Share this

Jan 25, 2009

Growth forecast <1%

One line in particular caught my eye while browsing this Taipei Times article yesterday:

The Taiwan Institute for Economic Research (TIER, 台經院)
said government investment, which was estimated to rise 23.98 percent, would replace exports to sustain the minor economic growth....

Hong attributed the slow and modest recovery to the stimulus package that was expected to have an impact in the second half, if the government carried out various public works projects effectively.

Now I've complained before about both the way the KMT chocked the DPP's government for 8 years by denying it the life-blood (money) to make various important changes. I've also complained that I don't think the infastructure investment will help quite as much as the KMT expects it to, and considering the pace of construction here, will probably not be timely.

But an almost 25% increase? Wow! And infastructure spending is not the only priority; hiring a huge set of advisors is also back in style. Anyways, let's compare this budget to how things went down in the legislature over the last several years. No further comments. Just some quotes:

2008: The lawmakers approved a budget totaling NT$1.68 trillion for next year.

2007: While the Legislative Yuan is legally obliged to complete its review of the annual budget within a prescribed timeframe, the sixth legislature managed to delay the passage of the budget until the middle of June last year -- 197 days after the official deadline in late November 2006.

By the time the budget passed, it had been slashed by more than NT$34 billion (US$1 billion). In delaying its passage, lawmakers violated the Budget Act (預算法), which stipulates that requests must be completed in the legislature one month before the fiscal year starts and be promulgated by the president 15 days before that.

2006 flood control budget: KMT lawmakers blocked the budget for more than a year. In the end, however, the budget was passed in January 2006, in its third reading, after being boosted to NT$116 billion.

2006 general budget: The budget of the Mainland Affairs Council was cut by NT$100 million, and NT$280,000 meant for Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Pasuya Yao's (姚文智) salary was trimmed.

The legislature also slashed NT$40.2 billion from the second financial reform plan and voted in favor of conditionally lifting the ban on US beef imports.

Altogether, the legislature yesterday slashed NT$36.5 billion from the government budget and froze NT$246 billion. The cut is the largest in a decade.

Jan 23, 2009

Not all Chinese media is controlled by the People's Daily

Phoenix media does a pretty great job so far if you ask me. Their forums are active and open, and I've seen (and posted) topics there that would be deleted immediately on the Sina equivalent. They allow bloggers to post on questions like why Taiwanese independence support is at a historic high, and they get themselves in trouble with the authorities regularly. Still, I'm surprised at how open they seem to be even on sensitive topics.

Update: I'm being reminded in comments that Phoenix is a Hong Kong media outlet. Still, it's one of the most popular forums in China and its relative openness and the lack of a crackdown is impressive in my book. There are, however, self-imposed censors who monitor the site and who are especially sensitive to links to outside material.

Jan 22, 2009

And today's big story...

Chen Shui-bian relatives plead guilty

SEF waiting for approval to negotiate agenda items

Taipei Times:

Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) said yesterday that the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) had so far authorized the foundation to negotiate only one issue listed on the agenda for a third round of cross-strait talks....

Chiang said the SEF had not yet received any instructions on negotiating political issues, including a truce and military confidence-building measures.

Jan 21, 2009

Latest marriage stats

Ministry of the Interior released information on the marriage stats for 2008.

Of interest: marriages between Taiwanese and foreigners accounted for 14% percent of all marriage, a significant drop from the nearly 32% of five years ago. Still, a significant number.

Of the 21,000 plus marriages between Taiwanese and foreigners, Mainland & Hong Kong spouses accounted for 59% of the total while S.E. Asian immigrants took another 28% of the pie. About 84% of the incoming spouses were brides.

Brides' home country: China/Hong Kong 66.7%; Vietnam 22%; Indonesia 4.4%
Grooms' home country: Japan 24.7%; China/Hong Kong 17.7%; United States 14.6%


During a speech at Shida, President Ma today claimed that only in Taiwan can you really learn about authentic Chinese culture.

China labeling Taiwan as a threat

This has already been picked up by others in the Taiwan blogosphere, and everyone has noted the obvious attempt to get the US to discontinue arms sales to Taiwan. But there was one particular thing I thought worth noting:

China's security has been improving as its economy grows and the PLA embraces modernization, the defense "white paper" said, but pro-independence forces in Taiwan, Tibet and the energy-rich western region of Xinjiang still "pose threats to China's unity and security."

