Showing posts with label bad_journalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bad_journalism. Show all posts

Monday, June 10, 2019

Taiwan's under-appreciated smackdown of the Hong Kong extradition bill, plus huge media fail

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It's not a beautiful cover image, but I don't know how to make it clearer, guys. Quit it already. 

You may have noticed in the vicious opposition to the (deeply terrifying) extradition law that Hong Kong looks set to pass by the end of June - yes, despite the massive protest - that one of the reasons the CCP-owned Hong Kong LegCo (the city's legislative body) gives for the urgency in passing this law is directly related to Taiwan.


Hong Kong resident Chan Tong-kai murdered his girlfriend in Taiwan in 2018 before flying back to Hong Kong, and is currently in custody on money laundering charges related to his dead girlfriend's assets there. However, as the murder took place in Taiwan, Hong Kong can't charge him for it. As there is no formal extradition treaty between Taiwan and Hong Kong, he can't be sent back to Taiwan to stand trial, either. Because he's not in jail for murder, he could be free by October. So now, China Hong Kong is insisting that it needs to be passed so that Chan can be sent to Taiwan to face murder charges.

Here's what's interesting to me - I kept seeing this repeated in the media. It appears in almost every Ali Baba Daily South China Morning Post piece on the extradition bill and subsequent protests. It's present in the Reuters article above. Even the New York Times is including that tidbit, and the BBC has been leaning on it for awhile. It also pops up in The Guardian

Here's the thing, though. Taiwan has already said it will not ask for Chan's extradition - which negates the 'we need this bill for Taiwan' argument altogether:


“Without the removal of threats to the personal safety of [Taiwan] nationals going to or living in Hong Kong caused by being extradited to mainland China, we will not agree to the case-by-case transfer proposed by the Hong Kong authorities,” Chiu Chui-cheng, deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, told reporters on Thursday" [last month - this piece is from May].

And yet most media are still pretending that China's Hong Kong's argument is still valid enough to include without comment, without mentioning that the bill is not at all needed for this purpose, because Taiwan's already said it isn't.

It's a wonderful smackdown from Taiwan, making it quite clear that their solidarity with the real will of Hong Kong residents will not be compromised.

Taiwan does not want this bill to be passed despite China Hong Kong using that as an excuse. Yet nobody is reporting it. 


Protests and demonstrations in Taiwan frequently enjoy solidarity from Hong Kong, and Hong Kong democracy and sovereignty movements are strongly supported among social movement activists in Taiwan (and have some level of popularity among everyday people here, too). There's a huge amount of cross-pollination and quite a few friendships that bridge the two groups of activists - a state of affairs which China is unhappy about, but can't really do much to stop (beyond banning Taiwanese activists and certain political figures from visiting Hong Kong). Even outside of social activist circles, Hong Kongers and Taiwanese share a bond stemming from their common threat and common desire to either obtain or uphold democratic norms. The two movements - formal independence for Taiwan and sovereignty for Hong Kong - are quite intertwined.

So, I happen to think this goes beyond trying to convince Hong Kongers of the need for expediency in passing the law. To sow discord between Taiwan and Hong Kong by drawing attention to a murder case in Taiwan that can only be solved by this Trojan Horse extradition law would be a major victory for China - I have to believe this "Taiwan excuse" is a push in that direction.

More people should be appreciating that Taiwan shut it right down over a month ago. At the very least, the media should be including a short acknowledgement of it every time they include China's Hong Kong's "Taiwan excuse", or stop including it altogether.

It makes sense that Taiwan wouldn't buy it (and you shouldn't either) - nobody who is sympathetic to the fight against encroaching Chinese expansionism, who thinks about the issue for more than a few seconds, would think that the extradition of one murder suspect to Taiwan would be enough to merit the passage of a broadly damaging law in Hong Kong. The price is simply too high.

So jeez, guys. Stop recycling stale old garbage. If it smells bad, dump it. 


Of course this isn't the only media fail - in the Chinese-language Taiwanese media...well. They're either not covering the Hong Kong protests at all or put them way at the back:





As my husband pointed out when he fired up the United Daily News app out of curiosity: "UDN does cover it, but to get to a story about it you have to scroll through three pictures of Han Kuo-yu, a picture of Wang Jin-pyng and a picture of Terry Gou."

So while all my green and colorless friends know what's going on, once again all the blue-leaners in Taiwan won't realize the import of these protests and make up their minds accordingly. Thanks, Chinese Taiwanese media, for being so singularly awful! 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Despite some unfortunate headlines, media coverage of Taiwan recognizing same-sex marriage is exactly what we needed

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Pro-equality activists have been talking about the tangential benefits of same-sex marriage (or better yet, marriage equality) in Taiwan for years, most notably that it would be a massive boost to Taiwan's international visibility. Just imagine the international media coverage, all focused on Taiwan, especially if we're the first in Asia, we've been saying since...forever.

Last Friday it happened. We laughed, we (happy) cried, it was the feel-good legislation of the year.  And just like we said, the rainbow explosion wasn't limited to Taiwan. Every major media outlet around the world - not just the ones in Western nations - carried the news.

Let's put that into perspective. After 2014, when I mentioned "the Sunflowers" to my friends in the US, I was met with blank stares. I may as well have been talking about actual sunflowers that you can grow in a garden. This time, I don't think I have a friend or relative in the world who hasn't heard the news. Taiwan did something huge, and it mattered to the news cycle that it was the first country in Asia to strike a blow for equality.

Wait, what was that I just said? First country?

Reading most English-language media, unfortunately, that word has been avoided with the most, um, ductile of language choices (please enjoy some links to examples). First place in Asia. The island's parliament. Taiwan's parliament...in historic first for Asia. First in Asia.

 First what in Asia? It seems nobody is willing to clarify. Or if they are, it's a 'state' (how is that different from a country?) or a 'self-ruled island'.

