Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gov't to Allow Referendum on Nuke Plants

Wow! The KMT government agreed to a referendum on the fourth nuclear plant in Gongliao, probably the dumbest public infrastructure project in Taiwan history. It even made the international news (AP). After noting that the government had agreed to the referendum, the Taipei Times reported:
According to the plan, a referendum on halting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will be initiated by the KMT caucus tabling a motion next month in the legislature, KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said.

Lai said the plebiscite could be held in August as the Referendum Act (公民投票法) stipulates that a referendum must be held no sooner than one month and no later than six months after its proposal.

If the completion of the plant failed to win approval, there was the risk of huge compensation payouts for breach of contract, higher electricity costs, power shortages and even an adverse effect on economic growth, Jiang said.
Hahaha. The KMT government is already hard into fear mongering, the same tired nonsense. The government claimed twenty years ago that power shortages and economic growth effects would occur if the plant were not built, and it has never varied from that line. Obviously these things never  happened. It was lies at the beginning, and it is still lies. There are plenty of other ways Taiwan can generate power. Not to mention reduce demand through improved conservation...

Frozen Garlic has a long, excellent post on many of the issues. First, I think many of us are as shocked as he is that the KMT would submit a major project to the overall review of the public when it knows that in any fair referendum the Party position in favor of nuclear power will be defeated. In these two paragraphs he strikes to the heart of the matter:
Why is the KMT so politically committed to nuclear power? Most importantly, they have committed enormous piles of money to this project over the past two decades. They cannot simply walk away with nothing to show for it. The DPP would beat over the head relentlessly for years and years. How many schools, hospitals, roads, public housing, MRT lines, or flower festivals were sacrificed for 4NPP? It would be strong evidence that the KMT had a flawed vision for the future and had stubbornly insisted on imposing that flawed vision on an unwilling population. The KMT has been attacking the DPP for a decade over the 2001 showdown. When the DPP stopped construction, they broke numerous contracts and had to pay heavy financial penalties. Of course, the project was then resumed, so that money was just wasted. However, if the plant never opens, this argument gets reversed: the DPP tried to save Taiwan an enormous amount of money, and the KMT wasted 10 more years of construction budgets. For the KMT, reversing course is simply not an option.

There are also other reasons the KMT wants nuclear power. One way to understand the KMT regime is as a construction state, much like the LDP’s Japan. The ruling party hands out lots of construction contracts and turns these contracts into political support. Some aspects are legal, some are hazy, and some are outright illegal. However, it is pretty effective. 4NPP has been a 20 year gravy train of contracts to hand out. (I hope I’m wrong about this. Contracts used for this purpose often lead to shoddy public works. This prospect terrifies me.) Many manufacturers support nuclear power. To be clear, they don’t care where the electricity comes from, but they can’t stomach the prospects of insufficient or unreliable power. Many of the exporters that drive Taiwan’s economy want 4NPP opened because they believe it will provide steady and reliable electricity for the next few decades. The KMT also listens closely to Taipower, the state run electricity company. Taipower is deeply embedded in the KMT’s power structure. The Economics Minister is a former Taipower executive, and the head of the Taipower workers’ union is a member of the KMT’s Central Standing Committee. Taipower wants 4NPP. It can be pushed and prodded to reluctantly try out the odd alternative energy project, but 4NPP is Taipower’s crown jewel.
The 4th nuke plant has been a massive source of patronage funding, as Froze points out above. So why would the KMT be willing to court defeat like this?

Well, two reasons. First, as a friend point out to me, the construction budget for the plant is pretty well spent. This means that the project has done its intended job -- the contracts have been handed out to the KMT's patronage networks in the construction-industrial state. There's little left to plunder. This means it can shut down with minimal economic effect on KMT supporters. As the TT noted in another article:
Among the conclusions were that, before the referendum is held in August, the government would not request any more budget for the plant, not load fuel rods in the plant’s first reactor and halt all construction projects other than those that have been contracted out.

The government said the first reactor at the plant is 95 percent complete, while the second reactor is 92 percent complete and that most of the uncompleted projects have been contracted out.
Putting it up for referendum after its contract potential has been exhausted certainly tastes like n admission that the construction of the plant was never about obtaining its power output....

The other thing, is well, pretty damn simple: this project has to die, and everyone knows it. It is not safe in any meaningful sense of the word. Not only are there potent natural threats in the form of quakes and tsunamis, but over the last couple of years there has been a study stream of articles on all sorts of man-made problems with the plant. Nor can the budget handle it, nor is there a place to put the waste. Completing it and running it as a nuclear power plant would be transcendentally stupid.

As Froze points out, the KMT can't simply halt the plant, they are too invested in nuclear power. So their solution is simple: Stop Me Before I Kill Again. Let the public kill it instead, thus showing the Benevolence of the Great KMT which can reap some of the propaganda benefits of looking like it actually supports democracy. And then they can arrange for the DPP and its environmentalist allies to take the blame, just as environmental opposition was made the excuse to kill that dog of a naptha cracker in Changhua last year (pics + info).

One of the exciting possibilities here for so many of us looking at the possible excising of this hideous tumor of the construction-industrial state is that the KMT's willingness to kill this project means there might be a possibility of meaningful changes in Taiwan's referendum laws. The last important local referendums were on gambling on the Offshore Islands. To get those passed, the KMT rammed through changes in the 2003 Referendum Law:
TN goes on to observe that the KMT built an impossibly high barrier to the passage of the referendum with the infamous "double majority" law that requires that the vote consist of a majority with at least 50% of voters having voted. What they did was cheat: in January the KMT rammed through a clause in the offshore gambling statute deleting the requirement that 50% of voters must vote in the referendum for it be valid. An article on it in Gambling Compliance describes...
The reason the law requires a Double Majority is simple: the KMT can defeat any referendum simply by instructing its voters to boycott the Referendum vote. Since the KMT was eager to get gambling in the offshore islands, it relaxed that law for the sake of the referendums in Penghu and Matsu. It isn't likely that the KMT Administration will push for relaxing the Double Majority requirement, but it is nice to be able to contemplate that possibility. The DPP has promised to try and push for relaxing the Double Majority requirement (here).

