Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ECFA Signing Round Up

A day that will live in commentary....

WSJ's anonymous commmentary:
The DPP has a point that Beijing may gain some leverage over Taiwan as ECFA opens the economy. But then this has already been happening, just as it did before the Hong Kong handover. Business elites with interests on the mainland always take Beijing's side to some degree. Regionally, too, China's power will only continue to grow. Defenders of Taiwan's sovereignty have to play smarter than pretending they can command the tides. The island's separate identity and public consensus in favor of maintaining the political status quo remain strong. However, it is best to negotiate with the mainland from a position of strength: economic, political and military. That means retaining Taiwan's vitality and centrality to the world's production chains, so that other powers have an interest in the country's survival. The armed forces also need remedial attention if they are to remain a credible deterrent.
The commentator has it wrong: the pro-Taiwan side isn't attempting to command the tides, but to teach the horse to sing. This commentator also takes the common position that Taiwan needs to negotiate from a position of economic and political strength. Completely correct -- and then the commentator remarks that Taiwan can achieve that strength by becoming more economically and politically dependent on China. Wait -- how's that again?

Simon Tisdall turns in an excellent piece in the Guardian that looks at the pro-Taiwan side:

"This agreement is not about free trade, it is about political control," said Bob Yang of the US-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs. "[It] undermines Taiwan's sovereignty and the ability of Taiwanese to determine their own future … The net effect will be to push Taiwan closer to a still repressive China at the expense of freedom and democracy."

Taiwan's main opposition parties strongly agree. Tens of thousands of protesters rallied at weekend demonstrations in Taipei. Outrage was also expressed at the blocking of a national referendum on the deal. A new referendum proposal has now been tabled. Whatever the outcome, the opposition is vowing Ma's KMT will pay a high price in local elections this autumn and in the 2012 presidential poll.

How many writers cite Bob Yang of FAPA? Great work. AP errs rather strongly:

For Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, the deal is the centerpiece of a campaign of rapprochement he has helped engineer since taking office in May 2008. Ma argues that a trade deal with China is necessary to prevent Taiwan's economic marginalization amid growing commercial ties between Beijing and neighboring Asian countries. But he is under pressure to prove his strategy is working to Taiwan's boisterous democracy and a divided public skeptical about Beijing's intentions.

More than 30,000 Taiwanese protested the deal in the capital Taipei over the weekend. Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party have criticized Ma for proceeding without enough public input and rejecting calls for a public referendum on the agreement.

Still, polls show a majority of Taiwanese support the deal because of the economic boost it promises - although most on the island still prefer self-rule.

Polls DO NOT show a majority of the island supports the deal. Polls consistently show support in the forties. Note how the total of "more than 30,000" deprecates the actual number -- probably twice that.

CS Monitor writes:
Meanwhile, President Ma has seen his approval ratings dip as he's spent political capital pushing ECFA, to 28 percent in mid-June from about 40 percent in mid-2009. With the pro-independence opposition mounting a full-throated anti-ECFA campaign, he’s likely to shift back into campaign mode. That means more pro-Taiwan rhetoric and less happy talk about China.

Ma and his party will face tough local elections this November, a legislative election in late 2011, and a March 2012 reelection bid. There's already loud domestic opposition to his cross-strait economic agenda, let alone anything more ambitious.

"Ma Ying-jeou will make every effort to prove to voters that [ECFA] really brings the positive results he promised," says George Tsai, a political analyst at Chinese Culture University in Taipei. "But time is short, and people's patience is also short.

Someone out there is noting that ECFA and Ma's unpopularity are linked!

Taiwan News blasted ECFA for putting Taiwan on the road to Hong Kong:

Instead, the ECFA as signed has reduced Taiwan's status as a democratic and independent state to a status similar or even lower than the PRC's "special administrative regions" of Hong Kong and Macau.

The most telling signal of this reality was the date and place of the signing, which occurred precisely on the seventh anniversary of the signing of the "Closer Economic Partnership Agreement" between the PRC central government and the PRC's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" and the location of the ceremony in Chongqing, the location of peace talks between the late KMT autocrat Chiang Kai-shek and the late CCP Chairman Mao Zedong in August 1945.

These "coincidences sent the symbolic messages that the pact was a "party to party agreement" between the KMT and CCP and that the ECFA was parallel to the CEPAs signed between Beijing and Hong Kong and Macau.


Moreover, Appendix Three of the ECFA specially excludes the right of either side to use WTO "trade remedies" and thus reduces Taiwan's defenses, such as "anti-dumping" or "anti-subsidy" duties or "national security" or cultural exceptions, against the PRC's institutionalized "social dumping."

Yes, once again, the Ma Administration sold out the island. Taiwan News claims the escape clause from ECFA is vague but the TT has a piece on it (below) that suggests otherwise. Check out that political symbolism -- on the anniversary of the Hong Kong CEPA and in the former capital of the KMT regime in China, where dictators Chiang and Mao once met. Hilariously, KMT negotiator Chiang said it was all just a coincidence. The fact that the Taiwan negotiators accepted this political symbolism speaks volumes.

The Taipei Times had a detailed examination of the termination clause:
The statement said the term was one of the provisions the Taiwanese team fought hard to include in the accord.

“It is the ultimate safety net,” the statement said.

“It is improper to describe it as a bargaining chip that China will use to threaten Taiwan or to demand that it toe the line,” it added.

The statement was made in response to a Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) report that warned Beijing could use the termination clause to demand that Taiwan behave.

Commenting on the termination clause yesterday, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) spokesperson on ECFA related issues, Julian Kuo (郭正亮), said: “It doesn’t matter either way ... the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government doesn’t have the courage to activate this exit clause anyway.”

He said DPP headquarters would, along with the DPP legislative caucus, look into a proposal to table a bill that would force the KMT government to invoke the exit clause of the agreement if it were not able to sign free-trade agreements (FTA) with other countries within a year.

DPP lawmakers would also consider attempting to force the government to terminate the agreement if GDP growth did not reach government estimates, unemployment continued to increase or if average salaries remained stagnant, Kuo added.
Note that the Taiwan team says it had to fight hard to get the termination clause -- meaning that China did not want one. Think about it.

It's FTA time. Will any of the important countries stand up and offer Taiwan an FTA? Should be fun to watch.

CNN Money cheerleads ECFA, as does WaPo. WSJ points out that banks on either side cannot invest in the other. NPR, though it repeats AP's erroneous "split in 1949" formula, manages a good roundup that gets both sides, citing APs summary:

As the Associated Press succinctly puts it:

Beijing hopes the deal signed Tuesday can lead to political accommodation. Taiwan is looking for the tighter economic links to keep the island from being economically marginalized as China's global clout grows.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Beijing says it's unclear if the pact will genuinely ease cross-Strait political tensions.

Kuhn says while China views greater economic integration with Taiwan as the road to eventual unification, Taiwanese opponents of the pact argue that it makes the island too economically dependent on Beijing.