Of course, a few incompetent dipclowns (like the World Economic Forum) kind of soured it by calling this country "Taiwan, China", The Guardian called Taiwan a country on Instagram then issued a correction that it was a 'state', and now seems to have taken the post down (I can't find it to link it), and of course the Chinese media gonna Chinese media and whatever.

I propose, however, that the good reporting on this issue (and reporting that is good for Taiwan) has far outstripped the few geographically-challenged dumbos.

First, plenty of media did call Taiwan a country. USA Today called Taiwan a "country" via the Associated Press. The Chicago Tribune used it in their headline too, as did QuartzThe New York Times didn't use that word in their title, but they managed to find a quote to help them slip it in, and CNN did too. Bloomberg managed to stick it into three separate quotes the day before the vote (good job!), and a Bloomberg-affiliated video on Youtube uses the word "country" and so did DW. ANI (from South Asia) called Taiwan a "nation", Bustle called it a "country". Here is The Economist using it in their first paragraph and The Washington Post using "nation" towards the top of the article. There are surely more - there are only so many articles on the same topic that I can read.

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That's a lot of major media calling Taiwan a 'country' or a 'nation' and a lot of readers who will now understand that Taiwan is indeed a country. Nothing at all to sniff at.

Look beyond the English-language media, and it gets even better. On Twitter, Pierre Baubry noted that most French media called Taiwan a country:





...and that lines up with my admittedly shallow research (the sub-headline in Le Monde called Taiwan a 'country'). It's the same in Spanish. No really. There seem to be very few outliers, and even this one references the word "country" within the first paragraph.

But you know what? That's not even the best part.

The best part is that almost every single one of these stories, whether they called Taiwan a 'country', 'nation', 'place', 'state', 'island' or nothing at all ('first in Asia!'), focused on Taiwan itself. 

Not its relationship to China. Not what China thinks about Taiwan. Not China's reaction. Taiwan. The deliberations of Taiwan's legislature. What Taiwanese voters and demonstrators think. What President Tsai did. Taiwan's domestic political situation. China was a non-entity, as it should be, seeing as it's a totally different country. I mean, our buddy Ralph "I hate Taiwan but still write about it" Jennings framed his piece in relation to China but...well. Who cares - at least this time - if one guy buried the lede?

What I mean is, for once, the international media mostly reported on Taiwan the way they should have been all along.

When China was mentioned, it was either in passing without any of that 1949 claptrap, or it was to compare Taiwan favorably to China. Yay!

From the Washington Post:


In neighboring China — which asserts sovereignty over Taiwan — popular LGBT microblogs were censored online in the wake of Taiwan’s 2017 high-court ruling. The social media platform Weibo was criticized last month for restricting LGBT hashtags. 
Taiwan has shown that “traditional culture is not against LGBT culture,” said Jennifer Lu, coordinator of the rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan. “That’s the message we want to send to the world.”

Another great thing? All of the amazing soundbites from Taiwan being reported around the world, which focus specifically on the progressive conversation happening here. From the Washington Post:

Tsai, the president, voiced her support of the legislation in a Twitter post, saying that Friday marked “a chance to make history and show the world that progressive values can take root in an Asian society.”

And another one from WaPo correctly pointing out that this has long been an issue in Taiwan, correctly delineating Taiwanese activist history as continuous and robust:


Chi Chia-wei, a gay rights activist for more than 30 years, said he was “very, very happy” to see Taiwan legalize same-sex marriage, calling the process “a strong demonstration of our democratic spirit.” 

From the New York Times:

“Taiwan has become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage,” it said, “successfully striding toward a new page of history!” 
Human rights activists said they hoped Taiwan’s vote could influence other places in Asia to approve same-sex marriage.

From The Guardian:


“What we have achieved is not easy,” said Victoria Hsu, the founder and executive director of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights. “The law will not be 100% perfect, but this is a good start and this is a major step to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. Now the law says everyone should be treated equally no matter who you are, who you love.”

In another Washington Post piece, properly situating Taiwan as a progressive leader in Asia:


The vote in Taiwan helps “signal it’s not an East-West thing or global North global South thing,” Knight said. Officials in Brunei will have a hard time defending such harsh anti-homosexuality legislation, he said, “when the map of the Asian region is moving clearly in the opposite direction."

From The Economist:


In Asia, Taiwan has long stood out as a bastion of gay rights. The annual gay pride parade in Taipei, the capital, draws tens of thousands, many from overseas.

You guys, this is the kind of reporting that gets the world to wake up and notice Taiwan. This is how we show everyone not only that human rights are not an east-west issue (or a Global South/Global North one, though I would not say Taiwan is in the Global South developmentally), but that Taiwan is a bastion and a leader in Asia. This is how we show them how vibrant Taiwan's democracy really is, and that in fact a lot of interesting things take place here that they probably had no idea about, because the media never bothered to report on it.



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For that, I'm willing to overlook a few weaklings who wouldn't dare to just write "country" (and a few purposeful jerks like the World Economic Forum).

Overall, this is a win for Taiwan. Taiwan the country, Taiwan the regional leader, Taiwan the bastion of progressivism (at least by Asian standards).

Now, how do we get all those journalists to keep it up?


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Some media in Taiwan get Beijing's approval to run stories, and nobody cares?

So, a few days ago the Association of Taiwan Journalists issued a statement that the National Security Bureau has caught wind of some media outlets in Taiwan obtaining pre-approval from Beijing before running stories.

And...nobody seems to care?

I don't know why - that sounds absolutely terrifying to me. We've been hearing a lot of discussion about possible interference by China in the 2018 election, attempts to propagate fake news and influence the media and generally undermine Taiwan's democratic norms. Now we have some concrete evidence, or at least a report, on at least one avenue they are pursuing and...crickets.

I expected to hear more about it in the English-language media and...nothing, except this - a blog I'd never heard of before but might start following. There is coverage in the Chinese media - I don't have a TV so I couldn't tell you about broadcast (and am a bit lazy about finding that stuff on Youtube) but it's in the print news at least.

