Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hegemonic Warfare Watch: Does Sanity Suddenly Prevail in Taipei

The Asahi Shinbun reports that Taipei will not insist on sovereignty over the Senkakus in fishery talks.......
In a marked policy shift, Taiwan plans to skip its claims to the Senkaku Islands in negotiating a fisheries agreement with Japan, sources close to the negotiations said.

The change removes a major barrier for fisheries talks, but it remains unclear whether an agreement can be reached. This is because Japan and Taiwan claim fishing rights in overlapping waters between Okinawa Prefecture and Taiwan.

Fishermen are keen for the matter to be resolved quickly because past talks went nowhere due to the conflicting claims.

The momentum for negotiations has grown since Japan put three of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea under state ownership in September.

Taiwan calls the five uninhabited islands Diaoyutai. China also claims the islands. Japan, which administers them, maintains that no territorial dispute exists.

Back in November, the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou was planning to push Japan to acknowledge that a dispute exists over sovereignty of the Senkakus and specify it in the proposed fisheries agreement.

But after the administration re-examined its policy in mid-March at a meeting of Cabinet ministers involved in the issue, it was decided to take a flexible approach.
Ma the Peacemaker was stirring up trouble in East Asia... until, apparently, the US starting sending signals that the Ma Administration was being really really stupid -- not to mention that local fisherman really wanted to get access to those waters. Mutual non-denial in the Senkakus! Seems almost intelligent.... Yet, the Ma Administration continues to do stuff like this:
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has unveiled two new ships that will join the patrol in waters off disputed islands in the East China Sea at the centre of a regional territorial row.

"We will gradually build up our capabilities in the sea to enforce the law, to conduct rescue missions and protect fishermen," Mr Ma said before boarding a new ship to inspect a drill off the Kaohsiung port in the south.

Taiwan will not "concede one step" in upholding its sovereignty claim over the islands, Mr Ma said, while urging all sides involved to seek a peaceful resolution to the dispute.
Meanwhile the beat goes with Beijing as the rhetoric and reality of Chinese expansion continue.
Daily Links:
  • SPECIAL: Commonwealth has a piece on how ECFA is letting China flood Taiwan with agricultural products, killing the local ag industry. No wonder the government is touting Taiwan's ag exports to China -- it runs an ag trade deficit with China, and is not publicizing that. Naturally. More on that tomorrow. 
  • Heavy weather the next few days.
  • China's shadow bankers: wealth management products gone mad. What happens to Taiwan and the rest of East Asia when/if the China economy goes ka-boom?
  • NOT TAIWAN: National Geographic releasing years of its photographic treasures via its Tumblr site.
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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Night Short Shorts

Fourth Nuke: Premier Jiang met with the mayors of Taipei, New Taipei City, and Keelung to discuss their opposition to the Fourth Nuclear Plant. Interestingly, Hau of Taipei has been saying that no referendum is needed, opinion polls are enough. Clearly the idea of a referendum is scary for some politicians. The fact that there is no place to put the waste continues to be a problem. And the quake we had this week... lots of minds are probably thinking about how if we had one under the nuke plant..... yes, it was like a reminder from the gods how stupid it is to build nuke plants on the ring of fire.

Taipei Promotion: Another piece from WSJ promoting Taipei: Eating in Taiwan beyond Din Tai Fung. Just makes me want to rant so brace yourselves -- there are many food bloggers in the city who know the place well, innumerable knowledgeable foreigners who are regularly published in major international media, yet, once again, a major western publication sources its information from someone located in Beijing with obvious and powerful Chinese biases and who doesn't appear to know Taipei very well. She writes in her usual excellent style:
It is, in other words, no longer that special. Don’t get me wrong: Din Tai Fung is my standby in Beijing. It’s where I can count on good service and a decent meal without having to worry about the provenance of the ingredients. But in Taipei, DTF—even the original shop on Xinyi Road, which aficionados claim produces superior dumplings—is not on my hit list.

With just three branches in Taipei, Kao Chi isn’t seeking global domination. And despite the swish décor at the Fuxing South Road restaurant (my preferred choice), it feels resolutely local. No tourists were in sight the night we popped by.

Yes, the xiaolongbao are a must, but Kao Chi dabbles in other Shanghainese snacks as well as specialties from other regions in China. (One of the many joys about eating in Taipei is that menus aren’t limited by geography.) At the Fuxing branch, you can order Northern-style pancakes stuffed with beef with Cantonese claypot chicken and Wuxi braised spareribs.
Argh. I've been eating in Taipei for twenty years and here's a sentence I have never heard: "Let's go to Din Tai Fung, it's special!" I've been there once, it was totally forgettable. Going to Taipei for good food and then debating the relative merits of Din Tai Fung vs Kao Chi is like going to New York City for Italian and then arguing about whether The Olive Garden or The Spaghetti Factory has better pasta. If you look in the comments there my man Feiren, who knows some fantastic places to eat in Taipei and isn't hung up on comparing Taiwan to China, leaves a few suggestions.

