Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wednesday News Round Up: FSC, EPA, MND

Lots of things out and about this week... First, the Financial Supervisory Commission stopped the Nanshan deal.
The proposed takeover of Taiwan’s Nanshan Life Insurance Co. Ltd. by Hong Kong-based Primus Financial Holdings Ltd. was vetoed by the Investment Commission under the Ministry of Economic Affairs Aug. 31.


In October 2009, AIG signed an agreement with Primus Nanshan Holding Co. Ltd., a PFH subsidiary created specifically for the deal, for the Hong Kong group to take over AIG’s entire Nanshan stake for US$2.15 billion. Had it been greenlighted, the deal would have been the biggest merger on record in the Asian insurance sector.


FSC Deputy Minister Wu Tang-chieh pointed out that the deal was rejected as the FSC has concerns over PFH’s financing capabilities and the buyer’s long-term commitment to running the business in Taiwan. “The decision was based on an objective and professional evaluation of the current state of affairs,” Wu said.


According to the FSC, Nanshan has about 4 million clients and more than 37,000 employees in Taiwan. The firm’s financial statements reveal that it has total assets of NT$1.73 trillion (US$53.89 billion), accounting for 15.32 percent of the local insurance sector. The firm’s net value amounts to NT$140.3 billion, or more than one third of the sector’s combined net worth. (THN)
An amazing and highly connected cast of characters dominated the Chinese side. Ma Ying-jeou was strongly backed in 2008 by the big global financial houses, and I expected deals like this would soon become the norm. But the public showed great interest in the deal, which, on the Chinese side, became ever more difficult to pin down, according to the KMT news service -- and politically explosive, especially as Ma's ratings have plummeted and the KMT program of putting Taiwan into China's orbit is not popular in Taiwan. That second paragraph is the kicker:
The public paid close attention to this deal because the investment capital was suspected of coming from the Mainland. Vice Economics Minister Hwang Jung-Chiou yesterday stated that the Investment Committee had conducted a thorough investigation into the background of each shareholder in the consortium through the national security system, Taipei missions abroad, and even private credit-reference companies. The consortium was forced to change the list of its shareholders because Taiwan financial authorities had adopted strict examination measures to go through the backgrounds and sources of the capital of the shareholders.

Officials close to the case disclosed that the consortium’s first list included 44 shareholders, but the number increased to 52 afterwards, and later the number of shareholders had changed several times. “Whenever the media revealed that some the shareholders appeared to have connections to the Mainland, the list of shareholders was immediately revised,” forcing the Investment Committee and the FSC to restart their investigations from the beginning. The official said that the most bizarre occurrence was that the consortium deleted 23 names from its shareholder list on August 4, the deadline for submitting the complete application.

The review period had lasted 8 months, with supplementary documents having been submitted 13 times and 3 consultation meetings having been held. The complicated procedures were indeed unusual in Taiwan’s financial history.
There's been a lot of discussion of the back story, but that second paragraph tells an important story. A second consideration was widespread fear of mass layoffs if the unit were sold. Yet another factor is that ChinaTrust, the big local financial firm, has also expressed an interest in buying the unit.

Note that the decision may be appealed, meaning that it may be reversed. After the November election, of course.

A second piece of important news was that the EPA shoved through the environmental impact assessment for the science park expansion:

The environmental impact assessment for the controversial third-stage development of the Central Taiwan Science Park was passed by the Environmental Protection Administration Aug. 31.

The National Science Council may now resume its expansion project at the Qixing Farm site in Houli, Taichung County, EPA officials said.

After a five-hour long meeting, the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee ruled unanimously at the end of the day to conditionally pass the plan without requiring a phase-two impact assessment.

This despite protests from activists outside the EPA. The project had been halted due to an injunction from the Taipei High Court on Aug 2. The park was given a list of pollution conditions which, if not met, will cause it to be fined. ROFL.

Third, despite ECFA, despite the President's gutting of the nation's independent foreign policy, despite the close and warming ties between the KMT and the CCP, the Ministry of National Defense released a report today noting that China's military threat toward Taiwan remained unchanged: they still say they will maim and kill the island's citizens if Taiwan is not annexed to China. There was much speculation this week regarding a possible political deal -- China will remove the missiles facing Taiwan if the nation agrees to political talks.

Interestingly, Taiwan's military budget is now at its lowest level in five years, according to the Taipei Times, after Ma had repeatedly promised during and just after the election to raise it to 3% of GDP. In fact the Taipei Times report claimed that the current level is "the level it was at before the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2000." You can argue that, well, the threat of Chinese invasion is reduced because of the KMT-CCP lovefest but the MND says, nope, not true. Moreover a direct conflict over Taiwan is not the only way Taiwan could become embroiled in a conflict in the region -- see islands, South China Sea, for example. If Taiwan wasn't doing enough to defend itself in the Chen Administration, what about now, when China is becoming more militant by the day?

Which reminds me.

I know it is a stupid question. I realize it is pointless to ask it. But I'm going to ask it anyway: where are all the voices who whined during the latter years of the Chen Shui-bian administration that Taiwan was not doing enough to defend itself? The defense budget continues to slide, yet a vast silence reigns, bereft of apology or acknowledgement.

Daily Links
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US expresses concerns about ROC military officers visiting China

Several years ago Taiwan political maven Lawrence Eyton wrote:
It also follows the release of an alarming statistic by the Ministry of National Defense according to which more than 3,000 former Taiwan military officers are now either doing business or working in "consultancies" in mainland China.
That was then. The problem has not gone away...

Several news outlets were reporting yesterday that the issue, which US observers had pressed privately with the Taiwan government, has now become public. Focus Taiwan says, translating a China Times piece:
Jason Yuan, Taiwan's representative in Washington, D.C., has reportedly told relevant government authorities about the U.S. concern over the high frequency and high level of interaction between retired Taiwanese generals and Chinese military authorities in recent years.

The United States has maintained close military cooperation with Taiwan for decades. It has typically briefed Taiwan on the itinerary and main purposes before its senior military officers depart for visits to China. The U.S. government has reportedly asked Taiwan to follow suit by giving briefings on retired generals' visits to and interaction with China.

Sources familiar with the affair said former National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi had reminded the Ministry of National Defense on many occasions of the U.S. concern. As Taiwan's law does not impose any restrictions on such visits, the ministry can only collect information about retired generals' China travel plans and report it to superior authorities.

When Hsu Li-nung, a former chief of the General Political Warfare Department under the ministry, led a group of retired senior generals to Beijing for a high-profile visit in April, he said one of the event's primary purposes was to promote the establishment of a military confidence-building mechanism.

