Tuesday, May 31, 2016

If China "slashes tourists" any further, we'll be overrun

An abandoned housing project outside Taichung

So I've blown away the claim that the Kenya Deportations were aimed at Tsai Ing-wen, constructed an alternative and better fitting geopolitical scenario for the PRC's resumption of ties with Gambia, and already debunked the claim that tourists from China are falling. We will continue to hear this amusing ZOMG TSAI! narrative in the media, though...

Speaking of tourists, the April numbers are out. Let's look at the massive cuts in tourism that China imposed on Taiwan as "punishment" for Tsai Ing-wen...
MARCH: China: 363,878 up 30.09% year on year
APRIL: China: 375,567 up 4.67% year on year
Yeah, that's right. Tourism from China rose slightly in April. Can't wait to see the May numbers.

The dip took place in the Hong Kong/Macao numbers, for reasons I do not know:
APRIL: 110,716
MARCH: 164,894
FEB: 114,431
JAN: 93,448
Remember that quote from the Reuters piece I looked at:
"The National Tourism Administration told us in February and March to cut the number of tourists we send to Taiwan," an agent in the coastal city of Xiamen, which lies across the strait from Taiwan, told Reuters.
Obviously, being told to do something, and actually doing it, are two different things.
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Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday Links

My first mango ice of the year, hopefully many to follow.
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The Gambia, or I am so naive, I still believe in a reality outside journalism

Local trick for using the Yoyo card/Easycard: keep it inside the cellphone case, and just swipe the phone....

The strange trifecta of Gambia, Kenya, and tourism in "punishing" Tsai has now become a Journalistic Fact: a claim widely shared among journalists, that is largely false. Indeed, one of the fascinating things about it is that it is a fact scrupulously honored by pro-Taiwan and pro-China writers. I wrote in The Diplomat a while ago:
The wide but erroneous evaluation of the affair of the Kenyan phone scammers as a move by Beijing to pressure Tsai Ing-wen simply shows how the frameworks the media uses to understand the China-Taiwan relationship conceal and distort the complexity of that relationship. They are easily hijacked by partisan commentators: in this case, pro-Taiwan commentators portraying it as a move against Tsai in order to heighten the sense of threat to the island nation, while their opponents used it to show how electing Tsai was a bad idea, since it angered China.
(Click on read more, it's a long one!)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

...and now for a lighter moment from the Economist: Taipei less safe than -- Wait? Wut?

....from the Economist Safe Cities Index White Paper 2015. That's right, Taipei is less safe that Sydney, Amsterdam, New York, and San Francisco. Talk about overthinking...
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Asian Silicon Valley = DPP Collision with Student Movement

Lovely but hot weather this weekend. Here a friend poses by the wreck of an old suspension bridge near Dongshih.

Well well. Last year, shortly after getting into office, the new Taoyuan mayor saw the construction-industrial state light, and did a 180 on the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project (which he had opposed as a candidate, causing the government to begin expropriating the land before the review was complete), a ridiculous construction-industrial state giveaway. I wrote at the time:
The Aerotropolis is the largest land expropriation in the democratic era. Cheng's turnaround, if it lasts, is likely due to central government pressure. The aerotropolis is a freeport that is a giveaway to land speculators and land developers, and with its suspension of many labor laws, is likely intended as a portal to let Chinese labor into Taiwan.

Stopping that aerotropolis is a key to the DPP's remaining a serious party in Taiwan. It can't just pretend to be the party of social justice and economic development for ordinary people. It actually has to be one. If Cheng flips on this, it will cost the DPP Taoyuan in 2018 and hurt its chances in the Presidential election.
J Michael Cole's wonderful rant in 2013 is well worth revisiting (also my post on his). As originally envisioned (the draft bill is here) the project was going to let Chinese infrastructure firms bid on it, which would have been a disaster, one of the many pro-China decisions that cost the KMT in 2014 and 2016. The project would also have been governed by the free trade zone rules proposed by the KMT, which would turn the zone administrators into dictators administering miniature Uzbekistans. Indeed, there was some speculation that casino gambling would be permitted within the Aerotropolis as a free trade zone unrestricted by the rules applied to the rest of Taiwan.

The DPP has apparently learned little, for the new government has chosen the Aerotropolis as the site for its Asian Silicon Valley...
Premier Lin Chuan (林全) yesterday vowed to reduce land expropriation and enhance communication with the public as the government pushes forward with the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project, which is to be a key component of a larger “Asian Silicon Valley” project that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) proposed during her campaign [MT: 2015 article].


“Politically speaking, [the government] should reduce unnecessary land expropriation to avoid delays in the project’s progress due to protests by local residents,” Lin said in response to media queries for comments on the stalled project.

“The government should also do its best to communicate with the public. I believe that [Taoyuan Mayor] Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) would help negotiate and he should not only follow the rules and regulations, but also pay attention to things that have been overlooked.”


“Taipei and Hsinchu are the right and left hands of Taoyuan, with Taipei being an international metropolis and Hsinchu being an important research and development hub for the IT industry,” Lin said. “We have chosen Taoyuan as the base for the Asian Silicon Valley project to revive the economy in northern Taiwan.”
The Asian Silicon Valley is the island's industrial site for its internet-of-things operations, which everyone expects will be the Next Big Thing. China Post compares it to Ma's China-centric economic plans here, but in many ways it is just another in a long long long line of projects that are supposed to internationalize Taiwan's economy by linking airports and high-tech manufacturing and getting outsider firms to relocate here. Remember the chimerical APROC plan?