Note how the piece relates everything to China in the best "Taiwan is an outpost of China" fashion, even to the point of focusing on two chains run by mainlanders. Like this...
As a coda, make sure to have the lianghuang jianguo bing—a chestnut-paste-filled, sesame-encrusted pancake, a rebuttal to those who think Taiwanese desserts are just mountains of shaved ice with stuff piled on top.
It's only a "rebuttal" if it is "real Chinese", because the standard is the production of "authentic" Chinese dishes (that implicit claim of superior authenticity itself is a pretentious colonial construct, one that has long been used to attack Taiwanese culture as inferior). Sorry, but it's the other way round: a real Taiwan mango ice made by a sturdy old machine in its third decade of productive work is a rebuttal to a pompous lianghuang jianguo bing any day; god knows what goes on in the kitchens of chain restaurants, and anyway shaved ice is a real Taiwan treat. It would be nice after some excellent local restaurant food like Japanese-style eels with Taiwan beer, or a heaping bowl of beef noodle in some serious hole in the wall where the old husband's hands tremble as he carries the bowl of steaming soup across the room to you and if you work hard, you can make his wife cackle at one of your jokes.
Daily Links:
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Thursday, March 28, 2013


A morning market mess in Dongshih.....

Just overwhelmed with work at the moment. Gonna listen to the symphonies of Joly Braga Santos (Two and Four are especially lovely) and finish up my work. Might have a post up in a couple of days.
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lettres de Taiwan Launched

This made the rounds.....


Bonjour à toutes et tous.

Nous avons le plaisir de vous informer du lancement du site Lettres de Taïwan ( qui a pour objectif de présenter Taïwan à travers les livres, toutes disciplines et genres confondus (littérature, voyage, sciences sociales, géopolitique...). Plus de 400 notices bibliographiques sont déjà consultables en ligne.

Vous trouverez davantage d’informations sur cette plateforme :

Très bonne route à eux !

Gwennaël Gaffric (關首奇)
- -
Secrétaire de l’Association Francophone d’Études Taïwanaises
diffusion AT
secretaire AT
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Next Media Deal Falls Through

WSJ has the news:
Hong Kong media magnate Jimmy Lai's Next Media Ltd. (0282.HK) said Tuesday that buyers for its Taiwan print operations have decided to let the agreement lapse ahead of a deadline.

Next Media signed a preliminary deal late last year to sell its Taiwan print assets for 16.0 billion New Taiwan dollars (US$540 million) to a group that includes Tsai Eng-meng, chairman of the Want Want China Times Group; Jeffrey Koo Jr., the eldest son of Chinatrust Financial Group's chairman; William Wong, chairman of Formosa Plastics Group; and David Lee, chairman of funeral-services provider Lung Yen Life Services Corp.

Mark Simon, a commercial director at Next Media said the buyers have told Next Media they won't meet a deadline for the deal set for Tuesday night, but didn't elaborate why. Mr. Simon said the deal to sell the company's Taiwan television operations for NT$1.5 billion is "still alive."
Not much more you can say at the moment, until the news leaks over the next few days to explain why the Tsai group pulled out. At least it isn't being purchased by an odious pro-Beijing group. Perhaps Mr Lai will find it in his wallet, if not his heart, to continue to operate it as an independent, non-partisan, muckraking paper.
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Daily Links, Monday, March 25, 2013

Jump! Jump!



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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Happiness Cave: A thoroughly minor historical site

Riding along in Shihgang east of Fengyuan the other day, I followed a recently created bike path and zoomed past this cave. I'd noticed it before, but always ignored it.

The sign said DO NOT ENTER. Normally I regard that as an invitation but in this case the stink of urine was so powerful I declined to practice fine American art of trespass.

The sign said that the cave had been used to store aircraft parts during the Japanese period. I queried the awesome Wei-bin over at the Taiwan Airpower blog, who opined that the cave and the road serving it were too small for that purpose.

The cave is located under a large temple (Google maps). Perhaps the Japanese stashed things there because they thought the Allies wouldn't bomb the temple, though, as Wei-bin pointed out, the Americans probably couldn't have seen such a tiny cave from the air anyway.

Extra points if you can identify which Japanese airfield it might be related to.
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China Quarterly with Two on Taiwan

Filming a commercial at Taipei Station

From the latest China Quarterly:

Impact of Candidate Selection Systems on Election Results: Evidence from
Taiwan before and after the Change in Electoral Systems
Dafydd Fell
The China Quarterly, Volume 213, March 2013, pp 152 - 171
doi:10.1017/S0305741012001282 Published online by Cambridge University
Press 03 Jan 2013
Link to abstract:

Electronic Resources in the Study of Elite Political Behaviour in Taiwan
Jonathan Sullivan
The China Quarterly, Volume 213, March 2013, pp 172 - 188
doi:10.1017/S0305741013000027 Published online by Cambridge University
Press 11 Feb 2013
Link to abstract:

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Local KMT officials Oppose the 4th Nuclear Plant

Mayor Hau of Taipei came out this week against the Fourth Nuclear Plant... (Taipei Times)
Hau became the first local government head from the pan-blue camp to declare his stance on the nuclear issue by saying on Thursday that he would vote “yes” in a national referendum asking voters if construction and operation of the plant should be suspended.

