Saturday, November 18, 2017

Volare Novels: A Novel Start Up

The halls of mystery, where true warriors may suddenly appear....

Last week I got a very interesting email from a young woman who runs a very interesting company, seeing if I would be interested in her company’s interesting story. I was.

I met etvolare of Volare Novels in a bookstore cafe, appropriately enough. Her business, now one year old, is one of the few in a niche which was completely unknown to me: her company translates Chinese martial arts novels (武俠小說) into English and then hosts them on the company website, where they get nearly 20 million hits a month. Clearly there is a huge appetite in English for these stories.

This is not a small market, and etvolare's company is one of the Big Three publishing houses. She's also the only Taiwan-based business in this market, working with a variety of Chinese literature companies and directly with authors. The biggest publishing house in this market gets over 100 million hits a month.

The novels, etvolare explained to me, are serialized, with translators churning out a new chapter of roughly 2000 words every day or so and posting them to the sites. When I wondered aloud about whether I could write one, she laughed and said it's tricky: you have to leave the audience with a story that brings them back the next day for more, but if you write too many cliffhanger endings to chapters, the audience deluges you with angry letters. Her translators include both amateurs just starting out and professionals with major books and movie and TV work on their resume.

The novels are selected for quality but fundamentally, they are selected by the translators, who like them and want to translate them. This enthusiasm and passion is shared with the audience, who respond in kind and can leave more than a hundred comments on each chapter. She has a team of 30 translators scattered around the world. She herself has chosen many novels, and likes to have a selection of offbeat genres and unusual twists, describing Volare Novels' selection as "eclectic". Volare also has a "significant focus on alternative and women's interest novels." In China, she said, this world is not primarily divided by genre (comedy, horror, mystery) but by gender first: male (pretty much everything not romance) and female novels (romance tinged martial arts, romance tinged historic fiction, schoolyard romance…).

Because the stories are hosted on the net and posted frequently, they are quite flexible. This forms part of their allure, as the Chinese authors can adapt quickly to modern events and fads to incorporate them into the work. Her web-based business also emphasizes the use of not only of more conventional communication platforms like Skype to keep in touch with translators, but also Discord, a popular site with gamers (link on her sidebar).

How does the money flow in? Crowdfunding, reading donations, and advertising. Her audience is almost entirely people under 35 (hint: disposing of much disposable income hint hint) and living in Western Europe, Canada, and the US (high income countries hint hint). Oh yeah, many of these stories make great movies and TV shows, such as recent hits Princess Agents (楚喬傳), Nirvana in Fire (琅琊榜), and Just One Smile is Very Alluring (微微一笑很傾城). Hint.

At present etvolare is looking to build partnerships with Taiwanese publishers, given her local roots. Regrettably, getting the government to pay attention to what she is building is difficult. It seems likely to me that this is because etvolare's business lacks status, and so much of what the government does involving foreigners and outsiders is based at least in part on how much status such individuals or companies can confer on the government ministry they are interacting with.

In the meantime, I will be brushing up on my understanding of the mysteries of qi and Han dynasty geography. Where did I leave those Dungeons and Dragons reference books...?
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KMT on Counterattack

If wishes were horses...

The KMT is in full counterattack mode. The DPP's recent moves to put the government in charge of the irrigation cooperatives as well as its roll-back of labor rights are motivating the KMT (KMT news organ) and giving it ammunition to attack the DPP:
On November 13, KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) separately received four KMT legislators, i.e., Hsu Yu-jen (許毓仁), Ma Wen-chun (馬文君), Chiang Chi-chen (江啟臣), and Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) in order to listen to their views on bills being reviewed in the Legislative Yuan. Two of the bills, both proposed by the DPP, intended to change the irrigation associations into government agencies, headed by government appointees, and to change township mayors from elective to appointive. Wu declared his opposition to both bills.
I already discussed the import of the irrigation cooperative changes for KMT patronage networks. The change in the township mayors will also have a profound effect on the KMT's local level networks. This is because while the higher elective levels might be DPP, in many "green" areas the local elected officials are KMT. The south is not a green monolith, but a patchwork that is a different checkerboard at every level.

By making the township mayors appointed by county chiefs, the DPP is removing the ability of the KMT to elect these individuals, and again, cutting off the KMT's patronage networks at the local level. Recall that in the municipalities (Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung, Taoyuan, New Taipei City, and Taipei) the mayor appoints all the city officials. Thus, in the five cities controlled by the DPP, the KMT has almost no public offices. The DPP is now replicating this for the counties, ensuring that there will be fewer sites the KMT can cultivate local politicians for higher office and reducing patronage monies to local KMT-connected businesses.

The new labor laws, which represent a vulnerability the  KMT could exploit, were it not the party of big business, were the subject of a staged brawl today in the legislature.

Another area of KMT attack is the growing Ching Fu Scandal. The latest on it has the KMT pointing out the absurdly rapid payment to the company after it requested the funds....
The funds were disbursed on Dec. 16 last year — just 10 days after Ching Fu again asked the ministry for the payment, which was quick and suggests that the office’s top management was involved in the disbursement of the funds, she said.

