Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stuffed to the gills with Beef

CHEEVER: I think it be the cows, sir.

I had a great post planned out for today. My starting point was going to be my friend J Michael's post asking if the DPP is being played by the KMT on the US beef issue. I was going to reference the history of the KMT attempting to stoke anti-Americanism in Taiwan, starting the discussion with the fake riots in 1957 and then zoom through the riots in 1978 when Warren Christopher showed up to announce that recognition has been switched to China. Then I was going to ask if the beef issue -- determined at the highest levels by Ma's right-hand man Su Chi, head of the National Security Council -- was just another in a long string of these events (like the refusal of US aid during Morakot) meant to create separation between the US and the people of Taiwan. I was even going to relate it to the KMT's long-term goal of separating Japan and Taiwan too, in order to move the island into China's orbit. Boy it was going to be a great post.

I used to think the beef fracas might be interesting somehow, but now I'm just so damned tired of this issue of subsidized, environmentally destructive, imported dead cattle flesh being a "health" and a political issue in heavily polluted Taiwan with its mass use of agricultural chemicals and antibiotics and relentless habitat destruction, along with consumption of things like snake blood, shark fins, and cockroaches, that I decided not to write the post. Really, there is nothing more to be said.

For god's sake, DPP, stop the insanity. In case that isn't clear, stop the insanity. If you're going to pick an issue to piss off the US, pick something worth fighting over. The KMT is playing you guys. Beef is an issue the bad guys are using to drive a wedge between the DPP and the US. And you take the blame.....

So instead of long post, dear reader, consult the two good pieces in today's Taipei Times. The first is an extensive article on the Ma Administration delegation to the US, now canceled, and the beef issue in general. The second is an editorial on the beef issue and the incompetence of the government. Taiwan News has a piece on US experts saying that Taiwan has mishandled the issue, and that it will affect a Taiwan-US FTA. Hello, what's more important? Beef or overseas markets? If Uncle Sam wants to subsize our consumption of high quality steak, by all means, let him!

UPDATE: Many good comments arguing against this in the comments below.
Daily Links
  • The Economist's Strait Talking notes that public support for Ma is waning. It says "The few thousand Chinese tourists who come every day are making little economic impact." The actual figure is less than 2,000. It also says "[ECFA] is born out of his fear that Taiwan, already ravaged by the financial crisis, will be marginalised as a free-trade pact between China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) takes effect this January." Do people really believe that nonsense? ECFA is born from Ma's desire to marginalize Taiwan into a province of China. Period. The first step is integrating Taiwan's economy into China's. Period. The ASEAN FTAs are just a convenient excuse. There is some genuine fear in certain quarters that Taiwan will be marginalized by the FTAs, but nothing suggests Ma really cares.
  • This Taipei Times commentary discusses some of the internal politics of KMT elites and their meetings with Chen Yunlin.
  • My friend Andrew has just finished a new book on postwar justice in Germany.
  • The latest Taiwan What's Up is out.
  • Chinese admiral says the Peaceful Riser© needs an overseas base.
  • SPECIAL: Krugman on Chinese mercantilism.
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!

Three for New Years

Three articles on Taiwan in different places for once give a glimpse of something other than the Ma Administration's spin. AP in Businessweek writes about DPP criticisms of the Administration's China policy:
Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party said Tuesday the Taiwanese government has failed to attract large amount of Chinese investment to bolster the island's economy.

The DPP's criticism came as Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has been forging closer economic ties with China and working to redress the imbalance in the trade flow between the two sides.

However, Taiwanese Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said earlier Tuesday that Chinese enterprises, including airliners and software companies, have only invested NT$1.2 billion ($37.16 million) in Taiwan since the island opened up for mainland investment in July.

The amount is a pittance compared to more than $100 billion Taiwanese companies have invested in China since the late 1980s. The bilateral trade -- mostly Taiwanese exports -- now exceeds $110 billion annually.

"The amount of Chinese investment in Taiwan has been very little," DPP Spokeswoman Hsiao Bi-khim said. "It is disappointing that there is such a huge gap between the outcome and the government's promise to bolster Taiwan's economy with Chinese injection."
The KMT strategy is not to use Chinese inflows to stimulate the economy, but to use them to create pockets of China-dependent support around the island. For example, Chinese students flowing into our universities will make the university system dependent on China, while tourist flows are supposed to make those areas more agreeable to KMT policy by creating new dependencies on China (note that both involve the movement of people). Investment might be nice, but it is not necessary. How soon in the script will the Chinese labor come to "save" Taiwan's industry? Just wait.....

Speaking of tourism, the Japan Times discusses tourism in an excellent and very sympathetic article on the KMT's move to put the island in China's orbit through ECFA. In addition to its in-depth coverage of the issues, it also provides information that enables readers to identify the Green/Blue loyalty of the speakers -- unusual and very welcome:
Earlier this month, Masaki Saito, Japan's top envoy to Taiwan, resigned as director of the Interchange Association, Tokyo's de facto embassy in Taipei.

Saito stepped down after he angered the Ma administration in May by referring to Taiwan's international status as "unresolved." Ma blocked Saito from contacting him, the prime minister or the foreign minister, effectively making his job in Taiwan impossible.

"The way President Ma treated Ambassador Saito in such an unfriendly manner will definitely reinforce the image that he is a Chinese nationalist," Jaushieh Joseph Wu, research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in the National Chengchi University in Taipei, said earlier this month. Wu used to serve in the previous Democratic Progressive Party government.

Kuo Chen-lung, former deputy editor-in-chief of the China Times, a national daily in Taiwan, agreed that the government's response to Saito was "disproportional."

"It was very rude for a foreign representative to comment or even take a stand on domestic issues," he said, but added that Saito had only taken the same stance as the proindependence opposition party.

Saito's resignation is the latest incident that has threatened to sour Japan-Taiwan relations.

Shortly after Ma took office last year, Taiwan's then prime minister, Liu Chao-shiuan, threatened war with Japan over a collision between Taiwanese and Japanese vessels in disputed waters. Meanwhile, territorial rights over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea continue to be claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China.

According to Wu, Ma displays a streak of anti-Japan nationalism that runs counter to the feelings of many Taiwanese, who see Japan as an ally against China.
It is interesting that there is public discussion of Ma's apparent anti-Japanese Chinese nationalism in the media, but there is nary a word about the vast contempt that mainlanders of Ma's persuasion feel about the US. He is "Harvard-educated", that is all ye know, and all ye need know.

