Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Paper on Parade: Irrigation Water Theft, Fertilizer Fraud, the good old days.

A sentry stands guard at the old rail bridge on the bike path outside Fengyuan

The Taipei Times ran a report the other day on rising irrigation water theft driven by water rationing...
Due to the shortage, a scheme has been introduced in which farmers are supplied with irrigation water for seven consecutive days, but do not have water for the next seven days. As the first rice harvest season is about to end, irrigation water would be supplied for the last time on June 4.

The association on May 1 set up a team to patrol its irrigation sources. The team reported more than 400 cases of water theft this month in which some farmers allegedly stole water by inserting additional tubes in the middle of irrigation waterways, an anonymous association member said.

The association tends to warn people stealing water, instead of calling the police, unless they are really hostile, the member said.

The water thefts often occur in the northbound and southbound waterways flanking Wushantou Reservoir (烏山頭水庫), with the northbound waterway reaching Chiayi County’s Puzih City (朴子) and the southbound one reaching Tainan’s Sinhua District (新化), the member added.
Irrigation water theft is old in Taiwan, of course, as old as irrigation. In Bernard Gallin's 1983 work Guests in the Dragon, on the social demography of a "Chinese" rural district in Taiwan, he remarks briefly on the routine theft of irrigation water by local residents in the Japanese era (it's a reminder of how much things have changed that as late as 1987 Hill Gates called her book on Taiwanese working class people Chinese Working-class Lives: Getting by in Taiwan. In those days you had to call Taiwan "China", now that language has largely disappeared).

Theft reminded me of fraud, which brought to mind this paper I had read the other day, "The Peasants’ Dilemma: Finance and Fraud Problems in Purchasing Fertilizer in Taiwan (1910–1930s)" by Kensuke Hirai in Economic Activities Under the Japanese Colonial Empire pp 115-136 (it's a translation). So I thought I'd offer another installment of my regularly irregular Paper on Parade series on this paper.

Like so many habits and practices, fertilizer use was brought to Taiwan by the Japanese. The paper observes:
In Taiwan during the late Qing dynasty, as a report from the British consul in the 1860s noted, peasants were not in the habit of purchasing fertilizers (Irsh University Area Studies Series 1971–72, p. 73). The amount of bean cake imported to Taiwan recorded in Maritime Customs statistics supports the claims of the British consul. The first time bean cake appeared in the Maritime Customs statistics was in 1880 and only a mere 270 piculs was imported. Although the import volume increased in the 1890s, it never exceeded 2000–4000 piculs (Huang, Lin and Wong 1997).
To get peasants to use fertilizers, the Japanese colonial government organized farmer's associations and promoted its use among them. Though science said fertilizers worked, the peasants were distrustful because the farmers associations played the dual role of police state enforcement organizations which were response for using the police to control farming villages. Eventually the government hit on the idea of using the baojia system, which the Japanese had reinvigorated and reorganized, to transmit fertilizer information downward to the peasantry. The author notes:
The fertilizer most commonly used for rice cultivation was bean cake, which was imported from the northeastern part of China. Figure 5.1 shows the amount of fertilizer imported into Taiwan. Imports started at 10,570 piculs in 1903 and rapidly increased after 1909, reaching 1,000,000 piculs in 1916 and 1,800,000 piculs in 1920. Later, imports fell drastically in 1921 in the recession after World War I, but increased rapidly again in the latter half of the 1920s and exceeded 3,000,000 piculs in 1931.
The fertilizer was initially sold by big Japanese firms who had the financial muscle to bring in high volumes, but later Taiwanese merchants entered the fray as imports became more diverse. The peasants suffered from the problem of financing the purchase of fertilizers, but they also suffered from another problem: fraud. The author writes:
The second problem in the purchase of fertilizers was the issue of fraud. It seems that the first mention of fertilizer fraud in Taiwan was in 1921 (TNK 1921, pp. 6–10). The fertilizer trade was characterized by an asymmetric balance of information . Since “it was hard for even specialists to distinguish between good and bad fertilizers (TNK 1921, p. 10),” the possibilities for fraud in the form of defective or adulterated products were high and the players “did not stop with manufacturers and suppliers but extended to amateurs secretly engaged in deception (TNK 1923, p. 13).” Furthermore, since there was no fertilizer inspection agency for the private sector in Taiwan, peasants and merchants had difficulties in assessing the quality of fertilizers that they were planning to buy (TS 1927, p. 31). Thus, there were many importers who “gained profits by secretly carrying domestically- and internationally-rejected and substandard products onto the island (TNK 1927, p. 6),” and those vendors on the island who bought from them were “only trading fertilizers conventionally, most lacking the skills to judge the quality of fertilizers, and they eventually sold them to peasants unaware that they had been tricked by unscrupulous merchants (TS 1927,p. 33).” It was, therefore, vital for the peasants to reduce this type of asymmetric information.
The government responded to the pervasive fraud problem with the Fertilizer Control Act of 1927 which stipulated that vendors had to attach a guarantee to the product and provided for inspections and punishment of fraud. Though the fraud rate fell, showing it had an effect, fraud continued to exist, meaning that the system failed to resolve the problem.

