Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Case No. 59213: China Specialists Don't Get Taiwan

A ladybug predating.

I often complain about how China specialists just don't get Taiwan. Here is another example of it. taiwansecurity.org published an interview with longtime, well-known China specialist Andrew Nathan last week about Beijing and Taiwan. He replied to one question on the Sunflowers.
I think that they had already learned that to settle what they call “the Taiwan problem” peacefully, which is their goal, they are going to have to win over public opinion in Taiwan—the people, the voters. They knew that. But to me, the lesson of the Sunflower Movement is—but I don’t know if Beijing understands the lesson the way I do—is that you can’t win over public opinion strictly with economic benefits. I think Beijing’s strategy had been that we will take care of the Taiwan economy by opening up our markets, by giving privileges to Taiwanese investors and others, and sending tourists, and so forth, and the Taiwan people will understand that their economic interest is in the same basket with us. It turns out that the Taiwan people are instead resentful of growing economic dependence on the mainland. They’re not very trusting of how that economic influence will be used by Beijing. The Chinese leaders are still in some ways Marxist, they still believe in economic materialism, the idea that people will respond to economic incentives. They seem to have a hard time getting a grip on the idea of identity and self-dignity as an important factor that people sometimes fight for.
We just had this problem with Denny Roy, which I commented on below. Once again we see the false idea that Beijing offers those generous economic incentives. But everyone in Taiwan can see that (1) Beijing is not offering generous terms (2) it is only doing econ agreements because it wants to hollow out Taiwan's economy because of (3) it wants to bind Taiwan to China and annex it while destroying the economic basis for Taiwan's independence. The result of the China engagement has not been positive economic benefits for Taiwan, but stagnating wages, reduced democracy, increased smuggling and gang activity, and so on.

China specialists need to face this fact squarely: there are no generous economic benefits from Taiwan's economic involvement with China. That golden age passed in 2008, six years ago. Instead, the people of Taiwan experience assaults on their independence and democracy on one side and the hollowing out of their economy on the other, along with China's continued interference in FTAs and other international agreements. They know that the benefits of the trade relations go to a few big businessmen. They know the tourism profits are taken by a handful of Hong Kong-based tour agencies, while the locals get low paying service jobs while Chinese tourist facilities destroy local lands and the tourists themselves overrun whatever place they go into, driving away locals. As Ian Rowen has trenchantly observed, tourism is a territorial strategy of China in Taiwan. They know that China has special zones on its coast to poach Taiwan's agricultural technology. The public here is well aware that everything the public was told about China by the Ma Administration has turned out to be a lie. You'd think the message would have gotten out by now to the China specialists who study this stuff... no wait, why do I think that?

The whole idea of "generous economic benefits" is Chinese propaganda. Stop forwarding it, scholarly folks.

As a friend of mine commented so much better than I could on Nathan's remarks about China's authoritarian government and Taiwan's shifting democracy:
LOL. Poor China. they must be having fits according to Nathan because of that protean democratic process. They don't know who's in charge in Taiwan; or for that matter, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, Canada...
Nathan also answers the question about what if China became democratic.
If Beijing became a democracy in some authentic sense, I believe that the problem of Taiwan’s relationship to the PRC would then be much easier to resolve peacefully. And I guess I gave in my earlier remarks already the logic of why I think so. The Taiwan people do have an economic advantage in close relations with China, but they don’t want to make that into a political relationship because they don’t trust the authoritarian regime. But if China had a truly democratic regime—I’m not saying a U.S.-type regime or any particular format, but something that was really democratic with political freedom and political security—then I think the Taiwan people would gradually grow to trust the government in Beijing and they would understand that this mainland China political entity has a security interest in an arrangement where both their own and Taiwan’s security will be guaranteed, and we need to provide that to them, and it’s not going to be a threat to us. That kind of a thought would grow in Taiwan.

And then I think on the Chinese side, they would also be willing to negotiate with the Taiwanese for their interests in more autonomy and they could—over the years, many different formulas have been vetted about confederation, and so on—they could probably solve the problem.
There's already poll data on this. As Emerson Niu's survey
Q4. If only small political, economic, and social disparity exists between Mainland China and Taiwan, do you favor or not favor Taiwan unifying with China?

Not Favor: 56.4% 
Favor: 36.4%
NA: 7.2%
...and that data is years out of date. Things are even stronger now. Why do people in Taiwan reject being annexed to China? The reason is simple: they have their own identity, the Taiwan identity. China has a different identity (see Don Rogers' work on the young). Authoritarianism is an issue, but even if China became democratic, the identity issues that separate the two sides would remain (see Scotland, Catalonia, Slovakia, etc). Taiwanese would see a democratic, non-threatening China as "at last! we can be free!" and that the peaceful resolution would result in an independent Taiwan, which most everyone here wants to see.

In any case no one in Taiwan would imagine that a democratic China would keep its word in some kind of security treaty. The Taiwanese would much rather be security linked to Japan and the US, two nations that don't want to annex the island. Nothing in the basic equation of the Taiwan-China-Japan-US quadrilateral would change.

I'm just curious about people who think that China will be less willing to use force if it is democratic. The history of the western democracies does not make one sanguine in this regard....

