Saturday, January 20, 2018

Time off

Vacation time. Fighting flu, and then going on vacation. I'll be back in a few weeks.

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Reuters does a 180


For some time now I've been documenting how Reuters has been outpacing Xinhua in its race to present Beijing's point of view (example). Suddenly, night has turned into day: Reuters is describing reality. Aside from the silly "Amid heightened tensions" trope (all things between Taiwan and China happen amid heightened tensions, which demeans the moments when things really are tense), the presentation was pretty damn good... consider:
Beijing has taken an increasingly hostile stance toward Taiwan since the election two years ago of President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.
Reuters actually forthrightly describes Beijing's decisions as the problem, and never presents Beijing as the passive recipient of Taiwan's decisions. Then the closing, on China's decision to open a new air route down the Strait...
Taiwan said on Friday the new flight path was so close to the middle line of the Taiwan Strait that it would affect Taiwan air force exercises and other flight operations.

“The planes can come very close to each other,” an official added, referring to other connecting routes that China has opened and where Taiwan civilian flights already operate.

“It becomes a very dangerous situation if we do not consult with each other.”

China, which considers Taiwan a wayward province, snapped official communication with its government after Tsai took office.
Unlike many previous articles, Reuters takes the time to offer words and points of view from Taiwan. And note the final sentence, which again blames Beijing for cutting off communication since Tsai took office.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Blast from the Past: Ad for Taiwan's first dairy farm =UPDATED=


This ad for Taiwan's first dairy farm, 柊牧場, dates from 1899. A Japanese man who said his relatives had run it posted it to Facebook, where it was shared around by the awesome Katy Hui-wen Hung, who I need to get up and interview. She said that the farm originally stood on Xinyi Road near what is now the Da-an MRT (Xinyi Rd and Yongkang St, according to this). This site here says it was moved in 1902 to the Xinyi Road location since the land for the ranch was to become Taipei Park. According to this article, it was established in 1896 to supply Japanese military servicemen in Taiwan, especially the wounded in hospital. By 1899 it had six dairy cows and produced 6-7 liters of milk a day (source). After the second world war it was folded into Taiwan's government livestock company.

Here is another ad:

This ad appears to date from the 1920s, from before 1923. The characters for "cooperative association" and "cooperatively sold" (I think, corrections welcome) appear on the left side in small font. In 1923 the ranch left the dairy cooperative founded in 1919 and sold independently, according to the article above.

UPDATE: My friend Drew remarked on Facebook:
Actually, this was a pretty big deal back then and it is really emblematic of the impact Meiji era values in concepts of modernity had on Taiwanese cultural life. 

This first dairy was established at the dawn of modern dairy farming with the use of pasteurization for milk beginning only in 1886. This paved the way for further mechanization of the dairy process capped by the use of stainless steel containers and wide spread use of refrigeration in the early 1900s.

Dairy farming and sanitary dairy products symbolized values of “advancement” that the Japanese sought to emulate in American and European countries. It is amazing that they would establish a dairy so early in Taiwan and speaks volumes of the relationship between Japan and their Taiwanese colony.

Katy posted this pic of a bottle from the dairy.
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The Marriott Mess

A small lake in Taitung.

The news broke like a storm across Taiwan groups: Marriott had kow-towed after sending around a survey to its global rewards club...:
The survey sent to customers asked in which country they lived and gave options including Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

"We absolutely will not support any separatist organization that will undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," said the Marriott statement. "We apologize for any act that may give rise to misunderstandings."

Beijing is intensely sensitive about the status of Taiwan, the self-ruled island the communist mainland claims as part of its territory, and of Tibet.
The language was obviously dictated by Beijing. Beijing also followed up by putting pressure on other corporations to change their language. More will follow; this is only part of a long game. Marriott also had to fire an employee who clicked "like" on a article about Tibetan independence. China is putting pressure on every institution of world society: government, corporations, educational institutions (see Jon Sullivan's most recent piece on universities here). Eventually it will get around to the legal frameworks like GATT and WTO and the financial frameworks.

