Monday, October 26, 2009

Congressman Adam Smith's Response to My Letter Concerning HCR18

October 26, 2009

Dear Richard,

Thank you for contacting me in support of establishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this issue.

Like you, I believe it is important to engage in dialogue with and promote the interests of peaceful, democratically elected governments. I also believe that the history and complexities of China-Taiwan relations make this issue an especially delicate one that must be handled with careful deliberation and diplomacy.

As you may know, the United States has officially recognized the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate Chinese government since 1979. This officially ended the diplomatic and military obligations of the United States to Taiwan. However, that same year, the 96th Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which stated that while official relations with Taiwan were over, it would be the policy to preserve and promote extensive, close, and friendly commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and Taiwan, as well as the people in mainland China. This legislation has been the governing authority for United States-Taiwanese relations since its passage.

The framework that the TRA established consisted of recognition of the PRC as the sovereign and sole government of all of China, while still maintaining a positive relationship with Taiwan. The United States has worked for a peaceful resolution to the Taiwanese issue within this framework for the past three decades, preserving the delicate balance in the region that has resulted in a static, yet peaceful situation. In addition, a closer relationship with the PRC has been an important tool in maintaining regional stability, particularly on the Korean peninsula.

The current framework has largely been effective for maintaining peace in the region and promoting the interests of the United States. I believe we should continue to support the "One-China Policy" while maximizing Taiwanese freedom within the TRA framework. Most importantly, we must engage in a diplomatic dialogue with the Chinese to achieve a lasting resolution that preserves United States, Chinese, and Taiwanese interests.

More recently, I have been pleased by the improving relations between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China. As you may know, on March 22, 2008, the people of Taiwan elected Ma Ying Jeou, of the Nationalist (KMT) Party, as President. Ma's victory came on the heels of the KMT's sweeping victory in the legislative elections in January 2008. Since his election, relations between Taiwan and China appear to be warming. For example, in 2008, Taiwan's government agreed to accept a gift of a pair of pandas that were offered by Beijing as a goodwill gesture in 2005. In addition, daily direct flights began for the first time between Taipei and Beijing in December 2008. While tension between both parties remain, their willingness to directly engage each other, strengthen economic ties, and diminish the threat of violence appear to be steps in the right direction to improve the relationship between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China.

Congressman John Linder introduced H.Con.Res.18 on January 9, 2009. This legislation expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should abandon the "One-China Policy" in favor of a "One-China, One-Taiwan Policy" that recognizes Taiwan as a sovereign and independent country. In addition, the resolution states that the President should begin the process of resuming normal diplomatic relations with Taiwan and support Taiwan's full participation in the United Nations and other international organizations.

Currently, this legislation is being reviewed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. As a member of the Committee, please be assured that I will continue to study this proposal and will keep your thoughts in mind should this legislation be brought up for a vote.

Again, thank you for contacting me in support of establishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me again.


Adam Smith

Member of Congress

No More Happy Farmers in Taiwan: Redux

One of Happy Farm's marketing slogans: "Our Game = Five Minutes Joy"

First post on Happy Farmers in Taiwan here.

Some statistics came out in an article from the AFP, reporting the actual number of Happy Farmers who are Taiwanese. Interestingly enough, they report that:
Taiwanese Internet users reportedly constitute about 80 percent of the 3.7 million members of "Happy Farm".
That is simply amazing marketing for whoever headed the Happy Farm division for Asia/Taiwan/the whole world. I'm sure he/she is going to get a nice bonus at the end of this year. I am not surprised that this application-internet-game-type sector is quickly growing, since I've heard from a few of my friends that they have paid upwards of $30 on the game Happy Farm. Officially there is at least one person in Taiwan who has spent at least $80 on this game, and plans to sue Facebook for "deceiving" him to pay money for the game.

Having played a decent assortment of games before, paid and non-paid, it would seem like the profit margins for these types of games should be relatively high. It's quite remarkable for a game like Happy Farm to be able to generate $30-80 from one customer (with the possibility of more over time).

