Archive for ‘Taiwan’

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tsai Ing-wen’s Inagurational Address: an Economy with New Bones

The inaugural address in → Chinese and in → English, published by CNA. Prior to President Tsai’s inaugural speech, there were two songs: an indigenous one, and the national anthem of the RoC.

Language observation: I used to think that 脱胎换骨 was merely an mainland Chinese figure of speech (to be reborn with new bones, see footnote →there. This is not so. President Tsai used it too, this morning:

我們要讓台灣經濟脫胎換骨,就必須從現在起就下定決心,勇敢地走出另外一條路。這一條路,就是打造台灣經濟發展的新模式。

The CNA translation puts it less pictographic:

In order to completely transform Taiwan’s economy, from this moment on, we must bravely chart a different course – and that is to build a “New Model for Economic Development” for Taiwan.

So, chances are that Wang Meng and his generation learned that →phrase long before joining the Communist Party. It’s either “KMT”, or still older.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

DPP: a Need to Control and to Trust Tsai

Very few things can be taken for granted. Tsai Ing-wen‘s presidency will have to address issues from pension reform and social issues, to relations with China and efforts for economic-cooperation agreements with countries in the region, beyond Singapore and New Zealand.

From tomorrow, many things will be different from preceding presidencies. But one thing will not change at all: Beijing’s latent aggression against the island democracy will stay around.

Tsai will probably try to avoid anything that would, in the eyes of many Taiwanese people and especially in the eyes of Washington or Tokyo, unnecessarily anger Beijing. That in turn may anger some or many of her supporters.

But in tricky times, Tsai needs loyal supporters, who are prepared to believe that she has the best in mind for her country, and that she has the judgment and strength to make the right choices.

There will be disagreement, and there will be debate, which is essential. But underlying these, there needs to be loyalty within the Democratic Progressive Party.

Probably, there will be no loyal opposition – there are no indications, anyway, that the KMT in its current sectarian shape will constitute that kind of democratic balance.

The DPP itself, and maybe the New Power Party, too, will have to take much of that loyal-opposition role – at least until July next year.

Distinguishing between blind faith and loyalty will be a challenge for people who support the president elect. But if Tsai’s supporters expect her to perform well, they themselves will have to play their part, too, in terms of judgment, strength, and faith.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Panama Papers: Invested, but not Koppied

You needn’t be there yourself, but should your money? Those places are beginning to look like those parties you simply have to get an invitation to, if you want to matter: the “havens” where (many of) the rich and beautiful put their money. The Virgin Islands, for example. Or Panama. Or Luxemburg? Not sure. Ask a bank.

Reportedly, some members of Vladimir Putin‘s tight-knit inner circle do it. Reportedly, Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan (成龍) does it. So do Thais. Lots of Indians, too. And maybe many Americans, but elsewhere.

Others, also reportedly, did so in the past. One of them even says that he lost money in the game.

But not so fast. Media tend to scandalize everything, don’t they?

According to ICIJ, the documents make public the offshore accounts of 140 politicians and public officials. The documents don’t necessarily detail anything illegal, but they do shine a light on the shadowy world of offshore finances,

National Public Radio (NPR) informs its listeners.

So, let’s not jump to conclusions. The problem, either way, is that the investors’ countries’ governments can’t get a picture of what is there. And once an investor is found on a list like the “Panama Papers”, with investments or activities formerly unknown to his country’s fiscal authorities (and/or the public), he’s got something to explain.

Like Argentine president Mauricio Macri, for example.

So, it’s beautiful to have some money there.

Unless the public begins to continuously ask questions about it.

Timely Exits from Paradise

If British prime minister David Cameron is right, the money he and his wife earned from an offshore trust were taxed. His problem, then, would be the general suspicon of the business.

The Cameron couple reportedly sold their shares in question in 2010, the year he became prime minister.

“Best Effect” and “Wealth Ming” reportedly ceased operations in 2012 and/or 2013. That was when CCP secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping took his top positions. The two companies had been run in the Virgin Islands, and Deng Jiagui (邓家贵), husband to Xi’s older sister, had been the owner, Singaporean paper Zaobao reported on Tuesday.

And then, there’s Tsai Ying-yang (蔡瀛陽), one of the 16,785 Taiwanese Mossack Fonseca customers, the law firm the “Panama Papers” were leaked from. According to his lawyer, Lien Yuen-lung (連元龍), Tsay Ying-yang terminated his Koppie Limited company as soon as in 2009, the year following its establishment, so as to cut the losses – 30 percent of the investment, according to a phone interview Lien gave Reuters, as quoted by the Straits Times.

Tsai Ing-wen hasn’t commented herself, and maybe, she won’t any time soon. It doesn’t seem that too much pressure has mounted so far. But questions are asked all the same. On Wednesday, KMT legislators William Tseng (曾銘宗), Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), and Lee Yan-hsiu (李彥秀) told a press conference that in the “many cases” where the Tsai family had encountered controversy, Tsai Ying-yangs name had emerged, and this “gave cause for doubts” (會起人疑竇).

