Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ko Interviewed in Foreign Policy

Pages from Steve McQueen's biography about filming The Sand Pebbles in Taiwan passed around Facebook.

I'm offline for four or five days this week...

There are many strains of Chinese thinking about Being Chinese. For every ten or twenty blusters about the awesomeness of Chinese culture, there's one person adhering to the Bo Yang strain. Like Ko Wen-je, the new mayor of Taipei, who observed in an interview with Foreign Policy:
For the [world’s] four Chinese-speaking regions — Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mainland China — the longer the colonization, the more advanced a place is. It’s rather embarrassing. Singapore is better than Hong Kong; Hong Kong is better than Taiwan; Taiwan is better than the mainland. I’m speaking in terms of culture. I’ve been to Vietnam and mainland China. Even though the Vietnamese are seemingly poor, they always stop in front of red traffic lights and walk in front of green ones. Even though mainland China’s GDP is higher than that of Vietnam, if you ask me about culture, the Vietnamese culture is superior.
This analysis may sound strange but its actually quite conventional, I have heard it all before. Many Taiwanese look with disdain on the Chinese. His views of the US are also quite conventional among Taiwanese, where the US is often held up as a model. That version of the US, however, is an orientalizing fantasy, in which the Other is held up as a Positive Opposite that We should follow.

His comments on annexing Taiwan to China are also good:
We have to convince Mainland China that a free and democratic Taiwan is more in China’s interest than reunification.

Speaking of orientalizing, a comically awful article on Taiwan's trash production made the rounds this week to say here is better than there. It claims:
Thanks to policies implemented in 1988, the government has been able to decouple GDP growth and production of household waste over a period of about one generation. As the nation’s wealth has risen—approaching $40,000 per capita—the Taiwanese somehow managed to waste less and defy the notion put forth by economists Michael McDonough and Carl Riccadonna that economic growth leads to more consumption and, therefore, more waste. Today, the average Taiwanese citizen produces less than a kilogram of trash per day, according to the Taiwanese Institute for Sustainable Energy. By comparison, the average American produces roughly two kilos (or about four and a half pounds).
The writer apparently simply sucked up the government line and did not attempt any research. Anyone who lives in Taiwan could point out some of the many issues: the widespread and uncounted illegal dumping and burial of waste and trash, especially from factories and construction sites, widespread trash burning, and the cultural and legal differences. For example, name me a Taiwanese city that has a policy on waste collection and recycling of lawn trimmings. They don't exist here, but many American cities count them as waste. Critical thinking, please.
Daily Links:
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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Objectively and Pragmatically Sliding into the Abyss

This little wooden building was the most fascinating thing I saw in Lukang today. What was it for?

"Objective" is one of the most important words in political discourse in Taiwan society. When it is deployed, it is a signal that the speaker demands that you kowtow to power. It came out this week in the furor over the salami slicing strategy that China is working up to deploy against Taiwan, little by little slicing away at its sovereignty. In that case, China says it is happy to talk about the new airline routes in the Strait, but doesn't appear to want to alter them. Talking about the communications between Beijing and Taipei, Chinese spokesman Ma said...
Such communications will help Taiwan "objectively and pragmatically understand in full the situation surrounding China's opening of the new routes," Ma said, without hinting at any possibility that the routes could be shifted further West, as Taiwan hopes.
You know when someone deploys "pragmatically" he means "sell out to Chinese power." You're screwed, suck it up. Another tiny slice off the salami.
Daily Links:
  • Speaking of slow death, Commonwealth has a good piece on how Samsung stole employees from TSMC and apparently stole its business secrets. Both Chinese and Korean firms pay top dollar for Taiwan engineers.
  • President Ma says 4th nuke plant maybe possibly can be mothballed -- now that its budget is spent and everyone has their kickbacks and payments -- but electricity must flow. Hey, out in Datan in Taoyuan is a natural gas plant that can replace two reactors, if run at full capacity, but it only runs at 1/3 capacity.
  • Taiwan fisherman nets jawbone of hitherto unknown hominid between 10K and 190K years old.
  • LA Times on the growing boardgaming trend in Taiwan, which I've just joined.
  • As a longtime observer noted, Ma just did what he'd promised not to do: reshuffle top DoD posts.
  • with translation of Apple Daily Piece on the effect of Ko on other mayors.
  • The MKT is the latest in the increasing number of political parties in Taiwan. Founded by KMTer who left, basically saying KMT would never reform. These parties will be little more than personal factions unless some kind of proportional representation system is implemented, in which case they may have a future. I wonder if at least some of this partymaking is in anticipation of far-reaching reforms to the legislature.
  • Look, I"m not linking to that ridiculous watch affair. I'm just not. Nor am linking anymore to the sex park stories. Nor to the new law forcing parents to limit screen time for kids play e-games. That law is vague and will never be enforced. 
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, January 26, 2015

Catching Up

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je with very high approval ratings. 68% satisfied, 13% not satisfied.

Sorry, been busy. But with the semester over... oh heck, I'll still be busy. But let me sneak in a blog post...

