Friday, February 27, 2015

When in Rome

The presence of the Catholic Church in San Francisco is as old as the city itself. For much of San Francisco's history, the Archdiocese was the backbone of the city's political and cultural life, and for many of its residents, it remains so today.

Given modern San Francisco's reputation as a Progressive capital, the history of social justice movements in the American Catholic church, and the fact that most American Catholics tend to be at least centrist in their opinions on social issues, one could assume that the relationship between local Church leadership, its parishoners, and the City's political establishment would be relatively comfortable. It was for a time - the city's Archbishop for much of it's recent political history, John Quinn, was a paragon of Progressive Catholicism and ardent exponent of Vatican II.

However, Quinn's successors have not been as simpatico with the community's expectations.

Since 1995, San Francisco's last three archbishops have been members of Opus Dei, a conservative, mostly lay movement within the Church which was founded in Spain during the Franco dictatorship, and is influential in both Vatican City and much of the Spanish-speaking church. The first of these bishops, William Levada, was a principal editor of the Church's most recent, post-Vatican II Catechism.

Soon after the elevation of conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (another Opus Dei member) as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, Levada rose to Ratzinger's former post as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, becoming the first former San Francisco Archbishop to become a Cardinal. In his stead, Levada's colleague in Opus Dei and high school classmate and friend, Joseph Niederauer, became Archbishop. While Levada was relatively low-key in his leadership, Niederauer was an activist, working to unite conservative faiths against marriage equality when it came to the California state ballot.

Niederauer's successor, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has made headlines over his particularly strident brand of conservatism, and his willingness to force it upon school teachers and other lay employees of the Archdiocese.

Much of the local media has expressed some surprise in addition to their disappointment with the doctrinaire turn, while at least one local outlet has published a sardonic "we told you so."

Indeed, Bishop Cordileone is likely not much more conservative or doctrinaire than his recent predecessors, but he does appear to be more ambitious.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Local Yoke: Hongkongers Feel Trapped by (Mainland) Tourists

Announcing his decision to put tourism issues on the agenda when he heads to the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Leung added: “We understand that people’s daily lives have been affected [by tourists]. 
“However, we do not accept a small number of people, possibly with political intentions, using this dissatisfaction to support their illegal clashes in stores and shopping malls. This kind of behaviour should be condemned.” 
Hoteliers cut prices when bookings failed to materialise as the national holiday approached, but in the end the occupancy rate stood at about 90 per cent, similar to previous years – with guests booking much later than usual or just turning up without a reservation, according to Victor Chan Kok-wai, chairman of the Hong Kong Hotels Association. 
Prices last dropped in 2008, during the global financial crisis. 
Chan said there was a lack of confidence in the city following the Occupy movement, and the protests against parallel-goods traders in Tuen Mun and Sha Tin had further complicated matters. 
Police unleashed pepper spray during clashes with the demonstrators, who marched through shopping centres shouting for mainlanders to go home. Another protest is due to be held in Yuen Long this Sunday. 
The protests seemed to have spiralled into a hate campaign against mainland tourists, Chan said. “Would parallel traders really go shopping in Sha Tin? Those people targeted by protesters appeared to be genuine tourists, not parallel traders,” he added. 
He noted destinations like Japan and South Korea were trying to attract more mainlanders. In the six-day period from last Wednesday to Monday inclusive, the number of mainland visitors to Hong Kong dropped 1 per cent from last year, to 842,124. 
Michael Li Hon-shing, executive director of the Federation of Hotel Owners, said the bigger-spending mainland tourists now tended to bypass Hong Kong.

Leung said the growing number of Chinese visitors has "put pressure on the everyday life of Hong Kong residents". 
Residents from 49 Chinese cities can currently apply for a multi-entry travel permit to visit Hong Kong. 
Leung said that scheme would not be expanded and that he would raise the issue at the next meeting of the National People's Congress -- China's parliament -- at the beginning of March. 
Hong Kongers have grown increasingly angry at the number of Chinese traders who travel to Hong Kong's border towns to stock up on everything from iPads to milk powder. 
Protests against the traders have led to violent clashes over recent weekends, with police using pepper spray. 
The semi-autonomous southern city of seven million people is also a favorite shopping destination for wealthy mainland visitors eager to stock up on Western luxury brands. 
Mass democracy protests at the end of last year also showed building anti-China sentiment, with tens of thousands protesting against Beijing's restrictions on the vote for Hong Kong's next leader. 
Negative sentiment has already led to a drop in visitors over the Lunar New Year according to Hong Kong's Travel Industry Council (TIC), which said it was the first decline in 20 years. 
Numbers fell 1.09 percent to 842,124 for a six-day period, compared to the same period last year, immigration department figures show. 
"I think the string of protests is one reason... the news reports about these kinds of activities certainly upsets their mood for travelling to Hong Kong," TIC executive director Joseph Tung told AFP.
(Jakarta Post)

