Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt: could it happen in Taiwan?

Drew and I rode along Pinglin Road from Jhuolan to Dahu in Miaoli today. Lovely rolling hill country, an excellent workout. Highly recommended if you are in the area.

Jon Adams dispatches another excellent piece, this one on the tycoon buffoon handing out money to Taiwan's poor, observing:
Taiwan's per-person wealth may still be far higher than China's, at around $18,500 compared to some $4,300. But growth rates have sagged in Taiwan while soaring to double or high single digits in China. And in the last few decades, the island has seen a growing income gap. (Measured by the Gini coefficient, inequality rose from 0.28 in 1980 to 0.34 in 2006.)

Like other advanced economies, manufacturing jobs have shrunk as factories move to China and elsewhere. Lower-paying, non-unionized service sector jobs have taken their place. The service sector is now nearly 70 percent of the economy, compared to 50 percent 20 years ago. And since the global downturn, Taiwan firms have been increasingly relying on "dispatch" or temp workers, like Japan and South Korea.

The result has been a new legion of "working poor" or "new poor," as they're called here. They may not show up on unemployment statistics. But they struggle to make ends meet with two or even three low-paying jobs, but no job security.

"Those people cannot get help because they're not ill, or victims of a disaster, and they're not poor by the government's standards," said Taiwan sociologist Chiu Hei-yuan. "So they are just helpless — and they hope to get some unexpected help from people like Mr. Chen."

Twelve percent of the workforce now earns less than $700 per month, and average monthly wages are at 1998 levels, according to labor groups.

Meanwhile, highly-skilled workers in the technology and other sectors pull in ever-fatter paychecks, sharpening inequality between the haves and have-nots. "Taiwan's social welfare system cannot solve the problem of the gap between the rich and the poor — especially the 'new poor,'" said Chiu.
There is no capital gains tax and Taiwan's wealthiest can easily avoid taxation. Much of this income inequality is the result of the steady drip of accumulation by the wealthy over time -- in the 1980s the difference between top and bottom wasn't that great, but thirty years of accumulation later....

Since everyone is asking whether China could go the way of Egypt (not China, but I bet India has severe problems this year), I thought I'd have a little fun and ask about Taiwan. Taiwan's worsening inequality is a problem, but food prices will likely be more stable here -- as I posted a couple of months ago, Taiwan imports most of its grains and oils, but staples like eggs, vegetables, fruit and seafood are mostly produced locally. Incomes are high enough that food is affordable, unlike Egypt. Taiwan boasts excellent health insurance, a strong manufacturing sector, and relatively low unemployment by global standards. Moreover, its "inefficient" banking sector with strong state interference has minimized the damaged Wall Street has done here. The population has also become an active participant in the democratic process and is getting used to solving problems that way. Further, Taiwan does not suffer from the kind of right-wing religious insanity that Egypt does.

Still, the changes in the working population, income inequality, and so on are likely to have political effects as voters search for a party that can solve them. Political volatility in Taiwan may well translate into swings from one party to the other from election to election.

UPDATE: Anon writes:
Michael, need a correction/update: there's no capital gains tax, true, but the rich generally aren't very good at investing in stocks and the minimum tax law passed in 2006 requires that gains in shares of private companies be counted towards a minimum tax rate of 20%. In other words, investments in hedge funds, private equity funds, venture capital funds, private placement gains, are all taxed at 20%. There may be cheating, but it's exactly that--you're breaking the law, not just merely "avoiding" taxes.

Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Missing Links

During my trip to Sabah this month I finally reached my limit with the Fuji HS10 I purchased earlier this year because (1) it failed due to humidity, leaving me cameraless for 48 hours in Borneo (augh!) and (2) it developed dust on the lens between the lens and the CCD, meaning that every shot now has ghostly spots in it. I had never really been happy with its clunky operation, poorly arranged controls, poor functionality, and gross weight. I spent a couple of days researching cameras and talking with knowledgeable camera types, and finally decided on the Canon Powershot S95 as my next camera. I'd had my eye on it for some time as a second camera, and picked one up yesterday when I dropped off the Fuji to be repaired. As you can see from the macro flower pic above, it takes great shots. In addition to logical and easily operated controls and excellent performance, it also has a large number of fun functions.... the fisheye emulation (my son as the model)....

...and this interesting function that allows you to isolate one color and turn the rest to B&W. Looks like I'll be having a lot of fun with this camera. Hopefully Fuji can fix my HS10 so I'll still have the big lens when I need it.

On to the links you've been missing! But first, give blood if you can, the banks here are critically short.



Had waaaay too much fun with that color accent function that allows you to pick one color out and make the others B&W.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Some positive noises from the US

AP & the Taipei Times reported that AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt slammed China's interference in US internal affairs, saying Beijing had hurt the feelings of America's 300 million people ....

American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt on Tuesday said Chinese pressure on Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to cancel a visit to Taiwan was “unacceptable” and inconsistent with Beijing’s claims it sought to improve ties with Taipei.

Nixon last month scrapped plans to visit Taiwan after a Chicago-based Chinese diplomat warned the trip could imperil a project by China to turn St Louis airport into a hub for Chinese cargo in the US.

Over the previous two years, eight US governors have visited Taiwan.

Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Burghardt called China’s actions “absolutely unacceptable.”

That's a positive note. Burghardt took pains to point out that such actions are not compatible with the "warming relations" that the CCP and KMT are currently experiencing. Meanwhile Kyodo News (behind paywall) reported on another positive development....
The United States refused to issue a joint communique after last week's summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao and kept Taiwan's interests in mind during the negotiations for a joint statement, the head of the de facto U.S. mission to Taiwan said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Taipei after being briefed by U.S. officials who took part in the negotiations, Raymond Burghardt said the U.S. side ''purposefully...constructed a document that in no way violates any of Taiwan's interests.''

