Saturday, July 31, 2010

Formosa Plastics Yunlin Complex ordered to shut down

The media reported that Premier Wu ordered the Formosa Plastics Naptha Cracker in Mailiao to shut down temporarily. Taiwan News says:
Premier Wu Den-yih yesterday ordered to suspend the operations of the Formosa Plastics Group's sixth naphtha cracker in Yunlin County after he visited the site yesterday afternoon. The order came four days later after a fire occurred at the huge complex from July 25-26.

Wu cancelled his planned appointment in Taipei yesterday afternoon and visited the naphtha cracker in Yunlin and was welcomed by local residents who staged a sit-in protest outside the FPG petrochemical complex and called for a suspension of operations.

Responding to the demand, Wu ordered the suspension of operations immediately, while asking a thorough check on the site and also have all the Mailiao residents to have health check.

When he met a visiting delegation led by Chinese National Federation of Industries Chairman Preston Chen at the Presidential Office Friday morning, President Ma Ying-jeou urged the county government to cooperate with the central government in handling the aftermath of recent fires at the huge complex in Mailiao, Yunlin County.

The president said that both government levels should cooperate in firefighting and environmental protection instead of bickering and that his administration will hold meetings with the industrial sector in order to seek a balance between economic development and environmental protection.

Both the president and premier have come under fire for failing to show support for the people of Mailiao. Yunlin County Magistrate Su Chih-fen took a delegation of local residents to Taipei Thursday to stage a protest against the central government's slow response. She knelt outside the Executive Yuan, asking the premier to visit the plant and to see how the July 25-26 fire had damaged farmers' liveli
There have actually been a couple of fires at the facility in recent months. The KMT is anxious to appear as if it cared about locals, since the President's indifferent, and often inane, response to the Morakot disaster in Aug of 2009 was a major factor in his plummeting approval scores and in subsequent voter punishment of the KMT. With elections now only three months away...

The Taipei Times said:
The fire on Sunday, the second in a month, has resulted in severe air pollution and huge losses for local agricultural and fishery industries in Mailiao. There has also been strong opposition from local residents to a planned expansion of the petrochemical complex that is currently undergoing an environmental impact assessment by the government.
To under environmental impact assessments and Mailiao, see this post of mine from 2007.

In a related case, environmentalists won a victory as a court blocked expansion of the Central Taiwan Science park. To wit:
To stop the seizure of their farmlands in Siangsiliao (相思寮), Erlin, activists, environmentalists and local farmers filed three lawsuits with the administrative court — to void the science park’s construction permit for the Erlin project, to nullify the results of an environmental impact assessment, and to order the science park to stop all activities related to the expansion project until rulings on the two prior issues are handed down.

The court yesterday ruled in favor of the activists and suspended all expansion activities.

“The court ruling stressed a very important point,” Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧) told a news conference at the legislature. “It said ‘economic development and environmental protection are equally important.’”

“This is a very crucial ruling, and we’re now at a very crucial moment: From now on, economic development should no longer take precedence over the environment, as people used to think decades ago,” she said.
We could be at a very crucial moment. Or maybe not. Court orders have been ignored before in Taiwan. In fact, in this very science park expansion. Back in January it was reported...
The Supreme Administrative Court upheld a ruling Jan. 22 invalidating the environmental impact assessment which had allowed for the expansion of the Central Taiwan Science Park in Taichung County’s Houli Township.

The ruling put the developer, the National Science Council, in an awkward position, as construction had already begun after the initial conditional EIA approval. But after the court’s ruling was announced, work at the CTSP Houli branch was not stopped.

The failure to halt construction following the court’s decision angered environmental activists and legal experts alike. They called on the Environmental Protection Administration to order suspension of work in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Act. The nation’s top environmental authority, however, said the project did not have to be stopped.
The article is excellent and should be read in its entirety -- it gives a sad view of the emptiness of the EIA process, which exists to give the appearance of fulfilling an environmental commitment rather than to create the reality of it. They said when that order came down too that it was a watershed moment. But in social issues of this nature there is no single moment, but rather, the slow accumulation of events that produces an irresistible momentum. Still, it's movement in a positive direction....
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Odds and Ends

This comical error appeared in the US Navy's description of the RIMPAC exercises. No ROC navy ships were publicly known to be present. UPDATE: In other photos the participating ships are from Thailand.

Man, am I heartily sick of this rainy rainy summer. My new bike sandals are covered with mold, unable to dry out....

Lots of things happening. Spoke to a friend doing business with the Taichung city government, who told me that he heard from insiders that KMT internal polls have Hu up only 52-48. The DPP's Su is running a very effective campaign, and his popularity is evident from the fact that his picture is found with many of the local candidates for the new municipal council. Although I have traveled all over Taiwan during this election season, I have seen no pictures of local candidates with Ma Ying-jeou. Speaking of polls, the NCCU prediction market has the New Taipei City and Taipei City races neck and neck. In Taichung Hu's lead is narrowing.

Chen Che-nan -- remember him? One of Chen Shui-bian's inner circle. He had been a KMTer introduced by Shih Ming-te, the former DPP chairman who switched sides in 1999 or 2000 and then led the faux protests against Chen Shui-bian in 2005. Chen Che-nan was convicted of accepting bribes and was given nine years. Well, this week the panel of judges reduced his sentence months.
In addition, in the re-trial, a different panel of judges of the Taiwan High Court concluded that although Chen’s behavior had seriously damaged the image of the justice system, the High Court took into consideration Chen’s old age, poor health, and the fact that Chen had returned the bribe money to businessman Liang Po-hsun in full, and sentenced Chen to a prison term of one year and two months, or 14 months, reducing it to 7 months.
The logic of it is rather bizarre -- it is ok to take bribes if you give the money back. Should I read this as a rebuke of the prosecutors?

Anatomy of a smear: the KMT papers were pushing the case of Chen Shui-bian's son, now running for office in Kaohsiung....KMT news says:

The latest issue of Next Magazine disclosed yesterday the transcripts of audio-recordings of the mobile phone calls in which Chen Chih-chung, son of detained former President Chen Shui-bian, allegedly made appointments for prostitution services from February to July 20 this year. The report pointed out that the voice of the person making the appointments strongly resembled Chen Chih-chung. In response, a spokesman for Chen Chih-chung’s election campaign office said that the weekly magazine had not published any conclusive evidence, adding that Chen’s campaign headquarters would consult their lawyer as to whether they should take further legal action.

