Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) discussed the party's plans to sell of its remaining assets & investments and switch itself, "like a Transformer," into an "election machine" (his words, not mine).
What I love about this "strategy," besides the Transformers reference and the fact that it will doubtlessly enrich some KMT friends while avoiding responsibility for ill-gotten assets and gains, is that the KMT suffers from such long-running local factional splits exactly because it already is an "election machine" -- one that local elites use to gain greater power, and which can normally accommodate multiple moneyed interest groups at the same time -- but local factional leaders will abandon the party at the drop of a hat to run as independents. One would think the KMT would rather have more loyal politicians than ramp up the "election machine" message.
(Moreover, voters may read King's message as an endorsement of the "eternal election" model which leaves actual governing by the way-side -- and that does not play well with voters.)
The KMT plans to live on "donations" for political campaigns in the future. And we all know how transparent the financial laws are for political donations (hint: you need only report what you spend, not what you take in). Perhaps this is all really just a shell plan to create more flexible slush funds.
Back in 2000 and 2004, one of the great hopes of green guys like me was that the KMT was about to collapse. As financial interests -- not ideology -- holds the party together, we hoped that the moneyed interests would say, "these guys aren't winning again," and go their separate ways.
That didn't happen. But it stands a better chance of happening the other way around, with a newly poor KMT being gutted of its previous moneyed interest support, who may go run their own show.
Either that, or the party may become corporate property for a new set of sponsors.
Dec 31, 2009
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) discussed the party's plans to sell of its remaining assets & investments and switch itself, "like a Transformer," into an "election machine" (his words, not mine).
Dec 30, 2009
The KMT's solution (well, President/Chairman Ma's anyway) to its property problem is to sell its property -- valued at NT$20billion by its own estimates, and suspected by DPP estimates to be even more -- but this does nothing to correct or account for the unjust methods by which that property was obtained and the practices that were involved in increasing its value.
Written by 阿牛 on 12/30/2009
Dec 29, 2009
I bought yesterday's World Journal, an American Chinese-language newspaper published by the United Daily News Group, the pro-blue Taiwan media group.
The newspaper included a monthly insert this particular Sunday, and you can see the titles of all the articles here. I took objection to Chen Shiyao's article titled "What will the two sides of the [Taiwan] Strait do for the next several decades?"
Chen's argument can be summarized, I think fairly, as below: Ma Ying-jeou has continually ricochet between endorsing ultimate unification with the "mainland" in a distant future and promises to maintain Taiwan's de facto independence. Ma is walking this tight rope because he desires to keep Beijing in a favor-giving mood, even as the Taiwanese voting public has no interest in unification. In other words, Ma is trying to please all, and trying to garner the votes of both the light-greens and KMT loyalists, as Lee Teng-hui managed to do before.
This "greening" of the KMT's position already threatens to shatter the silent agreement between Beijing and the KMT that unification is the eventual goal of negotiations. And at any time, Beijing could reverse its position on a number of policies that are net-favorable to Taiwan, and oculd seriously threaten Taiwan's relationship with its remaining allies and hurt Taiwan's economy through a retraction of the current set of carrots. Both Ma's reelection and Taiwan's livelihoods would then be under threat.
To maintain good relations between Taiwan and the "mainland" over the next several decades, the KMT must avoid the siren call of de facto independence and give time for the political atmosphere in Taiwan to accommodate the pro-gradual unification crowd's voice; they can then establish a political foothold. At the same time, the mainland must give Taiwan more carrots and hide the sticks behind their backs a little better, or they will lose the chance to win the hearts of the Taiwanese.
Chen makes special note that a recent Global Views Monthly poll shows that while only 57% of Taiwanese insist that negotiations with the "mainland" be conducted on a fully equal footing, a stronger 64% believe that important cross-strait agreements should go through a referendum for public approval. Chen labels the referendum a Pandora's box that must not be opened, as it may trigger an attack from China, and so the KMT must remain resolute on not allowing the referendum process to infringe on cross-strait affairs.
I don't believe Chen is very right about Ma's pro-de facto independence credentials. Here's the WSJ quote from Ma's interview that Chen opens with to make his case:
"Whether there will be reunification as expected by the mainland side depends very much on what is going to unfold in the next decades. This is a question no one can answer at this stage. But as the president of this country, I believe that the 23 million people of Taiwan want to secure one or two generations of peace and prosperity so that people on either side of the Taiwan Strait can have sufficient time and freedom to understand, to appreciate, and to decide what to do."Several days later, Chen notes,
In a private meeting with professor Winston L. Y. Yang from Seton Hall University of the United States, Ma also clearly said that "there is little support in Taiwan for unification with China." ([UDN,] Dec. 16, 2009)The KMT reports on that meeting in more depth:
Yang said that, during their conversation, he had asked President Ma whether “the maintenance of the status quo meant to maintain Taiwan’s status quo of de facto independence,” and the President had not denied it. Furthermore, President stated that the majority of the people on Taiwan expressed support for the maintenance of status quo in various public polls and surveys when given the choice of unification, independence, or the status quo.So you see, Ma didn't actually say that he considers the status quo to be de facto independence; in fact, Ma himself and the KMT leadership has repeatedly stated that the status quo is a Republic of China, one which by constitution and legal right claims the territory of all of China. And nothing they say implies the contrary.
Yang went on to ask President Ma if Mainland China became more democratic, would conditions of unification improve for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. To that the President replied, “It will depend on the mainstream opinion among the people of Taiwan.”
