Monday, April 29, 2013

Daily Links, Monday, April 28, 2013: Protest Version

A friend of mine was down from Taipei to Yuanli Port in Miaoli to protest the installation of wind machines over the objections of locals. The Taipei Times covered this earlier in April:
“We are just asking the government and the building contractor to respect us local residents, include us in the negotiations, and keep a safe distance between our homes and the wind turbines,” Chen said.

The Germany-based wind energy firm, InfraVest GmbH, plans to build 12 new wind turbines along the coast of Miaoli County — six in Tongsiao Township (通霄) and the other six in Yuanli.

Worried about potential negative impacts from the turbines and upset that they were not consulted about the project, Yuanli residents have launched a campaign asking InfraVest to revise its plan about half a year ago.

While InfraVest initially suspended construction because of the protests, the project was resumed earlier this month without any agreement having been reached with residents earlier this month, triggering a larger protest.
My friend said that they were planning to block the cement trucks coming in. I rode over on my bike today, a gorgeous day, and spoke to some of the individuals who were present, and they told me that the police struck the protesters in the kidneys with batons, cuffed them, and hauled 17 of them off to jail in nearby Tunghsiao. They were just released a few minutes ago as of this writing. There's a Facebook page here, and photos of today's incident on Facebook here. Incidents like these happen regularly, most go unreported.

Meanwhile, what's resting on the blogs this week....

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Forum on Taiwan and Climate Change

Yuanli fishing port

Policy Forum on Vulnerability, Adaptation, and Resilience: Taiwan Reflections
Organizers: IHDP, IHDP National Committee-Taipei
Center for Sustainability Science, Academia Sinica
Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica

Time: May 19 (Sunday), 2013

Venue: Conference Room 1, Academic Activity Center, Academia Sinica

Names are being accepted until May 10 (limited to 80), email
For program list, click on READ MORE below:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

UPDATED: Someone is unhappy about a recent fisheries agreement

Taiwan's chickens are awesome. When Kenji spoke to these black meat chickens in Japanese, they understood and came right over.

Someone is Officially Not Happy over the recent fisheries agreement between Tokyo and Taipei. The CNA reports on the Japan Times:
China dispatched over 40 warplanes to join eight surveillance vessels in trying to prevent a flotilla of Japanese nationalists from landing on the disputed Diaoyutai Islands on April 23, according to a Japanese media report.

Previous foreign reports had only mentioned that the simultaneous presence of eight Chinese maritime surveillance vessels in the region were the most since tensions over the uninhabited island chain escalated last September.
....pressure is on.

UPDATE: China has now officially declared the Senkakus a "core interest" (link)(NHK):
Chunying made the comment after General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Tokyo said that Chinese officials repeatedly told him during his visit to Beijing earlier in the week that the Senkakus are "one of China's core interests," the report said. 

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday night Lites

Betel nut production facility.

The Cabinet approves absentee voting and disincludes Taiwanese in China, thus quelling fears that China could influence the vote.
According to the amendments, any qualified voter can vote in a polling station in a city or country where they have not established voting residency, as long as they apply to do so three months before the voting day.

It is estimated that less than 5 percent of the electorate would apply for absentee voting, Huang Li-hsin (黃麗馨), director-general of the Ministry of the Interior’s Department of Civil Affairs, told a press conference held after the Cabinet meeting.
...monitoring of the absentee vote is going to have to be intense, because a lot of us are quietly wondering about the integrity of future votes. The nuke plant referendum proposal was some very interesting leverage to create this new voting rule. One wonders if that was the intent....

BTW I have the students write a pro/con essay on whether Taiwan should operate nuclear plants and the papers generally run about 70-30 against. Of course, they may be sucking up to me. The issue is heavily gendered; here as elsewhere it seems males are more likely to support nuke plants than females.

Conflict of interest? Taiwan is the poster boy for it. The slowly expanding Twin Towers scandal offered some light moments in local brazen denial of conflict of interest.... the Taipei City Council set up a task force to investigate the bidding process for the gigantic building which is intended to go up next to the train station, resulting in comic relief:
The task force is comprised of cross-party Taipei City councilors and is to probe the project’s controversial bidding process, as well as any possible wrongdoing by city officials in relation to the project, amid allegations of bribery.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City councilors Lee Shin (李新), Angela Ying (應曉薇) and Wang Hsin-yi (王欣儀) withdrew from the task force for having accepted political donations from the second-priority bidder, BSE Engineering Co. However, KMT Taipei City Councilor Yang Shih-chiu (楊實秋) refused to leave the task force, drawing criticism from independent Taipei City Councilor Chen Cheng-chung (陳政忠) as he accused the KMT caucus of lacking the credibility to take part in the probe.


Yang insisted that the investigation is targeting the project’s first bidder, Taipei Gateway International Development, and whether he accepted political donations from the second-priority bidder should not be an issue.
That's wonderful, you almost have to admire people like that. All these guys accepting "political donations" from the bidders, lucky they aren't former Presidents.... Progress of a sorts, at least some people had the grace to recuse themselves.  This scandal has already brought down several local politicians and may do some minor harm to current Taipei Mayor Hau's presidential aspirations, except that they are already remote to begin with.
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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Falling Yen Fallout

The falling Japanese yen is having a complex effect on Taiwan, with some industries feeling nothing while others are getting pinched... (FocusTaiwan):
...Since the beginning of this year, the yen has fallen 14.72 percent against the U.S. dollar. The magnitude of the depreciation during the period of April 4-19, in particular, hit almost 7 percent on the back of more fund injections from the Bank of Japan (BOJ) to boost the economy.


Acer Inc., the world's fourth largest PC vendor, agreed with the argument of little impact from the yen's weakness, saying as Japan is not the major competitor to Taiwan in the world's PC market, a weakening yen is unlikely to affect Taiwan's global standing in the business.


HSBC Securities analyst Lai Hui-chuan said as Japan is not a major supplier of components to Taiwan's PC manufacturers, a falling yen is unlikely to affect Taiwanese PC makers' operating costs.

