Share this

Mar 31, 2008

Ma's talking too fast

And why is the "pragmatic and non-ideological" president elect choosing these topics?

"Illegally changing the name of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall was ill-mannered and was, of course, invalid," Ma was quoted as saying in an interview with the Chinese-language China Times published yesterday.

The name-change lacked legitimacy because the DPP government amended the Organic Statute of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂組織條例) despite opposition, Ma said in the interview, adding that he would restore the names after soliciting opinions from different groups.

Ma added that he would not make the change if the public supports the new names.

He's not even president, and he's gonna take this stand? If he puts "大中至正" on the main gate in place of the current Liberty Square (自由廣場), I envision some quick voter disenchantment.

Michael Turton caught this in the Taiwan News:
The most disturbing example is the call issued by KMT lawmakers for the minister of national defense to "swear allegiance" to the president-elect even before Ma is inaugurated May 20.
I'd call that very disturbing, since the minister doesn't swear allegiance to any president at this point.

Also, the KMT still has no real intention to give up their ill-gotten party assets.

A sign of the times?

I had a Taiwan Beer Light (青睞) at a BBQ Saturday. It's a new product aimed at younger people and women who normally find beer too bitter. It was fairly bland, but hey, it's Light!

Mar 28, 2008

Round up

Underground radio calls for siege

Some underground green radio station in the South is calling for a siege of the Presidential Palace on May 20th, apparently to prevent Ma Ying-jeou from entering the place. A DPP legislator from Kaohsiung said he has not heard about this and doesn't support the movement.

The report is fuzzy, probably based on somebody's blog post, and includes no radio station name. I listen to underground radio here in Kaohsiung and haven't heard this yet. I don't doubt the report is true, actually. I just wish I knew which station is making the call!

Chen calls '92 consensus pre-condition "strange"

No surprise there, so I'll leave it alone. Plus I already posted on this topic today. Trong R. Chai (蔡同榮) also asked for DPP representation at any future talks between Taiwan and China. I imagine that will be roundly ignored.

Legislators' first scandal brewing

It appears that twelve current and former legislators, almost certainly all KMT, are somehow involved with a secret account connected to Wang You-theng (王又曾). More on that later.

Sunshine bills up

It's as if KMT held the country for ransom in exchange for the presidency, and just got paid off. To demonstrate their gratitude to the people, they will finally start to push their own version of the sunshine bills. The devil is in the details: will the KMT plan prevent conflict of interests in legislative committee assignments (like putting current bankers on the finance committee or recently convicted criminals on the judicial committee -- I'm looking at you, Chiu Yi (邱毅))? What exactly will the bills change? Keep your eyes open.

First clips of last night's Talking Show, which opens by noting that Hsieh lost huge with women, and if the DPP had evened out this demographic the race would have been a near tie.

And 2100:

'92 all over again

Edit: Michael Turton beat me to it ...

As the Chinese People's Daily website leads with Hu Jintao's call to resume talks on the '92 consensus, Taiwan media and politicians are discussing exactly what that means.

China's position

By the PRC's definition, the '92 consensus was an oral agreement that "both sides of the Taiwan strait strongly uphold the One China principal" (以口头方式表达的“海峡两岸均坚持一个中国原则”的共识。). The PRC says that as long as this principal was upheld, and both sides worked toward unification, the Chinese were willing to avoid talking about the contents of Taiwan's "One China" definition (海峡两岸都坚持一个中国的原则,努力谋求国家的统一。但在海峡两岸事务性商谈中,不涉及‘一个中国’的政治涵义。).

It is this agreement which China insists on referring to as the "One China principal" (
一个中国原则) and which the KMT has started to call "One China, two interpretations." But China objects strongly to any "two interpretations" phrasing, saying that although the political content of 'One China' could be ignored, there simply was no "two interpretations" to the consensus in that November 1992 agreement (既然没有讨论,根本就没有什么“各自表述”的共识。).
Other PRC mouthpieces began to slam the KMT's position for dropping the goal of unification, copying the Green camp's position and weaseling out of the "One China principal." They called Ma's positioning a mistake, and if you read between the lines, China's saying it can tolerate Ma saying these things to get elected, but will not seriously accept this line in negotiations.

KMT's position

By the KMT's most recent understanding, the important spirit of the '92 consensus is both sides of the strait maintain a degree of ambiguity when upholding the One China principal in order to 'seek consensus while maintaining differences.' As far as they're concerned, it doesn't even matter if there's a real, unified understanding between China and Taiwan about the '92 consensus or not (they note this because there's not one), because it still provides a workable framework. (九二共識的主要精神就是兩岸為求同存異,各自保留對一中表述的模糊空間,有沒有九二共識根本不重要,重要的兩岸都願意在這個架構下展開談判···)

I think, though, that these difference in the KMT and CCP's definition of 'One China' won't prevent the resumption of dialogue between Taiwan and China. Both parties think it is in their interests to start talking and resolve certain outstanding issues.


But as one Liberty Times column reminds us, the problem is that Taiwan and the 'mainland' being part of one political entity simply isn't reality. Taiwan is a sovereign country, and this has to be Taiwan's starting position in negotiations. Even if China cannot accept this, they have to at least be willing ignore it instead of denying it. The PRC has no claim to this island, and having the KMT pretend they still own China, Tibet and Mongolia does nothing to solve the problem of PRC claims to Taiwan's soil. The KMT's position is ultimately self-defeating in that it does make eventual political unification the only logical outcome of the starting point of negotiations.

But alas, I think Green-camp hopes for talks on real equal footing will never happen.

Mar 27, 2008

Price Controls!

After Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor announced they may raise prices on beer if raw material costs keep rising, I've changed my principled opposition to price controls. I now endorse any measures necessary to keep costs down for TTL.

Tuesday's Talking Show

Today's discussion is part of why the DPP lost and what the Ma administration will look like. One embarrassing mistake regarding US passport color early on.

Time is on our side

Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑), Acting Secretary General of the KMT legislative caucus, today asked for a little time to carry out reforms to improve the Legislative Yuan.

You know, because there's more imporant things to do first (link: Taiwan Echo's post), like doubling low-level KMT officials' salaries so they can go overseas more.

Lee-Ma meeting this afternoon

Will update when there are details. And on the unrelated topic of Iraq, I found this fact about Basra a good indication of just how bad the situation is:

The division of the spoils among the armed groups [in Basra] is often quite specific. Fadhila controls the electricity sector and shares power with the Mahdi at the ports; Dawa and Fadhila have a strong grip in the lucrative southern oil operations, and a different branch of Dawa — the one to which Mr. Maliki belongs — holds sway at the Basra airport.

Oh great

Liberty Times is reporting an unnamed source, saying legislator and nutcase Su Chi (蘇起) will be named the Secretary of National Security Council. He was a member of the Anti-Communist Patriotic League with Ma back when he was studying in the states (that group was also very strongly for ROC soverignty over the Diaoyutai .

He is also personally responsible for creating the phrase "92 consensus." The only good thing I'd say about him right now is he looks a lot like Chen Li-hong (陳立宏).

Lee's just full of surprises

President-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is unlikely to bring Taiwan close to Beijing any time soon as the Chinese Communist Party does not trust him, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said.

Speaking in an interview with Japan's Sankei Shimbun newspaper, Lee dismissed suggestions that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) member Ma would integrate Taiwan with China.

"Taiwan will not be taken by China so easily. Why? Actually the the Chinese Communist Party does not trust Mr Ma from the bottom of its heart," he said in the interview published yesterday.

"I'm not in a position to elaborate but he is influenced very strongly by the United States," the 85-year-old Lee said of Ma.

The former president said Ma "can be self-righteous but is also modern."

Lee had supported Ma's rival, Democratic Progressive Party candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) in the presidential election even though Ma served as justice minister in the 1990s under Lee's rule.

Lee also doubted that China's crackdown on Tibet was a decisive factor in the election, saying that people did not want to provoke Beijing.

