Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Night Short Shorts: Loquacious Version

In case you've ever looked at your manager and thought: "My god, even a robot could do better than him", your wish will soon be granted. Yes, apparently the local youth, already reeling under stagnant pay and low wages, must now face the threat of robots moving into management positions. The thing is, when they do replace all those managers, will anyone even notice? Besides the KTV girls, I mean. Stat of note from the piece: mid-level management jobs in Taiwan have fallen by 170,000 positions in recent decades.

Good news out of Toronto: the school board voted 20-2 to terminate that Confucius Institute in the school district.

Which is it:
Taiwan GDP Growth Misses Estimates After Food Safety Concerns Bloomberg          Taiwan's economy gains momentum in third quarter MarketWatch
You decide!

The Economist joins the ranks of the many media organizations who have noticed that the Hong Kong protests are affecting Taiwan's already miniscule desire to annex itself to China. This is a major media moment, with many news organizations finally talking openly and clearly about Taiwan's lack of desire to become a satrapy of Beijing. And the Economist, which has always lavished affection on Ma Ying-jeou, said flatly he's one of the most unpopular elected leaders Taiwan has had. It even quoted Ketty Chen in her DPP capacity. Awesome.

The Ting Hsin oil scandal is now hitting its prosecution phase, with prosecutors deciding to indict the owner of the hapless conglomerate with 30 years worth of charges. Some from the pan-Green camp in Taiwan are charging that the company made a deal with the Ma Administration to cover up its involvement in the oil scandal last year, from which it miraculously emerged unscathed. The owner of Cheng-yi, in the Ting Hsing group, was given charges worth a possible 18 years. No doubt they will go through the whole charade of a trial and sentencing and then flee to China like everyone else, where they will continue to run their multibillion dollar conglomerate. The Ting Hsin group was also forced to drop its attempt to become manager of Taipei 101 and banks withdrew loans for land acquisition.

I'd say someone got peeved at Ting Hsin over one of the many deals it was involved in and decided to unmask the firm, but it could just be bad luck. And just before the election too, voters were made aware that the Wei Family and the Lien clan whose scion Sean Lien is stumbling stumping for mayor in Taipei were buddy-buddy, a reminder of the you-scratch-my-back-I-give-you-lucrative-access nature of KMT rule. Also of interest in that scandal, an employee in the Pingtung County government faxed the document confirming that animal feed oil had been used to Ting Hsin "inadvertently", thus tipping the company off to the investigation.

China's construction of islands on reefs in the South China Sea threatens Taiwan. Helicopters from the new bases could reach Taiping in five minutes, claims one legislator. Let's station warships there! he suggests. Taiping island is a strategic disaster for Taiwan, sucking military resources for no strategic return.

ECFA Awesomeness alert: Those ECFA successes just keep rolling in, a tsunami of greatness whose individual accomplishments require banks of supercomputers to track. For example, in the third quarter exports to China rose 6%, while imports from China fell 13%. Hahaha. No, of. course. not, that happened on ECFA Planet, where even Taiwan farts may be canned and profitably exported to China. No, here on Sol Three, exports to China declined 6%, following an overall decline of just over 9% for Q1 and Q2, while imports from China rose 13%. Exports to China have been rising the last few years, so this decline may be an ominous signal. But at least we have ECFA so we are not shut out of China's markets! That's why after ECFA our share of China's market has skyrocketed fallen to just 7.5% while everyone else, even the US whose largest export by weight appears to be bombs and by volume, Obama verbiage, has seen increases in market share this year.

A local sage and observer pointed out that news of China's buying missions has vanished from the intertubes. Have they stopped? Or are they just not being reported? Or what?

Pinch me. New road for Suhua will make it a tourist attraction, while old road will only be open to slower vehicles under 30 kms an hour and BIKES. BIKES BIKES BIKES. Doubly good -- the Chinese tourist herds will be whisked on air conditioned buses to the tourist trap slaughterhouses, while we gambol and cavort on a road preserved just for us. This can't be true.

More news collected at Thinking Taiwan's Taiwan Insider. SOAS in London is hosting Linda Arrigo talking on on the origins of the Taiwan Democracy Movement. Nov 7, at 2. Attend, she's always humorous and interesting, and no one knows more than her about that period.
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

VOA: Forwarding the Propaganda

This is why you should avoid Jiufen on the weekends.

Over at VOA Ralph Jennings handed in a piece which simply forwarded the ruling party's framework of neoliberal propaganda in which it has embedded its sellout trade agreements with China, to make them more palatable, rather like the poisoned cannoli from the Godfather III. This one generated a mix of anger and laughter among those of us who have observed Taiwan long. The piece, which discussed entrepreneurship among the young but interviewed no young entrepreneurs, was dismissed  by a friend of mine who is an actual young Taiwanese entrepreneur with his fingers in several businesses in the best Taiwan style, as "naive". Let's take a closer look...
In mid-October, Taiwan’s No. 2 negotiator to China warned that Taiwanese lacked aggressiveness and an enterprising spirit. He cautioned against being a “sheep” in the face of fast-growing China, Taiwan’s political and military rival of 65 years. The seldom heard social critique by a public official points to growing awareness in Taiwan that today’s youth prefer safe jobs to the risky business ventures of their elders and modern mainland Chinese.
Alarm bells should be going off when the writer is citing a government political heavyweight, not an academic with years of study in the field, or numbers from credible statistics organizations, or any actual entrepreneurs. This China negotiator is a KMT-appointed individual with a vested interest in blaming Taiwan's economic problems on its young and not on the structural features of the economy that the KMT is busy creating via its trade agreements with China, its 1% friendly tax policies, its torpid, toxic inaction in the legislature it controls, and its generally colonial view of Taiwan's economy. Critical context or perspective is thus lacking from the get-go.

Moreover, since the services trade agreement with China is aimed at (destroying) the kind of small businesses that many local entrepreneurs want to open, you can see how the person who is negotiating these agreements is laying the ground for explaining their future failure. What? Taiwanese couldn't adjust to the new open market? Must be because the current generation is lacking in entrepreneurship, not because it is a crapshit agreement that has only minority public support which will fail like its predecessor, ECFA. The explanation comes ready-made! You can be sure that this is just a trial balloon for the usual KMT/neoliberal practice of blaming the victims for their own suffering.

Moral: when explanatory regimes are moral judgments, they generally reify some arrangement of power in society...

 Jennings goes on to describe...
When Taiwan was poor, dependent on farming and fishing until industrial development in the 1960s, people with business acumen would get ahead by founding companies. The trend gave rise to companies such as Evergreen Marine, the world’s No. 4 container shipper, and Wang Yung-ching, billionaire founder of the petrochemical giant Formosa Plastics Group.
This is a commonplace view of history-as-moral-theatre. You hear it from old people in every nation grousing about the younger generation in quotes that go back to the ancient Greeks: "When I was a boy we opened three businesses every morning. But these young people! Pah!". No doubt the first H. habilis complained about the first H. sapiens generation that way. But the truth is more complicated, of course...

