Sunday, May 20, 2007

Countering the Ma Ying-jeou Media LoveFest '08

FAD Dropzone posted this article from the CNA on Frank Hsieh's frontrunner(?) status for the '08 elections. The article challenges the conventional wisdom that Ma Ying-jeou is the favorite.

Taipei, May 19 (CNA) Frank Hsieh, who is almost certain to be named the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after a landslide primary victory May 6, is the favorite to win the 2008 presidential election, scholars said in a forum Saturday. "If you ask me today, I think Frank Hsieh has the edge over main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou, " Byron Weng, a professor at National Chi Nan University, said in a seasonal forum titled "Presidential Election and Domestic Politcs, "which was organized by the Taiwan Thinktank to provide foreign representatives with timely interpretations of Taiwan's politics.

Hsieh has been tested during the DPP primary by his own party members and the media, Weng said. While Hsieh delivered many things to Kaohsiung while serving as mayor of the southern port city, Ma's political career has paled in comparison, according to Weng. "Hsieh is already immune. He is ready, having rehearsed all the tough questions," said Michael Hsiao, executive director of Academia Sinica's Center for Asia Pacific Area Studies. As for foreign policy, Hsiao said "everyone knows Hsieh's stance, and most international observers have the impression that he is not a radical politician, which is a big plus for him." "Ma should be prepared to answer the hard questions that he hasn't answered yet, " Hsiao continued, referring to Ma's position on cross-strait relations and his "ultimate unification" rhetoric. "The fact that the DPP was able to immediately unite after the party's presidential primary also counts for something in Hsieh's favor," Weng said.

Whoever organized this has the right idea. The media lovefest for Ma in '08 promises to be revolting -- I am curious to see how the international media will melt down when it has to juxtapose Ma's ability to speak English and look polished and attractive to foreigners, with his long history of very personal support for authoritarianism and his pro-China views. Will they make the naive error of assuming that people who speak English must be pro-Western? I'm not betting on penetrating analysis of Ma in the upcoming deluge.

But activities like this keep Hsieh's name in front of the international media. What this should be coupled with is explanations of why the Blue newspaper polls showing Ma with ridiculous leads over Hsieh are laughable exercises in political propaganda -- otherwise outsiders who don't understand the media environment here will have trouble seeing assertions like "Hsieh is the frontrunner!" as serious analyses. The article should have gone further into explaining, in terms of numbers, why Hsieh is the likely frontrunner at this moment. One thing Taiwanese don't get is how attached foreigners, especially Americans and Western Europeans, are to numbers.

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