The peasants attacked the problems of financing and fraud through a joint purchasing system.
The next consideration is the problem of guaranteeing the quality of the fertilizer and avoiding fraud. The agricultural associations checked the quality of fertilizers they purchased by conducting inspection . The agricultural associations set standards for successful bidders, stipulating that water content was less than 20% for bean cake, that there was more than 19% soluble phosphoric acid for superphosphate, and equal amounts of bean cake and superphosphate for compound fertilizers (TSN 1921, p. 44). Moreover, since the agricultural association conducted joint purchasing to promote the use of fertilizers, there was no incentive for the agricultural association to commit fraud. Therefore, the peasants’ costs of searching for reliable information on the quality of the fertilizer were nearly zero when they used joint purchasing. This is shown in the rate of use of joint purchasing. Figure 5.3 shows where peasants obtained their fertilizer for rice cultivation. The figure demonstrates that peasants purchased fertilizer mainly by joint purchasing and the percentage of fertilizer obtained from joint purchasing (joint purchasing usage rate) was about 70 % until 1927. As mentioned above, joint purchasing prices exceeded wholesale prices during this period. So it would seem that peasants were mainly concerned with the fertilizer quality.
The situation grew complicated after WWI when speculation become common in the rice market and  fertilizer merchants often acted as moneylenders. Many moneylenders lost money speculating on rice prices and couldn't make rice deliveries to the export merchants who had advanced them funds to purchase rice for export. The association of export merchants than restricted funds to moneylenders. Thus choked, the moneylenders couldn't find funds to lend to peasants. After the 1930s the industrial associations set up financial systems that also squeezed moneylenders since they offered better rates for loans to peasants.

To combat this, the moneylenders offered fertilizer in exchange for unhulled rice. Fertilizer would be "lent" in advance and repaid with unhulled rice after the harvest. The moneylenders also loaned rice for consumption for repayment with unhulled rice.

Because competition was fierce, the moneylenders did not cheat the peasants in either loan rates for fertilizer quality. To obtain good quality unhulled rice to forward to exporters and processors, the moneylenders had to provide good quality fertilizer. Most peasants trusted this system and made use of it, according to the writer.

From the point of view of Taiwan's future industrial and agricultural history, this system was the breeding ground for a peasantry with skills in financing, borrowing and repaying, exports, and other advanced economic behaviors, as well as the formation of local networks of trust and government-led associations. After the land reform of the early 1950s, many of these farmers would go on to build small factories on their land and enter global supply chains and export markets, supplying big Japanese firms (some of them firms such as Mitsui which had originally entered Taiwan's fertilizer market in the early twentieth century) for assembly for the US export market, and later directly to the US.
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Gutmann on Xinjiang: Is this what's in store for Taiwan when China comes over?

Gutmann has for years been working on CCP organ harvesting from political prisoners. He made this talk last month but for some reason it only popped up in my feed yesterday. I am putting it here because the Chinese occupation of Taiwan is going to be Xinjiang Lite. Recall that a skeleton of the infrastructure of authoritarianism still exists all over Taiwan -- from the schools that still have classes with class leaders and micromanaged, centralized control from the MoE, to the military bases in almost every community that could be used as emergency re-education camps, to massive internet surveillance already and widespread use of China-made mobile phone tech to cameras on many street corners.... it would not be hard for a Chinese occupation force to breath new life into that system. Taiwan is an island, easy to cut off from the outside world...


Ethan Gutmann’s remarks at the Westminster Roundtable. April 17, 2018.
(Special thanks to Rukiye Turdush and Becky James)

Back at the Roundtable in mid-December 2017, I examined the allegation that Beijing was ending the practice of harvesting political and religious dissidents for their organs. I argued it was logical for the Chinese Communist Party to do so, and their rhetoric has certainly followed that logic – and yet, China’s transplant volume has held steady. Even if we believed the Chinese voluntary donation numbers, they could not come close to filling China’s output. I also spoke of the Chinese effort to gather blood and DNA from every Uyghur in Xinjiang – tests that could be exploited for tissue matching.

What has happened in the new year?

The blood testing of 17 million Uyghurs is complete. And the Vatican is edging toward a historic rapprochement with Beijing. In the words of Bishop Sorondo: “the Church, the United Nations, and the people of the earth must follow the evolution of a country with a population of 1,300 million and 31 million Christians” – China, it seems, is the “protagonist of the new world scenario that is passing from the Atlantic to the Pacific…”

In other words, it doesn’t matter what Beijing is doing now – such as demolishing churches – and it doesn’t matter if the Party has committed mass murder. In essence, the Vatican wants to run with the big dogs and Beijing wants a papal dispensation.

Both parties may need one. Because there is a new development since we last spoke: Uyghur mass incarceration.

There are Falun Gong practitioners in this room today who know something about incarceration. And that’s the point: China’s public security bureau, the PSB, have exploited both Uyghurs and Falun Gong as experimental subjects.

Not only live organ extraction, but the harvesting of prisoners of conscience began with the Uyghurs in the mid-1990s; the procedure was perfected and put into mass production with Falun Gong. In 2001, the PSB created a mass-media pretext for murdering Falun Gong with the stage-managed immolation in Tiananmen. Thirteen years later, it was Uyghur “terrorists” in the Kunming station. The facts are murky, yet there was a reason why every Western media outlet used quotation marks around the term “terrorists” – until CNN caved to Beijing’s pressure. About five years ago, the PSB began DNA home-testing practitioners; now they’ve sampled the entire Uyghur population. Beijing created China’s Big Brother web to catch Falun Gong; yet predictive policing using big data analysis – that is, true total surveillance – blossomed in the deserts of Xinjiang.