Finally, Nathan remarks...
And then I think on the Chinese side, they would also be willing to negotiate with the Taiwanese for their interests in more autonomy and they could—over the years, many different formulas have been vetted about confederation, and so on—they could probably solve the problem.
How kind of Beijing to grant us the status of an autonomous satrapy and refrain from murdering us wholesale! Never mind that Taiwan would be negotiating for less autonomy than it has now (and why would it do that?). This remark: "they could probably solve the problem" elides so much. The problem is not between Taiwan and China as something that could "be resolved" by the two sides sliding closer to each other. Taiwan is not the cause of the problem, and thus, nothing it can do will resolve it, save surrender.

The problem is Beijing's desire to annex Taiwan. Only Beijing can resolve that problem.

UPDATE: Some good comments below.
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Nine Jump from Taiwanese fishing boat in the Falklands

From here. Cindy Sui's good 2014 piece on working conditions in the Taiwan fishing boat industry.
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Some links

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Presidential speculations for 2016

Aphids cluster among raindrops.

Latest rumor, speculation, and media frenzy on 2016, now less than a year away.

This week the focus was on Wang Jin-pyng, the Speaker of the Legislature and the man most hated by Ma Ying-jeou, who has been trying to get him kicked out of the KMT for the last couple of years. Wang has been touted by the media as a possibility. He's over 70, popular with the Taiwanese KMT and often identified as their leader, but also in with the mainlander elites. Recall that in the infamous KMT Chairmanship election of a decade ago, Wang was supported by the mainlander elites, Ma, by the rank and file.

I'm not going into the many problems with Wang. Just going to mention that the story is Eric Chu will kiss and make up with the wily, also 70+ James Soong to run a Wang-Soong ticket for 2016 and unite the blues. Soong is a very interesting figure -- at key junctures he has made moves that made it possible for the pro-Taiwan side to emerge victorious. In the conflict between the reactionaries and the mainstream KMT under Lee Teng-hui, he supported Lee, enabling him to get a grip on the presidency. In 2000 he ran as a pan-Blue independent and split the KMT vote, enabling Chen Shui-bian to win the presidency. His PFP party flared bright for a couple of elections, then was reincorporated by the KMT. Soong himself has become a marginal figure. But a Wang-Soong ticket would be unpredictable and interesting.

Another story running around. A prominent Taoist temple picked a text to help soothsayers predict the coming year, and they picked a text related to Empress Wu of the Tang. This was seen as an omen favorable to the DPP's Tsai.

RTI: When asked about Wang Jin-pyng for President, Tsai Ing-wen said it would be inappropriate to comment, while Su Tseng-chang called him a respected opponent....

Wu Den-yi, the widely despised vice president, was in the news saying he hadn't made up his mind about running for president. All I have to say about that is "Please please please."

The KMT has tough choices ahead. The public wants Eric Chu, but doesn't seem to think he can win. If Chu, the KMT Chairman, runs, he has to give up his position in New Taipei City as mayor, a position he won by 1% of the vote. There is a good chance the DPP will win a by-election there, since the KMT lacks politicians to run for the spot. If he loses the presidency and New Taipei City, the KMT will have no major executive positions, just a few small counties. If he doesn't run, then there is no similar figure who can step up.

Meanwhile, everyone in the DPP has rejected the idea of running as Tsai Ing-wen's running mate. Stay tuned, the next few months are going to be fraught with speculation and rumor.
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Hegemonic Warfare Watch: Denny Roy on the Collision Course between US and China

Image from here.

Longtime Taiwan watcher Denny Roy has a piece in The National Interest on the coming collision between China and the US over Taiwan. While his central point -- that we are headed for war out here over Taiwan or whatever -- is spot on, the lead up to it is fraught with strange errors. For example:
For several years, some Chinese analysts have worried that Taiwan intended to take advantage of the generous economic terms offered by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) while putting off political negotiations indefinitely. Their skepticism was justified. Economic integration and increased movement of people across the Strait will not necessarily lead to political integration. Taiwanese people may not prioritize an improved material standard of living over maintaining their civil liberties. Even if the sole concern is economic benefit, Taiwan arguably has an interest in delaying unification so as to wait for a point in time where China takes an economic loss and Taiwan profits disproportionately from their bilateral trade. Chinese magnanimity would likely decline after unification.
"generous economic terms". ROFL. Taiwan has been screwed by China's ruthless attempts to poach its technology, steal its industries, marginalize it in international trade negotiations, and hire away its best workers. The trade deals are meant to facilitate this hollowing out of Taiwan, because the foundation of Taiwan's independence is an independent economy. They do not offer generous terms, one reason that the service pact was so decisively rejected by the public (English analysis). Thus, this dichotomy between "standard of living" and "civil liberties" is completely false, because closeness to China has not fostered a higher standard of living in Taiwan. Instead, it has brought lower wages, low quality service jobs, stagnating incomes, and reduced living standards, not to mention damage to the island's media environment and democratic liberties.

Hence, the way that Roy has formulated this paragraph is completely bass-ackward. It should acknowledge that the interaction with China has brought wealth only to a few large businessmen with close China connections, and has worsened living quality on the island in every way. In this way it has increased desire for independence. Not mentioned here is the way in which Taiwanese go to China and become even more independence-oriented, but perhaps it should be...

