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Wednesday, September 27, 2006


The Economist Misses a Chance

The Economist became the latest in a long line of foreign media to miss the boat on the Shih Ming-teh protests with a poorly-informed article on the "protests." Look at the subheading:

Masses in Taiwan protest against the government

Weeks have elapsed since the beginning of the anti-Chen campaign. There have been innumerable blogposts, discussions on academic lists, and articles in the local and international press that have clearly identified the supporters of Shih as predominantly Blue. Bo Tedards, a longtime observer of our local political life, pinned the butterfly to the display stand quite neatly:

Surely they would be even more satisfied if a nice upstanding general would take power? Indeed so. Having visited the demonstrations several times on varying days and times, it is apparent that a majority of them are the very same people who used to support the New Party.

This group, which emerged from the old Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) "non-mainstream" faction, was strongly pro- military, and to this day its successors have many deep ties with the armed forces.

The non-mainstream faction was a set of Deep Blues who opposed Lee Teng-hui's accession to power and nearly staged a coup against him. In the 1996 Presidential election, they ran Premier Hau Pei-tsun as their candidate against the mainstream KMT Lee Teng-hui and the DPP's Peng, losing badly. The "protests" are simply one way to strike back at Chen Shui-bian, a native Taiwanese and supporter of independence. This is not about corruption. It is about the Blues' obsessive hatred of Chen.

The opening sentence frames the issue in a pro-Blue manner:

“RED terror” on the streets of Taipei is how Taiwan's ruling party has, with predictable hyperbole, described days of protests aimed at toppling the island's president, Chen Shui-bian, because of alleged corruption.

The reality is that the protesters aren't the least bit concerned about corruption, as Jerome Keating pointed out today in the Taipei Times:

Last Thursday, Keelung Mayor Hsu Tsai-li (許財利) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was sentenced to seven years in prison and deprived of his civil rights for eight years after being found guilty of corruption. He had used his position to facilitate a land deal for his own profit.

Last December, when Hsu was running for re-election, he was already under suspicion, but Taipei Mayor and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) campaigned for him anyway and he won. In May, Hsu was formally indicted.

What was Ma's reaction? He refused to revoke Hsu's KMT membership because, he said, being indicted does not constitute guilt.

It is true: Indictment does not constitute guilt. Remember that as Point One.

In the meantime, former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德), that paid pan-blue lackey, has been leading his Red Guard and a core group of KMT supporters in a campaign to topple an elected president.

The supposed theme of their anti-Chen campaign is "anti-corruption."

But is the president guilty of anything? No.

Has the president been indicted for anything? No.

Still, at Shih's and the pan-blue camp's insistence, a president who has not even been indicted must step down from office. Remember that as Point Two.

The presence of corrupt politicians addressing the protesters has been discussed numerous times on this and other blogs, as well as in the pro-Green media. Instead of exploring what the protests are about, the Economist simply presents the Blue framing without comment. Perhaps that would have been excusable three weeks ago, but not at this late date, when so much has been laid bare around the net. The Economist then goes on to note:

Few expect Mr Chen to capitulate readily to the demands of the demonstrators, who are led by Shih Ming-teh, a former chairman of Mr Chen's own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and a long-time critic of the president.

Here again is a thumbnail of the narrative that Jason identified, worth repeating again:

Sadly, this article is one of many cookie-cutter pieces designed to “fit” a narrative that editors seem to have already written: the “Mad Chen”, frustrated by his inability to plunge Taiwan into a war of independence with China, turns to corruption with the help of his Lady MacBeth while the rest of the country suffers in silence. Meanwhile, the selfless freedom fighter Shih returns from the political wilderness to valiantly fight on against his now-fallen student for the good of the Republic.

Toss another bad bit of presentation onto the pile No mention of the fact that Shih left the DPP and joined a pro-Blue thinktank with other pro-Blue turncoats from the DPP. Certainly Shih is a long-time critic of the President -- because for a long time he's been a Blue! Despite the fact that this information has been publicly available, in newspapers, on blogs, and elsewhere, not a single foreign reporter has managed to mention it. They prefer the neat black-and-white narrative of Shih the Reformer, rather than the more interesting and sordid truth of Shih the Failure and Sell-out.

