A-bian on the ABC

Last night’s edition of Foreign Correspondent on ABC TV featured a program about Taiwan. It included an interview with President Chen, an interview with KMT legislator Su Qi and coverage of President Chen’s recent visit to the Solomon Islands and Palau.

The report was probably a useful primer for the average Australian with little knowledge of Taiwan, but it lacked depth and promoted various misunderstandings about Taiwan politics. It seemed to paint a picture of Taiwan where the politics was very black and white. According to the report Taiwan was a nation divided where 50% of people supported independence and the other 50% wanted to reunify with China. The reality is far from that simple and the only thing you could safely say about Taiwan is that there is a diversity of opinion and a majority of Taiwanese support the status quo, even if it is only to avoid any possible confrontation with China. It also failed to explain how the entire political landscape has been restructured since President Chen’s election in 2000 and that within the various political parties there are major differences of opinion on Taiwan’s status and relationship with China.

I suppose you can’t expect too much of a 20 minute TV program produced for an Australian audience, but to me it highlights the way Taiwan is misrepresented in the world’s media. Firstly, there is the oversimplification of Taiwan’s politics to a simple pro-independence versus pro-reunification divide. Secondly, China’s claims over Taiwan are subjected to virtually no scrutiny. Indeed if they were subjected to just a little scrutiny it would soon be obvious that China’s claims over Taiwan have little basis in either history or law.

Of course this probably reflects the way that most of the world kowtows to China in order to gain access to its markets. The media tends to reflect corporate and government interests. It seems that Taiwan is losing the PR war. Chen’s visit to Taiwan’s Pacific island allies was portrayed as something of a circus that did little to help Taiwan on the international stage. Surely there are creative ways that Taiwan could sell itself to the world and hence guarantee its security.

Details of the program including a transcript are available at ABC Online: Taiwan – Dire Strait.