In this case a number of options remain to the KMT:
  • If they relax the 2003 Double Majority law for the sake of the nuke plant referendum, it can go down to almost certain defeat, despite the blizzard of propaganda likely to come from the usual culprits. 
  • If they don't, it will still likely be defeated since nuclear power is unpopular, so long as the KMT does not instruct its people to boycott the referendum. 
  • They can also defeat it by instructing their people to boycott it. 
Remember too that the government can arrange that its position be supported by presenting referendum text that is total gobbledygook so no one knows how to vote, a favorite strategy of anti-democracy moves. Thus, there are many ways the plant can still be finished if the government wants.

Once a referendum is defeated, eight years must pass before it can be brought up again.

I think the most likely outcome is (1) assuming the laws are relaxed. It would be interesting to see whether a majority would turn out in the case of (2), which is highly unlikely and whether, if not, the KMT government would commit to be bound by the outcome even if a majority did not turn out. Since the referendum will likely come this summer, the next few months should be fun to watch.

PS: There's a whole political angle a friend will be writing on soon, not discussed here. Look for it!
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Collective Security, Collective Blame

Coming and Going
The always admirable James Holmes has a piece in The Diplomat this week that exemplifies one of the major problems with commentators on Taiwan: blaming Taiwan for its defense problems:
And second, the organizer exercised his prerogative as big kahuna of the event and posed the final question: aren't those of us who take Taipei to task for doing too little for the island's defense really objecting to the outcomes of the past two presidential elections, which installed a leadership committed to cross-strait rapprochement? Not really, quoth the Naval Diplomat. For one thing, military preparedness hasn't been a strong suit of either KMT or DPP governments in quite some time. It's hard to fault the electorate for bipartisan foibles. But at the same time — flipping the question around to U.S. politics — America is under no obligation to expend inordinate numbers of lives, ships and aircraft, and taxpayer dollars attempting to recoup bad strategic decisions on Taiwan's part. That's true whether those decisions were made democratically or not.

Which loops back around to my major theme for the Wilson Center gathering. Taiwan must do what it can to provide for its own defense while helping U.S. forces come to its rescue. Or, it can live with the consequences of inaction. Trusting to the goodwill of a big, nearby power that vows to snuff out your political existence would be a fateful choice — not one I would make.
It's useful to blame Taiwan, but let's face it:
  • The DPP government requested 66 F-16s. Both the Bush and Obama Administrations refused to sell them. The DPP government did accept other weapons packages from the US. If Taipei lacks fighters, it is because the US won't sell them. Not because we didn't ask. 
  • We don't have electric submarines because the US won't build them. Why? Well, the story circulating was that it was because the US navy is in love with nuclear subs and doesn't want Congress to find out how cheap and quiet electric boats are and thus, doesn't want the US to develop an electric boat building capacity. Which leads to my next point....
  • Down the memory hole: the Arms Freeze (read the whole post) during the Bush Administration, which evinced little concern about how such a freeze might affect Taiwan's defense posture in the years to come. 
  • One of the fundamentals of Taipei's defense problems is Europe. We've become so used to it that we no longer even think about it when we criticize Taipei, but the uselessness of Europe has been devastating for Taiwan -- we can't purchase European arms when the US is unwilling to sell and we can't play off sellers against one another to obtain better deals. Nor can we obtain items such as electric submarines which the US does not make. Oh well, at least Europe is still enforcing the arms embargo. For now. 
  • US analysts consistently supported the KMT and above all, twice supported the election of President Ma, whose policy is to put the island into China's orbit and to reduce the military. Ma promised that military expenditures would be 3% of GDP; none of Ma's US supporters have held him to this or criticized him for not reaching that level. When the KMT objected to the special weapons purchase and prevented it from the reaching the floor of the legislature over 60 times during the Chen Administration, the US response was not to mete out any punishment to the KMT. Behavior that is rewarded is repeated, Washington!
  • The internal contradictions of the US position: the DPP was crucified in the US Establishment media for "provoking Beijing." Hello! Arms sales "provoke" Beijing. If the US wants Taiwan to do more in its own defense, then it has to stop pressuring Taiwan to not "provoke Beijing." Not to mention stop internalizing Beijing's propaganda frame of "being provoked" as if it were an actual analytical standpoint. This only highlights how we need more pushback from Washington against Beijing's propaganda nonsense.  
  • The US has reduced mil-mil contacts with Taiwan as well as senior official visits. Since the US puts an apparent low value on Taiwan's defense needs.....
  • Finally, Taiwan has a significant defense industry that churns out a number of important systems, including cruise missiles, light armored vehicles, and fast attack vessels. If the US wants Taiwan to expand its munitions manufacturing base and production output, it might consider the purchase some finished systems from Taiwan, in addition to its usual purchases of parts and components from local OEM firms. That would be a big morale booster for the island's industry (external validation from the US is always A Big Deal) as well as provide capital that could underwrite expansion of production lines.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

AP on the WantWant Media Monster

AP's Peter Enav in Taiwan occasionally finds the time to produce longer review articles; last week he came out with a really good piece on the WantWant media monopoly campaign. A taste:
The controversy over Tsai and his expansive Taiwanese media holdings goes right to the heart of the dominant issue in Taiwanese politics: Whether the island should attempt to maintain the separate political identity from the mainland it has maintained since splitting apart from it amid civil war in 1949, or whether it should bow to China's increasing political and economic might and accept its sovereign sway. Taiwanese media, particularly the island's four national newspapers and its seven major 24-hour cable news stations, play a crucial role in the debate, using their columns and broadcasts to promote the competing pro-China and independence agendas of the two main political parties.

The strength of Tsai's pro-China views were underlined in January 2012 when he told the Washington Post newspaper that he unreservedly backed Taiwan's unification with the mainland. "I really hope that I can see that," he said. In the same article he also attacked the widely held belief that Chinese security forces killed hundreds if not thousands of demonstrators during pro-democracy protests around Beijing's Tiananmen Square in June 1989, citing the refusal of a phalanx of Chinese tanks to run over a famously bold protester as evidence of the forces' restraint.

