Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Philippines, Vietnam concerned over Taiwan moves on disputed islands

Taipei, Jan. 30 (CNA) Representatives of the Philippines and Vietnam in Taiwan expressed concerns Wednesday over Taiwan's construction of a runway in the disputed Spratly Islands, as well as the reported planned visit there by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian.

"We were always concerned about the sovereignty issue of the Spratly Islands. And we condemn any action that violates the sovereignty of Vietnam, " said Pham Manh Hai, deputy head of the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office (VECO) in Taipei.

He was speaking amid local reports of a planned visit by Chen to the Spratlys' Taiping Island, known internationally as Itu Aba island, where the runway was built. The visit will happen as early as this weekend, Taiwanese reports said.

"We didn't want the situation to escalate into something that might generate tensions in the region, " said Antonio Basilio, Representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei. He added: "We don't want to make it an issue now."

Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia and the Philippines all claim sovereignty over all or parts of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The area around the island chain are believed to be rich in oil resources.

Chen's planned visit, if realized, would be the first-ever inspection of the Spratlys by Chen or any Taiwanese leader in recent memory.

Minister of National Defense Lee Tien-yu said Tuesday that construction of a 1,150-meter long runway on Taiping Island, which Taiwan considers its southernmost inhabited territory, has been completed and the military will make necessary preparation if President Chen wants to visit the island.

Lee refused to confirm or deny the reports about a possible visit by Chen.

While the Philippines respects Taiwan's right to say the islands are part of its territory, Basilio said, he cautioned that a visit "might provoke some reactions from other claimants."

Basilio said his office has not received any request of a clearance of flight for the Manila FIR (flight information region) . Taiwan's United Daily News reported that Taiwan's military was granted approval from the Manila FIR for a flight to Taiping Island.

"Nothing came to our office, " Basilio said, adding that "no such request has been made to us or my counterparts in Manila, your (Taiwan) office in Manila."

Meanwhile, Nguyen Ba Cu, the head of Vietnam's representative office in Taiwan, met with officials of Taiwan's foreign ministry Tuesday and expressed concerns.

The office has also conveyed the information to the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, which will be responsible for making all official statements, Pham said.

The Vietnamese foreign ministry last Thursday issued a protest over a visit by Taiwan's C-130 transport plane to Taiping Island recently.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

China could suffer if it attacks Taiwan: U.S. expert

Taipei, Jan. 29 (CNA) China should take a careful look at the various scenarios that could occur if it decides to attack Taiwan, a U.S. military expert said Tuesday.

"Taiwan's armed forces are increasingly capable of responding to military threats posed by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) , " said Roy Kamphausen, director of the National Bureau of Asian Research (NSB), speaking from Tokyo in a digital video conference on the rise of China's military power.

"In an absence of U.S. participation, Taiwan would inevitably lose to the PLA, but would inflict tremendous losses, " he said, citing a recent report from Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense.

There has been some dramatic progress in Taiwan's military capability in the last seven to eight years, according to Kamphausen.

"That should be a cause of increasing confidence for Taiwan's armed forces, " he said in the teleconference organized by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

In his assessment of the PLA's rapid modernization, Kamphausen said the PLA is seeking a strategy to delay the arrival of U.S. forces in the Western Pacific, specifically in the Taiwan scenario.

Chang Ching, a navy captain and instructor at the War College of National Defense University, questioned whether the PLA's main focus will be Taiwan or denial of access to the U.S.

Kamphausen said the PLA will strike both at the same time. However, China needs to contemplate its decision because "striking the U.S. would definitely change the international security situation, " he went on.

The U.S. is not responsible for responding to a Chinese attack on Taiwan, nor is its support for Taiwan unconditional, Kamphausen pointed out.

The U.S. has no policy choice but to work with China, he continued, adding that his assessment on the rise of China's military power is that China does not think it needs to compete with the U.S. in the region.

But China "is desirous of a military befitting its status as a regional leader and rising global leader, " he said.

Monday, January 28, 2008

German Trade Office Taipei names new director

Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) Roland Wein has been named the new director of the German Trade Office (GTO) Taipei, succeeding Christine Reber, the office announced Monday in a press release.

