Monday, November 30, 2015

Links and Short Shorts

Who knows what weirdness you'll find on side roads. 

Busy, busy, busy...
  • Months after the water park fire, the 15th victim dies. Amazing how the media has protected Presidential Candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu on that one. DPP Candidate Tsai maintains her enormous lead. At below 20% in most polls, Chu is no improvement on Hung Hsiu-chu, the woman he replaced.

    It's interesting to look back on the polls from earlier in the year. For example, in April Chu was at 20% against Tsai at 26%, against a hypothetical Ko-Soong ticket. Fortunately that latter ticket never materialized. In May Chu was at 36% against Tsai in Apple Daily and 25% in Liberty Times. In June, at 23%. Once he did not come out, his own party faithful slowly lost faith in him and it's been that way ever since. Recall that there were cries he should step down when Hung was undergoing nomination, since he'd failed to provide the KMT with a viable candidate. What will happen when he is crushed and the KMT loses the legislature?

     In April Tsai was like 60-12 against Hung... Hung actually improved a bit once she became candidate. 
  • South Korea our fastest growing tourism source. Looking forward to the day when I guide the Wonder Girls  and Girls Generation cycle ride round Taiwan...
  • Frozen Garlic goes to a campaign event for Chiang Wan-an, great grandson of the dictator Chiang Kai-shek
  • Froze comments on the low poll numbers for the KMT. I am so pessimistic, it is difficult for me to envision the state of the KMT collapse.
  • "Foreign Surfers win all the titles at Taiwan Open of Surf". UPDATE: Open of Surfing, my mistake, English still awful. Nope, we don't resent foreigners winning or anything. And love the Chinglish name of the event *sigh* If only the government would consult several of the zillions of foreigners who live and work in Taiwan on such things.
  • Prosecutors to appeal ruling in Tinghsin case. If the Appeals Court rules in favor of the prosecutors, then all the arguments that the judge was just ruling according to the evidence go *POOF*. But given who the defendants are, that isn't very likely. I expect the ruling will be upheld. Taiwan Times on the case is translated here says the judge didn't understand the law.
  • Cole: The DPP did not mastermind Sino-skepticism. The KMT and China jointly succeeded at that.
  • New Bloom: recent scandals and crony capitalism in Taiwan
  • Deep Green Taiwan Think Tank says 64% of people say President should say Taiwan is not part of China. Plurality reject 1992 Consensus.
  • Former President Lee Teng-hui, perhaps the greatest living Taiwanese, has a minor stroke and is hospitalized. Please stay with us til Jan 16, Dr. Lee.
  • Wang Jin-pyng interview: public doesn't trust the legislature. Hey, who's been in charge of the legislature since forever? Oh yeah, Wang. 
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Blast From The Past: Taiwanese are Hardworking

A Japanese era pusher railroad.

From Robert Frank's Guadalcanal, a superb history of the Battle of Guadalcanal, discussing Japanese army deployments to the island (p, 253)...
The 17th Army petitioned Imperial Headquarters for reinforcements, including another infantry division, a tank regiment, and many artillery, supply, and communication units.1

1Incorporated in this list were several thousand laborers to porter supplies on Guadalcanal. The 17th Army specified it wanted only Taiwanese for this role, because, notes the Defense Agency history volume, it was a Japanese belief that the Taiwanese had the "strongest backs" among the subject peoples in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Deep anger at Ting Hsin Injustice

Another elaborate home for pigeons.

In retrospect it looks predictable and obvious: Ting Hsin got off in the toxic oil scandal. The China Post observes:
Former Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co. Chairman Wei Ying-chung (魏應充), suspected to be behind a series of food safety scandals starting in 2013, was found not guilty yesterday in a ruling by the Changhua District Court due to lack of evidence.

Five others involved in the case, including a former CEO, a current chairman and the head of its Vietnamese food company subsidiary, were also found not guilty. Outraged civic groups holding signs outside the court described it as the darkest day in Taiwan food safety history.

Prosecutors, who had sought a 30-year sentence for Wei's role in the scandal, which involved tainted cooking oil, nutritional supplements, milk, rice and other food products, said that they intended to file an appeal.

Judges concluded that the measuring standard using acidity was not the most adequate means of determining the sanitary standards of cooking oil as refinement would cause acidity measurements to drop. The court indicated that according to its examinations, the polar compound level found in the samples was within safety limits for consumption.

Wei, who controlled three subsidiaries of the Ting Hsin International Group, was indicted for violating the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法) in October 2014 after investigators suspected the group of allegedly selling cooking oil mixed with animal feed oil.
Note that the head of the Vietnamese subsidiary was found not guilty. It's super super super hard not to believe that everyone at the top of the firm knew what was going on, and certainly no one out there in the public believes that they were ignorant of the company's use of feed oil as food oil, but since at least some of the bad oil came from Vietnam, the man in charge of the Vietnam section had to know. The Taipei Times observed:
Yesterday’s ruling said prosecutors failed to prove that Ting Hsin Oil and Fat sourced fat extracted from unhealthy animals or that the company’s products were manufactured using unsanitary processes.

The defendants could not be proved to have committed the crimes they were charged with and are therefore not guilty, it said.
Naw. It's the usual case of the connected and powerful getting off. The Taiwan Law Blog said on Twitter:
@michaelturton @jmstwn Anger toward judge misguided. Existing laws suck, prosecution didn't do its job + facts may differ from media reports
Anger toward the judge is spot on, in my opinion. The final decision, obviously insane, rests with him. In fact the judge went out immediately to defend himself in the media since he knew perfectly well the decision was legally and morally indefensible.

Ting Hsin, run by the powerful Wei family (of Wei Chuan foods) is in thick with the KMT. Last time around this scandal provoked public anger at the then-ruling KMT. This time around there is deep deep anger: the public is fed up at the way the System protects the powerful, and most people I've contacted are convinced the judge was bought. I am not so sure -- the System so reflexively protects the powerful that this outcome seems inevitable. Originally I had assumed it would be a charade, though a slightly different one...
The Ting Hsin oil scandal is now hitting its prosecution phase, with prosecutors deciding to indict the owner of the hapless conglomerate with 30 years worth of charges. Some from the pan-Green camp in Taiwan are charging that the company made a deal with the Ma Administration to cover up its involvement in the oil scandal last year, from which it miraculously emerged unscathed. The owner of Cheng-yi, in the Ting Hsing group, was given charges worth a possible 18 years. No doubt they will go through the whole charade of a trial and sentencing and then flee to China like everyone else, where they will continue to run their multibillion dollar conglomerate. The Ting Hsin group was also forced to drop its attempt to become manager of Taipei 101 and banks withdrew loans for land acquisition.

