Friday, March 31, 2017


On the road this vacation. Probably won't be blogging again til Tuesday.

My column in Taiwan News was killed for being too critical of the DPP. So no column this week either. *sigh*

Good news for Taiwan, though. The Sunflowers were acquitted today, and the judge cited, apparently for the first time ever in Taiwan, the principle of civil disobediance. Like a ray of sunlight. In Hong Kong today the leaders of the umbrella movement were summoned to court yesterday after being indicted. The contrast is clear... may the message get through.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Links + stuff

Antique noisemaker, used at a rally.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Some immigrants are wanted. others? not so much...

Farming in the Rift.

News came out this week of tiny, glacial changes in the law. At the moment most people who immigrate to Taiwan have to give up their foreign citizenship in order to immigrate, unless you come from a country like China or Japan that does not permit you to do that. But apparently some immigrants with fabulous skills or long service can get around that requirement....
The ministry is to promulgate today the regulation, which is in accordance with and supplementing an amendment to the Nationality Act (國籍法) passed by the legislature in December last year that states foreign nationals may be exempted from submitting a certificate of loss of original nationality if “they are high-level professionals in the technological, economic, educational, cultural, art, sports, or other domains who have been recommended by the central competent authority.”
The acerbic Jenna Lynn Cody ripped this in Greetings from a low level, non-outstanding foreigner.
I am also not exactly happy that, up until recently, the government has snubbed people who were actually born and raised here in favor of bestowing a unicorn-like waiver allowing dual nationality to some missionary (as a friend-of-a-friend pointed out, always a white Christian missionary). While I do not deny that missionaries do some good work, the side dish of evangelizing that comes with it is not good for Taiwan. The institutional advantage they enjoy because they have a big religious organization funding their work (which they use to preach their religion, which often comes with preaching the intolerance and bigotry that Christianity is unfortunately known for), which the rest of us can't possibly compete with because we can't afford to work for free, earns little sympathy from me. I await your hate mail for this opinion, but there it is.
Yup. At the moment there is this mad, multi-tiered view of others who might want to become Taiwanese -- overseas Chinese are in like Flynn, some privileged white foreigners with an organization behind them are possibles, most white foreigners not possible, brown people not even on the radar. Taiwan has a growing Indian population who would make a fine addition to Taiwan society. Except it seems unlikely they will ever be permitted....

Yet one prestigious economic institution forecasts that by 2021 Taiwan will have the worst brain drain on earth. Taiwan's society is aging rapidly as well.

If only there were some law that could be relaxed to allow people to enter Taiwan society more easily...
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Taiwan: a SE Asian nation

In a Facebook discussion of my last piece from Taiwan News, the one in the post below on Taiwan as an Austronesian Ocean Nation, someone posted this gem from Current Biology in 2010 showing the distribution of various genetic markers in East Asia populations. The map shows the distribution of major mtDNA haplogroups in East Asia.

It is not necessary to understand what that means. Just look at the distribution of colors in Taiwan, and compare it to N and S China, elsewhere in northern Asia, and then to SE Asia. Which one does it resemble?

An excerpt...
These caveats aside, it is our view that an early southern dispersal remains so far the best explanation for the genetic data, and we would like to emphasize that with more accurate dating of mtDNA and NRY haplogroups, additional autosomal DNA data, and with the simulation-based modeling approach advocated here, the early southern dispersal route may be expected to be supported and illuminated further, rather than contradicted. Indeed, the recent Pan-Asian SNP study found strong support for a largely southern origin of extant southeast and east Asian populations [12].
Recall that pro-China types constantly assert that Taiwan's indigenous peoples came out of China, not out of the south.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Taiwan News Latest: Taiwan, the once and future Austronesian Ocean State

Boats on Lanyu

I was inspired by the discovery of what might be the skeletons of African slaves in the Spanish cemetery in Keelung. Relecting on Taiwan's diverse ethnic roots, I noted in my latest Taiwan News piece:
I often reflect on these facts when I read some reporter describing the people of Taiwan as “ethnic Chinese” or when people refer to themselves as having "Taiwanese blood." These ideas are vapid political constructs whose intent is overtly nationalistic: to claim a people is “ethnic Chinese” is to veer dangerously close to arguing that Beijing should be annexing them. Or when people write about Taiwan’s “deep historical links to China”, actually less than four centuries old, but ignore Taiwan’s thousands of years of historical links to Austronesian peoples and trade and emigration networks that spanned half the globe, from Madagascar to New Zealand and Hawaii.
These rich historical connections can be used by Tsai and the DPP to posit another kind of rhetoric of identity for Taiwan, one rooted in its Austronesian roots, that can link it to the nations that are the focus of its southbound policy.

Previous Taiwan News commentaries are gathered on this page.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Nelson Report: Rumors of a 4th "Communique"

The coast off Kenting.

Rumors of the 4th Communique driven by Henry Kissinger under which the US sells out Taiwan are circulating in the local media... last week Randall Schriver, longtime Taiwan expert, said it was "unlikely". But the government put in a letter in the NYTimes pleading for the US not to sell out Taiwan for an agreement with China on N Korea. Some sort of agreement of this nature is always mooted whenever there is trouble with N Korea. As an expert explained to me, as Nork's nuke program develops the ability to put nukes on US western seaboard cities, pressure for a deal with China on N Korea will grow, and Taiwan is an obvious bargaining chip. What's amazing to me is that even after all these many years of dealing with China and N Korea, anyone can imagine that either party will keep a bargain....

US-CHINA/TRADE/TAIWAN...there's a rumor we're trying to track down that long-simmering dissatisfaction with the increasingly unwieldy US-China "S and ED" annual meetings (too many bureaucratic players leading to too much blah blah blah and consequently too little "deliverables") so the Trump folks may cancel the whole thing OR...this strikes us as the more plausible version...separate the "S" for security and "E" for economic into two more focused confabs.

Presumably a decision on this will be made in time for (and thus perhaps announced at) the early April Trump/Xi Jinping summit here in DC. No doubt you've also heard rumors that there will be a "4th Communique" resulting from this...and we frankly have to say we think there's a better chance of passing Trump/Ryan Care tomorrow morning...but perhaps you know better? For sure there are folks on Taiwan taking the rumor seriously:

Gov't concerned over reports US, China may sign 4th communique
The Taiwanese foreign minister says the government is worried the US and China will issue another communique that voices American support for the One China Principle. The Chinese language publication Liberty Times earlier carried a report that said former Secretary of State Kissinger was pushing for another communique that said that the US believed there is but one China and Taiwan is a part of China. This would overrule the last joint communique issued by the US and China, which said that while the US would not support either an independent Taiwan or "Two Chinas." Some reports have identified the upcoming visit to the US by Chinese President Xi Jinping as an occasion for the signing of such a document, possibly also limiting arms sales to Taiwan. Speaking to the legislature, Foreign Minister David Lee said, "We told them (the U.S.) that we don't want to see (the possible signing of a fourth communique) happen," and that the government has said that it hoped the US would stand by the Taiwan Relations Act and Six Assurances. He also mentioned that the Americans had spoken to their views of Taiwan, but FM Lee declined to specify what that meant.


