Wednesday, 28 April 2010
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
and while on the subject of China Post editorials
[not my comma, by the way]
has initiated a little debate on the comments board:
April 20, 2010 stephan97b@
"let the public outcry be loud"You wish....Most parents see cram schools and extra-curricular classes as a solution rather as a problem: they don't have to take care of their children + they believe their offspring can become "more competitive" in Taiwan's highly materialistic/low creativity environment.Your criticism of Taiwan's 'education authorities' doesn't even come half close to offering any real solution. You refer to the only hint of a feasible solution as: . Legislature is heavily KMT dominated, isn't it? So go tell you good buddies there. Don't waste cyberspace and people's time on your pseudo-moralistic rambling.
April 21, 2010 danny2987@
Cram school and extra curricular class is not the whole solution, it's one of the options.
April 21, 2010 Skyhermit77@
To stephan97b: Not everything is political! Kids deserve a childhood...this article has nothing to do with the Blue/Green divide. One of the "solutions" to this problem is that Taiwanese society needs to start talking about the issue...something this piece is trying to do. You need to seek help for your bitterness and illogical worldview.
April 22, 2010 stephan97b@
Skyhermit77,If you can't spot the direct political references in this article, I'm afraid it's you who's in need of help. Problems with English reading comprehension, maybe?
April 23, 2010 beatles009@
I don't try to argue but just want to point out something else. If the teaching of Chinese history takes precedence over Taiwanese history at our high schools, does it serve the purpose of education or politics?
April 27, 2010 Skyhermit77@
Stephen...my English is rather fluent...It doesn't matter if a kid's parents are KMT or DPP supporters....they all believe excessive hours at cram schools are the way to develop a child's mind -- this mindset is harmful. Think over your own educational history...did all that calculus make you a better employee in the modern workforce? Hours spent running around outside in nature as a kid might have made you a happier person than you are today. Life is visceral! Life is dirty! Life is touching, feeling and experiencing! Do you have kids? LET THEM BE KIDS! Skip the cram school and go catch fireflies together! Taiwan needs to reassess the meaning of the word "education."
there seems to be a spate of liberal social (but not political) editorials lately
in the last fortnight alone, the following have appeared:
treat drunk driving as "premeditated murder" http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/taiwan-issues/2010/04/28/254191/Penalties-are.htm
animal welfare, protection needs strengthening: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/taiwan-issues/2010/04/26/253933/Animal-protection.htm
suicide ... more social workers needed:http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/taiwan-issues/2010/04/25/253853/Suicide-tragedy.htm
protect PRC sailors working for ROC boats: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/taiwan-issues/2010/04/24/253715/Govt-should.htm
(more) animal protection: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/taiwan-issues/2010/04/19/253040/Use-warning.htm
increase water rate: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/taiwan-issues/2010/04/18/252955/Increasing-water.htm
attack on rogue doctors (without attacking the Health Insurance system): http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/taiwan-issues/2010/04/16/252710/p2/Hospitals-need.htm
government should build some low-cost housing: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/editorial/taiwan-issues/2010/04/14/252410/Govt-should.htm
Tilapia farmers face stiff competition
Tilapia growers in Liuchia, in southern Taiwan's Tainan County, threw a banquet Sunday to promote their product in the domestic market amid falling exports and strong competition from China.
With more and more Taiwan's tilapia farmers relocating their investments to China, the island's tilapia business has seen a steep decline in exports, while China's exports of the fish have jumped.
According to the United Evening News, China's frozen tilapia exports to the U.S. totaled 29,672 metric tons in 2009, while Taiwan's were 13,180 metric tons. China's frozen tilapia fillet sales to the U.S. last year hit 10,691 metric tons, far in excess of Taiwan's 2,333 metric tons.
China is now the largest tilapia exporter to the U.S., the newspaper said.
In an effort to mitigate the effects of weakening exports, local tilapia farmers are giving more attention to the domestic market. However, an increase in local supply has dragged down domestic prices by 29 percent to 34 percent.
