Sunday, April 30, 2017

Madhav Nalapat on Taiwan issues....

I don't have time to blog today, but an Indian academic, Prof. Madhav Nalapat, who recently visited Taiwan put his thoughts on the web....

The Taiwan Effect On Sinic Civilisation
[Keynote address delivered by Prof. Madhav Nalapat at the Bangalore University Conference on “Taiwan in the 21st Century" on April 25th, 2008.]

Taiwan’s Centrality in Asian Geopolitics
[This paper was presented at the “2014 International Conference on New Asian Dynamics and the Role of Taiwan” organised by the Taiwan Brain Trust at The Westin Taipei, Taipei on 6 December, 2014.]

Mindwar vs. Bodywar: The cases of India, Pakistan, China and Taiwan
[An abridged version of this paper was presented at the "International Conference on Converting Confrontation into Cooperation: In Search of Working Peace across the Taiwan Strait", held at Ambassador Hotel, Taipei on December 9, 2003.]
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Friday, April 28, 2017

Latest Nelson Report

A waterfall feeds a river gorge below Caoling.

The Latest Nelson Report with some comments on Taiwan (bold emphasis mine, red in original). Click on Read more...


LINES ON MAPS...remember a week or so ago when Japan issued a map showing a couple of hundred islands with Japanese names? Beijing today took it a potentially dangerous step further, defining into "law" some enforcement rights:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tsai Packs the Courts?

You can fish, but there are some rules....

President Tsai's office was forced to distance itself from the decisions of its judicial reform committee this week when it turned out the "reform" actually made things less democratic. The President's office dodged by saying that the Committee had made its decisions without informing the president...
During a meeting of the committee on Monday a consensus was reached that the top level of the judiciary should be reduced by cutting the combined number of Supreme Court and Supreme Administrative Court judges from 94 to 21, and granting the president the power to make final selection of the judges without going through legislative approval.
The excuse was that this was how it is done in other countries. For once I found myself in agreement with former President  Ma Ying-jeou, who warned that simply copying other countries is not necessarily a good idea.

The irony was that the President had selected the committee in the first place. The KMT and its affiliates had complained about the President's personal intervention in the process as judicial interference. You have to admit, if there is something the KMT knows a lot about, it's judicial interference.

A member of the committee quit the other day, claiming that the process is flawed and a sham... this is a comment I have heard from people I know who have worked on the project...
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wed night Short Shorts and Links

Tea drying in Nantou.

Enjoy some links, midterms inbound and I am busy....
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Thank you, Taiwan News

Well, Taiwan News has informed me it no longer needs my services. Writing a newspaper column was a wonderful opportunity for me, and I am thankful that I had the chance. Good luck, Taiwan News!

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

MEDIAFAIL: Taiwanese are not "ethnic Chinese"

Housing for aboriginal people.

One of the ways the foreign media serves Beijing is by recapitulating its propaganda frameworks -- in this case, that the Taiwanese are "Chinese" and there is no such thing as "Taiwanese". This claim is a standard claim of those who would annex Taiwan to China. Indeed, China's claim on Arunachal Pradesh in India is supported by official claims that the area's Tibetan people are "Chinese" and thus the region is "China".

Local media worker Ralph Jennings is one of the chief purveyors of this nonsense. See for example, this transcendentally stupid article on Chinese tourists,
Tourists from China eagerly report that strangers politely stop to give directions and shopkeepers respond professionally to inquiries. This treatment compares to China where an annoying number of strangers are surly or vague when interrupted by a question. The level of courtesy found in Taiwan fosters an appreciation of the location itself as well as a reminder that ethnic Chinese on either side easily have it in them to be polite.
.... "ethnic Chinese on either side" is a pro-China frame, reductive and wrong. There are many other examples: here, here, here, and here.

Reuters seems to have picked this up as well. In an article on how Taiwan's economic policies are its own worst enemy, it claims....
The capital of Taipei shows what an advanced ethnically Chinese economy can achieve under a democracy: a comfortable, low-key lifestyle.
This may come as a shock to the media, but Taiwan does not exist so the media can make smug contrasts between democracy in "ethnic Chinese" cultures. We have democracy here in Taiwan precisely because locals resisted the Chinese culture brought over by the KMT, with its authoritarianism and authority-based values, fake family values, empty democratic values, Confucianism bereft of humanity, and violent suppression of dissent.

The basis of their resistance was, of course, Taiwaneseness.

This "culture iceberg" is a common image, with many variations. But note that when people talk about "culture" they are usually referring to the parts that are easy to see: language, food, holidays, dress (though even in Taiwan they are different). The parts that are below are difficult for the untrained to see or think about and so are never referenced in discussions like those in the media. Wouldn't it be awesome if the media consulted anthropologists the way they consult financiers?

For Taiwan, for example, one might add...
  • the experience of Dutch, Qing, Japanese, and KMT colonization, the experience of being settlers, being a settler region, and interactions with and resistance to the distant, different state
  • the existence of the frontier and the Other in the interactions between aboriginal peoples and the incoming Hoklo and Hakka settlers, and its shaping of culture, building forms, and landscapes in Taiwan, and the continued existence of aborigines as distinct Other in the present day
  • the ideal of democracy and its application in resistance to Japan and the KMT. Remember the first elections were held under the Japanese.
  • democratization and the lived experience of democracy
  • steady and rapid long-term capitalist economic growth and relative affluence
  • Pervasive Japanese influences in food, hygiene, expectations of social progress and order, and so forth
  • Pervasive US influence via increasing globalization and close economic, social, political, and military ties.
  • the experience of China's desire to annex Taiwan and suppress local identity via both KMT colonization and PRC aggression
...that is only a small sample of the vastness of the differences in Taiwan experience. I haven't even addressed defining "ethnic Chinese" since the constructs we generally use to discuss "Chineseness" are themselves the result of Beijing's propaganda as the Imperial Capital struggles to suppress local cultures and languages across its vast empire via the creation of a common "culture".

