Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tourism: A tale of Two Aprils

Stormy weather expected for the weekend. So have a pic from a nice day...

Here are the numbers from Apr of 2017 and Apr of 2016 downloaded from the Tourism Bureau (visitors by residence). We had a total of 818,705 visitors from Asia in April -- last April the total was 819,478. However, respective totals were 926,813 and 910,323.

Apr-17 Apr-16
HongKong. Macao 190,785 110,716
China 214,196 375,567
Japan 126,712 129,469
Korea,Republic of 84,249 62,668
India 3,083 2,794
Middle East 1,963 1,940
S.E.Asia 196,749 135,633
Others 968 691

We often talk about "visitors from China" but the total number of visitors from China, including Hong Kong and Macao, has actually fallen only 80,000 or so year on year (in April, the March gap was much larger and overall March tourism numbers were down YOY). Note the big rise in tourists from SE Asia in April of 2017, which is buffering the loss of Chinese group tours. Philippines is sending over twice as many tourists as it did a year ago, and this number will rise with the new visa free entry rules. This rising trend in SE Asian numbers can also be seen in March numbers.

Good news for the southbound policy.
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Sunday, May 28, 2017

KMT Chair Wu Den-yih Wisely Flop-flips on Gay Marriage

My students are awesome

You know you've been a political commentator in Taiwan too long when a Taiwanese gay couple you've long known have you over for drinks to ask you to explain the Court's ruling to them...

Wu Den-yih, the newly elected Chairman of the KMT, showed this week why he is widely regarded as pragmatic, flipping his position on gay marriage, and denying he ever held any other position...
Former vice president Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday denied having made a U-turn in his stance on legalizing homosexual marriage, saying that he has always supported it.

Wu, who was elected Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman on Saturday last week, in March told reporters that same-sex marriage “gives him the creeps.”

“The family values that have been passed on for hundreds of years risk being replaced by LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] families and same-sex marriage. It is messed up,” Wu said at the time.

Wu on Tuesday posted a photograph of a rainbow on Facebook, with the caption: “May those who see this find happiness,” sparking controversy over his apparent U-turn on the issue.
This is the second signal Wu has sent that the party is moving towards the center. Recall that his affirmation of the 1992 Consensus was not only aimed at Beijing, but also at Party members who rejected former Chair Hung Hsiu-chu's bizarre formulation that sounded like she had adopted Beijing's position and wanted to hear reassuring centrism.

Polls show that there is support for gay marriage.
A poll by the Ministry of Justice released in 2015 showed 71 percent of Taiwanese supported marriage equality, while a survey conducted by Trend Survey and Research on behalf of the opposition Kuomintang found 51.7 percent of respondents supported legalizing same-sex marriage, while 43.3 percent disapproved.
Moreover, now that there has been a Constitutional Court ruling, most people are going to make their peace with it and move on, which will further increase social acceptance. By signaling that the fight on gay marriage is over, Wu is signaling to the party as well that there are more important things to fight for, like pensions, party assets, and patronage money.

Meanwhile the social authoritarians got a bone from the DPP and the legislature this week with a new tougher stance on drugs. The new laws place burdens on entertainment facilities to police themselves. I expect this is basically a trade for the loss on gay marriage: "Ok, so you guys can't control the minds and bodies of gay people, but at least you can enjoy hurting and punishing drug users." For those of us who lack the urgent need to control the minds and bodies of others, "social conservatism" simply looks like an excuse to find legal ways to hurt identifiable groups of fellow humans...
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Lee Ming-che Charged

Irrigation canal

Lee Ming-che, detained for 70 days in China, was formally charged on Friday:
Beijing late on Friday announced that Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) is being held for suspected subversion of state power.
Lee has been detained in Hunan Province since March 19, An said, adding that he and “his partners in crime have directly confessed that they carried out activities that threaten our national security.”

An said that an investigation found that Lee had since 2012 frequently traveled to China, and worked with Chinese to develop plans and establish an illegal ring to subvert Beijing.
The government demanded that Beijing adhere to the Cross-Strait agreement on crime fighting and prosecution. Good luck with that... Beijing is ignoring that.

Some previous reports had contended that Lee's arrest was an isolated case of the local authorities acting without Beijing's advance approval, even that it was a mistake and someone else was supposed to be arrested. This report says that Beijing has ratified that by inventing a case -- probably some harmless meetings between Lee and activists in China -- or else they knew all along and it was not a case of local police grabbing him on their own, but was done at the behest of Beijing.

I think lots of us are wondering whether we will see the taped confession routine with Lee.

We will once again see the inevitable comments about how this will shape Taiwanese views of China. It will have little effect. Taiwanese have already amply confirmed they do not want to be part of China, and they have already amply confirmed they detest China's government. This will just be another nugget on the pile.

MEDIA: Reuters in its article on the arrest continues to mindlessly parrot Xinhua:
Relations between China and Taiwan have cooled since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took power last year, because she refuses to concede that the self-ruled island is part of China.
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

High Court Clears way for gay marriage in Taiwan

Alishan tea farms

Yesterday's verdict of the Constitutional Court (full text) striking down prohibitions on gay marriage was especially moving for me. The verdict was due at 4:00, so I turned on the livestream in my writing class, which is full of very progressive Chinese medicine students. A deep throb of joy ran through us all as the court announced that gay people were full human beings like everyone else. It was a beautiful moment in my life.

China Post summed it up simply:
The Constitutional Court ruled that the Civil Code provisions that do not allow same-sex marriage are unconstitutional and asked the government to amend relevant laws within two years to protect gay couples' rights.

Article 972 of the Civil Code states that an agreement to marry "shall be made by the male and the female parties in their own concord."
Of the 15 justices, 12 were in favor of this interpretation (with one recusal), a stunning figure when you consider that the court has a majority of Ma appointees and the KMT is opposed to gay marriage.

The court's verdict was highly progressive. Not only did it recognize equality of all citizens under the law, as enshrined in Article 7 of the Constitution, it also forthrightly referred to modern medical and social research on homosexuality:
(6) Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic that is resistant to change. The contributing factors to sexual orientation may include physical and psychological elements, living experience, and the social environment. Major medical associations have stated that homosexuality is not a disease. In our country, homosexuals were once denied by social tradition and custom in the past. As a result, they have long been locked in the closet and suffered various forms of de facto or de jure exclusion or discrimination. Besides, homosexuals, because of the demographic structure, have been a discrete and insular minority in the society. Impacted by stereotypes, they have been among those lacking political power for a long time, unable to overturn their legally disadvantaged status through ordinary democratic process. Accordingly, in determining the constitutionality of different treatment based on sexual orientation, a heightened standard shall be applied.
If only my home country was so progressive. This verdict was also delivered first in English, a first in the nation's history. As soon as I heard the announcement that English would be the language, I thought it might be favorable.

