Saturday, July 31, 2010

Alumni weekend

I have had an interesting weekend swimming in and out of USC's slipstream. USC has a big presence in Taiwan, with many Taiwanese students attending Trojanland as well as a USC Regional office located in Taipei. On Friday, I went to an Alumni Happy Hour. 'Twas a great deal of fun getting to be a gringo amid the Taiwanese alumni, and being feted as such. I met some interesting alumni, including one woman named Fawn Chang, who does counseling at a place called The Center. The Center offers counseling and marriage and family therapy for ex-pats relocated in Taiwan. It is a brilliant idea because the stresses and strains of relocating can be a lot on the average ex-pat family trying to navigate a new world. Fawn is a counselor and does marriage and family therapy for ex-pats. My eyes widened at the prospect of public diplomacy family counseling. Fascinating. The notion of offering therapy to business and consular corps families trying to adjust to culture shock is such a brilliant pd niche.

My weekend continued with a trip to the Museum of World Religions, a fascinating showcase of major global faiths. On my elevator ride up to the museum, I chatted with a supervisor of the museum about how I found out about the place. I told her that I saw it in my guide book, the Rough Guide. She hadn't heard of it, so I explained that it was like the Qu'ran to the Lonely Planet as Bible.

The museum was well done. Visitors enter through the Pilgrims' Way, with picture of various itinerant devotees, into the Golden Lobby. The radiant Goldent Lobby is inscribed with the words "Love is our shared truth" and "Peace is our eternal hope" in 14 different languages. From there, I watched a movie called "Creations" about the various traditions and stories that people tell on the creation of the world, set to moving imagery of the elements. Next, I walked through the Great Hall of Religions, which displayed artifacts and information on: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Hinduism, Mayan religious beliefs, Egyptian religious beliefs and Taiwanese folk customs. Beyond the various cases of artifacts, there were models of houses of worship. I descended to the second level, which featured a Meditation Gallery that had videos on different religious meditation practices. There was another room called Awakenings, that had various videos of religious leaders discussing their "spark". The hall itself was on Life's Journey and offered different perspectives on life cycle events in various faiths.

That evening, I went out with a friend named Arthur, who was introduced by another friend Donna Rosenthal. Arthur attended USC for his Masters about a decade prior to me. I went with him and his two adorable kids to dinner at the Howard Hotel with some of Arthur's USC classmates. The roundtable consisted of software execs and biz managers, as well as the owner of the Howard Hotel chain. As Arthur pointed out, it was an interesting mix of Taiwan's landscape. Some who were of Taiwanese origin, some who were originally mainlanders, some who had moved to Canada and America- only to return for business on Formosa. Always nice to get a local perspective for the evening, especially over some delicious Taiwanese fare. One of the more interesting dishes included "milk pineapple" which is pineapple that is fed with milk rather than water. It had a sweeter, creamier texture, I can only imagine how good it would be with chilisalt.

Wages of Toothpaste Cont.

I just found out that the toothpaste I bought in China translates as "Black Sister Toothpaste". WTF!

Friday, July 30, 2010

For the lovers of word games

From an email sent around. Kiitos Taru!

Did you know that the words "race car" spelled backwards still spells
"race car"?

That "eat" is the only word that, if you take the 1st letter and move
it to the last, spells its past tense, "ate"?

And if you rearrange the letters in "so-called tea party Republicans,"
and add just a few more letters, it spells:

"Shut up you free-loading, progress-blocking, benefit-grabbing,
resource-sucking, violent, hypocritical assholes, and face the fact
that you nearly wrecked the country under Bush."

How weird is that?

To take rice

I learned a fascinating thing in my Mandarin class last night.  The word for meal is chi-fan, literally to "to eat rice".

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guardian of Tooth

When I mentioned Darlie-nee-Darkie toothpaste, she mentioned her own Taiwanese toothpaste "Whitemen".

Of course, the Pepsi of the Asian toothpaste world would be a caucasian-styled brand with a KKK-esque slogan (see the title of this blog).  How utterly bizarre.

New Pics from Yanmingshan (Taipei) and Shanghai Expo

From Yangminshan (Taipei)

From The long march to Shanghai

From Shanghai

From Shanghai Expo (China Pavilion)

From Shanghai Expo (Taiwan Pavilion)

From Shanghai Expo

From Shanghai Expo (US Pavilion)

From Hong Kong

Abbey Road; HK Harbor; China Maturing

I had an interesting end of days in the Middle Kingdom. Friday night I went out with my friend and classmate Seth to a French party in northern Shanghai. It was at the apartment of a french girl we had met the previous night, and we hung out with a French party. It is quite clear that while the British still have a bit of a hold on HK, the French are out in droves in Shanghai. The girl Julie's apartment overlooked a giant curved lake lit up by neon and surrounded by rows upon rows of neon-lit apartment buildings. Upwards of 50,000 people live in the radius around her building.

On Saturday morning, Kenya departed back to the US, and Cesar's friend Alonzo from Mexico came. Cesar and I had dinner in his neighborhood of a delicious fish grilled over volcanic rocks. They had the fishies swimming in a tank, it was freshly killed. Our fare looked like the fishy equivalent of a wiener dog- long and pointy (but not an eel, I checked). We had an international evening with two Mexicans, a Brit, a blond Catalon, an Italian and an Austral-Japanese at a bar called Abbey Road, where 3 Chinese guys in Beatles suits crooned old Beatles anthems. She loves you, yeah yeah yeah; akin to Chinese Beatles, see under Thai Elvis.

I left early to catch a flight back to Shenzhen- I passed on taking the bus back. The cab played awful techno as we sped through the city of highrises. My breakfast fare consisted of congee with chicken and mushrooms. Kinda like a Chinese version of grits. That is one dish I expected to find here in Taiwan, but really (disappointedly) haven't seen. Also some yummy fried turnip cakes, kinda like the Chinese equivalent of hashbrowns.

I arrived back in Shenzhen and caught a bus back through the soulless city of glass and metal, and back to the Hong Kong border. The necessary border biz, and I was back in the SAR. I cleared the border in HK, and caught the metro back into the city. I wandered through Kowloon's avarice and diversity, stopping for lunch of noodles in peanut soup. I then took the sublime Star Ferry across the harbor to Kong Kong Island. Always one of my most favorite rides in the world, with a vista of Hong Kong's vertical largess. I wandered around a bit aimlessly and discontented until I stumbled upon a grand Filipino mall. I tried to wander in, but the scores of diminutive dark-hued ladies blocked my baggage-bloated path, so instead I grabbed a wonderful, warm pudding of tapioca, taro and some cottonlike unknown, and sat outside listening to the Filipina babble bounce off the low hanging ceilings. I wandered around scores of Filipinas sitting on cardboard covered ground, playing cards and babbling, while men drank cans of San Miguel. I love the warmth of the smiles that lit up on the ladies faces when I smiled at them. Such a different kind of warmth, one that is much more my style. I really need to visit the Philippines.

I was feeling a little ill-at-ease in the shopping extravaganza that is Hong Kong- slightly melancholy at neither wanting to buy anything and not understanding why such things seemed so important to others, but I escaped to the pier overlooking the immaculate Hong Kong harbor and cheered up over Kipling and a San Miguel as the salty sea air clung to the warm breeze. And I was ready to go home. For the first time Taiwan felt like home, and I wanted to return to it. The words of TS Elliot, which I found in Panama before returning to LA, rang in my head:

"We shall not cease from exploration!
And the end of all our exploring,
will be to arrive where we started...
And know the place
for the first time."

If my ride in to Hong Kong on arrival symbolized the empire who had faded, my ride out on high speed rail symbolized another country rising. I had this overwhelming feeling that China felt like a teenager. Sometimes petulant, sometimes wise. Bursting with potential. Equal parts brash and insecure. Eager to show off its new threads and its place at the big kids table, yet not past throwing tantrums or acting tough when feeling unsure of itself. That China is rising is not really a question- the question is if we will see a China maturing.