''We kept Taiwan in mind,'' he said. ''The result is a document that in no way breaks any new ground on any issues that would be of concern to Taiwan.''
Burghardt said that China had wanted a communique loaded with the phrase "core interests" but the US had refused to have any part of such a thing.

These are both positive moves, the second very important. The US makes a lot of noise about how happy it is that the CCP and the KMT are kissing and making up over the dead body of Taiwan's independent future, but it is carefully avoiding any words that might indicate actual changes in the US stance. In other words, it is possible to interpret all the happy noises the US makes about the KMT sellout as simply meaningless noise -- what else, really, can Washington say? Burghardt is also signaling China while talking to Taipei: our position hasn't changed and we categorically refuse to talk about Taiwan as a core interest of the PRC. Good work, AIT folks.

Meanwhile, can someone thwack VOA over the head? Beijing already has Xinhua, they don't need VOA to spew this kind of crap:
U.S. support for Taiwan is one of the biggest obstacles to closer relations between the United States and China, which considers the island a breakaway province and claims a right to retake it by force if necessary.
There are two problems with this presentation. First, US support for Taiwan is not an obstacle to closer relations between Washington and Beijing. Rather, it is Beijing's desire to annex Taiwan and its threats to maim and murder Taiwanese in order to do so that are the problem. Second, even if we handed them Taiwan, as Beijing's constant flow of new claims and intensification of old ones shows, they'd simply say some other desired objective was the obstacle to closer relations.

Apropo the status of Taiwan, the LA Times still hasn't corrected its massive error on the US position on the status of Taiwan, dating from 5 days ago now....
Although economic relations between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan are warming, China still insists — and most major nations, including the United States, agree — that there is only one China and that Taiwan (which calls itself the Republic of China) is a part of it.
I wrote them several days ago, and so did others. *sigh* It is not difficult to find this information on the internet. Apparently people get confused since both Beijing and Washington use "One China" to designate their policies even though they are completely different policies. AP's Washington office has twice said the US considers Taiwan to be part of China in the last year alone....
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Tycoon Buffoon

All Taiwan is buzzing this week with the tale of Chinese tycoon Chen Guangbao, who arrived in Taiwan this week to hand out money to the poor.

Chinese tycoon and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao (陳光標) arrived in Taiwan last night to begin a controversial “thanksgiving” tour that will see him hand over hundreds of millions of NT dollars.

Chen and a 47-member delegation are set to visit Taipei, and Hsinchu, Nantou and Hualien counties over the next six days, with pledges to give out an estimated NT$500 million (US$17.2 million) to impoverished Taiwanese.

New Taipei City (新北市) and Taoyuan County rejected conditions for the handouts, which reportedly include busing recipients to municipal offices to thank Chen personally for the gifts.

The political slant of the trip was obvious: the red envelopes were embossed with the phrase "the Chinese race is one people". Further, the Taipei Times reported that there was no evidence Chen had contacted any of the DPP-run local governments about making donations in their areas.

People came from all over to wait in line for days to beg him for money. The chaotic scenes drew criticism for making Taiwan look poor and shameful -- painful because Taiwanese consider themselves to be far above the Chinese.

The pro-China propaganda rag WantChina Times editorialized on the difference between charity by Taiwanese and Chinese:

There is really no need for Chen to promote philanthropy in Taiwan however, where the public already embrace the idea that it is better to give than to receive. Many are engaged in charity work because they identify with the suffering and pain of those in need.

In comparison, several Chinese philanthropists engage in charity work purely out of pragmatic considerations.

Such considerations, Chen said, can be divided into two types. First, participation in high-profile charity activities can boost popularity and bring economic benefits. Second, the message of doing good deeds through charity can be spread faster, more effectively and to a wider audience through high-profile charity work.

During the 2008 Sichuan earthquake for example, a large number of Taiwanese businesses donated huge sums of money but this was all done in a low-profile manner. Chinese enterprises meanwhile adopted a completely different approach.

Chinese beverage giant Wang Lao Ji in Guangdong donated 100 million yuan (US$15.2m) but also generated quite a lot of publicity in doing so. Some local media reports even described the massive donation as a good piece of business. By contrast, similar amounts were donated by certain Taiwanese enterprises, though they did it quietly.

If Chen wants to replicate his high-profile approach of doing charity work in Taiwan, it would be no different to building a "fence of money" between the two sides, which would hurt not only the recipients of the donations but also cross-strait ties.

"hurt cross-strait ties." Naw, it will just confirm the low opinion of Chinese that Taiwanese already have. It has already created bad feelings -- there was much public complaint that some people had gotten more money than others -- one woman got NT$70,000, another person, just $10,000. Taiwanese are very invested in the idea of "outcome fairness" where everyone gets the same result -- professors get the same pay no matter what school they are at or how good they are, awards in schools are rotated to ensure that everyone gets one irrespective of merit, employees rise through seniority, not merit, etc. Chen was also asked to donate the money through established non-profit channels and local governments, but refused -- since the whole thing was about publicizing himself. Chen's random, senseless acts of flamboyance have simply resulted in more ill will.


