Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rounding up Ballots and Bullets and other election stuff

Another set of great stuff at Ballots and Bullets at the U of Nottingham (every time I write that, I have to fight off the overpowering urge to make a Robin Hood joke):
....There is abundant evidence that the CPP attempts to influence Taiwan’s domestic political scene. The DPP recently provided some evidence to support their suspicion of the CCP’s interference in order to help President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) be re-elected. DPP spokesperson, Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) outlined five tactics which China had adopted to ensure Taiwan’s elections would result in President Ma’s re-election. These include sending provincial-level purchasing delegations to boost economic performance, providing incentives to mobilize Taiwanese businesspeople in China to return to Taiwan to vote, allowing the assembly of Taiwanese businesspeople to campaign for President Ma, bribing some particular legislators to influence Taiwan’s policy-making, and hindering other presidential candidates from obtaining political donations from Taiwanese entrepreneurs who are active in China through direct or indirect threats....
  • Hsaio Bi-khim speaking at Columbia: videos courtesy of Mike Fu and report from the redoubtable Julia Famularo
Also the Guardian published a piece arguing that the two parties are reaching out to once-fringe groups in order to get elected in the tight 2012 election. For example:
Tsai, 55, a former vice-premier who holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and is the first female candidate for top office in any modern Chinese state, vowed to scrap nuclear power altogether. "The KMT is playing catch-up. When they ruled for over 50 years they didn't pay any attention to these issues. But Ma is seeing how useful they can be, come election time," says DPP spokesman Lin Chun-hsien. "But it isn't just the votes. A stamp of approval from these groups is highly beneficial for the image of either party or candidate."
Great as far as it goes, especially giving Tsai her LSE props, but unfortunately the reporting on Ma contains omissions:
Ma has already done substantially more for social causes than his KMT predecessors, who were driven by the need to prop up the economy's GDP and export growth numbers. In June, he ordered the closure of much of a Formosa Plastics Group petrochemical plant after a series of highly toxic fires broke out. The fires happened after protests against the plant and a report that found that cancer rates in the local community were five times higher than the national average.

In April, he announced that a long-planned proposal to build another petrochemical plant, the $21bn Kuokuang complex on Taiwan's west coast, would not go ahead after environmentalists complained that it would destroy the island's largest wetlands, home to the critically endangered Taiwanese pink dolphin. "For us, the decision to stop Kuokuang going ahead was one of the biggest in recent years. Before that the DPP was supposedly the environmentalist party. However, President Ma realises that today's context is very different and we need to strike a balance between social and economic development," says KMT spokesman Yin Wei.
The Yunlin County government shut down the Formosa Plastics Plant (China Post article from June 2) back in May (my post) before Ma decided to jump on the bandwagon. Further, the report should have noted that the KMT government then struggled to find another place for the Kuokuang project, or to resurrect it in smaller form. As Max the Miracle Worker observed:  
"There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Now, mostly dead is slightly alive. Now, all dead... well, with all dead, there's usually only one thing that you can do.
Election polling: the rabidly pro-KMT UDN has Ma up on Tsai by six, 41-35, with Soong at 10. Meanwhile the prediction market, Tsai is flirting with 51, and Ma has fallen to 36. That's a measurement of who everyone thinks will win, not by how much they will win.

Election observers: It was reported a few weeks ago that the election observers from abroad, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs junket tradition for every previous election, will not be paid for by MOFA this year. The group of European academics just passed around word that their observers have been cancelled by MOFA. They said they had received no explanation from MOFA.
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.

Orchid Island Radiation Leak Alleged

 The inevitable news:

Basically, it says that the media reports according to the Academia Sinica's Institute of Earth Sciences, it has accepted a report from Taipower saying that its Orchid Island nuclear waste site has leaked. On Nov 30 a number of environmental groups, public health researchers, and Orchid Island residents (largely aborigines), held a press conference at the Legislative Yuan, accusing Taipower of underestimating the seriousness of the situation and engaging in a cover-up.

The article says that Ceseium 137 has been detected in the coastal areas and in crop fields, since the 1999-2000 time frame. Further the values monitored at several sites have jumped in the last several years.

The waste dump there is one of the Taiwan's sicker stories. The residents were originally told the nuke waste dump would be a fish cannery, so of course they approved of it since it would mean jobs. Leave it to Taipower to put a nuke waste dump in the middle of such loveliness.
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.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Agricultural Export boom?

Agriculture was in the news this week. First the Council of Agriculture gleefully announced ag exports are rising:
The Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday that the overall value of Taiwan’s agricultural exports to China in the first 10 months of the year totaled US$536 million, up 26 percent year-on-year, thanks to a cross-strait trade pact and other incentives.
Taiwan's agricultural trade deficit with China fell, according to the COA:
As of October this year, Taiwan’s agricultural trade deficit with China was around US$110 million, and the projected figure for the whole year is US$140 million, much lower than in 2007, Chang said.
"Much lower than in 2007" wink, wink. That was Chen Shui-bian time, in case you missed that. The COA then goes on to make my bullshit sensor signal a five alarm fire:
In the Jan.-Oct. period, Taiwan farm produce exports to China, in 18 categories that were included on an ECFA early harvest list, totaled 14,242 tons at a value of US$95.7 million, according to Chang.
Ok, in the 18 ag product categories, there was a total gain of US$95.7 million. Now hold still, because a couple of paragraphs later come some numbers.
In the 18 categories, the sale of live groupers surged by a whopping 192 percent year-on-year to an export value of US$79.66 million, she said. Chang attributed the increase mainly to the ECFA “early harvest” tariff concession program and the opening of 15 Chinese seaports for direct shipping links.
So... maybe I am reading this wrong, but of the $95.7 million increase, $79.66 million is groupers. 83% of the increase is from one product! Add the number given by the spokesperson for tea exports, $7.37 million, and 90% of the gain is from just two products.  We're not succeeding in agricultural products, just in raising fish. Subtract that $79.66 million and the agricultural deficit sucks -- which shows how important definitions of what counts as agriculture are -- most people when they hear the word "agriculture" don't think of fish.

These numbers reinforce the point made a couple of months ago by academics written up in the Taipei Times, that most products on the "early harvest" list aren't benefitting from ECFA (discussed in the second half of this post).

Two other things jump to mind. First, the grouper benefits aren't going to Taiwan. As I wrote about months ago, big financial firms are investing in the grouper trade, pushing down prices received by producers in Taiwan, jacking up prices for grouper in China, pocketing the difference, and doing nothing for anyone's living standards. This is a purely parasitic application of channel power.