Delicious Diplomacy

I hope my gastrodiplomacy article on branding Korea through the taco truck piqued the Korean government's interest and appetite, because the New York Times just published a piece on the fact that the phenomenon is spreading across the US.  It even has a slide show.  Culinary diplomacy at its finest.  Apparently, they are springing up in Indianapolis, Atlanta and other places.  I saw a blogpost on the Dallas Morning News wondering when they would get a Korean taco truck.

I was just on Radio Taiwan International, discussing my piece on Taiwanese gastrodiplomacy.  Gastrodiplomacy meets international broadcasting!

On a final cultural diplomacy note, MPD Prof Nick Cull had a great piece on the Huffington Post on "Jamming for Uncle Sam"

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pursuing Human Rights through Public Diplomacy

The lastest edition of Public Diplomacy Magazine is out. Leah Rousseau and I were co-senior editors, along with EIC Tala Mohebi, and we worked long and hard on this bad boy. This 4th issue looks at nonstate actors and how they practice public diplomacy in their efforts to further human rights.  PD as HR force multiplier, hence the cover design.

The new magazine has some wonderful contributions from the International Justice Mission and Invisible Children.  I helped arrange a piece about the UNICEF Guatemala pd campaign I saw in Guate City.  One of my favorite pieces is by Jim Ife of the Centre for Human Rights Education on making HR practical and not so highbrow.  We have a great Endnote by Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Prize for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines

in the meantime

Too exhausted still for serious discussion about the end of China. Some articles on the Middle, not Far, East instead.

First on Israel's ridiculous "Who is a Jew" bill, which thankfully has been put on hold for 6 months. I can hold my ire till then because I was about to unload with full force.

Sticking with Israel, a leaks piece of a different variety, one about Bibi unplugged. I see little room to believe he thinks any differently today. I severely doubt there will be any peace on his watch, he is pathetic.

Final article is a grand one from Fouad Ajami on Mubarak and the Nile's stagnation.

I will conclude this entry with a passage from Louis de Bernieres' book The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts as it reminds me of the Right, both real and imagined:
"There are two types of patriotism, although sometimes the two are mingled in one breast. The first kind one might call nationalism; nationalists believe that all other countries are inferior in every respect and that one would do them a favor by dominating them. Other countries are always wrong, they are less free, less civilized, are less glorious in battle, are perfidious, prone for falling for insane and alien ideologies which no reasonable person could believe, are irreligious and abnormal. Such patriots are the most common variety, and their patriotism is the most contemptible thing on earth.

The second type of patriot is best described by returning to the example of General Fuerte. General Fuerte did not believe in 'my country, right or wrong'; on the contrary, he loved his land despite the faults that he could so clearly see and that he labored to correct. It was his frequently stated opinion that anyone who supported his country when it was obviously in the wrong, or who failed to see its faults, was the worst kind of traitor. Whereas the first kind of patriot really glories in his own irrationality and not in his country, General Carlo Maria Fuerte loved his country as a son loves his mother or a brother his sister."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Things noticed

-How different Mandarin sounds on either side of the Taiwan Straits.

-How different Cantonese sounds from Mandarin, and how similar it sounds to Vietnamese.

-Taiwan may be Chinese, but it certainly is not China.

-Shanghai is not China.

-The French Concession. The French have overrun Shanghai.  They are the second largest ex-pat group in Shanghai after Koreans.

-The stare.  I am far more exotic in China than Taiwan, although nothing compared to Kenya.

-Grey dragons found in the afternoon clouds, seen on a long, long journey.

-The smell of jasmine on the night rain.

-The smell of brackish seawater on the Hong Kong harbor winds.

-Darlie toothpaste, sold in all the stores.  Formerly known as "Darkie toothpaste."  Oy.

The Seamstress of Shanghai

On my way to the Shanghai subway, I decided to take another route.  Rather than pass by the froufrou shopping mall, I went by the raggle neighborhood.  Much more my speed.  On my way, women sat out on the streets with sewing machines humming in the evening's fading light.  Cognizant of the growing hole in the seams of my shorts, I stopped to get a hem.  As I pointed out the hole in the shorts that I was wearing, the seamstress' husband laughed heartily at the prospect of the pants being sewed while still in them.  The tailoress offered to sew the hole for 5 kwai, a little less than a buck.  I offered to take down my pants in the neighborhood traffic, which brought on a roar of giggles.  Rather, I was sent over to grab a blanket hanging on a line and into the ramshackle house of an old man sitting catatonic outside.  I returned, wobbling in my blanket toga with shorts in hand. 

Sitting on the hood of the car, the sewing machine ticked away as we babbled in languages none of us really understood.  Not that it mattered.  The seamstress' husband called me "Maradona"; the kids liked basketball and Kobe Bryant.  The pants were hemmed and I tried to give 10 kwai for the speedy service and the public diplomacy laughs.  She would have none of it and handed another 5 back.  Unspoken amity and the dignity of good work is worth more. 

I left the neighborhood and headed to the subaltern metro,smiling that neither of us would soon forget the encounter.  Naomi wrote of the public diplomacy of silence, but I prefer the public diplomacy of meaningless words, heartfelt giggles and moments of brief cultural exchange to be long remembered.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Tale of Two Pavilions

I have scaled the Chinese Firewall again and I am back!

Wednesday night Kenya, Cesar and I met up with Col. Kurtz to catch up over some Mexican food at a place called Cantina Agave. Nice to catch up and get the lowdown on life in the Middle Kingdom from an expat par excellance. After some good Mexican fair a long way from Mexico, we caught up with another USC friend Seth along with another of his friends named Gavin. I ended up going out with Seth and Gavin to a pirate bar complete with oak barrel tables and a pirate captain tapestry of a fellow who looked like he could be my long lost great uncle. Over a late night at the bar, we met some lovely French girls, one of which looked very much like a gorgeous french wolf.

The following morning I returned to the Expo to visit the Taipei Pavilion. The pavilion is one of the most popular city pavilions, and is well done. It included a 3D tour of Taipei and lots of cute and interactive exhibits. The pavilion focused on best urban practices, and highlighted Taipei`s recycling services, which are indeed stellar, as well as its public wireless access- which I have not found and am curious about. The exhibit featured lots of smiling faces of Taipeians, and had an excellent photo montage of Taipei and Shanghai together, showing their similarities in historical construction. I got to meet and interview the president of the pavilion, as well a Taipei city government person at the pavilion.

I returned to the country pavilions to check out the Middle East. I hit up Palestine, which was small but fine. It was constructed like limestone bricks, and had some replicas of the Dome of the Rock. I next hit the Bahrain, Afghan and Syrian pavilions. The Yemen pavilion was brilliant. There was practically nothing about Yemen, it was simply a souk and various merchants selling necklaces. The Chinese loved it, and the two sides were busy bargaining over wares. No expo pretensions, just straight business.

I wandered over to the Israeli Pavilion, and talked my way into VIP access as to skip the line like a good Israeli. The inner structure had pictures of the Dead Sea and something of Einstein. Inside there was a giant film broadcast on the large dome. The film was pretty well done, showing the respective size of China and Israel, various faces of Israel and had a space like quality. Then it turned into the "Did you know" talkingpoints. Did you know Israel invented the pillcam, laptop and cherry tomatoes? It was straight out of the lectures I used to give.

I headed from the Middle East on to Africa to visit the Angola Pavilion, which was pretty well done in showing life in country. I also visited Algeria, which made me miss North Afrique, as I chatted with the lovely Algerian girl at the pavilion. Also hit up the giant African pavilion. Some of it was too funny, like the giant snaking line to get the Namibian fellow to stamp expo passports. Or surreal, like the Zimbabwe pavilion, with pictures of rural life and slogans proclaiming Zimbabwe`s development.

