Miaoli with the mountains behind, at sunset.

I spent the weekend in Taipei. With all the fantastic food and hot women up there, I found myself once again caught up in those key social processes of putting on weight and questioning the institution of marriage. Luckily I met all sorts of interesting and unusual people, who sent my thoughts in new directions.

Farmland just north of Taichung.

On Saturday morning I stopped by the Meet Up to listen to Linda Arrigo talk about her new book. She and fellow longtime activist Lynn Miles have written and edited A Borrowed Voice, about the foreigners who worked in the democracy movement here during the martial law era, who spoke out because the Taiwanese could not. The book is due out within the next month, so stay tuned for a review here. Linda, who is a font of ideas for a good doctoral thesis, suggested that grad students start interviewing the survivors of the struggle between the military and the police that resulted in them arresting, imprisoning, and executing each other’s people during the early 1960s. Quite a lot of history is going to disappear as participants die off in the coming decade.

A traditional house in central Taiwan.

I jes’ luv abusing the “let’s be more like Korea!” crowd. If we did that, reports the Korea Law Blog, our foreign direct investment would be negative, as businessmen are pulling foreign investment out of Korea because its government is so unfriendly to foreign business. Instead, investment by foreigners into Taiwan rose last year. While it’s always fun to note such things, there is a sobering warning to Taiwan, which has the same disconcerting habit of believing it is friendly and liberalized when outsiders perceive it to be otherwise.

An alley in Yungho.

Newspapers in Taiwan are reporting that Saudi Arabia may cut off our oil supplies. The fine print is not so ugly: it merely says that a couple of Taiwan firms are pulling out of a project in Saudi Arabia, and that cutting off the oil may or may not be an option if the Saudis are displeased.

Scooters await a shot at the intersection.

KMT stalwart Su Chi, along with a raft of other mostly mainlander KMT figures, was tabbed for the National Security Council this week. The Taipei Times noted:

The office of president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced yesterday that former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) will be the new secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC).

The appointment of Su, a long-time friend and top aide to Ma, had been expected and was among a list of names released by the Ma camp.

Other names on the list included National Taiwan University politics professor Kao Lang (高朗), who will become Presidential Office deputy secretary-general, while the deputy secretary-general posts at the NSC will be filled by director of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Overseas Department Ho Szu-yin (何思因) and former deputy defense minister Lee Hai-tung (李海東).

Kao Charng (高長), a director at the Chung-hua Institution for Economic Research (中經院); Chung Chien (鍾堅), a professor at Tsing Hua University; Chen Teh-sheng (陳德昇), a researcher at the Institute for International Relations at National Chengchi University; Tsai Horng-ming (蔡宏明), executive secretary of the Chinese National Federation of Industries; Philip Yang (楊永明), an associate professor of political science at National Taiwan University and Chan Man-jung (詹滿容), an associate professor at Tamkang University, will become advisers to the NSC.

As a good friend of mine observed, the Executive Yuan appointments are largely window dressing: here is the real circle of influence. Note that the Philip Yang mentioned there is a frequent commenter in foreign media reports, though usually without any identification that Yang is actually a KMT stalwart. Su Chi, tabbed for the top spot, is the former Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairman, which suggests that MAC’s influence on China affairs is going to be limited largely to execution, although a perceptive media worker here cautioned me that MAC is still going to be a big player. On the other hand J Michael Cole had a great commentary in the Taipei Times about the problem of special advisors: expect more diplomacy through back channels in the upcoming administration.

The remains of an old railway viaduct.

It’s not difficult to understand why everyone thinks the DPP is simply playing cynical politics with real and important issues, as the WHO bid shows. DPP propaganda on the WHO entry has emphasized that exclusion from the WHO process is hurtful to the health of the island and to the world (for example). There is no doubt that this is entirely true. However, if entry into the WHO is so crucial, why did the DPP choose to use the name “Taiwan” again this year, when it was bound to fail? Wouldn’t “Chinese Taipei,” as stupid as it is, have been better than nothing? After all, we participate in all sorts of organizations under that moniker. And think what a choice would have confronted Ma and the Chinese with that name, as a friend pointed out.

UPDATE: A reader wrote to remind me that since it ain’t gonna succeed, we may as well use “Taiwan.” This might also open up negotiating space later. The “secret MOU” that the PRC and WHO signed makes Taiwan part of China, makes all Taiwanese delegates participates as “Taiwan, China” — this from a government that claims using “Taiwan” makes Taiwan independent! The reader also reminds me that since Ma used “Chinese Taipei” this undercut all the DPP bargaining space.

Scooters launch into an intersection.

David on Formosa has links today, as always on Mondays. Don’t miss ‘em. Steven Crook writes well on our blogosphere here in Taiwan in the AmCham Topics.