I believe Ma's silence is motivated by the fact that younger, lighter blue voters (that I have met) have always implicitly believed Ma maintains a pro-de facto independence position. Ma needs this sort of "rumor" to be floating around to maintain their support. But he will never endorse a truly pro-de facto independence position, and what he actually believes in will probably never be clear.
Chen identifies the major problem with the current path of negotiations with Beijing -- namely, that Beijing expects compliance from Taiwan on political as well as economic matters, and that Beijing has increasingly large leverage to hurt Taiwan with little effort if it feels Taiwan drifting from the Chinese political line. Yet his proposed solution to the problem is for Taiwan to let Beijing make her even more vulnerable to Chinese sabotage, in hopes that a non-existent "pro-gradual unification" voter block will emerge and take things happily in that direction.
Chen fails to see that in reality, Beijing has no intention of giving out carrots forever with no return in sight. They are demanding minimal compliance now (that the KMT endorse the one China principle in some form) but will demand more soon -- not after several decades of agreements favorable to only Taiwan. At the same time, the Taiwanese voting public has no intention of allowing gradual unification to happen; neither do they want politicians to take the choice out of their referendum ballot-holding hands. Chen's proposed solution of eternal Chinese favors in return for only minimal Taiwanese political compliance is not going to fly in either Beijing or Taipei.
Chen's most realpolitik position is on the subject of the referendum, which is indeed both anathema to Beijing and a core demand of an increasing percentage of Taiwanese voters. Hence the true bottleneck in future cross-strait development will indeed be at the point China's demand for a political resolution meets Taiwan's demand for a refrendum. The KMT hopes to postpone that point forever, but Beijing has no intention of doing so.
Beijing knows no referendum could pass in the next several decades which would be favorable to its political objectives -- de facto independence as the status quo is indeed the common political language of young greens and young blues alike. The DPP knows this too, which is why they count the referendum as their sacred right and best defense. The KMT knows this too, which is why they avoid the issue entirely, neither ruling out a political referendum on this subject but neither daring to imply that a referendum could or should be held ("The ECFA is an economic, not political, agreement, and so a referendum is not required...").
So we are faced with a future where Taiwan will have little leverage, China will make increasingly painful demands for political concessions from Taiwan, and the Taiwanese public will be demanding their right to self-determination. China's military will respond belligerently; the USA is unlikely to maintain much interest in the Taiwan Strait at that point. Japan will probably fall back. And we will be at a point where China has to decide if invasion is really worth the potential gain, and Taiwanese will have to decide if their liberties are worth defending. And it's very hard to tell what may happen at that time.
I don't see the basic causes of tension going anywhere any time soon, unless the KMT manages a quick sell out. I increasingly think they won't be able to get away with one. So don't expect tensions to really relax across the Taiwan Strait any time soon.
Written by 阿牛 on 12/29/2009
Dec 24, 2009
CNA reported the other day that by order of the very brave and decisive President Ma Ying-jeou, the travels schedule of Chen Yunlin, president of Chinese mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), is public knowledge.
A reporter friend of mine had this to say about the report:
This is just not true at all. Despite the concern from the Presidential Office, Chen Yunlin's schedule is still being kept as top secret. Reporters on the shuttle do not know where their next stop is until the bus stops, and the scheduled stop would be canceled if protesters begin to show up. Most of journalists were so upset that there were constant verbal clashes between them and Taichung mayor Jason Hu, as well as MAC officials.
Dec 10, 2009
I expect violence on a similar scale to the last version at the Chiang-Chen talks. Potential protesters, I believe, feel a sense of urgency more than during the start of the Chen visit to Taipei, so will all be ready.
The police efforts to contain them, I think, are doomed to failure. And mobilization from the South may be easier since the talks are in Taichung.
Still, the talks will "succeed," as everything will be signed as per already arranged agreement. And nobody important will get seriously hurt. So it should just be a feeding fest for the media, only to be more or less forgotten a month later.
Written by 阿牛 on 12/10/2009
Premier Wu Dun-yi revealed some of the KMT's fundamental ideas about Taiwan's future, and it has landed him in enough trouble that he's apologized for it:
His apology, however, came hours after several attempts to defend his remarks.Here were Wu's remarks in Chinese as quoted by Liberty Times: 「不負責任者或白痴，才會覺得應該搞個獨立國」 My translation: Only the irresponsible and idiotic think Taiwan should mess around being an independent country.
Wu said during an interview with the UFO Network on Tuesday: “If you want to talk about unification, nobody will support it. You don’t have the capability to unify [China] and you don’t want to be unified by it. Declaring independence is unnecessary because the ROC [Republic of China] is already an independent, sovereign nation. If you want to found a country with a different national title, it will only create division at home and stir tensions abroad. Only irresponsible people or idiots would want to seek independence [for Taiwan].”
The Liberty Times, in a caption on that link above, notes that the KMT took out a front page ad in that paper after winning the 2008 presidential election. That ad outlined the KMT's support for maintaining the status quo of the ROC government, while noting that "Taiwan could make many choices about its future, and no matter whether that means unification, independence or maintaining the status quo, it is up to the people to decide."
Except, of course, independence supporters are either irresponsible or idiots, so that's not really a choice the KMT will give the people in the future, much less through referendum.
Finally, in Wu's defense, he's just towing a deeply held belief and the party line, that the ROC is the sovereign, legitimate government of both Taiwan and China. So there's really nothing out of line about his remarks, except that they reveal an ugly mindset which the KMT would rather keep submerged for now.
