Friday, February 28, 2014

Out riding links

I'm riding in the rift valley, but I thought I'd drop off some links on  the way....
Daily Links:
  • The stupid, it buuurrrnnnnssss: Back in the day, The Taipei Times editorial page hosted great writers who really knew the score like Lawrence Eyton and Brian Kennedy and Bo Tedards. Now things have gone downhill so much that the page actually said Sean Lien, the son of the honorary chairman of the KMT, who is one of the richest, most powerful men on the island, is a political outsider. He's the ultimate insider, who is getting handed the candidacy as a birthright on his way to being groomed for the Presidency his father was never able to capture. What a horror.
  • US may press the Ma Administration to live up to its pledge to raise the defense budget to 3% of GDP. Yet another broken promise.....
  • Taiwan salaries continue to regress, now at 1998 levels.
  • Taiwan looks for cruise line tourists.
  • Cole in the Diplomat: The return of gangster politics in Taiwan
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Say Good Bye to John Mearsheimer

John Mearsheimer's piece Say Goodbye to Taiwan has been making the rounds in Taiwan circles. I plan to submit a response to it along with another well known blogger, but anyone who has been out here a while should be able to see through its articulate air of sympathy (Gosh those Taiwanese, poor kids, gonna miss 'em when they're gone) to its awful, impoverished core. But I will say this -- Mearsheimer's piece isn't about Taiwan, it's about Mearsheimer. The whole point of the piece isn't to say anything intelligent about Taiwan, but to legitimate Mearsheimer as a Realist, over the dead bodies of future Taiwanese. Look at my manly realist position! It says. I can sell out Taiwan!. Because you know, the greatness of a realpolitik policy isn't measured by the success of the new order it creates, but by the number of one's friends it betrays.

That's all I want to say at the moment. But my working title for the response is "Saying Good-bye to John Mearsheimer: Taiwan's biggest problem isn't China, but America's Foreign Policy Commentariat"
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Off to collect my cut of $49 million

Date: 2/25/2014
Subject: FW: Business Proposal

On 02/24/14 4:04 PM, Tyler Klaus wrote:
Dear Prospective Partner,

I am contacting you regarding transaction linked with Mr. Chen Shui-bian the former President of Taiwan. I am Mr.Sean,Personal Assistant to Mr. Chen Shui-bian on Private Matters.My friend Mr. Chen Shui-bian has presented a subtle offer which will need the help of a partner like you to complete successfully. Mr. Chen Shui-bian is in a difficult situation and he must immediately relocate certain sums of money out of United Kingdom. More so, this must be done in such a way that it must not be tied to Mr. Chen Shui-bian. The sum is currently deposited in the name of an existing legal entity. Your role will be to:

[1]. Act as the original beneficiary of the funds.
[2]. Receive the funds into a business/private bank account.
[3]. Invest/Manage the funds outside of United Kingdom.
[4]. Value of funds: US$49 Million Dollars.

Everything will be done legally to ensure the rights to the funds are transferred to you. If you agree to partner with Mr. Chen Shui-bian, he will compensate you with 20% of the total sum for your role as the beneficiary partner to the funds. Should you prefer I re-contact you with more express facts, you can send me your:

[1] Full Names:
[2] Personal Profile:
[3] Daytime Telephone No:

Be advised to visit the following links to be better acquainted with Mr. Chen Shui-bian's current profile and personality.

You can email me at ( for further details, terms and agreement.

Mr.Tyler Klaus

Haha. Enjoy some

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Where you should bike when you come to Taiwan: some suggestions

You could be on the 147, like Philip and Virginia in this pic.

Basically this post is about: if you are Planning a Bike Trip in Taiwan, or Cycling Around Taiwan, or Cycling in Taiwan, or Planning a Bike Vacation in Taiwan, or whatever Google search term you have chosen, first you should avoid the area marked in red below:
Yes, that's right. Pretty much ignore everything south of the Dajia River and west of local highway 3. It's flat, boring, hot, dusty, and crowded, except for the agricultural areas of Yunlin and Chiayi, which are merely flat, boring, hot, and dusty. The coast is desolate. You might want to make a quick dash to Tainan to enjoy the city's friendly people and plentiful historical sites, but on the whole, if you have ten days, go somewhere else. Yes, you'll probably have a good time and meet great people, as the WSJ writer did, but the fact is that you can have a better time and meet great people in stunning montane and coastal environs. There's no rule that says you have to circle the island, unlike the locals, for which circling the island has become an important way of participating in the Taiwan identity and a key rite of passage for its young people. Instead, spend your time riding some really enjoyable roads.

Where to go? Well, just for the heck of it, here are ten great biking roads in Taiwan. Several roads, including the awe-inspiring Southern Cross and the 21 over Tatajia, I have been putting off riding because I enjoy the feeling of delayed gratification or because they have not been accessible. Thus they are not here. Others I love for sentimental reasons but are not all that great, or want to keep to myself. Here we go, not in any particular order....

Another problem with ending strategic ambiguity

Taiwan currently controls Pratas Island (Dongsha) and Taiping island, the largest of the Spratlys. Map source.

Lately calls for ending US strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan have appeared in the media, as they do cyclically. I raked one by Etzioni over the coals a couple of weeks ago. Joseph Bosco has also been calling for the US to unambiguously declare it would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack (2010 for example).