"On this issue, there can be no compromise and no concessions," Defense Ministry chief spokesman Hu Changming said at a news conference to launch the document.

I would need the original transcript to be sure that this 'no compromise' and 'no concessions' remark refers to Taiwan in particular, but that's a pretty blunt statement.

That explains everything

Last night, in an interview with Taiwan TV (台視), President Ma Ying-jeou, man with law degree, discussed criminalizing holding assets from unknown sources. He came out in support of doing so, despite having opposed it while he was Minister of Justice in the past.

In attempt to cover for his about face on this policy, Ma said that what he opposed criminalizing holding assets from unknown sources "without cause" because "it goes against the principle of "presumed innocence" (until proven guilty); but if someone were accused of corruption, then it would not violate their human rights to criminalize their holding of assets from unknown sources.

In other words, according to our law degree holding, Harvard grad president, being accused of corruption is a good enough reason to overturn the principle of presumed innocence until proven guilty.

Hat tip: Weichen

Jan 20, 2009

SEF forum

Taiwan's Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF) held a forum today and invited a number of speakers to discuss cross-strait relations and development. You can read about what some of the speakers said here in Chinese. Below is a paraphrased English version of that report.

Assistant Secretary of the SEF Ma Shao-chang (馬紹章), also a man in the KMT's think tank (the National Policy Foundation), said that he believes the 92 consensus is the foundation for trust across the strait. He believes there are various levels of trust and he hopes that the two sides of the strait can work together for the benefit of people on both sides. [Fluff!]

Yang Kai-huang (楊開煌), president of the Association for Mainland China Studies (中國大陸研究學會), and a man who has said the PRC should recognize the ROC's existence but who has also not been a fan of the referendums held so far in Taiwan, used his speaking time to mention that Hu's six points have become the center of Chinese policy toward Taiwan, and that it outlines a three-fold plan of economic cooperation, strengthening of cultural and educational exchanges, and finally the beginning of political dialogue.

Yang also believes that Hu, in his capacity as China's leader, managed to redefine what unification means as "the end of the political confrontation across the Taiwan Strait" (終止兩岸政治對立). He also believes China has put a huge emphasis on peaceful development as a replacement of constantly mentioning unification. [I find this framing of 'redefining unification' tempting to accept, and perhaps worth discussing with Beijing, but unlikely to be true.]

Yang suggested tri-partisan dialogue (CCP, KMT, and DDP) forums that would allow each side to make themselves heard, despite the difficulty of getting that started.

Du Jhen-hua (杜震華), professor at the NTU's Graduate Institute of National Development, had some more cautionary words; he does really follow Ma's vague stance toward unification, and believes that it will be difficult to really develop complete mutual trust between China and Taiwan or convince China to relax on political and economic promises unless Ma makes a direct, clear response to Hu's six points.

Central Police University professor Tung Li-wen (董立文) pointed out that since Hu's six points, Taiwanese political parties have been rather low key and he believes they have created a sort of strange atmosphere here in Taiwan. Tung said that Hu's speech was clearly aimed at beginning political dialogue on the point of unification with Taiwan, and therefore the Ma government's response would be very important.

Tung believes that Beijing will seperate the principles of signing a peace accord and Taiwan's participation in international bodies. For example, he believes Beijing will allow Taiwan observer status in the WHA first, but he that unless discussing the peace accord's terms could begin this year, he believes the mainland will change its policy toward the Ma government.

Jan 19, 2009

Oh joy

Looks like sandstone shippers (same as the gravel shippers?) can't get the rights to ship material from China to Taiwan under the new direct link agreements; China is simply not giving them the necessary permits.


ICRT, as usual, keeps their site up to date:

The KMT says it supports a reported plan by the Ministry of Defense here to drastically streamline Taiwan's armed forces.

A cut in troop strength by as much as a third is reportedly being contemplated as relations with China improve, reducing the spectre of war between the two sides.

Ministry of Defense spokeswoman Lisa Chi said the plan would see a downsizing of the island's troop numbers ... currently at 275,000 ... over the next four years.

