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Jun 26

The ECFA – where next for China and Taiwan?

Written by Raj on Saturday, June 26th, 2010 at 11:59 am
Filed under:economy, General, Opinion, politics | Tags:, , ,
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The ECFA trade agreement between China and Taiwan looks like it will be signed in the near future.

It is hard at this point to be sure of who will benefit the most from it economically. There are concerns in Taiwan that there will be a net loss of jobs as a result of the agreement. Whilst Taiwan will be able to ship goods to China with fewer trade barriers, this does not mean that increased trade will employ more Taiwanese than lose their jobs due to an increase in Chinese imports. After all, some Taiwanese bosses may just pocket increased profit, though others will see increased demand and need to employ more workers. It will be easier to consider the impact of the agreement after it has been in place for a year or two.

But now that the ECFA has been agreed upon, where do Sino-Taiwanese relations go from here? The Wall Street Journal has a suggestion.

Leaders from both sides have wagered their personal legacies on the outcome of the trade talks. For Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, whose approval ratings have slumped over the past several months, it is a chance to integrate Taiwan more deeply into the regional economy and accelerate the island’s lackluster growth. For Chinese President Hu Jintao, the pact could be a stepping stone for political dialogue, and even a peace accord, with Taiwan before he retires in 2012.

China clearly will want to launch into political discussions at the first opportunity. Ma Ying-jeou is less worried about his legacy and is more concerned about getting re-elected in 2012. But Hu Jintao wants to be remembered for doing something that none of his predecessors could – firmly putting Taiwan on the path of unifying with China, even if this will require further agreements to take place. A “peace agreement” is possible before 2012, even if it is currently not likely.

There is a question as to whether such a new agreement would be suitable. The Chinese Civil War was between the CCP and KMT, not China and Taiwan. The skirmishes between China and Taiwan after 1950 were not a formal declaration of war. If the respective political parties wanted to, they could formally sign a peace agreement between themselves and leave their respective countries out of it. Of course China wants the agreement to include China and Taiwan in some way as a means of making Taiwanese unification more likely.

However, even if a “peace agreement” between China and Taiwan would be suitable, Ma will be reluctant to force one through before the 2012 presidential election, unless it’s clear it would be very popular. Even if Taiwanese would clearly welcome it, most would want a referendum on it – especially as Ma previously promised not to sign political agreements with China before 2012.

But there is one very important question that needs to be considered. After the ECFA, what are China and Taiwan going to do next? As hard as it was to get the ECFA agreed, it was relatively easy compared to the sorts of political agreements that will need to be considered to resolve once and for all Taiwan’s status in a way that is acceptable to both China and Taiwan. Even a “peace agreement” would be highly controversial due to how it referred to Taiwan, but even that would not do much to resolve the China-Taiwan divide. Coming up with ways to bring China and Taiwan together politically and legally, as Beijing wants, would be a horribly complex and divisive process even if it took place over decades. Most Taiwanese do not want unification, and as older Taiwanese who were born in China die off there will be even less support for it. Many Taiwanese will still vote KMT, but as an alternative to other political parties like the DPP, TSU and PFP. They will not do so out of a desire to see unification. China also cannot rely on the KMT staying in power definitely, short of the current ruling party sabotaging the electoral system and ending democracy in Taiwan. The DPP will at some point form a government, which would put the breaks on unification (assuming the process had already started), if not necessarily political rapproachment.

On top of all of that there will be further demands from Taiwan for China to give it more international space, with greater meaningful representation in international bodies, dropping its opposition to Taiwan signing free trade agreements with other countries, agreeing to other economic changes such as fifth freedom rights, etc. Beijing may be reluctant to do this for fear that this will make Taiwan more economically and diplomatically independent and then have no reason to want to unify with China. However, Taiwan will say that economic and other matters cannot rest with the ECFA, especially if political agreements are pushed by China.

Hu should be glad that he is retiring in 2012 – all these headaches will have to be dealt with by his successor.


There are currently 4 comments highlighted: 69096, 69125, 69148, 69178.

94 Responses to “The ECFA – where next for China and Taiwan?”

  1. sids Says:

    Well we have to wait and see. This is a part of the quote on a BBC article regarding the ECFA between the two countries.

    “China has offered what are considered unusually generous terms, cutting tariffs on 539 Taiwanese products entering its market. These include car parts, petrochemicals and fruit.

    In contrast, only 267 Chinese products would benefit from reduced tariffs on the Taiwanese side.

    China would be able to invest in some Taiwanese service industries, while Taiwan would gain access to sectors such as computer services and airline maintenance in China. ”

    Regarding what will China and Taiwan do next really depend which government is in power?

  2. Legalist Says:

    Ecfa is a good thing. Ma Ying-jeou should be credited for his boldness. Hu Jintao should be praised for his vision.

    Next is digestion. Yes, digestion. China needs to digest the result of the agreement. Basically Hong Kong is an example. First the integration of two economies. Then the specialization that Taiwan has to decide. What is it good at and does want to specialize in.

    Peace agreement can wait and isn’t that important anyway.

  3. r v Says:

    I also don’t see importance in a “peace agreement”. Why worry about such an agreement, if the terms of the ECFA already pretty much defines what will happen between mainland and Taiwan?

    One can just call ECFA and any aftermath agreements as the “peace agreement”. Taiwan gets a longer list of reduce tariffs on items, longer than China’s. Taiwan signs “ROC” on the dotted line.

    If ROC changes its mind or its name, the agreement is null and void. War might break out. Bye bye, “Peace agreement”. The terms are implied as obvious.

    Practically, the opposition DPP in Taiwan should be concerned. More exchanges between mainland and Taiwan will result in mutual political understanding, and lessen the DPP’s mainland-phobic influences.

    Some have called this the “Mainland China’s bearhug.” I say, why not. But it’s a mutual bearhug. Mainland China might become dependent upon Taiwan’s export over time, as US did with Japanese and Chinese imports.

    But the high probability is, the size of mainland would mean that Taiwanese influence on mainland would not be any more than it had before.

  4. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I don’t think this free trade agreement can be evaluated in the short term. The actual, and sometimes unforeseen, ramifications of such agreements manifest themselves over years, if not decades…at least if the NAFTA can serve as a guide. As with NAFTA, the results will probably not be as good as what the proponents say, nor as dire as what the opponents would have you believe.

    If the costs and benefits of this ECFA do in fact need years to play out, then the impetus for any further negotiation will not be the effects of this agreement, but simply the concept of agreement being possible in the first place. If that’s the case, then Ma has basically stipulated to the status quo at least until 2012. And status quo seems to be where most Taiwanese are at.

    Even in the long term, if Taiwanese perceive the agreement to have been beneficial financially, then it will be viewed favourably. If not, then it won’t. But I’m not sure any level of comfort with business integration will do much in terms of moving people toward the mainland dreams. Would Taiwanese people choose money over some of their current freedoms? That’s a choice for Taiwanese people to make, but you have to wonder how often people would choose to give up their freedom to choose.

    However, any “peace agreement” would be interesting. Regardless of who the CCP is technically still at war with in Taiwan, the lack of any agreement at the end of 1949 is used as justification, at least in part, for some of the current military posturing. A peace agreement might do away with some of that. And who knows, the CCP might offer up juicy enticements for the optics of “agreements” with Taiwan, and Taiwanese might feel like gettin while the gettin’s good, at least up to a certain point.

  5. Raj Says:

    Hi sids

    You are 100% correct that more Taiwanese than Chinese goods are benefiting. The key issue is which ones they will be, as some will generate a large amount of trade and others not so much. We will see.

    As for which party is in power in Taiwan (I think this is what you meant), it certainly could make a difference as to what happens in the future. It would depend what China wanted to put on the table. Political agreements might be difficult – economic ones (provided they didn’t make Taiwan even more reliant on China) would be possible.

  6. sids Says:

    Raj
    China has actually got a trade deficit against Japan and South Korea, I could be wrong but i did read it somewhere i think it was in The Economists.

    So in theory its good for the Taiwanese products if they can compete agaisnt Chinese and other foreign goods on China on almost equal footing or with an advantage. With everyday that the Chinese middle class is growing and consuming more goods, I just dont see how this is bad for Taiwan at all. China got not much to gain from Taiwan since they have a tiny population, more expansive to market products in Taiwan.

    There is not much for China to put on the table really. They already open up the air travel between the two countries. With this EFCA there is nothing to talk about for a while economically unless it prove a disaster for the Taiwanese. The thorny issue now is buying weapon from USA and other then that aslong Taiwan doesnt do too much to piss off the Chinese the status quo will go on as usual. Unless of course China somehow turn into a democratic state not far in the future or the CCP suddenly loses power.

  7. Josef Says:

    The “peace agreement” is a difficult matter.
    Certainly some backward turned KMT group sees a peace agreement between KMT and CCP as a chance to turn back the wheel of time, before public votes and before democracy. It is in line with the starting of the negotiations for the ECFA and also consistent with other meetings between the two parties. But this group within the KMT is not representing the main party line, simply, as this ideas will not bring votes. To my opinion this kind of peace agreement would increase unrest in Taiwan and divide the people rather than add value to the relation between the two sides.
    A peace agreement between China and Taiwan would require a certain recognition of Taiwan from China, which is unlikely. To my opinion this kind of agreement would add value to the relation, in terms of a smaller number of pointing missiles or arm sales to Taiwan, but bears a big risk for China as it might boost the independence movement. However, China, or probably more accurate a group within the CCP which is in power now, might take this risk if it helps to keep their preferred negotiators, president Ma and the KMT, in power.

  8. Charles Liu Says:

    Sids, I think you are correct. China runs a net trade deficit, especially with it’s neighbors.

    BTW, according to an AP report (burried deep in their DPP protest article), majority of Taiwanese support this trade pact:

    “Polls, however, show that more Taiwanese support the trade pact than oppose it.”

    According to Washington Examiner, one of the few media outlet that didn’t run with the DDP protest headline, said the trade pact is in favor of Taiwan:

    “some $80 billion in goods flowing to China, and $30 billion to Taiwan”

    So how does DPP’s “losing jobs” beef jive with this fact?

  9. r v Says:

    “So how does DPP’s “losing jobs” beef jive with this fact?”

    Well, it’s certainly probable that the DPP politicians will lose their jobs if the trade between mainland and Taiwan actually helps Taiwanese make more money. “Help, we are losing this market as sellers of mainland-phobia! Save our jobs!” LOL!

  10. Raj Says:

    sids (6)

    China does run a trade deficit with some countries. I can’t remember which, but Taiwan is one. That doesn’t mean that Taiwan couldn’t theoretically suffer from a trade agreement with China, even if in this case it does better.

    Also it’s very good if Taiwanese goods can compete more competitively in China, but I think that it’s important Taiwan be able to diversify its export locations. What happens if there’s a slow-down in China in the foreseeable future? If the Taiwanese economy becomes too reliant on China it will sink or swim depending what happens to its neighbour. That can’t be good.

    There is not much for China to put on the table really.

    There’s plenty. Fifth freedom rights for a start. Then there’s China’s veto on Taiwan getting FTAs with important trade partners. China could drop that opposition and make it a lot easier for Taiwan to expand its non-China trade ties.

    The thorny issue now is buying weapon from USA and aslong Taiwan doesnt do too much to piss off the Chinese the status quo

    What about China disturbing the “status quo” by continually adding to its short-ranged missile stockpile? It works both ways. If China is to be allowed a military and lots of offensive weapons I don’t see why Taiwan shouldn’t be allowed them.

    Josef, interesting comments there.

