Sunday, July 23, 2017

Film Festival Opportunity

Guanxi Media sent this around:

In December 2017, Taichung will host an international film festival(WOFFF). There will be hundreds of films from talented filmmakers from over 40 countries. Guan Xi Media will produce an introduction video that will be played at the beginning of each film. We’re looking for some quality video footage to include in our video. This video will be a collaboration of several different videographers and different types of footage. If you have anything to contribute, that shows how beautiful and fascinating Taiwan is, please send it to the below email. This is a fantastic opportunity and you will get full credit for your work. You will also be invited to the festival as special guests.

mike.guanxi AT

FB: 福爾摩沙電影櫥窗 windows of Formosa Film Festival - WOFFF
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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Totally vindicated on the bogus 1992C. Thank you, Beijing!

A woman cleans "tree seeds" in Jhuolan.

Before I get to the meat of this post, in which I count coup on our lazy, Kuomintang-propaganda-regurgitating international media, I'd like to point out this fantastic post from back in 2009, which says that the English  word ketchup derives from a Southern Minnan word for "fish sauce". Apparently fish sauce was an ancient food of China. Those of you with an interest in Austronesian history will note (1) the overlap between the distribution of fish sauce and the presence of Austronesian peoples and (2) the fact that fish sauce disappears from south China when the Han move in and replace it with fermented soybean sauces. I expect that the Minnan word for fish sauce derives from some Austronesian ancestor, and that fish sauce was originally an Austronesian invention.

But on to the post, which has me LMAO. The expansionists in Beijing issued style guidelines for their press this week, among which was a command that the "one China, two interpretations" of the fictional 1992 Consensus is unacceptable usage, because Beijing does not accept "two interpretations"...
In a move intended to increase pressure on Taiwan, China’s official Xinhua news agency published a set of guidelines for Chinese media when referring to Taiwanese authorities, including a ban on using the Taiwanese version of the so-called “1992 consensus.”

The “1992 consensus” — a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted making up in 2000 — refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese government that both sides acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
Yeah, that's right. For years the western media has been regurgitating this piece of KMT propaganda as if it were a fact. Few, if any, have ever stated the reality: that Beijing has never recognized the "two interpretations" codicil. This is known to everyone who has studied the issue, and there is reference to that fact on the net, including on this blog -- which I know international media workers read (I never toot my own horn, but I will break this rule just once).

Thank you, Beijing, for confirming what I have been saying for some time now.

What does this mean? It means -- again as all of us on the pro-Taiwan side have been chorusing for ages:


The "consensus" as promoted by the KMT consists of two parts -- one of which is "two interpretations". Beijing has just nixed that. There is no and never was any 1992 Consensus.

When Beijing uses the term "1992 Consensus" it just wants Taiwan's leaders to say that Taiwan is part of China. It has never accepted "two interpretations". Beijing has conclusively demonstrated that the 1992C is just a cage to imprison a non-KMT president. As I wrote two years ago:
The KMT and CCP do not need an idea they can agree on to talk, they can talk any time they like and do. It's not like Chu and Xi sit down and an aged cleric walks out with a copy of the Lun Yu and then Xi and Chu both take an oath on it to adhere to the 1992 Consensus before they talk. Neither gives a flying f@ck in a rolling donut about the 1992 Consensus. Like all legal ideas put forth by Leninist authority organizations like the KMT or CCP, the rules cage others; they don't apply to the Party itself. It's always important to keep in mind when thinking about the KMT that it is not a political party but the political organization of a colonial ruling class. Hence, the key point from the KMT-CCP view is that it is a cage that both Chinese parties can use to imprison the DPP's policy makers, since each insist the DPP must adhere to it if it wants to talk to China.
That was true in 2015. It is true today. But you know what sucks? Two things will happen:

1. Some yammerheads in the int'l media will continue to write as if Beijing has never confirmed there is no 1992C and will continue to use the "two interpretations" nonsense.

2. Not a single international media organization will issue a public correction/apology for misleading their readers the next time the 1992C comes up.

The best we can hope for is the reference to the 1992C disappears in the international media. It will be amusing to see how they wriggle and squirm on that one.

Why O why can't we have a better media?
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Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday links and comments

Fengyuan from above.