Yesterday’s story in Next Magazine did not include any direct evidence or pictures of Chen Chih-chung with a prostitute. Instead, the article compared the times when the telephone calls were made in the tape-recordings with Chen’s daily schedule and found that the young Chen’s itinerary “almost” matched the schedule of the “prostitute’s client.” Likewise, after Next Magazine exposed the story a week ago, Chen’s camp did not provide any evidence strong enough to rebut the allegations, such as video recording covering the entrance of Chen’s residence in Kaohsiung. Consequently, at this stage, the allegations in the story are a case of “he said, she said.”

Now let's think about this for a second. It is illegal to record someone without their permission in Taiwan. From where did that transcript of audio recordings come from? Do you think Next Magazine was tapping Chen's phone lines? Think hard...who was tapping the phone lines? C'mon, think -- who was tapping the Chen family's lines? Figure it out yet? Ok, now then who leaked that transcript, and why? Should be obvious, and it is far more serious than a politician visiting a prostitute. But you know what the papers will be focusing on.

By the way, I've heard that this appears to have raised Chen's popularity in the election.

Speaking of popularity, the fire at the sixth naptha cracker is slowly snowballing into a massive political issue. Protesters visited the government yesterday to toss dead fish at it. Could we be seeing the first hints of evolution in the Taiwanese perception of Taiwan's development needs? This week a major investor pulled out of the proposed Kuokuang petrochemical complex in Changhua, blaming the environment as an issue. Well, it makes a convenient whipping boy. Unfortunately I can't find any recent poll data on the environment and the naptha crackers.

On the international front, China Reform Monitor reports:
China and India’s dispute over the issuance of visas to residents of the Indian controlled areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir continues. The Times of India reports that for the last couple of years, China had been stapling a visa in a separate sheet in applicants passports, a policy the Indian government refused to recognize. In response, Beijing is now denying visas to those from areas it also claims. For the people of all other Indian states it pastes the visa in the passport, as is common practice.
Same tactics they use with Taiwan.

John Pomfret, who turns out first rate stuff on China, has a review of the Obama administration's new policy in response to China's upgrade of its claims to thousands of islands in the South China Sea. Two excerpts sum it up:
The strategy has won rare acclaim in Washington among the generally fractious community of China watchers. James Mulvenon, director of Defense Group Inc.'s Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, called it "a masterful piece of diplomacy" in dealing with China, which, he said, "continues to be this paradoxical combination of bluster, swagger and intense insecurity and caution."
and the Chinese blustering, as always:
"China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that's just a fact," he said, staring directly at Singapore's foreign minister, George Yeo, according to several participants at the meeting.

On Monday, Yang issued a statement on the Foreign Ministry's Web site saying that there was no need to internationalize the issue, that China was still intent on solving all of the disputes bilaterally and that China's view represented the interests of "fellow Asians."
China insists on bilateral negotiations, which means smaller littoral states face mighty China, with the obvious advantage to Beijing. Note also that Beijing is following the identical strategy with the South China Sea that it is following with Taiwan: insist on bilateral frameworks and prevent the problem from being internationalized. From that it is easy to see how the KMT's bilateral negotiations with China have defeated one of the goals of democracy activists and politicians in Taiwan: internationalizing the Taiwan issue. China has been exploiting this weakness of the KMT policy: the PRC has been making overtures to the Taiwan military, saying that talks on the missiles can be conducted -- so long as they are under Beijing's one-China principle.

"Fellow Asians". Yes folks, you are hearing that echo of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. I often speculate on the correct historical analogy for US-China relations. Spain of Philip III vs England and France? Rising Germany against the UK c. 1900? But sometimes China of 2010 is looking a lot like Japan c. 1930.

Oh yeah, as if to supply much-needed comic relief, the ROC re-affirmed its sovereignty over the island groups. Right.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dafydd Fell on Democracy in Taiwan

A tiny bug on a big leaf.

I wanted to highlight Dafydd Fell's excellent piece in China Aktuelle on the evolution of perceptions of the island's democracy, and on the KMT and DPP in the last two years.
The sense of renewed optimism over the state of Taiwan’s democracy that followed the KMT’s return to power in 2008 was short lived. Public satisfaction with the performance of President Ma fell even more rapidly than that of Chen (TVBS Poll Center 2010). It has tended to hover between 20 and 30 per cent, reaching an all-time low of 16 per cent in August 2009. These are the kind of levels of public approval that Chen had for much of his second term. It is not surprising that the DPP has accused the KMT of reverting to authoritarian governing practices. Such claims are more than just sour grapes – Freedom House’s 2010 Freedom in the World report downgraded Taiwan’s civil liberties ranking from 1 to 2.
Read the whole thing, it is quite good.
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New legislative report confirms ECFA issues

New reports from the legislature on ECFA from the Taiwan News. Read the whole is easy to see why KMT elites struggled to keep the legislature from reviewing the bill. Note that the report says that China will block FTAs, and that it will insist on annexing Taiwan. D'oh.


Taiwan News

The substantive risks to Taiwan's national security, economic autonomy and democratic health posed by the controversial "Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement" with the authoritarian People's Republic of China have been confirmed by reports drafted by the legal affairs and budget research departments of the Legislative Yuan.

Although the drafts have not yet been finalized, the nine reports are based on substantive research and investigation tours in both Hong Kong and Macau to examine the impact of the "closer economic partnership agreements" (CEPA) signed between the two PRC "special administrative regions" and the Beijing central government.

The preliminary results of the Legislative studies conflict sharply with the incessant attempts by President Ma Ying-jeou and numerous senior officials of his rightist Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government to paint opposition to ECFA as "alarmist" or "ideological."

Among the topics reviewed are the impact of the CEPA on social equity and employment, the economic impact of the revaluation of the renminbi, PRC economic policy toward Taiwan in the wake of the ECFA signing, the termination and conflict resolution mechanisms in ECFA, the economic impact of regional trade agreements focused on the ECFA, issues concerning the FTA between the PRC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the question of rules of original production in regional trade agreements, the experience of Hong Kong and Macau in permitting Chinese students to study in the two SARs and the influence of the CEPAs on news freedom.

The existence of this study indicates that the leadership of the Legislative Yuan was preparing for a detailed and substantive review of the ECFA and was not planning to simply immediately refer the draft pact and four associated sets of legal revisions for immediate second reading, a decision that excluded article by article review and discussion in legislative committee.

The release of this report before July 9 could well have raised sufficient public concern to stymie the ramming of the referral of the ECFA package to a second reading over the physical objections of opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers, especially since its contents confirm that the issues raised by DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and numerous economists were valid.

Warnings for the future

For example, unlike the Ma government, the Legislative Yuan report clearly warned that PRC leaders have historically displayed strategic "consistency" and "continuity" and acknowledged that Beijing defines the ECFA as a pact signed "under the one-China principle" and that the touted benefits in "international space" and "economic cooperation" are offered "under the precondition of the 'one China principle."'

