Yeah, sure. Pretty similar to those excuses for a nuclear program that we heard out of Iran a few years back.
MSN.com featured this story about (non-obvious) areas of the house which might be allergen sources. Good piece. I notice however, the writer missed one: the bathroom fan.
For years and years and years (even before I came to Taiwan), I'd wake up everyday, allergy-free. By the time I'd finish shaving & showering though, the eyes were watering and nose running. Plenty of sneezing, too. And all along I just figured it was the morning air, or the shaving cream, or the shampoo, or the soap.
Wrong, Foreigner. At least once a year, unscrew the fan grille from the ceiling (don't lose the screws!), and clean it thoroughly, inside and out. There'll be plenty of dust built up on it. Next, with the grille off, clean the housing of the intake port. There may be dust and even mold in this area. And finally, stop the fan and clean it as well. There's probably dust built up on the edges of those fan blades, too.
Screw the grille back on, and you're laughin'.
(Until of course, the allergy season returns . . .)
"The Moment is freedom. — I couldn't live by a rigid schedule. I try to live freely from moment to moment, letting things happen and adjusting to them."
“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not. I’m really confused now. If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic. I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”
Strictly speaking, there's really NO comparison.
Joe Hung at Taiwan's China Post really outdid himself yesterday:
Japan's about to aquire nuclear weapons, Joe? Boy, sure hope the CIA's been informed!
Dr. Hung continues:
Why, those sneaky Japs. On Monday, they fool us with all this pacifism-this, and non-violence-that, and then BAMMO ! Next thing you know, they're nukin' Nanking !
Now, I'll be the first to admit I don't know much about Ichiro Ozawa. On the one hand, this link suggests he favors Japan strengthening Japanese-American relations by extending military help to America for U.N.-approved missions (Afghanistan -- hai, Iraq -- nain). And on the other, this source predicts he'd weaken those ties, by drawing CLOSER to China.
Beats me which is right. But I'd believe EITHER of those predictions over Hung's Japan-as-Iran fantasy, any day.
Specifically, on a Singaporean kangaroo court's anti-defamation decision last week against the Journal's sister paper, the Wall Street Journal Asia:
It should come as no surprise that Justice Tay (or should I say, Judge Hoppy) went looking for "emanations and penumbras" of defamation, and found them in spades. I've really nothing to add, except to point out this conflict-of-interest: The prosecutors charged that the Singaporean judiciary was being defamed, and yet who was it that sat in judgment over the case? The judiciary itself!
A cozy arrangement, indeed. An INSTITUTION was allegedly "defamed", and in response, an AGENT OF THAT VERY SAME INSTITUTION pretended he could IMPARTIALLY hear the case against critics of his own employer.
Guess it never occurred to the ethically-challenged Judge Tay to recuse himself . . .
(Image of Justice Tay Yong Kwang from The Straits Times)
Postscript: My previous post on Singapore's judiciary (using the International Bar Association's findings as a source) can be found here.
(And perhaps a few bad ones as well . . .)
Ran across Dr. William Fang's column on Wednesday, the one titled, Two shining examples of the judiciary: HK, Singapore. Fang has a reason for praising Singapore in particular -- prior to the Taiwanese presidential elections, then-KMT-candidate Ma Ying-jeou suggested undemocratic Singapore was a model worthy of Taiwanese emulation. Fang gives away the game near the end of his column:
It is well-known that quite a few political activists tend to overemphasize the universal value of the kind of "freedom of speech" cherished by them . . .
In other words, wouldn't it be terrific if "political activists" who disagree with the policies of the KMT government were slapped with defamation suits and muzzled -- just like they'd be in Singapore. Which (didn't you know?) has one of the BEST judicial systems in Asia?
(See pages 39-45 of this document for a short list of "political activists" who have been silenced by the Singaporean oligarchy. They include such bomb-throwing radicals as the Far Eastern Economic Review, the International Herald Tribune, the Economist and the Asian Wall Street Journal.)
A bit of googling turned up a report of the survey Fang discussed, from Yahoo! Singapore:
The Hong Kong—based [Political and Economic Risk Consultancy] said 1,537 corporate executives working in Asia were asked to rate the judicial systems in the countries where they reside, using such variables as the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) and corruption.
Transparency, enforcement of laws, freedom from political interference and the experience and educational standards of lawyers and judges were also considered.
"Year after year our perception surveys show a close correlation between how expatriates rate judicial systems and how they rate the openness of a particular economy," PERC said.
"Better judicial systems are associated with better IPR protection, lower corruption and wealthier economies."
PERC noted the survey involved expatriate business executives, not political activists, so criteria like contracts and IPR protection were given more weightage.
