Friday, September 30, 2016

DPP gov't takes important step forward on land expropriation crisis

Looks like somebody forgot to tell the printer the name of the bike...

That hideous Taoyuan Aerotropolis, with its massive land thefts, is going to be slowly strangled by red tape. An apt solution....(Taipei Times)
About 30 members of the Taoyuan Aerotropolis Local Promotion Association shouted opposition to what they called opaque “black box” drafting of possible amendments to the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例), saying that only people opposed to the Aerotropolis project had been invited to a ministry meeting yesterday on the amendments.

The ministry said last week that it would propose amending several laws to increase the protections for landowners and residents, including raising the support threshold for approval of “zone expropriation” to more than 90 percent of landowners.
These associations are usually astroturf for construction/development firms. The reason the threshold is being raised to 90% is simple. The usual practice is for the construction firm to have its employees purchase homes in the area. Once it has a majority of area homeowners, it can then have its own people vote to have the land expropriated and turned over to the corporation, using public law to turn private land into corporate gold. By raising the bar to 90%, the government will end this practice.

The Aerotropolis is often said to be the largest single expropriation of the democratic era, 4700 hectares of land were being appropriated, 3200 of them farmland (in a nation where the government has been worried about losing farmland). These changes are a wonderful move forward against the terrible abuse of the land laws over the last couple of decades.

Note also how these pro-corporate protests keep attempting to appropriate the language used by the Sunflowers: the government's decision is a "black box" -- which was the Sunflower criticism of the services pact (for example).

Background: this post, follow its links. Also Solidarity's post on how KMTers had purchased ponds in the Aerotropolis area to turn into gold. Recall that each pond by regulation can only have one owner, making negotiation for purchase easy. Development in Taoyuan is killing its precious ponds.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Taiwan Responds to the ICAO

Taiwan asks to be included in the international aviation safety organization. The western democracies have failed the world shamefully.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Taiwan for Expats: Forward Taiwan what should be done

Nature's perfect food

On a discussion group, someone asked why Taiwan had fallen from #8 to #14 in a survey of expats. A friend responded (posted with permission):


In my view, Taiwan's slight drop in the ranking has little or nothing to do with President Tsai.

One reason Taiwan is No, 14 is that six more countries were surveyed for the 2016 report. Two of those countries--Norway and Austria--ranked higher than Taiwan. So Taiwan really only fell six places.

The survey once again shows that Taiwan is great place to live but not a good place to work... (MORE BELOW)

NYTimes *sigh*

From the NYTimes Sidelined at the UN, A Frustrated Taiwan Presses On
The diplomatic maneuverings that takes place upstairs are less fruitful. The election in January of Tsai Ing-wen, who is Taiwan’s first female president and whose Democratic Progressive Party has in the past flirted with independence, is sending a chill through cross-strait relations. Under her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang, Taiwan and China signed a series of agreements that included increased trade, direct flights and a surge of mainland tourists that buoyed the Taiwanese economy.
When you read the NY Times piece on Taiwan's UN efforts, and you see this same garbage, repeated ad nauseum... according to the NYTimes, it was Tsai's election that caused the chill, not Beijing's decision to cut off relations and reduce group tourists. Indeed -- Taiwan has not "chilled", only Beijing has chilled.

Despite the wealth of information on the internet, the last sentence of that paragraph goes on, zombie-like, to inform us of the greatness of Ma Ying-jeou's economic sellout program. *sigh*

I probably don't have to tell you that the NYTimes writer is their Beijing correspondent. Nobody gets Taiwan wrong like Beijing correspondents...

Meanwhile contrast Andrew Jacobs' regurgitation of this zombie nonsense with the attitude in the 1996 Nightline piece in the video above on the Taiwan elections. China is clearly recognized as the problem. Taiwan is referred to as a country. Pro-Taiwan analysts like Rick Fisher and Syd Goldsmith speak. A senior diplomat is permitted to explain that one China acquiescence is just noise. Totally different media attitude.

O and special joy: Lien Chan calls for UN entry. ROFL.
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Round Up

Along came a spider...

KMT: The internal struggle for the KMT continues apace. This week Wu Den-yi and Hau Long-bin criticized KMT Chairman Hung Hsiu-chu over the One China/Two interpretations of the 1992 Consensus....
Former ROC Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) attended the annual meeting of the Taiwan Benevolent Association of America (TBAA) in Boston on September 24. During the meeting, Hau stated that the 1992 Consensus must be connected with “one China/different interpretations.” Hau asked why we would abandon the one China/different interpretations formulation since it worked so well during the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration.
As the article notes, Wu and Hau have formed an alliance, and Wu will likely challenge Hung for the Chairmanship in the 2017 election. This will be a replay of this year's election when the Taiwanese candidate was backed by the party structure, and the ROC/mainlander ideologue was backed by the Old Soldiers, who form a large voting block that controls who wins. That same occurred a decade ago, when the Old Soldiers voted for Ma Ying-jeou as Chair while the Party elites supported Wang Jin-pyng. Enough of the Old Soldiers should still be around to ensure that Hung wins another term, just in time for the 2018 midterm elections.

NHI: Excellent interview in TT with NTU President Yang on the plight of doctors in the NHI system. The system holds costs down just like any other Taiwanese boss: it overworks its laborers, and underpays them, both doctors and nurses.

ICAO: The ICAO, the aviation safety body, blocked Taiwan's attendance with the usual displays of moral cowardice characteristic of the western democracies. Beijing is punishing Taiwan because Tsai will not say Taiwan is part of China, and took credit for it.