Second, I'd sure like to know about the effect of smuggling. Remember this?
With trade deficits across the strait on the rise, government efforts to crack down on smuggled Chinese agricultural goods into Taiwan are insufficient, Yang said, adding that the 67 tonnes seized by officials last year was only 1 percent of what was discovered in 2008.
I'd be curious to know what all those fishing boats are bringing back from Chinese harbors. Is increased smuggling shaving points off China's agricultural import growth by moving goods from formal to informal channels? There's no way to know.

In a bid to grab votes from the agricultural industry, DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen was also out this week demanding that the government do something about awful fruit prices and excoriating the Ma Administration for the problems of the nation's agriculture industry. A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine and I rode the Rift Valley and all along the way we were deeply distressed to see good fruit simply rotting on the trees, unable to be harvested because prices are too low to make it worthwhile. The one goodie:
[Tsai] also proposed establishing a NT$100 billion agricultural development fund to modernize the sector and encourage younger people to work in the industry.
It would be great if we could get young people back into farming, but it feels like a pipe dream, with the price of land so high and wholesale prices so low, and farming so lacking in prestige.

Agriculture in Taiwan has been in the doldrums since the 1960s. It's a long-term problem, one that Tsai probably will not be able to make much progress on (and probably should be making carefully hedged promises about), and one that is not going to yield up a solution unless there are massive systemic changes in the way people think about food and its production in Taiwan.
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.

Daily Links, Nov 28, 2011

Yikes! This year is almost over!

Last week I got a Kindle from Amazon, the international version with keyboard, 3G, and wireless. Awesome. It's like rediscovering reading again; at last I can have a ton of books with me wherever I go, keeping up with my insatiable lust for new things to read. I'm reading all the old copyright-lapsed SF on Project Gutenberg at the moment, plus a bunch of free SF I've found on the net (at Baen, for example). I have no complaint at all about the Kindle itself, but the prices of e-books are often ridiculous (8 bucks for a Larry Niven book that's almost 40 years old? Puh-lease). Luckily, the internet is awash in free e-books.

Don't miss: Drew's awesome 250 km ride over Alishan and back in a day. Incredible pics from one of the most inspirational riders I know.

Dems Abroad Taiwan will hold a get-together and farewell party this Wednesday, Nov. 30th from 7 pm to 10 pm at Carnegie's on Anhe Rd in Taipei. Very longtime Taiwan resident and DA Taiwan Chair Jason Echols will be relocating to Denver, and he'd like to see you all before he goes!

  • North American Taiwan Studies Association Annual Conference, June 8-9, 2012: websiteFacebook
  • CFP for the Tamkang U conference on American Foreign Policy and the New Global Milieu. Topics are 1. U.S. and the Rise of China. 2. Challenge and Opportunity for U.S.-Latin American Relationship. 3. The Current and Future State of U.S.-European Relations. 4. U.S. Role in Global Strategic Affairs. Submit papers to:
  • CONFIRM BY TOMORROW! The Third Annual KIDZ Charity Gala will be held on Sunday, December 4th, 2011 at the Windsor Hotel. It is one of the most elegant and unique formal galas held in Central Taiwan featuring a night of fine dining with a live band, an open bar, childrens’ performances, and a silent auction. Guests include the deputy mayor of Taichung as well as numerous CEOs and Presidents of large Taichung companies. 今年,第三屆 兒童慈善募款晚會將在台中裕元酒店舉行,日期定為2011年12月4日(星期日)。是一個極具特色美食的晚宴,開放的酒吧,兒童演出,和無聲拍賣及現場live音樂演出,是一個在中部地區少有而獨特優雅的正式晚宴之一。嘉賓包括台中副市長,以及眾多的產業負責人和大台中地區公司主管歡迎大家一起共襄盛舉。 — 在 Windsor Hotel - Taichung Taiwan

    Please confirm your ticket order no later than Nov. 29 thanks
    River Chen, Taichung AmCham Coordinator,

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, November 26, 2011

Taiwan: Lonely Planet Guide

Robert Kelly
Lonely Planet; 8th edition (April 1, 2011)
392 pages

Robert Kelly and Joshua Samuel Brown's redevelopment of the Lonely Planet Taiwan guide is 400 pages of excellence packed with beautiful maps, useful information, sidebars of historical and cultural information, and (not enough!) lovely pictures.

Kelly sent me the book for review as I was heading out the door for trips down south to Tainan and Pingtung. It proved a highly reliable and useful companion for the trip. The Tainan section alone is worth the price of the book. The detail map of the temple area has a very clear map with many major sites and a recommended walking route. Good thumbnails of history are provided for many of the city's innumerable temples. A sample:
Medicine God Temple
Just south of Anping Road on Gubao Street, this small temple boasts a lovely example of a swallowtail eave roof, and two small lion statues with an interesting tale (not tail) behind them. Long ago in the days of the Qing Dynasty, a young scholar prayed to the Medicine God to help him pass an imperial exam. Since Chinese religion is largely based on quid pro quo, he promised that if successful he would reward the god by paying for two stone temple lions to be carved and placed out front. Well, the scholar did pass the exam, but poor man that he was, could only afford the two diminutive felines you see outside the temple today.
The rich detail of this book, as well as its great scope, means that it makes for great pleasure reading in addition to its effectiveness as a guidebook. This guide also features copious amounts of information on Taiwan's excellent cycling and hiking. There is also an extensive section on the offshore islands, and discussions of culture, history, and the future of the island at the end of the book. You'll find this blog there too. Thanks, guys.

The sole truly annoying feature of the book is its constant reference to the "Japanese Occupation Period", a time that exists solely in the minds of Chinese Nationalist propagandists. Japan did not "occupy" Taiwan -- the term is used in an attempt to create unbroken Chinese "sovereignty" over Taiwan. Japan had full and legitimate sovereignty over the island and the book should simply refer to the "Japanese colonial period" instead.

If you are traveling or moving to Taiwan, this book should be considered mandatory. It is the most comprehensive guidebook now available on Taiwan. A labor of love from an author who loves Taiwan and knows it intimately, it should be on every Taiwanophile's bookshelf.
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.

Robin Hood, Registration, Porcine Power

Robin Hood piggy banks.

It was registration week this week. Tsai formally registered her candidacy on Wednesday. "I believe we will win and we will win because we have you," she said to her followers. Ma registered a couple of days earlier, with he and Wu sporting white t-shirts with the KMT's ridiculous red Taiwan amulet that looks like something worn to ward off demons in a Hong Kong B-movie. Soong registered last. I find it hard to credit that he'll remain in an election he can't win merely to support his fading party and spite Ma; on the other hand, I can't see him leaving the election either. If the KMT had a lick of sense they'd have lived with a Soong presidency in 2000 and 2004, but they ran the unpopular and offputting Lien Chan both times. Thankfully.....

