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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Random stuff

The mighty pientang 弁當 boy prepares to unleash his wrath on the unsuspecting denizens of Fengyuan (Fēng​yuán) 豐原 below.

A couple of Taiwan-related articles in the English-language Japanese media today. First, this Kyōdō News 共同通信社 story from the Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ:


"The chief policymaker of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan 民主党, Seiji Maehara 前原誠司, thanked visiting Taiwanese opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen (Cài​ Yīng​wén) 蔡英文 for the help the people of Taiwan provided to Japan following the March 11 earthquake-tsunami disaster 東日本大震災 and subsequent nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant 福島第一原子力発電所事故, DPJ officials said.

Maehara, a former foreign minister and current chairman of the DPJ Policy Research Committee, expressed gratitude in a meeting with Tsai, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (Mín​zhǔ​jìn​bù​dǎng) 民主進步黨, who will challenge incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou (Mǎ​ Yīng​jiǔ) 馬英九 of the Nationalist Party (Zhōng​guó Guó​mín​dǎng) 中國國民黨 in an election in January.

Tsai told Maehara that many citizens in Taiwan have an affinity for Japan and have tried to provide as much help as possible as the Japanese cope with the natural disaster and nuclear crisis. Japan has received a raft off donations and relief goods from Taiwan since March 11."

The Taiwanese have proven to be very generous in their support of the Japanese who have suffered as a result of the triple disasters of March 11. Arguably, the people of Taiwan feel a closer affinity to the Japanese, despite the similarities in culture and language with their cousins in China. Fifty years of separation, combined with over a hundred years of influence from Japan (colonial and post-war periods) will do that to a society.  The recent improvement in relations between Taiwan and Japan could be undone, however, if the Ma administration decides to ramp up the patriotism over the Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島 (for an example, you can following this disturbing link:

Meanwhile, NHK World NHKワールド has a short feature on the issue of selling arms to Taiwan:


"A senior US government official says the United States is still considering weapons sales to Taiwan, including new F-16 fighter aircraft.

Acting Assistant Defense Secretary Peter Lavoy testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday regarding US policies toward Taiwan.

Lavoy responded to criticism from lawmakers about the government's decision last month to upgrade Taiwan's existing fleet of F-16s instead of selling the territory new jets of the same type.

He said that retrofitting the fleet amounts to what he called 'the best bang for the buck' for now and is the immediate priority.

Lavoy said the US is talking with Taiwan about ways to step up the territory's defense capabilities against China and has not ruled out selling it new F-16 aircraft.

China is against both upgrading and replacing Taiwan's aging F-16 jets."

There is a video segment that goes along with the above report, which can be viewed by following the link to NHK World: The question of whether, and what, the United States should sell to Taiwan is being closely watched not only by China and Taiwan, but also by other players in this part of the world.

It would seem obvious that a well-armed Taiwan would be in the best interests of the U.S., but there are many factors at play here. One that doesn't get much attention is whether the U.S. feels comfortable selling advanced weaponry to the Taiwanese in light of the growing ties between China and Taiwan. Under Ma, Taiwan has moved closer towards the Chinese sphere of influence. The growing reliance on the Chinese market, combined with the current Taiwanese administration's reluctance to push for a distinct Taiwanese identity, is making it every more likely that some kind of union is inevitable down the line. In this case, would the American government want to provide high-tech weapons to Taiwan only for them to fall into the hands of the Chinese? Some officials are worried, it seems:

The above photograph is odd for several reasons. First, why would any mature adult want to be seen in public driving a car with images of an anime アニメ character (in this case, Hamtaro emblazoned on the body? The writing under the decals is also a strange mix of Japanese and Chinese. Hamtaro is written as とっとこハム太郎 (Tottoko Hamutarō) in Japanese, while in Mandarin the name is rendered as  哈姆太郎 (Hāmǔtàiláng), hence ハ姆, which doesn't seem to make much sense. Also not adding up is the Japanese script which follows the hybrid moniker - あまりに男. "Too man(ly)"?

Just another day in the former colony.

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