"Would it do Taiwan any good if we supported Tibet when Taiwan's safety is not guaranteed? No," Lee said.

Here are some of the articles from the Sankei Shimbun (産経新聞) related to the Lee interview:

日台関係「智恵生かしたい」 李登輝氏会見要旨

「中台統一」加速はない 李登輝前総統

 対中融和策を推進する国民党の8年ぶりの政権奪還で、台湾が中国の統一工作に取り込まれるとの指摘に ついて、「(戦後の)台湾の帰属問題は不明瞭(めいりよう)だと中国はよく研究している。簡単に統一はできない。しばらくは安全だ」と話し、米国の介入を 念頭に、懸念を一(いつ)蹴(しゆう)した。また「馬氏は米国寄り。中台統一に持ち込むことはない」とした。

「敵とは交渉せず」 中国、外交哲学貫きダライ・ラマとの対話拒否

On Price Controls

As the Foreigner on Formosa blogs about the KMT's 180° on price controls, I'd like to note this represents a 180° for the DPP government too. Whatever happened to only adjusting the prices according to the mechanism put in place by law? Just as the KMT is clearly trying to shrug off any related blame, the DPP is happy to put as much on them as possible.

This isn't a bad partisan move, but obviously what we want is the fairest and most scientific, least political system for controlling prices.

Mar 24, 2008

Post-election opinion polls

Disclaimer: Polls from these very blue sources are notoriously inaccurate.

UDN says 49% blame Chen Shui-bian for the DPP loss. Most of the other questions were stupid.

China Times says 79% are happy about Ma's victory (how does THAT work?) and 66% want the economy to be the top priority. The choices on "top priorities" listed in the article seemed pretty rigged to me.

Liberty Times leads with news that Ma accepts the 92 consensus of the "One China, two interpretations." It remains to be seen if Beijing can really accept the "two interpretations" part or "mutual non-denial." The opening paragraph is pretty funny.

Let's wait and see

I'm pretty mentally exhausted from the elections and obviously not thrilled either. The loss didn't come as an overwhelming surprise, of course, but obviously the scale is disappointing.

I'm also going to need a break for a few days, but will be back with domestic political developments soon.

Mar 22, 2008

Live blogging some results

5:39 Numbers have been on TV for about an hour an and a half now. Some observations:

+ DPP's worst performances --in Taipei city and Taoyuan -- are looking like 36% of the vote. Best performances are hardly over 55% in Chia-yi County. Kaohsiung, Pingtung, and other places where the greens are leading are still split almost 50:50.
+ Percentages at this time are about what I thought before I started to pull the numbers closer in the final week. Apparently, a lot of the "change" in electorate mood was in my head. Numbers stand at about 41%:59% for Ma at this moment.
+ Ma's rapidly nearing the 6.5 million mark of getting more than half of the voters. It's a lock. Hsieh is stuck at 4.5 million at this moment.
+ Turnout was slightly lower than expected, closer to 70% than the predicted 75%. That's a good deal lower than 2000 and 2004 where you had 82% and 80% respectively.
+ Referendums won't be counted until after the presidential election, so it'll be a while before we know what happened.
+ I already got too drunk last night to do it again tonight.

5:49 The current lead is about 1.6 million votes. The KMT itself was predicting a lead of 1.3 million. They outperformed even their own expectations.

+ Ma's leading in 20 cities and counties, with Hsieh leading in 5 -- all south of Yunlin.

+ Taichung didn't go well for us.

+Ma's already crossed the 50% threshold for voter turnout.

5:58 Jiande li 建德里, a small area with a few hundred voters, is historically uncannily accurate at producing over all results. This election was no exception. 215 votes for Ma to Hsieh's 147 , so Ma got 59% ... identical to the current margin.

6:01 Goddamn it, why couldn't the DPP run a real campaign? Why did they basically give the economic issue to Ma by using fear mongering as their only response? And why didn't they spend more time talking about Ma's real flaws and leader sip issues? Why talk about a green card for two months when you don't have any proof?

6:09 Most stations are putting a little victory stamp by Ma's name or otherwise calling the election for him. TVBS is basically live broadcasting the Taichung KMT headquarters celebration. Most other statiosn are doing analysis and trying to avoid being too boring when reading large strings of numbers.

6:16 Thanks to everyone commenting. I also think there's been an absurd amount of blame for everything bad that's happened in the last 8 years on the president -- political, economic, social, everything. Where else in the world does the president get blamed for old people committing suicide?

6:20 Nothing is going to happen until we see just how badly the referendum did, I think. I will force myself to stop posting until we start seeing some referendum numbers.

What's next for the DPP

I want to outline five key structural reforms and strategies the DPP should undertake, given today's results. This is not a definitive list: "new blood" is probably the first requirement for any of these to happen.

Implement a 19 counties strategy. One of the DPP's structural weaknesses is that it is functionally a national party with almost no offices at the local level. The party currently participates in elections at the city council level and up, and has effectively written off historically blue areas and lower offices. Modeling Howard Dean's 50 states strategy, the DPP must recruit candiates at all levels of power and build a nation-wide party from the base up and to give it a better way to find and develop talent. This strategy must work hand-in-hand with the next:
Define core issues and increase autonomy. To contest seats at every level between the presidency and the local district chief (鄰長), the DPP must advocate a core platform to which all officials adhere (perhaps Taiwanese sovereignty, anti-corruption reforms, 18-year-old voting age, banking reforms, women's rights, aboriginal autonomy...) while giving wider reign for candidates to mold a platform suited to their office and district. While a national candidate in Tainan County might run well on anti-China rhetoric, a local one in Jinmen could be "China-friendly" while holding onto the core platform. The party must encourage diversity of opinion to widen its base and accomplish its most cherished goals. In line with this objective, the DPP should end the legislative caucus' right to dictate legislators' votes on all but the core platform issues.
Form a shadow cabinet. Parliamentary systems in the Westminster tradition often have a shadow cabinet of senior opposition legislators who critique the government's policies, ministry by ministry, and present their own comprehensive platform. In Taiwan, because of the separation of powers, a shadow cabinet should be composed of experts the DPP could posit as potential ministers. This is an important strategy for a party heavily criticized for the lack of professionalism from its cabinet. Shadow council and commission heads would help too. The DPP should largely appoint non-partisan experts and give wide autonomy for them to suggest policy related to their expertise.

Highlight legislative work. The DPP should focus on their legislative bills, especially since most will be slapped down. The legislators are now the DPP's only national bullhorn (unless they form the shadow cabinet as I suggest), so they must use it wisely. Pushing for greater legislative transparency and more conflict of interest legislation would be a very good start. Likewise:

Improve the legislators' professional image. Avoiding tongue lashing the KMT ministers will not be easy since DPP legislators will mostly get on TV for challenging the new government, but more civility would go a long way toward improving the party's image. Avoiding yelling and name-calling should be adequate, though sarcasm might be the best new tool when critcizing the KMT. The DPP should also find ways to support and even promote some KMT-initiated legislation and gain KMT support for some of its own legislation (admittedly, the latter is a more difficult task). The legislators will appear bi-partisan and less polarizing.

Mar 21, 2008

Ring of Fire

The KMT thinks the DPP will try to burn down their own headquarters at 9:30 tonight somewhere in the south.

Also, 5 ballots in Kaohsiung County are unaccounted for, so the CEC is trying to rectify that ASAP.

Shaheen variable?

Edit: Apparently this was just another paranoid rumor started because Shaheen was in town and had an interview with Formosa TV that got canceled.

This would be illegal if she breaks the word at a Hsieh event (certainly if she was on stage), and Hsieh's camp would be fined, Ma's already predicting it ... and this event would make the race a dead heat, I think.

Kuomintang campaign planners are having a nightmare.

Their worst scenario is that Theresa Shaheen, a former chairwoman of the American Institute in Taiwan who is currently visiting Taipei, may prove Ma Ying-jeou's "green card" is still valid.

