Showing posts with label tensions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tensions. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

TENSIONS HAVE BEEN ENRISENED! (Or have they?)

At this point, we're all used to the skewed language that English-language media uses to talk about Taiwan. When the CCP does something to exacerbate tensions with Taiwan, or acts extremely offended over something going on here (including actions of individual Taiwanese citizens), the default seems to be that "tensions are rising" - no agent is named as the entity doing the raising. Or it's subtly implied the fault is Taiwan (e.g. "tensions have been rising under Taiwanese President Tsai", as though she's the one doing the escalating. She's not.)

Even when a story should be reported neutrally or with a critical eye to Chinese government's actions - as there is plenty of evidence of ill intent - the language used always exonerates Beijing and invites the reader to imagine that the other side is in the wrong. For example, here, we see language such as "soothe" and "calm" in the face of a "swipe" by a European leader (European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker). To read that, you'd think that the Europeans were hysterical - MEOW! - as cool and collected President Xi sought peace. Criticism of China's actions comes much later and is phrased dismissively ("which some see as" is basically newspaper code for "you can ignore those people"), even when more investigation into the intent and impact of these actions are merited.

Gee, you'd almost think the international media is wary of criticizing China, even when it would be right to do so. Huh!

So what happens, then, when there is absolutely no way to avoid pointing out that the CCP is the one exacerbating tensions? When no accurate language is possible that implies that these tensions just magically rise on their own, or perhaps they are the fault of Taiwan (or some other country "taking a swipe" at China)?

Consider this example from a few days ago:




There's just no way around it: without provocation, the PLAAF made an incursion into...well, I'm not sure if we can call it "Taiwan airspace" exactly (someone with more expert knowledge is welcome to fill me in) but violating an agreement like this - even a tacit one - is in fact intentional, provocative and reckless. MoFA is absolutely right.

And there's no way to write about that which takes the blame off of the CCP...or is there?

Local and regional news is reporting on it, but the top article (in the Japan Times) manages somehow to make Taiwan look like it's overreacting, when it absolutely isn't:



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"Provocative" in quotes can mean that they're just quoting MoFA's words, which is true, but they're called "scare quotes" for a reason: used this way they also imply that the words used don't accurately describe the situation. That's followed by "so-called" and "extremely rare" and a lot of talk about what China thinks, but none at all really about what Taiwan thinks and why it responded as it did. And while I'm happy they asked Bonnie Glaser about this, after some tired faff about the "renegade province" they go on to continue minimizing Beijing's actions as if to say "hey Taiwan, why so serious? It's not a big deal. Don't make this into a whole big thing - you wouldn't want to raise tensions, would you?"

When anybody who is aware of China's actions in the 1990s know that they were meant to scare newly democratic Taiwan into, um...not being democratic. You'll recall that there were also missile tests then, and they were intended as an oblique threat to Taiwan. It was terrifying and kind of a big deal. I remember hearing about it as a teenager in the US who had no relationship to or conception of Taiwan. It was a big deal then and it is a big deal now.


And that's not even getting into SCMP's use of language: "hardline" etc.  - to make Taiwan look like the fire-starter. Plus this steaming turd:

Analysts in Taiwan said, while it remained to be seen how Beijing would react to the order to forcefully disperse any future incursion by PLA jets, Tsai could risk setting off a cross-strait conflict which might drag Washington into the situation [emphasis mine].

Excuse me, ahem.

HOW IS TSAI "RISKING SETTING OFF A CROSS-STRAIT CONFLICT" WHEN IT IS CHINESE PLANES STARTING THE CONFLICT??

Seriously, Lawrence Chung and Liu Zhen, what the hell is wrong with you?

Then there's this, from Channel News Asia:


Taipei hit out at China on Sunday (Mar 31) for what it said was a "reckless and provocative" incursion by two fighter jets across a largely respected line dividing the two sides in the Taiwan Strait [emphasis mine].

Excuuuuse me. No. 