Responding to the piece on Etzioni I wrote:
In the Senkakus the situation is crystal clear: we have an exact analogy for Taiwan, a foreign territory, Japan, backed by the US with strong and periodically renewed clarity. Everyone knows that the Senkakus are currently Japanese, that China wants to annex them, and that the US will defend them.
I had forgotten of course, that Taiwan also offers a mirror to the Senkakus: the ROC holdings in the South China Sea.

Imagine if the US were to declare that it would defend Taiwan in case of Chinese attack. Because the ROC/Taiwan holds islands in the South China Sea, this may commit the US to defending them without -- as always -- declaring who is the proper claimant. These islands are claimed by several nations, not just the PRC and ROC, meaning that the US could find itself angering nations whose friendship it needs (just as Taiwan already is with these claims). And that's just the beginning...

...because what is happening in the Senkakus, the slow growth of tension via military and diplomatic moves, creating Japanese countermoves that Beijing can portray as "aggression", can just as easily happen in the South China Sea, if the US position becomes unambiguous, just as it is in the Senkakus. A well-defined policy invites testing of limits, a policy with no definition has no limits that can be tested.

 In addition to creating incidents Beijing can use to construct an "aggressive Japan" narrative, tension generated by Beijing is used by Beijing to harm the relationship between the US and its allies -- in other words, one of Beijing's most important strategic goals is transferring tension from the Beijing-Washington relationship to the Washington-Taipei and Washington-Tokyo relationship.

Just tossing this idea out there. But by unambiguously promising to defend Taiwan, the US may simply involve itself even deeper in the South China Sea disputes in unwelcome, complicated, and unpredictable ways.

ADDED: I also wanted to point out that if the US guarantees to defend Taiwan against attack, it guarantees the South China Sea holdings, which are held by the ROC as Chinese claims. This would put the US in the very awkward position of fighting for Chinese claims over the South China Sea islands (against China!), or else rejecting those claims formally by refusing to defend them.
Daily Links:
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Foreign Policy Blog Fail

New SRAM shifters and new bar tape, lovely old views. Nothing like 80 kms and 1100 meters of climbing to cure what ails.

Foreign Policy blog today offers a wonderful explanation of what is wrong with Taiwan's media. Oh, not by explaining, but by an outstanding display of all the faults of Taiwan's media in the article itself. Really as wonderful a case of irony-free writing as can be imagined. To wit, the blog explains some of the problems with the media:
Strong political beliefs among Taiwanese, Hong said, have emboldened media outlets to reveal their own political character, thus cleaving the country's media landscape into two halves, leading to highly biased reporting of almost any political or economic issue by media outlets sympathetic to one or the other political cause.
Prior to informing us about the Blue-Green split in the media, the blog cites several papers on the media in Taiwan. Let's see what they are...
In a Jan. 6 editorial in China Times, a Taiwanese daily newspaper,

Andy Hong, a reporter for Taiwanese newspaper Want Daily and a journalist in Taiwan for 20 years,

Joe Wei, managing editor of the World Journal, a U.S. and Canada-based Chinese-language newspaper owned by Taiwan's United Daily News,
The blog cites local Taiwan papers without ever informing the reader that they all report for the pro-China, pro-KMT side in Taiwan's politics and then goes on to piously inform us that the media has a political cleavage. I had to put my irony meters in strong lead-lined boxes to prevent them from exploding over this.

Quick, think of some media controversies in the last few years. Anyone remember that the government is a huge advertizer? (here) How about the controversy over control of public television? I'm sure you do. This report has a bad case of amnesia regarding the government-media relationship in Taiwan.

But it gets worse. One of the biggest problems with the local media is Chinese influence on it. This influence has been extensively, exhaustively discussed in the local and international media (see this AP report, for example). Yet it is entirely missing in this piece. How could this writer have missed it? Because... O the irony! The writer actually cites Want Daily, the newspaper run by possibly the most pro-China businessman in Taiwan, one that is enthusiastically pro-China, and which is often instanced by people pointing to the influence of China on Taiwan's media (recall the WantWant media monster? It set off protests in Taipei). After I read that I quickly moved my irony meters to my neighbor's house, so they would be out of detection range.

But it gets worse. Here's what the article said. Everything was peachy-keen until...
....But Hong [deputy director of Want Daily's cross-strait news division] claimed things changed around 2003, when Hong Kong-based Apple Daily, a web site and broadsheet with a tabloid flair known for publishing color photos of grisly crime scenes and scantily-clad women, entered Taiwan and "immediately attracted readers."
I had to send my irony meters to Samoa after reading that one. Because, readers will recall, the WantWant media monster was created by its desire to purchase media organs that Apple Daily was not permitted to purchase. Moreover, Apple Daily, whatever one may think of its tabloid antics, was generally seen by the public as the one paper not beholden to either political side. Moreover moreover, Jimmy Lai, the owner of Apple Daily, is a critic of Beijing whom Beijing does not much like. The writer thus offers us a paper dissing its competitor, a pro-China paper dissing a critic of the regime, and a pro-Blue paper dissing a neutral paper, all without context, and without telling us anything about how Apple Daily is currently received by the public, perhaps because then they would have to explain that all their previous sources had come from one side of the political divide.

In the final-but-one paragraph, the writer observes:
To be sure, Taiwanese investigative journalists do occasionally break real stories.
Does anyone know how I can get my irony meters off-planet?

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Homer Lea

A shop on a mountainside in Miaoli.