His announcement prompted President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to call him on Thursday night to discuss his stance on the power plant. Ma met him yesterday in the Presidential Office to continue their discussion on the issue.

Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said Ma and Hau exchanged opinions on the construction of the power plant, alternative sources of energy and the potential impact on the economy if the plant is suspended.

“The president said whether or not the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be suspended is a crucial issue, and the public must be given sufficient information to help them make the final decision,” she said.

Hau yesterday said he opposed the construction of the power plant because of the state-owned Taiwan Power Co’s (Taipower) poor quality control over the plant and its failure to solve the problem of storing nuclear waste.
The Taipei Times article also added, strangely, a comment from Premier Jiang Yi-hua....
At a question-and-answer session at the legislature yesterday, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said that he, the president, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Hau were in frequent contact with each other to exchange views about the power plant.

“We all share the same position,” Jiang said when answering questions from KMT Legislator Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍).
"We all share the same position? Jiang has said that he would die before letting plant construction halt. Hau wants it halted. Meanwhile New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu has registered lukewarm opposition to it, raising the waste issue.

What do Jiang, Hau, and Chu have in common? They are all mentioned in speculation regarding who will be the 2016 KMT presidential candidate. Jiang is an unlikely dark horse, while Hau probably could not get many votes south of Taipei. But it looks like we are watching everyone attempting to position themselves -- and the move of Hau and Chu to look like they are opposing the plant is solid evidence for where the sentiments of the public lie.

The New Taipei City Council, where the plant will be located, has also approved a measure calling for a halt to construction (KMT news organ).
Daily Links:
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Twofer from Commonwealth: rice and nukes

Went to the bike show in Taipei this friday to drop in on friends and ogle the gear. Great time. Expecting full report on the show from Taiwan in Cycles tomorrow!

Commonwealth Magazine has two excellent articles this week, one on political rice buying by China that explains why ECFA has neither benefited the south nor changed hearts and minds, the other on the fourth nuclear power plant. On rice, discussing how China early on adopted a two pronged strategy, one to win the hearts and minds via purchases, the other to strip mine Taiwan's agricultural know-how.....
This January, Wang Zhizhong twice visited Houbi District – the major rice producing area in the Jianan Plain – accompanied by Taiwan's former Minister of Justice, Liao Cheng-hao. Also in Wang's entourage were high-ranking officials from the Cuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province.


During each of his four visits over the past two years, Wang went directly to Taiwan's agricultural areas, meeting with representatives of production and marketing teams, farmers' cooperatives, as well as fruit and vegetable wholesalers. He also visited farming families in Jiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung.

"These were special fact-finding itineraries to get the real picture of Taiwan's agricultural industry," explains ex-minister Liao, who accompanied Wang on all his visits to Taiwan.

Chinese officials not only want to understand the industry, they also want to import knowledge in the form of farming advisors and farming technology. Wang, who commands a vast interpersonal network in China, is planning to develop a plot of land of 4,300 hectares – roughly 165 times the area of Da-an Forest Park in Taipei – in Chuxiong Prefecture's Yuanmou County into a model zone for cooperation in high altitude organic agriculture between Yunnan and Taiwan. The project is explicitly defined as a cross-strait agricultural cooperation zone.
The piece also gives some numbers on the "hearts and minds" campaign...
Council of Agriculture (COA) statistics show that in June last year, after China gave the green light for rice imports, Taiwan exported a total of 773 tons of rice to China, about 25 percent of the island's total rice exports. This made China the largest buyer of Taiwanese rice alongside Hong Kong.

Taiwanese rice is not exactly an export hit. Although officials pride themselves on exports to 27 countries, total exports reached just 1,900 tons in 2011. With China added as a new buyer, rice exports soared to 3,100 tons last year. But this is still a far cry from 140,000-ton rice quota that the Taiwanese government has approved for export per year. Clearly Taiwanese rice could use more overseas buyers.
More.... the amounts....
COA statistics show that Taiwan exported rice worth US$1.32 million (about NT$39.6 million) to China last year. But local rice farmers feel that they do not reap any tangible benefits from exporting to China.
To put that tiny number in perspective, from my post on how the government is trying to encourage the hearts and minds switching to support of closer relations with China, the Council on Agriculture observes:
Of these, items on the ECFA early harvest list such as bananas, hami melons, lemons, oranges and red dragon fruits accounted for US$1.38 million,
Miscellaneous fruits are a bigger seller in China than rice politically purchased! The sum is simply too tiny to have any political effect.

The problems of China's approach are further laid out: the purchase and distribution system ensures that profits don't return to the farmers or even the local rice mills, but rather come to distant middleman, as we have already seen with other aspects of this trade:
This can be attributed to the way in which Taiwanese rice is distributed and marketed. Normally, farmers sell their entire harvest to rice mills, which process and sell it on to distributors. Rice destined for export to China is usually sold to the rice mills at the same price as rice for domestic sale; the farmers themselves do not earn a single penny more.

