Monday, August 31, 2009

Daily Links, Aug 31, 2009

One of a series of pics I took over 45 minutes one afternoon of Mormon missionaries near my house interfering with traffic and harassing passing motorists with their attempts to stamp out local religions, secure income streams for the Church and make everyone wear magic underwear. In this pic the missionary, after harassing some hapless scooter driver in the center of the street, makes everyone wait for him while he crosses over to the other street to repeat this act. Does someone have to be killed before Mormons stop this stupid, self-centered behavior?

Is there any news today that's not Dalai Lama? Yes, the blogs are, as always, full of it.
MEDIA: Monkeys, Gods, and Hiking at Global Post. California beats Taiwan in Little Leagure World Series. WSJ on DL's visit: Ting-i, those protesters want "unification" or "annexation" not "reunification." Swine Flu may cause elections to be put off. US Dept of Commerce sends official here to look for Taiwanese investment in US green tech. Regular direct flights from China to Taiwan start today, Aug 31. At present the government says it will not permit investment from China Mobile in local telcos. How long will that last? Labor activists question joblessness figures. National Museum of History has exhibit on 60th anniversary of arrival of KMTers fleeing Chinese communism. Remember this case? The Grand Justices send case of Filipino woman who murdered local back to appellate court. Bloomberg, which has had some excellent stuff on Taiwan lately, has another good article, this one on overproduction of tea and the Morakot disasters. FT's Robin Kwong on the DL promoting democracy here. Sarah Palin is keynote speaker in Hong Kong, will shortly announce her foreign policy expertise on China, since she has seen it from Hong Kong. Asia Sentinel looks at India's restive northeast and China, as border war puts China-Myanmar ties to the test. Chinese Deafolympics team to arrive Friday. That's a good sign.

Panorama of Gravel Trucks
Panorama of an endless line of gravel trucks in front of the Shihgang Dam (click to see).

MA "ABLE" YING-JEOU WATCH: AFP notes that Beijing blasted the Dalai Lama's visit and warned that it would impact relations. China canceled celebrations over the direct flights, leaving that gaggle of eunuchs that constitutes the Ma government struggling for ways to bend over even further for Beijing. Speaking of having no stones, after Ma says government should only get 45 of 60 Blackhawk choppers from the US and spend the rest on rescue helos, the Ministry of Defense gives Ma the finger and says we're getting the 60. Today Ma says "Uh, ok." But my favorite is this one from today where Ma tells a group of aborigines that they must evacuate when told, otherwise it will be bad for him. Poor Ma! I think my next post might be entitled: Is Ma a narcissist?
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Dalai Lama Taiwan Schedule =UPDATED=

UPDATES: Thanks, David on Formosa.

The press conference and the public talk in Taoyuan have been cancelled. I suggest checking the Friends of Tibet website for the latest information on the schedule (in Chinese)

UPDATES -2: The Kaohsiung appearance on Sept 1st has been moved to 9:30 AM from the original time of 1:00 PM. Revised schedules will appear here.

From Taiwanderful:

31 August to 4 September

8/31 10:00am press conference for Taiwanese and international media in Kaohsiung
8/31 afternoon visit disaster victims
9/1 1:00pm Public speech and blessing ceremony for disaster victims at Kaohsiung Ju Dan (高雄巨蛋)
9/2 morning discussion with Cardinal Bishop Paul Shan Kuo-hsi (單國璽樞機主教) at Kaohsiung Ju Dan (高雄巨蛋)
9/3 Public speech in Taipei. Time and venue to be confirmed.

Information translated from Taiwan Friends of Tibet (台灣圖博之友會) at at 11pm on 28 August 2009. Further updated with additional information received via e-mail on the morning of 29 August. I will continue to update with more details when they become available.

Also check the website of The Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for more information.

* His Holiness the Dalai will visit Taiwan end of August: spoken-person - Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Taiwan

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

China Expresses Ire to Manage US

Our good cooperation partner, the Peaceful Riser© is starting to put pressure on the US in all sorts of ways. Kathrin Hille, the former longtime Financial Times correspondent here in Taiwan, reports now from China:
China has called on the US to phase out its military surveillance missions close to the Chinese coast, in Beijing’s clearest indication so far that it will not tolerate American dominance indefinitely in an area it views as its strategic sphere of influence.

The remarks came after two days of negotiations on maritime safety between military officials from both sides following a series of confrontations between US and Chinese ships in waters off the Chinese coast earlier this year.

“The way to resolve China-US maritime incidents is for the US to change its surveillance and survey operations policies against China, decrease and eventually stop such operations,” Xinhua, the official news agency, quoted the Ministry of National Defence as saying.
Hille further observes:
Chinese military officials have also in the past steered clear of confronting the US over its influence in Asia. They have sometimes even suggested that the two could coexist.

Yesterday’s declaration, however, suggests that China is moving closer to scenarios long painted by defence experts under which it becomes more assertive and starts drawing lines for the US military.
It's easy to see down which road we're heading here. The right-wing Washington Times discusses China's attempt to browbeat US military officials over Taiwan arms sales. To wit:
On Aug. 20 in Beijing, Gen. Ge Zhenfeng, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, accused the United States of failing to respect China's interests, triggering an argument and rebuttal from the Army four-star, according to defense officials familiar with the exchange.

Then during a second meeting the same day, Gen. Chen Bingde, the PLA chief of staff, took the unusual step of allowing foreign news reporters to listen in during a photo session before the meeting when he told Gen. Casey that the United States was "challenging and violating our core national interests, and we have to react."