An acquaintance today by chance alerted me to the fact that Homer Lea is interred in Beitou (google map link)(Thanks Russ!). I also never realized he was closely connected to the founding of the ROC. Wiki:
Homer Lea (November 17, 1876—November 1, 1912), was an American adventurer and author. He is today best known for his involvement with Chinese reform and revolutionary movements in the early twentieth century as close advisor to Dr. Sun Yat-sen during the 1911 Chinese Republican revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. Homer Lea was also a prolific author, writing books about China and geopolitics.
Lea was known to me because I'm a Pacific War buff and his book The Valor of Ignorance was one of the first serious predictions of the war between Japan and the US and in part, its eventual course. Wiki says:
Lea’s second book, The Valor of Ignorance, examined American defense and in part prophesied a war between America and Japan. It created controversy and instantly elevated his reputation as a credible geo-political spokesman. Two retired U.S. Army generals, including former Army Chief-of-Staff Adna R. Chaffee, wrote glowing introductions to the book, which also contained a striking frontispiece photograph of Lea in his lieutenant general’s uniform. The book contained maps of a hypothetical Japanese invasion of California and the Philippines and was very popular among American military officers, particularly those stationed in the Philippines over the next generation. General Douglas MacArthur and his staff, for example, paid close attention to the book in planning the defense of the Philippines. The Japanese military also paid close attention to the book, which was translated into Japanese.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Camphor Press Launches with John Ross' You Don't Know China

You Don't Know China: Twenty-Two Enduring Myths Debunked
John Ross
Camphor Press. $180 NT

This month I have the truly great pleasure to introduce to you a new Taiwan-centered publishing house, Camphor Press (Facebook, The new publisher is run by a trio of well-known local expats, Michael Cannings, Mark Swofford, and John Ross, and will feature books about Taiwan and China. They sent me a copy of their first book, John Ross' You Don't Know China: Twenty-Two Enduring Myths Debunked. Readers may be familiar with Ross via his earlier and excellent book, Formosan Odyssey, which Camphor is selling at only 90 NT til the end of February. Books are available in .mobi and .epub format -- if you have some other device, the popular freeware Calibre easily converts between formats. Full disclosure: the copy was sent gratis and they want me to write a book with them.

Nevertheless, I can wholeheartedly say that You Don't Know China kicks ass. It is both extremely witty and extremely informative, a joy to experience. Ross savages some of the most popular claims about China, from the "5,000 years of history" to the "no dogs and Chinese" myth. He takes the media to task for credulous and incompetent reporting on China in chapters on ghost towns and megacities, and mops up the floor with "traditional" Chinese medicine. Ross' skeptical mind is like a blowtorch, illuminating before destroying. On the Great Wall:
"The most outlandish Great Wall myth is that is the only man-made object that can be seen from space or, even more farcically, from the Moon. Its width -- the famous sections you've seen are about 6 metres wide, 8 metres high -- makes this an absurd impossibility. The dimension the wall is renowned for, the great length, is irrelevant to its visibility. Seeing the wall from the Moon (384,400 kilometres away) would be a feat of vision equivalent to seeing a single strand of human hair from over three kilometres away. As if this were not enough, the wall is of a colour similar to the surrounding earth."
In addition to education, Ross also supplies chuckles. On Mandarin:
"As well as being hard for learners to distinguish, tones are hard for foreigners not to murder when they speak the language. So, what does mangled Mandarin sound like to the Chinese? A slow moronic monotone, something like a wasted California surfer dude would sound like to English speakers."
The chapter on acupuncture alone, which provides a concise and for me, totally unknown history of the practice, is worth the price of admission. No, I'm not spoiling it. Also especially enjoyable for me were the parts on Marco Polo, feng shui, and opium.

Accessible and entertaining, You Don't Know China will scrub your brain of Orientalist nonsense in a few hours of informative and pleasurable reading. Of interest to students of modern China, Chinese history, and skeptics alike, it is well worth the $180 NT.

I am looking forward to the next releases. If they are of the quality of this work, Camphor Press will have bright future!
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Women, Sacrificed

The care-free days before graduation.

I took my favorite bike path yesterday and ascended the steep hill to a place where I like to get coffee and a light meal, and look out over the ridges at an altitude of 800 meters. It was hazy, so you won't get any pictures, but the restaurant's female staff gave me some time to reflect on something I see a lot of: the sacrificed daughter.

There's a lot of romantic orientalization of the Chinese family and the Chinese family firm. Susan Greenhalgh's powerful paper De-Orientalizing the Chinese Family Firm discusses how the Chinese family firm deploys the myth of "working for the family" when in fact the distribution of income is inequitable and skewed away from the females who labor at the bottom. This seems to be common throughout Taiwan -- the island's business and government institutions rely on female labor and female creativity but the ones who harvest the credit are all powerful males at the top, just another example of the way Taiwan society is organized on the mafia principle....

News reports on the phenomenon of young unmarried women in Taiwan seldom get to the heart of the matter. As I wrote before:
In many of the articles I have read the unmarried young woman is typically portrayed as a sort of Taipei Career Girl independent, with her own income. However, authors above note that the reality is more prosaic -- the epidemic of non-marriage is silent and rural, the class that doesn't appear interviewed by researchers or in the media. Foreign brides aren't filling a gap but displacing Taiwanese women at the bottom of the ladder.
There's another group of unmarried females, though, who have vanished. Vanished they are, yet I know several: the daughter sacrificed at home to take care of her parents or work in their business, growing older year by year, without marriage prospects or much of a possibility to establish an independent life, desperately yearning for escape. You see her on Saturday at gatherings with friends, but not in the evening. She has to be home, Dad is sick and needs her. She can't stay out overnight, making it difficult to find and keep a boyfriend. Or perhaps the family business closes at 9 and she works in it every night, like one daughter I know. These women, like the lower class women displaced by foreign wives, don't appear in newspaper reports full of hot, well-dressed Taipei babes in command of their incomes and their lives, but they are out there.