"We are really scared," a top assistant to Ma said yesterday.

Shaheen, who is now chairwoman of the U.S. Asia Economic Foundation, may do so [tonight], the worried aide who advises Ma on foreign affairs....

Known for her strong support for the ruling DPP, Shaheen may just drop the bomb and the Kuomintang candidate and his campaign staff could do nothing to control the damage for lack of time.

When, where, and will may this happen? Before 10:00pm, at least, if at all!

Interesting note from FEER. I won't comment on it, but here's the beef:
Ms. Shaheen was fired by the Bush administration for exceeding her mandate by giving a blank check to the Chen administration, so that it could provoke mainland China in order to win domestic support, while the U.S. was left to deal with a saber-rattling Beijing. I had dinner with her Sunday night, and it was clear that while she has very little understanding of Taiwanese politics, she is unreservedly committed to Mr. Chen and the DPP. If Mr. Ma is right and Ms. Shaheen does speak today, it is likely that in the little time left before the election Taiwanese voters will not be able to learn about her vested interest in helping the DPP. As a former U.S. official, her statements may be taken at face value, unless specifically refuted by current AIT officials....

So why is Ms. Shaheen so willing to be used in this sleazy effort? One clue comes from her business background. She has been involved in business in Asia and Republican politics for decades, including the nexus between the two. She was in business with Richard Lawless, a former CIA officer who was recently deputy assistance secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific affairs. When Jeb Bush was Florida secretary of commerce, he hired Mr. Lawless to represent the state of Florida in Asia, and was later involved in other business deals with him. Ms. Shaheen gave $100,000 to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

I don’t usually read Mother Jones, a left-wing magazine, but this article gives a good indication of the typical Beltway operation Ms. Shaheen has been running. In essence it is money for access. If Frank Hsieh wins the presidency, Ms. Shaheen stands to benefit by continuing to provide an “in” with the Republican establishment, which is a key constituency for maintaining the U.S. commitment to defend Taiwan. As the saying goes, follow the money. –Hugo Restall

Final Thoughts

Ma has been able to stay on message all week and focus on what he would do if he were elected. It's a positive message and think that's been working out well for him.

Hsieh has said little about his own post-election plans all week, preferring to talk about vote-buying, Tibet, and an out of control KMT. In fact, the only thing I've heard him say this week about future plans is that he'll quit politics if he loses. Tibet and the busing scheme may help Hsieh close the gap, but I don't see it pushing him over the top.

There's an expected turnout of about 75% tomorrow, or around 13 million voters. The first to get 6.5 million will likely have the win, with 7 million being a good "safe" vote count to secure the election.

This is one of Ma's better ads this campaign, more or less a "who's ready?!" sort of ad. It works. I also noticed Hsieh's camp has stolen Obama's "Yes, we can!" motto and put it on their T-shirts for some events.

I see a KMT win coming, but it's hard to crush that seed of hope which is trying to sprout. See you guys on the other side.

Taipei Times article on the vote buying

Here's the link and some of the more important paragraphs.

Hsieh said the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) intended to spend NT$470
million (US$15.3 million) and to mobilize at least 200,000 people during the
"This is out-and-out vote-buying in disguised form," Hsieh said. "The
country will not have any future if political parties buy their way into the
Presidential Office."
Hsieh said the KMT would pay exuberant sums -- estimated at NT$240 million
-- to people it would deploy at voting stations.
Voting captains would be
handed NT$49 million while mobilization fees were estimated to amount to NT$180
million, he said.
Vote-buying is a legal issue, Hsieh said. Previously, vote-buying was
direct distribution of cash, but now it is hidden in various forms and the KMT
openly includes it in its campaign plan, he said....
In response, KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) said yesterday that the party
would not get involved in vote-buying or other illegal acts during the election.
Wu said the party's budget for the election was only one-third of the budget
for the 2004 presidential election and that the KMT's bank accounts were
KMT Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) and Ma camp lawyer Lai
Su-ju (賴素如) filed a lawsuit against Hsieh, charging him with violation of
Article 90 of the President and Vice President Election and Recall Law
(總統副總統選舉罷免法), which stipulates that "anyone who spreads rumors or untruths
through words, pictures, recordings, speeches or other means in a bid to help or
prevent a certain candidate from being elected will be subject to five years in
KMT Organization and Development Committee director Liao Fung-te
(廖風德) said the party had set up an "anti-dirty trick" program, which included
the "Blue-Eagle," "Voting Booth" and the "Bee" projects.
Liao said the
"Blue-Eagle" project is a training program with more than 40,000 volunteers who
will be sent by the KMT to supervise vote counting at polling stations to
prevent election fraud. Each volunteer will receive NT$1,000.

Ma Ying-jeou: Yes, we're buying votes

OK, that was a misleading headline, because Ma wasn't talking about the KMT at this time.

Thankfully, Tim Maddog pointed out this video from last night's Talking Show which explains why the Blue Hawks and busing plan is vote buying. And the topper is a true blue UDN article quote from 1994 of then-Minister of Justice Ma Ying-jeou saying that if money is involved, (such as when busing these people in), it's vote buying. Check around the 3:37 mark or so.

I still can't tell if the plan is going to go through or is canceled yet. It doesn't matter though; the question is, will this get any airtime in these last minutes before the vote? I think if it does, it could have its impact. I dare not bet. I don't' want to jinx it.

While the DPP is slamming the KMT for this vote buying situation, the KMT is trying to accuse the DPP of using "political policy" to buy votes -- that is, implementing policies that people like and that the KMT itself has advocated. The KMT's obvious hypocrisy aside, can anyone buy the moral equivalency argument here? Using your party's own money to give people a free ride in your KMT van with a KMT driver who's surely excited about the KMT ... but promises not to do anything inappropriate like give out cash ... this won't in any way qualify as vote buying ... and if it does, so does offering good policy? Come on!

Also, the DPP accused the KMT of a very innovative vote buying strategy in two Kaohsiung districts: the KMT offers apparent green supporters one or two thousand Taiwan dollars to hand over their ID card for the weekend. This prevents them from being able to vote.

The KMT shoots back that they've heard tons of rumors of 1k-2k DPP funded bribes in more blue areas of Kaohsiung as well, and accuse the DPP of "being a thief who calls out that he's caught a thief."

On an unrelated note, on what real basis can Vincent Siew insist that a "common market" between China and Taiwan -- negotiated on a One China principal -- cannot be rightly termed a "One China market?" Well, the only possibility is that it's not a common market either.

Mar 20, 2008

If I were Hsieh's campaign manager ...

I would have used these slogans in our signs, ads and campaign literature:

  • "Yes to economic ties, no to the One China principal" or perhaps "Yes to trade, no to political concessions"
  • "Globalization and diversification"
  • "Push for three links, reject One China"
  • "Look to the future, not to the past"
  • "Absolute power corrupts absolutely"
  • "Let's built a sustainable future together"
I also would have kept "和解共生" and "拒絕一中市場," and I personally would have tried to focus more on the "one side, one country" argument more so that Ma couldn't just wiggle out with his vague "We are sovereign and independent" position.

Lee endorses Hsieh

TAIPEI (AP): Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui says he is endorsing ruling party candidate Frank Hsieh in Saturday's presidential elections.
Lee says that Taiwan needs a leader that passionately loves the country and Hsieh is the man.
If a single partry controls both the presidency and the legislature ``the balance of power will be a serious problem,'' Lee says.
The opposition Nationalists scored a big victory in legislative elections in January.

Bloomberg: Jim Rogers Invests in Taiwan on Improving China Ties

Boop boop! I don't like the sound of this.

