Thursday, December 22, 2016

Qz.com: China Propagandize like Boss

One of my favorite sights is this old railway viaduct.

If you are at all familiar with China anti-US propaganda, you'll instantly recognize familiar themes and seeming errors of this piece at qz.com on the people around Trump. It neatly dovetails with the emerging media consensus that writers can say whatever they want about Trump's China people, and no one in the media will question or factcheck it if it fits their ideological prejudices (as with Bloomberg earlier this week). The writer opens:
US president-elect Donald J. Trump said that he doesn’t want to be “bound by a ‘one China’ policy,” the US’s decades-long stance of treating Taiwan and China as the same country.  Instead, he plans to use the issue as a bargaining chip, he said Dec. 11, to “make a deal” with China on trade and other issues.
A major error: US policy is that Taiwan's status is unsettled. Hence, US does not "treat China and Taiwan as same country". It's a common error, but clearly the writer does not know what he is talking about. Check second sentence: Trump never said he planned to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip, but simply raised the possibility.

The writer then cites a PRC source as first quote to support his claim that Trump's "plan" to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip is because his advisers have an outdated Cold War approach:
Trump’s throwback approach comes because he has surrounded himself with outdated, Cold War-era advisors who have had little exposure to China since then, analysts including Shen Yi, an associate professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Shanghai’s Fudan University, say.
We all know that PRC people who permit themselves to be quoted in foreign media pieces on US foreign policy are putting out Party propaganda, or they will be punished by the State. They all know the drill because they have lived in an authoritarian security state their entire lives. Anything quoted from a PRC source should be contextualized and caveated, and none of these people should ever be treated as if they were academics simply talking out of expertise.

The next two paragraphs on the 1982 US-China Arms Sales to Taiwan Communique (text). The qz.com piece asserts:
On August 17, 1982, the US and China issued a joint communiqué that agreed the US will gradually reduce its arms sales to Taiwan. But earlier in July, Reagan also pledged to Taiwan that the US would not set a date to cut off the arms sales, and “would not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan,” among other promises together known as “the Six Assurances.” These guidelines have been confirmed by each successive US administration.

To complicate matters, Reagan issued a confidential presidential directive, on the same day of the communiqué, saying that the US’s willingness to reduce its arm sales to Taiwan only stands if China solves its differences with Taiwan by peaceful means. The very next day, the White House even announced the sale of 250 F-5 fighters to Taiwan.
This presentation is massively erroneous and appears to be a construct designed to slander the US by making it look hypocritical and duplicious. Note the term "the very next day" 250 F-5 fighters were sold to Taiwan. That is completely wrong.

The great site Taiwan Airpower.org has the info, easily found with a two second Google search:
On February 9, 1973, the ROC government and the US government reached an agreement for the co-production of 100 F-5E. This program was given the codename "Hu An" (Peace Tiger) and was to be undertaken jointly by Northrop and Taiwan's AIDC (then a branch of the ROCAF).

The first AIDC-built F-5E was rolled out on October 30, 1974, one day before the late President Chiang Kai Shek's 88th birthday, and was thus christened "Chung Chen", an alias of President Chiang. Production of all 100 aircraft was completed in November 1977.

Later 208 more aircraft were added to the production run in five batches, from "Peace Tiger 2" through "Peace Tiger 6". Complexity of the production work by AIDC also evolved in several phases. The whole "Peace Tiger" program was completed on December 9, 1986, when the final aircraft was rolled of the production line. In total, the ROCAF received 242 F-5E and 66 F-5F. Breakdown of the numbers of aircraft built in each Peace Tiger batch is as follows:
When the Reagan Administration announced the F-5 sale, it was not 250 fighters but 60, the tail end of co-production and sales under which Taiwan had already been producing F-5s for almost a decade. The last sentence is complete bullshit.

Worse, the writer omits the fact that the Reagan Administration withheld the sale of F-16s and F-20s to Taiwan because it didn't want to anger China, an early appearance of the successful policy of China managing US Taiwan policy via careful application of "anger". The 60 F-5s were a consolation prize. As I teach my students in my current events class, if you want to understand the political slant of a media piece, look at what it omits as well as what it says.

