Wednesday, October 01, 2008

China in our politics

China looms large in Taiwan politics.... The redoubtable A-gu over at the superb blog That's Impossible! has been tracking the story of how the Ma Administration is worried that Radio Taiwan International has been too critical of the Ma Administration...

In response to today's Liberty Times piece on Ma administration interference in the programming of RTI, the KMT legislative caucus has responded by saying former director Cheng You (鄭優), who resigned last Saturday, was a partisan hack who only got his job because of his political leanings.

Cheng You provided no comments during subsequent questioning by the press.

KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) stated that the KMT is now fully in power and must accept full responsibility; all officials given political posts under the previous administration ought to resign. Even those officials who still have time left in their term should also stop criticizing (or in her words, slandering) the government.

(Former New Party, now KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-Bao (賴士葆) declared Cheng used a national radio station and national money to produce programming that excessively attacked President Ma, which is, in his view, clearly not in line with RTI's function as a government organ.

A-gu reports that the Liberty Times is back today with another tale, this one claiming that RTI was punished for being anti-China:

An unnamed 'key person' at RTI told the paper that Albert Lin (林清修), deputy minister of the Government Information Office, once sent a fax to former RTI board chairman Cheng You (鄭優). The fax in question cited an article in the Global Times (环球时报), a PRC paper published by and affiliated with the CCP mouthpiece People's Daily (人民日报). The exact report was titled Taiwan independence faction uses the Voice of Taiwan to attack Ma Ying-jeou 「獨派掌台灣之音轟馬英九」. The 'key person' claims portion of the article were highlighted for Cheng You to see. Specifically, the article noted the repeated appearance of Green talking heads Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) and Jin Heng-wei (金恆煒) on RTI political and cross-strait programs.

The anonymous source claims Albert Lin asked Cheng You to "make improvements" in the reporting, as if the measure of bias is whether a People's Daily publication likes your reporting or not. The source claims the order was coming down from GIO Minister Vanessa Shih (史亞平), only passing through deputy minister Lin.

Albert Lin says he "does not remember clearly" facts related to any such fax. Cheng You confirms there was fax recieved from the GIO (without elaborating much on content), stressed it was a difference in opinion of how to run the operation that caused him to leave, and dryly suggested terms for RTI officials be altered to coincide with the President's term to avoid such incidents in the future.

Bad news for Taiwan's democracy, if true. We're not headed for the old martial law-era state. What we're headed for is that model of democracy, Singapore.

The Ma government's love for China has also been on display in the melamine case, which has led to massive consumer distrust of both local milk products and the Ma government. The China Post noted....

The SEF officials said any requests Taiwan makes for compensation to cover losses caused by the toxic Chinese imports will be handled through negotiations between the SEF and its Chinese counterpart, the ARATS.

In other words, the melamine crisis will not be permitted to cross the court system or any other international body, lest Taiwan's sovereignty be enhanced, and Chinese firms actually have to pay. Probably some symbolic sum will be arranged and "paid" though, I suspect, not actually transferred. The Taipei Times offered a great commentary from a local poli-sci prof today that showed how the melamine scandal has led the Ma administration to downgrade Taiwan's sovereignty again...

However, Gao Qiang (高強), secretary of the Chinese Communist Party branch at China’s Ministry of Health, took advantage of the issue to refer to Taiwan as “the Taiwan area of our country” in describing the spread of contaminated milk powder. The only thing the Ma administration did in response to this misrepresentation was to say in a roundabout way that referring to Taiwan in this way was “inappropriate” and that it hoped Beijing would restrict its party and government officials from using similar expressions.

When Taiwan informed the WHO that some products manufactured in Taiwan using contaminated milk powder from China had been sold to Hong Kong, the global body sent its response to China, with only a carbon copy forwarded to Taipei. When the Qingdao-based Shandong Duqing Company and the Chinese government both denied that Duqing products contained melamine, the Ma government was terrified of demanding that China conduct a thorough investigation into the matter the way Japan did after tainted dumplings were imported from China.