The cost of displays of filial piety is too high...
Daily Links:
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Hegemonic Conflict Watch: War Delusions

Zachary Keck had a piece in The Diplomat saying stuff I've been saying for years about how absurd the Chinese territorial claims are, but I wanted to hoist this comment of ACT from the depths because it was good:
....Or, as Ampontan himself said, China claiming what it claims is akin to Italy claiming France, the whole mediterranean and parts of germany because the Roman Empire held them at one moment in time or another.

This passage from Victor Davis Hanson’s “lessons of World War I” over at the national review is interesting:

“But the crux is why exactly did Germany believe in late summer 1914 that it could invade neutral Belgium, start a war with France, draw in Britain and Russia (and eventually the U.S.), and expect the Schlieffen Plan to knock out France in a matter of weeks, allowing a redirection to Russia to ensure the same there?

Yet what seems fantastical today was deemed entirely logical in the Germany of 1914 — given prewar British reluctance to support France, American isolation, the utter French collapse in 1871, the Russian humiliation in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05, the ongoing political instability that threatened to unwind the Russian czarist state, the amazing surge in German dreadnought construction that promised to nullify traditional British naval supremacy, and the inability of France, Britain, and Russia — and the United States — to craft a credible deterrent force to convince Germany of the folly of any aggressive act”

Replace Germany with the PRC, replace France with Japan and/or the Philippines, and replace Britain with America (America stays the same); Amend the dates and locations et al to today’s crises, and you have something that looks eerily like the situation today. Not to mention that statement at the Davos Economic Forum, wherein a senior Chinese business leader basically confirmed that this was the calculus of the PRC at this point in time…

so, amend the statement and you get something that looks like this:

“But the crux is why exactly did the PRC believe in the first few decades of the 21st century that it could engage in explicitly revisionist expansion–claim the South China Sea, claim the Senaku Islands, and force other parties out of those areas through paramilitary threat–and expect that none of this would start regional, if not global conflict?

Yet what seems fantastical toady was deemed entirely logical in the PRC of that period–Given pre-conflict U.S reluctance to support Japan and the Philippines, U.S retrenchment, U.S defeats by inferior forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the marked failure of the U.S to enforce words with actions on Syria, the noted surge in A2/AD weaponry in China’s hands, as well as an arms buildup that far outstripped any of its neighbors, which promised to nullify traditional U.S naval supremacy in addition to the inability of said nation to craft a credible deterrent force to convince the PRC of the folly of any aggressive act.”

to sum it up, as Mr. Hanson notes:

“One of the lessons of the outbreak of World War I is the importance of perceptions. At some point in 1914 the German military and diplomatic community concluded that the country not only could pull off a successful lightning strike against France, but could do so without starting a world war — given various events over the prior decades….Such flawed thinking is a good reminder that appearances often matter as much as reality in provoking wars.”

And we are seeing exactly the same thing with the PRC now. Hanson himself points out that: “China, like the Westernized Japan of the 1930s, wants influence and power commensurate with its economic clout, and perhaps believes its growing military can obtain both at the expense of its democratic neighbors without starting a wider war.”
Juxtapose that with the news from today:
Navy Official: China Training for ‘Short Sharp War’ with Japan. “China has long trained for an amphibious invasion of Taiwan during military exercises but has expanded its training to include a similar attack on Japanese holdings in the East China Sea, according the chief of intelligence of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLEET). As part of China’s Mission Action 2013 exercise — a massive exercise between the all branches of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) — the military trained for taking the Senkaku Islands, said Capt. James Fannell, deputy chief of staff intelligence and information operations for PACFLEET. “We witnessed the massive amphibious and cross military region enterprise — Mission Action 2013,” Fannell said at the West 2014 conference on Feb. 13 in San Diego, Calif. “[We] concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu [islands] — as some of their academics say.”
Tensions are set to rise in the South China Sea, where, let me remind you, the ROC has actual troops, military assets, and bases. Unlike the Senkakus.
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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Political Stuff: talks, Jason Hu, Bruce Jacobs

Someday it will be warm and sunny again....

J Michael Cole notes that the main gain from the "government to government" talks between the CCP of China and the KMT of Taiwan is the propaganda coup for Beijing. Nicely put. The ironic thing is while the world is atizzy at the "historic" talks between two parties that have been holding regular conversations for nearly two decades, the Taiwanese themselves are not at all excited, as Ralph Jennings documents in Christian Science Monitor.

I was talking to some bike industry people in Taichung today. They pointed out that Taichung Bike Week, supported enthusiastically by the Hu Administration here in Taichung, has grown to be one of the most important bike industry events. The format of the event is now being transferred to two other local industries, with Hu Administration support, the tool industry, and the shoe industry, each of which will have their own "week" with events at hotels around town. You may also have read that Hu is touting a genuinely ambitious plan to transform the city center, increasing public transportation and banning scooters from many areas. These are the kind of things that have made Hu popular and tough to beat. Hu is not a good campaigner, however, and has not been communicating these successes very well.

