Friday, October 14, 2016

China’s Negative Impact on Freedom of the Press Expands Outwards

We all know how China treats its own journalists. But what about the CCP's critics outside China? More and more, it's going after them, too 

A total of 38 civil society organizations signed a petition earlier this month urging Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — whose father established relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China in 1970 — to prioritize protections for freedom of expression as Ottawa moves to deepen its relationship with the authoritarian country. 

“We, the undersigned organizations and supporters, call on the Canadian government to put human rights, especially free expression and press freedom, at the heart of the ‘renewed’ Canada-China relationship,” the petition says, referring to the rapid pace of developments between the two governments following the somewhat cooler relationship under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

WEF Corrects 'Error' in Annual Report, Reinstates ‘Taiwan, China’

Beijing imposes a fiction about Taiwan and often gets its way in global institutions. But in the end, nomenclature will never change the facts on the ground 

“In an initial version of the Global Competitiveness Report 2016, Taiwan, China, was incorrectly listed as Chinese Taipei. The change in nomenclature happened as a technical matter — guided by designations used by other international organizations — and in no way signifies a lack of support by the World Economic Forum of the People’s Republic of China’s ‘One China policy.’” 

Thus a press release by the WEF on Sept. 29, one day after the release of the report. Due to a “technical matter,” the WEF used the reviled misnomer “Chinese Taipei” adopted by many international institutions to refer to Taiwan or the Republic of China. 

Continues here.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Is Double Ten a Deadline for President Tsai?

Don’t hold your breath for a breakthrough in President Tsai’s cross-Strait policy on National Day 

As Oct. 10 approaches, a growing chorus of voices has argued that Taiwan's National Day will be some sort of “deadline” for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to deliver something palatable to Beijing. 

The notion that Double Ten marks a point in cross-Strait relations, beyond which President Tsai’s refusal to acknowledge the so-called 1992 consensus and “one China” would prompt further punitive measures by China, has been around for a while. Chinese participants at various conferences and other settings have mentioned it, followed, often quietly in small circles, by a number of Western academics with “insider” knowledge. 

Continues here.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Is the West Losing the Influence War to China?

Like-minded coalitions of major states are increasingly unable to counter Beijing’s efforts to isolate Taiwan at international institutions 

As Taiwan’s dignity and regional air safety are compromised due to silly political games at the ICAO assembly in Montreal, news emerged yesterday that Taiwan’s attempt to participate as an observer at another international organization, Interpol, is also “not going well.” 

Once again, it is expected that Taiwan’s ability to join multilateral organizations are being frustrated by Beijing, which appears to be delivering on its threat to punish Taiwan for the new government’s refusal to acknowledge the so-called 1992 consensus and “one China.” 

Continues here.

Monday, September 26, 2016

For Taiwan, the Sun Doesn’t Rise and Set with China

Only when the international community stops looking at Taiwan through the China lens will those motivations be fully understood 

Taiwan isn’t just an orphan: it is a misunderstood orphan. Due to its international isolation, a dwindling presence by foreign media personnel and a self-inflicted inability by successive governments (including the current one) to make the proper investments in public diplomacy, it is often ignored. And when it is not, what is said or written about it is quite often downright wrong. 

One of the most oft-repeated fallacies in international media coverage and analysis of Taiwan is the notion that everything the Taiwanese do is in relation to China, that changing weather patterns in Taiwan, if you will, occur because a butterfly batted its wings somewhere in Guangdong. 

Continues here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

ICAO Refuses to Invite Taiwan to Assembly

The decision yet again demonstrates China's ability to coerce international institutions into making decision that go against their very mandate, putting politics before public health and safety 

The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has refused to invite Taiwan to attend its upcoming triennial assembly, sparking a strong protest by Taipei on Friday, which called the decision "extremely unfair to Taiwan and a major loss to global aviation safety." 

Continues here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

SCMP the Good Little Mouthpiece

More and more, the South China Morning Post’s editorials read as if they were drafted in Beijing. Here’s an example 

Following Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s (馬雲) acquisition of the 113-year-old Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post last year, many questions were raised as to whether the move would have an impact on the paper’s editorial line. 