Even more pathetic was the way Taiwan lowered its testing standards so they would be in line with those in China. These are all signs of a government that is willing to belittle itself and call itself a local Chinese authority.

Meanwhile, local consumers have simply stopped purchasing products with milk in them, on the grounds that the only effective tolerance is zero tolerance. Since the government has no testing program -- it was (get this) relying on China -- and the WHO is useless thanks to its shameful, craven secret memorandum with China, consumers feel they are on their own. This attitude is only confirmed by the news of how the melamine taint is spreading like a dark stain across foods all over the world...

Chinese officials have struggled in recent days to contain the fallout from the scandal as a growing range of China-made products have been pulled off shelves across the world.

British sweet maker Cadbury said on Monday it had found traces of melamine in chocolates made at its Beijing factory and ordered a recall of those products in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia.

The 11 brands recalled include Cadbury Eclairs and bulk packets of Dairy Milk chocolate, the company said earlier.

Indonesia’s food supervisory agency said over the weekend it discovered 16 Chinese-made dairy products that contained melamine, adding that all those products — including well-known brands such as Snickers and M&M’s chocolates — would be destroyed immediately.

China claims that it will rigorously test all milk. Yeah, right. During the 1990s there were repeated scandals in Taiwan over the use of expired milk powder, exported to Taiwan for animal feed, in products meant for human beings. This happened more than once -- and China is much worse than Taiwan. The melamine scandal will be "resolved", time will pass, and it will appear again. And again. Indeed, it could be argued that this current scandal is round 2, since there was a spate of pet deaths due to contaminated pet food in the US a while back. Canaries died by the thousand in the coal mine, but nobody paid attention (except in the US, which tests milk products that are imported).

UPDATE: Sheesh! Forgot main point! Which is this...for the past couple of years I've been writing about how China's policy of "Being Provoked" has enabled it to gain moral ascendancy over western commentators and policymakers. "Shhhhh. Don't offend Beijing!" guided many a bad decision over that period. Now we see the same effect in local politics here in Taiwan, as "not offending Beijing" is becoming a dominant theme of policymaking here. In all cases, this simply means conceding decision making to the Chinese politburo, since they, and only they, determine what "offends" them.

MEDIA: Recall that last week AP reported, totally erroneously, that China had apologized to Taiwan over the incident. Today the Premier of Taiwan was calling for an apology from China. But AP said that apology already occurred....time for a correction/retraction.


Anonymous said...

C'mon folks... where's the mass mobilization? Why aren't the streets full of angry protests?

Anonymous said...

I'm so sad over this news. RTI is an absolutely great radio station for the Chinese language world, and it covers many topics of interest both in Taiwan and China and elsewhere in the world. If you know their talk show hosts, they are both Blue and Green (one is a regular guest on the deep-Blue 2100 TVBS political talk show!). This was true even while the DPP was in power. But actually, I think the shows are rarely critical in a partisan manner, even when partisans are hosting or pontificating, with Taiwanese national politics entering only a small percentage of the programs.

With regards to being anti-China, well, I don't think a station that has a big focus on sort of talking about the political, economic, and cultural issues of China can be anti-China, but obviously the authoritarian government in China may not like everything that is said, including pro-democracy activists ending up on shows.

This is very strange. I don't think the Ma administration actually listens to RTI. Probably someone wants this guy's job, or someone has a vendetta. RTI has really good content, if it were a commercial entity, I think it'd actually be worth quite a bit money.

Raj said...

Why would compensation be sought through the courts? Courts in Taiwan couldn't make China pay and the Chinese courts wouldn't make the Chinese government pay. I thought it was normal for states to ask the other side to pay first.

Anonymous said...

The RTI thing sounds like a good example of how government shouldn't be sponsoring or managing media outlets. We've had bias problems with NPR (National Public Radio) and PBS (Public Broadcasting System) for years having a decided bias in favor of American (not classical) liberalism.