One unlooked for effect: the deal boosted investor confidence in Taiwan, pushing up its currency. Since a stronger NT affects Taiwan's exports, the central bank was busy dumping NT dollars last night to offset the pressure on the NT to move up. BBC's Cindy Sui, whose balance and depth is a welcome departure from the usual pro-China line at BBC, had another long and sturdy look at ECFA yesterday:
That, critics and others say, could give Beijing a way to control Taiwan's politics, society and sovereignty.

"In the years to come after the FTA is signed, it may be very difficult to separate Taiwan from China," said Sung Kuo-chen, a research fellow specialising in Taiwan-China relations at the National Chengchi University in Taipei.

"For example, the fruits you buy may be Chinese, many people around you may be Chinese compatriots. Eventually, you might be able to take Taiwanese currency and use it in China. In that sense, what is separate about China and Taiwan?"

Perhaps 50 years from now, Taiwan may be like a province of China in all but name, some analysts say.

Taiwan may very well be able to keep its current democratic system and self-rule, and China's leaders may even eventually accept the concept of Taiwan having a president, analysts say.

Finally, an acquaintance of mine passed around this witty Chinese tone drill from her father on Taiwan-China relations: The Four stages of Tong: 1 通, 2 同 , 3 統 , 4 痛

REFERENCES: ECFA text and related articles. ETFs and Taiwan. DPP anti-ECFA ads on Youtube.
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Not ECFA today

I was going to write a long commentary on the ECFA signing today, but there is lots of commentary on the signing of ECFA, which there is no need to repost here. So just some fun.... for pure comedy gold, nobody topped CNN's inventive description of Taiwan's relationship to China, a formula that has shown up in several CNN accounts.:

"Taiwan began as the remnant of the government that ruled over mainland China until a Communist uprising proved victorious in 1949. China considers Taiwan as a breakaway province and does not recognize it as a sovereign nation."

Yes, Taiwan was merely a speck in the ocean, which has expanded gradually since 1949. I hear China plans to do this with all the little islands in the South China Sea.....

If you read through the CNN article it contains no balancing information on the event whatsoever, everything is from a pro-ECFA voice. LOL.

For a fun read, check out this anonymous piece on China and self-determination:
ABSTRACT: There are major differences between the Chinese Communists’ pre-1944 and post-1944 policies with regard to the rights of non-ethnic Chinese. In recent years, the Chinese government has moved toward accepting the two International Covenants on human rights. Although these explicitly endorse the principle of peoples’ right to self-determination (not to be confused with independence), the way that the Chinese government views its attendant obligations is inconsistent with the plain language of the operative legal instruments. The problem is complicated by the fact that the generally relied-upon Chinese versions of the relevant international instruments, which the Chinese government claims to accept in principle, are in certain crucial respects at variance from what the authentic versions actually say. There is also a disconnect between the way Chinese and Central Asians tend to view questions of territorial sovereignty. Some Central Asian peoples have gained their independence (from China and Russia), and some of China’s subject peoples appear willing to accept present arrangements. For the others, the struggle continues. This article contextualizes the self-determination question in terms of Chinese territory and ideology. It also examines Chinese responses to modern international law and how China operates within the United Nations system and responds to un values. It discusses China’s perception of self-determination elsewhere, including the dissolution of federal and unitary states, and explores some of the implications of China’s stand. The authors also suggest some possible alternative paths for effecting self-determination.
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Some of you were wondering what peaks those are in my current header pic. Actually, I was wondering that too, so I decided to take a gander at Google Maps. My best guess is that they are the pair of peaks under the blue quadrangle above, south of Hwy 8 through the mountains. In my header pic the larger exposed area is on the left, where it would be if those were the two peaks in question. Don't see any way to get to them short of some tough climbing and hiking, though!
Daily Links:
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Daily Links, June 28th, 2010

What's he thinking about? Probably how, now that the Taiwan delegation is arriving in Chongqing/Chungking to sign the ECFA tomorrow, the streets will be paved with gold by Wednesday. Certainly by Friday at the latest....

Meanwhile what's out there on the blogs today? Slow week.....

MEDIA: Undocument immigration from Fujian to Japan. Bloomberg on how ECFA is drawing Taiwan into China's embrace. India, frightened by China, shies away from Taiwan. More on the putative Taiwan-Philippines FTA. DPP says China Petroleum rigged tenders to allow China-owned firms to win. Former KMT Chairman Wu Po-Hsiung criticizes former President Lee's criticisms of ECFA. Thanks to economy and traditional beliefs, last year was a bad one for marriage in Taiwan. Asia Sentinel on the story that China will redeploy missiles facing Taiwan if the US stops selling Taiwan weapons. Defense News on same topic.

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Two views of Consensus and Self-determination

This week Steve Tsang's awful piece advocating that Taiwan sell out made the rounds, including in the Taipei Times. The original here is at Project Syndicate. It's full of claims that will be familiar to anyone who has long experience with the pro-China side. I left a long comment there, which begins:
Mr. Tsang's upside-down description of affairs should be read as a primer in how not to understand affairs between Taiwan, China, and the United States....
I want to post it at places around the web where I found that piece but most don't accept comments, sadly. If you see any, let me know.

Fortunately the Taipei Times published a very interesting response by Dafydd Fell, the well-known Taiwan scholar. Unfortunately it repeats a common canard about the Chen Administration:
Earlier this week Steve Tsang (曾銳生) argued in this paper that now is the time for Taiwan to forge consensus. Compared to the 1990s, politics in Taiwan has been highly antagonistic and polarized in the post-2000 period. This trend applies both to the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Ma Ying-jiu (馬英九) eras, as ruling parties have attempted to make policy oblivious of domestic opposition. Ostrich style politics has contributed to a growing sense of political alienation in the camp that is out of office. Taiwan’s democracy is one of its most valuable assets on the world stage, but the last decade has seen a severe erosion in its status as a model democracy.

How can Taiwan actually get out of this vicious cycle of antagonistic style politics? A review of Taiwan’s recent political history shows that there are precedents for a more consensual style of politics. Although we should not view the era of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) through rose tinted spectacles, a remarkable feature was the move from polarized politics to political consensus. In the 1990s, Taiwanese elites were able to reach genuine consensus on constitutional reform, democratization, social policy and even external relations.

This kind of agreement was generated through both electoral debate and consensus seeking cross-party conventions, such as the 1990 National Affairs Conference and the 1996 National Development Conference. This meant that by the end of the decade, although parties disagreed on many topics, they agreed that democracy was the only game in town and had a tacit agreement on handling foreign and cross-strait relations. This kind of consensual politics gave Taiwan’s democracy considerable domestic and international legitimacy.
I can't see how the Chen Administration attempted to make policy "oblivious" of the opposition. It appears to have been forgotten that in the first Chen Administration the Premier, EPA minister, and Defense Minister were all KMTers, and Defense remained a KMT post throughout all eight years of the DPP era. Moreover, Chen's policies had to pass the KMT controlled legislature, which rejected DPP policies in most areas, most famously in the defense procurement. There were a few stunts such as renaming the Chiang Kai-shek memorial that may have been unpopular among the opposition and exasperated the general public, but on the whole the Chen Administrations showed willingness to work with the other team, perhaps largely because it had to. Ma Ying-jeou, needless to say, shows no such inclination to cooperate with the opposition, and only strident and effective politicking by the DPP has moved the KMT towards the center.

