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Aug 21, 2015

President Lee's comments on 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender

First, the former President's two most attention-grabbing sentences in his article in Voice (you can buy access to the full issue for 700 yen). Forgive and correct any problems with the translation from Japanese, if you would be so kind:
"At that time my brothers [Taiwanese people], who were beyond doubt [acting in the capacity of] Japanese person[s], fought for the motherland [Japan]."
"Japan and Taiwan were the same country then. Being the same country, it's of course not true that Taiwan was involved in the war of resistance against Japan."
The United Daily News did it's best to suggest Lee was suggesting he is Japanese, today and forever.  China Times too. Meanwhile the government run CNA parroted Chinese claims that Lee was destroying Taiwan-China relations and, in another article, used the familiar "scholar" quote headline to claim that Lee can't tell the truth from fiction and has unclear logic. (You can read more of this particular scholar's comments here.).

In response, KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu expressed outrage along with other KMT figures; some pan-blue legislators are again calling for President Lee to be stripped of his security detail and other privileges given to a retired president, which is a tired trope they've pulled out before when Lee said the Senkakus are Japanese territory; and President Ma accused Lee of selling out Taiwan somehow.

Meanwhile, Tsai Ing-wen said Lee was speaking from his historical perspective, while Mayor Ko pointed out that all parties in the kerfuffle were speaking truthfully from their perspectives. Ko's comments showed a lot of maturity I think.

My view is that Lee correctly sees he has much great political capital and influence in Japan than in Taiwan, so he is using that capital to try and tug at Japanese heart strings and bring Japan to express greater support for Taiwan's continued independence. Meanwhile he figures that in Taiwan the worst thing that will happen is his comments will force the KMT to make itself look even more China-oriented, which can only help the green camp.

Mar 24, 2014


I've been following protests in Taiwan with a great deal of sympathy for the students, admittedly lukewarm support for the details of their cause, and tremendous trepidation about how the government would react. Judging by what happened through the night at the Executive Yuan, things will be getting uglier for a while.

What infuriates me most is not the water cannons or the batons, but how disingenuous the KMT is being, simultaneously pretended to respect the students and yet finding their cause and methods utterly unacceptable.

The grossest offender is President Ma.  In his "response" [Full text, Chinese] to the students on the morning of March 23rd, his most egregious statements included:
"When I was studying at university and overseas in America, I paid a great deal of attention to national (political) matters, and participated in student activities." 
The causes Ma took up were anti-democratic; he may well have spied on his fellow students; and his concern for the Pinnacle Islands (Senkaku/Diaoyutai) in his college years demonstrates insincerity more than any other action, since ROC claims to the islands were simply fabricated.
The rule of law is the foundation of democracy; without the rule of law, there is no democracy. Strongly upholding the rule of law is the root of our country's founding.  
There are several utterly laughable aspects to this claim. Martin Luther King Jr. answered Ma's general point in his Letter from Birmingham Jail:
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all." 
But let's also address some of the specifics. Most absurd of all is the claim that the ROC was founded on the rule of law, when the opposite is true and best exemplified by party's decade long deathgrip on the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion and the suspension of the constitution in Taiwan in favor of martial law.

More relevant to last night's events, this President and his party have for decades refused to amend an Assembly and Parade Law that was so restrictive it should have easily been scrapped  -- but we had to wait for the Council of Grand Justices to strike it down just last week.

This is a President and a party who in 2005 encouraged former PFP Legislator Chiu Yi to join their party -- in spite of the fact, or perhaps because, Chiu Yi openly called for revolution against the DPP government while ramming a truck into a Kaohsiung Court's front gates. Now that's violent protest!

This is a President and a party that insisted in 2006 that holding two elections together -- a referendum and a presidential election -- was flatly unconstitutional; yet in 2008 holding two elections together -- the legislative and presidential elections -- would help the KMT, so Ma led the charge, throwing out the "unconstitutional" argument in favor of the government "saving resources" and increasing voter mobilization.

And perhaps most ironically, this is a President and a party whose entire leadership spent months taking part in a large scale protest that frequently  broke the law over a period of months -- especially the idiotic Assembly and Parade Law -- but since that protest was aimed at Ousting President Chen, it was A-OK by Ma.
The fruits of Taiwan's democracy did not come easy.臺灣民主的成果得來不易
Yes, and no thanks to President Ma.

I don't know what comes next, but I hope it will ultimately help heal these new wounds and the rift between the government and youth.

Jan 9, 2013

KMT to support anti-monopoly campaign

The KMT legislative caucus will be supporting new amendments to Taiwan's media laws that will, among other things,  "include a regulation that the number of channels owned by media operators and their related enterprises cannot account for more than one-tenth of all [television] channels," with the caucus suggesting that "print media also be covered by anti-media monopolization regulations."

