Sunday, October 30, 2016

Another lovely day on the Taichung 46

The entrance to the Taichung 46 (Zhongpi Road) off the 8 southeast of Dongshih

Today I went up to the Taichung 46 with Iris and Dom for some excellent riding (map link). Pics below the fold...


This kind of crap is one reason Drew of Taiwan in Cycles and I laugh so hard at the bike path claims of the government. These stairs here are plopped right down in a bike path, and they didn't even bother to put in a ramp.

Yes, this "game" from the Taiwan Cycling Festival asks you to go around the island and do stupid things, such as "write KOM using your butt". Clearly written for six year olds for the amusement of four year olds.
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New Train Station Blues

In Taichung the new elevated train lines with the new train stations were just completed.

The Taichung station is the particular subject of complaints. The new station has only one escalator in each section going up and down -- in the morning these are packed, slowing everyone down. In the old Taichung station the tracks were at street level, and it was possible to run to make a train. Now you have to climb stairs. People are reporting they have to leave much earlier in the morning, and navigation in the new station is difficult.

The new stations are also demonstrating the usual stupidity that marks Taiwan design. They are hideous concrete blocks for starters. Each one is identical, meaning that you actually have to look to see which station you are at, you can't just glance out the window (wooden fence by track? It must be Fengyuan. Curved railings? That's Taiyuan). The government didn't even bother to have them painted differently or create any other markers of uniqueness, such as public art or vendors. It appears to regard vendors with social class-jaundiced eyes. Further, the stations are gigantic, designed on an inhuman scale, far larger than is needed, so obviously Japanese-style construction-state giveaways, metaphors for the public debt in every way... and all that open space, giant roofs -- and no solar panels.

I photo'd the outside of the Tanzih station above. I've used this station for 14 years. The old station was quick, efficient, and human-sized. The new station is a four story hike up stairs. It's ginormous. The ostensible reason for the "improvement" was to elevate the tracks to create space and reduce accidents. Design fail. As you can see, the parking area for scooters is across a four lane street. This street leads to Chunghwa Telecom and the Post Office on the other side, meaning that it will be busy when the road is finished.

Note on the right side of the picture the vast area under the tracks, out of the rain and sun. Ideal for scooter parking, or vendors, or bicycle parking (because of the industrial district nearby the station is flooded with bikes from the workers, naturally despite this being a known need, there is no special provision for them), or some other human need. Instead, it has black and white rocks of stupefying uselessness -- for the sake of black and white rocks uselessly occupying useful space, human beings will have to cross the street and get hit by cars. "Stupid" doesn't even begin to describe how stupid that is.

Ominous rumblings. The new tracks have been the subject of noise complaints even though they have soundproofing. The public is also blaming Taichung mayor Lin Jia-lung for the difficulties people are having getting around in the new station....
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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Thursday Short Shorts

Morning walk in rainy Hualien

The Administration is forging ahead with what it said it would do, quietly, without fanfare or drama. That's Tsai's leadership style. It's great for the nation, although it doesn't supply pyrotechnics for this blog. So you'll have to forgive the recent lack of blogging.

KMT: Yeah, the KMT is so wrecked it is taking money in the form of loans under Party Chair Hung's name just to pay its salaries. Note that these are loans, not gifts. Newly appointed Spokesloon Alex Tsai wasted no time in engaging in bizarre attacks on Ma Ying-jeou, no ideological slouch himself, who is looking surprisingly reasonable compared to Hung and her appointees after disagreements at a high level dinner party. Hung denied there was any trouble, but reportedly asked the former president, who was trying to explain (mansplain?) cross-strait policy to her, why "reunification" isn't on the table (China Post). I am so glad Hung is Chairman of the KMT.

The fight over the 1992 Consensus one interpretation or two, is another one of those disguised identity struggles within the KMT. The KMT's attacks on Tsai reached new heights of absurdity this week as well as they called Tsai "Taiwan's Hitler". They did the same thing to Chen Shui-bian, readers will recall (and also effigies of him as Hitler during the faux protests against him) and PRC officials referred to Tsai as Hitler as well, though in a different context than accusations of authoritarianism.

Note that this conversation on the 1992C is taking place almost entirely between mainlanders at the top of the party. None of the party's Taiwanese heavyweights except Wu Den-yih has weighed in on the issue.

FOOD: the Taipei Times editorialized vaguely about food prices, which have skyrocketed with the recent typhoon blitz.The Tsai Administration needs to be seen to be loudly doing something. Vegetable prices are stratospheric -- I couldn't even find carrots at the supermarket the other day because they were so pricey, and quarter heads of cabbage require a mortgage. Hopefully things will calm down a bit soon. The massive spike in prices is quite painful at the moment, though.
Daily Links:
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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Show me the swath of destruction: a further note on occupancy rates

Tourists breakfasting on Lanyu

Not going for humor in this one, sorry, because I am soul tired of not only this topic, but also of the rampant and burgeoning idiocy in the foreign media. In the post below in which the ghosts of Chinese tourist groups visit me, I compared Jan 2016 to Aug 2016. Probably a few of you thought that might be unfair, even though we had far more Chinese tourists in January than we did in August. But in case you did think it was unfair, here are the Aug 2015 and 2016 numbers for Operations of Tourist hotels, in scenic areas....