Fell argues that a national convention could move the nation towards consensus on many issues.
In theory, this is something that should be handled by the Legislative Yuan, but its antagonistic culture seems to make this an impossibility. Such a convention should include not only cross-party representatives but also participants from academia, business and civil society. We should not forget that surveys show most voters do not identify with the major parties.

A consensus seeking conference should not be limited to external relations. Political analysts agree that Taiwan also requires serious domestic reforms. Depending on your point of view, Ma’s government has been extremely disappointing or highly cautious on domestic policymaking. Thus, some kind of consensus is also required on key topics such as reviving trust in the judiciary, making the electoral system more proportional, keeping Taiwan economically competitive, making Taiwan a genuine multi-cultural society and tackling the growing problem of income inequality. These are all pressing issues facing the country, simply muddling along will not do.
Actually, surveys show that most voters identify with one camp or the other. The May Global Views party identification survey puts over 65% of voters in the Blue or Green camps. Typically in polls there is a quiet bloc of pan-Greens who will not admit party ID but nevertheless vote Green, meaning that the actual total of individuals identifying with a camp is higher than that figure. But that is not a serious issue.

A convention is an interesting and daring idea, and Fell has picked some excellent topics.... what institution is capable of hosting such a thing? Fell says it is a pipe dream, especially with the elections due in November.....

Fell's remarks on the consensus of the Lee Teng-hui years are food for thought. I think the "consensus" of the Lee years was a result of several structural factors that are no longer in play. First, the long arm of Chiang Ching-kuo, who was responsible for shaping so much of the Taiwan we live in today, cast its shadow over the 1990s. Then LTH was Chairman of the party with the support of many elites, and was also a masterful politician with his hands on the strings of power and strong support from below. Neither Chen Shui-bian nor Ma Ying-jeou had so much control over such a wide swathe of society, including their own parties. Moreoever Lee had the luxury of China being far less powerful and influential than it is now, along with much better support from the US. Ah, nostalgia for the Lee Teng-hui years.....
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

ECFA protest reporting round up

Bloomberg Businessweek:
About 32,000 people joined the rally since the protest began on the streets of Taipei at 3 p.m. local time, Wu Ching- tien, deputy chief of Taipei’s Zhongzheng First Police District said by phone today. Crowds were peacefully dismissed by 7 p.m., Wu said. The opposition had aimed to gather 100,000 people.

32,000? I was curious to see what lowball figure the police would come up with.

Taiwan News:
The government mobilized Cabinet members to promote the planned Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China Sunday despite a massive protest rallying tens of thousands the previous day.

Taiwan and China are scheduled to sign the agreement in Chongqing on Tuesday, though marches and rallies in Taipei Saturday emphasized the demand for a referendum on the issue.

An estimated 150,000 people braved pouring rain to voice their opposition, said Tsai Chi-chang, a spokesman for the Democratic Progressive Party, which organized the protest.

LA Times
Known as the economic cooperation framework agreement, the pact is to be signed Tuesday in the Chinese city of Chongqing. The deal will immediately reduce or eliminate tariffs on about 800 types of exports — more than 500 of which are from Taiwan, and only about 250 from China.

The deal will also allow both sides greater access to each other's markets. Taiwan's banks, for instance, will be able to set up branches in China and do yuan business. China also agreed to allow an unlimited number of Taiwanese films to be shown as long as they pass the scrutiny of censors, Taiwanese officials said.

Taiwan's government has insisted that the deal is important for the export-dependent island's economic survival. Despite decades of animosity, the similar language and culture between the two sides have helped make China Taiwan's biggest trade partner and export market. Trade between the two sides reached $80 billion in 2009; it was at $100 billion before the economic downturn.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou says the deal is about economics, not politics, and that Taiwan's democracy can fend off undue pressure from Beijing.

We are of course aware of the political ambitions of mainland China toward us during this period, but we cannot let this make us afraid, pull back or avoid trying to move forward," Ma said during a recent televised debate on the trade deal. "We have confidence in Taiwan, in Taiwan businesses and in Taiwan's democracy."

For China's leaders, though, this probably is more about politics than economics.

They hope this deal will help them to win hearts and minds in Taiwan.

That is important if they are ever to achieve their goal of bringing the island back under the control of Beijing.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Taipei on Saturday as Taiwan prepares to seal a major trade deal with Beijing that opponents fear is a step towards Chinese control.

"Oppose ECFA!", "Save Taiwan!", protesters shouted at the march in downtown Taipei organised by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Even AFP used the formulation "tens of thousands." Obviously more than 32,000 were there.

The agreement is the jewel in the crown of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's policy of seeking closer economic ties to ease tension across the Taiwan Strait, a flash point since the two sides split amid civil war in 1949.

But closer political and economic ties could also serve China's long-term goal of returning the self-ruled island to its control, the fundamental aim of its Taiwan policy.

Finally! A number of media outlets are openly acknowledging that the purpose of ECFA is to drag Taiwan into China's orbit, and not attributing that to the opposition as a mere claim. Thanks, guys. Now isn't it time to deal with the ridiculous "split in 1949" formula?

J Michael's account of his experience at the protest.
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Taiwan's A Whale Goes off to save Gulf

Thanks to commenter MX for this great story of a Taiwanese vessel off to save the Gulf of Mexico....
With no assurances it will be allowed to join the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup, a Taiwanese-owned ship billed as the world's largest skimming vessel was preparing to sail Friday evening to the scene of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The 'A Whale' skimmer, 3 1/2 football fields long and 10 stories tall, was photographed in Norfolk, Va., on Friday. June 25 2010

The ship -- the length of 3 1/2 football fields and 10 stories high -- is designed to collect up to 500,000 barrels of oily water a day through 12 vents on either side of its bow. It docked in Norfolk en route to the Gulf from Portugal, where it was retrofitted to skim the seas. The ship and its crew of 32 were to leave Virginia waters Friday evening.

The owners of the "A Whale" said the ship features a new skimming approach that has never been attempted on such a large scale. They are anxious to put it to its first test in the Gulf.

"We really have to start showing people what we can do," said Bob Grantham, project coordinator for TMT Group, a Taiwan-based shipping company.

The company is still negotiating with the Coast Guard to join the cleanup and does not have a contract with BP to perform cleanup work. The company also needs environmental approval and waiver of a nearly century-old law aimed at protecting U.S. shipping interests.
The A Whale holds a million barrels of oil. Another story from Virginia notes:

Nobu Su, the CEO and founder of TMT Group, a Taiwanese shipping company, described the engineering behind his latest creation as "totally not common sense and totally against the rules."

Speaking in shirt sleeves and a blue baseball cap on the docks of Norfolk International Terminals, Su was referring to the special holes he had cut into the sides of his massive vessel, named A Whale.

As designed, the giant skimmer would roll across the Gulf "like a lawn mower cutting the grass," Su said, ingesting millions of gallons of oily water through the small slits.

The tainted water would then fall into huge storage tanks in the belly of the ship. There, oil would separate from sea water. The toxic stuff would be collected and disposed of, the water returned to the Gulf.

