Saturday, October 31, 2009

Events and Announcements

First, the meet up in Taipei, Nov 7, with a very special speaker. Then AmCham Taichung is having a walkathon on Nov 15.


The speaker for Breakfast Club on November 7th will be Joseph Wu, former Taiwan Representative in Wash. DC and now Research Fellow at the Institute of International Relations, National Chengchi Univ.

His topic will be the DPP Perspective on Taiwan-China Relations. Q&A will follow. The venue is the same as it has been for the past months. Time is 10 am.

The meeting location is the restaurant 婷婷翠玉 at 174 AnHe Road, Section Two. (rough translation of name is Tender, Pretty Green Jade.) You will be able to tell the restaurant by the lace curtains on the window--it was used in a TV commercial a while back. (We will have the downstairs room--breakfast cost will range between NT$100 and NT$150. Phone if lost 2736-8510.

Restaurant is between Far Eastern Plaza Mall/Hotel and HePing East Road--about a half a block north of the corner of HePing East Road Sec. 3 and AnHe Road. or a half a block south of Far Eastern Plaza on the AnHe Road side.

Take the MRT Mucha Line to the Liuchangli Station exit there, and walk west on HePing East Road 3/4 of a block till you reach where AnHe Road dead-ends into it.Then go north on AnHe Road; it is a half a block up on the west side of that street.

Or take any bus down HePing East Road and get off at the first stop that is east of Tun Hua South Road. That will put you at the corner of HePing and AnHe.
You can also take a bus down Tun Hua South Road to the stop right across from Far Eastern Plaza and walk over to AnHe Road.
Or if you take the 235 bus east, it turns off of HePing onto AnHe Road and the first stop is right across from the restaurant.

To keep me abreast of headcount; please email me if you plan to attend.



Taichung Amcham KIDZ Charity Walkathaon 2009
Sunday November 15th 2009
Taichung Metropolitan Park

Each orphaned child requires NT$50,000 per semester to cover high school tuition fees, books and meals. With 19 children to support the need for funding is crucial.

It takes a village to raise a child and so this event aims to bring the people of Taichung together as a community to participate in a healthy and fun way to raise money for orphaned children. Supported by Mayor Hu and organized by us, the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), we are looking for upwards of 1,000 walkers to join us in a walk through Taichung’s popular Metropolitan Park on November 15th 2009.

Each person who wishes to come and walk with us should try to raise as much money as they canfrom their friends, families and coworkers in support of them taking part in this event. The money raised will be used to fund the high school education of disadvantaged orphaned children at the Hsiang Shang Children’s Foundation which is based in Taichung.

We share the belief that education is very important to the future of any child. It is important to us to acknowledge that there are many children in our own community here in Taichung who are are at a serious disadvantage once they reach high school age. Therefore, we at AmCham aim to provide a brighter future for these and other children through our KIDZ Charity Program. It is also important to note that the costs to run this event are minimal and therefore, more than 96% of the money raised at this event will go directly to helping the foundation.

We hope you can come and be a part of this new and fresh idea to bring our community together and raise the funding needed to support these disadvantaged children and give them the future that they need and deserve.

If you wish to take part in this walkathon please email us
For more information
Keep update with other AmCham event at

Daily Links
  • Pashan's threefive-day hike in the central mountains is so great, I'm linking again. The 3000 meter peaks of central Taiwan with stunning pics (including one cute weasel): one, two, three. Read every one, the hike is amazing.
  • Seoul Times commentary: total propaganda. Do not read while sober.
  • Buddhist group gets people to donate cadavers for medical training.
  • European Chamber here says Taiwan should sign ECFA since after that everyone will want agreements with it.
  • Asian Correspondent, with commentary, news, and posts from all over, has been launched.
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!

Biking the Gaomei Wetlands

Took my friend Karl, who first came to Taiwan sometime in the Qing Dynasty and who actually invented 555 cigarettes and Taiwan beer, out to the Gaomei Wetlands today, his first serious bike ride in about twenty years. It's always great to show a close friend new places in Taiwan by bike, and Karl responded enthusiastically with cogent commentary on law, medicine, and saltwater structural engineering. Here he is attempting to exorcise the demon Hu Jintao from its palace in Beijing.

The Gaomei Wetlands are located off of Gaomei Rd in Chingshui, a pleasant bike ride through rice farms and small factories, betel nut stands, breakfast shops, and the dian mian housing that comprises so much of Taiwan's residential stock.

I waited for Karl out by the airport, and snapped this pic of wood drying in front of a shop.

South of the wetlands are wind machines, dead today on a slow wind day.

Large flocks of herons and egrets and other waterbirds may be seen.

The seawall here cuts through the wetlands....

...but wherever there is a small stream and plenty of mud, animal life may be found.

Here a crab attempts to disappear into the oily muck that passes for water in the local streams. The mud flats are lined with tiny holes, testimony to the thousands of crabs that live in the area.

From the top of the bridge there are good views of the area, unfortunately overwhelmed with haze today.

Egrets look for breakfast.

Tadpole? Catfish? Lungfish? Mud puppy?

A crab makes its way across the inevitable litter at the mouth of the stream, in this case a burlap sack.

As we rode along next to the seawall, two men on bikes were parked in front of a brown fence. Excitedly they waved us over so we could experience the high point: a site of important biological interest. Apparently this is one of the few locations where this plant, "discovered" by the Japanese in 1917, occurs.

Here is an image of the plant. Impressive, eh? In the grip of fierce emotions, Karl and I were forced to leave after thirty seconds.

I took Karl back through one of my favorite rides, the rice fields north of the river to Jiushe and thence to Houli.
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!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Random Encounters with Baseball and other things

A cabbage farm above Lishan in the central mountains, an area famous for its cabbages.

Last week I stopped by our favorite local tea shop to pick up our customary supply of cheap drinks. The counter girl there and I have formed a little conspiracy to swap jokes -- like this one she fed me:
A pregnant woman gets on an incredibly crowded bus. She looks around but she can find no seat, and no one will give one up for her. Finally she glares at a young man sitting there. "Why don't you give up your seat?" she asks. "It's not my baby," he replies.
I think there must be a pun there I missed because it just isn't funny to me....

...but anyway since she is comfortable with me, she asked me, sort of furtively, glancing around as if in fear of being overheard: "Are the Christians (I suspect she actually meant Mormons specifically) here just to get our money?" Being a militant atheist, I answered in the affirmative, hoping for a chance to elaborate on that simplistic response, but she nodded, firmly, as if I'd given the right answer. "That's what the other foreigner said too," she said after a moment. As I was making a mental note to buy this fellow a beer, she asked me what religion I was, and I told her I was an atheist. She thought about that for a minute, and then asked, her faced screwed up in confusion: "So how do you pray?"

My friend Drew poses for my favorite pic of him, far above Taroko Gorge. Despite a robust and raucous sense of humor, Drew always looks like he is about to ram his head through a brick wall in my pictures, but the truth is that brick walls part in fear before his energy and intelligence.

Talking about hobbies and status the other day in class with some older students. One observed that Taiwan kids can't participate in risky hobbies because their parents make them focus on studying. Several others offered some variant of the experience of having a grade school teacher explain to them that the adventurous hobbies of Americans are useless and should not be emulated since they bring no face to the family.

A concrete mixer on Hwy 8 testifies to the constant need for concrete to keep the road open.

