Summary: Taiwan’s economy continues to shine. Taichung’s MRT is on hold indefinitely. CTiTV News and the NCC’s moves for more control. For this show I’m trying a different format, I’ve moved the headlines to the end of the show, but be sure to stick around for those, there are quite a few. First up, however, I’d like to thank our newest patron on Patreon, Thomas! Thank you very much Thomas, your support means a lot to us here at Taiwan Report.
Taiwan’s economy continues to shine
The central bank decided to leave its key interest rates unchanged at 1.125 percent, the lowest in the country’s history.
The central bank also raised its forecast for Taiwan’s gross domestic product (GDP) to 2.58 percent for 2020 and to 3.68 percent for 2021 from 1.60 percent and 3.28 percent made at the previous quarterly meeting held in mid-September.
S&P Global Ratings has raised Taiwan’s GDP growth forecast from 1 percent to 1.64 percent for this year, while cutting back their forecast for next year from 3 percent to 2.9.
That is one of the most pessimistic outlooks of all the forecasters.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Academia Sinica, which predicted growth expected to hit 2.71 percent for 2020, and a blistering 4.24 percent in 2021.
Many are speculating that Taiwan’s growth this year and next may surpass that of China’s for the first time in decades.
Politically this is good news for the DPP.
For years the image was of the KMT being the more competent of the two parties in economic management, and at one time that was true.
In 2008, the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou campaigned on that–but his record by the end of his second term of office failed to even come close to his campaign promises.
Under President Tsai, the economy has done better, and jobs and investment are returning from China, helped along by incentives offered by her administration.
Even better, after years of stagnation, wages have been slowly inching up again–though not as fast as most would like.
However, all this being said, it was interesting to note in the ETtoday poll I shared with you a few shows back about the top ten politicians in the country that the KMT entries ranked higher in financial management–so the image of KMT proficiency isn’t completely gone.
Taichung’s MRT on hold indefinitely
The Taichung MRT launch is now indefinitely delayed.
A report was given to the city government, but the government said it didn’t fully explain why couplings connecting the carriages failed, and decided to delay the launch.
Lu apologized to Taichung residents for having to make the decision, saying the city government will establish an MRT malfunction review committee made up of experts to examine the problem.
The companies in charge of developing the line said the couplings could be replaced in February, but the Taichung Metro operator called that timeline “optimistic”.
The mayor and her team are indeed correct on this, without knowing what has caused the couplings to fail, restarting the MRT would potentially be dangerous.
CTiTV News and the NCC’s moves for more control
Recently pro-China Want Want China Times has been running headlines like “Evils of Tsai government have surpassed those of Chiang Kai-shek” and “Mourning the death of Taiwan’s press freedom”.
This was in response to the non-renewal of CTiTV News cable TV license by the National Communications Commission (NCC).
China Times and CTiTV News share much of the same ownership.
Interestingly, Focus Taiwan–the English version of the state-owned Central News Agency–has repeatedly claimed that the license non-renewal meant they would lose both their cable channel and their channel on partly state-owned Chunghwa Telecom’s set top box MOD.
I got some beers to watch the channel go off the air–but it didn’t on MOD, it’s still there.
They also got over 2 million subscribers on Youtube, but the highest number of people I’ve seen signed in to livestream it hasn’t passed 60,000–and is usually much less.
Former President Ma and KMT Chair Johnny Chiang held a press conference to protest dressed all in black, which they said was to mourn Taiwan’s loss of press freedom.
Into this tense atmosphere, the head of Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) decided to–in a move of spectacular poor timing–make things worse.
It turns out they’re drafting a Digital Communications Act intended to better regulate “inappropriate” content on online speech platforms.
Naturally this was interpreted as a move to shut CTiTV News down on Youtube and MOD.
The NCC proposed a similar Digital Communications Act in 2018 but the bill did not pass the Legislature due to concerns over internet censorship.
The 2018 bill covered major online social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, and allowed people to report what they think is misinformation or fake news posted on an online platform to the NCC.