2015 2016
num of rooms occupied 48974               49,731
occupancy rate 59.73%              58.63%
avg room rate 6170                  6411
room revenue 302,156,513 318,845,129
F and B revenue 133,424,044 138,810,765
Total 482,330,566 503,566,089

Revenues and hotel prices are actually up (galloping up ahead of the inflation rate), occupancy rates have fallen slightly -- probably because there are more rooms -- and the number of rooms occupied has risen.

Oh yeah, the overall occupancy rate in Aug of 2015 was 69.07%.

China group tourists are political theater, not economic reality...
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Cubs vs Indians in World Series! Apocalypse Nigh Links

Mugumuyu in the fog

KMT news -- the asset issue and the KMT's declining position is making it swing hard to right. Unhappy with its current spokesman's "soft" position on the asset issue, today the KMT appointed rabid mainlander ideologue Alex Tsai to the position. Tsai, readers may recall, was the campaign manager for Sean Lien's inedible Taipei mayoral run. This is not the kind of appointment that will increase Taiwanese participation in the KMT, since it is just another signal that the Party remains a mainlander bubble world.

Enjoy a few links...

  • Interview with Freddy Lim, fighting for Taiwanese independence
  • Great photo blog: Focused on Taiwan
  • KMT NEWS: The hilarious infighting in the KMT and poverty is leading the Party to solicit donations from members... whose salaries have gone unpaid. The Party promises not to punish any member who doesn't donate. Note that although the Party has served the nation's wealthy since its inception, none of the big whales appear to be willing to be tapped for funds to sustain the Party. You also have to love the special memorabilia straight out of the early years as gifts for donors, which will have a huge appeal to today's voters, I'm sure. The battle over the Party's ideological position also continues apace, with Hung increasingly isolated. Meanwhile the grand justices declined to review the asset law, because it requires 38 legislators to bring the legislation before the tribunal, and the KMT cannot summon up so many. The legislative loss just keeps ramifying... Comically, Wang Jyn-ping, who spent his entire political career supporting the Party that fought to suppress democracy in Taiwan as it was headed by dictators, complains about presidential power.
  • Good piece on Mona Rao and the Wushe Uprising
  • Republican platform has great Taiwan statement
  • Gordon Chang says Say Hello to Taiwan in the National Interest.
  • The importance of President Tsai's apology to the aborigines as a pro-independence move was shown in news from China this week. The Taiwan aborigines had an exhibition in Hangzhou, but were not permitted to call themselves "indigenous" because that would mean they had a prior claim to the island. The Chinese wanted them to be called "minorities."
  • Nikkei: Taiwan to build subs 
  • Taiwanese sailor held since 2012 finally freed by Somali pirates
  • Liberalizing energy markets in Taiwan
  • Latest cycling Taiwan vid from the Tourism Bureau here. Glad they shot the snow over Wuling, but they still don't know the good stuff here.
  • Tainan police arrest 8 missing Indonesian caregivers. These people are so abused here. Too often the solution for some social problem in Taiwan is to find some exploitable group of women who can be disciplined via official sanction, custom, and control to perform the task while being massively overworked and underpaid, from prostitutes to handle male sexual desires to nurses in the National Health Insurance System to female factory workers to living room taskwork for the old factory production system to Indonesian maids for elderly in need of nurses. And this is what happens...
Trends for student enrollment at Taiwan's universities. Now we need to do two things: (1) close all the crapshit private universities that exist only to farm subsidies off the government and (2) revert many of the universities of technology back to their vocational roots. They were important sources of entrepreneurs in the heyday of the miracle....
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Friday, October 21, 2016

A Hotel Occupancy Carol

Slurping down slushies at one of the mountain bed and breakfasts where no tourists are going now.

I was going through a long dark night, listening to James Brown and Aretha Franklin in the bowels of my study. My second bottle of Laphroig had reached the halfway mark and I was despoiling my cupboard in search of a third bottle when I heard the faint scritch-scritch of scrawling on a notepad.

"Who is there?" I called, turning halfway.

A transparent figure appeared, filling my study with the stink of cheap beer and testosterone. It looked up from his notepad, and tucked in its shirt. A bottle of San Miguel slid down its trouser leg, and rolled out onto the floor, spilling beer everywhere. It peered balefully but uncertainly at the enormous collection of Taiwan history books and articles in my library, obviously unfamiliar objects to it. Then its horrible haunted face turned to me.