The paper had been bleeding independent minds for years and editorial pressure existed well before Mr. Ma took over. Still, the pro-Beijing line became more apparent, and earlier this year the SCMP was one of the few news organizations that were given access to the ostensibly staged “confessions” of Chinese activists. Under Mr. Ma’s watch, the online version of the paper also became free. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

To Terminate or Not? Taiwan’s ‘Cloud Peak’ Medium-Range Missile Program

A recent report by the ‘China Times’ claims Taiwan has decided to abandon efforts to develop a medium-range missile that could hit Beijing or Shanghai. While aborting the program would make sense, Taipei won’t be doing so for the reasons stated in the article 

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Tuesday denied claims by the Chinese-language China Times that Taiwan has decided to scrap efforts to develop a medium-range surface-to-surface missile capable of hitting Beijing and Shanghai as a “goodwill gesture to China.” 

Continues here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

China the Twelve Year Old

For far too long we have allowed the tyrant child to determine our actions. This must stop. We must stop fearing it 

Here we go again, the old tired accusations of “broken promises” and damage done to China’s “core interests” after European Union parliamentarians met with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on European soil on Sept. 15. 

For a country that constantly reminds us of its glorious 5,000 years of history, its leadership behaves very much like a 12-year-old: pouting and bullying when it doesn’t get what it wants. To be perfectly honest, it’s rather embarrassing and hardly warrants the space and scare quotes it gets in the world’s media. (I see what you’re thinking: I’m also guilty of giving it space here, but bear with me for a second and I will get to the point.) 

Continues here.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Spurned, Beijing Bypasses Taiwan’s Central Government

Beijing is seeking to undermine the authority of Taiwan’s central government by creating bilateral dependencies and sowing division within society. It has been going on for quite a while 

Top representatives from eight municipalities in Taiwan controlled by the pan-blue camp visited China at the weekend for talks with Chinese officials and to promote tourism and agricultural produce as Beijing shows Taipei the cold shoulder for its refusal to acknowledge the so-called 1992 consensus. 

Besides belonging to the same camp — six of the eight city and county government heads belong to the Kuomintang (KMT) and two others are blue-leaning independents — all eight representatives have stated they recognize the “1992 consensus,” which an inflexible Beijing has set as a precondition for cross-Strait exchanges. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Japanese Politician's Taiwan Connection Causes Storm as Party Vote Looms

Attacked for her dual nationality, Democratic Party deputy head Renho is in a race to abandon her ROC citizenship. And did she or did she not say that Taiwan is not a country? 

Democratic Party deputy head Murata Renho (村田蓮舫), a half-Japanese and half-Taiwanese politician who is locked in a three-way race to assume leadership of the DP in Sept. 15 elections, revealed on Tuesday that she has yet to renounce her Republic of China citizenship. 

Under attack for her dual citizenship, the politician, who goes by Renho, admitted on Tuesday that she had not, as previously stated, relinquished her ROC citizenship at the age of 17. 

Continues here.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Official Blames ‘Rude’ Taiwanese for Drop in Chinese Tourism

'We need to stop using smearing language about Chinese people, especially on the Internet’ 

As tour operators prepare to protest next Monday to call on the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration to help the sagging tourism industry, a spokesman for the Travel Agent Association of the R.O.C. Taiwan attributes a drop in Chinese tourists to online rudeness by the Taiwanese. 

Ringo Lee (李奇嶽), spokesman for the Association, said on Wednesday that dwindling numbers in Chinese arrivals to Taiwan were not the result of a decision by Chinese authorities to punish the Tsai administration for refusing to acknowledge the so-called “1992 consensus,” but rather “smearing language” used by Taiwanese netizens to refer to Chinese people. 

Continues here.

Friday, September 02, 2016

China’s Censorship Rules Reach New Level of Absurdity

The CCP’s gradual descent into regulatory madness suggests that it is losing its grip on reality and on the people whom it seeks to control 

For all its many accomplishments over the years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) still has serious self-confidence issues. Like any other autocrat before it, this has led the CCP to impose a wide set of restrictions on what ordinary people and the media are allowed to say. 

