Friday, April 30, 2010

Amanpour Questions President Ma on CNN

Interesting interview on CNN, with world famous CNN reporter Christine Amanpour interviewing Ma on a variety of current issues in and around Taiwan.

Here's a link to the video and article.

Just a few points....

Amanpour starts out asking Ma about his stance on Taiwan's "independence." President Ma cleverly side steps this question by saying that the Republic of China on Taiwan has been an independent sovereign state for 99 years.

The problem here is that supposed independence is not recognized by many countries. This problem is also blatantly seen whenever Taiwan attempts to join an international organization and is either blocked out of the organization by China, or is forced to enter under the name "Chinese Taipei."

The second question Amanpour asks is about Ma's push for closer relations with China, and in doing so jeopardizing Taiwan's sovereignty. Again, Ma sort of side steps this question by only addressing the first half of the question on the agreements he has accomplished, instead of perhaps explaining how the direct flights between Taiwan and China are not classified as international flights (as a result, R.O.C. (Taiwan) passports cannot be used by Taiwanese to enter China).

While I applaud Amanpour for trying to ask the tough questions that most of us have been asking, she doesn't quite push Ma for clarifications/explanations on his answers. An example of this is when Ma talks about the "improved relations" between the two sides - Amanpour should have asked why China's missiles pointed at Taiwan are increasing at the same time. I think the weirdest part for viewers of this video who may not know much about Taiwan is the fact that he states at the beginning how the R.O.C. is independent and sovereign, yet later is asked about attending APEC, and Ma simply cannot answer that question because of the truth that China is blocking Taiwan from these summits and organizations.

How can a country be independent and sovereign if another country is able to dictate what you can do on the international stage? Quite frankly, Ma says it himself at the very end when he describes his "3 no's" policy of, "No unification, No independence, No use of force." What? Did not Ma state at the beginning of the interview, "there's no reason to declare independence twice." Listening to this cluster-fudge of an interview is really confusing. One minute Taiwan is independent and sovereign, then seemingly not, then seemingly yes.

What Amanpour needs to do is get Tsai Ing-wen in an interview. Actually, she should have gotten Tsai and Ma on at the same time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TAIEX Outlook - Week of April 25th

I'm looking for a potential double top here on the TAIEX. Chart below:

Adding to my belief that the TAIEX may soon be under more selling pressure, here's the Shanghai Composite Index chart, where it looks like the bears are in complete control:

Keep in mind that the Shanghai Index was the first to bottom during the global meltdown in the markets in late 08 and early 09, leading the U.S. markets up, and now perhaps leading the way down.

Lastly, the U.S. markets took a plunge today, down more than 2% in one of the largest down moves in recent memory. While there's still a lot for the bears to prove before things get rolling to the downside, it's a reminder that being long in this over-extended market can be brutal.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ma vs Tsai Debate

A lot of good analysis on the debates going on:

@ Taiwan Matters
@ Kyodo News
@ That's Impossible: Politics from Taiwan w/ A-gu
@ eTaiwan News

Links to videos of the actual debate are on Taiwan Matters, but here's a link to Part I.

As well as a transcript of Part I and Part II (English translation) of the debate.

As far as what I thought from the transcript of Part I, the best points were made by Tsai when she challenged Ma on the secretive contents of the ECFA and how could the Taiwanese public possibly support an agreement of which contents they know nothing about. To that, Ma responds:

The list has not been finalized yet, that’s why we can’t show it at the moment. We try to keep everything behind closed doors during negotiations, but we will make the results public. I promise that I won’t only publicize the list when it’s sent to the legislature.

What Ma fails to mention is that by the time the list is sent to the legislature, it is too late. Negotiations will have been over and the agreement will be well on its way to being inked in.

For most of the other counter-arguments, Ma basically ripped the DPP administration of 2000-2008 as reason for why he is pushing the ECFA as he is now. Arguments Ma made, such as the DPP not getting anything done with China, totally ignores the remarks made by Tsai. Tsai's main points were that this ECFA may be reducing Taiwan's sovereignty; the DPP in the past did not agree to trade agreements because they insisted on Taiwan's sovereignty.