Last week when I stopped by the opening of the joint Lin Chia-lung/Tsai Ing-wen DPP HQ on the south side of The Chung, I was appalled to hear Tsai refer to an international media report that had framed Tsai as a "Robin Hood." This had fired up both her and the crowd. The DPP has now gone on, just as it had with the original donation case, to use this in its campaign materials. Above is a nifty pic from a sharp observer of local politics of Robin Hood Piggies. The little piggy is now an unstoppable symbol of the Tsai campaign. The report in question appears to be an AP piece by Annie Huang, and it makes it clear what a powerful challenge Tsai is offering to Ma:
The piggy campaign is a salient reminder that not all Taiwanese politics revolves around the issue of the island's complex relations with China, from which it split amid civil war in 1949. While that issue tends to garner the most interest abroad, Taiwanese themselves are usually more concerned with bread and butter questions such as wages, inflation and jobs.

Taiwan's economy has fared relatively well in recent years, avoiding the slow growth syndrome that has afflicted most of the West. But complaints over rising income inequality have been mounting, fueled by a residential building boom that seems largely reserved for high-wage earners and a shift in the labor market that appears to punish relatively unskilled or undereducated workers.

That has provided a big political opening for Tsai Ing-wen, the 54-year-old DPP presidential candidate, and the star of the suddenly trendy piggy bank campaign.
Unusual for the international media, it actual mentions that domestic concerns drive the campaign. Kudos to AP for making that clear. Moreover, the piece leaves the definite impression that Tsai is looking strong. I'd just like to thank AP for providing that little Robin Hood stimulus for the good guys.

Of course AP still uses the asinine and erroneous "split in 1949" formula. This is sheer pig-headed obstinancy for the sake of being obstinate, as AP has been informed of reality many times and it would cost them nothing to write accurate representations of history. Sad, isn't it?

The piece also uses weasel words "supposed" "perceived" whenever it refers to Ma's weakenesses. For example, "incumbent Ma Ying-jeou and his supposedly capitalist cronies" is used. Huang has been reporting from Taipei for many years, presumably she must know that Ma is the favorite of Big Business and has Wall Street's support. You'd have to be living in a cave not to know that.

Moreover, the comparison of the two candidates' respective family origins as "privileged" is misleading -- Tsai's father was a businessman who made his money by working hard and investing smart, Ma owes his position to the fact that KMT murdered and imprisoned and exiled thousands of people in the 50s, 60s, and 70s to create and maintain the privileges of individuals like Ma. Yeah, I'm not going to let you forget what Ma comes from, since the international media has declared discussion of Taiwan's authoritarian past off limits in relation to Ma.

Still, it's good to see AP out there reporting, however reluctantly, that Tsai is running a powerful campaign.

TIME interviewed both candidates. Ma is totally on message, speaking to the foreign audience from its own perspective, China policy, weapons sales, etc. I like the way that Tsai mentions Taiwan is one of many nations facing the China problem (end of the interview). Ma seldom speaks as if he thought of Taiwan were a nation in the family of nations; for Tsai this is automatic.

Lots can happen in the next six weeks, but Tsai has positioned herself well. Ballots and Bullets has a nice piece by Dr Jon Sullivan on the ineptitude currently governing the KMT campaign that is partly responsible for her growing success.

Lately many of us have been privately discussing what sort of dirty tricks the KMT will pull in the last few weeks of the election. Frozen Garlic openly wondered if this election was going to get really nasty. As if in response, Dr Sullivan also wrote about one of them most common and important KMT smear tactics -- accusing the DPP of dirty tricks. However, Sullivan has actually written a paper on the topic, which he references:
Using empirical data derived from seven presidential and subnational campaigns between 1996 and 2008, our models provide a robust picture of campaign behaviour in Taiwan. Our findings simply do not support Ma’s (or many of his predecessors’) concerns about DPP skulduggery. In fact, our models show that after controlling for a range of covariates (incumbency, closeness of the race, time to election etc), there are no statistically significant differences between the two main parties in terms of their proclivity to ‘go negative’ or to engage in a certain type of negative campaigning.

There is, however, a statistically significant difference between the parties in terms of what we (euphemistically) call in the paper ‘negative strategic appeals’. This includes the type of claim that Ma made yesterday, and our models suggest this is true to form. Indeed, it is so spot on that I will simply excerpt the relevent paragraph from the paper’s conclusion:
Go forth and read! J Michael Cole pointed to what he sees as a crucial story -- if Tsai is elected, there will be a four month interregnum before she takes over in which the KMT can do all sorts of dirty tricks. I don't know how ugly things will get in that event -- remember this is the party that has staged riots after election losses, so they don't take losing well -- but you can be certain that this period will be filled with massive giveaways of government assets to favored corporate backers, as usual -- but on a much accelerated basis....
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, November 24, 2011

Presidential Election: The Journalist on AIT Polls and WSJ on the Election

In Liu Shih-chung's summary of trends in the election in the Taipei Times today, there was this nugget:
A month later, the most recent polls — including those of the KMT-favoring China Times and TVBS — have shown a tie between Ma and Tsai. Other polls released by the Future Exchange Institution and the American Institute in Taiwan showed Tsai is leading Ma by 2 percent to 3 percent. Tsai and her DPP also garnered more support in areas traditionally considered KMT strongholds, such as central Taiwan and Hakka constituencies. Underground gambling circles have also cut their bets for Ma’s lead over Tsai from 600,000 votes to 200,000 votes.
The article Liu references in The Journalist on AIT presidential election polls is here. It seems odd that the US representative office commissioned its own polls on the election outcome, but no doubt they are as depressed as I am looking at the weird poll data that sprawls across the media like a deep-sea monster suddenly flung onto the deck of a fishing boat. If anyone out there at AIT could contact me to explain why they have their own polls, I'd be grateful.

Not only does The Journalist observe in the AIT poll Tsai is up 2-3 points over Ma, but also that AIT polls correctly predicted the outcomes in '00, 04, and 08. Tsai's upward trend has also caught the attention of the international media, with Paul Mozur scribing in WSJ:
Mr. Ma also is seen as making missteps on the issue of China, especially last month, when he proposed talks over a peace pact with Beijing within the decade that would go beyond the current economic rapprochement. Last week at a Foreign Correspondent's Club news conference, Mr. Ma's chief campaign strategist, King Pu-tsung admitted the campaign had failed to anticipate how sensitive the pact would be.