Such coverage of U.S.-China meetings normally is limited to a few minutes of photographs before reporters are shuffled out of the meeting room and doors are closed.

Gen. Chen then told Gen. Casey that the U.S. had undermined trust by selling arms to Taiwan and that Washington is only friendly when it seeks Beijing's cooperation on terrorism and piracy, but then does "anything they want, even to offend the Chinese people." He said, "I don't think that kind of cooperation can continue."

Gen. Casey stated that "it's difficult to build a lasting relationship when we start from a point that 'we have a problem and it is you.' "
It's a good example of the way China uses "worsening relations" to browbeat its opponents and to manage relationships in its favor. Gen. Ge was quoted in Xinhua saying that the United States needed to "remove obstacles" to better ties, like U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. In other words, when you serve Beijing relations will be "warm" -- at least until Beijing decides on its next demand, at which point the cycle of browbeating, warming relations, and worsening relations, will begin anew.

One irony is that the US military, especially the Navy, has consistently attempted to maintain good relations with China. As I've observed many times, once "good relations" are a priority, that simply makes you vulnerable to increased pressure from the the Peaceful Riser©.

The arms sales cannot really be that serious of an issue, since the current government of Taiwan is basically allied to the CCP. Rather, China is simply not missing the opportunity to engage in pro forma displays of its consistent foreign policy of browbeating others to get what it wants, and, as China specialist John Tkacik described:
"The Chinese also want to make excuses for not pressuring either North Korea or Iran on their nuclear ambitions, so they point to U.S. support for democratic Taiwan and say, 'See here, if you Americans would only cut loose of Taiwan, we could help more with these other rogues.'"

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

AFP in Classic

Reuters reports that President Ma Ying-jeou has no plans to meet with the Dalai Lama. That same article notes that:
On Friday, China gave the green light to 16 airlines to operate regular direct flights to Taiwan in a sign that the Dalai Lama's impending visit would not harm trade ties.
Behind the political theatre of the Dalai Lama's visit, the real politics go on....

Yesterday it was the Economist, today AFP published this brilliant account, so pro-Beijing in its construction that at first glance I thought the Aussie newspaper it appeared in had picked up Xinhua. Its very badness actually highlights some interesting political connections. AFP begins:
RELIGIOUS groups and pro-China activists have criticised the Dalai Lama's visit to Taiwan, saying the trip is "inappropriate" as the island reels from a deadly typhoon.
"Religious groups?" Let's see what they mean.
But the trip, during which the Buddhist leader is scheduled to visit typhoon-hit areas, has come under fire, with a pro-China group labelling him a "trouble-maker" while the Taiwan Mazu Association said the visit was "inappropriate."

"We hope Taiwanese people will believe in Taiwanese religions. Religious exchange is good in normal time but it is inappropriate at such a time," said Cheng Ming-kun, chief of the Taiwan Mazu Association.

"We urge politicians to stop taking advantage of religion... and toying with typhoon victims," he told reporters.

The association represents worshippers of the Taoist sea goddess Mazu, who has millions of followers.
"We urge politicians to stop taking advantage of religion," says Cheng Ming-kun.


Sometimes hypocrisy elevates itself beyond being merely blatant, achieving a kind of sublime disconnect with reality that is like a work of art. Such is this lecture from Cheng Ming-kun about separating politics and religion.

Who is Mr. Cheng? Cheng holds a couple of key positions in the Matzu Associations, such as the Deputy Chairman of the Jenlan Temple in Dajia. Ring any bells? That's the name of the island's most important Matzu temple, the subject of one of the world's largest pilgrimages. That's right -- the procession run by the former KMT politician, now "non-partisan", Yen Ching-piao, elected out of jail by his loyal constituents a few years back. That procession is a prime example of how politics exploits religion in Taiwan (anyone know where the zillions in donations go?). Cheng, who was kidnapped for 10 days in 2005 in what was widely rumored to be a shady business deal gone bad, was indicted for forgery and breach of trust in connection with the temple association. Naturally Cheng is close to Yen -- I believe the proper expression is "thick as thieves."

What are Cheng's political affiliations? Well, Cheng was in Beijing in July promoting cross-strait ties through better Matzu connections. Cheng also met with Chen Yun-lin, last seen here in November of 2008 negotiating on Beijing's behalf. Is leveraging Taiwan's most important goddess to annex Taiwan to China apolitical?

AFP's presentation is thus a comical parody of actual news construction. First it mentions the "pro-China" group and then opposes Cheng's comments to it as if he were neutral, not "pro-China." Then, the deputy head of the single most politicized temple on the whole island piously informs us that religion should not be politicized!

This piece should definitely be in the Onion.

How to explain this? A friend of mine pointed out that Pierre Louette, the current CEO of AFP, appears to have personal interests in China. Louette is the former CEO of Havas, the main marketing company for the Beijing Olympics. Since Havas represents some of the biggest corporations in China....