"To revive the economy in northern Taiwan". ROFL. The economy in northern Taiwan is just fine, thanks. It's the center and south that desperately need investment; occupancy rates in the southern science parks are below average. The real purpose of such announcements is to get local construction-industrial state patronage networks to re-orient on the DPP because it is now doling out construction dollars, expropriating land and handing it to developers, and keeping housing prices in Taoyuan up. Whatever happened to the DPP's commitment to spreading development from the north to other regions?

Note the presence of the strange phrase "unnecessary land expropriation". How can such a thing exist? Was land not in the project being expropriated? Isn't all expropriation "necessary expropriation"? Or what? "Unnecessary land expropriation" = {null}. Couple that with the "better communication" promise and you have full-blown Ma Ying-jeou Administration jive talkin' at its finest. This is the technocratic administration "communicating" and everyone should shut up and listen. Because the government's plans are never wrong, the problem can only be insufficient communication.

Now, recall that the land expropriations triggered protests before (student roughed up)

Recall that the student movement has promised to hold the DPP to account.

This seems, at some point, tailor-made for a collision between the students/Sunflowers and the DPP administration.
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Friday, May 27, 2016

Taroko people vs Asia Cement: the long twilight struggle

The amazing beauty of Taroko.

FocusTaiwan on the massive Asia Cement plant disaster outside Taroko Gorge...
Economics officials said Thursday that the Asia Cement Co.'s mining project inside the Taroko National Park can be terminated next year as new Environment Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) hopes, but the company's operations in the 417 hectares outside the park cannot be suspended without new legislation banning such activities.


His new "vision" immediately alarmed the Hualien County government, which said the livelihoods of more than 1,000 families would be affected if the minister's new policy was carried through.

Kuomintang Legislator Hsu Chen-wei (徐榛蔚), wife of Hualien County Magistrate Fu Kun-chi, said Lee should have listened to local people and should give them some time to adapt before announcing his new policy.
If you're thinking that the cement company is in bed with the pan-Blue local government...

History from the piece above....
The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said Asia Cement obtained a license to develop a total of 442.7 hectares in Hualien in 1973. Some 25 hectares of the licensed mining district were zoned in the Taroko National Park when the park was established in 1986, but it did not affect Asia Cement's right to keep developing the land.

In 1994, Asia Cement requested government permission to continue using the mining district inside the park, a request that was granted the next year.
The News Lens also picked up on this story, but also left out an important component of the issue. When the KMT legislator mentioned "local people" she meant the jobs dependent on the plant, not the livelihoods it wiped out. Those "local people"... who could they be? They've gone completely missing from the FocusTaiwan, News Lens, and Taipei Times report, which present the case in conventional environment vs big business terms. Let's restore their existence...
In 1974, the Siou-lin District administrative office, the Hua-lien County (花蓮縣) government, and the Asia Cement Company held several meetings for residents regarding Asia Cement's desire to develop a production site in Siou-lin District. However, as the Council’s judgment clearly points out, “The meeting only highlighted the benefits of the establishment of an Asia Cement factory during these “informational meetings,” never clearly stating to attendees that they would need to desist all cultivation and use of Truku Reserved Lands.” Furthermore, the Truku people's full understanding of the meetings' proceedings cannot be taken for granted when these meetings were conducted solely within the context of the laws and language of the Republic of China, which were alien and unfamiliar to the Truku people.

Subsequently, the Siou-lin District administrative office proceeded to transfer the lease for large sections of Reserved Lands to the Asia Cement Company, soon afterward revoking the cultivation rights registrations for 146 hectares of land. Fortunately, because of errors in documentation, a few of these revocations were not completed and a few were able to retain their cultivation rights. Two of these comparatively lucky rights holders eventually became litigants in the aforementioned case. After the lease agreement between the Siou-lin District administrative office and Asia Cement was formed, the original Truku rights-holders were forced off their land. Many of the original cultivation rights’ registrants have since passed away, and the remaining few who are parties to this case are now quite elderly.

During the course of protracted litigation, the Siou-lin District administrative office and the Asia Cement Company have repeatedly produced a written document which they claim is an agreement to abandon cultivation rights to which the seals and signatures of the Truku cultivation rights-holders have been affixed as proof of the aboriginal people's voluntarily renouncing cultivation rights and receipt of compensatory payment. However, the two aboriginal plaintiffs in this case do not recall signing any such document, and the handwriting used on all the signatures appending the agreement is curiously identical.
Read the whole thing, it's a common story of what really goes on in these cases when indigenes face large government-backed resource extraction companies. The historical background is given in this piece here by the awesome Scott Simon:
In 1968, the KMT government began legal registration of Aboriginal land in Taiwan as Aboriginal Reserve Land. Although indigenous people had lived on Taiwan for 6,000 years before the first Chinese settlers arrived, Aboriginal families received only cultivation rights under the new legal system. Usage rights on the land, moreover, were granted only on the condition that crops be planted for 10 years. The stipulation effectively forced assimilation on Aboriginal people, as it made them abandon their traditional mix of hunting, gathering, and slash-and-burn agriculture. It required that they instead adopt Chinese customs of settled agriculture, presumably for the growth of cash crops. The law stipulated that land could not be sold or rented to Chinese people--it either had to be cultivated or ceded to the government as state property.

Although Aboriginal Reserve Land was supposedly reserved for indigenous people, legal loopholes actually gave the Taiwanese government as well as Han Chinese individuals and corporations access to indigenous land. The government often "rented" indigenous land to outside commercial interests if indigenous people did not cultivate the land and sign "rental" agreements for the property in question. And indigenous people themselves often rented land to each other or outside Han Chinese. Han Chinese entrepreneurs were thus able to acquire space for villas, hotels, and factories on reserve land. The legacy of these problems remains. Indigenous people have no full legal ownership rights over the land, which means that they have no right to take out loans against it, a restriction that has prevented them from developing their own lands.