Someone remarked on Twitter that the hegemon reproduces in its external environment the politics of its domestic environment. The Chinese-run world is going to be much uglier than even the US-run world. I expect that one of the few delights of my declining years is going to listen to all those idiots who hated on the US nostalgically extolling the virtues of the US-based order...

Many Taiwan supporters were incensed at Marriott's decision. But let's remember that Marriott has over 100 hotels in China. My friend Michal Thim pointed out that Marriott has no choice, because it has thousands of employees that Beijing's security forces can hold hostage for its good behavior: it can casually destroy many lives to punish Marriott. Certainly this would send a message to the foreign business community in China. It would also destroy many lives. What would you choose?
Daily Links:
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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Use of Religion in China's Annexation Drive

Store near Guguan

BBC Monitoring forwarded a translation of a China owned Hong Kong paper's commentary on independence and Taiwan...
By BBC Monitoring

On 30 December 2017, China-owned Hong Kong daily Ta Kung Pao ran an article by commentator Chin Lin-yuan, regarding Taiwan's attempt to "promote cultural independence" for the island.


According to the author, economy, trade and culture play a vital part in maintaining cross-Strait ties. Over the years, cross-Strait economic and trade interactions have been "smooth and successful." Today, great efforts should be made to enhance cross-Strait cultural exchange, the author said, adding that more TV series and films with themes that people in both the mainland and Taiwan can relate to, "especially" the country's reunification, can be produced to attract Taiwanese viewers. Most importantly, "we should make greater efforts to promote cross-Strait religious exchange." The author said Buddhism is the most popular religion in Taiwan. The Buddhist schools of the mainland and Taiwan share the same root. Many eminent monks in Taiwan are disciples of monks who migrated from the mainland to Taiwan in the past. Exchange between Buddhists on both sides of the Strait can help promote Chinese culture and tradition, the author added.

CREDIT: Ta Kung Pao, Hong Kong, in Chinese (written) 1000 gmt 8 Jan 18
Word count: 410
Ta Kung Pao, Hong Kong, in Chinese (written) 1000 gmt 8 Jan 18/BBC Monitoring/© BBC
I've long commented on the tight relationship between religion and cross-strait annexation politics.The Mazu cult remains a key nexus of organized crime, religion, and annexation politics, as I have commented and also here. Of course Buddhism is a major arena of annexation politics, as I observed here on an Ian Johnson piece. Taoist deities underwent the same transformation, as Johnson, who has written a major work on religion in modern China, noted in a WSJ piece several years ago.

It is good to see this point made openly in the Chinese media....
Daily Links:
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Monday, January 08, 2018

LinkZ for a Rainy Monday

Caoling from above

This weather is dreary... but the commentary isn't.

Before we get on to the serious stuff, AmCham, whose work is usually stellar, published this strange piece on eating in "Taiwan": From Night Market Treats to Food Court Fine Dining. It describes:
The evolution of Taiwan’s mass market eating establishments has speeded up over the past decade to meet developing tastes and higher expectations.
It says Taiwan, but describes only Taipei. *sigh*

It is chock full of Celestial Dragon Kingdom disdain for and ignorance of the rest of Taiwan disguised as modernity:
In recent years the long and colorful tradition of food vendors setting up roadside stalls has become less common, as hygiene requirements and city ordinances tighten up. Taking its place is a multitude of food courts at MRT stops, department stores, shopping malls, airports, hospitals, and universities – even in one of the world’s tallest buildings, Taipei 101.
There seems to be a whole segment of Taipei writers for whom "Taiwan" ends at the toll booth on Highway 1 out of Taipei just before the Linkou exit. The writer nods with approval at one of the chief horrors of modernity: the corporatization, discipline, and control of space to form alienated, sterile, and homogenized consumption experiences that completely lack any authentic connection to the world around them:
As has been the case elsewhere, however, changing demographics led to the need for the 101 food court to be renovated in 2012 in order to meet higher consumer expectations. Chen describes the new look as “seriously upmarket, a more stylish space for a high-end shopping mall.” He notes that to “complement the luxury retail space, we wanted an excellent quality food space, with LED lighting, TV wall panels, expansive chandeliers, and improved seating to produce a lounge-effect style.”
Just glad I live in the Real Taiwan where I can still scoot down the hill and get decent food from local vendors. Because when I buy from a vendor I can watch the food being prepared, and I can develop an actual human relationship with the vendor whose food will have its own unique variation from the mean. The idea that food court restaurant kitchens that you can't see are hygienic is a droll little fantasy....