"I am the ghost of international journalists long gone!" it moaned, its eyes afire as it glared at me. "Tonight you will be visited by three ghosts! Pay attention and learrrrn, or you are dooooommmmeed!"

Then it vanished in a haze of sulfurous smoke.

I shrugged, and sat, addressing the bottle of whiskey once more. The clock on the wall would have ticked, but it was digital, so I was sitting in silence undisturbed when suddenly they were there, a horde of ghosts crowding into my study. Dressed in colorful shirts with flowers, baggy pants, and cheap black shoes that were little more than slippers, they flooded into my study, accompanied by the unmistakable smell of diesel fuel. Coins clanked in their pockets.

In an instant the room was full. I watched in horror as they scrawled their names on my paintings, urinated on my couch, defecated in my sink, and cut the leaves of my potted plants into the shape of the South China Sea. As they clustered around my chair, I realized they were trying to communicate with me. They made a eerily familiar noise, like someone trying to speak Chinese and swallow marbles at the same time. Finally, after loud argument and much gesticulation, they located a ghost who could speak English.

"Who are you!" I challenged.

"Weee are the ghoosts of Chinese Tour Groups paassssttt," the ghost hissed back.

"Why have you come to disturb my repose?" demanded I.

"To tell you of what has gone beforrre." He crooked a long-nailed pinky at me. "Tonight you will learn the errrrror of your wayssss, Obserrrrve the efffffect of our disssssappearance on your puny economy!"

Suddenly I was transported into a dark hallway. The pale shapes of bureaucrats wound their way past me in the halflight, knives sticking from their backs. Next to me the tour group ghosts pushed their way up to the front of the lines, their coins clanking loudly, moaning about the service. Statistics of monthly report of operations of tourist hotels flared before my eyes, from January of 2016:

Taiwan Total Scenic Areas
num of rooms occupied 553,869 45,977
occupancy rate 64.89% 58.39%
avg room rate 3760 5087
room revenue 2,082,643,603 233,894,481
F and B revenue 2,885,652,411 132,676,771
Total 5,574,301,748 400,903,796

"Remember! You will be visssssited by another beforrrre the clock sssstrikesss thirrrteeeeeen!!" The ghost warned as he faded. A final moan came from him... "Can't you give me a better deal on this statue of Chiang Kai-shek?" I heard him say.

I threw the empty bottle of whiskey at him as he disappeared.

I returned to my previous task, the ghosts already forgotten. The cupboard had just revealed itself to be bare of whiskey when I heard a giggling sound. I turned.

A girl half my age stood there, blinking in and out of existence. Short, she was dressed in the latest Japanese fashions, an American baseball cap turned backwards on her head, and a red Jack Wolfskin backpack slung over one shoulder. She grinned, revealing perfect white teeth, then strode over and punched me chummily on a bicep.

"Hello there! It's so great to be traveling in China's Taiwan!" she cried. "I am the ghost of Chinese individual travelers present!"

I searched my study for some means of escape, for I did not want to argue with a woman, but she was between me and the door. I noticed with alarm that she was growing visibly in front of me. Already she had reached my chin.

She punched me again, still grinning, and suddenly I found myself in Taipei Main Station. Travelers brushed past me, intent on catching a train. I looked up at the big brown board, and saw the statistics for Aug of 2016:

Taiwan Total Scenic Areas
num of rooms occupied 554,578 49,731
occupancy rate 64.44% 58.63%
avg room rate 3875 6411
room revenue 2,148,794,875 318,845,129
F and B revenue 1,853,805,182 138,810,765
Total 4,543,186,674 503,566,089

"See! she cried. "China has punished China's Taiwan province severely! Overall occupancy rates for tourist hotels have plummeted 0.45% in August!" A half a meter taller, she grinned down at me more broadly, continuing. "And in scenic areas occupancy rates have negatively declined compared to January, from 58.39% to 58.63%, with room rates negatively declining from $5087 NT to $6411 NT and revenues falling upward from $400 million to over $500 million!" Now a meter taller, she punched me again. "Can't you feel the pain?" she cried. I rubbed my shoulder, already swelling purple. I nodded, blinking back tears. I could indeed feel the pain.

Her head reached the ceiling, and she vanished. I rubbed the bruise again, then downed the last of the Laphroig, now righteously medicinal.

Suddenly I heard a faint jostling in the air.

"Who is there?" I mumbled.

Faint voices, echoing as if from a vast abyss. "Wee arre the ghosssts of Chinesssse tourrr groups in the futurrre..."

