Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday shorts

Lots of stuff to comment on...

The Washington Times ran a story on the latest call for war by the Global Times, a Communist Party paper in China.....
The lead article the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times on Tuesday contained an alarming call for a declaration of war against Vietnam and Philippines, two nations that in recent weeks launched the loudest protests against China’s sweeping maritime sovereignty claims over the South China Sea.

Headlined “The Time to Use Force Has Arrived in the South China Sea; Let’s Wage Wars on the Philippines and Vietnam to Prevent More Wars,” the article was written by Long Tao, a likely pseudonym literally translated as “The Dragon’s Teaching.” The name refers to the third chapter of the famous Chinese ancient military classic “Six Secret Military Teachings” that, among other things, promotes the idea that the best way to establish military awesomeness is to kill the highest-ranked dissenters.
This is not the first time, but whether or not it was meant as a call for war, it can't help but send a signal that calling for war is ok. A longtime Taiwan observer remarked that the late Jim Lilley said once that China always telegraphs its intentions.... [article is here i think]

Mainichi reported earlier this week that Chinese were reacting angrily to Seediq Bale, the film about the aboriginal uprising against the Japanese.
On the Internet, Chinese who have read foreign reviews of the film or seen the film's advertisements have slammed it, claiming that the "culture of headhunting" the film shows the aborigines practicing is "barbaric," and calling the scenes of tribespeople's attacks on the Japanese "cruel killings."
In a private discussion my friend Jerome Keating remarked that the reason the Chinese dislike it so much is that it accurately depicts the plain historical fact that these areas were never under Qing control. The first government to control the whole island was in fact the Japanese.

In a State Dept reply to the Obama Administration official's intervention in the local election, AIT sent 5 officials to the DPP's 25th anniversary activity in Taipei this week, the TT reported.
The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) sent an unprecedented five officials, including AIT Director William Stanton, to the DPP’s 25th anniversary reception, Wu told reporters on the sidelines of the celebration at the W Hotel in Taipei’s Xinyi District (信義).

The move represented the US’ respect for the DPP, Wu said, adding that he had never seen more than two US officials at similar events.

It appeared as though the US was trying to “balance out” the negative impact caused by a Sept. 15 article by London’s Financial Times which was seen as an attempt to influence the election in favor of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), he said.

The article quoted an unnamed Washington official — believed to be National Security Adviser Tom Donilon — as saying that DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had left US President Barack Obama’s administration with “distinct concerns” about her ability to maintain stability in the Taiwan Strait.
The US was apparently attempting to show it isn't taking sides. Great move, AIT, my heartfelt thanks.

Meanwhile, the Ma campaign continue to march forward into the past with Ma rolling out a Confucian classics-driven ad campaign:
On the eve of Confucius’ birthday on September 28, “Taiwan Go, Go, Go!,” President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election campaign office released its fourth television advertisement, highlighting the study of the Four Books and Five Classics (四書五經), classics of Confucian teachings. The television advertisement depicts a Confucian classics reading class at a Confucius temple, a strong symbol of Confucianism, and describes Taiwan’s success in promoting the reading of Confucian classics on the Mainland in order to demonstrate Taiwan’s efforts to champion Chinese culture.

Yin Wei (殷瑋), spokesman of Ma’s re-election campaign office, stressed that “Taiwan is an exporter of universal values and also the helmsman of Chinese culture, which we need to promote to the world.
This is a rather strange topic considering that Confucianism is not all that popular -- the gov'ts attempt to re-impose Confucianism in local schools is not at all well-accepted. I think it is another clue to the ideological identity of Ma, who is a pro-China ideologue, variety ROC. Those of you inclined to doubt that might want to take a close look at his speech last year for Retrocession Day (a blatant lie itself). The text is one long wallow in ROC mythology, and nearly every paragraph contains major historical falsehoods. As the friend who sent it to me pointed out, it represents what Ma says when he is talking to like-minded people when he thinks no one else is listening.

I will end with today's words of wisdom from my students, from a paragraph about Kenting: "When you finish those activities you can clean your thing with the beautiful sunset."

I'm offline until Monday night. Have a great weekend!
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! Delenda est, baby.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

For years the Ministry of Transport and Communications has wanted to fill in that section of wild coast, the last remaining section in Taiwan, with a shiny new paved road to connect the broken ends of Highway 26. The environmental impact assessment for the road itself was approved back in 2002 but so far the project has remained uncompleted. Taiwan Today collects a rare article critical of government policy, discussing the impacts of the proposed road.....
Local academics urged the government Sept. 26 to reconsider a highway construction project that threatens to destroy an ancient trail along Taiwan’s southeast coast.

“The Alangyi Ancient Trail should be designated a nature reserve because of its historical and ecological importance to Taiwan,” David Chang, professor of geography at National Taiwan University, said at a news conference in Taipei, where a petition signed by more than 700 academics was presented.

The trail, along what has been dubbed “the last remaining stretch of natural coastline in Taiwan,” connects Anshuo in Taitung County and Xuhai in Pingtung County.

According to scholars, the trail should undergo only minimal development, as it is home to several species of fauna and flora unique to Taiwan and a witness to historic exchanges between indigenous groups, Han Chinese and foreign forces. It also preserves a trove of geographical evidence of climate change in southern Taiwan.

Controversy has surrounded the development project since it was proposed in 2002 to complete Taiwan’s round-island road network by linking Anshuo and Xuhai with an extension of Provincial Highway 26.
In addition to the destruction caused by the road itself, it will also bring in other infrastructure, such as shops and houses. In February the Pingtung County government declared the trail a local landmark, which blocked construction until Jan 1, 2012. The current plan is to "preserve" nature by putting in tunnels and reducing the road impact, but the road is still going through. The one immutable law of Taiwan politics is: Thou shalt not stand between a developer and his money. In recognition of this, the EPA official in the article noted that the plan is already completed and only the developer can stop the project now.