But not a lot of print news - I found pieces in Liberty Times, UDN and Yahoo! News Taiwan, and not a lot else.

So, I've gone ahead and translated the statement for you. I'm not a great translator but I did my best: 


During a meeting of the Foreign and National Defense Committee of the Legislative Yuan on the morning of the 2nd (of May), Democratic Progressive Party legislator Luo Chi-cheng questioned whether there are some media outlets which inform the "other side" (that is, China) of the contents of any 'breaking news' or 'editorial pieces' and obtain approval from Beijing before running them. Deputy Director of the National Security Bureau Chen Wen-fan replied that he had "heard of this happening recently."
This short question and answer shows that the National Security Agency does not deny certain "news" received by domestic audiences may be reviewed or even edited by the Chinese government. 
In addition to this, the Taiwan Association of Journalists feels it is unfortunate that this is a matter all people should be concerned with; we appeal to audiences to actively shun media which may produce such content. Creating such content does not serve the needs of listeners to obtain news, but rather follows the instructions of Chinese President Xi Jinping that "the media must belong to the party, listen to the party and walk with the party." 
The Taiwan Journalists Association believes that the journalism industry that informs and educates the public will continue its effort to exercise freedom of speech, follow a different path, and will not participate in in China's attempt to interfere with domestic freedom in Taiwan by reviewing pre-publication content from abroad.

And here's the original press release: 

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The statement specifically mentions listening audiences, which points to it being an issue with broadcast media.

This actually doesn't surprise me - I'm sure we've all noticed that the usual craven, half-true sensationalism that characterizes Taiwanese TV news - and especially the sludge they broadcast on blue-leaning stations - has gotten worse recently. I may not have a TV but even I've noticed it, just from the TVs in restaurants. (I used to merely prefer restaurants that didn't put on CTV or TVBS, now I actively avoid them).

What scares me even more? We don't know which stations are doing this - there is no list, according to deputy minister of the Mainland Affairs Council Chiu Chui-cheng.

Though we can guess that most or all blue-leaning ones are involved - and it is nearly impossible to convince the viewers hypnotized by it that they're watching Beijing-approved swill. If they cared about that they wouldn't have tuned in in the first place.

It's going to be a long, painful slog to 2020. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

At LSE, Taiwan is still Taiwan...for now.

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The World Turned Upside Down as of April 6th
(photo from a friend)


I'd actually prefer not to do these sorts of media analyses, because I'd rather that the media got stories right. Sadly, that doesn't seem as though it will be the norm anytime soon.

This time, the dodgy reporting is centered on the new LSE (London School of Economics) sculpture entitled The World Turned Upside Down by artist Mark Wallinger, which is basically a globe turned upside down, at an angle not typically considered by most.

I don't really need to outline the Chinese-student-manufactured "controversy" around the sculpture, you can read about it in a number of places, including The News Lens, the Taipei Times and The Telegraph (which, in my opinion, has the best journalism on the issue).

But what I do want to highlight is how confusing so many other news reports have been, some of which are putting out facts that are simply not correct. I don't mean "up for debate", I mean demonstrably false. So let me state right here: I have a friend in London (more than one actually) who works near the LSE campus. On April 6th, he put up a photo pointing out that Taiwan had not yet been altered to be depicted as a part of China, and the dot representing Taipei had not been downgraded from a red dot representing a capital city.

And yet...


From New Bloom a few days ago: 
In the original version of the sculpture, Taiwan was depicted in a different color from China, as was Tibet. Taipei and Lhasa were also marked as the political capitals of Taiwan and Tibet respectively. However, following protests from Chinese students, Taiwan was repainted to be the same color as China and the red dot that originally marked Taipei was changed to a black dot, downgrading Taipei to the status of a Chinese city rather than a political capital.


From Taiwan News on April 4th (so before the date of my friend's photo), with a headline beginning "LSE forced to change color of Taiwan..."
Huang Lee-an (黃立安), a Taiwanese student at the university, told CNA that after the school convened a meeting with student representatives to discuss the matter, it decided to change Taiwan's color from pink to yellow, to match that of China. The student said they also had the red dot labeled Taipei, changed to black, demoting it from a capital city of a country, to a mere city in a province of China. 
The student said that "REP. of CHINA" was also unceremoniously removed from the artist's work.

I also find this headline odd because nobody "forced" LSE to do anything. LSE made a bad decision on its own, then walked it back.

Thinking, "huh, that's weird! After the Taiwan News report, my friend posted that picture and Taiwan's color and name had not been changed", and then reading New Bloom and reacting with "wait, so, the university said it has not come to a decision yet, but it was changed between when they said that and now?", I rang up my friend again and asked him to pop by the sculpture whenever he was able. He's not in the UK now but reported back the results of someone else's walk past the globe, and...

...it was never changed. 

I have no reason to disbelieve my friend, who provided photographic evidence, so I find it highly unlikely that he is wrong and these news pieces are right.

So why did New Bloom say it was changed, and why did Taiwan News strongly imply it?

Beats me.

But it doesn't help the case for a robust free press in Taiwan when the free press - in English or any language - can't get these things right.

I mean, come on. Beijing and its army of angry Internet commenters and international students already screws Taiwan over so hard. When we've had something like a small victory (very small - who knows whether the sculpture will continue to depict Taiwan accurately?), why are we rushing to pretend as though we've been screwed? It lowers our credibility, makes it harder to report on even these small wins, and makes it harder still to update stories accurately, if the facts in question weren't correctly stated in the first place. 



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From Taiwan News (link below).
The caption is misleading, if not outright wrong: the sculpture still looks like that, and was never changed. 


One more thing before I let this go. (If you don't care about my opinion on LSE's decision, you can stop here.)

I've been wondering for awhile how it is that all those Chinese universities get ranked so highly on global university ranking lists, when one cannot even realistically study History, Political Science or pretty much any of the humanities with any hope of getting an education that reflects international consensus or plain old evidence in whichever non-STEM field you're specializing in.

