Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Stunning Chiayi 166

What loveliness awaits?
Rode the Chiayi 166, with my friends Drew and Iris, and we were stunned by its amazing beauty. Click on Read More for a taste.... UPDATE: Drew's great post.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

From How “China” Frames “Taiwan”: the Taiwan Affairs Office

Irrigation works

Regarding the Reuters piece I looked at in the post below this one. From Anne-Marie Brady's How “China” Frames “Taiwan” chapter in How Taiwan Impacts China:
The CCP’s Taiwan frames are set by the central Taiwan Affairs Office (国务院台湾事务办剬室),8 an agency within the State Council which coordinates with the CCP Central Propaganda Department and other relevant agencies such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the PLA to oversee China’s Taiwan-related propaganda activities and agencies. Taiwan-related propaganda and thought work is an important task within the vast propaganda xitong (or machinery); it is seen as being so important that all party branches, regardless of their place in the Chinese bureaucracy, have a Taiwan Affairs Office, just as they always have a Propaganda Section. The Taiwan Affairs Office guides (指导) a massive program of activities aimed at molding Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese, and international public opinion on the Taiwan issue, with the ultimate goal of ending the unfinished business of the Chinese Civil War under the structure of “one country, two systems” (一国两制).9 The Taiwan Affairs Office has limited powers, but its policy “guidance” is backed up by other state agencies with stronger powers, such as the State Administration of Press, Publicity, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT, 国家新闻出版广播电影电视总局) and the Ministry of Public Security. As the Chinese Mainland has expanded its relations with Taiwan in the last 15 years, so there has also been an expansion of China’s Taiwan-related propaganda channels. The PRC has made a major investment in Mainland China-based television stations, websites, newspapers, and radio stations specifically targeting Taiwanese media consumers.10 Xinhua News Service even has a dedicated Taiwan website, which notably, has a section promoting the guidelines on how to discuss Taiwan in the public sphere as outlined below.11
If you as a reporter quoted a TAO "official" without some indication of this background, there's a problem with both your ethics and your journalism.

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, December 26, 2017

Reuters Continues to Race Ahead of Xinhua

A woman at a traditional noodle factory sets out product to dry.
Lucius: So now, I'm in deep trouble. I mean, one more jolt of this death ray, and I'm an epitaph. Somehow, I manage to find cover, and what does Baron von Ruthless do?
Bob: (chuckles) He starts monologuing?
Lucius: He starts monologuing! He starts, like, this prepared speech about how feeble I am compared to him, how inevitable my defeat is, how the world will soon be his! Yadda yadda yadda.
Reuters in its usual more-Xinhua-than-Xinhua fashion played stenographer for the CCP once again this week. Chris Horton, who writes for a number of media outlets, including the NYTimes, observed on Twitter:
This article features *five* consecutive unchecked paragraphs that are pure Taiwan Affairs Office propaganda. Intentional or not, this erasure of the voice of 23.5 million people is a nice Christmas present from Reuters to the TAO and United Front Work Department.
Reuters forwarded a whole series of propaganda claims from Beijing with no context, challenge, or comment,
China's economic growth means its economy now far surpasses Taiwan's, and the trend would only continue, Liu wrote in the paper, which is published by the Central Party School that trains rising Communist Party officials.

"The swift development and massive changes in the mainland of the motherland are creating an increasingly strong attraction for the people of Taiwan," he said.

"The contrast in power across the Taiwan Strait will become wider and wider, and we will have a full, overwhelming strategic advantage over Taiwan," Liu added.

"The economic, political, social, cultural and military conditions for achieving the complete reunification of the motherland will become even more ample."

The concepts of peaceful reunification and "one country, two systems" would become even more attractive to Taiwan's people and foreign forces will not be able to stop it, Liu said.

"The basic situation of the Taiwan Strait continuing to develop in a direction beneficial to us will not change, and time and momentum are on our side."
Consider if Reuters had provided any context -- experts pointing out that Taiwanese see themselves as Taiwanese and do not want to become part of China, or that one country, two systems has been decisively rejected by the locals since the late 1990s. But Reuters simply plays stenographer. What was the editor doing, again? Just correcting their English?

