Sun, Feb 04, 2007 - Page 8 News List

CNN shows ignorance with gaffes on Taiwan

By Dan Bloom

When CNN reporter Anjali Rao interviewed President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) last month on the network's Talk Asia show, she made three minor, yet serious, mistakes.

While the 30-minute interview was a success and gave Chen an important forum to make his views known to the international community, the Hong Kong-born and London-educated Rao didn't treat Taiwan with as much respect as she should have.

First, she (or to be fair, her editors in the CNN control booth) printed Chen's name in English incorrectly -- it's "Chen Shui-bian," not "Chen Shiu Bian" -- and then she referred to China as "the mainland" in one of her questions.

In another question, Rao referred to Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) as Chen's "deputy" when Lu's title is not "deputy president" but "vice president."

These might seem like small quibbles, and are perhaps not big gaffes.

But would Rao refer to US Vice President Dick Cheney as President George W. Bush's "deputy"?

And there is no country called "The Mainland." China is officially called the People's Republic of China and informally referred to as China.

There is no need for CNN to refer to China as "the mainland." It is nobody's mainland, except for the residents of China's islands.

Lastly, CNN would never write the name of China's president, Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), as "Hu Jin Tao."

If CNN had done its homework, these gaffes would not have occurred.

But they did occur, and did so on a TV show broadcast around the world.

Rao, who is a seasoned journalist and who asked insightful questions during her interview with Chen, simply was not truly prepared for her meeting with Chen and it seems that her editors did not prepare her in advance, either.

According to a CNN transcript of the program posted on the Internet, this is how Rao began her program with Chen as guest: "Hello I'm Anjali Rao in Taipei. My guest this week is Taiwan's President Chen Shui Bian. This is Talk Asia! Chen Shui Bian is a man in a tough spot. While determined to secure Taiwan's independence from mainland China, he knows what it could mean for the island he's led for seven years."

Later in the interview, Rao says to Chen: "President, recent reports from the Pentagon say China has 900 missiles pointed at this island; do you think that China will attack Taiwan?"

Would Rao refer on air to Japan or Britain or Australia as an "island"?

I have one final question about the CNN interview with Chen.

Was the interview broadcast within China, or was the show blocked from airing on CNN International, which normally can be seen on TV screens in Beijing and Shanghai?

CNN has some serious soul-searching that it needs to do in its newsroom when it reports on current events in Taiwan.

Dan Bloom is freelance writer in Taiwan.

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