I met up with Cesar and we hit up my final pavilion, the Canadian Pavilion. The Canadian pavilion should have been very good. The design was excellent. The Canadian Pavilion`s director general is an extremely famous person in China named Dashan. He is a gringo Canadian who moved here years ago and ended up really learning Chinese culture to the point that he is a comedic celebrity in China. Meanwhile, the Canadian government has a bureau that deals specifically with expos. Like the American pavilion, they had some Cannucks speaking Chinese. Finally, they included the acrobatic troupe Cirque du Soleil, who actually helped design the pavilion and gave major input.

All great ingredients for an extremely lackluster pavilion. There was really nothing inside the giant structure. Just some metal panels with messages about life in Canada, an interactive bike trip and an uninspiring movie about banal Canadian life. Really poor on the whole, probably one of the worst interior exhibits among the bigger pavilions. Short and nothing substantive. The curious case of the Canadian pavilion is that I saw no backlash in the Canadian media about its lackluster pavilion, especially compared to the controversy the American pavilion caused domestically. At least the American pavilion gave a bit of a show for the time spent waiting in line, whereas the Canadian pavilion really could have been passed through in a solid 5 minute walk.

So ends my Expo experience. I am really glad I got to see this public diplomacy Mecca. I saw just enough to enjoy it, without getting burned out. Worth the trip, and made even more enjoyable with the input of my friend Cesar the expo expert.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Microsoft-GE-Pepsi-Visa-USA Pavilion

After a day away to let it all settle in, I returned to the Shanghai Expo on wednesday. Cesar and I went to the other side of the river to see the second part of the Expo, which includes corporate pavillions and urban best practices (City) pavilions. A Japanese company had a pavilion with robots climbing, while the Cisco pavilion had long lines stretching out. There was an Oil pavilion, which made me do a doubletake and yet seemed to be popular. The Coca Cola pavilion had the masses lined up to see the secrets behind that fizzy sugar water. We stopped by the Taipei Pavilion, and I arranged to conduct interviews for the following day.

We headed over to the General Motors Pavilion, a giant metallic bowl with video flashing on the side.  Professor Jay Wang of USC Annenberg had extended an invitation to see the GM Pavilion with his Strategic PR students who were in Shanghai doing PR internships.  I joined the USC kids and we got to see the GM movie.  The movie was about driving in 2030 Shanghai, and the theater had seats that moved with the show.    These futuristic cars that looked like pods drove on futuristic highways and byways as the seats dipped and shifted with the movements.  The movie was rather cool, albeit very hokey.  It got a little ridiculous as the movie ended and the futuristic cars drove out amid dancers in Tron neon outfits (I sadly dated myself by calling it Tron to an SC grad student, and she looked at me blankly).

After the show, we got to meet with the GM communications rep to discuss the show and their pr strategy.    I asked the rep that, given GM´s precarious financial situation, what was the decision-making process in sponsoring a pavilion?  The rep replied: First, GM had committed to a pavilion in 2006, before their financial downturn.  Second, the pavilion is sponsored by GM China, which is somewhat separate from the GM USA, so funding came locally and not at the expense of GM USA. She mentioned that GM is the largest car company in China, and doing very well.  She also discussed some brand differences related to Buick.  Buick in China is a popular car among the yuppies because the Chinese look at it as a symbol of affluence, whereas in the US it is associated with older people.  Funny how brands can mean different things in different cultures.

After, we made our way back across the river to visit the USA pavilion.  Oh, the much-maligned US pavilion.  I was ready to hate the pavilion, but the Pepsi-Amway-Minute Maid glass was actually half full.  Yes, it was a corporate punch in the face.  It felt very much like the Corporate America Pavilion, complete with an uninspiring design that resembled a Dallas office building.  The design really feels even more bland with all the other creative pavilions it is surrounded by.  But the content was not as bad as I expected.

As we waited in line, I watched the diverse Student Ambassadors chat in Chinese with the locals, who ate it up.  The Student Ambassadors have been praised as the brightest spot of the pavilion, and it is immediately apparent.  Very, very smart PD to see the Chinese-speaking Americans bantering with the Chinese.

We were ushered into a entry room complete with an enormous wall of the sponsors.  I started snapping photos of the corporate logos, it took me 5 shots or so to get it all.  But the video welcome was rather good.  It featured Americans of various backgrounds stumbling over trying to greet the Chinese in Mandarin, tracking their numerous failed attempts.  Meanwhile, various celebraties (nihao, I´m Kobe Bryant) and others Americans of either Chinese descent or Americans who could actually speak Chinese chimed in sentiments of welcome.  It was a lighthearted welcome that showed America laughing at itself in its attempts to be culturally respectful.

Next we were ushered into a move theater to see a bit of a hokey piece of kids drawing, and corporates talking about scientific progress.  I found the corporate side a little over the top.  However, I liked the portion of Habitat for Humanity and the display of American civic values.  Meanwhile, the movie had greetings from Hillary Clinton, and later from President Barak Obama.  The Obama greeting was very good, and it was fascinating to watch the flash bulbs go off as the Chinese snapped pictures of the American president.  His message was excellent in its tone that conveyed respect, appreciation and partnership.

The next video was a 4-d presentation about a little girl planting flowers to fix up a dilapidated neighborhood.  It was ok, again a bit hokey but displays a sense of American civic nature.  I was curious though how the Chinese, who put such an emphasis on elderly respect, reacted to seeing this little girl ordering around her elders.  There was also a funny stooge-like moment when two of the characters walk into a pole, which elicited a huge chuckle from the Chinese audience, and reminded me of my desire to see some Stooge Diplomacy in the part of US cultural pd.  I will explain that one in a different post.

The final room was corporate overload.  Walls of different corporate sponsors with little, interactive screens.  GE showing green tech, American Airlines with planes hanging.  I found it rather gauche but the Chinese audience seemed to like it.  People snapped pictures with the Wall Street gavel and played with the different sections.  Like many of the other detractors, I found the corporate side rather distasteful, but I am not the audience.  The Chinese seemed to like all corporate gadgets and gizmos, and seemed to leave happy and pleased.  As such, my friend Peter who work at the pavilion mentioned that they have been getting 45,000 visitors a day, some 5,000 more than expected.  Despite our American critiques, it has been seemingly popular with the target audience. 

My friend Kenya wrote of the exhibit being disappointing in its shallowness. And while it is somewhat shallow and could have been far more engaging, in the context of the audience and location, it wasn´t that bad.  It was a pavilion at an Expo, nothing more.  None of the pavilions are truly deep, and this was no exception.  My final grade is a B-/B.  The student ambassadors raise the grade, and it passes but could have indeed been more.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Taiwan & Gastrodiplomacy

I just had an article published on the Nation Branding site on Taiwan Gastrodiplomacy:
For the global gourmand, Taiwan has a reputation as a premier foodie paradise.  Ask anyone who has been to the island, and the first words that come out are related to its gastronomic treats.  The culinary treasures and pleasures of Ihla Formosa are experienced in the vast array of goodies to be sampled at its colorful night markets for which the island is famous, and enjoyed in the vigor that the Taiwanese engage in the nation’s most favorite pastime: eating.   The sweet potato-shaped island is considered a hub for food-lovers based on its rich cuisine that reflect roots from mainland China, plus influences from its period under Japanese rule as well as Hakka and other indigenous flavors.

Taiwan’s emergence as a culinary center has its origins in the Chinese civil war and Cultural Revolution.  With the defeat in 1949 of the Kuomintang and their retreat to Taiwan, many of China’s upper classes fled as well, bringing many of mainland’s master chefs with them across the Taiwan Strait.  Later, during the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966 in China, many more chefs fled mainland China for Taiwan as the Communist government shut down restaurants as a symbol of bourgeois refinements.   As such, for many years it was Taiwan that kept the pilot light burning for the traditions of Chinese cuisine.

More recently, Taiwan is trying to expand on its reputation and gastro-brand through an initiative to promote Taiwan through enhanced culinary diplomacy.

