Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Weak End Review

Mingde Reservoir, Miaoli

AND THE INTERNET LAFFED OUT LOUD: Big shout out to the international media here. The international media has been claiming for months that tourists from the Middle Kingdom have been slashed/will be slashed/could be slashed/are being slashed/ any moment now, but as my readers know, that was laughably wrong. Arrivals from China rose in February and again in April. But in the finest stopped clock fashion, the international media was finally right: the number of tourists from China indeed fell in May. Numbers were posted by Solidarity.

Why am I thanking the media? By writing nonsense about our collapsing supply of tourists from China when it was actually rising (remember, these shrill notes date from the October announcement by the Tourism Bureau of a 95% cut), it provided free advertising for more desirable tourists for other countries, signaling them that Taiwan was a place less overrun with Chinese tour groups (while tourism from China declined in Dec, we got massive spikes in Japan tourism). Thus, despite the drop in obnoxious miserly tour groups from China, we still managed to show 1.87% overall tourism growth in May. A much lower number than previous months, but evidence that we don't need those Chinese tourists. Tourism from Japan, Korea, and SE Asia is rising long-term, and with Tsai in power and the Go-South policy in full swing (the Tsai gov't is mulling easy entry for citizens of ASEAN nations) expect tourism from those areas to continue to increase. Even as I write this, some Malaysian friends of mine are climbing over Wuling on bikes...

What declined? Group tours fell by 31%, according to the government. But solo travelers were up 12%, according to spokesmen.
But the number of travelers from China visiting Taiwan on their own rather than as part of a tour group rose by 12 percent in May from the year-earlier period, the sources said Friday.
Airlines suspended flights between Taichung and China...
Chang said that since March, flights between Taichung Airport and Changsha, Zhengzhou, Jinan, Qingdao, Tiangin and Chengdo in China have been discontinued because of a low passenger load factor that resulted from an 8 percent drop in group tourists from China.

He was responding to a local media report that said airlines operating between Taichung Airport and Hangzhou, Nanjing and Ningpo had canceled 10 routes since March.
Although some media have been reporting that Chinese students will also be banned, the Min of Ed said a week or so ago that it had no such information.

Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about the whole affair was the number of expat netizens tracking China tourism. Think anyone in the international media will write about how wrong the media was? No, they will crow about how awesomely insightful and correct they were. I can't wait.

How low was the cut? China tourists in May reached 327K, or the same as in Dec of 2015, also a low supposedly in response to the election (it rose again in January to 366K)(source). It is much too soon to say whether this is seasonal variation or a real cut, although tour group numbers started falling in April (2.9%) according to one of the articles above. Nevertheless, it could simply be that tour companies themselves were nervous about the new president, and so stayed away. We will simply have to wait for the June numbers to come out.

PIXELS FORMING THE SHAPE OF MA YING-JEOU VISIT HONG KONG: this week also saw the big controversy over Ma Ying-jeou's visit to Hong Kong. New Bloom reviewed the whole thing here:
This was the first time a former Taiwanese head of state had applied to leave the country during the three years after their term ended. Ma did not actually file the application twenty days beforehand, having planned to deliver a speech at the Society of Publishers in Asia’s Awards for Editorial Excellence on June 15th, but only having filed his application on June 1st. But the reasons cited for the rejection of his applications by government spokesmen revolved around Ma’s previous access to classified information and security concerns from Ma visiting as politically sensitive an area as Hong Kong. Likewise, Ma has outstanding lawsuits against him and the fear that he may flee the country in order to avoid lawsuits has been raised in the past. Nevertheless, with respect to that, the Taipei District Court later refused to approve of a court proceedings filed by DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming attempting to restrict Ma’s travel based on standing lawsuits filed against him.


The KMT has seized upon Ma’s denial of travel in order to claim political persecution by the DPP, citing freedom of speech concerns and linking this to that former president Chen Shui-Bian was allowed to attend a banquet in Taipei earlier this month, despite that Chen is currently on medical parole for his jail term. Critics have also seized on the event to call Tsai hypocritical for claiming to value democracy and freedom of speech but denying this to Ma, as well as claiming that though Tsai claimed during her presidential campaign that she will heal political divisions in Taiwan, she is carrying out actions completely the opposite. It bears pointing out that much of the criticisms on such grounds disguise rather obvious pro-Beijing bias, however.
While the criticism from the KMT tended to focus on Tsai Ing-wen as the dastardly overmind of the decision, scholar Jon Sullivan at the U of Nottingham pointedly pointed out:
Former President Ma Ying-jeou’s application to travel to Hong Kong for a brief speaking engagement has been turned down by the new Tsai administration. It was a decision based on consultation with government security agencies and wasn’t Tsai’s unilateral decision. Technically Ma’s application did not meet the rules regarding the 20 day advance notice for former presidents within 3 years of leaving office. Lee Teng-hui was allowed to travel to the UK one month after stepping down in 2000 (by a DPP government); but the UK does not have the symbolism that HK does (it was where the meeting between KMT-CCP took place in 1992 that gives its name to the ‘1992 consensus’), and after all, HK is quasi governed by China. Ma is in possession of huge amounts of “classified knowledge” and the potential for either purposeful or accidental disclosure of information is much higher in HK than almost anywhere else in the world. This is not to imply that Ma has or had any intention whatsoever of disclosing classified information, but given that for 8 years Ma has espoused pro-China preferences it is no surprise that most Taiwanese are suspicious of a visit so soon after he stepped down to a location that has been used as a (often clandestine) meeting place for ROC/KMT PRC/CCP officials.