MEDIA: The only good thing about blogging on the media is that the supply of stoopid never dries out. This week J Michael Cole took Simon Tisdall to task for a demonstration of clueless, lazy, incompetent writing...
In reality, the 25 percent drop in support for President Tsai cannot, contrary to what the author argues, be “summed up in one word: China.” In fact, it can be summed up in not one but two words: not China. Like anywhere else, what contributed to President Tsai’s support levels are primarily domestic matters, from a stagnant economy to urban renewal, broken promises on same-sex marriage to lackluster Cabinet appointments, labor issues to the New Southbound Policy that increasingly doesn’t sound so new — in other words, the regular stuff of regular countries.
Tisdall got everything wrong of course, hilariously referring to the China tourist trade as "lucrative" when it is a pernicious money loser that is widely despised in Taiwan.

This problem also showed up last week at FPRI, where Thomas Shattuck, in an article describing the horrible summer of Tsai Ing-wen, completely misread my piece on the Kenya deportations...
In April, Kenya sent 45 Taiwanese nationals to China, and in August, it deported another five individuals. These deportations sparked outrage because the people and government of Taiwan viewed it as a slight to their nation and as another instance for China to assert its power over them. While some have argued that this deportation process is normal operating procedure—Kenya sent them back to the city that they departed from—Taiwan’s government lodged complaints saying that these deportation were nothing more than “extrajudicial abduction.” China argued that these people flew out of China and targeted Chinese citizens with these scams and that as citizens of Taiwan (which China views as a rogue province), they were under the jurisdiction of China. This issue did not just involve Kenya—Armenia recently deported over 70 individuals to China, Cambodia deported another 13, and Malaysia sent 32 suspects. After the latest round of deportations from Armenia, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement, “We have repeatedly demanded the Chinese side not to deport our people to mainland China. The Chinese side’s action again disregarded our call … and further hurt the feelings of Taiwanese people.” Making these deportations such a large, international issue between China, Taiwan, and several other countries demonstrates Taiwan’s lack of options when pitted against China—not so strongly worded statements of condemnation. These countries chose to avoid challenging China instead of pleasing Taiwan.
No, I didn't argue it was SOP. Read what I wrote, Mr Shattuck. The key point of what I wrote is that the deportations weren't aimed at Tsai Ing-wen because the policy of deporting (alleged) Taiwanese scammers to China had been decided over a year before Tsai entered office. This policy HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH TSAI ING-WEN. IT BEGAN UNDER MA YING-JEOU. 

How hard can that be to explain? But that's not as sexy as "Look what a tough summer Tsai is having!"

The deportations do not demonstrate Taiwan's "lack of options" against China. Instead they demonstrate that China was complying with international practice in having criminals who had committed crimes against its people deported back there, as Ma Ying-jeou's own officials admitted. The noises that the Taiwan gov't made about the unfairness of it all were just noises designed to placate its own voters, made by both the Ma and Tsai Administrations. They don't signify anything. No nation could have stopped China from deporting the alleged Taiwanese gangsters back to China, because China had every right to.

But why bother to explain anything like that? It's waaay more fun to write about how bad things are. Actually, they are pretty normal for the first 100 days of a presidency on The Beautiful Island.

Deportations back to Taiwan, as happened with Indonesia don't count for Tsai, aren't even mentioned, in fact. No selective use of facts here folks, move along now.

Shattuck also nattered about the tourists...
China’s self-assertion also involves pinching local Taiwanese citizens’ pocketbooks by preventing Mainlanders from travelling to the island. The normal deluge of Mainland tourists to Taiwan has slowed to a trickle over the summer in response to Tsai’s election and her refusal to meet Beijing’s demand of accepting the 1992 Consensus. Though Tsai has moved towards the center recently in this regard, Beijing’s “red line” is its acceptance for the continuation of cross-strait relations. In 2015, between May and July, over 1 million Mainlanders came to Taiwan; this year, during that same time period, under 900,000 made the trip—the lowest since 2013—for a difference of nearly 150,000 tourists.[2] While that number does not seem too significant at face value, there are now that many fewer people renting rooms, using tour buses, taking taxis, frequenting museums and restaurants, and buying souvenirs. Places once full of tourists are now empty thanks to this 30% decrease in Mainland visitors. Workers rallied in Taipei to protest their current situation, and the government has set up a NT$ 960 million fund to help ease the burden. It has gotten so bad that counties not run by the DPP have sent delegations to China in order to encourage tourism to specific cities and counties that have a more friendly view of China. These leaders hope to increase tourism again and create new markets to increase economic interactions.
The key issue is this: tourists are a tiny part of the Taiwan economy, and the missing group tours, the stingiest, lowest spending, crappiest tourists, are less than a third of Chinese tourists, and an even smaller fraction of all tourists. In other words, the missing fraction is a fraction of a fraction in Taiwan's ~$530 billion economy. The only people complaining are those idiots who invested in an obvious political bubble.

There are way more important sectors, so why are we talking about tourism from China? Quick -- what's the largest sector of Taiwan's economy? What happened to our manufacturing orders last month? What's the inflation rate? Those things are far more important than 150,000 sheep for the slaughter from China. The automatic reach for the Chinese tourists, along with the deportations, neither of which is important, is just another example of how the outside world continues to view Taiwan in terms of China, and how Beijing controls the narrative, dominating the minds of those who write about Taiwan. Sad.
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Friday, September 23, 2016

1958: The Mystery of the Missing Blue Goose

1958 China Post report of the incident

A 2010 piece gives some details....
There was an aviation incident that took place in the East China Sea on 1 October 1958. About 0600 hours, four National Chinese crew members, three Republic of China (ROC) officers and four U.S. servicemen routinely boarded a civilian Foshing Airlines (FAL), a PBY-5 named the “Blue Goose” on Matsu Island, for the return trip to Formosa for some much needed R&R. They were never seen again.