"A large-scale disaster needs a large-scale solution," Su told a crowd of reporters, shipping executives and regulators.

A Whale could handle 500,000 barrels of oily water a day, or slightly less than what all the skimmers now in the Gulf have gathered in more than 60 days on the job, Su said.

A no-brainer? Not quite.

Because the vessel is Taiwanese and was built in South Korea, it needs an exemption from the Jones Act, a federal law requiring commercial ships doing business in U.S. coastal waters to be American-flagged.

America's can-do spirit is alive and Taiwan.
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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why the Media Sucks

From today's Reuters report as it appeared in the Taipei Times:
The package caused a major rift among pro-democracy lawmakers, some of whom say it does not go far enough toward universal suffrage and deflates their demand for full-scale reform.

“This is the darkest day in Hong Kong’s democratic development,” yelled radical pro-democracy lawmaker Albert Chan (陳偉業), before storming out of the legislature.

Chan was one of 12 pro-­democracy lawmakers voting against the package.

Since 1997, the struggle for full democracy has been a central and divisive theme in local politics, pitting liberal advocates and democrats against Beijing’s Communist leaders, but the new deal — that sharply divided various pro-­democracy factions — could usher in a new era of warmer ties between moderate democrats and Beijing, analysts said.
Newspapers, you know, just report the news. No ideology here, no sireee. In Reuters' framing, people who want full democracy are "radicals" whereas people who work with Beijing are "moderates". Not to pick on Reuters, of course, the media all report this slovenly, ideologically-charged way. Actually, all the democracy advocates are moderates. Each advocates different tactics in dealing with Beijing.

But Hu Jin-tao, whose government tortures and kills enemies of his party, who controls a massive security state aimed at suppression of all opposition and control of all channels of communication, who pursues harmless Falungong practitioners to the end of the earth, who follows aggressive, expansionist military and diplomatic policies that involve claims to lands and peoples no Chinese emperor ever ruled, bringing it into conflict with all the states around it, who threatens to plunge all of Asia into war in order to annex neighboring states --- Hu will never be described as a "radical".

Hu is a statesman.

Mr. Chan, by contrast, is just a radical who advocates full democracy. Unserious. Weird. Maybe next time Mr. Chan should torture and kill the people who disagree with him, and point missiles at neighboring states and threaten to annex their territory. Then he would stop being a radical, and become a statesman.

And Reuters and other media will helpfully report that his opponents are radicals.

UPDATE: J Michael on AFP doing the same thing.
UPDATE II: Taipei Times review of the Laogai labor camp system, which is not run by radicals or hardliners. At least according to the international media.
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Chen Yuan-tsong, Pompe disease, biotech, Whites playing Asians

Yes, everything in that title is in this post. First the Taipei Times today reported in an article on whether professors should be allowed to work in corporations as well as teach in universities:
The ministry made the announcement after Chen Yuan-tsong (陳垣崇), director of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences, was released on NT$600,000 bail on Tuesday after being questioned by prosecutors in a corruption investigation.

Chen is suspected of transferring his patented technologies for producing genetic-based diagnostic tests to Phamigene — a biomedical company in which he serves as honorary founder — that then sold two test products to Academia Sinica through two government procurement bids for a total value of NT$15 million (US$467,000).

Prosecutors said Chen’s wife is also a manager at the company.

Under the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法), procurement staff or supervisors must withdraw if they or their spouses, blood relatives or relatives by marriage who live with or share property with them, have vested interests in the a particular procurement.
Chen Yuan-tsong is already famous and in fact a movie is being made about him, except he is not being mentioned at all and his part is completely overwritten by Whitey -- in this case, Harrison Ford. Angry Asian Man has the call here:
But the real guy who developed the cure was not a Dr. Robert Stonehill, nor looks anything like Indiana Jones. The real guy is a fellow named Dr. Yuan-Tsong Chen, who developed the treatment with colleagues at the Duke University Medical Center. I learned this from, of all places, Roger Ebert's movie review:
Dr. Robert Stonehill doesn't exist in real life. The Pompe cure was developed by Dr. Yuan-Tsong Chen and his colleagues while he was at Duke University. He is now director of the Institute of Biomedical Science in Taiwan. Harrison Ford, as this film's executive producer, perhaps saw Stonehill as a plum role for himself; a rewrite was necessary because he couldn't very well play Dr. Chen. The real Chen, a Taiwan University graduate, worked his way up at Duke from a residency to professor and chief of medical genetics at the Duke University Medical Center. He has been mentioned as a Nobel candidate.
Ebert also speculates that Dr. Chen might have been inspired a more interesting character than Dr. Stonehill. But I suppose Harrison Ford, who also serves as the film's executive producer, isn't the first guy that comes to mind for the role of "Taiwanese Scientist." Thus, the rewrite. Ah, what could've been.
In addition to Pompe Disease, Chen has done other awesome work, which is why he's been mentioned in the same sentence with Nobel (Taipei Times with more on the film)(Danny Bloom with a discussion of the White-Asian issues). It totally sucks that Ford somehow couldn't find a talented Asian actor to play the role, though there are many.

Meanwhile, back to the indictment. Ask yourself if this brilliant scientist moved to Taiwan and suddenly became corrupt and venal. Think maybe not? I've heard on the background that he transferred the product to this firm because it appears to be the only one in Taiwan that can make the product. The real problem, as the government appears to have correctly diagnosed, in this case, is that the laws governing the relationships between universities and corporations hinder transfer of commercializable technology.
Daily Links
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Fuji HS10 Review

I've had the HS10 for some time now, taking it on trips, using it by night and day and in different weather conditions, and I've a few observations to share. Hope you find them helpful. In this discussion, the Canon is my previous generation Canon Powershot S5 IS.

Things I like
The lens is awesome -- so awesome it nearly makes up for the many flaws in this camera. The telephoto is sharp and clear, with no noticeable barreling. The super macro is like walking around with a microscope in your hand. Simply amazing.

At the higher ISOs the images are relatively clean of noise. That picture of the Mikado Pheasant I took in Taroko was taken at 1600 ISO.

Some of the functions are really nifty. The tracking function is pure fun -- I was experimenting with it today on traffic going by the 85C where we had stopped for slushies. The red car above is one of the shots I took -- I set the focus on TRACKING and just followed the car. The result is excellent. The scenery setting, as you can see in the Taroko pics a few posts down, is outstanding, much better than my old Canon. Sometimes the arrangement of camera functions is very sensible. Instead of having all the functions on the dial where they are not needed, there are three settings -- ADV., SP1, and SP2, that enable you to access many different settings and keep three of them up at all times. Really an economical approach, meaning that you don't have to turn through 100 settings on the dial to reach the one you want.

The lens cap does not come off easily. This is a great quality when you put the camera away, protecting the lens.

The Fuji HS10 takes AA batteries. I detest proprietary battery systems.

Fuji has absolutely mastered making the camera feel right in the hand. No other camera brand I've ever owned has that property: the grip makes it seem like your hand was born to hold that camera.

Things I don't like
The manual control of the lens is clunky and requires a little effort to use. It lacks the smoothness of a true SLR lens.