Want Want's own internal newsletter reported in its December 2008 edition that during a meeting in Beijing, Tsai told Wang Yi, head of the Chinese government's Taiwan Affairs Office, that Tsai had acquired the China Times Group "in order to use the power of the press to advance relations between China and Taiwan." The newsletter quoted Wang as saying that if Tsai's company had any future needs "the Taiwan Affairs Office will do its best to help it, including giving support to its food business."
If you didn't read that last paragraph, read it. There's plenty of personal data on Tsai and views of Tsai from other sources, so read the whole article too. Really good work, Peter.

AP's treatment focuses on what outsiders are interested in -- the China's relentless drive to annex Taiwan and Taiwan's resistance to it. But there is another aspect that needs to be remembered: Next Media did plenty of investigative reporting of local politicians and corporations, and Tsai will likely hamstring that.

The day before the AP article, the National Communications Commission (NCC) ruled that WantWant had not satisfied the conditions laid down by the NCC months ago. The Taipei Times reported:
The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday ruled that Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團) has not met the three conditions it set last year for the group’s acquisition of the cable TV services operated by China Network Systems (CNS, 中嘉網路), adding that another administrative hearing would not be necessary.

For the acquisition to be valid, group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) and his family members or associates must completely dissociate themselves from CtiTV’s (中天電視) news channel. China Television Co’s (CTV, 中視) digital news channel, which also belongs to the group, must be changed to a non-news channel and CTV must have an independent editorial system.

The commission said that each condition must be met for the Want Want-CNS deal to take effect.
I haven't heard what WantWant intends to do about it. But last July when they were first promulgated, the food giant rejected them out of hand. It's hard for me to imagine that in a society where big companies routinely get whatever they want, this deal won't go through. It will be interesting to whether and how the NCC will either retreat or be bypassed or simply... ignored.
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GWU to launch Confucius Institute

GW brags: The George Washington University will soon be home to the GW Confucius Institute, an entity that will promote the study of Chinese language and culture, support Chinese teaching through instructional training and certification, and encourage increased research in the area of China studies.
Speaking to an audience of police, military and intelligence personnel at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in March, Fadden said the institutes are controlled by Chinese embassies and consulates. He lumped them together with some of Bejing’s other efforts to steer Canadian China policy.

Evidence was on display during Hu's visit to Canada in June when a crowd of hundreds gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to both welcome Hu and shout down protesters concerned with human-rights abuses in China. In the crowd were a group wearing T-shirts with labels identifying them as being from Montreal's Confucius Institute, which is hosted at Dawson College (source).
Named for the famed Chinese philosopher (551-479 B.C.), the institute will be one of 360 worldwide and the first in Washington, D.C. The institute will launch in fall 2013 in a renovated facility located on the Foggy Bottom Campus.
As stated in the 2011 Annual Report issued by the Confucian Institute headquarters, there are 112 CIs and 324 Confucius Classrooms in North and South America, including 81 institutes and 299 classrooms in the United States.(source
“GW is excited to offer this extensive global learning opportunity with our partners in China,” said Peg Barratt, dean of GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, where the institute will be housed and administered. “Our students, faculty and the extended community—including government and business entities—will all benefit through this enhanced educational and cultural experience.”
Mr. Branner, of Columbia University, who was an associate professor at Maryland when it established its Confucius Institute, says he worries that the institutes impose Hanban's teaching methods and materials upon Chinese-language classrooms and give the Chinese government an opportunity to collect information on American students of Chinese descent, some of whom will go into politically sensitive work. Other experts on China and Chinese language instruction have expressed concern about whether Confucius Institutes are proliferating too quickly for Hanban to ensure high-quality instruction.(source)
The Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing, China—overseen by the Office of Chinese Language Council International and affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education— is providing George Washington with start-up money, 3,000 volumes of Chinese books, teaching and audio-visual materials and access to online courses.
A petition with more than 4000 signatures tabled in the upper house of the NSW Parliament calls for the government to remove the Confucius Classroom Program from the schools where it operates: Chatswood Public, Fort Street High, Mosman High, Kensington Public, St Marys Senior High, Kingsgrove North High School and Coffs Harbour High.

The government has confirmed that controversial topics, including the Tiananmen Square massacre and China's human rights record, will not be discussed in the program, raising questions about China's influence over content.


China pays NSW schools more than $200,000 to promote its language and culture through the Confucius Institute, based at the Education Department's Ryde office.(source)
The GW Confucius Institute will host a team of faculty members and graduate students from a university in China to teach and administer the institute’s operations. GW is currently finalizing an agreement to establish this partnership with Nanjing University. The agreement is expected to be signed by spring 2013, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Chinese Embassy will be involved with the celebration planned for later this year.
In Canada last year, during riots in Tibet, the head of a Confucius Institute at the University of Waterloo succeeded in reversing the direction of coverage and getting a major Canadian television station to apologize for its previous pro-rebel coverage.(source).
Taoran Sun, director of financial management and global initiatives for Columbian College, is part of a committee that has worked since 2011 to bring a Confucius Institute to the university.

“This really ties back to the provost’s strategic plan,” she said. “Because we’re in the U.S. capital, we want to take advantage of our location and networks and D.C.’s unique global identity. It is a good opportunity for GW to play a leading role in promoting cross-cultural learning and China studies. The institute will also provide a platform for exchanges beyond language and humanities.”
The Institutes are described in official Communist Party literature in the context of Hu Jintao’s soft power initiatives, designed to influence perceptions of China and its policies abroad. Li Changchun, the 5th-highest-ranking member of thePolitburo Standing Committee, was quoted in The Economist saying the Institutes were “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up”.(source)
Once the institute is running, it plans to offer noncredit classes in intermediate- to advanced-level Chinese and culture-related topics for the large population of working professionals in the capital region. Specific course such as business Chinese may be offered on a one-on-one basis.
Peng Ming-min, a Taiwan independence activist and politician, writes although on the surface China merely demonstrates its "soft power" through CIs, "Colleges and universities where a Confucius Institute is established all have to sign a contract in which they declare their support for Beijing’s “one China” policy. As a result, both Taiwan and Tibet have become taboos at these institutes." Peng lists other examples of CI "untouchable" issues including the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, neglect of human rights, environmental pollution in China, and the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo.(source)
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Monday, February 25, 2013

MOFA Defends Revolting Diaoyutai Video

The Central News Agency (CNA), the government news organ, has a piece on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (MOFA) defense of its revolting, condescending video on why the Republic of China owns the Senkakus. Hosted by a comedian and entirely in Taiwanese, it was supposed to be light-hearted. To wit:
Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) on Saturday said that a short film the ministry released a day earlier was meant to help Taiwanese understand the nation’s sovereignty over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in a “lively way.”
DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim had our backs:
That same day, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) criticized the film as disrespectful and said it brought disgrace to the country.