For the years 2000 to 2008, I postulated that 450,000 to a million Falun Gong were incarcerated in the Laogai System at any given time. Now, the Congressional Executive Commission on China has confirmed that half a million to a million Uyghurs are presently incarcerated in “re-education” camps, or “transformation” facilities – and practitioner refugees understand the full implications of that word.

How do we come up with this number? It’s pieced together from Chinese sources. Beijing estimates that there are only 12 million Uyghurs (not 17 million, the Uyghur estimate) and according to Radio Free Asia and AP, the local PSBs tend to brag about their arrests: 10% of the Uyghur northern population is incarcerated, 40% in Hotan, 10% in Kashgar. Easy enough to get to a million, although let’s acknowledge the uncertainties; these may be “revolving door” numbers with “sentences” ranging from a single weekend to 20 years. It won’t be cleared up soon. With the arrest of the Globe and Mail’s Nathan Vanderklippe, Western journalists have generally avoided the trek out to Xinjiang. So under conditions of an Internet black-out, the academic, political, and intelligence community believe – as do I – that these are the best numbers that we can get.

The tragedy lies behind these numbers. Every township has a story: In Bullaqsu, there are “hardly any males to be seen.” The pretext was an incident four years ago where police removed two women’s headscarves. About 200 Uyghurs stopped the police from arresting the women. So the PSB multiplied that number by four, and threw all the males in a camp.

Or take just one of the deaths in detention. An 87-year-old man was held for a year, with continuous sound torture using a specifically designed helmet – along with sleep and water deprivation. The PSB released him and he died. Immediately. Anyone familiar with my book, The Slaughter, or indeed many of the accounts on will know the pattern. Release to the home community at the point of death – “kill the chicken to scare the monkey”

And the humiliations: Mosques patrolled. Then shut down. Then destroyed. Suppressing public displays of Muslim prayer. Then the compulsory patriotic songs. Then imams forced to perform the “Little Apple” dance. College students forced to eat during Ramadan. Uyghur prisoners forced to drink alcohol and eat pork – specifically, the pig’s head, feet, and guts.

The oft-imagined world of Islamophobia is the real-life world of the Uyghurs. And any practitioner who had to step on a poster of Teacher Li Hongzhi just to pay a visit to a loved one in the Dragon Mountain labor camp will know that this gratuitous humiliation – the rape of human dignity – may be the worst torture of all.

So if the British Foreign Office is listening: The time for questions about organ harvesting and the reasons for the persecution – that’s done. Because it is already starting over again.

Congress and the European Parliament have openly condemned Beijing for the organ harvesting prisoners of conscience, so you don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Nor do you need the big dogs or “the new world scenario.” You need to run with your allies, and publicly, explicitly, condemn Beijing.

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Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan Press Freedom Committee on WHO Exclusion

A solarized school. Wish they'd do that to all public buildings...

In mid-May the UN excluded Taiwanese journalists from attending the meeting of the World Health Assembly, which overseas the WHO (FocusTaiwan). Many international organizations and individuals spoke out in support of Taiwan. This week the Press Freedom Committee of the  Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan sent around this statement of support:
Press Freedom Committee Statement on Taiwanese Journalists, WHO

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan's Press Freedom Committee objects to the World Health Organization's decision to deny Taiwanese Journalists press accreditation to cover the World Health Assembly, which started May 21.

Although Taiwan is not a member state of the WHO, its journalists had been allowed to attend and report on the annual meeting prior to 2017. Denial of their accreditation is an infringement on press freedom. Accurate health reporting is critical to a safe and informed citizenry and health crises do not stop at political borders. We therefore call on the WHO to resume issuing press credentials to Taiwanese journalists because no journalist should be barred from reporting solely because of their nationality.

Freedom of Press Committee
One of many insults from China....
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Monday, May 28, 2018

New Book: Lord of Formosa

Lord of Formosa
Joyce Bergvelt
Available from Camphor Press

Last month Camphor formally launched its latest offering in an increasingly diverse and interesting library of books about Taiwan, Lord of Formosa. Bradley Winterton, the sturdy book reviewer for the Taipei Times, described it:
Chinese war junks with crimson sails, diets said to influence the sex of a child and match-makers with painted white faces and red cheeks: Lord of Formosa, which centers on the life of the 17th century warrior and Ming Dynasty loyalist Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功, also known as Koxinga), is crammed with these details. I had no idea his life was going to be so fascinating.
Set in the 17th century, the book tells the story of Koxinga, who conquered southern Taiwan and established a pirate state on the island. There's a video introduction on Youtube and a Goodreads page. The author is on Goodreads here introducing herself and taking questions.

The book itself is a great story, but just as great is the story of how the author came to write it. She's interviewed on Bookish Asia:
The answer to that goes back to 1983, when I arrived in Taiwan with my parents in my teens. It was then that I learnt that Taiwan had once been a Dutch colony. This intrigued me. I read about Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong), but information on the Dutch, who they were and what they were doing on Taiwan was limited. When I had to decide on a subject for my academic dissertation for my Chinese Studies degree at Durham University (UK), I didn’t have to think very hard. My final dissertation had the title: ‘The Battle of Taiwan: Taiwan under the Occupation of the Dutch and their Expulsion by Koxinga.’ Not a very catchy title.