The manual focus is nuts. In theory it is a great idea. You set the camera on manual focus and manipulate a second ring to make the function work. In practice it requires two hands, and because one is moving the ring, the camera shakes -- making it harder to focus! In other words, it has a built in Catch-22: the more you use the manual focus, the harder it is to achieve a good focus. This is especially if, as so often, you are leaning over or out to get the shot you want. The manual focus needs to be automated with a thumb button on the right side of the camera.

The layout of controls was clearly done by an engineer for engineering purposes, not for user convenience. Except for the macro and ISO, all of the camera's major controls require two hands, one to hold the button down and the other to select the setting. My Canon Powershot does everything with one hand with a set of efficiently nested menus and is vastly superior to the layout of the Fuji. This is a real problem since I do lots of shooting while moving on a bike or in my car, and I need one hand free, but then shifting the hands around is a problem in any shooting situation. The lens cap requires two hands to remove -- the Canon pops off when the lens extends as you turn on the camera. It also requires two hands to put back on. While riding my bike, I can pop the lens cap off with my mouth, but I lack the coordination to put it back on the same way. I suspect that if I try to use the Fuji on my bike, my last words are going to be something like Wow, look at that beautiful -- SPLAT!

My Canon used the UP/DOWN/LEFT/RIGHT arrow function to control the increase/decrease of most functions, very intuitive. The Fuji has an additional dial on the top of the camera that controls some functions, others are controlled elsewhere. Clunky, inefficient, and sometimes difficult to remember. For example, while you are sitting there contemplating the insect on the leaf you want to shoot, you ask yourself Do I increase the exposure compensation by turning the dial while holding the button, or by pressing that other button on top of the camera and holding down another button? You next adjust the manual focus, which takes ages because your hands are shaking from holding the bulky camera at full extension while stretching and turning your fingers around holding buttons down like some new and painful game of Miniature Twister. By then, from studying your contortions, the insect has mated, reproduced, and founded a new, superior civilization that threatens mankind's grip on the earth. On the Canon, needless to say, I did all those functions with one thumb.

The Fuji has only basic color controls; the Canon Powershot has a wider range.

The shutter lag is like something out of 2002. WTF?

The panorama function is a joke. So far I have not been able to get it to produce a decent panorama and I have basically given up trying to use it. The Canon Powershot took the sensible route of providing stitching software that produces excellent panoramas, which I now use with the Fuji.

The HS10 does HD video but I have not used that function yet. The Canon Powershot has a sound recorder in addition to the video, the Fuji lacks one. Fuji does not permit you to shoot an image while videoing, but the Canon does. Overall, despite being the next generation camera, the functionality and ease of use of the Fuji appears to be lower than the Canon, despite some areas where it offers greater functionality.

One annoyance I have with all cameras, not just the Fuji, is the firmware wasted on functions I don't need. The IMAGE controls in the HS10, for example, include CROP and RESIZE. Who the hell crops inside a camera on that tiny screen? Instead of giving me these controls I don't use, why not spend the firmware space on more useful shooting functions? Especially since firmware hacks are available that allow you to shoot in all sorts of modes not original to the camera (on the Canon I had a hack that allowed me to shoot stereo 3-D shots). Or better yet, why not give users a basic set of firmware and then have them download firmware add-ons that they desire. After all, it is highly unlikely I will ever use the SNOW SHOOTING function here in Taiwan. Shouldn't I be able to discard it for something like TRUE BETEL NUT SPIT COLOR? User involvement can be solicited this way too, with people writing scripts for cameras (already going on in the informal firmware hack world) just as today people write iPhone Apps.

Great moments in "God Help Us, We're in the Hands of Engineers"
In image review system in the camera Fuji establishes a new WTF? benchmark: after you delete a photo it returns to the last image in the series. Yes, that's right: if you take 500 pictures in a day, like I often do on long trips, and as you scroll through, decide you don't like image 203 in the series, the Fuji HS10 helpfully returns you to image 500 at the end after you delete, not to image 204 or 202, meaning you have to scroll back 300 images to get to where you were. Welcome to 1996. This tiresome 'feature' alone is enough to make me recommend that you wait for a more intelligently designed camera with a massive lens.

Overall Recommendation
If you are looking for that bridge camera between a prosumer camera and a true SLR, this isn't it, even with that awesome lens. I'd wait until Nikon or Canon comes out with a similarly massive lens system and a CMOS sensor before upgrading from your current camera. Fuji gave it the old college try, but they missed the mark. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Daily Links:
  • NOT TO BE MISSED: When excavators came to the rice fields: Foxconn's land grab in central Taiwan.
  • Central Bank unexpectedly raises the benchmark interest rate, hitting property stocks.
  • Richard Bush on the social foundations of Taiwan's future from Brookings, with some interesting thoughts. Bush, like many commentators, argues that "Uncompetitive, previously protected firms will go out of business. Opportunities will blossom for the most advanced sectors." Reality: ECFA will preserve government-subsidized big firms and financial houses while even by KMT thinktank estimates will reduce the size of the vanguard electronics sector 8-9%. Meanwhile our nimble SME sector will also take a hit.
  • Terms of ECFA deal agreed on: Rueters has a sturdy report. More on that later.
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Shangri-La Dialogue: South China Sea Blues

The Jamestown Brief has a good piece by Ian Storey on the recent mil-mil Shangri-La Dialogue that mentions the emergence of Sino-US tensions over the islands in the South China Sea that Beijing wants to annex. To wit:
Of direct relevance to the security of Southeast Asia were Gates’ remarks concerning the changing strategic context of the South China Sea dispute. As noted by contributors to the Jamestown Foundation, tensions in the South China Sea have been on the upswing since 2007 due to a combination of rising nationalism, increasing friction over access to energy and fishery resources, attempts by the various disputants to bolster their jurisdictional claims, and the rapid modernization of the PLA Navy which is shifting the military balance of power in China’s favor [3].

At SLD, Gates highlighted the territorial dispute as an “area of growing concern for the United States.” He reiterated long-standing U.S. policy― that America has a vital interest in the maintenance of stability and freedom of navigation in the sea, does not take sides on competing sovereignty claims, and opposes the use of force to resolve the problem. Yet he added that the United States objected “to any effort to intimidate U.S. corporations or those of any other nation engaged in legitimate economic activity,” a clear reference to attempts by the PRC to pressure foreign energy corporations― including U.S. giant ExxonMobil—into suspending oil and gas projects in disputed waters off the Vietnamese coast.

Gates went on to underscore the importance of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC) as a mechanism to mitigate rising tensions. Conceived by ASEAN as a way of promoting dialogue and cooperative confidence building measures among the claimant countries, talks between the organization and China on formulating guidelines to implement the DoC stalled in 2009 over Beijing’s insistence that discussions could only proceed on a bilateral basis rather than with the ten member grouping as a whole, an approach rejected by ASEAN. According to Gates, the United States supports the “concrete implementation” of the agreement, a remark that can only be seen as Washington’s stamp of approval for Vietnam’s efforts as ASEAN Chair to break the diplomatic impasse and coax Beijing into putting the agreement into practice (See “China’s ‘Charm Offensive” Loses Momentum in Southeast Asia Part I,” China Brief, April 29, 2010.
Note (1) Chinese pressure on US corporations to suspend their activities in the area; (2) China's preference for bilateral negotiations where it can exert pressure on "partners" rather than as an equal; (3) the shifting balance of military power in China's favor; and (4) US naturally drawn to support the forces against China.