On to the more serious stuff....

Ian Easton on Defusing the Cross Strait time bomb. Don't miss it.

Ed Wong, formerly here in Taiwan for a year or so, moved on to China to report for the New York Times. He released his thoughts on leaving China in a piece for the NYT. It is getting passed around everywhere, hailed as strong, insightful. and analytical. It is all those things. For example:
From trade to the internet, from higher education to Hollywood, China is shaping the world in ways that people have only begun to grasp. Yet the emerging imperium is more a result of the Communist Party’s exercise of hard power, including economic coercion, than the product of a gravitational pull of Chinese ideas or contemporary culture.

Of the global powers that dominated the 19th century, China alone is a rejuvenated empire. The Communist Party commands a vast territory that the ethnic-Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty cobbled together through war and diplomacy. And the dominion could grow: China is using its military to test potential control of disputed borderlands from the South China Sea to the Himalayas, while firing up nationalism at home. Once again, states around the world pay homage to the court, as in 2015 during a huge military parade.
Yup, you read that right. Wong's analysis consists of commentary that is maybe sixty years old among us on the pro-Taiwan side. Not to take anything away from Wong, he is a keen observer and masterful writer (and a very kind man). It is good to see this understanding of China as evolving imperium rapidly becoming mainstream, even cited with approval. The terrifying thing is that it took so long... the China Explainer brigade isn't going to be well treated by history. But at least they made a lot of money, right? And that's the important thing...

Lin Fei-fan of the Sunflowers has released an open letter on Facebook objecting to the labor law amendments. Brian H at New Bloom has been live-tweeting the labor protests in Taipei. Follow him on Twitter at
Daily Links:

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

The Best Things to Do in Taiwan in 2018

Lanhou Bed and Breakfast in Laiji below Alishan

Taiwan News lists The best things to do in Taiwan in 2018: 7 standout events to look forward to in Taiwan in 2018. These include watching the ship burning in Donggang, swimming Sun Moon Lake, getting bombarded by fireworks in Yenshui, and similar. So I thought I'd compile a list of my own.

1. Stay in a bed and breakfast in an aboriginal village. There are many such wonderful places to stay in the hills and mountains around Taiwan, including Smangus, Chimei, Laiji (pic above), and Mudan. Most of them offer hikes and other get back to nature options, and excellent food. Put that on your list.

2. Visit Lanyu (Orchid Island). This wonderful island is a great favorite of many long-term expats. Should be high on your list of things to do in 2018.

3. Hike Keelung. Keelung sits in a crater which on one side has collapsed, forming the harbor. The ridges are filled with excellent views of the city and many old military works built by the three colonial regimes, with a few left over from the siege of the city during the Sino-French War. The city itself, still very traditional, offers wonderful photo ops.

4. Visit Little Burma in Taipei. Little Burma is located on Huaxin Street in Taipei near the Nanshijiao MRT Station. Great food, desserts, and the famous coffee make a great afternoon trip. Go on a Saturday when the restaurants are filled with people chatting, the atmosphere is quite different from elsewhere in Taipei.

5. Explore the back roads of Kenting (and here too). Most people who go to Kenting hang out at the beach, but Kenting's real treasures are far away from the beach. The hilly back roads are great for scooter rental or bike riding, offering stunning views of mountains and sea, aboriginal villages, and tastes of the complex history of the Kenting peninsula.

