AsiaPundit is pleased to announce the commencement of the new round of Asia Blog Awards. The awards are based on the Japanese financial year, which ends on March 31, and nominations are now open for the April 1-June 30 period, full-year awards are to be based on the quarterly contests.
Details are below, nominations for the below categories can be made on the individual pages linked below until the end of June 16 (Samoan time).
Awards are at present limited to English-language or dual-language sites.
Region/Country Specific Blogs:
Non-region specific awards:
Some categories may be deleted or combined if they lack a full slate nominations - and some may be added should it be warranted.
Winners will be judged in equal parts on: (a) votes, (b) technorati ranking and (c) judges’ selection.
While judges will naturally have biases, they will hopefully offset imbalances in other areas (such as inevitable cheating in the voting and inflationary blogroll alliances in the Technorati ranks).
The names or sites of the judges will be public.
Judges will be ineligible for nomination. As the awards largely intend on providing exposure to lesser-known sites of merit, we are hopeful that authors of ‘A-list’ sites that tend to dominate such contests will disqualify themselves by being judges.
The contest has been endorsed by previous ABA host Simon who is also serving as a judge (thereby disqualifying Simon World).
Traffic — the most telling and accurate measure of a site’s populatity — may be a consideration in future awards. However, at present, there is no clear or universal way to accurately measure and contrast traffic (sites such as Sitemeter, Statcounter offer results that cannot be compared, while services such as Alexa.com do not work for sites that are not hosted on independent domains).
This is all imperfect and will be tweaked in future events (with transparency, of course).
Most importantly, this is intended to be fun.
AsiaPundit is deeply skeptical of most of the ‘news’ published by the FLG’s Epoch Times, however if this is true it would be welcome (even though it would diminish some of the iconic power of the image).:
The “Unknown Rebel” who famously stood up to a column of tanks during the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 is rumored to be living in Taiwan where he reportedly settled in 1993.The “tank man” Wang Weilin has been an adviser on ceramic artifacts and antiques to Taiwan’s National Palace Museum, the Epoch Times quoted a Hong Kong-based professor who spoke on condition of anonymity as saying.
The photograph of Wang standing alone in front of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989 is perhaps the most famous image from the protests.
The professor told the Epoch Times that Wang, born in Shaoyang in the southern province of Hunan, was the captain of the Mawangduei Archaeology Team of Changsha, Hunan in early June 1989 when he traveled with a union group to Beijing to take part in the pro-democracy demonstrations in the Chinese capital.
According to the unnamed professor, Wang went into hiding in China for three years and seven months after the bloody crackdown. He then reached Hong Kong in early 1993 from where he headed to Taiwan.
Oddly, the packaging on this Whiteman Toothpaste has the same color scheme as the infamous Darkie. As well, as the Taipei Kid notes, the rest of the packaging hardly adds to the appeal of the product.:
This box of toothpaste is a disaster. It isn’t just the name (Whitemen Luderhow Toothpaste) or the order to take care of your teeth (Coorporate with correct brush teeth habit) but I thought toothpaste was supposed to prevent, not cause “spots, gingivitis, or periodontosis”.
Although Singapore has restriction on street performers, during AsiaPundit’s 2000-2005 residence in the Lion City he on several occasions had the misfortune to run across Asia’s most annoying busker. How he ever received a license to ‘perform’ in the city state still amazes.
AP first sited this amazingly annoying man in an underground tunnel at the Orchard Road MRT stop, scaring small children and accosting pedestrians. In early 2005, he was again sited at the eastern station of Tampines. Singaporeans can be thankful that the lunatic finally made it all the way to Changi Airport…
As AP plans on making a brief return to Singapore, he is pleased to discover that this talentless freak is no longer in the country and is now haunting Taipei’s trendy Ximending shopping district. Via Anarchy in Taiwan, a video and comment:
Ok, I have to start this by saying that I am trying to keep an open mind about performance art and abstract art, but has anyone else seen this guy at Ximending with the moose hat? He is a foreign guy and kind of appears homeless, so I’m trying not to be harsh. BUT, he is either crazy or just plain the weirdest man I have ever seen trying to pan for a few dollars.
He puts on his moosehat, covers his face a bit, and has a couple of cat dolls around his hands. He proceeds to meow and fudgeall that I know through a microphone. Just animal noises and crap. I honestly can say I don’t get it, but it looks plenty retarded, so perhaps I’m not supposed to get it. Literally he just goes…..meow, meow..mea , meo, meeee, meows for hours!!!!