Your Editor : never forget that one of Kissinger's hallmarks is self-aggrandizement, and while god knows the man has carved a legitimate role for himself in history, if he's pushing for Trump to completely trash the Shanghai Communique's real meaning (that is, the US takes no policy position on whether Taiwan is part of China) especially given what's behind the Trump/Tsai phone call...the strong support for Taiwan within his Administration and on Capitol Hill, not to mention the coming US arms sale package (?)...then we have to question the sanity of all involved.

But that leads us to a totally serious concern: Chinese officials have taken to declaring with a straight face that President Tsai is "moving toward declaring independence", and that proof of this is her "failure to endorse the '1992' consensus in language being demanded by Pres. Xi."

This risky, factually challenged demand thus puts Beijing in the position of deliberately risking the "status quo", since literally everything Tsai has said and done since declaring for the presidency a couple of years ago has been exquisitely calculated not to upset the existing Cross Strait status quo, despite pressures from her party's more extreme Pan Greens.

Worse, perhaps, to put "teeth" in this demand, political players in Beijing have taken to threatening a "unification law"...presumably to create the "lawful" threat of the use of force to "enforce the law" has been seen via China's armed Coast Guard in various maritime disputes with the neighbors.

If Kissinger wants to push a 4th Communique he might want to turn his talents to avoiding a deliberately set "crisis" Beijing?
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

The sad case of DPP Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san

Onions. Because Chiu Tai-san makes me cry.

Our DPP Justice Minister revealed himself to be not only a retrograde thinker, but a Han nationalist to boot. Speaking on gay marriage at a hearing that was live streamed, Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san said:
“The Civil Code stipulates that marriage shall be between a man and a woman, and as such it is not unconstitutional. The Constitution guarantees citizens’ right to marry as that between a man and a woman, while marriage between people of the same sex is not covered under the Constitution,” Chiu said.

“For thousands of years in the nation’s history, society has instituted traditions and codes of conduct regarding marriage. Has there ever been a cultural institution or social phenomenon for same-sex marriage?” Chiu said.

“Without a doubt, there has been none,” Chiu said.

He then quoted one section of the Chinese classic I Ching (易經), also known as the Book of Changes, which reads: “With the existence of the earth and the sky, there came all living things. With the existence of the earth and the sky, there came men and women,” which he said illustrates that Chinese marriage traditions have — since ancient times — been based on a union between a man and a woman.
This kind of argument is completely idiotic -- projecting modern institutions into the past in order to legitimate them. Jenna (added: actually her quietly brilliant husband) tracked down this website giving some examples of different kinds of marriages in China over time. Recall that polygamy was common, with not only multiple wives but also concubines. And women marrying a set of brothers was a known marriage form. Any competent anthropologist could give many examples of other forms of marriage not only in China but all over the world.

The issue is exactly the same as in the US, where "conservatives" scream the lie that marriage has always been one man, one woman. Reality is always the opposite of such fantasies. It is not difficult to find the many works that depict the deep roots of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in Chinese culture. Take the introduction to this book, which remarks on the commonality of homosexuality in Chinese culture:
Many times homosexuality acted as an integral part of society, complete with same-sex marriages for both men and women. 
You don't have to know anything about gay marriage in Chinese history to know that if a social conservative is asserting something about marriage and history, he's almost certainly wrong. Indeed, in many Buddhist circles where reincarnation is believed, it is also believed that two souls are fated to marry each other irrespective of sex, which provided religious sanction for homosexual marriage in ancient Chinese society. Of course many regions had their own traditions of gay marriage. Chiu's claims are a perfect melding of idiocy and ignorance.

Why O why can't science and scholarship form the basis of our public discourse and decision-making?

Despite Chiu Tai-san's claim, the ROC Constitution does not mention marriage, as far as I can see. Article 7 guarantees equality before the law, while Article 8 guarantees personal freedom. How you interpret that is up to you. But it seems to me that it is hard to uphold Article 7 yet oppose gay marriage.

Citing the I Ching is unwise, at best. A DPP minister should take the view that Taiwan can form its own traditions, customs, and cultures, and that China should be left behind. Using Chinese historical hokum as the basis for arguments in modern society should never be a DPP practice, it tends to create connections where none are necessary.

Moreover, anti-homosexuality in modern Taiwan has its roots in another discourse -- that of state power and control, the heterosexualization of society, and the faux Confucian morality of the KMT's Party-State. This paper observes:
During the first two decades of Kuomintang (KMT) rule, Taiwan experienced steady economic growth but changes to the political system were not permitted; the corporatist model of KMT rule was omnipresent. Taiwanese society between the 1950s and 1960s could be described as heterosexualized in terms of discourse; “family values” were regarded as deriving directly from a stable Confucian and Chinese tradition and public discourses of same-sex desire were almost non-existent:
...revealing the fundamental truth: that assertions of "family values" are the code language of right-wing nationalist state power and control.

Hence, when Chiu Tai-san marginalized gay marriage (and implicitly, gayness) as "unChinese", he was invoking decades of this rightist, ahistorical, inhuman discourse that helped form the basis of KMT power in Taiwan.

Thanks, Chiu Tai-san. You're a genius.

Imagine if Chiu had taken another view -- that gay marriage was an ancient practice in south China from whence many ancestors of Taiwanese arrived. Imagine if his use of history had been informed, sensitive, and progressive. Imagine if he'd envisioned gay people as human beings like himself....