The Taipei Times reported today that Chen seems to have dialed back his desire for publicity in the wake of all the criticism directed at him.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Friday, January 28, 2011

KMT rising in GVRSC poll on trust, optimism

Global Views Survey Research Center has the public mood on the rise in its latest survey.....
TPMI [Taiwan Public Mood Index] stands at 47.4 this month with PCI [Public Confidence Index] hitting 51.9 and ECI [Economic Confidence Index] 42.8. Compared with the previous month, TPMI climbed one point and reached a record high once again since launch of the survey. PCI edged up by one point and remained in the positive range of winning some public approval. PCI also touches the second high since president Ma took office (the index reached the peak of 54.6 in June 2008 when Ma was just inaugurated for one month). Regardless of the slight increase of only 0.9 point, ECI touched a new high this month since release of the survey. Generally speaking, the new TPMI of the very first month of ROC centenary reflected people's high confidence in the political and economic situation in Taiwan.
The survey identified the key point as a 4 point drop in the Public Trust for DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen, which it attributed to the flap over the 18 percent interest, which blemished her reputation since the public found her hypocritical for criticizing a benefit that she herself received. Public trust in President Ma and Premier Wu both rose.

This looks like good news but it is likely to be temporary. This year food prices are expected to rise, as they did a few years ago, meaning that the public is going to continue experiencing the scissors of rising prices and stagnant incomes through the rest of the Ma Administration. Economic growth is projected to be lower than the last 18 months of the Chen Administration, at 4.8% (the lies about the Chen period will nevertheless continue unabated), while the unemployment goal is 4.9%. In other words, ordinary people will not see much economic progress. Major complaints, such as the cost of child rearing and housing, are not getting addressed.

Moreover, the KMT has shown itself completely hamfisted when it comes to managing the President's public image and the Party's handling of crises; the current rise is simply the result of nothing in particular happening at the moment, I suspect. Sooner or later something will happen and once again they will look like the indifferent dorks that they are, and public opinion will fall. Too, Tsai Ing-wen is smart and tough and the DPP has been handling itself well. She should recover.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


A couple of months ago my friend Michael Fahey got back from a company trip to Sabah and told me "it's bikeable." I've always wanted to go to Borneo (it's Borneo, man!) and so without further ado I browbeat my close friend Jeff Miller into coming with me in January. He brought along his friend Kenji Sugata, a professional cameraman and director, divemaster, and all around competent person. And the three of us were off for 11 days in wonderful Sabah.

I chose the photo at the left here as the top photo because this was Sabah for us: super friendly, fun people constantly wanting to interact with us in totally positive ways. We didn't do any of the trekking stuff; instead, we biked around the small towns and roads of western Sabah. A very relaxed and enjoyable experience it was, and I'm already planning to go back in July.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Some links for today: Next Media Animation has its latest on Taiwan's falling birthrate. AIG Taiwan unit sold. Taiwan Brain Trust accuses government of manipulating economic figures. Lots of good info in that one. Taipei Times on fixed gear biking. China lacks growth drivers. DPP expels five city councilmen for voting for the other party in recent city council elections. MOE sends down guidelines for dealing with the inevitable clashes between Chinese students and local teachers and students. China replaces Japan as number one source of tourists for Taiwan. Tobie Openshaw, the betel nut girl photographer, talking about betel nut culture, girls, and taking pics. Keep yourself chuckling over vacation with this.

I am now blogging on biking in Taiwan at Huffpost. Hope you enjoy the first of many, I hope.

I'm taking two weeks off. I'll be back in this space on the 26th. Since I won't be around to edit them, I'm turning off comments. Hope you manage to stay warm and dry; this winter promises to be especially dreary.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good stuff out there today

Winding down to the end of the semester and vacation. Yay!

AP's Peter Enav's great piece on the ROC Centenary is well worth a look. Two great quotes, one from Tsai of the DPP:
"The Republic of China came to Taiwan in 1949 and became part of the history of this land," said Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, whose platform formally espouses independence. "We understand and respect this historical fact, and we believe we can only change the system that has existed for over 60 years through democratic mechanisms."
...and my favorite:
"My country is the Republic of China on Taiwan," said Stella Tsai, a 30-year-old bank employee. "The mainland is not included. It is an enemy of our republic."
The carefully nuanced presentation by AP, complete with the dorky "We will assimilate you!" quote from the Borg on the other side of the Strait, suggests that someone with a Beijing-centric point of view outside of Taiwan had a hand in shaping the piece. Otherwise I expect it would be a lot tougher on both Beijing and on the ROC. Still, there's much there that doesn't ordinarily appear in the media. AP's longer stuff is usually excellent. Good work, AP!

Veteran Taiwan reporter Ralph Jennings had a piece in SCMP on the failure of Ma to live up to his promises of more free trade agreements in the wake of the ECFA sell-out. An excerpt:
But Ma Ying-jeou made that pledge nearly nine months ago. The only country that has come forward to talk trade with Taiwan is Singapore. Other countries have resisted Taiwan's aggressive efforts to sign free trade agreements (FTAs), normally dominated by cuts on import tariffs, owing to domestic issues, fear of a backlash from China and likely snags over agriculture and light manufacturing.

Those setbacks could eventually put Ma's government under the spotlight as the export-reliant island has looked towards those deals as a vehicle for global expansion that would lift Taiwan's US$400 billion-plus economy.

Taiwan needs FTAs with its major trading partners to keep its key exporters competitive against regional peers such as Japan, South Korea and Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) members.

The mainland forbids Taiwan's trading partners that are also Beijing's diplomatic allies from signing deals that would imply sovereignty for the island. As a result, Taiwan's main economic rivals have far more FTAs to their name, boosting their respective exporters.

Taiwan has only five FTAs, all with minor Latin American diplomatic allies.