  11. sids Says:

    Raj

    If there is a slow down in China there will be a slow down in the world economy thats for sure. What im trying to say is China is importing more and more goods and not just a big exporting country that the USA or the west make you to believe. So any free trade agreement with the two county is bonus for Taiwan.

    As for Taiwan diversifying of its export market is a good thing. But you have to remember a few thing the promixity of Taiwan and China thus allowing it to have cheap transportation cost. Taiwanese and China speak and almost write the same language (you can say same since most people can read simplify and tradition). Its cheaper to market product in China and also they and China have similar taste which mean you don’t have to rebrand your products to the taste of american, european or other asian country. Its just so much cost effective to expand your business to China first then you can think about other countries later.

    Raj forgive me, I’m sometime too lazy to expand what i like to write.

    Regarding what Chinese government will do Taiwan is pretty simple.

    The first thing they need to do is to limit the sovereignty of Taiwan on the world stage they already achieve that. Taiwan almost get no recognition in the world beside a few small state that they can bribe. To expand on that this is your quote

    “There’s plenty. Fifth freedom rights for a start. Then there’s China’s veto on Taiwan getting FTAs with important trade partners. China could drop that opposition and make it a lot easier for Taiwan to expand its non-China trade ties.”

    If Taiwan like to be seen as an independant state isn’t it funny they can’t even negotiate their own FTA without the approval of UN?

    Secondly China need to make Taiwan economically dependant on China. They are on their way of achieving it with this EFCA. I thought this is quiet a good conspiracy theory i read on some forum.

    “Clearly China’s decision of signing ECFA with Taiwan is highly political. China has already learned how “democracy” works in Taiwan.

    Taiwanese politicians need money for their campaigns. Money is the air and blood for “democracy”. With money in hands, politicians can buy media time to fool their voters.

    How can China put an hand in Taiwan’s democracy? The answer is controlling Taiwanese businessmen. With ECFA, Taiwanese businessmen will heavily rely on China’s market. They will have business and assets in Mainland China. And their assets and business will become hostage leaving in China.

    If any of them dares to donate money to Democratic Development Party, China’s central government will harass them (for example, sending some tax official to audit their accounting books, certainly this kind of audit will be extremely inefficient).

    Once Taiwan’s economy heavily depends on China’s market, China’s central government will be able to control Taiwan’s elections via Taiwanese businessmen, who will donate money to candidates Beijing like and refuse to donate money to those politicians that Beijing does not like. China can also control Taiwan’s media via Taiwanese businessmen, who can buy Taiwanese media and publish reports in favor of China.

    In summary, we should applaud that China finally learns how to handle “democracy”.

    Note: I do hope someday Taiwan can choose their own destination with their own referendum. But hope and reality in this world is completely two different thing. Taiwan miss their chance to declare independant state when China was weak and need to focus on their internal problems. The time has pass, all the chips is with China and Taiwan can only wait and hope. You can also partially blame KMT for wanting to regain their power in China if not for that i think Taiwan should be already an independant state and we wouldnt be talkign about it now.

  12. r v Says:

    “lots of offensive weapons.”

    That’s an interesting characterization. What would be considered “defensive weapons”?

  13. Steve Says:

    @ sids #11: I agree with much of what you wrote but I wanted to add a few comments based on my experience there.

    I met very few Taiwanese who could read simplified Chinese. They could muddle their way through it but had a hard time with it. Same for even fewer Chinese who could figure out traditional Chinese.

    The ECFA won’t make transportation less expensive between the two since they’ve already established that link previously, not that you implied it would.

    Taiwan doesn’t need UN approval to negotiate FTAs with other countries. The reason they can’t negotiate is because those countries don’t want to hurt their relations with China. I think China and Taiwan are already economically dependent on each other.

    Taiwanese businesses have owned plants in China for many years. They are the largest investor in China and both are held hostage. China needs Taiwanese capital and brand recognition and Taiwan needs Chinese labor. Both are at each others’ mercy just as the USA and China are now interdependent economically. China can manufacture product but they don’t have the Taiwanese marketing acumen so if they nationalized the plants, they’d have overproduction and lose a primary source of investment and knowledge. They’d also scare off new investment from other countries. There is always give and take in economic relationships.

    It’s actually the Democratic Progressive Party or DPP, not DDP. China has no access to Taiwan’s accounting books in Taiwan, only their branch books in China. I don’t think China’s government will ever be able to control Taiwan’s elections. They might have a slight influence on them but if word gets out that they have ANY influence, it would have the opposite reaction similar to what happened in the 1996 election and to a lesser extent the 2000 election. The KMT would be toast.

    I completely agree with your historical assessment. Taiwan had their chance and but for the stupidity of Jiang Jieshi, they’d be independent today. But what happened, happened so it looks like they’ll be in limbo for quite awhile.

  14. Legalist Says:

    There is no one Taiwan. KMT thinks and feels different than DPP. Maybe Ma Ying-jeou wants reunification after all. Why not. He could leave a significant legacy in the histoy of a past and future superpower. In fact, it’s very likely KMT will come back and become a major politcal party when China becomes a democracy.

  15. Rhan Says:

    “In fact, it’s very likely KMT will come back and become a major political party when China becomes a democracy.”

    See, Jiang Jieshi is not that stupid afterall.

  16. Steve Says:

    @ Legalist & Rhan: You all may be right, but I’m not holding my breath for that to happen anytime soon, or ever. ;)

  17. Legalist Says:

    Steve, I guess Ma Ying-jeou is thinking longer term than DPP who are all over the map.

  18. Legalist Says:

    Jiang Jieshi was not stupid when he refused dual recongnition in the UN.

  19. Rhan Says:

    Legalist “Jiang Jieshi was not stupid when he refused dual recongnition in the UN.”

    Why? Because Jiang is (1) a dreamer (2) a believer of democracy (3) well aware of the evil empire conspiracy to divide China (4) a dreamer and a stupid one?

    Btw, would China and CCP agree even if Jiang accede to the dual recognition?

  20. Steve Says:

    @ Legalist #17: You wrote, “Steve, I guess Ma Ying-jeou is thinking longer term than DPP who are all over the map.”

    What made you come to this conclusion? It’s hard to discuss a subject when no reasons are given for a statement. How much do you know about Taiwan politics? Ever live in Taiwan? In my experience, both parties are pretty consistent with occasional loose cannons in each party saying really stupid things.

    @ Legalist #18: You wrote, “Jiang Jieshi was not stupid when he refused dual recongnition in the UN.”

    He didn’t refuse dual recognition by the UN, he refused recognition of Taiwan as a separate country called the ROC in 1971 when the UN changed diplomatic recognition of China’s seat from the ROC to the PRC. That was the deal that the UN had worked out and that the PRC was willing to go along with to get the seat and veto power in the Security Council but Jiang Jieshi refused to go along with it because of his enormous ego and stubbornness so the UN made the change without his blessing with over a 2/3 majority voting for the change. Again, you give no reasons for your opinion which is based on a fallacy.

    @ Rhan #19: Jiang was simply a stubborn egotist and in my experience is still hated by the vast majority of Taiwanese who were on the island before the Chinese diaspora arrived in ’49. However, his son Jiang Jingguo is in a different category and highly thought of by just about everyone I met there. It was under him that the economy really got going and martial law was terminated.

    Jiang was no believer of democracy. There is a famous story of a dinner at the Roosevelt White House in which Song May-ling was a guest. Eleanor Roosevelt was shocked at Song’s answer when asked at a dinner at the White House how the Chinese government would handle a strike by coal miners. Song silently drew a sharp fingernail across her neck.

    ”She can talk beautifully about democracy,” Mrs. Roosevelt said later. ”But she does not know how to live democracy.”

    Evil empire conspiracy to divide China? What evil empire are you talking about? The Soviet Union was labeled as the Evil Empire and they supported the CCP during the revolution. Jiang fled to Taiwan on his own accord. He certainly didn’t need any encouragement from anyone else to make his decision.

    Again, it wasn’t dual recognition that China has agreed to but recognition of Taiwan as a separate country, but that’s water under the bridge in today’s world since Jiang made it easy for them. They got the seat and didn’t have to give up anything to do so. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with the ECFA so maybe we ought to get back on subject.

  21. Raj Says:

    sids (11)

    I have a feeling you’re being sarcastic and/or joking in parts. Before I respond can you make it clear which parts I shouldn’t take seriously? Thanks.

  22. Rhan Says:

    Oh Steve, I am trying to emulate your satire style in the “voted with your feet” piece, but I know my writing skill fail me after reading your reply.

    Back to ECFA, no matter what KMT said and done, DPP would say it is a betrayal. Typical modus operandi of Taiwan politic.

  23. Steve Says:

    Personally, I think the ECFA is a good deal for both China and Taiwan and I’m glad to see its inception. I don’t buy the DPP position on this one at all. Of course the DPP says it’s a betrayal, no different than the KMT nixing every piece of legislation that Chen proposed during his administration. Neither of these parties seems to want to give an inch when compromise would be in the best interest of their constituents, but maybe not give them the best chances for re-election. When George Washington was first elected president, he wanted to avoid partisan politics and political parties but in a short time, Federalists and Democratic-Republicans appeared and partisanship was rampant. It seems it is unavoidable, even in autocratic governments such as China’s.

    Where do they go from here? Good question and one that I’m not in any position to have much of an opinion about. I’ll rely more on Josef and Jerry’s opinions for that, since they’re living in Taiwan and have a better feel for the attitudes of the majority there. I agree that negotiations will be difficult in any sense because the basis for negotiations are dependent on conception and not reality. Conceptually, China and Taiwan are still at war while the reality is that they get along quite well and interact constantly. Conceptually, the CCP and KMT have an interparty squabble while the reality is that China and Taiwan have the squabble. Conceptually, Taiwan isn’t an actual country when in reality it most certainly is. Conceptually, China can’t acknowledge that reality without committing domestic political suicide and Taiwan can’t acknowledge the reality of its having to move closer to China in the long run without committing domestic political suicide. Both countries care more about domestic politics than negotiations with each other and since the two domestic opinions don’t coincide, there’s not much room for compromise. Until the citizens of China and the citizens of Taiwan are on the same page, it’s just going to continue in the same holding pattern with no end in sight.

    I do disagree with the notion that a victory for the DPP in a future election will mean the possibility of a declaration of independence/war. After the Chen disaster that set the party back 5-10 years, they won’t want to make the same mistake twice. My guess is that they’ll talk tough but continue along the same “status quo” road for the foreseeable future. How the CCP and DPP choose to deal with each other will determine how relations move along if they sit on either side of the negotiating table. What I do know is that an eventual deal with China will have to have the support of both the KMT and DPP, and right now that’s a pretty big reach. If the CCP continues to alienate DPP supporters, they’ll react negatively and we’ll be back at square one again.

  24. pug_ster Says:

    Steve,

    I doubt how could the CCP and DPP could see anything eye to eye, just like how some of the Democratic parties in Hong Kong could agree with Beijing despite the handover 13 years ago. While Chinese Media perceive this as an economic victory and has nothing to do with politics, looking at Taiwanese Media like Taipei Times, they view this trade agreement with ulterior political motives from China. Here’s an interesting editorial from Taipei Times.

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2010/07/01/2003476828

  25. Steve Says:

    Pug_ster: The Taipei Times is the DPP’s English newspaper just as the China Post is the KMT’s English newspaper, which is why I ignore the editorials in both publications. I already covered this in my comment #23, first and second paragraphs. Of course the Chinese government (along with the KMT) has political along with economic motives for putting this trade agreement into place. Nothing that happens between Taiwan and China isn’t politically motivated in some way.

  26. Raj Says:

    Steve (25)

    That’s a bit of a generalisation. The Taipei Times is pro-DPP, but it’s not the party’s mouthpiece. It might identify with a particular section of the DPP but not necessarily the leadership.