It appears that the survey itself lies behind a paywall, but the consultancy was upfront enough to point out what should be obvious: foreign businessmen are not likely to have first-hand experiences with another country's family law, criminal law, or free speech law, for that matter. But it IS highly probable that they form impressions of another country's commercial law -- if for no other reason than that cases like that get talked about over drinks at the local executive watering hole.
And so, on the narrow issue of which countries in Asia best treat commercial law, I'll grant that Singapore deserves the crown alongside Hong Kong. But in order to say Singapore has one of the "best" judiciaries in Asia, it also has to to demonstrate its superiority in the other areas of law which I've just mentioned. On those scores, how does it stack up?
I'll leave it to others to describe Singapore's family and criminal law -- although I'd question the wisdom of any legal system which places a higher priority on regulating chewing gum than prostitution.
With regards to free speech however, Singapore has adopted a system of soft Stalinism. Stalinism with Skyscrapers, if you will. Of course, no one in the City-State actually winds up in a gulag for unapproved speech -- no, no, the ruling Oligarchs merely bankrupt them with defamation suits instead. Which makes for a very civilized and admirable system, indeed.
Fang has this to say about the independence of Singapore's courts:
. . . it's hard to imagine that the Singaporean government intends to deliberately bend the judiciary to its wish and succeed in doing so . . .
A few correctives for folks suffering Fang's failure of imagination:
Because of two race riots in the '50s and '60s, the Singaporean government passed a set of anti-assembly laws (see p 62). In practice, these now serve not to prevent race riots, but as instruments of repression against opposition rallies (see p 63).
Following the race riots, the government also instituted hate-speech laws, which forbid speech promoting "racial or religious disharmony". But again, the Oligarchy wields these as a weapon against the opposition. Dare to criticize government racial or religious policies (such as the ruling party's ban against Muslim headscarves in schools) and one of those supposedly "independent" judges will hand you a pretty hefty fine. (Conveniently enough, members of the ruling clique never seem to run afoul of these laws -- which can only be because EVERY SINGLE ONE of the Oligarchy's policies magically ends up promoting racial and religious harmony!)
Fang concludes with this:
In view of the [economic] successes Singapore has achieved so far, both its government and its judicial branch should feel proud of themselves despite certain criticisms.
All this talk reminds me of a Singaporean I knew way back when in my university days. May have been the only Singaporean I've ever known. I vaguely remember his name, but for our purposes, I'll call him "Lee".
Now "Lee" was a good guy, but kind of on the glum side. And as graduation approached he became even more morose than usual. Seems he was PRETTY UNHAPPY with the prospect of going back to his home country. I thought it'd be prying to ask him why.
Men like Dr. Fang must be mystified by guys like "Lee". I mean, Singapore's clean. Harmonious. Got a high economic growth rate. A per capita income that's the envy of the world (about $50,000 / person, though it was less back then).
You probably see where I'm going with this. "Lee" didn't like certain aspects of his country, but he didn't have the democratic power to vote the bums out. Instead, he was going to vote the only way that was left to him. With his feet.
Before you object, I'll admit the existence of one "Lee" from Singapore is an anecdote.
Thousands of Lees however, are A Problem . . .
. . . one survey [of emigration] has placed Singapore’s outflow at 26.11 migrants per 1,000 citizens – the second highest in the world. Only [East Timor] (51.07) fares worse. [emphasis added]
More educated Singaporeans –
many taking their children with them – are leaving or are planning to leave
their country . . .
A recent indication of the scope of the dilemma was the rising number of Singaporeans who asked for a document needed to apply for permanent residency overseas.
It has exceeded 1,000 a month to reach 12,707 last year from 4,996 in 1998, or a rise of 170% over 10 years, said Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng.
It is estimated that half the Singaporeans who annually apply for foreign PRs – 6,000 to 7,000 – eventually settle down overseas.
The brain drain is serious.
Even if 0.5% of its brightest minds were to leave, it would hit Singapore hard, said Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
“These are bright young
people, children of very well-educated Singaporeans. They study overseas now,
and the very good ones are right away green harvested by companies,” Goh
said. [emphasis added throughout]
Rolling-in-the-dough Singapore has the world's second highest emigration rate, surpassed only by Timor Leste (East Timor) -- a recent war-zone with a per capita income of only $400 / person. Just how messed-up is that?
With the best of intentions, Singapore's Oligarchs lifted their country from poverty. But somewhere along the way, they also managed to turn it into a prison. A nice, clean, well-regulated prison.
Did they really think the inmates wouldn't someday try to escape?
Postscript: Instead of democratizing, Singapore has responded to its high level of emigration by allowing in more immigrants. Unfortunately, many of these immigrants don't intend to stay, seeing Singaporean residency as an intermediate stepping-stone on the path to citizenship in democratic Western countries.