The four U.S. military personnel on board the Blue Goose were Army Major Robert C. Bloom (Eau Claire, WI); Captain Wayne A. Pitcher (Asbury Park, NJ); Navy radioman RM3 Dwight H. Turner (Clarence, MO), and Army PFC Claude L. Baird (Duff, TN). They were all members of the elite Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) and all were assigned to the Matsu Defense Command at the time they went missing.
Then it gets weird...
The United States government has never acknowledged these missing men, nor have they ever honored them for the ultimate sacrifice they made in the cause of freedom. However, one thing is clear, on 1 October 1958, four American servicemen in uniform went missing, and they need to be acknowledged and honored and their families provided with answers.

Foshing Airlines reported that the Chinese Ministry of National Defense (MND) ruled the incident as a mid-air collision; the MND also ruled the plane was shot down, but no evidence of any wreckage was ever found and the MND cannot produce records to support that theory.

Brigadier General L.S. Bork, Commander of the Military Assistance Advisory Group (1958-60), believes that the aircraft was taken by force to mainland China (U.S intelligence sources seem to confirm that scenario) because the aircraft carried valuable defense plans and had an unnamed “special cargo.” He also believes a $100,000 ransom was offered by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) for the delivery of the Blue Goose to Formosa.

During the second week of October 1958, an intelligence source reported that the aircraft and her crewmembers were seen in Shanghai shortly after the incident and, two weeks following the disappearance of the PBY-5, a Communist Chinese radio news broadcast reported that the PBY-5 aircraft reached the mainland and even identified one ROC officer who was on board and reportedly spoke on the broadcast.

During that same timeframe, two American families heard similar newscasts that reported the names of all the U.S. servicemen and confirmed they were being held by Communist China.

Mrs. Margret Baird Petree and Mrs. Sue Baird Walden, the sisters of PFC Claude L. Baird, have had a very difficult task in trying to unravel the unexplained issues of this case.

The Department of the Army declared the incident an “Operational Loss” and the servicemen were declared “missing” for a period of one year. Then, without any further proof or evidence, these men were listed under the “Presumptive Finding of Death” on 2 October 1959. The U.S. Army declared the flying boat was “lost without a trace,” and a thorough search by planes and ships found nothing new to report.
UPDATE: Wreckage found

I have placed a Yahoo forum post with a timeline under the READ MORE line:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tourism FINALLY falls in August

bridge construction near Dongshih..

Tourism numbers for August are out. Big drop finally materialized.

Hong Kong + Macao: 163,646
China: 248,538

In August of 2015 there were 367K Chinese tourists, and last month 299K. Either way there's a huge drop. The Hong Kong number actually rose by 3K over August of 2015. Overall tourism was up over the previous month, but down year on year, because of the drop in Chinese tourists. Tourists from most other countries/regions, including Japan and SE Asia, are on the rise. Hence, at some point, that rise will swamp the Chinese tourist drop-off, and the tourism protests will become just another quaint pro-Blue whine.

Hotel occupancy rates in tourist areas fell.

Thus, August is the first month of 2016 in which the total number of tourists from China (excluding HKK + Macao) was less than in 2015. Through July they had been running ahead of 2015 slightly.
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Local government heads kowtow in Beijing =UPDATED=

Exploring the old rail line near Tai-an

News Lens on the news of eight city/county government heads heading off to China to offer their heads:
Besides belonging to the same camp — six of the eight city and county government heads belong to the Kuomintang (KMT) and two others are blue-leaning independents — all eight representatives have stated they recognize the “1992 consensus,” which an inflexible Beijing has set as a precondition for cross-Strait exchanges.

Having frozen most (albeit not all) the official communication mechanisms between the central governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Beijing is now accelerating its efforts to bypass the central government in Taipei and rewarding local governments that agree to say what it wants. In return, the heads of those eight municipalities hope to reap the benefits of Chinese tourism and better market access for their produce. In other words, they are agreeing to form a clientelistic relationship with China.
As Cole points out in the article, this is not the first time that China has attempted to form patron-client relationships with local trade associations, aboriginal leaders, and local politicians. These attempts have uniformly failed, because the support for China is based on patronage, and such loyalty as is generated will last as long as the money flows do. Few of these localities have any great political clout. Most Taiwanese don't benefit from the money flows, which will simply travel further down the patronage networks of those same politicians -- which are already KMT. Beijing does not build any new connections here (fortunately). UPDATE: Solidarity has the list of what China has offered.

What can Beijing do? Hualien, Nantou, and Taitung are strong destinations for Chinese group tourists, and I pray they don't add Miaoli to that list -- a few group tours are already going there. But the other places are less attractive. Beijing has already tried preferential purchasing, for fruit, which failed to -- wait for it -- bear fruit. This policy has been tried before, and is another example of how Beijing does not know what it is doing. It has no brilliant plan for Taiwan, because there isn't one. It is simply revisiting old ideas, the way a squirrel checks old hiding places to see if there are any nuts there.

A couple of interesting wrinkles -- this may look like, as Cole notes, Beijing is bypassing the central government. But it is also bypassing the KMT center and dealing directly with politicians representing local Taiwan interests. Perhaps Beijing means to bind them more directly to the KMT, or to itself, setting up independent patronage networks in the event the KMT continues to fade. I doubt they plan so presciently, though.

No tourism numbers out yet. Very interested to see what they are....

REFS: KMT rebuts accusations, tries to handle negative publicity from the Beijing Kowtow. What did the 1992 8 say in Beijing? This site in simplified has it. h/t to @aaronwytze
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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Riding the oil fields of Miaoli...