Wang Yung-ching of Formosa Plastics fame was a US aid baby, selected in a program for Taiwanese entrepreneurs and given a massive US loan to start Formosa Plastics in 1954, as part of a general pushback of US aid officials against the KMT government's urge to suppress local capitalism (see Jacoby's US Aid to Taiwan) and as part of an even bigger push by the US to position Taiwan as capitalist Free China as opposed to Communist China. That framework of aid and stimulus, along with the vast US middle class that enabled the early Taiwanese entrepreneurial class is long gone. Wang had been picked because he had already been running a lumber company... takes money to make money. Today Formosa Plastics makes the big bucks in plastics (massive government direct and indirect subsidies for raw materials, water, electricity, and labor) and hospitals (nationalized and heavily subsidized), among others. At that level, "entrepreneurship" comes full circle, farming again, but government subsidies, not the earth.

Can't help mentioning that the reason Taiwan was poor in the 1950s was that it had been comprehensively looted by the KMT in the immediate postwar period, which then dumped a zillion party apparatchiks and soldiers on the island in 1949. This meant that per capita incomes wouldn't return to their 1937-8 levels until the mid-1960s (see Mendel's The Politics of Formosan Nationalism). The Taiwanese in the early stages of the economic miracle were merely trying to get back to the prosperity they had known under the Japanese.

Finally, at the bottom of the article, Jennings cites a couple of people who make ostensibly reality-based claims, people who went to work for large corporate organizations or the government... you know, the kind of risk averse young person they are criticizing...
Fear of risk also shows in Taiwan’s prized high-tech industry, where the supply of venture capital exceeds demand. Jay Yang, a deputy director with the government-backed Market Intelligence and Consulting Institute in Taipei, said younger people fear the costs of starting a business.

He said younger Taiwanese are not bad at innovation but that there are fewer young people interested in becoming entrepreneurs due to the risks they must take, so most people work for large IT companies. Yang called this a cultural problem, and said that people are conservative. He said starting a company could take years and pointed out that one does not know in the beginning how long it will take to make money.

Yang’s consultancy found Taiwanese high-tech inventors were more entrepreneurial when Internet use was growing globally around 2000 but saw a pullback as industry competition intensified.
Note that the article simply obscures what the "risks they must take" are: the limping domestic economy, the high price of land and buildings, which the government has done little to alleviate, and so on. To discuss the overall political economy, rather than simply repeat moral platitudes, would have required criticizing the policies of the party of the China negotiator cited in the opening and its unremitting support for big moneyed interests. It should also be noted that the finance and consulting industry from which Jennings draws these two anecdotes is also tightly linked to the ruling party program of opening Taiwan to plunder from China. Hence it also has a vested interest in blaming the young ("it's a cultural problem") rather than discussing the political economy of the island, the role the finance industry plays in plundering the island of its development capital, and its effect on risk-taking by the young. These are not disinterested third parties commenting here.

Just for fun, I looked up some numbers. First, check out this international list which puts the risk-averse Taiwanese at 7th in global entrepreneurship and first in Asia:
According to the 2013 index, Taiwan ranked globally No. 1 in entrepreneurship aspiration and No. 17 in both entrepreneurship attitudes and ability. Of the 14 other categories, it finished first in product innovation, second in high growth and third in process innovation. The country’s weak spots are in competition, opportunity perceptions and startup skills, ranking 49th, 44th and 54th, respectively.
This homegrown survey finds 87% of office workers want to start their own business, most strongly among the 41-45 group and lowest among the 21-25 group (not surprising, that). Just as entrepreneurs in the economic miracle days were driven by the poor returns to agriculture, younger people in Taiwan want to escape their crappy office salaries, it observes. Note that there is little information in the VOA article about the start-up scene in Taiwan...

Numbers? Well, Taiwan has a marvelous stats agency, the DGBAS, which supplies them. Let's take a look.... this PDF from DGBAS in English gives the number of new establishments for each year for the last few years -- at least I think it does, hard to tell sometimes..... I'll put it here as a JPG...

That's only to 2011, but you can see the trend, rising over time. But let's look at another set of data, the small and medium enterprise data. In 2000 there were 1,070,310 SMEs in Taiwan. Clearly, since our young entrepreneurs are faint of heart, the number must have fallen, right? In 2013, there were 1,331,182. Despite their fear of risk, the number of SMEs grew 30% (recall that many fail) over that period. Moreover, looking carefully at the table, you can see that the number of manufacturing firms fell by a mere 2,000 over that period even though thousands of firms moved to China. Massive growth was in construction firms, likely a result of the Taipei Housing Bubble and Taiwan's construction-industrial state, a tumor that not only assaults the nation's environment and human rights, but consumes entrepreneurs and other resources which might be devoted to export manufacturing. Unfortunately the categories are unclear... and the stats are a bit strange. For example, the number of existing business entities is substantially lower than the number of SMEs alone...

For those of you braver than me, you can troll this Chinese language database, which is actually chopped up into so many tiny pieces it is hard to get an overall sense of the data.

While I am reviewing this, Jennings observes that 800,000 people sat for civil service exams in recent years. Two things only need be said: (1) in the halcyon days of the economic miracle, Taiwanese were last hired and first fired, and they had trouble rising in the bureaucracy or military or police without joining the KMT. Hence, founding one's own business was the only solution for many of them. People in those days wanted to send their kids to the bureaucracy too, they just couldn't. (2) When civil service examinees double from 400,000 to nearly 800,000 over the course of a decade, the cause isn't "a problem of culture." It's a structural one related to the political economy. D'oh.

In Taipei where so many of the people who comment in this article operate, "new businesses" are service businesses. Thus, the Chinatown crowd gets a skewed view of entrepreneurship in Taiwan. In Taichung where I live, new businesses are manufacturing operations, often gray or outright illegal. You get a very different idea of Taiwanese entrepreneurship if you ride down a street and see three mold and die factories in prefab steel frame buildings than if you ride down the street and see rows of trendily identical coffee shops.

This comment also got me wondering....
Fear of risk also shows in Taiwan’s prized high-tech industry, where the supply of venture capital exceeds demand.
LOL. Unexplored here are the many of reasons the supply of venture capital might exceed demand, none of which have anything to do with a want of entrepreneurship. Taiwanese entrepreneurs might have cultural/economic preferences for other kinds of financing, ones that give them and their families more control instead of outsiders. Or they might be aware that empirical evidence for the alleged special efficacy of venture capital is lacking....
The acquisition of financial resources is one of the key challenges entrepreneurs face as they start and grow their ventures. Venture capital (VC) has attracted exceptional prominence as a distinctive type of financing which is expected to generate above-average performance in environments of high uncertainty. VCs are frequently portrayed as special investors that create value 1) by selecting the more promising ventures in the most promising industries and 2) by providing financial resources and additional support following their investment decisions. Despite the predominant view in the literature that VC increases the success of funded firms in uncertain environments, empirical evidence on this relationship is non-conclusive.
One thing I've found over the more than two decades I've spent interacting with Taiwanese is the really simple lesson, which I've had to learn again and again because I am as biased and stupid as anyone: the reason that Taiwanese act differently than the way you think they should is because they know more than you.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Sean Lien Campaign seeks inspiration wherever it can find it....

