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Dec 28, 2011

Pressure on Tsai to name non-'92 consensus policy

The Taiwan blue media (plus Apple Daily), as well as a pro-China outlet, are stepping up the pressure on Tsai Ing-wen tot explain what sort of policy she can adopt to replace the "proven" '92 consensus and prevent relations from "deteriorating." Naturally, this analysis ignores that China intentionally deteriorates relations anytime they don't get what they want, which in this case is an admission that Taiwan is part of the same country as the PRC.

Apple Daily publishes a piece by Professor Chu Yan-gui (朱言貴), who not only intentionally misidentifies the US Taiwan policy as adhering to the "One China Principle" but also mislabels "One China, two interpretations" as a policy China has adopted. But the author raises another point: just as the DPP can't give up the principle of Taiwan's "independence" [even while the real policy is self-determination], China can't give up "One China," so obviously... only the KMT can work around this problem and maintain peace and stability. This analysis  ignores that China alone causes tensions, and that there was plenty of peace under Chen Shui-bian's administration. Calls to war are one-sided. The editorial fails to lay blame where it lies and also fails to admit that there can be plenty of peaceful progress without the One China principal, as there was under Chen. This progress need not sacrifice Taiwan's sovereignty.

The United Daily News asks similar questions in a signed editorial, but I found this passage most pointed:
The one character difference between "Chinese Taipei" with a national reference, as China uses and "Chinese Taipei" with a cultural reference as Taiwan uses has tortured cross-strait relations for 20 or 30 years, and that is a topic that our government disputes as it ought to.  The '92 consensus of "One China, two interpretations," involved retreating one step but advancing ten; only with this could the two sides implement the three links or sign the ECFA, and this is an example of retreating when appropriate. Stating that both sides of the strait belong to One China, or that the two sides belong to the same Zhonghua Minzu is also retreating one step to advance ten. Chinese Culture is a cultural and historical concept, not a political label.  
How does this paragraph at once acknowledge the Ma government's acceptance of Taiwan and China being the same country, and down play this threat down in favor of an entirely different "cultural and historical" model? I posit they aim to confuse the distinction, bolstering support for a political "same country" policy by trying to graft feelings people have about culture onto that "same country" model.

China Review News goes further, suggesting that the DPP hopes to identify "peace" with "unification" in order to frighten people onto the road of "independence." Their obvious conclusion, of course, is that Taiwanese Independence obviously means (to the DPP!) a lack of peace and a state of war. This nonsense needs no further elaboration on my part.

A fair question all these articles raise -- has Tsai answered these questions to the satisfaction of the electorate? Do people care enough about cross-strait policy, and if they do, will the medium voter be swayed to Tsai's side or be scared off?

We'll see. 

Dec 26, 2011

Tsai supports TSU

Just saw this! Tsai Ing-wen is openly inviting DPP-sympathetic voters to give their at large votes the the TSU. I guess Tsai imagines that the party hardcore will stick with the DPP while "independents" might be attracted to Lee Teng-hui's part. More substantially, maybe she's hoping that if any one party breaks the 5% threshold, it better be the TSU.

 與民進黨守護台灣 小英︰盼台聯過5%

Not sure how politically astute this suggestion is in the long run, but perhaps she's just throwing a dog a bone without any expectation that voters will change their minds and DPP strength will remain as strong as it could get anyway.

I'm a bit surprised and am not sure of the political implications, but quite pleased (emotionally) with this move. 

Dec 19, 2011

CNA is So Not All That

I checked Weibo for hits related to the Taiwan election debate, and found some interest but few overwhelmingly positive reviews. Most people felt the debates were dry or politically correct  Others said it was basically interesting, and most expressing any preference said they liked Soong's performance.

But Taiwan's Central News Agency, already plagued with image problems due to KMT interference in their operations, put out a propaganda piece instead about how the "mainland" people wish they could have exactly this sort of debate!

Frankly, it looks like CNA knew the article they wanted for their preconceived headline, and sought out posts that would fit their thesis.  I don't think that's good journalism.

The sloppiness doesn't start there, of course; check out CNA's recent headline "Scholarly World Supports Ma," which is really about a pro-Ma group of scholars forming their pro-Ma organization.

One of my favorite websites is NewsRumble, which contrasts news (mostly editorials) from the same paper before and after Ma's election. Mostly it's to show how these papers act as attack dogs and shields for the KMT.  NewsRumble doesn't update too frequently, and they've more or less run the gamut on most issues by now (you know, who's fault the bad economy is and so on). But I still check in every now and then for the giggles. 

Dec 17, 2011

I'll believe it when I see it

I was surprised by Su Jia-chyuan's comment about the DPP's plans to classify Hakka, Holo Taiwanese and aboriginal languages into 'national languages' if elected.

I was always thrilled about how much the DPP did much to advance the treatment of these previously repressed languages (a policy which, by the way, the KMT did continue by developing input methods for both Holo Taiwanese and Hakka). And the DPP not only established the Hakka television station but also made Holo Taiwanese respectable in public settings in a way the KMT never did.

Still,  I can't see how the DPP's latest gesture is much more than lip service.

I've often contended you can't revive Hakka and Holo Taiwanese by making them an elective class kids take twice a week. You can't even do it by making it a mandatory class  for every year of students'  education. The only way to make people competently fluent again is to force them to use it in a wide array of situations. The best way to do this would be to teach one or two core subjects in a non-Mandarin language every year -- and rotate that so that kids are exposed to all core subjects in multiple languages over the course of their education. I don't see how else you solve the problem of these languages disappearing.  And this argument of mine, rather well founded in the experiences of other multilingual countries, is universally rejected in Taiwan. So either I'm completely wrong or everyone else is blind.

Some people don't even realize these languages are disappearing, and for no language is this more true than Holo Taiwanese . Native Holo Taiwanese speakers in their thirties will laugh at the idea of Holo Taiwanese disappearing, because they still speak it all the time -- all while their own children forget how to speak after their first weeks in kindergarten. And to make matters worse, they're largely indifferent to the loss of their mother tongue. "Eh, it won't help you make money," seems to be the most common sentiment. Is money the point of life, of education, of culture? Golden calf, anyone?

In any case, we'll see just how much more the DPP is willing to strengthen Hakka, Holo and aboriginal languages. We already have the television networks for Hakka and aboriginal languages; how much farther will they go? My guess is they won't manage to make more than the most shallow, symbolic gesture. And that pains me greatly. 

Dec 5, 2011

Ma's muddling of identity

Forget that Ma Ying-jeou is trying to have it both ways, calling Taiwan a "country" for the first time to gain political points, while at the same time maintaining an official policy that relegates Taiwan to one of many provinces of China.

The President himself made one mistake and one telling claim when explaining how using "Taiwan" as a moniker for the ROC mirrors international practices.

Ma noted that the Netherlands is often known as Holland abroad. It's true that English speakers use the Netherlands and Holland interchangeably; not so much the Dutch themselves. The provinces of North and South Holland account for two of that country's twelve provinces, so this is a case of pars pro toto, whereby foreigners who don't know much better take the two terms to mean the same thing. Actually, this is a very apt analogy, as Ma is trying to get people to think he's equating Taiwan with the ROC when he's really claiming Taiwan is but a small part of the ROC (which for him, includes Hong Kong, China, and parts of neighboring countries).

Ma then incorrectly formulates that England = Great Britain = United Kingdom, when in fact these are each distinct political entities. I'm sure you can look that one up yourself if you're not clear on the distinctions.