Hence, the categories ordinary people use to think about and define "what's Chinese?" are usually categories constructed by expansionist politicians in Beijing. While it might be entertaining to imagine international media workers struggling to define "ethnic Chinese", it would not be very enlightening (it is never defined in the text, of course).

The short form of this is: Taiwanese are "ethnic Chinese" to the extent that Americans are "ethnic United Kingdomers".

But another way to think about it is provided by Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions, widely used in business and other research as a shorthand for describing cultural patterns. Hofstede has surveyed the world's nations to develop a crude way to compare them on several dimensions of deeper behavioral attitudes. Anthropologists laugh, but it is a useful shorthand for twenty years of fieldwork and does enable comparisons, since the surveys are the same for all people surveyed.

I compared China and Taiwan using his tool. Note the blindingly obvious differences in everything except "long term orientation" (definitions are onsite).

You want to claim Taiwanese are "ethnic Chinese?" Evidence please. Otherwise, stop saying what isn't true.

UPDATE: An anthropologist observed to me:
The idea that "Taiwan proves Chinese people can be X" (polite/democratic/etc.) is just racist. The use of the term "ethnic" in there just serves to hide the implicit racism.
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Sunday, April 23, 2017

What Cross Strait Institutional Frameworks?

Jerome Cohen and Chen Yu-jie are online at ChinaFile with a widely circulated piece on the implications of the Lee Ming-che detention in China for cross-strait relations....
Although it would be wise as well as humane for Beijing to release Lee Ming-che now, his case may have just begun. Yet its lessons are already worth considering. It vividly illustrates Beijing’s continuing determination to suspend the operation of important cross-strait agreements in the current political circumstances. It also exposes not only how little respect the Chinese Government has for even the minimal human rights protections enshrined in the Judicial Assistance Agreement but also the need to provide effective means for their enforcement. Beijing has met its agenda for the short term, which is to signal non-cooperation with Tsai Ing-wen’s government. The long-term consequences of destroying the reliability and legitimacy of cross-strait institutions, however, are not in its interest. If cross-strait agreements can be brushed aside by Beijing when considered politically inconvenient, they will no longer be trusted in Taiwan. What will then be left in Beijing’s toolkit for cross-strait cooperation and stability?
This analysis is legalistic, imagining that cross-strait "stability" resides in agreements. The truth is that "cross strait institutions" are a fantasy of this type of analysis.

Whatever your theory of why Lee was abducted, this is hardly the first time that China has failed to honor cross-strait understandings, frameworks, and agreements. That is in fact China's normal practice. Anyone remember the April deportations last year, of scam suspects from Kenya to Malaysia? Taipei Times:
Officers immediately contacted their Malaysian counterparts and were told that all documents and evidence were in the hands of Chinese authorities, Tuan said, adding that when they contacted Chinese authorities, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security turned down the request.

Tuan said that according to an agreement reached by Taiwan and China in 2011, when Taiwanese or Chinese are deported for crimes committed in a third country, any evidence is to be sent with the suspects on deportation.
....but no evidence was sent. Remember when China simply threw a new air route over the Taiwan Strait even though negotiations on the issue hadn't been concluded?

It would be redundant to list the piles of agreements with many nations that Beijing has reneged on....

This tactic of honoring agreements when it feels like it is normal for Beijing. There is nothing to see here, move along folks. Arbitrary withholding or granting of privileges is one of the ways an authoritarian state retains its grip on the flow of events, be they individual behaviors in its own society, or the global political sphere. In this case not only does Beijing get to demonstrate who holds the whip hand, but it also signals that Taiwan activists take risks when they cross into China (and Hong Kong). That will help chill activist links.
No matter what the outcome, it has seriously worsened cross-strait relations and China’s chances for attaining “soft power.”
There was never any chance of "attaining 'soft power'". This whole reading of events is based on a framework of normal establishment politics that simply does not exist in Beijing.
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Latest Taiwan News

My latest for Taiwan News... Pension Reform = Democratic Reform:
aiwan President Tsai Ing-wen faces a trio of challenges perhaps no other world leader faces. Just finishing her first year, she must handle the normal challenges any president has, responding to domestic issues and advancing her party’s platform. Yet she must also manage the unique threat of China, brooding over how to annex Taiwan and snuff out Taiwan’s democracy. Finally, Tsai must preside over the de-colonization of Taiwan society from decades of Kuomintang (KMT) colonization.
Pension reforms are urgent because of the KMT's lavish pensions, in which many former state employees receive 80-100% of their highest salary. The pension funds are all going bankrupt. Reform thus addresses the dual need of domestic progress and democratization progress.

Taiwan News has a new President. His thinking is online in Trump’s ‘drain the swamp’ reform is the only way Taiwan’s reforms can survive and prevail.

My other Taiwan News Columns are linked here.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

KMT Chairmanship Election: Candidates register

Spring went by quickly....

There is no lack of comedy in this election as the six candidates submitted their forms and signatures. Five of the six had over 100K signatures, with Wu Den-yih submitting over 200,000. However...
However, the total number of signatures submitted exceeded the 478,000 party members eligible to endorse aspiring candidates as of Tuesday. One hopeful ascribed this to possible duplicate endorsements or artificial inflation of the number of signatures collected.
Can you imagine electoral fraud in a KMT-involved election?

The Straits Times had a more serious review. Of Wu Den-yih, it observes:
Compared with his ex-boss, the Harvard-educated former Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou, Mr Wu also has more of the common touch - he announced his bid for the party's top post with a campaign song that he penned, called "No Turning Back".