At the same time, the rice mills sell to Chinese distributors at the same price as domestic rice dealers. Therefore, the rice mills also do not earn more from selling to China.
How the system really works, and a hint of one of its real purposes, is laid out in these paragraphs....
"Chinese officials mostly come here to buy rice to build connections with Taiwanese county and city governments or local communities," observes Wu Yuan-chang, head of the Taiwan Province Rice and Cereals Association. He believes that Chinese rice importers only want to make their higher-ups happy and that after reaching China the Taiwanese rice will not find its way onto supermarket shelves due to a lack of distributors.


This past January, Liu Gui-miao, a former Tainan County councilor for the ruling Kuomintang and now marketing manager of the farmers' cooperative selling Chamuying Rice, sold 1,632 2-kg. bags of rice to the Foshan City government, a deal facilitated by the Tainan City Straits Economics and Trade Cultural Development. Upon import into China, the bags of rice were used as official gift packs or hand-outs to low-income families.

"They repackaged the rice into 289 gift packs and gave them to government officials. The rest was used as food aid for distribution to low-income households," association secretary general Lu Ai-hua, who formerly served as the chairman of the now abolished Yongkang City Council. In March, Lu will visit China again, hoping to land bigger orders in Luohu, the gateway between China and Hong Kong on the China side.
While much of the hype focuses on alleged benefits Taiwan receives from more closely aligning itself with China, one more important aspect of the drive, never discussed in the international media, is the way closer China links are parlayed into greater support for the KMT at the local level. Stronger links to China means, essentially, more links between Chinese money and KMT officials at the local level. People often assume the south is Green but it is more like a checkerboard -- the local level officialdom is often KMT, and more importantly, the local institutions of agriculture -- mill ownership, ag and irrigation cooperative officials, marketing firms, and so on, are more likely to be KMT. China's cooperation with such individuals helps increase the strength of their local patronage networks and improve their political prospects. Just as the Taiwanese moving their small factories to China was a way to preserve the system of family ownership and competition on price and avoid upgrading to modern management methods, so the KMT's move toward China is a way to avoid political change and preserve KMT power. China is the Vishnu of the Taiwanese sociopolitical world, ruling by preserving.

The Commonwealth piece also points out that the political rice is not distributed in China where it would cause trouble for China's powerful grain interests. Such Taiwanese rice as is sold on actual store shelves in China gets there via private marketing arrangements, and is largely a niche market, as the last page of the piece discusses. The political rice has neither stability nor order volume, two keys to maintaining and expanding markets. As Commonwealth observes...
Two years ago China began purchasing milkfish from Taiwan under contract, a move also intended to win the support of local fishermen. But in the end prices and order volume proved difficult to maintain.
The rice campaign was focused on Tainan; so was the milkfish campaign. The actual amount ordered for last year was US$4.45 million (source). Here's a piece from Dec 2012 full of promise, but I can't find anything on subsequent milkfish orders. Surely FocusTaiwan would be bragging...

The nuke piece is also quite good. It's full of interesting claims:
Dealing with nuclear waste has even become a hot-button diplomatic issue. A report published in the American journal New Scientist noted that there are 437 nuclear power reactors in 31 countries around the world, but not one repository for high-level radioactive waste.
Spend some time with it.
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Friday, March 22, 2013

What Diplomatic Truce?

Students sell popsicles to raise money for clubs.

China continues to try to squeeze Taiwan's international space:
A Taiwanese delegation was forced to withdraw from the third Jakarta International Defense Dialogue (JIDD) without being given an explanation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Calvin Ho (何震寰) said yesterday.

Ho said that the ministry has already instructed the Taipei Economic and Trade Office in Jakarta to demand an explanation from the Indonesian government, which was hosting the conference, soon after the four-member delegation was informed that it could not attend the summit.

The ministry made the comments following a report yesterday in the British newspapaer the Financial Times, which said that China was behind the abrupt cancellation of Taiwan’s invitation to attend the summit that began yesterday and revolved around the theme: “Defense and Diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific Region.”
Ma's "diplomatic truce" has done nothing for this aspect of Taiwan's diplomacy. The event was not without a certain irony....
Representative to Indonesia Andrew Hsia (夏立言) said Taipei was “not pleased” with the incident.

“This [conference] is about security in the region [and] certainly we are one of the major players in the region,” Hsia was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
A friend pointed out in an internet discussion that Andrew Hsia, Taiwan's current rep to Indonesia, was Ma's point man for explaining the "flexible diplomacy" that underpinned the "diplomatic truce". Hsia was one of the casualties of the Ma government's incompetent and malicious approach to handling the Morakot disaster.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Blast from the Past: Videos from '40s and '50s

Whenever I take my dog for a walk in the fields in the morning, I bring my macro lens.

This is less than a minute of elementary education in Taiwan from 1947.

This two and half minute video looks like someone's travel video of Taiwan from the 1950s, lots of old sights here.

Check the sidebar of Youtube, there's even more stuff there.
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Government still selling ECFA as Ag boon

Future exports under ECFA?

