Sat, May 06, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch: Keeping the red carpet rolled up

Be aghast as wire agencies the world over turn Taiwan's perennial diplomatic difficulties into an excuse to bash the incumbent president. Better not clean that dog poo off the streets of Puli.

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

If you were a US president and wanted to give Taiwan a diplomatic smackdown, what would you do?

You can't cut ties because officially they don't exist. Public rebukes of a democratic leader don't play well when your supposed God-given mission is spreading the Gospel of Freedom worldwide. Halting arms sales would expose you to vicious attacks from the neocon and commie-hating right -- not to mention stirring up a hornet's nest of irate defense contractors who would lose lucrative contracts. And besides, the pan-blue camp's doing a good enough job stopping such deals anyway.

There's not much a US president can do, frankly. You're left with petty diplomatic knuckle-rapping -- but that seems to sting Taiwan plenty.

I'm referring, of course, to Uncle Sam's eleventh-hour decision last week that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) would only be allowed to transit in frigid Anchorage, Alaska, on his way to and from Central and South America -- with no slumber parties allowed. Talk about the cold shoulder.

As media reports pointed out, it's the chilliest treatment a Taiwanese president has received from the US since Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had to cool his jets -- literally -- on a Hawaii runway in 1994, without being able to leave the airport. That led to the famous "PJ protest" in which an irate Lee stayed in his pajamas while meeting a US envoy who boarded the plane.

God only knows what get-up Chen would have chosen to express his displeasure. Perhaps a fruit hat -- and nothing else. At any rate, a miffed Chen decided to pick up his toys and find other kids to play with -- in the United Arab Emirates.

So what's the big deal about Chen's trips to the US, anyway? As The Associated Press patiently explained for the umpteenth time: "China considers self-governed Taiwan as part of its territory and frowns on any visits by its leaders that might imply Taiwanese sovereignty."

Now, I understand the need to write in language that a six-year-old could understand -- after all, that's the reading level of most Americans (the AP's home audience), if recent education statistics are to be believed. But wouldn't it be nice sometimes to read something more accurate? Something along the lines, of, oh, I don't know: "China, which has a delusional view of history and is in deep collective denial, considers Taiwan part of its territory -- although a claim over Moldova would be about as legitimate. It frowns on anything Taiwan does that might imply reality."

Reuters copy should get a similar makeover. Their explanation, "China ... views any country that plays host to Chen as encouraging his vision of a separate Taiwanese identity," should read as follows: "China views any country that plays host to Chen as encouraging a clear view of Taiwan's status, unmuddied by Beijing's `greater China' propaganda."

And does Reuters really have to rub it in about our diplomatic allies? "Only 26 states -- mostly small, poor countries -- recognize Taipei instead of Beijing." They might as well write, "Only 26 states -- mostly tin-can, pissant places that by all rights shouldn't even be called countries, the bottom of the barrel, the riff-raff of the international community -- recognize Taipei instead of Beijing."

What about the feelings of the 11,810 people of Tuvalu? Or does Reuters not care about them?

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