Monday, May 14, 2007

AP Resurrects Mad Chen

Mad Chen continues his Mad the hugely slanted headline:

Chen seen continuing hard-line PRC policy

Remember when Chen was pragmatic and flexible? My, how a thousand missiles can change things. AP goes on to explain:

Several Taiwanese newspapers said yesterday that Chen has decided to pick a loyalist, former Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), to succeed Su, an appointment expected to be announced today.

"Chen Shui-bian would thus have a full control over the Cabinet and on the other hand also set the tune for the 2008 race" for the DPP, the mass-market United Daily News reported.

UDN is a "mass-market" paper?!! The presentation here is completely disingenuous. The AP writer must know that the "analysis" being presented is in a pro-KMT paper that obsessively hates Chen Shui-bian. Yet no identification of the paper's political allegiance is given. This reflects either abysmal laziness, naked bias, or complete incompetence. Readers are invited to choose. AP then maunders on:

Chen has enraged China by seeking a separate identity for Taiwan while underscoring the self-ruled island's sovereignty. Hsieh, on the other hand, is known to favor closer ties with its giant neighbor.

However, Hsieh is unlikely to have a major role in policymaking in the run-up to the 2008 polls, political scientist Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said.

I wonder if AP will point out that China has enraged Taiwan by pointing missiles at it and threatening to murder Taiwanese whenever they exercise their democracy. Naw. That would make it look like Beijing was somehow a part of the problem, which this article is studiously trying to avoid. The obsessive focus on the actions of Chen Shui-bian is a marker that either the source or the reporter are pro-China, or both.

More seriously -- I've made this point before, but it can't be made enough -- China chooses to be provoked, for the same reason an elderly matron becomes incensed at the behavior of her servants: it gets instant results. For China, being provoked is a policy option that is very effective. It is a shame that AP has chosen to simply regurgitate this shallow thinking, rather than interrogate this claim to see what it might mean. Such reporting only encourages the authoritarians on the other side of the Strait by confirming that they have adopted the right approach.

Chen's immense power is guaranteed by the constitution, preventing him from becoming a lame duck president in his last year.

Under Taiwan's political system, the president appoints the premier, the island's second most powerful person, who oversees day-to-day government. As his power comes from the president, the premier would try to avoid confronting the top leader.

If Chang is appointed, he is expected to support Chen's hard-line policy toward rival China, refraining from taking steps to allow more Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan or sanctioning regular weekend direct charter flights between the sides, Hsu said.

This section contains several false claims. First, the Chen administration is not "refraining from allowing more Chinese tourists" but is encouraging Chinese tourism. Premier Su said last month:

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said at the Legislative Yuan that welcoming Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan was an established governmental policy, although some details require more discussion.......

The MAC earlier this year said that Taiwanese representatives had reached a consensus with China on allowing 1,000 Chinese visitors to come to Taiwan per day for sightseeing.

According to rules jointly formulated by the MAC, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Chinese who are permitted to come to Taiwan fall into three categories: visitors coming for sightseeing via Hong Kong and Macau; visitors coming after or before they visit a third country or conduct business trips overseas; and visitors residing abroad permanently or studying overseas.

If all the negotiations on the tourist issue are settled, these three categories will be canceled and Chinese visitors will no longer be categorized according to these rules, according to the council.

Having Chinese tourists here is established policy, and the Chen administration has been working on getting them here since 2001.

The article also refers to Chen's "immense" powers, but in fact the powers of the President are much circumscribed and the office itself is weak. Nor are the powers of the Premier well-defined. Taiwan's government was never meant to function as a government, but was simply the exoskeleton of a one-party state. That is why both the KMT and the DPP have supported Constitutional reform for most of the last twenty years. The article then goes on to make some dramatically slanted claims:

Taiwanese businesspeople have long pressured the government to allow more travel and trade with the mainland to help stimulate the island's sputtering economy. Chen has refused to relax his China policies, saying any concessions would undermine the island's sovereignty.

At moment a million Taiwanese businessmen are in China. Chinese tourists flock to the outlying islands. Chinese media organizations operate in Taiwan, and two Taiwan media firms, TVBS, and Apple Daily, are Chinese-owned.

None of this was possible under the KMT. Here's a striking fact: the DPP is the most open to China of any government of the last 60 years.

As the party's presidential candidate, Hsieh is expected to refrain from openly advocating reconciliation with China to avoid conflicts with Chen during the presidential campaign.

"If Taiwan ever softens its policy toward China, it would come after the 2008 race, not before," Hsu said.

Clearly both the reporter and the source are pro-KMT. It is sad that the AP regurgitates this nonsense as if it were serious analysis -- sad that AP resurrects the Zombie Monster Mad Chen to set him loose on Frank Hsieh. Surely a major international news organization is capable of reporting at a higher level than this.

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