Written by 阿牛 on 12/10/2009
Dec 6, 2009
Taipei Times really has most of the vital information in a well-done spread. The lead article notes:
The KMT took 12 of the 17 mayor and commissioner positions up for grabs, while the DPP won four, and one went to an independent, formerly KMT candidate.
The DPP increased its share of the overall vote to 45.9 percent, up from 38.2 percent four years ago, while taking back control of the hotly contested Yilan County after losing it to the KMT four years ago.
But the DPP did very well for itself, too. Here are the results for County Commissioners:
|Party||Number of votes ||Percentage|
|Hakka party ||15,807||0.3613%|
|Total votes for parties ||4,093,239||93.5612%|
That's not a bad result over all for the country, and I'm particularly surprised at how close g, Taoyuan, Penghu and Nantou were. The KMT won them all, but not by much. See great PDF spread here.
County councilmen and township governor results showed continued the trend of strong independents, often local factional leaders, presenting the only real thorn in the side of the KMT.
|Labor Party ||4,736||0.1084%|
|Green Party ||843||0.0193%|
|Taiwan KMT ||208||0.0048%|
|Votes for parties ||3,025,917||69.2406%|
|Non-partisan votes ||1,344,232||30.7594%|
|Unification Promotion Party ||2,257||0.0591%|
|Daoist Party (大道慈悲濟世黨) ||7,966||0.2085%|
|Votes for parties ||2,641,198||69.1267%|
Written by 阿牛 on 12/06/2009
Dec 3, 2009
The Obama's decision to double down for a year in Afghanistan, before trying to set up SOME functional central and local governments before we inevitably and finally get the #%^@ out of Dodge, was pretty predictable. Progressives were disappointed, and Conservatives get to use the word "quagmire" for once.
But the "surge" call reinforces my belief that the US is so deeply involved in these ugly, costly wars in the Middle East that most of the East Asia agenda is on hold for now, and our priorities for that region are shifting in the mean time.
I feel that by the time the US really has the inclination to turn an eye to the Taiwan issue again, they'll have written-off the effort to maintain the island's ever-dwindling de facto independence as a lost cause.
This, of course, reinforces that the Taiwanese must actively take their destiny into their own hands. But now, they must do so with one guy aimed at them and little int he way of reinforcements. That's a delicate place to be.
Written by 阿牛 on 12/03/2009
Nov 25, 2009
I'm going to write a few things about Michael Turton's post on the inking of the MOU between Taiwan and China, especially the points he raises about Taiwan News' editorial which argues that China is going to insist on a Chinese-version type "One China" precondition for the inking of any peace deal.
First, I want to note that the government's secrecy in the negotiation process is not an accident, but the result of a carefully cultivated policy of avoiding legal heralds and public criticism of their decisions.
Second, you could sort of see this kind of thing coming, even if my view shifted away from the likelihood of KMT collapse of will, or underestimated CCP insistence on this topic.
Again, we don't really know what the result will be. But time will tell. And time is short, I think.
Written by 阿牛 on 11/25/2009
Nov 10, 2009
Oct 29, 2009
The green-leaning Liberty Times cites an unnamed KMT Central Standing Committee member, saying Ma Ying-jeou and all the cabinet members were given gifts by candidates back during Mid-Autumn Festival. The disgruntled anonymous "former" CSC member, forced to resign with all other members in the wake of a scandal showing wide spread bribery by those running for election, asks if that means Ma is also guilty of taking a bribe from candidates, as he is also eligible to vote for CSC members.
Written by 阿牛 on 10/29/2009
Oct 26, 2009
So they say. The report, in which China Times quotes unnamed military sources, claims that Taiwan's military has rented access to a privately-owned high quality satellite to spy on China, and has been doing so for years now. The data is extensive, including photos showing detail down to 0.6m, and allows Taiwan to maintain real time understanding of China's troop and equipment movements.
Written by 阿牛 on 10/26/2009
Oct 21, 2009
But TVBS does occasionally switch away from being a KMT mouthpiece! While channel surfing last night, I decided to take the old motto to heart which advises "keep your friends close but your enemies closer." So I turned on a TVBS news talk show, 新聞夜總會. And the opening segment shown here has some interesting rumors, where pro-blue insider commentators suggest that half or more of the newly elected KMT central standing committee gave gifts to voters (against regulations). This was particularly noteworthy because one of Ma's first actions upon coming chairman was to invalidate the results of two members' election to that body on the basis that they gave gifts. Here's the first related clip:
Let's see if anyone else gets punished ...
Tim Maddog has blogged on an apparent explosion in support for "immediate independence" over at Taiwan Matters!, but let me throw in some cautionary words.
|Independence ASAP||Status quo now, Independence later||Status quo now, decide later||Status quo forever||Status quo now, unification later||Unification ASAP|
|Global Affairs 10/20||19%||10.3%||40.7%||11%||4.3%||4.0%|
|Global Affairs 05/20||15%||10.4%||44.9%||11.5%||5.1%||3.2%|
Taking in all the data together, it appears support for unification now or later is rather static at around the 8.0-8.5% mark. The independence ASAP camp does seem to have gained some ground lately, picking up support from the "wait and see" group. Still, if the latest Global Affairs poll is accurate, a solid two thirds majority are content with the ambiguous "status quo."
Oct 17, 2009
Michael Turton has repeatedly made the point that the closer Taiwan moves to China, even as talks remain restricted to economic issues (for the time being), the farther away Taiwan moves from democracy.
- Rebiya Kadeer was denied a visa due to the "national interest," which is to say because China would have thrown a hissy fit.