She questioned the use of the phrase “yin mou” in the film to allude to Japan’s claim to the islands, saying that it means “conspiracy.”

Hsiao said she had telephoned Lin and asked that the film be withdrawn, but was told that “foreigners will not see this.”

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Vanessa Shih (史亞平) met with Hsiao and told her that the intention of the film was not to insult anyone, but only to explain serious issues in a lighthearted manner.
I pointed out the other day when I mentioned this video that it is part of a pattern of presenting things to the Taiwanese in condescending ways, ways that seem to make Taiwanese speakers look like hicks.

It is also part of a deliberate program, now in operation for the last couple of years, to try and link the Senkaku issue to the Taiwanese identity: "Defend the Diaoyutai, Love Taiwan!" the host of the video cries.

Hoisted by one's own petard... for years the KMT has decried the way the DPP has tried play standard-bearer for the Taiwanese identity. In previous elections some voters have complained that the DPP's "Vote DPP if you Love Taiwan" was insulting. Now here is the KMT playing exactly the same game! Ain't gonna work.

Hoisted by one's own petard... Taiwanese, especially students, generally detest history, because it has always been the policy of the KMT-run educational system to de-emphasize the history of Taiwan and teach instead the history of far-off China. Now the KMT is trying to teach history. LOL. The public just doesn't care.

I can't imagine how anyone who works for MOFA could imagine that foreigners aren't tracking what it does. MOFA's disconnect from target audiences at home and abroad is scary....

The last paragraph is frightening as well:
Located about 120 nautical miles (220km) northeast of Taipei, the Diaoyutai Islands have been under Japan’s administrative control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
"...under Japan's administrative control since 1972."  What? They've been Japanese since 1895. The Central News Agency's presentation is simply propaganda.


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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sanity Break: Taiwan the Beautiful

Overwhelmed with work. Sanity break. Enjoy. Trailer for a 22 min documentary from Commonwealth.
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

China Policy Institute Blog at U of Nottingham

Kiln in Kaohsiung.

Jonathon Sullivan at the U of Nottingham alerted me to his China Policy Institute blog. One of the changes he has made is running regular special feature issues. The current one is on China-Japan relations, including some good articles on the Senkakus mess. In March they will run a special issue on President Ma, a year after the election. There will also be weekly pieces on Taiwan. Check it out!
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Friday, February 22, 2013

Senkakus Stuff + Revolting Video =UPDATED=

East coast rift valley of Taiwan.

A rare light moment from the Senkaku mess this week as Taiwan-based "activists" seek to sue the Japanese government for "emotional distress" caused by Japanese resistance to their illegal and provocative incursion into the Senkakus last month. Gee, d'ya suppose someday all 1.3 billion Chinese might sue the world for emotional distress?

Maybe I shouldn't give them any ideas....

From the realm of propaganda: Stephen Harner in Forbes with a transparently awful piece on how China really owns the Senkakus. It follows the standard Chinese propaganda line -- blaming Japan for being provocative, wrongly citing history, and as a special bonus, even claims Okinawa was autonomous in 1885! You'll be unsurprised to find that he runs a financial/consulting business in Shanghai.

Also from the realm of propaganda... this one will really make your blood boil. Back in 2009 the Ma Administration released as set of highly chauvinist cartoons depicting ECFA opponents as Taiwanese hicks and ECFA supporters as educated, intelligent people (post). Part of that drill was the appointment of the notorious Yen Ching-piao as "spokesman." MOFA has done it again, this time with the Senkaku claims of the ROC on video. This revolting pile of crap, in Taiwanese, has a couple of comedians presenting the claims, and scarily, linking love of Taiwan with support for the ROC claim. It gives a powerful insight into the way these Deep Blue China expansionists think about the Taiwanese. Very sad.

Fortunately, longtime scholar Bruce Jacobs produced an excellent piece on the shoddy scholarship that underlies the Chinese claim to the Senkakus.

UPDATED: A friend observes:

Speaking of the video, MOFA minister David Lin believes that: "The film features the complicated and subtle themes in an interesting, funny and easy-to-understand style," cf.            

While Jiang Yi-hua says today that the Cost Guard will continue to escort Taiwanese fishermen in the Senkakus zone:

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Taiwanese Posing as Scouts to Spy on....Korean Baseball team

Haha. Winning is everything... From Deadspin:
You might not realize it from the USA's roster, but many countries think the World Baseball Classic is important. One of those is Taiwan, which is expecting big things. After failing to get out of a group of death in the 2009 tournament, they enter this year's WBC ranked fifth in the world—just a spot behind 2009 runners-up South Korea. Taiwan is hosting its regional, beginning a week from Saturday, and one thing stands in its way—poolmates South Korea.
The Chinese Professional Baseball League — the governing body of Taiwan’s baseball endeavors — apologized via email to the Korean Baseball Organization according to a report from the Yonhap News Agency. Four scouts from Taiwan posed as umpires and gained access to a South Korean scrimmage at Douliu Baseball Stadium.


The scouts gained access to the umpire’s locker room by saying they were trainees. However, they aroused suspicions when they began timing the deliveries of the Korean pitchers, and were swiftly ejected from the stadium.
A Korean paper reported that...
Once inside the umpires' room, the scouts began timing the delivery of the national team's pitchers, which drew the suspicions of KBO officials.

"We had our suspicions because there seemed to be too many people in the umpires' room," one KBO official said. "They kept saying they were umpire trainees. But we later learned that they were really scouts and we ejected them from the stadium (in the fourth inning)."
Earth's clumsiest espionage agents. According to the paper, Taiwanese scouts also tried to sneak into the stadium previously to watch the S Korean team.
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Observations from Borneo

A river ferryboat pulls into the pier in Sibu, Sarawak.