The policy of Aboriginal Reserve Land thus gave corporations adequate legal loopholes through which to seize Aboriginal land during a window of opportunity from 1968 to 1978. In 1973, the Taiwanese conglomerate Asia Cement applied to rent land from the Hsiulin Township Office and held its first consultative meeting with Taroko people. Township officials encouraged Taroko people to rent the land, saying it would give them employment opportunities, prevent out-migration of young people, and bring development to the community. The original landowners received compensation for displaced crops--a mere fraction of the land’s real estate value--and the promise that the land would be returned to them after 20 years.
In sum, Asia Cement did not have to compensate the aboriginal people for the value of the land (since the government "owned" it), just for the (far smaller sum of the) value of the crops it could have grown. Theft, backed by martial law, so protest was impossible. The article notes that few jobs were given to local aborigines out of the cornucopia promised, all grotty low paying work, which eventually was given to migrant workers, displacing even those few aborigines who got work at the cement company. It also tells the story of how the case was revived, with depressingly predictable responses....
One lucky day for the Taroko people, township officials left a hearing in anger, leaving behind a stack of documents. As Igung Shiban looked through them, she found that they were filled with irregularities. Some were missing dates or official seals. Most suspicious of all, the signatures of many former owners who had supposedly given up their property rights were all written in the same handwriting. In nearly a year of research, she pulled the agreements, one by one, from the township office files and showed them to the signatories to confirm whether or not they had actually signed them. It turned out that most of the signatures on the agreements to relinquish land rights were forgeries.

Asia Cement resorted to intimidation to stop her research--Shiban and her husband were physically attacked twice, and her husband was burned on the leg—but they didn’t give up. Fortunately, local environmental activists and National Legislator Bayan Dalur, an indigenous representative given a seat through the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), helped them pursue the case by providing access to government documents.
This old report, preserved on the useful Taiwan First Nations website, describes:
"There will definitely be bloodshed next time. We'll kill you one by one," promised Chou Wei-kuen, a company spokesman, after the group stormed the gates.
Activist Igung Shiban started an organization and took its case to the United Aborigines Working Program of the UN (here) where it didn't make much progress because you-know-who across the Strait suppressed it because it was Taiwanese. Packed with useful, fascinating details, Igung Shiban wrote in her 1997 report to the UN...
This dilemma of the Taroko people is the dilemma of all the indigenous people of Taiwan: Shimen Dam in Taoyuan County drowned the villages of the Taiyal. The military air base built into the mountain near Hwalien airport displaced the villages there. The Machia Dam in Taitung County forced the Lukai people out of their homes. The forced expropriation of indigenous reserved land by the government's Retired Servicemen's Association, Forestry Department, and National Parks Service, have each contributed their part to the loss the indigenous land and extinction of indigenous culture. If the campaign for return of land from Asia Cement were to succeed, it would be a crucial turning point. So we must persist in this campaign. This is not just our struggle; it is part of the hope for indigenous people throughout the world.
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Beijing official torches self in attempt to scorch Tsai

Bit rainy the other day in Miaoli, but Kerslake produced a fabulous write up with lovely pics of our ride. 

Solidarity translated the entire post of the Beijing official's remarks on Tsai, and observed....
Translation of the Sohu.com repost of a May 24(?) editorial (link) in the International Herald Leader, a Xinhua subsidiary, which has since been scrubbed from the Internet (link). See the Washington Post and New York Times reports on the vociferous reaction inside and outside China to this piece. As CDT noted, the commentary also appeared in some places under the headline “Tsai Ing-wen’s Extremist Political Style May Be Due to Singlehood.” The high position of the author makes one wonder the extent to which this article reflects the views of PRC leadership. Of interest is not only the sexism but also the repetition of numerous deep blue tropes about the green camp, like Tsai being the mastermind of all Taiwanese social movements. A favorite claim of mine was that Tsai manipulates public opinion by interacting with people at events.
In a tweet Solidarity also trenchantly observed that not only is the sexism of the piece shown in locating her behavior in her singlehood, but also, in ascribing her beliefs to the males around her. In Chinese nationalist theology among both KMTers and Beijingers, the independence movement was created by the Japanese to detach Taiwan from China and thus, Tsai's political behavior must have Japanese roots. Similar nonsense was emoted about Lee Teng-hui, who is alleged in KMT nutcase circles to be half-Japanese.

In this kind of thinking, in all cases social movements must have "black hands" -- the mastermind behind the scenes, Japan and later, the US, being the "black hand" behind Taiwan independence. Nothing ever happens organically or spontaneously in this world of conspiracies.

Beijing is being advised on Taiwan affairs by KMT people and Deep Blue businessmen in China. This editorial in the China Times gives a good example of the kind of nonsense it must constantly hear:
The KMT must insist that Taiwan is a pluralistic society with Chinese culture at its core, and not, as the DPP insists, a pluralistic society without any core culture. [MT: in Chinese/KMT theology there is no such thing as Taiwanese culture]. The Constitution of the Republic of China is a constitution that does not permit separatism. The new government has no right to propose Taiwan independence. It has a duty to ensure that the nation remains whole. Cross-Strait relations are not foreign relations. They are relations between two governments within China that are in a state of civil war. The 1992 Consensus is the political foundation for cross-Strait exchanges of administrative and business nature. The KMT must demand to oversee the new government that it continue to uphold these principles. It must tell the people that Taiwan cannot participate in regional economic organizations unless it does so in concert with the Mainland. The KMT must loudly proclaim that legally the civil war is not over. [MT: I hope so! That will marginalize it even further] It must tell the DPP that the more successful its campaign of de-Sinicization, the more people on the two sides are divided in identity, then the more elusive cross-Strait peace will become, and the greater the possibility of military conflict.[MT: De-sinicization is code language for the removal of markers of KMT colonialism in Taiwan.]