The above clip doesn’t quite capture the true nature of the man. Firstly, he has either lost the ’squeaking’ bunny slippers or the sound isn’t coming through on video, Secondly, he isn’t deliberately terrorizing small children — possibly due to the time of day, but it was something he used to do regularly.
AP has assumed that this lunatic was distinctly Singaporean, but is now suspecting that he may actually be raising enough cash from his ‘art’ to travel the region. Has his madman appeared elsewhere in the region?
Michael Turton notes that Taiwan’s Chen Shui-bian - in a survey of civic groups - has an approval rating in the single digits:
President Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) approval rating has dropped to a new low of just 5.8 percent, with 88 percent of respondents dissatisfied with the performance of Chen’s administration over the past six years, according to the results of a survey released yesterday.
The survey was conducted by the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) — the Democratic Progressive Party’s ally in the pan-green camp — on 69 civic groups from May 5 through May 12.
The respondents gave the administration’s overall performance a failing grade of 57.5 percent.
Meanwhile Indonesia’s Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has also :
Just 37 percent of the public approves of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY) job performance, the lowest rating he has registered in his 18 months in office, a poll has revealed…
The economy is the public’s greatest concern, with 73.9 percent saying they believed the Yudhoyono administration had failed to tackle the chronic problem of unemployment.
The poll also found 70.4 percent of respondents felt there had been no improvement in their household incomes.
Over 60 percent of respondents said they had experienced a drop in their purchasing power…
72.2 percent of the respondents said they were not impressed by the work of the economic team.
There is no need to fear for democracy in Asia. SBY’s ratings are still higher than those enjoyed by George Bush. Plus, Singapore’s People’s Action Party is still polling well.:
Lonnie notes a China News report indicating that looking at girlie pics can be good for your health.:
… Huang Chunyi, is 94 years young and does not credit vegetables, meditation, Tai Chi or Metamucil with his health. He says it is because he cuts out photos of beautiful women and stores them in scrapbooks. China News reported this is a daily event. The Taiwan resident (the China News said Taiwan Province) says looking at photos of beautiful women every day is the secret to his longevity. He has been doing this for twenty years since he retired as a chef while in Japan.
I wonder if it was Japanese manga that did this to him.
His collection, which includes favorites Cameron Diaz, Penolope Cruz and Taiwan model Chiling Lin.
With that, we are happy to note the recent medical discovery of Tiara Lestari’s ‘lost’ German FHM photoshoot.:
Friend Gram at Holidarity, a journalist for a decade in Asia, encounters an one of his first interview subjects in the region:
Massage Boy!!!! The freelance male masseur/ prostitute now turned part-time transvestite and low-grade pimp!!!! Dumbstruck, I broke off a conversation, gave him an unsure hug, and couldn’t manage more than a stunned: “[His real name], oh my God it’s you!”
I hadn’t seen Massage Boy in years, maybe six or seven, certainly five at least, and when thoughts of him and his disfigured yet cherubic smile did come to mind, I’d usually turn my eyes down to the sidewalk and with a small shrug of guilt - for neglecting a friend, or something like that - and imagine he was in an HIV/AIDS hospice somewhere, or dead. I mean, what other fate are you supposed to imagine for a guy who solicits sex with international hotel guests for money? Especially once he’d stopped hanging out in nightclubs.
It turns out he’d disappeared into a clutch of Tibetan Lamas, one of the several Tibetan Buddhism Centers in Taipei. “I was hanging around there from 8 in the morning till 5 or 6 at night. All day. Sometimes, every day. Yeah, I was chanting sutras, you know, meditating, lots of things.”
Then a moment of hestitation, and a contemplative look gave way to a giggle: “Oh my God, what was I thinking! What a waste of time!”
AsiaPundit thanks Michael for alerting us to the documentary on Betelnut Beauties, and is happy to present the first clip mentioned. For the second one, follow the links.
The Real Taiwan sent me a link to his blog, so I went and looked and saw an interesting pair of betel nut girl videos. The first is a few BNGs discussing their lives, the second, well, don’t show your kids….
According to a study by the University of Chicago, Asians - and Asian women in particular - are not as happy as Westerners with their sex lives.:
The survey published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior looked at how they viewed their sex lives, their health, and their happiness.
