Archive for January, 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Slowing Down

This winter has been nice so far: mild, with very little snow. I’ve read a lot recently, and written less. A WP editor looks like a very demanding dashboard, it seems to demand action.

(I probably wouldn’t write this if I were familiar with Facebook or Twitter.)

Slow down, relax, take it easy

Slow down, relax, take it easy

So I’m reading, and taking notes. Reading about Xi Jinping‘s wonder-weapon Wang Qishan, about China-Iran relations, etc.. And working on my vocabulary. I’ve noticed how, during translation, I found an English equivalent for a Chinese word, only to forget the vocabulary minutes later, while still translating. That’s when less blogging makes more sense.

But obviously, I’ll continue to write blogs – only at a slower pace. As long as there’s no Facebook in my life, what else could I do online?

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Taiwan Election Data, the Changes, and the ROC Convergence

Wrote a bio of sorts in a German blogpost about president-elect Tsai Ing-wen last Saturday, as it seems to me that in the English-language press, there’s lots of coverage about the Taiwan elections, sometimes beyond the mere “conflict with China” issues. In most of Germany’s media, Taiwan would hardly emerge even on election days, if it wasn’t for China’s “claims” on the island.

What looks notable to me is the voter turnout in the January 16 elections: 66.27 per cent, compared with 76.04 percent in 1996, 82.7 percent in 2000, 80.28 percent in 2004, 76.33 percent in 2008, and 74.38 percent in 2012, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC), quoted by CNA. Also notable: the general trends in the pan-blue and pan-green shares in the presidential elections.

 

Taiwan's presidential elections, from 1996 to 2016

Taiwan’s presidential elections, from 1996 to 2016. The 1996 numbers for the pan-blue camp include the two independent candidates’ shares. Both of them were close to the KMT, but critical of then president Lee Teng-hui‘s China policies. Numbers taken from Wikipedia.

 

Taiwan presidential elections chart, 1996 - 2016

Usually, I’m surprised to find out how time flies. But in this case, it strikes me as odd how big change can be within “only” two decades, from 1996 to 2016. Also, no DPP candidate has ever drawn as many votes – inabsolute numbers – as Tsai Ing-wen has last Saturday. This would seem to suggest that some of the reasons for the record-low in turnout could lie in the KMT’s performance during the election campaigns. An uncertain number of people who’d normally support the KMT may have seen no sense in voting for Eric Chu, or any KMT candidate, for that matter.

Frozen Garlic, a blogger in Taiwan who has been doing a lot of number crunching during the past week, probed district-level turnout data in “blue” and “green” districts this week, and found some clues there that would support this guess.

There were, however, nearly 1.6 million voters who chose James Soong who is more China-leaning than the average KMT candidate. Soong only fared better in 2000, under what might be carefully described as exceptional circumstances.

Another notable first – in the parliamentary elections, that is – is the emergence of the “New-Power Party” – they’ve actually overtaken James Soong’s People-First Party there  (seats: 5 – 3; votes: 6.1 percent – 5.5 percent).

What does this tell about the KMT? The party remains a force to be reckoned with, for – reportedly – being one of the world’s richest political parties, and for its connections within Taiwan’s elites and civil society, big business, as well as for connections to China, and to America. But how “Chinese” can the KMT remain if it wants to remain competitive? Probably not as Chinese as incumbent president Ma Ying-jeou.

China’s accusation until December (by quoting the KMT, that is) that Tsai Ing-wen rejects the 1992 Consensus has become old news. Literally, she said in an interview with the Liberty Times on Thursday that

In 1992, the two parties [the Straits Exchange Foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits] from the two sides communicated and negotiated through an approach of mutual understanding and “seeking common ground while shelving differences,” and I understand and respect this historical fact. [The interview in English, Taipei Times]

在一九九二年,兩岸兩會秉持相互諒解、求同存異的政治思維進行溝通協商,達成了若干的共同認知與諒解,我理解和尊重這個歷史事實。[The interview in Chinese, Liberty Times]

Thinking about it, while there have been big changes during the past twenty years, there’s been a remarkable convergence toward what Taiwan and the outside world commonly refer to as the “status quo” – the KMT and the DPP used to be further apart in the past, not only in terms of public support or votes, but in terms of their respective international concepts, too.

One day after Tsai’s election, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office had announced that it would continue to use the 1992 Consensus and oppose any Taiwan independence activities in cross-strait relations, as quoted by Radio Taiwan International (RTI). And on Monday, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, during his stay in Taiwan, met with incumbent president Ma Ying-jeou, the defeated KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu, and Tsai Ing-wen, who reportedly said that [t]he U.S. anticipates seeing a successful political transition.

There is continuity in Taiwan’s foreign policy: Cindy Sui, the BBC‘s (occasional) Taiwan correspondent pointed out on election day that it was Tsai who, in 2003 and in her capacity as the Mainland Affairs Council chairperson during president Chen Shui-bian‘s presidency, made a case for further legalizing trade and communications links with China.

Tsai, as opposition leader, also took a fairly public measure on Taiwan’s (or the Republic of China’s) national day on October 10, 2011, saying that the vast majority of Taiwanese today could acknowledge that “Taiwan simply is the Republic of China”, as the two have merged, for a new life in Taiwan.

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Related Tag: Taiwan Consensus

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

China’s Friends and Enemies

China has neither as many friends nor as many enemies as CCP apologists would have it. Many of the friends are only friends as long as the economic statistics look great. And many of those called enemies by the CCP and its propaganda aren’t really enemies – they are a lame excuse, but efficient, when many Chinese and foreign people who feel that they depend on the party’s benevolence suffer from Stockholm syndrome.