Cole writes on the staged legislative brawls.
A despairing KMT, which suffered severe losses in the January 2016 elections, now sees no alternative than to create disruptions in parliament. To be fair, when they were in a similar position, it was not beneath DPP legislators to turn to similar means to prevent the passage of bills. It is not impossible, moreover, that some of the opposition legislators who have engaged in such behaviour are doing so consciously, to discredit not only the institution itself but, more cynically, the democratic ideals that are often associated with President Tsai Ing-wen and her DPP. Whether they do this for short-term electoral gains or willingly as part of a counter-democratic narrative orchestrated by Beijing is open to question. Whatever the motivation, such antics should no longer be countenanced and ought arguably to result in fines and/or temporary suspension.
Kharis Templeman had a great series of posts on brawling.

D Fell in the Sentinel on when martial law really ended:
In a recent panel discussion one of my students suggested that by talking of a 30th anniversary we are neglecting the different experiences of Taiwan’s offshore islands (this point was made by SOAS M.A. Taiwan Studies student Matt Taylor). We should not forget that martial law was not lifted on Kinmen and Matsu until November 1992. County commissioners were only directly elected there in 1993. Although martial law was also lifted in Penghu in 1987, the military remained highly influential in the archipelago county’s governance and the KMT had an effective monopoly on its local politics until 1993.
The national security law that the KMT passed in 1987 was martial law in all but name, and Fell observes that people were still being arrested under Premier Hau's administration until 1992. Political prisoners remained in custody until 1993. That's really the year that democracy began in earnest in Taiwan.

I have often made the point that martial law lingered, but another disturbing aspect is that the structures of authoritarian control remain. For example, the neighborhood captains are still around, and in universities, classes still have a class leader and are divided into groups of 50, originally a structure set up for authoritarian control. The democratic spirit permeates all, but it is worth noting that some bones of the skeleton of the old one-party state are still there, waiting for the flesh to revive them. Brrr......

Taiwan Sentinel with a useful piece on a campaign to discredit the Tsai Administration among the nation's temples. The campaign claims the Administration is going to ban the burning of incense, which is nonsense. Temples are key political players in many localities and powerful temple organizations can influence voters.

This is why I don't trust any polls. Tsai's approval rebounds? Taiwan Next Gen Foundation, whatever that is, published a poll on Tsai and her administration's policies, with approval of Tsai at 51%. Yeah right.

Squeezing of KMT assets continues, with the government demanding the party pay US$28 million for assets seized from Japan and then sold off. No one knows what treasures were lost when the KMT took for itself what belonged to the people of Taiwan as their historical legacy. Ironically, by removing so many visible symbols of Japanese power, and then by setting up a one-party state that was even more abusive than the Japanese state, the KMT made it possible for Taiwanese to sentimentalize Japanese rule. Karma is a bitch.

POLITICIANS IN THE NEWS: Popular DPP politico Lo Chih-cheng blows his chance at New Taipei City mayor run by getting caught having an affair. But this is the most beautiful thing ever: KMT politician Alex Tsai held for embezzlement. I'll have a full workup on this in a bit.

IN CASE YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN: Lee Ming-che is still in custody in China. NYT piece on it.
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Vintage Anti-Malaria poster

Formosa Vintage Museum sent around this anti-malaria poster from the Japanese era, for Taichung. It goes well with this excellent blog post from John Benda on George Kerr's alleged career as a CIA spy in Taiwan... in the 1930s. *sigh*
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The arguably ethnocentric presentation of Taiwanese legislative brawling in the US media

It was hard biking in the midday heat, but even so, we just couldn't figure out why our pace was so slow.

Huffington Post offered this report on the legislative brawling last week:
Brawl Breaks Out In Taiwanese Parliament As Lawmakers Throw Water Balloons And Chairs

Who among us hasn’t gotten in a fistfight over infrastructure development?
The ethnocentricism of the article -- or its fundamental laziness, take your pick -- lies in its total lack of recognition that brawling in the legislature needs an explanation. Why do they do that? It's just what they do. How do we know that? Look at the other examples! At the bottom, the article goes on to list other examples of "brawling".

Recall that the fight involved water balloons, meaning that it was planned (no one carries balloons around on the off chance they may be involved in a water balloon fight). So why no inquiry into that? It's not like there aren't 00s of informed individuals on Taiwan  that Huffpost could have emailed for an explanation. But apparently zero effort went into finding out why people might brawl over an infrastructure bill. That was a thing that didn't need explained, because, you know, it's what they do.