Wein's appointment took effect Jan. 1, 2008, according to the statement.

At a seminar on "Taiwan in 2008: Economy, Politics and Culture" organized by the German Trade Office Jan.16, Wein expressed his commitment to contribute to the further strengthening of the office as the gateway for German companies to Taiwan, as a service provider for companies of both economies, and as a business club for the German business community in Taiwan, the statement said.

"I am very much looking forward to cooperating closely with the representatives of German and Taiwanese companies engaged in bilateral economic relations as well as relevant organizations and institutions, " he said.

Wein majored in Korean studies and holds a Ph.D. from Humboldt University in Berlin. He has lived and worked in several Asian countries such as North Korea, Mongolia and South Korea.

Before joining the German office in Taipei, he worked at the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KGCCI) in Seoul for six years.

Australia to get featured role at International Book Exhibition

Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) Books, writers and publishers from Australia will be featured at the 2008 Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) next month, the Australia Commerce and Industry Office (ACIO), said Monday.

Australia will be the feature country in the book fair, with 25 publishers from Australia attending, said Lauren Hu, media and culture manager of ACIO's Economic Policy Section. ACIO serves as Australia's representative office in Taiwan in the
absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Four special events are scheduled for the show, Hu said, consisting of an Australian artists' books exhibition, a theme exhibition of well-known illustrator Shaun Tan, an Australian way of life exhibition, and a "Show me Australia" photography competition.

Tony and Maureen Wheeler, founders of the popular travel guide "Lonely Planet," will be among the Australian guests invited to share their experiences with local readers and counterparts. Markus Zusak, author of "The Book Thief" and Tan, one of the best-known Australian illustrators of children books, will also attend the show.

The TIBE, which will be held this year from Feb. 13 to 18 in Taipei, is one of the largest book fairs in Asia, registering more than 400,000 visitors last year. A total of 699 companies set up 1,821 booths at the 2007 show, including 358 publishers from 40 countries.

Friday, January 25, 2008

With courage comes hope: ex-South Korean president

Taipei, Jan. 25 (CNA) There will always be hope for Taiwan as long as its people keep their courage, as all Communist regimes will fall eventually, former South Korean President Kim Young-sam said Friday in an interview.

"Keeping their courage is important for the people of Taiwan. With courage comes hope. With determination comes success. Taiwan will be able to be a proud example in Asia in the future, " said Kim, who was invited to attend the Global Forum on New Democracies.

Kim, 80, served as South Korean president from 1993-1998. He was his country's first civilian president since 1960.

Commenting on Taiwan's Jan. 12 legislative election, in which the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) nearly gained a three-fourths majority in the lawmaking body, Kim said the lopsided result was the people's choice but the impact and implication of the election were worthy of contemplation.

He declined to elaborate on Taiwan's upcoming presidential election in March and his personal views of the two candidates -- the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Frank Hsieh.

Kim also dismissed the comparisons that are sometimes made of relations between South and North Korea and those between Taiwan and China, saying they were neither appropriate nor necessary.

He suggested, however, that all Communist regimes would fall some day, based on the experience of the post-Cold War era when the number of communist regimes had fallen from nearly half of the countries around the world to four -- China, Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba.

The Soviet Union collapsed 10 years after hosting the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics and the impact of South Korea hosting the 1988 Seoul Olympics on its economy has also been debated for a long time, he said.

"Now China is making its best effort for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In terms of the impact of hosting the Olympics on the national economy, it's not necessarily a good thing (for China). The long term impact remains to be seen, " Kim said.

Meanwhile, the former South Korean president also said he would relay a message from President Chen Shui-bian to South President-elect Lee Myung-bak proposing to send a delegation from Taiwan to attend Lee's inauguration ceremony in February.

Kim and five other heads of state, including Chen, and former Poland President Lech Walesa, former South Africa resident F.W. de Klerk, former El Savador President Francisco Flores Perez, and former Romania President Emil Constantinescu, attended the forum.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sports lottery, industry development top priorities for SAC in 2008

Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) A sports lottery and fostering better development of the sports industry will be high on the 2008 priority list for the Sports Affairs Council (SAC) , Chairman Yang Chung-he said Tuesday.