In a similar vein, I've also been wondering - LSE's a great school, yeah? Ranked something like 26th in the world. So how is it that with all its talk of discussing the world "from a different angle" with this sculpture, and educating the next generation of the world's brightest leaders-to-be with frank discussions of political realities and the history of imperialism and oppression that turned our world upside-down, that they can't even get this right? That they talk big about great minds taking critical approaches to real issues - perhaps critically evaluating Israel's treatment of Palestine, Georgia's claim on Abkhazia (where some of the anti-Abkhazia arguments will sound familiar to Taiwanese used to Chinese distortions of history), frank discussions on Tibet...

...and yet when it comes to Taiwan they suddenly go all stupid?

Seriously, LSE - a bunch of Chinese students told you "Taiwan has been Chinese since antiquity" and you just bought that? Are you joking? Would you like a crash course in Chinese and Taiwanese histories, where even the most neutral reading of the facts of history call these Chinese students' claims into deep question? Because I can give you one, and you seem to need it.

A case was made that these are the UN borders and you didn't even question whether China being on the UN Security Council has anything to do with that, and how that might render UN borders non-neutral?

Really?

You couldn't look at the words that were meant to inspire the entire point of the sculpture in the first place and made your decision appropriately: 



The World Turned Upside Down is a famous ballad from the English Revolution. It was used as the title for Christopher Hill’s classic account of radical underground movements from that time, and Leon Rosselson’s song in tribute to Gerrard Winstanley and the ideals of the Digger Community: 
‘When once the earth becomes a common treasury again, as it must ... then this enmity of all lands will cease, and none shall dare to seek dominion over others, neither shall any dare to kill another, nor desire more of the earth than another.’ [Emphasis mine.] 
- Gerrard Winstanley 1649, The True Levellers Standard Advanced.


And if this is about Chinese student tuition fees - but they'll be so mad if we don't change it! - then how can you say you are one of the best institutions of higher learning in the world, when at the end of the day the most important thing is getting your hands grubby for those sweet, sweet international fees? To be one of the best, shouldn't you aspire to something higher?

There's still time, LSE. Nothing's been changed.

Do better.



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Sunday, March 24, 2019

This time, it's Bloomberg choosing its words poorly when discussing Taiwan

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Bloomberg just ran a profile article of Han Kuo-yu, and the language choices are...not great. I have it on good authority that the Taipei bureau chief is a good dude, so I'm not sure why, but regardless the language and framing in this piece (which has some strong parts) merit some detailed discussion. Let's have a look. 




For officials in Beijing looking for a Taiwanese presidential candidate who improves the island’s fraught ties with the mainland, Han Kuo-yu is saying all the right things. The question is whether he runs.

"A Taiwanese presidential candidate who improves the island's fraught ties with the mainland" implies that it is somehow Taiwan's fault that ties with China (not "the mainland" - that's politically charged terminology) are tense.

But it's not. I'm sure Tsai Ing-wen would love better relations with China, if China would accept that Taiwan isn't interested in unification. That's not a position held only by Tsai - she was elected in part because of it, and is the general sentiment in Taiwan.

Tsai has extended olive branches, but they come with the clear indication that Taiwan's sovereignty is not up for debate. China has not accepted them.

It's Beijing's fault, not Taiwan's, that relations are "fraught". So it's not Taiwan's job to "improve" them - it's China's.

Also, why are you starting an article with what China wants and thinks, rather than what Taiwan wants and thinks, Ms. Wang?



"Such blunt talk contrasts with Taiwan’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen, a cautious critic of China who’s bracing for a tough re-election fight after bruising policy battles and an isolation campaign by Beijing."

So, why is she facing a difficult re-election campaign? Is it really because of her stance on China? Most people seem fine with her approach to China - not budging on Taiwanese sovereignty, but not instigating any tensions, either. Her approach ensures that it is clear to all who care to observe that it is Beijing doing the bullying (something that was true, but not always clear, under former pro-Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian).

The reasons why her approval ratings are flagging have to do with the economy (although it's actually not doing as badly as people think) and some displeasure over her 'cool' technocratic governing style, as well as domestic governance at a local level. It's actually not that closely related to issues regarding China.

The sense that it's all due to her views on China is further implied by Wang omitting what these "bruising policy battles" were over. Mostly, domestic issues: marriage equality, labor laws, pension reform, that sort of thing.

Tsai was elected because of her pro-Taiwan views, not in spite of them.

So why is Bloomberg implying that Taiwanese people are angry with Tsai over this, and not domestic governance issues?

Besides, what exactly are we saying here? That in order to "reduce tensions", Taiwanese people might want to consider voting for a Beijing-approved candidate? Are we not aware that that is exactly what China wants, but might not turn out well for Taiwan?



Han’s shock defeat in November of a candidate from Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party in the ruling bloc’s stronghold catapulted him to the top of the list of possible presidential hopefuls from the China-friendly Kuomintang.

Putting this in the same paragraph as the quote above implies that this victory was due to China policies. It wasn't. There were a number of odd convergences here, between Han's populist appeal and some very weird and questionable sources of funding and support (when people talk about possible Chinese interference in the last election, well...I don't know about Han specifically but it wouldn't surprise me). There was anger over local governance.

But your average Kaohsiunger does not agree with Han's pro-China tendencies. Unlike Tsai, he was elected despite, not because of, these views. Look at any data about the political leanings of Kaohsiung residents, and this will be clear (Wang alludes to this later but treats it as an inconvenient aside that contradicts the "China!" narrative.)



On Friday, he begins a week-long trip to Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland cities of Shenzhen and Xiamen.

How lazy does journalism have to be to point this out but not interrogate it at all? It's presented almost like a good thing - no questioning at all of how and why Han was invited to Hong Kong and Macau, and who could have set that up and authorized it...and why? And how his insistence that this trip is "all business" is at odds with what we actually know about it?

No interrogation of whether the candidate China prefers may pose potential risks to Taiwan, and that "improving fraught tensions" is not necessarily the best outcome?