His remarks drew much concern from U.S. authorities. Even scholars at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies had repeatedly inquired during their Taipei visits about the possibility of Taiwan and China forging a military mechanism without U.S. participation.
I especially like the comment "Even scholars at the...CSIS had repeatedly inquired" as if they should be expected to refrain from doing so. CSIS has been strongly supportive of the ECFA process; they tend to support global corporate interests. The Taipei Times added:
Washington was also concerned about the possibility of military secrets being leaked, the report said.

“It is understandable for the United States to voice concerns, given the rapidly improving ties between Taipei and Beijing,” Chen Wen-yi (陳文義), deputy chief of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ North American Affairs Department, told AFP.

In April, more than 20 retired generals, led by retired generals Hsu Li-nong (許歷農) and Cheng Ting-chung (陳廷寵), visited retired Chinese generals and government officials, one of many such visits in the past two years.

Hsu said publicly that the visit was to promote a military ­confidence-building mechanism.

In May, 27 retired generals went to China to play golf with Chinese counterparts, while more than 20 retired generals are currently on a visit to Nanjing.

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday would not comment on Washington’s concerns, adding that cross-strait negotiations were currently focused on economics, with no political or military talks in the pipeline.

The ministry said it had never authorized retired military personnel to promote confidence-­building mechanisms with Chinese officials, adding that while it generally prohibited retired generals from going to China, in the past two years some had managed to circumvent the restrictions.
The emergence of this problem into the open suggests that the US has become quite frustrated with all the behind-the-scenes contact which it has no access to and which Taipei will not stop. What could be going on? Note that in the Taipei Times piece General Hsu is reported to have described the visit as a "confidence building mechanism" implying that there are informal arrangements being made. The existence of these relationships also shows how the KMT's dealings with China are pushed along by "gray" relationships that go farther than the government supposedly intends.

The two reports contradict on a vital matter: the China Times says no law prohibits such visits, but the Taipei Times said retired generals are generally not permitted to visit China, but some had managed to circumvent the law. Since the visit was public, why were the men not punished?

It is easy to see why certain sectors of the US defense community might be concerned about US technological secrets if ROC military officials have such intimate relations with their Chinese counterparts.

UPDATE: Don't miss Taiwan Link's excellent coverage of this topic, with detailed information and great insight, as always. Additionally, his taste in bloggers is unsurpassed.
Daily Links:
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Daily Links, August 30, 2010

Found this Taiwan government Chinglish fail in my Gmail ads: "Interesting" in Taiwan? Aargh. There are thousands of native speakers who work for the government who could easily correct fails like this.

August. Even in the heat and rain, plenty of stuff happening.

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Flower Show Blues Impact Taipei Mayoral election

Up in Taipei the KMT Hau Administration, in a brutal election battle with the DPP over the mayorship, is taking a beating over the international flower expo in Taipei. The Taipei Times notes:
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) made his first response on Tuesday by revealing the prices of flowers used and saying that the city’s Department of New Construction paid about two times the market price for the flowers. However, Hau defended the incident as merely “administrative negligence” from civil officials, and slammed the DPP for politicizing the issue.

The Hau team’s failure to offer a clear explanation of the matter and thoroughly review the purchase plan presented the DPP with opportunities to issue more attacks, digging out more information to accuse the city government of paying up to 30 times the market price for flowers and turning the incident into a threat to Hau’s re-election bid in November’s special municipality elections.

“The civil servants who oversaw the purchase plans were either blind, or took kickbacks to have paid such ridiculously high prices for flowers. However, I think what’s more ridiculous is the city government’s slow and sloppy responses to the issue,” People First Party Taipei City Councilor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) said.
These issues are hurting Hau at the polls. Apple Daily has Su Tseng-chang (DPP) up over Hau (KMT) 45-43, while TVBS has Hau up 51-49. TVBS notoriously underestimates pan-Green votes in its polls -- I'd argue that at this point Su is beating Hau. Hau also took a hit when it was revealed that water pipes for an overpass were purchased at several times the market price. The city government further muddied the waters when it said that the high-priced flowers were purchased for the overpass, not the expo.

The Flower Expo, which is slated to open on Nov 6 just ahead of the Nov 27 election, has a US$300 million budget. The Hau Administration had hoped to use the exhibition to gain leverage in the election, but it appears that just the opposite has happened. As the Taipei Times noted in an editorial:
Something smells in Taipei — and it’s not the 25 million flowers and plants purchased to decorate the city for the upcoming flora expo. Rather, it is Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) scrambling to explain why the city paid 30 times market price for the greenery to a contractor with ties to his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration. In recent days, investigators have also uncovered what appears to be the overpricing of building materials. It is ironic that Hau initiated the multi-billion-dollar project to boost his re-election bid in November.
The Flower Expo is the latest in very long string of failures that have occurred in Taipei under the Hau Administration. The Hau Adminstration, and Hau himself, are so lackluster that in rabidly Blue Taipei Hau is vulnerable. This public fail is on top of the very public failures like the Neihu metro line and the gondola project, and takes place amid long-term public frustration over rising housing prices in Taipei, now out of reach for most middle class Taiwanese. It is no wonder that, as a taxi driver put it the other day, there may be a change in the weather in Taipei come november.
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Income Inequality: CEPA vs ECFA

The DPP has put its finger on a very powerful point, income inequality, and is pushing hard.

Rising income inequality has been an issue in Taiwan since the 1990s. During the 2008 election campaign, the KMT pushed the idea that the economy had been stagnant under the Chen Administration -- an idea it refers to as the "Lost Decade", a piece of propaganda so obvious not even certain blatantly pro-KMT international media organs will touch it. This campaign was successful despite the fact that a simple Google search will show that the economy was growing at around 5% during 2006-7 and during the first six months of 2008, at 6%. The reason that KMT propaganda resonated with the public was the steady rise in income inequality, along with wages that have been basically stagnant for years.

I've discussed some of the causes of income inequality elsewhere. Many factors have been identified as possible culprits. It is also a regional and even global issue. As Craig Meer and Jon Adams observed several years ago in an article that discussed Taiwan's rising income inequality:
The International Monetary Fund’s September Regional Economic Outlook for Asia notes that income inequality increased “dramatically” across Asia in the last decade. In that time, 13 out of 18 Asian countries posted increases in income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient. Ten out of 15 have a widening richest-poorest income gap, with South Korea posting the sharpest divergence. And a majority of countries are seeing a shrinking middle class, especially China and Sri Lanka.
One DPP strategy is to use Hong Kong's CEPA agreement to see what will happen to Taiwan once ECFA comes into force. A recent commentary in the Taipei Times noted:
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) recently broadcast a TV commercial voicing doubts about the benefits of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). Its contention was that the agreement would strip Taiwan of its sovereignty and consign it to being another Hong Kong. It would also, according to the ad, contribute to an increase in the disparity between the rich and poor.