"Ma Ying-jeou is under political and time pressure to complete FTAs with certain countries so he can deliver a promise to voters," said George Tsai, a political scientist at the Chinese Cultural University in Taipei. "But as a matter of fact it's not as simple as it appears to conclude an FTA."

Sticking points depend on the country. The US, the top prize for Taiwan because of its market size, says the timing is wrong as Congress still has not approved an FTA with fellow Asian export powerhouse South Korea despite three years of debate.

The US, Taiwan's No2 single-country export destination after the mainland, would also require an FTA covering all key sectors rather than the more narrowly focused deals popular in Asia, diplomats in Taipei say.

De facto embassy spokesman Chris Kavanagh put it plainly: "There are major obstacles in the way of a free trade agreement."

Most of Taiwan's major Asian trading partners have held back over fears of upsetting China.
Jennings notes that China has never really stated it would let Taiwan have FTAs with other nations. Indeed, as numerous commentators have noted, it is not in China's interests to do that. At minimum, Taiwan would compete with China in both industries and regions that China wants to move into. But more importantly, if China has an FTA with countries X, Y, and Z, but Taiwan does not, this puts pressure on Taiwan firms to relocate to China in order to take advantage of those FTA agreements.

Will the lack of trade agreements hurt Ma politically? It doesn't seem very likely. After all, the DPP can hardly make a huge issue of it, since the Chen Administration was hardly better. What is hurting Ma is stuff like this, in his talk on the soft power of Taiwan and making Taiwan an educational hub:
President Ma Ying-jeou noted that Taiwan has many universities that are able to provide a wide range of courses up to post-graduate level. But what makes Taiwan stand out is its strength in Chinese education, especially in traditional culture and script - the original version of Chinese characters used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and many other overseas communities.
Some of the technology and medicine programs offered in Taiwan are super strong and they are what makes Taiwan stand out, not its use of traditional characters. Nobody from Vietnam or Indonesia or Malawi comes here because of Taiwan's strength in Chinese education. Ma is pushing a Taiwan that doesn't exist -- the "traditional Chineseness" of Taiwan -- to solve a problem faced by his parents -- the competing Chinas. Yet all things for Ma come back to its being Chinese. Meanwhile the public doesn't think of itself as Chinese, especially the young. Expect roll-back of this rhetoric as the 2012 election approaches.

A rhetoric which, btw, shows that the "pragmatic" Ma is a China-centric ideologue.
Daily Links
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Is it me? Is someone playing with my mind?

ADDED: Grammar argh
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Gov't buys bloggers, says Green Party

Screen capture of page announcing $5000 trip.

The Taipei Times ran a piece on advertorials about China appearing in local newspapers.

Chiang Chun-nan (江春男), a consultant for the Chinese--language Apple Daily, told a panel at the “Democracy Building in Interesting Times” conference in Taipei that the most serious threat to the independence of the Taiwanese media was advertorials placed by China under the guise of news reports.

Chiang said this phenomenon was a concern because China was willing to put ads in Taiwanese media to promote its image, media outlets that receive funding for such placements then “self-censor” their news coverage to avoid embarrassing or angering Beijing.

“[However], independence of the press is more important than freedom of the press,” Chiang said.

The flow of money into the press from political and business circles is bad enough, but China? This move is also evidence of how China has learned to use the weapons of democracy against democracy.

A new dimension to the purchase of journalists was added today when the Green Party accused the government of buying bloggers.

“This government is completely malfunctioning. It not only buys commercial media outlets, now it’s buying independent bloggers,” GPT convener Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said.

Pan told the Taipei Times by telephone that the Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) had invited 20 bloggers on a trip to visit a petrochemical plant in Kaohsiung and an electronic appliance plant nearby.

“The trip was totally free for participants. They received free meals and a NT$5,000 cash award,” Pan said.

“The NT$5,000 for each participating blogger alone costs NT$100,000 of taxpayers’ money and this doesn’t include the cost of hiring a marketing firm to arrange the trip and other costs of the trip,” Pan said.

“Both President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) have talked about ending government placement marketing, but what they are doing is far from what they said,” Pan added.

A Web page announcing the event with details and links to related blog posts confirmed Pan’s comments.

The event Web page said participating bloggers were required to publish at least one blog post of 1,500 words or more and five pictures describing the trip -before Friday to qualify.

Premier Wu Den-yih stated:
Separately, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said he did not see any problems with the practice of encouraging bloggers to write on a subject through subsidies, as long as the blogs were not used as embedded marketing.
I guess paying people to write encomiums to environmentally-destructive state-subsidized dinosaurs is not embedded marketing....technically speaking.

You might argue, on the other hand, that the event is publicly announced so it is ok.. Some of the weblogs had not been taken down and stated forthrightly that they'd been paid:

I don't agree.... the mere prospect of cash from the gov't for blogposts is likely to warp how people write and think about things. This sort of thing should simply not exist. It's completely inappropriate any way you look at it.

Blogger Angela covers the trip exhaustively in pics. The Green Party page on the issue is here. The original web page announcing the event is still up. The MOEA page in response to the Green Party is here. Additional blog posts....