I'd say someone got peeved at Ting Hsin over one of the many deals it was involved in and decided to unmask the firm, but it could just be bad luck. And just before the election too, voters were made aware that the Wei Family and the Lien clan whose scion Sean Lien is stumbling stumping for mayor in Taipei were buddy-buddy, a reminder of the you-scratch-my-back-I-give-you-lucrative-access nature of KMT rule. Also of interest in that scandal, an employee in the Pingtung County government faxed the document confirming that animal feed oil had been used to Ting Hsin "inadvertently", thus tipping the company off to the investigation.
I figured the courts would go through the whole ritual of finding them guilty and then they'd flee to China as is usually the case with KMT-connected individuals. But I was wrong -- the System produced a less troublesome verdict for them. If I were really really paranoid, I might conclude that giving the judge an excuse/opportunity for this verdict was the reason the Changhua prosecutors brought the case so hastily.

But however you interpret the verdict, the one fact in this train wreck is that the public is again going to blame the KMT for foisting this legally incompetent, ethically incomprehensible, and politically subservient judicial system on the nation, as well as for protecting Ting Hsin. Look for more punishment at the polls. TT described:
Netizens and civic groups reacted angrily to the ruling.

Saying the verdicts were vastly different from what the public expected, many netizens said that the nation’s judiciary was dead.

One netizen sarcastically said that he was glad to hear the ruling because it meant the oil he consumed over the past decade was safe and that he had not consumed tainted oil products for a decade or more.
This story actually broke in 2013, when the bad oil was connected to China. But that connection vanished. Ting Hsin's profits come largely from its China trade...

DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen had wisely been positioning the DPP as the party that cares about food security. This will likely pay off at election time.

But then the DPP will actually have to change the laws and overhaul the food system. Sure...

REF: Solidarity flipped me this video of Ma praising ECFA (in other words, himself) for bringing Ting Hsin back to Taiwan.

UPDATED: This image of the well-connected getting off is making the rounds.
The net is going to have a field day, and it will hurt the KMT.
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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Too Busy to Blog Links

Abandoned house in Tanzih.

Way too busy to blog, but some great stuff out there. Enjoy...
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Polls, Party Lists and other Problems

The road ahead is rocky.

Well, the KMT's Party List of At-Large legislators came out. They will automatically get a seat if the KMT wins enough votes.

The list of nominees was widely criticized. The KMT news organ says:
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng topped the party list as expected. He is followed by two nominees with education backgrounds; i.e., Ko Chih-en (柯志恩), a professor of educational psychology at Tamkang University, and Chen Yi-ming (陳宜民), vice president of Kaohsiung Medical University.

Other nominees include Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), a legislator and one of the KMT’s deputy secretaries-general, John Wu (吳志揚), a former Taoyuan County Executive, Chang Li-shan (張麗善), a former legislator from Yunlin County, and Hsu Chen-wei (徐榛蔚), wife of incumbent Hualien County Executive Fu Kun-chi (傅崐萁). They were nominated because the party central hoped that they could garner support for the KMT in county/city mayoral elections in 2018.
This article conceals more than it reveals. Apple Daily as translated by KMT Administration government news operation (FocusTw) makes the call....
To be more straightforward, whoever was able to "threaten" to do harm to the party was more likely to become the 12 people on top of the lineup -- known as the safe list -- out of a total of 34 legislator-at-large seats.

The biggest fear for Chu, for instance, is the list's top spot, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who has been in the position for nearly 17 years.

Wang has shown his ability for maneuvering by refusing to campaign for Chu as the two have expressed a conflict of interest over the 2016 general election.

Another good example is former Taoyuan County Magistrate Wu Chih-yang (吳志揚), son of former KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄).

Ranked eighth on the list, Wu is apparently taking advantage of his father's political influence to avoid the hard work of trying to win in a constituency.

Chu's explanation that the list represents the KMT's determination to reserve talent for the 2018 local elections is a lie, as most of the nominees are incompetent.
These choices were far worse than I thought they'd be, loaded with faction politicians. Hualien County Chief Fu Kun-chi is an "independent" whom the KMT kicked out for corruption. LOL. The list signals that in the post-election struggle for control of the KMT between Ma and Chu, Chu understands that support of the local faction politicians is going to be critical. Ma will have the backing of the "reds", the more-KMT-than-the-KMT crowd. This is a tactic, just as Chiang Ching-kuo brought some Taiwanese into the KMT as a move to build a power base independent of the mainlander apparatchiks his father Chiang Kai-shek depended on, so Chu is turning to the Taiwanese wing for support against Ma. Gonna be interesting.

Because of the structure of the election, the first 12 seats are considered safe seats. The Taipei Times analyzed them today.
The top 12 members on the list are considered to be “safe” — meaning they are virtually assured of getting legislative seats — and include five holding expertise or knowledge in other fields: academic Ko Chih-en (柯志恩), doctor Chen Yi-min (陳宜民), Lin Li-chan (林麗蟬), who has immigrated from Cambodia, TEDxTaipei cofounder Jason Hsu (許毓仁) and Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman William Tseng (曾銘宗)
The other candidates who secured “safe seats” are all political veterans: Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), former Taoyuan County commissioner John Wu (吳志揚), former legislator Chang Li-shan (張麗善), Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi’s (傅崑萁) wife, Hsu Chen-wei (徐榛蔚), Presidential Office Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) and Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏).
According to KMT Chairman and Presidential candidate Eric Chu, the list is meant to reserve some politicians for spots for the 2018 Mayoral election. The placement of John Wu is interesting, recall that (1) Wu is from Taoyuan where Chu was once chief, so they must have a close connection, and (2) Wang Jin-pyng will need a replacement at some point since he is now over 70. I suspect Wu, whose family is an old Taiwan Hakka family that is powerful in the KMT, is being eyed to take over Wang's position as unofficial head of the Taiwanese faction politicians.

The inclusion of Wu and Fu Kun-chi's wife is also an interesting signal -- lots of people who worked hard for the KMT have been passed over by Chu. This point was made in a criticism from inside the KMT:
Prior to a meeting of the KMT’s Central Standing Committee yesterday afternoon, committee member Yao Chiang-lin (姚江臨) told reporters that while he dared not criticize the list as the worst in history, its rankings were undeniably unfair to grassroots workers.
...some were saying it was the worst list ever (hard to believe considering who was on previous lists). Hyperbole aside, the interesting thing is that it is widely hated, since it signals, once again, that Chu has re-arranged the deck chairs on the Titanic, rather than genuinely changing the KMT. Note that the young KMTers are far down the list and will not get seats. Now... there's a signal.

Solidarity observed on Twitter the other day that the 13th spot is reserved for a representative linked to the old soldiers, the Hung camp, apparently as an incentive to get them to come out and vote.

Hung Hsiu-chu, former KMT presidential candidate, had the last word:
Legislative Deputy Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) gave a score of 100 when asked by reporters to grade the legislator-at-large list.

Asked if she was serious, Hung said: “Who still means what they say nowadays?”
An obvious dig at current KMT Presidential candidate Eric Chu, who promised he wouldn't run.