Though I haven't heart RTI, I suspect their pro-KMT bias would be even more obvious given KMT authoritarian habits from the past and the entrenched bureaucracies.

I think Chen made a big mistakes by not doing more to make the media playing field fair. He should have gotten rid of RTI and enforced rules about local (non-Chinese) ownership of stations.

Anonymous said...

The DPP played lots of tit-for-tat with the media. "You have your propaganda stations and we'll have ours".

Anonymous said...

"We've had bias problems with NPR (National Public Radio) and PBS (Public Broadcasting System) for years having a decided bias in favor of American (not classical) liberalism."

In whose opinion? The GOP's? Sesame Street is pretty liberal.....

Anonymous said...

"The RTI thing sounds like a good example of how government shouldn't be sponsoring or managing media outlets."
As I understand it the gov only funds Corp for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
From Wiki on NPR:
* In a Harris poll conducted in 2005, NPR was voted the most trusted news source in the US.
*According to the 2005 financial statement, NPR makes just over half of its money from the fees and dues it charges member stations to receive programming, although some of this money originated at the CPB itself, in the form of pass-through grants to member stations.[8] About 2% of NPR's funding comes from bidding on government grants and programs, chiefly the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the remainder comes from member station dues, foundation grants, and corporate underwriting. Typically, NPR member stations raise about one-third of their budget through on-air pledge drives, one-third from corporate underwriting, and one-third from grants from state governments, university grants, and grants from the CPB itself.

Anonymous said...

Relating somewhat to China in our Politics..

1. This youtube is worth a look: The truth about the bailout. (Oct 1)

"Hundreds of billions of dollars are going to bail out FOREIGN INVESTORS. They know it, they demanded it, and the bill has been carefully written to make sure that can happen." - Brad Sherman , D-California"

Pretty scary stuff there.... The American people are going to be steaming mad if the bailout bill gets approved in the Senate. It will do nothing to solve the core problems.

2. On a rare visit to the ChinaPost site the other day, this blurb about Vincent Siew caught my eye:

...Called the “financial and economic consultation working group,” the Siew outfit will serve as the nerve center in Taiwan’s fight for economic survival in the face of a great depression triggered by the total collapse of the U.S. financial system.

The question, however, is: Can Siew do the job?...But Siew can’t work a miracle. And for that matter, nobody can prevent the Taiwan economy from plunging into a dark tunnel which is so long that no one can see any light at its end. We are not alarmists, but we wish to warn of a long depression — and a stagflation to boot — ahead of Taiwan, no matter what the government does or how hard it may try under whoever’s leadership.

I have a very low opinion of the CP's editorial staff, but I think this article is not too far off the mark.

Anonymous said...

"We've had bias problems with NPR (National Public Radio) and PBS (Public Broadcasting System) for years having a decided bias in favor of American (not classical) liberalism."

In whose opinion? The GOP's? Sesame Street is pretty liberal.....

So to prove that NPR and PBS are unbiased, you cite the Washington Post which is also widely regarded as biased (but a heck of a lot less biased than the New York Times).

The article you cite is so opposed to the funding cuts that it talks exclusively about children's shows on PBS that most people love, not bothering to mention the other programming such as "NOW with Bill Moyers" and other shows which I can't come up with at the moment because 1. they aren't popular and 2. I don't watch them. But we still have to support them with our taxes.

I also listen to NPR quite a bit (it's either that or right-wing talk radio) and some shows on NPR are mostly unbiased, leaning only slightly to the left (Morning Edition, Marketplace), but those that aren't unbiased - and there are quite a few that aren't - lean solidly to the left.

Anonymous said...

About 2% of NPR's funding comes from bidding on government grants and programs, chiefly the Corporation for Public Broadcasting;

I recognize your source, and you left out the next line:

Over the years, the portion of the total NPR budget that comes from government has been decreasing. During the 1970s and early 1980s, the majority of NPR funding came from the federal government.