This demographic time-bomb is liable to be further exacerbated in the coming years by the city-state's exceptionally low birth rate (8.2 births per 1000 people), and high suicide rate (18.9 suicides per 100,000 people).
All of which bodes ill for Singapore's armed forces. Fewer citizens = fewer recruitable troops.
It's an equation the Spartans discovered at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. And discovered to their eternal cost.
UPDATE: A satire concerning the Singaporean Oligarchy's propensity for regulation and control. Heh.
After the transition in Taiwan to democracy, name rectification became a topic of discussion here. But in the case of Burma, the transition ran in the other direction. So the question is, if a junta, rather than a democratic government, engages in name rectification, should foreigners legitimize the new official names by accepting them?
Some thoughts by James Fallows at The Atlantic.
UPDATE (Sep 30/07): Yesterday's China Post also featured a story on this subject:
"The democratically elected but never convened Parliament of 1990 does not recognize the name change, and the democratic opposition continues to use the name 'Burma.' Due to consistent support for the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. government likewise uses 'Burma,'" the State Department Web site says.
UPDATE #2: Over at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg had a thought:
Wouldn't it be smart for everyone [in Burma] to wear monk robes and, I suppose, shave their heads? The images would have enormous impact, the troops wouldn't know who is and who isn't a monk, and it would give a thrilling "I am Spartacus!" narrative twist to the uprising.
In an editorial on Monday, Taiwan's China Post described Yasuo Fukuda, the front-runner in the upcoming Japanese election for prime minister. While the Post's editors didn't directly endorse Fukuda, one can assume his policies would meet with their approval:
Fukuda, 71, an advocate of a less U.S.-centric foreign policy, stressed he would not visit Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, seen by many Asian countries as a symbol of Japan's past militarism. He is also critical of Abe's proposal for a "broader Asia" partnership of countries that would include India, the U.S. and Australia - but not China.
From the point of view of a Chinese nationalist, any Japanese P.M. who'd give China more of a free hand by weakening Asian alliances is a P.M. "devoutly to be wish'd."
Meanwhile, the Taipei Times came out in favor of Fukuda's rival, Taro Aso:
There are already too many leaders who are willing to cozy up to Beijing -- and what good has that done Taiwan or Tibet, or the countless Chinese locked up in jail for seeking human rights?
Aso, perhaps, isn't such a leader, and therein lies a tremendous opportunity for Taiwan.
The reason for the Times' optimism has something to do with a statement he made in 2006:
Taiwan's "democracy is considerably matured and liberal economics is deeply ingrained, so it is a law-abiding country," then Japanese foreign minister Taro Aso said in March last year, adding that "in various ways, it is a country that shares a sense of values with Japan."
Aso said Taiwan is a law-abiding COUNTRY? Not too hard to see why supporters of Taiwanese independence would like him. Not coincidentally, today's Taipei Times and Taiwan News both featured stories portraying Aso as a sort of political version of Hiro Nakamura from the TV series Heroes:
An avowed booster of "manga" comic books and animation known as "anime," Aso has won the support of fans - called "otaku," or nerds - for his promise to promote Japanese pop art overseas.
"Aso is a true nerd. He should be prime minister!" said Asami Suzuki, a 20-year-old college student shopping for comics in Akihabara.
"He understands that manga and anime are so important to Japan's image," Suzuki said.
(Hiro Nakamura image from Vividrealism.com)
Unfortunately, the truth is that Aso's not quite as lovable as Hiro:
While Aso was the presumed successor until quite recently, he is widely disliked by powerful figures in the LDP and is prone to gaffes. (Referring to a fellow Diet member, descended from members of Japan’s once-untouchable caste: “That burakumin can’t be Prime Minister,” which would be kind of like a GOP presidential candidate in the US replying, “That [N-word] can’t be President,” when asked about Barack Obama. Referring to the Korean slaves who worked for his father prior to and during World War II being forced to adopt Japanese names: “Most Koreans wanted Japanese names anyway.”)
So, one more time. Who do you like in the Japanese election? The polite guy who'll be no friend to Taiwan, or the politically-incorrect jerk who will?
Long-time readers will know that this blog has had a soft spot for Denmark ever since that country came under assault from global Islamic totalitarianism last year. Pleasing to see that Taiwan received some support from Denmark recently:
The Jutland Post contributed a half-page in last Tuesday's edition to publishing readers' letters in support of Taiwan. Most of the letters were written to rebuke Jin Zhijian (金智健), a counselor with the Chinese embassy in Copenhagen, who claimed in a letter published in the Post dated Sept. 6 that "according to the Cairo Declaration  and the Potsdam Proclamation , Taiwan is part of the People's Republic of China."