It found that a greater proportion of people in Europe, North America, and Australia, where men and women have more or less equal relations, enjoyed sex physically and emotionally, Laumann said.
A smaller percentage of people reported satisfying sex lives in male-dominated cultures in poorer countries, the research showed.
But the gender gap persisted around the world.
“There’s a systematic disparity between men and women, where men are on the average substantially — or about 10 points — higher in their levels of satisfaction as women in that country,” he said.
Most of those surveyed at random were married, though there was an obvious bias toward participants who were willing to talk about sex, and toward urban populations in less-developed nations.
“Pleasure is not part of the story” in sexually conservative cultures in the Far East — China, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand, Laumann said. “Procreation is the rationale for sex. Many women … characterize sex as dirty, as a duty, something they endure” — and often stop having it after age 50…..
In Japan, by contrast, just 18 percent of the men and 10 percent of the women answered positively about their sex lives. And in Taiwan, only 7 percent of the women said sex was very important in their lives.
There is likely a great deal of untruthful answers in a survey like this, given the taboo nature of the subject, but it is almost certainly more reliable than the Durex survey,
While China may be willing to crackdown on some intellectual property violations more heavily in light of the presidential summit, AsiaPundit does not expect it to allow a patent inspection on these babies:
A Chinese media report from last week indicates the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) now has at hand locally manufactured air defense missiles based on American Patriot missile technology, most likely used in the Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) system. The technology was reportedly provided to the Chinese by Israel during the 1990’s.
The Patriot-like missiles were recently tested in north-west China with successful results, knocking down a reconaissance plane and a missile. According to the Donga Ilbo, the officer who led the tests commented, “This marks the official launch of the interceptor missile unit. We can intercept not only high-flying reconnaissance planes or missiles but also low-flying targets. Our accuracy is significantly high as well.”
Patriot missiles were deployed to Israel during the 1991 Gulf War to defend Israel from Iraqi missiles. At the time, Israel promised the United States not to transfer the technology to a third party. Reports from the early 1990’s suggest that the promise was not kept, and the PAC-2 technology became one of several missile technologies the Israelis sold to the Chinese.
According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), China isn’t just manufacturing missiles based on the Patriot technology, but also using it to develop countermeasures against American Patriot systems. If that is true, that may prove to be a problem for the US and its Asian allies, particularly Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Taiwan’s emKid discovers that you can get your very own Betelnut Beauty models at Blockbuster!
Although he has harbored high hopes for citizen journalism and punditry, AsiaPundit is joining the multitude of voices who are saying that the blogging phenomena is dead. Now that the term has been seized upon by Taiwan property developers, it is essential to find a new name for the medium.
Apologies for the late photo credit (top picture) to Paogao.
Not only is Panda Diplomacy doing little for cross-strait relations, it now seems that there is some Panda Diplomacy backlash on the Sino-American front.:
Zoos in the United States have told China they cannot afford to keep paying $1 million (£580,000) each year for the loan of Giant Pandas. […] Washington National Zoo spokesman John Gibbons told the BBC: "There is a possibility that there may be a day when there may not be Giant Pandas at the zoo.
"We have had informal discussions with the Chinese and told them that we can’t sustain the current expenditure and we are waiting for a response."
The Washington zoo was the birthplace of "panda diplomacy" in the 1970s when the Chinese Government donated two pandas amid efforts to improve Sino-US relations.[BBC]
It’s not so much the panda as all the other items in the contract… like those the bottomless bowls of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed.
D.C. Panda pic from the Flat Stanley Project.
While AsiaPundit has been critical of Chen Shui-bian’s economic policies, the Taiwan president’s move to abolish the National Unification Council should be welcome. Chen has just saved the taxpayers of Taiwan 32 bucks per year.:
We got rid of a US$32 budget item, and managed to piss off the two most powerful nations in the world. What do have for it? Anything concrete? Maybe for an encore, Chen can personally call the heads of the Hong Kong triads and tell them their wives are ugly and their children are stupid too.
While AsiaPundit welcomes any attempt to rein in wasteful spending, he opposes Michael’s suggestion about the triads. It would be safe to assume that the gentlemen of Hong Kong’s top crime families have attractive wives and even more attractive girlfriends. Plus, taunting the triads would be a serious provocation.
MeiZhong Tai offers a brief wrap on the issue - which includes Michael’s post. The consensus on the other side of the Strait, generally, does acknowledge that the NUC was an obviously insignificant and outmoded institution.