It was all factual, of course, but I wrote it in chapters, alternating between Koxinga’s story and that of the Dutch, leading up to the final climax of the siege. My history professor gave me a good assessment; he even told me that it read ‘like an exciting novel.’
The author is also interviewed here.

The prose is accessible and lively and the book is full of wonderful nuggets of history and minutely informed by the author's deep historical knowledge:
THE size of the armed Black Guard that escorted Zheng Sen back to his home in Fujian was significant. Years ago, his father had explained to him why he preferred these men over his own countrymen for his personal army. From bitter experience, his father had learned not to trust anyone, not even his own brothers, and found that employing these hardened, foreign soldiers had its advantages. The Black Guard consisted of a motley crew of Africans and Moluccans from the East Indies, most of them mercenaries and former slaves of the Dutch. Recruited as strangers from other lands, they played no part in the intrigues that were rife among his Chinese officers or even his own family, all of whom had their own agendas. These people had no history of conflict or loyalty to any particular Chinese lord. The only loyalty they felt was to the wages he paid them.
Not many people know that Koxinga was attended by a unit of freed slaves. For the history alone this book is worth it.

I won't spoil it for you, but I am enjoying it very much, both as a Taiwan history buff and as a reader of good stories (that moment when the messengers arrive with news of his father's death. And a whole lotta something else...). Someone will certainly make a great movie out of it.

Buy it, Camphor has it in both e-book and printed formats. Well worth their affordable price.
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Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Unbearable Rightness of being the Economist... and Politico *sigh*

The Tanzih Train station. Hopelessly and inhumanly huge and poorly designed, in the morning when it is crowded the crappy chairs are flooded with sunlight because the roof is too small. No solar panels were installed to defray the cost of running the escalators all the time, of course. Nothing but wasted space. *sigh*
"Lenin wrote, “When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie with each other for the rope contract.” —Major George Racey Jordan."
Ah, the Economist. Nothing slanted here! Describing her recent live interview with the public, the Economist observed:
Ms Tsai badly needs to restate her case to the people. In two years her approval ratings have slumped from almost 70% to as low as 26%, according to a broadcaster, TVBS; the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation says 48% of her compatriots disapprove of her performance, against 39% in favour. She has lost ground especially with the young, whom she has eagerly courted.
Yes, Saint Ing-wen, Our Lady of Perpetually Slumping Approval, is always perpetually slumping to... right around the low 30s/high 20s. Presentations like this are the truth but only in the most technical sense: yes, Tsai's approval was 70% once and is now 26%. Tsai's approval ratings fell to low 30s in Sept of 2016, and have remained there. They haven't slumped, but orbited in this range most of the time for the last 18 months. This is entirely normal, as I noted in a piece at Taiwan News. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether the Economist lied by not providing that context.

In addition to the misrepresentation of Tsai's perpetually slumping approval ratings, the Economist misrepresents in another way: what was Ma's approval rate at this time (it had fallen to below 30% by Sept of the first year of his first term, even worse than Tsai -- but then the Economist loved Ma). By omitting comparisons, the Economist denies the reader the opportunity to contextualize the information. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether the Economist lied by not providing that context.

I'm getting tired of this misleading reporting, but as long as the Economist remains committed to appearing to support the party that murdered 10 million people in China and Taiwan, we'll see more misleading constructions of this nature. Sad, but our media worships power, not truth...

Speaking of worshiping power, how about that Politico? Yes, Politico has made a "content partnership" with SCMP, which is not exactly scrupulously balanced in its reporting with respect to China. The first fruit of this unholy union was out this week:
Mainland Chinese media names and shames foreign airlines that refuse to comply with ‘Orwellian’ Taiwan demands
The content is imported directly from SCMP without any editing for reality...

Another media organ sells out... in WaPo Isaac Stone Fish wrote on the SCMP-Politico deal. The irony is thick... WaPo has a deal with China Daily, a CCP state organ.

Scott Simon looks at Air Canada's surrender to China in a longer piece.
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Donovan: Froze, the Turtonator and Me on Ko P

My friend Dom took this picture of me, which I really love because it is with a good friend whom I have known for several years. He lives at the police station near Tai-An station, and I always stop in to see him when I am in the neighborhood.

So I took Donovan's whole response to me post the other day and put it on my blog. How will Ko P do? Donovan is more optimistic about his prospects for a win in Taipei. Go to READ MORE to read more, it's a long one. I will wait til the DPP comes out with its own candidate before I update.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Frozen Garlic and Donovan Smith on Local elections, K-town and Taipei

George and Mary's. It's for sale!