I just spent 16 days biking and traveling through Malaysian Borneo, in the states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Niah Cave National Park, near Batu Niah, Sarawak.

I was totally excited to go deep into Sarawak, since my whole life I've wanted to go to Borneo. We had originally planned to go all the way from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah to Kuching in Sarawak, 1300 kms, by bicycle, but as fate would have it, we lost a few days when we blew all our spare tubes just as the shops closed for Chinese New Year.

Michael Cannon rides the highway.

My friend Michael brought his recumbent. Everywhere we went people stopped to talk to him about his bicycle. It was a fabulous ice breaker. However, it was difficult to travel with, heavy and bulky.

Vendors, Filipino night market, Kota Kinabalu.

One thing that struck both of us, as Michael pithily put it, as you went deeper in to Sarawak it became more Chinese. In Miri, in northern Sarawak near the border with Brunei, there were still plenty of Malay-style and Islamic eateries. By the time we'd gone 400 kms further south to Sibu, a large river port, these restaurants had become harder to find. Moreover, in Sibu, lots of the places serving Islamic food closed by noon.

Logging operations upriver from Sibu.

The extent of Chinese ownership of businesses was astounding. I got smiles and friendly interactions from all the local Chinese whenever I spoke to them in Mandarin, and could have gotten around on Mandarin exclusively if I'd felt like it. Yet, most of these businesses were shops; I saw few factories. It appears that fundamentally Sarawak's relationship with the outside world is still colonial: resources (logs, oil, and palm oil) go out, and manufactured goods come in. The Chinese community with its control of business actually mediates that colonial relationship with the outside world, which adds tension to the already fraught relations between Sarawak's ethnic groups.

Bintulu town, Sarawak.

Superficially Taiwan and Sarawak share some similarities -- an incoming Han settler population, extensive undeveloped aboriginal areas, extensive logging, a long history of colonialism, long-term involvement in global export markets, and so forth. So why is Taiwan a major manufacturing center and Sarawak still a colonial economy?

Night market, Sibu

Another thing that struck me: I was asked several times by locals whether there would be war over the South China Sea and over the Senkakus. This is not a discussion that locals in Taiwan ever initiate with me.

Playing by the waterfront, Kota Kinabalu

While we viewed Sarawak with mixed feelings, Sabah we both liked very much. It was cleaner and much less crowded than Sarawak. The roads were in decent condition and it was a pleasure to interact with everyone. It was also cheaper than Sarawak and easier to get to interesting places. In Sarawak there are over 200 kms between major towns, with few places to stop in between. In Sabah distances are not so great. The roads were flatter too; in Sarawak the main highway is one long roller coastal, up a short incline and then down one. Brutal.

Buffet, rest stop outside Batu Niah, Sarawak.
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Frank Hsieh Trolls Beijing

TeaLeafNation has the call:
Within twenty-four hours of registration, Sina Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter) deleted the microblog account of Frank Hsieh, former premier of Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Ironically, Hsieh’s last tweet before he lost the power to post on Weibo was: “Whether or not there is freedom of speech does not depend on how freely you speak when you criticize high officials or people in power, but whether you lose your freedom after you speak.”

What followed was a wave of Chinese netizen attack: they criticized the Chinese government of for infringing on freedom of speech, expressing concerns that such display of intolerance would antagonize the fellow Taiwanese people and diminish prospects of cross-strait reunification.
The blog goes on to list a few responses, including some from the pro-independence crowd who thought that Hsieh was currying favor with Beijing. Although no one is "revisiting" the question of "reunification" in Taiwan as TeaLeafNation claims, since few here want to become annexed to the PRC, the major point, that Beijing's clampdown on Hsieh was ham-handed, is spot on. The Taipei Times made the same point:
Beijing, which appeared to be ready for closer engagement with the independence-minded DPP, extended its goodwill by sending several high-ranking officials to meet Hsieh [during his recent trip to China], who, conversely, was criticized by many of his fellow party members for “kowtowing to China” during the trip.

That explains why the case is so symbolic to Taiwanese, some of whom still expect Beijing to change its stance on reconciliation across the Taiwan Strait, and it was, perhaps, a stupid move by the Chinese government, which says it wants to “win the hearts of Taiwanese compatriots.”
I wonder. Hsieh's troll of Beijing's censors was certainly fun for all concerned, and certainly does once more demonstrate the future that Beijing is actually offering Taiwan. Yet I wonder what would have happened if Hsieh had treaded lightly instead of heavily, and attempted sustained engagement with the Chinese on the microblog. A chance to explain Taiwan, lost.... Ah well, probably Beijing would have clamped down in any case.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Can't the government afford an English editor?

This was sent out for Lunar New Year. A friend posted it to Facebook. It was kindly meant, but you'd think the Mayor's office would have an English editor on tap to clean it up and make it look professional. Really.
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Monday, February 18, 2013

on vacation links....

Logging operations on the river above Sibu, Sarawak, Malaysia. 

As I contemplate the differing economic paths of Sarawak and Taiwan... on vacation links coming at ya....

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Richard Bush catches up

On cycling vacation in Borneo with my man Michael C. That's him above on his recumbent somewhere between Kota Kinabalu and Papar last week.

My how things change. Last week former AIT head and longtime US gov't Taiwan expert Richard Bush observed (TT):
The returns on cross-strait economic exchanges may be diminishing because the Chinese economic model is changing, former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan Richard Bush said on Wednesday.

“Taiwan was a real beneficiary of export-led growth relying on essentially cheap labor, abuse of the environment and local corruption,” he said.

However, China was moving away from that model, and Taiwanese companies aiming to position themselves in the middle of the global supply chain had better move with it, he said.

At the same time, Chinese companies that would like to displace their Taiwanese partners are coming to prominence, he added.

Under these circumstances, Taiwan’s economic future cannot rest solely on liberalizing the nation’s relationship with China.