China under President Xi Jinping (習近平) is going through a period of tightening rules and an intensifying clampdown on civil society, lawyers, journalists, and the entertainment industry, in a campaign that has primarily targeted the “pollution” of Western ideals. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Taiwan Plan for the Next U.S. President

How to shore up U.S. interests without sparking war 

Like the rest of the world, Taiwan’s twenty-three million people will look on with expectation—and perhaps some trepidation—on November 8 when Americans elect a new president. Whether Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton or Republican Donald J. Trump prevails in the race will, to some extent, determine how Taiwan’s principal security guarantor will deal with its democratic East Asian ally and the authoritarian giant that claims sovereignty over it. 

Notwithstanding the fundamental differences that have been highlighted during the long and bitter presidential campaign, it is unlikely that a President Clinton or Trump would be able to implement a drastic shift in the United States’ Asia policy. As with every incoming administration, the nature of the U.S. government system and the sprawling civil service militate against sudden shifts in direction and ensure continuity, regardless of the promises made by a presidential candidate. 

My article, published today in The National Interest, continues here.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Should Mao Enter the Building?

Two scheduled concerts in Australia honoring Chairman Mao have sparked calls for boycotts. Let them sing and dance and spin all they want in his honor. Our job isn’t to silence them, as this would make us no better than the CCP 

Two concerts at the Melbourne and Sydney town halls honoring Mao Zedong (毛澤東) have sparked controversy among China watchers who argue that the event, scheduled for early next month, trivializes the deaths of tens of millions of people during Mao’s reign. The concerts, which have been widely promoted in the increasingly pro-Beijing Chinese-language media in Australia, will be held in Sydney on Sept. 6 and Melbourne on Sept. 9. 

Continues here, with response by Australian critics and some interesting information about one of the Chinese organizers...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Tsai Administration Needs to Stop Stalling on Marriage Equality

For years the DPP blamed the KMT for stalled efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Taiwan. Now in control of both the executive and legislative branches of government, the DPP has no valid argument for further delays 

Following Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) victory in the Jan. 16 general elections, many human rights observers in Taiwan and abroad cherished the possibility that Taiwan could become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. To distinguish itself from the more conservative Kuomintang (KMT) in the lead-up to the elections, Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) made this subject a component of its platform, and a large contingent of party members were instructed to take part in last year’s LGBT Pride Parade in Taipei. 

Continues here.

Hong Kong No Longer Has Autonomy on Immigration

In the current environment of uncertainty in Hong Kong, controls over who comes in and who goes out will be used more frequently as an instrument by which to deny individuals contact with Hong Kong’s society 

Beijing never fully intended the “one country, two systems” formula to be a permanent fixture in its relationship with Hong Kong, and as tensions rise between the central government and the former British colony, control over who is allowed to enter the territory has become a hot issue. 

Although Beijing never had a completely hands-off approach to immigration controls in Hong Kong, which had a certain degree of freedom to decide who could come in or not, its meddling in such decisions deepened markedly following Occupy Central and the Umbrella Movement. Since then, several individuals have been denied entry into the territory. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rebuild the Dapu Pharmacy

As the Tsai administration mulls updating Taiwan’s antiquated laws on land expropriation, one demolished building serves as a powerful symbol 

Premier Lin Chuan (林全) on Monday said that a pharmacy and residence in Miaoli County’s Dapu Township, demolished to great controversy in 2013, could eventually be rebuilt if the law permits. 

Such a move would be welcomed, not only because it would be the just thing to do, but also because of the symbolic value of the act. Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) did very well in the November 2014 local elections and January 2016 general elections in large part due to a widespread loss of confidence in the Kuomintang’s (KMT) ability to find a proper equilibrium between development and respect of society’s most vulnerable groups. 

Continues here.

Patience, Patience on UN Bid

Taiwan’s inability to join the U.N. under a proper name and as a full member is preposterous. But those are that cards that history has dealt it, and it must use them wisely. Impetuousness will gain it nothing 

Someone spoke out of turn this week and once again the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration found itself on the defensive, this time having to deny it intends to apply to re-enter the U.N. under the name “Taiwan.” 

No sooner had the denials been voiced on Wednesday than members from the deep-green camp began accusing Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of being “no better” than, or simply a new iteration of, the Kuomintang (KMT). Both the KMT and Tsai’s administration have chosen to seek constructive and meaningful participation at U.N. agencies, usually under a less-than-ideal designation, rather than aim for full membership under the name Taiwan. President Tsai’s reason for doing so is to avoid rocking the boat of the always tenuous cross-Strait relations and causing surprise, if not consternation, in Washington, D.C., and other capitals. 