Jonathon Adams recent article in the NY Times outlines the latest of the interminable scandals to hit Taiwan baseball, which saw eight players indicted for gambling. I dropped by the local high school tournament today because my son and I both enjoy watching local baseball. There I heard the sad tale of the local league's woes: with eight players from one team out, that team is essentially decimated, reducing the tiny four-team league to an unsustainable three, though officials are adamant the league won't fold. Time for a pan-Asian baseball league! The gambling ring was also described to me by a local fan -- the whole thing was run as a BBS/forum that required a personal visit to one of the ring's operators to obtain the password, after which one could join the forum, obtain odds, make bets, and so on.

Meanwhile in class today, there were only two stories: US beef and the baseball. The students were deeply upset about the baseball fiasco, since many players are local heroes. The constant association of Taiwan baseball with gambling appears to be something that each generation must discover anew....

Fruit processing machinery rests by the road above Lishan town.

The US beef issue appears to have hurt the Ma government pretty hard (AP report, Taipei Times editorial). AIT Director William Stanton's ill-advised remarks comparing eating beef to scooter deaths in Taiwan provoked much media discussion (for example) about the local traffic death rates, with the Ministry of Transportation out there attempting to rebut local newspaper claims. My students and I discussed the issue in and out of class, and while there was resentment at the US, the main focus of anger seemed to be what was perceived as the Taiwan government not looking out for the safety of its people. The DPP carried out a filibuster today in the legislature as a protest against the opening to US beef, saying its polls showed 80% of the public was against it. That's consistent with my experience.

Lots of Americans have discussed this issue with me, shelling me with stats or claiming that the beef oversight system is safe. Suspending all discussion of numbers for the moment, let's imagine you're a foreigner listening to these claims that the US has the best oversight system in the world or the beef supply is safe, etc. Against what background? Oh yeah -- the US claim that the financial system in the US was safe and well regulated. Given that background, why on earth should anyone believe anything that comes out of the Feds intended for overseas consumption? Maybe the US needs to get to work on that image problem...
Daily Links:
  • Colleges mull group to lobby for permission to bring students over from the PRC
  • Canadian English teacher arrested with 136 kilograms of cocaine. Google coke's street value; that dude's got over a million bucks worth if that report is correct.
  • The Mainland Affairs Council -- you know, the agency that's supposed to know what's what with China -- doesn't know why financial MOUs were delayed, and was surprised to learn that the FSC said they should have been signed in July. Left hand, meet right hand.
  • Jerome Cohen says Taiwan's constitutional court could be a model for Beijing.
  • Michael K and I go riding and encounter hordes of females. Taking pictures with the over-50 crowd was a blast, they all insisted on getting in the trike.
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, October 28, 2009

The Australian with Three on Taiwan

The Aussie paper The Australian had three articles in the last couple of days on the island, including two pieces containing an interview with President Ma, and a piece on the upcoming ECFA agreement with China.

The piece on the trade agreement appears to have been compiled largely from Chinese sources. Consider this comment:
"It should be (signed) in the first half of 2010 since later will be the elections for special municipalities heads, and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party will try to draw attention by setting obstacles and repeating its stance that the ECFA hurts Taiwan's 'sovereignty'," Wu Nengyuan, director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Fujian Academy of Social Sciences, told the China Daily.
A quote of a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece about a DPP position. Now there's an objective and insightful source. Why not just ask the DPP what it thinks about the pact? I don't see much point in going over the piece; it contains no real discussion of the pact, nothing negative is said about it. More interesting is the last paragraph:
China's official line remains that Taiwan is a renegade province. But since Mr Ma's election last May, the tensions that had raised fears of armed conflict only a few years ago have dissipated. For the first time since Chinese Nationalists took control of the island after losing the civil war with the Communists, direct mail, sea and air links have been opened. Still, many Taiwanese worry that trade and financial deals are just the first step in a process of political integration.
That last sentence is the only negative information given about ECFA in the piece. Note that it is presented in the traditional "balanced" format -- saying many Taiwanese worry and thus reporting the sovereignty problem as if it were a matter of perception.

But the sovereignty issue is not a "perception" of "many Taiwanese" but rather, something that Beijing has said in many different ways -- ECFA is the first step in annexation. That's a fact -- to report it as mere perception is to err.

For an antidote to this piece, see Taiwan News with another epic editorial: Taiwan Citizens are not ECFA Pavlovian Dogs which opens... Faced with declining public support for its blind rush to negotiate and sign an "economic cooperation framework agreement" with the People's Republic of China...

The two Rowan Callick interview articles on Ma are more or less puff pieces. Callick has done good work in the past so I am going to assume that the interview was controlled by Ma as a prerequisite for permitting the reporter to speak to him. Recall that earlier this year the Ma Administration demanded that foreign reporters submit their questions in writing for the post-Morakot press conference, before backing out of that position as a "misunderstanding." The first Callick piece has Ma asking why Australia-Taiwan relations haven't improved. The second is an extensive interview with a number of howlers.
AFTER only 18 months as President of Taiwan, Harvard-educated lawyer Ma Ying-jeou has become a hero figure across Asia, in the wider Chinese world and in Washington and Tokyo, for defusing tensions that for decades threatened war with China across the Taiwan strait.
Damn! Haven't seen that "Harvard-educated lawyer" crap in months. Ma has never passed the bar and was never a lawyer -- when he was selected for the Ministry of Justice position his lack of lawyering was held against him. Can we stop repeating this complete error with its obvious he's-one-of-us class implications? Please?

The "hero figure" is a wild exaggeration -- especially in the same week when the Administration has come under fire for declining press freedom here in Taiwan. There's no need to write such fawning crap. Surely there is a more restrained way of referring to Ma's popularity in the Chinese world.

Savor these two sentences:
For instance, Taiwan is an almost obsessively hygienic society. And almost uniquely in Asia, motorcyclists in Taiwan all wear crash helmets.
I think I am going to laugh for a month at those two lines. Mr. Callick, you need to get out of Taipei. Really.

Callick laudably presents two contrasting views of Ma in quotes from locals. After that the interview then turns into pure unadulterated propaganda shit.

He works in the same airy, cloistered building that he did 25 years ago, as secretary to reformist president Chiang Ching-guo, who succeeded his father Chiang Kai-shek, who had fled to Taiwan following the 1949 defeat of the nationalists by Mao Zedong's communists.

"I was able to participate in the lifting of martial law and parliamentary reforms. It was a rewarding experience, but I didn't expect to come back here as president," Ma says.

First the minor error -- "25 years ago" was 1984 and Ma was not CCK's secretary but had gone on to become Deputy Secretary-General of the KMT after a stint as RDEC head. As I recall he left the secretary position to the dictator in 1981, but don't quote me on that.

The real problem here is that second paragraph. As everyone who knows anything about Taiwan politics knows, Ma "participated" in democratic reform by opposing it -- opposing the lifting of martial law, opposing the repeal of the notorious Article 100 used against dissidents, and in general, in both public and private interactions, claiming that the Taiwanese were not ready for democracy (a trivial example). Basically Ma just stands reality on its head, and Callick doesn't call him on it. I'm hoping this is because Callick had no choice.

UPDATE: Corrected paper from The Age to the Australian.