The Taipei Times reports on NCCU's survey, which probably underestimates the numbers:
The university’s Election Study Center poll showed that 60.6 percent of respondents regard themselves as Taiwanese, while 23.9 percent support Taiwanese independence.
If you go to the main page, you'll soon find that the NCCU format uses the choices of unification, maintain status quo, independence, or no answer. The "maintain status quo" types are largely pro-independence and see the status quo as the best form of independence they can get at the moment. Hence, the actual support for independence is closer to 70%.

About this fact:
Meanwhile, the number of respondents identifying themselves as Chinese was more than 20 percent in 1992; was first exceeded by the number who self-identified as Taiwanese in 1995; fell to less than 10 percent during the DPP administration from 2000 and 2008; and dropped to less than 5 percent after the KMT returned to power in 2008, the center said. friend Donovan Smith observed that since a large number of those identifying as Chinese must be the imported Chinese wives of locals, the actual number of Taiwan-bred individuals identifying as Chinese is tiny.
Daily Links:
EVENTS: Dr Fell over at SOAS sends around:
  • We are recruiting for our MA in Taiwan Studies: If you know of suitable candidates, please do encourage them to apply. I've also attached our latest flyer which introduces our courses and programme.
  • We have another very rich programme of events this term, including a special edition launch, book launch and a series of documentary film screenings with director Q&As.
  • We are also busy preparing for the Second World Congress of Taiwan Studies to be held at SOAS June 18-20. I look forward to seeing many of you there in June!
  • Please also don't forget to lobby your librarians to purchase the full list of books in the Routledge Taiwan Series!

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!

Friday, January 23, 2015

In which I become a famous bike company store operator

You didn't know I was a bike company store operator? Neither did I. Lately a couple of people contacted me about race-bicycles. It says they are based at 185 Warehouse in Taichung and their manager is James Murray. James is a friend of mine, and I know he doesn't work at this company, and neither do I, although there is my picture above his name on their About page.  I've been to 185 Warehouse many times, and never seen nor heard of this firm. I'm sure they'll correct this error about who their store manager is. I'm pretty sure I'm not managing a bike store, although that would explain my fatigue recently...

UPDATE: In case it is not clear, race-bicycles used my picture without permission, I am not connected to them.
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ko Wen-je VS the Construction-Industrial State: Ko wins one

Beachcombing in Hsinchu.

Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je is rocking the construction-industrial state. The Taipei Times reports...
The Taipei Dome and Farglory’s contract had become a source of controversy in recent days as Ko and his administrative team began looking at several major projects either underway or in the proposal stage.

Prior to last night’s meeting, Ko had said the Dome contract would have to be revised to increase the penalties for failing to meet deadlines. He also said discrepancies between the initial contract terms during the bidding process and the firm’s final contract needed to be discussed.

“Farglory has already gone past the deadline for completing the project, in violation of the contract,” Ko said earlier yesterday, adding that the original contract’s penalty clauses “do not have any real impact,” because they only allow the city government to fine the firm a total of NT$3 million (US$95,300) for violations.
Hacking on the previous administration, Ko pointed out that Control Yuan asked that 39 articles in the contract be revised, but the previous KMT administration had not done so. Former KMT Mayor Hau had used the infamous you-do-not-understand attack to defend himself from Ko's exposure of his administration's apparent embrace of big companies...
Countering criticism leveled at several projects undertaken during his administration, former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday accused Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and his team of using “defamatory” tactics to hide their “ignorance” of municipal issues.
Hau also defended himself by saying that everything had been done according to the law and passed the ethics commission. Such reviews in Taiwan are typically prima facie. KMT Chair Eric Chu has asked Hau to take over the National Policy Foundation, the KMT's internal think tank. Hau is a princeling, like Chu, another clue that "reform" under Chu is going to be limited to revamping and further locking down the Party's relationships with the local factions so they don't bolt. ADDED: Yam ripped him in an editorial captured.

So far, this is my favorite Ko moment:
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday said he has ordered all Taipei City Government departments to draft a complete list of all municipal property, after discovering that the controversial bus lane on Zhongxiao W Road includes a bus stop that is not listed as belonging to the city.
Ko also said he'd can the Taipei police chief if pro-PRC "protesters" in front of Taipei 101 continued their violent assaults on people; the chief subsequently retired, along with a fire department official. Ko is making everyone else administrating a county/city look bad. Commonwealth interviewed him in December shortly after his election victory.

BTW, some of you may recall that the Tax Bureau was pursuing Ko's family in a totally non-political case. Yesterday it dinged his parents for $31,200 NT. This is a symbolic figure -- once it was committed to the apparent harassment, it had to fine them, but if it had been a large amount, that would have called further attention to the fact that Ko's family was being pursued in a totally non-political case.

Mayor Lin Jia-long of Taichung killed the Taiwan Tower project in Taichung when its budget nearly doubled. Should that be read as a genuine commitment to curbing the construction-industrial state? Or just a one-off designed to make Lin look like he is doing a Ko Wen-je in Taichung, using a bad project with no great construction-industrial state support? For me the jury is still out on Lin. Another major project Lin has criticized, the BRT, saw an inevitable accident today.