Tyler zips down the road parallel to the HSR.

I took some friends on an easy ride through the low hills west of Sanyi and east of the sea on Friday, and discovered the mother lode of Taiwan's oil and gas wells. This old article gives a brief introduction to oil and gas drilling in Taiwan. Come below the READ MORE line for more...

Articles of Business Overflowing

The Shigang Dam against a steel typhoon sky. The dam's north abutment (right) was destroyed when the 921 quake lifted the entire dam 12 meters but left the north abutment in its original location.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers writes in the WSJ under the title Taiwan's President Must Prove She Can Lead:
In fact, Ms. Tsai’s primary external challenge so far has been Chinese intransigence to her election. Along with the constant drumbeat of Chinese military modernization, China has poached a diplomatic ally, had Taiwan citizens deported from third countries to China and reduced by up to one-third the number of Chinese tourist groups visiting Taiwan.

Yet China’s provocative behavior has been calibrated to avoid a downward spiral of exchanges with Taiwan from which it would be difficult to recover without losing face, while at the same time to avoid rousing the U.S. into making a show of support for its longtime ally. Ms. Tsai has been careful to refuse China’s “one China” policy, but she has also stated that no outcome is off the table so long as Taiwan gets to determine its own future. This new normal in cross-Strait relations is unlikely to change in the next six to 12 months, with both sides focusing on higher priorities.
In the top paragraph, two of the assertions are just plain wrong. China did not poach a diplomatic ally in Gambia -- it had nothing to do with Taiwan at all -- and the deportation policy was settled on long before Tsai came into office. It is one of the conventional double standards of media and commentators to attribute all perceived negative moves by China to the desire to punish the DPP, never the KMT. *sigh*

The second paragraph shows that Hammond-Chambers, like many who watch Tsai, doesn't get her style. The leadership style of Tsai Ing-wen is characterized by a complete lack of drama. Tsai is quietly effective. Many observers confuse this lack of drama with a lack of leadership. False. Tsai does not need to demonstrate leadership. She simply leads. Part of this also is that leadership in the two societies is different -- simply put, in Taiwan a leader is the one who gives orders that others must obey, in the US a leader is one who proposes ideas that others choose to follow. Fundamentally, Tsai is leading, according to her cultural practices.

One thing that's really sharp is H-C's observation that China is constrained by the US -- if it harms the Taiwan relationship too much, it might make the US more active in supporting Taiwan.

Hammond-Chambers argues that Taiwan needs the TPP, but hopefully Congress will kill that corporate power grab, which will be a disaster for Taiwan's exports, environment, economy, and national health insurance system. What Tsai should be doing is negotiating with the intention of never joining. I am not of the school that trade treaties are absolute goods, and this one is a destructive stinker.

Tricky Taipei publishes the 5 Least Business-Friendly Practices in Taiwan, in response to another one of Ralph Jennings' Forbes laughers. Tricky discusses things that many of us have seen over the years, though I can't understand why anyone thinks Gogoro scooter is so great. You just have to look at the pictures and it's obvious: Taipei. Heavy on the styling and light on the substance -- can you put 3 sacks of bamboo shoots and tie six large lead pipes across the rear? Can it carry four natural gas tanks? Doesn't look like it. At present it is an overpriced toy redolent of the Taipei moneyed mentality -- if you are looking for the real thing, IMHO try something like a Kymco Queen 3.0, which I drove a couple of years ago on Green Island. Why not support that? But then -- it lacks the kind of status associations that brands attempt to create. To me Gogoro is what happens when things are designed as brands from the start: they are but overpriced status markers with little real worth, which describes essentially the entire world that branding creates.

Speaking of that, Mark Stocker, who works to create the branded world that created the OEM system in Taiwan by offshoring jobs from developed countries, writes in an irony-free post on how Taiwan doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up (foreigners who write in these tropes of Taiwan's immaturity really set me off, brace yourself). Stocker's been peddling this stuff for ages (here), and his answer is, of course, positive thinking and branded firms (in an astonishing coincidence, Stocker sells branding advice). Stocker attacks the "pessimism" over Taiwan's future -- a future that itself is the creation of the sick surfaces-are-everything branded world in which "things are constantly asserted that smart people know are false" that Stocker has fought to build, and writes:
It surprises me that instead of supporting the world’s first fully-automated toll collection system (ETC), we attack the system for minor technical issues on launch day. Meanwhile, few people recognized that what Taiwan had achieved was a world’s first that could lead to interest in the technology from countries around the world.
The world's first? Wiki says it was Norway in the 1980s, while the tech itself was first proposed in the 1950s. "Minor technical issues on launch day" was not why the ETC was attacked. This kind of misrepresentation is why so many of us despise the branded world. Stocker simply ignores over all the problems with the ETC, especially when it was first implemented -- so obviously a rip-off designed to line someone's pockets. Initially the cost to drivers was high, and the bidding process on it stank. Who on earth could support that? In fact it was boycotted by consumer groups and carriage firms, who were furious that the MOTC slashed their subsidies via ETC. Then came the accusation that Far Eastern Transportation Corp had gotten the bid through bid-rigging and leaked documents, with the usual indictments. No wonder consumers are pessimists! Sure, after a decade, ETC kinda works. Stocker writes:
Anyone of these companies might have achieved what Sony achieved for the nation of Japan, but they were never given a chance because we the public didn’t support them. To the converse, we slowed and worse yet stopped their ascent. By jumping on the ‘criticize’ bandwagon, we have collectively crushed the very ideas and opportunities that could have driven the next generation of economic opportunities for this nation.
No Mark, it was not our criticism and lack of support that stopped them from becoming the next Sony. Rather, it was their corruption, their preference for surfaces over reality, and their indifference to the needs of Taiwan that has kept so many big firms from emulating the success of Sony for Taiwan.