Steps were being taken during the 1980s to completely wean NPR from government support, but the 1983 funding crisis forced the network to make immediate changes. More money to fund the NPR network was raised from listeners, charitable foundations and corporations, and less from the federal government.

I did say the problem had been going on "for years", and I'm glad that we're paying less than we used to, but we're still having to pay.

In a Harris poll conducted in 2005, NPR was voted the most trusted news source in the US.

Just because we trust them to get the facts right doesn't mean we trust them to be unbiased in reporting them. Yes, I trust NPR to get the facts right, certainly more than I trust NBC, CNN, etc.. But when a bill I oppose gets voted down in Congress I still expect to hear NPR report that "Congress failed to pass..." and when a bill I support is voted down I still expect to hear NPR say "Congress today blocked Republican efforts to mention the Democrats complaint about the bill here rather than the positives the Republicans wanted" The reporting can be 100% accurate and still be biased.

And news reporting is only one aspect of their political programming. NPR is a lot more than just a news source.

Anonymous said...

Take a listen to the actual station before you start talking out of your ass

RTI doesn't have a KMT bias or DPP bias, at least relative to any other media outlet in Taiwan. RTI along with PBS (yes, Taiwan's public broadcasting station) and Taiwan Review produce some of the best content on Taiwan. They do tons of stuff on culture, literature, movies (both Taiwanese and foreign), health, the economy, travel, music in Taiwan, so there's not that much room for politics. When they do talk about politics, they are often talking about things that are way beyond the sensational-topic-of-the-day cable news shows or they are China specific issues that get almost no play in Taiwan (and often times, because of the gov in China, little play in China either).

None of the other commenters have listened to RTI and are just arm chair commenting. It's really a great station, commercial free, and full of interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

"We've had bias problems with NPR (National Public Radio) and PBS (Public Broadcasting System) for years having a decided bias in favor of American (not classical) liberalism."

In whose opinion? The GOP's? Sesame Street is pretty liberal.....

There is no point to debate with people who believe in liberal media bias...there are actually several academic studies have shown they are not. If you ask them for proofs, they won't give you any. And when you give them academic studies about media bias they will simply dismiss on liberal academicians i.e. one of studies was done in Berkeley. Just like conservatives still believe raising minimum wage will affect employment rate negatively. While over last four decades, every single studies have proven the believe to be faults (a little off topic but it is very relevant).

As a liberal and now I think myself more of a Constitutionist, all I have to say to all my liberal friends: Just make sure you have bigger/more guns than those foolish rednecks start picking on you. Viva 2nd amendment.

Anonymous said...

I've been so focused on the crap storm hitting the USA, I didn't realize the significance of this.

Yep, it is Singapore 2.0 or worse heading for the shores of the Taiwan region. From today's TT:

Speaking at the meeting, one of the directors got agitated, claiming that “the government has mobilized the media to force a mass resignation.”

btw: speaking of Singapore, here is a interesting link.

Anonymous said...

''There is no point to debate with people who believe in liberal media bias...there are actually several academic studies have shown they are not.''

And how do you do a reliable study without introducing your own biases?

And we fighting a moving target. When biases are so obvious that they can be pointed out regularly, the media does move to change them. One example was the habit the media was in during the 90s of calling conservatives "hard line", "extreme", etc. but never using such terms for liberals. During the Senate vote on the impeachment of President Clinton, it was pointed out afterwards how many times such words were used vs words like "moderate" for the liberals. The press has indeed improved on that point.

Statistics that are easier to measure than actual bias, like the voter registrations of reporters, show that reporters are overwhelmingly democrats - why should it surprise that their reporting is biased? But at least when it's the Washington Post I get to decide whether to pay for it - not so with PBS.

Does Mr. Turton have some academic studies showing pro-KMT or pro-China bias in Taiwan's media or in English media? That doesn't mean its not there (though in English media the bias can go both ways. I'm sure lots of pro-imperialism people object to the way the ROC is regularly referred to as "Taiwan" and the PRC is regularly referred to as "China").