    By the way, in regards to sids’ earlier comment I hope that no one seriously wants China to try to achieve unification through mass bribery. If it were ever caught out (and it would be), it would destroy any chance for a peaceful resolution of China-Taiwan relations – at least on terms China wanted.

  27. r v Says:

    Who said anything about “mass bribery”? I’m sure pro-China lobbies in Taiwan will have completely legitimate channels, as legitimate as any political lobbies can be in democracies. (Of course, that won’t stop the DPP from characterizing them as “bribery”.)

    Afterall, we all know how the Democracy game is played. CAMPAIGN money! It’s simple statistics.

  28. Steve Says:

    @ Raj: I didn’t mean to imply that either was an official party mouthpiece but they’re both so pro-respective party that they might as well be.

    @ r v: sids referred to extortion, not bribery but he implied bribery depending on how you might read what he wrote. If China pressured Taiwanese businessmen to supply their own money to the KMT and not give money to the DPP or their businesses would be affected negatively, that’s extortion. If China was laundering government money through Taiwanese businessmen into KMT pockets, that the mass bribery that Raj was referring to.

    Personally, I don’t think either scenario is probable.

  29. r v Says:

    Steve,

    “Pressure” is hardly “extortion”. Extortion is a crime defined as “The obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.”

    “Pressure”, however, can be many different forms. If the Chinese government simply “pressured” the businessmen in Taiwan to NOT give support to the DPP, that’s NOT obtaining any “property” from anyone. And obviously, Pre-existing “black gold” in Taiwan would not require any “pressure” from China to exert their influences.

    Of course, some “pressure” may feel ethically wrong, without actually being a crime. But hey, who ever said political lobbying is 100% ethically right?! Afterall, Lobbyists have a right to be influence peddlers in a “democracy” like Taiwan, right? China just have a deeper pocket than most now.

    Is it “laundering” money, when a Taiwanese company make profits in China, and the owner worry that if the DPP wins the next election and the ECFA might be withdrawn, his business will pay extra tariffs, so he puts in donation for the KMT? (What if his only customer or the biggest customer is the Chinese government?)

    One thing will be sure, that Taiwanese businessman, even if he’s making legitimate profit in China, if the DPP takes over, he may look forward to some investigations on his business in China and his political activities. (I believe TMSC was investigated in Taiwan a few years ago.)

    Some Taiwanese businessmen may flag wave in public, but their profits in China are just begging for audits. Now, obviously, which party in Taiwan would be more likely to audit these companies? KMT or DPP?

    Openly “loyal” or not, I’ll tell you, these businesses have enough incentives to act on their own accordingly. (I’m just looking at it from the pragmatic point of view.)

    Will China “launder” money through some of these businesses to funnel money to KMT? It wouldn’t be “laundering”, if these businesses are just acting in their own accord, and especially not when KMT remains in charge. :)

  30. Steve Says:

    Hi r v~

    Extortion per your definition is what sids described in his comment. I was clarifying what he wrote, not my own personal opinion which I gave in the last paragraph.

    The DPP already held power for eight years, including when I was in China, and didn’t bother Taiwan businessmen over there. The TSMC matter you mentioned was a legitimate investigation and not that big a deal. It was in reference to investment limits allowed by law and settled without much of a problem.

    Laundering money is exactly how I described it. What you described is not laundering money so I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. You might want to re-read what I originally wrote.

    I never met a Taiwan businessmen in China worried about being auditing unfairly by the DPP government in power at the time. Where did you come up with this, or are you just speculating? In theory, any government can audit any business unfairly, including the KMT auditing Taiwan businesses whose owners support the DPP. I don’t believe you suggested this happens so why suggest it happens in the other direction? Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s certain or even probable.

    If a business owner uses CCP money that was not obtained through legitimate business means and channeled it to the KMT party, it’d be money laundering. I’m not sure why you find this hard to comprehend. If you don’t earn it, it’s not legitimate.

    Have you talked to many Taiwanese businessmen who live and work in China? You might be surprised if you did.

  31. Josef Says:

    pug_ster:
    Details about the contract are still not known, so how come that the opinion about the ECFA changed? I think the main reason why a majority in Taiwan thinks that Taiwan will profit from the ECFA, is that they think China was so generous due to political motives. Moreover, China Daily writes today:
    “Trade pact between Beijing and Taipei is good for the island’seconomic growth and carries much political weight”
    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2010-07/01/content_10043529.htm
    (so it has something to do with politics)
    It reminds me on a local poll in Switzerland in 1992 about joining the EWR (European trade) which was clearly identified as a gain for Switzerland. It was rejected by the people, as people believed it as a first step for membership in the EC. But I would not draw more conclusion from this comparison, as the situation Swiss-EC is very different to Taiwan-China.

    I agree to Steve’s comment on the newspapers as well as the one that a deal with China needs a minimal recognition and negotiation with the DPP. The DPP, unlike the democrats in Hongkong are non negligible, even if their influence remains only on local governments.

    Even if China manages to influence businessmen and newspapers I see limitations to gain votes, and with that power in Taiwan. Every time a Taiwanese tennis player, golf player or baseball players gets some international attention, the Taiwanese independence ideas gets a boost. Similar for any other competition, be it schools, technology or any other achievement. That is DPP (and TSU) independent and I wonder if that can be made undone.

  32. r v Says:

    Steve,

    Whether TSMC investigation was “legitimate” is rather subjective. Afterall, in Taiwan, investigation of this sort are often called “politically motivated prosecution”. Rather like the KMT investigating Chen’s money, isn’t it? DPP is crying foul, KMT is cheering “legitimate”.

    But if one is a business owner/manager, would one risk it? Hmm…. Do I really want to risk my business to a “legitimate” investigation, having my files and personal finances turned upside down by the cops, and have to explain my every dinner or lunch I had with a Chinese official/businessman, for God knows how long?! Well, maybe it’s just me, but I know I wouldn’t want to.

    You see, CCP isn’t the only party that uses “treason” to investigate or pressure businesses. DPP throws “treason” around quite a lot.

    I don’t know how you can say the TSMC investigation was “not that big a deal”. Have you ever gone through such an investigation? I mean seriously, if CCP revoking of Google’s business license is “pressure”, you think DPP’s investigation of TSMC’s books is “not that big a deal”?

    Well, you are entitled to your opinions, but I would wager that businesses won’t take any chances with the “not that big a deal” investigations.

  33. pug_ster Says:

    Josef,

    I agree with you that ECFA is more political than economic win for China (although the Chinese press was clever enough to say that it is more of an economic win and they are careful not to push their ‘one’ China agenda.) China’s ulterior motives to try to normalize relationships between China and Taiwan. China does not want to be a threat to Taiwan rather to see itself as a friend and that’s they how they are planning to convert DPP’s China-phobic supporters to KMT. Assuming if everything is good within the next 10-20 years, I would not be surprised if China goes to Taiwan and signs some kind of non-aggression pact that would further integrate Taiwan and China. (Yes, I know I will get alot of heat for saying that, but that’s my opinion.)

    Personally, I don’t know how if an Taiwanese sports player gets international attention, ideas for Taiwanese independence would get a boot.

  34. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I wouldn’t imagine that Taiwanese businessmen invest in China for the sake of losing money. So if the DPP supposedly is to be feared for possibly “investigating” any Taiwanese businessmen who is making money in China, I imagine that will be most Taiwanese businessmen involved with China, would constitute a lot of work, and would be mighty unpopular too. So I don’t think that is a realistic route for the DPP to go, if they were to ever return to power. And any fear predicated on such an assumption also does not seem overly realistic.

    If the CCP wants to indirectly support the KMT by “discouraging” Taiwanese businessmen from financially supporting the DPP via threats to their business, I’m sure they could and would do so. Heck, such threats might already be happening, and may already have been happening for some time. However, would they risk doing it on a large-scale basis, and face the potential of a DPP-friendly businessman making an anonymous phone call to a Taipei newspaper? Would the potential monetary advantage to the KMT justify the potential voter backlash? Who knows…guess we can always ask the CCP bean-counters.

    I imagine the Taiwanese would welcome any economic benefit that stems from the ECFA. Whether such financial benefits will engender Taiwanese warm and fuzzies for the CCP political system? Well, i suppose that’s anybody’s guess.

    Speaking of Taiwanese athletes, Lu Yen Hsun did very well at Wimbledon this year. I wonder why he hasn’t gotten any love around here, unlike Li Na for her exploits last year?

  35. kui Says:

    “In fact, it’s very likely KMT will come back and become a major politcal party when China becomes a democracy.”

    Agreed.

  36. Steve Says:

    @ kui: Why?

  37. Legalist Says:

    Why not!

  38. Al Says:

    @steve
    “Same for even fewer Chinese who could figure out traditional Chinese. ”

    This statement is 100% false, I suspect if you’ve met any mainlander. Mainlanders like me and my friends and family can read 95+% of the traditional chinese w/o learning it from school. Don’t ask me how but we just can read it.

  39. r v Says:

    “So I don’t think that is a realistic route for the DPP to go, if they were to ever return to power.”

    Well, that might not be popular or realistic in logic, but that’s what the DPP is harping loudly about in public, and the DPP ALREADY investigated at least 1 company (a very large one). Obviously, they didn’t think about your logic when they did it, and they are not in line with your logic right now.

    Would businessmen take the risk (with their own personal life and their wealth), and HOPE that DPP would come to its own senses? I don’t think so.

  40. Steve Says:

    @ Legalist #37: Not a very erudite reply. Thanks for not enlightening any of us. This isn’t a beer commercial ad.

    @ Al #38: 100% false? Maybe in your experience. In mine, I lived there and didn’t find 100% or even close to that amount of Chinese could read or write traditional characters. And since China isn’t 100% literate, your statement must be 100% false. My wife is from Taiwan and she can’t read all of the simplified characters either. She can figure out some of them but others stump her. We had two sets of literature printed in Chinese, one in traditional for outside the mainland and one in simplified for the mainland.

    @ r v #39: It’s getting old, you know. I got my information from senior managers at TSMC. Where did you get yours? They were a multimillion dollar account of mine at the time. You have absolutely no idea of what you’re talking about. Maybe instead of replying so quickly, you ought to first learn what actually happened at the time rather than guessing what happened as is your usual method.

  41. r v Says:

    Steve,

    Senior managers say “not a big deal” all the time. Toyota’s managers said it thousands of times before the massive recalls. When lawyers like me hear “not a big deal”, we smell trouble.

    Of course, Legal departments of TSMC is where the real story is hidden. But I doubt anyone can get the inside information about the “investigation”. That’s why most legal settlements with governments are often not public.

    Where do I get my information? I am a lawyer who have seen government investigations of corporations (from inside experiences). I have seen how much paper work was required to submit to such an investigation. I have seen new heads of legal department hired to deal with such investigation (at a very high salary).

    I don’t know what information you are getting from your “senior managers” at TSMC, but then again, there are lots of “senior managers”, most of whom are not always privy to details of an investigation. (Not until they are told to submit years of emails and files.)

    Frankly, if your “senior managers” told you something like “not a big deal” in that investigation, I would wonder if they know what such an investigation entails. Governments don’t just initiate PUBLIC “investigations”, and subsequently become satisfied with just a few simple answers. (In other words, it’s a BIG deal for them to get their legal people to start the paperwork, and they are not going to just drop it after a day of friendly chats. If the DPP was that stupid, then lucky for TSMC, but realistically, I doubt it.)

    There is always a point in “investigations”. If they are not certain they will get the charges to stick, there is still a point they can make.