The government is still pushing the ECFA = Agricultural Export Increases! line, still trying to sell ECFA as a big boost to Taiwanese agriculture (a 2011 review of that drive) and change some minds in southern Taiwan. Though, I also wonder if they are trying to lay the groundwork for opening up to agricultural exports from China, which would likely be devastating: "See how competitive we are? It's safe to flood the island with melamine melons and stuff from China!"

The latest round in this effort was out on the intertubes via Taiwan Today.... noting that 2012 ag exports rose to US $5.08 billion (8.8% YOY rise), the piece attributed that to ECFA. But wait... what's our top market? Well, it says Japan, but actually Taiwan splits Hong Kong from China... meaning that 25% of our exports go to China.
“Agricultural products posted the highest growth at 14 percent, while Japan was the country’s top export market at 21.1 percent followed by mainland China, 15.5 percent, Hong Kong, 10.1 percent, and the U.S., 9.3 percent,” a Council of Agriculture official said March 18 in a statement.

Fresh fruit exports reached US$62.02 million, down 0.6 percent year on year but up 51.7 percent from 2007. The official attributed the drop to reduced output and price increases following typhoons.

“But cross-strait direct flights saw fresh fruit shipments to mainland China jump 42 percent to US$15.39 million. Of these, items on the ECFA early harvest list such as bananas, hami melons, lemons, oranges and red dragon fruits accounted for US$1.38 million, surging 71.4 percent compared to 2007.”
Think about the numbers the COA gives there. Total exports: $5.08 billion. Fresh fruit shipments to China jumped to.... $15.39 million. Like 0.3% of total exports? It's less than a rounding error. But here the COA is, still pushing the ECFA = Big Ag Boost! claim using increases in fruit sales....
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Nuclear Plant Referendum and Power Stuff

Taking pictures in front of the Hakka Museum in Dongshih.

The Executive Yuan came out in favor of absentee ballots for the referendum, provided the system is only done domestically.
“The Executive Yuan recommends the adoption of transfer voting in Taiwan. For example, people who live in Pingtung County could vote in Taipei by-elections,” Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chen Wei-zen (陳威仁) told the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee.
The interesting thing will be how they prevent people from voting more than once..... the absentee ballot issue was a sensitive issue since so many Taiwanese live in China, where it seems like that the government will take steps to influence the vote directly. Other rumors came out of the Executive Yuan too, carried on the KMT news organ....
The controversy over a plebiscite on the fate of Nuclear Power Plant No. 4 (NPP4) continues to heat up. Rumor has it that high-level officials within the Blue camp were inclined to directly announce a halt to the construction of the NPP4 instead of first holding a plebiscite on the issue so as to avoid having a plebiscite result that would affect future elections.

An informed KMT legislator recounted that Chen Wei-jen (陳威仁), Secretary-General of the Executive Yuan (Cabinet), stated bluntly during yesterday’s meeting with KMT legislative caucus cadres that the Cabinet hoped that the report on nuclear safety would be presented by the end of June or no later than August, adding that a plebiscite on NPP4 must be held by the end of this year with no delay.
There's been some discussion that the referendum on nukes would lead to a referendum on sovereignty-related issues, but the referendum law is written to prevent that, as my man Ben reminds me.

This rumor also appeared in another form in the China Post as well, where the Premier said based on the 2000 decision by the Judicial Yuan, it would not be constitutional for the EY to stop the plant because only the legislature can do that.....
According to local reports, Chiang's speech at a recent Yuan Sitting noting that any possible decisions on ceasing the construction of Nuke 4 would require further discussion by Executive Yuan members has triggered questions about whether the Executive Yuan looks set to make an announcement to stop constructing Nuke 4.

“The Executive Yuan can not directly announce a cessation of Nuke 4's construction as it will completely mix up the boundary between execution and legislation,” said Chiang.

Chiang emphasized that the Cabinet will not consider violating law to stop the construction of Nuke 4.

According to Chiang, when the then-ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ceased construction of Nuke 4 in 2000, the Judicial Yuan Interpretation stated that it is unconstitutional and the construction was resumed after four moths.

At the time, the Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 520 (大法官釋字第520號) stated that the Executive Yuan cannot stop construction of Nuke 4 without first getting approval from the Legislative Yuan.

To do otherwise would violate the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers.
You see how this is set up. The government has assured the public that safety will be first (example). Imagine if the government actually finds that the plant is unsafe in the final phases of construction (yes, I know, pigs will swoop past my window before that happens). It still can't shut the plant down. The ruling of the Judicial Yuan makes the government's findings moot, because only the legislature can halt construction. And the legislature is controlled by the KMT.....

Activists from the outlying islands demanded to meet with the premier to discuss the nuclear waste disposal problem (Taipei Times). Taiwan still has no plan for long-term nuclear waste storage, despite planning to begin operating another nuclear plant soon. Apparently the government expects magic ponies to drag the stuff away, or perhaps consume it. The activists complained:
Tao Foundation (蘭嶼部落文化基金會) secretary-general Sinan Mavivo said that Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) should not make excuses such as being unable to pick a final disposal site for low-level radioactive waste to delay making good its promise to remove nuclear waste from Orchid Island.
Recall that the government told the islanders they were getting a fish cannery and then sprayed money around......