- Kaohsiung City nearly didn't show The 10 Conditions of Love at their film festival due to Chinese pressure; an earlier decision to screen it early and separately still resulted in China directing its tourists away from Kaohsiung, causing a hit to the tourism industry here and setting a solid precedent.
- The virtual guarantee that the Dalai Lama will not be granted a visa again (it had been denied once already, but the 8/8 flooding made it impossible to deny it the second time).
Written by 阿牛 on 10/17/2009
Oct 15, 2009
Oct 14, 2009
Well, all candidates are registered for year end elections, and the final picture is not pretty for the KMT -- not because the DPP is looking so strong, but because of KMT infighting. In fact, the KMT is suffering faction driven splits in candidates in Nantou, Hsingchu County, Hualien, Chiayi City, and Jinmen. Those would otherwise be safe seats.
|Hsinchu County||張碧琴||No affiliation|
|Chiayi County||蕭登標||No affiliation|
Sep 28, 2009
Now I've thought a lot about the possibility of a China-Taiwan peace agreement and what it would mean for Taiwan's future.
My early ramblings focused on the challenges of getting anything of substance in the agreement, given the political realities between the two sides. However, The continued cooperation between the KMT and CCP on a number of ideological points reduces the chances a peace agreement would be devoid of substantial changes in the relationship.
Still, any peace agreement will be able to tackle only peripheral political issues -- military CBM, maybe exchange of press and private individuals, etc. Nothing in the peace agreement would be able to tackle the core sovereignty issue at this time, because this is still too difficult for Taiwan or China to handle in a mutually agreeable way.
Which led me to my first major shift in speculation, which was that any peace agreement would explicitly be an "interim agreement" with a time table and an understood final result of unification. Like a treaty with a doomsday clock attached.
As this "interim agreement" becomes central to international understanding, Japan and the US will lose interest in Taiwan's defense; the KMT will scale up promotion the Zhonghua Minzu identity instead of a Taiwan-centric identity, and the CCP will also bombard Taiwan with related propaganda; promotion of Taiwanese Independence or statements that Taiwan is already independent will become increasingly taboo again, if not outright illegal; and at the end of the time table laid out in the "interim agreement," Taiwan will have little choice but to be swallowed up.
Now, I've shifted opinion again. I've just finished reading a paper: Bridge over Troubled Water? Envisioning a China-Taiwan Peace Agreement by Phillip C. Saunders and Scott L. Kastner. The paper is very China-centric in its thinking, but it had at least one piece of info that was news to me:
In private conversations with Western academics, however, Chinese officials have indicated their opposition to an interim agreement with a specified duration. This opposition may be partially rooted in concerns that as an agreement neared its end, it might turn into a de facto timetable for unification that could place future Chinese leaders in a difficult position. PRC officials may also be reluctant to sign an agreement that, in essence, implies that unification is off the table for several decades.I think this seems quite reasonable. China would not want to have its hand forced and does not want to give up on the unification issue either.
So now, I think the most likely result is a peace agreement that touches on those peripheral CBM/press/exchanges issues we've outlined above and officially ends the state of hostility between Taiwan and China; a KMT/CCP united front of propaganda about Taiwan's Chinese heritage; but, very importantly, no time table for unification or an end to the agreement.
That means the CCP will need to push for separate political negotiations for unification after the treaty comes into place, but that will be a completely separate set of issues and hard to get even the KMT moving on. It could also buy Taiwan the leverage and time it needs to wait out the CCP unification campaign and to more fully consolidate a Taiwanese identity (read: wait for the young people to grow up).
I remain skeptical of KMT-CCP intentions for the peace accord and post-accord development in relations. At the same time, I must reiterate that a peace treaty that reduces Chinese threats while indefinitely postponing any chances of unification/annexation talks might not be the worst possible result. In fact, depending on the details, it might be a pretty sweet deal.
Sugar-coated poison? Probably. But I increasingly suspect the pill would not be fatal. This weekend shows Taiwan is full of surprises.
Sep 25, 2009
Lien Chan, honorary chairman of the KMT, says that now is the time for Taiwan and China to begin considering political negotiations. While it's too early on the Taiwan side to sign a treaty due to domestic politics, both sides should begin considering the political talks, which "must be faced sooner or later."
Video of Lien's speech (in English) here.
He calls specifically for confidence building measures and a peace treaty. One goal was particularly striking to me:
...首先，和平協議的基礎是九二共識，或中華民國憲法下的「一中」原則，簽署一個能夠維持現狀的臨時協議；其次，和平協定應該清楚表明，兩岸終止敵對狀態。I'm pulled in by the words interim agreement that "preserves the status quo," especially if that somehow involves an indirect admission that the ROC exists. I will withhold my judgment on the details until we see a document emerge. Most important of all is that any such agreement needs to go in front of people by referendum.
...first, the foundation of a peace agreement is the 92 consensus, or the "one China" principle as outlined in the ROC constitution. The two sides should sign a interim agreement. And second, the peace agreement should clearly state that the state of hostility between the two sides of the strait is over.
To be perfectly honest, there are scenarios I can foresee where such an agreement may be the best bet for Taiwan and most effective way to forestall any more moves toward political unification, even given the CCP and KMT understanding of the agreement as being a stepping stone to unification.
Written by 阿牛 on 9/25/2009
Sep 24, 2009
If it looks like a duck...
Deputy Minister Mainland Affairs Council The Executive Yuan Chien-min Chao (趙建民) spoke today in his role as a Professor of political science at a conference titled, The establishment of Chinese Communist rule and sixty years of separate administration across the Taiwan strait.
