

  • Barking Deer has a new package for hikers wishing to ascend Yushan

  • IMF predicts twice as big a recession in 2009 for Taiwan
  • MEDIA: The news that stunned the stock market today: China Mobile to invest in Taiwan telecom -- triggering the market's best day in almost two decades. Overseas Filipino Workers demand equal rights in Taiwan. Taiwan's Madoff arrested by FBI. A third tourist dies from the incident with the crane in Taipei. Taiwan's export orders fell 24.9% last month, the sixth straight monthly drop. But many media outlets are reporting an uptick in orders from China. Taiwan sorta kinda makes a three strikes law for downloading copyright material. First case of swine flu -- NOT. Thank god -- now I can go back to worrying about dying in a traffic accident. Businessweek: agreements signed! No sign of what they were -- the usual pattern is that no details are discussed in the international media, so the only people who realize Taiwan got screwed are us locals. China's growing role in UN peacekeeping. The CFR argues that the G2 is a mirage.

    WHA and Nanjing Talks: Beijing correspondents talking about Taiwan: like virgins giving the Establishment line on sex. Wapo with a bare bones article. AP on the WHA entry. MAC claims China will no longer be a safe haven for Taiwan's White Collar KMT criminals. In other news, George III predicts rebels in North American colonies will soon be brought to heel. Taiwan expects to join other world health mechanisms. Chinese dissident says economic means are the way China intends to annex Taiwan. Imagine that.

    Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

    Thoughts on WHA Observer Status and the Nanjing Talks

    WHA observer status....Taiwan News reports on DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen's comments:
    Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen stated that the invitation issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) to Taiwan under the name of "Chinese Taipei" to attend the annual World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva this May "as an observor" had "abandoned" Taiwan's sovereignty and "lacks substantive meaning."

    Speaking with reporters after the weekly meeting of the DPP Central Standing Committee, Tsai said that the letter sent by World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan to "Chinese Taipei" Department of Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan on Tuesday "appears to be a one-time invitation and the basis in WHO regulations for the invitation to attend the WHA as an observer is unclear."

    Moreover, Tsai noted that Yeh was only referred as a "doctor" and that Taiwan is to be referred only as "Chinese Taipei," not as Taiwan or the Republic of China. The DPP chairwoman also observed that the letter did not mention the May 2005 secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the WHO Secretariat and the People's Republic of China which requires all WHO contacts with Taiwan to take place through Beijing's Ministry of Health under a "one China framework."

    Tsai stated that if Chan's letter represented an "one time invitation and if the question of sovereignty remained darkly clouded, this invitation will lack substantial meaning."

    "Any claim by the Ma government that takes this event as a diplomatic victory due to its policy of diplomatic truce will be a grave exaggeration and extremely inappropriate," said the DPP chairwoman, who added that "we do not yet know what was traded to gain this invitation."
    Short version (1) it's only for this year, a one-time invite easily rescinded if a pro-Taiwan government comes to power (and the meeting begins on May 18, two days before the first anniversary of Ma's inauguration... lucky coincidence for the Prez); (2) we're "Chinese Taipei"; (3) obviously secret deals were made -- adamantly denied of course -- what were they?

    That's the official negative reaction. Let's look at perhaps some positives. The Taipei Times says:
    Participating in the WHA ­meeting as an observer means Taiwan would have no voting rights in the assembly or at the WHO. Observers are granted speaking rights at the WHA meeting, but can only attend the meetings and committee sessions held during the annual two-week assembly.

    Yeh said that WHA observer status would ensure Taiwan has direct contact with the WHO in exchanging information to protect public safety and would enable Taiwan to share its expertise in public sanitation and disease prevention with other countries.
    A very perspicacious friend of mine noted that this is incredibly important for Taiwan. Being able to network will enable Taiwan to set up exchanges with developing nations that want its medical expertise. In South America some nations have been asking for this for a decade, putting quiet pressure on Beijing to tamp down its irrational and provocative anti-Taiwan policies so that other nations can get the benefits of networking with our world class health professionals. Many of the health workers in these nations have been cultivated through programs erected by MOFA to bring professionals from less developed nations to Taiwan for cooperation, efforts that have paid off in increased profile for Taiwan in the world. WHA observer status means little as far as clout in the world, but could mean much in increased support for The Beautiful Island.

    A concession here: Dr. Chan, head of the WHO, invited the "Department of Health", an entity that the PRC has long denied has any existence. So it is progress of sorts. "Chinese Taipei" is no big deal, we participate in many organizations under that moniker. It isn't ideal, but it could have been worse. It would be better if we had a pro-Taiwan government in power, one we could trust not to sell out the island, but that's life....

    Let's not forget -- there is strong public support for participation in international organizations. The DPP did much to foster this while in office, some of it frankly manipulative, but some of it in response to the authentic yearning for international recognition alive in the public here. This public support put the KMT into a corner, a corner constructed for it partly by previous pro-Taiwan DPP policies. The DPP may be down, but not all of its successes can be reversed or rendered hollow.