Further down Roy scribes:
The likelihood of Taiwan voluntarily choosing unification with China is waning. Opinion polls show that Taiwan’s sense of a separate national identity from mainland China is increasing. While a great majority have long favored the status quo of de facto independence over immediate unification, a majority now oppose even eventual unification.
This is a more subtle misrepresentation. Roy is too honest an analyst to give the KMT version of the status quo preference, in which the status quo is presented as opposed to independence. Instead, he correctly identifies the status quo as preferred precisely because it is a weak form of independence. But "a majority now oppose eventual" annexation is plainly false -- annexation to China has always been opposed by the majority in credible polls. It is not something that has become true in the "now." All polls show the same thing -- Taiwanese identify as Taiwanese when forced to choose between Chinese and Taiwanese as identities, and a substantial majority would prefer independence. Annexation to China has little support, and its been that way for years. For example, check out this MAC poll from 2000. The government divides up the numbers to make it difficult to see, but once you do the math, support for annexation is 21%. Not a majority. There never was...

The thing that has changed is not the Taiwanese, who never supported annexation to China. Rather, it is the military calculus in the China-Taiwan-US triangle, as Roy notes. China is now much stronger than it was a decade ago. At some point soon some policy entrepreneur within the Chinese government is going to acquire the authority and position to make a convincing case that China can now defeat the US and Japan combined (the actual military numbers matter only to the extent that some domestic political calculus makes use of them) and then crush the democracy movement on Taiwan. As Hong Kong shows, the second part will in its own way be just as difficult as the first...
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Saturday, February 21, 2015

CFP for papers Assessing the Administration of Ma Ying-jeou

Blossom time in Taiwan

Call for Papers:
Journal on Current Chinese Affairs (Taiwan Edition)
(ISSN 1868-4874)

The Journal of Current Chinese Affairs (JCCA), in cooperation with the European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan (CCKF-ERCCT), is inviting contributions for a new Taiwan edition on the topic:

Assessing the Administration of President Ma Ying-jeou

guest edited by Sabrina Habich & Stefan Fleischauer (ERCCT Tübingen)

When Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008 public support for the Kuomintang (KMT) was strong, largely because many Taiwanese were hugely dissatisfied with the administration of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and former president Chen Shui-bian. Chen’s entanglement in corruption scandals and alleged mismanagement of Taiwan’s economy and external relations allowed Ma Ying-jeou to run a successful campaign which was based on reviving the economy, engaging China, and combatting corruption. Over the past seven years the Ma administration has in many regards left an imprint on Taiwan.

This topical issue shall focus on a retrospective evaluation of the presidency of Ma Ying-jeou (2008-2016), with a particular emphasis on the following issues:

The political economy of Cross-Strait Relations, including cross-strait economic integration, cross-strait (labor) migration, and cross-Strait social and academic interaction
Domestic politics with a focus on China policy-making
Socio-economic change, pinpointing civil society, social cleavages, immigration policies and social welfare development
Taiwan in the international community, including Taiwan’s “international space”, national security and U.S.-Taiwan relations, territorial conflicts, and Taiwan’s soft power
Taiwan in East Asian economic integration

The Journal of Current Chinese Affairs is an internationally refereed academic journal published by the GIGA Institute of Asian Studies, Hamburg. It is simultaneously published online as an Open Access journal and as a printed version. Ranked 7th by the Google Scholar impact ranking system for Chinese Studies journals it is one of the world’s most widely read and influential periodicals on Asian affairs.

Interested scholars are invited to submit an outline of their contributions until 1st April, 2015 to:
Sabrina Habich (sabrina.habich@uni-tuebingen.de)

European Asso­ci­a­tion of Taiwan Stud­ies (EATS)
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Year of the Indeterminate Ungulate: Links

An abandoned railway bridge.

Happy New Year! May you survive this year in one piece. Some links to enjoy while your local relatives watch TV:
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ECFA = Negative Benefits

Gravel operation moonscape on the Dajia River.

I love that phrase, negative benefits. Farmers groups complaining about what everyone knows -- food smuggling from China is rampant (Taipei Times):
The associations highlighted statistics released by the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) showing that smuggled produce confiscated during the Lunar New Year holiday — when smuggling operations peak — dropped 80 percent last year compared to 2013 and stood at just 0.6 percent of the 2008 level.

The farmers said that there is still a huge quantity of smuggled produce on the market, and accused President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration of colluding with smugglers working with Chinese.

Statistics released by the coast guard show that the volume of illegal agricultural products smuggled from China fell from 6,632 tonnes in 2008 to 57 tonnes in 2011, before dropping further to 41 tonnes last year.
Everything about the article suggests serious collusion to destroy local Taiwan producers. For example, take tea leaves:
No Chinese tea leaves have been confiscated since 2011, when authorities discovered two tonnes of contraband.

Taiwan Tea Farmers Self-help Group chief executive officer Chen Chien-nung (陳鑑農) said the coast guard had failed to intercept smuggled Chinese tea leaves over the past three years.

“You can find as many Chinese tea leaves as you want in the marketplace,” Chen said, adding that if the Ma administration requires proof, he could immediately provide evidence.

He said that most tea circulating in distribution channels is brewed from Chinese tea leaves, which leads him to believe that at least two freight containers, or 36 tonnes, of Chinese tea leaves disguised as being from other countries are being smuggled into the nation on a daily basis.
"No Chinese tea leaves have been confiscated since 2011..."

One of the reasons the services pact is so unpopular is widespread awareness of these issues. In order to secure even limited public support for ECFA, the Ma Administration had to put Chinese agricultural products on a banned list. The Administration's answer to this problem appears to be to serve Beijing by turning a blind eye to smuggling. Taiwan importers use third party routes, which the government must surely be aware of. For example...
The smuggled tea leaves were first shipped to a third country, such as Thailand and Singapore, before being transported to Taiwan, where they were mixed with locally produced tea leaves and then processed into oolong tea, green tea and jasmine tea before being sold to unsuspecting customers.