But they never appeared.
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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Surveying the cratered landscape of Taiwan's tourism industry

My friend Dom peers out over the ruins of bed and breakfasts strewn across the hills of Miaoli

It's said in the media, so it must be true. A recent iteration:
Since the May inauguration of the new president Tsai Ing-wen from the anti-mainland side of Taiwanese politics, China has turned off the tap. Chinese group tours are down 40 per cent, hitting the central and southern regions of the island hard.
Skipping over the extremely stupid formulation "anti-mainland", let's see how hard hit our island has been.

Although they are not used by the international media in reporting on Taiwan tourism, the government does collect piles of stats on what is happening in the industry on the BuTourism website. The Sept tourist arrivals stats are not out yet, but the number of hotels/room data is out. Let's look at the devastation wrought by the loss of the stingiest, most unremunerative, most widely disliked tourists in Taiwan, Chinese group tourists.

The government collects data on legal and illegal hotels and rooms across Taiwan. Yes, that's right, it knows where all the illegal ones are, it just does nothing. Here are the overall data for January of 2016:

Estblmnts rooms operators
Legal 6153 24840 6805
Illegal 428 2499 462
Total 6581 27339 7267

You know what happened, of course. Catastrophe occurred, we know that because the media has assured us. Here are the September numbers:

Est Rooms Operators
Legal 6863 27743 7881
Illegal 440 2531 468
Total 7303 30274 8349

As anyone can see, the total number of establishments plummeted from 6581 to 7303, the total number of rooms collapsed from 27,339 to 30,274, and the total number of operators fell from 7267 to 8349.

O wait, did I write plummeted, collapsed, fell? Sorry, writing under the influence... of the international media.

I meant, grew, increased, rose. These tour establishment operators are so stupid, they didn't even know that they were in a state of alarming decline and expanded their facilities. These Taiwanese, don't they know their own country?

But... but... surely the rate of increase fell off... Total numbers for the same period from 2015:

Jan '15 5722 23814 5897
Sept '15 6263 25997 6787

Yup, the nine month period ending in September, 2016 saw a greater rise in total number of establishments and rooms than did the same period in September, 2015. The devastation was immense, clearly.

But... but... tourist areas were hard hit, right? Nantou, 2016:

est rooms ops
Jan 642 3120 673
Sept 675 3242 728

Nantou, 2015:

est rooms ops
Jan 615 3012 619
Sept 627 3050 648

This is so... heartbreaking. In 2015 in this period, Nantou added 12 establishments and 38 rooms. In 2016 in the same period it added just 33 establishments and 122 rooms. 

Sorry, I have to stop writing now. It's too painful to keep exploring this swath of destruction any further.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

LOLz from Reuters on the defeat of Gambling referendum in the Penghu

Three former students I miss very much show off curry cooked by Indian students for one of the campus festivals.

With the sound of that train wreck that is the US election crescendoing across the Pacific, it's always fun to explore what our unbiased international media is feeding us. Reuters reports on the crushing defeat of casino gambling in the Penghu referendum on Saturday...
Taiwanese residents in Penghu on Saturday shut the door to casino development in a referendum that proponents had said would bring jobs to the isolated, tiny, offshore archipelago. [no presention of case of opponents of gambling]

The referendum to allow gaming, open only to residents of the outlying county just west of the main Taiwan island, was opposed to by the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). [...just so you know that the DPP is opposed to "development"]

"The focus is not gaming, it is our dissatisfaction. We have a small population, few votes, no influence," a voter who gave his surname as Hsiao told Reuters. [no comments from opponents provided. No explanation of why the referendum was defeated is ever given, let alone why it was defeated so crushingly]


The concerns of Penghu, with a population of around 100,000 against the 23 million national total, are part of the bigger economic divide that has seen Taiwan's second-tier cities and its offshore counties lag in resources and development compared to the wealthier metropolis areas of the north, including the capital Taipei. [no mention that this divide is the result of the deliberate policies of the former ruling party, the KMT, nor that the DPP has pledged to address this divide. Why is this paragraph here and not further reporting on the casino referendum and gambling in Taiwan? The answer is below...]

Last month, local government officials representing eight Taiwanese cities and counties, mainly ruled by the opposition China-friendly Nationalists, visited China and met with its top Taiwan policymaker in a bid to continue economic and cultural exchanges.[We segue directly to the local official kowtow to Beijing... what on earth do these visits have to do with a casino gambling referendum in the Penghu...? Nothing at all! Their inclusion, rather than more robust and detailed reporting on gambling in Taiwan, shows how the piece attempts to be a hit piece on the Tsai Administration. Gambling in Penghu was/is a long-term plan unrelated to this recent event.

China has frozen official communication with Taiwan since President and DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen took power in May because she refuses to acknowledge the "one China" principle, agreed to with the previous China-friendly Nationalists that allows both sides to interpret who rules a single China that includes Taiwan.[a plain error, Beijing has never agreed to that -- the "two interpretations" claim is merely KMT propaganda, and one the ruling party has been debating. However, 1C2I has become a Media Fact, existing only in the media bubble world, and there is no stopping its constant repetition, like so many Hail Marys on the geopolitical rosary.]