Total fail on all fronts by Chiu Tai-san.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Camphor Press releases Shackleton's "Formosa Calling"

My friends at Camphor Press have released Formosa Calling, a harrowing account of the 2-28 massacre by Allan Shackleton...
Allan J. Shackleton was a New Zealand officer with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration assigned to in Taiwan at the time. His eyewitness account of the massacre is an important piece in understanding modern Taiwan’s founding tragedy. Shackleton tried for years to get Formosa Calling published, but it was deemed too politically sensitive during the Cold War when “Free China” was an ally of the Western world. 
This first person account has the authentic voice of a witness who lards nothing with literary artifice or exaggeration, and hits hard. Of the massacre's final days, for example, he writes....
During all these days I had been visiting a Japanese-trained Formosan doctor who was treating my ankle, and this day he had several interesting visitors. There was a man staying in the house who was frightened to go out as the military police might pick him up. They told interesting stories of the looting that was carried on by the military. In general this was done, not only to make good deficiencies in food and equipment, but also with the idea of re-selling and making money. Therefore, nothing was really exempt from the attentions of the soldiers. But more serious was the fact that there were lying about the streets in the mornings, the dead bodies of important people who had been dragged from their houses at night and shot. The military police had been making inquiries for a certain Council member who was over at Taito. He had gone to Taipei via Karenko and Suo while the trouble in Takao was on. He had, therefore, no connection with the rioting in Takao at all. But what he had done frequently was to ask the Government to establish law and justice in place of the travesty that was now being foisted on the people. He was therefore a marked man.
"He was therefore a marked man". Readable and interesting, this book makes a good counterpoint to George Kerr's masterpiece.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Monday, March 20, 2017

KMT infighting + LOLz + Links

The yums...

I wish Annette Lu would seek a quiet retirement, someplace far from any communications apparatus. The Taipei Times ran a report of her latest zany accusations and the brilliant, far-reaching plan of the CCP....
Lu yesterday cited exiled Chinese academic Yuan Hongbing (袁紅冰) as saying that Beijing might have plotted the assassination to polarize Taiwan as part of its scheme to annex the nation.

According to Yuan, former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) asked Xin Qi (辛旗), a Chinese People’s Liberation Army major general actively involved in civilian exchanges with Taiwanese academics and politicians in his capacity as Chinese Culture Promotion Society deputy director, to plot the shooting without killing Chen Shui-bian or Lu.

The shooting was aimed at damaging Taiwan’s democracy and making Taiwanese believe that elections were rigged, but it had to see Chen Shui-bian and Lu re-elected so that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), losing power and authority, would be willing to succumb to China, Lu said.
You can see what a brilliant plan that was, because the KMT folded like a house of cards and never again recaptured the Presidency or the legislature. KMT Chairmanship candidate Steve Chan was forced to deny that he had any role in the assassination attempt -- he treated Chen Shui-bian's wounds, so it was difficult for him to deny that they were actual wounds. But he managed...

The KMT continued to hack and cut at itself as former President Ma, himself an ideologue of no little rigidity, attacked the ideologues to his right within the Party. The Taipei Times reported:
“However, there are some party comrades that have been ranting at their own brethren; there are even reports alleging that certain party members plan to launch a political vendetta against me, accusing me of being to blame for devastating the party and the nation,” Ma said.

One of the “comrades” Ma was referring to is understood to be KMT Central Policy Committee director Alex Tsai (蔡正元), who has been involved in a series of heated spats and exchanges with Ma’s office, the most recent regarding Ma’s acknowledgment that Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) should be held accountable for the 228 Incident.

Tsai responded that then-Taiwan governor Chen Yi (陳儀), who ordered police and military action against protesters, was less corrupt than Ma.
Ma more corrupt than Chen Yi! That's brilliant. You can see that Ma is almost moderate compared to Alex Tsai, who upholds the entire KMT catechism, including the leader cult idea that Chiang did not order 2-28. It's not for nothing that there is a wing of nutters in the KMT that argues Ma is quietly pro-independence.

One of the polling organizations polled nearly 700 of the KMT's 1600 representatives to see who would win the Chairmanship election....
[Former vice president Wu Den-yih] led the other five in all six areas in the poll: political experience (55 percent of respondents), capability of uniting the KMT (48 percent), capability of leading the KMT back to power (48 percent), leadership competency (53 percent), chance of winning the election (43 percent) and support rate (45 percent).

KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) placed second in all six categories, but her support rate was only 21 percent, while KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) came in third in every area and had a 17 percent support rate.
It's not surprising that the representatives might prefer the Taiwanese Wu to run the KMT rather than the ideologue Hung or the mainlander princeling Hau. Wu knows how to play the internal politics of the party very well, and is more pragmatic than the ideologues running things at the moment. But the vote will be decided by the Old Soldiers, and I have not seen a poll on them.

Go Hung!
Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

*Sigh* Trump State Dept echoes language of Chinese propaganda

Top, China, 2014. Bottom, US State Dept, 2017, after Tillerson visit to China. We out here have been listening to this nonsense for years...
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tramway proposed between Keelung and Taipei

A vendor in a market in Pingtung city.

Aaron Wytze, whom you should be following if you follow things Taiwan, tweeted around the latest plan of the Tsai Administration to put a tramway between Nangang in Taipei and Keelung. PTT was alive with speculation, according to Aaron.

The demographic changes in the north continue. Both Taoyuan and Keelung are bedroom communities for Taipei. Taoyuan has already turned to the DPP, and by all accounts the Mayor is doing a solid job. Keelung there is some hope of change, since the DPP has been on the upswing there.

There already is a very convenient Taiwan Railways rail line serving Keelung with a bunch of stops in between, including the large and growing bedroom communities of Chidu and Badu. The tram looks like a reward to Keelung's DPP voters, and perhaps a sop to the tourism industry, and of course, a stimulus for the construction-industrial state. But additional and sexier public transportation like an elevated tram will draw more people out to the Keelung area. More younger couples relocating to Keelung will continue to change the demographics of that place in a DPP direction.

Too bad they can't change the weather.

But speaking as a Taichung resident, it is absolutely appalling that tax dollars are spent putting in a needless tram line to a destination already well served by a rich array of transportation, when there is so much that must be done in central and southern Taiwan, often really basic stuff, like sewers and water lines, but also bridge repair. We could use a tram line or two as well...

UPDATE: NBatto of Frozen Garlic in comments below
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

KMT is Golden! So much LOL

The China Post tweet writer can definitely marry my son. Or my daughter. Or both. In fact, I will throw in a couple of our cats if it gets all of them out of my house...

And hilarity ensued (ChinaPost)....
Chiu said that the unredeemed bonds issued in 1947 were payable to the Republic of China government and were evidence that the party had contributed to helping the country through hard times by buying the bonds.

The party said it used its own gold to pay a number of U.S.-issued bonds and had not requested that the state pay off the debt immediately.

The gold bonds were later registered in February 1989, according to party property records, and are currently in the keeping of CTBC Commercial Bank.

The KMT said that the principal and non-interest government bonds were valued 1.04 million and 2312.0143 ounces (32,419 kg) of gold, now valued at approximately NT$38.5 billion.
So much LOL. Remember last year when Party Chairman Hung was begging its people to forego salaries and donate? KMT broke and adrift. Hung takes out loan to pay party salaries. KMT members to pay special membership fee. Hung apologizes to staff over unpaid salaries.

