Saturday, March 31, 2007

Report from Macao: August 9, 2006

Note: This posting, and particularly the picture below receive a lot of hits. For some reason most of them seem to come from the Netherlands. If you are looking from there, consider leaving a comment. I'm just curious why almost every hit I get from a .nl isp is for this post.

My girlfriend and I went to Macao (Macau) last August, and I took a bunch of photos and kept a little bit of a travel journal. I intended to post all of it when I first got home, but things got busy (I started grad school) and I never got around to it. Since I've been too busy lately to write much of anything, I decided I'd finally post this stuff.



August 9, 2006 – Macao

It is almost ten a.m. We’ve already had breakfast, and I just finished in the bathroom. When I came out, Jessica was asleep, so I’m having a gin and tonic and jotting down some notes.

Macao is really cool. We spent a few hours walking around yesterday, and, from what I’ve seen, it is the cleanest and most interesting city in Asia (not that I’ve been in very many, but it beats the pants off any place in Taiwan).


The most striking thing is how clean it is. There’s no rubbish on the streets, which are also swept and almost appeared to have been polished in some places. I only saw a few cigarette butts. The relative cleanliness may be due in part to the convenient placement of public trash bins/ash trays—something that has yet to be imagined by the Taiwanese, much less implemented.

The next thing I noticed was that, despite the reported population density of 17,699 people per square kilometer (compared to Taiwan’s 636), it is not crowded. There are plenty of people out and about, but there is none of the claustrophobic mob feeling that is the norm in Taiwan. Part of this is because there are dedicated pedestrian places and nice, level, wide sidewalks. No one puts their food stands or other wares on the sidewalks, and no one parks scooters or other vehicles on them, either. The end result is that there is actually room for people to walk on the sidewalks, so they don’t have to walk out in the street.

Of course the best thing about what I’ve seen so far is the architecture and the layout of the city. There are plazas and parks and gardens that look just like Spain. In fact, they look better than Spain in some cases. What I’ve seen has been clean, colorful, and carefully illuminated to give it an almost Disneyesque feel.


There are also a lot of old Catholic churches.

Our Lady of Penha Church.

St. Dominics Church.

In addition to the Catholic churches, there is a famous Buddhist temple.

A Ma Temple, Macau.

A Ma Temple, Macau

Also, the city is extremely vertical in places. Oh, and so far no bad smells.


The people here are mostly Chinese looking, but some who could be Latin American, Polynesian, Mediterranean, or a mixture. Most have dark hair and skin and almond eyes. There are a lot of Western looking tourists, too. Some of these touristy looking women are dressed like total whores with tube tops, short shorts, and stilettos. This seems odd to me. Maybe they are hookers, but they seem to be shopping and sightseeing. Yet still they seem to want to put the goods out on the sidewalk. Maybe they are hoping to defray some of the costs of their trip. I didn’t see many (if any at all) whorish looking Asian women here.

There are very few convenience stores. We’ve seen two very small 7-11 stores. I saw one OK store from the bus. This is also in stark contrast to Taiwan, where there are usually three different convenience stores within walking distance of wherever you are. There are about nine within five minutes of my house in Hsinchu.

Back to Macao: there are lots of jewelry and watch shops. Jessica says they are pawn shops, which makes sense considering there are lots of casinos.

Something else I feel needs to be mentioned about Macao’s appearance, or, rather, one of the other things, is the neon. There are some spectacular lights here.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Chapters 9 and 10: Contending Approaches to the Political Economy of Taiwan

Chapters 9 and 10: Contending Approaches to the Political Economy of Taiwan


Chapter 9: Entrepreneurs, Multinationals, and the State

This chapter looks at Taiwan’s development in light of Evans’s study of Brazil, in which a triple alliance of private capital, MNCs, and the state plays a crucial role. The chapter begins with an analysis of what “dependent development” means and its theoretical history, then turns to Taiwan’s own dependent development through its colonial period, its emphasis on horizontal import substitution, export-oriented industrialization, and export-oriented vertical import substitution—the latter of which saw the full emergence of the triple alliance.

The next section examines the role of local capital, and the different groups of Taiwanese entrepreneurs that evolved and how they interacted with the state and MNCs. Then the role of foreign capital (by way of the American, the Japanese, and the overseas Chinese) is explored. Finally, the state and state capital are examined. The author points out that, contrary to the Brazilian case, in Taiwan, the state has been the key actor in development through planning, investing, and creating a stable investment climate to attract other investors.

In conclusion, it is shown that, due in large part to the structure of its triple alliance—with the state being by far the strongest actor—, Taiwan has avoided most of the adverse effects of MNC penetration.

