Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mayor Ma in Newsweek International Edition

Ma Ying-jeou was interviewed this week in Newsweek:

ADAMS: The DPP lost a lot of ground to your party in the recent elections. Are you pleased?
MA: We did well, but not because the KMT has really improved itself. Rather, the DPP has become so corrupt, and so inept, that people have lost confidence in them.

Under your leadership, the KMT seems well positioned to reclaim the presidency in 2008. How would your party change Taiwan's relations with China?
The DPP is somewhat handicapped by their ideology. They have to keep a distance from mainland China. They have been very timid, very conservative and very reserved in pushing ahead a productive policy toward the Chinese mainland. If the KMT is able to get back in power, we will open up direct flights with the mainland in two years. That's critical to Taiwan's economy.

Ma's performance is excellent. He speaks English, and knows what his listeners want to hear, and also knows his audience doesn't know much about Taiwan. I think here is a taste of what we will see for the next two years, a general push in the US media for Ma, just as Soong got some nice boosts from Newsweek, the Washington Post, and CNN during the 2000 elections. Ma's handlers are positioning him very well.

Note also the questions are completely softball and appear to be agreed-upon beforehand. There's no asking for details that might force Ma to reveal that the Taiwanese don't support re-unification -- just a vague acknowledgement that conditions aren't right. There are no critical questions. Adams asks no questions that include any details which show he has done research on Taiwan or Ma:

Notice how dumb the first question is:

ADAMS: The DPP lost a lot of ground to your party in the recent elections. Are you pleased?

Its sole purpose appears to be to permit Ma to give his canned answer reiterating his criticisms of the DPP. Unlike the DPP, the KMT is on-message, all the time.

Under your leadership, the KMT seems well positioned to reclaim the presidency in 2008. How would your party change Taiwan's relations with China?

Why is it so critical?

The next two questions above then give Ma the opportunity to trundle out the party platform, which he does, expertly. There then follow three questions about annexing the island to China:

Beyond economic links, what is needed for unification talks with China to begin?

What is your time frame, then, for unification?

Do you see unification happening in your lifetime?

These are basically the same question, in three different iterations. They give Ma the chance to appear reasonable and tame, unlike that horrible radical Chen Shui-bian. It is clear that part of the future media strategy will be to paint Ma as reasonable and Chen/DPP as mad, and that the foreign, especially US media, can be expected to actively cooperate, or at least passively not object. I especially admire how Adams permits Ma to utter something as stupid as: "Actually, the mainland is not pushing unification anymore" without challenging him. Where did the Anti-succession law and those 700 missiles go?

Can you imagine a future in which Taiwan and China exist side by side as fully independent states, recognized as such by the world?

Another pointless softball question, whose sole purpose appears to be to allow Ma to seem reasonable. It is jarring to remember that this Harvard educated son of the KMT Party-State spent his education at Harvard spying on his fellow students from Taiwan, and formally hopes to annex Taiwan to a state that will snuff out its indepedence and democracy.

Some in Taiwan and the United States see the KMT and its allies in the legislature blocking the purchase of U.S. arms, and fear that the KMT is endangering Taiwan's sovereignty.

This question is so softball it veers into inanity. "Some in Taiwan and the United States see the KMT and its allies in the legislature blocking the purchase of U.S. arms" apparently Adams can't just come out and say that "Ya'll have blocked the arms purchase 41 times in the legislature. WTF?" Note how Adams does not accuse the KMT of endangering Taiwan -- merely of endangering its sovereignty, a lesser and easily handled charge. Observe too how that word sovereignty is apparently a dead giveaway to the source of the question: why would an American interviewer who appears to know little about Taiwan ever come up with a question that asked if the KMT was threatening Taiwan's sovereignty? Sovereignty is an issue of concern only among cognoscenti of the three-sided struggle of China, the KMT, and the DPP. An unprepped American interviewer would be far more likely to ask about independence.

Did you catch how Ma completed the whole interview without ever mentioning the term "ROC?" Interesting.

The reader may come to their own conclusions about the integrity of this interview. But if you can't expect the MSM to handle the US with critical integrity, you can hardly expect it to deal with the outside world in any serious way.


Jason said...

I feel an indignant letter to the editor coming on...

MJ Klein said...

Michael, please get me a quote on having your viewpoints in this post skywritten over Washington DC. talk about dead on target. thanks for pointing out the very important, subtle points that you did.

Anonymous said...

Two questions the interviewer didn't ask:

1) How many Taiwanese casualties do you envision there would be for your proposed "battle to force a settlement" with Japan over the Senkakus Islands?

2) Would the boys be home for Christmas?

Sun Bin said...

who proposed a "battle to force a settlement"?

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the fellow doing the interview is a down-table sub at the Taipei Times who has not been in Taiwan very long.
The opportunity to collar the mayor one on one and have this turn out to be a Larry King-style ass-kissing fest is a real shame.
There are many international-level subjects of interest that could have been asked (and may local ones).
The fact is that most likely this interviewer was exactly the kind that the mayor's office would agree to talk to. Although I've been in media here for almost 15 years, they would never allow me to interview the mayor -- I know too much and know how to cull ideas from other journalist for a good plan before even setting foot in Ma's office.
Then again, this is the state of mainstream journalism today -- just watch a presidential news conference to see the kind of softball questions that are the norm.
Here's one: "The arms purchase from the US was requested by your party before the DPP came to power. Now you identify it with the DPP and have refused to even allow it to be discussed for 41 times in the legislature, at last count. It's the KMT's bill, so why are you stalling now?"

Michael Turton said...

Thanks for stopping by, Wolf. As always, your comments add depth and understanding to the topic.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for thanking me. However, the Wolf will serve out the last day of his 20-year sentence in Taiwan on Jan. 7.
"I'll leave Taiwan when I'm done with Taiwan or Taiwan is done with me."
I think it's a little of both.
Soon I will be as interested in Taiwan as President Chen is in accepting the "one country, two systems" model for Taiwan.

Wolf: "What does KMT stand for?"
Journo: "Kuomintang."
Wolf: "Nope. 'Kill More Taiwanese.'"