The future for these games and Facebook in Taiwan look bright, despite continued opposition from a few in Taiwan's government:
In related developments, Vice Minister of Education Lin Tsung-ming (林聰明) said the ministry did not recommend that youths play a popular Facebook game called Happy Farm because “stealing” vegetables is unethical.

Wu said the ministry would suggest that the developer of the game modify it by having players “rent” rather than “steal” vegetables from other players.
Since when has doing something "unethical" become such a driving force for voicing public opposition towards that thing? I wonder if there is something more to this story than just simply not wanting workers to waste their time on this at work.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Fate of the Language?

Brought to my attention in my Facebook news-feed (what is this world coming to?!), a friend of mine posted a link to this article in the New York Times about how the Cantonese language is facing the possibility of becoming a "dying" language over the next few years in the United States- specifically in New York's Chinatown.

I emphasize language here because it is a language. As far as I can tell from my one-year education in Mandarin, the Cantonese language and Mandarin language are mutually unintelligible. Just as, the Taiwanese language and Mandarin language are mutually unintelligible. And while both languages, Cantonese and Taiwanese, may be facing an uphill battle in surviving as a language- the outlook for Cantonese remains much brighter.

This is due in most part to Cantonese having a fairly well supported written form of itself. On the other hand, Taiwanese is being hit on all fronts by many different systems, from using romanized systems to character systems, where each can be further broken down. This website, Talingua, has a good overview of the various ways you can approach Taiwanese writing/reading. The problem here is (from what I remember/hear) that the KMT government at one point gave money to a bunch of different groups/scholars to each come up with their own system of writing Taiwanese. Sounds good/reasonable right? Well, the result was that each came up with their own, and there ended up being a sort of competition for whose is better. In the end, we have a bunch of different systems, that no one can agree upon. So the Taiwanese language continues to lose place in society as the years pass on with no agreed upon writing system.

While a writing system for a language is not the only thing that is needed to help keep it alive, it is a large part of it. But, I believe there needs to be a change that takes place in conjunction with a unified writing system for Taiwanese to maintain it's prominence as a language of Taiwan. That is, the political and social issues that plague the Taiwanese language. Many young Taiwanese these days are plagued with the notion that Taiwanese is/should be used for only in the marketplace and at home. While currently this notion is certainly not unfounded (as Taiwanese is currently mainly used in marketplaces and inside the home), it is a slippery slope of self-fulfilling prophecy that should be reconsidered. It is one thing to put Mandarin on a pedestal and say it's the main language to be used in the business world/work place, but another thing to put Taiwanese down and limit it to the marketplace and home.

The part that I find must unbearable about this is (coming from personal experience), young Taiwanese telling other Taiwanese, "Why are you speaking Taiwanese? It's so weird." As one who excels in the Taiwanese language, and has the Mandarin capability of probably a 2nd or 3rd grader (or worse), I was not one to be ashamed to use my Taiwanese in all aspects of my life and time in Taiwan- from classmates, to professors, other exchange students, at clubs/bars, customer service people, retail workers, you name it, I probably talked to them in Taiwanese. Were they taken aback at first? Yes. Did they get used to it? Yes. Was it easier to make friends because of my Taiwanese? In my point of view, yes. I think we can all do the Taiwanese language a favor, by at the very least, simply not handing out negative remarks over using Taiwanese. I even met a few people who speak Taiwanese with their friends all the time, and it was a refreshing change to see that there are still young people in Taiwan who have respect for their own culture.

Keep in mind, this is no hack on the Taiwanese who don't speak the language, Taiwanese- but rather a reminder to those that do. Furthermore, I want to emphasize here that speaking Taiwanese does not make one more "Taiwanese" than those who don't. I have met plenty of people who don't speak Taiwanese (only Mandarin and/or Hakka), but are more "Taiwanese" than the current president of Taiwan will ever be (although that isn't saying much of those who really know what Ma is up to, but you get my point).