Continues here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Conversation With National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman

‘Accountability means elections, an independent media that can watch over, a judiciary, and an active, mobilized civil society, which is what you had with the Sunflower Movement. That’s the price of democracy. That’s what makes democracy work’ 

The subject of various conspiracy theories among authoritarian regimes, the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is one of the most active agents promoting freedom around the world. 

Carl Gershman has been president of the NED since its founding in 1984 and was in Taiwan this week to take part in the third Asia Young Leaders Democracy Program organized by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), which this year brought together 19 international participants from 17 countries in Asia and Eastern Europe, as well as three Taiwanese. 

The News Lens International’s chief editor J. Michael Cole sat down with Gershman at TFD’s headquarters on Thursday to talk about the state of democracy. 

Q&A continues here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

China Uses Thousands of Chinese Teachers to Combat Uighur ‘Separatism’

Beijing appears to be accelerating education programs designed to dilute the ethno-linguistic bond that gives Uighurs and Tibetans their distinct identity 

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region authorities will dispatch a total of 2,939 Uighur-speaking Chinese teachers to schools across inland China as part of a two-year “aid program” designed to provide “anti-separatism” education and promote unity among students in the primarily Muslim territory. 

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Xinjiang Party Chief Zhang Chunxian (張春賢) told a send-off meeting on Monday that teachers should encourage students to “promote unity” and fight “separatism” and religious extremism. 

Article continues here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Watchdog Accuses HK, Taiwan Media of Complicity in China’s Show Trials

Through ‘confessions’ and TV trials, the CCP is seeking to discredit human rights activists and lawyers. Sadly, some media outlets in Taiwan and Hong Kong have no compunction in spreading the message 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), an organization that defends and promotes freedom of expression worldwide, has accused Taiwanese and Hong Kong media of complicity in China’s campaign to discredit its critics. 

IFEX states that on Aug. 1, two Hong Kong outlets, the Oriental Daily and Phoenix Television, were granted exclusive rights by Chinese authorities to broadcast the “confession” of human rights lawyer Wang Yu (王宇), who had been in detention since July 2015 on allegations of subverting the state power. One hour later, the Shanghai-based online magazine The Paper also ran the “exclusive,” along with video footage of Wang’s “confession.” 

Article continues here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

There's a Vaccine Against China's United Front Tactics

As long as Taiwan’s democratic institutions remain healthy, China’s multifaceted propaganda efforts against it won’t find the oxygen they need to prosper 

Using a medical analogy, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Saturday spoke words of wisdom after he was asked to discuss the individual who will lead the Chinese delegation at an upcoming cross-Strait forum in Taiwan’s capital. Last Friday, the organizers of the Taipei-Shanghai twin city forum announced that Sha Hailin (沙海林), the head of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Shanghai Municipal Committee, will lead the delegation at the forum. 

Article continues here.

Ex-SEF Chairman Lin Join-sane’s Foundation Could Be Conduit for PRC Political Warfare

It seemed innocuous enough: a conference commemorating Sun Yat-sen’s 150th anniversary. But look at the sponsors from the Chinese side and things become a little more interesting 

The Foundation for the Development of the Chinese Nation (中華民族發展基金會), a non-profit registered in Taiwan on May 12, has recently drawn the attention of legislators from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who fear it could act as a “shadow” Straits Exchange Foundation to undermine President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) cross-Strait policies. 

With approximately NT$30 million (US$958,000) in declared assets, the Foundation is chaired by former SEF chairman Lin Join-sane (林中森) and has also recruited a number of officials who served during the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration, including former SEF adviser Chu Ou (朱甌), former SEF vice chairman Chou Ji-shiang (周繼祥) and former minister without portfolio Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇). 

Article continues here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

China's Permanent Conflict Strategy Is A Stroke of Genius

Permanent conflict in alternating areas, not war, best suits Beijing’s interests 

Tokyo lodged a series of protests over the weekend regarding renewed Chinese activity in the disputed East China Sea. Japan has claimed that China recently installed a radar on a Chinese offshore gas platform. 

