Friday, October 19, 2007

Bradsher on the "Peace Offer"

Keith Bradsher of the NY Times has a thorough article on surrender demand "peace offer" from China's Hu and the reactions in Taiwan and China. The article is Beijing-centric in many ways, but it has a couple of important observations.
President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan denounced Thursday a peace overture from President Hu Jintao of China that has received a cautious welcome here from both candidates in presidential elections to be held next March.

"It is very clear now that if we were to sign such a peace treaty under the framework of the 'one China' principle, then I think this would mean, for the 23 million people of Taiwan, a treaty of surrender," Chen said in a 90-minute interview Thursday at the presidential palace here.

Ma Ying-jeou, the presidential candidate of the opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, and the front-runner in polls, was more receptive to Hu's overture. In a telephone interview later Thursday he said: "In general, it is in conformity with our party's platform."

The opening frame squarely places the blame on Chen, where China and the KMT want it (and the DPP too, but for different reasons). In recent weeks the international media have been offering a new frame for Mad Chen©, in this case that of the future Rasputin who is going to retain secret -- and presumably, malign -- influence from behind the scenes over the direction of the DPP even after Hsieh ascends to the Presidency. Note that is generally presented in negative terms. For example, Bradsher writes at the end of this article:

Chen resumed the chairmanship of the Democratic Progressive Party on Wednesday to lead it through the elections, and that has revived questions of whether he plans to play a continuing role even after the next president is inaugurated on May 20. Mainland Chinese officials have been deeply suspicious that if Hsieh is elected, Chen will continue to exert great influence behind the scenes, much as former general secretaries of the Chinese Communist Party, such as Jiang Zemin, have continued to wield influence.

Chen's influence is likened to that of a former Communist dictator operating in a one-party state! In case the NY Times has forgotten, Taiwan is a democracy and the DPP is democratic party that conducts primaries to determine its candidates and has extensive and often public debates on policy, on an island where the media has no controls. The idea that Chen could be some kind of Jiang Zemin is laughable. Bradsher presents no information that might make the reader question the slant -- offered by officials of a party with the desire to snuff out Taiwan's democracy, and with a vested interest in misrepresenting Chen.

The contrast between Taiwan and Tibet could not be stronger -- the Dalai Lama gets far more sympathetic coverage than Chen Shui-bian, who is the legitimate and directly-elected president of a democracy allied to the west. Good work, guys. *sigh* Just today the AP article mentions the Dalai Lama's worldwide reputation as a moral leader, a very positive frame. Imagine if in every article on Chen, a positive frame about his position as the legitimately elected leader of a democracy was contrasted to Hu's ascension to leadership over the dead bodies of the Tibetans he had killed during his stint as an official there.....

The paragraph above also does a number on Ma Ying-jeou -- citing him as saying that yes, surrender is our party's platform. Those in the US Establishment who think Ma is going to cooperate with them are in for a big surprise if he ever takes the presidency. Naturally Bradsher does not mention that Ma's party is cooperating with Beijing, which explains why Ma welcomes the proposal. The cooperative relationship between the KMT and Beijing receives little attention in the international media, but it is on of the most important strategic facts of local politics.

Bradsher moves on past a discussion of the surrender demand "peace offer" that shows he realizes it is unaacceptable to a free people, though in quite muted tones, to observe:

Hu's remarks were the latest sign of a more sophisticated Chinese policy of trying to reach past Chen's hostility to appear unthreatening to Taiwanese voters. But Chinese officials remain vitriolic about Chen himself, irritated by his obstinate advocacy of greater independence for Taiwan.

Through more than seven years in office, Chen has inched closer and closer to a formal declaration of Taiwanese independence from the mainland, without actually changing the island's Constitution, flag or its legal name, the Republic of China.

I love the loaded language here. Chen is "obstinate." Yea, he obstinate -- so was Gandhi, Martin Luther King, George Washington, Steve Biko, Simon Bolivar....all who aim at great things must be obstinate. Meanwhile, authoritarians who point missiles and more missiles are never described as "obstinate" in their desire to annex an island they have never owned. Bradsher also describes Hu's conciliatory tone as China trying to appear more appealing to Taiwanese voters, but does not explicitly mention that no concrete steps toward peace were taken. After all, if China wanted to appear peaceful, all it has to do is remove the missiles and aircraft facing Taiwan. You won't, however, see that analysis printed in the international media. UPDATE: "obstinate" has been replaced by "persistent" in the other version of this piece which I linked to above. Apparently there are two on the IHT site. UPDATE II: Maddog reminds me that the title of the new piece is "...dismisses Hu's overture." It's not an overture when one side demands that, as a precondition for talks, that the other side surrender.

What is this peace offer, then? It's just another variation on the normal Chinese tactic of Eff You! in negotiations. Remember when the Chinese consecrated a bishop for their fake Catholic Church just as the Vatican was arriving for negotiations? Remember when they sent an ambassador to India who, ahead of talks, claimed that a whole Indian state belonged to China? Couching a surrender demand as a peace offer while at the same time expanding the military strength facing Taiwan is another example of this behavior.

Bradsher cites Ma Ying-jeou, who has cottoned on to the fact that China's missiles don't play well in Taiwan and has been trying to push his party to this very centrist and very rational position for the better part of two years:

Ma, the Nationalist candidate, said his party maintained its position that there is one China, but that Taiwan and the mainland have different interpretations of what this means. He also said that talks with the mainland should be about a peace agreement, not Taiwan's future, which should be decided only by people in Taiwan.

