Friday, September 09, 2011

Wikileaks and Taiwan

I've been ignoring the Wikileaks stuff coming out in a great gush of blood from the bleeding wound of American diplomacy, partly because I'm deeply uncomfortable with the exposure of US diplomacy, since secrecy is necessary to diplomacy, and partly because the "revelations" are anything but.

There are a couple of interesting nuggets, like this on one the split between different wings of the PRC's diplomatic corps on the "diplomatic truce," but in the main the Wikileaks revelations have discussed things that everyone knew already. Yes, we already knew that Beijing was using ECFA to push the annexation of Taiwan. We already knew that Lien Chan's APEC appointment was approved in Beijing; he's their boy. We knew that ECFA's impact on FTAs was wildly overstated. We knew that the major KMT politicians don't like each other. What's surprising, in its way, is how conventional the AIT reports are. If you follow Taiwan politics and read the news, you already knew what was going on. The reports show that US diplomacy had different public and private faces, but we already knew that too.

What's also conventional is how the WL reports have played out in local politics, showing once again how The Foreigner Validates and how The Foreigner Doesn't Understand. The DPP has used the Wikileaks revelations to bash the KMT; where the KMT has been embarrassed, it has mumbled that foreigners don't understand Chinese well enough to get what was said. The principle of Foreigners Validate can always be countered by the principle of Only Chinese Can Understand Chinese.

I think it's important to remember that the AIT reports are written by highly intelligent individuals who are on temporary assignment to Taiwan, who may have their own agendas -- and are in some cases pathologically anti-Taiwan -- and should be treated as just another information resource with a respectable potential for bullshit.

Sadly, since these are out, you can be sure that US diplomats will be getting a cold shoulder from key policy-makers around the world, a great handicap for US information gathering efforts.
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3 comments:

Chris W said...

Hi Michael,

I totally agree with what you said. People may wonder why these Wikileaks cables have drawn so much interests among Taiwanese media and people.

First of all. These are gossips, and people like gossips. People like to read politician A criticizing politician B, especially when they came from the same party. Ha.

Second, while these cables did not tell us too many things that we don't know. These information came from the reports of a third party -- the AIT officials. They didn't come from UDN (to bash the green) nor Liberty Times (to criticize the blue). That is why I think they have incited so much interests. In a polarized media world like Taiwan, "the third voice" is somewhat meaningful to local readers as well as the media people.

The difference between the Chinese-language media and the English-language media (like the one I work for) is that the former tends to focus more on people-to-people conversation (because that sells newspapers and boosts TV ratings) while the latter tries to focus on "issues," such as the 1992 Consensus, ECFA and unification. I may be biased on this point (ha) but this is my observation.

"Why are Taiwanese politicians so honest to US officials?" local media asked. In my opinion, that is because all local politicians and political parties want to impress the US and thus gain "favors" from the Americans in the long run.


Chris

D said...

"The principle of Foreigners Validate can always be countered by the principle of Only Chinese Can Understand Chinese."

Ha ha, I'm stealing that -- great way of putting it. Nice analysis of Wikileaks too. It's TMZ for news junkies. But given the sheer number of them, and their coverage of the whole world, they seem bound to shake things up some places -- just maybe not Taiwan or China.

Thoth Harris said...

"I've been ignoring the Wikileaks stuff coming out in a great gush of blood from the bleeding wound of American diplomacy, partly because I'm deeply uncomfortable with the exposure of US diplomacy, since secrecy is necessary to diplomacy."

Michael, it's good to hear you are developing a conscience about the very rightness, or lack-thereof regarding Wikileaks and it's pilfering of what are supposed to be discreetly documents. Once out there in the media, I suppose, any of us should feel free to comment on them. Still and all, people have to stop treating Julian Assange as some sort of modern day hero of Robin Hood proportions.