Dr. Stevan Harrell, longtime Taiwan and China scholar who used to live in Taiwan and has produced some wonderful work on it, was interviewed on his work in China and on the Beijing Olympics, on Blogging Beijing. A sample:

How were you drawn into studying minority people in southwest China?

After the Mosher affair , it was impossible for foreigners to do field research in Han areas. My student Dru Gladney had done research with Hui in various areas, and encouraged me to give minorities a try.

For readers who know little about Chinese minorities, what are three essential kernels of information?

1. There are as many minority people in China as there are people in Japan, and way more than there are in any one European country.
2. Not all Chinese minorities have active independence movements. In fact, only two of them do: Tibetans and Uighurs.
3. Minority people participate actively in incorporating themselves into the Chinese state, even when they have resentments against the state and against the Han.

What do the 2008 Games mean for China - Chinese people, Chinese government, Chinese minorities, and Chinese academics?

More than anything else, the Games are a chance to show the world that China is a grownup country. That’s really about all.

I’ve long followed the issue of casinos here in Taiwan, partly because I suspect they will be involved in my PhD thesis. Taiwan Journal has a piece out on the Penghu’s desire to get gambling:

Penghu has good reason to look for a financial boost from casinos as the gambling industry is expanding rapidly in Asia. According to a survey released by the American Gaming Association in June, gambling revenues in the region could surpass those generated in the United States by 2012.

Booming gambling meccas in Macau as well as new casinos in Singapore were expected to drive this growth, the AGA predicted. The association reported that U.S. casinos raked in US$34.1 billion in 2007, while Asia’s casino gambling market was estimated to have made between US$15 billion and US$20 billion during the same period.

The industry’s potential has reignited the debate on whether casinos should be legalized in Taiwan. With neighboring countries such as Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore either preparing to or having already lifted gambling bans, there is a growing sense that Taiwan should jump on the bandwagon before it is too late.

In order for that to happen, the Legislature would have to pass the so-called “casino article” in the Offshore Islands Development Act. Legislators have already rejected the article twice: in January 2002 by a 51-vote margin and in December last year, by 27 votes.

An aide to Lin Pin-kuan, a fourth-term independent legislator from Penghu County, suggested it might be a case of third time lucky. While the previous Democratic Progressive Party government was firmly opposed to gambling, the aide said the ruling Kuomintang’s position on this issue had softened in recent years.

“Lawmakers have long blocked the article because many Taiwanese people consider gambling immoral, but the enormous successes of the casino industry in other Asian countries made for a powerful argument,” said Lin’s aide. “Taiwan has legalized lotteries. People should be able to discuss casinos more reasonably now,” he added.

The water issue is a severe one, but a friend pointed out that casinos might actually be a benefit on that front, since the government might at last put in pipes to bring H2O over from Taiwan instead of straining the delicate local ecosystem.

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Lastly, the arms freeze. To complement the Senators who wrote to King George on the arms freeze, 25 members of the House Taiwan caucus have also sent a letter to the President asking about it. Below:

The Honorable George W. Bush July 31, 2008
President
The White House Washington , DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

For decades, the United States and Taiwan have maintained a mutually beneficial economic and political relationship. Taiwan is one of our strongest allies in the Asia Pacific region and we believe it is essential that there be a peaceful environment in the Taiwan Strait . The U.S. has a long history of making available to Taiwan defense articles and services that are essential in the goal of enabling Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.

In 2006, Taiwan ranked 5th among worldwide recipients of U.S. foreign military sales, receiving $970 million in defense articles and services. In December 2007, Taiwan approved their 2008 Defense budget which included a significant package of weapons to further its military modernization efforts. Among those requests were 12 P3-C planes and 3 PAC-II missile upgrades which you approved in April, 2001. Other requests that are still pending include 8 diesel submarines, 30 Apache helicopters, E-2 aircraft upgrades, sea-launched Harpoon 20 missiles, precision attack missiles and 66 F-16 fighter aircraft.

We welcome Taiwan ’s request of support for its security and growth of its defense capabilities. Upon reception of Congressional Notifications, we look forward to the opportunity to work with the Administration in completing these sales as soon as possible. Recently, we have been aware of a possible freeze on all foreign military sales to Taiwan . We believe that a freeze on foreign military sales to Taiwan violates the spirit of the Taiwan Relations Act. We request a briefing on the status of these sales from all appropriate agencies, and urge the Administration to expeditiously execute consideration of these requests.

In March 2007, China announced that their 2007 defense budget would total $46 billion, although Secretary of Defense Gates estimated that China ’s total defense spending for 2007 could be as high as $139 billion. The military and strategic imperatives for Taiwan are real and urgent, and if we fail to show the necessary resolve it would mean missing a significant opportunity to improve cross-strait peace and security - a vital U.S. interest.

We would like to echo your statement on March 22 regarding Taiwan ’s recent election, stating that you are “confident that the election and the democratic process it represents will advance Taiwan as a prosperous, secure and well-governed society.” We understand our administration’ s “One China” policy and all agree that a strong, defendable Taiwan is in our nation’s best interests.

In our view, a secure and prosperous Taiwan requires the means to provide for its own self defense and the ability to engage its neighbors without fear of military intimidation. Taiwan ’s ability to maintain its defense rests heavily upon its ability to acquire defense articles that are capable of deterring aggressive neighbors. As your statement also points out, Taiwan has a right to be “secure,” and that can only be guaranteed by an unambiguous and non-negotiable commitment from the United States to provide Taiwan with weapons systems consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act.

Sincerely,

SHELLEY BERKLEY D-NV STEVE CHABOT R-OH GENE GREEN D-TX VIRGINIA FOXX R-NC ELLIOT ENGEL D-NY 05 THADDEUS MCCOTTER R-MI MICHAEL MCNULTY D-NY TOM TANCREDO R-CO MAURICE HINCHEY D-NY DAN BURTON R-IN ROBERT ANDREWS D-NJ MARK SOUDER R-IN SHEILA JACKSON-LEE D-TX ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN R-FL BARNEY FRANK D-MA 15 DOUG LAMBORN R-CO STEVE ROTHMAN D-NJ JOHN CULBERSON R-TX G.K. BUTTERFIELD D-NC JOE BARTON R-TX 20 DONNA CHRISTENSEN D-VI SCOTT GARRETT R-NJ DAVID WU D-OR
GUS BILIRAKIS R-FL DENNIS CARDOZA D-CA 25

The Taipei Times had several pieces on the arms issue today. Dennis Wilder of the US NSC says there’s no arms freeze. Legislators say there is no realistic possibility of arms sales this year. J Michael Cole says that US arms freeze is example of US hegemony at work.