Moreover, the Legislative report cautioned that the PRC could adopt a negotiating strategy of "initially making concessions and then using such "benefits" to compel Taiwan to accept political negotiations" and use a possible "peace agreement" as an "peaceful unification framework agreement."

However, unlike the Ma government, the Legislative report acknowledged that there were grave risks for Taiwan of falling into a 'one China' trap"' as political factors manifest an "invisible catalyst effect" and consolidate the PRC's leadership advantage in promoting a substantive "one country, two systems" and creating the international impression that "Taiwan and the mainland have indivisible sovereignty."

Ironically, PRC officials have already fulfilled the prediction by the Legislative Yuan report that Beijing would "uphold the one China principle" even with "more flexibility in interpretation" as shown by the affirmation by PRC Deputy Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng Monday that the ECFA was signed under the "one China principle" and that the PRC government continued to oppose any FTAs between Taiwan and any other country.[MT -- LT has it]

In sum, the reports by the legal affairs and budget offices of the Legislative Yuan confirm that concerns over the negotiation and structuring of the ECFA and its future economic, social, political and cultural implications and potential impact on Taiwan's national security, sovereignty and democratic system (including news freedom) are absolutely not "alarmist" but should have been earmarked for consideration in the process of the negotiating strategy and the structuring of the ECFA.

On the contrary, the question of how the KMT government and authorized negotiators failed to effectively incorporate preventative or complementary measures to address such risks in the ECFA and what measures the KMT government and Taiwan private enterprises and civic organizations must take in the future to safeguard our quality and standard of life and our democratic independence will become even more salient and pressing in the future.

No less serious is the fact that the immediate referral to a second reading also blocks the holding of public hearings during which the public and related industrial and commercial associations as well as concerned labor, environmental, consumer and civic reform organizations could have provided citizen input.

Despite the obvious intent by the KMT to use its overwhelming legislative majority to avoid substantive discussion or debate of the ECFA accord and its implications, it is to be hoped that an upcoming "virtual review" of the pact by a coalition of civic reform and social movement organizations can at least raise important questions and provoke a serious response from the Ma administration.

Kyodo news wrote yesterday:
The joint report by the Budget Center and the Legislative Research Bureau is the first official document to suggest there are serious economic and security weaknesses with the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement -- in stark contrast to the enthusiasm with which government legislators greeted the deal on the legislative floor.

The report is for legislators' eyes only and will not be publicly released, but a copy obtained by Kyodo News included extensive discussion of Beijing's goals and strategies in cross-strait detente.

It said the ECFA is a key element in China's attempt to achieve unification with Taiwan.
The legislative report said Beijing intends to use the ECFA to lock Taiwan's economy into a Chinese special economic zone and dramatically increase the island's dependence on China.
It contains little of the optimism of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who has said the ECFA will encourage other states to sign free trade agreements with Taiwan by reducing the possibility of objections from Beijing.

The report said, however, that China's interference with future Taiwan FTAs ''not only carries sovereign implications -- intervention and obstruction being an expression of (China's) claim to sovereignty over Taiwan -- but also has the strategic goal of attempting an 'economic siege of Taiwan' and disallowing development of more intimate economic relations with other states.''

It said that the ''one China'' principle is the greatest obstacle to Taiwan signing FTAs, while national security will suffer from China's targeting of strategic industries and the financial system, as well as from the posting of Chinese officials in Taiwan.

Eventually, China hopes the ECFA and other incentives aimed at the Taiwanese public will force the government to start political negotiations, it said.
The new Japanese Ambassador [to China] recently reiterated Japan's long-standing position that the status of Taiwan is undetermined, also the US position..... very interesting things going on.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Landed Gentlemen

Southern Taiwan is getting gobsmacked by rain recently. Some places are as hard-hit as they were during Morakot last year, but since the disaster is unfolding more slowly....

Another pan-Blue politician goes down on a (pathetic) charge of vote bribery -- US$431 expenditure. The 2007 election was annulled.

Speaking of pan-Blue corruption, the County Chief of Miaoli came under fire again over land issues. Taiwan News reports:
Liu came under fire recently for sending in excavators destroying rice fields in order to seize land from farmers for the expansion of the Chunan Science Park. The dispute, which dragged on for weeks, led to the central government stepping in under public pressure and promising farmers they would receive another 5 hectares of land to work on.

Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers said Tuesday that Liu had succeeded in paying off NT$50 million (US$1.5 million) in debt within two years after being elected chief of Miaoli County. They said that plots of land he owned for a total value of NT$20 million (US$625,000) later turned out to be worth NT$90 million (US$2.8 million). The transaction amounted to “exchanging a bicycle for a Ferrari,” said DPP caucus whip Kuan Bi-ling.

DPP lawmaker Su Chen-ching called on prosecutors to investigate the deals and check the flow of funds as soon as possible because there were strong suspicions of money laundering, tax evasion and land speculation.

The March 2007 transaction was also allegedly timed to coincide with the announcement that the area was destined for the building of the Miaoli High Speed Rail station. In addition, the deal also involved the sale of the land by Liu to his son before a third party paid a much higher price, Su said. As a result, there was a question of whether Liu had paid the necessary inheritance and gift taxes, the lawmaker said.

Liu said he repaid his debts by selling off family assets. The land deals were completely legal, he said, adding he was considering taking his accusers to court.

DPP politicians also questioned why, within the area destined for the high speed rail project, Liu’s home had been left standing, while a nearby historic ceramics factory had been razed.
The kilns were a local tourist attraction. The Taipei Times reported last year:
Control Yuan members Chou Yang-san (周陽山), Chen Yung-hsiang (陳永祥) and Ma Yi-kung (馬以工) launched the probe into how the county government handled the issue in March after local historians and activists protested against the county government's decision to tear down the kilns — the last witness to the county's once-prosperous pottery industry.

Aside from forming the Alliance to Rescue the Historic Kilns of Miaoli, more than 50 civic groups nationwide and about 600 individuals signed a petition calling on authorities to preserve the kilns.

In 2003, the county government unveiled a plan to build a station for the high speed rail nearby and drew up an urban development project to turn the surrounding area into a transportation hub and high-tech industrial zone.

After the plans were drawn up, the county's Cultural Heritage Assessment Commission said the three remaining old-style kilns were not of “enough historic value for preservation” and could be torn down.
If the government had possessed the imagination to keep the kilns right next to the HSR station, they might have blossomed into a serious tourist revenue generator. But local construction-industrial state cronies make more money from land speculation.

