Well, this week has had some interesting health effects for me. On the one hand, my right elbow tendons are screaming so this will be my last post for a few days. On the other, my stress levels have really socked my appetite. I figure if Trump and Tsai could just talk two more times, I'd meet my weight loss goals for this year.
One thing: after the initial hysteria cooler heads began to prevail. Veteran China reporter John Pomfret warned in WaPo, as I did in my opening post on The Call, that the media response was part of the problem.
This criticism has elements of truth, but the overblown nature of the reaction to Trump’s call also is unhelpful. Together, Trump’s shenanigans and the hyperventilation by the media could end up adding more unwarranted pressure on democratic Taiwan and could contribute to the continued narrowing of its international space.Michael Green pointed out in Foreign Policy that this was not an unprecedented breach of protocol.
In the initial rush, Taiwan was basically ignored and no one in Taiwan was asked anything. But that began to change as the massive improvement in the media environment over the last few years re-asserted itself. Jenny Hsu was first in with a piece in WSJ on Taiwan's reaction. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian wrote two solid pieces on the Taiwanese side in which actual Taiwanese were asked, one in Foreign Policy (the article is much less stupid than the subtitle) and one in the NYTimes...
Even so, Taiwan has developed its own democratic traditions right under China’s nose. Taiwanese are fiercely proud of their democracy. Many here crave recognition for this accomplishment. In our interview, Ms. Tsai alluded to the kinship that Taiwanese felt with liberal democracies like the United States as one reason for the contact with Mr. Trump. “The phone call was a way for us to express our respect for the U.S. election,” she said.And Emily Rahaula and two other WaPo writers got almost everything right in a backgrounder...
In the process, the United States has shaped and abided by its own “one China” policy (not to be confused with China's “one China” principle), in which Taiwan's status remains neither settled nor challenged. (The official language in a joint 1972 communique states that “the United States acknowledges that Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States does not challenge that position.")...except the 1992 Consensus, which they asserted was negotiated in 1992. History is literally being made, I mean, manufactured, right in front of us: no consensus was reached in 1992, yet that claim is now universal in the media (Max Fisher doing it in the NYTimes in another otherwise sturdy explainer). I suppose I should be happy that the only media problem is the 1992 Consensus. More on that fake news later.
Chris Horton, whose work shines, had another strong piece in the NYTimes on the Taiwan response. There's a quote in there from Chen Hui-ling, who is one of my favorite people, and one of the smartest. Nick Frisch in the New Yorker writes on what Tsai sees in Trump. CNN interviews only people from pan-Green parties in Taiwan in its piece. When I started this blog, most media interviewed only Blues...
The Sunflowers were given a piece in the Washington Post.
Sharing these values, we are puzzled why many commentators have treated Trump’s move as an “affront” to authoritarian China rather than consider the possibility of normalizing relations with a democratic nation of 23 million people, many of whom share deep affinities with the United States. When it comes to human rights in Tibet, freedom of speech in Hong Kong or maintaining strong relations with Japan or the Philippines, U.S. pundits rarely skirt controversy for fear of “provoking” China. Why should the rhetoric change when it comes to Taiwan — a vibrant young democracy led by a female head of state which boasts universal health care and is poised to become the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage?Yes, liberals, don't let your contempt for Trump undermine support for Taiwan. The Boston Globe forthrightly asserted that there is one China and one Taiwan. Tiananmen dissident-turned-Taiwan politician Wuerkaixi had a piece in IBTimes on The Call and Taiwan's status. And Medium.com hosts a great piece calling for people to stop marginalizing Taiwan.
Other good news. J Michael Cole, contending that Tsai and Taiwan will pay the price for the phone call, sent word around to expect a new media project much like the old Thinking Taiwan. Looking forward to details and a raft of new articles to promote.
But it should be said that China always locates a pretext for the moves it has planned, so that it can claim plausibly it is responding to some issue. No doubt at some point Beijing will do something and hint that The Call is the reason, and we'll get another round of media scolding.