Meanwhile, Ms. Tsai seems to be increasingly gaining the support of independent voters with a campaign focused on social issues and growing Taiwan's domestic economy with policy points such as reducing restrictions against foreign professionals, growing the social safety net, and subsidies for farmers. Ms. Tsai also has made some inroads with the business community, traditionally a Kuomintang stronghold, with comments about China seen as more moderate than the platform of her pro-independence party.
Also kudos to Mozur for correctly labeling China as the source of tension and for pointing out that Tsai wants better relations with Beijing, thus avoiding regurgitating the pro-Beijing frames that so often dominate media discourse on Taiwan:
Ms. Tsai has said she supports improved relations with China, but her party backs independence from Beijing and China has historically responded negatively to DPP rule of Taiwan.
For an example of how not to do it, see the BBC piece I discuss here.
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.

Gringrich's new foreign policy team: Steve Yates

Newt Gringrich, who seems unlikely to win the Republican nomination at this point, announced his foreign policy team this week. The reliably good Josh Rogin at The Cable at FP describes:
Newt's team, which has been working together informally for months, is led by Herman Pirchner, the founding president of a small, conservative think tank in Washington called the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC). Also on Team Newt is AFPC Vice President Ilan Berman and AFPC Senior Fellow for Asian Studies Stephen Yates, a former staffer for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney's top Middle East advisor David Wurmser is also part of the Newt campaign advisory team, along with former President Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, Reagan-era National Security Council (NSC) senior directors Norman Bailey and Ken deGraffenreid, Reagan-era Undersecretary of State for security assistance, science, and technology Bill Schneider, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and others. We're also told Newt is talking to former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace and former Central Command head Gen. John Abizaid.
Rogin posts a little biography:
Stephen Yates has been the president of DC International?Advisory, a consultancy, since 2006. Before opening DC International Advisory, Mr. Yates served in the White House as Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs from 2001 through 2005. During his tenure in government, he was deeply involved in the development and execution of U.S foreign policy priorities in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Mr. Yates previously served as Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation from 1996 to 2001, and from 1991 to 1996 he served as an international affairs analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense.
Yates is very good news: one of the brightest, merriest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, he is a former Mormon missionary in Kenting, a frequent visitor to The Beautiful Isle, and knows and loves Taiwan.
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, November 22, 2011

DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen's AmCham speech

Nice work -- excoriates Ma for the standstill in US-Taiwan relations, points out Ma has only sought agreements with China, promises to move on "certain bilateral trade issues" by which she probably means the idiotic beef issue, lots of other little nuggets.... click READ MORE to see the whole speech.

Chair Tsai Ing-wen's AmCham speech Nov. 22, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hoy! Poll Oy!

Apple Daily poll above. Weirdly, Ma seems to have increased his percentage and suffered only a tiny drop in his lead despite the steady drumbeat of bad news that is killing him in other polls -- the prediction market has Tsai over Ma 48-44 when asked who will win, as of this writing. This Apple Daily poll appears to be badly wrong. The poll also shows Ma with double digit leads in the Taipei basin, Taoyuan/Hsinchu/Miaoli, and central Taiwan. Say what? Because the Taipei Times reported today that the internal polls showed Tsai ahead in central Taiwan.
Recent surveys showed that the support rate of DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in central Taiwan — Greater Taichung, Changhua County and Nantou County, which is sandwiched between the Jhuoshuei and Da-an rivers — has surpassed that of KMT candidate President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), a senior aide of Tsai’s campaign said.

The Chinese-language magazine the Journalist on Wednesday quoted an anonymous KMT official as saying that an undisclosed KMT survey showed that Tsai is leading Ma in central Taiwan by 10 percentage points, and by 2 to 3 percentage points overall. The aide also said that Tsai had overtaken Ma in central Taiwan, a region with about 2.4 million voters.
The NCCU prediction market, broken out by area, also has Tsai up slightly on Ma in the central area  [MT error: that is only for the Hakka vote]. UDN also put forward a poll of younger voters (20-29) which had Tsai and Ma tied at 39 apiece.
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.

Daily links, Nov 21, 2011

What's cruising 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, November 20, 2011

DPP Tsai-Lin HQ Opening

My family and I attended the opening of the Tsai Ing-wen/Lin Chia-lung United Taichung HQ this morning. The event ran from 9-12 am and was attended by the usual suspects. A few pics and comments below the fold.

NextMedia: No F-16s? It's war of the drones!

Just enjoy.
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, November 19, 2011

Frozen Garlic Twofer

Frozen Garlic heats up the blogosphere with two good posts that you should peruse. The first looks at potential splits in the Blue vote in key areas.. .
Yesterday, there was a story about Lo Fu-chu 羅福助, who may be considering a run in New Taipei 12. (New Taipei 12 is centered on the Xizhi district.) Lo is one of Taiwan’s most infamous citizens. He is widely considered to be one of the top figures, perhaps THE top figure, in Taiwan’s organized crime landscape. Lo previously sat in the legislature, winning in 1998 and 2001. His tenure in the legislature was marked by controversy, to say the least. He was often verbally attacked by other legislators who wished to grandstand as being against organized crime. Lo did not always react with restraint. In one case, Liao Hsueh-kuang 廖學廣, a colorful legislator in his own right, locked horns with Lo. A few days later, Liao was abducted. He reappeared naked inside a dog cage next to a road a few days later. Maybe this was just coincidence; maybe it wasn’t.
Oldtimers will remember Lo when he was at one point co-chair of the legislature's -- hold for it -- judiciary committee. Yes, the man who used to brag that he was "spiritual leader" of what was then one of the island's three most powerful organized crime gangs, the Celestial Alliance, was head of the judiciary committee and questioned the minister of justice. While in the legislature Lo, nominally independent, acted as a KMT enforcer. Fabulously wealthy, allegedly from illegal gambling, loan sharking, and the sex trade, Lo was imprisoned for a couple years in one of the anti-gangster sweeps two decades ago. Lo is a sharp operator, generous to his local area through his charities. As Frozen Garlic points out, he could well mount a strong challenge based on his ability to organize locals and toss money around. The whole post is good, be sure to read it.

Speaking of the KMT and organized crime, Frozen Garlic also blogs on Ma Ying-jeou and his alleged secret meeting with an underground gambler/bookie kingpin in the wilds of Chiayi. From FocusTaiwan, which reported on the President's denial that such a thing occurred:
The KMT's presidential election campaign headquarters also voiced a strong protest and asked Next Magazine, which published the report in its latest issue Wednesday, to clarify the facts and issue an apology.