Chapter 10: Technology Transfer and National Autonomy

The beginning of this chapter examines technology transfer in Taiwan, and the external constraints and internal initiative that effect it. It posits that developing countries want technological development to achieve their economic and political objectives, but radical dependency theorists contend that modern technology is monopolized by the core, leaving the periphery in a position of weakness. More conservative scholars, however, assert that a strong state can play a positive role in developing indigenous technology. In any case, most scholarship in this area has been focused on Latin America, so it is likely that Taiwan’s experience will have been different.

Three main questions addressed in this chapter are 1) how successful has Taiwan been in securing and absorbing advanced technology? 2) have external factors helped or hindered technological progress? 3) have internal factors helped or hindered technological progress?

The three stages of technology learning are introduced and defined as acquisition, adaptation, and innovation. Taiwan is shown to fit into different stages depending on time period and the industry in question, but generally to be dependent on foreign technology, though this is changing (and is certain to have changed quite a bit since our text was published).

The text then goes on to examine the roles of external public and private actors. The most significant external actors, both public and private have been the MNCs and governments of Japan (both in its colonial period and post WWII), and the U.S. As to private internal actors, the focus is on small to medium business whose practices have often been detrimental to technology learning. On the other hand, the Taiwanese state has been a major promoter of technology transfer to Taiwan by way of closer cooperation between government and local firms, extensive government planning and investment, and foreign technology as a catalyst for government efforts.

Monday, March 19, 2007

External Incorporation and Internal Reform

Chapter 7: External Incorporation and Internal Reform

“Development by invitation” is a process that is recognized by world-system theory, and is the way in which Taiwan achieved its development in contrast to the predictions of previous dependency theory, which states that peripheral states’ development is retarded or distorted by involvement with core states.
Chapter seven examines how the “third phase” of land reform, which not only redistributed land, but also had an impact on the distribution of industrial capital and was strongly influenced by U.S. policies, helped Taiwan to achieve not only development, but a high level of equity across society. Key issues that the chapter looks at were: What would be the relative proportions of the private and public sectors; how concentrated would capital be in the private sector; how concentrated would capital be in the private sector; and what level of involvement would the Taiwanese have in the private industrial sector. The more general question was what role the U.S. would play and how much influence would it have.

The U.S. articulated its influence through the Mutual Security Agency (MSA) and its two parts—the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), and the AID mission, which focused on building Taiwan’s infrastructure.

The Nationalist government, embodied in the KMT, resented the level of involvement by the MSA, especially the pressure towards land reform that set the terms for Taiwan’s incorporation into the postwar global political economy. The chapter, however, asserts that it was the result of this U.S. involvement that paved the way for Taiwan’s eventual economic success.

Briefly, land reform was composed of three steps: 1. rent reduction to 37.5 percent of main crop yield; 2. sale of public lands; and 3. the land-to-tiller program. The point of the land-to-tiller program was to convert tenants into land owners and to shift the economic power of the original landholders into the industrial sector by compensating them for their land with land bonds or stock shares in government enterprises.

Public versus Private Control
An important issue regarding the four government enterprises (Taiwan Cement Corporation, Taiwan Pulp and Paper Corporation, Taiwan Agriculture and Forestry Corporation, and Taiwan Industrial and Mining Corporation) whose stock was given to the landholders was how much control the state would exercise over the economy.
The Chinese government wanted a lot of control, which left private entrepreneurs at a disadvantage. The U.S. was concerned that the situation could make it impossible for private ownership of industry to succeed. Still, to make the point that foreign influence could not determine domestic policy, the Nationalist government went ahead with the plan to transfer the government corporations to private control. Eventually the government was also pressured into allowing greater openness to foreign trade and investment.

Despite the government’s publicly stated support for private sector development, at the time of writing the author states that the Taiwanese private sector was still very wary of the government and its potential for intervention in private industry.

Concentrated Versus Dispersed Assets
The main point of this section is to illustrate how the alliance between some segments of big business and the government was formed. It turns out that the land reform effort, the intention of which was—at least in part—to break up the concentration of resources into more hands, resulted in the concentration of stocks in a relatively few hands. This is because most of the landholders who received stocks in exchange for their lands immediately sold it, thinking it to be relatively worthless. As a result, a few former landlords and mainland financier-bureaucrats ended up owning most of the four government enterprises.

Mainlander versus Taiwanese Interests
The relationship between the Taiwanese and mainlandrs was unequal in politics as well as in economics. Taiwanese were not allowed equal representation of their interests in the government, and were not allowed positions of responsibility in government industries. Neither did they fare well under land reform.

An interesting note is that some of those dispossessed by the Nationalist government eventually ended up overthrowing it in the form of the DPP.