REF: Video of bikers on the Alangyi Ancient Trail. Wish they had invited me!
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! Delenda est, baby.

Economic Nerves

Feeling a bit weird...My Tigers are in the playoffs, and the Browns are over .500 so late in the season, and Detroit and Buffalo are both 3-0. Is the apocalypse upon us?

It's good to talk about something other than F-16s for a change. Yes, let's talk instead about that deteriorating business climate.....
Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER), a private economic research body, released a report yesterday (Sept. 26) showing that the business climate of both the service industry and the manufacturing industry deteriorated in August.

The service industry’s business index plunged to a level which is the lowest since July 2009, while the share of manufacturers with a gloomy business outlook surged.

Chen Miao, director of the business forecast center of TIER, predicted that Taiwan’s business climate will decline further. Although stock market crash in August had yet to affect private consumption, further decline of the stock market, which already broke the 7,000-point mark yesterday, will impact consumption sentiment, as people begin to feel the shrinkage of their assets.


While the share of manufacturers with a gloomy outlook surged, the business index of the manufacturing industry only suffered a minor decline, as manufacturing lines with higher weight didn’t deteriorate. Prices of consumer electronics, semiconductor, foundry, and DRAM, for instance, remained steady, while FPD manufacturers switched to small-sized models for use in tablet PCs, such as iPad.

The number of manufacturing lines with a gloomy outlook increased, including petrochemical materials, machinery equipment, machine tool, industrial machinery, securities, auto parts, plastics, transportation equipment, motorcycle and parts, and bicycle and parts.
Other economic indicators are also gloomy. The China Post reported today....
Luo Wei, researcher with Fubon Financial, said the global economy is going through a downturn that has affected Taiwan's exporters, with export orders decreasing. This will lead to a slowdown of GDP growth in the fourth quarter.

However, the island's economy should be able to grow at least 4.5 percent, close to the 4.81 percent estimate given by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS).

Luo also commented on the recent depreciation of the New Taiwan dollar, which he said came as a result of a migration of funds into the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen, in the midst of escalating economic concerns.

According to Luo, a depreciation of the local currency is a double-edged sword. While it is positive for exporters, whose products will now be more competitive in the international markets, it will expedite a withdrawal of funds from Taiwan, destabilize the market and weaken local stocks, he said.
A number of financial firms have revised GDP growth downward for the 4th quarter. With the crisis in Europe, the abdication by both the US Congress and the Administration of any desire to undertake sensible economic policy, and China's growth also slowing, Taiwan is likely to take a hit.

As the NT dollar declines, inflationary pressure will also increase, meaning that with the election upcoming, Taiwan's voters will take a double hit from increasing inflation and a slowing economy. Then there are the high housing prices -- especially poignant here because the current practice is that for a man to get married, he must have a job, a car, savings and a house -- stagnant incomes, and worsening income inequality. No small wonder that President Ma said this week he would make the economy a key theme in the KMT's election platform.

Never mind that moving closer to China was the magic answer that would take care of all our problems. Where are our airplanes, loaded the promised Cargo? Meanwhile, over in the magic economic wunderland of China, secret detention is the number one fear of Taiwanese businessmen, according to the rabidly pro-Beijing WantChinaTimes, accounting for 60% of the more than 4,000 cases appealed to the Straits Exchange Foundation for help.....
Daily Links:
  • I only have this to say to this kind of apologetics for Beijing
    --What has he to do with Livilla?
    --He's her lover.
    --Sejanus is married with children!
    --What kind of world do you think we're living in?!
  • Terrifying, but this seems like an actual KMT party song for the election
  • Is moving water from Tibet to northern China a fantasy? If so, is there another nearby territory whose annual rainfall exceeds its needs by a 4-1 ratio? 
  • Dan Blumenthal asks whether the US cares about the Taiwan Relations Act.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Monday, September 26, 2011

AP: Second term, Ma may go for political talks. Also: sky blue, earth round

I remain both fascinated and amused by the way both journalists and the public seem to regard Wikileaks trove of US diplomatic cables as a kind of glimpse of the sordid but real truth that the shiny surfaces of diplomacy is hiding, a sort of modern version of Procopius' Secret History but without all the juicy sexual allegations. Sadly. It would probably be much more entertaining to see who Ma was sleeping with, than what pap his people are feeding the Americans. AIT, get on it!

The latest version of this reliance on the truthiness of Wikileaks is AP's stentorian piece on the Wikileaks reports that Ma's vice president Vincent Siew told then AIT head Stephen Young that Ma might go for political talks in Ma's second term. AP says:
The WikiLeaks cable, dated June 30, 2009, quoted Siew as saying that political talks during a possible Ma second term would address key issues including "a peace treaty, a formal end to hostilities, and development of bilateral military confidence mechanisms" with China.