In response, Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) Minister Christina Liu (劉憶如) retorted that Hong Kong’s poverty gap had been considerable long before the territory signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) with China. Consequently, Liu asserted, the CEPA had nothing to do with the disparity in wealth. In fact, she added, signing the ECFA would actually reduce the poverty gap in Taiwan.

Such a statement from an official responsible for guiding the country’s economic development leaves one dumbfounded.

Hong Kong signed the CEPA with China in 2003. According to Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department, its Gini coefficient (a value between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality and 1 corresponds with total inequality), determined by the distribution of incomes in Hong Kong, increased from 0.525 in 2001 to 0.533 in 2006, the highest since 1971.

Meanwhile, the differential in revenues between the top and bottom 10 percent of families in Hong Kong increased from 26.9 times in 2001 to 32.5 times in 2006. The concern is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and there is no getting away from the fact that this phenomenon does really exist in Hong Kong and that it has worsened since the CEPA was signed.

The CEPA has also had a considerable impact on Hong Kong’s industries and labor market, gradually turning the majority of Hong Kong’s middle to lower-class workforce into marginal workers, those forced to “work more for less.” This is one of the main reasons for the increase in Hong Kong’s poverty gap.

A few examples might well shed a little light on these figures. The number of workers who earn less than HK$5,000 (US$640) a month has increased by more than 70 percent, from 307,000 in 1997 to 528,000 in 2006, and the number of workers who work 55 hours or more per week has increased by more than 80 percent, from 501,000 in 1997 to 934,000 in 2006.

Both the CEPA that China made Hong Kong sign and the ECFA in Taiwan’s case are part of the free-trade system. And in both cases the likely winners in this process of globalization and liberalization are the capitalists and multinationals. The losers, as usual, will be the workers who can’t afford to move away.
The commentary goes on to note a related yet separate issue: the Ma government's as-yet unkept promises to do something to alleviate the gap. In other words the DPP has two separate but related issues here to pound the government with: that ECFA will increase income inequality, and that the government will do nothing about it.

Taiwan News had another one of its hard-hitting editorials on the issue as well:
In 1993, labor earned 51 percent of Taiwan's gross domestic product, while capital received 29 percent, but in 2007, labor's share had dipped to 44 percent while the share going to capitalists climbed to 37 percent, according to DGBAS data.

The former Democratic Progressive Party administration's most effective initiatives was the construction of a broad social safety net which included legislation for unemployment insurance, pensions for farmers and senior citizens, laws to protect employees from sudden plant closings or layoffs and a national pension system, even though many associated measures and economic development programs were boycotted by the KMT's legislative majority, such as a statute to promote renewable energy industries and even the opening of a southern branch of the National Palace Museum.

During its first two years, the Ma government has embarked on a campaign to cut business and "rich" taxes, including inheritance and gift levies and the corporate income tax, as well as lowering barriers to free trade with the authoritarian People's Republic of China.

In the face of charges by labor movement and independent economists and DPP leaders that controversial "Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement" could exacerbate Taiwan's income and wealth inequalities, KMT government officials have replied with denials.

Typical was a statement issued by State Minister and ex-economics minister Yiin Chi-ming, who last Wednesday lambasted an editorial in the vernacular Liberty Times which expressed concern that ECFA could spur a worsening of income and wealth inequity as had the "closer economic partnership arrangement" between the PRC and its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the past seven years by maintaining that Hong Kong was already a highly unequal society before CEPA and that Taiwan did not have a serious problem since was only a 6.05 times gap between the highest earning fifth of Taiwan households and the bottom earning 20 percent of households.

However, the next afternoon, the DGBAS confirmed that Taiwan's income distribution gap had worsened from 7.52 times in 2007 to a record 8.22 times last year or from 5.98 to 6.04 in 2008 and 6.34 last year times if government transfer and welfare payments are considered.

While attention by the KMT government to the question of inequality is welcome, the response issued by KMT Premier Wu Den-yih's Cabinet has been limited to the classic bureaucratic ploys of forming a special task force to improve income distribution was limited to yet another exercise in "ruling by slogans."

Perhaps the most problematic of the seven slogans issued yesterday afternoon was that of "promote economic growth and boost employment" as one of Taiwan's most critical socio-economic problems is the fact that since nearly half of Taiwan's export orders are actually produced in the PRC even if the funds are received in Taiwan, nominal economic growth no longer necessarily leads to increases in either employment or wages.
Not mentioned in any of this is Taiwan's complete lack of tax on capital gains. Since the income of the wealthy goes untaxed (see this post), "Social welfare payments" consist of income transfers from the salaried middle and upper middle classes to the poor, or of increased public debt -- which, since it is borrowed from holders of capital, simply increases their incomes. Taiwan News notes that government borrowing is problematic -- can social welfare payments be sustained? The Ma Administration has vastly increased the public debt both because of the stimulus spending and because it has slashed taxes on the wealthy. However, Taiwan is fortunate in that it has little foreign debt and huge foreign exchange reserves (see here for longer discussion).

ECFA's effects on income inequality, if CEPA is any guide, are likely to exacerbate existing trends. Because the DPP has a better record than the KMT on the public welfare, this issue is likely to hurt the KMT during the run-up to the 2012 election as ECFA comes into force and its effects are felt throughout the economy, from falling wages and job opportunities, to the rising flow of legal and smuggled crap from China in the local markets and shops.
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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Future home of Kuokuang Petrochemical!

Yesterday was meant to be a short ride, but there was a change of plans, so I decided to bike down to the Dacheng wetlands in Changhua with Drew to see the spot where the massive Kuokuang petrochemical plant complex is slated to go in, and take a few pictures. I originally planned on a 140 km ride but we got a little lost there in the wilds of southwestern Changhua, where the roads are marked on a strict need-to-know basis. Hence, I ended up with an impromptu 163 km ride, my second century (100 miles) of the month. In the pic above Drew photos the vast expanse of wetlands.