6. Ride or scooter the Rift Valley side roads. The small roads like the Zhuofu Industry Road on the west side of the Rift, the 193, and the 197 provide excellent quiet and scenic alternatives to the heavily trafficked 9.

7. Visit the east side of Pingtung County. Pingtung's many wonderful places are often neglected because everyone is rushing to Taitung or Kenting. But places like Wanluan with its mix of religons and cultures, the aboriginal village of Duona, the 24 out to Wutai with its staggering views and long climb up through Sandimen are well worth a visit. Many nearby aboriginal villages offer interesting places to stay. The 185 that runs north-south from Gaosu to Fangliao is an enjoyable and largely flat ride, perfect for scootering or biking.

8. Something you haven't done yet. Because I know that list is both long, and long in the tooth.
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New Week in Taiwan Defense from Taiwan Perspective

Longtime Taiwan observer Michal Thim has started the "Week in Taiwan Defense" roundup at Taiwan Perspective...
Week in Taiwan Defense is a weekly overview of events relevant to Taiwan defense: interesting articles, commentary, and papers. Occasionally introducing older articles on ICWMI (in-case-we-missed-it) basis.

Focus on Taiwan’s defense development, People’s Liberation Army activity in the region, U.S.-Taiwan defense relations, and other political developments with relevance to Taiwan and its defense needs.
A useful addition!
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Saturday, January 06, 2018

When evolution leaves you behind.... + LINKZ

A harvest of mountain peas.
The 'living fossil' coelacanth fish left behind by evolution

A deep-sea fish which became known as a “living fossil” has not changed in appearance since before the time of the dinosaurs...(here)
John Copper, the longtime pro-KMT writer, was on at CPI this week with a hilariously awful piece a longtime observer described as "80% Wikipedia, 20% hit piece". But really it was 100% hit piece on the Tsai Administration in Copper's usual pro-KMT style.

What a failure. He bet everything on support of authoritarianism, and then, when history passed him by, he never changed. A living fossil catapulted from the 1970s into the 21st century, Copper still faithfully regurgitates KMT talking points as if they were insights and not propaganda. It would be sad, except a writer from a democracy who supports an authoritarian party is deserving only of contempt.

Copper says:
At the close of World War II and Taiwan’s return to China according to wartime agreements, Taiwan acquired a political party system: Chiang Kai-shek brought the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) to Taiwan along with two smaller parties. Thus Taiwan’s party system was technically a multipolar one, but in reality, it was a one-party structure. There was no party competition and contentious issues were worked out via internal KMT factions or (usually) by strong leadership.
Haha. Taiwan was never "returned to China" and Copper knows that full well. Sad. Note the term "strong leadership". Copper cannot bring himself to say "authoritarian leadership". Instead he assigns it a positive gloss, "strong".
Later that decade there appeared more independents. Behind Chiang Kai-shek’s impressive efforts to promote economic development (soon called miracle growth) grew a middle class that delivered the impetus for democratization.
Haha. As anyone who has read Ho's Economic Development of Taiwan 1860-1970 or Jacoby's US Aid  to Taiwan knows, Chiang actively fought sensible policies to promote growth, instead focusing the government budget on the military. It was a group of technocrats, US aid technicians, and small and medium sized business owners who drove the Taiwan Miracle, without help from, and often with the active opposition of, the KMT and Chiang.
In 1975, Chiang Kai-shek died and his son Chiang Ching-kuo, fondly known as CCK, became Taiwan’s leader. He saw the need for democratization and in 1980 arranged an open and competitive election. Independent candidates campaigned with enthusiasm using their newly gained freedom to do so. They worked together and promoted certain reforms somewhat as a political party might do.
As I was writing the draft of this last night, legislators and others were protesting the DPP's proposed changes to the labor law. The DPP is a left-wing party only if you are squinting through Mussolini's eyes. In the real world, it is a center-right neoliberal nationalist party run by an LSE-educated technocrat. I mean seriously... and the idea that the younger Chiang saw the need for democratization is laughable. The Dec 10 attacks on peaceful demonstrators and arrests of the Kaohsiung 8 had just occurred, torture and murder was going on in the prisons, the KMT was suppressing democracy every way it could... none of that appears in Copper's piece. Age has not mellowed his fierce hatred of the democracy parties, and his staunch support of the KMT.