During the Mainland's 30 years of reform and opening-up, Taiwan made significant contributions to its economic development. Taiwan also preserved traditional Chinese culture. [MT: "...unlike the Communists who stamped it out." This propaganda claim used to be reproduced even by academics, but it has disappeared outside KMT circles]. This earned it the respect of the vast majority of people on the Mainland. While the DPP is eager to sever all cultural and economic links with the Mainland,[MT: Of course it doesn't want to sever "all" cultural and economic links with China] the KMT must continue to bear the heavy burden. Pessimistically speaking, it must not allow the Mainland to lose all room of imagination for reunification. Optimistically speaking, it must let the Mainland feel that Taiwan can play an important role in cooperation and promotion on road to the revitalization of the Chinese nation. Only then can Taiwan win hearts and minds on the Mainland. Only then, can it then win their respect.
As many of us have noted, and Solidarity again observed above, the preponderance of evidence suggests that Beijing does not understand Taiwan and does not know what to do. It appears to have talked itself into a corner. Even Banyan at the Economist wrote this week...
China’s approach to Ms Tsai suggests it has few new ideas, either, on how to handle Taiwan. She was elected in January despite China’s warnings. 
....saying what several of us have been saying aloud for months: Beijing is floundering. It doesn't know what to do, and this astonishing outburst from a high ranking official suggests that Beijing is so primitive in its thinking that even the gender of the new President has flummoxed them.

It's always good to see the international media catching up to my positions...

MEDIA NOTES: The Emily Rauhala piece at WaPo Solidarity links to above was widely praised. Don't miss it.

I couple of weeks ago I took the Economist to task for misreporting the failure of Ma's China policies. I then published a piece at the Diplomat that put up the numbers and linked to a cluster of nonsensical claims about Ma's China policies. I ended that latter piece:
With a new pro-Taiwan president and party in power in Taipei, Taiwan’s China policies are likely to change. Given what has gone before, readers may rest assured that this will trigger a new round of complaints in the international media: the new government is destroying the massive China trade successes of the Ma administration.
What did Banyan write about trade in that piece above?
Similarly, in Taiwan, a massive expansion of trade and tourism links with China under Ms Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT), caused huge protests in 2014.
...with no numbers, of course, documenting that "massive" expansion. Banyan dare not report the numbers or the critiques of them, because then the slant of her writing would become clear.

But there was a really great moment in that piece:
But in her speech Ms Tsai bent over backwards to keep to her promise not to upset the status quo. She even acknowledged the “historical fact” of the meeting in 1992 at which the alleged consensus was reached. But she did not repeat the “one China” fiction. Struggling to appease both her pro-independence supporters and Taiwan’s domineering neighbour, she gave neither quite what they wanted.
"'One China' fiction". That's beautiful. Thanks, Banyan.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Diplomat: Ma Ying-jeou's Legendary (Trade) Millions

In the Diplomat today:
When The Economist recently reported that Taiwan’s trade with China “ballooned” during the administration of outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou of the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT), it was repeating what has become a commonplace among writers on the cross-strait relationship. We are told that trade “boomed” under Ma (Washington PostInstitutional Investor), or “particularly since Ma” (East Asia ForumInternational Business Times), or that since Ma cross-strait trade has “climbed more than 50 percent” (New York Times) and even “soared” (Economist). Indeed it is possible to write that China is “showering” Taiwan with economic benefits (East Asian Forum), that booming cross-strait trade was “only a hope little more than a decade ago” (National Interest), and that Ma’s policies have resulted in “substantial material gain” (National Interest).
There is just one problem with these thoroughly conventional claims: they are thoroughly wrong...
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tsai Speaks on Friday

April export orders: US is leader, but the making will happen in China. Over half of orders have been made there for several years now. 

Friday was a deeply emotional day for me. President-elect Tsai became President Tsai, a tremendously satisfying event. I managed to watch a bit of the ceremony. Then came home in the afternoon and found out our beloved Golden Retriever's kidneys had failed and he had to be euthanized. That was wretched. So I didn't post on Saturday. Kinda took the wind out of my blogging sails.

There is actually not that much to say, everyone already said it....

I was holding off posting this because I was waiting for my man Michal Thim's excellent piece to come out in SCMP. He noted, like everyone except a few people who weren't paying attention, that Tsai did not affirm or acknowledge the faux "1992 Consensus". Instead...
Instead, she referred to cross-strait arrangements using ambiguous wording. Primarily, she noted that in 1992, “the two institutions representing each side across the strait ... arrived at various joint acknowledgements and understandings”. “Since 1992, over 20 years of interactions and negotiations across the strait have enabled and accumulated outcomes which both sides must collectively cherish and sustain; and it is based on such existing realities and political foundations that the stable and peaceful development of the cross-strait relationship must be continuously promoted,” she said.

This may not be exactly what Beijing wants to hear but ambiguity in diplomatic speech is often of greater value than clarity. Tsai did not refer to “one China”, yet she also did not explicitly declare that cross-strait ties are relations between two sovereign states.
Tsai left Beijing "considerable room".  Thim noted what many of us have long said: because Chinese links in Taiwan are links to the KMT and its patronage networks and allies...
Whatever punishment Beijing may come up with to express its displeasure with the new administration, the first to suffer will be the KMT-linked local power holders and businesses.
Thim ends excellently:
Cross-strait relations could very well become full of conflict but, this time, Taiwan would not be seen as the troublemaker; it would be just another neighbour with strained relations. It does not have to be that way, though. Tsai’s speech offers enough space to step back and embrace the ambiguity. The ball is in Beijing’s court.
Many observers noted that Beijing's response that Tsai had turned in an "incomplete answer sheet" on the 1992 Consensus actually could be taken to mean that she at least had given some of the answers. The public, which knows that acceptance of the 1992 Consensus means acceptance that Taiwan is part of China, supports her position overwhelmingly, according to a poll from the Deep Blue TVBS.