Tsai up with new Veep pick.

How will things turn out? This site collects polls. This image shows the legislative election prediction: green for better than expected, red for expected, blue for less than expected. The interesting thing to me is New Taipei City, where the DPP and allied parties are within reach of the majority of seats in Taiwan's most populous municipality. That would be huge. Assuming 3 seats in central Taiwan, 7 in Taipei, 7 in New Taipei city, 2 in the outlying islands, 2 in Keelung, 3 in Hsinchu... the KMT is going to reach 31 or 32 seats, at the moment.

Tsai is going to be president, with a legislature controlled by the DPP and its allies.

I know some of you are thinking that there will be changes, but as always, I am pessimistic. Recall that DPP whip and likely Speaker of the Legislator Ker Chien-ming is closely linked to Wang Jin-pyng. Wanna bet some chips are called in by Wang? Probably some of the teeth of the party assets bill will be pulled via this relationship. That's ok, most of the party's assets are going to be quietly looted by KMT elites, so one way or another, the KMT's wealth and power will be seriously impaired.

Another issue: assume the KMT goes down to crushing defeat. Much will depend on how China views the KMT's chances in 2018 and 2020. Much will depend on the KMT's ability to convince Beijing that it is still a viable party and can deliver the island into Beijing's hands.

Once Tsai wins again in 2020, Beijing will re-evaluate. What will it do when it realizes the KMT has no future in Taiwan save as a Taiwanized, pro-independence, Big Business party?

Beautiful day outside. I think I'll go image some spiders....
Daily Links:
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Saturday, November 21, 2015

And now for some light entertainment

The Minguo Party (MKT) has an official song. MKT is a KMT spin off and is Blue and pro-China. It is allied to James Soong's PFP this election.
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=UPDATED= BBC's Error-ridden, pro-China backgrounder on the Taiwan-China issue

Needed a Lanyu pic to stay calm for this blogpost.

Wow. Talk about failure. BBC produces a comprehensive failure of the kind rarely seen, at once totally incompetent and completely unethical. Those of you who wonder why I always say BBC is institutionally pro-China, need look no further. I thought we might expect this kind of thing when the UK became a Chinese State-Owned Enterprise... So brace for an all-points fisk, dear reader. Gonna be a long one...

Let's start with the slanted title: What's behind the China-Taiwan divide?

There is no "divide" between China and Taiwan. The divide is between the CCP and KMT. BBC is neutral; it roots for both parties against the people of Taiwan. The real divide is between the two Leninist, authoritarian Chinese expansionist parties that want to annex Taiwan to China, and the people of Taiwan, the vast majority of whom want independence. Wouldn't What's behind the China-Taiwan Issue? have been a more balanced and less assumptive title?

Note one notable improvement in the last couple of years (discussed in a post below) in the photo caption:
China sees Taiwan as a break-away province that will eventually be part of the country again, but many Taiwanese want a separate nation.
...not quite up to the real situation in which the majority of Taiwanese want an independent nation, but much better than a decade ago when the Taiwanese weren't even mentioned. Possibly in another decade the media will start saying most Taiwanese want an independent state. Except for BBC, of course.

The next set of commentary is hilariously obvious and desperate in its attempt to link Taiwan to China. If so much weren't at stake, this obsequious service to Beijing would be comical...
The first known settlers in Taiwan are thought to have come from modern day southern China.

The island first appears in Chinese records in AD239, when China sent an expeditionary force to explore - a fact Beijing uses to back its territorial claim.

After a brief spell as a Dutch colony (1642-1661) Taiwan was unquestionably administered by China's Qing dynasty from 1683 to 1895.
Note first what's not here -- "aborigines". Taiwan's indigenous people are simply gone from this discussion. A huge omission, for an obvious reason: the aborigines have a claim that predates Han settlement. Observe that BBC refers to "the first known settlers" not people or humans, as if to deliberately mislead the reader into thinking they were Han settlers like those of a later era. Note also that no time is given -- had the BBC specifically mentioned the date, the reader would immediately realize that the "settlers" could not have been Chinese.

The reality is that they were Austronesian people, not Han, and archaeology is demonstrating more and more that they came up from the south (see chapter 1 of Bill Hayton's The South China Sea for a review). The argument that they diffused out of what is now southern China is deliberately cultivated by pro-China types to help Beijing's expansionism in East and Southeast Asia. As Hayton notes, the ancient rice grains found in Taiwan are actually strains from India and Java. They were supplanted by strains from China much later. The first people in Taiwan most likely came up from the south, not from China.

"First appears in Chinese records in "239" (recall that by then Taiwan had hosted complex aboriginal societies for thousands of years). Far from being a fact, it is only a guess that references to Yizhou (夷洲) in the third century and Liuqiu in the ancient literature may refer to Taiwan, there's no evidence to suggest it. There's an excellent post on Forumosa that explains, with proper references, how stupid this claim is.

And why should anyone care when the island first appears in Chinese records? Unless you want to create the idea that Taiwan exists only in a Chinese context...

ERROR: Anyone could find from Wiki that the Dutch period in Taiwan began in 1624. Idiots.

I especially love the "unquestionably" in that third paragraph above. It's like a flare warning that this piece was written from a pro-China perspective. Who else but a Chinese expansionist would insist on "unquestionably"? Is that balanced commentary?  Followed, of course, by the totally pro-Beijing "China's Qing Dynasty" to describe the non-Chinese Manchu empire. "China's" used possessively that way is another flare signaling the political tilt of this document.

All my readers know the reality: "Taiwan" was never administered by the Manchu Qing, who were not even Chinese. The Manchus never controlled the whole island, and for most of the period controlled only the western plains, and of them, only part. Our thinking of "what the Qing controlled" is shaped by the late 19th century maps with neat lines showing the Qing boundary swelling up to the foot of the central mountain range. The truth is that for most of the Manchu period most of Taiwan was not under Manchu control. The first government to have effective control of the island was Japanese.

BBC natters on:
Starting at the beginning of the 17th Century, significant numbers of migrants started arriving from China, often fleeing turmoil or hardship. Most were Hoklo Chinese from Fujian (Fukien) province or were Hakka Chinese, largely from Guangdong. The descendants of these two migrations now make up by far the largest population group.
BBC banished the aborigines completely, but look at the level of detail it puts into explaining the Chinese migrants and who they were: Hoklos (aside from experienced Taiwan people, who would know what that means?) and Hakkas. BBC even tells us their descendants are the largest population group.

Clearly BBC is worried that there are other population groups whose claims might impinge on the Chinese claim, and hastens to reassure us on that score. But who would these mysterious population groups be? We'll never know, reading BBC.

What's omitted? Oh yeah, the Dutch controlled Taiwan during this period of Han immigration and brought the Han in to form a colonial population. That's safely moved to the paragraph above so the connection is weakened. No mention of Dutch effect on Taiwan, either, because for BBC Taiwan = Chinese!