An investigation found the unscrupulous business people had carried out 50 smuggling trips, shipping around 1,000 to 2,000 metric tons of cheap Chinese tea to the island, prosecutors said.
Moreover, this is not a new problem. I stumbled across this piece about the 1980s:
It appears that smuggling tea in from the mainland is causing major difficulties for established processors. Those who respect the law and don't deal in mainland tea are at a major disadvantage. Processors and retailers have been urging the government to reconsider the current ban and legalize mainland imports. It is significant that, of the legal imports of 565 tons in 1985, 95% was fermented and semi-fermented tea and only 5% green tea. By 1989, of the total 1,333 tons imported, 29 % was green tea. It is highly likely that this tea originated from the mainland.
Given the massive jump in smuggling from ECFA, coupled with the amazing fall in enforcement of smuggling laws, it should be obvious what the consequence of the Ma Administration's proposed Free Economic Zones will be. Those clunkers out of the 1960s would permit Chinese agro-materials to be processed in zones with little oversight, once again spurring massive increases in smuggling. The government's policy called for a formal lifting of the ban on the over 800 agricultural goods currently not permitted to enter Taiwan (TT) so that they could be processed in the zones -- with the government laughably claiming that goods made with materials on the forbidden list wouldn't be permitted to enter Taiwan. As if the government could or would stop them...

This knowledge is one reason Taiwanese rejected the CSSTA pact. They know perfectly well that letting in China in X amounts means that in reality X + SMUGGLING will enter. Hence any statistical claims about the effects of the agreements are meaningless since they never take the illegal trade into account.

One reason I find westerners who are boosters of ECFA so detestable is precisely their simpleminded, deliberate neglect of this destructive issue, their refusal to face what increased trade with China has meant for Taiwan and the health of its people and its economy. Such boosters, as in the Drysdale piece I linked to below, invariably neglect the military and political threat as well, as if trade with China were like trade with Canada or Thailand. As the TT article above notes, prices of tea buds in Taiwan have plummeted. This forces local tea farmers who would rather not to use Chinese teas if they want to stay in business and remain cost-competitive, while at the same time destroying the made-in-taiwan brand value. It is hard for me to see that outcome, easily predictable since adulterating Taiwan teas with cheap Chinese crap teas is a habit that dates back to the 19th century, as something other than a deliberate policy. A policy that extends to many areas of the economy...
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Then and Now: Imourod on Lanyu

Was trawling the East Asia Image Forum for Lanyu pics when I came across this picture of the people of Lanyu launching boats, from the first half of the 1930s. Got to wondering what beach this was. Did I have this view?

Yep, sure did. It's the beach that now hosts the village of Imourod, Hongtou (red head) in Chinese. I've placed them next to each other for comparison.
The angle is the same but my pic was taken from farther away. Erosion and vegetation have blurred the shapes....
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Event: Third “Young Scholars Workshop” at the CCKF-ERCCT Summer 2015

Taitung Train Station


Third “Young Scholars Workshop” at the CCKF-ERCCT Summer 2015

「 歐洲當代臺灣研究中心 - 蔣經 國 基金會 海外 中心 」 舉辦的 「 青年精英學者 工作 坊 」 于 2015 年夏天

The European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan at Eberhard Karls University Tübingen will hold a workshop for emerging young scholars from June 21st to June 28th, 2015. This year’s workshop will place a particular emphasis on the subject:

“Gaining Space: Taiwan in the International Community”  [CLICK READ MORE]

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Election Round Up: Tsai announcing candidacy... 11 months from Armageddon

Party time at the old Da-an Train Station outside Houli.

Couple of key events for the election next year. First, Tsai Ing-wen, DPP Chairman, declared her candidacy for presidency. She announced on Facebook that she'd enter the primary to become the DPP's presidential candidate, but since she's the party leader and the shoo-in candidate. Way cool moment: announced on Facebook, where she has well over a million followers. Several DPPers were complaining about the party's primary, which has an entry fee to discourage random fools from standing in the primary that they don't like. Everyone is speculating now who the Veep will be...

Meanwhile another Tsai, Alex Tsai, who ran the laughably inept campaign for the KMT's Sean Lien in Taipei Mayor that culminated in an epic spanking, survived a recall election by the Appendectomy Project. I considered this project a waste of time and resources by self-promoters, which is why I've more or less ignored it (ADDED: Frozen Garlic with good thoughts on the recall vote).

The big news is that the Presidential and legislative elections are going to be held on the same day in Jan of 2016:
CEC members decided during a meeting today that the 14th presidential and the 9th legislative elections [next year] shall be held on the same day,” CEC Chairman Liu I-chou (劉義周) told a press conference after the meeting. “As for the date of the elections, the CEC will call a meeting with local election commissions to decide.”
Everyone agrees that (1) this favors the DPP and (2) the effect won't be very great. But high turnout in the Presidential election should help put a few DPP candidates in office. This means that the election is now eleven months away. Most people expect the DPP to win the Presidency. If the election were held tomorrow Tsai Ing-wen would win, but the DPP has eleven months to exercise its powerful capacity for screwing up. So I'll be on tenterhooks until she is actually sworn in.

