The bad news is that no progress was made on the reporting. Aside from the parts about Tsai, the entire piece is a quagmire of Beijing/KMT propaganda claims, commonplace tropes, errors of fact, misinterpretations, and pro-China slant, the kind of zombie nonsense that could easily have been slain by anyone willing to use Google. I've been saying for years that Beijing-based reporters lack the knowledge, experience, and competence to report on Taiwan, a claim sadly once again confirmed. The truly terrifying part about the Tsai piece is that it shows the extent to which Beijing-based reporters incorporate Chinese propaganda claims into their thinking and reporting. Saddest of all, it goes without saying that there will be no acknowledgement or corrections of the errors by TIME.
The Nelson Report gave some background:
Profiling for the report was carried out through close-up observation over a 3-day period in mid-May by TIME's Beijing correspondent, Emily Rauhala, and award-winning photographer Adam Ferguson, with a final in-depth interview conducted by TIME's Asia editor, Zoher Abdoolcarim.The piece credits Natalie Tso, a Taipei-based reporter whom I have some small acquaintance with. Given the way Beijing-think permeates the piece, it seems unlikely that she had much input. The opening section on Tsai is quite sympathetic and some of it is very good, though she has Tsai's view of the status of Taiwan completely wrong (below):
Now, as the early front runner in Taiwan’s January 2016 presidential election, her vision for the island is proudly, defiantly, Taiwan-centric. Tsai says she would maintain the political status quo across the strait with China—essentially, both Taipei and Beijing agreeing to disagree as to which represents the one, true China, leaving the question of the island’s fate to the future. But Tsai wants to put Taiwan’s economy, development and culture first. While Ma and his government have pushed for new trade and tourism pacts with Beijing—China accounts for some 40% of Taiwan’s exports—Tsai aims to lessen the island’s dependence on the mainland by building global ties and championing local brands. “Taiwan needs a new model,” she tells TIME.Note first that almost all of the other comments in the piece are sourced from KMTers. Lung Ying-tai, the Deep Blue author and former culture minister in the Ma Administration, claims Taiwan's democracy as "Chinese" and its traditions as "Chinese".
“This election matters because it’s a window into democracy rooted in Chinese tradition,” says Lung Ying-tai, an author and social commentator who recently stepped down as Culture Minister. “Because of Taiwan, the world is able to envision a different China.”The cover calls Taiwan "a Chinese democracy" but in fact it is a Taiwanese democracy, created in defiance of the KMT -- the party that Lung Ying-tai has steadfastly supported -- who asserted a Chinese identity for Taiwan, largely by self-identified Taiwanese . All of that vanishes from this piece. The term "Taiwanese" is used only once to identify certain supporters of Tsai. For TIME, Taiwan is not Taiwanese at all.
The piece then forwards Beijing's propaganda point of view. I'm heartily sick of people "explaining" Beijing's point of view by using Beijing agitprop:
Taiwan’s politics irritate and befuddle Beijing. To the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Taiwan is the province that got away, a living, breathing, voting reminder of what could happen to China if the CCP loosens its grip on its periphery, from Tibet to Xinjiang to Hong Kong.You all know this trope: Poor, put upon Beijing! Taiwan is not "the province that got away". That's merely propaganda for the masses. The elites in Zhongnanhai know perfectly well they are engaging in territorial expansion to annex a territory China does not own. I have this dream that reporters, well, someday will report instead of forward.
The next non-Tsai speaker appears to be a Chinese political warfare specialist cum Taiwan "expert" who of course forwards Beijing propaganda re the DPP:
“A DPP government means uncertainty for cross-strait ties,” says Lin Gang, a Taiwan specialist at Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s School of International and Public Affairs.As we all know, tension and uncertainty are introduced into this relationship by Beijing and its desire to annex Taiwan. Beijing manipulates claims of "tension" and "provocation" to manipulate and control... well... people who report on cross-strait affairs, for example.