The Kuokuang project....
The project was initiated by the state-run refinery CPC Corp., Taiwan to relocate its crude refining plants in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung City to Changhua County by 2015, where it plans to invest NT$400 billion (US$12.57 billion) to construct the petrochemical complex

[from here] Planned for construction on reclaimed land off the mouth of the Zhoushui River in western Taiwan’s Changhua County, the 2,773-hectare complex is set to be the second biggest on the island after Formosa Petrochemical Corp.’s Mailiao refinery complex in nearby Yunlin County.

Egrets.... you can be 100 meters away and if they spot you moving, they immediately fly away. But they will follow a tractor in a field a meter away like puppies.

I posted on "1,000 academics" who oppose this project here. Among them is the influential Noel Laureate Lee Yuan-tse...
Nobel prize winner Lee Yuan-tseh voiced his opposition Tuesday to a project to build a giant petrochemical complex on a central Taiwan coastal wetland, describing the project as "Taiwan's misfortune."

"We pray for favorable wind and rain, for the country to prosper and the people to live in safety, " said Lee, a former president of Academia Sinica, the nation's highest research institute.

However, "the wish seems getting more and more far away from us," Lee lamented at a news conference in which he and many other scholars called for a halt on the Kuokuang petrochemical project out of concern over ecology and human health.
Lee pointed out that with the massive emissions of the Kuokuang complex the government will never make its emissions milestones.

An abandoned military structure. Behind the wetlands stretch down the coast to the distant Mailiao industrial complex.

The Taipei Times reported the other day on activist opposition to the upcoming project:
The pamphlet was written by Hsu, Lin Pi-yao (林碧堯) of Tunghai University, Chou Chin-cheng (周晉澄) and Wu Ching-chi (吳清吉) of NTU, as well as other TEPU members.

TEPU said the petrochemical company’s claim that it would create 692,000 jobs once operations began was proof it was exaggerating its statistics.

According to the 2009 Human Resources Report by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS), the chemical and petrochemical industries accounted for a total of 268,000 jobs.

“Does the work force also include the ladies that sell betel nuts outside the factory?” Hsu asked.

Hsu said Kuokuang’s report showed that its scale of operations would be comparable to Formosa Petrochemical Corp’s naphtha cracker in Mailiao (麥寮). Formosa Petrochemical has said its naphtha cracker emits 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, but Kuokuang said its annual emissions would only be 12 million tonnes.

Hsu said Taiwan imports almost all of its energy sources, with the petrochemical industry consuming about one-third of this but contributing only about 4 percent of GDP.

“We’re not asking that the petrochemical industry be reduced to nothing,” Hsu said. “But the petrochemical sector already takes up a large share of the nation’s industry and should not be expanded anymore.”

Lin also said Kuokuang would not be using new production processes and could cause severe pollution.

He said the government was only thinking in terms of profit from the sale of petrochemical products to China under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a strategy that would cause serious suffering to Taiwanese.
In some ways this highlights the problems of environmental activists in Taiwan -- the company's claim that it will create jobs does indeed include the betel nut girls outside the factory, which would not exist otherwise. As written, the company is not claiming it will employ so many people, only that its economic activities will have multiplier effects, a notion well supported in the economics literature.

That said, there's no way it will create so many jobs. The MOEA says that:
MOEA estimates have the project attracting NT$933.6 billion (US$29 billion) in future investments, while generating NT$460 billion in annual output and creating 375,000 job opportunities.
Note that everything will be subsidized -- water, electricity, oil imports.

The wetlands there are full of structures. Drew remarked that you could see why in the old days ships did not like to approach Taiwan from this side. You could ground your craft in the mud kilometers from the shore.

Speaking of water, I posted last month on a Commonwealth magazine article on the planned destruction of central Taiwan's last wetland for a totally unnecessary naptha cracker for making plastic:
It's not only that Taiwan's largest wetland is bound to vanish if the naphtha cracker project is realized. Lee Hong-yuan, professor at the Department of Civil Engineering at National Taiwan University and a harsh critic of the project, foresees a host of difficulties: Where is the huge amount of water that Kuo Kuang will need supposed to come from, given that the complex will be located in a land subsidence area that lacks water? And how is flooding to be prevented when the land subsides even further? How can the increasing salinization of the soil be addressed? And what is to be done about worsening erosion caused by sea water? These four questions expose the government's absurd policies on industrial development, water resource management and land use, as well as its coastal protection and agriculture policies, which seem to be suffering from scarcity themselves.


Second only to Pingdong County, Jhanghua County has the most severe land subsidence problem in all of Taiwan. In the most affected areas around Fangyuan and Dacheng, land sinking, resulting from excessive groundwater exploitation, can be as deep as an entire story. And land subsidence continues to spread inland. Due to the sinking of the coastal area over a long period, seawater has seeped in, so that the extracted groundwater is salty and the soil has starting to become salinated. Now not even peanuts grow there anymore. In Dacheng, whose economy used to rely heavily on agriculture, the acreage of abandoned farmland keeps growing and expanding further inland. The height of the town's jetties has to be constantly raised to make up for coastal subsidence.
Another structure, concrete piles.

Wonder how this happened.

In a commentary in Taipei Times, Civil Society and the Fight Against the Big Polluters, Lee Ken-cheng observed:
The new Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology plant will be located on the north bank of the Jhuoshui River (濁水溪) opposite the sixth naphtha cracker plant. When development is completed, the combined pollution from these two plants will be even worse than current levels. The Ministry of Economic Affairs’ strategic environmental assessment report on the petrochemical industry should, of course, include information on all external costs caused by the petrochemical industry before being submitted to the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee for discussion. Before the environmental assessment is passed, the review of the plant should be suspended.
The sixth naptha cracker is shown below. It is actually in the next county down, Yunlin, and has been in the news after a spate of recent fires.

The Mailiao petrochemical and steel complex.

Another view back to the south.

The Taipei Times reported on the administrative roadblocks to an environmentalist plan to purchase land to stop the construction:
After 50,000 people signed up to purchase 200 hectares of coastal wetlands in Changhua County in an attempt to block the construction of a petrochemical plant in the area, environmentalists yesterday announced the beginning of the second phase of the project — to purchase another 800 hectares. The group also urged the government not to scupper the campaign through administrative measures.

“More than 50,000 people — from across the country, including the offshore islands — have agreed to purchase a total of 200 hectares of wetlands along the Changhua coast. Now it’s time for us to start the second phase of the project,” Taiwan Environmental Protection Union Changhua Division chairman Tsai Chia-yang (蔡嘉陽) said. “This time, we will look to purchase another 800 hectares of wetlands in the area.”