    One interesting thing about WHA observer status: Ma is playing it up, as Tsai predicted, as a great triumph of his "diplomatic truce" policy and of course, as evidence of China's "goodwill." The reality is that the announcement, which has been in the works for some time, was probably timed to cover up the fact that the CCP pwned the KMT at the recent cross-strait Nanjing talks. Taiwan News has the call -- every word is chewy good:
    The talks began last Saturday with an unseemly embrace by SEF Chairman and KMT vice chairman Chiang Ping-kun of ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin, but the real atmosphere was actually set by the purposeful "coincidence" of the SEF-ARATS talks, held in Nanjing at Beijing's suggestion, of massive celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the former Republic of China capital by the Chinese Communist Party's People's Liberation Army on April 22, 1949.

    Although downplayed by pro-KMT media, this transparent political humiliation was followed by a diplomatically cordial drubbing by the Beijing side.

    For example, ARATS turned down various requests by the SEF side, such as Taipei's plea to increase the flights for Taiwan airlines in "golden routes" such as between Taipei and Shanghai and instead graciously expanded flights between Taipei and "hot spots" like Nanchang and Hefei instead and added northward routes that passed only through PRC air control zones to emphasize the "domestic" character of cross-strait air routes.

    Moreover, in response to the KMT government's urgency to initiate talks on a cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), the Beijing side excluded the ECFA from discussion for the fourth Chiang-Chen "negotiations," evidently pending the offer of further concessions by the Taipei side.

    Last but not least, the PRC side showed that it treated the SEF-ARATS talks as "normal negotiations" by leaking a draft but unsigned set of agreements to the official Xinhua News Agency and thus forcing the Taiwan negotiators to sign Beijing's version or threaten not to sign the agreements, a risk that the KMT side lacked the political courage to take.

    As noted in a previous editorial, the underlying strategy of the CCP toward the KMT is reminiscent of the declaration made by the late Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin on April 5, 1927 in the midst of the Chinese "national revolution" that Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT "have to be utilized to the end, squeezed out like a lemon, and then flung away."
    The other day Taiwan News similarly noted:
    For example, the touted "breakthrough" agreements that opened direct cross-strait commercial marine and air links both denigrated Taiwan's status by treating such routes as "domestic" through the exclusion of foreign carriers and thus also harmed Taiwan commercial interests by excluding the vast majority of Taiwan-owned ships which fly foreign flags of convenience and by refusing to extend "fifth freedom" or onward passage rights for even Taiwan airlines.


    For example, the failure to include onward flight rights in the new pact will reduce Taiwan into a "commercial air dependency" of the PRC, whose airports will gain control over the lion's share of lucrative "hub" onward connections. Given the widespread claim that Taiwan is rich in capital but short on "investment opportunities" (at least for myopic Taiwan investors), the influx of PRC state-owned companies, with the assistance of local proxies, will be able to use the maximum of 30 percent ownership to secure effective managerial control over Taiwan companies and their technology or knowhow in most economic fields, including telecommunications and news media, snare public works contracts and channels for patronage, and, with investments in hotels and travel companies, secure control over the bulk of renminbi spent in Taiwan by Chinese tourists.

    The imminent financial services memorandum of understanding (MOU), which even KMT lawmakers have warned will result in "Money Out" of Taiwan, will offer the PRC's giant state banks channels to control over even more Taiwan capital and access to up-to-date inside financial information on Taiwan companies and any citizen who has a credit or finance card, access which will undoubtedly be utilized for political as well as commercial purposes.

    Moreover, the obvious "quid pro quo" that Beijing will overtly or covertly demand for an agreement to "fight cross-strait crime" and any grudging assistance in sending "economic criminals" back to Taiwan will be "reciprocal" assistance in securing the "return," expulsion from Taiwan or control of political dissidents, perhaps painted as "terrorists," such as advocates of Tibetan independence or Chinese democracy.

    Last but not least, the insistence by Ma and the KMT government that these agreements have nothing to do with "politics" or Taiwan's sovereignty means that no "firewalls" will be set in place to prevent PRC interests from expanding political influence in Taiwan in the pattern of the China Resources Group and the Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong.
    Far from showing the strength of Ma's diplomacy, the recent WHA and Nanjing talks displayed the utter dependency of the KMT on the CCP. The agreements give China control over key cross-strait markets, ratified by the KMT because it desperately needs something, anything, to show its cross-strait policies are a success. Foreigners who trumpeted the advent of the KMT should take note at their exclusion -- these markets belong neither to them nor to Taiwan, but solely to China. Asian nations may give lip service to the free market religion, but at heart they are atheists. When state-backed Chinese firms come calling for Taiwan companies -- is a telecom deal imminent? -- foreign firms will be out in the cold too. But at least they will be able to fly conveniently from the Taiwan SAR directly to China on their way out of here.....