"I hope that the song will make it easier to remember what I stand for," said Mr Wu, who has won Mr Ma's endorsement to be KMT chief.
Wu, according to a couple of experts I know, was one of the factors hold down a KMT revolt against Ma during his disastrous second term. He is a smart insider politician. Unfortunately for Wu he is a Taiwanese, not a mainlander, and thus not acceptable to the Old Soldiers, who want a mainlander like themselves.

The interesting thing is whether the other two candidates, Hau and Hung, will split the Old Soldier vote and hand the Chairmanship to Wu. If that is the case, then expect Wu to run in 2020. If the Old Soldiers vote as a bloc, then they will anoint either Hau or Hung, and probably the latter. Hung will also have been Chair for the assets committee fight and the pension fight, taking uncompromising pro-KMT positions, which will endear her to the Old Soldiers whose votes will be decisive.

Hau was already warning voters and the party to be on the lookout for bribes, as if he were setting up a complaint to file in the future when he loses, to try and get the election annulled and ... held again? Thrown to the Central Standing Committee?

A Hung victory will pose a very interesting dilemma for the KMT. Who will be the candidate in 2020? The Chair has usually been the candidate, but Hung will never win the election. Will they force her to accept Wu or Hau? What will the price be?

Recall that 2018 is the local elections. Hung won't be much good for that, but Wu will.
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Still favoring boys over girls....

Richard Saunders took this photo and wrote on Facebook:
Advert on a Hualien to Taitung train advising pregnant women to reject undergoing gender identification of their fetus (having a baby girl was traditionally considered much less desireable than a boy). I'm flabbergasted that in modern Taiwan anyone still needs reminding that having a baby girl is a wonderful event.
Women slightly outnumber men in Taiwan, but like everything in Taiwan, there is a regional imbalance that favors Taipei:
The sex ratio — the number of males per 100 females — was at its lowest in Taipei at 92.1 and at its highest in outlying Lienchiang County at 133.6.
Good to see the government out addressing that.
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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Renewable Energy saves climate, creates justice

Wind machines at Gamei Wetlands. The Sacred Ibis in the foreground are an invasive species, zoo escapees.

So... the two wind machines were talking. One asked the other: "What's your favorite kind of music?" And the second replied: "I'm a huge metal fan..."

Sorry, I couldn't resist. The nation’s drive to reach the goal of 20% renewable energy by 2025 took a huge step forward this week with funding provided from the Forward Taiwan plan to renovate a section of Taichung port as a wind power zone. The port area will focus on wind power parts and construction for serving the large offshore wind power program in the Taiwan Strait. 2025 is also the year the government has said it will phase out nuclear power.

Last month a Dutch consulting firm and a Taiwan engineering firm signed an MOU to jointly tender for the first phase of the offshore wind program, 110MW of wind power. That phase is expected to be completed by 2020 at a cost of over US$600 million.

The second phase consists of another 900MW of wind power off of Lukang in Changhua. This program is in turn part of plans for 4GW of wind power by 2030 for a total of 14GW of renewable energy. Of the 36 wind power sites under this plan, 21 are in Changhua.

Critical to the renewable energy plan is the Administration’s move to break up Taipower, which has long been viewed as strongly opposed to green power. The Tsai Administration stated last year that the revision was to facilitate the growth of green power.

Originally the plan was to break it up into four subdivisions of generation, transmission, distribution, and sales, but that was subsequently changed in light of public fears that private power companies would gain control of those subdivisions. The current plan has Taipower remaining a state owned firm but with two subdivisions, generation and transmission, and distribution and sales.

Let us not forget: Taipower is deeply enmeshed KMT party and patronage politics. As political scientist Nathan Batto observed in a piece on the hapless Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (4NPP), during the Ma Administration, the head of the worker’s union at Taipower was a KMT Central Standing Committee member. Taipower is a key component of the KMT’s Japan-style construction-industrial state, under which money flows out of the government to patronage networks across Taiwan for local infrastructure projects.

It is probably just a coincidence, as a friend of mine observed to me, that the KMT proposed a public referendum on 4NPP in 2013 only after all of the payments contracts for construction had been completed. Taipower also handed out the largest cut in electricity prices ever in the waning days of the lame duck Ma Administration, a sop to the KMT’s big business cronies who run large electricity-intensive manufacturing. It was also a move that will force the DPP to raise electricity rates to recover the lost funds and service Taipower’s debt crisis. Low prices also drive demand for electricity, especially nuclear power, inhibit conservation, and make it more difficult to implement renewables.

Thus, breaking up Taipower to advance renewable energy in Taiwan is also a way to reduce the KMT’s colonial control of the nation’s bureaucracy and infrastructure programs. This is just as important as striking at its ill-gotten assets or taking its seats in the legislature.

Breaking up Taipower will also have other benefits for the nation and for democratic justice.

Taipower has a checkered history of apparent collusion with big business. Back in 2008, for example, just as the company was about to come under investigation for alleged crony purchasing of overpriced coal, its offices were burglarized. Out of the many things in the office, only the documents related to the questionable coal purchases were taken. No doubt the thieves were just looking for paper to sell to recyclers.

In another case in 2013, Taipower was accused of colluding with state-owned firms on electricity power purchases. Nine “independent” power producers did not renegotiate for higher prices for the power sold to Taipower, even though the company made a formal request that they do so. The whole exercise was apparently a charade as Taipower only made the offer knowing they would not renegotiate. Four firms were slapped with massive fines.

Perhaps Taipower’s most serious problem is its treatment of indigenous peoples. Taipower’s reflexive solution for nuclear waste appears to be giving to Taiwan’s aborigines. Most readers will be familiar with the sordid tale of how by trickery the low level nuclear waste dump arrived on Orchid Island. That is actually part of a larger pattern.