Wonder how $1.25 billion in gold bonds is going to sit with those ordinary working stiffs who gave money to the "poor" KMT? One also wonders how this news will affect the Chairmanship race -- after all, it was Hung who said KMT needed money. Will she pay the price? Was that why this news was released now? Not enough data to answer those questions...

Another issue: those bonds are not payable to the KMT, but to the Republic of China. I'd love an explanation of how this is not an example of the KMT putting public assets into its private billfold.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

My Latest for Taiwan News: Yes the indictment of Ma is a good thing

The east coast near Chenggong in Taitung. Heading out there for the Apr 1-4th holiday. Welcome to join, should be easy riding.

I wrote my latest Taiwan News piece in reply to J Michael Cole's piece over at the National Interest, and also in response to the many remarks at the pointless statistic that all three of Taiwan's elected presidents have been indicted. Hey no shit, because two of the presidents supported Taiwan independence, and were caught up in a general campaign during the Ma Administration. This time it is different.

Cole's piece worried me. He said:
Worryingly, the notion that it is “normal” for governments to engage in tit-for-tat behavior by targeting their predecessors from the opposite camp for investigation after gaining executive powers has propelled the nation into a vicious cycle that fosters division at a time when unity is sorely needed to face the immense challenge posed by authoritarian China, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory. Such views, which have surprising currency, point to weaknesses in Taiwan’s transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. The belief in the politicization of the judiciary, that those in power are merely using the court system to punish their opponents, bespeaks a deep cynicism about Taiwanese politics and indicates that much work needs to be done to secure the consolidation of Taiwan’s democracy and normalization of its electoral cycles. Therefore, rather than celebrate the indictment of a former head of state—as DPP supporters are doing this week and KMT supporters did before them—the Taiwanese public should regard such developments with concern and consternation: there is nothing to celebrate when evidence emerges that the system is failing them, whether through corruption or the irresponsible handling of classified material.
This is largely true as far as it goes. Yes, people are cynical about the system -- the authoritarian party wins if it wins votes, and it also wins if people become cynical about the system. Therefore it works to foster cynicism about the system.

But at the bottom Cole is wrong: this is something we should celebrate -- this indictment is not an act of political revenge, but the system functioning normally to check abuses of power by the executive which are also normal even in well functioning democracies.

That pervasive cynicism is why writers who have voices that are widely listened to also have a responsibility to take the next step, and provide their audiences with a contexts and language so that they can understand what is going on and communicate it to others, but especially to the global media which you know is going to be both lazy and sensationalist on this one. That cynicism about the system must be fought, constantly. I wrote:
The indictment of Ma, which had long been predicted, especially since SID Chief Huang was eventually convicted of leaking the investigation to Ma, lead to the usual complaints. Many locals cynically viewed the indictments as pan-Green revenge for the KMT prosecution of Chen Shui-bian. Foreign observers despaired over statistic that all three elected presidents had been indicted once out of office. "Can it be good for Taiwan's democracy?" all asked, implying a rhetorical "no". The answer is yes, of course, and we should be cheering, instead of jeering, Taiwan's democracy in action.
You can't connect the Chen and Lee indictments to the Ma indictment, because the DPP is not engaging in terrorizing the opposition party via indictments, unlike the KMT, as I note extensively in that piece above. I am betting, however, that not a single foreign media organ reports the fundamental differences between those two assaults on previous presidents, and this indictment of Ma, nor will any view this indictment as an indicator of forward progress. Instead, they will all piously report "all three elected presidents were indicted! ZOMG Taiwan's democracy is precarious." It makes better copy, and saves difficult explanations, and validates the cultural superiority of western democracies over non-western (our democracies are not so fragile and corrupt, see?).
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

America and Taiwan in the News

Only a  few months from my next Lanyu trip...

Another long analysis saying Donald Trump is No Friend of Taiwan of the Trump calls and "everything is negotiable" comments from Trump, this one from longtime Taiwan expert Shelly Rigger. She reviews the history of The Call, and then the Trump Administration's appointments, and discusses Trump's trolling...
In less than 200 words, Trump managed to shake the foundations of U.S.-China relations and cast Taiwan’s future into doubt. Even for a devotee of short-form writing like master-tweeter Donald Trump, this was an achievement.

The one China policy is a U.S. policy statement first articulated in the 1970s that has allowed the U.S. to pursue economic and political ties with Beijing while maintaining robust unofficial relations with Taipei. Every administration since Richard Nixon’s has affirmed the policy. Suggesting it might be open to revision cast the very basis – even the possibility – of economic and diplomatic interactions between the U.S. and China into serious doubt.
It might at some point pay analysts to consider that the "one China" policy from the 1970s and US Taiwan policy dating formally from Apr 28, 1952, are not the same thing, even though they refer to some of the same entities.

Note the words of Trump that Rigger gives in full:
I fully understand the One-China policy. But I don’t know why we have to be bound by a One-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade. I mean, look, we’re being hurt very badly by China with devaluation, with taxing us heavy at the borders when we don’t tax them, with building a massive fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they shouldn’t be doing. And, frankly, they’re not helping us at all with North Korea. You have North Korea, you have nuclear weapons, and China could solve that problem. And they’re not helping us at all.

So, I don’t want China dictating to me. And this was a call put into me. I didn’t make the call. And it was a call, very short call, saying, “Congratulations, sir, on the victory.” It was a very nice call. Short. And why should some other nation be able to say, I can’t take a call? I think it would have been very disrespectful, to be honest with you, not taking it.
Trump is not threatening Taiwan's status in US policy. He is threatening China's status. Taiwan's status is never mentioned and is obviously not the focus of Trump's thoughts -- China is. Let's imagine what "not being bound" by the one China policy could mean. Because the US could switch to a two-China policy (ROC and PRC are both China), a no-China policy (neither PRC nor ROC is China, we don't recognize either), switch recognition to the ROC (wouldn't the KMT swoon over that) or something else. In fact at some point some of these policies existed in the past, and under all of them, the US worked to preserve Taiwan's status. Even when the US recognized the ROC as China it never recognized Taiwan as part of the ROC.

Under current understandings the US could delete the one China policy under which we recognize the PRC as China, without affecting Taiwan's status, which exists because of a different policy. But no major change was ever in play, as many of us wrote at the time.

In any case, as I argued before, it was all meaningless trolling related to Trump's trademarks and so on. Nobody actually ever formally proposed seriously revising US China policy.

As I noted in January, many people who derive wealth and status from the current US position on China were quite unsettled by The Call, since it signaled them that things might change, and threatened their wealth and status. It is amusing that at the moment it is ok to criticize Trump's team for not knowing anything about China, while remaining silent on the deep links so many China commentators have with Beijing's status and money flows. The limits of the discourse, ya know....

