Tuesday, March 31, 2015

FAPA emerging leaders workshop Jun 21-26

This got sent around:
Please help me to circulate FAPA Emerging Leaders Workshop announcement widely to all channels and groups you know in Taiwan. We like to recruit in young Taiwanese who are interested to learn more foreign relations, to join the workshop on June 21-26, 2015 in Washington, DC .

RSVP deadline is April 14. Only 30 spots. Take a action to share, register or do both now. Thank you!
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Some links

My favorite work of art at the art museum in Kaohsiung: this beautiful Chinese-style painting of Kaohsiung.

Too tired to post today... enjoy a few links....
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Cihou Fort, Kaohsiung

Dogs get out of the sun at the fort's entrance.

Yesterday gave the legs a test with a day spent walking around Kaohsiung. Lovely weather and great company made it a perfect day.

One of our stops was Cihou Fort, the Qing Dynasty gun battery located outside Kaohsiung harbor (map link). The fort is easy to get to: just take the metro to Shiziwan, then walk to the ferry, take the ferry across the harbor (5 mins, $15 nt), then walk half a kilometer or so to the fort entrance. Entrance is free.

The walk up offers some good views over the city, including one of a hospital being torn down. Note where the power shovel is parked...

Wiki notes:
First fortifications were built in 1720 (during Kangxi's reign and Qing rule). After Japanese expedition in 1874 Chinese authorities constructed a modern fort, which in 1880 had new Armstrong's guns installed. It played no part in the Sino-French War; the fighting in Taiwan took place around Keelung and during blockade French ships did not approach the port.

Taiwan was ceded to Japan according to the Treaty of Shimonoseki in the aftermath of the first Sino-Japanese war. The local troops, however, fought on. On 12 October 1895, escadre commanded by admiral Arichi Shinanojo (cruisers Yoshino, Naniwa, Akitsushima, Yaeyama, Saien (ex Chinese Jiyuan, captured in Weihaiwei) and corvette Hiei) arrived at Kaohsiung and prompted the foreigners to evacuate, as they would conduct the attack on the next day. The foreigners boarded gunboat HMS Tweed and two tugs and withdrew (only to return once the fight was over). At 7 am, 13 October, Japanese ships "opened fire on the Takow [Kaohsiung] forts at a range of about 6,000 yards. For the first half hour, the forts responded, but after this their guns were silent...The forts fired twenty four rounds, the best shot being from the 8-inch B.L. Armstrong guns in Apes' Hill fort, which struck the water about 500 yards from the Naniwa Kan."The Japanese troops seized the forts in early afternoon, suffering no casualties (4 Chinese soldiers were killed).
The Chinese text says the fort's commander ran away when the Japanese appeared. The gun crews, incompetent though they were, bravely soldiered on, firing a few rounds. Wiki adds that the fort, designed by a British engineer, consists of three parts:
...fortified barracks, around rectangular square, with close-defence parapet on the roof. Of the two gates, one leads to the battery, the other used to be a main southern gate. It bore a Chinese inscription, which could be translated as "Mighty blow to the South" – the characters for "mighty blow" were shot away by a shell from Yoshino. The rest, still visible, serve as ironic remainder of history.
Much of the fort still remains, since it was still used in the KMT period. It was restored in the early 1990s by the Kaohsiung city government.

The gate.

A pan of the interior.

The barracks and other rooms, all locked.

The parapet where the four 7" guns were mounted.

Gun site.

Good views over the nearby sea.

Half the fort.

Rear gate.

Well worth a visit on a day trip out here, Cihou Fort remains an evocative historical site of Taiwan as a nexus of colonial interest from Imperial Japan, the Manchu Empire, and the European powers.
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Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday links....


Enjoy a few links:
  • Lorand Laskai in The Diplomat on Taiwan's love for Japan. Good stuff. The rage of the 50 center brigade in the comments is hilarious.
  • Natalie Tso at RTI interviews Mark Kao, President of FAPA, on US and Taiwan
  • FocusTaiwan on the KMT's proposal for absentee ballots and lowering the voting age. If the Taiwan businessmen in China can vote absentee. the likely vote for the KMT will more than offset the gains to the DPP from the youth vote, which will likely be split among the non-KMT pro-Taiwan parties. At the local level, many young people will not know the candidates, especially for the local precinct and township positions -- they will take instruction from their parents. And the KMT is still strong at that level. Never mind that the actual mechanics of absentee voting remain to be worked out. 
  • In ten days KMT automatically loses appeal in Wang Jin-pyng case.
  • Ma says Taiwan should take part in AIIB, China's new development bank.
  • HSR introduces new financing plan, some tix prices to drop.
  • Taiwan Insider out
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Gordon Chang's Keynote Speech at World Taiwanese Congress


The attached keynote speech was delivered at the annual symposium of the World Taiwanese Congress in Taipei on March 14. Placed here with permission of Gordon Chang.

Gordon G. Chang

In an ideal world, the 23 million people of Taiwan would determine their own fate.

In an ideal world, everyone would be free.

In an ideal world, no one would listen to Communist dictators.

But we do not live in an ideal world. In the world in which we do live, the dominant narrative is that this is “China’s century.” The Chinese believe it, and so does most everyone else.

And because just about everybody thinks we are living in a Chinese universe, they
follow Beijing’s line and shun Taiwan.

But this is going to change soon, for two reasons. China is falling, and Taiwan is rising...


Thursday, March 26, 2015

[UPDATED] Chu political theatre, Reuters

Ants are like the future, constantly in motion, and getting a clear pic of them with the aphids is hard. Very pleased with this one.