Reuters also reproduced what has become a staple anti-Taiwan move by the media, one this blog has been noting for years: referring to soured relations in the passive voice to hide agency.
Relations between Beijing and Taipei have soured since Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won presidential elections last year, with China suspecting she wants to push for the island's formal independence.
Relations soured because Beijing chose to sour them. Reuters gives the usual unbalanced, pro-Beijing presentation, in which we get Beijing's opinion of Tsai but not Taipei's opinion about Beijing. Imagine an alternate universe where there was both facticity and better balance:
Relations between Beijing and Taipei have soured since Beijing cut off relations after Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won presidential elections last year. Taipei suspects Xi plans to invade Taiwan and annex the island.
Compare the China orientation of the Reuters piece with this piece from PBS on tiny Estonia, which also faces a giant neighbor hungry to annex it. As I always say, if you are a tiny state facing Russia, you're a plucky democracy under threat, but if you're Taiwan facing China, you're provocative...

The "inevitability" thesis which Reuters forwards here uncritically and uncontextualized has long been recognized as a key piece of propaganda designed to weaken Taiwan's psychological posture and to weaken foreign support of Taiwan, as Ian Easton noted in his recent and excellent book on Taiwan's defense (Amazon) and J Michael Cole in his sturdy Convergence or Conflict. If you as a writer forward that without noting that, then congrats -- you've become part of Beijing's propaganda effort. And you suck as both a reporter and a human being.

Many news organizations over the years have noted how the "inevitability" thesis is part of a propaganda regime. For example, AP in 2016 observed:
China claims Taiwan is its own territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Tsai's election upended Beijing's strategy of using economic inducements to convince Taiwanese that political unification is not only inevitable but also in their best interests.
and it added what Reuters did not:
Although China says Taiwan has been part of its territory since ancient times, the two sides have only been unified for four of the past 120 years, splitting most recently amid the Chinese civil war in 1949. Taiwan does not acknowledge Beijing's claim of authority over it, while surveys show an overwhelming majority of Taiwanese favor maintaining their current state of de-facto independence.
China Digital Times has a whole list of such soft-war actions in a post from last year. It notes:
Controversial policy issues are often the focus of  efforts, and high Party officials occasionally express confidence that foreign opinion will inevitably fall into line with Beijing’s, as a United Front Work Department vice-minister did regarding Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang and Tibet. (Fueling an anti-Dalai Lama narrative has been a consistent goal for English-language state media, and last year Reuters provided evidence of Party efforts to smear the Tibetan spiritual leader by promoting a divisive deity.)
Reuters can easily identify state propaganda if it is about Tibet. But Taiwan... not so much.

I've been complaining about the inevitability bullshit since this blog started (one of my wishes from my 2017 list). Let me just say something I said three years ago:
Taiwan was not part of China in ancient times, a point which bears on the whole "inevitability" thesis: if it was inevitable that Taiwan would be incorporated into a Chinese state, why did it never happen in the whole of Chinese history? (the Manchus were not Chinese). Obviously because it is not inevitable.
Meanwhile, in direct opposition to Reuters, which really ought to be ashamed, Asia Times turned in an excellent piece on Beijing's views, with quotes from experts, from government officials of China and Taiwan, and much background.

All of which was missing from the Reuters piece.

One final point that is almost always missing, even from pieces that give the Taiwan point of view and back it with facts: propaganda pieces like the TAO piece are also aimed at domestic audiences whose nationalism needs to be controlled, channeled, and maintained. "Don't worry, home folks! We're gonna get Taiwan sooner or later!" They are meant to lay the groundwork for public acceptance of military action at some point, and in general, for Beijing's policies.
Daily Links:

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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The more things change....

"Among today's young students... there are those who have embraced treachery, using big exaggerations like so-called ethnic self-determination, Taiwan self-rule, or Taiwan independence. And there's also a group of inner territory people like members of the Diet who fan [their anger]. These think it's a good thing and run around making noise. The hot-blooded youth go along with the crowd. The problem gets bigger. Won't it be the case that before too long phrases like 'establish a Taiwan parliament' just like phrases like 'independence for Korea' penetrate the minds of elementary school children? That's what I worry about.