Huffington Post, which usually has pretty awful stuff about Taiwan, finally had a decent post on tap from Gilbert Kaplan, which argues that Taiwan is the canary in the coal mine for US relations with China. The last paragraph:
In this sense Taiwan is becoming the canary of our own economic future. As their economy disinvests, and as their political culture becomes unable to combat the influence of China, ours will or already has. Coupled with the major "American" companies who make all their products in China or get almost everything from there--Apple, Dell, Intel (at least with respect to one large fab, built with Chinese government assistance) and Wal-Mart among them--the Chinese of course own a disproportionate amount of our debt, close to 10% overall and more than any other foreign creditor. And they provide major incentives to blue-ribbon U. S. companies to locate in China, as they have done for the Taiwanese. With over two trillion dollars in trade reserves they have an unlimited budget to do that with. So it is no surprise that when we have a battle with them in Copenhagen on the future of emissions policy no one wins. The dangerous moment will come when we have a battle with them, on a key world policy issue, and they win.
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, December 30, 2009

Paper on Parade: Alice Amsden's Taiwan's Economic History: A Case of Etatisme and a Challenge to Dependency Theory

Over the past three decades I've read hundreds of papers on Taiwan's economy, whose net effect has essentially been to make both my head, and my glasses, thicker. Few of them, however, have approached Alice Amsden's seminal paper Taiwan's Economic History: A Case of Etatisme and a Challenge to Dependency Theory (Modern China, Vol. 5, No. 3, Symposium on Taiwan: Society and Economy (Jul., 1979),pp. 341-379) in influence and importance.

Taiwan's remarkable postwar economic performance remained rather uninteresting to western scholars for the first two decades of the postwar period, though there were a number of outstanding books by Taiwan scholars, among them future President Lee Teng-hui's 1971 version of his Ph.D thesis, Intersectoral Capital Flows in the Economic Development of Taiwan, 1895-1960, crucial for understanding why the KMT was hated so much in the postwar period, Ching-yuan Lin's 1973 work Industrialization in Taiwan, 1946-72: Trade and Import-Substitution Policies for Developing Countries (New York: Praeger), and Samuel P. S. Ho's The Economic Development of Taiwan 1860-1970, the bible of Taiwan's economic development, which no student of Taiwan should skip. Ho also wrote an extremely useful work on small enterprises in Taiwan and Korea. There were many works pertinent to Taiwan's economic development written during this period, but few directly addressing it as a thing that needed explaining.

Taiwan emerged onto the world stage in the 1970s as it began to displace Japan at the bottom end of the supply chain, and the first Congressional hearings were held on the loss of American jobs to the island at about that time. One of the earliest papers directly addressing the problem of Taiwan's economic growth by a western scholar in English is Keith Griffin's 1973 paper An Assessment of Development in Taiwan (World Development 1, 6:31-42). This paper marked the first of the Three Taiwans that I personally use to understand the way scholars have interpreted Taiwan's economic development according to the frameworks they use to understand economic growth: Neoclassical Taiwan. Neoclassical Taiwan flourished until Amsden's landmark 1979 paper, which marks the beginning of the second period of Taiwan: Statist Taiwan, which runs for a decade or so until 1990 and the publication of Robert Wade's Governing the Market. In this period Taiwan's growth was basically explained as the result of the positive actions of the state. After 1990 emerges Post Modern Taiwan, with its emphasis on local narratives, families and networks, small- and medium-sized enterprises, and flexible specialization. The gigantic meteor of globalization killed those dinosaurs sometime around the end of the 1990s, and we now live in the era of the nimble, warm-blooded predators of the IT industry, whose existence is not a thing we explain but rather a dynamic we observe.

Amsden framed Taiwan's growth as a challenge to then-prevailing theories about the relationship between imperialism and economic growth, as well as to then prevailing neo-classical explanations. She writes:
In seeking an explanation for these phenomena, which are rather miraculous in the context of continued underdevelopment in the rest of the Third World, we have come face to face with two schools of thought: neoclassical and dependency theory. The former, to generalize somewhat, sees the explanation for the Taiwan "miracle" in the application of free market principles. The latter ignores Taiwan altogether, probably because it see it as a "special case" undeserving attention.
After observing that Taiwan, while not suffering from the kind of heavy-handed state intervention that the Communist societies did, nevertheless had quite a bit, she writes:
It is particularly with respect to dependency theory that Taiwan emerges as an interesting case history. The major thesis of dependency theory is that the rise of foreign trade and the arrival of foreign capital from the "core" lie at the heart of underdevelopment in the "periphery." Taiwan, however, presents dependency theory with a paradox. It is both more integrated in world capitalism than other poor market economies and more developed. However miserable the level of real wages in Taiwan (as elsewhere), full employment has emerged and capital accumulation proceeds both on the basis of relative and absolute surplus value extraction, with an emphasis on the former. That is, capital accumulation proceeds on the basis of technological innovation and greater efficiency rather than on the basis of longer hours of work and more intensive effort alone. This is what we mean by "developed."

We argue that dependency theory is unable to come to grips with the Taiwan paradox because it employs a methodology which elevates imperialism to the primary analytical category. Only when endogenous productive and social relations are taken as primary can both successful and unsuccessful instances of development be understood. Throughout the Third World, trade and investment from the core created pressures to develop the productive forces. But class and productive relations within Taiwan made such pressures general. Specifically, etatisme and a land reform mediated the effects of imperialism....
Fundamentally she challenges dependency theorists to explain why, if Taiwan is so locked into the global capitalist system, and so dependent on outside capital and trade relations, why is it not underdeveloped like Latin America and Africa? Why have core-periphery relations, which are supposed to create impoverished underdeveloped peripheral states whose productive resources are harvested for core markets, instead created a state which has a citizenry increasing in wealth and technological capabilities?

The answer, for Amsden, is basically that land reforms and state intervention have "mediated" the effects of global capitalism -- instead of creating isolated pockets of plenty in nations marked by high income inequality and low productivity, these forces managed to spread the effects of core-periphery capitalism to ensure a level of productive development throughout the island. Her paper thus focuses on agricultural change.