Up and Coming for the KMT: As the TT reports, during the run up to the KMT Chairmanship election Chu hinted that he'd end the Party's assault on one of its most loyal servants, Legislative Speaker and longtime heavyweight Wang Jin-pyng (MaWangMess, MaWangMess). A group of legislators has proposed that the KMT withdraw its appeal of the court ruling that permitted Wang Jin-pyng to retain his position in the Party and in the legislature. Chu has delayed a response, but if he drops the appeal, it will be another declaration of Chu breaking with President and former KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (like his elimination of Ma's Zhongshan Council and return of power to the Central Standing Committee), who has been doing his Saruman-in-Orthanc imitation since the crushing defeat of the KMT in November. In fact the China Post report has Chu specifically saying he "respects Ma's authority", showing that Chu also views this issue as one that puts himself and Ma in conflict. The Ma-Wang mess really harmed the KMT's relations with its legislators. Surely Chu must sense the urgent need to fix that, and will drop the appeal. If not, then we know something about him and his relations with the KMT.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Still Not there yet Links

Atop Nanyang Road in Fengyuan.

Time, time, time.....
Daily Links:

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Links Too

Water drops on the flower of a sensitive plant.

No time for blogging, with finals to prepare. Enjoy some links.
Daily Links:

Then and Now: Kappanzan

I was trawling through the East Asia Image Collection at Lafayette again when I found this shot of Kappanzan. That's the well known tourist site of Jiaobanshan. The Taoyuan County government website on the area, now a tourist area, is here. On Facebook the East Asia Image Collection describes its Kappanzan collection:
Kappanzan/Jiaobanshan entered Japanese colonial history as a hotly contested battleground in the war for precious timber in Taiwan's interior. By the 1930s, it was accessible to tourists and visiting government officials by push-cart rail, and was appointed with comfortable guest lodgings. Over the course of Japanese rule (1895-1945), this plateau became a "model village" for Japan's policies towards Indigenous Peoples. This series of images spans the time period 1910-1940.
One of the Taoyuan county government images of the area today.

I photographed the area in 2009. From the 7, the Northern Cross Island Highway, you can barely catch the plateau; there's a little road that goes down to an overlook with better views. The bend in the river is in the center of the photo (Google map link).
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday links...

You never know where a bike trip will take you.

Enjoy some links... too tired to blog today.
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Me in The Diplomat: Washington's Obsolete Taiwan Policy

Not blogging today. Instead, enjoy my piece in The Diplomat today. The title is not mine; mine was ZOMG! Taiwan Could Independence! "Tension" and the Coming Obsolescence of US Taiwan Policy.
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chu Voted New KMT Chair, but the real reformer is Ko Wen-je

Dragon God Temple.

Reuters reports:
"China is comfortable with Chu taking charge of the KMT ... It has been trying to build mutual trust," said Tung Chen-yuan, a professor at the National Chengchi University and former vice chairman of Taiwan's China policy-making body.

Chu was the only top politician who two high-level visiting Chinese officials met in 2014, a sign China is betting he will be the island's leader.

"Xi Jinping is very happy to meet Chu and he is waiting," said a KMT source with knowledge of the situation, referring to China's president. Chu was not available for comment.
Chu, the princeling son of a powerful KMT insider, now head of the KMT. Same old KMT. Do not confuse Chu's youth with reform mindedness. The KMT is wedded to its China policy and the 1% in the world of finance and land development. They will never permit the KMT to change. The KMT's structural problems are too great.

Want to see a reformer? It's the new Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je, who is giving the construction-industrial state a beating. translates a viral blogpost of what Ko is taking on:
1. Taipei Dome (VS Farglory)
2. The New Horizon building (VS Fubon Bank)
3. Reducing city gov’t subscriptions (VS print media)
4. The city New Year’s Party (VS TVBS)
5. MeHAS City development project (VS Radium Life Tech)
6. A NT$2.6 billion cafeteria (VS Hwang Chang General Contractor)
7. Lobbying transparency (VS city councilors)
8. Independence of state-affiliated business chairs (VS Chao Shao-kang)
9. National education (VS the Ministry of Education)
10. Illegal structures (VS owners of illegal structures)
11. Bonuses for city police officers (VS the Ministry of the Interior)
12. Uber (VS the Ministry of Economic Affairs)
Ko is really making things move, making things go. The Hau Administration and Ma Administrations could have done this, but the KMT is closely aligned with the construction-industrial state. Think Chu could carry out a program like this? Don't make me laugh....

I did some riding today with an oldtimer and talked about this. Both of us are concerned. We've been in Taiwan long enough to remember what things were like over the years when the construction-industrial state has been crossed. In 1996 Taoyuan County Chief and 8 associates were whacked in an obvious gangland slaying (Wiki); he was involved in so many deals guessing which one got him killed was impossible. In 2000 the Kuangsan Sogo was shot up over debts, killing the unborn child of a pregnant woman (story). In 2007 PFP city councilor Wu Shan-jeou was executed in his office by a professional, presumably over illegal gravel operations he had threatened. One could list many others, most recently the strange death of Chang Sen-wen. Ko himself is obviously not involved with organized crime and bad debts like the others. But I worry about him still...
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday linkfest.

Barreling past grape vines east of Jhuolan in Maioli

Some links... since I'm busy.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ma takes it on the Chin

Ants savaging a caterpillar.