Actually for me I guess the biggest surprise was just seeing the Want Daily's news articles linked on Taiwan's Yahoo! News. That's a new development for me. As far as I know, they are not printing but just web posting (their print paper is the China Times). Their slogan of "Taiwan First, Best [paper] on Either Side of the Strait" says all you need to know about their focus. 

Dec 3, 2011

Oddly enough....

I think Soong is winning the debate. 

Nov 22, 2011


Ha! Now that Ma has sued the DPP, and the KMT has sued Next Weekly, how could this story possibly play out to the KMT's advantage? They'll be attacked from all angles now -- press freedom, freedom of speech, and of course the fundamental question about why Ma was meeting a well-known bookie ever -- and how can this possibly work out in their favor?

Desperation, I suppose. Perhaps they really are more scared than they'd like to appear.

On a side note, we've seen very little coverage of the legislative election, as others have noted, which is a function of a few things. One that gets little attention is the general lack of local news coverage of Taiwan. Almost all news is completely nationalized; news from Taipei completely dominates, with the South getting the short end of the stick unless there's a scandal or great food.

So since there are no real newspapers or media serving any single district, and with Taiwan's ultra-competitive eight cable news station, 24-hour news cycle, how can a station justify covering those individual races unless there's something scandalous enough to interest the entire country? 

Another factor is that legislators are campaigning on the ground very hard, but in all the traditional ways -- visiting temples, sending trucks around, going to night markets, handing out things on street corners. And the media simply doesn't send the resources to cover these campaigns in a comprehensive way. It would be a lot of work, and basically, there's not enough money for that. The media instead follow party headquarters' announced schedules. They leave Taipei when the presidential candidates leave, for the most part, and they don't have the money to cover the local races.

Actually this is a big chance for a coordinated blogosphere effort to step in and make the coverage others can't. The traditional media could even lead the charge, if they had the sense, and do iReport style election coverage for these local races. Instead, what we see is brief biographies of legislative candidates of major news aggregation sites (mostly Yahoo, Yam a distant second), and whatever news related to their race that manages to make it into the national spotlight as links underneath. 

Probably not, but

Think there's any chance Sissy is telling the truth or has inside info on this


Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) is not the only guy who looks like he's mixing governmental duties and election stuff related to the ROC 100 celebrations.

As evidence, enjoy these scans from a pamphlet I picked up from the Houston ROC 100 event. These pamphlets were distributed for free by the TECO table.  Click to enlarge.  They avoid being *too* overtly political, but lots of Ma butt kissing going on here. 


Nov 21, 2011

This cookie doesn't crumble

I love how Tsai pushes back under criticism. In this case, she's responding to Ma's  recent comments:
In an interview with ETTV, Ma defended his integrity and said he did not meet with [Bookie] Chen on Sept. 10 during a campaign visit to Chiayi. 
“The magazine made a false accusation and the DPP jumped on the bandwagon to spread the rumors. This is a vicious culture,” he said.

And in a related article:
“The foreign press has described Tsai as a Robin Hood-like heroine, but to my understanding Robin Hood should fight for justice, rather than spread rumors and set up decent people,” Ma said on Saturday.
Tsai's response?
On the evening of the 19th, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen expressed that Ma Ying-jeou had seen a person he shouldn't see [A-gu: the bookie Chen Ying-chu, who Ma admits to meeting, just not on the dates Next accused him of] and that when society suspected Ma for this behavior, Ma surprisingly attacked Tsai herself for spreading rumors and libel... 

Gotta give to her, she's a tough but warm, calm and collected cookie. 

Nov 19, 2011

Pretty sure Soong just destroyed his candidacy

As the 10/18 episode of 2100 pointed out to me tonight, Soong stated he's a guy from Henan Province working in Taiwan, and what's the problem with that?

Expect this to appear in the blue media especially again and again as the election approaches. The 2100 guests were universally derisive of his stance, ignoring the compatibility of that stance with KMT dogma. 

Damn, I never see that banana peel.

Just a month ago, [Eng | Ch], President Ma was defending his plans to increase the farmers' monthly farm subsidy by a measly NT$316 (US$10.47) over the current NT$6,000 subsidy.

The one thing you couldn't say about this plan was that it amounted to vote buying. It was more of an insult.

The DPP plan, by contrast, was for an NT$1,000 dollar increase (to a total of $7,000 per month), while some KMT legislators were calling for as much as $10,000 a month total subsidy.

Back in October, Ma made an excellent point:
The good point of systematizing the farm subsidy system is that it will prevent a populist bidding war every time an election approaches. To avoid the care of old farmers becoming a competition or a weapon between both parties is more fair and reasonable to the farmers, looking at it from the perspective of social justice.  
Ma changes his mind today, adopting the DPP plan of an NT$1,000 increase in the subsidy, probably under intense pressure from the KMT legislative caucus and local faction networks. As Ma put it,

Ma said he decided to call for a meeting to discuss the issue on Thursday night after meeting with Taiwan Organization for Disadvantaged Patients secretary-general Yang Yu-xing (楊玉欣) and other civic groups earlier that day to talk about subsidy programs for civic groups.
“They told me that many social welfare subsidies haven’t been adjusted for 10 to 18 years and suggested that the government should make up for the shortfall, so that the systemized subsidy programs would help more people, and they persuaded me of their case,” he said on the sidelines of a campaign event in Taipei City.
So the Ma campaign chooses to embarrass itself and admit being wrong rather than continue to resist massive pressure come across party lines. It's probably a better decision than leaving the $316 subsidy in place, but it shows what a bad job the KMT is doing at controlling the agenda and media focus as the election closes in. This move also helps reinforce DPP criticisms of KMT indecisiveness and incompetence.

Update: Don't forget that this "new" topic will take attention off allegations that Ma took shitloads of money from an election bookie.

Nov 17, 2011

Next Magazine right for once?

Too early to say. Obviously, the rag Next Magazine is not exactly a bastion of accuracy, but they recently had an article saying President Ma Ying-jeou had a recent secret meeting with Gambling Kingpin Chen Ying-chu (陳盈助) in Chiayi on Sept. 10 and asked for a huge donation.  "According to the magazine, Chen is allegedly in charge of major underground betting activities on local elections." Read the Taipei Times coverage here.

I wouldn't have paid this story any mind at all except that Ma's office has released his schedule from Sept 10th as evidence there was no such secret meeting. Unfortunately for Ma, scrutiny of that list quickly revealed a potentially weak alibi. You can find reports in September newspapers about everything on Ma's schedule that day except for a two and a half hour "symposium with scholars" 「學者座談會」. That is to say, no media knew about the symposium; Ma will probably be asked at this point to point out who was there, what they talked about, etc.

I would have to suggest that Ma's image as a "clean" politician will require some real proof to change, but a political donation would be more believable to most than directly lining his own pockets. It's hard to say what kind of scandal this could become, but related stories are quite hot right now on the site.

Nov 16, 2011


In case you have any lingering suspicions  about the Chinese definition of the '92 consensus, Politburo Standing Committee member Jia Qinglin (贾庆林) reminds us yet again in a story covered solidly by blue media so far:
Jia Qinglin emphasized that pushing forward peaceful development of cross strait relations necessitates protecting four key requirements: the first is to insist that the mainland and Taiwan both belong to the same "One China" as a political foundation; the second is deepening exchanges and cooperation, with emphasis on promoting discussions and negotiations; the third is to encourage compatriots on both sides of the straight to strive in solidarity, becoming a powerful force; and fourth is to continue opposing Taiwanese Independence. These are the necessary conditions for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.

