Friday, January 29, 2016

DPP News = Good news

The mysterious east.

Solidarity has the details, but the DPP has wisely picked Su Chia-chyuan, the sensible, competent, and solid politician who ran for Veep with Tsai in 2012 as its Speaker of the Legislature. A county chief in Pingtung, Su came up to the center for the 2010 mayoral election in Taichung, barely losing it. He is close to Tsai, who apparently backed him strongly.

This is a victory for the DPP's potential governance. Many of us had been fearing that the job would fall to longtime majority whip Ker Chien-ming, who was buddy to former KMT Speaker Wang Jin-pyng. That would represent politics as usual. This doesn't.

I looked under the Entertainment and Sports category at FocusTaiwan, but couldn't find anything on the KMT Chairmanship election. Fortunately the Taipei Times had another hard-hitting editorial on it:
Under the KMT’s regulations, only party members who have served on the KMT Central Committee or Central Advisory Committee are eligible to seek election.

The Central Committee has 210 members, who are elected at the party’s national congress from a pool of no more than 420 candidates, half of whom must be nominated by the KMT chairperson and the other half by about 1,600 party delegates.

As for the Central Advisory Committee, its members are appointed by the KMT chairperson, but must be approved by the congress delegates.

Candidates are required to pay a hefty, nonrefundable “handling fee” of NT$1.6 million (US$47,417) and collect the signatures of at least 3 percent of total KMT members, of which there are about 320,000.

The handling fee seems to be another deliberate attempt by the party’s leadership to prevent younger or less well-off members from contending for the post.

The party’s 3 percent endorsement threshold also poses a challenge to aspirants who are not among the top echelon or who are not a member of any of the longstanding factions.
No wonder the KMT keeps getting the same people at the top... earlier this week Hau Lung-bin surprised everyone by withdrawing from the race for the Chairmanship, probably after sensing a lack of support. The race is now pretty much between current vice chair Huang Min-hui, a faction politician from Chiayi backed by the party establishment, and Hung Hsiu-chu, the former presidential candidate, who is the hero of the bitter enders and the Old Soldiers. This looks like a replay of the Chairmanship election in 2005, also about reform, when Ma Ying-jeou ran as the ideological darling of the conservatives, and Taiwanese Wang Jin-pyng, supported by party elites. Ma won that one with the strong support of the Old Soldiers.

Whatever happens, the elites will likely continue to head off genuine Taiwan centered reform, struggling to preserve the KMT as is. Whatever happens, there will be another election next year, so the internecine struggle will continue behind the scenes...
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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rainy Thurs Links

A very traditional half-moon shaped pond near Dongshih.

A few good links:
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Ma Raises Tensions: Just ask the State Dept!

East coast

From the Daily Press Briefing of the State Department:

QUESTION: Yeah. The president of Taiwan, the President Ma, is going to travel to Taiping Island. And what’s the U.S. comment on it?

MR TONER: Sure. Hold on one second, please.


MR TONER: You’re talking about – yeah, President Ma Ying-jeou’s plans to travel to Taiping Island, I think. Frankly, we’re disappointed. We view such an action as unhelpful, and it does not contribute to the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea. We urge Taiwan and all claimants to lower tensions and de-escalate tensions rather than taking actions that could possibly raise them.

QUESTION: Follow-up.

QUESTION: But even during the China build the rock, the U.S. don’t even use the wording like “disappointed” and “unhelpful.” Why this time the U.S. pick up these two wording on Taiwan? Is it fair enough for all the claimant? [MT: Love this reporter. May he have a long life with no back pain]

MR TONER: Well, look. I’m not going to – we’ve been very clear that we disagree with China’s actions in terms of manmade structures on the islands. We view them also as unhelpful and that they don’t lead to a peaceful resolution of the disputes over the South China Sea. We want to see a halt among all claimants to further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, militarization of outposts. All of that would help lower tensions and create space for a peaceful resolution.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Will it further U.S.-Taiwan’s relation?

MR TONER: I’m not aware that we had a conversation with them. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Will it affect the U.S. and Taiwan’s relation?

MR TONER: Will affect our --

QUESTION: Yeah. How will it affect --

QUESTION: We have very strong relations with Taiwan. Sometimes we disagree on their actions. We’re committed to a “one China” policy. [MT: recall this does not include Taiwan. Note use of "a" not "the" ] We look forward to the incoming president and building stronger relations with Taiwan. But we disagree on this particular act.


QUESTION: Yeah, Mark, the – you used some of the harsh words on President Ma’s trip to the Taiping Island. But Taiping is the largest natural island in the South China Sea the Republican of China has claimed since 1946 and has occupied since 1956. Why can’t he do that? Taiwan is probably the last party to want to raise tension in the South China Sea. But it has a voice that it wants the international community to hear. When you have – when you consult on the South China Sea, when you discuss the disputes in the South China Sea, Taiwan is never a party to be invited to the table. For instance, Secretary Kerry talked about a diplomatic approach to the disputes in the South China Sea in Beijing today. Would the United States make sure that Taiwan would be invited to the table as a party to the diplomatic approach? Thank you.

MR TONER: So – sure. I can’t speak to whether we would invite Taiwan to take part in any diplomatic conversations, except to say that – and to address your first part of your question, which is why not have its voice be heard by traveling to Taiping Island. Taiwan is – or rather, President Ma Ying-jeou has every right to make his position clear on the South China Sea. We just disagree with this particular action. We view it as – frankly, as raising tensions rather than what we want to see, which is de-escalation. We do want to see dialogue. We welcome all voices in the region weighing in in that dialogue. And it’s only through, as we’ve said many times, a diplomatic mechanism that we can successfully resolve the South China Sea.

Taiwan is a valued partner. We do have a strong dialogue with them and we’re going to continue to listen to their concerns and reflect their concerns in the various fora that address this issue.

QUESTION: Follow-up?

MR TONER: Please, follow up. Let’s finish this and then --

QUESTION: Last one.

MR TONER: Are you on this too?

QUESTION: In the region.