The hidden ethnic factor here is that the area in Miaoli where this is happening is full of Hakkas, traditional supporters of the KMT, thanks to its exploitation of ethnic politics. It will be interesting to see if this, and the flooding that occurred during Morakot last year in predominantly ethnic Hakka areas around Linbian in southern Taiwan, have any effect on the Hakka vote.

In addition to farmers from Miaoli, farmers from Erlin in Changhua are protesting against seizing their land for expansion of the central Taiwan science park. Taiwan News says:
The farmers, from Hsiangszuliao in the township of Erlin, said they would refuse to give up their land to a road project for the Central Taiwan Science Park.



A total of 21 farmers in Erlin would refuse to sell their land and organize protests, activists said at a news conference in Taipei Tuesday. They said that monetary compensation was not enough, since losing their land also meant they were losing their livelihoods and would have no work when the money ran out.

The activists also said that the Central Taiwan Science Park was still vacant for 50 percent, making the seizure of land outside its present area totally superfluous.

The Changhua County farmers said they would hold a protest outside the Presidential Office Building in Taipei similar to the one held last July 17 by their colleagues from Miaoli. The overnight sit-in rallied more than 1,000 supporters and was believed to be essential in persuading the central government to tackle the problem. Ruling Kuomintang lawmakers feared that as a result of the protests, the party might lose significant numbers of votes in the crucial November regional elections.
The Council of Agriculture (CoA) called for....coordination.
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Tsai Ing-wen's Speech at Taiwan Brain Trust/Project 2049 Conf

Speech by DPP Chair Dr. Tsai Ing-wen....cogent, intelligent. I'll be rounding up more China stuff later.


A Rising Chinese Hegemony:
Regional Challenges and Responses

Speech to the Taiwan Brain Trust & Project 2049 Conference
July 19, 2010
Dr. Tsai Ing-wen

Chairman Koo and President Lo of the Taiwan Brain Trust, Mr. Schriver of Project 2049, Distinguished Guests from abroad, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

It is indeed a privilege for me to attend the “International Conference on A Rising Chinese Hegemony: Challenges to the Region,” held by the Taiwan Brain Trust and co-sponsored by Project 2049.

This gathering is a timely reminder not only to Taiwan’s politicians who have been engaging in serious debate on how to live and deal with China but also to the international community that a serious analysis of a rising China is vitally necessary.

China’s rise is a complex phenomenon that folds together its economic growth, military modernization and power projection with the political influence these elements bring. Will the rise continue? If so, will it mean Chinese hegemony in Asia, if not more widely?

The PRC’s grand strategy in the region is clear in the consolidation of its geo-political and geo-strategic positions:

1. Tightening of control over Xinjiang and Tibet;
2. Deepened relations with Central Asian nations;
3. Building of ports and bases in Burma;
4. Exclusive Economic Zone claims in the ocean arc reaching from the Yellow Sea through the Sea of Japan to the South China Sea and increased naval presence throughout this ocean space;
5. Protection of North Korea as a buffer state;
6. Increased tension with India over border issues and nuclear cooperation with Pakistan;

If we add China’s political intentions toward Taiwan, the regional picture gets more alarming. China views US relationships with its friends and allies in the region, described by US analysts as a hedging policy, as, in fact containment of the PRC. China is trying to get out of this box by building up its blue water navy, along with its cruise and ballistic missile forces. Strategically speaking, Taiwan is key to China’s naval breakout. Controlling Taiwan would allow China to project power beyond the “First Island chain.” If Taiwan starts political talks with China, the future of Taiwan’s role in any regional strategy becomes uncertain.

China’s ambitious grand strategy has been sugarcoated by the slogan “peace and development.” The fact remains that there is no way for peace to be reached by military expansionism and increasing military threats against a democratic Taiwan. This stands in sharp contrast to what the CCP and KMT governments claim, namely that cross-Strait relations have significantly improved.

On the Taiwan issue alone, the Chinese leadership has failed to show the world that a rising China would be accompanied by the rise of the prospect for peace, nor has Beijing demonstrated that it is a “responsible stakeholder.” The Chinese defend development of a blue water navy and the capacity to project military power beyond its shores as necessary for ensuring China’s growing global economic interests. Nevertheless, as a preamble to justifying its use of force offshore, irrelevant to the safety of sea-lanes for Chinese ships, China passed a so-called “anti-secession law” in 2005 to legitimize the use of force against Taiwan.

Beijing’s recent moves to extend the definition of its “core interests,” as stipulated in the Obama/Hu Joint Statement, to the South China Sea was clearly a manifestation of its attempt to broaden the application of the above grand strategy.

China’s economic growth has been the engine driving China’s growing military and political might. However, questions have arisen about the continuation of this growth. The issue is not simply the value of the renminbi. It involves broader questions about China’s mercantilist policies and the CCP’s inability to change these policies without jeopardizing its hold on power.

As other nations strive for a re-balancing of the global economy, China continues

1. its subsidies to state-owned enterprises through manipulated interest rates;
2. its depression of consumers’ spending through this same gaming of interest rates;
3. its drive for “indigenous innovation” which effectively steals other nations’ intellectual property rights; and
4. its other surplus building practices.

The hopes expressed at the G-8 and G-20 meetings for rebalancing of the global economy will not be met if such Chinese economic policies continue. It seems clear to me that the CCP must face the “dilemmas” that Wen Jiabao hinted at recently and this would surely brake China’s rise. I doubt that the CCP is willing to walk this path, however.

In Copenhagen, China also showed that it was not willing to be a ‘responsible stakeholder’ but rather wishes to free ride as a “developing nation.’

On the security front, there has also been developing discomfort with Chinese practice. The Cheonan Incident is one key example. Chinese refusal to fully acknowledge North Korea’s involvement and join in a full-throated condemnation through the UN has raised the ire of South Koreans. Chinese warnings against US and South Korean joint exercises off the Korean coast has raised red flags in Washington. Whether the US and South Korea will call the Chinese bluff and send the nuclear carrier George Washington into the Yellow Sea remains a question, but one senses at least a chill in the Chinese relationship with both countries. Whether the move of operational control over forces in South Korea back to 2015 is a result of Chinese and North Korean actions is not clear, but the symbolism of the move cannot be ignored.

China’s claims in the South China Sea have strengthened significantly and cast a chill over its relations with other countries with claims in this area.

Chinese military maneuvers in and around the territorial waters of Japan are another instance where whatever economic leverage and draw China might have for sectors of the Japanese economy have been overshadowed by a perceived growing security threat.

Finally, the severe reaction of the Chinese to the Obama Administration’s notification to the US Congress of an arms sales package for Taiwan has drawn a sharp rebuke from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Other examples could be raised but these will stand for now.