The CNN video similarly lacks any recognition that there are reasons that ordinarily peaceful humans might stage a brawl in the legislature. AP at least gives a few lines of description, which hardly amount to an explanation.

The AFP article, one long attack on the DPP as is normal for AFP, at least gives some explanation via repeating KMT talking points (Channel News Asia's AFP version is slightly different and leads with the DPP view). The Straits Times also took some time to report on it. BBC turned in a long report with background information and even a kind of in-depth explanation. But none of these are American.

This news-as-infotainment-spectacle is why we get lots of videos in the US of legislators brawling but zero explanation as to why. It is very bad for American democracy that our news media is so relentlessly committed to producing an endless flow of spectacle instead of news.

Fortunate indeed is the US, whose legislature remains decorous as it attempts to organize a vote to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare, which will lower their living standards and reduce their lifespans. But those legislators in Taiwan! So uncivilized!
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In the Diplomat: The Chinese Cult of Cairo and the Status of Taiwan


Michal Thim and myself begin this piece....
In Taiwan a small but remarkably positive step took place this month: on July 12 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan quietly removed a webpage that erroneously claimed that Taiwan was part of China. The Tsai administration also announced changes to the school curriculum, under which the Cairo Declaration will no longer be taught in Taiwan’s schools as the canonical definition of Taiwan’s status. Predictably, this action met with outrage from Beijing and its allies inside Taiwan, who once again cited the Cairo Declaration and bitterly attacked the Tsai government’s decision.
Go thou and read!
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Friday, July 14, 2017

President Tsai on the passing of Liu Xiaobo

President Tsai Ing-wen:
Tonight, together with everyone that cares about human rights in China, we mourn the tragic passing of Liu Xiaobo. I want to pay my highest respect to this tireless advocate for human rights. I also wish to express my deepest condolences to his family, particularly Ms. Liu Xia who is currently still under house arrest.

In 2010, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. At the ceremony, the attention of the whole world was drawn on the empty chair. Sadly, he will never have a chance to reclaim his seat.

In “No Enemies, No Hatred,” he once said “I firmly believe that China’s political progress will never stop, and I’m full of optimistic expectations of freedom coming to China in the future, because no force can block the human desire for freedom. China will eventually become a country of the rule of law in which human rights are supreme”.

This was Liu Xiaobo’s Chinese Dream. We hope that the Chinese authorities can show confidence in engaging in political reform so that the Chinese people can enjoy the God-given rights of freedom and democracy. This will be a turning point in cross-Strait relations. The Chinese Dream is not supposed to be about military might. It should be about taking ideas like those from Liu Xiaobo into consideration. Only through democracy, in which every Chinese person has freedom and respect, can China truly become a proud and important country.

If the Chinese dream is democracy, then Taiwan will provide any assistance necessary to achieve this objective. I believe that this is what he would have wanted.

Liu Xiaobo had no enemies, because democracy has no enemies. Again, I offer my respects towards his commitment to his ideas.
My friend Catie Lilly's tweets say it all:
Catie Lilly‏ @catielila
#Taiwan's freedom is worthy in itself but even more so if the PRC refuses change. To continue on this freedom needs international support

Many westerners are obsessed w/pipe? dream of CN democracy & yet are indifferent to #Taiwan's freedom, which exists in brave defiance of PRC

If #LiuXiaobo didn't 'cause tension' by fighting for Chinese freedom, then neither is @iingwen to blame for 'tensions' with a bully neighbor

Often ppl who admire CN dissidents will still deliberately or not buy PRC narrative of #Taiwan as separatist & trouble-making. This is wrong

No accident that #Taiwan's @iingwen offered shelter to #LiuXiaobo. TWese understand cost of speaking truth to Chinese power - and do it anyway

Hope all who rightfully praise #LiuXiaobo's bravery will also stand up for #Taiwan's freedom from #China. These are interconnected battles
This month the world watched China murder Liu Xiaobo in a demonstration to its people of what will happen to those who oppose the existing order, and as a signal to its people that the West will do nothing for them if they oppose the regime.

In Taiwan everyone is a dissident. Let us hope, in the end, we are not all Liu Xiaobo.
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China Suborns our neighborhood chiefs and precinct captains?

Let them lie...

