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Jun 29, 2009

Round up

Perhaps most interestingly is a survey by the pro-independence Taiwan Thinktank showing 71% of people support putting the ECFA to referendum, with 61% being fans of the DPP's referendum wording and just as many saying they'd go cast a vote.

If you're still confused about the controversy surrounding the decision to merge Taichung and Kaohsiung Cities & Counties, turn Taipei County into its own city, and leave Tainan and other smaller counties pretty much the way they are, let me act as your guide. Update: Looks like Tainan got the upgrade after all!

Being a special municipality means getting a bigger budget. Basically, according to the Local Government Act (地方制度法), the main qualification for promotion to a special municipality is a population of at least 2 million. Greater Tainan falls just short of that (about 1.8 million), which is why the Executive Yuan ended up giving them the promotion.

Many accused the committee of making openly partisan decisions, which was more or less nonsense. What is of concern is the fact that elections in those upgraded areas are going to be postponed until next year, to coincide with Taipei and Kaohsiung City's special municipality elections. The most valid objection is that the move may be unconstitutional. We'll see how that pans out.

Moving on ... Saturday, DPP chair Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) joined the newly established Taiwan Youth Anti-Communist Corps, a move I just shake my head at. Why adopt all the KMT's former language on these topics? I don't think it lends the cause any more legitimacy.

Next, we notice the legislature's failure to pass the bills the Executive Yuan had been gunning for, which shouldn't be surprising. To be fair the legislature did speed through review of a record number of bills, and I'm glad they're not just rubberstamping every Executive request, but at the same time these guys are only doing half day committee meetings most of the time, so if they had worked full time they could have done more.

Jun 25, 2009

Let's rename PTS to KMTS.

Seriously, while their programing is still excellent and not partisan, (they are putting out this week what is probably the first show every broadcast in Taiwan with Holo Taiwanese subtitles), news like this is scary.

Jun 24, 2009

Lead in all the Chinese language dailies

The question now is about elections -- will they be postponed?

From ICRT:

The Ministry of Interior has approved a radical plan to upgrade Taipei County
to the status of a "municipal city" and the mergers of Taichung and Gaoxiong
cities with their respective counties.

A committee review approved the applications last night, but said that a
similar proposal to merge Tainan City and County will be forwarded to the
Executive Yuan for decision, as the committee was divided on that merger

Speaking to reporters last night .. Minister of Interior - Liao Liu-yi - said
that proposals by Taoyuan and Zhanghua counties to be upgraded to municipal
cities and merger applications by Yunlin and Jiayi counties were turned down
by the 26-member committee.

The moves come two months after lawmakers amended the Local Government Act -
paving the way for the mergers and upgrades.

According to Executive Yuan Spokesman - Su Chun-bin - the Cabinet will rubber
stamp the committee's decision tomorrow, or Friday and the mergers and
upgrades are expected to take effect sometime in December of next year.

Jun 23, 2009

Yes, no, maybe so.

Last Wed., Ma "clarified" (muddled, really) part of his Three Nos pledge: no unification, no independence, and no war.

"No unification," Ma said, "does not mean we rule out the option of unification." The topic has already been covered at Taiwan Matters, among other blogs.

That article remains the hottest topic on Yam's news site today, and one of the more astute commentators asked how this applies to his other pledges.

No independence does not mean we rule out the option of independence?
No use of force does not mean we rule out the option of the use of force?
What sort of pledge is it, really then?

I think that there is some possibility that Ma's comment come sin light of Chinese pressure, but it's impossible to say for sure.

DPP petition is a stupefyingly awful idea

The DPP's decision to start a petition calling for the release of Chen Shui-bian is, I think, reasonable but politically unwise. I'd imagine the impetus for this project came from those Chen allies of the K-incident generation remaining on the party's central committee.

At the end of the day Chen is a massive liability to the DPP's image, and drags them into the past instead of giving them the chance to look into the future.. Whatever the merits of the petition (and it has merits, as Chen's detention and prosecution have been riddled with irregularities), the DPP would be better off throwing him under a bus. That's my cold-blooded advice, at least.

Jun 22, 2009


As the DPP prepares a petition drive to "free Chen Shui-bian" from his detention, a tremendous blow is dealt to Chen's case; his daughter Chen Shing-yu (陳幸妤) and son-in-law Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘) plead guilty hours ago in court to perjury, according to lawyers. Apparently son Chen Chih-chung (陳致中) also admitted guilt today.