March 20 (Bloomberg) -- Jim Rogers, co-founder with George Soros of the
Quantum Hedge Fund, is investing in Taiwan
on expectations this week's presidential election will install a government that will improve ties with China.
Rogers, 65, said he recently bought exchange-traded funds tied to Taiwan, predicting the two economies will ``merge'' and that the island's currency will be boosted by appreciation in the Chinese yuan. The opposition Kuomintang's
Ma Ying-jeou and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's Frank Hsieh both favor closer links with China, which is officially at war with Taiwan.
``Both of them are going to bring peace,'' Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday in Singapore. ``It's ultimately going to be a merger of Taiwan and China. The currencies are going to merge. The economies are going to merge.''

Today's most viewed videos

Mostly blue media and even a KMT commercial at the top there. Does not bode well for the green youth vote.

Blue Hawks and busses

Note: this whole post is being made in a hurry during breaks and is being continuously updated, but some mistakes may slip through. See original articles and note any errors I've made.

The KMT has been preparing a two part plan for election day to help secure their victory: first, mobilize 40,000 people to observe the vote counting in order to help "prevent fraud," a force they're calling the "Blue Hawks;" and second, to bus in older or disabled KMT party members to the polls in the south, a move they were calling a "service" for those members who could not conveniently cast a vote.

Update: The DPP found out about the operation from some internal KMT documents -- the Apple Daily also ran a piece on the KMT setting some money aside to make sure it could get the turnout and money it wanted, but I think there are two sources here. This mobilization effort was going to cost NT$300,000,000 (US$10million)! (Figures cited ranged from NT$200m to NT$470m). The KMT says it's perfectly legal and did not deny the cost, as far as I can tell. But they also say Hsieh "has no proof" that this is a vote buying attempt. How does that work?

The DPP seized on the busing plan as an "obvious" example of vote buying and is suing. It may be illegal by Taiwanese standards (see article 86 of the Presidential Election and Recall Law). I know this is perfectly legal in the US. As far as I know, no official word from the CEC on this yet. As a result, the KMT apparently canceled this busing plan (according to Su's quote in that article, but that's not clear from other sources yet).

The media blitz over the election in these closing two days is so full of mud, suspicion, and accusations, I don't think much of anything said at this point is going to influence any voters. Barring the Hsieh camp can actually produce a valid green card of Ma's (which I'm sure they can't), I don't see anything changing the current spread. This might actually be worth a point or two ... but I still don't want to bet on it.

Also of note, Jonathan Adams report on the DPP's loss of the youth vote, which, anecdotally, seems true to me. But I also think they're less likely to vote this time around, so I'm not sure how this will really effect things.

According to the United Daily News poll, those in their 20s are also the least likely age group to vote Saturday.

There are 3.67 million people in Taiwan between the ages 20 and 29, according to
Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior -- all eligible to vote.

And that's a pretty significant portion of the 17 million or so eligible voters.

CEC: No press conferences after 10:00 on Friday

This declaration seeks to avoid a repeat of the Kaohsiung City mayoral election. Some legislators still fear that even without a press conference, bias media will broadcast "news" of vote buying or other last-minute "dirty tricks" to boost their party.

Mar 19, 2008

Blues: The greens should hold a Tibet referendum

In response to Green calls to Taiwanese to pass the UN entry referendum to inspire the Tibetans hope for freedom and democracy and condemn China, the KMT legislative caucus suggested the DPP should push an entirely different referendum on the topic.

Rainy days

Rain is likely in northern Taiwan on election day, according to the Central Weather Bureau. Knowing how much Taipei people hate the rain, this will probably affect their turnout slightly... but I don't yet dare alter my latest election prediction. It's still too early to say just how heavy the rain will be.

And Ma's odds on Swarchy seem to just be getting better.

Old news

The source is biased, but still interesting. I'd say it's pretty darn unlikely that such a plan has been approved.

What's on voters minds?

Note of caution: As Maddog pointed out in comments, this survey is not sourced, and it's also an online survey. So take any data here with a grain of salt. It also would almost necessarily represent a younger demographic.

Office workers who responded to the survey registered an average score of 58.84,
which indicated a low level of concern about the elections, the survey shows.

What do they mean by concern, I wonder? Interest? Or worry?

In a multiple-choice selection of the issues with which they were most concerned, 86.52 percent of the respondents identified economic issues, while 77.38 percent stated employment concerns. The survey also shows that 37.1 percent of those polled were mostly concerned with the cross-strait policies proposed by the two presidential candidates. ...

Meanwhile, 10.13 percent of the office workers interviewed said that they
would not vote
in the polls.
Of those who said they would vote, 67.59 percent said they will make their decisions based on the past behavior and performance of the candidates, 48.11 percent said they will take into consideration the candidates' platforms, 36.2 percent said they will focus on the performance of the candidates and the parties, and 27.6 percent indicated that they will vote based on their party affiliation.
The survey also found that 24.24 percent of the respondents saw their companies as favoring a specific political party, with 33. 92 percent saying that their companies or supervisors had tried to persuade them to support a certain candidate.

That's looking like high turnout, the prominence of the economy, real focus on performance (which could be good for Hsieh, but would have been better if he focused on it more), and a lot of coercion by bosses.

Chuang fall out

A blue media strategy in the days running up to the election has been to give a lot of air time to stories about Chuang Kuo-jong (莊國榮), one of the most inflammatory officials in the executive. Chuang is not a DPP member, but he has been campaigning for Hsieh and recently bad mouthed Ma Ying-jeou's late father at a DPP event on Sunday, resulting in universal condemnation and a written apology to Ma.

The most rational & widely shared criticism of the DPP for the last 8 years has been bad administration: frequent cabinet shake ups, almost yearly premier changes, and a cacophony of undiplomatic speech being broadcast by various executive officials. Stories about Chuang are meant to remind people of these sub-par performances and cement the feeling that the DPP is just too incompetent to run th executive. This reinforcement is especially important in light of the Tibet events, which in green media has been focusing even greater attention on Ma's One China principal and the CPP's ruthlessness, as well as Hsieh's attacks on Ma's economic policies which might have some people wondering just how close to a "common market" they're really willing to go.

Hsieh and Ma have also been encouraging people to vote fo rthe referendum as a way of supporting Tibet and denouncing the Chinese violence there. Given the poor show of the referendum last time, the KMT's silence since it's official promotion of their own referendum, and legislator Hong Hsiu-chu's self-funded anti-referendum ad (she was #2 on the at large KMT list, remember), I don't expect either will pass.

My buddy on Talking Show

My friend Iok-sin was on talking show last Saturday and got very little air time, but he did spend his air time explaining the Tibet situation to people in Taiwan. You can see the video -- he starts at the 7:40 mark of this video and continues between 0:00 and 2:42 of this segment.

The spin on Wen's words

Yesterday's speech is being spun differently by green and blue media, with green media emphasizing the "One China" principal and the blue media focusing on Wen's calls for closer economic ties. Oddly, the Central Daily News, a website directly owned by the KMT, has one of the more balanced headlines, though it still spins the "One China" condition as positive.

Also, Hsieh and Chen have both called on Ma Ying-jeou to drop the One China principal since this Tibetan situation, and Ma has responded by saying he thinks Tibet and Taiwan are two different questions, and as a result it's not appropriate to talk about Taiwan in the context of the Tibet situation. He would like everyone to focus more on the Tibetan people's human right and cultural rights instead. In other words, "No."

17,321,603 eligible voters

And here's the breakdown. I'll list some of the bigger numbers:
Taipei City: 2,042,805
Kaohsiung City 1,163,446
Taipei County: 2,878,477
Kaohsiung County: 953,610
Taichung County: 1,135,237

Edit: N.J. noticed the Taipei area has roughly 25% of eligable voters and asked how turnout compares across regions.

In 2004, turnout across the country was very near 81% in all major -- 81.41% in Taichung, 81.31% in Taipei County, 81.15% in Tainan County, and 81.56% in Kaohsiung County, 81.71% in Taipei City and 81.81% in Kaohsiung City. So no real differences there. In 2000, turnout was between 83% and 85% in most places.

Turnout was significantly lower in both elections in the outlying islands, Hualien and Taitung, averaging close to 70% in 2000 and 67% or so in 2004.