I'm convinced that probably nothing will happen with the current generation of islanders. But what about the second generation? It seems as if they're heading in the direction of absolutely opposing the Governor General's policy of assimilation, and inviting the result of that opposition. This is the thing I can't stop being afraid of."
-- Hamade Tsunenosuke, former chief of the Bureau of Colonial Affairs, in his 1928 report on travel to Taiwan. cited in Kate McDonald's excellent Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan (free at that link!)
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

LINKZ: All the News that's Fit to Pimp

"Then you will find yourself easy prey for the Dark Lord! Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked this easily -- weak people, in other words -- they stand no chance against his powers!
Well. Ranking members of the Chinese United Front Fifth Columnist Party, junior version New Party were raided this week as prosecutors suspect them of involvement in an espionage case. Beijing naturally condemned this raid on its allies in Taiwan. The New Party, not exactly a collection of longtime pro-democracy activists, complained this was "green terror" or "white terror" and former President Ma Ying-jeou said it was fascism. It must be admitted that Ma, an admirer of one dictator and servant of another, has a lot of experience with fascism. J Michael discusses it here.

He's b-a-a-a-a-a-c-k! Pasuya Yao is taking another crack at the DPP candidacy for mayor, fresh of being rudely ignored in the 2014 elections. Yao, who took an aboriginal name cuz it sounded cool, has confirmed for the 2018 DPP primary. He's been a source of endless comedy in his previous incarnations has head of the GIO and other positions. I posted one of Jason Wright's classic old posts here. This promises to be an entertaining but pointless primary -- the DPP needs to forego the waste of time and money and simply back Ko Wen-je again. Then in 2022 Taipei will be ready for a DPP politician. But word has it there's a lot of anger in the DPP against Ko Wen-je.

Sunday we had a march in Taichung against air pollution. Donovan, ICRT's man at the helm for central Taiwan news, writes:
The organizers, a grouping of mostly NGOs, issued four specific demands: First, to move the Executive Yuan, including the Environmental Protection Agency and Ministry of Economic Affairs south. It is widely thought in the centre and south of Taiwan that the bureaucrats in Taipei, sheltered from most of the air pollution but consuming the power produced here, are indifferent to the issue because it isn’t a personal experience for them. Their second demand is to reduce the use of bituminous coal by 20% starting in January, with an annual 10% reduction thereafter. Third, they want the top 30 stationary pollution sources to reduce output by 20% by the end of 2018. Finally, they the current air quality status to be added to the Taiwan Air Quality Monitoring Network immediately.
He adds:
As an indication of the strength of the issue locally, through November polls had the KMT mayoral candidates within very low single digits behind incumbent Mayor Lin as the KMT candidates pounding him on the issue. A poll taken right after his announcement of deal with Taipower, the operator of the Taichung Power Plant, to enact a major cut in coal usage saw the mayor get an over 10 point bump.
Pollution is going to be THE issue and Donovan covers it in detail over at the News Lens.

The US gov't issued its national security strategy (link) which my man  Michal Thim argues is "the gloves off" in another solid piece in SCMP on Trump and Asia. The new strategy re-affirms the US commitment to Taiwan with the TRA at its center. Boilerplate, but you can see how far things are from normal when boilerplate was greeted with relieved enthusiasm in Taiwan circles. GTI's Russell Hsiao pointed out on Twitter that "It also bears mentioning that #Taiwan was brought up as a "#priority actions" item for "military and security" issues in the section covering the National Security Strategy's application to the "#IndoPacific."

Taiwan GDP is expect to grow over 2% in 2018. This would be tolerable, except that given Taiwan's income and wealth distribution, little if any of that growth will reach ordinary people. That will hurt the DPP in the midterm elections, unless Commonwealth's CEO survey is right in saying CEOs plan to hand out raises. Tsai and the DPP have been posing as champions of small business -- recall that she said the new labor laws were to help small- and medium-sized businesses -- and she was in the news this week touting Taiwan's SME success and how other nations viewed it as a model.

However, Commonwealth hosted a great interview which conveyed the brutal reality about our SME heaven: it lies in the past....
It may not seem intuitive, but overseas competition has had an effect on domestic capital formation. Capital is becoming concentrated at a far faster rate than could have been imagined, even faster than many examples seen in capitalism’s history.
We talk about South Korea being monopolized by a few large conglomerates, but Taiwan is not much better. Hon Hai’s revenues account for 22 percent of Taiwan’s GDP, exactly the same as Samsung’s share of South Korean GDP.
Over the past 20 years, the influence of the 10 biggest companies has grown from 25 percent of the economy to more than 40 percent.