Still, the media continues to amaze. AP put out a completely erroneous and subtly slanted "timeline" of Taiwan-China relations which it may well have sourced from Xinhua. It asserted the 1992C occurred in 1992C, utter nonsense...
November 1992: Semi-official negotiating bodies from China and Taiwan reach the 1992 Consensus. It obligates both sides to hold any talks as parts of a single China, but allows each to interpret "China" in its own way according to political pressures at home.But check out this section:
January 2001: Despite enmity, the two sides introduce postal, transportation and trade links between southeastern China and Taiwan's outlying islands.I used this in my current events class as an example of how the media is slanted pro-China. What's missing? Look carefully at the 2001-2008 period: yeah, Chen Shui-bian. They just removed him. Because he had no effect on Taiwan-China relations, right?
April 2005: Nationalist Party Chairman Lien Chan visits China and meets Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao in Beijing. The visit marked the first meeting between the heads of the rival parties in 60 years.
May 2008: Nationalist Party-backed President Ma Ying-jeou takes office and sets aside political disputes with China to discuss deals on tourism and commercial flights.
The comedy show fails were particularly painful. The Daily Show mocked Trump for his lack of knowledge and then explained that since Nixon, all presidents have regarded Taiwan as part of China, when as everyone knows, the US position is that Taiwan's status is undecided. ComedyFail. Colbert's lumping of Tsai with Robert Mugabe was simply an obscenity.
And CNN made us see how the Cold War continues to shape today's writing:
"The formula, enshrined in the documents that eventually led to the establishment of US relations with China, permits Beijing to regard Taiwan as a part of China and the United States to sell the nationalist island arms to defend itself against the mainland, and has headed off a major US-China clash over the issue."Taiwan is not a Nationalist island. It doesn't even belong to the ROC under US policy. Why not just say "island"? The Cold War, dead now these thirty years, continues to shape media production...
But on the whole, the rebound and Taiwan-centered pushback was amazing. It was really heartening to see.
Speaking of fake news...
I noted on day 1 the Atlantic screwed up the 1992 Consensus. This was followed by an interview with a PRC state agent, Shen Dingli, who of course spewed a ton of PRC propaganda. The interview followed a pattern which will be familiar to readers, in which the PRC spokesman is permitted to speak unchallenged and uncaveated by the interviewer on the grounds -- later given by the interviewer when he was challenged on this move -- that "My goal with the interview was to offer readers a sense of what Trump’s Taiwan call, along with his campaign and post-campaign rhetoric about China, look like from China and particularly among Chinese who spend their time thinking about how to manage the country’s high-stakes relationship with the United States." As if the man is speaking unscripted and as if this hasn't happened 1000x before! Puh-lease -- that's what they have Xinhua for.
Compare that interview of Shen Dingli to how Tsai and other Taiwan speakers are frequently challenged and patronized by interviewers. Remember this uninformed, threatening, patronizing WaPo interview with Tsai earlier this year? PRC speakers never get treated like that.
A variant of this is to include the opinions of "netizens" as this Singapore paper did. No evidence is ever offered that the netizens so quoted are not paid wumao out there to generate just such quotes.
Everyone in Washington was shocked to learn that Bob Dole was getting money from Taiwan: "What? Only 20K a month?" Of course Dole answered that, yes, his firm may have had some influence. What was he going to say? "No, we took that 20K and did nothing"? It's good advertising for him. But was Bob Dole's work really that important? The people around Trump have been writing and talking about making changes for years. The Call or something similar was already prophesied in their writing. I doubt Dole had any great effect on anything. But more power to him...
Really we should just make a list of all the people not involved in The Call. It would be shorter... as I noted on Twitter:
Bob Dole too? If failure = orphan but success has many fathers, than surely The Call must be the most successful phone call in human historyWhat was the function of Dole? Oh yeah, Dole is the media patsy. With Dole you can watch the media filter work in realtime to determine which side the media is playing on. People speaking about China have their extensive, deep, often multigenerational links to the PRC which result in money flows, power, influence, and status concealed or downplayed in the media. But let Dole get a pathetic $20K a month from Taiwan (ZOMG), which everyone in DC knew Dole must have been getting (since DC gossip on who is getting what from whom is legendary and in any case lobbyists for foreign governments must publicly file that information), and it is a major media hoo-ha. Like the vapor story about Trump's Taoyuan Hotels, it is SQUIRREL! designed to distract readers from the real issues. It is... fake news.