Chen Shing-yu was, as always, hounded by reporters and she apparently even somehow took an umbrella to the face. She came with a group of body guards who ended up getting into a shoving match with the media, since I'm sure everyone wanted a camera very close to her face. You can see the very unflattering picture TVBS submitted on the right here.

In any case, I imagine this development is really going to put this circus of a case on the fast track to completion. So far they are apparently only pleading guilty without providing more details like which parts of their statements were false; we'll see what happens.

What a nightmare.

Did Su Tseng-chang read my editoral?

Who cares? I'd like to flatter myself by thinking so, especially since ol' Smiling Light Bulb has always been my man, but whatever his inspiration, at least he's saying similar things.

Jun 20, 2009

Round up

First, I have a post on Taiwan Matters about Ma's rather out of the blue proposal for cross-strait cooperation on publishing a dictionary. See it here.

Second, Reuters' Ralph Jennings mistook me for Tim Maddog, apparently due to overlooking the byline on this post about my Liberty Times editorial. I personally disliked two lines in Ralph's blog post:
China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan. Ma, Taiwan’s president, likes China. The opposition and the blogger don’t like either.
Why not also highlight that Ma not only likes but claims China? The opposition's, and Maddog's, main objection to both the KMT and the CCP policy is the false assertion that they are the single legitimate government of a single country. That is the root cause for the troubled waters in the Taiwan Strait.

Ralph also implies I'm somehow on the DPP pay roll as and advisor, which would be sweet, but it's not true.
The editorial text identifies Cox as an American-born, one-time student of Mandarin Chinese who gives advice to Taiwan’s main opposition party.
I'm flattered that Mr. Jennings keeps both myself and Tim Maddog on his mind.

Finally, after having read others' comments on this blog and at Taiwan Matters, I have decided the DPP referendum on holding a referendum for the ECFA really is stupid after all, if only because a successful referendum boycott could be billed as an ECFA endorsement. The referendum should have been worded so that if it failed to pass, the result would look like a rejection of the ECFA.

Jun 15, 2009

ECFA referendum efforts

The DPP has more or less settled on the following wording:


Do you agree that the government ought to put an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China to a referendum before the Taiwanese people?
I think it will do, but time is short and a failure to pass the referendum would be pretty demoralizing. Expect another boycott by the KMT, which will argue a referendum is unnecessary.


An opinion piece I wrote for the Liberty Times was published in full today (Sunday). The article was composed in Chinese, but I will provide an English translation below. It represents the bulk of my national policy advise to the DPP; it does not touch upon my advice on other strategic matters, such as contesting local lizhang and city council level elections more vigorously.

I am from Texas. Beginning in 1998, my second year of high school, I began to study Mandarin and pay more attention to articles and books about Taiwan. Before long I had a deeper understanding of the Taiwanese struggle for freedom and self-determination. Since that time, over a ten year period, i have constantly upheld the basic principle that Taiwanese people have a right to determine their own future. Whether in Taiwan or the United States, I have demonstrated through action my commitment to the importance and legitimacy of Taiwanese self-determination.

The collapse of the DPP over the last year has been heart wrenching. This setback is not a result of the DPP's core values, but rather of how it promotes its political goals.

At the present, the DPP legislative caucus resorts to daily press conferences in order to thrash KMT policies using less than civil language. Although the party is also pressing ahead with good policies, the populace does not see them. Too many people believe the DPP is only capable of opposing every single KMT policy. This phenomenon has resulted in an inability of the party to attract swing voters. The DPP must on a daily basis promote a reasonable and constructive platform, as it did in the past.I suggest something along the lines of the following:

Deepening Democracy: Amend the Assembly and Parade Law and referendum law; promote "sunshine bills;" reform the single member district, two vote leglislative election system to create a legislature where party affiliations more closely reflect the percentage breakdown of votes (the German system would be a good model).

Economic progress: Support the signing of free trade agreements with the US, Japan, Singapore, and Korea; call for transparency of the ECFA negotiation process; encourage a high-tech shift in all economic sectors; promote continuing and adult education; improve water quality in all areas; strengthening environmental laws.

Protecting sovereignty: Express willingness to enter into negotiations with China with no preconditions; affirm the reality of "one side, one country;" support the right of the Taiwanese people to decide their future by referendum.