In the past, Ma has conditioned the opening of political discussions with Beijing on China's removal of the estimated 1,300 missiles it has aimed at Taiwanese targets. However, there was no mention of this condition in the cable
If you read the entire cable (here) you'll find that it is full of the standard bullshit the KMT always feeds its US listeners. I'm sure Stephen Young, a veteran of several years here, knew perfectly well what he was reporting. For example, Siew says that the beef issue would be resolved soon (hahahhaha -- if only). The Veep also promised to dialogue with the DPP (hahahahahaha). What does the Wikileaks report actually say?
If Ma is re-elected in 2012, observed the Vice President, the administration will confront the more difficult challenge of resolving outstanding cross-Strait political issues, including a peace treaty, a formal end to hostilities, and development of bilateral military confidence mechanisms. These "highly political" issues will be controversial in Taiwan, said Siew, but should be able to build on four years of cooperative engagement on economic issues.
This is about as vague as vague can be. Make up your own mind -- did Siew actually say it as AP says he did? Then look at what it is sandwiched between -- BS about beef above, BS about the DPP below. Siew is just talking; he probably didn't mention the missile condition because, as Young notes, he was fresh out of surgery and not at his best. Not because of some secret nefarious plot -- anyone following events knows that Ma doesn't give a fig for Chinese missiles one way or another; the "condition" is purely for public consumption.

I have two other objections to the AP report. First, any fool could have seen that if political talks were to be held, they were going to held in Ma's second term since if public talks began in the first term Ma would never get re-elected. Pure logic, no Wikileaks needed. Indeed, Ma's KMT underlings still will need to be elected in his second term, and public displeasure at open political talks would definitely hurt their changes.  Political talks will no doubt be held out of public sight, as..... they are now. Second, and more importantly, political talks are already being held, privately and constantly. Does anyone believe that when Lien Chan visited in 2005, the discussion wasn't about politics? Don't the KMT and CCP communicate regularly to update each other about what's going on? When Washington, Taipei, and Beijing coordinated their approach to the F-16 sale, d'ya think the talks weren't political?

Indeed, the extent to which the KMT and CCP cooperate is largely kept out of the foreign media, enabling foreign journalists to pretend that a Chinese Wall separates them, bridged only by salvos of businessmen and tourists -- and thus, any bid to cross that wall is Real News. But it is a media construct, not reality.

Think AP will report on any of that truly important story?
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! Delenda est, baby.

Daily Links, Sept 26, 2011

How they get around in the mountains above Lishan

Some links for your pleasure....


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! Delenda est, baby.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Taiwan Fights the Drought in Kenya

As a former Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, I can't resist noting any news that brings together two of my favorite countries:
Taiwan is currently participating in a program to help Kenya fight the most severe drought in decades, according to the International Cooperation and Development Fund.

ICDF is collaborating with Mercy Corps from the U.S. to repair and rebuild water resources in the region, and offered US$200,000 to help fund the program.

Countries in the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti, are suffering from the most severe drought in over 60 years. The ICDF said it is providing drought assistance in Kenya because the drought has caused victims from neighboring countries to move toward the northeastern part of the country.

The aid program includes fixing water supply facilities, testing and sterilizing local water resources, and building public toilets, said the ICDF.

It also tried to help prevent communicable diseases resulting from water shortage by providing hygiene education.
Kenya is doubly hit; not only does it take a hit from the severe drought, the worst in decades, but it is flooded with refugees from neighboring countries. In fact, the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab, is in Kenya, according to the CNN article. There's a photo essay on it here. Kudos to Taiwan for doing something to help.
Daily Links:
JOKE OF THE DAY: "We don't allow faster than light neutrinos in here" said the bartender. A neutrino walks into a bar.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

F-16 Sale Round Up

A slew of stuff came out today in response to the decisions on the F-16s (most recent post). Hard to keep up, in fact.

Several things struck me. First, there is now a sizable backlash in Congress and in the media against the Obama position and this backlash is indirectly raising Taiwan's profile in the US. Too convenient by half -- far too many people waited until the decision was already imminent before speaking. Nevertheless, it is good to see Taiwan mentioned at the national level in the US, with potential Presidential candidate Mitt Romney got involved:
Political opponents quickly pounced on the decision. Republican Sen. John Cornyn from Texas, where the new F-16 planes would be built, declared it a "capitulation" to China that should be met with concern by U.S. allies everywhere. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney declared it a show of "weak leadership in foreign policy."
People are always asking why we should press for stuff that is never going to be delivered. Mitt R gave us the answer: because by doing so, we raise Taiwan's profile and create space for other beneficial actions to take place. And you never know -- maybe the horse will learn to sing.

Second, the Far Eastern Sweet Potato described just how awesome the upgrade package really is, including weapons system previously denied Taiwan:
At first sight, the upgrade package is pretty impressive and includes some items that surprised quite a few analysts. It confirms, among other things, that Taiwan will be getting Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar — either Raytheon Corp’s Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR), or Northrop Grumman Corp’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR).

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) also for the first time released GBU-31 and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) laser-guided bombs, which the US had hitherto denied Taiwan, given their offensive nature. The GBU-54 laser-guided JDAM, the GBU-10 Enhanced PAVEWAY II and GBU-24 Enhanced PAVEWAY III are also reportedly options for Taiwan.

Added to CBU-105 Sensor Fused Weapons, AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, Embedded Global Positioning System Inertial Navigation Systems, the Terma ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management System and helmet-mounted cueing systems, the upgrade is pretty muscular.
The JDAMs allow fighters in the Strait to strike 500 miles (800 kms) into China, and had previously been withheld from Taiwan. The helmet mounted cueing systems means that pilots can direct attacks with a nod of their head, leaving their hands free to fly the plane.

Sounds great, he says, but it doesn't yet meet Taiwan's needs. But, as he points out, China bristles with surface to air missiles that can obviate the threat from the JDAMs, some so good they can kill Taiwan aircraft almost as soon as they have left the runway. The other problem is that Taiwan won't be the one to start hostilities, while China is likely to begin with a missile blitz that will severely damage Taiwan's ability to sortie airstrikes.

