Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ma’s struggle for leadership

Critics of president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have long derided (if not vilified) him for his alleged "spinelessness" and inability to create a distinct path for himself within the party. While it is true that Ma does not have the authority of, say, Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) or Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) — which will undoubtedly create problems for him — we can nevertheless see him, in the weeks following his election in March, striving for a modicum of autonomy. As I have argued before, this effort has expressed itself in Ma’s move to the center of the political spectrum, a slide that already is beginning to alienate more hardcore members of the KMT.

The most salient example of Ma’s shift may be his surprise appointment of former Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) as Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairwoman. The decision came as a surprise — and shocked KMT purists — because Lai has long been known for her critical stance on China and pro-independence views on Taiwan, which seems a bit of a contradiction given the KMT’s “pro-China” position and the role of the MAC in fostering rapprochement between Taipei and Beijing. Nevertheless, the appointment appears to reflect Ma’s promise to assemble a Cabinet that includes people from both the pan-green and pan-blue parties, and for this, Ma should be given credit.

No sooner had the announcement of Lai’s appointment been made, however, than KMT members were decrying the decision and calling on Ma to instead tap into the pool of dedicated, hard-working KMT candidates as he puts together his Cabinet. In other words, Ma appeared to be breaking a party rule that would limit the candidates to blue-card-carrying candidates. Put differently, under that unwritten rule, rather than seek to appoint the best candidates from across the political spectrum, Ma should be limiting himself to picking individuals from within the KMT and thereby engineer a true one-party state, or a state for the party.

If, as I read it, Ma’s intentions are (at least partly) to create a Cabinet that would indeed be representative of Taiwan (as opposed to being representative of the KMT or, more cynically, Beijing), the future president may be in for the fight of his life, and his opponents will be party members themselves rather than the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) opposition.

The real danger lies in Ma losing that battle — which is a very real possibility, given, as we have seen, his lack of authority and non-old-KMT-guard allies. Should this come about, Ma would become but a figurehead president, while the real political decision-making would rest with behind-the-scene figures such as former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and the ever-conspicuous (and likely National Security Council chairman) Su Chi (蘇起), whose allegiance seems to rest with Beijing rather than Taipei. Furthermore, a sidelined Ma would mean that his Cabinet appointments that do not meet prevailing party standards would also be cast aside, meaning that Lai, for example, would be incapacitated as MAC chairwoman and the real negotiations with Beijing would happen at the non-official level — which may already be the case, what with (as Michael Turton rightly points out today on his blog The View from Taiwan) Lien’s meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) this week.

There is no doubt that Ma has been changed by the presidential election; the transforming power of carrying the weight of a people on one’s shoulders should not be underestimated. Ma may not go as far as his predecessor Lee did in becoming an advocate of Taiwanese independence, but there are undeniable signs that a shift in his perspective has occurred. And it is more than political smokescreen to appease the DPP. What remains to be seen, however, is whether he is capable of retaining his independence and fight the battle that is brewing within the KMT.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sounding the alarm

I began the draft of my book on Canadian security intelligence two days after I resigned from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in September 2005. Following graduation from the War Studies Master’s Degree program at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) on Nov. 4 that year, I relocated to Taiwan, where I began working as a copy editor. For months I sporadically worked on my manuscript, but there was still too much anger in me — anger at what I had experienced at CSIS — to be able to write with enough emotional distance to make my work more useful than mere tirade. So months passed and I focused instead on events in Taiwan.

But Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in July-August 2006 reawakened in me a sense of urgency and the need to get the message out, to show how destructive the misguided, bigoted intelligence and military apparatuses that claim to protect democracy can be (buildings need not be pulverized for lives to be damaged by intelligence services, as I saw first-hand at CSIS). Following that illegal war, I re-embarked on my writing and, months later, came up with the semblance of a finished manuscript, which I then submitted to a literary agent in Toronto, Canada. The manuscript was read and the agent sent me a list of items that needed to be changed. I was told my work was to autobiographical, which (he was right) might not have appealed to general readers. So I rewrote the entire thing, cutting entire sections that were of little interest to people who did not know me.