Haha. For weeks many of us watching the KMT in increasing disarray have been waiting for someone to point out that Ma is still Chairman of the KMT because he can't resign. Well, it finally happened.
KMT member Chen Shu-fen (陳淑芬) said that Ma’s resignation as chairman on Dec. 3 last year and the KMT Central Standing Committee’s decision to hold a new election for the role contravene the charter, as Ma may step down only when he is no longer president or has his party membership revoked.
Could the sudden objections be arranged by Eric Chu to make room for him to run in 2016? Is Ma organizing this from behind the scenes, to enable him to remain as KMT Chair? Our operators are standing by to take your conspiracy theory now!

Fortunately KMT thinkers obviously took their training at Jesuit universities...
In response, KMT spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信) yesterday said that the party charter regulated only the automatic assumption of office as party chairman to aid party unity and political focus, adding that the charter did not include the exception of the party chairman stepping down of their own initiative.
...see? When a KMTer becomes President, he automatically becomes Chair? But he can step down... O wait, if he steps down, he's not Chair. But then he must automatically become Chair, since he's not Chair... I'm getting a headache.

When this amendment was first mooted, it was widely understood as a way to enable Ma to keep his position and his face if his party lost an election. "I can't step down, the party's charter says I can't," he could then say...

Meanwhile Ma took another beating as China announced new flight paths in the Taiwan Strait without consulting Taipei. The nation donned sackcloth and ashes as legislators urged action. J Michael Cole interpreted this as a digiticus impudicus aimed directly at Ma, because Beijing now regards him as worse than useless.
And Beijing, which had already been losing patience with Ma for the “slow” pace of progress in the Strait, knows this. Unable to deliver what Beijing wants, President Ma is no longer of utility to Chinese leaders, who consequently will not hesitate to take actions that undermine his image with the Taiwanese public. In other words, the finesse is gone: Ma, like his predecessors, is being punished — humiliated, even — for failing to fall in step to Beijing’s tune. In this context, the August 25, 2014 intrusions by Chinese surveillance aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ, make a lot more “sense.” Then as now, Beijing’s disregard for Taiwanese sovereignty took precedent over all considerations intended to give President Ma “face.”
Taiwan complained to the ICAO about the new routes. Taiwan was invited as a guest in 2013 to the ICAO meeting (not as an observer or participant) and again in 2014 (see this discussion of the PRC and Taiwan's airspace with Bonnie Glaser). Beijing announced the new routes but hasn't filed them with ICAO, meaning that they could still be dropped. Perhaps when that shoe drops we'll see whether Beijing is testing Ma, the ICAO, or US resolve, since the US pushed China to drop similar routes years ago.

What if Beijing plays this like the ADIZ and simply doesn't file the routes, but begins using them?

Meanwhile, former Taichung mayor and KMT heavyweight Jason Hu had said he'd be taking a position at Fengjia University in Taichung. But Wednesday night he announced that he was instead becoming Vice Chairman of the Want Want media group. Want Want was the media group that tried to attain a near-monopoly position in the local media world a couple of years back Hu is a vice Chairman of the KMT but has indicated he will leave that position. has the translation...
Hu said he’d already discussed arrangements for different teaching positions, and this looked like his best option. However, at the end of last year, “Mr. Tsai Eng-meng of the Want Want China Times Media Group sincerely invited me to come to his group to work.” Tsai told him that the position of the Want Want China Times is “true truth and true love of Taiwan” 真道理、真愛台灣. Tsai said he hopes to use the media’s influence to give Taiwan better days.
Hu is widely held to dislike Ma Ying-jeou and I expect that WantWant is going to savage the President. But more importantly, having a heavyweight like Hu in high office might help smooth things when WantWant makes another play for dominance in Taiwan's media market.
Daily Links
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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I am Jimmy Lai

Apple Daily publisher Jimmy Lai's home and office firebombed (Variety).
The attacks occurred in the small hours of Monday morning local time, only hours after over a million people and 40 world leaders took to the streets of Paris in support of press freedom, democracy and unity. The French rallies were sparked by the execution of journalists and cartoonists last week at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Masked men threw a small incendiary device into Lai’s home in the exclusive Kadoorie Avenue area and simultaneously threw similar flares or petrol bombs into the offices of his Next Media company in Tsuen Kwan O.
Lai affects the democratic future of 1/7th of humanity. Think we'll see any marches for him?

This week, I am Jimmy Lai.
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What a coincidence. Ko's parents under investigation for tax evasion

The view from the Miaoli 51-1.

New Mayor Ko Wen-je of Taipei is making a splash. Not only did he stir up discussion in China with his simple ways, some of the local citizens are asking why their mayors can't be more like Ko. Very refreshing.

I'm sure it is just a coincidence that since he beat the KMT in the election the tax office is investigating his parents. Yes, surely the KMT would never use the governmental apparatus to punish the opposition.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je expressed dismay Monday that Taiwan's tax bureau is going after his parents for possible tax evasion because of a NT$10 million loan they gave Ko to help him pay for a house in Taipei.

