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May 31, 2009

Ma endorses sovereignty referendum theory

President Ma Ying-jeou's latest comments to Taiwanese media in Belize constitute a fundamental shift on Ma's position regarding whether Taiwan's future status be determined through the referendum process. Using that process is a key demand and central plank of the DPP platform.

Only issues of greater importance, such as those involving Taiwan’s sovereignty,
need to be put to a referendum, he said.

“There won’t be any political items, such as ‘one nation, two systems,’ in the ECFA,” he said.

Stressing that the proposed ECFA was an economic agreement, Ma said holding referendums is time-consuming and expensive, and it would be difficult for the government to operate if it had to hold a referendum on every major policy issue. “It would be meaningless if referendums were held too often and on less important issues,” the president said.

While "the ECFA won't address sovereignty issues, so it doesn't need a referendum" is a frequent refrain from the Ma administration, before now they've carefully avoided vocalizing the implied point, which is that sovereignty issues do require a referendum. This appears to mark a reversal in that strategic ambiguity.

The quote in Chinese is reported by the Liberty Times as follows: 「我一向都主張台灣的前途必須由二千三百萬台灣人民來決定,涉及主權議題才需要公投」"I have always held that Taiwan's future is to be determined by Taiwan's 23,000,000 people; only topics related to with sovereignty need a referendum."

It could be that Ma's using the opportunity to improve his opening hand before going into peace talks with Beijing. Or maybe feeling some sort of heat from some unknown source. Or perhaps neither -- maybe he really hadn't noticed he and his spokesmen were avoiding putting the word sovereignty and referendum in the same sentence, and he truly does want to endorse the referendum process.

In any case I welcome this development.

May 27, 2009

Not so deep thought

Why has nobody ever done a survey on what people consider the cross-strait 'status quo' to be?

Just great

In the 24-hour news cycle world, a new Biggest Story Ever gets marched out on at least a daily basis. One of those big stories yesterday was related to the Hu-Wu meeting.

Emphasizing that Taiwan and China belonged to “one China,” Hu said the two had agreed to promote peace, oppose Taiwanese independence, stand by the so-called “1992 consensus” and strengthen mutual trust.

Hu said that the two sides should engage in “pragmatic discussions” of political relations ­before carrying out unification and establish a military confidence-building mechanism. It is the goal of both sides to put a formal end to hostility by signing a peace agreement, he said.

Hu said Taiwan and China should forge ahead with preparations for an ECFA and aim for negotiations on the agreement in the latter part of the year.

An ECFA would be beneficial to economic development and public welfare on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Hu said.

Wu did not mention President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) or Taiwan’s sovereignty during the meeting. He repeatedly used the phrase daonei (島內, “within the island”) when referring to Taiwan.

Last week, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) earned plaudits from lawmakers across party lines when she referred to Ma by his title during a meeting with Beijing’s mayor.
Taiwan is, of course, an island. But Green politicians were upset Wu did not use the phrase guonei (國內, "within the country").

Now it will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that Wu does not consider Taiwan a country; indeed, the current KMT position is basically a reversion to the Chiang Ching-kuo policy, where unification, democratizing the mainland and upholding the Three People's Principles are interlocking goals.

But you wouldn't know that by watching blue media yesterday. Oh no. You see, Wu was merely avoiding saying guonei because using the phrase might cause friction with China. Likewise, saying "the Republic of China" might result in Hu Jintao retorting with "the People's Republic of China." The Chinese media would probably block it anyway, depriving the Chinese people of a chance to hear from Taiwan's political leaders. And even if the Chinese aired it, the masses wouldn't understand that guonei was acutally a reference to Taiwan; they'd take it as a reference to all of China. All of that is best avoided, you see.

Ultimately this is a relatively trivial matter, but honestly, the way the blue media covers for the KMT, you'd think the blues had a "two China" policy.

May 26, 2009

State of the party

I've been reading The First Chinese Democracy: Political Life in the Republic of China on Taiwan. This book presents a most sympathetic view of the KMT during the drive to democracy, which is good for me to read even though it almost made my head explode for the first 50 pages. One of the points that was impressed on me reading this book is the truly decrepit state of the modern DDP.

How can we describe the current state of the party? I would opt for the following: lacking a message (the variety of voices has resulted in a complete lack of a unified message or platform); lacking a messenger (Tsai does well as party chair but cannot inspire the crowd or the remaining party leadership to follow her, and I don't see any serious candidates to replace her); facing a generational crisis (the Kaohsiung Incident guys are going nowhere, but they're completely out of touch with the electorate and need to hand over power to the Wild Lily generation); suffering from the fact that previous DPP supporters have either become radicalized by Ma's first year or just become apathetic (thanks to either the Chen Shui-bian case or the DPP's shrill whining this last year); completely incapable of seriously competing in local elections (the party forgot one of its early strategies of yi difang baowei zhongyang); unable to deal with the internal crisis brought about by Chen's prosecution; and incapable of presenting a coherent alternative to KMT rule.