[I took the post down about Chu. Burned by a bad translation from KMT's own news organ. Many thanks to the commenter who pointed that out]

The KMT is whipping up some grand political theater apparently designed to make it possible for Chu to backtrack on his promises not to run for President. The KMT news organ reports:
The DPP’s (Democratic Progressive Party) standard bearer in the 2016 Presidential race has virtually been decided, but no one in the KMT (Kuomintang) has yet stepped forward to run for President. On March 25, Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) asked, “if no one in the KMT expresses a willingness to run in the Presidential Election, then how could I shirk the responsibility to do so?” KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) has insisted on first formulating the nomination procedures in May. Hung denounced Chu’s decision as an act of “dragging himself [Eric Chu] and the KMT into quicksand!”
Dragging out the process increases the pressure and tension, which can be resolved by Eric Chu beating his breast in anguish, and reluctantly, oh so reluctantly, reaching out a hand to take the crown, forced by his supporters. Note that Chu has said the whole thing will have to wait til May, when all the backroom deals have been made and support garnered. And for mine own part, I durst not laugh for fear of opening my lips and receiving the bad air.

The problem is New Taipei City. Turnout was low when Chu nearly lost it in the November election. If Chu goes for the presidency, there will be a by-election in New Taipei City. Chu forsaking the city after two years will further dispirit KMT voters while energizing voters who want to punish him. This poses the very real threat of the KMT exiting the 2016 elections with a DPP president and DPP mayors ensconced in every municipality. [UPDATE: This might be an error, in that the Vice Mayor will rise. But I thought there had to be a by-election... will check. Nope, not error apparently, see this 2010 piece on the 2012 election, last paragraph. Same situation holds now. I'll double check.]

Media notes
With the election coming up, Reuters is positioning itself well for this blog's needs. This piece on the Sunflowers in court was rife with international media tropes. I'll point out some from different paragraphs....
(Reuters) - Anti-China [why not pro-Taiwan or democracy since that's what they were] activists told a court in Taiwan that their weeks-long protest campaign last year saved the island from further economic colonization by Beijing, in defense statements given at the start of their trial on Wednesday.
The protests, dubbed the "Sunflower Movement", marked the largest display of anti-China [not anti-China but pro-Taiwan] sentiment seen in Taiwan for years and followed nearly a decade [not nearly a decade, just six years if you count Ma only, or over twenty if you start with LTH or 15 if you count Chen] of rapprochement between the two historical foes [the foes are the CCP and the KMT, not China and Taiwan].
Opponents launched the protest movement after accusing Ma of trying to ram through legislation for a far-reaching services-trade pact without public consultation in March of last year.[the services pact was indeed rammed through without public consultation. Why not just report that, since it is true?]
Before the pact could become law hundreds of protesters led by Chen and others forced their way into Taiwan's parliament and repelled police efforts to evict them.[before the pact could become law... ROFL. the committee head attempted to proclaim that the pact was law without a vote. That's what triggered the occupation. The report makes it sound that the students were interrupting due process. Just the opposite: they were trying to re-establish it.]
Opponents say it would have accelerated political reconciliation [political reconciliation... between who and what, about who and what? The CCP and the KMT have already reconciled and are allied, the problem is the Taiwanese.], a key goal of China's foreign policy [again as always in the Establishment media we are told what China wants, but not what Taiwan wants][note that what China wants is not reconciliation but annexation.] also. Last September, China's President Xi Jinping reiterated the "One Country, Two Systems" principle for bringing Taiwan back under Chinese rule [Taiwan has never been under Chinese rule, not once, not ever] [again, as always in the Establishment, we are told what China wants. This is the ideal moment to inform readers that Taiwanese emphatically reject 1C2S in poll after poll and reject a Chinese identity and consider themselves Taiwanese. What do we get? Silence.].
The emergence of the Sunflower Movement is regarded as a turning point in Taiwan politics, as new parties and grassroots voices have begun calling for more openness in negotiations with China.[well, some points for saying the Sunflower Movement is a turning point, but then once again the issue of local identity is completely neglected.].
The protests also accelerated a steep decline in popularity for Ma and his ruling Nationalist party, as evinced by the party's drubbing in recent local elections.[note that the piece does not explain why Ma's popularity has dropped. After reproducing all the pro-China tropes at the beginning, and implying that Ma's economic agreements are beneficial -- information on their effects is omitted -- Reuters could hardly explain that Ma's closeness to China is a huge problem, along with the failure of pacts to deliver benefits, and of course, the (unmentioned) Taiwanese identity. Hence, the silence -- no explanation of Ma's slumping popularity is given, as in so many pro-China tropes in the media, it happened without involvement of human agency.]
Thanks Reuters! With reporting like this, my blog will always be in demand from readers who want to know what's really going on.

UPDATE: Ben at Letters collates the Rules for Writing on Taiwan
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M503 Flight route fold

A good photo of one of these fierce creatures always makes me happy.

I haven't been writing on this because (1) did not know the backstory and (2) it was obvious what the Ma Administration would do anyway. To wit:

WantWant says that the Taiwan gov't did a(nother) kowtow to Beijing:
While the United States has praised consensus reached by the two sides of the Taiwan Strait on a controversial commercial flight route that comes close to the median line of the strait, Taiwan's main opposition party wants the government to be held liable for what it describes as a failure to properly handle the controversy.
What "consensus"? Nothing like that was reported in the local media. FocusTaiwan, the government news organ, says:
But Taiwan strongly opposed the plan, saying it was not adequately consulted beforehand, and raised concerns the new routes would jeopardise the safety of Taiwan's flights in the area.

Following a meeting in Shanghai, Taiwan's government announced on March 2 that Beijing would delay launching the M503 north-south route, and not open the three east-west paths at this stage.
China has become adept at this salami slicing policy, and US officialdom, with their reflexive support of Beijing because OMG TENSION, are simply feeding this monster by regarding all Taiwanese resistance to Chinese annexation as "causing tension". One thing the US does understand well is the use of the term "consensus" to signal "surrender to the greater power" -- how very Chinese...

Looks to me like they got a face saving delay from China, which otherwise ignored Taiwan's needs. Just another one of those generous benefits of dealing with China, eh?
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Links for a rainy day

My friend Tammy Turner sent around this graphic of water use in Taiwan. It is actually raining today! Happy to see it. In the meantime, stay dry and enjoy a few links.
Jerome Keating Meet Saturday at 10 am. For details, click READ MORE...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Coming Pressure on the DPP

Nantou 54.