Taiwan’s Other Side, a resolutely pan-blue blogger, sees has harsh criticism of the move.:
This is a move that has no widespread popular support - the office is yet another harmless idiosyncrasy in the dual identity of the Republic of China on Taiwan. Removing it provides no benefit for the people of Taiwan, at the price of straining relations with not one but TWO of Taiwan’s major trading partners. A bold move to be sure, but why? CSB has, as usual, offered no explanation of how removing the UC will benefit anyone except his own craving for publicity. This is just another publicity stunt that comes at a painfully high price.
Ranc, as well, notes that this will be seen by the Communist Party as a significant provocation that will require a significant counteraction.:
Beijing has to have a big reaction. If Chen could get away with this, there will be no return for the independence movement. The reaction could be a SUBTLE one, unlike the 1996 war exercise, but it has to be BIG and OBVIOUS. The point is to show the COMMITMENT and CAPABILITY of Beijing stopping the independence movement. Expand the military immediately, for example. Or show off a really really powerful weapon that the world has never seen before, if there is such a weapon. In any case, the commitment has to be real for anyone to believe you.
Via Mutant Frog, Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying Jiu has denied that the party is contributing to anti-Japanese nationalism, saying that he loves sashimi.:
Reports that the KMT walks lockstep with the mainland (China) in their anti-Japan campaign do not reflect my real feelings. I even love sashimi!” On the 10th Ma Ying Jiu (mayor of Taipei), chairman of the KMT[Chinese Nationalist Party], Taiwan’s largest opposition party, assembled Japanese reporters resident in Taipei and issued a denial of the viewpoint that he was himself a believer in anti-Japan ideology.
There are indications that the KMT has been intensifying their anti-Japan tendencies, such as stressing their own role in the Sino/Japanese war. “We criticize even the white terror (of KMT despotic rule) and (China’s) Tainanmen incident from the same basis of human rights and constutituional government. There’s no reason to make an issue out of only Japan,” Chairman Ma Ying Jiu said.
However, “I do not approve of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Yasukuni Shrine visits,” he said, not forgetting that stab in the neck. Ma Ying Jiu is currently considered the favorite to win in Taiwan’s next presidential election.
As someone who lives in China and has has lived in Korea, AsiaPundit will note that it is entirely possible to like sashimi and harbor ill will toward the Japanese. It’s also possible to wear Levi’s jeans and Nike sneakers and be anti-American.
From Asia Business Intelligence a post on how counterfeiters work and why the business is attractive.:
In the 1980s, my cousin did business in Taiwan. Being a profligate entertainer of major customers, he once decided to impress by holding an emperor’s banquet (金玉滿堂) at the Hilton in Hsi Men Ting (西門町), the older downtown section of Taipei (台北). The centerpiece of the table was bear paw (熊掌), a traditional delicacy in Chinese cuisine, favored by only the very wealthiest. In the Taipei of the 1980s, a prepared dish of bear paw cost a King’s Ransom of nearly US$750, equivalent to the monthly salary of an office worker. A raw paw was shown to the guests before it was cooked. If I remember correctly, his guests were enormously impressed.
Several years later, a lady who had worked as a waitress in that same restaurant told me there was but one real paw in the refrigerator. Whenever the dish was ordered, the paw was trotted out to show the beaming guests and then immediately returned to cold storage. The chef would proceed to cook whatever meat he might have lying around that was less common than beef – alligator, venison, elk – and far less expensive. !Profit! And with just a little sleight of hand it descends in sheets. The crux of the bear paw con is dual, requiring a customer who’s neither ever tasted bear nor sees the paw cut up and cooked.
Yes, counterfeiting is a classic con. It needs but a sure thing — a paying customer. An entrepreneur with energy, capital, nerve, imagination and a great product may still fail. The counterfeiting of an established brand requires similar elements, within a business environment favorable to the unimpeded trespass upon individual property rights, to allow the con to flourish. Bear paw is an established delicacy in Chinese cuisine.
Counterfeiters in China have established world-class CD duplication facilities (capital); harnessed the production power of entire villages (energy); threatened the lives of children with fake infant formula (nerve); built secret manufactories or factories in ship containers for mobility (imagination). But there’s virtually no economic risk. Someone else has built and crossed that bridge. The brand has already been established. The buyer is a certainty.
The world’s oldest profession is illegal in most of Asia. Singapore is an exception, but neither the Straits Times nor any of the state-run broadcasters would ever run ads for certain services. Thankfully, Taiwan has private television networks.