Speaking at a year-end press conference, Yang said the SAC will put great emphasis on the scheduled launch of Taiwan's first sports lottery in April and shift its focus from increasing national sports participation to the development of a healthy sports industry, which will benefit athletes, coaches and sports-related corporations.

Preparation and training for the 2008 Beijing Olympics will also be important. Yang said 37 athletes in eight categories had qualified for the Olympics as of Tuesday, with more expected to qualify in baseball, table tennis, judo and tennis before August.

The sports lottery is important not only because of its debut but also because the profits from the lottery will benefit national sports development, said Chang Fen-fen, director of the SAC's Department of Planning, which is in charge of planning and implementing the lottery.

The Taipei Fubon Bank estimated last September when it won the right to issue the sports lottery from 2008-2013 that sales could reach NT$30 billion (US$909.09 million) a year.

If the SAC proposal is passed in the Legislative Yuan, 80 percent of the lottery profits will be allocated to sports-related events and organizations, with the remaining 20 percent going to social welfare, Chang said, adding that the allocation will be a boost for the SAC, which got a budget of just NT$2.6 billion in 2007, less than 1 percent of the central government's total budget.

The SAC, Taiwan's highest sports governing agency, has taken great strides in increasing national sports participation in the past few years, said Peng Tai-lin, director of the Department of Sports for All, adding that the council plans to expand fan bases and spectators for all sports, as well as developing the sports industry, which includes sports management and other sports-related functions.

Among other goals for 2008, the SAC will work on preparation for two international sporting events -- the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung and the 2009 Deaflympics in Taipei.

Taiwan faces tough international tennis tests

Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei achieved a major breakthrough at the Australian Open last week, becoming the country's first singles player to reach the fourth round of a grand slam event.

Now the Chinese Taipei Tennis Association (CTTA) is hoping that Hsieh and her teammates Chan Yung-jan, Chuang Chia-jung, and Chan Chin-wei will do the same in international competition and propel Taiwan farther than it has ever gone in the Federation Cup.

The association introduced the lineups Monday for the women's Fed Cup and men's Davis Cup teams that begin their 2008 campaigns in the coming weeks, and CTTA President Yeh Cheng-yen said that Hsieh's exploits in Melbourne were a promising sign.

"It took a lot of effort to produce a player of Hsieh's caliber. She lost to [Justine] Henin but her game was impressive and gave hope for the future, " Yeh said.

What the association official could not promise was that the players called up for the Fed Cup and Davis Cup ties would be healthy, which has proven to be the downfall of local teams in recent years.

Seeking to become the first team from Taiwan to reach the Federation Cup World Group II last year, the women stormed through the Asia/Oceania Zone Group I competition before falling to Croatia 3-2 in the World Group II playoff. An ailing Chan Yung-jan put up little resistance in one singles match and sat out the other as Taiwan could only secure one of the four singles matches.

Their task will be more difficult this year with the presence of he battle-hardened Australians and Sania Mirza-led Indians in the Asia/Oceania Group I tournament, to be played in Bangkok, Thailand from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3.

Only the winner of the eight-team group that also features Hong Kong, Indonesia, New Zealand, Uzbekistan and host Thailand will advance to the World Group II playoffs. The eight teams will be divided into groups of four, the winners of which will face off for a spot in the playoffs.

Team Taiwan manager Wang Shi-ting said Hsieh, Chan Yung-jan, and Chuang Chia-jung will join the team in Bangkok directly from Melbourne.

The doubles duo of Chan and Chuang, finalists at the Australian Open in 2007, were upset in the round of 16 this year at Melbourne, but while they may not be in their best form, they should still have enough to give Taiwan a crucial lift in Bangkok, where each tie will feature two singles and one doubles match.

The men's Davis Cup team, to play Australia in a first round Asia/Oceania Group I tie in Kaohsiung from Feb. 8-10, will feature Lu Yen-hsun, Wang Yeu-tzuoo, Chen Ti and surprise inclusion 17-year-old Yang Tsung-hua.

Lu, ranked 112th in the world, and Wang, ranked 147th, have been ranked in the top 100 in the past but were derailed for much of last year with injuries and illness. Wang is still recovering from a viral infection that kept him out of action the last two months of 2007.