We'll see what bill actually gets passed, I suppose.

The Taipei Times article is good, but the China Times has a few juicy details on questionable authority. They report that Ma has instructed KMT thinktank(s?) to lend the necessary support. I love this revelation, because it shows the opposite of what a Think Tank should do. You don't want to waste money asking your talented people who to do "research" pre-designed to support the conclusion that the KMT bill is about the best you could do.

The China Times report also indicates that according to their source, the KMT caucus thinks that there's nothing they can do about print media regulations right now, but that "After the Liberty Times went electronic, it is now subject to regulation too." The anonymous source is quoted as saying, "Everybody pull close and let's play together. Let's not target one side!"

Of course, it's no surprise to me that the KMT wants to turn this into a tit-for-tat issue despite the lack of any sensible equivalency between the Next Media sale and the Liberty Times operation.  The Taipei Times article linked above said it well:
[Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said that unlike the DPP, which] had only focused on the sale of Next Media to the Want Want Group, the KMT opposes all media-monopolization cases[.]

Nov 30, 2012

More Peace Agreement thoughts

I don't have a whole lot of time to write about it right now, but this article will interest many readers:

兩岸/蘇嘉宏:兩岸和平協定取向 一些台灣觀點 

I was interested by this line: 


Oct 17, 2012

Prediction: Hsieh stays, his policy goes

After Frank Hsieh's recent visit to China, you have seen a lot of discussion in the Green Media dissecting what his trip was aimed at, what his personal intentions are, whether or not it signals a change in DPP policy, etc.

I feel like Su and Tsai treated Hsieh's trip as a trial balloon, wishing him well, saying it showed DPP confidence and putting the ol' "One China Constitution" line out there again for consideration. Floating the idea like this is not a very high cost option, after all.

I think the backlash, while coming from the predictable quarters of the party, will still likely be adequate to keep the DPP from seriously considering any formal change in stance for at least one more election cycle. Hsieh won't suffer personally, but it's doubtful he will be at the head of any transformation here, at least for now.

It goes without saying that any shift in the party stance would still respect the party's Resolution on Taiwan's Future and continue to enshrine the idea that Taiwan is not part of the PRC. But other issues might get a little... fuzzier.

Sep 4, 2012

Follow up: Cross Strait Dictionary of Common Phrases

More news on the Cross Strait Dictionary of Common Phrases we talked about here a few days ago.

The China version is finally being published, some 20 odd days after Ma helped unveil the Taiwan version. Oddly, several phrases included in the Taiwan publication have been left out of China's. Left out were phrases such as  「小三」、「給力」、and 「雷人」. So my joke about the censors was obviously too easy.

Aug 16, 2012


It's so irritating when Ma government guidelines get in the way of telling a story, like in this RTI article.


In response to the incident on the 15th when a fishing boat of Hong Kong-based Diaoyutai [Senkaku Islands] activists raised the flags of both the Republic of China and the Chinese mainland...
There really is a country called the People's Republic of China, it has its own flag, and there's no need to pretend otherwise. 

Aug 14, 2012

Ma's really into this dictionary

When I saw this recent article about Ma praising the publication of the new Cross Strait Dictionary of Common Phrases 《兩岸常用詞典》, I was initially just amused that it's not one publication at all -- the mainland published a dictionary arranged by pinyin in horizontal layout, while the Taiwan version is indexed by radical and uses vertical layout.  They're not even being published at the same time. Guess the Chinese censors want more time. Way to go, guys.

Then it struck me that Ma has displayed an unusual interest in this publication. Far more than Chen Shui-bian ever paid in public to the Hakka and Holo Taiwanese dictionaries his government mostly produced (《臺灣客家語常用詞辭典》以及《臺灣閩南語常用詞辭典》). And then I came to think that Chinese government leaders certainly haven't been paying much attention to this.

So I decided to try to substantiate all three observations born of vague memories of past articles. First, I went about digging up articles where Ma talkes about this dictionary. I didn't have to go very far to indicate my memory wasn't fooling me: the first article linked above mentions that "Jointly publishing a dictionary of common phrases was raised by Ma Ying-jiu in the 2008 campaign [for president]."

Next, nearly all news articles within the .cn domain only mention the dictionary's publication in Taiwan and Ma's participation without adding any comments from the Chinese side. They're merely retellings of the Taiwan wire stories.

Finally, on the day the Ministry of Education put the Holo Taiwanese dictionary online, the MOE took charge of the related press conferences and speeches, and President Chen didn't have a thing to say.

This project must be a personal interest of Ma's, maybe a nerdy fantasy he has fostered for years or decades. Certainly nobody else has noticed political advantages in promoting these publications. 

