Saturday, May 20, 2017

What even is this nonsense from Reuters again

Seriously, Reuters, what is your problem? 

This fistful of garbage was linked to by a friend for some reason, and I feel like it's worth taking ten minutes to conduct a quick review of how to spot anti-Taiwan bias (or "who cares about Taiwan" bias), something that pervades huge swaths of the media. 

Let's take a look, and laugh together.

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'?

But Beijing is "unlikely to budge" - they are not "hardliners" though, because...


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 sentiment amid pressure from Beijing on the proudly democratic island to bow to its "one China" policy.

1.) It's not "anti-China" sentiment, it's "pro-Taiwan" sentiment. Not wanting your country to be annexed by an aggressive neighbor doesn't make you "anti" that country, or rather, doesn't make you that any more than is reasonable. If the US up and decided that it was just going to take over Canada tomorrow, the Canadians who didn't want that to happen would not be "anti-US". This entire way of writing makes Taiwanese who simply love their country - in an engaged and informed way, not a jingoistic one - seem like the bad guys, and annexation seem like the reasonable move. As though wanting to keep a reasonably successful and mature democracy with the human rights and freedoms that entails rather than be subsumed against one's will by a dictatorship that regularly tortures, terrorizes and deprives its citizens makes one, well, a "hardliner". What? Seriously...what? 

2.) Not even a twinge of criticism or even a deeper look into what it means for China to pressure another country to bow to it? I thought we left behind the idea of tributary states in the colonial era, but I guess not

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.

Why should Tsai have to offer 'concessions' to a country that IS TRYING TO TAKE OVER HER COUNTRY AND ISN'T EVEN HIDING THAT FACT??


"President Tsai's attitude is that she is very determined to maintain the status quo of democracy and cross-Strait relations," the official said, referring to the body of water separating the two sides.

Wait, did JR Wu just mansplain to us what the Taiwan Strait is? Or what 'strait' means? Really? 

China has claimed Taiwan as its own since defeated Nationalists fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists. Only a handful of countries recognize Taiwan as a country, making it ineligible, for instance, for membership of UN organizations.

While this is an improvement over the old-school nonsense "China and Taiwan separated in 1949" phrasing, it still makes it sound as though Taiwan had been Chinese before the KMT fled there. Which, if you read like even one freakin' book on Taiwan - just one, really - you will know is not the case. 

In recent weeks, Tsai has given a series of interviews after a half-year break and taken to Twitter to talk about Taiwan being shut out of a UN health meeting and made her first extensive comments on the detention of a Taiwan activist in China.

OK, so Confucius McDoorknob here can't even bring himself to call Lee Ming-che a Taiwanese activist. He has to be a Taiwan activist. Being Taiwanese is not a thing, apparently? 

At least 70 percent of Taiwanese do not accept the "one China" policy, with 58.4 percent blaming Beijing as being the more provocative of the two since Tsai took office on May 20 last year, according to a poll by the Cross-Strait Policy Association, which is comprised of prominent academics and bipartisan figures.

It's hard to pinpoint the exact problem in wording here, but the implication one gets from the paragraph taken as a whole is that it is somehow a problem or a negative thing that the Taiwanese do not "accept" a policy that aims to annex their country, that their own government doesn't sincerely espouse, that is being forced on them by a foreign entity. It would, again, be like saying "at least 70% of Canadians do not accept the US's One-America policy" without critiquing that statement, thereby implying that this number is somehow worryingly high rather than showing a majority of people are reasonable and prescient. If anything, this number is lower than I'd like to see.

I would have to look into this, but you can't be more specific than "at least 70%"? Why not?

Maybe my uneasiness at this paragraph is enhanced by what directly follows it: 

"My concern right now is that on some level of cross-Strait relations, a collision is about to begin," said Fan Shih-ping, an association member and a political science professor at National Taiwan Normal University.

Oh, there will be a collision most likely. All we can hope for is that it doesn't result in all-out war. But putting this here draws a direct line in the reader's mind from that "at least 70%" of Taiwanese who won't accept that big ol' dickful of annexationist nonsense that China is trying to cram in their mouth to this "collision", implying it is their fault for not wanting to be annexed and therefore being, to quote Wu again, "anti-China". No attempt at all to explore who the real antagonist here is (SPOILER ALERT IT'S CHINA). 

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 sentiment but silently accepting Chinese annexationism?

It was 10 days before Beijing confirmed Li had been detained for security reasons, but so far it has not disclosed Li's whereabouts and last month canceled his wife's visa to stop her from going to China to look for him.

Not even one word on the very clear truth that these "security reasons" are likely bogus, or even an implication that they may be? 

Tsai has said both sides should look for a "new model" for ties but has not defined it, a senior DPP official said, mainly to show Beijing she is open to ideas.
"I hope Chairman Xi Jinping, as a leader of a large country and who sees himself as a leader, can show a pattern and flexibility, use a different angle to look at cross-Strait relations, and allow the future of cross-Strait ties to have a different kind of pattern," Tsai told Reuters in an interview last month.
China's biggest fear is that Tsai does something rash, like call an independence referendum, said a Beijing-based Western diplomat. That would give the hardliners in the Chinese military an upper hand for a forceful response, he added.