Amsden sketches the Japanese colonial government's development of Taiwan, noting that its interventionist policies were taken over by the KMT when they arrived in 1945. Her discussion then shifts to agriculture, for understanding Taiwan's postwar development requires understanding the shift from an agricultural society to an industrialized one.
The years 1953-1968 witnessed annual growth rates in agricultural output that were impressive by any standard. Equally impressive was the spillover effect on industry. For however tight the squeeze on agriculture under Japanese rule, it was even tighter under the Jiang Jie-shi administration. Whereas net real capital outflow from agriculture had increased at a rate of 3.8% annually between 1911-1940, it rose on average by 10% annually between 1951-1960 (Lee, 1971: 28). Fast growth and a transfer of agricultural resources to the towns, however, were neither the outcome of free market forces nor the automatic result of purely technical phenomena-the Green Revolution. Rather, they reflected the structure of ownership in the countryside and state management of almost every conceivable economic activity.
Living as we do in modern Taiwan with its myriad capitalist enterprises, few really notice how much of the economy remains state-owned and run. In the 1950s and 1960s the State was the economy -- the modern export economy is a post-1965 affair. The State bought your rice and sold you fertilizer; it sold you gas and oil, and prevented you from buying consumer goods. It made you pay in-kind taxes of rice, and set the price for rice and fertilizer both. You bought state sugar and rode on state trains, and purchased water and electricity from the state. The state also provided you with loans. If you were in the military or the bureaucracy, the rice squeezed from Taiwanese farmers fed you. By setting the price of fertilizer high and the price of rice low, the KMT squeezed the farmers to run this system. That is the essence of Lee Teng-hui's Ph.D thesis, which is a covert, ringing denunciation of the KMT as a bunch of colonialists worse than the Japanese.

Many of Amsden's specific assertions are wrong. For example, modern readers will smile at her assertion that the KMT had a special affinity for law and order, and this paper evinces only a minimal grasp of The Real Taiwan -- the world of small factories, underground financial systems, and interpersonal networks, the real foundation of Taiwan's spectacular growth. But by calling attention to the role of government in Taiwan, Amsden launched a decade of debate on the role of the State in Taiwan's economic development, and on determining the proper framework for understanding Taiwan's spectacular growth. An irony of the debate is that even as scholars were reaching for Statist explanations of East Asian growth in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the West were claiming that government was useless and incompetent.

Amsden's paper also appeared as another momentous transition was occurring in Taiwan. The KMT state, tossed from the UN and having lost US backing in the 1970s, was searching for another basis for its political legitimacy. It would find it in the legend that the KMT created Taiwan's economic miracle. This emerging stream of scholarship played right into its hands, and a round of forgettable pro-KMT works sprung from the pens of KMT apologists at this time, including several that would help form the basis for the debates over government intervention in the 1980s. Fortunately time has mostly buried them, and moldering in their well-deserved graves I shall leave them, unconsidered.

In the mid-1980s, Hill Gates, Susan Greenhalgh, and others began exploring Taiwan's networked family firms, whose growth had very little to do with the State and everything to do with their direct connection to the US-led global economy, building, again, on the work of Taiwanese academics such as Taili Hu's immortal My Mother-in-law's Village. The subsequent explosion of research on Taiwan's family-run businesses is neatly encapsulated in the title of Jane Kaufman Winn's 1994 piece Not by Rule of Law: Mediating State-Society Relations in Taiwan through the Underground Economy (In Rubenstein, Murray, Ed. 1994. The Other Taiwan: 1945 to the Present. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, pp. 183-214). Amsden, meanwhile, would continue to argue for the Statist case for two more decades, even as the lifting of martial law would shine a light on the complexities of Taiwan's manufacturing networks that would invalidate her thesis.
Daily Links
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Suhua Highway on the Ropes?

The Hualien county council rejected an attempt to hold a referendum on the controversial Suhua Highway....
The government announced last week it was most likely to choose partial improvements to the existing road rather than build a completely new freeway between Suao in Yilan County and Hualien.

Business interests looking to promote local economic development in sparsely populated Hualien have been at odds for over a decade with environmentalists who fear the freeway is more likely to destroy natural beauty instead of attracting more tourists.

Fu invited County Council Speaker Yang Wen-chih and his deputy Hsu Hsueh-yu to a news conference Monday morning where he said he would not exclude calling a referendum if the government refused to build the freeway.

The central government should be forced to accept local public opinion and stop treating Hualien residents like third-class citizens, Fu said.

However, after Yang returned to the council, members said a county government proposal to amend local legislation in order to allow referendums had been submitted too late. The proposal should not even be discussed by the council, some members said.
The Suhua Highway (previous informative post)(another) has been a political football ever since it was initiated more than a decade ago. It was supported by Chen Shui-bian during both his administrations, but has bogged down in all sorts of conflicts. The ostensible reason for the development of the highway is to bring tourists and "development" to the backwater of Hualien, but the real reason is to make it easier to transport gravel and of course, to reward connected individuals with lucrative land deals. It will likely be an environmental disaster. As noted above:

The four-lane highway would connect two towns on the east coast, Suao and Hualien, and require 11 tunnels and 27 bridges on a route that runs through breathtaking mountains that descend into the sea. The highway would pass through eight reserves and beauty spots including the Taroko Gorge, one of the island’s main tourist sites, inflicting damage on all of them.

The bare-knuckle contest over the highway is a throwback to a pork-barrel era of politics in which the beneficiaries will be the construction firms that get the contracts, insiders who will be well compensated for land they have bought on the highway route and politicians receiving kickbacks. The huge expense and the fierce opposition of the environmental lobby are the reasons why the highway has not been built since it was first proposed in 1990.

For its supporters, the road would link Hualien to the highway network that emanates from Taipei, cutting the driving time to the capital from four hours to two and making it a more attractive destination for investors and tourists. Companies that produce goods in the town would be able to move them more quickly to domestic and foreign consumers. This influx of visitors and capital would raise the value of land and property in Hualien and bring more business to its shops, restaurants and other retail businesses.

As the CNA piece observes, the highway was the centerpiece of current Hualien County Chief Fu Kun-chi, who notoriously divorced his wife and appointed her his deputy as he is likely bound for prison. Once in prison, she would then become the county magistrate. The Ministry of the Interior blew the whistle on this on a household registration technicality, a move blasted in the pan-Green papers, who observed that in an identical case involving a KMT politician in Taitung, the MOI had exhibited a strange reluctance to move on it, but when an independent like Fu won, it immediately moved to block his machinations to maintain a grip on the position. Fu, hugely popular in Hualien in part because he owns a local newspaper, had defeated the KMT candidate handily. The KMT had refused to permit him to run under its corruption rules, so he left the party and ran as an independent.