While the team may be more unified and better organized than it has been in the past, it faces a supreme test in Kaohsiung with world no. 22 and former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt scheduled to lead the Australians.

Yang, who has reached the round of 16 in the juniors singles at the Australian Open, was included in a Davis Cup lineup for the first time.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

EU head optimistic about Taiwan-EU relations

Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) Taiwan's relations with the European Union (EU) are expected to continue growing and the EU remains very confident about Taiwan's economy and will continue supporting its meaningful participation in international fora, according to EU's top representative in Taipei.

"Whoever wins the March presidential election, the EU will continue to have a good trade and economic relation with Taiwan, and we will continue to develop cooperation in the fields of science, technology, environment and education, " Guy Ledoux, head of European Economic and Trade Office in Taipei, said in an interview with CNA over the weekend.

"When I see particular announcement of a big business deal like the investment of HSBC in China bank and the letter of intent signed by China Airline to buy 20 Air Bus A350, I think that shows that the EU is very confident in Taiwan's economy in the long run, " Ledoux said in an interview with CNA.

"Why would a bank like HSBC buy a Taiwanese bank if it is not confident about the economic future of Taiwan?" he added.

The EU, the largest foreign direct investor in Taiwan, accounted for 25 percent of Taiwan' foreign direct investment (FDI) with US$23 billion as of November 2007. Bilateral trade reached US$49.9 billion in 2007, according to statistics provided by Taiwan's Bureau of Foreign Trade.

In terms of Taiwan's intention to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU, Ledoux said that the EU's hands are full now with ongoing negotiations with South Korea, India and ASEAN. It also has to analyze whether an FTA is the best solution for improving trade relations.

Since December 2007, he said, the Schengen area has expanded to 24 countries, which will make travel easier for Taiwanese business people and benefit bilateral economic exchanges.

He said that a lot can be done in terms of economic reforms within Taiwan -- without mentioning the cross-strait issue -- for Taiwan to facilitate both increasing economic growth in Taiwan as well as expanding EU-Taiwan economic relations.

On diplomatic matters, Ledoux said that the EU will continue to support practical and meaningful participation in the World Health Organization (WHO).

Citing a statement by EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana made last October, Ledoux pointed out that the pursuit of a referendum on the question of United Nations membership in the name of Taiwan made it harder for Taiwan to enjoy the pragmatic participation, which the EU supports, in the activities of specialized multilateral fora.

Ledoux said that the office has three major plans for 2008. He would like to see breakthroughs in major trade issues of compulsory licensing and the government procurement agreement (GPA). It plans to establish an European Union Center (EU Center) -- a partnership with local universities to promote better understanding of the EU -- and to organize an international conference on environment.

Reviewing his first year in the office, Ledoux said 2007 has been a very fruitful year in terms of EU-Taiwan relations as the bilateral economic relation has continued to grow and he has been able to made good progress in bilateral exchanges in science and technology and to organize a small number of events.

Offering his observation of the Jan. 12 legislative elections, Ledoux said that the international community was impressed by Taiwan's democracy once again as the polls took place in a moderate and peaceful way and nobody had contested the results.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Eight years for 100 years of peace: KMT presidential candidate

Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou said Wednesday that he will bring 100 years of peace and stability for the people of Taiwan if given eight years of the presidency.

In a keynote speech at an international conference on confidence-building measures, Ma reiterated his "three noes" policy on Taiwan's foreign diplomacy -- "no unification, no independence and no use of force."

He said he believes these policies will be welcomed by the people of Taiwan, the Beijing leadership and the international community.

Ma pledged that if given eight years of the presidency, he will lay down the foundations for peace and prosperity for the next 100 years.

Eight years would mean two presidential terms from 2008 to 2016.

If elected in the March 22 presidential election, Ma said, he will uplift and upgrade Taiwan's democracy for the benefit of the people and anchor Taiwan's policy on his "three noes" pledge to foster a peaceful environment.

He set forth a vision of leading Taiwan back to the pre-1995 period, when the country enjoyed high economic growth, political stability, moderate cross-Taiwan Strait relations, strong national defense and better international status than at present.