Daily Links:
  • Government mulling civil servant pay raise. It's hard to pin down cause and effect here -- was the tax on teacher and soldier salaries passed due to public anger over the restoration of the 18% interest for Taiwanese civil servants on their retirement accounts? Or did the government push for the implementation of tax earlier than the announcement of restoration because it knew it was going to restore those benefits? And now it is announcing that it is mulling a pay raise for the bureaucracy. Whatever the case, kudos to the KMT for having the stones to finally get that the tax bill passed.
  • AP turns in a great piece on how locals are not exactly enthused about the ROC centennial. Thanks for taking the time to do the background on this, AP, it is much appreciated.
  • Another piece on our falling birth rate notable for its focus on local beliefs, although I wish the negative term "superstitions" had not been used. One man's religion is another's superstition. Also, in other news, Taiwan actually has a Homeless Bunny Protection Association.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Comic Relief on a Cold Day

Freezing out there! Hope you're staying warm and cozy, dear reader. A friend passed me this English summary of a comic tale of insult and lawsuit....
A Mr. Wang in Jiayi County filed a criminal complaint against his neighbors for allegedly teaching their Crested Mynah bird to say 'baimu, baichi' (loser, idiot) when he passed by. He claimed this upset him and made him unable to focus. As a result, he suffered a shock at his job in a factory in Liuying while operating machinery and suffered burns on two percent of his body.

The prosecutor found that since the Crested Mynah did not call him by name and said the same things to passersby and children, the insult was not directed at Wang. Also, Wang had gone to bed the night before after 10pm and had gotten up at 6AM. Normal people need seven hours of sleep to be well-rested, so Wang should have been able to focus at work since he was well rested (it also being found that the Crested Mynah was normally fairly soft spoken and did not call out at night). An decision not to prosecute for public insult was handed down.
According to the Liberty Times version, the man claimed that the neighbors in his dead end alley had trained the bird to insult him in retaliation for him calling the police on them for playing mah-jong too noisily into the wee hours of the night. The paper added another insult: the bird called him a tattle-tale. The neighbors said that the children playing in the street taught the birds all those ugly words and they had only tried to teach it to say ni hao and the like. The police meanwhile noted dolefully that a mynah bird can live to be seventy. The name of the street? Hoping (Peace) Street, of course.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Daily Links Jan 11, 2011

What's hanging out on the blogs today?

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sunday Short Shorts

My heart goes out to Gabby Gifford and the families of the slain in Arizona today. I hope she lives; the bullet went through her brain. The doc says about 5% live. Her survival would put Sean Lien's in a new light, too.

The Taiwan Central has let the NT dollar rise below thirty, closing at 29 and change the other day against the US dollar, which is climbing against most major currencies as the US economy appears to be on a growth track. The Taipei Times speculates...
Some argue that the central bank is willing to tolerate a stronger NT dollar because Taiwanese exporters have learned how to hedge foreign exchange losses. Others suggest this is essentially an effort by the central bank to pre-empt inflation driven by rising import material prices.
There are many prices of imports fall, people feel like they have more money in their pockets. Letting the NT appreciate is one way to make people like they have more money ahead of the upcoming legislative and presidential elections. Or it could simply be that the Central Bank can't afford to keep offsetting all the hot money flowing in and pushing the NT dollar up.

Amy Chua's piece in WSJ on authoritarian nutter parenting among affluent, status crazy Chinese has generated lots of tawk-tawk on the internets. I hope WSJ publishes a deconstruction of the kind of status games Chua is playing (Chua has collected all the status tokens, Ivy league job, upper class income, and white --never non-white -- husband and she's won the game. Go Amy!). Someone should also point out her glaring omission of the simple fact that in Chinese families all over the world, authoritarian parental control is backed by violence, just like authoritarian governments in the larger world (this kind of reality denial is also symptomatic of authoritarianism). But in a world where Chinese moms love to brag about the performance of their kids in order to exhibit what awesome Chinese moms they are, kudos to Chua for scoring the ultimate one-upping coup: she gets to engage in ostentatious display of mom-ness in the WSJ. By the way, American parents also behave this way -- in fundie Christian whackjob families. Just go through her piece and replace "piano" with "Bible" and "straight A" with "prayer" and you'll realize she's a perfectly recognizable cultural profile.[UPDATE: Amy Chua did not chose the headline, according to someone who said they got a letter from her. Also, Asian American females 15-24 have highest suicide rates.]

The Taipei Times discussed the implications of some of the possible staff changes in the Obama Administration. Overall will be positive for Taiwan, but until we end that stupid war in Afghanistan and our ever expanding war on Islam, and shift those resources into fixing the US and rebuilding our military for the coming struggle in Asia, warm fuzzies for Taiwan won't translate into quite enough (though they will be very welcome after the disastrous Bush years). The future is here, in Asia, folks. The Middle Eastern wars are a ball and chain the dead past has hung on our future. Time to move on.

The 2nd generation NHI has been passed.
“The revised act sets health premiums for individuals at 4.91 percent of their monthly salaries, down from the current 5.17 percent,” said Minister of Health Yaung Chih-liang. Any additional income over NT$2,000 (US$69), including interest, professional practice income, rent, stock dividends and bonuses exceeding four months’ salary, will incur supplementary charges of 2 percent.
It won't be enough, unfortunately.