On late night TV in Taiwan, you can often see ads for hotels, bars, and KTVs, with women in provocative outifts or dancing lasciviously, beer in hand. Hmmm….what could they possibly be selling?
In Shanghai, the escort and massage services will regularly run spots in the government-linked Shanghai Daily.
Michael notes a report that Taiwan’s betel nut girls cause both cancer and auto accidents.:
The so-called betel-nut beauties, who are unique to Taiwan, peddle the island’s second-largest crop to 17.5 percent of the adult male population, according to government estimates.
Chewing addictive betel nuts, the seed of the betel palm, increases the risk of mouth cancer, according to Taiwan’s Department of Health. Officials are encouraging farmers to plant alternatives to the $359 million annual crop, urging about 1.6 million users to quit….
Sellers are coming under pressure, too. The police are stepping up inspections of betel-nut beauties for moral and safety reasons, said Patricia Huang, a spokeswoman at the Ministry of the Interior.
"Their revealing clothing may distract drivers and cause car accidents, as well as prompt male clients to harass or even sexually assault them,'’ Huang said.
County officials are helping, closing down booths if they judge sellers’ clothing to be too revealing, said Wang Yun-tsen, deputy director of economic development in Taoyuan, which is home to the country’s largest international airport.
(Photo stolen from here)
Light posting today as Mr and Mrs AsiaPundit were having beer this evening at one of Asia’s 25 million British-styled pubs. However, we offer some of the best Asian beer posts in the past few days.
The good: Manish at Sepia Mutiny recounts the origin of India Pale Ale, which AP often cites when making an argument that the British Empire did bring good things to the continent.:
After the British East India Company had established itself in India… it had a large number of troops and civilians demanding beer… Ships typically left London, cruised south past the equator along the coast of Africa, rounded the Cape of Good Hope and then crossed the Indian Ocean to reach Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. The temperature fluctuations were huge, it was a very long trip (about 6 months) and the rough waters of southern Africa resulted in an extremely violent voyage…
Early shipments to India contained bottled porters, the favorite beer in London, which generally arrived flat, musty, and sour… Hodgson took his pale ale recipe, increased the hop content considerably, and raised the alcohol content. The result was a very bitter, alcoholic, and sparkling pale ale that could survive the challenges of travel and shelf life in India.
High hop levels can preserve a beer’s flavor in two ways: they have a limited ability to protect beer from spoilage by some microorganisms, and, more importantly, their bitterness can mask stale flavors. While the beer arriving in India would certainly have suffered from oxidative staling during the long voyage, it could still taste acceptable because of the masking effect of alcohol and hops.
The Bad: One of the better lagers in Southeast Asia is losing market share in its home country:
I love cradling the squat brown bottle in my hand, seeing the beads of condensation gathered around the engraved logo, feeling the first slug hit the back of my throat … most of all, I love San Miguel Pale Pilsen for the very reason that Filipinos are deserting it in droves, because it is quintessentially and timelessly Filipino.
Unfortunately, quintessentially and timelessly Filipino is not what today’s beer drinker is looking for. According to yesterday’s paper:
San Miguel Pale Pilsen, the flagship beer of San Miguel Corp. in the ubiquitous squat brown bottle, has seen its market share dwindle to a record low of 29 percent as of September 2005, according to records obtained from the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Asia’s oldest brew, Pale Pilsen, which is exported to other countries and rated as one of the world’s largest selling beers, has been on a downtrend since 2001, when its market share hit 50.76 percent—and further tumbled to 39 percent in 2003.
From 50.6% to 29% in four years is a precipitous decline. There is nothing surprising about this though. Like beer drinkers from Covent Garden to Greenwich Village, Philippine drinkers are looking for that chic beer style. I can’t blame them. When I lived in Britain, my fridge was full of French, Czech, and German beer, not Carling Black Label.
However, when it comes to the squat brown bottle I’m bucking the trend. I guess I’ve drunk more San Miguel Pale than any other brand and I’m not stopping now! Apart from the attributes I mentioned above, San Miguel Pale Pilsen tastes better better than any beer I know. I shall just have to drink harder to make up that deficit.
The Ugly: Much like a opening a box of crackerjacks, the excitement of having a brew in Taiwan is enhanced by not knowing what you are going to find inside:
While there probably isn’t a solution at the bottom of that bottle of Taiwan Beer that you’re enjoying, the Taipei Times reports that there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find something in there.
