Monday, December 30, 2013

Yacht What

A farmer contemplates a field in Yunlin.

The Taiwan government is so droll. Upon being criticized for building 115 slots for yachts at ports in Taiwan last year, the government replied:
The project is not limited to pleasure yachts from high income people, but anyone can use the docks if they have a yacht, the agency said, adding that “it is like being able to park in a parking lot if there are empty spots.”
Did you hear that folks? Anyone can use them! Which is good, because I was wondering what do with my collection of yachts....  the story is actually more complex. Building up yacht tourism in Taiwan was one of President Ma's projects for his first administration (FocusTaiwan), and three Taiwan ports were chosen for expansion in Tainan, Yilan, and Keelung (Badouzi).  To promote the industry and Taiwan as a yachting destination, the industry staged its first yacht show this year.

News item from today about Taiwan, a world center of quality yacht manufacturing:
Alexander Marine, builder of Ocean Alexander yachts, announced the expansion of its manufacturing facility in Taiwan. The company said “record-breaking sales this past summer” culminated in 9 new yacht sales, requiring the expansion in the city of Kaohsiung. Sales trends have shown an increase in larger yachts, and the yard will expand to meet the demand for them.


The yard in China will be closed so the company “can consolidate key personnel with many years of boatbuilding experience into one yard.”
Taiwan is actually known as the yacht kingdom and usually only trails the major industrialized nations -- UK, US, Germany, Italy, etc -- in the production of yachts. Horizon in Taiwan is the number ten maker of yachts in the world and Taiwan beat out Germany this year to move into the number six slot in the world. However, total industry production peaked at $350 million in 2008 and never recovered from the double whammy of the Great Recession and the entrance of Chinese firms into the market. Despite the threat, the government has ambitious plans for a yacht complex in Kaohsiung based on predictions of market growth that have not materialized.....
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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Some links

Old school newspaper and drink stand operated by an old couple, Taichung.

Don't feel like blogging. Enjoy.

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

FEPZs on the march into education

Are those egg cases on its back?

The Free Economic Pilot Zone initiative continues to advance, as Taiwan Today observes. Apparently one area to be liberalized is education, foreign institutions will be permitted to set up schools in the zones:
The eye-catching new plan firmly demonstrates the government’s determination to liberalize. For example, in recent years elite educational institutions from Australia, Europe and the U.S. have established branches in Asia, precipitating educational innovation; Singapore, South Korea and even Malaysia have become important bases for international education. Due to restrictions on campuses and classes in the law governing private schools, not one foreign institution has yet set up a branch or joint venture in Taiwan.* Yet changing the law on private schools is well nigh impossible.
This is a very interesting end-run around the rules. The system is designed so students are forced to attend public schools or the private schools that ape them. But if foreign institutions offered alternatives, many people would pull their kids out of the local system, especially people with money.

*Yes, there is at least one foreign university offering accredited courses here.
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Ma-Xi Meetup???

It's a common pattern for Ma to float ideas like a meet up with President Xi of China in the foreign press -- in this case a Hong Kong paper -- and then "explain" them to the home media. TT says:
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday defended the possibility of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at next year’s APEC meeting in Beijing, insisting that such a meeting would only be held if supported by Taiwanese and if national dignity can be maintained.
The Mainland Affairs Council said that a Ma-Xi Mating would not be on the agenda for discussion with the Taiwan Affairs Office of Beijing.
Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦), chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), is expected to meet with his counterpart, Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), director of the Mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), after the Chinese Lunar New Year's holidays (Jan. 30 – Feb. 4) on the Mainland. An MAC official pointed out that both sides were still proposing topics for discussion during the meeting, but a meeting between President Ma and his Mainland counterpart Xi Jinping was not on the agenda. According to the MAC official, our side would not take the initiative to bring up the possibility of a Ma-Xi meeting. However, if the TAO should bring up the possibility of such a meeting, the MAC would consider it.
Ma always raises the issue of a meeting, which he obviously desperately wants, in the context of denying that Taiwan is ready for a meeting. FocusTW reports on Ma's eagerness and appears to suggest that Ma might be willing to accept going to the meeting with a title other than President. In fact the day before Christmas Ma admitted China has already ruled out such a meeting....
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Will China Attack Taiwan? Yes, of course, if it wants to

An egret lands.

This week Beijing called for an exchange of media offices with Taipei. This means that a bunch of reporters, many pro-Beijing, will go to Beijing from Taiwan, and a bunch of espionage agents, political warfare specialists, and propaganda experts will come to Taiwan from China. The always hilarious propagandists of Beijing piously observed:
Zhang Zhijun, the director of Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council, told a forum organized by Beijing's CCTV for Chinese and Taiwanese media that Beijing is more than willing to speed such exchanges, adding that he hopes Taipei would match Beijing's efforts.

He added that peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait needs to be consolidated, and unbiased news reports about the development of Taiwan and China, as well as reports promoting the idea of "we are a family" who are part of the same culture, will help Beijing and Taipei strengthen the bonds between them, while respecting each other's differences.
I've argued before that one of Taiwan's most important defenses against invasion from China is its democracy, which Beijing will either have to accept or crush. Not only is that a problem, but Beijing must also eradicate the Taiwan identity. One solution of the Zhongnanhai gang to both these problems is the constant assertion that Taiwan and China have the same culture (an assertion, which, not coincidentally, underpins one of its claims to annex the island). And yet...