Taipei should beware of “putting all of its eggs in that basket,” he said.
Those of us who watch Taiwan's affairs and love this place all had a good laugh, for of course these were the DPP and pro-Taiwan critiques of four years ago that so many of us put forth. It was courageous of Bush to say this; unfortunately it was already out of date four years ago. What was Bush saying two years ago? From a wonderfully titled speech at Brookings:
The first area is economic policy. A big challenge to maintaining Taiwan’s competitiveness is the economic regionalization occurring in East Asia. If Taiwan is kept outside the circle of regionalization and liberalization, its companies will be increasingly marginalized. Concluding ECFA is important because it holds promise for getting Taiwan inside the circle. Otherwise, Taiwan’s growth will decline.

But it is important to understand how ECFA will benefit Taiwan. It is not just because Taiwan exporters will benefit from reduced tariffs. More importantly, it will force a structural readjustment within Taiwan. Uncompetitive, previously protected firms will go out of business. Opportunities will blossom for the most advanced sectors.
It is obvious that the "structural readjustment" (an ideological construct of neoliberal religion with pretty much the same function in economics as penance has in Catholicism, basically self-administered punishment for being a bad bad economy) Bush refers to has not occurred. Such moves into advanced sectors as are taking place began long before ECFA. Instead, the adjustment to ECFA has been a government move, under the guise of "bringing Taiwan firms back", to subsidize big makers rather than to let them die while it implements 1960s-era development policies again.

Bush also claimed, as most supporters of the ECFA Cargo Cult did, that ECFA would enable Taiwan to get around the problem of regional trade blocs in Asia by... more deeply connecting itself to China. As I have pointed out countless times, this claim essentially argued that the way to make Taiwan more international was to marginalize it. Naturally FTAs with other nations have not been forthcoming (WSJ from 2011). Hopefully one with Singapore will materialize; it had already been negotiated under the Chen Administration but blocked by Beijing. There is also one with New Zealand coming down the pike. Beijing never really forthrightly stated that it would permit Taiwan to have FTAs (past hilarity), so it will be interesting to see what Beijing does.

In any case, a couple of years have gone by, and the trend is clear: trade with China is declining over time, Taiwan's share of the China market has declined since ECFA, and its trade with ASEAN is rising (example). Of course, this was all predictable based on the experience of other trade blocs with China (example)(and here too). The Legislative Budget Committee report from last year also said that Taiwan has by and large not benefited from ECFA.

One good thing contained in Bush's talk of last week was the identification of China's behavior in the Senakakus as 'worrisome'. Kudos to him for that, at least.
Daily Links:
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ractopork coming to a supermarket near you?

There's been much commentary on Taiwan this month from the Heritage and Brookings, both of which hosted Taiwan-related events. Rupert Hammond-Chambers, head of the US-Taiwan Business Council, opined that the Ma Administration should be announcing soon that FTA agreements with major trading partner Singapore and also with New Zealand should be finalized soon. Good news, if true.

He and other speakers at the Heritage Foundation mentioned that, in the context of the TIFA trade talks between the US and Taiwan, the issue of ractopork should be easily solved and the talks moved forward (remember, the TIFA talks are more like discussions about having talks). Hammond-Chambers said that the local papers are inflating the issues and are too parochial. I wonder if the US side really understands: (1) The beef issue was artfully used by the Ma Administration to irritate relations with the US. Pork is absolutely central to Taiwanese cooking -- the word meat in Chinese, by default, means pork. US ractopork imports may well be even more politically unpopular than ractobeef, which makes them a perfect tool for the Ma Administration to continue its policies of irritating Washington. (2) There are few local beef producers, but a myriad of local pig farmers and slaughterhouses. The political clout of the pork industry is great, and the local KMT patronage systems need those farmers to provide votes for its rural representatives.

Against this, as other writers noted, since The Racto Beef of Death© was admitted, US ractopork and other pork products should be admitted as well. Under the WTO agreements, once ractopamine containing products are admitted, all such products must be admitted. Perhaps the US side is counting on this to force the Ma Administration's hand when it says things should go smoothly.

In any case, whatever happens, the hilarious disconnect between the health claims in the expected public protests over incoming US ractopork and the abounding silence over the healthiness of local pork will no doubt provide much fodder for us post-starved bloggers.

More on Brookings tomorrow....
Daily Links:
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Taiwan isn't a dirty word: we need to talk about Taiwan

Happy New Year from Taiwan, 1930. Formosa Vintage Museum Cafe vintage photo

Still on vacation in Borneo, but you're welcome to enjoy these links. The writer, Ben Moles, attended an Emerging Leaders Dialogue in Taiwan as a guest of Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Three blog posts:

Taiwan isn't a dirty word: we need to talk about Taiwan (Part One)(Part Two)(Part Three)
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Zain Dean Case: Various statements

A couple of weeks ago the news broke that Zain Dean, a UK national, had escaped Taiwan using someone else's passport after having been sentenced to four years for allegedly hitting someone with his car while driving drunk. Here are several statements about the case from Dean and others....there are some good comments in the forums at Taiwanease.

Dean's own statement at Taiwanease.

An additional statement from Dean.

Dean's 2010 statement

News: Dean's girlfriend detained. Prosecutors say no deal for Dean. Ministry asks for Dean's extradition.

REFS: A few years ago, Brian Kennedy wrote several articles on the legal system and in particular, judges. Here is one from Taiwan Review, and this excellent piece for AmCham.
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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Some links....

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More Judicial Abuse?

A couple of cases are in the news lately... first, this open letter from NATPA, one of the pro-Taiwan organizations in the US and Canada...
We also thank DPP legislators Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋), Mark Chen (陳唐山) and Hsu Tain-tsair (許添財) for speaking up for former Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corp (SSAC) chairman and chief executive Kuo Ching-chiang (郭清江), a member of NATPA allegedly involved in embezzlement and corruption at SSAC.

The three legislators said that the Special Investigation Division (SID), after conducting the SSAC investigation in 2008, did not further investigate the case.

Usually investigations must be finalized within eight months, but this case has been ongoing for almost five years without finding any wrongdoing by Kuo. The SID will not close the investigation and Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) and Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) will not deal with it. This has caused suspicion that it is being handled on a political basis.