China deems Taiwan a wayward province to be taken back by force if necessary and deeply distrusts the DPP, which traditionally advocates independence.[Look how far we have strayed from gambling, into geopolitics, though no concrete connection to the Penghu was ever offered -- now we are told that China distrusts the DPP -- of course never how Taiwan feels about the CCP, though there is copious polling on many angles of that. But why are we even given this information?]
If anyone wants information on the referendum, consider Matt Fulco's report in Nikkei Asian Review:
Yan plans to vote "no." In his view: "Casino resorts will drive up land prices, making housing unaffordable for many residents. Besides, most people in Penghu can get by on their earnings from the high season and tourism has been growing."
Those three sentences contain more useful information than the entire Reuters report. The Taipei Times report, which notes that gaming legislation would not have passed the legislature, observes:
Chen Kuang-fu [Penghu county chief] said the county is moving forward and he hopes the central government would amend flaws in the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例), which he said is an ongoing point of contention between Taipei and the local government that arises every three years to the detriment of the county.
The China Post report is actually clearer: Chen was complaining that because changes to the Offshore Islands Development Act were made to enable the gambling referendum, every three years there is a divisive vote on the issue that is bad for public unity. The gaming industry's local promoters have promised not to have another referendum in three years' time.

It is also important to note that the groups behind these projects are the same groups that at various times have pushed for the Penghu to become some kind of cross-strait transshipment center for people and goods, and similar. China has indicated that it will not tolerate a Taiwan-based competitor to Macao, so this casino would have been aimed at other tourists, though most likely it would have become just another heavily subsidized way for elites to transfer wealth from Taiwanese to themselves.

In 2009 I observed, fearing that the gambling would pass...
Just as an example of what's happening, AMZ Holdings, a property development firm, holds the largest single plot of land in the Penghu, a 27 acre property that it hopes to develop into a gaming resort. Their website about it is hereThis discussion of the value of the firm notes that the land is worth $46 million even without the resort, and that the acreage was assembled by purchases from over 280 landowners over eight years. That's $46 million dollars of irresistible pressure on local governments... another news report says that Lawrence Ho, the son of Macau kingpin Stanley Ho, is looking to expand into the Penghu if the Beijing government gives the ok signal.
Despite savage repression of anti-gambling arguments in the media and in public meetings by the local government and KMT officialdom, that referendum was shockingly defeated. Looking back, that may have been the inflection point in growing opposition to the KMT by social movements and their supporters.

Thanks, Penghu, for that vote, and for this one.
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Gambling referendum in Penghu

A 1930s house outside Shihgang

Gambling referendum: Matt Fulco gives the background on the Penghu gambling referendum in Nikkei Asian ReviewPresident Tsai opposes gambling in the Penghu. Opponents note that the wording of the referendum is misleading (who could have imagined that in a referendum involving gambling?). Early returns suggest that it is being crushingly rejected. UPDATE: Yup. Crushingly rejected.

KMT lawmakers are concerned about the purported meeting of KMT Chairman Hung Hsiu-chu and Xi Jin-ping, the president of China, as the KMT continues its internal squabble over the direction of the party. New Bloom talks about the proposed meeting here.

IMPORTANT: JapanFocus on Taiwan's energy situation and prospects for renewables, but it doesn't matter because the DPP totally screwed up the power reforms. Damn.
Academics yesterday criticized the Executive Yuan’s policy stance on a draft amendment to the Electricity Act (電業法) as a “great” setback for the government’s policy to liberalize the nation’s electricity industry.

“The government’s stance represents a policy U-turn, because Taipower [Taiwan Power Co (台電)] would still monopolize the industry,” said Kimmie Wang (王京明), research fellow at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research’s (中華經濟研究院) Center for Energy and Environmental Research.

The proposed amendment would make no difference to liberalizing the industry, because non-renewable energy firms are still not allowed to enter the market to compete with Taipower, he said.
Taipower hates renewables, so this change has basically killed renewable energy-oriented reform.

IMPORTANT: On the other hand, AmCham lauds the Tsai Administration for changing the rules to make government more open.
In an executive order likely to have far-reaching implications in improving the transparency and effectiveness of Taiwan’s regulatory process, the Executive Yuan in early September issued a directive extending the notice and comment period for proposed regulations from the current 14 days to 60 days.
Daily Links:
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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Rounding up a lost week...

Waiting for cars to pass around a landslide blocking the road.