Taiwan's birth rates hit a record low this year. This alarmed President Ma. Pig potty training cuts farm run-off by 80% in Taiwan. A Taiwan-US draft extradition treaty is proposed. Commonwealth interviews the CEPD Chief on 2011 and changes in Taiwan's industrial policy.
Liu foresees 2011 as a key year for Taiwan, because for the first time all industries will compete on a level playing field, taking off from the same starting line. The corporate income tax rate has been cut to 17 percent, easing the burdens of industries that rely on domestic demand, while tax incentives for the high-tech industry have been phased out. The old tax incentive policy had come under fire for what many saw as the government's unfair favoritism toward the high-tech industry at the expense of conventional industries. "The winners will be decided by the market," Liu contended, stressing that in the future the government will no longer have a hand in picking the winning industries.
Jens Kastner discusses some of the recent developments in Taiwan politics, ending with this cute tidbit:
According to Chen Yaw-shyang, an assistant professor of public policy at National Taipei University, this was Chen Yunlin's real objective in his recent visit. Professor Chen says that officially, Chen Yunlin came to sign a few agreements, but his actual purpose was to bring some information regarding last-minute support Ma can expect from Beijing before the legislative and presidential elections. "Chen Yunlin was in reality the disguised Santa Claus from Beijing, carrying secret gifts for the Ma government", the professor said.
Cute, but they can communicate by telephone. It should be obvious that Beijing will do what it can to keep its boy Ma in power, but its range of action may be constrained by the fact that China is universally detested in Taiwan, and that too open support for Ma may be the kiss of death for the President, whose approval ratings remain in the dumps.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Polly Sigh

Caught these advocates of Taiwan independence in Dongshih while out biking today.

"Men no longer fear Heaven so much as they used to. They are more willing to defend themselves; and now that they are better equipped, the gods are less willing to face them."
"Then Sam is winning. Across the years, he is beating them."

The Asahi Shimbun remarks on the "spending spree" of China in Taiwan. Despite its thoroughly pro-Beijing slant (Chen caused tension -- not China, of course -- and China is interested in "reunification" not annexation/unification), it manages to get the story right....
Amid the more relaxed atmosphere between Taipei and Beijing, local Chinese officials have engaged in a spending spree in Taiwan in an apparent effort to soften resistance against reunification on the island.

And although those delegations signed contracts worth a staggering $20 billion (about 1.7 trillion yen) with various Taiwanese entities last year, the consensus in Taiwan seems to be that China's reunification ploy will prove futile.

Since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's president in May 2008, Taipei has been trying to reduce tensions with Beijing brought about by the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration.
$20 billion! Do we have that much betel nut about? The article notes:
Chinese officials have also taken into account Taiwan's political calendar. In October and November, governors, mayors and their deputies of Chinese provinces and special municipalities refrained from visiting Taiwan. The visits only resumed in mid-December, when Ji Lin, a Beijing vice mayor, led a delegation.

A Taiwan source said Chinese officials stayed away because of the mayoral elections in five major Taiwan cities in late November. There were concerns that even a minor comment during that period might have given momentum to the opposition parties.

Although trade ties are growing tighter, reunification is an entirely different issue. Even the ruling Nationalist Party is showing concerns about Beijing's motives.

In October in the Legislative Yuan, Tsai De-sheng, the director-general of the National Security Bureau, was asked about the visits by local government officials.

He acknowledged: "It is an effort by China for reunification."
The Asahi piece correctly notes that the spending spree will likely have no effect on the hearts and minds of the locals, who are quite cognizant of the purpose of all this "goodwill." The reporter noted the island's polls and collected this judgment from both DPP and KMT sources.

This reluctance to be annexed to China is also apparent in recent polls. Liberty Times reported this week on the recent Mainland Affairs Council poll, saying that the 'status quo now, independence later' crowd had risen to 17.6%, the highest ever. An additional 6.4% want independence now, while 34% want 'status quo, decide later', and 28% want permanent status quo. Even if you assume none of the 34% want independence, essentially 52% of the population wants a permanent status that is not being part of China. And of course a sizable portion of the 34% uncommitted are pro-independence. That's in a government poll, too.

The Election Studies Center at NCCU also has a similar poll out with similar numbers. They also put out a poll on how people in Taiwan identify themselves. The long slide of "Chinese" is quite dramatic, now less than 4% of the population. The Ma effect is quite clear -- since 2008 the number of people identifying themselves as "Chinese and Taiwanese" has fallen from 44% to 39% while the number identifying themselves as "Taiwanese" has risen from 43% to 52%. And this poll, recall, is from what used to be the KMT political warfare university.

The identity poll provides another window on the DPP vote gains during the Ma Administration. The growth in the Taiwan identity doesn't translate into large DPP gains at election time for many reasons - though the two can't be completely unrelated -- but it does show that over time, the pro-Taiwan side is winning the argument about who the locals are.

Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday Night Lites II

No time to blog today. Enjoy some links...

Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Dearth of a Nation

Taiwan's gov't has fired the latest salvo in its determination to get Taiwanese to have more babies: a US$1.3 billion subsidy scheme:
Under the plan, parents will be entitled to a minimum monthly subsidy of 3,000 Taiwan dollars for each newborn up until two years old and an annual schooling stipend of 30,000 Taiwan dollars for children aged two to six years.

The government hopes to encourage the public to have more children during the Year of the Dragon in 2012, which is considered the most auspicious year in the Chinese zodiac and a favourite birth sign for children, it added.

Government data showed that fewer babies were born in 2010, which was a Year of the Tiger, as some parents were anxious to avoid having children under one of the fiercest signs in Chinese astrology.


The average number of children Taiwanese women have fell to 1.03 in 2009. In general, every woman needs to give birth to 2.1 children on average, merely to prevent the population from shrinking.
Subsidies for everyone! Given that the costs of child rearing really kick in after elementary school, a fact known to everyone, it doesn't seem likely that a total subsidy of less than NT$200,000 is going to have much effect on the birthrate.

A few days ago the Taipei Times had a feature on a talk given by a local expert:
Hsueh said that 20 to 30 years ago, most women gave birth when they were between 25 and 29 years old, but nowadays people tend to get married later or not all, causing women to postpone getting pregnant until they are between 30 and 34 years old. Statistics show that only 43 percent of women between 25 and 34 years old are married. The decline in the marriage rate is much more obvious than in other countries.
The expert called for a government plan to change the attitude of young people. Attitude isn't really the problem....