    But hey, you are entitled to believe that “investigation” of TSMC was “not a big deal”. I don’t think I can prove otherwise to you unless I can show you all the paperwork (which are of course not publicly available, and TSMC lawyers are probably obliged not to discuss in public).

    Maybe I should “first learn what actually happened”. Do you have any details to share other than “not a big deal”?

  42. S.K. CHeung Says:

    To RV #39:
    so IF what you say is true, then the KMT should be comfortable with their hold on the vote and influence of the “Taiwanese businessmen doing business in China” bloc. How does that match up against the “Taiwanese people want to maintain the political status quo wrt China” bloc? Once again, time, and votes, will tell.

    To #41:
    looks like Steve’s opinion was formulated on the basis of the conversations he had, while he was in Taiwan, with Taiwanese people working for the company in question. And it looks like RV’s opinion was formulated on the basis of RV’s opinion, which itself was formulated while living in the US.

  43. Nimrod Says:

    The DPP has been running these fear-mongering shorts about ECFA.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oW3g3m7t_DY

    Now, of course they have a point, but they are also insulting Taiwan’s competitiveness. Certainly there will be winners and there will be losers. In general, there will be change. Change is inevitable. So long as Taiwan recognizes that and moves forward on that basis, it will do okay.

    By the way, I’ve always believed that an economic union always leads to a political union. The reason is as simple as the law of one price, which says that a common market equalizes the clearing price. But price is the parameter that determines value. It means in a common market, values are forced to align. It means Taipei will likely not do something against the interest of Beijing and vice versa. (We see this vividly in the US-China relationship where a lot of conflicts that could have happened were avoided.) If their interests are aligned, then there is no need for Taiwan to declare independence and no need for China to fear the current degree of autonomy. On those grounds, yes, the DPP is right, ECFA is a step to reunification, but an organic one where people align their interests and put away their differences. As I’ve said before elsewhere, the reunification won’t be declared either. It will just “happen”.

  44. r v Says:

    “so IF what you say is true, then the KMT should be comfortable with their hold on the vote and influence of the “Taiwanese businessmen doing business in China” bloc. How does that match up against the “Taiwanese people want to maintain the political status quo wrt China” bloc? Once again, time, and votes, will tell.”

    The Taiwanese people also wanted this ECFA, so what does that say?

    “looks like Steve’s opinion was formulated on the basis of the conversations he had, while he was in Taiwan, with Taiwanese people working for the company in question. And it looks like RV’s opinion was formulated on the basis of RV’s opinion, which itself was formulated while living in the US.”

    I wouldn’t mischaracterize my post #41 so generically as “living in the US”. If my experiences with government “investigation” of business is so generic as “living in the US”, then you are making US sound like a police state. (I said nothing of the sort).

    It’s simple reality, Governments don’t start “investigations” of businesses just for kicks. And businesses usually want to keep investigations quiet, for fear of spooking investors and customers. Calling a government “investigation” “no big deal” is a typical business response. I would 99% of all businesses would say that about any government “investigation” of their businesses. And the same 99% businesses would rather pay a small fine and get the matter hushed up as quickly as possible, because they don’t want public scandals. Again, it’s simple reality and statistics.

    Steve is more than welcome to believe otherwise about TSMC’s investigation. If he wishes to dispute my general experiences with government “investigations”, he can obviously evidence it with whatever detail he knows. (But I would guess that his TSMC “senior manager” friends would not be able or willing to discuss confidential details of this kind.)

    So how much is the “no big deal” really? I mean, really, if you think about it, if a company like TSMC just totally submit to the DPP’s “investigation”, and turn over ALL of their emails, memos, financial records, personnel files, It wouldn’t be a “big deal”. The public might not even have to know about it. “Rolling over” would be easy and “no big deal” at all.

  45. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Nimrod:
    completely agree with your first paragraph.

    I also agree in principle that a union on any level brings people together, and may serve to engender unions on other levels over time. However, although Taiwanese and Mainland CHinese may one day arrive at a common appreciation and value judgment of a shirt, computer, or a car, I think it’s a substantially longer road before Taiwanese might develop the same fondness of the CCP political system as the CCP apparently has.

    I further agree that, if their interests progressively align, “formal” “reunification” won’t matter. That may not look all that different from the current “status quo”. I wonder if the CCP will be satisfied with a union of the minds, without a union of the bodies.

  46. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To #44:
    “The Taiwanese people also wanted this ECFA, so what does that say?”
    —it says exactly what it says. What it doesn’t say is that the Taiwanese people will want, now or in the future, any more “benefits” of the CCP system. And who knows, maybe down the road they will want more of what the CCP is selling. That’s for them to decide.

    As for the rest, allow me to rephrase:
    “looks like Steve’s opinion was formulated on the basis of the conversations he had, while he was in Taiwan, with Taiwanese people working for the (actual) company in question. And it looks like RV’s opinion was formulated on the basis of RV’s opinion, which itself was formulated (from a generalization of his experience in “government investigation”) while living in the US.”

    There, that oughtta do it.

  47. r v Says:

    if you want to generalize my experiences, that’s your business. My post says what it says.

  48. r v Says:

    http://zhongguojishugushi.blogspot.com/2009/02/corruption-scandals-and-taiwans-tech.html

    Allegations keep coming out about various Taiwanese technology business leaders giving bribes to former First Lady, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍 or Wu Shu-zhen in pinyin romanization), while her husband, Chen Shuibian, was president. According to Next Magazine (台灣壹週刊), technology leaders, such as Hon Hai’s Terry Gou (郭台銘 or Guo Tai-Ming) and TSMC’s Morris Chang (張忠謀 or Zhang Zhongmou), were named in a February 3 affidavit by Wu (link here). Chang has denied any wrongdoing and TSMC has publicly donated to both the KMT and the DPP in the past (link). TSMC as the best run and probably most transparent company in Taiwan is the least likely candidate to be involved in such shenanigans. Another large tech firm is getting tainted by similar allegations. Quanta, the large computer contract manufacturer, appears to be under investigation for allegedly bribing the Chen family for land in the Longtan Science Park although the firm has denied it (link).

    http://www.tsmc.com/tsmcdotcom/PRListingNewsAction.do?action=detail&language=E&newsid=3401&newsdate=2009/02/18

    This is interesting, DPP ex-1st lady accuses TSMC CEO of “personal donation”. But clearly, TSMC had donated more money to KMT than the DPP, at least in public. Also clearly, DPP folks are shameless enough to make all sorts of accusations. (Well, I guess that taught Morris Chang a lesson about the DPP! :)

  49. r v Says:

    http://www.ridgway.pitt.edu/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=/i5N%2BbenGJY%3D&tabid=235

    (written pre-2008, so all references are pre-2007, “Taiwanese government” refers to the DPP government.)

    Page 255-256

    From the first business people who funneled
    money illegally through Hong Kong to invest on the mainland to the industrial leaders claiming
    to be too restricted by the “Go Slow, Be Patient” policy, Taiwanese businesses have continually
    pushed the pace of economic integration. For example, in a 1998 survey 70% of Taiwanese
    businesses had investments in China, and 50% hoped for greater relaxation of restrictions on
    investments.39 Industries with direct interest in the trade such as shipping lines and computer
    256
    manufacturers have taken the lead in the campaign for cross strait shipping ties.

    “Taiwan Semiconductor chairman Morris Chang, for example, protested against the Taiwanese government’s “blatant interference” in investments on the mainland.”

    Gee, I wonder what TSMC’s chairman meant by “blatant interference”? Some “no big deal” investigation??! (Hey, maybe Mr. Chang is just griping about nothing at all, but at least we know his position!)

  50. Raj Says:

    r v (44)

    The Taiwanese people also wanted this ECFA, so what does that say?

    Did they want it? There were polls out there that said they were unsure or opposed to the ECFA. As far as I know even those where more supported the ECFA than not generally had support short of 50% (i.e. in the 40s).

    Certainly Taiwanese wanted a referendum on it so they could make their own minds up. Of course the KMT kept vetoing the referendums on technicalities because they weren’t sure they’d win.

  51. r v Says:

    Raj,

    By the Taiwanese “people”, I of course meant the “democratically elected” Taiwanese government. :) I guess the “People” will just have to live with the consequences.

    Seriously, it’s not like the KMT didn’t make their pitch clear enough, they wanted more trade with mainland, to improve the Taiwanese economy. They had this clear in 2008. A “referendum” would be more like a do-over of the 2008 election.

    “because they weren’t sure they’d win.” That’s sort of like goading them with “what are you afraid of, LOSING?” or “I dare you to prove us wrong”. No, Raj, DPP wanted this referendum, they obviously can’t accept that they lost their mandate 2 years ago on the direction of Taiwan. KMT already won 2 years ago, they have the seats to prove it. Hence, they are in the position to stop the referendums.

    “Technicalities”? All government systems are layered with technicalities and rules. NO use complaining about it when the other side can use them to their own advantages. It’s not like the DPP didn’t know about the “technicalities”.

  52. S.K. Cheung Says:

    “I guess the “People” will just have to live with the consequences.”
    —agreed. I imagine this will be factored in the next time they go to the polls, just as much as the CCP might try to discourage Taiwanese businessmen from financially supporting the DPP, or as much as Taiwanese people’s desire for the status quo.

    The ECFA is an example of what happens in a representative democracy. A referendum is direct democracy, and I’m not sure how each jurisdiction determines what type of issue might so qualify. Certainly not all issues so qualify. Hopefully, the people who argue that the KMT have no obligation to hold a referendum will remember their POV the next time they feel the urge to complain that representative democracy is not direct enough.

  53. Jason Says:

    I find that DPP supporters like SKC and Raj are so blind of holding a referendum yet the Taiwanese people have made their mind of supporting (cautiously) this agreement by not making DPP’s suggested goal of 100,000 protestors. DPP’s goal of their suggested numbers has failed TWICE.

  54. Raj Says:

    r v (52)

    Will you admit that it is not clear the Taiwanese people do want the ECFA?

    Seriously, it’s not like the KMT didn’t make their pitch clear enough, they wanted more trade with mainland, to improve the Taiwanese economy.

    Yes, but “more trade” doesn’t mean they had carte blanche to do whatever they liked. I support better relations with the EU – that doesn’t mean I want the EU to have a veto on the UK budget as some Brussels mandarins want. That I didn’t vote for a political party that wants out of the EU doesn’t mean my government has a right to make us part of a EU federal state.

    That’s sort of like goading them with “what are you afraid of, LOSING?” or “I dare you to prove us wrong”. No, Raj, DPP wanted this referendum, they obviously can’t accept that they lost their mandate 2 years ago on the direction of Taiwan. KMT already won 2 years ago, they have the seats to prove it. Hence, they are in the position to stop the referendums.

    You couldn’t be more wrong. The KMT, having never lost control of the legislative by itself or with the help of its allies, approved the referendum act. It has very high barriers in terms of the numbers of signatures required and the number of votes and people turning out. So they can’t spin around now and say they have a personal right to veto every referendum question proposed by the Opposition just because they think that even the high hurdles they set will be beaten.

    Perhaps you would like to clarify your position, but you don’t seem to believe in democracy or rule of law, just rule by dictat. That’s not how Taiwan or any country should work. If the KMT betrays the Taiwanese people, maybe they should have known what they were voting for (though you cannot deny the KMT has gone a good job to largely shake off its authoritarian past), but that doesn’t mean the KMT has the right to do as it pleases – especially when they subvert the law.

    Jason (53)

    1. The proposed ECFA referendums got more than enough signatures to progress to the next step, so that should have moved foward. There is no provision in Taiwan’s referendum laws requiring people to protest on the matter they want a referendum on.