At present there is no place and no concrete plan for disposal of the high level waste from Taiwan’s nuclear power plants, just a declared intention to dispose the waste on an uninhabited island with the final decision made by 2038.

In 2012 DPP legislator Hsaio Bi-khim was alerted by locals to drilling going on in Hualien’s Sioulin Township, whose residents are indigenous people. Hsiao made inquiries, and it turned out that Taipower was looking for potential sites for geological disposal of Taiwan’s high level nuclear waste. Taipower had not bothered to seek permission or even to inform the locals of the drilling program.

Anyone familiar with environmental racism will recognize the dynamic inherent in such power plays.

Renewable energy programs are not just a way of addressing global society’s mad determination to boil the ecosphere and do away with human civilization, though that is what they are most urgently needed for. At home, they are also a way to move toward a more democratic, more equitable, and cleaner government and society.
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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Geneticizing Ethnicity: A study on the “Taiwan Bio-Bank”

Taiwan as an island country is an immigrant society where interethnic marriages have been common....
This interesting 2010 paper Geneticizing Ethnicity: A study on the “Taiwan Bio-Bank" (Tsai Yu-yueh) has some useful history of how Taiwan's colonial governments classified the people who live here (which is not necessarily the way they themselves thought about it).

I put that quote from the abstract there because it is striking how the author is struggling for inclusive language, which sadly negates the historical experience of Taiwan's indigenes. Another way to look at is to say that Taiwan is a settler and colonial society... but to use that language is to recognize that the Han are latecomers to whom Taiwan does not belong.

The chart above is taken from the paper, and shows how in the Qing Era, the Manchu state organized Taiwan into 3 groups of settlers and 2 groups of indigenous people. The Japanese inherited these categories but consolidated them into the Fujian and Guangdong Han -- though each province sent both Hakkas and Hoklos to Taiwan -- and, until 1935, the Raw and Cooked aborigines. In 1935 the nomenclature changed and the Cooked Aborigines became the Plains Aborigines, while the Raw Aborigines became the Mountain Aborigines.

The Japanese retained these categories because the presence of aboriginal peoples in Taiwan highlighted the need for a "civilizing mission" (colonization) and helped define the difference between "modern" Japan (no savages here!) and "primitive" Taiwan (savages abound!)

The KMT inherited that division, but then repositioned its census categories. The Plains Aborigine category was abolished "because it was believed that they had been assimilated into Han Chinese society", say the authors. Because so many Hakkas had lost the ability to speak Hakka by 1945, they were characterized in that first census as Hoklos.

I suspect the Plains Aborigines were deleted because by abolishing that category, on the practical level, the Pingpu people could then make no claims on land, especially KMT land, which after all was seized from the Japanese, who had seized it from the Plains Aborigines in many cases. Further, once the Pingpu were gone as a recognized people, there is no prior claimant to the plains, meaning that there is no visible reminder that Taiwan does not belong to the Han. The mountain peoples can then be dismissed as "ethnic minorities", exactly the strategy followed by the Han chauvinists running China. Recognizing this, Pingpu activists have fought a decades-long struggle for recognition and land rights.

In 1954 the KMT switched to a nine-group system. After the ending of the security state in the 1990s, the oft-quoted four group system of Hoklo, Hakka, Mainlander, and Aborigine grew. The paper attributes it to a 1993 proposal by DPP politician Yeh Chu-lan. The categories had been in common use for quite some time before that, though. Note that the KMT kept track of "home province" of mainlanders since that was used in certain government applications where jobs or other opportunities were distributed by province of origin, a way to screen out Taiwanese.

The reality is that these groups are fluid and flexible, and people often change their identities over time. As the paper notes:
In fact, during the past few centuries, many people in Taiwan have changed their ethnic identities for one reason or another. Take a recent case for example. A survey conducted by the Council of Hakka Affairs in 2004 showed that when questionnaires about one’s ethnic identity were provided with multiple-choice answers, subjects tended to disclose their Hakka identity more easily, increasing the number of those who identify themselves as Hakka (Xingzhengyuan kejia weiyuanhui 2008).
Another issue is blending:
Xu (2002) investigated interethnic marriages for three generations of the “four great ethnic groups.” The rate of interethnic marriages among those married before 1961 was 12.8%; for those who married between 1961 and 1981, the figure was 21.5%; it grew to 28.2% among those married after 1981 (see Table 1). As the following tables show, the rate of interethnic marriages in the third generation of Hoklo was 15%, 63.4% in Hakka, 82% in Mainlanders, and 38.2% in aborigines (Tables 2, 3, 4, and 5). Although the rate of interethnic marriages among Hoklo remained low, those of the other three groups were very high.
And of course, the group "Aborigines" lumps together disparate peoples, and makes the differences and conflicts between them disappear, repositioning them as an identifiable Other. It is interesting to imagine a modern anthropologist landing in Taiwan in 1400. How many different groups would she find it useful to define?

Looking at Lumley's old piece in The Anthropology of Chinese Society entitled "Subethnic Rivalry in the Ch'ing Period", it is easy to see why the settler population was classified by place of origin rather than what we would call ethnicity. During the 19th century Chinese settlers in Taiwan not only saw themselves through the Hoklo-Hakka lens, but also through a Changchou-Chuanchou lens (and others) based on their place of origin. These groups venerated different deities and had other differences, and extensive political and commercial rivalries.

The Hakkas spoke four different but mutually intelligible versions of Hakka, and did not usually have ethnic/place of origin conflicts amongst themselves, since they were generally scraping out a living in harder areas and were less wealthy, and were surrounded by indigenous and Hoklo communities that feuded with them.