Anti-mainlander protests have hit especially hard at Hong Kong universities, where mainland students make up over 11 percent of the total student population. When mainland student Lushan Ye tried to run for a position in the University of Hong Kong’s Students’ Union, it sparked a furious backlash when a video outed her as a former member of China’s Communist Youth League. Ye herself protested that she had come to Hong Kong “because I admire the freedom and democracy” but the damage was done: Ye and her cabinet (students run as groups for the election) were trounced in the election after opponents painted her an as agent of Beijing. 
The election sparked a wider debate about the role Chinese mainlanders play at Hong Kong universities, particularly as Hongkongers do not receive the same type of “national education” that is taught at mainland schools. This has led to broad accusations that mainlanders are brainwashed stooges of the CCP. One flyer posted on HKU’s Democracy Wall was particularly blunt: “To brainwashed Commie-loving Mainlanders, we despise you!” 
The anti-mainlander sentiment in Hong Kong has sparked a parallel backlash from mainlanders. “Mainland students somewhat hate local students as well because we feel this hatred from them,” one HKU student explained to Reuters. Mainlanders outside of Hong Kong are especially outraged by the treatment of their compatriots. The Global Times ran an op-ed warning that “McCarthyism” was infiltrating Hong Kong’s schools. 
The anti-mainlander protests even became the top trending term on Sina Weibo last week, with mainland netizens decrying Hongkongers as “spoiled” and “arrogant.” Many mainlanders argue that China is in fact the source of Hong Kong’s prosperity and compared Hongkongers to ungrateful children.

Embracing mainland visitors could amount to a kiss of death in next year's Legco poll. But, he must have learned from the sorry fate of older brother James Tien Pei-chun, who has the rare distinction of being the only Hong Kong member to be kicked out of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. James had the temerity to call on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to quit at the height of the Occupy protests when Beijing made it clear that support for Leung was politically mandatory. 
James thought his Legco seat more important than the CPPCC seat. 
Michael seems to think his NPC seat more important than Legco. It is a demonstration of loyalty when the Tien family name has become suspect north of the border. 
To be fair, Michael Tien's plan is actually quite moderate, proposing to extend the individual visitor scheme to three more mainland cities when 49 cities already enjoy the privilege. 
He has also suggested capping the number of visits by Shenzhen residents - who currently make up the bulk of parallel traders from across the border - to 40 a year.
But in our politically charged city, you are either for Hong Kong or you are a "locust" lover, the derogatory Cantonese name for mainlanders.
However defensible Tien's proposal, it's a tough sell. 
He and other mainstream loyalists should continue to voice support for mainland visitors, but not expand the scheme. 
Instead, we need to do far more to entice quality tourists from elsewhere in Asia and Europe. It's time to diversify.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Something Smells Fishy in the Andes

Reconciliation between Peru, Chile hits snag as spy scandal over fishing rights erupts

Peru's President Ollanta Humala said on Saturday that he was recalling the Peruvian ambassador from Chile and would not accept "unfriendly acts" from the neighboring Andean country amid suspicions of spying. 
Peru also sent a letter of protest to Santiago following revelations this week that two Peruvian naval officials are being tried and a third investigated for allegedly spying for Chile. 
"We're waiting for an answer from the Chilean government," Humala told reporters on the sidelines of an event.

A total of three non-commissioned officers of the Peruvian Navy are under investigation for disloyalty and treason following a complaint, according to El Comercio. Initially, two individuals were reported until a third case appeared bringing the total to three. 
Today Peruvian head of state, Ollanta Humala said the situation between Peru and Chile could become “very serious” after finally mending political relations Jan. 28. 
“Should there be a charge of this nature, it would be serious for bilateral relations between Peru and Chile that we have been strengthening, but it can not happen just like that,” he told the media today. 
One of the reported sailors is SOT 3 Alfredo Marino Domínguez Raffo. He has since denied working as a spy, and said he only wanted to make a little extra money. The second sailor is Johnny Richard Philco Borja and the third has so far only been identified by his last name, Gonzales, according to El Comercio.
(Peru This Week)