At this rate, I would not be surprised if the DPP becomes as relevant as a 3rd party. We're almost there. I see no indication that the party can address any of the above problems.

Chen Shui-bian managed to make Taiwanese Independence as status quo a mainstream view while in office. The DPP's continued marginalization will only reverse that trend. Time is short. It's time for the DPP to get their shit together.

If only.

Chinese black jail sites

Wu meets Hu (吳見胡)

KMT Chairman Wu Po-hsiung is visiting China to hammer out final plans for the upcoming fifth forum between the KMT and CCP, as well as visiting SUn Yat-sen's mausoleum. The eight day visit is attracting attention, especially in the wake of Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu's (DPP) recent meeting with the Beijing mayor in which she used phrases like "President Ma" and "our central government."

Will Wu Po-hsiung, who has refrained from calling Ma 'president' even in Taiwan during the Chen Yunlin visit, follow suit?


"When I meet with Mr. Hu," said Wu, "I will be talking to him in his capacity as the Secretary General of the CCP. He will call me 'Chairman Wu.' We insist on being treated with dignity. But I will not try to steer our conversation one way or another to deliberately emphasize or avoid anything."

But Wu did call for KMT and CCP party leaders to meet annually, a call that was welcomed by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng

Wu Po-hsiung will also be delivering a message to Dr. Sun from President Ma:

I asked Wu Po-hsiung to report to Dr. Sun that I would implement the Three Principles of the People he left us,” President Ma said.

That's [when Ma] cried.

Then, President Ma quoted Chang Uo-chun, a Taiwan novelist, as urging the people of Taiwan in a eulogy to Dr. Sun in 1923, “Compatriots, you should adhere to the teachings of this great leader. He said: 'Comrades, our revolution has yet to succeed. All of you should redouble your efforts.”

If you are like me, you haven't heard a politician use the Three Principles of the People since sometime in 2002 when a random KMT lawmaker called for unification under that rubric during a shouting match.

Not a lot else happening today yet, though this was reasonably big news yesterday:

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators boycotted a Transportation Committee meeting yesterday to show their opposition to a proposed amendment to the Act for Promotion of Private Participation in Infrastructure Projects (促進民間參與公共建設法) that would allow Chinese investment in public construction works.

May 22, 2009

You go girl!


Gaoxiong Mayor - Chen Chu - has become the highest-level incumbent official from the main opposition D-P-P to travel to China.

Chen arrived in Beijing yesterday to attend the Paris-based International Real Estate Federation's 60-th World Congress .. and - while in China - she also plans to promote the 2009 World Games - which will take place in Gaoxiong in July.

The Gaoxiong mayor refused to apply for a China-issued "Taiwan compatriot entry permit" ... saying that she hoped to be allowed entry into China under a formula used by Taiwan officials attending activities held in China by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Speaking to reporters on her arrival in Beijing .. Chen said that her visit can be defined as an "ice-breaking, or trailblazing event" ... and that she hopes it will inspire the Beijing leadership to understand that there is a gap between what they have learned from the K-M-T and what she called the "mainstream grassroots opinion."
Chen Chu also referred to "President Ma," "our country [contrasting with China]" and "our central government" when talking to the Beijing mayor yesterday. She also told him that the CCP must listen not only to the KMT itself but to the grass roots voices in Taiwan.

She was quickly praised by both KMT and DPP caucuses, and Speaker of the Legislative Yuan Wang Jin-pyng also praised Chen Chu for her remarks. KMT chair Wu Po-hsiung saying these forms of address are "normal" -- even though he couldn't bring himself to call Ma President while hosting Chen Yunlin in Taipei. One reporter asked Wu if he would use the form of address "President Ma" next time he was in China, to which he responded cryptically, "you will know when that time comes."

What is up with this guy?

No points for answering that question correctly.

Ma can't get his story straight.

I was surprised and confused on the 19th when Ma said "Taiwan is the Republic of China," which seemed like a policy shift to me, but the Presidential Office spokesman cleared that up quickly by correcting Ma's statement to "Taiwan is the Republic of China's." Ma reinforced that on May 20th by saying "Taiwan is a part of the Republic of China." (As the DPP asked that day, what's the other part?)

Well, yesterday, the 21st, when answering a question about 'Chinese Taipei's participation in the WHO, Ma noted that while it is difficult for Taiwan/the ROC to get formal recognition in the WHA and other international organizations, "nobody thinks Taiwan's not a country." (Except of course Ma himself.)