Conclusion
The chapter illustrates the success of the U.S. AID program in securing a private sector in Taiwan and in ensuring Taiwanese participation in it, despite what dependency theory and world-system theories might predict. It also points out the limitation of the U.S. AID role, but asserts that its success was the result of creating the conditions necessary for the private industry to take root, and for a shift from foreign aid to foreign investment. In addition, rather than causing to become dependent on aid, U.S. policies and involvement helped Taiwan to establish industries that could compete internationally so that it could become a self sufficient entity in the world political economy.

Questions

What made it possible for foreign intervention by the U.S. to set the stage for Taiwan’s ultimate success, especially considering the predominant theories that predicted the opposite outcome?

How much of this success was the accidental result of the U.S. desire to contain communism and how much was the intentional result of the desire to create a viable economic zone in East Asia?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Chapters 3 and 4: Contending Approaches to the Political Economy of Taiwan

Chapters 3 and 4: Contending Approaches to the Political Economy of Taiwan

Chapter 3: Mass Political Incorporation, 1500-2000
Chapter three of our text focuses on the relationship between external and political incorporation, and especially the relationship between political and military mobilization. Generally, it posits that states seek external political incorporation to support them in limiting the internal incorporation of their own masses, and they seek the internal political incorporation of their masses to support them (militarily) in seeking advantage against other states. In other words, the elites of a state can maintain exploitative policies regarding their masses only in so far as other states allow them to do so, while on the other hand the elites need to allow some form of political incorporation of their masses in order to extract reliable military service from them to support their supranational agenda.

The chapter traces the history of these relationships as they apply to the Taiwan experience through three major periods: the imperial era, in which Taiwan was under Chinese control; the colonial era, in which Taiwan was a colony of Japan; and the nationalist era, during which Taiwan was under the rule of the KMT. Throughout each era, external political forces played a major role in influencing the internal political outcomes.

Chapter 4: Supranational Processes of Income Distribution
Chapter four looks at the distribution of income in Taiwan, and how it challenges both the traditional liberal and radical views of what happens to an economy of a peripheral state as it becomes developed and integrated into global economic systems. It looks at how external forces and processes influenced internal distribution over the main historical periods, including the late Ch’ing period, the Japanese colonial period, and the Nationalist period.

The chapter also examines the radical-globalist analysis of inequality in Taiwan, and examines both world-system and dependency views, as well as the different types of dependency, including colonial dependency, aid dependency, and trade and technology dependency.

The author further challenges the position of the New Statist and New Globalist analysts by putting forth the theory that supranational forces are important factors in shaping subnational distribution, but that these forces are misspecified.

In summary, the author says that earlier theorists, particularly the radicals, misunderstood how external forces influence income distribution in peripheral states, especially as applied to East Asia and Taiwan. The most important foreign policy influences in shaping Taiwan’s income distribution were land reform and export expansion, but there were also other important influences caused land, industrial, and political assets to change hands throughout the various eras of Taiwan’s development.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Weird Statue Garden Place


At the top of Gu Qi Feng in Hsinchu, there is a big temple to a deity called Guang Gong. The temple is topped with a sixty-foot statue of Guang Gong. It is pretty cool.

I got the following information from the Hsinchu City Government website, so I can't vouch for it's accuracy:

Gu Qi Feng Cultural Museum
Address : No.66, Lane 306, Gaofeng Road, Hsinchu City
Phone : 03-5225287
Hours : Monday to Sunday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Admission : Monday to Friday (NT $2000), Saturday and Sunday (Free)

The Gu Qi Feng neighborhood once had a flourishing glass industry. In Alley 306 and Alley 324 of Gaofong Road, local artisans still occasionally perform glass-blowing demonstrations. The most famous tourist attraction in Gu Qi Feng is the 120-meter-high statue of Guan Gong (a Taoist martial deity) in the Putian Temple complex. The giant statue is a nine-story building with a different exhibitions on each floor, including displays about the history of Guan Gong, Buddhist statues, the 24 Filial Exemplars, Chinese and Japanese antiques, scenic photos from the Japanese colonial era, ancient beds, four-faced Buddhas, statues, of the Jade Emperor, and a model rain collection from the Japanese era. The temple also houses a deity of matchmaking that attracts many worshipers.


Adjacent to the temple complex is a very strange park that has hundreds of statues from all kinds of time periods and cultures. It looks like at one time it was a tourist attraction, but it seems all but abandoned now. I took a lot of photos of the place that you can see on my yahoo photos page. [sorry, since I posted this Yahoo discontinued its photo service.]