    Much praise to Taiwan News for its great run of editorials lately. You can almost measure the political status of the island by the quality of Taiwan New's editorials -- as the threat to Taiwan rises, so does the asskicking quotient of their work. Good work, guys.

    Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Connecting the Dots -- UPDATED --

    Three pieces of news coming together this week. First, breaking today, the government said China had agreed to permit Taiwan to have observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA). From KNN:
    Yeh Ching-chuan, Minister of the Department of Health (DOH) under the Executive Yuan, visited Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng this morning and confirmed that he had received a formal invitation from Margaret Chan, Director-General of World Health Organization, to lead a delegation, under the designation of Chinese Taipei, to participate as an observer in the 62nd World Health Assembly, scheduled to be held on May 18.

    Minister Yeh ....pointed out four significant implications of this invitation. They are:

    1. A breakthrough of the formulation that was used in the 2005 MOU model, namely, “Taiwan, China.”
    2. The WHO Secretariat contacted the DOH directly.
    3. The designation of “Chinese Taipei” is used.
    4. The level of representation is elevated to that of minister.
    We can expect a flood of articles with the phrase "further sign of warming ties" etc as well as fawning pieces from Ma/KMT supporters in the western policy community. There is nothing really important about Taiwan being able to observe an assembly, and this development has been in the cards for months. We'll come back to this...

    Two other developments are of interest this week. First, Taiwan News came out with one of its best editorials ever, on the odious new draft Assembly and Parade Law:
    The Cabinet's draft bill will drop the current requirement for the application of a parade permit, but will substitute a compulsory and highly restrictive advance notification system and is full of other features that will threaten to curtail the actual possibilities of citizens or civic organizations to exercise their right of assembly and protest.

    Among the more unreasonable statutes include the imposition of an excessive 300 meter buffer zone between protestors and "restricted sites" such as the Office of the President, the Executive Yuan and all embassies or foreign representative offices.

    Moreover, Article 9 may impose a prohibitive social cost on march organizers by requiring agreement in writing from "private locations" along a proposed route march must be submitted with the five-day advance march notification.

    In addition, Article 10 requires that the "responsible person" reporting a planned rally cannot be less than 20 years of age, must have ROC citizenship, cannot have had previous convictions or be under probation or a police record or under guidance or counseling for juvenile offense or under guardianship.

    Under this restriction, foreign workers would be effectively banned from protesting mistreatment or discrimination by employers, ex-convicts would be prohibited from holding a rally to call for changes in unfair rulings and persons under "guardianship" for physical or mental handicaps would be unable to protest the failure of public facilities or government policies to address their problems.

    But these problems pale in light of Article 11, which grants the "responsible" law enforcement authorities the power at will to ban, restrict or change the course, location or time of any "reported" assembly or protest if police deem that the event will "immediately affect national security, social order or the public interest" or will immediately threaten lives, health or liberty or cause damage to property or if there is an overlap between different parades.

    While an immediate threat to lives and health would justify police action, the vague language of "harm to national security, social order or the public interest" gives immense scope for abuse if law enforcement agencies or their political masters determine that a protest "violates national security or the public interest" as determined by the ruling party.

    Moreover, the new "liberalized" draft bill contains a powerful weapon to stifle small or large protests in Article 26, which would allow the government to impose cumulative fines between NT$30,000-NT$150,000 on the "responsible persons" for marches which the police decide to ban if participants do not comply and to increase the fine repeatedly until the orders are obeyed.

    The provision of accumulating massive fines if a rally does not obey the commands of police to disperse will undoubtedly intimidate many small groups from holding any assemblies at all and threatens to bankrupt any organization which dares to launch a major protest action.

    It should be obvious that this new clause is directly aimed at the DPP, the Taiwan Solidarity Union and other "Taiwan-centric" organizations which could challenge the KMT government's tilt toward the authoritarian People's Republic of China with massive protests, such as the action to "safeguard jobs and sovereignty" on May 17.

    Even a cursory review shows that these revisions are not aimed at facilitating but intend to trample on the right of assembly which is granted to all citizens under the ROC Constitution and to all people under the International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights approved by the KMT-controlled Legislative Yuan March 31 and promulgated by Ma last Wednesday.

    Indeed, the unseemly haste of KMT legislators to secure the passage of this dangerous bill naturally gives to suspicions that the KMT intends to use these tools actively to ride roughshod over any protests to its pro-China policies and intimidate into silence any public voices angry over its incompetence.
    The DPP's last weapon against the annexation of the island and the evisceration of its economic and social strength is the street demonstration. The new law would be a great weapon against it. The really great thing is the in-your-face timing that is classic: the new law comes after the Wild Strawberry protests against the original law, which as it turns out was less restrictive, and it comes after Ma made the legislature pass the human rights covenants discussed above. This is the same mentality at work that appoints two new bishops for the PRC state Catholic Church in the midst of negotiations with the Vatican, or places a nuclear waste dump on a pristine tropical island while telling the locals they were getting a fish cannery.