A few days ago I wrote that Ma's contradictory statements force one to conclude he is either lying to the electorate or the CCP about his intentions, since they have very different ideas of where he is leading the island. Considering the sequence of his dissembling -- where pro-unification sentiment or statements are repudiated and replaced with the kind of statements you'd expect from pro-TI die hard Chen Shui-bian -- I think it's rather obvious whose eyes he's pulling the wool over.

Footnote: I rarely participate in the comments section of this site, except to post brief "thanks for reading" notes, and that's mostly because I don't want to dominate every aspect of this blog. :)

But I do want to make particular note that while I try to sprinkle my posts with healthy doses of realism and skepticism, I have no doubt that political subservience to China is an outcome that Taiwanese public opinion will roundly reject for the foreseeable future. All evidence says so.

May 20, 2009

More dissaembling Ma's dissembling

Ma made one other statement at his international press conference that struck me as, well, false:


When asked by a foreign reporter about his view on the mainland leadership, President Ma said that although there had not been a major change in the mainland's Taiwan policy, there had been a shift in their strategy; the last ten years of emphasizing "one country, two systems" and peaceful unification has already switched to a focus of preventing Taiwan from going toward independence. This shift away from advocating unification is a demonstration of [the mainland's] greater flexibility.
Certainly the tone of China's rhetoric has shifted dramatically, and this is because Ma has already accepted the one China principle and that Taiwan's sovereignty belongs to all Chinese people on both sides of the strait.

My objection is his characterization of the Chinese position. Hu mentioned one country, two systems and peaceful unification in a major speech just as recently as March 18. Realizing the peaceful unification of the motherland through 'one country, two systems' was a topic on this year's political section of the Chinese Gaokao. And the Chinese leadership even refuses to admit that the '92 consensus' can be fairly stated as "one China, two interpretations."

What is accurate to say is that the CCP and KMT have never been closer on either their ultimate goals, which include unification and preventing formal Taiwanese independence. They are also in agreement on the means (just study Hu Jintao's Six Point proposal). Both parties avoid saying "unification" now because talking about the elephant in the room would ruin the plan -- less because those two parties are in disagreement and more because talking about unification would alert the Taiwanese people to the final stop on this ride. Or so I like to think.

Ma: Let the next generation decide the future of cross-strait relations

At today's international press conference, Ma called for Taiwan's future to be decided by Taiwanese.

Ma stated, "The future of cross strait relations out to be decided on the Taiwan side by the Taiwanese people, and even by the next generation. I believe the present is not a good time to make any decision."

He also promised no unification in his maximum potential 8 years of office but added that the cross-strait relationship could be different 30 years from now.


I like the sound of these statements more than his claim yesterday that Taiwan's sovereignty belongs to all Chinese (blogged on earlier this morning), though you'll see that reading between the lines, here he's saying the future of cross-strait relations is a decision for Chinese on both sides of the strait -- probably an inescapable reality even if a repulsive thought.

Now I really wish I could find this more reassuring. Most importantly, Ma still won't say that Taiwanese can decide their future by referendum (though he hasn't ruled it out. And several statements from both him and his staff about the ECFA economic agreement not requiring a referendum "because it doesn't deal with sovereignty issues" seem to hint that sovereignty issues do require a referendum; hopefully he is subtly endorsing that referendum right, but I think he is probably trying to placate the center by parroting the core of the DPP stance while leaving out that pesky referendum bit which most people forget anyway).

I would like to be in the camp that says, "Chen Shui-bian tried A for 8 years, that didn't really get us anywhere with China, maybe Ma's plan B will work while leaving Taiwan stronger and still de facto independent." I hope that is true, but don't think so.

At the end of the day it really comes down to this: do you believe that Ma is an advocate for the Taiwanese right to self-determination, cloaking his plans with words that are music to the ears of the CCP? Or do you believe Ma seeks to play a part in unifying Taiwan with/annexing Taiwan to China, and masks his intent with lip-service to the Taiwanese right to self-determination? I think the later is more likely.

I suppose there is a third option. You could say, "Black cat or white cat, just make me rich." In which case you probably find questions of sovereignty boring anyway.

May 19, 2009

Excuse me?

President Ma can't keep his sovereignty position straight. Just look at yesterday's press conference:

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) challenged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday to produce concrete evidence that he has jeopardized Taiwan’s sovereignty and urged them to be practical and flexible....

Ma said his cross-strait policy has gained local and international recognition and he didn’t think he had made any mistakes.

“If sovereignty was lost, I can get it back,” he said. “But nobody can tell me exactly what was lost.”

