NOTES FROM A SUCKY ECONOMY: …the NT is hitting a 30-month high, and the Taipei Times noted the other day after the Central Bank dumped a half a billion NT into the market to hold the NT down….

“This is the way our central bank tells market participants to behave,” one dealer said. “But the central bank should know that the tide is changing — money will keep coming in as investors snap up stocks, because the Taiwanese market is the safest bet when other Asian markets are falling along with the US.”

The Taiwan stock market might reach 9,000, inward remittances for stock purchases are expected to keep pressure on the NT to appreciate…yes, there’s nothing like living in a sucky economy where the currency is going up and the stock market is a safe bet.

The first debate of the current election cycle was yesterday. It seems to have gone well and both sides emerged about even, scoring points on each other. Coverage was good and even the usually pro-KMT media in Hong Kong and Singapore reported it rather neutrally, someone said. From The Taipei Times:

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidates Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) went head to head in their first pre-election televised debate yesterday. They discussed issues ranging from national identity and cross-strait affairs to the economy, environment and social welfare.

Both saw eye to eye in seeking direct transportation links with China, with Hsieh and Ma pledging to negotiate and implement weekend direct charter flight services within three months of being elected president. Ma added that he would push for daily flights within six months.

It’s funny to think of Ma, a lifelong pro-China ideologue, emphasizing his “Taiwaneseness.” But it is also heartening to see that “being Taiwanese” is seen by all camps as not merely an issue but THE issue and one everyone laid great stress on. The headline for the China Post said it all: Ma, Hsieh Stress Identity in Debate. Hope in second debate Hsieh lays into Ma for his authoritarian past “Heck Ma, remember when you wanted to put me in prison? Now here I am debating you….no wonder you want to get back to the good old days…” and also nail Ma on the KMT’s ties to China. Why is this blog entry on the debate not longer? The Central News Agency explains:

In an otherwise unexciting debate with no surprises

A debate in which Ma hold his own would appear to be a victory for Ma, but no one is writing that way yet…..and if the the issue is the economy stupid, where’s the extensive debate on the economy?

In an equally snooze-inducing bit of news, former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang announced he would be supporting Frank Hsieh. The China Post has the tale. Hsu left the DPP and formed a pro-KMT think tank with two other turncoats, Sisy Chen and Shih Ming-te. Shih would later go on to lead the fake Red Ant protests aimed at ousting Chen Shui-bian. Hsu ran unsuccessfully for this and that, and did a number of stunts that got little notice. A has-been with no apparent political future, Hsu (a Hakka) does retain some connections to the Hakka community and may be a minor aid to Hsieh there. The China Post also sketches some of the connections between Hsu and the KMT, and the hidden but powerful role family in all its aspects plays in politics:

Hsieh seems to forget Hsu advocated unification with China, though the ruling party has never let up an attack on Ma Ying-jeou for being a “filial son” to his deceased Kuomintang apparatchik father whose death wish was “to oppose independence” and “to make the Chinese nation strong.”

The DPP candidate may also forget Hsu’s son is working in China, though continuing to lash out at Ma for keeping a “green card” for permanent residence in the United States.

A green card is Hsieh’s excuse for doubting Ma may sell out Taiwan.

Moreover, Hsu’s nephew is currently Ma’s campaign spokesman.

Maddog over at Taiwan Matters! has video links to the debate. A-gu has a nice summary, and tends to think Ma won.