Third, even though the upgrade looks great on paper, there are other issues. Walter Lohman of Heritage remarked on Facebook that new fighters would probably have been delivered more quickly than the upgrades. It will be years until all 145 fighters are upgraded, by which time China will probably have teleportation and phaser technology. Rupert Hammond-Chambers of the US-Taiwan Business Council observed that:
The U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, whose members include arms maker Lockheed Martin, said the correct approach would be to have both programs running sequentially, so that new F-16 C/Ds would be delivered to Taiwan before it starts pulling front-line F-16 A/Bs out of operations. "As presently structured, Taiwan will actually see a reduction in the number of operational F-16s over the next 10 years," council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said.
Defense News reported that the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said the budget would take 12 years (!) to implement.

Fourth, the deal is widely read by observers to be an attempt to keep Beijing placated. Gerrit van der Wees of FAPA described it in a piece for The Diplomat as a lose-lose deal that simply annoys Beijing while failing to truly help Taipei. Paul Mozur and Jeremy Page in the WSJ take a similar line: the deal reflects the growing US feeling that defending Taiwan is becoming more difficult and costly. They also argue that...
A U.S. decision to sell Taiwan upgrades of old fighter jets, rather than new planes, reflects a fresh reality in the region: All sides are calculating that the island is increasingly indefensible to an attack by China, and are banking on closer economic ties as a path to resolving historic tensions.
As if on cue, Robert Sutter, the longtime US government Taiwan specialist, sounded another warning in the Taipei Times today that Taiwanese simply do not understand Washington's declining support for Taiwan. He said that "...eroding US support was one of three sets of factors that would ultimately determine Taiwan’s future, along with China’s ever-growing strength and Taiwan’s inherent weakness." Unfortunately locals appear to have an almost mystical belief in US power while at the same time, a highly provincial point of view that lacks understanding of the behavior of foreign powers. Come to think of it, that describes just about everyone on earth.....

In other words, Sutter is saying that Taiwan is doomed. And for those of you who think that Taiwan should surrender now and get the best deal possible, wrong again. China can rewrite the deal Darth Vader style any time it likes once Taiwan is in its power ("I have altered the deal pray; I do not alter it any further"). The best choice is to stay out of Beijing's clutches as long as possible... because, dammit, the horse may learn to sing....

John Tkacik in the Washington Times describes the situation in DC from a thoroughly conservative perspective....
This is where bureaucratic “animosities” come in. President Obama’s top Asia advisers in the National Security Council (NSC), Daniel R. Russel and Evan S. Medeiros, are firmly pro-China, or at least do not believe anything - anything at all - is worth a confrontation with the Chinese. At the State Department, Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary for East Asia and the Pacific, and his team are firmly pro-everybody-else in Asia, or at least they do not see how the United States can sustain its core interests globally - human rights, democracy, freedom, fair trade, freedom of the seas and airspace, access to resources and a world safe from the rampant proliferation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems - by abjuring its global leadership.

Taiwan is not a small part of America’s security architecture. For 60 years, since 1951, the United States has maintained a robust defense and trade relationship with Taiwan that has been a key link in America’s network of security cooperation and alliances in the Western Pacific. The broad question debated in the Obama administration is whether the United States will withdraw from Asia in the face of China’s inexorable military rise. Mr. Obama’s NSC apparently thinks the United States should simply bow to Chinese expansion, while State and Defense see Taiwan as emblematic of America’s commitments to the rest of Asia, from Japan and Australia through Southeast Asia to India. When asked about the Obama administration’s reluctance to sell the new F-16C/Ds to Taiwan, State people caution that the administration has not ruled out consideration of new jets for Taiwan at some point.
It should be noted that, like Presidential policy teams before them, several individuals on Obama's staff have worked at consulting firms that do business in China. Both Tkacik in this piece and former AIT head Nat Bellocchi ripped the NSC official who phoned in the hatchet job on Tsai Ing-wen in FT last week.

Meanwhile, about the promise to sell F-16s at some unspecified later date, along with swampland in Florida and a lovely old bridge near NY city, Jens Kastner argued in an Asia Times piece that it could just happen. For one thing, as the 2012 election approaches Obama could simply reverse the decision if it becomes a major election issue. I don't get a sense that anyone seriously thinks it could occur.  But then China is also transitioning leadership next year and may not want conflict with the US during that time. Further, we still have the F-16s as a way to punish China if it gets frisky in some other aspect of the China-US relationship or with US allies.

Global Security fielded a media report today that said the Pentagon is recommending that Taiwan get Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) jets such as the F-35 or the Harrier for use if/when China craters Taiwan's runways during a conflict, tacitly conceding that even new F-16s would be useless.

Looking at the deal from a local perspective.... a key point neglected in all media reports save Peter Lee's at Counterpunch (link below) is that the KMT Administration doesn't want F-16s. For years under the Chen Administration it blocked them from reaching the floor of the legislature -- 66 times. It blocked them when Ma Ying-jeou, now the President, was Chairman of the KMT and had promised the US that he would get the sale moving in the legislature. Surely analysts in the Obama Administration must know this, and they must also know that Taiwan's military budget remains stagnant and paying for new aircraft is really out of the question. Ma has also violated his pledge to get military spending up to 3% of GDP.

Hence, as one observer put it, this looks like a deal arranged in Taipei, Washington and Beijing to make everyone happy. So far China is making noise but nothing concrete has happened, as WaPo notes in its report. Yet Beijing warns that there will be fallout. Victory oft makes the winner more arrogant than wise.....

Meanwhile the Taiwan dollar had its biggest drop in a decade today on grim US economic news. Taiwan shares also fell. Boeing seeks half the Chinese plane market, and GM wants to cooperate on electric cars. These economic factors -- Taiwan is at the mercy of global economic trends, and the US is dependent on China's market -- are just as important in assessing the future of Taiwan as China's possession of hundreds of advanced fighters and a growing navy and missile force.