UPDATE II: Gerrit van der Wees wrote on Ma's commitment to the security state in the 1980s just before the 2008 election.
Let us examine what his position was during the crucial moments in Taiwan's transition to democracy: In 1985-1986, when Taiwan was still under martial law, he was an ardent defender of martial law, arguing that it enhanced "stability" on the island. He also defended the long prison sentences given to proponents of democracy and human rights.

In lengthy letters to foreign governments and political parties which expressed concern about the lack of democracy in Taiwan, Ma waxed eloquently in defense of the indefensible.

Finally, after many hearings and resolutions in the US Congress by senators such as Ted Kennedy and Claiborne Pell and representatives Jim Leach and Steven Solarz, and after increasing pressure from the bottom up in Taiwan, Chiang Ching-kuo relented and lifted martial law in 1987. Ma had been on the wrong side of history.

Almost the same thing happened in 1991 and 1992, when the democratic movement started to push for abolishment of the "eternal" legislators who had been elected in China in 1947, and who were in their 80s and 90s still representing "China" in the legislature and National Assembly. Again, Ma came out against such changes and wanted to maintain a semblance of "China" representation in the legislature.

Fortunately, Lee Teng-hui had vision and pushed through the legislative reforms. Again, Ma was on the wrong side of history.

Fascinatingly, three years later, the same pattern occurred: Lee started to push for direct presidential elections -- to replace the anachronistic system in which the KMT-controlled National Assembly had rubberstamped the KMT choice for president.

Ma was one of the KMT opponents of this move toward full-fledged democracy. Again, his instincts had been to preserve an outdated status quo, and oppose democratic change.
Daily Links
  • Pashan with awesome hike report of hiking among the 3000 meter peaks of central Taiwan with stunning pics (including one cute weasel): one, two, three. Read every one, the hike is amazing.
  • No really: another KMT legislator's election annulled for bribery, in Taoyuan.
  • Michael Cannon's blog post on the bike ride up Taroko Gorge and over Hehuan Shan (I went down to Lishan, Hehuan Shan was beyond my abilities). Many lovely pictures.
  • AsiaPacific Films website has 00s of films from around the region.
  • Nathan Novak's wonderful commentary in the Taipei Times on the CCP's rejection of a DPP comeback.
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!

An American Beef

Everybody's got a beef with the US at the moment over the local government's decision to allow US beef into Taiwan.

Students in all my classes today complained to me about it, feeling put upon by the mighty US. The perception that the US had forced Taiwan to open its market to a dangerous product, that the US was acting in a high-handed manner that was ignorant of local fears, was only heightened by AIT Director William Stanton's remarks, widely disseminated in the local media (David on Formosa with a great report), that it was more dangerous to ride a scooter in Taiwan than to eat US beef. Nothing like insulting your hosts after forcing them to open their markets to you to really win those hearts and minds.

Taiwanese reaction was swift. Officials in major cities, including Taipei mayor Hau, asked local businesses to form an alliance to reject US beef -- Hau called on all 15,000 of the city's major food establishments to get involved. Several local trade groups and beef importers promised not to import "risky" beef products, including ground beef. Apple Daily had an almost full page spread on the issue. The DPP's pulchritudinous politico Bi-khim Hsiao observed that the government had gotten nothing out of the permission for US beef to enter, although as several papers reported the other day, opening the market to US beef was a prerequisite for talks on a trade agreement with the US. Feelings are clearly running high, with a China Times poll saying 71% opposed the decision (here).

The symbolism of beef on all sides is fascinating. In South Korea the decision to open the market to US beef was widely seen as a total capitulation (Wiki page, fascinating stuff), and the decision was caught up in other central government follies, reverberating into a major political issue. Here too that dynamic was going full blast, with the government accused of incompetence, and beef becoming a pawn in the KMT's internal faction fights as Taipei Mayor Hau appeared to set himself in opposition to the President, and conspiracies involving NSC head Su Chi, often portrayed as Rasputin to Ma's Czar Nicholas, and commonly said to be the source of many controversial decisions. Su Chi himself said that the Presidential Office had guided the decision, and that it was to balance the "disequilibrium" in US-China-Taiwan relations. The outlandish claims that the Wiki page on South Korea reports were replicated today in my class, as students claimed US beef would certainly kill them.

The US Meat Federation says Taiwan is the nation's sixth largest market for US beef, whose total exports were a whopping $3 billion annually. For the sake of the profits of a few large meat producers the US decided to expend its political capital on this trivial product. Is there no issue in which we can behave with grace as a secure and powerful nation?

Fear of globalization? Reaction to feelings of powerlessness? Symbol of how Taiwan is caught between great powers on every side? You make the call.
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!

GIO Fact Check Fail

The GIO page on Retrocession Day is a howler, full of historical errors, omissions, and misinterpretations. Above is a screen capture I made today. Go to the page to enjoy it in all of its unbridled bombastic bloviating, and see how many errors you can find.
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, October 26, 2009

Daily Links, Oct 26

Panorama of Lishan
A panorama of the view from Highway 8 looking northeast toward Lishan in central Taiwan (original 7100 x 2200).

Went biking in the mountains this weekend, going up from Taroko Gorge. While I took two days off, the world went on at its usual furious pace. But I got some lovely pictures....I'll stick a few in here -- more later. [UPDATED: corrected broken Global Views survey link and broken Sponge Bear link]

Biking through Taroko Gorge, the best way to see it.

What's out there on the blogs?
A temple complex in Taroko Gorge national park.

More blog stuff.....
Above Tianxiang a massive landslide has blocked the road. Entrance is controlled to four times a day. Here we waited a couple of hours to go up. The slide was still live as we rode past, and it hissed like a million spiders scuttling across the floor as the rocks settled into new positions.

MEDIA: Global Views survey last week shows widespread mistrust of Ma Ying-jeou, rising support for outright independence and near-majority support for long-term independence (corrected link). WSJ on China-India problems in the Himal, one of the world's great unknown flashpoints. It will be interesting to see how India will tolerate China's damming of the rivers of the Himalayan plateau. Brookings Fellow Liu Shih-chung points to the possibility of Ma-Hu meeting in 2011. Chinese general visits Washington, from the China Daily. Taiwan's defense ministry says China military can deter other militaries from helping Taiwan in the event of war. China expands cyberspying in US, says Congressional report.

Staggering mountain vistas along the road. Here is the turn at Shibao, 915 meters up.

MEDIA: Export orders hit 11 month high in September. Openings for jobs are also up. Recovery may arrive in time for December elections. Mark Beeson at Japan Focus on the decline in US influence in East Asia? Richard Fontaine in WSJ argues that the US should monitor things more closely and boost ties out here to ensure China doesn't make cross strait agreements a zero-sum game. ECFA is not a free trade agreement, folks -- using that term in association with ECFA, I've come to understand, is merely an attempt to harness laudable support for freer trade in the service of a bilateral agreement on finance and certain sectors of the economy, which at least one of the governments is treating as a domestic agreement. If that's free trade, bald is a hair color. Also, if the WSJ wants the US to pay more attention to Asia, it should stop agitating in support of every war that comes down the pike. Believe it or not, resources are finite.

Looking down on some of the steepest mountains in the world.