Currently, there are already laws in place to handle insults and fake news on social media, so without specifics it isn’t really clear what they need the law for.
Most likely their intent is to get more legal tools to take on Chinese propaganda, though it is easy to see how that could be abused to remove deep blue pro-KMT material–and vice versa if there is a change in power.
The NCC has scheduled a hearing on Dec. 21 during which experts and online social media platform operators will discuss how to regulate online speech.
It will be interesting to see what their final draft looks like, and whether it will pass the legislature.
There are plenty of defenders of free speech in the legislature, so it will have to be very carefully thought out.
French magazine cover shows President Tsai as a top world leader
French news magazine Le Point, on their cover featured a photo of President Tsai Ing-wen alongside photos of US President-Elect Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping engaging in a close running track race.
That’s an impressive crowd to be running in, though disappointed that Chairman Xi appeared to be running slightly ahead of President Tsai.
The headline read in French “America, Asia, Europe…Who will dominate the world?”
It’s interesting that President Tsai was chosen to represent over the leaders of India and Japan.
It suggests that the president, and Taiwan, are punching even more above their weight than in past, when Taiwan was already more consequential than its small size and moderately-sized population would suggest.
Taiwan’s entry was entitled “How did Taiwan do it?”.
Singapore will unilaterally lift border restrictions for visitors from Taiwan from Dec 18.
Taiwan’s 5G users has reached 1 million according to the industry, less than six months since it was launched.
The newly electrified South Link Line is to begin operations on Sunday, shortening the travel time between Kaohsiung and Hualien by 39 minutes.
It will now be possible to take the train around Taiwan in 12 hours.
China Airlines has unveiled a new Boeing 777 with the airline’s name in a small font near the tail, with the word “cargo” in large font where the name used to be.
The ‘c’ in cargo features a shape of Taiwan.
The Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau (MJIB) describing the case as the first example of an Internet-related national security violation, said two Taiwanese are being investigated for spreading “fake news” from China that the United States and Taiwan planned to work together to back the recent wave of democracy protests in Thailand.
The Taiwanese men had traveled to China for local training and have been questioned on suspicion of violating the National Security Act.
The mayors of Taipei and New Taipei officially signed a contract to host the 2025 World Masters Games, formalized the agreement in a video call with the president and CEO of the International Masters Games Association (IMGA), which organizes the event.
It is an international sporting competition for athletes over 30 years old.
They beat out the French capital Paris and the Australian city of Perth to clinch the games.
The BBC used a picture of Taiwan’s national carrier “China Airlines” to illustrate a news report about Chinese cabin crew being advised to wear diapers during flights as an epidemic prevention measure.
This is not the first time this has happened.
An agreement on the transfer of convicted and sentenced criminals between Taiwan and Switzerland took effect on Friday.
The agreement was the product of three years of negotiations between the two sides and is the fifth such deal reached between Taiwan and a European country.
I had no idea it was complicated it requires three years of negotiations–or was it just on the backburner?
An anti-cancer and anti-hyperlipidemia drug developed by a Taiwanese firm as a potential medicine to treat COVID-19, was approved by Peru’s authorities to begin phase II trials.
US Representative Scott Perry called on Congress to designate the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) an embassy, while granting similar recognition to Taiwan’s representative offices in Washington.
He suggested this to bolster the countries’ ties amid rising pressure from China.
It would have been more impressive if it had been entirely based on Taiwan’s merits, but it is still a good sign of support from the US Congress.
It’s not likely to happen anytime soon, however.
The US has added Taiwan to the ‘monitoring list’ of currency manipulating countries.
The manipulator designation has no specific or immediate consequence, but US law requires the government to engage with the listed nations to address the perceived exchange-rate imbalance.
Penalties, including exclusion from US government contracts, could be applied after a year if the label is not removed.
Guam’s Governor is planning to visit Taiwan in January to discuss her island’s reopening to tourism.
Image screengrab from CTiTV’s Youtube channel