Considering the sheer size of the payment and that it was composed of budgets earmarked for other military services, it was unlikely that the ministry could have paid the shipbuilder without receiving instructions from upper management, Lee said.
The Ministry is allowed to re-arrange funds if it needs, within certain limits. Also this week the Ma Administration, which contracted for the ships, was also implicated:
The shipbuilder has been embroiled in a fraud scandal over a contract that it won from the Ministry of National Defense in October 2014 to build six minesweepers for the military at a cost of NT$34.9 billion (US$1.16 billion).

To finance the construction, Ching Fu obtained a syndicated loan of NT$20.5 billion from a group of nine domestic lenders led by First Commercial Bank.

However, an investigation initiated by prosecutors in August found that Ching Fu might have used bogus documents to falsify four capital increases that were required as part of the terms of the loan.

The controversy has seen DPP and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers trading barbs over who used their influence to help Ching Fu obtain the syndicated loan, of which NT$15.4 billion had already been disbursed.
Officials visiting the firm have also come under fire, though they have denied working on its behalf. The owner of the firm, Chen Ching-nan, was arrested and charged with obtaining the loans under false pretenses, which triggered the messThe case has shaken local banks, since it appears the firm is insolvent and no funds of the massive loan will ever be returned.

The Ching Fu case may appear that enough mud is spread throughout this and the previous administration, and also because it is huge and complex, and therefore the public will perceive it to be yet another in the endless business-as-usual deals that the government engages in. But such perceptions hurt the DPP more than the KMT....

Meanwhile, as many expected, longtime KMT politician in Taipei Ting Shou-chung will enter the KMT mayor primary, for the fifth time. Ting is 63 and will be nearly 7o in 2024, too old to become president if he is elected mayor and plans to use Taipei as a base for a national bid. If he wins the Taipei mayor race, that is one more datum showing that the next president is likely to come from Taoyuan or Taichung.
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

EFEO-IHP Workshop Hazards and Fortunes at Seas: Maritime Routes and Landscapes in the Mediterranean and the Taiwan Strait, Nov 21st, 22nd

Just passing this around, abstracts below the READ MORE line...

EFEO-IHP Workshop
Hazards and Fortunes at Seas:
Maritime Routes and Landscapes in the Mediterranean and the Taiwan Strait
Date: November 22, 2017
Venue: Room 703, Research Building, IHP, Academia Sinica, Taipei
1:00 pm-2:20 pm: What is a Maritime Route?
The Case of the Ancient Mediterranean and Surrounding Oceans
By Prof. Pascal Arnaud (Professor, University of Lyon 2)
2:20 pm-3:40 pm The Maritime Landscapes of the Mediterranean:
Approaches and Sources
By Prof. Timmy Gambin (Associate Professor, University of Malta)
4:00 pm-5:30 pm Round Table
Pascal Arnaud, Timmy Gambin, Liu Shiuh-feng (RCHESS),
Liu Yi-chang (IHP), Paola Calanca (EFEO), Chen Kuo-tung (IHP)
The workshop will be chaired by Dr. CHEN Kuo-tung, Research Fellow, Institute of History and
Philology, Academia Sinica, Dr. Paola CALANCA, EFEO, and Dr. Frank Muyard, EFEO. 此演
The talk will be given in English. Registration is not required.
With the support of the French Office in Taipei (BFT). 法國在台協會協助。

The day before,

EFEO Taipei-Tamkang University Seminar 專題演講
Speaker / 主講人
Prof. Timmy GAMBIN
Associate Professor, University of Malta
Title / 講題
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Religion and
divinities of Mediterranean Seafarers
Date / 日期
Tuesday, November 21, 2017, at 10:10 am
L522, College of Liberal Arts, Tamkang University
淡江大學文學館 L522

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

How the labor law changes screw workers

Aboriginal performers at a resort

Kassy Cho on Twitter explains:
Currently, Taiwanese workers are entitled to 1 fixed day off and 1 flexible day off per week. If you work on your flexible day off, it’s considered overtime, and you should be paid in increments of 4 hours. i.e. 1–4 hours counts as 4 hours, 4-8 hours counts as 8 hours and so on

Employees are legally entitled to 7 holiday days a year in their first 2 years at the company, increasing to 10 days for their 3rd and 4th years, and 14 days after 5 years and so on, with a max of 30 holiday days after working at a company for 25 years

I should also preface this with: Taiwanese people are some of the most overworked people out there, with many getting off work any time from 10pm to past midnight and usually not paid for any overtime at all

Holidays are rare, and employers have the power to reject holiday requests and often do. I know because I have worked in Taiwan and experienced this myself. Anyway, here are the proposed reforms and what they mean:

Overtime pay will no longer be rounded up to four hour increments and employees will only receive pay for the exact number of hours they have worked.

Comp days are now valid for two years. Employees will no longer be able to take or get paid for any comp days they didn’t take at the end of the year but may have to wait another year before they can take the days or get paid for them

The minimum time employees have off between shifts will be shortened from 11 hours to 8 hours, meaning if you get off at 6pm, you could theoretically be called into work at 2am and have to go.

The maximum number of days employees can work in a row before a day off will be doubled from 6 days, meaning people could work 12 days straight before getting a day off.

The maximum hours a person can work a week will also be increased from 46 hours to 54 hours.