The above platform is largely in line with principles championed by the DPP. But the party must consolidate constructive and attractive concrete policies and present them to the people on a daily basis in order to convince swing voters that the DPP is worthy of their support.

Cross posted to Taiwan Matters!

Jun 12, 2009

Some changes to the mother tongue education program in Taiwan which I imagine will make it even more ineffective than it is now ...

Jun 11, 2009

Mainland: we can talk about writing system

The mainland makes a non-committal but favorable response to the now retracted call in Taiwan to come to a writing system consensus on both sides of the strait.

What's all the fuss about?

The Taipei Times is reporting that KMT chairman Wu Po-hsiung is bowing out to let Ma run for party chairmanship, though rumors have been flying that Wu was less than happy with Ma's decision to run and even questioned why he wanted the office.

Taiwan Echo has already covered Ma Ying-jeou's complete reversal on this matter, as before the election he promised not to ever run for party chair while president. But I am reminded that this is not the first time we've seen this debate play out.

Former president Chen Shui-bian promised too, before his first term, to avoid all political party activities including taking the chairmanship; that decision was reversed on July 14, 2002. At that time, the green media was sympathetic to the DPP that this move would help the party govern better and consolidate policy. The DPP even altered its rules at that time to ensure the president would be an automatic party chairman during times the DPP had executive power. Chen left the post after the failure to secure a pan-green majority in the 2004 Legislative Yuan election.

Just as the green media supported Chen's decision to become party chair in 2002 and is now spreading ominous warnings about Ma will bring back the party-state (just check out Liberty Times editorials from earlier this week), you would not be surprised to learn that blue media today is 100% supportive of Ma's decision to take over the party chairmanship, while in 2002 they attacked Chen's reversal as "a new path a-kin to the Chinese Communist Party," an inability to separate party and government and a move toward dictatorship. (the links above, by the way, show the double standards used by blue papers then and now; unfortunately it is tougher to find comparable archives online from green-leaning papers from July 2002).

Knowing the media is too infatuated with their own party identity to give us a reasonable analysis of this issue, what are we to make of it? Does having a president who is also his party's chairman help or hurt the country? Does it help or hurt his party? Does it even matter?

I myself am theoretically in that last camp, and believe the president has tremendous influence even when he is not head of his party. At the same time, in a "hard party" based on the Leninist organizational model like the KMT, I can see why President Ma would want to control the chairmanship to give him power to suppress or diffuse dissent from within his own ranks -- and I can see why that is so scary to so many of us that don't trust the KMT.

But at the end of the day, I still feel this uproar is much ado about nothing. I don't see Ma's taking this office as consequential to party or domestic affairs.

The real different will be that in the future, Ma Ying-jeou and not Wu Po-hsiung will meet with CCP leader Hu Jintao. That will probably not actually change any of the practical outcomes of KMT-CCP discussions, but it will provide a different level of symbolism for those meetings.

Cross-posted to Taiwan Matters!

Jun 10, 2009

character retreat

In the wake of a media revolt against Ma's call for printing in traditional and writing in simplified characters to bridge the cross-strait writing gap, the presidential office has clarified [completely altered] Ma's statement by saying the comment was really directed at mainland Chinese people, not people in Taiwan.

Jun 9, 2009


As has pointed out, President Ma Ying-jeou is now championing a compromise to unify the writing systems of Taiwan and China, effectively suggesting people on both sides learn to read traditional though perhaps write in simplified script.

Frankly this idea of teaching both systems is long over due: the saddest thing about the simplification process was that it actually made Chinese more complicated by requiring readers to know two forms of what would otherwise be one character in order to be fully literate.

At the same time, people seem to guess pretty well without formal training on either side of the strait. And this is not the kind of policy that requires reciprocal action to implement either!

This will probably go somewhere eventually -- the Chinese are planning a partial re-traditionalization of their writing system anyway, which could make compromise easier -- but dont' expect this to be a high priority.

Jun 6, 2009


Recently I've been checking out a book called An Investigation of Security in the Taiwan Strait (台海安全考察) by scholar Li Peng (李鵬), who was at Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute. The 2005 work would be seemingly outdated, except it is apparently spot on in a couple of key observations.

I would call your attention to two paragraphs near the end of this book, where options for resolving the cross-strait 'problem' are outlined. One of the two outlined solution gains the author's grudging acceptance as a potentially workable plan.

