Archive for March 6th, 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Diary: Taiwan’s Finest Ninety Minutes?

Football (known as soccer in America, because most Americans don’t know what football is) doesn’t play a great role in Taiwan. It’s so unknown there that the “Chinese Taipei Football Association”, i. e. Taiwan’s football association, doesn’t even run an English-language website, even though its history, originally under the name of The Republic of China Football Association, dates back to 1924.  It entered the Féderation Internationale de Football Association (better known as FIFA) in 1954, and helped to establish the Asian Football Federation with other Asian countries.

Taipei Stadium, Deaflympics 2009 (中文维基百科, click on picture for source)

Taipei Stadium, Deaflympics 2009 (中文维基百科, click on picture for source)

In the process of countries from Japan to the US switching diplomatic recognition to China, Taiwan’s football association “obtained” FIFA permission to change its name to Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA), and it returned into the Asian Football Federation in 1989 (一九八Ο年獲國際足總同意更名為中華台北足球協會,一九八九年重返亞洲足聯會籍) – no mention of the political backgrounds on the CTFA’s website. “Chinese Taipei” is the usually name under which Taiwan is tolerated, as a participant in international sports events, given Chinese diplomatic pressure on international organizations to keep Taiwan’s profile low.

As soon as in 1976, Taiwan faced Chinese pressure in the international sports arena. Holger Obermann, who had been imported by the Taiwanese football association as a national coach in 1975, remembers how the country’s Olympic team was booted out of the 1976 Olympics qualifiers. China  had successfully lodged a protest at the International Olympic Committee in Montreal.

Taiwan remains as far away from a world soccer qualification, as Germany is from a global baseball championship, Obermann mused in 2009.

But while the Olympic team’s situation may be bleak, it isn’t necessarily  hopeless. At the first leg against Jordan last month, in the qualifying process for the Olympic Games in London in 2012, Taiwan’s Olympic soccer team lost against their Jordanian hosts, by 0 – 1. It could have been much worse:

Jordan dominated the majority of the match at the King Abdullah International Stadium but could only muster an 83rd minute Khalil Baniateyah effort to show for their efforts while Chinese Taipei coach Chang Sheng Ping will be pleased to have left Amman having conceded just one goal,

the Asian Football Federation wrote on its website. Prior to the qualifying game, the Taiwanese team had faced difficulties as their training venue in Jordan wasn’t in good shape, and they had only one opportunity to walk across the actual playing field once, familiarizing themselves with the location, the CTFA website wrote on February 23. Jordanian Football Association secretary-general Khalil Al Salem (阿薩蘭) reportedly apologized for the problems at the training field, which had been caused by irregation problems, due to lacking water.

Some of the better-known players are Zhang Han (張涵, striker), Chen Yu-lin (陳俞霖, left-back defender), and Chen Yi-wei (陳毅維, a midfielder, or defender). Chang Sheng-ping (張生平) is the Taiwanese Olympic team’s head coach. The CTFA website has a page with the complete 2011 Olympic team.

The team’s history – it participates both in the Asian Games and in the Olympic Games, internationally – isn’t even known to Wikipedia (English) in every detail. It apparently has a history of not having qualified for Olympic Games since 1964, but was actually an Asian Games champion both in 1954 and in 1958.*)

Klaus, a German reporter in Taiwan, is determined to show up at the second leg of the Olympic team’s qualifying game against Jordan, at the Taipei Stadium, on Wednesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. (about opposite of IKEA’s furniture shopping center, where Nanjing Road and Dunhua Road join each other –  台北田徑場, 南京東路 and 敦化北路, apparently). He asks every foreigner in Taiwan (or at least in Taipei) to join him, to vocally support the Taiwanese team, and to turn the game into Taiwan’s finest ninety minutes to date.

FIFA does a bit more than the CTFA to make Taiwanese football known internationally. They provide some – even if not always realtime – information on a webpage dedicated to “Chinese Taipei”.

But defeating Jordan on Wednesday could make the real difference.

*) [March 9, 2011] There’s a footnote to those victorious occasions in history, as pointed out in this comment: the star players on those teams were actually Hong Kong residents, hired by the Republic of China, Taiwan. The Taiwanese started to build their own team – consisting of members of mainland refugee families and old Taiwanese families – in the 1970s, according to one of the coaches of the times, Holger Obermann.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bottom-Up: Regional Statistics and Work Reports

Dude, where's my affordable flat? (click picture for source)

Dude, where's my affordable flat? (WIKIMEDIA - click picture for source)

Enorth, Tianjin, March 5, 2011 — [The direct-controlled municipality of] Tianjin is going to increase affordable housing construction, and exert great efforts on the development on rental housing. As we learned yesterday, Hebei District (河北区) plans the construction of 766,200 square meters, or 9,000 units of affordable housing, and strive for 1 million square meters, and the completion of 187,500 square meters, or two-thousand units [i.e. flats].

A person in charge said that up to now, building projects in Hebei District had been completed in Liaohe Park (辽河园), Lanjing Park (兰景园), and Jingxianli (敬贤里), Gaoceng (高层), etc., with 1.13 million square meters or 15,489 units.

The Enorth article also contains a reference to Oriental Chemical (东方化工二期), which somehow seems to be connected with the projects in Hebei District.