Under the headline "Meeting Underground Gambling Tycoon, Stepping on Black Gold Mine," the report said Ma and Chen Ying-chu, a local businessman, had a closed-door meeting at Chiayi Mayor Huang Hui-min's home Sept. 10. It hinted that Ma had received a donation for his reelection campaign.

KMT spokesman Chuang Po-chung said the entire report was a a mare's nest. It is "untruthful reporting" based on rumors and it violates media professionalism, he said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi said Huang did in fact introduce Chiayi residents to Ma on two separate occasions at the old mayoral residence which has consistently been used as a reception hall -- one in 2008 and the other in 2009. However, they were routine greetings, he said.
Ma has never been shy about cavorting with organized crime figures -- recall that he showed up at the wedding of powerful legislator and longtime alleged organized crime heavyweight Yen Ching-piao's son several years ago, along with other major KMT politicos. According to eTaiwan News:
Chen is reportedly involved in international online gambling and in betting on Taiwanese elections. He also has a criminal record, Next wrote.
(Note that the nation's gambling establishment thinks Ma will win). Chen Ying-chu is not just any gambler, btw. This 2006 China Post article identifies him as a gambler with vast international connections:
In the process of investigating Lu’s account books in the following six months, Chiayi prosecutors found that Chen Ying-chu, the largest banker for online betting operations in Chinese communities around the world, and deputy city council speaker Chiu Fang-chin, were also involved in the case.

Chen Ying-chu operates two general gambling Web sites abroad to handle all kinds of betting operations from Chinese gamblers, with Chiu Fang-chin serving as Chen’s general agent in Taiwan. If the stakes were for Hong Kong’s “Mark Six” lottery ticket numbers, the stakes were usually switched to Lu Po-hsien.
If anyone wanted to funnel donations from sources overseas, the banker for Chinese communities all over the world would be just the ticket. But I'm sure nothing like that is happening.

In any case, as Frozen Garlic pointed out, the brush with organized crime occurred just as Ma was raising the farmers subsidy after reversing himself when it was pointed out the pittance he had originally proposed would cost him thousands of votes. In other words, a double dose of bad news for Ma this week. Chip, chip, chip, the lead erodes.

ADDED: Oh, and CCA minister and longtime KMTer Emile Sheng stepped down today over the ridiculous bill for the musical staged on ROC national day... chip chip chip
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Our man in Kansas City: The Liu case in the US

By now you've all heard the story of Liu Hsien-hsien, the diplomat from Taiwan now charged under US labor laws with abusing her Filipino housekeeper. Here's a summary from a Kansas City paper.
Prosecutors charged Liu, 64, last week with fraud in foreign labor contracting. Authorities alleged that Liu brought a housekeeper from the Philippines, took her passport, stole her wages, threatened her with deportation and kept her in virtual isolation in Liu’s Overland Park home.

Though white-collar defendants usually ask for bond, Wirken said Liu opted to remain in jail because she hopes to have her case resolved in the time it would take to raise the bail money and make arrangements for her release.

Should Liu’s case remain open, Wirken said he likely would ask for a new bond hearing.

One issue that has entangled the case in recent days is the question of whether Liu has any kind of diplomatic immunity because of her work for the government of Taiwan, which the U.S. does not recognize as a sovereign state.

U.S. officials and the Taiwanese government disagree as to the immunity question, Wirken said, but he quickly took that question off the table.

“She doesn’t really have full diplomatic privileges,” Wirken said.

Though Wirken said he would be prepared to fully litigate that issue, he said a better resolution would be to dispose of the case quickly without going to that trouble.

An article Wednesday in the Taipei Times noted that officials there had backed away from a demand that Liu be released immediately, claiming full diplomatic immunity. Government officials there said that the scope of Liu’s immunity was unclear under a treaty they signed with the United States in the 1970s when Washington severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
The paper cites a reporter from CTI, the pro-KMT station, as saying:
“It takes away all the attention,” Zang said. “If the government is seen as weak and not offering support to its diplomats, the voters won’t like that.”
I'm not sure I agree with this statement. Liu's behavior is not popular here. Portnoy, one of Taiwan's most well known bloggers, collected and translated a few typical statements at Global Voices a few days ago:
1. I guess in many people's minds, the US represents the global human rights standard. But until this moment, Taiwanese is yet to learn from the US legal system how to treat foreign labor correctly. This is an unbelievably absurd drama beyond description.

2. According to overseas reports, Hsien-Hsien Liu, the director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, was accused of abusing labor and fraud by forcing her Philippine housekeeper to work overtime and paying her only 1/3 of her wage, and therefore was arrested by the FBI. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Chin-tien Yang admitted this case and expressed a solemn protest: Since what Liu did is nothing but following the tradition of Taiwanese employers, the US should respect it.

3. It is said that Liu's housekeeper was hired for official purposes, but since the contracted monthly wage is $US 1240, while the housekeeper got only $US 450, where is the missing $790? Liu can either choose to admit that she hired her privately or admit that she has committed corruption.
There's more there, go and look. But overall the response in the media and on the net has been strongly in support of the US position. My own view is that if the government moves to protect Liu it could look as if the KMT were giving one of its own the usual insider privileges.  Note also Comment 3 asks the question that everyone has ignored -- where is the missing money, the difference between what the maid is contracted for and what she is actually paid? Either it is in someone's pocket, or it never existed -- which means the accountants have to be in on this at some level, or perhaps there are multiple contracts, etc. The mind boggles.

FocusTaiwan, the GIO organ, collected a set of editorials from local newspapers of all political stripes here. Note that all of them are critical of certain government actions and all affirm that the US would not have arrested her without good evidence. Entirely absent is any sense that "our" diplomats need to be protected, regardless. The staidly pro-KMT China Times offers the testimony of another consular official. Though her contract stipulated US $1200 a month....
Another senior consular official, who had worked at the Kansas City office for more than two years was quoted as confirming that he was told by Liu to pay the maid only US$220 every two weeks, plus told by Liu to pay the maid only US$220 every two weeks, plus US$70 for grocery purchases -- far below the contracted amount.
This behavior was apparently known at the consulate in KC. The UDN piece offers a glimpse of the backstory office politics that may be driving some of the case against her. Apparently Taiwanese officials testified to the FBI without checking with their government first, or so foreign minister Yang claims....
While Yang accused the three of "acting unethically" by testifying against Liu, he also lamented that Liu "has been too harsh on her colleagues and has treated people too badly."
It looks like Liu had no supporters at the office when the FBI came down. A lesson for all of us.
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.