Globalization’s economic interdependence and electronic connections have bound us together. Chinese actions are those of an outlier and our response must be a united one that insures that those values that might make for a globalization that positively touches the lives of all sectors of our societies are reinforced:

respect for the rights of all peoples,
democratic participation in decision making,
fair and respectful trade relations.

The Democratic Progressive Party, destined to come back to power, supports these values. We are in the process of producing a 10-year policy platform, ranging from economic development to international policies, for Taiwan to be a better place and a more responsible regional player. The most important element of our international policy will be to adhere to the value of democracy to build up our international relations.

Instead of turning to China as “the future,” the way President Ma and the KMT are inclined to do, we wish to turn to democratic friends around the world and invite China to join us in building a world where justice for all is the norm.

I trust you all have witnessed the development of debate on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, or ECFA, in Taiwanese society over the past few months. It is all too obvious that the Ma Administration is attempting to shove such an economic pact through the Legislative Yuan without regard for legislative oversight and democratic procedures. Recent remarks by senior officials in the US State Department that cross-Strait negotiations and agreements need to be consistent with Taiwan’s democracy, yet I’m sure you would agree that the recent actions by the Ma Administration are out of line with these policy statements.

So, instead of going first to China and then to the world, as the Ma Administration is currently doing, we wish to join hands with partners around the world first and invite China to participate. The Trans Pacific Partnership is an interesting example of how this might be done. Instead of China’s attempt to co-opt the ASEAN plus one as well as ASEAN plus three formulas as ways to marginalize US, and Taiwan’s, participation in the dynamic economic interaction of the region, TPP will, hopefully, emerge as an economic organization that is inclusive and keeps China’s economic practice in line with the rule of law, protection for IPR, proper currency evaluation and fair domestic policies practiced by other TPP members.

There have been several formulations for an Asian security organization. We believe that here, as with any economic organization, engagement of all democracies first is vital. After democratic partners agree on the basic structure for such an organization, then others, like China, are welcome to join if they support the fundamental principles of the organization.

We are encouraged by the Obama Administration increased attention to Asia, whether evidenced in President Obama’s serious set of bilateral meetings with Asian leaders at the G-20, Secretary Clinton’s planned participation in the Asian Regional Forum meeting, the repositioning of US forces, shifting of operational control of forces in South Korea back by several years, or Secretary Gates strong rejection of Chinese exclusive claims to the South China Sea and support for US arms sales to Taiwan.

We trust the US will adhere to the Taiwan Relations Act not only to provide necessary defensive weapons to Taiwan but also to maintain a significant presence in the region to deter China from initiating any military adventures. Such an obligation is consistent with US security interests in East Asia. The US allies in the region are watching carefully to see how the US will respond to a crisis in the region, for we all see a growing need for Washington to seek Beijing’s cooperation on many international issues.

For the people of Taiwan to be sure that the US remains deeply committed to Taiwan, arms sales are the key barometer. Taiwan needs F-16 c/ds for its air defense and also needs other defensive articles. The DPP, whether in power or not, will continue to urge the United States to make these articles available to Taiwan, the sooner the better. We need sufficient security deterrence capability to have no fear in our future negotiations with China.

Let me conclude by saying that international society faces the challenge of a rising China with a clear motivation to become a regional hegemon. We don’t necessarily need to look at the situation as the rise of an enemy. But we do need to be vigilant, and together encourage China to rise up to be a “responsible stakeholder” – for the sake of its own people, those of the region and of the whole world. Encouraging China is not enough. We must build the economic and security structures that insure China does not become that regional hegemon.

We countries in the region have an opportunity to build a brighter hope for the future for all our people. The challenges for the coming decades will require collective action and coordinated response. I look forward to the discussions during this timely international conference and look to be enlightened by our distinguished experts as together we face the reality of a rising China.

I wish the conference every success.
Thank you very much.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Daily Links, July 26, 2010

This high class housing complex is all the rage in Fengyuan (found by Sponge Bear).

Lotsa news this week....

SALES: My man Michael Cannon is selling his Bike Day bike. Great condition, some improvements, with gear thrown into the deal.

JUST FOR KICKS: New species discovered all the time. And this photo heavy post at DKOS of strange earth phenomena.
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Taipei Land Prices Hit New Highs

It will be interesting to see if this impacts the election, just a few months away. The China Post reports:
The Taipei County Government successfully sold yesterday all of the 12 commercial use land lots in the region earmarked as Xinzhuang City auxiliary metropolitan center.

Competitive bidding from investors lifted the price to a record high level for land transactions in the county.
The issue is clearly illustrated at the end of the report:

Other analysts concerned about the runaway housing prices said the county government is making the same mistake as Taipei City by selling off public land and helping fan the fire for realty speculation.

Under mounting pressure and complaints, the Taipei City Government has now adopted a new strategy of holding the land and building housing units in cooperation with construction firms, to provide citizens with more apartments with affordable rent rates.

Runaway housing prices in Taipei and other metropolitan areas have long been rated among the top complaints held by the people against the government.

It's a long-running complaint, and as long as the island's domestic political economy runs on land speculation and construction, it will continue to be a complaint. Construction, development, and financial firms competed for the lots, on which they expect to put up apartments which they will sell at inflated prices. Luckily a buyer is born every minute! This report remarks that although sales of state-owned land have been forbidden, it is done anyway. A recent piece by Jens kastner highlights the role of Taiwan businessmen from China in driving the boom. This Aug 2008 piece in Commonwealth Magazine said prices would fall, though reports I saw prior to the 2008 election said that everyone expected prices to rise, and that investors should look at firms with large land holdings in the Taipei basin.

Taiwan's high land prices appear to be a silent driver of rising income inequality. They are also an important way that voters experience their own falling purchasing power.

Another indicator: last week the urban land price index, compiled twice annually, skyrocketed:
Taiwan's urban land price index has risen 2.49 percent since last October, marking the biggest increase in the past 17 years, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) reported Wednesday.


The latest MOI-compiled urban land price index showed that land prices increased most steeply on the outlying island of Kinmen during the six-month period at 6.61 percent, followed by a 4.35 percent surge in Taipei County and a 4.31 percent gain in Taipei City.

The Kinmen County government said the rise was mainly fueled by the central government's decision to begin construction of a long-discussed Kinmen Bridge late this year and the launch of many investment projects by the county government to develop the island county into a tourist and duty-free shopping paradise.

The KMT Administration also passed an NT$200 billion bill to revitalize 4,000 rural villages in Taiwan, just in time for the elections. The vote was carried out after the DPP walked out of the legislature.