....including, apparently, from the California lottery. Go to Apple Daily to watch the video.
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The Slaughter: An excerpt

Below is an excerpt from Ethan Gutmann's The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem. It mentions Ko Wen-je, who is now a candidate for mayor of Taipei. I couldn't find an image in my Flickr account for this post, so I have left it bare. It was originally posted to Facebook. I have reproduced it in full except for the photo of the page from Gutmann's book.

童文薰 added 3 new photos.
第258,259,260頁 (pages 258-260

Less explicit versions of Dr. Ko’s testimony have surfaced; Dr. Francis Navarro, director of transplantation in France’s Montpelier Hospital was invited to demonstrate his liver transplantation technique at Chengdu University in 2006. The Chinese organizers hospitably informed Navarro that they would have a liver ready for him on the day of arrival. If this was a sign that they were killing to order, Navarro’s suspicions were confirmed by the director of a military hospital who mentioned that he was hurrying to finish his executions before the Chinese New Year. Navarro duly reported on these incidents, but the French government has shown scant interest in curbing or restricting French organ tourism to China.
比柯醫生的證詞較不明確的版本浮出水面。弗朗西斯.納瓦羅醫生,法國蒙彼利埃醫院移植主任在2006年應邀前往成都理工大學展示他的的肝移植技術。中國主辦方盛情通知納瓦羅醫生,在他抵達的當天他們準備好一個肝臟。如果這是他們按訂單殺人的訊號,那麼納瓦羅的懷疑,在一家軍隊醫院主任表示他急匆匆地趕在中國春節前完成處決案時,得到了證實。納瓦羅向法國政府正式報告了這些事件,但法國政府卻明示他們對於遏制或限制法國人前往中國進行器官移植旅遊的行為,缺乏興趣。(click read more to continue)

Sahlins with new book on Confucius Institutes


Marshall Sahlins with new book out called Confucius Institutes: Academic Malware, on these Chinese propaganda and intelligence units within US universities. The blurb says:
In recent years, Confucius Institutes have sprung up on more than four hundred and fifty campuses worldwide, including nearly one hundred across the United States. At first glance, this seems like a benefit for everyone concerned. The colleges and universities receive considerable contributions from the Confucius Institutes’ head office in Beijing, including funds to cover the cost of set-up, the provision of Chinese-language instructors, and a cache of other resources. For their part, the Confucius Institutes are able to further their mission of spreading knowledge of Chinese language and culture.

But Marshall Sahlins argues that this seemingly innocuous arrangement conceals the more dubious mission of promoting the political influence of the Chinese government, as guided by the propaganda apparatus of the party-state. Drawing on reports in the media and conversations with those involved, Sahlins shows that the Confucius Institutes are a threat to the principles of academic freedom and integrity at the foundation of our system of higher education. Incidents of academic malpractice are disturbingly common, Sahlins shows. They range from virtually unnoticeable acts of self-censorship to the discouragement of visits from the Dalai Lama and publicly notorious cases like the scandal caused by the director-general of the Confucius Institutes at a recent meeting of the European Association for Chinese Studies when she had certain pages ripped out of the conference program and abstracts.

As prominent universities are persuaded by the promise of additional funding to allow Confucius Institutes on campus, they also legitimate them and thereby encourage the participation of other schools less able to resist Beijing’s inducements. But if these great institutions are to uphold the academic principles upon which they are founded, Sahlins convincingly argues that they must reverse this course, terminate their relations to the Confucius Institutes, and resume their obligation of living up to the idea of the university.
Sahlins wrote a good piece for The Nation on Confucius Institutes to which Ed McCord replied, defending them, over at The Diplomat. McCord wrote his defense of them without mentioning that his university, George Washington, hosts one of the parasites.
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!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Century of Humiliation is Expansionist Baloney

This post takes a look at China's claim to the South China Sea and what it teaches us about the whole idea of national humiliation that even foreigners who should know better still use as if it explained something about Chinese government policy. It is actually expansionist propaganda, which presents Chinese expansionism as redress of victimization, as is common among expansionists of all political stripes and nations.

I've shamelessly stolen a bunch of slides from Bill Hayton's presentation, which is online here. As he introduces in another piece on the South China Sea mess:
At the root of all of this trouble is what Beijing calls its “indisputable historical claim” to 80 per cent of the South China Sea: all the way from Hong Kong harbour almost to the coast of Borneo, 1500km away. The problem with the claim is that there’s no credible evidence to support it. Yet this piece of historical fiction threatens peace and security in Asia and provides the stage for a struggle between China and the US with global implications. It seems scarcely credible that this potentially cataclysmic confrontation is, at its root, a dispute over almost entirely uninhabitable specks of land.
Hayton's presentation gives a background on the whole mess, showing how the SCS claim actually originates in the Maps of National Humiliation that originated as private projects which were eventually taken up by the government. Click on READ MORE to continue to whole (long) post.

Exchange of letters in FT on status of Taiwan

Burning off the fields

This exchange of letters involves a couple of people I know spanking the Chinese representative in the UK for promulgating annexation propaganda. Nice work, people!


October 24, 2014

It’s time for a bullying regime to step into the 21st century

Sir, The letter about Taiwan (October 18) from Chinese embassy spokesman Miao Deyu is textbook Chinese Communist party propaganda that cannot pass unchallenged.

First, the false assertion that Taiwan is “an inalienable part of China”. It is clear from China’s own historical maps and chronicles that Taiwan was not considered part of the empire until the late 17th century, and was at that time of little interest to the Chinese. As Emperor Kangxi wrote in 1683: “By taking it we gain nothing; by leaving it be, we lose nothing.” It was only at the end of the 19th century that the island became, for a brief period, a province of Manchu-ruled China.

During the early decades of the 20th century, Chinese republican leaders Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, and communist leader Mao Zedong each supported either Taiwanese autonomy under Japanese rule, or full Taiwanese independence. This is on the historical record. It was not until the second world war, when both the Chinese Nationalist KMT and the CCP came to view Taiwan as strategic booty to be seized once the US defeated Japan, that the fake “Taiwan-has-always-been-part-of-China” story was concocted.

Regarding Mr Miao’s embarrassingly social-Darwinist remark that people “on both sides of the Taiwan Strait share the same blood, language and roots”: this makes about as much sense as suggesting that Ireland should be incorporated into Britain since people on both sides of the Irish Sea share “the same blood” etc; or for that matter to conclude that the UK is part of the US.