Events: Formosa Foundation, EATS Call for Papers

First, the Formosa Foundation with an event in Washington DC on the 2012 Election, then the CFP from the European Association of Taiwan Studies annual conference CFP.....

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dawn breaks over the election: Is Tsai trending past Ma? =UPDATED=

Here's the latest TVBS poll. Readers will all know TVBS' crazy pro-KMT bias, which I'm convinced is in their data collection methodology rather than in their editorial office, because of its consistency. Look at these numbers: Tsai (DPP) and Ma (KMT) now neck and neck. That simply never happens in a TVBS poll. If this result is real and not a creation of their editorial office to motivate KMT voters through fear, then it is truly revolutionary. This is consistent with lots of other data bouncing around the media and internet, and with the now-dead Global Views polls whose private, properly analyzed numbers showed Tsai with a 4-6% lead a few weeks ago. Tsai is trending past Ma.

Those of you who are skeptical can take heart in the China Times poll, which once again has Ma up by 5-6%. As usual.

I was chatting last night with my friend Michael Fahey, one of the sharpest observers of Taiwan politics I know, about the KMT's campaign, which both of us agreed has been poorly handled, to this point. Ma's inane "peace accord" knocked the campaign back a few points, reminding voters that he is too close to China. The KMT seems to lack any clear forward-looking policy, and spend much of its time responding to the DPP's policy stances. Tsai's rapid capture of the high  ground on nuclear energy, whatever you may think of nukes as an energy alternative, was an example of a decisive and competent political move that has been lacking on the KMT side. The piggy bank fiasco has also energized the DPP voting bloc and I suspect bandwagon effects are slowly taking place: Taiwanese love to back a winner.

Instead of Ma's slick 2008 campaign with its moving "Ma Ying-jeou, we are ready" TV ad, what we've been getting is klutzy moves like the one by KMT heavyweight Wu Po-hsiung, who the other day labeled the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen a "fake Hakka":
Leaders from local Hakka groups yesterday slammed former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄) for calling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) a “pseudo-Hakka” and demanded that the KMT apologize for what they called its past policy of “linguistic genocide.”
Tsai is Hakka (and one-quarter Paiwan aborigine). This attempt to claim that "we" are the real X and "they" are the fake X reminded me forcibly of the complaints about the DPP's 2008 and 2004 campaigns that "loving Taiwan" or "being a real Taiwanese" meant you voted KMT. Many light blues and independents were offended by such comments. Now the shoe is on the other foot as the KMT offended another community that is conventionally perceived to vote KMT by trying to define who and who isn't a Hakka. Wu himself is a major Hakka politician.

Wu could have affirmed Tsai as a Hakka and left everyone with warm fuzzies, including potential Hakka KMT voters. But instead....

Even worse, though, Wu's attack on Tsai reminded voters of why people in Tsai's generation don't speak Hakka -- because when Tsai was going to school, the KMT banned languages other than Mandarin in the schools and on TV. Ouch! Let's remind everyone of our authoritarianism! Great move.

I also wondered whether the KMT is being hurt because the legislative and presidential elections were being held at the same time, and thus, its excellent local networks are focused on getting their local people elected. Comments, anyone?

Another thing Fahey pointed out to me is that Ma is looking old, especially to young voters. Since he doesn't look old to me, I guess that makes me....old. Damn.

And of course, whenever you raise the KMT's apparent incompetence with pan-Greens, they all say the same thing: expect some major dirty trick in the run-up to the election....

On the other side, the DPP is quietly running a very effective campaign. No major screw ups. No bombast.  Moderation is the order of the day. Once again, I heartily thank the KMT for gagging Chen Shui-bian for the last several elections, so that he has completely failed to be an issue despite sporadic KMT attempts to run against Chen Shui-bian. Tsai has a wholesome, moderate, competent image that is very effective and has been steadily chipping away at Ma's lead.

Also, in the 2004 and 2008 elections the major international media was perfectly awful. This time it has really been much better. This week Bloomberg interviewed Tsai. Look how they emphasize her moderate image and her competence (don't know where she was born, though).

Still, sixty days to go. Anything could happen. Brrr....


Academics from all over are reporting that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has canceled their usual practice of bringing in academics from all over the world to witness the elections. They say that they are simply inundated with requests and since they are unable to service them all, they have decided it is only fair not to  do any rather than pick and choose. Don't get visions of nefariousness into your heads, this explanation may well be true, especially in this era of tight budgets.

Stock market expectations: remember how there was what appeared to be an organized effort to pimp Taiwan's stock market? Up it went throughout the election run-up, and then the day after Ma swore in it began a downward slide. There's nothing like that now, nor the absurd lies about the economy that one heard in the media during the 2008 campaign.

UPDATED: TT today reports on Ma's reversal on elderly farmer subsidies. Originally he supported an NT$316 per month increase -- $10 US dollars, enough for half a tank of gas if you own a small car. After criticism from the DPP and warnings that the low increase would cost the KMT 80-150K votes, it has been tripled to NT$1000 a month. Badly handled, again.....
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, November 15, 2011

Shifting Winds in US Asian Policy?

Is a change in the air in US Asia policy? Since the Bush Administration there's been a perception of drift out here, possibly because the destructive, pointless, stupid wars in the Middle East have loomed so large on the global stage. But small things augur the growing importance of Asia in the Obama Administration's foreign policy. This week Sec of State Clinton spoke in Hawaii on, of all things, the importance of Taiwan:
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told an audience last week at the East-West Centre in Honolulu - on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum meetings - that while Washington would remain committed to the one-China policy and stability across the Taiwan Strait, it would also stick to a "strong relationship with Taiwan ... an important security and economic partner".

Her comment, ahead of the Apec leaders' summit, reflected US determination to increase its presence in Asia now that it views the rise of the mainland as a big threat, Taiwanese analysts said yesterday.


Analysts said Washington's intention to constrain Beijing can be best exemplified by US President Barack Obama's apparent sidelining of mainland China over plans for a Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The TPP appears to be an attempt to counter the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere that China seems intent on building. The TPP began as an agreement between four smaller Pacific nations and was later taken up by the Obama Administration as a way to build a grand free trade area for the entire Pacific.

Additionally, the Pentagon is setting up an office apparently aimed at war concepts for China. According to the Taipei Times, the new tri-service Air-Sea Battle Office (ASBO) "is directed mostly at the Western Pacific and its principal actor, China." Obama has also promised a greater US military presence in Australia. Slowly the wheel turns....

