Saturday, February 25, 2006

One Story, two points of view

The DPP government has recently floated the eminently sensible (at least to us Big Noses) idea of eliminating the ROC calendar and using the Gregorian system common in the rest of the world. The pro-Green Taipei Times simply reports the article in a deceptively neutral tone:

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday told lawmakers that the government will consider dropping the nation's Republican (minguo, 民國) calendar and make the Gregorian calendar the only official time system.

"I agree with the proposal and I think it's a practical idea," Su said in the legislature yesterday in response to questions from lawmakers.

He added that he would do his best to promote a changeover to the Gregorian system.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺), who proposed the change, said that using both the Republican and Gregorian calendars could be confusing, especially to foreigners.

If the proposal is adopted, the government would carefully plan how to implement the Gregorian calendar and amend laws and regulations, Su told Lin.

The Republic of China's Republican calendar was introduced in 1912, when the provisional legislature authorized a proposal to use the Republican and Gregorian calendars in tandem.

The Republican calendar has been blamed for creating confusion, especially in the case of expiry dates printed on perishable exports.

Su said that updating calendar and national language conventions are important aspects of internationalization. This was why the official right-to-left writing system was changed to left-to-right, he said.
The Taipei Times achieves the appearance of nuetrality by simple suppressing any negative commentary from the pro-China side. At the same time, the anti-Green, pro-Blue China Post runs an intensely anti-DPP article:

The current years marks the 95th year of the ROC because the republic was established in 1991 after ROC Founding Father Sun Yat-sen overthrew the decaying imperial Qing Dynasty.

The change to eradicate the "ROC system" would conform with the independence-leaning DPP's policy of deleting the ROC national name. But the move will also conforms exactly with the system used by the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the Chinese mainland.

Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou commented that there is no conflict or inconvenience to use the dual system as now. He cited the example of Japan which also use both the Western system and the system based on the ascension of a new Japanese emperor.

Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung of the opposition People First Party (PFP) questioned Su if it is appropriate for the DPP administration to waste time one such an ideological issue when people in the country are faced with tremendous difficulties and frustrations in their daily life, including the surging suicide rate.

Su answered that many matters can only be implemented via the revisions of the laws in the nation.

Lee Hung-chun, another PFP legislator, pointed out that the issue signaled the DPP's intention of taking another step toward Taiwan independence and has nothing to do with conforming to the international practice.

He said that all the people in Taiwan now are most concerned if they can make enough money to bring food for their families. Nobody cares whether the banknotes or coins are inscribed with the ROC year or the Christian year, he added.

Two Blue legislators are cited, but few if any positive views are given. I especially like the way the article smears the DPP by noting the "fact" that the calendar is the same as that used in Communist China (but someone forgot to mention that it is also used in North America and Europe). The DPP is just like those Communists! And the hyperbole is numbing:

If the DPP had its way, another commentator said that this could be an even worse disaster to be triggered by the DPP administration after it scrapped the partially completed new nuclear power plant and then was forced to revive the project.

Yet another reason to read the Taipei Times -- the English editor at the China Post seems to have gone on vacation.


David said...

While the rest of the world has moved into the twenty-first century, Taiwan remains stuck in the first :D

Mark said...

I don't know... part of me feels some sadness anytime a country especially one with such an old culture, gives up it's traditions and exchanges them for western ones. Is Japan really better for abandoning their calendar, changing the date of their new year, abandoning their traditional dress, and changing their writing system so that young people can't even understand books written 100 years ago? Is Taiwan any better for being so far along the same path?

Some people would say yes, and I can even understand some utilitarian arguments for it, especially before computers made it so easy to deal with conversions. Even now it would be efficient to make Asians abandon their calendars, make everybody learn English, make Americans quit using miles, and pounds, etc.. But still, barring truly terrible ones, I feel sad whenever another custom falls against the might of global, i.e., western culture.

Maybe I just feel this way because of my mom's side of the family (American Indians), but it's how I feel.

Tim Maddog said...

The China Post actually published:
- - -
"...the republic was established in 1991..."
- - -

(They have an English editor?!)

I agree with giving up the ROC calendar, but I'd also like to get rid of that friggin' X-tian calendar. I think we should just start all over with the year everybody woke up and got on the same page.

Anonymous said...

Next thing you know, the DPP is going to get rid of the Chinese New Year. That lunar calendar really makes no sense. LOL.

The DPP's anti-ROC rants are really funny.

Michael Turton said...

But Mark, the ROC year isn't some great historical cultural thing. It's just an ROC thing.


Anonymous said...

I've already written some on the topic of ROC years, including about the China Post, which in many ways is not a real newspaper. I'm not kidding. Most of the material in the China Post has absolutely nothing to do with any reporters there. For the most part, China Post stories are translations -- bad translations, at that -- of Mandarin-language stories in local papers. And those local papers are generally error-filled, non-objective, and piss-poor examples of journalism. Stories identified as being by "China Post staff" are such translations. Even stories on major events in Taiwan tend to be such unoriginal content.

I recommend that people go through an issue of the China Post to see for themselves what is original to that paper. (Let's not even bother to wonder which, if any, ideas there are original.)

So, get a copy of the China Post. Cross out everything by "China Post staff." Then cross out all the articles by AP, Reuters, CNA, DPA, Agence France-Presse, and the other news agencies. Then cross out all the ad copy that's printed to resemble stories. Then cross out all the other ads.

Then, if you like, see more of what a newspaper it is by crossing out all the remaining pieces that are not actually news but simply puff pieces on restaurants or celebrities.

Quite likely all that will be left are the editorials.

And don't even get me started on how reporters here like to use "pointed out" for things that are in no way facts....

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think there is som very weird correspondence between US Republicans, and Taiwan's DPP; and between US Democrats and Taiwan's KMT? I mean, electorally, what the issues are... in both countries, the party in charge of the executive has an unpopular foreign policy that is, like it or not, is also very unpopular internationally, bungles domestic programs, and has recently been revealed to have been involved in many government scandals.

Weirdly though, foreign supporters of Taiwanese independence are also very likely supporters of US Democrats. What's going on here?

Anonymous said...

Link for above--Democratic candidates poised to win governorships on issues of ethics

Anonymous said...

The links between KMT-Republican, DPP-Democrat are a leftover from the Cold War, during which the American left supported the PRC and the Repulicans were behind the dictator Peanut. Now political power has changed hands in Taiwan, but the old political links and their vested interests have not, apparently.

Anonymous said...

During the Cold War, Democrats and Republicans alike were solidly behind Chiang Kai-shek. Unlike their European counterparts, the American left was never very pro-CCP. In the end, it was strategic concerns that led a Republican president (Nixon) to start the process that led to the switch in recognition from the ROC to the PRC.