MR TONER: Okay. Cool.

QUESTION: Thanks. I mean, the point is Taiwan has long been excluded from the dialogue among the claimant of the South China Sea, and since the United States discourage President Ma from visiting the island, what would you encourage the Government of Taiwan to do as a claimant of the South China Sea?

MR TONER: Well again, I mean, I’m not going to list the steps that Taiwan or the Taiwanese Government should take and dictate to it in any way, shape, or form. I’m just saying that this particular action, we view as unhelpful.

Obviously it was wise of the DPP not to participate in this mission of Ma's, which he has been nagging about for months now.

I'll be commenting elsewhere tomorrow... look for it.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ketagalan Travel and the Taiwanese Identity

I am in Ketagalan Media today:
The international media, always fifteen years behind events, has discovered the rising Taiwanese identity among the young. Commentators variously attribute it to the rise of democracy, the Chen Shui-bian era reforms to education, student activism, and other causes. But there is one element they miss: travel...
Go to Travel, and the Taiwanese Identity to see the rest....
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

KMT Chairmanship Election Blues

The east coast = beautiful

The pro-KMT China Post discusses the jockeying for Mar 26 election for the Chairmanship of the KMT:
With Chen, the field now includes former Deputy Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), former Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), and Taipei City Councilor Chung Hsiao-ping (鍾小平). Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) has not ruled out a run, stating last week that he felt “duty-bound” if the party needed him.
Chairman Yok Mu-ming of the more-KMT-than-the-KMT New Party said he would run, but he had the annoying impediment of not being a KMT member, and so became ineligible. At present it looks like a 2 person race between reactionary Hung, the presidential candidate whom Eric Chu displaced, and Hau, son of reactionary Hau Pei-tsun. They both have excellent reactionary credentials with the Old Soldiers. Veep Wu Den-yih, who is likely Ma's man, is Taiwanese and will probably not be acceptable to the old soldiers, whom media reports say will constitute possibly half of the voters. He is still exploring a run. Former Taichung Mayor Jason Hu who had expressed interest, has already ducked out.

Because the voter base lives in the same ideological bubble as Hung, I'm hoping she'll have a shot at it. Recall that ideologue Ma was elected in 2005 over Taiwanese Wang Jin-pyng, even though party elites all wanted Wang, because the base wanted fellow mainlander ideologue Ma... E-Taiwan news reported back in 2005:
It is fair to attribute Ma's victory to his personal image and promise for a younger and cleaner leadership and, even more weighty, the overwhelming endorsement for the Hong Kong-born politician from the hard-core mainlander community, especially the massive Huang Fu-hsing party branch for retired soldiers.
Clearly whoever wins that base will win the election. Hau is not a firebrand who gabbles in KMT insider codespeak like the loquacious Hung. Perhaps the stars will align and I'll have another year of blogging Hung's wit and wisdom.

The wise choice, former Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, unofficial head of the Taiwanese KMT, is not even in the race, and has said he does not want to be the minority whip, either. In any case, if Wang is not leading the KMT on the floor, that will reduce the KMT's links to the DPP in the legislature.

Some of the Taiwanese legislators are complaining that they will leave the KMT if the ultra-KMT Hung is elected, but that's probably just noise. Recall that there will be another election in 2017 for a new Chairman. They will simply take the long view and wait 16 months for that election. Party insiders may likely accept Hung because they will view her as temporary and a useful patsy for the coming DPP moves against the KMT, keeping some future presidential candidate clean of that charge.

Gonna be fun, the next two months...
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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Legendary cold

So cold I am wearing gloves inside.

It fell to 1C today in Taichung, the coldest I've ever experienced here in Taichung, so cold I am wearing cheap work gloves inside my house. Up at my university in Linkou at about 200 meters of altitude, it snowed. It snowed also in Yilan and several deaths of old people in northern Taiwan were reported. Because houses are not heated or even insulated, a legacy of our construction-industrial state's premium on speed of (shoddy) construction, it wants to be as cold inside as it is outside. Concrete houses are refrigerators... yet the worse thing is the wind, that brutal north wind that makes the outside uncomfortable even when it is deceptively sunny.

Chen Chen-hsiang's old Geo-Essays on Taiwan, first published in 1982 as a collection of still older essays, observes...
With the arrival of the cool season, the variation of temperature between south and north becomes more apparent. In February, the coldest month for a large part of Taiwan, the mean monthly temperature at Hengchun is 20.5C, and at Taipei, 14.8C, showing a difference of 5.7C. On the average, for every 55 kilometers one moves northward the mean temperature of the coldest month falls by 1C.

Cold weather occurs only in the north, when that part is subject to persistent rain or when it is influenced by a cold wave flowing southward from the mainland. The extreme is -1C. Frost is occasionally seen on the ground in the northern part of the island. In the 50 years 1897-1946 Taipei had 34 frosts, Taichung 31 and Tainan only four. This possibility of frost is one of the reasons why sugar cane, banana and pineapple plantations are limited to the south and centre of the island.(p12)
As humans heat the earth, these weather patterns have changed, and frosts have become rarer. A recent paper on frost in the Fushan forest in northeastern Taiwan at 700 meters notes:
The extreme cold temperature (1.3 °C) recorded in March 2005 was a rare event at Fushan and was very unusual in its timing: this freezing temperature only occurred once in March for the past 24 years from 1991 to 2014 (Lu et al. 2000; Lu, Hwang & Huang 2009). This frost event appeared to have a long-lasting effect on plant reproduction of several species at Fushan, especially to those species with new leaves or flowers during the frost. For example, many Lauraceae species that produced new leaves and flowers in early March were greatly impacted by this event. In consequence, these species did not produce seeds in the following fall. The disastrous loss of flowers and seeds not only reduced recruitment in these plant populations but also initiated trophic cascades (Inouye 2000). For instance, Formosan rock macaques (Macaca cyclopis) that rely heavily on fruits as their main diet suffered from extremely high mortality in 2005 and low birth rates in 2006 at Fushan (Su, Teng & Lai 2010).
Cold is not good if plants and animals are not adapted to it.