Exports are also heavily dependent on large companies. In 1987, 78 percent of Taiwan’s export value was generated by SMEs, but that had fallen to only 18 percent by 2004 or 2005, indicating that 60 percent of exports had shifted into the hands of big business. That has happened either because big companies have taken over SMEs or SMEs themselves have grown bigger and now exceed the size threshold used to define an SME.
The capital concentration means that without at least a million US bucks, or $34 million NT, you can't really survive in a new business. The whole interview is informative and terrifying, read it.
Daily Links:
  • Saying the unsayable: the always insightful Mark Harrison on Aus-China relations.
  • Longtime US gov't specialist Shirley Kan with a strong piece at GTI arguing that Taiwan isn't doing enough in its defence.
  • Gordon Chang is purged from Forbes because of Chinese ownership?
  • SCMP with a surprisingly sympathetic commentary from Cary Huang on the laws removing CKS from public life
  • Ketagalan Media on transitional justice
  • NOT TAIWAN: Highlights from Backstroke of the West: Star War: the Third Gathers. My kids just turned me on to Backstroke of the West: the proper way to watch the unwatchable prequels to the 1977 Star Wars movie. Some genius ran the original script through Google translate to get Mandarin, then ran the Mandarin back to English in Google translate, then he and some buddies voice acted the script over the original movies. I peed myself laughing.
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, December 19, 2017

Referendum Reforms Finally passed

At the Taichung Train Station, the buttons on the automated ticket machines have Vietnamese labels for the foreign workers.

David Spencer, the fine writer over at Taiwan News who succeeded me in writing commentaries, asks the question that all of us are asking: will the new changes empower the young?
That is because this week this Legislative Yuan passed the Government’s Referendum Act (公民投票法), which lowered the age that people can vote in referendums from 21 to 18. In doing so, it handed a sizable number of young people in Taiwan the opportunity to vote on issues which are likely to affect their lives far more than those of the older generations.
The new law makes the following changes to national level referendums:
Under the newly amended law, an initiative to launch the first stage of a referendum will only require 0.01 percent of total eligible voters who participated in the most recent presidential election, as opposed to the 0.1 percent that was required to pass this first hurdle. In the case of the 2016 presidential election, that would be 1,879.

For the second stage of such a plebiscite to succeed, it now only requires 1.5 percent of those eligible to vote in the presidential election, as opposed to 5 percent previously. This translates to 280,000 people from the 2016 presidential election.

As for the third and final stage of a referendum, only a majority of 25 percent of eligible voters must agree to the act as opposed to the previous 50 percent. This would be the equivalent to 4.69 million of the voters from the past presidential race.
Under the previous law, which the KMT erected to prevent referendums from being successful, the law required that 50 percent of eligible voters must vote. Since the KMT could mobilize 40% of the vote, and many eligible people do not vote, it could easily cause any referendum to fail simply by ordering its people to not vote on it, as actually occurred. This law was derisively referred to as the "birdcage" referendum by DPPers, since it did not permit a vote on independence to ever occur.

However, the new law does not permit such votes either. Rather than troll Beijing and give our US friends ulcers, the legislation places changes in the nation's territory, flag, and name off limits to referendums.

This move was deprecated by some observers in private discussion groups, who argued that the new law removes a powerful soft power weapon: the ability of the Taiwanese to declare in a free and fair vote that they do not want to be part of China.

The low thresholds are a double edged sword. On the one hand, it means that anti-democracy groups in Taiwan's society can game the law to cause problems with divisive referendums. That is what I expect, sadly. On the other, it means that the referendum law can be used by groups with small but important issues to at least get attention.

It could also have serious ramifications for international affairs even without the independence possibilities, as a friend pointed out to me. For example, the ractopork issue remains on the burner, since the US insists on poisoning Taiwan with ractopamine-infused pork imports that will decimate Taiwan's farmers, and Taiwan would rather not have either of those. Imagine what would happen to relations with the US if there were a referendum on the issue -- the public would likely vote to ban ractopork, and the US would not be happy. Similarly, food imports from Fukushima in Japan are a contentious issue. For that reason, I expect the KMT to start raising these issues.