Taiwan is an important flash point, but the South China Sea, where China seems to be completely out of hand, is becoming increasingly ominous. A reminder of what renewed US commitment to the area will mean occurred this week. This week China moved its claim even closer to the Philippines as it demanded Manila cease permitting oil exploration just 80 kms off the coast of the province of Palawan and over 800 kms from the China coast. I think those analysts who were wondering exactly what China meant by the famous "cow's tongue" map under which it appeared to claim the entire South China Sea are getting their answer: China means everything, even stuff not included on the map. Recall that the US and Philippines have a mutual defense treaty and Manila basically has no navy to speak of. Whereas with Taiwan the US can always retreat into ambiguity, the situation with respect to the Philippines is quite clear: if hostilities commence, the US must intervene.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Daily Links, Monday, Nov 14, 2011

Lots of great looking stuff out there 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.

Beijing's Kane Enable =UPDATE=

More of the views from yesterday's amazing ride.

UPDATE: Kane now claims, after a week of abuse, that it was all Swiftian satire. Hahahahahahaha.

As a blogger whose meat and drink is understanding and responding to presentations of Taiwan in the media, a piece as comprehensively awful as Paul Kane's NYTimes opinion piece on selling Taiwan to China in exchange for canceling Chinese-owned US debt should be like a gift from the blog gods. After all, the reaction has been incredible. First, I was showered with the link, including a couple of letters that began "Although I am a longtime reader of your blog, I have never written you. But...." It was also the subject of furious discussion on Chinapol and other discussion lists where they don't permit riff-raff like bloggers to participate. In short, it is bad in a way that triggered universal condemnation. Really Awful Crap like this doesn't come around very often, so everyone wants a piece. More links:
NYTimes blogrunner says it is one of the most blogged pieces on the NYT website

Patrick Chovanec writing from Tsinghua, China:

The China Hotline

and Richard at the Peking Duck.
It's 3:24 on Monday, Taiwan time, but Kane's Facebook page still doesn't have the link to the NYT piece on it. Who knows what that means....

I suppose I should feel happy having another awful piece on Taiwan to fisk. But frankly, the whole thing fills me with sadness. This piece in the NYTimes means that the person who wrote it, who quite clearly knows nothing about Taiwan or international finance or the Asian security situation, was able to have a piece in the flagship paper of record, the NYTimes (while someone like me will never have the slightest chance to publish something there). It means that the people in the chain above Kane didn't even bother to do the least bit of quality control on the piece to ensure that their product was up to standard. It means that somewhere all across the US heads are nodding, going: Aha! So this is what Taiwan is like. It means that another opportunity to communicate to the world about our situation here is busted. There's simply nothing positive to take home from this Kane piece. When I fisk one of Foreign Affairs' bursts of enthusiasm for selling out Taiwan, it's easy, it's fun and it feels good. But fisking Kane? That tastes more of mercy killing than fisking.

However, looking at Kane, it is important to locate Kane in the same realm of discourse as fellow Sellout advocates Gilley and Glaser. There's a general pattern to this kind of writing: all make the same points in the same way (1) we can improve US security by selling out Taiwan to obtain peace with China, and (2) to hell with all the nations around Taiwan we'd also be selling out -- we're not even going to talk about them, let alone (3) the Taiwanese themselves. Like all pieces in this discourse universe, Kane's does not seem to grasp that selling out Taiwan won't solve the problem, because the problem is Chinese expansionism, not Taiwan's resistance to it. Kane's piece is merely an outlier, an even more stunted, malformed child of that same ugly inbred clan whose idea of out-of-the-box thinking consists of kissing Beijing's ring. Onward....

Kane's introduction ends:
There are dozens of initiatives President Obama could undertake to strengthen our economic security. Here is one: He should enter into closed-door negotiations with Chinese leaders to write off the $1.14 trillion of American debt currently held by China in exchange for a deal to end American military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan and terminate the current United States-Taiwan defense arrangement by 2015. 
Let's be clear on what Kane is advocating: he wants Beijing to accept that the US is not going to do something (defend Taiwan) and in exchange, Beijing will swallow our debt. Patrick C explores the incredible insanity of this from the point of view of Chinese finances, but I'd like to point out a couple of other things.

First, in common with pieces advocating selling out Taiwan, in Kane's piece all other international security considerations vanish. India, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, and other nations affected by this sellout go unmentioned. As I said, Kane's piece is an outlier in terms of its vast ignorance, but it is completely at home in its discourse universe. Again, as I have noted with other pieces of this nature, imagine what would happen in Tokyo (and to the US-Tokyo relationship) if the US simply washes its hands of Taiwan. The obvious next step for Beijing, as I've noted many times, is the Senkaku Islands, followed by Okinawa, which many Chinese privately view as stolen territory. Both of these are Japanese territory, territory whose security the US guarantees by signed treaty. Will Kane then argue that we should sell out our treaty partners like Japan and the Philippines to avoid a multi-trillion dollar war? How does Kane think leaders in other East and SE Asian capitals will react when the US washes its hands of Taiwan?

Now imagine you are in Beijing. Think you can trust America's word not to come to Taiwan's assistance? What if the next President is a China realist who doesn't want to be responsible for handing Taiwan to China.(Thanks for swallowing our debt! Now we can borrow enough again to fight you!). Even if you could, if combat operations against Taiwan become necessary, Japan might be dragged in since fighting would occur in Japanese air and sea space, which would almost certainly result in the US becoming involved. In fact, if you were China and thought maybe the US would break its promise, you might hit US bases first. Moreover, if Beijing's leaders choose a slow approach such as a blockade, as long as Taiwanese resistance is maintained, sympathy for Taiwan overseas will grow, and pressure on the US to intervene despite any agreement will increase.

As noted above, selling out Taiwan won't solve the problem, because the problem is Chinese expansionism, not Taiwan's resistance to it. Once China has Taiwan, the multi-trillion dollar war in the South China Sea or over the Senkakus will loom as China starts looking around to see what it will swallow next. Recall that Taiwan has a large base in the South China Sea -- how will our friends and allies around that lake react when Beijing takes possession of that base? Handing Taiwan to China simply ensures that we'll have our multi-trillion dollar war without Taiwan's 23 million people, its industries, and its armed forces supporting us. Great strategic thinking.....

Kane then releases a flock of platitudes:
This would be a most precious prize to the cautious men in Beijing, one they would give dearly to achieve. After all, our relationship with Taiwan, as revised in 1979, is a vestige of the cold war.
Why should we reward the "cautious men in Beijing?" They are a gang of corrupt authoritarians who imprison and kill those who disagree with them, and foment instability all along their boundaries by claiming the territories of other nations. Kane wants to reward this behavior?

Since when is "being a vestige of the cold war" an argument against something? The claim is mere emoting.