Chi said the exact number has yet to be decided, but that relations with China will definitely factor into the plans.
The Ministry of Interior says that more than 90-per cent of those eligible for 3,600 N-T dollars in consumer coupons picked-up their vouchers on the first day of distribution yesterday.

According Interior Minister - Liao Liou-yi - the distribution had rate reached 91.29-per cent by 11 o'clock last night.
I am not among those who picked up their vouchers Sunday. I didn't have time to wait in line! I'll just be going to the post office soon.

Jan 16, 2009


The legislature's decision to pass a resolution clearly stating that the ROC (Taiwan) and the PRC are separate entities, which I consider significant but which has passed almost entirely under media radar, is a pretty good reflection of public opinion ; according to 2007 pan-blue media surveys, some 75% of Taiwanese believe Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country. In 2006, the MAC got similar results (76%). Around 80% of voters on both sides of the 2008 presidential election felt Ma's election showed nothing about the average Taiwanese's feelings toward unification.

No more than 13% of people in Taiwan even want to move toward unification in the future, and less than 2% want unification some time soon. More discouraging still to China: over 80% support that Taiwanese should decide their own future, and over 75% oppose the idea that the Chinese have a say in the matter.

I honestly believe that the consensus is so wide that the DPP and KMT could probably put this question behind us, form a consensus, and move on to more nitty gritty topics. Of course, that would involve the DPP giving up what they consider to be a key campaign theme, and would require the KMT to resolve it's absurd contradictions on the One China question. So don't expect the political consensus to crystallize any time soon.

Legislative wranglings

As the Legislative Yuan finally gets around to passing the budget, another set of resolutions was mentioned in a Liberty Times article today. (CNA article here.)

The first is a DPP resolution that reads as follows and was passed on Tuesday by the KMT-controlled legislature:


The Republic of China (Taiwan) is a sovereign and independent country, governed separately from the People's Republic of China, and neither [the PRC or ROC] has jurisdiction over the other. During country-to-country negotiations and meetings between officials of the two countries at both official and unofficial forums, representatives from all levels of our government should without exception participate in their capacity as formal government representatives, and should neither lower our status nor damage our national dignity.
Seems like a pretty good resolution. It had bipartisan support, defines cross-strait relations as country-to-country, and calls for real officials to be involved in all negotations.

Last night, a similar KMT measure passed. The content is as follows:

During cross-strait negotiations and meetings at official and unofficial forums, our government officials from all levels of government
should without exception participate on equal footing and in a respectful manner. If the other side official representatives, our side ought also to send official representatives, and should neither lower our status nor damage our national dignity.
This resolution basically gives the administration room to send unofficial representatives when China does the same, which seems practical enough to me and is likely intended to leave an opening for party-to-party negotiations and unofficial meetings.

The resolutions are not in contradiction and, if I'm not mistaken, carry the power of law. So does this mean that we now have a law on the books that says ROC = Taiwan and that the PRC and ROC both exist as separate, equal entities which are not subordinate to each other? I think so. Correct me if I'm wrong. Update: Maddog corrects this by pointing out the resolutions do not have the force of law.

And in Ma's reading of the constitution, is the DPP resolution unconstitutional?

Advanced ideas become DPP's priority: Tsai

From Taiwan News:

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) priority for 2009 is to rethink its basic policies and offer more advanced ideas, chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said in an online interview yesterday.

The party had already succeeded in reducing internal rivalry between its factions, Tsai told Yahoo Kimo, noting that peace and harmony reigned within the DPP.

She said she wanted to give the party a more balanced membership. In the past, the DPP has had the image of being close to the grassroots, and strong in Southern Taiwan, but people have forgotten that its origin lies with the urban middle class, Tsai said. "We hope we can create a new balanced image," she said.

Jan 15, 2009

More on the non-starter peace accord

In my own coverage of the peace agreement, I started out with surprise and concern at the speed of both Ma's peace plans and China's quick response. I then began carefully logging comments from both KMT and CCP officials/scholars that may give some hints about the content of such an agreement. I engaged in some idle speculation of what a peace agreement might look like.

