Ralph's Feed
Oct 26, 2009
via Environment Forum

Taiwan seeks to participate in U.N. climate convention


Taiwan, hit by its worst typhoon in 50 years in August, has found a culprit for the disaster that killed about 770 people and begun using it to get precious attention overseas where the island is usually overlooked in favour of its giant political rival China.Global warming is taking blame for Morakot, which was freakish as Taiwan’s only major typhoon of the year and because it lingered instead of blowing straight through. The island’s foreign ministry says that as global warming’s victim it should get to participate in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change  in time for its December talks in Copenhagen. Sixteen countries have already voiced support.”We are a victim of this problem. It’s closely related to the public’s economic interests,” said Yang Kuo-tung, director general of the foreign ministry’s treaties and legal affairs. Morakot’s incessant rain caused agricultural losses of T$16.47 billion ($510 million).  “It’s no laughing matter.”But Taiwan’s bid for participation faces a new kind of storm despite recent detente with China, a powerful veto-wielding Security Council member. China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949 and blocked more than a decade worth of applications to enter the United Nations on grounds that the self-ruled island lacks statehood.Taiwan dropped an the annual bid to join the whole United Nations this year  to avoid upsetting China, but figures that knocking at the door of a small U.N. agency would cause little stir, especially with the woes of Morakot in its back pocket. Taiwan would both teach and learn as a Convention participant, Yang said.But although China-Taiwan ties have improved via trade talks since mid-2008, officials in Beijing have resisted opening international organisations to Taiwan. Unless it whips up a powerful public relations storm that generates the kind of populist momentum at home and abroad that followed Taiwan’s colourful, music and video-enhanced U.N. bids, the island won’t make it for the Copenhagen talks and may wait up to two years before it can participate in the Convention, political analysts say.”I don’t think ordinary people know about this organisation,” said Alex Chiang, international politics associate professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “You have to let other people know we’re qualified for participation. That’s the job for the government, telling people about it. They haven’t done much for public relations.”((Pictures — Top right: Motorcyclists stop at an intersection in Taipei September 23, 2009. Taiwan is known as the one of the highest motorbike-density country in the world and motorbikes are responsible for a big share of Taiwan’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to local media. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang. Left: Damaged buildings are seen after Typhoon Morakot swept Kaohsiung county, southern Taiwan August 11, 2009.  REUTERS/Stringer))

Oct 23, 2009

Taiwan reopens to U.S. bone-in beef after 6-year ban

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan will reopen its markets to U.S. bone-in beef most likely in November, ending a six-year import ban that was in place over fears of mad cow disease, and ushering improving ties with Washington, officials said on Friday.

Following other markets, Taiwan halted U.S. beef imports in response to the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States. As other markets reopened in recent years, Washington repeatedly urged the island government to let beef back in.

Oct 21, 2009
via Left field

Its baseball star fallen, Taiwan scopes alternatives


A chain of injuries suffered by New York Yankees star Wang Chien-ming is pushing a pair of more obscure Taiwan-born U.S. Major League Baseball pitchers into the limelight as dejected fans grudgingly seek alternatives.Fans in baseball-crazy Taiwan, though far from giving up on Wang, say they are looking harder at Ni Fu-te and Kuo Hong-chih. But unlike Wang, a starting pitcher responsible for winning games, the other two are relief pitchers and neither is quite a superhero.Wang, so famous in Taiwan that his jersey number, 40, is synonymous with his name, before 2008 was a league sensation whose sinker balls had earned him a 54-23 career win-loss record and a line-up of product sponsorships in Taiwan. Wang sat out much of the past two seasons.”To say that Wang Chien-ming will be replaced by these other two because he was injured, I wouldn’t go that far, but Taiwan’s Yankees viewership has been affected,” said Kang Cheng-nan, a physical education teacher at National Taiwan University. “The other two need to be monitored for longer, but if they do well, fans will watch.”Marginalised by giant economic powerhouse China, which claims sovereignty over the small, self-ruled Taiwan, the west Pacific island looks to its heroes for international recognition or for a sign that it can do something right overseas.One of the alternative Taiwan-born players, left-hander Ni of the Detroit Tigers  was described by the Major League Baseball website as a “valuable piece” of the team’s relief pitching staff since he debuted in June. Ni, 26, ended the 2009 season, his first in the U.S. major leagues, with a respectable earned run average (ERA) of 2.61, sparking Taiwan’s celeb-obsessed media to mention his name.Kuo, 28, of the Los Angeles Dodgers has a reputation for staying in play after five seasons despite four shoulder operations. He finished the 2009 season with a solid ERA of 3.0, and his name has appeared in commercials in Taiwan.When either appears on TV, and Kuo’s team is in the Major League Baseball post-season playoffs, Taiwan fans watch. “I personally think no one can replace Wang, and I hope he can come back,” said Yang Chi-hsiang, a second-year university student and softball player in Taipei. “But the other two are Taiwan players, so we’ll support them.”