Kuo is not a public official, but he is under investigation for malfeasance. He was also barred from leaving the country for 10 months without legal grounds.His human rights have been seriously violated.
In addition to the Kuo case, there is another case that is apparently similar to the sad history of the Hsichih trio. A friend who comes to Taiwan to cycle alerted me, saying:
I'm writing about a sad case brought to my attention in December and recently again. Perhaps you know it already. Chiou Ho-shun from Hsinchu has been on death row since 1989. His confession of murder was extracted under torture, documented by police records. He has since claimed his innocence.

In 1994, two public prosecutors and 10 police officers handling the case were convicted of extracting confessions through torture. After this, the defendants’ confessions were not excluded as court evidence. Instead, only those sections of the tapes with clear evidence of torture were excluded. No material evidence linking Chiou Ho-shun or his co-defendants to the crimes has ever been produced.

More information below:
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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Ma's Surprising Envoy to the US makes surprising remarks

I'm off on a bike vacation, but I've got my computer with me so I can combine both my addictions. No sooner do I leave than the new Big Man in Washington, King Pu-tsun, Ma's hatchet man, longtime personal friend, and personal appointment as the ROC/Taiwan emissary to the US, makes some surprising statements in a surprising interview with AFP:
We have our own pragmatic approach to survive," said the envoy who cannot call himself ambassador, as the United States broke formal ties with Taiwan in 1979 when it recognised China.

"We need strong support from the United States, but we also have to deal cautiously with mainland China because now they are the number one partner of Taiwan," he added.

"It is a very strategic ambiguity that we have. It is the best shield we have."
King's weird flow of verbiage is a good example of the way Taiwanese grab catch phrases from the vast pool of media commentary and redeploy them (a common one is 'win-win'). "Strategic ambiguity" has long been the phrase to describe the US' position on Taiwan. It reads as if King is signaling a new turn in which Taiwan (further) distances itself from the US. But King denied this and said that he was not translated properly -- a common tactic when Deep Blue politicians become too open about their goals and feelings. King's reverse of this went (Taipei Times)...
King said the “strategic ambiguity” to which AFP referred during the interview did not refer to the trilateral relationship among Taiwan, China and the US, but rather to only the relationship between Taiwan and China.

In a Washington-datelined report earlier in the day titled “Surprise Envoy Protects Taiwan’s ‘Shield’ of Ambiguity,” AFP said that during the interview, King highlighted the importance of the “strategic ambiguity” that Taiwan maintains with China on one side and its protector, the US, on the other.

In a statement, King said his “strategic ambiguity” refers to cross-strait relations, which are handled based on the so-called “1992 consensus” between Taiwan and China, according to which there is only one China, with each side free to interpret what the phrase means.
As the Taipei Times makes clear, he originally was referring to the US-China-Taiwan relationship. Of course, we all know which side Ma is allied with, so King's further distancing fits Ma's policy quite well. Note in the article King follows that with a comment on how Chen Shui-bian damaged US-Taiwan relations, which he is there to repair!

Looks like King was sending out a major trial balloon, which sank like a stone, but he is not. Rather, he's setting out the survey stakes to show where the road is going to go. Also note that he twice gets in the word pragmatic, a staple of the "I'm pragmatic, you're ideological" KMT propaganda campaign against the DPP and of course, another favorite catchword. There was nothing pragmatic about King's remarks. For more on King, see this 2009 post.

MEDIA: AFP positioned King's remarks as part of what appears to be a highly slanted presentation that represents an all-out attack on US support of Taiwan...such a slant appears to be par for the course for AFP. The article first claims that US arms sales hurt relations with China, a staple of Beijing propaganda:
That ambiguity does not help counter US observers who say Taiwan has become a "strategic liability" because of the harm that US arms sales to Taiwan -- about US$180 billion since 2008 -- does to relations with China.
...and then referring to Richard Bush's recent paper:
According to Richard Bush, a former head of the US mission in Taiwan and now director of the Brookings Institution's Centre for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, some US "observers believe that Taiwan has become a strategic liability" so the United States should stop arming Taiwan.

The doubters include Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter, and Bill Owens, a retired admiral who was a vice chairman of the US chiefs of staff.

"They echo Chinese diplomats who argue that our arms sales are the major obstacle to good US-China relations," Bush said in a policy paper for Brookings released last month.
Note that no names of individuals wishing to sustain strong US support of Taiwan are mentioned. Instead we get Bill Owens, the American spokesman for that disgusting Remains of the Day-style sellout called the Sanya Initiative (here), and Brzezinski -- I'll leave it to you to find his Beijing connection, but see this old post. AFP does the usual international media move of leaving out the context and instead presenting the two names as if they are neutral and informed commentators. Ah, media ethics, now just a quaint marker of an earlier, lost time, like those gigantic sideburns in civil war officer photos.
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Monday, February 04, 2013

Dachen Island Evacuation Video

A friend passed me this link. From Wiki:
Until 1955, the Dachen (Tachen) Islands were part of the Republic of China (ROC), the government of which has been based in Taiwan since the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War. As the People's Liberation Army advanced through Fujian Province in the late 1940s, the U.S.-supported Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang, retreated to China's offshore Islands. On January 20, 1955, the PLA conquest of Yijiangshan led to the First Taiwan Strait Crisis. The Formosa Resolution of 1955 passed in Congress nine days later in the United States, leading to the orderly evacuation of the Dachen Islands by the United States Navy in February. At the time, they served as the capital of the Chekiang Province. The U.S. Seventh Fleet used 132 boats and 400 aircraft to move 14,500 civilians, 10,000 Republic of China servicemen and 4,000 guerrilla fighters, along with 40,000 tons of military equipment and supplies from the island. Three days after the evacuation, the islands were taken by the People's Liberation Army. Chiang Kai-shek grudgingly allowed the island to fall to the Communists so that the other offshore island groups, Kinmen and Matsu, could be successfully defended.
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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Pension Contention

The island of contention is in tension over public pensions with protests, criticisms, public discussions, and the like. Lots of stuff for the media to print. This week the military even slyly alluded to a legislator's affair in order to shut him up after he criticized retired military for double-dipping even though they have relatively good pensions. Yes, you know when spokesmen for the ROC's stuffy military are making veiled references to sex in KTVs, there's something serious going down.