STORM media reported this week that China is recruiting the most basic level of politicians in Taiwan, the Lizhang (里長) . Lizhang are the neighborhood chiefs/precinct captains, who in the old days monitored the population's political activities. Today they have morphed into the gophers at the bottom of the political order, bringing local requests like fixing broken streetlights to the attention of higher authorities, and handing down official communications, like surveys or election forms.

Beijing has been working on this for a couple of years, apparently. The Chinese have even formed an association, the "China Taipei Village and Li Head Association" (中華台北村里長聯合總會). At first glance these seems terrifying, given the kind of data they have access to, but actually, it probably isn't aimed at Taiwan at all. People seem to forget that Beijing's Taiwan policy has a strong domestic element. China needs organizations like this to convince its own people that it is making progress and keep a lid on nationalism that might get out of hand (recall all the instances in which the people pushed the government to fight harder against foreign powers).

The Lizhang association is a Potemkin Village, entirely show. It's the kind of thing that you do when you have no policy but have a budget and must do something to convince higher-ups that you are actually doing something... because China certainly has spies inside the Ministry of the Interior who can get whatever information the lizhangs have access to.
Daily Links:
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The existential meaninglessness of Tsai's approval ratings

The chart above shows Ma Ying-jeou's trust and approval ratings from the TISR Taiwan Mood Barometer Survey from Dec of 2015, just before the election. The chart shows his ratings for the whole of his Administration. The dark blue line at the bottom that ends in 18.3% is his satisfaction rating, the red line, trust, the yellow, distrust, and the blue, dissatisfaction.

That's right. Ma's approval hardly touched 40% the whole of his eight years, and he spent most of his second term below 20%. He got re-elected with below-30% satisfaction.

Let us recall that at the moment Tsai's party is relentlessly squeezing KMT assets, reducing everyone's pensions, redirecting public infrastructure spending, and supporting gay marriage. Change is slow and everyone is impatient. Being above 30% is a strong performance, testimony to her ability to stay calm and never say anything stupid.

I'm posting this because I have had conversations with people who really ought to know better: the proper comparison is with Taiwan presidents who traditionally have low satisfaction ratings, not the President of some other country. Taiwanese are pessimists and complainers, like most humans, and are always dissatisfied with the pace of change, unless they are dissatisfied with the direction of change.

Let me emphasize this: Tsai's satisfaction ratings aren't low. They are, compared to Ma's, somewhat higher overall. I fully expect them to continue to sink into the twenties and bounce around there, as Ma's did, and Tsai to win re-election, as Ma did. The reasons for these ratings are structural and have nothing to do with who is the President, as I noted in my post on the LA Times hit piece on Tsai Ing-wen.

A complicating factor is that there is no group like TISR with stable long-term polling on the issue, and frankly I do not trust the polls from these new organizations, because I do not know what their politics are. TISR was a staid Establishment poll, generally solid. Unfortunately TISR stopped polling. Their last poll of Tsai has her at 34.6% approval at the end of October last year. Obviously the sheen from the presidential election evaporated quickly, and she fell into the usual territory for Taiwan presidents.

Good luck finding a reliable poll on Chen Shui-bian. Here and there one can dip into the past: for example, this Oct 2005 UDN poll has Chen at 25%, in his second term, which feels reasonable.

Nothing to see here, move along folks.
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wed Round up

Fish farms in Pingtung

Chris Horton with an optimistic piece about the new skyscraper going up next to Taipei 101. I've always thought Taipei 101 was hideously ugly, and that without buildings around it, it is hard to get a sense of how tall Taipei 101 really is. So this new building is progress, of a sorts.

This NYTimes report says the US apologized for confusing the PRC and the ROC (not "China and Taiwan" as the headline says)...
A Chinese official said on Monday that the United States had apologized for a White House statement that misidentified China’s leader, Xi Jinping, as president of the Republic of China — the formal name for Taiwan.
One reason Taiwan has so much trouble is all the confusion between the ROC and Taiwan, deliberately fostered by successive KMT governments, and media inability/laziness to be precise. The "Republic of China" is not the formal name of Taiwan. It is the formal name of the government that administrates Taiwan. Taiwan is not part of the ROC under US practice, US policy, and international law.