Some links for today...

Alan Romberg over at the Hoover Institution on the current political situation in Taiwan in the context of cross-strait relations. Some of the footnotes are quite interesting; the main text is a richly-sourced attack on the DPP for daring to resist China and emphasizing DPP disunity and failure to serve Beijing while downplaying or hiding KMT disunity. Note that Romberg manages to write a long piece without ever using the term faction, thus making a whole slew of KMT problems disappear (for example). If you want to understand what's going on with the KMT, you're better off following my KMTitanic series.

Favorite quote from the Romberg piece: Eric Chu saying "we cannot let one-party dominance undermine democracy in Taiwan.” Irony is not only dead, its corpse has been exhumed and mutilated.

It's easy to see, with "analysis" like Alan Romberg's above, why you have ex-AIT official Barbara Schrage today saying that the DPP should "clarify" its China policy -- what a hoot! -- and that it should work to find ways to narrow its "differences of opinion" with Beijing. Wouldn't it be awesome if Schrage advised Taiwan to narrow the missile gap instead, and advised Beijing to back off? With what's coming, can't AIT struggle to get us some weapons and allies instead? Imagine, it's 1930s. There's Schrage advising the Indian nationalist movement to find a way to narrow its differences of opinion with the Raj...

More seriously, what Schrage's ill-advised remarks straight out of 2004 signal is the new/old mantra from the anti-Taiwan crowd in the US government: the DPP's China policy is "unclear." Use of this line, and pressure is only going to grow. It's worth quoting myself on the strange position of Taiwan:
The claim that Taiwan “causes tension” has a striking uniqueness: In all other instances of tension along the Chinese frontier, U.S. officials and commentators routinely and assumptively treat China as the source of tension. It is only Taiwan that is different. For example, in the late 1960s Beijing suddenly manufactured a historically absurd and legally indefensible claim to the Senkaku Islands of Japan. The U.S. has asserted that it will defend the islands under the U.S.-Japan mutual defense treaty and criticized China’s illegal air-defense identification zone and other aggressive acts. Nor has the U.S. been shy in criticizing China’s claim to most of the South China Sea, recently offering a highly publicized legal document refuting the Chinese claims. The U.S. also conducts diplomacy with regional powers obviously aimed at countering China. Washington and the U.S. media seldom publicly criticize Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, or Indonesian leaders for resisting Chinese expansion (“causing tension”). Only Taiwan receives that treatment.
"Clarify your policy!" is of course Diplo-code for "submit." I have this dream that US officials will stop fantasizing that if only they sit on the DPP hard enough, problems in the Strait will go away. The reality is simple: if Washington pleases Beijing by stepping on the DPP, Beijing will respond by threatening to increase tensions to push Washington to step on the DPP even harder. D'oh. Feeding the monster only makes it bigger. Because Beijing seeks to transfer tension from the Washington-Beijing relationship to the Washington-Taiwan relationship, each time an (ex-) US official like Schrage criticizes the DPP, it's a strategic victory for Beijing. Please guys, Beijing already has its own diplomatic corps to suppress Taiwan, they don't need ours.

And changing demographics in Taiwan have rendered this policy not only obsolete, but counterproductive...

Anyway, as we wait for war to break out somewhere in Asia, enjoy some links...
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Drought? What water policy?

Normally a flooded arm of the Liyu Reservoir in Miaoli

Yeh Chieh-ting of Ketagalan Media passed around this piece on the water shortage from Storm. It describes things quite succinctly: this is the worst drought in 67 years. In the last three years we've had only two typhoons, which we depend on to fill our reservoirs -- the usual figure is that 80% of our water arrives in the summer typhoons -- but it hasn't been arriving. Two weeks ago when I went down to Laochijia in Pingtung I was appalled and terrified to see the rivers running in trickles or dry completely. A friend of mine who took her family to Sun Moon Lake told me that the lake looks like it is surrounded by beaches as the reservoir exposes its banks. On Facebook people are passing around scary pictures of empty reservoirs.

Fortunately, the government has a comprehensive, well thought out water policy in response to this amazing drought, which is:


That's right, we've got a whole lot of nothing going on. I'd love to describe and comment on the government's policy, but there isn't one. The only move has been to lower the water pressure in certain cities. Meanwhile Taiwan's extravagant use of water continues unabated -- the government has a water conservation campaign out to curb use from 270 liters per person/day to 250. To put that in perspective, water consumption in Germany was 121 liters per person/day (Wiki) in 2010, in the UK, 150 (link). Water use in water rich US and Japan is rather more extravagant, and much higher than Taiwan levels, though published numbers vary widely. The government has threatened actual physical rationing of water in April if things don't improve... UPDATE: some tinkering around the edges, with early arrival of rationing: here and here.

Unfortunately water consumption is under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which means that it is controlled by the construction-industrial state and the whole idea of conservation and ecologically-based management is ignored, except at private firms where there is conservation and recycling because water costs money. Taiwan should be going the way of other industrialized countries, installing toilets that conserve water, fixing its pipes, and putting in new water infrastructure for delivery and storage, as well as regenerating its aquifers and caring for its rivers and riverine ecologies. But just the opposite has occurred -- Taiwan's haphazard, exploitative depletion and destruction of its water ecology and water resources is just one of the many ways the construction-industrial state has reduced Taiwan's living standards and imperiled its future.

Plentiful cheap water is one of Taiwan's key resources and the foundation of its industrial and agricultural might -- almost all industrial processes require water in some way, as a solvent, a coolant, a raw material, or in waste handling. Moreover, unlike many countries, such as Iraq with the Euphrates or Vietnam with the Mekong, Taiwan is in complete control of the entire length of its rivers and thus of its water policy. Much could be done...