Thus far, every paragraph has related Taiwan to China in establishing its origins. Neat, eh? The bias is obvious.

After explaining that the Qing ceded Taiwan to Japan, BBC says:
But Japan's defeat in World War Two led to the US and Britain agreeing that Taiwan should be handed over to their ally, Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China government, which was then in control of most of China.
This is a muddled reference to the Cairo Declaration, of course. Cairo is an important text in the scripture of the Chinese claim to Taiwan. But interestingly, Cairo is not named. Readers thus can't look up this reference and learn that Cairo means nothing to either the UK or the US, and the current status of Taiwan under international law is undetermined.

ERROR: Note the (probably deliberate) historical error via time conflation: Cairo took place in 1943, before "Japan's defeat in World War II". AFTER WWII the UK and US agreed NOT to give Taiwan to China.

But BBC isn't going to mention the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

Also omitted: any mention of Japan's effect on Taiwan, or its role in shaping the Taiwanese identity. Japan is of course anathema to Chinese expansionists.

Then comes 1949 and one of the most sadly funny comments in the article:
Chiang and the remnants of his Kuomintang (KMT) government fled to Taiwan in 1949. This group, referred to as Mainland Chinese and then making up 1.5m people, dominated Taiwan's politics for many years, even though they only account for 14% of the population.

Having inherited an effective dictatorship, Chiang's son, Chiang Ching-kuo, began a process of democratisation, which eventually led to the 2000 election of the island's first non-KMT president, Chen Shui-bian.
"dominated Taiwan's politics for many years." As a friend remarked on Facebook,
"I guess "Rounded up, tortured and executed all political opponents while stealing all of the country's assets" was a bit too close to reality."
...of course, KMT rule begins in 1949 for the BBC, instead of 1945. Thus, the most important event in Taiwan's immediate postwar history, the 2-28 massacre of thousands of Taiwanese by the KMT, is omitted.

But "Chiang Ching-kuo, began a process of democratization". Seriously? Omitted is the tangwai era, the formation of Taiwan independence activism, martial law, and of course, the father of Taiwan's modern democracy, Lee Teng-hui. Instead, BBC assigns democracy to Chiang Ching-kuo, a dictator whose government, immediately upon lifting martial law in 1987, passed a new security law that was martial law in all but name.

Writing that CCK began a process of democratization in Taiwan is like writing: "In 1776, King George of England began a process of giving independence to the colonists in America".

BBC then in the next three paragraphs again relates Taiwan to China. There's no mention of the deep connection between Taiwan's China stance and the democratization that Taiwan was undergoing. It even mentions that the ROC said the war with China was over in 1991, without mentioning who was President, so deep is its antipathy to Lee Teng-hui.

Then, at last, Chen Shui-bian. Poor China!
Beijing became alarmed in 2000, when Taiwan elected as president Chen Shui-bian, who had openly backed independence.
We're told what Beijing thought. It is "alarmed" (ZOMG! Poor put-upon Bejing!). But -- not what Taiwan thinks. Then we hear that Chen's re-election "prompted" China to pass the Anti-Secession Law, a clear case of blaming the victim.

BBC has altered its language on the ASL, by the way. It now says
stating China's right to use "non peaceful means" against Taiwan if it tried to secede from China.
BBC used to say.... (link)
"Passed three years ago, it legalises the use of force against Taiwan if the island formally declares independence."
So much to unpack in the current text -- China has no "right" to murder Taiwanese and take their land (China's has signed international treaties specifically foreclosing that option). Thus, the "law" states China's intent, not its rights. The law does not define a "right" and BBC should not reify that nonsense. Note that secede is not in quotes, though it should be. Recall that the UK's position is that Taiwan's status is undetermined. BBC should reflect international law and UK practice by adopting that position. I have remarked on the uses of the term "law" many times...
One disturbing tendency I've seen in the international press is this idea that since China has passed the Anti-Secession Law, it has a "legal right" to declare war on Taiwan. Calling this declaration of intent to murder Taiwanese a "law" was a huge propaganda coup for China, since westerners think of "law" as something that is ethically normative. The oddity of the western press' position on the Anti-Secession Law is that none of them would ever write: "China has passed internal security laws giving it the right to murder dissidents" but they have no trouble saying exactly that about the Anti-Secession Law, directed at Taiwan, Island of Dissidents (here).
Finally, after a hurried nod to Ma Ying-jeou, we get the slanted discussion of Taiwan's status.
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which it has vowed to retake, by force if necessary. But Taiwan's leaders say it is clearly much more than a province, arguing that it is a sovereign state.
Who are Taiwan's leaders? Obviously, at this point, they would be the KMT and DPP leadership. But BBC avoids mentioning the term "Republic of China". What sovereign state could Taiwan be?

There's some improvement in the next paragraphs....
While political progress has been slow, links between the two peoples and economies have grown sharply. Taiwanese companies have invested about $60bn (£40bn) in China, and up to one million Taiwanese now live there, many running Taiwanese factories.

Some Taiwanese worry their economy is now dependent on China. Others point out that closer business ties makes Chinese military action less likely, because of the cost to China's own economy.

A controversial trade agreement sparked the "Sunflower Movement" in 2014 where students and activists occupied Taiwan's parliament protesting against what they call China's growing influence over Taiwan.
Kudos to BBC for saying "the two peoples" and not "the two sides". BBC also reproduces a common trope in the international media: "political progress" -- the media commonly refer to some process like that, without ever naming its end state.

Mysterious progress that is, always moving forward, never getting anywhere. It's existential, guys.

"Others point out that closer business ties..." Not only is this treated as a bare fact, but the discussion of this fact omits China's longstanding strategy of using business ties to disintegrate Taiwan's economy in order to integrate the island politically. It can only be a fact in that context.

Of course, while saying that businessmen point out "facts", the Sunflowers' entirely correct perception of "China's growing influence" which no one, pro- or anti-annexation would deny, is relegated to the status of an opinion: "what they call..."   BBC even repeats that in a photo caption. No bias there!

At last, the discussion of identity. Having delivered this pro-China sermon, how will BBC handle reality?
Officially, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) still favours eventual independence for Taiwan, while the KMT favours eventual re-unification. Opinion polls show only a small minority of Taiwanese support one or the other, with most preferring to stick with the current middle ground.

Yet more and more people say they feel Taiwanese rather than Chinese, and there is growing support for the DPP in the upcoming election, partly because of dissatisfaction with the ruling party KMT's handling of economic matters, from the wealth gap to high housing prices, and partly because of worries that the current administration is making Taiwan too dependent on Beijing.
The first paragraph ends in a clever bit of twisting. The context is again omitted: the status quo is favored because it is a weak form of independence, and a solid majority (usually 60-70% minimum) favor independence. Reality forms cute little origami shapes in BBC's hands.