Japan’s protests occurred after incursions by as many as 230 Chinese fishing vessels and six coast guard ships in contiguous zones surrounding the Senkakus on Saturday, and intrusions by two Chinese coast guard vessels into the territorial waters around the islets on Sunday. On Friday, eight Chinese fishing and coast guard vessels also reportedly entered territorial waters around the Senkakus. Tokyo, which administers and claims ownership over three of the Senkaku islets—Uotsuri, Kitakojima and Minamikojima—has been locked in a longstanding dispute with Beijing over the area, which is also claimed by Taiwan. 

My article, published today in The National Interest, continues here.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Pokémon Go and the Death of Reality

When funeral homes start offering discounts for people who die because of a mobile game, we know there’s a problem with our society 

I spent the past weekend indoors not because the temperature was too hot outside but because after weeks of delay the game Pokémon Go had been released in Taiwan. I already knew that, come Monday, I would have to confront this new — dare I call it reality? — on my way to the office and wanted to delay that confrontation for as long as possible. 

Still, Pokémon succeeded in invading the peace of my home not because I was looking for the virtual critters inside my apartment (I didn’t and never will), but because the game craze had invaded the news. Every local channel had segments on players hunting the virtual critters in parks, streets, and famous landmarks around the nation. Some night footage of perambulating hordes of Pokémon addicts was oddly reminiscent of B-rated zombie movies.

My op-ed, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

‘One China’ or Air Safety?

Taiwan’s allies, formal and tacit, must come forward as they did with the WHA and support Taiwan’s effort to participate at ICAO, no matter how Beijing reacts 

Once again this week Beijing has demonstrated it would rather play politics than be a responsible stakeholder, this time by threatening to derail Taiwan’s efforts to participate at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) triennial assembly later this year because Taipei has refused to acknowledge the “one China” principle. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs applied earlier this year for Taiwan to be allowed to participate in the assembly, which will be held at ICAO’s headquarters in Montreal from Sept. 27-Oct. 7. Due to its status, Taiwan is not a recognized member of ICAO. Several countries have lobbied on Taiwan’s behalf for it to be given at least observer status. 