And finally, while writing my last post on the topic, it dawned on me that a peace agreement will not happen because the gap between Taiwan and China on the only significant political topic it could address -- sovereignty-related issues -- is simply too gigantic. Leaving sovereignty out means the most a peace treaty can say is that China will withdrawal missiles to some other province and Taiwan will maintain defensive forces only, or something to that effect. In other words, nothing would really change at all.

That hasn't stopped Chinese and Taiwanese press from writing on the topic, with some already recommending a Nobel for Hu and Ma if they can sign an agreement. The KMT's own paper and think tanks are very hopeful of intermediate breakthroughs. China-friendly Hong Kong media trumpets a CDN piece that points out Hu's consistency with past Chinese policy and his willingness to go down the track of full economic integration before pushing political issues. Old KMT politicians are saying Taiwan must accept "One China" (probably sans two interpretations) to get a peace accord, but thankfully there aren't many of them around anymore.

Green media is completely flipping out for fear that Ma is handing Taiwan to China in a gift basket, and while I've said before that Ma is likely to compromise Taiwan with his policy direction, I don't believe he's intentionally selling out Taiwan or wants unification in his life time.

So I've stopped worrying about what may happen in the short term. The core issue (sovereignty) cannot be compromised by either side, and China is not eager for confrontation if they can get closer to Taiwan peacefully. Sure, if Ma brings Taiwan so tightly into China's orbit that we eventually lose all negotiating leverage and crash into them like a replay of the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, that would be a disaster.

But we still have time. And at least as importantly, Ma's policy (and the global economic crisis) has done so little to improve the local economy, there could be significant backlash against him that helps boost the DPP next time.

But to capitalize on this situation, the DPP must create a comprehensive, reform-oriented and well-targeted platform and push for popular, concrete goals over the next few election cycles. At least this is possible, if not yet likely (the DPP is still flailing around like a fish out of water). I also think it's vital (though highly improbable) that the DPP start competing at the lowest election levels.

Round up

Thomas recommends this article in comments, and it's totally worth reading.

Moving on, this from ICRT:

The Taipei District Court has detained a member of the presidential staff on suspicion of violating the National Security Act.

Wang Ren-bing was detained on suspicion of giving or selling documents [to China] concerning the handover of power from the former D-P-P Administration to that of President Ma Ying-jeou in May.

Wang had worked at Presidential Office from 2001- first in the office of former deputy secretary-general Chen Zhi-nan before being transferred to the Department of Special Affairs in April of last year.
Taipei Times:
The Control Yuan yesterday impeached former secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) and former foreign minister James Huang (黃志芳) over the Papua New Guinea diplomatic scandal, which saw the country defrauded of US$29.8 million by two brokers during an attempt to establish diplomatic ties with the Pacific island.
There's also A closer look at Hu’s ‘six proposals’ and bad news if you buy free range chickens at traditional markets (ICRT):
A survey of free-range chickens sold in traditional markets shows that a
staggering 91-per cent are unfit for human consumption.

According to the survey - which was carried out by the Environment and Animal
Society of Taiwan - a mere 9-per cent of the nation's free-range chickens are
safe to eat .... and that 91-per cent are illegally slaughtered.

Jan 13, 2009

Peace agreement watch

A couple of interesting articles appearing in media over the last couple of days regarding Taiwanese-Chinese plans to eventually sign a peace treaty.

A quick summary of my viewpoint. There are few ideas for what the cross-strait peace agreement would look like, and that is due to a very simple truth: the conditions that would be acceptable to the CCP are not at all in line with the conditions that Taiwanese would demand. It is impossible to imagine Taiwan and China signing a peace deal that formalizes the political split that constitutes my definition of the status quo; it is equally impossible to imagine any compromise by Taiwan on that front.

Nobody dares imagine the political content of a meaningful peace agreement because it's obvious that nothing works.

Moving on to the articles:


On Jan 13th, the very CCP-friendly Hong Kong publication Wen Wei Po published this article by Chu Jingtao (褚靜濤), an assistant fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Taiwan History Research Center.

Chu points out that in 2004, the Pan-blue alliance proposed the following outline for cross strait normalization and peace: one, China would remove missiles pointed at Taiwan; two, begin dialogue and create an "air safety corridor," a reference to cross-strait flights; three, put aside the sovereignty question and have Taiwan and China "together" participating in international organizations and activities; fourth, encourage economic cooperation, creating a common market and a free trade agreement; fifth, sign a peace agreement.