Tsai said that the original 200 hectares are in a coastal strip along which the critically endangered pink dolphin lives. The 800 hectares to be purchased in the second phase of the campaign are an essential habitat for some bird species, he said.

Although coastal wetlands in Changhua County’s Dacheng Township (大城), to the north of the mouth of Jhuoshuei River (濁水溪), are an important habitat for many endangered fish and bird species, Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co plans to build oil refineries in the area.

Worried about the ecological damage and pollution that such a plan would bring, environmentalists and locals have launched the ambitious project to raise money for an environmental trust fund to purchase the land that Kuokuang wants to use to build refineries.

Each share — 1m² of land — will cost only NT$119.

Though more than 50,000 people have expressed interest, the Ministry of the Interior has yet to approve the application for the creation of the environmental trust fund.

Deputy Minister of the Interior Lin Tsyr-ling (林慈玲) said environmental groups had not yet registered to enable themselves to create a trust fund and that the groups had not received consent from the National Property Administration to buy the land.

Tsai said the groups were still in the process of registering to create a trust fund, but added that he did not agree that the consent of the National Property Administration is needed before the ministry could review their case.

“The ministry says it’s the agency in charge of approving trust funds, but then it says it won’t do anything with our application before receiving consent from the National Property Administration. That’s giving the power to decide to the National Property Administration,” Tsai said.
Several of us watching this had wondered whether the government will simply use its power of forced purchase to seize any land purchased to stop the project. The site, and the one in Mailiao, sit next to waters frequented by Taiwan's endangered pink dolphin. For more on that issue, see this long post on environmental assessments and the dolphins from a couple of years ago.

Wetlands stretch to the north as well.

Drew and I got up on the seawall, where the cool wet breeze off the ocean completely negated the desiccating heat of the noonday sun.

A milestone was reached this year when a major investor in the Kuokuang project pulled out due to the delays in getting it constructed.
Business tycoon Preston Chen (陳武雄), chairman of the Taipei-based Chinese National Federation of Industries, said yesterday he would quit investing in the Kuokuang petrochemical project because of continued delays.

“I’m not investing. No investment project in the world can defer for so long,” Chen said in disappointment.

The Kuokuang petrochemical project was worth investing in four years ago, but it’s now a big question mark, he said.

“The world is changing fast in terms of business competitiveness. Kuokuang Petrochemical has my sympathy for all it has endured over the past years for the development project,” he added.

He repeated a statement by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) earlier yesterday, saying the government attaches equal importance to economic development and environmental protection, but if the two issues conflict and one must be favored, environmental protection would win out.

He lamented that major investment projects in the country don’t receive enough support, pointing out that a similar project was proposed in Singapore half a year after the Kuokuang project and the Singaporean petrochemical complex has already started commercial production.
Kuokuang had also been identified in reports last year as a possible site for Chinese investment. The project is justified by claims that Taiwan needs it to stay in the plastics race with Singapore.

A wetlands wharf.

Drew headed out onto the concrete "wharf" into the wetlands.

Mud and temples.

Looking back up the seawall. Note yet another sunken blockhouse.

Drew returns with power. Drew is an amazing rider who has been an inspiration to me, constantly pushing me to exceed what I thought were my limits. I am humbled and fortunate to have him as a friend and mentor. His account with more pictures is here.

A beautiful young couple enjoying the lovely day nearby. What kind of Taiwan will the future bring to them?

ADDED: Researchers question economics of Kuokuang complex.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

How Taipei Sees Taiwan

Found on Facebook.
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Brilliant Police Waiting Game "Captures" Clever Crook

I don't need no arms around me
And I don't need no drugs to calm me.
I have seen the writing on the wall.
Don't think I need anything at all.
No! Don't think I'll need anything at all.
All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.
All in all you were all just bricks in the wall.

It's all keystone, all the time here in the future Republic of Formosa. Yesterday's big news was that the murder of Weng Chin-nan, the alleged gangster killed in Taichung in front of four policemen, had been "solved." The dastardly murder had been tracked down and apprehended! Or turned himself in. Or something....
Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) last night announced that police had cracked the high-profile murder of Weng Chi-nan (翁奇楠) after a 17-year-old, Liao Kuo-hao (廖國豪), turned himself in on Wednesday night and confessed.

“A meeting will soon be arranged between Liao and the other suspects we have in custody [in the Weng case] to try to learn more details of the murder,” Taichung City Police Department Deputy Chief Yu Hui-mao (余輝茂) said.

Liao turned himself in to police on Wednesday night after getting in touch with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Justin Chou (周守訓) through one of Chou’s supporters to say he wanted to surrender.

After verifying Liao’s identity, Chou called Taichung City Police Chief Chiu Feng-kuang (邱豐光) to arrange for the teenager to turn himself in.
Oh yeah, the lad turned himself in. The story in the local papers was that he had run out money since his gangster pals decided to stop supplying him with the stuff, and the only way he could eat was if he went to jail. Imagine that conversation:
INSPECTOR: Excellent work, boys. How'd you catch him?
POLICEMEN: We starved him out, sir.
The police adopted a "we'd have won anyway" stance...
Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) told reporters on the sidelines of an event at Taiwan Police College (TPC) that Liao’s surrender was the result of hard work by police.

It showed that police officers had not given up on the case and the shooter had not fled the country.

“Immediately after the murder, a special police task force identified this as a well-planned and complicated case, involving not only the gunman, but also a driver and a behind-the-scenes mastermind,” Jiang said.

“Although some people said the police would never catch the gunman because high-ranking officers were involved and that the murderer had escaped to China, the police were actually in total control,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say we knew where Liao was at the beginning, but we were certain that he was in the country. That’s why officers looked for the people who were helping him, to force him out,” Jiang said.
Not mentioned in this report of the TT was that Liao was wanted as a suspect in a murder when he was 16 (gunned down restaurant owner) and was already on the lam. The terrible family background of the became an issue for public complaint as well:
Chou said Liao was unhappy with Taiwan’s education system.

“He told me that since he was a young child, his answers on examination sheets never won the approval of his school teachers,” Chou said.

Liao’s parents divorced when he was in elementary school and his father was a drug addict who was in and out of prison. He was raised by his grandparents.

Hsieh Sheng-nan (謝勝南), student affairs director of Liao’s junior high school said the former student’s complaints were unfair.
Not really a lesson there, except the universal one that stable families produce stable kids. Dad was in the pen and just out again (for pic of Dad, scroll down in this link to second pic, Dad is the black shirted one) and the grandparents were raising the kids. Children being raised by grandparents is a common phenomenon in Taiwan. I'd love to see some comparative research on things such as school performance, obesity, socialization, and similar, on this issue. At my daughter's school I could name several kids being raised that way and none were academically strong.