About 90 percent of Taiwan's tilapia species are being grown in China as the industry is moving more and more of its capital there. In addition, Taiwan investors have taken Taiwan's advanced breeding technologies to China, which is now producing a better quality product than Taiwan. ...
... Su said he is worried that Taiwan's tilapia growers will suffer even more once an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China is signed as it will require Taiwan to eventually open its market wider to Chinese products. ...
read the whole article [here]
Monday, 26 April 2010
China Post editorial:
Perhaps Tsai, DPP will think twice about more public debates
Taiwan's groundbreaking first public debate between the president and the leader of the main opposition party concerning government policy went ahead yesterday afternoon as planned. Early indications are that it gained a significant international audience online, in addition to domestic viewers and listeners.
Those expecting high drama will have been disappointed, however, as the two participants, President Ma Ying-jeou and Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen, managed to remain polite and adhere to the rules of debate. This was in stark contrast to their foot soldiers, partisan experts and media supporters, who over recent weeks have engaged in increasingly vitriolic disputes over the rights and wrongs, benefits and weaknesses, and economic and/or political dimensions to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement that Ma's administration plans to sign with China, perhaps as early as June.
Unfortunately, those expecting incisive intellectual jousting would similarly have been disappointed. The two party leaders spent almost every minute of the 150-minute televised debate playing to the camera and wider audience, and merely restating the positions with which anyone interested in this issue would already have been well aware of.
Thus Ma stressed the urgency faced by his government, claiming that eight years of waiting, worrying and time-wasting by the previous DPP administration meant that time was now short for Taiwan to catch up with regional and world economic developments, particularly the latest advances between ASEAN nations and China.
The three prongs of an ECFA signed with the mainland—reducing tariffs, increasing exports and protecting intellectual property rights—would lead to the creation of more than a quarter million jobs. Moreover, Taiwanese businesses that had moved to China would return, and the increased exports to China would attract foreign investment that would naturally lead to further job increases.
Signing the ECFA would open Taiwan's doors to FTAs with other countries, Ma said, and responding to accusations of helping big business at the expense of small and medium-sized firms, the president said that the economies of all such companies were intertwined and helping some would help the others. The ECFA was not for anyone's personal benefit but for the national good. Regarding those industries that would suffer through their inability to compete with Chinese goods, Ma repeated that NT$95 billion would be set aside over 10 years for assistance to domestic industries that experienced any negative impact.
The key difference between the two sides was his administration's open and international approach compared with the closed attitude of the DPP. This latter would lead to Taiwan's marginalization on the world stage.
Regarding fears of a threat to Taiwan's sovereignty, which the ruling Kuomintang had accused the DPP of whipping up, Ma stressed that after signing the ECFA it would be submitted to the Legislative Yuan for scrutiny, and he reaffirmed his commitment to no unification, no independence and no war.”
The DPP's Tsai Ing-wen was similarly unoriginal, merely restating her party's accusations that ECFA negotiations were being undertaken with unnecessary haste and undue secrecy, were not under Taiwan's control, would affect the regional strategic balance, and were of great concern to many laborers, farmers and white-collar workers.
She said Ma only talked about benefits and not about negative impacts, and claimed that within just 10 years 90 percent of domestic agricultural products would be open to tariff-free imports.
If the legislature did not pass the ECFA after it had been signed, would the government resort to stating it was too late to make changes, as it had with the U.S.-beef-import issue, Tsai asked.
In short, she said, it was not her party's incitement but the government's lack of transparency that was causing the public anxiety, she said, repeating her call for a referendum on the ECFA issue.
So, was the debate a disappointing anticlimax and a waste of a pleasant Sunday afternoon after the recent poor weather?
No. The fact that the audience included many from outside the “chattering classes” who may not be so familiar with the ECFA issue, gave President Ma an opportunity to fill the void of understanding that he has often blamed for causing the opposition from much of the public to the agreement.
