Combat Fatigue: Time Magazine catchs on to Taiwan’s Reality
April 22, 2006
Executive Summary: Some elements within the US major media are finally beginning to report the truth about Taiwan. It’s about time. In the past the US major media simply parroted the Taiwan Lobby’s simplistic “democratic Taiwan David vs. totalitarian [mainland] Chinese Goliath” line, largely verbatim. Now, some elements within the US major media are belately telling at least part of the real story. Are they providing more accurate coverage now because they have finally gotten wise to the reality of Taiwan’s politics? Or were they wise to the reality of Taiwan’s politics all along, but deliberately slanting their coverage to aid and abet political forces they sympathized with? Perhaps it was a little of both. Fortunately, some elements within the US major media are beginning to tell at least part of the truth about Taiwan. They are pretty late coming to the game, but better late than never.
Let’s look at Time Magazine’s latest report on Taiwan, entitled “Combat Fatigue.” and see what it has to say.
Sunday, Mar. 26, 2006
Taiwan’s voters are tiring of the island’s rancorously divided politics and of President Chen’s provocative stance towards China
BY BILL POWELL AND TIM CULPAN, with reporting by Elaine Shannon/Washington and Donald Shapiro/Taipei
Time Magazine: There are moments these days when a person like Chloe Lee, a 32-year-old boutique owner in downtown Taipei, can seem like a forgotten soul amid the bitterness that now defines politics in Taiwan. In the 1990s, she worked for the then opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), when it stood for reform and change, she says, not just for Taiwan’s autonomy from China. But nowadays, she says, the ruling DPP—and, for that matter, its leader Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian—seems like a one-trick pony, and a tired pony at that. “We spend too much time on Chen and his independence,” says Lee. “We have more important and deeper things to discuss.”
Comment: This coverage is a vast improvement over past news reports that merely parroted stock phrases such as, “a growing sense of Taiwanese national identity.” Reading those so-called “news reports” one got the unmistakable impression that the reporters were secretly hoping that by writing about “a growing sense of Taiwanese national identity” they would be promoting “a growing sense of Taiwanese national identity.” Hopefully that kind of “news coverage” will become less common in the coming years. That said, this coverage still has a way to go before it tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It dramatically understates the degree of disillusionment that Pan Green voters and former Pan Green voters feel not only toward the DPP as a political party, but toward Taiwan independence as a political goal.
Time Magazine: Chen, meanwhile, creates “independence” controversies even where none would seem to exist: witness his high profile dismantling last month of the National Unification Council, which was created to explore Taiwan’s eventual reunification with the mainland. Chen called the body and its governing guidelines, established in 1990, “absurd products of an absurd era.” But the truth is that it was a dormant outfit that a fair number of Taiwanese hadn’t even heard of until Chen closed it as a way of thumbing his nose at Beijing. Then, as if for emphasis, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry last week proposed removing some run-down statues of Chiang Kai-shek, former KMT leader and ruler of Taiwan for three decades, from military bases across the country …
Comment: Finally, the US major media has correctly identified the real “troublemaker” in the Taiwan Straits. Past news reports reflexively blamed Beijing, purely on the basis of an a Manichean “you’re either with us or against us in the fight against the enemies of democracy” dichotomy. Newsweek Magazine’s 1996 puff piece on Lee Teng-hui, entitled “Mr. Democracy,” was the worst example of such “advocacy journalism.” Such news stories were not journalism. They were Taiwan independence fellow traveler agitprop.
Time Magazine: The problem for Chen and the DPP is that voters like Lee are losing patience with the politics of provocation and confrontation. Taiwan has a myriad of economic ties to the mainland—the factories of scores of Taiwanese companies are located there. And in many ways, Taiwan—which Beijing regards as a renegade province—already functions as if it were truly independent; when Chen stokes the issue, it strikes many as both gratuitous and reckless, given Beijing’s threats to strike with missiles if Taiwan moves to declare itself independent. According to a poll conducted last month by TVBS, a national television network, “boosting the economy” rated nine out of 10 in terms of importance, while “resolving the issue of unification and/or independence” scored just four out of 10. Public weariness with the wrangling over independence has had an effect: the DPP fared poorly in local elections last December, and a recent poll put Chen’s approval rating at a dismal 15%.
Comment: Gratuitous and reckless indeed. In the past, the US major media invariably rushed to the defense of Taiwan independence provocateurs without bothering to verify Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. The implicit attitude of the US major media seemed to be: Hell, we already know who’s on the side of the angels, so why do we need to waste all that time and energy checking the facts?