Chile, Peru’s biggest Latin America trading partner, said it had not been officially notified by Peru of the spying case. If confirmed this revelation could dampen relations between the neighboring countries. In spite of improving diplomatic and commercial ties during recent years the two nations have a historic rivalry which could easily come to the surface. 
In 2014, Peru won a key international ruling against Chile over disputed maritime territory and the two neighboring countries are still involved in a dispute over a land border. 
“If an accusation of this nature turns out to be true, it would be very serious for bilateral relations between Peru and Chile, which we have been strengthening, but this cannot happen just like that.” Peruvian President, Ollanta Humala said. 
Peruvian prosecutors allege that Chilean agents paid the suspects for confidential information about Peruvian navy surveillance on fishing boats. Both countries are major exporters of fish and have previously disputed fishing rights in the Pacific.
(CCTV America)

Friday, February 20, 2015

All about Andrew Hsia Li-Yan, Taiwan's new point man on Mainland policy

Andrew Hsia during his tenure as representative to Indonesia. Image source:

Hsia is a military official and is currently Taiwan's Deputy Minister of National Defense. He was also a former deputy minister of foreign affairs in Taiwan.

As the new Minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), his job involves the promotion of cross-strait relations with China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO).

Hsia's appointment comes, after MAC's former head, Wang Yu-chi, had threatened to resign. Wang was protesting a Taiwan court's acquittal of a former deputy who had been accused of leaking confidential information to Mainland China.

Ma Xiaoguan, China's spokesperson for TAO, says he hopes Hsia's appointment will sustain the 'positive interactions' between Taiwan and China, as quoted by China's state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Cross-strait business between Taiwan and China has been described as "most extensive" in six decades. This is being attributed to the administration of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who is seen as "friendly" to China.

(China Topix)

Taiwan's incoming minister for handling relations with the mainland, Andrew Hsia Li-yan, appears headed for a trial by fire, with several pressing issues that will likely require his immediate attention. 
At the top of the list is the ongoing row between Taiwan and the mainland over Beijing's unilateral designation of new air routes close to Taiwan's air space, analysts say. 
Hsia will also need to address major issues like future talks with his mainland counterpart, further cross-strait economic co-operation, Taiwan's participation in regional economic blocs and opening a representative office on the mainland, among others, pundits said.


The 64-year-old Hsia is entering a new realm, having spent most of his career as a career diplomat before he was appointed deputy minister of defense in 2013. 
His former posts include deputy minister of foreign affairs, Taiwan's representative to Indonesia and head of Taiwan's representative office in New York. 
During his more than three years in Indonesia, he actively promoted bilateral trade and cultural and educational exchanges between Taiwan and Indonesia, especially the joint development of the Morotai island project and an industrial park in Jakarta. 
The Executive Yuan appointed him deputy defense minister in 2013, reasoning that although he lacked a military background, it wanted to take advantage of his diplomatic experience to facilitate military procurements and military diplomacy. 
Turning from diplomatic and defense issues to setting policy on China, he will immediately face the thorny issue of China's planned opening of new flight routes in the Taiwan Strait, routes that Taiwan objects to for flight safety and sovereignty reasons. 
Beijing has said that it would put the new routes into practice on March 5. 
The personnel change is not expected to affect normal interaction between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. However, due to the ruling Kuomintang's (KMT's) losing a large number of seats to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in November's local government elections, cross-strait relations are entering a complex stage of a three-party tug-of-war involving the KMT, the DPP and the Communist Party of China. 
Obviously, Beijing is psychologically prepared for a scenario in which the pro-independence DPP returns to power in 2016, and has begun to adjust its strategy toward Taiwan. 
On the one hand, Beijing is working to maintain its normal interaction with Taiwan. On the other hand, it has repeatedly emphasized the "1992 consensus" as the basis of cross-strait ties and reiterated its opposition to Taiwan independence. 
A unilateral announcement by Beijing last month to open several new flight routes near the median line of the Taiwan Strait is part of its carrot-and-stick approach toward Taiwan. 
The KMT, meanwhile, has been forced to reexamine its cross-strait policy in the face of mounting skepticism among people in Taiwan toward increased rapport with China. 
What new approach KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) will adopt is the focus of attention of both Beijing and the DPP.
(Focus Taiwan) (2)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

As ASEAN improves transport infrastructure, calls for more effective border controls