For the KMT, it showed that the party has moved on from the days when Taiwan's government made decisions behind closed doors, which it then informed the people afterwards. And on a personal level, it showed that Ma is more than capable of holding his own in one-on-one political sparring with the best the opposition can produce.
It also gave him a stage, with the nation watching, to make one final surprise announcement. With the nation's television cameras whirring and in almost his last paragraph before the microphone went dead, President Ma announced that the status of the cross-Strait ECFA discussions was being upgraded, and that he would personally be leading the negotiating team from now on.
Perhaps Tsai and the DPP will not push so hard for televised public debates in the future.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Monday, 19 April 2010
What children need is not more classes, but their childhood back
Three additional classes of English per week will be taught in elementary schools starting in September, Taipei County's government has announced. Despite claiming that more than 80 percent of parents support the changes, the educational department tried to smuggle these hours onto the curriculum under the titles of “international cultural learning,” “advanced reading” and “flexible usage.”
This last was particularly pernicious since these courses will be held in time that is currently allocated for “flexible classes.” This is time that is intended for the provision of special activities tailored to children's broader learning and individual needs.
Young people already spend far too much time in formal learning and too little in organized play. Or disorganized play, for that matter.
Fearing their children will fall behind and get stuck in dead-end jobs, many parents feel pressured into joining the educational arms race and send their offspring to after-school classes and cram schools in ever increasing numbers and for ever increasing numbers of hours.
This word — numbers — is a clue to the problem. Since quality is so difficult to assess, the world increasingly resorts to the seemingly simple notion of quantity, not just in education but in many areas of life. If parents cannot know their children's teachers' true worth or quality, they solve the problem by sticking their children in front of more teachers for more learning time. If officials in education departments cannot impress parents with the quality of teaching given to pupils, they certainly can force them to swallow more hours of rote learning at the expense of trips to museums, art classes, sports or, heaven forbid, play.
Play can definitely be fun, but it is more important than that. It is where human beings — and many other mammals - undergo intellectual and emotional development, rehearse life situations, and learn interactive skills. Children will not learn these nearly so well by watching television, playing online games or social networking on their cell phones and bedroom computers.
The great irony is that the primary concern of most parents is their children. When asked why they work so hard in jobs they don't like, many say it is so their children won't have to. They also say it is to pay for university tuition, school fees, cram schools and even nursery provision. In this vicious cycle, they end up working extra hours to pay people to care for their children while they work.
But this is not what children want. A survey released on Children's Day this month showed that they would like to spend more time with their parents. A whopping 30 percent of children do not regularly eat dinner with their parents. This flies in the face of the common-sense view (as well as academic research) that children learn almost all their values and life skills at home and not in the classroom.
So parents should leave work at a reasonable time (which might require legislative assistance), cancel most if not all their children's after-school classes, eat dinner with them, develop shared hobbies and play with them, put them to bed at a sensible time (going to bed early wouldn't hurt adults either), and send them off to school after an energizing breakfast (one thing guaranteed to disrupt pupils' attention is poor nutrition).
None of this is rocket science, of course, and none of it is new. Many parents have felt trapped by the cram school culture since it started with the hiring of private tutors. The reforms of 1968 aimed, in part, to end this by providing compulsory nine-year education for all children, but things continued apace. Similarly, the education minister of Taiwan's first democratically elected administration took office in 1996 with a slogan of “giving students back to their families, giving youth back to students.” But nothing changed for the better, as things just got worse.
Being a child is not only not being an adult; childhood is not only waiting for the clock to tick until adulthood begins. It is a process during which important lessons are learned and skills are acquired. Lessons and skills that are needed to function in adult society, and which society needs people to have for its own smooth running.
But these things are not readily quantifiable, so their quality is difficult to assess. No wonder government departments are tempted to resort to simplistic measures that can be counted on the fingers of one hand. “Three more hours” — it sounds positive, but it is not. It is yet another attack on childhood.