China hit out at Taiwan, not the other way around. Why do you lead with an implication that China's the one being provoked, rather than the provocateur? (The rest of the piece is a little bit better, giving some good reasons why Taiwan needs to procure better defensive capabilities and discussing Chinese pressure, though I wonder why they say Tsai will be "fighting" for re-election rather than merely "running").

Outside of Asia, the reporting has been spottier. The Washington Post (via AP), MSN, CNN and ABC News ran stories (mostly copies of each other) which are a bit better than the crap from SCMP and Japan Times. I'm not a fan of the use of "scrambled" (to me it connotes haphazard surprise with a whiff of incompetence) but I'm told it's the correct term. So...okay.

The New York Times ran a Reuters feed which has some of the usual Reuters junk, including this gem:


There was no immediate reaction from Beijing, which views Taiwan as part of its territory.

I...what?

Didn't Beijing do the action that Taiwan is reacting to? So why are you reporting it as though Beijing is not reacting to Taiwan? Is Beijing's reaction to Taiwan's reaction really so important that it needs its own one-line paragraph? Did I just use up one of my free NYT articles reading this garbage?

To their credit, the Washington Post and ABC News started out with strong reporting on what Taiwan thinks, rather than showing everything the issue through the CCP's preferred lens. Read those to see how it's done right (though WaPo's reporting dives into a little 1949 nonsense toward the end).


But BBC? The Guardian? Anyone else? Anyone home? Hello?

Silence.

(I Googled and checked the sites of each and found nothing; if I've missed something, let me know.)

Edit: BBC is in the game two days late with a bit more trash for the fire.



How do these growing tensions relate to the deepening differences between Washington and Beijing?

Huh - it's like they don't even care about how this might impact Taiwan or its 23.5 million people.

Taiwan - of course - is seen by Beijing as an inseparable part of China; its separation from the motherland merely a temporary phenomenon.

WHY "OF COURSE" AND WHY DID YOU ADD MORE JUNK TO THIS ALREADY JUNKY PREMISE?



This weekend's incursion by Chinese warplanes is a reminder of the dangerous Taiwan dimension as well.

There is no "dangerous Taiwan dimension", there is only the "dangerous Chinese expansionism dimension". Why are you making it sound as though this is somehow Taiwan's fault?

For everyone else, why aren't they reporting it?

Maybe they just didn't think it was big enough news, although you'd think an incursion over a tacitly-agreed border which prompted a 10-minute stand-off and a reaction from Taiwan that they will "forcefully expel" any further violations, in one of the biggest the biggest potential flashpoint in East Asia would be, uh, news.

Though I doubt it would be this purposeful, I have to wonder if they shy away from any reporting on China and Taiwan that makes China look bad. Even if the impulse to do so is subconscious, it seems that tensions must always be everyone's fault except China's.

Of course, though most media can't seem to wrap its head around the notion that Taiwan may have an opinion about this and that opinion matters, there seems to always be space to run stories about Beijing lashing out at the US as the reason why it bullies Taiwan (and then denying said bullying).

So we get headlines like "Chinese State Media Blames US For Stirring Trouble in Taiwan", because apparently Chinese propaganda is newsworthy on an international scale, but how Chinese incursions on Taiwan affect Taiwan isn't. 


It's almost certainly not a war-starter, but it is a deliberate instigation. Leading up to the 2020 election we can expect to see more of them, as the CCP attempts to terrify the Taiwanese away from voting for the party that wants to guarantee their sovereignty, and into the arms of a pro-Beijing bloviator that China can manipulate. And, of course, it puts Taiwan in a tough position: respond and risk looking like they are overreacting, or ignore it, which basically gives them the green light to keep ramping up their provocations.

So why is half the world still reporting on it bewildering and frankly disconcerting ways that somehow make it sound as though this - even this! - is either not a big deal, or somehow Taiwan's fault?

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:



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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.





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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"


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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?


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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:


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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:



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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". 



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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.




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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:

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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:


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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:


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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:

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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.