Ma said the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution is a “one China” Constitution, and before both sides of the Taiwan Strait could talk about unification or independence, he would suggest “mutual non-denial” of each other’s existence.

Although critics complained that school textbooks are vague about Taiwan’s sovereignty, Ma said it should be made clear to the public that the sovereignty of the ROC belongs to the people.

“Taiwan is the ROC,” [in Chinese: 應該清楚告訴下一代,「中華民國主權是屬於國民全體,台灣是中華民國」,這點非常清楚。]he said. “We should clear this up from a historical and constitutional viewpoint. The public must not be confused into thinking Taiwan’s sovereignty is undefined. We should never let anyone distort history for political reasons.”

Ma said the nine agreements and a joint statement his administration signed with Beijing are conductive to Taiwan’s development and none have hurt Taiwan or echoed China’s political overtures.

His administration’s definition of cross-strait relations was not new, he said, because former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) introduced the idea that Taiwan and China are two regions under the framework of the ROC Constitution and former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) did not alter that stance.
If "Taiwan is the ROC," than the Chinese mainland is not ROC territory, a position in clear contradiction with the "one China" principle. To be sure, saying "Taiwan is the ROC" is awfully similar to saying "one side, one country" or "two Chinas."

Or is this a case of 「台灣是中華民國」 being technically interpretable as "Taiwan is [a part of] the Republic of China?"

Either way, Ma is misleading either himself or the public.

Though I agree the DPP policy direction is feeling especially unclear in contrast with Ma's clarity.

We've got an update: Presidential spokesman has clarified that Ma meant "Taiwan belongs to the Republic of China." 「台灣是中華民國的。

Which means that Ma is saying, "congratulations Taiwan, your sovereignty is in the hands of the people of all of China!"

That, my friends, is not empty rhetoric. That is the warning bell.

Another update: Ma apparently made the comments in the context of criticizing the "unclear" position of current textbooks. But that's pretty much BS, as this article points out.

The case the DPP is having trouble making

Really, Tsai Ing-wen said it best herself in her recent speech at George Washington, but the truth is that a lot of people were confused about what the DPP was actually protesting on Sunday.

Looking at Kaohsiung, you'd have to say the same thing the marchers have been calling for for decades now -- independence from China.

But the short term focuses were diverse and some of them were decidedly off message.

Take the WHA situation, for example. The best formed opposition objections to the current arrangement have to do with the secrecy and lack of transparency in negotiations (government officials could not agree on who negotiated with who and whether or not China had an MOU with the WHO on this issue). Other louder objections -- that really do simply sound whiny to the electorate -- were complaining about the title Chinese Taipei. Unsurprisingly, whiny voices won out on media coverage. Go figure.

Or let's look at the ECFA. Again, Tsai Ing-wen and other cool headed people object to the fact that nobody is likely to have any idea what the ECFA entails until it's virtually signed -- no public oversight, no (public) industry reactions, no idea what industries are likely to come out winners and which losers, and no understanding of whether or not ECFA is sort of a stepping stone to more FTAs with all of Asia or simply a one time "lock in" deal with China. Those things matter, and Tsai is right to suggest an agreement that appears likely to use the Hong Kong-China agreement as a model would do well to pass referendum level scrutiny by the Taiwanese public.

But louder voices on the ECFA are rejecting it out of contempt for any closer relations with China. not surprisingly, these people are getting the better part of media attention well.

So I dunno, right now I think the DPP is sounding a bit shrill to most people, but I think it's because of the information most people are seeing in the news.

From ICRT:

... On the issues of cities and counties vying to be promoted to the status of special municipalities directly under the cabinet, Ma says the administration will treat every application fairly but won't grant approval to all.

Noting that many local governments are under tremendous pressure for the promotion, Ma explains that it will all come down to whether an area meets the requirements.

He points out that a special municipality needs to have at least an airport, a seaport, large-scale agriculture and industries, as well as enough land for further development.
This reminds me of a now forgotten promise of the Ma campaign, which was to lump together all small counties in Taiwan and create what I think were six super counties, all of which would have the status of special municipalities. For the life of me though, I can't find a link to show his plan at that time. Come to think about it, Hsieh had a similar plan.

But it seems those plans for major reform are on hold in favor of stopgap measures which may or may not benefit offices that sitting KMT politicians are running.

May 18, 2009

Straits Forum

The rally wasn't the only thing happening this weekend. Also check out the program from this year's Straits Forum. My favorite part has to be an article about a performance put on during the evening of the 16th titled Chinese Spirit, Straits Fate (中华情·海峡缘).