I don't want to end this post on a negative note, so let me guide you to Martin Hiesboeck's excellent open letter to Tsai Ing-wen on 5 Bold Steps for Taiwan's future, including:
5) Last but certainly not least, swing open the gates and welcome international talent. Everyone with a science degree, some achievement in business, or money to invest, should be given free work permits and unlimited visas. Perhaps it's time to abolish work permits altogether. Why do 'foreigners' need separate ID cards? If they have worked and paid taxes for 5 years, they should automatically be eligible to apply for a Taiwanese passport. It is a farce that 90-year-old retired professors have to leave the country in which they have spent their entire lives every 3 months just because of antiquated immigration laws. Taiwan is not a Han-Chinese nation. It has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. The only way to keep up with your neighbors economically is by building the most diverse workforce in Asia. Taiwan's leading companies are stifled by lack of international talent, just ask their marketing teams. Foreigners meet unnecessary obstacles every step of the way, from work permits to ID cards to access to bank credit. Taiwan's universities cannot find good teaching staff, because salaries are ridiculously low and restrictions on hiring foreigners extremely cumbersome. Learn from Sweden, which welcomes talented people from around the world with open arms and therefore has the most vibrant tech sector outside the US.
To all those I would add that Taiwan needs to re-open its voc-ed institutions, which supplied so many of its small- and medium-sized business entrepreneurs in the heyday of the Miracle Economy.

Many other things could be said, but this post is already too long... back to work tomorrow *groan*.
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

How dumb is China?

Entering Fengyuan Station.

UDN, the rabidly pro-KMT paper, reports on the story of KMT mayors being invited to a forum in China.
KMT and "independent" Mayors of Hsinchu, Miaoli, Nantou, Hualien, Kinmen, and two other places, a total of eight people are heading off to China. These represent, according to the article, the "1992 Consensus areas". LOL.

No DPP mayors are invited.

Here's a double stupidity. First, China makes it impossible to separate the KMT from China, so it can't Taiwanize. Indeed, China might be sophisticated enough to realize that is a possibility, and so it continues to sink hooks into the KMT to make sure it can't put distance between the two. But I kinda doubt China is that sharp. So now every voter in Taiwan is reminded of who the KMT is sleeping with.

I've noted this before: once again, by being inflexible, China has given up an opportunity to subvert DPP mayors and to talk to DPP constituents, and to look diplomatic and reasonable.

And then there's the KMT. If you were a smart politician in a contested region, you might consider not going, to put some distance between you and the CCP. Eric Chu, as head of New Taipei City, is an invitee, and New Taipei City will be hotly contested in 2018 (now less than 1.5 years away). What will he do? I'd beg off, if I were him.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the new Democratic party head is a half-Taiwanese who is very aware of her links to Taiwan. This is good for Taiwan.
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Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday short shorts

Taking the pups for a ride.

A friend on Facebook sent me a video of a wonderful skit performed by the Tourism industry "protesters" in front of the Presidential office today. The "tree" of tourists was planted by President Ma, and its fruit attracted many animals (tourists), then the evil witch cut down the tree. By not saying that Taiwan is part of China.

No one seems to have imagined that Tsai might say she accepts that Taiwan is part of China and the tourists may still not come back. Remember how we were promised there would be FTAs if only we signed ECFA? China never said that, and years later the Ma Administration was forced to admit that China was blocking trade agreements. Now we are in exactly the same position -- China has publicly maintained that the fall off in group tours is due to market forces -- so there is no guarantee the taps will be turned back on even if Tsai kow-tows.

The tourist thing is shaping up to be a major KMT-led attack on the Tsai Administration. Which is good because nobody likes Chinese tourists and Taiwanese know a scam when they hear one. The KMT is nailing its flag to (yet another) detested mast.

The Taipei Times hosted an excellent commentary today on the tourism issue, don't miss it. The TSU pointed out that Chinese tourism has dumbed down the whole tourism market. It will be a relief when the group tours disappear and the high paying Korean and Japanese tourists return.

Meanwhile a UDN editorial translated by the KMT news organ argues that the KMT has three major problems.
The first of the KMT's three major obstacles is the lack of an internal party line. Next year's party chairmanship election will apparently be contested only by Hung Shiu-chu and Wu Den-yih. That is not a good sign. Wu and Hung each have their strengths and weaknesses. But neither has offered a vision for the party attractive enough to inspire the public. Meanwhile, rival party factions are covertly mobilizing. The battle is bound to form along "nativist" and "non-nativist" lines.
This will be yet another round in the long struggle between the Taiwanese faction politicians who form the base of the KMT's political strength, and the mainlanders who control the party. We saw this first in the Ma Ying-jeou vs. Wang Jin-pyng election, when elites supported Wang but the Old Soldiers all voted Ma. Then another round was fought this year when current Chairman Hung Hsiu-chu beat Huang Min-hui, a Taiwanese politician from southern Taiwan, again with some elites supporting Huang but the conservative Deep Blue Old Soldiers supporting Hung. Most of that crowd will still be around in Aug of 2017, and Hung will probably win another Chairmanship election, even though Wu will have the support of the Party's mainlander elites and the Taiwanese factions.

The second problem UDN identifies is the lack of strong candidates. Many of us have noticed that.

Finally UDN says...
The third major obstacle the KMT faces is its procrastination and indecision in letting go of its party assets. KMT party assets have become a major political burden.
When even UDN admits this, it's really time for the assets to go.