Jin wrote to the Danish daily in response to Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳), who published an article in the Post on Aug. 25 about the nation's bid to enter the UN using the name "Taiwan."
Now, I'm not sure that one foreign paper publishing a few pro-Taiwan letters qualifies as news, but the story concludes on an intriguing note:
Also responding to Jin's claim, Pia Kjaersgaard, chairwoman and cofounder of the Danish People's Party -- the third largest political party in Denmark, which regards itself as center-right -- almost immediately issued a statement saying that Jin's letter to the newspaper was an attempt to cover up the fact that the People's Republic of China's sovereignty has not for a single day extended to the island of Taiwan.
Kjaersgaard said that from now on, the Danish People's Party would extend every assistance to help Taiwan be accepted as a normal member of the international community.
Kind of makes me wonder exactly how many other foreign political parties are Taiwan-friendly. Of course, I realize that it's easy for opposition parties to adopt pro-Taiwan planks; it's a whole lot harder to hold that position once you've won an election and the Chinese ambassador starts pounding his shoe on your desk, threatening your country's commercial interests.
Still, the Danes showed a lot of guts in not caving to Muslim boycotts during the Battle of Khartoon. It's not inconceivable that they might someday stick to their guns in the face of Chinese bullying as well.
Postscript: A quick google reveals that the Jutland Post is the English name of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper which first published the Mohammed cartoons in 2005.
Terrific piece on international rivalry in the 21st Century by Robert Kagan. Some things I could quibble with*, but I won't get into specifics (This post is long enough, as it is!). Instead, I'll try to limit my comments to where it dovetails with my own thoughts on China, the Third World and Taiwan.
Back in the '90s, two books on international relations came into vogue. Of the two, Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man was the more optimistic, positing that ideology (or at least, ideological competition between countries) was dead. Dead, because virtually all nations on earth had come to the same conclusion that liberal democracy and capitalism were the way of the future. Since everyone thus agreed on the ultimate goal, the only matter left for countries to determine then, was the speed and precise paths they would take towards democratization and economic liberalization.
Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations however, had a darker vision. Although he agreed that ideology was dead as a motivating force of international rivalry, Huntington didn't see international rivalry therefore coming to a happy Fukuyaman end. Instead, Huntington theorized that sources of irritation, dispute and even warfare would increasingly be civilizational in nature.** (The author has always regretted the fact that for many, the word "clash" seems to invoke the latter connotation almost exclusively.)
And so Kagan begins, dismissing the basic premise of both these authors that nationalism and ideology are dead at all:
Today the nations of the West still cling to that vision. Evidence to the contrary — the turn toward autocracy in Russia or the growing military ambitions of China — is either dismissed as a temporary aberration or denied entirely.
The world has not been transformed, however. Nations remain as strong as ever, and so too the nationalist ambitions, the passions, and the competition among nations that have shaped history. The world is still “unipolar,” with the United States remaining the only superpower. But international competition among great powers has returned, with the United States, Russia, China, Europe, Japan, India, Iran, and others vying for regional predominance. Struggles for honor and status and influence in the world have once again become key features of the international scene. Ideologically, it is a time not of convergence but of divergence. The competition between liberalism and absolutism has reemerged, with the nations of the world increasingly lining up, as in the past, along ideological lines.
Thus he begins explaining the unipolar world as he sees it, then goes on to describe the nationalistic predominance various countries are seeking. Of particular interest for this blog is what he has to say regarding China and Japan:
National ambition drives China’s foreign policy today, and although it is tempered by prudence and the desire to appear as unthreatening as possible to the rest of the world, the Chinese are powerfully motivated to return their nation to what they regard as its traditional position as the preeminent power in East Asia. They do not share a European, postmodern view that power is passé; hence their now two-decades-long military buildup and modernization. Like the Americans, they believe power, including military power, is a good thing to have and that it is better to have more of it than less. Perhaps more significant is the Chinese perception, also shared by Americans, that status and honor, and not just wealth and security, are important for a nation.
Japan, meanwhile, which in the past could have been counted as an aspiring postmodern power — with its pacifist constitution and low defense spending — now appears embarked on a more traditional national course. Partly this is in reaction to the rising power of China and concerns about North Korea ’s nuclear weapons. But it is also driven by Japan’s own national ambition to be a leader in East Asia or at least not to play second fiddle or “little brother” to China. China and Japan are now in a competitive quest with each trying to augment its own status and power and to prevent the other’s rise to predominance, and this competition has a military and strategic as well as an economic and political component.
