The latest regurgitation of this trope is an article in Time on the recent referendum and the problems it has caused in US-Taiwan relations. The article skillfully deploys negative constructions....
And Taipei-based observers say that the referendum is less a declaration of independence than a political ploy by Chen to bolster his own legacy, as well as voter turnout in March for Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). "The ruling party doesn't have much to campaign about," says Chao Chien-min, a political science professor at Taiwan's National Chengchi University. "The only thing they can do is portray the opposition as Beijing's collaborator."
....without any balance from opposing views to counter the hack on the DPP. Professor Chao appears to be pro-KMT -- he believes that the assassination attempt on Chen by a Blue supporter in 2004 resulted in sympathy votes for the DPP, although no evidence supports that view. But it is not just Chao -- here is every quote of a source in the article:
In late August, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte declared Chen's proposal "a mistake."
Negroponte called the vote a step towards "a declaration of independence," urging Taiwan's leaders to "behave in a responsible manner."
In July, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang warned the proposed vote could "have a grave impact on cross-Straits relations and seriously endanger peace and stability across the Straits and Asia-Pacific region."
China condemned this weekend's demonstrations, warning Sunday that Beijing was now preparing for a "serious situation."
"The ruling party doesn't have much to campaign about," says Chao Chien-min, a political science professor at Taiwan's National Chengchi University. "The only thing they can do is portray the opposition as Beijing's collaborator."
"We do not like having to express publicly our disagreement with the Chen Administration on this or any other policy," Christensen said.
"We have to acknowledge a tough truth," Christensen said. "Most countries in the world accept Beijing's characterization of Taiwan, and, when energized, the PRC can call in overwhelming support to marginalize Taipei."
"Beijing now realizes the shortest route to Taipei is through Washington," says former diplomat Loh I-cheng. "They are telling the U.S., 'It was you who spoiled this child, you should spank him.'"
Read them all -- without exception, every single quote in the article offers a negative view of Taipei. The article is completely slanted. The Taiwan-as-child trope haunts the citations: Taiwan must be responsible (like an adult), it must acknowledge tough truths (adults face the truth), the US doesn't like expressing disagreement publicly (this hurts me more than you), and of course, Taipei is a child to be spanked. Not only are there no positive views, nowhere is Taipei or the DPP permitted to speak for itself. That too, is a subtle manifestation of the toddler treatment: children must have adults to interpret their actions and to speak for them. In the rhetorical framing of the article, the reporter's descriptions of the actions of the government thus too become the adult speaking and interpreting for the toddler.
Along with that negative portrayal is loaded language...
Chen has denied the referendum has anything to do with politics. The president also stridently insists the vote will occur no matter what the circumstances. That said, he has tried to temper U.S. resistance by making assurances to American officials that the naming controversy will go away after the elections.
...note that Chen is "strident." By contrast, KMT presidential candidate "attracts" people to protest in Taichung:
KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou held his own pro-U.N. membership rally on Saturday, attracting about 50,000 supporters to the central city of Taichung.
Ma "attracts" -- even though the reality is that the KMT supporters were bused in -- while for the DPP protest more cautious language is used -- it has "seeming" support....
But neither Chinese nor American opposition has done much to dampen Taiwanese enthusiasm for the referendum. On Saturday, more than 100,000 people took to the streets in the southern port city of Kaohsiung to rally in favor of the referendum and seemingly in support of Chen's vision of a sovereign Taiwan.
...observe also that the movement is Chen-driven -- it is "Chen's vision" that dominates, although the DPP and the tangwai were independence-oriented from the get-go, and polls now show that the majority supports independence for Taiwan. We all know which side assigns the driving agency to the Diabolical Chen Shui-bian.
The conclusion of this article contains an overt expression of the Taiwan-as-child trope:
In recent years, however, Taiwan has seen diplomatic support for its existence ebb, especially as China has grown as an economic superpower. In the 1970s, Taiwan was recognized by 65 nations. Today, only 24 mostly impoverished countries consider Taiwan independent. "We have to acknowledge a tough truth," Christensen said. "Most countries in the world accept Beijing's characterization of Taiwan, and, when energized, the PRC can call in overwhelming support to marginalize Taipei." Indeed, the U.S.'s vocal opposition to the referendum is being seen in Taiwan as more evidence of the influence China now wields. "Beijing now realizes the shortest route to Taipei is through Washington," says former diplomat Loh I-cheng. "They are telling the U.S., 'It was you who spoiled this child, you should spank him.'"
Remember -- a newspaper article is a construction, and the reporter has many possible quotes to choose from. The editor could have simply ended the quote with the first half, the comment on the "shortest route to Taipei is through Washington." But instead, they chose to end by portraying Taiwan as the toddler in need of discipline. UPDATE: Loh I-cheng, the diplomat cited, is an old KMT hand (don't miss the comment below on him).
One could also fault the writer for saying that the 24 countries "consider Taiwan independent" instead of taking a moment to explain the Taiwan-ROC issue -- space that later went to include the portrayal of Taiwan as a child. The fact is that formally they do not consider Taiwan independent; they consider the Republic of China to be the sole government of China. That position implicitly recognizes that Taiwan is part of China. By why waste space explaining complex diplomatic topics, when you can use a couple of lines on a juicy pro-Beijing quote?
UPDATE II: I wrote a long letter to Time about this article, using most of the detail from this post.
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