Nevertheless, Rigger is often insightful and this comment is dead on and has had me worried as well
Taiwan’s leaders should also worry about the Trump administration’s overall approach to foreign policy – an approach that seems to abandon America’s long-standing commitment to democracy around the world. Trump’s speeches rarely mention democracy or human rights, and his proposed budget slashes funding for all sorts of values-oriented programs. For Taiwan, this is a very bad sign. As China’s political, military, and economic power increase, making a utilitarian argument as to why the U.S. should support Taiwan gets harder, leaving democracy as Taiwan’s signal virtue. When Navarro used the phrase in his July 2016 article, describing Taiwan as a “beacon of democracy” was a tired cliché. Today, it feels like an important moral statement.
Further down she says abandoning the TPP was a bad idea, but I don't see abandoning the TPP as a "devastating blow" since the TPP was a corporate giveaway that would have put Taiwan permanently under the sway of US corporate power, immiserating its people and further harming its economy and environment. Trump did all us who live on Taiwan a favor, even if you don't like the geopolitics of that decision.

Rigger notes that there will be an arms sale in April (more on that in a moment) and that the Administration might well upgrade official visits. She then concludes:
In sum, after a promising start and with the eager participation of many strong supporters of Taiwan in the transition, the Trump White House has managed to comprehensively botch its Taiwan policy, leaving Taiwan more vulnerable than ever to Beijing’s increasing pressure.
LOL. We're barely 90 days in, and she's claiming that Taiwan policy is botched. Umm.... no. It's way too early. Note that Rigger provides no concrete examples of botched policy and its consequences (quick, point some out). In fact Taiwan's status got a tiny upgrade, with US marines to be posted to the new AIT office.

Chinese pressure on Taiwan existed prior to Trump's call, and will go on in the future, as the recent decision to block cosmetic imports from Taiwan over the 1992C shows. A trial balloon? A local official's overreach? New policy? Only time will tell.

Contrast Rigger's claims with the reality of the Obama team's Taiwan policy, which got high marks from the Establishment commentariat. Yes -- those same people who are worried that Trump might sell out Taiwan said nothing when Obama actually did so. The Obama Administration blocked an arms deal for Taiwan out of fear of China (Rigger does not mention the arms sale she lauds as a "bright spot" was blocked by Obama, one wonders what the commentariat would have said if Obama had dumped $1 billion in arms on Taiwan -- would have excused it if Obama did it, will hate it when Trump does). On Twitter Rupert Hammond-Chambers said it was probably because the US needed China's cooperation on the climate deal (as if either Beijing or the Trump Administration was going to adhere to that). Indeed, recall that the Bush Administration also downgraded its support for Taipei for China's cooperation in some transient political thing or other. Bonnie Glaser remarked:
But it is also possible that the Obama administration did not want to approve an arms sale in its final days because it didn't want to offend China and undermine the President's legacy with Beijing. 
For Obama's legacy Taiwan can't get arms it desperately needs (Trump at least got trademarks!). But of course the really worrisome thing is that Trump might sell out Taiwan.

Finally, KMT legislator Jason Hsu wrote up his trip to the US to visit the Trump Administration. It is interesting reading, his takeaways...
Despite all this, I came away with clear and crucial promises regarding stability in the Taiwan Strait: the United States will continue to uphold her moral and legal responsibility toward Taiwan. She will continue to assist in our self-defense. In terms of upholding the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances, American good faith will endure.

President Trump, despite immense pressure from China, will still adhere to the One China Policy, the bedrock of strait relations. But China will also continue to demand adherence to the One China Principle. The danger then, lies in how the still-adapting Trump and an uncompromising China interpret these two differing frameworks, it has the potential to throw off the delicate balance of power in the Straits.


Taiwan and the United States share more than thirty years of stalwart friendship. The Congressional Taiwan Caucus remains the second largest caucus in the United States Congress with more than 120 members. Despite the fragility of international relations, we remain unwavering in this partnership; we still believe in America’s good intent. Now is a time of uncertainty but it is also the time for opportunity and recognition. For years Taiwan has been America’s most loyal ally in the region, we are a young but flourishing democracy, an open and robust society with liberal values that mirror the U.S. We share the same resolve in promoting democratic ideals while ensuring peace, in fostering security while defending freedom, and in furthering trade and prosperity for all.
Kudos to Hsu for not only understanding the difference between the one China policy and the one China principle, but also for not conflating them in an attempt to mislead the reader as KMTers so often do.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Former President Ma Indicted

Stopping traffic for a procession

President Ma was indicted yesterday on charges of leaking state secrets (SCMP):
The Taipei District Prosecutors Office alleges Ma violated the Communication Security and Surveillance Act and the Personal Information Protection Act. The former president could face up to three years in jail on the charges. “Ma chose an improper way to deal with what he believed were political flaws and responsibilities involving cabinet members,” prosecutors office spokesman Chang Chieh-hsin said.
The Special Investigation Division (SID) was tapping the legislative phone system. I wrote at the time:
Readers may recall that Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng had been publicly accused by the President of influence peddling by calling the Minister of Justice and having him tell the prosecutors not to appeal a not guilty verdict against Ker. The DPP politicians also said that the SID had been monitoring the prosecutor in the Ker case, which the SID admitted. They admitted that they monitored her 12 year old daughter, accidentally, since she was using her mom's phone (SCMP). They then switched to the husband's phone which Lin Hsiu-tao was using, musical phones being a common feature of busy families.

It is striking that no transcript of the alleged phone calls telling the prosecutor to lay off Ker has been produced by the SID, since it has leaked transcripts of Wang Jin-pyng's phone calls. Indeed, the lack of such leaks suggests that no such transcripts exist. This tends to support Wang's claims that he was just comforting Ker and hadn't done anything.
Allegedly Ker Chien-ming, the DPP whip, called Wang Jin-pyng, then the KMT speaker, and asked him to lobby the prosecutor and the Minister of Justice in a case involving Ker. Transcripts of Wang's words with Ker were leaked, but no transcript of Wang talking to either of the other two was leaked. Wang insisted that he had done nothing illegal, and no evidence was produced that he had.

This information was given to Ma by SID Chief Huang Shih-ming. The DPP had long been claiming that the SID, which began its career prosecuting Chen Shui-bian, was a political tool designed to be used by the President against his perceived political enemies, and in that moment, their claims were totally vindicated. Huang would later be indicted and convicted over that leak. That does not bode well for Ma.

But then President Ma Ying-jeou, who saw Wang as a rival and underling, and who had beaten Wang in a previous KMT Chairmanship election, completely lost it. He was apparently primarily angry at Wang because Wang would not shove that awful, unpopular services pact with China through the legislature. Wang, the unofficial leader of the Taiwanese KMT, knew that his people in the legislature would never vote for it.