(Just so you know, he'll also be at this upcoming conference [pdf] on Grassroots Democracy and Local Governance in China in early November if you want to see him).
The professor argued that the old label of party-state system (黨國體制) is an inaccurate description of China, and was not even accurate under Mao, when it was more of a one-man authoritarian dictatorship. Chao also said while some scholars think "post-party-state system" (後黨國體制) is a good label, the label ignores the role of the social and political changes in China. Today, Chao argues, now that the market economy is the driving factor in political decision making, China is seeing many of the kind of incidents like Taiwan's "Formosa Incident" and an increase in social movements. Why then can't we label China as a country in the early stages of democratic development?
I'm going to put aside for the moment that Chao seems to be selling me something. I'll just address his arguments. I agree that China shows some of the same symptoms of a society crying out for greater democracy, but there are no signs that CCP leadership intends to ever allow a multi-party system or a truly democratic society, and the weak civil society in China means there are no signs that a collapsed CCP would be replaced with anything but the PLA;. In contrast, while the KMT leadership was reluctant to allow democratic changes, it was always committed to that transition in principle.
You may want to know how I reach this conclusion. First, as has been well-documented within The First Chinese Democracy: Political Life in the Republic of China on Taiwan (Chao and Myers), by the time of the Formosa Incident, the KMT was regularly losing elections at multiple levels to independents. To the KMT's credit, it had for years allowed somewhat free local elections -- plenty of vote buying on all sides, but ballot box stuffing was not as serious a problem, and local rivals were more likely to be co-opted than threatened -- and so although an organized opposition party was still completely out of the question for the KMT leadership, and although there was constant cracking down on political dissidents, the momentum for reform had been building for sometime (it took Lee Teng-hui's determination to drag the rest of the KMT elite into ending one party rule).
Similarly, as Chao and Myers document, while the KMT leadership was not willing to tolerate an opposition party at that time, it remained rhetorically committed to an eventual Western-style, multi-party democracy. Though the KMT claimed that Taiwan was not ready for such a transition yet, eventually, it would be. And as David blogged, the Wild Lily protest movement was able to push the country significantly in that directly in 1990.
That's a bit of an overview on Taiwan; what about China? While China has made some breakthroughs at creating real competition at the village chief level (He 2003 [PDF]), though these officials have little control beyond the village and the party remains strictly authoritarian at the national level. Unlike the Wild Lily movement, the Tiananmen Square protests ended in tragedy.
Further, the CCP has no rhetorical commitments to any multi-party system; instead, the party promotes "Intra-party democracy," basically a 'harmonious' consultative process that hopes to bring in innovative ideas and heed local demands, but without the risk of a transition of power. Chinese scholars remain committed to the one-party state. And the party continues to promote its one-party democracy on its own news sites.
If there is to be real hope that China will experience a democratic transition, a few pre-conditions must be met: a stronger civil society to help form the skeleton outline of a capable opposition, a relaxation on crushing censorship rules, perhaps greater autonomy in the autonomous zones (to relax tensions there and fears that democracy will lead to the break-up of the country), and most importantly of all, willingness at the CCP leadership center to accept the prospect of losing power.
So far, the CCP shows no signs of relaxing its control over China, nor in fact of wanting anything but greater power -- over Taiwan, the Spratly Islands, Aranchul Pradesh, the Senkaku Islands... and who knows what would be next.
Deputy Minister Chao, I wish you were right. I hope I'm delusional and you're right. But I think we both know better. China shows no signs of heading toward a Taiwan-inspired path to a democratic transition.
Sep 21, 2009
Written by 阿牛 on 9/21/2009
Sep 16, 2009
Besides knowing the roman orthography for Holo Taiwanese (explained in this handbook:臺灣閩南語羅馬字拼音方案使用手冊), knowing how to read Taiwanese in characters is key for Taiwanese language study in Taiwan. And at long last, the third batch of standardized Holo Taiwanese characters has been announced by the Ministry of Education's National Languages Committee. You can find it here: 臺灣閩南語推薦用字(第3批)
This document contains the newest 300 characters from the 3rd round of standardization, but also remember the 100 characters adopted May 1, 2008 and 300 characters adopted in May 2007.
For the time being, this is the final batch and these three lists of 700 characters total more or less finish the process of standardizing those previously "hard to pin down" Holo Taiwanese characters. Amendments will be made as required in the future.
I got advance word on August 27 of this impending announcement, mostly due to my relentless stalking of the National Languages Committee (國語會).
In addition, the MOE's Taiwanese Southern Min Dictionary of Frequently Used Phrases (臺灣閩南語常用詞辭典) which fully integrates the now standardized orthography, is online and functional. The print version will be published in October.
There is also a similar dictionary for Hakka (臺灣客家語常用詞辭典), an initial list of standardized characters (臺灣客家語書寫推薦用字 (第1批)) and a standardization of romanization as well ().
The online version allows you to search in characters or romanization, with tone marks/numbers or without tones, using either the official standard Taiwanese Roman Orthography (台語羅馬字，簡稱台羅拼音) or its predecessor and main inspiration, Church Romanization (教會羅馬字，亦稱白話字).
The dictionary also includes notes on literary or colloquial readings and example sentences. One thing to note: one thing missing from the dictionary are some very common nouns and phrases; the scope of this dictionary is not yet that ambitious. You won't find Tâi-uân (台灣), kok-ka (國家), Tiong-kok (中國) or kok-tiong (國中) in this dictionary, though you will find the characters listed separately or in phrases such as Kok-li̍p Tâi-uân Gē-su̍t Kàu-io̍k-kuán (國立台灣藝術教育館).