Finally, he impertinently states that issues concerning the wholly independent polity that is modern Taiwan are “China’s internal affairs”. When the CCP snaps out of its imperialist dream it will find we are living in the 21st century and the question of Taiwan’s national and political identity is purely one for people in Taiwan to decide, free of the threat of annihilation by the bullying regime across the Strait.

Don Cropper

Cardiff, UK



Miao Deyu is a capable representative of his country’s firm position that “there is only one China in the world” (letters, October 18), and that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China”. Alas, he stretches the truth that his country’s position “has been universally recognised” by the UN and UK governments.

Like Palestine, Taiwan’s international legal status remains in limbo. The 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty formally ended Japanese sovereignty over Taiwan yet pointedly failed to assign sovereignty over it to any other state. In 1951, China was at war with the UN in Korea and Chiang Kai-shek’s regime had just inflicted an unfortunate “white terror” on the island to enforce the rule of Chiang’s exiled “Republic of China”. As such, the major signatories of the San Francisco Treaty deferred assigning sovereignty to either belligerent in the waning days of the Chinese civil war.

Her Majesty’s representative to the San Francisco conference explained that “the treaty also provides for Japan to renounce its sovereignty over Formosa [Taiwan] and the Pescadores Islands. The treaty itself does not determine the future of these islands.” The US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and others explicitly endorsed that view, with the US delegate, John Foster Dulles, asserting that “clearly, the wise course was to proceed now, so far as Japan is concerned, leaving the future to resolve doubts by invoking international solvents other than this treaty”. In 2014, this remains the view of the major signatories, including Japan.

The Beijing regime was seated in the UN by a vote of the General Assembly on October 25 1971, replacing the representative of Chiang Kai-shek as the representative of “China”. It is a little remembered fact that the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan all voted against the expulsion of Chiang’s representative, even though they in principle favoured seating Beijing. As recently as 2007, as Beijing attempted to assert its authority over Taiwan in several UN agencies, the US reminded the UN secretary-general that “we take no position on the status of Taiwan, we neither accept nor reject the claim that Taiwan is part of China”. However, the US representative was displeased “that the UN has promulgated documents asserting that the United Nations considers ‘Taiwan for all purposes to be an integral part of the PRC’.” He said that “while this assertion is consistent with the Chinese position, it is not universally held by UN member states, including the United States”.

The US cautioned the secretary-general: “If the UN Secretariat insists on describing Taiwan as a part of the PRC [People’s Republic of China], or on using nomenclature for Taiwan that implies such status, the US will be obliged to disassociate itself on a national basis from such position.” Other San Francisco Treaty signatories delivered similar demarches. Confidential American diplomatic cables irresponsibly leaked to the international press via WikiLeaks indicate that the UN secretary-general acknowledged the American position.

The Chinese foreign ministry surely has a right to its own opinions regarding the international status of Taiwan, but it does not have the right to ascribe these opinions to other countries or to the UN.

John J Tkacik
Alexandria, VA, US


Original letter from Miao Deyu

Sir, Your advertisement (October 10) on the so-called “Republic of China 2014 National Day Celebration” is misleading and causes confusion. It is a flagrant violation of the one China principle. The Chinese side expresses strong indignation and grave concern over it.

I must call to your attention that there is only one China in the world. The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. Although the mainland and Taiwan are yet to be reunified since 1949, the fact that both belong to one China has never changed. People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait share the same blood, language and roots. They are one family that cannot be separated. Peaceful development in cross-Straits relations will bring us to peaceful reunification. Attempts to obstruct peaceful reunification or create “two Chinas” and “one China, one Taiwan”, in whatever form, go against the will of the people and the trend of history. They will undoubtedly end up in vain.

One must bear in mind that the one China policy has been universally recognised and observed by the international community including the UN and the UK government. Taiwan-related matters are China’s internal affairs. China is firmly opposed to any outside intervention, and words and deeds that violate the principle.

Miao Deyu
Spokesman, Chinese Embassy in the UK
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!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Vote Buying in Taipei?

Yellow ribbons on a random telephone pole...

Heh. The Chinese Production Party, composed of Chinese spouses of Taiwanese, is allegedly buying votes for Sean Lien in Taipei. Who could have imagined that? I'll be curious to see whether the prosecutors actually go after the CPP for this. More ominous is the fact that the Chinese spouses are organized into a pro-China party that actually has the funds to perform these acts (from where?). These spouses, unlike the rest of us foreigners, do not have to give up their citizenship when they take out ROC citizenship. And of course, when another party does vote buying, the target is insulated from any legal fallout...

My man Tim Maddog observed on Facebook today that the President Ma is constantly referring to Taiwan as a region of the ROC, but Maddog adds this pointed image from the ROC yearbook in which the ROC is defined as coterminus with Taiwan:

Two different ROCs for two different audiences.... Ma again says that Taiwanese suffer from a "complex" about China.

Taiwan's been saying it would build its own submarines. Dean Cheng of Heritage said this is a bad idea, for many of reasons, including too large an investment in a single weapons system. Some basic blueprints already exist, since Taiwan has been studying this idea for a while, one long-time observer said.

What we really need are tons of missiles, fast attack boats, midget subs, and similar...

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan: Cross Cultural Effectiveness Event

My friend John Groot sent this around (hit read more to see full information):

Here are the official listings and announcement for my Cross Cultural Effectiveness event, to be held Thursday Nov 6, from 12 - 2pm.

Whether you are a relative newcomer or an old hand, I think you would have something to both offer and gain from this workshop. Please forward this message to anyone you feel might be interested.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan Facebook
Cancham Website events listing

Hope you can make it!

Polls n Stuff

Taxi driver told me joke from Mao-era China:

Mao announces that there's good news and bad news.
What's the good news?
There's only shit to eat.
OMG. What's the bad news?
There's not enough for everyone to eat.

FormosaNation passed this graphic from SCMP around twitter on the Taiwan elections. The KMT news organ turned up a poll on Taipei from the pro-KMT Taiwan Competitiveness Forum:
In another news story, the Taiwan Competitiveness Forum recently conducted two separate polls and released the results on October 21. In the first poll, the gap between Lien and Ko had shrunk from 12.7 in a previous survey to 4.4 percentage points. In the second poll, undeclared voters were asked about their party preference and voting behavior in both the 2010 Taipei City Mayoral Election and the 2012 Presidential Election. In this poll, the gap between the two candidates narrowed from 2.9 to 0.7 percentage points.
No other poll that I am aware of has the two candidates in Taipei so close. Most have 10-15% gaps, irrespective of the political allegiance of the paper. Taipei'ns are saying that the KMT strategy is to "dump Lien, protect Hu" -- give up on Sean Lien in Taipei and devote resources to the race in Taichung, a must-win for both sides. Dunno if that rumor is actually true, but it is reported in the papers. Hu's team basically strongly hinted there's no need for Ma to come down and help the Hu campaign.