    The third thing that has happened recently, which I think is also interesting, is that the Treaty of Taipei is being revived (Wiki, text of treaty) by President Ma:
    President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that the 1952 Treaty of Taipei affirmed the transfer of Taiwan’s sovereignty from Japan to the Republic of China (ROC). Ma’s statement deviated from his previous claim that it was the 1943 Cairo Declaration that gave the ROC its claim to Taiwan.

    “While the 1952 treaty does not specify the legal successor government [of Taiwan], it was clear between the lines,” he said. “Japan would not have signed the accord with the ROC if it did not intend to concede the territories to the ROC.”

    Ma said the 1952 pact had three meanings: It not only affirmed the “de jure termination of war between Japan and the ROC” after Tokyo’s surrender in 1945, but reasserted the “de jure transfer of Taiwan’s sovereignty to the ROC” as well as “restoring friendly and normal relations with Japan.”

    Ma made the remarks at an unveiling ceremony at the Taipei Guest House of a bronze sculpture depicting representatives of Japan and the ROC signing the treaty on April 28, 1952. The statues are part of an exhibition marking the 57th anniversary of the treaty.
    A couple of weeks back a local pro-KMT scholar came out with the claim that she had "discovered" that the Treaty of Taipei recognized ROC sovereignty over Taiwan (see article referenced above), which it certainly does not. It clearly defers to the San Francisco Peace Treaty and like it, refuses to name a recipient of the sovereignty over Taiwan.

    The interesting thing is, why now? The 57th anniversary of anything is not important. On one side, the KMT government drafts laws attacking the freedom of the public to assemble, clearly aimed at the pro-Taiwan opposition. On the other, it pushes a treaty that it claims gives the ROC legal authority over Taiwan, while in yet another direction, it clearly waited for China to grant Taiwan WHA observer status, a strong signal that the KMT government considers that Taiwan is subordinate to the PRC.

    The pixels are coming into focus: a legal basis of the upcoming "treaty of peace" between the KMT and the CCP will be the Treaty of Taipei, gently revived here for future use. I think we'll be seeing some kind of shared sovereignty position here with the Treaty of Taipei as a pillar or justification -- note that by changing the claim for ROC jurisdiction over Taiwan from Cairo to the Treaty of Taipei, Ma avoids getting the US tangled up in the legalities -- just in time for the 2011 100th anniversary of the ROC, a stealth agreement that will attempt to avoid sparking voter recognition that the islanders have been sold out -- because there are elections in 2012. Much remains to be filled in, but the speed of events is breathtaking. And with democratic oversight of events carefully checked by KMT control of the legislature and by constant claims that no such oversight is necessary.....

    UPDATE: FAPA attempts in this press release to inject some sanity into the Hallelujah Chorus of Benevolent China and Provocative Taiwan Having Warming Ties:

    Washington DC. The KMT administration of President Ma Ying-jeou is playing politics with the health of the people of Taiwan. This is the position of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) in reaction to the announcement on April 29th by Mr. Ma that Taiwan has been invited, as “Chinese Taipei,” to attend the upcoming annual meeting of the World Health Assembly, the WHO governing body in Geneva.

    FAPA President Prof. Bob Yang stated in a reaction that “Taiwan’s international status has taken another step backward.” The head of the Taiwanese-American grassroots organization headquartered in Washington DC added: “We have been working for Taiwan’s membership in the World Health Organization for more than a decade. It is the right of Taiwan as a free and democratic country to have truly meaningful participation in this important international health organization. That can only be done if Taiwan is a full and equal member.” “Just attending the WHA-and under the subservient moniker “Chinese Taipei,” doesn’t protect the health of the people of Taiwan”, he said, adding: “For that, Taiwanese doctors need to have unfettered access specialists’ meetings and information exchange.”

    He explained that the conditions under which Ma’s government is now accepting “observership” are demeaning to the Taiwanese and undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty. In particular the use of the idiosyncratic name “Chinese Taipei” is an outrage, he said. “Everyone, including the US, calls Taiwan Taiwan”, he added: “why can’t Taiwan do the same?”

    Dr. Yang also said he is concerned about any under-the-table deals made by the Ma Administration with China on the matter, given the precedent of the nauseating MOU forced on WHO by China in 2005. He said that the decision-making process of the Ma Administration has been “clear as mud.” He urged the legislature and the public in Taiwan to demand full transparency, and disclosure of any deals made with China on the issue. “Only then will we be able to say that Taiwanese sovereignty and interests have not been sold out”, he said.

    Dr. Yang concluded that it would be a dangerous precedent if Taiwan’s participation in international organizations is at the whim of Beijing. “Why are we letting a repressive and authoritarian regime set the conditions under which a free and democratic nation participates in the international community?” he asked. “Isn’t this a flagrant violation of the basic UN principles which we should adhere to?”

    He added that the Taiwanese-American community would continue to work with the Obama Administration and Congress to protect Taiwan’s safety and security, and help Taiwan become a full and equal member of the international community.

