Sunday, May 21, 2017

With Reuters on the job, who needs Xinhua?

Just a lovely day in the hills around Taichung

Jenna ripped Reuters this week for publishing another hallucinogenic article on Taiwan. Jenna nailed two common problems...
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is signaling she needs more give and take from China to rein in hardliners on an island China considers its own, officials say, but Beijing is unlikely to budge months before its five-yearly Communist Party Congress.


Wanting your country which is already independent to continue to be that way without the threat of war is not a hard-line stance. Not that many of us want a formal declaration of independence right now (well, I do, but I know I can't have it and I've made my peace with that). We know it's impossible for the time being, but are working toward it happening, peacefully, someday. How does this equate to being a 'hardliner'?
It's amazing, as I often note, that you can lock up dissidents, implement massive national surveillance, carry out campaigns of terror and murder in occupied areas, threaten the nations around you with war and expand into their territories, but if you oppose that and want to live in a peaceful democracy... you're a hardliner. The real hardliners live in Beijing and threaten to plunge the region into war.

Jenna also puts her finger on another problem: the constant interrogation of and deconstruction of pro-Taiwan, pro-democracy language and positions, while nothing similar occurs with Chinese claims:
A spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office said last week everything wrong with the current relations could be blamed on the DPP and its refusal to accept "one China".

"No matter what new flowery language the DPP comes up with, it can't shift its responsibility for this reality," spokesman An Fengshan said.

No attempt to critique this? None? Not even a few words to deconstruct what An Fengshan is saying? Tearing apart pro-Taiwan semtiment but silently accepting Chinese annexationism?
There's more to say, and Jenna says it (Go thou and read!) but I'd like to point out one additional thing: Reuters' "interpretation" of Tsai's posture is very close to a flat out lie -- indeed, the only thing that saves it from becoming a lie is that it is an interpretation. What did they say?
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is signaling she needs more give and take from China to rein in hardliners on an island China considers its own, officials say, but Beijing is unlikely to budge months before its five-yearly Communist Party Congress.

As she marks one year in office on Saturday, Tsai, leader of the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is facing a surge in anti-China[sic, should be pro-Taiwan] sentiment amid pressure from Beijing on the proudly democratic island to bow to its "one China" policy.

It is becoming more difficult to hold the line against independence-minded constituents and even tougher for Tsai to offer concessions to Beijing, one senior government official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
This is simply rank nonsense, from an anonymous source, of course. We will pass another year, and another, and the "hardliners" (pro-Taiwan types) will be fine. The idea that Tsai is bargaining with Beijing to "hold the line" against "hardline" independence types is pure fantasy. They are not a majority either in Taiwan or even within the DPP. Rather, as the AP article correctly notes, Tsai is focusing on domestic reforms, where she is receiving immense pressure.
Yet, the island's first female president seems focused on policy initiatives at home as well as maintaining robust relations with the United States, Taiwan's most important source of arms and political support.
Compare Reuters' nutcase description of Tsai's position with this great piece at Ketagalen Media on Tsai's difficult balancing act. (Note also that the AP piece forthrightly assigns to Beijing the blame for cutting off relations). Brookings also has a one-year review. The deeper reviews all missed Tsai begging for help with hardliners... how could have happened?

As for the "Tsai wants Beijing to help her with hardliners" interpretation of Reuters... lets see. I think everyone else reporting on this missed it...
  • Is that in the government media's report of Tsai's speech (FocusTw)? Nope. That's domestic focus. 
  • In the domestic private English language media (Taiwan News). Nope, again, the focus is on domestic issues. 
  • Is it in the longer and very good AP report on the speech? Nope -- in fact that clearly states "The only serious political pressure Tsai faces comes from the opposition Nationalist Party..." 
  • How about Bloomberg? Surely they would have noticed Tsai begging Beijing for help. Nope, lots of data, but apparently they missed Tsai begging Beijing for help with the hardliners pressuring her from below. 
  • Over at the European Council on Foreign Relations, they somehow missed Tsai begging Xi for help.
  • Taipei Times also fails to discover that Tsai is frantically signaling Xi
Wow... so brilliant of Reuters to notice what everyone else missed, eh? Not!

If you are using Reuters as an information source on Taiwan, you are being misled. Badly.
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!


Jenna Cody said...

Thanks for the shout-out!

I'm hoping to use it as something I can just link back to any time someone I know seems to be taking their cues from the media as to how to view Taiwan. nope

Ji Xiang said...

Mmmm.....I think this is more an example of sloppy journalism and laziness, rather then the result of some willingness by Reuters to bow down to pressure from Beijing or support the Chinese line.

Anonymous said...

You can live in a democracy within Chinese sovereignty too. I'm sure China will be happy to give complete autonomy to Taiwan SAR. Reuters is correctly pointing that Taiwan Independence is an absurd idea when its completely unnecessary. That is why it is hardline