ADDED: Snowing in the Taipei Basin in the afternoon today... and snow in Dakeng right above my house.
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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Rainy Day Short Shorts

At Hung Tz-yung's HQ on Saturday night
The all-too-familiar sight of party strongmen vying for positions under the table does not bode well for the self-proclaimed reform-minded KMT. Instead of wasting its time in court politics, the party should realize the existential crisis it is in. April 2015
It's KMT Chairmanship election time, and for the next three months the KMT is going to be preoccupied with its internal conflicts, doing less damage to Taiwan in the Ma-Tsai interregnum than it otherwise might have. KMT chairmanship election fun...
The alliance said a number of KMT members have announced that they would run for party chairmanship, including Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), former KMT vice chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and Taipei City councilors Lee Hsin (李新) and Chung Hsiao-ping (鍾小平).
Former Taichung mayor Jason Hu is also said to be thinking about a run for party Chairman, but has decided not to as of this writing. Of this lot Hu is the only one with real political skills, old time skills in balancing local factions and doling out largesse. He is often identified as a rival of Ma Ying-jeou, who will be a strong player in the Chairmanship election. Hu called for the party to lower the fees for party membership for the young. Hung and Hau are both over 60.

The KMT chairmanship election will be March 26 and the term will end in August of 2017 -- a few months before the 2018 elections for the county chiefs and city mayors. That means the KMT will be facing another bruising internal struggle with an election looming.

The Executive Yuan resigned en masse -- 44 agency heads and the like -- following the election, a decision in the works for months, since my friends in US universities told me cabinet officials in the Ma government have been applying for positions there since the beginning of 2015. Sending out KMT retreads to foreign universities is one of the most important ways the KMT continues to negatively impact the academic discourse on Taiwan. Solidarity observes:
The most important resignation from a governmental standpoint would have to be that of Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) and his entire Cabinet this afternoon (link). This appears to be part of a futile attempt by Ma into goading Tsai to form a joint Cabinet with him the next four months, a diminution of presidential sovereignty that could come in handy at the end of Tsai’s term. Ma and Mao have been talking about the legislative majority being DPP (the new Legislature takes office in just a couple weeks) creating a mandate for a joint Cabinet, another diminution of the president that could also come in handy if the KMT can retake at least the Legislature at some point in the future. Tsai won’t go for any of this and questions the constitutionality of the plan. She wants Ma and his team to sit and wait for May. Complicating things is Mao seeming to insist he wants to leave when Ma is now open to keeping him (link) and media reports Ma’s been unable to contact Mao and Mao’s wife left Ma standing out in the cold when he visited the Mao home recently (link). Anyway, it seems Simon Chang (張善政) (whose Chinese first name literally means “good government”) will be the acting premier until this drama is settled by Ma deciding definitively whose resignations to accept or reject.
Lots of people not really getting why the Tsai camp won't accept the idea of selecting the government from the party with the majority in the legislature. If Tsai accepts that, and the KMT wins back the legislature in the next election, then the KMT gets to appoint the government, making the presidency superfluous. It's one of several faux "reform" ideas the KMT has been floating in the last year to reduce the power of the presidency in the hope of regaining the legislature and eviscerating the DPP president's powers, similar to this one. Fortunately the Tsai camp laughed at it. It's no way to run a government, and does not reflect well on the KMT.

Yesterday a TV commentator pointed out that the KMT has never had a legislator who started out as a legislative assistant -- it's all nepotism. By contrast, the DPP has system for bringing people up. There's also another of the periodic calls for the KMT to drop "Chinese" from its name. Nothing will come of that.

The Great Firewall was opened on Wednesday and thousands of Chinese trolls attacked Tsai Ing-wen's Facebook, What this event really shows is how lucky the world is that the Great Firewall exists. Without that, Wikipedia would quickly become useless, overrun with Chinese trolls flooding it with bad grammar and worse history, and groups interested in China-related issues would become filled with idiots. The Great Firewall is saving the global internet.

It is widely reported, though nothing definitive is out there, that China is going to cut tourists 30-50% in March. Locals will love that; Chinese tourists are widely detested and a net loss for Taiwan in several ways. Recent media reports have tourism profits going to Chinese firms connected to China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), and an old AP report had the profits going to Hong Kong-based firms (here). Moreover, reports from a couple of years ago said that Chinese firms were dilatory or negligent in paying their debts to Taiwan tourism firms, further reducing local benefits. However, because all those tourists purchase NT dollars when they come in, they push the value of the NT up slightly. Thus, a drop in tourists is going to mean a slight weakening of the NT dollar. This may be welcome by exporters, if the central bank permits the NT to continue to weaken.

Even better, Solidarity tweeted that UDN reported 40 hotel projects opening in next few years, and Gwen Wang, who writes for Ketagalan from time to time, observed that they are all owned by Chinese investors from Hong Kong and China. The CCP betraying its own supporters? Who could have predicted that? But it may be that the CCP is floating this as a trial balloon to see what its people say. If Chinese tourists fall, Korean and Japanese tourists who spend much more will return, and no one on the island will suffer. Good riddance. Now we just need to get our factories out of China...

WaPo says China could learn from Taiwan's election. Yes, they are learning that if China democratizes, its empire will lose several regions and the CCP will eventually be swept from power. I think they will learn they have to crack down even more.

O hell yeah: the positive media coverage for Tsai's election is a big plus for Taiwan and the DPP, and signals a shift in the Establishment position on Taiwan, since the international media faithfully reflect Establishment values. Maybe we'll someday be treated like a plucky Eastern European state resisting Russian expansion....
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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Yes, Larry Diamond, the KMT is doomed

Hillside in Taichung.
On behalf of the party headquarters, Huang said he respected the Taiwanese people's decision and attributed the loss to a split KMT, adding that the party will speed up its pace of reform to win back the people's hearts. March 19, 2000
At the conference on Sunday longtime East Asian political economy and democracy scholar Larry Diamond asked whether the KMT was going to collapse. I've answered his question below using many points I've made in disparate posts; the most important point is the last... it's a long post, so you'll have to click on READ MORE...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Post Election Commentary Linkfest Madness

Election night at Hung Tz-yung's HQ in Daya. What a wonderful moment.



