Summary: Three sets of statistics show how society is changing, and how it isn’t. Some political polling has shown some interesting results. The KMT takes a sharp pro-US turn. And we’ll kick off with some headlines, but first I’d like to note that I am the co-organizer of the Compass Food & Music Festival coming up on October 17 & 18, so until about a week after the festival there will be somewhat fewer shows from me than normal.
Overall consumer confidence improved for the fourth consecutive month in September, but investors’ faith in the stock market slipped.
Manufacturing activity in Taiwan expanded in September for the third consecutive month, the strongest growth in more than two years
The government said it was driven in part by the launch of new smartphones and automobiles.
That was matched by export growth, which grew by more than 9 percent in September from a year earlier, reaching a quarterly high in the third quarter, driven mainly by electronics.
According to the Ministry of Labor, the number of furloughed workers in Taiwan dropped by over 29 percent last week, the biggest fall since the pandemic began.
The Council of Agriculture has announced starting on Jan. 1 next year, imported rice that is found to contain Taiwanese variants used without approval is to be banned.
They cited a case of a Taiwanese variant found in imported Vietnamese rice.
The rice imported from Vietnam last year was found to contain rice variety Tainan No. 11, which has not been approved for export.
The central government is set to double the childcare subsidy for households with young children up to the age of 4, starting next year, rising from NT$2,500 (US$68.86) to NT$5,000 per month.
Combined with local government subsidies the amount may help seriously defray the cost of having young children, though there is no doubt a lot of paperwork.
Taiwan’s population is expected to contract this year, and has one of the lowest birth rates in the world.
Following the SOGO scandal that has seen several lawmakers detained, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed laws in response.
KMT and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) lawmakers said that they are planning to draft amendments to the Lobbying Act (遊說法) to tackle low fines and a lack of government enforcement, which they claim are the two main reasons for the act’s ineffectiveness.
Meanwhile, DPP legislators have proposed amendments seeking to strip convicted legislators of their position if they have to serve time in prison.
The Ministry of Education has earmarked NT$3.61 billion (US$124 million) for bilingual education in all grades before college nationwide over the next two years, with funding sourced from the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.
In related news, the Ministry of Education aims to have 90 percent of doctoral degree courses, 70 percent of master’s degree courses and 50 percent of undergraduate courses at four universities taught in English within the next few years.
The Interior Ministry has announced that Taiwan will begin issuing new electronic ID cards around the country in the middle of next year after trial runs in certain locations.
Many experts have expressed privacy and hacking concerns over the long-delayed ID cards.
The MOI says the trials will help ensure the cards are secure.
Three sets of statistics show how society is changing, and how it isn’t
Three sets of statistics show how society is changing, and how it isn’t.
According to the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) the average age of workers in Taiwan was 40.2 years as of the end of last year, up 0.1 years from a year earlier.
Since 2012, the average age of Taiwan’s labor force has increased by 1.2 years.
Taiwan’s workforce has been shrinking for a few years now, due to years of low birthrates and Taiwanese takes jobs overseas, especially in China.
One of the reasons for taking jobs overseas is overwork for relatively low pay.
According to a Ministry of Labor (MOL) report Taiwanese worked the fourth-longest hours among nationals in 39 countries around the world in 2019.
The average number of hours worked in Taiwan last year was 2,028, five less than 2018, trailing only Singapore, Mexico and Costa Rica.
That looks good compared to Singapore, which topped the list with 2,324 hours, though wages are generally better there.
Things are slowly getting better, from 2009 to 2019, Taiwan’s average annual work time has fallen by 92 hours.
Overwork isn’t just a problem at work, on average women face significantly more work in the home.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), last year, females aged 15 to 64 spent an average of 4.41 hours doing uncompensated household work, compared with an average of 3.81 hours per day in 2016.
Their standard defines uncompensated as work regular housework such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, and so on as well as caring for underage children and elderly family members.
Males living in the same household as the females surveyed did an average of 1.48 hours per day of housework.
On regular housework alone, the average woman spent an average of 2.22 hours per day last year, compared with the 0.73 hours their partners spent on it.
2.22 hours a day seems high to me, as I keep my place pretty clean and live alone–but then my apartment is small and I don’t cook every meal.
While every household has their own individual circumstances, that woman are doing on average three times more work in the home suggests that traditional gender roles are playing a role.
It also suggests that on top of their heavy workload at their jobs they must be very tired.