UPDATE: More explanations/clarifications in the comments below

Daily Links:
  • As of ten this morning, the NYTimes had this:
    Another travel marketer offering jobs is the Republic of Taiwan Tourism Bureau, with a contest called the Best Trip in the World ( The offer: “Come up with the best Taiwan tour itinerary, take the tour, write about it online” and win a million Taiwan dollars (about $30,000) for a one-month trip around the island.
  • Taiwan Matters notes that Ma went after Public Television three days after Morakot, apparently hoping to use the hoopla over the typhoon as cover to get his man in the top position.
  • Average real income regresses to 1996 levels. It's a good thing we elected Ma and his economic czar to -- wait, what's that czar's name again?
  • Our new AIT director, William Stanton, has arrived. Godspeed and good luck to the awesome Steve Young, who did a great job here. May his next post be filled with fewer headaches and more margaritas.
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Friday, August 28, 2009

Economist stinks on Dalai Lama visit

No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.
The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

As many news reports have related, the Dalai Lama will be in Taiwan soon (w00t!). He is getting a visa as a foreigner, not an entry permit as an overseas Chinese as in 1997, too. The move was a nifty one by the DPP, not only making President Ma squirm and the Chinese bluster, but also reminding the world that Taiwan exists and even more crucially, once again drawing attention to the disaster here -- which is still ongoing and still requires donations (after all, the Dalai Lama has a global following who donate to worthy causes). This was a great move by the DPP, and its payoffs go beyond politics.

There was much media commentary on this, some of it quite good, but the normally excellent Economist published an inexcusable piece on the upcoming visit of the Dalai Lama to Taiwan. I'd say it was crap, but I have no desire to slight honest fertilizer. This is one of the worst pieces they've put out on Taiwan in some time. Let's take a look....
After eight years of worsening relations under President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), now the main opposition, even a Taiwan-China summit has become conceivable. Now that Mr Ma is also chairman of the ruling Nationalist party, the Kuomintang, or KMT, such a meeting could be held with Hu Jintao not as China’s president, but as the head of its Communist Party.
The "worsening relations" propaganda theme seems to have acquired a tenacious hold in the media -- which is hardly surprising, since that is the only place where relations worsened. In the real world the busiest air route on the planet was between a city in China and one in Taiwan, and hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese had invested billions in China, a sum that grew yearly under the DPP Administration, which legalized investments. Indeed, relations got so bad that the two sides negotiated direct charter flights, student exchanges, informal police agreements, academic exchanges, and other items too numerous to list. None of these things existed under the Lee Teng-hui Administration (except for the factories moving to China) or previous KMT administrations, but never mind that. If Beijing says relations worsened, the Economist will dutifully say so too.

Thus, when investments grow and exchanges expand, relations are worsening, if you're from the DPP. And when Chinese missiles accumulate, relations are worsening, but it is the DPP Administration's fault, and has nothing to do with China's desire to annex Taiwan even at the cost of a regional war. It is hard to think of anything more stupid, more shitty, more anti-democracy, more completely retarded, than this "eight years of worsening relations" horse shit, and I devoutly hope never again to see it in print.

Pardon my rant. Why after four years am I still dreaming that facts can somehow insert themselves into discussions of cross-strait relations under the DPP?

But further observe how that in this construction China has vanished as a player -- relations get better or worse based solely on what Taiwan does. China is merely the passive recipient of Taiwanese action. This media construct is not merely wrong but actually upside down -- the determinant of cross-strait relations is China's attitude, and it didn't like the fact that the DPP defended the island's sovereignty and economy, and dickered hard with it. Finally it ceased to talk to the DPP (the DPP wanted good relations with China). Relations are "better" because Ma does Beijing's bidding, since in this calculus "better" is defined as what makes China happy -- and of course, as I have ceaselessly noted on this blog (example), the KMT has given away the shop on Taiwan.

Onward and upward....
So it seems astonishing that Mr Ma has jeopardised all this by doing the one thing most calculated to upset China: accepting a visit to Taiwan from the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, whom China reviles as a “splittist” when it is polite and “a jackal in monk’s clothing” when it feels cross.
China's control over this writer is so powerful that he apparently believes that Ma has jeopardized his China Kowtow and 2011 Hu-Ma Nobel Peace Prize Lovefest Sell-Out Tour. Not a chance. Does this writer seriously believe that China is going to expel a million Taiwanese and $200 billion worth of investments? Cut direct flights? Cancel ECFA? Start bombing immediately? Take away the er nai of Taiwanese businessmen in China? In any case -- it is worth repeating and I haven't said it in a while -- cross-strait relations are being run by KMT elites who detest Ma, not Ma himself. Ma will make a convenient whipping boy for all involved, but as reported today, China finessed the whole issue anyway by bloviating at the DPP, and the sellout will go on regardless even as the audience sits entranced by all the political theatre. It's not like ECFA, the real goal of the current Administration, will be slowed even one minute by this.

The Economist then goes on to give three reasons why the DL's visit couldn't be turned down this time as Ma did before, and continues...
China has of course responded angrily to Mr Ma’s decision to accept the Dalai Lama, as it does when any foreign government gives house room to the Tibetan leader—or these days to Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled activist from China’s ethnic-Uighur minority.

It is noticeable, however, that China has directed its fiercest criticism not at Mr Ma, but at the DPP, which favours Taiwan’s eventual formal independence from China. It accused the party of trying “to sabotage the hard-earned positive situation of cross-straits relations”.
Note that the point of view Beijing expresses here is the one the Economist has actually adopted in presenting this article -- that the DPP "worsens" relations (remember those eight years of worsening relations).

Did you catch that gross error there? Instant replay: the DPP, which favours Taiwan’s eventual formal independence from China.
Hey but (1) Taiwan isn't part of China now and (2) thus the DPP does not favor independence from China but simply independence, period. Taiwan independence supporters do not believe that Taiwan is part of China. Once again Beijing adumbrates the writer's presentation of affairs.
This indicates both the greater sensitivity China has shown in recent years to Taiwan’s internal politics, and the dilemma its policy always faces there. If it punishes Mr Ma by introducing sanctions or slowing down the pace of rapprochement, it would undo his government’ s main achievement. And the biggest beneficiary of this would be the DPP, China’s enemy.
Beijing-centric again -- the DPP is described in terms of China, and in terms that China would approve of -- the DPP is not China's enemy ("The DPP's evil motives will definitely be opposed by compatriots across the Taiwan Straits," Beijing howled today). The government of China, rather, is the enemy of Taiwan independence and democracy, just as it is the enemy of democracy in its own land.