"Over the past few years, a "condom-like" object, live insects, dead cockroaches, cigarette butts, bottle caps and betel nut shreds have all been discovered in bottles of the nation’s favorite brew, Li said."
What’s cooler and more rare than the endangered giant panda? Three florescent green pigs. The timing of this announcement leads AsiaPundit to believe that this must be a DPP plot:
Apparently, this has been done before by labs in other countries, but this is the first time that the fluorescence gene has expressed itself throughout the animals’ body. It’s not really mad scientist stuff, because for genetics studies it’s very useful to have a fluorescence gene inserted into the organism. When subsequent genes are added, it becomes easy to tell if the insertion worked because the animals stop glowing. However, the two reports above state that the purpose is for stem cell and regenerative tissue studies.
Jason at Wandering to Tamshui shows the three little piggies in all their kryptonite glory and comments: "This has to be one of the greatest things to happen to Taiwanese nationalism since Lee Teng-hui got his teeth capped":
Bingfeng has a great montage of villain photos from communist Chinese cinema showing, among other things, how the mainland authorities used to view Taiwan’s Kuomintang.:
it’s not a patent of hollywood hits, in the good old days of red revolution back in 1950s and 1960s, chinese movies are masters of presenting a black-and-white world in which "bad guys", i.e. enemies of the revolution, are demonized and, like in hollywood movies, defeated by "good guys". two differences here - chinese "good guys" are usually a group of heros (or at least a hero supported by a group), and the fight is low-tech and without kung fu.
On the left a KMT-supported bandit, on the right a KMT naval officer
And in the comments Bingfeng talks on how young mainlanders today view the Nationalists.:
Joshua: How do Chinese people feel about the KMT today, especially compared to the CCP? From my own experience with Chinese people (lived their 4 years), Chinese people are rapidly changing their mindset, even favoring the KMT as a kind of detached, idealized party. Is this true, at least among urban folks?
Bingfeng: absolutely. now the mainland government is revising the official stance to reflect that period of history, and mainland chinese are getting to realize that KMT troops played the key role in resisting the japanese invasions. the sentiments towards KMT are mixed, but in general, the younger generations kind of favor KMT for its leadership role in the anti-japan war, its forward-looking policies with mainland and the courage to face its negative heritage.
While AP objects to some of the more extreme pan-green rhetoric, this is classic.:
After the announcement of the selection of gift pandas from Mainland China, reaction here has been typically polarized. A confused Taipei Times claims that Taiwan is somehow ‘standing up’ to China on panda imports. A paranoid DPP spokesperson labeled them today as ‘統戰貓’tong3 zhang4 mao, literally ‘unification war cats’, claiming that the pandas are China’s newest soldiers in its war of unification.
Those of us living outside 陳水扁 Chen Shui-Bian’s distortion field are shocked by revelations that the female panda has won climbing contests at panda kindergarten and that there actually are panda kindergartens.
AsiaPundit believes that the DPP is absolutely correct that the Mainland should not be able to offer gifts to Taiwan without going through elected authorities. However, this is a clear public-relations win for Beijing. Objecting to pandas does not reflect well on the Pan-Greens - even when the principle behind the objection can be supported, it just comes across as silly. Plus, Beijing scores big points domestically on this.: “See how mean and evil the splittists are, they won’t even accept our offer of two lovely, fertile pandas!”
This isn’t just about law or policy - this is about PR. With that, AsiaPundit would advise the DPP to try a different approach.:
A letterwriter to the Mon 9th ed of the Taipei Times suggested keeping the pandas kind of like “human shields” near the presidential building to help deter a decapitation strike … I half-seriously considered the same possibility yesterday, but didn’t include it in the post. The letterwriter also proposed renaming the pandas “Democracy” and “Freedom” once they arrive on Taiwan’s shores.
For the horrible truth about pandas click here.
AsiaPundit hopes to respond to Michael Turton’s rebuttal to the assertion that Taiwan’s KMT is more market oriented than the DPP. However, AsiaPundit will concede immediately that the Heritage Institute’s economic freedom rankings do have significant flaws. It is useful for providing a basic snapshot of economic liberties in relation to what it claims to measure, but by ignoring more unique elements of each market it does provide a distorted view.