Three versions and 18 months later, my book Smokescreen: Canadian Security Intelligence after September 11, 2001, is finally out. It is much slicker and I believe has enough emotional distance — yet still enough — to make it engaging and useful for general readers as well as academics and intelligence officers.

I would be lying if I said that writing this book was a walk in the park. It wasn't. Aside from the hundreds (dare I count?) of hours writing the manuscript, doing research, seeking permissions from publishers whose work I quote, finding my own publisher, making the proofs, designing the cover (yes, I did that, too) and everything else, the endeavor reopened wounds I had consciously decided I would leave behind when I resigned from CSIS. For a while, the sleeplessness that had haunted my last year at the Service threatened to revisit me, and I could once again feel the very real, suffocating ball of pain creeping inside me. But in the end, this work, however painful it was, served as an exorcism. Even the more personal parts that ultimately did not make it into the final product were cathartic and allowed me to deal with the demons and, once I was done with them (or they with me), to banish them.

My work has taken so many shapes and forms that after a while I lost sight of whether it would appeal to general readers. I believe it does. Sadly, very few people in Canada have been asking the questions that I raise — and try to answer — in Smokescreen. Even fewer are those who have been part of the intelligence community, people who have a better sense of what’s going on and everything that is wrong with that state-within-the-state, largely because, like me, they were told never to write about the things they have seen or done. It was precisely because I had been part of that system that I so urgently needed to get the message out — not to reveal secrets (which I don't) — but rather to show how utterly corrupted and corrupting that system is.

Democratic systems in the West are indeed threatened, but the threat comes not from al-Qaeda, or Hezbollah, or Hamas or Iran, but from within, from the unaccountable, authoritarian (and oftentimes incompetent) sub-state actors like CSIS, the CIA, MI5, ISIS (Mossad) and all the others that purportedly protect us. This is what my book is about, how the system transforms the individuals who are part of it and crushes their sense of morality to defend a cause that has little to do with reality or protecting civilians (in my case Canadians).

So it’s out, not in my hands anymore. I don't know whether I should be excited or terrified. I think I'm both. Let’s see what happens…

NOTICE: Please note that Smokescreen is now available for order at, and, as well as in e-book format at It will go on sale through other distribution channels (Chapters, Indigo and Coles bookstores) in a few weeks.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New stock phrase

On several occasions in recent months, this site and others — Michael Turton’s The View From Taiwan spearheading the effort — have pointed out the biased use of language by wire agencies and news organizations to describe Taiwan or the situation in the Taiwan Strait. In most instances, it would be fair to say that the misrepresentations were unintentional and stemmed from the fact that the copy writers were ill informed. Given the reflex, as in any big organization that deals with information, to recycle material (a phenomenon only made worse with the advent of the copy-and-paste function), information gets congealed in time and the path of least resistance means that errors will not get corrected. What may also explain the poor track record of reporting on Taiwan is the fact that many of the reporters are not on the ground — or their work is edited by people in far-away offices who do not have a clue what they are doing.

Let us hope, therefore, that Associated Press reporting by Taiwan’s own Debby Wu over the weekend was the result of an editor in the main office, because the new stock phrase that was used in the piece bespeaks an ignorance of Taiwan’s history that defies the imagination.

In a piece titled “US may post Marines at office in Taiwan,” Wu uses terms such as “island” and “self-ruled island” that we have all become accustomed to, as well as the “Taiwan and China split amid a civil war in 1949,” which though wrong has been so overused as to have become a fact on the ground. But then follows a phraseology that, to my knowledge, had not been used to date. China “threatens to attack Taiwan if it seeks to make the break permanent” (my italics).