KMT Problems
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Nelson Report Compilation

A reporter readies at NPP party HQ in Daya, Taichung on election night

Stored below the READ MORE link... starts with Tsai's speech on election night in English and Chinese

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Well Well

The Yilan plain, now under local administration

Long time waiting for that election. And very happy to see it. The easy part was beating the imploding KMT, which, like a star becoming a black hole, will continue to exert a powerful negative gravity on local space. The hard part is coming up -- decolonizing Taiwan, governing our fractious nation, reforming the government reshaping it into an actual government and not the candy coating over a one-party state, keeping the DPP from falling apart, fending off the coming challenges of the minor parties, which have to differentiate themselves from the DPP or be seen as its errand boys, and preparing the ground for 2020.

I've been deeply concerned about some events in my private life, and so I have not been blogging. But I'll be catching up over the next couple of days.

Ting, I owe you one. Tomorrow for sure.
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Friday, January 15, 2016

Rounding up the Election: OH HELL YES Thank you Scott Harold Sea Change Edition

A lovely Suhua Highway shot. Just because.

MEDIA SEA CHANGE: DPP and Third Force success is scrambling the old media narrative, forcing the international media to confront the necessity of explaining why Taiwanese support the DPP and their desire to be independent, since DPP success is so obvious the media can't ignore it. Just think: if the KMT were doing well, none of this would be out there for the international public to read. But TIME was right out there yesterday with a great quote from Scott Harold at RAND:
According to Scott Harold, a China expert at think tank RAND Corp., a DPP victory could mean “a very substantial change in the tenor, tone and prospects for cross-strait relations.” Washington’s priority, he adds, will be to “convince the Taiwanese not to take steps that are deliberately provocative, or unnecessarily highlight their differences with China.” Of course, “none of this is directly caused by the DPP,” Harold says. “It’s China’s reaction and not the fault of the people of Taiwan for democratically electing whom they choose to govern them.”
When was the last time anyone cited in the international media so forthrightly stated the obvious? I'm lovin' it. I met Scott Harold years ago, and I'd like to say I remember him, but the truth is that my wife has to reintroduce me to my kids whenever I am away for a few days, because I've forgotten their names. Thanks Scott...

The other marker of the tremendous sea change taking place in the international commentariat is the latest piece at Foreign Affairs. For years Foreign Affairs has run uninformed anti-Taiwan, anti-democracy, pro-China pieces about Taiwan (like Chas Glaser's nonsense), really sad stuff. Suddenly they ran this wunderbar piece, which ends...

The real revolution of a DPP victory in Taiwan will be a revolution in identity. There is already a pitched battle in Taiwan over the teaching of history. In the old textbooks, the history of the Chinese people began in the fertile valley of the Yellow River and ended in exile on the rocky island of Taiwan. In the new textbooks, the lush island of Taiwan was buffeted by historical forces beyond its control but ultimately found its way to democracy, prosperity, and independence.

The emergence of a distinctively Taiwanese identity is bitterly resisted by the old guard of the KMT, but the people of Taiwan overwhelmingly identify either as Taiwanese or as a mix of Taiwanese and Chinese. Nearly 90 percent of Taiwanese want equal status for their country in the international community. While these numbers are somewhat suspect—the questions seem designed in such a way as to elicit a positive response—the overall trend is clear. Although most can trace a Chinese heritage, very few people in Taiwan want to be Chinese.

American pundits often discuss whether the United States should accommodate China through the Finlandization of Taiwan or even abandon Taiwan to China. Such analyses are at least 30 years too late. Taiwan will never again be part of China. That train has left the station. Taiwan is a highly successful country of more than 23 million people with its own politics and its own place in the world. Admittedly, that place may fall short of what many Taiwanese people want for their country, but it is nonetheless secure. January’s election won’t change that.
This last week has been like waking up in an alternate universe.... EJINSIGHT observes that Beijing is to blame for Taiwan's political choices by providing no benefits for ordinary Taiwanese, while showing in Hong Kong that One Country, Two Systems is a hollow promise. Blaming Beijing? *swoon*

Over at ChinaFile Anna Beth Keim has been turning out some superb stuff recently. This latest piece is on the young Blues and how they've become Green. A detailed look, don't miss it. And over at a great piece details with numbers how the election is about way more than China.

KMT INTRIGUES: Next Media reported wednesday that President Ma Ying-jeou was interested in becoming Chairman of the KMT when Eric Chu steps down to take responsibility for this election loss. A Ma spokesman came out wed night saying there was no possibility of that occurring [translation: it's not a possibility but a certainty] and Ma was not interested [translation: he really wants it]. Former KMT presidential candidate and reactionary dominatrix Hung Hsiu-chu has already expressed interest in taking over as Chairman after the loss. Interestingly, Jason Hu, the former mayor of Taichung, the smart politician who took over as campaign manager for Eric Chu, said he had no plans for run for the job [translation: he's planning to]. It means that I am not the only one thinking Hu was plotting a return to some position inside the KMT (he'd make an excellent chairman but is often seen as a Ma rival).

I expect Ma at some point to announce that he has been reluctantly persuaded to run for Chairman. No doubt the Danshui grandmother who persuaded Eric Chu to run for President has a sister somewhere...

Note that unlike some other KMT campaigns, the Chu campaign has not suffered a full-blown meltdown... instead it's sending around resentment-filled videos of middle class people in their 50s. The latest...