I got to thinking about this again because Zachary Keck, who has been writing at the The Diplomat on Taiwan lately, has a piece which argues that China won't invade Taiwan for all the reasons we've heard before:
The first and least important is the dramatic impact this would have on how countries in the region and around the world would view such a move. Globally, China seizing Taiwan would result in it being permanently viewed as a malicious nation.
(1) The Chinese don't care how they are viewed and (2)  countries will view China in the way that is convenient for them irrespective of what Beijing does and (3) China is already viewed that way in the region, as the current re-arming taking place around China's borders signals. This one is a non-starter.
But the more important deterrent for China would be the uncertainty of success.
Haha. This deters leaders right up to the moment when they decide to move, then it doesn't. When they want to move, they move.
Thus, even if it quickly defeated Taiwan’s formal military forces, the PLA would continue to have to contend with the remnants of resistance for years to come.
Ah... the resistance fantasy. I think it is fanciful to imagine that the Taiwanese will engage in armed resistance -- there are no weapons available, unless the ROC disperses them before it disappears from history. And I seriously doubt that will happen; sympathy for China is widespread in the armed forces, and thousands of ROC officers have retired there.

In any case, China is already contending with "remnants of resistance" in Tibet and Xinjiang. It's not a problem for Beijing, just an annoyance, since luckily for them, the Dalai Lama keeps Tibet pacified. The solution to resistance is at hand in the form of 1.3 billion settlers, hundreds of thousands of whom will be shoehorned onto the island to occupy and loot it. But will Beijing want to risk exposing that many people to Taiwan's independent identity and democratic ways?

Pieces like Keck's fail for two broad reasons. First, they assign too much rationality to the conduct of human affairs. Leaders and peoples are not rational and especially not so about war, else there would have been no Japan-American war, no criminal and stupid invasion of Iraq by the US, no invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, no impulsive expansion like Nazi Germany's across Europe, etc. When Beijing decides to move on Taiwan the problems of defeating the forces of Japan, Taiwan, and the US as well as occupying Taiwan will be treated as problems to be solved, not insuperable obstacles, just as Tokyo did when going to war against the US colossus in 1941 (how can we maximize our advantages and minimize theirs?). Or perhaps they will simply take the US approach to occupying Iraq, and fantasize that they are loved and everything will be peachy-keen. Surely if US leaders can fool themselves into defeat in Iraq, Beijing is capable of no less.

The second issue is that such analyses almost never take into account the domestic push for action (it is entirely missing from Keck's). And yet the domestic construction of The Problem (Taiwan, oil for Japan's war effort in China, the Polish Question, the Falklands, the question of slavery and identity) is generally the dominant factor in shaping how and when the nation goes to war. Japan had many possible responses to the problem of getting oil from its main supplier, the US, besides going to war with it, and to the larger problem of colonialism, yet in the end it settled on the least rational response.  Hitler settled on war from the beginning, the diplomacy was merely a smokescreen to that end, and moved by some inner timetable of his own, not when it was conventionally wise to move. The Falklands became a war zone when the Argentine Junta decided to hit it for domestic reasons, not because the UK had made some major change in the status of the islands.

When Beijing moves, it will be driven by some domestic calculus that will not be immediately obvious to outsiders, most likely the kind of combination of medium-sized factors such as domestic unrest, economic uncertainty, and sudden billowing nationalism, the arrival of a hard-liner in a position of real power, the ascendancy of the PLA over domestic politics, and/or the appearance of a communicator who can argue internally and credibly that Taiwan is ripe for the plucking and the US won't move. Nations fool themselves into going to war -- the Junta had persuaded itself the UK would not defend the Falklands. That's why the prompt US response to the ADIZ, flying B-52s through it, was exactly the right move.

It's impossible to say that Beijing won't move against Taiwan. All previous history -- the seizure of islands from Vietnam, the invasions of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Vietnam, the war with India, and so forth, suggest that Beijing is interested in territorial expansion and sees violence as a key tool for achieving that goal. And that is why, ultimately, even our crazy democracy won't be enough to deter them, if they want to come over....
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Links.... alas, too busy to blog

Had a lot of fun riding down to the Chiayi HSR today. We played follow the HSR line through the farm tracks in southern Yunlin county. Forgot that there are only a couple of bridges across the river into Chiayi. Ended up taking the new tourism bridge in Beigang...with that chilly north wind at our backs, riding was easy.  

Too busy to blog today.....

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Links and Kudos to Shirley Kan

Hikers in the forest below Hsinshe.

A few links for today.

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Asia Scholar James Manicom is speaking in Tokyo on Jan 15 (via H-Asia)
*James Manicom: Japan and China - Troubled Waters*

Date: Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Time: Door opens at 7:00pm, Program starts at 7:30pm
Venue: Temple University Japan Campus, Azabu Hall 2F
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Max Baucus? I think it be the cows, sir.

East of Dongshih, a couple of years ago, with my man Drew. 

Quote of the day: A friend passed this one around while discussing the Baucus appointment as Ambassador to China. BR Myers:
"The question of where Europe ends and Asia begins has troubled many people over the years, but here's a rule of thumb: if someone can pose as an expert on the country in question without knowledge of the relevant language, it's part of Asia. "
Dem Senator Max Baucus to become the new ambassador to China? The reason is obvious: it goes moo and then gets injected with drugs before being killed and chopped up for sale to Asia. Baucus was at the forefront of efforts to get Taiwan to accept ractobeef (for example). He's from the great state of Montana, noted for its wide open spaces filled with cattle, who outnumber Montana residents by a three to one margin, 2.6 million of the four legged future exports. Commonwealth ran a piece on Baucus last year:
Senator Baucus, 71, is none other than the "commander-in-chief of American beef" contributing to the maelstrom that is currently sweeping Taiwanese society. A Democrat from Montana, Senator Baucus has lived in Washington, D.C. for 34 years. His seniority makes him the third most powerful man in the Senate, behind only the heads of the Democratic and Republican party caucuses.