An Indonesian maid was raped by her employer last week and then attempted suicide -- the Labor agency treated her like crap, according to the New Lens piece. A horrible case, and the ugly news reporting in Taiwan disgusted many of us reading it. Liberty Times appeared to imply that the terrible thing about the case was what it did to the country's image (丟臉丟到國外 Lost face abroad!), and put up images from a video of the rape that the poor woman managed to shoot.

The labor brokers -- who are they? Well, the last legislator to attempt to make changes received death threats from gangsters. The government needs to clean that mess up, eliminate the brokers, and set up a government run program.
Daily Links:

  • The Chinese once again flew planes through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and Phils. 
  • NPR on Kinmen and its dilemmas. Kinmen and Matsu are probably the only places where the ROC actually exists in the minds of the residents. 
  • Will someone tell the NPP that US one China policy does not include Taiwan in China? *sigh*

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Big loans for "tourism": Tour groups "working as intended"

Manzhou Township.

The Cabinet approved big payoffs loans for the tourism industry, since the entirely political bubble of group tours from China has popped...
The Executive Yuan has approved a plan to extend NT$30 billion (US$952 million) in loans to the tourism sector, which has felt the pinch after a fall in the number of Chinese visitors this year.

The Cabinet said that the loans are aimed at helping domestic tourism businesses upgrade their hardware and software in a bid to improve the quality of the industry and eventually attract more visitors to the nation.

Since the Democratic Progressive Party government took office on May 20, there has been a 30 percent year-on-year decline in the number of Chinese tourists taking part in group tours amid cooling cross-strait ties.
The Mainland Affairs Council announced that overall Chinese tourism had fallen 22.3% year on year, with the biggest drop (38.9%) in group tours. News Lens added:
Jessica Yu (尤敏華), secretary of the Hotel Association of the Republic of China, notes that the hotel occupancy rate across Taiwan has dropped 50 percent. Meanwhile, Chang Tien-tsai (張天財), secretary-general of the National Joint Association of Buses for Tourists of the Republic of China, said that about 80 percent of the 16,000 tourist buses around the nation are currently idle due to the drop in Chinese tourists.
All this was entirely predictable, so one has to ask why the various Tourism Associations screaming at the Tsai Administration that they have no Chinese tourists, nevertheless made investments that they must have known would fail. It has been known since November of 2014 at least, that Tsai would win in Jan of 2016... The News Lens article observed that Chinese tourism is also down in Hong Kong and Macao as well, Chinese economic problems are well known, and it is also well known that the corruption drive is pushing down tourism by officials... apparently everyone knew except the tourism industry...

Perhaps China has pulled out its tourists because of the Sunflowers. Remember? One of the goals of the services pact was to put Taiwan's tourism businesses in Chinese hands. Then the whole thing would be Chinese: Chinese tourists would board Chinese planes to Taiwan where they would stay in Chinese-owned hotels and ride in Chinese-owned buses. But that didn't happen. The Sunflowers killed the services pact, many of the local tourism businesses remained in Taiwanese hands, and now China has screwed its allies in Taiwan by pulling out its group tours -- knowing they would scream at the Tsai Administration, a bonus. It was simply waiting for the Tsai government to take power, so she would take the blame for the pullout.

Other notes: in August I began to suspect that the tourism numbers weren't bad because at the beginning of the month when the gov't talked about China tourism, it didn't give any numbers and made some noises about money. Then the numbers were a week late coming out, another signal that reality was straying from the government line. Sure enough, the number of Chinese tourists rose in July. Very curious to see what the drop looks like in August -- and it is that bad, why doesn't MAC simply release the numbers? Yet it never does.

Last August we had 367,736 tourists from China plus another 160,829 from Hong Kong and Macao, for a total of 528,565, one of the highest months ever for the combined total. A 22% drop year on year in China tourists would mean roughly 288,000 visitors. The Hong Kong/Macao number from last August is unusually large. It's likely that has fallen as well -- a double whammy, if so.

Still, 288,000 is a few thousand less than July. You don't think the tourism associations are lying about their situation to put pressure on the government, do you?
Daily Links:
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Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Wed Short Shorts

Chen Chu, the current mayor of Kaohsiung, a political prisoner, described in Marc Cohen's 1992 book The Unknown Taiwan (online), still serving her sentence for the Dec 10, 1979 Kaohsiung Human Rights Day protest.

That poll that named Taiwan the number 1 expat place to live, pimped here in Taiwan Today, was totally destroyed by Taiwan Explorer, who points out that the survey of "expats in Taiwan" actually only surveyed a tiny group of privileged white expats in Taipei, and is as unrepresentative as can be imagined. The usual uncritical media coverage then followed...

Following the "sharp drop" in the number of group tourists from China, the government is scrambling for a tourism policy. Proposals are aimed at Muslim and SE Asian tourism.

Meanwhile the Tsai Administration is inundated with protests and strikes. Saturday public sector employees went out to protest pension reforms. Taipower employees are also marching to Taipei because of changes in Taipower. The DPP wants to create additional electricity organizations to carry out Taipower's current role. One of the most hidebound and conservative agencies in the government, it is a testimony to the power of the bureaucracy that reform can only be accomplished by keeping agencies in place but reducing their power by creating new agencies. *sigh* Tourism groups were also out in a small protest to complain about the drop in group tours. What do all these have in common? They are deeply Blue groups. Some of the more suspicious Greens are seeing coordination in the strikes....

Frozen Garlic emerged from his cave to write to the Greens to stop acting as if the sky is falling because Tsai's popularity has declined a bit. We have a pro-Taiwan legislature and a pro-Taiwan Administration, something to celebrate. Moreover, DPP party ID is continuing to rise. The long-term news is good. So relax guys....