"More and more people say they feel Taiwanese..." Again, BBC omits saying that the vast majority see themselves as Taiwanese. Instead, BBC opposes "Chinese" -- as if there is still some substantial majority of people in Taiwan calling themselves "Chinese" and the current trend portends that on some distant day, Taiwanese may think of themselves as "Taiwanese." LOL.

BBC closes with a review of the relationship with the US.
The US is by far Taiwan's most important friend, and its only ally.
Virtual experiment: try crafting a definition of US as an "ally" that doesn't include Japan. More quietly than the US, Japan is also an ally of Taiwan.

Then come two very common errors:
The US Congress, responding to the move, passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which promises to supply Taiwan with defensive weapons, and stressed that any attack by China would be considered of "grave concern" to the US.
The TRA nowhere promises to supply Taiwan with defensive weapons. That's a plain error. If you read Section 3.1 it reads like a promise. But you have to read 3.2, which leaves the decision to sell up to the President and Congress. Nothing brings Taiwan into the process, and nothing stops POTUS and Wall Street's representatives from deciding to sell nothing to Taiwan. Hence, no promise.
The pivotal role of the US was most clearly shown in 1996, when China conducted provocative missile tests to try and influence Taiwan's first direct presidential election. In response, US President Bill Clinton ordered the biggest display of US military power in Asia since the Vietnam War, sending ships to the Taiwan Strait, and a clear message to Beijing.
No ships were sent to the Taiwan Strait (see Michal Thim and Kitsch Liao). They stayed well to the south and east.

BBC, you suck.

UPDATED: I was re-checking the BBC article to see whether they altered it, when I realized the image of Chen Shui-bian they chose is one in which he has a giant zit on the end of his nose. I'm sure it's just a coincidence, and not a subtle dig. Ma Ying-jeou is given a smiling portrait, of course. The image of the Sunflowers is even more telling -- the image shows the protesters in the Legislative Yuan. The only face clearly shown is the portrait of Sun Yat-sen, with the ROC flag behind. The protesters themselves are distant, faceless, and oriented away from the camera. Nice.

REF: BBC Complaint line is here. Please complain.

UPDATED: BBC's hilarious response to a friend:

"Thanks for contacting us regarding the BBC News website.

I understand you believe the article at was poor quality and one sided.

Thanks for raising these concerns. The report aimed to offer a look at the background of the divide between China and Taiwan and there was a lot of information shared. That said, it wasn’t intended to seem one sided. The first part was looking at a snippet of history however there is of course more information available than can be included into a single article.

You highlight missiles as a case in point however the article reports:

“Mr Chen was re-elected in 2004, prompting China to pass a so-called anti-secession law in 2005, stating China's right to use "non peaceful means" against Taiwan if it tried to secede from China ...

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province which it has vowed to retake, by force if necessary. But Taiwan's leaders say it is clearly much more than a province, arguing that it is a sovereign state.”

There is of course a lot of disputes and we’re reporting across these rather than attempting to take any particular position or stance on the matter. I can only assure you that the BBC is completely impartial and free from influence of any such matter, whether it is based on international territory disputes or agreements between the British government and other nations.

We can of course offer a wide range of information and balance across a reason period that isn’t possible in a single article and where it reflects audience interest, we will continue to provide impartial reports on stories such as this.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tsai picks a veep

An egret looks for lunch.

Taiwan Today describes:
Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen announced Nov. 16 that she has chosen Chen Chien-jen, vice president of Taiwan’s foremost research body Academia Sinica, as her running mate in the 2016 ROC presidential election.

An epidemiologist and minister of health from 2003 to 2005, Chen rose to national fame for heading the campaign against the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in Taiwan. He demonstrated extraordinary communication and coordination skills during the fight against the illness, according to Tsai.

“Chen’s calm leadership and willingness to take up the challenge helped restore confidence to a nation plagued by the disease,” she said during a media conference in Taipei City. “I have every reason to believe that he can lend invaluable assistance to my team with his exceptional experience and expertise.”
This is an excellent pick: a researcher with an international reputation, who adds lustre to her team. I love the way the comment I've bolded there is a subtle dig at the KMT's lackluster approach to the Tainan dengue outbreak. There's much suspicion among the pan-Green side that the Ma Administration let the epidemic get out of hand in order to reflect negatively on Tainan's popular Mayor, Lai Ching-de.

Chen is Catholic....
Quoting Pope Francis, Chen said real power is service and that a good shepherd wears the smell of his flock, adding that the pontiff also encourages Catholics to enter politics so that they can bring change and attend to the needs of the impoverished and the disadvantaged.

“While [former Academia Sinica] president Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) is reluctant to see me embroiled in the whirlpool of political struggle ... he is convinced that Tsai’s campaign policies are the most practical, feasible and favorable to Taiwan’s future,” Chen said.
....and is not part of any party or faction, meaning that Tsai did not trigger the ire of the DPP's notoriously nasty factions in picking him. Moreover, as an apparent technocrat he will appeal to the "swing" voters -- many of them light blues who will vote green to demonstrate to themselves that they are liberal minded if offered a technocrat rather than an old-style independence activist. Chen was Minister of the National Science Council in the Chen Shui-bian Administration from 2006-2008. Early in his career, he identified the cause of the notorious blackfoot disease.

Note that Chen referred to Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh, whose 2004 endorsement was a big plus for Chen Shui-bian. This confers his blessing on Tsai...

So far the DPP is doing everything right. 60 days til the election, 7 months until we have a rational, Taiwan-centered administration.

Meanwhile, the KMT news organ reported on the KMT's Eric Chu.
KMT Presidential candidate Eric Chu had disclosed before his US visit that his running mate was all but decided, and would have both political and social experiences. Eric Chu stated candidly yesterday that gender, provincial background, and geographic distribution were not to be considered in his choice of a running mate.

Moreover, Chu stated that by “experiences” in political and social affairs, he was referring to political appointees, legislators, and county executives or city mayors. However, as he had a finance / economics background, he would search for a running mate “complementary” in specialization. As Chu just returned to Taiwan, he said he would contact his prospective running mate and make a formal announcement after everything was finalized in the coming days.
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Monday, November 16, 2015

Great News on Volunteer work & Visas

You'll have to go look here, but the government has made a major change: foreigners in Taiwan may now engage in volunteer work without it being a problem for the visa. Here is the letter, annotated. As an informed friend notes: "It's not true that foreigners couldn't volunteer before. They could, but it had to be through a foundation or institution with a registered volunteer plan. Now you can clean the streets as you please."
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Why O Why can't we have better commentary?

Nantou city.