Lastly, Ma's use of the Taiwanese language in certain parts of his arguments was quite demeaning. Does he really believe that inserting a few phrases in Taiwanese will all of a sudden convert these non-ECFA-believers to pro-ECFA-believers just because he spoke in Taiwanese? Gimmicks, gimmicks, gimmicks. To further underline this point, Tsai did not use Taiwanese at all (at least from what I saw from the first part of the video), who would have been the more likely person to do so.

For those who may not know all the past details and comments made by Ma and Tsai, it would seem as if Ma was the winner here. But for those who have been keeping up with all the developments with ECFA, it's clear that Ma's responses just touch the surface of the murky waters beneath.

What's your take on the debate? You can vote in this on-going poll on Yahoo:

The numbers are currently (for who had a better performance?):
37.1% 2433
59.4% 3895
3.5% 230

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chinese Tourists

My friend posted a video of what happened recently on Kinmen, where a group of Chinese tourists got into scuffles with the Taiwan police. It really is a sham that they can come to Taiwan and act like they are entitled to whatever they feel like they want or need, all at the cost of Taiwanese citizens.

Look at this YouTube video:

No one likes to wait at an airport, for whatever reason. But look at all those travelers stuck around the world, especially in Europe, due to the volcanic ash hovering in the atmosphere. It's been more than a week since the delays and grounding of flights have occurred, and while the travelers are certainly angry and frustrated, they don't have the problem of acting out on it.
Dozens of angry Chinese tourists clashed with police Friday at two airports in Taiwan after bad weather caused repeated delays of their flights, police said.

About 30 mainland tourists were involved in a brawl at the airport on Kinmen island, which had been shut for three days due to heavy fog, said an airport police officer.

While this kind of immature and disrespectful attitude is sort of expected from these Chinese tourists, it's also frustrating to see that the Taiwan government (police) did nothing basically. If it was in almost any other airport, the people that got into fights with police would likely have been detained. Instead, look who are the ones getting pushed around like little school-boys:

Unbelievable. The TaipeiTimes has more coverage on this here. The clincher?
A group of Chinese tourists were caught on television slapping a female Taiwanese tour guide on Thursday after she informed the tourists that their flight had been canceled.

Bureau officials said they had sent their regards to the tour guide, adding that it had also reported the names of the Chinese tourists involved in the incident to China’s Cross-Strait Tourism Association and asked the association to demand that the tourists not slap people again.
Yes. Slap a tourist agent in a different country, and all you get served with us a verbal "asking" to not do so in the future.

The more you think about this, the more it will anger you. Why? Think about what if those Chinese tourists weren't Chinese tourists, but instead... say pan-green Taiwanese being angry (but likely not acting out like the Chinese did). Do you believe that this hypothetical situation of pan-green Taiwanese being the angry ones, would have received similar treatment by the police? A simple verbal slap on the wrist for slapping and basically pushing around police? Or would they have been swiftly shut-down? That is something to ponder.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

Goldman Sacked!

SEC charges Goldman Sachs with fraud. I think most people knew something was fishy and wrong with GS, but I never thought something would come of it. GS has high people in high places, so I still wouldn't call it justice-served just yet.

Just to show how ridiculous and gamed this market is right now, this announcement came on the heels of April OpEx. Because of that, you can easily double/triple/20x your money overnight with options, but at the same time, get slaughtered.

But when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged the bank with fraud and the stock price dived to an intraday low of $155.55, the April $170 puts and April $160 puts are suddenly “in the money” and could very well be exercised by investors who own them.