This unclarity has consequences later on in the article.
In December, Donald Trump, as president-elect, accepted a telephone call from President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, which broke with decades of United States precedent and was considered a snub for Beijing. The United States severed formal ties with Taiwan in 1979 as part of the so-called One China policy under which it recognizes Beijing as the government of China.

Mr. Trump later suggested that he might not be bound by the One China policy, but he reaffirmed it during a call with Mr. Xi in February.
Note the part I have bolded. The NYTimes correctly notes that we have a one China policy, but then stops short of reporting the entirety of our policy with regard to Taiwan: our one China policy does not include Taiwan in "China".

Why is it so difficult to get that clearly stated in the media? Instead, the NYT piece seems to imply that Taiwan is considered part of China under our one China policy. *sigh*

J Michael Cole rounds up the viciousness of the response to desperately-needed pension reform (TT here). The government simply can't afford to continue colonial transfers of wealth to the KMT and its servants via these pension programs, which are outrageous. For example, a friend of my wife's, whose father was the local town administrator back in the day, retired at 60 with a pension equivalent to the pay of an assistant professor, having worked as a mid-level bureaucrat in a small town and being a KMT member. She was brought into the civil service through her father's connections and never took the civil service exam. She owns two buildings downtown and collects rents on several businesses and apartments, and has turned against the DPP for cutting her pension from 70K a month to a more realistic 40K -- when young workers have starting salaries below that level. She gets the 18%, of course.

It's tempting to see these people as selfish, but it is more complicated than that. Many old people recall their suffering in the Taiwan Miracle years, the hard work and long hours they put in. This is their reward. Moreover, the Miracle by-passed many mainlanders who lacked the skills and local connections to open businesses and instead served the authoritarian state. Now they see themselves as collecting their just return.

Huang Tien-lin with an excellent piece in the TT looking at China's continued erosion of Taiwan's economy...
In the first quarter of last year, the economy contracted by 0.23 percent, then grew by 1.13 percent in the second quarter, 2.03 percent in the third and 2.58 percent in the fourth, while in the first quarter of this year the economy grew by 2.56 percent.

The stock market has been performing even more strongly. On June 27, the TAIEX closed at a 17-year high of 10,513.96 points. Compared to Jan. 25 last year, when the TAIEX slumped to 7,762 points, the index has risen by 35.45 percent, making it one of Asia’s top-performing stock markets.

However, warning signs have begun to emerge which require a speedy response.

The first was the Economic Development Council’s composite economic growth indicator, which has been recording month-on-month falls in growth since January. April’s figure left the economy only 21 points short of losing the index’s “green light” rating which signifies “stable growth.”

A second is that in the first five months of this year, 214 Taiwanese businesses received approval to invest in China — an increase of 120 percent on the previous year’s figure. It appears that Beijing’s active infiltration of senior civil service officials sympathetic to the pan-blue camp is beginning to bear fruit, while Beijing’s overarching strategy to overwhelm Taiwan’s smaller economy and integrate it into its own is yielding results.

Another aspect to the flurry of investment in China is that domestic investment is severely lacking. Private sector investment growth is only 1.95 percent. Beijing is keenly aware that the cross-strait stalemate is beneficial to Taiwan’s economic recovery.
Like I and many others have observed, and contrary to international media reports, Beijing must have cross-strait interactions because they are vital to its long-term strategy (which Huang discusses) of gutting Taiwan's economy, the prop of its democracy. That is why there is never a threat to Taiwanese investments in China, etc.

Huang's observation that the x-strait stalemate serves Taiwan's recovery is spot on. Note Huang's assertion that the KMT helped China-bound businesses, which resulted in sluggish inward investment. No kidding -- that preferential treatment of Taiwan firms moving to China, and of big business, not only harmed Taiwan, but cost the KMT the 2016 election.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Short video promoting the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei.

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Sunday, July 09, 2017

LA Times runs hit piece on Tsai Ing-wen

Heading back here soon....

The LA Times ran a hit piece on President Tsai today. How did I know how much it sucked? Three friends whose PHD work is on Taiwan politics issues sent it to me with WTF? texts. If the LA Times is ever puzzled as to why democracy is on the decline in the world or how President Trump got elected, it need merely examine its editorial posture. Why O why don't we have a better media...