MEDIA: Disturbingly, the anti-gay group Exodus was one of the Christian groups involved in the march of the anti-gay bigots the other day. I think it is sad that the West has exported its worst out here. BBC actually put the word threat in quotes in Taiwan warns of China 'threat'. Heavyweight businessmen from China to arrive to discuss 'bridge building' between Taiwan and China. Lawmakers blast opening market to US beef, because of safety. Yes, because everything else in Taiwan is so safe, there remained only this problem of mad cow to solve. At least it will end the US obsession with selling beef here, and enable the Taiwan-US trade talks to continue. Allegations of vote buying in the election for the KMT's Central Standing Committee. Imagine that! China trumps Taiwan's democracy. Recalling Taiwan's days of dance.

Yes, even after climbing 1900 meters, some of us could still smile.

AFP WATCH: AFP, an inexhaustible resource of media follies, had a great one in a report on press freedom here in Taiwan. Check out these three paragraphs and note the second two:
Some observers and journalists say the RSF index is a warning of how far Taiwan is prepared to go to appease its giant neighbor.

“More media outlets are self-censoring on sensitive issues such as the Dalai Lama or Rebiya Kadeer by downplaying their coverage or focusing on negative angles,” said Leon Chuang (莊豐嘉), head of the Association of Taiwan Journalists.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to separate Tibet from China and blames Kadeer for bloody ethnic unrest in her home region Xinjiang in July.
Yes, immediately after noting that the head of the Association of Taiwan Journalists says that media types focus on negative angles here, AFP then in the very next paragraph regurgitates two negative pro-China claims about the Dalai Lama and Rebiya Kadeer, with no balancing positive information whatsoever. No irony there, eh?

On the second day the air was chill and clear.

SPECIAL: Just as the CCP and the KMT are making out like teenagers in the back of a '57 Chevy, comes a "reassessment" of Chiang Kai-shek in several different spheres. What a coincidence! Jay Taylor, who wrote what I thought was a highly sympathetic biography of Chiang Kai-shek's son, junior dictator Chiang Ching-kuo, has recently come out with a work on Chiang Kai-shek himself. Two reviews by noted thinkers out already: Jonathon Spence's review of the new biobook on the elder Chiang. Arthur Waldron has a review of the same text at the Jamestown China Brief. Gerrit van der Wees will also review the book at the Taiwan Communique later. Spence and Waldron come from different Cold War analytical backgrounds and thus come to differing conclusions about the book. I think Waldron is just plain wrong to lay the blame for the negative assessment of Chiang largely on Stilwell -- the incompetence, venality, and greed of the Chiang regime is a theme in much reporting on Taiwan from the post-1945 period. Can't wait to read this book, though.

Ever wonder how farmers get up and down those terraces?

ANNOUNCEMENTS: The movie Formosa Betrayed will be out in the US in Feb of 2010.

The resort and farming town of Lishan. That tiny blot of clouds in the distance is I-lan.
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!

Chen Shui-bian: if he didn't exist, he'd have to be invented...

The Economist ran a little article on Chen Shui-bian the other day that talked about his apparent support for the arguments of Lin/Hartzell that Taiwan is a US territory. An excerpt:
Mr Chen weighed in to back the association, claiming that, as president, he took orders from the Americans. After his sentencing in September he sued for his freedom in the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, proclaiming his innocence and arguing that America should intervene, as Taiwan was technically under its occupation.
A search over at the Economist will find a long list of articles mentioning Taiwan but few indeed about anything of import, the exceptions being the effects of Morakot on the government -- all the way back in August -- and another August article on a local chipmaker. Chen Shui-bian appears several times, though, in that stretch. Think about it: is Chen more important than the KMT's troubles with its local faction politicians? Than the untrammeled continuance of the construction-industrial state? Than the ongoing missile build-up? Readers could add many more to the list of urgent issues affecting Taiwan in profound, long-term ways that a weekly news magazine with a focus on business might be interested in reporting.

The Economist is a magazine whose readers expect some depth to its analysis, and which has the time and resources to turn out excellent reporting in a witty prose style that thinking people can sink their teeth into. Why put out this crap that appears to be little more than an expression of pro-China glee at Chen Shui-bian's fall, little more than a recapitulation of the KMT's obsession with Chen Shui-bian?

'Cuz it's easy.

Shame on you, Economist. If I read your magazine and wanted to know what the most important issue in Taiwan politics is these days, could I find ECFA? According to the search I conducted at 12:55 pm today: nope (image at top). But I could find a piece about ex-President Chen declaring his support for a meaningless fringe group already shot down in the US courts, said support being already retracted 8 days before the Economist piece was published. That announcement by Chen is waaaay more important than ECFA, a fundamental re-writing of the Taiwan-China relationship. UPDATED: Ran some more searches -- there is one article in August on the "free trade deals" between Taiwan and China.

JUST CUZ I CAN'T RESIST: Oh, and by the way: Chen embraced the Roger Lin case around Sept 23rd. Around Oct 14, Chen repudiated that link.
The office of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday expressed regret over the connection between Chen and a lawsuit filed by Taiwanese activist Roger Lin (林志昇), saying the former president would never meet Lin again or sign any paper he issues.

In a statement issued yesterday, Chen's office said the former president endorsed Lin's lawsuit because he thought it could help clear up Washington's position on Taiwan's status and its Taiwan policy.
Now read the Oct 22 report in the Economist:
Mr Chen said he did this to clarify that Taiwan was separate from China. But local analysts said he desperately hoped to get out of jail. The former president announced that circumstances had forced him to reveal “the existence of the United States Military Government for Taiwan”. But the American appeals court declined the case in early October. The Supreme Court has also refused to consider the association’s case.
Do you get any sense from the Economist presentation that Chen has repudiated the link to Lin and that a considerable time -- several weeks -- passed during the time Chen made the initial statements in favor of Lin and then made the "clarification"?

Stupid question.
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!

North American Taiwan Studies Association 2010 CFP

Posted to H-Asia. Some of you grad students here might consider entering a paper here. The abstract submission deadline is Dec 15.


October 25, 2009
North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA) Conference
From: Hsun-Hui Tseng

Call for papers 16th Annual North American Taiwan Studies Association
(NATSA) Conference, Berkeley, CA, June 18-20, 2010


Abstract Submission Deadline: December 15, 2009

Conference Venue: Dwinelle Hall, University of California at Berkeley, USA
Conference Date: June 18-20, 2010
Organization: North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA)

Submission webpage:

NATSA 2010 Call for Papers

Main Theme
China Effect: Securing Taiwan in the Age of Conflicts and Cooperation

Elected on the campaign slogan "we are ready" in 2008, Taiwanese people had high expectation for the new administration. To meet these expectations, the top priority on the President's agenda was to loosen restraints on cross-strait economic activities, negotiate with the Chinese government to open up the three direct links, and extend the promotion to economic agreements such as ECFA. President Ma believes a closer cross strait relationship could stimulate Taiwan's economy and elevate Taiwan's visibility in the international community. The China-friendly policy, however, triggers a vigorous, and sometimes heated, debate over Taiwan's national security.

A "China effect" is instilled into Taiwan's domestic issues in every aspect. It not only impacts the perception of national identities that is already dividing the Taiwanese society. An economic system that is overly dependent on the Chinese market, an unconsolidated democracy that does not provide efficient governance, a politicized civil society that cannot hold people in power accountable, and a governmental ideology that pursues economic development at the expense of the environment and human rights are all intertwined in the nexus of power dynamics between Taiwan and China.