Just remember, if Sean Lien wins, he'll have to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Lien Chan tried to put him forward as a 2016/2020 candidate even if he loses.

The paper also had a UDN poll on Keelung, long a KMT fief:
Among the six candidates vying in the election, 41% of the voters surveyed stated that they would vote for DPP candidate Lin Yu-chang (林右昌), while 13% expressed support for KMT candidate Hsieh Li-kung (謝立功), and 11% for Huang Ching-tai (黃景泰), an independent. According to the poll, most Keelung residents believe that Lin would win the election (54%), while fewer than 10% of the respondents thought that either Hsieh or Huang could win the election.
With the DPP's Lin out in front 41-13-11, even if former KMTer Huang drops out of the race and instructs everyone on his team to vote for the KMT candidate (that's happened before in other races), the DPP still wins handily. That's good news.
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I don't pay much attention to basketball, but this does have a pearl milk tea reference, and it's pretty cute. Jeremy Lin seeking endorsements. Via my man FM.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Japan Didn't Cave

Earlier this week The Diplomat ran a piece entitled "Japan Caves to China on the Senkaku Islands Dispute". Citing reports in the Japanese media, it opened:
In order to secure a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe agreed to a significant concession in Tokyo’s ongoing dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands, according to Japanese media outlets.
I'd been sitting on it for a couple of days because I just couldn't believe even the Japanese, who have been notoriously incompetent in presenting the historical reality of the Senkakus, could do something that dumb. Looked like the usual depressing move by diplomats facing Chinese intransigence to make a permanent concession for a temporary gain. But fortunately the Nelson Report, the DC insider report, did some digging and concluded:
Hummm...but upon reading, it develops this is just a rehash of the original Tokyo media speculation which our GOJ sources then, and again today, reject in every particular. 
So it never happened.
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Monday, October 20, 2014

Daily Links

Links... plus an event! Too busy to blog tonight....
EVENT: Discussion of upcoming elections!

November 2014 megacity election preview (link to website)
Speakers: Shen Fu-hsiung 沈富雄, Political and economic commentator/Joanna Lei 雷倩, CEO, Chunghua 21st Century Think Tank/Joseph Wu (Jau-shieh) 吳釗燮, Secretary-General, Democratic Progressive Party
Moderator: Gavin Phipps, ICRT News Department
12:00-14:00, Thursday, 30 October, 2014, Regent Taipei, VIP 1 (4F) /台北晶華酒店,貴賓廳1 (4F)
No. 3, Lane 39, Sec 2 Zhongshan N Rd, Taipei 104, Taiwan /台北市中山北路二段39巷3號
Click read more for synopsis:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Another debris carry lacewing larva

Shot another one of these today on way out walking the dog. They're so weird. But they eat pests, I've read. This one shows the insect itself, with all the debris it has glued to its body. Sorry about the lack of new pics, down with a hip flexor strain and can't ride...
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Lien in desperate move: Ko= economic doom!

FormosaNation on Twitter, who has been doing a great job tracking the Taipei mayor election, passed this glorious moment around. Here is Sean Lien, the KMT mayoral candidate for Taipei, announcing that if he isn't elected, the economy is doomed. People on Twitter pointed out that his solution is the same as Ma's: more China. That might have played in 2008. It won't play now. The government's insistence on failed China policies has backfired on one of the KMT's most critical claims in maintaining electoral superiority: the claim that it can deliver on the economy. Clearly, with Ma in office nearly six years, and the legislature controlled by the KMT, this was the time to show that was true. It's obvious to everyone that has failed.

Surely the Lien Campaign has to be one of the worst run campaigns in the history of the island's democracy.

For ordinary people, economy is in the dumps. Polls consistently show that Taiwanese are willing to take higher-paying jobs in China. I met a friend who is a buyer in the electronics industry this week, and he was telling me that Chinese electronics firms offer pay 3-5 times higher, or more, to lure key staffers to China. Once they have squeezed their knowledge out of them, they dump them after a couple of years. That higher paying jobs are widely available in China shows how hard the government has worked to keep wages low -- perhaps one purpose of this policy was to force Taiwanese to move to China.
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stereotype Quest: how many stereotypes can you spot?

Watermelon and watermelon juice sellers... man I miss watermelon.

Taipei Times reports:
The video clip was said to portray Aboriginal women as ‘exotic objects of lust, and neglected to mention the artists it was promoting
Here's the link, filmed by aboriginal director. See how many of the millions of ethnic stereotypes crammed in here you can spot. Click read more for a quick list I compiled:

Journal of Current Chinese Affairs Special Issue on Taiwan

On the 193 in Hualien.

Continuity and Change in Policies in Taiwan
Table of contents: Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 3/2014

Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley
The Impacts of Changing Ruling Parties in the Twenty-First Century

Research Articles

Dafydd Fell and Charles Chen
Lessons of Defeat and Success: Taiwan’s 2012 Elections in Comparative Perspective

Lee Chun-Yi
Learning a Lesson from Taiwan? A Comparison of Changes and Continuity of Labour Policies in Taiwan and China

Isabelle Cheng and Dafydd Fell
The Change of Ruling Parties and Taiwan’s Claim to
Multiculturalism before and after 2008

Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley and Chien-san Feng
Anti–Media-Monopoly Policies and Further Democratisation in Taiwan>

Simona Grano
Change and Continuities: Taiwan’s Post-2008 Environmental Policies


Gary D. Rawnsley
Taiwan’s Soft Power and Public Diplomacy

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Poll Eye

Pingtung Aquarium.

A friend and astute observer of things Taiwan flipped me some poll info today from TISR and TVBS on the local elections....

TISR does a periodic Taiwan mood barometer. Ma Ying-jeou's dissatisfaction ratings are at 73.6% with Premier Jiang at 66% dissatisfaction. Jiang killed his presidential shot when he became Premier. The public view of the DPP is 31 (positive) to 35 (negative) but the negative fell from the last poll, while for the KMT the numbers are 20 and 54 and the negative is rising from the last poll.

TISR also gives numbers for Taipei in their October 1 poll, with Ko leading Lien 33-24. They also break down things demographically.

Those numbers look ugly for the KMT going forward. Support for Lien is strong in the age 50 and up cohorts, but falls off markedly as people get younger. The young want Ko. Education shows a similar pattern. While Lien does better with the less educated, for people with university education and up, Ko crushes Lien, 41.5 to 18.4. The last section shows the vote by camp affiliation. Blues support Lien at a surprisingly tepid rate, only 59.4%, while 85.7% of the greens support Ko. But among independents Ko has a nearly 4-1 margin over Lien, 30.0% to 8.4%. Those "independents" are probably all light blues in reality.