Long post ahead, so let's get Kaohsiung out of the way. Frozen Garlic has a superb post on it.
I don’t know if Han’s message will work. I suspect it will not. If it doesn’t, he doesn’t have the deep organizational networks to overcome the lack of a compelling message. It’s entirely possible that more conventional KMT city council candidates will panic and encourage a more standard politician to run an independent mayoral campaign, worrying that their voters will not want to turn out to vote for a mayoral candidate like Han. However, if Han somehow manages to break into the low 40s, KMT presidential and legislative candidates (in green districts) in 2020 might decide to copy his populist approach. It’s worth keeping an eye on.
It's a really thought provoking post. My own view is that Han's populist approach won't work very well because Taiwanese are not as dumb as Americans. I think he will appeal to disaffected over-50 types, and that's all. The young know perfectly well that the political economy of Taiwan is responsible for their problems, and their problems are structural. Han's alleged underworld connections mark him as an old school politician younger voters won't like....

On to Taipei after the READ MORE break.

On at Americans Citizen for Taiwan with first piece

Dragonfruit farm.

Very happy to announce that I have come aboard as staff writer at American Citizens for Taiwan. My first piece for them on their new site is now out: A Tough Month for Taiwan: What Can We Do?. I'm taking a slightly different tack than my usual stuff here on the blog.

Many thanks to the staff and supporters of ACT for this great opportunity and for their generosity in giving it to me.
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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Taipei Mayor Race Heats Up

Betel nut flavorings.

It's official: the DPP is running its own candidate in Taipei. That means there will be three candidates: current mayor Ko Wen-je, KMT retread Ting Shou-chung who has run for mayor several times before (Taiwan News has a bio), and whoever the DPP runs. Nathan Batto at Frozen Garlic opines:
I’ve consistently underestimated Ko Wen-je over the past five years. I may be doing so again, but this looks like the beginning of the end for him to me. I expect the DPP to start attacking him, and these attacks will take their toll on his popularity. Right now the DPP is in third place in the race, but if they can knock Ko down to third place, strategic voting will eviscerate him. Right now, my guess is that he will end up between 10% and 15%, far behind the KMT and DPP candidates.
The whole thing is excellent and this conclusion is quite interesting. Batto thinks Ko could be presidential if he can pick up support from an existing party, something Ko himself has observed. I am skeptical that any party will want to support Ko Wen-je for president -- the KMT will never do so, and the DPP already many politicians interested in the job. The NPP's Huang Kuo-chang is said to harbor presidential ambitions, and the PFP is a fading power. Who will back Ko?

The DPP wants to run a candidate because the DPP city councilors are nervous that if the party does not run a candidate, they won't have someone to push votes in their direction, and will lose their seats.

This puts the DPP in a bind. It could stick with one of the two current candidates, former Veep Annette Lu and longtime Taipei mayor aspirant Pasuya Yao. Both are weak candidates who do not attract much support, won't boost the turnout for the DPP, and won't help the DPP councilpeople. However, they will not threaten Ko so much that he will lose the race to the KMT's Ting, producing the gross failure of a KMT mayor back in Taipei.

A few posts ago I put up some aggregate polls that showed that if the DPP ran a weak candidate, it drew support from Ting, probably because protests votes from DPPers for Ting returned to the DPP. The DPP could chose to run a weak candidate and protect Ko anyway.

Or, the DPP could run one of the two hugely popular candidates it has on ice, current Premier William Lai, late of Tainan and often seen as presidential material, and former Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, probably the most popular politician in Taiwan. At present she is secretary-general to the President. Chen Chu has indicated that she is reluctant to take up the baton, but would do so if ordered.

Vote proportion? In 1994, the DPP grabbed 43% of the vote. In 1998, 45%. In 2002, 35%. In 2006, 40%. In 2010, 43%. The DPP's likely best performance falls between 40 and 45% of the vote. By contrast, the total Blue vote has always fallen between 50 and 55%, except in 2002 when the DPP fielded a locally unknown candidate, and in 2014 when the KMT decided to commit suicide and run Sean Lien.

Running a powerful and popular candidate would increase DPP turnout. But, it would then become a three-way race in which Ting might well slink into office. Ko is popular among the young, a key DPP constituency, which does not like the KMT much. Ko the spoiler appears to impact the DPP more than the KMT.

It is hard for this writer to see how Ko can poach votes from the KMT -- Ting has served the KMT and Taipei city for decades, and is acceptable to all KMT groups from old soldiers to the wealthy. He might not get people excited, but they will vote for him dutifully, especially if it means removing Ko, whom all KMTers correctly understand is pro-Taiwan.

And the DPP already trails the KMT in likely voter turnout, even at its peak. Taipei's demographics are changing, but not that fast. Running a strong candidate will likely hand Taipei to Ting and the KMT.

(The stupidity of the DPP's attacks on Ko over the "we are all one family" remarks is that everyone in the KMT knows he is pan-Green and won't shift support to him. What are DPPers thinking? Well, read this attack on him in TT.)

Ting Shou-chung has been running for mayor for over twenty years, failing each time. Last time around he lost the candidacy to Lien Chan's son Sean Lien. The backstory to that was that Lien Chan had been Ting's teacher at NTU and so many traditionalists felt Ting's attacks on Sean Lien were a betrayal.

Ting is not a scion of mainlander elites but the son of an old soldier, which means he has that vote locked down. A longtime KMT who has toiled in the party trenches, he has held many positions in the party and government. He helped institute the Party's polling apparatus in the 1990s so it could develop credible internal polls. He has long been in Taipei. However, he is a lackluster candidate from the previous generation, who lacks a national following like Ko.