In the most recent effort to bolster connectivity, six countries along the Mekong River in December pledged to spend an additional $30 billion on related infrastructure projects over the next 10 years. 
Despite the progress, experts are worried that a lack of safeguards at the borders and the overly expeditious nature of new projects stemming from ASEAN connectivity mandates could further enable growing trafficking and transnational crime operations. 
“We all know it is already occurring – the transnational crime economy is quite big in the region and it goes through a lot of legitimate border crossings,” said Jeremy Douglas, regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC). 
Douglas said that with human and drug trafficking already a major problem at existing borders throughout the region, new cross-border projects being proposed by financial institutions and ASEAN itself will likely only make the problem worse 
“If things are stopped or slowed down at the borders [for more thorough security checks], businesses won’t like that. There is already a lack of a system in place – then you say you want to double the number of crossings,” he said. 
“There are a lot of great ASEAN economic initiatives out there. The problem is that they are not adequate,” he said.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Ayako Sono and Japan's Intersectional Oblivion
She said that opening up to mass immigration, as Japan is considering doing, would only work if the country segregated races. "It is next to impossible to attain an understanding of foreigners by living alongside them," she said. 
South Africa's ambassador to Japan wrote to the newspaper saying Miss Sono's proposal was "shameful and extravagant", and "tolerated and glorified apartheid".
Mohau Pheko said apartheid was a crime against humanity that could never be justified in the 21st century in any country.
Miss Sono's suggestion also sparked outrage among her compatriots. 
"So while the rest of the civilised world was condemning apartheid, Sono decided that she rather liked it, and now wants to bring it back," wrote a blogger on the Japan Times website. "And she is a government appointment on an education panel?"

The right-wing Japanese government has distanced itself from Miss Sono, saying she had been an education adviser some time ago and had no current relations with government.
After years for strict immigration policies which meant that only two per cent of its population is foreign, Japan is considering opening its doors to large-scale immigration in a bid to head off the dual problems of a shrinking and ageing population.

A full translation of the editorial in question can be found here.

Ayako Sono is is a major figure in postwar Japanese literature, and has been described as the nation's leading Catholic writer after Shusaku Endo. She's traveled all over the world, and those experiences are reflected in her works, along with a strong belief in pacifism. She has been an advisor to the Japanese government on education and culture for many years. As such, it may be surprising to see her produce an editorial which acknowledges Japan's dire need for more immigrants, but at the same time promotes their ghettoization on the grounds of it being "next to impossible to attain an understanding of foreigners by living alongside them." “Humans can do together everything from business, research to sports,” she said, “But living quarters had better be segregated.” 

Nevertheless, the article is out there, and Sono is now a public example of the attitudes of a significant part of Japan's older population toward non-Japanese, at a time when the country faces an increasing demographic imbalance with scary economic implications that has made immigration a necessity. The binary opposition between "Uchi" and "Soto" runs throughout Japanese culture (and has equivalents elsewhere in Asia). When it governs interactions between Japanese and foreigners, there is a temptation to either simplify it as either the product of an inherently racist culture, or to minimize it as "innocent racism."

But these attitudes are not unique to Japan. Racial obliviousness born of isolation also permeates China and Korea. Any non-Asian who has done more than simply pass through multiple borders in Asia will experience many aspects of "Gaijin Syndrome" wherever they go.

Japan faces huge challenges. Becoming a stronger player in world affairs has become a necessity. A major obstacle to achieving this remains her political establishment's difficulty in acknowledging their imperialist past. As Ms. Sono has demonstrated, a perhaps even greater one will be reconciling the self-image of the Japanese people with how they see those from the outside world - an issue relevant to all the cultures of Northern Asia, as well as to those which intersect with them. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay, Marking Time

Following a temporary shutdown, dozens of busy West Coast ports reopened this week as contract tensions between dock employees and management continued to escalate. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents dockworkers, and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represent port terminal operators, have been sparring over a 14-week slowdown that has affected cargo from cars to electronics to logoed apparel. Trade groups, lawmakers and federal mediators have all urged the two sides to reach an agreement, although negotiations appear to have only gotten more contentious in recent weeks. 

We are “increasingly hearing from companies and industries whose business operations are being adversely affected by the serious slowdown surrounding the labor contract negotiations at the West Coast ports,” said Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “This is now a growing crisis that is impacting farmers, retailers, and manufacturers throughout the country, as well as trucking and railroad companies who have far less cargo to move.” 