Let us hope Taipei County's announcement was an example of the widespread technique, practiced at all levels of local and national government, of announcing “changes” well in advance of implementation so that, should there be significant pubic opposition, they are quickly canceled as merely announcements of “policy options under consideration.”
So, let them be policy options, but let the public outcry be loud, and let us set about giving children back their childhood.
Saturday, 17 April 2010
Thursday, 15 April 2010
Yu-dong (漁東) were the entrepreneurs who operated the fishing boats, hiring and overseeing the crew (漁夥) and making the gear (or buying them on credit) from the wholesaler with whom he dealt or sometimes from independent shipowners. The 漁東 sold his catch to middlemen (鮮客), stationed offshore near the fishing grounds, receiving a sealed receipt (賣鮮摺) rather than cash. The middlemen then shipped the catches of several boats to wholesalers (鮮魚行[fresh-fish guild] and 鹹魚行[salted-fish guild]) in Ningpo, from whom he received a commission. The wholesaler bulked, processed, and delivered the fish and either shipped them to importers in other cities, or delivered them to local or nearby retailers (鮮貨鋪[fresh-fish retailer] and 鹹貨鋪[salted-fish retailer]) on twenty days’ credit. Itinerant retailers (行販) normally got their supplies from retail shopkeepers but occasionally got them directly from a wholesale firm. The漁東entrepreneurs periodically took their sealed receipts to their wholesaler in Ningpo, either collecting cash or receiving a bill of exchange (鹹單), which they converted to cash a the ch’ien-chuang 錢莊bank that financed the wholesaler. Payments both ways were such that middlemen in effect received a commission from the 漁東 as well as the wholesaler. It goes without saying that the wholesaler exercised decisive control over 漁東 through setting prices, renting out the factors of production, and issuing bills. Wholesalers in turn were dependent for credit on the kuo-chang 過帳 system of the ch’en-chuang 錢莊 banks.
discussion of fish trade in Ningbo (寧波) in Qing(?) dynasty from "Ningpo and its hinterland" p413 by Yoshinobu Shiba in “The City in Late Imperial China” ed. Skinner
romanization replaced with characters
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
Monday, 12 April 2010
It was a majestic performance, if your head is buried in sand
Members of Sweden's Nobel Peace Prize committee will have slept well in their beds this weekend following signing of last week's agreement to make significant cuts to the global stockpile of nuclear weapons by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. If the treaty is ratified by both countries' legislatures and implemented, this will see the Cold War adversaries' arsenals reduced to the lowest levels since the arms race of the 1960s.
In any case, the fanfare that accompanied the signing ceremony held in Prague's baroque castle will have been music to Swedish ears. Last year, in what was widely criticized as a partisan political gesture, it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama just a few months after he entered the White House simply for promising to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
So maybe the committee got it right, and maybe the world will be a safer place in the future thanks to Obama and Medvedev's actions. But there was something bizarre about the whole event, or rather, something was missing.
It was not that nuclear weapons have not claimed a single life in over six decades, or that the greatest threat to citizens of the United States and Russia comes from terrorists with rucksacks, vests and even shoes loaded with bombs (though in Russia's case, insurgents might be a fairer word).
Nor was it that the United States and Russia are essentially now on the same side after spending most of the 20th century with daggers drawn, and both countries' chief concern with regard to nuclear weapons are the so-called rogue states (now to be known as “outliers,” apparently) of North Korea and Iran. The cost to people in the former country is lives of unimaginable poverty, while those in the latter are about to get clobbered by serious sanctions if Obama, Medvedev and the leaders of around four dozen countries can focus their animosity (whereas Israel joined the “nuclear club” and introduced nuclear weapons into the unstable environment of the Middle East almost without censure).