REFS: State Department Background Briefing. The always quality Peter Lee in Counterpunch with a very long review piece on the F-16s, mentioning what few commentators have -- that Ma does not appear to want the F-16s.
Daily Links:
  • From China Reform Monitor: "Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) is deploying a new missile system capable of hitting airports and harbors along China’s southeastern coast. Production of the “Wan Chien” or “Ten Thousand Swords” missile system will be installed on upgraded Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighters produced between 2014 and 2018." (original story)
  • China's navy is aimed at its South China Sea rivals, not the US, so it doesn't need a big navy.
  • Blast from the past: 2006 FPIF piece arguing that Taiwan's case for independence is better than Beijing's for annexation.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Latest Ma/Tsai/Soong GVSRC poll

Before I get to all the portentous news about the F-16s today let's first visit the local polling group Global Views Survey Research, which has a new poll out on the election. As you can see, the survey says that Ma and Tsai are basically running neck and neck with or without James Soong in the election, while with Soong in the election, Ma takes a bigger hit than Tsai.

Interestingly, with Soong in the race, 4% more voters turn out. This may bring more pan-Blues to the polls, which may impact the legislative elections. But Soong also reduces Tsai's support, among independents or perhaps disgusted light Blues. I think Soong also appeals to the deep yearning among many Taiwanese for a third way out of the Blue/Green dilemma, though Soong, a Deep Blue pro-China heavyweight, obviously isn't it.

Also, the China Times came out with a poll this week. It shows Ma's lead over Tsai fall from ~10% to 4.5% over the last two weeks. With Soong in the race Ma's lead widens from 40-36% to 38-32%.

RESCUED FROM THE DEPTHS: Taiwan Echo comments:
Note that the poll they show (and you refer to) is the unweighted data. Since couple of months ago, this media, 遠見, stopped showing the weighted data. They show the unweighted, and hid the weighted in the paid database. You have to pay to view them, at a price of NT$5,400 a season --- that is, NT$1,800 (roughly $60 USD) a poll, if 1 poll/month. 

From friends who paid to take a look at it, Tsai wins by a much larger margin than what's shown in the unweighted.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Sheridan Scores one for Taiwan!

Proud Dad moment: my daughter participated in an Avril Lavigne video Wish You Were Here where people from all over the world send in pictures of themselves saying they wish Avril were here in __________. She appears twice, at 3:30 and 5:34, and appears to be the only person from Taiwan. Way to go Sheridan!!
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! Delenda est, baby.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Taiwan Adventures Online

Neil Wade has finally finished his masterpiece, the Taiwan Adventures Online Guidebook. Here's his introduction below....


Taiwan Adventures Online Guide Book

Taiwan Adventures Online Guide Book is a project that my partners and I have been working on for the better part of the last year.  It is a free, online travel guide to Taiwan.  It has over 800 entries, is available in English and 中文, and will very soon be available as an iPhone App (Ready sometime before the end of September).
It has been A LOT of work to compile, visit, photograph and write about all of these places, but it has also been really rewarding.  Hopefully now I can get back on track and start writing some blog posts about the best of these wonderful places.
An online guidebook to Taiwan with lots of travel information and advice.
My fellow writers on this big project are Stu Dawson, Phil Dawson, and Ross Tweedie.  The four of us have had some great adventures while researching for the guide....



Also, I'm sitting on a copy of the latest Lonely Planet and will post on it later this week....
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! Delenda est, baby.

State Dept: 145 = 145 + 66

Here is the transcript. Note the strange math there:

I do not, but it's before the end of the week. Assuming -- so let me start this again.

Assuming the reports leaked about the proposal to refurbish F-16s are true -- and that obviously can't be confirmed even on background until a formal congressional notification later this week -- weapons sales to Taiwan since 2009 will be greater than in the previous four years, and they will be double the sales that occurred between 2004 and 2008.

And assuming the decision is to upgrade F-16 A/B, they will provide essentially the same quality as new F-16 C/D aircraft at a far cheaper price. And Taiwan would stand to get 145 A/Bs versus only 66 C/Ds. And we're obviously prepared to consider further sales in the future.

In addition, the Administration has taken strong steps to deepen relations with Taiwan» in concrete ways beyond this dossier, including Visa Waiver Program, education initiatives, «trade» and energy initiatives, and helping «Taiwan to have more access to international fora like the World Health Organization.
Yes, that's right, 145 upgraded planes is equal to 145 planes plus 66 new and better planes (nothing stops the US from selling upgrade packages along with new aircraft). Sure.... But it is clear what the decision is, though they piously did not rule out selling planes to Taiwan in the future. The official also awarded the Administration credit for the old arms package that was finally delivered a couple of years ago. Puh-lease.

As Josh Rogin at The Cable noted in his remarks today, the Administration is taking a lot of heat for this decision. Sen. Coryn of Texas continued his legislative push for F-16 sales, helpful to his constituents and Lockheed, a major donor.

UPDATE: Reuters has a list of the electronics and equipment for the upgrade, which actually does make the A/B models far better weapons platforms.
A U.S.-based expert on Taiwan's military who asked not to be named said the air-to-air hardware included "basically everything" Taipei had sought, including the latest version of heat-seeking Raytheon Co AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles and all-weather-capable AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air missiles, or AMRAAM.

The deal also includes state-of-the-art active, electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar, said the expert who spoke anonymously to protect access to sensitive information.
But numbers count too. 145 better aircraft are not the same as 211 better aircraft.