AMPHIBIOUS EXPEDITION: Last week I worked like a dog to get all my work done so I could take a bike vacation on the east coast. And the heavens opened... I've never seen so much water on the east coast. Three typhoons followed by the torrential rains left Highway 11 waterlogged and encroached on by land and rock slides. In one place, pictured above, the road was completely knocked out. Our amphibious expedition rode through streams that had broken down walls and through earth barriers to flood the road. It rained steadily, but it wasn't cold, so it was actually an enjoyable challenge, til my old tire finally gave out. So we hung out in the sleepy fishing port of Chenggong for a couple of days instead of biking. Restful, but not very good for my waistline...

An area of Chenggong fishing port. This was dug out by hand in the Japanese era, my friend Jeff who lives there told me, and the dirt piled around it to form the berm that protects it.

FOOD WARS: Last week I was in Jhuolan having lunch at a Vietnamese place when a man walks in. He orders soup and the proprietor begins cooking it. He watches as she removes the herbs and spicy stuff. "Hey!" He says. "Why are you taking that stuff out?" "It's spicy," she replies. "I didn't think you'd like it." "I am an aborigine!" he says with a huff.

MY HOW THINGS ARE CHANGIN': My close friend's wife Tianna is an elementary school teacher, and she is often brought in by textbook companies to comment on new books and give them feedback. She and a group of teachers were shown a new textbook in draft by the company. One picture had an image of the flag of Taiwan, the ROC flag. "We haven't had a chance to vote on that flag," piped up one teacher. "It shouldn't be there." The others agreed. Moments later there was an image of the island of Taiwan with the ROC flag across the center. "That's too political," several people piped up. "We're not comfortable with it. Take it out."

LABOR STRUGGLES: New Bloom wrote on the struggles of President Tsai vs labor last week. The abuse of working people here is unconscionable. A friend of my wife's calls her and asks if we can find a place for her son nearby, a quiet little apartment. He works at the large hospital near our house, and currently lives in the dorm nearby. Since he lives nearby, whenever the hospital needs people, he is called in to work, irrespective of his sleep status, the law, ethics, common sense, etc. He often works consecutive 16 hour days. In the medical system nurses are squeezed to extract every last drop of profit. "It has to be nearby, preferably within walking distance," my neighbor explains. "He is so tired all the time, if he rides his scooter, when he stops at a traffic light, he falls asleep."

SPEECHIFYING: President Tsai's ROC National Day speech came and went uneventfully. The media reported on her respectful, moderate call for good relations across the Strait with the conventional media framing, sadly. It must have been painful for them not to be able to blame tensions on Tsai. Reuters termed her base "anti-China" instead of what it is -- pro-Taiwan -- and of course tells us that China views Taiwan as a province that must be annexed and the DPP as "distrusted" by Beijing, while it is silent on how the Taiwanese feel about China. This one-sided reporting also tends to assign agency to Tsai, meaning that her refusal to say that Taiwan is part of China is treated as the problem, not Beijing's desire to annex a free and independent island off its coast.

The NY Times hilariously writes:
China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province, while the self-governing island Ms. Tsai leads traces its roots to the formation of the Republic of China in 1911 that overthrew the last Chinese dynasty, only to lose the Chinese civil war to the Communists in 1949.
No, Taiwan has no roots in the Wuchang Rebellion -- it was part of Japan at the time -- and the last dynasty was Manchu, not Chinese. Obviously the writer struggled and failed to get it right. But the article itself is far more sympathetic than the Reuters piece. Kudos.

More important than the pro-forma remarks and reporting on China for 10/10 were Tsai's remarks about opening a maritime cooperation dialogue with Japan:
Regarding Okinotorishima, she said, “Japan and Taiwan have different positions on this issue, but as president of Taiwan, I am most interested in enabling Taiwan’s fishermen to freely enter and operate in the surrounding waters.” Although some advocates in Taiwan contend that Okinotorishima is a “rock” and therefore an EEZ cannot be established around it, Tsai indicated that discussions should give priority to the issue of marine resources.

On economic issues, Tsai said Taiwan “had been too dependent on continental China,” and called for expanded economic cooperation with Japan. “I want to seek chances for cooperation and development with Japan in Southeast Asia and South Asia,” Tsai said.
Moving closer to Japan is urgently necessary for Taiwan's safety, and the Ma Administration cost Taiwan eight years of progress in that direction. Tsai made similar points in her interview with WSJ last week. Philippines piece on Taiwan's new southbound policy...

The Taipei Times editorialized on the KMT, which is now split on its China policy. But as this China Times editorial translated over at Dateline Taipei observed...
The Republic of China that Tsai Ing-wen defends is not the Republic of China founded in 1911. It is the Republic of China that emerged after 1949. It is a Republic of China that has been emptied of its legal significance. Furthermore, Tsai's defense of the Republic of China treats the ROC as the temporary shell of a hermit crab, as a form of backdoor listing. It temporarily accepts the "Republic of China" to protect its advocacy of Taiwan independence, which it will never abandon.
Exactly right. The ROC is doomed: either Taiwan will become independent, or China will annex it, but either way the KMT state is history. The KMT has two increasingly stark choices for survival -- one is to become a Taiwanese party and give up its China-centric identity, the other, to marry itself to the CCP and become a mere appendage of China in Taiwan. The latter would likely be better for Taiwan even though it would be a conduit for Chinese money and propaganda -- it would garner few votes, lose most of its influence, and be quite unpopular, but the longer the KMT can spin its fantasies to Beijing that victory is just around the corner, the better off Taiwan is.