In general, his goal will be "maintaining and consolidating the status quo of the Republic of China," he said.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , he said, has antagonized the Taiwanese people and the United States, at too high a price.

However, Ma also hinted at reconciliation with the DPP, saying that his goal for the nation "can be achieved without frustrating each other."

"Democracy is not about abusing one's power, but also about respecting those not in power, " he said, adding that he will start a process of healing and sharing because the differences between the opposition "pan-blue alliance" and the "pan-green camp" led by the DPP cannot possibly outnumber the common bonds between them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

British Trade and Cultural Office relocates

Taipei, Jan. 15 (CNA) The British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) in Taipei will open for business in a new office Jan. 22, the BTCO announced in a press release Tuesday.

The new address of the office is 26F, No.9-11, Song Gao Road, Hsinyi District, Taipei. Due to the relocation, the office will be closed Jan. 18 and 21 and no visa applications will be processed during this time, it said.

The office also announced that a two to three day delay in visa processing and return of passports can be expected. Applicants scheduled to travel this month are advised to apply for their visas early to avoid last minute delays.

Three basketball players suspended over stabbing

Taipei, Jan. 15 (CNA) Three players of a local basketball team were suspended indefinitely without pay over their involvement in a stabbing, their head coach Wu Chien-kuo said at a press conference Tuesday.

Wang Chuan-chien, Chou Tzu-hua and Wu Jun-hsiung, who play for the Dmedia Numen team, were allegedly involved in the knifing incident last Sunday and have been suspended indefinitely without pay until an investigation is completed, Wu said.

The stabbing took place when the players became involved in a dispute with a group of youngsters over a girl outside a Taipei nightclub. Three men were stabbed by a number of unidentified men, who the victims claimed were friends of the players.

The players did not attend the press conference.

The final decision on the players' future with the team will be made after the investigation and legal process are completed, Wu said.

Dmedia Numen is one of the seven teams in the Super Basketball League (SBL) -- Taiwan's top basketball competition. Chou, a 20-year-old guard, played in two games with the team this season while Wang, 22, and Wu, 23, practiced with the team but were not listed on the 18-man roster.

Dmedia, which ranks third in the SBL with nine wins and four losses, was hit by another disorder incident on the same day. Forward Cheng Jen-wei was suspended for four games and received a NT$50,000 fine for throwing a punch at opponents in a game Sunday.

Monday, January 14, 2008

President finished, but KMT may have won by too much: Scholars

Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) The legislative elections marked the end of the political influence of President Chen Shui-bian and former President Lee Teng-hui, but the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) may regret winning by such a large margin, scholars said in a roundtable discussion Monday.

"The whole election was a vote of no-confidence against President Chen, " said Hsu Yung-ming, a professor at Soochow University.

"Mr. Chen has been out and should be out, " Academia Sinica researcher Michael Hsiao said of the impact of the legislative election on Chen's political career.

Prior to the election, Chen said he felt confident his Democratic Progressive Party would win between 45 and 50 seats in the legislative polls. The party ended up with only 27 seats in the 113-seat legislative body, however, dealing the president a lethal political blow.

The same could be said for Lee, whose Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) was shut out from the new legislature after tallying less than five percent of the total party vote needed to earn at-large seats, Hsiao said.

With the two heavyweights of the DPP-led "pan-green coalition" politically debilitated, DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh will be on his own to try and reverse the KMT's momentum in the remaining 68 days before the presidential election, Hsiao contended.

Raymond Wu, a professor at Fu Jen Catholic University, cautioned, however, that while the KMT's haul of 81 seats represented a great victory, it may have been better for the opposition party if it had won 65 to 70 seats.

"DPP supporters feel threatened by the huge setback and the KMT's dominance in the legislature. That is expected to stimulate a self-mobilized grassroots movement among DPP supporters, which will work against the KMT in the presidential election, " Wu said.

The KMT will also face challenges ahead of the March election that could expose internal divisions, including in February when it nominates candidates for legislative speaker and deputy speaker, Wu said.

Hsiao agreed that the KMT's huge win might have a boomerang effect because it reminded the older generation of the days when Taiwan was ruled under the KMT's one-party authoritarian regime and will allow young people to appreciate what one-party authoritarianism was like.

