Thursday, July 10, 2008

What the Establishment View Is, and How it is Spread

I've been tracking the spread of Robert Scheer's awful bit of writing Taiwan Declares Peace on China, which has spread, Spanish Flu-like, to The Nation (my response at DKOS). One of the things I noted in my reply is that far from using Taiwan as a Cold War stalking horse to advance to some putative WWWIII against China, the Bush Administration and the US Establishment, dazzled by the prospect of money to be made in China, are busy selling out the island to China.

One example of this is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Establishment elite think tank whose rosy view of future US-China relations should be read not as a prediction of the coming future, but as a primer on how the things to come will be shaped. Today in the South China Morning Post CFR member Jerome Cohen had a piece on China-Taiwan economic can see where it is going from the first paragraph:

The establishment of direct air and sea links between Taiwan and the mainland and the expansion of mainland tourism to Taiwan have justifiably attracted favourable worldwide attention. Yet these important steps - currently being implemented through cautious but good-faith co-operation on both sides of the Taiwan Strait - represent only the first stage of the greater cross-strait integration made possible by the election of Ma Ying-jeou.

The second stage, which will require implementation of major industrial projects jointly conducted by government-backed organisations on each side, will prove even more challenging. But it has already begun, albeit with little fanfare. Although almost obscured by the exciting progress in transport and tourism, ambitious plans are now under way for co-operation in oil and gas exploration in the Taiwan Strait and elsewhere.
The political implications of Cohen's views should be obvious. What the CFR wants is for Taiwan's political independence to quietly disappear into "economic integration." Most of the piece consists of a review of what has gone on and what is going on, but the last two paragraphs...

Such participation would, of course, enable CNOOC to share the investment risks with CPC. More importantly, because Taipei has long made claims over the Diaoyu Islands and broad areas of the East China Sea that are similar to Beijing's, CPC's entry into the project might increase pressure on Japan to make what Greater China deems a reasonable settlement concerning the disputed resources.

Mr Ma is admirably qualified to lead the Taiwanese side in this effort. He has been closely following this situation since he began to research the international legal problems of East Asia's offshore oil for his doctoral dissertation at Harvard Law School 30 years ago.
I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader what kind of "reasonable settlement" a China made Greater with the annexation of Taiwan might want. One also might reasonably wonder why such a remark is in this article from a CFR member in the first place.

There's a couple of other interesting things about this article I thought I'd point out. The first author is Jerome Cohen of the CFR. The blurb at the bottom says:
Jerome A. Cohen is an NYU law professor and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Chen Yu-jie is a Taiwan lawyer and the current NYU School of Law Robert L. Bernstein Fellow in International Human Rights
I know you are thinking that Cohen's name is familiar, so I'll relieve your curiosity: Cohen is not just any NYU law professor -- he was Ma Ying-jeou's mentor in college. In other words, pretending to be a dispassionate analysis of events, Cohen is actually invested in them in two very different ways -- as a longtime Ma booster, and as a CFR member who wants to see China annex Taiwan, but ever so quietly so nobody notices, so we all wake up here one morning and find we're Locutus of Borg. When Ma visited the US in 2006, Jerome Cohen was the presider at a Q&A session in which Ma received softball questions. It would have been nice if the article had somewhere indicated the prior relationship between Cohen and Ma.

There's another thing about Jerome Cohen that is interesting. In 1991 Winston Dang (Mandarin Chen) published Taiwangate: Blacklist Policy and Human Rights, a collection of materials relating to the KMT blacklist and its surveillance activities in the United States. In the Preface he wrote:
I can recall one day in 1978, when I attended a seminar at Harvard's Department of East Asian Studies. As the scheduled speaker was from Taiwan, many other Taiwanese students were also present. Dr. Jerome Cohen, a Harvard professor, was seated next to me. While we watched the students fill the room, Professor Cohen leaned towards me and whispered 'There's another KMT spy!" I could not understand why Professor Cohen would reveal his own student as a spy, though, he might have been joking. However, I recognized the Chinese student as someone very active in the publication of the "Boston Newsletter," distributed by the Boston area Chinese Student Association and supported by the authorities in Taiwan. This man had also attended a pro-Taiwanese rally, feigning support for our cause. While at the rally, he and a group of his friends stood apart from the rest of us and remained silent. Some activists recognized his face and chased him away. A few years later, as a man in his early thirties, he went back to Taiwan and accepted a very powerful position in the government.
Winston Dang would go on to become EPA head in the second Chen Administration. The student who "accepted a very powerful position in the government" would go on to....higher things.


Tommy said...

The problem with where all of this crappy media spin leads is that Taiwanese don't want political integration. A time will come when China is militarily powerful enough to impose its will, but the world might wake up to extreme displays of disgust on the part of the Taiwanese. I am not sure the powers that be care, but the problem will not be swept under the rug just because Ma's mentor and other fools want it to.

For the first time today in the SCMP, I read an article that addressed Ma's unpopularity. The honeymoon is not over abroad because the international media have such blinders on.

Hey, did anyone else notice how Ma said that the public should be patient and that the economy is still basically sound? Wait a minute.... wasn't this the guy who was criticising the DPP for screwing up the economy just two months ago? How has the economy, which has not improved in the first two months, suddenly become sound if it was such a mess before?

Anonymous said...


Since you are an expat, I thought that (social networking website for expatriates) might be of your interest.

It may help your readers as well.


Anonymous said...

Don't worry Taiwan economy is fine but the index is going all the way to 6000! A little recession never hurts especially if the inflationary pressure is high. Of course, a politician is never going to tell you that.

