The free-trade deal is also significant to the United States, which under U.S. law is obligated to provide for Taiwan's defense. U.S. officials have said they view the deal as a sign of improving relations between Beijing and Taipei, and another sign that China appears less likely to use force in an attempt to unite with the island.This paragraph contains the common erroneous reference to the TRA, claiming that the US is obligated by law to sell weapons to Taiwan. It isn't. That agreement has been known since 1979. Can we stop writing that crap? Further down, after sourcing information from Xinhua -- is there no other news agency they can obtain news from? -- they note:
Analysis by Taiwan's semi-official Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research said the agreement could create 260,000 jobs and add 1.7 percent to Taiwan's economic growth. Other analysts, such as Daniel Rosen and Wang Zhi, writing for the Peterson Institute for International Economics, have estimated that the deal would be even bigger for Taiwan -- adding 5.3 percent to its economy within the decade.Actually, Rosen and Wang said the deal would add only 4.5% for a net gain of 5.3% if you believe that the economy would have shrunk .08% as they claim. On to FTAs:
Taiwan needed this trade deal far more than China. The mainland has signed similar free-trade agreements with the 10 member-nations of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Beijing is in talks for similar deals with South Korea and Japan. None of those countries would negotiate similar arrangements with Taiwan -- which is diplomatically isolated in the region -- unless it had first reached its own deal with China.Here Richburg completely ignores the intense discussion on FTAs, the fact that China has not promised it will permit FTAs, and so on. Other media have managed to note Ma's plummeting popularity, but not this piece. Also missing from the article is any mention of the fact that the President and his party have struggled desperately to keep the ECFA agreement away from democratic oversight, swatting down referendum moves by the opposition. Today, as the Taipei Times reported, President Ma defined ECFA as a treaty and demanded that the Legislature not give it a line-by-line reading and confirmation, in the hope that it would pass a simple up or down vote. Imagine if Chen Shui-bian had announced he'd signed a "treaty" with China!
Moving along, Richburg & Co. veer from mere error and omission into a full blown alternate universe:
Also, Taiwan has been badly battered by the global economic crisis that began in 2008. It was unable to jump-start its export-oriented economy without full and free access to China's massive market.This paragraph is a complete mess. First, after saying (correctly) above that ECFA protects many sectors of the economy, it then describes the agreement as "full and free access". But worse than that, writing from RichburgPlanet, WaPo says that our economy couldn't be "jump-started" without that "full and free access". Meanwhile, here on planet Earth, exports started rising at the end of 2009. It's been six months of rising exports and falling unemployment -- with GDP reaching record growth it hasn't seen since the 1970s recently, and exports nearly as good as in the late stages of the Chen years (for example). In fact the rising economy has been a potent talking point for the opposition, which has asked, since the economy booms without ECFA, why does Taiwan need it? Do they not have Google there in the WaPo offices? Or what? With so many world class freelancers here in Taiwan, why does WaPo continue to source its Taiwan reporting from out-of-country Beijing correspondents and Xinhua?
The next two paragraphs are classics of their kind. Read them closely:
Still, the pact has generated intense resistance in Taiwan, particularly from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which favors more independence from the mainland and fears that opening Taiwan's markets will lead to the island being economically swamped by China.That's right -- Richburg managed to present the DPP position without mentioning its central thrust -- that ECFA is the first step in annexation and then, in the next paragraph, manages to present Beijing's viewpoint, still without mentioning the political aspects of the issue. Surely that is a record! Instead only economic absorption is mentioned. It's as if Richburg had written a review of Titanic without ever mentioning the ship. For contrast, consider this superb piece from The Diplomat on the same topic. Its final paragraph:
Xu Shiquan, former director of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the pact represented a "milestone" in relations. He said the pact was good for both sides and was not a matter of China seeking to subsume Taiwan economically.
China has been upfront about the fact that it sees the trade deal as a step toward greater political integration. If Ma believes that this is the best path for Taiwan, he should have the courage of his convictions and take a deal that clearly has political implications to the people. In the meantime, though, he should remember that he was elected president of Taiwan, not governor of China’s 23rd province.Yea verily, rather than give the opposition a chance to speak, or cite any point of view at all from Taiwan, or at least cite an ostensibly nuetral third-party point of view, Richburg et al close with two propaganda quotes from a Chinese "expert" (read political warfare specialist) on Taiwan-China relations. By all means, let's give space in the papers of record of a major democracy to propagandists from China. Next time, why not save the phone call and just crib directly from Mao's little red book?
It's a tribute to the overall excellence of the coverage of ECFA out of Taiwan this time around that I haven't had the opportunity to rip a robustly feckless, mediocre presentation of the topic. Thanks WaPo!
A truly priceless aspect of the alternate-universe feel of Richburg's story is in that very same edition of WaPo, as a very wise observer pointed out to me, resides this piece by Steve Perlstein on the very issues that Richburg et al should have been reporting on. Perlstein writes:
The essential problem is that China was allowed to gain full membership in the global market system without having in place the fundamentals of a market economy. Its business sector continues to be dominated by state-owned companies financed by state-controlled banks within the context of what remains a largely state-planned economy. Its government strictly controls the flow of capital in and out of the country, while its currency is manipulated to maximize export-driven growth and development. And while exports are subsidized, directly and indirectly, there exists a web of formal regulations and informal prejudices that make it difficult, if not impossible, for many foreign companies to sell profitably into its domestic markets. Those outsiders who manage to break through invariably find that they have few protections from a system that is larded with corruption and largely unconstrained by the rule of law.That's who Taiwan signed ECFA with, folks.
Also on tap, pet-peevewise, is another mediocrity from Robert Scheer, an example of my other pet peeve of my fellow progressives not caring about, or understanding, Taiwan. Scheer is still using outdated Cold War lenses to view the China-Taiwan-US relationship. He may be right as far as he goes about the military-industrial complex, but he hasn't a clue about what's really going on here. It's sad that it is tripping merrily along the progressive wires, with few calling it out for its vast ignorance.
Finally, don't miss SCMP tomorrow, where a person actually located in Taipei has some interesting things to say about Ma's political capital.
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