For Taichung, the TVBS poll of likely voter dated Sept 29 has Lin Jia-lung up 44-30, with Hu down 3 points from mid-July and Lin up 2 since then. Undecideds in that poll were 26%, meaning there is plenty of room for Hu to come storming back. Sure enough, the October Sept poll has Lin up only 32.2% to 29.8%. The pattern of voter demographics is broadly similar to that of Taipei, though not as severe, reflecting the fact that Hu is a much better candidate than the hapless Sean Lien. Hu does much better with younger voters than Sean Lien, but for education it's basically the same. The independents are somewhat stronger for Lin as well.

In Changhua TVBS has the KMT ahead 30-29 for the county chief, with 36% undecided. That poll is two weeks old. In the Yunlin County chief election the DPP is up 33-27 with 40% undecided, about a week ago.

ARGH, mea culpa: Your info on the Taichung polls is incorrect. The TISR one which showed Lin up three points was done on 9/24; the other poll you referenced which had Lin up by 14 was done from 9/25-9/29 by TVBS and was released today. You can see that poll here:

The other numbers in that poll don't actually bode well for Hu, and his approval rating is falling and he is less liked than Lin.

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Hong Kong's Effect on Taiwan is major media moment

A hiking trail

Cindy Sui of the BBC sent around a piece today on the effect of the Hong Kong protests on Taiwan's desire to annex itself to China. It's mostly good, and its the first major media piece I've seen that refers to the ghostly deadlines of 2021 and 2049 for annexation of Taiwan that some in the Chinese media have talked about.

As several of us have been remarking recently, one ironic effect of the Hong Kong protests is that everyone is now noticing Taiwan. Yay! Normally the international media hedges when it talks about Taiwan's rejection of annexation speaking of "some people" dislike that, or referring to "skepticism" or "wariness". But perhaps we're going to see more forthright acknowledgement in the major media that Taiwan doesn't want to become part of China. One can only hope.

Ben Goren has a long discussion of the BBC piece here, with many criticisms, which I won't repeat. Ben observes:
Then there’s this beauty:

Thousands of Chinese tourists flood into Taiwan daily, boosting the island’s economy.
I don’t have a problem with the object of this sentence, only the entire predicate. Perhaps Cindy Sui can point to some hard statistical evidence that Chinese tourists are actually boosting Taiwan’s economy and if so, which sectors / areas in particular. If she can’t then really all she’s doing here is repeating Government propaganda.
The problem is an interesting one because there are many ways to think about how to measure the economic effect of Chinese tourists and it would not be easy for anyone to produce a definitive account. This paper argues for a net US dollar gain of nearly $50 million a month from Chinese tourism after allowing for the "crowding out" effect of reducing US and Japanese tourist arrivals, partly because it appears to increase tourism from Hong Kong, but the data are too old and limited to be useful (2009 data). I'd be curious to see a more recent in-depth model. I suppose nearly $600 million annually is technically "boosting" the economy. This 2014 paper views Chinese tourism from another POV -- its economic effect on the environment:
When forecasting the estimated growth of Chinese visitors in Taiwan to 2016, an additional 0.8% increase in economic output is expected at the expense of a 2.7% increase in CO2 emissions and a 3.0% increase in water use.
Another paper from 2013...
It is concluded that by 2011, the economic spillover effects for the retail sector and accommodations services sector were US$773.49 million and US$438.43 million, respectively. The total spillover effects of US$7617 million accounted for 0.183% of Taiwan's GDP
I don't think there is any question we're getting a "boost" from Chinese tourism, if only because the word "boost" has no real meaning, though none of the models attempt to measure the costs, except the one that looks at the environment. I also don't think there's any question that it is not a boost we want: Chinese tourism produces nothing that raises long-term living standards in Taiwan. This pointless flow of revenues (profits go largely to a few Hong Kong tourism firms) might even be tolerable, if it were not part of a strategy to annex Taiwan to China.

Sui writes, referring to the Sunflower Protesters (her reporting on them was excellent, example) and their demand for a bill to provide oversight of cross-strait agreements:
They might just succeed. The activists enjoyed nearly 50% public support for their demands for greater scrutiny of government deals with China, according to a government survey, partly because - unlike Hong Kong - they did not disrupt traffic.
Actually, "nearly 50% support" seems wrong. Rather, it was strong majority support. For example, Ben writes on a pro-KMT TVBS poll that has 65% supporting passage of a bill to oversee agreements with China, including a plurality against the trade pact. Another TVBS poll showed over 60% wanted the services pact withdrawn, numbers similar to those in this Businessweek poll. That the government has not attempted to ram the bill through again clearly indicates its deep unpopularity, both with the public at large and within the KMT. The students had broad public support because the service pact was a crapshit agreement that was bad for Taiwan and rejected by the public. If only someone in the media would clearly say that....

PS: if you're interested in the meaty contents of the oversight bill, the always-excellent Frozen Garlic has a great post on it.
PPS: In fairness, a government poll found the public supported the services pact, by 1%, 41-40. Those results surely required real artistry to achieve.
PPPS: What's the boost from the services pact? I looked at it here. You'll need a microscope to see it.
Daily Links:
  • New ROC stamps honor endangered species. Test your ROC understanding: which stamp has higher value, Formosan Black Bear or Giant Black and White Annexation Lardbombs? Go here, select MINT STAMP and 2014 in the drop down menus.
  • Taiwan Review on the new national park in the Penghu
  • Ma tells K-town residents they should take the MRT and other tales from Ben at Letters from Taiwan. There have been lifelong authoritarian rulers who were less tone-deaf than Ma Ying-jeou. 
  • Huffington Post notes Sunflower influence on Hong Kong protests. This is amazing.... even though they get a UDN guy.
  • Chinese espionage now rampant in Taiwan
  • Ma vows to clean up food industry in Taiwan. Yawn. Let's revisit the past. Government vows to improve tracking after plasticizer scare (2011). I'm not going to bother searching for more.
  • WHOA: I was wondering when something suggestive like this would appear. The oil scandal for Ting Hsin/WeiChuan has caused the Ministry of Finance to put the brakes on Ting Hsin conglomerate's takeover of the management of Taipei 101. And there is the purchase of the cable news station. One wonders what toes Ting Hsin was going to step on. Lucky for those being stepped on the oil scandal broke, eh?
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Monday, October 13, 2014

Another day, another cooking oil scandal...

Nanhua Reservoir

Well, I've been manfully ignoring this latest cooking oil scandal, one in a string of dozens over the years since I've been here. I tire of commenting on them. But it's no use. It's just too damn big and hot right now. The KMT news organ emotes:
Last week, it was revealed that Cheng-I Food Co., Ltd. (正義公司), a subsidiary of the Ting Hsin Group (頂新集團), allegedly mixed animal feed oil with edible oil to produce over 60 kinds of cooking oil products for sale. During a press conference in the morning of October 11, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) stated that the tainted oil scandal caused widespread public concerns over food safety, and pledged that the government would demonstrate its resolve to root out all black-hearted (unscrupulous) food manufacturers. Jiang vowed, “The government will take all necessary measures to eliminate the production of tainted foods.”
In case you were wondering, the Kaohsiung city government shut down the production lines of Ting Hsin and Cheng-I, meaning that they do have the power to do that. Horse, barn door, etc. The premier had tariffs on imported lard lowered to help get exports to cover demand.