Beijing gives every appearance of not having a Taiwan policy. Its first move was to threaten to "suspend talks".
Meanwhile, Beijing’s semi-official intermediary for discussing cross-strait relations, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), said that if Tsai wanted negotiations with its Taiwanese counterpart, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) to continue, Taiwanese authorities needed to endorse the SEF to declare adherence to the 1992 consensus.
The international media spotted that for the clickbait it was, and ran with it. But of course, the talks it threatens to suspend are precisely those talks that have no material effect on things -- the least important of the many discourses Beijing has with Taiwan.

Beijing could say that Chen Shui-bian was "provocative" and break off talks. In those days Taiwanese built factories in China and shipped stuff out. The vast range of engagement Beijing now has with Taiwan didn't exist. Now it talks to Taipei about everything from crime to high finance (wait, those are the same thing, let me find another one)... from crime to education to tourism, you name it. The KMT and CCP have many links, and politicians from the DPP travel to China and engage with officials there, as well as quietly run businesses, so the story goes (shhhhh). Businessmen, artists, and tourists shuttle back and forth. Talks? They make great media copy....

Beijing does the same thing with the US -- it threatens to break off mil-mil relations, since those have zero cost to Beijing and the US for some comic, bizarre reason thinks they are really, really important. The US response to China's threats to cut off military relations reminds me of the alien from Men in Black at that moment when the alien is about to escape and suddenly Will Smith threatens a cockroach: "Is that your uncle?"

Meanwhile the really important costly punishments involving trade or finance are never meted out. Bejing does not want to pay those costs.

In case you wondering what Tsai actually said compared to Ma, Ben Goren at Letters from Taiwan did a statistical analysis. Very informative.

New Bloom had a fantastic run-down on the ceremony and the presentation of history, including the patronizing, offensive remarks of the emcee. From what I could see, the DPP apparently attempted to subsume the entire history of resistance to KMT rule into a narrative that located the tangwai politicians who became the DPP at the center, which rankled various groups. It has learned little, still presenting ethnic relations in conventional, Han chauvinist terms. In the long run this will cost it, unless it grows up quickly.

Richard Bush at Brookings argues that it could have been worse, and finishes...
The not-so-good news is that the situation between the two sides remains delicate. China has other actions it can take to convey its dissatisfaction. Beijing and Taipei have gotten past the milestone of Tsai’s inauguration without triggering an immediate deterioration, but they have not fully stabilized their relations. This is only a beginning, and what will be needed going forward is a process of incremental trust-building through reciprocal and positive words and deeds. A number of outstanding issues remain to be addressed, and unexpected events can very easily derail progress. As a start, however, this isn’t bad.
It is apparently indelicate to point this out, but as long as China holds a gun to Taiwan's head, trust will never be built and the situation will never be stabilized.

Additional Nelson Report commentary -- click on READ MORE:

Blast from the Past + Links

The image above shows US pilots strafing near the Confucius Temple in Changhua (Google maps). A close friend posted to Facebook:
American pilots strafing Changhua near the Confucius Temple in Changhua.
When I lived in Hemei, in Changhua County my boss' husband was a KMT politician, and he liked to take me out drinking with his constituents. One night we were drinking 蒸餾酒 (I'm guessing at the characters, I had no clue then. It was moonshine made from grapes from near Fengyuan I was told, and 60% or higher alcohol) with a guy who walked with a limp. Turns out the guy had been hit by an American bomb, and one of his legs was all torn up. He also had to drop out of school, so never finished his education. He didn't seem to bear any ill will towards Americans, though.
Lots of people around like that....
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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Nelson Report on Tsai Ing-wen's speech and Beijing's reaction

From the Nelson Report. Note Nelson's own remarks at the bottom...


TAIWAN/US/CHINA POLITICS...we sent out for breakfast reading Pres. Tsai Ing-wen's much anticipated Inaugural Address, and "reviews" so far are largely positive, if not from Beijing, despite Pres. Tsai's obvious effort in Xi Jinping's direction.
We solicited Loyal Reader opinions with our comment that we were surprised by her detailed discussion of "1992 consensus" issues, and wondered if that would be sufficient to placate Xi, if only for the nonce.
If you recall last year's Tsai speech at CSIS, she was asked about "1992" by former AIT official and Loyal Reader David Brown, and chose to answer via a discussion of the Taiwan Constitution and laws already passed which left many non-experts in the dark. So today, she expanded considerably.
Some Loyal Reader responses:
Comments on 1992 are same as she said in the Liberty Times interview. What is new is the paragraph that cites the Act that governs relations between the Taiwan area and the Mainland area.
EDITORS' NOTE: a Tsai associate made the same point!
She will catch hell from the dark greenies and the NPP for inclusion of "Taiwan area and Mainland area" - such are the problems of democracy!
DON ZAGORIA, NCUSFP, also caught it:
By citing the Act in the ROC Constitution that governs relations between the Taiwan area and theMainland area, Tsai istaking a big step towards accepting the ROC Constitutionas a "one China" constitution, something Ma Ying-jeou has long accepted and the DPP has not.
It also lays the groundwork for  a de facto agreement between the two sideson a "constitutional One China," something that some in the DPP have long advocated.
ANON involved USG:
"Essentially, the first test is passed - the speech met U.S. expectations; no surprises, no provocations.  I saw Bonnie Glaser quoted in the news this morning that resonated with me, essentially that the speech was vague enough to leave it up to everyone's imagination and enable the listener to choose what they want to hear.  She assumes Beijing will choose to hear the worst."
ANON close to Pres. Tsai:
I actually am a bit less pessimistic about Beijing's reaction being "choose to hear the worst."  The TAO has to be fairly hard line, but even they focused on "not a passing grade" and the issue of "Taiwan independence." I personally think Tsai stretched as far as possible without breaking the link to the "will of the Taiwanese people."
She is one smart negotiator...see her inclusion of " will conduct cross-Strait affairs in accordance with the Republic of China Constitution, the Act Governing Relations Between the People of Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, and other relevant legislation." That moves somewhat in China's direction but obviously not enough for them. The Chinese rant re "Taiwan independence" is harsh enough, but she doesn't use that language.
Chris et al,
I assume you have all seen Beijing's response:
Tsai did not clearly recognize the "1992 consensus" nor agree to its core meaning, and she did not propose concrete ways to guarantee the stable and peaceful development of the cross-strait relationship.
"On the fundamental question of the nature of cross-strait relations that people on the two sides of the strait are most concerned about, (Tsai) adopted a murky attitude," the statement said. "This is an incomplete test paper," it said of her speech.

