Taiwan Matters! The PRC flag has never flown over Taiwan, and don't you forget it!

"Taiwan is not a province of China. The PRC flag has never flown over Taiwan."

Stick that in your clipboards and paste it, you so-called "lazy journalists"!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

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CNN airs interview with Taiwan's president

Letting the world hear this side for a change

As Michael Turton touched upon in an earlier post on Taiwan Matters, CNN anchor Anjali Rao interviewed President Chen Shui-bian on the weekend show TalkAsia last week, addressing topics ranging from the March 19, 2004 shooting to the "scandals" surrounding his family to the reasons for repeatedly "provoking" Beijing and "rattling the bars of China's cage" (Excellent metaphor, that one!) to the so-called troubled relations with the US (Rao: "... the relationship between Taiwan and Washington at the moment is not as friendly as it once was."). [Note: I don't know where the Taiwan News got their information about the interview, but that stuff about Taiwan identity wasn't in the version I watched. Follow the links below, and see for yourself.]

The good
Rao asked some questions that sounded like the usual stuff we hear in international news about Taiwan. Whether the host was playing "devil's advocate" or not, I can't say, but she gave Chen a whole lot of space to answer the questions without interruption, and he gave pretty good answers to most of them. Even when she asked follow-ups, Chen gave relatively long, detailed responses which included some excellent statements about the reality of Taiwan's independence despite the lack of widespread international recognition or a "timely, relevant, and viable" constitution approved by the people. Rao repeatedly referred to and addressed Chen as "President," something many media outlets avoid by bending to China's will and calling him "leader" instead. CNN even put "Taiwan President" onscreen below Chen's name. To that much, I say "Hooray!"

The bad
There are lots of mistakes which may seem trivial or picky to point out, but I'm going to point out these groaners anyway and let you make up your own mind about the interview.

First, they messed up Chen's name in the onscreen titles, displaying it as "Chen Shui Bian." That's a pretty small mistake, and was probably the fault of the graphics person, but it shouldn't have happened. Rao appeared to be aware of the recent "redshirt" demonstrations, yet she appeared in the same solid red blazer/black top combo she frequently wears. Was this done on purpose? Only Rao and/or her producers know for sure.

Lost in translation
The translations were not completely accurate. For example, where I heard Chen say that there are "at least 988 missiles" ("至少有988枚"), it was translated as "The correct number should be 988 missiles." When Chen said the number of missiles had increased "more than fivefold" (五倍之多) the translator changed it to "almost fivefold." Regarding the shooting, when Chen said, "I believe that if it weren't for the shooting, we would have won by an even larger margin," the translation changed it to "... our camp would have won [making it sound like they hadn't won in the first place], and won even more votes.

Again, most of that's fairly minor stuff, but in the English version of one of the questions (normally restated for the camera and edited in after such interviews are completed), Rao implied that First Lady Wu Shu-jen had already been proven innocent of embezzlement charges. The question the president answered, which I assume was asked in Mandarin, was about the charges related to the Sogo gift certificates. Rao was born in Hong Kong, and an over-the-shoulder shot of Chen talking about being a "happy volunteer" after he leaves office showed her reacting with amusement, as if she understood immediately, but I can't assume that she's fluent in Mandarin, or that the shot was in sync with Chen's words -- I can only state what I saw.

President Chen gave a few answers that disappointed me, but perhaps he was once again being more diplomatic than I could ever be. Describing the "status quo" (as if one existed) as "peaceful" (despite the "anti-secession" law [which "legislates" the arbitrary use of "non-peaceful means" against Taiwan] and exponential missile build-up) was a bit disconcerting. Also, his response to the question about the shooting really should have gotten to the point, which is that forensics expert Henry Lee -- recommended by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) -- used actual evidence to report what the KMT continues to deny -- that Chen was really shot, that the bullet came from outside of the vehicle in which he was riding, and that the police were successful at finding the person who made the gun used to fire the bullets -- and that that very person has now fled to China, possibly into the arms of other Chen-haters.

The Island X files
In case you missed the interview and still want to see it (I think you should!), you're in luck. I've captured the whole thing, including the bumper intro and the three segments of the show and have uploaded it all to YouTube. Click the thumbnails below to view the clips.

Chen Shui-bian on CNN's TalkAsia, Jan. 2007
Intro
 Da jia hao!
Part 1
Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian
Part 2
 TalkAsia host Anjali Rao
Part 3
Excuses, excuses
Sorry for the poor quality of the videos, but that was the best I could do from within the cage that Taichung's cable TV monopoly and lack of a satellite dish has me in.

Related videos
* CNN專訪 總統暢談憲改工程 (2007-01-24) [CNN interview: President discusses constitutional changes] (via Taiwan TV) (1'31" YouTube video)
* 扁:國務費案 民主進展陣痛 (2007-01-24) [A-bian: "State affairs fund" case" is a "labor pain" on the road to democracy] (via FTV) (1'18" YouTube video)

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Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

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Roland's at it again

http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20070127_2.htm

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Chen, Ma, the Taiwan identity, and 2008

Last week Feiren observed that Chen Shui-bian was once called a moderate and a pragmatist and now is often dismissed as a radical...

One interpretation of course is that Su is simply throwing symbolic red meat to deep green supporters and that he will morph into a pragmatist if he becomes president. Very similar things were once said about Chen Shui-bian, who was once believed to represent a moderate brand of DPP reformism. I suspect Su will turn out to be much the same.