"The mainland side should remove the almost 1,000 missiles targeted against Taiwan, and they should do it before we start negotiations," he added.

When Ma went overseas a while back and complained about the missiles, he was forced to repudiate his position when he got home. It is a measure of how mainstream Taiwan independence has become here that the KMT feels it must adopt the same position as the DPP on this issue: no negotiations without an end to the threats, and the Taiwanese in control of their own future. Nothing less is now acceptable to the majority of Taiwanese.

This shows what Ma's actual election strategy is: hollow out the DPP platform by adopting versions of its positions on sovereignty issues, while advancing the position that only the KMT can save the economy. This might have a good chance of succeeding, if the KMT's economic policies were not so blindly unimaginative. A Common Market with China? That is the one thing locals, especially the working class, fear the most......if Ma offered them less China, and more future, he could have the locals eating out of his hand. Fortunately the KMT's political identity is backward-looking, toward the idealized "China" that is simply the candy-coating over KMT authoritarianism, and toward its developmentalist economic past. KMT political thinkers are congenitally incapable of developing any vision of the future that doesn't look like the past.

Of all the reporting that opposes "Hsieh the moderate vs Chen the radical" only Bradsher seems to have grasped the possibility that the contrast between the two might well be political theatre.....

Chen's continuing criticisms of Beijing have allowed Hsieh to appear more moderate and appeal to centrist voters. Hsieh has backed an expansion of nonstop charter flights between Taiwan and the mainland, for example, and held out the possibility of regularly scheduled flights

That has prompted questions here of whether Chen and Hsieh, who have worked together for two decades, are secretly coordinating a policy of seeming to take divergent policies toward the mainland to ensure Hsieh's election.

Not only does this key bit of political theatre make Hsieh appear more moderate than Chen, it also keeps the attention of Beijing and its junior partner the KMT tightly focused on Chen Shui-bian, the lame-duck President whom the Bad Guys are madly obsessed with. So intent is the KMT on Chen that at times it appears to forget the actual DPP Presidential candidate is Frank Hsieh.....


Anonymous said...


Looks like NYT has changed from "obstinate " to "persistent."

Also the links to the NYT articule does not seem to work.

Real Estate said...

Maybe Chen can get shot again on this election eve to pull off another one for the DPP ;) It's amazing what he won't do...

Oh, yeah... Can you feel the sarcasm?

Michael Turton said...

Thanks for the heads up, anon. I changed the link and noted the wording change.


Tim Maddog said...

Great analysis, Michael.

Keith "Dime Novel" Bradsher is using more tricky propaganda techniques.

We start with a seriously messed-up headline:
- - -
President of Taiwan rejects peace overture from counterpart in China
- - -

While it's unusual that it calls Chen "President" in the headline (instead of "leader," as the BBC does), the use of the word "counterpart" implies that Hu Jintao is elected by the people. Ha! I guess that's there for "balance." ;-)

Notice that the only reason Bradsher "explains" the Hsieh-Chen thing is to undercut it.

The "greater independence" thing also irks me. The PRC flag has never flown over Taiwan. Despite the PRC's claims, Taiwan isn't part of China and doesn't depend on it. It's the recognition of Taiwan's independence that is continually obscured by writers such as Bradsher.

Notice as well that Bradsher leaves "Chinese" off of the name of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), pushing the implication that "KMT = Taiwan." Think that's an accidental omission? See how the same formulation is used by others side-by-side with the "renegade province" meme. (Search that page for "Nationalist")

There's an interesting discussion of the "dime novel" incident on Forumosa here, but if you follow the "Dime Novel" link at the top of this comment, you'll see that the original wording is still there.

BTW, the word "obstinate" is still in the IHT version of the story. Even if it was "corrected" in the NYTimes but not elsewhere, does it make the same sound as a tree falling in a forest when no one's there to hear it?

Keith Bradsher? Feh!

Tim Maddog

Tim Maddog said...

Michael, I see you changed the IHT link to one which has "Taiwan leader dismisses Hu overture" as its headline. My previous comment was about the page you linked earlier, on which the usage of the word "obstinate" is still visible.

But, wait! The two versions of the article contain some other prominent difference as well.

The one with "President of Taiwan..." headline has a dateline reading simply "TAIPEI" while the other says "TAIPEI, Taiwan."

The one which uses "leader" in the headline moves Ma Ying-jeou from the 3rd paragraph down to the 11th. It also removes the word-"troublemaker"-in-quotation-marks meme (present in the other version) while keeping Wu Jianmin's quote that Chen Shui-bian "loves to make trouble." (I bet that Wu loves to say that.)

Yes, there are indeed some weird changes, despite the fact that there's nothing visible there about "updates," "corrections," "edits," "revisions," etc. That first version didn't fall in an empty forest, however, and it has been duly noted.

When making these comparisons, something else that caught my eye was that in both versions, Bradsher refers to Taiwan's Presidential Office as the "presidential palace." Even though Bradsher uses lowercase letters, he and/or his editors certainly know that Chen doesn't consider himself royalty, and that it was under Chen's administration that the name of the building was changed from "Long Live Chiang Kai-shek Hall," which caused some followers of the despot CKS to whine that the renaming was like Mao Zedong's "Cultural Revolution."

That link just above also sensibly informs readers that "the building is where the president and vice president work, rather than a specific individual's personal villa or hall."

The edited article is also several paragraphs shorter than the first one I saw. I haven't yet analyzed exactly what was removed.

Why not say it once more? Keith Bradsher? Feh!

Tim Maddog