Wu agreed that, "one-party dominance is not necessarily healthy for the Legislative Yuan."

Hsu contended that the election's big winners were legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng and former President Lee, even if Lee's TSU suffered a resounding defeat.

Wang, he said, would retain his influence as the powerful leader of the legislative body, while Lee had successfully squeezed out Chen Shui-bian.

Other things to watch after the election include the realignment of senior political elites and Hsieh's ability to lead the DPP, Hsu said.

Hsieh has to turn tides for DPP in 10 weeks: academia

Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) It is not a sure bet that Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou will win the March presidential election, but ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh has 10 weeks to turn the tides of a campaign that favors his opponent, following his party's humiliating defeat in the legislative elections, academics said at a roundtable Monday.

The roundtable was organized by the pro-independence Taiwan Thinktank and invited foreign representatives, scholars and election observers for the discussion on the impacts of the legislative election.

Scholars said the momentum was obviously on the opposition KMT's side after it won 81 of 113 legislative seats in the poll last Saturday, but its presidential candidate Ma could not be seen as a shoo-in to win the March election just yet.

The DPP won only 27 of the seats, with the remaining five going to candidates from other parties and an independent.

The DPP may have seen a big drop in its seat share in the Legislative Yuan but it still held around 40 percent of the vote cast in Saturday's polls, said Hsu Yung-ming, an assistant professor at Soochow University in Taipei.

While turnout in Saturday's election was 59 percent, traditionally, the turnout of Taiwan's presidential election is a lot higher, and this can create a different outcome for the two parties, academics said. Voter turnout in Taiwan's presidential elections have been around 80 percent in the past.

"That tells us that the DPP is probably down but not out, " said Raymond Wu, a professor at Fu Jen Catholic University. However, Hsieh has to bring about change with performance in 68 days, as there are only so many days before the March 22 presidential election, which is not easy, said Wu.

"For Hsieh to do that and win back the voters, the first thing he needs to do is achieve consolidation and unity within his party and fix the DPP's relations with its pan-Green ally Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), whose spiritual leader, former president Lee Teng-hui, had been mercilessly criticizing the DPP for the past year," Wu said.

Hsieh also needs to make a decision on whether to stay consistent with his reconciliation and co-existence approach toward his KMT rivals and China, Wu said. Finally, he had to address the credibility issue of both himself and the party by "saying things you mean and doing things you say, " Wu said.

Hsieh is expected to stay with his reconciliation and co-existence approach to try to appeal to voters in the middle of the political spectrum, Soochow University professor Lo Chih-cheng said.

The DPP candidate also has to ease tensions within his own party as well because some party members do not agree with his ideas, said Lo.

Lo said it is still possible for Hsieh to win the presidency as issues of the presidential election and the legislative election are "totally different". Namely, the national identity issue will be back in the forefront, which favors the DPP, said Lo.

Scholars differ over impact of new election system on DPP defeat

Taipei, Jan.14 (CNA) A majority of scholars participating in a roundtable Monday believed that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) humiliating setback in the legislative election was the result of the new electoral system.

The DPP won only 27 of the 113 seats (23.9 percent) up for grabs on Saturday, and only 13 of the 73 where lawmakers were elected in single representative districts, a big drop from the nearly 40 percent of the seats it won in 2004 when multiple representatives were chosen from each district.

The major falloff was the direct result of the new single member district voting system, which favored the KMT, said Hans Stockton, director of the Study Abroad Programs Center for International Studies at the Houston, Texas-based University of St. Thomas.

Stockton said economic factors in the DPP's defeat have been overstated while, according to his research, the impact of the new electoral system has been understated.

Based on a simulation, Stockton estimated that the DPP would have won somewhere near 35 seats at minimum under the old multi-representative system used in 2004, Stockton said.

Academia Sinica researcher Michael Hsiao suggested that the DPP may have been the victim of its own naivete, even though it knew full well when it launched the new electoral system in 2005 that the system would benefit the KMT in the short term.

"The DPP introduced the [new] system out of idealism...and probably out of naivete and optimism, " Hsiao said.

