Sun, Oct 03, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Media can't see forest for the trees

In the last few days certain comments by Premier Yu Shyi-kun and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) have received considerable attention throughout the nation. In what he called his "balance of terror" concept, Yu said to China, "If you fire 100 missiles at me, I should be able to fire at least 50 at you. If you launch an attack on Taipei or Kaohsiung, I should be able to launch a counterattack on Shanghai." Chen criticized Singapore's recent kowtowing to China, using choice words from the local vernacular and saying the state was "no bigger than a piece of snot" and was currently "holding China's lam pa [testicles]" -- a Taiwanese colloquialism for currying favor with someone.

Taiwan is a democratic country, and there is nothing unusual about hearing all manner of conflicting opinions and points of view. Nevertheless, it does seem that the majority of people criticizing these comments choose to blame Taiwan, and hold back any criticisms of China. In doing so they are concentrating on trifling shortcomings, and failing to give adequate attention to the nation's broader interests.

People would do well to take note of how these biases have come into play in the debate over Yu and Chen's latest remarks, and contemplate the implications.

The debate over both of these comments has centered around the cross-strait situation, and its implications for the continued existence of Taiwan. The most critical factor here is the implications of Yu and Chen's comments for our national interests, and whether the concept of the "balance of terror" and the upbraiding of Singapore will turn out to be positive or negative for Taiwan.

The second consideration to be made is whether the debate itself is worthwhile. From the rumblings that these words have stirred up in the media, and from the deluge of partisan debate that they have precipitated, it seems that the media are more interested in matters of etiquette and propriety than in a serious debate on whether Taiwan should proceed with a balance of terror policy, or whether Singapore should have been berated for its continued admonishments of Taiwan on the international scene.

The media's handling of all this, put politely, demonstrates that they can't see the forest for the trees. Put more bluntly, one could say they are mistaken in terms of their attitude and standpoint, and that they are not thinking of the survival of the country or its people.

Frankly speaking, Yu's words were extremely incisive, and Chen's language was rather coarse. Government officials are representatives of the nation, and therefore should try to be more careful with their choice of words if they are to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and resulting diversions from the matter at hand.

That said, national security and the national interest should be the main consideration, and not how imprudent any given remark may be. If the underlying policy is correct, it should not be overshadowed by such careless comments. And if you look at the gist of what Yu and Chen were saying, you can see that they do take into account what is best for the nation. Perhaps, then, they should not be judged so harshly by some in the Taiwanese press.

So, in what way were their comments wrong? It seems that Yu is saying that Taiwan has yet to achieve a "balance of terror." If it had, would China be following its policy of intimidation against Taiwan, or holding guided missile drills? If Taiwan had indeed achieved this balance, there would be no question mark over national security today, the nation's people would be able to feel secure, and war across the Strait could be avoided. Isn't this in the interests of Taiwan, East Asia, and in fact the whole world?

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