    No breakthrough here, folks, just the same pattern of the KMT subordinating Taiwan to China and its desire to annex the island that we have seen since Ma took power. Good-bye, free and independent Taiwan: we hardly knew ya.

    Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

    US Taiwan Policy Review in the cards?

    There's been much talk that the new Administration should perform a Taiwan Policy Review, to revise US Taiwan policy in the face of a rising China, and now the Congressional research service (CRS) has come out with a new paper on the issue, as the Taipei Times reports:
    The study by Kerry Dumbaugh, a specialist in Asian Affairs with the Congressional Research Service (CRS), is entitled Taiwan-US Relations: Developments and Policy Implications.

    Ma’s initiatives are welcomed by many, the study says, for contributing to greater regional stability.

    But it adds: “More pessimistic observers see growing PRC [People’s Republic of China]-Taiwan ties eroding US influence, strengthening PRC leverage and, particularly in the face of expanding economic links, jeopardizing Taiwan autonomy and economic security.”

    The study says that among Obama’s policy challenges are “decisions on new arms sales to Taiwan, which are anathema to the PRC; how to accommodate requests for visits to the US by President Ma and other senior Taiwan officials; the overall nature of US relations with the Ma government; whether to pursue closer economic ties with Taiwan; what role, if any, Washington should play in cross-strait relations; and, more broadly, what form of defense assurances to offer Taiwan.”

    Changes under Ma have led, the study says, to questions about “whether the United States should conduct a reassessment of its Taiwan policy in light of changing circumstances, and what the extent of such a possible reassessment should be.”

    “At the very least, some say, the US needs to consider doing another comprehensive review of its Taiwan policy in order to revisit once again the 1979-1980 Taiwan Guidelines that govern US government interactions with Taiwan and with Taiwan officials,” the study says.

    “Furthermore, since the 1993-’94 policy review, there have been dramatic developments in Taiwan’s political development. Taiwan has become a fully functioning ­democracy. In addition, since 1995 the PRC has undertaken a substantial military buildup along the coast opposite Taiwan and in 2005 Beijing adopted the anti-secession law suggesting hostile intent against Taiwan. These significant developments since 1993-94, according to this view, justify another Taiwan Policy Review to make selected changes in US policy,” it said.

    “The implications of a Taiwan policy review for US-PRC relations likely would depend on the nature of the policy review itself. A substantial or comprehensive public review undoubtedly would raise concerns both in the PRC and likely in Taiwan,” the study said.

    Joh Tkacik, the former US foreign service officer and longtime Taiwan expert, had this to say in a commentary on US Taiwan policy in the Taipei Times today:

    There is no wisdom in confronting China head-on in Asia, and a TPR by the administration of US President Barack Obama must take this into account. But if the US is to balance China’s looming rise with a coalition of Asian democracies, Taiwan must be a key policy element.

    With Kurt Campbell’s nomination as Obama’s — and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s — assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Obama’s national security appointments offer a prospect that his administration might actually salvage some of the Asia policy wreckage of the administration under former president George W. Bush. Campbell understands the looming crisis in Asia policy — the challenge of China’s rise — as does his fellow nominee at the Pentagon, retired Marine Lieutenant General Wallace “Chip” Gregson, for assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and his deputy, Derek Mitchell.

    Unfortunately, “geostrategic considerations,” when it comes to Taiwan (or China, for that matter) have long been absent in Washington policy circles. Former intelligence officer and White House Asia expert Robert Suettinger, in his book Beyond Tiananmen, admits that “the notion that American policy [toward China] is directly driven by strategic considerations ... is grossly inaccurate.” It had been driven instead by business pressures — if not by sheer intellectual inertia — long after the US’ strategic imperatives with proudly authoritarian China evaporated in the 1992 collapse of the Soviet Union and the 1989 reversal of China’s political reforms at Tiananmen.

    Former president Bill Clinton’s China policy quietly changed in August 1999 after spectacular increases in Chinese missile deployments and jet fighter sorties in the Taiwan Strait. Clinton’s defense department secretly began to build up military cooperation with Taiwan — a momentum that continued without publicity through the Bush years — and Campbell was at the center of that initiative. He was an advocate of strong alliances with Japan and Australia — alliances that Bush minimized in an unhealthy reliance on Beijing’s influence in Asia.

    The cascade of Asia policy disasters in the last four Bush years stemmed from the president’s preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan and his chronic inattention to geopolitics or strategy anywhere else. The erosion of the US-Japan alliance; permitting North Korea to drive the US’ Asia policy; complete neglect of Southeast Asia; inattention to a strategic partnership with India; abandoning democratic Taiwan in the face of war threats from undemocratic Beijing — that was the Bush Asia policy.