While a closer relationship between Taiwan and China is anticipated, the strengthening relationship with China may threaten Taiwan's security arouses concerns. The main theme of this year reconsiders how Taiwan should re-define itself, politically, economically, and culturally against the background of a new international order that recognizes China's emergence as an influential global power. We welcome research topics reflecting the "China effect" on Taiwan's national security, contested national identities, cross-strait exchanges, and relations in economic, political and cultural fields, Taiwan's foreign policies, democratic consolidation, and the stake of civil society.

Minor Themes

A) Beyond the Political Economy of Natural Disaster and Calamity: Toward a Humanitarian Recovery and Sustainable Development

The year 2009 marks a striking year of Taiwan's responses to natural disasters (921 Earthquake 10th anniversary and Morakot typhoon) from which intensive threats reveal long-neglected issues on the unbalanced relationship between development and environment. We encourage paper submissions on Taiwan's sustainable development, the political economy of natural disasters and calamity, the historical context of forced resettlement, and policy making on emergency and reconstruction, and disaster management and humanitarian relief. Papers on psychological recovery, family reconstruction after calamity, healing in coping with the traumatic experiences of survivors and volunteers dealing with disastrous aftermath are also welcome in this session. Thoughts on rethinking disaster and sustainability via interdisciplinary works are especially welcome.

B) Reconsidering and Destabilizing the Category of "Minorities": Civil Society and its Discontents

In general conceptualization and policy making, the idea of "minority" is often connected with ethnic-linguistic groups that are limited in number or have a specific cultural tradition. Nevertheless, gender/sexual orientation as LGBT/ GLBT, the physically or mentally challenged, migrants/re-settlers, and expatriates could be considered as minorities as well. In this minor theme, we call for papers to reconsider the concept of「minorities」 in the Taiwanese context and to destabilize the category while bringing new perspectives on how different minority groups impact the make-up of the contemporary Taiwanese society. Issues on identity formation of the minorities, their interaction with other groups, social movements, and human rights are welcome. Discussions of minorities are not limited to groups physically located in Taiwan, but we encourage creative endeavors to broaden our understanding of "minorities" in the context of

C) Cultures of Ocean and Land: The Construction of Taiwanese Histories and Identities by Cultural and Creative Industries

Taiwan has always been the nexus of diverse cultures from continents and oceans which free arts and histories from any certain ideology or bounded expression. The recently proposed "Project of Cultural and Creative Industries" by the Council for Cultural Affairs marks the confluence of cultural landscapes and invented traditions. The opening of 2009 World Games or the creative souvenirs from the Palace Museum are just two examples of molded identities and historical memories. We invite discussions and reflections on the dialectical relationships between creative landscapes and cultural industry, which explore various facets on creating and manufacturing the "Taiwanese culture."

Panel Proposal and Poster Presentation
This year, NATSA invites panel proposals by discipline or field of interest. In order to foster discussion, each panel should consist of three to four writers. The panel proposal submission should include the panel abstract, together with all the paper abstracts to be presented in the conference. Each panel and paper abstract is subject to review. All disciplines are welcome, and proposals from less represented disciplines are particularly encouraged.

NATSA will continue to hold poster presentation for this year. Please indicate what kind of presentation you intend to participate when submitting your abstract through our online submission system. The system will be open from October 20th through December 15th, 2009 Midnight (Eastern time, USA). Conference contributors may be eligible for travel grants. For a full version of our Call for Paper and other detailed information please visit our website at

Travel Grant
Each year NATSA seeks funding to support scholars and professionals to present at our conferences from all over the United States and all over world--Taiwan, Japan, China, England, Italy. Although the exact grant NATSA is able to offer vary each year, in the past we have offered US$150~$300 to domestic participants and US$300~$600 to international participants. The travel grant is an effort to encourage all to submit abstracts!

Best Paper Award
To encourage graduate students making quality contribution to the field of Taiwan Studies, NATSA continues the Best Paper Award for the third year. The winner will receive a prize of $300USD.

Book Exhibition
This year's conference will continue past years' tradition of bringing in publishers active in Taiwan and North America to present their products at a discounted rate (15~20% off), such as the University of Washington Press, the University of Hawaii Press, the Cornell University Press, the Columbia University Press, and the Stanford University Press. The book exhibition presents many important as well as most updated works in various fields relevant to this year's conference themes. Don't forget to stop by the booths during coffee breaks!
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!

Environmental Venting

A longtime local environmentalist sent these articles and comments around (articles follow after comments). I throw in a few remarks afterward....


ETS Sousa [Dolphin] Extinction Guaranteed by Ma and Wu’s Cat in the Hat Economics?

Two stories from today’s local Hanji press1 indicate that Taiwan continues to practice “Cat in the Hat” economics. The first was “Premier Wu Dun-yi: Three Major Investment Projects Will Spur Employment” in which we were told about the Executive Yuan support for the Fourth Stage of the Central Science Park Erlin, the Guoguang Petrochemical project and the Fifth Stage of the Sixth Naphtha Plant of Formosa Plastics. The investments will be more than a million million NT$ and will bring twenty to thirty thousand jobs. The second was about how the first of those projects, the Central Science Park project a Erlin would overcome all obstacles to achieve its purpose, the main obstacle, according to the article, being the disposal of waste water. If they can’t give it to the Guo Guang Petrochemical Park to use, then they will pipe it three kilometers out into ETS Sousa habitat.

I thought Cat in the Hat Economics might be an original idea with me, maybe it is, but someone beat me to it with a blogger talking about the metaphor in the context of the banking bail out:
Most of us should remember the story of the Cat in the Hat. The kid (Wall Street and the banking industry) makes a mess and creates a stain and the Cat in the Hat (The US Government) tries one thing after another but can get rid of the problem. The cat simply transfers the stain from one article to another actually making it far worse in the process. Moral of the story: One can't run from or hide from problems to deal with them.
Actually, we are going further than this. The Chinese KMT Ma regime is actually continuing on its merry path, deceiving the Taiwanese into thinking nothing has really changed in the world, there is no climate destabilization, or if there is, it has nothing to do with us and government policies to encourage toxic high waste, high consumption industries are fine, because amidst the social, economic and natural environmental havoc it is laying on Taiwan, there is a magic bullet at the end – something that will “clean it all up” as that little last cat did just in time. The magic pill changes from day to day, sometimes it is China and ECFA, sometimes it is new investments. But the mess keeps growing and along with the human cost in terms of health, social justice and economic security, we are taking down many, many other species with us. So there really is little point in all of this talk about a green economy, because there is no way we are going to catch up with the destructive practices of government, industry, academia and our elected officials. Friday is the show-down on Erlin at the EPA’s EIA plenary meeting.

Wu Dun-yi: Three Major Investment Projects Will Spur Employment
Economic Daily News Reported by Wu Bi-eh, Ciu Sin-yi in Taipei and Tainan
25 October 2009

Executive Yuan Premier Wu Dun-yi yesterday (24 October 2009) pointed out that stimulating jobs and cutting the unemployment rate are the governments most important policies at this time so that the Executive Yuan will promote the Fourth Stage of the Central Science Park, the Guoguang Petrochemical project and the Fifth Stage of the Sixth Naphtha Plant of Formosa Plastics. The investments will be more than a million million NT$ and will bring twenty to thirty thousand employment opportunities.