Senator Baucus is sure to be prominent wherever U.S. beef is promoted internationally. Despite the opposition of local farmers, no matter how numerous, Japan, South Korea, Chile, Columbia and Panama have all caved in to trade pressure from the U.S. and opened their markets to American beef.

Naturally, Baucus is an instrumental figure at U.S. trade negotiations around the world. While in China imploring Vice Premier Wang Zhishan to allow the renminbi currency to appreciate, the Senator took advantage of the occasion to pressure the Chinese government to open its market to U.S. beef.
Pretty obvious what is going to happen with China: the US is going to try to crack that market. This analysis observes:
While a limited number of countries including Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay have formal access to China, ‘front door’ trade is not the only way into the market. Official import volumes do not reflect other beef imports making their way into the country via the ‘grey channels’, which consist mostly of uncertain volumes of buffalo exports from India that are imported by Vietnam and Hong Kong, then re-exported into China.

Despite US beef also entering China via grey channels, ongoing trade restrictions limit the competiveness of US exports including the ban of growth promotant – ractopomine – and BSE disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or ‘mad cow disease’) history.
Right. The US is clashing with China on any number of fronts, the relationship is fraught, war is looming, and what kind of ambassador do we get? A single minded promoter of beef interests! *sigh* Taiwannews says he's been "deepening" the US-China relationship for two decades... does Baucus speak Chinese? Nope. Both the WaPo and Taiwannews pieces point out that appointing Baucus solves some domestic Congressional issues for the Administration. CSM points out that Baucus has been interested in China for years:
Lampton says he got the impression from the informal conversations on China that Baucus was interested in expanding his knowledge of Asia as other senators “from the agricultural states between the Appalachians and the Rockies” had done before him.

Two examples are Jim Sasser, the former Tennessee Democratic senator who served as ambassador to China in the late 1990s, and Mike Mansfield, the Montana Democrat who was the longest-serving US ambassador to Japan but who actually started his lifelong Asia focus as a result of a short stint as a Marine in China.

“It was clear from those [Senate] meetings that [Baucus] saw Mansfield as a great statesman,” Lampton says, “and I think he saw that as the kind of role he’d like to play.”
Mansfield was seen in many quarters as too sympathetic to the Japanese... let's hope Baucus gets good advice.

Meanwhile, US beef is once again surging into the Taiwan market. Although the ractobeef controversy knocked beef exports to Taiwan back, US marketers say they are recovering ground lost to Australia and New Zealand:
This year, U.S. beef has made great strides in regaining lost market share in Taiwan. Through the first nine months of 2013, sales of U.S. beef have grown nearly 214 percent in value to $199 million, taking 41 percent market share versus 34 percent for Australia and 20 percent for New Zealand.
I seldom eat beef in Taiwan; you can't know what you're getting.
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Murray Rubinstein at SOAS on the state of Taiwan Studies

Talk on Reflections on the State of Taiwan Studies, SOAS, University of London
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Links n stuff

Todays factoid, from a discussion on Forumosa:
"I'm sure it is true of civil servants all over the world, but Taiwan may be a special case. A quick Google search shows that the US fires 0.55% of federal employees each year. Taiwan has about 320,000 civil servants (including employees of state enterprises). If it fired at the rate the US government does, you would expect to see 1,760 civil servants lose their job each year. Taking a quick look at the 2012 statistics from the "Commission on the Disciplinary Sanctions of Functionaries", it appears that just 15 civil servants lost their job in 2012. At least half were police officers.

It is also important to note that the US president appoints thousands of officers to top governmental positions. These appointments extend down to the level of departmental heads in various agencies and they serve at the pleasure of the president. In contrast, Tawan's president (through the premier) appoints only the Ministers and one vice minister in each ministry. Everyone else is a civil servant with life tenure.

I'm not holding the US up as an exemplar. I just chose it as an example because it was easier to find the numbers. Still, I think that these numbers show that US civil servants are far more accountable and subject to democratic control than their counterparts in Taiwan are.

And no, I don't think the answer is more punishments. Taiwan's solution to every problem is to impose criminal penalties. It would be better served by a system where citizens could seek meaningful remedies themselves in the courts and make the polluters pay for the damage they cause."
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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Vietnamese Woman Rendered Stateless in cruel, hypocritical, racist act

The Taiwan government renders a Vietnamese woman stateless for the crime of having an extramarital affair. This move, so obviously racist in every way... well, no need to comment further. FrozenGarlic describes:
A few days ago, the media gave a tiny bit of coverage to the case of Wu Tsui-heng (武翠姮). Wu, who is originally from Vietnam, came to Taiwan in 2005 for work, married a Taiwanese man in 2006, got ROC citizenship in 2010, and gave up her Vietnamese citizenship. She had an extramarital affair, and her husband divorced her in 2011. This week the government notified her that it was cancelling her citizenship because her extramarital affair violated the requirements for morality as stated in the Nationality Law. It also cancelled the citizenship of her two young daughters. Since the two daughters are in Vietnam and Wu is in Taiwan and none of them have valid passports, they are forcibly separated.
FrozenGarlic's whole post is excellent and moving.

J Michael Cole observed:
Of course, Taiwan’s race-based concept of citizenship means that the requirements for “good morals” do not apply to ROC citizens. After all, the philandering — pardon, “good morals” — of Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), the man who heads the very ministry that is threatening to strip the woman of her citizenship, is very well known to the public.
The race-based concept of citizenship here is one reason, as FrozenGarlic observes, that so many of us don't get citizenship here. I would sure like a list of all the Overseas Chinese who have obtained citizenship here and gone on to have affairs within the five-year period, yet never been stripped of their citizenship. It surely must be an extensive list...

