On Monday last week, the media reported that a military source had said that US Marine Corps instructors were to visit Taiwan to help train Taiwanese troops (“US Marines arrive in Taiwan for military exchange,” Nov. 10, page 2).
The next day, US Department of Defense spokesman John Supple told the US military’s Stars and Stripes newspaper that reports about US Marines training Taiwanese soldiers were “inaccurate,” adding: “The United States remains committed to our One-China Policy” (“Ministry denies reports on visit by US Marine Corps,” Nov. 13, page 3)
What initially seemed like a relatively innocuous piece of reporting was suddenly elevated to a level of seriousness that required the US Department of State to issue a clarification. The implied message was surely not lost on President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration.
While the Ministry of National Defense was trying to address this situation in as low-key a manner as possible, at a news conference the following day, Executive Yuan spokesman Ting Yi-ming (丁怡銘) said that the winning dish at the Taipei Beef Noodle Festival had used US beef containing ractopamine residue, leading the winning restaurant to issue a copy of a certificate proving that no ractopamine residue had been found in any of its food (“KMT’s Lin weighs session boycott over beef noodle rift,” Nov. 15, page 2).
Ting released an apology, ordering 100 bowls of the restaurant’s beef noodles on the Executive Yuan’s account to make up for any losses incurred from his comments.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) stood by Ting, but the event reflected poorly on the Tsai government, given its stance on the spread of disinformation, and caused several Democratic Progressive Party legislators to call on the Executive Yuan to address the issue to contain potential fallout.
It was not a good week for the government. In the space of several days, the ministry received a slap on the wrist from the US military, and the Executive Yuan was called out on perpetrating a falsehood by a local beef noodle store. These were a slap in the face for a government that prides itself on communication.
In the chapter “Exhortation to Learning” (勸學) of his treatise, the Chinese Confucian philosopher Xunzi (荀子) wrote: “Just as worms and maggots appear when meat and fish rot, complacency naturally leads to disaster.”
Those ancient words still ring true.
Beijing’s imposition of the Hong Kong National Security Law and a number of other democratic and human rights issues continue to strain relations between the UK and China. The tense situation has significantly decreased the likelihood of British Royal Navy ships being able to continue their practice of docking in Hong Kong’s harbor for resupply — a not altogether unpredictable development. In a Nov. 19 online speech to parliament, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier would next year lead a British and allied task group to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and East Asia. Johnson
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I was probably the first professor in Taiwan to teach a university-level food safety class and a postgraduate food toxicology course. During the administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), I participated in discussions to allow imports of US beef containing traces of ractopamine, and was part of the decision to permit imports of US pork containing the leanness-enhancing additive. I am not an expert on ractopamine, as I have never done any research on the drug, but I have taught classes about the health dangers of foods containing traces of harmful substances. When US beef imports were about to be allowed,