Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Playing Catch Up

In the summer I always feel it is strange to see junior high and high school kids out and about. Usually they are suffering in some kind of summer school. One hardly sees them by day, only when crowding the trains late at night. Thus are Taiwanese socialized into the brutal, exploitative work schedules Taiwan bosses routinely employ.

I took a couple of weeks off from this blog to reduce post-surgery stress (see the post below this one). Let's catch up....

The big news while I was resting was the great power outtage. Actually I had no idea it occurred, since my part of Taichung suffered no outtage, and I was probably reading and playing computer games. A mistake by a China Petroleum employee cut off the supply of gas to the Datan gas plant for two minutes, triggering a massive blackout, with people trapped in elevators. Over 6 million were affected. The KMT naturally attacked the Administration, ignoring the fact that the lax attitude towards procedures and safety at government-owned firms is the product of KMT control.

Brill is introducing the International Journal of Taiwan Studies. Solid editorial team, looks like it will be great. Can't wait.

The KMT is so desperate to stop the Forward Looking Infrastructure plan it flooded the legislature with 10,000 motions against it, paralyzing the body. The KMT is terribly worried that its carefully nurtured patronage networks in the hinterland will swing over to the DPP once the DPP government gets the money taps turned on. On the lighter side, a former hit man claimed Ma Ying-jeou, when Chair of the KMT, paid him to kill Alex Tsai, KMT ideologue. Also on the lighter side, longtime party apparatchik Wu Den-yih, now Chair of the KMT, promised to reform and moderate the KMT. Yeah, like that will happen: reform of the KMT has been a theme of party insiders and outside critics alike for at least 15 years now.

Asia Nikkei also published a hit piece on Tsai Ing-wen this week, both malicious and incompetent:
The Tsai government aims to get the island off nuclear power in 2025, and only three of six nuclear power plants are presently in operation. The mass blackout Aug. 15 came amid growing concerns that slow-starting operations at fossil fuel plants, which are supposed to provide alternative power sources, may lead to an energy shortage. While human error was blamed for the blackout, Tsai's government took the worst of the heat.

Sliding approval

A June poll by civilian broadcaster TVBS Media found Tsai's approval rating had fallen to 21%, the lowest since she took office in May 2016, while disapproval was triple that at 63%. The blackout will further erode support, say many including Fan Shih-ping, a professor of political science at National Taiwan Normal University.
Note that the article says we have 6 nuke plants, though we only have four. Perhaps it meant six reactors, though with the 4th Nuke there are eight in Taiwan. As proof of Tsai's slumping ratings, we get a poll from a pro-KMT broadcaster owned by Chinese investors -- from June. One could just as well have cited the high approval ratings for Tsai's diplomatic policies, which are more recent. The article mentions the pension reform and the backlash from pensioners, but doesn't mention that at least one poll has found the pension reform pushed up Tsai's ratings (from July). The Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation has her approval at 28%. It's pretty obvious that the TVBS poll is nonsense.

The disgraceful blocking of the entrance of Taiwan's athletes into the Universiade Games by pension protesters was widely condemned in Taiwan. Mayor Ko of Taipei made himself more popular with a smart comeback to criticism. He will be tough to beat in the next election: approval is at 60% right now (link).

There was a minor kerfuffle a couple of weeks ago over Steve Yates' remarks in a recent interview, caused by a well-meaning by misleading commentary on it. Tom Lee wrote a commentary for the Taipei Times in which he stated that Yates said:
If Taiwanese were willing to trade their lives, assets and sacred honor for Taiwanese independence, they would win the support of the international community, but the nation is not ready for that.
Unfortunately, Lee mistranslated Stephen Yates' remarks. The Youtube video is here, the key passages start around 13 min and go to 20 min.

Yates did not say "they would win the support of the international community" -- he actually made a completely different point, that the Founding Fathers of the US didn't ask the England or France or the international community for help,they just decided on their own to do it. He added that "if Taiwan had this consensus.... [gesture] but we're not there yet."

