Sat, Dec 23, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's Mailbag

Bad karma catches up with Gallup Taiwan as the real Gallup people make it known they wouldn't touch the organization with a 30-foot poll. Meanwhile, a stateside historian gives Johnny license to nail portrayals of Taiwanese as one-issue voters.

Gallup vs Gallup Taiwan

Dear Johnny,

I just read your piece from last Saturday titled "You love farce? Send in the clowns." Toward the end you commented on Gallup and polling results from the recent election.

Gallup did not do this work. We are the only owner of the Gallup trademark in Taiwan and in 100 other countries around the world. We had a licensee in Taiwan who used the name up until 2002 when we revoked the rights. The poll that has used our name is a counterfeit. The individual [Dr. Timothy Ting Ting-yu, 丁庭宇] or his organization does not have any rights in the trademark Gallup and any unauthorized use is infringement of our registered rights. We respectfully request a correction.

Chris Stewart

Global Brand Manager

The Gallup Organization


Johnny replies: Interesting. And there was silly me blindly assuming that Gallup Taiwan was in all good faith a branch of The Gallup Organization. After looking at samples of the wisdom of Dr Tim, I notice that this pollster spends a lot of time barracking for political positions and telling Taiwanese what they should think about politics instead of measuring what Taiwanese think about politics. I've said before that sociologists are vulnerable to conflating cheerleading with science, but this former National Taiwan University faculty member takes the cake.

Defined into oblivion

Dear Johnny,

Bloomberg and China Watch/Asia Intelligence -- a proprietary service -- had an interesting report concluding that the mayoral election results demonstrate that views of "the mainland" still define Taiwan politics.

It is a good article until the last paragraph that contains this argument.

To be sure, the pan-blues are lacking in leaders whose families antedate 1945. But surely politics in Taiwan are about more than China?

Arthur Waldron

Johnny replies: That's precisely the problem. There's no more effective way of essentializing Taiwanese than portraying them as one-issue voters. To see the picture more clearly requires a level of understanding and detailed elucidation of local politics that is of absolutely no interest to your average foreign affairs editor at a newspaper or wire agency.

This red-herring opposition (pro-China/anti-China) does not account for strong differences of opinion in the KMT and the DPP, nor does it have a hope of capturing the complexity of local factional politics, let alone defections.

The international coverage reminds me of the days when Taiwan was Free China -- the supposed microcosm of the China that was and should be. I'm sure, Arthur, you have read literature from the 1960s and 1970s in which academics and journalists came here on the KMT dime and talked about the "Republic of China" with a straight face. They warned of the threat of Red China and rejoiced in surviving "Chinese" culture in the countryside while ignoring or misrepresenting local opposition to KMT thuggery. Of course, it was hard for anyone to object to these confections, considering the reward for dissent was harassment of you and your family and often much, much worse.

It may come as a kick in the teeth to some, but politics in Taiwan is about Taiwan. The China element is relevant but overrated, though of course in presidential elections it looms largest.

As for the pan-blues lacking local leadership, this is slowly changing, though grassroots supporters abandoned local boy Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

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