I was talking about this on the net with a long-time observer of Taiwan affairs, who recalled that years ago The Economist printed a Leader advocating Taiwan independence. But The Economist was made of sterner stuff then.

UPDATE: Excellent comments below

Daily Links
  • Jon Adams explains why Ma permitted the DL to come to Taiwan
  • Ralph Jennings of Reuters reports on Ma attempting to salvage his reputation after Morakot.
  • China Daily gives the propaganda rundown from the Empire. The article is actually an interesting mix of distortions, disinformation, truths, half-truths, and lies. Great work.
  • NYTimes says that China opposes the DL's trip to Taiwan. No kidding? And in other news the Raj opposed Gandhi's visit to India, and Apartheid advocates resolutely rejected attempts by Mandela supporters to get him out of jail. If the Dalai Lama wants better press, he needs to set up 1,400 missiles opposite a democracy, demand that it be annexed to Tibet, and then threaten to plunge the region into war if he doesn't get his way.
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FAPA press release on Sen. Kennedy's death

Although today it is not widely known, during the '80s Sen. Kennedy was a leading supporter of the island's democratization in the Senate. As a result he has earned the lasting thanks of the Taiwanese-American community and all who love Taiwan. FAPA sent around a press release this morning, with a letter to Congressman Patrick Kennedy:


FAPA mourns death of Senator Edward Kennedy, lauding his contributions to Taiwan's democracy and human rights

In a letter to Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), the son of Senator Edward Kennedy, FAPA president Bob Yang sent condolences to the whole Kennedy family upon the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA). While the late Senator left imprints on major pieces of legislation advancing social justice, civil rights and healthcare for generations of Americans, FAPA best remembers the late Senator's instrumental efforts and leadership in championing Taiwan's democracy and human rights in the U.S. Congress in the 80s.

Together with the late Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI), former Congressmen Jim Leach (R-IA) and Steve Solarz (D-NY), Senator Kennedy met with FAPA members and listened to their concerns about the lack of human rights in Taiwan and the then authoritarian government's suppression of freedoms. These four Members of Congress introduced resolutions, wrote letters and issued statements, laying the foundation for democratic reforms in Taiwan and the abolishment of martial law. They were endearingly dubbed "The Gang of Four" for their work on behalf of Taiwan's human rights.

At a press conference on May 20, 1982 on the occasion of 33 years of martial law in Taiwan, the late Senator stated: “…it is clear that too many citizens are jailed in Taiwan for expressing their political views and defending their human rights. I therefore call on the leadership of Taiwan to take immediate action to release political and religious prisoners and to improve the human rights situation on the island.”

FAPA President Bob Yang says: “Ted Kennedy was not just the ‘Last Lion in the Senate,’ to us, Taiwanese Americans, and to the people of Taiwan, he was unquestionably the ‘First Lion for Taiwan's Democratization’ in the U.S. Congress."


The Hon. Patrick Kennedy August 27, 2009
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515

Dear Congressman Kennedy:

On behalf of the full membership of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), a world-wide non-profit organization that promotes freedom, human rights, democracy and self-determination for the people of Taiwan, I write to you today to express our condolences to you and the entire Kennedy family on the passing of your father.

In the Taiwanese American community and in Taiwan itself, he will be especially remembered because he stood up for human rights and democracy in Taiwan when it counted.

For instance, in the early and mid-1980s, your father played a crucial role in Taiwan's transition to democracy. Working closely with Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) and Representatives Jim Leach (R-IA) and Stephen Solarz (D-NY), he initiated hearings and held press conferences to highlight Taiwan's martial law – which had been in force since 1949 – and Taiwan's lack of democracy. Together, they were affectionately referred to as the "Gang of Four" in support of democracy and human rights in Taiwan.

He also frequently called on the Kuomintang authorities to release the political and religious leaders who were imprisoned after the Kaohsiung Incident of December 1979, including reverend Kao Chun-ming of the Presbyterian Church, and then Provincial Assembly member Lin Yi-hsiung, whose mother and daughters were murdered when he was in prison.

At a press conference on May 20, 1982 on the occasion of 33 years of martial law in Taiwan, your father stated: "…it is clear that too many citizens are jailed in Taiwan for expressing their political views and defending their human rights. I therefore call on the leadership of Taiwan to take immediate action to release political and religious prisoners and to improve the human rights situation on the island."

The efforts by your father and his colleagues in the US Congress helped bring about the transition to democracy on the island and strengthened the democratic opposition, which coalesced and led to the formation of the Democratic Progressive Party in September 1986, and the end of martial law on July 14th 1987. However, it wasn't until 1992 that democratic elections were held for all seats in the Legislative Yuan, and not until 1996 that the Taiwanese were able to directly elect their own president.

The Taiwanese-American community and the people in Taiwan fondly remember your father as one who stood with them in one of the most difficult periods in the island's history.

We will miss him.

Sincerely yours,

Bob Yang, President
Formosan Association for Public Affairs

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!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Paper on Parade: The Power of Cuteness

You know the experience -- you ask that lovely young lady at the counter for a tapioca pearl milk tea and she replies in a voice two octaves too high, through the nose. I just want to throttle her. Yes, I hate cute. I'd like to see the expression hao ke ai! nuked out of the universe. So naturally, this episode of my irregular feature Paper on Parade looks at a paper that repeatedly uses that odious term....