How can a break be made permanent if it doesn’t exist in the first place? Furthermore, by sloppily paraphrasing Beijing’s propaganda — or failing to directly quote what Chinese officials have said — AP gives the impression that the comment is its own, as if this were a historical fact rather than flagrant distortion of reality. Sadly, as always, this stock phrase will be used and reused, adopted and slightly permutated by other agencies until it, too, becomes customary, regardless of the fact this it contains not one particle of truth.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Book Review: Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq
Michael Scheuer
Free Press, 364pp

Former CIA officer Michael Scheuer’s first two books, Through our Enemies’ Eyes and Imperial Hubris, provided timely and necessary correctives to Western governments’ contention that Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and Islamists in general had declared and were waging war against the West because of some fundamental hatred for the democracy, rights, mores, consumerism and social habits that it epitomizes. Rather than a madman, Scheuer rightfully portrayed bin Laden as an adept student of Islam and a not unreasonable voice for the millions of Muslims who have clearly defined political grievances against the US for its encroachment in the Arabian Peninsula, unqualified support for Israel, tolerance of authoritarian regimes (Russia, China) that repress Muslim minorities, open support for and arming of police states (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Uzbekistan) that can only be characterized as an affront to Islam, and now the open-ended occupation of two Muslim countries.

Based on his experience as an intelligence officer and as the head of the unit in charge of hunting bin Laden, Scheuer’s main argument that the US and the West would be locked in a war without end unless they changed the policies that were generating so much anger in the Muslim world — policies that, as he argued, bin Laden has clearly decried in his declarations of war against the US — had much traction, so much so that it was imperative that I quote him in Smokescreen, my upcoming book on the subject and Canada’s disastrous participation in the US-led “war” on terrorism.

Sadly, aside from reiterating those very helpful points, Scheuer’s latest book, Marching Toward Hell offers little else, aside from a contradiction in strategy that can only be described as apocalyptic. Building his argument toward a prescription for success, Scheuer savages every US president (except Ronald Regan), non-governmental organizations, Amnesty International, leftists, peace activists, "antinationalists," neoconservatives, academics, Europe, expatriates and the Clinton and Bush administrations, and bemoans the lack of courage that, in his view, is necessary to win the war militarily, through means that would put to shame the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the carpet bombing of Vietnam. Through vengeance disguised as Machiavellian wisdom, Scheuer writes that only the muscular, no-holes-barred use of military force that punishes both non-uniformed terrorists, their supporters and those who tolerate their presence in their midst (that is, civilian populations) — the incineration of Kabul and Kandahar soon after Sept. 11, 2001, for example — would bring back global awe of the US’ power to deter its enemies, the kind of deterrence that existed at the height of the Cold War, which Scheuer seems to miss dearly.

The contradiction in Scheuer’s argument could not be starker: While, at one level, he correctly and wisely identifies the 30-year-old grievances that gave rise to the jihad against the US, and furthermore argues for a change of course in such areas as support for Israel and Saudi Arabia and over-dependence on oil, he then mortally undercuts his argument by saying that overwhelming force — using an arsenal that includes landmines, depleted uranium ammunition and total disregard for collateral damage — should be used to exterminate the enemy. Given that he has named the political grievances in all of his three books, it defies the imagination that he would then propose military action on such a scale as would not only fail to address those grievances but surely fuel even greater hatred for US policies and potentially spark a cycle of violence from which no one could possibly benefit. If the US' problem in the Islamic world can be fixed by correcting its policies — which Scheuer points out on numerous occasions — why the use of overwhelming force? For some quaint reason, Scheuer fails to understand that the two are not subsets of the same strategy.

To his credit, Scheuer gets many things right that even other intelligence officers fail to grasp, including the West’s self-defeating policies on Hamas and Hezbollah, or the fact that Iran should be left alone and that the invasion of Iraq was not only a fiasco but prevented efforts in Afghanistan, where he rightly sees defeat, both on military terms and in the “hearts and minds” campaign, on the horizon, if not already upon us. On those points and in his assessment of the nature of the al-Qaeda threat, Scheuer offers quality advice that one wishes our leaders would follow. But unfortunately, his anger, thirst for vengeance and ostensible need to demonstrate his support for the military and intelligence officers is such that it overwhelms the reader and, as David Rieff wrote in his review in the New York Times, makes it difficult for the reader to take him seriously, just as it is difficult to take seriously another proponent of overwhelming force, Ralph Peters, for whom Mr. Scheuer seems to have boundless admiration.