Sadly, nothing fundamental has changed as Taiwan lurches toward water armageddon. The basic problem is that the price of water is too low:
The average Taiwanese person uses 350 liters of water per day, while the average person in the US or Europe uses 150 liters per day. The price of one unit of water in the US and Europe is NT$40, while in Taipei City it is NT$7, and for Taiwan overall, NT$9.

Taiwan prides itself on being a developed country with a GDP of more than US$14,000. Water usage, however, stands at twice that of the US and Europe, and the price of water is equal to that of third-world developing countries. Even prices in China are twice as high as in Taiwan. Not everyone may know that the development cost for a new water reservoir currently stands at NT$22 for one unit of water, while the cost for sea water desalinization is NT$40. This comparison makes it even more obvious that Taiwan's water prices are unreasonable. The Water Resources Agency has on several occasions suggested to the Cabinet that water prices should be adjusted upwards, but all such suggestions have been waved off. The fact is that a reasonable rise in the cost of water would not be much of a burden for the general public.
As any first year econ major could tell you, if you want to change behavior, you must change cost. And the government for years has refused to change the cost of water use. Moreover, since prices are low, revenues are low. The local water company lacks the money to upgrade Taiwan's absurdly leaky pipe system and other urgently needed infrastructure. With the election coming up soon, nothing is likely to happen. Wouldn't it be great if both parties got together and issued a joint pledge to raise water prices no matter who won the election?

Meanwhile my neighbor, like hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese, was out washing his car today. The thousands of car washes, shrimp fishing ponds, and other extravagant businesses continue without restriction. Massive pumping of groundwater goes on unabated. We're due for a water reckoning, and the government is doing nothing to change the long term outcome.


Also see: Jens Kastner reviews some of Taiwan's water problems in AmCham last month. And my old post on drought.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Communist Bandit Cookies

Made with special ingredients!

h/t to Josh Ellis, who takes great photos. Taken near Daxi in Taoyuan.
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OMG TENSION and Elections set for Jan 16

People's Park, Taichung.

Still catching up from the last few days....

First Chen Shui-bian's son Chen Chih-chung, who'd done so much damage to the DPP, yet had been accepted back into the party which needed his followers, announced a few days ago that he was going to step aside and not run for a legislative seat. Yay!

Also stepping aside from his Taipei legislative run was Freddy Lim of the New Party (Platform) for a Social Democratic Party politician. I can't find the translation of the party platform anymore on solidarity.tw, it's been taken down. Lim said he didn't want the "party-state" infrastructure to capitalize on disunity in the opposition.

Pet Peeve alert. Here's example #9982: if you're an small country resisting invasion from a giant neighbor with an ethnic element in your homeland skewing your local politics in favor of the big neighbor, and you happen to be located in Eastern Europe, you'll get favorable press. Indeed, the government and its officials will forthrightly state that your big neighbor is causing instability in your local government and nation. If you're located in Asia, however, you are provocative and tension-mongering. No double standard here to see, just move along folks.

A good example of this pet peeve at work is also in The Economist this week. The magazine offered another China-centric piece on China's warning to Taiwan's DPP. Read carefully -- note how the piece never tells the reader that China itself does not accept the 1992 Consensus, it merely insists that Taiwanese politicians do. The Economist forwards China's threat without contextualizing it as an attempt to attack the DPP and suppress Taiwan independence and democracy. Another odious aspect is taking the "anti-secession law" seriously. Yes, China passes a "law" "allowing" it to attack Taiwan, as if the Chinese gov't were constrained by law, and then suddenly the media is alive with the idea that China is now "allowed" to attack Taiwan. What, you mean it wasn't allowed before? Like the idea of "tension" itself, which the Economist duly conveys without comment or insight -- a complete propaganda success for Beijing, a complete kow-tow by the Economist (see my Diplomat piece) -- the purpose of the "law" was to use the western media to catapult its propaganda. Imagine if, in the western media, each time the "anti-secession law" was mentioned, the writer pointed out that it is a violation of international laws and agreements to which China is a signatory. Or the writer pointed out that the law was absurd because China can attack any time it wants anyway. It is just another example of what I'm always observing: that in Chinese society, if something is said by officials to be happening according to the law, it means someone is getting royally screwed.

Nothing positive is said about Taiwanese resistance to Chinese aggresssion. Tsai is reported to have a tough choice between angering China and looking weak (really? just those two poles?) though at least they pay her the courtesy of letting the reader know what she has proposed. The hundreds of thousands who demonstrated against the services pact suffer from "anxieties" about the effect of the pact, not actually perceiving it correctly. The piece is titled "China's bottom line" I guess because Taiwan has no bottom line. Again note the framing -- the paper defaults to the normative presentation of tensions -- they just happen without human agency, for no reason, like quasar explosions in distant galaxies:
AFTER more than seven years of calm relations between China and Taiwan, leaders in Beijing are beginning to warn that tensions will rise again if the winner of Taiwan’s next presidential election, in January, fails to make a clear commitment to the notion that there is only one China...

Few believe that China would use a DPP victory as a pretext to attack Taiwan, but many of the island’s businesspeople worry that a renewed chill in cross-strait relations could impede trade and investment flows between the two sides and make it more difficult for Taiwan to sign free-trade agreements with other countries.
Yup... the Economist got through that whole piece without clearly assigning the cause of tension to Beijing. It even forwards Xi's claim that independence forces in Taiwan cause tension! ROFL. That's some awesome cognitive dissonance there. Let's rewrite the second one so the agency is clear:
Few believe that China would use a DPP victory as a pretext to attack Taiwan, but many of the island’s businesspeople worry that if Beijing ramps up tensions and chills cross-strait relations, it could impede trade and investment flows between the two sides. They also fear that China will make it more difficult for Taiwan to sign free-trade agreements with other countries.
Why shouldn't they fear that China will block FTAs? It never promised not to, and it has consistently been doing that since ECFA was signed. Indeed, Ma himself has attributed Taiwan's FTA troubles to China. The Economist is only six years late in cottoning on to this...