Because the law requires that people must give up their citizenship to become an ROC citizen and that they must do it prior to taking out citizenship here, several people have been rendered stateless by the ROC government when it changed its mind during the citizenship process (for example).

Taipei Times editorialized on it today.
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Hegemonic Warfare Watch: ADIZziness, while in Taiwan... *Sigh*

Well, well. The depressing global situation, which pits hegemonic powers against each other, when they need to be attacking global warming and the global economic downturn, just got a little more depressing this week with the US claim that a Chinese ship had attempted to ram a US ship (or create a collision -- take your pick) shadowing the task force around the Chinese carrier Liaoning (WashTimes, Reuters, WantChinaTimes). Such ramming actions are normal for the Chinese, as we have seen over the years, and the incident has the ring of truth.

Meanwhile, back in ADIZ land, the commentary on China's new ADIZ is like a signal of how provocative and threatening it is. James Holmes points out what so many of us have been saying, that China's policies are calculated.
Moltke the Elder maintained that the strongest form of warfare is strategic offense combined with tactical defense. In practice that means wresting something from an outmatched or unready opponent and daring that opponent to take it back. Since defense is stronger than offense according to Clausewitz, seizing a disputed object preemptively confers advantages. It compels the opponent to undertake a costly offensive; he might find himself cast as the aggressor, with all the political baggage that entails. In short, an enterprising power can obtain what business folk call a “first-mover advantage” (hat tip: Toshi Yoshihara), preempting competitors in a contested theater or other dispute.
The Diplomat also hosted a very nice piece on rationalist explanations for a war between Japan and China. The South Koreans responded to China's move by extending their ADIZ a week ago, a nice tit for tat move. The US has assured Japan it will not recognize Beijing's demands in the ADIZ.

Zach Keck argued in The Diplomat that the ADIZ threatens Taiwan more than Japan. The ADIZ itself has exactly zero effect on reinforcements to Taiwan from Japan by either the Japanese or the US, it is just dotted lines on a map and has no physical existence. If China attacks Taiwan it will have to interdict that area whether or not there is an ADIZ; if China attacks Japan it will have to interdict that area as well whether or not there is an ADIZ. More importantly, The Diplomat hosted a fine piece that explained China's need for the Su-35: its superior range. Range is a key strategic factor in a fighter aircraft, the famed Japanese ace Saburo Sakai once remarked that if German fighters had possessed better range the Germans would have won the Battle of Britain. Increased range is useful tactically since it enables longer periods in combat over the target area, but strategically, if your aircraft outrange the enemies, you can send planes over areas where he cannot. And that is a priceless advantage.

Keck's argument also depended on his claim that the Senkakus are part of Taiwan. How much longer do we have to see this silliness? They were never part of Taiwan.

At Bloggingheads Toshi Yoshihara discusses the ADIZ (video).

Meanwhile back in Taiwan President Ma met with AIT Chair Burghardt over the ADIZ. The Ma government's weak response -- the ADIZ is "unhelpful" was criticized at home and likely, in Washington, hence the appearance of Burghardt in Taipei. The director of AIT in Taipei issued a statement...
AIT Director Christopher J. Marut today commented on Taiwan’s response to China’s announcement of an air defense identification zone. Director Marut said, “The United States appreciates Taiwan’s constructive response to Beijing’s November 23 announcement of an East China Sea ADIZ. The U.S.-Taiwan unofficial relationship is in great shape. We are working well together.”
Just take all those sentences and convert them to negatives, and I suspect you'll get his actual meaning. Well, we all on the pro-Taiwan side warned them what Ma would mean. The US government supported Ma twice. Now they are getting what they deserve. Unfortunately it is we in Taiwan who are going to pay the price for the Administration's short-sightedness and venality. At least the government has acquired much needed Apache helicopters.
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Old House on the way

I set out to put in some kilometers on the bike yesterday. Intending to ride down to the coast, I hopped on the 140, and then, as so often is the case, I had a never-been-on-this-road moment, and turned down the oddly named Chung-Miao 47 (this intersection). This turned out to be a pleasant, gentle downward sloping ride all the way to Yuanli through rice fields and old farmhouses. At one point I passed this old house and said to myself "Hmm, original wood! Have to have a look!"

I turned into the driveway, where a man in his forties was eating breakfast. I asked if I could see the house and he waved me in with no questions, as if foreigners on bikes rode up every day to see his old house. Though old san he yuan houses like this are extremely common in Taiwan, I still enjoy looking at them.

The circle on the gate suggests it once held a rising sun, painted over when the KMT came in. This in turn places the house sometime in the 1930s or before.

The wood was original, apparently.

Porcelain tiles decorate many such older roofs.

All the roads in this stretch of the plain between Houli and Yuanli are enjoyable. Hope to see you on a bike soon!

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Bananas and Foc and Taiwan

Part of the old Qing trench network above Keelung city used in the siege of the French.

The world of bananas we see today is not the world that existed sixty years ago. In that world the major export banana was a type called Gros Michel. It was the principal banana imported into the the US until the early 1960s.

And then came the fungus known as Fusarium Wilt, or Foc, also known as Panama disease, where it was first reported back in the 1890s. Over the next half-century Gros Michel was wiped out, with shortages allegedly inspiring the famous "yes we have no bananas" song, according to Wiki. This article observes:
Disaster struck in the mid-1950s when Panama disease turned on the Gros Michel banana. Within a few years, wholesale destruction was seen in plantations in Central America and Africa with 50,000 hectares lost in Honduras alone, said Dr. Molina. This drove the banana business to near bankruptcy and precipitated the move to the relatively less delectable, but resistant, Cavendish banana.