In fact, Chen was aided early in his career by reformist elements in the KMT. The idea that Chen is a 'radical' is strictly nonsense -- his use of the independence appeal is pragmatic, since appeals to identity are now the key to getting out the vote in a nation where two center-right nationalist parties compete for the vote. It is 'radical' only in the context of the 1000 Chinese missiles now pointed at Taiwan, and only in a context where talking about independence is radical but pointing missiles is statesmenlike.

Two contrasting articles presented different sides to this issue today. First, the Taiwan News described Chen's interview on CNN:

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said in an interview on CNN aired yesterday that only candidates who insist on Taiwan identity have a chance of winning the 2008 presidential election because by that time, a majority of the people will identify themselves as Taiwanese rather than as Chinese.

In an interview on CNN's "Talk Asia," Chen argued that more than 60 percent of Taiwan's people will identify themselves as "Taiwanese" by the next presidential election, meaning that only the candidate upholding Taiwan identity will be able to garner a majority of the votes.

Chen based his argument on his performance in the 2004 election, when he received 1.5 million more votes than four years earlier as more people thought of themselves as Taiwanese.

As head of state, Chen said it is his main responsibility to continue the pursuit of Taiwan-centric consciousness and noted much remained to be done in this area. He noted that in 2000, 36 percent of people branded themselves Taiwanese and the figure jumped to 60 percent at the end of last year.

"I hope by the time I finish my term of office, this number will increase to 70 percent or even 75 percent," Chen said.

I've blogged many other times on this peculiar structural feature of Taiwan's politics. No one in Taiwan wants to be part of China, so the DPP candidate has an advantage in national level elections for the Presidency. Since the KMT is the wealthier party with longstanding connections at the local level, it has the advantage in local elections. Thus the particular paradox of Taiwan where the pro-China party is highly localized and the pro-Taiwan party has a relatively weaker local presence. President Chen is flinging down the gauntlet to the KMT, which, in the person of KMT Chairman Ma, reiterated its pro-China stance yesterday:

Taiwanese independence is not an option for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday, almost a year after running an ad in a local newspaper saying that he recognized independence as an option for the people of Taiwan.

Although Ma has said that the KMT's policy has not changed -- that is, seeking to maintain the status quo -- confusion over Ma's inconsistent stance prompted some KMT grassroots members to ask questions during Ma's visit to Taichung yesterday on the party's policy toward China.

"The KMT will not advocate Taiwan's independence ? it will only bring disturbance and agitation to the country if we declare independence," Ma said in response to the questions, adding that the nation has to take into account US and Japanese concerns involving these issues.

Ma's lack of a clear discourse on cross-strait issues had given rise to confusion among some KMT members over party policy.

During an interview with Newsweek International in December 2005, Ma said that unification with China was the party's ultimate goal. The KMT then ran an advertisement last February in the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister paper) which said that Ma recognized that "independence is an option for the Taiwanese people."

That rhetoric caused widespread criticism from within the party at the time, including former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), who complained that Ma had not consulted him before making the statement.


The fact is that the DPP now has a bevy of politicians who are national figures, including Frank Hsieh, Premier Su, Vice President Lu, and several others. The KMT has no similar stable of widely popular candidates, save for Party Chairman Ma, who has taken quite a few hits lately. Ma has now declared that he is not going to move toward the middle on the most crucial question of all, independence, and thus, that the KMT will probably not defeat the DPP candidate in '08. That is why the current strategy of the KMT is to eviscerate the Presidency by removing as many of its powers as it can, and centralizing authority in the legislature, which the KMT will quite likely continue to control. This strategy implicitly concedes that KMT is not the frontrunner in the coming Presidential election.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

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Tu Cheng-sheng stands up for the people of Taiwan

The right stuff -- but first, some wrong stuff

The editorial in yesterday's Taipei Times is a bit of an improvement over some of their recent drivel, but I think they still don't "get" why President Chen Shui-bian didn't kick and scream like a spoiled baby when during his relatively successful diplomatic journey to Nicaragua last week, Taiwan was mistakenly referred to as "China-Taiwan." (TT quote: "Whatever the reason behind such confusion, Chen, as head of state, should have taken a more active gesture and lodged a protest.")

I'm just making an educated guess based on some of the things that have occurred during Chen's administration, but I suspect the Taiwanese side, in an attempt to exercise a bit of control, requested that at the very least "Taiwan" be added to the usual designation of "Republic of China." I could imagine that on the Nicaraguan side, "Republic of China, Taiwan" may have seemed a bit long and that Nicaraguan officials unfortunately shortened that to the final two words. (Note: the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] thinks that their "ROC" equals China and often refers to PRC-controlled territory as "the mainland" instead of calling it "China," so it's easy to understand how others might be confused.) Yet the Taipei Times didn't even explore this possibility, and instead of commending Chen for the positive aspects of the journey (such as the simple fact that it happened, duh), they ironically whined that the president didn't whine. Go figure.

(Note: I would rather see people complain every time anyone in Taiwan refers to the country as 中華民國 [Republic of China] in non-diplomatic settings.)

Anyway, let's get to the better part of the editorial:
At the London School of Economics (LSE) last Thursday, Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) demonstrated nicely how government officials should promote Taiwan and handle insults to the country in front of international audiences.