This paper explores an issue that has become much discussed in Taiwan in the last two decades -- infantilization, in this case, with respect to females. The Power of Cuteness: Female Infantilization in Taiwan by Tzu-i Chuang, argues that
It appears that as a style and manner, cuteness in Taiwan is slowly shifting from unconsciously embodied “habitus” to a kind of performance. In other words, whereas in the past cute behaviors conformed closely to the social expectations of women and were second nature, in recent years similar behaviors are often displayed with a certain level of playfulness or even cynicism due to growing awareness among Taiwanese women of the social implications of acting cute.
In other words, whereas before women were become unconsciously but fully acculturated to acting cute, now they act cute because of the power it gives them over men, and because they are aware of the social advantages.

Chuang begins:
"The Chinese word ke’ai, usually translated as cute or cuteness, literally means “lovable” or “adorable.” In general understanding, ke’ai is embodied in a person, animal or small object that arouses feelings of pity, tenderness, and a desire to take care of it. Linguistic anthropologist Catherine Farris describes the word ke’ai as one among many vocabularies that are covertly marked as feminine."
She notes that ke'ai has a broader range than cute in English, covering anything small, diminutive size being a key concept in it. Thus both puppies and insects can be ke'ai.

Drawing on Farris, she observes that "cuteness is believed by many to be intrinsic to the female sex and so expected of all women, especially of those who are at an age for courtship and marriage." Both the models of cuteness and the high regard for it, are unconsciously inculcated in the social identity of local females, reflecting, but also naturalizing, their asymmetrical status in Taiwan society. Children learn the necessary behaviors early. Again following Farris, Chuang writes:
Native speakers understand such behavior as sajiao, which has two related meanings: (1) “to show pettiness, as a spoiled child,” and (2) “to pretend to be angry or displeased, as a coquettish young woman.” Elaborating further on the definition, sajiao can be referred to as “a communication style that spoiled children of both sexes, and young (particularly unmarried) women engage in when they want to get their way from an unwilling parent/boyfriend/husband.”
Sajiao has its own voice quality:
the “standard woman’s voice” observed by social linguists often tends toward “the young and immature, warm and respectful, sometimes having bashful overtones or even a petulant air.”
..and of course, sajiao speakers nasalize final vowel particles. Ugh. An additional feature is unnecessary duplication of syllables -- calling a dog gou gou or a car che che.

Chuang locates the cultural logic of modern female cuteness in the Confucian ideal that women must be "humble, yielding, and reverential" in relation to men. She notes:
Since the early 1900s, such an ideal is embodied in the nationally celebrated image of xianqi liangmu, meaning “good wife and virtuous mother.” The discourse of xianqi liangmu preached the importance of women’s education in the belief that educated women make better wives and mothers, better housekeepers and citizens. Thus the major purpose of educating women was to enable them to teach and rear children more effectively instead of helping them pursue self-fulfillment.
As an aside, this discourse offers one-half of the Madonna/Whore pairing so common in honor/shame cultures like China's. In Taiwan the KMT continued to celebrate International Women's Day until 1996, when, during the transition from a six-day work week to a five-day work week, it was folded into Children's Day to make Women and Children's Day -- quite a comment on the status of women in Taiwan.

As we all know, modern women in Taiwan now work to find their own life goals, and frequently do not marry well into their thirties. Many career females no longer live with or remit money to their families. Chaung argues that this rising objective social equality with males poses a problem for a society where social relations are supposed to be patriarchal and hierarchical, and one solution for females is to act cute, to engage in "the symbolic gesture of acting like children." In other words, consciously or unconsciously, women have become aware of the uses of cuteness in social situations. Chuang adduces the case of Ms. Lu:
For example, Ms. Lu, a 26-year-old sales representative in a medical care products company, explained to me that it is necessary for a female employee like her to act a little cute at work. “It is like a lubricant” she said, “it helps us get along with people better and makes things easer.” In her opinion, a woman who does not know how to sajiao or act cute would be disadvantaged at work, because people would think that she has a personality problem.
For Chuang, Ms. Lu articulates the new female consciousness of the power of cute, a tool for furthering her own goals in a complex, male-run society. To wit:
As more and more women self-consciously utilize a cute manner for their own benefit, it seems no longer appropriate to view cuteness as simply part of a habitus that reproduces hierarchical relations. What becomes excluded in this conceptually reproductive cycle is the shifting socio-historical circumstances which may create slippages between the habitus and reality, and as a result generate ambivalence, conflicting consciousness, and reflexivity in the subjects. I believe the trend of cuteness in Taiwan testifies precisely to this process; that is, it is slowly extricating itself from unaware conformism and entering into conscious maneuvering and self-redefinition.
She also points out that the large number of powerful women, such as Sisy Chen, who act cute, or who appropriate the imagery of cute, are not trying to reassure their audience. Rather, they are consciously redefining the meanings and boundaries of cuteness....
Similarly, Chen’s self-appointed title xiaomeida, meaning literally “little sister big”, emphasizes the power she has as a non-threatening female. By fusing two opposite concepts in one word, it implies that there is indeed no contradiction between the little and the big. Rather than saying “I am smart and powerful, but don’t worry, I am also cute,” Chen imparts the confident message that “I am cute, and I am smart and powerful.”
Another aspect of the way cuteness is losing its meaning as a marker of weakness and femininity is the way it is being taken over by male politicians. She uses the example of Chen Shui-bian, who liked appearing in costumes dressed as Santa Claus or Peter Pan, and had cute dolls of himself made and distributed during the election. One could adduce many other examples, such as the popular Mayor of Taichung, Jason Hu, who also likes appearing in cute costumes.