Originating from Southeast Asia, the Cavendish banana replaced the Gros Michel variety on a global scale. Billions of dollars in investments were reportedly spent beginning in the 1960s for the development of infrastructure to accommodate differences in growing and ripening needs of the new variety in different countries. All seemed well with Cavendish as the new banana of commerce until the Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 came along (source).
Today Americans and other nations into which bananas are imported consume the resistant Cavendish, which is not as delicious. Unless you have actually been to a banana-raising nation where they raise several varieties, you have probably never tasted a delicious banana.

The first problem of the Cavendish is simple, although it is resistant to some strains (called Races) of Foc, it is horribly vulnerable: all Cavendish bananas today are clones of the first plant, which means they are genetically identical. Which means that any disease that affects one can affect them all. This excellent article on Philippines says:
In the banana business, Foc is conventionally classified into four pathogenic forms known as "Races". Race 1, which destroyed the Gros Michel plantations, also attacks many local cultivars in Asia; Race 2 affects specific cooking bananas; Race 3 attacks Heliconia spp., ornamental plants that are related to bananas; and Race 4 affects a wide range of cultivars, including Cavendish and cultivars susceptible to Race 1 and 2. The extremely virulent strain of Race 4, known as 'Tropical Race 4', is a relatively recent development. Tropical Race 4 has the capacity to affect banana varieties unaffected by other Foc races.
Tropical Race 4 emerged in 1967 in Taiwan, in Chiatung, Pingtung. By the 1990s Taiwan's banana industry was devastated.

The second problem is that Foc is like some nightmare anti-banana biowarfare weapon. Once you have it, there is no economically viable treatment for it. No pesticide, no fungicide, no natural agent. Nada. You can have limited success via intercropping and other approaches, but it can hang out in the soil for decades as a saphrophyte and can travel easily carried by humans, farming machinery, or on banana plant suckers which are symptomless.

The third problem is that banana is a huge crop, third largest fruit crop in the world, and the third largest in Taiwan, with the major cultivation areas being (in order) Pingtung, Nantou, Chiayi, and Kaohsiung. In many countries it enables small growers to earn an income and is a stable source of food. Scary, eh?

The good news is that these small growers with their myriad of cultivars are a precious reservoir of banana biodiversity, since Race 4 doesn't hurt them. It only affects the export bananas, the Cavendish variety, around which the modern banana export industry is built. Scientific American reports:
Progress in creating bananas fully resistant to Foc-TR4, either by classical breeding or genetic engineering, has so far been limited. The wild Asian banana Musa acuminata malaccensis—the genome of which was published last year (A. D’Hont Nature 488, 213–217; 2012)—seems to be resistant, and researchers are experimenting with putting its resistance genes into the Cavendish. The resulting transgenic specimens have been in field trials for 18 months on contaminated ground in Australia, and are looking “very promising”, says James Dale, director of the Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. But he cautions that the full results are not yet in.
With the virus appearing in Mozambique and Jordan recently (SciAmer), moving outside Asia, the world banana industry may once again experience an upheaval...
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

ECFA Successes Just Keep Rolling In

Resolutely thinking about the future of Taiwan. Via Motao

One of the merriest, most penetrating minds I know collected a bunch of info on the recent trade stats and sent it around. Not pretty at all. For November, via the Taipei Times:
Exports to ASEAN countries dropped to US$4.37 billion last month, down 9.3 percent from a year earlier and marking the lowest level since July last year. The weakness in shipments to ASEAN offset a 6.5 percent increase in exports to China and Hong Kong, which reached US$10.59 billion last month, the report said.

Yeh said Taiwan’s full-year exports may still show a slight increase from last year, adding that she is confident that outbound shipments this month may at least stay flat from last month.

Cumulative exports in the first 11 months of the year stood at US$277.63 billion, an increase of just 0.9 percent from a year earlier, the report said.
Look at those great Year on Year figures -- a total gain of 0.9 percent. This is the ECFA boost? In recent years ASEAN has been a great market for Taiwan. Note that imports have dropped five straight months -- if you want to export, you need to import. Imports fell due to declining prices for ag and raw material inputs, as well as slowing exporter demand.

FocusTaiwan, drawing on Merrill Lynch analysis, observes that export orders are rising but actual export value isn't keeping pace. In 2000 the ratio of export order value to export value reported by Taiwan firms was .99 (the two were essentially identical). Now it is .68, meaning that the orders are accepted in Taiwan but made elsewhere. As my friend pointed out, the Taiwan stats office, the DGBAS, found that the overseas production ratio of export orders in October was .529.

Meanwhile all those Taiwan firms operating in China are helping Beijing ramp up trade figures 7.8%...

Isn't the move to China wonderful? As I am wont to say, arguing that moving more factories to China will help Taiwan grow is arguing that a double amputee will run faster if we cut off both his legs too.

But the best part is the last part, as my friend noted. Tawan trade stats for Jan-Nov 2013:

Look carefully. According to the Taiwan gov't, exports to China this year rose 1.5% -- lovin' that big ECFA boost! w00t! -- while according to the China gov't, Taiwan's exports to China jumped 18.8% (FocusTaiwan):
Trade between Taiwan and China was valued at US$180.71 billion in the first 11 months of this year, an increase of 18.8 percent from the same period of 2012, according to statistics released Monday by China's General Administration of Customs.
As my friend observed with laughter, the import and export figures are hugely different:

Taiwan gov't: Taiwan exports to China = $109 billion
China gov't: Taiwan exports to China = $143.5 billion

Taiwan gov't: Taiwan imports from China = $40.2 billion
China gov't: China exports to Taiwan = $37.18 billion

Surely there must be whole cadres of financial analysts out there who find understanding these numbers an amusing parlor game.