Speaking of the NYTimes, why does it keep publishing uninformed pieces of pro-China propaganda? This latest commentary on China from two writers whom no one appears to have heard of reads like it was dictated by the editors of Xinhua, right down to the "Century of Humiliation" expansionist baloney and accusations that the US is "militarizing the Pacific". "Even before Mr. Obama’s pivot, the American military presence in the region dwarfed China’s," the writers declaim. ROFL. We probably have a bigger navy than China's in the Pacific, but our overall military presence is much smaller. What editor passed that nonsense?
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Nelson Report on TIFA

Cucumber-like caterpillar

Below is from the Nelson Report:


United States and Taiwan Hold Dialogue on Trade and Investment Priorities

Washington, D.C. - U.S. and Taiwan trade authorities concluded the tenth Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting under the auspices of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO). Ambassador Robert Holleyman, Deputy United States Trade Representative, and Wang Mei-hua, Taiwan's Vice Minister of Economic Affairs, co-led the discussions to enhance the longstanding trade and investment relationship between the United States and Taiwan. Other participants and contributors included AIT and the U.S. Departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce and the Copyright Office.

The TIFA is the key forum for trade dialogue between the United States and Taiwan authorities and covers the broad range of trade and investment issues important to U.S. and Taiwan stakeholders. The U.S. authorities welcomed the concrete steps taken by Taiwan after the conclusion of the 2015 TIFA Council meeting to follow through on important commitments related to intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement. Taiwan authorities also highlighted progress in addressing technical barriers to trade and fostering transparency in matters related to trade and investment.

At the meeting, the U.S. authorities pressed Taiwan for expeditious resolution of agricultural trade issues, including removal of longstanding and unwarranted barriers to U.S. beef and pork, which is necessary for any deepening of our trade relationship. In the area of IP protection and enforcement, the TIFA talks took stock of progress on pharmaceutical IP protection and committed to strengthen engagement on Taiwan's intellectual property rights legislation, promoting the use of legitimate educational materials, and on enforcement cooperation.

Both sides welcomed the strong exchanges already conducted between the two patent offices and look forward to deepening this cooperation for the benefit of U.S. and Taiwan rights holders and patent applicants. The two sides also pledged to deepen dialogue to streamline time-to-market of medical devices and to improve transparency and procedural fairness in trade and investment matters. The Taiwan authorities provided updates on its regional and multilateral initiatives and highlighted its close cooperation with the United States on various initiatives in the WTO.


The United States and Taiwan have a long-standing and vibrant trade relationship. Taiwan is our 9th largest goods trading partner and a top-10 destination for U.S. agricultural and food exports. U.S. goods and services trade with Taiwan totaled an estimated $86.7 billion in 2015. The TIFA, signed in 1994 under the auspices of AIT and TECRO, provides the principal mechanism for trade dialogue between the United States and Taiwan authorities to expand trade and investment links and deepen cooperation.


Chris, thanks for the opportunity to discuss:

As noted by USTR, much progress to report on IPR protection and enforcement, addressing technical barriers to trade and fostering transparency in matters related to trade and investment etc. All good.

Ag trade issues remain a stubborn impediment at this point, particularly pork. The Tsai Administration has put together a food safety committee to discuss all food safety issues, issues which have been a significant problem with imports from China, Taiwan products, and the ractopamine problem. US officials have rolled their eyes a bit over this committee's announcement,
but the reality that ractopamine has been publicly touted, by many in Taiwan, as "poison" is one tough issue.

I believe this committee reflects President Tsai's overall governance approach - deal with problems a step at a time striving to be as transparent and communicative as possible. Bring the public along to a consensus position and then move.

The pubic in Taiwan is now feeling its oats on a variety of issues. A slow process, to be sure, but that's democracy. As our friend Winston Churchill noted, "Worst government in the world, except for all the others."

At the recent US-Taiwan Defense Conference, one US participant jokingly said, as we were discussing the decision making process in Taiwan, "Before we used to just pick up the phone and call Hau Pei-tsun and he'd get things done." Yeah, old Hau got things done alright, but with an iron fist. No more, thank Buddha.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Vanuatu peopled from Taiwan and Philippines

If you weren't outdoors this weekend, you missed out.