The KMT struggled to get an absentee ballot system included in the bill, but the DPP shelved that. The reasons are simple: no ballot coming from the tens of thousands living in China would be trustworthy, and incorporating such ballots would cast doubt on any election. Which is why the KMT wants that, of course. The DPP simply set the issue aside indefinitely.

Despite its flaws, this is a major step forward for Taiwan. Kudos to the DPP for finally getting it passed.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Chen Chu Still Rocks

This recent poll from a pro-DPP polling organization had Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan as the most popular mayor among the 6 municipality mayors, but Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu remains probably the most popular politician in Taiwan. I caught her today on this sign by the train station in Tanzi in Taichung city.
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, December 12, 2017

TENSHUNZ: ZOMG its WAR if US navy calls at Taiwan port

Not China.

Chinese diplomatic bluster once again gave us a ZOMG TENSHUNZ moment. Reuters reported, headlining China, Taiwan spar over Chinese diplomat's invasion threat:
A threat by a senior Chinese diplomat to invade Taiwan the instant any U.S. warship visits the self-ruled island has sparked a war of words, with Taipei accusing Beijing of failing to understand what democracy means.
Since the Taiwan government doesn't sell papers by hyping tension, Focus Taiwan more rationally headlined Taiwan responds to Chinese diplomat's threat with call for peace
Taiwan's government wants peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Saturday in the wake of a comment by a Chinese diplomat that threatened military action by China if U.S. Navy ships are allowed to call at Taiwan ports.


The issue arose after the U.S. Congress on Nov. 30 passed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes clauses that would allow the U.S. to look at the possibility of reestablishing "regular ports of call by the U.S. Navy at Kaohsiung or any other suitable ports in Taiwan" and permits the U.S. Pacific Command to receive ports of call by Taiwan vessels.
I'll return to the media in a moment....

On Twitter Julian Ku pointed out that the comments were not disavowed by the foreign ministry while Dan Blumenthal, always perspicacious on things Taiwan, observed:
Daniel Blumenthal‏ @DAlexBlumenthal
The facts are plain: the Chinese Ambo wrote a threatening letter to Congress and a Chinese “diplomat” threatened in public; Congress dropped language about port visits to Taiwan in the NDAA. A political influence campaign that worked.
(love the quotes around the word diplomat, DAB). Julian Ku wrote in Foreign Policy that the US backed down against China again. Sad. Blumenthal also observed:
It’s important 2 understand how many times China threatened war (GO talks, enhanced cooperation, enhanced arms sales) between 1999-2009 DOD went ahead anyway and all was fine.
Mark Stokes, one of the quietest but sharpest observers of Taiwan, noted:
Modest USN port calls would be consistent with US One China policy and unofficial nature of relations with TW. Besides, care to guess how many USN vessels (including contracted) or USAF aircraft have visited TW over past decades? This CCP provocation warrants firm response.
Rupert Hammond-Chambers of the US-Taiwan Business Council remarked:
R J Hammond-Chambers‏ @RJHCUSTBC
It’s non-credible that the PRC would start a war over a port visit by a USN visit. They’re counting on self-censorship as a means to curb US support for Taiwan
Not to be left out, the always-bellicose Global Times gave a good imperialist harrumph:
Li's words have sent a warning to Taiwan and drew a clear red line. If Taiwan attempts to hold an independence referendum or other activities in pursuit of de jure "Taiwan independence," the PLA will undoubtedly take action.
The PRC has been using similar language for years. Yawn.

This diplomatic bluster is one of the many Chinese influence operations in the US. The current debate over China's influence in Aussie politics is just a proxy for the debate over its influence in the US. Good to see it though, since it helps make such a debate possible in the US.

No question that the Chinese "diplomat" is trying to deploy the idea of tension to manage the US policy response and the media reporting. That is the whole point of "tensions". The media always refuses to point that out, though it is well known in media circles and among those of us who follow Taiwan. Instead, the media reports on the "tensions". They are news, ya know.

Yet, it also important to remember that Chinese bluster is aimed at domestic audiences as well. They might even want a port visit by US ships, because then they can present that to their own people as evidence of US bellicosity. "Look at what the US is doing!" The Chinese people are no doubt reluctant to go to war, like most ordinary people, and so must be slowly convinced of its necessity.