With the KMT's numerous problems, I'm very curious to see how many local faction politicians break with the party and attempt to run as independents over the next few months, since that will be a strong signal of the KMT's direction. How new Chairman Eric Chu handles the local factions will be vital... and yet here is Ma Ying-jeou...

MaWangMess: You'd think that with 11 months remaining til election time Ma Ying-jeou, current KMT Chairman Eric Chu, and the KMT would be burying the hatchet and trying to move forward, but current President of the ROC and former KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou is still pursuing his vendetta against the Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pyng (MaWangMessMaWangMess). The other day he demanded to know why new Chairman Eric Chu isn't out there pushing a third appeal by the KMT in the case. Wang is a major leader of the Taiwanese KMT and the vendetta against him caused a split in the KMT. Chu cannot file another appeal without re-opening those wounds. A smart, pragmatic politician would let the issue die, but only someone totally clueless would describe an inflexible ideologue like Ma as "pragmatic." Hilariously, Ma accused Chu of playing Tai Chi.

Not so comically, Ma has to keep the focus on Wang. Not only will it be a terrible loss of face for Ma if Wang retains his party honors, but more importantly, if the media focus is on Wang, it will take the media focus off Ma himself: the information he used against Wang appears to have been obtained illegally and Ma may have to face charges of abuse of power. The prosecutor who fed Ma the information that he used against Wang has already been found guilty of a crime in that case...
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Prison Break Kaoshiung & ROC Politics

Wow. The prison break story in Kaoshiung by Bamboo Union gang members has turned out to be quite an interesting political tale. It ended with their mass suicide. But new details are emerging that are quite suggestive. As the Apple Daily reports, the dead bodies were deliberately arranged in the shape of an ROC blossom. The Taipei Times reported on the basics:
Authorities were continuing negotiation efforts last night with the six prisoners, reportedly led by Cheng Li-te (鄭立德), a member of the Bamboo Union (竹聯幫) triad imprisoned for murder, who were holding warden Chen Shih-chih (陳世志) hostage.
Among the facts causing conspiracy theorists' hearts to flutter (see Cole's take on the politics in The Diplomat):
  1. The prisoners demanded to know why they couldn't get medical parole and Chen Shui-bian could.
  2. White Wolf, longtime gangster and new leader of pro-China political party, with old connections to that gang and to the ROC security services in the martial law era, came down to attempt to negotiate. The police blocked that.
  3. The prisoners had good access to media, including a 15 minute interview with a local pro-China station, and their demands were read on TV
  4. There was the usual speculation about the prisoners having an inside connection, to make the breakout possible. But this looks like the usual chabuduo incompetence and complacency rather than malicious intent.
It doesn't look like a United Front (KMT-CCP) anti-Taiwan operation to me as Cole speculates it might be, but there is no denying its obviously political aspects. The Bamboo Union gang is intimately involved with pro-China, pro-KMT politics, not only bodyguarding China's negotiators when they come to Taiwan, but also providing protection for the Shih Ming-te's Red Ant army, the faux KMT protests against Chen Shui-bian. As FocusTaiwan reports, Taiwan's golden retriever media didn't help, sending drones over the prison that caused the prisoners to fire at them. This might have caused a much bigger incident, but fortunately did not.

Overlooked is this simple fact:
After the first hostages were taken, the deputy warden and head guard offered to take their place. The warden later took Lai's place alongside Wang.
If the breakout was authentic, and not planned as political theatre, then these men put their lives at risk. Kudos.

This story has "we'll probably never know the whole story" written all over it.
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The Construction-Industrial State Eats Taiwan: Commonwealth on Housing Prices

Caught these two fighting several years ago in Gukeng.

Commonwealth once again scores with a very good piece on how the legislature nuked reforms that protected consumers and instead chose to keep housing prices to stay high and help developers make money:
In December 2011, with the presidential election drawing near, the presidential candidates from both the Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) strongly supported the quick passage of five laws equated with "housing justice," including the registration of actual real estate transaction prices. The Executive Yuan's original version included the listing of actual pre-sale housing prices, which were required to be registered within 30 days of the transaction in the interest of transparency.

After the bill was sent for cross-party consultations, however, that portion of the bill quietly disappeared. Replacing it was a clause permitting sales agents to list the actual transaction price at the conclusion or termination (i.e. completion of sale) of the agent sales contract.

Often many years pass between the initiation of construction to completion of a pre-sale property transaction. During that interim period the buying and selling of pre-sale properties begins, and a given property can change hands among different investors several times by the time construction is completed. As long as the actual transaction price is not listed, sales agents and investors can team up to drive housing prices up. Meanwhile, consumers are kept in the dark, or treated as guinea pigs at the end of the line paying the highest price. "Listing prices only after the completion of sale means nothing at all," says Consumers' Foundation Housing Committee convener Lin Wan-ken, adding, "That is the biggest failure of actual sales price registration."
This paragraph refers to houses that are sold before the building is constructed. As the third paragraph makes clear, the real estate agents collude with the developer to jack up prices by flipping the house back and forth, then selling it to a mark buyer after the price has been inflated. The legislature provided legal cover for this travesty of a market by passing this law, since it shoves the final price far into the future:
In an interview with CommonWealth, [KMT legislator] Wu Yu-sheng says that he and legislator Lai Shyh-bao had been pushing for the registration of actual transaction prices, but that tremendous pressure applied by the construction industry lobby deterred legislators from backing it. "Some people didn't say anything. They only said at the end of the process that they'd go along if pre-sale housing was excluded."
According to the article, President Ma himself presided over the negotiations. But "a number of legislators" opposed the stricter wording and Speaker Wang feared "no common ground" could be found. Hence the giveaway passed. So although the Commonwealth piece says it will address who did this, it never really comes to a conclusion.