This verdict will redound to Taiwan's credit wherever people long to build loving, human-centered societies. It will be heard in China, where the courts have only limited independence. It will help advance the cause of different people everywhere. Good job, my adopted home.

The President tweeted:
Tsai made her stance in favor of the ruling clear in the first line of the tweet saying, "The law must protect the people's freedom of marriage and right to equality."

She then called on all government agencies to move as quickly as possible to draft legislation for deliberation in the Legislative Yuan, and pass the bills in a "timely manner." Prior to the court's ruling, legislation on same-sex marriage had been bogged down in the legislature for months.

Lastly, Tsai called on everyone in society to show "understanding, tolerance, and respect" of those who hold different opinions from their own. There are a number of groups that oppose same-sex marriage which have staged large-scale rallies over the past year against its legalization. A poll by the Ministry of Justice released in 2015 showed 71 percent of Taiwanese supported marriage equality, while a survey conducted by Trend Survey and Research on behalf of the opposition Kuomintang found 51.7 percent of respondents supported legalizing same-sex marriage, while 43.3 percent disapproved.
Good on several levels -- she didn't dehumanize the opponents of gay marriage even though they have consistently dehumanized gays, and she pointedly asked the legislature to get off its butt and get this passed. Many observers noted that this will provide a shield for legislators who have been dragging their feet. Tsai obviously views herself as the President of everyone in Taiwan. Good on her.

Keep in mind that we do not have gay marriage yet, despite all the celebrating. The Court essentially struck down laws opposing gay marriage, and then gave legislators two years to erect a legal framework for gay marriage. At that point, as I understand it, if the legislature does nothing, gay marriage will be a reality in June of 2019 unless someone changes the Constitution. Couples will simply be able to walk in and register a marriage irrespective of gender. As it should be. But room for compromise mischief remains. As Cole observes in his write-up:
Despite the good news, it could be several months before the legislature turns the amendments into the law of the land, and conservative organizations are expected to escalate their efforts to prevent this from happening. In light of Wednesday’s decision, another option for legislators could be to write a separate piece of legislation permitting civil unions, although this alternative is regarded as discriminatory by many members of the LGBT community and their supporters, who want the same rights, under the same laws, as the rest of the nation’s citizens.
Then with gay marriage the headaches over property, children, and divorce will begin. Why does anyone want to get married? People ask me if I support gay marriage, I say "All marriage should be illegal"... Feeling very Rodney Dangerfield here.

Some people were worried that there might be a move to change the Constitution to prevent gay marriage. Won't happen. First, the KMT made it difficult under the law to get Constitutional change done, and second, that would require legislators to have spines of steel to ram through a change, and most legislators are made of pudding.

Meanwhile the haters were out in full force in opposition to the ruling. BBC refers to these yammerheads as "traditionalists" but there is nothing traditional about their position on gayness and gay marriage, both of which were traditional in Chinese history. Our current anti-gay marriage culture is an aberration of the last couple of centuries, and the anti-gay marriage authoritarian Christianity driving much of the vocal objections here is a post-Enlightenment phenomenon.  J Michael Cole was interviewed in Queerious on the opposition to gay marriage in Taiwan and its relationship to overseas authoritarian Christian movements.

MEDIA: In case you've ever wondered whether BBC was ardently pro-China, just watch how it removes "country" and uses "place" in its updates on gay marriage here. How cowardly is BBC? HongKongFP, based in China, said Taiwan was first country. A net-friend acidly observed of Reuters:
Also bizarre (though not surprising, given past form) that the Reuters report included the totally irrelevant 'which China regards as a renegade province' gambit. WTF does that have to do with a domestic issue like marriage equality? It's like they have OCD: "Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province, has a celebrated annual gay pride parade that showcases the vibrancy of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community
FURTHER: Ketagalen Media's short report is here.
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Monday, May 22, 2017

Steve Yates' speech on Trump/Taiwan/Tsai for the World Taiwanese Congress

A 210 year old Ficus tree is a temple tree outside Jhuolan

Steve Yates' speech “Trump, Tsai and Prospects for US-Taiwan Relations” for the World Taiwanese Congress is below the READ MORE link...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Former Veep Wu Den-yih elected KMT Chairman

Dom ponders a gorgeous old Camphor tree in the village of Shuangchi near Dongshih.

Wu Den-yih wins KMT Chair election.
Former vice president Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday became the new Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman after securing more than 140,000 votes of the 272,682 cast in the election.
Hau did not make an announcement and pledged support for the KMT's effort get NPP head Huang Guo-chang recalled. Huang is in a seat that the KMT could win in a by-election.

Wu immediately stated that if elected President in 2020 he would abide by the 1992 Consensus. Beijing sent him warm fuzzies and congrats for his election. Let's not forget, he is Ma's man. Solidarity, who had a great run down of the results, observed:
Wu was the most experienced, pragmatic, and politically skilled of this race’s candidates. He has significant political experience in northern, central, and southern Taiwan alike. Although association with the Ma administration has tainted his name, unlike Hung he does seem to live in the real world and be better able to communicate with ordinary people. He and his wife have anticipated a future presidential run for some time. He is well-equipped to manage the party’s relationships with Taiwanese local factions, which have been threatened by the DPP’s newfound political power. Given these qualities, plus the organizational skills he exhibited in this race, the green camp should steel itself for robust challenges in 2018 and 2020 rather than complacently leaning on its demographic dividend.
Wu has said that his wife and himself were told by a fortune teller that he would be President and she First Lady. Wu was born in 1948, in Nantou County. Next year he will be 70, and 72 in 2020. At this moment, my bet is that Wu is already envisioning a 2020 run, as his remarks on the 1992 Consensus suggest.

Wu has been elected in the south -- mayor of Kaohsiung in the 1990s. He will steer a more pragmatic course for the KMT than Hung's bitter-end ideology, but it will be difficult for him to overcome the Party's numerous problems. Much will be shown by the KMT's performance in 2018.

Wu's reiteration of the 1992 Consensus under which each side has its own interpretation -- the latter codicil has never been accepted by Beijing even though the international media routinely claim that it is -- is not merely a gesture aimed at Xi Jin-ping. Recall that Hung Hsiu-chu, the rightist and ideological purist, has championed a different view. Wu is signaling to his own people that he is going to follow the "centrist" position of Ma. Recall also that the 1992 Consensus has only minority support in Taiwan...

ADDED: News just out, Hung advisor says he will never accept Taiwanization of KMT. Wu's election is going to reinvigorate the struggle between Taiwan/mainlander groups within the KMT.

MEDIA: No, Reuters, the KMT and the CCP have not always recognized Taiwan as part of "one China." *sigh*
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With Reuters on the job, who needs Xinhua?