Finally, the awesome Bruce Jacobs produces an insightful piece on the conflict within the DPP. As many of us have pointed out, this is both intergenerational, with elders clinging to positions they should be easing younger people into, and between the factions, but especially Frank Hsieh. For months now, since Frank Hsieh got back from China, people have been privately criticizing his behavior. With him running for Chairman, Jacobs comments on how he has the potential to split the DPP when it has a shot at winning 3 of the 5 municipalities outright, and within sight of the presidential election in 2016. Jacobs observes of Hsieh:
Take, for example, former premier and DPP chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷). He led the DPP to a disastrous loss in the 2008 presidential election. Despite promising to leave politics, he has continued to interfere and to place his people in key party positions. His incomprehensible China policies were decisively defeated by the DPP, but he continues to mouth meaningless slogans like “one China, two cities” and “two constitutions, different interpretations.” Does not Hsieh realize that “one China” is Beijing’s policy to swallow Taiwan and that Beijing does not care about its state and party constitutions?
On his own Hsieh could never win the DPP Chairmanship, but there has been much talk that he'll make a deal with Tsai to deny it to Su.
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Friday, February 14, 2014

Some links....

Tiny aphids on a grass stem.

Daily Links:
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Craig Ferguson's Travel Photography Book Out!

One of Craig's photos, Orissa, 1998.

UPDATE: Ferguson interviewed on the book here.

Locally-based travel photographer Craig Ferguson says...
Travel Photography Essentials is now live. A 98 page eBook covering all aspects of travel photography. The official launch via the publishing company is still a couple of days away but advance copies are now available. Normally $15, you can get it for $10 using the code taiwanphoto Get it at
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Wed Short Shorts

Vietnam and China: a dangerous incident. This 2007 incident involved what we have come to understand are the typical Chinese ramming tactics, stuff we saw in the 2010 incident with the Japanese in the Senkakus, and the Cowpens incident, and which is actually normal for Chinese fishing boats when picked up by Pacific nation coast guards. Read article!

Meanwhile, at home, Mayor Hau of Taipei, who is often mentioned as a possible Presidential candidate, rips President Ma, the Chairman of his party. With Ma's popularity low and the nation in a ferment over the failure of his signature China policies to bring any kind of economic growth, KMT leaders are starting to distance themselves from Ma.

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!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Pro-China team gets the attention of the locals

The 145A in Yunlin.

The pro-China forces were sprinkling the land this week with little reminders of just how life will be when China annexes Taiwan. First, the ongoing controversy over the changes to the high school textbooks showed the full colonial thrust of the Deep Blue pro-China academics who drafted them: aborigines in Taiwan are referred to as China's 56th minority, the "high mountain people" (高山族). Hey, way to go! And this an election year too. This controversy couldn't have happened at a better time.

Meanwhile this week China refused visas to journalists from Apple Daily and Radio Free Asia for the historic government to government talks, an action condemned by the International Federation of Journalists and Freedom House. Thus giving a very public demonstration to Taiwanese of what rule by China will mean. Hey, way to go! And this an election year too. This couldn't have happened at a better time.

Speaking of the "historic" talks, the awesome Jon Sullivan is everywhere these days since opening the China Policy Institute blog. See what a blog can do Jon?*  His latest was a cautiously hopeful piece in WSJ this week on the historic Taiwan-China government to government talks, and he has a piece similar in tone in The Diplomat with my friend Michal Thim. In the strong WSJ piece, the first public mention I've seen of the fact that meetings between the two parties go back to the 1990s, Sullivan observes:
Suspecting that President Ma might be tempted to authorize such concessions, regardless of public opinion, the legislature last week imposed restrictions on the scale of the MAC mission. In an extraordinary move, it passed a resolution barring the MAC chairman from speaking about, negotiating or signing any documents relating to sovereignty. In response he pledged to reiterate Taipei's commitment to the "1992 consensus."

In the early 1990s when representatives from the KMT and CCP met for the first time in an unofficial capacity, there were genuine fears in Taiwan that the two would come to a clandestine arrangement about the island's future. Such fears are unrealistic in democratic Taiwan, but the legislative resolution is testament to Taiwan's lack of trust in Mr. Ma, even within his own party.

While some have speculated that Mr. Ma is motivated by the glories history will bestow on the man who helps "unify China," a more prosaic explanation is that he and the KMT are operating with different time horizons. The president has two years left to cement any sort of legacy, while the party is looking ahead to mid-term elections later this year and national elections early in 2016. Heeding the public's opposition to quick or irrevocable decisions on changing the status quo is not the priority for Mr. Ma that it is for his colleagues who will stand in upcoming elections.
I don't think it is unrealistic to fear that the KMT and CCP will make clandestine agreements about the future of Taiwan since that is the nature of the two parties and open public agreements are not on the table. It is hard to imagine that whatever they are doing in formal meetings, in private settings they are not mapping out the fate of the island in fits of mutual fantasizing about the greatness of China, before they discuss which American university is the best one to send the kids to.

The stalled services pact and the legislature's restrictions on the meeting show how little influence Ma has over the legislature despite his status as Chairman of the KMT. I suspect it portends another local election in which Ma's face disappears from election posters since no one wants to be associated with Mr Unpopular.

Although the foreign media has been all a tizzy about the "historic meeting" of "two governments" it is, and always has been, the two parties, the KMT and CCP, dickering about the fate of Taiwan over brandy and cigars...

* It bringeth fame, yet increaseth not wealth. 
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English lecturer Job at Kinmen University

Got this in the email:

Lecturer or Assistant Professor (Contract-based full-time position), Dept. of Applied English, National Quemoy University. Click READ MORE to read more.....