Summing up, she neatly stands the idea of cuteness as weakness on its head:
Statistical studies have shown that Taiwan exhibits significantly greater gender equality than Japan in all areas of comparison, including educational attainment, labor participation, and wages. The cuteness trend and avid consumption among Taiwanese women are thus not so much a compensation for the lack of power as an affirmation of power. With ongoing socioeconomic changes plus increasingly powerful and gender-neutral presentations of cuteness, some unintended transformations regarding gender relations will most likely follow.
The rise of cute is everywhere. Anyone notice how cute characters appear on warning signs on construction sites, highways, trains, and other public infrastructure? And then there's the men becoming cute....
Daily Links:
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, August 26, 2009

DPP invites Dalai Lama to visit disaster areas

UPDATE: It's official, the DL will be permitted to come and has accepted "in principle", says AP.

DPP politicians in hard-hit southern Taiwan have invited the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan, as Bloomberg reports:
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, whose popularity has plummeted over his response to the deadliest storm in five decades, faces a new challenge after opposition politicians invited the Dalai Lama to visit typhoon- hit areas.

Local government politicians in the opposition-controlled areas worst affected by Typhoon Morakot said they plan to invite the Tibetan spiritual leader to bless the land and people, Sunny Jien, spokeswoman for the Kaohsiung city government, said today.
The DL is widely revered in Taiwan and his previous visits packed stadiums. The DPP has a cordial relationship with the Tibetan freedom movement as well (blogged here). President Ma, as the Bloomberg piece notes, previously indicated that the "time was not right" for a DL visit. From a previous post:
Wondrously, President Ma made this announcement even though the Dalai Lama hasn't actually asked to come here....
Since the question was hypothetical — the Dalai Lama hasn’t applied for permission to visit — Ma could have avoided controversy by simply pointing this out. Instead, he chose to say the Tibetan spiritual leader would not be welcome. His statement was clearly aimed at currying favor with China. Even if such a visit had been in the cards, Ma could have stressed that it was purely for religious reasons, and that he would not meet the monk. Instead, Ma caved in completely.
Fortunately, KMT legislative speaker and Ma rival Wang Jin-pyng, always happy to stand on Ma's shoulders when he is drowning, has suggested that local religious organizations invite the Dalai Lama to Taiwan in his capacity as a religious leader. The Chen Administration made great strides in cultivating ties with Tibet, (blogged here), and succeeding in bringing the Dalai Lama to Taiwan several years ago, to great public acclaim.
A tour of the south is likely to bring the DL into contact with Master Hsing Yun, the aging pro-annexationist, pro-KMT monk who runs Foguangshan, the massive temple complex between Kaohsiung and Pingtung (most recent post) near some of the affected areas. Indeed, with so many of Taiwan's Buddhist temples and organizations openly pro-KMT, the politics of this visit, should it come off, will be fun to watch.

From a media standpoint the piece is rather interesting. On one hand, it conventionally presents the "thaw" in relations between "Taiwan" and "China" (not the KMT and the CPP) as the result of Ma...
Under Ma, relations with China have thawed, with the two sides striking agreements on investment and travel. China views the Dalai Lama, a figurehead of movements to free Tibet, as a divisive force.
...with Beijing as the passive recipient of Ma's actions, rather than the "thaw" actually resulting from Beijing's approval of a President who wants to annex Taiwan to China. On the other hand, it actually says that the DL heads up the movement to "free Tibet". It is also an unusually long piece.

Interesting news, and a challenge flung in the face of President Ma Ying-jeou, and more importantly, Beijing. What will China and its allies in Taipei do?

And how will the international media handle this conjuction of the freedom movement in Tibet, which it is sympathetic to, and Taiwan's pro-independence forces, who are (it goes without saying) "radicals" who "provoke" Beijing.

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!

Ma Administration Typhoon Shock Doctrine

In The Shock Doctrine Naomi Klein writes extensively on how governments use economic, natural, and social shocks to carry out social engineering that benefits elites while leaving ordinary individuals amid wrecked societies with decaying infrastructure, a smaller share of wealth, and diminished future prospects.*

I've made this point before, but it is worth making again: the Ma government's response to the typhoon disaster in the south is identical to its response to the economic crisis last year. The only difference is in the speed of events. As I noted then, the crisis had been used by the Ma Administration in a classic shock doctrine way, as leverage to get the shellshocked public to accept an accelerated approach to the ECFA sell-out agreement with China. Now, argues Taiwan News in today's editorial, the current typhoon disaster is being used to force through new legislation that would enable widespread social engineering in disaster-hit areas. After comparing the new legislation to the 921 Earthquake recovery laws, the editorial observes:
Article 12 would give central government and local governments the power to compulsorily order the removal of villages, naturally almost exclusively of indigenous peoples, from designated areas with no provisions for consultation with village assemblies or communities.

Article 13 would permit the resettlement of disaster victims without regard to laws or regulations concerned with urban or rural planning, national park management, environmental impact assessment, water or soil conservancy or "other related laws," including the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law.

While Liu has stated that the principles of national land recovery will guide the effort, the fact that the KMT-controlled legislature boycotted the draft national land planning law and the draft national land recovery statute proposed by the former DPP government for over four years gives scant cause for optimism that the Liu Cabinet will promote this principle. In addition, the absence of city and county mayors and disaster victim or indigenous peoples representatives on the proposed national reconstruction commission has given rise to suspicions that the KMT government will bypass DPP city and county mayors and directly disburse funds and projects without hindrance from any civic monitoring, to township governments, most of which are run by KMT commissioners, in the run-up to year-end county elections.