COMMENT: dragged up from the depths of the comment stream: HaHa
Michael, you have a typo in your title. The State Department appears to be saying that 145 > 145 + 66, not equals. After all, it's cheaper! By that logic, 0 upgrades and no new planes would be best of all.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soong moves "campaign" forward

James Soong, PFP Chairman and former KMT heavyweight, announced his plans for his upcoming presidential campaign, naming an academic as Veep.....
During a press conference this morning, James Soong (宋楚瑜), chairman of the People First Party (PFP), announced that Lin Ruey-shiung (林瑞雄), an epidemiology specialist, would be his running mate. The 72-year-old Lin is an emeritus professor of Public Health at the National Taiwan University (NTU).


The PFP is reportedly planning to mobilize 2,000 volunteers and set up 400 booths throughout Taiwan for its signature drive. The PFP reportedly hopes that each of its city and county chapters could collect the signatures of at least 5 percent of the local electorate.
Soong picked another NTU doctor, Chang Chau-hsiung, in 2000 for his independent presidential bid. The selection of a 72 year old medical researcher suggests that Soong's presidential bid isn't very serious.

258,000 signatures will be needed to put Soong on the ballot, according to the rules. But Soong insists he won't come in unless he gets 1 million.

The CNA report, which is more detailed, notes as I have that Soong is not the advantage for the DPP that everyone thinks, with a support base that appears to draw fairly evenly from both parties. Remember that in order to win Tsai has to pick up all the independents -- if Soong eats some of those, it makes her task much harder.
Daily Links:
  • Chinese loon attempts to disrupt pro-Taiwan rally in the US (video)
  • Taiwan to request F-35s (!). Next up: TAIWAN TO REQUEST TRIDENT MISSILES
  • I've been hearing rumors that the KMT is going after small businesses that donate to the DPP with tax audits, but this is the first I've heard it made public. Could be true, could just be paranoia.
  • Bushman's stolen car is recovered!
  • MOFA says it is protesting over WHO's use of Taiwan, province of China. Remember when getting into the WHA was a major coup for international space? Actually, it squeezed Taiwan even further into the Chinese box.

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! Delenda est, baby.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Daily Links, Sept 19, 2011

Kitesurfers in Kenting. 

  • Bokelai books. They can deliver to the 7-11 near your house where you can pick up the books and pay right there at 7-11, or to your own house. Very convenient if you live in Taiwan. Lots of English titles.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday shorts: F-16 deftness, DPP media Follies

On the F-16 denial..... the Obama Administration has shown a bit of cleverness. Note that the WH has not made an official and public announcement that Taiwan is getting only upgrades, not new aircraft. The news has been leaked again and again over the last few months, so everyone knows what the situation is. But for those wondering what Beijing's reaction is going to be... what exactly is there for Beijing to react TO? After all, the Administration is merely talking to Congress. Nobody in the Administration has said anything, nothing is well defined, only one or two Congressmen have held press conferences to complain. Very interesting the way its been handled. The question is whether it was intentionally handled in this way.

And, just to remind you, doncha just love the way that years of KMT opposition to the F-16 sale has gone right down the memory hole since Ma came to power?

As for Beijing, if their foreign policymakers are smart, they will do nothing but make the usual pro forma noises. The Chinese reaction will be a good test of whether arrogance is running ahead of brains in Beijing.

AP sexed up the title and point of view of its most recent piece on Tsai Ing-wen: Taiwan opposition chief open to China unification. The reality was actually laid out in the piece itself:
"I've said I do not exclude any possibility," Tsai was quoted as saying when asked whether she is open to unification with China. "As long as there is public support, Taiwan and China's future relations can remain open (to any possibility)."

Tsai's condition appears to be a difficult one to fulfill, at least for now. Taiwanese public opinion polls consistently show that only a small minority of the island's 23 million people support unification with China.
It was kind of AP to rely that reality in the piece as well as Tsai's "condition" (which is not a condition but the very essence of democracy).

AP described Tsai's position as a "radical departure" which is -- not to put too fine a point on it -- utter bullshit. Things must have been high pressured there at the AP office for them to have forgotten that it is DPP boilerplate to say that the Party would support annexing Taiwan to China if its people did, and for them not have found the time to run a few Google searches for past statements on the topic that suggest a similar flexibility. For example from 2004:
TIME: Do you accept the idea of eventual unification with China?Chen: Currently, there are two separate, independent countries across the Taiwan Strait, neither of which has jurisdiction over the other. But who knows if these two separate countries might become one over time? We do not exclude any possibilities for the future.
Chen made such statements several times (Chen in Der Spiegel 2007, Figaro 2006, even LTH 1996). Other DPP politicians have been all over the map -- anyone remember the Shen Fu-hsiung's proposal for a China-Taiwan commonwealth? But I guess DPP Candidate Makes Boilerplate Answer to Silly Repetitive Query is a less interesting headline.... and I guess, after seven years of operating this blog, I should be expecting constructions like this. It's pretty clear that the next few months of the Tsai campaign is going to be a media shitstorm, if this week is any guide. UPDATE: The Tsai campaign criticized AP's "overinterpretation" and located Tsai's remarks in the long tradition of DPP boilerplate that AP was too lazy to go out and find.

In a related tale, I am saddened to report that the DPP ham-handedness with the western media, which we saw so often in the 2008 presidential campaign, is alive and well in the current rendition of the DPP campaign. I am told that a major western media outlet, with major reporter, was looking to interview Tsai during her trip to the US. Somehow, the senior level DPP media handlers couldn't make it happen. Heads need to be thumped over there -- Tsai was not interviewed by any major media publication in the US, which should have been considered mandatory. How can Tsai fix relations with the US if the US doesn't know she exists?