Clearly Xi still wants to force her to cry "uncle." Beijing could easily called it "a positive but insufficient step forward." I hope USG praises her remarks!

FRANK JANUZZI, Mansfield Foundation:

I have a slightly more optimistic take on China's "incomplete grade" evaluation. I think the "incomplete" verbiage is not a particularly hostile response to Tsai's words. In fact, Beijing is acknowledging that she has taken a step in their direction, while noting that she has not done all that Beijing wishes.  An incomplete is better than an F, but it is not as good as the P (in pass/fail) that Tsai is Simon for.   
I strongly agree that the US should praise Tsai's remarks as constructive, pragmatic, and in the interest of maintenance of peace and stability across the Strait.
My Taiwan friends seem encouraged by Beijing's "incomplete" grade, and so I wonder if we are being too swift to spot trouble.
EVANS REVERE, former State PDAS/Powell-Armitage:
I fully agree with Ralph and Don Z.  President Tsai went as far as she could in the speech and gave the PRC something that it could hang its hat on in terms of a de facto acceptance of "one China" under the ROC constitution and her positive remarks on the Act governing relations across the Strait. 
She also made a point of acknowledging the understandings reached in '92 and not denying or undermining them.  Doing that in her inaugural address is important, since she is now speaking as president, not a candidate.   That's as good as the Mainland is likely to get from her and Beijing should find a way of agreeing, however grudgingly, to proceed on this basis.
BOB MANNING Atlantic Council: 
Agree with Ralph. Her careful threading the needle of stressing 1992, continuity, and status quo w/o saying "consensus" and kowtowing was not good enough? Xi's is asking for trouble.I thought within her political parameters, she went out of her way to try to message Beijing that she gets it and has no intention of undoing the status quo.

They clearly wanted a full kowtow. I suspect her language about diversifying economic relations also ticked them off.

"We will also work to maintain the existing mechanisms for dialogue and communication across the Taiwan Strait. In 1992, the two institutions representing each side across the Strait (SEF & ARATS), through communication and negotiations, arrived at various joint acknowledgements and understandings. It was done in a spirit of mutual understanding and a political attitude of seeking common ground while setting aside differences. I respect this historical fact. Since 1992, over twenty years of interactions and negotiations across the Strait have enabled and accumulated outcomes which both sides must collectively cherish and sustain; and it is based on such existing realities and political foundations that the stable and peaceful development of the cross-Strait relationship must be continuously promoted. The new government will conduct cross-Strait affairs in accordance with the Republic of China Constitution, the Act Governing Relations Between the People of Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, and other relevant legislation. The two governing parties across the Strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides.

By existing political foundations, I refer to a number of key elements. The first element is the fact of the 1992 talks between the two institutions representing each side across the Strait (SEF & ARATS), when there was joint acknowledgement of setting aside differences to seek common ground. This is a historical fact. The second element is the existing Republic of China constitutional order. The third element pertains to the outcomes of over twenty years of negotiations and interactions across the Strait."

: about the official US delegation to the Inauguration...

With the conspicuous exception of participant and hugely-respected Asia hand/China-Taiwan specialist Alan Romberg, a former NSC and St. Dept. spokesman, naming as head of delegation the tired political hack and without question, weakest USTR in the history of that important job, Ron Kirk, is difficult to see as anything but a continued hedge against a DPP government on Taiwan.
Yes, of course two AIT officials were included, the very highly respected Ray Burghardt and Kin Moy, but how could they not have been? It's their job to attend the inauguration!
Of course we accept it would have not been prudent to have heeded calls to send Vice President Biden, or Secretaries Kerry or Carter. (See our trashing last night of the dangerously naive OpEd in the Washington Post yesterday by an AEI analyst!) But no currently serving US Government official of any rank except the "unofficial" AIT!?
So we asked, and were not entirely surprised to hear that our suspicions were correct, and that "memory of the difficulties under the previous DPP government remain".
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!

Curriculum changes on the way

Beautiful Taiwan. Can't wait for this rain to end so I can see it..

Lost amidst Tsai Ing-wen's swearing in The Taipei Times reports: the new Administration is going to act quickly to eliminate the pro-China curriculum instituted under the KMT.
The Ministry of Education is to take swift action to abolish contentious social studies and Chinese literature curriculum guideline changes passed in 2014, in accordance with a resolution passed by the legislature and approved by the Executive Yuan, Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said yesterday.
Readers will recall that the curriculum changes, hastily put in by the Administration, triggered protests. The Legislature has already passed draft amendments removing some of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) control over the curriculum:
During an initial review on May 5, the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee passed the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) draft amendments to the Senior High School Education Act (高級中等教育法) and the Primary and Junior High School Act (國民教育法).

