Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tsai interviewed in WaPo

A little community lake in Miaoli

It's nice that the Washington Post interviewed President Tsai. Unfortunately -- as is all too common -- the Post interview went to someone who obviously knew nothing about Taiwan and apparently had hurriedly boned up on it. This was regrettable, all the more so because the Post employs Emily Rauhala who has already interviewed Tsai.

The introduction of the interview observed:
...Although China and Taiwan have been able to paper over their differences to date, tensions have been mounting since Tsai’s inauguration, when she did not restate the so-called ’92 consensus, in which Taipei and Beijing agreed that they are part of “one China” — but with different interpretations.
Um, nope. Beijing does not accept the "different interpretations" codocil. There is no excuse for regurgitating this piece of KMT propaganda -- explanations are all over the internet. Please stop, journalists. The two authoritarian, unelected governments in Taipei and Beijing did not agree on anything in 1992. At least, as the Taipei Times pointed out in an editorial, the interviewer used "so-called". My man maddog called attention to the KMT's response: the party said it was disappointed that Tsai had chosen to go with the will of the people on the 1992C (which has only minority support in Taiwan).

Someone needs to prepare Tsai for this nonsense so she can instantly point out Beijing never accepted that codocil.

A keen observer of local affairs pointed out in a couple of discussion groups that WaPo "paraphrased" Tsai's responses into laconic oblivion, and that of the interview's 1300 or so words, over 500 were the interviewer's questions. Reading Tsai's responses from the Presidential office transcript was thus a bit like reading the English subtitles of the 4 PM Godzilla movie when I was a kid:
CHARACTER SPEAKING JAPANESE: asajhaksd qwqiuey ;pteprofkepokf kaak alkje aaoijde alijl aiosudh! oasjudj llaije jliajdelij lalajd owoirjgw! aliaedj!

Keen Observer pointed to the WaPo question about which presidential candidate would be better for Taiwan (just think of all the questions the interviewer could have asked, but instead chose this pointless, disrespectful, and impolite question).

WAPO: "As the leader of a different country, it is not very wise for us to comment on the presidential election in the U.S."
The second half of the response, in which she expresses the hope that whoever is elected, current relations would continue, is simply removed, making Tsai sound almost truculent. Similarly, compare the length of WaPo's "question" (actually a pro-Beijing accusation) to Tsai's answer.
Q: It doesn’t seem that way. I think it was China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, part of the State Council, which said that your speech was “an incomplete exam.” There is no public indication that they appreciated your position. Are you, the president, in touch with your counterparts in the Chinese government?

A: Different levels of the government have different ways of communicating with their counterparts in China. At this stage, I cannot go into too much detail.

總統:就像我講的,現在所暫停的是兩會的管道、陸委會與國臺辦的管道,這在官方的意義或許是存在的,但問題是長久以來,雙方之間管道確實是很多元的,現在看到的兩會,也就是海基會與海協會兩會的溝通體制,只是整個多元管道中間的一部分。當我講到多元,其實它是有多層次的面向,不僅是政府在交流的過程中,很多政府機關跟他們在中國大陸的對口,也都有一定程度相互通訊息與交換意見的機制。I’m saying different levels of the government have different ways of communicating with their counterparts in China.(我政府各層級都有和中國大陸對口機構聯繫的管道)我不能在這個階段進入太多細節。
Sshe emphasizes that there are many communication channels between China and Taiwan, not only government bodies, but quasi-governmental bodies, and that many governmental bodies have their own communications channels with their Chinese counterparts. The second sentence about detail makes her seem abrupt.

Note that most of the questions have a China focus or a pro-Beijing slant:

  • Q: What is your impression of Chinese President Xi Jinping? (who cares? What answer could Tsai give as the leader of the Taiwan government? "I think Xi is a mass murdering authoritarian and dangerous to peace in Asia." That was a wasted question.)
  • Q: Some academics say Xi has a certain deadline by which he wants you to agree to the ’92 consensus. Is that right? (asks Tsai to respond to alleged China demand).
  • Q: Since your inauguration in late May, the Chinese have cut off the official channel that was used to communicate between Taiwan and the mainland. How do you plan to handle day-to-day relations with Beijing? (China focused and then repeated below...)
  • Q: It doesn’t seem that way. I think it was China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, part of the State Council, which said that your speech was “an incomplete exam.” There is no public indication that they appreciated your position. Are you, the president, in touch with your counterparts in the Chinese government? (...same question as previous, this time half accusation. Also the comment "no public indication" is assumptive -- some observers regarded China's "incomplete test paper" response as indicating flexibility and some dim appreciation of Tsai's position.)
  • Q: Do you feel you are closing the gap between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China?(Assumes "gap" -- whatever that means -- needs closed, and a lot like the last two questions. A completely unnecessary question. Was there nothing concrete to ask about?)
  • Q: Is it fair that Washington has considered Taiwan an entity, not a country, since 1979, when the United States changed sides and recognized the People’s Republic of China (with its capital in Beijing) — in lieu of the Republic of China in Taiwan (with its capital in Taipei) — as China? (this question is also stupid. What could Tsai answer? "No, you people are rotten bastards for switching recognition." Sometimes I wish she would. Think of all the other things that could have been discussed even if the interviewer wanted a more American focus: the pork and beef situation, the TPP, US investment, technology exports, the Taiwan Caucus in Congress, Taiwan's position on Capital Hill, the large Taiwanese population in the US...)
  • Q: So isn’t it unfair that Taiwan is not recognized in the world? (variant of previous question)
  • Q: American readers would find it hard to understand that you, as a Taiwanese president, are only allowed to come to the United States for 48 hours, and then only if it is a transit stop. (not a question, a teachable moment wasted. Three questions on this topic. LOL.)
  • Q: There has reportedly been a drop-off in tourists from the mainland. Will that hurt your tourist industry? (possibly a good topic, but phrased so simply)
  • Q: China could bring more pressure on Taiwan if it chose to. They could frighten away your diplomatic allies by threatening to weaken your bonds with them. Are you worried about that? (Seriously? "No, I'm not worried at all. Now where is my Prozac." China won't chase off all the ROC's friends for reasons that are obvious. Except to this interviewer. Tsai correctly shifts the issue to economic attacks.)
  • Q: So you think as far as your alliances go, they will stay as they are today? (asked and answered)
  • Q: Your predecessor, President Ma Ying-jeou, wanted to buy 66 F-16s from the United States. Even though 47 senators wrote in support of his request, nothing happened. Do you intend to repeat that request? (uninformed -- that was Chen Shui-bian who requested the F-16s. Ma did not want F-16s and dilly-dallied. Will Tsai repeat this request? F-16s have been DOA since requested...)
  • Q: I think Ma also asked for diesel submarines and got nowhere. Will you repeat that request? (Let's ask a question about a topic that's been DOA for a decade now. I mean, why ask about beef, or students, or the TPP, or the WHO, or the UN...)
  • Q: I understand that the focus of your program is domestic — that you want to raise wages, to give people more time off. But with a growth rate under 1 percent, how can you spur the economy while delivering increased social services? (Be still my beating heart. A question about domestic policy. [FAINTS])
  • Q: Isn’t China your No. 1 trading partner? (aaannnnddd back to China. That didn't last long).
  • Q: So China has become a competitor of Taiwan? (oh, China again. Couldn't use this space to ask about ASEAN? Japan? The EU? Defense cooperation with Japan and US? Chinese ADIZ over SCS? etc etc etc).
  • Q: I saw that you expressed disappointment over the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the South China Sea. It held that Taiping Island, which you claim as part of Taiwan, is a rock, not an island, and thus cannot enjoy an exclusive economic zone. Will you abide by the ruling? (this question is so well informed it seems like a question the Tsai team might have suggested. Which is very scary).
  • Q: It must have been difficult to be a woman leader in such a male-dominated society.(asked and answered in previous question, and ignorant too. Taiwanese are far more accepting of females in power roles than the US is -- it is a merely a US cultural prejudice that people in the US believe otherwise. Interestingly, while Tsai was allotted little space to answer in many of the previous important questions, WaPo let her speak fully on this minor issue -- which exoticizes Tsai as coming from an inferior country which is male-dominated, assumed to be unlike the US -- which has had precisely zero female presidents or vice presidents in 200 years. Taiwan has had one of each.)
Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


TaiwanJunkie said...

Thank you Michael.

I was wondering why Tsai's answers were so short and single worded.

Domenic said...

Anyone who has seen/read a Tsai interview prior to this will recognize how uncharacteristically brief her answers here were. It was very strange. Thanks for bringing these points up.

Anonymous said...

Keep it short so there is less room for other people to "twist" her words. Tsai is a very careful person.

US might undergo huge shift in foreign policy if Trump win. It is better to keep a low profile until dust settle.

Many people might think Clinton is a shoot-in but I am not sure. More and more articles shown increased head wind for Clinton:

US dictates Taiwan foreign policy so any changes in US strategy in Asia will have profound impact in Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

What is a "shoot-in"? Did you mean shoe-in? But then that doesn't make sense when you also say that articles show "increased head wind" for Clinton.

P. S. said...

So basically, you liked the article ;) In fact, I think this was an effective and favorable communication by Tsai, for most people. The answers were short and clear (except for those intentionally ambigufied). It showed backbone. And there was little discussion of the secret Taiwan plan to assassinate Xi Jinping which might have tended to alienate some.