Some of local light-emitting diode (LED) firms' global competitiveness, however, has been eroded as they have encountered competition directly from their Japanese rivals which are taking advantage of a falling currency, LEDinside analyst Chu Yu-chao said.
WantChinaTimes, the rabidly pro-Beijing rag, took a slightly different slant:
Export orders from Japan received by Taiwanese companies fell by 15.6% in March on an annual basis, the steepest decline among orders from Taiwan's major trading partners, according to statistics released by the country's Ministry of Economic Affairs on Monday.


The weak yen affected mainly export orders for information and telecommunication products, as well as electronics products, which fell by 8.6% and 18.0%, respectively, in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year, Lin said.
Some articles pointed out that major international firms had slowed orders, waiting to see how far the yen will fall. On the other hand, Taiwan's moribund auto market might get a kick since prices will fall if the yen falls; Mazda announced a cut in prices last month. Many Taiwan firms rely on parts from Japan, whose prices will fall, or they hold their debt in Japanese yen, meaning that it is easier to pay back since yen are now cheaper.

Hard to say what the overall effect on economic growth will be, but as long as the US and Europe remain committed to devastating their economies and the futures of their peoples through austerity, don't expect too much here in Taiwan.
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Formosa: The Fleeting Prussian Possibility in the 19th century.

Shuimen town, Pingtung, morning.

From The Prussian Expedition in the Far East (1860-1862), Bernd Martin (link):
The French Baron Gros even encouraged the Prussian envoy to annex the island of Formosa as a Prussian colony. The French seemed very keen on having the Prussians as their allies in colonial adventures in Southeast Asia. While French troops were to invade the kingdom of Cambodia the Germans should occupy Formosa and thus hinder both the British and the Chinese from interfering with France's colonial acquisitions. The idea of Formosa as a German colony under Prussian administration remained a visionary goal until the Japanese took over the island in 1895.


Meanwhile, with the Prussian government's growing pride in the results of the expedition, the discussion was opened again for a permanent foothold, such as the Western powers had, in East Asia. A royal order from Berlin pointed at the Solomon Islands and Formosa (Taiwan) as the most suitable places for a German colony for the settlement of convicts and emigrants from Prussia. However, Count Eulenburg could not feel easy with the idea of Prussia becoming an equal colonial partner of the British or French. He warned his government that any colonial acquisition in East Asia might result in a diplomatic estrangement between Prussia and the Western powers· and would certainly endanger the recently concluded treaties with China and Japan. In order to stress his arguments Eulenburg reported that the island of Formosa was in no way suitable for any kind of western colonization due to its intolerably hot and humid climate. Notwithstanding the protest of Prince Adalbert, Admiral-in-Chief of the Prussian Navy, who strongly favoured a military invasion of Formosa, the mission was ordered home by the civilian government.
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Just a short Rift Valley Biking Note

West side of the Rift Valley, Jhuofu Industry Rd. Didn't have any decent cameras with me, just the cellphone. 

Did another three day bike vacation this weekend. We started in Hualien, rode down the sweet 193 on the east side of the Rift Valley to Yuli, then on day 2 we rode down the west side of the Rift Valley out of Yuli on what I've come to believe is one of the most enjoyable stretches of road on the island, the Zhuofu Industry Road between Yuli and the 20A. Here is a map:

The road runs down the west side of the Rift Valley, the higher end is at the south, where it becomes Nanxing Rd just before it runs into the 20A. It's slightly rolling but always climbing up a very lazy grade if you go south from Yuli (if you head north from the 20A, it's 45 kms of downhill from the bridge all the way to Ruisui). On the Zhuofu Industry Rd the views over the Rift Valley to the coast range are gorgeous, unrolling one stunning vista after another. This road is definitely on my top ten list, and it should be on yours.

Directions: Should you take this route, take the 30 south out of Yuli until you reach the Yuzhang bridge where the Zhuofu Industry Rd begins. Haha, it isn't clearly marked. Fortunately, there is a map of biking routes in the area on a sign at the foot of the bridge. You'll know you are at the right bridge because 30 continues past the bridge by going under it. This pic shows the north side of the bridge, the map sign is to the right out of the picture. Additional note: heading south, there is one problematic point. The road with double yellow lines apparently makes a ninety degree turn to the left while a smaller road with no markings heads due south. You should be able to see a large squarish building with a green sign for a clinic from the intersection. The right road is the smaller road past the clinic.
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Fisheries Agreement

A spider checks on lunch amid drops of dew.

Some interesting comments on the recent Japan-Taiwan fisheries agreement in the TT today:

"Sovereignty", which as Heinlein once wittily noted, is a word between sober and sozzled in the dictionary....
Given that the parties to the accord are defined as Taiwan and Japan in sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph 3 of Article 2, it is unnecessary to use “competent authorities” in lieu of “both Parties (viz, Taiwan and Japan)” as stated in Article 4, Hu said.

Hu said he thought the substitution was made because “competent authorities are not emblematic of state sovereignty.”

If the competent authority is seen as the Fisheries Agency, it does not represent the nation, Hu said.
...and thus, as the TT notes, is a "demotion" of the nation's claims. Although, the TT article consistently uses "Taiwan" instead of "the Republic of China". Since "Taiwan" has no claim to the Senkakus, but the ROC is pushing one, for once it might have behooved the Taipei Times to accurately identify the entity on whose behalf these claims are being made. One of the side effects of the Senkakus claims is that it is constantly use to identify the ROC with Taiwan and vice versa by the true believers in the KMT. So far the public has been consistently indifferent to this claim. Of course...
In another scenario, if Taiwanese fishing vessels avoid entering the area, voluntarily or not, that could mean that Taiwan “indirectly acknowledged Japan’s claim of sovereignty over and administrative control of the Diaoyutais,” Hu said.
Yup. Surely the Japanese saw this, and also saw that however faintly, to weaken the ROC claim is also to put a ghost of a dent in the PRC claim. And as many observers noted, to separate China from the ROC on this issue is important.

I'm thinking that the fisheries accord, if it actually does come to be meaningful, will likely lead to increased pressure on Japan from Beijing. But the TT piece says...
The signing of the accord reflects the great importance that Japanese Prime Minister Shino Abe has attached to Taiwan, and its implications go beyond just the bilateral relationship, Ho said. By having Taiwan jointly manage the designated fishing zone, Japan does not need to confront China head on in case of the latter’s maritime surveillance ships entering the waters near the islands, he said.