I don't know why anyone would write such a fantasy, or publish it. The rest consists of the same set of longtime KMT talking points, I won't bother with it. Sad.

Very encouraging to see this Washington Post piece from John Pomfret on Taiwan's defense. It seems at last to have penetrated that Taiwan is fairly well defended.
However, in recent years, U.S. analysts and officials, bucking the view that China’s rise will never end, have begun to question the assumption that China is going to absorb the island. Two recent scholarly articles are indicative of this new trend. Both Denny Roy , a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, and Michael Beckley, a professor of political science at Tufts University, doubt whether China has the capacity and even the will to take over Taiwan.
Lauren Dickey smartly pointed out on Twitter that what these pieces need to do is consider aspects of Taiwan's defense other than just buying more weapons. But pieces on Taiwan's defense generally follow the Establishment line that what Taiwan needs is more purchases of US weapons. Commentators need to consider, for example, that the US could play a role in enhancing defense cooperation with SE Asian nations and Japan, and also encourage further links between Taiwan and India.

China simply flat out broke an agreement with Taiwan about airline routes in the Strait.
China unilaterally created the routes in 2015 on the grounds that they would be used to alleviate flight congestion on its A470 route.

Both sides then reached an agreement in 2015 following negotiations between civil aviation officials that only southbound flights would be permitted on route M503 and that the three extension routes would not be activated until after the negotiations had been completed, Chang said.

However, China simultaneously activated the three extension routes and allowed northbound flights to operate on the M503 route yesterday morning without negotiating with Taipei in advance, Chang said.
China treats all agreements this way....

Finally, these last couple of weeks saw the building case against several New Party members for cooperating with a Chinese spy and taking money from China to use to influence Taiwan. Half a million US according to media reports. Brian H comments.The amount of money is tiny.

Taiwan gov't once again vows to move illegal factories off farmland. Hahahaha. Sounds awesome except....
Illegal factories set up on Taiwan's farmland after May 20, 2016 that could cause pollution must be relocated to industrial zones, Vice Interior Minister Hua Ching-chun said Thursday. factories from before that date are left unmolested....
Daily Links:
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Friday, January 05, 2018

Then and Now: the Chosui River bridge UPDATED

The top photo was uploaded by National Historic Monuments of Taiwan, which is a great Facebook group for old Taiwan images. The top picture shows buses crossing the Zhoushui River (濁水溪) between Yunlin and Changhua counties during the Japanese era. The shot had to be taken upriver because downriver the land is flat and farmed. This spot on the 21 south of Shuili appears to be the location of that bridge, which I think is now the Longshen Bridge on the 21. Image from Google. Would welcome corrections if anyone knows for sure.

UPDATE: Nope, I was totally wrong. Great comment below

The bridge is located between today's Yilan and Hualien. 

The name "Lö-Tsui (濁水)" (Muddy Waters) ["Zhuo-sh(u)ei" in Today's Mandarin] was often used in pioneer-Taiwan to name a river.

Due to Taiwan's general geographic features with very high mountains meeting the ocean almost outright face-to-face, water in rivers runs fast and is often muddy. There are a lot of "Lö-Tsui" ["Zhuo-Shuei"] throughout Taiwan. The most famous "Lö-Tsui (濁水)" is of course the one located between Yunlin and Changhua that you refer to.

The picture was a suspended bridge over a "Large Lö-Tsui Kau" (大濁水溝)[in Today's Mandarin, it's transcribed as "大濁水溪"]. There is a "Small Lö-Tsui Kau". It means that the locals differentiated two rivers as "Large Muddy Waters" and "Small Muddy Waters".

The KMT regime came after WWII and named this river as "Her-Ping River" (和平溪).