Exports account for 70% of GDP in Taiwan. As they decline, so will living standards.
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East-West Center Analysis of Taiwan the ripe melon gets plenty of buzz

East Coast Tableaux

An East-West Center analysis of Taiwan's situation is getting plenty of buzz. Taipei Times summarizes:
Under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), the leadership in Beijing is well-positioned to exercise “strategic patience” over the Taiwan issue, he added.

“Beijing’s patience is predicated on the belief that time is on Beijing’s side, for reasons of economics, military, and the perceived attention deficit of the US,” the academic wrote. “As more sectors of the Taiwanese society become reliant on cross-strait commerce, this economic dependency has the potential to spill-over into politics and nurture more Beijing-friendly voices.”

Sung said there are also signs the US may be losing its ability to appreciate the nuances of Chinese policy.

“For Beijing, there is little incentive to pursue unification with Taiwan in the foreseeable future,” he wrote. “Pursuing unification through coercion runs the risk of a costly conflict with the US.”

“The pursuit, however, of unification through peaceful negotiation, presumably under an augmented version of the ‘one country, two systems’ formula, is also not necessarily desirable,” for that could oblige Beijing to sustain Taiwan’s economic prosperity, Sung said.

In addition, Beijing may fear that Taiwan’s democracy could increase pressure from China’s middle class for China to democratize, he added.
The original is here. "Waiting for the melon to drop" the author subtitled it. There was much anxious discussion on it wherever Taiwan is discussed, but the thing that struck me was that the author throws up a zillion excuses for non-action from Beijing, and continued non-action in the future, while maintaining the overall framework of the inevitable and righteous annexation of Taiwan by Beijing in the glorious future when the lamb lies down with the lion, the Cubs win the Series, and Beijing finally manages to inflate China out to some semblance of the old Qing borders. You could read it as an announcement of the inevitable, if you want....
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Test your US Taiwan policy knowledge

Love this spot. Past it is nothing but gorgeous views.

Noted political scientist John Mersheimer recently gave a talk on Taiwan's future in a world where China's growth has never stopped and China is now a hyper-power. The talk is a fantasy and entertaining as far as it goes, but it contains this statement...
...The “Anti-­‐Secession Law,” which China passed in 2005, says explicitly that “the state shall employ non-­‐peaceful means and other necessary measures” if Taiwan moves toward de jure independence. It is also worth noting that the United States does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country, and according to President Obama, Washington “fully supports a one-­‐China policy.”
Anyone spot the apparent error? Click READ ME below for the answer.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Gov't says it will shut down illegal guesthouses at Qingjing. No, seriously.

Guesthouses just above the last 7-11 at Qingjing.
The movie Beyond Beauty apparently has had some effect in dramatically portraying the destruction of Taiwan's environment. The public was moved. And so the government responded to this social demand by moving against illegal gravel operations illegal farming in the mountains illegal occupation and development of public land pollution by factories deforestation overdevelopment of highways and roads guesthouses.
Only four of the 134 inns and guesthouses in Qingjing are operating legally, the interior ministry said Thursday, vowing to close down any unlicensed lodgings in disaster-prone areas of the popular mountain resort destination in central Taiwan.

There will be "no room for negotiation" over the dismantling of illegal guesthouses in areas of Qingjing with a high risk of disasters as a result of earthquakes and torrential rain, Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan said at a press conference.

The ministry has identified nearly half of the mountainous 498-hectare scenic area as "high-risk" in a push to reduce overdevelopment, following an increase in public awareness spurred by the hit documentary "Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above."
No room for negotiation! Gotta admire the toughness of the Interior Minister, ready to take on tiny powerless family owned businesses at the drop of a hat. The article goes on to say another 80 businesses are the subject of investigation because they occupy public land. Hoo boy. Would it be too cynical to wonder if any of the guesthouses are removed, it will be because some big hotelier wants to put in a resort?

These businesses are not invisible. They did not suddenly appear from an alternate dimension (well, actually they did -- they jumped in from reality to appear in the bureaucratic continuum, briefly, before vanishing back into reality. In Taiwan, problems before the government are like the legendary village of Brigadoon: they appear once every hundred years). These places have been in operation for years with the indifference or active connivance of authorities. Suddenly we're moving on them? Haha.

Anyone who has spent any length of time in Taiwan knows that the following processes of the Scapegoat Cycle will now take place (1) media fanfare with announcement of resolute action (2) a few high profile cases will be prosecuted as scapegoats (3) the others will be ignored and life will go on as usual except for the few unlucky ones until (4) the next time scapegoats are needed.

Well, in fairness, I should add that the government did knock down a bunch of illegal structures in Tayuling on the Hualien side of Hehuanshan. So maybe they might take action....

Meanwhile the real and urgent problems are resolutely ignored and in fact multiplied by government policy. The Taipei Times pointed out:
Executive Yuan Deputy Secretary-General Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said on Friday last week that Cabinet ministries and agencies have been divided into five teams to work on 16 major issues highlighted by the film, including illegal gravel and sand mining, the build-up of sediment in reservoirs, land subsidence, excessive hillside development and polluted rivers. The teams were told to present an initial report to Jiang within one month. However, Chien said the government “will take a holistic approach and not just focus on the 16 problems.”

Yet just two weeks earlier, the Cabinet was steaming ahead with its draft for regional development, the “National Regional Plan,” which would relax regulations on land use, allow small-scale industrial parks to be established without an environmental assessment and streamline application and review procedures for major projects. Critics say the proposal would ease restrictions on development in reservoir areas, farmland and active fault zones.
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Taiwan Communique 144

Temple, Taiping, Taichung city.