Since September 11, 2001, George Bush Jr. has been insisting that those responsible for 9/11 attacked the US because “They [the Muslim world] hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”
Libertarians of course know better. Libertarians know that the real reason the Muslim world hates the US is that the US is engaged in Neocolonialist, Neo-imperialist aggression against Muslim nations in their own backyard.
Taiwan’s Quisling nomenklatura has been peddling a virtually identical, equally nonsensical line for the past 18 years. Taiwan’s Quisling nomenklatura would have the world believe that “They [mainland Chinese] hate what they see right here on Taiwan: a democratically [sic] elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”
Libertarians of course know better. Libertarians know that the real reason patriotic Chinese on the mainland and on Taiwan hate (despise is a better word) Taiwan’s Quisling nomenklatura is that Taiwan’s Quisling nomenklatura are willing proxies of US and Japanese Neocolonialist, Neo-imperialist aggression against China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Libertarians know that Beijing doesn’t particularly care what kind of system the Taiwan region has, as long as the Taiwan region doesn’t become a foreign nation and foreign territory. After all, have we forgotten that Beijing went to a lot of trouble to devise a legal framework that explicitly allows the Taiwan region to have its own political system, whatever that is? That legal framework is known as “One Country, Two Systems.” Could Beijing’s attitude be any clearer?
A recent confidential in-house poll commissioned by the DPP for DPP Eyes Only put Chen Shui-bian’s approval rating at 18%, and the DPP’s approval rating at 18%. This poll, to the dismay of the DPP party hierarchy, was leaked to the press. What’s worse, a even more recent confidential in-house poll, again commissioned by the DPP for DPP Eyes Only, and again leaked to the press, showed that both Chen Shui-bian’s approval rating and the DPP’s approval rating dropping another five points to 13%!
Time Magazine: Critics say the DPP’s fixation on [mainland] China skews economic policy, making faster growth difficult to achieve: just last week, Chen’s government tightened restrictions on companies planning investments in [mainland] China.
Comment: “Skews economic policy, making faster growth difficult to achieve” is not exactly wrong, but neither is it right. It is a gross understatement. Taiwan’s economy is in such dire straits Taiwan’s suicide rate due to utter destitution is among the highest in Asia, one suicide each hour among a population of 23 million. Taiwan’s Quisling nomenklatura is naturally not among this class of newly impoverished suicide victims. The “First Family” for example, can be routinely seen living large on the evening news, dining at five star gourmet restaurants, shopping for exclusive European designer fashions, purchasing multi-million dollar luxury condominiums, driving the latest model Jaguar imports, even traveling to Switzerland to deposit the estimated US$100 to 300 million they have embezzled from ROC taxpayers in their numbered accounts.
Time Magazine: The U.S., which has pledged to defend Taiwan against Chinese attack, has been irritated by Chen’s compulsion to upset the status quo.
Comment: To describe the US as “irritated” is again, a major understatement. The Bush II administration was incensed at Chen Shui-bian’s shenanigans.
Time Magazine: Lin Chong-pin, a professor at Taipei’s Foundation for International and Cross Strait Studies, argues that there’s a large, moderate group of voters in Taiwan who … are weary of the war of words with [mainland] China … 36-year-old Taipei resident Elsa Lu. “Who cares if you are Chinese or Taiwanese,” says Lu, who works in her family’s Taipei-based printing business. “As long as we all have a good standard of living, either unification or independence will be good.” During the presidential election two years hence, whoever can tap into that sentiment may well be Taiwan’s political future.
Comment: Elsa Lu’s remark, “Who cares if you are Chinese or Taiwanese, as long as we all have a good standard of living, either unification or independence will be good” is what terrifies Taiwan’s Quisling nomenklatura. Taiwan’s Quisling nomenklatura are desperate to exploit the half century old Cold War divide to establish an artificial “Taiwanese, not Chinese” ethnic and national identity. They know that with the end of the Cold War, their window of opportunity is closing rapidly. They know their artificially concocted ethnic and national identity cannot withstand the test of reality. They know ever closer cross-Straits people to people contacts will shatter their flimsy illusion of separate “Taiwanese, not Chinese” vs. “Chinese, not Taiwanese” ethnic and national identities. That is why even if though they know the consequence of their “Taiwanese, not Chinese” Apartheid is economic ruin and mass suicide among the “Taiwanese, not Chinese” they claim to love, they are prepared to sacrifice “Taiwanese, not Chinese” lives to their cause. Other “Taiwanese, not Chinese” lives that is, not their own.