Just to show you how ridiculous it is, I happened to purchase a couple GS April 175 puts earlier this month for $1.88 per contract. I ended up getting stopped out that same day for a small loss. Here's my purchase ticket:

Now take a look at the options table for GS April puts today (with the 175 puts highlighted):

So, $1.88 puts on April 7th was worth up to $19.00 at some point this morning, and settled at around $14.00. For me, it could have been 7x or 9x my money. Did I miss out? Sure, maybe. But I would have sat through more pain watching those puts basically go worthless as of yesterday (see the low of $0.01 print for those puts).

Here's an article on the Goldman, Abacus, Paulson story that puts it in easier terms to understand.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

PBS Frontline Video: Obama's Deal

For some political news outside of Taiwan (for once). I picked up on this through the usual Facebook feeds. It's a worthy watch for anyone, as it gives insight into how politics works in Washington. Change? Hardly. Just more of the same under a different mask.

Excerpt from this description of the video off the website:

On March 23, 2010, after a bruising year of debate, negotiation and backlash, President Barack Obama finally signed the health reform bill that he had promised more than a year before. But at what cost to his popularity and to the ideals of bipartisanship and open government that he'd campaigned on?

In Obama's Deal, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk (Bush's War, Dreams of Obama) takes viewers behind the headlines to reveal the political maneuvering behind Barack Obama's effort to remake the American health system and transform the way Washington works. Through interviews with administration officials, senators and Washington lobbyists, Obama's Deal reveals the dramatic details of how an idealistic president pursued the health care fight -- despite the warnings of many of his closest advisers -- and how he ended up making deals with many of the powerful special interests he had campaigned against.

Click here for link to Frontline Video, Obama's Deal.

The biggest surprise for me was that despite knowing that Obama was not the real deal that he made himself out to be, was that Obama ended up making backroom deals with those he criticized the most. If you watch the video, this is the part where they talk about how Obama blasts Billy Tauzin during his campaigning in 2008 for his lobbyist activities, and then later signs a secret deal with Tauzin in order to push through health-care reform.

The sad part about this all is that it was not what the American public wanted. Polls after polls showed that the American public did not want the current health care bill. We end up with a broken bill that is not what Obama wanted, but in his effort to just get it done for the sake of claiming he got it done, this is what we are left with.

This should serve as a warning for Taiwan. Currently, President Ma is trying to push through an ECFA with China despite poll after poll showing the Taiwanese public having many concerns over an ECFA agreement. Furthermore, a lot of Taiwanese don't even know what the ECFA will contain. You must continually ask this question: Why does President Ma not wish to hold a referendum on whether to pass an ECFA or not? I believe there is no viable answer for this question that upholds Taiwan's democracy and best interests at the same time. If you have one that does, please let us know. Here's a good post from A-gu about what's going on with the referendum issue, past and current.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

'Formosa Betrayed' Leaves You Unsatisfied - In A Good Way

... and rightfully so - here's why.

** May contain spoilers **

I showed up with some family and friends at the 10:00PM showing of 'Formosa Betrayed' at one of only three theaters in Washington state. April 9th was the opening weekend for 'Formosa Betrayed' in Seattle, and this was the second night. But much like the empty theater that we sat in (more or less 15 people total), the movie left me empty inside as well. It was as if there was no ending and something else needed to wrap things up. After each scene faded to black and the next scene emerged, I kept hoping that the next fade-away would be followed by another scene.

So why do I think it was a good movie? It is because of this feeling of the lack of fulfillment that makes this film worth watching. For most other films, this may be a bad thing. After all, why would a story that leaves you hanging give the viewer satisfaction? But in this case we are left unsatisfied because of the fact that this story is yet unfinished.

This point is highlighted in the ending seconds of the movie where the screen goes to black with text appearing, highlighting the current situation of Taiwan: There are currently 23 countries that recognize the country of Taiwan, "The United States is not one of them."

The injustice to Taiwanese of the past, continue to occur to this day. Whether it be on the international scale or domestically in Taiwan, the internal struggle of Taiwanese is still there. While there may be no blatant executions of political dissidents and torture of Taiwanese intellectuals, instead what we have is fear and bullying tactics by the same secret police state that existed before. Stories such as this: Police in Taiwan asking for registration details of political activists that use Plurk. Things don't need to happen on the surface for it to be real; often times it's what happens underneath that is even scarier.