The performance included a song called One Hundred Surnames 《百家姓》which included lyrics like:


You're name is Li and my name is Zhang, but our bones and are blood all flow with the waters of the Yellow and Yangzi Rivers; You're name is Zhao and my name is Wang, but our guts and hearts are filled with the glory of the Dragon People...

The chair of the event had a little cute poem to read that included the following:
“离我们不远的地方,就是欢腾的海峡。”“每一阵海风,都是亲人的消息。”“我们是知己,不分我和你,咱若有代志(闽南话,指事情),互相来扶持,因为你是我的兄弟。” Not far from me is the great [Taiwan] Strait. Every time the wind blows in from the sea, it brings news of relatives. We are intimate friends, and we do not distingish ourselves from each other. Whatever the situation, we can count on each other, because we are brothers."
Best of all have to be lyrics from a Beijing opera titled I am Chinese 《我是中国人》. This reads like it's jumped out of a time warp in the Cultural Revolution where even all the Beijing Opera was political:

Chinese people are all decedents of the Yellow Emperor. Chinese people even in far off regions still have the same roots. You and I have a great mission in this world, to be honest, proud and true Chinese ...
If that closing line doesn't ring a bell, may I direct your attention to Taiwanese elementary school textbooks from not that long ago (more images here):

5/17 protest

I attended the Kaohsiung march and was impressed at the size of the crowd (200,000 by DPP estimates, 30,000 by police estimates). There was also a lot of friendliness from other bystanders, including the boys at Kaohsiung Municipal Senior High School who cheered me when they saw me carrying a 3'x5' WUFI (台灣獨立建國聯盟) flag. I also ran into some old friends and made new ones at the rally. My wife enjoyed herself too.

We left early but really did have a blast.

I'm not really a camera guy, so you'll have to find pictures elsewhere! Sorry!

May 15, 2009

Brief thoughts

I would add just one thing to the Michael Turton post/Taiwan News editorial on the subject of Chen's detention. And that is that the detention center has decided to "fine" him for this third hunger strike by forbidding visitors.

I just find that really, really awful. It's what you would expect in some place like Burma, for Christ's sake.

May 14, 2009

Shorter KMT

Now that China and Taiwan are playing nice, we're not enemies, so stop talking about China waging some crazy "unification war!"

May 13, 2009

So who really booked the grounds on May 18th?

We've been through this and seen a couple different answers in a couple of different reports: some saying the KMT booked it directly, some sayign the KMT application was rejected, and on TVBS last night I saw a few people actually name what seemd like some no-name organization who had booked the grounds, though I am sad to say I didn't catch the name (maybe if the video for 2100 last night goes online I'll be able to identify).

I also said in a previous post yesterday, titled "Interesting," that the DPP had applied for the 18th and been rejected, but I think this is not the case, I must have misread the article. The truth seems to be that by the time they thought of the overnight protest idea, which was after the original parade plan, the grounds had been booked by this shady organization, which if not the actual KMT was some KMT proxy.

So in any case, I think taht inconclusive set of information should more or less "clear things up."

May 12, 2009


Twenty three minutes ago, CNA reported the list of industries in Taiwan which mainland Chinese investment will be allowed into during the next round of cross-strait economic liberalization.

A total of 99 industries are listed and include Chinese medicine, automobile production, paper and plastics products, the wholesale business, retail, tourism, air and sea cargo, other service industries.

In all, 65 manufacturing industries will be open, or about 30% of Taiwan's total manufacturing industry, though the wafer and LCD industries along with a few other high tech industries will not be on that list. And twenty three service industries will be opened up as well, though those service industries requiring special certification like law and accounting will remain off the list.

Chinese will also be able to invest in public infrastructure firms, though Chinese firms will not be allowed to directly win public infrastructure contracts themselves here.

You can expect some stock market reaction to that tomorrow!


Apparently, one of the reasons the DPP didn't apply for a two day permit for the 5/17 protest, even though they were planning a 24 hour sit in at the end of it, was because another civic group had a permit for 5/18m but apparently the Taipei City government has convinced them to rescind their application, so Mayor Hau is now asking the DPP to apply for the 18th as well to avoid an illegal aspect to the sit in.

(update: this CNA article didn't say who had right son the 18th, but Arther Dent reports the group was the KMT, while Robert R. points out that the China Times reported the KMT permit had been rejected; now Hau claims things were negotiated with the group that had road rights? What gives? And why did the CNA article fail to identify the previous applicant? More "help out the Ma administration" editorial pressure at work?).

But the DPP says no, they won't apply.

Since, I think, the contents of the Parade and Assembly Law have become such a critical focus of the 5/17 protest, and because how the law will be amended may well depend on what unusual happenings are seen at the 5/17 protest and subsequent sit in, I guess the point they're trying to make is that the law is already too strict and likely to get stricter.