Just a lovely day in the hills around Taichung

Jenna ripped Reuters this week for publishing another hallucinogenic article on Taiwan. Jenna nailed two common problems...
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is signaling she needs more give and take from China to rein in hardliners on an island China considers its own, officials say, but Beijing is unlikely to budge months before its five-yearly Communist Party Congress.


Wanting your country which is already independent to continue to be that way without the threat of war is not a hard-line stance. Not that many of us want a formal declaration of independence right now (well, I do, but I know I can't have it and I've made my peace with that). We know it's impossible for the time being, but are working toward it happening, peacefully, someday. How does this equate to being a 'hardliner'?
It's amazing, as I often note, that you can lock up dissidents, implement massive national surveillance, carry out campaigns of terror and murder in occupied areas, threaten the nations around you with war and expand into their territories, but if you oppose that and want to live in a peaceful democracy... you're a hardliner. The real hardliners live in Beijing and threaten to plunge the region into war.

Jenna also puts her finger on another problem: the constant interrogation of and deconstruction of pro-Taiwan, pro-democracy language and positions, while nothing similar occurs with Chinese claims:
A spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office said last week everything wrong with the current relations could be blamed on the DPP and its refusal to accept "one China".

"No matter what new flowery language the DPP comes up with, it can't shift its responsibility for this reality," spokesman An Fengshan said.

No attempt to critique this? None? Not even a few words to deconstruct what An Fengshan is saying? Tearing apart pro-Taiwan semtiment but silently accepting Chinese annexationism?
There's more to say, and Jenna says it (Go thou and read!) but I'd like to point out one additional thing: Reuters' "interpretation" of Tsai's posture is very close to a flat out lie -- indeed, the only thing that saves it from becoming a lie is that it is an interpretation. What did they say?
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is signaling she needs more give and take from China to rein in hardliners on an island China considers its own, officials say, but Beijing is unlikely to budge months before its five-yearly Communist Party Congress.

As she marks one year in office on Saturday, Tsai, leader of the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is facing a surge in anti-China[sic, should be pro-Taiwan] sentiment amid pressure from Beijing on the proudly democratic island to bow to its "one China" policy.

It is becoming more difficult to hold the line against independence-minded constituents and even tougher for Tsai to offer concessions to Beijing, one senior government official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
This is simply rank nonsense, from an anonymous source, of course. We will pass another year, and another, and the "hardliners" (pro-Taiwan types) will be fine. The idea that Tsai is bargaining with Beijing to "hold the line" against "hardline" independence types is pure fantasy. They are not a majority either in Taiwan or even within the DPP. Rather, as the AP article correctly notes, Tsai is focusing on domestic reforms, where she is receiving immense pressure.
Yet, the island's first female president seems focused on policy initiatives at home as well as maintaining robust relations with the United States, Taiwan's most important source of arms and political support.
Compare Reuters' nutcase description of Tsai's position with this great piece at Ketagalen Media on Tsai's difficult balancing act. (Note also that the AP piece forthrightly assigns to Beijing the blame for cutting off relations). Brookings also has a one-year review. The deeper reviews all missed Tsai begging for help with hardliners... how could have happened?

As for the "Tsai wants Beijing to help her with hardliners" interpretation of Reuters... lets see. I think everyone else reporting on this missed it...
  • Is that in the government media's report of Tsai's speech (FocusTw)? Nope. That's domestic focus. 
  • In the domestic private English language media (Taiwan News). Nope, again, the focus is on domestic issues. 
  • Is it in the longer and very good AP report on the speech? Nope -- in fact that clearly states "The only serious political pressure Tsai faces comes from the opposition Nationalist Party..." 
  • How about Bloomberg? Surely they would have noticed Tsai begging Beijing for help. Nope, lots of data, but apparently they missed Tsai begging Beijing for help with the hardliners pressuring her from below. 
  • Over at the European Council on Foreign Relations, they somehow missed Tsai begging Xi for help.
  • Taipei Times also fails to discover that Tsai is frantically signaling Xi
Wow... so brilliant of Reuters to notice what everyone else missed, eh? Not!

If you are using Reuters as an information source on Taiwan, you are being misled. Badly.
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

KMT money blues....

Chiayi roads...

Fiji shuttered its office in Taiwan formally, though Taiwan does not have to give up its office in Fiji. Though this news has been circulating for weeks among the capital chattering classes, nobody broke/leaked it early.
During a legislative committee hearing earlier today, Kuomingtang legislator Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) said she learned that one of the reasons behind the closure was another attempt by China to suppress Taiwan in the international realm, which has been an ongoing tactic since President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year and refused to recognize the "1992 Consensus."

However, Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Chih-chung (吳志中) responded at the hearing that Fiji has a small population of only 850,000 and its funds to support foreign missions are limited and perhaps it was because of budget constraints.
The bog-standard KMT criticisms notwithstanding, the still open Taiwan office in Fiji suggests that the government is correct: the closure is a Fiji domestic issue. Though as this develops that could change.

Speaking of the KMT, it turns out the Party is operating on thinner and thinner budgets...
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) elected officials and party functionaries have met less than 9 percent of their assigned fundraising targets, which might result in the party failing to pay its workers in the coming months, sources said.

KMT officials and functionaries were supposed to raise NT$260 million (US$8.6 million) for the 2017 fiscal year, but raised only NT$23 million, they said.

In October last year, the KMT Central Standing Committee set fundraising quotas for officials and functionaries out of concern that the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee might cripple the party’s finances.
Apparently the party's major officials were supposed to raise funds, but only a few have met the stipulated goals. Without its assets, the KMT is going to have severe financial problems. Who will donate to the party? As I have said, they want Foxconn owner Terry Gou because he can pay for his own campaign.

To give some idea of the kind of spending the KMT felt was necessary, A-gu gathered up some numbers several years ago...
In 2000, the KMT spent around NT$12 billion (US$352 million), while the 2004 costs inflated to a staggering NT$40-50 billion (US$1.2 - 1.5 billion) (though this later figure seemed to have weaker documentation to me).