The amendments would increase the number of members of the public on the Curriculum Guideline Review Committee to three-quarters of the total seats and allow the legislature to form a review team to approve the nomination of committee members.

The task of nominating and the employing the committee members would be shifted from the Ministry of Education to the Executive Yuan. Therefore, the premier would directly control the establishment of the committee and the ministry would only have the task of proposing curriculum guidelines.
The amendments permit parents and students to participate, and limit the government to 1/4 of the representatives on the Committee (here).

A longtime observer noted that this is probably the first bill the new Legislature has passed that addresses the demands of student movements over the past few years. The bill also divests the Ministry of Education and the executive branch in general of control over the curriculum. He wonders if the Legislature is going to finally assert itself over the Executive. MOE, as he put it, is one of the most important agents of the KMT's dominance over Taiwan society and control of the way people act and think.

He also pointed out that the Taipei Times did not report that the Legislature also passed a bill amending the Primary and Junior High School Act. The bill removes the Ministry of Education's power to close or combine schools and puts it into the hands of local governments. This is a sensitive issue because schools are closing around Taiwan due to the dramatic drop in the number of children. As recently as 2007, he noted, Taiwan had 280,000 students entering elementary school. In 2015, just 192,000.

Indeed, when my daughter was in elementary school, the small elementary school she went to had to reach a minimum of (I think) 300 students to qualify for additional funds for administrative personnel and retain certain administrative staff. The school thus had an arrangement with several local families to ensure that their kids would register first at the little school so it could tell the government they had over 300 registered. Then the kids would transfer to the large elementary school in town, because many Taiwanese parents believe that larger schools provide better education.

Construction of schools is important sources of patronage funding in Taiwan, note that many collapsed in the 9/21 earthquake -- the Taiwan Earthquake Museum in Wufeng is built on the grounds of a destroyed school, as is the Earthquake memorial in Da-ken outside Taichung. Putting the power of life and death over schools in local government hands won't help this -- but may increase DPP control over local patronage networks.
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!

Tsai Swears in Commentary roundup

Reuters called her a China-weary leader. So true. It also referred to her "Democratic People's Party". *sigh*

Lots of media commentary, but on Twitter, Eric Hundman summed it up nicely: it's all about Tsai's election, but every title contains the word China...

Still, Jon Sullivan, Taiwan expert and media researcher at the U of Nottingham observed that the media reporting seemed to improve. I concur. Major media outlets such as NYTimes, AP, and WaPo all turned out good reports. Even BBC's report was very sympathetic. There's a lot more knowledge out there, reporters and editors are generally more cautious, more sensitive to their longtime failure to report on what the Taiwan side is thinking and less overtly pro-China, and there is now a stable of people for intelligent quotes about Taiwan. Things are getting better....

Strongly pro-China BBC can always be relied on to misreport. At least the title didn't contain the word China and some of it was sympathetic but this...
Ms Tsai's election win was only the second ever for the DPP - the Kuomintang (KMT) has been in power for most of the past 70 years
...well, there was that martial law thing for nearly 50 years. So basically, it's the second presidential win for the DPP since 1996. Another way to look at it is that all the elected presidents of Taiwan have been pro-independence except Ma Ying-jeou.

Whilst some media orgs mentioned Tsai's outfit in fine sexist fashion, the Austin Ramzy of the NYTimes, who is always sensible, observed:
Ms. Tsai, who was elected by a large margin in January, is Taiwan’s first female president. A former law professor and trade negotiator, she won top office without the benefit of a politically powerful male relative, unlike most of Asia’s other female leaders.
it also added:
The foundations of cross-strait relations, she said, are the 1992 talks and the 20 years of negotiations that followed; the constitutional system of the Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name; and the island’s democratic principles.

“The two governing parties across the strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides,” she said.

In a lengthy statement released Friday afternoon by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, the country’s Taiwan Affairs Office noted Ms. Tsai’s comments but said she did not go far enough. The statement said the “Taiwan authorities’ new leader” had “adopted a vague attitude, and didn’t clearly acknowledge the ’92 Consensus.”

It called her remarks “an incomplete examination paper.”
It is indicative of the importance of testing in the Confucian societies in East Asia that China officially reached for an exam paper metaphor. More interesting, as several commentators observed, is that China's response left room to say that Tsai had actually come partway. Folks, Beijing does not know what to do and it is floundering for a policy.

Note also that her speech referred to the ROC Constitution and Taiwan's democracy as the basis for cross-strait diplomacy. The Constitution nowhere explicitly says that Taiwan is part of China, while democracy says Taiwan is an independent states. The "twenty years of talks" are the real foundation. That comment is also a reminder that negotiations with China belong to the government, and not certain unelected political parties that think Taiwan belongs to them.

"Wearing a cream blazer with dark trousers..." (AFP). Laorencha blog had a good laugh at the silliness of major news organizations reporting on Tsai Ing-wen's clothing. As someone remarked on Twitter, does anyone report that Xi Jin-ping wears the same black suit on every occasion?

Reuters had several pieces on the election, but this one was interesting for what it didn't say: here is its rendition of the 1992 Consensus:
Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to Taiwan after losing the civil war to the Communists in China in 1949. China has pressured the new government to stick to the “one China” principle agreed with the Nationalists. That allows each side to interpret what “one China” means.
It didn't use the term "1992 Consensus" to describe the fake Consensus. Instead it represented what it is: One China which includes Taiwan. Nice work, Reuters.