This news is making the rounds:
Back in 1985, archaeologist Peter Bellwood of the Australian National University in Canberra proposed that the Lapita had roots in farming cultures in East Asia. Based on dating of Lapita sites, he proposed that they moved rapidly from mainland China to Taiwan and the Philippines, then out across the open ocean from Vanuatu to Samoa, covering 24,300 kilometers in about 300 years. This “express train” picture fit with linguists’ models, in which Austronesian languages spread from East Asia into Oceania and were distinct from Papuan languages in Melanesia.

But other researchers argued that the DNA of living Polynesians showed evidence that their Lapita ancestors had lingered in Melanesia, mixing with the locals and slowly spreading eastward. This so-called “slow boat” model had prevailed in recent years.

In the new study, an international team extracted ancient DNA from the skeletons of four ancient women from the islands of Vanuatu and Tonga, dated to 2300 to 3100 years ago, including three directly associated with the Lapita culture. The team sequenced the DNA at up to 231,000 positions across the genomes of each skeleton and compared the sequences to those of nearly 800 present-day people from 83 populations in East Asia and Oceania.

The four women were from a distinct population that had no evidence of mixing with the ancestors of people living in Papua New Guinea today, as the team reports in Nature this week. Instead, the women shared all their ancestry with the indigenous Atayal people in Taiwan and the Kankanaey people in the Philippines. “The Lapita have no evidence for Papuan ancestry,” says co-author Pontus Skoglund, a postdoc in David Reich’s lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston. That suggests that their ancestors rode the fast train, sweeping all the way to Oceania without mixing with Melanesians on the way.
Dr. Frank Muyard, who has long been studying the history of the Austronesian peoples and their migrations, observed in a discussion online (posted with permission):


This is indeed huge, and a game-changing research for both fields of Southeast Asian/Pacific prehistory and Austronesian studies.

Many of the past 30 years assumptions and theories will have to be revised and revisited. It shows that ancient DNA studies are necessary to confirm/infirm research of populations origins, and that inference into the past based only on current genetic analysis can be easily flawed.

But the original Nature article is very light on info about the Taiwan populations studied. We are only told about a closest link to Atayal, and then, in another part of the article, of links to Amis, but we don't have the DNA analysis details. I would also like to see additional research on more Taiwan Indigenous groups data, since recent archaeological researches show that Taiwan peopling history is itself getting more complex than often assumed.

The distance showed between Lapita aDNA and current Dai (Tai-Kadai) DNA would also in theory dismiss the hypotheses of direct migration from South China to the Philippines, which have been opposed to the Out-of-Taiwan theory of Austronesian dispersal, although here also we would need aDNA from South China to confirm that.

[and in response to a later query]

This is indeed a confirmation of the Express train hypothesis supported by Bellwood, Blust and Diamond.

But the Bellwood-Blust theory has been challenged in many places for years and was not fully supported yet by genetic studies (same for the precise origins in Asian mainland for proto-Austronesian migration to Taiwan which are still much debated).

Now it is. The "game changing" is thus about the lack of mixing with the "Papuan" populations in the Bismark Archipelago (the Triple I hypothesis, Roger Green) and therefore non-hybrid nature of the Lapita culture and first colonization of Remote Oceania (up east to Tonga/Samoa).

The closest genetic link with the Kankanaey in N-W Philippines, rather than other places in the archipelago (this also will have to be confirmed by other studies) is also interesting both for the Taiwan-Philippines and the Philippines-Lapita relations.

The direct ancestor of Lapita distinct ceramics is still eluding research and now that it appears not being due to cultural hybridity in the Bismarck Arc. will certainly spur more investigation.

Expect more aDNA research in the whole region to try and back up various theories.

We also need to understand better the Atayal-Amis similarities/differences, and the repeatedly attested close links between Amis and Polynesians - both in genetics and culture. In any case, the ancestors of the Lapita people lived in Taiwan/Philippines 4000 years ago, and cannot be directly associated with present groups, much evolution/change happened since in Taiwan and in post-Lapita Polynesia.

And that would involve understanding better the late Neolithic/Metal Age interactions between Taiwan and the Philippines. Hopefully we will have more studies on that soon.
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Monday, October 03, 2016

Forward Taiwan: Latest NDC Proposals on Liberalization of Laws related to Foreigners

Threading our way through the mass of downed trees and debris on a forest road near Sanyi.

This was posted to Forward Taiwan's Facebook page. Very important stuff here....  because it is long I have posted it below the READ MORE line. UPDATE: Dont miss the excellent comments.


National Development Council’s Plan to Create an Environment for Retention of Talent in Taiwan

This note translates the various proposals made by the National Development Council to the Executive Yuan on September 1 2016. It is divided into an introduction followed by translations of the proposals themselves with comments and explanations from Forward Taiwan. We look forward to your feedback and any corrections.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Links for a lazy Saturday

Whip scorpions struggle on a tree.

Enjoy some links....
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