[...]

In view of the disruption and attempted provocation, Tu performed admirably. He did not avoid the questions.

Tu, poised and unperturbed, responded calmly, noting Taiwan's values, rights and freedoms. He emphasized to his audience that Taiwan, as a democratic country, would decide its own future according to the will of its people.
Looks like it's time for another round of "Spot the Difference." Chen was attending a planned meeting with friendly dignitaries, while Tu was facing off against hostile opponents. Both Chen and Tu, however, responded diplomatically and according to the circumstances.

"I am Taiwanese!"
Last Friday's edition of the FTV program 頭家來開講 ("Boss Talk") showed some excerpts from Tu's speech on "Education Reform in Taiwan: local and global perspectives" at his alma mater. (Note: Some editing is apparent in the footage, so it's unclear at times what exactly Tu is responding to. See the other footage linked below.) During the event, some students from China disrupted the speech by shouting slogans and holding up ironic signs saying "No cultural brainwashing" and "Taiwan is a part of China." (Note: Taiwan has never been controlled by the PRC [AKA China] -- which is a mere part of "mainland Asia" -- and the only reason anybody thinks so is because it has been repeated a million or more times.)

Because he doesn't have the same restrictions required of the president when on diplomatic missions, Tu was able to say loudly and proudly, "I am Taiwanese!" The audience cheered loudly for this seemingly simple statement of truth. They also shouted down the real "cultural brainwashers" in the audience who were pushing propaganda while merely pretending to ask questions. You should really see it for yourself.

Pass me the eye opener, will ya?
Look no further. Here's the segment from "Boss Talk." (Note: I added the yellow, green, red, and blue English-language titles seen onscreen.)



3'50" YouTube video: "Tu Cheng-sheng stands up for the Taiwanese"
Click here to download the latest version of Adobe Flash.
Click here for YouTube help.


Related videos:
* 教育部長杜正勝先生LSE演講 [Minister of Education, Mr. Tu Cheng-sheng, LSE speech] (0'31")
* 教育部長杜正勝先生LSE演講II [Minister of Education, Mr. Tu Cheng-sheng, LSE speech II] (0'51")
- the guy on the balcony can be heard out of frame talking about Taiwan "buying" allies
* 世界教育部長會 正名「台灣」 (2007-01-10) [Rectifying Taiwan's name at meeting of world's education ministers] (2'30")
- a Hoklo-language video from Taiwan's Formosa Television (FTV) which tells more about the event and focuses on the importance of Tu being listed as coming from Taiwan, not the ROC.
* 杜正勝倫敦演說 兩岸學生互嗆 (2007-01-11) [Cross-Strait students' shouting match during Tu Cheng-sheng's London speech] 3'33"
- Another FTV video with just a little more footage. This one shows the signs that were held up by the students from China.

Didn't mean to bump him down so soon
Be sure to check out Feiren's earlier post about Su Tseng-chang's announcement of official recognition of the Sakiraya people as Taiwan's 13th aboriginal tribe and the relationship of that announcement to the rectification of Taiwan's official name. I lean heavily toward Feiren's "symbolic red meat" interpretation.

UPDATE: Via fiLi's world, here's a link to a 152 kb PDF of the text of Tu Cheng-sheng's excellent speech.

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Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

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Su the 'Pragmatist'?

It's fairly common to hear in the international press and here in Taiwan that Su Tseng-chang is a 'pragmatist' on cross-straits relations. What I think people are going to increasingly discover about Su if he wins the DPP presidential nomination is that Su is actually very similar to Chen Shui-bian in that he would be happy to improve relations with China as long as Taiwan's sovereignty is not compromised. Read his remarks on the recent recognition of Taiwan's 13th Aboriginal people the Sakiraya as reported in today's Taipei Times:

We learn from history books that the Sakiraya have existed since the 17th century. They hid themselves among the Amis people because of war," Su said. "Today, they have finally got their name back, but we still need to work hard to have our name back for this country -- Taiwan.


What the Taipei Times article fails to mention is that the official name of the tea party for the Sakiraya--the Tea Party to Restore Names (正名茶會). The policy of restoring or changing names (zhengming) is central to the project of building a Taiwanese identity that according to official DPP ideology is the prerequisite of the nation building project that will culminate with the founding of the Republic of Taiwan.

Sometimes translated rather woodenly as 'rectification of names', the restoration of names can mean changing names as it did when Su changed the name of Chiang Kai-shek International Airport to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (this was actually half a restoration since the airport was originally supposed to be the Taoyuan International Airport) or restoring a lost name like Banka for Wanhua or ending the subsuming of the Sakiraya into the Amis. Of course the ultimate zhengming will occur when Taiwan becomes the nation's official name.

I find it fascinating how difficult it is to render zhengming into English--the reduction of it to the traditional Confucian idea of restoring ritual order by calling things by their proper Zhou dynasty names obscures the real nature of the DPP's zhengming project with a misleading and reductionist classical reference. Though at the same time, the linkage between justice and calling something by its right name does have some connection to the ancient Confucian idea.

One interpretation of course is that Su is simply throwing symbolic red meat to deep green supporters and that he will morph into a pragmatist if he becomes president. Very similar things were once said about Chen Shui-bian, who was once believed to represent a moderate brand of DPP reformism. I suspect Su will turn out to be much the same.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

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Has the Taipei Times been infected by TVBS and the China Post?