This money appears to come in part from massive stock sales that spike just before and after elections-- over the last seven years, those stock sales from the KMT's main three investment houses (they own seven) have been at least NT$339 billion (nearly US$10 billion), according to their publicly available documents.
An old TT editorial from six years ago...
He [Ma] reiterated this promise in 2006 and said the party would no longer depend on its assets to cover election spending. The promise was mentioned again in 2009 when Ma was re-elected as party chairman, as he said the party would present “final solutions” to its assets problem and donate the proceeds of the sales to charity. Those promises, as it turned out, were empty words. Most of the proceeds from the sale of party assets were used to cover personnel expenditures and office rent, which was more than half of the KMT’s annual spending of NT$2.6 billion, according to the ministry’s data. So far, no proceeds from the sales have gone to any charities. KMT sources also confirmed that the party paid to set up Ma’s re-election campaign office and took care of campaign staff salaries
The CEC puts caps on how much candidates are allowed to spend. For example, in the 2014 Taipei Mayor Election, the cap was NT$100 million, about $US3.3 million. Do the math -- to field 6 candidates and spend the limit in the major cities in 2018, it will cost the KMT $600 million NT alone. So far in 2017 they have raised.... $23 million. Obviously local businessmen and temple associations, etc, will come to the party's rescue when local elections come round, to a certain extent. But without those big money flows from the Party center....
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The scariest thing you will read today =UPDATED=

Scholarly research on the attitudes of Chinese people towards Taiwan...
While many studies have investigated Taiwanese people’s attitudes towards cross-Strait relations, few studies explore how Chinese people on the other side of the Taiwan Strait perceive the Taiwan issue. Using data collected via a telephone survey that covers 2,000 respondents from ten major cities in China in 2013, this article presents empirical evidence to fill this gap. It finds that most Chinese citizens’ attitudes are aligned with the government’s propaganda on cross-Strait relations. In particular, Chinese citizens have inaccurate perceptions of Taiwanese support for reunification with China. This article also finds that when Chinese respondents think that the city in which they live is more economically advanced than Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, they would support: (1) a faster pace towards a resolution, and (2) the use of military force to resolve cross-Strait confrontations. These findings offer new perspectives on studies of cross-Strait relations and Chinese nationalism.
These findings show that Chinese are massively out of touch behind the Great Firewall. Changing that perception may well be viewed as a national security matter. Even worse, it suggests that as China develops more, support for war in the Taiwan Strait will grow....

The first finding perhaps can be explained away by the fact that it is a telephone survey and the people simply parrot whatever the government says. The linkage between city development and support for annexing Taiwan by force, however, is less easy to explain that way.

Data on specific questions.

Not quite as bad as the abstract makes out. The authors take pains to point out that rising nationalism may not lead to a military solution because it has very little support (see 3). To wit:
Again, Figure 2 demonstrates that respondents who think that their cities have a higher level of economic development than Taipei are more likely to support a fast pace, and even the use of military force, to resolve the Taiwan issue. If respondents think that the city in which they live is more economically developed than Taipei to an extreme (i.e. Gap = 10), the probability for them to support a fast resolution and the use of force to resolve the Taiwan issue would be around 0.83 and 0.18, respectively. Importantly, Figure 2 suggests that the perceived economic superiority of China to Taiwan among Chinese citizens has much more effect on their support for resolving the cross-Strait confrontation than their support for using force against Taiwan. Thus, using force against Taiwan is not an imperative strategy among the majority of Chinese citizens, even if they think China is more economically advanced than Taiwan.

To sum up, this article finds that when Chinese respondents think that the city in which they live is more economically advanced than Taipei City, they support: (1) a faster pace and (2) the use of military force to resolve the cross-Strait impasse.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Working Holiday in Taiwan! MOFA has the website... will take you to the MOFA website for working holidays in Taiwan....
n order to encourage international engagement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan) has actively promoted the signing of working holiday agreements with other countries. The program, in which 220,000 youth have participated since its launch in 2004, has helped young people broaden their international perspectives and increase their global competitiveness through cross-cultural experiences, as well as through development of risk assessment and management skills and cultivation of interpersonal skills and international friendships.

The program—which emphasizes holiday first, work second—is designed to foster in-depth cultural exploration and boost international exchanges among young people. Under the program, people between the ages of 18 and 35 can visit Taiwan to experience different cultures and lifestyles, as well as study language, take part in short-term courses, or work legally.
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Monday, May 15, 2017

Chu Ke-liang has passed

Famed comedian Chu Ke-liang dead at 70, of cancer. My friend Drew nailed it in a Facebook comment:
On one end he was the affirmation of the KMT colonialist stereotype of Taiwanese as vulgar, low class, silly, impish and absurd. He was the validation of Waisheng class supremacy, not unlike the way African Americans have been depicted as caricatures to reinforce White supremacy in classic American film--the minstrel. Zhu Ge-liang was the caricature of Taiwaneseness to satisfy the desires of a Waisheng elite.

On the other end, Zhu was loved by Taiwanese audiences for creating Taiwanese space in media at a time when the Waisheng aesthetic was still (and is still) the predominant image. He was, in a way, a rejection of that Waisheng aesthetic.

To complicate matters even more, Zhu's movie, David Loman 2 was criticized for lampooning indigenous culture in a similar manner in which Zhu himself lampooned Taiwanese.

This really brings into focus Taiwan's multiple layers of unresolved coloniality and ethnic representation.
Jenna Lynn Cody remarked that for many of us, Chu remains recognizable as a distinct and memorable individual and talent, unlike the parade of identical interchangeable pop stars....
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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Econ Round up

A local suspension bridge

Well, the economy might be limping forward, but the stock market is roaring...
While her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, was rewarded by Beijing for his pro-China policies through trade and transport deals, investments, hordes of tourists and a historic handshake, Tsai was to be given the cold shoulder over her refusal to recognize the One China policy.

Instead, less than a year after Tsai took office, Taiwan's Taiex stock index closed Thursday above 10,000 points. Not only is that a psychological level, it's higher than at any point during Ma's eight years. Led by the bedrock electronics industry, every group in the 873-member market-cap-weighted index has posted gains in U.S. dollar terms since May 20.
Haha. Even tourism stocks are up, says Bloomberg. Hey no kidding, you only had to look at the growth in the market. The Taiwan market has outperformed both China's and Hong Kong's.

While the stock market doing well is good news -- recall that many middle class people play stocks and will reward the DPP if the market continues to do well -- the middle class is suffering. Workers 35-39 are earning below average wages...
The Numeracy Lab, a Taiwan-based math teaching group, said Tuesday that Taiwan workers in the 35-39 age group are struggling on low monthly wages that are way below the national average of NT$48,790.

In fact, the group said, 54 percent of Taiwan employees in that age group are earning less than NT$36,000 per month on average.

Although most people in the 35-39 age group have been working for at least 10 years, only 6 percent are receiving more than NT$72,800 per month, Numeracy Lab said on its Facebook page.
The median wage is lower than the mean, indicating that the casino economy that concentrates wealth in fewer and fewer hands is already beginning to show its effects in that age group.

A German institute survey expects the economy to continue to pick up for the next six months.

AmCham has an in-depth look at Tsai's 5+2 economic plan. AmCham editorial on Taiwan's trade deficit with the US is here.

