Saturday, 19 November 2011

Through The Barbwire Of Inanities

"Society should be offended that men and women, many of whom were educated to the master’s or doctoral level by taxpayer money — either at home or abroad — continue to utter such inanities."
Indeed. Here is another such recent inanity: that we consider the DPP's "piggy bank" electoral gimmick as "Taiwan's version of the Jasmine Revolution".

History 101 for the politicians, current affairs 101 for the editorial staff of the Taipei Times.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I want to see a show of hands as to who among Taiwan's U.S. expats voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election. Aside from his authorization of Osama Bin Laden's assassination, President Obama's record has to be the worst of any U.S. President in living memory: his utterly craven political cynicism is such that Paul Kane's op-ed actually frightened people, lest President Obama act on its advice.

Because, as I pointed out here on Wednesday, the TPP is not a free-trade agreement. It is a political agreement on how member states shall govern trade between peoples subject to their legal jurisdiction. Moreover, even when the question is considered in conventional terms, the obvious answer is mundane: the greater the number of member states present at the negotiations, the more difficult and time-consuming it is to reach agreements. The TPP agreement has only ten member states, yet the Doha trade talks took place under the auspices of the WTO with one hundred and fifty three members, including the world's largest member states by population (i.e. China, India and Brazil). That the U.S. government was unwilling to eliminate farm subsidies - as requested by many of the smaller member states, and also the government of India - was one reason why the talks collapsed.
"The agreement would also have provisions for intellectual-property protection and what are dubbed the social and environmental issues. In short, the TPP’s core agenda will offer the region a Doha Round-type agreement that includes the social and environmental agenda that developing economies have been resisting within the WTO."
This is a point which deserves more emphasis; the objective of the TPP agreement is not to secure "free-trade", but rather to harmonize the terms under which the ten member states restrict and regulate trade and subsidiary matters. With the TPP agreement in place, not only can developing economies like China's be excluded from the new Pacific trade bloc, but it becomes politically more difficult for any government within this trade bloc to disentangle itself from prior legislation made under that agreement, since such legislation will have been one aspect of a the multi-lateral agreement linked to long-term tarriff reduction.
"While the economics of the TPP is important, the strategic component is even more so. This is the second leg of the US’ new “Pacific offensive,” aimed at offering nations in the region an alternative to excessive and rapidly growing dependence on a rising China."
That may be the motive behind the recent entry of the U.S. into the TPP agreement, but whether it will come to have this effect or not (or indeed, other unintended effects) is another question. The premise of this strategy is the continuation of the much hyped "rise of China". Yet the PRC is already suffering from its own self-generated problems which may yet bring it to the verge of collapse before the decade is out. For the vast majority of the Chinese people, a collapse of the Communist State would mix liberation with catastrophe. The TPP agreement may or may not help to bring about eventual collapse, but when that collapse does occur, what do we think will happen next - a new and magically democratic China rises to join the TPP under the same terms?

Rather than TPP member states trying to protect "their" people through a trade-governance agreement propagandized as a "free-trade" agreement, the governments of the Pacific area would do better to agree on a depoliticization agreement to eliminate all legislation that prohibits competition, and to eliminate or radically reduce taxes, regulations and subsidies. That would be a real free-trade agreement.



  1. They aren't going to listen, Mike. They'll merely visit your blog and hurl insults and profanities. Such is life when one is an editor of the Taipei news rag.

  2. "They" are not all the same, Nathan, and that person you have in mind is just one idiot who knows he's not worth his salt at that place - which is why he posts anonymously.

    Besides, one of the weird things about my blog is that posts I write now don't often get much attention until many months later after I have long forgotten them. Anyone looking for criticisms of say, the TPP agreement a year from now might stumble across my blog posts.

  3. I attempt not to consider them the same, but I'm noticing some trends there. I'll put it that way instead.

  4. Well OK, but the other thing to bear in mind is time. People change - literally. The editors at the Taipei Times in a year or two from now will not necessarily (or even likely) be the same people employed there today. My readers are not all the same people over time either. For instance I used to have a fairly regular commenter here "Okami" who has since dissappeared, but now and again I get both blog comments and emails from Taiwanese people. Just this afternoon, for instance, I was out at Ah Kung Tian reservoir in Gangshan taking pictures after an email conversation earlier this week with a Taiwanese expat in California.

    Nor will the political circumstances continue unaltered. People are starting to worry about the level of government spending and intervention and the natural consequence of this will be to critically reconsider their previous views (e.g. welfare statism). This is a very important time to try to alter the "meta-context" of often unexamined ethical and ideological presuppositions that inform how people judge what is happening around them. That I might not be able to publish anything in the Taipei Times anymore, doesn't mean I no longer have any influence*, or that I won't be able to publish opinion pieces elsewhere.

    *It's not always how many people read, but who is reading that is important.

  5. All very true. Something has to give there eventually--at least I hope so.

    My blog has fallen into utter disuse, although I did just get a comment today from someone who evidently frequents your place and visits have been steady, at least according to the view history. I've had too many irons in the fire recently to do much of anything but the occasional check on things at my own place, but I did take some time to do some glancing around elsewhere today.

    Gangshan, eh? I lived there during my first two years in Taiwan; it already seems centuries ago. Bad job there, but learned quite a bit.

    Hope all's well.

  6. Ah, Blobby! He's a funny one. I just added my two cents to that thread.

  7. Yeah, I responded. I'm not quite so sure you got my point or whatever one can call it. My biggest issue is exactly what you seem to have accused me of--some form of thought control--although that was precisely what I was attempting to battle and defeat. Also, I could have mentioned the utter lack of--dare I say--fairness in the original Anonymous article by punishing only one party to what would evidently be a "crime," but I figured you could deduce that much from the overall argument. Anyway, I must need to work on my communication skills; I was accused of advocating something I was attempting to refute! ;)


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