In January 1998, [American scholar] Kenneth Lieberthal (李侃如) suggested that the two sides of the strait sign an interim agreement that would remain unaltered for 50 years, creating a comprehensive political framework that would normalize development in cross strait relations under the One China principle and guarantee 50 years of peaceful stability in the Taiwan Strait. Under this framework, Taiwan would not seek de jure independence and would acknowledge it is part of China; the mainland would promise not to use force against Taiwan; before unification, both sides would be responsible for both their own internal affairs and foreign policies, subject to limitations set forth in the agreement; and both sides would use different terminology to reduce tensions. The PRC could call itself China, the "ROC" could call itself "Taiwan, China," and both sides could try using the term "Greater China" or other similar language.

I will note that the outline above closely mirrors the direction we seem to be going in now. Ma has announced a détente in foreign affairs, which has for the most part been reciprocated by China. Taiwan has agreed it is part of one China, and Ma's core policy for cross-strait relations is "no unification, no independence, no use of force." Hu Jintao is referring to the upcoming peace agreement as a way to settle the political relations "in this special period before unification." Ma has used terms like "let the next generation decide" and even raised the 50 year time table before, though he is not overly attached to that time frame. All this has been covered extensively on this blog even in just the last couple of weeks. So it seems that it is a plan like this which has become the consensus for how to proceed.

On to what I think is the key part of the other interesting paragraph.
In the 2004 version of his plan [which also suggests China clearly define what constitutes independence and suggests international recognition as the standard], Lieberthal emphasizes that both sides of the strait can use their own language. He says "China can continue to uphold the One China principle, but must renounce the use of force; Taiwan can also continue to emphasize the reality of the sovereign independence of the ROC, but give up seeking de jure independence." To some degree this sort of silent acknowledgment of "actual independence" would be very difficult for the Chinese mainland to accept. Secondly, setting international recognition as the standard for what constitutes "independence" would be difficult for either side of the strait to accept. If the Taiwan authorities openly declare independence, but the international community fails to recognize it, the most we could say is that their declaration had been void; we could not lie to ourselves and others by claiming that Taiwan was not implementing an actual splittist policy of Taiwanese independence. If the Chinese government sat by and did nothing, it would be an excuse for Taiwanese authorities to bellow on about "actual independence" or silent mainland recognition of "Taiwan independence...."
Well, this is also certainly true. China still maintains there is no ROC, but at this point they don't really care if Taiwan talks about the ROC as long as they agree to the One China principle at the same time.

So, while there's no startling revelations here, it really does bolster the idea that all of these moves have been part of a coordinated plan to come to an interim agreement, which will be labeled a peace agreement, and which China will really, really want [read: insist] to include a phrase like "during this period before unification."

Now for the question I struggle with and which will inevitably become the debate when the peace agreement is presented: is such an agreement really so bad? Is 50 years of peace and self-administration worth a trade off of just saying we're part of China? Will it really mean the end of Taiwanese independence potential?

I suppose there are two points worth mentioning before trying to come to a conclusion. The first is that the Taiwanese public is about equally averse to drawing Chinese ire with a formal independence declaration as they are to subjecting themselves to Chinese administration; but on everything in the middle, there's probably room to shift public opinion from the current "We're already independent" to "we're a special region of China that rules ourselves." At the same time, we must remember how such an agreement would change the defense, international and domestic education formula.

Second is that, as Rank reminded me in a chat with me the other day, the Taiwanese public will be perfectly willing to elect the KMT to extract maximum concessions from the CCP, and then willingly turn on a dime to elect the opposition if they felt their freedoms or security were in danger.

So is such an agreement worth the price? I doubt it, and I can't see the CCP ultimately accepting anything short of one country, two systems. But this sort of plan just might sell. And even if it does, that doesn't mean the fat lady has sung.

Jun 5, 2009

ECFA referendum

The DPP and TSU are consolidating their efforts to prepare for a referendum on the upcoming ECFA Ma will likely sign with China by the end of the year.

The current DPP text is:

"Should the government subject economic agreements signed with the mainland China to popular referendum?" [whoops! Thanks for the correction commenters, not sure how such things could slip into my head...]
While the TSU is planning to go with:
"Do you believe the government should sign an ECFA with China?"
I think the DPP text is more useful in that 1) it avoids the problem of Ma changing the name or scope of the agreement, thus getting around the referendum results 2) It's asking people should later approve by referendum the full text of the final agreement (the details of which are still mostly opaque; no drafts have been presented).