Meanwhile, the WHA/WHO invitation for Taiwan is blocked by China. The organization cited the lack of cross strait agreement -- parroting Beijing. Sad. Brian H asks if Taiwan can leverage that ban to raise awareness of its plight.
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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Call for help

A friend passed this along...
Hello Michael,

We are helping out a friend and neighbor Algis, a Belgian engineer who has been in Taiwan for 30 years. He worked on the first Taipei MRT lines but later tragically came down with MS. Fighting the disease over the years as a foreigner in Taipei has driven his family to bankruptcy. Recently Algis was accepted into a stem cell therapy program in Beijing which promises to turn around his MS and now his friends are getting together to raise the money needed to get him into this program to change his life. Your support will change his life.

More info and Algis's story here:

Here is our fundraising site:

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Monday, May 08, 2017

Everyone panic: Trump Administration becomes a normal US Presidential Administration

Searching for a way out....

Yeah. This has all happened before. Remember when Bush Lite declared...
President Bush, offering a more explicit commitment to Taiwan than his recent predecessors, said in a television interview broadcast today that if the island came under attack from China, he would order ''whatever it took'' to help Taiwan defend itself.
We all know what happened. By Bush's second term he was trying to suppress Taiwan on behalf of China, to accomplish some transient thing or other. Because traditional US policy on China is to make permanent concessions to address transient issues. Yay!

We begin this way with every Republican President.

So it is hardly surprising, in retrospect, that the arms deal for Taiwan, originally slated for an April announcement, is now waiting on the launch pad...
The relatively small sale to Taiwan — worth just more than $1 billion — was set to go in late 2016, but the Obama administration never pulled the trigger. After some early pro-Taiwan signals from President Trump, including a phone call with its president, most Taiwan watchers expected the new administration to move the package forward quickly. Now, administration and congressional officials say, the deal is stalled due to a lack of administration consensus and the fear that angering Beijing could complicate Trump’s top Asia priority: solving the North Korean crisis.
Once again, a classic of management of Washington by Beijing: fear of Beijing's anger makes Washington shrink from necessary action. Always, Washington must give up its freedom of action, lest Beijing react. *sigh*

It wouldn't be surprising to me to learn that China has fomented this trouble with N Korea because it knows it can get concessions from Washington for doing nothing while giving the appearance of doing something. It's pretty obvious to many of us watching that Beijing isn't going to help the US, partly because it doesn't want to, partly because it can't, and partly because Washington is dangling the possibility of Ultimate Stupidity in front of Beijing -- War with N Korea. That would complete the trifecta of Chinese victories in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“What is it? Is the king dead? Has an enemy landed in Narnia? Is it a flood? Or dragons?”

Peter Enav, ever pessimistic, asks: Can Taiwan Survive Donald Trump? To wit:
Today, however, ties between Washington and Taipei seem to be at their lowest ebb since 2006 or 2007. That was when President George W. Bush agreed to act as a Chinese sub-contractor in pushing back against Chen Shui-bian’s pro-independence policies. It’s not so much that President Trump has anything against Tsai personally; it’s more that he is so entranced by the authoritarian leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, so much so that he now appears to see Tsai as a dispensable nuisance on the road to a far bigger prize — the strategic neutralization of a nuclear-armed North Korea, which threatens the United States.

Unfortunately for Tsai and for Taiwan as a whole, it has taken her far too much time to pick up on this — if indeed she even has. The clearest indication of this came in late April when she told an interviewer from the Reuters news agency that she was, in theory, open to another telephone conversation with Trump. In doing so she irresponsibly opened herself up to a Trumpian rejection, which predictably came — in another Reuters interview — less than 48 hours later.
Tsai did not "open herself to a Trumpian rejection." There was nothing else she could say, as I've noted before. The problem was that she answered the question in good faith, when the whole thing was a set up by Reuters to create just this situation. Someone on her media team should have nixed that question as soon as it was asked.

The short answer to Enav's question is yes, of course. We survived Nixon's sell out, the switch in recognition, Clinton, Bush's about-face and rejection of needed weapons sales, and Obama's neglect and weakness. We will survive Trump as well.

The reasons are simple, and Enav in his call for closer relations with Japan puts his finger right on them: Taiwan is part of a web of issues, which includes Japan. Trump cannot give up Taiwan without also selling out Japan (and also Phils). Everyone who does geostrategy and of course, the DC foreign policy establishment, knows that. That is why Enav also recommends Tsai cultivate them. She should also be pursuing enhanced relations with key congressional leaders on foreign affairs.

So here we are, Trump is doing what Obama and Bush and Clinton did before him: sending people to nibble around the edges for Taiwan's "international space" while delaying and denying arms packages and other needed real and symbolic items. This is all very normal for a US president. It is disappointing because many people expected a bit more from a Republican Administration, including this writer.

Indeed, if it were not Trump, it would be ho-hum. It is only interesting because of the terrifying prospect of Jared Kushner's influence on foreign policy -- the Washington Post reported on his latest antics: hawking visas to Chinese investors, banana-republic style -- and because of Trump's bizarre failure to staff key positions in foreign policy as well as his apparent desire to cash in on his position by cozying up to China.

As Enav notes, another issue is Trump's supposedly unusual embrace of authoritarian leaders. This is also normal in an American president, see Reagan and Iraq, Bush/Obama and the Saudis, etc. The ominous thing for many observers is that current Sec of State Tillerson seems to have given up on human rights as an American value. Traditionally that was a source of support for Taiwan...

For the nonce, we will simply have to grin and bear it. Those weapons will find their way here eventually. The geostrategic situation isn't going to shift tectonically in the next couple of years.

For the long term? Well, we are heading towards war out here. That will wreck everyone's plans, and render moot pieces like this.

And on our current course, nothing will survive Trump's climate policies.

So no, Taiwan won't survive Trump.
Daily Links
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Sunday, May 07, 2017

Taipei Times needs your submissions

A TT translator sent this around:
Due to a temporary staff shortage, the Taipei Times is short of translated material for the opinion page. That means that letters or longer submissions in English are particularly welcome. Come on, don't be shy. Send you wise thoughts, rants and witticisms to "letters at taipeitimes dot com" Best if it's about Taiwan, but it doesn't have to be!
Also, I have heard that if you have a real issue with Taipei Times coverage, or suggestions to make the paper better, a thoughtful and polite letter will get read by top execs.
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Friday, May 05, 2017

Water and Yunlin

An expat band rocks a local charity gig.