P.S. As crazy as it is to hear a girl inside Babe 18 speaking butchered-Taiwanese and continuing saying li-ho, li-ho, jia-beng, jia-beng, as if those were the only few Taiwanese phrases that exist, I do applaud these few girls that I met for attempting to do so- and I must say, it is rather cute.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Taiwan's Military

With the recent flurry of news regarding more calls for arms sales to Taiwan and China's 1300+ missiles, the actual military of Taiwan has been overlooked.

Let's take a look at what the government is doing to help recruit more people:

From that, I'd say we could bypass all that commotion about arms sales to Taiwan, and just utilize the auto-bots that Taiwan has somehow secretly (not so secret anymore) attained. I'm sure if Taiwan had those transformers, they would have no problem getting rid of mandatory conscription and having an all-volunteer force.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Review: "The Founding of a Republic (建國大業)"

I previously mentioned this movie in my previous post, here. After having seen it through some online channels, I would like to revisit the movie to see how much actual propaganda could be seen in their government production of a movie. Since I am no movie review guru, I'm just going to hit a few points that stuck out to me.

The movie is presented with subtitles in both Chinese (Simplified) characters, as well as English subtitles. I had to go along with the English subtitles due to my Mandarin not being quite up to par, as well as my Chinese characters' education being in traditional writing.

In one of the opening scenes, we get a cameo appearance from Jet Li, which ultimately led me to start thinking about him in that role and what character he played. Because of this, I was distracted from the subtitles and failed to understand what was going on in that part of the movie. It's nice to have an all-star cast I guess, but at least for me, the short cameos detracted from the movie more than it gave. Part of this is that most of the big name characters like Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Ze-dong are played by non-famous actors, so when you get famous people like Zhang Ziyi and Jet Li coming in on 30 second cameos, it just makes you wonder, needlessly.

In another scene, when Chiang Kai-shek's wife is flown to Washington to plead with the U.S. Secretary of State for assistance for her husband's KMT forces, we see her passing through the entrance of a building where there stands two soldiers "guarding." In one of the most bizarre scenes of the movie, upon seeing CKS's wife walk by, he eyes her like a hound and remarks, "Wow... she's so hot, mang." Needless to say, the soldier in that scene is the only black person (if I recall correctly) to be seen throughout the movie. Great appearance for the blacks, right? Anyways, it was hard to tell if that was thrown in there to lighten up the movie from it's, semi-documentary-esque style movie, or simply part of the way they wanted to portray Americans and/or blacks?

As far as the big two, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Ze-dong, having never seen previous movies produced by the China group that produced this film, they portray both as how I figured they would.

Mao with his pal Zhou Enlai, are seen in ragged clothing, huddled in huts using candles to light the room, and lively dance in the streets with local farmers/peasants after defeating the KMT in a battle. Very much portrayed as your average Chinese, working hard for the greater good of the country. In one scene, Mao is seen with his daughters in the flower fields joking around with them. But, I will say it is a nice touch as far as bringing some personality into his character.

CKS on the other hand is portrayed as a rich and stuck-up leader of the KMT. He (whether it's true or not?) walks around the movie with his cane in almost all the scenes, making him out to be some old hag. There was hardly a smile that appeared on CKS's face throughout the movie, other than the beginning where the truce between the CCP and the KMT was agreed upon.

This carries over into the potrayal of the KMT, corrupt and filled with internal strife, where Chiang's own family is caught in corrupt business practices in Shanghai.

For the CCP, the movie proudly promotes the CCP as the party that unified all of China under principles of democracy. As far-fetched as it sounds, the word "democracy" was seen in many scenes where Mao or Zhou talked of the their plans for a new government. Democracy was talked about so much, that it is possible that 'democracy' was mentioned more times than 'communism/communist,' which is remarkable considering that they are a communist party.

As a Taiwanese, or 'outsider' (not one inside China), I can easily see how this was meant for China's domestic audience only. A lot of historical background is needed to get a better understanding of what is happening. Even though I had enough background in this issue, I felt this movie simply isn't a movie for anyone other than Chinese- especially as a Taiwanese.