Gastrodiplomacy is predicated on the notion that the easiest path to winning hearts and minds is found through stomachs.  Gastrodiplomacy was a technique perfected by Thailand, which first used its kitchens and restaurants as outposts of cultural diplomacy.  Given the growing popularity of Thai restaurants around the globe, in 2002, the government of Thailand implemented the “Global Thai program” as a means to increase the number of Thai restaurants. The Thai government’s rationale, The Economist noted, was that the boom in restaurants, “will not only introduce delicious spicy Thai food to thousands of new tummies and persuade more people to visit Thailand, but it could subtly help deepen relations with other countries.”
More recently, countries like Korea have sought to promote its national brand through culinary diplomacy; concurrently, this gastronomist has previously argued that Korea should take advantage of the popularity of Korean taco trucks in Los Angeles as a medium to promote Kimchi Diplomacy.

On the Taiwanese Gastrodiplomacy Menu
In the ongoing efforts to better facilitate Taiwanese public diplomacy, the Taiwanese government recently unveiled a plan to promote Taiwanese culinary diplomacy. Through the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan is set to invest NT$1.1 billion (US$34.2 million) through 2013 to engage in Taiwanese gastrodiplomacy and promote Taiwanese cuisine at the global dining table.

As part of the campaign, Taiwan will host international gourmet festivals as well as help send local chefs to ply their culinary skills at global culinary competitions.  Meanwhile, the initiative will  support the introduction of Taiwanese restaurants abroad, with a focus on major overseas shopping malls and department stores as well as sampling stations for Taiwanese cuisines at international airports.  Moreover, the gastrodiplomacy plan is anticipated to enable local businesses to set up 3,500 restaurants in both Taiwan and abroad, and generate close to NT$2 billion in private investments.

At home in Taiwan, the government is planning on establishing a new Taiwanese food foundation- a culinary think tank that will assist coffee shops and restaurant chains that promote Taiwanese foods abroad.  The creation of such an institute could not come at a better time.  Recently NPR’s Morning Edition featured a story of the immense popularity of Taiwan’s coffee store 85C, which recently set up shop in Irvine, California.  The Taiwanese coffee chain has been introducing American palates to Taiwanese tastes with fares including iced-sea salt lattes and squid ink buns, and has been greeted with lines of customers stretching out the door.
As one who has tried the iced-sea salt latte here in Taiwan, I must say they are surprisingly very good and has a flavor very similar to that of salted caramel ice cream mixed with coffee.

The campaign is also intended to help brand Taiwan through marketing Taiwanese delicacies abroad via advertising promotions.  It has yet to be mentioned if Taiwan’s more-unusual yet iconic delicacies such as stinky tofu will be included in the campaign.  Stinky tofu has attained a bit of a cult status among foodies.  The fermented bean curd gained prominence during Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern’s losing battle with the delicacy, and can often be found at food fairs devoted to unusual culinary dishes.  Sometimes the best nation branding is connected to the most irreverent characteristics, idiosyncrasies and items that signify a country; as such, Taiwan should embrace stinky tofu as a dish to perk up global awareness, if not global nostrils.

Keeping with our more irreverent theme, thus far Taiwan has missed out on a tremendous opportunity to attach itself to the pearl milk tea (also known as bubble tea or boba) craze that sprang up from its shores.  Pearl milk tea with its black tapioca balls swimming around the bottom, has become a global phenomenon yet whose Taiwanese provenance has not been directly linked.  The sad reality is that most American teenagers are very familiar with bubble tea from their ubiquity at shopping malls than the country that invented the balls of gooey fun.  However, it isn’t too late to draw connection between bubble tea and Taiwan, it just simply requires some appreciation for the irreverent.  To reconnect Taiwan to its bubble tea creation, the island should consider creating an “International Boba Day,” perhaps along the lines of the Tomatina Festival in Spain which attracts some 50,000 revelers to toss tomatoes in Buñol’s streets.

Taiwan’s efforts to use gastrodiplomacy as a means to enhance and expand the island’s reputation as a foodie hub are indeed positive steps to better promotion of Taiwanese culture.  As advocated in this article, however, a keen eye for the irreverent is a must if you really want to make the nation brand stand out.  Highlighting exotic tastes and flavors, and engaging in nontraditional forms of public diplomacy help under-recognized nation brands gain more prominence in the field of culinary and cultural diplomacy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mao Rolling in his Grave

I took a day away from the Expo to hang in Shanghai with Kenya.  We visited the site of the first National Congress of the Communist Party in Shanghai, now located in a superfroufrou neighborhood.  Funny to read about all the western imperialist aggression amid a neighborhood is surrounded by Starbucks and Coffee Bean and beseiged by well-heeled foreigners. Fascinating how many members of the original commie congress were executed as traitors to the cause.  I was most amazed at the lovely gift store and all the Expo kitsch available.  Mao can´t be happy with that.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Expo

Having completed my PD long march, I set off to visit the focus of my journey- the hulking world´s fair that is the Shanghai Expo.  Devil in the Red City.  My companion for visiting the Expo was Cesar Corona, an expo expert who is spending the summer here working for USC CPD on expo related projects. We set off for the fair, grabbed our student tickets and entered the giant expo world.  Much to my delight, the paparazzi were out and immediately a Chinese man asked if he could take a picture of moi with his wife with the pavillion backdrop above sitting behind us.  It is so hard being an international rock star.

We headed in the giant elevated expo walkway, past giant vortex constructed from plates of glass.  We passed the red China pavilion, which Cesar mentioned, was painted with 7 hues of red so that you eye never fully focuses and it remains bright.  I did not visit it because the lines to get in are over 4 hours long.  A quick note about the Expo, it is more crowded than you could possibly imagine.  As we were arriving, the metro was flashing the attendance as of 10am: 300,000 people.  This was a slow monday, usually it is between 400-500,000 people.  The Shanghai Expo will easily pass all previous marks, and it will be visited by some 70 million people by the end.  Upwards of 90 percent of visitors are Chinese.  As it has been said in China: For the Beijing Olympics, we put on a show for the world, now the world puts on a show for us.  And it has.  And the Chinese are out in droves to see it.  The pavilion with the longest wait is Saudi Arabia, which lasts for 9 hours.  I remarked that you could probably fly to Saudi for that amount of time.  Others like Germany last close to 6 hours.  The sheer crush of people is really astounding, especially when you see it in front of you.  Lines snaking on as far as the eye could see, sitting on little plastic stools, fanning themselves and being cooled down by watery mists. 

Anyway, we walked over to Asia, passing the popular Israeli pavilion

The Pakistan Pavilion, which was rather interesting as constructed as the Red Fort of Lahore.

Turkmenistan was rather cool, in its interwoven construction.

But we had other plans, I was on an "Axis of Evil" tour of the pavilion.  Over in the far corner, with none of the long lines were the pavilions for Iran and North Korea.
Iran was first on the list and we queued up in a quickly moving line past painted pictures of Tehran, of happy veiled people and of Ahmednijad kissing the hands of elderly people.  We got into the tiled Iranian pavilion and walked upstairs to find carpet bazaar.  Really, they were selling beautiful Persian carpets, tea and pistachio ice cream.  We walked back downstairs and through the various displays touting Iranian scientific progress and life in the Persian state, as well as a carpet loom.  But the fun part came when 4 Iranian musicians took the stage in the theater in the middle of the pavilion.  They put on a great performance of classical Persian music and the Chinese loved. A true reminder that music is such a universal language, as the Chinese clapped and shook their arms above, as little kids danced.  Some really good cultural diplomacy by Iran at the pavilion, and I was impressed by the notion of bringing music troupe to perform cultural works.  Cesar and I chatted with the manager of the pavilion about his work putting it on.  He was an amiable fellow who was connected with a rug distribution center, and the pavilion was being put on in a mostly private fashion.  We chatted about his experiences here, and he invited us to the back room for some tea.  We drank persian tea and ate sweets he gave us as we chatted about his experiences here.  On the whole, it was an ok  pavilion, really made better by the cultural performance.  Although, sorry Ahmednijad, while this pavilion was doing good pd through its music, it is not the most populat at the Expo, not by a long shot.