Some other things -- I spent the latter half of August and the beginning of September running around the nation and talking to people. Taichung is the center of the island's live music scene. I met younger people all over the island who are in bands, or have friends in bands, and who are peeved at KMT mayor Jason Hu for disrupting Taichung's bar scene over the last few months. Central Taiwan is judged by both parties to be a major battleground.....
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! Delenda est, baby.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

More on the Financial Times hack job =UPDATED=

The hachet job on Tsai Ing-wen's visit that FT brokered yesterday (see post below this one) has provoked all sorts of commentary. Josh Rogin at The Cable at Foreign Policy noted the Administration's bad week on Taiwan, another shining example of its ability to alienate its supporters while angering its critics. After discussing the decision not to sell F-16s to Taiwan, Rogin observed:
Meanwhile, the administration got caught this week in a separate scandal related to Taiwan. An unnamed U.S. government official signaled to the Financial Times that the United States did not want to see Taiwanese opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen win January's presidential election because it could raise tensions with China.

"She left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-Strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years," the U.S. official told FT. Tsai's opponent Ma Ying-Jeou has already used the quote to attack the candidate.

Tsai had been in Washington all week meeting with administration officials and outside experts. One of the experts she met with, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Randy Schriver, told The Cable that the criticism of Tsai was a bad breach of protocol.

"I understand that the Obama administration assured Dr. Tsai this week at high levels that the U.S. will remain neutral in Taiwan's election," he said. "I hope the Obama administration is trying to identify the unnamed official from the story and will reprimand that person for publicly contradicting so many of their own senior officials who spoke on the topic this week."


For those on Capitol Hill who are already critical of the Obama administration's Taiwan policy, the leak is just one more example that the White House views Taiwan though the lens of its policy toward Beijing.

"It is embarrassing, but perhaps not surprising, that this administration would attempt to undermine Dr. Tsai's candidacy in such a way," said another senior Senate GOP staffer. "Instead of catering to the whims of the PRC, the administration should stay neutral, and then stand back and let the voters on Taiwan determine for themselves who their leaders should be and what their relationship with the mainland will look like."
The Nelson report, which I cited in the original report below this one, laid the hatchet job at the feet of the rivalry between State and the Obama Administration. At the same time Walter Lohman at Heritage expanded on Rogin's comments in the last two paragraphs, arguing that....
Three, the White House comments reflect an all-too-well-trained instinct for carrying China’s water on cross-Straits issues. It is the PRC that is dictating the terms of the “stability” the U.S. is concerned with maintaining. It is the PRC that declares any deviation from the trend in the direction of unification “destabilizing” and threatens to resort to force to preclude any movement counter to this trend—as it alone perceives it. And judging by the White House response to its encounter with Tsai this week, the PRC’s perception is the only one it cares about.

There is another problem with the White House comments: Tsai Ing-wen may still, despite this blow, be elected president of Taiwan next year.

Taiwan needs the U.S. A President Tsai would have no option of distancing Taiwan from America. But without trust in the U.S., which has also suffered a blow from this calculated public assessment of Tsai, the relationship can easily descend into a cycle of manipulation and retribution that serves no one’s interest. After all, where does a political figure like Tsai go when her efforts to be reasonable and responsible have been rebuffed?

The concern for “stability” is a legitimate concern in any situation where America may be called in to restore balance by force. But to tar one side of these elections in Taiwan as uniquely damaging to American interests when the only evidence to that effect are self-interested complaints from China is wrong and extremely shortsighted.
The White House has thus set itself up for a fall if it criticizes Tsai and then finds her the next president. Lohman's observation that the White House is carrying Beijing's water for it is quite true, and was also true of the previous Administration. As a long-time Taiwan observer with nearly a half century of experience remarked in a private email, too many analysts are still approaching Taiwan the same way they have since the 1960s, thinking they can solve the issue by selling out Taiwan.

Taiwan's democracy bites both ways. It is a "problem" for Beijing if it wants to annex Taiwan, and it is a problem for those in the US who think that they can solve the Taiwan issue by annexing Taiwan to China. Like Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai is beholden to an electorate that does not want to be part of the PRC.

The ugly ignorant arrogant remarks of the Administration official are worth another look:
A US official said that while Tsai Ing-wen understood the need "to avoid gratuitous provocations" of China, it was "far from clear… that she and her advisers fully appreciate the depth of [Chinese] mistrust of her motives and DPP aspirations."
Imagine. Some official in Washington, who probably has not spent much time here, claims that Tsai Ing-wen, who grew up here and is the Chairman of a major political party here, doesn't understand Chinese hatred of Taiwan, its democracy, and of the DPP. I assure you, she does. And further, as Lohman pointed out, this official is simply carrying CCP water -- his critique of Tsai is Beijing-centric -- poor, put-upon, misunderstood Beijing.....

UPDATE: More from the Taipei Times:
Some analysts now believe the unsolicited call to the newspaper, aimed at crippling Tsai’s campaign, may have been unprecedented as a calculated and virtually open political attack.
The newspaper described the caller, who was well known to reporters, as a “senior administration official.” The official’s message was clear: The Obama administration did not trust Tsai to keep the peace and it would be better to re-elect Ma.

Tsai’s aides and entourage were shocked because there had been no trace of such sentiments in their meetings.

At the State Department, she had met with US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell and their response to her views and policies had appeared to be positive, Tsai’s aides said.

US Senator James Inhofe, the Republican who is co-chair of the US Senate Taiwan Caucus, immediately asked the State Department for an explanation.

“The ‘official’ mentioned in this [Financial Times] article is totally unknown to us and certainly does not speak for the Obama administration,” the State Department replied.
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! Delenda est, baby.