Also worth noting the fact that 7 public holidays were already cancelled with the launch of this act

All of this goes to say, employees are very concerned that these reforms could mean longer shifts and less rest in a culture that already promotes and actively encourages overwork
She ends by linking to this piece from The Reporter that explains everything (Chinese).

The massive piles of homework and the cram schools exist for a couple of reasons. One is politics: students can't develop interests outside school or engage in political activity if they are loaded down with homework and thirty hours of class each week.

But the other is to habituate students to their future work lives in which their time will be controlled by the one with authority over their lives -- first the school, then their boss. Taiwan culture powerfully instills the idea that hard work will pay off and authority should not be challenged. These values make Taiwanese ideal workers for a slave-driving employer class.

The real white privilege in Taiwan isn't the ability of white males to get attention from local women (wildly exaggerated) or easily getting jobs as cram school clowns/teachers. It is being exempt from this hellish system of time control.

The DPP has screwed labor again, after courting it before the election. Unfortunately there is no third party labor can turn to, the NPP being too small and the KMT being the party of big business. In 2018 I expect that many in the working class will sit home while others will switch parties to punish the DPP. It appears that the DPP idea of "social justice" is limited to those areas where social justice touches on KMT power.

Recall that the miracle economy was built on the premise of cheap, well-controlled labor. This enabled families to open factories. Workers would learn skills and go off to open factories on their own, supported by networks of similar factories operating in clusters: the famous "Shoes Nest" in Taichung, the bike industry cluster around Dajia, the mold and die cluster in Sanchong, the textile cluster near Yuanlin and Hemei in Changhua, the furniture cluster in Kaohsiung (see Hsieh's Boss Island for a description of how workers spun off bosses in the old system). That system was also premised on links to the US economy via exchange students, emigrants, and political exiles.

The US middle class has been destroyed, and the workers can no longer accumulate the social and financial capital to open their own tiny factories with so many firms moved to China, but the Taiwanese family run factory business lives on, a 1970s zombie in a 21st century world. The only way it can survive is by exploitation: exploiting workers by overworking and underpaying them, exploiting the environment by ignoring regulations, and exploiting females.

The move to China enabled Taiwanese family firms to continue to survive in the global market without investing in upgrading production technology and management. Now such firms are leaving China looking for marginalized labor forces elsewhere in places like Indonesia and Burma. But to remain "competitive" Taiwan firms are rolling back the pittance of labor rights in Taiwan. This will enable bosses to continue to exploit labor in lieu of investment in upgrading productivity.

Indeed, Premier William Lai's recent call for a $30,000 minimum salary was quickly "clarified" to include only large firms. It was just a nod of the head and polite meaningless words...

The productivity-wage gap in Taiwan is huge, and for bosses, seductive. Taiwan labor is among the cheapest in developing countries, relative to its productivity. Yet labor exploitation can only lead to the slow fossilization of Taiwan firm productivity and production techniques, leaving Taiwan further behind the global production curve, while talented and capable Taiwanese look elsewhere to sell their labor. "Reforms" like this hurt the island by feeding the brain drain while convincing small and medium sized firm owners that they can go on indefinitely substituting labor for capital in the productivity race...

Perhaps the bosses are hoping that they can exploit workers until robots become widely available, capable, and cheap, but I doubt they are that forward looking. Rather, this law is simply the visceral response to labor: exploit labor more, a subset of the Great Answer to all social "problems" in Taiwan society: more control.
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Monday, November 13, 2017

Reginald Kann's 1909 Formosa, Japan's First Colony: the land and her peoples

I know you don't have enough to read, so I took a few minutes and Google-translated Reginald Kann's Formosa, de eerste kolonie van Japan: De Aarde en haar Volken, 1909, Formosa, Japan's First Colony: the land and her peoples. There doesn't seem to be much in English on him, but Kann was a war correspondent (fought in the Boer War) who covered campaigns in Cuba, Morocco, Europe, the Far East and later, WWI. In between he wrote of his travels in the area.

I have placed the text below the READ MORE line. The photos may be found at the original link.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Party vs Party

My friend's recumbent is a big hit

Failure to reform, in different ways, was the theme for the two major parties this week. The KMT remains a Leninist party run by and for mainlander elites, despite the need for it to reform. The Taipei Times quoted former KMT legislator Sun Ta-chien criticizing the party for bypassing the primary process to nominate a budding party princeling, Chiang Wan-an, for the KMT mayoral candidacy in Taipei.....
“If the KMT gives Chiang this comfort zone, as mentioned in the report, by granting him the candidacy without a primary, it would only destroy Chiang,” he said.

“The most commonly made criticism about the KMT is that it is rife with collusion between local factions and the wealthy elite,” he said.

“The cultivation of talent within the KMT has been largely focused on the offspring of politicians and local faction leaders... It is something young people would have a hard time identifying with,” Sun said.

Chiang is the great grandson of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).
In the previous election longtime KMT politician Ting Shou-chung ran against Sean Lien, the son of heavyweight Lien Chan, in the primary and was beaten. Lien was then crushed by newcomer Ko Wen-je in the Taipei election by an electorate fed up with the KMT parachuting in princelings into local areas.

Now, points out Sun, the KMT is doing it again. Chiang Wan-an is a far more congenial figure than the inept and inexperienced Sean Lien, and will likely have a much better campaign manager than Sean Lien did, but still... Ting has long worked for the KMT in Taipei, and would appear to deserve the nomination. And he has actually won elections, not coronations.