1/23/2007 - UPDATE/CORRECTION:
After spending two full weeks trying to contact both birders and people associated with the HSR project to get details that were missing from the article -- specifically images of bird strikes by the train -- I finally found one image on my own.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Although it comes with its own exaggerated headline about "12 ghosts of [beings] who were wrongly put to death or murdered," this photo indeed appears to show several marks which could certainly be bird strikes. (Note that the marks are unhelpfully obscured by thick red outlines [to help readers see the obvious?] which only serve to sensationalize a story which is bad enough on its own.) Having said that, it still doesn't qualify for the term "massacre." I wish that the person whose words Shelley Shan repeated and amplified hadn't used that description. At the same time, I hope that the operators of the HSR will do everything possible -- if they're not already -- to prevent this kind of thing from happening all along the trains' path, most especially in areas where birds like the Jacana and raptor are endangered.

Having said that, reporters who blowdry their HSR tickets, purposely insert expired tickets into the entry gates, or set off fire alarms to create false news stories are still psycho, and I'm sticking to that.

Everything below (except the strikethru) remains as it was originally written so you can see my mistakes. If anyone wants me to remove something, just ask, and I'll see if it warrants removal. [/END UPDATE]

Bloviating birdwatchers bleed blue blood

Cue up some Bernard Herrmann and check out this exaggerated headline to an article in Monday's Taipei Times:
High speed trains said to be causing bird massacre
That's right -- "massacre." For your info, here is Reference.com's definition of that word:
noun
1. the unnecessary, indiscriminate killing of a large number of human beings or animals, as in barbarous warfare or persecution or for revenge or plunder.
2. a general slaughter, as of persons or animals: the massacre of millions during the war.
3. Informal. a crushing defeat, esp. in sports.
verb (used with object)
4. to kill unnecessarily and indiscriminately, esp. a large number of persons.
5. Informal. to defeat decisively, esp. in sports.
Here is the most ridiculous part of the Taipei Times article:
Birdwatchers in southern Taiwan said last week that bullet trains are killing "many" wild birds along the high speed rail routes. Although they could not provide numbers to support their claims, they pointed to bloodstains "commonly seen" on the bullet trains as evidence of an avian massacre.
It's a damn shame to see sensationalist writing like this in the Taipei Times, but this isn't the first time I've complained about their writing in recent days. On the first day of this new year, I had this to say about their lack of self-awareness:
Hey, Taipei Times editors -- wake up and smell what you've published!
Looks like they need another reminder.

Perspective
It's certainly unfortunate when animals die because of human carelessness, but cars, trains, and airplanes kill birds every day, despite efforts to avoid such things. Being a vegetarian and an animal lover myself, I would agree totally that if such a problem exists, something should be done about it. However, such exaggerated reporting does little to help the situation. The frenzied media reports I've seen about the HSR have shown viewers everything but "bloodstains" on the train, and the content has given me little reason to believe them this time around.

This and this and this and this are what actual massacres look like, by the way.

Psycho newsfakers
I describe these reporters as "psycho" because they spend valuable time pretending that it's in the viewers' interest to tell them about incredibly foolish things that I can't really think they expect me to believe are important. For example, one report demonstrated that if you hold a blowdryer a couple of inches from your HSR ticket and direct the hot air onto it, it will turn black. (Gasp!)

Without too much effort, I think you can figure out the problem with their "logic." One might also conclude that if people have a habit of blowdrying their HSR tickets, their brains have already turned to mush.

Who dunnit?
The byline of the Taipei Times article tells us it was written by Shelley Shan (冼立華). The name stood out because I recalled that Shan co-wrote two articles just after the recent earthquakes in southern Taiwan in which she quoted TVBS twice when she could have quoted just about any TV station that reported the same basic information about the quakes and failed to clarify basic details of the story.

Shan's name doesn't begin appearing on articles in the Taipei Times until 2006, so I wondered if she was part of the reason for or merely a symptom of the decline in quality in that paper lately. Then I discovered that she used to work for the China Post. That kind of tears the curtain open a bit, eh?

"Consumer advocates" bleed blue blood, too
Another group being used in an attempt to add credibility to the crazy complaints about the HSR is the "non-governmental" Consumers' Foundation. A quick web search revealed to me that their full English name is "CONSUMERS' FOUNDATION, CHINESE TAIPEI." Next time you see this group complaining about something while accompanied by pan-blue legislators, that might make you think twice about the validity of the complaints. In fact, since you should normally think twice anyway, think 39 times in these cases!

And remember, question everything -- especially vertigo-inducing things like this!


Liberty Times image
Translation: The man at left is saying, "The HSR is green, better paint it black!" (i.e., "vilify it via groundless allegations"). On the front of the train is the short form of "High Speed Rail," or "高鐵." To the right, a man with sunglasses is holding a sign which reads, "Refuse to ride!! Consumers' Foundation," using the short form of their name, "消基會."

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Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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Friday, January 05, 2007

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KMT's China Times Connection

Careful readers of this blog may remember Michael Turton's comment on my Enemies of Press Freedom post:

Let's not forget, in September a senior editor of China Times, writing on his blog, called for the "protesters" led by Shih Ming-te to become so radical that the US would signal the Taiwan army to depose the Chen government.
Well, that senior editor's name is Yang Du (楊渡). And now he's been appointed chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) Culture and Communications Committee (文傳會). He joins another China Times staffer Huang Zhao-song (黃肇松), who was recently appointed to the KMT's Supervisory Commission as a member of its task force on hiring and appointments.