Good and bad news out of the KMT... first, the party is grudgingly adopting measures to permit the local chapters to elect their own leaders.
Under the amendment to Article 26 of the charter, local branches will be able to elect their own directors, though the party leadership will retain the authority to appoint deputy directors and to ratify local appraisal committee members.

The KMT now has two months to form a committee to implement the changes that were outlined in the local branch amendment.

In line with the amendment, the party could hold combined elections in August next year for its chairperson, local directors and party representatives, which would be a first since the KMT’s founding more than 100 years ago.
At first you think -- yeah, progress toward Taiwanization. But elites objected to this, since they may lose control of the local branches, and the language of the changes shows obvious intent to keep elected local directors under central party eyes. PTS reports on other changes at the Congress. Apparently the KMT is now incorporating a cross-strait peace agreement into its party charter. The Taipei Times gave an expanded version of the changes, which also involve including the 1992 in the Charter but leaving out the codocil of one China, "each with is own interpretation", though several party bigwigs objected. The key point, of course, is that none of these have any great appeal for the voting public.

BTW, my man Donovan the ICRT Central Taiwan news guy notes that...
We're still on track for Taichung to be the second largest city by mid 2017:
Countdown to Taichung passing Kaohsiung as #2: 20,182 (end Aug data, Aug -1847, Jul -1872, Jun -1470, May -2414)
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Monday, September 05, 2016

Paper on Parade: The Demand for Opium in Colonial Taiwan, 1914-42

A curve in the mountains.

I was delighted to find The Demand for Opium in Colonial Taiwan, 1914-42 (Liu Jin-tan, Liu Jin-long, and Chow Shin-yi, 1996, Academia Sinica Discussion Papers), an old study paper published by the Institute of Economics at the Academia Sinica, among a huge pile of stuff recovered from our attic. It gives a summary of opium policy during the Japanese period and models the demand for opium during that period as a reference for future drug legalization policymaking.

When the Japanese took over Taiwan in 1895, opium smoking was legal and widespread. In fact, according to their stats, opium imports accounted for 45-75% of Taiwan's imports by value between 1864 and 1895.

Opium consumption was strictly illegal in Japan, but the new administration in Formosa balked at such a policy for the island, especially given the large number of smokers. Goto Shimpei, then director of the Health Administration Bureau of Japan (later head of Civil Administration Bureau in Taiwan beginning in 1898), warned that a ban with a death sentence as existed in Japan would have to be imposed by force, with the concomitant violence and loss of life among Japanese soldiery. Goto instead argued for gradual reduction over decades.

According to Liu et al, based on this policy, in 1897 the government established an Opium Monopoly Bureau, which legalized opium for medicinal use (similar policies were followed in Burma by the British and Java by the Dutch). Wholesale and retailer marketers of opium needed a government license to sell opium. Users had to get a diagnosis of addiction from a doctor and then a license from the government to purchase opium for their own use. Unlicensed use was severely punished.

In 1900 the government reckoned the number of users at 169,064, or 6.3% of the population. Addicts were granted licenses again in 1903 and 1908. After that no more licenses were issued. This fascinating book on opium production and revenues notes that after the Japanese figures came out in the early 1900s, the Qing gov't used them to revise its estimates of its population's own opium consumption.

In 1929 the government revised the law and the 17,468 addicts were ordered to receive compulsory medical treatment. By the end of 1942 the number of addicts had declined to 3,624.

To reduce consumption, opium prices were set high. In 1900 19.1% of the colonial budget came from opium revenues, but by 1944 that had fallen to just 0.14%. Goto had recommended that revenues from opium sales be used only for suppressing opium, and not for other administrative uses. Thus most of the funds went to public hygiene and health activities, along with some for education.

As is well known, the policy was a success. Opium imports plummeted from nearly 200,000 kilos in 1900 to just 7.940 in 1942. The Japanese model was widely discussed and studied among countries administering Chinese populations in their colonies.

I should add that this policy should not be viewed in isolation -- it was part of a larger imperial policy of exploiting drug use for profit and power. While opium consumption was suppressed in Japan and Formosa, Japanese merchants shipped it to China for large profits. This old text notes that Formosan shopkeepers naturalized as Japanese citizens (and therefore untouchable by Chinese police) ran a thriving trade in it. According to that book in Tsingtao (which Japan occupied following Germany after WWI) the Japanese brought in opium from Formosa and elsewhere and sold it through Chinese merchants allied to the Japanese administration (across Shantung), and used the police to suppress rival opium sellers, a program described in detail in Moral Nation. They also shipped opium by train protected by Japanese troops, a policy we have seen with cocaine and other drugs, as US forces discovered in Japanese records seized after WWII. In Kwangtung Japanese corporations sold opium from Persia, and apparently opium was sold illicitly with the connivance of Japanese authorities there. The Japanese had problems with opium use only among their own people... they were happy to sell it to other people.
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Friday, September 02, 2016

US Vietnam War Servicemen R&R in Taipei + Links

Alexander of the amazing blog Synapticism sent this around Facebook. This is part one of a three part series on US Vietnam servicemen doing R and R in Taipei -- he described it as cringeworthy as you would expect. Mention of Taipei starts after the 6 min mark, but part two is the good part.
Daily Links:

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Still your father's KMT

Above is a poster from the Facebook of KMT Chairman Hung Hsiu-chu. She's flooded her Facebook with similar images. This one shows her as an anime character, and she's asking in Chinese: "Young people, let me ask! Why do you hate the KMT?"

