Wed, Nov 21, 2001 - Page 8 News List

The media needs more worldly perspectiveg

By Hsu Tung-ming 許東明

Taiwan's accession to the WTO has generated a lot of excitement in the local media, which liberally uses terms such as "Taiwan has joined the age of global economics." Beijing has cramped Taiwan's diplomatic space for so long that maybe this sort of euphoria is understandable. But the anti-globalization movement rarely receives attention in the local media nor does the long-term social impact of entry into the WTO. Why not?

Taiwan's media seem to approve of all the things Western media -- especially in the US -- does. This kind of political correctness means Taiwan ignores alternative voices in international affairs.

For a long time, Taiwan's international outlook has been limited to its relations with the US and China. Taiwan's media portrays the US as an important partner in maintaining Taiwan's security and as a country on which less developed countries can model their social systems. Within this framework, Taiwan has actually lost the ability to absorb the development models of other countries.

Sweden's high-tech industry, for example, could provide an important reference for building a "green silicon island." Another example is the way some European nations use their public resources to protect their cultures from becoming too Americanized.

Taiwan's media are in danger of creating myths in their coverage of China, through their lack of an international angle. Consider politics, for example. Taiwan's media look at China solely from the perspective of cross-strait relations, rather than from China's role in the international arena. This ignores complex political and economic issues and clashes between interests within the vast country.

In an international context, the Taiwan question has always been a bargaining chip rather than a substantive issue in China-US relations. If Taiwan's media don't begin to analyze the situation from this perspective, they could easily be led to believe that when "Beijing sneezes, Tai-wan gets sick."

Many in Taiwan's media are fond of quoting the Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council (國台辦). But what roles does the office play in the numerous branches of China's central government? Are its power and connections on a par with other foreign affairs departments in China? Rarely does the media get to the bottom of questions such as these.

Take China's handling of journalists from Taiwan during the APEC summit in Shanghai. Following a tongue-lashing by Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇) to questions raised by reporters from Taiwan, the Taiwan Affairs Office began to play a more conciliatory role, taking the journalists out for meals. Obviously, the office is more of a service provider than a policy maker. But Taiwan's media always quote "The Taiwan Affairs Office said ..." as the golden rule.

The media often forget their responsibility to look at the whole world from Taiwan's angle as they focus on Washington or Beijing. The media should monitor the social problems brought by the era of globalization instead of reporting only the good things.

Hsu Tung-ming is a freelance writer based in Beijing.

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