Taiwan probably has the distinction of being the global leader on the frequency by which it is referred to as being “anti-” something, an underlying bias among journalists and academics that is as unfair to its peaceful constituents as it is to reality.
For years, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which played an instrumental role in the democratization of the country and which is founded on the principle of self-determination, has been plagued by references, usually in foreign media, as an “anti-China” party. No matter what it does, the DPP is portrayed as a political entity that would will China out of existence if it could.
In reality, throughout the years and under various leaders, the party has shown itself amenable to exchanges with China and has engaged in dialogue with Chinese officials on a number of occasions, in both above-board and behind-the-scenes settings. Even under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), whom Beijing reviled as an “extremist” bent on “splitting the motherland,” the DPP made several attempts, especially during its first term, to foster closer relations, so much so that the economic interrelationship in the Taiwan Strait changed dramatically during that period, developments that simply could not have happened had Chen and the DPP been “anti-China.”
The prevailing view within the DPP — and this is not expected to change under its new chairman, Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) — is that Taiwan’s sovereignty and ability to chart its future is essential as the nation navigates the uncharted waters of a closer relationship with China. Rather than being “anti-China,” the DPP is “pro-Taiwan.”
As if such characterization of the DPP were not enough, global media recently applied the same rule to weapons developed by the Taiwanese military, making the Hsiung Feng IIE land-attack cruise missile an “anti-China missile” in their headlines. Beating hearts — and now electronics and explosives — are being depicted as part of an irrational streak, a means to obstruct “rational” individuals who want to interact with China. Oddly, we never hear of the 1,500 ballistic missiles coercively aimed at Taiwan as being “anti-Taiwan.” (Have Israeli missiles ever been “anti-Palestine” or “anti-Iran”? Are Indian rockets “anti-Pakistan” or “anti-China?”)
Nor, for that matter, are the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army, who through their actions and rhetoric have made it amply clear that they would will Taiwan out of existence, depicted in a similarly negative light. China’s missile arsenal, which includes many nuclear warheads, is sufficient to wipe Taiwan off the map many times over; Taiwan has no such means, nor does it seek them.
The unjust rhetoric occurs too often to simply be intellectual laziness. Rather, by dint of repetition and sustained propaganda efforts on Beijing’s part, the bias has become institutionalized. Its main function is to negate Taiwan as a legitimate entity in itself, to turn the people who fight for its existence, and the military apparatus whose principal role is to defend the nation, into undoers rather than doers, which stems directly from Beijing’s contention that Taiwan was, is, and always will be, an intrinsic part of China.
The most recently created sovereign nations, such as Kosovo and East Timor, never faced such injustice in coverage of their fight to emancipate themselves from colonial occupation. Journalists never left any doubt that East Timorese guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao was a nationalist who was fighting for his country. The same applied to South Africa’s Nelson Mandela or Czech dissident Vaclav Havel. They were for freedom and above all, for their country.
Why, then, should it be any different for Taiwan, whose people are as entitled to self-determination as any others who have successfully attained it?
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