REFERENCE: A PRC media report on one of Taiwan's most pricey developments.
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Riding Again

The last month has been total agony. I blew up a tendon in my toe climbing up Taroko Gorge last month and haven't ridden since the end of June, under doctor's orders. The pain was excrutiating, both in the toe and from not riding. Finally it appears to be healed and I am back on the bike. Spent the last three days riding for the first time in months, really, with all the rain we had in April and May. Today I took one of my favorite routes across the ridges into Miaoli.....

The rain has been good for local crops.

Sunday bike trail madness. At 9:30 it is usually still empty, but the overcast weather brought out the crowds.

Liyutan Reservoir.

I take many shots of this temple above reservoir, a nifty place to stop and refill water bottles and take a breather. Here's a satellite photo/map of the temple where I stop.

I rode up past the reservoir into the fruit orchards that line the ridge.

I always stop at this stand near the crest to buy whatever is in season. Today it was crispy tart pears.

Snail shells dotted the leaves of the weeds by the road.

The views back to Jhoulan, a major grape and fruit growing area, are excellent.

The spillway of the reservoir.

Descending into the farms.

With the soil disturbed by planting and tilling, egrets were out in force.

Farmers planting rice seedlings.

The beautiful railroad viaduct near Sanyi.

The viaduct from below.

Cleaning up the fields.

Crossing the bridge back to Houli, the highway to the right.

In Fengyuan I ran into a religious procession.

Passersby stopped to gawk.

Young men of the temple association.

Heavily decorated marchers.

The costuming is wonderful.

Wait...what's this? A DPP candidate's sound truck in the procession. A reminder of the close links between local politicians and local religion in Taiwan.

A succession of lovely singers in paraded by.

I have posted this photo here strictly for its important cultural value.

I left the endless line of marchers behind and headed for home, 70 kms free of pain under my tires. It was great to be riding again.
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Friday, July 23, 2010

China and the US: Head to head =UPDATED=

As Western governments engage in "austerity" and invite another round of recession, out in Asia robust stimulus efforts and job retention programs have paid off in growth and jobs. Something to think about when reading what's below....

Lots of conversations this week in the Taiwanosphere about the International Court of Justice's decision on independence for Kosovo (Wiki: for bonus joy read the comments from the UN reps and imagine what they'd say about Taiwan. NY Times report.). The Kosovo decision has nothing to do with us -- it is great that the Court recognized a legal right of independence, but remember -- TAIWAN IS NOT PART OF CHINA. So Taiwan is not declaring independence FROM anyone. So this opinion is nice, but doesn't really apply to The Beautiful Island. The US, for all its nefarious reasons for supporting Kosovan independence, was right when it said the whole discussion is meaningless because you don't win independence in Court.

But Kosovo wasn't the real news. The huge news was that somebody gave the Obama Administration a spine implant. Yes, America imitated a ton of bricks on the South China Sea Islands dispute....

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking at an Asian regional security meeting in Vietnam, stressed that the United States remained neutral on which regional countries had stronger territorial claims to the islands. But she said that the United States had an interest in preserving free shipping in the area and that it would be willing to facilitate multilateral talks on the issue.

Though presented as an offer to help ease tensions, the stance amounts to a sharp rebuke to China. Beijing has insisted for years that all the islands belong to China and that any disputes should be resolved by China. In March, senior Chinese officials pointedly warned their American counterparts that they would brook no interference in the South China Sea, which they called part of the “core interest” of sovereignty.

The declaration that the South China Sea Islands are a "core interest" of China essentially amounts to a declaration that China is willing to go to war -- actually, willing to cause one. The US just spoke up [clap clap clap], saying that China needs to grow up on this issue and signaling to other nations in the South China Sea littoral, such as Vietnam and the Philippines. Way to go Team Obama!

The US has also made several other pointed demonstrations recently. At the end of June US submarines armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles surfaced in various Asian sites, which observers took to be a pointed message to Beijing.
Many nations in the eastern Pacific, including Australia, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam, have been encouraging the U.S. to push back against what they see as China's increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea. And the U.S. military remains concerned over China's growing missile force - now more than 1,000 - near the Taiwan Strait. The Tomahawks' arrival "is part of a larger effort to bolster our capabilities in the region," Glaser says. "It sends a signal that nobody should rule out our determination to be the balancer in the region that many countries there want us to be." No doubt Beijing got the signal.
The Diplomat said:
Indeed, China seems to regard the maritime global commons in a proprietary fashion. For a given area, the Chinese wish either to dominate it or for others to stay away; in effect, in the Chinese view, there’s no ‘commons.’ China calling the South China Sea a ‘core concern’ is an attempt to place clear, Chinese-declared limits on the ability of the international community to assert its rights under international law.

In contrast, long-standing US diplomatic and military doctrine has been explicit that navies—including China’s—have every right to operate on the high seas, even including in the territorial waters of other states. In support of this doctrine, Washington has attempted to establish a strong and open dialogue with the Chinese military. China, on the other hand, sees US operations inside the first island chain as impinging on its sovereignty, just as it has a very expansive interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as to its authority within its own (and contested) Exclusive Economic Zones. China’s combination of its international legal strategies with naval force is telling: unlike the other claimants to the South China Sea, China backs up its words with military force.
The Diplomat piece picked up this scary comment on the recent US-South Korean exercises under which a US carrier sailed in the ocean near Beijing:
Another leading academic, Shen Dingli of Fudan University, extended the logic of the recent official assertion that the South China Sea is a ‘core interest’ of China when he wrote that: ‘When the US ponders the idea of deploying its nuclear aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea, very close to China, shouldn’t China have the same feeling as the US did when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba?’
Think about what kind of attitude that reveals towards freedom of the seas. Out of concern for the feelings of the 1.3 billion people of China, the US and South Korea moved the exercises to the Sea of Japan (bad move! weak, weak, weak!). Japan is sending a few observers to the exercises, a significant signal as well. UPDATED: It should be recalled that (1) the Chinese conducted exercises close to Japan recently and (2) the carrier George Washington transited the Yellow Sea in October (source).

The US also took some potshots at Myanmar on human rights, Myanmar being a close friend of Beijing. The shifting US position also reflects China's growing presence in the Indian Ocean. To operate a blue-water navy China will need bases....

Finally, Steve Clemons published an interesting piece at The Diplomat arguing that Beijing's current swagger actually covers a profound insecurity. After observing that Beijing respects firm responses but perceives the US as weak and a power in decline, he writes:

The irony of all of this is that China doesn’t want US power to fall away rapidly—it wants the United States to remain a vital, global force with which China has deep structural relations.