    2. Just because people don’t turn out to protest doesn’t mean they don’t care. I have never protested in public once in my life, but I vote at every election and have a wide interest in what happens in the UK. When was the last time you or anyone else here protested? Does that mean they support everything their governments do? Of course not.

    3. Do not pigeonhole people on this forum. I do not believe SKC is a DPP supporter, and I certainly don’t care who rules Taiwan – provided they get the best for the country. Just because I think the KMT shouldn’t have vetoed the referendums because they didn’t like the questions being asked does not mean I think the DPP would automatically be better.

    I think that Obama is a better president than any of the Republican candidates currently on offer, but that doesn’t mean I’m a Democrat.

    4. Were you at all the protests to count the number of people there? At almost every protest in the world there are disagreements with the number of attendees. The police always come up with a low figure, and the organisers come up with the highest. I don’t know how many turned up, but I’m not going to arbitrarily believe one over the other.

  55. r v Says:

    “Hopefully, the people who argue that the KMT have no obligation to hold a referendum will remember their POV the next time they feel the urge to complain that representative democracy is not direct enough.”

    KMT would have no problem with that. NOT my problem either, it’s their system, their rules. MY POV is playing by the technicalities of such “representative democracies”, doesn’t mean I endorse the system.

  56. r v Says:

    Raj,

    “Yes, but “more trade” doesn’t mean they had carte blanche to do whatever they liked.”

    Actually, “more trade” is general enough to include “carte blanche” within the rules. Taiwan already had a trade surplus with mainland China in 2008, and the cross strait trade was already growing. it’s hardly unexpected that “more trade” would significantly increase trade with mainland China.

    “If the KMT betrays the Taiwanese people, maybe they should have known what they were voting for (though you cannot deny the KMT has gone a good job to largely shake off its authoritarian past), but that doesn’t mean the KMT has the right to do as it pleases – especially when they subvert the law.”

    Hey, to the Victor, Spoils – Andrew Jackson.

  57. r v Says:

    Raj,

    Here is the bit I don’t understand, the “referendum screening committee” members obviously had the authority to vote to either accept or reject an initiative. So a majority voted to reject the initiative, and now the TSU is complaining (and even filing a lawsuit against the 12 members who voted to reject the initiative).

    That’s very strange, were they obligated to vote to accept the initiative? I mean, if they couldn’t possibly vote to reject, then it shouldn’t even be a vote in that committee. (Yet, that would defeat the very purpose of the “screening committee”.)

    The TSU’s lawsuit alleges “malfeasance” by the committee members, which is defined as “The commission of an act that is unequivocally illegal or completely wrongful.” Now, is the TSU alleging that that a “vote” is illegal or completely wrong? By definition, a vote is an expression of opinion, and implied authority for members to vote differently and disagree. (Afterall, this is not 1 of Saddam’s votes, where he gets 90% approval, and he orders the execution of the 10% who disapproved!! LOL!)

    I frankly, cannot understand how TSU can allege that in a “democracy”, a vote by committee members authorized to vote, could be considered “malfeasance” just because TSU didn’t like the outcome.

    It seems to me that TSU is simply alleging that the committee did not justify their votes sufficiently to TSU’s satisfaction. (in which case, I don’t think Taiwanese laws required the committee members to explain and justify their votes, similar to most committees in US government).

  58. Raj Says:

    r v

    (56)

    Actually, “more trade” is general enough to include “carte blanche” within the rules.

    What rules? The KMT merely promised to improve trade. If the KMT want to act like autocrats, they can try. But don’t pretend they’re justified in being like that or the public like it.

    “If the KMT betrays the Taiwanese people, maybe they should have known what they were voting for (though you cannot deny the KMT has gone a good job to largely shake off its authoritarian past), but that doesn’t mean the KMT has the right to do as it pleases – especially when they subvert the law.”

    Hey, to the Victor, Spoils

    What would you do if someone won an election in your hometown and said “I like r v’s house – I’ll take that now I’m mayor”. He has the power now he’s mayor, even if he really, really shouldn’t do that and he arguably is using his power illegally, or at least improperly.

    Would you oppose his action and ask others for help, or would you just hand over the keys?

    (57)

    Yes, they are obliged to accept the initiative provided it meets the criteria set down in the referendum law. They’re not there to decide what is a good referendum, they’re there to make sure it’s not random rubbish like “do you agree Ma should buy a poodle for his wife’s birthday” or unconstitutional like “do you think women should lose the right to vote”.

    The TSU’s position (as I understand it) is that the KMT committee members overstepped their authority by inventing a reason to veto the referendum proposals, when they were merely there to ensure that the proposal met the standards required.

  59. S.K. Cheung Says:

    “MY POV is playing by the technicalities of such “representative democracies”, doesn’t mean I endorse the system.”
    —I wasn’t specifically referring to your POV. It has been suggested by people here in the past (I can’t remember exactly who) that a representative democracy isn’t “democratic enough” because the government did not seek voter support for any given specific measure or law. My point is simply that you can’t have it both ways. If you feel that direct democracy is required, then you should also feel that the KMT ought to be issuing a referendum. If you feel the KMT is under no obligation to issue a referendum because the voters have already spoken and it should now be in the hands of the representatives, then that’s perfectly fine but don’t turn around and complain about the lack of direct democracy when it suits you (not directed at RV, but at people in general).

    That said, certain jurisdictions have certain rules that allow for direct democracy/referendum is certain specific instances. For instance, California had it for Prop 8, among others. Massachusetts had it for their health reform under Mitt Romney, I believe. My province has such rules, and in fact we are going through such a process right now. So whether the KMT should or should not be obligated to call a referendum really depends on what Taiwanese law stipulates. In my province, for instance, it starts with a petition question. Petitioners then have a prescribed amount of time to collect a minimum number of voter signatures. If that bar is met, then the petition question is presented to a standing committee of our legislature, whose legally prescribed options are to call a referendum on the petition question or to directly pass the question onto the legislative assembly members as a bill. Presumably, Taiwan has their own legislated procedure for such a process. So it all depends on what that process is. If the KMT is ignoring the legal process, then people may have a gripe. If protesters simply haven’t met the threshold to trigger the referendum process, then they don’t have a gripe. So does anyone know the relevant Taiwanese legislation? For instance, does the law allow this “screening committee” to vote their opinion, or are they bound to vote based on specifically prescribed criteria, and have they ignored those bounds.

  60. r v Says:

    Raj,

    “What rules? The KMT merely promised to improve trade. If the KMT want to act like autocrats, they can try. But don’t pretend they’re justified in being like that or the public like it.”

    The rules of the “Referendum Screening Committee” and other Taiwan government internal “technicalities”. Nothing autocratic. All rule based. It’s not like the DPP or the people didn’t know about the Committee’s authority to reject referendums.

    “What would you do if someone won an election in your hometown and said “I like r v’s house – I’ll take that now I’m mayor”. He has the power now he’s mayor, even if he really, really shouldn’t do that and he arguably is using his power illegally, or at least improperly.”

    Actually, that has been done in US, it’s called “Eminent Domain”, in city of New London, Connecticut. Some people complained about it and sued the city, but the US Supreme Court sided with the city, concluding that the City government and the State government had the power to do so, (again, just because some citizens didn’t realize the city had the power, that doesn’t mean that the city didn’t have the power.) That was also some legal “technicality” that the average citizen didn’t know about.

    Well, the law doesn’t stop just for the ignorance of the people. It’s not some secret law or secret “committee”. The People of New London voted their own city council, who later decide to take away some citizens’ homes (with a compensation based upon a very depressed market), and give the land to private building developer. The city had different sets of priorities and it had the authority to exercise whatever is in its authority, in its discretion.

    “arguably is using his power illegally, or at least improperly”?

    That would depend on the degree of discretion for his specific authority. Wide degree of discretion means more likelihood of legal authority. Obviously, in the case of the “Referendum Screening Committee” in Taiwan, they had plenty of latitude to reject a referendum. The members are probably not required to explain or justify their votes. Obviously, most politicians make “votes” based upon their own personal opinions, it would be silly and politically impossible to require every politician to justify their “votes” to prove their LEGALITY. There is simply no such requirement.

    Imagine a US Congressman required to justify his “votes” in Congress to prove that his “no” vote on a bill is “legal”? That would be fundamentally anti-Democratic.

    “Would you oppose his action and ask others for help, or would you just hand over the keys?”

    That would be a hypothetical that I would say happened in US, and US Supreme Court basically said there is nothing a citizen can do (except perhaps vote the mayor out of office in the next election, but it would be too late by then any ways.)

    (Obviously, hence, I don’t believe in the Common man’s illusion of “representative Democracy”. I mean, just read US Supreme Court’s decision, Kelo vs. City of New London CT. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelo_v._City_of_New_London. Well, the court said the government of the “People” could do just that. Who am I to argue otherwise?)

    If I’m unlucky enough to be in that scenario? Well, fortunately, I know the law better than most “People”, and I am prepared to use legal means ahead of time to prevent the “technicalities” from harming me.

    In the ECFA case, DPP and TSU just got outsmarted by KMT on technicalities over and over again. Their lawyers obviously was not preparing them well enough ahead of the time. I mean, sending a referendum through a KMT controlled “committee” might as well be like ramming head against brick wall. But of course, DPP and TSU obviously intended to “ram head against” that brick wall to just cry foul, (clearly trying to fan up anti-mainland hysteria again.)

    It’s not the 1st time that DPP and the TSU tried similar tricks. Ie. going kamakaze against some technicalities that they know they won’t win, and then play the victim card. (Of course, Republicans and Democrats in US do the same thing. Such is partisan politics.)

    If I was running the DPP and the TSU, I would be more conciliatory, KNOWING that the DPP and the TSU have not been in dominant position in Taiwan politics for quite some time. It is obvious that KMT managed to repair its internal split of the PFP folks in the last few years, BECAUSE of DPP’s highly non-cooperative stands. DPP managed to unite KMT in ways KMT leaders couldn’t do (with their anti-mainlander ethnicity politics, “blatant interference” with Taiwanese businesses, and their own internal corruptions).

    In essence, DPP squandered its opportunity to take control of negotiations with China. Once DPP’s power waned and KMT’s power rose, it’s too late for the DPP supporters. DPP’s current actions are merely desperations, and would not be effectively. TSU’s lawsuits will be likely rejected as desperate actions.

    *”Yes, they are obliged to accept the initiative provided it meets the criteria set down in the referendum law. They’re not there to decide what is a good referendum, they’re there to make sure it’s not random rubbish like “do you agree Ma should buy a poodle for his wife’s birthday” or unconstitutional like “do you think women should lose the right to vote”.

    The TSU’s position (as I understand it) is that the KMT committee members overstepped their authority by inventing a reason to veto the referendum proposals, when they were merely there to ensure that the proposal met the standards required.”

    “Overstepping authority” would be a charge of “Ultra-vires”, ie. outside authority. That would be different than “Malfeasance”, which is act of clear illegality. Generally, “malfeasance” of officials involve clear acts of LYING, deceit, misrepresentation, fraud, Conflict of Interest, in official actions.

    So far, I do not believe your understanding is correct regarding the nature of the lawsuit. I believe the TSU’s allegation is that the members use “personal opinions” to formulate their vote to the detriment of Taiwan. (Kind of similar to “conflict of interest” part of “malfeasance”.) However, that allegation is simply without much merit, since EVERY politician use “personal opinion” to formulate their votes.