“China would not risk sabotaging cross-strait rapprochement by not reining in unwanted behaviors that could tensions,” he said.
It's a textbook example of the kind of magical thinking that pervades the problem of Chinese expansionism. The rapprochement is between the CCP and the KMT; there is nothing that China could do in the Senkakus that would endanger the understanding between the two parties, because the thrust to annex the Senkakus and the thrust to annex Taiwan are two parts of the same expanionist trend supported by Chinese nationalists on both sides of the Strait. After all, the current President of the ROC wrote his thesis to back the Chinese claim to the Senkakus. End of story, really. Moreover, the article says earlier:
The Coast Guard Administration has vowed to take measures proportionate to actions taken by its Japanese counterpart in the event of an intrusion in the area by Taiwanese fishing vessels and vice versa, Hu said.

“This suggests that conflicts in the region could erupt at any time even with the fisheries accord in place,” Hu said.
This might actually be good for overall tensions, since it is much better that coast guard boats from Taiwan spray water on coast guard boats from Japan and vice versa than Chinese and Japanese boats face off directly.

We'll see what further negotiations produce, and more importantly, what happens when the fall begins....

James Holmes in his generally excellent column at the Naval Diplomat observes that the agreement was good for three reasons....
3. It shows that Taipei is no one's crummy little toady.
2. It reminds everyone that Taiwan remains a responsible de facto sovereign.
1. It shows how mature powers conduct themselves.
These are, on the whole, good things. This was an important success for the Ma Administration and for Taiwan, and it would be a shame if the whole thing was made small by the antics of "activists" and another round of the water cannon exchange stupidity.
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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Links to scrape by with

A couple at the Lungteng Broken Bridge in Miaoli.

Too tired to blog. Have some links. Sorry about the light blogging this week... just too damn busy.
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“Evading Suspicion and Shirking Responsibility”: The Politics of Official Discord in Qing Taiwan, 1725-1726

Don't come any closer!

The Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies hosted an interesting journal article on the complexities of 18th century Qing Administration in Taiwan.....
That is, when Chanjibu impeached Magistrate Zhou Zhongxuan 周鐘瑄 for illegally accepting seven hundred taels of silver from a defendant in a criminal case. Ordinarily, this “crime” would hardly even have aroused the attention of the prefect, much less that of the emperor, particularly when the sum involved was so small. Nevertheless, the case would embroil bureaucracies in Taiwan, Fujian, and beyond, make and break several careers, cause the governor-general—and one of Yongzheng’s most trusted administrators—to lose the emperor’s favor, be handed over for resolution to a new governor, and ultimately require the appointment of two imperial commissioners before its denouement. Clearly, the case was after all not just about squabbling or corrupt officials in Taiwan, or even necessarily the bureaucratic administration there.
Some great little tidbits, like this one:
According to Chanjibu, Jing had also brought a classmate’s nephew to Taiwan for the express purpose of assuming false residence (maoji 冒籍) in Zhanghua 彰化 County in order to take advantage of its generous quota in the civil service examination.
The footnote to this comment is not to be missed. I recall reading in one of the 19th century articles about Taiwan passing mention of people moving to Taiwan to take advantage of better opportunities to pass the imperial exams.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Pivot Divot

Two women assemble stacks of beer cans as temple offerings. Any country where they offer beer to the gods is all right with me.

"For years we thought of ourselves as a production oriented company, meaning we put all our emphasis on designing and manufacturing the product. But now we understand that the most important thing we do is market the product. We've come around to saying that Nike is a marketing-oriented company, and the product is our most important marketing tool." -- Phil Knight, CEO of Nike.

John Pfeffer at FPIF scribes:
The Obama administration has revived the old Clinton dream of rebranding the United States as a Pacific power. But there are two reasons why this new pivot doesn’t really exist except at a rhetorical level.

During the 1990s, the Clinton administration was successful in turning around the U.S. economy, at least in terms of shrinking deficits, encouraging impressive economic growth, reducing unemployment, and improving median wages. In other words, the United States was in a good position to take advantage of cooperation with Asian economies.

Today, by contrast, the U.S. economy is in difficult straits. Unemployment remains high, and growth anemic. Projected budget cuts may well send the economy into a downward spiral. The Obama administration bills the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a vehicle for growing its members’ economies. But the reality may well be closer to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which only contributed to the hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing sector as companies fled south and north of the border.

The most buzz about the Pacific pivot, however, has been on national security. Having presided over military fiascos in the Middle East and Central Asia, the Pentagon is planning a move to calmer waters. Former Pentagon head Leon Panetta announced, for instance, that the United States would devote 60 percent of its naval warships to the region, up from 50 percent.

But that’s about it, actually. There will be some rearrangement of existing U.S. forces in Asia, with some Marines heading to Australia and an expansion of facilities on Guam. But this shell game of “strategic realignment” is largely an effort to reduce the U.S. military footprint on Okinawa, again something promised a while ago by Bill Clinton.
"Rebranding" is exactly what is going on. The Pivot is an exercise in branding, it is like all branding in that it is an exercise in creating the perception of value where no real value exists. Ironically, in the corporate world, where do branded products actually get manufactured? In China, of course. I noted last year that actual force redeployments were thin upon the ground. Dean Cheng at Heritage has also argued that the Pivot is more rhetoric than reality. Really, it is something marketed to the folks at home...

....while in the world outside, the deadly stupid business of producing terrorists in Central Asia and the Middle East via Obama's continued pursuit of Bush-era violence goes on, while Asia gets... warm fuzzies. The Pivot is also a classic example of how Obama always says the right thing and then does whatever the Bush Administration did. As I've noted, our policy has essentially become pacifying Afghanistan using American blood and treasure, in order to make it safe for Chinese expansion into Central Asia. Calling such a policy idiotic would be a compliment...

Wendell Minnick wonders aloud in DefenseNews whether the Senkakus mess will be the undoing of the Pivot....
America’s strategic rebalancing toward the Pacific — known as the “Asia pivot” — could meet its first unwanted test over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, now being challenged for control by China.