I would just apply I think. Choose your battles wisely.

Further update: Well, according to DPP Tsai Ing-wen's latest comments, the DPP had applied for the right to assemble on the 18th in the first place, but it was the KMT's application to hold the ground that day (despite not having any plans to assemble) which prevented the DPP's application from being approved. So the DPP has no intention to re-apply for the 18th and will hold their all night vigil according to plans, to hell with KMT antics.

Given this information that had slipped by me in the first place, I'm going to have to side with Tsai's interpretation and say don't play their game.

Tsai also notes that while Ma invited her to visit him after the 5/17 rally at the presidential palace, she believes the invitation lacks sincerity and is just grandstanding.

I would say that such a meeting could either turn into a good opportunity to rearticulate the points she made at George Washington earlier, but more likely would just a way for the KMT to shift attention away from the rally and to the discussion, where the DPP's presentation time would effectively be cut in half.

Regular correspondence in Holo Taiwanese & Mandarin

As my flurry of posts today indicates, my nearly week-long absence from the blog should not indicate I am fading into irrelevance! But there are a few more Taiwanese-language related links to share with you today.

One issue which should be obvious to most students of Taiwanese and Mandarin is the regular correspondence between those two languages, which can be used to guess the pronunciation of any one of a pair of cognates. But the casual student of this topic will have found it difficult to put his or her finger on some of the finer details of that regular correspondence.

I made a somewhat flawed post in the past on some of the tonal correspondences between the languages, but I have run across some much richer information lately.

First, take a look at the Master's Thesis (PDF) written by Luo Jia-peng (駱嘉鵬), who put considerable time into studying the rhyme tables of the Kuang-yun 《廣韻》, an early rime dictionary from about 1000 A.D. that is highly useful for creating historical reconstructions of pronunciation and studying divergence in modern Sinitic languages.

Phonetic reconstruction of Chinese initials is the main topic of this thesis. Luo, who is really only interested in modern Mandarin and Holo Taiwanese pronunciations and not so much on what the historically correct reconstructions might be, opts to print a table of Huang Jigang's (黃季剛) reconstruction of Kuang-yun initials. But then he gets to the best part, a table which clearly lines up the regular correspondence between Mandarin and Taiwanese with the Kuang-yun rimes (see page 4-5)! There's also a discussion of tones (see pages 6-7)!

And, for the super nerd, you can view this 8 MB excel file where the scholarly Luo has provided a full list of Mandarin and Taiwanese readings for what I thin kis all the characters in the Kuang-yun. Talk about a "wow." Sort that baby by Mandarin or Taiwanese pronounciation and scroll to your heart's content!

Shelley Rigger, making sense

I missed this panel discussion last January, but I found this answer from Shelley Rigger on the whole Taiwan/China/ethnicity/sovereignty question to be good. I really couldn't say it any better myself:

Shelley Rigger: Yes, I would just thank Mike for making those points because I think that's really important. And we need to understand, and I didn't do a very good job of explaining why people in the DPP and throughout Taiwan's society have such suspicions. And your mention of Steve Chen's speech in London, I mean, there were some really old school KMT talk in that speech, so yes.

But I guess what I would say is that this is precisely why it's so important for the DPP to get its act together and to figure out what it wants to -- where it wants to position itself and how it wants to position itself, particularly in relation to Chen Shui-bian because having a strong opposition in Taiwan and having a very clear and a resolute voice for this other point of view is, it is essential to raise the cost to Beijing of erring on the side of overreaching.

And I think one of the biggest perils Taiwan faces is for the Beijing government to sort of become complacent and to think well, we don't have to make these concessions. We can insist on the comma because the Taiwan side is not going to put up a fight. So when the Taiwan side does put up a fight, whether the society or the leadership, that drives home the point that it's not going -- it's not easy and that Beijing is not going to get everything it wants.

And I guess that's my -- as someone who has done a lot of work on the DPP and cares very deeply about it, my anxiety comes, in part, from the feeling that they need to get their act together so that they can play that role as successfully as they need to because these are perilous times.

Donald Rogers later makes what has to pass for a great insight, since so few commentators are making it:
You know, it's a difficult thing. The last thing I would say about this, and Lien, when he was, through his years, actually, has advocated this notion of moving from zero sum to win-win, that we can move from a zero sum, kill-each-other game, to a win-win game in negotiations and relations between China and Taiwan. That is possible within certain parameters. In other words, good economic relations certainly can help both sides.