This conveniently places the DPP in a moderate position 'of advocating for a referendum on economic agreements with China in principle, as South American countries have done for free trade agreements involving the Western Hemisphere ; the DPP is not using this referendum to shoot down the ECFA directly, at least not yet.

My hope is that the final text agreed upon by the TSU and DPP is essentially identical to the DPP version. There should probably be an ultimate decision by next Wed.

Jun 4, 2009


I guess KMT legislature Wu Yu-Sheng (吳育昇) never heard of it. Other than that, reasonably interesting discussion.

Ma on Tiananmen

Today Ma made his statement on Tiananmen square. (English here). One paragraph is just bullshit, considering the political rights situation is worse than it was twenty years ago:

Over the past decade, the mainland authorities have paid greater attention to human rights than before. China has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In addition, it has published a series of white papers on human rights, and just this past April took an even more concrete step forward by formally adopting the National Human Rights Action Plan of China. The Action Plan has received mixed reviews from the international community, but the mere fact that they took this step is a clear signal that the mainland authorities are now willing to directly address the issue of human rights. This shows a robust openness and confidence on their part, the likes of which we have not seen from them in the past.

Other than that, the speech is largely a rehash of Taiwan's own transition to democracy with the clear nod to Chiang Ching-kuo's vision of a democratic Taiwan making the mainland prosperous and democratic before unification. There's plenty of references to improved cross-strait relations, as well, and finally a shout out to the Zhonghua Minzu.

Really, not much to see here. I heard one blue voter express some disappointment in the speech, and I know it hasn't made the Tiananmen leaders in exile here happy, but I think most people expected something about like this. It has been 20 years, after all, and this is a topic not fresh in most people's minds.

Jun 3, 2009


Looks like I got the NCC story wrong. Look here for better guidance on what happened and what the KMT plans to do about it

China Times Group blasts NCC on TV station ruling

KMT’s Tsai proposes exit bills

Hu makes no secret of agenda

Following the meeting between KMT chairman Wu Po-hsiung and CCP chairman Hu Jintao, Chinese media has made a large deal of two particular formulations: first is Hu's new 'six ideas' and second is a five point consensus reached during the meeting, a consensus Liberty Times said the KMT really had no idea existed until reports on it surfaced.

What is the five point consensus?

第一,双方都表示要继续推动落实“两岸和平发展共同愿景”,不断促进两岸关系和平发展; 第二,都认为要维护反对“台独”、坚持“九二共识”的共同政治基础,不断增强和深化互信;第三,都强调要加强两岸经济合作,尽快商谈两岸经济合作协议,以 利建立两岸经济合作机制;第四,都赞同要积极促进两岸文化教育交流,举办以文教交流为主题的两岸经贸文化论坛,开始探讨协商两岸文化教育交流协议;第五, 都主张两岸在涉外事务中避免不必要的内耗,增进中华民族整体利益。

First, both sides expressed their intent to continue to implement their common wish for peaceful cross-strait development and would constantly work to improve peaceful cross-strait relations. Second, both sides will guard against "Taiwanese independence" while strongly upholding the common political foundation of the '92 concensus, in order to constantly improve and deepen mutual trust. Third, both sides emphasized their intent to strengthen cross-strait economic cooperation, to quickly sign a cross strait economic cooperation agreement, and to establish mechanisms for cross-strait economic cooperation. Fourth, both sides agreed to actively promote cross-strait cultural and educational exchanges, to hold economic and cultural forums that focus on those exchanges, and to discuss how to come to an agreement on cross-striat cultural and economic exchanges. Fifth, both sides support avoiding 'bad news' when it comes to foreign matters in order to promote the interests of the Zhonghua Minzu [A-gu: probably a reference to Ma's détente with China in seeking allies].
Well, not a lot of new information there. What about the six ideas?
 第一,关于增进两岸政治互信。去年5月以来,两岸双方在反对“台独”、坚持“九二共识 ”的基础上建立了互信,从而推动解决了两岸关系中一系列复杂问题。考虑到今后两岸关系的发展前景,包括需要逐步破解一些政治难题,巩固和增进双方的政治互 信尤为重要。坚持大陆和台湾同属一个中国是关键所在。

The first deals with strengthening cross-strait political trust. .. [opposing TI, supporting the 92 consensus, etc]... Strongly supporting the idea that Taiwan and China both belong to one China is vital.