After some opening boilerplate, the writer, Ralph Jennings, observes:
Tsai’s approval rating sank to 33% in June, down from just over 39% a month earlier. That puts her in politically dangerous territory, below even the historic low ratings that U.S. polls show for President Trump.
As I pointed out ages ago in my column in Taiwan News, the proper context for assessing Tsai's approval rating is Taiwan and its Presidents. Comparing her to Trump is simply a gratuitous troll which indicates the obvious anti-Tsai slant of the piece. 

I admit it was kind of Jennings to signal his position so early in the text, so that rational readers could leave immediately. After all, we'd already read this a year ago in the South China Morning Post from Lawrence Chung, whose political preferences will be obvious to longtime readers, and don't need the deja vu. Hint: when you're mimicking the pro-Beijing media, there's a problem...

Contextualized properly, Jennings should have asked: what were (previous President) Ma's approval ratings? After the initial euphoria, Ma fell into the low 20s and basically hung there until July of 2009, when he climbed back to the high 30s thanks to a stock market rally and other transient factors. In Aug of that year, readers may recall, Typhoon Morakot visited the island, and Ma wrecked his approval ratings more or less permanently by his incompetent, dilatory, and inane response to it.

"Dangerous territory"? Be serious. Ma got re-elected with much lower approval ratings. Note that Jennings adduces not a single Taiwan-based fact to show that her poll numbers are "dangerous". This is just editorializing disguised as "reporting".

Jennings continues...
Tsai has kept the peace, as promised, but relations with China have been tense, and Beijing has taken steps to undermine its Taiwanese rival. China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but Taiwan — with tacit U.S. support — has resisted unification.
This is actually not a bad version of The Formula even though it does not assign a cause to cross-strait tensions -- those mysterious tensions that are the Augustinian Uncaused Cause of cross-strait cosmology -- and as he usually does, Jennings notes further down that most Taiwanese want independence. Kudos to him for that.
Many Taiwanese see Tsai’s policy as one of inaction, not stability.

“The government has taken a very negative attitude on mainland China policy,” said Ku Chung-hwa, a standing board member with the Taipei-based watchdog group Citizen Congress Watch, which advocates transparency in government. Despite Beijing’s demands to come to the table as a unified China, he said, “Tsai has nothing to say. This stalemate is typical of a cold war.”
This paragraph is one of my favorites in this piece. Jennings sources this quote not from a public pollster, an academic who focuses on public opinion, or someone familiar with conditions island-wide, but from a professional government critic whose specialization is the legislature, not foreign policy. If you need a critical quote, that's the guy to go to. Smart.

You could even reverse the order of nouns in that first sentence: Many Taiwanese see Tsai's policy as one of stability, not inaction. Without a number, "many" could mean anything... and means nothing.

After noting the horrible blow of Panama's defection, LATimes scribes:
The Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation said its surveys show that 58% of respondents are dissatisfied with the president’s handling of China. About 60% want eventual independence. (Although Taiwan is functionally independent from China now, it exists in legal limbo and is recognized by only a few countries.)
(Love that comment in parentheses: no country recognizes Taiwan. They that recognize "Taiwan" all recognize the ROC as the official government of China.)

The major issue here is not the poll numbers (other outfits have similar numbers) but the timing and of course, the major omissions. Yes, of course Tsai's policy is going to be the subject of angst after a diplomatic setback. That's natural. But if you look at the polls prior to that (and I expect after it), support for her cross-strait policies is strong. See this MAC poll, for example, or this poll after the WHA debacle.

Jennings simply timed the piece to take advantage of the angst. Smart.

This is followed by a farrago of bullshit:
Those who prefer dialogue with China believe it could minimize the risk of conflict and extend trade and investment ties that Tsai’s predecessor had facilitated. Trade reached $121 billion in the year just before Tsai took office and tourist arrivals from China numbered a record 3.3 million in 2016.
"Those who prefer dialogue with China..." is just.... twisted. Of course the Tsai Administration wants dialogue with China (and quietly engages in it). Everyone on all sides of the debate wants dialogue with China, everyone on all sides believes dialogue minimizes conflict -- it is Beijing that has consistently refused to talk. Jennings simply fails to properly contextualize: this paragraph actually refers to "those who want dialogue with China at the price of conceding that Taiwan is part of China". The people making these claims are, as polls show, a solid minority: 70% do not want Tsai to recognize the one China principle (59% here in 2016 poll just prior to her inauguration, with same minority). Most of this minority vote KMT, which of course goes unmentioned here. These are not people with sane alternatives: they are the pro-China opposition.