Liu's declaration Sunday that donating conglomerates and businesses should participate directly in the process of deciding the utilization of reconstruction funds has sparked fears of a replication in southern Taiwan of the disastrous "reconstruction" of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina which witnessed the massive privatization of public services through top-down "shock capitalism" instead of bottom-up community based rebuilding....
The law allows for compulsory resettlement of indigenous people, and permits resettlement without regard for any other considerations -- environmental, water management, or the aboriginal basic law. Conglomerates and corporations are to determine how reconstruction funds are to be used, while the proposed Morakot Reconstruction Committee excludes (DPP) city mayors and county chiefs. Stripped of the fine verbiage, the legislation basically gives the funds directly to the construction-industrial state, with the added proviso that it can now move whole villages around without concern for what anyone says, and without concern for environment regulations or local culture. Disaster capitalism at its finest. The Committee...
.....which will be chaired by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), will have 30 officials from different government agencies, plus the heads of Delta Electronics, Uni-President Enterprises Corp, Taiwan High Speed Rail, China Steel and one university president and four professors.
In other words, the national-level Typhoon Reconstruction Committee will be composed of the central government and powerful corporations.

The Taipei Times report notes that the legislation was not reviewed by the Executive Yuan and was being accelerated through the process for a vote tomorrow. The paper also has an extensive collection of comments from aboriginal groups in this piece, in which one aboriginal representative points out that the survey work has long been done and safe areas for resettlement in the mountains have already been identified.

The green light to forced resettlement without aboriginal participation has obvious implications for expansion of the construction-industrial state. In many areas local indigenous peoples are strongly against local public works projects even though they trickle down some funds to the community. As I wrote last week, there is much opposition to the massive Tsengwen Reservoir Diversion in the area, and the project is blamed for flooding that began even before this one -- after typhoon Kalmaegi last year many of the houses in Siaolin were mildly inundated with mud and water. Forced resettlement of indigenes will also removed one claimant to area resources such as land and timber. There will be fewer objections to illegal use of forest resources by Han farmers. Of course, removal of aboriginals will simply create an even larger pool of landless laborers living in marginal areas to help hold down local labor costs.

The Taipei Times drives home this point in an editorial today:
Mountain-dwelling Aboriginal people are likely to be the biggest losers. For more than 100 years, Japanese and Chinese governments have moved these villages closer to plains areas so that they could be better governed and controlled; in many cases these people were moved into the plains while still being administratively defined as “mountain Aborigines.” All throughout, Han officials took over management of most of the land for forestry, agricultural and tourism purposes, among others, frequently to the environment’s detriment.

Supporting this line of thinking are racists and speculators who want Aboriginal reservation laws repealed so that the land can be bought up, developed and sold; and Buddhist charity officials, whose otherwise faultless conduct has been stained by asking the largely Christian Aboriginal community to “return the mountains and forests to Mother Nature.”

Sadly, the present crop of Aboriginal legislators cannot be trusted to defend the interests of affected Aboriginal communities on matters of this gravity — and certainly not Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅), who is essentially an ambassador for Beijing — and even in the unlikely event that they mobilize to defend their constitutents, in all probability they will be ignored by party bosses.
May Chin took a $3 million check from Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office for disaster relief.

The new National Reconstruction Commission, with its power to dispense funds to bypass county and city mayors in the affected areas and perhaps give them directly to township chiefs, highlights a couple of issues. For one thing, the possibility of direct money handouts to local township chiefs are reminiscent of the direct money handouts through consumer vouchers -- an apparent vote buying program -- and for another, it also highlights how the "Green" south isn't really "Green" but is actually a melange of Blue and Green at different levels of government. Whether or not the DPP government levels are bypassed, note that the money will be arriving in hard-hit communities just before the December election, among ethnic groups (aborigines in the mountains, the Hakkas of Chiadong and Linbian) with long-time support for the KMT.

UPDATE: SY has some great comments below -- and latest news is that the destruction reconstruction bill passed today.

*Mike Davis' awesome Late Victorian Holocausts is another must read in this area.
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 defense effort not first since 1979

Wendell Minnick in Defense News:
Despite local media reports that this is the first time U.S. military forces have entered Taiwan since 1979, the U.S. government official noted that every year sees at least one visit by a military aircraft, usually to ferry in congressional visitors.

"Also, we have in the past quietly sent in U.S. military aircraft to support disaster relief operations in Taiwan," he said, including Typhoon Aere in 2004 and the 9-21 earthquake in 1999.
It's a shame that they were sent in 'quietly' in those earlier disasters, but it was good that they were.
Daily Links:
  • RTI's fabulous blog Hear in Taiwan has a great translation of a blogger who witnessed a ceremony in Siaolin village. Thanks, Angelica.
  • Looking for a place to rent in Taiwan? Look here.
  • Claudia Jean with excellent post on how the KMT screwed up the DPP water management bill
  • 6-3-3! 6-3-3! Real earnings hit 1996 levels, according to the DGBAS.
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!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Daily links, August 24, 2009