Continuing on our Axis tour, we went to from bazaar to bizarre: on to North Korea.  We walked into a giant hall with triumphant music playing.  It was a sparse pavilion consisting of one large hall with a picture of Pyongyong on the wall, a little stone footbridge and a traditional Korean pavilion.  The was a giant statue representing Juche, a smaller fountain of happy kids playing with birds and a strange stone structure with some old Korean relics.  Giant words proclaimed "Paradise for People" amid a tvs showing all sorts of strange NK festivals. My big souvenir purchase was getting a picture of me transposed (and reversed) with the NK pavilion.  Thank you, dear leader.

After, we went to some smaller pavilions, such as the Bangladesh pavilion, which seemed to be simply a trade show.  Other than a diarama of a tiger and crocodile, and some smart pd of Bengal girls doing henna, it was just a trade show prosters stating: "We promote export, We Build Image".  Next was Mongolia, which had a giant dinosaur egg inside, lots of pictures of Genghis and smelled very Mongolian (earthy).

We meandered our way back to the golden bronze Gehry-esque UAE Pavilion.  Cesar called on a lil wasta and we got in with the VIP line.  The visitors were welcomed by a Chinese-speaking Emrati princess and a series of very well done films about UAE in some very expensive and interactive theaters.  The first film was about the history of the UAE as related to pearls, with a father and son talking about the history of the gulf states.  Next were a bunch of different emiratis talking on a video screen, followed by a second film with the same kid and a chinese girl turned into cartoons and flying around the Emirates. Very high-end, very well done.  What you do when you have money to burn.

After lunch and watching a Malaysian chap twirl rotis, I used my own wasta and got us into the Taiwan Pavilion.  The reason I came to said expo is to check out the Taiwan Pavilion and other Taiwan related pavilions as part of my Taiwanese PD project.  I dropped my TFD biz card, and they ushered us around to the back to join a tour.  Taiwan went for quality over quantity and kept the number of tours at a set number and held reservations for the tours in the morning so that people either can visit or not, but don´t spend their day waiting to find out.  Cesar and I chatted with a lovely guide and pr person named Babbie as we toured the pavilion.  I also learned a valuable lesson: when you are going to drop your VIP card, you better be prepared.  I was also introduced to the president of the pavilion, with an opportunity to interview him after the tour.  I was shlumped out it shorts and sweaty t-shirt, and I hadn`t planned on conducting an interview today but ran with it.

We passed through the halls of monitors of Taiwanese people introducing Taiwan and into the immense 4-D giant 720 degree theater.  4-D as in it had smell (but no stinky tofu) and touch . We watched the animated introduction and tour of ihla Formosa, then passed on to a giant LED lantern ball where we got to make a wish (of 12 options).  After the wish was selected, an LED lantern ascended above.  After making a wish, we then headed down to a room constructed of bamboo to represent green eco life.  There some traditional Taiwanese music was played and a tea ceremony took place.  We received a cup of tea and were able to keep the lovely cup.  After the tour ended, Cesar and I were taken up to meet with the president.  I will write more of the crux of his sentiments later, but he basically stressed that the pavilion is meant to show the value that Taiwan places on hospitality, which is why there is no VIP, but they try to treat all the guests as VIP.  Cesar, who has been to many expos, said that the hospitality effort was among some of the finest he had seen.
I will write more on the Taiwan pavilion later.

After Taiwan, we headed on to Europe, visiting the Czech Pavilion, which was very eclectically czech.  They had brought the Charles Bridge statue of Jan of Nepomuk to the Expo, and let people rub it for good luck.  They also had a personalized perfume for every 50th guest.  Also a way to take your picture as a Czech hockey player, among other fun things and info on Czech contributions. The cool thing about the Czech Pavilion is that it was covered in hockey pucks, which apparently the Czech Republic makes.

On to Slovakia next door, which let people take pictures in old peasant slovak costumes.  Belarus and Bosnia, which were both colorful cartoony pavilions.

We snaked back over to the heart of Europe, to see the Danish pavilion, which let people ride up and down on bikes to show Denmark´s commitment to bike traffic.  There was also the famous Little Mermaid statue, which had been brought to the fair and was sitting in a pool.  Denmark actually did a very good job of introducing itself to the Chinese, as most pavilions lacked the necesarry contectual information about the countries they were representing like where they are located, and how they compare to China.

We wandered past the shimmering Latvian pavilion and past the uberpopular German pavilion and French pavilion to get to the fascinating porcupine-like UK Pavilion.
We walked past the quils and on to Peru, which had some interesting highlights of the first contact between Peru and China.  What I found lacking in so many of the pavilions was something about the Chinese diasporas in the respective countries.  So many countries have such large Chinese communities, yet there was nothing about them on display.

Our final pavilion of the long day was the Mexico Pavilion. The Mexican  pavilion had large, colorful light-kites above.  Inside, it had a brief film about Mexican life and history.  It was a terrific display of Mexico´s modern art heritage and a real interesting take on public space and public life.  There was surprisingly not much on display of its Aztec or Mayan heritage, save a little relief.  There was an interesting bit on religious life in public space with an ornamental alter that had been brought.  There were also some interesting and interactive displays on public life, public resources and public problems.  There was a fascinating display that had about three dozen masks on poles.  The masks could be adjusted so you could look into the eyes and "see" videos through the eyes of what was being seen by the mask, as well as sounds.  There were some other interactive displays that were quite good.  I really liked the Mexican Pavilion as both interesting and relevant to the overall theme.  Cesar and I discussed if it was a little too high brow.  For example, an original Frida Kahlo painting had been brought, but without knowledge of Kahlo, comments of interest had been made only related to its price and the monkey in the painting.  We both had alternative ideas of what could have been displayed, but just differing opinions.  Overall, I thought it was probably the best pavilion I saw for the day.

We walked back in the evening crowds, stopping at the Uruguayan Beef restaurant.  We chatted with the cute Uruguyan running it about the stand and chatted with her about the place.  The restaurant was sponsored by the Instituto Nacional de Carne as an attempt to introduce finer cuts of meat to China and set up a market for Uruguayan beef.  There were signs stating "Better Meat, Better Life."  I was fully impressed by the "carne diplomacy" as a smart way to create market and appreciation in a giant consumer base.  I offered to do public diplomacy for the Insituto Nacional de Carne, I think I could be a good carne embajador.

We ended our day with a quick view of the Taiwan Pavilion lit up at night.  Its giant LED ball shone brilliantly with various designs and images.  As we walked back along the rampway, it became apparent to me the actual placement of the Taiwan pavilion in China´s orbit.  The China pavilion was flanked by smaller Macau and Hong Kong Pavilions, then there was an elevated walkway and paths below separating Taiwan from the mainland.  It was a rather interesting reminder of the precariousness of the situation.

So, impressions of the country fair. At times, it felt like a giant Chinese Epcott Center.  It was impressive, gaudy, tacky and beautiful all at the same time.  Cesar mentioned that at times it seems that quantity was chosen over quality, and there was a real focus on creating the biggest.  I saw such a small portion my first day, but was intrigued with the ability to project values and images in the pavilions and the best practices related.  It was also stunning to see the incredibly large Chinese renhai (people wave) up close.  I am glad I made the trek to come see it, and even more so that I get to see it with pd friends.  I will keep the updates coming on the Expo.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Baoluo´s PD Long March

I headed out from Taipei in the sunny morning swelter, and had no issues getting through customs.  In dutyfree, I gave english lessons to a whisky girl, who was being trained to sell.  A good trade-off of English lessons for free scotch.  I had the indignity of flying out of a pink Hello Kitty gate aboard a Dragonair flight.  From the myriad of inflight menu dining options, I didn´t spy anything kosher so I went for hallal, usually my silver medal choice.  This time, it was a reminder that hallal is not kosher as I got a dish full of shrimp.