Why is the KMT running a lackluster candidate in Taipei, a key symbolic city? Two reasons. One, because they lack decent candidates. Look around -- where is there a KMT candidate untainted by dirt or defeat, with the right mainlander background, a strong local power base, and popular in Taiwan? Nada. Note that if they had such a candidate, they wouldn't put him in Taipei where they would just have to remove him again in 2020 to run him for the presidency.

The second reason is that Ting, as a lackluster, aged, retread candidate, will probably never be in position to run for president, leaving the 2020 candidacy to one of the KMT higher ups, perhaps a princeling like Hau Long-bin or the latest incarnation of the Chiang dynasty or even Taiwanese KMTer Wu Den-yi, who has long coveted the presidency. Ting is a very strategic candidate if your goal is to remove the mayor of Taipei as a potential competitor for the presidency at some point in the future.

What will happen? Your guess is probably better than mine...
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ma gets four months

At the hospital, there is a button for hot water and two buttons for warm. Because cold water is bad for you....

Former Taiwan Special Administrative Region Chief Adminstrator President Ma Ying-jeou was finally sentenced today for four months in prison. Bloomberg:
Taiwan’s High Court on Tuesday found Ma, 67, guilty of violating the Communication Security and Surveillance Act, according to Lin Ruey-bin, high court division chief judge. Ma had been found not guilty of the charges by a Taipei district court last year, a verdict prosecutors appealed. Ma said he would appeal Tuesday’s decision in a statement released by his office after the verdict.

Ma could also avoid time in jail by paying a NT$120,000 ($4,000) fine, pending approval from prosecutors.
Note that Ma can easily avoid jail time. Fines are there so people with money can avoid the plebian indignity of jail. However, I expect Ma to win on appeal -- he is the System's fair-haired boy, after all.

This mess stemmed from Ma's decision to leak information from an ongoing case to use against KMT heavyweight and political rival Wang Jin-pying (my old post on the political effects and on the leak). The prosecutor in that case was later indicted and convicted for leaking the information from the wiretap to Ma.

There's some talk that this is a political prosecution and its bad for democracy. Neither of these is true. I addressed this ages ago in a Taiwan News commentary when the case first broke last year. It's worth reposting excerpts here:

Is this indictment some kind of pan-Green revenge? Hardly. This case began in September of 2013. By December of that SID Chief Huang was indicted for his role in the case. For the last few years knowledgeable observers have speculated that Ma sooner or later would come under prosecutorial scrutiny for making the wiretaps public. Moreover, SID Chief Huang was investigated, indicted, and convicted when the Administration was Blue. This case did not suddenly appear under the Tsai Administration.

Moreover, no cascade of indictments has come down on the KMT in connection with this or any other case to match that of the KMT against the DPP. The focus on Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui blinds observers to the all-important context: the opening year of the first Ma Administration saw indictments against an array of pan-Green politicians, including Annette Lu, Su Chih-fen, Ma Yung-cheng, and Yu Cheng-hsien, and in consecutive days in October of 2008, James Lee, Chen Ming-wen, Wang Ting-yu, and Chiou I-jen. Presidents Chen and Lee were merely the most notable victims.

There is no comparable context here. If there were, Sean Lien, Lien Chan, Alex Tsai, Eric Chu, Jason Hsu, Hung Hsiu-chu, and Wu Po-hsiung would all be under indictment, with indictments expected against more individual KMT politicians momentarily.

Another missing context is authoritarianism: it was always KMT policy during the Party-State era to indict DPP and tangwai politicians routinely, to intimidate and control them. Even today a few DPP politicians have outstanding but dormant indictments against them. Neither of the DPP administrations carried out a similar program of anti-democratic attacks on the opposition party.


and of course...


The Ma indictment is thus a step forward for Taiwan's democracy: an indictment of a previous president for a specific action, not merely for existing in opposition to the ruling party as were the previous cases. It represents prosecutors acting in a constitutionally and politically appropriate manner to check the Executive's apparent misuse of power. That is something to celebrate, not condemn.

Sadly, we can expect the international media to either misunderstand or ignore all this context, because pious worries about "democracy" make better copy than efforts to convey the complexities of the case to global and local audiences. Thus, an important opportunity to explain and to validate Taiwan's democracy for audiences within and without Taiwan will be lost in what is essentially an exercise of cynicism presented as wisdom. Much of this discourse is driven by, at least to this writer's eye, a western cultural chauvinism that tacitly treats non-western democracies as always more fragile and inferior.

ADDED: Use brain please, folks. If this is a political prosecution, why is Ma able to avoid jail with a tiny fine?

This occurred because Ma publicly and spectacularly broke the law. He knew what he was doing, and gave the prosecutors no choice.

Had no prosecution occurred, that would have been obviously political, and the judicial authorities would have met with much criticism, especially since someone else had already been convicted in the case.
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Monday, May 14, 2018

The Hat Industry: Foundational

According to Google maps, near Laiji in Alishan an exotic people has taken root.