My op-ed, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

The Hostess

It was the small silver chain, hidden amid various sundries, that brought back the memories of an incident I had long ago erased from my memory. I had forgotten even keeping the delicate bracelet, made of two little interlocking snakes. After nearly a decade working at a large firm in Taipei, the company was expanding and needed someone it could trust to run its new office in New Delhi. So there I was, packing my belongings by a late Sunday afternoon, when the glitter caught my eye from between the multidenominational coins, paid phone bills, and old receipts that had accrued, sediment like, at the bottom of a storage plastic box.
       As I held the chain between my fingers, the memories came rushing in with a vividness that caught me by surprise. Her name, which like the incident itself I had relegated to the dustbin of my memory, came back like an echo through time: Akiho.  
       I had met her—or to be more precise, I think I met her—in Okinawa several years ago. As a representative of the aforesaid company, I had been dispatched to Naha to explore business opportunities related, if memory serves, to a port facility expansion project.
I knew nobody on the southern Japanese island, and this was my first time visiting. The firm had put me up for my three nights’ stay at the City Court, a hotel which has left no mark whatsoever in my memory other than its concrete interior that made me feel like I was incarcerated in a large, multi-story prison.
       I didn’t go out on my first evening in Naha, choosing instead to grab a lunch box and a couple of Asahi beer cans at a nearby konbini and to spend the night watching Japanese TV programs in which, to the merriment of a studio audience, ordinary people eager to collect prize money tended to get physically injured. I admit myself taking a guilty pleasure in their misfortune.
       On the second night I ventured out to discover the city. I’d had a full day of meetings, followed by a rather alcoholic seafood dinner with officials from the city government and representatives from a number of prospective clients. After saying goodbye to my hosts I went back to my hotel room, where I peeled off my business suit, showered, and slipped into something more comfortable before heading out. My intention was to find a quiet bar somewhere near the hotel where I could grab a drink or two while reading a book, as is my wont when I travel abroad.
        It was 10 p.m. or so when I left the hotel. The night air was warm and laden with with the dampness and electricity of an approaching tropical storm. The city was bathed in the sepia of the incandescent lights along the river facing the hotel. I walked along the bank for a while until I reached a narrow bridge and crossed it. On the other side I came upon what looked like an entertainment area: three, four-story white stucco buildings with neon signs on the upper floors. I forget the name of the establishment I eventually selected, or the reason why I chose that particular one. It was named the Tropicana, or something along those lines.
        Stairs led to the bar, which was located on the fourth and uppermost floor of the building, but I chose to take the narrow elevator at the bottom instead. Judging from the advertisements downstairs, it seemed that every floor was occupied by a bar. In fact the entire neighborhood appeared to be comprised of such establishments, yet there was hardly anyone about.
        The small elevator, which couldn’t have accommodated more than three adults, slowly carried me upstairs. The doors parted and I walked through a curtain made of seashells tied along strings; the rattling somehow made me think of little Haitian percussion items made with animal bones.
         It was a cozy establishment, with a handful of tables, red sofas, and a narrow bar at the back. Blue and red lampshades created a tenebrous atmosphere. Eighties rock music was playing in the background. As all the tables were occupied, I headed for the bar. Only one stool was taken, by an elderly Japanese man who was in deep conversation with a middle-aged woman behind the bar. On his lap was a samisen, a traditional three-chorded instrument. I sat down and, stealing the woman’s attention for a second, ordered a beer. She absentmindedly poured me an Orion, the local brew, and immediately plunged back into her conversation with the man. Behind her, the shelves were filled with bottles of whisky and other liqueurs. I pulled my paperback out of my rucksack and began reading, occasionally taking a sip from my beer.
        A few minutes later a different woman appeared and leaned over the bar right across from me, exposing her ample breasts.
        “You’re from out of town?” she asked in passable English.
        “Yes,” I replied. “Taiwan.”
        Seeing her surprise, I explained that I was originally from — but that I worked in Taiwan. Exile plays tricks on one’s personality, and after years of living abroad, where I was from had become a rather elastic concept.
        She was a slightly large built with a stunningly beautiful face, a smile that drew you in, and eyes that mesmerized. Her low-cut décolletage also made it impossible to avoid looking her breasts, which beckoned like mermaids. Despite all these attributes, it was her fragrance that I remember the most, a concoction of exotic flowers and some other scent I just couldn’t place that seemed to fill the universe around me.
        Her name was Akiho. Originally from Osaka, she had migrated southwards looking for work. She had been studying English for a few months, which made our conversation easier, and her dream, she said, was to move to the United States one day.
        It became clear that I wasn’t meant to read my book. Akiho paid no attention to the other customers and concentrated on me alone. I ordered a second drink and she asked if I would treat her to one as well, which I did. She eventually joined me on my side of the bar and sat next to me on a stool, swiveling to face me. I remember she had a peculiar way of moving around, as if her feet weren’t exactly touching the ground. We spoke for what felt like hours, pouring out our life stories, how I had abandoned a job in government back home and taken my chances in Asia, how work had taken over my life, her mother’s suicide, her abusive father, her deep depression and her dreams of a new life abroad. We were only interrupted once when the locals clamored for me to join in karaoke, which Akiho’s insistence made impossible for me to refuse. I sang some song I forget by a British band and was accompanied on the samisen by the elderly man at the bar, who, as Akiho told me, was a legendary player across Okinawa. 