    All of these failures sprang from the miscalculation that China was an active, responsible stakeholder in East Asian security, trade, humanitarian relief, the environment and so on. The Bush administration also persuaded itself that Taiwan was of such existential urgency to Beijing that China’s viciousness was excusable. Beijing therefore was permitted to alter the “status quo” with its missile deployments and its 2005 “Anti-Secession Law,” but Taiwan could never react.
    A resounding "yea!" to all this! Tkacik's whole piece is well worth reading, but what does he say about Taiwan?
    Whether State Department or White House Asia policy aides often think of these things is beside the point. They are facts: Taiwan is positioned astride sea lanes plied by vast fleets of Asian shipping; Taiwan’s lofty mountains provide phased-array radar coverage of missile and aerospace activity 1,930km into continental East Asia; submarines moving from the East Asian coast into the Western Pacific go through Taiwan’s waters to avoid Japan’s extensive anti-submarine acoustic detection; Taiwan occupies the two largest islands in the South China Sea, Taiping and Pratas.

    More important, Taiwan is the US’ poster-child for democracy in Asia; the US’ 10th-largest export market; and the world’s fourth-largest foreign exchange reserves holder. Taiwan’s GDP is bigger than any in Southeast Asia. Taiwan’s population is bigger than Australia’s. In short, US equanimity at the prospect of democratic Taiwan’s absorption by communist China is a clear signal to the rest of Asia that the US has bought on to the “Beijing Consensus” — Asia may as well go along, too.
    Yup. The key point was made above: US policymaking towards China is driven by the fact that US elites do business with it. Scary.

    As I noted before, a policy review with the current cast of China experts is likely to result in an even more unfavorable stance toward ideas like the assent of the people of Taiwan to any changes, and further downgrading of weapons sales to the island. The appointment of Kurt Campbell may signal that a review is in the works, if not now, then a little further down the road, I overheard an expert say. However, word also has it that the State Department does not have its Taiwan team in place, while the DOD Taiwan people only started work a couple of weeks ago. This argues against the early occurrence of any review of Taiwan policy. Ominously, this means that US policymakers are simply going to leave Bush's disastrous Asia drift as the mainstream of US policy in the new Administration, and follow Ma Ying-jeou over the cliff, so that they can concentrate on the Middle East -- exactly what China wants them to do.

    We're in for a tough couple of years at least.

    Daily links
    • China faces graduate glut (WSJ) -- can you think of any other nation with that problem?
    • Remember the police shutting down the music store during the Chen Yunlin protests? Prosecutors said the store shut itself down. Pure Orwell, as maddog notes
    • Website of the European Association of Taiwan Studies (EATS)
    • Letters from Taiwan on the DPP response to the recent CCP-KMT Lovefest Sellout '09 in Nanjing
    Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    CCP-KMT Nanjing Lovefest results

    This ad for ECFA appeared in the Liberty Times, a pro-Green paper. My sharp-eyed friend Michael Fahey spotted it. It shows a door god guarding a half open door, a metaphor for the MAC/KMT's role in safeguarding the nation from the perils of opening the door to China. The main message contains Taiwanese (second three characters). The smaller print adopts the rhetoric of the DPP, Michael pointed out to me. The ad appears as the CCP and the KMT reached agreements in Nanjing, hoping to convince those pesky pro-Taiwan forces to stop fighting for Taiwan.

    Jon Adams in the CSM reported on the CCP-KMT talks last weekend:
    On Sunday, the two sides inked deals on boosting cross-strait flights, joint crime-fighting, and financial cooperation. They also issued a statement on allowing Chinese investment in Taiwan.

    The flight deal will normalize cross-strait air links, boosting them from 108 charter flights to 270 scheduled commercial flights per week between 25 cities in China and five in Taiwan. Just a year ago, the two sides only ran special holiday charter flights between a handful of cities.

    The financial agreement paves the way for banks and insurers do business on the other side of the Strait. And the crime-fighting deal will help counter cross-strait drug trafficking and money laundering, and make it harder for Taiwanese fugitives to hide out in the mainland.

    Such deals appear to have majority support here. A government-commissioned poll showed that 53 percent are happy with the pace of cross-strait opening or even think it's going too slow, compared to 34 percent who believe it's going too fast.
    Max Hirsch for Kyodo noted:
    The law enforcement pact commits the two sides to crack down on crimes involving kidnapping, weapons, drugs and human trafficking across the strait, as well as economic crimes involving fraud, money laundering and forgery.

    Taipei, according to media there, had hoped the crime-fighting pact would also facilitate the extradition of white-collar Taiwanese criminals on the lam in the mainland. However, the agreement makes no mention of individual fugitives from justice.
    Of course the agreement makes no mention of individual fugitives from justice in China -- they are virtually all KMTers.

    The Economist blogger Charlemagne -- as an aside, it is entirely detestable the way that magazines have rechristened their opinion writings "blogs" as if they had some authenticity independent of the media organization they work for -- observed of Europe's interactions with China:
    Meanwhile, Europe’s trade deficit with China hit nearly €170 billion ($250 billion) last year. China has erected myriad barriers to European firms, notes a scathing new audit of EU-China relations by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a think-tank. The trend is ominous. In five years, China wants 60% of car parts in new Chinese vehicles to be locally made. This is alarming news for Germany, the leading European exporter to China thanks to car parts, machine tools and other widgets.
    If Europe cannot enforce open markets on China, how will Taiwan?