Even a primary, while better than a coronation, would not be very indicative, since the KMT primary voters are not representative of Taipei's entire voter base.

Meanwhile the DPP assault on the KMT patronage networks continues. The Taipei Times reports on the government's plan to take over the irrigation cooperatives, long a KMT preserve and long said to be hugely corrupt.
The terms of the heads of the 15 associations in Taipei and Keelung would be extended to Sept. 30, 2020, while the heads of the Taipei Qixing Irrigation Association and Taipei Liugong Irrigation Association would continue to serve until the end of their terms on Sept. 30, 2020.

The government would appoint the heads of the associations after that date, while any vacancies on association committees between now and Sept. 30, 2020, would not be filled by holding an election, he said.

All the associations would need to observe the Civil Service Administrative Neutrality Act (公務人員行政中立法), the Executive Yuan said.
By making the association heads government employees, the DPP will effectively cut into the KMT's longstanding use of these associations as patronage bases. For a fuller description of how things worked historically, see my old 2007 post on Farmer's Associations.

Sadly, the DPP's strategy is not to eliminate clientelism, but instead to insert itself at the head of these patronage networks and eliminate the KMT's hold on them. The Chen Administration was never able to carry out its broadly similar plans because the KMT controlled the legislature through both of Chen Shui-bian's terms, but the Tsai Administration does not have that problem. Indeed, it got another law passed preventing political parties from running businesses.

Meanwhile the DPP may well get a check in the 2018 elections because of its labor policies, which are anti-worker. New Bloom observes, after detailing the changes (read the whole useful piece):
It is hard to see how these changes to labor policy will not lead to large public blowback against the Tsai administration. While outrage has already ensued in media outlets and online, this outrage will only grow when these new policies take effect.

The Tsai administration’s labor reforms last year were already widely protested by labor unions for not doing enough to protect workers, workers calling for the restoration of cut public holidays—seeing as Taiwanese workers already work the 4th longest working hours in the world—and demanding that workers be allowed two set days off per week instead of a flexible rest day in which they could still be made to work. Low punishments for breaking the Labor Standards Act also led to fears that companies that broke labor laws would get off easy under new reforms.

The Tsai administration initially waffled on its plans for labor reforms last year when confronted with resistance from labor groups, leading to large social disruption from industries that had already begun restructuring in anticipation of the new changes, then being unsure of whether these labor reforms would actually pass. However, the Tsai administration’s labor reforms were displeasing of big business owners in Taiwan, with leaders of seven business groups including the owners of some of Taiwan’s largest corporations threatening to suspend all ongoing wage negotiations with if the Ministry of Labor backed down in the face of demands from labor groups.
Once again, the familiar sight of a DPP government courting labor when it is out of power but spurning its demands when in power....

Finally, as many of us and the media had predicted, the KMT is going to use pollution as a major issue against the Lin Chia-lung Administration in Taichung, now Taiwan's second largest city, in the 2018 elections. That the pollution here is the result of the party's longtime commitment to fossil fuels and its complete failure to shift the nation to renewables, as well as the KMT's lack of enforcement of environmental regulations, etc, will not stop this from being an issue. Lin raised it himself, and now it may well backfire. I observed a couple of weeks ago:
Remember, this year Taichung has become Taiwan's second largest city. In the battleground of central Taiwan, Taichung may well become a stepping stone to the Presidency, especially if Taipei stays with Ko Wen-che so that no DPP politician is associated with Taipei, and the KMT runs or wins with an old-fashioned ideologue like Alex Tsai who is unelectable on a national level. A KMT politician who can do well or even win in Taichung has demonstrated he can appeal to the center on local issues. Presidential...
Surely Johnny Chiang, the putative KMT candidate in Taichung, must be dreaming of presidential-ness. Chiang Wan-an, the princeling grandson of Chiang Kai-shek, will never get elected outside Taipei, meaning that he is not a viable presidential candidate in a predominantly light-green/green electorate. But if Jiang wins and proves himself both competent and moderate, he will automatically be mentioned among the prospects for 2024, just as Cheng Wen-tsan in Taoyuan is for the DPP. The KMT lacks young, competent, seasoned candidates with broad moderate appeal at the moment...
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Friday, November 10, 2017

There's one in every neighborhood

Beach north of Hualien city

So last Sunday night we were left dizzy by toxic smoke pouring over our house. I couldn't sleep -- heart pounding, pulse racing. Once again, I thought, the factories below our house were burning off waste, as they often do on weekends because the EPA is closed. As if the EPA would do anything anyway. I never report them, because of fear of reprisals.

But I was wrong. Last night the fires were on again, on a Thursday night. It turns out our neighbor's ex-husband wanted some payback, so from time to time he was burning books outside his ex-wife's house in our neighborhood in order to fill it with smoke. This time, Thursday, he set a large fire and then left. Naturally, it spread as fires will, and the neighbors called the police and fire department. He came back and was busted lying to the police, telling them that he was only burning leaves. They fined him. I doubt that will stop anything.