The rejection of the referendum is interesting, given the shocking defeat of the KMT-backed casino referendum in the Penghu earlier this year.
Daily Links
Today's thought: Terrorist Watch List is Like MySpace: It's There, But No One Checks it Anymore --Andy Borowitz
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Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Tens -- 2009 My Top Ten Pics and News Stories

1. Of the thousands of pictures I took this year, I think this one is my favorite. I took it on my first long bike trip, the one that got me hooked on biking. As we waited out the rain to climb a long hill, the Tour de Taiwan cyclists appeared, a torrent of riders plashing down the hill in the pouring rain.

2. This picture of wind machines next to the Gaomei Wetlands outside Taichung looks much better when you view the large size.

3. On a lovely morning riding the Northern Cross-Island Highway, we pause for breakfast.

4. I caught this beetle lounging in the sun not far from the town of Dulan.

5. I love the light and shadow of this beautiful shot of I-lan seen from Highway 7.

6. The shades and textures of these nuts steaming in a night market in Wanhua are delightful.

7. I shot these people watching others fish under the West Coast Highway north of Lukang in Changhua. To get the full effect, view the large size.

8. In this capture of my friend Jeff shooting a water buffalo, the stolid, exasperated look on the animal's face always makes me laugh.

9. A mountain shot from riding up Taroko Gorge I particularly like.

10. The mountains on a crisp day above Lishan. Simply gorgeous.

It's the end of the year, which means that everyone is compiling their top ten lists. I thought I'd offer my ten favorite pics from this year. And the ten biggest news stories in Taiwan this year.... The first list was easy. The second? Not so much. After much cogitation, here are my top ten, leave your suggestions in the comments.

2009 Top Ten Taiwan News Stories

1. Chen Shui-bian trial and conviction. Remember the circus -- the swapping of judges, the bombast from Chen, the demonstrating supporters, the prosecutors' skit.

2. Typhoon Morakot. The 8/8 typhoon kills hundreds, devastates, infrastructure, exposes Ma government indifference.

3. ECFA. More than any other story, ECFA (remember when it was CECA?) has dominated the news this year.

4. KMT Setbacks. Casinos defeated in Penghu, DPP morale boost in Dec 5 elections, and DPP gains in by-elections. Meanwhile Ma's popularity slumps as problem after problem emerges, from the failure of his signature projects as Taipei mayor, to the shocking indifference he displayed in his handling of the Morakot disaster, along with the growing public sense that Taiwan is getting too close to China.

5. American Beef. So key an issue was dead foreign cattle flesh, that whether to import US beef was decided at the highest levels of the Taiwan government, by Ma's right-hand man.

6. City/County mergers alter future political landscape. Everyone wants a piece of that government development budget, but the pie probably isn't big enough.

7. Economic free fall. As the economy went into the abyss, the year opened with the voucher program (slogan: Enjoying tomorrow's debt -- today!) and closed with the good news that export and manufacturing orders have climbed.

8. Multiple indictments of DPP politicians. Corruption fighting or opposition suppressing? You make the call.

9. World Games and DeafOlympics. Shone a positive light on the island. My students in all my classes (I quizzed 'em about their opinions) consistently mentioned this and nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10. And Michael Jackson's death.

10. H1N1. In the news all year long, but fortunately did not seem as bad as it could have been.

Honorable mentions: US arms sale decision, Jimmy Lai's attempt to purchase the China Times, the Capitulationist Raccoons arrive at the Zoo (and fail to attract many visitors), the second Chen Yunlin visit, Kuo Kuan-yin the high-class mainlander.
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Daily Links, December 28, 2009

It's holiday time again, and everyone is out partying instead of blogging, thus proving that bloggers have actual social lives, and aren't just cheeto-cramming, pajama-wearing troglodytes. Actually, I think the reason all us pajama-wearing bloggers moved here is because in Taiwan, it's ok to wear pajamas in the street...this lets us get out of the house occasionally.

Meanwhile, what is being Cheeto-fueled on the blogs this week? Not much out there....
MEDIA: Everyone's talking about a US request for Taiwan help in Afghanistan. Our future with the students from the Peaceful Riser: at PRC dissident Wang Dan's talk at Providence U a few days ago, students from China apparently deliberately lined up to take up the question time with long, rambling questions and block others. Taiwan records record hike in export orders. Taiwan scammer poses as Brunei royal family member in an old scam. Ma Ying-jeou urges Beijing to "tolerate" dissidents. Note how far that is from being an actual criticism. Another signal from Beijing: as Chen Yunlin was visiting Taiwan to be protected by 700 toughs at a prominent temple in central Taiwan, Beijing sentenced dissident Liu Xiabo. Everyone chorus now: "But look how far they've come!" Scientology wins MOI award. What Taiwan can look forward to: China is developing a system that monitors karaoke systems for politically unacceptable or vulgar songs, and calls the police. Everyone chorus now: "But look how far they've come!" Taiwan SPCA on the animal birth control campaign. Why Taiwan keeps talking about China's missiles. 24 more wetlands listed for protection as Tainan opens the 8th national park. Taiwan airs tourism ad in Times Square. Ted Galen Carpenter, longtime opponent of the arms sales to Taiwan, on the recent arms sales to Taiwan. Taiwan, France agree on mutual inspection of fishing ships in the Pacific. Taiwan opens largest HCPV solar plant in the world. An "Examiner" slide show on Chen Yunlin's visit. Jon Adams with a good piece on the KMT-CCP talks in the Christian Science Monitor. The "Harvard-educated" Ma opposes the apparently uneducated Chairman Tsai of the DPP in the media again. Guys, she has PhD from LSE. There's a bunch of stuff in the media this month about China's Central Asian pipeline politics. And a long piece about how Nepal is turning to India to counter its Maoist insurgents, who have China connections. The China Times has an editorial pointing out one of the most asinine aspects of the Chen Shui-bian case -- that those who "bribed" him aren't being prosecuted. Apparently bribery of a public official was legal until a couple of years ago, at least according to prosecutors. The MOEA remains mum on lifting restrictions on Chinese investment in Taiwan's hi-tech industries.

TODAY'S OBSERVATION: Several people have remarked to me that the reason so many KMT voters are disappointed with Ma and the current KMT is that when they voted Ma in they thought they were getting the Lee Teng-hui KMT.

FACTOID OF THE DAY: Those Snickers bars omnipresent in the island's convenience stores? Yup, made in Moscow.

SPECIAL: Big things going on in Iran. Andrew Sullivan has been following events. Cool that AP is using some of these photos in the media presentations I've seen. Listen to Lisa Gerrard while you read.