The Hoklo, by contrast, did confront rivalries amongst themselves. For example, the famous Lungshan Temple in Taipei served as a military command center in the 19th century for Hoklo settler groups feuding with incoming settlers from Tungan, and then later, for feuds between Chuanchou  and Changchou settlers. Throughout Taiwan there were temples that served as such military command centers for both Hakkas and Hoklos in these feuds.

Needless to say, these place-of-origin distinctions have disappeared. Yet, had they been maintained by the census, by temple practice, and by marriage and feuding practices, we might be discussing ethnicity and origins in very different ways today. Instead, the KMT switched to a "provincial" level of definition for Taiwan's myriad peoples because that definition was more useful in generating a distinct Mainlander identity as the basis for KMT colonial power and in populating the bureaucracy and military with its people.

The groups we used today hardly begin to reflect the ethnic diversity of modern Taiwan, where numerous children are born to foreign mothers. That is why so many people are turning to the useful rubric of "Taiwanese" to swallow up all this immigrant and settler diversity.
Discussing the difference between the four great ethnic groups, some sociologists state that none of the groups is a concrete reality. Systems of ethnic categorization amount to ideologies. What we should be asking is when, why, and how this classification became so important.
Lurking behind these categories is the hazy idea of "blood" and genetic origins, which the author argues are dangerous misconceptions: these groups are not identifiable by genes though many believe they are. That is why the current government needs to move forward on the idea of a national citizenship by birth and immigration, and reject the "blood"-based citizenship idea of the KMT.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Please, time for a new cabinet

I love this spot.

Looking at the past few months, sometimes it feels like the Tsai Administration made a list of its major constituencies shortly after the election in order to make sure it offended them all.

The latest gaffe, minor but annoying, involved the head of the EPA getting busted eating shark fin soup. Totally needless. All the DPP cabinet problems seem to share that basic trait of needlessness.

Last time it was Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san who took a swipe at gay marriage. "Has there ever been a cultural institution or social phenomenon for same sex marriage? Without a doubt there has not."

Chiu's remarks were both ignorant and ill considered. When westerners first began arriving in China the prevalence, deep cultural roots, and rich cultural traditions of gay sex were widely remarked on by western observers, and not kindly. Gay marriage was present in many different ways -- according to researcher Bret Hinsch, in Fujian there was a tradition of male gay marriage, while in Guangdong, there was a lesbian marriage tradition under which the two women could adopt a child and leave their property to it.

It goes without saying that Fujian and Guangdong were areas of origin for many Han settlers in Taiwan.

Chiu's remarks also echoed the anti-gay rhetoric of KMT one-party rule, under which gayness was an unChinese offense against public morals, which the KMT attempted to portray as based on a heterosexual, Confucian, family-centered order. No DPP politician should ever be summoning the ghosts of KMT authoritarianism.

Someone in the Administration needs to be keeping people in line: when Chiu was asked about gay marriage, irrespective of his own position, he should have made polite noises. He's an experienced politician and should have known better. Even Tsai's devoutly Catholic Vice President Chen Jien-jen knew enough to do that when confronted with the question. Young voters hungry for change helped propel Tsai into power, and they are strongly supportive of gay marriage.

Another case in point: in recent elections, the nation's indigenous peoples have been slowly shifting away from their traditional support of the KMT. Tsai's landmark apology to the aborigines seemed like a step in the right direction, but the follow through has been poor.

Last August, after meeting with Truku people about the Asia Cement plant on Truku land in Hualien, President Tsai directed that the laws calling for aboriginal consent to development on aboriginal lands be enforced by the Council of Indigenous peoples. This would make it difficult for the plant to obtain an extension of its mining lease, leading to its likely closure.

Despite direct orders from the top, two ministers in the Ministry of Economic Affairs did an end run around the law and granted the plant an extension to 2037 this week. The move, of apparent dubious legality, is also politically inept. It should not be tolerated by the Tsai Administration.

The Administration needs to remove the heads of a few chickens to ensure that future monkeys behave. It also needs to start at the top.

In May the current Cabinet will have been in office a year. It will have addressed at least some of the messes left behind by the Ma Administration, but on the whole it has been lackluster. The current cabinet, with its service to powerful firms and distance from the people, is far too reminiscent of the Ma cabinets. Premier Lin Chuan needs replaced by someone who is more openly committed to the DPP and its pro-Taiwan views. Current Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu, whose name is often mooted, would be perfect. The remainder of the cabinet should follow Lin Chuan into oblivion.

President Tsai will never be more powerful than she is now. Aside from the restructuring of Taipower, what are the major accomplishments the Tsai Administration can show its respective constituencies? Gay marriage should have been decisively dealt with months ago, yet here we are still talking about it. The termination of Asia Cement's corporate colonization of the Truku people would have been a concrete example to show the nation's aboriginal peoples that the Administration is making meaningful progress on aboriginal rights. As of this writing aboriginal protesters are occupying Ketagalen Blvd over land issues.

The next election is eighteen months away, and a politically sensible and responsive cabinet is a must. Recall that the crushing DPP victory in 2016 was possible only because many KMT voters stayed home and younger voters came out for the DPP. At present, there is nothing to indicate that all those KMT voters will remain in their homes, especially if the Party leadership can manage to put a politician with some basic political sense at the helm. The KMT's long-term prospects may be dim, but there is no reason that a rebound isn't possible in the short term. And voters like to give ruling parties a warning.

A dramatic gesture like tossing out the cabinet would be a good start on the 2018 elections. Sacking the two offending ministers from the Ministry of Economic Affairs would make a nice apology to the Truku people, but it needs to be followed up by a termination of the lease and an end to its mining operations.

Out with the old, please. Because the DPP is going to suffer if the current cabinet is still office for the 2018 elections, even if the export conomy, riding six straight months of growth, maintains. Young people are immensely dissatisfied with their salaries and living conditions, as recent polls show. They will likely send the DPP a message.