At a jobs fair in Tainan yesterday, while attending the activities, Wu Dun-yi emphasized the governments resolve in promoting large scale investment projects; he pointed out the government’s absolute duty to provide an environment in which people can be assured of jobs and stimulate employment and this has also been the policy of objective since he took office.

The Directorate General of Budget Accounting and Statistics announce that the September unemployment rate, although down a bit, was still more than 6%; Wu Dun-yi pointed out that while stimulating short term employment opportunities would have some positive impact on the unemployment rate, the most fundamental way was to create long term stable job opportunities.

Jennifer Wang, Minster of Labor said the “immediate get to work plan” starting from October last year through 21 October this year, was to deal with the fallout from the financial crisis and statistics showed that just in the counties of Yunlin, Chiayi and Tainan the service center had already helped 6,710 people get jobs.

In addition, the government has also begun a special program to develop diverse employment opportunities, helping to find employment for middle and elderly people who have lost their jobs as well as disadvantaged groups.

To stimulate jobs the Council for Labor Affairs starting from 22 October will hold a series of seven large scale job fairs altogether providing twenty thousand jobs; at the fair in Tainan yesterday one hundred businesses were looking for over 3000 applicants to fill positions, including leading companies such as 奇美電、晶電、茂迪、益通 whose orders have been recovering business developments otherwise call for more jobs. In total the number of attendees yesterday were 6,596 with 7,780 applications being filed and preliminary successes in matching job seekers with employment opportunities were at 1,514 or a success rate of 26.3 percent.

According to 104 Labor Bank, the demand for personnel has rebounded and for the past ten months has been increasing, with 243,000 positions open in October. With the economic recovery the unemployment rate has peaked and there is a falling trend which bodes well for the jobless situation.

Central Science Park Fourth Stage – Barging the Gates of Environmental Impact Assessment
Economic Daily News Reported by Sung Jian-sheng from Taichung
25 October 2009

The Environmental Protection Administration has set Friday (30 October 2009) to have a meeting of the plenary session of the Environmental Impact Assessment Commission on the fourth stage of the Central Science Park in Erlin, which if the EIA goes smoothly, Yang Wun-ke, the head of the CSP Bureau, says ground breaking can begin as early as before the end of the year and it could be completed within five years.

Yang Wun-ke emphasized that AUO has planned an investment in the park amounting to NT$4,000,000,000,000 to build the largest optical fibre plants in the county to start up by the third quarter next year, so looking at the status of the EIA, if the case goes through in the plenary there should be no adverse impact on the progress of AUO’s investment.

There are already over ten companies that are interested in investment in the Erlin Central Science Park, and in addition to AUO, Winbond, Chunghwa Picture Tube, Hota, Syudong (?), the French company Air Liquide, Dipao (?), Kefong (?), Helius Power Corporation total investments will be over NT$6,000,000,000,000.

To ensure that the Erlin Park does not end up still born, Premier Wu Dun-yi has already indicated that if the waste water from Erlin can be used for the Guoguang Petrochemical Plant’s use then the connecting pipeline will be laid. If Guoguang Petrochemical, can’t use the water then it will be discharged into the ocean three kilometers from the low tide line, after passing through a pipeline that will be three kilometers so as to ensure that the people of Yunlin and Changhua can rest assured.

Yang Wun-ke said that the EIA subcommittee passed the case with conditions and the Central Science Park Administration will do its best to oblige, in the future the discharge pipeline will be extended from 14 kilometers to 35 kilometers and the total investment increased from 3.3 billion NT$ to 6.87 billion, such additional funds to come out of the Science Park Operating Fund.

In the midst of the voices of protest the EIA subcommittee passed the continuation of the case conditionally.

Currently the largest investor in Central Science Park case is AUO which plans an optoelectronics village with NT$4,000,000,000,000 which will be used to build fourth generation 10 inch wafer fab and this will also attract downstream related businesses, and as the chip industry has seen recovery, AUO’s two 8.5 inch wafer fabs in the Central Science Park in Houli have also restarted operations.

吳敦義:三大投資 促進就業
【經濟日報╱記者吳碧娥、邱馨儀╱台北、台南報導】2009.10.25 04:18 am

【2009/10/25 經濟日報】

中科四期環評 再闖關
【經濟日報╱記者宋健生/台中報導】2009.10.25 04:18 am

【2009/10/25 經濟日報】


There's been a lot of speculation that China's destructive environmental habits will in the end bring down the Party. Looking at the mess in Taiwan, one would find strong evidence against that. Both states share the same Leninist party-state framework and similar problems with local factions, and both have chosen to solve the problem of hanging onto power by enabling economic growth through a form of development that is environmentally destructive. But as long as there is buy-in to this construction-industrial paradigm among local politicians, and as long as the flow of money either in the form of foreign or state investment holds out -- and those flows are backed by the awesome debt-generating power of the State in both cases -- change does not seem to me to be as likely as some might think.

The second article says that the Environmental Impact Assessment passed the Erlin Central Science Park case "conditionally" but note that (1) no project in Taiwan has ever been defeated by its environmental assessment and (2) that the conditions generally have no teeth. I would bet good money that the pipeline extension will fall far short of the 3 or 14 or 35 kilometers that is demanded.

Also today, the Taipei Times hosted a commentary on the proposed carbon tax. It noted:

The Cabinet’s Tax Reform Committee recently decided that the government should gradually implement a proposed energy and carbon tax next year at the earliest, but this decision was instantly rejected by Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義). Wu and legislators reacted as if the taxes would increase public suffering, adding that the government should not levy new taxes until after the economy recovers. It seems everyone is against the energy and carbon tax proposals.

A carbon tax had been proposed because some countries are thinking seriously about carbon tariffs, import taxes on products based on their carbon footprints. Using a carbon tax Taiwan could then claim it had offsetting taxes, hence outside taxes would be unnecessary. Moreover, the tax revenues would remain in Taiwan instead of being collected by a foreign government.

The logic of Premier Wu's response that we can't have a new tax while the economy is suffering! is old hat. When the economy is doing well, we will hear: we can't have a new tax because it will kill the recovery! Nothing will be done, as always.

I biked up Taroko Gorge on Saturday and my friend Michael Fahey told me the story of an environmentalist in Hualien whose focus is on illegal building in the national park. She has organized platoons of volunteers who count the trucks going in and out, and she has been a tiger in preventing (more) construction in the park. One might be inspired by such devotion, and the fact that sometimes she wins, but her case also shows the sort of casual destructiveness, the purblind drive to slather concrete over everything, of the construction-industrial state, that even a world-class gem like Taroko is constantly under threat, and that nothing less than single-minded bloody-mindedness can keep it safe.
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, October 22, 2009

Ech! Fah! Redux

Yes, it's that kind of week -- a week where Yahoo endangered the entire subculture of scantily clad babes at Tech Shows by providing a bevy of lap dancing bikini babes at Hack World, engendering much tut-tutting and creating international embarrassment for the firm. A week in which a local school made students eat fire and walk on glass, which surely must have been a relief from the usual mass quantities of homework they have to do. A week in which there was a flurry of ECFA news as the Council on Labor Affairs (CLA) announced its study on job gains from ECFA, which saw less than half of what CIER saw (Taiwan Today from the pro-KMT UDN):
The report found if Taiwan did not sign an ECFA with Beijing, the island’s gross domestic product would shrink by 0.179 percent, resulting in job losses for 47,000 workers. On the other hand, if Taiwan did sign an ECFA with the mainland, between 105,000 and 125,000 new jobs would be created, the report concluded.

