January 25th, 2008


Wow, three articles related to Taiwan in Friday's online editions of the Daily Yomiuri ザ・デイリー読売 and the Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ! All this, plus some pictures of Japanese being used around Fengyuan (Fongyuan) 豊原 in today's exciting installment.

Up first is one of two articles that appeared in the DY on the threat Taiwan faces from China. Entitled "Military balance tilting toward China" http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/world/20080125TDY05305.htm, it begins by stating:

"The military balance between China and Taiwan is turning in China's favor due to its huge defense spending that showed double-digit growth for the nine consecutive years from 1989. Taiwan is said to have superiority over China in maritime and air force strength. But China has built up its naval force remarkably in recent years."

After giving some numerical examples of Chinese superiority in certain types of naval vessels, as well as advances in fighter plane technology, the piece points out the following:

"China has deployed 1,328 ballistic missiles targeted at Taiwan, about seven times more than in 2000, when the administration of President Chen Sui-bian (Chin Suihen) 陳水扁 was inaugurated in Taiwan. Taiwan, on the other hand, has deployed only three sets of Patriot surface-to-air guided missiles (PAC-2) in the suburbs of Taipei and elsewhere."

You would think the Kuomintang (Guomindang) 中国国民党 would be up in arms (no pun intended) about this threat to the sovereignty of their beloved Republic of China 中華民国. But as those who follow political developments here know all too well:

"As a counterbalance to China's military arsenal, Taiwan's military wants to possess PAC-3 missiles, P-3C antisubmarine patrol planes and diesel-powered submarines, which the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush decided to sell to Taiwan in 2001. But the deals did not make any progress because deliberations on budgetary appropriations made little headway in Taiwan's parliament due to dissent by opposition parties."

It's getting worse, as the US is refusing to sell modified F-16 fighters to Taiwan because Washington:

"...has grown increasingly distrustful of the Chen administration."

Still, Taiwan remains a force to be reckoned with:

"As a deterrent to China, Taiwan has secretly developed a Hsiung Feng [Brave Wind] 2-E cruise missile with a range that covers Shanghai and Hong Kong. But Taipei has refrained from disclosing its deployment 'probably due to the pressure from Washington, which does not want to provoke Beijing because it is an offensive-type weapon,'..."

It's hard to reconcile the fact that my government remains silent on a seven-fold increase over the past eight years in offensive missiles deployed by an authoritarian dictatorship against a small island with a democratically elected leadership, while it warns the latter not to "provoke" the former. Taiwan is just one more issue for the Bush Administration to get things wrong on, I suppose. The article closes with a little bit of optimism:

"With Taiwan's presidential election set for March, however, China has not shown any sign of military threats against Taiwan in recent months. This is because Beijing learned a lesson...that such a provocation will draw criticism from voters in Taiwan and backfire in the election."

Yes, but what will happen after the election?

A sign for a local orthodontic clinic called "Asia Pacific" アジア・パシフィック.

The Yomiuri also ran an interview with Taiwan's Vice Defense Minister, Ko Chen-heng ("Chinese naval moves worry Taiwan" http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/world/20080125TDY05306.htm), who:

"...expressed concern about China's recent expansion of submarine operations around Taiwan, a move that he said indicates China's apparent intention to make the strait an 'internal sea of China'...he also said China has been extending its maritime operations into the Pacific Ocean southeast of Taiwan. Ko stressed the need for Taiwan to deploy its self-developed cruise missiles to counter Chinese missiles."

On the military balance between China and Taiwan, Ko states:

"The balance is still in Taiwan's favor as far as our judgment is concerned. But it has become extremely difficult for us to procure arms because a number of countries have not sold us weapons due to Beijing's diplomatic pressure. Taiwan's fighter jets have become obsolete. Therefore, if the current situation continues, the military balance will turn in China's favor. The number of Chinese missiles deployed against Taiwan topped 1,300. Since China lacks capability to cruise across the Taiwan Strait 台湾海峡 for a landing operation, China intends to fire missiles in the political and economic nerve centers of Taiwan to cause social paralysis, thereby forcing us to surrender."

He also touches on the rationale behind the development of the Hsiung Feng IIE 雄風二E cruise missile:

"China has boosted its capabilities to prevent intervention by the U.S. military in times of emergency. Taiwan must wait for the arrival of U.S. troops to fight together. Therefore, it is essential to secure capabilities to make counterattacks on China's missile and radar bases as well as runways for military aircraft in order to buy time to delay China's invasion of Taiwan."

All in all, it's a short but frank discussion on the military security situation facing Taiwan.

This is a branch in Fengyuan of a dry cleaning shop called "White Express" ホワイト急便. The sign boasts that you will love the finishing touches they will put on your cleaning: 愛情仕上げクリーニング. Unlike many businesses that mangle the Japanese they use in advertising, this sign actually makes sense, because White Express is a Japanese chain http://www.white-exp.com/. The complete lack of Chinese on the sign, however, makes me wonder how many Taiwanese would know what kind of business is conducted here.