I sat next to an interesting fellow named Peter.  Peter was from Taiwan, although he also had Aussie citizenship.  We got to chatting over his fake glass frames (they make him look more mature, he said) and our respective crazy travel itineraries. The backstory first.  In Taiwan, there is compulsory military service for men (previously 3 years, now 2).  Peter was from Taiwan proper, not one who came from mainland, and didn´t feel that he wanted to do military service.  He moved to Australia and got Australian citizenship, which meant he didn´t have to do the service.  However, he was still obligated to do reserve duty.  To avoid military service, every 4 months, he has to leave the country, if only to get a stamp from another country.  So Peter was literally flying to Hong Kong, walking through customs, and having a cup of coffee and then boarding a flight back to Taipei.  He does this every four months.  We had a good laugh at the respective craziness of our respective travel plans.  Also, Peter wore the lensless glasses so I asked him about said fashion.  He said he wore the frames because he thought it made him look more mature.

I touched down in Hong Kong, ran the gamut of confusion from metros through town to expensive coaches across the border until I found the cheapest option, a phenom doubledecker through HK.  I boarded the legacy of when the sun never set on the British Empire and was driving through memories of my own in that of my last trip to Hong Kong with my grandparents nearly a decade prior.  The city will always remind me of my stately grandparents in their regal element in the fair harbors of Hong Kong, with my everdapper grandfather being approached by schoolkid after schoolkid for his autograph and my grandmother being ever so imperial.  From the front of the doubledecker, I spied out as we crossed cantilevered bridges over coved harbors as the storm set around in various stages- from white grey to brown grey to purple and pink to blue in the distance. 

I arrived to the Hong Kong metro and rode one more stop to the end of the line, literally, and crossed into mainland.  Hello China, my old friend, I have come to talk with you again. Once in Shenzhen, I hopped the metro to find the hostel sojourn.  I was quickly reminded that while Taiwan is Chinese, it most certainly is not China.  All sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle cultural differences abound.

I got to my hostel, and received some a bad prognososis of my chances to get a train ticket to Shanghai from the friendly hosteless.  She sent me over to the trainbooking counter, complete with a sign in Chinese explaining what I wanted.  After the usual confusion, I found the ticket counter on the second floor of a random building, with old Chinese men smoking in the lobby.  I tried and quickly failed in my attempts to getting a ticket to Shanghai.  None.  For days.  I asked about cities semi nearby but no further luck.  I moved over to the next window to the airline ticket counter, but a flight to Shanghai from Shenzhen one-way was as much as my flight from there roundtrip.  I left despondent and headed back to my hostel, terrified I would spend the week stuck in Shenzhen or other unimportant locales, and not Shanghai.  I returned to my hostel and inquired if there might be a bus.  The hostel ladies said it was dangerous, for some reason I could not really understand.  The only danger I saw to be to posed from this long journey seemed to be chair sores, but otherwise, I was willing to risk. 

The following day I got up and tried to brave the Chinese grocery store but quickly abandoned that notion when the onslaught of Chinese shoppers convinced me it was better not to try.  It is a joke to think that the Chinese are communists, they are probably the most ardent capitalists on the planet.  With a long day ahead, I opted to treat myself to Starbucks for a little froufrou and some comforting jazz.  I headed over to the bus station a stop over on the metro and procured a ticket to ride.  24 hours from Shenzhen to Shanhai overnight, leaving an hour after noon. 

I killed time around Shenzhen, doing little worth mentioning, then returned to the bus station to board my night coach.  I quickly found my ride to be rather interesting and unexpected.  Rather than a seat, I had a little bed pod.  A dingy matress with pillow and blanket on the bottom of a doubledecker row of beds in the bus.  I couldn´t exactly sit up straight, and so if I wanted to sit up, I had to move to the aisle.  So began Baoluo´s PD Long Mach. 

As you can only imagine, a night bus in China is never dull. First off, I had to remove my shoes to get on the bus, and they provided a communal pair of slippers if you wanted to use the bus´ squat toilet. I watched the fertile farms and rice paddies pass by, as we drove past nameless cities and hamlets.  The fellow behind me smoked cigarettes on the closed bus, while Chinese music videos blared and tortured my peace.  But I studied Chinese and practiced with the fellow travelers.  I made a friend who was kind enough to buy me dinner at the little rest stop- accidentally getting pork and trying to figure out the most pd way of avoiding the swine while still being gracious. 

I slept about as well as I could, and woke up with only a minor crick.  I awoke to snarled traffic for no particular reason and we sat for an hour and change not moving.  Then we were off again.  I grew restless by the 26th hour on the bus.  As a destination, Shanghai will always represent great lengths to me.  This trip was still far shorter than my last adventure in to Shanghai from Lhasa, which was 2.5 days on the train.  Anywho, I eventually arrived to Shanghai, gladly tumbled off the moving bed pod and made my way to meet my friends Cesar and Kenya.   I caught up and we hung out in mild fashion, chatting over lunch and beers in the summer swelter of Shanghai.  We headed out later to the Bund, the old colonial strand along the water, which was teeming with people.  We ducked in for a pint at a brewpub and were met by another PD friend Seth, who is also here for the Expo.  We drank dark pints and ate fried pigeon.  Yes, really.  With the head included.  Tasted  So here I am, having conquered my latest long march as the only gringo on the random ramshackle bus.  I will write about my Expo adventures tomorrow.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Peeing on the Great Firewall of China

Haha, like Genghis Khan, I hath breached the Great Firewall of China!  I have just arrived from a 26-hour bus ride from Shenzhen to Shanghai, and will recount my tale of getting here shortly.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On the road again

With a smile on my face and the brilliance of Kipling's The Jungle Book to keep me company, this Mowgli has set off on his latest journey.  Nothing like moving to let me feel like me again.  At present I relish the prospect of a 1600km journey across China from Hong Kong to Shanghai, we'll see if I am still singing the same tune as the trip progresses.  But for now I am overjoyed at the prospect of seeing the Shanghai Expo and checking out the world's fair, as well as seeing dear friends just across the straits. Journey on.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tiger v. Dragon cont.

I posted a very interesting BBC report on China v. India a few days prior. Here is the continuation of the discussion via the continuation politics by other means (Clausewitz old euphamism for war).

But on a final PS, India approved a new symbol for the rupee.

Taiwan and the White Terror

In some pretty important biz on la ihla Formosa, President Ma (KMT) gave an official apology for the period of White Terror- the years of martial law imposed on Taiwan, which saw many human rights abuses carried out by the KMT.


This Taipei Times article explains why I couldn't get a flight to Shanghai from Taipei for a reasonable price: it is all full.


Nice article in the NYTimes about baseball and cricket finding they can share the field in London.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WWOOF & Peru Sterilization

When I was hiking, I met a nice girl on a mountaintop named Hanna. She had been teaching Speech and Rhetoric in China as part of a Yale-China exchange and was on her way home to Chi-town. She mentioned two things of interest. WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities of Organic Farming. Apparently it is a social movement that connects volunteers to trade labor on organic farmland in exchange for free room and board. She had been working in India, and raved about the experience. Apparently Wwoofing is a verb I was never aware of.

Another thing she mentioned that I hadn't been aware of was a nasty forced sterilization campaign in Peru in the 1990s (!). Peru, under Alberto Fujimori, launched a massive family planning campaign that was initially hailed and supported by international multilateral organizations and ngos. This was until it got way, way out of hand and the Peruvian government sterilized close to 300,000 indigenous men and women against their knowledge or will. Check out this video on Fujimori's family planning campaign. As earlier posted, the statement of Milan Kundera: "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting".

A final PS, from an earlier quote about Greenpeace being more important than Austria (Googlandia), a great op-ed about Greenpeace's work.

Taiwan and Afrika; China and India

Afrika has remained on my mind this week since my encounter on the metro with the paparazzi-stalked girls. I was reading a great article by Ian Taylor on Taiwan's Foreign Policy and Africa (I can't post the whole article, but if anyone wants it, I will email it).