This week President Ma released his plans to "reform" the pension system to prevent bankruptcy. The government claims that the system will go bankrupt sometime after 2019 if nothing is done about it. The president proposed:
  1. When the years of service and the age of an individual add up to 90, they can retire from the civil service. For example, if you are 60 and have 30 years of service, you can retire. The current system demands only 85. 
  2. Police and firefighters excluded from the new system, while everyone else gets a 10 year grace period.
  3. Retirement income limited to 80% of their final income. 
  4. Lowering the 18% preferential interest rate enjoyed by certain individuals to 9% in a few years. Another article stated:
    Under the plans, the 18 percent preferential savings rate would be cut to 12 percent in 2016, with a decrease of 1 percentage point every year afterward until 2020, when the rate is to be replaced with a floating interest rate.

    The floating interest rate is to be calculated by adding 7 percent to two-year certificate of deposit (CD) rates at the Bank of Taiwan, with a ceiling of 9 percent.
  5. A three-tier pension plan for civil servants.
The DPP criticized the plan as "chaotic" and laughed at Ma for piously giving up his 18%. In fact, if you peer closely, the KMT Administration reforms addressed KMT core constituencies. The Labor Insurance system is also being changed, after boneheaded investments cost it millions (here). The DPP has its own plan, raising the retirement age for civil service workers all the way to 65 by.... 2027. The DPP also wants to see the government pensions come into line with private ones. An article a couple of years ago in the Taipei Times observed:
Under Taiwan’s system, military personnel, public servants and teachers only have to work for 25 years and reach the age of 50 before they can retire. Because 25 plus 50 equals 75, some call it the “75 system.” These retirees draw a monthly pension equal to 100 percent of their salary, and they receive it for the rest of their lives. This may well be the most generous retirement pension scheme in the history of the world — even the Greeks must be envious. Taiwan’s military personnel, civil servants and teachers pay just 7 percent of their salaries for labor insurance payments, about the same as Greeks pay, and much less than the 10 percent paid by Germans.
Since government workers in the martial law era were more or less required to be KMT members and for many years after were heavily KMT members, the large civil service pensions represent a transfer of wealth from the productive private sector, predominantly Taiwanese, to the KMT and its mainlander dependents. Taiwan remains, in many ways, a colony.

Speaking of colonization, the 18% interest rate has long been a bone of contention. I posted on it a couple of years ago:
The problem is that the 18% interest is paid jointly, half from the central bank and half from the counties. The counties must raise the money on their own. These funds thus represent an additional tax on the local areas, which must be paid out of funds that could have gone for roads, schools, or parks. It goes without saying that most of the county governments in Taiwan are flat broke. It is thus not a coincidence that the indebted areas, Tainan, Pingtung, and Yunlin, are all hotbeds of Taiwan nationalism.
Say General Chen retires from the military and moves to Pingtung. Half of the 18% interest on his retirement funds come from the central bank. The other half Pingtung country has to raise on its own -- by borrowing, inevitably from the central bank. This means that the taxpayers of Pingtung county pay out the nose to General Chen and also to the bank in the form of interest on the debt, reducing county living standards. Thus lowering this rate is a highly popular move.

In addition to their origin in the KMT's wealth extraction schemes, Taiwan's pension problems also have another origin: democratization, as this paper discusses. The DPP and its tangwai predecessors had pushed for a welfare system and a national health insurance system even during the martial law era. In the early 1990s the DPP captured local government positions in part by offering voters subsidies for the aged. However, these were not tied to increased taxes. Inevitably, the money vaults ran dry in a couple of years. These DPP-run local governments then requested bailouts from the central government, run by the KMT, which naturally refused. Since then subsidy offerings have gradually become staples of local political campaigns. By mid-1990s the KMT had awakened to the fact that pensions and subsidies were a good way to buy votes with taxpayer money and to retain their seats. In 1993 the KMT proposed a comprehensive pension scheme for the elderly, and in 1995 the two parties cooperated on an agricultural pension system, which was wisely funded --hard to believe that you can use the word "wise" to describe our legislature -- by a general taxation. Things took off from there....

In all the discussion about pensions, it is wise not to lose sight of some salient facts. This government has done little to address the fundamental and growing income inequality in Taiwan. Part of the reason so many government schemes are underfunded is that Taiwan's wealthy pay relatively low taxes. Thus, the discussion about pension "reform" and "shared sacrifice" simply means that the sacrifice will be meted out among hoi polloi, to be shared among them and not the wealthy. Yet another fundamental fact: Taiwan's hidebound attitudes toward immigration, naturalization, and citizenship mean that there is not a constant infusion of new blood to help propel the economy forward and to support our rapidly aging population. Finally, the island's economic situation has to be addressed in ways that make it more attractive for locals to raise families; no one can have children when housing is skyrocketing in price and incomes are stagnant. Taiwan needs to make broader, deeper changes.
Daily Links:
  • Top Five Taiwan Movies
  • Drew's staggering, awesome ride up the Wu-Ba Highway.
  • US, Taiwan agree to resume TIFA talks on a trade agreement. Now counting down 5...4...3... until some new issue regrettably emerges to [SHOCKER] stop the trade talks. Ractopork? Big Pharma? So many to choose from.....
  • AIT head Raymond Burghardt comes to Taipei to discuss "security issues." I bet someone got an earful about the Senkakus. Burghardt said that the US was committed to beefing up Taiwan's security.
  • Economic growth up Y-O-Y in the final quarter of 2012
  • Taiwan nearing FTA with Singapore.
  • South China Morning Post: Jiang appointment as Premier may revive Ma's low popularity. The government denies this is the case and its sticking to its story that it was Chen's health. However, the major media are all reporting it as a move to shore up Ma's popularity. The SCMP article has Jiang wrongly described. He was not "the island's research director" but director of the RDEC, the Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission. Its purpose is implementation and evaluation of policy and its head is equivalent to a cabinet minister; it is the most influential agency you never heard of. In the ROC system the central, provincial, and municipal governments all have their own RDECs. Head of the central government RDEC, a position that gives wide familiarity with government policy, was a position also held by Ma Ying-jeou before he held a cabinet position. Will Jiang follow the same path to power?
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.