The Taipei Times ran a piece from Taipower's CFO today, with some numbers. I love numbers....
Then there is the issue of the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Taipower was established in accordance with the Company Act (公司法), and it holds full responsibility for its profits and losses. That means that Taipower must raise money for the construction project by itself, by issuing corporate bonds, commercial paper and even loans. To this day, the government and taxpayers have not contributed financially.

By the end of last year, the book value of the power plant’s fixed assets had reached NT$263.9 billion. If a referendum to halt construction is passed and the project is terminated, commercial operation would of course become impossible. If that were to happen, Taipower would have no choice but to list it as a loss according to International Financial Reporting Standards.

Along with the accumulated book losses, the total loss would reach NT$460 billion, a figure that is much higher than the company’s paid-in capital of NT$330 billion. As a result, the company would have no choice but to file for bankruptcy in accordance with the Company Act.
Years ago the government had plans to privatize Taipower, but one of the casualties of the stupid decision to build the fourth nuclear plant rather than invest in renewables and conservation was that plan. But further down he observes that if the fourth nuclear plant is not built, the lives of the other three nuke plants will have to be extended past their original forty years. Apparently Taipower cannot imagine an alternate universe where we shutter our nukes and coal plants and put in lots of solar and wind power.

Speaking of power, people wonder why so many of us don't think Taipower can be trusted with the new nuclear plant..... the TSU accused Taipower officials of colluding with independent power producers in order to obtain illegal insider benefits, when the independent power producers (IPPs) refused to raise rates....(Taipei Times):
Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) was behind the refusal of nine independent power producers (IPPs) to renegotiate electricity prices with the state-run company, Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) lawmakers said yesterday.

Four of the nine IPPs — which were slapped with a NT$6.32 billion (US$212.5 million) fine on Wednesday for conspiring to refuse Taipower’s request to renegotiate electricity prices — are subsidiaries of Taiwan Cogeneration Corp (Taiwan Cogen), Taipower’s reinvestment company, TSU caucus whip Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) told a press conference.

Among the 36 board members of the four IPPs, 21 were appointed by the government, including 13 from Taiwan Cogen and four each from the Taiwan Sugar Co (Taisugar) and CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC), which means that Taipower knew that the companies would refuse, Lin said.
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Monday, March 18, 2013

Craig has a Photography offer for you!

I wanted to get this up last week but forgot in the crush of things. Craig Ferguson, a travel photographer who lives in Taiwan, sent me this message:
Last week I published a 2 hour series of photography tutorials called "Photography Projects For A Rainy Weekend". I've created 100 discount codes for 20% off that you can share with your readers. The code for them is friendsofmt and the direct link is
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Daily Links, Monday, March 18, 2013

A homemade cheese place on Dongshan Rd outside of Taichung. They sell cheesecakes and chunks of homemade cheese for $3-4 a gram.

Wow! Long time since I've had time to collect some links for the weekly linkfest. Enjoy!

SPECIAL: At the China Policy Blog, Paul Katz shows what a complete failure the Ma Administration is. Great work. Don't miss it.


HUMOR: The Death Star was an inside job
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Reed U Collection

Canoeing at Takow, Formosa." Illustrated London News Vol 96, No. 2651 (8 February 1890):181. Engraving from sketch by Mr. Edmund Grimani, who lived in Takow for several months. This is from the fantastic collection at Reed U. Once again, just want to alert readers to this wonderful resource.
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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stanton's Speech at World Taiwanese Congress, Complete

Dusk over Taichung.

The Taipei Times ran an article today on former AIT head William Stanton's speech at the World Taiwanese Congress in Taipei: Taiwan increasingly leaning towards China.
Taiwan is actually increasingly leaning toward China, he said, and the “status quo,” as perceived by Taiwanese, was “problematic” and “an illusion,” given that China is growing ever stronger and Taiwan is increasingly dependent on China economically.

Taiwanese cannot unilaterally decide the development of cross-strait ties, Stanton said at the annual meeting of the World Taiwanese Congress in Taipei, adding that how much patience China shows toward maintaining the “status quo” remains a question if bilateral relations do not proceed the way China sees fit.
Stanton was kind enough to permit several of us to post it on the web. Below the READ MORE link is the speech in its entirety. Great job, sir.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Taiwan's Income Inequality Disappearing in the Media

Gravel trucks ceaselessly feeding the maw of the construction-industrial state.

A couple of related pieces out tonight. First Jennifer Chen in WSJ offers a paean to the greatness of Taipei, which actually has a connection to a truly silly article from Bloomberg that sent waves of amused contempt rolling through the intertubes. The WSJ piece on Taipei says:
Since the late 1990s, the municipal government has focused on improving the quality of life in this city of 2.6 million. “Taipei is a city known for its friendliness and rapid development of technology,” Mayor Hau Lung-pin said in 2010 during the launch of a beautification campaign. “We want to turn it into a beautiful city.”