There is a wonderful irony in these news agencies inventing history out of whole cloth (there was no 1992 Consensus and Beijing does not accept two interpretations), routinely concealing the China financial links of China-explainers in the media, permitting PRC agents to speak unmolested, quoting possible wumao as if they were random netizens, or according Bob Dole a mighty role in The Call, or claiming that the US says Taiwan is part of China, or etc etc etc, and then whining about the problem of fake news.
Because dudz, you are the fake news.
- Marc Thiessen: The Call was brilliant, not blunder
- NYTimes: China amplifies warning, Trump gets tougher nothing from Taiwan-based peeps, of course.
- Foreign Policy: China really isn't joking\
- Politico: Why Trump's call really could be a breakthrough.
- US will allow Tsai a stopover in US
- After The Call, does Taiwan have a plan for the Trump years?
- Shirley Lin in SCMP
- Chinafile's collection of essays
- FOR AMUSEMENT PURPOSES ONLY: The ideological left says Taiwan is a pustule.
TRUMP/TAIWAN...AND ASIA POLICY WRIT LARGE...Loyal Reader and valued adult supervisor Amb. Jim Keith:
Chris, on Taiwan, it is easy to get lost in the emotions and secondary issues. Yes, we'd all like to be done with the inane details of "one China." It is truly tiresome to put up with weekly demarches on Taiwan. But are we being clear on cost/benefit with China? Are we during the transition focused on advancing U.S. interests in tangible ways that will at least protect and ideally improve the security and quality of life of American citizens?
It seems to me that the "culture" of our one China policy is an easy target and a quite nice distraction from the much more difficult choices that our President and his team will face over the next four years. It seems to me like a smoke screen, a feint, a transparent attempt to trap the Washington cognoscenti into mouthing traditional verities and putting themselves in positions to be attacked or caricatured. Isn't the President-elect supposed to be focused on the bigger picture?
Yesterday's St. Dept. brief:
QUESTION: It's regarding Trump's call with the Taiwan leader...So yesterday Josh Earnest said some of the progress that we've made in our relationship with China...
could be undermined by this issue flaring up, and I have a few questions that I hope will just add context. So in June, when President Obama met with Dalai Lama at the White House, China got angry and said the meeting undermined mutual trust and cooperation. Question: Should President Obama have done otherwise, given China's views on the subject?
MR TONER: Again, I don't want to necessarily draw those parallels, because we don't always agree and see eye-to-eye with China on every given issue. That's, I think, something we've been very transparent about talking - or transparent about. And the Dalai Lama, as a major cultural figure and religious figure, is obviously one of those things we don't see eye-to-eye about, and we've retained contact in his capacity as a major cultural and religious figure. We remain in contact with him...But with respect to - and I would also say that we always, and we're very clear about this as well, don't see eye-to-eye with them on - often on cyber security, although we've taken steps to address that, and human rights. Where we have disagreements with China, as part of our relations with them, we're able to discuss these things and lay them on the table.
With respect to Taiwan, we've been very clear and very forthright in stating what our policy is. And that policy was a major shift at the time, but it helped us get to a place where we are today with China, and we respect that policy and we've retained that policy...
QUESTION: I mean, there were other hot-button issues that the Administration -
MR TONER: Of course there are. And that's not to say in any bilateral relations, whether it's with China or with any country, that we don't have disagreements. But with respect to Taiwan, we've been pursuing a very specific policy. And it's not just Democrats versus Republicans. This is both administrations - or administrations of both parties who have pursued a consistent policy with regard to Taiwan, and our recognition or lack of recognition of Taiwan, and our relations with Taiwan. And that has not changed. And in diplomacy that matters. Consistency matters. Thanks.
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