When he sticks to assessing the nature of the threat, Scheuer has few equals and remains a helpful guide. But the strategic prescriptions he provides in his latest book will — and wisely should — be ignored.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kosovo blowback in Quebec?

In my March 24 entry titled “Canada and the recognition of Kosovo,” I argued that Ottawa’s decision to accord full diplomatic recognition to the former Serbian province could encourage separatist elements to turn to violence to promote their agenda, as the Kosovo case may have helped convince individuals that only through violence can the status quo be altered. In Canada's case, my fear mostly concerned separatists in the Province of Quebec.

Less than a month has passed, and today the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was reporting that the Regional Association of West Quebecers — a group that defends the rights of English speakers in Outaouais — received on Tuesday a second e-mail message, a “final warning” to cease and desist or else “they would put a little lead in their heads.” The e-mails came from a previously unknown organization calling itself the Ligue de défense nationale (“National Defense League”) and the “new” Front de la libération du Québec (FLQ), which conducted bombings in Montreal in the 1960s and sparked the October crisis in 1970 after it kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross and later killed Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte.

While it is probably too soon to ascertain the veracity and seriousness of the threat — a task that police and security intelligence should soon undertake — it nevertheless supports the contention that groups or individuals, in earnest or deranged, may have reached the conclusion, as I stipulated, that only violence, or the threat of violence, will allow them to achieve their political objectives.

UPDATE: On April 11 the CBC received the following message from the group: “We believe that the peaceful action of the Quebec independence movement is not enough to defend the French language, the protection of Quebec territory in dealing with the threats of English people.”
How it changes us

The scenes from the Olympic torch event in San Francisco provide the perfect microcosm, if you will, for everything that is wrong with the world’s intensifying engagement of Beijing in spite of — or rather thanks to the conscious ignorance of — its abysmal track record on human rights. In July last year, I published an article, “Olympic Games for the hollow men,” in which I warned against the danger of international cooperation with China on intelligence matters, how doing so could make the world’s intelligence agencies complicit in the targeting of various legal dissident organizations and repression of individual liberties. Sadly, there is no reason to believe that such cooperation did not occur, or does not continue to occur.

While it is understandable, following the — how shall I put it? — rambunctious torch relay events in London and Paris earlier this week, that the City of San Francisco would increase security to ensure an orderly event, the measures yesterday teetered dangerously close to becoming a reflection of how Beijing acts at home, which turned the run into an uncharacteristically muscular display of force, what with the runners being protected by a large “amphibious” vehicle and hundreds of baton-wielding police. Slant the eyes a little and you’d think we were back in Beijing.

But the change also occurred at a different, perhaps even more fundamental, level: Fearing protests, the event organizers used the tool of secrecy — changing routes and venues — that is diametrically opposed to the very spirit of the event, which should be one of oneness and openness. Decisions were made undemocratically in a city long known for its vociferous support for civil liberties. This was strikingly reminiscent of the policy in China of focusing on an end goal without heeding for a second the impact this might have on people or the environment — and arresting those who point a finger at all the ugliness. rather than stop an act altogether, the state marches on, like a feral machine (or an "amphibious" vehicle), making its way in the throng, pushing aside, crushing all in its way.

When Beijing’s authoritarian system begins spreading like a disease, when in order to accommodate it we change who we are at home, how we act, there is real reason for concern. Let us hope for further disruptions down the road, and less restrictive measures by the organizers in the cities to come.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


The footage was amateurish, the colors so faded it could have been black and white. The video compression gave the movements an accelerated, frame-skipping pace, while the areas where there was no movement were swaths of shifting translucent squares. There was no sound. Whoever had shot this must have been hiding and filmed the whole thing with a hand-held digital camera.