        Little by little, I felt I was being drawn into Akiho’s spider’s web, and I was aware that the alcohol was playing tricks with my judgment. Around midnight, remembering that I had early meetings in the morning, I asked for the bill. The sum was extravagant and I barely had enough yen in my wallet to cover for my evening. It suddenly dawned on me that I was also paying for Akiho’s time, that she hadn’t simply joined me because she liked me. She and the manager, the older woman, sensed my discomfiture as I counted the bills and nearly emptied my wallet. I paid, got up, and walked out.
        Akiho followed me outside.
        “Are you OK?” she asked, clearly concerned.
        “Yes, I am,” I replied meekly. “I have an early start tomorrow and should go get some sleep.”
        “Do you have anywhere to stay?”
        Whether this was an invitation to take our encounter to the next step or stemmed from genuine concern after I’d evidently spent all my money, I did not know. I also didn’t know if she really liked me or simply wanted more of my yen, which made me uncomfortable. I had nothing against prostitutes, but something in me has always made it impossible for me to pay for sex. Never overly popular with women, I’d often sought confirmation through their having genuine attraction for me; to pay to go to bed with a woman seemed like an admission of defeat, proof of my shortcomings.
        “Yes,” I said. “I’m staying at a hotel nearby.” I hesitated, fighting an urge to invite her over. I decided against it, telling myself that she probably couldn’t walk away from her work anyway.
        She must have sensed my hesitation. She came closer and kissed me on the cheek, her perfume threatening to steal my soul. Around us, the night was still bathed in amber, the air moist and the night eerily silent.
        “I had a great time tonight,” she whispered in my ear. “Thank you.” Akiho grabbed my hand and deposited a little chain in it. She looked me straight in the eyes. “Something to remember me by,” she said. With that, she turned around and went back inside. I stood there for a while, fighting an urge to go back in, but then I remembered I had no money left. The angels of my nature prevailed over my demons and I desultorily tottered down the stairs, feeling lonelier than I had felt in a long time. I walked, a forlorn figure along the river, and went back to my hotel, all my senses still charged with my recent encounter.
        I barely slept all night. Try as I might, Akiho kept haunting me, the smell of her perfume mockingly radiating from my cheek.
        The following day—my last in Okinawa—was again full of meetings, which I attended in a daze. I couldn’t stop thinking about Akiho. By dinner time, I’d decided I would return to the bar, and this time I would take her home and claim her as mine, of her own free will or as part of a transaction, I didn’t care. Some fever had overtaken me and for once in my life I was willing to break my rule.
        Once again I had to attend an interminable dinner with various businessmen, but my mind was elsewhere and I extricated myself from the painful affair at the first opportunity. I ran back to the hotel, cleaned up, changed clothes, grabbed more money and retraced my steps along the river, across the bridge, and to the bar. By the time I arrived, it was 9 p.m. or thereabouts. I went up the elevator, through the seashell curtains, my heart pounding with feverish expectation.
        I looked around the bar but couldn’t find her. The samisen master occupied the same stool, and the mama-san was once again behind the bar, occasionally serving drinks but otherwise busy talking with the musician. There was no sign of Akiho. Thinking that maybe I was too early and that her shift had not begun, I grabbed a seat, greeted the old man, and ordered a beer.
        “Nice to see you again, young man,” the musician said.
        More than an hour passed by and still there was no sign of Akiho. It suddenly dawned on me that she might not be working that night, or that maybe she had taken ill. Had I missed my chance? Would I see her again? A strange panic overtook me and I waved the manager over.
        “Excuse me,” I said. “Could you tell me if the young woman who was with me last evening is working tonight?”
        The woman frowned.
        “Young woman?”
        “Yes, the young woman—Akiho?”
        The mention of her name brought a reaction I certainly had not expected. Her face gripped with fright, the mama-san took a step backwards and bumped against the bottles behind her, noisily tipping a few over. The musician was now paying attention to our conversation and immediately shuffled to the stool next to me.
        “There is nobody by that name here,” the mama-san said, her voice trembling as she rearranged the bottles.
        “But surely…”
        The musician cut me off. He, too, was visibly shaken. “Young man, I have been a customer here for several years, and I can assure you that no person by the name of Akiho works here nowadays.”
        “What about the woman I was with last night?”
        “You weren’t with anybody last night,” the man said. “You spent the entire evening reading that book of yours.”
  “Now cut it out. This isn’t funny,” he said with finality before returning to his stool and downing his whisky.
        Surely they were jesting. The previous night hadn’t been the product of my imagination or drunkenness. I had proof of my encounter, of Akiho’s existence. It was right there, in my pocket.
  I took the bracelet out and dangled it before their eyes.
        “Akiho gave me this,” I said.
       The woman screamed, and the musician rushed to her side of the bar just in time to catch her before she swooned. It was a wail filled with such horror that I dropped all my money on the bar, quickly fled the place and ran back to my hotel. The following morning I flew back to Taiwan and locked this peculiar experience away in the cabinet of my memory.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