ADDED: And finally:
The KMT’s acceptance of the 1992 consensus has played a critical role in lowering tensions with China and boosting cross-strait economic ties.
ROFL. Yes, the Economist thinks Taiwan is the cause of tension in the Taiwan Strait. "Tension" is a strategy of Beijing's for manipulating the foreign policy of the US and other countries and for reducing Taiwan's international space and attacking the pro-Taiwan side. Oh yeah, and for controlling editors and writers in the international media. Once again, Taiwan is not the cause of tension in the Taiwan Strait, China's desire to annex Taiwan is.


You'd think that a western and democratic neoliberal paper would support the neoliberal democracy party that is allied to the west and opposed to China, but instead the paper supports a quasi-Leninist party that socialized most of the economy, ran an authoritarian one-party state, and is allied to China. Figure that one out, if you can. The piece scribes:
The KMT is now struggling to remould its image. The hugely unpopular Mr Ma has resigned as KMT chairman; a charismatic city mayor, Eric Chu, has replaced him. But the party is still plagued by infighting and has yet to find a presidential candidate. Mr Chu, its best hope, says he does not want to run.
Yep, you're probably wondering about that "charismatic" there. Haven't you heard that before?
  • "..Ma Ying-jeou, the charismatic nominee of the main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT)..."
     (Economist 2007).
I suppose Chu has charisma, I mean, compared to Lien Chan or Wu Den-yi.

The big news this week is that the elections are set for January 16. That's finals week at many schools, which means many students will not be able to travel. 24 student groups from around Taiwan criticized the decision. The CEC didn't have a large number of viable choices, since it was constrained by the requirement to have the legislative election before Jan 21 by law, and it had decided to combine the Presidential and Legislative elections. It is too early to say how that will affect the youth vote, since many profs will change their schedules to let their students go vote.
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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Zhejiang delicacies, Taiwanese dishes

Crowd watches street magician in Taichung.

FocusTaiwan reported on the Grand Hotel's reopening of a restaurant. I've always hated the place, a triumphant eyesore in a faux Chinese style that broods over Taipei, the architectural equivalent of heads impaled on spikes in front of the city gates. But that wasn't what caught several pairs of eyes:
The Grand Hotel reopened its Yuan Yuan restaurant on March 11 with an expanded menu of Jiangsu and Zhejiang delicacies and Taiwanese dishes.
That's right. Jiangsu and Zhejiang have delicacies, but Taiwan? Just dishes. After raving about delicacies for the emperor and favorite foods of Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the article does an "oh yeah" at the bottom and mentions that there are "Taiwanese dishes" for foreign guests. The mindset behind the article is rather obvious.

Food is one of the most important sites for KMT colonization of Taiwan, and it is probably its greatest victory. Whereas almost all other KMT strategies for colonizing Taiwanese minds, from the claim that Taiwanese are Chinese to the rewriting of Taiwan's history, have generated resistance from locals, there has been no resistance to the KMT's exploitation of food and food tourism.

Taiwanese cuisine was invented in the Japanese period. Prior to that period there was no such thing as Taiwanese cuisine, it was all Chinese food. Colonizers all face the same problem: having colonized X, they must define what X is. They must define it so that it is intelligible to the colonized and to the citizens of the colonizer's homeland, and it must be defined as inferior to the colonizer's own culture. Early on in the Japanese period restaurant menus were referring to Taiwanese cuisine -- it first appeared in 1898 in the print media -- and state banquets offered "Taiwanese" dishes as a way to help construct and define what Taiwan was, because, as officials reported, Chinese and Taiwanese foods were not easily distinguished. The colonial government even published a Taiwan kanshu kiki (Records of Taiwanese Customs) monthly from Jan 1901 to Aug 1907, which contained Taiwanese banquet menus and other menus as evidence of what Taiwan culture was.

This evolution began officially with the Taiwan Pavilion erected at the Fifth National Exhibition in Osaka in 1903, for which 6,000 items were shipped over from Taiwan to ensure "authenticity." Chefs were brought over from Taiwan to prepare the dishes, and young ladies were brought over to keep the diners company, young women being a significant feature of Taiwanese restaurants during the Japanese colonial period (for details, see Embodying Nation in Food Consumption, a PHD thesis for Leiden by Chen Yu-ren).

This creation of a Taiwanese cuisine was a fait accompli when the KMT came over and recolonized Taiwan with a faux Chinese culture. The KMT followed the same strategy it followed with Taiwan culture in general: it subsumed Taiwanese cuisine as a regional and provincial cuisine. That is the strategy followed in the Grand Hotel PR handout above, where Taiwanese dishes are placed on a level as one more provincial style food like that of Zhejiang or Jiangsu, except not as good.

As the KMT lost its grip on society, the idea of Taiwanese food has become slippery and contested. It was promoted under the Chen Administration and in State Banquets during the Chen Shui-bian administrations. For KMT True Believers, it remains a provincial cuisine. For other locals, it has many meanings. As Chen's PHD thesis notes, even when people cannot define Taiwanese cuisine, they still say this or that dish is a Taiwanese dish. They identify Taiwanese cuisine as foods of home or of their childhood. Others can articulate a detailed and defensible view -- note that articulating a "national" cuisine is a project that nationalists of all stripes believe they must engage in, hence for Taiwan nationalists a "national cuisine" must be defined. In response, Hakkas frequently assert their own cuisine against Hoklo/Taiwanese cuisine. We manufacture identities to fight the imposition of identities...

The KMT lost the battle to define Taiwanese cuisine as a mere provincial cuisine, though that reflex remains, as the Grand Hotel PR piece above shows. But it won the war. All over Taiwan, if you say a city name, like Changhua or Hsinchu, people associate a food with it automatically (ba wan and mi fen). Even foreigners know many of these associations. This attitude is common in Taiwan, but it is rare in the rest of the world. You can associate foods with cities or locations, of course, but it is usually not the first thing thought of. If you say Los Angeles most people will mention Hollywood. You have to press them for a food association. But in Taiwan it is quite the opposite. Few places are first associated with a particular industry or historical site or famous building. If you ask people about Taichung they will say sun cookies, but you have to press them to divulge what industries are associated with the city.