Oct 19, 2009
via Changing China

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.Beijing’s state-run China Daily newspaper said such a meeting would signal “great reconciliation.”A meeting would best take place in 2012, according to a KMT spokesman, Lee Chien-jung.Before then, Ma will be wary of Taiwan’s divided public, Lee said. Taiwanese generally favour closer economic ties with China but oppose rushing into a relationship with the long-distrusted Communist government on fears that Beijing would compromise Taiwan’s self-rule, including its democracy. Ma will monitor opinion polls for any change in sentiment, the spokesman said, ruling out any meeting in the short term.Ma could also be embarrased at home if Hu declined to acknowledge his title as president.Odds of a meeting will surge in 2012 if Ma wins re-election by a big margin in March of that year, which would be an endorsement of China-friendly economic policies that have characterised his administration since he took office in May 2008.”That interpretation wouldn’t be too far off the mark,” Lee said.No doubt the KMT would also like to see political dividends from any momentum it can build ahead of the election for an expected summit that could occur if Ma were to win.In an exclusive interview with Reuters on Monday, Ma said he would not exclude the possibility of meeting with China’s leaders one day, adding that there was no timetable for any such meeting. “At the moment, we have our hands full with economic issues,” he said.Hu, expected to step down as president in 2013, might see 2012 as his last chance to meet Ma while in office — a historic moment that might qualify both sides for a Nobel Peace Prize.Taiwan and China have tacitly agreed to lay aside issues of military tension, international space and sovereignty while they build up basic trust after 60 years of little or no official contact.If the two sides break ice on these sensisitve political topics, in addition to the trade issues discussed to date, and can deliver any kind of tangible agreement beforehand, it would make sense for a summit 2012, said Raymond Wu, a political risk consultant in Taipei.”If Ma’s political standing at home is solid and Hu is the undisputed centre of power, then yes, I think both would like to meet,” Wu said.Photo: Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou speaks in an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Office in Taipei on Oct. 19, 2009. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

Oct 19, 2009

Taiwan leader sees steady GDP growth, eyes inflation

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said on Monday that the island needs to diversify its exports to stay competitive and forecast 4 percent economic growth next year.

Taiwan government forecasts of 3.92 percent growth next year and a 4.04 percent contraction this year as the tech-reliant economy eases out of a recession due to the worst global downturn since the Great Depression.

Oct 5, 2009

Extreme rocker takes Taiwan history, politics overseas

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Pop music-mad Taiwan has bred a mutant that is casting a long global shadow: an extreme metal band that roars about the island’s fractious politics and the dark side of its history.

Freddy Lim and his band Chthonic have made a name over the past few years as the only commercialized heavy metal band from Taiwan, as they take elements of their homeland, including hints of local music and issues such as the island’s struggles with China, to stages overseas.

Sep 17, 2009
via Changing China

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.

Sep 3, 2009
via Changing China

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.”His mischievous chuckle and self-depricating humour sent waves of laughter through the audience.A day earlier, when aides accidentally broke a table in front of the kneeling religious figure, he surprised a somber crowd of about 10,000 local Buddhists with the same laugh, generating applause. During a Tibetan-langauge prayer for the same audience, he suddenly put on a purple sun visor, breaking into English to say the overhead light was too strong. That time the crowd laughed.Quips and outbursts of laughter characterise the world-renowned Tibetan spiritual leader’s speeches as he uses humour, part of his core personality, to bring him closer to his listeners, people close to him say.But his visit to Taiwan is hardly a joke. During his Aug. 30-Sept. 4 visit, he has prayed for hundreds who died when a typhoon hit the island last month. On his first full day in Taiwan, the Dalai Lama knelt above a massive landslide that buried a village, praying for the countless villagers who were killed as relatives of the dead stood by.The Dalai Lama’s visit has also whipped up a new political storm between Taiwan and its long-time political rival China, which claims sovereighty over the self-ruled island and deems the India-based Dalai Lama a separatist who is seeking to split Tibet from its territory. China has cancelled or postponed a few Taiwan-related events in apparent retaliation, chilling relations with the island after a thaw that began in the middle of last year.The Dalai Lama’s humour, does admittedly shock some new audiences, said Khedroob Thondup, a Taipei-based member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, but they learn fast to relax.”He’s got a good sense of humour, which is his personal style,” Thondup said. “Normally audiences are surprised because these are serious occasions. But he always tries to make people feel not too strongly about it.”Taiwan audiences have understood the humour as a way to unify people on the island, which hosts many different religions and ideas, said Chang Chia-hsing, a spokesman for the city of Kaohsiung, which organised many of the Dalai Lama’s events. “What he jokes about doesn’t count as serious,” Chang said. “It’s a way to bring people together.”