Anonymous said...

A time will come when Western expats will, eventually, be forced to accept that the Taiwanese might not want political integration under current terms, but can accept working towards acceptable terms.

Tommy said...

"but can accept working towards acceptable terms."

And what are acceptable terms when you don't want integration? Perhaps those terms become more acceptable after an invasion....

Robert said...

A time will come when Western expats will, eventually, be forced to accept that the Taiwanese might not want political integration under current terms, but can accept working towards acceptable terms.

I have my fingers crossed that a time will also come when people try to discredit what someone says by dutifully characterizing it as what "expats" say as though they are a monolithic group and they are the only ones who think thus.

It's simply not true.

Moreover, you keep lamenting that "expat" philosophy can't accept certain ideas, but the problem is that your twisting the actual arguments being made. Where on any of these sites where the debate has been going on has any "expat" said that he refuses to acknowledge that the Taiwanese "can accept working towards acceptable terms."

If it has been said, I certainly didn't see it.

Eli said...

I notice your DK diary never got more than 3 recommends. That isn't a criticism of your diary, which was very well-written. But it takes more than writing such pieces at places like DK. As I said yesterday, it takes some coordination. One possibility would be to make it known here before posting there, so people have time to go over and comment (though I don't know how many of your readers are registered there). I think that is how a lot of the people whose diaries frequently make it to the recommend section get there. People like Jerome a Paris for instance have groups of people who consistently recommend them, pushing them to the recommend list. The other thing to keep in mind is that DK is a site mainly dedicated to US electoral politics and people who frequent that site live and breath politics. There are certain other issues that boil their blood: Iraq, the media, civil liberties, Democratic leaders caving to Whitehouse pressure, etc, so anything written about Taiwan has to be framed in the terms they recognize, but frankly, there isn't much international focus on that site. You might consider posting on some other progressive sites that also allow for diaries but are more international in scope. There are a number of them, such as European Tribune, the Agonist, etc. These are all comprised of people who also read DK. Another possibility would be an email-writing campaign to Robert Scheer, whose email is listed below his piece. If several polite, well-thought emails reach his inbox on the same day, he might be forced to reconsider his views, or at least engage with those who don't agree with him.

I also think that the fault isn't just with the progressive community. As some have mentioned, progressives could be turned off by the vociferous support of Taiwan by people whose views are so diametrically opposed to their own, and if you haven't been to Taiwan, it's hard to know what it is like.

I also wonder if Taiwan, including the DPP, has played a role in this by not attempting to reach beyond the support of the right wing in America. First of all, there are vocal, progressive supporters of Taiwan in the US, like Sherrod Brown. And it always seemed to me that a natural ally of the DPP could have been the Democratic Party (think: Democratic and Progressive). Yet, in 2006, when Hu Jintao traveled to the US, which paper did Chen Shui-bian choose for his op-ed--The Wall Street Journal. There is nothing wrong with that, but an op-ed in the NYT or Wash Post couldn't have hurt, or why not the USAToday. Hsiao Bi-khim or some younger member of the DPP could have been writing occasional diaries at DK or Huffington Post. I don't know; these are just thoughts.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, Wulingren. Those are great, thoughtful comments.

I've tried all sorts of approaches, and writing is obviously not the answer. I think a coordinated effort by several of us might start to pay dividends, over time. Maybe a "Saturday with Taiwan" thing or something, lots of pics, simple commentary.


Robert said...

Michael and Wulingren,

I'm sure several other bloggers and frequenters of this site would be willing to help out in some sort of concerted effort.

Let me know if I can help.

Eli said...


I didn't mean to discourage you from writing; I just mean that with your readership, as well as other Taiwan blogs, there should be a way to push insightful posts on Taiwan into the US-based progressive blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

I applaud your efforts to bring the Daily KOS crowd around on the Taiwan issue. However I must admit to bit of worry that you might succeed and then I would no longer be able to be smug as a conservative that the liberals are wrong on Taiwan too.

The hypothetical use of Ukraine-Russia as an example may not have worked well as a lot of liberals probably feel some lingering attachment to the old USSR.

Perhaps a better example would have been to compare Ma's capitulations to Castro hypothetically deciding to take orders from the U.S..

You might have mentioned "Chinese imperialism" too. And mentioning that the DPP favors free health-care and environmentalism would have been good. On environmentalism you might have compared the progress in Taiwan with what is going on in China, perhaps even suggesting that progress might roll back some under the KMT and if China takes over.

Other than that, nice job. You hit the hot buttons like "cold war" thinking, George Bush and Tibet. Too bad there's no easy way to blame Cheney or Haliburton for this.

I don't know any conservative web sites where one can post a diary like this. I've written a couple letters to National Review Online asking about the lack of Taiwan coverage but have received no response. What I do see there is always in support of Taiwan remaining free, but probably about 3/5 of the time it reflect the Cold War mentality of a "Free China" vs the authoritarian China.

Zhuxiu said...


I just wanted to thank your for this piece and the piece in Daily KOS. I have found this to be true of US and other progressives for decades. Back in the late 1960s, as a Vietnam veteran antiwar activist and participant in many social justice causes (even to today), I engaged in constant battles with folks like Wilfred Burchett and the radical newsweekly "National Guardian" over Taiwan. In their view, one had to assume that any push for Taiwanese self-identity and self-determination was a "CIA plot." Now, it seems that many so-called progressives are singing a similar tune, without having learned anything about Taiwan and its people in the ensuing decades.

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