Ko, a surgeon-turned-politician, said he was disgusted when the National Taxation Bureau audited his personal income taxes to see if he had reported income from speeches made in a few years prior to last year's Nov. 29 elections.

Ko said that now that the elections were over, the National Taxation Bureau was "going overboard" in having his father go to the agency and explain the matter.

"This goes beyond what any normal person can tolerate," Ko said, publicly asking the agency to explain its actions.
This post-election investigation is standard playbook and has happened to many DPP politicians, though tax evasion is certainly a new wrinkle -- probably because the standard attack is misuse of public funds, and Ko's parents are retired private citizens with no access to public funds. It says a lot about the KMT that it believes that all politicians are misusing public funds...

Sad. But since Ko is an independent, it can only increase his popularity.
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Paper on Parade: Resurrected from the Grave: Bonnet on the Spratlys in World Bulletin

Sunday on the 51-1 in Miaoli. Pure heaven.

This edition of the regularly irregular Paper on Parade was inspired by Sourabh Gupta, who for some reason has suddenly been popping up in various forums forwarding China's absurd claims to the South China Sea and the Senkakus. Here he is at CSIS in Pacnet #88. And here he is getting spanked in Pacnet #3 a couple of weeks later by someone who actually knows. He updated the piece for East Asia Forum here. I had quite an epic email exchange with him. Especially with my son going into the army here in Taiwan in a couple of years, I have little patience with people who play parlor games of legitimation with China's murderous, illegitimate, war-mongering claims. Please stop, Sourabh. China has no legitimate claim to anything in the East or South China Seas, including Taiwan. And if Beijing wants people to make noises in its favor, it has Xinhua and legions of nationalist academics already forwarding the propaganda.

But all that said, the silver lining of Gupta's recent piece at East Asia Forum was that it led me to Francois-Xavier Bonnet's excellent article on Scarborough Shoal in English. Read it! That thick, juicy piece then led me to Bonnet's piece on the Spratlys in World Bulletin a decade ago, "The Spratlys: A Past Revisited" which deals with the period after the 1930s. Sadly, it wasn't on the net, but Bonnet was kind enough to flip me a copy in PDF imagery and let me post it here. This paper documents how Dangerous Ground and the Spratlys, once two different sets of islands, became fused, talks about the secret military surveys of the 1930s by the various powers, discusses the forgotten Filipino claims from the 1930s, and also shows how confused the governments of China were about what was actually out there, as well as their motive in suddenly claiming the South China Sea islands after centuries of benign ignorance of their existence.

Here are the images after READ MORE. You might want to click CNTRL+ to increase the size...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Gleanings from Facebook

A wonderful conversation on Facebook involving the always-interesting Katy Biggs turned up this picture of a sign in southern Taiwan, asking people to scoop the poop. The image is taken from the famous painting The Gleaners.

A commenter pointed out that The Gleaners is actually familiar to locals in Taiwan, which is why it was chosen.
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Friday, January 09, 2015

Friday nite lites

The government has made a wooden walkway in the Gaomei Wetlands. I hate it.

Construction-industrial state wins one: The new DPP mayor of Taoyuan municipality has done a 180 on the ridiculous aerotropolis project (Taipei Times)
The groups said that Cheng supporting the project made him seem “schizophrenic” toward the issue, because when he was running for mayor on the Democratic Progressive Party’s ticket, he had vowed to reconsider it.

The criticism was sparked by remarks Cheng made at a municipal meeting in Taoyuan on Wednesday, where he said he would refrain from “making any hasty modifications” to the Aerotropolis project, since the plan has already been approved and changing it would “affect land prices in the area.”

He said that the area designated for development would serve as a local commercial hub in the future, adding that the construction plans should be implemented according to the principles of democratic participation and transparency.
The Aerotropolis is the largest land expropriation in the democratic era. Cheng's turnaround, if it lasts, is likely due to central government pressure. The aerotropolis is a freeport that is a giveaway to land speculators and land developers, and with its suspension of many labor laws, is likely intended as a portal to let Chinese labor into Taiwan.

Stopping that aerotropolis is a key to the DPP's remaining a serious party in Taiwan. It can't just pretend to be the party of social justice and economic development for ordinary people. It actually has to be one. If Cheng flips on this, it will cost the DPP Taoyuan in 2018 and hurt its chances in the Presidential election.

KMT fracturing in Nantou and now Changhua: posts on the delightful KMT split in the Changhua by-election, translating some news reports:
However, there are both pro-Chuo and anti-Chuo factions within the Changhua KMT. And the anti-Chuo faction had blamed the KMT’s miserable defeat in the magistrate election on his alleged ineffective campaigning, and even support for an independent candidate. Thus, there has been a strong anti-Chuo backlash, and the faction repeatedly expressed these views to party central, but it never received a response.

The KMT had originally thought it had a chance of winning the seat in a straight blue-green battle, but before candidate registration had concluded, Hung Li-na—the party’s failed candidate for Mayor of Tianchung, and a former member of the pro-Chuo faction—consolidated the support of the anti-Chuo forces and threw her hat in the ring, guaranteeing not only a split blue camp but also infighting within the pro-Chuo camp. Thus, Chuo is entering the battlefield already wounded, and it isn’t looking good for the KMT there.
The KMT splittist put out some high minded language about the party not listening to the lower ranks etc etc, you know, the "buy me off or I'll run" kinda thing. Should be fun!