Elsewhere, he points out one possible ironic outcome to China's efforts to become the local hegemon:
...even China, which seeks gradually to supplant the United States as the dominant power in the region, faces the dilemma that an American withdrawal [from Asia] could unleash an ambitious, independent, nationalist Japan.
His assessment of the role of ideology is particularly worth the read:
Complicating the equation and adding to the stakes is that the return to the international competition of ambitious nations has been accompanied by a return to global ideological competition. More precisely, the two-centuries-old struggle between political liberalism and autocracy has reemerged as a third defining characteristic of the present era.
The Cold War may have caused us to forget that the more enduring ideological conflict since the Enlightenment has not been between capitalism and communism but between liberalism and autocracy. That was the issue that divided the United States from much of Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and it divided Europe itself through much of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. The assumption that the death of communism would bring an end to disagreements about the proper form of government and society seemed more plausible in the 1990s, when both Russia and China were thought to be moving toward political as well as economic liberalism. Such a development would have produced a remarkable ideological convergence among all the great powers of the world and heralded a genuinely new era in human development.
But those expectations have proved misplaced. China has not liberalized but has shored up its autocratic government. Russia has turned away from imperfect liberalism decisively toward autocracy. Of the world ’s great powers today, therefore, two of the largest, with over a billion and a half people, have governments that are committed to autocratic rule and seem to have the ability to sustain themselves in power for the foreseeable future with apparent popular approval.
Many assume that Russian and Chinese leaders do not believe in anything, and therefore they cannot be said to represent an ideology, but that is mistaken. The rulers of China and Russia do have a set of beliefs that guide them in both domestic and foreign policy. They believe autocracy is better for their nations than democracy. They believe it offers order and stability and the possibility of prosperity. They believe that for their large, fractious nations, a strong government is essential to prevent chaos and collapse. They believe democracy is not the answer and that they are serving the best interests of their peoples by holding and wielding power the way they do. [emphasis added throughout]
Kagan examines the ideological self-interest these two autocracies have in the principle of non-interference in other autocrats' affairs:
Autocrats can hardly be expected to aid in legitimizing an evolution in the international system toward “limited sovereignty” and “the responsibility to protect.” ... China, after all, has been a victim of international sanctions imposed by the U.S.-led liberal world, and for killing far fewer people than the governments of Sudan or Zimbabwe. Nor do China ’s rulers forget that if the liberal world had had its way in 1989, they would now be out of office, probably imprisoned, possibly dead.
To ask one dictatorship to aid in the undermining of another dictatorship, however, is asking a great deal. Chinese leaders will always be extremely reluctant to impose sanctions on autocrats when they themselves remain subject to sanctions for their own autocratic behavior. [emphasis added throughout]
Here, he admits the odd exception:
They may bend occasionally so as to avoid too-close association with what the West calls “rogue regimes.”
But on the whole:
Neither Russia nor China has any interest in assisting liberal nations in their crusade against autocracies around the world. Moreover, they can see their comparative advantage over the West when it comes to gaining influence with African, Asian, or Latin American governments that can provide access to oil and other vital natural resources or that, in the case of Burma, are strategically located. Moscow knows it can have more influence with governments in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan because, unlike the liberal West, it can unreservedly support their regimes. [emphasis added]
This is an old observation, dating at least as far back as the Peloponnesian Wars, when Spartan oligarchs preferred foreign oligarchic allies, while Athenian democrats were more comfortable with democratic ones. Closer to our own time, how many communist allies did the Soviets ever abandon during the Cold War? The democratic West was certainly far quicker in judging the failings of IT'S authoritarian allies.
Because of this comparative advantage autocrats have in supporting other autocrats, Kagan predicts an authoritarian resurgence:
...the more autocracies there are in the world, the less isolated Beijing and Moscow will be in international forums such as the United Nations...The general effect of the rise of these two large autocratic powers, therefore, will be to increase the likelihood that autocracy will spread in some parts of the world. This is not because Russia and China are evangelists for autocracy or want to set off a worldwide autocratic revolution. It is not the Cold War redux. It is more like the nineteenth century redux...The great-power autocracies will inevitably offer support and friendship to those who feel besieged by the United States and other liberal nations. This in itself will strengthen the hand of autocracy in the world. Autocrats and would-be autocrats will know they can again find powerful allies and patrons, something that was not as true in the 1990s.
It is in this light that I view China's current diplomatic charm offensive in the Third World. If YOU were an authoritarian African ruler bent on preserving your own power, who would you rather receive aid and support from? Western nations, which attach strings and all kinds of benchmarks and requirements regarding corruption, human rights, economic liberalization and democratization? Or China, which doesn't? This isn't a criticism of the strings that Western countries place upon aid - those requirements were implemented for good reasons. Western taxpayers have seen too much of their money disappear into the bank accounts of kleptocrats, and aren't eager to vote for governments that persist in looking the other way. Western politicians have to explain to hostile electorates why their money seems to be propping up disreputable dictators; Chinese politicians don't.