  第二,关于两岸经济合作。今后一个时期仍然要把全面加强两岸经济合作作为重点, 当前最突出的任务是共同应对国际金融危机冲击。考虑到两岸同胞是一家人,我们采取了一些实际措施同你们共克时艰。今后,如果形势需要,我们还会继续这样 做。签定两岸经济合作协议,关键是协议内容要有利于两岸经济共同发展、两岸同胞福祉增进,有利于建立具有两岸特色的经济合作机制。双方应该共同推进商签协 议准备工作,争取今年下半年谈起来。

The second deals with economic cooperation... [Cooperation good, dealing with current financial crisis]... Keeping in mind that comrades on both sides of the strait belong to the same family, we are choosing a practical method to get through these hard times together. Afterwards, if circumstances require, we will continue to help... [Economic agreement good for both sides, get ECFA done by end of year].


The third deals with economic and cultural exchanges. [Important, helps heal wounds
....] Both sides should promote Chinese culture together, strengthen identity with Chinese culture and with the Zhonghua Minzu.

   第四,关于涉外事务。几天前,中华台北卫生署应邀派出人员作为观察员参加了今年的世界卫生大会。这表明,两岸中国人有能力、有智慧妥善解决台湾参与国际 组织活动问题,也表明我们促进两岸关系和平发展的诚意。我们希望,这有利于增进台湾同胞对大陆的了解,有利于两岸关系和平发展。

The fourth deals with foreign affairs... [WHA observer status breakthrough great, demonstrates Chinese good will]... We hope that this helps the Taiwanese compatriots better understand the mainland and contributes to peaceful cross-strait development.

  第 五,关于结束两岸敌对状态、达成和平协议。促进正式结束两岸敌对状态、达成和平协议,是“两岸和平发展共同愿景”提出的目标,已经成为两岸双方的重要主 张。我们提出,两岸可以就国家尚未统一的特殊情况下的政治关系问题、建立两岸军事安全互信机制问题进行务实探讨,表明了我们解决问题的积极思考。两岸协商 总体上还是要先易后难、先经后政、把握节奏、循序渐进,但双方要为解决这些问题进行准备、创造条件。双方可以先由初级形式开始接触,积累经验,以逐步破解 难题。

The fifth deals with the cross-strait tension and seeking a peace agreement. Putting a formal end to hostilities and reaching a peace agreement is the common aspiration for peaceful cross-strait development and has already become an important principle of both sides. We would point out that both sides can discuss how political relations should be handled in this special circumstance preceding national unification, can debate how to establish a confidence building on military affairs, and express our thoughts on how to solve these problems. We still need to deal with cross-strait agreements by dealing with the easy ones first. First economics, then politics...

  第六,关于国共两党交流对话。国共两党交流对话特别是高层交往对保持两岸关系发展势头具有不可替代的重要作用。国共论坛是一个 成功的论坛,应该继续办下去,而且要越办越好。同时,两岸关系发展需要两岸广大同胞特别是基层民众参与。两岸各界举办的海峡论坛,突出了两岸民众的参与和 互动。

The sixth deals with KMT-CCP dialogue and exchanges... [It's been important so far, we should continue, and improve communication. Need to bring in common people to participate. Need more exchanges between people on both sides.]
There you have it! Now time to get back to work. Remember, try to ignore all these things coming out of the CCP's mouth if you want to pretend they're not going to push for unification.

I make special note of the wording "this special circumstance preceding national unification," because you can bet your bottom dollar that the CCP will want that sentence in the peace agreement, even if exactly when and how the unification is to be achieved is not specified.

I speculate Ma will re-activate the National Unification Council sometime before that. Before the signing of the peace agreement, expect a further emphasis that the Council's guidelines will still be used to determine when unification is possible (namely, once China has democratized and gotten as rich as Taiwan). And finally, I imagine the CCP will ask for revisions to those guidelines a few years later.

I know that I write on the cross-strait relationship so frequently I'm starting to sound like a skipping CD. But there is a reason it is so prominent a topic here: it is the only seriously contentious political issue in Taiwan, and Taiwanese politics are the focus here.