Could the Asia pivot’s true fulcrum be located on these desolate, rocky outcrops in the East China Sea? China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands, claims they were stolen from it after World War II. Over the past two years, Beijing has taken aggressive actions to intimidate Japanese Coast Guard vessels in charge of safeguarding the islands’ territorial boundaries.

There are concerns an accidental war could be triggered by miscalculation or by China, in the spirit of nationalism, taking a calculated risk by invading the islands.

The question many are asking is: Would Washington fulfill its defense treaty obligations with Japan by taking an active military role to remove Chinese forces from the islands? Or would the U.S. hesitate for political and economic reasons to placate China? If so, what would this mean for regional confidence in America’s commitments to peace and stability?

This could be America’s “Suez moment,” said Paul Giarra, who heads Global Strategies & Transformation, a national defense and strategic planning consulting firm in Washington. It could be the moment when America, hobbled by massive debt, domestic political spasms and the lingering wounds of two exhaustive wars, finally realizes, as did Great Britain during the Suez crisis of 1956, that its ability to fulfill its international strategic commitment in a complex, multipolar world ends.
The remainder of the article is devoted to consideration of specific scenarios. One of the most critical costs of the Bush-Obama madness in the Middle East is its effect on Asia. Hadrian built walls as much to prevent imperial overstretch as to keep the people on the other side of the wall out of the Empire; the US should borrow that policy. But we won't...

The same theme runs through this article that runs through many similar articles about Taiwan: would the US really go to war over the Senkakus/Taiwan/Scarborough Shoal? The commonality, of course, is the declining power of the US. There's a whole industry back home devoted to writing about how the US isn't really in decline, but everyone out here can smell the carrion odor.

Including Beijing. The reciprocal of the question beginning Would the US.... ? is of course When will Beijing....?
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

BREAKING: Two Detained in HSR Bombing

Two detained in Guangdong.
Taipei police chief Wang Cho-chun said the suspects were arrested by police in southern China's Guangdong province and repatriated to Taiwan Tuesday. He says police are questioning the suspects.

On Friday, Taiwanese police found two pieces of luggage each containing gas cans and timing devices on the high-speed train, and two other pieces of luggage containing similar devices at a lawmaker's office.
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Will you hold my cobra? I'll just be a minute.....

So there I was, writing away, when my neighbor calls. She's speaking rapidly and totally incoherent, but obviously wants me to come over. I quickly grabbed these historic pictures (note thumb in corner for authenticity) of the neighbor's pack of dogs keeping a wary distance.

Yes, my neighbor's neighbor had caught a cobra. The thing had crawled into her house and hissed at her, so she nailed it with some kind of grabbing tool. I think every home should have one. Or maybe three. But this amazon was getting tired and the fire department was a long time coming to pick up the snake. So my neighbor wanted me to hold the cobra while we waited.

So, here's the long arm of your trusty writer holding a cobra at bay while we all wait. I think I must have "sucker" printed on my forehead.

Fortunately some he-man sons showed up to take over for me. I had a bad moment when they decided to apply an additional tool to its head, which it objected to with much thrashing and hissing. I nearly redecorated my underwear at that point. But having manfully discharged my obligations, I retired to my house to write my memoirs and await the fire brigade.
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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Somebody forgot the lessons of Darlie....

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Soccer/Football coaches needed

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Seemingly Unconnected Facts about a certain Chen Wei-ting

The Taipei Times had a great moment in its piece on a student charged with violating the Social Order Maintenance Act for reporting about a kidnapping attempt:
Chen, the administrator of the Facebook page “I live in Hsinchu City” (我住新竹市), posted a message on March 28 warning that a man had allegedly tried to kidnap a child in Hsinchu County, but the child’s family spotted him and he ran off.

“The next day, I got a phone call from the neighborhood’s management committee, asking me where I got the information. I said a Facebook user passed the information to the ‘I live in Hsinchu City’ page, and not long after, I got a phone call from the police about the same thing,” Chen told the Taipei Times.

Chen said he immediately contacted the user who forwarded the message to the Facebook page.

“We spent a week trying to find the original source of the message, without success. We were questioned by police on Tuesday and the next thing we know is that we are charged with violating the Social Order Maintenance Act,” he said.
In fact, the article reports, fliers have been posted to the area. There is an interesting coincidence: Chen Wei-ting, the TT observed in its article, is one of the conveners of the anti-media monopoly student protests, the anti-WantWant protests, and was the person who criticized Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling last year (this longish post, even longer post describing the incident).

Nah. Couldn't possibly be retaliation.

Cultural note: The police defended themselves by saying they had received a complaint and thus, had to take action. The police do not enforce the law, as my friend Jeff Martin pointed out to me years ago, they administrate it -- fundamentally, they often don't take action unless someone complains.
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Explosive Device Found on HSR?

Local puppies on the prowl. Locals sometimes warn us, owners of two black dogs, that black dogs have the sweetest flesh and thus, we should be careful lest they are kidnapped for a local dog meat restaurant.

CNN reported last night:
The Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. train stopped at Hsinchu City after someone found the explosives in two pieces of luggage shortly after 9 a.m., according to police.

Police said the luggage was emitting white smoke, and people nearby could smell gas. The setup included 5 liters of gasoline and an activated timer device to trigger them, police said.

Investigators believe the explosives would have detonated had authorities not intervened, according to police. They said they believe the blast would have taken out one carriage.
But the TT reported today:
Police found that the luggage contained an unidentified liquid in cans and alarm clocks, as well as white particulate matter. The items were later dismantled by the bomb squad and taken to the Criminal Investigation Bureau for further examination.

Ku Jung-tseng (古榮增), deputy director of the High Speed Rail Police Division, said no detonator was found.
This is probably someone out to kill someone for insurance or similar, or a revenge attack on the HSR for some real or imagined slight. Probably not terrorism of any kind.
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The Staggering Costs of Taiwan's Psuedoscience Stupidity

Bamboo farm outside Taichung.

