Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cross-Strait Relations in Space?

Some very interesting articles can be found simply by typing "Taiwan" into Google News (or your news aggregator of choice). A few days ago, we stumbled across this gem from "The Space Review: Essays and Commentary about the Final Frontier."

Writer Tyler Dinerman, in his article "China and Taiwan together on the space station," calls for both countries to be made participants in the International Space Station (ISS) partnership. China has already chalked up several successes independently sending humans into space (the China National Space Administration plans its first spacewalk later this year) and Dinerman suggests that China's Shenzhou space capsule could be adapted to dock with the station via either the U.S. or Russian mating systems. He further suggests that the last Space Shuttle mission might provide the perfect opportunity for some historic diplomacy in space:

"If China and Taiwan were to agree to fly to the ISS together they could take advantage of a series of opportunities, beginning with a possible participation by taikonauts from both nations in the possible final shuttle mission that may carry the AMS [Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer] to the station. Since the AMS contains parts made in both the PRC and on Taiwan, so this would fit nicely with the mission’s objectives."

Of course, such a rosy scenario would require all parties to overcome several sticking points to get there. Would the U.S. be comfortable with members from China's budding (and potentially rival) space program hitching a ride on the relatively advanced space shuttle, even though it is about to be decommissioned? Would a R.O.C. taikonaut flying with the Americans be too official of a Taiwan-U.S. exchange for China's taste?

Space missions have been used for diplomatic purposes before -- Apollo-Soyuz immediately comes to mind. Although this article is worth reading for no other reason than this new angle on the Taiwan-China-U.S. triangle relationship, it may be a while yet before a mission involving participants from all three countries takes place. But if it does, perhaps our common human curiosity and penchant for exploration will work its magic on one of the more strenuous relationships in international relations today.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

President Ma's May 20 Inaugural Address

On Tuesday, March 20, Taiwan's new President Ma Ying-jeou was sworn into office. The following is a transcripted of President Ma's inaugural address, as posted on the Taiwan GIO's website for the inauguration.

Taiwan's Renaissance
Ma Ying-jeou, President of the Republic of China (Taiwan)

Heads of State of Our Diplomatic Allies, Distinguished Guests, Overseas Compatriots, My Fellow
Taiwanese, and Dear Friends in front of a Television Set or Computer: Good Morning!

I. Historical Significance of the Second Turnover of Power

Earlier this year on March 22, through the presidential election of the Republic of China, the people changed the course of their future. Today we are here not to celebrate the victory of a particular party or individual, but to witness Taiwan pass a historic milestone.

Taiwan's democracy has been treading down a rocky road, but now it has finally won the chance to enter a smoother path. During that difficult time, political trust was low, political maneuvering was high, and economic security was gone. Support for Taiwan from abroad had suffered an all-time low. Fortunately, the growing pains of Taiwan's democracy did not last long compared to those of other young democracies. Through these growing pains, Taiwan's democracy matured as one can see by the clear choice the people made at this critical moment. The people have chosen clean politics, an open economy, ethnic harmony, and peaceful cross-strait relations to open their arms to the future.

Above all, the people have rediscovered Taiwan's traditional core values of benevolence, righteousness, diligence, honesty, generosity and industriousness. This remarkable experience has let Taiwan become "a beacon of democracy to Asia and the world." We, the people of Taiwan, should be proud of ourselves. The Republic of China is now a democracy respected by the international community.

Yet we are still not content. We must better Taiwan's democracy, enrich its substance, and make it more perfect. To accomplish this, we can rely on the Constitution to protect human rights, uphold law and order, make justice independent and impartial, and breathe new life into civil society. Taiwan's democracy should not be marred by illegal eavesdropping, arbitrary justice, and political interference in the media or electoral institutions. All of us share this vision for the next phase of political reform.

On the day of Taiwan's presidential election, hundreds of millions of ethnic Chinese worldwide watched the ballot count on TV and the Internet. Taiwan is the sole ethnic Chinese society to complete a second democratic turnover of power. Ethnic Chinese communities around the world have laid their hopes on this crucial political experiment. By succeeding, we can make unparalleled contributions to the democratic development of all ethnic Chinese communities. This responsibility is ours to fulfill.

II. Mission of the New Era

The new administration's most urgent task is to lead Taiwan through the daunting challenges from globalization. The world economy is changing profoundly, and newly emerging countries are arising rapidly. We must upgrade Taiwan's international competitiveness and recover lost opportunities. The uncertainty of the current global economy poses as the main challenge to the revitalization of Taiwan's economy. Yet, we firmly believe that, with right policies and steadfast determination, our goals are within our grasp.

Islands like Taiwan flourish in an open economy and wither in a closed one. This has been true throughout history. Therefore, we must open up and deregulate the economy to unleash the vitality of the private sector. This will strengthen Taiwan's comparative advantages. Taiwan's enterprises should be encouraged to establish themselves at home, network throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and position themselves globally. Taiwan's labor force must learn to adapt to rapid technological changes and industrial restructuring. Our youth must develop character, a sense of civic duty, global perspectives and lifelong learning capabilities. All forms of political interference in education must be eradicated. In this era of globalization, the government must satisfy the basic needs of the underprivileged and create opportunities for them to develop. While pursuing growth, we must seek environmental sustainability for Taiwan and the rest of the world.

The new administration must also restore political ethics to regain the people's trust in the government. We will endeavor to create an environment that is humane, rational and pluralistic-one that fosters political reconciliation and co-existence. We will promote harmony among sub-ethnic groups and between the old and new immigrants, encourage healthy competition in politics, and respect the media's monitoring of the government and freedom of the press.

The new administration will push for clean politics and set strict standards for the integrity and efficiency of officials. It also will provide a code for the interaction between the public and private sectors to prevent money politics. I hope every civil servant will keep in mind: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The KMT will honor its sincere commitment to accountability in governance. The new government will be for all the people, remain non-partisan and uphold administrative neutrality. The government will not stand in the way of social progress, but rather serve as the engine that drives it.

As President of the Republic of China, my most solemn duty is to safeguard the Constitution. In a young democracy, respecting the Constitution is more important than amending it. My top priority is to affirm the authority of the Constitution and show the value of abiding by it. Serving by example, I will follow the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, especially the separation of powers. We must ensure that the government is based on the rule of law. The Executive Yuan must answer to the Legislative Yuan. The Judiciary must guarantee the rule of law and protect human rights. The Examination Yuan must make the civil service sound. The Control Yuan must redress mistakes by the government and censure malfeasance by civil servants. All told, we must take this opportunity to re-establish a robust constitutional tradition.

Taiwan has to be a respectable member of the global village. Dignity, autonomy, pragmatism and flexibility should be Taiwan's guiding principles when developing foreign relations. As a world citizen, the Republic of China will accept its responsibilities in promoting free trade, nonproliferation, anti-global warming measures, counter-terrorism, humanitarian aid, and other global commons. Taiwan must play a greater role in regional cooperation. By strengthening economic relations with its major trading partners, Taiwan can better integrate itself in East Asia and contribute more to the region's peace and prosperity.

We will strengthen bilateral relations with the United States, our foremost security ally and trading partner. Taiwan will continue to cherish its diplomatic allies and honor its commitments to them. We will expand cooperation with like-minded countries. On top of that, we will rationalize our defense budget and acquire necessary defensive weaponry to form a solid national defense force. At the same time, we are committed to cross-strait peace and regional stability. The Republic of China must restore its reputation in the international community as a peace-maker.

I sincerely hope that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can seize this historic opportunity to achieve peace and co-prosperity. Under the principle of "no unification, no independence and no use of force," as Taiwan's mainstream public opinion holds it, and under the framework of the ROC Constitution, we will maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. In 1992, the two sides reached a consensus on "one China, respective interpretations." Many rounds of negotiation were then completed, spurring the development of cross-strait relations. I want to reiterate that, based on the "1992 Consensus," negotiations should resume at the earliest time possible. As proposed in the Boao Forum on April 12 of this year, let's "face reality, pioneer a new future, shelve controversies and pursue a win-win solution." This will allow us to strike a balance as each pursues its own interests. The normalization of economic and cultural relations is the first step to a win-win solution. Accordingly, we are ready to resume consultations. It is our expectation that, with the start of direct charter flights on weekends and the arrival of mainland tourists in early July this year, we will launch a new era of cross-strait relations.