Take some of the controversies you see in the US and compare them to how people react here. Abortion? Sure, occasional protests, but really nothing at all. Virtually everyone is comfortable with legal abortions. Guns? Bad. Social health care? Great. Public schooling? Needs constant reform, but no partisan divide on how to do it. Military spending? Everyone promises 3% of GDP even if they don't deliver. Welfare? What little there is is good spending. Government funded construction? Pour the concrete. Bail outs? Bring them on. Foreign interventionism or reform of the criminal code? Are you kidding?

The truth is that aside from the independence issue, people here are very much in agreement about how they want the country run -- more or less as it is now, but with no corruption and greater competence. No drama. Just let us get on with our very free lives.

Feel free to contend with my analysis in comments! But I just wanted to explain my seeming obsession with the handful of topics that even enter the sphere of public debate here.

Jun 2, 2009


The MOE continues to work on standardizing Hakka:


Foreign media round up

With Michael Turton's recent blogging break announced, it's important to bring in some foreign media pieces.

Bloomberg: Chinese TV Makers to Double Purchases From Taiwan

Chinese television-set makers may buy $4.4 billion of components from Taiwan this year, double the original plan, to meet TV demand in the mainland, said Bai Weimin, secretary general of China Video Industry Association.
AP: China sends large group to buy Taiwanese goods

Chinese leaders have pledged to help the island counter its recent economic slump. Taiwan's economy contracted by a record 10.2 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier as foreign demand fell sharply amid the global economic slowdown.

Xinhua: Chinese mainland delegation on procurement spree in Taiwan

This marked a substantial step by the mainland to help boost investment in Taiwan and the purchase of Taiwan products, proposed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in April, Li said.

But please remember, this is just economics at work, nothing political to see here, please move on.

Speaking of the ECFA, check out Terry Crooke's aritcl ein the Asia Times where he sees the ECFA as a stepping stone both for Taiwanese plans to expand into regional agreements.

More confusing still

At the El Salvador presidential inauguration ceremony which President Ma Ying-jeou was attending, he ran into Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and introduced himself as "President of Taiwan." This seemed almost like an intentional contrast to Wu Po-hsiung's mention of daonei while in China.

But, Ma clarified his introduction during a tea session with reporters, whenever he says "President of Taiwan," he means "President of the Republic of China," certainly not "President of the Republic of Taiwan."

Well, fair enough if you think, like A-bian did, that Taiwan = the ROC, a position Ma may or may not have endorsed at some point, depending on how you interpret that famous pre-election statement, 台灣就是中華民國.

So to wrap up what we've learned by carefully watching KMT statements before and after the election last year, the KMT position is:

  1. Taiwan and the Chinese mainland are both parts of the Republic of China, a fact that the constitution mandates -- neither independence or unification are possible without constitutional amendments. So Taiwan is not a country.
  2. Still, thanks to doublethink, "Nobody thinks Taiwan isn't a country."
  3. Taiwan's sovereignty belongs to the ROC, and the ROC's sovereignty belongs to all of the ROC citizens. Therefore Taiwan's sovereignty belongs to the people on both sides of the Taiwan strait.
  4. However, the future of cross-strait relations should be decided "on the Taiwan side" by the Taiwanese people through referendum, but not until a generation from now.
  5. But first, Taiwan and China should sign a peace agreement in Ma's first term. Scratch that, make it the theoretical second term.
What to make of the shifts which one commenter on this blog accurately called a "merry-go-round" of policy statements? I doubt Ma is confused about his position on this -- he's merely trying to pander to both the CCP and the Taiwan electorate, who hold incompatible positions, because he needs both of their support to have a chance at re-election or legacy.

And -- if Taiwan's military becomes an otherwise worthless paycheck factory, if the economy becomes fully dependent on China, if countries like Japan and the US write off Taiwan, all while Beijing refuses to renounce the use of force and openly maintains the goal of unifying under the one country, two systems formula sooner rather than later-- does it matter what the Taiwan government's position is? Would China stop short of simply demanding compliance with their preferred terms for unification? All signs suggest making such a demand wouldn't bother them a bit.

Well that answers that

It appears someone did ask the critical question on what constitutes the status quo some time ago, and it happens to have been the pro-KMT China Times: nearly 75% of respondents told them Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country. The Survey was taken in 2007.