An Emerging KMT Opposition Pattern

William Tseng may become a regular questioner, concerning the financial affairs of Tsai’s family people. One of the “controversies” he had quoted had been the issue of a press conference on March 24. There, with different KMT colleagues,  but the same kind of artwork on the wall behind the panel, showing the suspect of the day, Tseng dealt with the issue of Academica Sinica president Wong Chi-huey‘s daughter’s role as a shareholder of OBI Pharma Inc..

KMT legislators press conference artwork

KMT representations:
Mind the guys in the background

One of his fellow legislators, Alicia Wang (王育敏), raised the issue of the company’s shareholder structure (and neatly placed Tsai’s brother there, too, maybe just to make his name available for quote by Tseng on other occasions:

“President-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) brother and sister-in-law are also shareholders, and so is Wong’s daughter, Wong Yu-shioh (翁郁秀). Are others involved?”

Diplomatic Relations, but no Tax Treaty

The “Panama Papers”, as far as they concern Taiwanese customers, contain not only individuals, but companies, too: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (founding chairman Morris Chang, who served Taiwan as APEC representative in 2006), TransAsia Airways (more recently in the news for the tragic Flight 235 crash), Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation, Wei Chuan Food Corporation (in the news since 2013), and the Executive Yuan’s National Development Fund.

The Development Fund was not a taxable organization, Taiwan’s foreign broadcaster Radio Taiwan International (RTI) quotes finance minister Chang Sheng-ford. He used the example to make the point that to suggest that some 16,000 keyword search results for Taiwan in the “Panama Papers” did not signify 16,000 cases of tax evasion. That’s just not the way to look at it.

Chang reportedly also said that while, “if necessary”, Taiwan would establish a Panama Papers working group and start investigating the most high risk people and agencies for tax evasion, the country had no tax treaty with Panama. Also, a Taiwanese anti-tax evasion law had not yet been passed.

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Related

The Panama Papers
Achselzucken schadet, Der Freitag, Apr 7, 2016
The Panama Papers, FoarP, Apr 6, 2016

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hung Hsiu-chu elected KMT Chairwoman

Hung Hsiu-chu, the KMT’s presidential nominee until October 2015 (when she was ditched and replaced by Eric Chu), has been elected KMT chairwoman today. She replaces Eric Chu who resigned as KMT chairman in January, after suffering a heavy defeat as the KMT’s presidential candidate. According to this website, turnout was low.

A new leader will be elected in July 2017, a year and four months from now.

Will she stand for re-election then? And would she be re-elected?

Not necessarily. She hasn’t been quite the diplomat during her political career so far, and a successful KMT chairperson would need great skills to integrate the different tempers and political directions within the KMT.

Her position concerning relations with China were a factor in bringing her down as the KMT’s presidential nominee – she was deemed to close to Beijing. To become a long-term KMT chairperson, the least she would need to do is to move away from her “unification” position.

You may actually be quite “Chinese”, and still become Taiwan’s president. In a post for a University of Nottingham blog, Michael Cole describes how seemingly “pro-unification” parties may be vulnerable to movements that consider themselves Chinese on the one hand, but by no means “pro-Beijing”.

In May, Tsai Ing-wen will be sworn in as President of the Republic of China on Taiwan. And the main opposition leader will be Hung Hsiu-chu. Sounds like a fascinating constellation.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Maritime Powers – Argentina and Indonesia arrest Chinese Fishing Crews

1. China, Taiwan vs. Indonesia

Chinese fishing trawlers have been involved in two rather strongly publicized disputes this month.

One of the two disputes occurred on March 19 local time, in a location called a traditional Chinese fishing ground by the Chinese embassy in Jakarta. This was, reportedly, a bit south of the South China Sea, and well inside Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, according to Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesian minister of fisheries and maritime affairs (and, according to this announcement on “Facebook”, previously an entrepreneur in the seafood distribution and fisheries industry). The Indonesian coastguard reportedly arrested eight fishermen from a Chinese fishing ship before a Chinese coast guard ship intervened and rammed the fishing ship back into the South China Sea, according to the English-language Jakarta Globe. Beijing has since demanded the release of the eight fishermen, but Indonesia appears determined to prosecute them.

Chinese foreign-ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, just as the Chinese embassy in Jakarta, referred to the incident location as “traditional Chinese fishing grounds”. She also said that Natuna Islands belong to Indonesia, and there is no objection from China on that. The Jakarta Globa quoted Pudjiastuti as saying that the incident occurred occurred just 4.34 kilometers off Indonesia’s Natuna islands, adding her conclusion that this was inside Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone. On another press conference two days later, Hua answered even more questions concerning the incident.