The rest of the article is a moderately decent analysis of the politics of the issue.

China would like the KMT to take back the presidency. But it fears that an embattled Mr Chen might try to shore up his popularity by pushing the island further towards formal independence from China. Mr Chen said last week that he was considering calling a referendum on whether to try to join the United Nations under the name Taiwan, instead of Republic of China, as the island still calls itself.

How Mr. Chen would push the island toward formal independence is a mystery, inasmuch as the legislature is controlled by the Blues and would never permit it. The interesting thing about this article is the phrase "formal independence." It is also used in the planted article in the Washington Post last week:

The months-old allegations that his wife, other relatives and key aides exploited their positions for illegal financial gain have weakened his leadership. The situation has raised questions about whether Chen will have the confidence to push for formal independence for the self-ruled island of 23 million, a move China has threatened to oppose with military force.

Look at those two phrases:

pushing the island further towards formal independence
push for formal independence

Is Jane Rickards the author of this article? Rickards is not a disinterested foreign correspondent, but an English reporter for the pro-KMT China Post. Perhaps the writer has only relied on the Rickards article as a source -- that would also explain the bias. Certainly the spectre of Mad Chen the Crazed Independence Monster is a bit of pro-KMT propaganda. The only question is why it gets repeated here.

Once again, I can't wait for the media gods to send us reporters who care about the island, who know about it, and who are willing to write robustly about it. Until then, we will have to amuse ourselves shredding the ill-informed crap that the international media regularly cooks up on Taiwan.


At 6:59 PM, Blogger Feiren said...

Unfortunately Jerome's comment is now out of date on two key points. Hsu has been stripped of his KMT membership and Ma has called on Hsu to resign.

At 10:22 PM, Blogger Wulingren said...

Today, in one of the RTI stories about China warning Chen not to introduce a new constitution, the phrase "de jure independence" popped up:

"On Wednesday, the spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Li Weiyi, said China would not tolerate Taiwan's de jure independence by a constitutional amendment. Li said China is closely watching the move taken by Chen."

I'm not sure what the original Chinese was, but it strikes me as the same thing as formal independence. The question isn't about de facto independence, which Taiwan already is; China doesn't want Taiwan to formalize it, to write it into the constitution. Most likely, "formal independence" comes from a Chinese source, perhaps China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

I just read the Chinese version, which says that the Chinese Ambassador to America, Zhou Wenzhong, claims Taiwan's leaders are "...scheming to fulfill their goal of turning 'Taiwan Independence' into a legal principle by means of constitutional reform." (圖謀通過憲法改造謀求實現法理台獨的目標). The word for "legal principle," "fali"法理 is what reporters are translating as de jure or formal.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Michael Turton said...

Yes, just today, there was a report in the Taipei Times about it. But Jerome's point is still valid; if Chen must resign while unindicted, surely Hsu should have resigned while indicted.

At 10:00 PM, Blogger Michael Turton said...

Yeah, I wondered about the de jure too. What an interesting distinction; almost seems to recognize our de facto independence.


At 12:31 AM, Blogger Wulingren said...

I guess as long as there is no de jure or formal independence--that is, written into the constitution--it is easier for China to convince international organizations that Taiwan is simply a Chinese province and does not need any separate representation.

There is also the notion of name (ming) corresponding to reality (shi) in traditional Chinese "Confucian" culture. As Confucius said, "A father must father and a son must son, etc.... Obviously the Chinese government and perhaps a majority of the population (though that is always difficult to gauge) does not recognize the reality that Taiwan is independent. They might say, "A nation must nation and a province must province, but a province can't nation." So, the Taiwan independence movement undermines that whole conception and basically all of the rhetoric that the CCP and KMT have been spouting for the last half century.


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