We will also enter consultations with mainland China over Taiwan's international space and a possible cross-strait peace accord. Taiwan doesn't just want security and prosperity. It wants dignity. Only when Taiwan is no longer being isolated in the international arena can cross-strait relations move forward with confidence. We have taken note that Mr. Hu Jintao has recently spoken on cross-strait relations three times: first, in a conversation of March 26 with US President George W. Bush on the "1992 Consensus"; second, in his proposed "four continuations" on April 12 at the Boao Forum; and third, on April 29 when he called for "building mutual trust, shelving controversies, finding commonalities despite differences, and creating together a win-win solution" across the Taiwan Strait. His views are very much in line with our own. Here I would like to call upon the two sides to pursue reconciliation and truce in both cross-strait and international arenas. We should help and respect each other in international organizations and activities. In light of our common Chinese heritage, people on both sides should do their utmost to jointly contribute to the international community without engaging in vicious competition and the waste of resources. I firmly believe that Taiwan and mainland China are open minded enough to find a way to attain peace and co-prosperity.

In resolving cross-strait issues, what matters is not sovereignty but core values and way of life. We care about the welfare of the 1.3 billion people of mainland China, and hope that mainland China will continue to move toward freedom, democracy and prosperity for all the people. This would pave the way for the long-term peaceful development of cross-strait relations.

The damage from the recent earthquake in Sichuan was shocking. All Taiwanese have expressed deep concern and offered immediate emergency assistance. We offer our deepest condolences to the earthquake victims and pay homage to the rescue workers. May the reconstruction of the affected area be completed at the earliest time possible!

III. Taiwan's Legacy and Vision

Upon being sworn in, I had an epiphany about the significance of accepting responsibility for the 23 million people of Taiwan. Although I have never felt so honored in my life, this is the heaviest responsibility that I have ever shouldered. Taiwan is not my birthplace, but it is where I was raised and the resting place of my family. I am forever grateful to society for accepting and nurturing this post-war immigrant. I will protect Taiwan with all my heart and resolutely move forward. I'll do my very best!

For over four centuries, this island of ours has welcomed waves of immigrants, nurturing and sheltering us all. It has provided us, our children and grandchildren, and the generations to come a safe haven. With its lofty mountains and vast oceans, Taiwan has invigorated us in mind and spirit. The cultural legacies we inherited over time not only survive on this land, but flourish and evolve, creating a pluralistic and vigorous human landscape.

The Republic of China was reborn on Taiwan. During my presidency, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China. This democratic republic, the very first in Asia, spent a short 38 years on the Chinese mainland, but has spent nearly 60 years in Taiwan. During these last six decades, the destinies of the Republic of China and Taiwan have been closely intertwined. Together, the two have experienced times good and bad. On the jagged path toward democracy, the ROC has made great strides. Dr. Sun Yat-sen's dream for a constitutional democracy was not realized on the Chinese mainland, but today it has taken root, blossomed and borne fruit in Taiwan.

I am confident about Taiwan's future. Over the years, I have traveled to every corner of the island and talked with people from all walks of life. What impressed me most was that the traditional core values of benevolence, righteousness, diligence, honesty, generosity and industriousness could be seen everywhere in the words and deeds of the Taiwanese people regardless of their location and age. These values have long been ingrained in their character. This is the wellspring of our progress, also lauded as the "Taiwan Spirit."

One can see that Taiwan is blessed with an excellent geographic location, precious cultural assets, a maturing democracy, innovative entrepreneurship, a pluralistic society, active civic groups, patriotic overseas compatriots, and new immigrants from all over the world. We should couple the "Taiwan Spirit" with our comparative advantages and the principle of "putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people." This way we can transform our homeland-Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu-the envy of the world.

To revive Taiwan requires the efforts of both the government and the people. We need the expertise of the private sector, cooperation among all political parties, and participation by all the people. My dear compatriots, from this moment on, we must roll up our sleeves to build up our homeland. Together, we can lay a solid foundation of peace and prosperity for our children, grandchildren and the generations to come. Let's work hand in hand for our future!

My dear compatriots, please join me:

Long live Taiwan's democracy!

Long live the Republic of China!

Thank you!

Monday, April 21, 2008

PRC's Iron Media Curtain Extends beyond China's Borders

In one month the WHO World Health Assembly will convene in Geneva, Switzerland. The assembly convenes every year to vote on matters of business, appoint new officers and to consider applications for membership. Taiwan has applied annually since 1997 for representation in the WHO of one form or another. Each time Taiwan's application has been declined at the behest of China. As Taiwan possesses a major world economy and a world-class health care system that encompasses the care of its 23 million citizens, leaving Taiwan out of the WHO represents a major gap in the global health and disease prevention network.

As if this weren't bad enough, Taiwanese reporters are banned from even covering the World Health Assembly and many other WHO-related events. This is a clear violation of international media freedoms and the collective right of the people of Taiwan to know the proceedings of the assembled World Health Organization -- in particular, how and why they continue to be left out of it.

International journalists are in many ways a tight-knit professional community and several organizations are none to happy with what they see as China's behind-the-scenes manipulation of WHO media rights policy in order to further isolate Taiwan. Both the International Press Institute (IPI) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) released statements on April 11 this year to voice their unhappiness with China's antics and the WHO ban on Taiwan journalists.

From IPI:

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, expresses concern regarding the refusal by the United Nations (UN) to grant press passes to journalists carrying Taiwanese passports or working for Taiwanese media outlets.

According to information before IPI, for the past four years, Taiwanese journalists have been barred from covering the annual World Health Assembly (WHA), the supreme decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO). The refusal to accredit Taiwanese journalists has been based on the fact that Taiwan is not a member of the UN.

IPI regards this decision as a serious violation of press freedom and the principle of universality of human rights. Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights grants everyone the right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." In addition, Article 2 of the Declaration provides that all rights set forth therein apply to everyone, and that "no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty." Accordingly, it remains difficult to understand the justification for the UN’s discrimination against certain journalists based on the political status of the country to which they belong.

And from IFJ:

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today issued a new call on the United Nations to lift its four-year ban on Taiwanese journalists from reporting from the World Health Assembly next month accusing the UN of undermining the role of journalism in global campaigns for public health.

“The United Nations is allowing itself to be bullied by China and in the process is chipping away at the values it was created to protect,” said Paco Audije, IFJ Deputy General Secretary.

The IFJ says Taiwanese journalists should be given accreditation like hundreds of other media people who will be covering the World Health Organisation (WHO) annual assembly, which will open in Geneva on May 19th to discuss “A safer future: Global Public Health Security in the 21st Century”.

But since 2004, the United Nations (UN) Department of Public Information has refused credentials to Taiwan journalists. The IFJ is supporting its affiliate the Association of Taiwan Journalists which is demanding that the ban is lifted.

“These journalists want to inform their public about a crucial debate taking place within the international community,” said Audije. “It is incomprehensible that bureaucratic obstacles should be used to deny journalists from Taiwan access to the forum that will consider the universal need for protection against risks of spreading disease.”

So there you have it: yet another rights violation sponsored by the officials in Beijing for four years running. This is the kind of media veil that is bad enough inside of China -- where liberal and heavy-handed journalistic restrictions make it nearly impossible for anyone outside to know exactly what is going on in places like Tibet or to know the full extent of human rights violations in China. When international organizations bow submissively to the same treatment however, the absurdity that follows is almost humorous. Almost.