In other words, we are faced with the choice that the writer is either stupid and lazy or is deliberately misleading his readers by conflating and omitting key information. Your call, folks, but we'll be facing that often in this piece.

Consider also the source: in the next few paragraphs the writer repeatedly sources PRC propaganda from Shen, which may account for all the problems in the first section of this piece. Editors and writers need to take it to heart: everything on Taiwan from PRC "academics" should be regarded as lies and misdirection unless otherwise proven. For example:
The tensions didn’t stop with Bush Sr. In 1995, when Bill Clinton was president, Taiwan tensions almost sparked a war between China and the US, when he granted then-president Lee Teng-hui a visa for a “private trip” to the US, and Beijing objected angrily and physically. Between 1995 and 1996, Beijing conducted a series of missile tests in the waters near Taiwan. In response the US dispatched its biggest combat forces to Asia since the Vietnam War, including two aircraft carriers, to the area, forcing Beijing to soften its stance.
Again, this conflates two separate incidents. The US did not send carriers to the area in response to China's missile "tests" over the Lee visa. It sent them because China launched missiles in an attempt to intimidate Taiwan's electorate during a free election. Moreover, note how the paragraph shows the familiar problem of assigning agency to "tensions" rather than actors. The US and China clashed because China launched missiles, one policy choice out of many possible responses, not because of "tensions". Indeed, the only reason there are tensions is because China wants to annex Taiwan.

O yeah, did that paragraph mention the 1996 elections? Nope. It's almost... almost like someone didn't want to draw attention to Taiwan's democracy.

Indeed, note that all three of the academics quoted in the opening section are Chinese.

The piece next names 5 people as Trump's China advisers: Ed Feulner, Rance Priebus, Peter Navarro, Bob Dole, and Jeff Sessions, because they were involved in The Call. This is a strange list. Dole was linked to The Call in the media but I expect that was wildly overblown, and I have not heard in any source that Dole or Sessions (srsly?) are China advisers for Trump. Or Priebus, for that matter.

Once again: omissions. Check out the presentation on Feulner:
Edwin Feulner (age 75), former president of conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation, who wrote a 1976 book about China and the country’s “turning point” that is no longer in print.
Yeah, reading that you might think Feulner is 40 years out of date. Yet here, from the Chinese embassy itsownself, is a little blurb on Feulner's meetings with Chinese officials during his 2008 trip there. The writer probably failed to find it since it takes almost two seconds with a Google search. Apparently Feulner does that periodically, since he speaks on China and N Korea in another such junket to S Korea recently. Such trips hardly make him an expert, but the impression left by the sentence on him is false.
Trump’s advisors “don’t have much to do with China,” HKU’s Han said. American scholars who do understand China better, including Johns Hopkins’ David Lampton, David Shambaugh of George Washington University, and Henry Kissinger, are not involved in Trump’s transition, Han said.
These three names will be familiar as pro-China people. Omitted are their ties to Chinese money: Kissinger's firm does a lucrative business with China, and Shambaugh runs the China Policy Program at GWU, which hosts a Confucius Institute funded by PRC government money (Lampton speaks at Confucius Institutes from time to time, indicating he is acceptable to the PRC). Similarly, when the article lists Obama's China advisers, it omits the China business ties of Jeff Bader (Stonebridge) and Evan Medeiros (Eurasia Group).

(most pieces from China also omit Trump's business ties to China -- I wonder if they are considered an embarrassment, or perhaps a tool China does not want to draw attention to yet).

There is another significant omission: John Bolton is often mentioned when China policy is named. Whatever you make think of him, his experience in government is extensive.

Moreover, you could play the same game with Obama's people. Remember when Obama appointed Max Baucus as ambassador to China (on the heels of the solid choices John Huntsman and Gary Locke)?

The article cites Richard Bush on the Trump Adminstration's "China experts". Bush is primarily known as a Taiwan expert. But never mind that, if he is being critical, it is ok to cite him.