“Everyone knows that Taipei is a city with a good lifestyle, but that’s not enough,” Lin Chong-jie, the director of Taipei’s Urban Redevelopment Office, said. “We want to make Taipei’s place in Asia clearer, and one of the ways of doing so is becoming a creative city.”
What a coincidence! The article conveniently begins with the KMT administration of the city, which resumed in the late 1990s after Chen Shui-bian's single term as mayor. I'm sure there is no politics there.

And another, deeper coincidence. In the piece are featured a couple of cafes and design locations, and note how the piece has a focus on creativity and design. Can you guess? The city of Taipei is currently submitting a bid to the World Design Capital competition for 2016 (here). The bid application of course emphasizes the design and creativity infrastructure and organizations of the city. I'd bet money that the cafes and other places mentioned by name in the article will be in the city's bid. Nice to get a little free advertising in a global news organ about your city's awesome design and creativity facilities and atmosphere.

One comment in the piece really struck me:
Welcome to the new Taipei. Other Asian cities might compete on building the flashiest skyscrapers or glitziest shopping center. But the Taiwanese capital, once a typical ’80s Asian Tiger boomtown, is forging a different path.
Most of the piece is excellent and on point (and a pleasure to read, obviously well-written and edited), but this remark shows a lack of understanding. Taipei in the go-go days was a boomtown, but it was never a typical Asian boomtown. The high rises and slums of other Asian boomtowns passed Taipei by, because in the 1970s and 1980s income inequality in Taiwan was shockingly low. In Governing the Market at the end of the 1980s Robert Wade observed that Taipei was crowded with low buildings and mostly free of skyscrapers, so that anyone looking at Seoul with its steel-and-glass symphonies might suppose that South Koreans were rich and Taipei'ns poor. But the opposite was true at that time: Taiwanese had a lot more money. In reality, skyscrapers are not a symbol of wealth, but of rampant wealth inequality. Just look at how much more unequal income is in Hong Kong, and how much taller its buildings are....

Now in fact Taipei is becoming a boomtown, with new apartment buildings going up and older, historic, and traditional structures being eradicated. Taipei's high-rise boom is a symptom of growing wealth inequality. This boom is driven by the ongoing property bubble which in turn is fueled by Taiwan's growing wealth inequality. Always unmentioned in pieces like this is another aspect of income inequality: regional inequalities. Taipei lives well because the rest of Taiwan has been starved for development funding to feed Taipei.

Taipei's reflection of the growing wealth divide in Taiwan linked the WSJ piece in my mind to the Bloomberg piece, which is titled: Taiwan Shrinks Wealth Gap as Xi’s China Communists Struggle. Bloomberg usually turns out center-right Establishment political analysis which is fairly reliable within its agenda, and occasionally a really good piece, but seldom do they publish outright comedy gold like this comparison of Taiwan and China. It's like a primer in how to craft an obvious political attack that looks like a news report, while failing to meaningfully comment on the host of problems stemming from Taiwan's failure to tax its wealth properly, as well as totally misunderstanding Taiwan. It's not often the media serves up its propaganda so artlessly. Why O why can't we have a better press corps?

The title is absurd on its face; income inequality in Taiwan has been on the increase for three decades. But Bloomberg says:
As Chinese President Xi Jinping completes his nation’s leadership succession this week, Taiwan may offer a model for his campaign to bridge a wealth gap that threatens to undermine Communist Party legitimacy. Taiwan’s Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, was 0.342 in 2011 compared with China’s 0.477 and the 0.4 level used as a predictor for social unrest.
...and further down....
In Taiwan, the Gini coefficient hit 0.350 in 2001 and has since hovered around its current level of 0.342. Its income gap is now lower than Hong Kong’s, which reached 0.537 in 2011, and Singapore’s figure of 0.482 that same year. In January, the head of China’s statistics bureau said the Chinese income gap narrowed for the fourth straight year in 2012, to 0.474 from 0.491 in 2008.
Anyone can download the Excel file from Taiwan's stats agency and look. The gini has risen steadily since the early 1980s after falling steadily during the 60s and 70s, reaching its lowest point in 1980. The .350 in 2001 was an outlier, probably due to the recession at the time. I discussed this before here. Here is the data....

1981 0.281
1982 0.283
1983 0.287
1984 0.287
1985 0.291
1986 0.296
1987 0.299
1988 0.303
1989 0.303
1990 0.312
1991 0.308
1992 0.312
1993 0.315
1994 0.318
1995 0.317
1996 0.317
1997 0.320
1998 0.324
1999 0.325
2000 0.326
2001 0.350
2002 0.345
2003 0.343
2004 0.338
2005 0.340
2006 0.339
2007 0.340
2008 0.341
2009 0.345
2010 0.342
2011 0.342

If you mentally remove the .350, you can see how the gini climbs from around .32 in the 1990s to around 3.4 a decade later, .02 a decade -- just as it did from the 1980s to the 1990s. Bloomberg has selected the most useful year for its discussion of Taiwan's income inequality. 2001 is the only year it could have selected that would show income inequality to be meaningfully lower now than a decade ago. It's all coincidence, I'm sure.

Never mind that the numbers for China are even more contestable; several knowledgeable friends pointed out that recent work shows the gini in China to be above .60, though I do not know what studies they refer to. Or that China's gini was probably excellent, since everyone was poor, until the boom days began in the 1990s.