Some political polling has shown some interesting results
Some polling has shown some interesting results on what Taiwanese are thinking right now.
Starting with basic national identity, the latest poll by Taiwan Thinktank (台灣智庫) found that only 2 percent of respondents consider themselves “Chinese,” 62.6 percent said they are “Taiwanese,” and 32.6 percent said “both.”
Among those who chose “both,” when asked to choose only one nationality, 86 percent chose “Taiwanese”; 6.3 percent selected “Chinese,” and 1.1 percent repeated “both.”
4.9 percent answered no opinion or don’t know, while another 1.1 percent refused to answer.
For some reason I’ve very curious at the 6 percent that didn’t give an answer.
That’s over one in 20 people who seem confused about their identity.
The poll also showed that 80.5 percent support Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and events under the name “Taiwan,” while only 12 percent are opposed.
When asked what name Taiwan should use when engaging in foreign affairs, 51.2 percent answered “Taiwan,” 33.0 percent responded “Republic of China,” 9.7 percent opted for “Chinese Taipei,” 2 percent favored “Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and other areas,” 0.1 percent chose “other,” 2.9 percent had no opinion, 0.5 percent refused to answer, and only 0.6 percent selected “Taipei, China.”
Strangely, 6 percent seem confused about their identity, but only 3.9 percent seem confused about what their country should be called.
Maybe all that overwork has scrambled their brains.
As for what should be defined as the country’s territory according to the constitution, 82.1 percent agreed it should be the Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu area, with only 5.2 percent disagreeing.
12 percent said they didn’t know or had no opinion.
On party identification, 35.3 percent picked the DPP, 16.9 percent chose the KMT, 9.2 identified with the TPP, 4.5 percent picked the New Power Party, 4% picked the Taiwan Statebuilding Party and the People’s First Party and the New Party both only came in at 0.3 percent.
Some interesting results there.
The KMT continues to be weak, with their support less than half of that of the DPP.
Their traditional pan-blue partners, the PFP and NP, which both used to be significant players, are essentially dead.
It’s also interesting that PFP support has collapsed so dramatically to tie with the NP, which collapsed into obscurity years ago.
The PFP had a legislative caucus all the way up to the elections this year, when they failed to reach the 5 percent level of support to get party list seats.
It’s also interesting that nearly one in ten people now supports the TPP, which is a pretty new and still largely unformed party.
On the other end of the political spectrum, it looks like the NPP has taken some hits from recent scandals and disunity.
The Taiwan Statebuilding Party seems to have picked up some of that support, and is nearly tied with them now.
On the US election, in a poll taken in late September 53 percent thought it would be better for Taiwan if President Donald Trump is re-elected, with only 16.4 feeling the same about Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
On who they thought would win, 49.1 percent thought Trump would be re-elected, with 23.7 percent thinking it would go to Biden.
The KMT takes a sharp pro-US turn
The KMT has just made a sharp pro-US turn that has stunned the political world.
The KMT legislative caucus introduced two resolutions that call U.S. military aid in combating aggression by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and a resumption of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.
Both were quickly passed–unanimously!
That’s almost unheard of in the fractious Legislative Yuan.
On the first resolution, the Taiwan News helpfully translated this portion:
“In order to strengthen the national security of the Republic of China and improve national defense readiness, so that the status quo of the Taiwan Strait will not be changed by arbitrary actions by one side.”
It went on to recommend:
“The Tsai Ing-wen government should actively persuade the U.S. government to act in accordance with the spirit of its “Taiwan Relations Act.
Once the CCP threatens Taiwan’s security and socio-economic system, at the request of the Taiwan government, it will regard the aforementioned CCP’s actions as a threat to peace and stability in the Western Pacific, and assist our country resist through diplomatic economic and direct military methods.”
And this is from the second resolution:
“The Tsai Ing-wen government should take the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Republic of China as the objective of diplomacy with the United States and actively promote it.”
Premier Su Tseng-chang said of the move “Finally the KMT has succumbed to its conscience.
It is a good thing but we need to take it step by step in improving bilateral relationship.”
As a political maneuver, this was genius.
I know what many of you are thinking, wait…isn’t Taiwan the pro-China party?
Not exactly, as KMT chair Johnny Chiang put it “Close with the US, peace with the Mainland” has always guided KMT policy.
Since Chiang Kai-shek died, that is fairly accurate.
While in office, President Ma Ying-jeou put in considerable effort into improving ties with China, but largely kept the US relationship stable.
