Taiwan’s most pressing threat is the rest of the world’s lack of awareness of Taiwan.
Mainstream English coverage of Taiwan suffers the same problem as many countries that are outside the “trending” news cycle by being presented as consequential to broader tensions between “big powers” like the US and China. This has been particularly true this year, with vital stories involving Taiwan oversimplified by major international platforms.
Ironically, a broader international understanding of Taiwan is key to demonstrating that these “big power” narratives are never as simple as propaganda or the 24-hour news cycle would suggest. Given the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, it seems important to note the Taiwanese government has long stated its willingness to formulate alternative extradition arrangements that would enable Chan Tong-kai (陳同佳) — accused of murdering his girlfriend Poon Hiu-wing (潘曉穎) in Taiwan and fleeing back to Hong Kong — to stand trial in Taiwan without pursuing the now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed extradition of Hong Kong citizens to China.
Rolling coverage of activity on the ground by mainstream English-language platforms, alongside demonization of protesters by Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-controlled outlets like CGTN, have clouded much awareness of this.
Coverage of Taiwan’s Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee’s response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) Jan. 2 speech on the CCP’s willingness to achieve control of Taiwan by any means necessary offered an important refute of the CCP’s antiquated Han-centric nationalist narrative of political authority by virtue of race from Taiwan’s Aboriginal community.
English translations of the response were available only in specialized Taiwanese news outlets such as the max Taipei Times, a situation desperately needing improvement when much of the world is not even aware of Taiwan’s Aboriginal peoples.
Equally concerning is the absence of investigating CCP motives towards Taiwan, as seen in the coverage of the CCP’s banning of individual travel to Taiwan. Setting aside the lack of discussion that individuals are harder to track than the still-permitted group tours and business travelers, or CCP anxiety over Chinese citizens having interactions with Taiwanese away from its control, the move was characterized by CNN and the BBC as a worsening of cross-strait relations on the part of Taiwan due to President Tsai Ying-wen’s (蔡英文) visit to New York, and US arms sales, respectively. Only Bloomberg made the effort to consider as a motive the CCP’s desire to influence Taiwan’s presidential election next year.
These examples point to the same problem. Quality coverage that prevents misunderstandings about Taiwan and “big power” narratives is plentiful, but difficult for English-language audiences to access. It relies on readers seeking to understand Taiwan, an unreasonable expectation for the average person with little interest or knowledge of Taiwan to begin with.
One solution may be to emphasize the broader risks of catering to sensationalist political posturing and economic comparison at the expense of comprehensive reporting.
Considering the dual concern of political apathy and factionalism within English-speaking countries, proper coverage of Taiwan may offer an effective start to solving both problems.
Max Lembke-Soh is a history and Taiwan studies graduate from SOAS, University of London.
Since COVID-19 broke out in Taiwan, there has been a fair amount of news regarding discrimination and “witch hunts” against medical personnel, people under self-quarantine and other targets, such as the students of a school where an infection was discovered. Quarantine breakers are almost certainly on the loose and it is only natural for people to be vigilant. One in Chiayi was found by accident at a traffic stop because his helmet was not fastened. However, those who follow the rules by quarantining themselves should be encouraged to keep up the good work in a difficult situation, instead of being
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator-at-large Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) has said that there is a huge difference between Chinese military aircraft circling Taiwan along the edges of its airspace and invading Taiwan’s airspace. He also said that whether it is US or Chinese aircraft flying along or encircling Taiwan’s airspace, there is no legal basis to say that such actions imply a clear provocation of Taiwan, and asked the Ministry of National Defense not to mislead the public. People who hear this might think that it is not a very Taiwanese thing to say. US military activity in the vicinity of Taiwan
As the nation welcomes home Taiwanese who had been stranded in China’s Hubei Province — arguably one of the most dangerous places on Earth since the novel coronavirus outbreak began in its capital, Wuhan, late last year — problems surrounding the “quasi-charter flights” that brought them back have been largely overlooked. The media used the term to describe the two flights dispatched by Taiwan’s state-run China Airlines because they do not count as charter flights. Taiwanese wanting to board those flights had to travel — most likely by train — more than 1,000km from Hubei to Shanghai Pudong International Airport
As the COVID-19 pandemic spins out of control, many parts of the world are experiencing shortages of medical masks and other protective equipment. I am studying in Washington state, which at the time of writing is the US state that has suffered the largest number of deaths from the novel coronavirus. The week before last, UW Medicine — an organization that includes the University of Washington School of Medicine and associated medical centers and clinics — sent its volunteers an e-mail asking the public to make masks and donate them to hospitals. Attached to the message was a mask donation