Why? It's political, of course. In most countries tourism consists of local history and nature. I grew up in Michigan, where we visited the Upper Peninsula and state parks for nature, and local battlefields and forts for history. No one ever suggested that the state's prodigious cherry production should be its key association. But in Taiwan, the food association functions to keep locals from associating places with their history, and thus, developing associations with local history that in turn would support and build local identities... Hence, in Taiwan, local domestic tourism is not historical tourism, but food tourism.

Congrats on the victory, KMT.

UPDATE: Many great comments. A commenter noted below:

Through the 1970's there were strict restrictions on accurate public maps of Taiwan (for security purposes). School children were taught to view Taiwan as merely one part of "our glorious China".

Even through the 1990's, much of Taiwan's history and civics curriculum was China-centered.

The KMT, on a central level, decided to avoid addressing their problematic narrative as the government of all China while occupying a former Japanese colony, an experience that was fresh in the minds of the Taiwanese.

They decided to invent and deploy "local foods" as a means to teach Taiwanese geography to avoid political differences and to avoid local identification in favor of the Chinese Nationalist identification.

It was a way to reconcile obvious cultural differences with the nationalist narrative, while dismissing cultural differences as either regional, or in terms of a portrayal of an area's "development". This took the conversation away from ideas of ethnic differences. In China this was a means to defuse different nationalisms after the fall of the Ching.

This is not accidental.

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KMTitanic IV: Captain to the Bridge! =UPDATED=

Pro-democracy NGO hands out Taiwan Democracy porridge in Taichung to commemorate one year anniversary of Sunflowers.
Brock Lovett: 26 years of experience working against him. He figures anything big enough to sink the ship they're gonna see in time to turn. The ship's too big with too small a rudder. It doesn't corner worth a damn. Everything he knows is wrong.
In Taiwan culture the answer to all problems of social and organizational order is "more control". The KMT has once again turned to this approach. UDN reports that the KMT has "reformed" its legislator selection process, turning it over to a central 7 person committee instead of leaving it up to the local KMT chapters (read factions). The committee is made up of Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠), Lee Si-chuan (李四川), Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎), Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), Liao Liao-yi (廖了以). This is not a gang of young, perceptive leaders in touch with the changing society in Taiwan.

It means that the KMT is not going to make meaningful reforms. Instead they are tightening central party control over the periphery. Solidarity.tw opined that this would simply cause more local factions to bolt and run as third party candidates, hurting the KMT. Work out the logic: in many places the choices for legislators will lack support for the local factions. This will both reduce the resources that local factions are willing to commit to the KMT, and also encourage them to run own-candidates as independents if they are sufficiently annoyed, hurting the KMT. If the KMT were an actual political party, and not the political organization of a colonial ruling class, the local factions would have more say. Instead, it looks as if the KMT is reducing their say. UPDATED: the response to the Committee was so negative that Chu was forced to say yesterday that the process for choosing would be open and transparent. We'll see...

Perhaps the KMT is gambling, as some are saying, that the power of local factions has waned, especially with the growth of municipalities whose administrative positions are appointed by the mayor.

The committee convener is Hau Lung-bin, the former mayor of Taipei, and a second generation mainlander, the son of the far right Chinese nationalist and former Premier Hau Pei-tsun. In most committees in organizations on the island, the decision is made by the leader and the committee's purpose is to ratify his decisions. Thus control remains in the hands of the KMT's mainlander elites. The elites are tightening their control as a response to the KMT's sinking chances.

This could be read as a positive for the island, if the KMT appoints clean non-faction candidates and then compels the factions to support them. Hard to imagine how that can work. Hau promised a couple of weeks ago that the legislative candidates would have plenty of new faces. If that is true, the local factions are going to be angry...

In other news,
Three-term Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) on Friday said he would not seek re-election in next year’s legislative election — which is set to be held in tandem with the presidential election — adding new fuel to the ongoing speculation that KMT Chairman and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) will run for president.

Lin has been widely rumored to run for mayor of New Taipei City in a by-election if Chu decides to run for president, but he declined to comment on “hypothetical questions,” saying he made the decision mainly because he wanted to yield the opportunity to the younger generation.
If Chu doesn't run, the KMT won't have much of a chance of victory. The pressure on him is enormous. Looking forward to that bit of political theatre in which the great man's followers beg him to run, which he accepts reluctantly in order to serve. Awwww.....

Meanwhile, the KMTitanic sails into the night. TVBS, the pro-KMT news station is out with a poll showing what everyone else is finding (kudos to them, their polls have mightily improved). Tim maddog summed things up on Facebook:

Feb. 2015 TVBS (deep-blue!) poll:
• 36% hope DPP takes power in 2016
• Only 19% hope it's KMT.
Main parties' satisfaction rating:
• DPP: 43%
• KMT: 10%
• 73% feel the KMT values the party's benefits over the public's.
• Only 43% feel that way about the DPP
• Over double the number (45%) feel DPP is trustworthy compared to KMT (22%).

Other numbers are mostly similar. Even my sadistic pessimistic streak is cringing in wonder at these numbers. But it's a long 10 months before election night...

Previous KMTitanic entries:
KMTitanic III: But this ship can't sink!
KMTitanic II: Iceberg in sight, no change of course
KMTitanic I: Chu rearranges the deck chairs
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Friday, March 13, 2015

March 31 AmCham Taichung Dinner features Anthony van Dyck

.... and the April 28 AmCham Taichung dinner features an internet entrepreneur.
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Thursday, March 12, 2015

KMTitanic III: But this ship can't sink!