Its time for the officers of the UN and WHO to wake up and appreciate the higher values that they are bound by the UN Charter to protect. Unless all international journalists are all equally permitted to cover UN and WHO proceedings, the promise these organizations were conceived to fulfill rings hollow.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Olympic Pledge for Peace Rings Hollow

Perhaps you've heard: this year's Olympic host hasn't been on very good behavoir when it comes to human rights. Here is a letter to the editor published in Defense News on March 17 from the director of the Press Division at TECRO on the subject:
As reported in your March 10 article by Wendell Minnick, “Is DoD Annual Report on China 20/20?,” China’s continued increases in military spending raise doubts regarding Beijing’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of tensions in the Taiwan Strait. In light of such doubts, Taiwan has been focusing heavily over the past few years on improving its defensive capabilities.

March 14 marks the 3rd anniversary of the ratification of China’s “Anti-Secession Law.” When one considers this document—which reserves for China the ‘right’ to use force against Taiwan—alongside the ever-increasing array of over 1,000 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) deployed against Taiwan in China’s southeastern province, one wonders if Beijing’s pledge to behave in the interest of peace as this year’s Olympic host was some kind of sarcastic joke.

Taiwan’s leaders concern themselves with preserving the island’s vibrant and democratic society when they arrange for the purchase of defensive weapons, but an attack by China against Taiwan would also deal a major blow to the state of the global economy. Taiwan is a key link in the global IT supply chain; a major cross-Strait conflict could seriously cripple electronics trade worldwide.

Taiwan’s global importance also accounts for its need to be seated in vital international forums; namely, the United Nations and World Health Assembly. Until China can be convinced of this point, Taiwan and the United States will hopefully continue to successfully negotiate arms purchases and further build on the strong bilateral relationship necessary to keep the island well-protected.

Eddy Tsai
Director, Press Division
Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S.

Things Can Happen Pretty Fast. . .

Anyone who's ever read this blog is, in all likelihood, already aware that the cross-Strait situation has been through a wave of news cycles and developments over the past few weeks. As news poured in, it was a monumental effort just to keep up and make sense of it all.

First there were reports released by the U.S. Departments of State and Defense on the P.R.C. Then the Olympic/human rights situation in China boiled over and took center stage in international news coverage as the Chinese government cracked down on political dissidents in Tibet and all over China. Those were followed by a rejuvenated call for boycotting the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a topic that any realist a month ago would have shrugged off as a hopeless fringe position.

Finally, this past weekend, the people of Taiwan elected a new president in their fourth direct presidential elections. President-elect Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT is set to be sworn into office on May 20.

Prior to all that, there had been a bit of a lull in cross-Strait relations developments. All parties involved had already voiced their positions and the news focused mainly on developments in Taiwan's domestic politics and the presidential race--crucial indeed, but not the central focus here at R.O.C. the Boat. Now, with Taiwan's next leader chosen and the many recent developments over the past week or so, we'll probably be playing a lot of blogger's catch-up as our head slowly stops spinning.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

U.S. D.o.S. "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007" Released

Yesterday (March 11), the U. S. Department of State released its annual country-by-country report on the state of human rights worldwide. Below is the fine preface to this document by Secretary Rice:


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2008

As President Bush has said, “Freedom can be resisted, and freedom can be delayed, but freedom cannot be denied.” In the long run, citizens who sacrifice for their dignity and their rights will prevail, just as the Havels and the Mandelas did before them. Like those towering figures, many of today’s defenders of human rights are denounced and persecuted, vilified as traitors, and targeted for repression by their own governments – just for insisting upon the freedoms enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These impatient patriots are an inspiration to their fellow citizens, and the high standard they set continues to give hope to people everywhere who work peacefully for their liberty, their dignity, and their rights.

These values are the basic endowments of all human beings, and the surest way to protect and preserve them is through effective, lawful, democratic governance. To be sure, no nation’s path to democracy is smooth or straight. Along the way, there are bound to be stumbles and setbacks. Even under the best of circumstances, it is not easy to transform democratic ideals into effective democratic institutions. Transitions to democracy can be unsettling, and progress may falter because of instability and insecurity, crushing poverty and disease. Governments rife with corruption or without adequate resources can fall short of their meeting the high hopes of their people, causing them to lose faith in the promise of a better life. Leaders who are insufficiently committed to reform may revert to authoritarian habits or take disastrous detours from the rule of law. Other governments have not even taken the first step toward guaranteeing the rights of their citizens.

These challenges to human rights, and many others, are fully recorded in the country reports that follow. Still, this document is collected and written with the confidence that no corner of the Earth is permanently condemned to tyranny. Change may take time, but change will come. As long as citizens around the world champion the universal values of human rights, there is hope, and we continue to believe that it is the duty of responsible governments everywhere to support these courageous men and women.

In that spirit, I hereby transmit the Department of State’s
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007 to the United States Congress.

Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Your Taiwan Sports and Business Section

We felt like some light blogging to ease back into things after a long hiatus. Here is some Taiwan-related news we found interesting while trolling around the internet this morning:

Taiwan on the Olympic Home-stretch

Apparently Taiwan's national baseball team has an excellent shot at qualifying for the already semi-notorious Beijing '08 Summer Olympics. Perhaps adding to that notoriety is the fact that, in the event that they do qualify, Taiwan's world-class ball players will be forced to don "Chinese Taipei" uniforms in Beijing, as do all of their compatriots who compete in the Olympics. The good news for Taiwan baseball, however, is that Taiwan is making its Olympic bid on home turf. From Reuters:

Baseball-mad Taiwan is heading for the home plate in their quest for an Olympics berth after making a solid start to a qualification tournament being held in the centre of the island.

Taiwan, who have won three of their four games, will know by Friday whether the island's fans can watch their team at the Beijing Games in August.

. . . .

This week, Taiwan are facing off against seven countries for one of the three berths available at the International Baseball Federation's final Olympic qualifying tournament.

The hosts have beaten Germany, Italy and Mexico but lost to Canada in a volatile encounter that went to an extra inning and ended in a mass brawl.

Taiwan are next scheduled to play Australia on Wednesday, South Africa on Thursday and a strong South Korea, who are 4-0, on Friday.

Although local athletes are likely to qualify for other events, baseball is by far the most dominant and popular sport in Taiwan.

"Baseball is so important that if we're not in the Olympics, people will be very disappointed," said Richard Lin, secretary general of the island's Amateur Baseball Association.

"It's our national sport and this chance at the Olympics is hard to get."

Olympics hosts China will be joined in Beijing by the United States, Cuba, the Netherlands and Japan, as well as the three qualifiers from the Taiwan competition.

We're sure we don't have to go into detail on how incredible it would be for 'Chinese Taipei' to beat China's baseball team in the Beijing Olympics. We also wouldn't be surprised if, for just this reason, the organizers do their best to make the likelihood as small as possible of Taiwan's ball players facing China's in competition. Of course, we can't get ahead of ourselves--Taiwan needs to qualify first. We'll see what happens. . .

Business: Taiwan Semiconductor and other firms announced plan to pump $450 million U.S. into tech infrastructure

That's a big, honkin' investment by anyone's standards, and hopefully it will do much to maintain Taiwan's leading position as a leader in global IT manufacturing. From Bloomberg:

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's largest custom-chip maker, and two other semiconductor producers will invest a combined NT$450 billion ($14.7 billion) in five new factories as the market expands.

Taiwan Semiconductor, Powerchip Semiconductor Corp. and Vanguard International Semiconductor Corp. will spend the money in the next two years to build the plants in Hsinchu Science Park, northern Taiwan, the park's management said in a statement distributed at a ground-breaking ceremony today.

Chipmakers in Taiwan are increasing capacity to gain market share from rivals including Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. as demand rises for semiconductors used in computers and electronics such as digital music players. Global chip shipments will probably climb 24 percent this year, Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd. said in a report in January.

``There will be a chip shortage from the fourth quarter of this year,'' Powerchip Chairman Frank Huang said at the ceremony.

Taiwan Semiconductor and Powerchip will construct two factories each, while Vanguard will build one, said Huang Der-ray, director-general of the Hsinchu Science Park Administration. The plants will cut semiconductors from silicon wafers measuring 12 inches in diameter. The investments will create 10,000 jobs in Taiwan, the statement said.