Taylor makes a few great points about the fight for recognition between China and Taiwan in Africa. Related to long-standing Taiwanese aid in Africa, he states:

"Although Taiwan has deployed aid since the 1960s as an inducement to maintain or establish official ties with Taipei, it is probably true that most Africans do not care much who is the 'real' China or with whom official diplomatic ties should be established. In fact, most countries would probably opt for relations with both, if this was possible. However, astute state elites on the continent have become conscious of the fact that the diplomatic competition between the two countries is a diplomatic spat that elites in economically depressed countries in Africa are able to profit from, both financially and politically."
He continues on the balancing act that the rivalry has created:
"Certainly, African elites have found it possible to play off the two Chinas against each other in return for financial resources. This has meant a source of patronage for such elites at a time when great power interest in the continent has continued to decline. No longer can African elites take advantage of the Cold War to obtain concessions from rival superpowers. In fact, in the post-Cold War era, rivalry between the two Chinas is perhaps the only political competition that Africa leaders can hope to take advantage of in a manner reminiscent of the Cold War."

The piece goes on to chronicle some of the scandals related to the no-string-attached aid through dollar diplomacy offered by Taiwan in exchange for diplomatic recognition, as well as China's own malfeasance in Africa (He also points out that much aid has delivered positive impact as well). Taylor also highlights the backlash in Taiwanese society towards the dollar diplomacy policy, stating:
"This has, however, raised question in Taiwan as to the desirability of pursuing this policy, particularly in corruption-prone states in Africa. This is based on two assertions. Firstly, that relying on finances to secure diplomatic allies is a policy based on short-termism and does not secure genuine allies, rather clients interested in when the next aid disbursal/financial inducement is coming. Secondly, providing resources willy-nilly to anyone willing to recognize Taiwan, irrespective of the receiving administration's legitimacy or behavior undermines any claim to the moral high ground in pressing for broader international recognition."
Things have indeed changed a little since the article was originally penned. Taiwan and China's thaw in relations has led to a cease-fire of sorts related to sniping of diplomatic allies- thus ending the dollar diplomacy battle.

Staying in Africa, but moving over to the curious case of Somaliland. As previously mentioned Somaliland just had a democratic election and transfer of power, but as Scott Balduff writes in the Christian Science Monitor, the world continues not to pay attention. Especially as terrorists from al-Shabbab in Somalia recently targeted World Cup watchers in Uganda, the case for supporting Somaliland and its stability seems even more evident. Sadly, it seems as if the only way Somaliland could get the world to pay attention to its independence would be if it invaded Somalia, occupied Mogadishu to declare its freedom and then withdraw back to its borders.

I have been toying with the idea of the benefits vs. detractions of a Taiwanese-Somaliland relationship. Related to Taiwanese-Somaliland ties, both are members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). Meanwhile, when Taiwan last had its Taiwan-Africa forum, Somaliland sent a delegation to attend. It seems one should just take the first step, since Taiwan hasn't taken the initiative, perhaps Somaliland should recognize Taiwan and hope that reciprocation ensues. At the very least it should cause a few headlines, a bit of public diplomacy buzz and perhaps a little more attention to the recognition issues both countries face.

On a last note, on to the Dragon vs. Tiger and the soft power contest between India and China. CPD has a good blog about it. The BBC had some good programs about the issue as well.

PS: A good NYTimes piece on the colonial chickens coming home to roost from Portugal in Angola.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Voice of America, Voice of Lebanon

Great NYTimes piece by international broadcasting expert Kim Andrew Elliot on how to fix America's international broadcasting efforts.

Great NPR piece on the Lebanese gem Fairuz. Shukran Sarko!

Georgia on my mind in Taiwan

I was busy reading an interesting piece by Gary Rawnsley called "Selling Democracy: Diplomacy Propaganda and Democratisation in Taiwan" on the role of Taiwan's political transformation to democracy on its foreign policy and public diplomacy during the Chen Shui-bian administration. In that piece, Rawnsley wrote:
"Yet democracy has also tempted Taiwan to be bolder and more assertive in its relations with China. It has endeavoured to push the boundaries even further, to test its newly-discovered confidence in the belief that public opinion and the United States will come to Taiwan's aid if and when the military conflict breaks out across the Taiwan strait."
The question that lit up in my head after reading that line was related to Georgia in its war with Russia in the summer of 2008. The question that started bouncing around in my head is what effect the Georgian war had here insofar as the example of a small, democratic country within the US orbit that had expected assistance in the face of the aggressions of a larger autocratic neighbor, only to see it never materialize.

Monday, July 12, 2010


So I am leaving ihla Formosa for mainland this week to visit Shanghai for a week to do some research on the Shanghai Expo and see some friends. I am interested in seeing the Taipei Pavilion as a bit of Taiwanese PD on mainland. Also I have a bunch of good friends in Shanghai working at the Expo. Yet I am going in the most indirect of routes, by way of Hong Kong some 1600km (1,000miles) away. Flights from Taipei to Shanghai were twice as expensive, close to $500 for a 1.5hr flight, which is ridiculous. So instead I am flying for half that to Hong Kong and probably going to take a night train from Shenzhen outside the SAR, unless I can find a cheap flight from there. Truly going around my elbow to get to my ass, as my friend Ben Mezer likes to say. Just for an equivalent, it would be like me wanting to visit Washington, DC, therefore flying into Des Moines.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I added a "best of" section below the archive. Some of my favorite entries. If any of you dear readers had any favorites, drop me an email and I will add it to the reel.

Empire State of Mind; Buy me some Wasabi Peanuts and Squidjacks

I spent a bit of the weekend swimming in New York fantasies on Formosa. Friday night, I went to the Blue Note in Taipei. Years ago, during a spring break my freshman year I hung out in the Blue Note in NYC with my friend Eyal till the wee hours of the melodic morn. This Blue Note was up to par and a good show. Properly cavernous with neon slinking up the walls. If I closed my eyes, I heard quality jazz, but when I opened them, I was greeted with a Taiwanese lady wailing on the sax. Too funny. Not bad at 350 NTD ($10.61) including drink of choice from the menu. My single malt Glenfiddich included in the price of admission, not bad at all. I was reminded of my days in Shanghai, catching jazz at the swanky Peace Hotel where old Chinese fellows in tuxes bleated trumpets of joyous jazz.

Saturday continued my Empire State of Mind as I had a delicious afternoon brunch of a bagel and lox at NY Bagels as I studied Chinese. A damn good bagel this far from Yiddishkeit, and better than any bagels I found in Lalaland. I bantered with the giggling waitresses about the color of their shirts and their hobbies (the extent of what I know in Chinese).

Saturday afternoon I caught a baseball game of the CPBL with some friends. The baseball league is a little crazy. There was a huge gambling scandal a few years back and it decimated support. Teams contracted and now there are only 4 left. They barnstorm up and down the country. I'm not sure how the all-star game works since odds are likely you will make the squad. Or the World Series when you only have four clubs.

Anywho, we made our way to TienMu stadium and scooped up some walk up tickets for the game between the Brother Elephants (my team!) vs. the Uni-President Lions. Student tickets were 150NTD ($4.55) and the beers were no more expensive than outside the stadium. I got a great new black elephants hat for 300NTD ($9.09) to replace my red puma hat I got in El Salvador for $4. The stadium had one of the most amazing backdrops I have ever seen. The outfield was lush jungle covering mountains. There were a few apartments but it was mostly verdant green mountain with a giant white temple hanging on top of one cliff, and a giant office (?) building on another. The sun was setting golden in the west down the third base line. I skipped the unkosher hotdogs and enjoyed grilled meat on a stick as the Elephants clobbered the Lions and we cheered on amid the yellow wave of rally sticks and horns. Lotsa fun. And I almost forgot, they had the 5th inning stretch!

The game was followed by a bit of time wandering through the crushing wave of people in the Shilin Night Market. We snacked on an amazing Taiwanese version of Chicken-Fried Chicken and spring onion pancakes with juicy mango and watermelon for desert.