The run-up to the current National People’s Congress plenary session (plus the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) is carefully choreographed and timed. Nothing will steal the central show – and any obvious “contradiction” between local, provincial, and central government levels will be smoothed out before the central event in Beijing begins. Regional work reports, too, come prior to chief state councillor Wen Jiabao‘s.


Work reports as the one by Wuzhou City’s (梧州市) mayor Wang Kai (王凯), for example. He told the the city’s 12th People’s Congress in February this year that measures to increase the living standards of the poorest in the countryside had been taken in 2010, and that 5,360 inhabitable rural houses (农村危旧房) had been “transformed” or replaced with new, low-cost and affordable housing (廉租房和经济适用房等保障性住房) – 5,695 units or 425,000 square meters.

He also referred to comprehensive efforts by the central and the “autonomous region’s” authorities as they worked to cope with natural disaster in Wuzhou and the surrounding Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, where heavy flooding as a result of torrential rain had led to the loss of lives, properties, and homes in June 2010, and added:

What deserves special mention is that we haven’t failed chief councillor Wen Jiabao’s trust, and before Spring Festival, and 5,041 households which had lost their dwellings due to the disaster had moved into their new homes! (值得特别提出的是,我们不负温家宝总理的重托,在春节前,全市5041户因灾倒房的群众全部搬进了新居 !)

Affordable housing in general was also mentioned, but without specific numbers. Given that Wuzhou has 3,1 million inhabitants “only”, (Tianjin is a city of 12.3 million inhabitants), housing pressures may be comparatively low in Wuzhou.


Top-Down: Wen’s NPC Report, and the Daily State of Affairs, March 6, 2011


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Top-Down: Wen’s NPC Report, and the Daily State of Affairs

Chief state councillor Wen Jiabao‘s annual report to China’s rubberstamp national parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), is the most important one given by a politician in China, according to the BBC‘s Michael Bristow:

It is broadly divided into two sections: a review of the previous year’s events and plans for the coming year.
According to [Zheng Yongnian (郑永年) of the National University of Singapore], work on the speech begins several months before it is delivered.
Central government ministries, think-tanks and regional leaders all have an input into what goes into the report, traditionally delivered on the opening day of China’s annual session of the National People’s Congress, the country’s parliament.

Wen’s speech of Saturday led the Wall Street Journal‘s (WSJ) blog to make comparisons with former chief state councillor Zhu Rongji‘s work reports, and did only find minor differences:

For all its relative candor, Mr. Wen’s speech doesn’t go much further in assigning blame — or proposing solutions. He makes pro-forma statements about upholding the rule of law, at a time when authorities have launched a new crackdown on activist lawyers. He talks about the need to “strengthen the work related to the handling of petitioners’ letters and visits,” even as authorities try to smother this traditional form of political protest, sometimes with violence. Mr. Zhu went so far as to mention human rights in his speech: Mr. Wen didn’t. Mr. Zhu spoke of elections: Mr. Wen ignored the subject.

Patrick Chovanec, an associate professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management in Beijing, points out a disturbing counterpoint to Wen’s speech, which had stressed the government’s commitment to be more open and responsive to the concerns and grievances of its citizens, particularly those who travel to Beijing to submit official petitions complaining of abuses or misconduct by local officials. The counterpoint:

The very same day, just a few blocks from where Premier Wen was speaking, a reporter from McClatchy news service interviewed some of the people standing in line outside the Petition Office.  One had his farm taken away by local officials.  Another had his welfare payments cut off after he voted for the wrong candidate in a local election.

It reportedly became a pretty messy scene, but, writes Chovanec, it may not necessarily need to be referred to as an “incident”, since it’s more a daily state of affairs.

China’s leadership would “effectively solve problems that cause great resentment among the masses”, the Telegraph quoted from Wen’s speech on Saturday.*)

The petitioners the McClatchy news service reporter interviewed, also on Saturday, will probably never make it to the ears of their leader. That’s, after all, why they committed the unpatriotic sin of relating their grievances to foreign reporters. Patrick Chovanec again, rendering the McClatchy story:

The reporter and translator eventually got away, but not before seeing the first man in plainclothes approach a witness to the scene, a woman holding several shopping bags, and shoving her around as he yelled “Are you not Chinese? Why are you following them?”

The foreign press, however, may have a chance of following up. Besides Wen Jiabao’s speech at the beginning of the annual plenary NPC session, there will be a press conference at its end. And if Wen has nothing more substantial to say there either, the festive venue may still prove to be another good Chinese-language lesson. Wen traditionally speaks very slowly at the annual press conferences (there is only one such press conference a year), it’s clear Mandarin, and usually available as a collection of videos on YouTube, and in writing.


*) Wen reportedly pointed out that a series of issues (连串议题) such as increasing income disparities (收入悬殊) and corruption (贪腐) had created great grievances (很大民怨) in China. It seems that other officials, or Wen himself, too, had referred to grievances prior to his NPC speech, too, but in lighter ways, such as that “in some places”, there had been “grievances”.

Why China is more like the Middle East…, CFR Blog, March 3, 2011
China’s new Five-Year Plan, BBC News, March 3, 2011
You name the Problem, the CCP solves it, February 15, 2011

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