Friday, September 16, 2011

=UPDATED= KMT seizes on Disgusting FT Propaganda Hack Job on Tsai's Washington Trip

Several years ago Glenn Greenwald pretty much nailed the slimy interaction of official anonymity and media culpability, writing:
"In very limited circumstances, anonymity is valuable and justified (e.g., when someone is risking something substantial to expose concealed wrongdoing of serious public interest).  But promiscuous, unjustified anonymity -- which pervades the establishment press -- is the linchpin of most bad, credibility-destroying reporting.  It enables government officials and others to lie to the public with impunity or manipulate them with propaganda, using eager reporters as both their megaphone and shield.  It is the weapon of choice for reporters eager to serve as loyal message-carriers and royal court gossip columnists.  It preserves and bolsters the culture of secrecy that dominates Washington -- exactly the opposite of what a real journalist, by definition, would seek to accomplish (though most modern journalists seem to prefer anonymity, as it makes them appear and feel special and part of the secret halls of power, and allows them to curry favor with powerful officials as their favored loyal message-carrier).  In sum, petty or otherwise unjustified uses of anonymity are the hallmark of the power-worshiping, dishonest, unreliable reporter (which is why its most indiscriminate practitioner is Politico).   As Izzy Stone put it about the Vietnam War:  "The process of brain-washing the public starts with off-the-record briefings for newspapermen. . . .

....In other words, the "official" is dutifully delivering an authorized government message (i.e., propaganda) but has been instructed to demand anonymity when announcing it (he's "authorized to speak," but not publicly), and reporters virtually always comply."
I prefaced this post with those remarks because today the Financial Times turned in a total hack job, quoting an anonymous source within the government to claim that Tsai Ing-wen, in her recent visit, hadn't been successful in convincing Washington that she wasn't going to be trouble.

I've decided that I am not linking to the piece because it is a slimy bit of anti-DPP propaganda masquerading as a news report; if you really want to find it, you're on your own. The KMT, always quick to pounce on such propaganda, reproduced the key elements of the story in its news report US Concerned Tsai Would Raise Tensions with Mainland if Elected:
The DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen concluded her visit to Washington, D.C. on September 15. London's "Financial Times" on the same day quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official as saying that the Obama administration was worried that if Tsai Ing-wen was elected, she would raise tensions with Mainland China.

A senior US official told a Financial Times reporter that Tsai's visit to Washington "had sparked concerns about the stability in the Taiwan Strait, which is critically important to the US." Moreover, "She left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-Strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years"

The U.S. Department of State earlier stated that that the U.S. government would not take a stand on Taiwan's upcoming Presidential election. When asked about the reports in the "Financial Times," the Department of State reiterated this position.

According to the Financial Times, Tsai Ing-wen wanted Taiwan to strengthen its strategic partnership with the US, and she had previously promised to “refrain from extreme or radical approaches" to differentiate herself from Chen Shui-bian, the former DPP President. However, Tsai's visit to Washington, D.C. obviously did not persuade the White House that she could maintain the improved cross-Strait relations.

A US official said that while Tsai Ing-wen understood the need "to avoid gratuitous provocations" of China, it was "far from clear… that she and her advisers fully appreciate the depth of [Chinese] mistrust of her motives and DPP aspirations."
Note how the propaganda works. The unnamed official takes a clear and obvious position with respect to the upcoming election campaign. We don't know anything about him or her, whether he is speaking on his own behalf or the Administration's, or represents some other interest, such as the big financial houses FT serves, which love Ma Ying-jeou, or even whether he knows anything about East Asia or is responsible for such policies (the last paragraph leaves grave doubt on that score). Perhaps like so many officials he comes out of some private consulting firm that does business with China. Through abuse of anonymity, FT simply eliminates all possibility of understanding; instead it just catapults the propaganda, promoting its journalists to stenographers.

Thus, the article invites us to treat the anonymous official's words as the Administration's real thoughts, while State issues the usual and expected denials which we duly dismiss. What a fun game!

Of course, keep in mind that until we have a name, we don't even know that the anonymous US official who said these things actually exists and actually said them. Which is why AP's report on the KMT's inevitable use of the comments refers to an American official "allegedly" making the comments.

It's just sick. I'd write more on the topic, but Greenwald said it better than I ever could, and besides, I'd have to stop and take a shower.

Meanwhile, more fun in the presidential race as James Soong campaign asked for papers to file for the presidential race. The nationwide signature drive kicks off this monday, the 19th.

UPDATE: The Nelson Report, the Washington insider report, wrote of the FT propaganda hack:
Discussion of the FT story and its implications, including the policy community informal discussions generated, come below. But we can report that the nature of the quote volunteered to the FT, and the pointed denunciation of the source by State Department officials, have been "read" by the policy community as leaving little doubt that the call to the FT was authorized by senior White House officials, whether working through NSC staff, or whether made directly, being immaterial.

Further, informed observers long aware of the highly personal, often bitter animosity existing between senior White House officials and senior Asia players at State feel that situation can be seen in both the statement to the FT, and State's rebuttal.

And it may be that State's denial also reflects that by the end of last year the problems, which began in 2009, had deteriorated to the point that White House-enforced "gag orders" had not only been put into effect, but that fact was "leaked" to concerned observers.

Some readers not aware of all this may seek to contact sources in the White House and/or State, and it may be that if they are honest with you, they will confirm the situation. If they don't, they are not telling you the truth, and you might want to indicate your displeasure, if that matters to you.

Whether admitted or not, it is legitimate to ask if the situation has had and/or will have a deleterious effect on foreign policy formulation and execution writ large, and not only for Asia. We will simply note that the "senior Administration official's" decision to call the FT raises these questions to that level, sources today agree.
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! Delenda est, baby.