But in the end, the Chinese want and will accept only one thing, and that is the
unification, the absorption, or whatever term you want to use of Taiwan into China. And so the win-win can be a win in short term, narrow terms, but in the big term, in the big sense, it's almost impossible to envision a win-win at the present time, with the attitudes of people in Taiwan versus the attitudes of the Beijing government. And so this concession thing fits into that. Maybe we can get these small concessions, but it's not what we really are looking for.

Headline aside, The Taipei Times has a pretty measured editorial today on the prospect of Chinese police coming here, which amounts to, "Yes, sometimes allies exchange police forces when their interests are closely aligned and when the level of trust is very high, but those conditions are not met in this case and there's no compelling reasons to have any Chinese police or PLA personnel stationed here anyway."

And one point for Tsai.

To see an example of the DPP responding to Ma's policies rationally nowadays, you have to look to Tsai Ing-wen, like at her recent speech at George Washington University (posted by Michael Turton here).

Unfortunately, Tsai's measured responses rarely capture the sensational Taiwan media's attention, and she's largely drowned out by the gaggle of legislators who spend all day wailing, "The sky is falling!"


Hat tip to the New Dominion, which notes that 9 members of the the pro-Xinjiang Independence Turkistan Islamic Party (Türkistan Islam Partiyisi (TIP) تۈركىستان ئىسلام پارتىيىسى), have been extradited to China from Pakistan as part of the mutual extradition treaty.

While the prospect of Taiwanese Independence activists being sent to China for prosecution still remains a paranoid fantasy here in Taiwan, news like this is hardly encouraging.


Since Ma claims the Beijing-WHO memorandum of understanding doesn't exist, I think he'd better take a look at the evidence (as it so often does, hat tip goes to Maddog for finding the memos).

I will note that the memo appears to have information redacted, including the actual signatories and some header info, which could have been a condition for leaking it in the first place (to give the WHO signers plausible deniability). But naturally, this makes it harder to fully verify the existence of the memo.

Ma: Delay that peace treaty

Ma gave an interview yesterday morning to Taiwan's China Television (CTV, 中視) which covered quite a lot of ground and touched on everything from peace talks with Beijing to the Assembly and Parade Law to the WHO and Beijing's MOU with them.

I'm going to start with the peace talks article, which was the lead today in the Taipei Times. Let's get right to the text:

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said he would not negotiate unification with China during his presidency, but would consider launching talks on a peace agreement if re-elected in 2012....

This is clearly a retreat off of earlier Ma statements about wanting to have a peace agreement signed during his first term. That could mean either Beijing and Taipei plan to break up the agreement into two parts, one less controversial and one more, and sign those before the election (to give Ma a boost) and the second one after. Or, perhaps Beijing or Taipei simply fear backlash if such steps are taken within such a short four year period. It could also mean that the gaps between Beijing and Taipei on the key sovereignty question is simply too big to imagine the agreement being signed in the first four years.

... He said that he had promised in his inauguration address, under the framework of the Republic of China Constitution [A-gu: emphasis mine], not to discuss unification with Beijing during his presidency, not to pursue or support de jure independence and not to use military force to resolve the matter of Taiwan’s status.

“I will not engage in talks on unification with mainland China during my presidency, regardless of whether it lasts four years or eight,” he said.

Does this imply that according to Ma's reading of the ROC Constitution, he can no more discuss the prospect of unification than he can try to declare independence? I hate to say it, but that would be a very useful wedge indeed that would help keep Beijing at bay. In fact, such a reading could serve as a basis for internal political consensus on cross-strait relations (as if either party would want that).

Also note that Ma does assures voters that they can vote for him twice without fear of bieng fully sold out.
Nor would political negotiations necessarily have to start in 2012, he said, adding that it would depend on developments and whether more pressing issues such as the economy had been addressed.
This statement seems to just be a way of denying a 'unification time table,' a charge that was thrown at Ma right after the interviews Friday with Singapore media.
Ma said he was aware of China’s efforts to achieve unification, but that his administration was focusing on more urgent, less controversial matters, including the economy.

Although these negotiations inevitably touch on some political matters, both sides have sought to avoid sensitive topics, he said.

Ma said the political agenda behind Beijing’s economic engagement with Taiwan was no secret, yet “some administrations handle it well, some not so well.”

“I think my administration handles it rather well,” he said, adding that Beijing does not seek political gains in all its dealings with Taiwan and that a win-win situation for both sides of the Strait is possible.
Besides the swipe at the Chen administration, Ma also reinforces that he really does see the economic and political issues as separate ones, and to be honest I hope he's right (but doubt it). He also may be implying that even though the CCP sees the economic and political issues as going hand in hand, the Ma administration is just not going to let them use one to leverage the other. Again, sounds great, but awfully difficult to put into practice.
Ma said Beijing was hesitant to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), possibly because of differences between Taiwan’s ruling and opposition parties. However, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) have both expressed interest in an ECFA....
Beijing might also be hesitant to sign because they are holding out for further KMT concessions.
...Ma said the economic pact would likely be one topic at the next round of cross-strait talks, scheduled for the second half of the year.