FT last week ran a piece on Taiwan's problem with China blocking Taiwan's entry into FTAs and other international arrangements and organizations. It observed (and no, I don't link to FT, not after they grievously harmed both the US and Taiwan with their intervention in the 2012 election):
“It’s a big problem,” said Lin Chu-chia, deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which is responsible for managing relations with Beijing. “We know that international economic co-operation is quickly increasing and Taiwan is a small, open economy. Without TPP and RCEP we are in big trouble.”
Who could have predicted that? These complaints have been going on for some time. I noted last time:
Readers will recall those heady days of 2009 and 2010, when the Ma government was promising that the ECFA trade agreement would enable Taiwan to sign FTAs with other countries. As recently as 2013 the WTO came out with a book in favor of ECFA, saying it would help Taiwan sign FTAs. Of course, the failure of Ech!-Fah! to result in FTAs because Beijing wouldn't permit them was totally foreseeable. D'uh:

It goes without saying that the usual suspects were rah-rahing Taiwan into FTA oblivion. Yes, the Establishment was clueless. AmCham stated in its 2009 Taiwan White Paper that “the conclusion of ECFA would pave the way for Taiwan to participate in regional trade blocs and enter into bilateral FTAs with additional trading partners.” The European Chamber of Commerce said in its 2009-2010 Position Paper: “The sooner Taiwan signs ECFA with China, the quicker political impediments to other countries signing economic agreements with Taiwan will be removed.” If that wasn't fantastic enough, some of this ECFA=FTAs stuff rose to amazing heights of fantasy...
Even though it was totally obvious that Beijing would continue to block Taiwan, the experts were swooning: a trio of experts saying of course it will lead to FTAs (but note Bonnie Glaser's prescient caveat) in 2010. Dong Wang at Jamestown Brief (2012). Kerry Brown (2010).

It was easy for anyone to see that Beijing would fight against Taiwan's FTAs because it wanted to force Taiwan firms to relocate to China to take advantage of China's FTAs. That, and because Beijing is Beijing, it will never do anything nice for Taiwan. Indeed in 2010 Beijing made it clear that FTAs would not be permitted that the stock market in Taiwan actually fell, forcing Beijing to rewrite the remarks and deny that's what it meant.

Fast forwarding ...just last week, Robert Manning at the National Interest gave a well-meant piece that regrettably internalized a range of errors:
The foundation of the elaborate development of economic, transport, communication and social ties that have evolved in the past seven years under Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency has been the so-called 1992 consensus [4] of “One China, Different Interpretations.” Thanks to openings in travel and communication, millions of Taiwanese and mainland Chinese now cross the Strait on a daily basis. Burgeoning cross-Strait trade and investment have boomed. China has become Taiwan’s largest trading partner, representing nearly 25 percent of Taiwan’s total trade. By some estimates, Taiwan has invested far more than the official figure of some $60 billion in the mainland economy, perhaps as much as $200–300 billion. Cross-Strait tourism has flourished, and more than a million Taiwanese are living and working in China, many around the Shanghai area. These cross-Strait realities are now so commonplace that it is easy to forget they were only a hope little more than a decade ago.
The 1992 Consensus is NOT the basis of KMT-CCP relations -- China has never agreed to it. It can't be said enough: the basis of KMT-CCP cooperation is China's desire to annex Taiwan and it will last just as long as China imagines it can use the KMT to achieve that goal and not one minute longer. Just imagine an alternate reality where the KMT actually cared about the wishes of Taiwan and its people:
KMTer: Hi China! We've decided to call ourselves ROC permanently and not come under Beijing governance, as per the 1992 Consensus, since that is what our people want. One China, we'll just interpret it differently, permanently. 'k?
What do you think would happen to Chinese cooperation with the KMT? The 1992 Consensus is a piece of KMT propaganda invented in 2000 aimed at imprisoning the DPP's cross-strait policy. That Beijing cooperates in enforcing it does not mean that Beijing agrees to it. Surely that level of nuance is not too great for The National Interest.

It should also be emphasized that in Chinese policy documents going back decades the economic relations are intended to forward the Chinese goal of annexing Taiwan (and Taiwan defense docs warn of this beginning in the early 1990s). Hence the "elaborate development" of economic relations depends entirely on the Chinese strategy of hollowing out Taiwan's economy and industrial base to destroy the economic basis of its democracy and independent existence. It has nada to do with the "1992 Consensus" (Manning even says that economic relations exist to forward China's annexation of the island further down, apparently without realizing the implications for his claims).

"By some estimates, Taiwan has invested far more than the official figure of some $60 billion in the mainland economy, perhaps as much as $200–300 billion."
Did this happen under Ma Ying-jeou? Nope. This took place under Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui. Here's a TIER paper from 2007 discussing the investment boom which existed long before Ma. Remember these figures are low, covering only reported investments. Quick, can anyone name the year that Taiwan investment in China first peaked at 1.2% of Taiwan's GDP? That was... 1996. It didn't reach that figure again until after Chen Shui-bian liberalized cross-strait investment after 2002. By 2008 Taiwan investment in China was probably around $200 billion (For example, AIT's old 2008-9 backgrounder: "range from $150 billion to over $300 billion". No Ma necessary for any of that to happen. Ma simply plucked the low-hanging fruit, then signed trade agreements apparently intended to bolster China's economic hold on Taiwan.

The main effect of the Ma Administration has been to increase cross-strait exchanges to the detriment of Taiwan -- tourism does not help Taiwan, and the technology and financial outflows it has accelerated positively hurt it. The numbers show it: the golden age was under Chen Shui-bian, when Taiwan ran enormous trade surpluses with China. Our trade surplus with China is falling as imports from China increase, and export growth to China has fallen, as I have documented several times on this blog (most recently). In fact, that trade surplus is returning to 2007 levels this year.

The "millions" who cross the strait were doing so before, they were just going round through the busiest air route in the world at that time, the Hong Kong-Taipei route. Although some of the business media occasionally report on these realities, the international media and the commentariat are still thinking 2015 is like 2007.

 That last comment -- "little more than a hope" -- is thus far removed from reality. In fact the Ma Administration has little hope of achieving the China trade numbers achieved under the Chen Administration.

Another thing I noticed:
But there were some interesting developments at the Singapore meeting that could also serve as precedents. For example, Xi offered to exchange representative offices in each other’s capital.
Reality: the exchange of representative offices has been discussed for years. Here is Standard MaSpeak from April of last year:
Thanks to the joint efforts of both sides, cross-strait relations are at their best state in over six decades. To date, the two sides have completed 10 rounds of talks, signed 21 agreements, and plan to exchange representative offices in the future.
or this AP piece from the previous year, which has Beijing calling for representative offices. This is just noise China always makes whenever it talks to/about Taiwan.

 Of course, no analysis is complete without the causeless tensions that arise through mysterious processes of spontaneous generation:
Some fear a DPP-led Taiwan will become a sore spot for Beijing, and will revert to the tensions that were often the norm before Ma took office.
Let's rewrite that to properly assign agency... "Beijing will revert to the tension-causing that was the norm before Ma took office."
But avoiding a “back to the future” scenario—a return to tension and confrontation—appears to be a major reason why Xi Jinping agreed to his meeting with Ma.
Haha. Xi wants tension and confrontation, because the Chinese have learned that by skillfully deploying the idea of "tension" as a media tool, Beijing can transfer the tensions from the Beijing-Washington relationship to the Washington-Taipei relationship. Beijing has also learned that pundits consistently refuse to assign it agency in causing tension in the Beijing-Taipei relationship, giving it leverage over how international media and international observers describe its relationship with Taiwan. This consistent inability of the media to report reality is one of Beijing's most important sources of soft power.