From The Taiwan hat industry: Pre-war roots of the post-war miracle
Taiwan's pre-war hat industry was a precursor of the export-oriented living-room factory industries which played a leading role in Taiwan's post-1960 economic miracle. After World War I, success in the global hat trade required quick reaction to ever-changing fashion. Taiwan's hat industry was based on a flexible subcontracting system which could respond quickly to fashion change and ramp up production at short notice. Taiwan's early hat industry has been overshadowed by its larger agricultural exporting industries, but the hat industry itself was, by many standards, large and influential. Evidence suggests that Taiwan's early experience in the hat trade was a key factor behind Taiwan's later post-war success.
The miracle years are long over, and flexible production is increasingly moving elsewhere....
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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Ko-DPP Negotiations: DPP Pressure forces Ko Apology *sigh*

Another field lost to developers

Mayor of Taipei Ko Wen-je, First of His Name, is angling for DPP support in the upcoming mayoral elections... first he has apologized for remarks he really never made. From TT:
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) apology for a controversial remark on cross-strait relations and his support for President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) re-election bid were yesterday met with a lukewarm response from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Ko on Tuesday said on a radio talk show that he supports Tsai running for re-election in 2020 and apologized for saying that the “two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family.”
Ko also said he couldn't run for president in 2020 since he doesn't have the support of a major party and it is crazy to imagine he could do so. Ko might be thinking of the presidency, but he has to mend fences with the DPP. Many of its members are imposing purist tests on Ko and are angry he isn't their kind of Green, at least publicly. But he has many times said he is green -- he couldn't win the young vote if he weren't -- and DPP members are showing a distressing lack of brains in criticizing him on that front.

The remarks that rankled were made at the Shanghai Forum in 2015.
Ko said that his stance on cross-strait relations and the forum can be summarized as “one family across the Strait” and four “reciprocal” actions: to know each other, to understand each other, to respect each other and to work with each other.
But as I noted at the time:
Ko said: “兩岸一家親” whose "family" meaning is a bit broader, more like "we're all relatives together". Ko did not say "兩岸一家" the straight up "(one household) family" that Beijing always uses. Ko reminds me of Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, who understood the importance of discourse and were always seeking ways to push it and rework it in a pro-Taiwan way. Now Ko has added a new and weaker form of "family" to the range acceptable discourse, widening it in baby steps. Ko is pro-independence, so it's not like we have anything to worry about anyway...
Still, Mayor Ko has made all the right moves, apparently signaling the DPP he wants DPP support. The DPP hasn't signaled back, though. The DPP city councillors all want the DPP to field its own candidate, IMHO a very short-sighted move. It doesn't seem like any current DPP candidate can beat Ko, so the DPP should support Ko and let Taipei experience another four years without a KMT mayor...

Let's hope reality stops the DPP from fielding its own candidate.

UPDATE: Several people have pointed out that Ko didn't really apologize, because he took nothing back. Technically true, but he's created the perception that he apologized, which is more important.
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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The KMT isn't rocking the boat. Surprise, surprise.

It's a fixer-upper

The rains arrived today, which was a good thing as this aerial view of the Tsengwen Reservoir, dry as a bone (Facebook link), shows.

One of the major media reported this on the KMT's election-time ritual of announcing that "the time is not ripe for unification" as if this were a new thing, driven by the KMT's currently desperate straits. For example, consider this piece by Ralph Cossa from 2008 on Ma Ying-jeou's promises which nails the reasons for this ritual:
Ma's first "no" actually reads, in full, "no negotiations for unification during my presidential term[s]." This serves several important purposes. It aims first to reassure those at home who fear that if Ma were elected, he would somehow "hand over Taiwan's sovereignty" to China.

Just as it has proven impossible for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to unilaterally make Taiwan officially "independent," absent support from the people and legislature, it would be equally impossible for Ma to officially and unilaterally turn Taiwan into a province of the PRC, even if he wanted to. Nonetheless, fears and accusations persist. Hence the domestic importance of the "no unification negotiations" pledge.
So the DPP must say it isn't going to rock the boat by suddenly declaring independence, so the KMT must also make noises saying that it isn't going to deliver the island to China. For Ma this took the language of no negotiations for annexation to China, which he repeated (for example) before the disastrous 2014 election.

Nor is this new for Wu. During a trip to China last Dec...
On Dec. 23, KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) gave a speech during a visit to a pro-unification cross-strait exchange association. When an association member shouted “peaceful unification”, Wu quickly told him not to bring up the issue, saying that the unification of Taiwan and China would occur naturally.

One might say that Wu is “naturally pro-unification.”

Wu later explained that the purpose of his remark was to emphasize that it is not necessary to bring up peaceful unification at the moment, but this is the kind of explanation that makes things even worse. He sounds more like his teacher, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who tried to attract votes before the presidential elections by saying that Taiwanese would be allowed to decide their future for themselves, only to actively lean toward unification with China after his election.
The Taipei Times editorial notes that Wu is more "moderate" in the sense he is not demanding UNIFICATION NOW like former KMT Chairman and spurned Presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (how I pine for those days). TT links this moderation to former President Ma Ying-jeou, and indeed, Wu is Ma's man. Ma understood that the KMT has to present itself as being local for the duration of elections -- even longtime Deep Blue Mainlanders like Lien Chan and James Soong had to kiss the soil of Taiwan and proclaim themselves Taiwanese for the 2004 election.

Thus, for the KMT, it is always the time "not to talk about reunification". That is some distant time in the future... remember Soong's 50 year peace treaty from the 2000 election? The KMT simply pushes the idea into the mirky future, so nobody has to think about it.