The new system helped the KMT because of its strong ties with local factions and networks that had been nurtured over the past 50 years, while proving unfavorable to the DPP, which "had no real local base," Hsiao contended.

The KMT went along with the system in 2005, the researcher said, because it knew it stood to gain from its implementation.

Soochow University professor Hsu Yung-ming pinned some of the blame directly on President Chen Shui-bian. Hsu suggested Chen miscalculated by thinking that an increasing awareness of Taiwanese identity would bolster DPP support and overcome the disadvantages of the new voting system.

Some scholars believed, however, that other factors were more important than structural voting issues.

"The electoral system is not in any way to blame " for the DPP's poor showing, said Shih Cheng-feng, a professor at Tamkang University.

Shih attributed the DPP's downfall primarily to the administration's poor economic performance and its arrogance in handling the controversies over the voting procedure in Saturday's elections and renaming the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Taiwanese companies have strong showing in Las Vegas: TAITRA

Taipei, Jan. 11 (CNA) Taiwan's information communication technology (ICT) sector performed impressively at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas, winning awards and international attention, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) said Friday.

More than 60 international journalists covered the news conference of Taiwan's delegation, which introduced new products from A-Data, Asus, Mio and MSI and highlighted Taiwan’s contribution to the global ICT industry.

Asus' low-priced Eee PC was among the hottest and most discussed products at the show and was honored with one of the International CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards for 2008, TAITRA said in a press release.

More than 300 Taiwanese companies, including Asus, Tatung, A-Data, Ritek, dmedia and Power Quotient International participated in the annual show, held in Las Vegas, United States from Jan. 7-10. The CES is one of the biggest technology-related trade shows.

Taiwan ranked first in terms of worldwide market share for 11 ICT products in 2007, according to statistics released by the Taipei-based Market Intelligence Center (MIC).

According to the MIC, Taiwan was tops in global market share for motherboards, notebook computers, LCD monitors, CDT monitors, digital signal controllers, cable CPEs, VoIP routers, DSL CPE devices, WLAN NIC cards, IP phones, and IP set-top boxes.

The CES was the first stop of the year for Taiwan's ICT companies, which will later exhibit at three shows in Taiwan -- April's Cartronics, June's Computex Taipei and October's Taipei International Electronics Show (TAITRONIC) in October, TAITRA said.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Taiwan businessmen explore opportunities in Africa

Taipei, Jan. 10 (CNA) More than 80 Taiwanese companies are exploring business opportunities in Africa, where most countries welcome investment from and trade development with Taiwan, the chairman of the Taiwan-Africa Business Association (TABA) said Thursday.

"The African continent is rich in natural resources and is a large market that Taiwanese businesses need. While Taiwan has suffered on the continent diplomatically as a result of China's oppression, we as businessmen have been able to develop multilateral ties with African businesses without interference from China, " Eden Chou said at a TABA anniversary ceremony.

More and more local companies are eyeing Africa, with TABA membership increasing from 40 to more than 80 in a year, said Chou, who sells auto parts in Egypt, Nigeria and Ghana.

The association, which was established last year with the help of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) , has sent 11 delegations to seven African countries -- Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana, Gambia, Kenya and Ivory Coast -- to gather information and seek potential partners.

TABA has enjoyed fruitful results, signing Memoranda of Understanding with the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the Egyptian Businessmen Association, and is scheduled to send out more delegations in collaboration with TAITRA.

"We welcome investment from all sectors in Taiwan and look forward to establishing stronger bilateral trade relations. With 14 million people, Burkina Faso is an attractive market for Taiwanese businessmen, " said Jacques Sawadogo, Burkina Faso's ambassador to the Republic of China.

Speaking on Africa's appeal to Taiwanese businesses, Liaison Office of South Africa in Taiwan Deputy Representative C.A. du Toit said the population of the continent is predominantly young people who will be more educated and technology-smart in the future. In the long run, it will be an attractive market, she said.

However, local businessmen have been reluctant to directly invest in African countries because of various risks, but they still want to trade with African businesses, said Mike Hung, honorary vice chairman of TABA.