My man Greg McCann, who works on tiger and forest preservation in SE Asia, alerted me to this piece on Mongabay about this study on trade in Tokay geckos, accounting for millions of deaths:
The study found that a spike in tokay gecko demand due to rumors that it could cure HIV/AIDS was relatively short-lived, lasting from 2009 and early 2011. Nonetheless geckos are still traded in large numbers, with over-collection impacting wild populations across much of the reptile's range, especially in Thailand and Java.

The study notes that Taiwan has declared imports of at least 15 million geckos since 2004. Major consuming nations also include mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Viet Nam.
People who buy dead dried geckos believe they can help with asthma, diabetes, and skin disorders, according to the photo caption there. The death toll is enormous wherever believers in Chinese medicine exist -- one shipment bound for Hong Kong in 2011 was busted with 1.2 million dried geckos on board. The traffic even heads for the US to service the traditional medicine insanity there -- 8.5 tons of dried geckos from 1998-2004. The report observes:
According to Customs import information provided to TRAFFIC by the Taiwanese government, Taiwan has imported over 450 tonnes of dried Tokay Geckos for use in TM since 2004, which represents a value of nearly USD 2 000 000 (Table 3). This equates to ~15 000 000 individual Tokay Geckos (See box 1, above). During this period over 57 tonnes of Tokay Geckos (~1 900 000 ind.) were imported into Taiwan on average every year with nearly 104 tonnes (~3 466 666 ind.) imported in 2008. Thailand is the largest origin state for Tokay Geckos imported into Taiwan accounting for 71% of imports (322.7 tonnes/ ~10 757 000 ind.) followed by Indonesia which accounted for 28% (125.6 tonnes/ ~4 187 000 ind.) of imports. Imports from mainland China were comparatively small and accounted for 1% of the total.

Thailand has exported 40 tonnes (~1 467 000 ind.) on average annually to Taiwan compared to an average ~16 tonnes (~533 000 ind.) exported from Indonesia. However, in 2008 Indonesia exported nearly 66 tonnes (~2 200 000 ind.) of dried Tokay Geckos to Taiwan.
Exports from Thailand are more or less legal, but it is illegal to send them out of Indonesia. There is some farming of geckos but production can't keep up with demand, meaning that wild populations are deteriorating over time despite high reproductive rates and ability to co-exist with humans. All for a completely unscientific, unnecessary, and useless medicinal belief.

A sharp commenter on the Mongabay site observed that the loss of geckos, who eat mosquitoes, probably mean a rise in malaria (in other words, people are being killed by servicing the gecko demand). The report notes that because the gecko trade is so valuable, breeders and shippers face the constant threat of robbery. All needless, to go with the demand for ivory, and rhino horn, and pangolins, and other such stupidity.....
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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Japan-Taiwan Senkakus Fishing Agreement Makes a Splash

A spider grabs a bee for lunch in Taichung.

The Ma Administration finally did something right. News swept the region and the world this week that Japan and Taiwan have entered into a fishing agreement for the waters around the Senkaku islands...will there be peace? (Japan Times):
Japan and Taiwan concluded a long-awaited fisheries agreement Wednesday in Taipei after officials from both sides formally resumed negotiations for the first time in four years.

The deal will allow Taiwanese trawlers to operate in part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, sources close to the talks said.

Under the deal, Japan and Taiwan will designate an area in Japan’s EEZ as jointly managed waters where fishing by both Japanese and Taiwanese boats will be allowed.

The jointly controlled zone excludes waters within a 12-nautical-mile (19-km) radius of the Japan-held Senkakus.
Since things remain to be negotiated, the two sides agreed to set up a joint fisheries committee to carry on with the work. The Asahi Shimbun pointed out that the lack of agreement meant that Japanese Coast Guard vessels had seized many Taiwanese boats; this should now stop. Michal Thim at Taiwan Perspective gives the details of the agreement. Thim notes:
From Taiwan’s perspective, reaching a deal on fishing rights is the optimal result. Taiwan does not have physical control over the islands and has limited means and thus basically no reason to try and acquire physical control. Domestic public opinion does not allow for a strong anti-Japanese stance and Taiwanese are little interested in territorial nationalism. Thus, fishing rights are the only issue that the public really cares about and this is well reflected by politicians, both from ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who face major elections every two years.
As a number of analyses have pointed out, the fishing agreement makes Ma look good at home. On the Japanese side, the agreement enables Tokyo to split Ma from Beijing by offering him a deal. Democracy at work, Ma is following the same policies the DPP did for the same reasons, because they are popular at home. One of the ways Taiwan's democracy protects Taiwan is that it helps enforce such outcomes regardless of which party is in power. The public cares about fishing rights, but does not care about ROC territorial claims, since it identifies with the ROC only to the extent that the ROC is identified with Taiwan. Although, I suspect Washington was quietly working in the backrooms, pushing for Taipei to mend fences with Tokyo and to stop irritating relations with Japan. Corey Wallace, writing on the Japanese media:
While the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Suge has already argued publicly that the agreement was to restore order over the East China Sea fishing issue and not to “split” China and Taiwan over perceived cooperation surrounding the Senkaku sovereignty dispute, no one, including the Japanese media, believes him. Both Jiji (日) and Yomiuri (日) report that an additional reason for the agreement is indeed to silence repeated Chinese calls for PRC-ROC cooperation over the territorial dispute. Jiji notes that domestically Ma has been forced to become somewhat less of a “hardliner” on the territorial dispute, and Japan’s willingness to make significant concessions played a part in pushing Ma towards relaxing his stance (Richard Katz, of The Oriental Economist, notes in a NBR post that many in Taiwan wanted to prioritize the fishing issue over the territorial issue, as also noted by Michal).
Wallace also described that PM Abe comes out of a line of politicians who are pro-Taiwan and who were more willing to make concessions. His and Thim's writings are excellent and should be read in their entirety.

BBC reported that Beijing was whining, as usual. On the surface it looks like Ma's coordination of "activism" in the Senkakus with Beijing will now be curtailed, to Beijing's detriment. I wonder seriously about this and about whether this will backfire on Tokyo and Washington....