Aug 10, 2012

My bad

I'll have to say, when the DPP created it's China Affairs Office shortly after Su took the chairmanship, I assumed it would be an organ for serious analysis of the government's China policy and constructive discussions on both the KMT and potential DPP approaches to relations. I really didn't expect it would just become another platform from which to spew rhetorical vitriol and create new and regular press conference opportunities. I guess I was wrong

Jul 19, 2012

Premier Sean Chen (陳沖), talking about the need to preserve aboriginal languages in Taiwan, said that the Executive Yuan's Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Ministry of Education need to establish a unified writing system for aboriginal languages, because only then will it be possible to promote those languages better.

Of course, such a system was established years ago (the pdf linked there is from 2005), and you can see that system sometimes being used in aboriginal programing. But outside of that agency, the writing system hasn't done a lot of good because the political class and the MOE are not genuinely interested in mother language preservation. 

Jun 28, 2012

"Mutual non-denial," eh?

China Times Headline: Taiwan Affairs Office: We oppose Taiwan signing agreements that have imply sovereignty (國台辦:反對台簽主權意涵協議)

Because the Republic of China doesn't exist in any capacity or form whatsoever.  

Jun 12, 2012

Wang Yi's title

Wang Yi is the head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council (国务院台湾事务办公室), aka the Taiwan Affairs Office (国台办). Taiwanese media has for a good long while now been mostly out of the practice of altering, or abolishing, or "quote marking" the titles of Chinese officials.

Now Wang Yi seems to hold a second title that you probably haven't heard of even though it's no secret -- he's the head of the Communist Party of China Central Committee Taiwan Task Office (中国共产党中央委员会台湾工作办公室), and a recent NOWNews article mentions only this CCP-centric title when talking about how Wang met with some insignificant KMT youth group.

Google searches demonstrate that it was mostly Chinese media that prefer this title, and that for the most part, .tw domains using this phrase are either KMT or government sites, not mass media. Searches on the UDN or China Times domains do pick up hits, but a cursory glance seems to show that the China Times normally lists both titles if they use the party title.

UDN most often calls Wang Yi the "Mainland Taiwan Affairs Office Chair" or the "Chinese Communist [Party's] Taiwan Affairs Office Chair." China Times seems to prefer the "Mainland Taiwan Affairs Office Chair." Liberty Times prefers "China's Taiwan Affairs Office" and the Apple Daily is all over the place. 

May 5, 2012


This is my 1363rd post, which I find rather remarkable.

As everyone's noticed, I've cut way down on blogging politics since moving back to the US. The blog will never be officially suspended or anything, but expect the recent sort of posting frequency to continue.

I just want to thank all the people who have commented on and read the blog for making this whole enterprise such a fulfilling and important part of my life. Thank you!

Mar 20, 2012

Pingtan: What's the Deal?

One of the more interesting stories developing over the last few weeks has been China's efforts to push the Pingtan Experimental Development Zone. First, what is it? Focus Taiwan gave an overview when China first unveiled the proposal in late February:
China has devised a new plan under which certain areas on Pingtan Island off the coast of Fujian Province will be consigned to local Taiwanese governments or private groups to develop, or be put up for joint development by the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

According to China's plan, those specific areas will be managed by Taiwanese experts, and up to 1,000 Taiwanese professional managers and researchers will be recruited to work in the areas.
What makes this development proposal different than other major Taiwanese investments in cities like Shenzhen or Xiamen?
Pingtan has been chosen for this trailblazing initiative mainly because it is the China-held area closest to Taiwan. Although the small islet is still in a very early stage of development, China has decided to invest heavily in the region.
It will pour 60 billion Chinese yuan (US$9.66 billion) into its infrastructure in 2012 alone, and an additional 250 billion yuan will be pumped into the area under China's 12th five-year development plan....

To attract top-notch Taiwan talent to work in Pingtan, China may even offer tax incentives and allow simultaneous circulation of Taiwanese and Chinese currencies there.

China is already painting the proposal as a success, and pointing to the "joint management"aspect of the project. See, they don't just want to bring in these top-notch Taiwanese talent for the sake of filling up the payroll, but they also want them to help run the development zone.
Taiwan professionals are responding to the Pingtan economic development zone's recruitment plan, said Pingtan official Gong Qinggai, a deputy to the National People's Congress, on Monday.

This year, Pingtan plans to offer more than 400 jobs to talented individuals from other countries and regions. Of those jobs, some positions, including an opening for deputy director of the Pingtan management committee, the governing body of Pingtan, and four deputy heads of departments under the committee, are targeted for professionals from Taiwan.

Taiwan professionals who go to work in Pingtan will enjoy a package of benefits in such areas as taxation, housing, and children's education.
You might think that this development zone sounds like it's attempting to move into the political sphere without stepping on too many toes. If that's what you thought, you wouldn't be alone. The MAC believes the same thing:
China should refrain from political overtones when promoting cross-strait cooperation on Pingtan Island because more than 80 percent of Taiwanese reject China’s “one country, two systems” formula, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday....