The reason? China wants to free-ride on US global power because it fears its own internal fragility. China knows that it’s not ready to carry the burden of global stability and isn’t ready to position itself as a provider of global public goods while it’s still in a mode of highly concentrated neo-mercantilist self interest.

China fears the Obama administration is weak, very weak—and that the world will keep provoking the United States to see where its power begins and ends. In fact, China is doing the same thing—testing US resolve, including rejecting six times US-Republic of Korea joint military exercises that will now go on despite Chinese objections (which they have themselves recently softened).

That's exactly right. China needs US cooperation to allow it access to the international system and to pursue its neo-mercantilist policies under the guise of "free trade". In fact, China has created a whole class of individuals in the US beholden to those policies. Scary. Read the whole thing, it is quite interesting.

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Chen Family Property Seizure Ruled Illegal

Taiwan's Supreme's swatted down lower courts and the prosecutors yesterday:
The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Prosecutor-General’s Office seized assets belonging to the Chen Shui-bian family, including nearly NT$ 30 million in bank deposits and stocks in 36 companies. The Supreme Court handed down its ruling yesterday, saying that the prosecutors had no authority to seize assets while a case was pending trial in court, so it was illegal for the SIU to seize the Chen family’s property. The ruling also stated that the Chen family could seek judicial remedies in accordance with the law to free their assets.
Yesterday....yesterday...yesterday....what else happened? Oh yeah. The morning papers carried stories about Chen Shui-bian's son having a dalliance with a prostitute. What a coincidence that there is sex scandal involving Chen's son breaking the day before the Supreme Court slaps the prosecutors and courts in the Chen case....
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Pollster Geist

The RDEC has a new poll out on Ma Administration's proposal for an anti-corruption commission modeled on those of Hong Kong and Singapore. The idea was originally a DPP proposal and was blocked by the KMT-controlled legislature when Chen Shui-bian was President. The RDEC, which recently discovered that Ma Ying-jeou's approval rating was 47% compared to a Global Views survey result of 32% (see this Taiwan News editorial for more), announced that 70% of the population supports an anti-corruption commission.

A flurry of new polls out. A longtime Taiwan observer tapped me on the shoulder the other day to ask about the dearth of polls after the signing of ECFA. It was odd, because after the Ma-Tsai debate polls were out in minutes, but there was nothing out there about ECFA right away. It seems to be a tacit admission from the Blue polling organizations, which release most of the public polls, that any poll would not have found public support for ECFA, and they didn't want to create negative publicity for the Ma Administration. Recall that, when the whole ECFA sell-out began, the Ma Administration said it would never sign ECFA unless it had the support of 60% of the public. It never achieved that.

Does anyone have another explanation?

Meanwhile the latest TVBS poll has the DPP's Tsai leading trailing the KMT's Chu in the City Formerly Known as Taipei County, Xinbei City, by a single six points:

DPP Tsai 44 40
KMT Chu 43 46*

The similar poll for Taipei City has the DPP's Su trailing the KMT's Hau by 44-41. Su's support has not budged in that poll, while Hau's has fallen slightly. TVBS so reliably overestimates KMT support that this may still indicate a DPP lead/toss-up in both places. Hard to say. The conventional wisdom at the moment is that Su will win while Tsai will lose. Voters under 40 prefer the DPP, an interesting demographic augury.

The NCCU Election Studies Center does all sorts of polls. Their June Party ID poll shows that over the last year KMT IDers have declined marginally from 33.9% to 32.8%, while DPP IDers have risen by nearly 7%, from 19.5% to 26.2%. Curiously, independents constitute a whopping 43.3% of the poll last year (they lump the independent/no answer) -- but fell by 6% to 37.1%. This appears to mirror the rise in DPP IDers. NCCU's numbers for independents are huge and obviously contain a lot of closeted DPPers, so this may represent not independents rolling towards the DPP, but simply a greater willingness of closeted Greens to come out. Recall that NCCU is the former political warfare college for the KMT. Its political allegiance should be clear.

NCCU's ethnic ID poll finds 52% identifying as Taiwanese and 40% as both Chinese and Taiwanese. Those identifying as Chinese? Just 3.8%. The faux Chinese identity promulgated by the KMT has been a complete failure, and Taiwanese are now working out new forms of ID right in front of us. Unfortunately they don't cross reference any of this by age, education, geographic location, etc.

Their tracking poll on independence from June has corresponding results. Just 11% openly support annexation at some point, while twice that number openly support independence. Another chunk of 23% wants permanent status quo (also a form of independence) and 36.6% want the status quo/decide later. In other words, despite the greatness of the PRC, rising power, etc, etc, 89% of the people would rather not be a part of it at the moment. It also appears likely that the majority of KMT supporters don't want to be part of the PRC.

*argh. Looked at wrong date. mea culpa
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rumors of Whore

Story came out this week saying that former President Chen Shui-bian's son, currently running for office in Kaohsiung, was nabbed visiting a prostitute. The report was a Next Magazine report. Next also drew a lawsuit in retaliation for claims that President Ma's sister Ma Yi-nan was using her political influence to arrange favors for friends and relatives.

I'm heartily sick of hearing about other people's sex lives. I don't care what other people do with their genitals if everyone is consenting. It would be great if the media focused on the urgent problems that the island faces. If it wishes to concern itself with prostitution, perhaps it could do some good work on human trafficking. At least the Taipei Times story had a paragraph from the head of the sex workers association calling for legalization of the sex trade.

The story is apparently some kind of smear job, for despite photos of Chen's vehicle, there is no evidence that Chen was in the car, and he says he was visiting people for the election. Chen is, let us recall, running for election in Kaohsiung.

The Miaoli land grab is also the focus of swirling rumors. Miaoli County Chief Liu Chen-hong and Premier Wu yesterday promised that the abused farmers would be given land elsewhere -- the soil of their own farms allegedly had been removed and replaced with useless crap soil, a very dirty trick, I've heard. Then someone called The Talking Show and said the new land was a cemetary. Apt, if true. maddog pointed out to me that one of the farmers was permitted to build a house even though the land had been expropriated. If it wasn't his land how did he get permission to build? "What about that and the other houses? I didn't hear any offer to replace those," maddog commented.

Another rumor floating around is that the land expropriated from the farmers is going to Chinese investors. County Chief Liu has been to China a couple of times, like many KMT politicians, so it wouldn't be surprising if such a rumor arose.

maddog flipped me a Liberty Times story that one of Liu's relatives has one of the few houses inside the new Miaoli HSR station special district that wasn't knocked down for construction of the station. Apparently he complained about the noise levels of the construction. There are several other stories of similar favors floating around. Liu's brother recently lost a court case involving a road expansion that County Chief Liu was involved in (Chinese, Chinese).