After Taiwanese Artists, South Koreans Are Now the Targets of China’s Wrath

Little by little, Beijing is creating a Reich Culture Chamber with Chinese characteristics 

Forget the Chinese military’s new aircraft, long-range missiles and combat ships: Beijing’s new weapon as it rattles the region is culture — or the denial of it, to be more precise. China’s targeting of performance arts is not a recent phenomenon. It has used them both as instruments of propaganda to reinforce Chinese identity and as a lure for artists wishing to make fortunes in the market of 1.3 billion people. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Video Accuses Joshua Wong, Sunflower Movement, Chinese Rights Activists of Being Foreign Agents

Shared by the Supreme People’s Court and the Communist Youth League, a video accuses pro-democracy activists of being in the pay of foreign agents and trying to spark a 'color revolution' in China 

The Chinese Supreme People’s Court yesterday released a video on its official weibo micro blogging site calling for a nationwide alert against a foreign-backed “color revolution” that seeks to undermine state stability in China. 

Using a collage of images of devastation, dead bodies and refugees in Iraq and Syria, the video, which was also circulated by the ultranationalist Chinese Communist Youth League, argues that the former U.S.S.R., Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Egypt, Syria and Libya all serve as “painful lessons” to the Chinese. “Do you want a stable China to turn into this?” it asks. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

China Opens Large Fishing Port to 'Safeguard' South China Sea Claims

A new port facility in Hainan could serve as a base for China’s ‘maritime militias’ in the disputed South China Sea 

China on Monday officially opened a new fishing port at Yazhou, Hainan Province, to host fishing vessels operating in the disputed South China Sea. Located approximately 50 km West of Sanya, the Yazhou Bay Central Fishing Port — the largest in Hainan and the closest to the Nansha Islands (Spratlys) — commenced limited operations in April 2015. The port spans a length of 1,063 meters and counts 11 functional berths that can currently accommodate a fleet of 800 fishing boats. Local officials say they hope to expand capacity to as many as 2,000. Construction was completed in June this year. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Tsai Gets Passing Grade for Apology to Taiwan’s Aborigines

President Tsai’s apology to the nation’s Aborigines went better than expected. But that was the easy part: now the real work begins 

It was a move that many saw as unnecessary — and an unnecessarily risky. In a highly publicized event at the Presidential Office in Taipei earlier today, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) formally apologized to the nation’s Aborigines for the unfair treatment they received over the past 400 years. 

In the weeks leading to today’s event, a number of activists and members of Aboriginal communities across Taiwan had wondered why President Tsai felt compelled to apologize to the land’s first inhabitants. For many of them, the ceremony would be simply that — a grandiose, well publicized exercise in public relations which, in the end, would not yield the morsel that’s always been missing: substance. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Due to ‘Safety Concerns’, Chinese Dance Competition Cancels HK Venue, Shifts to Taiwan

Various pro-CCP groups have been protesting outside Macpherson Stadium in Mong Kok District since July 20, prompting management to cancel its contract with the organizers of the competition 

In yet another sign that Taiwan is the last remaining free society in the Chinese-speaking world, a Chinese dance competition has been forced to relocate to Taiwan after the last-minute cancellation of a contract by the managers of a venue in Hong Kong. 

The preliminary round of the seventh New Tang Dynasty International Chinese Classical Dance Competition was set to begin at Macpherson Stadium, in Mong Kok District, on Aug. 1. However, as the Epoch Times reports, “rowdy” and “aggressive” members of Chinese Communist Party front groups had been protesting outside the venue since July 18. Some of the protesters are said to have used loudspeakers and megaphones to hurl abuse at the organizers and the Falun Gong spiritual group, which is closely associated with NTD and is outlawed in China proper. By July 25, eight front groups were reportedly protesting outside the venue. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Bear and a Complex Character: New Symbols of Taiwanese Patriotism?

Symbols are essential to nationalism, and Taiwan will need more of those if it is to succeed in making the case for its continued existence as a distinct political entity on the international stage 

Developments in China in recent years have showcased how expressions of patriotic or nationalistic fervor can spin out of control and cause apprehension in the region. 

Several incidents in recent months, from online campaigns launched by the Communist Youth League against “separatist” performance artists to Beijing’s intransigent stance in the South China Sea dispute, stem from a deepening of the Chinese nationalism cultivated by the Chinese Communist Party and drilled into the minds and hearts of Chinese citizens from a very young age. Some would argue that the Chinese nationalism on display today, what with the many references to Han blood and militaristic undertones, is now approaching its much more worrying related cousin — fascism. 

Across the Taiwan Strait, the liberal-democratic nation of Taiwan, which China regards as indivisibly part of its territory since time immemorial (nationalism again), has countered the overbearing Chinese narrative much more quietly. 

My article, published today in The News Lens International, continues here.