It seems China is stepping up expectations on the KMT. The second condition seems to be a threat that "talks must go on," so that when economic and cultural issues are all resolved -- aka, after the election -- then political talks must begin, if not conclude.

The third condition to me seems to be a not so veiled reference to united effort between Taiwan and China on resolving territorial disputes in the Senkaku Islands and the South China Sea. While it's been obvious for some time that China and the KMT were promoting such a policy, this is the first time I've seen China vocalize that, and certainly the first time I've seen them name it as a "necessary condition" for continued peaceful development of relations. 

The fourth condition looks almost like a repeat of the first, but there is a subtle difference: one could argue, as Frank Hsieh did in his 2004 campaign, that constitutionally, like it or not, Taiwan is claiming to legally be the rightful government of PRC territory as well as Taiwan (this is called "the constitutional One China" argument 憲法一中論). This satisfies the first condition. But like Frank Hsieh, one can hold that position and also argue that the constitution does not reflect reality and that only the Taiwanese people have a right to determine Taiwan's future. That would not meet the "requirements" of condition four.

One could suggest this is an attempt to shoot down the possibility of a DPP administration reasserting old Frankie's policy, and claiming that "yes, the constitution says we're the same country" yet at the same time staving off moves toward annexation.  A clever policy the DPP is pushing calls for amending the referendum law to require referendums on agreements with China (as they're doing now). So China may be trying to say this, too, is a "provocative" action that they will not tolerate. 

Of course ultimately, China is just staking out the most aggressive position possible so that in the event of a DPP victory, they have a stronger position from which to begin negotiations. Still, I find this development interesting. 

In other news, Ma Ying-jeou seems to be back on the "referendum before [negotiating] peace accord" train which he had seemingly jumped off of.

Nov 11, 2011

That's about right

CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets polled 1612 folks between Nov 4th and 6th that agree with other recent "within margin of error" polls which came out of the pro-KMT China Times and TVBS : in the CLSA poll, Ma was at 44.2% and Tsai at 43.1%.

Update: TVBS poll shows the same,  with Tsai "winning" by 1%. So this one's gonna be a squeaker. 

Update 2: Liberty Times poll shows the same. So  polls across party lines now agree -- Ma/Tsai support is essentially tied, with Soong getting around 10% of the vote.

Nov 4, 2011


If you speak Chinese, please see minute 19:04 through 19:35 of this video. Here, Ma stumbles over himself, saying that all decisions he makes consider the benefit to the country and the party. The host helps him get out of the problem, immediately suggesting "but the country's benefit is most important," to which Ma responds, "of course."

In some sense, there's nothing to see here; all politicians consider the benefit of their party. But it's foolish to put these things together as equally important in a public interview.

*Family Feud buzzer*

President Ma had a funny recollection while praising the '92 consensus:
Ma recalled that Harding had a meeting with former President Chen Shui-bian during a visit he made to Taiwan 11 years ago, at which time Chen said he would accept the "1992 consensus" if Beijing would also accept it.
Twenty-four hours later, however, then-Mainland Affairs Council Minister Tsai Ing-wen denied that Chen's statement represented government policy, Ma said. 

Tsai is now the opposition Democratic Progressive Party's chairwoman and presidential candidate.

According to Ma, Tsai's continued denial of the existence of the "1992 consensus" could upset the stability of cross-strait relations in the future if she is elected.
It's such a funny recollection because it's clearly false. Chinese articles on Ma's speech say Ma said the press release about this is still on the Presidential website. So let's go find it!

If you do a search for Harry Harding's name (何漢理) we get a few hits, and sure enough one of them is from 11 years ago (or even in that time range). And in that press release, we see exactly what Ma is talking about:
President Chen expressed that the new government was willing to accept the consensus previously reached between the SEF and ARATS, which is "One China, two interpretations," but that the mainland side won't acknowledge this, instead only mentioning their "One China" policy, which considers the Republic of China [Taiwan] to be a part of the People's Republic of China. The view that "One China" means "The People's Republic of China" is a viewpoint that the people of Taiwan cannot accept, and as a result it is not possible to reopen the door to negotiations, which actually is very disappointing. We hope to restart negotiations as quickly as possible, to find commonalities in our differences, and to find a definition of "One China" that both sides can accept.We have no predetermined position, and [seek] no predetermined conclusion. We are willing to shake hands & sit down to talk with the Chinese Communist leader Jiang Zemin in a situation with a flexible format, location and topics.
總統進一步表示,新政府願意接受海基、海協兩會之前會談的共識,那就是「一個中國、各自表述」,但是大陸方面卻不承認,而另外提出「一個中國」政策,認 為中華民國是中華人民共和國的一部分,所謂的「一個中國」就是中華人民共和國,這種觀點是台灣人民無法接受的,如此也導致無法重新啟開協商大門,實在令人 遺憾。我們希望儘速恢復協商,存異求同,並就「一個中國」的內容,找出雙方都可接受的涵義。我們沒有預設立場,也沒有預設結論,願意在不拘形式、地點與議 題的情況下,與中共領導人江澤民先生坐下來,握手言談。
I'm sure you can see the issue here. Because we've been through this many times before. The "92 consensus Ma defines as "One China, two interpretations" doesn't exist.  There is no mutual non-denial. The PRC flatly denies 'two interpretations.' See for yourself.  As I said back then after reading this People's Daily article:
China objects strongly to any "two interpretations" phrasing, saying that although the political content of 'One China' could be ignored, there simply was no "two interpretations" to the consensus in that November 1992 agreement (既然没有讨论,根本就没有什么“各自表述”的共识。).
Hopefully, Ma's mention of the press release on the Presidential website will help spur people with fuzzier understandings on this topic to look it up and see how he's flat out lying. I'm not so sure Ma's comments can withstand a full assault.

Oct 25, 2011

They said it better than I could

An analytical piece from My Formosa has really caught my attention. Peace Agreement news has been flying all week, because since Ma's initial proposal Monday -- where he listed three conditions for the law:

However, Ma, who is running for re-election in the Jan. 14 presidential election, said his administration would only do so if it had strong domestic support and if such a pact met the needs of the country. Any pact would have to be supervised by the legislature, he added.
-- since making that tremendously bold political move, he's managed to make a joke of his own proposal and give the DPP not only tremendous election momentum, but huge momentum for referendum law reform. 

Let me translate a couple paragraphs from the My Formosa article:

The president really ought to plan before acting on something as big as a peace agreemeent, but when Ma suddenly brought up the topic, he had left high-ranking KMT officials in the dark. Two days later [Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Chairman] Chen Yunlin [mentioned] continuing to uphold a policy of economics first, politics later, and avoided discussing the peace agreement, demonstrating Beijing had not been in on the situation. On a topic this big, a policy decision this arbitrary and peremptory obviously attracted criticism from all sides. 
More ridiculously, due to the unsatisfactory response in public opinion on the 17th and 18th, and to reassure those suspicious that he was promoting unification, Ma made a sharp turn deep in the night of the 19th, hastily putting out a press release stating there would definitely be a referendum [before the agreement]. This stunned those in the unification faction who had been thrilled with the original announcement. By the morning of the 20th, Ma realized he had been too rash, and released yet another press release, this time changing "must" have a referendum to "do not eliminate the option of a referendum."  But Chinese and Hong Kong media couldn't bear it, and began making stern warnings en masse. On the 22nd, the DPP took advantage of their position, calling for a reform of the [referendum] law such that "cross strait political agreements must be passed by referendum." Under Chinese pressure Ma again made a rapid about face, immediately responding to the DPP saying there was no need for such a change in law. The plan to hold the referendum is already stillborn.
Now that Ma's oficial stance is "there are other ways to gauge public opinion like opinion polls," you know that it wasn't going to be long for the Executive Yuan's Mainland Affairs Council to release a poll showing 80% support for peace talks. Check.  Meanwhile, despite Ma bringing the referendum topic firmly to the center of the spotlight all by himself, the KMT legislative caucus is accusing the DPP of their old Chen Shui-bian inspired trick of "using the referendum to kidnap the election." 