Mar 18, 2008

Spin factory at work

Ma's fooling someone who's name starts with a K- and ends in an -atherin Hille.

Ma Ying-jeou, the frontrunner in Taiwan's presidential election, yesterday declared the island a sovereign country as he tried to limit potential damage to his campaign from the violence in Tibet, writes Kathrin Hille in Taipei.
Cross-strait relations have long played a key role in Taiwanese elections such as Saturday's presidential poll. China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and threatens to attack the island, should it formalise its de facto independence.
Historically, it has been the ruling Democratic Progressive party's position that Taiwan is an independent, sovereign country. Mr Ma had refrained from echoing this.
But in an effort to deflect what some see as a possible benefit to the DPP from the violence in Tibet, Mr Ma yesterday declared: "Taiwan is not Tibet, Taiwan is not Hong Kong.
We are a sovereign country."

She's right about his motives, but Ma specifically avoided declaring that Taiwan is a sovereign country here, instead using the ambiguous "we." The subtext is that nearly everyone in Taiwan would say the Republic of China = Taiwan; but the catch is that the ROC, not Taiwan, is the only entity Ma believes is sovereign.

This is actually a step back for the old horse, becuase Ma has said Taiwan is sovereign before, including in his recently published book (which is why Hille's article is old news, not a breakthrough of some kind). Ma likes to use use two phrases: the ROC is independent and Taiwan is sovereign.

He tries to equate the Republic of China with Taiwan, but he avoids ever saying Taiwan is independent, which would actually be the logical conclusion of Taiwan = ROC and ROC = independent.

Ma still holds that ROC sovereignty extends to all of China, including Tibet (see 1:11 mark; thanks, Maddog), and Ma is just trying to use the "ROC = Taiwan = sovereign and independent" association to his benefit without ever saying it.

Not all that surprising to me.

In a surprise move, China's Information Office of the State Council informed local and foreign media stationed in Beijing earlier in the day of its plan to hold a news conference in which Qiangba Puncog,chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional
People's Government, would answer questions on the Friday riot.

More than 20 local and foreign media outlets were said to have been informed of the news conference. However, none of the 10 Taiwanese media outlets with representatives in Beijing were told.


One China, Tibet fallout

Ma has recently called Hsieh's comparison of Taiwan to Tibet inappropriate, and Hsieh had an interesting response: Taiwan's different because the DPP has rejected the One China principal, and called for Ma to reject eventual unification and the "common market" plan.

Good way to frame it, Hsieh.

Ma, for his part, is trying to appear less China-friendly in this critical run up to Saturday, so he has "not rejected" the idea of boycotting the Olympics (yeah right). Also, without explicitly rejecting anything Wen Jiaobao said about the One China principal, Ma has made a rather confrontational sounding set of statements at his press conference. In summary, they are:

  1. The Republic of China is a soverign and independent country, and Taiwan's future must be decided by the people of Taiwan. We will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to interfere. Wen Jiabao's statement was outrageous and unreasonable, prideful and stupid, self-rightous, and ignored the mainstream opinion of Taiwanese people. We seriously object to his remarks.
  2. We seek peace and avoiding independence, unification and the use of violence.
  3. Taiwanese people want back into the UN and we'll support that.
  4. We strongly condemn the Chinese Communist crackdown in Tibet as outrageous and unreasonable.
  5. As the ROC president, I will visit Tibetan friends and the Dalai Lama and seek to have everyone condemn the Communists' handling of this situation.
  6. Should the CCP's oppression continue, I would not reject the idea of boycotting the Olympics in protest.

Very interesting posturing, but it is only posturing. He does agree with Hu on the most critical point in any way whatsoever, which is that Taiwan and "the mainland" both belong to One China.

Matsu's not tipping her hand

Looks like it'll be a squeaker.

Wen Jiabao: Taiwan and the mainland are part of One China

While this is in no way a new policy, it is a rather startling choice of timing for the statement, which was made at a press conference that really centered on what was happening in Tibet. Wen reminded everyone, "Taiwan and the mainland are both part of One China," and that China will not allow its territory to be split. (「台灣和大陸同屬一個中國。」涉足領土問題、不容分裂。)

Historically, warning-like statements from the Chinese government on the eve of the Taiwanese election have not been well received.

This could boost things another point to a point and a half. I'll again modify my prediction: Ma 52%, Hsieh 48%. Am I being realistic, or assigning too much weight to these recent events? Or will people like the other part of Wen's statement, calling for peace talks under a One China framework?

Check the most recent and promient articles on People's Daily regarding Taiwan:



No green card? Everyone will quit!

At this point, DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh, President Chen Shui-bian and legislator Trong R. Chai have all promised to step down from their office or stop their campaign respectively if Ma Ying-jeou can prove he does not have a valid green card.

The DPP gambit is to dangle such a huge piece of meat in front of Ma, the voters will wonder why he doesn't take it by presenting proof in the form of an AIT verification or something similar. If I were Ma, I would take it, and I wonder why he doesn't. But I still don't think this issue will resonate enough with the voters.

Still, with the last DPP poll (historically more accurate than the blue media's) showing a 6 point gap, and with the Tibet situation maybe giving a small group of people second thoughts, the green card issue too may push things within about 4 points.

Given the latest developments, I'd have to predict a 52.5% Ma 47.5% Hsieh spread at this point. So turnout really matters.

Could a Ma win be the better outcome?

I have a friend who made several interesting points in a discussion yesterday. He's personally more of a Hsieh fan, but thinks a Ma victory would be best for all. He explained it like this:

+ With the economic meltdown in the US and rising commidity prices, the economy is not likely to do well in the short term. A Ma victory could dispell the myth that the KMT is great at managing the economy. This negative economic outlook is also the basis for most of the other points below.
+ While the legislature has all the real power, the media focus is on the executive. So a Hsieh presidency would be relatively crippled and would get all the blame that probably should go to the legislature. In contrast, a Ma presidency would mean all blame would fall squarely on the KMT's shoulders.
+ The DPP needs some new blood and a re-tooled message anyway, so the loss would give them a better chance to reflect and make necessary changes.
+ It would be almost impossible to sell out Taiwan in just four years, and public pressure would restrain any such attempts; and if Ma tried, there would be huge demonstrations.

What do you think?

Mar 17, 2008

Several terrible pieces out today

The Western media has several predictably horrible articles out today. I cannot critique them all today, but here's a few links:

Tibet unrest prompts Taiwanese parties to harden stance toward China By Jonathan Manthorpe, Canwest News Service

That's not true at all. The DPP transition was after the first presidential debate, when they began warning against a common market. Ma's condemnation of Chinese action in Tibet was half-hearted at best.

Taiwan presidential hopeful raises Tibet spectre AFX News Limited

'If Taiwan's future is to be decided by people on both sides of the strait, what
has happened in Tibet today will be Taiwan's future,' he told a crowd of tens of
thousands of supporters, some of whom waved Free Tibet posters.

No doubt. Notice the well-placed but super sympathetic coverage being given to Tibetan rioters while Taiwanese who peacefully vote for a referendum are "provocative." The article is crap for a number of other reasons.

Taiwan presidential front runner to pursue China talks despite Tibet unrest XFN

Of course, the real issue is China's ultimatum-like precondition for talks, not talking.

One China Eludes Ma's Agenda as Taiwan Sees Kuomintang Victory By Ken Fireman and James Peng

Sorry, but just not true. Ma openly accepts the One China principal. While there's tons of problems with the article, it does have one particular high point:

Politically, many Taiwanese voters -- not just those who back Chen and his party
-- want Taiwan to maintain its ``distinct separateness'' from China and ``have its rightful place in international relations,'' says
Cynthia Watson, a China
specialist at the National Defense University in Washington. ``Some outside Taiwan have a tendency to think this is just a Chen phenomenon, which it isn't.''

Good observation!