The post Michael was referring to was entitled Don't Even Talk about Deposing Chen if you aren't Ready to Riot (不敢動亂,倒扁免談). Its thesis was the US would not move to depose Chen Shui-bian unless anti-Chen demonstrators rioted in the streets. Yang finished his infamous post with this gem:

To pit a bit more plainly, if you are afraid of rioting, then don't bother trying to oust Chen. If you want to oust him, then you will have to riot if you are to succeed.

My dear friends, are you ready?
His recent film on the 228 Incident, commissioned by the Taipei City Cultural Bureau argued that 228 was sparked by a mainlander's not understanding Taiwanese rather than KMT repression. The implication that Taiwan's ethnic issue was caused by 'misunderstanding' rather than repression was bitterly protested by 228 survivors.

Way to go Chairman Ma. You really know how to pick 'em.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

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AmCham, the TSU, and investment in China

When the consul told the mandarin that this was not the man charged with the offense he confessed that it was a case of proxy, but argued that by punishing this man the real culprit would be so afraid that the moral influence would be quite as salutary. -- George Mackay, From Far Formosa

The spat between the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), one of the Greens, flared up again after the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan criticized the position of "minority parties" that are allegedly holding back Taiwan's economic development. Here is the meat of their defense:

Considering the rapid economic growth occurring in China and the substantial business opportunities that has created for Taiwanese investors, an increasing number of companies are bumping up against the investment ceiling. That is not deterring their continued expansion on the mainland, however, since the globalized economy offers a variety of channels for carrying on business activity. Instead, many companies have been spinning off divisions that concentrate on China operations and listing them on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Others are delisting in Taiwan altogether. The main result is to sap the strength of Taiwan’s financial markets – thus undermining the government’s own avowed objective of building the island into a regional center for fundraising and asset management.

The recent bid by the Carlyle Group to take over Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) has brought to light another dimension of the problem. The Carlyle offer price was 10% higher than ASE’s domestic share price at the time, and the price of the company’s shares listed in New York rose 15% on news of the bid. As Michael Kurtz, senior managing director at Bear Stearns Asia, noted in an analysis in the Wall Street Journal Asia, much of the “value proposition” behind the buyout offer is the opportunity for ASE to reorganize as a foreign entity and become exempt from Taiwan regulations restricting investment in China – not only the 40% rule but also other limitations on technology companies. The 10%-15% differential provides a measure, which could be applied to a host of other companies, of what Kurtz calls the “lost economic value” that derives from the “government’s China-averse posture.” Kurtz's article is reprinted in this issue on pages 47-48.

Perhaps as the American Chamber we should actually welcome this chance for multinational companies to buy up good local companies at bargain prices. But in fact, we regret to see conditions that day by day are draining Taiwan’s economic vigor. Several bills to relax the cross-Strait investment rules are currently before the Legislative Yuan. Once again we urge that the narrow political agenda of minor parties not be allowed to block an important step to ensure Taiwan’s continued economic relevance.

AmCham apparently once again attacked the TSU in these comments. Last year, in similar comments, they were far nastier. Speaking of last year's conference on the economy, Amcham wrote:

Unfortunately politics got in the way when the tiny Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) held the meeting agenda hostage to the party’s ideological bias against closer economic ties with China. As a pan-green ally, the TSU commands more influence with the government than the number of its supporters warrants, and the party’s “spiritual leader,” ex-President Lee Teng-hui, still has a following because of his past contributions to building Taiwan’s democracy.

This time around, they drop the hack on Lee Teng-hui, and do not mention the TSU by name. A vast improvement. I was critical of AmCham's claims about the TSU the last time around, for being so nasty, and for accusing the TSU of being ideological, as if China was not threat to Taiwan, or it was somehow unreasonable to limit investment. The public is split nearly 50-50 on the question, according to polls I've seen. Since polls routinely miss pro-Green voters, it is likely that this policy has majority support, though not all Greens support the investment limits.

AmCham has now proffered an actual argument in favor of Taiwan lifting the investment caps. This argument is referenced in the editorial, and printed as an analysis on p. 47-8 of the same issue. Regrettably, the article starts out with a highly slanted opening sentence:

Placing identity politics before economic well-being is never a cost-free electoral maneuver. If any of Taiwan’s political class still believed that it was, the illusion should have been starkly dispelled by the recent NT$179 billion (US$5.46 billion) private equity offer for Taiwan’s Advanced Semiconductor Engineering.

It is incredible that anyone observing 900 Chinese missiles and China's ongoing campaign to suppress Taiwan's independence could imagine that "identity politics" is the issue. The issue is survival. It is possible to disagree on what to do about China's threat to Taiwan, but only the ideologically deluded could pretend that it doesn't exist. It will be difficult to take AmCham and other US backers of a more open Taiwan seriously until they in turn take the concerns of their opponents seriously. It is perfectly rational to oppose investment in a country bound and determined to destroy you. Nowhere does AmCham acknowledge this problem.

Not only is national economic security at stake, there is also a case to made for the limits. I blogged last year on former President and agricultural economist Lee Teng-hui's discussion of the economic arguments in favor of the investment limits.