The Wiki entry on Aging population has a useful summary:
Asia and Europe are the two regions where a significant number of countries face severe population ageing in the near future. In these regions within twenty years many countries will face a situation where the largest population cohort will be those over 65 and average age will be approaching 50....

Most of the developed world (with the notable exception of the United States) now has sub-replacement fertility levels, and population growth now depends largely on immigration together with population momentum which arises from previous large generations now enjoying longer life expectancy.

"...largely depends on immigration..." It is not a coincidence that countries that are remarkably uninviting toward immigrants (Japan!) are facing severe aging issues. The real problem with Taiwan isn't the birthrates of its women but the way it defines who can be a citizen of Taiwan -- someone with the "right blood" only. If Taiwan had a sensibly open immigration policy, it could attract talented foreigners whose children would be certifiably Taiwanese. In a sense we already have such a policy with the children of foreign brides....

Another issue that no one in power seems to have grappled with is that Taiwan is really a not an attractive place to raise children, especially relative to income. Pollution, safety issues, school pressure -- there is a total lack of kid-oriented culture in Taiwan, with few activities and institutions aimed at expanding and growing the minds and bodies of children. Taiwan puts too much emphasis on producing more rosy countables -- because Taiwanese are so obsessed with their world rankings -- and ignores difficult to count things like livability and child growth opportunities. Focusing more on livability for kids would increase the desire for people to raise their young here. It would also give Taiwan an edge in the industry-attraction sweepstakes against places like Korea and China -- tech types prefer areas that have rich cultural and recreational options.

UPDATE: M adds insight in the comments:
However, it is also important to remember that Taiwan's birth rate among married couples is not particularly low. The main problem is that people are choosing not to get married at all. Maybe they are too busy working overtime to get round to it. A more friendly environment for adults (and in particular adult workers)is also required. In contrast older workers are much better looked after - once you have been in a job for 20 or 20 years you can get 4-5 weeks of paid leave.
This article buttresses M's point:
According to Business Weekly, the main reason for not bearing children is due to financial concerns. Even taking away the income factor, the online survey also showed only 20 percent of those who earn a high monthly income of NT70,000 (US$2,200) would like to have children in five years while 38 percent would not follow through because they feel they are too old.

The survey concluded that young Taiwanese couples who can bear children often do not, due to a fear of the financial burden, while those on higher incomes can no longer conceive children due to their age.
This article from last year makes the opposite case.
This is why the government is now actively encouraging young people to get married and have children, hoping to lower the percentage of unmarried females aged 45-49 to 18%, from 19% now, and to boost the number of children born to each married couple to 1.4, from the current 1.1.
Since the projected avg birth rate for all females this year is 0.94, it doesn't seem that married couples are much different. Females, married or single, are just not having kids, for all the reasons M alluded to. I wonder how much a role hidden employer discouragement plays.

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War wares and China Round Up

First off, the EU has rejected an attempt to end the EU arms embargo against China.
"There remains a broad consensus within the EU that the time is not right to lift the arms embargo. We need to see clear progress on the issues that necessitated the embargo in the first place, namely on civil liberties and political rights," a British diplomat told EUobserver on Tuesday (4 January) in response to speculation on a potential shift in EU policy, which would require agreement by all 27 EU members.

A diplomat from a former Communist EU country added: "There is simply no talk of it in the run-up to the EU foreign ministers' meeting [on 31 January]. After the Nobel Peace Prize and China's reaction to that, it is politically unimaginable to make any move for the time being."
The move came down in the latest EU foreign policy blueprint by Catherine Ashton, the High Rep for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Wiki has some quite nasty criticisms of her:
For example, on her appointment, the associate editor of The Spectator, and former editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Rod Liddle, wrote: "Never elected by anyone, anywhere, totally unqualified for almost every job she has done, she has risen to her current position presumably through a combination of down-the-line Stalinist political correctness and the fact that she has the charisma of a caravan site on the Isle of Sheppey."[30] According to one Whitehall source[who?]: "Cathy just got lucky...The appointment of her and Herman Van Rompuy [as European Council president] was a complete disgrace. They are no more than garden gnomes."
The motion to end the embargo was supported by France (slogan "not quite as venal as the US in foreign policy, but we're trying hard!") and Spain, and objected to by Washington. I heard privately that Ashton had not consulted any senior officials around the EU countries before making this recommendation.

China's boorish objections to the Liu Xiaobo Nobel make a nifty reason not to lift the embargo, and a reminder of how the CCP actually stays in power.

WSJ has an article on the sighting of an alleged stealth fighter, designated the J-20, in China.
But many more experts say they believe the pictures and the aircraft are authentic, giving the strongest indication yet that Beijing is making faster-than-expected progress in developing a rival to the U.S. F-22—the world's only fully operational stealth fighter.

China's defense ministry and air force couldn't be reached to comment on the latest photos. Even without official confirmation, however, the photographs are likely to bolster concerns among U.S. officials and politicians about China's military modernization, which also includes the imminent deployment of its first aircraft carrier and "carrier-killer" antiship ballistic missiles.
More details on the fighter are in this Washington Times piece. Meanwhile the US navy says the effectiveness of those famous Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles is as yet unknown [thanks for the correction].
While the Chinese have deployed an early version of the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile system, U.S. naval intelligence officials downplay the near-term impact, since China’s military hasn’t conducted a full-scale test or established an operational unit for the missiles.