KMT standard-bearer Ma loses little voter support China Post

I mean, the Post has even more crap than usual this week, but I found this a particularly inane headline given the lack of any data to back that up. It's pure spin being pushed as an article. The only figure cited is that both parties failed to meet the highly ambitious target of 1 million supporters turning out for their Super Sunday rallies.

I think the combination of the One China market proposal and Tibet violence are going to result in some second thoughts about the degree to which Taiwan will open to China, but the Hsieh campaign should not get tunnel vision now: they need to also be pushing their message for a careful but deliberate opening up to China and nailing the Ma "6-3-3" economic proposal (obtaining 6% GDP growth, 3% unemployment and an average income of US$30,000/household) as being nothing but the status quo (compare to the most recent figures of 5.7% growth, 3.4% unemployment and the 2006 GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity figure of US$29,500).

If Ma's supposed to "fix" the economy, how come all his promises are to do little more than what's already being done?

Today's storm

A few storms are brewing here today.

The Tibet issue is getting a lot of play even in blue media, though obviously more on the green stations. In response to fears that Taiwan could become the next Tibet one day, KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou made the brilliant observation that Taiwan is not Tibet or Hong Kong, but rather "We are a sovereign country, we have our own elections, we are not ruled by the Chinese." He goes on to censure China for using violence and suggests he wants Taiwan to take the roll of a "peacemaker" instead of a "troublemaker."

Ma is obviously missing/avoiding the point. Do I have to make any comments about this?

Second, loudmouth Chuang Kuo-jung (莊國榮) made some remarks at a rally yesterday that attacked both Ma and his deceased father, using rather crude language. Chuang has a reputation for inflammatory language, making homophobic statements and generally making himself look stupid. The Hsieh camp has made a bit of an apology for this.

For some insane reason, the green camp is still running on the green card issue, with Hsieh again insisting today that Ma did not fill out a form to drop his green card, thereby implying it was still valid. Legislator Trong R. Chai (蔡同榮) went a step further, showing a letter that he says "proves" Ma Ying-jeou still has a valid green card. Chai publicly bet his political life, in writing, on the validity of the letter's content, saying he would quit politics forever and immediately resign his legislative seat if he were wrong. Chai e

Chai refused to disclose the source of his information, saying it was done through "private channels" (read: very likely illegally if real) and he had to protect the source.

Chai said his American source did a valid green card check on both of Ma's English names, namely "Ma Ying Jeou" and "Mark Ying-Jeou Ma." The source wrote Chai back saying, "That person [which name???!?] does have a current alien registration number and a valid permanent residency card."

We'll see where this goes.

Update: Apparently the spelling checked was Ma Ying geou or mark Ying-geou Ma, at least according to this Liberty Times article. Liberty Times apparently got the spelling wrong in their article. Good job, guys! Hsieh has also offered to withdraw the election if Ma will prove his green card expired 20 years ago as he claims. Ma said he had no opinion in response.

Mar 14, 2008

Chen: We've made the KMT greener

President Chen Shui-bian, in an interview with the Financial Times, said that the DPP's greatest accomplishment in its eight years of power has been to make the KMT greener.

The publication of the interview coincides nicely with KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's ad in the China Times that Michel Turton blogs about today declaring that "Taiwan's future must be decided by the Taiwanese people," a significant departure from recent statements of him on this matter (including that Taiwan's future should be decided by "the people on both sides of the strait").

As I noted in a comment on Michael's blog, you'll note what Ma did not say: (1) That a referendum should be the mechanism for deciding Taiwan's future. The KMT's statements are lip service to what people here already take for granted, but you'll note the KMT still refuses to really put the ultimate power directly in people's hands.

But Ma's statement demonstrates Chen's point. The KMT has no choice but to make itself increasingly green to win. I think most of the young blue-leaning voters thought Ma's statement was already a solid KMT position.

But the KMT still has two steps to make before it will be fully green and end the blue-green divide: (1) accept the referendum as the only way to decide Taiwan's future and (2) drop the One China fantasy and accept the "one side, one country" reality.

I'm looking forward to that day.

Mar 13, 2008

Out of curiosity ...

Can I ask my loyal readers at the following locations to contact me via comments here and let me know something about yourself? I'm just curious about some of my more consistent US visitors.

+ forums -- what did I post that led you guys here?!?
+ U. Colorado
+ Bureau of Labor Statistics
+ The Brookings Institution
+ State University of New York at Stony Brook

And, dare I ask,
+ the DOD Network Information Center...

If you prefer to send an e-mail, just let me know in comments and I'll place it there for you.

TSU's Wu Yu-hsue: seperate election, referendumds

He's the TSU's man on the CEC, and he'll bring it up tomorrow at the CEC meeting as a resolution.

There is some possibility, given the way things are looking, that the CEC will actually make the separation. We'll have to see.

WaPo: Taiwan Opposition Group Calls for Boycott of Name Referendum

This is exactly what I'm talking about (the headline was later altered to "Taiwan Referendum Faces Boycott," further confusing who is full of crap).

The KMT actually called for a promotion of their own referendum, which is the news here; their boycott of a nearly identical DPP referendum is hardly unexpected. But Washington Post took its cues from the blue and Chinese media, who spun it exactly the same way, focusing on the boycott part (to boost its chances) and ignoring the KMT referendum promotion part (in hopes that blue supporters won't actually vote for it!).

In fact, WaPo goes on for five paragraphs slamming the UN referendum from all angles before finally mentioning in the sixth of nine paragraphs, almost as an afterthought, that

Wu said the Nationalist Party would continue to support the holding of a
separate referendum on U.N. membership. That measure, also on the March 22
ballot, will ask whether Taiwan should seek admission to the United Nations
under its official name, the Republic of China, or any other name deemed

Actually, he ignores that the KMT referendum measure also very specifically asks if Taiwan should enter the UN under the name ROC, Taiwan, or any other practical name. Reporter Jane Rickards is at the point of intellectual dishonesty here.

And look how he closes it!
Philip Yang, a political scientist at National Taiwan University, said the Nationalist Party's boycott call means Chen's referendum measure faces an uphill battle. More than half of registered voters must support a referendum measure for it to pass, he noted, and polls show that Nationalist supporters outnumber Chen's.
The Nationalists' proposal is equally unlikely to pass, but it is considered less inflammatory since it sticks with the island's official name and thus is not considered an indirect attempt to move toward independence.

Notice no mention that Philip Yang is pro-KMT. Also, it's not that half of registered voters must support the referendum for it to pass, but half of them have to either vote yes or no on it. If a legislator needed half of registered voters to cast a ballot for or against him to get elected, we'd have an empty legislature.

The Chinese Nationalist Party's measure is less "inflammatory?" It also mentions Taiwan. Also, Rickards fails to mention that Beijing has crushed every attempt of Taiwan to re-enter the UN under the name Republic of China for over a decade now, because apparently that too is provocative.

Let's face it -- for domestic consumption, the KMT started this referendum so they didn't get totally slammed by the DPP. Then, in a bow to China, they shut up about their own referendum, and spun it as "less provocative" when they did talk about it because of the Republic of China part (while carefully avoiding any mention of "Taiwan"). In exchange, China reprinted only blue articles about the KMT referendum and focused all its energy on slamming the DPP referendum.

And finally, the international media fell for it.

Lee Teng-hui

Long ago I predicted that if Hsieh looked likely to lose, Lee Teng-hui would pass away just before the 2008 presidential election, since it is his last political card to play and it could save the greens.

Irrational? Sure. A cold and disturbing statement on my part? Probably. But most importantly, unlikely.
He has plenty of fight left in him.

Higher hopes?

I talked to a reporter buddy in Taipei who thinks that Hsieh is winning right now. He's not alone: between the DPP's internal poll that indicates a six point difference and a pro-green scholar on the Green Win Boat he talked to , he's fairly optimistic. I would very much like to be, and hope we can give the KMT a real run for its money, but I'm almost scared to get hopeful.