FAPA sent this around (click on READ MORE to see full info):

To: Friends in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia
From: Formosan Association for Public Affairs

We are pleased to let you know that the new issue of Taiwan Communiqué is hot off the press (attached). This issue starts with a summary of the very recent declaration by China of an Air Defense Identification Zone, covering a wide area of the East China Sea, including the Senkaku / Diaoyutai island. This increased tension and prompted immediate protests from the US, Japan and South Korea.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Ma Gov't and ADIZ

Lovely day on Dongchi Road on the way to Dongshih.

FocusTaiwan has some good news on the Ma Government's reaction to the new Chinese ADIZ:
Taiwan has told Beijing that its declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over an area of the East China Sea that covers the disputed Diaoyutai Islands is unacceptable, Taiwan's intelligence chief said Wednesday.

Tsai De-sheng, director-general of the National Security Bureau (NSB) said Taiwan is also communicating with China through an encrypted dialogue channel over Beijing's plan to demarcate another ADIZ over the South China Sea.
If it's true that Taiwan has said this, it is very good news. As the editorials FocusTaiwan collects below the opening paragraphs make clear, Beijing's signal that it might announce an ADIZ over the South China Sea has everyone in a tither in Taipei. The ROC lays claim to islands there, and to the entire South China Sea, and has forces physically present on Pratas Island and Taiping Island. An ADIZ could massively complicate things for the Taiwan air force, especially the belligerent kind of ADIZ that China uses.

This ADIZ was really quite cleverly done. Not only does it force the US and Japan to react, so that Beijing could whine about how victimized it is -- the number of my lefty acquaintances who buy Beijing's bullshit is mind-blowing -- but the order that aircraft flying in the ADIZ report to Beijing, which is against common practice, forces Japan to ignore it. Otherwise, Tokyo, by having its aircraft report, Tokyo would effectively concede that the ADIZ is legal. Because China does not own the Senkakus, the ADIZ is illegal. Again Japan is forced to look like it is being unreasonable, and with so many willing to carry Beijing's water for it.... really a clever move from the propaganda standpoint, in some ways.

In Foreign Affairs Michael J Green on the Chinese ADIZ.
The Obama administration needs to stick to a disciplined message of resolve and reassurance. And that would mean accurately assessing Beijing’s strategic intent. Confrontation with China is far from inevitable, and the potential areas for productive U.S.-Chinese cooperation remain vast. Vice President Joe Biden will no doubt emphasize the positive in U.S.-Chinese relations when he travels to Beijing this week. And that makes sense. But he should also leave no doubt that the United States is prepared to work with regional allies and partners to ensure Beijing understands that its attempts at coercion will not work. Then, when he is in Tokyo and Seoul, he should take time to listen carefully to what those allies think is at stake in the troubled East and South China Seas. Their problem is our problem, not just because we are allies but also because this moment could determine how China uses its growing power.
Unfortunately Green has misjudged Beijing's strategic intent: Beijing is careering towards war. Perhaps Japan and the US can display enough intent convince China to have the war elsewhere, just as Nomonhan in 1939 convinced the Japanese that they should focus their attentions southward instead of against the tough and skillful Russians. The Indians are aware they are also a target -- China Reform Monitor reports:
The military build up along the China-India border continues despite last month’s border agreement. “Against the backdrop of the major military infrastructure modernization on the Chinese side,” the Indian army is raising an additional 50,000 troops to be based in Panagarh, West Bengal with responsibility for the China-India border, Rediff reports. The Indian Air Force will also station six mid air refueling tankers and six C-130J Super Hercules special operations aircraft in Panagarh. An unknown number of armored and artillery divisions will also be deployed in Bihar and Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and other parts of India’s northeast. As part of the plan, ultra-light howitzers, light tanks, and helicopters will strengthen Indian positions along the LAC. Helipads and airfields are being overhauled to allow Indian forces greater access to the rugged region and in time the military plans to position ballistic and cruise missile units there as well.
All across the Chinese frontier, Beijing has mobilized its enemies. More and more it looks like Japan in the 1930s, threatened by no one and able to gain all the resources it needs by peaceful trade, but bent on re-arranging the map in any case.
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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Pragmatic Ma Moves Capital to Nanjing

Taiwan black pigs, 1915.

I'm too lazy to search for all the media descriptions of President Ma Ying-jeou as "pragmatic." I'm sure there probably still are a few desperately out of touch individuals who see Ma as pragmatic. But for those of us living in the real world, nothing could be more in character for Ma, who is a right-wing nationalist ideologue, than his Ministry of Education moving the capital back to Nanjing. No really: the TT reports today:
A government document ordering schools’ procurement of teaching materials that mark Nanjing as the capital of the Republic of China (ROC) and Taipei as the current location of the central government indicated President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration’s persistent attempts to promote the links between Taiwan and China, as well as the administration’s misinterpretation of the Constitution, lawmakers and academics said yesterday.

A photograph posted by National Taipei University of Education professor Lee Hsiao-feng (李筱峰) on Facebook yesterday, which showed a Ministry of Education document issued on Monday to schools nationwide, went viral on the Internet.

“The document reflects the Ma administration’s ideology and its state of mind as a government-in-exile, which the majority of Taiwanese do not agree with. We should not be surprised because Ma has always tried to go against the trend,” Lee said.
And you know when he steps down the international media, toadies to the end, will praise him for being pragmatic...

On my Facebook today someone joked that Ma would then go on to appoint representatives for the provinces in China lost to the CCP. Two days ago I might have found that joke funny. Now I find it... unsettling. As the article points out, this is a Party that still believes it owns Mongolia.....
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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

About Gout

Fields of chili peppers near Jhuolan.

