Thursday, November 22, 2012

Next Media: One of Many =UPDATED+

Some people argue that Taiwan is being "Finlandized" but that view is incorrect. What is actually happening is that Taiwan is being Hongkongized. Commonwealth Magazine observes in another one of its excellent articles Will Taiwan go the way of Hong Kong?:
Former Legislative Councilor and human rights activist Christine Loh wrote in her book Underground Front: The Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong that the vast majority of new owners of Hong Kong media are tycoons with vital business interests in China. These tycoons do not even shy away from buying loss-making Hong Kong media against common sense and entrepreneurial principles. Loh cites as an example Taiwanese billionaire Tsai Eng-meng, chairman and CEO of Want Want China Holdings, who bought a 47.58-percent stake in troubled Asia Television in 2009.
Like Hong Kong, Taiwan is being strategically flooded with Chinese tourists:
The southern city of Kaohsiung, long ruled by the DPP, is a prime target for Chinese efforts to win the hearts and minds of the locals with tangible economic benefits. Chinese nationals account for 60 percent of the harbor city's international tourists, a ratio two times higher than the nationwide average of 30 percent.
These tourists, as I have noted before, create new dependencies, and can be withdrawn if need be to punish southern Taiwan, as they were in 2009 when the Dalai Lama visited Taiwan. Southern Taiwan, long an exploited colonial region of the north and consequently powerfully pro-independence, is an important area of Chinese action. According to the article, Beijing's strategy is aimed at winning the three middles: middle (and lower) incomes, small and medium enterprises, and middle Taiwan. But a key component is a below the radar struggle over the media:
China-based Taiwanese entrepreneurs have also been exhibiting a growing appetite for unprofitable Taiwanese media outlets. In 2007 Eric Teng, who is chairman of Singfor Life Insurance and has strong business interests in Shanghai, joined hands with like-minded entrepreneurs to buy the staunchly anti-communist Central Daily News, the official party newspaper of Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT). The print newspaper was then revamped as an online publication. According to its mission statement, Central Daily News is now devoted to cross-strait peace.

Moreover, the Kaohsiung-based Commons Daily, once reputed to be the largest newspaper in southern Taiwan, is about to be taken over by Global Life Insurance chairman Yeh Chia-ying, who has long maintained cozy ties with Kuo Hua Life Insurance's Ong clan and the Chin Pao San Group of Hong Kong. Another popular newspaper in the south, the Chinese-language Taiwan Times, has repeatedly been the target of takeover attempts.
ECFA, modeled after the Hong Kong CEPA agreement, is one of three prongs of Beijing's Hong Kong strategy for winning hearts and minds: (1) privileged economic access to Chinese markets; (2) floods of Chinese tourists; and (3) control of the local media in the hands of pro-Bejing billionaires. The article argues that Taiwan's more developed networks of civic organizations and its more entrenched democracy will enable Taiwan to prevent Hongkongization, but I would argue that Beijing's strategy, though strategically apt, is a tactical failure on all fronts because it exists merely for appearances' sake. ECFA is a sham that has done little for Taiwan's agriculture while encouraging smuggling from China; the profits from the China tourist trade are far less than the Commonwealth article claims and remain largely in the hands of the Chinese firms running the trade, and a pro-Taiwan media alternative still exists. Of course, Beijing could wake up at any moment.....

UPDATE: The International Federation of Journalists is also concerned about the implications of the NextMedia purchase for press freedom in Taiwan.
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MJ Klein said...

i can feel Taiwan's US Visa-Free status evaporating....

Readin said...

Is it time to start pushing for a VOA for Taiwan?

The EFCA may be failing, but I think that control of the media is even more important than control of the economy. We just witness in America the re-election of President who is presiding over one of the worst recessions in decades. (One can always play the blame game, but it is usually the sitting president who gets the blame or credit for what happens during his term). However Obama has had an extremely protective media and was re-elected.

In the long run what matters isn't what is happening or what might happen, but what people believe is happening or might happen. Control the media and you control the elections.

Beijing is wise to be using this strategy and with the current leadership in Taipei I don't see how the strategy can lose.

Readin said...

I've seen quite a few pictures you've taken of that little harbor. Where is it?

Michael Turton said...


It's Shiti, in Hualien. One of my favorite photo ops in Taiwan, always produces excellent pics.

J said...

What worries me more is less that the media will make the Taiwanese more pro-China or even more pro-KMT, but that it will damage the DPP or any other opposition's chances so that no matter how bad the KMT does, it will be difficult for the opposition to effectively challenge them.