Liao is a juvenile offender and will not get death.
Daily Links:
  • Public outraged at judges giving rapist of 6 year old 3 years because she hadn't resisted. Seems to me the judges might be wanting to call attention to how stupid the law is.
  • Shipbuilder is first Chinese firm listed on Taiwan stock exchange
  • China Reform Monitor:
    Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza has published a lengthy commentary condemning Beijing’s “long-term interest to weaken the European Union as a manufacturer and exporter of goods and services, including as an institution that promotes democratic principles.” “Chinese expansion is not favorable for us,” said the left center newspaper, “Poland should be anxious to see a strong America.” It attacked EU’s common foreign policy as “wading around in the kiddie-pool” and said Europe’s common defense policy is “nonexistent.” It concluded by imploring Warsaw to support U.S. efforts to counter China: "Only the United States is capable of promoting effectively, or at least in a way that can be noticed in Beijing, the free market and democracy. There is no other world power with which we share all our political and ethical values.”
  • Global Views with new poll out on public mood, support for politicians, etc. Rising public confidence in the economy has not translated into greater support for Ma & Co.
  • Lung Ying-tai ripped in Ming Pao; the PRC fears Taiwan's democracy and its spokesmen and hangers-on always attack it. Lung's own position is a mass of contradictions.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Certain Island in Keelung Harbor

Here is an inset of a map of Keelung Harbor and its environs prepared by the French during the invasion of 1884-5. The original is online in its entirety here. Note name of island there just above the center. Yes, it was fate that I came here. Many thanks to Jerome Keating for finding this for me.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chinglish Arrrgh at NIA

No explanation necessary. Read on and wince:
The National Immigration Agency selected a winning English-language slogan submitted by an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Keelung, reports said Tuesday.

In order to strengthen its service image, the government’s immigration department conducted a search on the Internet from May 14 to June 30 for the best Chinese-language and English-language slogans.

Fifth-grade girl student Yu Chieh won the English part of the competition with “NIA care what you care!”

Jury members from inside and outside the NIA selected a shortlist of 20 from the more than 300 entries received. NIA Director-General Hsieh Li-kung said the competition attracted participants from as far away as Nepal, Indonesia, the United States, India and South Africa. Each slogan was accompanied by detailed explanations as to its significance, he said.
300 entries and that was the best they could do?
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Beijing Apologetics and Taiwan Arms Purchases

AP reports:
The United States said it will supply relatively low-grade radar equipment to Taiwan's air force, an announcement that comes less than a week after the island's president urged Washington to provide it with new F-16 fighter jets.
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Tuesday that the U.S. sale includes "defence services, technical data, and defence articles" for Taiwan's air defence system, and radar equipment for the island's Indigenous Defence Fighter jets.
Crowley did not put a monetary figure on the deal or identify the American companies involved.
The U.S. is obligated by law to provide Taiwan defensive weapons.
The US is not obligated by law to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons, but media outlets still keep repeating that claim. The sale would be in lieu of new F-16s; which the KMT Administration claims it wants (but fought against during the DPP Chen Administration). Instead, existing aircraft would get upgrades. Washington under both Obama and Bush has continued to be craven on that score.

A weakened Taiwan is an invitation to war in East Asia. Taiwan needs these fighters not merely to hold off China in an all-out, send-in-the-troops-in-fishing-boats scenario, but also in case of a limited war, such as a blockade. Taiwan's ability to break such a blockade on its own is a form of deterrence as well. Further, in the future Taiwan may have a government that actually gives a shit about the future of the island, and thus Taiwan need weapons to be a credible ally in likely future conflicts.

Note that I am not asking for the F-16s, I am merely observing. Washington has obviously lost its nerve, or else is waiting for Beijing to do something so heinous that F-16s become a rational and accepted response. Hopefully the latter, though I strongly doubt it.

Speaking of observing, one ominous trend that needs to be nipped in the bud is the rise of a more sophisticated pro-Beijing apologetics, such as that of Mark Valencia in the Taipei Times last week. I was traveling and couldn't respond but sorely wanted to. Given the startling pro-Beijing nature of the piece with its numerous omissions and distortions, I was kind of surprised to see that the Taipei Times even ran it. One thing it makes clear is that some of you edumacated types out there with Taiwan-related passions need to be submitting more commentaries!

Valencia is a scholar who has written at length on sovereignty issues involving China's claims to areas in its littoral. He writes from a pro-Beijing perspective -- for example, read this longer piece on the East China Sea disputes carefully. Note in his description of the dispute between China, Taiwan, and Japan over the Senkakus he never forthrightly states that China did not begin claiming the islands until after Japanese scientists said there might be oil nearby in 1968. I've already posted before how PRC and ROC maps pre-1968 either show the Senkakus as Japanese, or show them as next to Taiwan without being part of China. If there were any doubt on that score, I have a copy of a Renminerbao piece from 1953 that not only says the Senkakus are Japanese but also uses the Japanese names (in Chinese) to identify them. John Tkacik, who collects such things, wrote a couple of years ago:
In my collection of maps, I have a facsimile of plate 18 of the Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Fen Sheng Ditu (People’s Republic of China Provincial Map) of “Fujian Province, Taiwan Province” published in mimi (confidential) form by the Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Guojia Cehui Zongju (Headquarters, National Surveillance Bureau), Beijing, 1969, which identified the Senkaku Islands as the “Jiange Qundao” — using the Chinese characters for the Japanese name “Senkaku Island Group” — rather than the Chinese name “Diaoyu.”
In other words, until 1969 China treated the Senkakus as Japanese. Valencia's Taipei Times piece contains the same telling kinds of omissions. Observe first that China's own actions are consistently omitted or downplayed. Consider:
However, despite US arrogance, offering to “facilitate” multilateral talks on the South China Sea disputes — which is what really infuriated Beijing — it is clear that China has been its own worst enemy in this matter. It refused to file a joint claim with Malaysia and Vietnam to the continental shelf in the South China Sea. It then filed an objection to their claim, and attached a map with its nine-dash line ambiguously claiming most of the sea.

It publicly categorized the South China sea as a “core interest” akin to Tibet and Taiwan, ie something it would fight over, and allowed its Ministry of Defense spokesperson Geng Yansheng (耿雁生) to say “China has indisputable sovereignty of the South Sea and China has sufficient historical and legal backing” to underpin its claims.