China has a “workable design” for an anti-ship missile but “it is unknown to us and probably the Chinese as to how effective the missile will be without a full-scale test,” the Navy’s Office of Naval Operations for Information Dominance, which includes Navy intelligence, said in a statement yesterday to Bloomberg News.
On a related note, a columnist at Foreign Policy says there will be reshuffling in the Obama Asia team. Jeff Bader will likely be stepping down from his post as essentially Obama's Asia man.
The leading candidate to replace Bader, according to several administration sources, is the NSC's Daniel Russel, one of the directors who currently works under Bader. Russell is a Japan hand, having served as the head of State's Japan Desk after being consul general in the Japanese cities of Osaka and Kobe. Russell's selection might give Japan watchers hope that the White House would reinvigorate the stagnant U.S.-Japan relationship, but the likelihood is that China will continue to dominate the administration's Asia agenda going forward.
Similarly India, in a bid to become independent of its Russian military supplier for naval hardware, is launching a design center for naval shipbuilding. Alarmed by China's moves in the Indian Ocean region, India is responding by moving to guarantee control over that vital area.
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Warning: this post may induce dizziness, vomiting, or loss of bladder control,

Shih Ming-teh, the former pro-democracy activist and DPP Chair who turned against the Green camp and led the faux Red Ant protests against Chen Shui-bian, had his seventieth birthday this week. To celebrate this, er, seminal event, Shih unveiled a nude portrait of himself. Video above. ADDED: And photo to boot. Add it to your Decline of Civilization pile.
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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

CS Monitor on Press Freedoms

Julian Baum has an excellent piece in the CS Monitor on the erosion of press freedoms here in Taiwan. An important point:
That question is especially serious amid the backdrop of the changing ties with China. As the Nationalist-led government reconciles with China in closed-door talks and multiple agreements that have opened up commerce, investment, and transportation across the Taiwan Strait, it's the manipulation of China-related news and deals like the ECFA that he says most worry the public.

“In the past, criticizing China was not something we avoided,” Yao said. “Now there are many things that can’t be said. So many Chinese delegations and VIPs are arriving, so many agreements have been signed, and certain topics are no longer discussed.”

Nearly all the Taiwanese media practice self-censorship in reporting about China, agrees Chuang Feng-chia, senior editor at the independent website and a past president of the Association of Taiwan Journalists.

This means that outside the Green press the public in Taiwan is getting two types of news about China: news from self-censored center-right mainstream press organizations, and news from totally pro-China propaganda houses.

It is also worth noting that ECFA was unable to obtain majority support in Taiwan despite the propaganda barrage and the self-censorship.

It is also another illustration of the countless demonstrations of the fact that the closer Taiwan gets to China, the farther it gets from democracy.

UPDATE: The Ma Administration responds to the piece by Jimmy Lai.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The 18% Solution (to electoral difficulties)

Apple Daily ran an article today on a very interesting decision by the Administration.....I loved the poetry of Google's translation of the opening paragraph so much, I decided to keep it:
銓敘部去年十一月二十二日發函給退休公務員,告知即起調整百分之十八優存利率額度,引起「回存潮」,搶著到銀行補齊十八趴優存利率的存款額度。銓敘部退撫 司長呂明泰昨說,過去制度「肥大官、瘦小吏」,去年修法後對基層公務員較公平,整體而言,國庫每年節省約一億元支出。但民眾批:「公教人員退休躺在家靠十 八趴的利息,就賺得比很多勞工還多,這是哪門子公平?」

Ministry of Civil Service on November 22 last year [MT -- this may be a misprint, Liberty Times the following day has published a copy of a letter dated Dec 22], sent a letter to retired civil servants, this is to adjust the amount of eighteen percent gifted deposit interest rates, rise to "restore the tide ", rushing to the bank filled gifted deposit interest rates lying eighth Deposit amount. Ministry of Civil Service Pension Secretary Lvming Tai yesterday said that the past system, "Mast officer, thin officials"last year, after amending the law more equitable for grassroots civil servants, on the whole, the state treasury an annual saving of about one hundred million yuan expenditure. But the public's approval: "Catholic retirement home by the eighth lie lie interest to many workers earning more than than, this is sort of a kip fair?"
What is says is that on Nov 22 of last year the Civil Service Board sent around a letter to all retirees on gov't retirement getting the 18% interest, telling them that the 18% interest that retirees receive as a result of an administrative decision made forty years ago will be adjusted upward for a great many of them. During the Chen Administration many of these benefits had been rescinded, which is one reason the bureaucracy hated the Chen Administration so much. As the article notes further down, of the 60,000 retired civil servants receiving the 18% interest, 15,000 higher ranking ones will receive a downward adjustment, while 45,000 will receive an upward adjustment. The net savings, claims the government, will be $100 million annually.

Some retirees received notification well in advance of the Nov 22 letter, getting notified in September. Note that the Nov 22 letter would have arrived the week of the election on Nov 27. The focus on the Sean Lien shooting is obscuring many other issues. [MT -- the letter Nov 22 date may be an Apple Daily error]

The 18% interest is one of the many payouts that are pushing the counties deeply into debt, since half of that interest is paid by the central bank and half by the local governments.

As one of the individuals quoted in the Apple Daily piece commented, "一定是選舉到了又在政策買票!" "As the election nears the policy is to buy votes!". It's hard not to see this as vote buying -- the majority of the higher level retirees are KMT supporters and party members, since they entered the system in the days when only KMT members could rise in the bureaucracy. Meanwhile 45,000 lower level civil servants all get a boost of 3-4K from the gov't treasury, nearly 50K annually for many retirees.

Hard to see where all the money for the new municipalities and other commitments of the Ma government is going to come from....
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.