Does Taiwan have the weirdest politics in the world?

That is the topic of my Bloomberg column earlier in the week, here is one excerpt:

Chiang Kai-shek, the first leader of the island, was part of a generation of Asian visionary leaders which is perhaps without parallel. It includes Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Park Chung-Hee in South Korea, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in China, and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. Whether you admire these figures or not, theirs  was an unparalleled time for nation building and at a much swifter pace than in European history.

And there is no successful polity that has so many apparently insoluble problems:

Taiwan is also inextricably linked to the economy of the mainland. By one estimate, over 10% of the Taiwanese population lives or works in mainland China, including many of the most ambitious Taiwanese, and China is by far the number one counterparty for trade and investment. Taiwanese real wages stagnated from 2000-2016, in large part because it was more profitable for Taiwanese investors to send their capital to the mainland. The Taiwanese birth rate has plummeted to 1.2 per woman, possibly the lowest in the world.

The Chinese also wish to take them over, by the way.  Finally, I close with some remarks on the forthcoming election.


While we discuss details such as Taiwan, I fear we are losing sight of the most important geopolicial development of our times, namely, the creation of a Brazil-United States axis.

Brazil's leader, President Captain Bolsonaro, has officially said he intends to nominate his son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro to be Brazil's ambassador in the United States.

Brazil's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Araújo, has said this nomination will help to fix the damage past Brazilian administrations, leftist ones, did to the Brazil-United States reletionship.

Mr. Bolsonaro has said he believes his son, as son of a chief of government, will get preferential treatment and be able to further the Brazili-United Statesorebem his son will ahve apecis tretamente and will be in a better situepation to seek a Brazil-United States rapprochement.
Brazil's President Captain Bolsonaro has pointed out that Brazilians and Americans share many practical interests and cultural traces. Both countries oppose drug use, abortion, feminism, climatw change scaremongering and immigration.
A Brazil-United States block would be more than twice as big as the Roman Empire at its height, have the biggest military budget in the world, have the biggest economy in the world and control entire economical sectors, such as meat, orange, soy and airplanes. Brazil strategic postion makes it the ideal place from which a nuclear assault onnAsia could be launched.
Mr. Eduardo Bolsonaro is a member of Mr. Bannon's anti-establishment movent and has studied in the United States.

Wayne and Brent Gretzky are the highest-scoring pair of brothers in NHL history.

Exactly. Genetics so much. Brazil businessmen have saluted the idea of nominating Mr. Bolsonaro ambassador.

I'd rather be an incel in North America than a cuck in Brazil.

rechazar equivalencias falsas de brazilia
rechazar la mierda posmoderna

No, this is not remotely an important development. What will this "axis" do aside from possibly working together against Maduro in Venezuela? Will there be a trade deal? Doubt it. Will Brazil send troops to Afghanistan to support US effort there, or join in an attack on Iran if that comes about? Doubt it. Will Brazil leave Mercosur or join NATO? Doubt it.

It might make for pretty pictures having Bolsonaro Junior hanging out with Jared and Ivanka, but aside from that, what of any significance will this axis do? Nothing that I can think of.

There have been high-level talks about Brazil joining NATO. I think it is clear if would change the balance of power in ways we can't even star imagining right now.

Colour me sceptical that Brazil is going to sign up to defend Estonia against the Russians.

As opposed to Greece? Let us be blunt. Most NATO countries are bleeding America dry. Brazil is a loyal ally. Where were the Germans when American young men were being killed in WWII? Even if Brazil don't send troops, we can use their military bases to strike Russia. Also Brazil and America's combined military and economical power can work as a deterrent against aggressors. I think the ground is shifting under our feet. We are watching history being made.

“Where were the Germans when American young men were being killed in WWII?“

This question is, sad to say, not wholly dissimilar to questions some of my undergraduates routinely ask.

Yes, GoT, Andrew seems to have fallen firmly on his face with this one. Yeah, sure, bases in Brazil are really going to make Russia quiver. Sheeesh.

I am saying the Germans were the KILLERS. Why are they part of NATO and Brazil, who FOUGHT against GERMAN NAZISM, losing THOUSANDS of soldiers, is not?

