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.