Cold cold cold

It's cold cold cold, but I am ready to hit the keyboard.
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Monday, February 10, 2014

Hegemonic Warfare watch: US Rejects Nine-Dash Line

Making Longan cakes.

Ka-boom! Uncle Sam's representatives call on China to explain what it is doing in the South China Sea.
The United States for the first time has explicitly rejected the U-shaped, nine-dash line that China uses to assert sovereignty over nearly the whole South China Sea, experts say, strengthening the position of rival claimants and setting the stage for what could be an international legal showdown with Beijing.

Washington has always said that it takes no position on competing territorial claims in the South China Sea among China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei and opposes any use of force to resolve such issues.

But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel in effect ended the ambiguity last week when he testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, experts say.

Russel said that under international law, maritime claims in the South China Sea "must be derived from land features" and that any use of the nine-dash line by China to claim maritime rights not based on claimed land areas "would be inconsistent with international law."
The piece further observed:
Unlike other countries, Beijing's claim to up to about 90 percent of the South China Sea is not based on claims to particular islands or other features but on a historical map China officially submitted to the United Nations in 2009.

The map contains a nine-dash line forming a U-shape down the east coast of Vietnam to just north of Indonesia and then continuing northwards up the west coast of the Philippines.

The nine-dash line has been considered by many experts as incompatible with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which rejects historically based claims.
This is a major shift in the declared US view. Sadly the US has not signed onto UNCLOS, meaning that its position is compromised. It is also compromised by its many years of silence on this issue. Still, it is nice to hear the US for once coming down on the side of right. Brookings has a longer review here.

In addition to the UNCLOS violation the US identifies, Philippines has previously contended that China is not an island nation and cannot make such claims. Manila has taken China to the international court, which China has ignored (also here for the facts on China's claims). If Manila wins, presumably this will impinge on the ROC claim, which is identical to the China claim because the ROC claims to rule China and everything that China rules, and also includes Mongolia in its "China."

South China Sea? Arunachal Pradesh? The Senkakus? Which war will we get? Probably not even Beijing knows.
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Those 共匪 stole our factories!

Friend posted the link to Facebook. Tainan Train Station: PEIPING IS THE SOURCE OF THE WORLD’S VIOLENCE AND SCOURGES! STRONGLY OPPOSE RED CHINESE ENTRY INTO THE UNITED NATIONS! From here, a site chock full of old photos, some of Taiwan.
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Saturday, February 08, 2014

FocusTW: Ko/Lien Match for Taipei shaping up

On the 159A between Shijhuo and Chiayi city.

The gov't news organ FocusTaiwan rounds up some stuff on the Ko-Lien match:
Although neither major party has nominated a candidate, outspoken surgeon Ko Wen-je could very well represent the opposition in the election for Taipei mayor in late November and face Sean Lien, who would try to retain the Kuomintang's (KMT) hold on the city.

When Lien was shot in the face on the eve of the previous municipal election four years ago, it was Ko who led a team of medical experts at National Taiwan University Hospital to operate on him.
The Liberty Times talked about the DPP teaming up with other outsiders in KMT strongholds like Hsinchu and Miaoli, but UDN observed.....
On the other side, Lien was in Washington to attend the annual National Prayer Breakfast. When asked about his plans by reporters, he reiterated that he will make an announcement before the end of this month.

Addressing the question of whether President Ma Ying-jeou does not favor his candidacy, Lien said only that he does not believe the president, busy as he is, has the time to cooperate with TV pundits in their attacks on him.
The Taipei mayor election could expose the split within the KMT between the KMT old guard and President Ma Ying-jeou. Recall that several years ago, when Wang Jin-pyng and Ma ran against each other for Chairman, party leaders including Sean Lien's father Lien Chan endorsed Wang, while the rank and file endorsed Ma. A lack of support from Ma could hurt Sean Lien; on the other hand, Ma's clinging to the Chairmanship suggests he'll attempt to remain relevant after he steps down from the Presidency, meaning that he might be moved to support Sean Lien. But his vicious attack on Wang a few months back may point to some deep issues with the Old Guard types who opposed him that go beyond rationality.

On the other hand, I've been talking to people and the conspiracy threads are alive and well. One school is holding that Ko is an out and out tool of Beijing. This criticism is pro forma whenever anyone rises in the Greens. Another school holds that Ko is out of his depth, overweening, and a bit of a loose cannon, likely to say something incredibly silly that will cost him the election. Hope his handlers are competent......
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Keating Meetup IMPORTANT and SOAS Taiwan film week

Running into my students while out biking.

First Jerome Keating with important meetup news the 9th and 22nd. For the 9th (tomorrow)
Speaker:  Brock Freeman, who founded American Citizens for Taiwan.  It may be good to hear about things going on on the other side of the pond, and also just get back togetherto catch up with each other after the lunar holidays.
So,  Sunday meeting.   10 am. February 9th.
Topic:“How Fear and Loathing in America is Fertilizing Growing American Grassroots Support for Taiwan”
Brock Freeman, Director, American Citizens for Taiwan; ACT educates Americans on the importance of Taiwan to the U.S. & works to strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan relationship by providing tools for the internet generation to tell their members of Congress to support Taiwan related legislation.

Anyone who has not let me know they are coming please do so.

Next: Advance Notice for 2nd follow up meeting on Feb. 22.
On Saturday Feb.  22, we will have a second 10 am. Venue to be decided.

