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


Patrick Cowsill said...

I saw a car drive down a bike path recently. It was late at night. After I dodged it, I rode for about five minutes before coming upon a cop. I asked him: "Is it okay to drive a car down this path?"

The answer was a resounding "NO!"

"Well I just passed one about five minutes ago," I explained, gesturing down the way.

I watched as the cop took off down the route. A little while later, he reemerged in front of the car.

Michael Turton said...

Wow! I've never seen anything like that. On the three major bike paths near my house vehicles are regulars on two. Really sucks.

Anonymous said...

I was followed by an SUV for about 3km on the path near Kenting. The guy has several opportunities to go back to the car lane, but didn't until I started snapping pictures.

Michael Turton said...

Yes, i've found that's an effective strategy for getting cars off bike paths.

Anonymous said...

Michael, I am sorry to disagree with you on your thoughts of the World Politics Review. Counties are reluctant to sell weapons to Taiwan yes because of the back lash from PROC but also from Taiwan not requesting arms with a conviction that is the biggest problem. Like the F-16 c/d’s one month they want them, then the next they don’t. Then they don’t have the funding and then they are complaining about the price. Their % of the budget for the military still has not attained the 4 % mark which President Ma said he was in favor of. It kind of like buying a car, If you walk in the show room and you know what you want, you try to make a deal but because of financing you do not have a favorable hand. But if you walk into the same show room and you have cash in your pocket you have a favorable hand and can almost dictate the deal

Michael Turton said...

Ma actually said 3%, but that isn't the problem. The F-16s were never desired by the Ma adminisrtation and the US refused to sell them. so the real game is a bit different than you say. The US doesn't sell taiwan weapons it needs, and then it blames Taiwan for not defending itself. It's quite twisted. meanwhile europe won't sell anything to Taiwan......


1stCMalaysia said...

@Patrick Cowsill:
Did the police give ticket to the car? or like a verbal warning?

@Anonymous on 7th April:
How about the scandal of buying Mirage from French? And cash in hand? What is that like? Tell the seller how much you have? In US, everyone knows, to buy a new car, everyone negotiates, or get burned. So telling the car seller how much cash you have is a bad idea.
@Michael on 7th April:
Taiwan bought from France before, so now the entire western Europe will not sell anything to Taiwan? or just Taiwan is afraid to buy from outside US, so to please their boss, the Uncle Sam?

Michael Turton said...

Uncle Sam is not Taiwan's boss, 1C. Western Europe won't sell to Taiwan because they want to please Beijing.

Anonymous said...

First time poster here, I read your amazing blog religiously though and really appreciate your amazing insights and knowledge about Taiwan.

One thing that shocked me in this post that led me to write was the tidbit about Taiwan being next to last in FDI. Can that really be possible? How is it that Taiwan doesn't attract more international Foreign Direct investment? Maybe I'm not really sure what that is, but I have to say I'm shocked. You'd think that Taiwan would be a great place to invest, relatively high standard of living, stability, well-educated and cosmopolitan, relatively that is, population. I'm thinking mainly of the tourism industry which seems to me to be in shambles. I know how you feel about the cycling offered in Taiwan and that the government should do more to promote this...but I just think outside Taipei the place is a mess. Kenting is disgusting, trash everywhere, beaches being eroded to hell, the hideous development on the nicest beach in Taiwan north of Taidung. Hualien really is disgusting, I heard so much about it being beautiful, and when I finally saw the view from the overlook of the beach in the center of town I was stunned. The port is right there!! The water was dirty, filled with concrete berms everywhere, hideously ugly buildings stretching up and down the coast...I don't understand it. And yet Taiwanese love to go out and see their country, you'd think with some minimal investment in some sort of nice tourist hotels or something, someone could make a profit. Lord knows most of the places are crap...I know FDI is much more complex and could be discussed in terms of other sectors of the economy but really I'm shocked it's so low, there must be a reason or it doesn't mean what I think it means.

Sorry for the rant, I do love Taiwan and wish that it was more beautiful or better preserved. I was shocked at how ugly the buildings were on the train ride down the east coast, really breaks my heart that there wasn't more thoughtful construction or that Taiwanese don't have a stronger sense of aesthetic beauty when it comes to architecture in scenic spots especially...I mean I understand in Taipei...but...

Michael Turton said...

.I know FDI is much more complex and could be discussed in terms of other sectors of the economy but really I'm shocked it's so low, there must be a reason or it doesn't mean what I think it means.

FDI is attracted by potential returns. Taiwan's economic growth is slow, it has many competitors in its niches, and no industry really leaps out as a potential investment target. Hence, we don't get large inflows of FDI -- we have to compete with China, India, and other rapidly growing nations.

As for the rest, I guess I don't notice how ugly things are here because I've become used to the hideousness of the built environment and it now seems normal. Plus I spend a lot of time in beautiful places....

Thanks for stopping by the blog! I really appreciate it.

1stCMalaysia said...

My view of relationship between Uncle Sam and Taiwan is like Master and his peasant. All the news about Taiwan I ever read, Uncle Sam always order Taiwan about, and Taiwan, is like never try to protest in anyway, not even verbally. And the current administration is clearly very pro-US, or just answers 'your wish is my command' everytime Uncle Sam demands something.