These areas of tension sprawl across the US-China relationship -- because they are symptoms, not causes. On with the hegemonic wars: will we be Spain of Philip III, or Edwardian Britain?

Let's not forget that Taiwan claims all the islands in the Spratlys (map), as does China. China and other claimants in the area have long used the foreign oil companies against each other -- in the 1990s Vietnam and China gave competing firm leases in the same disputed area, just to piss each other off. People often argue that the KMT government's claim to be the government of China has no real-world fallout, but its insane desire to annex everything that China wants puts the people of Taiwan into conflict with a number of nations around it whose support is needed -- in area where increasing Chinese military power means inevitable armed conflict.
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rosen and Wang on ECFA

Taiwan News has a nifty editorial on an Economic Forecast coming out from the Peterson Institute:

In a preliminary paper published by the Petersen Institute of International Economics newsletter in its June 2010 issue, U.S. economists Dan Rosen and Wang Zhi summarized the findings of their soon to be released book-long analysis of the ECFA, which will be entitled "The Implications of China-Taiwan Economic Liberalization."

Rosen, the principal of the New York-based Rhodium Group research firm and a long-time specialist in the PRC economy, and Wang, an senior economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission, argue that "our economic projections of the effects of a China-Taiwan economic liberalization agreement point to the significant benefits of cross-Strait economic reform, especially for Taiwan."

Since Rosen works for a large investment research firm, and writes for WSJ and CSIS, and both economists are PRC specialists, it is fairly obvious what conclusion the analysis will have: roll out the runways, the Planes Loaded with Cargo are a'comin!:

Based "on an economic model similar to the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) platform," Rosen and Wang maintain that an ECFA along the lines of the agreement between the PRC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations would increase Taiwan's gross domestic product by a net 5.3 percent by 2020.

Since Taiwan already has "normal trade relations with the rest of Asia," Rosen and Wang maintain that Taiwan will gain most of the growth dividend through liberalization through correction of "abnormalities" in the form of "unilateral barriers to imports, investment, and visitors from China" that they say are "welfare - diminishing" for both household consumers and enterprises.

The Rosen and Wang forecast is clearly more optimistic than the maximum net effect of a positive 2.55 percent increase in GDP by 2020 offered by the Chung-Hua Institute for Economic Research and the Ministry of Economic Affairs in a feasibility study issued last July and would seem to constitute an even stronger argument for the ECFA.

Wow! Things are even better than the pro-KMT think tanks imagine! My bullshit sensor is signaling a five-alarm fire (the related policy brief is here). Note that brief says the 5.3% figure is a vapor figure derived by adding the calculated gain and the expected loss if Taiwan doesn't sign ECFA. In other words the gain from ECFA is 4.5%, the loss is 0.8%, at least according to their construction.

Taiwan News attacks this by arguing that the real problem is the narrow idea that welfare consists of economic growth...
Surely there would be little opposition in achieving deeper integration with the PRC through the ECFA if China was a friendly democratic nation with a normal market economy, but this is not how the PRC is perceived by a majority of the Taiwan people, including many whom have spent years working or investing or travelling in China.
Taiwan News may be right as far as they go, but the real issue is that Rosen et al's "analysis" simply plays out its innate ideological assumptions about what constitutes welfare (cheap goods, not jobs) which anyone who has watched the American worker get decimated by the financial industry + foreign imports over the last three decades will be intimately familiar with. We may well get a "net" 5.3% boost to GDP growth, though such claims are highly problematic -- in fact if the yuan rises, demand for Taiwan goods might increase substantially in China. But you can be certain that the analysis doesn't include...

1. ...any discussion of the sad fact that gains are going largely to big financial firms, large manufacturers, and organized crime, and thus while GDP may grow, income inequality will worsen. Will ordinary people see anything from ECFA? Doubtful.

2. ...any attempt to measure the economic and social effects of smuggling of everything from food to auto parts, which has been disastrous for nations signing FTAs with China. For example, the fact that I have to worry about inferior, poisonous Chinese food items in the local market is a cost I pay, aside from their direct deleterious effects. A cost that Wang and Rosen want everyone to pay, but why should they give a shit? They don't live here, and if it isn't in the model, it doesn't exist.

3. ...any attempt to measure the effects of diseases, crime, human trafficking, illegal Chinese labor, and similar.

4. ...any attempt to model the effects of China's nationalist business practices on Taiwan's firms.

5. ...etc Any intelligent reader will be able to think of many costs the GTAP model doesn't cover, such as losing control of one's destiny or democracy. Or the way that the KMT is using China markets -- like tourism and students -- to carry out status quo policies that reinforce its grip on the local level. What is the cost of that?

My favorite part of the brief is this...
For its part, China is frank in stating that it supports an ECFA undertaking because it believes this will maximize the prospect for eventual political integration across the Taiwan Strait.
I read that first sentence and gave them kudos for their clear statement of what ECFA is for, something that Establishment types are generally very reluctant to mention. But then this next sentence....
But officials in Beijing argue that this belief is rooted not in the idea that ECFA would enhance their ability to coerce Taiwan but in the view that it would maximize mutual prosperity and Taiwan’s perception of common interest, thereby establishing the goodwill necessary to facilitate political rapprochement in the future.
Taking Beijing at its word? That's just....delusional. No other word for it. ECFA is all about coercion via economic integration and subsequent assimilation.

Nope, Rosen and Wang just another of the many examples of using statistics to provide a veneer of legitimacy for bad policy. Sad.
Daily Links:
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ma: Taiwan is a Province

President Ma displayed another example of his habit of downplaying Taiwan's status when in the presence of outsiders when he referred to Taiwan as a "province" in a meeting with Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. The Taipei Times reports:
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) referred to Taiwan as a “province” yesterday while describing the sister-state relationship between Taiwan and Texas, rekindling the controversial issue of his perception of Taiwan’s status.

Ma told Texas Governor Rick Perry during a meeting at the Presidential Office that the country’s relationship with Texas was a close one.

“In 1988, Texas and Taiwan Province became sister states,” Ma said. “Over the past two years, we have engaged in many exchanges in technology, culture, education and agriculture.”

Ma thanked the Texas legislature for passing a resolution last year reaffirming the “sister state and sister province” relationship.
Ma's constant downgrading of Taiwan is an issue that grates even with his supporters, especially among the young, never mind Greens and independent voters. This habit of his to belittle Taiwan, even when completely unnecessary (there was no reason to refer to Taiwan as a "province" in this context), also reveals his ideological commitments. Local elections loom, and Global Views has satisfaction with the President at 28%, yet the President and Chairman of the KMT continues to speak as if it is 1963. This determined reference to the zombie claims of yesteryear demonstrates that Ma is not a "pragmatist" but an ideologue steeped in ROC mythology and ideology, who deploys its discourses with understanding and with malice aforethought.