Then a common error:
To the U.S., which is bound by the Taiwan Relations Act to come to the island’s aid if it’s attacked,...the TRA binds the US to exactly nada; that has been explained to me by the people who helped draft and administer it. The text is on the internet, folks. Even Beijing-based reporters should be able to find it.
Next up, the famous "warier" trope.
Washington worries that Taiwan’s people, especially its youth, are growing warier of China, and that any conflict between the two might draw in the U.S.I have this dream that reporters, well, someday will report. People here are not 'wary' of China, they don't want to be part of it and don't trust it. Why that simple fact is never reported simply and clearly is a mystery.
Then follows a comment from Shelly Rigger. Rigger is not a pro-Green commentator either, though (to be fair) judging from her Dissent interview in which she forwards KMT propaganda while putting forth progressive ethics, she views herself as a progressive. 3 for 3 in non-Green commenters so far. When was the last time Rigger was in Taiwan? Like six years ago?
Isn't this island chock full of experts on Taiwan? Why not call one of them? But instead of local people, we get a political warfare expert from China, and someone located in North Carolina. Nice.
Then comes a priceless quote from Hung Hsiu-chu, the KMT's current candidate:
Hung, 67, would be a contrast to the more professorial Tsai should she get the KMT’s nod. “I don’t think [Tsai] is a strong opponent,” Hung tells TIME.Yep. 4 for 4 on non-Green commentors. Nigh-on zero balance at all in this piece. Then another error:
Tsai grew up in a home on Taipei’s Zhongshan Road North, a street named after Taiwan’s symbolic father, Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese revolutionary who helped overthrow the Qing and co-founded the KMTSun Yat-sen is not Taiwan's father, he's the spiritual father of the ROC. The ROC does not equal Taiwan, it is US policy and international law that Taiwan is not the ROC or part of China. That is one reason the ROC formally describes itself as the "ROC on Taiwan". *sigh*
Then more Beijing agitprop:
If the archetypal DPP operative is a bare-knuckle street fighter,Say what? There is no such archetype, and note the pejorative "operative". The article refers to the Kaohsiung incident, where the only bare-knuckle types were thugs apparently employed by the KMT to attack the protesters, as well as the police/troops themselves. The DPPers who rose to prominence in that incident include people like Su Tseng-chang, Frank Hsieh, and Chen Shui-bian, all lawyers, as well as Chen Chu and Shih Ming-te, and the Melidao crowd, who were mostly writers and intellectuals, and a group of intellectuals and activists from the Presbyterian Church already prominent and not for street fighting. Not a bare knuckle thug among them. OMG but that's stupid.
Finally, there are two quotes -- but only about Tsai -- from DPPers Hsiao Bi-khim and Jason Liu. Then a couple of very nice paragraphs. On the Sunflowers:
The movement was grounded in questions of social justice. Since coming to power in 2008, Ma has argued that cross-strait commerce is the key to the island’s fortunes, signing 21 trade deals. Yet young people in particular wonder if the deals benefit only Big Business on both sides of the strait. They say rapprochement with Beijing has left them none the richer, and agonize over the high cost of housing, flat wages and the possibility of local jobs going to China. A sign during a protest outside the Presidential Palace on March 30 last year captured the mood: “We don’t have another Taiwan to sell.”Note that the writing ("young people... wonder if the deals benefit only Big Business") downplays the reality: the deals really only help big business. The RDEC commissioned a report on that a couple of years ago, and that may be regarded as a fact. I blogged on it.
We get another quote, from a high-ranking KMT official about KMT policy. Fair enough. Then comes rank nonsense:
That will be hard. The KMT has long argued that it, not the DPP, is best qualified to run the economy, which, corruption apart, did not do well under Chen.This is utter trash propaganda. First, the economy did very well under Chen, especially in the second Administration when growth reached 6.0% annualized before Ma took over and the economy crashed in 2008. Moreover, the Chen Administration did better on almost all economic indicators than Ma has. There's scholarship on that which I review here, or the numbers can easily be located on the DGBAS website. See also my recent post on ECFA, which shows the post-ECFA debacle. It's completely shameful that this pre-2008 KMT election propaganda continues to be circulated as deathless zombie fact. Two minutes on Google could dispel it.