Taiwan Semiconductor climbed 2 percent to NT$62.4 in Taipei trading today, while the benchmark Taiex index gained 1 percent. Powerchip shares fell 1.2 percent and Vanguard added 0.5 percent.

If you jump over to the story on its original page at Bloomberg's site, they have a breakdown of the planned spending. Nothing like some good financial news to brighten your day. So there you have it, some warm and fuzzy news today as Taiwan keeps it competitive in business and baseball.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"The Real China and the Olympics"

The following open letter was written by human rights activists Teng Biao and Hu Jia. Mr. Jia was arrested by the Chinese government 3 months later for "incitement to subvert state power" and is still in prison today. This reproduction comes from the full translation text of last year's letter, released on the Human Rights Watch website this past Tuesday. To see the letter on HRW's website, click here.

September 10, 2007

The Real China and the Olympics

On July 13th 2001, when Beijing won the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the Chinese government promised the world it would improve China’s human rights record. In June 2004, Beijing announced its Olympic Games slogan, "One World, One Dream." From their inception in 1896, the modern Olympic Games have always had as their mission the promotion of human dignity and world peace. China and the world expected to see the Olympic Games bring political progress to the country. Is Beijing keeping its promises? Is China improving its human rights record?

When you come to the Olympic Games in Beijing, you will see skyscrapers, spacious streets, modern stadiums and enthusiastic people. You will see the truth, but not the whole truth, just as you see only the tip of an iceberg. You may not know that the flowers, smiles, harmony and prosperity are built on a base of grievances, tears, imprisonment, torture and blood.

We are going to tell you the truth about China. We believe that for anyone who wishes to avoid a disgraceful Olympics, knowing the truth is the first step. Fang Zheng, an excellent athlete who holds two national records for the discus throw at China's Special Sport Games, has been deprived of the opportunity to participate in the 2008 Paralympics because he has become a living testimony to the June 4, 1989 massacre. That morning, in Tiananmen Square, his legs were crushed by a tank while he was rescuing a fellow student. In April 2007, the Ministry of Public Security issued an internal document secretly strengthening a political investigation which resulted in forbidding Olympics participation by 43 types of people from 11 different categories, including dissidents, human rights defenders, media workers, and religious participants. The Chinese police never made the document known to either the Chinese public or the international community.

Huge investment in Olympic projects and a total lack of transparency have facilitated serious corruption and widespread bribery. Taxpayers are not allowed to supervise the use of investment amounting to more than US$40 billion. Liu Zhihua, formerly in charge of Olympic construction and former deputy mayor of Beijing, was arrested for massive embezzlement.

To clear space for Olympic-related construction, thousands of civilian houses have been destroyed without their former owners being properly compensated. Brothers Ye Guozhu and Ye Guoqiang were imprisoned for a legal appeal after their house was forcibly demolished. Ye Guozhu has been repeatedly handcuffed and shackled, tied to a bed and beaten with electric batons. During the countdown to the Olympic Games he will continue to suffer from torture in Chaobei Prison in Tianjin.

It has been reported that over 1.25 million people have been forced to move because of Olympic construction; it was estimated that the figure would reach 1.5 million by the end of 2007. No formal resettlement scheme is in place for the over 400,000 migrants who have had their dwelling places demolished. Twenty percent of the demolished households are expected to experience poverty or extreme poverty. In Qingdao, the Olympic sailing city, hundreds of households have been demolished and many human rights activists as well as "civilians" have been imprisoned. Similar stories come from other Olympic cities such as Shenyang, Shanghai and Qinhuangdao.

In order to establish the image of civilized cities, the government has intensified the ban against and detention and forced repatriation of petitioners, beggars and the homeless. Some of them have been kept in extended detention in so-called shelters or have even been sent directly to labor camps. Street vendors have suffered brutal confiscation of their goods by municipal agents. On July 20, 2005, Lin Hongying, a 56-year-old woman farmer and vegetable dealer, was beaten to death by city patrols in Jiangsu. On November 19, 2005, city patrols in Wuxi beat 54-year-old bicycle repairman Wu Shouqing to death. In January 2007, petitioner Duan Huimin was killed by Shanghai police. On July 1, 2007, Chen Xiaoming, a Shanghai petitioner and human rights activist, died of an untreated illness during a lengthy detention period. On August 5, 2007, right before the one-year Olympics countdown, 200 petitioners were arrested in Beijing.

China has consistently persecuted human rights activists, political dissidents and freelance writers and journalists. The blind activist Chen Guangcheng, recipient of the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award and named in 2006 by Time Magazine as one of the most influential 100 people shaping our world, is still serving his sentence of four years and three months for exposing the truth of forced abortion and sterilization. The government refused to give him the Braille books and the radio that his relatives and friends brought to Linyi prison in Shandong. Chen has been beaten while serving his sentence. On August 24, 2007, Chen's wife, Yuan Weijing, was kidnapped by police at the Beijing airport while waiting to fly to the Philippines to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award on behalf of her husband. On August 13, 2007, activist Yang Chunlin was arrested in Heilongjiang and charged with subversion of state power "for initiating the petition ‘Human Rights before Olympics.’"

China still practices literary inquisition and holds the world record for detaining journalists and writers, as many as several hundred since 1989 according to incomplete statistics. As of this writing, 35 Chinese journalists and 51 writers are still in prison. Over 90 percent were arrested or tried after Beijing's successful bid for the Olympics in July 2001. For example, Shi Tao, a journalist and a poet, was sentenced to ten years in prison because of an e-mail sent to an overseas website. Dr. Xu Zerong, a scholar from Oxford University who researched the Korean War, was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment for "illegally providing information abroad." Qingshuijun (Huang Jinqiu), a freelance writer, was sentenced to a 12-year term for his online publications. Some writers and dissidents are prohibited from going abroad; others from returning to China.

Every year in mainland China, countless websites are closed, blogs deleted, sensitive words filtered. Many websites hosted abroad are blocked. Overseas radio and television programs are interfered with or strictly prohibited. Although the Chinese government has promised media freedom for foreign journalists for 22 months, before, during, and after the Beijing Olympics, and ending on October 17, 2008, an FCCC (Foreign Correspondents Club in China) survey showed that 40 percent of foreign correspondents have experienced harassment, detention or an official warning during news gathering in Beijing and other areas. Some reporters have complained about repeated violent police interference at the time they were speaking with interviewees. Most seriously, Chinese interviewees usually become vulnerable as a result. In June 2006, Fu Xiancai was beaten and paralyzed after being interviewed by German media. In March 2007, Zheng Dajing was beaten and arrested after being interviewed by a British TV station.

Religious freedom is still under repression. In 2005, a Beijing pastor, Cai Zhuohua, was sentenced to three years for printing Bibles. Zhou Heng, a house church pastor in Xinjiang, was charged with running an "illegal operation" for receiving dozens of boxes of Bibles. From April to June 2007, China expelled over 100 suspected US, South Korean, Canadian, Australian, and other missionaries. Among them were humanitarian workers and language educators who had been teaching English in China for 15 years. During this so-called Typhoon 5 campaign, authorities took aim at missionary activities so as to prevent their recurrence during the Olympics.

On September 30, 2006, Chinese soldiers opened fire on 71 Tibetans who were escaping to Nepal. A 17-year-old nun died and a 20-year-old man was severely injured. Despite numerous international witnesses, the Chinese police insisted that the shooting was in self-defense. One year later, China tightened its control over the Tibetan Buddhism. A September 1, 2007, regulation requires all reincarnated lamas to be approved by Chinese authorities, a requirement that flagrantly interferes with the tradition of reincarnation of living Buddhas as practiced in Tibet for thousands of years. In addition, Chinese authorities still ban the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet and a world-renowned pacifist, from returning to Tibet.