The last article today comes from the Japan Times, and it's a bad one. "Kuomintang won't flaunt election win" http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20080125fc.html is written by Frank Ching, a columnist based in Hong Kong whose writings also appear in the local, reactionary China Post newspaper. In true Ching fashion, he makes a bold statement, and then produces no evidence to back it up. On the recent legislative elections, he writes:

"The election transformed the situation from one where the opposition had a razor-thin majority in the Legislative Yuan 中華民国立法院
, or Parliament, to where it has more than a two-thirds majority. Hence, as of Feb. 1, the opposition party can in theory pass whatever bills it desires. However, KMT party leaders are saying, wisely, that they will not abuse their power and will not seek to impeach President Chen Shui-bian, as they had repeatedly tried to do in the past."

And that's good enough for Frank. And why not? After all, the KMT has worked hard over the last half-century to become the democratic standard-bearer, untainted by corruption, that the party is today. The Democratic Progressive Party 民主進歩党, on the other hand, was trounced in the elections because of:

"...(President Chen's pushing) the envelope on Taiwan independence, by his defiance of both Beijing and Washington, and by his going so far as to remove the honor guards from the mausoleums of two late presidents, Chiang Kai-shek (Shō Kaiseki) 蒋介石 and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (Shō Keikoku) 蒋経国."

Ching has entered Gregory Clark territory with that last statement. I've read a lot of articles recently that tried to analyze why the DPP had a case of whupass opened on it in the elections, but none of them mentioned the removal of soldiers guarding the tombs of two dictators as one of the reasons. Ching then turns his attention to the presidential election:

"To be sure, Ma (Ying-jeou) (Ba Eikyū) 馬英九 is substantially ahead in the public opinion polls. But it is not beyond the realm of possibility for Frank Hsieh (Sha Chōtei) 謝長廷 to catch up. Ironically, the lopsided KMT parliamentary victory may handicap Ma since voters may want to 'balance' the political situation by giving the presidency to the DPP. This may especially be the case if voters in the next two months see the KMT abusing its parliamentary majority. For that reason, Ma has emphasized that the KMT should maintain a low profile and not seek to impeach the president or amend the constitution, even though it can now do these things if it wants to."

Take a look at that last remark. The KMT now has the power to "impeach the president or amend the constitution". It may lie low for the next two months, but what will happen after March 22, especially if Hsieh wins the presidency? Well, Ching does reassure us that the KMT won't flaunt its power, and besides:

"If a Hsieh presidency should emerge, Taiwan will once again be gridlocked, with the presidency in the hands of the DPP and the parliament controlled by the KMT. The situation may not be as bad as before, since a Hsieh administration is likely to be much more moderate than the Chen administration. But it would still be bad. It would be much better for Taiwan if there was a clean sweep, with the KMT being restored to executive power. And when a Ma administration is formed, as is likely, it should seek to depoliticize Taiwan. The Chen administration has gone much too far in politicizing everything, from ethnicity to textbooks, in its attempts to rid Taiwan of any connection with China. It is time for Taiwan to get back to business and let politics take the back seat. This is in the interest of all concerned — of the political parties, of Beijing, of Washington and, most of all, it is in the interest of the people of Taiwan."

I didn't think it was possible, but Frank Ching has managed to outdo Gregory Clark. It would be much better if the KMT controlled both the presidency and the legislature? The same party that, under the Chiangs, ruled Taiwan with an iron fist for decades, and sent tens of thousands of people on this island to early graves? And the Ma administration is likely to depoliticize Taiwan? Has Frank Ching ever visited Taiwan? If he has, did he ever notice how every town on this island has streets named after Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sen (Son Bun) 孫文, for example? The KMT politicized most aspects of daily life in Taiwan during its long, single-party autocratic rule, right down to the choice of the plum blossom 梅 as the national flower http://thedailybubbletea.com/2008/01/07/the-plum-blossoms-of-fengguidou/#more-255. If anything, Chen has attempted to depoliticize things here, by removing some of the KMT's original heavy-handed measures that were aimed at eliminating any sense of a Taiwanese identity. But Ching isn't concerned with that. After all, he thinks it's in the best interests of everyone here to sit back and trust the KMT to run the whole show from March 22. I just hope the voters don't feel the same way.

I'm sure most Taiwanese recognize the name "Fujitsū", so the use of ゼネラル on the sign probably goes unnoticed by most. What I wonder about, though, is the kanji. Fujitsū in Japanese is 富士通, but do Taiwanese see it that way, or does it look like "Fushiht’ung (Fushihtong) to them? It's common to see signs for Yamaha, with the name written in both ローマ字 and 漢字 (even though Yamaha is often expressed in katakana in Japan - ヤマハ). So is 山葉 "Yamaha" or "Shanyeh (Shanye)"? Other examples abound (is 東海 "Tōkai", like it says in roman letters on the storefront, or "Tunghai/Donghai") of what to me seems a very confusing linguistic problem. I have a feeling, however, that to the local populace, it's no big deal at all.