Moreover, the comment "corruption apart" is clinically insane. One of the Taiwan parties is the richest political party in the world, with a nearly-century long history of association with gangsters, political killings, authoritarian rule, and long time opposition to democracy. HINT TIME: It isn't the DPP. I'm not even going to get into all the problems of Chen's conviction, an obvious political prosecution.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the colossal failure of the Ma Administration to do anything for the economy has exploded the myth of KMT managerial superiority. TIME's reporters are trapped in a 2008 bubble.
At long last! A pro-Green writer, J Michael Cole, is cited on the KMT's propaganda claims. This is balanced immediately by Alan Romberg, whose political allegiance should be well-known to my longterm readers, forwarding once again the claim -- already made by the Chinese "Taiwan expert" -- that the DPP is bad news for cross-strait relations.
“Beijing is going to want to make a point through all sorts of channels, including Big Business, that cross-strait relations will not be as smooth if you vote a government into power that has not accepted the foundation that has underpinned developments of the last eight years,” says Alan Romberg, a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, a Washington, D.C., think tank.Note the passive "cross strait relations will not be as smooth" which fails to assign agency. Let's rewrite that in direct, clear English:
"Beijing is going to make trouble for cross-strait relations if the DPP is elected."There. See how easy that was?
Next up: the 1992 Consensus:
Cross-strait relations are managed according to the so-called 1992 Consensus reached by Beijing and Taipei (then also governed by the KMT), a formula the KMT’s Yang calls “a masterpiece of ambiguity.”Did Beijing and Taipei reach a consensus? No, they didn't agree on anything in 1992. That's a clear error. In reality, the unelected KMT government in Taipei merely claimed that they had. Moreover, Beijing has never accepted the 1992 Consensus, it merely insists that the DPP should (rules are binding on others, see?). The 1992 Consensus is a propaganda cage to imprison the DPP, it lacks any basis in reality and democratic governance. It exists merely to give Beijing a fig leaf to cover action against Taiwan ("those provocative, tension-mongering ingrates in Taipei have violated the 1992 Consensus!"). As I noted a month ago:
The KMT and CCP do not need an idea they can agree on to talk, they can talk any time they like and do. It's not like Chu and Xi sit down and an aged cleric walks out with a copy of the Lun Yu and then Xi and Chu both take an oath on it to adhere to the 1992 Consensus before they talk. Neither gives a flying f@ck in a rolling donut about the 1992 Consensus. Like all legal ideas put forth by Leninist authority organizations like the KMT or CCP, the rules cage others; they don't apply to the Party itself. It's always important to keep in mind when thinking about the KMT that it is not a political party but the political organization of a colonial ruling class. Hence, the key point from the KMT-CCP view is that it is a cage that both Chinese parties can use to imprison the DPP's policy makers, since each insist the DPP must adhere to it if it wants to talk to China.Thus, forwarding Yang's remark that "it's a masterpiece of ambiguity" is mere forwarding of KMT propaganda, compounded with the erroneous factual claims. Sad.
This discussion of the 1992 Consensus also shows that the remark up in the third paragraph:
Tsai says she would maintain the political status quo across the strait with China—essentially, both Taipei and Beijing agreeing to disagree as to which represents the one, true China, leaving the question of the island’s fate to the future....is very obviously wrong, since Beijing does not agree with the 1992 Consensus, and Tsai has already aligned her idea of the Status Quo with the US concept. Again, sad.
After the 1992C error, the writer then slips deep into propaganda again.
This [independence] platform resonates with the DPP base but is increasingly untenable given China’s economic clout and growing power on the world stage.Almost every sentence in here is garbage. Independence is supported not just by the DPP base but by the vast majority of people in Taiwan, including a solid chunk of KMT voters. To say "it is increasingly untenable" is pro-China writing dignified with the appearance of "analysis", especially since "inevitability" is a KMT/China propaganda trope.