For those that speak Chinese/Taiwanese (find a friend who does if you don't!), watch this segment of Talking Show from the 20th. From about the 1:30 mark. It was some of my favorite commentary that night on this topic, and I watched 2100 and Talking Show just to make sure I wasn't crazy.

Oct 20, 2011

Hold on there cowboy

So Michael Turton has covered Ma's latest public push for a peace treaty pretty well. But I want to add information on the latest twist: the KMT is going to push for a referendum related to the treaty!

But they won't actually put the agreement itself to a referendum and ask people to pass it. Instead, they're going to try to hold a referendum on the concept of the peace treaty and then begin the detailed negotiations.  The administration is claiming this will satisfy the "public support" precondition that Ma attached to a peace agreement.

This strikes me as a smart political strategy -- because if you just ask "do you want peace?" without outlining actual details of the agreement, you're likely to get a positive response -- but the KMT is going to hit the road block the DPP came up against in the past of getting over 50% of voters to cast any sort of ballot on the referendum. 

The good news there is the KMT could consider revising the referendum law, although I think there would be serious reservations about handling that double-edged sword.

The other danger the KMT faces is the referendum turning out "invalid" due to lack of meeting the voter threshold. Will they argue, as they have in the past, that it constitutes the same as a rejection, a win for the "no" vote, and that for at least three years the policy can't be touched again?

The DPP will find it difficult in principle to oppose the referendum, although I doubt they'll find it difficult to boycott this one, since a boycott constitutes the most effective "no" vote.

Also, I should yell "IT'S A TRAP!" but I'll leave that to others.

Sep 21, 2011


Latest DPP survey out of the DPP English blog supports a basic contention most of the pro-green camp has been making for a long time -- that Taiwanese do not support the underlying principles of the '92 consensus; and  they believe the ROC is the same as Taiwan, not merely one of its provinces.

The survey closes with what I consider to be more leading questions about approval of Tsai's latest policy proposals, but overall I feel those first several questions probably present a very representative view of Taiwan public opinion. 


I really enjoyed this article by Will Wilkinson. 

Sep 20, 2011


「台灣共識」又是一碟空心菜 | 社論 | 意見評論 | 聯合新聞網




*Thanks anon.

Sep 16, 2011

Thoughts on Taiwan Wikileaks

One of the more interesting revelations that came out of the Wikileaks news was the split within Chinese leadership about how to react to Ma Ying-jeou's stances. Obviously, they have chosen to move ahead, but I think it's worth noting the significant reservations within China circles about Ma's policies -- ie, fears Ma's a "two China's" kind of guy, and distrust of the "no unification" marker in Ma's "three no's" policy.

Obviously, this is the best the PRC can hope for though, and they've recognized that and moved forward with negotiations. But it sheds a light on the difficulty the PRC will have internally reacting to a DPP victory.  It seems they're already at their "edge" of acceptance with Ma.

Should Tsai win, will ignoring her be adequate? Will they  cancel existing agreements? Before, I was leaning on the "they'll just whine" side, but this is a little more food for thought.

Sep 14, 2011

Tsai in Washington

Listening in live to Tsai's speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). As you would imagine, not a lot of surprises. Some notes I'm taking:

"The overarching goal with managing relations with China is to maintain a peaceful and stable environment so that the Taiwanese people can have the opportunity to develop a prosperous economy ... Ultimately, we want to ensure that the right to determine Taiwan's future rests in the hands of the people of Taiwan, and any change to the status quo must be approved by the people of Taiwan through democratic means. "

She defines the status quo as basically meaning independence, and argues that dogmatic positions are "insufficient" for dealing with China, justifying the DPP being vague on exactly how dialogue with China will continue.

"We will refrain from extreme or radical approaches," she says. We acknowledge that Beijing insists on the One China principle, "But Beijing must understand the reality that the Taiwanese people ... are opposed to a one party system and committed to upholding the independence of their sovereignty. "

"The intensity of economic ties is a reality, and China has already become Taiwan's largest investment destination and trading partner. Economic relations have evolved to an extent that interaction cannot be stopped by either side... "

"The DPP's return to government is inevitable, and hopefully it will happen sooner rather than later."

Question: When you meet with US officials how are you going to assure them that you will continue to promote peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait in the absence of the '92 consensus?

"I essentially told you them what I said today to you in this speech. There are some political preconditions that might be too fragile for the future relationship. By now people generally agree that this ['92 consensus] is a fiction... and it's not going to be a solid foundation for both parties to build a long term and broad coverage relationship. So that is why we propose the Taiwanese people need to get together and get a Taiwan consensus before we go to China and negotiate.... the best way to give a consensus a political life without being disruptive by change of government in Taiwan is through legislation. So if we have a Taiwan consensus of some sort, then we would make that a piece of legislation of Taiwan so that it will govern future governments and administrations. And then, externally, we're talking about a legal basis now, we're talking about agreements of some sort with China... this is not something unusual when you are handling an external relationship."

Re: Mutual non-denial?

"It has a risk element in it, when you're not particularly emphasizing or insisting on your sovereignty,then the international community will think that you're legally non-existent, which is a situation becoming worse and worse now with the Ma administration taking that position, Taiwan's international position is weakening. So while of course people want to have a peaceful and stable relationship across the Taiwan Strait, I want to say that we should at the same time be careful about our position international, especially our legal position since you're a lawyer."

Aug 26, 2011

One thing that's got to work in Tsai's favor...

She doesn't retreat, she pushes back. That's gotta help. 

Aug 24, 2011

Did the DPP miss the boat?

Examining today's news articles about the DPP's cross-strait platform -- that the '92 consensus doesn't exist, that they want to stick with the "Taiwan consensus," that they just want to get along under an unspecified formula -- and examining the scathing criticism from the KMT, I'm getting the impression that the KMT is going to win this propaganda war and therefore the election.

(Just before what I sense is this swing, I'd say the DPP probably had damn near a 50% chance of winning. A year ago, I would have put it only at 30%, so there has been strong improvement. But at the moment I'd project a safe 54% vote percentage for Ma).

Long ago, I started to believe that even the phrase "'92 concensus" was devastating to DPP arguments. The vagueness of the phrase and China's willingness to "accept" it plays directly in to pro-unification hands, because it ignores that China's really only agreed to accept that Taiwan is a part of the PRC, which has only one legitimate government, them.

Rather, the DPP should have always been framing the KMT position in terms of "One China = same country."
"One China" is not some abstract cultural notion; the KMT position is that Taiwan and China are still the same country, politically, just temporarily and most unfortunately divided by civil war. Now that's the real KMT position, and it's the position that's politically untenable in Taiwan. The truth is, even "One China, two interpretations" leaves enough wiggle room in the voter's imaginations they don't realize they've played into the "unification" end game.

That's not to say people don't realize the KMT is ultimately pro-unification. Rather, most voters believe the "no unification, no independence, no use of force" position of Ma's administration is a tenable long-term strategy and the essence of the KMT stance -- because that "status quo" feeling is exactly what the voters want. Of course, the problem for Taiwan's future democracy is that "no unification, no independence, no use of force" is merely cover for a completely and obviously unsustainable "One China, same country, but no unification."

