AP reports on the way tainted milk products from China have affected Ma Ying-jeou's plans for putting the island into China's orbit.
The report also observes:
Now many Taiwanese are questioning whether Ma was right, amid nonstop media coverage of Chinese products being ordered off store shelves and of anxious parents monitoring their children's health.
High-tech employee Kuo Yu-chun, 34, said the milk scandal has reinforced his negative impression of China.
"We should not allow all things Chinese to come to Taiwan just because the government is opening up to the mainland," he said.
China policy expert Andrew Yang of Taipei's Council of Advanced Political Studies said that further wavering by the government could undermine popular support for Ma's wide-ranging China initiative.
"If Ma fails to impose strict controls on the import of Chinese goods, people will lose confidence in his cross-strait policy," he said.
The milk scandal is just one of several things that have the locals up in arms over Ma's policy drift in the first few months in office -- it isn't just the economy -- there was the typhoon, our shrinking sovereignty, the tourists who haven't appeared, and the "opening" to China that has local businessmen exasperated. Tainted milk is a metaphor for Taiwan's entire relationship with China that anyone can read -- and the government's decision to raise allowable melamine levels to protect Taiwan's businessmen essentially says that China can poison the milk if it wants. In the Ma administration, service to Beijing is more important than service to the people of Taiwan. Paul Lin noted this in a commentary in the Taipei Times today:
Almost every country in the world has banned existing imports of Chinese milk powder. Last week I wrote that Taiwan’s government should lodge complaints with the WHO and WTO to uphold national sovereignty and dignity and protect Taiwanese interests. But all the government did was inform the WHO that some Taiwanese products made with Chinese milk powder had been sold to Hong Kong. The government put Taiwan in the position of being an accomplice of Beijing, providing the Chinese-controlled WHO with another opportunity to belittle Taiwan’s sovereignty.
MEDIA NOTES: The AP report contains a couple of highly problematic statements. The first is The Formula:
"....In Taiwan, an island of 23 million people that split from China amid civil war in 1949, the stakes are also political."
Three years ago Gerrit van der Wees of FAPA wrote a piece in the Taipei Times pointing out that AP was one of the news services that was especially guilty of perpetuating this historically incorrect description. Nothing has changed since. History still says that in 1949 Taiwan belonged to Japan, and would until 1952 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect, and AP is still writing that in 1949 Taiwan was part of China. A gross error.
Further, Taiwan and China did not split "amid civil war" since Taiwan was not part of the war between the KMT and the CCP. The KMT lost the civil war and retreated to Taiwan, which did not see itself as part of China.
Finally, saying that Taiwan split from China is not only perpetuating a historical error but adopting the position of Beijing with respect to the status of Taiwan: it is a piece adrift that needs to be "returned." Why must AP take a position on the status of Taiwan?
Other news services manage to describe Taiwan without falling into historical error or taking a position on where Taiwan belongs. Why can't AP do it?
The second problem is the wording of this paragraph:
Ma cruised to victory in March by convincing a large majority of voters that his predecessor's policy of distancing the island from its communist rival was bad for business and a threat to regional peace.
Ma actually convinced only a small minority of voters to switch -- the 10% or so who swing vote. The vast majority of voters remained with the parties they normally identify with. But more important is AP's ridiculous characterization of the DPP's China policy during the eight years of the Chen Administration as Chen "distancing the island" from China.
It's 2008. There are a million Taiwanese in China, $200 billion in Taiwan investment there, the world's busiest airline route is between a Chinese city and a Taiwanese one, we have direct flights, Chinese tourists, student exchanges, legalized investment, etc, etc, etc. Whatever Chen was doing, it was not "distancing." Taiwan is intimately involved with China. Rather the DPP, which sought to manage the relationship to benefit from China's booming economy and maintain good relations with China, staked out strong limits on sovereignty in negotiations. Ma convinced the locals that if those limits on sovereignty concessions were removed, then the economy would "be saved."
It would be better if the next time this appears, it attributes "distancing the island from China" to Ma as a campaign position, rather than presenting it as a fact in a neutral narrative of the issue.