Next to me at the table, fellow analysts looked at the projector screen with expressions of mixed disgust and incredulity. And overemphasized seriousness, I though, as my eyes scanned one cleanly shaven face after another, the ties immaculate, all in business attire, conforming to the extent of having become indistinguishable from one another.

I returned my attention to the screen just as a bright flash appeared on the right-hand side, where the blurry, darkened shape of a human being was standing. As it faded and the eye of the camera reopened, we saw that the flash had emanated from something that was resting on his shoulder.

“This is what we have to deal with now,” said Stern, a giant of a man with a booming voice, who would look more at ease, surely, in a wrestling ring than in an ill-fitting suit in an air-conditioned government building.

Something dark was arcing the sky, fading into its uneven grayness as it approached what looked like a small camp at the top of a hill. An observation post, Stern informed us, in southern L.

Nothing. Everybody at the table held their breath, knowing what would follow next yet refusing to believe it.

And it came. In the blink of an eye, the light gray building, listening antennas on its rooftop, burst into a giant fireball that dwarfed the initial flash, radiating pure whiteness and making us recoil from the digital cataclysm.

When it regained its senses, the camera revealed a burning mass of concrete. In the foreground, where the dark figure had stood, two others had joined it. All three seemed to be dancing and congratulating themselves, one waving a tattered flag of the readily recognizable fist holding an assault rifle.

The screen went blank and we all stood there, transfixed, in silence.

Stern’s deep voice brought us back to the present. “Iranian. In recent years, Tehran has been selling them these weapons. Some are US made.” His English, though immaculate, had an European accent I could not place, the same type of elocution that characterized the other agents who had come with him to brief us. “These videos,” he said, “ have begun being sold at bazaars and markets all over the Middle East. In fact, the one you’re watching and the copy we’re giving you [a CD] were purchased at a grocery store in Gaza.”

“Terrible,” my supervisor, a giant baby doll, blond hair and all, said.

“Shocking,” her favorite, a banker-looking type who in fact had once worked in that sector, said.

Stern’s eyes went round the table, seeking confirmation of the unacceptable as we had just witnessed on screen. I looked up. All eyes were on me as I realized I was the only one who hadn’t said anything. But words wouldn’t come; something was wrong with me, as if a mechanism inside me had malfunctioned, blocking a reaction. I stared at the screen, onto which were projected — visible to my eyes only — scene after scene of buildings, cars, neighborhoods incinerated from above, murder of far greater magnitude that what we had just been shown. At least those three men had risked their lives, had had to be close enough to their target to fire at it, and the target had been military. In the other scenarios, the ones only I could see, the great majority of the victims had been civilian, including women and children — the great majority of them, in fact, women and children, babies, the unborn. And whoever had rained terror down upon them had done so from twenty-five thousand feet, safe from harm and far enough to be spared a glimpse of the consequences. So what if the organization had acquired shoulder-launched missiles from Iran, some made in the US? What difference did it make, really, when their opponents had technology and means orders of magnitude beyond that, Falcons and Apaches and drones with million-dollar sensors attached to their million-dollar gifts of death, capable of annihilating dozens of lives from a distance calculated not in meters, as we had just seen, but rather in kilometers, at the click of a button? Disgusted? Horrified? Scared witless? How risible that was, theater in which we all knew we were actors, the script preventing any independent thought — bar that, not theater. A puppet show, rather. At least in theater, the actors, though following a script, nevertheless retain the capacity to emote, to personalize the expressions. We were puppets, all of us, also following a script but the expressions on our faces fixed, immutable. And the strings animating us had grown so long that one couldn’t even begin to imagine who the puppeteers might be.