Lots of stuff packed and ready to go on the blogs this week....
MEDIA: UN team to arrive to assess situation following typhoon. They claim Beijing was not consulted. Kyodo news observes that Taiwan's Japan envoy was also on vacation in Europe when the typhoon hit. Apparently everyone the KMT appointed was on vacation when Morakot broke down our gates. Taiwan News calls on DPP to show what it is made of. Jon Adams at Gobal Post reports on the possibility that the Tsengwen Reservoir Diversion project had a hand in the burying of Siaolin village. Another globalist argument that Taiwan's banks should be privatized, in Forbes. Apparently no one has noticed that during the heyday of 8% growth, all of the local banks were state-owned. Could there be a lesson in there? Naw. DPA reports on Apple Daily reports on Thai surrogate mothers being barred from entering Taiwan since surrogacy is illegal in Taiwan. Can someone explain to me why a Council of Agriculture official is quoted for that fact? Also, Apple claims 1 in 7 Taiwanese couples are infertile. Another take on the surrogacy issue. 32 years fixing sewer pipes in Taiwan. Taiwan News on the PRC's $3 million check for aid to "aboriginal legislator" May Chin. The Taipei Times notes the foreign media focus on Ma was most unwelcome. Lenovo to spend $3.3 billion in Taiwan as our jobless rate reaches record high (Ma save us!) and our income inequality also reaches record high (Ma save us!). US agonizes over Taiwan arms sales. As nations draw closer to China, they should resist Chinese bullying, says CFR piece. Be still my beating heart: Asia Times business writer actually notes CIER simulations of ECFA that say bad things about it.

MULTIMEDIA LINKS: Pro-Taiwan economist Peter Chow on VOA (audio link at VOA good for one week, youtube six parts good for two months: one, two, three, four, five, six). Also on Youtube is this wonderful mocking of the slick election ad Ma Ying-jeou: The Strength to Change: Ma Ying-jeou: The Strength to Disappoint. Classic.

EVENTS: Formosa Betrayed screening. The movie's promoters sent this around:

As I know, many of you are eagerly awaiting information about where you can see FORMOSA BETRAYED!

Our next screening will be:
Montreal World Film Festival
Montreal, QC, Canada
Thursday, September 3rd -- 7:20PM
Friday, September 4th -- 12:20PM
Saturday, September 5th -- 2:40PM
All the screenings will be held at the Quartier Latin Cinema Complex, Venue 13.

Go to their website to purchase tickets and all that jazz, and if you're north of the border or have friends in the Quebecois hood, we hope to see them there!

And it gets better! Writer/Actor/Producer Will Tiao will hold a Q&A session after each screening, and one of our stars Wendy Crewson, who plays Susan Kane, an American diplomat stationed in Taiwan, will join Thursday night. Director/Producer Adam Kane will have the Q&A with Will as well after the Saturday screening.

And of course, lots of news to come at our main website, Check the SCREENINGS tab there for more information as soon as it comes out.

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!

Northern Cross Redux

Fishing boats in the early morning in I-lan waters.

This weekend I went back for another trip across the Northern Cross Island Highway (Riding the Northern Cross in June, Google maps with the route map from the Yongning Metro here).

Beginning the ride outside of Sanxia in Taipei County.

The climb begins. The first day is actually the hardest, opening with a long climb followed by a 9% grade out of Fuxing. After that climbing is steady but the grade is not difficult.

Clear skies, flowing water, green mountains. It doesn't get any better than this.

We cross the river on the lower suspension bridge.

Got some nice pics of the lovely red bridge.

After lunch, we puffed up the road next to chasms on one side and rock faces on the other.

Jeff (left) and Michael take a break from climbing.

Logged out area.

My son Zeb snaps a pic as Chris looks on.

Endless vistas....eying such sights, Chris opined that he'd never think of "Taoyuan County" in the same way.

This amazing rock face, layer upon layer of rock rising hundreds of meters above the river, brought everyone to the side of the road to take a picture.

Chris and Michael admire the view.

Small communities everywhere, yet we wondered how they could survive floods and slides.

A dam destroyed by flooding a while ago.

Chris poses jauntily on the suspension bridge going into Baling, where we stopped for the night at the CYC Hostel.

The suspension bridge offered lovely views of the lilac car bridge right next to it.

The rivers race, but the race for gravel always wins.

Entering Baling at 600 meters of altitude.

In the morning we arose to find this moth waiting for us.

My son takes his bike out of the hostel, which not only offers cheap sleeps, but also washers/dryers, and lets you store the bikes inside.

The second day requires an opening climb of 680 meters in ten kilometers, but offers amazing views of cliffs, chasms, and rivers.

Lots of roadkill, including bats and this strange mole/rat. We also found a viper run over by a car. It was moving, but only because ants were dragging it.

Lala Shan, the famous resort, is above the bridge where we stopped for breakfast.

The view from breakfast.

In the bright sunlight and clean air, all sorts of sounds wafted over to us, from hymns at the local Church, to the sound of someone's water boiling.

Here's where we had to cross the landslide last time.

An awesomely gorgeous day.

The little orange dot across the chasm on the road there is my son.

Plenty of bugs, as always.

....and a spider or two.

Descending into I-lan, lovely views of the plains below.

The Lanyang River and beyond it, I-lan town.

Monday morning we raced back up the coast to Keelung.

At 8 we arrived at the old tunnel cutting off the peninsula south of Fulong. A favorite of rental bikers, it is crowded on weekends. We waited for the tunnel to open at 8:30 (actually 8:45). The old Japanese train tunnel, 2 kms long, is an enjoyable break from the sun on the way up to coast.

As always, fisherman are out early.

We then took the bike path out of Fulong, crossing yet another suspension bridge, this one under repair.

The bike path.

Fog still lingered as we drove north.

And the stunningly clear day made it another unforgettable ride. Definitely coming back on this route next month -- and hope to see you there!
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!