SCIENCE COOLNESS: GPS users beware: human-driven global warming is making the atmosphere shrink, affecting the orbits of satellites.
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Western Understandings, Eastern Worlds: the China Asset Bubble

Over on a post at the excellent blog Peking Duck I left the following comment on a post about the asset bubble in China:


I’m not sure this bubble thing is being read properly. Let me see if I can articulate my thoughts. First, Chinese buy real estate and hang on. Forever. Hence this bubble might simply peter out in permanently high property prices, rather than go ka-boom. I mean, the houses aren’t being sold on 99% credit, I would bet money that most of the mortgages are with substantial amounts up front. Owners will rent and if they can’t rent, they will sit on it. Second, what is the break even point for developers? In Taiwan one need only sell half of a typical development to break even. Developers can keep putting up buildings with 50% occupancy and make money, in that case — I would bet given China’s low costs and massive corruption, the actual break-even point is even lower.

Hence, it’s not a bubble of speculative money driven by easy credit, but an outlet for savings — money that actually exists, not money that exists in some unspecified future. People thus will not be in debt when it “pops” but will rather have manageable mortgages out of current incomes because they paid much up front, with an actual asset to show for their expenditure. Hence what we will see is not KA-BOOM but rather, going out with a whimper of permanent high property prices in large cities, because no one will sell at low prices.

Is this just another case of viewing eastern practices in western terms? It sure feels like it to me, looking at the fact that Taiwanese have cheerfully been scammed by KMT-connected construction firms for 50 years now with nary a complaint. At some point “high prices” will become the norm and part of the lived environment, as they are here, and no one will notice except puzzled westerners who keep waiting for the price collapse that never comes. You are just experiencing the transition right now and calling it a “bubble”. Perhaps, “price orogeny” might be a better term.

But this is just speculation. The real losers will be the future working-class hordes who will not be able to live in the cities.


As a friend of mine noted in a private response, landlords sustain high rents because the alternative is that the price of their massive capital investment falls. Everyone understands this. Therefore rents never fall. Better to let the flat sit empty. Another factor holding up prices is the ratchet effect of land taxes, which are fixed and take a substantial chunk of the building's value. Is China the same? I don't know. Since the ideal of land ownership is so rooted in local culture, people endlessly speculate in property, and new construction is purchased for that reason. With government support and low costs, profits are automated. In other words, as my friend points out, the key is to keep leveraging.

Offered here for your thoughts. Discuss!

UPDATE: Forbes' Gary Epstein has a set of great pieces on the asset bubble collected at Status of Chinese People. One, two, three, four. Epstein notes:

The U.S. government’s $7.2 trillion in debt at the end of June represented 50% of gross domestic product. The Chinese government’s officially disclosed $840 billion in public debt represents less than 20% of GDP. But the People’s Bank of China and the treasury are also on the hook for potentially $1.5 trillion in off-balance-sheet debt owed by cities and provinces and entities they control. They’re also implicitly obliged to backstop $1 trillion, both in loans that “policy banks” were directed to issue, even when they made no economic sense, and nonperforming loans that the government removed from the books of state-owned commercial banks over the past decade.

Add it up and the national government is responsible for debt equal to over 70% of 2009 GDP. That doesn’t count any loans generated this year that might go sour amid a 30% increase in debt balances nationwide. (The U.S. government, in addition to its direct debt equal to 50% of GDP, is responsible for cosigning of mortgage borrowers’ obligations equal to another 18% of GDP.)

Like the U.S. housing industry a few years ago, China’s big developers are highly leveraged and dependent on low interest rates and rising prices. Municipal governments are knee-deep in this asset swamp. They use land sales as a means of funding themselves.

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Chen Yunlin Detritus

Chen Yunlin has come and gone...

United Daily News (UDN), the rabidly pro-KMT paper, published a poll after the talks. The note said: The public opinion poll was conducted on December 24 with 771 people over 20 years of age successfully surveyed and 289 people declining to be surveyed. The margin of error associated with this sample is plus or minus 3.5 % with a 95 % confidence interval. Now consider those 289 people, more than one-quarter contacted, when you look at the poll outcomes, especially the "no opinion."

6. Are you satisfied with the protest rally mobilized by the DPP during the fourth Chiang-Chen Meeting?

Yes 22%
No 56%
No opinion 22%

7. Do you support signing a cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with the Mainland?

Yes 44%
No 26%
No opinion 30%

Note that even polls from pro-KMT sources can't find majority support for ECFA. My favorite is this question:

Do you support Mainland Affairs Council chairperson Lai Hsin-yuan’s proposal that the Mainland should remove their missiles targeting Taiwan?

Yes 49%
No 18%
No opinion 33%

Yes, that's right, a majority of those polled have either no opinion or selected "no" when asked whether missiles pointed at them should be removed! How reliable can this poll be?

ESWN translated a TVBS poll taken just before the visit -- a poll of a Hong Kong Chinese-owned pro-KMT station -- which noted:

Q7. Are you confident that the government will protect the interests of Taiwan in the meeting with Chen Yunlin?
9%: Very confident
26%: Somewhat confident
25%: Somewhat not confident
27%: Very not confident
13%: No opinion

Q8. Some people think that the cross-strait policies of Ma's government lean towards China too much. Do you agree?
52%: Agree
33%: Disagree
15%: No opinion

Q11. What is your preference for the status of Taiwan?
20%: Pro-independence
4%: Pro-unification
64%: Maintain the status quo

Q12. If a choice exists between either Taiwan become an independent country or unified with China, which would you choose?
68%: Taiwan independence
13%: Taiwan unified with China
19%: No opinion

Think about that -- 68% in a TVBS poll chose "independence" in an up-or-down question.


Been thinking a bit about the social construction of the news lately, governed as it is by powerful ideological frameworks, and maddog points out, in a rip of Reuters, how the media goes about constructing this particular piece of news. maddog notes:
Getting back to the Reuters piece, Jennings feeds the readers generalities:
Also on Wednesday, protesters tried to stop Chen from visiting a temple, taunting police that have guarded every step of his December 21-25 visit, local media reported.
Jennings fails to answer some essential questions for the readers: Who were the protesters? (Were they members of the violent China Unification Promotion Party (CUPP, 中華統一促進黨), members of the peaceful Falun Gong movement, common hooligans, or simply citizens of Taiwan who don't want an authoritarian regime to take over their lives?); Why were the protesters there? (Chen Yunlin has previously threatened Taiwan, and he and his comrades are currently trying to annex Taiwan.); How did they try to stop Chen Yunlin? (Did they use weapons [sticks, stones, knives, guns, Molotov cocktails]? [No.], or did they just stand at the scene, hold up signs, and shout? [Yes.]); Which temple was this, and does it have any special significance? (Could it be Chenlan Temple, a temple which is run by a convicted criminal? [Yes!]); Which local media? (I dunno. Jennings doesn't/won't specify.)
Of course, Reuters places a strict word limit on this type of reporting from Taiwan which handicaps reporting severely. But here the "if it bleeds it leads" creates a narrative whose construction, as maddog notes, places the onus for the "violence" (one shove!) squarely on the protesters, who also "taunt" police (a necessary detail because...?). Police violence disappears in this narrative, and the truly chilling, implicitly violent event goes unmentioned as well...

