CNN report about ‘gluttonous’ Taipei raises some hackles

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, May 06, 2011 - Page 1

An article on the CNN Web site that labels Taipei as a city of “gluttony” has angered some legislators and prompted Government Information Office Minister Philip Yang (楊永明) to say that the government would have to fill CNN in on the nation’s cuisine and culture.

Answering questions yesterday from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers at the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee on concerns over the CNN report, Yang said it had “damaged” the nation’s image.

CNNGo, CNN’s culture and travel Web site, on April 20 used Catholicism’s seven deadly sins to describe the seven best Asian cities for indulgence, with Taipei named as the best city for gluttony.

“We understand the media’s need for interesting and provocative articles, but gluttony, the word … is indecent and it has a negative connotation,” Yang told KMT Legislator Chen Shu-huey (陳淑慧).

The CNN report was an issue of interest among several KMT lawmakers at the committee.

“I can’t stand the idea that we are described as gluttonous. Saying that Taipei is a city of gluttony is definitely not praise for its delicacies,” KMT Legislator Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) said.

KMT Legislator Chiang Nai-shin (蔣乃辛) also said the incident had hurt the nation’s image.

KMT Chiang Yi-hsiung (江義雄) said the CNN report suggested that people in Taiwan are “fond of eating and averse to work.”

“What’s wrong with eating?” Chiang asked.

CNN showed a lack of courtesy by attaching such a vulgar label to Taipei, Chiang said.

In response, Yang said Taipei is a city where visitors can enjoy gourmet food.

CNNGo said visitors can find cheap meals everywhere, day and night, in a city that sports 18 streets dedicated to nothing but food.

“Where you might usually expect a bus shelter, instead you’ll find a barbecue. Sidewalks become snack stalls. The pungent smell of stinky tofu fills the air. Night markets in Taipei have become famous for their snack selections, or xiaochi, literally meaning ‘small eats,’” the article says.

“The dishes may be little, but so are the prices, running [at] about US$1 or US$2,” it said, adding: “A fat gut never came so easily.”

Speaking to reporters later yesterday, Yang said he had asked the Department of International Information to communicate its concerns to CNN.

“I also feel that [gluttony] is a strong word to use. We don’t need to be too angry over this, because this is the bantering style of the report,” he said. “Nonetheless, it has affected the nation’s image to some extent and some people do care about this.”

On the bright side, Yang said, the government would use the incident to boost international recognition of Taiwanese gourmet and culinary culture.

The Tourism Bureau said “gluttony” was an interesting way to promote Taiwan when compared with the other words used by CNNGo to describe other Asian cities, including “sloth” for Seoul and “wrath” for Pyongyang.

The Discovery channel once introduced Taiwan in a program titled Glutton For Punishment, it said.

Cheng Ying-hui (鄭瑛慧), an official at the Tourism Bureau, said gluttony does not always have to be interpreted as meaning something negative.