    In a “Malfeasance” suit from TSU, TSU has 2 problems:
    (1) “personal opinions” are obviously allowed in virtually all political votes. Having a “personal opinion” in a vote, is not an illegal act by a politician.
    (2) the “detriment” to Taiwan proof. This is the “harm”/damages proof portion of a lawsuit. A general allegation that a “VOTE” by a committee member some how harmed Taiwan is too vague of an allegation. It would be similar to a US citizen suing a Congressman for his “vote” that sent his son to the Iraqi War. No rational court would consider that a sufficient proof of real damages. Also, any “detriment” to Taiwan would be speculative. Afterall, ECFA’s effect is not realized, and probably cannot be fully accounted for all of its positive and negative effects in the future.

    As I said, if TSU is alleging that the Committee members “overstepped” their authorities, then it should be a charge of “ultra-vires” actions. But that is not the charge. So I don’t believe that’s the allegation. (otherwise, it wouldn’t fit the charge).

    As for “inventing a reason to reject the referendum”, I don’t believe that can stick as evidence of “ultra-vires” actions. The Committee is not a court, it is not required to issue “reasonings” for its individual members’ votes. Committee members may debate about the referendum and state SOME of their reasons for their positions, but they are not required to state ALL of their reasons to justify their eventual votes. (This is similar to Congress, where individual Congressman can make speeches in debates, but there is no requirement that every Congressman justify their “reasons” in votes.)

    If the committee members “invented reasons” for their votes, that’s their own “personal opinion”. The law does not require the court to review their personal opinions. The law only requires that they cast their vote according to their own opinions. (Such political questions are generally discretionary, and courts will not review them.)

  61. raventhorn4000 Says:

    Taiwan’s anti-China crowd “repackaging” theories to fit the anti-ECFA argument.

    Around 2003, Taiwan’s anti-China crowd were denouncing a concept of Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), which went into force between mainland, HK and Macau on 1/1/2004. The prediction was, CEPA was going to cause down fall of HK and Macau’s economy.

    Well, that didn’t happen. So naturally, some “repackaging” of the old theory was necessary, so naturally, the anti-China crowd used the same theory for the ECFA, calling it “more poisonous than the CEPA”, and proceeded to list the ills of the CEPA.

    What ills of CEPA? Well, in 2003, CEPA was predicted to cause economic doom for HK. (Didn’t happen, foreign investment in HK grew, property values stagnated but then boomed again.) So naturally, more narrowing of the ills was necessary.

    No, CEPA did not doom HK, but let’s not talk about that. Instead, the anti-China crowd said, CEPA cause “economic disparity” in HK, a most severe one. In fact, they said, a UN report said, HK was the #1 in economic disparity. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2010/06/25/2003476344

    Yes, that’s true, but the complete UN report (here: http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/107980/countries-with-the-biggest-gaps-between-rich-and-poor) also listed (#2) Singapore and (#3) US, as close runner-ups on economic disparity.

    Imagine that! HK being a little worse than Singapore and US! Yes, HK is wealthier, but it has more “disparity”.

    So, instead of “economic doom”, CEPA has left the poor behind. (Never mind that a large section of HK’s poor people are new immigrant workers.) (also never mind that Macau’s economy has also grown since CEPA, by 39.4% in 2007.)

    I guess that’s what they meant by “damn lies and statistics”. I guess if your predictions didn’t work, find some small 1-sided factoid without comparisons to repackage old theories.

  62. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To RV:
    “I believe the TSU’s allegation is that the members use “personal opinions” to formulate their vote to the detriment of Taiwan. (Kind of similar to “conflict of interest” part of “malfeasance”.) However, that allegation is simply without much merit, since EVERY politician use “personal opinion” to formulate their votes.”
    —that is true, of course, when it comes time to vote on a piece of legislation. However, it again comes down to the legal options afforded to this committee by Taiwan’s referendum laws. As I suggested earlier, in my jurisdiction, the standing committee has no legal power to “veto” a petition. In fact, they don’t even have the responsibility of certifying the legitimacy of the signatures gathered by the petitioners; that job goes to an independent electoral body. But once this committee in my home province is presented with a valid petition, they legally only have 2 options, and “voting their opinion” or veto is not one of them. So it again boils down to what powers this committee has on the basis of relevant Taiwanese legislation. If the law doesn’t give them the power to “veto”, they may have done something “illegal” (ie not allowed by the law) without committing any malfescence as you have described.

  63. r v Says:

    “Vote to reject” is not a “veto”, even if the Raj characterized it as a “veto”.

    The “Referendum screening committee” could obviously vote to reject an initiative. Obviously, a vote of this nature in such a committee involves “accepting” or “rejecting” an initiative.

    A “veto” is an override (or unilateral stopping) of a policy that has been approved by an authorized legislative body. For example, if Congress voted to approve a bill, then the President “veto” it. Clearly, this “initiative” in Taiwan is not the case of a “veto”. It has not been voted on by any legislative body, it is only at the screening stage. One can’t “veto” something that hasn’t been voted and approved yet.

  64. Raj Says:

    r v (60)

    Whether it’s compulsory purchase with reasonable compensation paid, or an arbitrary siezure with no compensation paid, you did not tell me what your position would be if it happened to you. You declared “to the victor the spoils”. So, are you trying to tell me that you believe the State has the right to do whatever it likes to you? You’re the victim, you haven’t done anything wrong, and those in power are abusing their authority. Is it still “to the victor the spoils”? Come on, I’m waiting to hear from you.

    As for the referendum, I couldn’t care less about what particular grounds the TSU are basing their action on. It doesn’t change the fact that the referendum committee is there to only ensure the referendum initiative has ticked the right boxes. Its role is purely administrative, but the KMT turned it into a means of stopping a referendum they didn’t want to take place – as they have done previously, though in the past they didn’t have control of the Cabinet-level appeals committee so DPP referendums were put to the vote.

    If you want to dispute that account of what happened, please put your arguments down as to why it was a justified action.

    As for the word “veto”, look it up in a dictionary. It doesn’t just refer to presidential (and similar) veto. It can mean blocking something as the referendum committee did.

  65. r v Says:

    There is a lesson of “wording” in this:

    Raj calls this “vote” by the Referendum Screening Committee a “veto”. So does some DPP and TSU folks. But obviously, there is a difference between “vote” and a “veto”.

    A “veto” implies that there was already a “vote” that approved the initiative as referendum. But in fact, there wasn’t. The “screening committee” is the 1st government body that votes to approve or reject such an initiative.

    In fact, this was JUST a “vote”, not a “veto”. It didn’t override any previous vote on the initiative. So let us be clear.

    *But I do wonder, why bother to mislabel something into something that it clearly is not? Obviously, a “veto” sounds more like it’s a “rule by dictat”, a “vote” would sound very democratic. Afterall, a committee that “voted” sounds very ordinarily democratic. But a committee that “VETO’ed” sounds very diabolical.

    ***Speaking of “VETO”, what is the purpose of this “referendum”? Well, actually, it is to “VETO” a legislative process of signing and implementing the ECFA. The Taiwanese legislative process was going to implement the ECFA, and the DPP didn’t have the votes to stop it. So they knew they were going to lose, so they called for a “referendum” to reject the ECFA before it is even signed.

    From a legal point of view, such a referendum is just flawed.
    (1) you can’t call for a referendum to reject an ECFA, the terms of which have not been finalized in negotiations. Ie. what is the subject matter of the referendum?
    In general, a proper referendum is called to decide whether a law should be implement, ONLY after the TEXT of the law is clearly presented to the voting public. Ie. voters cannot vote for a “draft” of a law. DPP and TSU’s initiative did not even disclose any versions of the ECFA, ONLY generally asked whether voters approved or disapproved the signing of ECFA by Taiwan.
    That would be akin to a referendum asking voters to decide whether they approve a tax law that doesn’t even include any numbers. “Referendum of laws by name only” is essentially a referendum for nothing at all.
    (2) The committee on June 3 said the referendum question and content contradicted one another. TSU and DPP appealed, but did not bother to change the text of the referendum.
    This has to do with the legal difference between an “initiative” vs. a “referendum”. (There is a similar difference in US laws as well). In Taiwan, an “initiative” asks the voters to approve a proposed NEW policy, a “referendum” asks the voter to DISAPPROVE an existing policy. There is no provision to vote to approve an already existing policy, and no vote to Reject a new policy that has not been implemented. (The reasoning is simple, old policies in place does not require MORE approval, and new policies not yet implemented should be properly legislated BEFORE subjecting to voter disapproval.) In the case here, DPP and TSU is clearly trying to stop normal legislative process by a preemptive voter decision. (Like I said, it’s like a do-over, when you know you are going to lose.)

    An “initiative” must be in the form of “Do you approve of [New policy X]”. A “referendum” must be in the form of “Do you disapprove of “[OLD policy Y]”. The reason for the strict wording format is to prevent voter confusion.
    In the case of ECFA, it is clearly a NEW policy (again, the text of which is not fully negotiated until very recently). So in theory, it must be an initiative, with the wording “Do you approve of the signing of ECFA, [attach text of ECFA].”
    TSU and DPP’s proposal actually called for a “referendum” (improper). The wording of TSU’s “referendum” is actually “do you approve of or disapprove of the signing of the ECFA.” (translated) In essence, the “referendum” had improper form in the text of the question, and the “referendum” is to reject a NEW policy that has not even been negotiated, not proper in Taiwan.

  66. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To RV:
    thanks for the explanation in #65. So if and when the ECFA is passed into law, will there be a finite period of time before the law is implemented (ie. an effective date at some later time) to allow for an opportunity to request a properly-worded referendum per your definition?

    “The “Referendum screening committee” could obviously vote to reject an initiative.”
    —that goes to what I was asking in #62. The reason I asked was that, in my jurisdiction for instance, with the currently ongoing petition, the legislative standing committee does not have the power to reject the petition. They only have 2 legally prescribed options in response to a successful petition. So I was wondering if the Taiwanese committee is endowed with a broader mandate than that, including rejecting it outright.

  67. Raj Says:

    r v

    I’m still waiting for confirmation as to whether your resolute belief in “to the victor the spoils” applies to your property.

    A “referendum” must be in the form of “Do you disapprove of “[OLD policy Y]

    Complete nonsense. The KMT themselves asked a referendum question at the last election that made no reference to the policy then, only asking whether Taiwan should apply to rejoin the UN.

    If the KMT turn down the referendum on the ECFA because it wasn’t asking for disapproval of existing policy, then they should have rejected their own referendum – as they still had control of the referendum committee then. But then the KMT don’t block their own referendums.

  68. Legalist Says:

    Big pic is ecfa will be law. The rest is detail. Dpp and its supporters need move on.

  69. r v Says:

    It appears that the Referendum Screening Committe, or “Referendum Review committee” (RRC) in Taiwan, has the power to reject petition for referendum for various reasons.
    (1) the name of the committee itself is rather telling of its authority. It could review and “screen” referendum.
    (2) TSU and DPP submitted the petition to the RRC in several attempts, there was no question of its authorities.
    (3) *this is a new point. A mere sufficient number of signature does not mean the petition itself is valid by a legal point of view. Afterall, a petition with fundamental defects, (such as improper referendum on laws that have not been finalized), would also invalidate the signatures.
    For example, if a referendum included the WRONG text of the law for consideration. Obviously, if the voters read the INCORRECT version of the law, their signatures on the petition would be invalid. (ie. they thought they were rejecting law A, version 2, when the referendum asked them to reject law A, version 3.) That’s just basic informed consent.

    “So if and when the ECFA is passed into law, will there be a finite period of time before the law is implemented (ie. an effective date at some later time) to allow for an opportunity to request a properly-worded referendum per your definition?”