Chu argues that political issues will soon be negotiated, given the speed of progress on economic discussions. Chu points to Hu's recent six points and insists on the necessity for a formal written peace agreement, because only a signed agreement can create long term peace and prosperity.

At the same time, Chu argues it will not be easy to sign a peace agreement, and that Taiwanese objections to the missiles aimed at Taiwan are understandable; he says the most practical step is to formally end the state of hostility, create a demilitarized zone, create air and sea corridors for travel, and that this can help the two sides reach the point of a true peace agreement and 'end the Chinese civil war.'

My view: Chu brings very little to the table in terms of either original ideas or analysis, though I have to admit I hadn't heard anybody propose a DMZ for Taiwan and China in a while.


Meanwhile, Su Jiahong (蘇嘉宏), a professor at Fooyin University in Taiwan, published an article Jan 10. in the China Review News about pre-unification political relations between Taiwan and China.

His article opens with a wrap of Hu's six points, and goes on to argue that Hu Jintao is exhibiting a great deal of intellectual openness, imagination and practicality that will surely result in improved cross-strait relations.

Su informs the reader that the "pre-unification" terminology Hu used is lifted from Wang Lao's (汪老) "eighty-six characters" (八十六字), a document written in 1998 that was discussed by Taiwan-related bodies in the CCP and which read as follows:


"There is only one China in the world. Taiwan is a part of China. The country is currently not yet unified. Both sides ought to work hard together, under the one China principal, for discussions on an equal level and to come to a mutually agreeable unification. A country's sovereignty and territory cannot be divided, and Taiwans' political position ought to be discussed under the one China principal."
Su argues Hu's use of "pre-unification" terminology "promoted" Wang Lao's document to official policy.

Su then moves his focus to Taiwan: he notes that the Taiwanese do not want cross-strait relations viewed through a prism of Chinese civil war and that they don't want a "party-to-party cease fire" between the KMT and CCP leadership.

He points out that Taiwan must arrive at a cross-partisan consensus on the issue, and that this is an unavoidable historic mission of Ma Ying-jeou. Otherwise, what happens if the DPP wins election again and just throws away the "party-to-party" agreements with the mainland, resulting in a sudden cross-strait crisis that may even mean war? If the political relationship between the mainland and Taiwan is not clear, it will not be possible to sign a 'peace agreement,' because it would be politically impossible for a Taiwanese leader to bring an ambiguous proposal to the people, says Su.

Su argues that the political relations between the two sides cannot be based on "country-to country" basis, nor can it be an unconditional surrender of Taiwan. Disrespectful actions and distortions must be discarded. Su encourages both sides to consider the amendments in the ROC constitution: when announced, each revision was prefaced with, "In order to respond to the requirements preceding national unification..." How similar this wording is to Wang Lao's position, Su says! This is worthy of consideration on both sides, as it could provide framework for discussion. [I think Su is making a very big leap there.]

Su goes on to praise the idea of military-to-military contact and cooperation. He says that while removing missiles from the coast pointed at Taiwan may not really do much to change the real status quo, it would help build the political trust necessary to take further steps and so that Ma is reasonable for having making missle removal a precondition for peace negotiations. He also points out that the international political reality is that any increased military cooperation between Taiwan and China would affect relations with America, without spelling out what that means.

My view: Su is more or less parroting Hu's speech and brings very little interesting analysis to the table, except when he notes that Taiwanese do not want a party-to-party agreement and that cross-partisan agreement within Taiwan is absolutely key to any agreement's long term success. Few advocates of a peace agreement raise those points.


Finally, we look to the official KMT mouthpiece, the Central Daily News, which used its editorial space on Jan. 11th to argue that the Zhonghua Minzu can act as the framework for peaceful cross-strait relations (see my post on Zhonghua Minzu here).

The editorial also starts with a cursory look over Hu's six points and notes the repeated invocation of Zhonghua Minzu in his speech. The editorial believes Hu's speech aimed to promote the interests of the Zhonghua Minzu, and that Hu's comment that unification does not mean redrawing sovereignty or political territory is acknowledging the "One China, two interpretations" position of the ROC government, just merely cloaking it with Zhonghua Minzu. It further notes that Hu seemingly recognizes that Taiwan and the mainland are two separate political entities when he mentions "the lack of unification between Taiwan and the mainland is a continuing confrontation and a holdover of the 1940s Chinese civil war."