The really interesting thing here is not the protesters peacefully pushing back against Chen Yunlin, whose Peacefully Rising government on many occasions has threatened wholesale murder of Taiwanese, but the 700 temple association members (?) who showed up, apparently in concert with the police, at the Matsu Temple in Dajia (1. video 4:05) (2. video: China Times looks at the 700 bravos). Note that in the first video, about 2:40 the reporter questions the police about the bravos who showed up and they simply walk away from him.

Think the threat of 700 toughs doesn't have a chilling effect on the protests?

The temple itself is an interesting choice for Chen Yunlin to visit, and shows the interconnections between China, the KMT, organized crime, and local religion (pictures of the temple), and local police and security forces. The Matsu Temple is controlled by Yen Ching-piao, who is basically Dajia town's analogue to Michael Corleone. Yen has been in and out of local jails over his many years as gravel digger and politician. He oversees the annual Matsu pilgrimmage, now one of the largest religious processions in the world. Another connection: the Deputy Chair of the Temple, Cheng Ming-kun, head of the Taiwan Matsu Association, a goddess with hundreds of thousands of adherents, who is very close to Yen, was in Beijing in July visiting Chen Yunlin (go here for my commentary, it's a classic example of AFP a work). Of course, who can forget the wedding of Yen's 16 year old son, which I wrote about several years ago, an event attended by KMT heavyweights:
The Gentle Rant commented on an odd angle of an appalling affair: a wedding given by a local politician that featured 20,000 guests.
What I'm wondering is how many sharks were 'finned' to whip up 20,000 bowls of shark fin soup? I found an interesting article called, Shark Fin Soup: An Eco-Catastrophe?
The eco-catastrophe aspect was one that hadn't occurred to me -- there were just so many things about the event that defied belief, that one slipped under my radar. The wedding featured two teenagers as pregnant bride and nervous groom, and was given by a prominent "colorful" politician with a long record of legal trouble -- someone who, in another country, might be referred to as a "don." Prominent Blue politicians were among those in attendance:

The wedding party was more a show of Yen Chin-piao's political muscle than a celebration of the new couple's friends, bringing together political figures of various parties, including the opposition Kuomintang's former chairman, Lien Chan (連戰), incumbent Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as well as Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) were said to have been on the reception's guest list, but neither appeared at the ceremony.

And the Chinese papers also dropped a few broad clues about the nature of the host:

A rough translation: "Yesterday from north and south came no small amount of "brothers" using the names of companies to attend, taking up more than a dozen tables, wearing black clothing and black pants. Everybody looked at them."
There's far more to this than Envoy Visits Local Temple to Protests. In fact, elucidating (some of) the dizzying array of connections shows how cross-strait politics and local politics, organized crime, the KMT, and local religion, are incestuously intertwined.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hong Kong: the future of Taiwan?

A friend flipped me the 2008 Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council Report on Hong Kong since the handover. Interesting because the MAC hosts it and issued it, and interesting because it is a glimpse of the kinds of pressures and politics Taiwan will face. The summary:

Analysis Report: 11 Years After Hong Kong's Handover
  • *Mainland China has in a high-profile manner intervened in Hong Kong affairs at the different levels, which hindered democratic advancement.
  • *The HKSAR government has rationalized mainland China’s intervention in Hong Kong affairs, which hastened a qualitative change in the “one country, two systems” formula.
  • Positive economic prospects have helped stabilized Hong Kong’s political situation.
  • The Hong Kong economy has become heavily reliant on mainland China, and the impacts brought about by changes in mainland China’s economy and policy have increased.
  • Press and speech freedoms and the rights to visit hometowns have been undermined, which aroused concern.
  • The international community has affirmed the sound investment climate in Hong Kong, but has been concerned over the timetable and roadmap of the direct elections.
  • The interaction between Hong Kong and mainland China has become more frequent, and the integration of the immigrant population has become an issue.
  • The HKSAR government has proposed measures to strengthen Taiwan-Hong Kong relations, while the crux lies in the accompanying measures and the continuity.
  • There have been 178 controversial cases that test China's pledge to keep Hong Kong “unchanged for 50 years.”
The report is 16 pages. Enjoy your reading....
Daily Links
SPECIAL: Mark Lynas (blog), author of Six Degrees, says it was China, not Obama, that wrecked the climate talks, to save the PRC's coal-based economy. Unlike everyone else, he was actually there in the room. Lynas' claims are supported by the Indian government's satisfaction with the outcome. Wonder what they will say when northern India becomes a waterless desert when the rivers fed by Himalayan glaciers dry up. All totally avoidable with current technologies.....
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, December 22, 2009

Daily Links, December 22, 2009


Meanwhile, what shiny new hardware is out there on the blogs?
AWARDS: David hands out of the Best Taiwan blog awards.

MEDIA: No wonder Chinese don't understand Taiwan: writer describes how his book has been altered by censors in the PRC. Academic paper from a few years back on Foreign Spouses in Taiwan. First map of Taiwan vegetation published. Taiwan sees record number of foreign visitors. This is why we need Chinese tourists, to save our tourism industry....wait a second... Taiwan Cement buys big cement producer in southern China. More deals between China and our construction-industrial state. Saturday's big quake produced over 100 aftershocks. Taiwan says it will abide by climate accord. President Chen was detained for two more months -- thank you, KMT. Not only does each detention expose the conviction of Chen as nothing more than a farcical, vindictive attack on the man, but by keeping him in jail, you help Tsai Ing-wen move the DPP into the post-Chen era more easily and swiftly. China Daily is fairly sane on the Chen Yunlin demonstrators, even admitting that the pro-sellout crowd is mostly elderly and not many. Taiwan investigators dig more deeply into the Pang case, with bank losses here now creeping above $200 million in inflated Yankee dollars. China, Taiwan car firms looking at joint venture. Officer penalized for using pepper spray on Chen Yunlin protesters (not authorized equipment). Nat Bellocchi with another excellent piece in Taipei Times arguing that the US should stop fooling around and back Taiwan. Except for the bog-standard load of Denialist crap from the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a catch-all group for fossil fuel funded anti-science "skeptics", the Taipei Times hosts an interesting page on Copenhagen. Way cool: Taiwan to put tax on unhealthy food.