    As I said, BEFORE the implementation of the ECFA, it is still a NEW policy. That would mean an “initiative” to approve the ECFA, not a “referendum” to reject. The TSU and DPP could petition for an “initiative”, BUT, I suspect that they tried to avoid an “initiative”, because an “initiative” would generally require a high level of requirements, perhaps more signatures, and more wording requirements, more attached texts of the policy.

    Generally, an “initiative” would have a higher standard than a “referendum”, because an “initiative” to approve a new policy would effectively bypass the legislative process completely. In an initiative, the voters will decide whether a new policy should become law, instead of the legislature, and then the Executive will obide by the voters’ decision. A “Referendum” in Taiwan would be more like a no-confidence vote or a public “repeal” of an old legislative action.

    In US, an “initiative” would require more signatures than a “referendum.”

  70. r v Says:

    Raj,

    “I’m still waiting for confirmation as to whether your resolute belief in “to the victor the spoils” applies to your property.”

    I thought I already answered you, but OK, you want a yes/no type answer? Then YES, if I’m unprepared for the US laws of eminent domain, as applied to my property, as a lawyer, I would deserve it.
    Fortunately, I actually know enough to avoid the situation of the “victors” coming after my property, and your hypothetical would probably happen to others before it happens to me.

    Here is another quote from US, “I don’t have to outrun the bears, I just have to outrun you.”

    *”Complete nonsense. The KMT themselves asked a referendum question at the last election that made no reference to the policy then, only asking whether Taiwan should apply to rejoin the UN.

    If the KMT turn down the referendum on the ECFA because it wasn’t asking for disapproval of existing policy, then they should have rejected their own referendum – as they still had control of the referendum committee then. But then the KMT don’t block their own referendums.”

    In 2008, the committee also approved a DPP “referendum” with similar wording, along with KMT’s “referendum”. (at least fair in 2008).
    Additionally, the Referendum laws in Taiwan has undergone constant changes since enactment in 2004. Obviously, 2010 RRC doesn’t go by what standards were used in 2008, it goes by what standards are in use in 2010. Taiwan’s Constitutional provision for referendum and Initiative is extremely general. Specific criteria for the RRC is developed under its own authority over time. (So, NO, no single standard from 2008 to 2010. The RRC is obviously authorized to change the standards of its review and screening.)

    BUT, I don’t think your iimplication that KMT controlled the committee in the referenda of 2008 was valid. The 2 “referenda” in question were on the ballot in March 2008, but petitioned and approved at end of 2007. KMT only took majority in the legislature in JANUARY of 2008, and won the presidential election in MARCH of 2008. The 2 “referenda” were already SCHEDULE by 1/1/2008. (which means, the RRC was not controlled by KMT, when the “referenda” were approved and scheduled by the RRC.)

  71. Raj Says:

    r v

    You’re talking about a very specific legal measure without any context as to why it is being used. At no time have I said that the State should not use the powers it has, the point is what happens if the powers are abused. You made a flippant comment that suggested the State has/legislators have the right to do as it/they please provided the letter of the law is met. You say that you’re a lawyer, but you should know that the letter of the law is not sufficient. Moreover I doubt very much that you would see things that way if power was abused against you in a way you couldn’t easily predict.

    As for being able to “avoid” the situation, I don’t know about American law but in the UK you cannot pre-emptively protect yourself from compulsory purchase. You can attempt to resist the purchase, but it’s all down to the courts. If they feel that the authorities have dotted the “i”s and crossed the “t”s there’s little you can do about it.

    Additionally, the Referendum laws in Taiwan has undergone constant changes since enactment in 2004. Obviously, 2010 RRC doesn’t go by what standards were used in 2008, it goes by what standards are in use in 2010.

    What changes have happened since 2007/2008 that mean you must ask a referendum question disagreeing with an old policy? I’d be interested to know what part of the statute says this (and when it was passed).

    By the way, the title of the referendum committee does not empower them to do as they please. As a lawyer you should know that. The only lawyers that would try to run that type of justification in court would be bad ones or ones with very weak cases.

    In 2008, the committee also approved a DPP “referendum” with similar wording, along with KMT’s “referendum”

    Really? Because I remember in 2007 that same committee turning down a DPP referendum question but approving a KMT one.

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2007/09/17/2003379144

    The KMT’s version of a referendum asks: “Do you agree this country should apply to return to the UN and other international organizations with a practical and flexible strategy, that is, do you approve using the name ROC, or Taiwan, or other names conducive both to the success of the mission and to maintaining dignity?”

    The committee, which in June turned down the DPP’s proposal for a referendum on the nation’s application to join the UN using the name “Taiwan,” gave the go-ahead to the KMT’s proposal late last month.

    The reason the DPP proposal went ahead was because of the non-KMT controlled executive appeal committee.

    BUT, I don’t think your iimplication that KMT controlled the committee in the referenda of 2008 was valid.

    I think it is. The KMT alone might not have had sufficient votes, but it did with the PFP. And until the PFP effectively (officialy?) merged with the KMT, the PFP pretty much did what the KMT wanted. I can think of just two significant examples of where they disagreed in the legislative between 2004 and 2008, towards the end of the period over arms purchases (after years of cooperating to stall them) and the appointment of a chief prosecutor. There may have been a few more instances of disagreement, but generally they voted as a block.

  72. r v Says:

    Raj,

    “You’re talking about a very specific legal measure without any context as to why it is being used. At no time have I said that the State should not use the powers it has, the point is what happens if the powers are abused. You made a flippant comment that suggested the State has/legislators have the right to do as it/they please provided the letter of the law is met. You say that you’re a lawyer, but you should know that the letter of the law is not sufficient. Moreover I doubt very much that you would see things that way if power was abused against you in a way you couldn’t easily predict.”

    I don’t know how you distinguish laws “used” and laws “abused”. “Letter of the law is not sufficient”? I frankly don’t know what you mean by that. What else would law require? (Not to say I disagree with your sentiment, I just don’t know what specific thing you think is missing in the current “abuse” you complain about.)
    “abused against me in a way I couldn’t easily predict”? If I know the “letter of the law” well, it’s very predictable (as least to a cynic like me), I can easily predict the worst possible scenario from the letter of the law. (For example, if the law says the state could take my house away, and there are no regulations or guidelines on how they will do it, I can obviously reason that they can take my house away at a moment’s notice. In which case, I would advise against owning a house. Very predictable.)

    “As for being able to “avoid” the situation, I don’t know about American law but in the UK you cannot pre-emptively protect yourself from compulsory purchase. You can attempt to resist the purchase, but it’s all down to the courts. If they feel that the authorities have dotted the “i”s and crossed the “t”s there’s little you can do about it.”

    I said “avoid”, not “protect”. I would not be foolish enough to consider myself capable of “protecting” myself against Government regulations of any kind. It’s the difference between dropping food on the ground and running away from a bear, and locking yourself up in a wooden box full of food hoping that the bear can’t break it down. (I of course, see a bear and I try run away as far as possible.)

    “What changes have happened since 2007/2008 that mean you must ask a referendum question disagreeing with an old policy? I’d be interested to know what part of the statute says this (and when it was passed).

    By the way, the title of the referendum committee does not empower them to do as they please. As a lawyer you should know that. The only lawyers that would try to run that type of justification in court would be bad ones or ones with very weak cases.”

    Actually, lots of Committees in governments are empowered to make rules and changes to rules on their own (which are not technically laws), For example, the Courts of US can make their own rules on civil and criminal procedure based upon their interpretation of the Constitution. Generally, these “rules” are valid, unless the legislature specifically pass laws in contrary. (There are laws, and then there are rules.)
    I never said the title of the RRC “empower” them to “do as they please”. They have their rules.
    I think you are a bit unclear about what exactly you are accusing RRC of doing, because if they are “abusing” the law, they are obviously at least following the “letter of the law” by your logic.

    “The reason the DPP proposal went ahead was because of the non-KMT controlled executive appeal committee.”

    Well, in the end the RRC still gave the go-ahead.

    “I think it is. The KMT alone might not have had sufficient votes, but it did with the PFP. And until the PFP effectively (officialy?) merged with the KMT, the PFP pretty much did what the KMT wanted. I can think of just two significant examples of where they disagreed in the legislative between 2004 and 2008, towards the end of the period over arms purchases (after years of cooperating to stall them) and the appointment of a chief prosecutor. There may have been a few more instances of disagreement, but generally they voted as a block.”

    “voting as a block”. Some would call that simple “politicking” or alliance building. PFP was free to disagree with KMT. If they agree, and the PFP form a majority with the KMT, that’s “democracy”.
    In every “democracy”, the majorities make rules favoring its own side. Hence, “To the victor, spoils”.
    Obviously, you probably would have preferred a committee with 1 KMT member and 1 DPP member. (which will probably never agree on any thing, and defeat every referendum, and lawsuits will fly for every referendum.) But that’s not how the “democracy” in Taiwan works.
    In short, it was NOT a KMT controlled committee in 2007 (when the 2 referenda were approved). PFP might be sympathetic to KMT’s views, but obviously they disagreed on things, and you can’t predict PFP’s votes before hand. (I mean, seriously, it’s never fair to be in the minority, but that doesn’t mean the vote was unfair. It just means you are in the minority, ie. the losing side.)

  73. Raj Says:

    r v

    I don’t know how you distinguish laws “used” and laws “abused”.

    The former is just a law being used for any reason. The latter is a law being used for the purposes it was not originally intended – e.g. civil emergency laws designed to temporarily allow the State to have increased powers to deal with an actual emergency, being invoked purely to delay/cancel an election and arrest members of the Opposition and media.

    Or in this case, a committee expected to merely check technical details using its powers to block a proposed referendum because the ruling party is scared of losing.

    “Letter of the law is not sufficient”? I frankly don’t know what you mean by that.

    What I was trying to say is that it is not always sufficient to claim that the letter of the law empowers someone to do something/justifies an action. The intent of the law, also in the context of wider legal principles and other laws, also has to be looked at.

    Actually, lots of Committees in governments are empowered to make rules and changes to rules on their own (which are not technically laws)

    That’s irrelevant. Show me that the committee is empowered to change the rules by itself, or that the law says the question submitted over the ECFA was invalid. Otherwise just admit that the referendum committee abused its powers.

    Well, in the end the RRC still gave the go-ahead.

    Which committee are you talking about? The media article I quoted said that the KMT-dominated legislative committee turned it down.

    As for your characterisation of the relationship between the KMT and PFP, it was a lot stronger than you’re pretending. They used to be one party and now are again. As I said, they tended to vote as a block and rarely disagreed on important issues.

    But if you really, REALLY want to be pedantic, ok in 2007 it was a “Pan Blue-controlled committee”.

  74. Steve Says:

    @ r v #41: Yeah, I actually know quite a few of the details concerning that investigation. I also was aware of the eventual settlement between TSMC and the government. I’m not going to waste my time enlightening you on what happened since it’s pretty obvious to me that you didn’t bother to learn anything about the case. Here’s a place to start: look up Taiwan’s laws at the time about investing in China and then check out exactly what the government was investigating TSMC for in relation to those laws. Then look up how the laws were changed shortly after that, under Chen’s administration, to allow more investment in China. Then look up the UMC case while you’re at it.

    And I got most of my information from a very senior manager directly involved in their China operations and there weren’t lots and lots of those. And you got your information from??? Oh, you’re a lawyer so it’s from osmosis through the ether, I guess. If you don’t know, just say you don’t know. It’d be like me telling you what happened in an IP case your company worked on because I had read about it in the newspaper, then saying you can’t understand it because you didn’t work on it personally, even though you went to lunch with the lawyers who worked on it and discussed it with them. I’d be a fool to argue with you.

  75. Raj Says:

    I can’t link to an interesting SCMP article on its website, but it has been posted on the following blog.

    http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2010/07/scmp-hosts-wonderful-thinking-on-taiwan.html

    Beijing’s strategy is to wait for the magical economic elixirs it has given Taiwan to take effect. Once the Taiwanese have tasted the benefits of direct flights, millions of mainland tourists in Taiwan, and the fruits of free investment and trade across the Taiwan Strait, Beijing is optimistic that a political accommodation with Taiwan can be reached through negotiations and patience. This betrays a fundamental lack of understanding about the arc of Taiwanese history over the past three decades and what matters to the Taiwanese now. During the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, a mass democracy movement forced the KMT to hold free elections, end military law and censorship, and normalise Taiwanese society. While Taiwan’s politics are messy and its judiciary weak, Taiwan’s vibrant civil society enjoys the same political freedoms as people in North America or Europe.

    During Taiwan’s struggle for political emancipation, however, it deferred the problems of economic and social inequality. By 2000, it had become clear that the economy in particular had serious long-term problems. Incomes stagnated and unemployment rose as the promised knowledge and service-oriented economy never materialised. To this day, Taiwan’s economy remains overly reliant on low-margin contract manufacturing that is itself dependent on the exploitive and dehumanising labour practices seen in Foxconn’s recent problems on the mainland. Taiwan’s educated and ambitious people aspire to much more.

    …The problem for the mainland and its long-term political goals is that Ma has now hit the limits of his mandate to open up the economy and has expended most of his political capital in forcing through the agreement without a referendum, against the wishes of about a third of the population.

    Like Japan, Taiwan is a society that prizes consensus. Unlike Japan, it is deeply divided as to its identity. Nonetheless, it is united in its determination to keep its hard-won political freedoms and the de facto but very real sovereignty that underpins its open society.

    If Ma were to exceed his mandate by putting Taiwanese sovereignty on the bargaining table with Beijing, he would risk significant unrest that would damage his already unpopular administration even further.

    He is politically vulnerable because, although Taiwan’s economy has made a sparkling recovery in terms of gross domestic product and other conventional economic indicators, Taiwan’s working people are waiting, with increasing impatience, for some of the benefits to trickle down to them.

    They will be waiting for a long time since the main effect of Ma’s mainland-oriented economic policies is that Taiwanese businessmen are being enabled to extend the life of their moribund business model even longer by relocating to the mainland to exploit its cheaper labour, instead of investing in new technologies and the service industry in Taiwan.

    The ineffectual and now deeply unpopular Ma is also the last ethnic mainlander politician in Taiwan with national appeal. After he leaves office in 2012 or 2016, the KMT has no one electable who still shares the mainland’s nationalist dreams. While it appears that all Beijing needs to do is to wait for Taiwan to rejoin the fold, the reality is that time is running out. It is probably in Taiwan’s interest that Beijing chooses to continue to believe in the illusion that unity of the Chinese people is coming soon.

  76. Steve Says:

    The way I see it, Taiwan had an election and voted in a large majority of KMT for the legislature, then voted for Ma as President. Part of their platform was pushing through the ECFA. All they’ve done was adhere to their platform. If the Taiwanese don’t like the results, they can vote out the KMT in the next election. It doesn’t matter whether or not I like the ECFA or even whether some Taiwanese like the ECFA, what matters is who they voted to represent them in the last election.

    Having said that, Raj raises the point of whether there was a valid referendum per the laws that was kept from the ballot. I have no idea how the laws work in Taiwan regarding such matters but if the government went against the law, then I can see his point. If they were within the law, then his point isn’t worth much. I can’t answer that question so I’ll just have to see how it plays out but if it was valid and the KMT didn’t adhere to the law, they’ll face the consequences in the next election.

    I didn’t like Bush but he was duly elected so I just held my breath until he was gone. Whoever wins, wins and we all just need to accept the consequences of their victory.

  77. S.K. Cheung Says:

    It seems that the Taiwanese courts will decide whether this “committee” overstepped its bounds or not. Until then, it’s conjecture upon speculation, unless there are Taiwanese legal experts in our midst who have yet to chime in.

    That notwithstanding, Taiwanese will get to render their judgment of Ma’s overall performance at their next election. The concept that China may be using economic “carrots” to entice Taiwanese warm and fuzzies in other aspects of society is no surprise to anyone, and presumably such a consideration will be a factor in the next election…and the one after that, and the one after that. Whether it plays out according to China’s visions remains to be seen. Whether China’s vision itself changes over time also remains to be seen.

  78. r v Says:

    Raj,

    “The former is just a law being used for any reason. The latter is a law being used for the purposes it was not originally intended – e.g. civil emergency laws designed to temporarily allow the State to have increased powers to deal with an actual emergency, being invoked purely to delay/cancel an election and arrest members of the Opposition and media.”

    I still don’t know how you can distinguish the 2, unless you can clearly read minds. Any political party can accuse the opposition of “abusing” the law “for the purposes it was not originally intended”. The “letter” of the law is the “letter”.
    and how do you prove “original intention” of the laws? By the party that passed the law? I mean, in that case, are we going by DPP’s words on what the Referendum Law was intended? That would seem logically also an “abuse” in itself!

    “That’s irrelevant. Show me that the committee is empowered to change the rules by itself, or that the law says the question submitted over the ECFA was invalid. Otherwise just admit that the referendum committee abused its powers.”

    perhaps you should show me where the “intent” of the law is written, so I can understand how the RRC “abused” its power.

  79. r v Says:

    Steve,

    Instead of telling me where to start, (and you mostly pointed to LAWS, which I probably understand better than you do), why don’t you just tell us the details that you think I don’t know.

    “Lawyers” learn through osmosis through ether? That’s great, though I’m not entirely sure if you think that’s bad or good. Maybe I do learn that way.

    But hey, I know enough about what happened to other “investigations”, perhaps you know something I don’t about this one, so just show it. Telling me to go look up more LAWS isn’t really telling me anything.

  80. Steve Says:

    @ r v: I have no desire to waste my time with a person who has yet to make a cogent argument about anything on this thread. You’ve never lived in Taiwan, never studied Taiwan law, never worked in the semiconductor industry in Taiwan, never met a prosecutor in Taiwan, never met a manager at TSMC, know nothing about the case yet you spit out opinions as if you argued the case. If I wasn’t there when this happened, hadn’t talked to people who were in the middle of it when it happened and heard from them after it had been resolved, I wouldn’t have said a thing about it since I just wouldn’t have known enough to have an opinion. Are you getting my drift? You have no idea what you’re talking about. You live in Washington DC but now you’re an expert on Taiwan law. Yeah, right. I don’t think you understand anything about Taiwan law, especially based on what you’ve written on this post.

    If you have lived in Taiwan, studied Taiwan law, worked on this case, know senior managers at TSMC who gave you a rundown of what happened after it was resolved, I humbly apologize and bow to your superior knowledge.

    But if not, it’s perfectly fine to say “Gee, I just don’t know”.

  81. Jason Says:

    @Raj

    About the failure of DPP to convince people to protest,

    I really don’t care about people who don’t protest the views that is being shared between the protestors and the one who didn’t protest.

    What I care is DPP tout that they believe that 100,000 people should show up but in reality about 10,000 and another day 32,000 people showed up means something DPP did was not convincing. I don’t care if DPP doesn’t “show off” but what I find annoying is DPP can talk to talk but can’t walk to walk.

    DPP doesn’t dispute the police numbers.

  82. r v Says:

    Steve,

    You made the claim that the “investigation” was “not a big deal”. I’m just asking you to provide details that you claim you have. If you don’t want to, fine. I’ll just part with what most lawyers would say, ANY “investigation” is pretty intrusive and “big deal”.

    Perhaps TSMC is different and an exception, but we apparently have no details on the “no big deal”.

  83. r v Says:

    Raj,

    1 more thought, perhaps some basic legal concepts:

    Perhaps you mean “legislative intent” by your “intention”, but I think you have the name close, but the concept off a bit.

    In US, courts (and government agencies) do sometimes look at “legislative intent” for interpretation of laws. However, such “legislative intent” usually is found in the “letter of the law”, and not else where.

    If the “letter of the law” does not reflect “legislative intent”, then the “plain meaning” of the law” wins. Some Justices, like Scalia have look at other documents, outside of the law to determine “legislative intent”, but that is a minority view.

    In sum, at least in US, “legislative intent” is determined from the “letter of the law”. Thus, I still do not know what you mean by “Letter of the law is not sufficient”.

  84. Michael Turton Says:

    What I care is DPP tout that they believe that 100,000 people should show up but in reality about 10,000 and another day 32,000 people showed up means something DPP did was not convincing. I don’t care if DPP doesn’t “show off” but what I find annoying is DPP can talk to talk but can’t walk to walk.

    DPP doesn’t dispute the police numbers.

    Actually the DPP claimed 150K showed up, the police lowballed them at 32K. This is standard practice, after the last march, in which I participated, and I estimated about 70,000 were there, the police said 10,000, but later when that was revealed to be an absurdity, they raised it to 40,000.

    The DPP, Liberty Times, and Apple Daily all said 150,000 showed up. That number is at least twice the number I heard from credible witnesses who were there. The police estimate is equally ludicrous and purely political. The police were actually forbidden from giving estimates by regulation a few years ago, but nobody pays attention. The media collects them by calling the local police station.

    A longtime newsman who marched told me about 70K showed up, and that 60-70K figure is a number I have heard elsewhere.

    Michael

  85. Rhan Says:

    “The police estimate is equally ludicrous and purely political.”

    Including the years when Taiwan was under DPP?

  86. Michael Turton Says:

    Yes, remember the police are largely pro-KMT. In fact as I said it became against regs to give out estimates.

  87. Jason Says:

    Gave us a link that says police are against giving estimates.

  88. Rhan Says:

    Michael,

    I think the police pro whoever is the “boss”, if you are at the North, you would notice most police pro KMT while at the South, I believe the police pro DPP.

    Most journalist prefer to ask the police for more unbiased estimation, otherwise who else can have a more reasonably assessment?

    Having said that, I find the argument on number seldom come to any sensible conclusion. It doesn’t prove much.

  89. pug_ster Says:

    Taiwanese parliament fight over ECFA. At times it looks like a circus…

    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6658794n&tag=api

  90. Raj Says:

    Rhan

    Most journalist prefer to ask the police for more unbiased estimation, otherwise who else can have a more reasonably assessment?

    Use your eyes? If you get a good vantage point you can come up with at least a rough estimate.

  91. Rhan Says:

    Raj, why my eyes? Not Jason or Michael or yours?

    I know what you mean, However, my experience tell me that we always have many version of numbers and all of them claim to have the best eyes and vantage point, don’t you think the police figure can work as concession?

  92. Josef Says:

    Rhan,
    certain groups or professions in Taiwan are still KMT dominated, even if the “boss” is DPP. Good examples are teachers, and more general, government employees.
    However, even if a majority is pro KMT it does not mean that the spokesperson is. So in the south it might be that numbers are pro-DPP tweaked. But I agree with you that arguing about the number does not prove much anyway.
    More solid, of course are the 100 000 signatures.

    Taipei Times reported today about another (2nd) attempt from the TSU:
    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2010/07/15/2003477986
    “The commission on Tuesday said it approved the TSU’s latest proposal after initially checking the number of those who co-signed the proposal — 104,293 — and will send the proposal to the review committee for confirmation.”
    But I guess the review committee will again reject it.

  93. pug_ster Says:

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China_Business/LG22Cb01.html

    Looks like Japan and South Korea wants to take advantage of the ECFA by propping up businesses in Taiwan.

  94. A Taiwanese working in Europe Says:

    I hope KMT lose in 2012 and we strengthen ties with USA.

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