Central Daily News also argues that Hu did not mention that the ROC has been destroyed since the 1940s, which Chinese hawks are prone to do, and believes this is another sign of a subtly shifting and softening position. It finishes by attacking Taiwanese independence advocates for unilaterally defining China as the PRC when the issue is oh-so-much more complicated. TIers ought to stick close to the ROC when they are mad at Beijing, not try to discard it.

The final paragraph wraps up the argument: the separation of the two sides of the strait is an "unfinished historical problem," and both the ROC and China are historical products of the Zhonghua Minzu. Therefore, under the framework of the Zhonghua Minzu, cross-strait peaceful development should not be hard to achieve.

My view: well, I was never going to agree with a CDN editorial. But this seems almost completely nonsensical to me.

Jan 9, 2009

Green camp surrounds legislature

Despite Diane Lee's resignation, a number of green-leaning civic organizations and DPP organizers are peacefully laying siege to the legislature today in a protest to express their disapproval of the legislature's slow handling of the situation, to call for Diane Lee to be formally stripped of her position by the legislature, and to call on other suspected duel-nationality blue legislators to resign.

I think the DPP isn't helping itself with this protest; I don't see what is being called for anymore now that Diane's resignation deflated this issue. On the other hand, she probably wouldn't have resigned without the pressure the protest planning was bringing to bear.

round up 1/9

Internet mapping service shows China military construction on isle of Hainan -- Taiwan News
Google maps show that China is building an underground airplane hangar and a submarine base on the island of Hainan, reports said yesterday.
Let the ‘status quo’ alone, Hadley tells Taiwan, PRC -- Taipei Times

Tibetans to be granted residency -- Taipei Times
After several rounds of negotiations, the government agreed to revise the Immigration Act to grant them residency and issue temporary ARCs until the law is changed.

“The revision will be passed before the legislature goes into recess next Tuesday if nothing goes wrong,” Tien’s office said.
Pentagon wary of PRC-Taiwan ties -- Taipei Times
Officials at the US Department of Defense said that military-to-military exchanges between Taiwan and China could jeopardize US arms sales to Taiwan
No shit!

Jan 8, 2009

----- Ma and Siew

Taiwan has a tradition of selling memorial liquor bottles when elections roll around; this time, the Ma ticket's bottles were in part shipped to China for sale there. Except the word "president" was removed from them. Nice.

Mao Zedong's KMT salary documents surface


Third Chiang-Chen conference after Lunar New Year

General topics should include finance, securities, and a memorandum of understanding of supervision of insurance, rights of Taiwanese investors, prevention of double taxation, intellectual property rights, making daily cross strait flights regular commercial flights rather than charter flights, common pursuit of criminals, and increasing Chinese tourism to Taiwan.

200,000 workers on unpaid leave

From ICRT:

The Council of Labor Affairs has said that it believes over 200-thousand
workers across Taiwan have been affected by the policy of unpaid leave since
last December.

According to Labor Minister - Wang Ru-xuan - some 23-per cent of the nation's
companies which hire more than 200 workers have reduced working hours -
requiring employees take unpaid leave - or slashed salaries in order to cope
with financial difficulties.

Ma praises cross-strait "willingness to improve relations," cites US support

It all sounds well and good, but this formulation really hints at three deeper truths: first, that China simply refused to talk to the DPP when it was in power, despite the DPP's willingness for unconditional negotiations; second, that China would only talk to Ma because he accepts Taiwan is part of the same country; and third, that the US has begun to expressed some reservations at Ma's policy direction.

Ma also cites public polling that shows people overwhelmingly support maintaining the status quo in Taiwan; again, the main problem with that question is how people define the status quo. And Ma's definition of the status quo "One China" is not in line with the public's definition.

And I ask again, what concrete gains have we gotten so far out of the cross-strait negotiations? Direct flights is about the only one I think Taiwan really won on, but even then there symbolic losses with the route direction, the choice of airports, etc.