Raising red flagsLatest in the flag raising saga: Taiwan apologizes for embarrassing the US.
"This is an isolated incident. We regret that it caused the US inconvenience," Taiwan's deputy foreign minister Andrew Kao told a parliamentary session Wednesday.

"We have an understanding (with the US) and we will continue to enhance communication."

De facto ambassador Shen Lyu-shun, who made the decision to raise the flag, was subject to fierce grilling in the session but defended the move.

"There is no setback in relations," Shen said.

"The US understood that we did not notify them in advance out of goodwill... so the US wouldn't be in a difficult position if China lodged a protest."
Haha. Embarrassing the US was the whole purpose of this charade. Just another one of those little irritations that are meant to keep relations with the US unsettled.

Business as usual for the KMT: Ben Goren points out that Eric Chu, the incoming KMT Chairman, has publicly supported embattled KMT city council speaker Lee, currently under suspicion of buying the speaker election. Chu appears to be following the Ma Ying-jeou pattern: yakking about being anti-corruption but always supporting individuals and candidates who give every appearance of being thoroughly corrupt.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Taiwan: from mendicant to irritant

This weekend went out and did the Nantou-Chiayi tea roads I'd done with Nathan four months ago, that knocked me out of cycling for months afterwards. Drew's write up of our excellent time is on Taiwan in Cycles.

The good news is that, we got some relief from the steady flow of news about corruption in the city council elections (latest: city council candidate sentenced to two years, flees to China, waits out statute of limitations, then returns and is elected. Only in Taiwan.). The bad news it was just another foreign policy screw-up involving the Ma government and the US government.

It turns out that the Republic of China flag (not the Taiwanese flag, there's no such thing) was raised over the Twin Oaks official residence of the ROC.... from the Taipei Times:
The ROC national flag was raised on Thursday last week at the Twin Oaks Estate — the former residence of ROC ambassadors to the US — for the first time since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing 36 years ago, Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) said. He said the ceremony was made possible under a mutual understanding with the Obama administration.
How 'bout them beans, eh? Shen said the US knew in advance and approved as long as it was kept quiet. But then the story broke and the State Department was out there denying everything like a B-17 crew frantically tossing out chaff on a bombing run over Berlin. [UPDATE: Shen admits that the US was not informed.] From the State Department briefing:

Q: And Jan, about the flag-raising ceremony, yesterday you said U.S. did not, you know, notify -- was not notified in the event, but Taiwan's government said, you know, they have reached understanding afterwards. Could you comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I think I would just reiterate what I said yesterday, is that it's inconsistent with our policy and not notified in advance means you didn't know about it in advance, which seems consistent with what you just said.

Do we have any more on Taiwan?

Q: Well, yeah, because after the briefing yesterday, I read a couple of reports about this. I'm just -- had it previously been not allowed for the Taiwanese mission here to raise the flag at the representative's office -- residence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the issue is that it's inconsistent with the spirit of our policy and it's violated our longstanding understanding on the conduct of our unofficial relations. I'm not sure if there was a previous incident to speak of.

Q: So, well, have the Chinese -- well, you were asked yesterday if the Chinese had complained directly to you. Do you know if they have?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any more specifics on that. I'd point you to the Chinese.

Q: This is the first time you're aware of this ever happening?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any historic record of -- of flag-raising issues, so I don't have a confirmation of that or not.

Q: Well, is there any -- is there any repercussion? Is there any consequence to -- to people -- I mean, I presume that there's an American flag at the AIT in Taipei. Yeah? I mean, is there any -- does it -- does it have any consequence that they...

MS. PSAKI: Well, we're in discussions with -- U.S. officials in Taipei and Washington are in discussions with Taiwan authorities about the matter. I don't have any other specifics for you.

Q: And what's the -- how does it get remedied? Do they have to take it down?

MS. PSAKI: I just don't have anything to predict for you at this point.

Q: Yeah, but can -- can we find out? Because, you know, as...

(Cross talk.)

MS. PSAKI: If I have something more to offer, I'm happy to share it. I'm not sure that I will at this point because we're still discussing with them.

(Cross talk.)

Q: (Inaudible) -- official capacity?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it's not about the U.S. views it. It's a representative compound. It's not a private person's home.

Go ahead.

Q: Just to follow up. When you said yesterday, you know, the ceremony is not consistent with U.S. policy. So what kind of message you would like -- you would like to deliver to Taiwan, such as "don't do that again" or --

MS. PSAKI: I think the message is what we've been conveying, which is that we're disappointed with the action. The flag-raising ceremony violated our longstanding understanding on the conduct of our unofficial relations. We have a robust set of cultural relations, but we do not have diplomatic relations. And we'll continue to discuss this with the proper officials.

Q: Well, that's a bit more than you said yesterday. You're disappointed then, I think.

MS. PSAKI: I believe I said exactly that yesterday.

Q: You did say that? OK, I must have missed it. Well, regarding other disputed areas, I mean, would you have the same problem if, I don't know, if the Dalai Lama's office here put a Tibetan flag up?