See Wikipedia entry (in Traditional Chinese) of this river:

See another picture of this bridge (Wikipedia):

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Links and comments for the New Year

Mountain gardens.

I'd say good-bye and good-riddance to 2017, but 2018 looks like it is going to be worse in every way. For one thing, 2017 revealed that Trump is China's greatest victory, a vast strategic opportunity for Beijing. 2018 is already shaping up to very ugly out here, with the incompetence of the Trump Administration following the dilatory and pro-China policies of the Obama and later Bush Administrations. We've had over a decade of drift out here effectively ceding Asia to the Chinese, as China rockets up its power and influence. But luckily we have invested trillions making Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Africa safe for Chinese investment... future historians will marvel at the suicidal stupidity of American foreign policy in the early 21st century....

Fortunately US policy toward Taiwan is likely to remain unchanged, as former AIT  head Steve Young contends in the Taipei Times. Tsai herself took the right view, correctly charging China's military expansion with destabilizing the region. Constantly positioning China as the problem is the right move for the government to take....

According to the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation (FocusTw)....
Tsai's approval rating was 35.9 percent at year's end, down 2.7 percentage points from the 38.6 percent support she received in November, the survey by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation found.
The survey attributed this to the President's response to the recent spate of Chinese military incursions. It made me laugh however -- note that when Tsai's ratings fell hit pieces comparing Tsai to Trump were immediately produced by Sheryn Lee at EastAsiaForum (a very pro-China site that occasionally offers good stuff) and in July by Ralph Jennings for the LATimes (and inevitably by Lawrence Chung at SCMP). But when Tsai's ratings rose after she appointed William Lai premier, and remained up (for months, no less), there was no reporting of that. That's right, if you are writing about Tsai's ratings only when they are falling, then you are writing hit pieces, and are a propagandist, not a journalist.

But her poll numbers fell? Looking forward to another round of ZOMG TSAI GIVES TAIWAN THE SADZ in the int'l media. *sigh*.....

The DPP and its government are fighting over polls about its labor law changes.
The results of a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) poll released on Saturday, which found that 59.7 percent of the public was in favor of proposed amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), clashed with poll results released by the Ministry of Labor on Friday, which showed that 58.4 percent did not support the proposals.
I tend to believe the Min. of Labor on this one, though the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation did find that that the public in general approves of the labor law amendments (here) 53-31.

After so many years of toxic air, suddenly it is a serious political issue (my recent post). Mayor Ko weighed in this week to say that banning fireworks really doesn't address the issue, which is systemic. This review article observes of air pollution:
Ambient air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to human health and is estimated to contribute to 2·9 million annual deaths globally,1 of which more than 85% occur in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs).2 Particulate matter (PM), a heterogeneous mixture of suspended solid and liquid particles from different sources and varying in size, mass, and chemical composition, is often acknowledged as the most damaging element of ambient air pollution to human health, particularly PM2·5 (PM with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2·5 μm) with its ability to penetrate deeply into the human respiratory and circulatory systems and cause direct localised and systemic damage. Both short-term (days) and long-term (years) exposure to PM has been independently associated with increased risks for mortality and morbidity, particularly cardiorespiratory outcomes. Additionally, unlike other environmental risk factors, PM has no observable threshold, and adverse health outcomes have been recorded at levels lower than the most stringent air quality guidelines.
...and in Taiwan we live in a soup of PM. A 2017 study on Taiwan counted the likely number of deaths:
In 2014, PM2.5 accounted for 6282 deaths [95% confidence interval (CI), 5716–6847], from ischemic heart disease (2244 deaths; 95% CI, 2015–2473), stroke (2140 deaths; 95% CI, 1760–2520), lung cancer (1252 deaths; 95% CI, 995–1509), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (645 deaths; 95% CI, 418–872). Nationally, the population attributable mortality fraction of PM2.5 for the four disease causes was 18.6% (95% CI, 16.9–20.3%). Substantial geographic variation in PM2.5 attributable mortality fraction was found; the percentage of deaths attributable to PM2.5 ranged from 8.7% in Hualian County to 21.8% in Yunlin County. In terms of absolute number of deaths, New Taipei and Kaohsiung cities had the largest number of deaths associated with PM2.5 (874 and 829 deaths, respectively) among all cities and counties.
Why it has become a political issue is more fascinating. There's a widespread perception that pollution has become worse. I remember the days in 1989 when I lived in downtown Taipei before all the factories moved to China, and it was much, much worse. I could sit in my room in the old Namaste Hostel, right next to the train station, and on a hot summer day the air would form acid in the back of my throat. But the factories left and the air in Taipei got better.