It won't be a message of pleased happiness.
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  • On Facebook: It appears that a ship loaded with nuke waste showed up at Lanyu's Longmen Port to add to the pile on Orchid Island, apparently without local knowledge. It left without unloading after being confronted.
  • Tsai: Taiwan trying to get kidnapped activist home from China. The activist's wife said that the broker she used to talk to Chinese authorities told her the detention was by mistake. Cole has said it is local authorities acting without orders from Beijing.
  • The National Development Council approves plan to extend the railway to Hengchun in Pingtung, near Kenting. That's excellent news, been waiting for this for years. It will be interesting to see how they get it down that narrow coastal shelf. 
  • Tone-deaf, the KMT calls for prosecutors to appeal the not-guilty verdicts given the Sunflowers for the 2014 occupation of the legislature. Young people will surely be attracted to join the KMT now...
  • The KMT's National Women's League offers to donate US$500 million in assets to the Health Ministry. That's US dollars..... obviously it paid to be KMT.
  • Uber is returning.
  • Taiwan health ministry to set up office to combat low fertility. I've got an idea: the world is full of people -- import some. It's called immigration. 
  • Latest Global Taiwan Brief

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, April 11, 2017

Lee Ming-che case: Need international action

If only Li Ming-che were from here...

Today the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) of the ROC held a presser on the Lee case, the Taiwanese activist who was kidnapped in China (video). A foreign journalist whose identity I could not quite catch asked if the gov't had ask the US to speak to China, the government said that it had not yet used that channel. Perhaps it is time to go that route.

The case has sent a chill through the Taiwan activist community, for the China government said he threatened "national security".

Lee's wife recently attempted to go to Beijing, but was turned back at the airport in Taiwan. The China authorities had threatened her for speaking out, warning that her husband would suffer if she continued to publicly speak. Her statement is on the useful blog Whereislee:

  J Michael Cole noted:
Lee Ming-che was nabbed on March 19 after attempting to enter Zhuhai, in Guangdong Province, via Macau. The State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) has since said that Lee was detained for “endangering national security.” Chinese authorities have yet to provide any details as to which laws he may have broken, though it is suspected that his arrest may have occurred under the recently passed Foreign NGO Management Law, which severely constrains the ability of foreign NGOs to operate in China.
Cole reads this as a trap for Tsai, who was supposed to lash out...
Whatever satisfaction such an outburst would certainly provide, doing so would be counterproductive — in fact, if Tsai did so, she would be falling into the trap that has been set for her. There is very good reason to believe that the decision to detain Lee wasn’t made in the uppermost echelons of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but rather by factions within the Party (presumably the Jiang faction, according to Chinese sources) or national security apparatus keen on manufacturing a crisis in the Taiwan Strait. In other words, not only is President Xi Jinping unlikely to have ordered the detention, he probably wasn’t even aware that this was happening until he was presented with a fait accompli. Given the stakes in the lead-up to the Party leadership reshuffle later this year and his self-positioning as the ablest defender to China, President Xi’s hands are thus tied, as letting Lee go after he was accused of “endangering national security” would be a sign of weakness. And in the current environment in China, which President Xi himself has helped to create, weakness can be fatal.
Unlike Chen Shui-bian, Tsai did not make a living as a talker, but as an analyst. Her public self is normally calm and analytical. Hence, as Cole observes, she left it to the civil society organizations to make the noise.

It would be great if one of the major world leaders were to take an interest in this case...
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UPDATED: NOPE:::The stupid, it burns: Gov't proposes charging more for foreigners on "tourist" rail lines

The Rift Valley, soon to be more expensive if your skin is the wrong color!

Updated: Apparently a high administration official has said that he will instruct MOTC that this is a bad idea

The Stupid. It Burns.
The minister recommended Taiwan Rail introduce business and tourism compartments that will be charged more expensive rates than average compartments.

The ministry is also considering to make international visitors pay a premium ticket price compared to domestic passengers if they take tourism rail lines that pass through Jiji (集集)Train Station in Nantou County, Pingxi (平溪) in New Taipei City, or Neiwan (內灣) Line and other branch lines.

Other routes included in MOTC tourist route assessments include the Eastern Line and South-link Line.
On all routes east of Taipei and on spur lines into the mountains, they will be screening your skin color and checking your visa. I can just imagine how this will work. If you are a SE Asian tourist traveling individually, you'll be checked, because they will assume you are a foreign laborer. If you are white, you'll be screened. If you are aborigine and heading to the east coast, they might ask for your papers -- a friend reporting having seen this in Taipei Station, where a pair of local indigenous people were stopped by the police and their papers asked for.

This is going to go over really well for the local non-Han population.

If they only mean special pre-paid train tickets for groups, it might be tolerable...

Like everything from water to electricity, train ticket prices need to go up. But this is simply a bad idea. Not only will it cause problems for the local foreigners, but it will also encourage two-tier payment systems at national parks and similar, something that was proposed a couple of years ago. It must be opposed.
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Sunday, April 09, 2017

Kampazan classroom... and Fengyuan school

This image was making the rounds today. It is of the village of Kampanzan, an Atayal village in northern Taiwan, taken in 1920 for National Geographic.

This reminded me of an image I took today on the way home. This is the old Japanese schoolhouse just off the 3 in Fengyuan (Streetview), present-day Wengzi Elementary School (翁子國小). The original wooden roof and roof supports are still present. That's the Principal's Office on the left.
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Trump-Xi: Taiwan not even mentioned

The road to Duona.

