A small insert map said it all. When the “tussle” — as one Western news agency put it — between China, Japan and Taiwan over ownership of islands in the East China Sea spilled over into the prime display advertising real estate of the New York Times and the Washington Post on Sept. 28 after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took out expensive double-page ads in both papers, there was an important detail that almost every news outlet in Taiwan, Japan and the US missed.
On the small map accompanying both ads, the CCP cartographers put China and Taiwan in the same color code, implying that Taiwan is part of the People’s Republic of China — and worse, the CCP map, accepted as legitimate by the New York Times advertising department, displayed the words “Taiwan Island” printed over the sovereign nation of Taiwan.
Also in small print below the map, an attentive reader could make out the following text which was credited as being sourced from the PRC’s State Oceanic Administration: “[The] Diaoyu [釣魚] Islands ... are located to the northeast of China’s Taiwan Island ... and are affiliated to Taiwan Island.”
Say that again? China administers an island called “Taiwan Island”? And these Diaoyu islands are “affiliated” to “Taiwan Island”? And both the New York Times and the Washington Post accepted this as a paid ad in their pages? The directors of the advertising departments of both papers should be ashamed of themselves for allowing a bully ad like that to appear without any fact checking or editing.
In fact, the map and its caption were accepted by both the New York Times and the Washington Post without as much as a peep from either of the papers’ reporters or editors. While the centerfold display ad in the New York Times — “among the most expensive real estate in all of journalism,” as one reporter put it — was reported to have been “purchased by the China Daily newspaper,” in fact, since the China Daily is a state-run newspaper of the CCP, the funds for the purchase came directly from the Chinese government.
Hiroshi Ito, a Japanese reporter for the Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo, put it this way: “China Daily, a China-based English-language newspaper, sponsored the ads, which both show a photo and a map of the Senkaku Islands to bolster China’s position in the territorial dispute. The ads argue that the name Diaoyu Island [釣魚島], the largest of the group — called Uotsurishima in Japanese — was found in a book published in 1403, which shows that China had discovered and named it by the 14th and 15th centuries.”
Ito noted that after the ads appeared in the Times and the Post, the Japanese embassy in Washington and the Japanese Consulate General in New York filed protests with both newspapers, citing factual errors.
However, did the ROC file any protest with the papers, citing factual errors in the insert map’s caption that referred to the ROC as “Taiwan Island”?
Ito further reported that both the New York Times and the Washington Post’s editors denied that their newspapers supported the content of the CCP advertisements, saying they would also take notice of the fact that the Japanese government had filed a protest. However, did anyone in the Republic of China government think to file a protest over the name for Taiwan that China used in the ads which appeared in the New York Times?
The insert map is so small that it hardly matters. Yet in a world where China matters so much, Taiwan matters even more because Taiwan practices democracy and trumpets freedom, and China does not.
China has every right to take out full-page ads in Western newspapers, saying whatever it wants to say, but should those ads be allowed to present falsehoods to readers? Despite the small size of the insert map in the ad, the mislabeling of Taiwan is a big thing. Because every time China gets away with a lie, it paves the way for more CCP lies in the future.
Germany practiced this kind of deception in the 1930s and 1940s and look what happened. The former Soviet Union practiced those kinds of deceptions on a daily basis, too. When will the world wake up to China’s devious deceptions as well, even when they appear in very fine print in very small maps printed in the New York Times?
Dan Bloom is a freelance writer in Taiwan.