Why - after a few paragraphs implying that Taiwanese want a more pro-China leader (even though that's not necessarily the case) - is none of this considered?


Chinese President Xi Jinping, who held a historic meeting with Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou weeks before the vote, has cut off communications with Tsai’s government and led a campaign isolate her island diplomatically.

The meeting was not particularly historic and didn't have much effect at all on how Taiwanese voted in the 2016 election. It was literally a non-event, a stunt to try to convince Taiwanese to vote for the KMT, and it failed. Most Taiwanese do want a strong economy and can accept economic ties with China if they deliver one. But seeing how Ma's push for closer ties did not result in definitive economic growth, and that Beijing showed its hand in terms of quietly tethering 'economic ties' to an agenda of political integration, Wang is making way too much of China's reaction leading up to and post-2016. 



Tsai now looks vulnerable, receiving the support of less than 20 percent in recent polls, as she grapples with both voters concerned about deteriorating ties with China and those who want a cleaner break. 

Though I don't know the exact numbers, Ma didn't have great approval ratings before his re-election campaign either, and won. It's sort of a thing in Taiwan. A smarter write-up would have compared Tsai's current approval ratings to what they tend to be at this point in their administration for any given Taiwanese president.

And it again places too much emphasis on Tsai's China policy, and not enough on domestic-level grievances (some of which, like air pollution and low wages, are merited - but which are results of decades of poor governance and can't be fixed in 3.5 years).

Even if the issue were Tsai vs. China, again, no questioning of what it would mean for Taiwan to choose a Beijing-approved candidate simply because China wished it so? No delving into alleged Chinese interference in the 2018 election? Nothing?


Tsai has sought to push back against Han’s pro-China remarks, saying there can’t be an arranged marriage with China because Taiwan is sovereign and its people have the freedom to choose. Taiwan’s official Mainland Affairs Council also took a shot at him [emphasis mine], arguing the island “must resolutely refuse China’s terrorizing affection.”  

Great way to use language to cast a negative connotation on the rhetoric of one side! "Took a shot at him"? How about "spoke frankly" or "pointed out" or any other neutral choice?

Besides, Tsai is right. Unification is impossible because Taiwan is sovereign and the people have the right to choose...and aren't interested in dictatorship and loss of rights. They can see the ways in which Hong Kong has failed and know not to go down that road.

A note here that most Taiwanese do, in fact, support the status quo (not unification), that the status quo is sovereignty (because it is), do not support unification or "One Country Two Systems", and that Taiwanese identity remains strong would be apropos, but we get nothing.


Others observing from Beijing argue Han’s candidacy could lead to a breakthrough between the long-time rivals. He supports the idea both sides are part of “one-China” -- a negotiating framework Tsai has refused to endorse.

More poor language choices.

First, why is this still being framed in terms of what Beijing wants, not what Taiwan thinks?

Second, when the intentions of one "rival" is to annex the other "rival", and they will not accept any offer of negotiation that doesn't put this potential outcome on the table (which is, to them, the only acceptable outcome), when there is a "breakthrough" that's not necessarily a good thing.

Third, Taiwanese who identify as Taiwanese don't see their goals as part of a "rivalry". Rivalries are for "two Chinas" - the ROC and the PRC. But those who just want Taiwan to be Taiwan aren't a part of that. There's no rival claim to China coming from pro-independence types. It's not a rivalry - it's a bully and a target who refuses to succumb. It's just the wrong word, period.

So on one hand we have this inaccurate, undeservedly positive phrase "breakthrough between rivals", and on the other we have a subtle denigration of Tsai/pro-independence views with "refused to endorse", as though this makes her the instigator or the intransigent side who won't negotiate - as though negotiations could ever be fair in this situation.

Tsai doesn't endorse "one China" because Taiwanese by and large do not want to be a part of China. Why not say that? Why make it seem so negative? Why leave out important facts like this?


“If he wins in 2020, it is likely that he will reverse Tsai’s cross-strait policies,” said Wang Dong, an international relations professor at Peking University and secretary general of the Pangoal Institution, a Beijing-based research group. “The mainland, of course, would have much more trust in him.”

What's up with the implication that it would be a good thing for China to trust and like a Taiwanese politician? No delving at all into what that could mean for Taiwan, when China's goal is to annex Taiwan?

This is a Taiwanese candidate, not a Chinese one. China's bullying does matter, but Taiwan's views matter more.

The question isn't "will China trust him?" (seriously, quit it with "mainland"), but "should Taiwanese voters trust him?"

Why aren't you asking that question, Ms. Wang? 



Kaohsiung city spokeswoman Anne Wang said Thursday that Han was focused on promoting the local economy and “will not think about other plans for the time being.” This week’s trip was intended to promote economic and cultural exchanges and not touch on politics, she said.

You're just going to take her at her word and not actually question this? Do you honestly think China would allow this trip if there were no political motivations?



The trip will test Han’s ability to navigate sticky issues on the mainland and in the fractious former British colony of Hong Kong. His past forays into the public eye have been rocky.

Again with the "mainland". Ugh.

Anyway, again, you should be questioning whether China cooperating with a Taiwanese politician is actually a good thing for Taiwan, but that's either ignored, or you take it as a given. I'm truly not sure which.


When he was a legislator in 1993, Han punched future DPP President Chen Shui-bian, putting him in the hospital. As president of the Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Co. in 2016, he dared a city councilor to swallow a hockey puck during a dispute. 
During his run for mayor, he told a gathering of female supporters that anyone who created 1,000 jobs in Kaohsiung would get a kiss. Earlier this month, he was forced to apologize after dismissing the idea of attracting white-collar workers from the Philippines since it was hard to believe maids could become English teachers.

Lest you think I just want to hate on this article, I am quoting this here to point out that it's pretty good coverage of his past controversies. Nice work. 



