How quickly the proverbial frog is being cooked. Less than three months ago, thousands of young Taiwanese and representatives of media organizations gathered to protest against the acquisition by Want Want China Times Group of cable TV services run by China Network Systems, fearing that such a purchase — since then conditionally approved — would create a “media monster.”
This week, Want Want Group is not only appealing the conditions set by the government, but is on the brink, along with two other corporate giants, of acquiring Next Media Group’s outlets in Taiwan, including the staunchly independent Apple Daily and Next Magazine, sparking a new round of protests over the past two days.
With a decision expected later this week, one of the few remaining neutral media organizations in Taiwan could be swallowed up by a triumvirate composed of the China-friendly Want Want China Times Group, Formosa Plastics Group and the Chinatrust Charity Foundation. All three have important business operations in authoritarian China.
The main danger of media monopolization is not that Taiwanese will be “brainwashed,” but that journalists and editorialists will feel compelled to avoid certain controversial subjects for the financial benefit of their employers.
The argument has been made that in the electronic age, traditional media have lost some of their prestige as a “fourth estate” scrutinizing people in positions of authority. As the recent revolutions in northern Africa have shown, blogs, instant messaging and other online media now play a crucial role in mobilizing the masses. However, the fact remains that the masses still do not get the press passes needed to attend important events — journalists do, and it will be a while yet before bloggers, no matter how good they are, acquire the legitimacy and access that come with working for recognized media organizations.
As a wealthy few take control of the local media, and as their reliance on China continues to grow, Taiwan could someday find itself in a situation where most journalists covering important events — say, negotiations on future cross-strait agreements — come from those few media organizations whose owners have a stake in not alienating Beijing or the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Reporters who do not self-censor, or who take an undue interest in politics, would risk their careers. As a result, the population would be denied information that would now be the privilege of an elite few, whose interests may not necessarily coincide with those of the majority.
In the years leading up to Japan’s decision to ally with Nazi Germany in World War II, the Japanese never fully understood the extent of Adolf Hitler’s apocalyptic vision. Perhaps, had the Japanese translator of Mein Kampf not edited out Hitler’s references to Japanese as part of the Untermenschen, or “subhumans,” they might have made a different choice.
The current situation places greater responsibility on the few remaining media that can lay claim to independence, as well as the foreign news outlets that continue to operate in Taiwan. Worryingly, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has at times been inimical to foreign reporters, either accusing them of not fully understanding the situation because they are foreigners, or in more extreme instances, threatening them with expulsion for exposing damaging information.
With domestic media forced into submission by powerful commercial interests and a foreign press that is constantly excluded, one wonders who is left to ensure Taiwan’s story continues to be told fully and with honesty.
The students and their supporters who braved the scorching heat of September and the damp coldness of November for the sake of a free media environment have already said they will not give up and intend to resume their protest tomorrow to ask that government agencies in charge of monitoring the media do the right thing. Many of them are too young to know what it is like to live in an unfree media environment, but have enough imagination to know they don’t want that for their future.
During the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum’s third leadership summit on Aug. 31, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said that the US wants to partner with the other members of the Quadrilaterial Security Dialogue — Australia, India and Japan — to establish an organization similar to NATO, to “respond to ... any potential challenge from China.” He said that the US’ purpose is to work with these nations and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region to “create a critical mass around the shared values and interest of those parties,” and possibly attract more countries to establish an alliance comparable to
On August 24, 2020, the US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, made an important statement: “The Pentagon is Prepared for China.” Going forward, how might the Department of Defense team up with Taiwan to make itself even more prepared? No American wants to deter the next war by a paper-thin margin, and no one appreciates the value of strategic overmatch more than the war planners at the Pentagon. When the stakes are this high, you can bet they want to be super ready. In recent months, we have witnessed a veritable flood of high-level statements from US government leaders on
China has long sought shortcuts to developing semiconductor technologies and local supply chains by poaching engineers and experts from Taiwan and other nations. It is also suspected of stealing trade secrets from Taiwanese and US firms to fulfill its ambition of becoming a major player in the global semiconductor industry in the next decade. However, it takes more than just money and talent to build a semiconductor supply chain like the one which Taiwan and the US started to cultivate more than 30 years ago. Amid rising trade and technology tensions between the world’s two biggest economies, Beijing has become
With a new White House document in May — the “Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China” — the administration of US President Donald Trump has firmly set its hyper-competitive line to tackle geoeconomic and geostrategic rivalry, followed by several reinforcing speeches by Trump and other Cabinet-level officials. By identifying China as a near-equal rival, the strategy resonates well with the bipartisan consensus on China in today’s severely divided US. In the face of China’s rapidly growing aggression, the move is long overdue, yet relevant for the maintenance of the international “status quo.” The strategy seems to herald a new