Taiwan News has it:
As expected by some observers, nothing spectacular really happened during the Trump-Xi summit at Mar-a-Lago, and the meeting gave the Taiwan government some comfort as the island country was reportedly never mentioned during and after the talks, nor was a rumored “fourth communiqué” signed between the two leaders that would hurt the US-Taiwan relationship.
In fact, there is so much nothing here that there is nothing to say about it.

When you think about all the raging that went on beforehand...
He and Kushner will therefore sell off core national interests and investments at cut-rate prices.'s easy to see that many people lost the struggle to separate their hatred of Trump from their analysis of his actions.
Daily Links:

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Friday, April 07, 2017

MEDIA: Watch how BBC Sexes up tensions in its pro-China reporting

Alas, my Canon body died last year and I haven't bought a new one. So no chance to shoot bugs in ages.

First, the excellent news that Reporters without Borders has decided to open its Asia Bureau in Taipei rather than Hong Kong, testimony to the shifting fortunes of the two cities.
“The choice of Taiwan was made not only with regards to its central geographic location and ease of operating logistics, but also considering its status of being the freest place in Asia in our annual Press Freedom Index ranking," said Deloire.
Longtime commentator J Michael Cole and other local media figures played a small role in getting them to locate here, good work, Michael.

Meanwhile, there's @BBCHua

Note the headline first:
Taiwan announces submarine building ahead of Trump-Xi summit
The headline suggests to the reader, falsely, that there is some connection between the Xi-Trump summit and Taiwan's submarine program. The text then reinforces that.
Taiwan has announced plans for eight new submarines, a senior Taiwanese navy official confirmed on Wednesday.

The new vessels will be Taiwanese-made, unlike its current fleet of four, which were bought from overseas decades ago.

The announcement comes the day before Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump meet in Florida.
The text then omits all the relevant information the reader needs to make a decision about what this might mean. Let's check the Straits Times out of Singapore, a paper no one could accuse of being pro-Taiwan:
Taiwan plans to build eight submarines to bolster its current fleet of four ageing vessels, its navy chief said yesterday.

Navy chief Lee Tsung-hsiao yesterday confirmed that Taiwan aimed to build eight of such vessels, after President Tsai Ing-wen announced two weeks ago that it will develop its own submarines.
Note the language in the BBC piece: it wrote "confirmed" as well for the announcement. The writer appears to have known perfectly well that the announcement of submarines did not occur the day before the Xi-Trump Summit, but had occurred weeks before and that the Navy Chief was reiterating old news. The writer even refers to President Tsai's wish for undersea capability, without mentioning any prior announcement of the program (!). Nevertheless, the writer connected it to the Xi-Trump summit and omitted the fact that the program had been public for months.

Sexing up the news to create tension and links where none exist is a vile, shameless ethical violation, but we all know who BBC roots for. Really, I have no idea why BBC bothers to spend money on reporting news out here when it could simply buy news directly from Xinhua, offer the same information, and save a ton of money.

How long has this been known? Again, the Straits Times:
A total of NT$2.9 billion (S$133.7 million) will be set aside from last December to December 2020 for the design of the submarines. The eight locally made submarines will replace Taiwan's four foreign-built underwater vessels. Two of these were built in the United States during World War II, while the other two are Dutch-built submarines, commissioned in the late 1980s.
That's right. The money was publicly budgeted 5 months ago. There have been media reports since then, like this one from March 22 in the Taipei Times ("Homegrown Submarine Plan Launched"). A week earlier this piece on the Quadrennial Defense Review mentioned the indigenous sub program. A week before that the subs were discussed. Oh, and here's one from January. In fact you can go back to the fall: in November the program went out to tender. In October a new commission on shipbuilding to oversee the submarine and other efforts is discussed.

There is no way a thinking ethical human can create a link to the Xi-Trump Summit. The submarine news is not related to it, but has been in the news for months. Either the writer of the BBC piece was an idiot who doesn't know how to use Google, or simply lied to make a more interesting story. Note, for example, that the Straits Times piece did not connect the announcement to the Xi-Trump summit.

Sexing up things to create tensions where there aren't any isn't even the worst thing this piece did. Check out this completely slanted comment:
Taiwan's defence minister has accused China of having more than 1,000 missiles pointed at the island.
BBC presents the well-known fact of missiles aimed at Taiwan as if it were a mere accusation of the Defence Minister rather than a fact in the world. But why stop there, BBC? Do it right:
Taiwan's defence minister has accused China of having armed forces.
The piece ends with the by-now standard erroneous claim that the TRA obligates the US to defend Taiwan (the TRA obligates the US to nothing, it is specifically written that way).
The US is obligated under its own laws (the Taiwan Relations Act) to help Taiwan defend itself.
I specifically discussed this error with a BBC rep before in relation to this post in which BBC adopted a few corrections to its once insanely pro-China China-Taiwan backgrounder. We'll see this error in the future, sadly.
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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Like I said... no change in US Taiwan policy

Taitung City

From the State Dept briefing today...
SENIOR WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: I said the principle of reciprocity, which means that we want to work with the Chinese in a constructive manner to reduce the systemic trade and investment barriers that they've created that lead to an uneven playing field for U.S. companies. We want the playing field to be level so that bilateral trade and investment can be mutually beneficial.

QUESTION: (inaudible) President Xi reportedly wants to hear President Trump officially recognize Taiwan as a part of China. What will his message be on that, and on the South China Sea (inaudible)?

SENIOR WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: Well, the president has reaffirmed our adherence to the one-China policy, that is our one-China policy that's based on the three joint communiques with China, as well as the Taiwan Relations Act. That is longstanding policy of the United States. That is a policy that the president has reaffirmed.

So I -- I don't anticipate some kind of surprising deviation from that.

QUESTION: And what will his message be on the South China Sea as it relates to (inaudible)?