Kane even drags in the inevitability thesis as if it were an argument, claiming that Taiwan's annexation to China is inevitable. Sort of like Canada's inevitable absorption into the US, the inevitable defeat of Israel in the first Arab-Israeli War, the inevitable defeat of American rebels by the the Asia Society points out, if Taiwan's absorption by China is inevitable, why would Beijing pay for it?

He then glurges:
But the status quo is dangerous; if Taiwanese nationalist politicians decided to declare independence or if Beijing’s hawks tired of waiting for integration and moved to take Taiwan by force, America could suddenly be drawn into a multitrillion-dollar war.
Let's point out a couple of things: (1) Taiwanese nationalist politicians aren't going to declare independence as long as China's military threat exists (never mind that domestically it is politically and legally impossible) and (2) Kane's thesis explodes right here: if the US does not want to get dragged into a multitrillion dollar war, it doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to defend Taiwan, no law or treaty says that it does (the TRA is written precisely to avoid that and you can be sure, as a commenter remarked on this blog, that in the event of war it will be read as narrowly as possible). In principle, there is no reason the US can't pat Beijing on the back when the CCP's thugs finally decide to move, and say "you go boy!"

I'll repeat: no need for debt negotiations. No need to talk to Beijing. A US defense of Taiwan is not an immutable natural law, it's a political calculus. If the US doesn't want to get dragged into a war, it doesn't have to enter the war! It can simply sit on its hands when Beijing moves. D'oh!!!!! So why should China pay trillions to get what it might get for free if it can sufficiently frighten policymakers and observers in Washington?

Kane goes on:
The battle today is between competing balance sheets, and it is fought in board rooms; it is not a geopolitical struggle to militarily or ideologically “dominate” the Pacific.
There's no military or ideological struggle to dominate the Pacific. Whew! Yes, that's why China isn't acquiring aircraft carriers, isn't working on asymmetric warfare capabilities, isn't ramping up its military, isn't claiming the whole South China Sea, isn't seizing fishing boats in those waters and isn't warning that the US is playing with fire if it gets involved. That's why Beijing isn't pressing Japan on the Senkakus and isn't developing power projection capabilities.... one could go on. Yeah, verily, none of these things exist, because Kane says so. Isn't that a relief?

Kane adds:
In fact, China and the United States have interlocking economic interests. China’s greatest military asset is actually the United States Navy, which keeps the sea lanes safe for China’s resources and products to flow freely.
I doubt in Beijing they look at the US navy's hegemony in the Pacific and say to each other: aren't you happy we have this asset? Never mind that history affords many examples of war between nations with interlocking economic interests; apparently it never occurs to observers of current history that it is often precisely such interests that generate the tension that creates the war.....

Kane then gives his laundry list of why the CCP wants Taiwan:
First, Taiwan is Beijing’s unspoken but hard-to-hide top priority for symbolic and strategic reasons; only access to water and energy mean more to Chinese leaders.
Perhaps on Kane's planet Taiwan is an "unspoken priority." Here on earth Chinese officialdom is loud and clear about how they feel about Taiwan and it is not difficult to find examples of this. Do they not have Google where Kane is?
Second, a deal would open a clearer path for the gradual, orderly integration of Taiwan into China.
Let's ask the Taiwanese people what they think of a gradual, orderly integration into China. Oh wait. Kane never asks that. After all, the quarrel over Taiwan is about a far-away country between people of whom Kane knows nothing. There's nothing ethical about selling out a democracy with whom we have long and cordial relations, to please authoritarians who hate us. No one here wants to be part of China. In common with all such pieces in this discourse universe, Kane simply ignores what the locals want -- he-man diplomacy doesn't think about the eggs broken when making omelets!

More practically, why would integration be gradual or orderly, without the US threat of force to keep it that way? Kane seems not to understand that cross-strait stability -- gradual and orderly change -- is founded on the US threat of war over Taiwan -- without that nothing stops China from doing whatever it wants, when it wants. If you were the Chinese leadership, wouldn't you annex Taiwan ASAP and damn the messy results, to ensure that the US couldn't change its mind?

My favorite of his reasons:

Third, it would undermine hard-line militarists who use the Taiwan issue to stoke nationalist flames, sideline pro-Western technocrats and extract larger military budgets. And finally, it would save China the considerable sums it has been spending on a vast military buildup.
This was written from some ivory tower height so isolated from reality it suffers from a kind of hypoxia that has induced political hallucinations. If the US sells Taiwan to China, it will not discourage the Chinese expansionists, but reward their hardline behavior. After all, isn't it Kane's own position that we would be selling out Taiwan to avoid war? What a massive contradiction! D'oh!!!!!

In Kaneworld, the hardliners will point out to their equally expansionist moderate brethren (the difference is tactics, not goals) that the US was so afraid of war that it turned tail and we got Taiwan for nothing but some cash which we can easily earn again. Yay for our hardline position! It was rewarded with 23 million hardworking people, their island and economy intact! Then everyone will pore over the map, saying to themselves, now over what territory that we covet can we work this trick again?

Meanwhile the military budget will keep rising because Beijing will go on inventing "threats" -- did the US military budget fall when the USSR fell? If you were the CCP, wouldn't you simply redirect that spending toward Japan, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, and other nations that Beijing has territorial disputes with? D'oh! Too, one could add that Kane writes as if there are no internal political dynamics driving the PLA's acquisition of new toys. Finally, it should be pointed out that there is already an example from the Taiwan case of what happens when Beijing is pleased: the Taiwanese elected a pro-China president -- what happened to the military threat against Taiwan? It increased.

The next two paragraphs follow the false argument outlined above: if we sell Taiwan to China, Beijing will turn up sweet -- Kane simply expands the range of issues that will be affected. Beijing might stop helping Iran and other Middle Eastern nations that cause trouble for us, he says (why on earth would they do that in the face of our demonstrated weakness?). Heaven on earth will result, if only Taiwan is sold out. Kane sums:

The deal would eliminate almost 10 percent of our national debt without raising taxes or cutting spending; it would redirect American foreign policy away from dated cold-war-era entanglements and toward our contemporary economic and strategic interests; and it would eliminate the risk of involvement in a costly war with China.
As longtime readers know, when Beijing grabs Taiwan, war will not be averted. Because the problem isn't Taiwan, but Beijing's expansionist dreams. The threat of war will only abate when Beijing gives up being an expansionist state. Selling Taiwan to Beijing will not solve any of Beijing's numerous other territorial claims which are also potential causes of war, because it does not address the fundamental issue: Beijing is the problem, not Taiwan.

Shame on the NYTimes for publishing this.
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.