The standardized romanization system used in that dictionary, Taiwanese Roman Orthography , is outlined in the orthography handbook mentioned above (臺灣閩南語羅馬字拼音方案使用手冊). The handbook should allow any competent Southern Min speaker to master the basics of the romanization and tone system within a couple of hours.
The dictionary draws on and is also complemented by two earlier Southern Min character databases, both of which have been updated to reflect orthography standardization and are available in print for about NT$300.
閩南語字彙(一)修訂版 & 閩南語字彙(二)修訂版
The MOE also offers a multi-platform input method that gives only romanization output, built on Open Vanilla, downloadable here (these links are to version 1.2, which may be be updated soon to reflect any additions. You can find the download at the dictionary main page, linked to above):
For character output using romanization input, which is what most people will want, there are a number of sources; I recommend FHL Taigi IME (信望愛台語文輸入法).
Unfortunately, there is little public interest in using the new standardized Holo Taiwanese orthography, either in romanization or character form. So don't expect to see written Holo Taiwanese popping up on your TV subtitles, Karaoke lyrics, cereal box, street signs or story books any time soon.
In fact, I expect the vast majority of Taiwanese people, even those younger ones that are educated with the standardized characters and romanization, to remain unable to effectively read or write their mother tongue. But this is certainly a huge step forward.
Sep 15, 2009
The big upcoming news for me is the impending release of the final set of standardized characters for written Holo Taiwanese. But today when checking up, I found some equally exciting news -- the first set of standardized Hakka characters for written Hakka!
The 305 characters listed include pronunciations in all major Taiwanese Hakka dialects. If you are interested in the romanization system chosen for Hakka, see this link: 臺灣客家語拼音方案.
One thing I notice right away is that for certain characters (毋, 啉) we see continuity between the choices for Hakka and Holo. I find that encouraging in that there was some systematic thought involved.
P.S. Calling to get some more info, but Hakka group is having their meeting. They'll call me back later. Mainly, I want to ask what percentage of total characters that will be standardized these 305 represent; what the time line is for further standardization; whether it will affect textbooks on a mandatory basis; whether they'll push music companies to publish Karaoke lyrics in the new characters; etc.
I've also alerted Liberty Times and Apple Daily to the news.
As the 60th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese Communist Party and the establishing of the P.R.C. edges ever-nearer, I am rather struck to see the CCP putting it's best foot forward via Xinhua and publishing an article about how the increasing use of "one party democracy." The article says the next party congress is expected to undertake reforms that will facilitate the establishment of a better frame work for operating in a one party democratic system and outlines what steps have been taken in that direction already.
Written by 阿牛 on 9/15/2009
Sep 14, 2009
New premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) may have have bitten off a bit more than he can chew today, as today's lead in the Taipei Times points out.
Wu’s trip to Hong Kong on Sept. 5 was first reported on Wednesday, with Wu saying he had gone to learn from Hong Kong’s experience dealing with mudslides.
A report in the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), cited Wu’s secretary as saying that Wu had visited Hong Kong with his wife, newly wedded son and daughter-in-law for a “family gathering.”
His secretary said Wu had also taken the opportunity to learn about measures Hong Kong had taken to combat mudslides.
Paul Lin (林保華), a commentator on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) history, told the Taipei Times yesterday that Leung is an “underground member” of the CCP and well-trusted by Beijing.
That's what the now-premier, then-legislator Wu Dun-yi (吳敦義) proposed with several other legislators last April. The idea is to memorialize Ching-kuo's 100th birthday. The Executive Yuan would decide if it would be a memorial coin, sold apart from circulating currency, or a design that would be in circulation but probably only minted for one year. Still, a permanent redesign is apparently being considered if you believe the well-hyped media reports.
Now clearly, this smacks of KMT propaganda efforts to remind people of how great that party worked back in the "good old days" of KMT reign under Chiang Ching-kuo, which still had lingering white terror and regular political persecution -- but never mind that, there was also Taiwan's massive economic expansion and huge improvements in quality of life. So....
The DPP finds itself in a tight spot criticizing such a proposal. Key to remember is that Chiang Ching-kuo is widely popular across the political spectrum. He had a very positive media image when he was alive. Further, having special coins in circulation is pretty normal (though never before with a new political figure). So while the proposal is itself in a way groundbreaking (or a bit too reminiscent of days gone by, depending on your view), it is still tough to oppose without looking petty.
The right approach, probably, is to reject idolization of politicians -- period -- and oppose the coin on these grounds with little further elaboration.
However, some DPP legislators have responded otherwise, either saying "If we can do Chiang Ching-kuo, why not Lee Teng-hui?" (I would note that Lee being alive doesn't make him a great candidate for a memorial coin yet. Sort of like wishing the old man to an early grave).
There will also be the temptation for some DPP politicians to endorse just such a change, because they could potentially tie the plan to a call for replacing Chiang Kai-shek permanently from all monies. Moving CKS would, in fact, be perfectly reasonable and appropriate, but it will be bashed relentlessly anyway even if you're tactically endorsing Chiang Ching-kuo's better image. And frankly, you don't want to wade into this debate on the "which politicans we like" level, but talk about everything only in the most abstract ways.
Hence, "reject idolization of politicians." Leave it at that. No more statues, no more figures on coins.
Update: It seems I am on the same page as the DPP after all. Their note about Lee Teng-hui was just used as an illustration of the controversey the idea would raise, and as to why they oppose putting political figures on coins in the first place.