Anyways, as far as the actual acting and etc...

3 out of 5 stars. Entertainment value-wise, it was average. The acting was okay, but at times I just grimaced at the use of non-native Chinese speakers (sorry Will Tiao). The saving grace for Will Tiao was the fact that his lines were mostly in English and Taiwanese, otherwise I may never have gotten past that issue. The use of simultaneous time-lines was at first confusing, but after a couple flash forward and backs I realized what was going on. The action scenes were pretty underwhelming, but I found it quite appropriate for the setting (set in the 1980s).

But, the thing that bothered me the most after leaving (other than that unfulfillment) was that I felt I had already seen the movie. The most powerful scenes in the movie were basically the same scenes used in the theatrical trailers, which is quite genius if you think about it. But, it leaves you with just fillers for the actual movie, in between those powerful scenes.

Nevertheless, it's a story that needed to get out, and I applaud Will Tiao and the rest of his crew for being able to generate the investment needed to put out this film. All that, despite the likelihood that they knew they wouldn't have a spectacular box office run. When you have a film about Taiwan, and yet Taiwanese as a group have a hard time getting out to watch it, you know you are in for trouble.

All in all, 'Formosa Betrayed' was a film that needed to be done. And as a film that needed to be done, it's a film worth being seen. If you are in the Seattle area, get out to watch it ASAP! If you did not know (as I did not know originally), it's having a limited release in both location as well as time-wise. I believe it's only showing here in the Seattle area until this coming Thursday, April 15th.

Edit: While I was unable to make it to the Q&A session with producer and actor, Will Tiao, of Formosa Betrayed at the Seattle Taiwan Center on April 8th, someone (ryl0911) was able to record it on video and put it up on YouTube (Thanks!). There's 13 parts in total, so check it out. A lot of interesting information about him and the movie, with answers to "FAQs" that most of you probably have thought of (When is it showing in Taiwan?, Why is it shot in Thailand?, etc.)
You can view the rest of the 12 of 13 parts by going to this playlist, and you can set it to auto-play through the rest (top right-hand side).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

TAIEX Outlook - Week of April 11th

Another month has passed since I last checked up on the TAIEX, and it is currently hanging out just below the 8100 mark I mentioned in my previous post here.

Above 8100, a good long setup is in place for a run to the recent highs at 8395.38, if not new highs (if you are not already long).

A look back at what I said a month ago:
Above 7900 on strength, there's not much resistance above, and could quite easily make a run for the '10 highs at 8395.38, with a test of 8100 gap resistance first
And while the chart above does not have volume indicated, the ETF for Taiwan (EWT) had that "strength" that I talked about - it traded 60 mil shares on the day of the breakout, 4x the average volume of ~15 mil.

For those in the U.S., you should note of days around April 15th as a potential top in the markets as that is the last day for individuals to fund their IRAs for the 2009 tax year. Until then, there is that possibility of the additional inflow of cash into funds to continue to prop up this market. Just so happens OPEX is April 16th, and things tend to get crazy on those days.

And oh look, someone else also had mentioned the resistance level of 8100. This is another good reason to have knowledge of technical analysis when you invest/trade. Whether you actually "believe" in TA or not, it is nice to look at a chart and see price levels that everyone else is looking at. In a way, it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In lighter news, Taiwan's "Susan Boyle" has become viral. I'm a day or two late, but if you are somehow in an e-cave, here you go, so you can be in the know.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Google: A Warning for Taiwan and Ma's ECFA

An article in the April 5th issue of Business Week targets China as a manipulator and a country where countries are starting to realize the lack of business potential there. It was a refreshing read in that until recently (with the Google vs China fiasco), the way to make money was to head east to China. I happened to pick up the paper magazine of this issue, but you can also read it here online.

All of the issues raised in this piece point to the same problems that the U.S. has been facing in regards to China. China has consistently struck deals with countries and organizations, only to renege on them.