Han successfully cast himself as the “CEO mayor” during the campaign, propelled in part by a social media campaign led by his Canadian-educated daughter, Coco Han. His focus on economics on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook helped garner robust support from younger voters looking for higher wages. 
One of his slogans was: “With goods sold and talent flowing in, Kaohsiung’s people will make a fortune.”

Sure, okay. Not untrue. But it would be smart to question whether his outlandish and oversize promises had a chance of holding up. If you actually look at his focus on the economy, you'll see that he's unlikely to actually be able to deliver on his promises. Kaohsiung will never be Shanghai. It will probably never even be Taipei. We do need to improve the economy across Taiwan, including in industrial centers like Kaohsiung. But...this seems a bit vague and impossible to deliver on.

And at no point do you question this, or ask whether or not it's prudent to run a guy for president who hasn't even proven he can run Kaohsiung, whose promises seem so pie-in-the-sky that any rational person can see that they just aren't credible, and what it means that the KMT is willing to run him anyway, and China is on board.

Why not, Bloomberg? Why not, Cindy Wang?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

With doing lots of genocide, Xi Jinping of China keeps with tradition

Untitled
Photos from the province full where Xi Jinping is committing genocide RIGHT NOW, not that the
New York Times thinks that's important, after all...his hair is graying, so...that's a story, right?



by Confucius McDoorknob

HONG KONG (because we can't report freely in China) — President Xi Jinping is known for keeping the rules of Chinese politics, amassing more power than any leader since Mao, and doing almost as much genocide. 

His latest attempt to shake things up may be one of his boldest moves yet: Mr. Xi is going slightly — though unabashedly — anti-Uighur, in total lockstep with longstanding Communist Party tradition.

For decades, Chinese leaders have attempted to show unnatural 'togetherness' between the various cultural and religious groups of China, a look that symbolized unity and gave the party a not-genocidey veneer.

But Mr. Xi, 65, appears to be dispensing with vanity as he presents himself as a relatable and avuncular mass murderer, part of his efforts to soften his hard-line policies.

As Mr. Xi takes part in the annual meeting of China’s legislature this week, the concentration camps he's set up to systematically wipe out the people of East Turkestan through re-settling the area with Chinese, a heavy-handed surveillance state, "re-education" and straight-up murder have been a hit with delegates and the public.

“He’s very humble,” said Gu Yan, 47, an employee at a technology firm in the eastern city of Xiamen. “He’s not afraid to be himself.”

Mr. Xi has a history of making genocide choices that underscore his image as a man of the Han people. He is often pictured in China wearing a navy blue, zippered windbreaker which doesn't have any blood on it because he doesn't personally do all the genocide, a symbol of humility as he leads a campaign against corruption and also anyone who criticizes him or the CCP, anyone who is not Han unless they are an obedient "ethnic" minority that will dance for Han tourists and also wear colorful costumes but never actually question their (subordinate) place in Chinese society.

His lots-and-lots-of-murdering further reinforces that image, as well as Mr. Xi’s desire to be seen as a paternal figure - I mean like if your dad was a murderer - and live up to the nickname by which he is popularly known, “Murderin' Uncle Xi,” China apologists and flunkies say.

“It’s not this image of the stodgy cadre who must be exactly dyed and dressed in the right mold,” said Western Guy O'Whiteass, a useful idiot who studies Chinese history and politics at Prestige Academy, whom we asked to make it look as though we did any real research into what's actually going on in China. “It’s an image of the party that is more relatable and less apparatchik-like in its aesthetics, but definitely not in its murdering of people who look, act and believe differently."

Going full-on Hitler was not always such a big deal in China — both Mao and Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leaders, embraced spilling blood on Chinese soil for infractions such as asking for freedom and human rights. The former was thought to have caused the deaths of millions during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and the latter, of course, gunned down protesters (or just ran over them with tanks) during the Tiananmen Square protests, which the world seems to have forgotten about and we definitely don't want to remind you about with this article because, you know, profit.

But more recently, as the party promoted a “collective leadership” model to spread power more evenly after the strongman days of Mao so that the blame for disappearing thousands if not more of their own citizens would be more difficult to pin on a single person, and any given person would be able to deny knowledge or complicity, genocide was not as widely practiced, although murder and disappearance definitely still happened.

In the past, how much genocide one does has often been seen as a symbol of status within the party. In 2015, for example, Zhou Yongkang, China’s former chief of domestic security, was shown confessing to crimes during a sentencing hearing, his formerly jet-black hair having turned into a shock of white while he was in detention. Of course, that was probably because he was tortured and forced to admit to whatever the party wanted. 

Zhang Jiehai, a sociologist at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said that in the past Chinese officials embarked on genocide in secret so as not to raise eyebrows both in China and abroad. But now, he said, Chinese officials are younger and society has grown more open. 

“It has become more natural,” he said. “The leaders no longer need to cover up their actual literal real-life concentration camps.”

How exactly Chinese officials maintain the "I didn't mass murder anyone oh actually haha I did"  look is something of a state secret, though copious amounts of money are probably involved.

Mr. Xi’s murder record was mostly unknown when he rose to power in 2012. But as he has grappled with a slowing economy, diplomatic tussles in the South China Sea and a trade war with the United States, he has turned to taking the lives of anyone who opposes him in thought, deed or creed or just looks like someone who might, so as to scare people away from assailing his position of power.

His really-serious-genocide-committing look has not gone unnoticed in the party.

In 2016, a delegate at the National People’s Congress said she had noticed during a meeting with Mr. Xi that he had "done a lot of genocide, I mean, I'm not criticizing him or anything, please don't drag me away and torture me."

“Our country is so big,” the delegate, Zhu Xueqin, speculated at the time. “He needs to manage all sorts of things and it’s very hard.”

Mr. Xi’s example seems to be catching on: many members of the Politburo, an elite 25-member council at the highest levels of the Communist Party, also are surely complicit in some genocide. 

While genocide might be seen as undesirable elsewhere in the world (President Trump proudly declared on Saturday, “I have not committed genocide, at least not yet”), in China some view it as a sign of wisdom.