But I am sure that analysts in the US will continue to be puzzled by Ma's total lack of popularity.

UPDATE: But see comment below that undermines my position.
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Paper on Parade: The Chiang Personality Cult

He looked up again at the portrait of Big Brother. The colossus that bestrode the world! The rock against which the hordes of Asia dashed themselves in vain! He thought how ten minutes ago — yes, only ten minutes — there had still been equivocation in his heart as he wondered whether the news from the front would be of victory or defeat....

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

The other day I was discussing Chiang's successful grip on power in the KMT for several decades. For me personally Chiang's ascendancy over China for so long, given that he was, by all accounts save the recent hagiography by Jay Taylor, an incompetent and a brute, has always been a bit of a mystery. Why would anyone ever follow such a person?

The answer, of course, is that people too often look at the Chiang regime and see only Chiang, whereas what they should see is regime: the structure. A key factor in authoritarian control, especially in quasi-Leninist structures as different as the Communist Party of Russia, the Nazi Party, or the KMT, are the political and social structures that compel the subject to follow along with the dominant ideology and to reproduce its discourses and understandings in his or her own thinking. The ultimate goal of any Party-State is to colonize the human mind so that active enforcement of doctrine becomes redundant: the subject identifies the forbidden as sin or thoughtcrime and so herself refrains. A trivial but good example of this form of control in current discourse is the casual way in which most Taiwanese refer to China as the mainland. By doing so, they recapitulate KMT ideology about Taiwan's relationship to China in everyday conversation, invariably without considering what they are doing. Similarly, when people refer to the Japanese occupation they recapitulate the false KMT claim that China owned Taiwan during the era of Japanese sovereignty. And what you express on the outside, you recapitulate on the inside.

How one aspect of KMT ideology was reproduced in the minds of his followers and subjects is the topic of a paper by Jeremy E. Taylor, The Production of the Chiang Kai-shek Personality Cult, 1929–1975 (China Quarterly, 2006)(not the same Taylor who produced the hagiographies of Chiang Ching-guo and Chiang Kai-shek), which offers a sketch of how the personality cult centered around Chiang Kai-shek was produced by both state and non-state actors in Taiwan society. As such, it shows how in states organized along centralized Leninist lines, the shaping of human behavior by political and social structuring is far more important in reproducing State ideology at the level of the individual than mere killing of political opponents. Nor is it merely a question of carrot and stick: Leninist (and colonial) ideological systems produce subjects who are active participants in their own oppression and the oppression of those around them.

Taylor opens with a few simple questions that the paper answers:
How and why did a personality cult develop around the figure of Chiang Kai-shek? Who was responsible for its production? And how did this cult reflect the particular circumstances in which the Nationalists found themselves in Taiwan?
The paper is concerned only with how the cult was produced and reproduced, not how it was received among the people of China and Taiwan.

Was there a personality cult? Taylor points out that it is possible to argue, given the lack of a formal bureaucratic agency dedicated to the production of a personality cult, and Chiang's repeated condemnation of personality cults in similar authoritarian societies like China and the USSR. Taylor argues, however:
Although it is true that no single agency held responsibility for encouraging veneration of Chiang, a personality cult – something that the political scientist Pao-min Chang has described as “the artificial elevation of the status and authority of one man … through the deliberate creation, projection and propagation of a godlike image”11 – did indeed exist in Taiwan in the post-war years. The many hands involved in the creation of this cult shared a common goal of raising Chiang above the level of others, and making his rule appear permanent and unalterable.
The origins of the cult lie in the Nanjing period prior to WWII, asserts Taylor. There Chiang learned to draw on Confucian ideologies of piety and respect in presenting himself, and in re-imagining himself -- I might note, a dictator who had seized power and ruled with great incompetence and savagery -- as the father of the nation and "the personification of Chinese history and culture."

It was in Nanjing that the streets were paved with Chiang: the habit of naming boulevards after major figures of the regime began, Taylor says. There too Chiang consecrated a massive Memorial Hall to Sun Yat-sen, thus annointing himself Sun's successor. Nanjing was also full of organizations that promoted Chiang....
Representative of these was the Officers’ Moral Endeavour Association (OMEA, lizhishe), an organization founded by graduates of the Whampoa Military Academy in 1929, and modelled largely on the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). Although the original goals of the OMEA were to “instil an uplifting moral influence in the Huang Poo cadets [sic]”17 and provide entertainment and educational services for members of the armed forces, the Association found its calling in the production of propaganda focused on Chiang Kai-shek and his wife.

The OMEA was one of many organizations that developed in the Nanjing years and which shared a common belief in the need for a strong leader for China. Indeed, as Frederic Wakeman has shown, the use of the term lingxiu (leader/fuhrer) in reference to Chiang Kai-shek, a practice that was to become a mainstay of the Chiang cult on Taiwan, can be attributed not to Chiang himself but to followers from a group known as the Lixingshe who sought to promote loyalty to their mentor.
Chiang thus served a need. These organizations and others then engaged in mass production of Chiang imagery. An OMEA member was Chiang's personal photographer, and learned Soviet and American propaganda techniques. Wartime also provided the opportunity to use, and learn from, propaganda about the Chiangs aimed at American audiences.

After 1949 the regime relocated to Taiwan. Both techniques perfected in the Nanjing years, and new ones developed out of local ideas, were aimed at the Taiwanese. Taylor writes:
One example was the extensive use of Chiang Kai-shek’s name – Zhongzheng – in the christening of schools, parks and thoroughfares in Taiwan, usually in tandem with similar institutions named after Sun Yat-sen. This began within weeks of Taiwan’s cession to Chinese rule in 1945, marking a continuation of the efforts that had been made in Nanjing and Chongqing, so that by the time of the Nationalist government’s complete relocation to Taipei in 1949, almost every city and town in Taiwan could claim a Zhongzheng Lu (Chiang Kai-shek Road) and a Zhongshan Lu (Sun Yat-sen Road) thanks to the efforts of zealous city and county administrators.24 Similarly, other techniques first employed on the mainland were used in Taiwan in this era. Stephane Corcuff notes that the first statue of Chiang to appear in Taiwan was raised only 192 days after retrocession.25 And by the early 1950s, Chiang’s face was criss-crossing the Taiwanese countryside on the front of “propaganda trains” (xuanchuan lieche),26 just as it had done on the mainland a few years earlier.27
Although much of the statuary has thankfully vanished, the street names remain. As anyone who has traveled around Taiwan is aware, the Chiang regime also appropriated the areas of power of the previous colonial regime, the Japanese. Thus the presidential palace (zongtong fu) in Taipei, which had been built in the 1910s to house colonial government-general in Taiwan, "was officially renamed the Jieshou Tang (literally “the Hall of Chiang Kai-shek’s Longevity”) within weeks of Taiwan’s cession to Chinese rule." The KMT also brought in Taiwan-born artist to create art that celebrated The Dear Leader.