Officials from the ILWU and the PMA again traded barbs in the press this week. “Employers are deliberately worsening the existing congestion crisis to gain the upper hand at the bargaining table,” said ILWU president Robert McEllrath in a statement. Countered PMA spokesperson Wade Gates: “After three months of union slowdowns, it makes no sense to pay extra for less work.”


The Pacific Maritime Association, the group representing employers, said it will stop vessel operations Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday because they don’t want to pay upcoming weekend and holiday shifts for what they consider “severely diminished productivity” by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 20,000 dockworkers, including those who work at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. 
Yard, gate and rail operations will continue at the discretion of terminal operators, while ship operation night shifts have remained suspended since Jan. 13. On non-holiday weekdays, terminal operators in Southern California will expand daytime vessel operations. 
According to PMA, longshore workers can earn at least 50 percent more pay for working weekends and holidays, adding that longshore workers and clerks stand to make $54 to $75 per hour, while foremen can make between $77 and $92 per hour.

“Last week, PMA made a comprehensive contract offer designed to bring these talks to conclusion,” PMA spokesman Wade Gates said in a statement. “The ILWU responded with demands they knew we could not meet, and continued slowdowns that will soon bring West Coast ports to gridlock. What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike.”


This is pretty normal, and it's one of the things that makes it hard to unilaterally support either side in labor disputes like this. We already know that dockworkers are very well paid, and that's apparently not a bone of contention. But what's the deal with the arbitrators? Who has the better of the argument? There's no telling. 
The public probably doesn't care much about this unless it eventually gets nasty enough that it affects the ability of stores to keep stuff in stock. So maybe public opinion doesn't matter. But to the extent it does, it sure seems like unions would have a better chance of getting public support if they were more forthcoming about exactly what it is they're holding out for.

(Mother Jones)

Now, the PMA is shutting down operations for Thursday through Monday this weekend after a previous shutdown the first week of February, further backing up incoming and outgoing cargo. 
Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, Wenatchee, said that the dispute has likely cost growers and exporters nearly 300 containers per week in lost apple export sales. 
Shippers haven’t been able to take full advantage of a record crop and demand for the fruit from Pacific Rim countries. It is already too late to ship fruit to the Far East in time to meet demand for the Chinese New Year celebrations. 
“Growers will suffer because of the lack of opportunity,” Fryhover said. 
California citrus growers have lost 25% of their potential export sales of $500 million because of the dispute, according to California Citrus Mutual. 
“Fruit is rotting on the docks, sales are being canceled by the customer and our industry has slowed its harvesting so as not to place matured fruit into the market place,” CCM’s Joel Nelsen recently said in a news release. 
Chilean grape shipments to the West Coast are being held back, and outbound potato exports to Japan have reportedly been cut back to an extent that McDonalds and KFC in Japan have suspended servings of fries. 
CNBC reports that a Kurt Salmon analysis shows congestion at West Coast ports could cost U.S. retailers as much as $7 billion this year. 
Members of Congress have been contacted, governors have been lobbied and nothing is happening. Who does the industry yell at to get this solved?

(The Packer)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tony Abbott Lives for Another Day – Now What? « Asia Unbound

To be honest, though, I do not think Abbott will avoid another challenge to his job. A poll taken this week showed Abbott with a record low approval rating from the Australian public, and also revealed that voters would prefer other coalition leaders, like Turnbull or Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, as prime minister. And even though he survived for now, the win was no great triumph. "No matter how it is sliced and diced though, this [party room vote] was a pretty miserable outcome for Abbott," wrote Mark Kenny, a political columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald; a significant percentage of Abbott's backbenchers wanted to get rid of him, even though no other candidate had declared himself or herself for the PM job. And in Australian politics, one challenge, even if defeated, tends to be the equivalent of blood in the water for sharks – commentators and other politicians circle the bloodied leader even more, waiting for another opportunity to pounce.

Tony Abbott's problem: he thinks like a San Francisco Progressive

"Many people in their professional lives don't listen very well. If they hear something they don't like, they straightaway develop a counter-argument," he said. 

"Stop thinking about yourself, but what you need to do to assuage [the other side's] level of anxiety or fear." 

Ten top tips to help Tony Abbott beat the blues | Herald Sun

Don't treat voters like idiots. The night before the last election Mr Abbott said there would be "no cuts to the ABC or SBS". He then went ahead and cut the ABC budget, trying to tell us it was an "efficiency dividend". No one was fooled. Most people were more angry about the broken promise and the weasel words than about the ABC funding cuts.