Why do so many CCP apologists believe in big numbers of friends and enemies? Those with big egos may believe in these because it inflates their egos even further.

And those who feel uneasy about the CCP’s human rights abuses –  but do not want to face the inconvenient facts – need to silence their conscience.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

President Elect: Tsai Ing-wen

Tsai Ing-wen has been elected president of Taiwan.

Related tag: Tsai Ing-wen

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Updates/Related

» Victory speech full text (English), CNA, Jan 16, 2016
» Personal Memories, latest results, Foarp, Jan 16, 2016
» Tsai Ing-wens Wahlkampf, 2010 – 2016, Jan 16, 2016

Friday, January 8, 2016

Human Rights and Economic Records: Botched Measures and Terrible Occurrences

Before the old (lunar) year leaves and a new comes in, things need to be tidied up in China. However, efforts to calm the stock markets by new management measures appear to have been unsuccessful. And in Hong Kong, where RMB trading, is unrestricted, people pay less for China’s currency, according to the New York Times.

There’s still other bad news, and the indicator in this case, too, is Hong Kong.

“Something terrible has happened. We are all afraid. We are leaving now,” an employee told me a few hours before locking the doors for the foreseeable future.

That’s how the BBC‘s correspondent in the former British colony, Juliana Liu, concluded an entry in the broadcaster’s China blog on Monday, and the topic, of course, is the case of five Hong Kong citizens, all associated with the Causeway Bay Bookstore, who have gone missing since October last year. The latest case is Paul Lee, and he went missing late in December.

Hong Kong’s SCMP, one of East Asia’s leading English-language papers, but one with an uncertain future, reported on Monday the first precept speech by a Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. The guy who’s imitating the late great dictator is, of course, current party secretary general, state chairman, and the central military commissions’ (CMC) chairman Xi Jinping. The speech is seen as part of Xi’s efforts to reform China’s military, but obviously, the – probably intended – signal goes beyond the armed forces project.

Given that no other former CMC chairman, from Deng Xiaoping to Hu Jintao, had given a military precept, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law concludes that Xi’s power and authority is even higher than them.

This may or may not be true. If  Wang Qishan, rather than Li Keqiang, ranks second in terms of power or influence within the party, the assessement may be correct. But then, maybe Deng Xiaoping, who faced open ideological competition at times by more conservative party veterans like Chen Yun, simply didn’t need to show off his autority by admonishing the military.

Back then, too, the party was corrupted. But that was at a time when – or that’s how it felt, anyway – everyone had a chance to become rich. Now, there’s a two-fold challenge of corruption and slowing growth.

This could mean that Xi has powers because potential rivals do not want to challenge him, so as not to rock the not-so-stable boat.

If China’s regime manages the switch from an export-led economy to a more services-oriented economy successfully, the doubts in Beijing’s macro-economic control of the economy won’t persist – some disappeared people, in China or elsewhere, have never been a great concern to business.

All the Xidadamania aside however, confidence in mainland China, in Hong Kong, and abroad, appears to be slipping, at least currently.

In an interview with German national radio on Thursday, Markus Taube, a professor at a university in Germany’s Ruhr region, stated “a massive loss of confidence” in China:

What we see in China at the moment, definitely, is a massive loss of confidence. All market actors can see that the CCP has clearly lost its former control capacity. Until now, the Chinese market was always a very [unreadable] […]. Now, this ability to lead isn’t in place and that the state has failed several times, on its own promises.

Das, was wir in China momentan definitiv sehen ist ein massiver Vertrauensverlust. Alle Marktakteure sehen, dass die Kommunistische Partei offensichtlich ihre frühere Steuerungskapazität verloren hat. Bislang war der chinesische Markt immer ein sehr [unreadable] … Fundamentaldaten haben da kaum eine Rolle gespielt, und es war das Vertrauen einfach da, dass die Partei, der Staat, im Endeffekt die Richtung vorgibt [unreadable]. Jetzt ist es so, dass diese Führungsfunktion fehlt und dass der Staat mehrfach versagt hat, auf seine eigenen Versprechen hin.

Not least, Taube said, the “anti-corruption campaign” has discouraged Chinese decisionmakers in charge of approving (or delaying) investment projects.

Given that Chinese control mechanisms – concerning the financial markets – are out of order, Taube, with an audible sigh, introduces an old friend from the 2009 tool cabinet:

It sounds unorthodox, but probably, in the current situation, it would be more appropriate to issue another stimulus package, in that the state, again, to a great extent, pumps money into the economy. A classical Keynesian stimulus package to create state-induced demand so as to restore the economic dynamics on a basic level.

Es klingt sehr unorthodox, aber wahrscheinlich ist es in der momentanen Situation tatsächlich eher angesagt, ein klassisches Konjunkturpaket wieder aufzusetzen, einen Stimulus, in dem der Staat einfach in großem Maße wieder Geld in die Volkswirtschaft hineinpumpt. Also ein klassisches keynesianisches Konjunkturprogramm, in dem einfach staatlich induziert Nachfrage geschaffen wird, und damit einfach die volkswirtschaftliche Dynamik auf einem grundlegenden Level wieder stabilisiert wird.

That said, Taube doesn’t judge the situation by standards of five-year plans, or by taking the long view, as recommended by the Lord of the Confucius Institutes. Taube advocates a stimulus because the methods tried more recently haven’t worked and wouldn’t turn the tide for the coming six months.

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Updates/Related

» Executives Disappearing, HP, Jan 8, 2016

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