Ma went public with the accusations that Wang had engaged in influence-peddling, saying that he had shamed Taiwan's democracy. He also attempted to have Wang kicked out of the party and removed as speaker. This lead to the situation described in the letter from THRAC, which really did threaten Taiwan's democracy:
By reporting to the president and then releasing the transcript at a press conference — without laying any charges — the SID grossly violated laws requiring nondisclosure of its investigations and has confirmed suspicions that it is a political tool of the KMT. There are also questions about the legality and propriety of the wiretap.


These actions constituted (to use his words) “improper influence at the highest level,” abuse of the office of president and violation of the separation of powers fundamental to a democracy. Ma then acted in his capacity as KMT chairman to have Wang’s party membership suspended and remove him as a legislator-at-large.

This confusion of Ma’s two roles as president and party chairman looks like a return to the old party-state practices of the KMT.

Third, contempt of the legislature. By using an internal KMT party process to remove its speaker, Ma has seriously violated the rights of the legislature. The speaker of the legislature is elected by its members. The legislature oversees the president. Now Ma has used his power as party chairman to become the overseer of the legislature. This has serious implications for KMT proportional vote legislators who must worry about a party chairman who can remove them so easily.
The KMT also had the Ministry of Foreign Affairs describe Wang as a "former speaker" on its website. Wrong.

The crisis devastated the KMT, and even caused the NT to fall in value. It also left Ma's reputation in tatters (fallout described in this post here and here). Ma and Wang went to court over Ma kicking Wang out of the KMT, and was beaten twice -- Eric Chu later dropped the suit to preserve KMT unity.

And it was, by all accounts, totally illegal for Ma to make that information public to attack Wang. Which is how we got to this indictment this week in the "September Strife". Taipei Times reported:
The Taipei District Prosectutors’ Office completed its investigation into the 2013 wiretapping case and alleged that Ma had abused his authority by divulging classified information, as well as breaching the separation of political and judicial powers, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Chang Chieh-chin (張介欽) said.

Chang said Ma has been charged with offenses related to public officials divulging state secrets that are unrelated to national defense, thereby contravening the Criminal Code; public officials divulging classified information obtained in the course of communications surveillance by the authorities, thereby contravening the Communication Security and Surveillance Act (通訊監察保護法); and unauthorized use of private information outside of a public official’s duties, thereby contravening the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法).

“The defendant called on then-prosecutor-general Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) to visit the president’s official residence on Aug. 31, 2013, to report on the findings of the wiretapping. This breached the law on the use of personal information obtained under surveillance and the divulging of classified information,” he said. “The defendant instructed Huang, top aide Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) and then-premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) on Sept. 4, 2013, in talks where classified information relating to the wiretapping case was discussed. This constitutes offenses of inciting others to divulge information obtained during telecommunications surveillance and violations of personal privacy.”
The prosecutor in this case is the same one who went after Ma before for his downloading of government funds into his private accounts. Ma did not dispute that he had done so, but his defense was that the special funds were intended for that purpose. He was found not guilty, of course.

Ma maintains he is innocent. He is facing a rain of lawsuits now that his presidential immunity ended, with Ker Chien-ming's lawsuit against him in its final stages after three years.

I consider it very unlikely he will ever do time. If he gets sentenced, it will be the kind of sentence that can be commuted to a fine.

But it is good to see the system working. All three former democratically elected presidents have been indicted, but the attacks on Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui were politically motivated. This long running case -- remember, before you claim this is some kind of pan-Green revenge on Ma, that SID Chief Huang was convicted during the Ma Administration -- represents the actual functioning of rule of law as a check on anti-democratic action by the chief executive.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Me on Bill Sharp's show

The very kind Bill Sharp was kind enough to give me a few minutes on his show to talk about the KMT.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Wash Times: Trump Administration to give arms Obama Admin blocked

The red letters of this temple gate say "new village".

From the Nelson Report. A good example of how the Chinese shaped Obama Administration China policy via the threat of China's "anger." *sigh*. ADDED:  Rupert Hammond-Chambers said on Twitter that the Obama Administration was concerned about the climate deal with China. LOL. As if either the Trump Administration or Beijing would adhere to it.....


A COMING TRUMP DECISION...REVISE AND EXTEND THE OBAMA ARMS SALE PACKAGE TO TAIWAN...Loyal Reader Bill Gertz has an interesting piece in The Free Beacon with a headline accusing President Obama of a last-minute cave-in to China, cancelling a $1-bil arms sale package. But Your Editor's reading of the piece is it seems to report that on balance, the cancellation is really just a "postponement", since Obama assumed the Trump folks will certainly come up with their own.

And the Gertz argument also encompasses the possibility that Obama was spooked by the Tsai-Trump phone call and didn't want to add to Beijing's angst, and thus prompt a dangerous over-reaction from Xi...surely a legitimate concern?

CSIS's Bonnie Glaser agrees with some of that, followed by Bill's original piece:

I think Gertz is right that State and Defense approved the package and the White House killed it. It is possible that the decision was made after the Tsai-Trump phone call not to notify Congress of the pending sale. But it is also possible that the Obama administration did not want to approve an arms sale in its final days because it didn't want to offend China and undermine the President's legacy with Beijing. It doesn't make sense to me that Obama officials would have wanted to leave the package on the table for the next administration. The Obama team anticipated that there would be a lot of friction with China under Trump. It would have made more sense to approve the package in December so there would be less pressure on the Trump administration to make an early arms sale, which would further exacerbate tensions.

Obama White House Blocked Needed U.S. Arms Sale to Taiwan
Trump set to sell more arms

BY: Bill Gertz
March 14, 2017 5:00 am

The Obama administration blocked a $1 billion arms sale to Taiwan in December that was needed to improve the island's defenses despite approval from the State Department and Pentagon, according to Trump administration officials. The scuttling of the arms package was a set back for U.S. and Taiwanese efforts to bolster defenses against a growing array of Chinese missiles and other advanced weaponry deployed across the 100-mile Taiwan Strait.

The action coincided with a controversial pre-inaugural phone call Dec. 2 between then-President-elect Trump and Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen. It could not be learned if the arms package, which was ready to be announced publicly in December was derailed by the Obama administration because of the phone call.

The new Trump administration is now preparing to provide more and better defensive arms to Taiwan, said administration officials familiar with internal discussions of the arms sale. The new arms package, however, is not expected to be made public until after Trump meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping next month. White House officials said the meeting is set for early April at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also will visit China later this month. Taiwan is expected to be a major topic of discussion for both the summit and Tillerson's visit. "There's a process for these things that's being followed," a White House official said of the arms package. "The Trump administration takes America's commitment to Taiwan's security very seriously."