These men, Stern and the others, were salesmen, prophets bringing a product to the faithful, the converted. But who needed them when the customers were already sold to the product. Why all the charade, three pilgrims sent thousands of kilometers to preach the gospel to those in no need of convincing, knowing fully well — and expecting nothing less — that all, with no exception, would play the part as per the script written long ago. Did they believe in the utility of their presence? Did we?

Eyes boring into me, a terrible emptiness opening beneath me, threatening to swallow me. Sweat was beading on my forehead, lakes forming in my armpits. Yet I felt cold, so cold. My supervisor, most of all, cast me this look, the same trace of annoyed disgust that reshaped her face whenever she and I didn’t see eye to eye on something, which happened frequently. What a disappointment you are, I could hear her think. We had high hopes for you, but you just don’t seem to get it. The accusations, the condescension, I’d heard it all, the volleys of missiles fired at me time and again. “Moral relativism,” she said, they said, using the self-righteous accusation of the mindless against leftists, intellectuals, artists, those who had different opinions, who chose to question the paradigm. “That’s why you don’t get it.” But I did get it, much better than all of them. They were right, of course: moral relativism is, in fact, fundamentally flawed. But what they failed to understand is that while there was no room for moral relativism in what Camp A was doing to Camp B, we’d chosen the wrong side and like sheep were cheering for the camp that was slaughtering the other, or when it wasn’t doing that, it was busy destroying the other’s livelihood on a massive scale. To hell with moral relativism indeed!

“Excuse me,” I said, getting up and leaving the room in a hurry, as if one of those missiles were chasing me, threatening to disassemble me, to incinerate the very molecules of me, of my soul, my being. I swiped my card, typed the four-digit code on the holographic panel and ran outside, feeling like spilling my guts right at the foot of the national flag.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Incompetence or China’s very own “Mighty Wurlitzer”?

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) victory in the presidential election has provided a number of case studies in how some international wire agencies continue to misrepresent events in Taiwan and, in the same breath, to depict President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as a “troublemaker” who should always be doubted.

The latest instance involves the so-called “1992 consensus,” which, in its odd rhetorical gymnastics, has it that while Taipei and Beijing agree to there being “one China,” they disagree in their interpretation of what it means. As the KMT’s Su Chi (蘇起), a former Mainland Affairs Chairman with a well-earned reputation for making things up, has admitted that the term, which first emerged weeks before Chen’s inauguration in 2000, was (his) fabrication, the case should be closed. Instead, in step with the KMT’s attempt to resuscitate the concept, some wire agencies have either failed to mention that the term is a political contrivance or, more conspicuously, will write something like Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian claims that the “1992 consensus” was invented by Su Chi.

What such writing does — especially after years of castigating Chen — is put doubt into the reader’s mind by making him wonder if Chen’s “claim” isn’t just another one of his “dirty tricks” to “cause trouble,” when instead it should be clear that there exists no such thing as a “1992 consensus.” Why put words into Chen’s mouth when the actual culprit has himself confessed? Why the second-hand reference, if only to divert the reader’s attention? A similar tactic has also been used repeatedly on the matter of the 1,400 or so short-range missiles Beijing aims at Taiwan. “Chen claims that China is targeting …” No! Imagery intelligence, the US and Taiwanese defense establishment state that so on and so forth. Beijing itself doesn’t deny that fact.

Again, the above disinformation is either the result gross incompetence on the part of some wire agencies, or the outcome of Beijing’s very own “Mighty Wurlitzer” propaganda machine. Either way, readers are being duped.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Why the economy won’t get better

As a foreigner living in Taiwan, I have often wondered how people could believe the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) propaganda that the Taiwanese economy was in the doldrums and that somehow this should be blamed on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) “mismanaging” the economy.

While I am not even remotely an economist, I know enough that 6.07 percent GDP growth in 2004 and above-4 percent GDP growth average since 2001 (at a time when most mature economies struggled to surpass the 2 percent mark) was not indicative of a struggling economy. Furthermore, as I have written before, the supposedly “high” unemployment rate in Taiwan would make people in most Western economies dance in the street.