We and our neighbors been having run-ins with him for a while. Once he parked his car in our space in front of our house. We came back with a load of groceries and asked him to roll it forward a bit so we could unload it. That evening he came out and keyed our car from headlight to taillight. Twice he attempted to run my wife off the road in her scooter. My neighbors have similar stories. The private water company we used to have supplying the neighborhood water used some ruthlessly direct methods against him a couple of years ago when he refused to pay his water bills, further complicating things.

After he got divorced three years ago, he erected a tent on the third floor of their house and lived there, refusing to leave. "Why didn't she call the police?" I asked my wife.

She spread her hands helplessly. "Taiwanese..."
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Sunday, November 05, 2017

Some Links....

Tea farms and mountains. Miss these.

Enjoy some links...
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Saturday, November 04, 2017

Marie Lin's Genetic Claims: Handle With Care

Ok, another shot of the Dong 23. Just love the opening 10K.

Genetic researcher Marie Lin's fraught claims on Taiwan ethnicity were in the news recently, provoking much discussion on the intertubes. The Taipei Times reported her claims as Taiwanese, Han Chinese ethnically distinct: expert.
Decades of research using molecular technology to analyze human DNA and genetic markers had convinced her that most Taiwanese, as descendants of lowland Pingpu Aborigines (平埔族群) and highland Aborigines have mixed blood types, and are quite distinct from the genetic characteristics of the two main ethnic groups in China, the northern and southern Han Chinese.

Lin is internationally renowned for her pioneering genetic mapping and ethno-demographic studies of Taiwan’s population, with more than 150 papers to her credit.

“The main Hoklo Taiwanese and Hakka population in this nation have Pingpu and Aboriginal bloodlines in their ancestry from centuries of intermarriage, and the analysis of DNA and genetic markers reflects this new understanding of the close relationship between Taiwanese and Austronesians and Pacific islanders,” she said.

“Through the long history of ethno-cultural evolution on Taiwan, which was isolated from other main population centers, we can consider the result as forming a ‘Taiwanese people group,’ which is distinct from the Han Chinese people,” she said.
There are numerous problems with this, and with her, like this bizarre comment:
Genetic contributions from the Pingpu and Aboriginal bloodlines gave Taiwanese the traits of adventurous ambition, open hospitality to outsiders and a positive, sunny disposition in general, she said.
My friend Andrew Kerslake outlined some of the more serious problems on Facebook in a long and excellent comment post:
The results of Marie Lin's research in the past has served to excite Taiwan nationalists and independence advocates who are seeking evidence that they are not "Chinese". This is done primarily in response to the traditional ethnic nationalisms of both the PRC and the ROC, in which both entities have conflated blood with the nation state--an idea that had its root in the anti-Manchuism of the late Qing. For Taiwan nationalist the idea Pingpu roots has been irresistible evidence of their non-Chinese identity. Sadly, this road is a dead end and Marie Lin has been unethical in her interest in periodically stoking the flames of ethnic nationalism in Taiwan.

Lin's argument is not only scientifically unsound, but it is also morally repugnant and smacks of the same language of biological determinism that has allowed generations of pseudo-scientists to promote unsound theories of eugenics and more recently to use genetics as indelible proof that indigenous peoples are fundamentally different or "flawed" by their genetic composition without ever considering the impact of layered colonialism and social projects on the lives of indigenes. We have most recently see this appear in studies on alcoholism in indigenous communities as "genetic" and the "discovery" of the "warrior gene". Both of these studies were scientifically unsound and reached erroneous conclusions that acted to uphold negative stereotypes and denigrate indigenous peoples as a whole.

Moreover, Lin engaged in dubious collection techniques that violated the rights of her subjects for her lack of disclosure and in conducting her research she took possession of biological material that she used without consent. As far as her conclusions go, I think the degree of genetic flow between Taiwan's populations is quite high. I think it is impossible to determine how much genetic material various populations in Taiwan hold from indigenous ancestors. It really doesn't matter. After about eight generations it all washes out anyway. But for the purpose of argument, there are genetic markers that show up frequently in Austronesian populations and scientists can use these markers to provide some guidance into studies of human migrations. Take O-M119 a marker for the distribution of male genes in Austronesians. O1-a1 and its mutations can be high in Austronesians. It may be an indicator. But it may not. In mtDNA markers the B4 clade and M7 are frequent. These are simple reference points. These markers show up in Taiwan and other areas populated by Austronesian speaking peoples. The catch is that these haplogroups also appear in China and SE Asia among Han, Daic, and other groups.

[MT: Yup. Southeastern China was once a stronghold of the Austronesians, who blended with Han moving down from the north after the 8th century or so. That mixed population then moved to Taiwan. So merely finding Austronesian genetic markers in a Taiwan population -- even if you could be certain they actually came from Austronesian peoples -- would not say anything about where/when those genes entered the population.]

