In US politics, it is not uncommon to see politicians sign pledges on various policy platforms during election season so that voters can get a clear account of where the politicians stand on various issues and so that they stick to their word once elected. Last year’s primary season in the US was full of pledges, most of them absurd or too ubiquitous to have any real weight. However, in the case of Taiwan, I feel that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) could do a lot to assuage the fears of many Taiwanese about the future of Taiwan following elections in January next year by signing a simple three-point pledge.
This pledge could be worded along the following lines:
“I, Ma Ying-jeou, my party, my government and all its official and semi-official institutions hereby 1) promise to respect the Central Election Commission’s announced results of the combined 2012 elections and to not engage in protests or actions damaging to Taiwan’s democracy and its international reputation; 2) promise to not engage in any cross-strait negotiations or sign any deals with Chinese authorities, official or otherwise, in the period between the elections and the inauguration of the new president in May, should I and my party lose the forthcoming presidential or legislative elections; and 3) promise that the content of any political negotiations with China be made available to the public and that any political agreement(s) or peace agreement be put to a legitimately conducted national referendum, being only signed and ratified following the passing of such a referendum as by the law.”
Although I would be skeptical that this government and presidency would abide by these promises even if they pledged to do so, I think making the pledge in itself would ease the fears of Taiwanese and perhaps allow the election campaign to be about the substance of each candidate’s policies rather than a vote on cross-strait relations. This would go much further to deepening Taiwan’s spirit of democracy and Taiwanese faith in the democratic process than any number of hollow and conveniently timed announcements of love for and allegiance to Taiwan.
I was overjoyed when I read that AU Optronics (AUO) would cease their 8.5G capacity expansion plans in China (“AUO posts third quarterly loss,” July 28, page 12). It’s about time that one of Taiwan’s major tech players faced up to the reality of the nation’s increasingly pessimistic macroeconomic environment.
First, however, let’s talk about ProMOS, the “too big to sail” DRAM behemoth, currently floundering in an ocean of red ink. The ProMOS management, like many soon-to-tank Taiwanese IT firms, followed this “Woo-hoo! Growth! Growth! Growth!” strategy several years ago, which sadly will become their undoing.
Shareholders, get out while you can and leave the banks to take the losses. If you look at the fundamentals, ProMOS is engaged in selling outdated chips to a dying industry, namely, PCs, notebook computers, “netbooks” and other similar devices. Bank of Taiwan and Taiwan Cooperative Bank, get ready to write these losses off. You placed your bets on a three-legged horse with attention deficit disorder.
When the massively successful iPad began its dominant march, did ProMOS slow down? No. Its was the “3Gs” strategy once again: “Growth! Growth! Growth! Let’s borrow more money and expand our capital expenditure!”
I can promise that ProMOS will never be profitable again, regardless of all their gimmicks and tricks. Investors, beware.
Meanwhile, AUO has been competing in the large-panel TV segment and just posted a loss for the third straight quarter. This comes as no surprise to me considering that China’s knockoff fabs stole Taiwanese technology and are currently building capacity for their domestic market with their “white box” brands like the pirates they are.
Lately, the large-screen TV demand in debt-plagued European and US markets has been tapering off. Sadly, with their weak macro analysis, AUO never saw this coming. And imagine their surprise when HD pico projectors really start taking off and cannibalizing this market completely.
Analysts quoted in the Taipei Times frequently say that this is because of upcoming austerity measures in major markets. Again, the simple truth belies this trend: If all of the world’s large-panel LCD TV makers ramped up their capacity to the max, there would be enough to sell three large-screen TVs to each subsistence farmer in India — not exactly a prime market. How many TVs can a person watch at one time and are consumers really demanding flat-screen TVs that are thinner than they already are now?
Moving on to shippers such as Yang Ming Marine and Evergreen, ignoring macro factors entirely, the foolish management at these companies continues to believe the world is entering a new growth phase and that they will benefit. Despite falling shipping rates from Asia to the EU and US and ongoing diminishing profit margins, these companies continue to buy new ships, apparently ignoring the fact that we are inexorably headed toward an inevitable, resource-constrained, steady-state global economy.
Yonghe, New Taipei City
The US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment for this year certainly cannot be faulted for having a narrow focus or Pollyanna perspective. From a rising China, Russian aggression and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, to climate change, future pandemics and the growing reach of international organized crime, US intelligence analysis is as comprehensive as it is worrying. Inaugurated two decades ago as a gesture of transparency and to inform the public and the US Congress, the annual threat assessment offers the intelligence agencies’ top-line conclusions about the country’s leading national-security threats — although always in ways that do not compromise “sources and methods.”
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