The Changhua County prosecutors office is pursuing this affair, and have detained several people related to the two firms. Chiayi county hosts the factories which sold animal feed oil to Ting Hsin/Cheng-I and the operators of those firms are being detained as well. The oil meant for animal feed came originally from Vietnam, so only the food gods know what is in it. *sigh*

I wrote in November of 2013 about the scandal last October: What's Not in the News:
HEADLINE NEWS!!!! Taiwan gov't tipped off by Spain in 2009could be something wrong with the oil! Or adulterated oil company executive appears in court and is unrepentant. Defense Ministry to seek compensation for suspect oils

The oil scandal is so useful. The oil companies are scapegoated for all the food sins of Taiwanese firms, the meat packed with antibiotics, the fraudulent organic food, the pears from Dongshih sold as Lishan pears, the rice noodles that aren't rice...

and when was the last time you read an article on the wiretapping issue? Gone from the news. Never mind the stagnant incomes, the capital gains tax, the land tax... modern Establishment media is so useful, if it didn't exist, it would have to be invented.
We just had an oil scandal a month ago. This one is bigger. One of the firms involved is the well-known brand Wei Chuan, which is part of the same conglomerate as Ting Hsin. Once again, the KMT news organ:
On October 9, Wei resigned as chairman of three companies under the Ting Hsin International Group, i.e., Wei Chuan Foods Corporation, Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co., and Cheng-I Food Co., Ltd.

In fact, before Wei announced the suspension of Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co. (頂新製油) and Cheng-I Food Co., Kaohsiung City’s Department of Health had already ordered that the production lines of two companies be suspended pending further investigation.
Wei Chuan ejected itself from the last scandal (Oil Theatre) by yanking products from the shelves, but can't do anything about this one.

Apple Daily has been featuring angry and potentially explosive anonymous letters from the Angry Citizen, as the Taipei Times reports:
The two top government leaders’ response to the scandal was also published in yesterday’s issue of the Chinese-language Apple Daily, in which Ma said: “It only hurts our feelings, not our bodies,” and Jiang said: “Like every one of you, I’m worried about food safety, so in my home, we use only imported olive oil.”

“The responses from both of you to these incidents have flabbergasted the public, hurting not only their feelings, but also their physical health,” the citizen said.

The citizen went on to accuse the government of not doing enough to punish law-breaking businesspeople and not alleviating people’s concerns about food safety in Taiwan.

The citizen expanded their complaints to the government’s missteps over the past few years in terms of economic development, social order, labor rights and information security.
The interesting thing here is the last paragraph. The last go-round of tainted oil didn't seem to have the power to make a political impact, but like Angry Citizen, people are connecting the dots. Rex How, the former Ma government advisor turned sane, has called for a boycott of the Ting Hsin group.
Former national policy adviser Rex How (郝明義) yesterday urged Taiwanese to boycott media subsidiaries of Ting Hsin International Group, including recently established 4G mobile provider Taiwan Star Telecom and possible acquisition cable TV operator China Network Systems (CNS), over the embattled conglomerate’s involvement in a series of food safety scandals.
How said that most of the group's revenues come from its China business (China suspended imports of its oil) so the boycott some are calling for won't have much effect. The government made its usual promises to crack down... but remember, there's an election next month. Will this affect the election? If Angry Citizen keeps filling Apple Daily's front page with the shameful state of the government's regulation of the food processing industry, it just might. People are angry here.

Yet, it's not like food scandals are happening in a vacuum. Everything is this way in Taiwan, from the corner-cutting in construction to the widespread tax evasion to the blithe neglect of bad drivers to the enormous underground economy, with its factories, retail establishments, hotels, and banks, all illegal. We all participate in it, and we all take advantage of it. Does the public want to see this paradise of lax legal enforcement curtailed, have it own behavior inspected?

I doubt it.
Daily Links:
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Saturday, October 11, 2014

ROC National Day: Ma calls for Hong Kong Democracy

In his 10/10 speech President Ma urges China to try democracy, first in Hong Kong, and the whole world reports on it (LA Times, The Guardian via AFP, IBTimes). Hong Kong's importance is at last putting Taiwan on the world stage, as an up-and-coming writer on Taiwan reminded me in chat today, to our mutual satisfaction.

The Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council followed Ma in calling for democracy in Hong Kong...
Protecting Hong Kong people's basic human rights such as freedom of assembly and speech and allowing Hong Kong democracy to blossom "will not only guarantee Hong Kong's stability but will also play a significant role in the long-term development of cross-strait relations," the MAC said.

In his speech, Ma backed the democracy protests in Hong Kong and urged Beijing to fulfill its promise of a high degree of autonomy in the special administrative region.
The irony of Ma, who spent his political career fighting democracy in Taiwan until the late 1990s and was one of the last holdouts against repealing the national security laws in the early 1990s, calling for democracy in Hong Kong was not lost on observers here. There was also some laughter at Ma's irony-free praise of the Hong Kong protesters while excoriating the Taiwan protesters for hurting democracy, though both were doing exactly the same thing for pretty much the same reasons.

It's not difficult to see why Ma might call for Beijing to give Hong Kong greater autonomy. Remember that the people of Taiwan and the KMT itself have rejected the One Country, Two Systems offers of a succession of Chinese presidents. But it is obvious that the KMT can't continue in power in Taiwan after annexing the island to China without local autonomy. China's Hong Kong policy, which continues to strengthen independence feelings in Taiwan and has dealt a body blow to US policy in doing so, is also putting a crimp in KMT plans to maintain power in Taiwan after the handover -- which they can't do without Beijing's cooperation. Ma's calls for Beijing to let Hong Kong have autonomy are really desperate pleas for Beijing to permit Hong Kong autonomy to save the KMT and to perhaps stop making annexation to China so unattractive to the Taiwanese.

Hong Kong is unlikely to hurt the KMT's chances in the local elections here in Taiwan next month, which are decided on local issues, but may well impact the 2016 presidential election campaign, which will begin in the latter half of next year.
Daily Links:
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Looking for guided cycling on the east coast?

A Taichung road.

UPDATE: Link is now correct.

My friend the awesome Cheryl Robbins writes:
This Website contains detailed information about two-day cycling tour itineraries along the east coast of Taiwan in October and November. They include stops and overnight stays in indigenous Amis communities. Great natural scenery, culture, hospitality, cycling...For those requiring an English-language tour guide an extra benefit is that it will be me! Who could ask for more?
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!

Not seeing the Taiwan forest for the China trees

Went to a performance of the Chiotian Drum Troupe yesterday. Here is one of the troupe leaders.

Today brings us several articles on the Hong Kong protests, including one from Jeffrey Wasserstrom, the well known scholar, in Foreign Policy, and another from John Garnaut, the Australian journalist who actually gets Taiwan.