The meltdown I have in mind is of course the Taipei legislative race between heavy metal rocker and smart politician Freddy Lim and longtime Deep Blue politico Lin Yu-fang. As Solidarity pointed out, this race was actually getting less local coverage than international, until KMT candidate Lin Yu-fang melted down. Frozen Garlic has the call, short and funny, while Solidarity has the longer analysis at CPI. But on the serious side, many of the New Taipei City and Taipei City politicians have been running on "iron votes" so long they don't actually know how to run a campaign -- how to press the flesh, how to speak well of the opposing candidate, how to win votes. For the last two decades their "campaigns" have consisted of voter mobilization activities since all they had to do was ensure that their iron votes came out -- making sure the precinct captains are doing their job to get people to vote, etc. Much "vote-buying" was actually payments to get these iron votes out. Now these losers used to having their way must actually win votes, and they are at sea. Lin's claim that people with long hair like Freddy have psychological problems crossed the boundary of decorum and decency for local people and will have consequences at the ballot box.

Another long-term problem facing the KMT is the loss of the Hakka belt. Solidarity found a great piece from Wealth magazine on the changes there:
“The Little Hakka Sister supports the Hakka!” This slogan of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is an inversion of the slogan from her 2012 campaign, “The Hakka support their Hakka little sister.” A high-spirited Tsai strongly advertised her support for the Hakka during her recently concluded campaign whirlwind tour of Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Miaoli Hakka communities where she rolled out her “Highway 3 romantic road” proposal [national government development of Hakka cultural and tourism industries in the Hakka geographic zone parallel to Highway 3]. As her political tides have turned she’s gone from pleading with Hakkas for support several years ago to promising to look out for them now.

Hakka voters’ rejection of her in the 2012 election was most painful. She lost by close to 200,000 votes in Taoyuan and by about 100,000 votes each in Hsinchu County and Miaoli County. In the smallest constituency of the region, Hsinchu City, she lost by over 40,000. These combined deficits made up about 40% of her total margin of defeat of some 800,000 votes. Moreover, the DPP put up a goose egg in the races for the 10 legislative seats allotted to these areas. With the exception of the “Heavenly Dragon County” of Taipei, the strongly Hakka Taoyuan-Hsinchu-Miaoli area has been the DPP’s toughest nut to crack on the road back to the central government.
The article is a detailed look, and very indicative, don't miss it. Most of us think that Miaoli will roll over completely in the next election cycle, though the legislative races in this one will likely remain Blue. But sooner or later people in Miaoli are going to look at how well run Taoyuan and Tainan and Kaohsiung and Yilan are, and judge accordingly (sorry, but I have low expectations for Lin Jia-long in Taichung, and so has everyone else I've talked to. I'll discuss that another time). The Hakka belt is a Taiwanese belt -- there's long been a fringe of Hakka nationalism that looks on Taiwan as a potential Hakka homeland/nation (see Clyde Jiang's strange The Hakka Odyssey and Their Taiwan Homeland) and a deep pride in Hakka antiquity in Taiwan (Hakka historians locate the first migrations to southern Taiwan in the 14-15th century), meaning that there is a powerful latent connection between the Hakkas and Taiwan, if only the DPP can strike the right note.

Courtney Donovan Smith has been collecting predictions and thoughts on the legislative election, and has 10 Bold Predictions for it. Maybe I should do it Facebook style: Donovan predicts and You Won't Believe What Happens Next!

Some old soldiers have actually switched parties...

IN THE ALTERNATE MEDIA UNIVERSE MA YING-JEOU WAS NEVER PRESIDENT AND EVERYONE HAS A GOATEE: Reuters hasn't emerged from 2008 yet. Consider this one from James Pomfret, which is like a mini-primer on how not to write about Taiwan. He interviews individuals from fringe parties, writes from a China-centric viewpoint, doesn't connect the China issue to bread and butter issues (see for example, this strong J Michael Cole piece at Huffpost) or to KMT behavior, and spews pro-China trope after pro-China trope. The first two paragraphs:
In a gritty suburb of Tainan in southern Taiwan, a city known for its fierce anti-China sentiment, Huang Hsien-ching was stacking election flyers and inspecting campaign trucks rigged up with megaphones before Saturday's islandwide elections.

As a rookie candidate for the fledgling Free Taiwan Party - one of a number of smaller, radical groups advocating independence from China - Huang, a family doctor, says he's put $30,000 of his savings and his career on the line to try to fight back against what he sees as an increasingly assertive China
The fringe candidate is "anti-China" not pro-Taiwan, and because he wants to live in a democratic, independent state, is a "radical". Meanwhile, China, which is has repeatedly threatened to kill Taiwanese and take their land, is just being "assertive" (boys will be boys, ya know). Pomfret even puts the pejorative descriptions in the same sentence further down:
"More radical, anti-China voices like Huang's persist even with the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)..."
Radical anti-China voices "even" in the DPP? O the humanity! Just contrast this with the excellent pieces from Anna Beth Keim above and you can see how completely out of touch it is. Independence is mainstream -- it is the radicals who threaten Taiwanese with war from China if Taiwan is assertive in its democratic ways...

ERROR: Taiwan wants independence period, not independence FROM CHINA since we're not part of China. Under international law and US policy, the status of Taiwan is remains undecided. If only US writers internalized and reflected that fact, how the discourse would change...

Reuters also offered this gem straight out of 2008 on the potential horrors of having a democratic, Washington-aligned government in power in Taipei...
On Wednesday, Obama's deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes called on Taiwan and China to avoid an escalation of tension.

He said the United States did not take sides in the poll and wanted Taiwan-China issues dealt with peacefully, whoever won.

"What we want to see is calm and dialogue," he said adding that Washington would want to be supportive of this as it had been in the past.

"We will think through what are the best ways to support that effort when we have greater clarify about both the election results and how that's playing out," he said.

On Tuesday, the chief of the U.S. Navy, Admiral John Richardson, whose force is on the front line in the U.S. effort to maintain stability in Asia, agreed that a DPP win could bring heightened tension with China.

"We’ll just have to see how it plays out,” Richardson told Reuters. "It’s going to be a factor in that theatre for sure."

While Tsai's party has historically favoured Taiwan's formal independence, and says it believes only Taiwan's people can decide its future, she has trodden carefully recently in discussing how she will engage China.