SENIOR WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: The president -- I do expect that maritime issues will come up. The United States certainly will continue to fly and sail where international law allows. And I -- I would not be surprised if that came up in conversation. I noted in the post below this one, don't expect big changes to come out of the Farrago in Mar-a-Lago

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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Xi-Trump Meet: the Farrago in Mar-a-Lago

Camphor is of the same genus as Cinnamon.

So my wife comes home today and proudly wins high fives all around with some Quick Thinking in the face of a scammer:
As she is exiting an ATM at the post office across from police station, a woman comes up to her.
"Are the ATM machines broken?" the woman asks.
"Sure, they are fine, no problem," my wife says.
"Which one did you use?"
"The one on the left, it's fine."
The woman's brows turned mean. "I just took out money and I was short a $1000 NT bill. You must have it," she accused.
My wife rose to the occasion. "There was a woman there before me, I am sure she has it."
I don't know what that has to do with Dictator Xi of China meeting President Trump of the US at Mar-a-Lago (Wiki), but I am sure your imaginations can make a connection. This meeting is set up for Thursday, and the world is on pins and needles, or perhaps Xanax, contemplating its possibilities.

Mar-a-Lago is a good choice. Xi will surely feel right at home in south Florida, where the population is geriatric, income inequality is high, and everyone lives in gated communities under constant surveillance.*

One thing that is different: the Obama Administration's deference to Beijing and its diffident, dilatory policies have been replaced by Trump's confident trolling. Roughly in tandem with the announcement of the meeting with Xi came the news that the US will announce a major arms sale to Taiwan in April. Trump then trolled China with the possibility of selling THAAD and F-35s to Taiwan (Japan Times). Trolling one's interlocutors with abusive announcements even as you are talking to them is a bog-standard Chinese tactic. I admit to being amused to see Trump hoist Beijing by its own rhetorical petard.

That said, everyone is quite nervous because the Chinese have realized that the need to cultivate the President's family, particularly his son-in-law, to make progress with the Trump Administration. Many articles on it this week -- this one from Josh Rogin is good -- and there's a collection of remarks from China/Taiwan waters at NBR if you are interested in political analysis as well as some fine remarks from Richard Bush -- but this remark pretty much summed it up:
It’s so great that the American political system resembles China’s political system enough for the Trump administration for have its very own princeling.
Drezner also noted:
But it is hard not to conclude that Trump and Kushner are spectacularly out of their depth on these issues. Worse, Trump displays no metacognition whatsoever: He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and probably never will. He and Kushner will therefore sell off core national interests and investments at cut-rate prices.
I don't believe Trump will sell off any fundamental American interests. What no one seems to have noticed about the deals that Trump makes is that he never pays. Trump's tactic is to troll some possibility, like THAAD for Taiwan, and use that as a vapor threat to extract concessions. He's not going to hand over assets when he can extract favors by trolling with them. After all, assets are only useful if you hold them.

Of course, China follows the exact same tactic. They troll and then don't pay. They don't give up assets, and they don't make deals that don't favor them. China follows agreements to the most minimal, stingy, letter of the law possible, if it follows them at all. If they make some investments in the US it will be purely cosmetic, and if they buy more exports it will go on loudly for a while until the program is quietly ended. The Middle Kingdom either fears you or accepts your submission, but it doesn't bargain with you, because in China, win-win means either way, I win.

Both sides are interested in appealing to domestic audiences, Xi to the CCP, Trump to his base. Thus, what will happen is that Trump will troll, Kushner's business interests will get quietly fed and watered by way of courtesy, nothing major will happen, China will sour on feeding the Trump family businesses sooner or later, and the quadrille of US-Japan-Taiwan-China relations will go on until China begins the war it is building toward. But at least the media has something to write about.

This point is made by a Chinese writer at the strongly pro-China East Asia Forum:
But the ecology surrounding the relationship between Beijing and Washington is still fragile. The past warns against predicting breakthroughs from the Florida summit. The number of times Xi met with Obama surpassed that of all their predecessors combined since 1971. While there is no evidence to conclude that bilateral ties worsened from those high-level meetings, there is still room for the relationship between China and the United States to improve.

This time round, ‘get tough on China’ is more the norm than the exception among US foreign policy protagonists. Many American pundits blame the Obama administration for having failed to ‘stand up to China’ on just about every issue area from trade and cyber security to North Korea and the South China Sea. Never mind the contrast between Obama’s declarations that ‘prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty’ in philosophising a strategic ‘pivot to Asia’, and Xi wondering why foreigners view China as a threat when his country no longer exports ideology or poverty.

Trump is therefore challenged to prove that the United States can, after all, stand up to China. Another group of Americans encourages Trump to live up to his own tweets about China. So far Trump and his team have chosen to resist the pressure.
Asian nations are also looking at this, and you know that Trump and Abe of Japan exchanged a few words about it. There are many many pressures in the international system shaping outcomes.

Taiwan? The US has promised to brief Taipei before and after the talks. Seems like business as usual.

This piece at the National Interest raises an interesting and even worrisome point: it's too early for a summit...
Lastly, the Trump administration itself is not ready for the summit. The Department of State lacks necessary personnel across the board, including a deputy secretary and assistant secretaries. Even though the administration is claiming that it is considering every measure on the table with regard to North Korean nuclear weapons, it lacks the capability to craft and implement policy. The Pentagon is in a similar situation, and one can only expect that the National Security Council is also overwhelmed with a myriad of fast-moving crises around the world. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Japan, Korea, and China has already proven that the upcoming presidential summit will not lead to any substantial accomplishment. In addition, messages from Trump and Tillerson conflict with one another.
The Trump Administration has been incredibly slow in getting people on board. Would be nice if some of those names that were mooted months ago finally made it on board.

*My Florida friend says wrong
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