If I had to guess, I'd say that (1) the air in Taipei got worse recently, and god forbid the Celestial Dragon City suffer like hoi polloi in the hinterlands and (2) the omnipresence of apps that show the air pollution in realtime meaning ordinary people finally have something like real numbers and (3) the fact that more people are out and about in the air jogging and cycling. Changing the air pollution here will mean cracking down on factories. Hahaha. I think I will do a shot of whiskey now...

Taiwan News ran a piece on overbuilding in Taiwan. The decadal survey results show a rise in empty houses, which I am sure underestimates the true number.
Currently the number of vacant homes in Taiwan is estimated to be about 1.2 million. That amounts to about 14 percent of 8.5 million homes nationwide being unoccupied.

Over 70 percent of the 1.2 million vacant homes are concentrated in the six large municipalities of Taiwan; New Taipei (18.62 percent), Kaohsiung (12.38 percent), Taichung (11.65 percent), Taipei (11.09 percent), Taoyuan (9.36 percent), and Tainan (7.92 percent).
The numbers are very uncertain. A 2011 survey had the figure at 1.56 million, or 19.3% of all housing. Many "empty" buildings are rented off the books, while other rentals are not rented to a human, but are rented as storage units. Taiwan's heavily subsidized construction-industrial state and the recent bubble have, like all subsidized industries, overproduced, dealing immense damage to our environment and national economy, but making many people rich.

Which is what is important.
Daily Links:
  • China's new pollution regs hit Taiwanese factories there hard. So they must seek another country they can poison....
  • American stupidity infects the world: Taiwan ISP calls for relaxation of net nuetrality.
  • Beijing to get more menacing toward Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. 
  • Shirley Lin on the re-emergence of the Taiwan Identity: Interview with the News Lens
  • Fuel prices headed up!
  • Looks like 2018 growth will be above 2%
  • Taiwan's new national defense white paper is out.
  • Jon Sullivan on China's influence campaign. Good work, Jon. The trick in talking about that is attempting to write truths about it, while not getting accused of racism (Jeremiah Jenne repackages that issue here). Good luck with that, anyone who tries. There are certain truths about Chinese interaction with rules based systems that cannot at present be publicly stated... but which are blindingly obvious to everyone who has been out here a while. It will be amusing to watch people struggle not to articulate them in order to avoid being called racist. I think I will do a shot of whiskey now....
  • Nearly 200 university departments in Taiwan registered no students this year. Because of the idiotic Chen era subsidies, too many universities were built, mostly to farm government subsidies, even though the demographics were obvious. Moreover, many of the useful tech and vocational schools, important sources of factory workers and entrepreneurs, were upgraded to universities, which produce service workers. Unfortunately the government needs to move ruthlessly to shut down universities, so that will never happen. I think I will do a shot of whiskey now....
  • S Korea seizes Hong Kong-flagged, Taiwan-chartered boat shipping oil to N Korea. The situation is more complex. A Marshall Islands registered firm owned by Taiwan nationals chartered the boat. Crew is Chinese and it is registered in Hong Kong. Local newspapers, especially the opposition, were unhappy with Tsai's tepid response, which was basically, "it's not really Taiwanese" rather than a strong "we won't put up with this shit".
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Stunning Chiayi 166

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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

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

Irrigation works

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

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Reuters Continues to Race Ahead of Xinhua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of which was missing from the Reuters piece.

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

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

The more things change....

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

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