These actions and accompanying large military exercises in the area provided a diplomatic opportunity for the US and pushed the ASEAN countries into the US corner.
"China has been its own worst enemy." To say someone is their own worst enemy is to accuse them of something akin to klutziness, not malice -- it downplays the intent of their actions. Valencia also accuses the US of arrogance although it is China that has claimed the entire South China Sea and refuses to negotiate and said it would go to war with anyone who objected -- what could possibly be more arrogant? Finally "observe" (you can't because they've been omitted) that the reason Vietnam and everyone else has been pushed into the US corner is because of China's military build up, threats, and recent actions, such as regularly seizing Vietnamese trawlers. All gone.

Valencia earlier had stated:
The activities of the US EP-3 planes and Navy ships, the Bowditch and the Impeccable, probably collectively, have included the active “tickling” of China’s coastal defenses to provoke and observe a response, interference with shore-to-ship and submarine communications, “preparation of the battlefield,” using legal subterfuge to evade the consent regime and tracking China’s new nuclear submarines for potential targeting as they enter and exit their base.

Few countries would tolerate such provocative activities by a potential enemy without responding in some fashion. These are not passive intelligence collection activities commonly undertaken and usually tolerated by most states, but are intrusive and controversial practices that China regards as a threat of the use of force.
Actually, these are intelligence collection activities commonly undertaken by the Powers. During the Cold War Russian and US signals intelligence constantly tested each other in just this way. In fact they still go on today (Russians buzz US carriers). Valencia elsewhere refers to Chinese vessels behaving in similar manner towards the Japanese! And recent Chinese aggressive moves against the Japanese are omitted here (it goes without saying). Who can forget the Chinese sub that surfaced inside a US carrier group? Valencia can, apparently. Because everyone knows it is arrogant, threatening, and provocative when the US does it, but it is only klutzy when China does.

BTW, which Asian nation has the largest signals intelligence fleet?

In other words, Valencia omits any information that might cast Beijing in a negative light, including the whole context of the growing regional fear of China's aims (except for a single fleeting reference about China's aggressiveness toward conflicting claims at the beginning), and then gives us a selectively Beijing-centric view of affairs, complete with the telling us again and again how Beijing feels (but not how Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, or the US feel):
  • and China’s angry response
  • but are intrusive and controversial practices that China regards as a threat of the use of force
  • which is what really infuriated Beijing
  • If anything, it may have convinced Beijing that the die is cast. It could confirm its worst fears, that the US is stealthily trying to draw ASEAN or some of its members together with Australia, Japan and South Korea into a soft alliance to constrain, if not contain, China.

    Beijing’s struggle to break out of these constrants, politically and militarily, will set the stage for rivalry and tension in the years ahead.
The ending of the piece is quite sick: it would be unnecessary to "constrain" China through "soft alliances" if China were not an active and growing threat to many of its neighbors. No one talks about US "constraint" on Japan or Taiwan or Malaysia because those countries are not a problem for their neighbors the way China is. More and more China is reminding me of Japan in the 1930s, which had no trouble getting the resources it needed to continue both its economic expansion and its war in China, but nevertheless complained that it was encircled. Similarly, China has no trouble getting access to the resources it needs for growth within the current system -- just as Japan does today. There are no constraints on China's growth, as the last two decades should make clear. All this military expansion is simply unnecessary and counterproductive. In the final analysis, it is clear China does not want military expansion to grab resources; what it wants is resources to support more expansion. Just like Tokyo c. 1939.

In the Japanese case the war against the US is conventionally explained as a war for oil and other resources, in which Japan was "forced" to engage because the US cut off its oil and it couldn't leave China or end the fighting there. In 1940 after Japan moved into French Indochina the US placed its first serious sanctions on Japan, but did not cut off oil for fear of provoking Japan. In 1941 Japan further moved into the French colony, and the US responded by shutting off the oil. Conventional explanation says that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because of the oil cut off, since it planned to Dutch Indonesia and British Malaysia to grab their oil and other resources.

However, during the debates in Japan over what to do, an often neglected event occurred. The equivalent of the minister for natural resources informed the cabinet that the oil cut off was no problem. All Japan had to do was wait a year or two, and he could have a coal-to-oil program using the plentiful supplies of Manchurian coal at Japan's disposal. Japan could have as much oil as it wanted. No war was necessary. Nobody listened.

Japan insanely attacking the US and setting its people back a generation in progress. The US insanely attacking Iraq, and persisting in its lost cause in Afghanistan, blowing up its budget and cheating its own people at a time of desperate need. China now engaged in a needless military build up to annex territories of its neighbors, reducing its ability to increase its own living standards and heading for needless war that will further impair the progress of its people.

Stop the insanity. And please, stop shilling for it too.
Daily Links:
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oklahoma is had by the KMT

Check out this story: Oklahoma Strengthens Relations With Taiwan Province...

The state of Oklahoma and Taiwan Province reaffirm their sister-state relationship which has stood for the past 30 years.

During a ceremony in the Blue Room of the State Capitol Governor Henry and Taiwan Province Governor Jung-Tzer Lin reaffirmed their agreement which promotes trade and friendship.

Governor Henry says last year alone Oklahoma exports to Taiwan came to $16.3 million.

“But that agreement, again, is more than just about trade. That’s been beneficial to both of our peoples, but it has also enriched the lives of both of our peoples.”
I have to admit, this exchange has enriched my life with a bit of entertainment. "Taiwan Province Governor Jung-Tzer Lin" is actually the former mayor of Hsinchu, now currently a minister without portfolio. He is apparently head of the Provincial Council which runs the now-defunct government, streamlined out of existence back in the 1990s, all of which are appointees of the President (see Wiki for details -- don't they have that in Oklahoma?). Congrats to Oklahoma for re-affirming its relations with less than a dozen people! I think they should next sign sister-relations with Fujian Province, ROC.

I wonder if Lin gets a separate salary as head of the "provincial government."

The KMT program of confusing others about the actual status of Taiwan continues.

Meanwhile, where was the US State Department? Shouldn't it have taken the Oklahoma state government aside and told them that US policy is that the status of Taiwan is undetermined?
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Daily Links, August 23, 2010

Yet another Taiwan government-sponsored food contest. *sigh* Is the choice of food political? Outdoor activities are likely to create environmentalism, which businessmen hate, while local history and culture are anathema to the KMT.

Anyway, what's on the blogs?