China DOES have a comparative advantage in winning over Third World regimes, at least in the short and medium terms. And no doubt about it, that is something that bodes ill for Taiwan's efforts to retain its diplomatic partners.
Getting back to Kagan's article, he later examines China's weaknesses:
It is easy to look at China and Russia today and believe they are simply getting stronger and stronger. But one should not overlook their fragility. These autocratic regimes may be stronger than they were in the past in terms of wealth and global influence. But they do still live in a predominantly liberal era. That means they face an unavoidable problem of legitimacy. They are not like the autocracies of nineteenth-century Europe, which still enjoyed a historical legitimacy derived partly from the fact that the world had known nothing but autocracy for centuries. To be an autocrat today is to be constantly concerned that the powerful forces of liberalism, backed by a collection of rich, advanced nations, including the world’s only superpower, will erode or undermine the controls necessary to stay in power. Today’s autocracies struggle to create a new kind of legitimacy, and it is no easy task. The Chinese leaders race forward with their economy in fear that any slowing will be their undoing. They fitfully stamp out signs of political opposition partly because they live in fear of repeating the Soviet experience. Having watched the Soviet Union succumb to the liberal West, thanks to what they regard as Mikhail Gorbachev’s weakness and mistakes, they are determined neither to show weakness nor to make the same mistakes.
Leaders in Beijing rightly fear they are riding a tiger at home, and they fear external support for a political opposition more than they fear foreign invasion. Even promoting nationalism as a means of enhancing legitimacy is a dangerous business, since in Chinese history, nationalist movements have [often] evolved into revolutionary movements. [emphasis added throughout]
To these, I would add one other internal weakness as well (which isn't original, but what the hey). All that aid that China gives, it gives without consent of Chinese citizens. If you're a poor Chinese peasant, and you hear your government is giving away heaps of money to foreigners, you're probably not going to care about how much "goodwill" or "soft power" all that largesse is buying your country. No, you're gonna look at your less-than-fancy hovel one day and you're gonna get mad. Real mad. But unlike the electorate in democratic countries though, when YOU get mad, you don't get the choice to vote for some mean, tight-fisted, old guy who promises to cut back foreign aid. Only choice YOU ever get is to bottle up that rage deep down inside...or grab a pitchfork and join the mob stormin' the castle.
(No matter what kind of guff some KMT-affiliated papers tell us about "stability" and "harmonious societies", the most harmonious society in the world is the one where change happens WITHOUT people breakin' the china.)
In addition, China's foreign aid causes a couple of external problems for it as well. First, ANY country (Taiwan included) that ties its economy too closely with that of China renders itself vulnerable to shocks in the Chinese economy. A Chinese recession, or even a sufficiently worrisome Chinese product scare, has the potential to quickly turn public opinion in a dependent Third World country against its benefactor. And secondly, Chinese support of repressive governments is likely to stir anti-Chinese feelings in members of the opposition in the long-term, while aid to corrupt governments could do the same amongst ordinary people.
A single example should suffice. Earlier this year, Hu Jintao went on what was billed a triumphant tour of Africa. That's it, we're DOOMED, said Taiwan's China Post. Yet one thing I noticed was that the opposition in one country (Zaire, I believe), REFUSED to meet with him. Now, THERE'S a sign all that aid isn't making everybody happy.
Now, should that opposition win, or ever seize power, what then? Doubtless the Chinese will be quick to offer support to the new government, but they may be surprised to find it spurned. People sometimes have harsh memories about the foreigners who came and armed the local tyrant; who came and trained the secret police that kept the populace down.
And that's why I think the prospects for Taiwan's diplomatic relations with the Third World aren't so bleak. Some countries are going to get absolutely BURNED by China, make no mistake of that. And when that happens, Taiwan will still be around. Around to maybe grab an ally or two.
** Conversely, Huntington believes civilizational SIMILARITIES will be a powerful unifying factor in the years to come. I've often thought that Taiwan serves as a kind of crucible for his theory, poised as it is between democratic independence or unification with a civilizationally-similar autocracy. If ideology is truly dead, then the theory predicts Taiwan's ultimate unification with China, no matter what China's political make-up. But if ideology yet lives, then Taiwan will prefer democratic independence (be it legal or de facto), for at least as long as China remains authoritarian.
UPDATE (Aug 5/07): The country where the opposition refused to meet Hu Jintao may have been Zambia, not Zaire.