Genetic evidence also shows that the haplogroups above are not only not limited to Austronesian, but that Austronesian speaking peoples have a high variety of haplogroups E, C, A, D...etc. The laboratory alone can not tell where one's ancestors came from or who they were or how they identified themselves. Some genetic mutations may not have occurred in every carrier. O3, O2 and O1 are all found in indigenous populations. O2 is found in Vietnam, China, Japan and Mongolia. It is also found in some Siraya. Here, Marie Lin has essentialized the gradient of human migration and attempted to conceal the variation in populations for political purposes. The only effect these haplogroups have on our lives is in how groups of people are motivated by this type of research to act. This is the likely goal of Lin and her cohorts. But as I mentioned above, it is structured along the same lines as the two major Chinese nationalisms as an ethnic nation bound by blood--a 19th century relic to support the biological reasoning behind European colonialism. If Taiwan nationalists are looking for a means to support their belief that they are not "Chinese", rather than looking for biological support from "scientists" like Marie Lin, they need only to reject ethnic nationalism wholesale and embrace a civic nationalism.
Andrew also linked to Mark Munsterhjelm's Living Dead in the Pacific, which discusses how Lin acquired her entirely negative reputation among the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan. In the 1990s and in articles in the early 2000s, Lin claimed that the Pingpu and Kavalan aborigines had disappeared, a claim that was vociferously and correctly objected to by those groups. The Pingpu and other aboriginal groups also reject the "blood"-based nationalism of many Taiwan nationalists (like Lin). Lin's work has also been challenged on scientific grounds, and the discussion on p113 of Living Dead in the Pacific is telling.

In the early 2000s Lin also argued that the Taiwanese are descended from the Yueh people and not the Han, which caused an uproar around Asia (Straits Times, scroll down). Munsterhjelm observes that her claims about aboriginal ancestry vary over time. For example, she revised them upward in 2007 to claim 85% of Taiwanese have aboriginal ancestry, up from only 26% at one point. The Taipei Times reported at the time:
Eighty-five percent of Hoklo and Hakka people have Aboriginal ancestry, according to a study on the DNA of non-Aboriginal ethnic Taiwanese conducted by Mackay Memorial Hospital's transfusion medical research director Mari Lin (林媽利).
But even then she inserted the Yueh reference, saying that 90% of Taiwanese have "Vietnamese" ancestry from what is now the southeast Coast of China. If you reflect that Vietnam has a diverse population, and that "Vietnam" is a modern construction of colonialism, imperial expansion, and historical accidents, you can see how absurd the idea of retrojecting "Vietnamese" hundreds of years into the past is.

Munsterhjelm observes that Lin's nationalistic interpretation of her genetic data not only leads her to use it as the basis for a "Taiwanese ethnicity" founded on blood, but also to defend this research by arguing that if Taiwanese ethnic ancestry is not defended by Taiwanese scientists, then outside scientists will use it to define Taiwan. According to Musterhjelm, she pointed to a 2000 report from Chinese scientists arguing that the Taiwanese aborigines are not foundational in the Austronesian language group.

Many of Lin's claims -- like her absurd claim that only 3.5% of self-identified Siraya were "pure" Siraya --- are deeply racist, based on an antiquated, essentialist view of human identity as something primordial and blood-based. Any time her name comes up, what she says about genes and identity should be handled with care.
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Nelson Report Clarification on Xi speech: possible deadline from Xi on Taiwan annexation?

Nobody let the dogs out, thankfully

From the Nelson Report, an interesting observation from Stapleton Roy on Xi setting an apparent deadline for the annexation of China. Roy, like so many commenting on Taiwan in Washington, struggles manfully not to simply say in plain speech that nobody in Taiwan wants to be part of China (they favor the status quo because it is independence). It's funny and very indicative how that has become one of the limits on all the discourse about Taiwan, including the media: few plainly state that Taiwan wants independence. Everything below is from the Nelson Report, not me, except the bolding in the second paragraph of Roy's talk....


CHINA/TAIWAN "DEADLINE" re-reading last night's Report...sorry, but we managed to be fairly incoherent in describing the concerns of Loyal Readers Stapleton Roy and Susan Lawrence at the very excellent Brookings discussion of the 19th Party Conference. So here's a transcript from a tape:


Can I comment on the Taiwan aspect? Overall, Xi Jinping's comments on Taiwan I thought were moderate in the Work Report. He reaffirmed the Mainland's policy of "Peaceful Unification." He repeated Beijing's willingness to deal with anyone or any party on the basis of "One China" and/or the 1992 Consensus on One China. Now the problem there is that the President of Taiwan has not been willing to explicitly to endorse the '92 Consensus, so there's a problem there, but the Chinese policy has not changed on that question.

There was a change, however, that was significant, although not stated with urgency shall we say. In the Work Report there was a statement of realizing complete national unification is an inevitable requirement for completion of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people. Well the goal for the great rejuvenation is 2049, so in essence he is saying that by 2049, when we're going to complete the great rejuvenation, we need to have completed national reunification. That amounts to setting an implicit deadline.

That's dangerous because we're talking about something only thirty-two years away, and the trends in Taiwan have been that there have been this enormous development and common interest to the Mainland, and there's enormous support in Taiwan for maintaining the status quo in the cross-strait relationship. But there's been no growth in support for unification with the Mainland in its current form. And so therefore if the deadline were to be held firm and we didn't have developments in Taiwan, we have a contradiction, but again we're talking about thirty-two years is forever in the American view because we can't think three to four years in advance.


Xi has talked elsewhere about national rejuvenation, including Taiwan's return to the Motherland, to this idea of unification, and I felt that in the Taiwan section of the Work Report, it actually was just a little bit less explicit than he's made it...