As one who supports Taiwan's self-rule and sovereignty, it was hard to "get behind" either the protagonist (CCP), or antagonist (KMT). At one point, I was just too turned off to even have a response towards the movie. Knowing that the CCP currently oppresses Taiwan, along with the fact that the KMT eventually occupies Taiwan and is effectively the cause of the struggles in Taiwan today, it pained me to watch a movie where neither side could be 'my' side.

All in all, it was ok for a historical movie, but I can hardly see how foreigners (especially Taiwanese people) would enjoy watching this (since it is rumored to be appearing in Taiwan next year).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

No More Happy Farmers in Taiwan

Screenshot of the homepage of the "Happy Farm" application
on Facebook
. "The Happiest Farm on Facebook"

If you're Taiwanese and you're on Facebook, it's likely you either play or have seen "Happy Farm," "Farmville," "Restaurant City," or some other similar variant of these game applications featured on Facebook, especially in your 'news feed'. I guess it finally took a toll on the work efficiency in Taiwan, as the games have now been banned at work (for those that are civil servants).

It's quite a phenomenon, seeing the entire country (pretty much) play that game. It had become so popular in Taiwan, that there are Facebook groups devoted to having "free" friends to add to their Facebook account so that they can obtain more items in the games. Groups such as these, "♥ RESTAURANT CITY ♥ "ADD ME"" and "台灣美版餐廳Restaurant City討論區" are mostly filled with players from Taiwan, and as you see in the second one, a group specific to Taiwan.

In my view, a large percentage of Taiwanese have flocked to Facebook for these specific applications, as they provide a lot more entertainment and things to do (while at work?) than previous social networking sites that Taiwanese were used to before, such as Wretch (無名). Less than a year ago, a lot of my friends in Taiwan (locals) had never heard of Facebook, and now, I think I am connected with 70-80% of those friends that I've met in the past via Facebook. Facebook looks like it has got a solid ground to start from in Taiwan, barring any more punishment from above for using Facebook.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Another 1010

Another year, another Double-Ten day. This year though, without all the festivities, and just a low-key speech by President Ma Ying-jeou. Full transcript of the speech can be found here.

While it is the national day for the government of the Republic of China, through some twists and turns for Taiwan's history, it has become Taiwan's nationally recognized day as well. There's controversy over whether it was right for Ma Ying-jeou to decide whether or not to have normal parades and festivities for today, as well as those that may think we shouldn't even celebrate today, as it is the national day for the authoritarian regime that now occupies Taiwan.

Whatever the case may be, I think President Ma hit a good stride in this part of his speech, titled "Developing a Chinese culture with unique Taiwanese character." For this, I will just ignore the details about wording- whether it should be 'Taiwanese culture with unique Chinese character,' or whatever other combination of words you can put in there. Furthermore, putting aside details about how democratic reforms came about to the ROC government at the cost of Taiwanese lives. Here's Ma's opening for this part of his speech:

My dear friends, looking back over the 98 years of the Republic of China's history inspires a welter of contrasting feelings. Except for the "golden decade" immediately following the Northern Expedition, the 38 years during which the ROC government was based on the mainland was a period of incessant war and chaos that rendered people destitute and rootless and allowed little opportunity to put into practice the nation-building ideals of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Yet, over the six decades since the ROC government relocated to Taiwan, it has succeeded in carrying out land reform, implementing universal education, promoting economic growth, erecting a social welfare system and instituting democratic constitutional government.

After these 60 years of national development, Taiwan has a robust middle class, enjoys an open and free media environment, and has a healthy civil society in which environmental awareness has taken root, while community-building and volunteerism have developed at a lively pace. Step by step, we have created a Chinese culture with a unique Taiwanese character--a heritage belonging to all of us and in which we all can take pride.

During the past six decades, the histories and cultures of the Republic of China and Taiwan have become thoroughly intertwined. In this context, "Taiwan spirit" is not a vapid slogan, but is concretely embodied in the values and character of those who have struggled for this land.