Since 1999, the government has banned many religious beliefs such as Falungong and the Three Servants. Their followers have experienced extremely cruel and planned persecutions. Many died from abuse, suffered torture, brainwashing, imprisonment and labor camp internment for persisting in their faith, possessing religious books, making DVDs and writing articles to expose the truth of the persecution.

China has the highest death penalty rate in the world. Execution statistics are treated as "state secrets." However, experts estimate that 8,000-10,000 people are sentenced to death in China every year, among them not only criminals and economic convicts, but totally innocent citizens, such as Nie Shubin, Teng Xingshan, Cao Haixin and Hugejiletu, whose innocence was proven only after they were already dead.

Another eight innocent farmers, Chen Guoqing, He Guoqiang, Yang Shiliang, Zhu Yanqiang, Huang Zhixiang, Fang Chunping, Cheng Fagen and Cheng Lihe, who confessed their "crimes" after being cruelly tortured by the police, have been sentenced to death and are currently held in prisons in Hebei [province] and in Jingdezhen [in Jiangxi province].

Torture is very common in China's detention centers, labor camps and prisons. Torture methods include electric shock, burning, use of electric needles, beating and hanging, sleep deprivation, forced chemical injection causing nerve damage, and piercing the fingers with needles. Every year, there are reported cases of Chinese citizens being disabled or killed by police torture.

Labor camps are still retained as a convenient Chinese system which allows the police to lock up citizens without trial for up to four years. The detention system is another practice that the police favors, freeing them to detain citizens for six months to two years. Dissidents and human rights activists are particularly vulnerable targets and are often sent to labor camps, detention centers or even mental hospitals by authorities who want to simplify legal procedures and mislead the media.

China has the world's largest secret police system, the Ministry of National Security (guo an) and the Internal Security Bureau (guo bao) of the Ministry of Public Security, which exercise power beyond the law. They can easily tap telephones, follow citizens, place them under house arrest, detain them and impose torture. On June 3, 2004, the Chinese secret police planted drugs on Chongqing dissident Xu Wanping and later sentenced him to 12 years’ imprisonment for "subversion of state power."

Chinese citizens have no right to elect state leaders, local government officials or representatives. In fact, there has never been free exercise of election rights in township-level elections. Wuhan resident Sun Bu'er, a member of the banned political party the Pan-Blue Alliance, was brutally beaten in September 2006 for participating as an independent candidate during an election of county-level people's congress representatives. Mr Sun disappeared on March 23, 2007.

China continues to cruelly discriminate against its rural population. According to the Chinese election law, a farmer's right to vote is worth one quarter of that of an urban resident. In June 2007, the Shanxi kiln scandal was exposed by the media. Thousands of 8-13 year-old trafficked children had been forced to labor in illegal kilns, almost all with local government connections. Many of the children were beaten, tortured and even buried alive.

The Chinese judiciary still illegally forbids any HIV/AIDS lawsuits against government officials responsible for the tragedy. AIDS sufferers and activists have been constantly harassed by the secret police.

The Chinese government has been selling arms and weapons to Darfur and other African regions to support ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The Chinese authorities have forcibly repatriated North Korean refugees, knowing that they would be sent to labor camps or executed once back home. This significantly contravenes China's accession to the "Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees" and the "Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees."

• Please be aware that the Olympic Games will be held in a country where there are no elections, no freedom of religion, no independent courts, no independent trade unions; where demonstrations and strikes are prohibited; where torture and discrimination are supported by a sophisticated system of secret police; where the government encourages the violation of human rights and dignity, and is not willing to undertake any of its international obligations.
• Please consider whether the Olympic Games should coexist with religious persecution labor camps, modern slavery, identity discrimination, secret police and crimes against humanity.

As the Beijing Olympics slogan says, we live in "one world" with "one dream." We hope that one day the Chinese people will be able to share universal human rights, democracy and peace with people from all around the world. However, we can see that the Chinese government obviously is not yet prepared to honor its promise. As a matter of fact, the preparations for the Olympics have provided the perfect excuse for the Chinese government to restrict civil liberties and suppress human rights!

We do not want China to be contained or isolated from the rest of the world. We believe that only by adhering to the principles of human rights and through open dialogue can the world community pressure the Chinese government to change. Ignoring these realities and tolerating barbaric atrocities in name of the Beijing Olympics will disgrace the Olympic Charter and shake the foundations of humanity. Human rights improvement requires time, but we should at least stop China's human rights situation from deteriorating. Having the Olympics hosted in a country where human dignity is trampled on, will not honor its people or the Olympic Games.

We sincerely hope that the Olympic Games will bring the values of peace, equality, freedom and justice to 1.3 billion Chinese citizens. We pray that the Olympics will be held in a free China. We must push for the 2008 Olympics to live up to the Olympic Charter and we must advocate for the realization of "one world" with "one human rights dream." We believe that only an Olympic Games true to the Olympic Charter can promote China's democratic progress, world peace and development.

We firmly hold to the belief that there can be no true Olympic Games without human rights and dignity. For China and for the Olympics, human rights must be upheld!

Teng Biao, a scholar and human rights lawyer in Beijing. Hu Jia, a human rights activist in Beijing.

Monday, February 25, 2008

More on Trade

Courtesy of Taiwan Image.

We assume that, by now, every English-language Taiwan blog out there has the scoop on R.O.C. the Boat when it comes to American Enterprise Institute and Armitage International's much welcome report released last week, by Dan Blumenthal and Randall Shriver. The report is a product of the work of the Taiwan Policy Working Group, which a joint project by the two Washington foreign policy organizations. The report makes many solid recommendations for ways in which the Taiwan-U.S. relationship can be strengthened for the good of their alliance as well as for the health and stability of cross-Strait relations in general. Not surprisingly, trade was part of the recommended agenda:

The United States and Taiwan can strengthen their economic ties to the benefit of both economies. The two economies already share a strong partnership, but as Taiwan's leadership in computer components and next-generation telecommunications technology indicates, there is much room for further growth.
. . . .

A U.S. Taiwan FTA would have bilateral economic and strategic benefits, and it could also provide economic benefits to the region by fostering inter-Asian trade liberalization. U.S. action could have a positive domino effect on other countries, such as Japan, that do not want to see Taiwan excluded from the Asian economic arrangements for both economic and political reasons.

Just a brief excerpt from the good deal that the report had to say about the benefits of trade between Taiwan and the U.S. and the greater benefits a bilateral free trade agreement would bring.

Taiwan's Chief Negotiator, Mr. John Deng from the Office of Trade Negotiations in the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), is ready to talk turkey with the office of the USTR to get an agreement hammered out. Unfortunately, there are three other bilateral FTAs pending in Congress and public sentiment towards free trade is beginning to cool (to use a gentle term). In the following short piece by Chief Negotiator Deng, "Looking Forward to a U.S.-Taiwan FTA," provided by the MOEA's office in Washington, D.C., Mr. Deng concisely lays out the case for such a trade agreement and calls on American voters to voice their support for a Senate Concurrent Resolution designed to nudge the process along:

Looking Toward a U.S.-Taiwan FTA
Mr. John Chen-Chung Deng
Chief Negotiator, Office of Trade Relations
Ministry of Economic Affairs, Republic of China

In late December, Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 60, thereby demonstrating continued support in the U.S. Congress for the negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Taiwan. Taiwan is grateful to these Senators for their action, and for the longstanding support and friendship of the United States. A U.S.-Taiwan FTA would ensure continued prosperity for Taiwan, and would bring with it many economic benefits for U.S. exporters as well.

Taiwan and U.S. Trade

In recent years, Taiwan has worked with the United States and the World Trade Organization to develop world-class labor standards, environmental safeguards and strong protections for intellectual property rights. Trading with Taiwan means supporting the values of a responsible member of the world community.

Despite a comparatively large level of trade, the U.S. and Taiwan feature different and largely complementary manufacturing bases. For instance, Taiwan produces almost three-quarters of the world’s laptop computers and LCD monitors, as well as four-fifths of the world’s PDAs, often incorporating U.S. technology and design specifications. Taiwan is also a major customer for U.S. exporters and is the largest per capita buyer of several important U.S. farm products including corn, soybeans, meat and wheat. A recent study shows that the FTA would increase U.S.
exports to Taiwan by an estimated $ 6.6 billion annually.