Although KMT Chair Wu Den-yih has been publicly equivocal about attending the CCP-KMT Leninist Party Kissfest in China, the KMT news organ says it is very likely. Wonder how that will affect his party's election chances. Recall that he has to go kiss Xi's ring to get the KMT presidential candidacy, and he yearns to be President.

Say, whatever happened to Wang Jin-pyng? I'll bet everyone has forgotten all about him.

The DPP is continuing to squeeze the KMT on all fronts. This week the irrigation associations were in the news again. Recall that the irrigation associations and farmer's cooperatives have long been important sources of local KMT power and key fonts of financial and political patronage for the KMT. The DPP has decided to vest authority over the associations in the central government (where they will be under DPP control) rather than among the local farmers (where they will be under KMT control).

Because the irrigation association heads will be civil servants, they can't serve in political party positions. Thus, several central standing committee members of the KMT must give up their party positions -- it is a measure of the power of these local cooperative associations that their heads either get them as patronage rewards or derive immense influence from controlling them. No one considers control of a local irrigation association beneath the dignity of a powerful member of the KMT. In fact, one of the most influential CSC members resigned from the KMT rather than give up his local power base, the report said.

Thus the DPP strikes a blow at the KMT. I'd like to report that the DPP was eliminating the clientelist state with its patronage networks from local politics, but it looks to me like it is merely re-orienting those networks on itself.
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Wednesday, May 02, 2018

In The National Interest Asking US Officials to Change the Way they Talk about Taiwan

A smoggy day in Taichung...

The National Interest published me today:
At present, searching U.S. State Department texts, it is nigh impossible to find a clear statement of the U.S. position on Taiwan. Washington officials respond to queries about U.S. Taiwan policy with a string of historical references: the Communiqués, the Taiwan Relations Act, the Six Assurances, peppered with words like “consistent” and “status quo.” Outsiders receiving this catechism are like medieval peasants hearing the Catholic mass in Latin: enthralled by the ceremony, but fundamentally lost.

If the United States wants to help Taiwan, one of the simplest and most effective ways would be for U.S. officials to clearly and consistently communicate that Washington views Taiwan’s status as undetermined, a position that reflects international law.
The media keeps getting this wrong...
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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Viewing Taiwan from the Beltway Bubble

Two bikes collide on the bike path, resulting in serious injuries. 

Scott Kastner has a solid piece in WaPo -- he even gets US policy on Taiwan correct -- good until point 5:
A final point is that Taiwan itself benefits from a stable U.S.-China relationship. As I argue in a recent International Security article, good U.S.-China relations give Beijing a stake in a stable status quo. Even if the United States were to stay out of a cross-Strait military conflict, such a conflict would be disastrous for the U.S.-China relationship. Good relations with Washington, then, give Beijing more to lose by initiating war in the Taiwan Strait — and that’s a good thing for Taiwan.
The problem here is that Kastner has a hidden assumption that governs his thinking: that Washington will guide Beijing's behavior in the status quo by rewarding it when it behaves and punishing it when it doesn't. That is wrong: for Beijing the SQ is meaningless because Washington never punishes Beijing. Whenever it might contemplate punishment, a whole chorus of Beijing shills and Explainers howls that Washington is disrupting stability and hurting the US-China relationship. (To understand their thinking, just delete "US" and "relationship" from that phrase, and consider that the majority of these people gain access, status, and money from their China relationships. That is why so many of these people are upset with Trump Administration China policy.)

A "stake in the SQ" is only possible when there is some risk of it disappearing. Otherwise the SQ is merely a recurring gift from Washington to Beijing.

There's a word for that: tribute.

IR thinkers join this chorus because for so many of them, "stability" and "US national interest" are coterminous. It seems like a generation has forgotten that "stability" is a means to an end, not the end in itself. This lesson has not been forgotten in Beijing.

Practically, this means that stability benefits Beijing, not Washington. Under cover of "stability" Beijing then has opportunity to poach tech (with no punishment), build military (with no punishment), grab the South China Sea and threaten US allies Manila and Tokyo (with no punishment), and suppress Taiwan (with no punishment).

Indeed, because "stability" is the end, Beijing in practice has enormous leverage over the US. It knows that if it ramps up tensions and makes loud grumbles, the US will sacrifice Taiwan (and Phils and possibly even Japan, never mentioned in analyses of Taiwan-US relations) for "better" relations. Hence, "stability" lacks many of the benefits for Taiwan that Kastner argues it does, because maintaining it gives Washington the incentive to ignore or suppress Taiwan, while making Taiwan look like it is the provocative threat to regional "stability".

Even worse, from they way people like Kastner write, it is obvious that they think maintaining a stable relationship with Washington is its own reward. This existential assumption about the nature of international reality undergirds the Beltway Cosmology. With China rapidly becoming the world's dominant trading nation, this assumption is as obsolete as Ptolemaic astronomy.

Because stability is the goal, the US is constantly being called upon, not only by the China Explainer crowd, but by IR thinkers, to reduce its freedom of action and leverage over Beijing to maintain "stability".

A "stability" that, for Beijing, is just a temporary means to its end of overturning the current order and replacing the US.
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