Two days (local time) after the arrests, two Taiwanese fishing boats were fired at by what they believed to be an official Indonesian vessel while in the Strait of Malacca, according to the English-language Taipei Times. According to the report, a spokesman for the Indonesian Navy Headquarters said that there had been no report by the Indonesian coast guard or navy vessels of chasing Taiwanese fishing boats, but on Thursday, the Straits Times quoted an Indonesian government taskforce against illegal fishing as saying that there had been an incident involving two Taiwanese tuna longliners, and that the shots had been fired in self-defense as the Taiwanese vessels had tried to ram it.

2. China vs. Argentina

On March 14, Argentina’s coast guard sunk a Chinese trawler off the Patagonian coast. The BBC’s Mandarin service reported in an online newsarticle quoted the Argentine coastguard as saying that

The Chinese trawler Luyan Yuanyu 010 was detected while conducting illegal activities in the [Argentine] economic exclusive zone on Monday (March 14). When trying to stop [the Chinese trawler], the coast guard was surprised by  a counter-attack and then sank this trawler.

来自中国的拖网渔船“鲁烟远渔010”周一(14日)被发现在其专属经济水域(EEZ)非法作业,警备队在阻挡时遭反击,随后击沉这艘渔船。

The speaker of the Chinese foreign ministry, Lu Kang, said on March 16 that the trawler in question had been “chased for several hours during its work in Argentine fishing grounds. The statement said nothing about “illegal fishing”, nor about whether or not the trawler had put up a counter attack [or counter attacks].

中国外交部发言人陆慷周三(16日)表示,有关渔船“在阿根廷渔场作业时,被阿海警船追赶数小时”。声明并未提及任何关于“非法捕鱼”的字句,也没有提及中方渔船有否反抗。

Lu Kang emphasized that all 32 crew members had been saved, that the Chinese side had made urgent representations to the Argentine side, that it had demanded an investigation and a report as well as safeguarding the safety and legal rights of the crew, as well as avoiding similar incidents from happening in the future.

陆慷指出,32名船员全部获救,中方已和阿方展开紧急交涉,要求阿根廷彻查详情并向中国报告,保障中国船员的安全及合法权益,避免类似事件再发生。

The official news agency Xinhua said that while a debate about whether one side had trespassed or whether the other had acted out of proportions while enforcing the law, the Chinese embassy in Argentina had reminded the Chinese fishing companies busy in the South Atlantic to pay attention to safety.

The BBC report reproduces the Argentine coast guards account as saying that the Chinese trawler, after its detection, had tried to escape into international waters. In the process, it had rammed the coast guard vessel several times, thus putting not only the Chinese crewmen at risk, but the Argentinians, too. While 28 crew members were apparently saved by another Chinese vessel, four were picked from the water by the Argentine coast guard and will reportedly be prosecuted in Argentina.

According to the online trade publication SeafoodSource.com, the Luyan Yuanyu 010 trawler was operated by Shandong Yantai Marine Fisheries Co., […] a subsidiary of the China National Fisheries Corporation (CNFC), which ultimately, across some shareholding, makes this a state-owned operation.

A possibly similar incident, but in politically-charged waters, occured four and a half years ago, in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands which are controlled by Japan, and considered Chinese by Beijing and Taipei. Japan released the crew and the captain of the Chinese fishing vessel about a fortnight after his arrest, and China gave the captain, Zhan Qixiong, a hero’s welcome.

During the two weeks of the crisis, China, according to the Economist,

apparently suspended its export of rare-earth minerals, which are vital to making electronics components used in everything from handheld gadgets to cars. On September 23rd China emphatically denied that it is blocking exports. And this may be true: there probably isn’t a formal directive. But in a country where informal rules abound, exporters know that it can pay to withhold shipments—in solidarity with a government that is angry at its neighbour.

The Japanese government in office at the time was largely seen as roundly defeated by Beijing, and efforts have since been made to make Japan less dependent on business with China in general, and on “rare earth minerals” in particular.

Probably, neither Argentina nor China are interested in escalating the conflict, and the Ji Lu Evening Post (齐鲁晚报) from Jinan, Shandong Province, quoted Xinhua as, in turn, quoting the Argentinian foreign minister Susana Malcorra as saying in a televised interview on March 18 that Argentina hoped the sinking of the trawler wouldn’t greatly affect the bilateral relations with Beijing.

The Chinese service of Argentina’s foreign broadcaster Radiodifusión Argentina al Exterior (RAE) quoted Malcorra correspondingly.

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Related

» No bit of Humanity, July 22, 2012

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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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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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lin Rong-san, 1939 – 2015

Lin Rong-san (林榮三), publisher of the Liberty Times (自由時報, a Chinese-language paper) and the Taipei Times (an English-langugage paper), died on Saturday afternoon local time, according to Radio Taiwan International (RTI).  He was 76 years old (or 77 years old, by Chinese standard).

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