Fri, Sep 11, 2009 - Page 8

Media culpability

Since May last year, local and international media have extensively covered, and celebrated, what they describe as a “growing cross-strait consensus.” President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is usually cast as a “peacemaker” and “pragmatic,” while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is described as “open to dialogue, and patient but guarded.”

Beijing’s talking point of “strained relations” during the “provocative” regime of president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is used as a comparative against which to measure the success of current policies.

The degree to which Taiwan pleases China and avoids putting the US State Department in compromising positions is considered the barometer for relations among the three. Chinese aggression and petulance are ignored or overlooked.

In their dissemination of KMT and CCP propaganda, the media omit two key elements to the story. First, cross-strait relations have been built not on a country-to-country basis, but between the KMT and the CCP, and those attendant and opportunistic corporate leaders who see fortune in the annexation of Taiwan by China. Second, the KMT and the CCP are co-managing domestic and international public relations: There’s no tension between the two, or rather, any tension is almost entirely staged and the process negotiated beforehand.

The Dalai Lama’s visit was a clear example. The KMT and the CCP agreed that Ma couldn’t risk the political fallout from banning him, but the KMT would have to ignore him. In exchange, the CCP would restrict itself to criticizing the Dalai Lama and his hosts. Everything proceeded according to plan. Cross-strait relations, which we were told were “strained” by the Dalai Lama’s visit, will now “return” to “normal.”

This is the official line and one that the media are reluctant to question. The reality is there are at least two tiers to Taiwan-China relations: official and governmental and the unofficial party-to-party relations. The former has been “partially frozen and is only incrementally amendable,” while the latter has “thawed and is rapidly growing” — so much so that the legitimacy and sovereignty of the Republic of China is being called into question.

This division between official and shadow executives threatens to bypass the president and the legislature, effectively neutralizing the Taiwanese public’s right to hold their political leaders to account and determine their foreign policy.

Former Democratic Progressive Party legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) highlighted this danger in January when he described the implications of KMT-led cross-strait relations: “During the previous round of talks between [Chinese President] Hu [Jintao, 胡錦濤] and [KMT Chairman] Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), Wu and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) listened with satisfaction as Hu mocked Ma by saying that negotiations between the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait and the SEF [Straits Exchange Foundation] were one track in cross-strait affairs, and the KMT-CCP forums were the other.”

If the media continue to ignore the reality of cross-strait relations, then they will ultimately be as culpable as the KMT-CCP forum participants when Taiwan finally revolts against its “unofficial” sell-off behind closed doors.