Underneath its placid agricultural surface Yunlin County is heavily stressed, says Personal Water Footprint in Taiwan: A Case Study of Yunlin County by Yung-Jaan Lee, Chuan-Ming Tung, Piin-Rong Lee, and Shih-Chien Lin (Sustainability 2016, 8(11), 1112;).
In relation to Taiwan’s water resources and related issues, Yunlin County faces more water resource-related difficulties than any other county in Taiwan. Yunlin County is a very important county for agriculture. However, 13 out of 20 townships in this county are located on areas of land subsidence. Coastal townships cover an area of severe land subsidence that floods during every typhoon. Kouhu Township’s Cheng Long Wetland is naturally low-lying. Additionally, years of the over-pumping of underground water, and salt water intrusion caused by Typhoon Wayne and Typhoon Abby in 1986 and Typhoon Herb in 1996, led to the formation of an abandoned wetland. The impact of this wetland on the region’s industry has been substantial, because Yunlin County’s extraction of underground water—which has led to the improper use of water resources—is inseparable from the water usage habits of the residents.
This led the team to calculate the personal water footprint of individuals in Yunlin and compare them on a township by township basis....
After questionnaires were collected and the answered encoded, the answers were input into the water footprint calculator, and the mean (direct) everyday water use per capita, virtual (indirect) water use, and water footprint results were obtained (Table 1). The calculation of everyday water use (direct) was based mainly on answers from interviewees to questions about the amount of water they used in doing laundry, bathing, flushing the toilet, washing the car, and taking care of fish and plants. Virtual (indirect) water use is obtained from information about an individual’s type of diet and amount of food eaten, pets, and the “hidden” water used in other consumption. The water consumed by omnivorous people greatly exceeds that used by vegetarians, because the production of livestock and meat consumes more water.
On a township basis, they found...
The five townships with the highest daily mean water footprints per capita are Gukeng Township (5506.26 L/person), Linnei Township (5247.27 L/person), Taixi Township (5137.86 L/person), Dongshi Township (4967.56 L/person), and Kouhu Township (4759.00 L/person), most of which are located in mountainous and coastal areas. The daily water footprint per capita in Yunlin County is 4287.88 L.
It's not difficult to see why Douliu has a huge footprint -- it's an administrative center with high incomes rich in tertiary industries. Gukeng, though, shows why tourism is ecologically stressful -- the article specifically points out that its high water use is driven by tourism. This hidden cost of water use is one of the reasons Taiwan was losing money on group tourism from China. They note:
Gukeng Township is the township with the most tourism in Yunlin County. It is also the source of the county’s water. Therefore, its industries are mostly agriculture (primary industry) and arts, entertainment, and recreation services, accommodation, food and beverage industries, and support services (tertiary industry).
Surprisingly, individual water use in Mailiao, where the big naptha cracker is, was low. This was because most water in Mailiao goes for industry, not individual use, and the industrial complex has its own dedicated water supply. On the coast the problem is overpumping of groundwater, which has led to massive subsidence and other problems....
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Thursday, May 04, 2017

Trump Admin to put Taiwan on its list of nations causing significant trade deficits

Taichung by night.

US-Taiwan Business Council sent this around. People had been saying Taiwan would probably not make it onto this list. Potentially very bad news:


Notice of Investigation: 

Commerce/USTR Report on Significant Trade Deficits Will Include Taiwan

Comment Deadline - May 10, 2017

Public Hearing - May 18, 2017

On March 31 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order[i] directing the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to work with other relevant agencies within the U.S. government to produce an Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits.

Taiwan has been identified as one of the foreign trading partners with which the U.S. have significant trade deficits, and the U.S.-Taiwan trade relationship will therefore be investigated as part of the research for the Omnibus Report. The report will examine the major causes of the trade deficits, will attempt to determine if trading partners are unfairly disadvantaging the U.S., will assess the effects of the trade relationship on U.S. production capacity/industrial strength, and will measure the impact of the trade relationship on employment and wage growth. It will also identify imports and trade practices that may be impairing the national security of the U.S.

The International Trade Administration has announced that it is currently accepting public comments as part of their investigations for this report. ITA is also accepting requests to appear with testimony at the public hearing, which will take place on May 18, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Comments on this investigation, along with requests to appear at the hearing, can be submitted online until May 10, 2017.

For more information, and to submit comments to the ITA on the Taiwan trade relationship, please see USITA Docket ITA-2017-0003:

If you have any questions about this notice of investigation, please don’t hesitate to contact the US-Taiwan Business Council.
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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

What Trump traded for 'cooperation' on N Korea

I love discovering little roads like this...

The NYTimes reported on what Trump traded for Chinese noises of amicability on N Korea and some copyrights for the Trump Empire... turns out weeks ago the Navy asked for permission to do some South China Sea freedom of navigation exercises....
But instead, the Pacific Command request — and two others by the Navy in February — was turned down by top Pentagon officials before it even made it to President Trump’s desk. More than 100 days into the Trump presidency, no American Navy ship has gone within 12 miles of any of the disputed islands in the South China Sea, Defense Department officials said.

The decision not to challenge China’s territorial claims represents a remarkable deference toward Beijing from an administration that is increasingly turning toward President Xi Jinping for help amid the escalating crisis in the Korean Peninsula. It remained unclear on Tuesday whether it was Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; or one of their deputies who turned down the three requests. Defense officials said the White House was not involved.
Yeah, it wasn't Taiwan that got traded, but the South China Sea. This represents a much bigger defeat than Australia's bow to Chinese shouts. Not only is our established principle of freedom of navigation now threatened -- what will Trump do when China announces that the SCS is territorial waters in which it will control the movements of ships -- but Trump has betrayed every nation on the SCS littoral that was looking for US leadership and support. Hugh White, loyal Friend of Beijing, was quick to point out the awkward position Australia would have been in, had it thrown down its own FONOPs missions.

Trump is so weak, I almost doubt China will throw an ADIZ over the SCS, because it would be superfluous.

And there is Taiwan. "Freedom of Navigation" in the South China Sea has crossed President Tsai's lips more than once (here and here), signaling Tsai's aligning herself with the US. Which, for the moment, has left her high and dry.
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Australia bows to the Dragon Throne

A view of Dongshih.

What happened at a meeting devoted to stopping the trade in blood diamonds? Focus Taiwan reports:
Participants at the Kimberley Process meeting hosted by Julie Bishop described "disgusting" and "extraordinary" scenes involving Chinese delegates, who "shouted over the welcome to country ceremony and forced the suspension of proceedings," The Sydney Morning Herald reported Wednesday.

The Taiwanese delegation was later ejected from the intergovernmental meeting at the request of the Chinese delegates who objected to their attendance, the report said.