    UPDATE: William Pesek in Bloomberg has a surprisingly sensible (for Bloomberg) piece on Taiwan's opening to China. It would be nice if someone besides us bloggers would point out that (1) Ma is not in charge of cross-strait policy; the Party Old Guard is (2) China's "growth" is overblown and may well turn out to be fictive, as it consistently has in the past, and (3) China does not "want Taiwan back" since it never owned it; it wants to annex Taiwan. At least he mentioned factor price equalization, a problem that is commonly discussed in local papers, but seldom appears in the international media.

    Daily Links
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    East Coast Bike Trip: Day 1

    Friday afternoon after class I caught the 5:40 express from Taipei to Hualien to begin a ride down the stunning east coast of Taiwan, one of the beautiful places of the world. Waiting for me were two of my most beloved friends and an attractive young woman, and 175km of open road. It doesn't get any better than that.

    We stayed at the Formosa Hostel in Hualien that Friday night. Beds were $400 a night. Clean, friendly, plenty of English books. Highly recommended.

    Michael took us out for the famous Chiayi Stewed Turkey rice. Here a turkey has been carved to our order. The source of the fame of a dish of stewed meat over rice is an elusive mystery.

    Hualien in the early morning.

    In addition to my friends Michael and Jeff, Huiling, who worked in Michael's office, came along for the ride.

    The breakfast place at 5:30 am. We got up early to get ahead of the sun. Not that it mattered.

    On the way out of town, while stopping for coffee, one group of the Tour de Taiwan passed us. They were going all the way around the island. In the time it took me to get to Taitung.

    Outside of Hualien we took in the scenery of graveled rivers and mountains tumbling down to the water's edge.

    Exports may be down, but the boats still roll out to see at dawn bound for the exotic West.

    South of Hualien the road climbs gently.

    Fisherman out to work early.

    We climbed past a new tunnel up the old road, no longer open for cars, but plied by many a biker. Monkeys cackled in the trees next to us.

    Up we went, as dark clouds blew in.

    We went to a gas station about kilometer 23 and took a water break, then, when the rain arrived, decided to pass the time in this betel nut stand hoping the rain would abate.

    Suddenly riders of the Tour de Taiwan flashed into view! We watched excitedly, joined by a local expat.

    The riders roared through the downpour, on their way to Chihpen Hot Springs almost 200 kms to the south, attempting to do the whole trip in one day.

    They flashed by, heading up the imposing flank of Niu Shan, Bull Mountain. We soon followed them. Bull Mountain was 5 kms of gentle but inexorable slope, 300 meters high, the hardest thing I'd done so far on a bike. It took me an hour to grind my way up, pumping and puffing the whole way. Halfway up Jeff met me just as I faced my greatest temptation: Satan had sent a taxi. The taxi driver leaned over to the passenger window, a faint red light behind his eyes as he said "Psst! Do you want a ride to the top?" "Steady there, Michael," said Jeff at my side, "remember, they have to ask you three times before the spell can be invoked." I prayed to Lance Armstrong, and received the strength to say no. The taxi driver next offered me all the kingdoms of the world, but I declined, since they are all insolvent anyway.

    About halfway up Bull Mountain we stopped at this pleasant overlook to enjoy what little scenery could be made out through the fog and rain. It began to rain pretty hard....

    We tried to wait out the rain in Bashi on the other side of the peak, but several cups of coffee did not make the rain go away. Clad in the most fashionable rain gear 40 NT could buy, Jeff and I headed out first for the day's goal, the little fishing port of Shitiping some 30 kms up the coast.

    Jeff and I arrived about 4, after riding a total of about 70 kms for the whole day. I'd like to show you some pictures of the lovely scenery, but it rained the whole time, until we were soaked through. I described most of the trip in poetic, colorful American vernacular. Naturally, as soon as we pulled up in Shitiping, the bicycle gods stopped the rain, leaving only sullen, cool overcast.

    Dinner was a local seafood restaurant. Here Michael and Huiling decide what to order.

    We tried this fine product of the Taiwan Alcohol and Tobacco Monopoly. Due to its unique taste, we had exactly one bottle.

    After killing several bottles of Taiwan beer, we returned to the hostel for some skull-splitting karaoke, and then dropped off to sleep at 9 pm. Huiling snapped this great pic of me hitting the high notes.

    Day Two

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    East Coast Bike Trip: Day 2

    The second day I awoke at dawn and went outside to check the skies. My heart quailed when I saw the dark clouds, but Michael assured me that it would be a perfect day for riding: no sun, no wind, and cool. I soon found he was exactly right. We hit the road, heading for Dulan, some 80 kms to the south.

    Up and down the Ozymandias coast may be found the wrecks of all sorts of buildings, from factories to bed and breakfasts.