It would have been great if someone had checked Lee's translation against the actual video. New Bloom then ran with that translation with another one of its tiresome attacks on America and American officials who support Taiwan. If Brian thinks that "it is hard to know how Yates comes off as a friend of Taiwanat all" he is welcome to sit down with people who actually have known Yates for years and learn why so many people in this movement Brian so very recently joined consider Yates to be a friend of Taiwan. I will be happy to introduce him.

J Michael Cole sent around a good example of fake news circulating in Taiwan:

The faked image on the left has Tsai Ing-wen's photo above the urinals, as if to say the military hates her. The original is on the right. Expect a flood of this garbage in the next election cycle.
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!


Jenna Cody said...

I will say that it is entirely possible that New Bloom was not aware of the existence of the video, just as I was not (despite having searched for something along those lines), and therefore would not have been able to check the translation. But, they surely have more resources to search for that sort of thing than I do, and when it became apparent that the original article was pretty much nonsense, it would have been smart - or frankly just the right thing to do - to issue a correction and apology (as I did).

Matt Stone said...

Okay, I'm confused.
Why is The China Post running headlines like this one "With a perfect landing, Lee Chih-kai wins Chinese Taipei's first gold in pommel horse"
Chinese Taipei...?

Anonymous said...

You scared me with the title of your last link, but just as I guessed it is still INDIA and not China with which Taiwan is becoming closer.

TaiwanJunkie said...

The readers of China Post are Chinese Taipeiers from the island of Chinese Taipei.

The readers of Liberty Times are Taiwanese from the island of Taiwan.

that's the reason.

Matt Stone said...

I think as a foreigner I am missing out on some of the nuances.
Yesterday's CP headline (Sunday 27) is very confusing: the lead story headline says "Making history: Taiwan sets new Asian javelin record", but the text below it refers to "Chinese Taipei's Cheng Chao-tsun".
Surely, if the editorial team at CP wants to fly the flag for the home audience, they could make a decision to make a point of referring to "Taiwan".

Anonymous said...


Regarding the link about Taiwan railways investment and your other comments about the old sugar rail network in Taiwan ... it is indeed extraordinary to consider that Taiwan's rail system today is, in terms of coverage and links around Taiwan, several steps BACKWARD from what it was by the end of the Japanese colonial era. Taiwan's domestic rail network - with the exception of the HSR - has materially regressed in the decades post-WWII.

The "Forward Looking" infrastructure budget is, in its statements about using rail to connect Taiwanese communities, attempting to rebuild parts of the old rail network that should never have been allowed to lapse in the first place.

That's fine - anyway it's probably necessary - but it's hard not to feel frustrated that Taiwan could have been much farther ahead today if the old KMT regime had been less negligible about the management of the first-class infrastructure it inherited in Taiwan post-WWII.

For example, I was in Qishan / Cishan over the weekend, and visited the old train station there. It was part of the old sugar railways network, also used for daily public transport links of Qishan, via Qiqiutang, to the larger rail hubs of Kaohsiung and Pingtung. There is no rail no, and Qishan - despite being a lovely old town in a culturally and agriculturally rich area - is isolated and gradually depopulating.

In the station there is a map of the old sugar rail network of Taiwan. It is astounding. That narrow gauge light sugar rail went virtually everywhere. When you overlay (A) the old sugar rail network with (B) the original public rail network and (C) the mountain / lumber rail network, the full extent of rail coverage in Taiwan inherited from the Japanese colonial era is mind-blowing.

It is frustrating to realize just how much Taiwan's infrastructure regressed with decades of ignorant mismanagement and neglect under the KMT in the post-WWII decades. Now, it is good to see significant investment in Taiwan's infrastructure again for the future ... although I am not sure the direction of the new "forward-looking" plan is in fact forward-looking enough.

If it were - in light of the power shortages sympomatic of the KMT's mismanagement of another infrastructure network - I would have liked to see more emphasis on new green energy initiatives and power grid upgrades to facilitate liberalization, rather than necessarily a reversion to the old rail network. Both are public goods, but I think the former is more urgent. Just a matter of prioritization of Taiwan's finite budget resources.