No, the most bizarre aspect of last week's baroque love fest was its anachronism. It was like watching two dinosaurs arm wrestle on television then kiss and make up. Nice spectacle, but hardly relevant to today's more evolved world. Russia may possess thousands of nuclear warheads — which once upon a time gave some backing to its claim of superpower status — but its empire fell apart two decades ago. Moreover, the world very quickly learned that the bombs were little more than the emperor's new clothes, and that the cost to the Soviet Union of possessing them was far beyond the means of what, in reality, was not a superpower at all.
So the pantomime went ahead, and the world applauded, and the pundits discussed the Obama-Medvedev contribution to world peace, and almost no one mentioned China, which, as a growing global power, should merit more attention.
Whether China already is a superpower, will become one sooner or later, or will never exceed its role as regional heavyweight are questions that normally generate many column inches. There can be little doubt that this is China's aim, however, and if any existed, it was surely dispelled by the recent book by PLA colonel and academic Liu Mingfu, in which he made no bones about China's goal of replacing the United States as world leader. Perhaps being modest, Liu said this would take 90 years: 30 to match its GDP, 30 to equal its military and cultural strength, and 30 to surpass its per capita GDP.
Or perhaps he was trying to reduce anxiety. Liu did make it clear, however, that this goal required not just building its economy into the world's largest, but also creating armed forces of equal stature. But he said armed conflict was not inevitable, and described the forthcoming competition as neither world war nor cold war, but more like a track-and-field event or a protracted marathon.
Perhaps the greatest doubt about China's ability to transform into a world force comes not from outside but from within as it undergoes the growing pains necessary for this maturation. All its economic and military clout will count for nothing if it cannot overcome numerous and varied challenges. These include people's demands for rule of law and freedom of expression; government corruption and organized crime; intergenerational conflict as the old elite clings to power and socio-economic imbalances between geographic regions of the vast country; horrendous pollution and growing health problems, as well as a population time bomb that could explode at any time.
But the United States and rest of the world cannot just bury their heads in the sands of the past as the Prague performance suggests they would like. Obama and his colleagues must do more to deal with today's reality, and if he really is worthy of the Nobel prize, China's nuclear weapons should be on his agenda, too.
Like Adolf Hitler endlessly chanting Nazi mantras to mesmerize the Germans into following him, the DPP chairwoman simply has to drone on Ma's conspiracy to consolidate the party's power base in central and southern Taiwan.
which clearly (hopefully) is not something VftH would say. Nor the following sentence of dizzifying logic:
But that public debate is totally and absolutely unnecessary, if she is reported to have readied herself to voice objection by equating the pact with an act of selling out Taiwan.
Confusion might arise because the Sunday editorial goes online on Monday, and the Monday editorial goes online on Tuesday, but gets posted on VftH on Monday. Got it?
Friday, 9 April 2010
China Post ran this story today, but i cannot find the photo&text on CP's website,
the above is from the CNA original.
Whether it is legal to cook live fish at seafood restaurants becomes a controversial issue after a hotel was fined for a cooking performance where a live chicken was slaughtered and boiled last month. The Council of Agriculture said yesterday the hotel in Taipei County was fined because the chicken was slaughtered and cooked during a public demonstration. It is lawful to slaughter livestock at traditional markets or cook live fish at seafood restaurants, because the acts are not done in public to attract crowds of spectators.
Thursday, 8 April 2010
this time in northern Miaoli County (苗栗縣), in Nanzhuang Township (南庄鄉) south of Shitoushan (獅頭山)
lovely area, and to be honest, I'm not lost
but if i were, here is the map provided by 7-Eleven
and i couldn't figure out where the heck i was and then i realized that east is to the top (west bottom, north left, south right)
which is fair enough, but kind of goes against convention
so they might want to make it clear
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Monday, 5 April 2010
For our global health make Mondays meat-free
Meat was very much in the news last week.