    Shitiping looked lovely even against gray skies as we left it behind in the morning.

    So I panned it.

    We strung out along the road.

    The coast is full of aborigines, who are predominantly Christian. Hence the local Church is always a prominent structure.

    The Three Amigos.

    We came to a small town where we would grab some breakfast, fronted by a beautiful and famous red bridge, like so many other small towns in Taiwan.

    I accidentally photo'd my bike. Our shoes were soaked from the downpour the day before, so Jeff and I bought sandals and pedaled along attired in socks and sandals, which had all who beheld us in stitches, blundering foreigners who'd failed to assimilate properly. I hung my wet shoes and socks on the front of the bicycle, hoping they'd dry over the course of the day. If only I had been able to ride fast enough to generate a wind....

    A farmer takes advantage of the good weather.

    A small town along the coast.

    The stretch between I-lan and Hualien is imposing, but for sheer lush beauty, the coast between Shitiping and Donghe is unrivaled. We soon found ourselves in the signature region of rice fields and steep peaks.

    Our next stop was the Tropic of Cnacer, one of the two Tropics that bisect Taiwan, the other one being the better-known Tropic of Cancer.

    At the memorial tower a man stopped by to chat me up about the trip. After a few minutes of talking, he observed: "Riding a bike is really great!" His wife, who had been following the conversation, burst out: "What are you talking about! Your bike is in the back of the car!"

    Mountains. Sea. Cloud. Farms. Fields.

    Imagine if this drove around suburban neighborhoods in the US, rock music blasting from its speakers: "Power tools, power tools...."

    We stopped in another small town for drinks and a quick visit to the internet cafe. There was a small celebration for the Buddha's birthday, so he was being driven around town, naked, accompanied by music and marching. Beyond the procession a sign for a KMT candidate, apparently in a primary battle, argues that only change can bring hope. The KMT has controlled the east for 50 years.

    Gathering firewood.

    "Omigawd! A foreigner! And he's... and he's.... he took my picture!"

    Plenty of agriculture was squeezed into the shelf between the mountains and the sea.

    The mountains run like giants toward the sea.

    After Shitiping the coast is more heavily populated, and supplies of snacks and water are constantly available.

    Fisherman cast in the surf.

    I panned the bay where they were casting.

    We turned off the road to check out these cool rock formations.

    I panned The Three Amigos waiting for me to catch my breath.

    Jeff poses as we crawl around the rocks.

    My crappy bike from Safe-n-save. It was OK for around the neighborhood work, but hopeless for long-distance biking. The brakes fell apart, it weighed a ton, and the wide wheels meant more friction to be overcome. I grew to hate it passionately.

    A woman gathered shellfish adhering to the concrete of the wharf.

    Fishing boats bright against a gray world.

    Even without the sun, the coast was overwhelmingly beautiful.

    Jeff encourages me. Without the constant flow of beer advice and support from them, I would never have made it.

    Planting a fishing net in a local stream.

    Michael ponders the shot I am taking.

    Readers will be able to caption this photo of young men taking each other's picture in a field of sunflowers much better than I will ever be able to.

    On a bicycle you can notice all the little things, like this tiny historical site along the road marking the first dry goods shop in the vicinity.

    The Ozymandias coast: ruined factories aside rivers and farms.

    The last long climb of the day.

    One of the best parts of the trip was the warm welcome we got everywhere. Bikers shouted jia you! wherever we went. Locals poured out of houses to greet us. The warmth and friendliness of the east coast left us deeply touched.

    Mountains loom behind a land of green.

    One great government policy: at police stations on the east coast, you can get a pump and water. They even scrounged up some mineral oil for the noisy squeak in my rear wheel. The pumps are highly quality bike pumps too. Please use the service when you are down there; it will encourage the government to retain and expand it.

    Jeff enjoys the admiring camaraderie of other bikers. They took one look at me and dismissed my pathetic gear: "Where'd you get that bike? Carrefour?" Unfortunately there was no tree nearby to hang myself from.

    While Jeff and I schmoozed, Michael and Huiling fixed a flat.

    Evening brought us to Dulan and this hostel. I was quite satisfied, having just finished the longest bike ride of my life: 85 kms. Greater ones to come!

    The hostel is next to an abandoned factory which is now an arts center. Other nations beat their swords into plowshares, in Taiwan, we turn our factories into performing arts buildings.

    The old factory.

    The reason I cannot recommend this hostel is right here: this amazing towel, made of paper, and completely useless. I'd be willing to pay a few NT more for a real towel.

    Not all was annoying. We also went to the excellent Marino's Kitchen, the best Italian place on the east coast. On Saturday and Sunday Dave and Rolly serve home made Italian pasta and pizza. The bread is said to be divine, and the lovely Rolly offers a country style of courtesy that has been almost lost in our modern world (click on pic to see map in full). Highly recommended. Bellies full of pasta, we retired again at 9, ready for the leisurely ride to Taitung city in the morning.

    Day Three

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