So far shipping agreement hasn't done much for Taiwanese shippers or ports. Tourism has not increased markedly. Investment rules for the Taiwan housing market will be relaxed to allow mainland investment, but even if that provides a short term boost I don't think it can help the main problem in Taiwan's housing market, which is that prices are far too high and ought to face a downward correction of 50% or so.

Meanwhile, on the homefront democracy, freedom, press freedom, judicial neutrality and common sense are all under attack.

Taipei Songshan - Tokyo direct flights

Starting next year. I like this idea about as much as I liked sending direct flights to China from Songshan -- it seems convenient until you consider how dangerous landing planes of that size in the city center can be, or consider the quality of the Songshan facilities.

Diane Lee resigns

Bam. Now comes the court process.

Jan 6, 2009

Hu's speech (again)

More on Hu's speech to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the mainland's open appeal for unification to the Taiwanese people. This is a very interesting passage that bears consideration.

胡锦涛说,维护国家主权和领土完整是国家核心利益。世界上只有一个中国,中国主权和领土 完整不容分割。1949年以来,大陆和台湾尽管尚未统一,但不是中国领土和主权的分裂,而是上世纪40年代中后期中国内战遗留并延续的政治对立,这没有改 变大陆和台湾同属一个中国的事实。两岸复归统一,不是主权和领土再造,而是结束政治对立。

Hu Jintao said that protecting the nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity is in the country's fundamental interests. The world only has one China, and the sovereignty and territory of China cannot be compromised. Since 1949, although the mainland and Taiwan have not yet been unified, China's territory and sovereignty have not been split; rather, the non-unification is remnant of the Chinese civil war in the 1940s, a political confrontation, and it does not change the fact that Taiwan and China are both part of one China. The unification of China does not mean that sovereignty or territory will be altered, but rather that the political confrontation comes to an end.
So... what's it mean? Is this supposed to be a hint that China can accept something less than full political integration, less than "one country, two systems," and would be willing to label it unification? Is it merely a reaffirmation of the One China principal with no further implications? Is it meant to further the official Chinese position that there is no ROC?

Interesting questions if you ask me.

Remember, the peace accord is not far off.

Fujian to hire 1,000 retired Taiwanese IT workers

Focusing especially on managers with lots of experience (and connections).

The signs just keep a-comin'

The Liberty Times is disappointed, but not surprised, that a single utterance from the Minister of Justice about Diana Diane Lee's case taking too long had a very fast result, with the Taipei District Court restricting her travel out of the country within hours of the Minister's statement.

Sign of the times, it would seem...

Jan 5, 2009

Shih Ming-teh / Lee Teng-hui alliance?

I wouldn't count on it.

I feel better already.

Not. Look at what the People's Daily Taiwan section focuses on today. Remember, this is the Chinese idea of goodwill.

Hu Jintao: separatist Taiwanese Independence has been proven to be doomed to failure


Hu Jintao calls for cross-strait negotiations to formally end the state of hostility
He pointed out in order to make cross-strait negotiations easier and more beneficial for both sides, the two sides could deeply discuss how to manage political relations and development in this special period in which the country is not yet unified.
This is important because this means China doesn't just want a peace treaty (they gain nothing by that), but a formal arrangement and agreement on political relations that will formalize this as an internal Chinese matter -- and it probably wouldn't be exactly the status quo (that wouldn't be any gain for China either). In effect, such an agreement would truly mean a deathblow to Taiwanese rights to self-determination. Let us hope the KMT will avoid going that far. But signing such an arrangement would not violate Ma's basic code of cross-strait conduct, "No unification, no independence, no war," so the KMT could be open to coming to an "interim" agreement.

胡锦涛:解决台湾问题是内部事务 不受外国势力干涉
Hu Jintao: Taiwan problem is an internal affair, foreign countries must not interfere

Hu Jintao discusses the foundation buliding cross-strait political trust

Hu Jintao: It has been proven that Chinese people on both sides of the strait have the wisdom to place the future of cross-strait relations in their own hands

You know the KMT is expressing true remorse when...