The Chinese delegation noisily disrupted the official welcome ceremony and forced the suspension of at least one session on Monday, the report said.
J Michael Cole explained:
The four-day Kimberley Process intersessional meeting is chaired by Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop. This is the first time Australia hosts the intergovernmental meeting. Taiwan joined the Kimberley Process, which seeks to end the global trade in “blood,” or conflict, diamonds, as an observer in 2007.
Apparently later on African delegations with links to China also joined the "chorus".
Danielle Cave pointed out at the Lowy Interpreter:
Official rhetoric was completely disconnected from the facts on the ground and gave no hint that an international incident was unfolding. The Australian Government does not have a history of giving into heavy-handed tactics. But it, along with other countries, arguably self-censors to cater for how we think China will react to certain policies (for example, Australia's stalled negotiations for a free trade agreement with Taiwan). Despite their appalling behaviour, the Chinese delegation was rewarded with a diplomatic win – they achieved their intended outcome. Will the Australian Government self-censor next time they face a similar dilemma involving China? Will other governments, universities and NGOs self-censor to avoid such an embarrassing public spat?
Apparently the incident, in which Bishop's speech was repeatedly interrupted by the Chinese delegation shouting because Taiwan's representatives were in attendance, was actually broken in the news by a Zimbabwean paper. Only later did Australian media reports follow. Cave wonders what this means for the media in Australia.

It is deeply concerning. The Chinese should have been removed instantly. Not only has Australia, a democratic and US-allied state, shown it is spineless, but it has suggested that this tactic -- which cost China nothing to deploy -- can be effectively used at future meetings in other nations. The fact that it can use its African allies as mercenaries to support this tactic is even more disturbing. In the future I expect China may simply send them first into the breach, and remain outside the proceedings...

Foreign Policy reports on the event here.
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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tsai at 1: A scorecard

Tanzih train station. Every one of those scooters is parked illegally because no parking spaces were designed under the station. LOL.

I would be writing on the KMT chairmanship election, due up in a couple of weeks, but... it's boring at the moment.

Fortunately, Kate Hart and Tim Rich have produced a piece on Tsai's first year. President Tsai’s Scorecard, One Year On. Hart and Rich analyzed the findings of an NCCU poll, concluding....
Although the usual suspects in influencing perceptions of presidents in Taiwan remain influential, our findings suggest greater attention should be placed on the importance of livelihood issues. For example, perceptions of cross-Strait relations remain salient in regards to presidential evaluations, yet individual positions on this are tied largely to longstanding divisions in partisan identification. Meanwhile, positions on the livelihood issues are likely less fixated on traditional fault partisan lines. That livelihood issues produced such a strong finding may also be due to the term encompassing a broad range of smaller but often overlooked issues. Regardless, the findings suggest means to improve Tsai’s approval ratings that do not require the cooperation of Beijing. In sum, the evidence of the importance of livelihood issues further illustrates that “all politics is local.”
This observation is the meat:
However, evaluation of Tsai on livelihood issues generated the largest influence in models using the leadership or morality scores as the outcome. It is also worth noting that the survey also asked which policy area should be Tsai’s priority, with nearly half (45.54%) stating economic development and 16.46% stating cross-Strait relations.
Hart and Rich's observation that Tsai's approval ratings can be improved in ways that do not require the cooperation of Beijing is spot on. This is supported by much data. For example, this poll from UDN, the rabidly pro-KMT paper, on Tsai's inaugural address notes that....
Asked if they were concerned about Beijing’s possible cessation of cross-strait communication and contact mechanism, and the cutting of negotiation channels between the two sides because Tsai did not mention the “1992 consensus” in her inaugural speech, 60 percent said they do not fear the consequences, 27 percent said they worry that cross-strait links would change and 13 percent had no comment.

Twent-six percent of the respondents said they believe there would be no big changes on the development of cross-strait relations during Tsai’s tenure, 18 percent said ties would improve, 21 percent said they would deteriorate and 25 percent had no comment, the survey showed.
The Cross Strait Policy association polled the public in March, finding that nearly 77.2% regard Beijing as hostile to Taiwan. 70% also supported her goal of maintaining the status quo. There is a consensus in Taiwan on cross-strait issues: don't move off the status quo of de facto independence. That is why a mere 16.5% of people in Hart and Rich's data think Tsai should prioritize cross-strait relations -- for the population as a whole, that issue is settled.

It is important to note that when former President Ma attempted to put Taiwan into China's orbit, the public slapped down the KMT. KMT officials who ardently advocate annexing Taiwan to China, such as current KMT Chair Hung Hsiu-chu, are not welcomed by the electorate.

That said, the economic issues remain pressing. Taiwan's manufacturing activity continued its recent strong run in April, and the economy grew at 2.5% in the first quarter. Net national household wealth actually rose thanks to the property bubble, but the younger generation is seeing none of it. Salaries remain at late 1990s levels, driving many young people start their own businesses, increasing entrepreneurial activity.

All these people vote.
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Richard Saunders' Taiwan 101: Essential Sights, Hikes, and Experiences on Ilha Formosa

Richard Saunders is a wonderful man whom I have never met, sadly. He also produces wonderful books, his excellent guide to the islands of Taiwan is $5.99 on Kindle.

A few months ago he sent me his Taiwan 101 guidebooks for experiencing Taiwan. I put them on my desk, and because no one can out-procrastinate me, there they sat, with me looking at them when I was home thinking "Hmmm, really gotta put them on my blog."

Well, here I am, putting them on my blog. But because I am not only a champion procrastinator but also terminally lazy, I direct the reader to Dana Yuli Ter's great review in the Taipei Times. These are fantastic books, full of history, deep and detailed knowledge of Taiwan and its natural and human joys, yet also packed with useful information. In addition to information about places to stay, eat, and how to get in and out, each entry offers GPS coordinates for necessary locations. For example, for the Caoling Trail that runs from Daxi to Fulong, he provides the GPS coordinates for the trailhead, the summit, the Caoling Historic Trail Junction, the Boldly Quell Rock, the end of the trail, a shortcut to the road, and Fulong train station at the end of the hike. The book is filled with images, including a set of lovely color plates (he is a marvelous photographer).

If you want to seriously explore Taiwan, these books are indispensable and a steal at $1200 for the pair, or $700 each. To get them, contact Richard (richard0428 AT (zerofourtwoeight in the email).
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, May 01, 2017

=UPDATED= MEDIAFAIL: Reuters Plays the Leaders of Two Democracies for Clickbait headlines

A golden dragon phoenix turkey thing.

NOPE: Reuters is still running the story as if it hadn't been outed for lying about it and as if there were no controversy.

UPDATE: Reuters has apologized for playing the President for clickbait. Just a 'misunderstanding'. Yes of course it was a set up:
In response to media queries, Lee said Reuters had submitted a list of questions in advance, but the one about a possible repeat of the telephone call between Tsai and Trump was not on the list.
...did Reuters mess with the US-Taiwan relationship? You bet....
He said Washington was concerned over Tsai’s comment about the possibility of calling Trump until the ministry provided them with a full transcript of the interview.
...luckily plenty of people in Washington saw what was going on. ....on to the original post...