Some have portrayed this move as an entirely cynical move against the DPP–and that’s the only reason the elderly deep blue KMT lawmakers got behind it.
That’s part of it, but I think the picture is more complicated than that.
China’s recent bullying behaviour and constant military intrusions and badgering of Taiwan played a role–and this was cited in the resolutions.
This may be the biggest shift in the KMT’s strategy.
Up through the last election, the KMT strategy was to blame all tensions with China on President Tsai and the DPP.
If only the KMT were in power this would all go away.
That strategy failed miserably because it ignored the reality of China’s bad behaviour.
Now, by acknowledging reality and tackling it head-on, the party is now more credible.
Johnny Chiang recently got roundly defeated in his attempt to get rid of the 1992 consensus under opposition from conservative elements in the party led by Ma Ying-jeou.
However, there hasn’t been a peep of opposition to these resolutions from anyone significant in the KMT.
So how did Chiang get the party on board?
The younger reformers in Chiang’s camp have been calling for a more pro-US stance to bring the party in line with public opinion, so Chiang had no work to do there.
For the older lawmakers and opinion leaders, history plays a big part here–they’re old enough to remember one of the KMT’s most humiliating defeats, the loss of US diplomatic recognition, which Premier Su tartly reminded them of in his comments.
At the time, there were big, somewhat violent protests at the time.
Most of these old KMT members probably genuinely would like to have diplomatic ties restored between the US and the Republic of China.
Notice they didn’t use Taiwan, but instead highlighted the ROC there.
That is intentional, it both keeps the KMT on board and puts pressure on the DPP to keep the ROC name.
It also puts the Tsai administration in a tough spot.
In the wake of US Congressman Tom Tiffany’s proposal to re-establish ties with Taiwan, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu in an interview with NPR on September 22 said Taiwan wasn’t working to re-establish ties, though he said there was a lot of room for improved ties.
The president is also known to take a very cautious, methodical approach to diplomacy and a big, open push from the Taiwan side on this would inevitably infuriate Beijing–she’d probably prefer it come from the US side.
So not only is this complicating her diplomatic efforts, it also plays directly into tensions within the DPP.
There are many in the party who dislike her cautious approach, and want her to make more dramatic steps.
So, in one fell swoop the KMT has seized the initiative, moved back into the mainstream of public opinion on this issue, made it look strong and decisive, helped strengthen the nations ties to the ROC and threw a wrench into the Tsai administration’s plans.
So, will it actually help?
On the first resolution, it just might–it gives the president political cover for more arms purchases from the US and getting the special budgets needed to fund them.
On the second one, it also might.
It clearly signals that all political parties in the legislature are for restoring diplomatic ties, and on the US side there has been more open discussion on the possibility as more and more realize the “One China” policy is a fiction foisted on the US by the Chinese to no good end.
However, the ones in power on both sides so far still seem to be sticking to a more, as Premier Su put it, “step-by-step” approach.
Of course, the wild card here is how would the PRC respond?
China’s official Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokeswoman urged “those responsible” in the KMT to “differentiate between right and wrong.”
The KMT must not engage in actions that “harm the fundamental interests of Chinese,” and “the peace and stability of cross-strait relations,” she told reporters.
To which Johnny Chiang replied the KMT certainly knows the difference between right and wrong, as safeguarding the ROC’s existence and sovereignty, and protecting peace and security in the Taiwan Strait, brings the most benefit to people.
He also noted that more than half of Taiwanese think the US should help defend Taiwan, so the KMT’s proposal was a reflection of public sentiment, adding that if the KMT were in power, tensions would not be so high.
While China’s TAO gave a peeved responsive, of course they left it to that beacon of journalistic hyper-ventilated propaganda the Global Times to really let loose:
“Judging from such a loser mentality of the KMT, it is clear that we must not count on them for future cross-Straits peace and national reunification.
On the upside, those politicians’ treachery have helped the Chinese mainland see clearly what is happening on the island.
We must no longer hold any more illusions.
The only way forward is for the mainland to fully prepare itself for war and to give Taiwan secessionist forces a decisive punishment at any time.
As the secessionist forces’ arrogance continues to swell, the historical turning point is getting closer.”
I’d like to give a warm shout out to Frank, who has joined us as a patron on Patreon! Your support means a lot to us Frank, many thanks!
Image courtesy of Johnny Chiang’s Facebook page