Now someone try to tell me the KMT is really not trying to confuse voters, or that its position squares with Taiwanese public opinion.






Round up

Three things this afternoon: First is the previously announced DPP intention to hold a referendum on the ECFA, with the first stage of signature collection to be finished by the end of July. I have been waiting for the exact wording of the referendum proposal, but even the DPP newsletter doesn't contain that information, so I can forget about finding it in the media reports. I don't think they've actually decided on the wording, which means they can't get the petition drive started yet. Brilliant.

Next, the widely despised NCC finally announced that Wantwant group cannot take over CTV and China Times as it had planned. Wantwant is not happy and will fight this. Perhaps finally, now that the NCC has angered blue politicians, the organization will be banished or significantly reformed, years after the Constitutional Court here declared the current method for choosing that body to be unconstitutional.

However, the more likely result will be mild reform that leaves the NCC responsibilities and rights more or less intact, while just changing how members are chosen. More on this topic to come, as English media has not picked it up yet.

Third, the DPP has raised a bill that would prevent Chinese government or military officials from investing in Taiwan, and lock all Chinese investors out of certain industries. The bill will be discussed during Friday's legislative session.

Jun 1, 2009

More of the same...

Update: cctang has been kind enough to provide some corrections to my rushed translation in comments.

Yesterday, Chinese Nationalist Party chairman Wu Po-hsiung gave a "Taiwan as part of China" speech at Nanjing university, just days after President Ma Ying-jeou voiced support for the right of the Taiwanese to decide questions of sovereignty by referendum.

The Liberty Times captured some of the choice gems in the speech. Let's hear some soon-to-be-classic lines, Wu!


"Taiwan has a non-mainstreem 'de-Sinicization' movement, but it was unable to succeed at the end of last year because ideology can't change [the facts of] life."
Taiwanese, not Chinese, identity is the mainstream position. Don't believe Wu's statement, which so closely resembles Chinese Communist propaganda. Remember, the latest statistics indicate that 65% of the population call themselves Taiwanese while only 11.5% Chinese and 18.1% claim both as identities.

Also, 'de-Sinicization' is a blue word (greens use things like "enhance native identity," "name rectification" and "locally-oriented" when discussing related topics).

"I will remember [correction: receiving this honorary degree] for for the rest of my life." "This honor really belongs to the incredibly brilliant Zhonghua Minzu, who feel that continued confrontation, animosity and provocation is not the correct path for cross-strait relations. I can only accept this as their representative."
If you're like me, that made you a little sick to your stomach. But there is a reason that the term Zhonghua Minzu has been so closely embraced by both KMT and CCP while discussion of the '92 consensus or other political topics: and that is because a full 60% of people believe both sides of the strait are governments established by Zhonghua Minzu, including 45% of greens. Not too far off from saying 60% of people consider themselves to be part of the Zhonghua Minzu. Notice how that differs from the identification results if you use more phrases that are considered more political in Taiwan, like Zhongguoren and Taiwanren in your questions. Of course, as far as the Chinese are concerned Zhonghua Minzu = Zhongguoren.

So Zhonghua Minzu is the non-political tether that can hold Taiwan to China, the thing both sides can make claim to and that has majority support in Taiwan. Which is badly needed, especially since the last MAC opionion poll for how to decide Taiwan's future looked like this:
Maintain the 'status quo' forever: 27% (record high)
Maintain the ‘status quo’ and decide later: 35%
Maintain the ‘status quo’ and then become independent: 15.1%
Maintain the ‘status quo’ and then unify [with China]: 7.6%
Declare independence as soon as possible: 6.7%
Immediate unification with China: 1.2%
(No response: 7.4%)
And 82% percent of people oppose China's "one country, two systems" model.

Last quote from Wu:


Regarding cross-strait relations, Wu pointed out that the next last year of developing those relations was crucial and fraught with difficulty, but "As long as we want to work through it we can," and by applying wisdom both sides would know where to go.

Although there are a great many problems in the cross-strait relationship that cannot be fixed in the short term, those disputes can wisely be set aside, the two sides could find common interests despite their difficulties. "Both sides have the common affection of a people whose foundations are build on blood and common descent from the Yellow Emperor, not to mention a common culture."

I won't argue much on the cultural front (even though Wu's phrasing is just meant to fit into a political narrative), but the purely racist language used here is neither entirely accurate nor acceptable.