First, the chairman of the Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy called on citizens to eat less meat. Citing Council of Agriculture statistics, Eugene Chien told the Council for Economic Planning and Development that, in consuming an average of 77.1 kilograms of meat each year--more than 200g per day--the Taiwanese ate the most meat in East Asia. This is 27 percent more than that eaten in China, almost double that eaten by Japanese and Koreans, and very similar to the figures for Germany and the United States.
This bad for our health: Taiwan's average life expectancy has risen to around 78.6 years, similar to that of Germans and Americans, but is still far behind the 82.6 of Japanese. Moreover, since producing one kilogram of beef causes emissions of 36 kilograms of carbon dioxide as well as more than 100 other air pollutants, Chien said, it is bad for the planet too.
A 2006 report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization surprised many people with its findings that animal food production was responsible for 18 percent of climate-change emissions, more than those of all forms of transportation combined. It is now thought even that figure was too low, and that production of meat, milk, eggs, cheese and so forth contributes as much as half the effects of all such emissions, largely because the methane and nitrous oxide produced are far more potent global-warming gases than carbon dioxide.
It was less of a surprise, therefore, when Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel-prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, called on people around the world to eat less meat. He described becoming vegetarian as the single most significant action an individual person can take to reduce carbon emissions.
While some meat-eaters responded directly to this challenge, others felt it was too great a cultural leap. As a first step towards this goal, therefore, some advocate eating no meat one or two days a week. In Taiwan, this was taken up by, among others, the Meatless Mondays movement.
Part of an international campaign initiated in association with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, this group admits that cutting meat consumption by 15 percent would only be a first step. It targets therefore Mondays for abstention since this is typically the first day of the working week and psychologically acts as a new start. It hopes that the vegetarian habit will thus encroach further into people's lives.
The second meat-related report in these pages last week came from Taiwan's own Nobel laureate, chemist Lee Yuan-tseh. The former president of Academia Sinica said that global warming would be much more serious than scientists previously thought, and that Taiwanese people needed to cut their per-capita carbon emissions from the current 12 tons per year to just three.
This, he said, would take more than a few slogans, turning off the lights for one hour, or cutting meat consumption. In fact, Lee claimed, “We will have to learn to live the simple lives of our ancestors.” Without such efforts, he said, Taiwanese will be unable to face the next generation.
Be that as it may, a third report, reproduced from a scientific publication, presented more reasons for giving up meat. The craving for junk-food that can drive some people to overeat operates through the same molecular pathways that cause addiction to drugs, researchers found. As the body became less sensitive to the “feel-good” brain chemical dopamine, there was a progressive worsening of the reward response, and more frequent stimulation was needed, they said. Hence the slippery slope from casual drug use to addiction and the similar transition from over-eating to compulsive indulgence.
As Meatless Mondays campaigners point out, the case against meat, and not just fast food, is convincing. Taiwanese people's 200-plus grams of meat is almost half more than the recommended daily maximum, and meat typically contains more saturated fats than plant foods. These saturated fats are responsible for numerous preventable illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancers. Consumption of red and processed meats is particularly correlated to lower life expectancy. This is an issue which affects everybody, since treating these chronic illnesses costs the Bureau of Health Insurance billions of dollars a year. Consequently, some more radical campaigners are demanding a tax on meat.
Finally, since meat production requires around 10 times more water than equivalent quantities of soy and around 20 times as much fossil-fuel energy per calorie of protein produced, with the earth's finite water and energy resources coming under increasingly bitter dispute, these are concerns that will not go away.
So, whether one agrees with Pachauri that eating less meat might save the planet, or with Lee that we need to head back toward the Stone Age, perhaps a meatless Monday would be a good start. Perhaps today is that Monday.
Sunday, 4 April 2010
Friday, 2 April 2010
i went to Jinguashi (金瓜石), Jiufen (九份), and most of Pingxi Township (平溪) today, and didn't take a single photo of a fish
(mind you, it was raining so hard i was wetter than a fish myself, and barely stopped to take my camera out -- i should have just taken a picture of my own sorry bedraggled self)