That was not the case when she visited the United States before Taiwan's 2012 election and the Obama administration was sufficiently alarmed for a senior U.S. official to air doubts about whether she was willing and able to maintain a stable relationship with China.
The US official "aired doubts" (crapped all over Tsai) in the notorious interview with FT. Then later his boss got a job with the Eurasia group working on China/Asia. I'm sure it was not a case of a US government official serving China because he expected to do business with Beijing in the future, and was in fact just a coincidence that he later got such a job.

But word out of Washington has it that the US is unhappy with Ma and willing to work with Tsai. It's really time a US official pointed out that tensions in the Taiwan Strait are caused by China and its desire to annex Taiwan, and stop pretending that there is some equivalence between the two sides. (Pomfret et al churn out another ZOMG TSAI! piece here, longer and slightly better)(WSJ in the same vein *sigh*). We'll just have to give them the Justin Trudeau answer: "It's 2015."

Compare the Reuters piece above with this Emily Rauhala piece on Tsai Ing-wen in WaPo that is a notable improvement over her interview with Tsai earlier this year. Instead of interviewing pro-KMTers and sourcing comments from people living far from Taiwan, she talks to pro-Taiwan people actually living in Taiwan, J Michael Cole and William Stanton, and shows how Tsai and the context in which she operates have changed...
When Tsai visited Washington in the run-up to the 2012 polls, she got burned. An unnamed Obama administration source took concerns about her to the Financial Times, telling the paper there were “distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-Strait relations.”

She has since made a major effort to improve her standing stateside. In a six-city tour last summer, she explained her platform in private meetings, a commentary in the Wall Street Journal and a closely watched foreign policy speech. “People in Washington, D.C., had more time to sit down with me this time,” she said.

It helps that the White House is more ready to listen.

“Back in 2012, most people in Washington were willing to give China the benefit of the doubt,” said J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow with the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute and a senior officer at Tsai’s Thinking Taiwan Foundation.

“Fast-forward four years, you’ve got the South China Sea, a crackdown on civil liberties, publishers going missing, the tone in Washington has changed and that inevitably makes them much more receptive to a Taiwan that wants to position itself as distinct,” he said.
Great work...

At New Bloom, the left-oriented magazine, Brian H examines Tsai's attitudes towards "free trade agreements". These agreements are going to be a disaster for any nation that signs onto them. It's because of the negative effects of these corporate-dominated agreements on the environment, economic growth, national sovereignty, and working people that I expect the Third Force parties to eventually break with the DPP and the DPP itself shift to the right as the KMT fades over time, and politicians from the DPP to leave to join/form leftish parties.

If the DPP legislature returns to some kind of proportional representation system, expect it to feed this process. That will also impact the KMT -- faction politicians will have less incentive to support the KMT if they can gain seats via independent routes, and it will also encourage the formation of faction-parties that are regional or even national, something the KMT has always forbidden in exchange for its support, a phenomenon already stirring to life with the MKT party. But everything depends on what kind of reforms the DPP adopts...

Finally, for hilarity's sake only, a net-friend passed around this conspiratastic piece from a far right Chinese nationalist, thinking it offered words of wisdom. It contains some wonderful stuff, but this gem takes the cake...
Lee could be a tip of the iceberg that could seed the coming freeze. After WWII, faced with returning to an uncertain future in a devastated Japan, around 300,000 Japanese elected to remain in Taiwan. They took on Chinese surnames and merged into the local community.

My friend in Taiwan tells me that this group of ethnic Japanese has multiplied into an estimated group of 2 million descendants. It would be natural to assume that most of the nearly 10% of Taiwan’s population would not share any feeling of fealty to being a Chinese. Harder to know is the actual fraction that has actually become anti China/ pro Japan/ pro Taiwan independence agitators following Lee’s lead.
Somewhere among us, they hide, these Japanese, and they look JUST LIKE TAIWANESE. But all is not lost! Look carefully at your significant other. Do they like Hello Kitty? Do they use chopsticks? Are they extremely polite? YOU MIGHT BE SLEEPING WITH A JAPANESE! Take the appropriate steps, but be sure to use a condom.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Chu Campaign's latest

Eric Chu's latest ad. The color scheme is interesting -- there's almost no bright green, the color associated with Taiwaneseness, and few rich KMT reds. Instead, blue, aqua, and orangish tones predominate. After viewing this I finally noticed that the ONE TAIWAN rainbow contains... no bright greens.

A still from a few seconds in, showing the conventional four major cultural groups -- mainlanders, Hoklo (Minnan), Hakka, and Aborigines. The mainlanders are represented by a suit wearing male white collar worker, while the Minnan are farmers (not factory/shop owners). No prejudices there, of course. Females are used to represent Hakkas and Aborigines. Divisive ethnic appeals based on this four-group model have been a key component of KMT power in Taiwan.

Note that in the next frame the mainlanders speak "Guoyu" (Mandarin). One urgent need of KMT rule was creating a shared "Mainlander" identity out of the diverse ethnic groups which followed the KMT elites in their retreat to Taiwan. None of the mainlanders speaks Zhejiangese, Shanghaiese, or Cantonese. One of the many ironies of KMT rule is that the mainlander identity is an identity that is totally Taiwan in origin. The same thing happens to the Aborigines, who are said to speak Aboriginese, and not Amis, Atayal, Rukai, etc.

Further on in the ad come the classic KMT representations of Taiwan culture: food, religion, festivals, the Economic Miracle, democracy. These are compatible with the KMT construction of Chinese culture as local expressions of the common Chinese identity. Missing as a component of culture: local history, which the KMT has diligently worked to suppress. This political lecture is given in animation, because photography would evoke the landscape and thus, the local feeling of connection to it, obviating the effect of the ad.

In fact, if you look at the KMT ads on the One Campaign site, many of them show the candidate in a white background and/or using animation. The landscape of Taiwan is often completely omitted. The preposterous ad I linked to several posts below, which shows the man in his 50s complaining about how he built Taiwan and is ignored, shows real scenes but only interiors. This is not always true -- this ad has some lovely shots of the land and people -- but for the most part it appears to be.