AAAAAHHHHH Tsai CAN'T "define" this new model because no matter what she says China will insist the problem is that Taiwan is being recalcitrant. It doesn't matter. China will always blame Taiwan for China's own aggression. She has to keep it vague, China is forcing her to. 

And not even one bit of inquiry into the unlikelihood of Tsai - who is the least 'rash' leader I've ever seen, she's a brick, not a typhoon - doing something 'rash'? Implying that she very well may?

China has never ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

So you're just going to report that without questioning it, without investigating it, without critiquing it? It's not that it's untrue, it's that the media takes it at face value without reporting to the public all that it implies, e.g. that China is quite literally threatening to violently annex another sovereign state, and that nobody seems to be calling them on that. In fact, they are a country that wants to be seen as a major global power - if not the major global power - and yet they think this sort of behavior and rhetoric is acceptable. This portends a massive shift in what we consider the values of developed/leading countries, and what it means to be a superpower and steward on a global scale. This quite literally means that an ascendant China shifts our entire moral compass, on a worldwide scale, away from democracy, freedom, human rights, peace through diplomacy and respect for territorial sovereignty. HOW IS THIS NOT FUCKING TERRIFYING and yet you are not even asking the question let alone attempting to answer it. It's just taken as normal and that is even more terrifying. 

Tsai and the DPP understand that before China's party congress in the autumn, Chinese President Xi won't be able to offer breakthroughs in ties even if he wanted to, Taiwan sources say.

Not a peep about how Xi's "inability" to "offer" breakthroughs is indicative of a horrifying level of dysfunctionality at the highest levels of government in China? Again, to remind you, a country that wants to set the standard for what it means to be a world leader? Do you not even want to engage with what this means?

Did you take two seconds to compare the picture you painted of Tsai and the Taiwanese majority - "hardliners", "might do something rash", "anti-China sentiment" - who are quite peaceful, not rash, and not trying to take over another country or start a war, with how you painted Xi Jinping and the CCP, who are trying to take over another country and very well may start a war? If Xi "can't offer a breakthrough", then he is dealing with hardliners, and not ruling out the use of force means they might do something rash, and they are absolutely anti-Taiwan, but you never say that. You give them a pass, while Taiwan over here is just trying to keep the peace and not get a thousand missiles launched right up its ass while maintaining its territorial integrity like any other country, and you make them sound like complete nutjobs.

A journalist's job is not only to report the facts, but to consider carefully the implications of those facts and report situations as accurately as possible, even if this does not mean two sides get equal airing of their views. You are not only not doing this, you are doing the opposite of this.

This is your job. It shouldn't be, but for now it is.

Do your job better. 

One foreign representative based in Taipei said the party congress and how ties develop between China and the United States, Taiwan's most important political ally, were variables Tsai could not control.
"She's got to map out all the pressure points and try to mitigate them," he said.

So, like, we're not criticizing Xi for being "unable" to do anything for Taiwan when China is the aggressor in the first place, but we are talking about how this is all on Tsai, when Taiwan is the country under threat?

Did anyone - anyone at all - from the writer to the editor to the copyeditor to the guy who pressed the key to publish this trash heap stop to think for one second what this sounds like?

Christ, Reuters.

You suck and I hate you.

And you folks reading at home, this is what I mean when I say the media is biased against Taiwan and terrified of China. 


Michael Turton said...

Nice wor...

Harald Dahl said...

I really like the way you write.

Regarding the slanted reporting, I attribute it to:

1. Lazy, sloppy journalism. That is, so-called "reporters" who have collectively sunk so low in their professional standards that they routinely file such incongruous cut-and-paste muck as this without checking their facts, sources, or even making a nominal effort to balance China's POV with a Taiwanese perspective. If I had $NT50 for every time I've had to read the sentence, "China considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be united with the mainland by force if necessary", I could afford a flat in Xinyi.

2. CCP Propaganda, which continuously bombards global media with its meticulously-crafted image of a benevolent China and responds to any expression of sympathy for Taiwanese national aspirations as the product of dangerous anti-China separatist "hard-liners" or "Western anti-Chinese forces seeking to interfere in China's internal affairs."

3. Western Intellectuals. Chairman Mao has been the mystical darling of Harvard professors since before the Second World War, and for them, the CCP can do no wrong. They have always regarded Chiang Kai-Shek and the KMT "regime" as "reactionary" and ignore or minimize anything good about Taiwan (such as freedom, democracy, human rights, land reform, etc...) as if the Generalissimo was still in charge locking up dissidents (which is OK when China does it, because it's to maintain "social harmony". Go figure).

4. Ineffective/insufficient Taiwanese PR. Put plainly, the Taiwanese government could do a lot more to counter the widespread pro-China slant in the Western media as evidenced in this sloppy Reuters piece. They really need to decide what they want to communicate to the world about Taiwan and then get that message out there in as many ways possible. How about sponsoring something on NPR, for example? "All Things Considered is made possible by ... TAIWAN - an Asian Island of democracy where over 30 million people enjoy freedom and human rights."