For one thing, the agreement is to set aside "sovereignty" differences -- an actual application of mutual non-denial -- but does anyone really not believe that come September, the traditional month of traducing Tokyo, that "activists" campaigning "with no official backing" (the last time they were apparently funded by WantWant owner Robert Tsai) will nonetheless appear off the Senkakus, guarded by Taiwan's mighty water-firing coast guard cannon and fomenting incidents with Japan? After all, two more ships were just commissioned expressly for the purpose of safeguarding sovereignty in contested waters and fishing rights, said Ma hisownself. Taipei can always claim they were freelancers and there is nothing it can do.... the fact that this option exists and of course Tokyo must be aware of it suggests that there is either a secret protocol or an informal agreement that activist stupidity must cease. Otherwise Tokyo is going to look pretty inept when the Ma government shrugs with feigned helplessness and allows "activists" to perturb its relations with Tokyo over some rocks which only Beijing and the KMT argue are Chinese.

But let's say that all is well and the KMT Administration really does restrain its tiny menagerie of pro-Bejing loon-activists. Well hello! What will Beijing have to do to make up for the absence of Taipei as its proxy prick against the goads of Tokyo? Step up the pressure, that's what! Ironically, this agreement to make tuna, not war, might actually result in greater trouble in the Senkakus by removing the Taiwanese proxy and replacing it with real Chinese warships facing Japanese ships. The CS Monitor's staid approval notwithstanding, we'll have to wait for the annual fall antics of Beijing and "activists" in Hong Kong and Taiwan before we really have a handle on what this means.
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  • Way cool not Taiwan: NASA video: Watery environment on Mars
    "What the Curiosity team has found is incredibly exciting. When we combine what we've learned from our remote sensing and contact science instruments, with the data that's coming in from CheMin and SAM, we et get a picture of an ancient, watery environment, which would have been habitable had life been present in it."
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let the Panic Begin!

Wood chips, drying in Hengchun.

New cases suspected.... it's spreading!!!!!
Test results have cleared three suspected cases of H7N9 avian influenza infection, as 10 new suspected cases were reported, the Central Epidemic Disease Surveillance Command Center said yesterday.
Virus uncovered in poultry markets in Shanghai. Meanwhile, in Taiwan....

Six suspected cases of H7N9 virus found in Taiwan, but four cleared.....
CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Chih-hau (周志浩) said on Thursday that six people reported fever symptoms after arriving in Taiwan from China recently. Two of them were infected with the H1N1 influenza, two people had bacterial infections, while diagnoses for two people was yet be confirmed.
Changhua County to reinforce blood tests for poultry.

Taiwan's travel industry is taking its time to size up the bird flu threat.
Taiwan's travel industry is apprehensive about the uncertainty and public anxiety being caused by the H7N9 bird-flu virus and has shown a rare reluctance to gauge the potential impact of the outbreak of the disease in China. Usually quick to openly assess the effect of global incidents on the travel market -- including during the latest tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the 2011 earthquake in Japan -- industry insiders said they would need time to digest the situation in China.
DOH says vaccines can be produced in as little as two months:
The task force convened its first meeting yesterday. Lin said that two Taiwan experts currently in Shanghai were expected to obtain the H7N9 virus strain from the Mainland, which would be used to produce the rapid screening reagent. Lin also noted that a cross-Strait agreement on disease control cooperation had been signed in 2010, but this was not the only channel for the DOH to obtain the virus strain. He said that Taiwan had obtained virus strains from the World Health Organization (WHO) when an outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) occurred in Asia in 2002-3.
The DOH also said it would develop its own vaccine rather than work with Beijing. CDC staff on way to China to gather information, samples. In Taichung monitoring measures are being stepped up to handle the outbreak. Nantou has prepared 44 isolation rooms for patients if H7N9 appears in Taiwan. Health officials have been calling on hot pot restaurants telling them not to serve raw eggs.

Some reality from a commentary in the TT:
There have been no reports of birds infected with this virus strain in Taiwan, nor of any human-to-human transmission. We cannot keep people from the areas in which the outbreak has occurred from coming to Taiwan, but if they do, they will not cause an outbreak here.
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Monday, April 08, 2013

Riding: Taiwan east and south

Stephen Jack assembles his bike on the platform at the train station in Hualien.

The long weekend offered some great opportunities for cycling, though the weather sucked across the island. Friday my friend Stephen Jack and I took the crack'o'dawn express over to Hualien, had lunch with friends, then headed south. But before we get to the pix from the ride, I thought I'd set down some things I've discovered about taking a bike on the train in Taiwan....

If you want to take your bicycle on the train in Taiwan, here are a few tips.

1. Bagged bikes can go on all locals and jyu guang hau trains. They are not allowed on the Taroko specials. For the dz chiang trains, see the train listing in the schedule and check for the bicycle icon. They will accept a bike bagged on that train.

2. "Bagged" means in a bag, any bag, plastic bag, paper bag, whatever. Dedicated bike bag, of course. "Bagged" means that most of the bike must be in the bag. For road bikes like I ride, I just take the front wheels off. You don't need to take off the handlebars, rear wheels, etc. Again, just remove the front wheel and pop in bag. I know some riders who had big bags specially made, they just drop the bikes in whole and go. This means that....

3. ...for ease of handling, I always roll the bike around the station and carry it up and down stairs and then disassemble it on the platform. When I get off the train, I assemble it on the platform and roll it back out the station. This is because I feel it is easier to roll a bike than carry it unless you've got a really nice bike bag with straps, which I do not. This sometimes leads to arguments with train station staff, who appear to be deaf to the phrase "I have a bag".

4. On all trains but the dz chiang expresses, the bikes can go anywhere they fit -- you can put the bike behind the seats on a jyu guang or in the empty area at the front of some older cars. On the dz chiang designated bike trains, the bikes ALWAYS go in Car 12. Car 12 will be a hermaphrodite, half seats, half baggage. Sometimes they use an old dining car. On those trains, before you buy the tix, tell the cashier you have a bike. They are supposed to put you in car 12, though the system is set up wrongly so seats in car 12 are sometimes hard to come by (but there is always room for a bike). Once you set the bikes down in car 12, you can go to your seats in whatever car. PROTIP: seats 1, 2, 3, and 4 in Car 12 are almost never sold. Thus, they are always empty. You can sit in them and most of the time you will never be kicked out. I haven't been yet. Also, you can usually sit in the baggage car even though you are not supposed to. Just go in and sit down on the floor, the Taiwanese do it all the time. As have I. On the morning trains that car will fill with commuters.