Another misrepresentation is the trade number: Jennings simply puts an isolated number there, and never informs the reader that the Ma Administration killed trade growth with China and flooded the island with imports from China. The $121 billion trade "reached" was not only a decline from the $130 billion peak in 2014 but occurred amidst a collapse in Taiwan's trade surplus with the authoritarian state across the water. The key issue, ECFA's destruction of Taiwan's trade surplus, is never mentioned in the international media. These failed policies of Ma hurt Taiwan and helped put Tsai in power. Last year I noted:
In 2010 Ma Ying-jeou’s government signed the ECFA with China, an agreement promoted and now touted by journalists who largely live outside Taiwan. Almost immediately trade with China began to stagnate. After slumping in 2009, two-way trade recovered to $112 billion in 2010, and then hit $127 billion in 2011. After ECFA? It hovered in the $120 billion range, finally clambering to $130 billion in 2014 before plummeting to $115 billion last year. At present, thanks to China’s slowing economy, trade is now lower than before the “landmark” ECFA agreement came into effect.
Thus, Jennings never reports to his readers that the People Who Want Dialogue With China are people who supported trade and tourism policies that failed to produce meaningful economic gains.

But why report complex and interesting facts, when it is so much easier to produce an anti-Tsai construction?

Finally, buried at the bottom, is the reality. Must have been painful to have been forced to write this:
The president has played up economic policy such as infrastructure spending and time-off requirements for workers. The economy is expected to grow by about 2% this year, up half a percentage point from 2016, and manufacturing output is expected to exceed that.

Trade with China grew to $133 billion from April 2016 to April 2017, mostly under Tsai’s watch.
Oh yeah. Tsai's policies are actually more successful at the moment than Ma's had been just before her. Imagine if this had been located at the beginning of the piece -- it would have been impossible to write it with a strong anti-Tsai slant. Jennings at least wisely concedes that falling poll ratings don't really mean anything for her actual support, but that too is buried at the bottom. Should have been first...

Falling ratings are a structural issue. Here is how I put it last year when her ratings first began to fall....
The key point is this: the slumping ratings mean little by themselves. Instead, they reflect the intersection of Taiwan's identity politics and Taiwan voter expectations. At first happy with the possibility of change, light blue and light green middle of the road voters will gradually ooze into the dissatisfied camp as the pace change slows for the particular issues they are interested in, while iron minorities in the Blue and Green camps stake out positions on either side. It will come as no surprise to this writer if Tsai ends up with 20-30% satisfaction ratings at the end of the first term, essentially the proportion of Green voters who will always be satisfied with Tsai, yet gets re-elected and her party with her. In the TISR polls before the 2012 election Ma Ying-jeou consistently polled under 30% yet comfortably won re-election. It is not difficult to foresee the same pattern with Tsai – a smaller victory, with a few surprising regional defeats. Similarly, the legislature is perennially one of the lowest-rated branches of the government in Taiwan (and in many democracies), but most legislators receive multiple terms. Low ratings appear to be little impairment to re-election, while high ratings guarantee nothing – Chen Shui-bian's ratings as mayor of Taipei were generally excellent, but he was decisively beaten in 1998 by Ma Ying-jeou.
But I guess it is easier to write clickbait articles saying ZOMG TSAI IS GIVING TAIWAN THE SADZ than to rationally interpret the meaning of the ratings. I mean, how can you pitch a piece saying "Tsai's falling ratings are essentially temporary and meaningless and her economic polices are doing well in the current global economic conditions, and she keeps her mouth shut, works closely with Japan, and hasn't pissed off the US"... Nope: reality makes poor clickbait.

Hey thanks, LA Times, for turning the president of an allied democracy into a clickbait prop.

You suck.

ADDED: for contrast, try this piece from Ketagalan from a credentialed scholar on Taiwan politics on Tsai's first year..

UPDATED: I've posted on Tsai's satisfaction ratings in the Taiwan context here.
UPDATED: Taiwan Sentinel also ran a piece on this hit piece.
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Friday, July 07, 2017

Man Discovers Only Boring Mailbox in Taiwan

This mailbox is so dull, there is just no way to take a good picture of it.

Johnson Chen, 42, of Taichung city was out for a stroll this weekend when he accidentally stumbled across the only boring mailbox in Taiwan.