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

In the Palm of the Bike Gods: Kenting

After three weeks of traveling around the island working, I was itching for a little vacation time. What better place than the playground of Taiwan, Kenting? My friend Jeff Miller came down to Kaohsiung to keep me company for a couple of days of absolutely glorious light and sun.

Jeff and I planned to meet in Pingtung county just across the Kaoping Bridge, at the junction of 189 and 1, to take 189 through Pingtung. On the way out of town I met this bird at the hardware store where I attempted to purchase some hex wrenches.

Threading one's way through Fengshan to Pingtung is always a hair-raising experience.

The new bridge.

Jeff meets up at 1 pm. We turned down 189 for Chaozhou and points south.

Pingtung flatlands.

A Duck farm.

We followed 189 south through Chaozhou in Pingtung, which has some charming traffic circles that are death on bicyclists. And well marked, too.... nothing can confuse a couple of educated guys with forty years experience in Taiwan faster than local Taiwan road signs.

You could roll a marble from Pingtung city down to the sea.

Laying plastic on a field.

These telephone poles actually follow an old Japanese narrow gauge rail line; the rails are still extant next to the road.

Finally, nearing the coast. Fangliao, the last major station. Two days later we would end up here....

The mountains here aren't so tall, but still lovely.

We stopped to rest and shoot these hardworking fellows trying to pull over one of those machines for oxygenating water in fishponds.

Our excitement mounted as we realized the weather was going to be a gift from the bike gods.

We took a few pictures of this ruined resort. Both coasts are littered with such remains.

The bike gods sent us a rainbow.

A side street in Fenggang.

Ever since I started biking, I've wanted to bike this stretch of coast.

Aquaculture: the fish are imprisoned in nets in the ocean, where they are fed and raised until ready to eat.

Jeff threads his way through the traffic. Friday evening in Kenting!

Once we hit Checheng we decided to turn inland down 199 to the Sichuanghsi Hot Springs. The sky was unbelievable.

The Fuji does a wonderful job with scenery shots.

The old man and the moon.

Nearby peaks.

A small herd grazed beneath the rushing clouds.

The moon at evening.

A place to rest? Here in front of this temple I waited for Jeff. That twenty minute ride up from Checheng had been mindblowing...

We stayed at this small lodging for $1000 for a large double bed room, clean, and no one else staying at the place.

In the morning Sichuanghsi town was silent.

Over the hills it looked like rain.

7-11 for breakfast.

We stopped at the small park for the Mudan (shihmen "stone gate") battlefield memorial. Everywhere we went we met groups of cyclists out enjoying themselves. We had plenty of friendly chats, one of the best things about riding in Taiwan.

A quick walk up the stairs brought us to the memorial, erected by the Japanese to commemorate the 1874 Mudan incident.

The views from the top are excellent. The battle is named for the gorge a little way up.

The gorge. We climbed up here intending to follow 199 to 199A and head down to the east coast, but it started to rain. Since this was vacation, we decided not to get in a manliness contest with the bike gods and turned around and headed back to the coast.

Jeff fights a slow leak.

As turned down this road, we left the rain behind.

The views improved immediately.

Just a perfect day for a ride.

We followed that little road until we hit the main road, and then went into Hengchun town. Here's the old gate, which some of you may recognize from Cape No 7.

Part of the city wall is still extant, a phenomenon rare in Taiwan.

We grabbed a coffee and amused ourselves watching the vehicles attempt to negotiate the narrow streets. I fell in love with Hengchun instantly; it has a real lazy coastal town feel and has not become overwhelmed by kitsch tourism like Kenting Street.

The south gate.

A Hengchun street.

We turned on to another minor road heading for the coast.

Along the way we passed through the local communities.

We got directions from this friendly and outgoing woman.

After a short climb through some Taiwan soldiers out playing RED vs BLUE, we dropped down to the coast road just north of the Aquarium, an awesome place for a visit if you are in the area. We then turned off into the small town of Houwan.

The road was flat and lined with vegetation. There was a bike path but it appeared to be used largely as a parking lot.

We stopped in the tiny fishing port of Shanhai for lunch.

The port.

Two little girls were at play right in front of the seafood place where we chowed down on oysters and sashimi.


Leaving Shanhai, we saw big ships....

...and little ones.

We rounded that little peninsula on the west side of Kenting and came upon Houbihu, and entered the world of tourists.

The beach by the nuke plant, with three wind machines, which appear to serve the exact same function for the nuke plant as the zoo animals painted on incinerator smokestacks.

In Kenting town, the cars were starting to flow in, and the vendors were starting to set up.

Amy's, where we had dinner.

It's a stampede!

Lots of great stuff on display.

Lots of great displays.

Can't get enough of that color.

Can't get enough of that color.

Dinner at Amy's. Yum.

Setting up for the crowds.

Waiting to be grilled.

Just off Kenting street are several streets full of places to stay.

Sunset. Kenting becomes a madhouse.

Dad teaches daughter.

Jeff and I settled down in front of the Starbucks/Coldstone/7-11 complex (my, has Kenting changed over the years!) to take advantage of the lack of open bottle laws and absorb the crowd madness.

Everyone posed in this spot.

Coldstone was having a free ice cream giveaway.

Another day, another moon. We stayed at Water Space near the Caesar Park, $1260 for a spacious room with two beds -- plenty of room for bikes. Bathrooms not attached, however.

In the morning it was raining, the kind of stubborn rain that just won't give up. We headed out to Eulanpi to the End of Taiwan to take a few pictures, where it miraculously wasn't raining.

On the way back we decided to bag our planned ride to the east coast because it was obviously too wet, and to return home instead. Stopped by the big bus park to ask the drivers -- can we toss our bikes on your bus? Response was invariably: there's no room. Subtext was: your bikes are too dirty for our clean bus. So we headed back 40 kms to Fangliao along the coast in the drear and drizzle hoping to ship the bikes to Taichung and Keelung, and take the train home.

Fangliao was soon reached. Naturally, as soon as we had purchased tickets, the skies cleared. The railroad guys in Fangliao said we couldn't ship our bikes out of Fangliao but we could put them on the 2:45 for Kaohsiung.

Exciting Fangliao.

We rolled our bikes up to the platform....

...and soon our train arrived. 240 kms of beautiful Taiwan roads under our tires, we headed off to Kaohsiung to ship our bikes and thence to the HSR, ending one of the most relaxing weekends I've had in months. Hope to see you on the next ride.

Trip Map on Google. Not certain about the section from Hengchun to the coast on Day 2.

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