A further aspect is that the KMT has demonstrated before that it is happy to bypass the duly elected government to conduct “diplomacy” with China. ... But overall, there are genuine security issues and particular sensitivities with Hong Kong–and Ma would presumably have been aware of this when putting in his application.
The whole thing was a clever set up: Ma wins either way. If they let him go, he sucks up to China and disparages Tsai and Taiwan. If they don't let him go, they whine and and say Tsai hurt Taiwan's democracy. As they actually did...
Ma’s office expressed regret over the decision. A spokeswoman said it showed “not only disrespect to the former leader, but damages Taiwan’s democratic image in the world”.

KMT vice-chairman Hau Lung-bin said the decision showed “a lack of self-confidence and goodwill” from Tsai.
Ma was his usual tone-deaf self when he appeared over the internet at the event. Even as a Hong Kong bookseller was back in Hong Kong describing his months of torture at Chinese hands, he laughed at the Tsai government's security concerns and said that Hong Kong was a safe place. Joshua Wong, the Hong Kong democracy leader, blasted him for the remarks. J Michael Cole, now editor of the News Lens, pointed out that Ma blew an opportunity to support embattled publishing and journalism in Taiwan. Naturally....

AND THE INTERNET LAFFED OUT LOUD II: Another one of those ZOMG TAIWAN IS TENZ! PLS NERF! articles came out last week in the National Interest to general laughter. It was straight out of 2006:
Even though President Tsai espouses a more moderate approach to cross-Strait relations than her DPP predecessor, her policies and especially the actions of her party threaten cross-Strait relations. For example, after her swearing in last month, President Tsai established a mechanism to resolve maritime disputes with Japan. ROC Premier Lin Chuan also dropped charges against anti-Beijing protesters and described his newly appointed representative to the United States as an “ambassador,” suggesting that Taiwan is a sovereign country with all the attendant diplomatic privileges. While not constituting a regime shift in government policy, moves such as these undermine Beijing’s confidence in its ability to work with the newly elected government. Both sides enjoyed closer relations during the previous KMT administration of President Ma Ying-jeou from 2008 to 2016, and the PRC will do what it can to precipitate a return to KMT rule. There is some indication that Beijing will aggressively pressure the new president and explore how far it can go in imposing its own terms on the relationship. It has already begun to limit cross-Strait travel and renewed diplomatic relations with Gambia, ending a tacit truce against further diminishing the ROC’s small list of diplomatic partners.
Oh noes! Tsai established a mechanism to resolve maritime disputes with Japan! Do you think Beijing will invade immediately, or will they just blockade us? You know you've gone round the bend when you think Taipei and Tokyo agreeing on a dispute mechanism is "provocative". The writer is a grad student in the Elliot School at GWU, where I am sad to say I graduated from, and which was made of sterner stuff in my day (yes, you know you're old when you can use the phrase "in my day"). Michal Thim and I wrote a response, which I hope the National Interest runs...
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Anonymous said...

"It's hard to find an adjective to describe such stupidity."

The author actually believes you can do business in China. You just need a Chinese lawyer to protect your rights in China.
Why do you link to such stupidity? There is no law and you have no rights period.

TaiwanJunkie said...

Love to see how these students immersed in the school of political realism so engrossed in the realism doctrine that they completely forget the basic definition of nationhood.

It is as if a doctor defining a human being based on insurance coverage.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Calin Brown's piece, I think she raises some good points, but has an unnecessarily negative slant. Taiwan is doing a damn good job of advancing women's and LGBTQ issues. That should not just be shoved aside so lightly for the sake of a story angle. There is also some irony in her words."The West’s imperialist history of atrocities and unwelcomed cultural and political imposition naturally makes people elsewhere in the world resentful." But is she not herself imposing a Western style of political correctness in her analysis of Taiwan? The pics of Tsai as Yoda were actually complimentary, and well within the scope of everyday Taiwanese humor, for men as well as women. I saw similar stuff about Wang and Ma during the Legislative Yuan takeover. Fat shaming is done to men as well as women. And White privilege in Taiwan? Give me a break! Yes, compared to other ESL teacher groups, Whites are priviliged, because of Taiwanese racism. Nothing to do with gender roles. Anyway, not a bad piece, but very "Western PC" in my view.