Sunday, December 11, 2011

Example #101598: Tensions are First Causes, without Cause themselves

In an otherwise excellent article in WaPo on how Beijing is really bummed that the pro-Taiwan side appears to be doing well in our local elections, Keith Richburg scribes:
During Ma’s term, relations across the volatile Taiwan Strait have been, as he put it in an interview, “the most stable of anytime in 60 years.” But the prospect that he might lose to a candidate of the independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party has raised fears among some analysts in China of renewed tension, which might once again draw in the United States. This last happened in 1996, when China fired missiles near Taiwan and the Clinton administration sent additional naval ships to the region as a show of U.S. determination not to allow China to intimidate Taiwan.
Tension, as I have pointed out one million times, is a policy choice of Beijing. We saw that clearly in the decision to upgrade Taiwan's extant F-16s rather than sell the nation new ones, when China chose to restrain its usual tension-boosting. I wrote:
 It is hard to think of a clearer illustration that tensions are (1) caused by Beijing and (2) totally under Beijing's control and (3) a calculated policy response and not some putative visceral reaction, aimed at US support for Taiwan and US analysts and observers. I suppose, though, it is too much to hope that the media will cease writing as if tensions occur without agents causing them, or that Taiwan is the cause of tensions between Beijing and Washington.
Why is it impossible in the media to actually name the source of tensions in the China-Taiwan-US triangle?
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Anonymous said...

I should think that as long as these media companies have their Asian bureaux in Shanghai and Beijing, they will toe the Chinese line.

D said...

Go to Google News and search for "tension". You'll find much more than the China-Taiwan issue being put under the discourse of "tension". Journalists are (rightly) very hesitant to assign blame in regular reportage.

I would be more upset about the "among some analysts in China" part of the quote you highlight, but that may actually be the reporter's way of distancing himself from the "tension" idea, don't you think?

Michael Turton said...

Yes, I noticed the odd formation too. Don't know what to think about it.

While there isn't much point in having a media if it doesn't report what is actually happening, it does create space for those of us interesting in reporting what is actually happening. So I guess I should be thanking media incompetence and cowardice for making my blog possible, eh? :)

richard said...

i think one of the reasons why those same opinions constantly prevail in the mainstream media is, because journalists often come back to the same sources.
once they have someone on their phone list or email adresses, they simply contact them all the time. maybe they do not want to try something new.
it is mostly the same faces commenting in cnn or other major broadcasts

D said...

Yes, blogs (ie, truly independent media) are kind of a new "fifth estate", a new media space. Like editorial pages but without the capital that lies behind them. Wonder what it will lead to.