What a joke. As Commonwealth says, this needs to be fixed ASAP.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chu Re-arranges the Deck Chairs on the KMTitanic

An old swine but not in a new bottle.

The bad news keeps rolling in for the KMT: corruption investigations, and another resignation, this time of the Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi.

When I first heard that Ma had stepped down and there would be a change of Chairman, I wrote:
But there is a perception that Chu will push for "reform", a much bandied about word with no clear meaning -- it is obvious that it will be limited and likely to focus on rebooting the party machine, especially its vertical linkages to local factions and local precinct captains (more on that below). The KMT is simply too invested in its China policies and the structural issues I have discussed at length elsewhere.
That's what I thought two months ago. Then two days ago I wrote a long post after I heard that new KMT Chairman Eric Chu was appointing new heads for the KMT party organizations in the cities and counties. What possibilities this presented! Nope. My initial reaction is looking more and more correct. Solidarity.tw translated the information on the KMT's not-so-new local chapter heads...
Of the 23 spots, there are 10 incumbents but also 3 people who formerly held the same position and were shuffled out, and 2 more who are professional chapter directors, moving around to wherever the KMT needs them. That makes 15. It’s funny Chu didn’t even replace the Tainan party chief after the epic bribery that happened just under his nose. The way-unbalanced gender ratio is also dispiriting.


The Verdict: 15 Old Faces (65%), 10 Incumbents (42%), 91.3% Male, everyone’s over age 40.
Chu has also made himself head of the National Policy Foundation, the KMT's internal think tank, with Hau Lung-bin, former Taipei mayor, as one of the vice chairman. Chu is now party head, head of its internal mechanisms (he got rid of Ma's Zhongshan council and restored authority to the Central Standing Committee) and his people are now in position in all the local chapters. He's tightened his grip on the local party networks by moving a few new people in, but the party's stated goal of getting younger people into the positions has somehow disappeared.

This is the same KMT that just got blown out in the 2014 election, only the names have been changed. Far reaching changes not in the offing yet. Unless we see them... well, you can do the math yourselves, folks.
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118 Sunflowers to be prosecuted

J Michael at Thinking Taiwan reports:
Following the conclusion of three major investigations, prosecutors announced on Feb. 10 that 21 people, including Lin (who is currently doing his military service) and Academia Sinica researcher Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), will be prosecuted for their role in “318.” Despite conflicting reports, it has now been confirmed that student leader Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) was also indicted (full list here). Student leader “Dennis” Wei Yang (魏揚) and 92 others will be charged over “323,” while Hung Chung-yen (洪崇彥) and three others will face prosecution over “411.” In most cases, the charges involve “obstruction of official business.” Huang, who incidentally has spearheaded the Appendectomy Project targeting KMT Legislator Alex Tsai and others, will also be prosecuted for “incitement to commit a crime.” Prosecutors said they had yet to determine the nature of the punishments. They added that imprisonment was among the options that were being considered. And of course, gangsters like Chang An-le (張安樂) and his followers, the only people (besides the police) who actually used real violence during the crisis last spring, are being left completely alone by the prosecutors.
That pretty much sums it up. Two foreigners, the well known and longtime activist Lynn Miles, and David Smith, a Canadian photojournalist, were included among those charged, according to the TT. Cole argues that the timing of the indictments is intended to distract the public from the KMT's many problems.

Amnesty International's press release is here. I've included a Chinese translation below the READ ME line.

Monday, February 09, 2015

"Asia Powers into Forefront of Solar Revolution"

Equipment for a perfect afternoon.

Taiwan rocks the solar world, according to Climate News Network. This growth in solar is despite a local energy policy that is straight out of the 1950s, when it should be encouraging and supporting its solar industries by buying their products and installing them in all new homes....
Solar power is on course to overtake nuclear as a primary source of electricity production as the price of photovoltaic (PV) panels continues to fall.

Mass production in China and Taiwan has helped to increase the extraordinary growth of the solar power across the world and has led to an 80% reduction in the cost of panels since 2008.

Europe, and particularly Germany and Italy, led the way in solar installation, but Asia and the US are now catching up fast.
China and Taiwan now account for 70% of world solar production, according to the EU report. The report describes Taiwan's renewable energy goals...
In June 2009, the Taiwan Legislative Yuan gave its final approval on the Renewable Energy Development Act to bolster the development of Taiwan’s green energy industry. The goal is to increase Taiwan’s renewable energy generation capacity by 6.5 GW to a total of 10 GW within 20 years. All types of renewable energy are being promoted: a total installation capacity of 9952 MW (accounting for 14.8 % of total power generation installation capacity) has been planned to take effect by 2025, including a new installation capacity of 6600 MW, so that the goal set by the Renewable Energy Development Act can be achieved five years earlier...
Good news!
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Chu's Revolutionary Reforms of the KMT?

Dammit, why did I ever leave Lanyu?