You know the KMT is expressing true remorse when:

KMT taps wife of unseated legislator to run in Miaoli (Taipei Times)

Then there's: Year-end party gifts ‘unethical’: DPP (Taipei Times)

The DPP legislative caucus recently singled out Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) and Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進) for asking state-owned businesses to provide gifts for draws at their year-end gatherings, while KMT Legislator Lin Tsang-min (林滄敏) twice last year asked state-run companies to provide presents and souvenirs for participants for activities he organized in October and last month.

A senior legislative office aide who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the practice has been in place for a long time and that it was normal for lawmakers across party lines to ask for sponsoring from government institutions and state-run businesses....

Lin said all the gifts he asked for were given to charity and volunteer groups for their banquets, not to his own.

“I don’t know what this controversy is all about,” he said.
I'm not sure how consistent the DPP legislators' position is on this; for example, have they asked for year end gifts in the past 8 years? I believe so, at least according to the legislative aide above.

This is an example of the DPP's lack of direction and consistency, as well as their tendency to focus on the most trivial of news tidbits just so they have something to do in their daily caucus press conference.

Jan 1, 2009

Round up

A good set of articles to round up today:

DPP rejects Hu Jintao's 'olive branch' (Taipei Times)

“As long as the ‘one China’ principle is recognized by both sides ... we can discuss anything,” Hu told a gathering of the Communist Party elite at the Great Hall of the People.

If the DPP gives up “splittist activities” and “changes its attitude,” it would elicit a “positive response,” Hu said.

In response, the DPP said in a press statement that Taiwan is a sovereign state, and its sovereignty belongs to the nation's 23 million people; hence, Taiwan's future must be decided by its people, which is the DPP's fundamental position and mainstream public opinion in the country.

DPP chair Tsai Ing-wen also said Taiwan's soverignty is under threat due to the "One China" framework, a conclusion that's difficult to escape. Note: as always, the DPP is not a group of crazy, radical independence activists. They just support that Taiwanese people should control the destiny of Taiwan. Try telling the international media that.

Besides saying that Taiwan and China could "discuss pre-unification politial relations," What else was in the CCP proposal?

China and Taiwan could at a proper time begin contacts and exchanges on military issues and explore a mechanism to build trust on military matters, Hu said....

“We continue to welcome and support Taiwan companies' business in the mainland and encourage mainland enterprises to invest in Taiwan,” Hu said.

Hu said he understood Taiwan's desire to take part in “international activities” but stressed China would not tolerate any move that suggested sovereign independence.

Military contacts are the beginning of the end, and the CCP knows it. Can you say "joint exercise aimed at preparing to take certain Japanese islands," anyone? And also do you notice the absense of a "mutual non-denial" flavor, a key Ma policy that he keeps insisting China has accepted?

OK, predictable responses and statements from both the DPP and CCP, but what did the KMT say? For me, the key point is in what they didn't say during their otherwise friendly response:

In response to principles listed in "Hu's six points" -- recognition of "One China," opposing independence and completing the unification of the country -- the KMT had no response. A party worker said that the KMT could not possibly respond to each and every point, but could only restate the KMT's position.
Typical of a party that's trying to pretend the PRC doesn't exist while engaging the communist regime on a party-to-party basis. Meanwhile, support for Taiwanese Independence is nearing a historic high:
CommonWealth Magazine found that almost one out of every four Taiwanese was hoping for the island to be truly independent, according to its 2009 "State of the Nation" annual survey.
Of the 23.5 percent independence proponents, 18.6 percent said they wanted independence while maintaining peaceful relations with China, but 4.9 percent said Taiwan should declare independence soon, no matter what Beijing's opinion was.
Only 6.5 percent was in favor of rapid unification with China, the lowest total ever in the magazine's annual survey. A total of 57.8 percent supported the status quo, the publication said.
Problem with surveys like this is, how do those people define the status quo? We don't know from data like this. My guess is most would answer "independence," or perhaps "unresolved," and the rise in the people moving from "status quo" to the independence column is a largely due to a realization that Ma Ying-jeou is a "One China, two regions" guy.

I should be clear on my personal stance: while I"m a Green kind of guy, I recognize that there are a lot of potential outcomes to the KMT engagement other than Taiwan getting annexed. None of those alternatives seem likely, at this time, but it iwll be very interesting to see exactly what happens and how public opinion shifts here over the next couple of years.

Additional news: nobody is looking forward to the post-Lunar New Year unemployment numbers.