Friday, November 22, 2013

Cole on the Aerotropolis in Taoyuan and Traditional Media failure in Taiwan

J Michael Cole, who is leaving the Taipei Times, writes of traditional news organizations in Taiwan and how they are utterly failing the nation and their readers:
If newspapers like the Taipei Times, which a good number of people in Washington, D.C., rely on almost exclusively for their information, were more serious about reporting news that matter, much greater effort would be made to plug the many gaps that exist in their reporting. Only then would we avoid situations where Taiwan “experts” cannot understand why a delegation led by Chen Deming (陳德銘), the new chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), plans to visit the Taoyuan Aerotropolis next week.

Had the Times and other publications like the Central News Agency been more responsible organizations, they would have reported a lot more on the build-up to the mega-project in Taoyuan, including the expedited hearings which did not meet the standard protocols set by the Executive Yuan for such projects (e.g., the number of public officials in attendance) and where self-help organizations were told that whatever the outcome of the hearings, if the government decided to demolish people’s homes for the project, they could do nothing about it.

The government wants all hearings to be completed by the end of the year, with bidding to start next year.

Responsible news outlets would also focus a lot more on the protests that are brewing over the issue, press releases by the Taiwan Rural Front and other groups, and the suicide earlier this month of a farmer who stood to be among the thousands of victims of the Aerotropolis project. They would also point out that former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), a native of Taoyuan and former county commissioner there, has been hired as a “consultant” for the project and is now seeking foreign investment.

Of the US$15 billion-plus, 4,700-hectare mega-project, more than 3,200 hectares will involve land expropriation, affecting as many as 12,000 households and several dozen schools, which will all be destroyed if the project is allowed to proceed. [Taoyuan's own promotional news site concedes residents are worried about compensation -- MT]

Responsible news organizations would have connected the dots earlier by reporting on the growing instances of government-sanctioned land grabs, the role of land developers and investors, and the manner in which the government has sided with those against the victims. They would have placed more emphasis on those developments, and they certainly would not have buried the few articles they had on the subject in the little-read inside pages, as the Times often does.

And lastly, news outlets worth their salt would have emphasized the fact that under regulations passed last year, China can now participate in infrastructure projects and act as contractors. As CommonWealth magazine reported in late 2012, “Chinese investors are zeroing in on four sectors [of Taiwan’s economy following the new regulation] – landmark infrastructure projects, the high-tech industry, commercial real estate, and logistics and transportation.”
An epic and deadly serious rant. Taiwan Journal had a piece on the aerotropolis back in 2008 that explained what a giveaway it is going to be, and the legislation as passed is online here. There's a PDF of a presentation on it here that gives the rah-rah point of view for it.

After some outcry on the proposal to eliminate laws favoring aboriginal employment, the legislation does stipulate that 3% of employees in the aerotropolis zone must be aboriginals. There was another side to the aerotropolis' threat to national security -- its threat to bring in Chinese under the laws eliminating many labor regulations. But service businesses in the area may not hire Chinese. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how many Chinese workers are slipped in when Chinese firms get the infrastructure bids.

I'm quite curious to see what will happen when Chinese firms actually start taking business from local construction firms. Will they be smart enough to integrate local firms into their operations and take over the KMT's patronage networks? My bet is that they will act with the same arrogant indifferent bullying clumsiness they do everywhere else, and in a couple of years, local construction firms are going to be very very unhappy with the KMT for selling them out to the Chinese.
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Anonymous said...

Its not surprising to see J.Cole get fed up and walk away from the Taipei Times. The entire history of the Taipei Times is -> professional foreign staff come in, set high standards, do a great job...then get fired -> Then bird photos for a few months until the management at the TTimes find someone else they can shit on.

Its sad to realize this country does not have one decent international level newspaper or TV station. Another gripe, the last 3 times I left CKS airport I could not even buy an English newspaper.

Anonymous said...

MJC refused to do the job he was employed to do at the Taipei Times and had to go. He was hired to edit and rewrite, not play journalist.

Mike Fagan said...

@Anonymous coward

Although Cole was far too prone to commie canards ("social justice" etc) for my liking, he was otherwise doing the work that needs to be done, regardless of whether it makes you rotters at the Timid Times "uncomfortable".