Saturday, June 09, 2007

AP: Journalism the Cut and Paste Way

Maddog brought something interesting to my attention today: AP's cut and paste method of constructing stories. How does Beijing's propaganda turn into accepted political fact? Simple: cut, insert, repeat.....

This story was filed by AP from Costa Rica. It contains this paragraph:

Since splitting amid civil war in 1949, Taiwan and China have fought to win the diplomatic allegiance of countries around the world. China refuses to have diplomatic ties with nations that recognize Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province it plans to eventually unify with the mainland.

This story was apparently filed from Beijing. And what paragraph does it contain?

Since splitting amid civil war in 1949, Taiwan and China have fought to win the diplomatic allegiance of countries around the world. China refuses to have diplomatic ties with nations that recognize Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province it plans to eventually unify with the mainland.

And Peter Enav, writing from Taipei, also uses that same paragraph:

Since splitting amid civil war in 1949, Taiwan and China have fought to win the diplomatic allegiance of countries around the world. China refuses to have diplomatic ties with nations that recognize Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province it plans to eventually unify with the mainland.

Now that's quality journalism, eh? Instead of using that precious space to give us a more nuanced view of the affair, we get plug-n-play stories. Revolting.

Worse still, as I have noted dozens of times, this formulation is completely wrong. In 1949 Taiwan was under the technical sovereignty of Japan, and would remain so for another three years, until the San Francisco Peace Treaty went into effect. Taiwan had been a legal and undisputed possession of Japan since 1895. Prior to that, it had been partly controlled by the Qing Dynasty, a foreign dynasty, and prior to that, a pirate holding and a Dutch posession. Taiwan and China never split, because Taiwan had never been part of China.

Further, it wasn't Taiwan and China that split in 1949, but the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China. And of course, the paragraph gives us Beijing's view: the renegade province, without giving Taiwan's -- even though in the first sentence it says Taiwan and China have fought for diplomatic recognition, implicitly placing them on an equal footing.

It's bad enough to get everything all wrong, and to regurgitate Beijing propaganda lines as if they were actual history, but to do it repetitively is unconscionable. Please contact AP and inform them that a sharp rise in journalistic practices is necessary.



14 comments:

Wulingren said...

For whatever difference it makes, they probably have a style guide from which the reporters pull these sentences. It doesn't make it right, but that is probably what is going on.

zhj said...

Taiwan has been part of China: it cannot be disputed it was part of the Qing, which was a Chinese dynasty. Before that, it was part of the Ming loyalists lead by Koxinga. Now Taiwan is part of the Republic China...China's first republic. Michael, stop twisting historical facts! The Chinese claim Taiwan, Taiwan is mostly inhabited by Chinese people, Taiwan is Chinese territory and it will be defended or claimed, not matter what.

channing said...

I disagree with the idea that Taiwan has always been part of China, and I also disagree with the idea that Taiwan has never been part of China.

Anonymous said...

zhj: Your idea of Chinese-ness is probably based on some kind of backwards racist construction.

When aboriginals took the heads of Japanese sailors, the Qing claimed Taiwan was not really a part of China. China didn't want Taiwan then, and it was made even more clear when Taiwan was given to Japan indefinitely.

So something was one way in the past--it should always be that way? China expanded to many new territories and lost others (Mongolia?). How about giving independence to Tibet first and then we'll think about it? What year would you like to turn the clock back to? Is anyone else in the world going to listen to you?

Mostly "Chinese" you mean what? Linguistically? Most people didn't speak Mandarin until the last 50 years. Genetically, the majority of Taiwan's population has partial aboriginal ancestry.

No one is twisting historical facts because there's no need to. Just because Taiwan was nominally a territory of some past Chinese empire that today's Chinese government claims to be descendant from does not mean that it today is still automatically a part of China.

If you want to turn back the clock, turn it back to 1935. Take out your communist party masters and give China to Lien Chan and his old KMT crony buddies. How about that? Using your same reasoning:

1. China used to be controlled by the KMT at some time in the past.
2. Today's KMT on Taiwan claims to be descendant of Nationalist China's KMT.
-> Therefore, China belongs to Lien Chan and his buddies.

Wulingren said...

zhj:

You might consider looking deeper into history. First of all, there is dispute about Koxinga's actual intentions. Was he simply a Ming loyalist, and even if he was, does the fact that he defeated the Dutch, suddenly mean that all of Taiwan is Chinese territory. Why? The Manchu-led Qing government defeated Koxinga, and then controlled areas of Taiwan until the Japanese took it over and controlled it for 50 years. And then the KMT came. Who controlled Taiwan before Koxinga, and even before the Dutch?

How do people go through life without ever questioning their assumptions, without ever questioning what their governments have told them?

zhj said...

I was merely rebutting Michael's statement that Taiwan has never been part of China. That is obviously a false statement. And to 'anonymous', I would rather have Lien Chan and the KMT rule all of China, than Taiwan getting independence. I realize however that the KMT is a weak corrupt party which even could not hold onto Taiwan. I also realize that if Mao Zedong did not intervene in the Korean War, Taiwan would now be part of the PRC, because Truman has given up on the KMT as the majority of the Chinese people did. It effectively means that the Americans and other powers have granted Taiwan to the Chinese. However, they have given it to the wrong Chinese, namely the crooks and thiefs, and the innocent young men who were forced to fight in Pay My Check's loser's army. It is only a matter of time before that is restored.

Anonymous said...

zhj: We in Taiwan would be glad for China to take back the garbage you sent over 50 years ago. Sure, the KMT can rule all of China, and we on Taiwan will happily go on being a multiethnic, multicultural, creative, capitalist democracy.

From Taiwan, we don't wish bad on China, but don't wish bad on us. Your perceived selfish benefit is no reason to mess up someone else's fun.

zhj said...

to anonymous: no way Jose. The issue of Taiwan is no longer about Taiwan. It is about defending Chinese identity. It has become something emotional....and be very afraid of emotional Chinese...:P

TicoExpat said...

Dear Michael,
It's a pity you do not understand Spanish. The news and comments these days, related to this issue, especially in Costa Rican press -the major newspaper's biggest stock holder is from PRC- would make you shiver. Really. This AP stuff is actually tame by comparisson.

Michael Turton said...

Damn! I had seven years of Spanish in HS and college, which means I don't understand a word....

can't wait until we have first class machine translation...

Michael

Arty said...

That's all good. If Taiwan really has balls, next time stop using Republic of China as official title. Oh wiat, it can't.

TicoExpat said...

Oh, oh, my bad. I didn't know you were proficient in Spanish. So, where do I send some of the highlights? Please have Pepto Bismol at hand, though.

Michael Turton said...

Tico, I was serious. I don't know anything about Spanish.

Michael

Anonymous said...

zhj: it's big of you to realize that in the end, chinese nationalism/han chauvinism is merely an irrational emotional construction and nothing more.

well, out here in rational taiwan, we like our democracy. we like our country the way it is--independent and free. if other people's happiness makes you feel bad, well i feel sorry for you because you are in for a very unhappy life.