Nevertheless, the point that Kurtz makes is a potentially interesting one. Here's the claim, which originally appeared on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal in December of last year:

In this light, the 10% premium offered by Carlyle for ASE’s stock, and the 15% post-announcement jump in ASE’s U.S. share price, offer a reasonable first-cut quantification of the price discount Taiwanese equities generally suffer due to government restrictions. Even applying the more conservative of these two figures across the broad spectrum of Taiwan’s listed stocks – which collectively have a market capitalization of nearly US$600 billion – implies a suppressed capital value of roughly US$60 billion.

It's fascinating to imagine how the behavior of a single stock could in any way represent a market capitalized at $600 billion. More fascinating is whether the Taiwan stock market actually "values" companies realistically, considering that company information is often limited, majority share ownership is closely held, and companies mainly invest from equity and not through stock sales. ASE, with large foreign institutional investment, is in many ways an exceptional firm.

Kurtz's piece was originally published on Dec 13, and by then it was clear that certain problems had emerged with the ASE sale. The China Post carries the ball (11/29/06):

The share price of the Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. (ASE) yesterday fluctuated significantly amid reports that an increasing number of foreign investors have opined that price offered by Carlyle Group in its takeover bid for ASE, the world's largest chip packager, was too low, a trend which has cast uncertainty on the outcome of the acquisition deal.
:
After all the hullabaloo, the deal may yet fall through. The bump in ASE's share price was not a "valuation" made by the market but a speculative surge:

Yesterday, the price opened high at NT$38.50 per share, and rallied further to near NT$39 in mid-session, but selling pressure soon emerged to pull down the price to a low of NT$37.60 before rebounding slightly to finish at NT$37.70.

The share fluctuation yesterday came as a response to criticisms made by foreign institutional investors that the offer of NT$39 per share by Carlyle was too low. They maintained that for the acquisition project, the price/book value ratio should reach at least 2.5 to 3 times, or NT$45 to NT$55 per share, compared with NT$39 offered by Carlyle.

As foreign investors now hold a total of 67.42 percent stake in ASE for the moment, and demand a higher offer from Carlyle, whether the acquisition deal goes smoothly remains to be seen.

In order to force Carlyle to raise its offer and make a killing, foreign investors rushed to buy ADRs (American Depository Receipts) of ASE, jacking up its price by 1.16% on Nov. 27 and bucking the drop in the Dow Jones index.

In fact, in both Taiwan and the US, investors pushed the share price up hoping to make money when the sale goes through. However, subsequently, ASE's share price has been stagnant at about NT$36 in Taiwan, and around $5.70 in New York, since the sale ran into this snag. In fact, that same day that Kurtz published this in the Wall Street Journal, the local news was reporting:

ASE was cited in a Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN) report as indicating the recent share price fluctuation is normal, but the paper also cited sources as saying that the Carlyle Group has yet to submit its buyout proposal to Taiwan's Investment Commission. A recently released research report from Macquarie indicated that the fundamentals of ASE's share price turned out to be weaker than expected and warned that a substantial downside risk may arise if the deal fails.

So let it be written, so let it be done: the rise in the share price of ASE has absolutely nothing to do with the company's valuation or with any loss of value that Taiwan experiences because it is keeping its companies at home. Reality is that ASE may well turn out to be overvalued if the deal doesn't go through. Reality: Kurtz is wrong in every way. The China Post concludes:

If more foreign investors joined the speculative bandwagon or majority of the existing long-term ASE foreign shareholders refuse to accept the offered price, Carlyle may not be able to buy up 75% stake in the company, the minimum for ASE to delist from the domestic market and become a foreign firm, which will enable it to bypass the government's restrictions for investments in China.

On to the TSU. According to the Taipei Times, the TSU responded:

Although AmCham didn't specify which minority parties it referred to, TSU lawmakers called a press conference to criticize the organization.

"We are not saying that we are a minority party, but we have to make it clear that [AmCham's] argument was wrong," TSU Legislator Liao Pen-yen (廖本煙) said.

Liao said that past experiences had shown that increased investment in China was detrimental to the people of Taiwan.

"The national unemployment rate rose and the economic growth rate decreased in 2001, when the government's cross-strait policies were based on the principle of `active opening and effective management,'" Liao said.

"However, when the government reversed the principle to `active management and effective opening' in 2004, the economy started to show signs of recovery," he said.

Liao said that Taiwan's investment in China had reached 50.3 percent of the country's GDP, making Taiwan the country with the highest percentage of its GDP invested in China. He said South Korea invested 2.7 percent, Japan 0.6 percent and the US 0.3 percent.

Citing these data from the Chinese government, Liao asked why US businesspeople did not invest more in China if they were of the opinion that China was a profitable market.

Liao said that AmCham was dominated by taishang, Taiwanese businesspeople with investments overseas, and that this explained its "distorted" editorial.

It's a common occurrence in Taiwan society for A to criticize B when in fact he is sending a warning to C. Perhaps, AmCham is bouncing warnings off the TSU and hoping that the DPP will listen. Regrettably, AmCham has chosen to rely on empty arguments and ideological posturing.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

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BBC has news about Taiwan totally backwards

With writing this bad, it's gotta be on purpose

In a spot-on impression of the "Newspeak" of George Orwell's 1984, yet another BBC article without a byline has distorted Taiwan with its "reporting." Somebody could start a whole blog just to expose the mess the BBC makes whenever they write about Taiwan. For now, you get to watch me rip another one of their articles to shreds.