This is the life...
Smith: The pumps... if we opened the doors...
Andrews: [interrupting] The pumps buy you time, but minutes only. From this moment, no matter what we do, Titanic will founder.
Ismay: [incredulously] But this ship can't sink!
Andrews: She's made of iron, sir! I assure you, she can... and she will. It is a mathematical certainty.
Eric Chu's KMT is still the KMT. The news says it all: Tenth KMT-CCP forum to be held in May or June. The KMT has but one card left to play, and that's the "only we can handle China" card. Unfortunately they are looking like the same old KMT more and more, with the press now discussing a Xi-Chu meetup at the Forum -- which is being treated as a separate issue. The Forum, held in June, will be only six months away from the election, a timely reminder of who the KMT's allies are. This connection might be nice in some quarters, and polls might even show majority approval, but I suspect voters are going to be very tired of it, and will punish the KMT. If Xi and Chu meet, it will cost the KMT votes.

In any case, the Eric Chu KMT is feeling a lot like the Ma Ying-jeou KMT, same people, same issues, same trends...

Lots of light moments this week. A well-known talk show host, Vivian Tsai (蔡玉真) made headlines today by announcing that Ma would have to step down in 2015, which would make Wu Den-yih President. It's hard to see that happening, but the really droll part is that Wu Den-yih and his wife believe they are fated to be president and first lady. Apparently a few years back, a fortune teller told Wu that he had a presidential fate. My wife observed that if he becomes president, that fortune teller is going to get rich. eTaiwan news says:
The Special Investigation Division summoned political commentators Tsai Yu-chen and Wang Chieh-min to testify Wednesday in its investigation of charges that President Ma Ying-jeou accepted illegal contributions from business figures in the 2008 election campaign. Afterwards Tsai took to Facebook to write that she believes Ma will step down as president sometime this year, to be succeeded by current Vice President Wu Den-yih.

Tsai revealed that she had been questioned in relation to reports of political contributions from the Ting Hsin Group. She said that prosecutors had provided a list of entrepreneurs and asked what she knew regarding the case, but added that she was not at liberty to disuss any details of the investigation. She said she could only disclose that she believes that before the end of this year President Ma will step down from office. "But don’t worry,” she said, “Wu Den-yih is prepared to take over and this will be a transition period only."
Wu dismissed the claims as "ridiculous". The really great thing is that suddenly the Chen Shui-bian accusations of the other day were blown away by this new kerfuffle and disappeared into the media ether...

Speaking of the presidency, reports have it that PFP leader James Soong, once a KMT stalwart who nearly won the Presidency in 2000 after leaving the KMT and running as an independent, is considering a run. This will help the PFP legislative candidates, though, if the last time he did this is any indication, he won't have much effect on the Presidential election. But it will still be nice to see...

Meanwhile, DPP Chair and probable presidential candidate Tsai Ying-wen is making DPP hay out of the nuclear issue. She called on DPP members to take part in demonstrations against nuke power across the nation on Saturday. Nukes are unpopular and DPP ownership of this issue will hurt the KMT come election time.
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1945 US maps of Japanese airfields in Taiwan

These were sent around Facebook. Originally posted by John Gong.
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Drawn to scale

I imaged this critter waddling slowly across this leaf, but had no idea what it was. Fortunately, a friend on Facebook was able to tell me what sort of creature it was...
Assuming I guessed right and it's related to an Iceryine Scale, I found this by googling the name:

"Those are not legs surrounding the body of these odd insects but a fringe of waxy “fingers” secreted by special glands on the body of the female.

Like many scale insects (along with aphids, psyllids and mealybugs), they produce and excrete a sticky honeydew which ants feed upon and who, in return, provide a fairly formidable protection service.
Learn something new every day...
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

DPP: 2 Steps Forward, 1.99 Back II

A conclave of ladybugs

One reason I do not share the optimism of my fellow pan-Greens regarding the DPP is its infinite ability to undermine itself when it gets a little lead, not just my contrarian, suicidal pessimism. Two more DPP stupidities recently. First, the party doesn't seem to be able to prevent children of prominent DPPers are running for office (FocusTw). Political dynasties are a problem in all democracies, but in Asia the situation is particularly bad. Hopefully all of these candidates will lose in the primaries.,,
Prominant pan-green legacy candidates include Su Chiao-hui (蘇巧慧), daughter of fomer DPP chairman and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Liao Yi-kun (廖宜琨), son of former legislator Liao Pen-yen (廖本煙), and Yu Ping-tao (游秉陶), son of Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), another former DPP chairman and premier, and Cheng Yu-hao (鄭余豪), son of former legislator Cheng Yu-chen (鄭余鎮).
Not mentioned is Chen Shui-bian's son Chen Chih-chung, who is thinking of running. Last election, he cost the DPP an easy seat in Kaohsiung by running as an independent and splitting the vote. The DPP took him back anyway, even though he's been nothing but problems for them. Solidarity.tw pointed out to me that they just want to collect the votes of his supporters.

WantWant has the story intermingling it with another foulup:
Chen Chih-chung, son of Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian, said Monday that there was no evidence to support the corruption allegations made by outgoing Democratic Progressive Party spokeswoman Hsu Chia-ching against his father.

Hsu, a former veteran member of the Taipei city council, said at a gathering with members of the Taiwanese Association of America in Dallas in February that Chen Shui-bian had accepted billions of dollars in donations from construction companies when he was in office from 2000-2008.