"Yeah, sure, bases in Brazil are really going to make Russia quiver. Sheeesh."

Brazil Alcantâra Rockets Base is considered the most efficient place to launch rockets from in the world. Using that base, the Brazilian-American axis could obliterate Russia and Red China with a massive nuclear strike

I'd just like to take this opportunity to point out the vast majority of Brazilians are not monsters who take pleasure from the thought of murdering millions of women and children.

There are a few who take pleasure from the thought of murdering millions of men, but they are still definitely in the minority.

It goes without saying that Brazilians are good, peaceful people, nut Brazil's history is one of resistence against foreign aggression. I think, if exterminating the enemy ever becomes a necessity, Brazilians will understand. There are times where we, good people, must put our feelings aside and finish the job. We, Americans, did it in Laos, Cambodia, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, etc. Sometimes good people must do bad things.

Yeah, see, that's called evil.

Bad things?? What do you mean? Murdering millions of filthy vile Asians is a perfectly GOOD thing? Maybe you are secretly Red Chinese, so called "Andrew Smith". That sounds like a name some dirty Chinese scum would make up to sound American, to convince us killing chinks is a "bad thing".

Go away, Mao lover!

Cowen: "Taiwanese real wages stagnated from 2000-2016, in large part because it was more profitable for Taiwanese investors to send their capital to the mainland." Rayward: "U.S. real wages stagnated from 2000-2016, in large part because it was more profitable for U.S. investors to either send their capital to China or invest in U.S. firms that had supply chains in China."

Does Taiwan or the U.S. have the weirdest politics in the world?

You beat me to it.

I've been amused by the theories that have developed about Jeffrey Epstein. My favorite is that he operates a blackmail fund (based in the U.S. Virgin Islands) that masquerades as a hedge fund (i.e., he uses blackmail to get the well-heeled to invest). Epstein is the Bernie Madoff for the Trump era. Does Epstein have compromising photos of Trump? For forget the and the golden shower, I want to see photos of Trump with underage girls. Would Trump lose his support if the photos emerge? No, politics in the U.S. is weird.

Why are you talking to yourself?

Did you not know, Robert? Epstein is actually secretly Taiwnese. This is an even bigger political problem for them than relations with the PRC.

I didn't know that. Isn't he Jew or something?

Hey, there are Chinese Jews, albeit not too many of them.

But is he one of them?!

"The Chinese also wish to take them over, by the way": why bother? Will they do any more than pay lip service to the idea?

I think that our ongoing technological stagnation and the end to the convergence process has a greater role to play in stagnant wages in Taiwan than capital outflow to the mainland.

Also the outflow of the most ambitious (i.e perhaps the highest wage earner) Taiwanese would lower average real wages even if wages for those who stay are unchanged.

+1 column

"Having spent some days traveling around Taiwan and talking with Taiwanese...Taiwan has a remarkable origin story....Chiang Kai-shek, the first leader of the island..."

That is remarkably Sino-centric, which provides some clue about the "Taiwanese" that Tyler talked to, i.e., that their perspective is skewed towards that of the Nationalist exiles rather than that of the native Taiwanese. Taiwan's history certainly starts well before the Nationalist's arrival. China ceded Taiwan in perpetuity to Japan in 1895 (Treaty of Shimonoseki). The Republic of China was established in 1912, which one will note is during a period where Taiwan was unambiguously part of Japan. After Japan's surrender in WW2, the Nationalists occupied Taiwan *on behalf of the Allied Powers* under the authority of MacArthur's General Order No. 1. Taiwan at that point was no more part of China than West Germany was part of the US or UK or East Germany was part of the Soviet Union following the Nazi defeat. Japan formally renounced sovereignty over Taiwan but Taiwan's status was *deliberately left unresolved* in the Treaty of San Francisco (1951), the final peace treaty formally ending WW2. That is why Taiwan's status remains unresolved to this day. That's also why saying the US should stay out of Taiwan is like saying that the US should have had no role in determining the status of post-war Europe or post-war Japan, despite being the leading power among the Allied Powers. One should question the credibility of anyone that leaves out the history of Japanese sovereignty over Taiwan and subsequent *deliberate* ambiguity about post-WW2 Taiwan [] and []. They are either ignorant or deliberately disingenuous.