The president said he did not have any immediate plans to visit China, adding that high-level visits were complicated by issues of security and national sovereignty and dignity.

“My approach has always been to deal with a problem if we cannot solve it,” he said. “You’ll achieve nothing by fixating on sovereignty. Cross-strait relations have developed since we came to power because both sides set aside their differences and focused on more pressing and solvable matters.[A-gu: emphasis mine]
In principle I could agree, except I don't see China setting aside the sovereignty issue (despite CCP propaganda events meant to imply otherwise). That doesn't seem like truly setting aside differences. It seems to me that it's more like the KMT just closing its eyes to Beijing's oft-repeated position.

Further, the KMT for its part is fixating on sovereignty, not in its daily rhetoric but in its claim to own an ROC that includes all of mainland China. It was the DPP that proposed begininng negotiations without any "One China" or even "One China, One Taiwan" preconditions, and Beijing that refused that point.
In response, DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said Ma should not lie to the public about unification with China.

Cheng said the DPP viewed Ma’s policies as geared at achieving unification. Ma’s strategy for dealing with criticism is to lie to the public, Cheng said.

The DPP urged Ma to put an end to policies that move toward unification.
Here's a classic case of the DPP speaking with such a lack of refinement or substance that even if their ultimate conclusion is correct, nobody will listen to them.

May 5, 2009

Hopefully a non-issue

Chief Editor of the anti-CCP website China Comments JI Xiaofeng (紀曉峰) says that Taiwan intelligence contacted him asking about any plans of Tibetan and E. Turkistan independence advocates, who the intelligence agency imagines may protest China at the World Games in Kaohsiung and Deaflympics in Taipei this year.

Ji claims shock that Taiwanese intelligence would work with Beijing to crush such advocates, and Ji sees those activists having the same common enemy as Taiwan.

The National Security Bureau confirms that it gathers general information on terrorists and "groups or individuals who are known to protest at international events," but says it is in no way directly targeting the Tibetan or E. Turkistan independence advocates. They (rightly) label this sort of intelligence gathering a common practice of law enforcement bodies around the world.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Foreign affairs denies having heard anything about this, and the Ministry of Defence says this sort of thing is outside of the work they deal with.

I think Ji is telling the truth, sinec the NSB does try to gather that kind of information, and their disclaimer about looking at all kinds of groups is probably true too. The test is in if and how they are allowed to protest.

Take that!

If you've seen Michael Turton's last post about Japan's de facto ambassador to Taiwan stating plainly that Japan considers Taiwan's status to be unresolved, you won't be surprised to know that President Ma Ying-jeou has responded in kind already, again insisting while talking to a visiting Japanese delegation of legislators that the Treaty of Taipei transfered sovereignty of Taiwan to the Republic of China.

This reinforces again that Ma is basically telling Japan to $^#@ off and insisting that the Taiwan question is an internal Chinese matter to be resolved among Chinese.

May 4, 2009

But a whimper? the portion of my brain devoted to Taiwanese politics (usually carefully cordoned so as to keep me sane), I am at some emotional state between panic and despair (which also seems like a pretty good definition of 'feeling impending doom').

I have to say that all the recent developments in the Taiwan-China discussions about opening Taiwan to Chinese investment, along with the clear ideological alignment of the KMT and their determination to sign a peace treaty which I now am convinced surely must resolve the sovereignty question, and also along with the feebleness of the DPP "opposition," have combined into a perfect emotional storm in my head.

I am worried for the first time in my 12 years of involvement that we are going to lose this battle to maintain Taiwan's independence from China, and worse yet I feel the final nail (well, perhaps the next to final nail) in the coffin may be hammered in within two, at most three years. This is also the first time I've ever felt like I am on the ultimately losing side of a political cause, and that surely does not help.

While not quite debilitating, this is a deflating feeling, and I can't decide if the appropriate course of action is to start distributing revolutionary propaganda, flee the country, or protest like hell for the remaining two years before the Final Sellout occurs.

Thinking of all this also reminds me of a what a friend of mine in Taipei, who had been taken in his youth by his father to protests-turned-riots, demanding democracy, told me while he was up all night at the Chen Yunlin protests: "It feels like the democracy movement in the 80s all over again." But today I wonder if the difference is that this time, we are on the side about to be crushed.

The Taiwanese political portion of my brain has never been feeling at such a loss. Is this irrational, or has the last decade of hard work been for naught?