Written by 阿牛 on 9/14/2009
I am speechless, though the term "shameless" (袂見笑) comes to mind.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus yesterday again proposed “decriminalizing” the use of the special allowance fund by government chiefs.The KMT caucus first suggested an amendment to the Audit Law (審計法) in April 2007 that would decriminalize government chiefs’ personal use of special allowance funds....
“Now that Chen has been found guilty in the first trial, we can now discuss [decriminalization] of [how the government chiefs use their] special allowance fund,” [KMT caucus secretary-general ] Lu [Hsueh-chang (呂學樟)] said, referring to the verdict handed out by the Taipei District Court on Friday sentencing Chen and his wife Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) to life in prison in the first trial of Chen’s state affairs fund case.
Lu told reporters that it was necessary for the legislature to pass the legislation given that some 200 government chiefs are still being investigated for how they spent their special affairs funds.
Sep 12, 2009
One line from the FT article featured on Michael Turton's latest post:
“One person’s greed has caused chaos throughout the whole country,” Judge Tsai said.
Sep 11, 2009
... one thing is certain. Whatever verdict Chen Shui-bian gets in his politically-tinged trial, he will continue to hang around the DPP's neck like an albatross for the foreseeable future.
A lenient sentence that puts him out of jail in no time, however unlikely, also puts him square in the middle of the DPP again soon in a time of relatively weak leadership. Chen remains popular with the DPP base if extremely unpopular outside of it, and the factional loyalties his return would reignite do not bode well for the party.
A more likely heavy sentence will complete the process of making a martyr out of Chen, permanently grafting the DPP onto his cause, and make him the poster boy for victims of modern KMT nonsense.
Either way, Chen's case and the DPP's symbolic struggle against injustice will remain nearly synonymous within the party and without, and this will only bring the DPP more headaches.
Sep 1, 2009
The political bickering over the Dalai Lama's visit is something I find quite distressing. While the Dalai Lama's visits here will always carry a political tinge from the Chinese perspective because of fear of the Tibetan and Taiwanese independence movements joining forces, I just can't believe the KMT's relative willingness to jump on board with the idea that the Dalai's visit will somehow destabilize relations.
As Michael Turton has been documenting this week, all cross-strait relations plans are going full speed ahead; the Chinese Communist Party certainly got some notice and gave some tactic approval to the KMT for the Dalai Lama's visit; so the on screen attacks by the CCP against the DL's visit are for nothing but international media attention.
Given all of that, you can understand why Ma Ying-jeou might be eager to stay away. But I cannot fathom how that would motivate KMT legislators to fall over themselves to use CCP talking points, or act like the Dalai Lama is responsible for the Chinese delegation's boycott of the Taipei Deaf Olympics' opening ceremony this year -- instead of Ma's presence, which was what prompted the boycott during the World Games, and what is doubtlessly still responsible for the boycott now.
Further, the Dalai Lama's appearance in Kaohsiung today was devoid of any comments on politics, democracy, or anything but the dharma and blessing the victims. He said nothing to and did not shake the hands of Tsai Ing-wen and Chen Chu, who were both seated in the front row. None of the other monks in the delegations had anything to do with the politicians present. The press won't be allowed in the room where he's giving another speech this afternoon at his hotel. I think he's really doing his part here to avoid sending any "splittist" signals. And you would think that would be enough to keep the KMT happy.
It's depressing to know this is likely to be the last time the Dalai Lama visits. While Lien Chan, Ma Ying-jeou and James Soong could all meet with the Dalai Lama in 2001, I don't think the KMT will ever welcome him with open arms again. :(
Written by 阿牛 on 9/01/2009
Aug 28, 2009
Lōa Io̍k-sin of the Taipei Times has the story of the day, which is being overshadowed the usual gossip and, of course, the Dalai Lama's impending visit. But I find this committee's 13-4 decision shocking and really didn't see this coming. Key paragraphs below.
The Executive Yuan's Referendum Review Committee yesterday turned down a petition submitted by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) asking for a referendum on the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) that the government plans to sign with China....The committee is composed 100% of Ma appointees. But could it be that politics is not the main factor here? To evaluate how reasonable this decision is, we have to take another look at the referendum wording:
“The majority of committee members felt that the question in the referendum petition was not clear enough,” committee chairman Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂) told a news conference after the meeting. “It does not ask the public to express its opinion on a proposal of a legislative principle, a major policy decision, or concrete issues of a major policy.”
“Instead, it asks the public to vote on something that has not yet happened — since the ECFA is not a concrete policy yet. Hence, we decided that the petition did not meet the criteria for a referendum as stipulated in the Referendum Act (公民投票法),” he said....
“Holding a referendum on whether a referendum should be held is not a question that can be asked in a referendum as stipulated in the Referendum Act,” Chao said.
「你是否同意台灣與中國簽訂之經濟合作架構協議（ＥＣＦＡ），政府應交付台灣人民公民投票決定？」The DPP got a lot of flack for this phrasing -- it simply asks people if they want a referendum later instead of asking people if they want an ECFA outright -- but in retrospect, you could also say they predicted the committee's objections!
Do you agree that the government ought to put an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China to a referendum before the Taiwanese people?
Instead of trying to reject a hypothetical ECFA, the referendum asks if the public wants the government to submit this future agreement to referendum. That wording seems to override committee objections, being both clear and asking the public to make a concrete policy decision -- specifically, whether the public should have direct oversight of the final wording of the ECFA.
