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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Anonymous said...

The beef row is ridiculous. If the DPP wants to gain the support of the US, it would drop this particular fight instantly.

Marc said...

LOL. I can see it now: China attacks Taiwan, and the US sends ships to protect...Thailand.

Sage said...

If Taiwan would have been included in the RIMPAC exercises we would certainly be preoccupied with excitement today ... It would've been a kick for Singapore to join as an "in your face" statement.

David said...

Michael, your supposition about the recording of phone calls has so many serious implications. Monitoring of opposition politicians' phone calls could not only be used to generate scandals. It could be used to gather "evidence" for future "corruption" cases, to gather information about campaign strategies and so on. It really is very serious and disturbing to think about these possibilities.

Michael Turton said...

David, I totally agree. Since we all have human weaknesses, it follows everyone is vulnerable.

Michael Turton said...

LOL. I can see it now: China attacks Taiwan, and the US sends ships to protect...Thailand.

Hahah. yeah, that would be like invading Iraq if Saudi Arabia and Pakistani nationals attacked you...

wait a second...

Anonymous said...

"The beef row is ridiculous. If the DPP wants to gain the support of the US, it would drop this particular fight instantly."

The US is the one that is ridiculous. It's OK if Americans want to eat super-industrialized, over-hormoned, cow-manure eating steers, but I don't get why they need to push this on the rest of the world.

Michael Turton said...

Both sides are being ridiculous. "So much at stake, and all you can think about are your own problems."

Marc said...

Although this beef issue appears to be a sticky issue between Taiwan and the US, I think it's easy for the DPP to use this as a populist issue which shows their concern for people's health for the following reasons.

It doesn't augur well for the US beef industry that many nations restrict importation of US beef products. Exportation of US beef products are hampered not only in East Asia, including China, but also in Canada, Mexico and the EU.

The industry itself seems constantly setback by bad PR resulting from millions of pounds of beef recalls every years, esp for e. coli.

Further, the meat industry itself doesn't see beef imports, esp to China, as all that profitable.

See this link from the Meat Trader News Daily (US):

I'm not aware that other beef-exporting countries have such a continual problem with the quality of their beef (cf. Argentina, Australia).

I also wonder if Taiwan is looking at China - the third largest beef producer - for future trade.

For now, the DPP has an easy and popular wedge issue it can call its own, which plays well at home, just as it does in Korea and Japan.

les said...

If you are worried about phones being tapped illegally and the KMT having access to the transcripts, then think about who else would be interested in intel like that. Remember that there are others with a vested interest in keeping the KMT in power, for a while longer.