Most local companies trading with African partners are in the sectors of communication, minerals, civil engineering, solar energy and food processing, Hung said.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Plenty for MAC to do before March election

Taipei, Jan. 8 (CNA) The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) , which charts Taiwan's China policy, has plenty of tasks to tackle before the March presidential election, MAC Chairman Chen Ming-tung said at a press conference Tuesday.

The MAC will try to advance the Refugee Law and relax the employment regulations governing spouses from China in the new legislative session, said Chen, who also offered "five appeals" to the Chinese government, urging it to re-engage in cross-Taiwan Strait negotiation.

Bilateral negotiations on charter and passenger flights and accepting more Chinese tourists have been halted since last July due to China's refusal to continue the dialogue.

"I had trouble understanding what was on their minds during the past six months as there has been no response from them at all. The chartered flights, the opening of Chinese tourists...were all beneficial to people on both sides of the strait. And
Chinese President Hu Jintao has said time and again that China is all for the good of the people. So why the hesitation and stalling? " Chen asked.

In addition to resuming the negotiations, Chen also called for China to engage in peaceful cross-strait development and the normalization of bilateral relations, abandon its "one China" framework, remove more than 1,000 missiles targeting Taiwan and stop its military threats.

"We also urge China to observe Taiwan's upcoming elections rationally and stop interfering the democratic process publicly and privately, " he said.

The MAC will not stop doing its job because of the upcoming elections and potential change of power, he went on.

Chen rebutted common criticism that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) China policy has been inconsistent and a "closed-door" one. The DPP government has always maintained a strategic goal of normalization of cross-strait relations under the principles of goodwill reconciliation, active cooperation and permanent peace, he claimed.

Chen said advancing the Refugee Law will be the top priority in the new legislative session as there have been several cases in recent years of Chinese citizens trying to seek political asylum in Taiwan.

The government has tried to help them by reporting their cases to the United Nations Refugee Agency, he noted, although he added that Taiwan's requests and applications have all been rejected by the agency due to Taiwan's unique political status.

If Taiwan is determined to be a country that supports and protects human rights, the passage and implementation of the Refugee Law is necessary and a good first step, Chen added.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Local township returns to indigenous name after 50 years

Taipei, Jan. 1 (CNA) The name Sanmin Township is history, the indigenous town in Kaohsiung County having been officially renamed Namasiya Township Tuesday to mark a new beginning on the first day of the year and the end of 50 years of conforming to a transplanted name.

Sanmin Township became the first indigenous town to reassume an indigenous name after the township council unanimously agreed to change the township name to Namasiya in December 2007. More towns are expected to follow its lead, said Icyang Parod, Chairman of Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP).

Persons from the Bunun tribe account for 70 percent of the population, which also includes individuals from the Tsou, Paiwan and Atayal tribes, as well as a few Hoklos and Hakkas. In the 1950s, the Kuomintang (KMT) regime changed the name of the town from Maya to Sanmin, a name derived from KMT founder Sun Yat-sun's Three Principles of the People.

The name rectification is in line with appeals from the indigenous movement as well as the "New Partnership between the Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Taiwan" treaty signed by President Chen Shui-bian in 1999 and reaffirmed in 2002, Icyang said.

The treaty undertakes to restore the traditional names of indigenous tribes and lands, he said, adding that the CIP will offer assistance and funding to townships applying for name rectification.

Namasiya is a southern Tsou indigenous name for the Nanzihsian River, a major river that flows from the Mount Jade, said Husong Istanda, Mayor of the Namasiya Township.

The Namasiya case is expected to inspire other indigenous towns to follow suit, Icyang said, noting that Sioulin Township in Hualien County submitted a plan to rename itself "Taroko Township" in December 2007.

"In fact, there are many indigenous towns in Taiwan with names unrelated to the indigenous language or culture of their inhabitants. For example, Fusing Township in Taoyuan County, Heping Township in Taichung County, Renai Township and Sinyi Township in Nantou County, Datong Township in Yilan County, and Gwangfu Township in Hualien County, " Icyang said.

Citizens and cultural workers of Sanmin Township have long questioned the political ideology behind the renaming of their village, but didn't start pushing to rectify the name until June 2007, Icyang said.

At first the town council planned to rename the township Maya, its original name before the KMT era, before settling on Namasiya.