At barbershops in China, stylists said they applauded Mr. Xi’s decision to kill lots of non-Han people who are viewed as a disobedient threat to CCP control. 

“It makes him look like he works harder — that he’s laboring day and night,” said Liu Ke, a stylist at a salon in the central city of Xi’an.

Jiang Zhirong, the co-owner of a barbershop in a Beijing alleyway, said Mr. Xi couldn’t go wrong.

“Whether he mass murders lots of people I don't know and don't care about or not,” she said, “the president has great style.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

This Week in CHINA TENSIONS!!!!

Apparently the old way of avoiding saying that China creates tensions through its own aggressive expansionism and weaponized use of 'hurt feelings' (and century-out-of-date victimhood - more on that later) isn't harvesting as many clicks as it used to. Perhaps passive voice (those tensions - they were just...raised!) isn't thirsty enough, perhaps simply attributing these tensions to everyone but China wasn't interesting anymore.

Now, we need BIGGER and STRONGER verbs to THROTTLE readers' attention because REPORTING THE SITUATION ACCURATELY is apparently not enough.

The accurate situation: China is engaging in territorial expansionism using fabricated historical narratives to justify it. The "tensions" over Taiwan are created by China, and are a policy choice on the part of China. They are not - as someone on my twitter feed put it - a "natural reaction" to what others do. China does not suffer because the US sent warships through the Taiwan Strait. The strait is considered international waters (and this has been pointed out before). Nothing changes in China when a country sends a warship through international waters.

If anything, China is the one creating the situation where a response is necessary. If China hadn't been slowly pushing the envelope towards a world where it controlled Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait as well, the US wouldn't have felt it necessary to demonstrate that it had the right to sail ships in all international waters.

That means that China is not only choosing to respond to this with "OMG that means tensions!" but in fact that they created the tensions to begin with.  

If the media reported that accurately, here is what these completely ridiculous headlines and tweets would actually look like:



Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 12.07.49 PM



Ooh, a new one - "antagonize"! I guess simply "causing tensions" wasn't eye-catching enough. 


But it should be:

 "US May Sail Through Taiwan Strait In Response To Chinese Antagonism In Region" 
(This was later changed to "provoking", which isn't much better.





Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 12.42.08 PM




Wow, fury! Really? Actual fury? What has China got to be "furious" about when another country sails ships in international waters, unless it is choosing to be furious?

Nope, let me fix that for you:

"Chinese aggression against Taiwan risks U.S. fury, Pentagon sends two warships into nearby international waters"


Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 12.39.17 PM


EXACERBATE! Hah.

I'm especially saddened by this tweet, because the Beijing bureau chief of the Washington Post should understand the region better than this. Anyway, her tweet would more accurately read:

"Two US Navy vessels sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Monday, in a move that warns China against further exacerbating tensions with Taiwan"

Let me add - "already high tensions" - where did these tensions come from? Who created them? In whose interest is it for those tensions to remain high? Who keeps getting angry?

You know the answer is "China", so why does your tweet imply that the U.S. is to blame?


Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 12.07.36 PM


Oh man. LA Times finally got someone other than Ralph "I hate Taiwan" Jennings to write about Taiwan, and they still come out with this garbage. What's even more annoying is that the most salient quote is in the article itself:

“The ships’ transit though the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Lt. Rachel McMarr, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

So, if you have to report on this at all (which you don't), maybe try:


"Pentagon sends two warships through Taiwan Strait as warning to Beijing to cease raising tensions"


or even:

"Why is China angry about the Pentagon sending two warships through international waters?"


And your laugh of the day:


Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 12.07.03 PM

China provoked a US response, not the other way around. But this is Global Times, who cares. But let's play anyway:

"China's actions in Taiwan Straits [sic] provoke US response of sending warship through international waters"

* * *


This worries me, because I fear the way these things are being reported won't change. Newly-minted journalists will feel they have to stick to the old lines to get published and won't insist on accurate wording, editors will continue to edit pieces on topics they know nothing about, and actual bureau chiefs (jesus) will EXACERBATE the problem by sharing news that makes it seem as though this situation is everyone's fault but China's.

They know better: like with Chinese "tensions", it's a choice to publish headlines this obtuse and backwards.

It also worries me because China will absolutely continue to use this to their advantage, and nobody will say anything. Then the US will respond to China's actions. Or Taiwan will. And everyone will jump on that, pointing fingers at the U.S. and Taiwan and saying "these guys are exacerbating tensions!"

It makes it impossible to respond to China, when China's own actions are not held up to the same standard. When they are not objectively considered.

Again, this is a choice. They know better. They are helping an authoritarian regime look like a victim, and therefore helping them expand not only their territorial claims but their attempts to export authoritarianism. They are aware of this. Yet they continue to do it.

And, finally, it worries me because China is taking its cues from nobler causes in the West. It's looking at how we legitimately talk about historical victimization and how that affects modern society (think: arguments about inheriting tangible and intangible generational wealth vs. inheriting trauma while still being discriminated against).

It's taking that - a real, legitimate argument - and twisting it around to weaponize its own "century of humiliation". It is the most powerful actor in Asia, has taken by force most of the territory it says it wants (which is mostly full of people with distinct cultural backgrounds who don't want to be ruled by China), and is an economic powerhouse.

In whatever ways China was victimized in the past - and it certainly was - its claim on Taiwan is not an extension of that. Not historically, not culturally, not legally. The government that rules China now has never ruled Taiwan, and if we're going to talk "antiquity", has only in recent history even considered that Taiwan could possibly be Chinese.

Let me say that again for the people in the back: even if a historical argument supported China's claims on Taiwan, which it doesn't, it wouldn't matter. Taiwan has a culture, sense of history and identity that differs from China now, and they do not want to be a part of China ever. China doesn't get to have an opinion on the future of a territory it does not hold, and which its current government (with its current borders) has never held.