Several years ago I had a conversation with an acutely intelligent friend who is also an acutely intelligent observer of Taiwan, and he pointed out that the Chen Shui-bian Administration had done such a good job separating Taiwan from China that at academic conferences his work on Taiwan had less relevance because it wasn't about China, which was hot. Indeed, this separation has gone so well that Taiwan has vanished off the media radar, as we found when the Sunflower protests were so woefully underreported. Wasserstrom's piece surprisingly reproduces this China-centric view of the Hong Kong protests, reviewing the way the protesters replicate the past behaviors of students protesting in China, with a nod to the Occupy movement in the US:
The Hong Kong protesters have shown themselves tremendously resourceful, able to borrow freely and creatively from many different sorts of movements. They are aware of --and draw strength from local struggles of the past. They borrow from the playbook of Chinese revolutionary heroes and from the mainland students of 1989. As their leader, they have even picked Joshua Wong, a noted participant in the 2012 protests in Hong Kong. They have also looked for inspiration to other parts of the world. The student protesters allied with Hong Kong’s Occupy Central activists, for example, who embody the spirit of New York City’s Occupy Wall Street movement and are largely concerned with economics and inequality.
Yet though the piece is about searching for an analogy for the Hong Kong protests, it totally omits any reference to Taiwan, whose recent Sunflower protests in many ways shaped the current round of protests -- there are many links and parallels between the two, from the links between the protesters themselves to the reporters who covered both -- and were treated in the same way by the government, right down to the deployment of nationalist gangsters against the protesters. Moreover Hong Kong and Taiwan face a similar set of economic and social problems -- high housing prices, rampant income inequality, rule by tycoons, and so on, as well as an increasingly powerful non-China local identity, especially among the young, incompetent and divided pro-democracy parties, and an overarching China invasion that threatens many aspects of local lives and identities.This omission is all the more puzzling because Wasserstrom interviewed Shelly Rigger on the Sunflower protests in Dissent...

Thus, one could hardly find a better analogy for Hong Kong than Taiwan, but Wasserstrom thinks of China in terms of China -- deployment of Chinese history to explain Chinese history is a kind of legitimating shibboleth among China hands, like the way New Testament scholars deploy knowledge of Greek to fence the boundaries of their field, or business scholars use advanced statistics to turn data porridge into scholarly bisque. But the Hong Kong protests can't really be understood in terms of Chinese historical protests (isn't part of the issue the fact that Hong Kongers don't feel Chinese?). They have to be seen in some other context: globally as part of the global movement against the growing concentration of wealth in a few hands, the rule of corporate power, the widespread corruption at the top of governments, and the disappearance of economic opportunity for the middle classes, and locally, against the overarching drive of Beijing to annex and suppress democracy and local identities, like the protests in Tibet, Xinjiang, and.... Taiwan.

PS: Don't miss this piece on the secret history of Hong Kong democracy: the reason that Hong Kong never got self-governance from the Brits is because Beijing threatened to invade if Britain made Hong Kong a democracy. Hence the bullshit from fake leftists that compares/criticizes Britain's never giving Hong Kong representative government with China's current deal is.... bullshit.

John Garnaut, the Aussie journalist, does what Wasserstrom failed to do, and locates the Taiwan/Hong Kong protests in their proper context: the problems of "mainlandization" of China's peripheries and corporate power, where corporations serve Beijing's goals:
Before the umbrella protests of Hong Kong it was easier to believe that it was only a matter of time before the peripheries were fully absorbed into the empire and made safe for Chinese Communist Party rule. And that's the way the way that Hong Kong's great multinational banks, the world's top four accounting firms, and even the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong still see the odds, judging by their recent statements.

"The present situation is damaging to Hong Kong's international reputation, may harm Hong Kong's international competitiveness, and is creating an uncertain environment that may be detrimental to investment, to job creation and to Hong Kong's prosperity into the future," said Austcham, in a statement on September 29 which echoed Communist Party propaganda almost word-for-word, and incited a heated internal backlash.

Geoff Raby, a former ambassador who represents Australian corporations in Beijing and sits on the board of Andrew Forrest's iron ore company, Fortescue, was empathetic with the protesters he surveyed in central Hong Kong. Indeed, their earnest faces were haunting reminders of those he'd seen a quarter of a century earlier in Tiananmen. And, to him, their hopes are as futile now as they were back then. To contemplate otherwise would not just be wrong, as he put it this week in the AFR, but "ideological". So much so that Canberra should resign itself and allow history to take its inevitable course if the People's Liberation Army is once again sent in. "It will be a time for cool reason, rather than ideological enthusiasm,"according to Raby.

Similarly, when the Sunflower protesters occupied the Taiwanese Yuan, in response to President Ma Ying-jeoh bypassing the island's hard-won democratic institutions to sign a wide-ranging economic integration pact with the mainland, economists at ANZ felt qualified to instruct the island's misguided youth what was good for them. "The protest in Taipei may heighten the anti-Mainland sentiment that is seen in Hong Kong," they said in a research note of March 26. "Turning back such economic integration will only exacerbate the current plight of the middle class, increase youth unemployment, and lead to a loss of thousands of high quality job opportunities."

The mainlandisation of China's peripheries has been accelerating and intensifying under the emperor-like Xi Jinping ever since he assumed the presidency – the third and least important of his titles – in March last year. Raby, and the anonymous author of that Austcham statement, and the China economics team at ANZ bank all assume that China's journey to empire is inexorable, whatever speed bumps lie along the road.
Kudos to Garneau! This linkage between China's power and corporate power is mirrored by the linkage between the Hong Kong protests and the Taiwan protests, and mirrored as well in the support of the American and European Chambers of Commerce for the KMT's pro-China politico-economic goals (noted most recently in my post on FTAs). Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT have deliberately cloaked their pro-annexation structural changes in the language of neo-liberal economic discourse to evoke just this response.

Independent Taipei mayor candidate Ko Wen-je is in the US at the moment. The always excellent Ketagalen Media covered his stop there....
On Wednesday, independent Taipei mayoral candidate Dr. Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) began his US tour, visiting San Francisco Bay Area and meeting with academics, students, industry leaders and Taiwanese American supporters. During a dinner speech Ko gave, he listed Taipei’s largest problem as the high housing prices, and Taiwan’s greatest issue as the social immobility caused by inheritance of wealth and power.
That same concern is mirrored in recent surveys of Hong Kong youth (here), who see social mobility as more difficult and the wealth gap in Hong Kong as growing since the handover. All over the world, it's the same cry for social justice in the face of the same issue: authoritarian government with its totalizing identity politics intertwined with corporate power with its totalizing economic dreams. Social identities, after all, are consumption identities...

Also see: Lorand Laskai on LARB connects Hong Kong and Taiwan. Ian Rowen on the Taiwan-HKK links.
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!