今天我要 寫 中國字

可是 我不會.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Rainy Lantern Festival

Sunday was Lantern Festival, which marks the end of Chinese New Year. People celebrate it by writing wishes on large paper lanterns inside of which they suspend kerosene soaked coils of cardboard. They light the cardboard and it hot air produced causes the lantern to float away into the night sky. It is quite beautiful, but also dangerous and short-sighted, as those lanterns have to eventually land somewhere. I've never heard of a fire started by one, but it must happen.

People in Taiwan also celebrate Lantern Festival with fireworks. This year the fireworks in my neighborhood seemed louder for Lantern Festival than they did for New Year's Eve. In the early evening the din was getting to the point where it was difficult to carry on a normal conversation indoors. Then, suddenly, there was a new sound. At first I thought it was just a different kind of firework, but it turned out to be a downpour of rain. As suddenly as the rain started, the noise of the fireworks subsided. Then, after a few minutes, the rain started to let up and the fireworks started up again. This cycle continued for most of the evening until the rain started coming down steadily, at which time I think the revelers gave up and went indoors.

I didn't go out to see the lanterns because of the rain, but I can't imagine anyone was very successful getting them off the ground. Paper and fire are the two main ingredients in the lanterns, neither of which does very well when mixed with water.

There is always next year.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Taiwan High Speed Rail

There are a lot of ways to get around Taiwan: bus, train, plane, taxi. Now there is also the high-speed rail. If you talk to almost anyone in Taiwan, they say they won't take it for the first couple of years it is in operation because there is sure to be something wrong with it (Taiwanese workmanship and corruptions being what they are). The common wisdom is that if something is going to go wrong, it will happen in the first two years.

Below is a video of the fast train arriving at the Tainan station.

You can also follow the link to see it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb7UytuRXk4
Outside the HSR station
Outside the HSR station
Outside the HSR station
I have heard a lot of rumors about how corners were cut and the engineering was poor, so I decided that I would avoid riding the thing for a while. Then my friend from America came to visit, and on his list of things to see and do was taking a trip on the HSR (high speed rail).
Bernie at the Starbucks in the HSR station
It turned out to be a pretty good experience. The stations were clean and not crowded, and they were staffed with helpful people who actually spoke English. The trains themselves were also clean. Of course they were very fast, making travel up and down Taiwan's west coast very convenient.
Inside the Zhu Bei (Xin Zhu) Station
For example, the trip from Taoyuan (where the airport is) to Hsinchu (where I live) takes about 40 minutes to an hour by car depending on traffic. On the HSR it takes ten minutes. The problem is, the train doesn't actually go to the airport (that would be too easy), so you have to take a fifteen minute shuttle bus ride from the HSR station to the airport. Also, the train doesn't stop right at my front door, so I had to take a ten minute cab ride from the HSR station in Zhu Bei (a kind of satellite of Xin Zhu). The train ticket from Taoyuan cost $130NT. The taxi ride cost $200NT.
Inside the Zhu Bei (Xin Zhu) Station
Inside the Zhu Bei (Xin Zhu) Station
Getting help from the HSR people
Something else that is really great about the HSR stations is that the bathrooms are really clean and have some semblance of privacy (unlike most Taiwanese public restrooms). I just hope that they continue to maintain the facilities once the general public gets over its fear of high-speed rail travel.
Using the change machine
The worst thing I can say about the experience is that, as in most places in Taiwan, there were a lot of noisy kids on the train, and their parents did nothing to encourage them to quiet down.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Why Are There People Like Frank?


A little while ago I posted some home movies I made of myself and my girlfriend trying to smoke a hookah she had just brought back from Turkey. Neither of us had ever tried to smoke one before, so we had no idea what we were doing. The thing didn't come with instructions, either.

Anyway, I put the videos up on YouTube, not really thinking much about it. Then I got a few helpful comments from people who told me what I was doing wrong (not that I cared that much--I don't really intend to take up hookah smoking as a pastime). I thought that was very kind of them to share their knowledge with me, a stranger to them.

Then I started getting really insulting comments, apparently just because I am a "noob" at smoking a hookah. I was called some pretty nasty names, and my general intelligence was insulted. All because I don't know how to do something that is a pretty stupid and unhealthy thing to do in the first place. Believe me, there are lots of stupid and unhealthy things that I like to do, but I'd never insult someone else just because he or she doesn't know how to do them. I'd probably think such a person was lucky not to have developed a bad habit.

Anyway, I just can't figure out why some people get so much pleasure out of trolling the internet and insulting others. I mean, I'm all for freedom of information and the sharing of ideas, but pointless insults are less than useless. They are a waste of everyone's time and energy, and they just create more negativity in a world that already has too much.

Why?

Why?

Why why why?