5. HSR: You can take a bike in a bike bag on the HSR. There is usually room on the seats at the end of the car or by the luggage rack, but you can ensure that you get that space by being the first one in line to get aboard. If you tell them you have a bagged bike, they will try and give you the seat next to the luggage. In fact the best seat is at the end of the car, ask for that -- the space behind the last seat is almost always big enough for a bike.

On to the pictures! Click on READ MORE.

The Shadow Taiwan = Hong Kong

Eastern Taiwan, always lovely.

Want to know what Beijing's plans for the Taiwan S.A.R. will be? Look at Hong Kong trying to get universal suffrage for the 2017 election (Straits Times)....
TENSION between China and Hong Kong over the arrangements for the election of the city's Chief Executive in 2017 has heightened to the point where Beijing did the unprecedented - it conducted two military exercises within a week to show who is boss.


From Hong Kong's standpoint, the crux of the election issue is whether the SAR will have genuine universal suffrage - the Chief Executive is elected by a 1,200-member committee now - a promise Beijing made three decades ago.

From Beijing's point of view, this is not just about formulating an electoral system but also about defending China's sovereignty and security. It contends that the election of a democrat as Chief Executive - a possibility that cannot be ruled out in unfettered universal suffrage - would endanger the country's sovereignty and security. This is because it sees Hong Kong's democrats as pawns of foreign powers hostile to China.
Three decades ago Beijing promised that the Chief executive would be universally elected. In 2007 it moved that promise back a decade. Now it is struggling to avoid having to fulfill it. Viewing this sequence of events, does anyone out there imagine Beijing can be trusted with Taiwan's democracy? Although surely the problem of suppressing Taiwan's democracy must vex Beijing....
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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Apr 21: Taiwan Bookfest

Three days of riding on the east coast and in Kenting this week. Post up later today.... has the skinny on the Bookfest. Go thou and read.....
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Friday, April 05, 2013

Friday lite Nights

Lovely day riding on the east coast today.

Happy news. Just so you know, the students who protested against the WantWant media monster are still marching, this time in front of the Legislative Yuan telling it to adopt media reforms to prevent this kind of attempt to dominate the media.

Manny Ramirez, now playing for a Taiwan team, hit a home run this week. Apparently the earth's orbit was affected or something, judging by the attention in the media.

The Economist reviews the attempt by WantWant to dominate Taiwan's media. After a solid basic review, Hilarity Ensues....
Surprisingly few are satisfied by this apparent triumph for press freedom. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party says the proposed laws are still not strict enough. Mr Tsai denies he is Beijing’s stooge but Want Want’s future coverage of Mr Ma is likely to be critical. And with 14% approval ratings and a lonely position as a centrist in a fierce debate about the nation’s identity, Mr Ma may be wondering where, if anywhere, he can find friends in the press.
You'd have to be almost completely clueless about Taiwan politics to call a man who consistently argues that Taiwan is part of China, identifies Taiwanese as Chinese, and talks about how the ROC owns the Senkakus, a centrist in relation to the identity debate. Ma is a right-wing ideologue on that issue. The "centrist" position in Taiwan politics is independence, a position embraced in some form by the vast majority of the population. Ma's China embrace is one reason he is so unpopular, after all...

Jens Kastner on the proposed Free Trade Zones:
According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development 2012 World Investment Report, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into Taiwan amounted to US$1.96 billion in 2011, putting Taiwan in the second-lowest place worldwide, ranking above only Angola.

In 2010, Taipei and Beijing signed the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), on which high hopes were placed, but as Taiwan's domestic political climate forbade meaningful opening to Chinese capital, it did not bring in much of an increase in FDI nor did it help Taiwanese exporters as anticipated.

What makes matters worse is that Korea's FTAs with US and EU have been implemented, the Korean won has depreciated faster than the New Taiwan dollar, and Taiwan's China-imposed isolation hinders the island from signing its own FTAs. Meanwhile, powerful domestic lobbies become extremely agitated whenever the Kuomintang (KMT) government of President Ma Ying-jeou merely hints at allowing in competing foreign goods or services, as seen last year when Ma allowed the import of US beef containing the food additive ractopamine.
The reason that Taiwan hasn't attracted investment from Chinese is because it is not a good place to invest at the moment, not because of the domestic political environment. You can tell it is not a good place to invest at the moment because the amount of foreign direct investment it gets is quite low (the first paragraph explains the second paragraph). If Taiwan was booming foreign investment would be flooding in and there'd be Chinese investing here easily through Caribbean holding companies, Hong Kong, and similar. We also don't have Chinese investment here because China doesn't invest much in neighboring countries, as I noted in this post last year and this one.

Of course, the idea of a Free Trade Zones is right out of the 1960s. As Kastner's article points out, they won't have much effect. The time for this kind of policy has passed.

I'm tired of reading articles that blame Taiwan for its lack of military spending, like this one from World Politics Review. Taiwan of course has a heaping share of the blame, but if outsiders want Taiwan to spend more, perhaps they should make weapons available, stop supporting leaders who want to put the island into China's orbit, start purchasing weapons from us to support our industries, and start enhancing mil-mil contacts. Taiwan's defense issues are a collective problem. He doesn't understand the opinion polls either. *sigh*.

Taiwan in Cycles points out how silly an article in the Vancouver Sun on cycling here is. Many of its claims are flat out wrong:
You can ride to the market, school, library, between towns, to the beach, all on smooth paved recreational paths than don't allow motorized vehicles or pedestrians.
All bike paths allow pedestrians, in fact they are a normal sight on bike paths throughout the nation and not only pedestrians, but also pets and of course, foreign maids out pushing older people in wheelchairs, joggers, etc. Motorized vehicles are ostensibly not allowed but in fact they are quite common on some paths, like the Tanzi to Shengang path on which everything from gigantic farm equipment to blue trucks appear, and motorcycles are regular users (ever see police nail someone on a bike path?). Finally, if a bike path goes past a library, school, or market, it is mere serendipity, and not planning. You know the drill... Once again, with so many knowledgeable people in the media and with blogs who bike, why do we have an article in a foreign publication from someone who....