Who hit whom first?
Right off the bat, the article sucker punches the observant reader with this headline:
China hits back at Taiwan leader
Rarely will they call Chen Shui-bian "president" in a headline, so I'm disappointed, though unsurprised. However, in order to "hit [someone] back," the other person has to "hit" first. For your information, this seems more like a first "hit" to me:


The article presses forward with this remarkably ignorant subhead:
A Chinese government spokesman has accused Taiwan's president of trying to ruin ties with the mainland.
How can you "ruin" something that's not good to begin with? And wouldn't it have been better to put "president" in the headline and "leader" in the subhead, or would that have made China's unelected leaders cry like they had Tabasco® in their eyes?

Skipping down to the third single-sentence paragraph below that subhead, we get this copy-and-paste piece of easy-to-repeat nonsense:
China sees Taiwan as part of its territory.
While that's essentially true that China "sees" things that way, the BBC's unnamed writer could have just as easily pasted in, "The people of Taiwan see China as a foreign country which constantly threatens their sovereignty." Rebecca MacKinnon once told me in all seriousness that this is simply the result of "journalistic laziness." If that were the case, I would seriously recommend that they try my equally-accurate version sometime. (I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.)

Fists of factuality?
In a brief respite from the diligent "laziness," we get some facts about what President Chen said in his New Year's Day speech:
"Only the people of Taiwan have the right to decide on the future of Taiwan," Mr Chen said in his speech on Monday.

"Taiwan's sovereignty belongs to 23 million people. It definitely does not belong to the People's Republic of China," he said.
That, dear readers, is what the BBC implies to be a "hit" in its misleading headline. However, it is a simple historical fact that the PRC has never controlled Taiwan -- not even for a single day.

Here's how China responded to those historical facts:
A day later, the Chinese government made clear that it was not happy with Mr Chen's remarks.

An unnamed spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office told the state-run news agency, Xinhua, that Mr Chen "spares no effort to make disturbances".

"Chen intends to unreasonably restrict cross-Strait exchanges and cooperation... and ruin the peaceful and stable development of cross-Strait ties," he said.

"We will... never allow secessionists to separate Taiwan from the motherland in any name or by any way."
Every time Chen Shui-bian wakes up in the morning and brushes his teeth in the free country that is known as Taiwan, the leaders of the foreign country known as China are "not happy." Xinhua (新華, which is quite fittingly a homophone for 新話, or Newspeak) "spares no effort" to distort the truth. President Chen once again opened trade with China even further, probably to the dismay of many, and China's "anti-secession" law (which "legislates" the arbitrary use of "non-peaceful means" against Taiwan) hardly dictates that "cross-Strait ties" be described as "peaceful and stable." Furthermore, you can't "sece[de]" or "separate" from something you're not part of. It's both a physical and a logical impossibility. Taiwan is its own "motherland."

Here are two more muddled paragraphs:
China remains deeply suspicious of the Taiwanese leader and his independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, accusing Mr Chen of planning constitutional changes that would destroy hopes of eventual reunification.

But despite his tough talk, Mr Chen has also made clear many times in the past that he has no plans to declare official independence except in the event of a Chinese invasion.
What "tough talk" are they babbling about? Did Chen threaten China when I wasn't looking? Despite what might superficially resemble balance in those two paragraphs, the article taken as a whole definitely leans way over towards China's bellicose perspective.

The final two paragraphs of the article provide more faux balance which observant readers would realize favors China by omission:
Tensions, though, are still high. Late last month China announced plans to upgrade its military, highlighting its dispute with Taiwan as one of several regional security threats.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese legislators have recently been discussing a controversial and much-delayed US arms deal package.
Balanced? Think again! The "arms" being offered to Taiwan are purely of a defensive nature, and if whoever wrote that doesn't know it, they have no business writing about Taiwan.

There's not much I left out, but if you so desire, follow the link up top and go read the rest of the nonsense. Just be sure to question everything written about Taiwan by the BBC.

RELATED LINKS:
* Transcripts of President Chen's New Year's Day speech can be read at the following links. [Hanzi] [English]
* A Taipei Times article about unelected Chinese "leader" Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) same-day speech, "Hu stresses sharing the wealth in New Year's speech" (while number of missiles keeps increasing, "anti-secession" law still in place)
* Previous reamings of the BBC on Taiwan Matters! (all within the past 3 months):
1) BBC gets Taiwan all wrong
2) BBC angers all who care about Taiwan
3) BBC still not getting Taiwan right
4) BBC continues Taiwan deception
5) BBC strikes again
6) BBC Taiwan Coverage: Pathetically Biased
7) BBC cooks up more nonsense about Chen recall bid
8) Who will observe the Taiwan observers?

Seeming defiers of the laws of physics: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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Monday, January 01, 2007

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New Year in Taiwan, same old ESWN in Hong Kong

Words mean things

Both Feiren and I wrote on Saturday about DPP chairman Yu Shyi-kun's dispute with the China Times. Among the differences in our posts was that Feiren linked to ESWN, a blog by Hong Kong-based Roland Soong in which the author takes little tidbits of truth and presents them buried among tons of crap.