I think the DPP's in trouble. Maybe I should spend less time speculating on how the Chinese might react to a Tsai victory, and more time trying to ascertain what lies in store for Taiwan during a second Ma term.

Aug 18, 2011

Fire away

Tang Fei is not a fan of Tsai Ing-wen's cross-strait policy as he understands it, claiming that without recognition of the '92 consensus, there is no way to get along. Expect more of this from the blue side as the election approaches.

But I was much more interested in the Ma campaign spokesman Yin Wei (殷瑋) claiming that "according to media" (unnamed, of course), on June 29th 2000, Tsai said "the new government can accept that 'One China, two interpretations' is a consensus reached between ARATS and the SEF, that this is a clearer phrasing [of the DPP government's position]." But now Tsai denies the consensus. What gives, woman? they seem to be saying.

So I had to figure out what was really going on here.

The article can be found in this KMT think tank National Policy Foundation report [pdf]. It's taken from the China Times (the report is strongly self-filtered for pro-blue media). Actually the whole pdf is worth a read, especially the section this comes from, which is a chronological history of related newspaper articles. The sentiment Tsai really expressed that day, in full:
陳水扁總統廿七日提到新政府願意接受兩岸兩會對「一個中國、各自表述」的會談共識,這是對九二年共識「更明確、更進一步的說法」,但所謂「一個中國、各自表述」,只是我方描述會談過程的用語,這是新政府可以接受的描述方式,並不代 表 我 方 已 接 受 北 京 的 「 一 個 中 國 原 則」。 
一九九二年十月,兩岸所派代表在香港舉行會談時,雙方曾針對如何解決「一個中國」問題進行具體討論,但無法獲致任何結論,因此我方建議以「口頭上各自表述」的方式,暫時擱置此一爭議,中共稍後也致電我方,表示「尊重並接受我方的建議」。這就是對於「一個中國」問題的爭議,兩岸願意以口頭「各自表述」來處理,各說各話最終成為兩岸共識的實際過程。所謂的「一個中國、各自表述」就是我方描述此一過程的用 語 。
And I think the first paragraph is a more complete and compressed version of the whole piece, which appears to be an editorial of Tsai Ing-wen's own writing in the paper.

It says that on the 27th of June, President Chen expressed that the new government can accept that "One China, two interpretations" is a consensus reached between ARATS and the SEF, that this is a clearer phrasing [of the DPP government's position]. But "one China, two interpretations" was how [the Taiwan] side described the language used during the discussion; this is a position that the new government can accept. But it does not mean the Taiwan side accepts Beijing's "One China Principle."

I think that's actually a pretty fair summary of the DPP position. In fact, the DPP should spin this hard in Tsai's favor by having her read the whole article in a TV ad. Perhaps you can start with text that the Ma office's released portion on the screen first, maybe with the Ma campaign's spokesman ranting in false disbelief in the background. Then Tsai could read the whole paragraph out loud, and say a future DPP government would still feel this way -- plainly, that if accepting "one China, two interpretations" doesn't explicitly mean the Taiwan government agrees to Beijing's "One China Principle" [aka, Taiwan is part of the PRC], as long as we don't mean that, the DPP can accept it.

It's genius, if I do say so myself! I'd like to see what would happen then.


Let's take a quick trip through history as relayed by that NPF report. The SEF responded to Chen's comment promptly, as that NPF paper demonstrates, saying:
The key to resuming dialogue was that the Taiwan side must clearly promise to not meddle with "two countries theory," must recognize the 1992 consensus reached by both sides that "both sides of the strait strongly uphold the One China," and that as soon as these actions were taken, then resumption of dialogue could start immediately.

This is fun, let's keep going with this.

Ma Ying-jiou, 17 September, 2000, China Times:
Ma Ying-jeou said that at the present time, Taiwan and China are both denying the '92 consensus. The mainland only recognizes "One China," and Taiwan only recognizes the "two interpretations." But at this moment, if everyone would just go back to the "One China" starting point, then talks should be able to resume.

Well, that's some consistency for you.

Lots of interesting things in that report, maybe we'll revisit them someday.

Aug 11, 2011

I just wrote about the difficult the DPP is having formulating their cross strait policy amist greater pressure for details from both the KMT and CCP. I concluded:
So the DPP plan is apparently to first remain clear about red lines (i.e. rejection of an explicit  'One China' framework). Next, express willingness to maintain all the agreements signed so far, and finally throw vague pleasantries out there in the hopes that someone will take the bait if Tsai is the winner come 2012.   

I would say the CCP-KMT effort to force the DPP into a very precise policy formulation is pretty smart politics, and likely to work. I expect the DPP will be forced to forge an internal consensus on exactly what language they're willing to embrace for the sake of talks, and on exactly what they cannot accept. And I don't see how the additional clarity will actually benefit the Green camp.

Unfortunately, since Beijing has their own veto on what formulation will work, and a precisely articulated DPP policy is unlikely to allay fears of Taiwanese Independence forces in Beijing, it'll be up to the relatively dovish faction in China to find a way to continue relations in the event of a DPP victory.
And it appears the DPP's chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen is pushing back calls for too many specifics, as the government funded Central News Agency reports:

Responding to media questions about the DPP cross strait policy being too abstract, Tsai said that because cross-strait economic policy deals with a number of specialized topics, explaining the policy is best done by explaining a general direction for how things will be dealt with; perhaps some people feel that this is not dealing with the issues in enough detail, but at this point outlining a general direction is still the most suitable way to explain the policy. 

Tsai Ing-wen said that many issues could only be dealt with after the DPP was administrating, that many issues need will be explained in different stages and in different settings. She also emphasized that in regards to cross-strait policy, the DPP has a general consensus.

Tsai's analysis strikes me as quite accurate, and also as the only way the DPP can keep Beijing from playing the veto card before the election. That obviously didn't stop Ma's office from blasting Tsai's "irresponsible" and "confusing" position.

As a bonus comment, I'll throw in that I particularly like Joseph Wu's (吳釗燮) statement today:
Since Taiwan's democratization, public opinion rejects unification with China, but seeks peaceful coexistence with China. This situation is an objective fact that China and the international community need to accept.

Aug 2, 2011


A series of articles that give insight into the posturing about cross-strait policy as the election approaches.

吳敦義暗批蔡:光喊台獨不敢推 是詐欺 中國時報 2011-07-29 03:00
綠:藍黨綱求統 馬真要跟中國統一?中國時報 2011-07-29 03:00
馬辦:蔡英文願不願宣示不獨 中央社 2011-07-29 13:42
遭吳批立場反覆 蔡英文:態度一向清楚 中央廣播電台 2011-07-29 07:56
蔡英文:兩岸立場一致 馬辦:一致閃躲 yam蕃薯藤新聞 2011-08-01 15:00

In chronological order, we see:
  • KMT VP candidate and current Premier Wu Dun-yi accusing Tsai Ing-wen of being a vocal Taiwanese Independence supporter who won't actually promote the goal, making her a liar.
  • The DPP spokesman Chen Chi-mai responds by calling out the KMT charter for promoting unification, so that means Ma and Co. are a bunch of liars, or that the KMT is institutionally a liar.
  • Ma Ying-jeou's campaign office accusing Tsai Ing-wen of avoiding a clear statement ruling out Taiwanese independence, throwing a few glancing blows at the DPP charter as well.
  • Tsai Ying-wen saying that her policy view has been steady and clear.
  • Ma's campaign office pointing out DPP policy flip flops.
I think it's funny that the incumbent president and his running mate can accuse Tsai Ing-wen of opposite charges initially, and it goes to show how the KMT can attack the DPP's delicate position from both the center and the Deep Green.