Yet another indicator — call this one a “layman’s view” was how busy the redundant high-end shopping malls in downtown Taipei were. If the economy were in such a terrible state, people would not be buying Armani suits and expensive jewelry at Swarovski. And yet, on any given day, the malls were filled with shoppers.

This led me to investigate the matter a little more. Were the KMT claims founded? If not — and aside from electoral rhetoric — what was it that they had missed? It soon emerged that context was everything. Taiwan’s economy has matured tremendously since the booming 1980s, when its GDP growth reached 16 percent, and all the elements that allowed for that “miraculous” growth had, since the 1990s, shifted to China, which is now enjoying the benefits. The global financial situation, one that is very much anchored in the US economy, is also a principal factor that has often been overlooked by the KMT and the critics of the DPP. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and sings that the US is headed for recession, have had and will have an impact on the state of Taiwan’s economy, but somehow we rarely hear about that, as if Taiwan could somehow operate outside the global economy (nothing could be falser) or that further integration into the “greater China” economy would solve everything (also false, but espoused by the KMT, as if China were not dependent on the global system).

Readers can access the full article, titled “Some economic truths for the KMT,” by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Tiananmen Square torch fizzle*

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) yesterday berated the Beijing Olympic organizing committee following the failure, during the much-awaited torch lighting ceremony in Tiananmen Square, to start the flame. Thousands of onlookers, including hundreds of foreign reporters, collectively gasped as Lu Xiaobing (碌小餅), a 12-year-old Chinese triathlon hopeful, tried in vain to light the Olympic torch before it embarks on its journey tomorrow, with the first stop scheduled in Almaty, Kazakhstan. After a second, equally unsuccessful attempt by Lu to light the torch, a clearly discomfited Hu promptly left the stage and was seen departing the scene in a black limousine, followed by a retinue of state security officials, police and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Xinhua news agency reported that preliminary investigations had shown that traces of diethylene glycol, commonly known as antifreeze, were found in the petrol used to light the torch. Chinese authorities refused to reveal the source of the petrol, but unofficial sources who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals said it had been provided by Sino Petrol Co, of Fujian Province, a principal sponsor of the Beijing Olympics in August.

Later yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said Beijing had intelligence indicating that an umbrella underground organization consisting of Tibetan dissidents, Taiwanese intelligence officers, Muslim Uyghur terrorists and possibly American human rights activists funded by the Japanese government may have been involved in the plot to humiliate the 1.3 billion Chinese by attacking the flame. It added that the entire thing also smacked of a plan by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to “create tensions across the Taiwan Straits [sic].” As a precautionary measure, Chinese security officials late last night “preventively” rounded up Tibetans, human rights and environmental activists and imposed a curfew on certain Beijing neighborhoods. Taiwanese businesspeople operating in China, as well as individuals who looked or sounded Japanese, were also under close observation, officials said.

“This [the antifreeze attack] is totally unacceptable,” the foreign ministry said in a press release late last night. “President Hu has been personally hurt and refuses to leave his room. He has stopped eating and, according to his wife, he will not let go of his Mao Zedong [毛澤東] doll.” Chinese children were reportedly holding a candle vigil outside the Hu residence late last night.

Meanwhile, the Taipei Times learned last night that an executive at Sino Petrol surnamed Huang had sent signals to Taiwan that he and his family were seeking to defect for fear of persecution following the torch incident. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) would not comment on the matter while president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he would consult honorary Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Lien Chan (連戰), who was on a hunting trip with co-conspirator and US Vice President Dick Cheney, on the matter.

* Happy April Fools day! Disclaimer: Every person, identified or otherwise, news organization credible or not as well as events mentioned in this entry is either fictional or, if real, did not act in ways as portrayed in this entry. No animals, torchbearers, demonstrators, workers in the oil (and antifreeze) industry, spokespersons, government officials, spouses, reporters, candle-holding children, police officers, PLA staff, Taiwanese, Tibetans, Uyghurs, Japanese and Americans were injured in the process.