The great thing I see about this part of his speech is the recognition that Taiwan's history is more than just when their government, the R.O.C., decided to occupy Taiwan. It started long before then, with roots of our culture tracing back to the Japanese occupation and before. If Ma is being honest here, and not just throwing more "Taiwanese" into his speeches for the upcoming elections, then I applaud him here.

It is as much of a call towards the pan-green side to recognize that the future of Taiwan includes those that came to Taiwan in 1949, as it is a call on the pan-blue side to recognize that the future cannot be determined simply by their rule, but those that have inhabited Taiwan for centuries before. The future of Taiwan depends on the both greens, blues, independents, because at this point in each of our lives, we all have stakes in the future of Taiwan.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama - Nobel Peace Prize Winner

The main news this morning is that President Barack Obama of the United States has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for:
for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.
Now ignoring the fact that he was nominated within a couple weeks of being inaugurated (nomination deadline was Feb 1st), and that really, he hasn't fully accomplished anything in terms of Israel-Palestine, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, etc. I would like to bring the attention to someone else. That man, Ma Ying-jeou.

As readers of my blog, and those who know me, you likely know that I am certainly no fan of Taiwan's current president, Ma Ying-jeou. But, I will say that the events that have occurred up until today, it feels like Ma Ying-jeou has done a lot more in terms of promoting peace, even if it is just regional peace- and fake peace at that (there's still 1500+ missiles ready to bring Taiwan to rubble). So while it is fake to those who really know what's going on, on the other hand the media has gobbled up Ma and his "warming" of cross-strait relations. Media coverage concerning Taiwan, China, and Ma Ying-jeou have always given credit to Ma on his "warming cross-strait relations," and "closest relations in many years."

Therefore, it's hard to see how Obama's accomplishments (or lack thereof) trumps Ma Ying-jeou's. For me to come out and say that Ma Ying-jeou deserves this more than Obama? Well, I'll just leave it at that.

Rather than putting this on Obama, because it is unfair to him, I think it just shows that the Nobel Peace prize has become nothing more than a political and media affair of which the value of the prize is close to nothing. But, that began a while ago when the likes of Jimmy Carter (the one that officially screwed Taiwan) in 2002, and Yasser Arafat in 1994 took home the prize.

And it is sad, because "it used to mean something."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Taipei" Welcomes the NBA

The TaipeiTimes caption reads:

Workers at the Taipei Arena yesterday replace the word “Taiwan” with the word “Taipei” ahead of tomorrow’s Indiana Pacers vs Denver Nuggets NBA basketball game.

On Thursday, two NBA teams, the Denver Nuggets and the Indiana Pacers will play against each other in Taipei. Besides the fact that it will be the first NBA game ever to be played in Taiwan, not too much to say on this event. It will be a great opportunity for the people in Taiwan to see a live NBA game. I'm sure as the NBA continues its work in Taiwan, it'll find it has a large market in Taiwan as well.

While nothing is wrong with either "Taipei welcomes..." or "Taiwan welcomes...," it seems like another case of appeasing China at the expense of "Taiwan." After all, "Taiwan" was already placed on there, and yet there is this last minute change to "Taipei."

Taipei, a city looking to put itself on the international map? Or another instance of Taiwanese unable to take a stand, and placating to China. I'll go with the latter. The Taipei Arena, Taipei Mayor, Minister of Sports Affairs Council, and the President of the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association all dropped the ball here.

In other, more interesting news, an interesting response to an Op-Ed, "Rebiya Kadeer and Taipei," in the WSJ, by Su Jun-pin, Minister of the GIO:

On behalf of the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan), I would like to comment on a number of mistaken notions contained in the editorial "Rebiya Kadeer and Taipei" (Review & Outlook, Sept. 29).