If you've lived in Taiwan for any length of time, you've encountered gout. I know several foreigners who struggle with it. Apparently Taiwan is number one in the world as new research observes gout has strong inherited aspect:
The oldest recorded disease in medical history, gout, has long thought been thought to be a result of an overindulgent lifestyle; excessive drinking and meat consumption leads to deposits of uric acid in the joints, causing debilitating pain. But new research done in Taiwan, where gout is most prevalent in the world, adds to the body of evidence that while gout may be a self-inflicted "rich man's disease," it is also very hereditary.

Previous research indicates that nearly 4 percent of the 23 million people in Taiwan have gout. For the latest study, The University of Nottingham examined data from 4.2 million families and found compelling evidence that the disease clusters in families, with an increased risk of gout in individuals who have immediate or secondary family members that also suffer from gout.
Not only does gout afflict more people here, they get it at younger ages. FocusTaiwan summarized:
Chen Shih-yang, director of Country Hospital's gout treatment center, told a medical conference that the age at which people are contracting gout in Taiwan has fallen markedly over the past 30 years.

Based on 40,000 data entries on gout patients he has accumulated since 1981, Chen said gout occurred mainly among men in their 50s and 60s in the 1980s but grew increasingly prevalent among men in their 30s in the 1990s and among men in their 20s in recent years.

Today, Chen said, 20-somethings account for 20 percent of Taiwan's gout population, an unheard of percentage two decades ago.
Before I started biking my doctor warned me that I was at risk for gout; fear of it was one of the factors that put me on a bike (my numbers have since normalized). Gout also runs rampant among local aborigines and indeed, this study and this one have identified gout-related genetic traits. This study opens:
That there is a high prevalence of gout disease among adult Taiwan aborigines is well known, with incidences ranging from 15 to 44% documented for Atayal men aged over 40 years, followed by Bununs (28.1%) and Paiwans and Tsou tribes (> 5%)1,2. In addition to high prevalence of the disease itself among aboriginal tribes, hyperuricemia is also known to be an asymptomatic feature among the adults2 and children3, but not all the subtribes of Taiwan aborigines suffer from gout. According to Bellwood4, the ancestral homeland of Austronesians was the agricultural heartland of Southeast Asia, from where they first radiated to Formosa (Taiwan; 4000 BC), then western Polynesia (1200 BC), central Polynesia (200 BC), and New Zealand (800 AD). Studies have shown male Micronesians to have prevalence of hyperuricemia ranging from 21 to 64%5-7, and in male Polynesians the figure ranges from 24.3 to 49%8,9. This is higher than in male Caucasians (6 to 23%)10-12, suggesting a direct association with gout.
Gout is also a risk factor in other diseases, such as chronic kidney disease. Among Asian doctors you often hear that soy foods cause gout, but the good news is that this review of studies on the soy-gout connection finds that there is none. So enjoy your tofu, and get on a bike!
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China Launches Moon Mission

(Beiing, AFP) As Chinese rovers roamed its surface, China claimed the moon today. A foreign ministry spokesman said: "Everyone knows that ancient Chinese texts from the Later Han mention the moon. Indeed, the moon is a staple of Tang poetry. Since Chinese were the first to see the moon, it belongs to China."

Chinese netizens cheered as the historical wrong of China not owning the moon was finally righted. "Everyone knows the One China policy includes the moon," affirmed one netizen. Another netizen noted that the moon could be seen from Taiwan prior to industrialization there, and since Taiwan was part of China, that meant the moon was part of China. Other netizens voiced complaints: "The moon is an airless, waterless wasteland. Why doesn't the government claim some place useful, like Venus or Mars?" Chinese officials hasten to reassure the public that the time was not yet right for talks with Venus. "Those who say that Venus is not Chinese are playing with fire," an official spokesman warned.

In Washington, GOP officials criticized the Obama Administration. "The President hasn't flown B-52s around the moon yet," they said, adding that "Liberal talk that there is no air in space is just Vacuum Alarmism."

In related news, China announced an ADIZ around the moon, Jupiter, and several nearby stars. China refrained from expanding its ADIZ to Pluto, explaining that since Pluto was no longer a planet, it had lost its attractiveness. "Besides," a foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity, "everyone knows there's no oil and the fishing around Pluto is terrible. Frankly, the Malaysians can have it." Chinese officials are said to be working on a claim to the Crab Nebula, which, they say, appears in ancient Chinese texts.
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Sunday, December 01, 2013

Things for Today

Today was a spectacularly clear day. Winter in central Taiwan is cool and crisp. Here my man Steve checks out the vineyards of Jhuolan.

Much too busy to blog, so... first, Tobie Openshaw sends this around:
大家好:以下點選Youtube幫我寶貝凱倫微電影按個讚幫她集個人氣。感謝妳,你們:)Hi, here is the movie we made for the 48-Hour Film Competition Taipei. We won Best Costume and are hoping to have a crack at winning Most Popular. You can do us a huge favour by watching it on YouTube and up-voting it there... so much!
Second, you should be reading J Michael Cole's account of the appalling behavior of the largely Christian hate groups out in force against same-sex marriage in Taipei this weekend. Facebook was filled with images of these clowns, including one toad who was wearing a Nazi SS uniform while noting that the Nazis hated gays, so he does too. J Michael posted that another nutcase told him that the USSR fell because it legalized same-sex marriage.

If that weren't bad enough, J Michael also records that yet another Miaoli protester has come to harm. Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Frida Tsai was struck by a van. J Michael's piece is chilling.
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