Emily Rauhala  wrote an excellent report in WaPo. Unlike almost every other reporter and commenter on Taiwan, she sources a quote from a brilliant Taiwan scholar who points out that China must interact with Taiwan in order to annex it:
Chinese officials and academics have also warned, repeatedly if vaguely, of an economic toll should Tsai refuse to fall in line. While China could move to curb tourism or trade, some question how far it is willing to go. China sees Taiwan as an integral part of its territory and aims to “reunify.” As such, it has an interest in deepening, not destroying, ties to Taiwan’s business community, said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political scientist from Hong Kong’s Baptist University.
...and then follows it with a similar quote! Love how "reunify" is in quotes. Thanks for that, Ms. Rauhala.

The Guardian has quotes from Jon Sullivan and J Michael Cole in a decent piece, except for:
Officially, Beijing still hopes to reabsorb Taiwan, which has been self-ruled since 1949, and in the wake of Tsai’s victory Beijing has warned that she must explicitly state her commitment to the so-called “one China principle” – the idea that Taiwan and mainland China are a single nation.

Tsai made no such commitment in her speech, referring simply to a controversial 1992 “consensus” about the island’s status as a “historical fact”.
Tsai actually referred to the talks, not the Consensus, as a historical fact. AP did a much better job:
While leaving Beijing unsatisfied, Tsai avoided provoking Beijing by referring to Taiwan as an independent sovereign nation, said Li Fei, deputy director of the Taiwan Research Institute at China's Xiamen University.

"This is a speech that can be accepted by the international community and endured by the mainland," Li said, adding that Beijing will be watching what Tsai does in coming days as she forms her administration.
Her speech left wiggle room for Beijing...

New Bloom mag had an informative and interesting run down of the performance at the ceremony, which my man maddog described as trolling the KMT, including some discussion of the incredibly patronizing and stupid remarks the emcees made about aborigines and Hakkas.

Robert Ross, who told us a decade ago that the independence movement is "fading", is still writing the same stuff he has been for more than a decade: Taiwan causes trouble, democracy is provocative, and other pro-China tropes. Sad. Hey Robert, that dead independence movement just put a female into the presidency. So many great people out there, why would anyone source from the consistently wrong Ross?

The US government weighed in:

U.S. Statement on Taiwan's Presidential Inauguration

Press Statement
John Kirby
Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
May 20, 2016

The United States congratulates President Tsai Ing-wen on her inauguration as Taiwan’s fourth democratically elected president. We also congratulate the Taiwan people on the occasion of this peaceful transition of power, which marks another milestone in the development of Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.

The United States commends President Ma Ying-jeou for his success in strengthening U.S.-Taiwan relations over the past eight years. We look forward to working with the new administration, as well as with all of Taiwan’s political parties and civil society groups, to further strengthen the ties between the people of the United States and Taiwan.

On Twitter Emily Chen informed that the U.S. House passed the military budget for 2017, with an amendment to grant TW observer status in RIMPAC

Beijing's response was in most articles. Reuters forwarded Beijing's response:
Although Tsai, Taiwan’s first woman president, said Taiwan would play a responsible role and be a “staunch guardian of peace” with China in her speech yesterday, Chinese officials are pressuring the new government to explicitly endorse the so called “one China” principle which was agreed to with the Nationalist Party.

According to that principle, which China says was agreed to in 1992, both sides can interpret what “one China” means.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office yesterday said Tsai’s remarks were an “incomplete answer” while an editorial published today in the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said that “Taiwan’s new leadership must complete their currently incomplete response.”
No one ever points out that the meeting over the 1992 Consensus was conducted by the unelected representatives of two one-party governments.

Taiwan's WHA reps have arrived in Geneva, so if Beijing is going to toss them out, it will have to move fast...

WSJ collected some Chinese netizen remarks, predictably belligerent.

If you want the original Xinhua with the official Chinese statement, it is here. Note its strong language on the 1992 Consensus:
"The 1992 Consensus explicitly sets out the fundamental nature of relations across the Taiwan Straits," the official said, stressing that it states that both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one and the same China and that cross-Straits relations are not state-to-state relations.

The 1992 Consensus was reached with explicit authorization of the two sides and has been affirmed by leaders of both sides. It thus constitutes the cornerstone of peaceful growth of cross-Straits relations, it reads.
It sounds like China is affirming the 1992C as the KMT describes it, but recall that for China there are not "two interpretations": One China = People's Republic of China. Hence, while the language is strong, it does not anywhere say "two interpretations -- that's purely a KMT thing -- and thus, the PRC's language is also the usual smack-talking. The 1992 Consensus is only about getting Tsai to use "one China" language -- the same crap the PRC directed at Chen Shui-bian -- same tune, different lyrics.

The constant flow of references to the 1992C in the media, almost always erroneously, shows how the international media helps construct, recapitulate, and enforce the 1992 Consensus on behalf of Beijing. Sad. The same is true of the constant reference to "tension". The dominance of pro-Beijing tropes in the global media is one of Beijing's most important forms of soft power...

Randall Schriver nailed it in an interview prior to the swearing in:
RS: We need to keep the onus on Beijing as well. It’s very tempting for people to say “Tsai Ing-wen should do this or that,” or “will she say this or that on the ‘92 consensus?” But there’s only one party here that has missiles pointed at someone else. There’s only one party here that has an intransigent position on legacy issues. I think we need to give Tsai Ing-wen space, give her the opportunity to respond to people who have elected her and avoid validating China’s overreaction or pressure tactics. I think it’s really important that people in Washington understand that she is navigating something very delicate in Taiwan. Providing her reassurance, and allowing her time and space to do things that she needs to do will be really important.
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!