That said, this does need a response. The US might consider sending an innocuous vessel, such as a US navy research ship, supply ship, or minesweeper, to Kaohsiung port. Another option would be to send the USS Blue Ridge, which visited Shanghai in 2016, to Taiwan (as a friend snarkily Tweeted, did the US navy vessel's appearance there mean Shanghai was seceding?). It could imply, or overtly state, that is a clear signal of even-handedness.

J Michael's analysis is here.

MEDIA: Reuters loves to sell tension (remember when it manufactured clickbait tension out of the phone call?) and so it sexed up the event by using terms like spar and war of words. Here's the conversation:
BEIJING: We are gonna kill you and your US buddies.
TAIPEI: We want peace. You hurt us.
REUTERS: Stop sparring, you two!
It's not "sparring" when one side refuses to fight, but instead makes gestures of hurt and peacefulness.

Still obsessively pursuing its quest to supplant Xinhua as the number one source for the Chinese government's point of view, Reuters wrote:
At a Chinese embassy event in Washington on Friday, diplomat Li Kexin said he had told U.S. officials that China would activate its Anti-Secession Law, which allows it to use force on Taiwan if deemed necessary to prevent the island from seceding, if the United States sent navy ships to Taiwan.
As I wrote about BBC writing the same 'gwash in 2008:
Earth to BBC: the laws do not "legalize" the use of force against Taiwan. They are pure propaganda, and should be treated that way. Wouldn't it be more neutral to say that the law is a simple declaration that "calls for the use of force if Taiwan formally declares independence" or something similar? "Legalization" simply plays to Beijing's desire to leverage Western cultural expectations about the normative force of law in its drive to crush Taiwan's democratic existence and gives its expansionist desires legitimacy. The BBC would never say "China's national security laws legalize executions of democracy activists" if it were discussing China's security state and that nation's treatment of its political prisoners. So why does it do that here, when the Anti-Secession Law simply does wholesale what China's security laws do retail? Simply put, murder is always wrong, whether it is done by bullets in a prison or by missiles and bombs in city streets. Stop abetting Beijing, guys.
Would Reuters say that China's security laws "allow" it to imprison, torture, and murder dissidents? No, such language would be unacceptable. The AS law does not "allow" anything -- laws are not needed, as China can murder and maim Taiwanese to annex their island any time it wants, for any reason it likes. Language that normalizes evil as lawful should not be permissible. Observe that when Lee Ming-che was "tried" in China, Reuters did not say anything about what the laws "allow" and even had statements showing how the laws and trials were bullshit.

The Reuters report would be far less harmful if it weren't a news service that other news services relied on.

It would also be nice if the term "seceding" were put in quotes since Taiwan is not currently part of China.

Wouldn't it be awesome if the media supported democracy, democratic values, and the nations which espouse them?
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Transitional Justice Act Passes + Links

Fixing a bike at a small shop in Ruisui.

The transitional justice act was finally passed.
The act is aimed at addressing injustices perpetrated by then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government between Aug. 15, 1945, when the Japanese government announced it had surrendered, to Nov. 6, 1992, when the Period of National Mobilization against Communist Rebellion was ended in Kinmen and Lienchiang counties.

A nine-member Transitional Justice Promotion Committee is to be created, to be overseen by the Executive Yuan, with its chairman nominated by the premier and approved by at least half of the members of the Legislative Yuan.

The committee is also to address and utilize ill-gotten political party assets, but its purview will not include items already covered by the Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations (政黨及其附隨組織不當取得財產處理).

The new act states that data unconstitutionally seized during the authoritarian era are to be collated and archived and made available for research and educational purposes as long as people mentioned in the data have their privacy and their freedom of communication protected.
The Act thus covers the actual period of martial law in Taiwan. It is often forgotten that after martial law was "lifted" in 1987 the government immediately promulgated a new national security law that was martial law in all but name. Dissidents remained in jail until 1993.

The land justice issues involving aboriginal lands were separated out from this bill for later consideration. They are likely to be highly contentious. Taiwan is just beginning to wrestle with the fact that it is a settler society with all the evils and abuses that entails.