The answer, of course, lies within the KMT itself. The TT reported on the continued retrograde motion of the KMT under the guidance of Chairman Hung:
Some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members yesterday voiced dissent after KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) on Tuesday said that the party leadership has drafted amendments to the party’s policy platform, which is to be discussed at the party’s national congress on Sunday, to align its efforts to strengthen the so-called “1992 consensus” and explore the potential for a “peace agreement” with Beijing.
The KMT's top down leadership style on display -- once again, no reform in sight under Hung:
“Major policy proposals should be bottom-up discussions. I do not understand why the party leadership is rushing this,” KMT Legislator Lai Shih-bao (賴士葆) told the United Daily News. “At the very least, the party’s rank-and-file members should have been consulted, and the KMT Central Standing Committee should have voted on the issue before it was submitted to the national congress.”
Remember this from 2005 if you are tempted to imagine the KMT will reform:
Members of Super KMT II, which takes its name from SKII, a kind of cosmetic which claims to help maintain an appearance of youthfulness, vowed to become key reformers in the quest to bring young people back to the KMT. Jul 8, 2005
No young people? Complaints about that for more than a decade now, though apparently the KMT has the superior infrastructure. Brian Hioe noted the other day:
However, the KMT still maintains a sizable and active youth section. Interestingly enough, despite the fact that the DPP absorbed many young people drawn from post-Sunflower civil society for the Tsai campaign, the DPP has never been able to build a comparable youth section to either the KMT or TSU.

And it is that in the KMT’s moment of crisis, young people within the KMT are calling for internal party reform in order to rescue the party—with some surprisingly sympathetic responses from post-Sunflower youth activists. The Grassroots Alliance (草協聯盟) and leading figure Hsu Hsiao-Chin (徐巧芯) have been much discussed in Taiwanese civil society as of late.
Hoie sharply notes that KMT young are much-discussed and sympathized with by outsiders, who recognize that they have grown up in what I call the Church of the KMT -- in its ideological bubble."This may be another sign that Taiwan’s current young may have moved beyond ethnic identity politics in the post-Sunflower political paradigm," he notes. But he goes on...
And it is that members of the Grassroots Alliance has been targeted most often not by their peers on the other side of the political aisle, but by older members of the KMT. The Grassroots Alliance and its key figures have been attacked from the beginning through claims that members have been brainwashed by the DPP or are “light green.” One imagines that, given the absolute loyalty of young members of the Grassroots Alliance to the party as a matter of personal identity, it is not exactly pleasant for members of the Grassroots Alliance to come under attack by the party when their calls for reform seem rather earnest in nature and done with the best interests of the KMT in mind. If this is the way the KMT treats their young, perhaps we can see why efforts at reform have been stymied, and why the KMT has such difficulty grooming young leaders and advancing them to positions in which they could take power as the next generation of the party—meaning possible extinction as a party when there is nobody left to carry on the party torch.
Indeed, in the TT article at the beginning of this piece quotes KMT Chair Hung criticizing the young:
Hung criticized Tsai’s comments about Taiwan’s “naturally independence-leaning” younger generations, saying: “It is an artificial pro-independence sentiment ... [that was] manipulated by politicians who made young people forget about the Republic of China’s history and cross-strait ties to “cut the umbilical cord” between Taiwan and China.”
When you are viewing things through the lens of ideology, opposition is always explained in terms of conspiracy...

And then there is this...
"Meetings held by the KMT Central Standing Committee consist of one person laying down the law. There's no democracy at all in the party," Yang said. March 24, 2000
Nothing has changed. The party rank and file are just cannon fodder, the real decisions are made by elites.

Moreover, the policies that Hung is advocating, especially the "peace agreement" which is a non-starter with little support outside the KMT, are old. The idea of "peace agreement" was originally proposed by then-independent and former KMT heavyweight James Soong as he ran for president in the 2000 election.... (TT, March, 2000)
"While the political dispute cannot be settled at once, I would like to use cultural and economic approaches to promote a friendly atmosphere, in the hopes of pushing through a 30- to 50-year peace accord under the auspices of international witnesses," he said.
These "peace agreements" are never concretely spelled out because the KMT likely sees them as a way to annex Taiwan to China and to neutralize Taiwan in China's favor in the ongoing hegemonic struggle between the US, Japan, and China. It's hilarious to hear Hung talking about them fifteen years of non-start later, and even more hilarious to read in the media that Tsai does not have a coherent foreign policy given the KMT's current utter lack of a concrete foreign policy (for which the party is never criticized in the foreign media).

Hung did signal that the KMT will engage in independent diplomacy with China, which will likely make Beijing laugh...

Michael Danielson had a piece in the TT today assessing the KMT's first 100 days in opposition. Observing that "the KMT lost China and now it is going to lose Taiwan", Danielson reminds us:
Finally, the KMT continues to promote the “1992 consensus” as the savior of the nation’s economy and its relationship with China. Beijing’s reaction to Tsai has been relatively modest. Retrospectively, the KMT’s obsession with the “1992 consensus” has not given Taiwan more real international space, but rather contributed to the KMT’s downfall through the Sunflower movement and Taiwanese’s negative reaction to an economic integration with China, which they fear would lead to more social inequality.
Since integration with China has driven Taiwan's social inequality, it is not surprising that the public objects to more.

Danielson correctly observes that Beijing did little for Taiwan's international space. The two, social movements and international space, are connected -- J Michael Cole cogently argued last year that China, seeing that Ma was hamstrung by the Sunflowers and domestically weak, had decided to punish Ma by implementing the new flight routes that came dangerously close to Taiwan's. People have already forgotten that the free trade agreements with other nations promised by President Ma if Taiwan signed ECFA never materialized because Beijing blocked them, as the Ma Administration complained.

The truth is that "progress" in cross-strait relations often lauded by commentators either never really existed or else actively harmed Taiwan's interests.
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