Four Congressional Aides from the USA will be in Taiwan on a Fact-finding tour.They represent those in the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

They will speak briefly on what Congressional Aides do and their mission and then they will want to hear from us "Joe Ex-pat and Joe-Taiwan" on what we feel the USA needs to know about Taiwan.
This will be a little like a town hall meeting and a chance to get some of your views heard.

On this one (the 22), while there is no free lunch, the breakfast will be FREE;  I have an angel covering us; but I am giving you advance notice since I am expecting a bigger crowd and need to plan the venue appropriately.
Meanwhile, for those of you in the UK, SOAS is having its Taiwan Film Week the 10th to the 14th.
Feb 10-14 Taiwan Film Week
We had the overseas Taiwanese film director Anita Chang in London in late January. Her two post screening Q&As are on the CTS facebook and here:
AmCham Taichung has two events, the Feb 11 happy hour 7-9 pm at Hotel One and....
European Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (ECCT) CEO Freddie Hoeglund as February Dinner Meeting Guest Speaker.
Mr. Hoeglund will be introducing his organization--the second-largest international business association in Taiwan with 850 members representing 400 companies and institutions--and discuss trade issues facing European companies in Taiwan. Mr. Hoeglund is also currently Vice Chairman of the European Business Organisations (EBO) Worldwide Network, a global network of 25 European chambers of commerce located outside of the European Union.
Don't miss this unprecedented opportunity--Taichung AmCham and ECCT members and non-members are welcome!
Date: Tuesday, February 25th, 2014Time: 6:30pmLocation: Hotel OneCost: $850 for members, $950 for non-membersRSVP to River Chen at
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Friday, February 07, 2014

What is that thing called Taiwanese identity?

Sashimi, a Taiwanese dish.

Lorand Laskai writes in The Diplomat from Tainan on the KMT's de-Taiwanization policy and the history textbook revisions.
The potential hazards of a hostile occupation—Taiwanese protesters dying under PLA fire, freedom fighters waging guerrilla campaigns from house to house, and the international backlash that these images would set off—would very likely restrain Beijing from moving its threats beyond words. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) derided the foreign adventurism that landed the U.S. in Iraq, gleefully denoting the event as a milestone on America’s decline. It is unlikely to risk its own quagmire, especially while development and stability at home remains fragile.

A strong Taiwanese identity thus allows the country’s leadership to call China’s bluff. It is an electoral leaven—an insurance policy, if you will—against China’s inevitable military and economic dominance, one that will also strengthen Taiwan’s hand at the bargaining table. Political scientist Robert Putnam famously argued states involved in international negotiations play a “two-level game,” whereby they must simultaneously negotiate with international partners and domestic constituencies. Here democratically elected leaders have the notable advantage of being able to use domestic constraints to extract international concessions. That is, they can creditably claim at the negotiation table that “their hands are tied”—and have poll data to back it up—helping them win concessions where they otherwise could not. A fickle electorate, like an independent-minded Taiwanese public, thus can yield important benefits.
The effect of this identity is correct, which is, as Laskai points out below, one of the reasons the KMT is trying to suppress it. Beijing will have massive problems taking over a democratic Taiwan with an independent identity, and one of Ma's tasks to pave the way for the takeover was suppressing both. But interestingly, the Taiwan identity has incorporated not only an independent settler identity, but also, Taiwan's democracy, into its idea of Taiwaneseness. Voting is something akin to a sacred rite of that identity. This means that attempts to suppress democracy will attack that identity in ways that make it defensive.

Even more interestingly, the Taiwanese identity has incorporated KMT symbols such as the flag into itself, yet it rejects the ROC's bizarre territorial claims. This means that whenever the KMT waves the ROC flag, the locals see a Taiwan flag, and flag-waving reinforces a Taiwan/Taiwanese identity rather than an ROC/Chinese identity. Re-Sinifying the locals -- by which is meant, really, recolonizing them -- promises to be a daunting task, especially since the party that is the standard bearer of the Taiwan identity, the DPP, has the institutional presence in the counties and municipalities to meaningfully resist such re-colonization of the locals.

Beijing must be very frustrated with the KMT, which has no doubt promised the moon to get its support. One wonders when the backlash from the CCP for the KMT's failures will begin.
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Black Bears vs Pandas

A cartoon points out that there are only 300 Formosan Black Bears but 1500 pandas, so why are we subsidizing China's pandas? Just another case of using Taiwan assets to help China.
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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Services Struggle

With the new legislative session slated to begin, the KMT and DPP struggle over the services pact. The situation is the same as it usually is -- the DPP wants the bill to be reviewed piece by piece, the KMT wants it up for a vote as a single package. The pact was actually passed last June but no date of implementation was set, meaning that the legislature can still prevent it from coming into force. ECFA, despite all the promises from the neoliberal crowd, has been a colossal failure for all but the rich and for organized crime; ordinary people have seen little or nothing. This has only increased suspicion of the services pact. If it comes into force soon, and has the same effect that ECFA has had, then it will negatively impact the KMT's 2016 election prospects.....
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JapanFocus: The (Wrong) Origins of the Senkaku Mess

JapanFocus, a progressive website that turns out lots of interesting stuff on Okinawa, on Japanese colonialism, and on Cold War and post-Cold War history and politics in NE Asia, put on a fine display this month of the way lefties often adopt the right-wing imperialism of non-western nations as their analytical stance, something that needs to stop. In The Origins of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Dispute between China, Taiwan and Japan, Mark Seldon and Yabuki Susumu write:
...While other important issues add to the gravity of the conflict, including enlarged territorial claims by China, Japan and Korea in the form of advancing and defending competing claims to ADIZ in the East China and South China Seas, Yabuki shows the long trajectory of competing claims over the Senkaku dispute and the evolving policies of China, Japan and the United States in shaping it. Since so much of the international discussion of the issues has focused on China-Japan conflict, a particularly important contribution of the present paper is its clear presentation of US recognition at the highest levels of the significance of the competing territorial claims, and its maneuvering in negotiations with Taipei, Tokyo, and Beijing to shape the outcome.