In other words, the qz.com piece cites one Taiwan expert and three Chinese academics in this piece of "reporting" on Trump's China people. No US China experts are cited. Hookay.

No balance either: no voices supporting Trump's choices are provided.

There's one final reason this piece sucks: it is too early. Just yesterday Washington sources were reporting that Trump's NSC director for Asia will be Matt Pottinger, described in one report:
Former Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow. Mr. Pottinger covered China for the Wall Street Journal from 2001to 2005 and for Reuters News Agency from 1998 to 2001. His stories, including investigations into energy and environmental pollution, the impact of official corruption, and the 2003 SARS epidemic, won awards from the Society of Publishers in Asia.

In September 2005, he put his writing career on hold to serve five years as a U.S. Marine. He completed three combat deployments: to Iraq from April to November 2007 and to Afghanistan from November 2008 to May 2009 and from July 2009 to May 2010. While in Afghanistan in 2009, he cofounded and trained the Marine Corps' first Female Engagement Teams. On his second Afghanistan deployment, he spearheaded an investigation into problems with the U.S. intelligence effort, coauthoring with Major General Mike Flynn the critical 2010 report "Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan."
Pottinger's autobiographical tale is here.

Off to discuss the media with my class, where this piece will certainly be used as an example.
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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

QZ article is written for Chinese consumption. That reporter is focusing on reporting China for Qz. No wonder he promotes Chinese propaganda. He has to service the China interest otherwise he will be cut off from any sources in China.

That reporter prostitute himself to make a living.

TKL said...

another wrong fact: "That was especially apparent when Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian pushed hard for independence in 2003."
Lee Teng-Hui's "Special State-to-State Relations" is from 1999, "One Country on Each Side" from 2002. the only thing from 2003 I can think of is the Referendum Law.

Jenna Cody said...

awwww, G-dub!

Aaron Wytze said...

Spot on observations. I'm not sure if Zheping Huang is on twitter, but the Taiwan twitter community should try to reach out to China-focused journalists attempting to cover Taiwan and discuss these errors with them.

One thing I might contest is Shambaugh being a China apologist. He got a lot of flack from other China experts for his 2015 piece "the coming Chinese crackup" for predicting the CCP is currently in its end-game. He's perhaps no Perry Link, but I'm not sure if he's in the same league as a Martin Jacques or a Daniel Bell.

Anonymous said...

Articles should be taken on a piece by piece basis. Smearing websites across the board is dangerous. I read all sites from far left to far right. They all have biases, including this one. This piece does contain factual errors, but it also makes valid points other places. CNN is not 100% wrong, neither is the National Review, neither is Fox.

We have to stop thinking in these extremes and debate the issues themselves not buy into this war of ideologies. Nobody wins that.






Anonymous said...

In an article by Euan McKirdy and Katie Hunt, CNN,

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/12/asia/japan-china-mid-air-confrontation/index.html

"The long-range Chinese flights come at a time of increased tensions between Taipei and Beijing, exacerbated by US President-elect Donald Trump's questioning of the US' long-held "one China" diplomatic policy.

The policy, in which the US recognizes Taiwan as part of China, originated with the normalization of Sino-US relations under President Richard Nixon in the 1970s."


Michael Turton said...

One thing I might contest is Shambaugh being a China apologist.

On the Taiwan issue he has long fronted for Beijing. I've complained on this blog before.

Michael T

Anonymous said...

"As I teach my students in my current events class, if you want to understand the political slant of a media piece, look at what it omits as well as what it says."

A student can't notice what is omitted from a media piece if he doesn't already have some idea of what that might be. So that advice only works some of the time.

Michael Turton said...

A student can't notice what is omitted from a media piece if he doesn't already have some idea of what that might be. So that advice only works some of the time.

Yes, that's the hard part, developing that knowledge base.

Anonymous said...

Can you give an example of how you do that? How do you develop a student's knowledge base particularly if they are not motivated to be there in the first place?