Today I awoke to my roomie Ken making frenchtoast. He was kind enough to make me some too. I opened up a new thing of milk and poured it in my coffee. I took a sip and said "blech." It was yogurt! The stuff was in the milk aisle and looked to be in a milk container. It sucks being an illiterate. My day continued with a bit of hiking at Yanmingshan with some USC Global Fellows who are interning here in Taipei. We spent a few hours ascending Mt. Cising, which could have been one of the worst hikes ever given that the whole trail is paved in stone and it has major stretches next to sulfuric springs. Nothing worse than trying to catch your breath with the stench of rotten eggs on the air. But the sulfur dissipated and the view became immaculate. Taipei lit by the setting sun and sea beyond turning golden on one side, mountains covered in white cotton clouds emanating upwards on the other side. The vista from the top was sublime and made it all worth it.

My ride back was kept entertaining as I met two African girls on the MRT. A Taiwanese paparazzi was trying to snap a pic of one of the girls, but she saw her image on her cell phone and told her to stop. I told her it was just because she was so beautiful, and she cracked a big grin. There is nothing that will warm your soul more than a big smile from an African girl. I chatted with the girls on the train, Mariama from the Gambia (Senegambia, I remarked earned me a look of disbelief) and Selma from Sao Tome, both studying here for a considerable time. Part of Taiwan's African connections, which I will get into in another blog. A realization on my part chatting with them that I need to do a bit of continental drifting and make my way the Far East to the sub-continent and back on to Afrika.

PS: A great piece on the biblical agrarian battle in Harpers.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

If I've lost Cronkite...

My Mom said she didn't like the brown color to the blog, and made her not want to read. See under LBJ's famous statement.

A Strait Deal: Taiwan, China and the PD Implications of ECFA

The USC Center on Public Diplomacy was kind enough to add me to their blog roll. This is my first blog for them:
A Strait Deal: Taiwan, China and the PD Implications of ECFA
Cross-Strait relations between China and Taiwan took a dramatic and historic turn with the recent signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). The trade liberalization deal will create closer economic linkage between Taiwan and China, but beyond increasing the flow of goods across the Taiwan Strait, there are serious political and public diplomacy aspects tied up in the trade pact.

Through the trade liberalization deal, Taiwan will be able to export 539 categories of goods tariff-free to China. Such goods are valued at $13.8 billion annually. Meanwhile China will receive elimination of tariffs on some 260 types of their products for export to Taiwan, the value of such goods worth $2.9 billion. In total, the deal will open up 11 service sectors, including the banking sector. Meanwhile, the Economist notes that there is a component in the deal to strengthen intellectual property rights between Taiwan and the PRC, which is especially important for Taiwanese Mandarin-language entertainment. Taiwanese cultural entertainment and programming is popular in the mainland, and this deal should help better protect it from piracy; this is especially important as the Taiwanese government is investing $66.2 million dollars over the next five years to burnish its local pop music industry as vehicle for cultural diplomacy.

However, you can put the abacus away now, because the real balance sheets to be assessed in this deal are in the realms of politics and public diplomacy. Beyond the economic implications, the deal represents China's realization that if it wants to deal with Taiwan in any meaningful way, threats of force are not the ticket. China blustered belligerently towards Taiwan as the island nation moved towards democracy in the 1990s, only to see the tactic backfire as the pro-independence Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) rode the wave of mainland threats to power. Rather this deal is a bit of political and economic public diplomacy from China to Taiwan in the form of a lot of trade concessions to convince Taiwan that closer economic ties are an asset. For Taiwan, the deal offers economic access both to China and with the expectations towards the ability to sign free trade agreements with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other regional players like Japan which thus far Taiwan has been blocked from by China.

For Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou, the trade agreement represents the crown jewel in his two-year effort towards fostering a more amiable relationship with China. President Ma came to power promising to create a more constructive relationship with Beijing compared to his pro-independence predecessor Chen Shui-bian. Regarding his efforts, Sheridan Prasso commented on CNN Money:

Since he took office, Taiwan's President Ma has managed to secure 12 economic agreements with the mainland. He allowed Chinese investment into Taiwan, including into the stock market, for the first time. He also opened up direct air and sea links that had been closed since the Communist capture of China in 1949. Instead of a lengthy detour through Hong Kong, the 1 million Taiwanese who invest in and live in mainland China can fly direct on 270 regular weekly flights between Taiwan and 31 mainland cities. The government estimates that 1 million mainland tourists will visit Taiwan this year -- up from 600,000 last year (injecting $986 million in revenue), and up from virtually zero in 2007 before President Ma opened up the Taiwan Strait to cross-Strait trade.
Such economic and cultural exchange linkages foster enhanced public diplomacy via people-to-people exchanges on both sides of the Straits and have been a fundamental aspect of President Ma’s pragmatic diplomacy towards China.

However, also on Ihla Formosa the deal has been met with a good deal of consternation. There has been a considerable amount of fear and loathing here in Taiwan about the implication of a deal that brings Taiwan closer to China’s orbit. Critics of ECFA such as the opposition Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) paint the deal as a Chinese Trojan horse meant to hasten the political integration of Taiwan into Chinese clutches. Calling the pact a threat to Taiwanese jobs, the opposition rallied some 30,000 to march through the rain-soaked streets of Taipei against the signing of the deal, albeit considerably less than the 100,000 demonstrators promised. Perhaps encompassing the sentiments of the opposition, one such placard exhibited a doctored image of President Ma smooching the cheek of China’s President Hu Jintao (ala the famous Breshnev-Honecker mural) with the statement emblazoned, “Don’t embrace the enemy.” Rarely does a trade deal cause such existential angst, but rarely also are trade deals concluded between a country whose right to exist as an independent entity is not recognized by the trade partner and vastly larger neighbor.

However, in its piece of witty title, “Know your customer,” The Economist offers some perspective on what the deal does and does not represent. The magazine argues that the impact of the deal on Taiwanese domestic politics will be limited. It states, “Voters there understand China’s intentions very well and are unlikely to be swayed by a few tariff cuts.” Moreover, Sheridan Passo of CNN argues that in order for Taiwan to increase its economic power in the region and continue to expand its economy, it must both conclude this deal and continue in its effort to open up to China. Passo states, “A stronger economy strengthens Taipei’s position in any eventual talks with the mainland. Isolation weakens it.”

While many in Taiwan view this deal with apprehension in that it could squeeze the island too close into China's orbit; I take a contrary view of it and see this more as a possible Trojan horse for Taiwan to help socialize privatization and liberalization in mainland. Like the reversal of fortune tied up for the Soviet Union in the Helsinki Accords, this deal may ultimately do more to undermine China more than Taiwan with the significant socialization repercussions that are rife in the deal that creates linkages between open Taiwanese sectors with their more-closed Chinese counterparts. Don't underestimate Taiwan's private sector actors - the guerrilla capitalists behind the Taiwanese Tiger - or their ability to alter the Chinese business landscape. In addition, the increased people-to-people interactions through business, culture and closer societal contacts between China and Taiwan may prove to have a public diplomacy impact not yet understood or appreciated.

Neither Royal nor Loyal

A lotta ink spilled on the LeBronathon.  This is one of the better op-eds I saw, the title of which I borrowed for the title of this blog by Bill Plaschke of the LA Times:
LeBron James is the King, all right. The King of Crass. The King of Callous. The King of Cowardice.

What kind of man arranges and stars in a nationally televised infomercial during which he kicks his hometown to the curb? What kind of man summons a crowd of millions to watch him break up with a city that has loved and supported him for 25 years?

LeBron James dragged the Cleveland Cavaliers to the center table of the most crowded, well-lighted joint on the sports landscape Thursday night, then loudly dumped them on the spot.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Fray in Taipei

Check out this phenomenal ECFA brawl in the Yuan (Taiwanese parliament) over the China-Taiwan trade deal! No ECFA is not a Taiwanese wrestling league. Video footage here of "The Fray in Taipei".



I officially luv Taiwan!

auf wiedersehen, Paul!

Zee Gehmans vant to eat zee octopus. HAHA.

PS: This Week in Germany has a nice comment on Paul and the diversity (and PD value) of the German team.