MS. PSAKI: We can discuss that if that happens, Matt. I'm happy to talk to our team about that.

Couple of things were pointed out to me in discussions with knowledgeable people (1) the ROC flag was plastered all over Twin Oaks for national day in October, with US officials in attendance. (2) Shen is not a loon and unlikely to have done a formal flag raising without clearing it with officials in Taipei and with the US. (3) the compound may be an official residence but it is technically privately owned by a foundation.

Lots of speculation about why... Taipei Times reported on one US official's reaction:
In an exclusive interview with the Taipei Times, a senior official in US President Barack Obama’s administration strongly denied that Washington had approved or knew anything about a Republic of China (ROC) national flag-raising ceremony at the Twin Oaks Estate in Washington on New Year’s Day.

He said the action undermines trust and puts symbolism ahead of real substance, leading many in Washington to ask: “Who in Taipei is in charge of the US-Taiwan relationship?”
It's just another example of the irritant policy -- Taipei does essentially harmless actions that annoy would-be allies like the US or Japan, in order to keep relations unsettled, making it harder for them to support Taipei. That's the function of the US beef mess and Taipei's crazed claims to the Senkakus -- which affect relations with its natural ally Japan -- and the South China Sea islands, which drive a wedge between Taipei and its natural allies against Chinese expansion in the South China Sea. It's all part of a piece. Readers may recall the US-Taiwan Business Council's complaint that Ma Ying-jeou had done nothing for US-Taiwan relations. Who could have predicted that?

China naturally complained, thus showing how another part of this policy is to use Taipei to transfer tensions between Washington and Beijing into the Washington-Taipei relationship.

It also shows how incredibly weak the State Department and US are in the face of possible complaints from Beijing about Taiwan. When Beijing complained, instead of backpedaling, the US just should have politely told them to take a long walk on a short pier. More spine, please. I mean, wasn't this the same department that not a month ago issued a legal document blasting China's wholly invented claim to the South China Sea? Why is it only Taiwan that gets this solemn cringing?

UPDATE: Commenter below notes publicly what I've heard privately, that Shen arranged press coverage. It's all about the irritation.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Chen Shui-bian out, Eric Chu moving in

Went out to Gaomei Wetlands today. Here my friend Eva flies past a long fishing net unrolled out of the back of a van in the distance.

President Chen Shui-bian, jailed on bribery charges, has been released on a one-month medical parole. This does not count against his prison time, and he will be returned to prison when his health improves. Everyone is in a tizzy....

Some are reading in the CSB release the consequences of the recent blowout election loss by the KMT, seeing it as the KMT fishing for votes in 2016. For example, see this CS Monitor piece.
“It’s a good sign Ma Ying-jeou is willing to heal the political polarization,” says Wu Chung-li, research fellow at Taipei-based institute Academia Sinica. “I think this measure might increase his popularity in the near future." But Mr. Wu doubts the gesture will aid the Nationalists in the coming presidential campaign.
It is not a sign that Ma is willing to heal the polarization; that polarization is one of the things that keeps the KMT in power. Taiwan's partisan divide will be healed over the dead body of the KMT, when the KMT no longer has much influence, and the leadership knows that.

No, I think what this release signals is the waning power of Ma Ying-jeou. Some in the KMT know what I've been saying for years, that Chen Shui-bian dead in jail is a problem for the KMT, while Chen Shui-bian alive and shooting off his mouth is a problem for the DPP, and with Ma hobbled by brutal election loss and isolated in his own party, the brains finally prevailed over the urge to arbitrarily punish. Once again, I'd like to thank Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT for putting Chen in jail in an obviously politically-motivated trial, thus keeping him out of Tsai Ing-wen's hair for the last several years and turning him into a martyr for the Taiwan cause.

Does the Chen Shui-bian parole signal a more pragmatic and less ideologically-driven KMT than the one under the hopelessly ideological and unpragmatic Ma Ying-jeou (cue my laughter at international media for ever using the word pragmatic to describe Ma)? The ascension of Eric Chu might augur that kind of possibility, if the Chen Shui-bian medical parole means anything. Dateline Taipei, the sometimes useful pro-KMT blog translated an editorial from UDN, the rabidly pro-KMT newspaper, on the kind of reforms the incoming KMT Chairman Eric will need to achieve that... key points.
....The KMT has suffered a serious defeat. Yet no one inside the KMT is demanding an accounting...