If there has been a tide change, I'd say it is about the following issues: (1) People really don't want the KMT to run everything by itself again (2) Hsieh may actually be able to work with a KMT legislature (3) Hsieh offers improved trade relations with China but (4) People really are starting to think about what happens if Ma implements a "One China" or "Cross strait" common market (even with all the backtracking Ma has done on what constitutes a common market) and (5) if you throw enough mud, some of it sticks.

I think at best, this is going to be very close. At worst, it'll be a 10-15 point difference. Everything depends on turnout. But this election is not a lost cause.

Mar 12, 2008

NYT piece on TI

Update: Michael Turton does a better job on this one.

Taiwan’s Independence Movement Likely to Wane, runs the headline of Edward Wong's article. Let's get into it.

No matter who wins Taiwan’s fiercely contested presidential election on March 22, the fervent independence movement that has so agitated relations with mainland China in recent years seems destined to suffer a significant setback.
Agitating China probably has little to do with Taiwanese voters' decisions. Also, why is the Independence Movement described as fervent? If you ask me, it's been pretty complacent for at least the last four years, and really more like a decade or more.

Both candidates, Ma Ying-jeou and Frank Hsieh, want closer ties with Beijing, differing only in how quickly and to what degree they would strengthen relations. By calling for closer economic cooperation with China and rejecting any notions of separatism, they are repudiating the tough nationalist policies of the departing president, Chen Shui-bian, whose confrontational stance has angered officials in Beijing and Washington and has stirred anxiety among many Taiwanese.

I think the main difference is really about the preconditions for those closer economic ties, with Hsieh insisting on equal footing (no preconditions)for negotiations while Ma believes accepting "One China" provides equal footing. No question Chen Shui-bian is no longer the man of the hour; everyone wants some distance.

“Both sides will try to seek common ground and seek engagement across the straits,” said Philip Yang, a political scientist at National Taiwan University who has advised the Ma campaign. “If Ma is elected, the pace will be faster, and with bigger expectations.”

The pace will be faster because Beijing and the KMT likely already have some tactic agreements, but this is a pretty fair evaluation.

Mr. Ma, a Harvard-educated lawyer, is favored in polls and by political commentators to beat Mr. Hsieh, who is from the Democratic Progressive Party, or D.P.P., of Mr. Chen and is campaigning in his shadow.

Ma is not a lawyer. He is favored in polls. Hsieh is a human rights lawyer. Why leave that out? And why leave out what Ma actually did with his career?

Mr. Ma’s party, the Kuomintang, governed Taiwan for 51 years, often with an iron grip, before Mr. Chen was elected in 2000. The Kuomintang’s revival this year is
rooted in widespread disenchantment with Mr. Chen, whose party took power on a wave of optimism.

Fair. But shouldn't "sometimes ruled Taiwan with an iron fist" be "ruled Taiwan with an iron fist using the world's longest period of martial law?"

Mr. Chen initially tapped a vein of support among many Taiwanese for steps to promote Taiwan’s separate identity. Those feelings ran especially deep among
people whose families had lived in Taiwan for generations and did not have close
political ties to mainland China. Many Taiwanese also hoped that Mr. Chen would
end the corruption and authoritarianism associated with the Kuomintang.

I would have reversed the order. Chen's calls for reform got him elected in 2000 more than identity issues.

Instead, Mr. Chen has been mired in corruption scandals involving close relatives. Also, his tireless efforts to promote independence created constant tension with the mainland and led to disagreements with the United States, which has helped guarantee Taiwan’s security but has discouraged unilateral steps by either side to change the island’s political status.

What are those "tireless efforts to promote independence?" Insisting that Taiwan does not belong to the PRC? By that measure, all candidates have said something to the effect, although the KMT position is so wrapped up in contradictions its hard even for them to make heads or tails of it. Also, practically speaking, there is little or nothing Taiwan can do to unilaterally change the status quo except as defined by Beijing, which is defining it based on fiction as opposed to some reality.

In the end, Mr. Chen alienated people in the broad center of the electorate who say they support the status quo and who depend on strengthening economic ties across the Taiwan Strait. As he finishes his second term, his popularity ratings are in the 20s.

This confuses the issue: what is the status quo? Lack of war? De facto independence? One China? According to the most recent opinion polls, people would say de facto independence, which sort of changes the spin on this, doesn't it? I mean, really this is the crux of the issue. If you suggest the independence movement is on the wane, you're right that the idea that Taiwan must make an active declaration of independence from the PRC and throw off the ROC government and constitution is basically dead. That hardly means people have stopped believing in de facto independence or that they no longer hope to enjoy de jure independence.

And Chen's low popularity has everything to do with the scandals and stagnant wages.

Despite his troubles, he has prepared a parting shot: a nonbinding referendum on March 22 that asks Taiwanese whether they want to apply for the United Nations under the name Taiwan rather than the island’s formal name, the Republic of China. Taiwan left the United Nations in 1971 when the General Assembly recognized the Communists as China’s legitimate government.

What about the KMT's referendum? Every one's doing exactly as the CCP and KMT do, ignoring the KMT initiative and focusing only on the DPP's as "provocative." The CCP surely considers the KMT measure provocative too, but doesn't wish to say so since the KMT is doing the job for them by not pushing their own referendum. And characterizing a vote as a "parting shot?"

Mr. Ma, in trying to establish himself as a centrist voice, has criticized the referendum and other government policies aimed at stoking nationalist sentiments. “The D.P.P.’s drive toward de jure independence led only to Taiwan’s internal decay and international isolation,” Mr. Ma, 57, said at a recent news conference. “It is therefore high time for both Taiwan and the mainland to revert to what I call the three noes: no talks on reunification during my term of office, no pursuit of de jure independence and no use of force by either side.”

Again, this only makes him a centrist if you pretend there is no KMT referendum and ignore that the vast majority of Taiwanese want to be in the UN.

Many of the policies proposed by Mr. Ma and Mr. Hsieh, 61, are similar, though Mr. Ma appears more willing to engage directly with Beijing. Mr. Ma has said he will increase the number of charter flights across the straits and explore opening up commercial flights, all to spur the economy, which voters see as a major issue. He has also said he supports increasing tourism in Taiwan from the mainland and lifting many government limits on cross-straits investment.

As we all know, the economic policies are fairly similar, with Ma backtracking on several promises and trying to insist at this point he would really limit a lot of free trade issues, effectively making his position closer to Hsieh's.

Mr. Ma said he would ensure that the defense budget was equal to at least 3 percent of Taiwan’s gross domestic product. The military needs “to be strong enough to deter an initial attack from the mainland,” he said.

No comments on how they've actually handled the arms budget or how this statement flies in the face of years of their policy.

Since campaigning began in earnest, Mr. Ma has been dogged by issues of character, with Mr. Hsieh relentlessly questioning him on having received United States permanent residency. Critics of Mr. Hsieh, also a lawyer, say raising the character issue is a sign of his desperation, as his party tries to battle back from a painful defeat in legislative elections in January. The vote, in which the Kuomintang won almost three-quarters of 113 parliamentary seats, was generally seen as a referendum on Mr. Chen’s leadership.

I'd say that's a pretty fair paragraph.

“We’re operating against the tide,” said Hsiao Bi-khim, a former legislator and a spokeswoman for Mr. Hsieh, who has declined to meet with foreign journalists. “Our defeat in the parliamentary elections on the one hand has brought our party spirits to a low point, but has also brought on a sense of urgency.”

That's some honesty from Bi-khim. You go, girl! It's interesting that Hsieh is shunning foreign journalists at this point. Maybe you have to blame the DPP for the lack of a green perspective in international media, then.