The Blue camp intends to stir up fear on the Deep Green side of a DPP sell out -- which they hope can mean lower or split green turnout. Certainly lower turnout would be a real possibility, but I don't have any fear of a DPP vote split; they're neither prone to that problem historically nor is there someone with charisma willing to oppose Tsai.

At the same time, the KMT is exploiting and trying to perpetuate public confusion about DPP cross-strait policy, which is admittedly rather vague. But the DPP has to be vague; because the greens rejects the '92 consensus, the DPP really has no option but to remain tight-lipped on how they'll manage to negotiate with China. Speak too soon and the CCP pounces to denounce your formula as unworkable, and should you then win the election, it's harder to find a face-saving way to continue talks or the current framework. 

And formulating yourself clearly carries only this risk, but no benefits, because certainly China would not be willing to let a non-'92 consensus framework get a public green light from CCP authorities before the election. That would virtually eliminate the largest anxiety people have about electing the DPP, and such a change doesn't benefit Beijing's goal of unification.   

Still, the skill in the KMT strategy is that while ambiguity is a very useful negotiating tool, it's not a very good election strategy. Just makes it easier for opponents to accuse you of standing for nothing, being a sell out, being incompetent, etc etc.

So the DPP plan is apparently to first remain clear about red lines (i.e. rejection of an explicit  'One China' framework). Next, express willingness to maintain all the agreements signed so far, and finally throw vague pleasantries out there in the hopes that someone will take the bait if Tsai is the winner come 2012.   

I would say the CCP-KMT effort to force the DPP into a very precise policy formulation is pretty smart politics, and likely to work. I expect the DPP will be forced to forge an internal consensus on exactly what language they're willing to embrace for the sake of talks, and on exactly what they cannot accept. And I don't see how the additional clarity will actually benefit the Green camp.

Unfortunately, since Beijing has their own veto on what formulation will work, and a precisely articulated DPP policy is unlikely to allay fears of Taiwanese Independence forces in Beijing, it'll be up to the relatively dovish faction in China to find a way to continue relations in the event of a DPP victory.

Jul 2, 2011

Romance of the Three Kingdoms

You may be familiar with the opening line of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a famous novel from the late Yuan-early Ming period. As Wikipedia translates it,
The world under heaven, after a long period of division, will be united; after a long period of union, will be divided.  話說天下大勢,分久必合,合久必分。
A heavy sentence like that carries a lot of weight when applied to the Taiwan situation, especially as Taiwan and China are undeniably in dis-union, regardless of how one views sovereignty issues.

And as you also might imagine, the metaphor might come to seem prophetic if you switch up the opening phrase to "after a long period of unity, will be divided; after a long period of division, will be united." And that's exactly what President Ma Ying-jeou said June 28th when attending a ceremony conferring promotions of higher-level ROC military officers. Of all possible places.

The context of this remark is even more baffling to me:

他表示,中國歷史上分分合合,合久必分、分久必合,但不論那一次分?那一次合?都靠戰爭解決;這次是第一次用和平解決爭端,這是中華民族、炎黃子孫的創舉,大家應該要有這個勇氣,把這段歷史寫好。 [President Ma] said that Chinese history was full of both division and unity; after a long period of unity it must divide, and after a long period of division it must be united. But when to divide? When to unite? Both had always been decided by war. Yet this time is the first time that peaceful methods have been used, a pioneering effort of the Zhonghua Minzu and the decedents of the Yellow Emperor. Everyone should have courage and make sure this section of history is written well [A-gu: aka, a peaceful union comes to fruition].

I find this a remarkably strong statement of the KMT's aspirations to realize unification. That degree of directness is not at all typical: remember how the President did a 180 after his 'ultimate unification' (終極統一) remark back in 2007ish, and how the KMT constantly accused the Greens of "smearing" Ma when they trotted out his own words? Or how the KMT threatened to sue DPP politicians for harping on the "One China Market" (一中市場) philosophy of Vincent Siew?  So I was just stunned to see this remark at all, much less this close to the election, much less at a military ceremony at a time where Ma's administration  spends much media time defending their commitment to the country's defense.

But I was completely beside myself to find that while newspapers had picked it up, the remark wasn't making the sort of waves I would have expected. I mean, this is GOLDEN material for DPP election ads. What am I missing here?   

Jun 24, 2011

One country, two governments

You'll remember that Chinese scholar Chu Shulong just floated the concept of "one country, two governments."  This is not a new idea and has been floated ever since the Shanghai Communique. But scholarly channels are commonly used by the Chinese government to float trial balloons, and governments in both Taiwan and China frequently pass questions through scholars. So this proposal should be considered significant in the sense that China might be feeling out Taiwan anew on a policy the CCP once roundly rejected.

And President Ma has made a surprisingly fast and vocal response: "We can discuss 'one country, two governments.'"  I'm surprised at the speed of his response in part because KMT legislators were downplaying the significance or usefulness of Chu's proposal just yesterday. Now they're defending discussion over the idea.

It seems to me that the KMT is ideologically constrained to one of two positions in negotiations with China: either a position very much like 'one country, two governments' or a demand that China fully democratize before unification can be realized. That second position is probably a little worn out within the party and would not get any favors from Beijing.

The 'one country, two governments' model is what "greater China" advocates in Taiwan have dreamed of for years -- they envision a world where the ROC government survives intact and gains recognition from China and the world. Basically, pro-unification advocates in Taiwan envision this as a symbolic unification with practical independence maintained.

I think if there were any formulation for "unification" that will not send the Taiwanese people running to the DPP, it's this one. Truth be told, even I would be interested in hearing more about the idea, and would not reject it out of hand. The major concern, of course, is that the CCP uses this model as a lure to 'solve' the unification problem, then puts increasing pressure on Taiwan to gradually gain control over the island.

I believe Ma's response carries high political risk in Taiwan and makes him an easy target for DPP criticism ("which article of the constitution," the Greens are saying, "allows recognition of two governments?").  Ma's comment is directed at Beijing, and I imagine he hopes to signal to the CCP that only this kind of framework can win support at home.  When else has the KMT has so boldly stated support for a particular formula? 

Jun 17, 2011

I think this is a tell

The People's Daily reports:
人民网北京6月15日电(记者刘洁妍 李叶) 蔡英文日前表示,民进党将会以更加积极的态度与大陆对话,但是不会接受“一个中国”原则。对此,在今天上午举行的国台办新闻发布会上,发言人杨毅表示,两岸关系和平发展迄今的进展和成果都是在认同体现一中原则的“九二共识”的基础上实现的。没有了这一基础,否认“一中框架”,继续顽固坚持“一边一国”的分裂主张、分裂立场,很难想象两岸关系如何维持与发展。 
Tsai Ing-wen yesterday said that the DPP would engage in dialogue with China with a more energetic attitude, but would not accept the One China principle. In response, at the press conference today held by the Taiwan Affairs Office, Spokesperson Yang Yi expressed that cross straight relations and peaceful development, to date, had  advanced and produced results because they were being realized on the foundation of the common recognition of the One China principle of the '92 consensus.  Without this foundation, and by denying the One China framework & continuing to stubbornly uphold the One Side, One Country 
splittist position, it is difficult to imagine how cross strait relations could maintain or develop.  [emphasis mine]

I think Tsai was clever here, setting herself in opposition not to the ever-undefined and undefinable '92 consensus, but instead to China's "One China" interpretation of it. That means the ball is in China's court to respond, not the KMT's court; and because the KMT wishes to downplay the Chinese interpretation anyway, you won't hear them talking about it. Certainly, a Chinese official could easily create backlash in Taiwan should they repeatedly remind everyone that all agreements signed since 2008 are signed on their understanding that the Taiwan government now recognizes Taiwan and China are part of the same country.