Kind of a fun Chinese translation story from Venezuela. A few of the details aren't quite right (I think part of the problem had to do with Simplified vs. Traditional script), but otherwise, yes, professional knowledge DOES count for SOMETHING.
Oil rig go boom.
Today's Taiwan News had a few paragraphs about him:
The veteran leader appeared before journalists and television cameras late on Monday, taking aim at "Arab intelligence agencies" for spreading the rumors [about him being in a coma from a cerebral blood clot] and threatening to sue a news agency which carried the report.
Blaming Arab intelligence agencies. Hmmm. Regarding that, I recently ran into this from p 221-222 of Georgie Anne Geyer's Buying the Night Flight:
I would like to say that I found Qaddafi interesting, but in truth I did not. I would like to say I found him handsome, but in truth I did not. His pictures flatter him...His eyes were the eyes of the Baptist preachers of my youth who did not believe in going to the movies or to dances...They were tight, fanatic eyes.
He had just nationalized some oil firms and we got the exclusive story that he was going to nationalize more. But the only interesting thing came, again, when I could think of no more questions and asked him another "nothing" question. "How do you see Libya's place in the world?"
His tight eyes tightened still more, until they were virtually cold slits. "We are in a jungle surrounded by howling wolves," he whispered heavily.
"Howling wolves?" I repeated, startled. "Do you mean the European countries?"
"No," he said. "I mean the Arab countries."
From Friday's Taiwan News:
Few experts doubt that Iran's uranium-enrichment program would do irreparable damage to the non-proliferation regime.
Fair enough. Just see if you can spot the odd man out in the next sentence, though:
If it goes unpunished, it will encourage other countries to follow suit, especially states on the nuclear threshold such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Argentina and Brazil.
Canada? Eh? Did the Russian author add that just to see if the reader was still awake, or something? 'Cause I rather doubt Canadians (or their leaders) want the Bomb, no matter how close to the nuclear threshold they happen to be. And I surely must have missed reports that the mad mullahs of Ottawa one day hope to wipe St. Pierre and Miquelon off the map.
What will life be like without you, Fidel?
In [Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's] article, the 80-year-old revolutionary asserted that US President George W. Bush's support for using crops to produce ethanol for cars could deplete corn and other food stocks in developing nations, putting the lives of  billion people at risk [for hunger] worldwide.
The story in the Taipei Times doesn't mention that Cuba was forced to embark upon a biofuel program of its own after it stopped receiving heavily-subsidized oil shipments from the Soviet Union. El Jefe would presumably defend this, arguing that Cuban biofuels don't come at the expense of food production, since they're made from bagasse, a non-edible byproduct of sugar extraction.
At this point, one could observe that Cuba produces tobacco, which is grown on land that could otherwise be used to grow SOME kind of foodstuff. So Cuba's tobacco production takes food out of people's mouths too, does it not? Furthermore, Cuba has single-dwelling homes which could be razed (the inhabitants being first moved to high-rise apartments), and the land upon which they stand could be converted to agricultural use. That would certainly feed more people, too. In fact, if Cuba really wanted to, it could help feed that 3 billion Mr. Castro cares so much about by simply taking the land, labor and capital that's currently being used to make OTHER THINGS and diverting it into food production.
I'm not recommending any of this. But what I AM saying is that I fail to see how American biofuels are somehow any less moral in the grand scheme of things than Cuban cancer sticks.
From the Australian:
Nepal's hardline Maoist guerillas, on the brink of achieving effective government power in the Himalayan kingdom, have turned their attention to so-called "social pollutants" and denounced homosexuals as "a by-product of capitalism".
Looks like Nepalis have nothing to lose but their chains. Well, that and their leather.
Hat tip to Jonah Goldberg.
Wretchard at the Belmont Club posted an interesting (though long) paper on the blogosphere and information warfare.
The Brussels Journal featured video of the October riots in Hungary. The anti-Chen protest movement in Taiwan peaked a bit earlier than the Hungarian protests, but it's sobering to see what Taiwan managed to avoid.
Governments may want to start collecting taxes on virtual income? Guess now's not the time to brag about all the loot my half-elf used to cart home after a hard day vanquishing wyverns and wraiths...
(Bizarre China-angle on that story: "There are companies in China, where labor is cheap, that pay people to sit in warehouses full of computers playing MMORPGs in order to accumulate virtual loot, which is then sold back to Western gamers.")
Ever since moving here, I've gone nuts over Christmas music. Pre-Taiwan, not a single Christmas album in the Foreigner's collection; now, I pick up five to ten X-mas CDs per year. Don't ask me why.
2006 favorites were:
Ferrante & Teicher. Christmas Is So Special. (Bought this from Amazon after seeing the movie Elf, and being blown away by F&T's version of Sleighride. Brazilian Sleigh Bells is pretty fun, too.)