Rumors fly....
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Global Views Poll Has Ma at.... 32%

The latest Global Views poll (Chinese) has satisfaction with President Ma at 32.3% and support for ECFA at 47%. Global Views can hardly be described as a pro-Green organization. Taiwan News reports:

In its monthly poll of 1,010 Taiwan adults conducted July 14-16, the GVSRC found that 32.3 percent were satisfied with Ma's performance, up from 28.4 percent last month, while 56.2 percent expressed dissatisfaction, up from 55.6 percent in June.

Moreover, 44.3 percent expressed confidence in Ma's leadership, up from 38.3 percent in June, while 42.0 percent of those surveyed said they lacked such confidence, down from 43.3 percent last month.

While improved, the results fell short of a major improvement in Ma's performance ratings in the wake of the signing of the "Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement" reported by senior KMT officials.

Moreover, the GVSRC result also conflicted with a poll of 1,078 persons conducted by the official Research, Development and Evaluation Commission earlier this month which indicated that 46.8 percent were satisfied with Ma's performance with 43.8 percent dissatisfied.

GVSRC Director Tai An-li stated that the improvement was probably 'mainly due to the temporary cessation of disputes after the signing of the ECFA," which was signed in Chongqing, China on June 29 by the chairmen of Taiwan's Strait Exchange Foundation and the PRC's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait and now faces ratification in the Legislative Yuan.

The survey showed a consolidation of public backing for the ECFA, with 47.1 percent expressing approval, up from 46.2 percent in March, while opposition declined from 35.9 percent to 33.9 percent.

"Conflicts with" the RDEC poll? On July 14 I blogged on an SCMP piece attributed to Reuters in Taipei that repeated the RDEC's claim that approval for Ma was at 47%. I observed:
More interesting is Reuters' use of this poll, which appears to be rather high -- it has Ma's satisfaction rating essentially doubling. At least the article attempts to contain some balancing information that alludes to political pressure on the RDEC. Curiously, the RDEC seldom conducts polls on Ma's satisfaction ratings -- the last one was in June of 2009, as far as I can tell, and was at 52% much higher than the Global Views survey conducted at the same time (40%).
Sure enough, the different between the Global Views poll and the RDEC poll is again 10+ points. Note that the Director of the polling organization says that the rise was due to a "temporary cessation" of disputes. This might be a hint that the slight bump in Ma's approval ratings is just as temporary.

Only time will tell.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Miaoli County Land Seizure Sparks Farmer Protests

Approximate Dapu Township Land Seizure site
The marker shows the approximate area of the industrial district and land seizure. The Jhunan Science Park is located just to the southeast of the marker.

A protest about a brutal land seizure two days ago ended without giving the protesters a chance to talk to the President. But the issue has sparked widespread interest and media coverage throughout the island. The Taipei Times summarized yesterday:
Yesterday, the demonstrators sowed seeds on Ketagalan Boulevard to show that they are determined to have their farmland returned to them.

“We are all farmers. We are praying to the gods to stop land expropriation,” said Liu Ching-chang (劉慶昌), a farmer in Erchongpu (二重埔) in Hsinchu County’s Jhudong Township (竹東).

Farmers from Dapu Borough (大埔) in Jhunan Township (竹南) and Wanbao Borough in Houlong Township (後龍), both in Miaoli County, Jhubei City (竹北), Erchongpu in Hsinchu County, Siangsiliao (相思寮) in Changhua County’s Erlin Township (二林) and Taipei County’s Tucheng (土城) gathered in front of the Presidential Office on Saturday night because all the communities have faced, or may be facing, government expropriation to make way for various development projects.

Although farmers across the country have been fighting land expropriation for years, their campaign did not gain public attention until the Miaoli County Government sent excavators escorted by police to dig up rice paddies in Dapu last month.
This heartbreaking video tells the farmers' story. The case is so egregious that even the normally pro-KMT United Daily News gave the farmers some sympathy, and it made the Hong Kong papers. The case was described last week:
The Miaoli County Government is taking over 28 hectares of farmland in Jhunan Township’s Dapu Borough (大埔), a farming village, to make way for the expansion of Jhunan Science Park.

Last month, excavators dispatched by the county government forced their way into rice paddies and destroyed rice plants, despite opposition from local farmers.

“Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung [劉政鴻] said the county government was acting according to the law and had completed the legal process to transfer land ownership, but we don’t think so,” Thomas Chan (詹順貴), an attorney and a member of the Taiwan Rural Front, told a press conference yesterday.

“We discovered that the county government’s land expropriation notice was posted nearly half a year before the project was approved by the MOI last year,” Chan said. “That is unlawful.”
According to Taiwan News, the protesters are calling for "an immediate halt to development projects on which local governments and businessmen appear to be colluding; the passage of amendments to the land expropriation law; and the convening of a national conference in six months on agricultural and land policies." An earlier Taiwan News article said:

Independent legislator Kang Shih-ju, a former mayor of Chunan, said the result proved that Liu was authoritarian and obstinate. Experts had suggested several legal ways out of the problem, but the ruling Kuomintang politician still did not want to listen, Kang said.

The lawmaker said there would have been no confrontation if the county only wanted to expropriate the original 23 hectares for the project, but the problem was it later added a further 5 hectares, infuriating local farmers.

Letters from Taiwan has further information, including video of police hauling off farmers as their land is illegally destroyed. He writes:
On June 9th 2010, caterpillar excavators moved into a track of land owned by local Miaoli farmers to destroy their crops against their wishes. These crops were two months away from harvest. They did this on the orders of KMT Miaoli County Magistrate 劉政鴻Liu, Cheng-Hung) whilst negotiations were underway between the County Government and local residents over a fair price for the Government requisition of land.

This was despite the fact that the Miaoli County Council passed a resolution stating that the Government could buy the land but only at a fair price agreed to by the owners of the land. Not only were negotiations unfinished but residents were prevented from stopping the caterpillar excavators from continuing their work by hundreds of police who were called in to the scene. These police also prevented the local KMT Legislator 康世儒 from entering the site (5:21 on the video below).

The reason for this forced requisition is that Terry Guo (Hon Hai, Foxconn) amongst others wanted extra land to build(extend?) the Jhunan Science Park since the original area of land allocated for the park was deemed too small, so the extra land below was also included. (This is despite the fact that sufficient land area in an existing science park was readily available). For more information see ... here.
The problem is not just that land is being seized without proper compensation and without due process. In many cases the farmland around the parks will likely be heavily polluted -- in the case of the Houli Science Park, the pollution is being shunted by pipe across Taichung and Changhua Counties to be dumped in the Choshui River. Ugh.

UPDATE: Interesting discussion in the comments.
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