Meanwhile the KMT is so broke it is levying a special tax on members to raise funds. This is why I expect in 2020 Terry Gou has a good shot at the KMT Presidential candidacy, because he is the only possibility who can fund his own election campaign.

Don't miss Ian Rowen's great research piece on transitional justice in Taiwan, which is open access. A piece at Taiwan Sentinel argues transitional justice must be institutionalized in order for it to be successful.
Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Pollution Takes Center Stage

Somewhere with clean air...

Donovan Smith, ICRT's central Taiwan news reporter and all around awesome guy, observes of the pollution issue:
DEC 6, Donovan’s Central Taiwan News ICRT report
Taichung’s Mayor Makes Major Move on Pollution
Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung made another major move against Taipower’s Taichung Power Plant.


In exchange for extending the operating licenses for nine coal-fired generators next February, Taichung made three demands.

The first is to reduce coal usage in total to 16 million tons, a claimed reduction of 5 million tons from permitted consumption of 21 million tons--or a 24% reduction--next year.

The second is to reduce the licensing periods to two years, down from five currently--significantly increasing the city’s leverage.

And third, the city reiterated the demand made in a law passed by the Taichung City Council pushed by Mayor Lin himself to reduce emissions by 40% in total by 2020.

Taipower responded by warning that could reduce Taichung’s power supply by 10%, which could put Taichung’s and the national government’s industrial expansion plans and related job growth in jeopardy--including a massive TSMC expansion underway.

However, instead of simply overruling the local authorities as usual, after some grumbling the national economics ministry announced plans to massively ramp up plans to cover reservoirs and other water installations with solar panels to help alleviate the shortfall--though it would still be a drop in the bucket.

Pollution and Politics Totally Dominate Local News
Taichung local news has talked of virtually nothing--outside of some restaurant news of course--but the pollution issue and related politics.

After gaining considerable traction in the polls against the mayor by portraying him as weak on the issue, this move set off a KMT storm of attacks.

Most significantly, they took aim at his 24% reduction numbers, with one KMT mayoral candidate Johnny Chiang Chi-cheng pointing out that the 5 million tons of coal reduction from permitted consumption was at odds with the actual consumption of the plant, which averaged under 18 million tons in the last three years, yielding only a 2 million ton reduction in practice.

Mayor Lin shot back that they were playing with semantics between “actual” and “permitted” usage, and noted that he had already gotten them to reduce usage to under 18 million tons since he took office.


Politics also entered into the fray regarding a major anti-pollution march scheduled for December 17th at the Taichung City Hall.

The KMT announced en masse they would be supporting and marching with the protestors.

The mayor hit back however, saying that he agreed with the aims of the protesters and called on the public to join in and support the march--but criticized the KMT for using the march for their own electoral gain.

He also slammed the KMT over past policies, saying “the perpetrators now acting the victims, how ironic”.
I met up with Donovan earlier this week and we had a good laugh about the Celestial Dragon Kingdom. The pollution issue suddenly exploded when pollution spilled over into Taipei (how dare it!) instead of remaining respectfully at a distance from the center of power.

Just want to remind the reader: Taichung is now the second most populous city in Taiwan. Its mayor might be presidential someday, especially if he is KMT. It turns out in Taoyuan the KMT is running the same princeling from the Wu family who lost the last election, and in Taipei, the Blues want Chiang Wan-an, a princeling of the Chiangs of yore. Ko Wen-je will likely win again and the Taipei will be ready for a DPP mayor. Meanwhile the princeling-heavy KMT will find it difficult to win with such individuals even in their home localities, and they have little national appeal. So any KMTer who can do well in central Taiwan might become a presidential hope, especially he wins the city and develops his own power base -- a hard blow to the DPP.

Pollution keeps striking me as the wrong issue, especially since the part the DPP can affect, the power supply, is responsible for only a tiny fraction of air pollution. This seems like a made-to-lose issue, unless the DPP has some incredible policy in the bag still unrevealed.

Like maybe getting the public to implement conservation?
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Saturday, December 02, 2017

Oh look... after decades of killing Taiwanese, suddenly the air pollution is a political issue

The huge new train stations in Taichung, completely lacking in human feel and individuality. They couldn't even use different color paints?