A U.S.-Taiwan FTA, however, would enhance economic opportunities far beyond our
two economies alone. With the strong American business presence in Taiwan, the FTA would encourage U.S. businesses to use Taiwan as a base of operations in Asia, and establish bilateral alliances with Taiwan’s entrepreneurs to explore business opportunities in third markets. Such trends would help to enhance U.S. trade relations with other Asian economies, while also ensuring a strong U.S. economic presence in the region.

Why a U.S.-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement?

Competition among Asian economies is fierce. In order to stay competitive, Asian nations are pursuing FTAs with their key trading partners. These FTAs are often sought not only for their economic benefit, but also for their political and security
significance. Taiwan, however, continues to be excluded from these FTAs as a result of China’s intention to isolate Taiwan from the global trade community. With both the U.S. and Taiwan being members of the World Trade Organization, the reality is that no impediment exists to their establishing closer economic relations through a mutually beneficial trade agreement.

The U.S. and Taiwan have a longstanding friendship stretching back over 60 years. As a result of U.S. engagement and influence, Taiwan was able to emerge as a democracy late last century. Democracy, however, requires economic prosperity. An FTA with the United States would ensure that Taiwan continues to remain prosperous, and that its democracy remains healthy. With this in mind, I wish to call on our friends in the U.S. to support the Concurrent Resolution as introduced by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Kosovo Question

As many who read this undoubdtedly know by now, over the weekend the parliament of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Soon thereafter, the controversial new European state was recognized by the United States and most of the major European nations. Spain, however, witheld its recognition, most likley due to the implications Kosovar independence holds for independence-minded Basques and Catalans inside Spain. Russia withheld its recognition for reasons that were twofold: 1) Russia has its own problems with groups inside its borders in places such as Chechnya seeking independce from Moscow, and 2) Russia has historically played the role of Serbia's international backer due to strong ethnic, religious and cultural ties. At this point you should be able to guess what the People's Republic of China's stance is on the new country of Kosovo -- due to concerns about implications for its several administrative regions (Tibet, Xinjiang, etc.) and, yes, Taiwan, Beijing has voiced its staunch opposition.

In an interesting twist of affairs, it seemed that for a brief while Russia and China's opposition to the new Kosovar state might actually benefit Taiwan in its battle for diplomatic allies. At face value, it would seem to bode ill for Taiwan's quest for UN membership that a new state openly backed by the U.S. and most of Europe is feeling so much heat from two of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, yet Kosovo's practical need to obtain as much international recognition as possible also spelled an opportunity for Taiwan to gain another diplomatic partner. In short, there some saw an opportunity for two internationally suffocated nations -- one new and one not so new -- to run into each other's arms. Taiwan's government quickly moved to recognize the new Republic of Kosovo over the past couple of days.

Unfortunately however, it seems like this glimmer of chance for official diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Kosovo may be on the backburner for the time being, as Kosovo's government seeks to assuage Russia and China's concerns and holds out hope for eventual entry into the UN. Patrick Goodenough of the Cybercast News Service (CNS) explained the situation as thus:

If Kosovo does recognize Taiwan, it would be a coup for Taipei: The Vatican is currently its only diplomatic ally in Europe; the remainder are mostly small, developing nations in Africa and the Pacific who benefit economically from their allegiance.

But Kosovo's hopes for the widest possible recognition and - if it can overcome Russian and Chinese opposition - eventual membership at the United Nations, makes it unlikely that Taiwan will obtain a new ally.

China wields significant economic and political clout in the international community, especially among developing and Islamic nations, and the pressure on Pristina to shun Taiwan will be considerable.

In what some Taiwanese worry may be a sign of things to come, a Web site that has been naming and thanking countries as they formally recognize the new state added, and then removed, Taiwan from its list, saying it had decided to only list those countries that are U.N. member states.

Although the site is not linked to the Kosovo government, Taiwanese media took note of the change. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh said the ministry was glad Taiwan had appeared on the list at all, even briefly.

The China-Taiwan dispute could work in Kosovo's favor, giving the new state's government the opportunity to indicate to Beijing that Kosovo will recognize Taiwan unless Beijing recognizes it. Thus, China would deny Taiwan another ally, while Kosovo would edge closer to a U.N. seat by having on its side a fourth permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

In other words, there are concerns that Kosovo's politicians may be willing to use Taiwan as a leverage-increasing stepping stone rather than viewing Taiwan as a fellow fighter for the same sort of international recognition Kosovars believe they themselves deserve. It will be an unfortunate turn of events indeed if this new, barely economically viable nation of 2 million manages to bargain its way into the United Nations at the expense of Taiwan -- a nation of 23 million that is a crucial link in the global economic supply chain and a bastion of human rights and democracy in its region, yet does not enjoy UN membership itself. For now, Taiwan's government warmly extends its offer of diplomatic recognition and support to the people of Kosovo. It remains to be seen whether Kosovo's government will decide to accept it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rats! Lunar New Year in Taiwan

This post goes out to any and all readers who, like the humble writer of this blog, may not be terribly well-acquainted with traditional culture on Taiwan. Taiwan Journal ran an interesting article on the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Rat in Taiwan in their recent Jan. 31 issue. By Sandra Shih, the article contains some humor, some history/trivia, and is a good read--get the full article here:

While [the 2007 movie] "Ratatouille" is an entertaining aside to the celebrity-chef phenomenon sweeping the world, a welcome spin off was that the sensitivity and wits of this much-maligned mammal were on show for all to see. But for those versed in the Chinese zodiac, observing a rat with a passion for cooking and a love of adventure on the big screen really comes as no surprise.

People who were born in the Year of the Rat have long been renowned for their passion, love of adventure and eagerness to take charge. In fact, legend has it that when the Jade Emperor was mulling over which animals should be included in the zodiac, he decided to hold a swimming race. The cat and the rat were the worst swimmers among all the animals, so they hatched a plan and decided to cross the river on the back of the ox. Since the ox was a naive beast, he agreed to carry both of them across the waterway. Just as they were about to reach the shore, the rat--in order to ensure his victory--pushed the cat into the river. Size obviously does not mean everything, but wisdom and quick thinking certainly make a difference.

. . . .

From Feb. 7, the first day in lunar calendar, the year of rat begins and initiates a new cycle of Chinese zodiac. Subsequent years follow in the order other animals finished the Jade Emperor's swimming race. This was ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. According to folk art researcher Guo Li-cheng, in the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) people originally used the 12 animals to represent directions and hours in a day. Guo pointed out that scholar Lang Ying in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) also employed similar methods, "Zih is Yin, very dim and dark, so rats [living in the dark] fall into this period." Yin referred to the presence of cloud and darkness, and the hour of zih--the breaking of a day from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.--as fitting perfectly with this period of blackness. Due to the gloom at the daybreak, the characteristic of rats' living habits matched the time period.

Generally speaking, Chinese people like to associate natural phenomena with animal images, according to folklore specialist Chuang Po-ho. Chunag said that no one could neglect his zodiac sign because it occupies an important role in the imagination of the general public. "Quite a few people learned about the zodiac animals when they were young," he said. "Some people were even taught mathematics by counting one rat, two oxen or three tigers."

Fortunately for rats in Taiwan, their zodiac reputation seems to be paying dividends as eradication efforts for the year are nearly at an end. Traps, cats, professional control services and even "rat extermination week" held every year in October or November have not been enough to solve the island's age-old rat problem. Chiu Min-chung, a department head under Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration, said, "We know rats are a problem, especially in our traditional markets, but we can't completely drive them out."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

2008 White House budget proposal: new digs for AIT?

Word on the street is that the White House's proposed budget for next fiscal year will be picked apart by Congress and that the end product will ultimately be a very different tome from the e-document released on Monday. One thing that employees of the American Institute in Taiwan will undoubtedly be keeping their fingers crossed for during this process is the $60 million allocated to them in the proposed budget for the purposes of building a new headquarters in Taipei. The Taipei Times reports:

When added to money previously raised, the funds will provide a total US$171.6 million for the new office complex, the department said. After the lease was signed, the cost estimate for the complex was US$160 million.