VIDEO: Forum on the trial of Chen Shui-bian moderated by Jerome Cohen. maddog with video of band at rally.

MEDIA WATCH: AP's grip on history and balance falters:

Since taking office in May 2008, Harvard-educated Ma has eased tensions across the 100-mile (160-kilometer) -wide Taiwan Strait to their lowest level in 60 years, turning his back on predecessor Chen Shui-Bian's pro-independence policies.

He has pushed a welter of business-boosting initiatives, including regular air and sea links with the mainland and ending across-the-board restrictions on Chinese investment in Taiwan.

"Harvard educated Ma" again -- a class signal saying "he's one of us!" although nobody despises the US more than ideologically-committed Deep Blues like Ma. Note the description of Tsai Ing-wen, by contrast:
"Our president has turned blind to the possibility that jobs will be lost" after signing the agreement, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen told protesters Sunday.
Tsai? She went to NTU, Cornell, and has a Ph.D in law from the London School of Economics. She's much better educated than Ma is (and smarter too). Let's balance Harvard-educated with LSE-educated as AP has done before. Note that this article is not from a Taipei reporter, but appears to be from the Beijing-based reporter. Huh?

Skipping over the utterly ahistorical "split in 1949" formulation, AP's treatment of the Chen era is deeply wrong as well. The Chen Administration did not put in "across the board restrictions" on investment in China: it was the Chen Administration that legalized investment in China. Under Chen Shui-bian our exports to China passed South Korea's. Total investment may have exceeded US$200 billion. There was an investment cap, only, and restrictions on certain key industries, but the DPP turned a blind eye to the movement of local SMEs to China. The initiatives credited to Ma were all started by the DPP, and largely sought by that party -- China would not cooperate because the DPP would not sell out Taiwan, not because the DPP was averse to dealing with China. But in the AP, it's down the memory hole with you, Chen Shui-bian! "Across the board" restrictions remain in key industries, as the Ma Administration has made clear. It would be great if the automated worship of Ma would cease and some informed, enlightened writing on the Chen/Ma relationships with China would replace it. For example you could cobble together something like this:
The Ma Administration's China policies are built on the initiatives of the previous DPP Administration, which were stymied by the unwillingness of Beijing to negotiate with the pro-independence DPP.

However, Ma has pushed for even broader and closer links, saying Taiwan needs to avoid economic marginalization, moves lauded by the global financial community and local large businesses, but opposed by the pro-independence DPP, along with many workers, small businessmen and farmers.
You might complain that's long, but AP managed to find room to inform its readers of the exciting fact that the Taiwan Strait is 100 miles (160 kilomters) wide. Why not delete that and add more background?

AFP: Ok, I know it isn't fair to go after Xinhua Lite, AFP, but I just can't resist. This week AFP repeated the Taipei Zoo chief's claim that pandas increased Zoo ticket purchases by 500,000, from 3.2 million to 3.7 million. So I did that amazing thing: research. In 2006, the Zoo attracted 3.4 million people; in 2007, 3.37 million. In 2008, 3.2 million. The spike in 2009? Probably just as due to the fact that the wonderful Taipei Zoo remains a great bargain in a recession when people are searching for cheaper, stay-at-home entertainment. After all, the Zoo rang up 3.4 million in 2006 with no pandas. In fact, Google's magic even revealed the hard reality from back in March, when Reuters reported:

Zoo official Eric Tsao said Taipei zoo's panda traffic averages 1,000 people on weekdays and 5,000 to 8,000 on weekends, down from daily maximums of 14,400 to 19,200.

Initial predictions had put traffic at 30,000 to 90,000 visitors a day.

Go, Cargo Cult pandas: if only we have ECFA pandas, we will all be showered with riches avoid marginalization get 30-90,000 visitors a day! So according to the current claim, those pandas increased overall attendance by about 1,500 a day, for a failure from initial prediction of about 28,000 to 88,000 a day. That's like a metaphor for our relationship with China.... Boy that was hard work, searching the internet for ten minutes. I think I need to lie down now.

ECFA WATCH: The CCP-KMT negotiations over double taxation were given up; three items for talks remain. I'm very curious to see whether this will be a meaningful deal (which China probably wants) or a very typical Taipei agreement in which it enthusiastically agrees to do something it has no intention of carrying out in practice. When the economy improves next year, look for the KMT to claim its China policies were responsible for the turnaround.

FARCICAL LOCAL POLITICIAN WATCH: Some of you may recall the saga of the Taitung county by-election a few years ago, in which the indicted county magistrate had to step down, and then divorced his wife so she could run in his place (won in a landslide too). History repeats itself, as Fu Kun-chi, whom the KMT would not run due to corruption, won the magistracy in Hualien county, while facing sentencing for conviction of nefarious activities. He promptly divorced his wife, and appointed her deputy magistrate so she can succeed him when he goes to jail. Marx was wrong; when history repeats itself, it is farce both times.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Chen Yunlin Security State

Forgive another picture heavy post.... fate took me down to the Windsor Hotel today where I snapped some pictures of the heavy security around the Chen Yunlin visit. Here's the view from Taichunggang Rd as you cross under the HSR.

The Falunggong has set up outside the building.

Directly in front of the hotel.

Lines of police keep cars away.

Protesters cluster directly across from the hotel. Had my camera accidentally set to ISO 800, so they are sort of overexposed and grainy.

The media is also there.

Up and down the street there are policemen on every corner. Here's a hint: stop threatening Taiwan, and it won't threaten you, Mr. Chen.
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DPP Rally, Dec 19, 2009

Sunday I marched in the DPP's march & rally "breaking the black box/protecting the rice bowls" to protest the arrival of PRC negotiator Chen Yunlin in our fair city of Taichung. We came early, before the crowd gathered here along a 1.5 kilometer stretch of Anhe Rd.

Tripods await news cameras.

A TV announcer warms up.

Preparing for the big broadcast.

Rally goers began arriving around 1:00 in buses from all over Taiwan.

The family is ready.

Rally-goers in uniform vests were a common sight.

An airhorn seller. Thankfully there did not seem to be many airhorns in our part of the crowd.

Although the sun came out for brief moments throughout the march, it was quite cold.

The DPP had plenty of its own volunteers doing traffic management and security.

Here a security volunteer receives instruction in the use of the lightsaber.