Stopping short of saying that the government discourages investment in the Pingtan Comprehensive Experimental Zone, located on Pingtan Island in China’s Fujian Province, the council reminded Taiwanese that it is not a “co-pilot” project sponsored by the Taiwanese government.
Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development had the same impression and notes how the plan could easily hurt Taiwaense industry:
The key factor in avoiding a brain drain to China is to strengthen Taiwan’s investment environment and entice more industries to maintain their operational base here, Yiin said.

“Having more industries to stay in Taiwan will help create more jobs and further raise employees’ salaries,” he said during the question-and-answer session.

Pingtan does not offer a lot to investors, which is why Fujian has to make an effort to recruit professionals and offer favorable terms to potential investors, he said.

Fujian Governor Su Shulin (蘇樹林) announced last month that the province would offer management positions to Taiwanese professionals at annual salaries of between 200,000 yuan (US$31,600) and 2 million yuan, along with three to five years of free housing.
And regardless of the fact that there is some clearly political content to this arrangement -- it is, after all, a different model than other development zones -- both sides are going to try and paint it as an economic arrangement, at least for now. Taiwan's premier said so:
Premier Sean Chen said Friday that Taiwan and China should use the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) to discuss a "joint management" economic development project proposed by China to avoid any political ramifications.
And Taiwan is also going to try to kill the "joint management" aspect, at least for now and at least before negotiations are complete:
Taiwanese nationals are not allowed to work for the Chinese government, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Lai Shin-yuan said Wednesday in a reminder to local citizens who have reportedly applied for jobs in a Chinese economic development zone.
Perhaps feeling a bit rebuffed by Taiwan authorities,China responded and claimed no political motive:
Meanwhile, China's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi denied speculation that China sees Pingtan as a test zone for using its "one country, two systems" formula with Taiwan in pushing for unification between the two sides.

The formula is used by Beijing to rule Hong Kong and Macau, but it has always been rejected by Taipei.

"We've never entertained such thoughts," Wang said.

Although he said Pingtan is supposed to serve as a "joint homeland for people on both sides of the strait," Wang insisted there are no political motivations involved.

He said that Pingtan is geographically very close to Taiwan and the Chinese government hopes to establish a more comfortable environment, more convenient transportation and looser business policies for Taiwanese people through the experimental zone.
But does anyone believe this is not political? Jens Kastner writing in the Asia Times Online certainly doesn't, and Jens also outlines some of the more juicy incentives China is rolling out:
Those Taiwanese willing to move will find a long list of preferential treatments and US$40 billion-worth of brand-new infrastructure that includes several ports of over 200,000 tonne capacity and 18 square kilometers that will also accommodate a cross-strait financial service center for banks, insurers and securities.

Tax benefits are to be offered and bank loans generously granted, while Taiwanese professional qualification certificates will be accepted. Taiwanese lawyers and doctors will be allowed to operate freely. Exclusively for Taiwanese investors in Pingtan, the mainland's strict restrictions on imports of certain products, such as steel, are to be eased, which will give them an edge over their foreign competitors in the mainland.

To make the bait even more irresistible, both the mainland currency, the yuan, and the New Taiwan Dollar will circulate next to each other in the zone.

New roll-on, roll-off passenger ferries have been awaiting the starter's gun at Pingtan, ready to make the trip to the central Taiwanese city of Taichung in two-and-a-half hours - about the same time it takes a car drive from Taichung to the Taiwanese capital of Taipei on a good day.

Eventually, the Pingtan Comprehensive Experimental Zone, together with Taichung, is envisaged as a cross-strait free-trade zone. Once established, Taiwanese people, ships and cargo could enter Pingtan freely and from there the huge mainland market. The status of Taichung - Taiwan's third-largest city - would be lifted significantly, which is undoubtedly an important factor in the Chinese strategy as the area is generally assessed as being amongst Taiwan's key electoral battlegrounds.
This reminds us: why should China bother to attack Taiwan if it can achieve unification by buying it?

Jan 16, 2012

Revisiting single member districts

Much to my surprise, there seems to be some rather thorough dissatisfaction in the legislature with the current single member district system. Not only has Speaker Wang Jin-pyng restated his long held belief the single member district is "not good for democracy," but the DPP is likely to introduce a constitutional amendment next legislative session, and also will ask the Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of the current system.

One of the issues the media has raised is that the single member districts have turned "blue" areas bluer and green areas greener, further polarizing the country along north-south lines.

Since larger parties benefit from a single member district system, it's interesting to see them regretting a policy that has increased their own clout. We'll see what changes are actually proposed. Right now, the legislature seems just to be in the complaining phase.