The money will come from the State Department's Strategic Capital program, which covers projects needed for "strategic, policy or political considerations," it said.

Also, mirroring persistent complaints by AIT staff about the condition of the dilapidated AIT building on Xinyi Road, the money for the new complex is part of a program "designed to meet the demands of a critical gap in the overseas real property portfolio," the department said.

In the new budget, the Bush administration also proposed an increase of nearly 4 percent in AIT's budget for next year, the second consecutive annual increase.

So that's one thing to root for in the budget process. Although happy representatives do not necessarily equal happy bilateral relations, it can't hurt! In other FY 2009 U.S. budget news, Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post wrote an entertaining/intriguing op-ed piece featured today about the White House's move from a printed budget to a paperless, digital one--and why she wishes they would go back to the 2,200-page "dead-tree set" of old:

"Honestly, I am still using the paper books, as is most of my staff," Tom Kahn, the staff director of the House Budget Committee, told me by e-mail. "Online is much harder to use. It makes the information less accessible and harder to ferret out.

Frankly, it is no fun staring for hours at a computer screen to find obscure spend-out rates. You can't underline, can't make a note on a page, and who wants to read a computer in bed?"

Washington is a place where, as the economists say, a non-trivial number of people read budget documents in bed. But you don't have to be one of them to crave the comforting certainty of ink on paper or to wonder about the consequences of having so much of the information we digest migrate from paper to screen.

Because as wondrous as the Internet is as a means for discovering and obtaining information, as useful as the personal computer is as a mechanism for inputting and manipulating data, paper remains -- for many of us, anyway -- the format most conducive to clear-headed analysis.

The Nussles of the world ignore the human urge to underline, to scrawl in the margins, an instinct that traces its first manifestations to cave paintings. There is a clarifying immediacy to holding the document itself, not settling for its online representation.

Friday, February 1, 2008

U.S. State of the Union, Congress and TUFTA

From our viewpoint, watching President Bush's final State of the Union address on Monday night, it seemed like the president had chosen a short list of priorities to focus on for his last year in the White House, one of which is to press for Congress to pass the United States' remaining outstanding negotated Free Trade Agreements. From the address (transcript here):

I thank the Congress for approving a good agreement with Peru. And now I ask you to approve agreements with Colombia and Panama and South Korea. (Applause.) Many products from these nations now enter America duty-free, yet many of our products face steep tariffs in their markets. These agreements will level the playing field. They will give us better access to nearly 100 million customers. They will support good jobs for the finest workers in the world: those whose products say "Made in the USA." (Applause.)

These agreements also promote America's strategic interests. The first agreement that will come before you is with Colombia, a friend of America that is confronting violence and terror, and fighting drug traffickers. If we fail to pass this agreement, we will embolden the purveyors of false populism in our hemisphere. So we must come together, pass this agreement, and show our neighbors in the region that democracy leads to a better life. (Applause.)

- President George W. Bush, 2008 State of the Union Address

With free trade seemingly high on the White House's priority list, there may be better prospects ahead over the next year for the passage of these outstanding agreements. Hence the prospects for a Taiwan-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (TUFTA), which has not been hammered out yet between the two allies, seems brighter as well. Reenforcing this logic are statements made recently by Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus (D) of Montana and committee member Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona, as reported in this article by the publication from the Economic Division of TECRO, TaiwanNow:

from TaiwanNow, January 2008 issue
"View from Taipei - Baucus: ‘Launch U.S.-Taiwan FTA Talks’"

Congress Looks Ahead to What’s Next and Needed After Pending Trade Agreements

In late December, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced a concurrent resolution calling on the United States to both “increase trade opportunities” with Taiwan and launch negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement. Co-sponsored by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the resolution, S Con Res 60, comes at a time when trade has become an easy scapegoat for U.S. economic problems on the campaign trail and as an uncertain outlook for the global economy may push the U.S. and other nations to consider protectionist measures.

During this period of economic uncertainty, it takes bold leadership to look beyond what is politically popular in the short-term to embrace good policy in the long-term. Taiwan is both grateful to Senators Baucus and Kyl for their bipartisan vision and for the longstanding support and friendship of the United States. Negotiating trade agreements with commercially significant economies will help safeguard U.S. economic competitiveness in the years to come, and the case for a U.S.-Taiwan FTA has never been stronger.

As the Senators highlight in their resolution, Taiwan and the United States are among each other’s most important trading partners. U.S.-Taiwan bilateral trade in 2006 totaled $61.2 billion, and Taiwan ranks as the 9th largest U.S. trading partner, the 11th largest export market for U.S. goods; the 6th largest market for U.S. agricultural products and the “3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th” largest buyer of U.S. corn, soybeans, beef and wheat, respectively. Not surprisingly, studies show that both the U.S. and Taiwanese economies would experience significant gains from a bilateral trade agreement. According to the Peterson Institute of International Economics, a U.S.-Taiwan FTA would increase U.S. goods and services exports to Taiwan by up to $6.6 billion annually.

Senators Baucus and Kyl have long been supporters of a U.S.-Taiwan FTA. Baucus introduced the U.S.-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement Act of 2001, and he and Kyl, along with eight other senators, wrote to President Bush in 2003 urging him to launch talks on an agreement. There has also been similar support for a bilateral FTA in the House, with members introducing resolutions calling for the launch of a U.S.-Taiwan FTA in 2003, 2006 (signed by more than 66 representatives) and most recently H Con Res 137 in May 2007, a proposal co-sponsored by Congressional Taiwan Caucus co-chairs Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Bob Wexler (D-FL.) as well as Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN).

Which brings us back to 2008: We hope that members of Congress and the private sector will support an economically significant U.S.-Taiwan FTA and the resolutions introduced by Senators Baucus and Kyl and Reps. Berkley, Chabot, Rohrabacher, Wexler and Ramstad this year. The time for Taiwan is NOW.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Political Pand'-ering

Beijing attempts to spread its soft (and cuddly!) power to the island of Taiwan.

With the March presidential elections on Taiwan quickly approaching and a continued strong outlook for KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou, China has relaunched an insidiously furry plan to win over the people of Taiwan with their most advanced PR weapon--the ultimate WMD of public diplomacy. . . that's right, pandas.

According to today's AP article, a pair of Chinese pandas were first offered to Taiwan in 2005 "to mark a landmark visit by the leader of Taiwan's Nationalist party." Beijing then acted shocked and appalled at Taiwan President Chen's refusal to admit the oversized raccoons for obvious political reasons, because, well, Taiwan obviously needs pandas—as do we all (please pause for a moment to note our thick tone of sarcasm).

Beijing, of course, didn't make the whole thing go over any easier with Taiwan's ruling party when, according to the AP, they subsequently named the lovable fuzzy-wuzzies: "'tuantuan' and 'yuanyuan' — words that together mean 'reunion' in Chinese."
Now that the KMT candidate is the pollster's favorite for the March election in Taiwan, Beijing has put Taipei on notice that the pandas are up for offer once again.

We see this as yet another example of Beijing's inability to refrain from tainting even the most trivial connection to Taiwan with nationalist overtones. It would have been much more subtle and effective to have simply offered the pandas to Taiwan with no strings attached. After all, its tough to demonize a country that lends you a pair of objectively cute panda bears and asks for nothing in return.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Taiwan's Titanic Tech Trade

We came across an article from last Friday on PC Magazine's website entitled, "China-Taiwan Showdown Involves Politics, PCs." Glenn Smith's article is an interesting look at the ways in which a serious turn for the worse in the relationship between Taiwan and China could pose a serious threat to the world's IT electronics market. At face value, Smith's thesis seems a bit obvious: Taiwan is the world's leading producer higher end electronic devices, and many of the components used to assemble these products are sourced from factories in China, so of course a serious confrontation across the Taiwan Strait would harm the industry. Yet the scope of the possible harm done can sometimes be easily overlooked.