Other officials said the arms package was set for release to Taiwan and formal notification to Congress in December. But National Security Council staff officials blocked it, setting back the process of supporting Taiwan with defensive arms considerably. The approximately $1 billion included parts and equipment needed for the Taiwan military's ongoing modernization of its arsenal of 1980s-era F-16 jet fighters along with additional missiles.

The approved package was held up by Avril D. Haines, the Obama White House deputy national security adviser. Haines did not return an email seeking comment. Former Obama administration spokesman Ned Price confirmed that the administration held up the arms package. He told the Washington Free Beacon that neither Haines nor others in the Obama White House "unilaterally blocked the package that was under discussions, which was relatively modest."

"In consultation with State and DoD, the Obama administration decided not to move forward with it in the final days of the administration," Price said, adding that one factor was that "we thought it would be a useful package for the next administration to pursue in their time because it was well-calibrated to strike the balance we typically try to achieve consistent with our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act." One administration official said the package also included communications, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance gear that would bolster the Taiwan military's command and control systems.

This official said one positive aspect of the failure to send the latest arms is that pro-China officials in the U.S. government who oppose helping Taiwan will no longer be able to argue internally that the United States had fulfilled its obligations under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act with the package. The act requires the United States to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons. "Now we can start from scratch with a truly useful arms package once the assistant secretaries are in place," the official said, referring to working-level political appointees at the Pentagon and State Department.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner had no immediate comment. pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross said he does not discuss "pre-decisional matters."

"The objective of our defense engagement with Taiwan is to ensure that Taiwan remains secure, confident, free from coercion and able to engage in a peaceful, productive dialogue to resolve differences in a manner acceptable to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait," Ross said, noting U.S. arms sales support that goal. "We strongly believe that our policy has contributed to stability in the Taiwan Strait by providing Taipei with the confidence needed to pursue constructive interactions with Beijing."

The official Taiwan government office in Washington had no comment on the arms package. Taiwan officials are looking forward to working closely with the Trump administration in upgrading defenses. The Taiwanese are considering the development of indigenous fighter aircraft and submarines and are hoping the United States can provide technology for the arms.

Former State Department official John Tkacik said the failure to release the arms package in December was a mistake. "It is truly alarming that the White House, in its last month, would ignore a defense transfer recommendation endorsed by both the State and Defense Departments, especially after the incoming president had already signaled his support of a strengthened security relationship with Taiwan," Tkacik said.

Tkacik said it is likely that Obama administration officials in charge of Asia policy, after eight years of giving the Chinese free rein in Asia, were unhappy with Trump's tough posture toward Beijing. "If the new National Security Council can't move forward afresh with strengthened defense supplies to Taiwan, given State and Pentagon recommendations to do it, I'm afraid the new administration will lose its momentum, like Obama's people did, and simply resign itself to letting Beijing take over in Asia," he assed.

Randall Schriver, a former assistant secretary of state and assistant secretary of defense, said the Trump administration should increase arms transfers to Taiwan. "China's growing capabilities combined with an intent to put greater pressure on Taiwan should compel us take a serious look at increasing our security assistance to Taiwan including support for its indigenous submarine program and making available a [vertical, short-take off and landing] fighter aircraft," he said.

Rick Fisher, an expert on Asian military affairs, also voiced concern. "It is extremely disappointing that the Obama administration would not release this final arms sales package before leaving office, but at a deeper level, that it did not exercise the leadership to accelerate this F-16 upgrade package first approved in 2011," said Fisher, senior fellow at International Assessment and Strategy Center. The delay in upgrading the jets means China has gained six years on deploying advanced fighters jets and next generation short and medium range ballistic missiles that threaten Taiwan.

Fisher warned that China is preparing for a possible invasion of Taiwan in early 2020 and the Trump administration should provide new military capabilities for the island to help deter any Chinese attack. "We are really up against the wall; if we cannot devise the right package of fifth generation capabilities, be it new F-35 fighters, submarine technologies, new, cheap, long range anti-ship cruise missiles and energy weapons, then we will face the threat of Chinese invasion of Taiwan perhaps as soon as the early 2020s," Fisher said.

Taiwan in January began upgrading its force of 144 F-16s. The jets will be outfitted with active electronically scanned array fire-control radar that analysts say can detect radar-evading stealth aircraft. New avionics equipment also is being added along with advanced AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The last arms package for Taiwan was announced in December 2015 and was worth $1.83 billion. It included two Perry-class Frigates, Javelin anti-tank missiles, TOW anti-tank missiles, and amphibious assault vehicles. Command and control hardware, F-16 gear, Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems and Stinger surface-to-air missiles were also part of that package.

In December, China's military conducted a show of force with a squadron of jet fighters and a bomber that circled Taiwan Dec. 10. U.S. EP-3 and RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft shadowed the Chinese jets during the incident, along with a long-range RQ-4 Global Hawk drone aircraft. The Chinese saber rattling against Taiwan coincided with Trump's phone call with Tsai.

China also protested a provision of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill that was signed into law in December. The new law contains language calling on the Pentagon to conduct a program of senior military exchanges with Taiwan. Current policy has limited military exchanges between U.S. and Taiwanese officers despite a requirement under the Taiwan Relations Act for the United States to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

The phone call between Trump and Tsai in December was the first time an American president had spoken directly to Taiwan's president in decades and prompted protests from Beijing, which views Taiwan as a break away province. The United States does not accept China's interpretation of the so-called One-China policy and regards the Beijing-Taipei dispute over Taiwan's status as unresolved.

"Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call," Trump tweeted Dec. 2. Trump has taken a hard line against China, mainly over unfair trade and currency practices. After the Dec. 2 call, he also suggested the United States might abandon the One China policy and adopt more favorable Taiwan policies. However, Trump later reiterated U.S. support for the American interpretation of the One China Policy.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Breaking: Ma indicted over Wang case leaks

Baby papaya plants protected from the wind.

UPDATE: Taiwan News report in English
UPDATE: Solidarity with English translation of UDN report

Former President Ma indicted for leaking state secrets during the MaWang mess (old post). Apple Daily in Chinese. Will update as more news rolls in...
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Final comments on whether Chiang set up 2-28

In Formosa Betrayed, George Kerr’s foundational work on the 2-28 massacre, he describes the provision of intelligence on Taiwan to the US government by the Republic of China (ROC) government in Chungking during WWII, saying:
"In addition to these reports on subversion potential, and on specific communications and industrial objectives, we also received from Chungking a long report on Formosan-Chinese leaders, and on Formosans who were exiles in China."(p14)
The report had been prepared by an exiled Formosan whom Kerr identifies as a notorious schemer, but this brief remark is a window into a world generally neglected in historical writing on 2-28. After opening that window, we can ask: did Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT set up the massacre so they could murder the local leadership, which otherwise might oppose KMT rule?