First, the decision of not allowing Ms. Kadeer to visit Taiwan has been made in accordance with Article 18 of Chapter 4 of the Immigration Act, "Entry of Aliens and Exit of Aliens." This article stipulates that the National Immigration Agency shall prohibit an alien from entering the ROC if he/she is believed to endanger national interests or public security. This does not mean, however, that the ROC government disrespects freedom of expression. Indeed, the documentary about Ms. Kadeer's life has been shown at many venues in Taiwan.

Further, the editorial states that President Ma Ying-jeou was elected to improve Taiwan's economy through closer links with mainland China, but "is misinterpreting that mandate to include closer ties with [mainland] China's authoritarian politics, too." This is a gross misconception.

The Ma administration, it must be stressed, has turned a new page in relations across the Taiwan Strait. Since taking office in May 2008, cross-Strait tensions have eased, and the prospects for lasting peace in the Asia-Pacific region are improving, a trend affirmed by governments around the world. Our cross-Strait policy is premised on safeguarding our sovereignty and putting Taiwan first for the benefit of its people. That means insisting on freedom and democracy in Taiwan while promoting cross-Strait peace and prosperity.

We believe this is the right course to take and that observers who look closely at Taiwan will concur.

Su Jun-pin


Government Information Office

Republic of China (Taiwan)

My basic response to this, as you will see in the comments on the WSJ page as well, is that here and in the past week, the Ma administration has continued to state this fact that they can deny entry to a person who is deemed a threat to national interests or the public. But, they have continued to be silent on exactly how is Ms. Kadeer a threat to Taiwan? That is the question we all would like to know. Perhaps the real answer is what we already suspected, that Ms. Kadeer is a threat to China, and the Ma administration is once again letting China stomp all over us.

EWT Trade (10/07/09): Stopped out of my EWT trade for a loss of $0.35 per contract. As I recently mentioned, TA works until it doesn't! Minimizing losses is part of the game.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stocks and Politics - Now In Different Languages!
Flags from around the world - Photo Credit

Came across this useful tool by Google, called the "Google Translate" tool.

Translates the entire page, including comments! Figured it would be handy for those who are in Taiwan and elsewhere across the globe who might want to read the blog in their native language. As I don't think the translator is quite up to par- although it should get the job done (in most cases), you probably shouldn't translate my blog from English into say, Chinese, just to practice learning Chinese.

If your browser default language is already set to English, then you might not get a pop-up at the top of the page about translating the page, otherwise a pop-up for Google Translate should be at the top. But, you can always find the language translate tool on the right hand sidebar.

Friday, October 2, 2009

SinoPac - TAIEX to 10,000

Update 10/5/09: Based on my price levels, I took a short position on EWT at $12.25 (1 cent off the days high) via Dec 13 puts @ 1.05. Targets are seen below.

So with all the hoopla of the impending MOU, ECFA, and whatever other alphabet soup acronym they come up with, a fund manager sees the TAIEX jumping another 33% by the first half of next year. So let's see where does that put the TAIEX-- currently trading at 7411.88 right now, another 33% puts it circa 9857.80, about 1.5 points shy of the '07 highs of 9859.65.

Now the number make sense, but the question is do we get there? I certainly don't read the future, but I just read charts. Similar calculations on EWT (the ETF for the Taiwan Index on the US stock exchange), also puts a 33% jump on EWT at the previous highs of $16.17 to the penny. Impressive huh? :)

Take a look at this 5 year chart on EWT below:

Closed yesterday in the US side at $12.16 and likely to open lower tomorrow if the TAIEX continues to struggle today. You can see that it's hitting some decent supply area in the $12.20-$12.50 region, where there's a cluster of previous support and resistance over the past years.

Rather than taking a long position based on this recommendation to buy on the TAIEX, I would rather short the EWT anywhere in the $12.25-$12.40 region with a stop above the highs at $12.40, with targets of $11.72 - $11.47 - $11.00 - $10.60. Of course, his time frame is in the months, and mine is short-term.

But, that just means I believe you can get a better entry going long the TAIEX in the short to intermediate term if you wait for prices to come back from these overbought conditions. If you are so inclined to take a long position on the TAIEX, I would wait until it gets to around $11.00.