Feiren had this to say about Soong's presentation:
In this rather long post, I summarize and comment on a typical example of ESWN's misleading work on Taiwanese politics: ESWN's treatment of DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun's dispute with the China Times [...] What I find particularly objectionable and intellectually dishonest are ESWN's rhetorical gestures toward objectivity by giving 'both sides' of the story and his suppression of the context that even relatively informed readers (such as China-based correspondents) need to make a critical judgment.
Therefore, it was hardly surprising when Soong took the BS-TV approach in what may be a response to Feiren touching a nerve. I'll begin with paragraph 7 of Soong's post:
In my blog post, I have summarized all the pieces from
various parties that I have come across the mainstream Chinese-language media in Taiwan. If you only read English, you may have not have read all of them. So I was just collating the reactions and translating them from Chinese to English as a public service. For balance, you can read Taiwan Matters.
I think he has the part about "balance" right. There, he links to Feiren's post in which Feiren was careful with his words and opinions. But the other part about "just" doing those things "as a public service" falls just as flat as it has every time he's made similar claims. Soong has a constant habit of using words like the ones within these posts (hover your cursor over the numbers to see: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) to attract visitors to his site. Then, when he has your attention, he hits you with crap like this (continuing directly from above):
For comparison, I ask you to imagine:
At a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs press conference, the spokesperson declared that no questions will be taken from New York Times reporters until as such time as their China bureau chief is removed on account of a specific article as well as what is perceived as persistent negative criticisms.

At a Hong Kong Government Information Office press conference, the spokesperson declared that no questions will be taken from Apple Daily reporters until as such time as its chief editor is removed on account of a specific article as well as what is perceived as persistent negative criticisms.

At a White House press conference, the spokesperson declared that no questions will be taken from the Washington Post until as such time as its chief editor is removed on account of a specific article as well as what is perceived as persistent negative criticisms.
Let's begin at the beginning. Soong wants readers to "imagine" a completely different scenario while he pretends these things somehow relate to Yu's comments about the China Times. The other bits I've highlighted demonstrate how Soong repeatedly gets the most basic details wrong. Yu's court case against the China Times is based on a specific point of contention which, as Feiren pointed out, was repeated several times over a period of five days, culminating with a front page story. The things the China Times repeatedly printed weren't "criticisms" -- they were actual lies, not merely "perce[ptions]." Furthermore, even Tuan "if he isn't a spy for the China Times, he might as well be" Yi-kang said that the China Times had repeatedly twisted his words. Yu's reasons, therefore, weren't limited to just the cases involving him -- the paper was harming the reputations of the Chen Shui-bian administration, DPP officials, and their supporters.

Worldwide reaction? Universal condemnation? Ubiquitous BS?
Soong finishes his crap off by taking the reader to the Toilet Bowl of Hyperbole [/high-PURR-buh-lee/] (again, continuing directly from the previous quoted section):
Worldwide reaction would be overwhelmingly against those hypothetical decisions. This is the reason why Yu Shyi-kun was almost universally condemned across the board -- blue and green. Given all that is said, what would you do in Yu Shyi-kun's place? This is not just about your personal reactions, but also about your sense of global reactions from others. My purpose in going through those collations/translations is to pose that question to you, whether you are in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United States or elsewhere. If you believe that Yu Shyi-ku's actions are correct, please say so to the whole wide world.
And there you have it -- a bowl filled to the brim. The problem here is that Soong not only doesn't give you enough information to make up your mind for yourselves -- he distorts the information he does give you, and confuses you with non-analogous imaginary situations. How do you spell "deceit"? R-O-L-A-N-D_S.

It's real simple, and it goes like this: If somebody repeatedly spreads lies about you, your associates, your friends, and your supporters, there's no reason to trust them to accurately represent your words. That's the stuff of self-destruction, and anyone with a healthy mind and an ounce of intellectual honesty could see it.

Just some of Yu's vocal supporters
Taiwan Society backs Yu in press spat (Taipei Times)
Aside from the Taiwan Society, other groups lending support to Yu's decision include the Taiwan Northern Society, the Taiwan Southern Society, the Taiwan Eastern Society [Maddog note: The Taipei Times told us just last June that the Taiwan Society is an umbrella group which covers those other three plus many more] and the Taiwan Bugle Society [Maddog note: previously corrected to "Taiwan Society Herald" in Taipei Times reports] -- all known for their pro-Taiwan independence stance.

Before Yu's announcement, these groups had months earlier already denied the newspaper interviews and refused to read or subscribe to it.

[...]

[Secretary-general of the Taiwan Society, Chet] Yang (楊文嘉) yesterday said as much as he respects the China Times reporters' rights to work, he did not think these rights should be overemphasized.

"Their work rights cannot take priority over and exclude other public values," he said. "For example, they should not exploit their rights to creating false news."

In a public statement last Friday, the Taiwan Society criticized the newspaper as a "media trust" which "fabricates news" and "sows discord."

It said Yu, as a public figure, was not refusing to be interviewed by other media, and was not trying to avoid media supervision.

The China Times should initiate a review of the quality of its own reports instead of blaming others the Taiwan Society said.
Hey, Roland -- I gotcher universe right here! (Hey, Taipei Times editors -- wake up and smell what you've published!)

Things which are and aren't parts of China (not necessarily in that order): , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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