Whoa! Is this ever big news. New KMT Chairman Eric Chu is reforming the KMT by reassigning local party chapter directors. The KMT news organ reports:
KMT Chairman Eric Chu launched the second stage of party reforms after taking control of the KMT think tank. Chu reportedly plans to reassign the directors of KMT local party chapters in all counties and cities. Chu plans to reassign KMT local party chapters directors according to three principles, i.e., internally-created, younger, and those who are, or have been, public office holders. The first wave of reassignments would be announced during the regular Central Standing Committee meeting next Wednesday at the earliest.
Like many structures in local society, the KMT looks like what is it supposed to be (a political party), but it actually isn't. It is actually better thought of as the political organization of a colonial ruling class. Chu's challenge, as I have enumerated several times on this blog and elsewhere, is to turn this strange political structure into an actual party. Here is an expressed plan to do just that.

This reform calls for the KMT to promote people from within the party -- not bring in faction politicians and call them KMTers in lipstick-on-pig style -- and go for younger people and for public office holders. You know -- politicians.

The potential here, if this is diligently carried out, has serious implications. At random:
  1. The local KMT are largely Taiwanese. Chu will create a KMT whose ranking/up-and-coming politicians will be all Taiwanese within a decade or two, should the reforms stick. Obviously Chu has looked at the demographics...
  2. The local faction leaders loyal to the old system may be pushed out. So much for the influence of Wang Jin-pyng, often identified as the leader of the "Southern KMT" of Taiwanese legislators. Indeed Solidarity.tw reported he had seen a TV header asking "Is this the end of the Ma-Wang System?" The new people will all be loyal to the man who got them their jobs -- Eric Chu. This is also a power play...
  3. The KMT has managed Taiwan by managing local faction relationships. Chu's policy, if far-reaching, is going to threaten delicate, long-standing relationships between local factions and the Party center. Very risky, especially in the South where the DPP is in increasingly firm control.
  4. The KMT may actually become a political party. So... what will its core values be when the Return to Zion core of mainlander exiles is no longer in control? Will it retain its position as the party of big business? Interesting days ahead!
  5. Chu can't propose this and then quit if they lose the Presidential/Legislative elections in 2016. Nor can he propose this and run for election while overseeing changes to the party structure. And a wrenching demoralizing reform carried out in a presidential/legislative election year may do a lot of damage to local level KMT party support, spawning opposition, resentment, and politicians running as independent candidates out of spite while Blue voters stay home. Not that I'm complaining...
  6. Because of (5) above... this may become much less wrenching than it looks. Chu will still have to pick politicians acceptable to local faction leaders, I would suspect. Note that the recent UDN poll says 65% of Blue voters want to see Chu as the Presidential candidate in 2016 -- and also that nearly 60% of Blue voters expect DPP to win presidency in 2016. 
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Sunday, February 08, 2015

DPP takes 3 of 5 in Legislative By-Election

Local house on Lanyu

I go to Lanyu and in my absence by-elections were held. I think that was on purpose...

The DPP took three of the five, leaving the KMT's 65-40 legislative seat advantage over the DPP unchanged (China Post):
KMT candidates Hsu Chih-jung (徐志榮) and Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華) were victorious in Miaoli County and Nantou County respectively.

The DPP prevailed in Taichung City, Pingtung County and Changhua County, with their seats won by Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書), Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) and Chen Su-yueh (陳素月), respectively.
Frozen Garlic, analyst extraordinaire, like everyone else, noted that the results really didn't reflect on the KMT's new Chairman Eric Chu. He also observes:
The reason that I think the DPP won a small victory has to do with the results in Taichung and Changhua. Both of these wins came by a wide margin – roughly 25% in Taichung and 18% in Changhua. While the DPP won both of these seats in 2012, these have hardly been solid DPP territory. The KMT held both prior to 2012, and Ma Ying-jeou won more votes than Tsai Ing-wen in both districts. On election night 2012, it was fairly easy to argue that the DPP had won the seats due to the popularity of the individual candidates rather than to general support for the entire party. Today’s result changes that picture. Now it appears that the DPP might really have a clear edge over the KMT in both districts. Further, it now has two new people sitting in those seats who have a year to consolidate their support before the next general election. The KMT will certainly run competent candidates in 2016, but there aren’t any looming heavyweights preparing to challenge either of the two new legislators. From today’s vantage point, it looks as if these two seats, which were marginal for the DPP in 2012, are quickly turning into safe DPP seats.
Two great shifts have occurred in the last two decades. The first was what I like to think of as the Great Voter Shift, when millions of votes won by Lee Teng-hui in the 1996 election shifted over to the DPP between 1996 and 2004. The second is now underway -- it looks as though the DPP is slowly eating away at the battleground of central Taiwan and converting it to DPP territory, chunk by chunk. If the DPP can solidify its grip on central Taiwan, then the KMT will be relegated to a party of Taipei, its environs, and a few mountain districts. But as the close vote in Nantou shows, even that cannot be taken for granted much longer.

Thus, the importance of Lin Chia-lung's capture of the Taichung municipality mayorship for the DPP's 2016 chances cannot be overestimated -- double-edged, it gives the DPP advantages in elections, but Lin absolutely must perform if the DPP is to continue its progress in central Taiwan. Losing the mayorship the next time around would be a disaster for the DPP. One of his three appointed Deputy Mayors has been impeached by the Control Yuan in a complicated case from yesteryear.

The numbers are given in the chart above, from top to bottom: Taichung, Changhua, Miaoli, Nantou, and Pingtung.

A longtime observer pointed out that the key race here is the Miaoli one. That was the seat that would have been contested by Chen Wei-ting, the Sunflower leader who had to withdraw after sex harassment scandals came to light. The other races saw swings to the DPP, as Froze notes above, but despite the loss, the DPP made up 12% on its previous performance in the district, Miaoli 2. A signal of bad times coming for KMT candidates in the north and in the next election? Perhaps, but only time will tell.
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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Easing back into blogging links

Because you can never have too many pictures of Lanyu.