China can whine and cry and play victim, but the fact that it does not have Taiwan is not a facet of its historical victimhood. And even if it were, there is no just world in which the lives of 23.4 million people are an acceptable form of reparations.

And yet all of these headlines about 'antagonizing', 'exacerbating' and 'provoking' China make it sound as though it is. As though China is still being bullied like it's the Opium Wars or something. As though it isn't the one upping the ante, with Taiwan and the U.S. responding.

This is the best possible headline, by the way:



Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 8.39.51 PM


It's from Focus Taiwan so will obviously show Taiwan's point of view, but that happens to also be the accurate point of view in this case, even incorporating a quote from a U.S. military spokesperson.

You know this, journos, yet you report all that other garbage anyway.

Seriously. Quit it. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

How is it that "China tensions" are always everybody's fault except China's?

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Over the past few months, I've been keeping quiet track of something that's been a problem for awhile, because it's important to always keep a fire burning under the bum of anyone who reports on Taiwan. 

Perhaps, with Michael Turton no longer blogging, someone's gotta do it. Perhaps I'm just fed up. I don't know. But in any case, it's once again time to look at the English-language media on Taiwan and their completely mangled ways of referencing "tensions" (OMG!) in the Taiwan Strait.

Let's get one thing out of the way - the tensions, such as they are, are always there. China wants you to think they're going up and down, but in fact when looking at it from Taiwan, nothing has really changed. My life is the same as it was on Election Day 2016. China attempts to chip away at Taiwan in little ways, but the "tensions" don't really change much beyond that.

But if you keep writing that they are "on the rise" or that "relations" keep hitting new "lows", people will think there's a real change. There isn't. 


Notice the above - China is the one being aggressively expansionist in the South China Sea. China is the one that regularly threatens Taiwan with eventual annexation, actively tries to interfere in Taiwanese affairs, and attempts to diminish Taiwan's exposure and standing on the international stage.
Yet who is "inflaming" tensions? Not China - the US! For standing up to them! China can bully its neighbors in the region all it wants - if you dare stand up to that bully, you are the one "inflaming". 



Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.32.59 PM


I mean, this is in Express so don't take it too seriously, but not only does the US "inflame" tensions, it "escalates" them. At least it's not Taiwan creating "tensions" anymore, it's the US. Is that an improvement? I don't think so: it plays right into a lot of anti-West liberals' beliefs that everything Western is evil and everything Asian is great, and that evil empires can only come from the West. Therefore, if the power is non-Western, it must be better or more moral.

This is absolute bollocks of course, but a lot of people believe it, and headlines like this don't help.

ALSO DON'T FORGET THE COMPLETELY GRATUITOUS AND UNPROFESSIONAL CAPITALIZATION.




Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.31.27 PM


I call this the "Classic" - in this construction, tensions just appear. Nobody causes them. Nobody is the aggressor (or at least, the aggressor is definitely not China). It's left unclear, because to clarify it would be to say, clearly and accurately, that China is the one purposely causing "tensions", and encouraging those tensions to be reported in the press as either an issue that just is - and therefore could not possibly be solved by the CCP being slightly less churlish because these tensions sort of exist ambiently - or is somehow Taiwan's or someone else's fault. They do this in order to make Taiwan's every move difficult.

That's an accurate reading of China's strategy of "tensions", yet nobody seems to report it that way. Nobody assigns the proper agent.

Here are some more ambient "tensions" for you:

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.33.50 PM



Oh great, Taiwan's biggest human boondoggle in journalism writing about tensions as though they rise independently, rather than someone (China) making them rise, and implying that the reason is Taiwan's actions of mere self-defense, rather than China's aggression (which necessitates that self-defense).

Tensions are like self-rising flour I guess. They just...rise.

If you think I'm being to harsh, read an excerpt below:


Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.36.08 PM


I'm not sure how to read that last sentence, but it sure comes across to me as an implication that Taiwan maintaining its ability to defend itself from a Chinese attack - because remember, Taiwan has no intention of attacking Taiwan, but China absolutely talks of its intent to attack Taiwan - is what is "raising the chances of an armed conflict".

Not, oh, say, the country that actually talks about how it plans to precipitate an armed conflict


China can talk openly about its intent to start a war to annex Taiwan by force, and nobody will say it is "raising tensions", but when Taiwan tries to improve its ability to defend itself from that openly-admitted-to attack, it is "raising the chances of an armed conflict".

And finally, there's the one that makes me sad:


Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.30.54 PM


I'd really hoped for better from The Guardian. I've written about this before, so won't belabor the point, but it's worth briefly repeating that this toes a line that, on either side, is not fair. Either it can be read as "relations reaching a low" with no agent pushing them to that low (although there is an agent: China), or it can be read as Tsai and her party (which "advocates for independence") being the ones who are causing the relation to "reach a low".

The opposite is true: Tsai has done her best to be even-tempered and toe a peaceful line while not giving in to China's bullying (a wise policy maneuver that is often mischaracterized as her refusing to "make concessions" to China - as though the problem were her stance, not China's, and she should be the one to concede). Yet you won't reach that conclusion by reading this.

The headline of this one was a problem too, making it sound as though Taiwan's isolation had no agent causing it, when the truth is that China is the one working to isolate Taiwan.

That is the accurate way to report the situation - China as the principal agent, the bully, the tension-causer, the isolator - so how come nobody says so?

Anyway, let's end on a happier note:

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 11.52.20 PM

This is from the Washington Post - good work. Finally, someone gets it right. Someone assigns the proper agent to the "feud", the "relations hitting a low", the "tensions" - someone finally points the finger right where it belongs: China.

It's a message that the West desperately needs to hear. Why couldn't CNN, The Star and The Guardian write like this? (Express gonna Express, whatever.)

The Washington Post getting it right notwithstanding, this feels like another season, another batch of "tensions" that nobody will admit China is causing.

I'll check back in around the New Year to see who is writing about these sentient, self-raising "tensions" that are always on the rise despite, in reality, their always being about the same.