Roy (jumping in)

Well the comment he's made before that is relevant to this language is the statement that the Taiwan issue could not be left to future generations, which was taking the Deng Xiaoping comment about the territorial disputes with Japan- that they were too complicated and should be left to future generations. And he moved that into the current generation, which, in a sense, set an implicit deadline. But the difference is here he's linking it to national rejuvenation, which has a deadline, and therefore represents a step closer to beginning to say it has to be done by such and such a time.


Although to say he didn't sort of link them as closely in the Taiwan section. I think that's elsewhere in the Report, but the Taiwan section, he reaching out, and he's also...He's got I think the biggest applause line in the Report was, "We will never allow anyone, any organization, or any political party at any time or any form separate any part of Chinese territory from China." And that was the biggest applause line. one can argue that this is still basically aspirational boilerplate in terms of the reality of the current situation, where Taiwan Pres. Tsai clearly presides over a democratically elected government...but the implications are clear, as both Stape and Susan note...

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Friday, November 03, 2017

Twofer Reports

Taitung farms

This week many people were passing around the latest the Congressional Research Service Taiwan policy report, Taiwan: Issues for Congress. An extremely useful report stuffed full of information, it mentions a key point a couple of times:
A core goal of U.S. policy has been the preservation of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, seeing it as central to the security of Asia. To achieve that goal, the United States has long opposed unilateral changes in the status quo by either the PRC or Taiwan. Since 1998, U.S. officials have explicitly stated that the United States does not support Taiwan independence, though they do not say that the United States opposes it.
Also out this week was a Japanese Defense Ministry White Paper which has many comments about Taiwan scattered throughout the China section....

The Project 2049 Institute is now accepting internship applications for 2018... click READ MORE for details.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Taichung Mayor Election Notes...

A great combo on this student's shirt...

The Taichung mayor election is shaping up to be interesting. KMT Legislator from Fengyuan Johnny Chaing is throwing his hat into the ring. Here is his announcement from his Facebook page. If you can't read it in Chinese, just click on the translation. The issues he names are pollution and transportation, two locally important issues.

Remember, this year Taichung has become Taiwan's second largest city. In the battleground of central Taiwan, Taichung may well become a stepping stone to the Presidency, especially if Taipei stays with Ko Wen-che so that no DPP politician is associated with Taipei, and the KMT runs or wins with an old-fashioned ideologue like Alex Tsai who is unelectable on a national level. A KMT politician who can do well or even win in Taichung has demonstrated he can appeal to the center on local issues. Presidential...

As we discussed, a longtime observer of local politics observed.....
Friend 1: I notice how he frames pollution, as a problem to be investigated. That sounds a lot like a page from climate change denialist rhetoric 101. If I am not mistaken, the KMT has routinely opposed clean energy and supported both nuclear and coal, no?

Michael Turton: yup

Longtime Taichung politics observer: It's shaping up at this point to be the "the" issue of the campaign. Lin hasn't been able to live up to his promises, in part from opposition from the central govt, but in part because he is caught between needing more and more power to support his big push to draw in more investment and industry here to create jobs (like the giant TSMC fab and Micron) and cutting power output from the Taichung Power Plant to reduce air pollution. He wants Taipower to foot the bill for a big shift to natural gas and away from coal, but he's got basically no support from the Tsai administration, and they've blocked the law he got through city council aiming to cut emissions from the top emitters (Taichung Power Plant, Dragon Steel) by 10% annually. He claims he's cut air pollution by about a third, but people have trouble believing it. His officials have said things like "we've cut pollution, but not visible pollution". Lots of suspicion on the govt statistics to put it mildly, and if a certain someone's blog is to be believed, there is a significant pollution spike in the middle of the night, most likely factories releasing pollutants on the sly. So, in spite of all their actions and behaviour in the past, the KMT locally is going to hit him hard on this... (Yes, I know you know most of this, this is kind of a primer for anyone interested).
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From the Archives: Videos of 1930s rail and B-29s bombing Takao, Formosa

Great video of push rail and country scenes.

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Tsai's Perpetually Slumping Approval Goes From 29.8% to 46.4%. Obviously Still Slumping.

Something is fishy here...

I can't believe I am writing this again...

One thing about Tsai's approval ratings: no matter what their actual behavior is, in any kind of commentary, they are always slumping. This latest one from the normally sturdy Sheryn Lee states:
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration is experiencing the mid-term blues. In July, support for Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) fell to a meagre 23.9 per cent — only marginally higher than support for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) at 22.5 per cent. A majority of Taiwanese voters were undecided on party identification. In the following month, Tsai’s personal approval rating dropped to 29.8 per cent, making her a less popular leader than US President Donald Trump in the same period. While Tsai’s approval recovered to 46.4 per cent by the end of September, the figures remain well below her May 2016 post-election popularity high of 70 per cent.
"Mid-term blues." Only in this strange alternate universe in which Tsai Ing-wen's popularity is always slumping can you write that a president whose popularity has risen from 29.8% to 46.4% -- according to your own figures! -- is suffering from "mid-term blues".

So many love to compare Tsai's 70% initial approval with her current approval, whatever that may be, to show how the mighty have fallen. It makes a great narrative, but it is utterly divorced from the Taiwan context.