Bloomberg then goes on to praise Taiwan's health insurance system, which truly is one of the world's best and deserving of praise. It then contrasts that with China's, to make its crude political point. At which point everyone started laughing at the irony, because we all know what the business interests in the US that Bloomberg writes for think of national health insurance. Ditto for the commentary on the social safety net, which elites in the US are busily attempting to gut. And ditto for the massive US income inequality (Bloomberg's editors on that).

The article does mention Taiwan's income tax situation, but without any reference to the problem of the rich being woefully undertaxed, something which drives other things they mention, underfunded pensions, the underfunded health insurance system, and housing prices. *Sigh*

Finally I had to love the way that the article mentioned that two pro-independence leaders were prosecuted for corruption....
In Taiwan, former President Chen Shui-bian is serving a 20- year jail term for bribery. Another former leader, Lee Teng-hui, faced embezzlement charges in 2011. Taiwan also introduced a luxury tax in 2011 that imposed a 10 percent sales levy on goods such as yachts and furs. mention that the current KMT President was also prosecuted for corruption and that no one disputed government funds from public accounts found their way into his private accounts. But can't have everything, I suppose.

One outstanding kudo to them -- Bloomberg mentions the political affiliation of one of the groups they cite. Great work; not every news agency bothers to do that. But on the whole, I hope we don't see any more transparently political editorializing like this.

ADDED: An anonymous commenter further noted on the WSJ piece:
In the WSJ piece, note that Monocle magazine gets a mention.

Monocle's editor in chief is Tyler Brûlé, who also runs Winkreative, the PR agency that runs the American and European campaigns of Taiwan's tourism bureau. (Quite pleasant to see on the side of a London double-decker, I must admit.) The article looks like a real win for both of Brûlé's businesses.
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Things found surfing....

Stumbled across this. Jet Magazine, June, 1961.
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Links -n- stuff

In a pond near my house.

Taiwan Thinktank, a pan-Green operation, came out with a poll on the referendum on the fourth nuclear plant.
More than 60 percent of respondents said they would vote in a proposed national referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) and almost 70 percent of those polled supported the suspension of construction and operations at the controversial power plant, a survey released yesterday showed.
8-10% higher than the other polls. Reading this.....
People’s concerns about nuclear safety were so strong that 71.6 percent said they would still oppose completing the construction of the plant even if electricity prices would have to increase by 10 percent as the government has claimed.
...I got to wondering how the referendum relates to the Ma government's electricity price increase fiasco of last year. If the public scotches the nuclear plant, it follows that the government will attempt to increase prices and blame the referendum. Meanwhile the Premier, with a straight face, called for nuclear phase out by 2055. LOL.

The China Post rapped the government on the knuckles for its nuclear waste policy, as big a public concern as the fourth nuclear plant:
North Korea's reported impending lawsuit against Taiwan over an allegedly unfulfilled nuclear waste disposal contract is a blindside amid the feverishly boiling public debate over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant referendum. All of a sudden, one of the world's most infamous and secluded states has thrown itself into the debate, and this raises a tangle of painful questions about Taiwan's nuclear policy.


No matter to which side the legal advantage eventually goes, Taiwan must review why and how it has found itself mired in these nuclear power controversies. In addition to Nuke 4, there is the problem of poor domestic storage as exemplified by complaints about decaying storage containers at Orchid Island (Lanyu), off the coast of Southern Taiwan. The poor state of management and lack of preplanning seems to haunt the country's tussle with nuclear power.
Well put.....

Here's the formal scholarly piece for that PPT I linked to the other day showing that the east coast has probably been hit by tsunamis in the past, with the finding of probable tsunami-deposited boulders. This group also took soil samples that appeared to show tsunami deposits, but they could well be typhoons.
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

More referendum observations

A longtime observer of local politics pointed out to me another bit of anti-democratic fallout from the Double 50 threshold: ballot secrecy. There won't be any. Consider...

1. It is likely that the KMT will instruct its people to stay home.

2. It is also likely that the referendum will not combined with next year's elections.

3. Thus, the only thing voted on will be the Fourth Nuke Plant referendum.

If KMT types are ordered to stay home, this means that the only people going will be, in the very least, people who are voting to stop construction and operation of the plant, and who are more than likely pan-Green voters. In other words, anyone who goes to the polls that day outs themselves as a probable DPP supporter. That will be a consideration in people's minds, and it will inhibit participation in some cases.

Latest TISR poll: 58% want Fourth Nuclear Plant suspended, 52% support keeping the other three plants in operation. The public is wary of Nuke 4 but separates that issue from the issue of nuclear power as a whole, says TISR.

The Atomic Energy agency and the KMT rejected a DPP proposal to amend the law to provide for a local referendum when a nuclear power plant has its fuel rods loaded, TT said. Although it is local lives and health affected by the plant, the government refuses to give them any say in whether they want such a plant in their neighborhood. The article also observed that the plan to remove the nuke waste from Orchid Island by 2016 is "hardly possible" and thus the project has been pushed back to 2021 at the moment. Argh.
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