Workers in traditional manufacturing sectors and in the mining industry would be most adversely affected by ECFA, the report said.

In commenting on the report, CLA Deputy Minister Pan Shih-wei said that in the short term an ECFA could have an adverse impact on some Taiwanese industries, but in the long run the agreement would help make Taiwanese products more competitive.

The report also took into account what would happen after the free trade agreement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Plus Mainland China, South Korea and Japan.

The study looked at four possible scenarios. The best scenario for Taiwan would be if the mainland opened its market completely, while Taiwan only opened its market to industrial goods and products.

Under this best-case scenario, the main sources of new jobs would be the marketing, knowledge-intensive service and high-tech sectors. After an ECFA is signed, additional jobs for service assistants, machinists, manual laborers and technicians would be created as well, as the economy gradually improves.

Some jobs would be lost because of an ECFA, however. The garment and accessories industry could lose more than 5,500 jobs; the metal manufacturing sector could lose over 2,100 jobs; and other industries such as sports equipment and stationery manufacturing could lose some 2,500 jobs.
The uncertainties here are vast, probably too vast to make such claims. For one thing, no one knows the areas of agreement, and for another, they are almost certain to favor China. Consider the problems with the "fifth freedom" as the Taipei Times reported the other day (and Taiwan News has been editorializing about):
The fifth freedom of the air would allow Taiwanese carriers to fly on to other nations after arriving at airports in China, and vice versa.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) and Chu Fong-chi (朱鳳芝) suggested that the ministry take the opportunity presented by ECFA talks to discuss the matter.

Chu said Taiwan and China had failed to reach a consensus on the fifth freedom at previous cross-strait talks because if China agrees to the fifth freedom, it could risk Chinese carriers losing some customers to their Taiwanese counterparts.
The pattern in Taiwan's agreements under the KMT is that Taiwan gets had. Why should ECFA be different? Consider also that not only are the particulars completely unknown, but further, there is no suggestion that if ECFA fails the nation should be permitted to abrogate the agreement. No one has planned for failure....

The Ministry of Economic Affairs was quick to get out there with damage control:
Huang Zhi-peng, director of the MOEA’s Foreign Trade Bureau, explained that the differences in the estimates were the result of using different methods to gauge the impact of a cross-Strait ECFA on Taiwan’s job market. Moreover, Huang added that although the two estimates were different, both reports showed that a cross-Strait ECFA would have a positive impact on Taiwan’s economy.
The financial industry should also make out like a bandit in the cross-strait agreements -- today the MAC put out a poll on the financial industry MOU. The poll was chiefly interesting for the questions it didn't ask, but on the last question, which asks whether Chinese banks should get tighter restrictions than other banks on their operations in Taiwan, the nearly 70% of the public said yes. How was this spun? The government was quoted as saying this:
Taiwan's top China policy body said Tuesday 52% of Taiwanese support the island's signing of financial memorandums of understanding with China, according to a survey by local TV station TVBS.

Of the 1,084 people that answered the survey, 60% said signing the MOUs will help improve cross-strait financial cooperation, the Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.

Here are the first two questions that address the first paragraph:
  • 1. A cross-Strait MOU on financial services is a base document of cooperation to be signed by the financial regulatory authorities of both sides of the Strait for the exchange of information, confidentiality of information, regulatory mode, and mechanism of coordination. Do you think Taiwan should sign a cross-Strait MOU on financial service? (46.3% yes)
  • 2. To date, we have signed MOUs on financial services with 32 countries or areas. Do you think we should negotiate and sign an MOU with the Mainland? (52% yes)
Note how totally loaded question number 2 is; it appears that it is there only to produce a higher number in case (1) turned out to be a failure (as it actually did). MAC could also have given the percentage answer to number 1 as the actual level of support.

In other economic news, the unemployment rate trimmed to just slightly above 6% and the fall in commercial sales slowed -- according to the article, Taiwan is now climbing into recovery by riding the China boom. Taiwan's pariah status is forcing it to choose a carbon tax at home instead of paying carbon tariffs abroad. The new tax cuts have the government refunding billions to local taxpayers.

REF: A friend flipped me this article from The Age on Australia's losing free trade agreements, NAFTA from EPI. Both articles make essentially the same point: free trade agreements regulate sovereignty over trade, but do not increase trade or jobs. Of course we all know the whole point of the relationship between ECFA and local sovereignty...
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, October 20, 2009

Commentary on the Current Direction

Taiwan News and the China Times put out editorials recently that looked at the direction of things -- President Ma's takeover as Chairman of the KMT, and the Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of Judge Tsai's notorious detention of Chen Shui-bian. First the China Times, accessed on the Klingon News Network. The piece is a condemnation of Ma's inept, distant management style. And from a solidly pro-KMT paper (which, as a smart friend of mine observed, has recast itself as the loyal opposition since Ma came to power). The whole thing should be read, but this especially:
....Today Ma Ying-jeou is again in charge of the party. He has proudly waved the party flag on behalf of candidates for the year-end elections. When Ma Ying-jeou declared his commitment to clean government and political reform, people were inspired. Political momentum accumulated. But he has now declared his intention to enforce strict party discipline. He has promised that he will strictly punish those who have disobeyed the party decision and run for public offices. But they doubt Ma will hold up if they give him the cold-shoulder treatment. Ma Ying-jeou has been in charge of the affairs of state for a year and a half. He is being pulled in several directions at the same time. He has not demonstrated sufficient courage and determination. As a result, his leadership has been subjected to constant challenges. Candidates for City Mayor and County Executive offices have thrown their hats in the ring without consulting him. Even incumbents who were elected on the basis of Ma's endorsement are ignoring the party leadership, and bent on rebellion. During the party chairmanship election, the turnout in many constituencies was low. The percentage of invalid ballots was high. Quite a few former "Team Ma" legislators with reputations for integrity and many outspoken and forceful County Executives and City Mayors have all gradually withdrawn their candidacies for membership in the KMT Central Standing Committee. When asked why, they replied without enthusiasm, and sighed, "Let him (Ma) find out what it's like to have a Central Standing Committee not consisting of his own people!"

In the year and a half since Ma Ying-jeou became President, this group of party officials, who once stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the trenches, have met with and talked with him less than a handful of times, perhaps no more than three. Even party members close to Ma are saying such things. One can imagine what people not so close to Ma are saying. They simply cannot find any way to interact with the party chairman. People everywhere are asking, "Is he (Ma) actually willing to listen to other people's advice?" Actually some people really don't care whether Chairman Ma is willing to listen to other people's advice. They care only about their status as Central Standing Committee members, whether that status will profit their business. More importantly, the Central Standing Committee lacks political appointees, local elected leaders, and eloquent legislators. How much assistance can such an institution provide the party chairman in efficient governance? Ma Ying-jeou wants to transform the party into an election machine. He wants to turn it into a platform for communication and policy coordination. Based on the current structure of the Central Standing Committee, one can expect a weakening of the party's policy-making functions. Whether it will be of any help during election campaigns is hard to say. Ma Ying-jeou will inevitably encounter trouble implementing his personal ideals.