According to Smith's article, "Taiwan is the world's number one volume supplier of motherboards, WLAN NIC cards, VoIP cards, VoIP routers, laptops [83%], DSL customer premises equipment, cable modems, IP phones, PDAs [73%], VoIP terminals, LCD monitors [70%], switches, WLAN access points, color tube monitors and large LCD panels." Not only does Taiwan lead in all of these categories, it commands over half the global market share's dollar value in each and every one of them. Taiwan's tech industry is truly a global juggernaut.

Although over the years an increasing share of this nominal output has been manufactured by Taiwanese-owned fabrication outfits in China, virtually all product design originates in Taiwan's venerable scientific industrial parks. Furthermore, TFT-LDC lens and semiconductor production still remains largely on Taiwan soil. From the article:

Tze-Chen Tu, general director of the Industrial Economics & Knowledge Center (IEK), at Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), said that every country wants to keep its first-tier industries at home, and that technology transfers are banned if thought harmful to economic or national security.

"We don't like to see them go but even when Taiwan companies shift manufacturing to China, they come back for design and for critical components," said Tu.

The net result? According to Smith, whereas the production and export of existing electronics to the United States and other tech-consuming countries might be maintained during a crisis, "if things fall apart and a Tom Clancy scenario unfolds in the Taiwan Strait you can forget about upgrading your PC or laptop for a while. The hundred miles of shallow seas separating Taiwan and China happen to be the most important yet most precarious link in the global ICT [Information and Communications Technology] supply chain."

All these are very good economic reasons for the United States and most other countries to take a vested interest in maintaining peace and trade communications across the Taiwan Strait. Yet, in highlighting Taiwan's central role in this global industry, we are also shining light on the real benefits that could be reaped by businesses and consumers in both Taiwan and the United States from a free trade agreement between the two countries.

The electronic 'triangle trade' that currently exists between the U.S., Taiwan and China is formed as major American firms such as IBM, Intel and Apple look to Taiwan firms to design critical components for new products which are then manufactured and assembled in China and shipped to consumer outlets in the U.S. Due in large part to this dynamic, the United States is Taiwan's largest source of foreign direct investment and 3rd largest export market, while Taiwan, an island of 23 million, is the United States' 9th largest trading partner and 8th largest export market. Lowering trade barriers on any leg of the ICT trade flow would lower artificially imposed production costs and therefore equal higher company profits and lower price tags for consumers.

As mentioned in earlier posts on this site, there are of course other economic areas in which Taiwan and the United States, as close allies and trading partners, have formed strong ties. U.S. exports to Taiwan in 2006 amounted to $23 billion and Taiwan is a leading consumer of American meat and produce as well as cars and other industrial products. One 2002 study by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) projected that a Taiwan-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (TUFTA) would double American exports to Taiwan in the agricultural and auto sectors while raising overall exports $3.4 billion or 16% (at the time) annually. In 2004 a study by the Institute for International Economics (IIE) raised the expectations for annual increases in exports to $6.6 billion. Clearly the potential for growth in American exports Taiwan is increasing in proportion to current trade volume and considerably outpacing the current level of growth.

As we have long been consistently advocating here at R.O.C. the Boat, a US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement would bring tangible economic benefits two both the United States and Taiwan--two countries whose economies are enmeshed but to a large degree do not overlap. Furthermore, an FTA would grease the wheels of the Asia-Pacific tech trade and add to the stability of the region. Finally, according to the same 2004 IIE study mentioned above, TUFTA would create more economic gains for the U.S. than those of 10 other current or potential FTA partners, including Australia, Singapore, Chile and New Zealand. At a time when the U.S. economy seems to be hitting a rough spot at best and perhaps moving into recession at worst, pursuing a free trade agreement with Taiwan would certainly give several sectors of the American economy something sunny on the horizon to look forward to.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Chicago Tribune interview with President Chen

Yesterday in the Chicago Tribune there was an interview conducted by Dennis V. Hickey with the header, "Person of Interest: Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian." Mostly, the discussion centered on cross-Strait relations with China and the emptiness of Hu Jintao's recent overtures for peace negotiations. Among other things, there was this nice little zinger:
Q: Were you surprised by President Hu's call for peace?

A: No, it's just a strategy to deceive our people and foreign countries. . .If Hu Jintao abandons the one-China principle, I will be surprised. If China gives up its one-party dictatorship, renounces the use of force against Taiwan and removes the 988 [1,326?] missiles deployed opposite Taiwan, then I will be truly surprised.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

China: More guns, less butter.

Recently, two important numbers monitored here at R.O.C. the Boat underwent major revisions:

  • The commonly accepted figure for the size of China's economy was reduced by 40 percent.

  • The estimated number of ballistic missiles deployed against Taiwan by China has increased by 30 percent.

First, discrepancy in the size of China's economy seems to arise from the World Bank's use of way-outdated data sets (originally generated in the 1980s) to come up with the purchasing power parity (PPP) estimates that are crucial when estimating the size of an economy. PPP is a measurement obtained by weighing the relative values of currencies when those currencies are used to obtain identical goods in their domestic markets. Eduardo Porter, who wrote a great editorial for the New York Times on the 'downsizing' of China's economy almost a month ago, put it this way:
Take a 40 yuan serving of noodles at an eatery in Beijing. If the same dish cost $4 at a comparable restaurant in New York, the noodle P.P.P. would be 10 yuan to the dollar. Calculated using a large basket of goods and services, this ratio allows for a more consistent comparison of economies. . .

. . .It turns out that things in China are more expensive. It’s as though we discovered that the real price of the noodles in Beijing was 50 yuan, yielding a P.P.P. of 12.5 yuan to the dollar rather than 10. That means the Chinese are relatively poorer and China’s economy is smaller than everybody thought.

This is not a mere technicality. Suddenly the number of Chinese who live below the World Bank’s poverty line of a dollar a day jumped from about 100 million to 300 million, roughly the size of the United States population. And if you thought China’s energy consumption was dismally inefficient, consider that it still uses the same amount of energy to produce 40 percent less stuff.

As Porter puts it, with the release of the new World Bank figures, China's estimated economic output "lost a chunk roughly the size of Japan’s output." Maybe the World Bank will remember to update their purchasing power figures sooner next time?

The phenomenon of China's shrinking 'overnight' was also mentioned in today's Nelson Report, where the venerable Chris Nelson referred readers to a much more recent article in the LA Times entitled "The Great Fall of China". As China no longer seems like quite the economic juggernaut it has often been made out to be, perhaps the specter of 'antagonizing China' will no longer carry quite as much weight. To add a little more perspective, consider that the United States' economy is currently worth about $13 trillion. Economists previously thought the U.S. would be eclipsed by China's $11 trillion economy in 5 years. Not anymore: China's $11 trillion economy is now a $6 trillion economy.

Secondly, there's the small matter of the missiles China is piling up in its southeastern provinces, with a view toward threatening and forcibly coercing Taiwan. Throughout the second half of 2007, it was estimated that the number of short-range ballistic missiles the PLA had deployed against Taiwan was just shy of one thousand. However, during his final New Year's Day address, Taiwan's President Chen announced an updated study by Taiwan's Ministry of Defense boosts this number to 1,326. Just during President Chen's term alone, the number has increased by almost 700%. The jump in China's arsenal was reported in this article by the Epoch Times; an English-language transcription of President Chen's New Year's Day address can be read here.

These new figures will hopefully generate a more realistic public image of China's adopted role in the world economy and international relations. Combine China's increased poverty figures and drastically slashed economy size with continued missile proliferation and sales of weapons to governments like those of Myanmar and the Sudan, and one quickly realizes that China's role entails a lot more guns and a lot less butter than most of us previously thought.