Nearly a decade after China's entry into the World Trade Organization, many foreign companies say the warm reception they once received has turned frosty. While China can still be highly profitable, some question how long that will last as Beijing changes the rules to give a lift to its domestic companies, especially state-owned enterprises. A new government procurement program known as "indigenous innovation" features rules favoring local firms: It could block sales worth billions of dollars a year, says Joerg Wuttke, director of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. Beijing has written strict standards for everything from cell phones to cars, often couching them in a way that gives an advantage to domestic producers. A recently revised patent law could force foreign companies to hand over key technologies to Chinese bureaucrats.
Their strategy was simple, and the rest of the world was naive in its thinking. China sucked in all these global companies to create offices in China and spur growth. Meanwhile these companies from all over the world, the innovators, start making profits and just as they think all is well, China comes in with their own companies that do the same - but as fabricators and duplicators rather than innovators.

What then? As the article mentions, there is the potential that China could force these foreign companies into handing over patents if they basically don't make China happy. These foreign companies can't do much in a communist country, where in the end - these Chinese bureaucrats have the last say.

A couple more points that the article makes on how China has policies that could force foreign businesses out of business:

Standards: China issues more than 10,000 product standards each year, some written to keep foreigners out of the market. Several Italian appliance manufacturers were shut out by rules requiring hotter-burning gas stoves. And tiremakers say the rules make it less profitable to sell in China.

Approvals: Bureaucratic foot-dragging on licensing for foreign banks and insurers restricts access and boosts Chinese rivals. One insurer says he can apply to open only one branch at a time and that it takes more than 18 months to get the green light. So some foreign companies have no more than a handful of branches.
As we are seeing with Google, who courageously took the stand against China, despite the potential for the money to be made in China - you either get in bed with their policies or you fall to the wayside and get kicked out.

What does this mean for Taiwan and the ECFA? If you feel like Ma is pushing the ECFA faster than his declining approval rating, well you aren't alone. It feels rushed, it feels sloppy, it feels like a gimmick to get Taiwan in bed with China. A trade agreement between two countries should not be rushed, especially in this context where Ma wishes to put all of Taiwan's eggs into the China basket.

Some Westerners believe all these troubles can be traced to China's negotiations to join the WTO. In the rush to gain access to the huge market, many corners were cut, and trade officials simply hoped Beijing would interpret the deal in a way outsiders would consider fair. "People were focused on the enormity of what was being accomplished just by bringing China into the WTO," says an executive with a Western bank in Shanghai, who says capital requirements and recalcitrant bureaucrats have restricted his company's expansion. "They thought they could take care of [the details] later."
Does the above sound eerily similar to what's occurring in Taiwan? Ma and his cronies are trying to fast-track ECFA just so that he can claim he got it done. Well, what exactly will it be? If the end result is a trade agreement with details as vague as Ma Ying-jeou's birth records, then shouldn't all of Taiwan be concerned?

We already know what China does in deals. It makes promises and then "interprets the deal" in a way that benefits themselves.

There's something that has always irked me. Call China for what it is - communist. Ever heard of the Chinese Communist Party? So what if they have a pseudo capitalist economy, you can be communist and love money. What you can't deny is they have a one-party dictatorship that does whatever the hell they want, how they want, to whoever they want. Let's not deceive ourselves into believing you can have fair free trade agreements with a country that doesn't give a damn about any rules or agreements, except their own.

In other news, just wanted to point out that the Taiwanese drive for the 2010 Census is not the only group of people pushing for their own "write-in." Despite what a lot of Debbie Downers are saying about how Taiwanese people are trying to create division, being trouble-makers, and being non-American, this article points out that Muslims, Sir-Lankans, and Indonesians among others are having their own census push also.

Anyways, April 1st was the day to get your census form in by, so for the most part the talk about the 2010 Census is over! That is, until we start seeing some of the statistics come out and see how much us Taiwanese were actually underrepresented.