Ma Ying-jeou sees the problem. He has called upon the KMT not to buy votes during election campaigns, not to engage in corruption while in office, and not to abuse its political power. In fact, this is a problem common to both Blue Camp and Green Camp parties. But seeing the problem and talking about the problem is not enough. Now that the President is also the party chairman, he must walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
As I ride around Taiwan and look at posters of political candidates, now blossoming on every corner, I never see Ma Ying-jeou with the candidate. Pictures with multiple KMTers typically show an influential local politician in concert with the local candidate, as if the national HQ does not exist. Fascinating.

Taiwan News excoriated the Supreme Court on its ruling, accusing it of cowardice:
After nine months of deliberation and with four judges issuing dissenting opinions, the council avoided a judgement on the particulars of the switch in judges or the Chen's detention in a decision reflected more the proverbial habits of ostriches than the democratic legal judicial principles.

For example, regarding the switch in judges in the Chen state affairs funds and other cases, the Grand Justices upheld the principle of determination of judges through legally-defined processes and stated that the Taipei District Court's regulations on the assignment of judges was drafted under the authorization of its court organic law and the decision of its council of presiding judges.

The interpretation also affirmed the required method of selection through "abstract" methods, such as random selection by lot, as both rational and necessary and therefore ruled that the regulated procedures were "constitutional" and "protected judicial human rights."

However, the interpretation appeared to notice only the written regulations in the "abstract" and turned a blind eye to the very "concrete" trampling of these rules by the Taipei District Court itself.

The interpretation was silent on the fact that the decision to replace Chou, who had been selected by lot, with Tsai was made by only five of the 18 Taipei District Court presiding judges and transgressed the regulations's principles of not reassigning a specialised case to a general judge or combining a big case into a small case.

The Grand Justices thereby ignored the "concrete" reality that the fact that the rule book was not followed in Chen's case led to cries of over "administrative interference."
See no evil, hear no evil.... Sad.
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!

Of Missiles and Men

With President Ma Ying-jeou making (yet another) appeal to the Thugclan Demesnes across the Strait to reduce the missiles facing Taiwan, the local military released its National Security Report yesterday, the 19th. Taiwan Today reports via the pro-KMT UDN:
In terms of establishing effective communications, the report suggests creating a hot line between high-ranking officials. It advocates the implementation of a code of conduct for both sides to follow when fighter jets or submarines come into contact in the Taiwan Strait, and describes the need to limit the deployment of special troops and military activity, as well as for troop reductions.


The newly published NSR does not include extensive coverage of the military threats posed by the People’s Liberation Army. Instead, the paper emphasizes the importance of being prepared for danger in times of peace. It notes that the Chinese mainland has been wielding carrot-and-stick tactics after the United States’ announcement of a major arms sale to Taiwan in October 2008.

In addition to increasing their military threat to Taiwan, Chinese communist leaders have been covering up their political intent with the proposed signing of a peace accord, hoping to lower the island’s resistance and induce Taiwan to surrender without the use of force, the report says.
AP also reported on this, emphasizing the information in the final paragraph:
In its biennial defense report issued Tuesday, the defense ministry said the confidence-building measures have failed to materialize due to unabated Chinese hostility toward Taiwan.

"We have not been able to make progress in the confidence building measures because China has not given up ... the notion of using force against Taiwan," the ministry said.

The ministry identified possible confidence-building measures as the establishment of a hot line between Taipei and Beijing, and signing a pact to limit the deployment of military personnel and equipment against each other.

It said China has continued holding exercises aimed at preparing its troops to invade the island, and that it is working to prevent outside forces from coming to Taiwan's aid if attacked.

This is a clear reference to the U.S., which has left open the possibility of coming to Taiwan's aid in the event of a Chinese attack.

"China has increased the frequency of its military exercises to pressure us since October 2008 when the U.S. government announced the sale of an arms package to us," the report said. "At this stage, (China) has developed the strategic capabilities to stop foreign forces from intervening in cross-strait conflicts."

The U.S. is required by its own laws to provide Taiwan with weapons of a defensive character.

The ministry added that the number of Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan continues to grow. Taiwanese officials now puts the number at 1,500.

The ministry also referred to the possibility of a formal China peace accord, saying Beijing could use it to "soften (Taiwan's) will to defend itself."

China's Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to faxed questions about the Taiwanese statement.
There is no legal requirement in the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to supply Taiwan with weapons, though many commentators continue to believe there is. Chris Nelson, a former Dem staffer who was in on the drafting of the TRA, had this to say in 2007:
In fact, the US is not obligated to defend Taiwan by law, and in the post-9/11 world, senior Republican offcials and military brass have cast considerable doubt on the US moral obligation, if President Bush were to conclude that hostilities were the result of actions by Taiwan.

In fact, although the TRA includes language designed to discourage the use of force by the PRC against Taiwan, the TRA only obligates the US to consider arms sales under certain circumstances, period.

Take our word for it, as a junior staff-participant, even this language was extracted very reluctantly from the State Department at the cost of considerable blood on both sides.

The strongest language Congressional friends of Taiwan were able to add talks about a "grave threat" to US interests in the event of an upset in the peaceful status quo. That's it...not exactly a mutual defense treaty.

So you add it all up, and not even at the beginning did the TRA mandate that the US defend Taiwan under any circumstance, nor that arms must be sold, simply because of requests by Taiwan.

Every aspect of this is subject to US political will, judgement and discretion...the everlasting frustration of both China and Taiwan, duly noted.
It's high time this error that the TRA requires weapons sales was stamped out of the world. Recall that Beijing's Anti-Secession law which "obligates" China to attack Taiwan was invented to echo the erroneous perception that the Taiwan Relations Act obligates the US to sell weapons to Taiwan -- the way orcs were created in mockery of elves. Each time the media repeats that false claim about the TRA, it provides a frisson of equivalency for the Anti-Secession Law.

It is fascinating that the ROC military has issued a report that essentially undermines the basis for Ma's "reconciliation" with the CCP and also puts a spike in claims that China is treating Taiwan better. On the other hand, the report does provide support for the military's claim that it needs lots of bright shiny new toys to fight China with.

Will China take down the 1,500 missiles it has facing Taiwan? Ma has repeatedly asked, and US analysts have repeatedly hinted, that it should do so. One wonders why on earth Beijing would ever do that: the build-up has paid huge dividends. Those missiles are aimed not only at military targets in Taiwan, but also at the hearts of US military and political analysts.

Observe also that because Ma has hitched his future economic policy to closer PRC links, and that he has carried out this policy irrespective of the increasing PRC threat. Hence, China has no incentive to reduce the missile build up -- what can they get out of the KMT that they haven't got already? Recall too that senior KMT officials made Ma retract his demand that the missiles be reduced several years ago -- those selfsame officials now effectively running cross-strait negotiations. They could care less how many missiles face Taiwan.

Further: the missiles are useful in the economic and political negotiations -- they help convince both locals and foreigners of the "inevitability" of annexation as well as the uselessness of resistance ("You will be assimilated," says Borgjing). The idea of "inevitability" is one of the chief lubricants for public acceptance of ECFA and other agreements that subordinate Taiwan to China. Not only that, but by making any war over Taiwan uglier for whoever faces China, they deter military support for Taiwan -- and give aid and comfort to those in the West who would sell it out.

Useful missiles indeed. Take them down? What does Beijing stand to gain?
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