Of course, all this Taiwan-centeredness is only for election time. After that, the KMT will return to China...

ADDED: A friend on Facebook observed that even the ROC flag at the end has the red changed to the puke pink color. Drew Kerslake noted that "Using the female to diminutize indigenous peoples is a well established meme for colonial powers."
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Round up: It's the Economy, stupid!

Gary Rawnsley (@GDRaber sent around this Taipei Times cartoon from 2000, still applicable today.

WIDELY SEEN ON THE TAIWAN INTERNET: Ko Wen-je biked from Taipei to Kaohsiung this weekend. And all over the Taiwan net, netizens are saying: "if an old man can do that in a day, what's your excuse for not going home to vote this weekend?" The young are pushing each other out to vote. Young people are standing up for Taiwan, according to Channel News Asia. Want to see how the young are thinking? Reflections from a first time voter at The News Lens.

EAST ASIA FORUM STILL NOT ADMITTING ECFA IS A FAILURE WHILE CLAIMING ECONOMY IS DRIVING THE ELECTION: Several years ago the East Asia Forum cheer-led the push for the stupid ECFA agreement with China, which has done little for Taiwan's trade with China while flooding Taiwan with legal and illegal Chinese imports, pushing down our trade surplus with China almost every year since its signing, and of course, putting the kibosh on the KMT's chances in this election. Apparently, EAF can't tell the difference between a good trade agreement and a sell-out, though thankfully the locals can. This week EAF hosts a couple of good pieces on the election, including Mark Harrison's excellent and insightful piece:
The distance between the domestic and international viewpoints on Taiwan is one of its enduring challenges. Should Tsai be elected president, managing these two very different perspectives will be a key task for an incoming Tsai administration. As president, she will need to take heed of the international view of Taiwan and communicate the reasons why the electorate have voted for a more circumspect relationship with Beijing.
Yes, and local youth activists and third force supporters will have to come to terms with this reality as well.

Also at EAF is Economics with Determine the Taiwan Election, which notes:
But Ma’s economic policies have failed over the past eight years and he has broken many campaign promises. Ordinary people in Taiwan have not seen significant economic benefits from improved cross-Strait relations. The so-called ‘cross-Strait peace dividends’ have not spilled over to the general public but have primarily benefited the upper socio-economic class.

The general public has consequently become increasingly sceptical about the value of deeper integration with mainland China. Debates over integration have become dominated by concerns about Taiwan’s national security with little attention given to the potential boost greater economic ties could give Taiwan’s troubled economy. These accumulated concerns were reflected in the Sunflower Movement in March 2014, which saw students occupy Taiwan’s legislative assembly to protest, among other things, the KMT’s handling of a new trade deal with China.

Polls suggest that disappointed economic voters will likely replace the KMT with the opposition DPP. The DPP is considered a driving force of Taiwanese independence. The biggest challenge for a DPP government in the future would therefore be to gain Beijing’s trust — without it, instability associated with poor cross-Strait relations may lead to an economic downturn.
By supporting the failed ECFA, EAF helped slow the pace of the East Asian integration it loves so much. Yes, I am lovin' the irony. The above quote is fine for the most part, but paragraph three has the "biggest challenge" wrong, one problem that China-focused discourse about Taiwan has. Tsai is facing several massive challenges -- reshaping Taiwan's government from the KMT's colonial system to a robust democratic one, reviving the economy whose overdependence on China is a massive problem, upgrading and expanding defense spending, closing old heavily subsidized KMT-connected primary input businesses like steel and PVC production whose profits depend on government money flows and imports of subsidized suppressed labor from abroad, and reshaping the energy system, among others. KMT rule has left Taiwan a mess; which challenge is the biggest depends on the taste of the observer, and all are interrelated, since the KMT is China's hand in Taiwan's domestic politics. Obviously keeping Beijing in a stupor while we unplug our economy from China's is important, though Beijing will never "trust" anyone, it doesn't even trust its own people. You can have trust, or power, but you can't have both...

The economy is a huge concern, and KMT Presidential candidate Eric Chu promises to "turn things around":
Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate and Chairman Eric Chu has pledged to "turn Taiwan around" via three strategies — raising the minimum wage, narrowing the rich-poor gap, and achieving consensus on efforts to strive for Taiwan's international space, if he wins the Jan. 16 election.

Chu promised to raise the minimum wage from the current NT$20,008 (US$606) to NT$30,000 per month within four years, narrow the rich-poor gap by raising taxes on the wealthy, and pump up economic growth through wage hikes and seeking cooperation and a win-win situation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
What's interesting is not Chu addressing the economy, but the fact that he is implicitly criticizing KMT President Ma Ying-jeou. Yet, he is not running against Ma, since he embraces almost all of Ma's major policies. Awkward...

Ben Goren of Letters from Taiwan sent around this image from Hau Long-bin's legislative bid in Keelung.  The English translates only right-hand string of Chinese. The left-hand side echoes the language of the third parties in saying "Positive Power." Recall that the NPP in Chinese is literally "New Era Power". No doubt it's just another coincidence...

Hau is the son of General Hau Pei-tsun, the die-hard reactionary politician who fought a rear-guard action against democracy, and left the KMT to run for the New Party as a Veep candidate in 1996. Thus Hau, a scion of an elite and a princeling himself, is fighting for his life in a four-way tussle. Ketagalan Media's wonderful 10 Legislative Races to Watch in Taiwan's Elections observes:
After flirting with a southern run to rally the troops, former Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin 郝龍斌 (KMT) pushed aside local politicians to seize the party’s nomination in this historically blue city this spring. A victory in this “safe” district would be his springboard to becoming the next KMT chairman. However, the blue camp has split, with the PFP’s Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) and the MKT’s Yang Shih-cheng (楊石城) (a city councilor) running credible campaigns against Hau, and he is in real danger of an embarrassing defeat by young DPP challenger Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應).
I don't think a victory in this election matters much for Hau's bid for the Chairmanship (assuming he wants it). Rather, it's his bloodlines that count. One need only look at Lien Chan, loser twice for the presidency, but he retains his clout in the KMT. Not being a legislator might even give Hau renewed interest in being Chair, to give himself a real position of power somewhere.