And even worse for pro-"reconciliation" propaganda is the place where Yang Yi explicitly refutes the average Taiwanese's understanding that the "status quo" means One Side, One Country.

And yet I'm struck by the way the statement closes: it's merely difficult to imagine, not impossible, for relations to remain intact with a DPP that denies "One China." That seems to hint to me that the Chinese leadership is at least still debating this question, though unlikely already resolved to maintain current agreements like the ECFA (however, uncertainty on this question would surely assist the KMT come  2012); and the Chinese leadership is doubtlessly eager to see just how "energetic" of an attitude the DPP will display during this time where the Chinese government need concede nothing.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I think this article suggests that all bodes well for the Greens. First, Tsai picking her fight with the CCP position instead of the KMT's version of '92 could and should be the start of a brilliant campaign strategy. Second, repeated and explicit Chinese rejection of the One Side, One Country formula is exactly the sort of thing that would help bolster explicit support in Taiwan for that same formula (so don't expect to see much about it in the blue press).  And finally, maybe there's already hope that a Tsai win and rejection of One China wouldn't mean the end of finding a way to conduct dialogue.

May 27, 2011

What if...

What if China is encouraging extreme overproduction in housing, cars and infrastructure for the purpose of moving quickly into the socialist phase of development? 

May 19, 2011

I'm embarrassed to not have thought of this...

But it's fair to wonder if the continued international pressure Beijing exerts indirectly against Taiwan, such as in the WHO title issue, is aimed at forcing the KMT into political negotiations by forcing them to bleed a little on these issues every now and then. 

May 11, 2011

GG, Taiwan Affairs Office.

Well there you go

As for the second question, The '92 consensus  is the vital foundation of political trust and development of negotiations. If that foundation is avoided or denied, then cross strait negotiations and the peaceful development of cross-strait relations have no place to begin. 

In other words, China is already threatening a drastic or even war-like shift in relations should Tsai Ing-wen be elected, or the DPP gain a legislative majority (the more important goal).

Apr 28, 2011

China reminds us of the cost of current relations

人民网北京4月27日电(记者刘洁妍 方晔云)日前民进党就2012年的选举,党内初选部分举行了第四场政见发表会,蔡英文和苏贞昌谈到了两岸关系。对此 国台办发言人杨毅在今天上午举办的国台办发布会上指出,如果把两岸关系政策建立在“一边一国”的“台独”分裂立场上,不管作了多么巧妙的包装,都势必干扰 两岸交流合作、冲击两岸协商、破坏两岸关系和平发展,影响台海局势稳定。

By  Liu Jieyan and Fang Yeyun
Published: April 27, 2011
People's Daily, BEIJING  -- The Democratic Progressive Party recently held its fourth televised policy session as part of its primary process for selecting a candidate in the 2012 presidential election, and Tsai Ing-wen and Su Chen-chang both brought up cross-strait relations.

In response, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi said at a TAO press conference today that if a cross-strait policy is built on the splittist "Taiwanese independence" position of "One side, one country," no matter how clever the packaging of the policy, it will inevidably disturb cross-strait exchanges, impact cross-strait negotiations, destroy the peaceful development of cross strait relations and effect the stability of the situation in the Taiwan Strait. [emphasis mine]

Apr 21, 2011


It seems that all of the attention being dedicated to Tsai Ing-wen, much of it negative, has really squeezed Su Chen-chang out of the spotlight. At this point I would place my bet on Tsai to win the nomination. We'll know May 5th, I think, when the DPP announces the finished results of their survey which will be done at the end of this month over a 5 day period or something like that.

Update: "Official polling will start on April 25, with results available as early as April 27. The official DPP presidential candidate will be announced no later than Saturday, April 30."

Apr 16, 2011

... and for that matter what the hell is this all about?

If you are one of the unfortunate few to have run across this editorial [zh-tw] disguised as some kind of feature, then you will be as annoyed as I am with the author's attempt not only to link Tsai Ing-wen as closely as possible with A-bian, but with the cryptic hint that all of the former DPP chairmen are collectively trying to push Tsai Ing-wen towards victory; at the very least, we gather, "only they know the reasons for their leanings."

If you want to know everyone's motives, just think about it for a minute. A-bian wants the DPP to win the election so he has a chance to get out of jail early and because he just likes to beat the KMT.

Shih Ming-te likes being in the newspaper, and was feeling left out that Hsu Hsin-liang has been all over the news lately.

And Hsu himself is trying to steer the public debate and DPP opinion in a pro-'92 consensus direction -- probably because he honestly feels it's better for Taiwan.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this stuff out.

Apr 15, 2011

Who ever heard of Bruce Linghu anyway?

When I read Michael Turton's post about the impending harassment of signatories to the recent Open Letter to Ma Ying-jeou, I was particularly struck by one of the paragraphs from the Taipei Times report:
Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達), head of the ministry’s Department of North American Affairs, said yesterday the ministry would contact each of the signatories to check if they initiated the petition themselves or just added their names to it, what their concerns were and what exactly they knew about the matter.
Now we all know that if Taiwan were China, a variety of disasters could befall those signing such a letter. As foreigners, they would most likely just be expelled or denied visa extensions. (Keep an eye out for anything like that happening here in Taiwan; at this stage I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see pressure on universities to remove these academics from their current posts.)

But if the signatories were Chinese and this were in China, everything depends on the mode the authorities are in. In the wake of the aborted attempt at a Jasmine Revolution, they would likely be detained for a significant period of time or sentenced to a year of hard labor by the police without going through the courts. At best they'd be shadowed by state security on a regular basis or put under house arrest.

But in a "feel good" political cycle in China, signatories would likely be asked to come "drink tea" with the authorities. You can find many accounts of those type of meetings, which typically involve the police asking someone to verify your attachment to the cause they've signed off on; a "friendly" discussion and "debate" with a point of trying to convince them to give the cause up and discouraging them from advancing it; and the ever looming possibility of follow up discussions or winding up on a round up list.

And Bruce's comment aboves reminds me a bit of a "tea drinking" session.

Tim Maddog over at Taiwan Matters! (where I am too frequently a contributor), Ben Goren, Michael Turton, and the Taipei Times have all worked hard to try and keep track of the myrid ways the KMT has curtailed free speech, brought political influence into government news organizations and chilled speech in public protests and letters.

I am alternatively furious and terrified at the direction this is going.

Apr 4, 2011

Tsai Ing-wen will win because of Obama?

My wife has a theory that neutral Taiwanese voters will come out in force for Tsai Ing-wen as a sort of "competition" against the rest of the world. Since America has a black president, she thinks they'll reason, why can't Taiwan have a woman president?  Along those lines, she figures Su would not be able to overcome Ma in a head-to-head match up because he won't generate that special excitement.

I'm not so sure this is a good theory, but it could make for good conversation here. :)

My own thinking is that while Tsai being a female candidate isn't a hot news topic (thank goodness), there could be some slither of truth to her claim. 