The story can, of course, be traced back to earlier claims to the islands, including historical interactions involving Taiwan and Okinawan fishermen and Chinese tributary missions, to Japanese claims to the islands, and to their disposition by the US in framing and implementing the San Francisco Peace Treaty...
The article then goes on to show how the US manipulated things to preserve the Chinese claims and how the Chinese manipulated the US, probably because Kissinger, who was running the show at the time (he would later go on to establish profitable business relations with China), was so irredeemably pro-China and because of the general historical ignorance and laziness of Americans: nobody on the US side appears to have researched the Chinese claims to see whether they were actually correct. For example, a memo from John Holdridge reproduces the Chinese nonsense claims without comment and says:
John H. Holdridge’s Comment reads as follows:

As you can imagine, the Japanese Government has a comparable list of apparently offsetting arguments and maintains simply that the Senkakus remain Japanese. State’s position is that in occupying the Ryukyus and the Senkakus in 1945, and in proposing to return them to Japan in 1972, the U.S. passes no judgment as to conflicting claims over any portion of them, which should be settled directly by the parties concerned.

After reading this memorandum, Kissinger immediately handwrote the following comment in the margin: “But that is nonsense since it gives islands to Japan. How can we get a more neutral position?”
Don't miss the conversation between Kissinger and the ROC representive reproduced in the article; it's high comedy.

Going back to the introduction, readers familiar with China's nonsensical claims to the Senkakus can see how in the introduction Seldon and Susumu have completely and uncritically swallowed them. I posted some comments there, but (naturally) they were nuked.

I should add that one of my projects for this vacation is translating and commenting on the great website 為什麼釣魚台是日本的. It has been taken down, but I have it in reserve and hopefully sometime in the next couple of months will be able to reproduce it in full and in English. It's stuffed with little gems that show that no rulers of China ever thought of the Senkakus as Chinese. A sample:

Qing representative Li Jing-fang was responsible for the handover to Japan. Li Jing-fang was concerned that the coastal islands of Fujian were also included in scope of things ceded and hoped that the Japanese side would submit an inventory of Taiwan affiliated islands. Mizuno Jun [head of administration of first Japan gov't of Taiwan and participant in 1874 invasion, pic here --MT] said that compliance meant that if the islands were listed by name, there will inevitably be omissions or problems involving nameless islands. Then there will be islands not belonging to either party, resulting in trouble. Moreover, the island of Taiwan and its affiliated islands were already recognized on the charts and maps of the Japanese side. Li agreed that the islands affiliated with Taiwan should not be listed individually by name and the two sides later signed the instrument of the transfer of Taiwan.
Note first that neither side mentioned the Senkakus as they worked out the handover of Taiwan to Tokyo. Had the Qing or the Japanese considered the Senkakus to be part of Taiwan, they certainly would have been mentioned, but of course neither side did. I linked to the LeGendre map yesterday. It is typical of all western maps of Taiwan in the 19th century -- none included the Senkakus as islands traditionally thought to be part of Taiwan, like Green Island or the Pescadores/Penghu. No one, Chinese or foreign, considered the Senkakus to be Chinese until after the possibility of oil under the sea floor was announced in the late 1960s. It's really that simple, and anyone who writes on the "origins" of the Senkakus mess is churning out ideologically-driven propaganda if they write or imply anything else.

UPDATE: See also this post.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

In Taichung it's.... Jason!

Dashan Farm in Changhua.

Jason of Taichung announces that he will run again (FocusTaiwan):
If elected, Hu, of the ruling Kuomintang, will have been the longest-serving mayor of Taichung for 17 years over four terms, including a period before Taichung City was merged with neighboring Taichung County into a municipality in late 2010.
Well. I'm taking this as good news. Most of the stuff I wrote about for the last election, which Hu barely won, still applies. Taichung is consistently considered the worst administrated of the island's major cities in public polls, and the locals must surely be looking at Tainan, Taipei, Kaohsiung, and Yilan, and wondering why they can't have that too. Moreover, in addition to the problem with local factions that Hu spurred last time, it seems there are some major splits in the local KMT. One of the island's most prominent gangsters local faction politicians owns one of the island's most prominent entertainment facilities in the city, as well as a local private school chain. Gangsters owning schools is a common set up -- schools are good ways to launder money, being a business with large transactions in cash. This faction politician's wife ran in the last legislative election and lost, thankfully. But he put up some new infrastructure, and can't get the city to give it approval. It sits, unopened, and unusable. He must have pissed somebody off, because prominent gangsters with close connections to the ruling party always get what they want. This might indicate problems within Hu's election machine that could be costly.

Meanwhile Hu's opponent will probably be Lin Jia-lung, the youthful, energetic, hardworking, highly-rated, and squeaky-clean-imaged DPP legislator who has been building up a brand here in Taichung for about a decade. I'm cautiously optimistic that Hu can be had, but then everything depends on the campaign.
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Monday, February 03, 2014


Feb 10, 2014, New Yorker. From here. UPDATE: Nope, dates from 1997.
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