Note no KMT point is similarly deconstructed.
Then note another common trope: the mysterious tensions that arise mysteriously without cause:
While the first DPP presidency under Chen was hardly a break from the past, it did see a cooling with Beijing. Things warmed again under Ma.Simple: Beijing cooled relations under Chen and warmed them again under Ma. Why not say facts? Then of course, we return to the pro-China "Taiwan expert"/political warfare specialist from China
Lin, the Taiwan expert at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, says Tsai is somewhere between Chen and Ma: “If she wins the election, she will not pursue Taiwan in dependence. But she will not promote the development of the cross-strait relationship as Ma Ying-jeou did.”Yes, it is true she's very unlikely to place China's interests ahead of Taiwan's, as Ma apparently did. That is followed by -- Yes! -- another quote from the KMT:
Hung, Tsai’s potential KMT opponent, says the DPP flag bearer needs to clarify her stance on cross-strait relations. “People ask her, ‘What is the status quo?’ and she can’t say anything specific,” says Hung. The KMT’s Yang offers a metaphor: “Before you harvest, you have to plow the land, transplant the seedlings, fertilize; all the work … has been done by the KMT, and yet they are going to harvest the crop?”Ah yes, the "clarify her stance" trope -- that is KMT/Beijing propaganda specifically crafted for this election, presented free of comment or clarification. Note again that the DPP's independence stance was instantly deconstructed as "increasingly untenable" while KMT propaganda is never so treated in this article: a total lack of balance. Reuters forwarded the "clarify" trope again this week by noting that Beijing has been "lambasting" Tsai with this.
Then the piece forwards Yang's claim that Tsai will harvest the crop without doing the work. More KMT bullshit, of the kind that google searching or asking a real expert could get answers for in two minutes. Reality is, of course, the opposite: the DPP under Chen laid down the structure for the gains of the Ma Administration, pursuing cross-strait flights, legalizing investment, and creating many structures for cross-strait exchanges in education, crime-fighting, and so forth. The KMT picked up that low hanging fruit. Cross-strait engagement has a history of over two decades going back to the Lee Administration. Another teachable moment blown up by TIME's forwarding of KMT propaganda without comment or context.
It ends on a great note, kudos to whoever thought to include it.
She puts a final piece of tuna on my plate. It’s from Pingtung County in the south, where she was born. “Go back to Beijing, ” says Tsai, “and tell them you were served by the next President of Taiwan.Well done, that ending.
I'd like to take a moment to thank the writers of the TIME piece for writing up Tsai so prominently. And also thank them for their style of writing. As long as the media churns out rank crap like this, Taiwan experts, academics, government officials, media workers, and ordinary people will continue to make my blog, and other great blogs and websites like Thinking-Taiwan, Letters from Taiwan, and Solidaritytw necessary and popular websites for anyone interested in what is really going on. Thanks TIME! Without you, I wouldn't exist.
******On a lighter note, the Wiki Wars have begun! WantWant reports:
In the four days since the primary polls confirmed Hung's eligibility for the KMT nomination on June 14, her page on Wikipedia's Chinese-language site has been edited over 150 times, suggesting an online battle between internet users supporting the major opposition Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen and Hung supporters online. Her page on the English version of the site has also been significantly updated and improved; only one week ago, the content on the page had largely been lifted directly from her bio on the website of the Legislative Yuan that has been a rich source of amusement for local bloggers on account of its poorly rendered English, including claims that Hung is a "royal (sic) KMT member" and that she was "accidentally elected to the Legislature."Of course, Tsai's Wiki page was edited to briefly state she is President of the Republic of Taiwan.
- Stephen Harner in Forbes with another awful, out of date "The US must sell out Taiwan!" piece.
- Passing around MERS rumors could cost you 500K
- Taipei and K-town registering gay marriages.
- Hung Hsiu-chu again on not visiting the US
- Taiwan seeing dangerous levels of UV radiation
- More complaints about Hung's effect on the legislative race
- US official says US Taiwan policies outdated.
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