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Friday, September 14, 2007

In the news ニュース

On Wednesday, the Daily Yomiuri had this article on the attempt to get a casino built on the P'enghu (Penghu) Islands 澎湖諸島. I've yet to visit Penghu, but I've heard the islands are very beautiful, and have some of the best beaches in Taiwan (my wife also has a good friend who comes from there). I can understand why some on the island might be enthusiastic about building casinos (apparently tourism from Taiwan proper has stagnated in recent years), but I find the idea of opening up the islands to Chinese tourists something to worry about. If enough gamblers from China turn up on Penghu's shores, it won't be long before the landscape is transformed into an ugly collection of architectural eyesores designed solely to take care of the hedonistic needs of the tourists - karaoke カラオケ bars, brothels, greasy spoons and tacky souvenir shops. It could be that way already for all I know, but I have a feeling that if the tourist sector is opened up to the Chinese, and casinos are built to attract them, the residents of Penghu might end up regretting that their wishes came true.

One quote in the article from a Taiwanese tourist agent, referring to tourists from China: "They speak the same language as us, and they spend money on souvenirs". This pretty much sums up why many tourism officials haven't done more to attract visitors from Western countries (or Japan, for that matter) - it's too much trouble having to come up with materials and services that cater to non-Chinese speakers.

The Japan Times had an opinion piece this morning called "Lashing out at U.S. won't help Taiwan" , by a Brad Glosserman, an "executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based think tank." Glosserman didn't seem to put too much thought into this article, which places the blame for the recent troubles in relations between the US and Taiwan on the Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁 administration, and virtually ignores China. I'm having trouble understanding all the fuss about the planned referendum on whether or not Taiwan should seek admission to the UN under the name "Taiwan". If China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, can veto any application Taiwan makes, then the whole thing should be a non-starter to begin with. The referendum is clearly a political move aimed at local voters in the run-up to next year's presidential campaign. So why do US officials feel compelled to make statements saying that such a vote (an important part of the democratic process that Bush supposedly wants the entire world to adopt, and which is entirely absent from the Chinese political scene) is going to raise tensions to a dangerous level, that Taiwan is not a sovereign state, that the status quo is being altered yadda yadda yadda?

Glosserman writes:

"Chen was unmoved and unrepentant. The U.S. "cannot ask Taiwan to be a democratic country but forbid it to hold a referendum . . . the U.S. cannot draw a red line on Taiwan's democracy but shift it back and forth."
The U.S. hasn't moved its red lines. Its policy has been consistent: Washington opposes any unilateral effort to change the status quo. It opposes the proposed referendum because it is seen as moving toward independence, because it will agitate Beijing and increase tensions in the Strait, and finally because ultimately it will be fruitless. It may work as a political gesture to rally independence supporters to Chen and his party, but it will have no effect on Taiwan's international status or its bid to enter the U.N."

Well, if the referendum is only a "political gesture" and will "have no effect on Taiwan's international status or its bid to enter the UN", then why not just ignore the matter, and let the Taiwanese argue about it among themselves?

Glosserman also states:

"The inability to see the consequences of its actions risks alienating Taiwan's other friends and supporters. Several Taiwanese contrasted Taipei's behavior with that of Seoul, complaining that Taiwan was a much better ally than South Korea but did not get credit. They pointed to anti-Americanism in Korea, warning that Washington risked creating the same animus in Taiwan if it did not back Taipei's policies. Koreans in our group were incensed by the comparison."

Koreans may be incensed, but it's true - Taiwan has been a better friend to the USA than South Korea, and someone should point that fact out. It's about time all US soldiers in South Korea were withdrawn, and the South Korean government and people left alone to deal with their mentally-challenged relatives to the north. But that's a rant better left for another time.

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