Links... links... links... Coming back into the world from Lanyu, catching up on the news...
  • Plane crash: Dominating the news cycle, the crash in Taipei occurred as we waited in the airport in Taipei. On Thursday waiting in the airport we got to see the dashboard video again and again, o joy. At present, it is looking like the plane informed the pilots that the wrong engine had failed, and they killed their one good engine thinking it had failed. The plane hit the water without power. The Diplomat's Shannon Tiezzi has a look at the cross strait political farces that resulted. BTW, there is a whole brigade of idiots out there getting attention saying that the plane crash is a fake (not kidding). 
  • Government resignations: People continue to exit the Ma Administration. Ma's longtime hatchet man King Pu-tsun became the latest to leave this week. Wendell Minnick looks at Defense changes in DefNews.
  • South China Sea: Taiwan using Chinese shipper to schlep stuff to South China Island. Be serious. Sometimes it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Ma government is building this stuff for the Chinese. US suggests Japan patrol in South China Sea, China threatens ADIZ. From Jamestown Brief. We're heading towards war here, like a car driving along a cliff face at night without the lights on. Will no one in the US wake up, put an end to the stupidity in the Middle East, and reconfigure our policy toward Europe and Asia, where the money and power are?
  • DPP: The KMT news organ rounded up reports on the DPP presidential primary. Current Tainan mayor William Lai is being touted as alternative to Tsai Ing-wen. Seems like building him up for 2020 and beyond, for he has no name recognition up north at present and tiny Tainan can hardly be considered a base. Time to move him up to New Taipei City or similar, and let him run there. A Taiwan Thinktank (pro-Green) poll says 90% identify as Taiwanese when given only one choice. 
  • KMT: Chairman Eric Chu once again insists he will complete his term as New Taipei City mayor. Chu also doesn't like plan to combine legislative and presidential elections instead of separating them, obviously realizing that this would be bad for the KMT since more pan-Greens would turn out. His reasoning is good, however, since a Jan election would leave a four month interregnum before the new President took office. What mischief Ma will get up to in that period? KMT members of the Tainan City Council impeach Mayor Lai of Tainan because he won't attend meetings since the council's speakership was apparently bought via bribery.
  • Pay attention: the new National Development Council head is up-and-coming Woody Duh. The NDC is going to have a quietly huge influence on infrastructure and the construction-industrial state in Taiwan, because the NDC is where the policies for that are going to be drafted. Putting Duh in charge is likely a signal that he is destined for greater things. 
  • Avian flu has killed over half of the island's geese.
  • This total whitewash from Hsinchu city of the 2-28 "accident". 
  • Great series of interviews with Sunflower protesters. And first English-language academic paper on Sunflower movement.
  • Excellent: IPS on citizens movement for a new constitution.
  • Volunteers in Taiwan give handjobs to the severely disabled. Don't you just love a story with a happy ending? Seriously, though, this is a wonderful idea. 
  • Michael Mazza advises Japan to sell Taiwan Soryu subs. I've been advocating Japan sell Taiwan subs for quite a while now; good to see other people finally catching up. Why a Free Taiwan is vital for Japan's security, from ACT
  • EPA passes EIA for new factories for Dadushan in Taichung.
  • Wake up America: China is your real enemy. And then there is this from a longtime China watcher who basically says the US has been had by China. Imagine that...
  • Taiwan's growing multiculturalism.
  • Ketalagan Media on Taiwan's construction-industrial state
  • Model UN, Taiwan, intolerable mix for expansionist Chinese loon brigade.
  • NOT TAIWAN: The fascinating, appalling tale of "love jihadi" Hindu nationalists in Uttar Pradesh who prevent Hindu girls from running off with Muslim boys. Would be comically stupid if it wasn't so serious, divisive, and violent.  
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!

Taiwan Spotlight Events in the UK: Feb 9-11 Upcoming Next few Days!!

So much great stuff in this program.... trapped on Lanyu, couldnt get it out earlier!

Thinking Taiwan: Young Artists and Society 9-10 February University of Surrey


An exhibition of photographs by Joan Huang 黃于倩 and drawings by Klara Huang 黃盈睿

The exhibition continues until Thursday 5 March 2015

The exhibition offers a unique insight into the perspectives of young Taiwanese artists on Taiwan. They look at their home country from inside and outside and reflect on the transformations the society is experiencing. The rise in youth movements and social activism has inspired a new generation and altered the islands’ future. The photos and drawings are powerful witnesses to these changes.

This exhibition includes a short talk by the artists, free drinks and Taiwanese-style canapés.

LOCATION: Lewis Elton Gallery, Stag Hill Campus, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH

Click READ MORE to continue

Lanyu. Because Goats.

The landscapes are littered with goats. 'scape goats, you know.

Haven't blogged because Lanyu. Again. Wanted to try the island during winter vacation. In the summer, Lanyu's predominant color is green, in the winter, silver. It was lovely, but in a more desolate, lonelier way. In the off season the shops are boarded up and the streets are under repair. Things are harder to find. But the people still want to have a beer with you, the sea, sky, and rock are still gorgeous, and the experience still worth it. And a free goat guaranteed with every picture! Click READ MORE to see the whole picture-laden post...