Hsu also questioned the merits of the DPP possibly nominating Chen Chih-chung to run for a legislative seat next year.
Yes, that's right. The DPP spokeswoman went to the United States and stated in front of an important source of donations for the DPP that Chen Shui-bian took bribes, which she knew because a bunch of (likely pro-KMT) businesspeople told her this. No evidence offered for these legally actionable accusations. She then revealed party internal affairs in publicly discussing Chen Chih-chung. Needlessly stupid. She was then forced to resign and Tsai forced to distance herself from the remarks, saying they were just her personal opinions, while Hsu once again brought the sensitive and explosive topic of Chen Shui-bian into the public spotlight. Finally, the party loses (the promotion of) an experienced politician who should have known better. What a waste. Luckily the news cycle has the attention span of a Golden Retriever...
Daily Links:
  • WAY COOL VIDEO: Buzzards dine on hornets nest at Taipei Zoo
  • IMPORTANT: Frozen Garlic on the DPP nomination contests. He also analyzes the negative voting proposal. Yawp, it's silly.
  • Steven Crook in Taiwan Review: Building Up Regional Advantages
  • Comically, the Education Ministry insists that its pro-China adjustments to the school curriculum prepared by non-scholars who didn't follow procedure was perfectly ok.
  • Taiwan's nukes nearing capacity for fuel rod storage, says former Ma advisor slamming gov't nuke policy. The nuke issue could be a big winner for the DPP, except that it would have to follow through once in power, and will that happen? Anyone's guess. 
  • Nantou's Garbage Crisis from Taiwan Take.
  • Nick Kembel's report on the Yanshui Fireworks Festival. I've never gone, and local temple officials tolerate the foreigners' everyone's behavior, but regard it as insulting to the god, one told me when I was there last time. It's a shame there is so much focus on the ridiculous fireworks festival, because Yenshui is one of the best little towns in Taiwan for exploring and enjoying, with many old buildings and an Old Street that is not a total kitsch disaster like everywhere else in Taiwan. 
  • Solidarity.tw translates article on Ma handing out directorships of state-run firms to political pals.
  • Yeh Chieh-ting's piece from a couple of years ago on young blood in the two major parties.
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Monday, March 09, 2015

Ko attacked for "gaffe"

Nantou tea farms.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je got himself involved in another mess with a remark that Taiwan has "imported" 300K brides. The Taipei Times reports:
Dozens of members of Taipei’s New Female Immigrant Care Association yesterday staged a protest outside city hall to demand an apology from Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) over his recent off-the-cuff remark describing the foreign spouses of Taiwanese men as “imported foreign brides.”

“I came from China and have been married with a Taiwanese man for 14 years. There are more than 480,000 immigrants in Taiwan. We are human beings, not some products for sale,” association executive secretary Li Xia (李霞) said as she led the protest, which consisted of women like her from
The focus on the word "import", which is very commonly used in this situation in which a nation brings people in, including brides...
Where was the outrage then? Didn't exist, because it is perfectly normal for human beings to be referred to in this language in other contexts, never mind this one. For example...
OMG a double slam, referring to human beings as mere imports and talents! Technology workers of the world, unite!

I'll stop. Anyone with Google skills can find numerous examples of the term "import" used with various words representing human beings. Just google the term "import workers", for example. Nothing is meant by that; economic framing helps explain key issues of supply, demand, and social effects.

So to return to Ko Wen-je above, note that the bride organization with the long name appeared backed by two KMT city councilors, then called on the DPP to join them. The anti-DPP framing here makes it obvious what is going on -- the KMT has old links to the foreign bride organizations (note that the leader of the organization is Chinese), and simply saw this as a moment to invent a gaffe and attack Ko. Ko himself knew exactly what was going on:
Asked if he wanted to apologize for his comments, Ko said he said that he had said many things at the forum, but only two words were taken out of context and then put under the magnifying glass.

“I am confused and troubled by this kind of social phenomena,” Ko said.

“If we believe someone does not harbor malice toward a subject, then there is no need to blow it out of proportion,” Ko said, but added that he would correct any mistakes that he made.
Ko is so refreshing precisely because he has not yet learned to treat his every word as potentially abused by malice driven responses, unlike many veteran politicians in Taiwan. It will be a sad day when he has to lose that authenticity...

UPDATE: Some claim the term is not used that way in Mandarin. Hogwash. A Google search from March of 2000 to March of 2014 turns up multiple usages in reports, scholarly papers, media, translations, and online forums. For 進口外配   a similar search turns up numerous usages in similar contexts.
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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Tzu Chi finally facing the heat? =UPDATED=

Tea farms in Nantou.

SETV has a report on complaints about Tzu Chi, showing their Tanzi operation, which is right by my house. I have long wondered when the Buddhist charitable foundation was going to face criticism from locals.

Criticism was sparked in Taipei over a land deal in Neihu. The Taipei Times reported:
Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation owns 29 plots of land in a geologically sensitive area in Taipei, and it might have exchanged benefits with a private firm during its acquisition of the land, an environmentalist said yesterday.

A dispute is raging between environmental groups, including Treasure Our Land, Taiwan — a nongovernmental organization — and Tzu Chi over the foundation’s request to set up a logistics center and a factory on a 4.4-hectare plot of land in Neihu District (內湖).
Ko Wen-je, Taipei's iconoclastic mayor, seems to have declared himself in opposition to the construction-industrial state in all its manifestations. Buddhist Master Shih Chao Wei, recently criticized for being seen being bused around in a massive Benz which she says is a friend's, sharply criticized Ko for his comments on the project, objecting to him describing it as a "development project." Others, however, pointed out...
Tree Party policy director Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said that environmental groups oppose the project because it would set a poor precedent, opening the door for large corporations or those with influence to expedite approval for use of land in environmentally protected zones.

He said the Tzu Chi Foundation had sought to have the project approved as an individual case, without considering the wider impact it would have and that it has refused to have the project undergo an environmental impact assessment.
Because I live next door to the hospital shown in the video, and the mother of the founder lives down the street from me, along with her adopted brother, and because my neighborhood is flooded with Tzu Chi volunteers every Sunday who cut the grass in the vast field shown in the video, I will not publicly comment on Tzu Chi.

UPDATED: Another one out today asserting based on the EPA EIA that the Tanzih complex is located right on a major fault. This simple map shows the fault line running right next to the hospital complex on the NE side of Taichung.

UPDATED: Solidarity.tw with the translation of the SETV report (article) on Tzu Chi's land development issues.

UPDATED: Solidarity again with a translation of a dissection of Tzu Chi expenses.
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