Truman himself emphasized that Nationalist occupation of Taiwan was a military occupation on behalf of Allied Powers, not a grant of formal sovereignty []


You need to be a bit careful about using the term "native Taiwanese." Yes, I know you are talking about the majority of the population who were living there prior to the Nationalist takoever and the arrival of what I think is the now about 15 percent of the population with them from the manland. Those are largely related to the Fujianese across the strait, but in fact they speak some very different dialects among themselves.

However, the term "native Taiwanese" is often used for yet another group, the "aboriginal" population that predated those largely Fujianese who mostly only arrrived during the Ming dynasty. This group, possibly as high s 10 percent of the population, is not Chinese at all but more relared to Malaysians or polynesians. Their culture has been largely suppressed, although not entirely. Their status and role is also a political issue in Taiwan.

My understanding is that the native Taiwanese "aboriginals" have historically viewed the KMT and "Waishengren" more warmly than the Hoklo and Hakka? As Tyler said, Taiwan's politics is certainly interesting!

Agreed that "native Taiwanese" is not the best term to distinguish between Nationalist exiles and non-exiles. However, the aboriginal perspective would argue even more strongly against the notion that Taiwan's "origin story" starts with Chiang Kai-shek. My point was that neither the Nationalist nor Communist perspective is reflective of most of the Taiwanese, aboriginal or later. That's pretty important in understanding the politics of Taiwan: the term "One China Policy", why Nationalists refused a separate UN seat under the name Taiwan when the PRC was first recognized, why the Nationalists coined the "Chinese Taipei" label for Olympics, etc.

I double checked and have overstated the size of the native or indigenous population. They are currently about 2.3 percent of the population. They are of Malayo-Polynesian ancestry with their language being labeled "Austronesian." The Fujianese originally started arriving in the 16th century, initially brought in by the ruling Dutch of "Formosa" as workers. Really, the claim by China to Taiwan is indeed a lot weaker than they claim it is.

Austronesian is a language family, not a single language. It includes Malay, Tagalog, Polynesian languages (Hawaiian, etc.), Malagasy, etc., and yes the dozen or so aboriginal languages spoken in Taiwan.

China says they want to take over Taiwan, but when you look at what they actually do, in many ways they appear to want to be taken over by it.

Kind of saddened that too many successful countries end up with such low birth rates. The world could use more Taiwans.

Huawei is doing a big layoff in the US. These are MIDDLE CLASS jobs that are directly destroyed by Trump. MAGA foolishness makes America less great.

I spent a week in Taiwan earlier this year and I came away with one key obsevation: Taiwan still thinks it has a chance to rule China. In the 70 years since the KMT was forced to retreat in disarray from the mainland, the government has not managed (or even attempted) to establish a national identity which is independent from China. Taiwan regards itself not as a new nation, forging its own new identity but rather they continue to believe in this absurd notion that some day, the mainland government will fall apart and they will be welcomed back as the true virtuous leaders of China. That there is no example of this in all of Chinese history (or anywhere else that I know of) would seem to suggest that their long-term plan is delusional. Taiwan must focus on becoming something new, something which is not China, or they will be taken over. I expect Taiwan will submit to the mainland government but there is still time for Taiwan to plot a new course.


I do not know whom you talked with in Taiwan, but this is quite delusional on your part. It may not have been fully and officially removed, but after Chaing Kai-Shek's son died, it was quietly and unofficially, but quite clearly to the mainland Chinese established that retaking the mainland was no longer a goal of the government. The last remnant of that is that officially the name has not changed and remains Republic of China, the holdover from earlier.

The question of independence is at the heart of the current political divide in Taiwan. The KMT does not support it, and while not supporting any attempt to take over the mainland is the party more in favor of working with the mainland government and doing its bidding, essentially accepting an ongoing gradual move towards eventually being taken over fully by the mainland, although that is not stated, while the current ruling party leans to independence, but is constrained from moving fully to it by threats from the mainland that doing so would trigger an invasion and conquest. The US has long supported the absurd but convenient status quo.

Wow there are a lot of people who spend a few days somewhere and come away thinking they can make important pronouncements about the place to people who have never been.

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