Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Media Round-up for Tuesday

It's always a kick to discover a part of oneself in an odd corner of the web, and sure enough, a blog called RightDemocrat, which was carrying a nice-to-see article calling for Obama to end Taiwan's isolation, had a picture of my wife a UN for Taiwan t-shirt, one I took a while back (at left). The article observes:
The Bush administration continued undermining American support for democracy abroad by expanding and re-issuing the backward guidelines in 2008.

For instance, high-level Taiwanese officials, including the democratically elected president of Taiwan, are barred from visiting Washington. On the other hand, the unelected leader of China's thuggish communist party has been welcomed into the White House.

Another rule precludes U.S. embassy personnel from accepting invitations to "official" Taiwan-hosted functions, or functions held at "Taiwan's official premises" and vice versa.

In a particularly bizarre ban on communication, U.S. officials are not allowed to communicate directly with their counterparts in Taiwan, but rather must send letters to each other through a third party.

As the Taipei Times newspaper describes, "Even personal thank you notes must be written on plain paper and put in a plain envelope to disguise the sender's official identity."
It's all been said before, but it can't be said enough.

AP reports that former first lady Wu has admitted to document forgery, but denies accepting bribes. As the article notes, the prosecutors will have great difficulty proving bribery, because the Chens insist the money was political donations and intent is difficult to prove. This will not stop the trial-by-media that we are witnessing. The AP article has the usual invention of history, arguing that Taiwan was part of China in 1949, when it was legally part of Japan, and implying that Taiwan and China were having a civil war:
Chen, a strong advocate of Taiwanese independence, has lashed out at Ma's policies of increasing trade and political contacts with the mainland, from which Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949.
With the ten million accurate ways to describe the relationship in 1949, you'd think AP might do better. But note, more seriously, the pro-KMT claim about Chen accompanied by another rewrite of the facts: Ma's policy is to increase trade and political contacts with China, Chen's, by inference, was not. Actually, both Chen and Ma wanted to increase trade and political contacts with China -- but Chen did not want to sell out Taiwan while doing so -- while Ma's KMT currently is. That is the real difference -- Chen is not protesting contacts with China, he's protesting the Ma Administration's service to Beijing. There's no reason AP can't make that clear either....

But even worse is this awful construction:
Wu was paralyzed from the waist down in 1985 after she was run down three times by a truck following her husband's unsuccessful electoral bid for a county magistrate position in southern Taiwan. Chen later claimed that the incident was engineered by the rival Nationalist Party as an act of political vengeance. The Nationalists have always denied the charge.
This is a pro-KMT frame. The use of the verb "claimed" implies that there is no support for Chen's side, and the attribution of the claim to Chen implies that only Chen says so. Why not simply write "Chen says...the Nationalists say" and make it neutral between sides? Really -- does anyone outside the Blues claim it was an accident or an act of private vengeance by the driver? I will be happy to connect the writer of that article with Linda Arrigo, who interviewed the accident witnesses. Just ask. UPDATE: I missed this, but Maddog spotted it: AP wrote...
Wu Shu-bian, who arrived in her wheelchair looking wan in an orange Burberry jacket and light gray trousers,
Wu Shu-BIAN! That's Wu Shu-zhen. The Updated IHT version of this has changed "Chen later claimed" to "Chen later said", he also points out.

Ma save us! The economy continues to crash. Intel has canceled its major developer forum here. The Taiwan dollar hit a 4.5 year low. The Ma administration continues to claim its policy toward China is "economics first, politics second", perhaps accounting for the key decision of China to import Taiwan beer. I suppose products of Taiwan's other three remaining industries, betel nut, taxis, and insurance, were more difficult to import. In Hawaii Bill Sharp muses on whether Taiwan is risking too much with its cross-strait policy, and observes that Ma is not in control of policy. Bill is indeed sharp, as far too many observers do not make that key fact explicit:
The exact nature of their motivation remains unclear. Nevertheless, the pro-China wing of the Taiwan's Nationalists led by one-time presidential candidate Lien Chan, party chairman Wu Po-hsiung and James Soong, a former Nationalist Party presidential aspirant who bolted to form his own People First Party, relentlessly rush on to create greater connectivity with China. The three seem to own the issue, with Ma exercising little discernible influence.
A ket indicator of economic distress: more nudity in advertizing. Taoyuan Nights has the links in a very pessimistic post on the future of the economy here: January exports down 57% from last year, 76% of science park workers forced to take unpaid days off, Taiwan’s exports declines by record 44.1% on global demand drop, and CLSA slashes South Korea and Taiwan outlooks - 11% GDP shrinkage.


Thomas said...

You forgot one key piece of news that, while it doesn't say much about the decline of Taiwan's economy in itself, does carry considerable shock value for many.


Kaohsiung Port has dropped out of the world's top-10 busiest port ranking. In fact, container throughput declined 5.66 percent from 2007. I remember reading recently a statement by a port official saying that there was a surge in December thanks to the establishment of direct shipping.

If that is true, what does this say about the decline in the rest of the year? KSS is building new capacity now. But methinks that the problem is deeper than one of not enough capacity. In addition to the recession, there is simply too much competition abroad and within Taiwan.

Remember that most Chinese ports grew last year. They just grew at a much lower rate than they did in 2007.

But never fear, Ma is on the case!

Tim Maddog said...

Here's another version of that same article with a Peter Enav byline. It uses "said" instead of "claimed":
- - -
Chen later said the incident was engineered by the rival Nationalist Party as an act of political vengeance.
- - -

Checking again, the one you linked to has also been changed. (But even using "said" could imply that nobody else thinks so.)

Both versions contain this doozy:
- - -
Wu Shu-bian, who arrived in her wheelchair looking wan in an orange Burberry jacket and light gray trousers [...]
- - -

"Wu Shu-bian"?!

And who gives a shit about what she was wearing -- besides all the Chiu Yi's of the world, that is?

Tim Maddog

Macca said...

I don't think the use of 'said' or 'claimed' is key to the reader doubting Chen's word. It is the sneaky use of the preceding word, 'later', which here seems to have been deployed in order to make the reader interpret it as 'after Chen had some time to think about what political capital he could make out of his wife's horrific injuries'...

Nick said...

Lucky Ma has banked his economic success on the Great China Sell-out.


"Economies are like investment portfolios. You should hedge your bets by diversifying"

reeb said...

Found this interesting link on reddit yesterday:

High Tech Misery in China

Several good photos and tidbits about what Chinese worker/slaves have to put up with in China factories. Unfortunately... the company mentioned is owned by a Taiwanese. (Meitai Plastics & Electronics Dongguan City, Guangdong, CHINA)

David said...

Something further regarding the AP article.

AP wrote: "Taiwan's former first lady admitted to laundering $2.2 million and forging documents Tuesday"

Taipei Times wrote: "Former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) pleaded guilty to forgery yesterday and not guilty to the other charges against her."

Obviously one of these articles is wrong. Which one?

It highlights that the media really need to take much more care in reporting. In reporting on legal cases it is really important to differentiate between allegations, admissions, pleading guilty, etc.

richard said...

Michael, i love reading your blog, just great !

David said...

As a follow up to my previous comment, it was the Taipei Times that got it wrong. They published a correction on page 2 of the 13 Feb 2009 edition. They have also corrected the story on their website.