The final objection, that you can't hold a referendum on whether there should be a referendum, seems to me to not be addressed by the Referendum Act at all, and is a subjective reading of the statute. To reach that conclusion, you'd have to argue that referendum oversight is not a concrete issue of a major policy.
There is one sense in which the DPP question may be unclear -- namely, that if the ECFA that is signed between Taiwan and China and then goes to referendum, what happens if the public rejects it? The ECFA would already be signed. Does it have to be shredded? That's clearly the DPP intent, though the referendum wording does not specify the end game.
More from the article:
National Taiwan University law professor Chen Miao-fen (陳妙芬), who voted in favor of the petition, said that she did not endorse the committee's conclusion.Democratic process at work!
“We didn't have a thorough discussion before the chairman called a vote on it,” Chen said, adding that while the meeting started at 2pm, they did not start discussing details of the proposal until around 3:30pm and that Chao rushed to close the discussion and call a vote at 5:30pm.
“We voted on whether to close the discussion, and the result was 9 to 9, meaning that half of the people still thought that we needed more time,” she said. “But the chairman ruled to end the discussion — I thought it was quite abrupt.”
The DPP is expected to file an appeal.That appeal, would go to the Central Election Commission.
Aug 25, 2009
Aug 21, 2009
Rumors abound about splits in the KMT. But I think this is pure speculation. Most of the most vocal legislators, if not all the dissidents, are former PFP people, who have no loyalty to the party and less influence; if anything, this is a bid for power on their part destined to fail. Calls for James Soong to become Premier, emanating from one or two voices inside these dissidents' ranks, are not going to get any attention at all. Do not expect anyone to split off from the party.
Aug 19, 2009
The pro-KMT China Times has a biting news piece on Ma's painful press conference yesterday. Translated below:
President Ma Ying-jeou's press conference, designed to dampen criticism aimed at his typhoon response, was instead full of surprising language. Examples include statements that the damage done by this typhoon has "taught a lesson" to many people [victims unable or unwilling to evacuate], and that in the future they would cooperate better. Vice Premier Chiu Cheng-hsiung (邱正雄), responding to questions of how victims could find information regarding compensation, said "The Executive Yuan website already has that information [as if victims have easy internet access]." The string of gaffs managed not to sooth public anger, but rather to inflame it once again.
At yesterday's press conference, President Ma Ying-jeou affirmed local government efforts to evacuate areas prone to heavy damage, such as Hsin-shan Village in Nantou County's Shui-li Township (南投縣水里鄉新山村), where Village Chief Lin Mei-ling (林美玲) successfully evacuated 50 villagers. "I asked her, 'How is it that you are so amazing and foresaw the mudslides?' She said she followed her training from the Water Conservation Bureau." Ma approved of the effectiveness of WCB training, which explain to everyone the extreme dangers of mudslides, and noted that Chief Lin had saved the lives of her villagers by following her training [AG: As last night's Talking Show covered, many destroyed villages were following disaster evacuation plans but it made no difference as emergency convergence areas were destroyed as well].
Afterward, Ma emphasized that he hopes to quickly establish an effective [evacuation] system; "This typhoon has taught many people a lesson, and they will cooperate more fully in the future. Human effort is the decisive factor, and effort can be made."
Responding to questions that the military had not activated enough units, Defense Minister Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏) cautiously started by saying such things as "I am Taiwanese, and Taiwan is my home." [A-Gu: This is a given for most of the public, who are probably just bewildered by and suspicious of this kind of introduction, because it seems to show Chen fears he'll be called a non-Taiwanese in a time where such accusations are not really flying around.]
When asked by the media about how citizens could get details on how to ask for compensation from the disaster, Vice Premier Chiu arrangements for shelter allowed each person to get NT$5,000 of compensation, which would be provided by the red cross over a period of three days. Those households who had suffered damage from flooding by water over 50cm high would receive NT$20,000 in compensation, which would be distributed by local governments. Should their funds be inadequate, the central government would foot the bill. "This plan was decided Monday by the Executive Yuan and announced on the website."
Vice Premier Chiu further explained that compensation for rent for those forced to move would be 30,000-50,000 per household and could be obtained immediately. "Those with any questions can contact the relevant government departments; relevant phone numbers are on the Executive Yuan website." As soon as Chiu made these remarks, media were dumbstruck, and had no choice but to ask him in response, "How are flood victims who have been stripped of all their possessions and have a flooded house going to get online to find these phone numbers?"
For the record, the last two days of Talking Show have been excellent, fact-filled shows about the government's response and its inability to present a plausible reason for its paralysis. Start watching them here (Monday) and here (Tuesday).
Aug 17, 2009
I've checked out the KMT website to see what they're doing for damage control since the typhoon. Besides information on how to volunteer with the KMT, they have a montage at the top of the page, and the pictures mostly carry slogans like "Heartless typhoon, loving compatriots" to express sympathy for the victims and emphasize the work people are doing to help out. They look something like this, showing both politicians and volunteers at work to help victims:
(The DPP for its part has a similar montage but the only recognizable politician is Tsai Ing-wen).
But one picture struck me as particularly tone deaf: it reads, "Sending Northern love South, bringing comfort to the disaster zones."
Now I say this is tone deaf because, as so often happens, it is being written from the perspective of Taipei. Trust me, nobody is complaining about the vast number of volunteers from the North (thank you all!), or the KMT Youth Corps, who are coming to disaster zones across the country to help out.
But there are plenty of Central/Southern/Eastern residents who are going in any number of directions to help out people in other disaster areas. The simple-minded idea that the North is helping/saving the poor, helpless South is ... well, patronizing and annoying.