Ma’s pal Paal
Former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director Douglas Paal has been undiplomatic toward Joseph Wu (吳昭燮), the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) new representative to the US, compared to his treatment of King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), Taiwan’s new representative to the US (“Paal gives advice to Taiwan’s US envoy,” Dec. 5, page 3).
Paal talked about the “high quality of communication” between Taiwan and the US in welcoming King and praised the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) , but mentioned “ambiguous, ambivalent or sensitive issues” when referring to Wu and the DPP in general.
Apparently, Ma’s administration communicates much better with foreigners than with Taiwanese who find Ma’s “sensitive” policies too opaque and ambiguous.
When Ma’s campaign for the January presidential election was at a low ebb, Paal openly endorsed him and even supported Ma’s so-called “1992 consensus.”
On the other hand, Paal criticized the “Taiwan consensus,” proposed by DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) as being ambiguous.
When Ma’s US green card became a hot issue in the 2008 presidential election, Paal himself, as then-AIT director, “clarified” to Taiwanese that Ma did not have a green card.
Today, the “1992 consensus” is still a controversy and Ma’s green card is still a mystery to the majority of Taiwanese.
Paal indicates that Taiwan-China relations appear more stable today than for more than 60 years. He forgot to mention that Taiwan’s sovereignty is suffering.
Taiwan has two representatives in the US, possibly because Taiwan is not a normal country and the US is crucial to Taiwan.
If Taiwan were a normal country, it would be recognized by the US, Japan, the EU and the UN, and King would be the ambassador.
Wu has an important role to play since he has to let the US know what Taiwanese want, especially when Ma’s current approval rating is only 13 percent.
Bumbled media plurality
Media systems in democratic countries are supposed to provide two vital functions.
The first is a “marketplace of ideas” where newspapers and TV channels serve as carriers for various competing perspectives and facilitate a public sphere for the debate of important political and social issues.
The other is to be the “watchdog of democracy,” providing a critical coverage of what powerful political actors are doing, especially in regard to what they are doing wrong.
Unfortunately, purely market-driven media systems tend towards oligopolies, with a few media conglomerates dominating the scene.
This is bad for plurality, and for this reason some European countries actively promote media diversity.
In Sweden, for example, the government makes sure that there are at least two competing newspapers in every market, both national and local, by subsidizing the economically weaker title when necessary.
In Taiwan, however, the government seems to be going in the opposite direction, facilitating the emergence of a media monopoly.
The hotly disputed Next Media Group deal may change the media landscape dramatically.
Under previous owner, Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai (黎智英), Next Media has usually provided a critical perspective on political realities in China and on President Ma’s pro-China policies.
However, the would-be new owners of the Next Media Group all have economic stakes in China and rather pro-Chinese reputations.
Instead of performing a watchdog role, the Apple Daily, Next TV and the group’s other media outlets are now likely to become uncritical supporters of all things Chinese.
The government does not see the problem. Actually, it may see one problem disappearing, with an annoying watchdog turned into a lapdog.
However, even if the media claim that Ma presides over a stimulating and democratic media system, it would not stop critical voices from responding that Taiwanese media plurality is being bumbled.