Simon has a takedown on Hong Kong’s ranking by the SCMP’s Jake van der Camp here. But Singapore’s ranking as the No.2 freest economy also needs some review.:
In Singapore, it is the government itself that stands in the way of the unfettered private enterprise that the Heritage Foundation’s criteria are supposed to favor. The major real estate, banking, transport, manufacturing and utility companies listed on the stock market are all government-controlled entities. They may be efficient, but is this an economy free of government intervention? The index also claims that "the market sets almost all wages." But actually "wages are based on annual recommendations made by the tripartite National Wages Council."
Tax rates and revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product are low in both cities. But governments control land supply and use it not just to raise money but to redistribute income in an off-the-books manner through publicly developed and managed housing provided with low-cost land, in which 83 percent of Singaporeans and 40 percent of Hong Kong citizens live. In Hong Kong, land prices for the rest are kept especially high, with the result that living space per inhabitant remains very low compared with countries with similar income levels. Land in Hong Kong is sometimes used for subsidizing favored industries and in Singapore tax subsidies - which by definition are discriminatory - are common.
Tax levels in Singapore look quite low. But how free of official imposts are its citizens when compulsory contributions to its Central Provident Fund take 33 percent of wages and are invested largely as the government sees fit, through nontransparent official vehicles such as the Government Investment Corporation? Compulsory savings help toward the accumulation of foreign-exchange reserves and a very high investment ratio. But the rate of return on those assets has been low.
One of the reasons that AsiaPundit objects to calling the Kuomintang pro-communist is that they are far less interventionist economically than the governing DPP. Sun Bin notes the island’s economic freedoms have deteriorated under the Chen Shui-Bian administration:
According to the Heritage Foundation, the economic freedom of Taiwan drops from #26 last year to #37 this year.
Meanwhile, HK stayed at #1, 8 years after reverted to PRC rule. China still ranked low, but its score has improved steadily (note high value in score means unfree).
Taiwan’s score has been in the decline since Chen Shui Bian started to rule the island (score=2.03 in 2000). The only year of improvement was right before the 2004 election (improved slightly from 2.48 to 2.34). It seems safe to expect the decline until 2008 election.
The DDP’s instincts, similar to their opponents across the Strait, have been to meddle rather than further free Taiwan’s economy. The KMT, whatever questions there may be about their foreign cross-Strait policies, are economically further removed from their Beijing counterparts. Calling them pro-communist because they hold dialogue sessions with the CCP isn’t appropriate - no more than it would be to call the Bush administration pro-communist because it dialogues with the Chinese leadership.
That said, the Foreigner has opened a debate on what the Communists should be called:
AsiaPundit favorably reviewed my previous post, but had a small quibble with my referring to Taiwan’s adversaries on the other side of the Strait as "communists". In truth, I’m not entirely happy with this description myself. AsiaPundit is right to point out that they ceased to be real communists the day they abandoned the economic model calling for state ownership of the means of production. One could refer simply to "Beijing" or "the Chinese leadership", but that glosses over the moral nature of the regime. So what word then, better designates their beliefs and policies?
"Fascist" seems too harsh, because the government in Beijing is not interested in the rigid state control over the economy that the fascists were enamored with. On the other hand, "authoritarian" is too mild, because the Chinese authorities work very hard to suppress the organizations of civil society (ie: religions) that many authoritarians are content to leave unmolested *.
For China’s CCP to continue to call themselves ‘communist’ is indeed a great a misnomer. But so is the initial adjective in the ‘Democratic’ People’s Republic of Korea. If you call the KMT ‘pro-communist’ because it has dialogue with the CCP, for consistency you would have to call the CCP ‘democratic’ because it supports North Korea.
In terms of cross-Strait politics, calling the CCP ‘pro-nationalist’ would be a better description as it more neatly sums up their own ideology and their fawning over the KMT. Mainland state media has recently taken to praising both the anti-Japanese activities of the CCP and the KMT, so it would be less of a stretch.
That said, AsiaPundit is actually not adverse to fascist. As P.J O’Rourke noted in a late 1990s visit to Shanghai:
I don’t want to disparage private enterprise. The world has political, religious, and intellectual leaders for that. But when a totalitarian government gets cozy with large financial and manufacturing concerns, it rings a 20th century historical bell. I’m thinking how a certain ‘people’s car’-ein Volkswagen-got its start. I’m thinking, ‘Made the trains run on time.’ I’m thinking, ‘Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.’ There’s a technical name for this political ideology.
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