Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday: Tales of Future and Past + Linkfest

The local election of 1935, the first in Taiwan. Here banners decorate the streets of Taichung.

Typhoon to make landfall on Saturday, so weather will deteriorate on Friday. Stay safe, dear readers.....

Where did the nation's farmland go? This week the government said it has gone to factories: more than 52,000 illegal factories squat on farmland, according to one survey prepared because the government is going to rezone the nation's land.
A council survey found about 13,000 hectares of farmland have been appropriated by illegal factories, Department of Planning Director-General Tsai Sheng-fu (蔡昇甫) said.


Each factory claims about 0.25 hectares of land, Tsai said, adding that the council made the estimation based on satellite and aerial images compared with land registration records.

The economic ministry is to list the illegal factories, he added.

The first to be first demolished would be 109 illegal factories in Changhua County, which has the most of all municipalities, Tsai said, adding that the demolition work would be done by local governments.
I am skeptical that anything will be done about these illegal factories. Anyone who has been here for a while has already been through this charade of the government clenching its fists and saying "sometin' gonna happen!" and then nothing happening. Remember those illegal hostels and bed and breakfasts in mountains above Nantou -- yeah, nothing happened to them. In fact, the government actually tracks such illegal establishments but does nothing. This is the administrative perspective on law enforcement, rather than the enforcement perspective. Enforcement demands positive action by officials, but administration is passive and waits for someone to file a complaint about the infraction, which no one ever does because everyone nearby is committing some/the same kind of legal violation. The possibility of reprisal is one of the key factors maintaining so many illegal social systems in Taiwan.

Commonwealth has run several good pieces over the years on Taiwan's industrial land problems, but this outstanding piece is one I use in my current events class. It observes that the land problem is not a problem of tiny run down craphole factories churning out cheap plastic garbage as you might think:
Another area with a high concentration of rules offenders is Changhua County with 91 companies. They are centered primarily in Dingfanpo in the Lugang area, a leader in plumbing hardware with an annual production value of NT$80 billion.

One of the most representative of these illegal factories is a so-called unregistered factory (an illegal factory applying for government help in gaining legal status) that had its application to re-zone the agricultural land it sits on reviewed by the Ministry of the Interior’s Regional Planning Committee on Sept. 22. The factory belongs to Depo Auto Parts Industrial Co., a major Taiwanese car lamp maker listed on the Taiwan stock exchange.
Because land owners speculate in industrial land, it is easier for factories to rent/purchase farmland and build illegal factories on it, then beg the local government to rezone. Local governments wink at this since such factories have obvious economic benefits. Consider:
The problem has reached epidemic proportions in northern Taiwan, most evident in a more than 400-hectare site that surrounds Fu Jen Catholic University in the Taipei suburb of Xinzhuang.

Called “Wen Zai Jun” (塭仔圳), the site is home to the biggest cluster of illegal factories in the northern part of the country. Hidden here are makers of the gearbox for the 202nd Arsenal’s Clouded Leopard armored vehicle, the exhaust pipes for Luxgen cars, storage racks for Gogoro’s electric scooters and components for wind turbines.
This is a facet of Taiwanese life that I have long wanted to write on: the existence of parallel gray markets for legal markets in most aspects of Taiwanese life. Just as the government lotto is mirrored in the Mark 6 lottery, the legal banking system in the system of underground cross-strait banks and in complex informal financial systems among friends and families, so the shiny legal science parks and industrial districts are mirrored in the clusters of factories on farmland.

In Washington, the State Department is apparently considering Olin Wethington as its Asst Sec for East Asia Pacific. This Buzzfeed media report on the idea contains a classic omission that I have oftimes remarked on here: it describes him in nuetral terms....
Olin Wethington, a former Treasury Department official and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, is now a contender for the nomination of assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, four individuals familiar with the matter said.
It completely omits that Wethington headed AIG's China operations. Omission of officials' connections to Wall Street is par for the course for our media. Wethington appears to have no Taiwan experience and none in the complex diplomacy of NE Asia. *gulp*

Also in Washington, Senators Cotton and Gardner introduced the Taiwan Security Act, an ambitious act that mandates that the US take all necessary steps to promote its relationship with Taiwan by:
  1. Mandates senior defense and diplomatic exchanges between the United States and Taiwan at the flag officer and assistant secretary level or above.
  2. Reestablishes an annual strategic dialogue between the United States and Taiwan on arms sales in order to ensure the regular transfer of defense articles.
  3. Directs the U.S. secretary of defense to invite Taiwanese forces to participate in the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise and a 2018 edition of the Red Flag air-to-air combat exercise.
  4. Requires U.S Navy port visits to Taiwan and vice versa.
  5. Expresses Congressional support for Taiwan's plan to spend 3% of GDP on defense and its ongoing efforts to suspend all economic ties with North Korea.
Congress also proposed bringing Taiwan back into the WHO and WHA
Daily Links:
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1 comment:

an angry taiwanese said...

Today's post is rich with issues and info and insights. 'Oftimes remarked' puts things and people in historical context is greatly valuable, which only a consistent critical essayist like you can deliver to the Taiwan republics. Hat off!