One... One of the main shortcomings of the KMT's political culture, is its preoccupation with bickering over internal resources, its inability to recruit outside talent, and cultivate new talent. Over the long term, this has led to inbreeding and cliquishness. Ambitious and creative talents are marginalized and the party is hollowed out. Between 2009 and today, KMT membership fell from 50,000 to 35,000. The speed of the fall surpassed all expectations.
Let's reiterate: the elites at the heart of the KMT ran Taiwan by controlling patronage networks that showered development cash on local factions. In return for the cash, the KMT did not permit the local factions to operate at the national level or form cross-regional networks, thus preventing any challenges to its power. But this means that there is no system for bringing local politicians into the national party level and grooming them for top leadership positions, and even if there was, it would still be difficult, because local politics in Taiwan is notoriously dirty. The talent issue can't be resolved until the KMT cleans up its relationship with the local factions. Good luck with that. Ma Ying-jeou attempted an end run around the problem by appointing lots of academics to government positions. But that did not solve the issue within the party, because that "talent" didn't enter the KMT and participate in politics, with a few exceptions like Jiang Yi-hwa, and because it still didn't institute a mechanism for connecting the national party with promising local politicians.
Two. Consider the matter of party assets. Despite repeated party asset reorganizations, the matter has yet to be put to rest. It has become an albatross around the KMT's neck. Eric Chu recently declared that the party must totally divest itself of improper assets. This is the proper approach. The party assets are held by only a few. Most party members never get even a whiff of them.
"The party assets are held by only a few." That's an interesting observation. It means that if Chu attacks the assets, he attacks the holdings of extremely powerful people. Hence, as I've already noted:
Chu promised to do something about the party assets -- well, so did Ma in 2009. In fact Ma did as early as 2006, and in 2000 none other than Honorary Chairman Pickled in Brine Lien Chan, when he ran for President in 2000, promised to do the same. In other words, making noises about getting rid of the Party's ill-gotten assets isn't something that one does when one is a reformer. It's part of the package of noises that anyone who assumes control over the KMT and aspires to higher positions must reproduce, because it is a widely supported centrist position, not because they actually mean it
The UDN complaints about assets only support my position that asset-cleaning claims are noises KMT politicians must make to sound centrist. Isn't gonna happen.
Consider the matter of party democratization. The KMT has a rigid seniority system. It is rife with pro forma ritual. Worse, this seriously affects the internal exchange of views. It makes it hard for subordinates to express views to superiors.
The classic example of this is picking Sean Lien to run in Taipei. LOL. Before you start thinking of Chu as a pragmatic reformer, remember that he is a princeling, married to the daughter of a longtime KMT central standing member and quiet KMT heavyweight. Democratizing the party might be a problem for such a person. And again, the KMT's style of rule, which separates the center from the factions on the periphery, stops democratization of the party by keeping out promising local politicians. If I were Chu, the first thing I'd do is institute mechanisms to wheel promising faction politicians up to the national level. That would attack the talent and democracy problems at the same time....
Four. Consider the matter of younger party members. The KMT has abundant resources. Yet it cannot attract young people. This is because the party's manner of operation is too old fashioned.
The party's lack of appeal to youth is not because its manner of operation is too old fashioned. So much of political participation rests on social identity. The problem for the KMT is that is has a Chinese identity and can no longer coerce/socialize the young into that identity via authoritarian control. Living in Taiwan, the young are developing a pro-Taiwan identity that ultimately is a denial of the KMT's identity. KMT rule has always depended on divide-and-rule ethnic politics to build a rickety ethnic coalition against the Hoklo majority, but as the growing sense of "Taiwanese" identity steadily subsumes old identities like Hakka and Hoklo and mainlander and aborigine, the KMT's ability to rule via ethnic division declines. Further, even where groups assert local identities, such as Hakka or Atayal or Paiwan, these identities are local and independent, and are more difficult to manipulate via traditional ethnic fear politics ("if the DPP wins the Hoklo will punish all the Hakka!").

Over the years many have suggested that the KMT become a Taiwanese party. I suspect its ultimate resting place is as a pro-corporate center-right Taiwanese party, but because -- again -- the big boys at the top are all doing business with China -- and pro-China credentials facilitate that -- the KMT can't come to rest in that spot.

Ironically, the services trade pact pointed to another problem the KMT has at the local level that has received little discussion because of the simple-minded media presentations. Recall that the Sunflowers occupied the legislature because the KMT committee head tried to do an end run around the review and the legislative vote and declare the services pact passed without a vote.

But why did he have to do that? Because the KMT's own legislators wouldn't vote for the services pact. It would have brought Chinese service firms into Taiwan and into direct competition with local service firms that support the KMT. No way are KMT legislators going to support the dissolution of their constituents' businesses. Boom! Do the math, folks -- this growing China pressure on local areas is also putting pressure on the links between the top and bottom of the KMT.

The run-up to the 2016 election is going to be a blast.

Meanwhile breath of fresh air Ko Wen-je, the new Taipei mayor, announced that he wouldn't attend weddings and funerals like most politicians do (and waste their time). He's really shaking things up -- he also announced that he is going after illegal rooftop construction, a staple of Taiwanese life. Yowza! Liking him muchly, I am. And new Mayor Cheng in Taoyuan is also moving against the construction-industrial state, as lets us know. If you are at all interested in Taiwan, you should be following

Ok, off to play Settlers of Catan again.
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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Lunar Frustration

Taking time off from blogging, I picked up this shot of the moon, which is nice, but its brightness is drowning out the Quadrantid meteor shower, which is peaking tonight...
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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Links because Catan

Friday did the 149 - 212-1 - 151-1 -162A, once again enjoying the massive switchback descent into Meishan. That descent is a rare treat. Don't miss it.

Gosh, I'd sure like to say I was working or otherwise doing something productive, but I've just learned Settlers of Catan... so I'm not getting anything done.
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