We ran into one of my wife's old classmates, now a DPP county councilman for Taipei county.

The crowd builds.

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu, a canny politician, laid on buses to move the protesters from the train station to the rally point. They were called "Love Democracy Buses" as the sign atop the bus says.

The old were a strong presence in the rally, with a leavening of families in their 40s with small children. There was hardly anyone under 35. The DPP rallies offer nothing to attract the young, so they don't come.

This cute father and son team was heavily photo'd.

Lots of home-made signs.

As the crowd stacked up, traffic become more and more difficult to manage. The police and the DPP volunteers did a great job.

This DPP politico lead the crowd cheers. Here she is giving out interviews.

Another contingent arrives.

The crowd continues to build.

Perhaps the most interesting vehicle was the photographers truck. It was dog-eat-dog up there.

Tossing oranges to the crowd.

Festooned with signs and banners and....a large crustacean, this truck drove by to cheers from the crowd.

The crowd stretched down both sides of Anhe Rd here for over a kilometer.

A number of prominent DPP politicians appeared. Here former Chairman Yu Shyi-kun arrives.

Frank Hsieh spoke as well.

Of course, Tsai Ing-wen had the last word.

A rally-goer.

The crowd waits to move.

A cameraman films the crowd as we walk up Anhe Rd.

Lin Cho-shui was there just standing by the side of the road.

On the move.

A large ROC was painted on a building near Chen Yunlin's route. Another equally gigantic sign announced "one China, one Taiwan."

Marching along Taichunggang Rd to chants of "One country on each side!"

The HSR roars overhead.

Security films the crowd.

I was never able to get above the crowd for a good shot, too many signs and things blocking the view.

It wasn't the only thing shivering.

Emerging into the city.

Construction cranes everywhere on this side of the city signal strong construction-industrial state support for the incumbent KMT mayor, Jason Hu.

The police were everywhere and did a fantastic job in traffic and crowd management.

The crowd approaches Liming Rd.

Moving in style.

Marching down Liming Rd.

As the marchers went down Liming, the crossing traffic cut up the crowd into chunks.

My family and I with my friend Drew, taken by Drew's wife, Joyce.

Crowd estimates: as we were walking and talking on the phone with people in the other line, there was much cynical commentary among us foreigners on how badly the international media would lowball the crowd size and how much credence it would give the always absurdly low police figures. Some estimates:

AFP: "up to 30,000"
AP: the police said 20-30,000, and reported (fairly) "tens of thousands."
Reuters: "Organizers said 100,000 people attended the march. Local police put the figure at 10,000." The report said "thousands" demonstrated. Reuters also said:
"Among the protesters were hardliners who want Taiwan to declare formal independence from China. Some waved banners advocating 'one side, one country.'"
This construction is ridiculous on every level. Apparently, in the international media, if you march peacefully waving a banner and declare that you support an independent and democratic Taiwan, you're a "hardliner." But if you point missiles at Taiwan, declare that everyone on the island must submit or die, and threaten to plunge the region into war if you don't get your way, you're.....a statesman? Hey Reuters, the President of China is a mass murderer. I guess if only he would wave banners and chant, people would really think he was a hardliner.

Not to mention the grossly incorrect formulation that Taiwan is declaring independence "from China." We're not part of China, and no internationally recognized treaty makes us part of China. There's a reason people read blogs, and errors like this are it.

The CNA, by contrast, did an excellent job; the reporter who wrote this piece was actually there:

In the days leading up to Sunday's protest rally, the DPP said it hoped to mobilize 100,000 people, and the party estimated after the event that the turnout had surpassed its goal. The Taichung City government, on the other hand, put the turnout at 31,000.

Fears that clashes would break out never materialized. Taichung City government spokesperson Tsou Mei-liang earlier said that no confrontations took place Sunday, and it was not a surprise since "the protest was legally applied for and all arrangements had been implemented beforehand." Prior to the main rally, the protesters marched for more than two hours in Taichung's streets, and made the most noise when they walked past the Windsor Hotel, where Chen will stay during his five-day stay, to express their displeasure over the Chinese negotiator's visit.

The Taipei Times also reported a police figure of 30,000. Good to know that the process ran peacefully, but with Chen Yunlin arriving later this morning, and local KMT councilman coyly asking the DPP not to get violent, I smell a set up.

What I believe is the correct figure is given in the Taiwan News piece by longtime Taiwan journalist Dennis Engbarth, who was actually there:

Marchers in the first route, which was mobilized by the DPP, numbered over 40,000, according to former DPP secretary-general Lin Chia-lung, while the "Break the Black Box" route had over 30,000 participants.

DPP Spokesman Tsai Chi-chang stated that over 100,000 participated in the event, surpassing the party's target.

Dennis and I were in different lines, I would say about 60-70,000 for the whole march as well. 30,000 is ridiculous; there were more people than that in my line alone. The DPP figure of 100,000 is also too high. The mysterious 10,000 number in the Reuters piece is simply the kind of nonsense that makes you shake your head. UPDATE: Found out that incredibly lowball figure was the first figure the police were giving out. That was later changed to 30,000.

This march had a different feel than the rallies I was in last year, much less electric, more mellow. As a friend noted, fewer airhorns, thankfully. Perhaps it was just the cold weather. Turnout was probably also depressed by Taichung's lack of convenient public transportation.

Taiwan News quoted the DPP's Lin Chia-lung, the likely challenger for the upgraded Taichung mayoralty next year:
Former DPP secretary-general Lin Chia-lung told The Taiwan News that the fact that the march attained its target "will exert pressure on the Chiang-Chen talks."

"Hu Jintao (PRC State Chairman) stated that the ECFA talks should be launched before the end of this year, but the size of this march in Taichung City, which is under KMT administration, and the strong showing of young people shows that many people in Taiwan identify its advocations."

"The march has sent a message to Hu that the CCP cannot simply strike a deal with Ma or the KMT and ignore the Taiwan people," said Lin, who added that "Ma now faces a combined pressure from the Taiwan electorate and the CCP."
Young people? What young people? I don't know about the other line, but there were few in mine.

ADDED: There were young people among the crowds lining the roads. I suspect if the DPP offered the right activities, consumption items, rituals, and gestures, the young might well turn out. It should also be noted, as a friend reminded me, that the turnout along the road is important too.

CORRECTED: maddog writes:

The DPP rallies offer nothing to attract the young, so they don't come. Kou Chou Ching (sp?) and Dog G performed at the rally. Did you miss it? I did miss it! Thanks man. That's good news.
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