Yup. It's election time, and the DPP has announced its candidates... incumbents, for now.
The nine incumbents are: Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌), Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien (林智堅), Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), Changhua County Commissioner Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷), Yunlin County Commissioner Lee Chin-yung (李進勇), Chiayi Mayor Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), Pingtung County Commissioner Pan Men-an (潘孟安) and Penghu County Commissioner Chen Kuang-fu (陳光復).
Intense internal struggles for Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Yilan delayed the announcements of those candidates. The Penghu mayor is sinking in the polls, and I fear for Mayor Lin of Taichung...

Yup. It's election time, and the DPP is making a coordinated assault on air pollution, with all the sanctimony of the newly-converted. After decades of deaths and illnesses from Taiwan's toxic air, suddenly pollution is an election issue, to be forgotten the following day, of course, unless the DPP needs to relax regulations to please big business small business owners.

Sorry. Just a bit cynical today watching our Republican Congress loot the future of the United States. I think in the coming years my sole enjoyment in international politics will be watching all those yammerheads in other countries who wanted to see the US giant fall complaining about Chinese influence and pining for the good old days of US imperialism....

Meanwhile, in Kaohsiung, the government is handing out free metro rides in a bid to reduce pollution...
The number of passengers who took the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) during morning peak hours rose more than 10 percent yesterday, the first day the city provided free public transport in an effort to combat air pollution, data released by Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp showed.
The K-town EPA is running the program til Feb 28. This time of year the air quality is awful in central and southern Taiwan.

In central Taiwan, the battle of Taiwan's second largest city is being fought over pollution. After years of doing and saying nothing about the incredible pollution in central Taiwan's air, suddenly it's an issue for both parties:
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers and environmentalists yesterday called on the Taichung City Government to revoke the coal-use permits it has awarded the Taichung Power Plant, which they said is the “dirtiest power plant in the world.”

KMT legislators representing electoral districts in Taichung, andYunlin, Changhua and Nantou counties called a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei to address the permit extension issue.
Since the leading KMT voices in this charge, Johnny Chiang and Lu Hsiu-yen, are gunning for the Taichung mayoral candidate position for the KMT, the political manipulation is obvious. Sadly, we won't get real change. The hypocrisy is breathtaking -- we have these crappy coal fired plants because for years the KMT controlled Taipower did nothing to implement renewables.

Environmental Protection Agency Minister Lee Ying-yuan said he would step down without a 20% reduction in air pollution by May 20. Haha. That means he will step down in May, in time to be a candidate in the November election. LOL.

How much effect will the cuts in coal consumption at the Taichung plant have? From a discussion of the issues surrounding the distribution of monies for pollution:
In Taiwan’s case, one third of air pollution comes from mobile sources, such as automobiles and motorcycles, and one third from stationery sources and industrial facilities, Lai said, adding that thermal power plants only account for 2.9 percent of Taiwan’s pollution.
What's really happening is shown by the air pollution data collected by Airvisual App. Here is some data from today:

Note the purple boxes. The '12 pm' is mislabeled, should be 12 am. The purple box shows the air pollution in the wee hours of the morning, with type of pollution in gray at the bottom (example: the second chart is SO2, sulfur dioxide). You can see that in the early morning the pollution spikes, I suspect as factories dump their emissions into the air to avoid daytime emissions that attract EPA attention.

So no, this pollution issue is purely cynical politics by both sides. No real enforcement will take place, because nobody wants to put any restraints on the great capitalist machine that is spitting out jobs and tax revenues, even as it eats the future of the island and the world. As a special bonus, many of those factories are illegal factories in residential areas and on agricultural land. Once, many years ago, I was asked by a state official in a midwestern state whether they could get small factory districts like Taiwan going in their state. I laughed and explained that the whole system runs on illegality, which the textbooks don't discuss...

It also means that the DPP has put itself as a disadvantage in the close battleground areas of central Taiwan, since it is the incumbent and the pollution cannot be meaningfully reduced in such a short time. Plausibly DPP Mayor Lin can claim progress, but the KMT will laugh, and voters sneer, especially with Nov PMI at a six year high. It never ceases to amaze me that voters live in the crap left behind by KMT policies but never make the KMT suffer for it...

Well, as a cyclist, election time is my favorite time. Not only are there lots of pretty posters to photograph, but the local governments are busily repaving the roads. Lots of lovely new tarmac out there next year....
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