Propaganda production was disseminated by the General Political Department, one of the institutions that was set up in Taiwan to maintain the continuity of the Cult once the regime was wrenched from its home in Nanjing, much as Dracula brought crates of Transylvanian soil with him to London. The General Political Department distributed Chiang's dull announcements, and its Fine Arts Department became home for many OMEA Chiang artists. Another key department in the Chiang cult was the China Youth Corps (CYC), which fostered the Cult among the young. Taylor observes:
It even sponsored young intellectuals to travel abroad and learn leader-worship skills in other authoritarian societies. Roberto Liang (Liang Junwu), one of the most celebrated painters of Chiang Kai-shek portraits in the 1970s, had travelled to Spain in the 1960s to pursue studies with funding from the Corps. It was there that he had learnt the art of producing iconic portraits of dictators and their families, having “had the honour of painting portrait [sic] of Miss Bina Franco, the sister of Generalissimo Franco.”38
The KMT has always appropriated and reworked local Taiwan heroes and stories to legitimate its own political action, as we saw with the recent CCP-KMT lovefest in Xiamen that borrowed religious and folk ideas from Taiwan culture in the service of annexing Taiwan to China. In the Chiang Cult case, an extant leader cult, that of Koxinga, and reworked it in terms of Chiang Kai-shek's own life:
The parallels between Koxinga and Chiang (both anti-colonial heroes who had fought against “illegitimate” mainland regimes from bases on Taiwan) were stressed by the Nationalist government almost as soon as Chiang had evacuated to Taipei. Sites associated with Koxinga were restored and celebrated. By 1950, Chiang Kai-shek’s calligraphy adorned a shrine that Japanese colonizers had raised in honour of Koxinga.40 In government-sponsored publications, Koxinga’s exploits were described with reference to Nationalist-inspired vocabulary that recalled Chiang’s own campaigns: Koxinga’s victory against the Dutch East India Company being termed a “retrocession of Taiwan” (fuTai);41 his campaign against the Qing a “northern expedition” (beifa).42 Indeed, at times, the figures of Chiang and Koxinga even seem to have been deliberately conflated in official discourse. As Marshall Johnson has noted in referring to the Nationalist government’s presentation of Koxinga as a pre-incarnation” 43 of Chiang, propaganda collapsed the centuries that separated the two figures. Both were labelled “minzu yingxiong” (hero[es] of the nation) on statue-bases, for example.44
The loss of China represented a problem for the KMT, because the holy sites associated with Chiang's life had been cut off from the experience of his subjects in Taiwan. Taylor argues that the lack of the actual terrain of Chiang's life meant that a new mode veneration of Chiang emerged, one in which the man became the physical symbol and incarnation of the land itself:
Yet the constant references to Chiang as a man of alpine qualities; the propensity that photographers such as Hu Chongxian had for capturing images of Chiang in mountainous climes; and even the claim that the temporary resting site for Chiang’s body in Cihu was chosen because of its topographical similarities to his hometown in the mainland would all suggest that the links between Chiang and the mountains of Zhejiang were very much forced.47 Such associations helped reinforce the idea that Chiang was not simply the leader of China, but was himself a physical personification of the country.
Another effect of distance from China was the "historicization" (Frederic Wakeman's term) of Chiang, in which he became a figure abstracted from specific times and spaces. "By its very nature, the Chiang cult entailed an attempt to transform a living leader into an historical or quasi-mythical figure so that the transience and recentness of Chiang’s rule on Taiwan could be replaced by a facade of permanence" Taylor says.

Taylor also asks an important question in the reproduction of the Chiang Cult: to what extent was participation and reproduction enforced? In many cases, such as schoolchildren, soldiers, and prisoners, it certainly was. In other cases, Chiang fulfilled ideological needs (as we saw above). Reproduction of the Cult was also carried out by the financial and status incentives offered to local artists who created Chiang statues. Taylor describes:
Interesting insights emerge from studies conducted by Taiwanese art historians such as Zheng Shuiping, who has argued that the vast number of statues of Chiang produced during the 1950s was not the result of an enforced directive, but rather of competition amongst sculptors and designers who saw such work as a means to improve their own professional standing.55 Indeed, the production of a substantial percentage of Chiang statuary was not directly commissioned, but was tendered by way of advertisements in the Central Daily News (Zhongyang ribao); artists, as well as others such as construction companies, chose to compete against each other for government and Party contracts.56 The picture that emerges is thus one of an environment in which individuals willingly produced Chiang statuary out of professional and commercial concerns.
The Chiang cult was also distributed freelance, so to speak, by individuals who sought to acquire works of art or items that had some connection to Chiang. For individuals who wished to carve a path to high places in the Party-State, production of art or Chiang biographies was a key route to higher rank. The structure, not merely the carrot and stick, did the shaping, as Taylor notes: "The cult’s production was thus supported by a political and public culture in which participation in the Chiang cult was rewarded."

Taylor raises many questions for future research, including those of the effects of technology and Taiwan's connections with other, similar cultures, that were beyond the scope of this paper. His closing lines are a thing of beauty:
Heir to Sun Yat-sen; latter-day Koxinga; hero of the nation; leader – Chiang probably imagined himself as all these things at one time or another. Yet it was only through the imagination of others around and below him that he was able to present himself in such terms to the people of Taiwan.
In my view one of the enduring successes of the Chiang Cult -- along with the mass market advertizing and propaganda techniques his American allies used to shape Western perceptions of his place in the politics of his time -- is that Chiang is viewed with a profound double standard as somehow "less of a dictator" than his non-Asian counterparts like Hitler, Stalin, Franco, or Mussolini. Its effect is also felt today in the continual defense of Chiang by KMT loyalists, and in the need of current KMT politicians to somehow link back to the Chiang charisma -- though they usually do so by reference to Chiang Kai-shek's son Chiang Ching-kuo. The popularity of the younger Chiang is in its own way a kind of psychic compensation for the absurd and groundless veneration of the father -- Ching-kuo is the Chiang that, in today's modern Taiwan society, it is ok to admire.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Daily Links, June 21, 2010

Caught these guys coming down Taroko Gorge the other day putting a concrete retaining wall over a landslide scar. Brave souls indeed.

China Reform Monitor notes:
Xinhua has signed an agreement with The Kenya Times granting the newspaper unlimited use of its pictures and stories and other materials. The cooperation will focus mainly on online content, popular among Kenyan youth, who make up 35 percent of the newspaper’s circulation. The partnership will also help strengthen ties between China and Kenya, said Andrew Sunkuli, Kenya Times Chief Executive. Xinhua boasts 4,000 photographers around the world, producing over 1,800 pictures daily. “I am sure Kenya Times would immensely benefit from their services,” said Wang Yao, Xinhua Deputy Editor-In-Chief, the Kenya Times reports.

[Editor’s Note: China has signed similar content agreements with news agencies throughout Africa. By providing content Xinhua seeks to extend the reach of CPC propaganda to new foreign audiences, many times without the reader’s knowledge of its true source.]
Well, at least we make great Hollywood movies! And we're making Afghanistan safe for Chinese investment! What's the non-Xinhua content out there on the blogs today?

SPECIAL: Friday Chen Shui-bian's detention got extended again. Because he's a flight risk....

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