Even when people are sympathetic, they still present everything in terms of the conventional discourse, which is studded with errors and misunderstandings.

Let's end on a ROFL: "China Expert" David Shambaugh, who hasn't spent serious time in Taiwan in years, in SCMP:
This extraordinary event is to be enthusiastically welcomed by the people of China and Taiwan, as well as the whole world. There is no downside to the meeting, unless one subscribes (as some in Taiwan do) to the delusion and illusion that Taiwan is an independent sovereign state. Much of the post-summit narrative and press coverage has emphasised the tactical expediency and linguistic obfuscation by both sides, but we should recognise the bold initiative for what it was: bold statesmanship. It is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The level of pandering here is high; it looks like Kerry Brown (here) and Hugh White have competition! George Washington University where Shambaugh resides hosts a China government-funded intelligence and propaganda outfit Confucius Institute, part of a network of Confucius Institutes that appear to pay for Shambaugh to travel to give "talks." No doubt it's just a coincidence that Shambaugh gets junkets via the Confucius Institute, and the level of pandering in this piece would make Xinhua blush.

Think I can get a Confucius Institute for my blog?
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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Chu at Brookings

The Oluanpi Lighthouse.

KMT Chairman and Presidential Candidate Eric Chu is on his US tour. He visited Brookings in DC today.....

Friend says: Here is the text of the opening statement Eric Chu gave at Brookings this morning. He first read it to the press outside, and then reiterated it at the closed-door meeting inside.

New Bloom Rocks

Just wanted to send out some good blog love to New Bloom (Twitter feed), which is slowly acquiring a stable of great writers, an excellent counterpoint to Thinking Taiwan and Ketagalan Media. Some of their stuff on the 馬習團 is excellent, but they also comment on things other than Taiwan, such as China (Singles Day) or Thailand (democracy) or arts and culture (Chinese landscape painting) -- links on the left sidebar. On the MaXiMess, they offer...
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MaXi Mess: Unintended Consequences in the Media

A Taiwan ad on a trolley in San Francisco. Used by permission.

Although the real catalyst for change was the Sunflowers, the change in the media reporting on Taiwan was accelerated, expanded, and deepened by the Ma-Xi meeting. For the first time the media is reporting something like the actual situation on Taiwan, a situation obvious in polls since nearly the turn of the century... consider this from WSJ:
The people of Taiwan, writes the China scholar Donald Rodgers, a professor at Austin College, “have no desire to unify with China—ever.” For them, relations with the mainland have reached a turning point. Increasingly, they reject the assumption that the “Taiwan question” is a family squabble among the Chinese. Instead, they see it as a political tug of war between two sovereign equals.
Unfortunately, this stupid anti-democracy crap continues to appear in the media in various guises. Again from the WSJ piece...
Democracy has handcuffed the ability of any Taiwan leader to bargain with Beijing, although the Taiwanese certainly want friendly relations. If Ms. Tsai refuses to embrace “One China,” it is hard to see any future Kuomintang leader doing so either
You can see that the underlying assumption of this kind of thinking is that democracy prevents leaders from selling out their people for the profit of their leaders. Nothing better illustrates the anti-democracy, elite-driven sociopathology that modern news commentary has become. Democracy in Taiwan ensures that the wishes of the people are included in the political process -- indeed, it ensures that there is a process. [UPDATE: the writer emailed me and said that democracy means the process is handcuffed to the popular will, so I've misread. If so, I apologize]

Even Banyan at the Economist, a longtime fan of the KMT, observes:
Mr Xi and—even more so—Mr Ma emphasised their people’s ethnic and cultural links. “Brothers connected by flesh even if our bones are broken”, as Mr Xi put it; “descendants of the Yellow Emperor”, in Mr Ma’s words. But growing numbers of people in Taiwan see themselves as primarily “Taiwanese”, rather than Chinese. Most people in Taiwan come from families that lived on the island for generations before 1949. A small aboriginal population is not Chinese at all. Apart from during the chaos of the civil war China has not even pretended to rule Taiwan since 1895, when it ceded the island to Japan. China says a declaration of independence could provoke it to use force, so few Taiwanese support formal independence. But even fewer want unification.
Variations in this "growing numbers" trope is gradually supplanting variations of the "wary" trope. Actually, the majority pro-independence position was passed in polls over a decade ago. The media has taken a dozen years to get around to reporting what is going on. It will probably be another decade before "the vast majority of Taiwanese" becomes normalized. Change is slooowwww.....

Mark Harrison makes all this clear responding to the way Ma and Xi distorted history:
There is another way of telling this history however. Taiwan was ceded to Japan by the Qing empire in 1895, years before the founding of the Republic. Taiwan modernised and militarised under the Japanese empire, and also resisted colonial authority. In the 1910s and 1920s, Taiwanese intellectuals and activists at the centre of flows of modern ideas from the Chinese and Japanese worlds turned the disparate political aspirations of the Taiwanese into a unique syncretic liberalism. In 1945, Taiwan became part of the Republic of China under the KMT. But in 1947 the Taiwanese rose up in an anti-Chinese Nationalist uprising that was crushed by the KMT at the cost of tens of thousands of Taiwanese lives. The violence of 1947 forged colonial liberalism into Taiwanese nationalism. Then, in 1949, the national government of the Republic of China relocated to Taiwan. The long and violent struggle for Taiwanese democracy was realised in the 1990s, marking a step forward in the hopes of a century of political struggle. This history is mobilised by the DPP. The principles and practices of Taiwanese liberalism were renewed by the Sunflower activists in 2014, who made their debt to the generations of activists from the 1910s to the 1990s explicitly clear.
This liberalism is reflected in the way Taiwanese have incorporated democracy into their way of life. Kevin Hsu at the always excellent Ketagalan Media observes that Taiwan's democracy is actually quite healthy. And the Taipei Times has a good commentary observing that Ma and Xi's "kinship" arguments are nothing compared to democracy and local identity.
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Something to watch out for: racist suit-baiting

This video is disgusting. A worker for ISS, a Danish multinational firm according to From the Night Market, stalks and then insults a foreigner on the metro. This kind of thing is quite uncommon. I do not think this is a mere episode of racist abuse. No, I think the person has chosen the crowded metro on purpose, hoping to bait the foreigner into attacking him in front of witnesses so he can sue him for assault. Courts and police are unlikely to side with the foreigner in this case (skip to the end where the victim explains his problem getting the police to take the case) and the foreigner is likely to have few local connections. ADDED: On Facebook someone noted his emphasis on "Cmon, hit me".