...and another problem with articles like this is that foreign articles validate in Taiwan, and in this case, they validate the government's bike policies. Which are not good.
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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Thim on Defense

Over at the superb China Policy Institute blog, Michel Thim has a piece on Defense Policy under President Ma... after reviewing the continuity between the Chen and Ma Administrations in some areas of defense policy, including the Hard ROC policy, Thim observes:
Defence-planning notwithstanding, there are several challenges, some temporary, some embedded in the specific conditions in Taiwan, all of which the Ma administration ought to address sooner rather than later. One of the most urgent matters is the imminent fighter jet gap. A significant component of the current jet fleet (F-5s, Mirage 2000s) is going to retire, or is scheduled for upgrade (F-16A/Bs), by the end of the decade, which means that some of them won’t be available at any given time between 2017 and 2027. This relates to the problem with arms procurement. At the moment, the US is, realistically, the only source of advanced weaponry besides domestic production, which would not be possible without US assistance. After 2008 record procurements were made in terms of money spent, but the most important element, the 66 F-16C/D fighter jet, has yet to be secured.

A large part of recently materialized procurements were long-stalled orders held over from Chen’s presidency, which blocked by a KMT majority in the Legislative Yuan, in some cases for several years. That defence matters were subject to “petty” domestic disputes was not perceived well in the US and voices questioning Taiwan’s resolve to prepare for its own defence originates from that period. Thus, the persistent negative perception of political bickering between the KMT and DPP during the Chen era is a formidable spoiler of US-Taiwan relations. Although this does not tell the whole story about US-Taiwan military cooperation, as there is much happening under the table far from the spotlight, (mis)perceptions should be tackled better. The oft-mentioned problem with Taiwan’s low defence spending – approximately at the level of NATO countries facing no comparable threat – is a matter to be addressed too, and it is well noted in current edition of QDR. Yet allocation of resources for defence should not be considered as a final figure, given the option of approving a special budget outside of regular defence spending. If the US approves the F-16 deal in the short term, a special budget would be a way to tackle the issue financially on Taiwan’s side.
As I've noted on this blog, the US also must share the blame for the failure of the F-16 deal, as Thim alludes.

One thing I'd like to add... Thim notes that some good things have happened, weapons sales, etc, from the US, which don't get the publicity that the F-16 impasse received. Quite true, yet in this paramount US-Taiwan relationship, one thing I haven't heard of is the Ma Administration asking for increased US military visits and personnel cooperation and exchanges. Does anyone know if that has occurred? More intimate relations between the two sides' militaries would greatly ease the problems of cooperation during the upcoming war with China over (pick at least one: Senkakus, Taiwan, South China Sea, Arunachal Pradesh). From my (admittedly restricted) vantage the tussle over the F-16s has concealed a long-term malaise in other forms of important relations.... a common pattern with the Ma Administration is to use the political theatre offered by high profile issues to obscure a lack of progress in other crucial areas.....
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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

...And Hilarity Ensued: The CKS Design Contest Pwned

The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall website at about 6 pm today. The CKS Design Competition is on the right sidebar, in glorious pink.

The Ministry of Culture really did it this week with its announcement of a CKS Design Contest (event website). The purpose of the contest -- no I'm not kidding you, please finish chewing all the food in your mouth and don't drink anything for the next minute or so -- was to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Soong Mei-ling, celebrate the love that Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling had for one another, and of course, celebrate Chinese culture. This would benefit marital harmony and social education. Did I mention the $100,000 NT prize of taxpayer dollars? Yes, this is in 2013, not 1963. Hope you didn't just spew all over your keyboard.

I'm sure it is easy for you to imagine what came next as Taiwan's creative netizens swung into action to mock this incredibly silly and stupid idea. All sorts of designs alluding to Chiang's murderous ways and the dictatorship he ran, like this one above, for example, flooded the event's Facebook page, which has now been removed. The CKS Design website homepage has now been redesigned twice to eliminate items which had been spoofed by young people. Fortunately some of the originally designed website pages are here. Ben has collected some images here. I've posted another version of the original below:

The whole thing is disgusting beyond belief. Lung Ying-tai, the pro-KMT intellectual appointed to head up the Ministry of Culture, has been especially annoying as she struggled to distance herself. She said:
...basically saying that the response to the contest was inappropriate because history is complex and to assign the blame for 2-28 to a single person is "simplistic." As Ben of Letters from Taiwan put it to me, Lung Ying-tai decided to nail her colors to the mast. The CKS design website finally announced today on the login page that the competition had been put on hold. Three days too late.


Sobering it is to contemplate how this could have happened, many people pointed out. Obviously there had to be meetings, committees, design people, and somehow... nobody pointed out how politically and historically insensitive it is to do something like this. Nobody alerted anyone to how people, especially the young, would respond. Amazing -- why do they think CKS statues vanished from public areas? Why do they think last year students at ChengChi U staged a mock funeral for Chiang Kai-shek?

As anyone who has ever worked on a government project here knows, such projects are aimed to please the people at the top, not so much to carry out their stated purpose, with everyone doing CYA all the way up, a situation innumerable department heads have complained about ("Why am I signing off on all this picayune stuff?"). But it means that people at the top must have signed off on it... and at the bottom, where there must be plenty of young people, there must have been a few subversives who gave this thing a push because they knew what would happen.

You'd think someone might have noticed, because the government similarly tried to run an essay contest a while back explaining why the ROC owned the Senkakus, which went over like a lead balloon and was widely derided (ChinaSmack).

This incident may signal how politically tone deaf and out of touch the Ma Administration is, but what this incident also shows is the long historical shadow of the cult of personality the KMT created around the dictator (my post on JE Taylor's paper) as well as the inability of the KMT to come to terms with and genuinely comprehend the enormity of its own recent past.

PS: My thanks to everyone who passed around links and images.
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