Trad Jazz Christmas. (Picked this up at FE-21. Looks like it's not available at Amazon, though.)
Boccherini Guitar Quartet. Christmas Guitar. (Also from FE-21. On sale there for NT$50! Mellow classical guitar.)
Speaking of Christmas, here's a satire suggesting that governments (specifically, the Canadian government) should implement a new tax credit for Christmas presents. Especially liked this paragraph on the politics of such a proposal:
As a bonus, for anyone reading this in the Prime Minister’s Office, a tax credit for Christmas presents would allow the Conservatives to position themselves as the pro-Christmas party, while painting the Liberals as being against Christmas. Also children. Or perhaps the Grits think people will blow it all on beer and popcorn.
Hat tip to David Frum at the National Review for that one.
The Belmont Club has video of a prototype South Korean border guard robot armed with an automatic rifle.
(ED-209 image from Starship Modeler.)
In other news, Strategy Page featured a story about the Chinese navy working to make their nuclear submarines quieter.
The most important story of Sunday received shockingly little coverage: Miniskirts and hot pants soon to be legalized in South Korea.
Which is not to minimize the the sentencing of Saddam Hussein to death story. But c'mon. Who doesn't like hot pants?
On the decline of Stalinism in North Korea.
How North Korea avoided economic collapse, and what genuine signs of reform in that country would look like.
(Hat tip to The Corner at the National Review.)
The Da Vinci Code, Japanese-style.
(Just for laughs, I might as well toss in Sam Kinison debunks the Da Vinci Code as well. Some of the language is a bit crude.)
An American intelligence officer predicts the Muslim World will be a long-term source of instability - back in 1946.
How'd you like to be the accountant auditing the brass hats of the People's Liberation Army?
The PLA's view of recent American military actions.
and, just one more:
Four in the morning now, and I'm wide awake from jet lag. So I'm checking my blog stats, and out of the blue discover that The Foreigner in Formosa has been nominated for an Asia Blog Award.
Sure beats the usual kind of surprise I get after returning from vacation. You know, like the toilet isn't working, or something.
So a big Xie Xie Ni* to whomever it was that nominated me. I don't seriously expect to win, but the old cliche's a cliche because it happens to be true: It really IS an honor just to be nominated.
Heck, I'll go further than that. Some of those other sites are so good that it's an honor simply to be listed alongside them.
* Mandarin for "Thank you".
National Review had a link to this student film featuring a light saber duel set to the Dark City soundtrack. (It can also be found here.) I think it features a little of the back-handed swordsmanship style from the short-lived Conan television series.
UPDATE: It looks like the short is three years old, yet suddenly it's getting simultaneous buzz on several of the blogs that I have links to. Odd how that happens.
US pop diva Madonna wants to buy a house in the Israeli town of Rosh Pina, where the ancient Jewish Kabbalah tradition expects the Messiah to appear at the end of the world.
Reverend Lovejoy: "It's in the Book of REVELATIONS, people."
Mohammed over at Iraq the Model discusses the clerical preparation behind the "spontaneous" demonstrations in Iraq following the attack on the Shiite shrine in Samarra. His brother Omar describes new developments in the Saddam Hussein trial.
Finally, Wretchard at The Belmont Club had a moving post a while back about World War II poem codes.
A female ice-skater fell through the ice into a freezing lake in Hungary and survived by holding on to the edge of the ice with her teeth. Hungary's Bilkk newspaper reports that after the 29-year-old woman fell into the water, frostbite set into her hands and she could only hang on to the broken ice with her teeth.
Some people walking by discovered her 10 minutes later. The woman was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for hypothermia.
(From the story, "Saved by the Hair of Her Teeth" in the Feb 15/06 edition of The Nation. Sorry, no link is available.)
As the Scandanavian expression goes, "Heroism is holding on for just one minute longer."
Why on earth would the Bosnians raise a statue to a gong-fu star from Hong Kong?
"He's far (enough) away from us that nobody can ask what he did during World War II, during World War I, or what his ancestors did under Turkey. He's...not Catholic, not Orthodox, not Muslim. Bruce Lee is part of our idea of universal justice - that the good guys can win."
- The Taiwan News, Bosnians agree to honor Bruce Lee, Nov 24th (sorry, no link).
There's something admirable in efforts to find heroes that everyone can agree upon.
UPDATE (Apr 22/06): Reason Magazine has the latest regarding this story:
Just hours after the monument was unveiled, a group of rowdy teenagers defaced the statue and stole the nunchucks, leaving the site littered with wine bottles.
Ah, human nature. (Hat tip to The Belmont Club.)