Few presidents can sustain such high approval ratings, especially in Taiwan. The missing context: Tsai's approval hit the 30s in October of 2016 and has been around there ever since. No blues here, just normality and stability. Tsai's approval probably isn't going to move much, except for spikes like the one she got this fall from bringing in William Lai as premier (Taiwan Style Foundation has her at 49.6%). I expect that approval for Lai and Tsai will fall over time, especially as the 2018 election nears, and return to the 25-35% range as is normal.

Does no one search the net anymore? I wrote about the approval issue in Dec of 2016, nearly a year ago:
Humans like to explain things in terms of accessible narratives, not opaque structures. Because so many issues are swirling through the public arena at any given time, it is easy to construct a narrative that can explain dissatisfaction with Tsai. After all, the Administration has faced labor protests, the gay marriage controversy, withering criticism of its appointments to the civil law reform commission, the snafu with the appointment of a representative to Singapore, the KMT asset committee… a long list could be compiled. Similar lists could be made for the early months of the Ma Administration, from the Chen Shui-bian trial to falling export orders to another of the interminable food scandals (melamine milk, in that case) that have vexed every administration. Though many writers date the decline in Ma's popularity from his dreadful performance in Typhoon Morokot, in fact by September of 2008 Global Views Monthly had pegged his satisfaction at only 24.9%.
That's right -- it Ma just four months to hit 24.9%. Then he got re-elected with lower approval ratings than Tsai has now. The polls are meaningless noise. Indeed, you could use the numbers Lee cites to show that Tsai is running ahead of Ma at the same point in their respective first terms. But mentioning Trump is ever so much more interesting than discussing the local context...

....The comparison to Trump is absurd trolling that should have no place in a serious discussion of Tsai's performance, but it makes for great narrative, as we saw in the LA Times hit piece on Tsai.

Lee also shows how the endlessly repeated conventional understanding of Taiwanese attitudes towards the status quo are wrong:
As a consequence, both parties could face even tougher electoral battles in the future, and these will likely occur on two fronts. First, the parties must manage cross-Strait issues as both a foreign and a domestic policy issue. The majority of voters identify solely as ‘Taiwanese’ (as opposed to ‘Chinese’ or ‘both Taiwanese and Chinese’) but also support the cross-Strait status quo. This makes it extremely difficult for either party to balance demands from Beijing with the demands of a large bloc of voters who have no party affiliation but identify as Taiwanese and believe in the cross-Strait status quo.
This is just not getting it:
The majority of voters identify solely as ‘Taiwanese’ (as opposed to ‘Chinese’ or ‘both Taiwanese and Chinese’) but also support the cross-Strait status quo.
That should be AND not BUT. Because they are Taiwanese, they support the status quo. It is a weak form of independence, and the best that can be gotten at present. This means that it is the KMT that faces the more serious friction on the cross-strait policy front. Getting closer to China means getting farther from independence, which displeases voters, and is disruptive to Taiwan economically and socially, which also displeases voters.

Meanwhile Tsai's positions on distance from China have strong public support, as polls show that her refusal to say Taiwan is part of China ("acknowledge the 1992 Consensus") and her preservation of the status quo is popular (polls from 2016 and 2017). Tsai's Southbound Policy has consistent high public support, at least according to MOFA.

Preserving the status quo does not create problems for the DPP since it is the popular pro-independence position, but is a problem for the KMT, which seeks to destroy the status quo and annex Taiwan to China. In fact, in a survey that came out today, Tsai's cross-strait policy has 45% support, while Chairman Wu's of the KMT has merely 18% support.

The idea that "status quo" is different from "wants independence" is a construct of the old MAC and NCCU polls (lets not forget that NCCU is the old political warfare school and remains very blue institutionally) that cut the electorate up into tiny pieces, ostensibly to get a more fine-grained view of its views, but in reality to obscure the fact that the majority of the population supports any independence it can get. Hence you have scholars claiming that the "center" supports the status quo and not independence or annexation. Plain wrong: the center is pro-independence, which is why it supports the status quo.

The rest of the piece is solid and given the beginning, has a surprisingly positive tone toward Tsai. It could easily have started out that way...
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration is experiencing long-term stable poll numbers, reflecting her steady forward progress in a variety of areas. In September, support for Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rallied above 30 percent, higher than support for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), after the cabinet reshuffle. A majority of Taiwanese voters were undecided on party identification, a normal situation between elections. That month, Tsai’s personal approval rating rose above 45%, showing that public disapproval of Tsai is more the result of transient impatience rather than public disillusionment. At this point in their respective terms, Tsai's approval is running ahead of previous President Ma Ying-jeou, giving her good prospects for re-election.
But why write sanely, when you can compare her to Trump?
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EVENTS: AmCham Taichung Happy Hour, Saturday, Nov. 11, 6-8 p.m, Taihu Brewing's Chuoyinshi bar  (click on read more)

Monday, October 30, 2017

The wonderful Hsinchu 37 out of Beipu

A horse passed us as we left Zhuzhong Station

I didn't ride Saturday since my bike was still en route from Taitung, but on Sunday a group of us met up at Zhuzhong Station in Hsinchu. We mapped the ride on the fly, and Drew suggested we do the Hsinchu 37 from Beipu to Nanzhuang. What a great route... take a look by clicking on READ MORE... (and click on Andrew K's lovely post on this ride)