UPDATEISS Facebook page is being wrecked
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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Chu Campaign Ad: Messages within Messages

Solidarity send around this campaign ad from the Chu campaign. Go to his blog and read his remarks, insightful as usual. What struck me about the ad was not only its whiteness, but also its lack of young people, females, and non-Han people. This is an elite, exclusive, male Taiwan Chu is presenting. Another interesting thing I noticed was the lack of people. In Taiwan the metaphor for on-stage social interaction is the night market (marketing researcher Clyde Warden has some interesting work on this), just as in America it is The Neighborhood. Note the total lack of frames crowded with people in them, the total lack of re nao Taiwaneseness.

That said,  I'd like to focus on a particular frame. This one:

One thing I like to do when I watch things is study the background. I was immediately struck by this frame: in the entire ad, it's the only frame with completely legible Chinese characters. Everything else is shot with telefoto lenses to blur out fore- and backgrounds. This cries out for attention, not just because it is unique but its visual location is at the one-third line, ideal for photo composition. Someone obviously wants it noticed

The sign contains the names of two "original juices" -- juice drinks. They are the only two names on the sign, and you can imagine my surprise when I realized I didn't know what the left-hand drink was (dandelion juice, Solidarity informed me as we discussed this) even though I have been to thousands of drink shops and my wife is a cookbook translator. Dandelion juice is not exactly a common drink in Taiwan [WRONG: It is in some places]. You can next imagine my "huh" moment when I realized that the left hand drink contained the character , the middle character of 蔡英文, the name of DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen. Glancing at the right name, I noted the characters 蓮花 part of 石蓮花, a common drink in Taiwan. My spider sense was tingling because 蓮花, sounds a lot like 連華, which means "Unite China".

"O come on," I muttered. "This can't be a coincidence."

Sure enough, even without coffee this morning I realized 公 , an obvious reference to communist (bandit). Voila! United China opposes the Communist bandit (Little) Ing!

Solidarity completed it for me in a private message
蒲公英原汁: the 蒲 could be code for 撲 which means "attack", so attack the Communist bandit Tsai

石蓮花原汁: the 石 could be code for 實 as in "solid/real/actual" united China
"Attack the Communist Bandit Tsai Ing-wen, Realize a United China"

Maybe I should have had my coffee this morning.
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For some, Soudelor still lingers....

An acquaintance sent this around Facebook, reminding that an area in Taiwan's steep mountains can take years to recover from a major typhoon...
I went up to Wulai again to do a further survey of typhoon damage to hiking trails and swimming spots, and found that the situation was a lot worse even than the worst of my fears. My first goal was to check out the Neidong Forest Recreation Area (內洞國家森林遊樂區), and particularly the state of the stream there, while also hoping to have a swim if I could find one of my favourite pools in good enough condition for swimming. But to my tremendous dismay, I found the car park at the entrance sealed off, with notices saying that because of the damage from Typhoon Soudelor, it was closed for restoration work and would remain closed until at least next July. Next July, for goodness sake! My friend and I went in toward the entrance gate to see if we might still be able to get a look at the state of the damage, but a balding little man (a Forestry Bureau official) came running out of the office there blowing repeatedly on a whistle, gesturing at us to go away, and screeching “No! No! Cannot come! Go! Go!” His officiousness annoyed me greatly, but once we’d approached him and calmed him down, and got him to understand that he could converse with us in Chinese rather than jabbering at us in broken English, we were able to engage in a fairly reasonable conversation with him and extract information about the state of damage there and elsewhere. It was all bad news.

He told us that the Fuba Trail (福巴越嶺古道 ) from Fushan (福山) to Lalashan (拉拉山) was in a terrible state and wouldn’t be accessible for a very long time. Likewise, there was no way through to the Ayu Stream (阿玉溪) and Tonghou (桶后), where he said the damage was especially serious. So it means that there’s nowhere beyond Wulai Township that’s open for hiking or river-tracing, and it will be thus for a very long time. So depressing! Even the pleasant little trail on the inside of the Nanshi River (南勢溪), which you can walk along to Neidong after crossing the old Japanese era suspension bridge, has been sealed shut at both ends. So all that’s left to attract any visitors to Wulai is the hot-spring area, where a fairly high proportion of the hotels and businesses seem to be up and running again.

We also checked out the Jiajiuliao Trail (加九寮步道) that leads from Red River Valley (紅河谷) to Bear Hollow (熊空) in Sanxia (三峽). The first part of the trail wasn’t in too bad shape, still passable despite several small landslides and washouts. But further along, the rickety little bridges that used to take hikers somewhat precariously over the trail-cutting streams and gullies had all been completely washed away. My photo shows the first of them, where ropes have now been put in place for people to use to get down into the gully bed and then back up on the other side. This shouldn’t be a problem for any able-bodied hiker, but the next one looked a lot more difficult, and since there would almost certainly be even greater difficulties further along, and we were getting a bit short of time, we decided to turn back from there. All very dismal indeed...
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Oh Yeah, other things are happening in Taiwan...

The 130 in Miaoli.

I was going to do a  huge post gathering up all the commentary, but frankly I am tired of the whole Ma-Xi mess, which ended an era, not began one. But if you are going to read one thing on it, read Solidarity's, because it's the best.

AmCham did a great piece on the nation's debt situation.
Taiwan’s public finances are increasingly strained by debt, aggravating the island’s fiscal woes as it struggles with flagging exports and weak GDP growth. Last year, the central government’s debt reached NT$5.28 trillion (US$161 billion). At 35.85% of GDP, it was just below the statutory ceiling of 40.6%, according to the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS). But when government obligations over the next 30 years are added in, public debt swells to nearly NT$24 trillion (US$740 billion), or about 160% of current GDP, the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER) estimates.
KMT Chairman and Presidential Candidate Eric Chu is off to the US. The national election campaign has basically ground to a halt with Chu gone and Ma refocusing things on China, but the legislative campaigns brought out their posters in the last couple of weeks. Chu is not in evidence on the ones that I have seen in Taichung and Solidarity reports, in Taipei either. The election campaign comes against the background of Taiwan's slumping economy, with exports in their ninth straight month of decline. The Ma legacy isn't going to be a "historic" meeting, but a stagnant economy. Tsai is going to have a huge mess to clean up...

This excellent piece on climate change and aboriginal farmers...
Without a written calendar system, the Atayal determine their agricultural routine by observing the floral life cycles. As the Sakura cherry blossom blooms, for instance, they sow the millet. "However, over the past ten to 20 years, the Sakura blossoms earlier and earlier. We felt confused by the climate patterns," said Yuraw Icyang an Atayal elder.
...echoes what I was told a couple of years ago up at Wuling Farm: the plants are no longer blooming predictably.

Dengue fever: Ralph Jennings in Forbes. Still going on, though the CDC said at the end of October it had been brought under control.
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