But of the north in general, the China Post had an excellent piece on the changes there and the competitive races:
Nowhere will the likely redrawing of Taiwan's political landscape be more apparent than in the nation's capital and the Greater Taipei metropolitan area as a whole (Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung) accounting for 21 of the 73 island's regional legislative seats. This breakdown of the legislative field will flesh out the race's key themes and highlight emblematic contests that encapsulate them.
The north merely awaits the 2018 mayor elections. Then New Taipei City will go as well, and everything will be under control of Taiwan-centered politicians for a few years. At present I expect Ko Wen-je to be re-elected, and in another six years the demographic shift in Taipei will be even further along, and another swath of old KMT voters will have passed away. It will be interesting to see who the KMT runs against Ko next time.

Ben Goren also is interviewing legislative candidates. He has two up now in his Taiwan Democracy Uncut series (here is the second). A little taste of what's going on.

WE ARE SPARED CHINA TOURISTS: Tour groups decline sharply, thankfully. I noticed that when I was on the coast last weekend. The KMT news organ reports:
The number of Mainland tourist groups to Taiwan has declined sharply in the run-up to Taiwan’s January 16 Presidential Election.   Hotels in Taitung, Eastern Taiwan, have reported that occupancy rates have declined by 40% to 50%.  The number of Mainland tourist groups the Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) in Taipei has also declined by 50% compared to last month. 
Taiwan rejoices. Was wonderful without the tourist buses on the east coast...

I photographed this Chinese tourist on the east coast last week.

Kharis Templeman offers 5 data driven points on what to watch for on election night. For some reason drunken exuberant bloggers didn't make the list, though I am sure we'll constitute at least 32% of the electorate on Saturday night. Templeman argues that the KMT isn't finished; it's just a downturn...
All this is a long way of saying our default assumption should be that the 2016 election will be a low-water mark for the KMT. Everything that could go wrong, has. As a result, a lot of pan-blue supporters are going to abandon it this election (emphasis on this election): in the presidential race, Soong is going to get a lot of protest votes if the polls are at all accurate, and the PFP, MKT, and NP will probably peel away a significant chunk of its LY support and throw some seats to the DPP. The KMT is facing renegade pan-blue candidates in many districts it should win easily, and it may well suffer embarrassing defeats in some of them (such as Hau Lung-bin in Keelung). But it's misleading to conflate the KMT's fate in this election with a collapse in pan-blue partisanship, which remains significant.

The latent electoral support for the combined pan-blue camp is both the hardest to measure and the most important for the future direction of Taiwan's party system. But two indicators should give us at least a rough idea of this level: the combined pan-blue (Chu + Soong) vote in the presidential race, and the combined pan-blue vote (KMT+PFP+pan-blue renegades) in the district races.

My expectation: both the combined pan-blue presidential and LY district vote shares will be well above 40%. (For reference, in 2008, the DPP's presidential candidate got less than 42% of the popular vote, and the party's district candidates carried only 38%.) If the pan-blue vote falls much below those benchmarks, then the case that this election represents the start of permanent KMT decline becomes considerably stronger.
Templeman approaches the problem as if the KMT were an actual political party and not the political organization of a colonial ruling class. Once you adopt the latter point of view, you can see the problems that the KMT isn't going to overcome. I like Kharis and don't want to argue with him, and since both myself and Donovan have written on this elsewhere, I won't repeat. Suffice to say that the DPP in 2008 was a political party in a downturn, while in 2016 the KMT is a colonial regime in crisis.

One thing Donovan Smith likes to emphasize in his writing and in private alcohol-fueled conversation with me is that many Blue voters, especially outside of Taipei, can't bring themselves to vote DPP, but are looking for non-KMT alternatives to vote for. Hence, pan-Blue partisanship is more loosely connected to the KMT than many observers think. Local politicians are aware of this, and positioning themselves accordingly. Over time it is likely that more faction politicians will take the local independent route, especially if the DPP legislature creates some sort of proportional representation system.

Surveying on the east coast

In 1991 Chen Chi-li, one of the gangsters connected to the murder of writer Henry Liu in 1984, was given clemency by the KMT government, released from jail, and deported. He made his way, like many KMT mobsters over time, to Cambodia, where ran a construction company. The KMT has old connections in the area, with the Lost Army in the Golden Triangle, and KMT-supporting Chinese gangsters like the United Bamboo and the Four Seas gang have extensive networks trafficking weapons, drugs, laborers, and sex slaves through their overseas gang connections out of Cambodia to Taiwan, among many destinations. The women were delivered to brothels in Taiwan, which often had connections to A Certain Political Party. The trade in Southeast Asian women for brides overlapped this trade, and of course the brokers supported A Certain Political Party. the Party of Han Chauvinism which looks down on brown people from Southeast Asia.

In the Taiwan election, a Cambodian immigrant woman is on the KMT party list and will likely be given a legislative seat. Japan Times notes:
“I had never thought about going into politics. In Cambodia, democracy was not a familiar concept,” Lin said in an interview. “It’s unbelievable how life turns out.”

Now 38 and a Taiwanese citizen, she was set up by her mother with a Taiwanese husband via a profit-making brokerage at the age of 20.

She moved from the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh to become one of Taiwan’s tens of thousands of immigrant spouses, mainly from Southeast Asia and China.

Their vulnerability has been highlighted by abuse cases in recent years, and Lin wants to draw on her own experiences to improve that.
She got a masters degree and has worked as an activist on the issue of immigrant wives.

This is an area where the DPP has its work cut out for it.

IN  TEARS: I seldom get worked up over the death of a celebrity, but David Bowie was a giant whom I knew my whole life. He'll be... missed.

EVENTS: Sunday Ketagalan Media is hosting a webcast from their forum in Taipei. You can watch this on Saturday in the US.
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