To distance himself from Mr. Chen, Mr. Hsieh has called for maintaining the status quo, rather than pushing for independence, and has proposed allowing direct Chinese investment in Taiwan and lifting limits on Taiwanese investment in China. He has also said little about the United Nations referendum, although many party members continue to say it is important.
“We see China as a giant with its hands around our neck, trying to suffocate us, trying to shut off our space on the international stage,” he said. The referendum, she added, “is an expression of the desire of the Taiwanese people for its space, to be part of the international community, to join international organizations. It’s not about declaring independence. It’s not about changing the legal status of Taiwan.”

It's hard to tell if this quote is from Bi-khim or Frankie. But in any case, I tend to agree.

Nevertheless, American officials continue to warn Taiwan not to provoke China.
In Beijing on Feb. 26, Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice said, “this referendum is not going to help anyone, and, in fact, it shouldn’t be held.”

Shelley Rigger, a professor of political science at Davidson College in North Carolina, who wrote a book about the D.P.P., said that because of Mr. Chen’s policies, “U.S.-Taiwan relations are about as bad as they’ve ever been.”

Well, sorry Condie, but too late! And how can a vote that can't change the reality at the UN really be considered provocative? Also, Rigger seems to be basically correct on the point about US-Taiwan relations.

“The U.S. is very eager for the new administration to take office because there’s considerable concern in Washington that Chen Shui-bian could still destabilize matters even before inauguration,” she added. In Mr. Chen’s tenure the government carried out domestic policies centered on Taiwanese nationalism, such as promoting a Taiwanese dialect.

He certainly will have some card up his sleeve should Ma win. But tying the promotion of Holo Taiwanese (and labeling it a dialect) to nationalism is a gross oversimplification taken out of context. The DPP has also promoted Hakka, Aboriginal language education and standardization and has worked to put Filipino, Thai and Vietnamese language soap operas on public TV to recognize the demographic influx of speakers of those languages. And this claim ignores the fact that these languages were all actively repressed for 50 years, to such a degree that Holo Taiwanese, Hakka and all Aboriginal tongues are endangered. Mandarin is still also the only language government documents are published in.

The DPP language policy is simply not related to nationalism, even if nationalists link language to their cause.

Swarchy thinks referendums don't have a chance

Not surprising.
Lee Teng-hui also predicts Ma will beat Hsieh by 10 percentage points.

KMT will encourage "return to the UN" ballot

In about as low key a way as possible. After weeks of KMT heavyweights making a ton of noise about rejecting the referendums, KMT chairman Wu Po-hsiung finally stated the official party policy of asking its voters to take the "return to the UN" ballot while boycotting the DPP's ballot.

The KMT will also "respect" voters who don't wish to take either ballot.

This will probably doom both referendums, unless the DPP makes a huge publicity push and focuses all their attention on supporting the KMT referendum, saying they'll support it since it has bi-partisan support. The KMT probably won't play along, though, and you won't see a joint rally or hear a lot of noise from them about this anymore.

Survey via Maddog: Ma 41, Hsieh 38

See his post yourself. Michael turton also notes:

[Two] nights ago, Maddog informed me, Ma was up 43-37 in a poll on the Talking
, which they said was a DPP internal poll as of Mar 1.

So you know, maybe this thing is going to be a dead heat, and it may very much depend on turnout. I can't alter my prediction yet at this point. There will be no more surveys released. No matter how close it is, the greens still need some sort of substantial boost.

Mar 11, 2008

DPP referendum draft frozen in procedural committee

With ten days left before the election and four days for a potential compromise, The DPP draft referendum bill went before the procedural committee today. This bill was bottled up by the KMT, which controls all committees, and will not be on the next legeslative agenda.

The DPP amendments, which make holding a referendum easier and lower the turnout threshold, are being floated with an implicit promise that the referendum date would be moved in the event that the threshold is lowered. A different referendum date could, in turn, make a boycott of the referendums less likely and increase the chances that both will pass.

DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh said the DPP has already yielded on its position twice and hopes the compromise will be adequate to satisfy the KMT. He expressed his fear that a boycotted or rejected referendum bid on entering the UN would hurt Taiwan's international position.

Unless something big happens in the next three days, the referendums will go ahead with the elections.

'Taiwan dog' may soon gain recognized breed status

From Taiwan news, via Taiwan Headlines:

The feisty native dog, mostly known by local people as "Taiwan's native dog," may soon gain recognition by the world as a specific breed in its canine category. The local kennel club had applied to the world canine organization Federation Cynoldgique International to have the native dog officially listed. The Kennel Club of Taiwan in 2004 sent the application to the FCI to have the local native dog registered under the name "Taiwan Dog" in the category of primitive hunting dog.

In May 2004 the FIC sent two representatives to Taiwan to carry out an inspection of the dog. In November 2004 the FCI approved the application and initiated a ten-year observation period to make sure the dog displays stable characteristics, which is a necessary requirement for the dog to qualify as a breed. After this monitoring period, as long as the dogs characteristics prove satisfactory, the dog can become a world-recognized breed. The dog should therefore be eligible for breed recognition in 2014. ...

Shih said in the last two decades more and more people in Taiwan began to raise Taiwan native dogs, after realizing its population was decreasing and because it is prized as a unique and pure local breed. So far, around 2,000 Taiwan Dogs have been raised island-wide.

There's always a market for unusual breeds in the US, especially strong and tough ones like the Taiwan dog. I would suggest a business opportunity if the stray situation here weren't already so bad.

Ma: I am an openly and dignified ROC citizen.

In response to the news yesterday that Ma was officially announced not to be a US citizen, Ma hearkened back to the bad old days of cultural brainwashing and announced he was "a openly and dignified Republic of China citizen" (堂堂正正中華民國國民). This is a direct reference to the posters which used to hang on the walls of schools around Taiwan that simply said 「做個堂堂正正的中國人」, placed to remind everyone to "be a openly and dignified Chinese person."

If you ask me, this does not appear like it'll be good news for cultural, education or language policy.

Whoops! Today is the last day to release polls

And that makes me think the relatively pro-green Liberty Times will release one tomorrow, and theirs has historically been mor eaccurate than other media polls. Be warned: if they withold it, I think it's because they don't like the picture.

Well, since today was the last day for polls and the Liberty Times didn't release one ... I guess they didn't like their results. I doubt seriously that they didn't bother with one.

I wonder how accurate my 56.5% Ma, 43.5% Hsieh prediction will be.

Is the economic-related cross-strait debate a moot point?

Thirsty Ghosts has a great article about how China's new labor law has started to spell the end of China as a low-cost world factory. There are really several factors here: first, most of those people from the country side who could act as migrant workers for big plants in the industrialized cities have already come in and done their work. Even without government intervention, the dry up in labor supply was leading to higher wages.

Second, as Jonathan Adams points out, the new labor law has had a huge effect:

The new law has sent shock waves through the Taiwan business community in mainland China. Downsizing is one survival strategy. The law mandates contracts for all employees, open-ended contracts for long-term employees, and health insurance and other benefits. Unlike past labor laws, it provides more channels for workers to bring complaints against employers.
The net effect, according to businesses, analysts and government officials, is a fundamental shift in China’s production landscape. “The end of rock-bottom Chinese labor is near,” says Cheng Tun-jen, an expert on cross-strait economics at the College of William and Mary. With that comes the end of China as the world’s cut-rate factory.

Still, China is trying to make it easier for Taiwanese firms to keep operations there:
Many Taiwan firms are seeking greener pastures, moving production to places like
Vietnam, the new low-cost platform of choice. They’re also eyeing western China,
where Beijing has left some incentives in place to lure foreign money to the
poorer hinterland. A Chinese Commerce Ministry official recently announced that
China would help Taiwanese firms struggling with higher costs by offering loans
and other incentives if they expand inland.

So the question is, is the political debate about further economic opening up to China really more or less a moot point? If the economic impact of such an opening should have minimal effect, shouldn't the focus be on improving investment and trade with India, Vietnam or other nearby countries? And shouldn't this also make one reconsider on exactly what soverignty issues Taiwan has to surrender in order to get Beijing to agree to direct flights, since the positive economic impact would probably be limited anyway?