Wow. Reuters one-two punched President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan and President Trump of the US, harmed Taiwan, possibly impacted US policy, possibly encouraged Xi of China to move whatever invasion plans he has forward... the ramifications of Reuters' creation of a sensationalist story are endless, and entirely negative.

Check out the clickbait title of the first half of this setup garbage:
Exclusive: Taiwan president says phone call with Trump can take place again
What did Tsai say? Reuters quotes her correctly in the full text of the article.
"We have the opportunity to communicate more directly with the U.S. government," Tsai told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

"We don't exclude the opportunity to call President Trump himself, but it depends on the needs of the situation and the U.S. government's consideration of regional affairs."
The question of another call was a hypothetical from Reuters, not Tsai, and obviously intended to elicit a sensational answer that Reuters could sex up, as it actually did. Tsai could hardly answer this any other way. She could not have said "No, no, we won't accept another call opportunity" since she could not justify that either domestically or snub the US that way. So she carefully said: "It depends," the correct, polite, human answer.

Of course, she wasn't talking to people dealing in the same good faith she was.

Consider the other possibilities for a headline. Based on that exact same quote, Reuters could with the same logic have written:
Tsai may refuse to take another call from Trump
What a clickbait headline that would have made! Reuters really missed an opportunity there. Or
Possible second Trump-Tsai call depends on regional situation
....which is a precis of what Tsai said and would have been fairer reporting.

Despite its vile purpose, the Reuters piece did contain some hilarious moments:
The call angered Beijing because it fears contacts between Taiwan and government leaders would confer sovereignty on the island. Democratic Taiwan, self-ruled since 1949, has no interest in being ruled by autocratic China.
....if only contacts with US leaders could confer sovereignty! Many commenters on this Reuters piece missed the part at the bottom:
She tweeted congratulations to Trump minutes after he took office in January, and when asked if she might tweet him again, Tsai said: "Might not be a bad idea. I'll give some thought to it."
Reuters was at it again subtly trolling her with another Trump-related hypothetical, apparently hoping that a tweet from her would send Trump into another frenzy of clickbait newsy tweets. She should refrain from further tweets about/to Trump. And further interviews with Reuters.

I guess in this age of shrinking news staffs, it is cheaper for news organizations to manufacture news than to go through the arduous and costly process of reporting it.

But withal, Reuters was really not interested in embarrassing Tsai, she was just the collateral damage of their set up of Trump, who got the same hypothetical question in his interview. In framing Trump's words, Reuters straight-up lied about what was said:
Trump, sipping a Coke delivered by an aide after the president ordered it by pressing a button on his desk, rebuffed an overture from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who told Reuters a direct phone call with Trump could take place again after their first conversation in early December angered Beijing.

China considers neighboring Taiwan to be a renegade province.

"My problem is that I have established a very good personal relationship with President Xi," said Trump. "I really feel that he is doing everything in his power to help us with a big situation. So I wouldn’t want to be causing difficulty right now for him.

"So I would certainly want to speak to him first."
The part in blue was what everyone reacted to, and it certainly would be a departure from previous US policy, if Trump ever did what he said he would do.  Emily Rauhala at WaPo said the same thing:
As is often the case with the U.S. president, it is not clear whether Thursday’s comments amount to a change in policy or are just another off-the-cuff remark.
But even as he was speaking, US officials were in Taiwan (below) talking to officials there entirely without consulting with Xi. Many observers pointed out that Trump was referring to the N Korean crisis -- note the words "right now" and not foreclosing the possibility or indicating that at all future points, Xi would be consulted. Overreading Trump's remarks for clickbait is irresistable.

No, the part of the Reuters interview that is vile is bolded in red above. Read Tsai's comments, and then ask yourself: can the reader honestly say that Tsai "made an overture"? No reasonable person could say that Tsai "made an overture". Indeed, she went out of her way not to. Remember, Tsai was not actively bringing up the subject, but responding to a hypothetical.

Reuters simply sexed it up, and that action of sexing it up is strong evidence that Reuters paired these interviews on successive days to generate just such a situation, taking advantage of Trump's mouth. At what possible costs to the situation in E Asia, no one can say at the moment.

Reuters even timed it so the news would come out on Friday, meaning that there could be no State Department/Administration response and it would dominate the news cycle over the weekend. Brilliant.

(Why report that Trump was sipping a Coke he got via a button? Why is that worth mentioning? Is that news? It's just a gratuitous hack at Trump, noise whose only purpose is to register the reporter's contempt.)

It's not that Trump says stupid things. That's a given, he's been doing it since day 1 and no one ever expected different. Note that US policy remains largely unchanged: working around the edges to give Taiwan as much space as it can. This week AIT head James Moriarty was in town to talk about getting Taiwan more space in international organizations... and Adm Harry Harris of PACOM said before the House Armed Services Committee that any attempt by China to use force to annex Taiwan would be unacceptable (Chinese)(Video of his testimony). It's important to separate what Trump says from what is happening...

No, the problem is that behind Trump there is no team to issue clarifications, keep policy on track, manage Trump, and calm everyone down. WaPo's Josh R reports that Trump's Asia team has not been put in place.
But none of Trump’s top officials had deep Asia experience before joining the administration, and inside their departments nearly all of the Asia-related political-appointee positions remain unfilled or staffed by temporary civil servants. There is no appointed assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, no assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs and zero Trump ambassadors to Asia are in place. Only one, nominee for Beijing Terry Branstad, has even been submitted for consideration to the Senate.
This is an unmitigated disaster, and things are only going to get worse.

Note: Nelson Report commentary below....
Daily Links:
  • Migrant workers in Taiwan say no to brokers and call for government run system. Recall that last time someone introduced legislation to alter this system, they were threatened by gangsters. There's tons of money in human trafficking. 
  • Gazillionaire Terry Gou of Honhai visits the White House, fueling speculation that he might run on the KMT ticket in 2020. The reason his name has been floated is simple: the KMT might not have the money to fund the kind of campaigns they've run in the past -- but Gou does.
  • Good news for English teachers: the legislature is hearing calls to make English the official second language.
  • The new infrastructure bill will go back for another round of meetings. The KMT is well aware of how much its local clout depends on feeding and watering its patronage networks with infrastructure money, and will fight to the death.
  • Beijing takes aim at Taiwanese young. I hope they study in China, it will teach them how un-Chinese they are. As a sharp observer pointed out on Twitter, there is nothing new here in these supposed new policies. 
  • Memory chip exports up
  • Meteor shower peaks May 6
Nelson Report commentary on this is below. Click READ MORE: