Changing China

Giant on the move

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Why Taiwan mentioned China’s missiles




Taiwan and China, once bitter political rivals, jubilantly exchanged gifts after upbeat trade talks this week. But the festive atmosphere faded when Taiwan’s top policymaker Lai Shin-yuan reminded visiting Chinese negotiator Chen Yunlin of an ominous, obvious fact: Taiwan’s public feels “uncomfortable” with China aiming missiles at it.
Taiwan accuses China of pointing 1,000 to 1,500 short-range or mid-range missiles in its direction to deter any move toward de jure independence. Taiwan is self-ruled today but China claims it. Missiles, however, weren’t on this week’s can-do agenda. Taiwan’s Beijing-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou has said China-Taiwan talks for now should avoid political issues until more mutual trust accumulates through discussion of lighter topics such as trade.

And Lai’s statement did little good on the surface. Taiwan’s Chinese-language China Times newspaper said the Chinese negotiator replied that Beijing is in no hurry to discuss political issues. Another Taiwan paper, the United Daily News, reported that negotiator told Lai the missile issue would take time to solve.

Was the missile remark another gaffe like this? Or was Lai, who has something to prove, rushing ahead several years or decades, assuming that the two sides had already accumulated enough mutual trust?

There’s another explanation. Taiwan’s image-conscious government, often accused of cozying up to China because of the recent trade talks, just wanted to gain points at home by raising a populist issue. Otherwise, one blogger argues, the anti-China opposition party stands to gain. The party has drawn attention to itself by leading tens of thousands to protest against the Chinese negotiator’s Dec. 21-25 visit to Taiwan.

When I retire – I want to be a ballerina


What does retirement mean to you?

For a group of grandmothers in Taiwan’s Pingtung County, it means fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming ballerinas.

And now the women, most in their 60s, tackle everything from a “battement fondu” to an “arabesque” stance.

Chicks love vegetarians


Want to be sexy? Then don’t eat meat, says Taiwanese star Barbie Hsu.


“Vegetarians make chicks happy” is a new People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaign fronted by Hsu, better known in the Chinese speaking world as “Big S”.

PETA hope the actress, who shot to fame in the hit Taiwanese soap opera “Meteor Garden”, will appeal to younger Chinese.

What, this old junk?


Discarded computer parts

Before the triangular symbol taught us to recycle, reduce and reuse, recycling in Taiwan worked this way:

Early morning or late at night, a man riding a tricycle trailed a small wagon and his long shadow through an alley piled with waste under a lone street light. He collected the brown glass Taiwan Beer bottles, from a wedding banquet, possibly, and placed them into his wagon. Sometimes he hollered “Empty wine bottles for sale?”

China kinder to Obama than Bush?


How does one measure how U.S. President Barack Obama was received by the Chinese government?

I like to read the tea leaves and decided one measure might be to compare the reception Obama got in comparison with that given his predecessors.

Gritty blast from Taiwan’s gravelly past

Taiwan Premier Wu Den-yih has sued a former opposition legislator for defamation this week, seeking compensation of T$3 million ($92,715), the government news office said.

It’s not just another lawsuit. Lee Wen-chung, the former lawmaker who is now running for county chief executive in central Taiwan, has publicly accused the premier of going to Bali in December with a man involved in a Taiwan gravel mine to protect the operation while benefiting from it himself. Wu, a legislator in December, acknowledges the Bali trip but says he committed no crime.

A Hu-Ma summit in 2012?


When Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou was elected ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman in July, pundits jumped on the idea that he would use his new title to help secure a meeting with China’s President Hu Jintao. The first-of-a-kind summit would follow six decades of strained relations including China’s threats of military force against the island.

Ma’s new job, which he will take in mid-October, allows him to meet Communist Party Chairman Hu in a party-to-party role, laying aside each side’s presidential title. China does not recognise Taiwan’s presidency or other government institutions as it claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island.

Taiwan’s killer mudslides


After Taiwan’s worst storm in 50 years killed hundreds in massive mudslides last month, the government blamed the freak weather while survivors said the government’s slow response after the Aug. 7-9 storm made matters even worse.


Only recently, with reconstruction under way, have officials in the six-county disaster area begun asking what contributing factors may have caused the steep mountainsides to give way, hurling boulders and walls of mud onto riverside villages below. Nearly 770 people are presumed to have died, most of them buried alive.

Dalai Lama’s laugh lines

Before the Dalai Lama spoke on the sober subjects of religion and the environment in Taiwan during a speech this week, he opened with a quip about his English.

“First thing, no grammar, no proper grammar,” the 73-year-old said with a low-pitched staccato laugh while addressing a full auditorium of residents in the southern city of Kaohsiung. “There is a danger to get misunderstandings, so I always tell you, be careful Dalai Lama’s broken English.”

Chiang knew he’d lose to Mao


War is the last thing on the minds of Taiwan’s leaders these days as the island government moves to make friends with rival China. Even in far more hostile times, Taiwan’s KMT leadership had privately given up dreams of using force to take control of the mainland, according to documents that are now available for public viewing.


A public opening in May of the forested Back Cihu compound outside Taipei teaches 400 eager visitors per day how the island-based Republic of China government aimed to strike back at the Communist People’s Republic of China, but it ultimately abandoned the idea.