"I read in the newspaper about our many interesting mailboxes," Chen told The View, "like the Wind Lion mailbox in Kinmen, this cat shaped mailbox, this Seediq flavored mailbox, this mailbox-shaped post office, a lantern shaped mailbox, a Saisiyat flavored mailbox in Miaoli, this golden mailbox, and this indigenous symbol-decorated mailbox in Pingtung."

"I didn't think there were any boring mailboxes left," he explained, "So you can imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this one right in my own neighborhood."

Chen said he was applying to the Taichung city government to get funding to turn the mailbox into a tourist site. "What could be more interesting than the only boring mailbox left in Taiwan?" However, he expressed worries about his own inexperience with the matter. "I'm not sure what to do if we get funding. Do I polish it? Will straightening it out make it more boring or less boring? What if the owner buys a new one?" He added that if the funding comes in, he will turn his house into a bed and breakfast and invite his in-laws to set up stalls for selling unique food items such as Chinese sausage, pig's blood cake, and roasted corn.

Fengjia University Urban Planning Professor Xiang You-jyu observed: "This is an opportunity for Taichung city to really think out of the box." Dr. Xiang said he was already hard at work designing a boring email inbox. "Obviously the next step is take everything digital," he said.
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On ICRT: Podcast Link

The east coast at Shiti fishing port. This is where things begin to become very beautiful.

On ICRT tonight at ~8:15 for Taiwan This Week, hosted by Gavin Phipps, who is amazing. Guests are myself and the redoubtable Klaus Bardenhagen, always a pleasure. There is also a ten minute segment with J Michael Cole, who has some interesting observations on the arms sale. Link to the podcast.
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Two on the arms sales

A woman catches some Zs at the train station, putting her fan over her face.

Longtime US gov't Taiwan expert Shirley Kan wrote in the recent Global Taiwan Institute Brief on the US arms sales. The whole piece is good, but I thought this was interesting....
The State Department did not brief or notify Congress of the pending arms sales until late June. On June 15, Chairman Ed Royce of the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressed concern about successive administrations’ delays in arms sales notifications for Taiwan, which have needlessly dragged out the arms sales process. He hoped to see regular notifications in the future. On June 23, Senators Benjamin Cardin, John McCain, James Inhofe, Robert Menendez, Marco Rubio, Edward Markey, John Cornyn, and Ron Wyden sent a bipartisan letter to President Trump, urging his administration to send pending notifications immediately. They also alluded to the lack of consultations with Congress on arms sales to Taiwan, concluding that they “look forward” to discussions on Taiwan’s defense needs.
She warns...
In addition to ending the distortion of “packages,” the administration looks to replace Obama holdovers with Trump’s own personnel in the Defense and State Departments, including at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). Positions also could change, such as separating the portfolio on Taiwan from that on China.
By "distortion of packages" she refers to the effect of lumping sales of disparate systems into one big package, which highly politicizes what otherwise might be routine follow-on and upgrade sales. If each weapons system were sold separately at different times, when China complained, then the US could point and laugh: "No, seriously, you are whining about the sale of 48 anti-aircraft missiles?" or "How on earth could spare parts trigger you, Beijing?"

But when things are a gazillion dollar "package" it gives Chinese complaints a certain plausibility and makes lawmakers and the various government departments that much more hesitant to make the sale. Note that the Obama Administration refused to approve the deal, to stay on China's good side. It might have been more willing to if the package had been sold in small chunks that would cause less political friction with Beijing.

J Michael Cole writes in Taiwan Sentinel on the arms package. After noting that there is little chance of catching up to China, he observes:
Nevertheless, from a qualitative perspective the latest package contains some interesting elements which suggest greater willingness on Washington’s part to sell weapon systems to Taiwan that are not purely defensive in nature, a limitation that has long guided arms transfers to the island-nation. Some of the articles reflect a shift in Taiwan’s defense posture from static defense toward counterforce — the ability to strike targets in China or before they cross the median line in the Taiwan Strait. Three systems — the MK 48 Mod 6AT heavyweight torpedoes, AGM-88B HARMs and AGM-154C JSOW air-to-ground missiles — fall in this category and will complement indigenous weapons currently deployed by Taiwan’s Navy and Air Force.
Hopefully the flow of arms will become a regular and low-key affair.
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