The problem of historiography
Formosa Betrayed opens with a discussion of US policy toward Formosa during the war, then presents the background of Chen Yi, who would become governor of Formosa in 1945, and then briefly covers the expectations of Formosan leaders in 1945. Kerr then moves on to the arrival of the US and ROC leaders in Taiwan, and from there to a narrative of the development of the revolt.

Similarly, in A Tragic Beginning: The Taiwan Uprising of February 28, 1947, another commonly cited work on 2-28, Ramon Myers and Lai Zehan, after setting the stage in the first chapter, move on to a detailed discussion of the people of Taiwan under Japanese rule, followed by a chapter describing the establishment of KMT rule in Taiwan.

This pattern of presenting the Taiwan experience of Japanese rule, followed by the beginning of KMT rule on the island, is true of almost all presentations of 2-28’s history, long or short. Even the Wiki page on the event offers a Background that briefly describes the experiences of Taiwan and its people under Japanese rule, followed by a somewhat longer explication of KMT rule. It then presents the revolt.

There’s a key element missing: this discourse emphasizes the continuity of the Taiwanese experience with Japanese Formosa while ignoring the continuity of KMT experience with Japanese Formosa.

Instead, the KMT in Taiwan in 1945 is always presented as if it had simply parachuted in from China with little or no prior knowledge of Taiwan. Chen Yi’s trip to Taiwan and background is often mentioned, but the KMT’s extensive knowledge of Taiwan and Taiwanese in the prewar era typically draws no attention. Kerr, for example, writes:
“Chiang's personal power within China derived from his consummate skill in playing off one powerful Party or Army faction against another and his family alliance with the leading industrialists and financiers. In mid-year 1945, the so-called Political Science Group was the faction momentarily in the ascendant at Chungking. When a temporary committee was established to plan for the "Provisional Government of Taiwan Province," a member of this group became the Chairman.

This was Chiang's friend General Chen Yi.”(p47)
Kerr provides detailed information on the relationship between Chen Yi, the Soong family, and Chiang Kai-shek, yet tells us nothing about this committee or of the KMT’s knowledge of Formosa. What was its understanding of Formosa? What were its information sources?

Instead of presenting a chapter on the extensive and detailed knowledge the KMT had of Taiwanese and their politics on Formosa, most writers simply give Chen Yi’s background in Fujian and his trip to Taiwan. This unconsciously signals the reader that no other knowledge exists or is necessary. Thus, Chen Yi’s Taiwan-related background comes to stand in for the KMT’s background on Taiwan.

This neglect of the KMT’s connections to Formosans and its knowledge of their political positions functions as an apologetic for Chiang and the KMT in its own right. If the reader never learns of prior deep KMT knowledge of Taiwan, the reader will never make the connection to possibility that Chiang planned it all. Indeed, that possibility is disallowed by the discourse.

It also underpins further apologetic positions, such as the oft-heard “Chen Yi misled Chiang” or “Chiang was too distracted by events in China” and so forth. Such comments only make sense if the analytical context is that the KMT and Chiang were completely ignorant of Formosa prior to the KMT's arrival there in 1945, and Chen Yi was the Party's sole major connection to Taiwan. But that is totally untrue.

As we have seen in my two other posts (here and here), the KMT had deep knowledge of Taiwan’s politics and its major leaders. But there’s another issue with Chen Yi I’d like to highlight.

2-28 was a reprise. When Chen Yi was governor of Fukien province, he imprisoned and killed students protesting for stronger anti-Japanese members, along with members of the People’s Political Councils. According to Kerr, Chen Yi brought in the big state monopolies and Japanese businesses, and drove thousands of small traders into bankruptcy.
“In the period of Chen Yi's governorship the Province of Fukien was systematically looted. Hot-headed students demonstrated, rioting broke out again and again, and Chen Yi reacted without mercy. The brutality with which students were tortured and killed in Fukien set something of a record even for China”(p55).
The province was “systematically looted” according to Kerr. Sound familiar?

When Chen Yi was posted to Taiwan, there were protests from both Chinese and from expatriate Formosans living in China. Indeed, it was Formosans who were familiar with Chen Yi’s record from Fujian who were among his biggest critics after he took over Taiwan. These vociferous criticisms and predictions were of course known to the KMT and to Chiang.

Did Chiang set up 2-28? Either Chiang understood the consequences of Chen Yi’s appointment and meant for something like the revolts in Fujian to happen so that a generation of Formosan leadership could be wiped out, or he was completely indifferent to the fate of Taiwan, or he was stupid beyond belief.

Yet remember, when you pick, that whatever his innumerable faults, one strength Chiang had was strong political skills...

Great comment

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Actually quite some research has been done on the preparation committee you mention (especially by Taiwanese historians and published in Chinese). [mt: yeah, so its influence on the construction of the discourse on KMT entry into Taiwan is limited]. Among other things, the committee did not have any Taiwanese members when it was founded in April 1944. CKS insisted on putting some Taiwanese on only after the first few months, but even then their influence remained restricted. The whole thing was more for show and to appease the few voices within the KMT, who argued for Taiwan's incorporation into China, most of whom were banshan.

The committee eventually did publish a report and made all kinds of suggestions about the future rule of Taiwan, it even mentioned the possibility of some kind of self-rule. Of course, all those suggestions remained non-binding in the end and the government opted for what was in fact a military occupation. One of the main reasons being that the KMT didn't even know if the Taiwanese, in particular the soldiers, were actually going to welcome them (remember that Taiwanese in general were still despised by the KMT high echelons during the war and seen as collaborators and/or slaves of the Japanese [sound familiar?]).

I think it's also important to remember the larger historical context here, namely that the KMT had never considered "getting back" Taiwan before the Cairo Conference in late 1943, when the allies winning the war had already become an increasingly realistic scenario. However, they were surely not prepared for the rather sudden end of the Pacific War. This is easily forgotten, but by August 1945 there was just no internal consensus among KMTers of how to rule Taiwan after the war, which was another reason CKS opted for the military occupation. The military occupation had nothing to do whatsoever with what the committee had been working on.

Nothing of this exculpates CKS of course, quite to the contrary. He might have not really been able to anticipate the situation in Taiwan, but as you said, he did know Chen Yi and he gave him all the powers to do as he wanted.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Links and Short Shorts for Sunday

They called out the fire trucks for this one. Someone's ritual burning at a tomb started a fire that swept the cemetery and then started burning the trash and structures closer.

Some links....

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!