Apr 3, 2011

And that's a coathanger

I get the impression things are going very well for the DPP lately, or at least for Tsai Ing-wen. Her strong anti-nuclear stance is sure to resonate with the public since Japan, and it's good to see the DPP reclaim an issue that once animated it.  As Tsai noted, if Ma Ying-jeou insists on putting fuel rods in the 4th nuclear power plant before 2012, thus committing the island to that plant for at least 40 years, he may have a real problem getting re-elected.

Second, the DPP has made an election pledge to send the ECFA to the WTO to make sure it complies with WTO obligations. This is a great position for election purposes, because 1) it provides stark contrast with the KMT position and 2) it's quite moderate and reasonable -- very easy sell.

Third, that whole judge controversy is a great demonstration of the Ma administration's ineptitude and fundamental out-of-touchedness. The timing of all this is pretty good.

I still have concerns on how the winning DPP candidate will formulate a cross-strait policy, but over all 2012 is looking better than it used to.

And something else on my mind. The DPP often paints incidents where Taiwan-China issues are treated as domestic instead of international as "chipping away at sovereignty." I think they should focus on how the "'92 consensus" is a complete capitulation on the very foundation of sovereignty issues, not merely a "chipping away." 

Apr 1, 2011

Tsai, Su discuss cross-strait policy

Tsai Ying-wen and Su Chen-chang are in campaign mode, in preparation for the DPP "primary by opinion poll." I've seen Su's commercials on TV lately and obviously both are trying to outline their positions on the issues.

I found this article about DPP Chair Tsai Ying-wen and from the pro-blue China Times to be most interesting for it's relative lack of content.  The CNA articles about Su Chen-chang and Tsai Ying-wen's interviews are a little more comprehensive.

We'll start with Su, who's position (in this interview) we can outline as below: Taiwan is a sovereign independent country called the ROC according to the constitution; the Ma government's "One China, Two Interpretations" is hollow rhetoric, as evidenced by the fact that no high ranking KMT official can manage to say "Republic of China" while visiting the mainland.

He notes Taiwan struggled for the democracy it enjoys today, and China is still stuck in an authoritarian situation, which rules out discussions of "unification" for now, but Su adds China is a dynamic and changing society, and he expressed confidence China will continue to change [politically, seems to be the hint]. He said he would continue to uphold the ECFA and other such agreements with China if elected.

For her part, Tsai Ying-wen expressed her hope that the question of Taiwan's future can be left to the next generation; that the Ma administration is bringing Taiwan too close to China and that the "point of no return" could soon be reached [a topic I have blogged on]. She said she wants to maintain stable development of economic relations with China, but that a "completely new viewpoint" was needed in approaching these relations.

I note several things about both of these interviews. First is the common thread of hoping to maintain the current economic arrangements and "stable relations" with China, which obviously both Tsai and Su feel will be critical to winning a majority of the vote.

Everyone knows, though, that the so-called "'92 consensus," while endorsed by neither Su nor Tsai, is indeed the foundation for political dialogue with China as we know it, and it's not at all clear how the DPP hopes to reconcile their proposed policy direction with that fact. But it's noteworthy that neither Tsai nor Su is outright ruling out that framework, now that the campaign has started.

We know that China responded to Tsai's slightly less speech on cross-strait relations by telling the DPP to renounce Taiwanese Independence and give up the idea that Taiwan and China aren't the same country. Now certainly, the DPP as an organization is nowhere near ready to move in that direction, and any attempt by either Su or Tsai to break with the party line on "One side, one country" would split the opposition terribly.

So, in summary, the DPP is in a bit of a mess on this. The two leading candidates are trying to keep doors open for dialogue, which means talking about "new perspectives" while not explicitly insisting on a "one side, one country" starting point.  But that position leaves them far from the party faithful.

Can they pull off such a highly nuanced position as the election approaches? I doubt it. The DPP candidate will be forced to explicitly endorse or reject "one China, two interpretations" or the "'92 consensus," and likewise will be endorsing or rejecting the "one side, one country" position which is core to the DPP mission.

Rejecting "one China, two interpretations" will surely, immediately result in tons of cold water being poured on the DPP by the CCP & KMT, who will say how irresponsible the party is to adopt such a position; but the potential upshot to this is that if the DPP remains strong in the pre-election polling, China will have to engage in an internal debate on (1) whether or not to grant more 'favors' to the KMT government  in the area of international space to prop up voter confidence and (2) whether they really want to rule out talking to the DPP administration in the case of a DPP victory.

Rejecting "one side, one country," on the other hand, is going to alienate the core constituency of the DPP who may either stay at home or vote for a splinter candidate, possibly Annette Lu or a TSU candidate.

I'll throw in there that the CCP has had a long term dream of marginalizing the DPP's independence platform, if not the party itself, by trying to make it political suicide to endorse a "one side, one country" position. They have thus far failed, but perhaps the winds are shifting.

Mar 11, 2011

Tsai for Prez?

Tomorrow, DPP Chair Tsai Ying-wen is likely to announce her plans to run for President. I'm happy to see it and expect a (survey based, not voting based) primary that pits Su Chen-chang against Tsai, with Annette Lu Hsiu-lien's run being little more than a side show -- and I'd bet she'd run as an independent if she doesn't lose the nomination.

And in fact I would expect it to be a very close contest between Su and Tsai. My own preference would be to see Su come out on top as I feel he's a more capable campaigner. And the two of them on the same ticket would be powerful despite their common Pingtung origin. I say that because Mayoral elections showed that both Su and Tsai have surprisingly robust bases in the north that Lu or other contenders can't really match.

Two major questions for the DPP: one, can they articulate three or four problems with KMT domestic policy and "fixes"  that resonate with the public? And two, can they articulate a "One Side, One Country" policy stance that leaves room for China to decide to maintain current relations?

Feb 24, 2011

DPP thinks it up

The DPP just officially established a pair of think tanks.The Taipei Times reports:
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday introduced two new think tanks to enhance its policy initiatives while strengthening dialogue with China and the rest of the world....

The Economic and Social Affairs Research Center and the Security and Strategy Research Center are part of the party’s revamped New Frontier Foundation, created under former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), and include retired government ministers and former representatives abroad.

The value of these think tanks as mechanisms for dialogue with China should not be underestimated. A great deal of communication and probing is done through academic channels and the DPP could use a few more of those in formulating it's China stance.

At the ceremony for the founding of the think tanks, DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen also gave a speech about cross strait policy. While short on details about the future, Tsai's speech did place the cross-strait relationship through the lens of the international community and she sees Taiwan's current status as a result of modern East Asian history (read: not merely a Chinese civil war). She rejected political preconditions for discussions (read: One China) but said Taiwan must do it's part to maintain peace and stability across the strait (read: maintain dialogue with China). These think tanks are part of that effort.

I'm psyched about the think tanks and imaginative policy initiatives, but I wonder if the DPP can come to any further internal consensus on Taiwan's status and future which will be received warmly by Beijing. Unfortunately, Beijing holds the veto on that and has no reason to show flexibility with the DPP right now when things are going so swimmingly with the KMT. 

Feb 18, 2011

Su's "Taiwan Consensus"

I fully expect Su Chen-chang's phrase of "Taiwan Consensus" will end up defining the DPP position vis-a-vis the KMT come 2012, though I imagine we can expect some internal wrangling between heavy weights for a share of the credit.

Su's statement is summerized in this article:

Su Chen-chang believes that Taiwan has had four direct presidential elections; that it is a sovereign and independent country,  not part of the People's Republic of China; that according to the constitution, the national name is currently the Republic of China; that changing the status quo [thus defined] must be agreed to by the people as a whole; and that these points already form the broadest consensus [of cross-strait relations] in the country.